Saturday, October 20, 2012

Real Time with Bill Maher #263 "Torrential Downpour"

I live in Orlando, Florida.  In the summer we sometimes have torrential storms.  If I am unlucky enough to be out in the car during one of these storms it is terrifying.  The rain is so loud, I can’t hear anything.  The rain is coming down so hard, I can’t see anything.

I had that feeling last night (Friday October 19, 2012) while watching “Real Time with Bill Maher” Episode 263. It was a torrential downpour of words, so I’m naming this episode “Torrential Downpour.” I’ll do my best to report on this episode—what I could hear of it with everyone talking very loudly and all at the same time.

This is sometimes the problem when there are two conservative guests. The fact that the two conservative guests were both blowhards made it exponentially worse. We had Tweedly Dumb (John Fund, conservative commentator and author of Who’s Counting) and Tweedly Dee (Boris Epshten (former McCain-Palin campaign aide and a columnist  for U.S. News and World Report). Two pasty-faced portly middle-aged men who look somewhat similar, think totally similar, and reminded me of those old balloon dolls—when you pushed them down, they popped right back up. 

The third guest was Goldie Taylor, a MSNBC contributor.  She’s strong and feisty and she wasn’t going to let the two men push her around. She is physically tiny compared to her two adversaries on the panel, but she has a strong loud voice and a determination not to be pushed around. 

A bunch of alpha-personalities and each was determined to yield no ground to anyone else. The commotion got so bad that even Bill, at one point, started shouting and brawling. 

In Bill Maher’s opening monologue, he talked about women’s issues during this presidential campaign season.  Bill said that Obama leads among women (The Tweedles attempted to deny this) except in any state where you can buy a confederate flag in the mall.  

Bill mentioned Joe Walsh, a congressman from Illinois saying abortion to save the life or health of the mother is just a ruse. This is the “what- planet-does-he-live-on” moment of the week. It’s true most pregnancies proceed without any life-threatening complications, but death due to pregnancy and childbirth definitely happens.  Moreover it would happen a lot more if pregnant women with complications could not get an abortion.   

And, of course, they talked about that moment in the town-hall debate when a woman asked about equal pay. Obama spoke about signing the “Lilly Ledbetter Act” into law. Romney dodged the question and spoke about his policy of “affirmative action” for women during his term as governor. (A Republican advocating for affirmative action!) He said all the applicants for positions in his administration were men so he asked women’s groups to find him some qualified women. They came back with binders full of women.  Bill said an anecdote is not a policy. (He could also have said that Romney’s anecdote was just another lie. A women’s group approached both candidates with a binder full of women’s resumes asking the candidates to consider these women for positions in their administration if they got elected.) 

Bill did a funny bit on this topic.  He showed a video clip that he said was of Romney 20 years ago. Actually it was a clip from Alfred Hitchcock’s movie Shadow of a Doubt.  The actor Joseph Cotton is on a misogynic rant about “faded, fat, greedy women.” Bill said that the Republican party was to the right of Andrew Dice Clay on women’s issues. (A somewhat dated reference, but it hit the mark.) 

Another subject of discussion was the attack on a consulate in Libby that resulted in the death of Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans. More specifically, they discussed not the attack, but whether or not Obama waited 14 days before calling the attack “terrorism” of not. The argument hinges on semantic hair splitting. The day after the attack Obama said “acts of terror” will not go unpunished.  Republicans claim that this statement doesn’t count because he didn’t specifically say the Benghazi attack was “terrorism.” Never mind that he used the phrase “acts of terror” while discussing the Benghazi attack. This is the “you-got-to-be-kidding-me” moment of the week. Really? That is the Republicans’ entire argument? How desperate can they be to attack Obama? 

When Romney made this accusation during the town-hall debate, Candy Crowley, the moderator, had a spontaneous moment. She said that Obama did in fact call the attack terrorism on the day after the attack. (It’s arguable whether or not a moderator should fact-check in real time, but even if she was not supposed to say anything, the woman is only human. Romney was lying, bullying, being disrespectful to her and to the president, and she had been pushed too far. Candidates take note: If you try to bully and steamroller the moderator, don’t be surprised if she calls you out when you are lying.)  Bill joked that Romney was so mad at Crawley that “he took her right out of his lady binder.”  

Why is this an issue? Why does it matter whether or not Obama called the attack an act of terrorism. If Obama had wanted to hold his fire until there had been an investigation, isn’t that the prudent thing to do? At this point in the investigation, it seems to have been both a planned attack and a peaceful protest of an anti-Islam video. They are not mutually exclusive. 

Bill said it was stupid to try to blame Obama for the attack. Bill tsaid “Do they think that we live in a world where nothing ever goes wrong and the White House should micro-manage everything?” (I seem to remember a little thing went wrong during the G.W. Bush administration. We call it “9/11.” Bush pretty much got a pass on taking responsibility for his failures on that and they were legion.) 

Bill did another funny bit during the conversation.  He showed a parody of a Five-Hour- Energy commercial about a mock product called “90-minute Energy.”  It used an Obama impersonator talking about 90-Minute Energy curing the “late October feeling” for when “you absolutely, positively have to look like you give a damn.”  A very funny bit, but I’m not laughing. I am so angry at Obama. Romney was on the ropes, the debate could have been the knock-out punch, and instead Obama “doesn’t lay a glove on him,” and Romney is a contender once again. So for the next few weeks I have to live with the terrifying feeling that Romney might become president. 

The special guest was Matt Taibbi, a contributing editor for Rolling Stone, and the author of Griftopia. We got some more straight talk about Romney, this time about his role at Bain Capital. Matt said Romney once spoke of a “prairie fire of debt”, but all Romney has ever done was create debt. He gave the example of K. B. Toys, a company that Bain destroyed. Bain bought it for 5% down and then the debt became K.B.’s debt. Adding insult to injury, K. B. had to pay management fees to Bain. K.B. went bankrupt. Bain didn’t care. They made millions. 

This story reminded me about the Sensata plant in Iowa. Bain is closing the highly profitable plant, and 170 people are losing their jobs. The jobs are going to China where Chinese workers will work 12-hour shifts for $1 an hour.  Adding insult to injury the American workers had to train the Chinese workers. 

Matt went on to discuss the difference between Mitt Romney and his father George Romney.  George Romney wanted to make money, but he also cared for community.  Matt said that Romney feels no “noblesse oblige”; Romney’s role model is Gordon Gekko from the 1987 film “Wall Street”, the “greed is good” ethos.”   

The interview this week was with Gary Hirshberg, the founder of Stonyfield Farms and the author of Label it Now. California has a ballot initiative to force companies to label their products to tell consumers if genetically modified foods are used in the making of that product. He explained how crops are being grown from genetically modified seeds.  The seeds are modified to be resistant to pesticides, so that means that agribusiness can use even more pesticide than before.  An excellent interview--I learned something that I did not know before. 

New Rules ended with a riff on Republicans and pizza. Bill mentioned Domino’s Pizza, sold to Bain Capital, founded by Tom Monaghan a religious extremist who would like to see America turned into a theocracy.  He mentioned Godfather’s Pizza, a company that hired Herman Cain as president and CEO. Finally he mentioned Papa John’s, where CEO John Schnatter opposes providing health care to his employees because it might add 15-cents to the cost of a pizza. Bill then did a very funny bit about how when people order a pizza, they don’t care about 15 cents. I’m not going to describe it—you have to see it.  

Bill suggested that instead of buying your pizza from these chains, you should buy it from a neighborhood store. [My son works at a local family owned pizzeria and Italian restaurant, Gina’s in Oveido. They make all their pizza by hand on the premises. It’s very good pizza.)  

Bill concluded talking about Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire who made his fortune on Las Vegas casinos who feels put upon and over-taxed.  Adelson’s net worth has actually increased under Obama, yet he is spending millions (over 20 million so far) to support Romney’s campaign. Why? Bill thinks it is because he knows he has not earned his money, no one earns 25 billion dollars. He knows he is a fraud and this feeds his self-pity and self-hatred. 

With that, I will end my own torrent of words.
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This picture is from hbo.com