Saturday, February 2, 2013

Real Time with Bill Maher #270 “Reason and Unreason”

by Catherine Girodano

HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher,” episode 270 that aired on Friday February 1, 2013, was a rarity—everyone on the show was a believer in reason,--i.e. no right-wingers. But even reasonable people can disagree.  But when reasonable people disagree it is a debate, not a brawl. The only problem with the show tonight is that it was not ten hours long. Bill likes to cover a lot of topics during each show and that doesn’t allow for a full discussion and resolution of the issues.

The interview was with Alex Gibney, a documentary film-maker with a new film, Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in theHouse of God which will air on HBO beginning Monday February 4. We may have thought that we knew about the pedophilia scandal within the Catholic Church, but it looks like this documentary will show us how little we really know.  Alex talked about how pervasive sexual crimes against children (usually boys) are, and how massive the cover up is, and how even popes, including the current pope, are complicit.

Bill asked if pedophile men become priests because they are pedophiles who hope the “power of Jesus” will cure them or because the all male environment turns them into pedophiles. The answer is neither. Gibney said that pedophiles become priests because predators want to be where they are protected. Priests have the power to abuse with immunity.  And I might add, they have so much access to potential victims.

Alex pointed out one good outcome of the exposure of the abuse and cover-up, which goes back to the 4th century (to the very beginnings of The Church) is that previously the government of Ireland and the Catholic Church were practically one entity, and now the government of Ireland has separated from the Catholic Church.

Bill mentioned that priests are seen as “demi-gods.” Alex informed us that the belief that a priest is halfway between a mortal and an angel is a heresy.  Priests are clearly not demi-gods using their power for evil, they are just men using their power for evil.

One of the panelists was Sam Harris, co-founder of “Project Reason” and well known for the best-selling books he has written on the topic of atheism. Given that Bill is an atheist and Gibney was speaking about the crimes of the Catholic Church, I expected to hear something on these topics by Harris. Not a word, although at one point he was identified as “Sam Harris, philosopher” on the screen. Harris did not speak about atheism or philosophy—he spoke about politics and current events.

The other two panelists were Cory Booker, mayor of Newark, and Eva Longoria, an actress and activist. (Fashion-police-moment-of-the-week—who did Eva’s hair? It was obviously carefully coiffed, but looked weird. Her hair was pulled back from her face into a loose pony tail, but at the very top part of her head, a small section of hair was poofed up like she was hiding a mouse under it.)  

Cory Booker always has so much to say and says it very well. He’s also a very down- to-earth guy, self-effacing and the epitome of cool. During Overtime, he talked about his twitter account and about how it is a great way to stay in touch with constituents. He knows about a water main break before the Department of Water knows about it; it helped him locate and send help to people during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. 

Cory is so hands-on that Bill joked that “your blackberry is like the bat-signal.” Whenever there is trouble, he’s on the spot. Everything from using is body (ala Superman) to cover a gap in the tracks of the PATH train (a funny exaggeration although Cory once rescued a woman from a burning building) to preventing a fight from breaking out between two patrons in a local laundromat (something that one could easily imagine Cory doing in real life.)

Eva is an activist on immigration issues, so with immigration in the news right now, It was the first topic of conversation. Eva talked about some of the rhetoric that says the border must be secured before there can be a path to citizenship for the undocumented residents of the United States. Eva pointed out that the border is already secure—net immigration is at zero. Cory said that we need to do what is best for America. He advocates for the Dream Act, saying that it is foolish to educate them, and then kick them out. He segued into the issue of crime. The undocumented are afraid of the police so they will not report crime making them disproportionately likely to be victims of criminals. The implication is that Immigration reform will make it easier to catch criminals, and thus reduce the crime rate.

Bill in his opening monologue said that the alternative to immigration reform is “Pick your own strawberries.”

The conversation moved to safety and guns. Bill pointed out that nothing is safer than a police state. The discussion about guns showed that reasonable people can disagree.  Sam and Bill both commented that guns can play a role in providing for personal safety. One would think so, but Cory once again came to the rescue of misguided thinking.  He said he was for much stricter laws and pointed out that if you own a gun, you are much more likely to be killed by that gun than you are to use it to successfully defend yourself. Cory, as a mayor of a city, Newark that has been known for violence, is on the front lines when it comes to guns and crime. I’d listen to him.

Eva said, if you are going to own a gun, it should be like getting a car license. You need to have training. At the very least, I want to add. Yes, every now and then people successfully defends themselves with a gun, but here’s the problem. The gun needs to be secured, kept away from children and thieves, and the crazy person that might just happen to live in your house. In an emergency, that gun is not going to be at hand, or your training and temperament is not going to be sufficient, or you might be emboldened to try to face down a possible intruder instead of retreating to safety.

In any event, if a gun makes you feel more safe and you are not mentally ill and do not have a criminal record, the current proposed gun laws will not stop you from owning a gun if that is what you wish to do. Just because gun laws can’t stop all gun crimes, does that mean we shouldn’t try to stop some of them. Cory had the statistics to prove that the ban on assault rifles did reduce crimes. 

Returning now to the voices of unreason, we have the Republicans in the House and Senate. The Republicans behaved disgracefully, browbeating Hillary during the hearings on Benghazi, and then being absolutely vicious to Chuck Hegal during his hearings for confirmation as Secretary of Defense. And Chuck Hegal is a Republican!
Bill said  that Republicans had turned against Hegal because since he was nominated by Obama “he has Obama’s cooties on him.” (It’s true, Republicans act like children.)

McCain was the leader of the pack of jackals. Jackie pointed out that there is bad blood between McCain and Hegal because Hegal was against the surge in Iraq that McCain favored. Bill responded that McCain was saying “The surge worked! Say it! Say it!” (It reminded me of a bully in a school yard, twisting someone’s arm until he says what the bully wants him to say.)

There’s a gun lobby.  There’s a defense industry lobby.  Cory said we need a lobby to do rational things. The Reason and Rationality lobby--I like the sound of that.

Back to the voices of Unreason.  In New Rules, Bill said that Sarah Palin was dumped by Fox News right after Jindal (Republican governor of Louisiana) said that Republicans have to stop being the “stupid party.” (Bill called it a wondrous coincidence. Also, Fox is slipping in the ratings. I hope that is more than a coincidence.)

Glen Beck is one of the major voices of unreason. He lost his show on Fox News last year when he went so far around the bend that he lost too many advertisers. But Beck doesn’t need Fox News. He has a show on the internet now. It costs $9.95 a month to subscribe. And he has 300,000 subscribers.  He and his ilk, according to Bill, are in the business of “separating rubes from their money”—all they have to do is to keep them feeling like they are under attack. The fear mongers—Beck, Hannity, Coulter, O’Reilly, et al.—can then keep on selling the same book over and over—the one that attacks liberals as the scourge that will lead to the downfall of America and death of us all.

Bill concluded that there is no comparable organization on the left dedicated to separating liberals from their money…here’s the “wait-for-it-moment-of-the-week” … unless you count Whole Foods. 

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