Saturday, March 23, 2013

HBO Real Time with Bill Maher #276 “Charming Truth-Sayers”

by Catherine Giordano

I’m titling my review of HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher,” episode 276, which aired on March 23, 2012, “Charming Truth- Sayers” You can always count of Bill Maher to get the truth out despite the best efforts of his Republican/Conservative panelists and guests to obfuscate and even outright lie.

The interview was with Austan Goolsbee, an economics professor at the University of Chicago and the former chairman of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors.  He’s erudite and charming, brimming over with enthusiasm for his topic. If he had been my economics professor in college, I’m sure I’d be an economist now. Since he resigned from his position with the Obama administration I haven’t seen him on TV. I was so glad to see him again because when he explains complex economics, it is all so easy to understand. And did I mention that he is so charming.

Almost all the guests were charming on this episode. If I was having a party, I’d love to have all of them present. Only one of them would not get an invitation, and that one is
John Feehery. He is the exact opposite of charming.  He wasn’t actually obnoxious, just at best, a lack-luster personality. If I met him at a party I probably wouldn’t spend more than a minute talking to him.

Feehery is the former spokesman for Dennis Hasbert. (Dennis Hasbert is a former slime-ball Republican Speaker of the House who had to resign in disgrace. Really, Feehery, you need a more respectable and more recent credential.) We didn’t get too much truth-telling from him. His most notable line of the night was “Why has it taken so long for Obama to give this speech.”  He said this during a discussion of president Obama’s speech in Israel. This is so typical of the Republicans—they berate the president for not doing something, and when he does it instead of saying how great it is that he did it this thing that they wanted him to do, they berate him for not doing it sooner.

Another panelist was MariaTeresa Kumar, the President of Voto Latino. She looked great in a red wrap dress. (I apologize for always commenting on how the female panelists look, but I’m a big fan of fashion, and I always notice how a woman is dressed.) Maria is also very vivacious and charming. And she knows what she is talking about, especially on immigration issues.

The third panelist was Jim McGreevey, the former governor of New Jersey who came out as gay and resigned. This happened quite a few years ago and I have heard nothing about him since. It turns out he has been putting his time to good use. He has been working with women in prison, and he told a lot of truth about the penal system in this country.  A new documentary about his will be out soon. It is about his work with women’s prisons and it is called “Fall to Grace.” He is also very charming; he has an easy-going manner, and gets very intense when he talks about his work with women in prison.  It’s so nice when there is a scandal and afterwards the person does something really redeeming with his life. 

One topic of discussion was President Obama’s trip to Israel. Everyone agreed that Obama was right to tell the Israelis the truth-- a two-state solution is the only solution. Bill said that the right wing of this country has done Israel a great disservice by telling the Israelis that everything they do is perfect and the U.S. will support them in whatever they want to do. (Bill pointed out that the right-wingers have an ulterior motive—The second coming of Christ requires that Israel exist as a Jewish state according to their interpretation of prophecy.)  Obama got a standing ovation from his Israeli audience.  He told the truth, and he did it with charm. (Obama can be so very charming—I love his smile. His smile seems so honest.)

Speaking about the president’s speech, McGreevey pointed out that “the easiest thing to do was nothing.  But he stepped up. Political leaders won’t take risks unless the people push them.” Later McGreevey reiterated this point.  He said FDR, before the New Deal, brought in Democratic leaders and told him he agreed with them on social security, etc., but he wasn’t going to do anything about it unless they made him do it.  If we want something done in this country, we have to make our politicians do it. (I used italics or emphasis.)

There was a wide range of topics on the show.

They spoke about Congress voting on the repeal of ObamaCare for the 34th time. Austan said it was like giving someone 40 life sentences. Plus it would never pass the Senate, and even if it did Obama would never sign it. Give it a rest, Boehner, and do some real work for a change.

They spoke about the sequester. Austan said people haven’t felt it much yet, and when they do, it will be mostly poor people. Economic growth is going to decrease and the unemployment rate is going to rise again. The defense budget is so bloated, the defense department will never feel it.

They talked about Alexander Pelosi’s new documentary. She went to of Sandy Hook, to one of the most Republican districts in the country. She asked people they wanted to cut spending. Yes! What did they want to cut?  Military? No! Education? No! Social Security? No?. Disaster Relief? Oh, God no! She asked about everything and they said no to everything, everything except foreign aid and the salaries of Congress. “Cut it where it won’t hurt us.” “Cut stupid stuff”  When Alexander asked what specifically they wanted to cut, they said, “I don’t know.”  Now try to tell me that the average Republican voter is capable of rational thought.

They talked about the Ryan budget. Maria said it was shortsighted.  The economy needs investment to be strong.

They talked about Head Start. Jim maintained that it worked in New Jersey. Maria said, that if they want to abolish Head Start, what is the alternative? None of the critics of Head Start have offered something better.

They talked about the Republican party and the report that the party commissioned to study what went wrong in the last election. (Everything!)  John said the Republicans have to be less offensive. (Never gonna happen—1) they don’t know they are offensive, and 2) they like being offensive.)  Maria said that the Libertarians and the Tea Party won’t let the Republican party change.  

They talked about gun control. Bill said he thought 20 dead white kids would have turned the tide, but it apparently has not because both parties love guns. Ninety percent of the people in this country want background checks, and it still can’t pass in the House or the Senate. The problem is people who don’t want gun control won’t vote for you if you vote for it, but the people who do want gun control will vote for you even if you don’t vote for it.

They talked about how prisons are about making a profit and not about treatment. Here’s a starling truth. America has the highest rate of incarceration of any country in the world.  (Can you believe it? Russia is second.) Jim spoke about how they made a huge reduction in recidivism in the prison where he works by offering treatment for addiction, sober housing, and jobs. Maria underscored the point about profit by telling us about how the “papers please” law in Arizona was only about making a profit for the business of detention centers.

They talked about the change in attitudes towards homosexuality. Bill attributed it to TV shows, like “Will and Grace.” Jim said it happened because of AIDS. Gays had to come out, and when people saw that their uncle, their brother, their neighbor was gay, attitudes changed. (Case in point: Senator Rob Portman just came out in favor of gay marriage because he has a gay son.)

Clive Davis was the special guest. He is a legend in the business-side of the music entertainment industry.  He promoted and/or discovered all the big names, Janis Joplin, Simon and Garfunkel, Bruce Springsteen, Whitney Houston, and so many others.  Also, he’s very charming. He is definitely invited to my party. 

The comedy bit was about mayor Bloomberg and his new mission for New York City.  He has put posters in the subways about teen pregnancy. The posters show cute kids with a message of the negative consequences of teen pregnancy. Bill did a few posters of his own.  The kids on these poster were shown saying things like “I will poop in the bathtub,” “Only celebrities lose the baby weight, and you are not a celebrity.” and “I will grow up and steal your weed.” Actually, I didn’t see that much difference between the real posters and the parodies.

“New Rules” was very funny, ending with a tirade about religion.  Bill exhorted us to stop saying the job of pope is so hard.  “He’s selling an invisible product. Everything he says is right by definition. You can run a child sex ring and still keep your customers. The leaders of the Catholic church are just a bunch of guys sitting around making “New Rules.”  Confession—12 the century new rule.  Holy Ghost –3rd century new rule. Celibacy for priests—4th century new rule.  Infallibility--1870 new rule. First we (Bill was raised Catholic) couldn’t eat meat on Friday. Then, “This just in. Meat is OK on Friday.” Bill said, “None of this is in the Bible.  The Pope is not in the Bible!” Bill concluded with a great line—the “tell-it-like-it-is” moment of the week. “Religion is like Wikipedia. Anyone can write something.”

A lot of truth-telling on this episode. A lot of charming people.  Which got me to thinking, is Bill charming enough to get invited to my party for charming people?  No, Bill is not charming (too abrasive), but he is funny and he is a truth-sayer, so he can come to my party. But he has to promise not to sit on the deck all night smoking weed . And he has to promise not to and hit on all the young pretty women, and that includes Maria Teresa Kumar.

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