Saturday, April 6, 2013

HBO Real Time with Bill Maher #277 “Big Foot and The Mouth”

by Catherine Giordano

HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, episode 277, airing on April 5, 2013, could have been a great show.  Bernie Sanders, a self-avowed socialist senator from Vermont (who is an Independent, but caucuses with the Democrats) was on the panel. I think he is the smartest person in the room, no matter what room he is in. Unfortunately, the discussion was brought down to a third-grade level by Big Foot (Steve Moore, conservative author and total moron) and The Mouth (Abby Huntsman, daughter of former Republican presidential candidate, Jon Huntsman, who currently writes for the Huffington Post).

During the show, Bill mentioned the Public Policy Poll, which discovered that Americans have some really stupid beliefs, especially Republican-Americans. He mentioned that 14% believe that “Big Foot” is real. If Big Foot is real, his name is Steve Moore. He sat on the panel and stomped on every intelligent thing anyone else said. There is something wrong with that man.  During the first few minutes he started shouted and flailing his arms around, practically falling off his chair. He acts and talks like a lunatic, and when he is called out for his fantastically wrong assertions, all he can do is grin goofily and launch himself into a new attack.

I nicknamed Abby Huntsman “The Mouth” because she interrupted the other panelists constantly and never had anything worthwhile to say. For instance, during a discussion of gay marriage, even though she said she favors it, she had to bring up bestiality and polygamy, just as all the right-wing nuts who oppose it do. She struck me as “daddy’s darling” who has a much-too-high opinion of herself. Her father is very good looking and she inherited his good looks--she’s a beautiful young woman. Too bad she didn’t inherit his brains—Jon Huntsman was the only intelligent person on the stage during the Republican debates. Instead of adopting the demeanor of her father--calm, rational, well-informed--she choose to be a bombastic fool.  And Abby, if you want to be taken seriously, tone down the makeup—you looked like you were auditioning for the Elizabeth Taylor role in “Cleopatra.”  

Poor Bernie, he had to have the patience of a saint dealing with these two. Bernie would try to explain something, one or both would interrupt him and go off on a rant, but Bernie would not be deterred. As soon as he could get a word in edgewise is get back to making his point, using facts not opinions.  I really admired him for that.

Later, the special guest was Zach Koppin, a 19-year old young man who is making a name for himself challenging the Louisiana Science Education Act” will allow teachers to bring unauthorized materials into the classroom in order to teach creationism and argue against climate science.  Zach and Abby are both young, and that is about all they have in common. Zach spoke calmly without raising his voice, smiled affably, and supported his well-reasoned conclusions and opinions with facts.  (Abby ranted and preened and spouted “talking points.”)

Zach told us the Bobby Jindal, governor of Luoisiana, signed this law.  Bill scoffed referring to Jindal’s recent statement about Republicans being the stupid party. (If he doesn’t want Republicans to be the stupid party, he needs to repeal this law.)

According to the Public Policy Poll, 46% of Americans believe in creationism, 37% believe global warming is a hoax, 22% believe Obama is the Anti-Christ, and 14% believe Big Foot exists. (P.S. Belief in crazy stuff is higher among Republicans.)

I think these erroneous beliefs are all related, and religion is the root cause. Religion teaches people to believe something without evidence as well as to believe something is true just because you want it to be true. Consequently, it becomes easy for people seeped in religion to believe all kinds of crazy things.  Also, it is exciting to believe in crazy things.  Most of us lead boring lives—how interesting to think there are all manner of conspiracies swirling around us and mythical creatures like Big Foot exist.   

Here are the facts about climate change. Given the position of the Earth relative to the Sun, we should be in a mini ice-age right now.  However, the higher concentration of carbon in the atmosphere, due to civilization, has prevented this ice age; Not only have global temperatures not fallen, they have increased. The Earth will survive this. Civilization may not—sea levels will rise inundating coastal areas and low lying islands, storms will become more frequent and more destructive, farming will be disrupted, and on and on. It may already be too late to reverse this, but perhaps we can keep things from getting a lot worse.

Zach talked about the importance of science and the dangers of cutting funding for science as the Sequester is doing. The Human Genome project had a return on investment of $140 to $1.  This is Steve’s cue to bring up a study about the mating habits of snails. (How predictable!) Bernie chastised him saying that the four largest corporations in America are paying zero income taxes, but you want to blame all our economic problems on the relatively tiny spending on a science project. (I remember learning about pure research and applied research in school. The findings of pure research may someday be applied to produce astounding benefits.)

The interview was with Sebastian Junger, a journalist and documentarian who has an HBO special airing soon, titled “Which Way is the Front Line From Here. “ He spoke about the psychology of warriors--the “band-of-brothers” emotional ties and the “adrenaline high” soldiers get from combat. I learned that 978 journalists have been killed in war zones in the last twenty year. Sebastian said that “Democracy is not possible without the press.” These men and women risk their lives to give us the truth—the least we can do is listen.

In New Rules, Bill tried to address the flak he gets about libertarianism.  It was the “I-didn’t-leave-them,-they–left–me” moment of the week.  Bill poked fun the juvenile thinking of present-day followers of Ayn Rand.

Bill compared the Ayn Rand libertarians to people who see a stop light and don’t think about traffic safety—they think “how dare the government tell me I can’t go.”  Their take on seat belts is “It is my right to soar free as an eagle—right through the windshield.”  And as for meat inspections:Let people sniff their own meat and if a few people die word will get out not to eat the T-Bone at the Ponderosa and the Ponderosa will go out of business—the free market in action.”

Bill once described himself as a libertarian because he didn’t want government making laws about sex or drugs and other personal issues, but the current libertarians—like Paul Ryan and Rand Paul—have defined him out of the group. They don’t think that government should regulate banks, guns, schools, civil rights, or even provide help after a disaster. They hate environmental regulations, Social Security, and Medicare. Bill says, “It beats stepping over lepers and watching human skeletons sh*t in the river.  I’m just selfish that way.”

There were some good guests this week, especially Bernie, but they had to fight to be heard over Big Foot and The Mouth. I can only hope that Bill is not so desperate for panel members that he will invite these two back. (Especially not Steve Moore.  Please please, please, no more Steve Moore.)

A picture of Big Foot.