Tuesday, April 23, 2013

HBO “Real Time with Bill Maher” #279 "Sky Diving"

by Catherine Giordano

Half the Sky
Half the Sky
HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, episode 279, airing on April 19, 2013, began with a funny monologue, continued with some very interesting guests discussing important topics, but fizzled at the end with a weak, “New Rules.”  I had the feeling that Bill ran out of time and had to cut the “New Rules” segment short.

Let me dive right in to this discussion by reporting that Bill began the show by announcing that the Boston Bomber had just been caught. He followed the announcement with a joke referencing George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq after 9/11, saying that Bush had just called for the invasion of Puerto Rico in response to the Boston Bombing.

Bill went on to talk about the Elvis impersonator who thought the government was selling body parts and so he sent letters containing ricin to Obama and others. (This is so weird that it sounds like Bill made it up.  He didn’t.) Bill joked that you can’t intimidate us with bombs and poison. If you are a paranoid lunatic—this is America--you have to use a gun. 

The interview was with Brian Levin, the Director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism. Levin, I hate to say this, is the typical knee-jerk liberal. He lost an opportunity to present his views because he was too extreme in his liberalism and ended up arguing with everything Bill said. Yes, the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful people, and during the Middle Ages Muslims were far more civilized than the Christians (Crusades, witch-burning, conversion by torture, etc.), but currently an extreme faction of Islam does advocate violence and is murdering and terrorizing in the name of Islam. Bill mentioned the Broadway show “The Book of Mormon” and asked if there could ever be a show “The Book of Islam.” Levin persisted in missing the point until Bill, exasperated, said, “What color is the sky in your world?”    

Bill pointed out that the American Islamic terrorists “don’t have the balls” of the foreign terrorists. The foreign ones are willing to kill themselves; the American ones like the Times Square Bomber and the Boston Bombers try to get away alive. Good point, Bill.  Perhaps living in America does make them “soft.”

One of the panelists was Nicolas Kristoff, a “New York Times” columnist and author of a new book and PBS documentary, “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. Kristoff’s documentary is about the need for education for girls around the world.  Education is the single biggest factor to empower women economically and put an end to violence against women. Kristoff is optimistic. The strong reaction about the rape of a woman on a bus in India shows that change is happening.  Nonetheless the statistics about the gender-cide—the killing of girls and women, are astounding.

While we are talking about killing, we have to talk about guns.  Bill mentioned that 90% of the people in this country want background checks andt a majority of the Senate voted for it, but it was defeated by the filibuster.  Can we still say we have democracy when (90% of the people want something and we don’t get it?

Kristoff compared the all-out effort to capture the Boston bombers who killed three people in the bombing with the 30,000 people who die from gun violence in America every year.

Amy Holmes, another panelist, appears on Glenn Beck’s TheBlaze TV. If she is associated with Glenn Beck, you know she is extreme right wing. I’ve seen her on “Real Time” before so I groaned when I saw that she was a guest. Happily, she wasn’t as strident and loony as I expected, but more strident and loony than I would have liked. Holmes pointed out that support for gun safety is a mile wide and an inch deep. There is much more intensity on the right. She may be right about that, but I hope not. The activists for stricter gun laws are putting up much more of a fight than in the past.

Bill remarked, “The Senate is the place where progress goes to die. Right now a small “red state” might have 166,000 people represented by one senator while a Senator from California, like Democrat Diane Feinstein, represents 15 million people. Bill said the founding fathers never anticipated 50 states. I have to admit that Bill has a point. This is unfair—rural areas are far better represented than urban areas. 

Salmon Rushdie, the author who once had to go into hiding for a decade because the mullahs issued a fatwa calling for his death --They did not like a book he had written--has first-hand knowledge of Islamic extremism. He told an interesting story about his time in hiding. The British government offered to provide him with guns and to provide training so he could defend himself. Rushdie turned down the offer.  He said he knew he was not the kind of person who could shoot someone.

During the man hunt for “the second Boston Bomber,” I thought about what I would want if I lived in the area where the bomber like that was at large. ”Gee,” I thought, “Maybe it would be good to have a gun for a situation like that.”  I decided I did not want a gun.  Like Rushdie, I probably couldn’t shoot someone.  Also, statistics show that when there is a gun in the house, a resident of that house is three times more likely to be the victim of a shooting than a resident of a house without a gun.

The comedy segment was a very funny satire about Michelle Bachman giving a eulogy at the funeral for Margaret Thatcher.  According to Bill, Michelle said, “It is so nice to be here in the cradle of the original tea party. In 1776, we fought together to defeat communism and to end abortion.... We have a lot in common, conservative principles, fearlessness, and dementia…. They called her the ‘Iron Lady’, but I didn’t know the “Iron Man” had a wife.” It was very funny because it was similar in tone to the loony things Bachman actually says.

The interview was with Colin Goddard, an advocate for “The Brady Campaign” and the producer of a new documentary “Living for 32.” Goddard is a survivor of the Virginia Tech mass shooting.  The title of the documentary refers to the 32 people who were murdered during that shooting as well as to the 32 people who are killed in this country by guns every day. Goddard said, “We are never going to shoot our way out of a problem.” Holmes responded with the right wing cliché that a good guy with a gun can take out a bad guy with a gun. Colin refuted her. He said that having a gun wouldn’t have helped him. He didn’t know what was happening until after he was shot four times.

I have two points to make. When a gunman is shooting at you with a semi-automatic weapon, you don’t really have an opportunity to shoot back. The second point goes back to a witness at the Tucson shooting.  A young man who owned a gun was present, but he didn’t have his gun with him.  He said that if he had had his gun, he probably would have shot the wrong person. He initially thought that the person who was subduing the actual gunman was the shooter. If even police who are well trained accidently shoot innocent people due to a mistake or poor marksmanship, what will happen when panicked civilians start shooting?  

Bill had some points to make also. The second amendment is the only amendment with the word “regulated” in it.  Also, it has the word militia in it—it is about a citizen army.  We now have a standing army, we don’t need a citizen militia. I agree. We need to abolish the second amendment—it is outdated and as screwy as Prohibition. It doesn’t mean that people can’t still own guns, but it would turn gun ownership from a right to a privilege.  he Constitution says nothing about automobile ownership, but people still have the privilege of owning a car—under certain conditions (passing a driving test, registering the car, having insurance, not being “under the influence” when driving, obeying traffic signs, etc.)

The overtime discussion took up the issue about the Miranda rights of the Boston Bomber now in custody. Homes predictably jumped right in spouting off with the usual clichés about “high value detainees” and “enemy combatants. Levin called her out saying the criteria had nothing to do with those catch phrases, but rather required a determination of “imminent danger.”  Kristoff said he was uncomfortable about withholding Miranda. Rushdie just cut to the chase. “Just read them their damn rights. Trust the system.”

Rushdie got it right. The bomber was read his Miranda rights on Sunday, and he remained co-operative. When we break our own rules, we are in “free-fall.” The last time we got into “free-fall”, we had “enhanced interrogation” which was actually, in simple language, torture. Kristoff and Rushdie spoke about how when the U.S. abandons its principles, he hurts us around the world.  When the U.S. talks about human rights, “What about Guantanamo Bay” gets thrown back in its face. “Free-fall” means you hit the ground hard.

I’ll conclude with a couple of funny bits.

In New Rules, Bill poked John McCain and is ubiquitous presence on the Sunday morning talk shows.  He said, “John McCain needs to spend Sunday mornings with his family.”  So true, Bill.  I think we are all getting a little tired of seeing John McCain.

During “Overtime”, Rushdie was being sarcastic when he said that social media made up global warming. The ignorant Holmes agreed. She either missd or ignored the sarcasm.

 What color is the sky? I guess it depends on your viewpoint.

Please share this review by tweeting, "liking" on facebook, and "+1 ing" on google circles.

Please ""follow" so you don't miss any of my reviews.