Monday, April 15, 2013

HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher #278 “Lies Told to Idiots”


HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, episode 278, aired on April 12, 2013.  It was an interesting hour of discussion.

Bill began with some Kim Jong Un jokes. Should we be scared or him or is he just a big joke? (Or maybe both?)  Bill says we shouldn’t believe the hype about North Korea. He wants Kim Jong Un to test a missile because it is always a failure. “He is the only Asian that doesn’t test well.”  He went on to say that there are some Republicans who want to take away Kim Jong Un’s missiles, but they can’t because it is a slippery slope to gun control.  Kim Jong Un and Republicans—easy targets for jokes.

The interview was with David Byck, a documentarian who just completed a film titled “CarbonNation” about the oil industry. He said that we are too late to solve the problem of global warming by reducing carbon emissions; we need to ‘suck carbon out of the air.”  He beleives that we already know how to do that and he is very positive about our ability to do it. It’s carbon sequestration. (How nice to hear “sequestration” used in a positive context.) He said that natural gas is not “clean;” it is just cleaner than oil. Bill mentioned a pro-oil story in the Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine, and said the magazine was full of was “lies told to idiots.” I liked that phrase so much that I’m using it as the title for my review. 

David Stockman, an economic advisor to Ronald Reagan was on the panel. He harkens back to the old days when Republicans were worthy of respect. He’s intelligent, he speaks in a calm manner, and he knows what he is talking about. His views are moderate, even liberal. It’s a good thing for him that he has no ambitions to run for office on the Republican ticket—he could never win a primary because he’s not ignorant and crazy as most of the Republican candidates are or pretend to be,

Stockman asked, “Why would you believe an 18th century law about muskets applies to today’s world?”  He added, “The first amendment is the real protector of our freedom.” And “You have to register your car, so why not your gun?”  Yes, it is hard to believe, but a Republican actually said those things.

Stockman also favors government spending. He mentioned that Ike gave us highways, and paid for it with a use tax (gasoline tax).  “There’s a difference,” he said “between government waste and government spending.”

Another panelist was Bob Costas, the sports broadcastera very intelligent man with a quick sense of humor. He pointed out that the gun lobby wants to protect sales, not freedom. Bill added that Obama was right when he spoke about people who “cling to their guns and religion,”  because now some on the right want to have an official religion for the country.  (They evidently don’t know a jot of history—the United States came into being because people were escaping from countries with an official religion.)  Costas responded that maybe each state should have their own official religion.  Utah could have Mormonism, Arizona could have a sun god, and California could go pagan.  See what I mean—a great sense of humor.

The third panelist was Stephanie Cutter, an Obama campaign manager.  She seemed like a very nice young woman, but she also seemed like a newcomer to the talk show game. The others on the show were all aggressive speakers, but Stephanie was more relaxed.  Whenever she tried to speak they interrupted her, so she didn’t get to say much.

The mid show comedy segment concerned gays and sports.  Bill put on an umpire’s shirts and demonstrated some new signals.  A gesture for “delay of brunch,” “engorgement,” eligible man downfield,” and “way too many men in the huddle.” You had to see it to get the joke.

The special guest was Saru Jayaraman, the author of “Behind the Kitchen Door.”She was passionate on her issue of protecting restaurant workers. They get about $2 an hour salary, so they are essentially living on tips.  (Be generous when you tip -- it’s an extra dollar or two for you, but it is the waitperson’s living.) She believes that the National Restaurant Association is the “other NRA.”  

If the minimum wage increased with the cost of inflation, it would be $22 an hour today instead of $7.25 an hour. One in three workers today lives in poverty. Stockman opposes an increase in minimum wage; he thinks that we should prop up workers instead with a social safety net and programs like the earned income tax credit. (A Republican who supports a social safety net?!  This is the I-can’t-believe-my-ears moment of the week.)

I disagree that our first choice should be to prop up workers. It is demeaning to need help and the programs can always be taken away. A minimum wage that produces a living wage is the way to go. It also means more money being pumped into the economy as more people can afford to buy more things. Why should our taxes have to pay for food stamps when corporations could just pay their employees a living wage instead? Companies will pass the costs of higher wages onto customers so the stuff we buy will cost a little more. One way or the other we pay for it, but I think it is fairer and better for companies to pay a living wage than for taxpayers to pay for “welfare.”  Every time there is an increase in the minimum wage, there are predictions of disaster by the folks on the right. But it doesn’t happen that way. When the minimum wage was last increased, McDonalds increased their profits by 150%.

The New Rules segment dealt with war. Bill said that Wikipedia needs 36 pages to list all the American wars, and that America has been at war for 216 of its 237 years of existence.  War soaks up 50% of our discretionary spending.  Bill gave some advice to Hillary Clinton on her possible run for president. He told her that she lost the primary in 2008 because she voted for the Iraq war. Bill said, “You don’t have to run as the Iron lady.  What good is being the first female president, if you are still a dick?”

With a reasonable Republican and a bunch of liberals and democrats on the show, there were not very many lies on the show and no idiots.