Saturday, June 22, 2013

HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher #287 "Fed Up”

by Catherine Giordano

HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, episode 287, which aired on Friday. June 21, was an entertaining show with a variety of well-behaved guests. Everyone was laid back, except for Bill Maher who had a few moments of indignation towards targets who well-deserved it. Those moments are part of the reason I titled this post “Fed Up.”  The other part is that there was a lot of talk about food.

The food talk began in Bill’s monologue when he mentioned that the AMA had declared obesity a disease.  He said, “People are going to be calling in sick with a case of the fats.”  
The discussion of food continued with Michael Pollan who was the special guest on the show. Pollan has written a number of books dealing with problems with food in this country.  His latest book is Cooked. He said that Americans have outsourced cooking to corporations. Food cooked by human beings is healthier, and we all need to get back into the kitchen.  Bill mentioned the popularity of The Food Network and Pollen said that “More people are watching people cook on TV than cooking. Then they say I don’t have time to cook. Cooking has become a spectator sport.” 

Another panelist was Julia Reed. She has a long resume as a writer and commentator.  She writes for Garden and Guns magazine. That name floored me. I had to google it to make sure it really existed. It does. It focuses on Southern living and looks like a typical slick magazine of the home and gardens genre.  At least they put ‘garden” ahead of “guns.”   

Bill commented that now that obesity was a disease, you would hear your doctor say, “I got your test results back. I’m afraid you are fat.” He also said there would probably be a pill for it. Reed underscored the folly of this when she said “Remember Fen Fen. It made you die.”

And, of course, Paula Deen, famous for her TV show on The Food Network and her artery-clogging style of Southern cooking was mentioned because she is ”in a hot mess” over her use of the N-word. Deen had attempted to defend herself by saying that she sometimes uses that word in a nice way. The whole panel guffawed. But Bob Herbert, a journalist and member of the think tank, Demos, who is a black man had the best response to that. “I have never encountered that,” he deadpanned.  Bill said there had to be a line and for me that line is the N-word.  No one should use that word.”  Interesting:  Bill salts his conversation liberally with the F-word and every other obscenity, but he won’t say the N-word.  

Everyone is fed up with the Republican party, even Joshua Green who was the Republican panelist.  He writes for Bloomberg Businessweek. It was actually hard to tell he was a Republican—he was well-behaved and he agreed with most of what the other guests said.  I had to google him also—he’s apparently a moderate Republican.  He wrote an article about the demise of the moderate Republican. In my view there no longer is such a thing as a moderate Republican. If you think you are a moderate Republican, you are actually a Democrat.

The latest Republican-party gaffe is the “a male fetus can masturbate at 15 weeks from conception” statement from one of the more loony Republican congressmen, Michael Burgess.  What makes this comment not just ridiculous, but terrifying, is the fact that Burgess is an ob/gyn. In the monologue, Bill described this congressman as a member of a medical organization known as “Doctors without Clues.”

Later Bill did his mid show parody segment about a magazine named “Barely Fetal.” The faux magazine featured articles like “Turn Your Uterus into a Man Cave” and “Are You Smarter than Michelle Bachman?  If you are in the third trimester the answer may surprise you.”

Some other things that everyone is fed up with:

Darrell Issa’s shameful attempt to find a scandal in the IRS investigation.  It was a Republican IRS official who ordered the investigation of groups applying for tax exemption that had “tea party” in their name.

The Republican insistence that security at the Mexican border be increased by $30 billion, despite the fact that under Obama illegal immigration has decreased and deportations have increased. Bill pointed out that the sequester was for $42 billion, and lamented how there was always money for the military-industrial complex.

 Republicans wasting time voting repeatedly on ending ObamaCare and limiting/abolishing abortion—at total waste of time and taxpayer money. It is done for show so the freshman Republicans can go home and say they voted for these things.

Republicans voting to reduce/end food stamps and end support for programs that promote healthy eating.

Bill said, “What does it take for Republicans to say, I just can’t be part of this party anymore.”  Later he answered his own question.  He said, “There are a lot of stupid people in this country. They need some representation too.”
The interview was with Haifaa al Mansour, an Saudi Arabian women who made a film, Wadjda, about a young Arab girl who wants to ride a bike.  Islamic women are getting fed up with all the restrictions placed upon them, but have to proceed very carefully.  A lot of the interview consisted of al Mansour and Bill saying “I don’t want to be killed.”

Bill had praise for Exodus, a pray-away-the-gay organization that has disbanded after more than 30 years. The leader of the group apologized to all the people he hurt and shamed while pursuing this agenda to change sexual orientation. He admitted that he was wrong. This is the “better late-than-never” moment of the week. Maybe al Monsour could take heart from this disavowal of wrong-head religious beliefs.
Bill is clearly fed up with wrong-headed religious beliefs. In the monologue he took on the hatred of atheists. He said that religious people don’t care all that much what you believe in as long as you believe in something. The religious fanatics hate members of other religions, but they fear atheists. He described it as being like a conga line. If you are not in the line, you realize what a schmuck you look like. He reported that the fastest growing religion in America is “none of the above.”

I’m with Bill on this one. I have observed that atheism scares many religious people, making them quick to respond with anger. If the atheists are right, they have been dancing in a conga line, being a schmuck all their life.

One last fed-up reference: In New Rules Bill commented on how much weight Robert Zimmerman has gained while waiting for his trial for shooting an unarmed black teenager, Travon Martin. (The boy was carrying only a can of iced tea and a bag of Skittles.) Bill joked that Zimmerman might have killed Trayvon for his Skittles.

Bill will be fed-up all over again next Friday night. And I’ll be in front of my TV getting my weekly dose of indignation, politics, and comedy.

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Bill Maher holds parody magazine.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Real Time with Bill Maher #286 “True Confessions”

by Catherine Giordano

HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, episode 286, airing on June 14, 2013 opened with a scathing monologue on the topic of Syria. Bill commented on Obama’s decision to arm the rebels in Syria.  He said, I voted for Obama so he could carry out McCain’s  ideas.”  The he said, “Using chemicals to harm people.  Who does Assad think he is? Monsanto?”  He topped it off with “Assad can kill as many people as he wants with guns…just like in our schools.” 

Bill also joked about Pope Francis’ comment about a gay network in the Vatican. He said that it sounded like a show for Bravo, “The Real Homosexuals of Vatican City.”  I say, the Pope is just “fessing up” to what everyone already knows.

The interview was with former Rhode Island Representative, Patrick Kennedy, who is the co-founder of “One Mind for Research.” He advocates for mental health being treated the same as physical health by health insurance companies. I wholeheartedly agree. But then he got off on a passionate diatribe about marijuana, saying it destroys the brain. No one says things like that around Bill who is passionate about legalizing marijuana. Kennedy says if marijuana was legal kids would use it. Bill countered that because kids might use it, adults can’t use it?  (Remember cigarettes and alcohol are illegal for those under 18, but adults can purchase these drugs legally.) I seem to remember Kennedy having some substance abuse problems, and as the saying goes, there is no one more self-righteous than a reformed drunk.

The panel included Niall Ferguson, a professor of history at Harvard; Jonathan Alter, a journalist, and KellyAnne Conway, a Republican political strategist.

The conversation included a discussion about the NSA collecting metadata on communications. Alter said that “if you are looking for a needle, you need to a haystack.” Very apt analogy. Fergusan said, “Terrorism is a new kind of threat. It is hard to fight a network.” Conway said about the controversy, “It is a conversation we need to have.”

I’m so tired of hearing of this conversation. The “spying” is being done legally with judicial oversight (unlike during the Bush years when it was done illegally). It has already prevented numerous attacks. No one is listening to our conversations. The NSA is simply looking for patterns, connecting the dots you might say.

Besides there is no privacy anymore. Bill said, “We live in an age where people don’t care about privacy anymore.”  He said the popularity of “Confession Signs” proved it. It started with pets—someone would  post a picture of their dog with the sign “I pee on the rug.”  But now it has been extended to people. He made up some confession signs for celebrities for the mid show comedy bit. For instance:

            Will Smith                              “I Didn’t See After Earth either.”

            Kate Middleton                      “Downton Abbey is my porn name.”

            Darell Issa                             “I got nothing.”

            Pope Francis                        “I totally voted for myself.”

The one about Darell Issa was the “so-true-but-so-never-gonna-happen” moment of the week.

 The special guest was Josh Fox, a filmmaker who made the documentaries “Gasland” and “Gasland II.” He talked about fracking (obtaining natural gas by fracturing rock) being an “absolute nightmare. It leaks methane into the air worsening global warming.  (Methane is much more potent than CO2.) It contaminates underground water. Ferguson insulted Fox, telling him he was exaggerating the harm because he was a film-maker.  When the others tried to refute him, he got red-faced angry. “Cheap shot.” he yelled. Clearly, he is one of those people who can dish it out but can’t take it. I wish someone would post his picture somewhere with a confession sign attesting to this.
In New Rules, Bill remarked that Rubio is insisting the immigrants learn English.  He thought this was pandering from the guy who delivered the state of the union response in Spanish, who used Spanish language campaign ads, and who published his book in Spanish. Bill added, “Tell me the Spanish word for ‘hypocrite.’”

Bill concluded with an attack on Congressional lifers. There are so many 80 and 90 year olds in Congress. “Congressmen suck at their job because they can’t lose their jobs.” (Gerrymandered districts.) “There are only three ways to leave office,” Bill said. “Die in office, leave to become a lobbyist, tweet a picture of their dick.”  “We have Weekend at Bernie’s government.”

So true.

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Saturday, June 8, 2013

Real Time with Bill Maher #285 “I’m Calling Bullsh*t”

The best part of HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher”, episode 285, which aired on June 7, 2013, came at the end with New Rules. It was the “this-is-the-reason-I-watch-Bill-Maher” moment of the week.

Bill reminded us of all the talk about how Ronald Reagan could not have been successful as a Republican in today’s Republican party. Bill said ,”I call bullsh*t on that.”

Bill then went on to show that the excesses of today’s Republicans all stem from Ronald Reagan.

Bill used the following terms to describe Reagan: anti-abortion, union-busting, cut-taxes-on-the-rich, an incurable case of military-industrial complex, Medicare-is-socialism-that will-destroy-America.  (Referencing that last item, Bill later quoted Reagan’s famous speech about how because of Medicare one day we would be telling our children what freedom used to be like with this quip: “Drama Queen much?”  That was Bill at his best.)

Bill said that Reagan wrote the playbook on every issue for today’s Republicans:

He invented voodoo economics.  

He poisoned race relations, constantly railing that Blacks get all the breaks. (Remember Welfare Queens—a total lie, by the way.)  

He equated the New Deal with fascism.

He said Medicaid was people waiting for handouts.

He called unemployment insurance a pre-paid vacation for free-loaders.

He inspired people who hate government to get into government.

And he pioneered making sh*t up.

(And Bill never even mentioned Iran-Contra, along with the probability that Reagan made a deal with the Iranians to prolong the hostage crisis for his political advantage, which were perhaps the precursors to G.W. Bush lying us into a war.)  

Bill said that Reagan was far from a mainstream Republican and that he is the reason the far right thinks it is the new middle. “Reagan is the man most responsible for our decline.”  He said that Democrats should stop conceding the arguments about Ronald Reagan being better than today’s Republicans and tea-partiers.

He concluded with “We should stop pretending he’s a saint when his two miracles were changing water into polluted water and walking on the poor.”  Amen, brother!

The interview was with George Packer, author of The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America. The book is about the structures of everyday life crumbling, the nation’s leaders failing to protect the people, and the void being filled with “organized money.” His book makes these points by telling the stories of everyday Americans.   Packer told Bill, “The game is rigged. The United States is not number one in social mobility anymore.” Packer also said, “Celebrities are a super-class. They used to be a side show, but now unless you are a celebrity you kind of don’t exist.”

The panel included Kevin Williamson, a roving correspondent for The National Review. He also has a new book: The End is Near and It’s Going To Be Awesome: How Going Broke Will Leave America Richer, Happier and More Secure. The book title perfectly sums up who Williamson is. Really? A financial cataclysm will be a good thing? Perhaps it will be for Williamson, but I doubt very much that it will be good for me and the other everyday people, like the people in Packer’s book.

I suppose this was good counter-casting to have Packer and  Williamson on the same panel because Williamson seems to be the exact opposite of Packer with respect to their views about what is wrong with America and how to fix it. Williamson is the most dangerous kind of conservative—he conveys an air of authority and appears to present educated arguments—but his ideas are the same kind of bullshit you hear from the tea-partiers, just said more nicely.

Another conservative on the panel was Ana Navarro. She looked and sounded a little more polished compared to her last time on the show, but she still couldn’t resist “the-don’t-go-there” comment. The panel was discussing the ideas of Tom Shadyac, the author of Life’s Operating Manual. His main point was that all systems in the natural world co-operate with each other. He said that the “human body is one big co-operative organism, and when it doesn’t work you get sick.” Navarro added, “Or you take Viagra.”Everyone stared at her—no one understood what she meant.  She had to explain that when the body won’t do what the brain wants it to do, you take Viagra. (Get it? The panel wisely moved on to a new topic.)

Dana Gould was also on the panel. He’s a comedian. During the discussion about privacy, of should I say today’s lack of privacy, he said, “We have lost “the illusion of privacy.  The loss of privacy is nothing new.”

He’s right. If you think anything is private, you are deceiving yourself. I no longer even care. I assume that anyone who wants to know anything about me can know it. So this whole brouhaha about the government spying on people is just a tempest in a teapot to me. It’s all out there anyway, and if it helps us catch terrorists before they blow something up again, I’m OK with it. Bill summed it up: “Would the founding fathers have been so strong on privacy if they knew about nukes?
Bill brought up the study commissioned by The Young Republicans. The study found that young people associate Republicans with the following terms: Close-minded. Racist. Rigid. Old Fashioned. Now that should scare Republicans into changing their ways, but they just can’t seem to help themselves. Rubio is now set to vote against his own immigration bill.

The comedy segment was about some new super-heros for gays. The list included: The Incredible Hunk; Clash Gordon (punishers of fashion crimes); The Ex-Men (transvestites); 14 Cats Woman (the lesbian who lives with 14 cats); Ironic Man (his super power is rolling his eyes); and Wonder Woman (transvestites who make you wonder if they are women.) For someone who advocates equality for gays, and lesbians, Bill sure does a lot of jokes about them. I’m just saying. 

Let me close with something from bill’s monologue. It’s about Michelle Obama not taking sh*t from anyone. When she was recently heckled she told the crowd they should decide if they wanted to listen to her or the heckler. If they wanted to hear the heckler, she was leaving. I thought she handled it just right, although The Right is all in a tizzy about it. Bill said, “Michelle went all Game-of-Thrones on them. She told the heckler that if I wanted your opinion, my husband would tap your phone.” 

"Saint Reagan" predicts that Medicare, one of the most popular government programs ever,
 will be the end of freedom.  What bullsh*t. 
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Friday, June 7, 2013

HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher # 284 "Crazy Town"

by Catherine Giordano

HBO aired episode 284 of "Real Time with Bill Maher" on Friday May 31, 2013.

The interview was with Michael Isikoff, national investigative correspondent for NBC News. A new documentary film, War On Whistle Blowers, is based on his reporting.

The panel included James Poulos from Huffington Post Live, Neera Tanden, president of Center for American Progress, and Paul Rudnick, humorist and author of the young adult novel, Gorgeous.

Speaking of gorgeous, the special guest was Brit Marling, actress and screen writer who stars in a new movie, The East, who is absolutely gorgeous.   

The title of this review, "Crazy Town", is a reference to Michelle Bachmann. In the opening monologue, Bill talked about her decision not to run for re-election. "In the battle between Crazy Town and reality, reality won.  He quipped that Bachmann's next job was going to be as a model for the before picture in a tranquilizer ad as a picture of Bachmann's googly-eyed face appeared on screen.

Bill had another great zinger. This one was for John McCain. Bill reported that John McCain went to Syria over the Memorial Day weekend.  Referring to McCain’s frequent visits to war zones, he described McCain as “the Where’s Waldo of War.”

And, of course, Bill had to do a riff on the mayor of Toronto who was caught on tape smoking crack. That guy is a joke waiting to happen.

Bill mentioned the other white powder in the news--ricin. It was sent to Obama in the mail. “Do they think Obama opens his own mail?” These Obama haters are so stupid. I saw on the news that they arrested the guy who did it. He is going to get a long prison sentence for his stupidity.

Michael Isikoff spoke about whistle blowers. He noted that the people at the top leak for their own purposes with impunity, but when the people at the bottom leak they get prosecuted. The question for all of us is are we better or worse off for knowing these things.

Bill took time during the panel discussion to rail against McCain—and McCain deserves it in my opinion. Bill suggested that we imagine the hell there would be to pay if we had a Republican president and a Democratic senator had gone on a rogue mission.  “McCain never met a war he didn’t want in on,” Bill said. I agree. It was one reason why it was so important that he did not become president.

The panel also discussed health care.  It seems that in the states that want Obamacare to work, it is working very well. It reminds me of the recount in Florida for Bush/Gore.  The counties that wanted the recount to work accomplished it easily and swiftly, while the counties that were headed by Republicans pretended it was an impossible task.   

Tanden pointed out that health insurance rates were coming down due to competition. Poulos said the new law wouldn’t work and “it was like nuking a mosquito.”  The rest of the panel ganged up on him for this stupid comment.

Bill pointed out the problem with Obamacare is not too much socialism, but too much capitalism. Any kinks in the law will get ironed out. He reminded everyone that Medicare was not that popular at first; it needed a few tweaks, and now it is a very popular program that works well.

Bill did a comedy segment about “fregans,” people who reject consumerism and live off the grid. They obtain food for themselves by “dumpster diving.”  So Bill did the “Zagat’s Guide to Dumpsters”—a parody of the popular restaurant guide. I liked the one he did for Chez Maison. “It’s not garbage,” he said, “it’s gar-bahage, giving the word a French pronounciation.  “The food is marinated in white wine just like the guy in the alley,” Bill added.

This segment was a nice lead-in to the appearance of Brit Marlin, whose new movie The East is about a group of eco-terrorists who live off the grid. Their creed is to take waste and turn into bounty. Their anti-corporate acts of terrorism raise the question: How far is too far?. I haven’t seen the movie, but it sounds like this band of off-the-gridders get to create a Crazy Town all their own.

Bill veered off into a discussion about how the new pope, Pope Francis, might be an atheist. Bill reported that the Pope said :”The Lord will redeem all of us, even the atheist.” This was the “from-your-lips-to-God’s-ears” moment of the week. Bill said that when he was making his movie Religulous he discovered that many non-believers hold high office in the church—they stay in the church because they want to help people. Rudnick added that the pope said he falls asleep during prayers, and said “he’s my kind of guy.”

They discussed how Wolfe Blitzer while interviewing an Oklahoma tornado survivor said “I guess you just thank the Lord.” The woman said that, actually she “did not thank the Lord, but she did not blame those who do.” Blitzer just assumed. I always hate it when people claim that the deity saved them from a natural disaster. How are the families of those who did not survive suppose to feel when they hear that? Their loved ones weren’t good enough?    

In New Rules, Bill did “Reefer Gladness” about how pot is the new gay marriage—the next civil rights issue. He said that medical marijuana was “don’t ask, don’t tell” for pot smokers. He got serious when he spoke about how three-fourths of a million people are arrested for pot each year. Blacks are seven times more likely to get arrested, and this is one way to suppress the black vote. A simple pot conviction can ruin someone’s life. Given these facts, Bill did not think that Obama’s joke about “buzzfeed” during the Correspondents Dinner was funny. He said, Obama evolved on gay marriage, but he got stricter on pot.

In my opinion, America is like “Crazy Town” all too often with its nutty politicians, its religiosity, and its selectively enforced laws against victimless crimes.

Brit Marling

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