Saturday, July 27, 2013

HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher #291 “Tell it Like It Is”

by Catherine Giordano

Tell It Like It Is

HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” delivered a great hour of conversation and comedy during episode 291 which aired on July 26, 2013.  It was as if all the guests had decided to tell it like it is.

The monologue began with Bill telling it like it is about Anthony Weiner and his sexting scandal. He parodied his user name, “Carlos Danger,” and said it should have been “Carlos Jack-Off.”  He said Weiner was at the Apple store and the clerk told him, “You know, you can also make calls with this.”

From there he segued to the 70-year old mayor of San Diego, Bob Filner, another politician with a sex scandal—extreme sexual harassment. Bill said he is in two weeks of intensive treatment on how to keep his hands to himself.

Bill didn’t joke about Eliot Spitzer and his sex scandal, perhaps because Spitzer was on the panel. I have to feel sorry for Spitzer. He’s running for Comptroller of New York and these two sex scandals can’t help but remind everyone about his own sex scandal a few years back that forced him to resign the governorship of New York. At least his sex scandal was a grown up scandal—he was having sex with prostitutes—Weiner and Filner are acting like teenagers.

Bill put Spitzer on the spot asking him if Weiner should drop out of the race for mayor of New York. Spitzer wisely evaded the question saying, “It is up to the voters.”  Bill doesn’t think Weiner should drop out over personal issues.  I think he’s wrong about this. (By the way, so do the voters—Weiner is no longer in the lead in the polls.) For me it is a matter of character, judgment, and maturity. When the scandal first broke, I gave Weiner the benefit of the doubt—perhaps he thought it was only harmless flirting. But now I have to tell it like it is--Weiner continuing with the sexting after he was forced to resign shows that he learned nothing and he puts his gratification ahead of his family and his desire to serve his country. I don’t think New York needs a mayor who will have a scandal de jour.

The interview was with Sarah Slamen. She was the young woman who we all saw on TV during the Texas special session, the one called so Republicans could pass a law to close down almost all of Texas’ abortion clinics. The Republicans were forced by Texas law to allow public testimony. Slamen shouted out to a Republican  legislator, Jane Wilson, who had interrupted Slamen’s testimony, “I will judge you, M'am.” She was perfectly within her rights to do so, but it got her dragged from the room. She’s an intelligent woman who is passionate about the issues and who tells it like it is—I think she can be successful in politics if she chooses to be.

There were three men on the panel this week—each with a new book to plug. Eliot Spitzer, the former governor of New York who is currently running for comptroller of New York and has a new book out—Protecting Capitalism Case by Case. The other two were Reza Aslan, a religion scholar, author of Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, and Bob Ney, former Republican Congressman from Ohio who went to prison for crimes connected to the Jack Abramoff scandal and author of  Sideswiped: Lessons Learned Courtesy of the Hit Men on Capitol Hill.  (The title made me think the book would be about him defending his actions and blaming others for his downfall, but I read some reviews and he apparently freely admits his mistakes while also revealing high level people in the Bush administration who played a major role in the Abramoff crimes.)

Bill brought up a comment Boehner made this week. “We measure this Congress not by what we pass, but by what we repeal.” Aslan quickly pointed out that they had repealed nothing implying that Boehner’s own words show that his leadership is a failure. This is “the-hoist-on-his-own petard” moment of the week.

Bill also did a good joke about John Boehner in the monologue. He compared John Boehner to the Lincoln Memorial which just sits there and does nothing—“If the Lincoln Memorial could cry and chain smoke, it would be just like John Boehner.” 

Bill said that Boehner wants to hold a gun to the head of the country. Boehner put out a list of demands that he said must be met or else no debt-ceiling action—it was a menu of things that America has just said they don’t want. Spitzer said, “They are living like the last 15 years didn’t happen.” Ney said, “It is a total smokescreen because they can’t do anything. They don’t have any ideas.” Boehner only wants to count the votes for speaker; he doesn’t want to do what is good for the country.”  (Ever notice how smart Republicans get when their political careers are over. I saw Olympia Snowe, former senator (R-ME), on TV recently advocating for the things she just voted against now that she has retired from the Senate.)

The special guest was the Reverend Jim Wallis, the author of On God's Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn't Learned about Serving the Common GoodBill described him as “one of the good ones—a evangelical who cares about social justice.” Unfortunately, the air of collegial discussion that had pervaded the show was ended by Bill. He kept interrupting Wallis to confront him about the “nonsense and viciousness” in the Bible. Like Bill, I am an atheist, but I liked Wallis and I wanted to hear what he had to say.

Jim Wallis was telling it like it is, “Too many people like to thump the Bible and do not read it. Jesus talks about the poor. Faith without works is bad.”  Spitzer said, “We have to embrace voices in the religious world who find progressive causes in the Bible.  (Maybe he was trying to get Bill to shut up and let the man talk. There is a time to debunk religion and there is a time to let a man tells us how his religion teaches him to do good works.)  

Aslan, the religion scholar made an excellent point about the Bible (and perhaps by extension all religious texts, including his own—the Koran.) “What you don’t like [in the Bible] is figurative. What you do like is literal. The reason the Bible matters is not because it is true or false, but because it can mean whatever you want it to mean. Slavers and abolitionists both quoted the Bible, often the same verses to support their very different views.” I agree with Aslan, but I don’t think he is making a very strong case for religion and holy texts. What good is the Bible if it can mean whatever you want it to mean? (Secular humanism, on the other hand, plainly lays out consistent moral guidelines.)

The mid-show comedy bit was all about the royal baby. Bill gave us some cards that famous people might have sent. Here are some of them.

George W: Bush:  Your head is softer than mine.

Cast of Honey Boo Boo: Congratulations from one family of useless inbreds to another

Demi Moore: You’re so cute. Do you want to grab dinner some time?
Donald Trump: Born rich, whining, and famous for nothing.

Anthony Weiner: Hand the phone to your mother.  

The final New Rules segment dealt with the quote from Benjamin Franklin “They who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty or safety.” This quote was apparently tweeted twice by Sarah Palin, thereby (according to Bill) cancelling out whatever wisdom it once had. 

“It’s called the social contract,” he said. “It’s stoplights, and airport security lines….The founding fathers were not fortune tellers. When they wrote the fourth amendment, they did not foresee email. When they wrote the second amendment, they did not foresee Ted Nugent.

“In Ben Franklin’s time, the worse things were muskets and cannons. In our time, there is a portable atom bomb that weighs 51 pounds There are people who know how to build it. Do I want the NSA spying on them? You bet I do.

“There are now ten bills to modify or repeal the Patriot Act in Congress. At least we are talking about it. I’ve got to give the credit to Ed Snowden…Before, the NSA was just another government agency that no one paid attention to, like Congress.

And that is telling it like it is.

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