Sunday, October 27, 2013

HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher #298 "Spies, Lies, and Nice Guys"

Valerie Plame
By Catherine Giordano

It was a great hour of conversation on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, episode 298, which aired
on 10/25/13 because it was the rare show with no conservatives spewing nonsense and lies, interrupting the people who have something worthwhile to say.

In the opening monologue,  Bill said that the scariest Halloween costume was the government health care website. The thing we have waited 70 years for, but if it takes more than an hour, forget it. The thing the Republicans are outraged about because it doesn’t work that they didn’t want to work. The thing that makes us spend more time at our computers than Anthony Weiner spends on his computer. If only I could laugh.  I’m too sad to laugh. This thing needs to work. And it has become the butt of endless jokes.

The interview was with Maajid Nawaz, co-founder of Quillim, a organization to turn Islam away from terrorism and the author of Radical: My Journey out of Islamist Extremism.” He is working to inoculate Muslims against extremism and the half-truths charismatic leaders. In Overtime, Bill said, “We need about 1000 of you out there.”

The panel included Michael Moore, the documentary film-maker and author. His most recent book is autobiographical. Here Comes Trouble: Stories from My Life.  He also was dismayed about the problems with the healthcare website.  Another panel member Valerie Plame, co-author of Blowback, an intense spy thriller with a smart sexy heroine, was optimistic.  She said, ‘In five years time, people will cry if you try to take it away." Bill argued that we need to give it time. He said, “RomneyCare took a year. Most people visited the site 18 times before enrolling and most signed up at the last minute.”  He said that judging the ACA by its website is like going to a restaurant, and when the door sticks, deciding that the food must be lousy.  The third guest was the Reverend Al Sharpton, host of MSNBC’s Politics Nation and author of The Rejected Stone: Al Sharpton and the Path to American Leadership. He pointed out "The objective was not a great website, but to provide health care. We are not going to fix the car to keep it on the parking lot.”

After a bit of talk about the Republican brand losing popularity-- 53% of Americans blame the Republicans for the shut down and fewer than half viewed them as better at managing the economy or even better at defense.  

The talk then turned to the NSA and Snowden and the proper balance between security and populatity. Plame pointed out that we wouldn’t even be having this conversation if it were not for Snowden.  Bill argued for more targeted surveillance, saying that  “The bigger you build the haystack,the harder to find the needle. Plame warned that the potential for abuse is enormous.

The comedy segment was about the Japanese and sex.  It seems to have become unpopular in Japan—not even young people are not doing it. This is the “you- gotta-be-kidding-me” moment of the week. But no., it is true. Among Japanese men, 25% reported no interest.  It’s gotten so bad that there are subway posters about it.

            Pokemon—it’s also a verb.

            Don’t think of it as sex, think of it as getting to level 6 of her vagina.

            Real girls don’t have gigantic eyes. Deal with it.

            Honest. It tastes like sushi.

            You eat raw eel for breakfast and you are disgusted by a penis?

The special guest was Richard Dawkins, the scientist of genetics and author of books about atheism. His latest book is An Appetite for Wonder: TheMaking of a Scientist. He gave Bill a T-shirt that said “Religion: Together we can find a cure.” Bill said that Dawkins was religious as a youth. Dawkins responded, “When I became a man, I put away childish things."

Dawkins talked about the five skulls--a;; very different from each other-- that were found together in a cave suggesting that all five were from the same place and time. It claimed it as a victory for the “lumpers” over the “splitters.” The splitters always want to create a new species; the lumpers interpret the differences as variation within a species. Dawkins spoke about the misunderstandings around evolution. Natural selection is not random. The mutations are random; the selection is quite organized.

Dawkins  referred to both Obama and Kennedy as atheists. But he refuted Bill’s contention that Pope Francis is an atheist.  Dawkins said, “He’s just nice.”  Bill said, “Islam needs a Pope Frank.”

Bill’s final New Rules segment focused on the minimum wage.  Michelle Bachman and Ted Cruz are among those who want to eliminate it. Bachman said we would have full employment if we eliminated the minimum wage. My view: We had a system like that once—it was called slavery. 

Bill said eliminating the minimum wage would put us in an economic death spiral. Most fast food workers, average age 29, earning minimum wage are on public assistance--food stamps, for instance.  If the minimum wage was raised taxpayers wouldn’t have to pick up the slack.  So do we want no minimum wage or do we want no welfare—we can’t have both. Bill said “We are tired of helping highly profitable companies to pay their employees.” 

Bill didn’t mention it but there are a few new fast food chains paying their employees very well-- $15 an hour and up. The one I have heard about is Moo Cluck Moo in Michigan. They have low employee turnover, good food, and good customer service. They are making a pofit and opening new stores.
Bill concluded saying that he had not been to a McDonalds drive-thru in years. “If I want to talk in the face of some red-nosed clown, I’ll debate John Boehner.”