Saturday, November 9, 2013

HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher #300 “Winners and Losers”

I found this picture in the New York Times Book Review
of Double Down: Game Change 2012
By Catherine Giordano

Are we winning or losing is the theme for my recap and review of HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher
#300 which aired on 11/08/13.  The answer is a little of both and sometimes it is hard to tell.

No one can dispute that Chris Christie won big in New Jersey. Bill Said, “What a week for Chris Christie. First they bring back the McRib. Then he wins reelection.”  Is it bad form to make fun of someone’s weight? I can’t help staring at Christie. He’s the elephant man in the room. He looks like he swallowed a flying saucer and it is lodged in his gut. However, the lap-band surgery looks like it is working a little. He’s not quite a fat as he was last year.

But I rail about the fat not just because it is ugly, but because it tells us who Christie is. It fits his personality and character. He’s an unrestrained bully. He wants what he wants and doesn’t care about anyone else. He’s all about domination. He’s a hollow man emotionally trying to fill the emptiness. You can sense his insecurity when he’s talking about how great he is. Never trust a fat man!  

The people of New Jersey voted for him, twice. He’s been a disaster for New Jersey. He vetoed the marriage equality act and a raise in the minimum wage, and the people undid his veto on both, but they still voted for him. He showed sympathy when Sandy hit as any governor would. He fought for the relief funds, but the money hasn’t gotten to the people who need it. No one knows (except maybe Christie and friends) where it went.

John Heilemann, the co-author (with Mark Halperin) of Double Down:Game Change 2012 explained that Romney took a close look at Christie when he vetted potential VP candidates and he passed on him. Heilemann said that Romney did so with good reason—there is a lot of stuff in Christie’s background that cannot withstand scrutiny. Here’s something I never thought I would say: I hope that the American people are at least as smart as Romney.

Sometimes I wonder. Did Obama win his elections because the American people were smart enough to pick the better candidate or did he win because he played the game better, particularly with the get-out–the-vote-efforts? If Republicans get better at technology, could we end up with someone like Christie?  I’ve only read the first few chapters of Double Down. I’ll get back to you when I’ve finished the book.

If you read my comment on my review of last week’s show, you will remember that I said Double Down was a page turner. I was so excited to hear Bill say the same thing last night. A book about politics where you know the plot and how it ends and still you can’t put it down. Now that is a good book!

Other than Christie, election night was a good night for Democrats. DiBlasio won in the mayor’s race in New York City by a huge margin (73% to 24%).  And McAuliffe won in the Virginia’s governor’s race by a smallish margin (48% to 45%), but still a solid win.

One of the contenders for the Democratic nomination for mayor of New York City was Anthony Weiner, former Democratic congressman from New York. Weiner was the mid-show guest.  Bill brought him on with a lot of talk defending Weiner, saying his sexual peccadilloes should not have disqualified him from public office. Poor Weiner, he was squirming with discomfort. Finally, Maher moved on to issues, and it made me so sad to see what a great crusader for liberal policies—someone with wit and passion and heart--we could have had, but lost because he still has an adolescent sexuality.

Weiner defended Obama and the ACA. He favored Medicare for all, as did I. Like me, he said, we should have started moving the eligibility age down a little every year until everyone was covered. Every dollar the insurance companies take is one less dollar for actual medical care. If the ACA has not tried to keep insurance companies in the system (a political necessity) we would not be having the problems with the ACA federal rollout that we are having now.

Weiner defended the president on the “If you like your plan, you can keep our plan statement” while so many others are willing to say that he “fudged” the truth. He said people are being “too literal.” What if you had an employer based plan and you lost our job or your employer went out of business? You don’t keep your plan. And hundreds of people were losing their health insurance every day before the ACA.”

Weiner also pointed out that the people who are in the news saying that their plan was cancelled and they have to pay twice as much almost always turn out to be mistaken about the cost. Almost all of them will end up with a better plan at less cost if they choose to use the ACA exchanges.  I say almost but not all because whenever there is a change, there are some winners and some losers. The good news is with the ACA almost everyone is a winner.

Medicare for all is essentially single payer. The third panelist, Victoria DeFrancisco Soto, a fellow at the Center for Politics and Governance at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas and a political analyst for Telemundo also favors single payer.

The only person at the desk on this show who was attacking the ACA was David Avella, president of GOPAC. GOPAC is an Republican political organization known for aggressive attack ads. Avella, of course, proclaimed that health insurance premiums were doubling and tripling. He also brought up the issue that so many detractors are bringing up—why do men have to pay the same as women when women use more health care. “Why should men pay for pregnancy?”, he asked. Weiner slapped him down. “Your car probably came with a hook for a child seat.” The point was you get the feature whether you personally use it or not—the product is made to provide for everyone. I would have told him that he and all other men are only on this earth because of a pregnancy. Have a little respect for your mother, you loser!

Weiner said that we have to judge the ACA by what we had before. While it doesn’t go as far as I would like and maybe it goes too far for some, it is without a doubt better than what we had before. There are minimum standards, coverage will be close to universal, and insurance companies have to compete on a level playing field. There are far more winners than losers with the ACA.  

The third panelist, Victoria DeFrancisco Soto, a fellow at the Center for Politics and Governance at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas and a political analyst for Telemundo also favors single payer. She seems a quiet person, and the guys did not give her much opportunity to speak.

The interview was with Bill Binney, former technical director of the NSA. We are all losers with respect to privacy. He said the government is spying on everyone, and it is growing. The data bases in the cloud are merged into the government cloud.  I don’t understand it all, but Binney thinks it is pretty bad. He said that if you think it doesn’t matter because you think you are not doing anything wrong, it doesn’t matter what you think, it is what the government thinks.

The mid-show comedy segment was about a husband and wife who were running against each other for some minor office somewhere. He did some spoof ads that they might have run against each other. The ads took standard campaign claims and gave them a twist that made it sound like a husband and wife bickering.

New Rules was really good, so good that I mostly wasn’t laughing. The segment was titled “Cheap of Faith” and it was how conservatives will always find a way to justify their stinginess as superior morality. For instance,

 “I would love to help the unemployed, but it discourages working.”

“I would love to give to charity, just not to those who need it.”

“We’d like to feed the starving, but what if they used their new strength to do drugs.”

“I want everyone to see a doctor, but if the government do it will destroy our way of life and besides the website is glitch and that leads to Stalinism.

The part that had me too angry to laugh was the part about the religious stiffing servers in restaurants. Bill asked, “What do the snake handlers have against the food handlers?”  What they like to do is write little notes on their receipts. “I give 10% to the church, why should I give you 18%.” I want to scream, “Because the wait staff gets paid $2.25 and runs their tails off giving you good service. The tip is how they get paid for their work. The tip is part of the cost of the meal. If you have moral objections to tipping, eat at home!!!!”

Then there was the one given to a gay waiter. “Queers will not share in the wealth of God and you will not share in ours.” I want to scream, “You didn’t have a moral objection to this queer running his tail off to serve you, but you have a moral objection to paying him for his work!!!” Bill’s response was. “Stiffing him on the tip is not going to make him want to put his penis in a woman; it is going to make him want to put his penis in your pasta primavera.” I laughed at that one. This was the “sweet-revenge- fantasy” moment of the week.)

And finally, Bill showed us these fake $10 bills. When the server sees it, he thinks he has received a generous tip. When the fake bill is turned over, he sees this message.  "Some things are better than money. Like your eternal salvation that was bought and paid for by Christ going to the cross.” Bill had a great response to that one. First, he said, “Yeah, but Jesus didn’t have to put gas in the donkey”. He capped it with, “If you are a waiter and you get one of these phony $10 bills, do me a favor, the next time you go to church, drop it in the collection plate.”