Saturday, November 16, 2013

HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher #301 “Same Old, Same Old”

By Catherine Giordano

Casey Affleck
It was a low key hour with the same old topics for conversation and jokes on Real Time with Bill Maher, episode 301, airing on Friday, November 15, 2013.

Maher began with the Obaminable Care Act. (Did I just make that up? Surely someone has come up with that bad pun before. Maybe not. It’s a bit of a tongue twister.)

In the monologue, Maher reported that so far 26,794 people have signed up on the Federal Government’s  ACA  website. He joked, “Wilt Chamberlain has had sex with more people than that.” He followed up with “The ACA is like sex—you do it online, it’s incredibly frustrating, and the idea of anyone getting it makes Republicans insane.”

Maher talked about the sub-standard plans that insurance companies are cancelling. He called them “The hospital gown plans: You’re ass is not covered.” Obama had to give people the option of keeping their sub-standard plans for another year to calm the hue and cry over his promise “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.” Maher pointed out that it didn’t help that former president Bill Clinton was on TV saying that Obama needed to back down on this. Maher quipped that “if you are a Democrat, Clinton is a preexisting condition". In my opinion, Clinton is a buttinski who can't accept that he is no longer president. The proper response to questions on this on any topic related to the current president is “I have confidence in President Obama.”

During the discussion, Matty Duppler, government affairs manager for the right wing group, Americans for Tax Reform, couldn’t keep a gleeful smile off her face as she said that Obama wasn’t helped by the 39 House Democrats who voted for the new bill rushed to the floor of the House by Republicans allowing people to keep their current plans. The same old tactic of Republicans--lies, and half truths. Ezra Klein, MSNBC correspondent, had to point out that the bill had two parts—the second part allowed health insurers to sell new sub-standard plans. Obama has already ordered a change in the regulations so existing plans could be kept for another year, but to allow new sub-standard plans to be sold would be counter-productive. The ACA is about quality affordable insurance.    

Most of the people who have those sub-standard plans probably won’t want them anyway once they see what a good deal they can get from the ACA, when and if the website gets working properly. This whole embarrassing problem wouldn’t have happened if the website had worked properly. Obama explained the reasons for the problem during his press conference on Friday morning. It’s red tape in the sourcing process. As a candidate, his IT operation was flawless because he could just say, “Get me the best people.” But government has to put out 40 pages of specs and get bids. Not always the best way to find and hire the best people. But still! Getting this right was so important, I’m really pissed it was botched.
Reihan Salam, writer for the libertarian National Review, said it should have been kept simple.  Maher pointed out that single payer (Medicare for all) is simple, doing it with insurance companies is why it is a mess. Duppler chimed in, again gleeful, saying that Medicare is going bankrupt. Klein had to correct her again telling her that it is not going bankrupt, and that it is 20% cheaper than private insurance.

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The interview was with Radley Balko, author of Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of the Police Force, talked about how police are getting more and more like the military.  For example, the tanks on the street in Boston during the search for the Boston Marathon bombers. The trend for police to use greater force for lesser offenses is disturbing.

The conversation discussed the same old Republican nuttiness over Benghazi. The news show “60 Minutes” interviewed a supposed eyewitness to the attack who told the story the way Republicans like to present it. Fox News said that this validated their reporting.  “Yes”, said Maher, “the story was bullshit” just like the stuff we heard from Fox News." Republicans will not give up trying to turn a tragedy into a scandal.

The mid-show comedy bit revolved around Sarah Palin going after the Pope for being too liberal. Same old, same old Sarah Palin making a fool of herself. Maher said, “She thinks the Pope is kinda liberal, wait until she hears what Jesus is saying.” He then imagined a twitter war between the two. One exchange went like this: Sarah tweets, “Bring back Pope Benedict”. The Pope tweets, “Yeah, you would want the guy who quit while in office.”  

The guest was Casey Affleck, an actor who appears in a new film, Out of the Furnace.  It concerns the problems of soldiers who return home after numerous tours of duty with PTSD, anxiety, and depression.  Affleck told us that 22 veterans commit suicide ever day.  
The problems with veterans led to a discussion about food stamps.  Many veterans are on food stamps. And they are among the millions of Americans being hurt by cuts to the program. Duppler was in favor of the cuts, because her view is when you help people “Where does it end?”  Affleck, who clearly shares the political views of his older brother, Ben Affleck, jumped in and said “It is like kicking people when they are down.” 

The conversation turned to the Philippines’ typhoon. It is the most powerful storm ever to make landfall.  Warmer oceans mean bigger storms. Duppler tried to say that global warming is happening but that doesn’t mean the warming is man-made, but she got so lost in a typhoon of her own words that I couldn’t make out what she was saying. 

Maher changed the subject to George W. Bush being the keynote speaker at a Jews for Jesus convention.  Maher said, “Jews for Jesus—an oxymoron. George Bush--a moron.” This a the “I-couldn’t-have-said-it-better-myself” moment of the week.

Salam contradicted Maher saying that some Jews are cultural Jews and can have a different religion and still be Jewish. He used Buddhist Jews--Bu-Jews (think that is how it should be spelled)--as an example. Maher wasn't buying it, and neither am I. Buddhism is more a moral philosophy than a religion, and Buddhists don't proselytize. 

And on to New Rules. And a bit called “Docket Science” about the Supreme Court rulings on the Voting Rights Act and Citizens United. Striking down key provisions of the voting rights acts would have no effect, Roberts said, except that within 48 hours a bunch of states made it harder for blacks to vote. Allowing unlimited money into elections wouldn’t sway elections, Justice Roberts said, and then creeps like Sheldon Adelson, the casino mogul, spent 100 million dollars on Republican campaigns for the 2012 election.  Maher concluded by imagining Roberts repeating the line from Animal House: “You f—ked up, you shouldn’t have trusted us.”

Maher got that right. Last week I wrote about Christie and said, "Never trust a fat guy.” This week I have to add, “Never trust a Republican.”  It is the same old same old with them—lies, and at best, half truths. Think about this: If Republican policies are so great, why do they always have to lie about them? 

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P.S. The picture on the book Rise of the Warrior Cop is not from Star Wars. It is an actual photograph taken at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. 

P.P.S. If you want to read a great book (it reads like a novel) recapping the 2012 election, read Double Down: Game Change.