Saturday, November 23, 2013

“Real Time with Bill Maher” #302 “Drama Queens and Cocaine Dreams”

By Catherine Giordano

Maher does a great tribute to JFK.
Drama queens and cocaine dreams ruled on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” #302, the season finale
which aired on 11/22/13. In the monologue, Bill Maher talked about the change in the Senate rules so that a filibuster could not be used to block a vote on President Obama’s nominees for the courts. Majority rules—at last!. Maher said Republicans are acting like a bunch of “drama queens,” red faced with fury. 

The so-called “nuclear option” was so easily accomplished—it was done in an afternoon. Why did they wait five years? It should have been done four years ago as soon as the Republican plan to do nothing but obstruct became evident. Bill Maher joked, “Just wait until President Ted Cruz fills the D. C. Circuit Court with Ann Coulter, Bill O’Reilly, and a fetus.”

The “cocaine dreams” part of the title refers to Trey Radel, Republican congressman from Florida. He pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine and was sentenced to one year of probation and a very small fine. He’s going to “Club Rehab,” but not resigning. He said that his arrest was a wakeup call. Maher quipped, “His wakeup call used to be a ginormous line of cocaine.”  Maher added that “he is taking a page from Rob Ford [mayor of Toronto also busted for cocaine and also refusing to resign], blaming it on alcohol.”  As if abuse of alcohol makes the use of illegal drugs OK. 

It should also be pointed out that Radel voted to drug-test recipients of food stamps and also voted to cut food stamp spending. Maybe he did those votes while high on cocaine.

Later in the show there was a discussion of cocaine use. Maher says he knows several very successful people in Hollywood who use cocaine.  It doesn’t interfere with their ability to function.  Maher didn’t take it one step further and bring in the proposition that it is not the drug, but it’s illegality that causes problems. For rich people, it really is just like drinking too much sometimes.

The interview was with Dan Savage, who is gay and dramactic, but anything but a drama queen. He is the epitome of cool with a biting wit. He is the author of a sex-advice column named “Savage Love” and the author of several books.  His most recent book is AmericanSavage: Insights, Slights, and Fights on Faith, Sex, Love, and Politics. Maher called him our “unofficial ambassador to Gaytopia.”

Maher mentioned a priest who recently testified in Hawaii that the children of gay couples are more likely to commit suicide.  Dan coolly delivered the priest’s comeuppance. “He’s confusing children with gay parents with the children molested by gay priests.” Pow!

Savage also had quite a few things to say about the two daughters of Former VP Dick Cheney. Liz Cheney (who is straight) is in a primary election in Utah. She is down 50 points in the polls. She thought she could improve her standing with conservatives by condemning her sister, Mary, who is a lesbian married to another lesbian. The ploy only made things worse for Liz.  Bill said, “Liz misjudged people. The only thing ickier than gays is throwing your sister under the bus to win votes.” 

Savage used somewhat stronger language. He called Mary and her wife a couple of “rich dikes.” He reported that Liz had donated money to politicians who seek to repeal gay rights (including $2,500 to Romney) and she never spoke out about the anti-gay statements by her father when he was running for VP. Anyway, it seems that Dick Cheney has been trying to patch things up between his daughters. Savage commented on this thusly: “It’s funny that you need a dick to adjudicate a dispute between a lesbian and her straight sister.”

The panel was introduced and the discussion went straight to the filibuster. Paul Begala, who is a political consultant and co-author of several books with James Carville; the most recent is Take It Back: Our Party, Our Country, Our Future. He said, “The Constitution mentions nine things that require a super-majority; confirmation of judges is not one them. There is no filibuster in the Constitution.”

 Katty Kay, the lead anchor of BBC World news America and co-author  (with Claire Shipman) of Womenomics: Work Less, Achieve More, LiveBetter, said, “It had to be done to make the government work… Harry Reid has had 400 filibusters.”  

Former Republican governor of Maryland, Bob Erlich, said, “Be careful what you wish for. An election is coming up.” This is the “whistling-in-the-dark” moment of the week. Until Republicans change their policies concerning women, minorities, the middle class and the poor—and that doesn’t seem likely to happen anytime soon-- they are not going to retake the Senate. Moreover, I feel positive that if Reid had not abolished the filibuster, the Republicans would have done it the moment they regained control of the Senate. The last time they were in control, they threatened to do it, and they would have if the Democrats hadn’t caved and allowed totally unqualified nominees to be confirmed.  So this move costs the Democrats nothing, and may allow them to get enough done to win favor with the voters and thereby keep their control of the Senate.
The comedy segment began with Maher wishing liberals “a very merry war on Christmas.”  Then he showed us some mock books from politicos about Christmas.

Bill O’Reilly:       Killing St. Nick
Paula Dean:        Extremely White Christmas           
Chris Christie:    The 12 Days of Thanksgiving
Barack Obama:  If You Like Your Present, You Can Keep Your Present
John Boehner:    Little Drama Boy

There was also a discussion about JFK and assassination conspiracy theories and the crazy conspiracy theories about Benghazi, especially those on Glenn Beck’s website..  Maher said, “We need conspiracies  like we need God, we’can’t accept that things are just random.”  Kay said, “They have almost a pathological mistrust of government. They project their feelings onto it.” Erlich tied to protest that Benghazi was really different, but no one took him seriously.

There was also a discussion about the Republicans shedding crocodile tears about the Affordable Care Act. They focus on the 1.5% of people who may have to get insurance without qualifying for subsidies. (This group is probably well–off and can afford the insurance.) Maher asked “What about the 5 million people who are not getting the Medicare coverage that the new law provides for them because the governors of their states have refused to take the federal money that will pay for it 100% for the first three years and 90% thereafter.  Erlich gave the “where-does-it-end” argument.  He said, “It was supposed to be just for poor women with children, not for everyone." Begala showed him up by informing him that it is not just poor people who suffer. Hospitals suffer because they are stuck with the bill for uninsured people who can’t pay.

The mid-show guest was the very talented and charming actor, Wendell Pierce, who appears on the HBO drama Treme and on The Micheal J. Fox show. He spoke with heart about New Orleans. After Katrina, some people had said we should let the city go. Wendell says that if anyone dares to sa let this cit go,"we will kick their ass." 

Pierce spoke about his new venture, Sterling Foods, bringing fresh affordable food to the inner city. Each store employs about 50 to 60 people from the community it serves paying them good wages. They even have the Sterling Shuttle—customers who arrive by bus get a ride home if they spend $50 or more.  He compared his store’s policies to Costco. Costco pays good wages, provides healthcare.  “If everyone did the right thing like Costco, we wouldn’t need government regulations.”  This is the “Amen-Brother” moment of the week.

Pierce’s comments wee a perfect segue to New Rules which began with Maher saying that the Wal-Mart Smiley Face is laughing at us. Wal-Mart was conducting a food drive for its own employees asking other employees to donate. “When you sell food and your employees don’t have enough food …”  Another “Amen-Brother” moment. The family that owns Wal-Mart is the one of the richest families in America—they should be donating to their employees who are in need or better yet, paying them a living age so they can buy their own food. (See Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price.)  

The final New Rules segment compared Democrats to Republicans, and JFK to Reagan. Maher said, “We have gays in the military; they have gays in the airport restroom.”  The gist of his riff was that for Republicans, Reagan is their Kennedy. Then he made a bunch of comparisons to show how cool Kennedy was (and still is) and how Reagan was already way past is prime in the 1980’s, the era of “greed is good.” One example:  “Kennedy is James Bond; Reagan is Matlock.” He ended with, “You can call someone ‘your Kennedy’ but it will never make it true because ‘our Kennedy’ is Kennedy.  Another “Amen, Brother” moment.
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