Thursday, March 6, 2014

Real Time with Bill Maher #308 "News Values"

By Catherine Giordano
I lot of talk about news and values and the value of news and whether or not the news has values on Real Time with Bill Maher #308 which aired on February 21, 2014.

Rachel Maddow, host of The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC and the author of Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power, was a panel guest.  She has a new documentary that is sure to make news, Why We Did It, a follow up to her previous documentary Hubris: Selling the Iraq War.   It’s about the real reason we went to war in Iraq.  It will air on Thursday March 6, 2014.  Maddow is the best-she always puts the news in context, delving deep, while being entertaining.  It’s about time we got a definitive report about the Iraq war.

Maher said he was a big fan of MSNBC, but he thought there was too much emphasis on the Chris Christie scandals.  Maddow said, “I’m totally obsessed with the Christie story, unapologetically. I thought the Blogojevich scandal was the gonzo scandal of my career,” [but this is bigger]. Maher said “It’s not Watergate.” [I say, “You’re right, it’s worse.”] I was getting a little angry with Maher for badgering Maddow on this, but he redeemed himself when he that MSNBC scrupulously fact checks; Fox scrupulously makes up facts.”

In the monologue, Maher made a joke about Pussy Riot, the Russian girl band that was beaten by police at Sochi.  He said he was “shocked to see police behave this way …to white people.”  This set us up for the interview with Michelle Alexander, author of the book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness  Blacks are disproportionately targeted and prosecuted in the name of the war on drugs.  Once they a named a felon, then all the Jim Crow discriminations become legal—like losing the right to vote. 

Maher then talked about Ted Nugent saying that calling President Obama a “subhuman mongrel” was not racist and how Zimmerman and Dunn think that they are the victim. There was a hung jury on Dunn’s murder charge, but he was convicted of three counts of attempted murder. Maher said, “When an attempted murder is successful, isn’t that murder?”  I’ve heard others say, only half joking, that if Dunn had killed all four boys, he could have been acquitted.

Jane Harmon was another panelist. She is a former Democratic congresswoman from California. California is in the news because of the extended drought in that state.  In the monologue, Maher joked that “if Jesus came back to California, he’d be pissed because there is no water to walk on.” Later in the show, Maher mentioned that the Conference of Catholic Bishops told people they should pray for rain. This is actual fact, not a joke.  Sometimes it is hard to tell which is which.

Maher mentioned that Jon Kerry said that “climate change is a weapon o mass destruction.  Maddow said that billions of people will be displaced due to rising seas. The Pentagon believes in climate change because it is their job to see coming threats.  She pointed out what Dick Cheney said about war: if f there is a 1% chance that we may be attacked (by Iraq), then we must behave as if it’s a certainty.  Shouldn’t this apply to climate change?  Isn’t there a 1% chance that 95% of climate scientists are right?.

The third panelist was Charles Cook, a writer for The National Review, a conservative magazine.  Cook tried to disassociate himself from Republicans saying, ”I’m a conservative, not a Republican.”  This is the “The third panelist was Charles Cook, a writer for The National Review, a conservative magazine.  Cook tried to disassociate himself from Republicans saying, ”I’m a conservative, not a Republican.”  This is the “nice-try-but-if-it-quacks-like-a-Republican...” moment of the week. He sure sounded like a Republican, railing against “over-regulation” and “government making problems worse.”
Maher had a great jibe against Republicans in his monologue.  He said, In the Ukraine half of the people want to modernize and half want to stay in the past…just like in the U.S.“

The comedy segment was about religious sexual repression and a Mormon video, “Overcoming Masturbation.”  The video advised wearing pajamas that were hard to open.  That is so funny, it is hard to believe that it is not one of Maher’s jokes.  It wasn’t. These were Maher’s tips:  “Hold a live porcupine in your hand”, Spank an actual monkey”, Imagine Chris Christie putting out traffic cones”, Smack yourself in the nuts with a Bible”. 
The mid-show guest was Steve Coogan, who wrote and starred in the Oscar-nominated movie Philomena, (based on the book Philomena: A Mother, Her Son, and a Fifty-Year Search by William Sixsmith)which was partly about sexual repression in the Catholic church. The movie deals with one of the 60,000 women who because they became pregnant out of wedlock were taken to convents to live as slaves and had their babies sold for adoption. Coogan said that he wrote the screenplay using the tactics he learned from Maher’s movie Religulous, primarily the use of humor to make a point.

In New Rules, the final segment was “Wrong Division”.  It was about the fragmentation of news and how the internet is now delivering “personalized news.”  “My news feed," Maher said, “will be all about pot, American history, and Christian Mingle. Ted Nugent’s will be all about Prozac and bullets.”
Maher concluded with, “Only seeing the stuff that confirms what you already believe, that’s not news, that’s Fox News. Newspapers try to tell you what is actually important news, not just what is important to you.”

Each week, Maher gives us the news--the important news—and that is why I value this show.

Please share this review by tweeting, "liking" on facebook, and "+1 ing"
Please ""follow" so you don't miss any of my reviews.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Real Time with Bill Maher #309 “In the Dark”

By Catherine Giordano

Real Time with Bill Maher is, as always, a candle in the darkness enlightening us on issues and shining a light on Republican hypocrisy and lies.  

The February 28, 2014 show (#309) was no exception.

A lot of references to darkness this week.  In the monologue, Maher said that the favorite Tea Party game is “Pin the Blame on the Darkie.”  And in New Rules, he spoke about the new Ben and Jerry’s ice cream flavor  “Core Ice Cream”.  He said it was introduced to taunt Obama, “half dark chocolate, half white. and really dark at the core.  And to taunt Hillary Clinton, Ben and Jerry’s have ‘Hubby’s Chubby.’ “ [Except Bill Clinton is not really chubby anymore; Hillary is the one who needs to get on her husband’s diet.]

There was a great line in the monologue about Jan Brewer, governor of Arizona.  Bill said, it was a good thing that she vetoed the bill allowing businesses to discriminate against gays on the basis of their religious beliefs because she looks like “a lesbian warden in a prison movie.”   Low blow, Bill, but I’ll laugh at it because ever since she wagged her finger in Obama’s face, there is nothing she can do to redeem herself in my eyes.  I think she occasionally does the right thing, but for the wrong reasons.

The interview was with Christopher Leonard, author of The Meat Racket: The Secret Takeover ofAmerica's Food Business.  He talked about the terrible conditions in the food industry.  A lot of us are in the dark about how our food is raised. Leonard said that the chicken factories, like Tyson, have so much power in rural areas it is like a “feudal system”  from the Dark Ages. The FDA has been almost entirely dismantled due to the influence of the powerful meat industry.  [Remember The Jungle by Upton Sinclair.  It led to reforms in the meat industry.  Can The Meat Racket do the same?]

Maher had a lot of criticism for the Tea Party, although he gave them credit for becoming a force in American politics in only five years.  In Overtime, he said, they had “baked themselves into the cake that is the Republican party.”  Although they are supposed to be about deficit reduction and lower taxes, Maher said there was virtually nothing about that on their website.  It was all about Benghazi and Obamacare.   Bill says they are all about hatred for a black president.

There were two conservative panelists this week.  One was Margaret Hoover [great grand-daughter of President Hoover—so we know where she gets her bad ideas from.]  She a commentator on Fox news and is the typical blond airhead Fox News likes to put on their news shows--all low cut dresses, short skirts, and girlish flirtatiousness.  [I noticed on Fox News the camera frequently pans down to newscaster-ettes legs whereas on other channels the female newscasters are treated with respect and the camera remains on their faces. ] Hoover is the author of a new book, American Individualism: How a New Generation of Conservatives Can Save the Republican Party. I hope she had something worthwhile to say in the book. She had nothing worthwhile to say on Maher’s show.

Bill Kristol, the other conservative panelist, had a smug combative attitude on the show.  I liked the part where Maher confronted him as being totally wrong about the Iraq war, suggesting that this does not inspire confidence in his prognostations and opinions.  Kristol quickly admitted that he was wrong—a brief moment of honesty-- and then just as quickly returned to is in-your-face opinionating and lying. Just looking at him, I could see the darkness of his soul.

The third panelist was Austan Goolsbee.  He is a professor of economics at the University of Chicago and the author of
MicroEconomics. He is no light-weight—he was formerly chair of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors.  He had some important things to say about the current cuts to the military supported by Obama and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.  He said that we need a different kind of military now that in prior eras—we need technology more than troops and armaments.  We should get rid of the tanks and aircraft the military doesn’t even want any more.  He said “They are cutting strategically, not willy-nilly.”  Hoover and Kristol, as would be expected, were in hysterics about how these cuts would be the end of America.

In the comedy segment, Maher mentioned that the obesity rate had dropped among only one are group in America—two-to-five year olds.  He gave us some toddler diet tips.  Most were really gross—the whole segment was the “let-me-get-the-audience-to-groan” moment of the week. I think there was only one non-gross diet tip: Cut carbs—dump the Spaghetti-Os over your head.

The special guest was Bruce Dern, the actor currently starring in Nebraska.  (The movie is nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture and Dern is nominated for Best Actor for his role in this movie.  Bill Maher likened Nebraska to King Lear, Don Quixote and Grapes of Wrath. Dern spoke of his admiration for the people of the Mid-West, honest, hard-working, with a strong sense of fairness.

The New Rules final segment blasted “the 1%” for whining about being persecuted.  He said that the 85 richest peo0le in the world have more money than half of the people on the planet—more money that 3.5 billion people.

He said, “Masters of the universe?  They are more like babies on a plane.”  Tom Perkins who is worth eight billion said he is being persecuted like the Jews were by the Nazis.  Bill explained that the Jews never did anything to deserve their persecution.  Tom mentioned billionaire Sam Zell who said, “We are the 1% because we work harder.”  Bill said, “Really, you sit in your cushy office and talk on the phone and you think you work harder than a coal miner? You make 1000 times more than a coal miner will make in his whole life on just one deal.”

Maher said, “Let’s give you something to cry about.  You don’t want a minimum wage, how about a maximum wage?”  Maher pointed out that a maximum wage is not a new idea.  Several of the founding fathers argued for it—James Madison, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Alexander Hamilton.  Maher added, “Your shady financial tricks tanked the economy and nothing happened to you.”  [They clearly were not even punished, much less, persecuted.]

Maher praised people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet who give their money away.  Maher said that Buffet has said, “I should write a book about how to get along on $500 million a year because apparently there are a lot of people who don’t know how to do it.”

Thank you, Bill, for the light you shed each week.  You expose darkness and let good ideas shine and you do it all with good grace and humor.  

Please share this review by tweeting, "liking" on facebook, and "+1 ing"
Please ""follow" so you don't miss any of my reviews.