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.

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