Saturday, May 10, 2014

HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” #317 “A How-To Pow Wow”

By Catherine Giordano

 There was a lot of “how to” on episode 317 of HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher which aired on May 9, 2014.  All the guests were telling us, and each other, how-to do something or other. I tell all in this review/recap of the show.

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The interview was with Sister Simone Campbell, a Roman Catholic nun, executive director of NETWORK, a lawyer, and the author of  A Nun on the Bus: How All of Us Can Create Hope, Change, and Community. She’s a friendly open woman with an easy manner and a charming smile and a heart in the right place. She said “The real issue is how we treat each other?” She said “Pope Francis is going back to the basics--touching people’s lives.” She works to make the dream of equality a reality in America.

Matt Welch, editor of Reason, a libertarian magazine and co-host of “The Independents” on the Fox Business Network is also the author of a book explaining how-to fix America, The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong with America. He was an amiable panelist with a kind of smart-alec charm who defended Republican policies and tactics, but then turned around and said the Republican Party is “a total clown show.” I’m at a loss at how to know what he really thinks. 

Another panelist was Arianna Huffington, the editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, and the author of numerous books, many of them how-to books. Her latest book, which tells us, how-to live is Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and WonderI’ll give her this: she knows how-to thrive. She seems nice enough, but sometimes she comes across as a bit contrived and inauthentic. She began her career as a Democrat, then became a fierce Republican, and then switched back to Democrat. In a review, I saw that her book was about “mindfulness” the biggest buzz-word in the self-help business right now.   

The final panelist was Baratunde Thurston, a comedian and author of How to Be Black.  I had never heard of him before, but I immediately liked him.  He’s charming and authentic and consistent in his views. 

The mid-show guest was Dinesh D’Souza, a contributor to the conservative American Enterprise Institute and author of several books including his most recent book, America: Imagine a World without Her. He wants to tell us how to be an American, but he has it all wrong. American is first and foremost about equality. The founders wrote, “All men are created equal,” not “It’s all about wealth.” He has a very unpleasant demeanor—His movements are cramped (as if he doesn’t have enough space), and he seemed nervous and unsure of himself because he kept bobbing his head like a bird. I think he should read Huffington’s book and learn how-to loosen up a little. Perhaps he looks so sour because he has such a bitter view on life.  

Dinesh admitted that all of his dire predictions about the Obama presidency have failed to materialize. Things are actually much better in this country than when Obama took office. Unable to criticize Obama on the economy, Dinesh pivoted to his “Obama is an anti-colonialist” theme. Maher said, “Isn’t anti-colonialism a good thing?”  According to Dinesh, not if you are Obama. He states that Obama has taken up his father’s anti-imperialist views—even though Obama had next to no contact with his father. Dinesh thinks that Obama wants to take down imperialist countries. Like America.  [I wonder if this isn’t a classic case of projection. Dinesh’s family is from India. India was a colony of Britain. Perhaps it is Dinesh and his father who are the anti-imperialists. Perhaps Dinesh wants to take down Obama in order to take down America.  How’s that for a conspiracy theory.] 

Now that I have introduced you to the cast I’ll move on to the issues discussed.  Benghazi was a biggie. Maher described the Benghazi uproar as being “like a bad case of the shingles. I thought it was gone, but now it is back, and I am itching again.” 

Maher said “There is no there there.” Welch disagreed saying, “There is a scandal.” When he gave his reasons, it became clear that the events in Benghazi weren’t the scandal. No, the scandal was Susan Rice and her talking points on a Sunday morning talk show. The seven previous investigations into Benghazi, some actually dealing it the events that took place in Benghazi, have found no wrong-doing, before, during, or after the events. (However, there are recommendations about how to improve security for diplomats serving in dangerous areas.) 

The eighth Benghazi investigation is about to begin—the “Congressional Select Committee on Benghazi” has been convened. Thurston called it “The Select Committee on Nonsense.”  I told you I liked him.  

Monica Lewinski is back in the news because of her article in Vanity Fair. She said, “I was taken advantage of, but it was totally consensual.” In his monologue, Maher joked,” “Ironically, that as was what Bush said about Dick Cheney.”  

Huffington stated, “I know 20 women in Washington who would have given Clinton a blow job.” Welch blurted out, “And that’s just the Republicans.” Huffington feels that Lewinski’s problems stem not from the sex, but from her bad judgment.  She couldn’t keep her mouth shut about it.  

There was some discussion about whether the Republicans had learned their lesson from the whole impeachment brouhaha which led to huge mid-term wins for the Democrats. The consensus was that they probably had not. Welch scornfully dismissed the likelihood that Republicans had learned anything and referred to that year as a “bad year.” [Right now Welch is gung-ho on Benghazi, I wonder if 10 or 20 years from now, he’ll be describing 2014 with its Benghazi witch hunt as a bad year?] 

There were also discussions about the role of religion, especially Islam, in terrorism, sharia law, and whether or not multi-culturalism was a good thing.  

The mid-show comedy segment was about the messages that some graduates tape to the mortarboards of their graduation caps.  Maher said that it used to be things like “Thanks, Mom,” but now, the messages reflect the economic difficulties facing graduates. The new messages read something like this: 

·         My other hat is a hairnet.

·         Don Sterling, If you pay off my loans, I’ll be your “archivist.”

·         My other tassels are on my nipples. 

The final New Rules segment was about the issue of privacy—the lack of it in our personal lives even when we are speaking in our own homes. Lewinski was brought down by tapes made by a friend and Don Sterling was brought down by tapes made by his girlfriend. Maher quoted a column written by Kathleen Parker that essentially said that we should all be more careful about what we say even when we think we are having a private conversation and that “speaking your mind is over-rated. “That from a columnist who makes her living speaking her mind,” Maher scoffed. Maher seemed pretty angry on this issue and said he was not about to give up “speaking his mind.” He made valid points, but he forgot how-to make it funny.

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