Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Masters of Sex #203 “Fight”

Lizzy Caplan
Lizzy Caplan received an Emmy
nomination for her role as Virginia Johnson. 
Keep Your Heart Out of It
by Catherine Giordano

Spoiler alert: If you plan to watch the episode, don’t read this review and recap until after you have watched the episode. I don’t usually post spoiler alerts when I’m just discussing plot and themes, but this episode relies upon the tension between the characters and the tension between what is taking place on the TV screen and the viewer.

This episode was intense and intensely focused. It takes place primarily in the hotel room where Masters and Johnson (aka Doctor and Mrs. Holden) meet for their weekly assignation. There are two main themes: What does it mean to be a man and how past experiences have made both Masters and Johnson guard their hearts carefully. They are both afraid to love. There is a boxing match on TV throughout the whole episode, and this becomes a metaphor for the two themes. 
 
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Bill and Virginia continue to pretend that their meetings are just about the work. When Virginia touches Bill’s head in a tender manner, she quickly pulls back, saying she was just checking the hair cut she gave him.  (His hair became entangled in her bracelet and she had to cut his hair to free him. If only all the emotions that are binding them together could be cut so easily.)   

Bill and Virginia can’t talk to each other directly so they role play as Dr. and Mrs. Holden. They create lives for their alter-egos which express some of their inner desires about who they are. Virginia says that Mrs. Holden’s mother is in prison and Bill says he is a radiologist. Virginia embellishes his identity saying he is working on a secret mission for the CIA to create a radiological pen to be used as a weapon of assassination. It is obvious that Virginia craves adventure. 

Bill comes to the hotel room angry. He delivered a baby that had ambiguous genitalia.  A blood test revealed that the baby was a boy—he had the XY chromosome--but the baby’s father will not accept this.  Bill assures him that when the child is older, a specialist can operate on him so that his outsides will match his insides.   

The father is adamant that his son can never be a man and the male genitalia must be removed immediately. “Better a tomboy than a sissy” and “It’s easier to make a hole than a pole.”  Bill learns that the father has found a general practitioner to do the operation, and we see the “surgeon” looking at a book in the operating room as he learns how to perform the operation as he is doing the operation. Bill is distraught and begs the man to stop the operation, but the father won’t listen. Bill sees that the man is a bully just as his own father was a bully. 
 
So Bill arrives at the hotel room angry. At first, he appears to be too upset to engage in sex, but then when Virginia  goes to have a bath, he follows her into the bathroom and takes her roughly, holding her against the wall. 

Bill is venting his anger on Virginia, but he is also showing her that he is “real man.”  He lost the fight with the baby’s father and must now win it with Virginia. In the meantime, a fight—a boxing match--is playing on the TV.
  
Bill tells Virginia about how is father sent him to boarding school at the age of 14, and he was never allowed to return home again. But before heading off to school, the two went to New York City and had a father-and-son bonding moment getting a shave together at the Waldorf Astoria barbershop. This moment of closeness made his father’s abandonment all the more painful to Bill. But to admit to that pain would make him less of man--even though he was still only a boy. At the school, before he had even unpacked, he sought out the coach and said he wanted to learn to box. Because that is what men do. They fight. 
 
Bill’s father was always fighting with him, pretending to be playing the way bully-fathers do. Bill was beaten in these fights, but he would never cry or back down. Bill’s father would say, “I’ll stop hitting you. All you have to do is get on your knees and beg me to stop.” Bill would never do it. Why do some father’s want to humiliate their sons?  
 
Bill described some of the moves in the boxing match as a game of manhood.  Sometimes a boxer will take a punch he could have avoided to show that he can take it.  Sometimes he’ll lower his hands as a way of insulting the other guy.  Bill tells Virginia it’s a way of saying, I’m not afraid of you. You’re weak. Virginia is as bewildered by all of this as I am. This is why men like boxing?  It’s a game of manhood.  

The whole fight motif is an echo of an episode from last season when Ethan (Virginia’s lover) and George (Virginia’s ex-husband) get into a pissing contest about who is manlier as they taunt each other about body hair. The series has been building up to this climatic manhood episode. 
 
Now we know why Bill always has to be in control. We know why he is afraid to be around his son. (He might be just like his father.) When he lost the battle with the father of the baby he delivered, it was like losing to his own father again. No wonder he comes to the hotel so angry, so needing to dominate, so needing to prove he is a “man.” 
 
Lizzy Caplan as Virginia Johnson
Lizzy Caplan as Virginia Johnson
 as Mrs. Holden in the hotel room
Then Bill tries boxing with Virginia. He doesn’t actually hit her, but he shows how he could beat her. Virginia is a person who likes to win, and she is getting angry.  Bill wants to taunt and dominate her the way his father did with him. He takes it even further when he brings sex into it. He demands that Virginia tell him that she wants him to make her feel good. Virginia is not giving in. She says that she doesn’t need him to make her feel good. Then she stands before him and masturbates to orgasm. 
 
Virginia’s story is that as a young woman just out of high school she met a captain from the local army base. He mentions something about a fianc√©, but asks her on a date. They soon become lovers—he is her first. They talk about their future again. Then one day, he announces he is leaving, going back home to get married. Virginia is stunned—her soldier-boy had never once mentioned his fianc√© after that first time. She thought he had been kidding about it. Now we know why Virginia wants to keep sex “all business.”   

As Bill and Virginia are getting ready to leave the hotel, Bill asks Virginia how she will write up the session. She coldly replies: “Two acts of intercourse. Mutually satisfying. One masturbatory act. Role-playing throughout. Is that about right?” Bill nods his assent.  But I get the feeling he was looking for something else.  

This episode has layers and layers of meaning. Layers and layers of social commentary on the mores of the time. Layers and layers of meaning about emotional relationships then and now.   


Masters of Sex
CLICK HERE
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Masters of Sex has three Emmy nominations: Outstanding Lead Actress for Lizzy Caplan (who plays Virginia Johnson), Outstanding Guest Actor for Beau Bridges (who plays Dr. Barton Scully), and Outstanding Guest Actress for Allison Janney (who plays Margaret Scully). This show so clearly deserves a few more nominations. You can’t get outstanding actors without an outstanding director and outstanding writing. Put it all together and you have an outstanding drama series.   

Do I have to say it again?  Masters of Sex is the best drama series on TV. And “Fight” is one of the best episodes of the series. However, I’ll be glad when they dial the intensity down a bit next week.
 
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Friday, July 25, 2014

True Blood's Social Satire Just Got a Whole Lot Less Subtle

True Blood's Pam in Purple Dress
Pam in the purple dress.
by Catherine Giordano

A few weeks ago, I did a post about how True Blood had a whole lot of social satire in it. (True Blood as Social Satire)  On Episode 5 of Season 7, "Lost Cause,"
the social satire just got a whole lot less subtle.

Vampire, Pam and Eric, decide to go to a Republican fundraiser for Ted Cruz being held at the Bush Library because they hope to find Sarah Newlin there and kill her. Eric and Pam get all glammed up for the event, Eric wore a huge 10-gallon cowboy hat that must be at lease a 20-gallon hat. Pam poured her voluptuous body into a purple sequined gown.(The show runners are clearly going for parody.)

Pam looks in the mirror and exclaims, "I look like a Republi- c@@t, using a vulgar term for a part of the female anatomy.

Soon after Eric and Pam arrive at the fundraiser, the Yakuza, a Japanese band of human vigilantes, who also ant to kill Sarah Newlin burst in, (Sarah seems to be a very popular girl if you definition of popular is having a lot of people who want to kill you.)


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The Yakuza gentlemen start shooting everyone in sight. I'm not quite sure why they do this. Perhaps it is because they are at a Republican event and they presume everyone there is armed to the teeth. Or maybe they do it because the show runners want to act out their fantasy.  I have to confess I cheered them on.

It's just social satire, just not very subtle. 

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Real Time with Bill Maher #326 July 25, 2014 "Realityville"

gekks mating lost in space
by Catherine Giordano

Hop on the train to Realityville with Bill Maher and his guests. Real Time with Bill Maher, episode 326, airing on July 25, 2014 is the non-stop express to Realityville. 

Stop the train, I want to get off.

As Bill said in his opening monolog “The world is falling apart this week.” 
 
We have planes falling out of the sky and the Israelis and Palestinians shooting missies at each other.
 
Weird Al Yankovic Mandatory FunWeird Al Yankovic’s new album Mandatory Fun is the number one album on Billboard and, incidentally, the album cover features planes and missiles. 

Also the Russians have lost control of a satellite full of copulating lizards, and it is floating around in space. 

(More about the geckos with a video clip at #GoGetThoseGekkos )
  
When reality gets to be too much, we turn to Maher for some comic relief.  

So here are some of the jokes from the monolog.
  • Putin said the plane taken down by Russian separatists in the Ukraine actually crashed because one passenger turned on his cell phone.
  • The Israelis and the Palestinians have a 12-hour cease fire, otherwise known as reloading.
  • Obama met with the president of Guatemala to tell him the children can’t stay… unless they have a good curve ball.
 
Interview, Economy

The interview was with Richard D. Wolff, an economist and author of Democracy at Work: The Cure for Capitalism. Maher and Wolff spoke about “The American Dream.” Maher noted a recent study reported it takes $130,000 a year for a family of four to live a modest middle class life—a house, a car, a vacation, nothing extravagant. Only one in eight Americans can attain this lifestyle.  

Wolff said he is neither a Marxist nor a capitalist. He said it is important to look at the pros and cons of both systems and to learn the lessons of the past. Capitalism in the 19th century embraced a commitment to develop the world and grow the economy. Today capitalism is about making a buck any way you can. However, the socialism of

Russia and China show that socialism does not work either.  

Maher brought up automation (robots) and outsourcing (cheap foreign workers) as the two major threats to “American Labor.” I agree and I have long advocated that government must provide the balance between capitalism and socialism. Neither can be allowed to gain too much power over the other. Right now the capitalists have the upper hand. That is why we need to raise the minimum age, tax overseas profits, and take other measures to restore balance.   

Obama hatred, Impeachment

Barack Obama: I'm the One Doing My Job
Barack Obama
Bill Maher had two conservative guests on the show, Matt Kibbe, an economist, President and CEO of the Republican think tank, FreedomWorks, and author of Don't Hurt People and Don't Take Their Stuff: A Libertarian Manifesto, and Hogan Gidley, a senior political advisor for the Republican consulting firm, BraebenderCox. They behaved themselves and even had a few intelligent things to say, but Maher was frequently either laughing at them or chastising them. 

Maher mentioned that Republicans say that everything is Obama’s fault. A poll shows 57% or Republicans want to impeach him. However it has nothing to do with Obama’s acts as president. “They wanted that at the inaugural ball.”  They just can’t face the reality that Obama won the election. Twice. 

This impeachment talk is crazy and very bad for our country. It seems that no sooner does a Democrat get elected president thanthe impeachment talk starts.The founders intended impeachment to be for “high crimes.” I think Bush was guilty of high crimes when he lied us into a war with Iraq and Democrats never spoke of impeachment; all Obama has done is give people affordable health care, save the economy, and try to address a few of this country’s problems where he can despite Republican obstructionism. As Obama said in a recent speech, “I’m the guy doing my job. You [Republicans] must be the other guy.” 

Kibbe leaded off with “Obama has so little respect in the world.” Maher laughed at him for bringing out this tired old talking point. “All the polls show that the popularity of the U.S. is up worldwide [compared to Bush-era polls.]” 

Maher asked Kibbe to be specific about what he thinks Obama should do differently. Kibbe answered “It’s called leadership.” I groaned—another tired old talking point. Maher rebuked him saying, “I said to be specific.” 

Then Gidley jumped in saying something a missile shield and buying French helicopters. I guess that is specific. Maher should have asked for ‘something specific that is not stupid.” 

Rand Paul, Dick Cheney, War

Kibbe likes Rand Paul because Paul is opposed to war. He says Rand will return to traditional Republican policies as opposed to Bush who engaged in nation-building. He said, that Paul is not advocating isolationism, but is all about “practical realism,” about what the U.S. can do. Gidley said, “War is terrible. It is all about killing people and blowing stuff up, but we can’t take it off the table.” Well, at least he thinks it is terrible. 

Maher reported that Dick Cheney responded to Paul by saying the military should be our top priority. Maher feigned shock. “You mean it is not?” He then recited the reality of spending levels in the U.S. budget that showed that the military gets the lion’s share of revenue. 

Amy Goodman: The Silenced Majority
Amy Goodman, a journalist, columnist, radio host of Democracy Now, and author of several books including The Exception to the Rulers: Exposing Oily Politicians, War Profiteers, and the Media That Love Them and The Silenced Majority: Stories of Uprisings, Occupations, Resistance, and Hope (with Denis Moynihan and Michael Moore) and the lone liberal on the panel jumped in saying We should just reverse everything that Dick Cheney says.” She add, “Be strong at home.”  She also said, “Peace is harder than war.”  She gave Syria as an example. The U.S co-operated with Russia to get Syria to get rid of its chemical weapons and war was averted.

I say, chalk one up for Obama for that successful use of diplomacy. 

Israel

Maher called Rick Santorum a “Super-Duper Christian.” Maher said there will be soon be no Republican Jews in congress now that Eric Cantor lost his primary election, but Republicans “love Israel like King Solomon.” [This is part of Maher’s oft-stated opinion that Christian Republicans only support Israel because they believe that the establishment of the state of Israel fulfills a biblical prophecy so”you-know-who can come back.”] 

Gidley, who used to work for Santorum, said that the attendees at a recent “Christians United for Israel” conference was very diverse, but the people on the stage were all white men. He urged that they put some different faces on the stage. [Again the Republican response to their lack of diversity is optics not policy changes. Did it ever occur to him that the reason there were only white men on the stage is because o the reality that white men are the vat majority of Republican politicians.] 

Mid-Show Comedy Segment
 

Dr.Seuss: Oh, the Places You'll Go
Dr.Seuss
 Oh the Places You'll Go
The mid-show comedy segment was a parody of the Dr. Seuss book, Oh, The Places You’ll Go. Maher changed the words to satirize Republican attitudes toward immigrant and refugee children. He ended with:  

“Be careful out there or immigration will catch you
And never believe what you read on a statue.” 

See the full video clip on my post, Border Crossings.








Mid Show Guest
Neil deGrasse Tyson

The mid-show guest was Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist, Director of the Hayden Planetarium, author of several books, including Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries, host of TV show, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey and all-around nice guy. I loved his tie with its starry universe motif—it just showed what a great sense of humor he has. 

Tyson was recently featured on the cover of the conservative magazine, National Review. The headline was “Smarter Than Thou.” It was intended as a snarky insult. Tyson just laughed it off with his characteristic good humor. “They don’t like me because I am a geek. The geek-set tends to vote Democratic.” “On this show, ‘they’ always means Republicans.” 

Tyson is like a big kid when he talks about the cosmos. “It is awesome.” “It is spiritual.” He’s one person who is in love with reality. 

Bill Maher spoke about a recent solar flare incident that could have wiped us out. Tyson told him that it was not even close. Then he unleashed his inner geek and explained solar flares to us: The sun is a roiling ball of gas and it sometimes burps out charged particles. When these particles collide with the atmosphere, we get the Northern Lights. It might disrupt satellite communications a bit, but it is not going to destroy the Earth.  

Tyson spoke about his desire to learn if there is life on Jupiter’s moon, Europa. “Who doesn’t? It’s in the Goldilocks zone.” [He means that conditions are” just right” for the existence of life as we know it.]  

Executions, botched and otherwise

In his monolog, Maher made light of the botched execution in Arizona this week. He said, “Execution is not that hard. Set him free and put him in a GM car.” He mentioned that some people have suggested a return to a firing squad and others say that would be “cruel and unusual punishment.” Maher said, “This is America. What’s so unusual about getting shot?” 

Towards the end of the show, there was a more serious discussion of the topic. Amy Goodman said, “It was not a botched execution. Execution is a botched policy.” 

Maher said, “There is something perverse about trying to kill people in a gentle way.” Exactly, killing is a brutal act no matter who does it and no matter how it is done. Maher is edging towards an epiphany on this subject, but he is not quite the yet.  

Kidde jumped in saying, “Think of what he [the person who was executed] did. There is a price to pay for his brutality.” He is clearly stuck in revenge mode. 

Goodman had to correct him. “We should not duplicate the brutality of the killer.” She pointed out that we are the only industrialized country that has the death penalty.  

Tyson said it best. “Wouldn’t it separate us [from the killer’s brutality] more not to do it [the execution] at all? We should be above the base level of conduct exhibited by the criminal.”  

My take on this is the old adage: Two wrongs don’t make a right. It is natural to feel the urge for revenge. However, part of being a civilized human being is to control our baser urges.

Read more about this at Death Row Follies.

You can also read: Thou Shall Not Kill: The Immorality of the Death Penalty

New Rules: Trouble with the Serve

Bill Maher is upset with the service industry. He is riled up by customer service agents that give you a hard time when you call to cancel, hotels that charge a “resort fee”, airlines that chare for luggage, the small print in contracts, and more.  

He’s a bit worried about Rupert Murdoch’s attempt to take over Time Warner which owns HBO.”If that happens, this show will become Eating Paste with Steve Doocy.”  

Maher says that big business is the new big government. “Too big to fail? No, too big to care.” 

“My friends on the right have this idea that the free market is always perfect because it lets the consumer find the best product at the best price. Nice idea for business school or the Ayn Rand Charity-Haters Club. Here in Realityville, you get cable from the one cable company in your area, and you sign a piece of paper, and then Rumplestiltskin comes to your house and laughs. I’m kidding. He doesn’t come to your house. You have to call.” 

Next stop: Realityville

Now do you understand why I want off the train to Realityville? It’s hard living in the real world.  


Bill Maher’s Guests #326 July 25, 2014

Richard D. Wolff: Economist, author of Democracy at Work: The Cure for Capitalism
 
Neil deGrasse Tyson: Astrophysicist, Director of the Hayden Planetarium, author of several books, including Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries,
host of TV show, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey

Hogan Gidley: Political advisor for Republican political consulting firm, BraebenderCox
 
Amy Goodman: journalist, columnist, radio host of Democracy Now, author of several books including The Exception to the Rulers: Exposing Oily Politicians, War Profiteers, and the Media That Love Them and The Silenced Majority: Stories of Uprisings, Occupations, Resistance, and Hope (with Denis Moynihan and Michael Moore)
 
Matt Kibbe: Economist, President and CEO of Republican think tank, FreedomWorks, author of Don't Hurt People and Don't Take Their Stuff: A Libertarian Manifesto
 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Masters of Sex #202 “Kyrie Eleison”

Julianne Nicholson ad Dr. Lillian DePaul
Julianne Nicholson as
Dr. Lillian DePaul
“First Do No Harm”
 
by Catherine Giordano

Everyone seems to know what everyone else needs to do, but can’t seem to figure out what they themselves need to do in Masters of Sex, episode #202, titled “Kyrie Eleison.” (The title is the Greek name of a Roman Catholic prayer, and it means “Lord have mercy.”) 

The title may refer to the dark secrets, past and present, that are revealed in this episode. I’ll discuss that later in this review and recap of the episode. 
 
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to read "the work"
Dr. William (Bill) Masters and Mrs. Virginia Johnson want to get their sex study back on track. Circumstances keep them from working together, but they do manage to get together at the Alton Hotel quite regularly in order to continue “the work.” (Is that what the kids were calling it back then?)

There are a lot of people telling other people what they ought to do. Bill has a new job at Memorial hospital and his new boss. Doug Greathouse, wants Bill to expand his research by exploring ”new points of entry.” Meanwhile back at Memorial Hospital where Virginia still works, Dr. Ditmer wants to use Ulysses (the dildo with a camera inside used to film the interior of the vagina) in some novel ways. He’s a gastroenterologist and he apparently gets off (literally) fanaticizing about putting the dildo in the esophagus.  This is the “how kinky-can-you-get?” moment of the week.

This episode reminds us of the prevalence of ignorance about sex and the harm that this ignorance does. Bill has a new patient, a young woman, Rose, brought in by her parents after she nearly bled to death after her second abortion. Her parents and Dr. Greathouse are insisting that Bill do a hysterectomy. She is apparently a nymphomaniac (a woman with a hyper-sexuality compulsion) and everyone is convinced that this will cure her. Bill is not known for his empathy, but perhaps his experience with Dr. Scully and his electroshock cure for his “sexual deviancy” have given him he ability to emphasize. This young patient reminds him of his Hippocratic oath to do no harm, so  he gives her an IUD to prevent further pregnancies instead of rendering her sterile. 

Betty, a former prostitute who was one of Bill’s first experimental subjects, has been hanging around the hospital because she is pretending to undergo fertility treatments. (Bill had previously done a hysterectomy on her because of rampant pelvic inflammation, but Betty does not want her new husband to know she can never bear him children. Incidentally, her husband is the one who is funding Bill’s new research.)   

Betty sneaks into Rose’s room and gives her a pep talk about self-worth. “You are not your worse part,” she says. Does she mean that Rose is not just a behavior as her parents define her or does she mean that Rose is a whole person and not just a vagina. 

Betty tells Rose a story about her own mother. Betty’s mother constantly berated her and made her feel worthless until one day Betty removed her stiletto-heeled shoe and stabbed her mother in the eye. (Here’s where the “Lord have mercy” title” starts to make sense.) 

This story of Rose and her overbearing parents, the story of Betty and her mother, meld right in with the story of Bill and the mother who failed to protect him. But there is more on the “evil mother” theme, Virginia talks about how her mother always demanded excellence, and it seems like her boss, Dr. Lillian DePaul, has a cold and aloof manner due to this same type of mothering. It’s blame-the-mother time on Masters of Sex 

Virginia has become something like a domineering mother to Lillian. Perhaps Lillian, weakened physically and mentally by her terminal cancer, doesn’t have the strength to resist. Virginia makes Lillian do a film about pap smears—Lillian had wanted to do only a pamphlet because she is not comfortable being on camera. When she starts mixing up words--Has the cancer metastasized to her brain?--Virginia insists that Lillian go to her oncologist. Then Virginia insists that Lillian must fight.
 
Julianne Nicholson
Julianne Nicholson
[I’m using a picture of Dr.DePaul to illustrate this review because I don’t think Lillian will be with us much longer. And then, just for fun, because Lillian is such a “plain Jane,” I’m including a sexy picture of the actress who plays her, Julianne Nicholson.] 

Even Bill’s wife Libby is getting into the bad mother act. She is usually so saintly, so perfect, but today she is playing mind games with her new nanny, an 18 year old black woman named Coral. Libby is feeling very isolated because her husband is never home and because he refuses to love his son. (Also, he refuses to love his wife.) At first Libby is treating Coral as a friend and confident—they fold laundry together. But when Libby cannot quiet her son, and Coral is able to do so—a tight swaddle turns the trick—Libby feels humiliated in front of her husband. Later as Libby sits smoking on the couch and Coral does the ironing, Libby, ever-so-sweetly, humiliates Coral for pronouncing ‘ask” as “ax.”   

Lord have mercy! Everyone is inflicting harm on everyone else. Even Vivian gets her licks in, berating Virginia for taking Ethan from her and then dumping him  Vivian says that Virginia has callously hurt both her and Ethan. And Dr. Landman also gets a talking-to from Vivian for cheating on his wife with his sister in law. 

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Virginia is not done hurting people. I’m sure we are going to see Libby being hurt very soon when she learns about “the work” Virginia is doing with her husband. Episode 3 is named “Fight”, and the word on the internet is that it is a not-to-be-missed episode.  
 
It is just genius about how the themes of hurt and harm are interwoven in this episode. 
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Friday, July 18, 2014

Real Time with Bill Maher #325 July 18, 2014 "Death Star"

Death Star Destroying a Planet
The Death Star destroys a planet.
by Catherine Giordano

Who needs the Death Star?  We Earthlings are doing a real good job of raining death down on our planet all by ourselves.
 
On HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, which aired on July 18, 2014, Bill Maher mixed his metaphors a bit. He was talking about Star Trek and the Death Star is featured in Star Wars, but never mind, it's still a good theme for the entire show.

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A Malaysian airliner was shot out of the sky this week by Ukrainian separatists using surface-to-air missiles supplied by Russia.  All 298 people on board were killed. One of the panelists, Jamie Weinstein, political columnist and commentator, senior editor of The Daily Caller, a conservative news and opinion website, and author (with Will Rahn) of  The Lizard King: The Shocking Inside Account of Obama's True Intergalactic Ambitions by an Anonymous White House Staffer said “Putin played a reckless game. He funded the separatists.” He was right n that, but then he had to go and ruin it by firing off the same old Republican talking points. “Obama should impose stricter sanctions. Obama has to speak with moral clarity. Obama has to increase defense spending.”  Maher fired back, “Obama is already doing that. Should he go to war with Russia? Weinstein had to back down and said, “No.”
 
Another panelist, Jane Harmon, former Congresswoman (D, CA) and President and CEO of The Wilson Center had a better idea. “We can export clean energy to Europe.” Since gas is a major source of income to Russia, the more we replace fossil fuels with clean energy, the more we deprive Russia of the funds it needs for its invasion of the Ukraine.  She also pointed out that the sanctions Obama imposed are already working. She said, “The Russian economy is tanking.”

Missiles are flying on the Israeli-Gaza border. Israel is trying to take out the missile launching sites and destroy the tunnels that Hamas has built on the border to sneak into Israel to attack Israelis. Maher defended Israel. Whose fault is it really? Israel has a right to defend itself.  
 
Harmon agreed saying, “Israel is using its missile defense system to protect its citizens [with bunkers]. Hamas is using its citizens to protect missile defense systems.  He also said, “Hamas would kill as many Israelis as it could. Israel is not killing as many Palestinians as it could.” In other words, Israel is showing restraint, doing only as much killing as is needed for defense.
 
Maher concluded by saying that world opinion is the least of Israel’s problems. The real problem for Israelis is “Will I get killed when I go to the dry cleaners?”
 
In the monologue Maher spoke about Republican response to the Israeli defense, Operation Protective Edge. He said that Republicans say, “Now that is how you secure a border!”
 
Maher said that the Republican response to everything is to say that Obama is weak and ineffective. And the next thing they say is that Obama is a tyrant who controls everything.  (A logical inconsistency, but when has that ever stopped Republicans?)
 
Maher summed up Republicans reactions this way:

  1. McCain will call for war.
  2. Obama is doing it to distract from Benghazi.
  3. Obama is part of it.
  4. Obama is doing nothing about it.
 

Protest Sign North Carolina
A protest sign in North Carolina
The interview was with Rev. Dr. William J Barber II, NAACP President for North Carolina and leader of the Moral Monday protests. He claimed that the Republicans governor and legislature in North Carolina are “literally killing people. He was referring to the state’s refusal to take federal money to expand Medicaid. (His accusation was not hyperbole—people in the state have died because of this.) 

 
Barber said that the Moral Monday protests were about not only Medicaid, but about all of the rights being denied to people in the state—public school teachers, public education, workers rights, earned income tax credit, the unemployed, the LGBT, women’s rights and  the biggest denial of rights--voter suppression. He said that every group as supporting this movement—people f faith and hose without faith, Democrats and Republicans, blacks and whites, because everyone in the state is being hurt.  Maher joked that “Monday is the perfect day to get people to be moral. There is nothing going on anyway.”  

The third panelist was Nate Silver, Nate Silver, a statistician who analyses politics and baseball, editor-in-chief of ESPN's FiveThirtyEight blog, special correspondent for ABC News, and author of The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail — but Some Don't. He did not have a lot to say because he is all about the numbers and either doesn’t have, or doesn’t express, opinions. Maher questioned silver about voting patterns, but Maher did most of the talking.  “The people who like Obama the most are the people least likely to vote. Anger makes people vote. People don’t vote to say thank you, but to say f@@k you.”  

Weinstein couldn’t resist this opening to say, “What has Obama done to make people vote for him?  Maher then delivered a soliloquy reprising “Zombie Lies” from last week’s show. He specifically wanted to shoot down the lie about “trickle-down economics. “ He said that Republican Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas cut taxes repeatedly. As a result, state revenue collapsed, and the economy of Kansas is now in a crisis. California went the other way and raised taxes, and they have had twice the job growth. 

Weinstein, like the good little Republican mouthpiece that he is, said “It‘s too soon to judge.  It has only been two years.” Harmon responded that things are so bad in Kansas that 100 leading Republicans in the state have endorsed the Democratic candidate for governor. Silver pointed out that even though Brownback has really low approval ratings, politics is so polarized that he could still get elected. 
George Takei Oh My
George Takei
 
The mid-show guest was GeorgeTakei, actor, LGBT activist, author of several books including Oh Myyy!: There Goes the Internet, and subject of a new documentary, To Be Takei. You have got to give Takei credit. He had a small role on a 1960’s television series, Star-Trek, and has lived off of it ever since. In more recent years, he has added being gay into the mix, and he has made a career of that as well.    

The Death Star comment was a response to the mention of a long-running feud between Takei and William Shatner.  Maher suggested that Takei might want to settle their dispute with a “Death Star.” Takei wouldn’t get specific about the reason for their mutual dislike, but I suspect it may have something to do with Takei being gay. Takei said that everyone on the set of Star Wars knew that he was gay and was cool with it.  He implied that the only person who didn’t know was Shatner. 
 
Maher spoke about how Star Trek was a “sneaky political show” using outer space as a metaphor for our own society. For instance, the Klingons were the Russians. They spoke about the episode in which Captain Kirk kissed a black woman. Takei said the show as blacked out in the South and the ratings plummeted.  Maher asked him if he ever asked Gene Roddenberry, the producer of the show to tackle the gay issue. He said that Roddenberry declined saying that if we pushed the envelope to far we wouldn’t b ale o do any social issues. They discussed how things have changed so much since the 60’s. Gay marriage became accepted a “warp speed.”  
 
 
The mid-show comedy segment was about the one-percent. Maher asked, as he has cone in the past, “What can you buy with your second billion that you didn’t already buy with your first billion?”  He suggested a magazine tiled “One-Percent” to help billionaires spend their money. Some of the cover stories were: 
 
  • Seven New Acquisitions that Will Drive Your Trophy wife Wild
  • Wine Cellars for the panic Room in the Pool house o your Vacation home
  • The 2015 Republican Congress: Collect Them All
  • Sheldon Adelson: Sexiest Man Alive

CLICK HERE
In New Rules, Maher took on “Blitzkrieg Cops.”  He said that Pentagon cast-offs were being given to local police forces so now every town can have its own tank.  Maher stated, “If they are dressed and equipped like an occupying army, they will act like one.”  ‘We don’t need to fill our streets with horrifying death machines.”  
 
The “jack-booted thugs” that the tea-partiers rant about are here. “They are the police coming right through the door with no warrant, a battering ram and a stun grenade.”  He concluded, “I’m afraid of the cops and I’m white.”

Read more about Blitzkrieg cops and se the video at "Tank You Very Much." 
 
I’m sick to death of stories about death.  A good thing Bill Maher can make me laugh about it. Now if that “Death Star” could just turn its laser beam somewhere else for a while.
 

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Bill Maher’s Guests for July 18, 2014

Rev. Dr. William J Barber II: State NAACP President for North Carolina, Leader of the Moral Monday protests

Jane Harmon: Former Congresswoman (D, CA), President and CEO of The Wilson Center

Nate Silver: Statistician, editor-in-chief of ESPN's FiveThirtyEight blog, special correspondent for ABC News, author of The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail — but Some Don't

Jamie Weinstein: Political columnist and commentator, senior editor of The Daily Caller, a conservative news and opinion website, author of  The Lizard King: The Shocking Inside Account of Obama's True Intergalactic Ambitions by an Anonymous White House Staffer (with Will Rahn

GeorgeTakei:  actor, LGBT activist, author of several books including Oh Myyy!: There Goes The Internet, subject of a new documentary To Be Takei