Friday, March 6, 2015

Real Time with Bill Maher #345 03/06/15 "American Crime"

by Catherine Giordano

American Crime, ABC drama
American Crime, ABC drama

The discussion on Real Time with Bill Maher, episode 345, which aired on March 6, 2015, was all about crime, American crime in many different forms.

Crime on TV
When I say crime, the first things that come to mind are things like murder, rape, theft, etc. Our newscasts are filled with that type of crime. Maher’s mid-show guest John Ridley is the show runner for a new ABC TV series American Crime. The show begins with a murder, but it is not your usual police procedural. The show is about the families--white, black, and Hispanic--and the effect this crime has on their lives.  it shows the aftermath of a crime and explores the reasons for crime.

Ridley won an Oscar 12 Years a Slave for the screenplay. He is also a novelist who has written several books (His most recent book is What Fire Cannot Burn.) I watched the first episode which aired (Thursday March 5, 2015) and the writing and story-telling reflect Ridley’s talent for writing and storytelling.

Maher and Ridley discussed how network TV is changing. Network TV is now doing the type of shows that you see on cable TV like HBO. In the past, an Oscar winner would not follow up his win with a TV series. Now writers (and actors) go wherever there are good opportunities for good story-telling and increasingly that is to be found on network TV.  

Lawrence Wright, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, screenwriter, staff writer for The New Yorker magazine and a fellow at the Center for Law and Security at the New York University School of Law has a new book, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief. In this book he shows how Scientology is more a criminal enterprise than a religion.

I knew scientology was a nutty cult, but I didn’t know the half of it. The creation myth of this ‘religion” is that a Galactic overlord named Zenu lived on a planet very much like planet Earth in the 1950’s. About 75 million years ago due to over population he sent people to a prison planet, our Earth, and dropped them into volcanoes. So now we are all possessed by “fetens” and we have to get “clear.”(I may not have this exactly right-it is very confusing. I will need to read the book to get all this straight.” 

Why does Scientology attract so many Hollywood celebrates. It’s because the founder of the religion, L. Ron Hubbard (who may have be psychotic and who founded the religion in 1953), realized that Americans worshiped celebrities. If he could entice celebrities into his cult, other Americans would follow. They did to a certain extent—there are about 25,000 “members” of this “religion” in America. The Scientology Center in California is run like a prison—once in you can’t leave. 

Maher drew a parallel with more mainstream religions. “They sell you a problem and then they sell you a solution. “ In some religions the problem is sin; in Scientology, it is demons.

Hillary’s Emails
Did Hillary Clinton commit a crime when she used her own personal server for email while she was Secretary of State? Maher said that using the government email was only a rule not a law, and therefore there was no crime.  

David Axelrod, director of the Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago, former political adviser to President Obama, and author of Believer: My Forty Years in Politics said that they would not be any Republican outrage if Hillary was not presumed to be planning to run for President.  

However, even Democrats are calling for an explanation. Hillary’s refusal to explain why she did it is turning what may have been a perfectly reasonable action—previous secretaries of state and Jeb Bush did it when he was governor of Florida-- into a scandal.  

Maher said Hillary’s emails are probably boring. He’d rather see Bill’s emails.

Chris Christie
Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie has a new scandal every day. I think there are lots of crimes to be uncovered. The latest one involves a lawsuit against Exxon for environment damage for $11 billion. After 10 years of litigation, Christie stepped in and settled for 3% of the total amount $250 million!   

Genevieve Wood, senior contributor to The Daily Signal, multimedia news platform for the conservative Heritage Foundation, dismissed the whole thing saying, “These amounts always go down.” People like her treat politics like a religion. No matter how unbelievable, everything must be defended. Democrats are willing to question Hillary; whey can’t Republicans question Christie. Why are Republicans willing to look like fools to protect someone like Christie? 

Elephant legs optical illusion
The mid-show comedy segment
Wood gave me the perfect segue into the mid-show comedy segment. Maher based it on the white/gold or blue/black controversy. Democrats and Republicans just see things differently. He gave some examples using pictures.

Republicans see an elephant with 5 legs in this optical illusion photograph. Democrats see Chris Christie. 

In a picture of Senator Cory Booker carrying a dog from a burning building, Democrats see him rescuing a dog; Republicans see him stealing a dog. (Cory Booker is a black man and Republicans see all blacks as thugs. Of course that is an exaggeration, but as Maher said, “Not all Republicans are racists, but all racists are Republicans. If you are a racist looking for a political party, you are going to become a Republican.”) 

This weekend there will be a march on Selma on the 50th anniversary of the infamous march on Selma. Not a single prominent Republican had planned to join the march, although there are many elected Democrats participating. (Late Friday, one Republican from congress said he would go.) Even Wood, for once said something reasonable, when she said that it was stupid for no Republicans to go.  

Matt Taibbi, "The Divide"
Matt Taibbi, "The Divide"
The entire city of Fergusson is involved in a “criminal shake-down” of poor black people. Instead of taxes, they fund the city with fines. Panel member Matt Taibbi is a journalist and author of several books including, The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap. He told us that he has researched this and Fergusson is not the only place that does this. “The courtrooms are filled with this.”  

Fergusson had a mostly all white police force to police a city that is 2/3 black. Ninety percent of the arrests they made were of black people. Axelrod said that Rand Paul was one of the few Republicans “on this, suggesting that perhaps left and right could come together on this. My response: Did you listen to Wood on this subject? She wasn’t on Paul’s side. She said that in New Orleans black police officers were arresting poor blacks—like that made it OK. [She was infuriating. She said the most insulting things with a smile.]
I Witnessed News
Being a news anchor who lies is not a crime, just a disgrace. Brian Williams made a couple of misstatements and apologized. He is no longer on the air. Bill O’Reilly tells whoppers and not only defends them, but threatens any reporter who dares to call him out. He’s still on the air. Granted he’s on Fox News and Fox News lies constantly and thus is not an actual news channel, but still.

ObamaCare is back in the Supreme Court. A typo in the bill could cause the whole thing to come crashing down if the Supreme Court does a partisan ruling again. The intent of the law as written is clear despite the one incidence of ambiguity.

Maher said that the plaintiffs in the case didn’t have standing. Two were veterans who get socialized medicine from the VA and one was only a few months short of being on the socialized medicine program Medicare.

Wood spouted the usual Republican clich├ęs and lies about ObamaCare-- it’s a fiasco that was “not ready for prime time” and ”no one read the bill.”  

Axelrod defended ObamaCare. He spoke about how he nearly went bankrupt because his child had serious medical issues. He had insurance, just lousy insurance. Plus, because his child had a pre-existing condition, he could no longer get insurance until ObamaCare became law. 

On the subject of socialism, Maher pointed to all the good news on the economy—the Obama economy. In the monologue he said, “The economy is in a good state ready for the Republicans to come in and wreck it again.”  

Later Maher said that Obama is always accused of the “crime” of being a socialist. “The economy shows that either Obama is not a socialist or that socialism works.” It was a pleasure to watch Wood sputter when she could not come up with a way to answer this.  

[By the way, statistics show that the economy usually does better under Democratic presidents than under Republican presidents.] 

New Rules: Battle Loyal

Gotta love that picture of Giuliani
Republicans are very fond of accusing Obama of not loving America. The latest episode involved Giuliani sneering remarks. (This was discussed on the previous weeks show. See the review, Pardon Me.) 
Maher pointed out that Obama has repeatedly talked about loving America. One can love America and still point out mistakes this country has made and problems it needs to address. Maher said, “Republicans are like parents who think their kids can do no wrong and blame the teacher.”  
Republicans want to ban the history books that discuss any issues that reflect negatively on this country (e.g., racism, treatment of Native Americans.” He said “We can’t turn the page on America’s bad things, if we don’t read the page first.  

Maher pointed out that we have done some things to remedy the past like giving the Native Americans casino’s, but “it wouldn’t have been necessary if we hadn’t been dicks in the first place.”

Bill Maher’s Guests #344 March 6, 2015
Lawrence Wright:  
Pulitzer Prize-winning author, screenwriter, staff writer for The New Yorker magazine, fellow at the Center for Law and Security at the New York University School of Law. His newest book is Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief 

David Axelrod: Director of the Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago, former political adviser to President Obama, and author of Believer: My Forty Years in Politics
Matt Taibbi: Journalist and author of several books. His latest book is The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap

John Ridley, Jr.: Screenwriter of 12 Years a Slave (for which he won an Oscar in 2013), film director, currently television show runner for American Crime, an ABC drama about race relations (inspired by Trayvon Martin and Fergusson) and novelist. His most recent book is What Fire Cannot Burn

Genevieve Wood: Senior contributor to The Daily Signal, multimedia news platform for the conservative Heritage Foundation