Friday, April 10, 2015

Real Time with Bill Maher # 348 4/10/15 "Maher is Back"

by Catherine Giordano

A Fighting Chance
A Fighting Chance

Bill Maher is back and we have all got him! (Except for the people who don’t get him—more about that later.) For months, I have been disappointed in the show—boring guests and lack-luster humor. But on April 10, 2015, Real Time with Bill Maher, episode #349, showed Maher at the top of his game.  

Elizabeth Warren
The interview guest was Elizabeth Warren. I never miss a chance to see an interview with Elizabeth Warren. Just like in the old days, Maher got a lot of news coverage with this interview. He offered Warren a million dollar donation (like he gave to Obama) if she would run for president. Warren has a comedian’s timing. She kept a poker face, waited for the laughter to die down, and then slowly and firmly said, “I am not running for president 

Elizabeth’s main issue is standing up for middle class economics. She said there are 11 companies that if anyone of them failed, it would bring down the economy. And these companies are 32% larger now than they were when they almost brought down the economy before. “Yet Republicans want to bring down Dodd-Frank.” [Dodd-Frank is a bill that attempts to regulate Wall Street and which falls far short of what is actually needed, but at least it is something.] 

Maher mentioned how Republicans are trying to co-opt the issue of middle class economics. Warren shot back, “Talk is cheap!”  

·       They don’t want to do anything about student loans. [The government should not be making billions of dollars in profit from interest on student loans. She went to college for $50 a semester. It is now impossible for most students to work their way through college.]  

·        They don’t want to raise the minimum wage. [Warren told us that when she was a child, circumstances made it necessary for her stay-at-home mom to go to work to support the family. Back then, her minimum wage job was enough to support a family of three.]  

Warren went on to rail against money in politics. She said that the Citizens United decision makes it possible for one man to finance the entire campaign of one candidate. Some of the anti-Iran talk is because candidates want the support of billionaire Sheldon Adelson.  

Warren concluded, “We may not have the money, but we have the voices. The grass roots of what we can do together. We can make a country that works for all of us.” Warren may not run for president, but I hope she is out there backing Hillary.  
 
The monolog on the presidential election
“I know why you are happy,” Bill Maher said, as he says every week. “Hillary Clinton is announcing tomorrow. She’s going to do an email blast. Email--the same tool she used to say kill everyone in Benghazi. Then she is going to Iowa to make a spring break video, ‘Girls Gone Inevitable.’” 

Maher said, “Rand Paul hit the ground sucking.” “He was supposed to be the one Republican for cutting defense spending, and now he is standing in front of an aircraft.” Maher quipped that Paul said, “When I was young, I experimented with integrity.” Maher followed that by saying the Paul used to be an eye doctor. Now whenever Paul switches positions, he sounds like he is giving an eye exam: “Is it better like this? Or is it better like this? [By the way Paul is changing his position a lot these days and getting very testy with reporters who ask him about it.]  

Police shootings 
In Defense of a Liberal Education
In Defense of a Liberal Education
Are you as horrified as I am by police shootings? Maher seemed pretty horrified by the latest video of a South Carolina policeman shooting Walter Scott in the back as he ran away from the officer. Maher said he was struck by how “nonchalant” the officer was about it, especially because video showed that “up to that moment he (the officer) doesn’t seem like a crazy person.” Maher also said about the incident, “A second cop came over and he was black. He helped with the cover-up. Something is wrong with the whole barrel; it is not just one bad apple.”  

Fareed Zakaria is the host of CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS, a columnist for The Washington Post, and the author of In Defense of a Liberal Education. Zakaria pointed out that we don’t even know how big a problem this is because it is under-reported. A recent report said there 930 killings last year. “So you are 50 times more likely to be killed by a cop than a terrorist.” 

Zakaria also commented on the entire criminal justice system. The United States has 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of the world’s prisoners.  

Ross Douthat is a New York Times columnist and author of several books. His most recent book is Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics. Douthat pointed out that this is happening in a time when crime is falling.  

Christina Bellantoni is the Editor-in-Chief of Roll Call. She formerly reported on politics for the PBS News Hour, Talking Points Memo, and The Washington Times. Bellantoni added that “technology has changed the conversation.” It is a lot harder to pull off a cover up because of cell-phones.  

What a delight when the whole panel is in agreement discussing an issue.

Terrorism
Bad Religion Ross Douthat
Bad Religion
The discussion on terrorism ended the agreement, mainly because Maher disagreed with everyone else.  

Maher brought up the trial of Boston Bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The jury convicted him on all charges and now must decide on the death penalty. Maher said that he is not against the death penalty, “but I don’t want to give him what he wants. People said he looked arrogant. I think he looked confident.”  

Zakaria was quite eloquent in the discussion about terrorism that ensued. Zakaria said that he was not religious, but that he understood Muslims. “There are 1.6 billion Muslims. You won’t reform them by saying your religion is bad. Calls for reform require respect. I grew up in this world. They feel that their religion is being insulted.”  He said “Indonesia is the largest Muslim country and people live there in harmony with each other. The problems are with pathologically dysfunctional Arab countries with oppressive dictators.”   

Zakaria made a good case for this analysis, but I don’t think Maher heard him. Maher’s disdain for religion is too strong. [More on this in the discussion of New Rules.] 

Explaining Jokes to Idiots
Maher gets a lot of heat for his anti-Islam remarks. Sometimes his remarks are perceived as anti-Islam when he has no intent of saying something anti-Islamic. It just gets perceived that way. 

A few weeks ago, he did a segment in New Rules about Zayn Malik, a member of the boy band “One Direction” who recently left the band. At the end of the segment, Maher made a joke about Malik bearing a physical resemblance to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Maher said he didn’t even know Malik was Muslim.  

Maher said he was doing the bit in the persona of a 12 year old girl. He said all the media who covered this—you are a 12-year old girl.”  

I’m so glad Maher called out the people who pretended not to get his joke. Fake outrage in the media has really gone way too far. Everyone wants to pile on and get their 140 characters of fame. I’m pretty sure everyone who railed against the joke did not actually need the joke explained to them.
Live Right and Find Happiness
Live Right and Find Happiness 
                                                                                           
Dave Barry
The mid-show guest was Dave Barry, a Pulitzer-Prize winning humorist and former nationally syndicated columnist for The Miami Herald. He is the author of several books. His most recent book is Live Right and Find Happiness (Although Beer is Quicker). Maher introduced him by saying Barry was “reliably funny.” Barry is a delight. 

Barry’s latest book is about happiness. He said the happiest people he knows are his parents. He talked about how they knew how to have fun back in the days when people were a lot more relaxed about parenting. In fact, parenting had not yet become a verb.

He said when he and his siblings went out to play, his parents said, “Have fun." Come back by September.” When they went to the pond, his mother would lean out the window and say, “Don’t drown.”   

Maher said the sweet spot for happiness was when you don’t have time to think about whether you are happy of not.. Exactly the same conclusion I came to in my essay about happiness, “How to be Happy”—Rule 14.

New Rules: Easy Bake Lovin’
Gay Wedding Cake Topper
Gay wedding cake topper
Maher began, “You know you have lost the culture wars when you are reduced to refusing to bake cakes.…You cannot destroy something by denying it pastry.”  
“More than half of all Americans believe that the Bible is the word of God, but 55% are OK with gay marriage.” How can that be reconciled?  

In California, Matt McLaughlin started a ballot imitative to kill all gays. He says, “Killing all gays is better than God’s wrath killing us all.” Maher says McLaughin is not on the fringe. Many well-known preachers like Jerry Falwell, John Hagee, Pat Robertson, and Bob Jones say the same thing. Then Maher quoted them saying that homosexuality would bring down God’s wrath on the United States in the form of hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes and all sorts of natural disasters including comets. 
Maher pointed out that some countries—Islamic countries-- already have kill-the-gays laws. “In the United States, we don’t let fundamentalists rule. None of those religious freedom laws ever denied anyone a cake. They go to court and the judge says, ‘Bitch, just make the cake.’”

 
Bill Maher’s Guests, #349, April 10, 2015
 
The interview is with Senator Elizabeth Warren (D, MA) and the author of several books. Her most recent book is A Fighting Chance. She recently co-founded, with Elijah Cummings ( D, MD), The Middle Class Prosperity Project, an initiative to focus attention on the problems of the middle class. 

The mid-show guest is Dave Barry, a Pulitzer-Prize winning humorist and former nationally syndicated columnist for The Miami Herald.  He is the author of several books. His most recent book is Live Right and Find Happiness (Although Beer is Quicker).   

Ross Douthat is a New York Times columnist and author of several books. His most recent book is Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics.  

Fareed Zakaria is the host of CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS, a columnist for The Washington Post, and the author of In Defense of a Liberal Education.
 
Christina Bellantoni is the Editor-in-Chief of Roll Call. She formerly reported on politics for the PBS News Hour, Talking Points Memo, and The Washington Times.