|Gravitas by Talib Kweli|
by Catherine Giordano
Last week’s show was one of the best ever. I named the review Tsunami of Stupid because Bill Maher coined that phrase to describe the Republican debate. The show was a tsunami of comedy, satire, and fun. Unfortunately, Bill Maher and his guests did not hit that high water mark again on the August 14, 2015 show, episode #360. Nonetheless, the nonsense was skewered and a good time was had by all.
The interview—Sister Helen Prejean
Sister Helen Prejean is a criminal justice activist and death penalty abolitionist, founder of the Ministry Against the Death Penalty, author of The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions and Dead Man Walking: The Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty that Sparked a National Debate. I expected a passionate discussion on the immorality and injustice of capital punishment. What I got was a tepid conversation.
Bill Maher wasted the first half of the interview reminiscing about his days as a young boy in Catholic school. The sisters smacked you with a ruler, but could we let that go and get on with current events? The new Pope is making some changes with respect to social justice and tolerance. (Bill remarked that Pope Francis said atheists can go to heaven adding, “I don’t care, but it is a nice gesture.” When Sister Prejean said there was less emphasis on sin with the current pope, Maher said, “Wow it really has changed. I got to give it a try again.”)
Finally, the conversation moved to the death penalty. Sister Prejean said, “It is about us.” I expected her to talk about how executions coarsen society and make us no better than the murders. From a nun, I expected a discussion of morality.
Instead she let Bill Maher get away with saying, “Let’s kill the right people. Let’s keep the death penalty for the worst of the worst.” She was on the show to talk about one condemned person in particular, someone scheduled to be executed in September. (I didn’t even catch his name because her presentation was that weak.) This man was in all probability innocent and even if he was guilty, his crime was far from being the worst of the worst. He wasn’t even involved in the actual killing, but was accused of hiring the person who did the killing.
I think sister Prejean was trying to say that as long as we have executions we will have innocent people executed. But she made the case with such a lack of passion that most people probably never even heard it. What a waste of air time.
Here is the case she should have made. Thou Shall Not Kill: The Immorality of the Death Penalty and Why Innocent People are on Death Row.
Here is a post giving some of Maher’s earlier comments on the subject. Death Row Follies
The Republicans Maher and the panel had a few things to day about the 17 Republicans running for Congress and the nonsense of the ‘100-car pileup that is the Republican field.’
In the monolog, Maher quipped:
“Donald Trump is offering free helicopter rides to kids at the Iowa State fair. Chris Christie countered by offering to be the bouncy house.”
“Donald Trump said he has a plan for ISIS: I’d laugh, but he defeated Fox News in the period–gate scandal. Fox took a look at the ratings and then said that maybe Megyn was on the rag.” [In 2012, the first Republican debate had 3.2 million viewers; this time it got 26 million viewers.”]
“Worrying about Castro is like worrying about Bobby Jindal’s presidential campaign.” [Neither will have any effect on anything.]
Jeb Bush and War
Jeb Bush can’t seem to get it right on the Iraq War. He’s still defending it. He has to it is his brother’s war. Lawrence Wilkerson, a Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Government and Public Policy at the College of William & Mary, former Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell was not in favor of this war then or now. He’s a military man (31 years in the U.S. Army, retired from active service in 1997 as a colonel) so he knows a little something about war. He said, “U.S. policy always was to stay offshore. Boots on the ground was out of the question. You don’t want to start a ground war in Asia.” Not surprisingly, he is for the deal with Iran.
Jeb Bush is proud to say that he defunded Planned Parenthood in Florida. Granholm pointed out that he did more than that. He improperly intervened in court cases that concerned abortion. He advocated for the “scarlet letter bill” that would have forced women who continued their pregnancies, but wanted to place the baby up for adoption, to publish their sexual histories in the newspaper. It was about public shaming.
Here is where panelist Doug Heye jumped in, loudly and obnoxiously. Heye was the Deputy Chief of Staff to former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (VA R) and was the RNC Communications Director. On the pretense of defending women he told us how he thought that the term “women’s issues” was insulting to women because women care about all issues, especially the economy and jobs.
So Granholm took him to school over how Republicans voted against the violence against women act, voted against equal pay for women, and are now threatening to shut down the government over Planned Parenthood. She pointed out that the Republicans had little to nothing to say about the middle class during the debate while having plenty to say about abortion.
[P.S. Women who care about the economy and jobs should definitely vote Democratic. Compare the economy and jobs situation now to when GWB was president.]
Mike Huckabee has been on the campaign trail saying that Jay Z treats his wife Beyonce as if he was her pimp. What nonsense! Maher scoffed saying that Beyonce runs her own career. [Talk about being insulting to women he compared Beyonce to a whore and said she had no mind of her own when it came to her career choices!]
The Mysterious People Who Aren’t Men
The talk about women was a great segue into the mid-show comedy bit. Maher read from a spoof children’s book with the above title.
The book taught children that there are “Voters out there who don’t have a penis,” “Women live in houses, not Mitt Romney’s binders,” and “Women exist even when we are not horny.”
Talib Kweli is a musician (his latest albums are Fuck the Money and Gravitas) and founder of The Action Support Committee. Some of his songs made it onto Obama’s play list.
Kweli recently did two concerts on the anniversary of the death of Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson. The first concert was to raise money for the protestors and the second was for the family of Michael Brown.
Maher brought up the “Black Lives Matter” protestors who interrupted Bernie Sanders’ speech. He said that Sanders is not a racist. Kweli explained. “Activists are not about being polite. They changed the agenda. They forced the candidates to come up with a platform.”
Donald Trump is still at the top of the polls, even in Iowa. Everyone said he would never
He’s telling people what they want to hear. “I will make America great again.” Whatever problem America has, he has a “terrific” plan to fix it. . (He never says how he will fix it—just that it will be terrific.)
Personally, I think America is pretty great right now (compared to the GWB years) and the best way to see that America gets to be even more great is to elect a Democratic president with a Democratic Congress. The rest of the world does not think that “America is a joke” as Trump is fond of saying. (That was during the GWB years—now America is admired again.)
But despite his lack of polish, Trump has modulated his tone and is starting to look like a serious candidate. He still talks nonsense, but he seems to have gained a bit of gravitas. (But will he tweet Putin 26 times at 3am if Putin says something that makes him angry?)
I agree that the advice is worth a million dollars. I groan every time I see Hillary give a speech. She is so over-rehearsed. I know she wants to play it safe and not make a gaffe, and maybe she is right. But even her jokes sound so scripted. (I wonder how she will manage at the Correspondent’s Dinner.”)
Maher told her to laugh more, but to lose the cackle that makes her sound like "the wicked witch of the West Wing.”
Maher’s last bit of advice was what he called her “ace in the hole.” “Your husband Bill Clinton has to have an affair. You can get the magic back, but Bill has to humiliate you.”