Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Real Time With Bill Maher: Retrospective and Analysis (1/25/13)

Very good episode last Friday. All of the panel guests were well spoken (although at times, very grating in their toe-the-party-line PC speak) and there was some pretty substantive debate. There's no significant disagreement I've found with Maher on the show, so this is gonna be more of a retrospective and analysis.

1. The Politicians: The show had 2 active politicians on, and 2 inside-ball players and at times it got pretty unbearable when they were talking. I understand that they simply can't say what's actually on their minds and that they are more than aware that any awkward phrasing is going to end up on the news cycle and hurt their political star. But it makes for a boring show at times. Let me give a few examples:

Pelosi on what the Democrats can realistically achieve during President Obama's second term: Create jobs and reduce the role of money in politics. It's such a PC non-answer.

Tester on agricultural subsidies: We need to provide a safety net for farmers (the richest constituency in America, even ahead of bankers) and then root out waste and cut redundant and nonperforming programs. Oh, and cut corporate welfare too. I mean, who can honestly be against that kind of thing?

Pelosi on skewering the Republicans as not believing the government: They're against "clean air, clean water, food safety, public education, public safety, public transportation, public health...". We get it, you're a Democrat and you have to rile the base. But you're not at a political rally. Can we get some real dialogue? Obviously the Republicans believe in government.

2. Howard Dean: I wish more Democrats who went on the show were like this guy. The guy has to parrot some talking points and get his applause lines in, but he could have a reasonable debate and come to an agreement or a respectful disagreement. The dude can definitely be a blowhard, though. He tended to dominate certain parts of the show by engaging in long winding monologues designed to be catnip for the audience. But I'd rather have him on than, say, Rachel Maddow.

3. Karen Soltis: She was on the show one time before and I wish she was a regular. She's a Republican pollster who is intelligent, well spoken, and is obviously one of the Republicans who's frustrated with the state of the party and with many of the idiots and wackos found in it.

When Howard Dean went on a rant on abortion and how it degrades the status of women, she brought up a very good point on how many people view abortion as not solely about the woman. There's also another life to consider as well. Her point about not focusing on polar extremes and trying to come to a consensus in the middle (which, while very PC, was actually apropos given the fact that up until that point, Maher and Dean were talking about extreme cases) was dead on.

Oh, and she's quite easy on the eyes. Yes, it had to be said.

4. David Avella: One word: fake. And he got completely called out by Maher when he couldn't come up with any real instance of name calling by the President, instead lamely insisting that "right wing" is name calling.

5. Contract law and GMO seeds: I really hated Jon Tester on this subject because he simply picked an unpopular target (Monsanto, which is essentially the Third Reich in the eyes of Democrats) and then slung a populist attack at them. What he ignored is that he always has the choice not to do business with Monsanto. That's the real issue at stake here.

Also, the sidebar about labeling GMO products is disingenuous. There is no deleterious effect that GMO crops have in the human diet. Requiring them to label food products as such is nothing more than a panacea to the left wing health nuts. It's very similar to the Republican obsession with voter ID laws.

6. The percentage of crackpots in each party: This was a crowd favorite, but let's get real. Dean was underselling the amount of embarrassing people that his party contains. Yes, there are tons of really dumb Republicans out there who believe outrageous things, but I would say the proportion is pretty similar over on the Democratic side. But since the most popular media outlets (with the sole exception of talk radio) heavily favor the Democrats, you don't get the same kind of media exposure for morons within their party.

Everybody wants to believe that their ideology is where all the cool kids are. But the reality is every smart person has to rub shoulders with a bunch of morons in order to get elected to political office. That's true regardless of what political party or ideology you are affiliated with.

7. The 23.5%: This is something where I think Republicans and Democrats can eventually come together on. I'm glad Bill Maher raised the subject of people on Social Security disability because it is a serious issue. The growth of the disability rolls has exploded since the Great Recession for obvious reasons: unemployed people who still can't retire on Social Security apply for disability because they never saved enough when they were young, healthy, and gainfully employed.

The worst part is that, despite the massive delta between taxes paid and benefits gained from Medicare and Social Security, it's so hard to convince Americans that they don't "deserve it". When Soltis brought up the point about people seeing their pay stubs and looking at the FICA deduction, she hit yet another nail on the head.

The wagon is getting full and heavy. If a few more people get on it, then we will have become a European style social democracy. Say hello to chronic 8% employment and perennially terrible job markets for young people.

8. Apparently both Maher and Pelosi are morons: It's called "plurality". Look it up. Whites will no longer be a plurality in California sometime this year.

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