Saturday, July 13, 2013

Real Time With Bill Maher: Counterpoints and Retrospective (7/12/13)

Despite the inclusion of Cornel West (seriously, he is among the lower end of panel guests) in the show and some frequent and loud crosstalk, we had a decent show tonight. There are definitely a lot of issues to address.

Bobby Ghosh: Egypt is ready for democracy, but they need to learn that democracy is more than tyranny of the majority.

Egyptians aren't ready for liberal democracy. Because there are democracies that operate as tyrannies of the majority (Chavez-era Venezuela being the most notable model) that are just as repressive as dictatorships and there are liberal democracies that give the majority candidate and party a right to rule, but also protects minority rights as well. The latter type of democracy is much better than the former. I don't know too much about Egypt, but two revolutions in 2 years seems emblematic of a deeply dysfunctional society. It's not enough just to have elections. So far, the Egyptians aren't doing too well with their experiment in democracy.

Bill Maher: Why is burglary the only option for so many black kids? Why aren't they being given good opportunities for legal socioeconomic advancement?

Societal change is, as a rule, extremely slow. If you look at how segregated black communities are from everywhere else. Combine that with a culture that is not conducive to higher level education and the debilitating effects of well meaning welfare programs, and you get a problem that can fester for a very long time.

The actions needed to change it as fast as humanly possible are also actions that would be completely unacceptable. It requires forcibly relocating millions of families and subsidizing them in an intelligent way. The government obviously can't do any of that. So right now, there's not a lot we can do. The two most helpful things revolve around our legal system and education.

Cornel West has a point on drug convictions and sentencing. Repealing the controlled substances act would keep a lot of black kids and families out of jail. Reforming public education would also help them get the skills needed to be productive members of society. The former can be achieved relatively quickly if there is the political will to do it. The latter will take decades. It will take a very long time to rectify the injustices of racial discrimination in the US. This is something that cannot be fixed by throwing money at it, which seems to be the first idea Americans try when it comes to problem solving.

Cornel West: President Obama is a war criminal, and I say this with love.

It's an idiotic thing to say and it's completely beneath the dignity of an Ivy League professor to say so. You can't be harsh on President Obama and call it tough love and also call him a war criminal. It simply cheapens the term "war criminal". Maher kinda called him out on it by saying that his definition makes just about every modern American President a war criminal.

Governments prosecute war criminals. The President of the United States cannot be prosecuted by the Federal government for war crimes. It's impossible. It would never happen. War criminals are convicted by governments that recently emerged victorious in some terrible struggle. And the kids who become collateral damage from drone strikes simply don't get a voice in our political system.

Almost every American agrees that the President needs to be tough on national security. Almost every American will also agree that to be tough on national security, you gotta kill the bad guys. And Americans, as Matt Lewis said, will tolerate collateral damage especially when it's remote controlled drones doing the dirty work and not American soldiers being put in harm's way.

At the end of the day, the President is charged with serving the public interest of a country of over 300 million people. Of course he will prioritize the safety of Americans over foreigners. Of course that will occasionally result in some foreigners getting killed. That doesn't make him a war criminal. To say otherwise is needlessly inflammatory and either intellectually dishonest or ignorant.

Mike Rowe: We have so many job openings available, but kids these days don't want to work blue collar type jobs due to the indoctrination of society telling us that we should all go to college and leave manual labor for Mexicans and Chinese.

This man hit the nail on the head. The reality is that an economy and society as large and complex as ours requires a lot of moving parts. And not everybody can be a reality TV star, PR spokesperson, model, or radio host. We need doctors, engineers, software developers, plumbers, electricians, forklift operators, construction workers, and sewage workers.

And we have shortages of all those professions. It takes a long time and a lot of hard work to be a doctor or engineer. So most kids don't go down that career path. Plumbers, electricians, heavy machinery operators and construction workers get absolutely no respect in the "so what do you do?" phase of a cocktail party, so most kids don't go down those career paths either. That essentially leaves a lot of kids vying to be reality TV contestants, marketing/creative types that barely work, and pretty people jobs. And there are only a finite number of those jobs.

The modern economy doesn't really need entertainment jobs. Those jobs are created with the excess economic productivity generated from jobs that involve or facilitate food production and preparation, construction, health care, defense (like it or not, every society needs a security apparatus), transportation. The wealthier a society is, the more jobs it can afford to create in the entertainment sector. But it cannot rely on the entertainment sector to create wealth. Entertainment is not wealth. It is strictly consumption.*

But, big surprise, everybody wants to go into entertainment. It involves the least amount of real work and the most amount of real compensation. Unfortunately, that compensation is only made possible with the hard work of people working in the real economy. Actors can only get paid millions of dollars when they can show off their craft on a television designed by an engineer, manufactured by a factory worker, shipped by a truck driver, and sold by a sales associate at your local big box store or online.

We have a lot of jobs open in the real economy. You know, the part that addresses the things that humans need to survive. Prospering can only come after surviving. And too many Americans want to prosper before surviving.

Liz Mair: I am wearing a black leather jacket. I am also annoying and inarticulate.

This is not a sexist rant, by the way. If you want to be taken seriously, you probably shouldn't wear a black leather jacket. And it sure doesn't help your cause if you can't also be clear and concise when you make an argument. If she's the kind of political operative that Republicans hire for strategy, it's no wonder they're in such bad shape.

* I appreciate the irony of making this statement even as I draw a paycheck from a large media/entertainment corporation. It's kinda like celebrities ragging about how unimportant their jobs are, except I'm not absurdly rich, of average intelligence, and laden with a host of emotional issues that emanate from childhood.


  1. "We have a lot of job openings in the real economy."

    uhh,by what measure?

    1. Watch the show and get back to me.