Thursday, January 31, 2013

Who Would Want This Job?

By Bill Maher

A couple reporters at the Huffington Post recently got hold of a PowerPoint presentation the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee gives to incoming members of Congress, and it's worse than you'd think. First slide: "Michele Bachmann is even shorter and crazier in person. Don't say we didn't warn you."

Okay, even if that were true, it wouldn't be the scary part. That comes later, when it notes that the leadership expects that freshmen members take about five hours out of every day and devote it to fundraising. Yes, five. That means you're either on the phone with donors listening to them tell you their inane, self-serving ideas before saying, "(Name of donor), I think what you're saying is very important and I'm completely behind you, while not actually committing to supporting anything you just said. More importantly, can I have some money?" Or you're in strategy sessions to figure out other ways to get money. Or you're doing outreach to find new people ...that you can eventually ask for money.

Former Rep. Tom Perriello even said that the 4-5 hours may even be "low-balling the figure so as not to scare the new members too much."

Jimmy Swaggart asked people for money less than this.

You know when NPR does their pledge drive once a year, when they take a few hours out of their programming to remind you that they're member-supported public radio and if you want more stories about the plight of soy farmers in Togo you're going to have to pony up some cash? It's annoying, right? Okay, now picture if NPR had to do that five hours of every day. You'd sense that something was horribly wrong with this system. To say nothing of what it would do to the people who worked there. Steve Inskeep and Renee Montagne would drink hemlock together.

Well, this is what our members of Congress spend about half of their day doing. Why should we be surprised when it attracts people who aren't that bright or talented, or who come off as cheap salespeople, and are easily bought off?


By Bill Maher

In the last election, Democrats got a million more votes for their House candidates than Republicans did. In a fair world, Nancy Pelosi would be Speaker again, but Republicans still have a 33-seat majority because of gerrymandering.

Let's call gerrymandering what it really is: segregation. It carves up district lines so "urban" voters -- aka African Americans, Asians, and Hispanics -- are bunched up in Democratic districts, while suburban and rural districts are carefully kept just white enough to go Republican.

Short-term, gerrymandering is the only thing that keeps the GOP in power. Long-term, it just might kill them. They can't compete for Hispanic votes because they don't have to. Using redistricting as a crutch only allows them to stay in denial about demographic reality, which is that the fastest growing groups in the country are racing to the polls to vote for Democrats while the Republican base is racing to the morgue. Moreover, it only encourages them to continue insulting voters they need to take back the White House, or even hold onto Congress over the next few cycles.

You know who I think would back me up on this? George W. Bush. Remember, he was for immigration reform, but his own party killed him over it. If you're a Republican, isn't it a serious problem when George W. Bush is a couple steps ahead of the rest of your party? And even though the tide seems to have turned on immigration reform, most Republicans are still from districts whose voters are very uncomfortable doing the salsa.

Most Republican politicians are smart enough to know they've got an existential problem here, but their voters aren't. They see a pathway to citizenship as "amnesty," and won't soon forgive their congressman if he votes for it. So if you're a Republican House member, what the hell do you do?


By Bill Maher

The NRA came out with a video questioning why the President's daughters get armed security but your kids don't. It's a fair question... for anyone who's blinded by ideology and willfully dismissive of the facts. The White House has called the video "repugnant and cowardly."

Yes, President Obama's daughters get special armed security, but they're different from every other tween in America in that, as the daughters of the president -- a black president, no less -- they need protection, partly due to the rhetoric of people in the NRA.

The NRA claims the President is a hypocrite and an elitist for enjoying the perk of armed security when regular, hard-working Americans don't get it. But when the same argument was applied to the perk of government-funded healthcare -- that our leaders can have it but the people cannot -- the complaint was dismissed as hogwash.

Yes, the President gets armed security and you don't. He also gets his own plane and you don't.
Why should the Obamas get armed security? Are their lives any more valuable than ours?
Yes. He's the president.

Social Justice

By Bill Maher

The other day I drove past a huge new campus in Northeast L.A. called "Sotomayor Learning Academies." I thought to myself, "It can't be that Sotomayor, can it? She's not even 60." Sure enough, it's Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. She’s already an icon in many neighborhoods across this country. Hell, in L.A., most of them.

Her autobiography just came out, and I expect it to do very well. Every time I see publicity for it, I think of how stupid Republicans were to oppose her. You know how many current Republican senators voted to confirm her? Three. Thirty one voted not to, and nine voted yes, but five of those nine were retiring and one lost his primary, which tells you how hard it is for a Republican to support a Hispanic without paying a price.

There are a lot of reasons Hispanics voted against Republicans in November, but this is a big one that people who aren't Hispanic seem to have forgotten about completely. What made voting against her so insulting wasn't that she was the first Latina nominated to the Supreme Court -- I wouldn't be complaining if Obama had nominated J-Lo and Republicans said "no" -- but Sonia Sotomayor had the most judicial experience of any Supreme Court nominee ever, and all her other credentials were impeccable. The only reasons to vote against her were empty-headed talking points farted right out of Rush Limbaugh's ass, but somehow they became the mainstream Republican position. Hispanics could only be thinking, "Wow, if they reject her, they're rejecting all of us."

What they really hate about her is that her autobiography is a great testament to affirmative action working. Sotomayor wasn't given any handouts in life. But in her book, she acknowledges getting into Princeton through a "special door." There's a huge part of the Republican Party hell-bent on keeping that door closed to anybody who didn't have an ancestor on the Mayflower, regardless of their ability to succeed once they get into the club.

Wasn't her rejection by the right a perfect example of the Republicans' "dark vein of intolerance" Colin Powell was talking about on Meet the Press?

Tax Elation

By Bill Maher

I know it's hard to jump up and down in excitement over the "fiscal cliff" deal, but something that seemed almost impossible a couple years ago is now a fact: the tax code is more progressive than it's been in over 30 years. The top 1% will now pay a federal income tax rate just of just over 36%, which is still low by historical standards, but up from the 28% they were paying when Obama took office.

Add that to the fact that Obamacare is essentially a program that taxes millionaires (who will pay, on average, an extra $168,000 this year because of it) to provide more health care for the poor and middle class.

These are pretty remarkable achievements for a president in a political system where the deck seems entirely stacked to favor the rich. It makes you wonder how much further he could go if the group these gains should please the most -- the Occupy Movement -- worked as hard to elect liberal Democrats to Congress as the Tea Party does to elect conservative Republicans.

Hell on Earth

By Bill Maher

It's been said that there are two sides to every issue. And in between the two sides there's a lot of what's called nuance. But, in our Congress, there's one party that doesn't believe in nuance because the word "nuance" sounds French. What used to happen is that the parties on each side of an issue -- especially the critical issues that require action -- would reach a compromise. A compromise is usually a shitty solution but at least it's something and doing something is generally better than doing nothing. But now, we have one party that consistently opts for doing nothing.

The National Climatic Data Center recently announced that, in 2012, America experienced its hottest year ever, by far. Usually these records are set by a tenth of a degree, but this past year's average temperature was 55.32 degrees, an alarming full degree hotter than our hottest year ever and 3.2 full degrees hotter than our average for the 20th century. Crops and livestock were decimated, rivers and lakes dried up, wildfires consumed millions of acres and scientists, even after allowing for natural weather variations, say there is zero doubt -- zero -- that fossil-fuel-induced global warming is accelerating our climate change at a rate even faster than they had predicted. Plus, simple arithmetic bears out that global warming's resulting weather events are costing us way more than the suggested solutions.

We're frying the planet, we know it, we know how to arrest it and one side's solution is to privatize Medicare and close Planned Parenthood. In other words, do nothing.

It's just another case of not being able to craft a solution or even begin a discussion because one side is dealing in science and facts and reality and the other is stuck in a state of uninformed, ideologically-based paranoia. It's like a city council trying to debate whether or not to put up a stop sign at a certain intersection to keep the kids safe, when some of the council members deny the existence of cars.

Leader Bored

By Bill Maher

Michael Savage thinks that what conservatives need is a "nationalist" party with a "charismatic" leader. Who has a little mustache. And loves his dog, Blondi.

Okay, maybe I made up the dog and the mustache, but in a recent interview, Michael Savage, one of the most popular right-wing radio hosts in the country, announced, "We need a nationalist party in the United States of America," which he defined as a party focused on "borders, language, and culture."
He went on to say the Tea Party has the rudiments of such a nationalist party, but it lacks a "charismatic mover of people."

So, to recap:  What America needs is a charismatic leader of a nationalistic party focused on borders, language, and culture.

Hey, I know it sounds bad, but Michael Savage wants you to know that he's not thinking of a certain Fuhrer.  No, he's thinking of -- wait for it -- King David.

"Somebody has to bring them all together, unite them like King David did the ancient tribes of Israel. And there is no King David out there. Who's the King David?"

Whew, that's a relief. You had me worried there for a second, Mr. Savage (real name: Michael Weiner).

So what we need is a new King David. A guy who could, um, kill a giant with a slingshot. That'll come in handy in case the US is invaded by giants.

But Savage kind of has a point. There is no popular figure that the disparate strands of modern conservatism (gun nuts, fetus worshippers, generic obese suburbanites, the super-rich...) can rally around.

It's telling that whenever the right loses an election, they immediately start blaming it on the fact that they don't have a Dear Leader that can sell their product. It never occurs to them that maybe people just don't like their product. They've convinced themselves that the only way Obama has won two elections is by stunning the electorate with his superhuman charisma, and so the only way they can combat him is by finding someone with equal but opposite charisma.

But Obama didn't win because of his charisma. The right talk about him like he's Michael Jackson and JFK and Jesus rolled into one, but people voted for him because he seemed better than John McCain or Mitt Romney, which is not an unreasonable position to take.

Confirmation Bias

By Bill Maher

Chuck Hagel is the first enlisted soldier ever nominated to head the Pentagon. About time, isn't it?
To explain Hagel's dovishness, the insufferable Lindsey Graham said about Hagel, "I think he's very haunted by Vietnam." As if that's a bad thing. I like the idea of having a Secretary of Defense who's personally haunted by the reality of war -- maybe we should even make it a prerequisite for the job. We'd certainly save a lot of lives and money that way.

Reports say senate Republicans, led by John McCain and Graham, are actually going to try to filibuster Hagel, one of their own. In 2006, McCain called Hagel "one of the two, three or four leading voices on national security and foreign policy in the senate," and said if he were president, he'd "be honored to have Chuck with me in any capacity."

What changed? 2008 happened. McCain felt personally slighted because Hagel didn't back him for president, and he's willing to go nuclear over it because he's the thinnest-skinned man in America not named Donald Trump.

Also, he's afraid that Hagel is going to ruin his plans for war with Iran. John McCain needs war like a dollhouse needs dolls. He's already sent out the invitations, ordered the cake, and the last thing he wants is some rational person coming in half-cocked to spoil his international quagmire.

Why can't I turn on a Sunday news program without somebody telling me what John McCain and Lindsey Graham think? Who cares? The American people already made their decision about John McCain: he's a loser. Yeah, he was re-elected senator of Arizona, the stupidest state. And that's not my opinion; we had a contest and the people voted it the stupidest state, even over Florida and Alabama. Heck, McCain wanted to give the nuclear codes to Sarah Palin, who would have confused them with her locker combination at the gym and ended up blowing up the world.

The Other Minority That Elected Obama

By Bill Maher

There's been a lot of talk about how Latinos, African Americans, and Asians pushed Obama over the top. But there's another growing minority group that did, and no one's talking about them: atheists. Exit polls show those listing "none" for religion was 12% of the electorate in 2012. In 1984, it was only 4%. 12% is a bigger slice of the voting pie than Hispanics or Asians, and about the same as African Americans. If the media is really so liberal, why aren't they talking about this more?

Over 70% of non-believers voted for Obama. During the inauguration, he could have thanked us by limiting his usual shout-outs to God and scripture.

Young voters are disproportionately non-believers, so their numbers and influence will only grow as the more gullible folks die off. Ironically, the result of this should be a more Christ-like society because, like the other minority groups who vote for liberals, they're a lot more interested in practicing what Jesus preached, like economic fairness, peace, and tolerance. They're much more into "social justice." I know that's a dirty word to Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck, but it certainly beats their recommended alternative: social injustice.

Americans can only truly forge a personal relationship with Christ once those who don't believe in him start running things.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Party Foul

By Bill Maher

I don't spend a lot of time worrying about what's philosophically wrong with Republicans. It's like asking what's intellectually wrong with lobsters. But Jon Huntsman (who's what you'd get if Mitt Romney had a baby with Anderson Cooper) said something interesting while we were off, in England's Daily Telegraph:

"The party right now is a holding company that's devoid of a soul and it will be filled up with ideas over time and leaders will take their proper place. We can't be known as a party that's fear-based and doesn't believe in math. In the end it will come down to a party that believes in opportunity for all our people, economic competitiveness and a strong dose of libertarianism."

Huntsman once told the Huffington Post that Republicans seem to want to:

"... thwart the opposition, stymie the opposition, obfuscate, be a flamethrower, go out there and destroy the system, and here we are."

You put those couple of thoughts together, and I think that's a pretty good description of the GOP position on the debt ceiling. Destroy the System/Don't Do Math. It's not a political party. It's Rock 'n' Roll High School.

Speaking of exactly the same thing (plus racism), Colin Powell was on Meet the Press Sunday, to borrow David Gregory's gun clip, and say the GOP has its head up its ass.

Powell: "There's also a dark vein of intolerance in some parts of the party. What do I mean by that? What I mean by that is they still sort of look down on minorities."

No shit, General Sherlock. Now, I don't know why Colin Powell is a Republican any more than I understand why Andrew Sullivan says he's a Catholic. But Powell says he's a Republican, and he says they've got a secret problem, and he's the guy who said Iraq had nukes, so he knows things and we should listen to him.

Zero Dark Hurty

By Bill Maher
Zero Dark Thirty "went wide" last weekend, and now it's the #1 movie in America. Most movies about Iraq and Afghanistan tank, but they don't have hot, controversial torture scenes, and I guess America loves inhumanity, and the Billy Crystal movie was sold out. The movie shows CIA agents torturing people, and that's bad, but it's for a greater good: Finding targets for our death squads. Is that any reason for the Academy to snub Kathryn Bigelow for Best Director? Because they snubbed her. Which must hurt. Not like being water-boarded, but still...

She did win Best Director from the New York Film Critics Circle, and she said this:

"I thankfully want to say that I’m standing in a room of people who understand that depiction is not endorsement. And if it was, no artist could ever portray inhumane practices. No author could ever write about them, and no filmmaker could ever delve into the knotty subjects of our time."
She makes a really good point: Always suck up to the people who just gave you an award. But what about the stuff about depiction not being endorsement? Does she really believe that? If only we could be sure she was telling the truth. Maybe with jumper cables.

Friday, January 18, 2013

End of Daze

By Bill Maher

The Mayan Apocalypse fizzled, but conservatives are still terrified that the end is near.
I visited several of the most heavily trafficked right-wing web sites today, as I am wont to do on a blustery day in January, and I was struck not by the stories, but by the ads. The ads are all survivalist companies: gold coin makers, freeze-dried food suppliers, "free energy" machine manufacturers...

 Free energy: the oldest, corniest, hokiest confidence scheme in the history of the world, and yet people still fall for it.

Here's another ad with a dire message.

Dust bowls?  Mass riots?  Shit, Martha, get the shotgun out of the attic! Honestly, I'm still not sure what this ad was selling; ten minutes into the video they still hadn't told me and I gave up.

But whatever happens, I’ll be prepared, thanks to this other ad for Wayne LaPierre's new survival manual, Safe.

Thanks to Wayne, I now know how to protect my family from the rioting black hordes looking for the canned goods I've hidden in my bomb shelter/panic room/man cave.

These ads point out the biggest problem facing the GOP today, which is that its base is extremely fearful, extremely gullible, and way out of step with the vast majority of Americans. I mean, do you know anyone who lies awake at night worried that America is going to run out of food? If so, tell them to relax -- most Americans have enough fat stored in their adipose tissue to last them through three or four potato famines anyway.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

New Rules for the New Year


2012: I call it the year in “meh.” Not the worst we’ve ever experienced, but nothing particularly great to say about it either. Like being a socialite, but in Tampa. 

I am looking forward to 2013, however, because I love the odd-numbered years — they’re the ones without congressional elections, Olympics, World Cups or weird extra days tacked onto the calendar by so-called scientists. Odd-numbered years are chill. They’re the 3 p.m. of years — that small sliver of time when lunch is digested and it’s too early to think about dinner and you stand at least a fighting chance of getting something done. 

In that spirit, here are the New Rules for the new year: 

NEW RULE Now that their end-of-the-world prophecy has proved to be complete baloney, the Mayans must be given a job predicting election results for Fox News. 

NEW RULE Sometime during the 2013 awards show season, “Gangnam Style” must be given an award for the shortest amount of time between my finding out what something is to my being completely sick of it. Besting the time of 7 hours, 12 minutes, set by “The Macarena” in 1996. 

NEW RULE Congress must make it a tradition to drive off the fiscal cliff every year. And I mean really off the cliff, like Toonces the cat drove that car. This way Republicans can learn that lower military spending won’t lead to China invading. And Democrats can learn that no one cares what the Commerce Department does anyway. 

NEW RULE No more mixing politics with pizza. The filthy rich founder of Papa John’s, John Schnatter, said he’d cut his employees’ hours to avoid the costs of Obamacare. This is where I’d normally suggest boycotting Papa John’s, but that’s like telling people to boycott sadness. Nobody eats Papa John’s because they like it. They eat it because Domino’s won’t deliver to crack houses. 

NEW RULE The winners of next month’s Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show must later compete against the winners of “Toddlers & Tiaras” — so we can get their handlers in one place, lock the doors and let the kids and dogs run for their lives. 

NEW RULE The New Year’s Eve ball drop must be moved to one of the two states that recently legalized pot, so we can hear the crowd sing in unison, “Should old acquaintance be... what are the words again?” 

NEW RULE Second-term Obama must have a few laughs by acting out the Tea Party’s worst fears. He must order Air Force One to fly everywhere upside-down like Denzel and replace Bo the White House dog with two pit bulls named “Malcolm” and “X.” 

NEW RULE Drugstores, supermarkets, department stores and all other retail establishments must stop asking me to join their “club.” A club is a place to have a few drinks. What you’re offering me is two dollars off a bottle of NyQuil. And that’s nothing like being in a club. Unless I drink the whole bottle at once. 

NEW RULE You can’t run for president if you don’t know how old the world is. Quizzed recently, Marco Rubio answered, “I’m not a scientist, man.” As if you have to be Galileo to Google, “How old is the earth?” And when asked his thoughts on evolution, Chris Christie said, “None of your business!” Which is what you say when someone asks you if you made a baby with the maid. Fellas, if you and your party want to be taken seriously, you don’t have to recite the collected works of Stephen Hawking — just stop regurgitating the Facebook page of Sarah Palin. 

NEW RULE If we must sit through a 30-second ad to see your Web site, you have to take down all of those banner ads, which no one has clicked on since 1997. Please — I’m trying to watch a video of a nipple slip from last night’s episode of “Real Housewives of Atlanta.” Let’s not cheapen it.