Thursday, July 26, 2012

Those Blazy Days of Summer

By Bill Maher

It's summer, when a young man's fancy turns to wildfires. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, we currently have 52 large fires burning in 14 states. Colorado, in particular, is on fire. Hundreds of thousands of acres have been consumed, thousands of firefighters have been deployed and hundreds of homes have been burnt to the ground.  

Likewise, things are predicted to heat up here in Southern California. A new study of the effects of climate change on global fire patterns finds Southern California is "headed into a more fire-prone future" and West Hollywood can expect to become even more flaming than it is now. 

The study, led by UC Berkeley scientists, says that by the end of the century, the world will see more frequent and more severe wildfires than we see now, including fires in the tundra and the forests of the Far North. "Tundra fires": shouldn't that phrase alone make you say, "Hmm, maybe there is something to this global warming"? I'm not saying we're in for even more extreme weather, but they say Adele really will be able to "set fire to the rain." 

Of course Republicans will dismiss this as bunk because, after all, these are "Berkeley" scientists and they used "16 different global climate models" to gather "global wildfire and climate data for roughly the last decade and examined climate variables that affect fuel availability." And, if that doesn't spell "liberal hoax," I don't know what does. 

By not effectively regulating polluters or funding green technology now, Republicans are ensuring a future of more expense, and possibly even our ultimate demise. Isn't that some serious stuff to be politically toying with -- the survival of Man? 

It's time we realized "the adults in the room" aren't the ones living for the immediate gratification of "right now," with no regard for long-term consequences.

The War on Error

By Bill Maher

Someone pointed out that the problem with Obama’s press conference gaffe earlier this month – 

"The private sector is doing fine. Where we're seeing weaknesses in our economy have to do with state and local government."

– was that Obama didn't have anything else to say in the press conference. If he had made any actual news, the gaffe wouldn’t have been the only thing people had to talk about. And I think that's a fair charge. 

Anyway, gaffe outrage is how we play the game. And since Mitt Romney hired Sarah Palin's speechwriter, that's the only game in town. Or at least the favorite game. You say something, I repeat it, over and over and over and over and over, like it's so obviously fucking comically ludicrous that it doesn't even have to be explained.

Can you believe it? Obama actually said we're a super power "whether we like it or not!" Whether we like it or not??! "Whether" we "like it" or "not"!!!???!!! WHETHER we LIKE IT or NOT???!!!!!!!!?????????

Which is why it was inevitable that Mitt Romney's campaign released a web video all about Obama saying "doing fine." Here's The Hill's description:

The video ad follows Obama's remarks with clips of workers discussing their struggles with the weak economy. 

"We've seen layoffs, cutbacks," says one woman. 

"I've been looking for a job for two years haven't found any," says another.

"I had to file my own personal bankruptcy and had to close my business," says a man.

The video closes by repeating clips of Obama's quote, before an on-screen graphic reading, "No, Mr. President, we are not 'doing fine.'"

Meow! But isn't there a less stupid way to play this game?

Woody Allen once wrote an essay called "Miscellaneous Methods of Civil Disobedience" and one of them was "Standing in front of City Hall and chanting the word "pudding" until one’s demands are met." Woody wasn't wrong by much. But the trick is to wait until your enemy accidentally says "pudding" first.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Family Guise

By Bill Maher

A rich Republican started a pro-gay marriage Super PAC. Guess why.

Earlier this month, The New York Times had a fawning profile of Paul Singer, a 67-year-old conservative billionaire who has spent $10 million on gay rights and gay marriage initiatives. He's also a big Romney supporter. So I'm reading this and I'm wondering, "why is this guy for gay marriage?" 

The article doesn't give me a clue until the ninth paragraph, when we find out that he's got a gay son. Yes, once again we have a conservative who has become enlightened because of a family member. Well, good for him. Yet at the same time he's raising a ton of money for a candidate who supports a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. So I guess the message this guy is sending to his gay son is, "I love you, but not as much as I'd love a reduction in the capital gains tax."

Providence and Pensions

By Bill Maher

Providence means the invisible guiding hand of God, so I'm always sad to see things skidding wildly into shit creek in a place called Providence.  But that's exactly what happened this year to Providence, Rhode Island, population 178,000.  You could fit the entire population of Providence inside two LA Coliseums and have 9,000 extra seats.  It's not exactly Tokyo.  So the townsfolk were surprised when their unions told them they owed them $901 million for their pensions.

And no, I'm not just blaming the unions.  They're the nicest bunch of no-necks you'd ever like to meet.  There are other problems with the system.  Retirees living longer, for instance, and the pension funds losing money in the market.

But unemployment in Rhode Island is 11%.  It's a beleaguered little Chow-Chow of a state.

And Providence was going bankrupt. So last month -- in cooperation with the unions -- they reformed the pension system.  You can do this stuff, if both sides agree not to be assholes.  One of the things they did was get rid of the 5 percent and 6 percent annual increases given to about 600 former firefighters and police.  Another was to cap future pensions at 1.5 times the state's median annual household income, or about $82,000.  Which doesn't sound like any robber barons are kicking the stool out from under the workingman, but that's just me.

There are two dozen city retirees collecting more than $100,000 a year in Providence.  Which is nice for them, but hard on a tiny city of people who aren't evil or greedy or anything. Really. I've been there.

The poster child for the problem with the Providence pension system is former fire chief Gilbert McLaughlin. And I know this is anecdotal, but that's really just another word for "fact you don’t like."  McLaughlin retired in 1991, age 55, making $63,510 a year.  His contract entitled him to a 6% cost of living increase every year.  So this year, for not being fire chief, he made $196,813.  If McLaughlin lives to be 100 -- and why not, it's not like he's fighting fires -- he would've earned $700,000 a year under the old system.

Something had to give.  So Providence -- and the whole state, governed by our old pal Linc Chafee, neither greedy nor evil, nor out to destroy the middle class -- are suspending cost of living increases, and capping benefits.

I think we need unions.  But when people hear about the retired fireman whose pay doubles every twelve years, you can see how they might not like it.