Thursday, September 20, 2012

Credit Canard

By Bill Maher

A recent PPP poll asked Ohio Republicans, "Who is more responsible for the killing of Osama bin Laden?" 38% said Obama, 15% said Romney, and 47% are unsure. I'd like to know the thinking behind that 15% for Romney -- do they think he’s a secret Navy SEAL or something?
It would have been funny to ask who's more responsible for Obamacare, Obama or Romney, because if they said Romney, they might be right.

"Who's more responsible for the New Deal? Romney or Roosevelt?"

I know we're not supposed to make the killing of bin Laden political. It's how the Navy SEAL who shot him ended his interview on 60 Minutes. But there are a couple big things left out of that piece.
First, it wasn't just that the trail for bin Laden had gone cold -- it was that the Bush administration and Republicans had completely abandoned it. Mitt Romney mocked Obama for saying he'd go into Pakistan to get him. He said he wouldn't move heaven and Earth to do it. Why shouldn't that be a major strike against him?

Secondly, presidents don't actually do the fighting. They're not like Bill Pullman in Independence Day -- they don't actually get in the plane. But what Obama did with bin Laden was as close as you get. When the one helicopter went down, the reason there were two others to take them back into Afghanistan was because Obama himself asked for that to be in the plan. Mark Owen doesn't seem to realize that.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Larry Flynt Wants to See Mitt Romney’s Taxes

A radio interview with Ann Romney in Baltimore, back in April:

INTERVIEWER: Do you have to fight back some criticism, like "My husband isn't stiff, OK?"

ANN ROMNEY: Well, you know, I guess we better unzip him and let the real Mitt Romney out because he is not!

I hope, when someone unzips the real Mitt Romney and lets him out, that I am no longer alive. That said, this stupid story is the closest thing Romney has ever come to a sex scandal. So Larry Flynt wants Mitt to whip out his taxes instead. And he's ready to pay (in the well-worn words of Dr. Evil)... one million dollars. According to CNN:
Flynt is offering the reward to anyone who can dig up new evidence of the GOP candidate's "unreleased tax returns and/or details of his offshore assets, bank accounts, and business partnerships."
Flynt ran an ad in the Washington Post and another in USA Today. I wonder about Larry Flynt's motives. What kind of sicko throws away a million dollars on an election? I also wouldn't be surprised if Larry wasn't trying to distract us from his own scandals. The odds that he's Honey Boo Boo's real father are extremely high. But there are two unpleasant things about this story:

1) Mitt Romney has made us all accept that his taxes are a legitimate secret, like his sex life. Instead of something a voter deserves to know, especially if the candidate's only arguments for his candidacy are a) his saintly honor and b) his ability to make money hand over fucking fist. Mitt Romney: Ultra Job Creator not releasing his taxes is like Ulysses Grant running and refusing to talk about the Civil War.

2) Why doesn't Mitt Romney have a sex scandal? He got married at birth or something, and he's never strayed. Because there's no money in it. And there's the risk that it could bring pleasure to someone. But think about it: There's a very real chance that the next president of the United States is a 65-year-old "bishop" who’s only had sex with one woman.

Bubba Sparks

By Bill Maher

On Meet the Press, Romney said that Bill Clinton helped "elevate" the Democratic Convention. Did he happen to watch the speech? Because it was a point-by-point evisceration of everything he stands for.

Isn't it time for one of Mitt Romney's advisers to inform him that Bill Clinton is for the other guy? Can anybody name a single issue that Obama and Clinton disagree on, or that Clinton and Romney agree on? Doesn't it seem a little odd for Romney to be embracing this guy that's going out there on the campaign trail, punching him in the face?

Chump Change

By Bill Maher

There's nothing wrong with change, but there’s also nothing inherently right with change -- if the "change" you're being offered is "Rich people stop paying taxes and let’s see what happens."

If I had been running the Democratic Convention, I would have barely mentioned Obama at all -- you know, like the Republicans did with Romney -- and I would've put up a 100-by-100 foot poster of Mitt Romney and George Bush and never take it down.

You know the Republican Party's "debt clock"?  I would put up this number: 0.82%.

That's Mitt Romney’s tax rate if Paul Ryan’s latest budget became law. 0.82%. As in "less than 1%."
Maybe you don't think that's a problem. An effectively zero percent tax rate on investment, speculation and inherited wealth. But I'll bet most people do think it's a problem, and that's an argument Democrats can win.

Weekend at Gurneys

By Bill Maher

A couple of weeks ago on Real Time, Jack Kingston told us about all the people who come into the United States seeking medical treatment from "the best healthcare system in the world." Not only is this oft-parroted argument out of touch, it's actually out of date: For several years, the number of people leaving the United States for medical care has outnumbered people coming in, and that gap is growing.

According to a study by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, it breaks down like this: Inbound medical tourism is growing, but slowly. Somewhere between 60,000 and 85,000 came here to seek treatment in 2008, and the number is projected to grow to slightly over half a million by 2017. But outbound medical tourism, Americans going abroad, was 750,000 in 2007, a big uptick from the year before. And the number ballooned to 1.3 million Americans in 2008.

It's still going up, by all reports, but the trend line was clear long before Obamacare or even President Obama: Our healthcare system wasn't working, and it was getting worse. Just as they like to ignore the financial shitstorm Obama inherited, Republicans choose to forget that our medical system was also in crisis when we elected Obama.

One reason for Americans getting treated overseas, obviously, is cost. Services abroad are 80 percent cheaper, on average. But they're not just looking for healthcare on the cheap. According to a McKinsey Company report, 40% of medical tourists are seeking better technology, and 32% are looking for better care. Also, despite the dire warnings about future waiting lists and rationing, it's already here. 15% of outgoing medical tourists are doing it because of shorter waiting periods for procedures.

Don't try telling this to Republicans, though -- they still need to believe in the America that draws people to its awesome healthcare, just like they can't let go of the idea that Mexicans are still pouring over the border. Because once they start admitting that the world is just not that into us anymore, they'll have to start examining what we actually have.

Why a Mormon President Might Not Be So Swell

By Bill Maher

On his recent Real Time appearance, Walter Kirn had a lot of insightful things to say about the Mormon Church, but I'm not sure about his claim that if Mitt Romney were -- Kolob forbid -- elected, he wouldn't impose Mormon dogma on government policy.

Now, I don't think Mitt would use Social Security records to secretly baptize everyone in America, although -- now that I think of it -- that's a pretty good plan. I don't think he’s going to use seer stones to make policy ("I see.... I see... school vouchers!") But what about gay marriage?

Mormons hate gay marriage for reasons above and beyond simple bigotry. It's a core doctrine of their faith that a marriage between a man and a woman is the only way you can get the full benefit package, both in this life and the next. This is why the Mormons spent millions to defeat gay marriage in California. What are the chances that a Romney Justice Department is going to pursue gay civil rights cases, or allow gay couples in the military to marry? The NBC affiliate in Salt Lake City won’t even show "The New Normal," that new sitcom about a married gay couple. They didn't reject it because its rife with tired sitcom clich├ęs (sassy black friend, precocious smart-aleck child), they rejected it because it doesn't conform to their religion's requirements for interplanetary spirit tourism.

Let’s Get Fiscal

By Bill Maher

When Republicans aren't inventing straw men to attack President Obama (he hates success, he hates capitalism, he thinks Americans are stuck in their station in life, he's always apologizing for America, etc.) they're almost always attacking him for paying for his programs. Which, I know, sounds crazy because it's the fiscally responsible thing to do, and the Republicans are supposed to be the party of the fiscally responsible. But they're hypocrites like that. The standard isn't truth. It's saying anything that makes Obama look like a socialist who hates America. See: Dinesh D'Souza.

Take the attacks on Obama’s Medicare cuts. According to the Romney campaign, the $716 billion in Medicare cuts comes out of senior benefits (not true) that today's seniors paid into all of their lives (partially true because they use far more in benefits than they ever paid in) and then used that money to fund Obamacare.

...Okay, the last part is true. They used the savings from the Medicare cuts to providers and hospitals to offset the costs of Obamacare. Because unlike all of those programs and wars and tax cuts during the Bush administration, Obamacare is actually paid for. You see, in the fiscally responsible world that's supposed to be a good thing. It means you're not adding to the deficit. But when it comes to fiscal responsibility, Republicans are clearly frauds, so what do you expect? It's not as if they're going to say, "Okay, maybe we screwed up last time, but trust me -- this time is going to be different!"

Cut to Mitt Romney in Ohio: "We're going to finally have to do something that Republicans have spoken about for a long time and for a while we didn't do it. When we had the lead, we let people down. We need to make sure we don't let them down this time. I will cut the deficit and get us on track to a balanced budget."

...By slashing taxes for the rich and hiking defense spending.

Which brings us to the charge that Obama is raising taxes on the middle class. Which isn't really true because Obama's lowered taxes on the middle class. But like all of Romney and Ryan's lies, they're really not lies. They're wildly misleading claims hooked on to some small kernel of truth. Otherwise known as being "slimy."

This is how Paul Ryan gets to say that Obama went to that GM plant in his hometown and said it would stay open, and then it closed. Not mentioning, of course, that it closed before Obama took office, or that Ryan himself had lobbied GM to keep the plant open. But it is true that Obama went there in 2008 during the campaign and said something about keeping the plant open. That part is true. And that's enough truth to suggest that he's responsible for closing it. When you're a sleaze.

Same thing with the middle class tax increase. The kernel of truth there is that, as part of Obamacare, those who don't buy insurance have to pay a penalty, or as John Roberts calls it "a tax." And some of those people will be in the middle class. Hence, "middle class tax increase." See how they did that?

But that's basically how Obamacare is paid for: a combination of cuts to Medicare providers and through a series of tax increases. Which, again, is the fiscally responsible thing to do -- to pay for your programs. But the Romney campaign uses that kernel to suggest that Obama has raised the taxes on everyone in the middle class, when the truth is he's lowered them, except for people who won't buy health insurance. Also known as free riders.

Health care mandate? The mechanism we use to pay for all of those people with pre-existing conditions everyone wants to cover. Because in life, benefits come with costs.

"Cap and trade" is also part of this conservative attack. But again, these are taxes going to address a serious problem -- the world catching fire. Or think of it this way: if your roof leaks, you have to spend money to fix it. Your car won't start, same thing: you have to pay money to fix it. Only in the conservative bubble can you address serious problems by not paying for them -- i.e. cutting taxes.

The problem with all of this is that the Democrats, being the party that pays for their programs -- dare I say the "party of fiscal responsibility" -- comes with a political price. And it's that we're a "tastes great, less filling" country that has gotten used to putting everything we do on the national credit card. We didn't pay for Iraq, Afghanistan, the Bush tax cuts, the prescription drug entitlement program -- none of it. Which is sweet! Especially if you're going to die before the bill comes due.

You see, if you give voters stuff for free, they like it a lot better than when you give them something and charge them the cost of that thing you just gave them. Which used to be called responsible, but now is called "socialism."

Friday, September 14, 2012

HBO Overtime Sept. 7, 2012

Real Time with Bill Maher: Overtime -Sept. 7, 2012

Bill and his roundtable guests Christine O'Donnell, David Simon, Steve Schmidt, Jim VandeHei and Katrina Vanden Heuve answer fan questions from Sept. 7, 2012

HBO Overtime Aug. 31, 2012


Real Time with Bill Maher: Overtime - Aug. 31, 2012

Bill and his roundtable guests Dinesh D'Souza Walter Kirn, Jason Alexander, Ron Christie and Soledad O'Brien answer fan questions from Friday August 31, 2012.

Mitt Romney Didn’t Build That

By Bill Maher

I encourage everyone to read the latest issue of "Rolling Stone." And not just for their glowing review of the new Dylan album (Five stars! And the guy sounds even more like a frog than ever!), but for Matt Taibbi's cover story on how, exactly, Mitt Romney made his millions. The short answer: debt. He saddled companies with debt, extracted what value he could, paid himself a big bonus, and walked away. As Matt puts it:
"This is the plain, stark reality that has somehow eluded America's top political journalists for two consecutive presidential campaigns: Mitt Romney is one of the greatest and most irresponsible debt creators of all time."

Matt's right: nobody that I'm aware of has made the connection between the theme of the GOP convention -- "We Built It" -- and what leveraged buyout outfits like Bain do, which is to un-build things. KB Toys had 1,300 stores when Bain took them over; now they have 0.  That's not building, that's un-building.  When Bain took over Ampad paper and stuck the company with $60 million in annual debt payments that resulted in bankruptcy and the firing hundreds of workers -- that's not building, that's un-building. There's a reason the euphemism for this is "creative destruction," and not "creative building." Because everyone involved knows that it's not about building.

And it's certainly not about creating jobs.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


By Bill Maher

One of the problems America faces is we have an entire generation walking around whacked out on drugs.  And you can't tell them anything because they're defiant and they think they know all the answers.  I’m talking, of course, about America’s seniors.  They're slurring their speech, falling down and practically catatonic -- and that's just what I noticed watching "The Expendables 2."
An ABC News report regarding a new Dutch study confirms what we already know, that many of our seniors fall victim to "polypharmia," getting prescribed way more drugs than are necessary or healthy.  The report says,
"One in five prescriptions written for elderly patients were inappropriate." and, "By some estimates, approximately 30 percent of hospital admissions of elderly patients are related to medication toxic effects."
And the problem isn't just the drugs.  Our for-profit medical industry cleans up preying on our inability to face our parents' and grandparents’ mortality. The dying are kept artificially alive for weeks, sometimes months, at ICU costs of up to ten grand a day.  A 2010 CBS News/60Minutes report points out,
"Last year, Medicare paid $55 billion just for doctor and hospital bills during the last two months of patients' lives. That's more than the budget for the Department of Homeland Security, or the Department of Education. And it has been estimated that 20 to 30 percent of these medical expenses may have had no meaningful impact. Most of the bills are paid for by the federal government with few or no questions asked."
In that 60 Minutes report, a doctor explains,
“Something like 18 to 20 percent of Americans spend their last days in an ICU. And, you know, it's extremely expensive. It's uncomfortable. Many times they have to be sedated so that they don't reflexively pull out a tube, or sometimes their hands are restrained. This is not the way most people would want to spend their last days of life. And yet this has become almost the medical last rites for people as they die."
I'm not suggesting we adopt death panels to decide who lives and who dies, but if we weren't such a pussy nation afraid to address sensitive issues, wouldn't we be having an intelligent, uncomfortable discussion about the difference between prudent senior care and just backing up a dump truck full of cash to the problem?

Talkin' 'Bout Shaft

By Bill Maher

Here's the big lie of this campaign, the thing the Tea people can't seem to understand: the wealth is being redistributed in this country, but not from hardworking, taxpaying "real Americans" to lazy, good-for-nuthin' welfare leeches. Oh sure, that happens -- but it’s nothing compared to the redistribution from the middle up. Wealth is being taken, and has for decades been taken, from the middle class and redistributed to the rich-prick, top one-percent whose money makes money tax-free.

And the whole time this grand fleecing was going on, healthcare and college prices were skyrocketing. The top one percent realized that these are two commodities that middle class families simply cannot do without. So why not charge an ever-increasing arm and a leg for these necessities, you know, like a gas station does, gouging for 10 bucks a gallon after a hurricane? The cost of a college education has gone up 1,120% since 1978 while the cost of medical expenses has gone up 600% in that same time period.

So, now the have-it-alls are looking around at the American landscape with a dry piece of bread wondering, "Where are the last remaining drops of wealth I can sop up off the plate? The poor are still poor and we're cutting their entitlements, the middle class have been mugged and kicked to the curb with their pockets turned inside-out... I know: the elderly!" Old people still have money. In 1984, old people (65 and up) were ten times richer than young people (under 35). Now they're 47 times richer! That's where all the dough is! And, coincidentally, isn't it time we talked about privatizing Medicare?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Saving Faith

By Bill Maher

A new poll found that Americans who describe themselves as "religious" has dropped from 73% to 60% over the past seven years. And in that same time, those who say they’re "atheist" has risen from 1% to 5%.  And polls show more and more high school kids don’t believe in God -- which makes you wonder what they shout out during sex with their teacher. Not only are some kids getting more comfortable with the idea that God is an ancient myth concocted to control the masses with promises of a blissful afterlife, they're beginning to start atheist clubs in their schools. Or at least trying.

A group called the Secular Student Alliance is starting to get requests from teens who want to start atheist clubs at their high schools. These are kids who happen to believe that life can be lived fully and ethically through reason, and that studying is much more effective than prayer for, say, preparing for an American History final.

There were only about a dozen atheist clubs at U.S. high schools at the beginning of last school year but now there are 39 in 17 states with lots more in the pipeline. Just this year, the Secular Student Alliance has gotten 73 additional requests for their club starter kits.

Now, to start a club in your high school, you basically have to get a faculty advisor to agree to sponsor you and prove that enough kids are interested in participating. But despite petitioners meeting these criteria, some high schools continue to resist atheist clubs. One Florida high school refused an atheist club, saying it would be "too controversial." A principal at a Houston high school would not allow the club to be called "atheist" because that name "could disrupt the educational process." By citing disruption and controversy, what these schools were basically saying is, "We don't just see your independent thinking as independent; we see it as a provocation, as an attack on the approved thinking of the majority."

The kicker is the Florida high school that refuses to approve an atheist club on the grounds that it doesn't allow any religious clubs. But an atheist club, by definition, is not a religious club. That's the whole point. Atheism is a religion like abstinence is a sex position. Like not being hungry is a meal.  Like not believing in magic is a trick. What is it about non-belief that believers find so threatening?

Birther Control

By Bill Maher

Chris Matthews dressed down RNC Chair Reince Priebus last week for Romney's playing the race card with the birther joke, and the party doing it with the false welfare ads, constantly bringing up that he's a "European-style socialist," etc. At first, Priebus didn't have much of a response at all, because he knows it's true. By the end, he just seemed contemptuous of Matthews, but had no legitimate defense.

But Tom Brokaw chimed in that he disagreed with Chris, and thought it was just an "awkward joke," adding that Republican leaders should have corrected the record when people started calling Obama a Muslim and a socialist, but "both sides" do it. Bullshit. Half of Democrats don't believe Romney was born in a foreign country. On another planet, maybe, but not a foreign country. That was the whole point of Romney's "joke," wasn't it? "Nobody's ever asked to see my birth certificate" -- yeah, because you're a white guy, you dipshit, and you're not the victim of that kind of racism. When people say he can't empathize with ordinary people, that's part of what they mean.

Ta-Nehisi Coates has an amazing essay in this month's Atlantic called, "Fear of a Black President." He writes, "Racism is not merely a simplistic hatred. It is, more often, broad sympathy toward some and broader skepticism toward others. Black America ever lives under that skeptical eye." True dat.

The first time I ever saw Obama’s citizenship questioned was in a chain email well before the 2008 election. I thought, "Wow, this is obviously racist," and dismissed it as a fringe rumor that would end with white supremacists. How did it grow to the point where half of Republican primary voters believed it? It wasn’t just the silence of Republican leaders, it was the failure of people like Tom Brokaw to just dismiss it as racism from the beginning. People like him are always championing "balance" over objectivity. They have to bring everything back to a discussion about how "both sides" are guilty, instead of doing his job as a referee. If every single journalist just simply labeled birtherism what it obviously is -- racism -- the cancer wouldn't have infected half the party. Maybe 25% or so, but most would be like, "Okay, this isn't socially respectable."

Every journalist knows it comes from a racist place, so why can't they all be as no-bullshit about it as Chris Matthews?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Whack-a-Mole Accounting

By Bill Maher

No one seems to be talking about how “putting our financial house in order” and “slashing the federal budget,” while sounding good on the surface, simply transfers responsibility to provide critical entitlements to the states.

Go ahead, cut education, federal funding for municipal projects, Medicaid, food stamps and unemployment benefits. That may make you feel like you’re striking a blow for “ending the culture of dependency,” but kids still have to learn, aging classrooms still need to be renovated, books still need to be bought, teachers still need to be paid, bridges and roads still need to be built and repaired, and poor and out-of-work people will still get sick and hungry and need diapers. Having the feds stop paying to solve these problems doesn’t make the problems go away; it just transfers the onus of solving these problems to the states. The good news: Paul Ryan has reduced your federal income tax responsibility to 10%. The bad news: your state government now needs 55%.

Or do they? Maybe the federal government can stop paying for these things and states run by Republican governors and legislatures can finally start governing based on the cherished conservative principle of “Fuck you, every man for himself.”

Writing for the AP, Carla K. Johnson and Kelli Kennedy point out that many Republican-run states are refusing to abide by the part of Obamacare that shifts Medicaid responsibility to the states. Out of one side of their mouths, they demand federal cuts and out of the other they refuse to pick up the slack.

The national health law calls for individuals to be covered at an income under $15,400 and a family of four at an income under $30,650 – but that’s too generous for a few southern states. According to the AP, “In South Carolina, a yearly income of $16,900 is too much for Medicaid for a family of three. In Florida, $11,000 a year is too much. In Mississippi, $8,200 a year is too much. In Louisiana and Texas, earning more than just $5,000 a year makes you ineligible for Medicaid.”

More from the AP story: “Medicaid now covers an estimated 70 million Americans and would cover an estimated 7 million more in 2014 under the Obama health law's expansion. In contrast, Ryan's plan could mean 14 million to 27 million Americans would ultimately lose coverage, even beyond the effect of a repeal of the health law, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation of Ryan's 2011 budget plan.”

And it’s hardly premium coverage. Medicaid sucks and most doctors refuse to even treat patients on it. It’s so shitty you’d be better off with an actual safety net. Should poor people just go fuck themselves?

We're All Sarah Palin Now

By Bill Maher

Back in 2008 we all stood with mouths agape when we learned that Sarah Palin, fresh off not being able to tell Katie Couric what newspapers she read or what nostrils were for, would no longer be doing any interviews or taking questions from the Washington press. It was all going to be stump speeches and friendly interviews with the lickspittles at Fox News from then until November (or, as it turned out, eternity). It was unheard of. What had our political process come to?

Except that it turns out Sarah Palin was a bit of a trailblazer. And not just because she was the first person from the slow reading group to become the vice presidential nominee of a major party. Because now everyone is adopting that tactic.

Mitt Romney is not taking questions or doing any interviews with the Washington press corps either. He's done one recently -- when he rolled out Paul Ryan for 60 Minutes. But that's it. No David Gregory. No Chuck Todd. Not even Katie Couric. He's all stump speech all the time. The only questions he takes are from friendly audiences at fundraisers, usually with the press kept outside. There's no way to pin down his position on anything. Or even get him to answer something so simple as, "So when you say you paid no less than 13% in taxes, you mean 13% in income taxes, right?"

Fox News, attack ads, and stump speeches. That's it.

Even worse, the same goes for President Obama. And he's the fucking president. He just gave his first press conference in months, and recently has only granted interviews to the likes of Entertainment Weekly and People. Oh, and to local news stations, like the recent one with the morning team at KOB FM in New Mexico, who asked him "What type of chili do you prefer, red or green?" and "If you could have a superpower, what superpower would you choose?"

Which is how President Obama gets to go from the beginning of the campaign until now without having to mention anything he might do in a second term. Not a peep.

And what's left when no one will talk about any issue with anyone other than a lapdog or a cipher? Gaffes. Endless coverage of gaffes. From Mitt Romney’s gaffe to Obama's gaffe to Joe Biden's gaffe, to Todd Akin's gaffe. And not only their gaffes, but what do other people say about their gaffes? How do you feel about his or her gaffe? Do you condemn his or her gaffe? Does the person who gaffed deserve to be fired? Or should the person who gaffed step down?

In that sense I can't even blame the media here. Because if the candidates aren't going to do interviews or answer questions, or talk about actual issues, and they're going to say the same thing at every campaign stop (and trust me, they do) there's nothing for the press to cover except when someone goes off that script.

So enjoy the coverage of the candidates' gaffes. And their offshoot, the candidate's spokesperson's gaffes. And the offshoot of that, the candidate's celebrity supporters gaffes. It's all you're going to get.