About Real Time with Bill Maher

Now that I’ve acquired HBO’s streaming service and am waiting for the Newsroom, Game of Thrones and True Detective to air I thought I’d write a post or two about other things I occasionally watch. Last Friday, the 30th episode of the 12th season of Bill Maher’s show aired and since I tend to find him entertaining I decided to watch it. More concretely I watched it today since for some reason it gets delayed here in Europe.

I have a difficult relationship with Bill Maher. On some issues I agree with him completely and on others he is both wrong and annoying. This particular episode was neither his bed nor his worst, from what the internet tells me I’ve missed some of the more interesting guests he’s had this season but then Maher is often best when doing his solo numbers anyway. I won’t go into details about what was said in this particular episode, I have a feeling that people either like Maher and have already watched it themselves or that they hate him and don’t give a fuck. And in either case recapping comedy sort of misses the point. But a few things in this episode got me thinking, I’ll briefly address those.

The show began as it usually does, with Maher doing some standup where he comments on recent events. The man is usually funny, I gotta grant him that, and so these segments tend to be quite good.

After the introductory jokes they went on to the first guest, senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. They talked about how in the United States women are the primary breadwinners of almost half of all households. That sounds like a real improvement in equality compared to how I imagine it was just a few decades ago, and I take it that in places like the Neatherlands and Scandinavia the numbers are probably not worse, if not better. She also mentioned how young girls should be encouraged to be more ambitious and that female ambition shouldn’t be seen as something negative. Being a fan of human ambition and achievement in general I certainly agreed with her.

At one point though it went downhill, when they brought up the contraception issue. The “contraception issue” here doesn’t have to do with contraceptives in general, but laws governing insurance companies and healthcare in particular, see this Supreme Court ruling. The issue is often referred to as “access to contraceptives”. This everyone can get behind, even most religious zealots are not in favor of banning them. However, somehow just bringing it down to access completely skips the question of whether other people, insurance companies, employers, you name it, are obliged to provide you with contraceptives. Keep in mind that I’m now not talking about people who need the pill for hormonal or other medical reasons that I know nothing about but strictly those who use it for sex.

One could go on about how condoms are better anyway, preventing STDs and having less side effects, but that is besides the point. You may also think this whole discussion is besides the point, if Maher and senator Gillibrand said other good things about female empowerment, and they did, then shouldn’t I focus on that? I am now after all spending a lot of time on a single sentence that the senator uttered that Maher himself barely aknowledged. Perhaps this isn’t the right time, but this particular issue has been around for a while. It is a symptom of how some people can’t seem to distinguish between freedoms and rights on one hand and entitlements on the other, Bill Maher being among them lately. Rarely nowdays in Europe or the US do I hear a politician or pundit say something like “This law has benefits, but enforcing it goes beyond the scope of what the government has the right to do”.

Alright, so that was today’s rant, now on to what else was happening on Maher’s show. Like I said, Maher and his guests uttered only a single sentence on contraceptives, the rest of that was me filling in with reactions I had two years ago.

The big topic of this episode was Ebola, which I guess doesn’t surprise anyone. Maher got pissed about how the Ebola cases in Texas were handled. While I oppose any kind of fearmongering I am certainly worried by this, everyone is. Last I heard the disease isn’t airborn or spread by insects and the number of deaths are so far few compared to say Malaria, with over 600 000 deaths in 2012, but on the other hand Ebola kills most people who catch it. I am not usually the strongest advocate of foreign aid, I don’t believe in making a habit of just moneybombing developing countries, focus must be kept on making them self sufficient. Neither am I about to volunteer to go to those countries and help so it feels weird to ask that others do, but if nothing is done here I have this nagging feeling that this could perhaps be a defining moment in human history, in the bad way. As to what to do, Maher knew nothing and neither do I. It’s a difficult question.

The episode ended with a decent “New Rules” segment, not one of Maher’s best but there were a few funny lines here and there. The race-hustling at the end was weird, it’s one thing if he was just trying to be funny, but if he was trying to help bridge race relations then I do question his methods.

Oh, and before I’m done, I have one last question. Why, oh why, has the American liberal establishment agreed to refer to the Affordable Care Act as Obamacare? Even Maher does it. I get why conservatives do it, although I think it’s silly regardless of ones opinions about the act itself, it’s a bit ad hominem. Liberals who like the act but keep calling it that, though, should definitively cut it the fuck out. I’m not in any way pushing any particular view on the ACA here, I live in Europe so its not really my business, I’m just fighting the good fight for intellectual honesty.

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