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Turns Out Most of the 53% are Victims Too

By: Omnipotent Poobah Wednesday October 3, 2012 6:01 pm

Mitt Romney thinks almost half the nation is a bunch of crybaby, irresponsible victims living on the public dole rather than paying their own way. To his way of thinking, asking the wealthy to pay taxes to carry their freight is at the center of a class war that persecutes the rich.

Mitt, consider yourself lucky, there is a move afoot in France to up the tax rate on the wealthy to 75%. If you want persecution, move yourself and your money out of the U.S. and into that cute little winery in Provence you’ve had your eye on.

According to the San Jose Mercury News, the states with the highest taxes on the wealthy also have the highest per capita number of millionaires. As Mitt knows first-hand, apparently hiding your money in the Caymans is preferable to actually moving there.

This statistic seems odd when the conventional Republican wisdom is that higher taxes on the wealthy will lead to a mass exodus to escape the unfairness of it all.

California, with the second highest “millionaire tax” in the nation at 10.3%, has a statewide proposition pending to raise the tax rate on the wealthy to an outrageous 13.3%. The bulk of the money would go to schools that benefit the wealthy by training workers they now import from overseas because they claim they can’t get them here. I believe you call this “growing jobs”. Some of the money would go to fixing Third World style roads on which you drive your limos and cutting the debt you so decry.

As a point of reference, I ain’t no millionaire and 13.3% is considerably less than what I pay.

Unlike Mitt, I can’t throw a few extra dollars the Mormon Church’s way to lower my “burden”. I don’t make enough. Still, I throw plenty at places where it goes to feeding and housing ultra-low end 47 Percenters rather than casting big-ass, tax-free gold statues of the angel Moroni.

I can’t move my vast financial empire to the Caymans or into Swiss bank accounts. I don’t make enough. My wife does own two horses, one of which is permanently lame and the other for sale. Neither is an Olympic dancing horse.

I do take a miniscule deduction on my almost paid off mortgage. I’d guess that Mitt’s write off on, say, a Malibu Barbie Ann beach house, financed by a below market, low-interest loan from Bain, would be considerably larger than mine.

So California wealthy people, stop carpet-bombing the rest of us with ads foretelling financial Armageddon if you pay a 3% tax increase which, because of your available tax dodges, will amount to an actual increase of almost zero. If you haven’t run away from such a dastardly and onerous imposition already, I’d guess you wouldn’t now.

BTW, don’t worry about skipping out on your share. I’m sure my higher taxes will make up the difference. I wouldn’t want you to lose sleep over it.

It looks like most of the 53% are victims too.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks! More than politics, more than pop culture & humor.


Truth is the First Casualty of Politics

By: Omnipotent Poobah Thursday September 27, 2012 4:34 pm

Truth is the first casualty of politics. Politicians warp it, distort it, and spin it like Whirling Dervishes. When all else fails, they simply lie their way around it, all the while claiming a fantasy moral high ground where it is perpetually Orwell’s 1984truth is fiction and fiction is truth.

A sentient person should expect a certain amount of this. After all, it is a candidate’s job to present themselves in the best possible light. But, there is a huge difference between good lighting and whispering lies from the shadows.

Sometimes facts are both truthful and verifiable. You can argue 1+1=9422, but that doesn’t make it true or a fact. When the fact is so immutable as to render it above challenge, some simply lie. “But it does equal 9422! Most leading mathematicians say so.” No they didn’t.

Pulling Saturn from its Orbit

Perhaps the most time-tested, hardest-to-clarify, and in some ways least honest lie is a spin so powerful it pulls Saturn from its orbit. People usually call this “interpretation”. No doubt almost everything has some degree of real interpretation, but quoting words without also quoting lines before and after that show an opposite meaning is not interpretation. Cherry picking only the facts that agree with your position while vigorously denying an opponent’s isn’t interpretation either – though it is depressingly frequent. Stephen Colbert calls these “facts” truthiness.

Barack Obama acknowledged in a recent 60 Minutes interview that his campaign sometimes goes over the top. You have to give him props for that. It is a limb most candidates avoid like dangling from it with a drunken lumberjack and sharp chainsaw. But, acknowledgement isn’t an apology or a pledge to give up on cooking the books of truth.

“Do we see sometimes, us going overboard in our campaign, the mistakes that are made or the, you know, areas where there’s no doubt someone could dispute how we are presenting things? That happens in politics,” Obama said. Ironically, that was a totally indisputable truth, but one that doesn’t excuse his participation.

Sadly, the President went on to tell another untruth. “The truth is of the matter is most of the time we’re having a vigorous debate about the vision of the country.” However, if lies and distortion constitute having a “vigorous debate about a vision of the country” we’re having it with cheap, dime store, non-prescription bifocals.

Michele Bachmann comparing the use of census data to throw Japanese into concentration camps during WWII is “factual” as it goes, but……

“If we look at American history, between 1942 and 1947, the data that was collected by the Census Bureau was handed over to the FBI and other organizations at the request of President Roosevelt, and that’s how the Japanese were rounded up and put into the internment camps,” she said about one of the most unfair and egregious acts in American history.

Would I Lie to You?

So far, so good, but then Bachmann implies there is a plot without actually saying the words, “There is a plot.” (NOTE: Some reports claim she explicitly talked of a plot in other interviews, but I can’t completely verify they are true). But carefully read Bachmann’s language and you see some heavy handed dervishing. So heavy handed that even Fox’s Megyn Kelly, not exactly a hostile interviewer, doesn’t ask to clarify what she means.

“I’m not saying that that’s what the administration is planning to do,” she said as she outlined a plan. “But I am saying that private personal information that was given to the Census Bureau in the 1940s was used against Americans to round them up, in a violation of their constitutional rights, and put the Japanese in internment camps.” Strictly factual? Yes. Sublime truthiness? Um, decide for yourself.

There isn’t a person in the species that hasn’t lied, even Mother Theresa. It is as human a trait as opposable thumbs. At the risk of being accused of moral relativism, not all lies are bad. However, they are still lies and a fully true answer might be hurtful, but a more morally correct one. But, we don’t live in utopia where everything is orderly, clean, and unambiguous. Haters gonna hate, actual human beings gonna lie.

Dishonesty and its morality are at the crossroads of every society. Sometimes, as in modern-day America, the lies get too big. The lies come too easy, we believe them too easily, and we all enable them. Lies also have consequences.

Recognizing there will be lies until cockroaches exclusively reclaim the planet is a first step toward making things better. So are thinking carefully, investigating fully, admitting mistakes and obfuscations, and holding the feet of at least the biggest, baddest liars to the fire are big steps too.

Would I lie to you?

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks! More than politics, more than pop culture & humor.

Fly Jolly Joker Airlines

By: Omnipotent Poobah Thursday September 27, 2012 4:24 pm

Opening windows on an airplane, ROFLMFAO! Mitt sure is a moran or a jolly joker, depending on your point of view. Assuming others are as clueless –a safe assumption in an underfunded-education, science-challenged country – Yahoo ran a story explaining it all. That is more worrying than Mitt’s suggestion. He was admirably trying to show concern for Ann’s harrowing, though relatively common, experience with smoke in the cabin of her airplane. That’s about as close to human as Mitt gets.

It was probably a joke from a man who is about as funny as a bowling ball, but you never know. There are some weakly plausible reasons why he might say something so bizarre. Mitt isn’t the world’s best off-the-cuff speaker as his 47% speech shows. Sometimes he speaks first and thinks later. After 2+ years of stumping 18-hours a day, perhaps he was just tired. This may be one of those rare occurrences when the “I misspoke” explanation might be true. On the other hand, maybe he is as stupid as he sounds. It wouldn’t be the first time. But there is a very remote possibility he holds common misconceptions about aircraft like many others – misconceptions that are a combination of possibilities and impossibilities.

Ironically, his idea has some historical precedent. Aviators have investigated the window idea before, sometimes successfully. If your only experience with aerodynamics is rolling down a limo window and sticking your elbow out, it isn’t as goofy as it sounds. But, successful doesn’t mean practical.

Some airplanes have opening windows. Some have doors bigger than boxcars that open in flight. The problem isn’t windows, it is why you can’t or shouldn’t open them and if you did, what would happen.

Who Let the Smoke Out…Who?…Who?

First, Mitt’s “let the smoke” out rationale is off the mark. In the unlikely event there is smoke it probably doesn’t come from fire and if it does, it also probably comes from areas that already have fire suppression systems.

Mitt apparently didn’t watch the movie Backdraft and makes an assumption common in house fires. Opening windows doesn’t bring air (not oxygen as he suggests) in to blow smoke out. Instead, the open window it likely feeds the fire, providing there is enough air to do that. On airplanes, where higher pressure causes a film of air rushing past open windows, the smoke would probably be trapped in.

Then, there is the issue of pressurization. Airliners typically fly pressurized to about 6000-8000 feet so people can breathe easily, but they can breathe safely above that altitude…up to a point. Around 35,00 feet most people develop hypoxia in seconds, above 59,000 feet your blood boils, though airliners never fly this high.

If you’ve seen too many Bruce Willis movies, the explosive decompression issue is hog-wash. Explosive decompressions don’t last for minutes of hurricane force winds. They don’t pull passengers out windows considerably smaller than their asses. In fact, plugging the hole with an ample ass would probably help stop further decompression. Explosive decompressions momentarily create a thick fog and suck the air from your lungs. Pop, and you reverse-breathe as air leaves you. If you are high enough you can’t refill your lungs or subsist on the thin air. You’ll take a short nap until you get lower. You might have some lung trauma, but you might not be damaged by more than a little nausea or maybe ringing ears, but nothing as bad as a mild hangover from the tiny bottles of vodka. Trust me, I’ve been through them…on purpose.

Stowing Color TVs in the Overhead

It is hard to believe people come up with ideas that are self-evidently stupid sometimes. For example, I’ve heard dozens of people suggest passenger parachutes (oddly, there are whole airplane parachutes for small aircraft) would be a fine idea on airplanes without knowing it is probably more impractical than jumping up at the moment of impact.

The chaos of a planeload of people struggling into bulky parachutes in the aisle would make stowing color TVs in the overhead (a problem that can and should be fixed) pale in comparison. There is zero chance anyone would get into one, get to the door, and jump in the short time before the airplane met the ground. Then, they’d have to deal with the effects of the fall and the landing. There’s also that little thing about people passing out before they could even do that. Plus, a plane load of parachutes are heavy enough that you couldn’t stow baggage in or out of the airplane at any exorbitant cost. You’d never get off the ground.

Most of Mitt’s experience in airplanes is drinking champaign and making wads of money on board a private GulfstreamV. It’s doubtful he pays much attention past that. That ignorance could breed stupid statements. It happens.

On the other hand, maybe he is stupid and incapable of understanding anything other than investing in aerospace companies, shipping the work to the Philippines, and closing the place down. That happens too.

But, I’m with Mother Jones, I’m betting on the jolly joker theory.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks! More than politics, more than pop culture & humor.

Pulpit Freedom Sunday: For When Special Exemptions Aren’t Special Enough

By: Omnipotent Poobah Thursday September 27, 2012 4:17 pm

Another Christian organization is howling at the moon because their special tax exemption, which non-religious groups don’t get, isn’t special enough. The right wing Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) organization is urging pastors into the pulpit to preach politics instead of God. Pulpit Freedom Sunday is an effort to force the IRS to take the pastors to court for breaking the law so they can sue and argue the prohibition against taking a perk and making political endorsements too is a violation of the First Amendment.

“We’re hoping the IRS will respond by doing what they have threatened,” Erik Stanley, ADF’s Sr. Legal Counsel said. “We have to wait for it to be applied to a particular church or pastor so that we can challenge it [the Johnson Act] in court. We don’t think it’s going to take long for a judge to strike this down as unconstitutional.”

But, some aren’t so sure.

Constitutionality might be a practical moot point anyway. The IRS rarely enforces the law now and when it does, they write warning letters rather than prosecute. “The IRS will send out notices from time to time and say you crossed the line,” Jim Garlow, Sr. Pastor of Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego said. “But when it’s time to go to court, they close the case.” Religious persecution is a hard sell when the worst thing that happens is a not-so-strongly worded letter telling you to follow the law. ADF may say the law is “blatantly unconstitutional”, but it is still the law.

In fact, the entire idea the IRS is somehow depriving pastors of free speech is laughable. Surely, the opposite is true. Under the First Amendment, preachers can say anything they want. They can lead demonstrations. They can picket abortion clinics. They can wave God Hates Fags signs at military funerals. They can pray in any location they desire, without restriction. The entire point of the First Amendment is to allow even repugnant speech a place in the public square and terrorizing families of dead troops is about as repugnant as you can get – yet, Westboro Baptist doesn’t chip in a dime to maintain a country where they can act like ass hats. What clerics aren’t allowed to do is use their First Amendment right to freedom of religion and speech as an unequal fig leaf to avoid paying taxes.

The solution is simple. Start paying taxes like everyone else and every other organization in the country. The Johnson Act says religious speech is untaxed, it says nothing about political speech – or it getting the same treatment. Churches already “double-dip” by accepting charitable contributions to fund untaxed, religious activities and commercial enterprises. That’s a sweet deal, especially considering the huge benefit of getting the dough, saying what you want, and constantly pushing for even more unequal treatment under the law. Exxon should be so lucky.

Christians, even while making up 77% of the population, constantly complain they are victims of persecution. If they are victims, sign me up. I pay a significantly higher tax rate than Mitt Romney (before and after charitable contributions) and I could use the write off. Even though I’m a member of the 53%, I feel victimized that I can’t throw some money at the Mormon church or the Archdiocese of the Cayman Islands and reduce my tax burden by half.

And, the 41% “victims” have it even worse. When they go to church, the church wants their money to pay for the privilege of being told how to vote.

That’s like having your cake and eating it too while telling people they should buy the cake from your untaxed bakery with a 10% tithe they can’t afford.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks! More than politics, more than pop culture & humor.

Mitt Romney: Likable as a Haggis Buffet

By: Omnipotent Poobah Monday September 24, 2012 9:01 am

The list of things wrong with the Romney campaign is ignominious and pushing Mitt toward the precipice. He has had innumerable foot-in-mouth episodes, told many hand caught in the cookie jar lies, managed self-inflicted gunshot wounds, and made the worst Veep choice since McCain sent himself well and truly off the rails with the Moose Momma. The reasons for this ineptitude are manifold, from sheer stupidity to being as likable as a haggis buffet, but perhaps that last one might explain it best.

In general, Americans don’t like lawyers. They aren’t too hot on reporters either. And when it comes to politicians Congress can’t get any lower than their 12% approval rating. And right up there in the Pantheon of the Hated are CEOs. Your average citizen thinks they are arrogant, greedy, out of touch, and completely devoid of morals. When a factory worker screws up they find their ass on the street. When a CEO screws up they get a hefty bonus and stock options equal to the combined incomes of Nebraska’s entire middle class. Then, they close the factory, send the work to Chinese reeducation camps, and collect another bonus for how well they handled their own failure. To everyone other than CEOs, and the people who inexplicably love them, it’s easy to see why they don’t give people the warm and fuzzies.

Saving America by Gutting and Selling it to the Highest Bidder

Mitt wants to be a CEO President in the worst way. He wants to be the brilliant turnaround artist who saves America by gutting and selling it to the highest bidder. We had another CEO President not long ago and that didn’t work out so well. He bragged about his business acumen too. It consisted mostly of running an oil company into the ground, helming the Texas Rangers, and lots of frat parties. You know, pretty much the standard CEO resume.

People don’t much trust Mitt. Even his brethren in the Grand Old Pogromites (GOP) don’t like him and they are of the same Brook’s Bros. cloth. He has the uncanny ability to make someone like Mother Teressa hate him by telling a few jokes at at $50,000 a plate rubber chicken dinner. However, that might not be completely his fault. I question the character-smelling ability of a person willing to shell out $50,000 for a vulcanized chicken breast.

Mitt has all the worst habits of the CEO-class. If there is one place he excels, it’s acting nothing like a human in thought, word, or deed. That is baggage my friends – the sort of baggage that makes it hard to hornswoggle people into believing that giving them less is somehow more. Like most CEOs, he never met a piece of good advice he could take. His massive, well-coiffed ego won’t allow it. Give him a rope, he’ll gladly set his eyes bugging out, then ask for your vote because he’s the CEO dammit.

His former friends are running away from him while shouting advice over their shoulder to let someone else run the campaign. You’re not the worker bee, just find someone who can competently tell lies and get out of their way. Wasn’t that why you chose Paul Ryan?

There’s something else common to all CEO Presidents – not understanding government is not a business. Government’s purpose is not to turn a profit for anyone – even the people who hide more in offshore accounts that the 53% pay in taxes. Businesses are dictatorships, which every CEO will remind anyone ill-advised enough to cross them. In business, you can’t hand-select Congress, the courts, or voters like a stacked Board of Directors…yet. Government is messy and the electorate often lacks the same goal of business – money. Regardless of how it is made.

Voters Really Appreciate Fire Trucks Traveling Fast Down a Taxpayer-Funded Road

The one way governments and businesses are alike – budgets – even differ. CEOs routinely miss theirs by considerable amounts. Governments routinely go way over theirs…because they are bigger. CEOs can get things under control easier. They can eviscerate half the company and cutting off unprofitable products because they only have to suck marginally less than their competitors. Government doesn’t have that advantage. When your house is on fire, the average voter really appreciates a fire truck traveling fast down a taxpayer-funded road. No amount of telling those lazy-ass victims that living in blackened rubble is better than getting off their dead asses and getting a job in a country where all the jobs are in Bangalore is better than water and ladders.

Mitt is the penultimate personification of a CEO and reaps all the ill that brings. He came out of the campaign gate toting more baggage than Kim Kardashian on the way to tennis lessons. He targeted his campaign at 1% of the population and it’s hard to carry that much baggage without a sub-minimum wage bellhop that will inevitably embarrass you.

There are only a few weeks left to pull the limo out of the fire and close the deal. There will be more mistakes, as there are in any endeavor, but he can overcome them. Rather than employing the normal CEO reaction to failure – deny, deny, deny, blame it on someone else – he could simply employ some (I know this is going rouge) common sense.

Stop envisioning yourself as the potential Potentate of Romnistan, put on the throne by the Council of 500 Fortunes. The country doesn’t need any more CEOs, they are the skeevy bastards that got us into this mess and we’re awash in them. Using that as the only plank in your platform is a non-starter, so (I know this a mavericky thing) stop it. Stop telling people with three jobs they are whining little goldbrickers. Start saying, “You know, that must be hard. I don’t really know about it first hand, but I trust your word for it and I’ll do something specific about it.” Stop telling people you will create 18 billion jobs during the first dance at the Inaugural Ball because no one, not even Ann Coulter, believes it.

Admit you know shit all about foreign policy. The fact you can see New Hampshire from Massachusetts is not foreign policy, no matter what Sarah Palin says. Empty the tea pot and throw those bat-shit crazy, spelling challenged nitwits out of the big tent. They scare the hell out of people and will stab you in the back as soon as you won’t support a ban on condoms bought only with prior approval from the Texas legislature.

We’re told – though most people doubt it – that you have a tiny smidgen of human left in you. Step out into the sunshine of Temple Square and let your love light shine. Treat people like (I know this is all roguey and mavericky) people instead of fully depreciated assets. Trust me on this, people really hate it when CEOs do that. Mitt, there is hope for you. You could snatch victory from the jaws of defeat and not shove defeat back into the jaws if you’d stop acting less like the CEO of BushCo and start acting more like the CEO of People.

Better yet, stop being a CEO at all. We neither want nor need any of those.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks! More than politics, more than pop culture & humor.

What Do Mitt Romney and Joe the Plumber Have in Common?

By: Omnipotent Poobah Thursday September 20, 2012 4:56 pm

Here’s a burning question. What do Mitt Romney and Joe the Plumber have in common? As it turns out, they are each running the most incompetent political campaigns ever.

Samuel Wurzelbacher, aka Joe the Plumber, is the honest-to-God, official Republican candidate for Ohio’s 9th Congressional District Representative. He opposes 15-term incumbent Democrat Marcy Kaptur. Joe has taken the novel position that the best way to run for Congress is to stay hidden. But not hidden in that Mitt Romney way where you cut a few stump speeches until the heat from your latest gaffe blows over. No, he means really hidden, as in you have to contact him through the country party chair because he doesn’t answer his phone hidden.

Obviously, this does not make the 9th District’s Republican swells happy. And therein lies the first commonality between Mitt and Joe. Their party hates them.

How Very Mittens

Former GOP County Commissioner Maggie Thurber said, “[Joe] has a campaign committee and a Web site, but has been conspicuously absent from the news over the last month. This is not the way to win a campaign.” It’s the same thing as Republicans in Congress running – not walking – away from him as we inch toward election day.

Steve Kraus, the man who lost to Joe in possibly the worst political embarrassment since John Ashcroft lost his Senate seat to a dead man, agreed. “It’s kinda sad. He’s not running the race he said he was going to run. Everybody’s complaining they don’t have signs; they don’t hear from him; they don’t know what’s going on.”

Even his opponent is disappointed. “It’s hard for me to really define what he stands for because he hasn’t appeared in public to explain any of his positions since the primary,” Kaptur said.

How very Mittens.

The second eerie Joe/Mitt parallel is their mutual dislike of Teh Media. “Quite frankly, politics suck, I hate it with a passion. Only reason I’m involved in it is I like history and I like government,” Joe said as he tried to dislodge a particularly big turd from a drain. Although Mitt doesn’t know any history, except the one he creates for himself, and hates government, except for the part that serves him, he hates the media too. But while Mitt will Dirty Sanchez the minions of Rupert Murdoch if he needs something, Joe shows a little backbone and eschews the media altogether.

“Quite frankly, it’s easier to talk to someone one-on-one instead of a group of people. You’re not going to be taken out of context, so somebody understands what you’re saying,” Mr. The Plumber said to the somebody who apparently understands.

“Last night I probably spoke to 100-some-odd people personally which is a lot better than speaking to 100 people at an event where I might meet 20 or 30 of them,” he said of the odd people. “It just comes down to simple mathematics. How can I meet more people, talk to more people, get them to know who I am?

Here’s a formula to meet more people Joe: media+audience=lots of people. Still, he knows absolutely nothing about how that tactic might work. “Is it is a winning strategy? I don’t know. I don’t know if anyone else has tried it,” Joe said. Mitt was thinking the same thing as Clint Eastwood was taking a chair.

Joe, like Mitt, blames the electorate. He said the public needs to do some of their own research.

Both men seek money by saying stupid things. Mitt made himself famous for his 47% and Middle East conflict speech at a fundraiser. And, let’s not forget his deft handling of the embassy bombing. at the same meeting. It turns out Joe is on the same extraterrestrial wavelength.

The Hollow ‘Victory Headquarters’

Joe the Unlicensed Plumber still appeals for contributions from his national sources, but maintains a “Victory Headquarters” he no longer uses. His latest bit of grifting attacked the media for bullying Mitt over his delicately nuanced comments about the deadly raid on the American consulate in Libya. He argued the real issue was the threat to national security.

Of course, all the bad press was caused by the press being bad – not, heaven forbid, the candidates themselves. But it doesn’t matter to the Romney or Wurzelbacher. “This week has been a disaster for Miss Kaptur, Barack Obama, and the Democrats as the world begins to crash in around them, yet you can see how the media is completely in the tank for them,” Joe wrote. If Mittens had seen the quote he probably would’ve added, “Yeah! What he said!”

There are other similarities too. Wurz is as great with Hispanic voters as Mitt. “For years I’ve said, ‘Put a damn fence on that border going to Mexico and start shooting,” he said about immigration reform.

Both of them claim to have come from humble economic stock. In Joe’s case it’s so bad he’s been “forced” to take a $5000 per month salary from his campaign. “I’ve not made millions of dollars off Joe the Plumber. In fact I’ve made less money. I’ve lost a lot of money, and I’ve sacrificed a great many things to represent a group of people who want their voices heard,” he said. Joe has about three and a half paychecks left in the campaign kitty.

Mitt and Joe are even in lockstep when it comes to supporting citizens in a transparent way. “I will work to earn your trust, and I will answer your questions directly. We may not always agree, but you will never have to guess where I stand,” Romney The Wurz said.

Mitt Romney and Joe the Plumber, two bat shit crazy peas in a Tea Party pea pod salad. Aside from one being bald and one having a fine head of hair, these guys are Siamese twins.

Hell, they even chose similarly insane vice presidential candidates.

You Know Why They Hate Us?

By: Omnipotent Poobah Monday September 17, 2012 8:09 pm
Joe Scarborough, Conservative Fruitcake

(photo: DonkeyHotey/flickr)

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough created a controversy on Monday by suggesting Muslims and Arabs protesting the infamous, and infamously bad, anti-Islamic video hate America because of their religion and culture. “You know why they hate us?” he said. “They hate us because of their religion, they hate us because of their culture, and they hate us because of peer pressure. And you talk to any intelligence person, they will tell you that’s the same thing, and all those people who think we’re going to go over there and change them are just naive.”

Joe is specifically blaming Islamic religion and Arab culture, which isn’t necessarily true, but there are some connections – just not the type he’s suggesting. Before throwing his baby out with the bathwater, consider this:

Islam is not the problem. The Koran teaches more or less useful, peaceful lessons about loving your neighbor and doing good – at least you can interpret it that way. The Koran is no different than most holy books in that sense. It is all in the interpretation and who does the interpreting. Fortunately, the vast majority of Muslims follow the peaceful part and leave the troublemaking to a relatively small percentage of over-zealous firebrands. Violence is not a Muslim thing, it is a human thing.

Using Religion to Stir Up Trouble

Just as some fundamentalist Christians make weird and violent interpretations of the scriptures, some Muslim clerics who do the same with the Koran. There is little difference between a preacher who advocates killing abortion doctors or spewing Westboro Baptist’s, “God Hates Fags” lunacy and a Muslim cleric launching a fatwa against the U.S. because we “allowed” a nutty, money-laundering, soft porn maker to insult Muhammad and Allah. Both are prostitutions of religious teachings. But, that doesn’t mean that media, and especially politicians, don’t use religion to stir up trouble in the service of their own agendas.

In the current case, a gaggle of extremists wanted to advance their agenda. They could’ve made a more genuine argument by pointing out the many pitfalls of American policy and the damage they’ve been dealt by the World’s Only Remaining Superpower™. However, that’s a complicated, tough sell. Bar charts, pie graphs, and lectures from historians about American policy’s effect on the Arab/Israeli/American quagmire are yawners. It’s much easier to get the kids busy making fire bombs and laying in a good supply of rocks and protest signs, then light a match. Poor, uneducated people who’ve heard nothing but lies for centuries are fertile targets for a little rage.

Middle Eastern governments have a variety of reasons for keeping America’s feet over their citizen’s fires. For some, like Egypt’s Mubarak, the reason was not appearing to be an American puppet. The current Egyptian government is in turmoil over sectarian divides and is a still morphing “democracy” sitting atop shaky legs. They don’t want their people probing the fault lines too vigorously for fear of an everlasting Arab Spring, summr, fall, and winter.

Until recently, Pakistan put on a love America storyline for westerners, but told Pakistanis all their problems come from Washington. In Afghanistan, Karzai wants to deflect attention from his unfortunate appetite for airplane loads of $100 bills. If he doesn’t distract his people, they might want some of those pallets of money themselves. Libya is in shambles and the government so weak they couldn’t help the U.S. even if they wanted. It is easier for them to float the idea that the U.S. could’ve made everything easy had they just invaded the place and thrown Gaddafi out – but since they didn’t go bomb their place, not ours. And, stop asking questions.

I Am Male

By: Omnipotent Poobah Friday September 14, 2012 12:36 pm


There will almost certainly be some hurricane force blowback from this War of the Sexes post, there always is. In fact, a post about male/female relations is the only post over which I’ve received threats of bodily harm – all from women. I’m not complaining about this. I’m not supposed to. I am male.

Jessica Bennett recently penned a Daily Beast article about Hanna Rosin’s new book, The End of Men. The crux of Rosin’s book, and to a degree Bennett’s review, is that men are becoming obsolete in the face of vastly superior female qualities. Bennett doesn’t completely agree, but gets in a dig at men anyway, “Perhaps it’s not the end of men at all – just the beginning of a newer, better version.” Jessica, with all due respect, thanks for implying I’m defective now.

If a man were to say that about a woman they would be branded as a bigot, as well they should be.

People recently ripped Congress for reproductive rights hearings that didn’t include a single women. Women – with many men at their side – howled, quite rightfully, that it was an unfair, gigantic blunder.

But many women feel abortion is exclusively “their” issue, one in which men can have no stake or input. Some believe men don’t even have a right to their own feelings and needs during extremely traumatic family planning decisions. Feelings, by the way, that many women constantly remind men they are completely devoid of.

However, I unequivocally agree women should have absolute, final control over their bodies – as men should have absolute, final control over theirs – but men aren’t completely superfluous either. Any family planning decision has consequences for men too and they deserve to be able to discuss them. To advocate men be totally shut out is just as lop-sided, short-sighted, and unfair as the Congressional hearings or Rosin and Bennett telling men what they should or shouldn’t be, feel, or say. Talk about it and then leave the final decision to those most effected.

Women on Men: A Chummy Patriarchal Club of Carefree Goobs

Many women feel, not completely without justification, that men dominated for centuries and now it is women’s time. Some also feel men are a chummy patriarchal club of carefree goobs who are unfairly awarded oppressive powers simply by virtue of external plumbing. If that were the case, I must have missed a number of meetings of  The He-Man Women Haters’ Club. I didn’t get the paperwork certifying me as an absolute dictator.

No one gave me anything simply because I am male. The logic of automatic power, and fault, suggests that I be responsible for slavery 150 years ago, even though I wasn’t born yet and none of my relatives ever owned a slave. Just as I am not totally empowered because I’m male, I’ve never oppressed African Americans or women either. I freely accept the responsibility to help any disadvantaged group get legal and moral treatment equal to mine. If that means me giving up some of whatever advantage I have, that’s OK too.

That’s not to say society doesn’t give men a leg up sometimes. Many are better educated, though that is no longer true. Many make more money, though that’s changing (not quickly enough I might add). However, most men didn’t ask for or create those advantages and there is equal disparity among many groups of men. Even if women were in charge, which many seem to hold as their due birthright as women, the same would be true.

I’m Not Complaining About This, I’m Not Supposed to, I Am Male

But there is also a male downside, though I’m not equating them to women’s. Women almost exclusively get child custody and alimony in divorces largely because they are women and regardless of their suitability of income. Men overwhelmingly hold most dangerous, dirty, and menial jobs. Fighting wars, digging ditches, and working as garbage collectors come to mind. Though educational success has already swung toward women (higher grades and more and better degrees), there are hundreds of efforts to improve their lot. Male children, not so much. Even small things, like Take Your (Fill in the Blank) to Work Day, are issues. Some people apparently believe that daughters are the only ones who benefit from seeing, and being able to model, the success of their parents. “Girls rule, boys drool”.

There isn’t a day that goes by when most men aren’t reminded directly or implicitly that their emotions are defective or that they are sensitivity-challenged, incompetent oafs. They’re constantly reminded of how they make more money, benefit from male-only role models, oppress women, or aren’t subject to the same stresses of everyday life. Women have children fer chrissakes! Well, as a father, I’m here to tell you that being a prospective Dad ain’t no piece of cake either – especially when you’re treated as a mere sperm donor, if you’re recognized at all, during pregnancy and child rearing. Both jobs are incredibly hard.

Using some allegedly, arbitrarily defective male logic let me suggest that both men and women bring something to the table. Men can learn much from women’s superior ability to emote in many situations. Women could benefit from knowing that competitiveness or less emotive responses are not necessarily bad things sometimes. Men can, and many do, work hard to help women overcome truly unequal treatment inside and outside the home. Women might benefit from understanding that not every man is an evil oppressor and they shouldn’t treat all of us that way. But perhaps the most important thing women can teach men is an appreciation for their much vaunted nurturing and sense of fairness.

All I ask is that you practice what you preach.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks! More than politics, more than pop culture & humor