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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

www.NationalView.org's Note From a Madman

October 16, 2008

 

Joe gets to Hear about Health Care at the Last Debate

Say it ain't so to a new Joe. After watching the final debate between Senators Barack Obama and John McCain last night, live, from Hofstra University on new York, Long Island, I have made my decision:

I'm changing my name to Joe.

That's right, no longer shall I be Noah Orrin Greenberg of New Jersey by way of Brooklyn, NY; beginning today I will call myself Joe the Engineer or Joe the Diet Ginger Ale drinker, or maybe just Joe.

After hearing Sarah Palin's "Joe Six-Pack" reference followed up by McCain's Joe the Plumber citings, it appears the only way to get noticed by the GOP candidates is to rename myself Joe.

That is unless I started giving huge sums of money to the McCain-Palin campaign, the Republican National Committee or owned a bank.

McCain tried to restrain his true self last night, but the signs were there. After letting the "this one" remark go in debate number two, last night saw the mean come right out of McCain, and it wasn't pretty. After being cited for his apathy7 in debate number one when Obama was speaking; and his trips around the stage while his opponent was making positive points in debate number two, a seated McCain had to take a different tact in debate number three. Last night Senator McCain took every opportunity to interrupt both Senator Obama or moderator Bob Schieffer with short quips no less than eighteen times.

I guess that's what being a Maverick is all about.

For awhile in the beginning of the debate it appeared that the "I get the first and last word" strategy McCain was using was actually working. However, then a shift occurred when the subject of Health Care came about. McCain who still believes in the "Yo-Yo" health care plan ("You're on Your own") stated that he was going to raise everyone's taxes. But that's not the worst part of what McCain stated about his own health care plan. In defense of his $5,000 health care scheme - because, that's what it is, a scheme - the Candidate Formerly Known as The Maverick said the following:

"Now, 95 percent of the people in America will receive more money under my plan because they will receive not only their present benefits, which may be taxed, which will be taxed..."
-McCain, from debate number three

This is the first half of the quote which demonstrates the McCain health care scheme. Notice that, at first, McCain tried to say that only some will be taxed under his plan when he said "may be taxed"; then notice how he immediately corrected himself when he said "will be taxed". In fact, everyone who now "enjoys" the benefit of the only tax break many of us in the middle class have - the health care cafeteria-style employee contribution where we pay only pre-tax dollars for our employee-paid portion of our health care plans - is going to be taken away. And to add insult to injury, not only is McCain going to tax the money we contribute towards health care, he is going to tax the money our employers pay towards our health care as well.

That's a business tax to some small business owners, unless they decide to drop health care coverage altogether.

So the McCain health care scheme, which will allow you $5,000 of the $12,000 average health care plan cost, will not merely cost you an additional $7,000 - it will cost you the tax on every dollar you pay towards health care.

It is also safe to assume that McCain will remove the income tax deductions on our health care bills as well. So when we get the bills from our doctors which go beyond the "usual and customary" - a sum which cost some people thousands of dollars and causes others to file for bankruptcy protection - there prospect that we will be taxed on those dollars is real as well.

Add these taxes to the interest taxes we pay on our growing credit card bills (loan interest is no longer deductible as it was years ago), and those of using the middle and lower economic classes are watching our dollars shrink right before our very eyes.

And they will get smaller yet under a McCain presidency. he just told us so.

Now for the second part of the McCain statement, which is even more callous than the first:

...but then you add $5,000 onto it, except for those people who have the gold-plated Cadillac insurance policies that have to do with cosmetic surgery and transplants and all of those kinds of things,"
-McCain, continued

Getting cosmetic surgery and transplants confused is not exactly a common problem for most Americans. Cosmetic surgery, other than for burns or the removal of painful scar tissue or fixing a clef palate, etc, is something that McCain's "base of haves and have mores" have to deal with. In my neighborhood nobody is saving up for a face lift or tummy-tuck. And I'm certain that they aren't" saving up" for those procedures in any of McCain's various ten neighborhoods around the nation he can call home. For them money actually does seem to grow on trees.

But comparing transplants to cosmetic surgery is just what someone who is this out of touch with real Americans would do. Transplants save lives and John McCain wants to make sure that it is treated as an elective procedure. I'm sure those waiting on the various transplant lists for years will be happy to know that when they finally get their organ, if they get their organ, they're going to have to pay a little bit more for it.

One thing's for certain: no one will want John McCain's heart if he should check the "donor" box on the back of his driver's license. By the time they find it, it's be too late anyway.

If Social Security, a subject missing from the debate last night, is the 800-pund gorilla in the room then health care is its 700-pound cousin. And health care is, probably more than any other issue, where McCain's plans and schemes are the most dangerous.

-Noah Greenberg



THE INTERNET ELECTION
by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2008, Journal-Register Newspapers, Inc.

The viral emails come fast and furious and are never original, but always forwarded from a friend of a friend. The blog posts are minute by minute and beat out print and even TV media almost every time.

This is the internet election of 2008 where truth and lies are laid out in equal measure, but both are often given the same weight with potential voters online.

In the past week I have received emails about Barack Obama’s alleged unsavory connection to former Fannie Mae CEO Franklin Raines, others about his alleged links to the corrupt Kenyan government, and still others claiming he is not really a U.S. citizen.

I received one purporting to have been written by New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd that alleges Obama got campaign money from the Saudis. Another, allegedly written by a mother of four, queried why Obama changed his name from “Barry” to “Barack” after he vacationed in the Middle East and had two Muslim roommates in college.

Four different emails allegedly from former servicemen who served with McCain in Vietnam asserted that McCain conspired with enemy soldiers in Vietnam and was never really wounded or tortured.

Another email insisted that McCain was seriously ill and had suffered from either a stroke or had a malignant brain cancer.

Still another said that McCain himself hadn’t been born in the U.S. and thus was not a citizen.

Interspersed with these were emails about Sarah Palin, including one with a list attached of books she allegedly banned from the Wasilla library, most of which hadn’t even been published at the time she was mayor of the town.

Then there was the email that claimed Joe Biden hadn’t been at a funeral at all, but was himself suffering from a serious health problem and was soon going to withdraw from the race to be replaced by Hillary Clinton at the last minute.

Many have called the 2008 presidential election the first internet election and in many respects it is. While 2004 saw internet campaigning and fund-raising by Democratic contender Howard Dean as well as John Kerry, 2008 has been the first presidential election to use the internet as a primary tool for fund-raising, campaign information, breaking news and telling lies about the other side.

Not one of the above emails is true, although two do have partial truths imbedded in them: Obama does indeed have an association with Franklin Raines, the former Fannie Mae CEO, who is a senior advisor on his campaign. But the substance of the email is false–Obama did not bail out Raines nor did he take money from him. And McCain was born on a Naval Air station in the Panama Canal Zone to a father in the Armed services, but that base was considered U.S. territory and thus he is a U.S. citizen.

Viral emails are the ugly side of the internet and while there are numerous fact-checking sites like Politifact.com or Factcheck.org where one can uncover the veracity of such claims, partisanship keeps most people from doing so. Conventional wisdom says if it’s on the internet, it must be true. That is the dictum most people follow with regard to political issues and that is definitely the operative mode for this election. The Obama campaign even added a section to their website to refute rumors as they come in.

One of the reasons the internet has attained such political sway in the past few years is because the mainstream media has neglected its role as watchdog of the government and its politicians.

Many feel the Bush Administration got little oversight from the bastions of the Fourth Estate, some of whom were even implicated in Bush scandals. This inaction and sometimes outright failure on the part of the mainstream press meant the virtual end of the media–the internet blogosphere–took over.

Serious political websites like Slate, Salon, Politico, Huffington Post, Daily Kos, TPM, Wonkette, Town Hall, Red State, National Review and others brought out issues that the mainstream media either glossed over or ignored altogether. Like the mainstream media, they lean either left or right of center, but unlike the mainstream media, none pretends non-partisanship.

In many respects, the Obama campaign would not have existed and certainly would not have succeeded to the extent it has without the internet. Howard Dean might have been the first to use the internet for grassroots political campaigning, but it was Obama who ran with it in the current election, using every avenue of access to potential voters, with an emphasis on people under 30.

Obama has a MySpace page, a Facebook page and countless YouTube videos. He’s on Twitter, he’s on LinkedIn and in both formats viewers can talk to the candidate and present questions that will be answered.

And while McCain is also on MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn and has his own retinue of YouTube videos, his discomfort with the internet medium is apparent in all. Obama’s online pages are fluid, McCain’s are static.

The advantage to being the first tech-savvy presidential candidate is one of timing, age and acumen. Obama was in the right place at the right time with a bunch of tech-savvy under-30s thronging to his campaign in and around the internet.

Obama’s online power has been most apparent in his fund-raising. He has raised more money than any presidential candidate in history totally online–nearly a half billion dollars in a year’s time, including a record $70 million in September.

But what the internet giveth can also be taken away–and the internet has not always been kind to Obama. When YouTube videos of sermons given by Obama’s pastor and mentor of 22 years, Rev. Jeremiah Wright surfaced in early February, with Wright saying the U.S. was responsible for 9/11 and calling on God to damn America, the outrage among even many supporters was palpable.

The internet is also where photos of Obama in traditional African garb first appeared during the primary. The photos were no secret–they were taken on a formal trip he took as senator–but they caused Obama valuable campaign time as he tried to explain them to voters still unsure of who he was.

The Wright videos are still on YouTube–with nearly a half million viewers having logged in to see them. But their power has been diffused–largely by Obama’s own internet campaigning to reverse their message.

In August, it was McCain’s turn to feel the internet heat when Sarah Palin was chosen as his running mate. When Palin came on the scene, the left-leaning blogosphere kicked in full-time, going after her with gleeful alacrity.

For months the right-leaning blogs had been detailing Obama’s sketchy career on the Illinois state legislature and other issues in Obama’s past that the mainstream media had shrugged off or ignored. These blogs made Obama’s lack of any substantive experience the central issue of their internet campaign against him.

Then there was Palin. Left-leaning blogs went after her with the same vengeance they had wreaked on Hillary Clinton when she was Obama’s only rival in the primary. But where Clinton’s politics and voting record lay solidly if marginally to the left of Obama’s and thus presented problems for left-leaning blogs touting his progressive stance over hers, there was no such problem with Palin. She was young, from what many called a “rogue” state, didn’t play by Washington rules and she was–like the moose she hunted in the Alaskan wilderness–fair game.

While the mainstream media was once again caught in slow-motion, the blogosphere was not. Stories about Palin were everywhere on the left blogs–all of them negative, all of them presenting her in the same scary, not-like-us light in which the right had tried to hold Obama for months.

The internet wars have become more explosive in recent weeks as the final days of the campaign tick away. While right blogs had long referred to Obama supporters as cultist, left blogs, now angered by McCain’s latest ads presenting Obama as unready to lead and lacking in character, have responded by attacking McCain’s supporters as, to quote one blog, “unhinged” and “lunatic.”

When the McCain campaign ran ads linking Obama to a 1960s domestic terrorist turned college professor who had previously held fund-raisers for Obama, the Obama campaign responded online with a 13-minute video attacking McCain for his links to the 1980s savings and loan scandal.

Game, set, match.

Left blogs have called McCain’s campaign what the mainstream media have not: thinly veiled racism. Right blogs have called Obama what they couldn’t in the mainstream press: foreign and untrustworthy.

With only a few weeks left in the campaign, the urgency in both camps to close the electoral gaps is palpable. The economic crisis has benefitted the Obama campaign and strengthened his support, but McCain is far from throwing in the towel–and his supporters have become increasingly strident.

What we see in the news–on TV or in the daily papers–represents a mere fraction of what is actually being written, analyzed, promoted, refuted and alleged regarding the candidates, their platforms and their characters. The influence of the internet on the election is far greater than TV and print media combined. And it is there, online, that the election–whether it’s on the daily comments and diary sections of the blogs or from the blog reporters themselves–is being won or lost through facts, semi-facts and outright lies.

Much of what we read online, whether on respected blogs or in those omnipresent viral emails is often quite partisan opinion, not fact. Which means the prospective voter needs to verify the actual facts, which few seem willing or able to do as evidenced by those comments’ sections online .

So while this may be the first election to expand our range of information through the power of the internet, that power has been used to slander candidates as much or more than it has been used to promote them–something to think about when you cast your vote November 4th.



In response to, "If there is a nation where these terrorists call home, it is in the mountains of Afghanistan (and parts or Warziristan, in Pakistan bordering the Afghan mountains). Joe Biden and Barack Obama actually do know that," Pat Thompson writes:

If the US gets bogged down in Afghanistan, it won't be successful. The Soviet Union tried that, and it became their last gasp, before they became just "Russia" again.


Ronald Reagan took credit for the end of the Soviet empire, but others give credit to their invasion of Afghanistan wearing down their military. No one will ever conquer these mountain people, unless we use nuclear weapons and that would be a horrible mistake. Is that what we are electing Obama to do? His saber rattling against Afghanistan, hopefully, is to gain votes from the center.


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-Noah Greenberg