Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Thoughts before voting...

I went to dinner recently with a friend and her family. The food was excellent, but the conversation became suddenly tense (at least for me) when her uncle brought up the 2008 election. He noted that both McCain and Obama made a promise in the beginning of their race to accept only federal funds for marketing themselves over the next two years. Obama broke that promise. To the uncle, this was unforgivable.

I watched my friend as this judgement was passed, and could see it reaffirm her preconceptions about the candidate. I suppose she might have observed the same in me if my uncle had made a disparaging remark about McCain. The difference is I have been a decided voter for the last two months, while up until this morning, she was "undecided."

I did not attempt to argue with my hosts (as they were footing the bill!) partially because I couldn't think of a calm, collected answer and partially because I knew it wouldn't make a difference if I could. It seems to me that even those elusive indecisive voters aren't truly confused about their options, or even giving those options a fair analysis.

Early this summer I did not count myself among the Obama supporters. I was fascinated by my parents' support of the neophyte senator. I had not heard the speech that made catapulted him onto the American political map. What I saw was a lot of talk about change, but not a lot of substance to back it up. I wasn't a huge Hillary fan--the Clintons both strike me as self-righteous. McCain was a different story. Out of all the Republicans, I liked him the best. He had a record of deviating from the party line when he held ethical issue with it. He was a veteran of war as well of Washington. He reminded me of my grandfather. I had some issues with a few points in his platform, but I'm hardly a one issue voter. A few things happened to make me change my mind.

First, I read Obama's 2004 convention speech, and I got chills.

Next I did some more reading.

McCain has an impressive record, to be sure. But he also has a record of voting with Bush 90% of the last eight years. He was against the tax cuts that benefited the top echelon of the country initially, but has recently been campaigning on the promise of extending them. As he finds the idea of "spreading the wealth" socialist, he's going to let the rich get richer while the poor stay poorer, because as we've seen the last 8 years (and even since the days of Reagan) trickle down economics doesn't work. He's promising to lower taxes--and yet to get the country back on track fiscally, taxes will have to go up. This is inevitable. Sacrifice comes in many forms, and we will all have to sacrifice to pull America out of this recession.

"...In the midst of recession and Wall Street calamity, with looming crises in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid—[McCain promises] more tax cuts. If McCain, as he has proposed, cuts taxes for corporations and estates, the benefits once more would go disproportionately to the wealthy."

Mercilessly tortured during the Vietnam war, McCain has been the champion of anti torture legislation. Yet he recently voted against a ban of "enhanced interrogation" techniques. He condemns Obama for his associations with the ideologue Reverend Wright, while "paying obeisance to Jerry Falwell and preachers of his ilk"(New Yorker). He seems to have forsaken his maverick status for the adulations of the right wing.

One of the most ill-advised choices he made was his vice presidential pick. In an effort not only to satisfy the extreme conservative fringe of the Republican party, but in a moment of extreme cynicism, McCain chose an admittedly charismatic, but entirely unvetted and barely experienced beauty queen from Alaska. I've read ultra conservative writers claim that feminists' issue with Palin center around jealousy over her looks. Perhaps this is true for some, but for me, I am reminded of high school when I look at her. She is the cookie cutter, sporty, popular girl who promised soda machines in the cafeteria. She snorts at intellectualism, displays contempt for the very experience she faults Obama for lacking, and tours the country with her "you betcha" attitude that is as practiced as the Trans Siberian Orchestra. Please. Country first my ass. William Kristol of the Weekly Standard wrote in early September that America shouldn't be nervous about Palin's being a heartbeat away from the presidency, making the case that former presidents like Truman and Teddy Roosevelt succeeded their partners and did quite well. He asserts:

"Character, judgment and the ability to learn seem to matter more to success as president than the number of years one’s been in Washington."

Really? So your problem with Obama then is...what exactly? He concluded with:

"A Wasilla Wal-Mart Mom a heartbeat away? I suspect most voters will say, No problem. And some — perhaps a decisive number — will say, It’s about time."

Everyone in America should be afforded equal chance to follow their dreams and actualize their potential. But leaders of the free world must be held to certain standards. I don't think it is elitist to demand that the head of this country be a cut above, even if they hail from the very bottom of the barrel. Robert Cohen wrote in the New York Times that "[Americans are] not interested in where you came from. They’re interested in who you are. That has not changed." I don't care where she's from--I'm from a tiny town too--I care what she's about and what I've seen has scared me.

"Palin has no business being the backup to a President of any age, much less to one who is seventy-two and in imperfect health. In choosing her, McCain committed an act of breathtaking heedlessness and irresponsibility. Obama’s choice, Joe Biden, is not without imperfections. His tongue sometimes runs in advance of his mind, providing his own fodder for late-night comedians, but there is no comparison with Palin. His deep experience in foreign affairs, the judiciary, and social policy makes him an assuring and complementary partner for Obama."

The worst bit about the McCain campaign is how nasty it has become. To his credit, McCain has made efforts to quell some of the more schitzoid behavior at his rallies, but his campaign ads and speeches in the last weeks of this race have become increasingly predicated on fear.

"Echoing Obama, McCain has made “change” one of his campaign mantras. But the change he has actually provided has been in himself, and it is not just a matter of altering his positions. A willingness to pander and even lie has come to define his Presidential campaign and its televised advertisements. A contemptuous duplicity, a meanness, has entered his talk on the stump—so much so that it seems obvious that, in the drive for victory, he is willing to replicate some of the same underhanded methods that defeated him eight years ago in South Carolina."

It doesn't help that he's been endorsed by Dick Cheney, and perhaps most ironically, Al Qaida. McCain has tried to color Obama based on his lack of experience and exchange with the now famous Joe Wurzelbacher.

"Mr McCain says that Mr Wurzelbacher’s straight question about taxes revealed the true Barack Obama. But Mr Wurzelbacher veered off-message in a television interview on Sunday, saying that he doubted Mr Obama's “loyalty to our country”, and that Mr Obama's ideology is “completely different than what democracy stands for”. As Mr McCain's campaign nears an end, it is mixing mainstream worries about taxes with fears of Mr Obama drawn from the fringe."

We've had 8 years of fear, of twisted half truths. We've seen America's name crumble on the world stage, as its infrastructure and economy crumbles within it. It is time for a change.

Tonight, America may send Barack Hussein Obama to the White House, and reaffirm the ideals this country was built upon.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

"But I didn't vote for him!"

Politics is an unsavory business, which leaves many Americans with a nasty taste in their mouth and the feeling they're being fed crap--beautifully crafted crap, but crap none the less. And although we're priviledged enough to have more than 2 parties running for President here in the US, most people feel that there are only two choices--and they're wary of both. Some have decided to sit it out.

George Packer of the New Yorker went to Ohio recently to talk with members of small town America and get their opinion on this year's election. His article, The Hardest Vote, appears in this week's Politics issue. One gentleman had this to say:

“I think the Democratic Party has kind of walked away from me,” Cotter said. The issue that had alienated him from his party was its refusal to take a strong stand against illegal immigration. “It is not just Obama,” he went on. “The √©lite of the Democratic Party, the Kennedys, the Clintons, they’re pushing this thing.” Cotter had contacted everyone from Howard Dean, the Democratic Party chairman, to the Athens County Democratic Party about the cost of illegal immigration to the country, without satisfaction: “Hell, nobody cares.”

The comment was made in the living room of a friend and Obama supporter, who had brought in a staffer to answer questions and clear up misconceptions.

Gwinn, the organizer, responded earnestly, “The fact that there are two hundred staffers like me out here having this conversation with you means somebody cares. And I’ll have this conversation with you every day, if you want.” Cotter said that abstaining in November still felt like his most potent option. “How are we going to get them to pay attention to us, if we don’t send a message?” he asked.

A vote is never wasted, despite the predicatable cynacism of some members of either major party who accuse citizens of 'throwing a vote away' if they go third party. The waste comes in when Americans convince themselves that sitting it out will make a strong statement--newsflash America! The only point this proves is you are apathetic! You're giving up on the very backbone of democracy!

"I heard that Obama is a Hair-ab"

When I saw the McCain rally where ole Gayle Quinnell appeared in her red tshirt, asking if Obama was 'a hair-ab,' I laughed out of sheer disbelief. First because it shouldn't matter either way, and second because he isn't--anyone who reads/watches the NEWS knows this. McCain had a tolerable response to this ridiculous question:

"No ma'am, he's a decent family man, a citizen, who I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues."

It was only tolerable because he failed to highlight that race or religion shouldn't (constitutionally cannot!) exclude a person from executive office in the United States. I don't suspect that McCain purposely avoided addressing the fact that 'decent family men' who are citizens of this country can also be Arab and/or Muslim (because not all Arabs are Muslim and vice versa) and exercise their right to run for the presidency if they so choose. Former secretary of state Colin Powell made this point yesterday during the same announcement on Meet the Press as he endorsed Obama.

"What if he is (Muslim)? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer is no, that's not America. Is there something wrong with some 7 year old Muslim American kid beliving that he or she could be president?"

Is there, America? And if there is, why exactly? I would love for someone to explain this to me.

Al Jazeera included these quotes:

"I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion that he [Obama] is a Muslim and he might be associated with terrorists. This is not the way we should be doing it in America," he said.

"Those images going out on Al Jazeera are killing us around the world. And we have got to say to the world, it doesn't make any difference who you are or what you are, if you're an American, you're an American."

Additionally--there is nothing wrong with being Muslim or Arab!!! Good grief America. But then again, those who have issue with either group won't be swayed by my opinion.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

on health care

Graduating college means more than the end of late night paper writing, cramming, and skipping class. It means getting a job, figuring out your own taxes, repaying college loans, avoiding massive credit card debt, and choosing a health care plan. To me it meant picking the one that wasn't the HMO (because the giraffe in Madagascar thinks they're bad), and coughing up 200$ every month for the 20% of my premium that my job doesn't cover.

I haven't really used the insurance yet...can't figure out how to choose a doctor. I'm tempted to stick with my pediatrician, even though I'd have to drive 70 plus miles to get to him. I like the wallpaper in his office, the highlights magazines, and the way it always smells like dymatap and baby powder. I need to make some appointments, so that my teeth don't fall out and to make sure I have all my important shots, like for rabies and smallpox. But since the provisions of the plan are printed in a font you need a magnifying glass to read, I have to trust that the promises made on the flyer I was given initially will actually hold true. As in, my co-pay for routine visits is small and manageable, prescriptions are affordable, and if I have a son he gets a free circumcision (this was a huge selling point).
One of the sweet deals about my current plan is that I don't get taxed on it. It seems to be the one thing in life I am not paying taxes for. (Because I am considered an 'independent contractor' by America, I pay quarterly taxes--translation: I hemorrhage money to the government every 4 months. Not that I have a problem with paying taxes...in theory.) However, if a certain Republican were to make it into the White House this election, his health care plan would throw a serious hitch in my getalong. It would cramp my style. It would make me considerably poorer.
Here is the reader's digest version of the McCain health care plan, as I understand it: Workers must pay taxes on the contribution their employers make to the policy premium. To offset this, he offers 2500$ to individuals and 5000$ to families in the form of a tax credit (What is a tax credit? Where is this money coming from?) to be applied toward the cost of obtaining coverage. His plan would deregulate the insurance market, allowing "any insurance policy approved in any state to be sold in every state (Brownstein of the National Journal)." His goal here is consumer choice.
Ok so it sounds kind of nice, right? Wrong. Let's take a look at 'tax credit'. Does that mean McCain is going to send me 2500$? Nope. That money goes directly from the government to the insurance company you choose. I'm currently with United Health. My monthly premium is 1000$ (outrageous, right? But again, that circumcision). So I'm looking at 9500$ a year for the privilege of having health care. We're not sure if I'm going to need brain surgery, or get hit by a car, or be abducted by aliens. In all cases my treatment is (in general) 80% covered. But wait, there's more. I have to pay taxes on that 9500$ as if it was extra income, so long as I choose health care provided by my employer. And when I did some research on other, non-employer sponsored plans prior to signing up to the one offered at work, I found that the good ones (that covered circumcision) were even more expensive!

While I dislike what I've gathered about McCain's plan from the newspapers, I take issue with Obama's campaign misrepresenting that same plan. Take a look at today's Washington Post article on the subject. Scaring people with partially factual information is not classy, Obama!

So I'm on a mission here to better understand the plans both candidates have for our nation's health care system before election day. I'm really concerned that my future sons won't have their circumcisions covered.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Say it Ain't So, America

Let's start off with some assigned reading. I realize I'm a little behind the times with the content of this post, but I am still so bewildered by its subject that I feel it requires discussion.

Michelle Goldberg of the Guardian (UK) gives an outside perspective on the vice presidental debate here. My favorite bit from this article is a quote from the debate:

"Say it ain't so, Joe, there you go again pointing backwards again. You preferenced [sic] your whole comment with the Bush administration. Now doggone it, let's look ahead and tell Americans what we have to plan to do for them in the future. You mentioned education, and I'm glad you did. I know education you are passionate about with your wife being a teacher for 30 years, and god bless her. Her reward is in heaven, right? ... My brother, who I think is the best schoolteacher in the year, and here's a shout-out to all those third graders at Gladys Wood Elementary School, you get extra credit for watching the debate."

This came in response to Biden's assertion that middle class Americans from his state of Delaware and his hometown of Scranton, PA felt they had been dealt the short end of the stick by the Bush Administration, and that all they could count on from a McCain presidency was more of the same. It should be noted, that the question from which this blustering originated was on the issue of how the a Biden or a Palin administration, if their running mates were to die, would differ from their running mates'. It devolved into a pissing contest of who was more middle class.

Take a look at ole Tom Friedman and Maureen Dowd's perspectives as well. Friedman notes:

" [Palin] is an energy expert exactly the same way the king of Saudi Arabia is an energy expert — by accident of residence. Palin happens to be governor of the Saudi Arabia of America — Alaska — and the only energy expertise she has is the same as the king of Saudi Arabia’s. It’s about how the windfall profits from the oil in their respective kingdoms should be divided between the oil companies and the people.

At least the king of Saudi Arabia, in advocating “drill baby drill,” is serving his country’s interests — by prolonging America’s dependence on oil. My problem with Palin is that she is also serving his country’s interests — by prolonging America’s dependence on oil. That’s not patriotic. Patriotic is offering a plan to build our economy — not by tax cuts or punching more holes in the ground, but by empowering more Americans to work in productive and innovative jobs. If Palin has that kind of a plan, I haven’t heard it."

Dowd writes:

'With her pompom patois and sing-songy jingoism, Palin can bridge contradictory ideas that lead nowhere: One minute she promises to get “greater oversight” by government; the next, she lectures: “Government, you know, you’re not always a solution. In fact, too often you’re the problem.”

Talking at the debate about how she would “positively affect the impacts” of the climate change for which she’s loath to acknowledge human culpability, she did a dizzying verbal loop-de-loop: “With the impacts of climate change, what we can do about that, as governor, I was the first governor to form a climate change subcabinet to start dealing with the impacts.” That was, miraculously, richer with content than an answer she gave Katie Couric: “You know, there are man’s activities that can be contributed to the issues that we’re dealing with now, with these impacts.”'

Dowd concludes with this insight:

"Palin...uses a heck of a lot of language to praise herself as a fresh face with new ideas who has “joined this team that is a team of mavericks.” True mavericks don’t brand themselves."

After considering these articles, remembering the disasterous interviews with Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric, and painfully reliving last week's debate, how can Americans continue to support the McCain/Palin ticket?

It is hard to know where to start when it comes to commenting on this situation. It was my indignation with this situation that motivated me to start writing here in the first place.

I agree with Goldberg that Palin's 'farcical debate performance lowered the standards for both female candidates and US political discourse.' How offensive it is to me as a woman that Palin winked and smirked and flirted her way through the debate, as she has through her entire campaign. How offensive it was that she has characterized as elitist the ability to string a subject and a predicate together to form a basic sentence, or the necessity of proper information concerning foreign or domestic affairs. Preparation for the most important office in the world is elitist? I was unaware.

I used to respect John McCain, back when he didn't feel the need to call himself a maverick and let his actions speak for themselves. Now he has sacrificed his record for the popularity contest we call the American election. He's enlisted the aid of a real life 'mean girl' in an attempt to discredit his opponent, who, doggone it, is trying her damnedest to drag the campaign and the entire Republican party down. She's his Achilles heel, made worse by the fact that she has no idea what the phrase even means. I pray with ever fiber of my being America pulls its head out of its butt, opens its eyes, and realizes this before--it--is--too--late.

Maureen's latest article paints a picture of Palin perfectly:

"Asked if she thought Senator Obama was dishonest, McCain’s Mean Girl meandered: 'I’m not saying he’s dishonest, but in terms of judgment, in terms of being able to answer a question forthrightly, it has two different parts to this. The judgment and the truthfulness and just being able to answer very candidly a simple question about when did you know him, how did you know him, is there still — has there been an association continued since ’02 or ’05, I know I’ve read a couple different stories. I think it’s relevant.'

Of course she does. "

Friday, October 3, 2008

Down the Rabbit Hole...

Is blogging passe yet?

Regardless, in an effort to channel some of the rage and frustration I feel after listening to/reading the news every day, and in the interest of encouraging a constructive dialogue, I've decided to enter cautiously into the blogosphere. My goal is to provide informed comment, and the occasional rant. It isn't so much that I want people to agree with my opinions--I want to understand the way they form theirs.

I've recently graduated college, and am trying to figure out a little about the world and life in general before grad school. What I've learned since April is--not much. The working work is rather mundane. People are locked into their routines, and not much is being accomplished. We have talks about talks. Meetings about meetings. Daily I encounter diplomats, PhD's, politicians; important, educated folk whose hands are tied by what is politically correct to the point where they are unable to do or say anything of substance. I'm looking for substance. I want to provide substance. Washington seems to be lacking it, recently.

So here I go. This is my small contribution, in an effort to create a world which is slightly more enlightened than it was yesterday.