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October 16, 2008
Joe the PlumberBy Greyhawk
...may be the big loser in last night's debate. (I know - he's officially been declared the winner, but follow along.) Since Senators Obama and McCain agree to disagree on "Joe the Plumber", and since the issue really does represent a definable difference in what each man stands for, shouldn't clarity on the Joe the Plumber issue be of benefit to Americans?
Or should Joe just go away?
Let's start from a position of clarity (that likely will be lost in coming days). You might hear or read that Joe is going to be making over $250,000 a year. He won't. This is what Joe told Senator Barack Obama: "I'm getting ready to buy a company that makes 250 to 280 thousand dollars a year." Joe won't be pocketing that cash - he's concerned Obama wants to take the money he'd use to grow his business, buy tools, hire more employees, repair vehicles etc. and use it elsewhere. So he asked him if that was true:
"I'm getting ready to buy a company that makes 250 to 280 thousand dollars a year," Wurzelbacher said. "Your new tax plan is going to tax me more, isn't it?"And for the record, Obama gave a long, thoughtful answer that indicated he understood that Joe was talking about business revenue - not personal income ("if your revenue is above 250 – then from 250 down, your taxes are going to stay the same") - but that boils down to "yes". And this is the bottom line - at least, it's the reason Obama gave Joe for raising taxes on his business: "I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody."
And for the record, here's what I said about that yesterday: "...Obama [has reached] a point in the polls where he can tell a plumber to his face that he's going to raise his taxes to give the money to others without fear of alienating the Great Independent American Center."
And that candor is a good thing. If that's what the majority of Americans want, they'll vote him in as president. He's being up front and honest. He might not want to use the term Socialism, but call it that or Obamanomics or anything else, if it's what America wants it's what America will get. If the Senator didn't think that represented a view of a majority of Americans he wouldn't have explained it so unequivocally.
Senator McCain believes that's not a position supported by a majority of Americans, so he mentioned Joe as many times as he could during last night's debate. He didn't mischaracterize his opponent's position, and rather than deny his position Senator Obama responded by comparing Joe the Plumber to Exxon:
McCain: I would like to mention that a couple days ago Sen. Obama was out in Ohio and he had an encounter with a guy who's a plumber, his name is Joe Wurzelbacher.After the debate, the talking heads pounced on the "Joe the Plumber" comments. I've already seen a dozen debate clips, edited down to nothing but McCain saying "Joe the Plumber". The spin is that McCain is obsessed with Joe the Plumber, and the message is that America doesn't want to hear about Joe the Plumber. And on MSNBC (the channel I watched post-debate) the sneering at Joe the Plumber (and his non-existent $250,000 salary) began early and was repeated often.
The reality is that Joe the Plumber represents a significant fault line upon which the campaigns have bet their future. Buoyed by the knowledge that the majority of Americans don't own small businesses, Senator Obama is confident that his position is shared by that majority of Americans. Senator McCain is convinced the opposite is true. Both have offered clear explanations on the topic. Team Obama's media reps have already launched the initial "move on, nothing to see here" response that seems to follow every claim by McCain that his policies differ from Obama's. Historically McCain's continued explanations of policy differences beyond his opponent's dismissal (or "additional clarification") have brought charges of "out of touch" (at best) from a media that does indeed move on - seemingly as ordered. Will that happen this time? Certainly one "Joe the Plumber" is about to get his fifteen minutes of fame, whether that focuses attention on the real issue or not will determine if the millions of Joe (or Josephine) the Plumbers (and carpenters and mechanics and IT guys...) across America won or lost this last debate.
Posted by Greyhawk / October 16, 2008 11:09 AM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
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