Archive for June, 2008

A Night With Chuck Hagel

Monday, June 30th, 2008

Chuck Hagel

Update: The Hagel event has been postponed due to vote that the Senator will need to be present for on that date.  I’ll let you know when the event is rescheduled to.

Senator Chuck Hagel, long-shot potential Vice President for Obama, likely Cabinet member for McCain or Obama, and the independent maverick that McCain claims to be, will be doing an event in Manhattan next Monday.  It’s well worth going.  The event should be relatively small – so it will allow participants a decent chance to ask a question or to talk to the Senator.

It is being sponsored by the American Business Forum on Europe and has been organized by my good friend, Tobias Dose.  If you can make it, you really should go:


The American Business Forum on Europe

Sven C. Oehme, President
Henry G. Meyer-Oertel, Exec. Director

cordially invites you to a discussion with


The Hon. Chuck Hagel

U.S. Senior Senator from Nebraska (R)

on

America and Europe in Today’s World

The Major Political and Economic Challenges We Face

Senator Hagel is the author of the just released book “America: Our Next Chapter”

Monday, July 7, 2008
Reception: 6:00 p.m. Presentation: 6:30 p.m. (promptly) <
Networking Reception following the presentation and at the McCann-Erickson Building, NYC, 622 Third Avenue between 40th & 41st Streets
Please RSVP and send payment by 7/2/2008

There will be a charge of $35 for non-members
(This amount can be applied to a $180 annual ABFE membership)

Fax Response sheet is enclosed or e-mail to mailto:info@ABFE.biz

_________________________________________________________________
The Hon. Chuck Hagel, Nebraska’s senior U.S. Senator, is serving his second term in the United States Senate. He is a member of four Senate committees: Foreign Relations; Banking; Housing and Urban Affairs; Intelligence and Rules. Senator Hagel is the author of “America: Our Next Chapter”, a straight-forward examination of the current state of the United States. The book provides substantial proposals for the challenges of the 21st century. Alan Greenspan says, “America: Our Next Chapter should be required reading,” Former World Bank President James Wolfensohn declared the book “a must read.” Journalist Tom Brokaw states, “this is a book for people who care about their country”.

The American Business Forum on Europe, 405 Lexington Avenue, 37th Fl., New York, NY 10174 (more…)

Re-Introducing 2parse.com and Debating “Fast Eddie Obama”

Monday, June 30th, 2008


[Photo by the inimitable Joe Crimmings.]

My name is Joe Campbell.  I am a graduate of Holy Cross, a former partner in the now defunct RichDJ Web Services, a law clerk at a small firm in the Chrysler Building, and a supporter of Barack Obama since last summer.1  After taking a break from posting – for about 4 days, I wanted to re-launch 2parse – with more focus now that the primary is over, and that that thing I believed was so essential last summer is finally within sight.

To explain how I came to support Obama, to start this blog, and to achieve some measure of success – some 250,000 hits since it’s inception, most of them between November 2007 and February 2008 – here is my story of how I came to support Senator Obama in his campaign to become the next president of the United States of America – and why I am not in the slightest disturbed by this week’s “conventional wisdom” about Obama tacking to the center.

Here is my story:

The race begins

It was this piece in the New York Observer last March that began my several month-long conversion to Obama-dom.

When Obama first announced, my first thought was that he was too young and lacked the gravitas he needed. I had hopes for John Edwards – who I had supported in the 2004 campaign – but watching Tim Russert grill Edwards on Meet the Press about national security issues in February of 2007 left me questioning whether Edwards could speak convincingly on the subject. I didn’t think any Democrat could win unless he or she could convey the difficulty and gravity of the situation we were in there – and John Edwards’s answers were too slippery, too easy, too poll-tested.

So, I reluctantly supported Hillary Clinton – with a few concerns about whether or not she would over-compensate for her perceived weakness as a Democrat and a female by running to the right in the campaign and governing from the right as president on national security and Iraq specifically. But – I told myself – she will do what she needs to do to win, and it is essential that a Democrat (or possibly John McCain) win the White House in 2008.

McCain & me

In 2007, I struggled over whether I thought a McCain presidency would be better or worse than another Clinton presidency – at a time when it seemed certain that McCain would be the Republican nominee and Clinton the Democratic.  I had been a big supporter of McCain in the 2000 campaign and had been hopeful watching him oppose Bush’s irresponsible tax cuts, torture, some elements of executive overreach, and try to achieve a reasonable positions on immigration and climate change.

I thought a Democratic Congress might be too deferential to a Clinton presidency – and Clinton had made clear that her views on presidential power were only slightly less extreme than Dick Cheney’s. I could sense a progressive movement growing in power and influence – and I thought it might actually have more influence under a McCain presidency – as a strong Democratic Congress dominated the policy agenda – than under a Clinton presidency, in which Clinton would seek centralized control over the entire policy agenda. Abroad, I was fearful that Clinton would feel forced to be aggressive in order to deflect concerns about her gender and her liberalism while I was hopeful that McCain, winning the Republican nomination by running against George W. Bush, would be able to move the our foreign policy in a more realistic direction.

I was still undecided between what I saw then as the probable match-up, but I acknowledged to myself that I would probably still have to support Clinton over McCain with domestic issues – health care and the Supreme Court – as the tiebreakers. 2  But I wasn’t decided.

Either way, I would be glad to trade George Dubya Bush for either John McCain or Hillary Clinton – and given the rough stasis of the past four elections – the only ones which I was conscious of – it was hard to imagine any other candidates getting through, except Giuliani, who I was frightened was a closet fascist.

Politics as a contact sport

When I read that article in the Observer, two things made Obama a much more attractive candidate than he at first appeared to me at his announcement:

  1. An acquaintance of mine from college was his chief campaign speech-writer;
  2. And even as Obama talked about a new politics, he acknowledged that politics was “a contact sport.”

    “As Barack says, Chicago politics is a contact sport, and he understands how to play that,” said Robert Gibbs, the campaign’s communications director, who recently mixed it up with his Clinton counterpart, Howard Wolfson, in a very public spat. “It’s incumbent on us to demonstrate an ability to tangle.”

    This deflected a fear based on the history of Democratic Party that Obama would be a reformist candidate in the tradition of Adlai Stevenson or Jimmy Carter who disdained politics.

This acknowledgment of the reality of politics allowed me to begin to look at Obama again, to see if he could manage to balance his post-partisan campaign with the realities of hardball.  Clearly the Obama campaign wanted to convey that even as they sought to elevate the debate, they understood how the game was played.

And so, by the summer, taking into consideration the long-term problems America faced, I had become a Barack Obama supporter – and events since then have only strengthened my commitment.

The key moment that convinced me occurred as I walked home from the train station at the end of a long day at work thinking, as I often do, about politics.  I tried to imagine under which candidate America might finally begin to confront our long-festering problems.  Under both McCain and Clinton, I could only see these problems tackled as short-term issues.  The election of either would mean a continuation of the corrupt politics as usual with the real issues punted to the future.  This was my subjective sense – based on my individual projection of what each might do, on how history had worked, on how presidents and leaders could direct but not change history, on what a candidate might mean in his or her self.  It was only a quasi-rational decision.  But as I examined it after the fact, the decision came to seem more certain, as all the pieces fell into place.  It was as if in trying to put together a puzzle without any guide, and looking at each piece carefully, I had found one piece that, if it fit where I thought, the rest of the puzzle began to make sense.  For me – observing America for these past dozen years – Obama was the piece of the puzzle that made sense of the rest.

I believe it is this hope that animates his campaign – a hope that the promise of America is real and can be restored again.  America has gone astray before – again and again.  America is far from perfect.  But the wonder, the hope, the idealism, the perfection of America lies not in the fact that we do not make mistakes – but that we can – and do – reinvent ourselves to come closer to the vision of the Founding Fathers – of a democratic republic, a beacon of liberty, a nation that is a force for good in the world.  Obama will not force America to take this course.  But his election is a symbol – more, a sign – that America is ready again to reinvent itself.  And that is something we desperately need.

Reinforcements

Watching the campaign unfold, a few things became apparent:

  • Neither John McCain nor Hillary Clinton were good at running or planning a campaign.
  • Barack Obama was exceptionally good at running and planning a campaign.
  • John McCain has decided to blur his differences with George W. Bush – on torture, energy policy, taxes, and Iraq.
  • Barack Obama was not afraid to fight back against Republican talking points by standing his ground.
  • America is clearly on the wrong track – and most Americans can see that.
  • Barack Obama’s message and campaign have become the zeitgeist pushing America forward.

All of this brings me to the meme about Obama that keeps getting repeated – despite it’s contrived nature: that Obama’s new politics, his “Change You Can Believe In” and/or his post-partisan image are not compatible with the realities of politics. I remember reading columns by John Dickerson in Slate magazine in which he explained how Obama’s supporters would be turned off as they realized Obama’s “politics” were not squeaky-clean – and how Obama had raised expectations and promised a politics that didn’t exist. The New Republic had a piece on how Obama’s campaign had failed to catch fire because of the inherent tension between getting beyond polarizing politics and politics itself which is polarizing. Many said that Obama could not be post-partisan because he hadn’t taken stands against his party very often. These “inherent contradictions” was endlessly discussed among the opinion-expounders.

Every time I heard it – I thought to myself – “These people just don’t get it.”

Obama’s message was that the process (the game) of our politics was corrupt – that our decision-making process as a democracy wasn’t working; that we were avoiding dealing with the long-term problems we faced in order to focus on expensive haircuts and daily scandals; that politics had become a game in which the American people were divided into two teams of roughly equal size – and that many team members defended their team’s positions reflexively rather than reflectively; that many, many people were disengaged from politics and power because they didn’t have enough money to buy access to a candidate, because our political conversations were dominated by irrelevancies, and because they didn’t know the ins-and-outs of our closed system. The solution – as Obama saw it – was to play the game when necessary while trying to encourage processes that would reform it – to reform the system with his campaign rather than campaign to pass laws to reform the system.

Clintonism was about co-opting the power structure (which was tilted toward the monied interests and the status quo) to achieve progressive ends (or at least making the goals somewhat more progressive than they would be otherwise) and taking advantage of our debased politics to get into power. What they missed was that by leaving the power structure intact, they couldn’t achieve lasting change; and that by playing into the politics of the daily scandal, they couldn’t convince the people to back their policies. They could win, but without a real mandate; they could affect policy, but only to a degree. The Clintons thought that once they won, they could reform everything from this seat of power – but they were stymied again and again.  They attributed their losses to a “vast right wing conspiracy” but what they failed to realize was that the failure was primarily about the limitations of how they achieved power.

For Obama, his campaign is about process. If the goal of campaign finance reform is to prevent our politics from being dominated by the rich and the few, then his campaign – with it’s base of millions of small donors – has done more than any legislation passed so far to achieve this goal. Obama encouraged local activists to take ownership of his campaign – with only light supervision from campaign central. Obama spoke about issues but was not afriad to play hard ball.

That’s why the David Brooks and the other opinion-expounders never got – that the “partisanship” that was so debilitating was not based on the disagreements people had – but on the “teams” they were divided into.

Hardball

This election is about big issues – and the election should be rough and both sides should play hard.  Because there is so much at stake.

The problem with the politics of haircuts and temper tantrums is that it distracts the public from the choices it faces and denies them the opportunity to have a true referendum on what’s next.  Obama spurned the public financing system because he needed to in order to win – and he knows the stakes.  At the same time, he sees that he will not be indebted to the powerful and monied interests in the same way the Reagans, the Bushes, and the Clintons were because his base of support is far wider – comprimising millions of people determined to take their country back.

Somehow McCain’s supporters are trying to paint Obama as “just another politician” because he is willing to take an advantage without compromising his core principles in order to win this election that will determine our country’s course.  Obama is a politician.  There is no shame in that.  If he wasn’t, he wouldn’t be able to accomplish much in Washington in the first place.

The key question is: Has he compromised his core principles?  The answer, still, is “No.”  As McCain has caved on torture, on fiscal responsibility, and on immigration he has only one core principle left: the transcendent, never-ending, war on terrorism and in Iraq.  On that, he doesn’t seem to have studied the issues – as he still confuses the two competing groups of extremists – but he does know we must “stay on the offensive” no matter the cost of the shallow-ness of the policy.

We need a president who understands the roots of terrorism, who can see the evil-doers for who they are, and who can set America on a path that might actually make us safer.  John McCain is not that man.  Barack Obama could be.

I’ll be making and expanding these points as the summer goes on.  My brother will be producing videos for me.  We’ll be doing what we can to keep America safe, to elect Barack Obama the next president of the United States of America.

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  1. Okay – the linked-to-post is from September, but that’s roughly when I started this blog – go ahead and ask my friends.  I’ve been supporting Obama since May/June/July of 2007.  I specifically remember talking about Obama at my friend’s bachelor party back in July or so. []
  2. Since then, McCain has decided not to run against George W. Bush and to muddy the differences between the two. If he wins, he will not have the clout within his own party to take on even the worst aspects of Bush Republicanism. For me, this is a deal-breaker. []

A blog vacation

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

I’ve been only doing light blogging these past few days.

And I won’t have time to do much more for the next week.  So, consider these next few days – until this coming Monday –  a blog vacation.

In the meantime, I hope I can make some improvements to the blog template itself and fix some of the quirks.

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Nuptial overindulgence

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

One German man rather overdid things at his nuptials – leading his new wife to abandon him in a field by the side of the road to sleep off his stupor.
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Ralph Nader, Racist

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

Is there any other way to interpret a remark like this:

I mean, first of all, the number one thing that a black American politician aspiring to the presidency should be [doing] is…

No matter how he concludes that sentence, isn’t the very premise already racist?  Can I now decide what issues Ralph Nader should be addressing based on his Lebanese heritage?

For the record, Nader’s complete comment is as follows:

I mean, first of all, the number one thing that a black American politician aspiring to the presidency should be is to candidly describe the plight of the poor, especially in the inner cities and the rural areas, and have a very detailed platform about how the poor is going to be defended by the law, is going to be protected by the law, and is going to be liberated by the law.

To top it all off, Nader then goes on to make racially stereotyping remarks about “whites”.

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Bush to Attack Iran as an October Surprise?

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

After the past seven years, would you put it past this administration?

Andrew Sullivan is on the case:

Could Bush bomb Iran before the next election and create a sense of international crisis that could cause voters to swing back to McCain? From everything we know and Bush and Cheney, the answer, surely, is yes

Bill Kristol suggested on Fox New Sunday yesterday that Bush might attack Iran if it “looks like Barack Obama is going to win.”

John Bolton, also on Fox New yesterday suggests that Israel might decide to strike Iran before a President Obama took office.

Earlier this month, Israel conducted a massive war games exercise that American sources suggest was a test for an attack on Iran’s nuclear program.

The drumbeats of war are growing louder.

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Rest in Peace, George Carlin

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

A YouTube obituary can be found here.  One of his more timely bits here:

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If that’s what you believe, Mr. McCain, you’ll have to draft me.

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

[Photo courtesy of christhedunn.]

Senator McCain:

You have said that Islamic extremism is:

the greatest evil, probably, that this nation has ever faced…

You have said that you think:

the transcendent challenge of the 21st century is radical Islamic extremists…

You have explained that you:

think it’s clear that this [war in Iraq] is now part of a titanic struggle between radical Islamic extremism and Western standards and values…

You have said that the war in Iraq is the main front in the battle against:

the incredible evil of radical Islamic extremism…

In an interview, you explained that you would:

much rather lose a campaign than lose a war. Because [you] think there’s so much at stake.

You said, as you launched the general election campaign, that you have always:

put our country before any President – before any party – before any special interest – before [your] own interest.

Your website quotes an NPR reporter saying that you are:

of the school where if you’re going to do something you should do it right and you should commit sufficient resources…

You have traveled around the country in a bus called “the Straight Talk Express.”

I bring all this up because if you truly believe we are in this titanic struggle with the fate of our nation and our values at stake and you are willing to risk your candidacy to convince the American people of this, shouldn’t you be calling on all Americans to sacrifice to defeat this transcendent challenge to our way of life?

Why is it that the only things (those of us who aren’t in the military) are being asked to give up are some of our liberties at home and some of our national values as we turn to the “dark side” to defeat terrorism?

If the threat we face is so dire, we obviously need to marshal all of our resources to defeat it.  If we need to win in Iraq and Afghanistan, and if you know that the only thing worse than a war with Iran is an Iran with a nuclear weapons (and Iran seems determined to get nuclear weapons), and as Pakistan destabilizes and if we are truly fighting a generational war and with our military already stretched to a breaking point, and with our civilization itself apparently at stake, we cannot afford to go to war with the military we have – we need to use every societal resource to make sure we have the military we need.  We obviously will need a draft.

Mr. McCain – I believe that we face a very real threat from Muslim extremism.  I remember waking up on the morning of September 11.  I work in the Chrylser Building in Manhattan, and I am aware of the threat of terrorism as I travel the subways at rush hour.  I believe that military measures are necessary as part of an overall strategy to deal with the threat of Muslim extremism – especially in the area of the world where, according to experts, many of these extremists are gathered – from Chechyna, from Al Qaeda, from the Taliban – the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.  I believe it is likely that Al Qaeda will strike America again.  I take this threat seriously.

But I don’t believe you are being straight with us.

Why haven’t you laid out some plan, aside from staying in Iraq indefinitely, to marginalize and defeat Muslims extremism?  Why isn’t this plan one of the centerpieces of your campaign?  If we can’t afford to lose this war, why do the measures you propose we take seem so half-hearted?

Everyone has their own experience.  I don’t know what you believe – but I do know that I love my country.  I was a big supporter of yours in your 2000 campaign – sending far too many emails around to my relatives, pasting a bumper sticker onto one of my school notebooks, and trying to convince my friends to support you.  I counted you as a personal hero when you stood up to the Bush administration as it authorized torture, when you stood up to Bush’s irresponsible tax cuts, when you condemned the Swift Boaters for the trash they were throwing in 2004, and when you fought for campaign finance reform.  But now you support those tax cuts and you have made it clear that you believe that the CIA should be allowed to torture.  Your line about Boumediene was shameful.  I don’t mean to be a jerk, but you’re not the candidate I once supported.

This campaign you are running now is far different from your campaign to remake Washington in 2000.  Instead you advocate the preemptive surrender of our values in war-making and the preemptive surrender of our liberties at home.  You speak of Iraq as a kind of American protectorate and confuse the extremely different enemies we face.

If you can convince me that the threat we face is dire enough, I will volunteer in whatever capacity I might be most useful.  If I believed we were facing an existential struggle for our civilization, I would join the military.  If I believed some leader had a realistic plan – based on more than naive hopes of democracy-building by invasion – I would do what I could to help.  As it is, I am doing what I think is necessary to win this war against Muslim extremism.

I believe the problems we are facing are more complex and more challenging than a repeat of the Second World War.  And I believe we need a president who can inspire us to rise to the approaching challenges, who can remain steadfast in defending American values, who will marshal our resources wisely in the fight against Muslim extremism, and who will call on Americans to serve their country to allow us to make it through these hard times and emerge stronger.  I believe we need a president who can lead our nation in this war against Muslim extremism.  That’s why I support Barack Obama.  He’s not perfect, but he understands the moment we are in and the challenges forthcoming better than you seem to.

So, Mr. McCain –

If you can’t convince me, and if you believe your own straight talk about the absolute necessity and urgency of this war, you’ll have to draft me.  And the rest of my generation.  But you’ll have to get enough votes first.

Good luck with that.

Sincerely,

Joe Campbell

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Patriotism as a Weapon

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

From the Jed Report.

Change is coming November 4, 2008.
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What to do when your fiance’s sister hits on you…

Sunday, June 22nd, 2008

I was a very happy man. My wonderful girlfriend and I had been dating for over a year, and so we decided to get married. There was only one little thing bothering me – it was her beautiful younger sister.

My prospective sister-in-law was twenty-two, wore very tight miniskirts, and generally was bra-less. She would regularly bend down when she was near me, and I always got more than a nice view. It had to be deliberate. Because she never did it when she was near anyone else.

One day her “little” sister called and asked me to come over to check the wedding invitations. She was alone when I arrived, and she whispered to me that she had feelings and desires for me that she couldn’t overcome. She told me that she wanted me just once before I got married and committed my life to her sister. Well, I was in total shock, and couldn’t say a word.

She said, “I’m going upstairs to my bedroom, and if you want one last wild fling, just come up and get me.”

I was stunned and frozen in shock as I watched her go up the stairs. I stood there for a moment, then turned and made a beeline straight to the front door.

I opened the door, and headed straight towards my car. Lo and behold, my entire future family was standing outside, all clapping!

With tears in his eyes, my father-in-law hugged me and said, “We are very happy that you have passed our little test. We couldn’t ask for a better man for our daughter. Welcome to the family.”

And the moral of this story is:

Always keep your condoms in your car.

Found here, but it’s all over the place.

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