Saturday, June 06, 2009

Newt Gingrich, pagan hypocrite

By Michael J.W. Stickings

As Think Progress is reporting, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, and Oliver North -- and what a three-man tag-team of right-wing extremism that is -- appeared yesterday at the Rock Church in Hampton Roads, Virginia, to speak on "Rediscovering God in America."

As you might expect, there's simply too much material to cram into a single post (and I have no intention of giving any more of my time to such nonsense), but one of the lowlights was Huckabee comparing the anti-gay victory in California's Prop 8 last November to the colonists' victory in the American Revolutionary War. (And it is the right that accuses the left of not respecting the American Founding?! Like Washington was just the leader of a gang of bigots. And no word on whether Huckabee knows that the pro-Prop. 8 side was heavily funded by the Mormon Church. To him, it all came "from God's hand.")

And then there was Newt, who said this:

I am not a citizen of the world. I am a citizen of the United States because only in the United States does citizenship start with our creator... I think this is one of the most critical moments in American history. We are living in a period where we are surrounded by paganism.

What the hell does "only in the United States does citizenship start with our creator" mean? That America is oh-so-special because it's fundamentally a Christian nation? Well, I suspect that Locke and Jefferson, among others, would take issue which such a ridiculous claim. America was built on a philosophical foundation of natural rights, not a theocratical foundation of Christian dogma.

And then there's the "surrounded by paganism" claim. Of course, it should go without saying that non-religiosity, including secular humanism, is not "paganism," which is, broadly speaking, a religion itself -- sorry, but I'm not a polytheist -- but such a simple truth just can't go without saying when it comes to the lies, deceptions, delusions, and ignorantly ideological utterances of Newt and his ilk.

Besides, I'm not sure Newt was being so Christian when he was getting blown by his various mistresses (but not, he claimed, committing adultery, because oral sex apparently doesn't count) -- or when he demanded a divorce from his first wife Jackie in her hospital room, where she was recovering from uterine cancer surgery -- or when he refused to pay alimony and child support after their divorce -- etc., etc., etc.

How all very... pagan of him.

And how all very typical.

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A picture worth a few million words

By J. Thomas Duffy

There's a great article today, in the Murdoch Street Journal, from writer Joshua Prager, on the infamous Bobby Thompson homerun ("The Giants win the pennant! ... The Giants win the pennant! ...) that is well-worth reading

The Man Who Shot 'the Shot Heard 'Round the World'
On Oct. 3, 1951, in the upper deck of the Polo Grounds, a little man with a big camera snapped a portrait of Yankee outfielder Hank Bauer seated nearby. Rudy Mancuso had just one more exposure. And so, as the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants waged their final playoff game in Harlem, the amateur photographer let pass 77 balls and 142 strikes, at last clicking his Busch Pressman at 3:58 p.m., a split second after Giant Bobby Thomson pulled an 0-1 fastball from Dodger Ralph Branca with one out in the bottom of the ninth.

Unbeknownst to him, the 31-year-old Mancuso had just taken what is arguably the most famous photograph in the history of baseball (see nearby). "The Shot Heard 'Round the World" coalesced hours later in a tub of dektol on East 79th Street. Mancuso had stilled a Spalding some 280 feet before it cleared a green wall, won the Giants the pennant (won the Giants the pennant!) and commenced inspiring so much prose as to imperil, wrote Daniel Okrent, "great stretches of Canadian pulpwood forest."


Many years passed. Mancuso's pencil moustache turned from black to white as newswires and then vendors and then Web sites hocked an inexhaustible supply of his photo. He made no money from his shot and held no proof that it was he, an embosser and die cutter living in a Lower East Side walk-up, who'd most famously preserved baseball's greatest moment.

"It was one of those family legends," says his nephew Peter Vincent. "You wondered if it was true or not."

Then, in January 2001, I wrote an article for this newspaper describing how the Giants stole the signals of opposing catchers in the months leading up to Thomson's homer. Messrs. Thomson and Branca discussed it with me that fall at the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center in Montclair, N.J. Mancuso, 80 years old and pink-faced, approached me and told of his supporting role in their mid-century drama. He had no proof. But Hank Bauer confirmed that he'd sat where Mancuso alleged and I eventually found that Sylvania ad. And so, I put Mancuso in "The Echoing Green," my 2006 book about the home run.

There's a lot more to read here, the arc of a mans', and photos', life ... Of fame lost, then found ... Of a legacy delayed

Go read The Man Who Shot 'the Shot Heard 'Round the World'

Bonus Bonus

The Shot Heard 'Round The World

Special Essay - Play Ball! ... Batter Up! ... Could You Please Tell Me, What Is This Thing Called Baseball?

(Cross Posted at The Garlic)

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Craziest Conservative of the Day: Sean Hannity

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Along the lines of James Inhofe, Sean Hannity gets the award today for arguing that Obama, with his Cairo speech, "decided to give 9/11 sympathizers a voice on the world stage."

Umm... what?

Steve Benen: "The point, which even someone of Hannity's limited skills could understand, was to address the persistent conspiracy theories in some parts of the region (9/11 was not a real terrorist attack, was not launched by al Qaeda, etc.). Obama was not giving "9/11 sympathizers a voice on the world stage," he was setting the record straight, characterizing terrorists as bloodthirsty monsters, and encouraging Muslims to reject outrageous lies."

Actually, I think that is beyond Hannity's (ridiculously) limited skills.

Hannity's "a sad joke," yes, and seemingly "incapable of shame," but he's also extraordinarily crazy.

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Sotomayor, the Other

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Yes, it is odd, isn't it, that the "wise Latina" is portrayed on the cover of National Review as an Asian Buddhist? But, then, I suppose it's all the Other to the right. They're all the same, those un-American foreigners.

It must be so easy when it's just you against all them colored folk.

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Friday, June 05, 2009

The Reaction in review (June 5, 2009)

By Carol Gee

A week's Reactions that deserve a second look:


By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Reflections on Obama's Cairo Speech" -- Michael summarizes it so well: "This, perhaps, is the essence of the "Obama Doctrine": a pragmatic approach to the realization of idealistic but fully realizable goals; an emphasis on what unites us, not what divides us; toleration of and respect for others; an attempt to build bridges across cultures and forge lasting connections to sustain a lasting peace; an understanding that we're all in this together, no matter who we are, no matter where we live, no matter what god or gods we do or do not pray to."


By Carl: "Obama's defining moment" -- Carl's insight into the tremendous implications of President Obama's Cairo speech is very well worth reading.

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "What will Pawlenty do?" -- This post lays out Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty's dilemma about whether to certify Al Franken's senatorial victory, given his announcement that he will not seek re-election in 2010 (see June 3 post).

By Hamid M. Khan: "A time to take sides" -- This great guest post, by a Truman Project fellow, challenges President Obama to "take sides in the struggle for the soul of Islam by not only elevating America's image in the Islamic world, but, more importantly, by elevating Islam's image of itself."


By J. Thomas Duffy: "Hey Morning Joke, Cheetos are made by a successful unionized company!" -- Duffy exposes "Morning Joe" Scarborough's failure to understand that his employer is a thoroughly unionized GE.

By J. Kingston Pierce: "There they go again" -- Our co-blogger has posted a wonderfully link-rich piece regarding the statue of Ronald Reagan coming into the Capitol's Statuary Hall, displacing Thomas Starr King's likeness to Sacramento.

By Carol Gee: "Leadership on both sides of the road" -- This post examines instances of sanity and bipartisanship in the current moderate Republican mix, contrasted with the more widespread Republican paranoia.

By Boatboy: "Owning the Hatred" -- Boatboy, in his very fine essay, thoughtfully explores the GWoT excesses as the "terrorist" label is perhaps used inappropriately to describe the killer of Dr. George Tiller.

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Out of touch: Conservatives eager to ramp up the fight against Sotomayor" -- Michael lays out the disconnect between the zealotry of unelected Republicans regarding Judge Sotomayor vs. the more measured criticism from Republican senators.


By Carl: "The hypocrisy clown car" -- Carl cleverly unravels the right wing media's silly criticism of the Obamas' New York date night.

By Mustang Bobby: "Judicial activism" -- Bobby effectively argues that the Supreme Court's so-called activism comes as a response to a litigious society, and should not be "cured" with limiting the terms of appointment.

By Capt. Fogg: "que has dicho?" -- Fogg looks at a Sotomayor cartoon by Danziger and remains mystified.


By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Dick Cheney comes out in support of same-sex marriage. Seriously." -- Michael thoughtfully gives "credit where credit is due" to former Vice President Cheney. . . "because he has so much credibility and support in the party and within the conservative movement already, but he could have remained silent on the issue, continuing, if only silently, to approve of Republican/conservative opposition to same-sex marriage."

By Creature: "GM" -- Creature's tightly written perspective rightly credits the Obama administration for doing the best it could with the awful situation of automakers GM and Chrysler.

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Spinning and smearing: The New York Times and the right-wing assault on Sonia Sotomayor" -- Michael rightly concludes, "The New York Times should be ashamed of itself," for a couple of clearly biased Sotomayor articles (by David Kirkpatrick and Peter Baker).

(Cross-posted at Behind the Links.)

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Craziest Republican of the Day: James Inhofe

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma is, with respect his global warming denialism, one of the most dangerous idiots on the right. And also one of the craziest.

And, in response to Obama's Cairo speech, he proved once again just how deep his insanity runs. Specifically, he called the speech "un-American" Why? Because Obama called the Iraq War a war of choice, and because Obama didn't go after Iran.

So apparently it's "un-American" to be anything other than a warmongering neoconservative, a rubber-stamper for Bush's disastrous war, and a relentless partisan.

"I just don't know whose side he's on," he said of Obama, implying, as is so often implied (and often explicitly stated) on the right, that the president may very well be on the side of the terrorists.

Now that's just fucking crazy.

(Make sure to read the Think Progress post in full for an excellent rebuttal to Inhofe's claim. It was an extremely successful speech, it would seem, received well in Iraq and, extremists aside, throughout the Muslim world. And, of course, one of the points of the speech was to bring America and the Muslim world closer together -- and not because Obama is on their side (as if there are only two sides, good and evil), but because it is essential that the misunderstandings on both sides, the misunderstandings everywhere, on all sides, be overcome. Then, and only then, will it be possible to achieve a lasting peace, which is certainly in America's interests.)

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Keep it real

By Creature

I understand the desire to report on the silver lining side of things when it comes to the economy. Yes, it seems we are no longer at the edge of a cliff, however (and especially since it was rosy talk that contributed to the cliff sneaking up on people in the first place) it's important to remember that unemployment is still at record levels (new layoffs are down, but new jobs are nonexistent), the foreclosure mess still has major legs, and the banks are still basically insolvent (no matter how the try to hide behind their accounting tricks). So, while optimism has its place, realism should rule and I'd like to see more of it from a media that lives to gloss over and parrot the company line.

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The triumph of the Limbaugh-Gingrich axis: E.J. Dionne on Rush, Newt, the media, and how conservative spin skews the news

By Michael J.W. Stickings

In case you missed it, make sure to check out this brilliant column from E.J. Dionne, published yesterday at the WaPo. While it says what many of us have been saying for a long time -- namely, that the establishment media are effectively being manipulated by, and have for a long time been dominated by, conservative narratives that shape and frame how the media inform their consumers -- it is nonetheless a powerful indictment of the media, and their relationship with the far right, from a critic near the very center of Beltway establishmentarianism (and from one of the more thoughtful Beltway pundits). Here's a taste:

If you doubt that there is a conservative inclination in the media, consider which arguments you hear regularly and which you don't. When Rush Limbaugh sneezes or Newt Gingrich tweets, their views ricochet from the Internet to cable television and into the traditional media. It is remarkable how successful they are in setting what passes for the news agenda.

The power of the Limbaugh-Gingrich axis means that Obama is regularly cast as somewhere on the far left end of a truncated political spectrum. He's the guy who nominates a "racist" to the Supreme Court (though Gingrich retreated from the word yesterday), wants to weaken America's defenses against terrorism and is proposing a massive government takeover of the private economy. Steve Forbes, writing for his magazine, recently went so far as to compare Obama's economic policies to those of Juan Peron's Argentina.

Democrats are complicit in building up Gingrich and Limbaugh as the main spokesmen for the Republican Party, since Obama polls so much better than either of them. But the media play an independent role by regularly treating far-right views as mainstream positions and by largely ignoring critiques of Obama that come from elected officials on the left.

Indeed, there is much blame to go around, and some of it must be reserved for the Democrats, and for liberals-progressives generally, who have not effectively counter-balanced the right in terms of setting the narratives that govern the media (though they have been doing much, much better in this regard).

But it is the establishment media, the MSM, that continues to treat right-wing propaganda like mainstream orthodoxy, that continues to provide a lofty platform for the likes of Rush and Newt, that essentially validates their views and biases, that tilts the political spectrum to the right, making it seem as if Obama (and pretty much any liberal) is some crazed anti-American radical.

Are Newt and Rush "winning," as Dionne suggests? Yes, in a way -- and in spite of Obama's popularity. Which means that there is much work for us to do.

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Reflections on Obama's Cairo Speech

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I was extremely busy yesterday and didn't end up posting my planned reaction to Obama's speech (focusing instead on Randy Johnson late last night). I will get to it today, and I'm sure I'll reference the speech in many future posts. (Actually, keep reading. This post has grown, as I've been writing it, to include some of my high-level thoughts on the speech, as well as on Obama's foreign policy. I'll leave the specifics for another time.)

In the meantime, make sure to check out Carl's excellent post. I agree with his very positive assessment. Yes, America has "truly rejoined the world community as a leader and a beacon."

And, as usual, I'm with Creature: "Reminds me of why I supported him in the first place. It feels good to be proud again."

I have been deeply disappointed with Obama's overly pragmatic (to put it nicely) approach to foreign policy thus far. In particular, I am disappointed with his emphasis on stability over democracy and human rights, notably with respect to China, Saudi Arabia, and other appalling regimes.

As well, like the editors of TNR, I have been "extraordinarily disappointed" with Obama's apparent inaction over the ongoing tragedy and catastrophe in Darfur. I was also disgusted over his refusal to call what the Turks did to the Armenians "genocide," as he promised during the campaign he would, preferring instead the word "slaughter," a less meaningful term (and one much closer to Turkish propaganda/revisionism).


Yesterday's speech was magnificent. The right, predictably, has been ripping it to shreds according to their own ideological prejudices, but it was respectful, forceful, sensible, principled, and indicative of a new chapter in U.S. relations with the rest of the world in general and with the Muslim world in particular:

All of us share this world for but a brief moment in time. The question is whether we spend that time focused on what pushes us apart, or whether we commit ourselves to an effort – a sustained effort – to find common ground, to focus on the future we seek for our children, and to respect the dignity of all human beings.

It is easier to start wars than to end them. It is easier to blame others than to look inward; to see what is different about someone than to find the things we share. But we should choose the right path, not just the easy path. There is also one rule that lies at the heart of every religion – that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. This truth transcends nations and peoples – a belief that isn't new; that isn't black or white or brown; that isn't Christian, or Muslim or Jew. It's a belief that pulsed in the cradle of civilization, and that still beats in the heart of billions. It's a faith in other people, and it's what brought me here today.

We have the power to make the world we seek, but only if we have the courage to make a new beginning, keeping in mind what has been written.

This, perhaps, is the essence of the "Obama Doctrine": a pragmatic approach to the realization of idealistic but fully realizable goals; an emphasis on what unites us, not what divides us; toleration of and respect for others; an attempt to build bridges across cultures and forge lasting connections to sustain a lasting peace; an understanding that we're all in this together, no matter who we are, no matter where we live, no matter what god or gods we do or do not pray to.

Matthew Arnold, one of my heroes, wrote back in the 19th Century about striving to achieve our "best self," both individually and collectively, notably though the acquisition and celebration of humanistic culture. In Obama, I still believe, Americans have chosen a president who genuinely believes in the possibility of America's best self -- and who wants America to strive towards that noble goal, a "perfect union."

America is waiting. The world is watching. And it is time to put words into action.

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The Big Unit wins #300

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Yesterday was Obama's big day in Cairo, obviously, but, in the sports world, or at least in the North American sports world, the big news yesterday, bigger (in my view) than Game 1 of the NBA Finals and Game 4 of the NHL Finals, bigger historically, was made in Washington, ironically enough, where one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history, The Big Unit, 45-year-old Randy Johnson, won his 300th game, with his San Francisco Giants beating the Washington Nationals (formerly my beloved Montreal Expos) 5-1.

I've always liked Randy Johnson, in part because he got his start with the Expos, drafted in the second round in 1985, then playing in just 11 games over two seasons for the Expos, 1987 and 1988. He was traded to Seattle in 1988, a short-sighted trade by a contender (yes, the Expos were perennial contenders back then).

And The rest is history.

Johnson flourished for the Mariners and, after a brief stint with Houston in 1998, with Arizona as well. And he was quite good for the Yankees in 2005 and 2006 (especially in 2005), just not good enough for New York, and certainly not good enough for the Yankees and the crazy expectations of both organization and fans alike. He went back to Arizona for 2007 and 2008, pitching well last year, and, while he's now just a five- or six-inning starter at best, he's been okay for the Giants this year, a solid member of a solid rotation.

Here, looking back, are some of his amazing accomplishments:

-- 5 Cy Youngs
-- 3-time 20-game winner (2-times 19, as well)
-- 6 seasons with 300+ Ks

And consider what he did at his peak:

-- From 1999 to 2002, he appeared in 35 games each year for Arizona. His records in those years: 17-9, 19-7, 21-6, 24-5. Ks: 364, 347, 372, 334. ERA: 2.48, 2.64, 2.49, 2.32. WHIP: 1.02, 1.12, 1.01, 103.

-- He had a down year, due to injury, in 2003. But he returned in top form in 2004. His record was only 16-14, again with 35 appearances, but he struck out 290, his ERA was 2.60, and his WHIP was a career-best 0.90, an incredible mark.

-- With Seattle in 1997, he went 20-4. Opponents hit just .194 against him, a career-best.

-- With Houston following an in-season trade in 1998, he went 10-1, striking out 116 in 11 appearances, with an ERA of 1.28, a WHIP of 0.98, and an opponents' batting average of .191. Of his 10 wins, four were complete-game shutouts.

-- He had control problems early in his career, walking as many as 152 in 1991 with Seattle, but after 1993, when he walked 99, the most walks he gave up in a season was just 77, in 1997, the year in which he went 20-4, struck out 291, and had an ERA of 2.28 and a WHIP of 1.05.

Truly, truly amazing.

We aren't about to see another pitcher reach 300 wins for a long, long time. No one who's close, or fairly close, is going to make it, and younger stars like C.C. Sabathia (122 wins) and Johan Santana (116 wins) need many more years of 15+ wins to have a shot. Even Roy Halladay, one of the two or three best starters in the league, a consistent stud over the past eight or so years, has only 140 wins. And a guy like Zack Greinke has a long, long way to go even to be considered for a possible run at 300. So we might be 10-15 years away from another one.

So Big Unit... Congratulations on reaching this impressive milestone. You are perhaps the last of an era, an era when 300 wins was possible, however remote, and you racked up many of those wins in what is now regarded, sadly, as the Steroid Era. While sluggers (and even non-sluggers) were juicing up and teeing off, you dominated. (And I hope, I really hope, you're not another Roger Clemens. Surely you didn't.)

Hats off. You've been one of the very best. And the Hall of Fame awaits.

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Thursday, June 04, 2009

Quote of the Day

By Creature

"An African-American President with Muslim roots stands before the Muslim world and defends the right of Jews to a nation of their own in their ancestral homeland, and then denounces in vociferous terms the evil of Holocaust denial, and right-wing Israelis go forth and complain that the President is unsympathetic to the housing needs of settlers. Incredible, just incredible." -- Jeffrey Goldberg

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Obama's Cairo Speech

By Creature

Reminds me of why I supported him in the first place. It feels good to be proud again.

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Obama's defining moment

By Carl

While you should read the
entire text for yourselves, I believe history will judge this paragraph as the time when America truly rejoined the world community as a leader and a beacon:
So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, and who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity. This cycle of suspicion and discord must end.

Leading up to this paragraph, President Obama spoke of how the continual Muslim violence towards not only westerners but fellow Muslims, has bred a suspicion and, indeed, terror among the partisan right wing of the western world.

After this paragraph, he acknowledges civilization's debt to the Muslim world and to Islam in particular: math, sciences, philosophy, commerce, art, even history...all these were advanced by Muslims when the rest of the world suffered the Dark Ages.

And then he challenged the Muslim world to change with the times. He invited them to view America differently, and if anyone could do that, if anyone could truthfully say those words and mean them in Egypt, it is Barack Obama: America's first African-American President. Indeed, the quintessence of change resides within him.

The intriguing bit came when he began to talk about Palestine. I expect he will get a large helping of grief over this part, where he seems to hint at a division of territory between Israel and the Palestinians (the "two state" solution he has talked about before).

But there's a surprise hinted at in the speech as well when he speaks about Al Qaeda:
And that's why we're partnering with a coalition of 46 countries. And despite the costs involved, America's commitment will not weaken. Indeed, none of us should tolerate these extremists. They have killed in many countries. They have killed people of different faiths but, more than any other, they have killed Muslims. Their actions are irreconcilable with the rights of human beings, the progress of nations, and with Islam.

The Holy Quran teaches that whoever kills an innocent is as -- it is as it if has killed all mankind.

And the Holy Quran also says whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind.

The enduring faith of over a billion people is so much bigger than the narrow hatred of a few. Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism; it is an important part of promoting peace.

I interpret this to mean he's offering the Muslim world a chance for a show of good faith: turn over Al Qaeda and other violent Islamist groups, turn over Osama bin Laden. Show us that you mean business.

Wow. I mean, wow. He invokes among the most holy of passages written in the Koran and challenges the Muslim world to live up to it.

Think about that for a moment: the President of the Great Satan has asked Muslims to turn their back on what amounts to the Religious Right of the Muslim world, the Jerry Falwells of Fatwas, and asked the entire Muslim world to join us in the 21st Century, to shun those who would take the world back to the Dark Ages.

And you know what? He's got a good chance of succeeding.

(crossposted to
Simply Left Behind)

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Obama's Middle East Balancing Act

By Carol Gee


President Barack Obama has just made a major speech to the Muslim world from the stage of Cairo University. According to the AP's Mark Smith, it was "an address designed to reframe relations after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the U.S.-led war in Iraq." The President cautioned against crude stereotypical thinking by either Muslims or Westerners and called for specific actions by several of the region's governments. Politico's Mike Allen described the speech a "seeking "common ground" and "a new beginning" after America's image plummeted under the Bush administration. However, Allen also said it "included blunt talk about the United States, Israel, Iraq, his predecessor and al Qaida." To quote:

Obama got a standing early ovation when he declared: “I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.

But some audience members gasped when he followed that with: “That same principle must apply to Muslim perceptions of America. Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire.”

President Obama is on a four nation trip to Europe and the Middle East. The author described the speech as, "the centerpiece of his journey, and while its tone was striking, the president also covered the Middle East peace process, Iran, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the violent struggle waged by al-Qaida." The White House made the speech available on its website.

President Obama's leadership style as he visits foreign countries is open and humble and and this trip may be another beginning in his attempts to diminish "western hegemony." At the same time the President is unyielding in his determination to counter the terrorism of extremist organizations such as al Qaeda. Obama's recent choice of General Stanley McChrystal to be his new Afghanistan commander signals the premium placed on counterterrouism, according to Spy Talk's Jeff Stein. Stein has said that General Petraeus gives McChrystal complete credit for developing and running the revolutionary program usedfirst in Iraq by the U.S. To quote:

As the New York Times put it today, Defense Department officials credited forces under McChrystal's command in Iraq "with finding and capturing Saddam Hussein and with tracking and killing Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. "The Times' sources added, "His success in using intelligence and firepower to track and kill insurgents, and his training in unconventional warfare that emphasizes the need to protect the population, made him the best choice for the command in Afghanistan, Defense Department officials said."

A Saudi recently put it even more bluntly, again according to Jeff Stein, who headlined, "Ex-Saudi Spy Chief: Kill Bin Laden Then Leave Afghanistan." To quote from this very fascinating interview:

Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal, an influential member of the Saudi royal family and former head of its intelligence service, says the U.S. should kill Osama Bin Laden and then " get the hell out" of Afghanistan.

The President's delicate dance is one in which he has often engaged at home. This trip launches what seems like a really serious strategy towards keeping the nation safe from the attack of extremists as well as engaging in a serious peace making project with Israel and Palestine. Bon voyage -- the destination is far away but reachable.

(Cross-posted at Southwest Progressive.)

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Less is something and more is nothing

OR: What is it with hiring managers and the "overqualified" label?

By Boatboy

As the US economy continues to circle the drain, an (apparently) increasing number of people are running into the curse of actually being able to do their jobs. There are articles in The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal, and other publications discussing how skilled professionals are editing their resumes and discussions of their experience and training in order to appear more appropriate for the lower-paying jobs that are increasingly the best opportunities available.

I recall a similar trend, now a decade or so old, when the dot-com bubble burst and it seemed all of Silicon Valley got laid off at once. The same effect was visible at the time: former CIOs were dumbing down their resumes to get LAN admin jobs. This time around, though, the trend seems universal when discussing anyone with more than five years' history in the workplace, regardless of profession.

The articles all discuss editing one's resume or CV to minimise the appearance of experience and qualifications. More than a few sections, and several comments, discuss removing some dates and some durations to combat ageism as well:

Too much of a good thing is wonderful, said Mae West. But that's not how hiring managers see it. Relevant work experience, advanced degrees and credentials - while prerequisites for many finance jobs - can disqualify as well as qualify. If a candidate previously held a role at a higher level than the one she's seeking, or her education or certifications exceed a position's stated requirements, she's unlikely to pass the initial software-driven screen most employers apply before even looking at an incoming résumé.

Moreover, many employers blithely use the word "overqualified" as a barely concealed synonym for "too old." That's the evident meaning when a hiring manager or HR person says an opening is "too junior for you," when you know it pays four times what you made in your last job. (This happened to me a few times.)

Personally, this sort of rescaling one's experience seems at once dishonest and pointless. Dishonest in that if one is prepared to discount one's own experience and effort to achieve what one has achieved then the situations employers fear are more likely to be manifested than if one is honest about one's history and willing to take a perceived step backward. Pointless, in turn, in that so many of the current review processes require listing years of experience with particular tools or procedures as part of the screening process, and so many are willing to follow up with reference checks and other screening methods, that simplifying one's resume without conveniently "forgetting" about what one edits out will only exacerbate the hiring body's concerns - and may well show up the potential dishonesty in the resume by inadvertently referring to information edited out of the documents.

I'm also more than a little disappointed in the presumption that overqualification is a valid cause for disqualification. Unless there is a serious miscommunication between the candidate and the hiring/screening party at the outset, then the disparity between the job requirements and the offered experience and skill set is a known quantity well in advance of the point where overqualification even gets suggested. If it isn't an issue for the candidate by then, then it shouldn't be for the interviewer.

At the same time, there is the problem that one needs a paycheck in this society. And the discussions with recruiters and hiring managers on the subject tell a no-win tale:

In the past eight months, Jamaica Eilbes, an information-technology recruiter for Milwaukee employment agency Manpower, has had to weed out more overqualified résumés than usual from the stacks that cross her desk each day. "I'd never feel comfortable putting a really high-level candidate into a lower level position," says Ms. Eilbes, who recruits for Manpower and other clients. "We don't want to take you on if we think you are going to jump ship."

But in recent months, Ms. Eilbes has seen more master's and doctoral degrees at the bottom of résumés instead of at the top. She's also seen candidates omitting or trimming job descriptions that showed they had substantial years of work experience. Résumés on which job descriptions taper off as they progress down the page raise Ms. Eilbes's suspicions. "How do I know I can trust them later down the road if there's something on their résumé they decided to take off so they could have a better chance at getting that job?" she says.

And then there's this gem:

In some cases, job seekers are being told by hiring agencies to tone down their résumés if they want to get hired. When Bridget Lee, 29, moved to New York from Shanghai eight months ago and put her application in at three temporary agencies, she was told to play down her work experience before they would send her résumé to potential clients. The temp-agency version of her résumé changed titles like "manager" and "freelance trend researcher" to "staff" and "office support" and omitted entirely her title as partner of a small marketing agency. "It's been a lesson for how I present myself," Ms. Lee says.

So if you're overqualified, you'll be bored and unlikely to stay in the position. But if you edit your docs to sound less overqualified, then you're lying to the hiring party and can't be trusted. Oh, and by the way that distrust comes from your doing what we told you to do, or from our doing it ourselves on your behalf.

For me, though, the single most infuriating perspective on the matter comes from The Atlantic's own Daniel Indiviglio:

This is alarming news for the U.S. economy. If job seekers are accepting positions at lower levels than their experience should dictate, then their talent and experience is not being fully utilized. That, in turn, means economic growth will be stunted. For growth to be maximized, all workers should be making full use of their capabilities.

How much will this harm growth? It depends on how long it takes for the economy to begin to expand at a rapid pace. Once employment returns to the 95% threshold, these job seekers can begin trading up and returning to positions for which their experience is more suited. That is, of course, if their résumé is not tarnished permanently by spending several years in a position that is a step back on their career path.

Those of us currently looking for work aren't really all that concerned about how fast we can spring back: we're worried about making ends meet now. And we'd much rather be underutilized than unutilized, since as long as we can work, economic growth, however stunted, will still be greater for the US and for ourselves than if we all sit on our duffs (waiting for the job we aren't overqualified for) drawing unemployment and starving to death.

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What will Pawlenty do?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

He's not running for re-election in 2010, and he may be eyeing a presidential run in 2012, but, for now, the key issue confronting the Minnesota governor is whether to certify Al Franken's victory over Norm Coleman in last year's Senate election. Some are worrying that pressure from the national GOP, and the need to please the far-right base of the party, will be enough to persuade Pawlenty to keep dragging out the process by not certifying Franken's victory, but, as I wrote yesterday, the Minnesota Supreme Court will likely issue a ruling that forces him to do what is right, not what he may perceive to be in his personal and partisan interests (though it may not be in his best interest to enable Coleman's ongoing fight by going against both the courts and public opinion, as well as by coming across as a hyper-partisan extremist). And, with experts overwhelmingly, if not unanimously, suggesting that Coleman has run out of legal options, Pawlenty stated yesterday that he would certify Franken's victory...

Or not. Because he gave himself an out. He will certify only if there is no "other contrary direction from a federal court."

Or perhaps only if there is no appeal. From the transcript, it's not at all clear what he meant when he stated "and there's not an appeal or some other contrary direction from a federal court." Does this mean that he won't certify if the Coleman team appeals the ruling? Does this mean that he would allow an appeal by a fellow Republican to trump a ruling of his state's Supreme Court?)

We shall see.

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A time to take sides

Guest post by Hamid M. Khan

(This is Hamid's second post at The Reaction. His first, on Pakistan, can be found here. -- MJWS)

In perhaps one of the most anticipated speeches of his young presidency, President Obama is venturing to Cairo to give an unprecedented address to the Islamic world. Not one to shrink from the unconventional, President Obama, however, has already issued robust salutations to the Islamic world in his inaugural address and in his speech to the Turkish Parliament, not to mention offered his first interview as president to the Arab media. With this unique opportunity, President Obama should do more than offer the prospect of "improved" American-
Islamic relations. Rather, he must challenge the Islamic world in a way only he can.

At the outset, perhaps the most tangible way Obama can immediately improve America's image in the Islamic world is by offering more than a more robust engagement in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, by declaring, in a Kennedyesque fashion, that it should be the goal of the United States to help create an independent Palestinian state within five years. While undoubtedly difficult and unpopular, there are numerous reasons to support such an approach, the least of which is that there is perhaps no greater injustice in the eyes of Muslims than the fate of Palestinians under Israeli occupation, an injustice that galvanizes moderates and extremists alike against the United States.

President Obama, the son of a Muslim and a one-time resident of the world's most populous Islamic nation, should take this opportunity to examine Muslims' own views about Islam. He should remind his audience that he is the elected leader of millions of Muslims. And though a religious minority, the overwhelming majority of Muslims are a successfully integrated part of the political, social, and economic life of the United States, and who are also able practice their religion in peace and largely are proud to call themselves American Muslims.

Obama should not fear to point out as well that despite America's shortcomings, many of the ills that plague the Islamic world cannot be blamed on the United States alone, and that the real enemy of Islam lies within its midst. He should ask Muslims to do some soul-searching about the state of their religion and pointedly ask whether they are satisfied with the perception that Islam — one of the greatest forces civilization has ever known — has come under the control of extremism and violence.

The president should also stress that while his address takes place in Cairo, his comments are not confined to Arab-Muslims, for while Egypt is the most populous Arab state, Arabs make up less than one-fifth of all Muslims in the world. Instead, he should point out that it is time for the Arab world to join the rest of the Islamic world in embracing democracy and a more moderate form of Islam.

In so doing, he should take pains to remind his audience that Islam achieved its "Golden Age" based on widespread education, interaction with other civilizations, and an embracing of diversity of opinions — whether political or religious. He should boldly remind those tuned in that the teachings of Islam are not only compatible with democracy but also codify religious tolerance and teach against terrorism, corruption, and murder. Nor should the president be afraid to invoke the life of the Prophet Muhammad, who himself championed the cause against entrenched authority on behalf of the oppressed, the poor, and the sick, and even women.

These assertions are not aimed at lecturing Muslims of their shortcomings, but rather at reminding them of their own glorious past — a past achieved on their own and centuries before the emergence the United States. It should serve as a reminder that the ills that plague Islam can be solved by what is best about Islam.

Most analysts have argued for a careful, nuanced approach that avoids criticism and, more importantly, avoids the divide that plagues Islam from within. The divide is between those who seek to reform Islam in light of the changing world while maintaining an adherence to the spiritual and religious ethos of Islam and those who seek to drag Islam, by force if necessary, to the unknown depths of history in an attempt to regain a misplaced sense of the past. President Obama should not fear to speak, when few leaders in the West come with his experience, empathy, and level of respect.

President Obama is faced with a choice: He can tip-toe between the moderate forces of modernity and the extremist forces of the past, or he can take sides in the struggle for the soul of Islam by not only elevating America's image to the Islamic world, but, more importantly, by elevating Islam's image of itself.

Hamid M. Khan is a fellow with the Truman National Security Project, an Adjunct Professor at the University of Colorado Law School, where he teaches Islamic Law, and an Associate with McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP.

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New Hampshire legalizes same-sex marriage

By Michael J.W. Stickings

A compromise was finally reached. Yesterday, New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch signed into law a bill that legalizes same-sex marriage in that state:

"Today we're standing up for the liberties of same-sex couples by making clear they will receive the same rights, responsibilities, and respect under New Hampshire law," Governor John Lynch said before signing the legislation in a State House ceremony at about 5:20 p.m.

Lynch said it was a New Hampshire tradition "to come down on the side of individual liberties and protections, and that tradition continues today." The room, filled by scores of the bill's supporters, resounded with applause as he signed.

New Hampshire is the sixth state to legalize same-sex marriage.

And, today, we celebrate another victory for justice and equality in America. It is a slow process, too slow, but there is no denying that, at long last, the state-approved bigotry that has kept gays and lesbians apart from their fellow citizens, and that has denied them their civil rights, is being rolled back and, one hopes, obliterated.

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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Hey Morning Joke, Cheetos are made by a successful unionized company!

By J. Thomas Duffy

Morning Joke, and the Sergeant Demetrio López García-like sidekick, Mika Brezninski, to Morning Joke's "Zero" (along with NYT's Andrew Ross Sorkin), were really bucking today for a Garlic's "Instant Ignorant Dolt" designation.

Apparently, their Morning Joke Show got into a discussion about labor, and unions, and then displayed their challenged mental capacities.

From Jamison Foser, at Media Matters: "Morning Joe journos can't name a successful unionized company, even though one signs their paychecks":

The Morning Joe crew was on an anti-union tear this morning, claiming the union label on a company means "sell." Mika Brzezinski went so far as to say of unions: "They cripple the system that makes a company work." Collectively, the journalists on Morning Joe couldn't name a single "successful" unionized company.


Oh, what the heck, let's take one more example. GE is one of the world's largest companies; in 2006, its revenues were greater than the gross domestic products of 80 percent of UN nations. The company made more than $18 billion in 2008 -- again, billion with a b, and again, those are profits, not revenue. All that despite (or, perhaps, because of) the fact that 13 different unions represent GE workers.

Oh, and GE owns NBC-Universal, which owns MSNBC, which pays Joe Scarborough a handsome salary (and the unionized workers who help get his show on the air considerably less.)

Does Joe Scarborough think NBC and GE are not "successful" companies? Does Mika Brzezinski think the unionized workers she no doubt interacts with every day are crippling her ability to do her job, or her employer's ability to be successful?


If Andrew Ross Sorkin's name sounds familiar, that's probably because he's the reporter who started the myth about the average GM worker being paid $70 an hour. MSNBC's Keith Olbermann named him "Worst Person in the World" for that bit of blatantly false anti-union, anti-worker propaganda.

WHAP! ... Headslap!

Brian Beutler, over at TPMDC, with "Hoffa: Sorkin and Morning Joe Show Complete Failure To Understand":

Unions are aghast. "Sorkin and the Morning Joe crew just showed their complete failure to understand how unions contribute to the success of the American economy by blindly assuming that unionized companies haven't been profitable in the last year," said James Hoffa, General President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, in a statement to TPMDC.

Off the top of my head I can give you several Teamster-represented companies who continue to thrive, despite the economic downturn, but there are thousands more: UPS, Eight O'Clock Coffee, Coca-Cola Enterprises, PepsiCo, Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors. The Morning Joe team really should be embarrassed for showing their lack of knowledge on the subject.

Not only that, but jumpin' Jesus, for Morning Joke himself, this should have been a gimme.

Cheetos are made by Frito-Lay, which is owned by PepsiCo, one of the successful union companys named above.

Morning Joke sure should have remembered Cheetos:

Scarborough Defends McCain, Criticizes Bloggers ‘Eating Cheetos’ In Their ‘Underwear’

As for Mika, well, just company for Morning Joke, I guess ...

She should be listening to her daddy.

Bonus Morning Joke Riffs

Matthew Yglesias: Morning Joe Crew Can’t Name a Single Successful Unionized Firm


David Kurtz: Your Corporate Media

Top Ten Cloves: Things Joe Scarborough Likes To Eat and Wear When Sitting At Computer

Get A Shovel! ... Olbermann Disses Scarborough, On-Air

Morning Joke Teachs Thousands of Kids To Swear! ...Or: Blame It On The Cheetos, Joe ...

(Cross-posted at The Garlic.)

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There they go again

By J. Kingston Pierce

These aren’t good times for the Republican’t Party. Only 20 percent of Americans self-identify themselves as GOPers (compared with 38 percent who call themselves Democrats), and polls show that Republican’ts are losing ground with practically every national demographic group. Only 11 percent of Republican’ts are Hispanic (while 85 percent are white conservatives), and the party’s chance of attracting more Hispanics -- the fastest-growing ethic group in the United States -- are significantly endangered by the losing battle some high-profile conservative activists are waging against President Barack Obama’s first U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor. The GOP has turned into a Southern regional party, and even onetime presidential candidate Mike Huckabee warns that it’s at risk of becoming as “irrelevant as the Whigs.”

So you can understand why members of today’s fractious GOP might be inclined to cling desperately to
the myth of Ronald Reagan. They see the 40th president as somebody who brought the country together, brought down the Soviet Union single-handedly, and held down taxes (none of which is quite accurate). And in the absence of any charismatic leader to counter President Obama (Dick Cheney? Mitt Romney? Sarah Palin? Newt Gingrich? Huckabee? Fuggitaboutit!), they continue to hold up Reagan as their philosophical standard-bearer. It doesn’t matter that he left office 20 years ago and died five years back.

The latest manifestation of this hero worship was today’s
unveiling of a seven-foot-tall, bronze Reagan statue in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. As I have reported before, the California Legislature voted in the fall of 2006 to replace one of its original two sculptures in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall with this one of the former B-movie actor turned Golden State governor. The Reagan likeness will join one of 18th-century missionary Junípero Serra. So who gets the boot to make way for Ronnie? Thomas Starr King, a 19th-century minister and orator who is credited with keeping California from becoming a separate nation during the Civil War and helped save Yosemite National Park. King’s statue, the work of renowned San Francisco sculptor Haig Patigian, was placed in Statuary Hall back in 1931. According to Wikipedia, it will be moved to “the second floor of the rotunda at the state Capitol in Sacramento.”

Maybe there, people will have more respect for the contributions King made to history.

(Cross-posted at Limbo.)

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For Nancy Puss'n'Boots, Cheney is from the Real Virginia

By J. Thomas Duffy

Like a moth to a flame ...

Nancy Puss'n Boots, aka, Nancy Pfotenhauer, Stumblin' Bumblin' John McCain's former Dead Campaign Express spokesperson, seemingly, just can't avoid appearing utterly stupid on national television.

We pointed this out, back in October of 2008 (Nancy Puss'n'Boots To Tweety: I'll Take "Looking Stupid" for $500"!), when she attempted to defend The Wasilla Whiz Kid.

Yesterday, she strapped on her "Stupid Suit" and was out there again, this time, defending the Shadow President, Dick Cheney.

"Pfotenhauer: "I Don't Believe That the Former VP Would Be Making Statements..."

Dig Bill Press's facial expression, and how David Shuster just outright laughs at her.

Cheney has been out there the past few weeks, running around like a junkie trying to score smack, dissing the Obama Administration, defending his torture program, even having his daughter out, front-and-center, to regurgitate his lies.

On the same day that Nancy Puss'n Boots is doing her Stupid Act for the former Shadow President, Darth Vader himself, started doing some moonwalking, backing away from his previously-ardent claims that his torture program worked, that it saved lives.

Cheney Edges Away From Claim That CIA Docs Will Prove Torture Worked

Bear with me here, because this is crucial. Cheney is carefully saying that the documents summarize what we learned from the overall interrogation program. Torture, of course, was only a component of that program. So he’s clearly saying that the docs summarize what was learned from a program that included non-torture techniques, too.

Here’s why this is important. It dovetails precisely with what Senator Carl Levin, who has also seen these docs, says about them. Levin claims the docs don’t do anything to “connect acquisition of valuable intelligence to the use of the abusive techniques.”

What, are the PartyofNoicans sending their Talking Points by snail mail?

If they are going to use Nancy Puss'n Boots, perhaps it is by design, to make GOP Chieftain Michael Steele look like Einstein.

Bonus Nancy Puss'n Boots Links

Eric Kleefeld - Pfotenhauer: I Don't Believe Cheney Would Say Things He Knew To Be Inaccurate

d-day: Honest Dick

Yes, Virginia, There Is A Real Virginia ...

(Cross-posted at The Garlic.)

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Sloppy seconds

By Carl

huge outcry (link not safe for sane people) was raised among the more extreme rightists in this country (i.e., any Republican) about Sonia Sotomayor's perceived dismissal of the "private ownership of guns.


Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor has been called an "anti-gun radical" by some gun rights activists for joining an opinion this year that said the Second Amendment does not prevent state and local governments from restricting arms ownership.

But yesterday a panel of conservative luminaries on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit reached the same conclusion. The unanimous ruling rejecting a challenge to Chicago's tough handgun law could complicate efforts to portray Sotomayor as a judicial activist trying to undermine the Supreme Court's landmark decision last year holding that the amendment protects the right to own a gun for self-defense.

The sticking point came on a case involving nunchuks in New York City. You may remember nunchuks as the weapon of choice for Bruce Lee: two sticks chained end to end that are very versatile for self-defense...or clocking the ever-living crap out of someone.

In that case, the defendant claimed that the SCOTUS decision in Heller v. District of Columbia, which was a minor landmark decision in that it affirmed, or more to the point, created (so much for lack of judicial activism) the absolute right of an individual to own firearms, implied that states and localities were forbidden from overriding the Second Amendment.

The Appeals Court (Second Circuit) on which Sotomayor sat decided, um, no. States and localities can override it at their pleasure, as many other precedents of the court had dictated. The distinction in Heller is that the District of Columbia is quasi-federal to begin with.

As you can imagine, the NRAites went ballistic...sorry...over this revelation! It was decided in committee that this was absolute proof that Obama was trying to take away their guns.

After the tin foil hats were cleaned and blocked...

Much ado about nothing, as it turns out. The case they cite that Sotomayor sat on, Maloney v. Cuomo, was specifically cited by the conservative Seventh Circuit Appeals Court yesterday in its decision.

As usual, conservatives cried their eyes out and went through boxes of tissues decrying the oppression of the white man.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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Lindsey Graham on Sotomayor

By Creature

“I believe she [Sotomayor] does have the intellectual capacity, but there is a character problem, there is a temperament problem,” - Sen. Lindsey Graham

With the Sotomayor nomination all but certain to go through, I do not see the point in making character assassinations against a future supreme court justice. This is purely playing base politics at a time the GOP needs to move beyond their base. The fundamental misunderstanding of this fact by the GOP continues to blow my mind.

And, yes, if Sotomayor were a man Lindsey Graham would surely not be making such statements [see Scalia, Cheney, MCCain]. Tone deaf much, Senator.

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Leadership on both sides of the road

By Carol Gee

President Barack Obama, according to Charles Mahtesian of, believes that there is a concerted Democratic effort to divide and conquer leaders in the Republican party. His Wednesday article, "Stealth War: Barack Obama sabotages Republicans," is a compelling argument buttressed by Obama's recent nomination of Rep. John McHugh (R-N.Y.) to be the new Secretary of the Army. To quote from the piece:

"Boxing the Republicans into a South-dominated party is very good strategy, because the more you reduce the Republican Party, the more conservative and reactionary it will become, and thus less attractive to moderates," said Tom Schaller, a University of Maryland-Baltimore County professor and the author of "Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South." "The Midwest and the Northeast are the places where there are still remnants of old-line Rockefeller Republicans. And these are the places where the Democrats will build durable majorities."

We Texas Democrats remember Obama's 2008 primary contest, which he narrowly lost to Senator Clinton. More recently we noticed our Republican governor making noises about secession from the Union. And we are reminded once again that we reside in the Republican South, increasingly marginalized as a political region. I can only speak for myself. It is discomfitting. Just as it is uncomfortable to watch what is left of the GOP and their fellow-travelers be such failures in their necessary roles as members of a truly loyal opposition. The nation needs a functional two party system, not a marginal-regional-reactionary-ultra-conservative group of losers dedicated to propping up a dysfunctional corporatocracy.

Watching Transportation Secretary - former Rep. Ray LaHood, Ambassador to-be to China - former governor Jon Huntsman and now Democrat Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania come over to help the Democrats govern is proof positive that that President Obama is very adept at leading from both sides of the political road. Moderate Senate Republicans were key in getting his initial big piece of legislation, the Recovery Act passed. It seems apparent the such leaders want to make a difference for our country, rather that merely oppose from a small right wing Republican minority, stuck in the 80s. They prefer to belong to a change movement that is built on finding the common ground upon which to move forward. Rather than attempting to rewrite the history of the Bush administration or wishing failure on the administration in power, they look for problems to solve.

A bronze statue of former President Ronald Reagan was unveiled today in the Capitol's Statuary Hall. It is beautiful and it was heart-warming to listen to his widow Nancy Reagan speak at the occasion. Just as it was heartwarming to see President Obama be solicitous of the former first lady at Tuesday's Reagan Centennial Bill signing ceremony. If the Republican party is ever to recover it must reach out to bring people into a larger tent. Just as President Obama has reached out to bring Republicans into his larger Democratic tent.

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