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Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Knowledge Yourself.

It’s a Harlem-ism I picked up from a guy selling books on the street one day.  I like it despite its grammar issues.  I mean why can’t knowledge be a verb?

“Hey D. Zizzles, whatchya doin?”

“Oh you know… just knowledging myself…”

On second thought it might be a little creepy in that context…but even so.  Educating yourself is, as we’ve said here at Bandit Pulpit, one of the primary responsibilities of the citizenry.  However it’s no secret that time and motivation are scarce in a world where most of us are too busy with our lives to tend to the life of our Republic.  Fair Enough. This begs the question, how do we make it simpler and quicker for people to educate themselves without sitting through the inane chatter of the media?

Check it out:  http://www.opencongress.org/person/compare

Where does it lead?  To a new feature of Open Congress that allows you to compare the voting record of two politicians side by side and click through for information on what each of the votes was for.  Though the comparison has some obvious flaws in terms of presentation/clarity of information, the potential for this to become an incredibly useful time-saver both for news organizations and private citizens, should be clear.

Here’s the direct link to a McCain/Obama comparison.

Furthermore, according to the e-mail I received, they are planning two new features post-election day:

1)  A new way to save and share information with friends (facebook app?  mobile app? twitter feed?!  The possibilities are endless!)

2)  A “bird’s-eye” view of data about congress generated by the Open Congress community.  (Not entirely sure what this will entail; this is an awfully vague description.  You can imagine it may be a sort of congressional dashboard that tracks overall trends in legislation, appropriations, etc., by categories or something to that effect.)

Lastly, here’s an enlightening blog post with a side by side comparison on key votes that pertain to issues mentioned during the debates and over the course of the campaign trail.  http://www.opencongress.org/articles/view/728

Enjoy and let us know your thoughts!

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"Patriotic Grace" by Peggy Noonan

In my first post I spoke about the importance of finding and USING your voice to either effect a change in or at least contribute to the American dialog.  Peggy Noonan’s new book “Partiotic Grace” is an excellent example of what I’m talking about.

“Patriotic Grace” is filled with moving accounts of personal sacrifice, civic leadership, and insightful political and cultural critique that can only come from someone with a wealth of experience in the world (and the willingness to learn from it).

Part One opens with an intimate and powerful debunking of the myth that the “Greatest Generation” is somehow in the past, never to be seen again. It is a stirring defense of the hard work, sacrifice, and incredible everyday heroism of the Baby Boomers (a generation to which my own parents belong, a generation which, until now, I had never really given much credit or thought…)

“Set out runnin’ but I take my time.  A friend of the Devil is a friend of mine…”
Set out runnin but I take my time.  A friend of the Devil is a friend of mine...   Little did Gerry know hidden microphones linked to an underground CIA database had flagged him as a possible terrorist due to the Godless, Freedom hating lyrics spewing forth from his vinyl Altar of the Damned.
Little did Gerry know hidden microphones linked to an underground CIA database had flagged him as a terrorist due to the Godless, Freedom-hating lyrics spewing forth from his Vinyl Altar of the Damned.

Noonan also asks us to recognize our own current heroism and hard work in difficult and sometimes tragic personal and national circumstances.  She  declares that current generations of people should take pride in their accomplishments whether as parents, preachers, politicians, teachers, civil servants, doctors, soldiers, or any of a host of roles that call on the best aspects of Americans.

What follows in Part Two is what the author calls “a brief and mostly political attempt to come to grips with the Bush era.” In fact this notion of coming to grips with politics and culture is a recurring theme throughout the section and one which helps reveal the often overlooked trauma our national psyche battles with daily.  From partisan rancor to economic and security concerns, we are a nation in distress.  9/11 of course plays an integral role in framing this section of the book but Noonan manages to use it in service of her broader message without it coming off as cheap and formulaic as it so often does in our politics and media.

By the end of the section she has also presented a number of insightful observations about the current generation of youth, my generation

“They have been shaken by the world since 9/11, and we don’t understand how rocked they’ve been. They’ve internalized it; they never talk about it. But: They are not always sure they have a future…They are something new in America, an entire generation that does not assume their lives will be even better than their parents’.”

“They are…used to living other worlds in their heads, for many worlds have, in a lifetime of videos, CD’s and downloads, been implanted there…So they are not always in the moment, not fully aware of their surroundings…”

If only girls understood that Ziggurat the Brave is the REAL me...

If only girls understood that Ziggurat the Brave is the REAL me... /sigh

Within some of her statements I found the first accurate formulation of the dis-ease that spurs me to write for this blog, to debate politics with anyone that will listen, and to search for a way to contribute more meaningfully to this country through my work and personal life:

“I think a lot of people are carrying around in their heads, unarticulated and even in some cases, unnoticed, a sense that…in some deep and fundamental way things have broken down and can’t be fixed or won’t be fixed anytime soon.”

“I mean I believe there’s a general and amorphous sense that things are broken and tough history is coming.”

By Part Three the author has built a strong foundation for her appeal to change American culture, to reorient our relationships with and sense of duty to one another. It is a call for a political culture that matches the challenges of the world as it is today: rife with conflict, complexity, and uncertainty. Interestingly she devotes a fair amount of time to pointing out the immense expectations we place on politicians (who after all are just normal people like you and I).  Why is it that we balk at their failings when we expect them to have an answer for everything no matter how scientific, philosophical, complex or obscure the matter?

Now just hold on a second.  I know I left my talking points in here somewhere.

I know I left my talking points in here somewhere...

Ultimately her plea for mature, responsible, and well-tempered leadership along with a culture of peace and preparedness is nothing if not timely.  For Noonan it is not a question of IF we are faced with tragedy again but WHEN. Her criticism of the lack of focus on this by both McCain and Obama  as well as the media is salient and worth heeding when discussing the candidates’ relative merits.  Why aren’t we asking candidates how they would prepare for and handle a crisis like 9/11?  How will we as a nation, under a newly elected leader move forward as a strong, responsible, and intelligent leader of the world?

Despite any political differences I may have with her as a conservative, I could not agree more wholeheartedly that cultural unity, civil defense, and thoughtful leadership will be key in preparing our best defense against what awaits this country in its uncertain and seemingly ominous future.

I consider this a must read for any thoughtful citizen.  I think the vast majority of readers will find it both inspiring and provocative regardless of their political affiliation.

Buy it here or pick it up at your local book store.  It’ll be a hell of a lot better than spending your money on this.

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