Wednesday, January 28, 2009

USPSA - Obama’s Peace Corps?

The the U.S. Public Service Academy [USPSA] has found a new home for communication on Things seem to be happening very fast right now for Chris Myers Asch who, according to a January 6th article in the NY Times, "with no money, contacts or obvious qualifications, [..] quit his job three years ago at a Mississippi after-school program and started a campaign to create a civilian service academy — a West Point for bureaucrats."

Looks like a commitment with a whole lot of belief behind it...and support and/or endorsements from public figures such as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden.

As of 5:30 today, here is a the USPSA's Twitter history [you may wish to follow them]:

Calling Senator Gillibrand's office
about 1 hour ago from web

Just got visited by ABC News about 4 hours ago from web

Missouri student supports USPSA: about 8 hours ago from web

Washington student supports USPSA: 1 day ago from web

New York Times supports USPSA: 1 day ago from web

Kansas student supports USPSA: 1 day ago from web

Reading the Baltimore Sun's column supporting USPSA: 1 day ago from web

Building the U.S. Public Service Academy! 1 day ago from web

"Tear Down This Myth" by Will Bunch [Preview]

If the Reagan legacy has been a sacred cow for conservative ideologues these last twenty years or so, its near-mythical essence - after having been intelligently de-boned and stripped by Will Bunch in his new book - is seen in reality as more fast-food ground patty than juicy Ruth's Chris Porterhouse.

Let's face it - a lot more hamburgers have been served to Americans under Golden Arches than expensive steaks under chandeliers, and this should be made apparent as Mr. Bunch lays out the Reagan-era realities v. the right-wing myths.

Everyday Americans have lived with the effects of the Reagan years, where much pragmatic compromise was made for the common good, while those modern conservatives who've cleansed key truths and magnified the legend already cleverly self-created by the politically gifted President Reagan have pasted an almost-cinematic image of the man and his times on our collective memory like Smith & Wollensky on grilled short loin. You might say, in a figurative sense, that Mr. Bunch grounds it all down to everyman's chopped beef - no pretense - pass the ketchup, please.

You can read an excerpt from Chapter One of Tear Down This Myth - How the Reagan Legacy Has Distorted Our Politics and Haunts Our Future [Simon & Schuster's Free Press] at Mr. Bunch's Philly Inquirer blog Attytood

Mr. Bunch lays out what he calls a "political three-step tango" - the great storyline that an aggressive breed of conservatives have used as a tool to win elections and perpetuate policies that fit their extreme agenda since Reagan left office. The steps of the dance include washing away negative references to actual occurrences during Reagan's time as President, awarding him far more credit than he deserves for positive turns of events during his time as President, and intentionally leaving out the fact that Reagan was, in reality and to his credit, a political pragmatist on key issues rather than an unyielding and impractical idealist.

I found this comment from Chapter One to ring particularly true:
"Reagan's devotion to certain principles was genuine, but it was coupled with an equally genuine belief in the importance of compromise and an understanding that you had to get the best deal you could under the circumstances," notes Stephen Knott, an associate professor of political science at the U.S. Naval War College who previously ran the Reagan Oral History Project while at the University of Virginia. "I'm not sure this part of Reagan's legacy is appreciated by George W. Bush and those Republicans looking for 'another Reagan.'"

Mr. Bunch suggests that the political genius of Ronald Reagan was actually found in his unique ability to create and say the words that shape ideas that last - and provide food for the makings of a legend by those politicos and think-tankers who'd stand to ideologically benefit - long after the speaker has proverbially left the building.

What Mr. Bunch also suggests is that perhaps the influential and publicly popular pragmatist who was the real Reagan was not a one-of-a-kind. While most of the Democratic primary contenders in Campaign 2008 couldn't seem to escape the "deepening shadow of the legacy of Ronald Reagan," Barack Obama seemed to intuitively understand the public desire for hope and optimism and decidedly sought to praise the political style of the twice-elected Republican. Mr. Obama told the editorial board of the Reno (Nev.) Gazette-Journal in January 2008:
"Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not, and a way that Bill Clinton did not" [...] Seeking to elaborate, the Democratic senator said that "[w]e want clarity, we want optimism, we want a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing."
Today you see President Reagan's son, conservative talk-show host Michael Reagan pointing to Obama's political pragmatism while Reagan's other son, Ron Reagan, had endorsed Mr. Obama for President.
Strange days, indeed...most peculiar, Mama...

At Attytood, Will Bunch provides up-to-date commentary about his own book:

OK - but you may ask whether the Reagan myth matters as much now that George W. Bush is back at the ranch and President Obama in the White House. I would argue that it does. Increasingly, the GOP minority in Washington, including 41 senators with just enough votes to derail the administration’s proposals, is going to invoke the Reagan myth to continue to justify a tax system that harms the middle class and policies that ignore the scientific consensus on climate change. Look at the first major policy debate of the Obama presidency, over the proposed $825 billion economic stimulus. Democrats are under enormous political pressure to weight the plan toward tax cuts, and away from spending programs, which Republicans quickly branded as much pork - despite evidence that jobs programs stimulate the economy at twice the rate of tax reductions. "I remain concerned about wasteful spending that might be attached to the tax relief," House GOP leader John Boehner said - and right-wing talk radio was a lot less restrained. Ironically, the spending sought by the Democrats seek to undo the crumbling of America’s infrastructure and the failure to create "green-collar" jobs that dates back to the Reagan era.

And here’s another reason the Reagan myth still matters, and that’s because there’s a pundit class inside the Beltway that cuts its teeth in the 1980s and remains firmly convinced that America is a "center-right" nation, despite massive evidence to the contrary. These pundits will urge Obama to enact an economic recovery package in the Gipper’s image, ignoring the long-term harmed caused by Reagan’s brand of "trickle-down economics."

Unless we don’t let them - and tear down this myth.

I look forward to reading the rest of the book which can be purchased, if you're also interested, here or you can receive news from the book’s Facebook group here.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

See Yourself at the Inauguration

This is really cool.
Click on the photo below and, if you were anywhere near the Mall on Inauguration Day, you'll see yourself. (Use the tools on the left).