November 5, 2012

Re-elect Obama

This is a Rhetorica first — my endorsement of a presidential candidate.

With the new focus of this blog on the rhetoric of a failing culture, I no longer feel the need to avoid dealing openly (although I have always been transparent) with my political desires. I still intend to adhere to the promises I’ve made in my blogging policy. You’ll get the best analysis I am able to muster, but I no longer feel the need to act as if it doesn’t matter to me what the political outcomes are.

I am writing about doom, but I am also fighting it.

I am not necessarily happy about voting for President Obama. I am a liberal. He is not — clearly not. I wanted Guantanamo Bay closed. I wanted a credible, single-payer health care system. I wanted Wall Street held accountable for its behavior. I wanted the rich among us — including my family — to pay more taxes. I wanted out of these two disastrous wars. I wanted real movement on the environment, sustainability, and climate change.

Mitt Romney is not a choice. A credible Green Party candidate might be. But given the realities of this election cycle, I’ll cast a vote for President Obama and then hope that, given the freedom of a lame-duck term, he’ll wake up and do the hopey-changey thing.

October 24, 2012

Call His Bluff

The President could have some fun with this. So I think he ought to do it — not because Trump has any ground to stand on, but because it would be funny to watch Trump try to wiggle out of giving $5 million to charity 🙂

October 8, 2012

How Things Work

Aristotle pointed it out oh so many years ago: Humans are moved by emotion more than logic or facts. So using pathos as your primary appeal is an entirely legitimate rhetorical strategy. But pathos does not give one ethical permission to take a Machiavellian route to one’s political ends. For example:

Leading the charge of what were quickly dubbed the “B.L.S. truthers” was none other than Jack Welch, the former chairman of General Electric, who posted an assertion on Twitter that the books had been cooked to help President Obama’s re-election campaign. His claim was quickly picked up by right-wing pundits and media personalities.

It was nonsense, of course. Job numbers are prepared by professional civil servants, at an agency that currently hasno political appointees. But then maybe Mr. Welch — under whose leadership G.E. reported remarkably smooth earnings growth, with none of the short-term fluctuations you might have expected (fluctuations that reappeared under his successor) — doesn’t know how hard it would be to cook the jobs data.

Pointing out that this is nonsense is, of course, a form of nonsense in itself given human nature cited above. But it’s a form of nonsense I’ve engaged in myself and will continue to engage in until the end of civilization — sometime around 2020 I think.

September 14, 2012

Rhetoric of the Post-Fact World

This will be a short post because there’s really not much to analyze. In a post-fact world, argument can be as simple as crossing your arms and refusing to budge after making a post-fact claim. One can also stick one’s fingers in one’s ears and screech “I don’t hear you” a dozen times, but that doesn’t play well on TV.

So, yeah, there’s just not enough evidence of President Obama’s natural-born-citizeniness to suit three “top elected Republicans” in Kansas:

The State Objections Board comprised of Secretary of State Kris Kobach, Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer postponed until Monday action on a complaint filed by a Manhattan resident pending review of a copy of Obama’s birth certificate from Hawaii.

“I don’t think it’s a frivolous objection,” Kobach said. “I do think the factual record could be supplemented.”

Requests were to be sent to officials in Hawaii, Arizona and Mississippi in an attempt to secure copies of the president’s birth records. Obama released a copy of his birth certificate last year, but detractors persist in advancing “birther” arguments that the Democrat lacked standing.

In a culture in which facts have meaning as facts, because, well, they’re facts, this kind of nonsense would be hooted off the civic stage by the people and the press.

September 6, 2012

When Nazi Rhetoric Is OK

So here’s what South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian said about South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley:

Harpootlian made the comments in question in addressing Haley holding apress conference in a basement studio at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, N.C. amid the Democratic National Convention.

“She was down in the bunker a la Eva Braun,” Harpootlian said, according to The State.

I think we’d all be better off if we let the conservatives own the Nazi invective (or their singular, and idiotic, combination of Nazi-socialist invective re: Obama). We’d be better off because such language would be easier to isolate and hoot off the civic stage if only one side were doing it. When everyone does it, well, it starts to sound normal.

Comparisons to Nazis — and any allusion to anything Nazi equals a comparison — is only appropriate if the person in question is 1) a fascist, and 2) engaged in an active program of ethic marginalization or cleansing. If those two things do not obtain, then using any kind of Nazi rhetoric ought to be out of bounds.

Haley may be a lot of things, but a Nazi is not one of them. Nothing she does is remotely Nazi like.

So shut up.

August 22, 2012

The Whites Of Their Eyes

Apparently mental health funding has been cut in Texas.

Tom Head, a county judge in Lubbock, Texas, plunged far out into the periphery of anti-President Barack Obama conspiracy theories on Monday, pushing a particularly outrageous one as justification for a tax increase in the county.

Head told FOX34 that Lubbock’s law enforcement needed extra tax dollars in order to be prepared for a full-scale uprising, which he said could be a byproduct of Obama’s reelection. According to Head, the president is seeking to sign a variety of United Nations treaties that will effectively take precedent over domestic law.

“He’s going to try to hand over the sovereignty of the United States to the U.N., and what is going to happen when that happens?” Head asked. “I’m thinking the worst. Civil unrest, civil disobedience, civil war maybe. And we’re not just talking a few riots here and demonstrations, we’re talking Lexington, Concord, take up arms and get rid of the guy.”

August 20, 2012

The Whole Mainstream Thing

All it takes for dangerous nonsense to become normal is for people to spout dangerous nonsense as if it were normal.

monthly newsletter published by the Greene County Republican Committee in Virginia is raising eyebrows for including a column in its March edition that calls for an “armed revolution” if President Barack Obama is elected to a second term in November.

Among articles denouncing a University of Virginia initiative to implement a living wage for employees of the institution, questioning if Obama is “America’s Most Biblically-Hostile U. S. President?” and an op-ed slamming the GOP establishment with generous use of capital letters, RightWingWatch picks out a column from the newsletter’s editor, Ponch McPhee.

In it, McPhee urges readers to encourage other conservatives to vote in November. He goes on to warn that the consequences of not defeating Obama, a so-called “ideologue unlike anything world history has ever witnessed or recognized,” would be dire.

“[W]e shall not have any coarse [sic] but armed revolution should we fail with the power of the vote in November,” McPhee writes. “This Republic cannot survive for 4 more years underneath this political socialist ideologue.”

August 8, 2012

Nothing Better To Do?

How to waste time and marginalize yourself as an opinion journalist:

I have news to report: Rush Limbaugh has finally had it with me. He has decided that I’m rooting for America’s decline and that I’m a part of President Barack Obama’s “crop of Democrats.”

None of that is true, but it’s worth recounting how Rush and I got to this point. It is a small but instructive tale about today’s ferociously accusatory political culture.

Once upon a time, we debated.

Now we tweet and rant in a world of sound bites and the sound-bitten.

May 20, 2012

Makes No Census

Difficult to express how stupid this is:

But last week, the Republican-led House voted to eliminate the survey altogether, on the grounds that the government should not be butting its nose into Americans’ homes.

“This is a program that intrudes on people’s lives, just like the Environmental Protection Agency or the bank regulators,” said Daniel Webster, a first-term Republican congressman from Florida who sponsored the relevant legislation.

“We’re spending $70 per person to fill this out. That’s just not cost effective,” he continued, “especially since in the end this is not a scientific survey. It’s a random survey.”

In fact, the randomness of the survey is precisely what makes the survey scientific, statistical experts say.

May 18, 2012

Only Doing His Job

No. I’m no birther. But some people in my stare are, and — Heavens to Betsy! — I can’t just ignore them:

According to Bennett, his request for officials in Hawaii to verify the existence of Obama’s birth certificate has gone unanswered for eight weeks. Bennett said he was surprised by the lack of response, but it is worth mentioning that Hawaii hasn’t expressed the greatest fondness in being the primary recipient of incessant birther demands.

In 2010, before the release of Obama’s long-form birth certificate, the flood of birther activity became so distracting that Gov. Linda Lingle (R) signed a bill allowing state officials to ignore requests for copies of the document.

Bennett even admitted that Hawaiian officials told him they were “tired of all the requests,” but the secretary of state didn’t appear deterred.

Bennett’s move is just the latest birther bustle in Arizona, which has been a hotbed for Obama eligibility conspiracy theories over the past few years. Clamor over a bill meant to address the issue was temporarily silenced last year when Gov. Jan Brewer (R)vetoed the measure, calling it “a bridge too far.”

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