Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Are Your Students Sleeping?

Tracy Jan writes in the Boston Globe about college students who are not getting enough sleep.

Tracy Jan, "Colleges Calling Sleep a Success Prerequisite," Boston Globe, 30 September 2008.

It's an age-old predicament: Caffeine-fueled college students cramming for exams and writing papers until the crack of dawn, then skipping or snoozing through classes. Sleep deprivation has long been considered a rite of passage, a point of pride even.

But now, alarmed by recent studies tying lack of sleep to poor academic performance, college officials are urging students just to go to bed. More than a dozen Massachusetts schools have begun waging campaigns touting the benefits of sleep through dorm seminars, posters, and catchy slogans like, "Want A's? Get Z's."

NPR on Palin-Biden Debate Preparation

National Public Radio - ALL THINGS CONSIDERED on the VP Debate today:

Election 2008

How VP Candidates Are Preparing for Debate

Audio for this story will be available at approx. 7:00 p.m. ET

All Things Considered, September 30, 2008 · On Thursday, Joe Biden and Sarah Palin will participate in the only vice presidential debate. Jennifer Palmieri, senior vice president of communications for the Center for American Progress, and Republican media strategist Stuart Stevens discuss the candidates' preparation.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Daily Kos, John McCain Fails to Deliver Votes

The Daily Kos account of John McCain's to-ing and fro-ing over today's failed vote on the financial rescue package is here.

Barney Frank, Somebody Hurt Their Feelings

The video of the Republican explanation for today's failed vote, blaming it on Speaker Pelosi, and Barney Frank's "because somebody hurt their feelings they decided to punish the country" is here.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Jon Stewart on McCain Stunt

Jon Stewart on the Daily Show announces John McCain's impulsive response to a 10-day-old crisis.

Hendrik Hertzberg on the Palin - Couric Interview

Hendrik Hertzberg at the New Yorker on the Palin - Couric interview.

See also Hertzberg's account of John McCain's "let's make it a hundred" commitment on how many years the U.S. should stay in Iraq.

Communication Advice for Joe Biden

"Communication Advice for Joe Biden," from Daily Kos

Fareed Zakariah on Sarah Palin


Fareed Zakaria

Palin Is Ready? Please.

McCain says that he always puts country first. In this important case, that is simply not true.

Tina Fey as Sarah Palin

Here's the link to Huffington Post and the video.

McCain's Suspension Bridge to Nowhere

from the New York Times
Published: September 28, 2008

John McCain may be the first presidential candidate in our history to risk wrecking the country even before being voted into the Oval Office.

Rich provides useful links and a close review of last week's crazy McCain timeline.

Paul Newman is Still HUD

Paul Newman is Still HUD

From today's New York Times:

Published: August 19, 2003
The Fox News Network is suing Al Franken, the political satirist, for using the phrase fair and balanced in the title of his new book. In claiming trademark violation, Fox sets a noble example for standing firm against whatever. Unreliable sources report that the Fox suit has inspired Paul Newman, the actor, to file a similar suit in federal court against the Department of Housing and Urban Development, commonly called HUD. Mr. Newman claims piracy of personality and copycat infringement.


Mary Fitzpatrick describes "voluntourism" -- travelers to New Orleans to volunteer in rebuilding efforts for the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Rebuilding Together New Orleans

National Trust for Historic Preservation


Art For Obama: Authenticity And Purity Of Race And Patriotism

Art For Obama: Authenticity And Purity Of Race And Patriotism

Posted using ShareThis

(Notes on) Politics, Theory & Photography: A Bailout We Don't Need

(Notes on) Politics, Theory & Photography: A Bailout We Don't Need


If you are looking for a chance to travel but don't want a study tour and would rather commit yourself to doing something useful and learning something new, consider volunteering.

Here are some opportunities --

American Friends Service Committee -- I was a volunteer in their Mexico project in 1956. AFSC entry at Volunteer Match


Volunteer Abroad -- opportunities in Italy

Transitions Abroad -- opportunities in Italy

Global Volunteers -- opportunities in Italy

CADIP -- Canadian Alliance for Development Initiatives and Projects -- opportunities in Italy

Friday, September 26, 2008

Sarah Palin and the Rape Kits

Dorothy Samuels writes in today's New York Times that "Even in tough budget times, there are lines that cannot be crossed. So I was startled by this tidbit reported recently by The Associated Press: When Sarah Palin was mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, the small town began billing sexual-assault victims for the cost of rape kits and forensic exams."

Dorothy Samuels, "Wasilla Watch: Sarah Palin and the Rape Kits," New York Times, 26 September 2008.


One of John McCain's early TV ads, which started showing on 5 August 2008, is called "Broken."

For students of rhetoric and of the presidency, it is a curious ad, since McCain is a Senator running for President, and yet the illustration that we see when we hear the voiceover telling us that "Washington is broken . . . " is the floor of Congress. By his direct and indirect disavowals of George Bush, McCain seems to convey that it is the presidency that has been broken, by George Bush -- and yet the ad invokes the old cultural cliche of a gridlocked Congress.

Is McCain arguing that presidential action can enhance Congressional deliberation, or that, since all hope for Congressional deliberation is lost, only a president can step forward and offer decisive leadership in place of deliberation? It is not an idle question, since this is exactly the question at the center of the idea of the rhetorical presidency advanced by Jeffrey Tulis, The Rhetorical Presidency (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989). Tulis, whose thesis is much debated among political scientists, historians, and rhetorical scholars, argues that beginning with Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, presidents have increasingly found various means of pre-empting Congressional deliberation by direct popular appeals to the people, resulting in plebiscitary government.

For a recent discussion of the rhetorical presidency, see David Cheshier, Amateur Humanist (thanks to Hillary Jones for a tip about this link).

Where Is John McCain?

John McCain has had a strange few weeks. He has gone from trying to recover his maverick credentials to almost completely untethered from reality -- or so it seems in what one sees in the media.

The famous series of absolute switches over a few days from "the economy is fundamentally sound" to "the economy is in trouble" to "I haven't actually read the [3-page] bailout plan" to "I am going to suspend my campaign" to "that doesn't mean I won't give speeches, run ads, and do everything else a campaign does" to "I'm going to Washington and won't leave until a deal is agreed to by all parties" to blowing up the deal that was coming together and then, today, announcing that we would, after all, show up for the debate with Barack Obama tonight in Mississippi.

Earlier this morning, before he announced that he would change his mind again and participate in the debate, his campaign web site posted an ad claiming that he had won the debate.

See Sam Stein, "McCain 'Blinked,' Campaign 'Governed by Tactics, Not Ideology,'" Huffington Post, 26 September 2008.

Economists' Petition

Perhaps it was just a prop, but Republican Senator Richard Shelby waved a petition that he and other senators had received from economists, arguing that Congress should slow down on the passage of the administration's $700 billion bailout of Wall Street, as if it really had made a difference to his own thinking.

The petition, initiated at the University of Chicago, presented a critique of the plan itself from economists of widely differing opinions about what in the end should be done, if anything.

Today's Chronicle of Higher Education as an interesting background piece on the petition and its call for deliberation, which should surely be interesting to students of rhetoric.

"Economists and the Bailout: For Once, a Petition Has an Impact," Chronicle of Higher Education News Blog, 26 September 2008.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Photo Op - Not

The Huffington Post and other news organizations reported today that the planned visit of Sarah Palin to the UN today, designed to introduce her to foreign leaders and demonstrate that she is qualified in foreign policy, met a united wall of resistance from the networks when they discovered that the whole event was a (gasp!) photo-op.

Network and newspaper reporters were barred by the McCain campaign from the event -- only the photographers and videographers were allowed to work -- thus ensuring that the captive networks and newspapers would print photographs that constituted the story of Palin on the international stage.

In response, the networks did something almost unprecedented -- they refused to play along. They told the McCain-Palin campaign that they would not report the event under the restrictions imposed.

See also Michael Cooper, "Palin in the City," New York Times Politics Blog, 23 September 2008.

See also Scott Lilly, "Playing Hooky Pays Off for Palin," Politico, 23 September 2008.

The Palin lockout of the press continues.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Obama Ad on Healthcare Deregulation

The Huffington Post this morning has the video of the Obama campaign ad responding to McCain's proposals to deregulate health care.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Conservatives Abandon McCain

On ABC News today George Will, Cokie Roberts, and Sam Donaldson agreed that John McCain appeared to be unfit for the presidency.

The Court, the World

In recent years, the citation of American court decisions by courts in other nations has rapidly declined.

Legal scholars and jurists in the United States debate whether the laws and practices of other countries should be of any interest in the decisions of our own courts--or our presidency and Congress.

Adam Liptak, "U.S. Court Is Guiding Fewer Nations," New York Times, 17 September 2008.

Our government has long held that we are a beacon of freedom for the world. In the Civil Rights era of the 1960s, one heard the appeal that "the whole world is watching." Should we care that the world, especially the most advanced nations, seems to be deciding that the United States is no longer such a beacon?

Presidential and VP Debates

The New York Times reports today that the formats for this season's presidential and vice-presidential campaigns have been negotiated.

"The Obama and McCain campaigns have agreed to an unusual free-flowing format for the three televised presidential debates, which begin Friday, but the McCain camp fought for and won a much more structured approach for the questioning at the vice-presidential debate, advisers to both campaigns said Saturday."

Patrick Healy, "Pact on Debates Will Let McCain and Obama Spar," New York Times, 21 September 2008.

What strange language we talk when we talk about politics: a "pact" is about making peace, typically with an international treaty; a "debate" is about a mode of structured deliberation; "sparring" is a faux fight. Yet when we read these three words in a headline about a TV meeting between two presidential candidates, the words do not immediately strike us as mismatched. Is this a sign of our sophistication or our confusion?

Campaign Language and the GOPAC Memo

In 1990 Newt Gingrich circulated what came to be known as the GOPAC Memo, instructing politicians on the right how to choose a vocabulary suited to the style of campaign that Gingrich mastered.

Today's Doonesbury features the GOPAC Memo, "Language: A Key Mechanism of Control," a version of which may be found here.

Gingrich did not invent dirty campaigning, but he made a contribution.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Abdication by Palin

The Anchorage Daily News complains that Governor Palin has abdicated the functions of her governor's office to the McCain campaign staff.

"Abdication by Palin"

"When did the McCain campaign take over the governor's office?"

More on Troopergate

Barack Obama Speaks to Women about the Economic Crisis

Barack Obama on the economic crisis, September 20 on YouTube.

John McCain's health care plan

Paul Krugman, a Princeton economist, on John McCain's idea to further privatize health insurance -- deregulate it to make it more like the financial markets.

Other reports indicate that Senator McCain also advocates privatizing Social Security. Let the market take care of it.

McCain, as chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, oversaw the widespread deregulation that he has complained about this week -- when he hasn't defended it.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Race and the Campaign

This post appeared yesterday in CRTNET:

Lisa Dove, EJLISADOVE@aol.com 

>From Letters to the Editors @ Fort Worth Star-Telegram - today

How racism works

What if John McCain were a former president of the Harvard Law Review?

What if Barack Obama finished fifth from the bottom of his graduating class?

What if McCain were still married to the first woman he said "I do" to?

What if Obama were the candidate who left his first wife after she no longer measured up to his standards?

What if Michelle Obama were a wife who not only became addicted to pain killers, but acquired them illegally through her charitable organization?

What if Cindy McCain graduated from Harvard?

What if Obama were a member of the "Keating 5"?

What if McCain was a charismatic, eloquent speaker?

If these questions reflected reality, do you really believe the election numbers would be as close as they are?

This is what racism does.

It covers up, rationalizes and minimizes positive qualities in one candidate and emphasizes negative qualities in another when there is a color difference.

See also BAGNewsNotes on McCain campaign ad.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Faith, Secrecy, Cronyism, . . . and Reform

Perhaps process issues are not the most important elements in the current presidential election campaign -- after all, there's the war, national security, health care, trade, the economy.

And yet both campaigns are now promising to bring REFORM to Washington and its politics.

Barack Obama has argued from the beginning that the path to reform and national unity is to be found in deliberation and compromise.

John McCain and Sarah Palin also claim to be on the warpath to reform.

It seems to me that the sort of faith-based certainties, cronyism, and secrecy that are so characteristic of the McCain-Palin ticket make reform unlikely if not impossible. Genuine reform can only come from government transparency, with reasoned deliberation among a wide group of differing views, and with an active and open process to recruit competent civil servants.

These qualities are notably missing in the McCain campaign and in the record of Sarah Palin as a mayor and as governor of Alaska.

We do need reform, but we won't get it with faith-based (and gut-based) decisions, secrecy, and cronyism.

Jo Becker, Peter S. Goodman and Michael Powell, "Once Elected, Palin Hired Friends and Lashed Foes," New York Times, 14 September 2008.

Huffington Post on Palin-Gibson interview

The Huffington Post has links to video and a transcript of the Palin-Gibson interview.

Palin as Governor

It has taken some time for the truly discouraging picture of Sarah Palin's political career to take shape in the serious press. Here's an excerpt from today's article in the Times:

Ms. Palin walks the national stage as a small-town foe of “good old boy” politics and a champion of ethics reform. The charismatic 44-year-old governor draws enthusiastic audiences and high approval ratings. And as the Republican vice-presidential nominee, she points to her management experience while deriding her Democratic rivals, Senators Barack Obama and Joseph R. Biden Jr., as speechmakers who never have run anything.

But an examination of her swift rise and record as mayor of Wasilla and then governor finds that her visceral style and penchant for attacking critics — she sometimes calls local opponents “haters” — contrasts with her carefully crafted public image.

Throughout her political career, she has pursued vendettas, fired officials who crossed her and sometimes blurred the line between government and personal grievance, according to a review of public records and interviews with 60 Republican and Democratic legislators and local officials.

Jo Becker, Peter S. Goodman and Michael Powell, "Once Elected, Palin Hired Friends and Lashed Foes," New York Times, 14 September 2008.

On Palin as a mayor, see Alec McGillis, "As Mayor of Wasilla, Palin Cut Own Duties, Left Trail of Bad Blood," Washington Post, 14 September 2008.

As councilwoman. From BAGNewsNotes: Early Signs of Sarah Palin's Radical Agenda?

Dowd on Gibson-Palin

Maureen Dowd writes today in the Times about Sarah Palin's interview last week with Charlie Gibson of ABC News, her first interview since being named by John McCain more than a week earlier:

An Arctic blast of action has swept into the 2008 race, making thinking passé. We don’t really need to hurt our brains studying the world; we just need the world to know we’re capable of bringing a world of hurt to the world if the world continues to be hell-bent on misbehaving. . . .

The really scary part of the Palin interview was how much she seemed like W. in 2000, and not just the way she pronounced nu-cue-lar. She had the same flimsy but tenacious adeptness at saying nothing, the same generalities and platitudes, the same restrained resentment at being pressed to be specific, as though specific is the province of silly eggheads, not people who clear brush at the ranch or shoot moose on the tundra.

Maureen Dowd, "Bering Straight Talk," New York Times, 14 September 2008.

See also Steve Coll, "The Bush Doctrine," The New Yorker: Think Tank [blog], 15 September 2008.

The difference

Thomas Friedman in today's New York Times:

In order to disguise the fact that the core of his campaign is to continue the same Bush policies that have led 80 percent of the country to conclude we’re on the wrong track, McCain has decided to play the culture-war card. Obama may be a bit professorial, but at least he is trying to unite the country to face the real issues rather than divide us over cultural differences.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Battle Exhortation

This month, the University of South Carolina Press is publishing Keith Yellin's Battle Exhortation. Here's the catalog entry

Battle Exhortation
The Rhetoric of Combat Leadership

Keith Yellin

A commanding study of the motivational speech of military leaders across the centuries

6 x 9, 208 pages
cloth, $34.95s
ISBN 978-1-57003-735-1