Monday, October 31, 2011

Can the Government Create Jobs?

Paul Krugman in the Times, on the rhetoric of job creation:
A few years back Representative Barney Frank coined an apt phrase for many of his colleagues: weaponized Keynesians, defined as those who believe “that the government does not create jobs when it funds the building of bridges or important research or retrains workers, but when it builds airplanes that are never going to be used in combat, that is of course economic salvation.” . . .
Paul Krugman, "Bombs, Bridges, and Jobs," New York Times, 31 October 2011.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Apple Picking

Picking apples. Camden County, New Jersey.

Rothstein, Arthur, 1915-1985, photographer. October 1938.

FSA-OWI collection, Library of Congress.

fsa 8b17177

In our course in American Rhetoric in the New Deal Era, 1932-1945, we have recently read John Steinbeck's In Dubious Battle, which describes a strike in California apple orchards in the period.

Another October

Migratory field worker, leader of the cotton strike of October 1938, which took place just before the election. Kern County, California.

Lange, Dorothea, photographer. November 1938. Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information (FSA-OWI) Collection, Library of Congress.

Digital ID - fsa 8b32701

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Tree Topping

Tree Topping. A worker topping an elm tree on Fisher Plaza, on the Penn State campus this week. October 24, 2011. Photo taken with my iPhone.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Occupy Education?

Tenured Radical on Occupy Wall Street and education:

Today’s lesson is: thanks to the absence of leadership from the political class; the failure to nurture an empowering dialogue between high school and college teachers that might have a broad impact on education policy; the domination of university Boards of Trustees by the 1%; and Wall Street’s destructive attempts to transform education into a tradable commodity, educators are increasingly drawn to the Occupy Wall Street movement. There could not be more chaos in the education world than there is now. . . .

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Democracy Does Matter

Kern Conference on Visual Communication - call for papers

The 5th William A. Kern Conference

on Visual Communication

Rochester Institute of Technology

May 3-5, 2012

When Images Cause Trouble:

Visual Communication,

Controversy, and Critical Engagement

Call for Papers

When do images cause trouble? One purpose of this conference is to discuss recent controversies in visual communication, including photojournalism, social media, advertising, and the visual arts, invoking issues of privacy, security, censorship, freedom of expression, and religious belief. In addition, as concerns over the power of images are not new, we would seek to historicize and contextualize current debates with historical perspectives, including, as an illustrative example, iconoclasm and the Protestant reformation in Europe –particularly Puritan image smashing in England during the 16th and 17th centuries. Following in the tradition of Kern conferences, we plan a rich program of interdisciplinary scholarship and conversation.

We invite submissions that address this theme from multiple points of view. How does work in visual communication, visual culture, visual rhetoric, and related fields shed light on controversial issues that surround the production and consumption of images? How can we understand current events in a historical perspective? What are the roles of regulation, oversight, government, and grass roots organizations in thinking seriously about images? What roles do technologies of surveillance play? How can we think about the ethics of representation?

Individual papers, visual presentations, panels and workshop proposals are welcomed.

Send extended abstracts (500 – 2500 words) via email to Jonathan Schroeder (

Submission deadline: January 15, 2012

Jonathan E. Schroeder

William A. Kern Professor of Communications

Rochester Institute of Technology

Rochester, New York 14623

Monday, October 17, 2011

St. John's College

New York Times on education, St. John's College, and Sarah Benson --

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Sarah Benson last encountered college mathematics 20 years ago in an undergraduate algebra class. Her sole experience teaching math came in the second grade, when the first graders needed help with their minuses.

And yet Ms. Benson, with a Ph.D. in art history and a master’s degree in comparative literature, stood at the chalkboard drawing parallelograms, constructing angles and otherwise dismembering Euclid’s Proposition 32 the way a biology professor might treat a water frog. Her students cared little about her inexperience. As for her employers, they did not mind, either: they had asked her to teach formal geometry expressly because it was a subject about which she knew very little. . . .

Alan Schwarz, "Seeing Value in Ignorance, College Expects Its Physicists to Teach Poetry," New York Times, 17 October 2011.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


Nicholas D. Kristof on Occupy Wall Street -
The 400 wealthiest Americans have a greater combined net worth than the bottom 150 million Americans.

The top 1 percent of Americans possess more wealth than the entire bottom 90 percent.

In the Bush expansion from 2002 to 2007, 65 percent of economic gains went to the richest 1 percent.

Nicholas D. Kristof, "America's 'Primal Scream,'" New York Times, 16 October 2011.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Sims Like Old Times

Did Herman Cain take his 9-9-9 tax plan from Sim City? This brings a whole new dimension to the notion of role of the think tank in American politics. According to the Huffington Post,

WASHINGTON -- In Herman Cain's America, the tax code would be very, very simple: The corporate income tax rate would be 9 percent, the personal income tax rate would be 9 percent and the national sales tax rate would be 9 percent.

But there's already a 999 plan out there, in a land called SimCity. . . . (more)

"Herman Cain 999 Plan: Did It Come from SimCity?" Huffington Post, 13 October 2011.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Civil War in the Civil Rights Era

David W. Blight, American Oracle: The Civil War in the Civil Rights Era (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011).

from the publisher:

Standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963, a century after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, Martin Luther King, Jr., declared, “One hundred years later, the Negro still is not free.” He delivered this speech just three years after the Virginia Civil War Commission published a guide proclaiming that “the Centennial is no time for finding fault or placing blame or fighting the issues all over again.”

David Blight takes his readers back to the centennial celebration to determine how Americans then made sense of the suffering, loss, and liberation that had wracked the United States a century earlier. Amid cold war politics and civil rights protest, four of America’s most incisive writers explored the gulf between remembrance and reality. Robert Penn Warren, the southern-reared poet-novelist who recanted his support of segregation; Bruce Catton, the journalist and U.S. Navy officer who became a popular Civil War historian; Edmund Wilson, the century’s preeminent literary critic; and James Baldwin, the searing African-American essayist and activist—each exposed America’s triumphalist memory of the war. And each, in his own way, demanded a reckoning with the tragic consequences it spawned.

Blight illuminates not only mid-twentieth-century America’s sense of itself but also the dynamic, ever-changing nature of Civil War memory. On the eve of the 150th anniversary of the war, we have an invaluable perspective on how this conflict continues to shape the country’s political debates, national identity, and sense of purpose.

David Brooks on Occupy Wall Street

If there is a core theme to the Occupy Wall Street movement, it is that the virtuous 99 percent of society is being cheated by the richest and greediest 1 percent.

This is a theme that allows the people in the 99 percent to think very highly of themselves. All their problems are caused by the nefarious elite.

Unfortunately, almost no problem can be productively conceived in this way. A group that divides the world between the pure 99 percent and the evil 1 percent will have nothing to say about education reform, Medicare reform, tax reform, wage stagnation or polarization. . . .
David Brooks, "The Milquetoast Radicals," New York Times, 11 October 2011.

Amending Senate Debate Rules

On Thursday, Republicans tried to get around that limit with a multitude of “motions to suspend the rules,” which violate the concept of cloture and could keep debate going even after a supermajority votes to move on. Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, decided that he had had enough and prompted a majority to vote to end this practice. It will now be out of order to try to suspend the rules once 60 senators have voted to end debate.

Any change that chips away at the gridlock in the Senate should be encouraged. Over the last three or four years, Senate Republicans have made a mockery of the minority party’s protections, routinely filibustering virtually every bill, blocking nominations and spending hours on political stunts designed to stymie and embarrass President Obama and the Democrats. . . .

"Chipping Away at Gridlock in the Senate," Editorial, New York Times, 11 October 2011.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Voter Fraud

It has been a record year for new legislation designed to make it harder for Democrats to vote — 19 laws and two executive actions in 14 states dominated by Republicans, according to a new study by the Brennan Center for Justice. . . .
Editorial, New York Times, 10 October 2011.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

What They Want - What We Need

"Protesters Against Wall Street," editorial, New York Times, 9 October 2011

The problem is that no one in Washington has been listening. . . . No wonder then that Occupy Wall Street has become a magnet for discontent. There are plenty of policy goals to address the grievances of the protesters — including lasting foreclosure relief, a financial transactions tax, greater legal protection for workers’ rights, and more progressive taxation. The country needs a shift in the emphasis of public policy from protecting the banks to fostering full employment, including public spending for job creation and development of a strong, long-term strategy to increase domestic manufacturing.

Debit Card Fraud

Lloyd Constantine, "Debit Card Fees Are Robbery," New York Times, 8 October 2011.
Banks that charge customers to use debit cards are trying to rationalize one of the largest illegal transfers of wealth from consumers to banks in American history.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Naomi Klein at Wall Street

Here's Naomi Klein's speech to Occupy Wall Street, reprinted in The Nation:
“Why are they protesting?” ask the baffled pundits on TV. Meanwhile, the rest of the world asks: “What took you so long?” “We’ve been wondering when you were going to show up.” And most of all: “Welcome.” . . .
Naomi Klein, "Occupy Wall Street: The Most Important Thing in the World Now," The Nation, 6 October 2011.

Cheering for Occupy Wall Street

Paul Krugman on Occupy Wall Street:

. . . It would probably be helpful if protesters could agree on at least a few main policy changes they would like to see enacted. But we shouldn’t make too much of the lack of specifics. It’s clear what kinds of things the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators want, and it’s really the job of policy intellectuals and politicians to fill in the details.

Rich Yeselson, a veteran organizer and historian of social movements, has suggested that debt relief for working Americans become a central plank of the protests. I’ll second that, because such relief, in addition to serving economic justice, could do a lot to help the economy recover. I’d suggest that protesters also demand infrastructure investment — not more tax cuts — to help create jobs. Neither proposal is going to become law in the current political climate, but the whole point of the protests is to change that political climate.

And there are real political opportunities here. Not, of course, for today’s Republicans, who instinctively side with those Theodore Roosevelt-dubbed “malefactors of great wealth.” Mitt Romney, for example — who, by the way, probably pays less of his income in taxes than many middle-class Americans — was quick to condemn the protests as “class warfare.”

But Democrats are being given what amounts to a second chance. The Obama administration squandered a lot of potential good will early on by adopting banker-friendly policies that failed to deliver economic recovery even as bankers repaid the favor by turning on the president. Now, however, Mr. Obama’s party has a chance for a do-over. All it has to do is take these protests as seriously as they deserve to be taken.

And if the protests goad some politicians into doing what they should have been doing all along, Occupy Wall Street will have been a smashing success.

Paul Krugman, "Confronting the Malefactors," New York Times, 7 October 2011.

What's on your list? The media may be concerned that Occupy Wall Street has no obvious leader or spokesperson, and that it has no coherent message, all of which make it hard for the news to create a story. But see Tod Gitlin's The Whole World Is Watching, in which he tells how SDS foundered on its interaction with the media's hunger for stars.'

A variety of writers on the left are offering lists of suggested objectives for the Occupy Wall Street movement to support -- that in itself is an accomplishment, as it has reached the level of visibility and energy that good thinkers are being drawn to offer shaping messages. Something like this happens in the run-up to an important Presidential speech -- op-ed writers offer hypothetical drafts. If the movement has already reached a point where concerned citizens can project longings in its direction, that's something. Not the whole story, and not enough, but something interesting from a rhetorical perspective.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Ecofeminism and Rhetoric

Douglas A. Vakoch, Ecofeminism and Rhetoric: Critical Perspectives on Sex, Technology, and Discourse (New York: Berghahn Books, 2011).

contents, from the publisher:

Glynis Carr, Bucknell University

Douglas A. Vakoch, California Institute of Integral Studies and SETI Institute

Chapter 1. “The rhetorics of critical ecofeminism: Conceptual connection and reasoned response”
Jeffrey Bile, Spalding University

Chapter 2. “Into the wild: An ecofeminist perspective on the human control of canine sexuality and reproduction”
Karla Armbruster, Webster University

Chapter 3. “Gender representations in orangutan primatological narratives: Essentialist interpretations of sexuality, motherhood and women”
Stacey K. Sowards, University of Texas at El Paso

Chapter 4. “Invitational rhetoric: Alternative rhetorical strategy as ecofeminist practice for transformation of perception and use of energy in the residential built environment from the Keweenaw to Kerala”
Merle Kindred, Centre of Science and Technology for Rural Development

Chapter 5. “Ecofeminist ethics and digital technology: A case study of Microsoft Word”
Julia E. Romberger, Old Dominion University

Patrick D. Murphy, University of Central Florida

Epilogue: “Unwrapping the enigma of ecofeminism: A solution to the illusion of incoherence”
Jeffrey A. Lockwood, University of Wyoming

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Politics of Child Care

Natalie M. Fouseckis, Demanding Child Care: Women's Activism and the Politics of Welfare, 1940-1971 (Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2011).

from the publisher:

During World War II, as women stepped in to fill jobs vacated by men in the armed services, the federal government established public child care centers in local communities for the first time. When the government announced plans to withdraw funding and terminate its child care services at the end of the war, women in California protested and lobbied to keep their centers open, even as these services rapidly vanished in other states.

Analyzing the informal networks of cross-class and cross-race reformers, policymakers, and educators, Demanding Child Care: Women's Activism and the Politics of Welfare, 1940–1971 traces the rapidly changing alliances among these groups. During the early stages of the childcare movement, feminists, Communists, and labor activists banded together, only to have these alliances dissolve by the 1950s as the movement welcomed new leadership composed of working-class mothers and early childhood educators. In the 1960s, when federal policymakers earmarked child care funds for children of women on welfare and children described as culturally deprived, it expanded child care services available to these groups but eventually eliminated public child care for the working poor.

Deftly exploring the possibilities for partnership and the limitations among these key parties as well as the structural forces impeding government support for broadly distributed child care, Fousekis helps to explain the barriers to a publicly funded comprehensive child care program in the United States.

The National Woman's Party

Belinda A. Stillion Southard, Militant Citizenship: Rhetorical Strategies of the National Woman's Party, 1913-1920 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2011).

from the publisher:

Between 1913 and 1920, the National Woman’s Party (NWP) waged a campaign to write women’s voting rights into the U.S. Constitution. Unlike the more moderate campaign strategies adopted by other woman suffrage organizations of the Progressive Era, the NWP remained committed to militant agitation—that is, holding political party leaders responsible for social change and doing so through nontraditional means of protest. Some of these militant strategies included heckling President Wilson, protesting silently outside the White House gates, and publicly burning his speeches in “Watch Fires.”

Such militancy resulted in institutional acts of social control including censorship, arrests, beatings, and force-feedings. And yet, by the end of the woman suffrage movement, the NWP had earned the endorsements of every major political party, as well as of prominent politicians (including Wilson), and had found its name splashed across the front pages of the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Chicago Tribune. One Times article even referred to the NWP as the “suffrage leaders.” Exploring the ways in which the militant NWP negotiated institutional opposition and secured such a prominent position in national politics drives the analysis offered in this manuscript.

In light of the NWP’s militant identity and its demonstrated political viability, Belinda A. Stillion Southard treats the party’s campaign for woman suffrage as an example of how a relatively powerless group of women constituted themselves as “national citizens” through rhetoric. To this end, she uses volumes of NWP discourse, including correspondence, photographs, protests, and publications, to situate the NWP in the historical and ideological forces of the period, particularly as they are inflected by meanings of nationalism, citizenship, and social activism. In addition to this project’s historical focus, this study features the critical concept of political mimesis to help explain the ways in which the NWP mimicked political rhetorics and rituals to simultaneously agitate and accommodate members of the political elite.

Taking root in Aristotle’s notion of mimesis as the process of representation and drawing upon more postmodern theories that link mimesis to identity-formation, this study demonstrates that the NWP’s mimetic strategies took multiple forms, including parody and appropriation. Through the rhetoric of political mimesis, the NWP militantly inserted itself into U.S. politics while it also earned the political legitimacy needed to assert women’s citizenship rights. Ultimately, the strength of political mimesis as a strategy of social change was demonstrated by the ways in which the NWP’s rhetoric circulated within national and international political discourse and solicited a response from political leaders, the U.S. news media, and NWP supporters.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Who Occupies Wall Street?

Nicholas Kristoff of the Times has some suggestions for the Occupy Wall Street protests - here is his list:

So for those who want to channel their amorphous frustration into practical demands, here are several specific suggestions:

¶Impose a financial transactions tax. This would be a modest tax on financial trades, modeled on the suggestions of James Tobin, an American economist who won a Nobel Prize. The aim is in part to dampen speculative trading that creates dangerous volatility. Europe is moving toward a financial transactions tax, but the Obama administration is resisting — a reflection of its deference to Wall Street.

¶Close the “carried interest” and “founders’ stock” loopholes, which may be the most unconscionable tax breaks in America. They allow our wealthiest citizens to pay very low tax rates by pretending that their labor compensation is a capital gain.

¶Protect big banks from themselves. This means moving ahead with Basel III capital requirements and adopting the Volcker Rule to limit banks’ ability to engage in risky and speculative investments. Another sensible proposal, embraced by President Obama and a number of international experts, is the bank tax. This could be based on an institution’s size and leverage, so that bankers could pay for their cleanups — the finance equivalent of a pollution tax.

Nicholas D. Kristoff, "The Bankers and the Revolutionaries," New York Times, 2 October 2011.

Media History in the U.S.

Janice Peck and Inger L. Stoller, eds., A Moment of Danger: Critical Studies in the History of U.S. Communication Since World War II (Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 2011).


Chapter 1: Introduction: Moments of Danger and Challenges to the “Selective Tradition” in U.S. Communication History
Janice Peck 1

Chapter 2: Politics as Patriotism: Advertising and Consumer Activism During World War II
Inger L. Stole 13

Chapter 3: The Revolt against Radio: Postwar Media Criticism and the Struggle for Broadcast Reform
Victor Pickard 35

Chapter 4: “Our union is not for sale”: The Postwar Struggle for Workplace Control in the American Newspaper Industry
James F. Tracy 57

Chapter 5: “Things will never be the same around here”: How See It Now Shaped Television News Reporting
Dinah Zeiger 83

Chapter 6: “We can remember it for you wholesale”: Lessons from the Broadcast Blacklist
Carol A. Stabile 105

Chapter 7: Foreign Correspondents, Passports and McCarthyism
Edward Alwood 133

Chapter 8: “Love that AFL-CIO”: Organized Labor’s Use of Television, 1950-1970
Nathan Godfried 15

Chapter 9: The Postwar “TV Problem” and the Formation of Public Television in the U.S.
Laurie Ouellette 179

Chapter 10: Lockouts, Protests, and Scabs: A Critical Assessment of the Los Angeles Herald Examiner Strike
Bonnie Brennen 207

Chapter 11: The Reporters’ Rebellion: The Chicago Journalism Review, 1968-1975
Steve Macek 231

Chapter 12: Oprah Winfrey and the Politics of Race in Late Twentieth Century America
Janice Peck 253

Chapter 13: Public Radio, This American Life and the Neoliberal Turn
Jason Loviglio 283

Chapter 14: “Sticking it to the man”; Neoliberalism: Corporate Media and Strategies of Resistance in the 21st Century
Deepa Kumar 307

Chapter 15: Contesting Democratic Communications: The Case of Current TV
James F. Hamilton 331

Chapter 16: Critical Media Literacy: Critiquing Corporate Media with Radical Production
Bettina Fabos 355