The Blogora: The Rhetoric Society of America


Learning from Chet Edwards

Submitted by Jim Aune on October 15, 2006 - 3:21pm

One would think that the 17th congressional district of Texas (including both Waco and Bryan-College Station) would be the reddest part of the red state of Texas (it went 70% for Bush in 2004), but Chet Edwards, who narrowly retained his seat after the DeLay gerrymander in 2002, is leading his Republican opponent Van Taylor in the polls: 55% to 38%. Taylor has made some serious missteps: running entirely negative ads (except for one on his family, faith, and freedom commitments--"freedom" was the voiceover for a shot of an old guy with a hunting rifle) and concentrating heavily on the illegal immigrant issue, which doesn't seem much of a worry in this district. Chet is emphasizing the fact that Taylor is a carpetbagger from Dallas who doesn't understand that "we" don't run campaigns in a negative way here, that Taylor owns millions of dollars in stock in drug companies, and wants to ban importation of prescription drugs from Canada, and wants to "gamble" with Social Security.

I don't know why this is so complicated for the Democrats: emphasize government help for all citizens, not special interests; steer clear of the "social" issues in districts where voters care about them.



Submitted by Anonymous on October 15, 2006 - 8:43am

Roger sent parts of this to me a while ago, but I didn't have time then even to look at it. Rog, I love how the project is coming along!

From: Roger Stahl
I've posted online a downloadable version of "Militainment, Inc." a nine-part documentary exploring the intersection of militarism and popular culture.

This video is part of some other work I am doing on the subject, including a book by the same name. You might find the video to be a useful classroom tool for discussions of the rhetorics of war, marketing, pop culture, visual comm, new media, journalism, and related topics. I'm currently working on distribution, but for now, I would like
to make it freely available.

Roger Stahl


Condi and Laura Want to Destroy the Family

Submitted by Jim Aune on October 15, 2006 - 7:01am

As First Lady Laura Bush stood behind her, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice administered the oath of office on Oct. 10 to gay physician Mark Dybul as U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, a post that has the rank of ambassador.

In a ceremony held at the State Department’s historic Benjamin Franklin Room, Dybul placed his hand on a Bible held by his domestic partner, Jason Claire. Dybul’s parents and Claire’s mother stood nearby as Dybul became the nation’s third openly gay ambassador.

“I am truly honored and delighted to have the opportunity to swear in Mark Dybul as our next Global AIDS Coordinator,” Rice said. “I am pleased to do that in the presence of Mark’s parents, Claire and Richard, his partner, Jason, and his mother-in-law, Marilyn,” she said.

“You have a wonderful family to support you, Mark, and I know that’s always important to us. Welcome,” Rice said.

In remarks following the swearing-in, Laura Bush noted that Dybul will oversee President Bush’s $15 billion Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, a widely acclaimed program backed by AIDS activists and approved by Congress as part of an aggressive U.S. effort to fight AIDS in developing countries.

“I know you’ll bring great skill and enthusiasm to the fight against AIDS,” Laura Bush said. “Congratulations, ambassador.”

More at Washington Blade


Nuking Iran?

Submitted by Jim Aune on October 14, 2006 - 6:00pm

The Nation makes a prima facie case for an attack on Iran as the October Surprise.

Short of some accompanying domestic Reichstag Fire, I really wonder if this would work.


Rove's October Surprise?

Submitted by Jim Aune on October 13, 2006 - 11:53am

On Sept. 21, Raw Story reported that Karl Rove was telling conservative groups that he had a surprise scheduled for the last two weeks of October that would turn the midterms in the Republicans’ favor. Several blogs I read are discussing what this might be. The two favorites appear to be: the announcement of OBL's death or capture and the bombing of Iran. Or is it finally time to admit that Rove isn't the wizard liberals make him out to be?

Paul Krugman, one of the most sensible commentators out there on economics and politics, makes this claim in today's NYT:

"The conventional wisdom says that the Democrats will take control of the House of Representatives next month, but only by a small margin," writes Krugman. "I've been looking at the numbers, however, and I believe this conventional wisdom is almost all wrong." Citing recent polls, ongoing troubles in Iraq, and the "sudden realization by many voters that the self-proclaimed champions of moral values are hypocrites," Krugman foresees that "the permanent Republican majority will end in a little over three weeks." (rawstory's summary).

This sounds an awful lot like pride goething before a fall. I am convinced that there will be dozens of lawsuits related to voter suppression that will potentially create a constitutional crisis.

And the Bushism of the Day from Slate:

"One has a stronger hand when there's more people playing your same cards."—Washington, D.C., Oct. 11, 2006

And Bush's new favorite word is "unacceptable" (an oddly passive construction). From the Washington Post


NSF History of the Doctorate in the 20th Century

Submitted by Jim Aune on October 13, 2006 - 4:06am

A few interesting facts:

Changes in demographics

* Men received 73 percent of all doctorates awarded in the 20th century, but in the 1990s, women made significant gains, receiving over 40 percent of all doctorates.

* Foreign nationals held less than 10 percent of all doctorates before 1960 but received more than a third of all science and engineering (S&E) doctorates by 1999, and 17 percent of non-S&E doctorates.

New pathways to doctoral degrees

* Two-year colleges vastly increased their role in educating those who go on to pursue a Ph.D. In the century's final 5 years, 1995-1999, one-fifth of all American Indians/Alaska Natives who received doctorates attended two-year colleges. One-sixth of all Hispanic Ph.D. recipients also reported having attended two-year colleges.

* From 1995-1999, almost a third of African-American Ph.D. recipients reported receiving an undergraduate degree from a Historically Black College or University (HBCU).

Increasing Indebtedness

* In 1999, for the first time, more than half of all graduating doctorates reported debt from their undergraduate and graduate education.

* In non-S&E fields, doctorates owing more than $20,000 from education loans quadrupled between the late 1980s and late 1990s. The corresponding percentage for science and engineering doctorates owing more than $20,000 was also significant, more than doubling during the same period.

The full report is Here


Middle Eastern Wars and Conquests

Submitted by Jim Aune on October 12, 2006 - 1:22pm

I love maps (even if, as my friends will attest, I have utterly no sense of direction.) Here is a way cool interactive map of changing political power in the Middle East from 3000 BCE to the Present.


Criminal Incompetence

Submitted by Jim Aune on October 12, 2006 - 1:14pm


FBI agents still don't know Arabic. Five years after 9/11, "only 33 FBI agents have even a limited proficiency in Arabic, and none of them work in the sections of the bureau that coordinate investigations of international terrorism, according to new FBI statistics."


Congress' Rational Irrational Choice

Submitted by Jim Aune on October 12, 2006 - 12:28pm

Dahlia Lithwick, Slate's Supreme Court reporter, has a great article on Congressional motivations for passing things like the Flag Burning Amendment or the Torture bill: Here

Congress assumes that the Supreme Court will strike down unconstitutional provisions, while Congress gets to pander on emotional issues as well as blaming the Court for everything. I argue in a forthcoming article on the Fed that Congress and the President did something similar with monetary policy during the Truman Administration: both branches of government yielded control over the economy to the unelected Federal Reserve Board in order to have a scapegoat for failed economic policies.

I have always been a strong believer in the "republican" insistence on deliberative filters to prevent the excesses of democratic passion or mob rule, but this buck-passing problem suggests a problem with the separation of powers principle in a telepolitical age. If there is no realistic way to restore the deliberative capacities of Congress under the current system, should we, as radicals like Mark Tushnet suggest, simply scrap judicial review and move to a British system of legislative supremacy, in the hopes that it might revitalize democracy? At least then the lines of responsibility and accountability would be clear. I'll repeat my admonition here that rhetoricians who discuss deliberative democracy need to come to grips with these issues of institutional design.


10th Annual Public Address Conference

Submitted by Jim Aune on October 12, 2006 - 11:43am

I attended the 10th annual Public Address Conference last weekend at Vanderbilt. John Sloop and his colleagues put together an efficiently-run and interesting conference on the general theme of "Epideictic." This is a biennial conference that moves from university to university--in 2008, it will be held at UW-Madison, the site of the first conference in 1988 (and I'm hoping to propose Texas A&M as the site for 2010). The backstory: the 1970's were hard times for rhetoricians in the then Speech Communication Association. A number of departments were taken over by hard-core quantitative social scientists who could not tolerate humanistic inquiry (and who were able to pad their vitae and impress deans by publishing article upon article simply by tweaking a variable here and there). SCA also had always been more of a teaching discipline, so there was not a large body of scholarship, particularly in the analysis of public discourse, to create a viable academic tradition. Enter Michael Leff, then at Wisconsin, who believed that identifying a canon of public address, mainly speeches, and then subjecting them to close textual analysis, would revitalize the field. Which it did. Each subsequent Public Address conference consisted of a series of papers on a single speech or related documents, with critical responses, and a keynote address on the conference theme. There were almost no scholarly books on public address published by 1988; now it is difficult to keep up on the important books published each year.

Since this conference was itself conducted in an epideictic mood, it was interesting to observe the underlying tensions among different approaches to scholarship. The original impulse of the conference, best represented by Leff-Zarefsky-Medhurst, was to reject theoretical inquiry (either in the humanities sense of Big Theory or in the Rod Hart sense of theory construction), and focusing either on close reading (Leff, Browne, others) or on archival reconstruction of strategies (Karlyn Campbell and her students, Medhurst, Hogan, Zarefsky). Both Dilip Gaonkar and I had warned in 1988 that we should be careful about "theory-bashing" if we wanted to converse with the rest of the humanities (and social-science) disciplines. A second strain of public address scholarship, represented, I think, by Bob Hariman, Maurice Charland, John Lucaites, Celeste Condit, and me, is more interested in "macro" issues--how individual rhetorical performances get aggregated into "ideologies." And, finally, a funny bit of tension emerged at the conference when we honored Bruce Gronbeck at the Saturday night banquet (each conference also honors a senior person in the field). Bruce had majorly angered some of the major players in the Public Address conference in 1996, when he proposed that the 1998 conference at Iowa would discuss the mass media as public address, thus jettisoning the previous focus on speeches. So Bruce spent a few moments justifying his expansive view of public address to include tv commercials, and even tv drama/comedy. I personally would reject this third option, largely because I believe that we cannot understand present -day law and politics without a thorough understanding of our oratorical past, although I will grant that most political business these days is done in electronic forms.

At any rate, along with RSA and the Alta conference, I believe this is one of the best conferences, and I hope we see more folks from English at future ones.