Archive for November 24, 2011

Of Presidents and Turkeys

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Later today, I’m going to eat lots of turkey. So will millions of Americans celebrating Thanksgiving (and steeling themselves for the ravages of Black Friday, which this year is blasphemously beginning on Thursday). But of the 46 million turkeys that will be gobbled down today (that works out to 3 pounds of bird per person — really???), at least two will be spared. Liberty, and his understudy Peace, were officially pardoned by President Barack Obama yesterday at a White House ceremony.

At a time of overseas war, national and global economic distress and virulent partisan political bickering, is it a worthy use of the President’s time to pardon a turkey? Actually, yeah, it is.

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Steve Benen Beat Us To Romney’s, umm…

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So Mitt Romney’s first campaign ad was released, with a glaring falsehood created by manipulative editing — see if you can spot it:


The Denizens were all set to rip this one out – but Steve Benen at Political Animal beat us to it… and doing so with one of the Denizens’ favorite philosophers:

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Pre-Thanksgiving Leftovers

One of the things the Denizens are thankful for this holiday season is Factcheck.org, sponsored by the Annenberg Public Policy Center. It is perhaps the best nonpartisan fact-checking institution out there.  When it comes to something like a campaign debate, their services are vital.  Do be sure to check them out regularly (like we do — they’re on our blogroll! See the menu to your right.)

Here’s their take on last night’s GOP primary debate: Pre-Thanksgiving Leftovers.

Poll Numbers Have Their Privileges

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Clearly, a number of linked circumstances (public stumbles by Rick Perry and Herman Cain; perpetual lukewarm support of Mitt Romney; a media blitz last weekend) have led to former Speaker Newt Gingrich’s new frontrunner status in the GOP presidential primary race.

As evidence of the relationship between ephemeral audience preferences and media agenda-setting, my friend Eric Ostermeier, a political scientist at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs, has released an illuminating content analysis of last night’s GOP debate. Frontrunners get more talk-time, potentially perpetuating their frontrunner status by framing them as such (unless they commit a serious gaffe, provide a generally unimpressive performance, or… what was that third thing?).

Smart Politics is a great nonpartisan site for research and analysis… it’s on our blogroll!  You should read it.

Missed Opportunity: Funding our Future

Republican candidates debate national security issues at CNN debate in Washington, D.C. on November 22, 2011.

In CNN’s Republican debate on national security issues, there was a point where issues of immigration and education came into the discussion. The latest entrant to the frontrunner spot slightly ahead of Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, said the U.S. should have a visa attached to every math and science degree to assure foreign graduates stay. While this is a nice sentiment, it brings up the question of how the Republicans as well as the rest of the political establishment in the United States really feels about education.

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Will the Bath Wash Off the Pepper Spray?

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Last Saturday at a forum for Republican presidential candidates at a church in Des Moines, Iowa (one must hesitate before labeling this event a “debate,” as precious little competition of ideas actually took place), Newt Gingrich took on the progressive Occupy movement with some words that provided red meat to the cultural conservative GOP base. These words came a day after peaceful Occupy protestors at the University of California – Davis were subjected to point-blank pepper spray from police, a moment that quickly became a point of national controversy and a rapidly viral internet meme.  Gingrich’s remarks illustrate both how he has filled (at least for now) the rhetorical leadership gap in the national Republican party, and why his candidacy is ultimately doomed.

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All About Dr. Steve Klien

So, when folks consult “experts” in American politics, political scientists and historians tend to be the go-to specialists.  What can a rhetorician bring to the table? A little background on me might shed some light.

I am currently Associate Professor of Communication Studies, and Chair of the Fine and Performing Arts Division of Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois.  As a member of the Communication Studies Department faculty, I teach courses in political communication, rhetorical theory and criticism, media studies, and communication research. Two of the current staples of my teaching responsibilities are courses entitled “Communication, Politics, and Citizenship” (an introduction to political communication and rhetorical studies), and “Critical Analysis of Messages” (a course in the rhetorical criticism of public address, which I teach in a Learning Community with Chris Whitt on “The American Presidency in Times of Crisis”).

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All About Dr. Christopher Whitt

I have been living in Rock Island, Illinois since moving here to take a position as a professor in the political science department at Augustana College in August of 2007. Being a part of a supportive and dynamic department such as Augustana’s Political Science Department has be a real blessing. A little while after arriving at Augustana I became one of the four principle founders and a contributing faculty member in the college’s Africana Studies program. Another one of my roles at the college is advising a number of student organizations and working closely with the administration on issues pertaining to diversity in the faculty, administration, staff and even the student body. Continually I have worked to make special efforts to reach beyond the boundaries of the Augustana campus into Rock Island, the Quad Cities community and across the country in many instances of service and outreach.

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We are the Political Denizens

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Politics aggravates a lot of people. Politics confuses a lot of people. And because of this, politics disaffects a lot of people. According to a May 21, 2009 poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press,

More than three-quarters (76%) agree that “elected officials in Washington lose touch with the people pretty quickly.” More than half (51%) agree that “people like me don’t have any say about what the government does.”

This condition, clearly, is most troubling for a political system and a larger political culture committed (at least in theory) to a democracy grounded in the active participation of citizens. We find ourselves in an irksome paradox: the shape of our politics can’t improve without active citizen involvement, but active citizen involvement is depressed to a large extent due to the state of our politics. What to do?  The Political Denizens believe that informed discourse on our public life is a crucial piece to this puzzle.

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