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Posts Tagged ‘rhetoric’

Arianna Huffington’s latest article condemning laissez-faire as a failed philosophy hits all the right lefty notes. Parts of it almost seem lifted from Obama’s election rhetoric. Not wholly unexpected from a woman who once proclaimed that she only texts three people: her two teenage children and Barack Obama.

Actually, Huffington’s piece is so bad that it almost reads like a self-parody. From her depiction of Bush — a man who oversaw the biggest regulatory expansion since Nixon — as the ultimate free market champion to her refusal to even attempt any kind of analysis,  Huffington reveals herself, like so many others, as a person blinded by her love for the echo chamber she lives in. Naomi Klein’s terrible book which conveniently lumped together all her enemies into an undefinable mass that she could pummel still made a basic, incontrovertible point — times of crisis give those in power an opportunity to extend their sway. Even the Times article Huffington so approvingly links to contains some redeeming features — interesting quotes, lots of relevant history, a (correct) indictment of Bush’s disastrous home-ownership-at-all-costs policy — that make it a good read. Articles by Krugman and Stiglitz, despite their obvious bias often bordering on intellectual dishonesty, usually contain one or two nuggets of truth. Huffington’s piece, full of huffy moralizing and utter lack of intellectual depth, makes you wonder why you just gave up two minutes of your life.

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So far, Obama has proved to be a pragmatic centrist as far as economic policy is concerned. His decision to give quiet burial to the ridiculous windfall profits tax idea is further evidence that he didn’t mean much of the shrill left-wing rhetoric he used during the campaign season. That’s heartening.

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Inflammatory rhetoric from doomsday-sayers isn’t anything new; nevertheless this statement by climatologist James Hansen strikes me as extreme.

Special interests have blocked transition to our renewable energy future. Instead of moving heavily into renewable energies, fossil companies choose to spread doubt about global warming, as tobacco companies discredited the smoking-cancer link. Methods are sophisticated, including disguised funding to shape school textbook discussions.

CEOs of fossil energy companies know what they are doing and are aware of long-term consequences of continued business as usual. In my opinion, these CEOs should be tried for high crimes against humanity and nature. If their campaigns continue and “succeed” in confusing the public, I anticipate testifying against relevant CEOs in future public trials. 

Global warming is real; the science proves it. However, equating the actions of Oil company CEO’s (or tobacco CEO’s for that matter) with actual crimes against humanity displays an astonishing lack of understanding of the words involved and a terrible disregard for the freedoms we hold dear.

(Link via The Volokh Conspiracy)

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Obama steps up the populist rhetoric.

“We’re ready to play offense for organized labor,” Obama said. “It’s time we had a President who didn’t choke saying the word ‘union.’ A President who knows it’s the Department of Labor and not the Department of Management.”

I sincerely hope this is just rhetoric. 

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There is little doubt that the Wright controversy is the biggest crisis that the Obama campaign has faced so far. Some commentators have hastened to declare that it is, in fact, over for Obama. There is virtually no chance of him winning the general election anymore, they claim, even if he somehow manages to cling on to the nomination. Undoubtedly, the reaction of the blogosphere has been mostly negative, with some notable exceptions like Andrew Sullivan. Opinion polls have shown Obama’s support plummetting, especially among whites. Posters at message-boards who have already voted for him have declared their outrage at being fooled by the man’s charm and some of them have vowed to make amends, come November.

There is only one way to respond to a crisis like this — to take it head-on and respond. And Barack Obama is going to do just that, tomorrow, when he addresses the nation from Philadelphia in what might just go down in history as one of the defining speeches of our times.  In my opinion, he should have done this long ago — after all, the Wright sermons are old news for anyone who follows the news — but better late than never.

I expect Obama to address the role of race in this campaign and in the broader arena of public service. I expect him to also talk about his own faith, elaborate on what drew him to Wright’s church, mention the words that have inspired and supported him, even as he reiterates his total rejection of Wright’s divisive messages. But above all, I hope that he will say something about the pitfalls of viewing things in black and white (and I am not talking of race here). Far too often we make the error of seeing things through an absolutist lense. People, and issues that matter, are generally too complex to be summarily dismissed with a value judgement. There are sometimes elements of good in the most inflammatory rhetoric. There is hope and beauty, truth and inspiration, to be taken from everyone, and it is possible to do so while simultaneously rejecting other viewpoints of the same person. Obama’s greatest quality is his inclusivity — he can see both sides of an argument, disagree without being disagreable and by extension, I think he can stay twenty years in a church and only take away certain positive aspects of its philosophy. Yes, the tapes and the Youtube clips being played over and over today do not speak highly of their author, but to get a balanced picture of Wright one should also go through his other sermons, like the one that inspired the title of Obama’s book, and I expect him to talk of that.

Will he be able to convince those who have turned against him? I don’t know. Changing people’s minds is an exceedingly difficult task, especially when the issue is complex and etched in shades of gray, as here. But if anyone can do it, it is Barack Obama. He is one the best orators of this age, and tomorrow will be his sternest test.

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