Poll: 2012 Oscar Nominations


The 2012 Oscar Nominations for the 84th Academy Awards were announced earlier this week. Here are the nominees for Best Picture, with links to their official websites, are:

Here are two polls: (A) Which film do you think will win the award for Best Picture? and (B) which film do you think should win the award for Best Picture? You can add detail in support of your answer in the comment box for this post.

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Live Tweeting Tonight’s Republican Presidential Debate


Doug will be live tweeting tonight’s Republican presidential debate, hosted in Jacksonville, Florida by CNN. People may be indifferent about Doug’s tweeting hobby, but he hopes you aren’t indifferent about the political future of the United States, and that you are attending to the political scene as you are able.

A decision to ignore political news until election day should be a decision not to vote on election day. Unfortunately, many who vote are uninformed or misinformed. This is a travesty against responsible citizenship in a democratic republics like ours. Those who will be debating tonight are after your vote. Watching the debate and talking with others about it is one way to stock up on the knowledge needed for responsible citizenship.

So, by tweeting the debates, Doug hopes to motivate some to join the great political conversation!

Tonight’s debate, hosted by CNN in Jacksonville, Florida is the final debate before the Florida primary on Tuesday. Many believe that Newt Gingrich clinched a major victory in South Carolina because of his performance in the debates leading up to it. Some prognosticators speculate that a bold, fresh approach tonight will signal the victor next week, and that strong or tepid performances by both Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney will make it a real horse race. The New York Times reported today that the two “are each signalling a willingness to go nuclear” tonight. If that happens, it could even be fun to watch!

To follow Doug’s live tweets, click here. The debate begins at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

Gingrich Lesson in Debate Technique: “Repeat Changers”


With so much talk about how great a debater New Gingrich is, why not watch to learn a little about rhetoric and style from the gentleman from Georgia?

Today’s lesson comes from a recent Republican presidential debate in which Rick Santorum accused Newt Gingrich of being a little grandiose at times. The key word here is “grandiose,” and it was meant to sting.

A skilled debater listens carefully for an opportunity to use a rhetorical device that Jay Heinrichs calls the “repeat changer.” Sometimes that opportunity looks and sounds more like a grave misfortune—worthy of a grunt at best, and a look of terror at worst. The repeat changer repeats the key word or phrase that was used to demean and changes its sense to reflect favorably on the original target.

When Rick Santorum described Newt as someone who can be a bit grandiose at times, he meant that Newt often exaggerates to an absurd extent and often thinks of himself in exaggerated terms. He thus sought to tap into public consciousness, shaped to a degree by recent media focus on . . . . well, Newt’s occasional grandiosity.

How did Newt respond? He did the best thing anyone can do under the circumstance: he repeated the accusation, then switched its sense, suggesting that someone may be considered grandiose because he has grand ideas, and lots of them, for improving things for the American people.

Now this may sound like equivocation. To be sure, the repeat changer does often trade on ambiguity. When it does, it is less effective. But if the shift in sense is mild—as opposed to sharp—there is no harm and no foul. In other words, no fallacy has been committed.

This can be illustrated on one interpretation of Newt Gingrich’s clever rejoinder to Rick Santorum. The basic sense of Santorum’s jibe is preserved, but Newt suggests that Santorum only thinks that Newt is grandiose because Rick is uncomfortable with the grandeur of Newt’s ideas. “Grandiosity” and “grandeur” do differ. But “grandeur” may be mistaken for “grandiosity” by someone who can’t tell the difference. If this is what Newt was getting at, his move was not merely clever, it was ingenious. He might be asking voters, in effect, “Do you want a president who has grand ideas that some confuse with grandiosity, or do you want a president who can’t tell the difference between grand and grandiose?”

In my book, rhetoric has its proper place, especially in public discourse. But it must always be tempered by virtue. So I commend the “repeat changer” when it can be managed without violating the moral and intellectual virtues.

Here’s a poll for you to register your opinion:

Virtue vs. Moralistic Therapeutic Deism


Mike Austin has a new post today at Being Good.com: Virtue vs. Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. MTD is a challenge to America’s teenagers and emerging adults. It is a challenge to parents. And it is a challenge to America’s churches. I urge you to read Mike’s post!

Campaign Management and Government Spending: Romney vs. Gingrich


Now’s the perfect time for Newt Gingrich to make a certain eye-opening argument against the prospects of a Mitt Romney presidency. But first, some background.

Newt Gingrich launched his campaign on a shoestring and he has kept it going in the same fashion. Yet here he is today, with renewed vitality and front-runner status. Contrast Mitt Romney. Romney has been running for president for at least five years—longer, in fact, since his brief stint as Massachusetts governor was part of his everlasting campaign—and spending money like the dickens to ensure that he gets what he wants.

Where would Mitt Romney be without his money to bolster his campaign? With lackluster performance on so many fronts—most visibly during the debates—Romney has been sustained by his fiscal capacity to pay his way to the nomination. He has a large and expensive campaign staff and he has paid dearly for his media advertizing.

“Dearly” is probably not the right word, since how much is a “dear” price to pay for something is relative to how much money you have to begin with and how much you want what you think the money will buy you. In these terms, the cost to Romney has not been so dear. He’ll go one making tens millions of dollars year-after-year, even if he loses the nomination.

As we’ve seen with every president, financial management is a huge component in the unpublished portion of the job description. In fact, Romney has been campaigning on his strength as a financial wizard in the business world, as if this is an especially valuable asset for the contemporary American presidency. He’s been quite explicit about this in recent days.

Now consider, not only the money that Romney has raised—and, indeed, earned—but also the money that Romey has spent, the goals for which he has spent it, and the manner in which he has spent it. I offer his campaign expenditures as Exhibit A. (One might, as well, investigate Romney’s method of throwing money after money in failed business enterprises, as well as in those that have succeeded. But this would be time-consuming and less rewarding as an argument-maker.)

Here, then, is the argument I would be making—starting now—if I was Newt Gingrich:

Governor Romney is also Businessman Romney. He’s recently released his tax return for 2010. It reveals that he made 21.6 million dollars in that one year alone. This figure explains whatever success Mitt Romney has had during this nomination cycle: he’s paid for it. And that makes Americans uncomfortable. As long as Mitt believes he’s spending his own money, and he still has plenty of it, he’ll spend, spend, spend. If he were president today, do you think he would do anything different? Once hard-working Americans “pay” their taxes, the federal government acts like its theirs to spend as they see fit. Would Governor Romney be any different? Where is the evidence, during this campaign, that he knows how to be thrifty? My campaign has been running on big ideas and the energy of hard-working Americans who don’t want big spenders taking over the national treasure. During my campaign, I’ve been spending like it’s your money that I must manage responsibly. And that’s because it is your money. Together, let’s win this nomination. And together, let’s bring this country back in line with real American values.

This argument has several strengths:

  • It would make a virtue of Newt’s comparatively limited treasure chest. (“I couldn’t even defend myself while Romney’s PAC poured money into negative television ads ahead of Iowa.”)
  • It would draw attention to the downside of Romney’s largess.
  • It can be made without begrudging Romney’s material success. The aim is not to engender class warfare, but to draw attention to differences in management styles and fiscal responsibility.
  • It is succinct and intelligible. It makes sense and it will make sense to a lot of people.
  • It can be made during a debate, at almost any moment Gingrich chooses.
  • It can be made during brief press conferences.
  • It can be made with such clarity that other people will be able to articulate the argument, too.

This, at least, is how I see it. What about you? Share your thoughts about this argument in the comment box for this post!

Chuck Norris Endorses Newt Gingrich


I feel like I’m in good company when Chuck Norris endorses Newt Gingrich. Read his list of ten criteria for selecting the best candidate and why Newt is that candidate.

Doug to Debate Louise M. Antony, “Does God Exist?”


Doug will soon debate atheist philosopher Louise M. Antony at the Barnsdall Gallery Theatre in Los Angeles.

Barnsdall Gallery Theatre

Topic: “Does God Exist?”

Date: Friday, February 17, 2012

Time: 8:00-10:00 p.m.

Location: Barnsdall Gallery Theatre, 4800 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90027

Cost: $5.00 for students with student I.D.; $20.00 for the general public

Tickets can be purchased from the Center for Inquiry here.

Louise M. Antony is Professor of Philosophy, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Program Note: Prior to the debate, at 7:00 p.m., Eddie Tabash (Los Angeles Attorney and Atheist Spokesman), will lecture on the topic “Debating Religion in Public.” Cost of admission to this event is included in the cost for the debate.

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