Category: Rhetoric

Rhetoric is the art of persuading people with words

Stop tax cheats: pay bounties

Back in the 1970s, the US government paid bounties to citizens who identified big polluters and helped bring them to justice. Some of those bounties helped found the Riverkeeper organization that keeps watch on the Hudson River to this day. Those bounties helped make water and air much cleaner. In the twenty-teens we have another situation where government needs help:… Read more →

Avoiding Amazon

It’s hard to avoid the Amazon behemoth even if you prefer to send your business to other companies. And, there’s not a whole lot an individual householder can do to spread the wealth around because, not much wealth. But here are a few things you can do. Most importantly: try to think of yourself as a householder or citizen, not… Read more →

Flagging “bad” content cannot make social media safer

Social media platforms get in public hot water these days for they way they recommend material to their users. Ysabel Gerrard and Tarleton Gillespie wrote an an article in Wired called When Algorithms Think You Want to Die.  They described how Pinterest and other platforms, by their recommendations, amplify peoples’ exposure to potentially dangerous material. The mechanism is straightforward. When… Read more →

All secrets leak sooner or later. Ozzie’s Clear proposal does not limit damage when they leak.

Ray Ozzie, of Lotus Notes fame and more recently a Microsoft executive, has made a proposal–called Clear–to allow governments to get access to the contents of encrypted phone handsets and other mobile devices. It tasks the device manufacturers with operating a key escrow system and responding to government warrants to give out keys to individual devices. His proposal has been… Read more →

Good News or Fake News? Theology of the cross, or theology of glory?

Katelyn Beaty, a former editor of the self-styled “evangelical” publication Christianity Today, wrote a summary of a meeting at  Wheaton College in Illinois about whether their movement should distance themselves from the present (2018) leader of the Republican Party. They couldn’t figure it out. Maybe they should read the Barmen Declaration. It asks the question of whether the church should… Read more →

State religion, ritual, and faith

Journalist Molly Worthen wrote an interesting piece for the New York Times headlined How to escape from Roy Moore’s evangelicalism.  She makes an interesting point about ritual and its effect on the human psyche, on my mind and yours. The habits we follow every day shape us as much as, or more than Sunday worship, even for those of us who turn… Read more →

Social media and René Girard’s memetics

OK, among people who’ve heard of anthropologist turned radical theologian Dr. Girard, I’m probably the last guy to realize this. But the big social media outfits (FB, Twitter, Instagram, the usual suspects) make their money by exploiting the “I’ll have what he’s having” streak in human nature. The old joke: Russian waiter: What would you like, sir? Diner: Tilting his… Read more →

Mondo Bizarro … FBI Director uses Pastor Niebuhr’s name for a twitter name

An investigative reporter at Gizmodo has found the FBI director’s twitter account.  He’s using the pseudonym Reinhold Niebuhr. Pastor Niebuhr was a twentieth-century theologian and ethicist.  Among his many books is The Irony of American History, analyzing how USA exceptionalism is a tremendous temptation to arrogance and contains the seeds of its own destruction. That title pretty much sums up… Read more →