I love the Internet.

As most people know by this point, the top Google search result for Rick Santorum is an obscene sex term assigned to him by Dan Savage.

After Santorum compared man-on-man sex in 2003 to man-on-dog sex, Savage told his readers to “Google bomb” Santorum, so the top search result for his name would be a graphic sex term. (If you want to know what it is, just Google it).

The Google bomb worked, and Rick Santorum has been complaining lately about how this is the cross he must bear.

But Santorum complaining about it is only making the problem worse, and last week his name was one of the hottest search terms on Google.

“By now the only people who haven’t heard about this are the Amish,” said [Stephen] Colbert [on The Colbert Report]. “He’ll do well with the Pennsylvania Dutch.”

Fear not for there is no need to head all the way over to what is probably most people’s homepage. I’ve got the definition right here.

santorum (san-TOR-um) n.
1. The frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the by-product of anal sex.

It’s too nice.


When most people hear the word rhetoric, they think it’s all just empty baloney. It isn’t. Most of the rhetoric we experience of which we are aware comes from our politics, and sure, it isn’t always the best, but there’s some good stuff out there. I could literally offer millions of examples, but I want to focus on two that I think are especially good (in terms of being good rhetoric).

The first is the “Is Obama a U.S. citizen?” question out there. The number of Republicans who don’t think he is fluctuates between 30-55%. That’s amazing for such a stupid question, but there’s good reason for it. Pay attention to what the Republicans keep saying. Even when they agree that President Obama is from Hawaii, they sneak in a little bit of doubt. “Yeah, I take the President at his word.” Sure, you do. And even when they don’t fiddle with weasel words and phrases, it’s still great rhetoric. By simply bringing the issue up again and again they convey that there is doubt out there; by denying the point they actually bolster it.

Another great example is with Dubya. I know, I know. He wasn’t exactly known for eloquent speech, but that’s part of his rhetoric, purposeful or not. He would routinely repeat phrases about safety and strength and courage, even when he wasn’t making any grammatical sense. All that mattered was that people heard a few key words; I did something similar when I kept repeating “boy-rape” in a recent post (though my sentence structure stands up). Or when Dubya spoke to Evangelicals, he would begin most of his sentences with “and”, reflecting Biblical writings (“And the Lord said it was good”). He knew his audience. His rhetoric there was no accident.

But there’s bad rhetoric out there, too. And lo, not just the political variety. (Okay, maybe appealing to a religious audience isn’t going to be useful on this blog.) This classic is one we’ve all heard:

Junior: But Billy and everyone else is doing it!

Mom: If Billy and everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you? You aren’t going.

Now, the proper logical response would be to point out that this is a reductio ad absurdum. Just because Junior wants to do some of the same things as his friends does not mean he would also want to jump off a bridge. Mom has committed a logical fallacy. Junior might appeal to emotion and point out how left out he’s going to be when he goes to school Monday morning and everyone is talking about what they did Saturday afternoon. He probably won’t win, but it’s his best shot using rhetoric. He could also try pointing out the logical fallacy, but that might be a bit over his head, methinks. Besides, superior logic from children isn’t usually received well. Junior needs to know his audience: Mom.

I think the fairest way to frame my relationship with rhetoric is that it’s love-hate. I love to see its effective use, even if it sometimes ends up in people believing dumb things. But at the same time, what makes rhetoric effective isn’t whether or not it’s true; what matters is if it convinces one’s audience. That means something like this blog or The God Delusion will probably fail to change the hearts and minds of any hardcore theist, but the people out there on the fence who value logos might find one or both persuasive, or the atheists who feel religion deserves a gentle hand may become uncomfortable with continuing with any undue respect. It is those people who are the primary audience and so it is by them that the rhetoric here or in The God Delusion must be measured.

What I find especially unfortunate about rhetoric (this is the big hate part of the relationship) is that people just aren’t very good at using it. Take a look at the comment Nate deleted from his blog.

Hey nate,

By reading your blog I have learned that Kirk Cameron is not the dumbest Christian on earth.
Congratulations. Sorry there’s no prize money.

This is simply bad. This person is making a comment on a blog that will be viewed by an audience that will likely agree with Nate more than disagree. There is no appeal in issuing an insult, especially when it is devoid of any substance around it. Okay, great, some guy on the Internet thinks someone else is dumb. Does that knowledge get us anywhere? It’s this sort of garbage that makes people think negative things when they even hear the word “rhetoric”; it rises to the level of “Yo Mama” jokes. Anyone offended by those jokes is an idiot. Anyone impressed with that rhetoric is a mook.

Rhetoric is an art form. It is there to persuade a particular audience to think one way (or at least not think the other way). When it’s empty, it’s ugly. When it’s abused, it’s offensive. When it’s noticed, it’s appreciated.

The ease of tearing apart Rush

Rush Limbaugh recently had this to say:

The problem is, and dare I say this, it doesn’t look like Michelle Obama follows her own nutritionary, dietary advice,” Limbaugh said on his radio program. “And then we hear that she’s out eating ribs at 1,500 calories a serving with 141 grams of fat per serving.” “She is a hypocrite,” Limbaugh continued. “Leaders are supposed to be leaders. If we are supposed to go out and eat nothing, if we are supposed to eat roots, berries, and tree bark, show us how.”

Isn’t Limbaugh and co. the ones always complaining that they don’t need government telling them how to eat, that they can make the decisions for themselves? Strange then that he would whine that Mrs. Obama isn’t giving him adequate instruction.

But, hey, despite the massive irony, I agree with Limbaugh. Being a fat ass is a problem in America and if our leaders want to remedy the situation, they’ll be significantly more effective if they adopt healthy behaviors. But as anyone who isn’t a freakin’ moron knows, that doesn’t mean eating healthy 100% of the time. In fact – and brace yourselves for this one – different people have different bodies. I can get away with eating McDonald’s several times a week if I want. I don’t, but I could. And actually, I did throughout much of high school. That’s because I have a high metabolism. The reasonable effort it takes for me to be healthy is going to be different than the reasonable effort it takes for a lot of other people. That doesn’t mean I can always eat a bunch of crap food. But it does mean that if I decide to have a big meal at a restaurant once in awhile, I won’t be adversely impacting my health in any significant way.

Furthermore, I’ve lifted weights at various times throughout my life. I started toward the end of junior high and went into high school with it (pre-McDonald’s days, what with being 14 and having no money). When I started out, my gains were slower than they should have been. The reason? I wasn’t taking in enough fat and protein, among other things. When I returned to valuing my health, I became aware of the sort of foods I ought to be eating if I want to make certain types of gains. That involved eating a lot of stuff that would have made a lot of people fat. But my result? Faster and more significant lifting gains.

In short, different people have different requirements in order to become healthy, and effective leaders (on healthy living) need to do what is right for their own bodies in order to become healthy. Michelle Obama can get away with a bad meal here or there. A Mike Huckabee, who is a great example of someone who did a lot for his own health, has less leeway. George W. Bush, another healthy guy, has different requirements. So I agree with Limbaugh’s point, but I, of course, must dismiss his piss-poor ideological reasoning for making it.

Oh, and as regular FTSOS readers will know, I always enjoy granting as many points as possible to conservatives before still taking down their arguments. That’s what I did here, because as it turns out, Mrs. Obama’s meal actually looked more like this:

The Vail Daily earlier reported the first lady and friends went to Restaurant Kelly Liken in Vail Village for dinner. The FLOTUS reportedly ate “a pickled pumpkin salad with arugula and a braised ancho-chile short rib with hominy wild mushrooms and sauteed kale.”

She’s sure to be waddling around the White House any day now.

Thought of the day

I find it absolutely appropriate that Yahoo! News places its Supreme Court section under Politics.

Confessions, corrections, and the iPhone

Ashley F. Miller, blogger extraordinaire, writes for a site called Social Axcess. In one of her recent articles she talked about the iPhone app the Catholic Church has recently created for information about confessing. She notes a few key things:

  • The Church has had a lot of recent problems
  • The Church is usually behind the times
  • This is a good move for the Church

None of these things are too crazy, offensive, or out-there. What’s more, they’re all true. The Church has had that whole boy-raping scandal. I think that’s been a problem. It has less and less (positive) interest in it by the day. This isn’t a problem in my view, but from the Church’s perspective I’m sure it is. And it has to constantly defend itself against New Atheists and all its other critics; it hasn’t been doing so hot in that department. And I’m just talking about the first bullet point.

But, Michael, you say, this is the Internet! Shouldn’t someone attack Ashley’s post from an irrational perspective?! Why, I suppose you’re right. Today’s lucky contestant is Luke Vinci.

In correction to Ashley Millers blog post regarding Confession via iPhone…

Let’s stop right there and be sure to note the word correction. Okay, continue.

While the Church has had its share of scandal in the past few years; I must counter that the “new atheist” movement is nothing new to secular assaults on the Church.

I’m flagging this for two reasons. First, the misuse of the semi-colon is egregious. Second, when did anyone say the New Atheist movement was new? And “assaults”? Methinks someone has a rather grandiose persecution complex for his church.

Through all the Church has consistently become stronger out of strife. And that can be represented in the 1 billion Catholics across the world.

So, um, what does this correct? I don’t recall reading that the Church couldn’t recover from its boy-raping. And I don’t see how a large number has any relevance whatsoever. Maybe it’s that whole desire to be grandiose thing again.

The Catholic Church is the fastest growing religion in communist China, is seeing a boom in conversion/membership in San Diego County among many other places around the world and while there are places were the Church is struggling to grow such as old Europe the Church is continually extending Her arms as the Universal Christian faith.

Ah, I see it now. Ashley said the Church is struggling so Vinci is pointing out where it isn’t struggling. Too bad that still doesn’t discount the fact that it’s struggling. Ya know, mostly because of the boy-rape.

In regards to the statement that the Church is behind the times or that the app is “trying to keep it real”; the Church has been slow to just jump at the whims of what public opinion says.

So the fact that the Nazis were bad was merely a whim of public opinion? That condoms save lives is but a fleeting fad of fancy?

This is a fact and the Church moves slow but deliberate in all decisions. All of those decisions are made within the confines of Faith and Reason.

Uh-huh. Sort of like when the Church reasoned that Galileo should be murdered if he didn’t tell the lies the Church wanted to hear. Or maybe when it reasoned that covering up boy-rape was better than exposing all the rapists it harbored. Total use of Reason (capital “R”).

The Church is a guiding institution and Her slow response has served Her well for over 2000 years.

Just not gays, Jews, minorities, Northern Ireland, the victims of the Inquisition, or women. Oh, and all the raped boys.

Ashley Miller should take note that the confession app is not an app that takes the place of confession.

Since Ashley never said the app was to replace confession, it seems Vinci needs to bust out his dictionary and look up the word “correction”. I think he may want to study it for a few hours.

The app that is the first to have an imprimatur from Bishop Kevin Rhoades of the Diocese of Fort Wayne in Indiana is a guide to help Catholics in their Christian tradition discern what sins they have committed.

I like Ashley’s response on this one:

I can’t imagine belonging to an organization that has so many silly rules that I need assistance in figuring out if I’ve broken them or not.