Rhetoric 001

Smoke and Mirrors: Protecting Yourself from Time-Honored Fallacies.

A rhetoric primer.

The Internet has brought a resurgence of instant and universal public dialog. No longer is it necessary (or even possible) to walk down to the town square or commons. No longer do families huddle around the household radio to hear the great scheduled debates. Today, one can walk from the dinner table to the PC keyboard and plunge instantly into crude or sophisticated debates over most any topic in the world.
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We’re back in the Bay Area. We do welcome its 40 degree temperature differential from current Phoenix weather. Somehow I arose at 7AM even though we’re still on vacation. While waiting for my coffee I looked out the window, down across the Boulevard. The pavement was wet with drizzle. At the moment, there was not a car in sight.

It brought me back in time, to the early ’70’s in Weimar, the little town north of Auburn on 80. In Weimar, you could hear any car coming through the morning mist from a mile away. In the morning, before the occasional highway travelers started pulling off for gas, any car coming down the frontage road was an event, and, if you were a local, you usually knew the other driver. I was a guest. Locals would begin to associate you as a friend of Keith and Darlene, that nice family who lived across from Charlie’s.
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Parade in Castro Valley

Tales of The Hill …

We first noticed it when the California Highway Patrol set up the traffic diversion cones on Lake Chabot Road. In unincorporated areas, the CHP shares local law enforcement and traffic duties with the County Sheriffs. Now, traffic could not turn up Castro Valley Boulevard. We can see it all, from the balcony on our perch on The Hill.

And we overheard our neighbor in the downstairs apartment telling her friends, “They’re blocking it off. Something’s going on! They’re having a f***ing fair!”

Soon we heard the beat of what we took to be the high school band: the rattle of drums, and, once in a while, the toot of a trombone or french horn. Some nondescript floats inched down the boulevard, shining 18-wheeler Kenworth flatbeds decorated with crepe paper and banners and girls in cheerleader uniforms waving pompoms.

I have never seen an 18-wheeler used in a civic parade before, but those compound low gears sure make a heap o’ sense for a parade’s stately pace. Mighty diesel air horns and towering heights of chrome must surely impress the tots more than those phony motorized floats seen in the Macys Parade on the TV.

There was a big modern red fire engine, a parade of 1950’s Nash Ramblers and Cosmopolitans, a bevy of your obligatory Model A Fords, and a big ol’ time coupe roadster that, Hey Mom, looked like an oversized PT Cruiser! And there were people on horseback, and a horse-drawn carriage.

Some men marched in white uniforms, but they didn’t march like military personnel. They just ambled down the Boulevard. There were several shiny new pickup trucks, tailgates down, toting collections of teens and tots. A couple of parents walked behind every pickup truck. Safety first, you know. Otherwise, everybody who didn’t have to march, rode down all four blocks of the boulevard if they could possibly do so.

Castro Valley is a biker town, but we didn’t hear one Harley. Thousands of us hear enough of them when the bars close at 2AM. I guess they weren’t invited.

We got a few telephoto pictures, without ever leaving the comfort of our balcony, and our C.Bear got a peek at the parade through the 7×50 binoculars, and, let me tell you, HE was impressed.

We looked through last Sunday’s S.F. Chronicle “Datebook” for the all-critical community announcement. But we found none.

And we saw not one protest sign, nor so much as one person trashing shopkeepers’ windows. As far as we could tell, no one was trying to poison the town pump, or blow up our Boulevard. The valley walls around us are a lush and vibrant green, and a few clouds float across an incredibly blue sky. The flowers are beginning to bloom.

It is a great day to go for a stroll. I guess John Ashcroft and Tom what’s-his-face just aren’t needed here today.

From what we saw from our balcony vista, people here had a good time. If Governor Gray Davis and a couple of Senators and TV crews couldn’t make an appearance today, so much the better. But, you know what? I bet SF’s Mayor Willie Brown would have been here — if somebody had only taken the time to tell him.

Alex Forbes
© May 10, 2003

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Crowd Control Parisienne

A tale of problem-solving. Contributed by roving correspondent DN …

An army officer in the 19th century, during one of the many riots in Paris, was ordered to shoot at a mob in order to force them to disperse. He ordered his troops to take up their firing positions, and then shouted at the mob:

“Ladies and Gentlemen, I’ve received an order to shoot you, but I see that there are many honest and respectable citizens among you, so I’d like to ask those citizens to kindly leave so that I can freely shoot at the mob creating the disturbance.”

Everyone left.

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