Monday, December 31, 2012

Roundup Time

Lillian Gish in Orphans of the Storm (D.W. Griffith, 1921). From Film Fanatic.
Following on the Vixen, but pushing it a little too hard as usual (she only listed five!), I've assembled a list of favorite posts of my own for the year, focusing on those that didn't attract as many readers as I thought they deserved. Poor little things! All they want is a little affection, and maybe a comment or two wouldn't hurt?

January: It struck me that the idea of Obama as our first Jewish president is more than just an easy laugh. I.e., it's an uneasy laugh. Not so much because there is something Jewish about him, though there is, as because of the way right-wingers hate him, which is modeled on classic anti-Semitism, as Clinton hatred was modeled on anti-black racism. A philosophical-semiotic followup bringing in the First Ladies is here.

Mayor Bloomberg and schools chancellor Klein commissioned a study to prove that the Small High Schools of Choice they favor are better than big high schools; just as always, when scholars know in advance what conclusions they are expected to come to, the study was full of shit, but nobody at the Times noticed. And nobody reads me, of course, but I tore the thing apart. Also I got to quote David Mamet.

February: I can't stand the way right-wingers use the term "federalist" to mean "anti-federalist", thereby associating themselves in retroactionary fashion with our progressive Constitution, which they in fact oppose (they'd be more comfortable with the Articles of Confederation). Washington and Hamilton and Adams liked them some Big Government (not fat, but tall and strong) and so did Madison and Jefferson, for that matter, except whenever they were in opposition. Here's my tirade.

This was the month I started posting "Cheap Shots" on Fridays (my New Year's blog-resolution is to get back to doing it regularly). Eventually they achieved considerable popularity, by my pathetic standards, but the early ones were not much noticed, including this one, featuring an extremely unkind Dana Loesch joke.

March: One of my biggest preoccupations since I started blogging has been the fear of a U.S.-Iran war, along with the hope that Obama really means to prevent it, which I am always trying to influence not directly, I realize these grand persons are not attending to me, but by some kind of observer's paradox effect. These posts often get a lot of attention (nobody ever leaves a comment, so I don't know why), but two of them in March that I thought were a little more coherent than usual got almost none, one on Obama's diplomatic language, and one on correcting the Israeli sense of tragedy with a Jewish sense of comedy.

April: Easter post: Our crack political team reporting from Jerusalem on the trial and execution of a certain dissident rabbi...

May and June: We lost my mom, and I lost most of my larynx and spent an unconscionable amount of time in the hospital. One of the things (beside the helpmeet and kids, and siblings, and their helpmeets and kids, who were all amazing) that brought some cheer in this desolate time was somehow the politics in France, of all places, which I found myself taking quite personally, and halfway believing in, as if socialiste really meant "socialist", and which led me to some philosophical reflections of uncharacteristic earnestness. (Mom would have been pleased about the French elections, but seeing Obama reelected would have been much better; of course she was confident he'd win.)
Jan De Bray, ca. 1627-1697, The Care of Orphans.
July: I guess I was in the hospital when I started getting obsessed with David Brooks, perhaps the most deeply dishonest of our famous political commentators. One of my favorite early efforts was this Shorter on the moviehouse massacre in Colorado, which has some renewed relevance in light of the school shooting in Connecticut.

August: Then senatorial candidate, now ex-congressman Todd Akin brought me all the way back to high Swiftian rage with his comments on the physiology of rape. Of course everybody had to write something about Akin's peculiar beliefs, but only Yastreblyansky was able to tie it in with the beliefs expressed in the Roman Catholic Catechism, to say nothing of recycling that Dana Loesch joke in a greatly improved version.

September: The big Republican pseudo-scandal of the 9/11 anniversary season was the news that Obama sometimes didn't go to his Presidential Daily Briefing. ZOMG we're doomed! Something told me it might not be that serious, and indeed, it turned out to be even less serious than that. And for the High Holy Days, a take on a hilarious Christianist approach to interpreting the Bible on poverty and government.

Also, an extended discussion of what I believe is David Brooks's most ethically reprehensible column since I've been studying him, where, as I wrote,
I don't know that David Brooks should be busted for plagiarism here, even though he fails to credit [Paul] Tough for three quarters of his material. But I don't think you can properly call what he's done "fair use" either; to use an author's words to point toward a conclusion that the author would not dream of drawing....
October and November: As Brooks grew more and more crazed with the approach of the election, I finally began trying to channel his voice directly, as in this discussion of Burkean moderation; another example from after Romney's defeat is chosen to illustrate how his broadest anthropological musings, on changing family structures for instance, can be grounded entirely in a single unreviewed self-publication by an academic grifter writing "out of a Christian worldview".

December: And finally, why do we keep denying our War on Christmas? I'm bringing mine out of the closet, and putting Baby Jesus back in his! Yule be sorry you missed it!

Happy New Year to all, from Gene Autry.


  1. I would say the September post regarding the intelligence briefing is a favorite of mine--an idea I've pondered is whether the more contact with the president the intelligence agencies receive results in a more "tailored" intelligence product, which would skew things and actually futz up the purpose of the thing. In which case, Obama's "big boy" approach probably does him a better service.

  2. Yes, I think that's right. Different with different presidents: with Reagan it was to shape his understanding (not so much of the world, which those guys didn't even know very much about, as of the Agency itself), with Bush to accommodate to his point of view, or rather Cheney's and Wolfowitz's, sexing up the material according to the latter's ideas of what's sexy. Of course for people like us, for whom I.F. Stone is a hero, critical reading is the best way to extract truth from people who can't be trusted—not hectoring them with self-serving questions like TV journalists or congressional committees. Thanks for writing!

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