Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Blogiversary X: 10 Posts That Shook the World

(or Slightly Amused a Dozen People)

(Gentlemen of great erudition and culture. GIF version of the bottom one here.)

Earlier this year, this blog turned 10. I haven't had much time to write this year (or the past few years), but I'm still keeping the blog lights on as a repository for my infrequent posts.

As usual, I'll be recapping major posts and categories since the last blogiversary, and in this case, all 10 years. This is mainly so I can find the stuff later; I don't expect anyone to read through this entire post, let alone all the linked pieces, which amount to far more than 10 posts. However, if you've got a load of free time to read long blog essays, you're in, um, luck?

The Nature of Liberalism

I suppose this section could be more robust, but I always think this stuff should be fairly obvious.

  • "Some Reasons I'm a Liberal" (5/5/08): All that bleeding heart stuff (and more).
  • "The Social Contract" (7/21/10): Some basic civics, seemingly forgotten (or rejected).
  • The Nature of Conservatism

    Trying to suss things out.

  • "The Chart That Explains It All!" (3/12/07): Authoritarian conservatives don't play by the normal rules of good governance, and it's a mistake to pretend otherwise.
  • "Concern Trolls for Nixon" (9/3/08): Don't fall for their shtick.
  • "The Most "Conservative" Films" (4/7/09): Examining the reductive, ideological approach of many conservatives toward film (and art in general).
  • "The Persistence of Ideology" (6/3/09): Trying to sum up modern conservatism through its approach to economics, foreign policy and torture.
  • "Diagrams on Conservatism" (7/3/09): Visualize the insanity.
  • "The Five Circles of Conservative Hell" (7/21/10): From "preserving cultural privilege" to more fearsome depths.
  • "Engaging the Opposition, and A Wingnut Checklist" (8/30/10): Trying to assess whether engagement is worth it (issues I'm still pondering).
  • "The Stupid-Evil-Crazy Vortex" (11/10/10): Diagnosing the problem.
  • "The Four Types of Conservatives" (7/30/12): "Most conservative political figures break down into one of four broad groups. They are Reckless Addicts, Proud Zealots, Stealthy Extremists and Sober Adults." An in-depth investigation. (Film at 11!)
  • National Politics

  • "Diagram Madness" (7/15/09): Trying to visualize the American political spectrum, using some unconventional models.
  • "American Politics Seen as a Japanese Monster Movie" (11/29/09): Pretty silly, but the analogies kinda work.
  • American Political Insanity Explained (2/9/10): An attempt, anyway.
  • "Attack of the Plutocrats" (7/18/10): Contextualizing wealth inequality and the pushes to increase it.
  • "We Cheat the Other Guy and Pass the Savings to You" (7/25/10): The game is rigged, and certain parties think that's a good thing (or blame the wrong people).
  • "Voting and Political Activism" (11/5/12): Less about the 2012 election specifically than a looong look at political activism in general and the prospects of change.
  • "Lucky Duckies and Fortunate Sons" (8/14/14): Why some people are reluctant to acknowledge that the game is rigged.
  • Our National Political Discourse

    Media critiques of why political coverage is often inaccurate and shallow.

  • Color Commentary (3/15/07): A chromatic depiction of how the corporate media presents "balance."
  • "The Bullshit Matrix" (3/16/07): Truth, lies, bullshit and their many variations.(I keep coming back to the themes of this one.)
  • "False Equivalencies" (4/5/07): Arguably the worst fault of media coverage.
  • "Silent Questions" 8/12/09): "The questions we ask determine the answers we receive. The specific form of those questions, and the assumptions they hold, further shape our answers."
  • "Common Ground and Equal Blame" (1/6/11): The inadequacy of saying 'both sides do it' without more detail (or when it's flatly inaccurate).
  • "Defining "Common Ground" in Diagrams" (1/7/11): A follow-up, with pictures.
  • "Partisanship, Policy and Bullshit" (7/6/11): "Partisanship" isn't necessarily a bad thing. Policy matters. And media outlets have incentives for generating bullshit.
  • "Both Sides Do It: Partisanship Redux" (8/1/12): A follow-up post, taking a closer look at the popular "both sides do it/are equally to blame" brand of bullshit.
  • "But Paul Ryan Seems Like Such a Nice Fellow" (8/11/12): A journalist focuses on rhetoric and charm and ignores policy to conclude that Paul Ryan wants to help the poor (and isn't a scumbag).
  • "Civil Both-Side Bipartisans" (10/21/12): Another crack at the "both sides" scourge, urging "honesty over civility, accuracy over politeness."
  • "Our National Political Discourse" (12/1/13): An attempt to "visualize how our national political discourse should work, and discuss how it does work instead."
  • "The Bullshit That Civilly Dare Not Speak Its Name" (7/25/14): A civility meter has its uses, but a good bullshit detector is far more valuable.
  • "Artificially Equalizing Unequal Views on Inequality" (8/17/14): A case study of a journalist going into contortions to blame both sides equally.
  • "The Fallacy of the Golden Mean" (8/19/14): A "both sides" reader.
  • The War Series

    I've periodically written pieces in an ongoing series on war and related issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder. The most significant posts are:

  • "How to Hear a True War Story" (5/29/07): Truth and fantasy in war stories.
  • "Iraq and Vietnam: Selling the Stab-in-the-Back Myth" (8/30/07): Old themes resurface.
  • "That Pesky Violence in Iraq" (12/5/07): I wrote multiple posts on Iraq, including several on the "Surge." This one noted that a decrease in violence was most welcome, but a decrease to a mere 575 attacks per week shouldn't be celebrated as success and vindication.
  • "Day of Shame" (2/5/08): My contribution to a blogswarm on the anniversary of Colin Powell's presentation to the United Nations to sell the Iraq War.
  • "The Poetry of War" (3/19/08): Looking at contrasting war poems (among other things), as part of an Iraq War blogswarm.
  • "John '100 Years' McCain" (4/9/08): The more extensively one examined McCain's statements on Iraq, the worse he looked.
  • "Brave Cowboys of the Junior High Lunch Room"(5/29/2008): The insecurities that drive war cheerleaders.
  • "War and the Denial of Loss" (11/11/09): This piece was the culmination a six-post series for Armistice Day, and should be read after the others. I'm still not entirely satisfied with the opening, but this post probably comes the closest to what I tried to accomplish during my brief teaching stints, in terms of encouraging reflection and making connections.
  • "Asymmetric Inhumanity" (5/30/11): The urge to dehumanize.
  • Only the Faithless Suffer (11/11/12): Denying suffering and blaming the victims.
  • "The Dogs of War" (11/17/13): Looking back at the Iraq War and some of its most dishonorable cheerleaders.
  • "The Courage to Make Others Suffer" (5/25/15): Among a certain breed of pedigreed dolt, going to war is matter of fashion.
  • Torture

    I've done a fair amount of research on torture and wrote a number of posts (if not as many as some others, and not as many as I wanted to). It's an essential subject but it also burnt me out a bit, given all the maddening obfuscation by culpable parties and their apologists. The full category is here, but the most significant posts are:

  • Jack Bauer versus Maher Arar (7/3/07): Torture apologists overwhelmingly cite fiction and dire fantasies about ticking time bombs while ignoring actual reality about torturing innocent people.
  • "Torture Watch 2/19/08": A roundup and summary of important pieces on torture.
  • "Using Justice Against Us" (11/7/08): Examining bad arguments by John Yoo against due process. (I originally posted this at the Campaign for America's Future, but their template and formatting subsequently changed, so this is a repost at VS from March 2010.)
  • "Tortured" (12/5/08): A poem.
  • "Rivkin's Protean Logic on Torture" (3/12/09): A long dissection of one of the most slippery of torture apologists.
  • "Sensory Deprivation Op-Ed" (4/20/09): A close reading of a key op-ed by prominent torture apologists who conveniently omit that they could face criminal prosecution for the actions they're defending.
  • "The Torture Flowchart" (4/23/09): An attempt to visualize the insanity, and how many opportunities there were to stop.
  • "Torture Versus Freedom" (5/15/09): An attempt to address and debunk all the arguments for torture, with heavy use of supporting links. The "further resources" section links significant books and articles.
  • "A Venn Diagram on Torture Apologia" (5/21/09)
  • "The Torture Apologia Chart" (6/2/09): An attempt to summarize all the major arguments for torture. (I never got around to revising this into a full debunking tool, because it would be a significant undertaking to do it properly, but the links in "Torture Versus Freedom" serve most of that.)
  • " I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream" (7/31/09): Exploring the deadly certainty of torturers and "the comforting violence of Jack Bauer."
  • "Why Does Liz Cheney Hate Civilization?" (3/10/10): Examining the then-latest round of fearmongering 'If you investigate my daddy you're all going to be killed by terrorists' bullshit.
  • "They Could Not Look Me in the Eye Again" (11/11/11): Pondering dehumanization and cruelty in the contexts of war, torture and racism.
  • "Greater Context for Zero Dark Thirty" (8/15/13): A long consideration of the filmmakers' artistic choices and the facts and context they ignored.
  • Tolerance and Freedom

    Several of these posts were written for the (mostly annual) Blog Against Theocracy.

  • "The Social Tolerance Charts" (3/13/07): The misunderstanding of "tolerance" by many conservatives. (I've explored this issue many times since.)
  • "The Religion-in-Society Charts" (3/14/07): Looking at religious tolerance specifically.
  • "The Conservative Brain Trust Takes On: Freedom of Religion!" (3/29/07): Supposed conservative intellectuals prove extremely unclear on the First Amendment, especially when those icky gay people are involved.
  • "The Case for Writing More Accurately About Religion in America" (3/29/07): Dissecting Time magazine's poorly reasoned cover story, "Why We Should Teach the Bible in Public Schools."
  • "How Many Deities Does It Take to Change a Light Bulb?" (4/6/07): Humor and religion. (Some video links have since gone dead, alas.)
  • "Faith and Certainty" (4/6/07): For some people, religion doesn't make them more reflective, humble or open; it makes them more rigid and self-righteous.
  • "The Truth By Any Other Name" (3/23/08): Respecting different metaphors for living.
  • You Damned Kids Get Into My Church (1/8/10): Religious narcissism, or narcissistic religiosity.
  • "I'll See Your Jesus and Raise You 10,000 Buddhas" (1/12/10): A follow-up, because Ross Douthat sheds whine, not light, and "there's no virtue in discussing religion stupidly."
  • "The Meek Shall Inherit What's Left of the Earth the Mean and Dumb Destroy" (4/21/11): The religion of conservatives John Shimkus and Ann Coulter versus that of Stephen Colbert.
  • "Surely the Constitution Must Match My Theocratic Beliefs" (4/7/12): Rick Santorum versus the Founding Fathers.
  • "My God Can Beat Up Your God (Defining "Tolerance")" (4/9/12): Most of the time, when conservatives say "freedom," they really mean "privilege."
  • "Control, Punish and Shame" (3/31/13): The impulses of religious social conservatives.
  • "You're Intolerant of My Intolerance!" (8/20/14): Another crack at the issue, this time focusing on gay rights.
  • Specific Political Analysis

  • "Will GOP Senators Face Consequences for Lying to the Supreme Court?" (7/12/06): A deep dive into some dishonorable behavior involving the Hamdan v. Rumsfeld decision about due process and the congressional record.
  • The Aryan Minstrel Show (8/8/06): An extensive look at the performance art of hatred from Ann Coulter. (I still need to fix some old broken links.)
  • "Dance of the Straw Men" (10/12/06): "Of all the faulty argument patterns typically employed by the GOP, the most popular by far is a straw man argument with an ad hominem attack nestled inside."
  • "The Knaves of the Bush Administration" (3/20/07): Considering the Bush administration by way of King Lear.
  • "A Recap of the Sliming of Graeme Frost" (10/19/07): Chronicling the attacks on the 12-year-old survivor of a horrific car crash and just how nasty mainstream American conservatism has become.
  • "That Fragrant Horse Race Coverage" (1/13/08): Examining the blatant stupidity of media coverage of the 2008 early primary elections.
  • "That Damned Liberal Racism" (1/24/08): Looking at bad faith and idiotic discussions of race, centering on the 2008 election.
  • "The Passion of Saint McCain" (9/3/08): The Republican National Convention's depiction of John McCain as suffering Jesus (while simultaneously trying to sidestep the whole torture thing).
  • "Where's Bush?" (9/4/08): The disappearing of then-President Bush from the 2008 Republican National Convention.
  • "With Thy Father's Permission" (9/9/08): Motherhood and patriarchy sanctified at the Republican National Convention.
  • "Not One Person Called Giuliani a Douchebag" (12/8/09): Dissecting the disingenuous "he didn't use the magic words" political attack that's still popular among conservatives.
  • "Extremism in Defense of Nihilism Is a Vice" (7/28/11): Contextualizing the debt ceiling hostage situation and pointing out the striking extremism of conservatives.
  • "Why We Can't Have Nice Things" (12/7/12): Looking at the fiscal "compromise" and an ongoing trend of tremendous bad faith (and horrendous coverage of all this).
  • Satire and Humor

  • "Proof of Iran’s Perfidy Provided by Anonymous Experts!" (2/13/07): A skeptical, satirical look at another round of saber-rattling.
  • "Valentine's Day (The Death of True Love)" (2/14/08): This rant about what's probably my least favorite holiday elicited some strong responses. (Nonpolitical, apart from some dated and largely pointless political references.)
  • "Hall of Fame Material" (1/14/09): Looking back on the Bush presidency, and contrasting expectations for him with those of sports fans for their favorite team (in this case, the then-woeful Detroit Lions).
  • "Anti-Terrorist Fantasy Dream Team on the Case" (5/20/09): Obama recruits Jack Bauer and Wolverine, because "a fictional threat is best met with decisive fictional force."
  • "A Field Guide to Political Creatures" (8/14/09): A sillier look at wonks, hacks and zealots.
  • Film

    I've written several hundred reviews (most of them short, some more expansive) generally as part of a post-Oscars roundup, a preblog tradition. Those are easiest found by scrolling through the Oscars and film categories. (A post examining the conservative ideologue's approach to film is linked above.) Some obituaries and retrospectives of note:

  • "Sven Nykvist 1922–2006 (9/25/06): The work of one of film's greatest cinematographers.
  • "A Moment of Silence: Ingmar Bergman (1918–2007)" (8/9/07): Looking back at the work of a cinematic giant.
  • "Kurosawa Exhibit" (12/10/08): Considering another of cinema's masters.
  • "Éric Rohmer (1920-2010)" (1/26/10): Appreciating the subtleties and sublimeness of Rohmer's work.
  • "Roger Ebert (1942–2013)" (4/12/13): A look at the film critic and his prose.
  • "Ray Harryhausen (1920–2013)" (5/20/13): The stop-motion magician.
  • Banned Books

    I try to write a post for Banned Books Week every year (and comment on current events, if relevant). To date, the most extensive posts in this category are:

  • "Just Another Concerned Parent Firing Librarians" (9/12/08): My most in-depth post of several on Sarah Palin's unsuccessful censorship attempts as Mayor of Wasilla.
  • "Fahrenheit 451" (10/3/08): A look at the novel and recent attempts to ban it.
  • "Banned Books Week 2010" (9/27/10): Choosing not to read something is fine; banning entails preemptively making that choice for everyone else.
  • "Banned Books Week 2011" (9/25/11): Efforts to ban works by Aldous Huxley and Sherman Alexie.
  • "Banned Books Week 2014" (9/27/14): Kurt Vonnegut and Slaughterhouse Five.
  • Other Arts

  • "Who's on First?" (5/7/08): My experiences rehearsing and performing the famous sketch. (I've done it about a dozen times now.)
  • "Creativity" (7/10/08): A piece about protecting and nurturing the creative impulse.
  • "Ar Eirinn Ni Neosainn Ce Hi" (3/17/09): This St. Patrick's Day post on one of my favorite Irish songs still gets hits occasionally.
  • "Iain Banks" (6/5/13): An assessment of the Scottish sci-fi and "straight" fiction author Iain Banks, who unfortunately died in 2013.
  • "Pete Seeger (1919–2014)" (2/12/14): An appreciation of the folk singer and activist.
  • I really should write more about theater and poetry, but I try to post something for National Poetry Month in April every year, and I'm always happy to plug the wonderful Favorite Poem Project.

    The Holocaust

    Each year, I write a post for International Holocaust Remembrance Day and sometimes write related posts about current events. The most significant posts in The Holocaust category are:

  • Holocaust Remembrance Day (2006): A roundup of Holocaust materials.
  • "International Holocaust Remembrance Day, 2008": A look at the Nazi propaganda (including films) used to sell their T4 "euthanasia" program, a precursor to their death camps. (Some film clip issues, alas.)
  • "International Holocaust Remembrance Day, 2009": Music from composers persecuted or killed by the Nazis.
  • "Godwin's Law" (4/21/09): Considering its value and limitations.
  • "Deny Me Health Care or Give Me Death" (8/16/09): Conservatives misrepresent history to compare giving people health care to Nazi killings.
  • "If This Is a Man" (1/27/10): A look at one of the best Holocaust memoirs, Primo Levi's If This Is a Man (Se questo è un uomo), better known in the U.S. as Survival in Auschwitz.

    The Jon Swift Roundup (and the Rest)

    For the past several years, I've continued a tradition started by the late, great, Jon Swift (pen name of Al Weisel) – the best posts of the year, picked by the bloggers themselves. The category is here.

    I've also cross-posted or guest posted at Crooks and Liars, Hullabaloo, the Campaign for America's Future, and the dearly departed Blue Herald. (At times I miss the series Right-Wing Cartoon Watch that ran there, but it was a ton of work.)

    That's about it. At times, the site name "Vagabond Scholar" strikes me as stuffy or pretentious – and it doesn't fit my sillier nom de blog – but I picked it in the spirit of curiosity and searching, not pretending to know all the answers. (More background's here.)

    Thanks to everyone who's stopped by over the years, and happy blogging.

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