review all the Sift quotes of 2015
The themesLooking back at the 48 Sifts between this one and the last Yearly Sift, several themes stand out. I've pulled three out into their own articles: the presidential race; the religion/morality/law complex that resulted from the Supreme Court's same-sex marriage decision and continued in the "religious freedom" debate that followed; and the year-long debate over Black Lives Matter.
The booksOver the last few years, the number of book reviews has gone down, in favor of longer posts that pull together a larger reading program ("Not a Tea Party" is the model there.), or short recommendations that don't stretch into a full article.
The full-fledged reviews this year were Islam Without Extremes by Mustafa Akyol, Creditocracy by Andrew Ross, The Half has Never Been Told by Edward Baptist, and How Propaganda Works by Jason Stanley. Ta-Nehisi Coates' book Between the World in Me got reviewed in a segment of a weekly summary; I'm not sure why I didn't break that out into its own article.
Posts that leaned heavily on particular books include "Small-government Freedom vs. Big-government Rights", which leaned on After Appomattox by Gregory Downs. "What Just Happened?", my discussion of Benjamin Netanyahu's re-election in Israel, leaned on two books: My Promised Land by Ari Shavit and Goliath by Max Blumenthal. "You Don't Have to Hate Anybody to be a Bigot" leaned on Almighty God Created the Races by Fay Botham
My analysis of Hillary Clinton's campaign speeches was actually a report on a much larger reading project: Hillary's It Takes a Village, Living History, and Hard Choices, as well as David Brock's The Seduction of Hillary Rodham and Blinded By the Right.
Well-worth-reading books that I mentioned in weekly summaries but never worked into a larger article include: The Doubt Factory by Paolo Bacigalupi, Dallas 1963 by Bill Minutablio and Steven Davis, Why I am a Salafi by Michael Muhammad Knight 12-14, and What is Islam? by Shahab Ahmed 12-14
The mostsMost popular posts. By far the most popular post, for the second year in a row, was "Not a Tea Party, a Confederate Party". It had settled down from its original run last year, but then the Charleston shooting and the subsequent controversy over the Confederate flag set it off on an even bigger run. It got 300K hits this year, building its total to 485K. Whenever "Not a Tea Party" goes on a run, it carries along two posts it links to: "A Short History of White Racism in the Two Party System" (17K new hits/ 32K total) and "Slavery Lasted Until Pearl Harbor" (6K/11K). Each is worthwhile on its own.
The most popular new post (second overall) was another deep dive into American history: "You Don't Have to Hate Anybody to be a Bigot" got 101K hits. All-time, it moved into third place behind "Not a Tea Party" and "The Distress of the Privileged" (52K new hits/ 394K total). "You Don't Have to Hate Anybody" looks at how religion has been used to justify discrimination all through American history; the "religious freedom" argument currently being used to justify discrimination against gays and same-sex couples is virtually identical to religious arguments that justified discrimination against blacks and against interracial couples; there are also parallels with the religious justifications for slavery.
Two other popular posts this year were "Slurs: Who can say them, when, and why" about the proper usage (and non-usage) of words like nigger and bitch; (13K hits); and "The Political F-word" (10K hits), which compared Donald Trump's campaign and following to various models of fascism.
Most prescient comments. The most prescient comment actually is from July of 2014, when I predicted not only the result of this year's ObamaCare decision, but the 6-3 split:
I don’t think they’ll overturn the subsidies. ... I can imagine Thomas, Alito, and Scalia going that way, but Roberts and Kennedy will be reluctant.When Charleston-church-shooter Dylann Roof was characterized as a "lone wolf" despite his online contacts with white supremacist groups and his manifesto being full of standard white-supremacist rhetoric, I speculated:
Make the parallel to Muslim terrorists and ISIS. If a Muslim shooter had been browsing ISIS web sites and wrote a manifesto full of ISIS rhetoric, would we see him as a loner, or think of him as part of ISIS?Well, we found out the answer to that after the San Bernardino shooting.
I also feel good about refusing to jump on the Jeb-Bush-inevitability bandwagon. I won't claim to have seen Donald Trump coming, but back in June (when Jeb announced) I was skeptical:
What issues will he run on? His positions on immigration and education are unpopular with the Republican base. I have heard no specific suggestions for how he would fight ISIS or terrorism in general differently than President Obama. I really don’t think his blaming Obama for “the biggest debt ever” will stick, given that Obama has drastically reduced the deficit he inherited from Jeb’s brother.Just before Hillary's Benghazi Committee testimony, I predicted:
Republicans will browbeat her in order to look tough for their base, but Clinton will maintain her composure and look like the winner to most of the country.Least prescient comments. Hands down, the least was my underestimation of the Trump threat. In July I wrote:
He really has no interest in being president, and when the campaign gets serious he won’t be there. So if his candidacy is getting you either excited or riled, don’t waste your energy. ... [T]his campaign is a more elaborate bluff than he’s run in previous years, but it’s still a bluff. Look for him to find an exit sometime in December.In October, I was still waiting for the bluff to unravel. I noted that Bush had started to put major money into New Hampshire, which would force Trump to do the same. "We’ll soon know whether Trump is serious or just running as a publicity stunt." Well, Trump didn't put serious money in then and still hasn't.
Also, I consistently over-estimated how close we'd come to a government shutdown this year. No particular quote stands out, but there's a general pattern.
I usually pick out a Best Post Nobody Read, but this year the good posts all did pretty well. I may have to change my definition of nobody.
The numbersSince the last Yearly Sift, I put out 48 weekly sifts (49 if you include this one) and took three weeks off.
2015 continued 2014's upward trend in the Sift's readership. The most straightforward measurement of that growth is in the annual page-views: