From the monthly archives: "June 2014"

A libertarian panel hosted by Lucy Steigerwald, where ranting is encouraged, and smashing the state is mandatory.

-Lucy Steigerwald: Columnist for VICE.com, Antiwar.com, Rare.us, and Editor in Chief of The Stag Blog; @lucystag
-Michael Tracey: New York City-based correspondent for VICE.com, contributor to The American Conservative, Reason, The Nation, The Awl; @mtracey
-Joe Steigerwald: Publisher for The Stag Blog, technical dude; @steigerwaldino
-Joshua M. Patton: Writer for the internet, www.joshuampatton.com; @joshuampatton
Our cranky, liberty-loving panel discussed the possibility of NSA/spying reform, Michael Tracey’s VICE piece on heroin panic, and the drug war in general, then we had a long, long discussion on libertarianism, feminism, and the horrors of the Buzzfeedification of the media.

For anyone who wants to see and hear the John Steinbeck of 1961, here’s your chance.

Steinbeck and his wife Elaine were invited to JFK’s inaugural address in DC on January 20, 1961.

They went to the speech on a bitter cold day with JFK insider John Kenneth Galbraith and his wife Catherine, but skipped the inaugural ball that night and watched it on TV.

It was about six weeks after John Steinbeck returned to New York following his 1960 “Travels With Charley” road trip. Steinbeck, 58 but looking 70-something, shared a limo ride with the Galbraiths to and from the speech. On board with them was a camera crew that was shooting a Robert Drew  documentary produced for an ABC “Close Up” TV program called “Adventures on the New Frontier.”

In the documentary footage the Steinbecks and the Galbraiths are seen praising Kennedy’s inauguration speech and making jokes. The Galbraiths went to the inaugural ball in Washington that night, which is where the video ends.

The original chapter Steinbeck wrote for “Charley” was entitled “L’Envoi” and was about his trip to the inaugural. Never seen publicly until 2002, it was cut from the book for good reason — it didn’t fit with the rest of  “Charley’ and it was pretty boring.

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John and Elaine Steinbeck take a limo ride with John Kenneth Galbraith and his wife after the JFK inaugural speech of Jan. 20, 1961.

Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk fell into the same trap that way too many writers fall into when comparing Terry Bradshaw to superstar and/or Hall of Fame quarterbacks who have come after him.

They compare his stats (apples) to theirs (oranges) without taking the differences in the eras into account. Smith found lots of ugly stats from some of Bradshaw’s post season games and he makes the mistake of saying that Bradshaw had little to do with the Steelers’ first two Super Bowl wins.

Johnny Unitas had 7 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions in the post season and put up a 68 passer rating. Quarterbacks took all their snaps from under center in those days. They had two running backs lined up behind them and rarely had more than two wide receivers in the formation.   And their offensive lineman had to keep their hands off of pass rushers. There was a penalty called illegal use of the hands. And defenders  could knock receivers on their asses whenever they felt like it as long as the ball wasn’t in the air.

When those rules were changed to the ones that Manning plays under now Bradshaw put up great numbers. It’s scary to think what  Bradshaw, who did EVERYTHING better than Manning would do in today’s flag football offenses.

You know how many touchdown passes Joe Namath threw in that famous Super Bowl win over the Colts? None. You know what his completion percentage was the week before in the AFC  championship game? 38%. The Jets won the game. His career post season completion percentage was 42%. Namath, like Bradshaw, threw the ball downfield. There was no dinking and dunking.

In 1972, on the way to winning the Super Bowl, Roger Staubach, who also did EVERYTHING better than Manning, threw for 99, 103, 119 yards and had a total of three touchdown passes in three games. In 1978, the first season under the new rules, Staubach was 7-17 and 13-25 in the two playoff games before losing to the Steelers in Super Bowl XIII.

You just can’t compare Bradshaw to modern quarterbacks with stats alone. The guys today are playing a completely different game. Compare Bradshaw to his contemporaries and he looks just fine.

Everyone but Dick Cheney and Bill Kristol is now claiming they never thought going to war in Iraq was such a good idea.

Most of them are full of it, of course.  War fever, as usual, swept up almost everybody back in the spring of 2003.

But not me and not the paper I worked for, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Unfortunately, not enough power people in the Bush Administration were reading the enlightened, prescient and principled op-ed pages of the Trib in 2003.

They were too busy studying where to drop their smart bombs. Not to mention  promising 1,000 years of peace and democracy in the Middle East if we invaded Iraq, took out Bad Saddam and his invisible weapons of mass destruction and began teaching the Iraqi tribes how to act Swiss.

We at the Trib, including the publisher Richard Scaife, knew better. We, like Pat Buchanan and a lot of other smart non-interventionist Cassandras who understood the traditional limitations of invading other lands, knew the decision to go to war in Iraq was the stupidest American international move since Vietnam.

A lot of people in DC not named Bush and Cheney have a lot of blood on their hands. They’ll all go free. What’s 5k dead Americans and $1 trillion down the drain?

Iraq was a bipartisan blunder — a predictable tragedy (and an epic war crime)  that many predicted.

How to punish the guilty?

My idea would be that every political dickhead in Washington who had anything to do with promoting or voting for the Iraq war should do the right thing — go to the Capitol steps and  publicly apologize  to the families of the dead and wounded Americans, ask forgiveness from the whole country and quit whatever job they have.

Soon they’ll be holding a war tribunal to round up all the hawks who thought Iraq was such a great idea. They won’t come looking for me. I was against the war 1000 percent.

For the record, this is drawn from just one of the dozen or so columns I wrote pointing out how foolish, immoral and futile the war in Iraq was. It’s from July 0f 2003, when we were still celebrating our great victory and still looking for Saddam and his invisible weapons of mass destruction.

Stuck in Iraq’s mess

Having second thoughts about the war yet?

….

Sure, it’s early yet. Baghdad wasn’t built in a day. Neither was a democracy. But cities and free societies are notoriously hard to build from the top down by the most enlightened of conquering armies, especially when the natives don’t buy into the master plan.

Unfortunately, the price of occupying Iraq will only get higher. A few years from now, sooner if there’s regime change in Washington, we’ll find an excuse to leave or hand Iraq over to the United Nations. Meanwhile, why is anyone surprised things aren’t going well?

Long before the smart-bombing started, the most principled anti-war critics — left, right and libertarian — warned over and over that the hardest part of going to war would be the occupation afterwards.

Everyone knew our preemptive intervention in Iraq was inevitable a year before H-Hour. The Bush administration only did what governments of every ilk and every political party do after they decide to go war — use exaggerations, scare tactics and fibs to make their moral/political case to the people.

No biggie. That’s how governments operate. What was most annoying about our inevitable march to war was that so many conservatives in Congress and the media were so gung-ho about it. They saw war with Iraq not as folly but as a really neat way to transplant democracy, free markets and the rule of law into a strategically vital region that needed all three.

STUPID, RISKY

Many of these conservative war hawks believe devoutly in limited government, or pretend to, and they understand why government programs at home rarely work the way they are intended. When they see Washington declare war on poverty or set out to nationalize health care, they denounce it for what it is – social engineering by Big Dumb Government.

Yet what is mounting a massive expeditionary force and setting out to remake a Muslim penal colony in the image of Switzerland? It’s social engineering of the most ambitious and insane kind.

Trying to graft Western ideas and values onto a culture halfway around the world – by military force – is so stupid, so risky, so costly, so fraught with unknowns, so likely to fail, only a government would try it.

If a Democrat administration had dreamed up such a boondoggle, conservatives would have fought it tirelessly, not cheered it on. Maybe conservatives lost their selective distrust of big government because Iraq was invaded in the name of national security. Maybe it had to do with simple party partisanship or the delusory side-effects of war-making and patriotism.

Whatever it was that made a federal government takeover of Iraq look like such a swell idea to conservatives a year ago, it doesn’t look so smart now. We’re stuck with a big mess. And it’s not un-American to start saying “We told you so.”

Last week, I chatted with Zach Fountain and Seth Wilson about our favorite country music, libertarianism, why music is better than politics, the drawbacks of explicitly libertarian music, and how they became libertarians themselves.

There are lots of important other songs I should have referenced more specifically, questions  should have asked, but I was distracted by the fact that I had just broken a lamp, and my general excitement over the real life existence of Zach and Seth!

Next time maybe we’ll talk about Bigfoot.

Seth Wilson: blogger at cultwestern.com; @TheJackalopeTX
Zach Fountain: songwriter, blogger at rushmorebeekeepers.com; @rbeekeepers

Zach’s libertarian and otherwise picks:
Hayes Carll – “KMAG YOYO”
Jonathan Richman – “You’re Crazy For Taking The Bus”
The Carter Family – “Single Girl, Married Girl”
Bascom Lamar Lunsford – “I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground”
Kacey Musgraves – “Follow Your Arrow”
Steve Earle – “My Uncle” (Gram Parsons cover)

Seth’s libertarian and otherwise picks:
Corb Lund – “Counterfeit Blues”
Corb Lund – “Gettin’ Down On The Mountain”
Corb Lund – “Expectation and the Blue”
Ian Tyson – “Ross Knox”
New Riders Of The Purple Sage – “Henry”
Merle Haggard – “Big City”
Wayne Hancock -” Johnny Law”

Lucy’s libertarian and otherwise picks:
Steve Earle – “Copperhead Road”
Asylum Street Spankers – “Winning the War on Drugs”
Bob Dylan – “Masters of War”
Old Crow Medicine Show – “I Hear Them All”
Old Crow Medicine Show – “Alabama HighTest”
Jim Jackson – “Bye Bye Policeman”
Peter Rowan – “Ruby Ridge”
Johnny Cash – “Folsom Prison Blues”

Tony Gwynn died on Monday from cancer. He was 54 and he died believing that his cancer was caused by over 30 years of chewing tobacco. This has caused more discussion about Major League Baseball banning tobacco. It sends a bad message to the kiddies. Quick question: What causes more disease and death, chewing tobacco or alcohol? Maybe MLB should stop taking all that advertising money from the beer companies. And maybe teams should consider eliminating beer sales at the ball park.  Fat chance.

  • r4ru2qdrwzm954iylcmrNathan Salsburg, the fellow now in charge of the Alan Lomax archive has brought back his Root Hog or Die radio show, which can be listened to this a-way on Tuesdays from 3 p.m. EST to 4 p.m. Do it.
  • That very same fellow has also written up for The Oxford American a good look at the massive, Jack White-produced 400 dollar (so that’s not happening) box set Rise and Fall of Paramount Records, Volume One (1917–1927).
  • My previous experience with Root Hog or Die is this amazing playlist (forever a grateful hat tip to Jim Epstein) which contains my first experience with weird-ass shapenote singing and other important thing like that.
  • My friend Rodge has weeks and years of killer radio shows. I’ll never get through them all, but he’s a great, weird, diverse, but country and old time-loving DJ.
  • Oh hey, there will finally be a Hank Williams Sr. biopic and a…British guy will play the lead. He looks right, but will he sound right? (On a side note, British people doing bad American accents remains one of the funnier damn things in the world. We all sound like John Wayne Valley Girls, it seems.)
  • In my dreams, there’s a site like Jezebel except it only reports on documentaries about conjoined Vaudeville twins. I very much watch to watch this.
  • How to dress like Gary Cooper
  • Overwrought VICE Motherboard piece on the fax machine brings up interesting points — maybe analog right before the internet is the only way to truly, securely communicate. Also, I do — mostly while wandering in antique or vintage stores, sometimes starring at eight tracks — wonder about all the stuff not old enough to be interesting, yet useless in the digital age. (On another note, I don’t get the hipster love for cassettes, I really do not. But then, I don’t understand 1990s nostalgia either.)
  • I haven’t yet clicked all the way through Rolling Stone‘s 100 Greatest Country Songs of All Time, but I did laugh for a solid 30 seconds upon discovering the song title “She’s Actin’ Single, I’m Drinkin’ Doubles.” Perfect.
  • In honor of Tuesday Apocalypse: io9’s Vincze Miklos collected some of the most amazing, eerie Soviet Civil Defense posters possible. I desperately want them all. If I were rich, I would have the creepiest house in the entire world, I really would. I would have a room of gas masks, terrifying nuke pamphlets, and old weapons and everyone would think I was a serial killer. I know this. I accept this about myself.
  • Further Tuesday Apocalypse: The Nuclear Secrecy Blog’s Alex Wellerstein on the nuanced and myriad meanings of Robert Oppenheimer’s “I am become death, destroyer of worlds”  thoughts post-Trinity Test. (He may not have thought that all in the moment, but realized it sounded all epic and full of gravity more than a decade later.  He was right.)
  • This is not related, but a plea for your strong female character to actually do something for the plot. I approve. And on a side note that is more related, if you don’t understand why this matters to anyone, read Robert Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters, then watch the 1990s movie. Compare and contrast the portrayal of “Mary” between the two mediums after 50 years of what we all thought was progress. Sob into your pillow. Thank you.)
  • Also unrelated — unless 2003 is old timey — but I was pleased to see some fight in The Independents re necon bullshit. Former Ambassador John Bolton starts off the scuffle by accusing libertarians of being pro-Saddam Hussein and it goes down from there. (I also love that even when the show is at its most cable news-ish talking over each other, the yelling is about George Orwell and Iraq war casualties. Classy.)

Today’s video: Ketch Secor and Critter Fuqua singing an unrecorded Fuqua number, to get us all jazzed for the new Old Crow album next month:

(and not to cry too much over it being sans Willie Watson — whimper). I did not see this show, nor have I seen them play this song, but I did catch their reunion tour, and it was amazing.

Oh, okay. Here. My hat is basically the first thing you see.

When Chuck Noll died on June 13, 2014, I wrote this obit for my weekly sports column:

They say Pittsburgh is a football town. If it is, you can thank Chuck Noll, who died Friday night at the age of 82. When he showed up to coach the Steelers in  January of 1969, Pittsburgh was anything but a football town. The Steelers were not just the laughingstock of pro football. They were the laughingstock of American sports.

In Western Pennsylvania, the Steelers were something to do during Pirates seasons and they may not have been as popular as Pitt football, which stunk every bit as much if not more in the 1960s. In order to appreciate the job that Noll did, you have to understand just how bad the Steelers were before he changed them forever.

The Steelers had never won a a championship and were 45-72-6 in the 1960s with two winning seasons. They had two winning seasons in the ’50s and three in the ’40s. That’s seven winning seasons in 29 years. And their record didn’t do them justice.

They were worse.

A month before Noll took the job, the Steelers had played in front of a “crowd” of 22,682 at Pitt Stadium. They lost of course.

Fans were rooting for them to lose so that they could take O.J. Simpson with the first pick in the draft.

When they messed that up by going 2-0-1 in weeks 7,8 and 9, the plan was to do what they almost always did on the rare occasions when they hadn’t traded their top draft picks for more bad players.

They planned to draft the best available local guy who could help them sell tickets. That’s what they did when they drafted Pitt’s Paul Martha in 1964 and West Virginia’s Dick Leftridge in 1966.

Terry Hanratty was from Butler and was the quarterback at Notre Dame. Slam dunk choice. Chuck Noll said no and picked Joe Greene.

That was the first move in what may have been the best coaching job in the history of American sports.

Every Steelers fan knows what happened in the ‘70s. The Steelers went from being the worst major professional sports team in American history to the almost universally acclaimed best pro football team in the history of the planet.

Noll undid 40 years of ineptitude and embarrassment in five years.

Drafting Joe Greene was the first sign that the team was going to be built differently.

Noll won the first game that he coached and then lost the next 13 in 1969. What did he do to shake up the team in his second training camp? He got rid of the Steelers’ best player. Roy Jefferson was a wide receiver and the Steelers’ only star. He was coming off back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons, something no other Steelers receiver would do until Hines Ward in 2001 and 2002.

Jefferson wasn’t going along with the program, so Noll traded him to Baltimore for a mediocre receiver named Willie Richardson. Keep in mind that Noll traded his only star player and one of the best wide receivers in the league after he had taken a quarterback named Terry Bradshaw with the first pick in the draft a few months earlier.

And the plan was to start Bradshaw in Week 1.

Bradshaw threw six touchdown passes and 24 interceptions his rookie year. He could have used Jefferson.

The NFL awards the Lombardi Trophy to its champion every year. The Chuck Noll Trophy might make more sense. Noll won more Super Bowls than any other coach and no NFL coach has ever done a better job than Noll did from 1969 to 1979.

Not Lombardi.

Not Shula.

Not Walsh.

All great coaches, but the teams they inherited were better than the one that Noll inherited and Noll won more Super Bowls than all of them. And he did it after his defenses had forced the NFL to change the rules to make it easier to complete a pass.

They took away his ability to totally dominate with defense, so he turned his quarterback loose and beat them with offense. And if there is another coach in a major sport who has won back-to-back championships with only players that he drafted or signed as free agents, as Noll did in 1978 and 1979, I don’t know who it is.

It would be nice if you could say that Chuck Noll’s numbers speak for themselves, but they don’t. They apparently don’t speak loud enough for him to be mentioned very often in discussions about the greatest NFL coaches.

The great thing about Noll is that he did let his accomplishments speak for themselves. He was not a self-promoter. He had no interest in having his own TV show or doing car commercials. When he retired, networks weren’t lined up to hire him as an analyst because he made it clear that he wasn’t interested.

So, Chuck Noll will probably never get the recognition that a guy with his accomplishments deserves.

And, you know what? He couldn’t care less.

What a great man.