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Elizabeth-KolbertElizabeth’s Kolbert’s latest epistle in the April 14 New Yorker is a textbook example of climate change BS posing as journalism.

Her sermon won’t influence anyone, because the only people who will actually read it have already been converted to the AGW faith.

The scary thing is, the typical New Yorker reader — not to mention most journalists — won’t see a thing wrong with Kolbert’s warning that we all have to act fast because the “looming crisis that is global warming”  is no longer looming but is already here.

Kolbert, in case you haven’t heard, is the official High Priest of Climatology at The New Yorker.

Her latest “Talk of the Town”  item, “Rough Forecasts,” is essentially another of her riffs on behalf of maintaining tax subsidies for renewable energy, ending current fossil fuel subsidies, taxing carbon, toughening up building codes, praying for the recovery of coral reefs and heeding the latest divine revelations, recommendations and warnings of the IPCC.

Kolbert recites the usual silly truths about AGW  that New Yorker editors and readers swallow as a matter of faith — because of humans and their fetish for fossil fuels the reefs are dying, the Arctic ice is disappearing, famines and droughts are coming and Gaia has already gone into her death spiral.

She also points out, with displeasure, that the U.S. government underwrites the use of fossil fuels to the tune of $4 billion a year.

As a libertarian, I’m against all kinds of corporate welfare. I agree with Kolbert that the fossil fuel subsidies should be repealed — along with all those renewable energy subsidies.

But that $4 billion number is either wrong or insignificant. Kolbert’s soul mates at PriceofOil.org put the subsidy number between $14 to $52 billion per year, depending on how it’s figured.

What Ms. Kolbert is referring to, I think, are the $4 billion in fossil fuel subsidies President Obama has proposed cutting from his budget every year he’s been in office  but has never done.

Anyway, it doesn’t matter. A lousy $4 billion is chump change in a trillion-dollar U.S. energy sector where hundreds of big and small public and private companies no one has ever heard of pulled in at least $271 billion in profits in 2012.

For a science wiz who yearns to be officially crowned the Rachel Carson of climate change, Kolbert has a history of trouble with hard numbers, big and small.

In 2005 I caught her and her fact-checkers telling her gullible New Yorker readers than one of Greenland’s mightiest glaciers was moving at several miles per hour, not several miles per year.

Her glacial speed trap, as I happily pointed out in a column, was off by a factor of 8,760.  The magazine was forced into running a rare correction confessing its error (arguably my greatest feat in 35 years of newspaper journalism).

Kolbert also goofed up some numbers in 2007 in her profile of Amory Lovins, the famous environmental genius and “natural capitalist” who, unlike Kolbert, prefers practical, pragmatic, market-driven solutions to energy conservation instead of government micro-fiat.

Here’s what I wrote in my Pittsburgh Tribune-Review column:

“After confusingly toting up how many hundreds of billions Americans spend on gas, oil and energy each year, she concluded that ‘In 2007, total energy expenditures in the U.S. will come to more than a quadrillion dollars, or roughly a tenth of the country’s gross domestic product.’

“Quadrillion — Kolbert actually meant ‘a trillion dollars.’ And the annual U.S. GDP is about $13 trillion, not $10 quadrillion, as she implied. This time Kolbert was wrong by only a factor of 1,000.”

Kolbert’s chronic numbers problem isn’t the point. It’s not even really her fault. Copy editors are supposed to save her by catching such embarrassments as speeding ice sheets before they appear in print.

You can’t really blame Kolbert for her apocalyptic climatology or her god-awful politics, both of which make her New Yorker-safe. She is what she is — an G-W alarmist Bible thumper on a mission to save the world.

The people who deserve the blame for Kolbert are the people who run The New Yorker. They’re the ones who feature her relentless proselytizing and moralizing and pass it off as the thoughts of a reasonable journalist.

simpsons-kodos-treehouseofhorrorStupid Point/Counterpoint is a new feature in which Stag Blog columnist Joe Steigerwald counters the worst editorials on the internet with a well-written and thought out rebuttal. Also: mockery and yelling.

How do you write a critique of libertarianism without doing any research into the subject of libertarianism? Join Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer as they answer that question, and more!

AMERICA, did you know there is a shadowy group of extremists whose only goal is bringing about the destruction of the state? This cadre of radicals operates under our very noses, advocating for less government and more personal freedom. If we allow them to succeed they will plunge the country into destruction. They must be eliminated.

I for one thank God that we have Nick Hanauer and Eric Liu to expose these monsters.

Are Libertarians the new Communists? The question, authored by Michael Bloomberg under the pen name Nick Hanauer and Eric Liu, would appear to have an obvious answer: no. Or, more appropriately: hell no, are you stupid? However, that is only because you have been brainwashed by the massive libertarian juggernaut. They of the 1 percent of the popular vote in the 2012 Presidential election and zero active members in the U.S. government.

The article posits that while communism and extreme libertarianism (a word so unpopular spell check doesn’t even recognize it) appear to be “polar opposites” they are actually “mirror images,” and the adoption of either would result in unchecked human misery, poverty, and tyranny.

I’d like to think (or at least pray) that most people would laugh when they read Hanauer and Liu’s anti-libertarian polemic appearing (ever so appropriately) at Bloomberg.com. I’d love to believe that most rational humans who read the article threw up their hands, closed down their browsers, got back into their beds, and pulled up the covers; vowing never again to leave their house. Those few people who actually finished the article probably fell into one of two camps: enraged libertarians and Michael Bloomberg worshiping authoritarians.

Some articles with terrible headlines actually improve upon close reading. This isn’t one of them. It turns out the title is probably the most well thought-out part of the entire endeavor. It’s completely misleading, but it’s excellent link bait. The headline screams that juicy controversial content is inside — it begs to be clicked and shared– but the article can’t deliver upon that promise. It’s obviously unreasearched, blatantly misleading on every level, and poorly written. The writers have to strain the limits of belief to build their rather shaky case that a country run by “extremist” libertarians would develop the same problems that plague the communist-controlled China, Cuba, and North Korea.

By the second paragraph Hanauer and Liu have changed their entire premise: libertarians aren’t the problem, it’s the “extremist” or “radical” wing of the party that is the problem. Unfortunately the named are all Republicans, not libertarians, and certainly not part of the “extremist” wing of the party:

Some of the radical libertarians are Ayn Rand fans who divide their fellow citizens into makers, in the mold of John Galt, and takers, in the mold of anyone not John Galt.

Some, such as the Koch brothers, are economic royalists who repackage trickle-down economics as “libertarian populism.” Some are followers of Texas Senator Ted Cruz, whose highest aspiration is to shut down government. Some resemble the anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, who has made a career out of trying to drown, stifle or strangle government.

Yes, liberty is a core American value, and an overweening state can be unhealthy. And there are plenty of self-described libertarians who have adopted the label mainly because they support same-sex marriage or decry government surveillance. These social libertarians aren’t the problem. It is the nihilist anti-state libertarians of the Koch-Cruz-Norquist-Paul (Ron and Rand alike) school who should worry us.

Liu and Hanauer round up the usual capitalist boogey men: Ayn Rand and her ever-pulsing mass of followers, the “sinister 6,” an evil group of superlibertarians featuring: The Koch brothers, AKA the Kochtopus, Rand “Republican Senator from Tennessee” Paul, Ron “Dr. No” Paul, Grover “The Tax Slayer” Norquist, and Ted “I’m not a libertarian, why am I on this list” Cruz. This band of evil anti-statist extremists want nothing more than to destroy the government and plunge America into freedom anarchy.

Lui and Hanauer make the usual mistake of equating anyone who wants to reduce the size of government (no matter how slight) to extremist libertarians. No self-respecting libertarian (must less a radical extremist) would ever include Rand Paul and Ted Cruz in their secret coven, even if they agree with some of their policies. This is where the authors betray their own statist ideology. Even the smallest notion of shrinking the government sends shockwaves through Lui and Hanauer’s entire being. Their reaction to a tiny faction of dedicated but hopelessly outnumbered ideologues is to go nuclear on an entire ideology. They don’t want to marginalize the radical libertarian movement, they want to annihilate anyone who dares think that government is growing too large. To them this means cobbling together a disparate group of politicians and advocates who loosely share a streak of libertarianism into a shadowy group of “extremists” and “radicals” and slandering the hell out of them.

Lui and Hanauer’s premise — which on its own is ridiculous — is quickly revealed to be merely a hit piece on Republican bigwigs and future presidential candidates  Rand Paul and Ted Cruz are almost a lock to run in 2016, and Grover Norquist and the Koch brothers receive nearly daily slandering from the left.

When you compare an ideology that has produced nearly 100 million victims to one that advocates personal freedom and extremely limited government you should probably introduce some evidence into the equation. Alas, there is little evidence to to be found in the article (though they have plenty of hearsay and conjecture. Which are “kinds of evidence.”)

We say the conditional “would” because radical libertarianism has a fatal flaw: It can’t be applied across a functioning society. What might radical libertarians do if they actually had power? A President Paul would rule by tantrum, shutting down the government in order to repeal laws already passed by Congress. A Secretary Norquist would eliminate the Internal Revenue Service and progressive taxation, so that the already wealthy could exponentially compound their advantage, as the programs that sustain a prosperous middle class are gutted. A Koch domestic policy would obliterate environmental standards for clean air and water, so that polluters could externalize all their costs onto other people.

Radical libertarians would be great at destroying. They would have little concept of creating or governing. It is in failed states such as Somalia that libertarianism finds its fullest actual expression.

First of all it would be very hard for a single, lone libertarian in the halls of Washington D.C. to do anything close to the kinds of things that Lui and Hanauer propose would happen. Apparently they have forgotten about the hundreds of Republicans and Democrats lining the aisles of Congress. Secondly, once again the authors fail to name a single libertarian. Thirdly, saying Somalia is the “fullest actual expression” of libertarianism is represents an alarming lack of knowledge about Somalia, libertarianism, world affairs, politics, war, culture, religion, federalism, constitutional law, economics, capitalism, rational arguments (etc. etc.). It’s a gross misrepresentation of libertarianism, and all too common from the statist left. (For future reference I do recommend at least wikipedia-ing “libertarian” before writing about it. Hint, hint)

Some libertarians will claim we are arguing against a straw man and that no serious adherent to their philosophy advocates the extreme positions we describe. The public record of extreme statements by the likes of Cruz, Norquist and the Pauls speaks for itself.

Citations? References? Links? A link to a Google search of “extreme statements by Ron Paul?” Something/Anything?  When you include “speaks for itself” in an article, it usually means, “I heard Ed Schulz bashing him on TV and it sounded pretty convincing.”

The rest of the article is a wan, inarticulate defense of government:  cooperation! Evolving blends of freedom! True citizenship! Buzzwords written for the Sesame Street crowd. Not even worth a copy and paste.

Even if  libertarianism isn’t your political ideology of choice it’s hard to imagine an article that does less to actually link libertarianism and communism together. If Liu and Hanauer had used the headline “radical libertarianism is bad” no one would have batted an eyelash. Even if they had written a well-reasoned, researched article about how they don’t believe libertarianism can work in this global climate, there would be little outrage. But they misrepresented their entire argument in the title, thus ensuring angry libertarians would comment/tweet/write blog rebuttals (wait a second…) and their article would go viral. However, this fails to identify this article’s raison d’etre: It’s a hit piece on the libertarian(ish) conservatives currently flexing their muscles in the House and Senate. Somehow the article paints the (slight) inclination to (possibly) reduce the size of government as a tenet of radical libertarianism. That’s not radical, that’s not even libertarian. That’s very basic conservative, small government-type views. (If you want radical libertarianism try Sheldon Richman on for size.)

Liu and Hanauer subscribe to the standard liberal trope: government is inherently a good and pure institution. All it takes is tinkering and fine-tuning to make it work. To all problems, the solution: more government. But the moment anyone wants to reduce or streamline the massive government bureaucracy, they are viewed as radicals. Liu and Hanauer’s piece is one published in fear and reaction to a growing  inclination amongst the plebeians that government might be growing too big and too powerful for its (or, rather, our) own good.

But all is not lost. When the radical libertarian Rand Paul is elected President in 2016 we, dedicated soldiers of libertarianism will descend on Liu, Hanauer and their ilk, and send them and all enemies of the revolution to prison camps, where they will starve and die. No wait, that’s communism. I’m sorry, I get them confused sometimes too.

If you’ve made it this far you already know; this article was written by Joe Steigerwald. Follow him on twitter @steigerwaldino. Don’t follow him on Facebook, but you can follow The Stag Blog. Look at the other stuff I’ve done: Steigerwald Post

Memorial Day is now three days behind us. The patriotic fervor of the day has dulled to a low ebb. Citizens, more distant than ever from the military, can once again forget about the soldiers dying far away. For most Americans it’s time to go back to their daily grind until the shadow of Veterans Day reminds them to wave flags and post thank yous on social media.

As for libertarians, it’s downright antithetical to celebrate a day like Memorial Day, so it’s a relief when the day passes. The idea of memorializing soldiers, the guns in the itchy trigger fingers of the State’s hand, seems loathsome. These are the people who kill enemy and innocents alike, unquestioning, based on orders given by men who view battlefields as chessboards, soldiers as pawns, and blood as a lubricant in their geopolitical ends and means.

Over on AntiWar.com, Lucy Steigerwald (my sister) writes in her critique of Memorial Day that “It is not morally neutral to join the military, and so it’s not morally neutral to mourn war dead.” Sheldon Richman at the Free Association blog also views Memorial Day in a negative light, (to say the least).

Richman writes:

Today is Revisionist History Day, what others call Memorial Day. Americans are supposed to remember the country’s war dead while being thankful that they protected our freedom and served our country. However, reading revisionist history … teaches that the fallen were doing no such thing. Rather they were and are today serving cynical politicians and the “private” component of the military-industrial complex in the service of the American Empire.

But this ignores the millions of soldiers killed who were drafted in the Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. They didn’t choose to join the military, they were coerced. It also ignores the fact that the world only exists in its current capacity because of the blood spilled in the American Revolution. Was that war just? What about World War II? How many civilians have to be killed before some kind of intervention becomes necessary or moral?

You don’t have to believe in the morality of war to honor those who died. But by all means parse out each individual soldier. Play St. Peter and judge them on their worthiness of being honored. Go ahead and memorialize the 53 percent that meets your criteria while making sure none of the 47 percent receive any of your well-wishes. If you want to find someone to blame, there’s a much more worthy target than soldiers — especially the dead ones.

The blame for wars lies squarely at the feet of the government. It’s easy to excoriate soldiers for being the weapons of war, but that ignores the fingers pulling the trigger. With drones replacing front line soldiers, the impetus to change the way our government operates grows exponentially. When war becomes as cold and sterile as playing a video game, it doesn’t bode well for a peaceful world.

You cannot hope to put an end to warfare by heaping blame on the soldiers. It’s counterproductive and only inflames the passions of the citizenry. To spur change, our words and efforts have to be focused on the highest halls of power. The State will try and deflect, to blame the rest of the world for forcing their hand, for coercing them into war. It will arouse patriotism through statues and songs and through co-opting days of memorial.

It is far too easy to get caught up in celebrating Memorial Day the way the government wants us to. They want us to forget the endless wars, the needless interventions. But that’s not the point. Memorial Day wasn’t started by the government as a way to stoke patriotism. It was a simple day of remembering those who died in battle, no matter who or why.

Memorial Day isn’t a once a year quote thanking the military for their service. It’s not an excuse to wave a flag and proclaim our country the greatest in the world. It’s not an excuse to hate anti-war activists and those who would dare speak out against our foreign policy. The State has equated the day with patriotism to dull the senses of the masses. To cow those who would speak out against the heroic American solider serving selflessly overseas to protect our freedoms, Democracy; whatever the buzz words of the day are. But that’s not what Memorial Day is for.

It is a day to honor American soldiers who have died in battle. That’s all.

It’s really that simple. There’s nothing pro-war or pro-government about it. If anything, the concept of remembering the hundreds of thousands of dead American soldiers is decidedly anti-war. If more people remember the cost of war in human terms then it becomes harder for the government to abuse its powers.

The government may have stolen Memorial Day for their own means, but that doesn’t mean remembering the fallen should make us uncomfortable. Remember that as long as government has the power of life and death, there will be more and more soldiers who die and become merely statistics in a book. So celebrate Memorial Day, and remember the soldiers — maybe more than once a year — but do more than that; fight for a world in which they no longer have to be memorialized.