My pal Michael Challik, the great veteran “shooter” at KDKA TV and a born Dutchman, did me a great favor the other day by translating part of a video interview with Steinbeck-chaser Geert Mak.

Mak, a famous and renowned Dutch journalist/historian/author,  also retraced Steinbeck’s “Charley” route in the fall of 2010 and wrote a big fat, footnoted book that became a best-seller in Holland. Mak’s book, “Travels Without John in Search of America,” is being translated into English. Mak kindly mentions me about a dozen times, favorably.

Unfortunately, the book, like the video interview, is in Dutch.

Here’s a link to the video — Geert Mak talks about the journalism & politics of “Bill Steigerwald.”

And here’s the translation of the 5-minute video, courtesy of the kind Michael Challik:

 Geert Mak is lying awake thinking of the competition.

You think you have designed a great plan, but one afternoon in a little town, Lancaster, we were looking for a place John Steinbeck had stayed.  The night, a motel, pouring down rain, got out at a gas station, asked where is the motel from the 1960’s.  I can still see him, a hat on turned backwards, “Oh Steinbeck! Right?”

(The service station attendant continues.) “Yesterday, there was also somebody here.” So you think you’re the only one.  Real quickly Googled, wondering who that could be, and got the answer in about three minutes.  Bill Steigerwald, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, retired journalist.  Did exactly the same, except took off half-an-hour sooner.  We left at at 8:30…he left at 8, so we just missed him on the ferry to the mainland.

Bill wrote in his blog on the ferry at 8:45 where he met a third journalist, a guy called  John Woesdijk (sp?), who was walking the route with a dog for a dog magazine.  Later we found out that there was a fourth.  She was with the Washington Post with her Mum.  The last two I didn’t hear anything from again.  All four wanted to follow Steinbeck’s route, but Bill S., I must be honest, tried to follow Steinbeck’s whole route.  I must say I couldn’t agree with his political views, to say the least, but he did describe the route very precisely, like where Steinbeck bought his gun, with all kinds of movies, including if you would like to follow the route through his eyes.  I really recommend his website.

QUESTION: You didn’t have any contact with him?

ANSWER: Oh yeah, later on we talked a lot about it.  I really did want to talk to him because I really did find – even though he had opinions on     Obama, etc. – he was very dedicated, and he did it by himself, and he was the only one who     was roughing it, because Steinbeck stayed in hotels mostly.  Bill really roughed it out.  I got a lot of respect for him, but I thought the only thing I can do is to use him in my book…and so it goes.

But as soon as my book was finished, I wrote him – and he had also heard of me. He heard about a book in Holland, and we talked openly and frequently, and we are planning in our lives absolutely to come together, and with a great glass of beer and talk about world problems and solve them by the end of the afternoon.

QUESTION: He is an arch-conservative, right-winger Republican?

ANSWER: No, no!  He would get real mad if you tell him that, because he really didn’t like George W. Bush.  He is a Libertarian thinker.  No, No I am a half-Socialistic, latte drinking, French loving, Volvo driving, European.

So I was really different, but Steigerwald found out that Steinbeck said things in his book that were absolutely not true, and I also discovered that too.  Because if you follow Steinbeck’s journey you find, for instance, he went fishing a whole afternoon with a companion, and talks about his marriage etc., but supposedly on the same day when you follow his iterinerary he drove 400-450 miles.  You can’t be fishing in the beginning of the afternoon – and then drive 450-miles. So you find a lot of discrepancies.

The Meme: The Scientific Debate On Global Warming In One Chart

The Claim: This chart settles the debate on whether scientists accept or reject global warming by showing that a clear plurality of peer reviewed studies accept that global warming is caused by humans.

The Verdict: False. This pie chart proves that two articles reject human- caused global warming. AND NOTHING ELSE. There is no given evidence about the number of articles that blame humans for global warming. The number could be between 0 and 10,883, but no evidence is provided by the study.

This chart is misleading. Don't be a sucker. If you’ve seen this chart floating around the Internet, be warned — you’re about to get a healthy load of BS along with it.

It’s not that this chart isn’t technically correct. It’s just that the information it construes is fundamentally flawed. However, that won’t stop members of the media and people who like sharing things on social media because it reinforces their previous held beliefs. The crux of the problem is that the original study is, at best, misleading and author James Powell’s methodology is too simplistic.

The study is centered around a single question, do you reject anthropogenic global warming? To find the answer to his question, Powell searched through Web of Science peer-reviewed articles about global warming and then examined whether or not the authors explicitly rejected any kind of relationship between human activity and global warming.

This is where the issue lies. By placing the burden on authors to explicitly reject human contribution to climate change, he loads the question and completely loses any modicum of neutrality.

Powell’s study includes all papers, even ones that don’t explicitly endorse anthropogenic climate change, in the yes column. Taking a sample of his cited works from the 2012-2013 study we find that he has included:

Effect of Climate-Related Change in Vegetation on Leaf Litter Consumption and Energy Storage by Gammarus pulex from Continental or Mediterranean Populations
Effect of delayed sowing on yield and proline content of different wheat cultivars
Effect of Different Light Emitting Diode (LED) Lights on the Growth Characteristics and the Phytochemical Production of Strawberry Fruits during Cultivation
Effect of different tillage and seeding methods on energy use efficiency and productivity of wheat in the Indo-Gangetic Plains
Effect of elevated CO2 on degradation of azoxystrobin and soil microbial activity in rice soil
Effect of fish species on methane and nitrous oxide emission in relation to soil C, N pools and enzymatic activities in minted shallow lowland rice-fish farming system
Effect of Global Warming on Intensity and Frequency Curves of Precipitation, Case Study of Northwestern Iran
Effect of High Reactivity Coke for Mixed Charge in Ore Layer on Reaction Behavior of Each Particle in Blast Furnace
Effect of long-term application of organic amendment on C storage in relation to global warming potential and biological activities in tropical flooded soil planted to rice
Effect of long-term operation on the performance of polypropylene and polyvinylidene fluoride membrane contactors for CO2 absorption
Effect of maize intercropped with alfalfa and sweet clover on soil carbon dioxide emissions during the growing season in North China Plain
Effect of morpho-physiological traits on grain yield of sorghum grown under stress at different growth stages, and stability analysis
Effect of near-future seawater temperature rises on sea urchin sperm longevity
Effect of nodule formation in roots of hairy vetch (Vicia villosa) on methane and nitrous oxide emissions during succeeding rice cultivation
Effect of origin and composition of diet on ecological impact of the organic egg production chain
Effect of permafrost on the formation of soil organic carbon pools and their physical-chemical properties in the Eastern Swiss Alps
Effect of predicted sea level rise on tourism facilities along Ghana’s Accra coast
Effect of rainfall exclusion on ant assemblages in montane rainforests of Ecuador

All as positive matches proving anthropogenic climate change because they don’t explicitly reject global warming. Even if only one percent of the papers in the Powell study actually endorse the idea of global warming, they are still included in the total. Based on Powell’s own data and chart, the only thing he proves is that two papers meet the standard set in his methodology, which is whether or not “a paper rejects human-caused global warming or professes to have a better explanation of observations.”

Therefore, because Powell never actually examines the data other than to validate his original question. The number of articles that accept humans are a factor in global warming could be between 0-10,883. It’s not 10,883 studies confirming global warming. It’s two that are rejecting it. This sneaky and dishonest methodology only provides fodder to climate change deniers by overselling the problem and not providing an honest look at the actual numbers.

Furthermore, Powell’s study makes no distinction between future estimates of the effect of global warming. No matter how small or insignificant the warming may be it is counted in the “yes, humans cause climate change” number. If the papers found human activity resulted in a 6.0 Fahrenheit increase in temperature, it’s treated the same as a paper that finds humans have only caused 0.1 Fahrenheit of warming.

In other words, from this study there’s no way to tell who thinks climate change is a serious problem, could be a problem, or won’t be a problem. And that really is a problem.

While the study itself has issues, an equal concern is the misinformation that gets attached to the preceding pie chart by members of the media.

Salon’s Lindsay Abrams is already touting the chart with the headline “10,853 out of 10,855 scientists agree: Global warming is happening, and humans are to blame.” Well first off Lindsay, neither the article or the original study ever mentions the number of scientists. It’s 10,855 studies, and whether or not they were done by 10,855 different scientists is pure speculation. It’s possible that 1,000, 20,000, or 150,000 different scientists were cited in the study.

[UPDATE] Salon finally got the memo and they changed the headline to “10,883 out of 10,885 scientific articles agree: Global warming is happening, and humans are to blame.” However, you can still see the original title in the URL slug. Maybe next time you'll actually read the study before you post about it?

Lindsay also posts:

UPDATE 3/26/2014 9:27 PM: The headline of this post has been corrected to reflect the correct number of articles referenced by Dr. Powell’s research. Powell also clarifies that many of those studies were authored by multiple scientists, so the complete number is actually higher. The headlines has been updated to reflect this as well.

On his methodology, Powell notes, he only verified that two out of the 10,885 articles he found concluded that anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is wrong: “It is a safe assumption that virtually all the other 10883 do not reject–that is, they accept–AGW but I can’t say for sure that each one of them does.”

It’s nice of Powell to admit he didn’t actually read each article, and also make the assumption that if you do not reject global warming that that means you automatically endorse the idea. No room for “we don’t know” in the world of climate science.

Business Insider trumpets “The Scientific Debate in One Chart” and basically declares all scientific inquiry into global warming to be over, all the while ignoring the obvious discrepancies and dubious methodology of the study.

Weather.com, goes even further:

“[B]y reject, I mean they either flatly said global warming was wrong – which people say all the time in the press and in front of Congress – or they said there’s some other process that better explains the information,” Powell said in an interview with weather.com.

Single data points that disputed man-made climate change within a paper on another topic didn’t meet his test, he added. If a paper proposed an alternate theory for global warming, it had to have the goods.

[…]

He emphasizes that he was looking for the number of scientists who reject anthropogenic global warming – not how many accept it.

“You don’t have to poll scientists or talk to people. All you have to do is read the papers and see what evidence is there,” he said. “I think … people’s opinion is less important than the scientific evidence that backs up opinion.”

Never one to not have a stupid opinion about something he doesn’t understand, BuzzFeed’s Andrew Kaczyinski gets into the act by declaring “Nearly Every Scientist Says Global Warming is Caused by Humans.”

Dynamite job on not reading the study Andrew, but shouldn’t you have responded in the form of a listicle?

If the mainstream media buzz is any indication, you’re likely to see this chart bouncing around Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ in the next few weeks (well not Google+, because who actually uses that?). But when you do, instead of blindly accepting this misleading information, take a second to actually think about it. You don’t even have to take my word for it, get in there and read the original study. Read the wildly exaggerated claims that will be made by the media. Does the information really match up?

No.

It merely states that out of 10,885 peer reviewed articles that included the words global warming and climate change, two explicitly rejected anthropogenic global warming.

It’s a bad chart that is meant to mislead and squash actual debate.

And that’s why I had to MEMEBUST IT.

James Powell, you just got MEMEBUSTED. YAAAAAAHHH.

 

15752340I have no idea why people join cults, and certainly the fear of cults as moral panic has caused its own misery (Waco being the most prominent example). But followers and leaders of Jonestown, The Family, Heaven’s Gate, and yes, the Branch Davidians themselves caused plenty of suffering. And every single survivor of these horrors that I have heard of speaks of their cults in the same fashion — they always say it was wonderful at first. They talk about how people loved each other so much.

I saw the ghastly Jonestown photos years before I learned that the members of the People’s Temple started out feeling as if they had found a place of benevolent communism and racial harmony. The Manson Family was hippie farm living for lost souls until it was stabbing Sharon Tate and painting the walls with her blood.

My mom is always skeptical about the trope of the neighbor who thought the BTK killer was just a charming fellow. She tends to think people can see who will go bad, or who always was bad, if they only look a little harder. But brainwashing works wonders, as does a mixture of kindness and cruelty and charisma. People join cults. People voted for Hitler. There’s got to be a reason, and we all endlessly wonder about the reason. Young Adult novels, with their angsty first person narratives and their action — not their “Oh my God, the suburbs are like, totally artificial, bro” whining — are a great format with which to explore why someone might give up their free will and what they do when it comes creeping back thanks to teenage hormones and rebellion.

In Gated, by Amy Christine Parker, our narrator is Lyla. Her parents, and her three friends, and the leader known as Pioneer are the main characters. Cute son of the local sheriff Cody is mostly a plot device for some serious faith questioning, but then, that’s lampshaded enough to be fairly unannoying. The whole idea there is that Lyla — “intended” toward her friend Will — has never had the pleasure of teenage attraction. It doesn’t matter if Cody is important himself, just that Lyla has been deprived of the pleasures of youth. Yes, all the teenagers in the cult are engaged to be married to someone picked by Pioneer, but this ain’t the Children of God or even the Branch Davidians. Everyone is 18 when they are married, so it’s nice and legal. But they do have an awful lot of guns! And a bunker!

Lyla, 17, and her family have been in the cult for ten years, since her older sister was kidnapped from the front yard and 9/11 happened all in the span of a week. The book opens with a demonstration of Lyla’s inability to shoot the human-shaped targets in the head and chest, and her scolding by Pioneer. (Yes, it’s Chekov’s gun-y.) Yes, well, it’s sort of silly to be unable to shoot a damn target. But we quickly learn this group is preparing for a time when they may need to shoot unworthy, desperate outsiders who may come for their supplies or to hurt them once they realize the truth — that the apocalypse is only months away.

For someone well versed in real cults and some of their disastrous endings (with or without an outside authority making things worse) the only question is how things are going to end for the group. Will it go Jonestown, Manson Family, Heaven’s Gate, or Waco? Parker mixes in hints that suggest it could be any of them, upping the tension for old fogy readers like me.

Though law enforcement characters are disappointingly not at all bad, the cult itself is pleasingly gray. Most of the people Lyla lives with she truly loves, but she and they are all true believers to varying degrees. The community is rigid, but pleasant and pastoral. Pioneer is all “brothers and sisters” and mood swings between joyful and wrathful God. (Very Koresh and Jim Jones, and most every other big and small molder of minds and sapper of free wills, it seems). Some of the best bits are when Lyla questions something small about Pioneer’s teachings, but demonstrates in that narration that she has yet to even consider that maybe the Brethren, the alien-god types, have not chosen her and her loved ones. Maybe they are not at all real. Instead, it’s maybe that Pioneer didn’t need to punish Lyla and her friends so hard, but certainly the apocalypse is only months away and the Brethren are watching from above. That slow build of questioning in someone already more skeptical than average, and less willing to harm potential outsiders, works flawlessly well. I suspect there would be levels of realization like that.

The prose is all basic, but YA-serviceable. It’s superior to the later Hunger Games novels, but not as interesting as the more flawed 5th Wave. Lyla herself isn’t a terribly compelling character, but then, perhaps she hasn’t yet become one due to her upbringing. Making her both solidly brainwashed and sympathetic is a hard narrative task, but Parker pulls it off well. Lyla’s friend Marie is also similarly deftly drawn. Marie is both a stauncher believer and more prone to small acts of rebellion (sneaking out with the boys, smuggling in verboten Coca Cola) than her friend. Lyla’s dad is clearly struggling with belief, whereas her mother, it is implied at the end, may never recover and go back into the world. They both commit unforgivable betrayals, but they both care about their daughter. They are credible people. They are good people who suffered, and began to believe something stupid, then wrong, then evil. You can make a whole life out of what’s been poured into your head from people who swear they know everything, and you are a cipher for their will — or the will of alien gods who have been telling you their will, depending.

The tension in Gated builds admirably towards what becomes an early deadline for the group to hide in the bunker and await the end. The ATF and police come, though Lyla sees almost none of it. The bunker is closed. Pioneer goes even more mad; and I have to say, I prefer either a true-believer villain, or one who knows exactly the evil he does (shades of The Operative in Serenity). A con man or someone enjoying the process of evil is no fun.

The very end (spoilers) is relatively happy. Only a few of the cult members die. And the final scenes are of Lyla and Will (not intended for marriage anymore, but friends again after his disbelief in her) staring at the stars with the other members of the group on The Day, waiting to make very sure that an apocalypse doesn’t come. This has shades of the Great Disappointment, but it’s more a melancholy moment of crumbling belief combined with hope that the real world might be worth living in after all. (Apocalypse averted is also important as a theme — hell, it’s the whole damn Cold War, now that I think about it.)

Gated is a satisfying picture of the types of people who need someone to follow, and then do so at the cost of their own lives. The strangest thing about it is how true it is to varying degrees for so many people in the world. There are people waiting for the end of the world every day, because they’re bitter or because the Messiah had tarried long enough. And there are many, many individuals who are quite keen on other individual wills being subservient to that of someone who knows better. Most people may not be alien doomsday cultists, but everyday nationalism and statism and much religion seems to be a difference in degree, not kind.

Steve doesn't know what the KHL is.One Hour Rebuttal is a new feature in which Joe Steigerwald attempts to discredit, rebut, or unmercifully troll a news report or story in one hour or less.

Tuesday, 2:02 pm:

Normally I wouldn’t bother mentioning or even acknowledging a website as pedestrian as theDailySurge.com. It’s a mundane, conservative ripoff of a thousand similar sites that regurgitate trending news stories with snappy headlines and bad commentary. However, being a Steigerwald, it is my duty to criticize poorly researched hockey articles. And we have ourselves a doozy.

Sanction Russian NHL Players,” written by Steve Eubanks, a New York Times bestselling author and former golf pro is a poorly thought-out, hastily written, unresearched collision of American exceptionalism and a misunderstanding of global hockey dynamics. No offense Steve, but you should stick to golf, never mention hockey again and recuse yourself from talking about politics while you’re at it.

Mr. Eubanks’ theory, which he finally stumbles onto after a “lesson” on the use of sanctions, is that:

If President Basketball Bracket wants to get the attention of the Russian people and send a strong message to Czar Putin the Shirtless, there’s one simple way to do it: revoke the work visas for all of Russia’s hockey stars, send them home and freeze their assets in the United States.

It’s hard to believe the Putin shirtless obsession and weak cliches aren’t the worst part of this sentence.

In order to properly refute this “theory” one has to be aware of the existence of one thing: the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), the number two hockey league in the world after the NHL. Now for those of you unaware, the KHL is played in Russia, home of Czar Putin the Shirtless. The KHL is also home to many world-class hockey players including Ilya Kovalchuk, who walked away from a $77 million NHL contract to go play in Russia. Using a fairly obvious simile, the KHL is to the NHL like Putin is to the United States. In other words, the KHL is unhappy with the NHL’s hockey hegemony and wants to be viewed as a legitimate competitor. The KHL endeavors to achieve this goal by poaching players from the NHL through lucrative offers. Dynamo Moscow of the KHL tried to lure NHL superstar Alexander Ovechkin during the NHL’s lockout.

Now if Obama decided to send the 28 Russian born players in the NHL (down from 64 in 2004) back to Russia who would that benefit? Is the answer A) the NHL, America’s premier hockey league or B) the KHL, pride of the Russian motherland. Obviously the answer would be B.

So when Steve opines that:

Given the option of heading home to an unknown future or “defecting” and continuing to draw a paycheck, you’d have to believe a few would bid the Motherland a fair adieu.

Granted, NHL honchos would have a conniption fit, but not like the full-blown, chest-beating meltdown the Russians would have. Hockey is football in Russia: closer to religion than sport.

If you want Muscovites protesting Putin’s every step and pressuring him to stop his westward advance, hit them where they live. Send their hockey players packing.

Let’s see how many of today’s modern stars give up their lifestyles for a CCCP jersey and the honorary rank of captain in the new Soviet Army.

It’s not Steve is dumb, it’s just that Steve doesn’t understand that there is another hockey league that operates in Russia and has been trying to do, for years, the exact thing that Steve has just proposed. Okay maybe he is dumb (or incapable of using Google). Or maybe he had never heard of the KHL. Maybe he wasn’t aware that going back to Russia to earn comparable paychecks and playing in their homeland was not only a possibility, but one with strong allure for many Russian players.

Putin would love to see the Russian hockey players back home, in front of the Russian people, generating money for the Russian state. The KHL would receive a massive boost in credibility, and the NHL would in turn suffer. KHL fans would get to watch their heroes in person instead of tape-delayed from the US and the league would undoubtedly flourish.

So, sorry Steve, your brilliant strategy of leveraging the Russian NHL players in backing down Putin’s unstoppable march towards Europe probably isn’t going to work. It was a really stupid idea, without any real thought and you would be laughed at if you suggested it to anyone other than the Daily Surge.

End. 3:07 PM. Total time 1:05 minutes. I promise to do better next time. Don’t be a doofus, follow me on Twitter. And like The Stag Blog on Facebook while you’re at it.

Behold the third column under “The War at Home” banner. It is about how drones are very scary, but also maybe we shouldn’t just flail and ban them as fast as possible.

As the weekly – sometimes daily – news stories never tire of telling us, domestic drones are coming. And as ABC News reported on March 17, they are arriving faster than the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) can suss out the rules over their use. Though it’s technically illegal, and the FAA may issue fines if they catch you, ABC reports that commercial use of drones is starting to happen whether or not the government approves – as long as it doesn’t notice.

In February, the FAA sent a cease and desist letter to the Lakemaid Brewing Company – the beer makers may not use drones to send ice fishermen a six-pack of cold ones. Even for such a charming purpose, their commercial use is banned at least until 2015, when the FAA will issue rules on drone integration into U.S. airspace. The FAA is also currently appealing a judge’s decision rejecting the $10,000 fine it tried to levy against a Virginia filmmaker for unauthorized drone flights. At this point, the US is actually trailing far behind the rest of the world in terms of domestic drones – we’re skittish about their dystopian potential, and our privacy laws are (relatively) strong compared to some.

The rest here

Last week, I was so ready to write a thoughtful, invariably inside libertarian baseball response to Jeffrey Tucker’s piece in the The Freeman. Or I was going to write about horrible police brutality for the various outlets who enjoy that sort of thing. But then my Montana-dwelling aunt called, and we discussed the imminent spring, and the greatness of the Coen Brothers — with me evangelizing about Ralph Stanley, and both of us agreeing that the Greenwich Village-style of folk was not the platonic ideal, being a little too earnest English balladish, and not high and lonesome enough.

And then of course politics faded from my soul, as it does. I subscribe to the Tucker and the Radley Balko school of politics (and, really, most of the Reason writers agree) which says that it is a vile thing, and the victory of libertarianism would mean an ability to ignore politics without feeling as if you were betraying your imprisoned and oppressed fellow man. I just wish I knew how to channel a career into dissecting how Ralph Stanley sounds, as opposed to how endlessly sick the prison state makes me.

I had a lovely birthday on the 8th. I had lovely people come to visit me and gather around. But before I went to my own party, my mom and I went to a church down in Pittsburgh that was doing their monthly shapenote singing sing.

Shapenote singing was a 19th century method of teaching folks who couldn’t read music how to do four-part harmony. There are some great modern and older recordings of it on the internet — One of my favorites, from the famous Harry Smith anthology of folk music, is below:

At its best, shapenote singing has am unpolished eerie quality that undermines and delightfully clashes with its stodgier sort of choral aspects. Instead of just beauty, it has roughness and resonance. Like the voice of Ralph Stanley (who grew up in a Primitive Baptist Church, which bar instruments) sometimes does, the strongest shapenote singers have this quality that can only remind me of bagpipes. It just has this huuuugh gut thing.

Mom, who used to play the saxophone and plays piano and guitar, knew enough music to be baffled. I didn’t know enough to know where to begin or how to follow, plus read, plus hear other people, plus hear myself.

In our post-O Brother Where Art Thou?, post-Mumford and Sons world, I was not surprised that the demographics of the singers were middle age nearing old age and younger, scruffier types. I was not the only singer with a pierced nose, for Christ’s sake.

There was someone who swore, and people who seemed devout Christians. The most powerful, ceiling plaster-endangering singer was a middle aged woman with long brown hair who came from God Only Knows, Alabama. She was all down home encouragement and June Carter sass.

Here’s a more recent kind of shapenote singing — less weird and ancient, more just loud:

Though the traditional text, The Sacred Harp, contains mostly songs about Jesus, and other folk I don’t know well, shapenote singing is so perfectly American and strange, and I think it’s wonderful. It is not mine, but I like to borrow it.

My birthday party had a cacophony of people I love very much talking too loudly in too small a space. It was fun, but the diminishing returns of socializing were lurking at its loudest points.

However, S.T. and J.K., musical friends from Richmond and Baltimore respectively, decided to crash and give me musical celebration. When they play together, they are called the Dirty Mallards. I drank my first moonshine in their presence one summer day in 107 degree Richmond weather. From them I learned that “Tommy” without clarification means Tommy Jarrell, the great North Carolina fiddler.

S.T. and J.K. are more libertarian than not. J.K. is more personally conservative, but he has recently attempted to go off the grid, internet-wise, and I have to assume the National Security Agency is a big reason. When I first met S.T. he seemed to have stepped out of the pages of Tony Horwitz’ Confederates in the Attic, for all that implies about his views. And that’s not all wrong, but it’s not everything about him. He’s a student of history — and some of his conclusions I might disagree on — but he’s incredibly well-read, as well a an instinctual, leave me alone libertarian. They are both good people who provided with with the best birthday present since my cousin T. got Jello Biafra to insult capitalism just for me.

Now, my one association with Jeff Tucker is that he is endlessly optimistic about the non-state. Culture, markets, music, fast food, all of these do and will continue to bring freedom and choice to people. All of this is beautiful and chaotic instead of planned from above.

So when Tucker uses his “brutalist vs. humanitarian” libertarian metaphor in The Freeman essay, he almost pulls it off. The brutalists stripped down architecture to its cold, practical essence. Brutalist libertarians do the same with their liberty. They say, I have my freedom to be as awful as possible, you have yours, we need not encourage social goodness and kindness and need not discourage racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. within libertarianism.  If it ain’t the state, who cares! Is that really what he thinks will happen in Libertopia? Is that what he thinks will happen without an implied litmus test? Does he think that defending pure liberty is implicitly saying we desire to live in small, mean tribal societies? If Tucker truly believes most, or even a lot of people would pick that, he is not the optimist I thought he was.

Though Tucker does not say as much, and his version of this question is better than any of the ones I have seen recently, the artificially of the two camps still gives me a moment’s pause. Are libertarian J.K. and S.T. and their politically incorrect jokes humanitarian or brutalist? How about my conservative-leaning libertarian father? My an-cap atheist friend who professes to hate feminism, who I recently saw defend the Duke porn star from another Facebook commenter who was calling her trash? My Christian an-cap friend with whom I disagree about gender roles and religion, and who has argued with me about that long into the morning?

Even in Tucker’s Libertopia, I would not surround myself only with the angels of tolerance who are always saying just the right things. So, I certainly don’t want to discount flawed creatures before we get to that free land. We live now in a world in which minorities of ALL stripes are put upon by the state: Religious weirdos, the peaceful, bunker-dwelling racists, the cultists, or for fuck’s sake, just the people who maybe don’t want to use college liberal terms to filter the world. I want them all in my tent as well. I want them if only because more people than any libertarian would wish think they are right-wingers — inherently suspicious, likely bad, for wanting less or no government at all.

Libertarianism and friendships both have a sort of Miller Test. Or, rather you “know it when you see it” — know the good people you want in your life, or in your fight for freedom. I can’t tell you who they are for you, and you can’t tell me either.

I think I know good people who are are not PC and who are also a net gain for liberty in the world. This is not to say that we can’t say, as individual libertarians, or as groups, say we prefer tolerance of gay people to not tolerance. This is only to say that the divisions between libertarians, like anywhere else, are rarely as purely simple as paleo vs. cosmo, conservative vs. liberal, or humanitarian vs. brutalist.  Tucker is, again, incredibly deft and fair in his piece. He doesn’t seem to be trying to kick out anyone at all. But the two camps idea still didn’t seem real enough to justify it as an exercise. There is a danger in making people, even just libertarians, seem that A) or B).

I wanted to write a political response to Tucker’s piece. I was distracted by the pleasures of voluntary culture, and life, and music instead. Hopefully that’s still the point.

policeCheck out the most recent Bad Cop Blotter:

On Friday, the district attorney’s office in Humboldt County, Nevada, agreed to return the $50,000 that had been seized from Tan Nguyen during a traffic stop on September 23, 2013. Nguyen had never been charged with a crime, much less convicted of anything—Humboldt County sheriff’s deputy Lee Dove pulled him over for allegedly going three miles over the speed limit, then searched his car without permission (though the cops claim consent was given) and found what Nguyen said was gambling winnings. The 37-year-old California resident’s luck clearly ran out when he was stopped by Dove, however, and according to his lawsuit, Nguyen was given a choice—give up his money or try to get home without his vehicle.

This wasn’t an isolated incident or a mistake on behalf of the cops. In a photo that the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department put on Facebook (and has since deleted), Dove posed proudly with a police dog and the $50,000 he had seized. The officer, who is also accused of taking $13,800 and a handgun from another driver in a similarly flimsy traffic-stop scenario, is presumably feeling less puffed-up now. On Friday, the local district attorney’s office promised that that driver, Nguyen, and another person who had $2,400 taken, would get their cash back, and that forfeiture policy would be reevaluated.

Is it good that the DA is checking on these stories? Sure. Are these Nevada horror stories particularly surprising? Not if you know the bizarre state of asset-forfeiture laws.

The rest here

My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government.  We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.

– Barrack Obama, 2009, Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies, SUBJECT: Transparency and Open Government

DISCLAIMER: This is a photoshop. Obama's not going anywhere :(Although President Barack Obama still has a few years left, it’s becoming clear that he has no intention of bringing any sort of increased transparency to government. His administration has continued the abysmal precedent of the George Bush administration and has even sunk to new lows.

Since the very beginning of his term, Obama has hurried down a path of obfuscation and redaction, denying more Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests in his first two years than George “Patriot Act” W. did.

Even when the Obama administration wasn’t denying requests outright, it showed a disturbing tendency to censor or withhold information. In a 2011 report by the Center for Effective Government analyzing the percentage of requests fully and partially granted since 1998, the Obama administration was found to have fully granted only 44.4 percent. This placed the administration well behind both Bush, who granted 62.8 percent and Clinton, who granted 72.4 percent.

How did we reward Obama for his new-found affection for opaqueness? By giving him a transparency award. Which he received in private. Okay, it wasn’t the end of the world. It made more sense than the whole “Nobel Peace Prize” thing, and, after all, he did release the White House visitor logs. There was still plenty of time to set his administration on the right path.

But then 2012 happened, and another report on FOIA by the Center for Effective Government found that:

Although the number and timeliness of the FOIA requests processed has improved, fewer people are getting complete and full documents. Over the last four years, the proportion of FOIA releases that go out with redacted information has significantly increased. Well over half of all processed requests withhold some information. Agencies are increasingly using exemptions to limit the amount of information disclosed in response to FOIA requests. This is a troubling development for an administration with an avowed commitment to openness.

Unfortunately Obama’s recalcitrance towards enacting any real reforms to improve the FOIA process was only one of his failures. In October of 2013, the Committee to Protect Journalism released a report that accused the administration of “prosecuting more more people as whistleblowers under the 1917 Espionage Act than all former presidents combined.” Hardly the actions of a president worried about transparency.

With the administration busy prosecuting journalists, maybe 2013 would be the year it rolled up its sleeves and got serious about improving its FOIA response. After all the boss no longer had to worry about running for re-election, and (theoretically) had more time to concentrate on the issues. Let’s go back to the Center for Effective Government for a report!

The Freedom of Information Act was purportedly a priority for both the executive and legislative branches in 2013, although nothing made it over the finish line. Our report analyzing the FOIA performance of major federal agencies found that agencies were processing more requests and reduced the number of unprocessed requests; at the same time, they were using exemptions to redact or withhold information more often.

Zing. When even the .govs are getting in on the action you know you’re in trouble.

Finally the mainstream media seemed to take notice — not until after the election, naturally — but better late than never. In January The New York Times editorial board asked What Happened to Transparency, as they cut into the Obama administration over a secret memo that “outline[d] the supposed legal authority for the Federal Bureau of Investigation to collect Americans’ telephone and financial records without a subpoena or court order.”

Now with 2014’s sunshine week here at last, we can again take a look inside the administration’s once and future promise of being the most transparent ever. And the news is not good.

In a devastating report, the AP castigated the government’s pathetic response to FOIA requests, saying:

The administration cited more legal exceptions it said justified withholding materials and refused a record number of times to turn over files quickly that might be especially newsworthy. Most agencies also took longer to answer records requests, the analysis found.

[…]

In category after category — except for reducing numbers of old requests and a slight increase in how often it waived copying fees — the government’s efforts to be more open about its activities last year were their worst since President Barack Obama took office.

These recent revelations should not be a surprise. The Obama administration has spent 6 years slowly tightening its grip on government information. And with 2014 being the worst since Obama took office, there’s no reason to believe the future will hold any improvement.

After all, why would Obama even care at this point? It was a virtual non-issue in 2012 during the presidential campaign. His awful record was public knowledge, yet it was hardly ever mentioned by anyone in the press other than Jon Stewart. He skated by unscathed and now Obama has nothing to gain by attempting to work towards his original promise of an open government. Obama won his re-election, and there’s no one left to pander to anyway.

obama-openAll right, seriously, you can take this down now.