I also have this sweet new graphic.Nothing justifies slaughtering a bunch of cartoonists and editors, or police officers trying to save lives. Let’s get that essential, should-be-obvious truth out of the way first and foremost.

Though some prominent people like Glenn Greenwald and the writers at the leftist Jacobin magazine found Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons to be from distasteful to downright racist, no one is saying the French satirists deserved this monstrous assassination. There is something fundamentally (pun intended) terrifying about killing people over words and images.

Yet, there’s something frustrating about the response to the tragic murders in Paris on Wednesday. This is because the miserable muck that is the war on terror reminds us, as do all wars, that some animals are more equal than others. In the face of this disturbing crime, it would be nice to feel rallied towards civil liberties, and freedom of speech. Rallied towards not living on your knees, as the late editor Stéphane Charbonnier said he would do even after the Charlie Hebdo offices were bombed in 2011. But it isn’t that simple.

The perpetrators of the Paris attack – now identified, with one in custody – should be found and brought to justice. But oh, If only one could depend on a narrowness of response – that only the terrorists responsible would be punished for every attack, and no freedoms, no domestic privacy or rights would be sacrificed; no innocent Muslims or their houses of worship assaulted or oppressed, and no civilians would be caught in any crossfire of any ensuing international effort.

Read the rest at Antiwar.com

large_WaynesTopTenLUCY: According to Spotify, the song I listened to most this year was “Golden State” by John Doe. I also accomplished my goal of listening to the entire Anthology of American Folk Music without shuffling or skipping (twice). Mostly, though, even with the shamefully easy benefits of music streaming, I don’t go for the whole, new albums the year they came out. I probably didn’t listen to ten entire albums that were from this year. So, I definitely didn’t have ten albums to pick from a wide list. I have never been culturally timely. Not when I was a Beatles-crazed 9-year-old, not now when my favorite band technically hadn’t broken up yet.

Knowing that, I attempted to make a top ten list of the best 2014 tracks. It is still skewed towards the country side of things, and yeah, one pick is a reissue, but it is a feeble attempt to be as diverse as possible, while only picking songs that I listened to numerous times and actually enjoyed.

After more qualifications than any human being needs, here they are. No order, except for the top three, which should surprise nobody.

Honorable mentions:

“Golden State” by John Doe: I started off cheating hardcore! A compilation is arguably more of a cheat than even a reissue, but dammit, The Best of John Doe This Far was released in June, and I heard the song for the first time this year. It became my number one Spotify jam and earworm, so yes, it almost counts. Beautiful, basic song with love and pain metaphors sounds really good sung by John Doe — at heartfelt level of 11 — and Kathleen Edwards, who has one of those rare voice that isn’t nauseating for all of its excessive sweetness.

“Warbirds Over Hickory” by Endless Mike and the Beagle Club: Side B is a collection of orphan tracks, with this being the subtle, yet undeniable skewering of bullshit news, and bullshit War on Terror shenanigans. (Oh, Mike Miller, why don’t you turn your talents towards how much Obama sucks, since you were my circa 2006 “fuck Bush, man” kind of guy?) Endless Mike and the Beagle Club asks the question: what if the painfully earnest punk playing on the out of tune acoustic guitar in the dirty punk kitchen was really talented and hooky? And also he had a kick-ass rotating punk band, and a surprising number of tambourine and shaker players? And also, that band was everything when you hated college, hated George Bush, and sat in a lot of living rooms with a lot of beers? Side B ain’t the gem that is We Are Still at War, or my all time favorite of The Husky Tenor, but like just about everything Miller does, it has some seriously worthwhile tracks.

“Arcadian Coast” by Ketch Secor and Critter Fuqua: A bootleg from like 1998 counts just as much as a compilation. Shut up. I do what I want. It was new to me!

Oh, and Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Dawn Landes covering Bob Dylan’s “Dark Eyes” was really good. And if it had come out in 2014, not 2013, I would pick the bootleg version of Bob Dylan singing “When I Paint My Masterpiece” because holy shit, it is perfect and I listened to it a LOT this year.

I just wasn’t made for end of year top ten lists, children. It is not my nature to be on time. Anway. Let’s proceed.

10) “Blank Space” by Taylor Swift: Here’s my nod to popularity. “Shake it Off” is Godawful, what with the sing-talk breakdown, and the disturbing kinship with “Hey Mickey!” “Out of the Wood” wants to be epic, and is anticlimactic each time. “Black Space” is weird, lyrical, fun, and catchy enough for three songs, instead of one to a half like the aforementioned Swift jams. I am not sure about techno-beat Taylor as a general rule, but I do like this one and its hilarious video. This is also the one song pick on the list from an album I haven’t heard in its entirely. See what happens when you drop Spotify, T-Swift?!

9) “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” by Against Me!: Oh, hey, Laura Jane Grace, turns out an an angry, confident punk album about struggling with being trans is awesome — lyrically and otherwise — in a way that “we signed to a major label/and now I am totally conflicted!” and even “let me be lyrically sodden about my hatred for George W. Bush” isn’t. Not since Against Me! were dirty, hard-traveling punks who wanted to be “a band that plays loud and hard every night/ and doesn’t care how many people counted at the door” have they sounded this good, and this punk.

8)  “Next Sunday” by The Secret Sisters: A fresh, retro, harmony-filled lament about a long week before a lover can be seen again. Superior to the fun, but just a little too close to “Not Fade Away”-sounding single “Rattle My Bones.”

7)  “Waltzing Will Trilogy” by Lavender Country: In a desperate stab for originality, I won’t pick the amazing and FCC-horrifying “Crying These Cock-Suckin’ Tears.” But most of this 1973 gay country album is good. It’s funny, and it’s sad — especially this track, which includes some blistering lines about forcible “fixing” of homosexuality — and it’s real music, even if the country aspect is laid on thick. Its mix of down home affectation and sincerity works bizarrely well. It’s a fascinating piece of history, and it’s also easily listenable today in shiny reissue form.

6) “Dust, Bones, Juice, and Hair” by Martha: Extremely British Belle and Sebastian/This Bike is a Pipebomb-ish/tweeish/pop-punk jam. Over just as it’s getting fun.

5) “Sweet Misery” by Mischief Brew:  It starts acoustic simple, then goes all growling symphonic in its lyrics about a masochistic love affair. Erik Petersen can sing or snarl whatever he likes at me. Let’s say this one is tied with “O Pennsylytucky” and its lines about Three-Miles Island and “Filthadelphia.”

4)  “Life of Sin” by Sturgill Simpson: It was all about Simpson’s trippy “Turtles All the Way Down” for a lot of list-makers. And that’s a solid song, and a great title. But I have to go with this other drugged-up country number. It’s paint by numbers hard livin’ turned into undeniably catchy goodness.

3) “Mexican Cowboy” by Willie Watson: Holy Jesus, Willie Watson went back in time when he parted ways with Old Crow. And that has translated to a ton of seriously stunning live performances, which can be found on Youtube. This song is basically Roscoe Holcomb’s version of the 19th century folk song, but more beautiful. Watson has officially crossed over into Ralph Stanley and Charlie Parr territory in terms of vocals that combine sweetness and an undercurrent of bagpipe-like, gut punching power.

2) “Coping Mechanism” by Shovels and Rope: Shovels and Rope at their best. Piano, drums, guitar: a blistering, raucous, magical duet about doing bad things.

1)  “The Warden” by Old Crow Medicine Show: For all the country-gloss (relatively speaking, this is still Old Crow) put on the first album sans WW, it all ends with a stunning, beautiful, reserved ballad. I don’t just adore this song because it made me cry while writing about a Florida prisoner being murdered by guards (allegedly, I guess), but the strange appropriateness of it at that moment sure helped.

Gil Landry sings lead, with the other gents singing harmony. Some simple guitar  and some basic questions sung in Landry’s deep voice with a whisper of a prison work song rhythm: “Well, the warden stands tall as he walks down the hall/puts all our lives on a shelf/holding the keys/to our misery/how does he live with himself?” A modern, folk classic, and a perfect capper to the album which began with an arguably overly light song about sexy times in prison. “The Warden” is so pure, it elevates everything that came before it on the album. It’s full to bursting with that Johnny Cash spirit of prison abolitionism, and it’s divine.


JOE: Much like the US embargo against Cuba, 2014 saw the end of my own personal embargo against “new” music. In the last ten years (or s0) I’ve purchased a total of one album: Muse’s “The Resistance”. But thanks to Spotify, I finally ran out of excuses. No longer could I casually put down artists I’d never really listened to solely based upon their popularity amongst hipsters and indie kids (I once compared Ryan Adams to the Clarks). I grudgingly combed through the “best of” lists of Spin, NME, Rolling Stone and *shudder* Pitchfork, downloading everything. I even listened to the new U2 album. And as much as I wanted to hate everything, I was pleasantly surprised by the breadth of excellent artists still operating. Rock may be mostly dead, but there’s enough pop, country, hip-hop, and R&B sprinkled throughout the world that I found myself struggling to contain my list to just 10 songs.

Also receiving votes: Marry Me, Archie” by Alvvays, “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars, “You Are All That I Am Not” by Band of Skulls, “Down it Goes” by White Lung, “She Looks So Perfect” by 5 Seconds of Summer, “Champions of Red Wine” by New Pornographers, “Congregation” by Foo Fighters, “So Far So Good” by Sloan, “Head Underwater” by Jenny Lewis, “Fever” by the Black Keys, “Ten Tonne Skeleton” by Royal Blood.

Honorable mentions:

“Eulogy for a Rock Band” by Weezer: Once great, Weezer’s output over the last 12 years was, in a word, bad. Yet, here we are in 2014 and I am praising not only a song from their album “Everything Will Turn Out Alright in the End” but *spoiler alert* it made my top 25 of 2014. Now, as far as “Eulogy for a Rock Band” goes, it’s a twin-guitar throwback to a better time, a time before they released an album with that guy from Lost on the cover and we all hated it. Back are Rivers’ slightly flat delivery, big choruses, and twin-attack guitars. Even the production sounds more like Blue Album Weezer than Make Believe Weezer. Tell Rivers to postpone the eulogy, Weezer’s not dead yet. (But get the shovel ready in case they release another Raditude.)

“Bring Me Your Loves” by St. Vincent: Possibly the weirdest track on St. Vincent’s excellent eponymous album — and that’s saying something. The song lurches forward; St. Vincent’s robotic guitar playing trading off verses with her chanting vocals until it explodes into a chorus of huge synths. Stops. Repeats the progression. Builds. And finally throws all the elements together in a glorious cacophony of noise.

“Body of my Own” by Charli XCX: A good old fashioned ode to self-love wrapped up in an 80’s throwback. It’s catchy, bouncy and about sex, everything pop music should be.

“Telepathy” by Crosses †††: The side project of Chino Moreno (of Deftones fame), Crosses gets the benefit of being a side project. Telepathy takes the Deftones formula, ups the dreamy synth quotient, and unleashes a truly funktacular chorus. All while maintaining the ominous feel of a David Fincher movie.

10) “California (There is No End to Love)” by U2: Rolling Stone putting “Songs of Innocence” as their album of the year ended up being only marginally less controversial than their collapsed UVA rape expose. The truth is, it’s a pretty decent album and number 10 on my list. “California (There is No End to Love)” is U2 at all their bombastic best (I mean look at that title). The song finds the band venturing into new territory with the Beach Boys-inspired opening choral of “Ba-ba-bar-bara, Santa Bar-bar-a,” before launching into “peak” U2, which despite the haters, has and always will be exquisite. When the “woaah-a-oh-a-oh” begins the break into the chorus, you’ll know Bono and co. have worn down your aural defense like the breaking of so many waves on the sandy beaches of California. Just go with the flow, man.

9) “Memories of You” by Avi Buffalo: Avi Zahner-Isenberg‘s lyrics are either unabashedly explicit, or just so filled with sexual innuendos, that in the end it almost doesn’t even matter what he’s  singing about. His voice conjures memories of Wheatus (you know, “Teenage Dirtbag”), which makes the lyrical content even more disconcerting. This lurid tale is infectiously catchy, and boasts — at the “climax” of the song, natch — one of the most impressive, original guitar solos in years.

8) “High Road” by Mastodon: The riff of the year, by far. Mastodon’s “High Road” is a Mastodon song, which should paint a pretty accurate picture of what it sounds like. But their usual mixture of bludgeoning RIFFS followed by MORE RIFFS and then a bridge of RIFFS is tempered ever so slightly by the presence of alt-rock producer extraordinaire Nick Raskulinecz. The monster riffs of the verse lead to a chorus which pulls off the impressive task of being crushingly menacing and massively catchy. It’s a pop song for the Mad Max set.

7) “Pretty When I Cry” by Lana Del Rey: A funeral dirge to love, sung by a drugged out Disney Princess. Lana coos and flutters as the music builds ominously throughout the song. Finally breaking into glorious release as she goes supersonic against the backdrop of a thunderous guitar solo.

6) “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” by Against Me!: Lyrics notwithstanding, you’d have a killer punk song. But the sleek production and uptempo beat belie the obvious heavy emotional content promised in the title. When Laura Jane Grace sings “You want them to notice/The ragged ends of your summer dress/You want them to see you/Like they see every other girl/They just see a faggot/They’ll hold their breath not to catch the sick” the song’s brutal honesty knocks you back. It’s a credit to Grace that the song resonates so strongly, even  though most listeners will never have to face the same prejudices.

5) “Himalayan” by Band of Skulls: “Himalayan” is a strutting foot-stomper that throws out wave and wave of groovy riffs, glam beats, and the allure of the male/female vocal dynamic. There’s nothing too revolutionary or transcendent here, it’s just a really good rock song, and sometimes that’s enough.

4) “Lost Domain” by Tim Wheeler: Tim Wheeler of Ash (the best band you’ve never listened to) goes solo in a tribute to his father who passed away after a battle with Alzheimer’s. It’s a emotional powerhouse, packed to the brim with synths, an urgent, driving beat and the requisite “Tim Wheeler chorus”™ (i.e. anthemic). It wouldn’t feel out of place in an ’80s Cusack movie montage. But Wheeler, who has never sounded better, deftly takes the influences and molds them to his style, instead of shamelessly repackaging them. It’s a new direction for Wheeler, but he pulls if off with aplomb; more than a fitting tribute to his father.

3) “Gimme Something Good” by Ryan Adams: The perfect song. Every chord, every note, every word is exactly where it should be. In the future, the chorus will be used in thousands of movie trailers.

2) “Red is White” by Death From Above 1979: All it takes is bass and drums to drive this tale of young love gone bad. Dominated by Jesse F. Keeler’s massive bass sound, the song is immersed in a sense of foreboding that recalls the best of Queens of the Stone Age. You’ll see the tragic end coming a mile away, but with the song’s shifting dynamics and changing moods, its still one hell of a ride.

1) “Red Eyes” by The War on Drugs: As if there was any doubt. “Red Eyes” got to me early (I actually listened to the track when the album was released, not a week before I made this list,) and never let go. A deft combination of Bob Dylan, Dire Straits, and Bruce Springsteen, but packaged in a decidedly modern wrapper. Hints of songs and influences from the past well up, but the band is careful not let them dominate the proceedings. The spirit of the band is fully ensconced in the now. And the song is just really good. Classic, cruising out of town, leaving it all behind good. From the opening notes the urgency of the beat never falters as guitars, snyths and horns cut in and out around Adam Granduciel damaged croon. It’s beautiful revelatory stuff. A song for people who want to remember the past, but not relive it.

zn2ravyul9264mzv8cneJalopnik has the skinny on the video that Ted Turner wanted played before the apocalypse. Spoiler alert, is an Army brass and woodwind band playing one version of “Nearer My God to Thee.” That sounds inane, or a little too close to the maybe-apocryphal Titanic band’s choice of last song. However, if you have any spine-chills available for this kind of mood-piece (and I have it in excess), you should watch it all the same.

My favorite quote from the entire piece is in the image to the right: “HFR till end of the world confirmed.”

So modest, funny, and unnerving.

Even though the video is so insubstantial — though its simplicity, and its analog quality makes it appear to have crawled out of end of the world ’80s classics like Miracle Mile, Testament, or Threads — it has a creepy quality of belonging in two worlds. It’s a more true version of when real newscasters have bits parts in apocalypse or alien invasion films. Instead of imparters of fact playing a part, the video is the real real world playing at something that — thankfully — hasn’t happened yet, and so remains the stuff of nightmares and fiction.

I wonder if any other networks have such a thing on standby. I keep picturing Ted Turner planning this out late one feverish night after a bad dream.

Simply because I was only a toddler for the end of the Cold War, I cannot tell how true this idea of apocalypse in the air was; whether kids really thought they wouldn’t grow up; whether everyone was damn sure the big one would be dropped at some point. I can’t tell, because I wasn’t there for all intents and purposes so I can only trust a narrative, and a simplification. And because the simple version is, we all thought we were going to die from the bomb, and then in the world of This Bike is a Pipebomb, “everybody just forgot about it.” (As I read today, one reason the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists objects to the Manhattan Project National Historical Park is that is plants the threat of nuclear weapons as squarely in the past.)

Tell me how it was, readers. And tell me if you know of any other network or media versions of this CNN apocalypse video. I want to collect them all, like the morbid, gasmask-collecting lunatic I know I can be.

A libertarian podcast where ranting is optional, and smashing the state is mandatory.

Our flailing, feverish (maybe just Lucy) panel discussed the ethics of blowing up the Death Star, then talked for a long while about cops, the backlash against cops, and the backlash against that since the murder of two NYPD officers on December 20. We then noted the depressing with which we all forgot about the now-“ended” war in Afghanistan, and mused on solutions to being a militarized society with a short attention span. After that we gave a little time to the idea of a basic income, without getting into a full econ war with Mike. We topped things off with a chat about things we enjoyed that weren’t politics during the past week or year, depending on mood.
Host: Lucy Steigerwald, writer for VICE, Antiwar.com, and Rare; editor in chief of The Stag Blog; @LucyStag
Panel:
Mike Miller, singer/songwriter/main dude for Endless Mike and the Beagle Club, maker of one of Lucy’s favorite albums of all time, big damn hippie anarchist, but that’s okay, we like him anyway.
Joe Steigerwald, managing editor and technical wizard of The Stag Blog; bassist for Act of Pardon; @steigerwaldino
Michelle Montalvo, not an intern, has a Doctor Who mug, surprisingly not laconic; @michellemntlv

christmastruce2Hey, it lasted until New Year’s Day in a few places!

It’s strange how often football comes up in stories about World War I. Blood-poet Jessie Pope famously and obscenely compared the conflict to a game. And to many, the most memorable part about the Truce of Christmas,1914 was the football match played between British and German soldiers.

For the centennial of this famous and cozy lesson in – arguably futile – goodwill towards men, historians are now debating the prominence of that famous football match. It may have happened on a smaller scale than popular portrayal suggests. Fine.

One wonders why the sport part has such a hold in the public imagination. Perhaps because it’s so metaphorically on the nose. A football game is the way that nationalism should look if it looks like anything at all. It is a friendly competition, like the Olympics in a world without politics. It is not the young being sacrificed for the old’s squabbles.

For all the novelty of the Truce as a moment in history, it makes sense that these men stopped fighting. After four months of war – war that was not “over by Christmas” 1914, or ‘15, ‘16, or ‘17 – some soldiers were already starting to wonder what they were fighting for. Turns out it wasn’t much like the boy’s adventure stories at all, more like mud, misery, and what was turning into months fighting over feet of earth. That’s where the Truce came in.

Read the rest at Antiwar.com

2000-3255.1_expandedAn Oliver Sacks-inspired ramble originally posted at Liberty.me.

While reading neurologist Oliver Sacks’Seeing Voices: A Journey Into the World of the Deaf, I found myself suddenly furious and ranting about the 1880 Milan Congress on deaf education.

Pardon my libertarian cliche as I found something authoritarian to rant about in a seemingly apolitical book, but there it was. The thing about this conference was it dovetailed more than a century of the deaf golden age — 100 years of this amazing realization that the deaf could be educated, and were neither stupid, nor “dumb” as in mute. Signing was the answer to their particular difficulty in communication. It was the answer, because the deaf were already using it.

In the 1755, Charles-Michel de l’Épée founded a free deaf school. He had became worried about the immortal souls of the deaf, so he figured he could help. So he taught the deaf of Paris to write and to communicate. Except, before he could teach them, he had to learn the Sign they were already using. (Sacks notes in his book that even among a few deaf siblings, a type of signing evolves. Paris had a Deaf community of about 200.)

de l’Épée first tried to import French grammar into the existing signing, but that eventually fell away. An educated man helped these people, and reached them; taught them to write so they could express themselves to the hearing. But he and his teachers also had to learn their language first. Their local knowledge was necessary before any exchange could take place.

And Sacks writes that even de l’Épée undervalued the depth of communicative power within signing. One generation of a language is a pidgin, but the second generation can easily become a true language. de l’Épée for all of his philanthropic goodness still didn’t quite get it in terms of signing. But he made a hell of a start.

One students of de l’Épée  eventually traveled to America. Schools opened there. A deaf person who speaks American Sign Language (ASL) can still communicate very easily with one who signs in French.

Neurologically, Signing is a true language. It just happens to be a spatial one. There have been many attempts to make this bizarre, fascinatingly distant cousin of all verbal tongues into something more respectable — something more linear. Signed Exact English (SEE) is one such example. Instead of the spatial grammar, syntax, etc. it is what it says it on the tin — the exact sentence structure of spoken English imported into gesturing. Sacks notes that kids who learn SEE will begin to improvise their own ASL-like signs. The rigidity of SEE is not the ideal. It is still an attempt to make the deaf exactly like the hearing, when the freedom and uniqueness of ASL and other Signs are what makes them a powerful tool.

And yet, for a century after the 1880 Congress, there was this authoritarian backlash against ASL , and even against any signing at all in most places. Sacks’ book includes depressing quotes from a British man schooled in the ‘20s and ‘30s at a place where signing was prohibited. Only the sometimes-excruciating task of teaching the deaf to speak (oralism) would be permitted. This man lost his hearing after becoming verbal so he did better with oralism.

If you are born deaf, oralism is a years and years-long task. With ASL, multiple students can learn to communicate, and then learn all the other general education they should be soaking up. Sacks notes that oralism was a tragic blow to the well-rounded education of the deaf.

And yet Sign was banned by educators all over Europe and the USA.

So, what did the kids do when the adults weren’t around at the school the British man attended? They signed. Of course they signed. Because they knew what sort of communication worked best for them. So they did it.

While reading Hearing Voices — which delves a lot into what “speaking” this special language does to the brain, as well as the dangers of being born deaf and missing the critical period for language, signed or otherwise — I was struck by the beauty of this communication. And by the fact that the deaf did not need someone hearing to teach them to communicate. They only needed a boost to finalize and to standardize what was already happening. They needed general education, and someone willing to teach that. But the hearing “expert” didn’t do everything. He just came to where the deaf already were and helped them hash out what was already on its way to becoming a language.

And then, 100 years later in the true, clunky, authoritarian fashion, a bunch of “experts” met faraway and voted against all of this success.

How governmental is that? What a perfect encapsulation of the disinterest of the “expert” in learning from the little guy who knows his life a lot better. According to Sacks, this Milan decision was disastrous. In the Deaf community, it’s a legendarily bad moment. The moment they were supposed to be shoved into the round hole of mainstream, hearing society, instead of doing for themselves what they did best. The condescending, authoritarian backfire.

*****

Now, I confess that the final section of Sacks’ book is a little least interesting on its face. Instead of marveling at the brain, and at what Signing does, the final section is a look at “Deaf President Now!” a week in 1988 which, to the Deaf community at Gallaudet University barricaded their college for a week after being given yet another hearing president, and being told by a member of the school board that the deaf are not yet ready to live in society.

Sacks is struck by the beauty of the civil rights movement, and by the site of of so much impassioned Signing speeches. But to most of the hearing community, especially to a libertarian skittish about identity politics and college protest, it doesn’t quite make sense. Today we have the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education to detail us with horror stories of PC colleges who commit such laughably Orwellian transgressions as censoring a transcript from a free speech panel (Smith College). College currently seems like the place for liberalism, minutia, and yes, being told to check your privilege for every little thing.

And that does include “ableist” privilege. Smith’s peak of lunacy was removing the word “crazy” from the transcript of the speech panel, because it was “ableist.”

However, I think I checked my ableist privilege while thinking about the Gallaudet students. Without even thinking about it, I checked it. When I first learned that Deaf (capital d) culture was a thing, I remember being confused. No, the deaf are not inferior in any way to me — except, in their ability to hear. But were they actually pretending that a lack of hearing was not, let’s call it what it is, a disability?

(My blind friend would prefer to see, I think. And my left leg works, but it’s got some metal and missing bone. I wouldn’t mind it being in better shape. Is that legitimate to say? Is ableism all about comparing wounds and scars and defects, which eventually can be claimed and turned into a good somehow if it is bad enough? This is why “privilege” is such a limited word.)

I confess to being at loss as to why the hearing or not status of the president of a college matters. But then, I am hearing. I don’t get it. Thinking back to the condescension of the Milan Congress, I could understand a little bit why having someone who understood what deafness is like being in charge of education would be important to people.

Learning about an actual culture, and the way an actual language was squashed by a top-down mandate made me much more sympathetic to this idea of capital-D Deafness. This is what human beings do in response to being treated like children, or like lesser people. They rally themselves, and they give themselves pride. Their “affliction” does not remove their human qualities. And they are going to remind us of that. In itself, this is a good thing.

(And this is why — yes, even in a world where PC culture can go crazy — to ask “gee, when’s white history month?” means you’re a deliberately obtuse dope.)

On ABC Family, there is a teen-centered television show called Switched at Birth. There are some less interesting subplots — the two main girls discover in highschool that they were swapped at a hospital by accident —  but the most fascinating parts of the show take place at the deaf school where one, then both of the girls attend. Most characters now use some kind of ASL. Many secondary actors, and one main one, are entirely deaf. Entire, rapid-fire ASL conversations take place between two characters sometimes, with subtitles provided. You can see what Sacks describes — the whole body quality of the fluent signers, how they use their faces and their mouths. It’s fascinating. It looks more alien than even the most difficult foreign verbal language, yet its so undeniably communicative.

And one character has two deaf parents. His father has cochlear implants, a controversial thing among the Deaf. The mother/teacher is ideologically Deaf. She speaks of a divide between hearing and deaf. She is not a bad person, but she seems extreme to the casual watcher. The hearing watcher, perhaps.

One of the main characters — the actress is only heard of hearing — speaks and signs. She is clearly often caught between the world of wanting to be normal, and wanting to be with “her people” in the Deaf community. The show never endorses one side or another for her, just asks watchers to sympathize with her conflict.

Perhaps the Deaf teacher is extreme in some of her views. I really don’t know. Yet they stem from being screwed over by clueless authoritarians. Understanding anger is not always endorsing what that anger leads to or concludes about how the world should be run. Libertarians know this, but we don’t seem to have learned it as well when it comes to groups at home.

Regardless, the simple nuance of characters on the show — their conflict –,  combined with Sacks’ fascinating books gave me a lot more of an appreciation for this issue than a million “check your privilege”s could have done.

And I still find Smith’s censoring absurd. The same with every similar college, or any other instance, of language being treated both like a nuclear bomb and a piece of clay. One Smith student wrote in the Huffington Post about how at this free speech panel, a woman committed “an explicit act of racial violence” by saying the word “nigger.” A word can be so powerful that its academic context doesn’t matter. Yet the word “violence” can apparently mean anything at all, including speech.

It’s bullshit. It should be criticised. Do we need to choose between cheerfully saying a loaded, powerful, hurtful word willy-nilly, or daring not to speak its name even while discussing free speech? We do not. Nor do we need to choose between ignoring certain groups or identities and pretending that they need to be babied and granted special privileges.

I want a tolerant world. I do not want a world that looks like Smith College.

Sacks’ book gave me a great appreciation for the fights and struggles of the deaf, even in an identity politics sort of way. But it also gave me more of a love for the power of language. Language is powerful — it changes your brain! people who couldn’t hear said, fuck it, alright, we’ll speak with our hands! — but it is not violence. It needs to be protected from terrifying, well-meaning students who want to collar it like a dog and control it, just like it needed to be protected from clueless educators who banned Sign.

You can mindlessly check your privilege, you can censor transcripts, you can be offended by everything. Or you can treat the disabled, the deaf, the mentally ill, or any other group with a long, tough, scrappy history as individuals. It doesn’t offend libertarian thought to recognize that there are group dynamics at play in oppressed groups. It isn’t even unlibertarian to say, yeah, I don’t understand the importance of a deaf president to the Gallaudet students, but they wanted someone who might better understand their lives. That’s not the worst thing in the world.

Libertarianism is individualistic at its core, but it does not deny the right or the logic in certain group dynamics. We need not perfectly understand with or agree with the cultural angles of Deafness. We should, however, appreciate the marvel that is human beings denied the ease of using one of their senses learning to speak with their hands. And that they kept and will keep doing so no matter how many edicts from above claim that there’s now a better way.

  • It's all true.

    It’s all true.

    Government votes to keep on governmenting, twitter makes many jokes.

  • I read Oliver Sacks’ Seeing Voices, and then rambled about college, privilege, and how bad-ass sign language turns out to be.
  • More pessimistic shit I wrote for Antiwar.com.
  • Props to Matt Welch for referencing Antiwar.com in his intro, and for paying the needed attention to all that war stuff. But every single answer except Sheldon Richman’s is unsatisfying. And the less said about Fernando R. Tesón the better. Basically, they’re still debating war in the pages of Reason. Are they doing that for the war on drugs?
  • Police Unions continue to work hard on that good PR.
  • “I know becoming a police officer might seem like an unusual choice for someone like me. But I was always someone who joined groups and was involved in group situations.”
  • Today in no boundaries between media and government.
  • This Cracked list/interview with the only American in Rwanda during the genocide is amazing. The idea that fake IDs could have saved people, but the international community didn’t bother is an even more tragic mirror of Raoul Wallenberg’s Hungarian Jew-saving shenanigans.
  • You go, Anderson Cooper’s ancestor’s slave.
  • This is so good, I might buy it with real money.
  • “You do not resemble your Dead Mother in the slightest, except for your eyes. Your damned, cursed, pale eyes.”
  • Be cool about fiiiiiire safety. 
  • There are about five songs on here I’ll listen to, about 34 that I know are pop country garbage just based on video stills, and then there’s the best Shovels and Rope song from their recent album. What am I to do with you, Spin?

Oh, and here’s that very song.

That song and Cary Ann Hearst’s bitchin’ shirt.

adam-1I wrote a review of econ professor Russell Roberts’ newest book, How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life. Check it out over at the Post-Gazette’s website:

A few years back, Russ Roberts, a research fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, co-produced a viral video which portrayed a rap battle between economists John Maynard Keynes and F.A. Hayek.

It’s an amazingly well-crafted seven and a half minutes. Getting your economic knowledge from it is rather like getting advice on moral philosophy from the man who understood how nations get rich more than anyone else — that is, surprisingly effective.

Poor Adam Smith is known mostly for “The Wealth of Nations.” It’s a classic, albeit one that today is mostly written about, rather than read. Smith’s other work published in his lifetime was “The Theory of Moral Sentiments.” It has been ignored. Even Mr. Roberts notes that he took years and years to tackle it, due to its 18th-century style and its seemingly irrelevant subject matter. What would Mr. Invisible Hand have to say about how human beings should live anyway? Shouldn’t he stick with detailing the specialization of the butcher and the baker? No.

While we’re here, you might as well watch this again:

Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Please enjoy my libertarian podcast where ranting is optional, and smashing the state is mandatory.

Our enthusiastic, liberty-loving panel discussed President Obama’s immigration order and the dangers of executive power — even when it’s doing something we like. We then had a long talk about the idea of rape culture — going off of Cory Massimino’s new, controversial piece that cites it as an example of spontaneous order. There were a few tangents about popes, and what the state really consists of, and whether yelling at Meter Maids is good for liberty. We concluded with Jeff Tucker’s harsh words about fancy wine.
Host: Lucy Steigerwald, writer for VICE, Antiwar.com, and Rare; editor in chief of The Stag Blog; @LucyStag
Panel: Jeffrey Tucker, Chief Liberty Officer for Liberty.me; distinguished fellow at the Foundation for Economic Education; @JeffreyATucker
Cory Massimino, Associate Editor of DL Magazine, a Fellow at the Center for a Stateless Society, a Students For Liberty Campus Coordinator, and a Young Voices Advocate; @CoryMassimino
Joe Steigerwald, managing editor and technical wizard of The Stag Blog; bassist for Act of Pardon; @steigerwaldino
Bill Steigerwald, circa 1953.

Bill Steigerwald, circa 1953.

Joe Steigerwald, circa 1993.

Joe Steigerwald, circa 1993.