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

-Lucy Steigerwald: Columnist for VICE.com, Antiwar.com, Rare.us, and Editor in Chief of The Stag Blog; @lucystag

-Joe Steigerwald: Publisher for The Stag Blog, technical dude; @steigerwaldino

-Michelle Montalvo: Perpetual intern, sci-fi enthusiast, technical failure; @michellePHL

-Adam Berkeley: libertarian-sympathetic friend who knows foreign policy and hates DC.

-M.K. Lords; editor at Bitcoin Not Bombs, writer for various bitcoin and anarchists sites, firedancer, poet; @mklords

Our cranky, liberty-loving panel discussed warmongers, necons, Israel, and other depressing news of the day, then wrapped it up with a comic chat about the impending death of Archie, and the new female status of Thor.

“Hydrogen Bomb”

By Al Rex

Not to mention, “When You see Those Flying Saucers”

By the Buchanan Brothers

I’m still uncertain about the new Old Crow Medicine Show album — there’s some good, catchy tracks on there, no doubt, and its not as if the gents suddenly turned into Florida Georgia Line (I just learned who they are, and they’re amazingly God-awful). Still, the production is oddly unsatisfying and feels sort of heavy. Their maligned 2009 Tennessee Pusher I tend to enjoy and defend as a style experiment; and because I listened to it during my travels, so it’s very 4 a.m. in a Baltimore Greyhound station. It’s moody, and has some lovely, lonely, eerie tracks, as well as some good fleeing from the po-pos with weed fiddle jams. Compared to that,  something about Remedy feels unfinished, yet overly glossy at the same time.

I’ll delve into that later, though. The final track on Remedy is the only one with Gill Landy vocals, and it’s a sad prison tune called “The Warden.” It’s pretty on the album. And it sounds better still live, near-a capella with five-part harmonies.

Except, listen to that mother fucking crowd murmur.

And then read this glorious Gothamist rant from last week, “Why Can’t You Ever Shut Up During a Concert”. Author John Del Signore is my spirit animal.

I don’t usually feel any homicidal urges at punk shows, for obvious reasons. But any kind of show with any kind of quiet or pretty song brings them up, because people cannot shut the fuck up, and they really can’t shut the fuck up when the song is quiet enough that their equally interesting friend can hear them prattle on without them needing to put their lips inside that friend’s ear drum.

I neglected to review the Willie Watson show I attended in May, but I had long feared that I would want to slaughter the entire crowd when I saw him, because there are just too many Youtube videos with background buzz blocking out the ridiculous Watson vocals. Thankfully at the show, I was squished up enough the stage that I mostly just heard Watson, who is an amazingly dominant player for someone with just a guitar, banjo, and occasional harmonica. When he got real quiet, though, there was the obligatory “I don’t give a fuck about shutting up, because I paid 15 dollars to come here and drink beer and ruin everyone else’s enjoyment” people.

They are everywhere. But every now and then even they can be silenced. That almost — but not really, but almost — makes the rude people worth it. Sometimes someone is so good, they can silence the drunk idiots. Watson managed it for nearly all of “Rock Salt and Nails.” And, possibly in response to my fervent prayers, Ralph Stanley did it with “O Death” last year. When your playing can win a hush from the drunken, loud, self-absorbed buffoons in lawn chairs for even three or four minutes, you have done good, son. But I still wish they would stay the hell home. You can buy beer from stores, people. You really can.

Don't be these guys.

Don’t be these guys.

“The Shelter,” season 3, episode 68: air date: September 29, 1961

One of my criticisms of apocalyptic fiction — particularly the alien invasion or nuclear war variety — is that most characters are not hysterical enough. For example, the early aughts CBS show Jericho, which was all about a small Kansas town surviving after 25 cities are nuked, was enjoyable and disturbing, but nobody was ever upset enough about the situation. The very first shot of a faraway mushroom cloud is seen by a little kid standing on his roof — and it’s just killer. But five seconds later, after only the kid being shown in tears, that’s it. No adults are crying, no adults are hysterical in the nightmare way that I truly believe they would be. Not that civilization would crumble, or people would eat their children in five minutes, exactly, but that in the initial moments and days of nuclear war — even in the face of a visible mushroom cloud — people would flip. Even if they later rallied, the toughest among us would break down to some extent.

The Twilight Zone is not known for its realism — social commentary notwithstanding — perhaps because old TV shows are inherently a bit theatrical to youthful eyes (or to cranky people like my father).

Burgess Meredith the bookworm is eventually suicidal after he survives the H-bomb attack in “Time Enough at Last,” but he’s still impossibly mild-mannered about it all. “Time Enough at Last”  is a classic episode for a reason, but I don’t fully believe his reactions after the world is gone. The Rod Serling-penned episode “The Shelter” — in spite of some dramatic, necessarily dated elements, and some showing, and then telling — works better.

We see that Dr. Bill Stockton is throwing a dinner party, with his wife and three other couples. A warning comes over the radio that unidentified objects have entered US airspace.  Stockton, who has previously been teased for his doomsday preparations, has a fallout shelter in the basement. The other couples run home. Stockton and his wife, along with their nauseatingly chipper ’60s son, gather supplies. There’s an eerie conversation between Stockton’s wife and himself about the point of survival at all after the missiles come. The actress (Peggy Stewart) does a fabulous job, not hysterical, but displaying a bleak, tearful terror that shows she has already given up just from imagining the world that is to come. Stockton (Larry Gates) is not quite as good, but his sweaty, wide-eyed determination to save his family still rings true enough. He’s all masculine, reasonable panic.

The true conflict arises when one by one the couples come back, some with children in tow, begging to be let into the shelter. They have no basements, or they have half-finished ones, or they simply know that Stockton has a shelter and they do not. They plead, they cry, and Stockton grimly says there isn’t enough air or supplies. Every single person with dialogue sells this episode. There are no women to be slapped back into sense, no men who have everything in hand, there is just barely-contained desperation that explodes.

And the way they turn on each other — AKA, the topical commentary of it all — mostly works. Half of them preserve their humanity fairly well, the worst man goes from zero to xenophobic — turning on the sympathetic, desperate mustached guy — and he also has the bright idea of breaking down the shelter door. This mob, with some protests from the two half-reasonable men, does so. The viewer will note that everyone crowds in once the deed is done. (No mention is made of the fact that they have doomed Stockton and family, and still not saved themselves through this idiocy.)

The moment they are inside the shelter, the radio says the objects were just satellites. There is a palpable sense of shame in the air, again done well. The final speech from Stockton — wondering whether something besides a bomb destroyed them that night — is not fully necessary. Nor is the Serling tag that says the only moral here is that “for civilization to remain, the human race must remain civilized.” This was already there for the teaching, without the postscript.

Contrast “The Shelter” with “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street” — another Serling classic — and you can see the former is vastly superior. Written at the height of the Berlin crisis, it feels credible, in spite of the aforementioned moral lampshading. “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street” is the story of another block dissolving into suspicion, fighting, and hatred. But they do this simply because the power is out and a few strange things are happening. Much of the dialogue feels clunky, and the episode cannot be watched today without it feeling like a hamfisted anti-McCarthyist screed. The end result that it’s all been an actual alien experiment in inducing paranoia — something the aliens feel the need to highlight, though it was clearly already shown to us — doesn’t make the conflicts feel any more believable.

And the ET subject matter isn’t the problem. Move “The Shelter” to an imminent alien invasion, and it would feel just as true, and the barely-contained terror radiating from the actors would still impress. I am an optimist about human nature, but we were told to fear fear itself for a reason. It does bad things to us. Serling, more subtle than average, shows this nicely in “The Shelter.”

Don't be this guy either.

Don’t be this guy either.

“One More Pallbearer,” season 3, episode 82: air date: January 12, 1962

Another Serling-penned episode, this mostly exists as a character study of an awful man. The setting is a bomb shelter and the stage is set for a would-be practical joke. Millionaire Paul Radin (Joseph Wiseman) invites three people from his past to come to his lair, and has readied a fake Civil Defense warning and a television screen with bomb footage to make them believe that nuclear war is now.

Present are his former highschool teacher, his former military commander, and a reverend, all of whom he has decided wronged him, but we see that only in his arrogant, nasty impression of how things were. Unfortunately for Radin, they all believe his trick, but after unpleasant conversation (the teacher is particularly good and cutting, she’s played by Katherine Squire), each one chooses to leave the shelter instead of begging his pardon, and to let them stay. This is all Radin wanted, but they won’t do it. They face annihilation rather than apologize to him — or rather, they are not interested in living out their days with an awful man in his awful, doomsday kingdom.

They leave, and he yells at their backs, and then rather abruptly he seems to lose his damn mind. The audience is waiting for a twist, and Serling plays with that expectation — maybe a nuke will really happen just at this synchronistic time! Nope. Radin has just snapped. His Twilight Zone fate is to be nuts and to believe he is the only man left after nuclear holocaust. The message here isn’t so much remain civilized in the face of the greatest imaginable horror, but don’t be a dick, otherwise people will let themselves be melted rather than spend time with you; this makes it a bit less satisfying an entry in the nuclear terrors Twilight Zone canon.

IMG_2789I am not sure when it happened and which flailing body part gave me the bruise, but it currently sits very brown-yellow-purple on my upper arm, looking for all the world like a piece of stage makeup because it’s a little too perfectly oval.

Last Monday night I mostly stayed out of the Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo Bay School of Medicine mosh pit at a sparely attended Mr. Smalls show. Biafra — looking a little grayer than he did back in 2010 when I saw him last — did as he always does, which was sing newer songs which provoked polite, if sincere appreciation, and then the occasional Dead Kennedys number which brought about a more enthusiastic, cheerfully violent response.

In between songs, Biafra slipped in plenty of topical, geographically relevant rants. Former PA Sen. Rick Santorum got a reference. So did Gov. Tom Corbett. Fracking repeatedly came up. So did the Tea Party in general.

Biafra’s rants are, as always, bracing and amusing in their formulaic way. He calls the Tea Party racist, fascist whatevers, and my face takes on a bemused expression and I imagine — the the spirit of the old Conan O’Brien worst chant ever skits — yelling back instead of “yay!” something like “Yes, many Tea Party members are theocratic creeps, but some people like Rand Paul and Justin Amash have some Tea Party affiliation and they have fought for many good causes, most prominently in opposition to drones and the NSA! Furthermore…” [Booooooooo!]

Or: “I am uncertain of the science behind fracking, but human society demands trade-offs, one of which is energy that pollutes! I believe that knee-jerk opposition to fracking is making the perfect the enemy of the good! Certainly further research…” [Boooooooooooo!]

Nuance of this kind is completely antithetical to the Jello Biafra spirit. The appeal of the Dead Kennedys lay in the killer buzzsaw/surf rock guitar riffs from East Bay Ray, the solid basslines, the weird warble of Baifra’s voice, and the very existence of songs with titles as direct as “Let’s Lynch the Landlord” and “Nazi Punks Fuck Off.” Subtlety, even later Clash era variety, was not their forte.

Arguably, an exception is the best Dead Kennedys song, and one of the finest punk songs of all time,  is “Holiday in Cambodia.” “Holiday in Cambodia” is a blistering, (comparatively) subtle condemnation of both Pol Pot’s slaughter and fashion radical, whining lefty college students.

It’s also the only time on Monday that I didn’t fear the mosh pit.

I’ve been at country shows too long. I now have even less pit stamina than I did at age 17, when I first stared in fear at the squished together youths going nuts for the tubby old profane Irishman Jake Burns and the rest of Stiff Little Fingers (yes, I love me some old punks). I enjoyed that show. I kept my elbows up and kept my eyes out for people bouncing out of the pit and flailing into me — and then when I heard the opening guitar for “Suspect Device” I found myself joining the joyful masochism of the pit without much thought.

Since that day, at all punk shows, this same feeling never fails to happen, provided I love the music enough. It is difficult to dance to bad music (one reason I’ve never been to a club in my life), and it is much harder to mosh to music you dislike, or even are indifferent towards. The fearless, foolish mosh urge cannot be faked or summoned at will.  Moshing is a fucking stupid activity, and it is wonderful one. And it simply is or is not. I had a hint of the desire to move with everyone else for “Chemical Warfare”, a solid tune off the Dead Kennedys’ first album. I bumped a little on the edges of the pit. I tried my hand at the non-douchey, non-punching people in the face version of hardcore dancing, but that was all.

And then, after more over the top rants from Jello, more pleasant, but unknown solo stuff, there came the familiar notes of “Holiday in Cambodia.” It was all over. I jumped in. All worries over broken glasses, gimp legs kicked, or teeth knocked out vanished in an instant. All was happy screaming along with drunk, disgusting strangers. All was the highest form of musical joy that music exists to bring us all. We smashed together, my friend A. — tiny and blind, and a better mosher than I am — and I tried not to sexually assault Jello Biafra when he crowd surfed on our hands. (A drunk girl asked if I believed her when she said she had groped the man in an unfortunate place. I did. I think we all did. But unlike my youthful grabbing of the leg of Eugene Hutz from Gogol Bordello, I did not intend to do so. It was more an earnest effort to prevent him breaking his face.)

I used to be bothered that punks and certain leftists thought I was a ring-wing scumbag — that I was never, ever going to be one of those black hoodie and Municipal Waste t-clad people at the Roberto Project, or Gilman Street. I had so many happy experiences with these strangers, and if they knew me, I would never be one of them. The music wasn’t enough, but it felt like it should be. I knew some left anarchist kids in Pittsburgh who tolerated my occasional presence, but I was not in solidarity with them. Nor did I want to be, even then, I suppose. I have been a libertarian since I was 13. (Since I realized George W. Bush was full of shit when he said he knew everyone executed under his watch was guilty. But that didn’t translate into leftism, unfortunately for my teenage social life.)

I can put my fist in the air in shameless emotion, arms around sweating strangers, in a painfully earnest Defiance, Ohio pit, and then the next day go back to my internship at Reason to rake in those David Koch dollars. And as I grew older, I could laugh about that dichotomy more.  It might be more satisfying to be “part of” the scene, than to feel like I alone had that secret joke, but the more “liberty movement” (for all its flaws) I found, the less that alienation from the motivation for this music I love mattered to me. (Plus, after hearing horror stories about the East Bay anarchist scene from T., I once again think I am good. I am not a punk.)

Music is more important than politics, and I wish my politics could be translated into kick-ass song, but at the end of the day, the baggage that goes with these ideas belongs to me for two hours at a show, and then I drop it. It’s not about growing out of it. Or that those shows don’t matter. It’s just…compartmentalizing. Metal fans don’t get to go home and be wizards or orcs. I don’t get to go home and be a punk. It’s a costume — an exaggeration that feels meaningful, and comes from real anger but maybe also is pretend the way “Let’s Lynch the Landlord” or “Fuck Tha Police” is a portrait of a feeling, not a photograph.

I try to explain to my mother the joy of the mosh, but she never quite gets it. I remember distinctly a girl who was my year at Chatham trying to tell me once that she was too old for pits. She was actually two years younger than I was, but that wasn’t even the point. My annoyance stemmed from the fact that this was water from the wide river of grow the fuck up, wear business casual and heels. Certainly the mosh is not everyone’s cup of tea — and again, I don’t believe it can be forced — but the teenage perfection of it, which still feels holy, and mad, and necessary, and not political, is not something to grow out of.

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

-Lucy Steigerwald: Columnist for VICE.com, Antiwar.com, Rare.us, and Editor in Chief of The Stag Blog; @lucystag

-Joe Steigerwald: Publisher for The Stag Blog, technical dude; @steigerwaldino

-Michelle Montalvo: Perpetual intern, sci-fi enthusiast; @michelle7291

-David Lowenthal: blogger for The Forgotten Beard; @davidlowenthal1

For a special, America-themed Fourth of July show, our cranky, liberty-loving panel discussed nationalism, patriotism, immigration, the Constitution, and what makes America great besides Roland Emmerich and Michael Bay movies.

Richard Scaife — the billionaire owner of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review who died July 4 — was a complicated and interesting man, politically, personally and philanthropically.

If he had been a Democrat and liberal-funder of nutty leftwing causes like Teresa Heinz, instead of a Republican funder of libertarian conservative think tanks, media and politicians, President Obama would have ordered America’s flags to fly at half mast.

If you want two versions of Richard Scaife’s amazing life — and a textbook lesson in the rank subjectivity of newspapers — compare and contrast the obits written by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Pittsburgh Trib:

The PG obit:  Obituary: Richard M. Scaife / Ideologue, philanthropist, newspaper publisher

The Trib obit:  Richard Scaife, conservative champion, newsman & philanthropist, dies 

Decide for yourself who Richard Scaife really was. Good luck.

I worked at both papers — the PG in the 1990s and the Trib in the 2000s. When I decided to defect from the PG to the Trib, the first person I met for an interview was Richard Scaife. I worked my way down the chain of command and, after two years of interviews and dogged persistence on my part, I left the PG one Monday morning, crossed the Allegheny River and began work at the Trib 20 minutes later.

The Trib‘s obit is biased in Scaife’s favor, clearly. It leaves out all of the real-and-imagined dirt, nastiness and controversy, political and personal, all of which is debatable and too complicated for this blog item. It’ll be in someone else’s book someday, not mine. Or in a movie.

But the Trib‘s obit, while spun with loving positivity, gives Scaife his full due as a generous and important man. It also contains lots of mini-eulogies from political big shots like Romney and Jeb Bush and Donald Rumsfeld.

For the next week Scaife will be beat up in the mainstream media for his conservative-libertarian politics.

Many creepy liberal pundits and partisans will dance on his grave because he so generously funded the post-Goldwater conservative movement and spent a couple million bucks in the 1990s attempting to bring down the Clintons, who, hilariously, became chummy with him once they were out of power.

Politics, politics, politics. The debate over whether Scaife was the Devil or an angel will, as usual, depend on what your politics are  and it will never die.

Bu what people of every partisan stripe should give Scaife great credit for was making Pittsburgh a competitive two-newspaper town.

Starting in 1993 as the Pittsburgh edition of Scaife’s Greensburg Tribune-Review, his heavily subsidized paper, the Pittsburgh Trib, improved the journalism of the area in countless ways.

Growing slowly, adding talent and steadily improving the quality of its journalism, the Trib applied a strict conservative-libertarian ideology to local, state and national news and politics.

The Trib became a valuable counterweight to the Post-Gazette, which was a union-loving, public-sector loving, liberal Democrat establishment paper that was too cozy for too long with the political and corporate power-brokers of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County.

The journalism of both papers — news and opinion — was biased to reflect their publishers’ views. But the Trib editorial page (very very much Scaife’s political voice and generally a source of embarrassment/shame for the liberals running the paper’s news side) was not a mindless Republican cheerleader or a right-wing echo chamber.

During the 2000s, when I worked there, The Trib‘s editorials and op-eds were highly critical of any Republican who was insufficiently conservative.

It never got the national credit it deserved, but the Trib, entirely because of Richard Scaife’s positions, editorialized against going to war in Iraq in 2003, wisely/bravely came out in favor of marijuana decriminalization five years ago, and was steadfastly pro-choice.

In 30-plus years of newspaper journalism at the L.A. Times, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Trib, I worked for and with a lot of good, smart people and a few miserable assholes.

Mr. Scaife, as I called him when he dropped by the office, was always as nice to me as my favorite uncle. He gave me raises, put me on the paper’s masthead as an associate editor and sent me notes of praise for my op-ed columns and feature stories.

Best of all, unlike my previous editors/publishers, he didn’t hold my radical libertarian politics against me. He appreciated them.

Over at The Daily Caller, Michael Bastasch reports that the liars & hoaxers at NOAA have been caught fudging — and then fixing — their “official”  temperature records by Anthony Watts, the super-blogging meteorologist at WattsUpWithThat.com –  NOAA Reinstates July 1936 As The Hottest Month On Record

If any weatherman deserved a Pulitzer, it’s Watts. His science-heavy site, when you can understand it, is the premier clubhouse of the anti-global warming forces.

Here’s a 2009 Q&A that I, Libertarian Elder Bill Steigerwald, did with Watts, who has done more to fact-check, challenge and debunk the myths and BS of global warming than any one carbon-spewing human could ever do.

 

Anthony Watts, man of science

Anyone who regularly tunes into WattsUpWithThat.com, the popular climate-science blog operated by Anthony Watts, will never make fun of TV weathermen again. Watts ­ who was a TV meteorologist for 25 years ­ provides a steady diet of smart, always interesting and sometimes deeply complex scientific information and opinion about global climate change. Watts is also the founder of surfacestations.org, a project that for nearly two years has been quality-checking each of the 1,200-plus weather stations of the U. S. Historical Climate Network (USHCN) to see if they are set up and maintained properly. So far, Watts and his volunteers have checked about 820 of the weather stations, which have been in place for about 100 years and are the source for the country’s official average annual temperature. Watts has found that temperature data from nearly 70 percent of the stations is of questionable accuracy because the stations do not adhere to the USHCN’s own quality-control guidelines. I talked to Watts April 16 by phone from his office in Chico, Calif.

 

Q: Why do you do your blog WattsUpWithThat?

A: Well, it’s just an extension of what my life has been up until the last few years. I was a broadcaster on television ­ a meteorologist ­ for 25 years. I look at the blog as really no different. I did a daily broadcast each day in television. A blog is really just a daily broadcast in a different form.

Q: Who is your target audience?

A: I never really thought about a target audience. I took the same philosophy from broadcasting. I made it to reach as broad an audience as possible and the demographics that I get from it tell me I am doing that job successfully. I’ve got everything from people with high school educations to people that are Ph.Ds who are reading and commentating and sometimes even submitting articles.

Q: Sometimes it gets pretty deep ­ lots of scientific charts and data.

A: It does. But that is to be expected because of the broad audience we have. My job is to try to make everything understandable, even for people who are not in tune with some of the more technical details of climate.

Q: Have you become more politicized since you began blogging? Or are you primarily still a man of science?

A: Well, my main interest always has been the science. I am still of the belief that you should let the data tell you what the real story is. As far as the blog goes, the only thing I can say that I’ve become a little more critical of in terms of politics is that we have some people now who should be sticking to science, such as Jim Hansen (head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, going out and advocating things such as civil disobedience (at coal-fired power plants). That concerns me.

Q: What is your basic position on the question of global warming? Are you a believer? A skeptic? Somewhere in between?

A: I would call myself what some people describe as a “lukewarmer” in that the CO2 effect that people have done thousands of studies on is in fact real. However, it is not a crisis. The reason it is not a crisis is because most people do not understand the logarithmic nature of the CO2 response in our atmosphere.

Q: And that means?

A: It’s like salting soup. If you have a bowl of soup in front of you and you put a little salt in it to salt it to taste, you say, “Well, maybe it needs just a tad more.” So you add some more salt and you think, “Maybe not quite enough.” Then you add some more, and all the sudden it’s too salty. Now if you were to add additional salt to the soup, you could not determine that it was any more salty than it already was. And if you continue to add salt, you can’t tell the difference.

CO2 is much like that in the way that our atmosphere responds to long-wave outgoing radiation, or trapping of heat. At some point when you get to a certain level, like a doubling of CO2, and then you add a second doubling of CO2, the response halves. It’s logarithmic. Then it halves again and then halves again after that. So much of the effect that we would expect to see from CO2 — because of this logarithmic response — has already happened. In essence, our soup is already fairly well salted and additional salting is not to make a whole lot of difference.

Q: What is the most harmful “fact” ­ quote unquote ­ about global warming that everyone believes but which is probably not true or at least uncertain?

A: There is a belief out there that we will get into a runaway condition where at some point a tipping point would occur and that at that point there is no turning back and then the world would destroy itself. That is being pushed in the media a lot and it is flat wrong.

As we go back into history, into past millennia, we can see that our atmosphere has in fact had much more CO2 ­ up to 6,000 parts per million, compared to the 380 parts per million that we have now ­ and it has responded and it has settled. Earth didn’t destroy itself. It didn’t burn up and boil off the oceans. So the comparison that we see with runaway global warming and the turning of Earth into Venus, things of that nature, are probably the most dangerous and wrong ideas that are being pushed.

Q: Are your troubled or annoyed by the way global warming is being discussed or covered by the mainstream media?

A: I am. And mainly because it’s getting a free pass for almost every problem that’s brought up. There’s a Web site in the UK called Number Watch (numberwatch.com) that maintains a list of literally thousands of things in the media that are blamed on global warming. It’s almost like “The Devil made me do it.” The idea here is that, yeah, we have an issue and the issue is that there is some warming of the atmosphere. That warming however is not catastrophic. It has occurred in the past and the Earth has survived. So the blaming of global warming as a catchall for every problem that we see in our environment is a disservice to science and to the people.

Q: My grandchildren ask me if the polar ice in the Northern Hemisphere is going to disappear?

A: I would say that the polar ice has disappeared in the past. Certainly there seems to be evidence of past climate situations where we may have had virtually no or none during the summertime. In the immediate future, however, I don’t think we are going to see that. In fact, we’re going through a rebound right now. If you look at the current Arctic ice extent from the Japanese agency which tracks the Arctic ice, you’ll find that it is very near normal at this point and it is rebounding well from the last couple years. Antarctic ice is above normal. And the global total amount of sea ice is above normal. So it’s not disappearing any time soon.

Q: What’s the story with the Sun? It’s been described as being asleep or in a state of “slumber” because it has had virtually no sun spots for a long time. What’s going on?

A: Well, the Sun is driven by dynamic magnetic cycles. There are 11-year and 22-year cycles that have been identified and there are longer cycles that have been theorized. In every kind of a cycling endeavor there are always lulls and there are giant peaks. We’ve seen both in the past. We’ve seen lulls in the Maunder Minimum (1645 to 1715) and the Dalton Minimum (1790 to 1830), when virtually no sun spots appeared. Coincidentally, during those periods the weather and climate on Earth got colder.

The period that we are currently in now is what appears to be the beginning of an extended solar cycle that may now be as long as 12 1/2 years, compared to the normal 11. The current state of the Sun appears to be a similar kind of situation being set up to what it was right before the Dalton Minimum. So the possibility exists that we may find ourselves in a period of cooler weather in the next 20 to 30 years.

The missing link, however, between solar activity and Earth’s climate is “What is the amplification factor?” The total solar irradiance, or TSI, has shown to be very small and when you look at the amount of watts per meter that is delivered to the Earth’s surface, the amount of change in total solar irradiance doesn’t appear to be enough to cause such differences in the climate of the Earth.

However, what people are looking for now is an amplification factor ­ sort of a climatic transistor, if you will. A transistor takes very small signals and amplifies them so they are audible ­ which is why radios work. The theory has been bandied about that the same kind of process occurs in Earth’s climate. A very small change in signal related to solar activity ­ and we don’t know which signal yet; it could be total solar irradiance, it could be ultraviolent; it could be magnetic; it could be cosmic rays; there are number of things that are being looked at — gets amplified in Earth’s natural processes and changes. That’s what needs to be identified before a complete causal relationship is established between changes on the Sun’s solar cycle and changes in Earth’s climate.

Q: When we know the immense size of the Sun and power of the Sun and relative tininess of Earth, doesn’t the Sun just scream out as being the chief culprit of climate change on Earth?

A: On the surface — on a simple analysis — one would think that. But again, the missing link is, what is the true causal relationship between changes in the Sun’s solar cycle and Earth climate. Where’s the amplification factor? Because just the change in the amount of sunlight that occurs doesn’t appear to be enough to account for the observed changes in the past. So we are looking for that link.

However, I would say that the Sun really is the Big Kahuna of all the climate on earth. We would not have any climate. We would not have any weather. We would not have any ocean currents. We would not have life. We would have nothing if it were not for the Sun. So the Sun is this central point from which everything on Earth springs. We should not ignore that fact.

Q: Is a period of global cooling coming? And if so, what would you point to as evidence of that?

A: Well, there is a post on my blog today (April 16) about the computer models (of future global average temperatures) starting to diverge from the climate reality. This is something that is really kind of unexpected. The models continue to go up in (global temperature) but the climate reality and the current (global temperature) measurement starts to go down. They are diverging and have been diverging since 2006. There are a number of things that have aligned that make me think that perhaps we are in for a cooling period. The Pacific Decadal Oscillation, for example, has shifted from its warm regime to its cold regime last year. NASA JPL certified this. The last time it switched — in 1978 — it switched from a cool regime to a warm regime. We’ve been riding that warm period all the way since then.

Q: Is there a quick way to explain what the Pacific Decadal Oscillation is?

A: It has a larger influence than either La Nina or El Nino. It is a broad swath of water that extends from the Equator up into Alaska that changes the character of the surface temperatures of the Pacific over that broad swath of water. It was discovered by looking into changes in fishery stock by the University of Washington. The fishing stocks were changing and they had no explanation for it. They starting looking for it and they discovered it was linked to the food supply. And the food supply ­ krill and phytoplankton and all that sort of stuff ­ was linked to the changes in the temperature of the water. So they discovered this pattern. So it’s a broad, wholesale change in the structure of the surface temperature of the Pacific.

Q: That has obvious influences over the whole climate for years afterwards.

A: Particularly the United States, because the weather flows from west to east. And particularly California. California had a fairly cool climate prior to 1978. And during the warmer period from 1978 to last year, agriculture boomed in California. Grapes began to be grown in places they haven’t been grown before. The wine industry expanded. Agricultural expanded. And it expanded under a warmer climatic regime. Now that warmer climatic regime is in danger of shrinking again. So we may find growing seasons and growing places reduced back to areas that they were historically at in 1978.

Q: What is the most important, irrefutable truth about the climate of Earth that you wish every schoolchild and every elected official in Washington understood?

A: That the climate has always changed. It has never been static. In the past it has seen extremes hotter and colder than what we experience today. So change is normal.

Q: Since you are a meteorologist, I’ll put you on the spot. Ten years from now what will we be talking about, global warming or global cooling?

A: I believe it will be global cooling, based on the fact that there are several things aligning ­ like the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and the solar patterns and so forth — to make it appear that we might be in for a period of global cooling. However, I am also prepared to say that I may be completely wrong.

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

-Lucy Steigerwald: Columnist for VICE.com, Antiwar.com, Rare.us, and Editor in Chief of The Stag Blog; @lucystag

-Joe Steigerwald: Publisher for The Stag Blog, technical dude; @steigerwaldino

-Michelle Montalvo: Perpetual intern, sci-fi enthusiast; @michelle7291

-Cory Massimino: Student, writer for DL Magazine, Students for Liberty Blog, Center for a Stateless Society; @CoryMassimino

-David Lowenthal: blogger for The Forgotten Beard; @davidlowenthal1

Our cranky, liberty-loving panel discussed the Supreme Court ruling on cell phone warrants, the state of the Fourth Amendment, immigration and the border, and Gary Oldman, political correctness and libertarian celebrities. Takeaway question: does Pat Buchanan got to Mexican restaurants?

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

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