Posts by: "Joe Steigerwald"

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.

Robert Cohen/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/AP Photo

Want a peek into the deranged minds of the American people?

Look no further than the striking contrast between the most shared links on Facebook vs. Twitter.

According to content aggregation site BuzzSumo, over the past week the most shared story on Facebook about the tragedy going on in Ferguson is this piece from the Conservative Tribune, which has 93540 Facebook Shares (as of 2:46 EST, 8/14/2014).

The article highlights a video from a “young black man containing a message for the black community and rioters, challenging them to stop blaming police and white people and start taking responsibility for their own actions.”

While liberal media is continuing to stir the pot, there are plenty of common sense folk in the area who are voicing their opinion about the shooting and rioting thanks to the power of the Internet.

Awesome. This young man is absolutely right. Regardless of color, every person in the country needs to learn to take responsibility for themselves and the actions they take.

It’s a tragedy that a young man, regardless of his skin color, has had his life rubbed out. This should be the focus here, that a family has lost a child due to poor decision making.

A tragedy of this magnitude should serve as a cautionary tale about the consequences that come with the choices and decisions that are made on a daily basis, not the color of a person’s skin.

None of this should be surprising coming from a website whose tagline is “In Defense of Western Civilization.” Why blame the militarization of police or ingrained racism when you have the “liberal media” to kick around? However the most sickening part is that they completely ignore the police brutality and mishandling of the situation by blaming the killing of Michael Brown on “poor decision making.” It’s such a ridiculous (ahem) cop out, yet, it’s all too common amongst these right-wing sites to never speak a word of ill will towards the police, especially when a minority is in the cross hairs.

Contra the race-baiting, police apologetic being passed around on Facebook, Twitter’s most Retweeted link is “I am Mike Brown Live from Ferguson, MO”, a Livestream from KARG Argus radio showing videos of the protests. I assure you, you won’t find any police appeasement there.

Looking further into the most shared stories, we find an interesting mix of news and putrescent “think pieces” on the Facebook side of things.

Top 5 most shared on Facebook:

Following up the “Black America has a Message for the Race Rioters” we have noted idiot Matt Walsh clocks in at #4 with his latest tragedy-baiting screed. An article about the dangers of police militarization and a Washington Post reporter’s account of being arrested also make the list.

On Twitter, we find actual news reports and reputable sources: Washington Post x2, Business Insider, and the New York Times.

Top 5 Shared on Twitter:

So what does this all mean?

That there’s a lot of people on Facebook, and there are a lot of users who are living in fearful white-only bubbles.

Facebook currently has over 150 million users in the United States compared to Twitter’s 37 million. But even with the massive amounts of users, there’s little danger in sharing a controversial article on Facebook.

The (almost certain) homogeneity in the networks of those who shared the “blame the black people, not the police”  pieces preclude anyone from outside their friends from ever seeing it. Twitter’s open structure, on the other hand, allows for outsiders to comment, shame, and call-out anyone (for better and for worse).

Basically, on Facebook racists and those who would rather cast aspersions on the black community instead of the police are free to do so without repercussion.

And the numbers don’t lie.

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.

 

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.

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.

Wooly MammothThis weekend I appeared on the Don’t Worry About the Government Podcast hosted by the great Chris Novembrino. We chatted about the Ukraine, why I hate polar bears, rock music with messages, and Rand Paul. Now I can’t promise that I don’t ramble on for extended periods of time, and I also can’t promise I made a lot of sense with my insights. That being said, I highly recommend checking it out. There are 226 OTHER episodes that I didn’t appear on, so there’s plenty of other podcasts to listen to if you don’t find my appearance particularly appetizing.

But seriously check it out, your ears will thank you.