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Heroes

[ 9 ] December 21, 2012 |

The word hero is used way too often in our society for any number of reasons. But actual heroes exist. One of them was the AIDS activist Spencer Cox, who died this week at the age of 44. He helped save thousands of lives through his actions, even if he couldn’t conquer his own demons in the end. Such is the way of life.

Milk Prices

[ 24 ] December 21, 2012 |

The fact that milk prices could go up as high as $8 a gallon because of a Truman-era policy that kicks in without a new farm bill is exhibit #113421 that we need a serious reexamination of our entire broken agricultural policy.

Lonely Street (A Metaphorical Lonely Street. Not an Actual Street With No One On It. Or a Street With Just Me Walking Alone)

[ 376 ] December 20, 2012 |

Well, it seems that we have passed peak wingnut (warning: Reynolds link ahead) and I can peek my head above the metaphorical bunker again.

I’m at the point where I’m pretty bloody angry with myself for using language intemperate enough to open the door to these people to try and change the narrative. It seems they failed, precisely because of the push back they received over freedom of speech. For this, I can’t thank the good people at Crooked Timber enough, not to mention so many other people. I never wanted to be the subject of a free speech campaign. Usually those are reserved for people who really said something offensive where one has to stand in principle. I still don’t see what I said as offensive, and certainly not as offensive as supporting policies that allow crazy people to have access to high-powered weapons. But while I generally use relatively measured language here, I was using Twitter as the site to express my true unabashed outrage about the world. I guess I have to be more careful on that going forward. Lesson learned.

That said, what really bugs me is that because of my intemperate language, we are talking about me and what others said about me instead of the policies of unrestricted ownership of killing machines that led to the death of 26 people in Connecticut last week and thousands around the United States and Mexico every year. I look forward to moving the conversation back to what really matters–regulations on guns.

Things were pretty lonely for me for awhile there. But thanks to everyone, and of course the Ray Price I was relying on to help me get through, there was indeed no Lonely Street for me. Except the song.

Night Life

[ 111 ] December 18, 2012 |

I am too tired to post anything coherently. With the death threats, it’s been a bit crazy. I can assure all of you that I will not be intimidated. I will also say that I think it’s time to spend some time with Ray Price.

Also, I want to express my sincere appreciation for those of you defending me. I can’t say enough how much I appreciate your support.

On Metaphors and Violence

[ 1,035 ] December 18, 2012 |

The last couple of days have been a bit challenging for me. Being attacked by a David Horowitz wannabe for saying I wanted to see Wayne LaPierre’s head on a stick has led to a world of fun, ranging from a meeting with the Rhode Island State Police last night to people inundating the University of Rhode Island community with warnings of their murderous colleague in their midst.

So to clarify, I want to make it blindingly clear that I did not call for the assassination of Wayne LaPierre. In my world, calling for someone’s head on a stick is a metaphor to hold them responsible for their actions. I think the last time “head on a stick” actually meant murder was sometime around 1450. That anyone would take this seriously as a murder threat is completely absurd. What stinks about it is that it has now involved my family, colleagues, and university. So I’ll apologize to them and to anyone legitimately offended by my metaphor.

If we go to the Urban Dictionary to see how it defines “head on a stick,” there are several options. Some range around medieval violence. But this is the actual definition in use today:

A metaphor describing retaliation or punishment for another’s wrongdoing, or public outrage against an individual or group for the same reason.

After the BP Oil Spill; many Americans would like to see Tony Hayward’s head on a stick, myself included.

This is the obvious definition I was using. Do I want to see Wayne LaPierre punished in the way many of us wanted to see Tony Hayward punished during the BP oil spill or the way many of us wanted to see Dick Cheney punished during the Iraq War. Of course. That would mean real accountability for causing immeasurable harm to families, nations, and/or nature. Do I think the National Rifle Association is culpable for the murders of thousands of people in the United States and Mexico because of the policies they support? Yes. Do I think it is reasonable to call the National Rifle Association a terrorist organization? Although obviously using more than a little hyperbole, yes. It is defensible precisely because the polices they support facilitate the terror unleashed in Newtown, at the Clackamas Town Center, at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin, at the theater in Aurora, at Columbine.

And in Springfield.

In 1998, my high school Spanish teacher was killed by her son Kip Kinkel before he went to his own high school and opened fire, killing 2 students and wounded 15. This is personal stuff to me. I will never forget the moment I heard about it. I was driving in east Texas when I stopped to eat. I picked up a paper and saw it. I don’t know what noise I made, but whatever it was it caused everyone in the restaurant to turn and look at me. I just started shaking. I was never a gun guy, but it was a fundamental moment in my political life. So when I see yet another school shooting, I get very angry and emotional. If that occasionally leads to unfortunate language, well there’s the reason.

But let’s also be clear–these people KNOW I am not calling for LaPierre’s assassination. They use language far surpassing anything I would ever say all the time. Here is Glenn Reynolds, so outraged by my intemperate language, asking “can we see some heads roll” over the Benghazi attacks. Does Reynolds literally want to see the head of Susan Rice decapitated from her body? Of course not. It’s a metaphor. I wouldn’t have even looked twice at that line because I know exactly what he means, even if I disagree with him. Not to mention that Reynolds has quite literally called for the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists. But I am today’s subject of the right-wing Two Minute Hate. Tomorrow it will be some other poor sap. This is all a game to these extremists, seeking to turn the tragedy of Newtown to focus on the real victims here–American white conservative gun owners. The fact that my intemperate language helped give them a lever to try and turn that narrative is unfortunate and I apologize for it. But of course they would have found any number of other people or situations where they would have done the same thing.

And look, if I used violent metaphors, that’s a bad thing. I will admit that at certain moments such language might become part of my vocabulary. But then I’m a product of the same violent culture that makes real discussion about guns virtually impossible in this country. Scholars such as Richard Slotkin and Richard Maxwell Brown have spent whole careers exploring the theme of violence in American history. Others have noted the massive violent underpinnings of the United States ranging from antebellum mobs to lynchings to violence in the popular media. I probably shouldn’t use that language and certainly will be a lot more conscious going forward of not using it again, particularly since it doesn’t help in the battle against actual violence. Violence is a huge societal problem that influences all of us in various ways. Some may use violent metaphors to express their frustrations. Others join organizations that support assault rifles and semi-automatic weapons being in the hands of anyone without any sort of background check or regulation. I’ll leave it to you to decide who is the bigger problem.

Fame, I Wanna Live Forever

[ 151 ] December 18, 2012 |

And here’s the obligatory Glenn Reynolds attack on me for saying I wanted Wayne LaPierre’s head on a stick. Evidently that means I want him assassinated. I mean really, if I said I wanted someone to kill Wayne LaPierre I would have just said it. Why would I mess with metaphor in talking about the NRA? On the other hand, metaphor is really, really hard for conservatives to understand.

The Greatest Thing Anyone’s Ever Written About Me

[ 203 ] December 17, 2012 |

A wannabe David Horowitz has written this about me calling the NRA a terrorist organization on Twitter. It is entitled, “Professor calls for assassination of NRA CEO.”

The only downside is crazy people flooding my e-mail in box during finals week. But so be it.

…..You will all be happy to know that one of these lunatics called the Rhode Island state police accusing me of calling for the assassination of Wayne LaPierre. 2 officers came to the house. I was in a meeting on campus. I now have to meet these police officers at a gas station in the middle. Yes, this sounds a bit suspicious to me too. If this is a trap and I get shot tonight, let it be known that someone had to say these things.

…..Not dead yet. Do have a meeting with the dean tomorrow though. Yay!

Chowdah!

[ 17 ] December 17, 2012 |

I present you the New England Chowder Compendium, consisting of chowder recipes going back to the 18th century.

I recommend a LGM chowder cookoff.

And of course:

The Underlying Text of the Protocol of the Elders of Zion Is Revealed: The NBA Playing Games on Christmas

[ 165 ] December 16, 2012 |

San Francisco Chronicle sports columnist Bruce Jenkins has uncovered the true Jewish War on Christmas–David Stern saving us all from the hell of spending time with our families by making us watch NBA games.

One of the most distasteful aspects of commissioner David Stern’s legacy – ruining Christmas for far too many people – comes into play again this year with five televised games scheduled. “It used to be two teams,” retired coach Phil Jackson said. “But I don’t think anybody should play on Christmas Day. Your little kids are putting batteries in their new toys, all kinds of family stuff going on, and now you’re supposed to get focused on a game in the middle of the afternoon?”

Jackson is among many observers who point out the obvious: that Stern, who celebrates Hanukkah, has no real feel for Christmas in the first place. “Here’s an idea,” scoffed former Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy, always one of Stern’s most vocal critics. “Let’s play 10 games. Start at midnight on Christmas Eve and play them all through the next day, so there’s not a minute of Christmas when there’s not an NBA game on TV. Because it’s just so great. Christmas is the NBA, to me. It’s what it’s all about.”

As Isaac Rauch states:

Criticisms of David Stern, though certainly not all illegitimate, are often tinged with anti-semitism: the idea that he’s a schemer (the lottery is rigged every year, right?), that he’s greedy (other comissioners don’t fine their personnel for infractions?) or that he’s especially mendacious (because most league commissioners are consistently forthright?)—all of these play into old, negative tropes about Jews, and shouldn’t be the basis for reasoned critiques.

This particular criticism of Stern is not so much “tinged” with anti-semitism as it is basted in anti-semitism, and it breaks down under examination: Thanksgiving may not be a religious holiday, but it’s just as important a gathering for many people, and I’ve never seen anyone claim that the NFL ruined Thanksgiving “for far too many people,” except maybe Lions fans. And let’s not forget the years when Hanukkah, invoked here to mean “David Stern is Jewish,” has actually overlapped with Christmas. Such as last year.

My hatred of David Stern is hard to overestimate. I fully believe he personally intervenes in the league to ensure that the big market teams like the Lakers get calls at the right time to advance in the playoffs (see the 2000 Western Conference Finals that broke my heart against the Blazers) and trades that no one thought were possible to pull off (Gasol, Howard, etc). The league is fixed. Stern has basically destroyed my love for professional basketball, which was my sport bar none until I was about 25.

So there’s plenty to ways to say David Stern sucks without resorting to anti-Semitism.

Plus what the hell else I am supposed to do on Christmas after opening gifts? Now it’s time for 18 hours of chit-chat with the in-laws! Thanks Christians for eliminating unnecessary distractions to this great day!!!!

More NRA Facilitated Terrorism

[ 3 ] December 15, 2012 |

Gunman attacks Alabama hospital. Seems to have wounded a couple of people before the police got him.

Can we charge terrorist Wayne LaPierre with some crimes here?

….Also, it was clearly Alabama’s overly restrictive gun control laws that allowed this to happen!

Idiot of the Day

[ 123 ] December 15, 2012 |

Eugene Volokh, for arguing that we should arm public school teachers.

Politician Scumbag of the Day

[ 46 ] December 14, 2012 |

Mike Huckabee.

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