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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.

Responsibility

[ 535 ] December 14, 2012 |

At what point do we start holding the National Rifle Association morally responsible for all these shootings? At what point do we get over our idiotic national love of guns and start acting like grownups in this country?

Talk about your gun rights all you want. People also have a right not be shot in movie theaters and schools. That’s a right far more important than your ability to own an AK-47.

….It seems that up to 27 people are dead. Wayne LaPierre should be in prison. You are goddamn right I am politicizing this tragedy. The NRA is a criminal organization and should be treated as such. Even if it is 1 person dead.

….Below is the gun used in the shootings. A .223 rifle. Can anyone tell me why this gun should be legal?

Good News

[ 56 ] December 14, 2012 |

I’m not saying an interview on Barbara Walters means a whole lot here, but Obama saying he would not go after Washington and Colorado for legalizing marijuana is a good sign. Does this mean he will call off the DEA in those states? Will he allow the states to set up stores? All the details need to be worked out, but it’s at least useful that Obama is talking in these terms.

Anti-left?

[ 211 ] December 13, 2012 |

What does it mean to be a leftist?

Let me start by saying that this is a pretty wankertastic question. Who cares, right? I think a discussion of the merits of various Ray Price albums would lead us closer to a more just society. It’d also be more fun. Also the answer is of course Night Life.

Anyway, you’ll have to indulge me here in a question with which I hate to engage. Nothing has served the left less than cleaving off those who weren’t “left” enough to increasingly ideologically pure and small organizations. I guess the Weather Underground was pretty left all right. And they were 50 people whose major accomplishment was blowing a few of themselves up making a bomb. Great.

But if we were going to define the left, at least in this country, I guess I’d say that it would revolve around something like people who were committed to the eradication of social, political, economic, gender, sexual, and environmental inequality both in the United States and around the world through the use of a variety of means, ranging from an activist government to revolutionary cadres. I don’t know, maybe you’d have a different definition. By all means feel free to argue the point.

Anyway, I would certainly include myself in this definition of the left. I don’t really identify with liberalism per se. Liberals can most definitely be leftists although many are most certainly not. Now, my first rule of life is that no one’s description of themselves should be taken seriously. I think that’s a very good rule to live by. So your opinion about whether I am left or liberal or whatever is a lot more important than my own.

That said, I believe in pretty much the entire range of left-liberal ideas. That includes the entirety of the socialist welfare system of Europe, gay marriage, stringent environmental regulations, access to abortion, etc. I’d argue that I am far to the left of most self-described leftists on organized labor, largely because I think many of them just don’t care or see it is an anachronism. I am opposed to much of U.S. foreign policy. And yes, like most self-identified leftists, I am disgusted by the so-called war on terror, torture, the treatment of Bradley Manning, etc.

Now none of this is particularly notable. But I have other positions as well that would certainly be more controversial and pretty “left” I think. Here’s a list of 10.

1. Make recognition of the state of Israel dependent on moving the boundaries back to the 1967 lines and destroying the settlements.
2. Repeal the 2nd Amendment
3. A constitutional amendment to guarantee employment
4. A constitutional amendment to guarantee collective bargaining
5. Extend the most vigorous provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to the entire nation
6. A government ban on the harvesting of most fish with vigorous regulations and punishment provisions for violators
7. An 100% estate tax. You die, the government takes it all.
8. Pricing based upon percentage of income. You go to the gas pump–the price of gas is based upon last year’s income that would be encoded on a card you have to show.
9. U.S. companies can move overseas if they want–but the U.S. minimum wage applies to those workers. Also to contracted suppliers.
10. A constitutional guarantee to terminate a pregnancy, no questions asked.

I don’t really talk about these things much. Why? They are irrelevant. They are so far out of what is possible that why bother. Do they make me more of a leftist? Who cares.

The one area I am less convinced of the so-called leftist position is drones. Or DRONES!!!!!, to paraphrase those who are outraged by them. The only difference I can see between drones and the rest of the immorality of American militarism is that drones kill less people than human-piloted aircraft. I’ve yet to see anyone present a convincing case that drones are MORE immoral than other forms of warfare. They are immoral without a doubt. But the closest thing I’ve seen to a real argument about drones’ special immorality comes down to being like a video game and the fact that the opposition doesn’t have a chance to fight back against American soldiers. The first is a reality of our technological fetishism pervading our entire society, the latter grotesque. Please convince me why I am wrong.

That brings me to the real point here: Freddie deBoer.

de Boer’s comment to Scott’s post caused me to choke up my morning ice water (I don’t drink coffee, it’s gross):

6. This blog once attacked publications like Slate and TNR for being reflexively antileft, and pressured Democrats from the left on issues like foreign policy and espionage. It is now reflexively antileft itself, and pressures liberals from the right on issues like foreign policy and espionage. It’s to the point where you’re concern trolling Bradley Manning’s torture, despite the fact that the UN torture chief found that Manning had been tortured.

Freddie defines the left as holding his own precise position on the issue that he has chosen as the moral issue of the day. Moreover, he defines the left as supporting what he wants in precisely the same method he chooses–namely not voting for Democrats in elections if they don’t follow his line of policy. Freddie has decided that torture and drones–not labor rights, not abortion rights, not the climate–is the single moral issue of our time. If you agree with him and his tactics for dealing with it, you are on the left. If you don’t, if you see nuance, if you see other issues as of equal or greater moral weight, you are excluded from his left. Therefore, because some of us here at LGM fall into the latter category and defend our position against third party flirtations and Obamaney foolishness, we are “antileft.”

Now, Corey Robin is right enough that de Boer provided some evidence for Scott’s question. It’s extremely weak evidence–Alan Dershowitz? Bill Clinton? Really? That’s as good as you can do? But he absolutely did not provide any evidence for his claim that “No, I think liberals want to be forced to support torture. What liberals want is ultimately to do what conservative hawks want to do, but only after experts and leaders assure them that they have no choice. They want extreme events to make the choice for them.” Do I count as one of these liberals? Do I want to be forced to support torture? Does Farley? Lemieux? Who precisely are these people, at least among the liberal writers on the blogosphere? Have any of us ever provided the slightest bit of evidence to this point?

I ask because Freddie is basically saying these things about LGM, the anti-left blog. He holds LGM up as everything that is wrong with the Democratic Party and liberal blogosphere. This is a blog that evidently thinks of Obama (or Bill Clinton) as a “liberal crush object.” And of course:

This is the most elementary, most important point of all: there is no internal pressure for Democrats to reform, precisely because of people like Tbogg and the crew at LGM. Defenders of Obama lay down lines you can’t cross in every direction, shrinking the bounds of the responsible or the fair or the mature or the realistic or the pragmatic or the strategic… And then you look up and there is nothing for you to do. You become Paul Begala or you are a traitor. What would Tbogg tell me to do, if he actually stopped building a monument to his own sarcasm and cleverness, if he stepped outside of his meticulously curated temple of snark and flippancy, and if he actually considered the question of what to do if you want America to stop killing children? He’d say to grow up. He has no other arrow in his quiver.

By the way, I still haven’t received my check from the Democratic National Committee for all the power I used to keep the left in line during the election. Do you people have my address? Tbogg, have you heard anything?

Back in November, Freddie said that I was going to have an interesting 2013 since I was just a pro-drone Obot Democratic Party hack who would never demand anything for my vote. What this obviously showed is that Freddie had never read a single word I had written before the post he was responding to, which was me saying essentially that Matt Stoller was a self-promoting posturing idiot, a point to which I assume we can all agree. But notice what Freddie was doing here in defining the left as precisely what he cared about to the exclusion of all else:

There are a few people out there who both associate themselves with liberalism (or progressivism, if you prefer the weasel term) and who assert the actual legitimacy and morality of the drone program. To them, well, vaya con dios. We aren’t likely to be able to talk about much of value. But most people on the broad left are defending Obama in spite of the drone program, insisting that you must (and almost all of them say we must) vote for Obama even though they disagree with this drone program. Yes, the drone program is a terrible mistake. But still, you must vote for Obama. Before the election is not the time. The years to come will be the right time. Congressional elections will be the right time. Not now, but later. Wait. Bide your time.

Well Freddie, I actually am going to have an interesting 2013. That’s because we are going to see higher taxes on the rich. We are going to see some kind of filibuster reform. We are almost certainly going to see substantive immigration reform. We might see a move toward voting standards. We might see the end of Republican hostage-taking over the debt limit. We might see a few other things as well.

That’s not leftist policy. Obama naming Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense is stupid. His labor policy is tepid. His public lands policy is non-existent. His agricultural policy is terrible. His drone policy is awful. His education policy is abysmal. But on all but the last, he’s still better than the alternative in American political life in 2012. This plus the real positive changes that do happen make people’s lives better. And it’s certainly going to be better than Freddie’s preferred alternative. 10% of Americans voting for Jill Stein would have moved the agenda to the left precisely how? How has this strategy worked through American history? How has change actually happened in American history? What is the relationship between the left and change in American history? What tactics have worked and what have not worked? As my readers know, studying these issues is the point of most of my academic and non-academic writing.

So this discussion of what’s left or antileft or whatnot is pretty pointless except that it’s insulting to be accused of such a thing in such an absurd manner. As Scott said to Freddie,

This assumes that you are to my left; I believe there is no actual basis for this assumption, since I don’t believe that a willingness to endorse transparently counterproductive tactics is a litmus test for one’s leftist commitment. It is precisely your belief that you are the Last True Lefist bravely pointing out heretics that seems to be the source of the silly generalizations under discussion here.

If the definition of left is being exclusionary of issues outside of the one you choose to emphasize, then I guess de Boer is to Scott’s left. In the real world, I don’t see any evidence of it at all. I certainly don’t question Freddie’s qualifications as being a person on the left. But then, what difference does it really make if he is or not? Or if I am or not? Nada. Not to real people’s lives.

I will tell you one thing though–no left I am a part of uses the kind of sexist language de Boer throws around. Not to mention his, uh, rather questionable writings about himself as a feminist in the past. See here for awesomeness. “Man up?” Christ Freddie, is left politics a contest about penis size? If so, count me out. For any number of reasons.

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