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May 20, 2006

Recommended reading

The best thing Tacitus has ever written: How think tanks spin far-right fringe beliefs into conventional wisdom. (Hat tip to Amanda)

Chris Clarke on fat jokes and the liberal blogosphere.

Did conservative pundit Mark Steyn plagiarize a Language Log blogger in Macleans magazine? Sure looks that way. (Hat tip to Bitch PhD.)

Tristero puts in a good word for fucking.

Matt Yglesias wonders what kind of border barrier the xenophobes really have in mind. Are we talking about mines and machine gun nests?

The Gothamist has all the juicy details about John McCain getting booed at the New School and the dental credit swapping scam at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. (Correction: There is no University of New Jersey, simpliciter.)

Julia brings us the Biblical weather report with Pat Robertson. Topline summary: God told Pat that the 2006 hurricane season won't exactly be a breeze. (Link fixed.)

The Happy Feminist spotted a fascinating blog called Hasidic Rebel. The author is a member of a New York Hasidic community. Here are some of HR's greatest hits: Life as a Chasid, and Block Busted.

New Yorker Teresa Nielsen Hayden reassures America: "If immigrants are so overwhelmingly scary and unassimilable, and such a drain on the communities that harbor them, how come my city can kick your city's ass?"

Martin Wisse on Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

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dental credit swapping scam at the University of New Jersey.

That's, more properly, the "University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey" which is already under a cloud of scandal due to Medicare/Medicaid double-billing and conflicts of interest among the Board of Trustees

There is no "University of New Jersey," though there is a "College of New Jersey."

Silly Ticky Tacky, trying to give GOP-style conservatives credit for home-schooling.

Everyone knows we owe legal home-schooling to the Amish! A different breed of conservatism, to say the least.

I really enjoyed the link to the fat jokes article. It serves as a reminder to all of us to not get carried away with our insults, especially those of us who enjoy satire. I'm a loyal reader of Jesus' General, and anyone who has visited his comments sections realizes that the cup runneth over with satire there. However there have been times when people have gotten a little carried away. I'm a little ashamed to admit it, but I have probably gone too far more than once. I was never trying to offend anyone, but I think I may have done it anyway a couple of times. To me it's not at all about being "politically incorrect" (if that term has any useful meaning anymore), it's about being an asshole. Sometimes it's a fine line between cutting edge and offensive. It's something about which I think we all should remain vigilant.

I'm such a sucker for any link about fucking. Really, Lindsay, sometimes I swear you're just appealling to the lowest common denominator. That's okay with me, I'm definitely a LCD guy. Could you maybe provide some links to some good hardcore porn sites? (Am I crossing a line now?)

Tristero says many interesting things in that article, that can pertain to many other things as well:

This is all of a piece with modern rightwing propaganda style, to pack as much loopy nonsense as possible into every sentence. This makes it exceedingly difficult to confront and rebut, but not because there's a solid argument to "engage." Firstly, the sheer amount of garbage that needs to be cleared away all but requires, as it does here, a response longer than the original winger passage. Secondly, the whackiness of many of the secondary assertions makes it extremely easy to get distracted onto tangents - for example, into a debate on exactly what is meant by "countercultural."

[...]

This packing tactic was, if not pioneered by him, surely brought to a new level of obnoxiousness by Robert Novak many, many years ago, when he would ask a Democrat a trick question filled with screwy righty assumptions that simply would have to be dealt with before the question even could be addressed, thus enabling Novak to accuse the hapless Dem of wimpiness and evasion.

I think we're becoming savvy enough to see that sort of tactic for what it is, and we've learned to deal with it. But it's neat to see it spoken of aloud.

Jean Rohe, the student speaker at the New School convocation, is a jazz singer (she was graduating from the New School's Jazz Studies program). I blogged about her here, and you can read her HufPo piece "Why I Spoke Up" here.

"If immigrants are so overwhelmingly scary and unassimilable, and such a drain on the communities that harbor them, how come my city can kick your city's ass?"

I love these New Yorkers and their endless comments about "only in New York" events that happen fucking everywhere. Talk about provincial.

Now Susan...things happen eveywhere, but most especially in NY. Don't take it personally.

Whatever Teresa Nielsen Hayden is, she is not provincial. New York is not the only city she has lived in, and is not where she grew up.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden can bite me. She doesn't offer any sort of actual information on the strength of New York's civic institutions or its comparative demographics - probably because the actual details might not bear out that the city is particularly unique in either regard. And God forbid anything suggest that New York isn't the most specialest city in America.

Well, aside from any insults either from or to New Yorkers, I do think New York rules.

New York is great. I don't fault her for being proud of her home. I fault her for insulting other people's homes, including people with homes just as much built on immigration as hers.

I know, aeroman, no worries.

I wish I had the time to read each and every damn thing.

What kind of border barrier facilitates "free trade" ? Just curious. Since the admin can't even keep a rational "no-fly" list I'm kinda sceptical.

Hiya, kid. Am I to understand that you're a faux-militant would-be defender of our sovereign national borders? If not, the comment wasn't addressed to you. And by the way, which city are you defending?

You want demographic stats on NYC, go look 'em up yourself. Let me know when you find the objectively measured ass-kicking stats.

The comment was about cities, so it doesn't matter that you addressed it to anti-immigration advocates. It applies to any non-New-York city with any anti-immigration advocate in it, meaning pretty much any city in America.

And the fact that I do actually agree with you on the relevant policy position makes it all the more baffling that you felt the need to insult me and my home in making your point. What did that accomplish, other than fueling the stereotype that liberals from New York are condescending assholes? That's the kind of shit, by the way, that loses national elections, whether it should or not.

Hey, I'm as much an NYC-disparager as the next guy, seeing as I grew up in the other 98 percent of New York State and am thus obliged by law to revile everything south of the Tappan Zee Bridge.

But I recognize rhetorically useful hyperbole when I see it.

I keep trying to point out things to my dog, which is silly, because I've lived with him for 14 years and change and I should know by now that I point at something and he comes over and makes a bigdeal of inspecting my pointing finger.

You're reminding me a little bit of my dog right now, aeroman. I mean this in the nicest possible way: I love my dog. But still.

There was nothing "rhetorically useful" about that post. It tied a legitimate (by my estimation, correct) position to a stupid insult. Since plenty of people don't think their homes are inferior to New York, there's nothing useful about tying the correct conclusion on immigration to the assertion that they are. Needlessly insulting people while giving warm fuzzies to people who already agree with you is the opposite of useful rhetoric.

This isn't a particularly huge deal. I don't appreciate the insult, but it's far from the first one of its type I've heard, and it's no real major skin off my back. But fuck you for insulting my intelligence, thanks.

Look, by any objective standard, New York City can kick serious ass. I mean, it's bigger and more influential than a lot of countries.

You don't even have to like New York to acknowledge that it's hardly circling the drain, economically or culturally. We have a relatively low crime rate, world class public transportation, a thriving tourist economy, and global name-recognition.

The some xenophobes are pushing the idea that immigration will rot the fabric of society. (Nobody on this thread, I hasten to add.)

The thing is, immigrant-rich New York can kick virtually any other American city's ass--including liberal North Eastern cities who aren't blessed with the same diversity. Immigration skeptics could argue that New York would be even better if only we didn't have to deal with all those immigrants. But even the skeptics have to admit that despite this putatively terrible burden, we're still thriving.

A continual influx of unassimilated immigrants isn't a Specter of Doom. It's a manageable challenge that New York has been dealing with for its entire history, while continuing to grow and prosper. Even skeptics would agree that the successes of New York are thanks in no small part to the successive generations of immigrants who came here looking for a better life.

So, I don't see why we should assume that Teresa is attacking any particular region of the country. I think she's taking on anyone who lives where (they think) there aren't that many immigrants and who's afraid that society is going to crumble if we don't fight to keep immigrants out.

Besides, what's wrong with a little hometown boosterism?

Obviously, ass-kickery isn't the only standard of merit. After all, the USA can kick ass over a lot of other countries, economically and militarily. Yet no one here would make the leap from "we can kick ass" to "we are intrinsically better than everyone else."

And yet, it's still fair to point out that the USA is a nation of immigrants, just as New York is a city of immigrants. It's reasonable to point out that we got where we are by enveloping talent from all over the world and creating opportunities for people who couldn't get ahead otherwise.

But fuck you for insulting my intelligence, thanks.

I'll be right back. I need to go tell the above-mentioned dog I found out where his stick got to.

Aeroman, do you just want to have a fight with somebody? Chris Clarke got this one right: rhetorically useful hyperbole.

You didn't get it right, because you complained that I didn't offer "any sort of actual information on the strength of New York's civic institutions or its comparative demographics." You also didn't get the joke about objectively measured demographic statistics on comparative ass-kicking. This is definitely missing the point.

You have yet to identify which city you think I've insulted. Given the amount of energy you're bringing to this mock battle, I should think you could spare a bit of it to specify the city whose fair name you feel I've implicitly sullied. (Didn't Lindsay tell me yesterday that you're from Virginia? Which has always had such a douce and meek opinion of its own place in the great scheme of things.)

I gather you're feeling miffy about Some New Yorkers' language and attitude when talking about their city. That's as may be; but I'm not Some New Yorkers. I'm me, and I answer for my own rhetoric. I'm not responsible for the inchoate resentment you've aimed at an ill-defined class.

The comment was about cities, so it doesn't matter that you addressed it to anti-immigration advocates. It applies to any non-New-York city with any anti-immigration advocate in it, meaning pretty much any city in America.
Wrong. Sorry, no points. It was about anti-immigration advocates, which was why it deliberately echoed their knuckle-dragging overaggressive rhetorical style.

I'd know if I were talking about cities. I wasn't. I was talking about immigration. Since you have to have gone to my weblog to read the post, you might have taken two seconds to notice that it followed directly after another post about immigration. In fact, it was written in the midst of a long complex discussion of immigration issues that was going on in the comment thread of the previous post. (If you only look at the main entries, you don't know what's going on at Making Light.)

I have no great hope that it will actually turn out to be so, but in my opinion that ought to settle the matter.

The statement was "how come my city can kick your city's ass," so I don't think it passes the laugh test to say that that statement was about cities. You seem to think you deserve some sort of special exemption from being held responsible for that remark because you made it as part of a larger discussion where your position was the correct one. That, also, doesn't pass the laugh test. Chris Clarke found time in his busy schedule of kissing the asses of more popular bloggers to actually write a long and relevant post, linked above. Being politically on the right side isn't a get-out-of-fat-jokes-free card, and it isn't a get-out-of-geographic-elitism-free card either.

You say geographic elitism wasn't your intent. Fine. You say you were trying to make a point in a broader discussion. Fine. In the course of that discussion you did make a remark that was objectively an insult to all American cities other than New York. This is not reasonably disputable - it is the clear facial content on the sentence. It was not useful, as I explained above - if anything, it was counterproductive. To be rhetorically useful, you'd need to establish two things: 1) that there was no way to make a similarly effective comment without the insult; and 2) that the gains made from the insult-including comment outweighed any damage. It seems fairly clear to me you could've made the exact same point without the insult. You could've pointed out the economic and civic strength of New York without making a swipe at anyone else's city. That's all I'm saying. This discussion would be over if you could accept (or even ignore) this minor criticism and move on. Instead, you've chosen to launch a truly silly defense.

I'm not obligated to tell you where I'm from so you can ridicule it, thanks. I will say that if Lindsay said I am from Virginia, she is incorrect, so your attempt to add an additional geographic insult fails for now.

And finally, you said "You also didn't get the joke about objectively measured demographic statistics on comparative ass-kicking." No, I got it. What do you want? LOLOLOLOL! U R the funniest! Better?

typo: second 'was' should be 'wasn't.' There are probably others.

Chris Clarke found time in his busy schedule of kissing the asses of more popular bloggers

I object. There are plenty of bloggers with more traffic than me, but I doubt any are more popular.

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