Marking the boundaries of loss.

Marking the boundaries of loss.

Marking the boundaries of loss.

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Feb. 27 2007 5:41 AM

A Death Online

Marking the boundaries of loss.

When there are so many we shall have to mourn,
when grief has been made so public, and exposed
to the critique of a whole epoch
the frailty of our conscience and anguish,

of whom shall we speak? For every day they die
among us, those who were doing us some good,
who knew it was never enough but
hoped to improve a little by living.

--W.H. Auden

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On February 8, 2007, Jesse Keller Smith passed away at the tender age of 22. To Fraywatch, Jesse was only known as the eldest son of Isonomist-, herself one of the Fray's finest posters. The relapse of his leukemia was announced on January 17, the circumstances of his condition explained more fully on January 23, and his demise declared upon February 9.

I'm one of those to whom the mere dawning of a new day sometimes seems a tragedy of unbearable dimensions. I can't even imagine the pain Isonomistmust feel in the face of such a palpable loss. We here at Fraywatch join the Fray in offering her our sincerest condolences.

A widely remarked feature of the internet is its extensive documentation of the trivial and the everyday. Even the bowel movements of a British minister can be frozen for posterity.

Too often, we treat this as a bad thing. In so doing, we allow ourselves to overlook the precious experiences expressed by compelling voices, which would have been completely overlooked in earlier ages.

Jesse chronicled his last days on a blog entitled "The Only Thing Worse Than Law School." It's a fascinating glimpse into a mind and life which has been prematurely silenced.

Up until early January I was a law student. Now, after bitching non-stop about how much it sucks to be a law student, I've rediscovered the one thing that sucks more. I'm in the hospital with a leukemia relapse and I'll be here for 30 days, give or take. My best tool at this point is humor, because otherwise this is tragic. Hopefully some of the humor in my situation comes through.

I'd argue that it does. Jesse was a keen observer, and he provides a compelling and amusing narration of the strange roommates, daytime television, petty indignities, and visual hallucinations of his final hospital stay. Even a complete stranger, such as myself, can get a sense of the remarkable potential which has just been lost to this world.

It's a marvel of the modern age that such words can, do, and shall continue to emerge from such unlikely situations. The outer boundaries of this magnificent gain are marked by the losses to which we'd otherwise be unaware.

Jesse was a student at Fordham law school. In his personal statement, he explained what he hoped to accomplish through the practice of law:

While working for the court, I watched a preliminary hearing for a man charged with raping his nine-year-old daughter.  I watched as the courtroom was emptied so the little girl could testify without being overwhelmed.  She walked into the courtroom wearing a pink dress and had her bright blond hair in pigtails.  She sat down in the witness seat and could barely reach up to the microphone.  After being asked about whether she understood the difference between the truth and a lie, the prosecutor asked her about what had happened the last night she had seen her father.  She described how she gave her pet hamster, Buttons, some food, changed into teddy bear pajamas and got into bed.  She then told the court how her father got into bed with her and the things he did to her.  The entire time she was speaking, her father, dressed in a prison jumpsuit, was grimacing and shaking his head at her.  From that point on I knew that for me, criminal law was about protecting those that can't protect themselves.

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Jesse's family has established a fund in his name through the Development Office at Fordham Law School, dedicated to carrying on his intentions. The express purpose of the fund is "to help improve the treatment of children in the criminal justice system." Readers interested in contributing may either contact Fordham directly and inquire about the "Jesse Keller Smith Fund," or write to the Fray Editor at frayeditor@slate.com for further information.  GA2:20am PT

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Friday, Feb. 23, 2007

It's funny how conservatives use the guise of a concerned, moralizing discourse to discuss behaviors that are at once reprehensible yet obviously intriguing to them. When the behavior in question is casual sex among female college students, one can better understand the extraordinary response to Megan O'Rourke's Slate review of Unhooked, a book "about the damage done by hookup culture."

HLS2003 seizes on the inconsistency in O'Rourke's depiction of college students "as both adults and children -- restrictions are refused ("they're adults") but consequences and responsibility is not expected ("aw, they're just kids")." PhysicsGirl rejects the assumption that "hook-up culture" is inherently bad or irresponsible—a puritanical approach to sexuality—while drawing the line at "bringing sex and drugs into the workplace." For Lilitu too, the desire for casual sex does not necessarily start "from an unhealthy point." But yggy bemoans the vicious cycle in which "bad relationships create voids that no amount of sex can fill, although it may offer some reprieve and, thus, motivation" to seek out those quick fixes. Anse expresses distress at the sexual revolution of the 60s gone awry.

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the_slasher14 cautions against extrapolating too much from college-age sexual experiences:

Going steady; playing the field; being promiscuous; being celibate. None of it MEANS anything because college is an artificial situation. Similarities to life are there but they aren't what it's REALLY about. The discipline of the workplace is around but is not paramount. Experimentation and trying to find one's way in unfamiliar social situations are what you're SUPPOSED to be doing.

As a general rule (and, never forget, only for a certain class of people -- not all of them), college is the arena in which you meet and learn to interact with the people who will be your peers for the rest of your life. Sex, assuming precautions against pregnancy as successful, is simply another form of that interaction. You may handle it well or you may not, but that's true of a lot of things you do at college. The REAL work of building intimacy with another person doesn't even begin until much later.

Jonathan23, a college student, speaks out from a generational perspective:

I (early 20s, in college) talked to my mom (early 60s) about love and sex at university, including my own experience, the other day. And she really was shocked at the "disposable" culture - a girl will be in love (having sex naturally) one night and out of love the next; many girls will just skip around aimlessly - not 'experimenting', but just drinking themselves silly and letting themselves go. Please don't think that my mother is of the faint-hearted variety, she's '68 generation and lived in a commune in Europe during university... But she was genuinely affected by girls really not getting 'what they want', because of a youth culture (propagated by girls themselves) that pushes them into emotionally detached relations. The answer is not staying in and baking brownies (let's not be ridiculous), but there's something to be said about waking up to the pretty rough reality girls at uni deal with these days. And, no, ce n'est pas la vie.

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lynn80 shares this candid reflection on hook-up culture and complains about young women such as herself being caught between two extremes: "After reading feminist literature, it's difficult to see why we shouldn't do as we please. Then we realize that a good portion of society still thinks it is our duty to say 'no' and control relationships in that manner." One detects a hint of regret in topazz's testimonial here about an oldest daughter, currently a junior in college, who "hooked up with a guy freshman year and although he's nice enough, she's never allowed herself to play the field and meet other men. I sense that she doesn't love him, but he's a safe bet."

achilleselbow, in a mini-manifesto entitled Self-Deception, denounces the opportunism on both sides of the debate:

The criticism of hook-up culture more often than not comes from right-wing bible thumpers who couch their agenda in reasonable-sounding rhetoric and scientific studies until the very end, when they suddenly come out with their suggestions - total abstinence until marriage, denunciation of birth control, and other such idiocy. As a result, any criticism along the same lines is suspected of coming from the same source, and feminists have developed a knee-jerk reaction to it. Surely, tolerating some vapid bimbos is better than letting the right-wingnuts push their agenda forward, right?

Why is it so hard to say what everyone knows, namely, that there is an entire world between the two extremes of religiously-enforced abstinence until an arbitrary offical ceremony on the one hand, and random no-holds-barred fucking everything in sight on the other - a world in which, incidentally, the majority of the population lives?

The Highbrow Fray welcomes your contribution. AC8:51pm PT

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Thursday, Feb. 15, 2007

Valentine's Day brought no truce in the age-old battle between the sexes, as Steven Landsburg's controversial article claiming that women perform worse than men under pressure provoked something close to the excoriation wrought upon Larry Summers after ill-received remarks about the aptitude of women in the sciences.

Disdaining Landsburg's findings with an eye-rolling "give me a break," rundeep cites the rigors of pregnancy, among other experiences unique to the fair sex, as evidence of the contrary:

Women multi-task better than men. Period. They are designed to do so, and that involves constantly dealing with pressures men don't. They listen and attend to family business, subordinates' business and shareholder business. Their success is very often founded upon a more collaborative model.

On the other hand, men who tend to be very successful in business are often pathological -- they ignore all cues from external forces in order to peruse something singlemindedly. They succeed by not listening. When this works, we admire their focus and call them brilliant. When it doesn't, we call them narrow-minded ignoramuses.

To summarize: it's insane to measure the capability of men or women under "pressure" when "pressure" is defined solely as competition. It's not the way the world works. There are a large number of factors which influence how men and women (as groups and individuals) perform on the job. To boil it down to this insipid tea is insulting to both genders.

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NickD replies with an amusing evolutionary take on mens' and womens' relative abilities to handle stress. Auros-4 raises the question of nature vs. nuture, while RUGER seizes on Landsburg's study here to stir up a predictable polemic over "the age of feminism and liberal political correctness."

AnikaG questions the definition of stress used in the study:

In terms of women being "chokers" (a denigrating, sexist term that far surpassed the bounds of ethics as well as good taste), my question is: how is Landsburg defining pressure? Women across America hold down multiple high-stress jobs, head single-parent homes and work in dangerous and time-sensitive conditions. What is this if not pressure? By taking a tennis court and an artificial maze as a representative sample of "all walks of life," Landsburg conveniently ignores the empirical evidence: more young women than men attend college, more women than men head single-parent homes. What are these performances if not standing up under extreme pressure?

Finally, in this extended rebuttal, eolianwold criticizes Landsburg for being "taken in by such amateurish scholarship" based on "M. Daniele Paserman's research, which … is filled with sloppy thinking and poor applications of standard techniques." For a truly impressive point-by-point dissection of Paserman's "pseudoscientific analyses," read the post in its entirety in Everyday Economics Fray. AC1:10pm PT

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Thursday, Feb. 8, 2007

Anne Applebaum's dismissal of the Kyoto Accords in favor of a global carbon tax gave scientists, economists, urban and family planners all something to talk about in Foreigners. Sure, the Fray had its share of negationists, but most were concerned with the specifics of Applebaum's proposal.

LuxLawyer considers the carbon tax's distributive effects:

[Applebaum's proposal] betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the concept of elasticity. If there are a "wealth of innovations," then the amount of revenue raised by the tax won't be that great. That, for example, is why a lot of people believe that the US's CAFE standards are a better approach than a gas tax to reducing gasoline use: demand is (short term) inelastic, so a tax just increases costs and raises revenue without changing behavior. And if that's true, it again means that there will be a significant increased cost to consumers, resulting in a more regressive tax system.

Similarly, Breaker criticizes the tax for its failure to be Pareto efficient by allocating "compensation … worldwide in proportion to the harm." Vepxistqaosani3 brings attentions to Third World contributions to the global carbon load. MicheleG takes issue with the focus on Europe, where high taxes on energy already incentivize consumers to be efficient.  For Human, the current paralysis in solving the global warming crisis indicates the ultimate failure of nationalism: "Why would the Germans want to harm their economy by imposing a carbon tax that helps all the other, non-taxing countries just as much? ... The world is too interconnected now, economically, socially, and environmentally… International problems require international solutions, with international enforcement."

To combat global warming, Madai envisions a utopic community of mixed-use skyscrapers in which "at most you'd have a horizontal walk of 1/8 of a mile to get to any basic middle class amenity." konark_girl calls unchecked population growth the elephant in the room:

Here's the crux -- you can reduce per capita carbon emissions, but if the number of people keep on going up, so will overall carbon emissions. And you cannot possibly deny third world people the chance for a slightly better life (not when the first world has luxurious lifestyles!), but any improvement in their lifestyles also up carbon emissions.

Absolutely no solutions will work unless there are massive campaigns to strongly curb population growth (before nature does it for us thru catastrophes, starvation, disease, or we do it through war and genocide).

But that's a proposal that's dead on arriavl, because religious right won't hear of it, and nor will soft-hearted lefties. On this topic all sides are equally pig-headed and deliberately obtuse, so of course, no politician dares mention it.

Daniel Engler's related discussion of the "statistical rhetoric" surrounding global warming also generated some heated words. not_abel cautions against the use of meaningless percentages in public debate:

The scientists just don't have any means of determining the probability that the simulations they're doing are accurate. Language is being used without regard to, even in contradiction of, scientific meaning for the purpose of creating a sense of urgency. That is the plain meaning of quantifying "subjective judgements".

If you are going to criticize those who question the science behind the consensus on global warming, you would do well to make sure that the standards that make it "science" are not bent to the purposes of propaganda when the science is communicated to the public.

For the_slasher14 here, the apocalyptic thinking around global warming paradoxically gives polluters a spiritual out:

as long as it is cheaper to pollute than to not pollute, the numbers and/or the noise-level of the rhetoric don't matter… There are people who figure that they'll be dead by the time global warming becomes catastrophic and in the meantime they're getting rich off of fossil fuels or whatever else they're up to which warms the planet. They are the spiritual heirs of James Watt, who said (as Reagan's Secretary of the Interior, no less) that the Second Coming was just around the corner and therefore, since the world would end then anyhow, there was little need for conservation.

The New York-based Carbon Tax Center has more information on advocacy efforts underway within the U.S. Safely emit some CO2 in the Science Fray, or scroll back through the archives to Slate's Green Challenge. AC11:23am PT

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Sunday, Feb. 4, 2007

This should be an easy assignment. Say a thing or two about American football, and attract more readers today than ESPN's Web site will. No problem.

According to my research, "football" is very popular among my fellow Americans. It sort of resembles chess, but with a lot more physical contact.

Today is, like, the biggest day of the year for football enthusiasts.

Here at Slate, Tommy Craggs thinks Colts quarterback Peyton Manning is a total dork, but that's a good thing. In the Sports Nut Fray, reactions are all over the field.

CaptainBadonkadonk (of the Booty Raider), agrees about the dorkdom, but doesn't think that's such a good thing:

I'm convinced that Manning's real issue is that, as a person who appears to indulge in a great deal of thought before each play, his pondering-to-completion ratio is shockingly high. Especially compared to, say, Michael Vick. Improvisational QBs seem to conjure magic or hustle or something intangible.

Manning, on the other hand, seems to assign himself presnap tasks that no other QB deems necessary. Is that because he's a genius? Maybe so. Maybe he'll get a ring to prove it. Or maybe he's a suckup overachiever who beats up on bad teams in the regular season but can't compete at a higher level. A nice suckup, I'm sure.

Representing for the dorks, but not so down with Peyton, topbroker attributes Manning's success to nepotism:

A main thesis of Michael Lewis's "Moneyball" is that traditionally oriented judges of baseball talent (scouts, and others) often fail to see the talent because they are misled by the image. […] Nowhere is Lewis's thesis better borne out than with quarterbacks, who, as Tommy Craggs's article on Peyton Manning makes clear, have to live up to a characterological as well as a physical archetype. […]

The reason quarterbacks always seem to look like a handsome Big Man on Campus is because they are chosen for that quality as much as for their football skill. The two qualities typically have to coincide for them to have a chance at stardom. There must be hundreds of "big ol' dorks" and other misfits who were potentially stunning quarterbacks who were screened out by image selection as early as grade school. Only a few Doug Fluties who defy the image squeak through to accomplish something.

So how did Peyton Manning succeed as an atypical but brilliant quarterback and Cal Ripken succeed as an atypical but brilliant shortstop? Well, the fact that they were both born into the upper echelons of their sports might have had a lot to do with it. Few could be more favorably situated to overcome the perception issue.

According to ilua, Manning is great, and a pox upon you for saying otherwise. Peyton isn't a dork—he's just ugly:

Peyton Manning has a distinctive face. He's not "handsome" like Tom Brady. Admit it, all you Manning haters are just uncomfortable admiring someone who can't be played in the next Big Football Blockbuster by Leonardo DiCaprio.

Peyton Manning is a better sportsman than Tom Brady: he doesn't whine and pout and throw hissy fits like Tom Brady. He is a better quarterback than Tom Brady: he proved that two weeks ago. I'm almost sure that he's a nicer guy, if Tom Brady shares personal qualities other than his short temper with vain celebutantes.

But yeah, he's not as good looking. I guess that's reason enough to insinuate that he's a homosexual and call him a nerd. Too bad he doesn't wear glasses: I'm sure you would enjoy throwing them in the mud.

I'm not sure what he thinks of dorks, but RMLReturns clearly has a dim view of Peyton:

This man is not a quarterback-he is a dollarback!

Manning is making more $$$$$ off the field than he will ever earn on it. To be able to make this kind of cash without ever winning a Super Bowl is a little strange. […]

Manning had the deck stacked for him. An easy schedule, refs with Colts jerseys under their stripes, and more national hype telling him how great he is than he knows what to do with. All of it largely based on wins against less competitive teams. When he beat the Patriots (who were fighting the flu trying to avoid dying on the field in the 2nd half) he was playing a team which overcame the odds all year with injuries and a bleeding wound of star players leaving for money-including the beloved Vinatieri who has actually been the guy getting the points in games against real defenses for the colts this year. […]

If the Colts do win, it will be because of the Patriots losing one Adam Vinatieri. He might be doing most of the scoring Sunday.

'Nuff said.

If you're a total dork, and you're into football, come discuss the game in our Sports Nut Fray. I'll be catching up on my knitting, so play nice.  GA11:45pm PST

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Friday, Feb. 2, 2007

If you've been reading with fascination Slate's gang coverage of the Scooter Libby trial (replete with insider drama!) you might want to check out BTC News, a Frayster production with its own correspondent in the courtroom.

For the rest of you, consider Iran. They've got strategic interests. They've got an implacable opponent. And they've got another thing coming. courtneyme109 is ready to invade:

America will build a coalition of sorts and launch a massive blitz on the top 20% of Iran's ruling clerics using cruise and conventional missiles, attack aircraft and old school special ops. […] While Iran's rulers have some redundancy in their command and control posts, these are actually quite few in number as are the few calling the shots. […]

Make no mistake, Iran is WEAK, the regime is hated and with a figleaf coalition in place, the only flak America would catch would be from other weak despots who see their number rise up on the hit parade.

Militarily, Iran is still a basket case. Iran banged on the gates of Basra for six years and never made it in during the horrible Iran Iraq war. Traditionally, troops don't serve despots so valiantly and it will be so here.

So, don't get played by all this jazz about America is helpless - that's the bait for our enemies. Cheer up, that plan and the one turning Iraq into a giant sucking killing machine for our enemies is working.

If GreenwichJ has it right, we could just drown them with the Strategic Petroleum Reserve:

The Saudis, as they have threatened to do publicly, are quietly depressing the global price of oil to bankrupt Iran.

Some 85% of Iran's export revenue comes from oil. The Saudis, who in theory also like high oil prices, are doing nothing to stop them sliding down from last year's highs.

By the way, anyone who gets alarmed by the Iranian president's rhetoric should reflect on what happens to oil prices whenever he threatens to wipe out Israel. That's right, they go up, enriching Iran in the process...

In doodahman's eyes , it's "Oui, détente," that's the only thing he wants:

The primary, and in fact the only material, danger arising from an Iranian nuclear arsenal is the effect on Israel's nuclear monopoly. There is no credible theory which would support any expectation that Iran would engage in any first strike option. Iran has no history of such aggressiveness. Its political elite clearly does not wish to initiate such hostilities and with good reason-- right now, Iran sits in the catbird seat, with more ability to influence and control the region without resort to overt war like tactics. It is only Israel and its puppet show of bought and paid for US office holders which talk about such options. An opponent with everything to lose and virtually nothing to gain by brinkmanship is, virtually by definition, an opponent who is safely deterred. […]

If Israel truly fears a nuclear exchange, then the only reasonable means of preventing it is mutual disarmament. One might support a nuclear free zone throughout the Middle East. If that were the stated objective, rather than simply disarming one potential belligerent while leaving the other with an estimated 200 nuclear warheads, it might make sense to impose sanctions and issue vague military threats against either party who fails to negotiate in good faith.

A balanced and objective evaluation of both the Israelis and the Iranians would tend to show, I believe, that Israel is by far a greater risk for initiating a nuclear conflict. They are the ones who talk and act with exaggerated desperation; it is they who have invaded and occupied their neighbors. It is they who built and maintained their nuclear weapons program in secrecy and outside the regime of international law. If I were an Iranian, I would not feel at all safe so long as Israel had a nuclear arsenal and Iran did not.

Degsme would respond with a strong dose of introspection:

American Exceptionalism tells us that while the British lost the Revolutionary War because of the zeal and beliefs in independence of the local peoples, the same applied neither in Vietnam, nor applies in Iraq, nor when Khomeini booted our beloved Shah, nor will it apply when we bring down the "corrupt" government in Iran today.

It tells us that the 2000 elections in the USA were somehow different than the most recent elections in Iran. […]

Sorry, it just doesn't wash. If anything is a common thread as to what gets US Foreign Policy into a cluster in the Middle East, it is the inability of American politicians to see beyond American Exceptionalism.

Keep a lookout for switterssneaking out the back of the discussion:

Dang. Looks like somebody forgot to tell us that you can create something in a vacuum, namely, an insurgency. If only we'd seen this coming 4 years ago. Who would've thought?

We don't have to choose sides. Let's just let them blow each other up. Clearly American G.I.'s have left center stage as the targets of choice. So we just gradually sneak out. It's like when you're at a party and you start a conversation, and the conversation gets a little heated and more and more guests join in and start to disagree dramatically. Pretty soon lines are demarcated and sides chosen and nobody even remembers who started the conversation in the first place because they're too busy arguing about the conversation itself. And that's when you slip out the back door through the kitchen (after having grabbed a six-pack out of the fridge on you're way out, of course).

Let's do that. Let's slip out the back door through Kuwait (after having grabbed a six-pack of barrels of oil).

Have you already arrived at  the Big Idea? If so, there's another party going on in the Libby Dispatches. All comers welcome. GA3:35am PST

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Monday, Jan. 29, 2007

A darkness has descended upon David Plotz's superb series, "Blogging the Bible." In his latest entry, Plotz confesses that the prophet Jeremiah "is not the jolliest way to spend an afternoon." He goes on to explain why:

I finally recognized why Jeremiah bugs me so much. He's a Quisling, a Tokyo Rose! Jeremiah feels no loyalty to his land or his people—he's so traitorous that he's prodding them to surrender to their mortal enemy! [...]

The lesson in his betrayal of his country is this: All our quotidian bonds—to family, nation, and tribe—are nothing compared with our connection with God. But this doesn't comfort me! I am not strong enough in my faith to set aside family and country for God. And I don't want to be. Jeremiah is a righteous prophet, but I can't help feeling that he's also a terrible traitor.

There aren't many criticisms of this interpretation among the sensitive and erudite readers of our Blogging the Bible Fray. This is, after all, the prophet appointed to wage a one-man war against his native land:

I have made thee this day a defensed city, and an iron pillar, and brazen walls against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, against the princes thereof, against the priests thereof, and against the people of the land. And they shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee.

HLS2003 is sharply crtitical of Plotz's ambivalence towards Jeremiah's central message:

I'll give credit where it's due -- Plotz flat-out admits that his faith is weak-to-nonexistent, that he has placed other gods ahead of God, that he does not trust God, that he wants the benefits of God without the obedience, etc. In short, all the same sins that Plotz has, in the past, recognized that the ancient Israelites had committed for centuries. Good for him on the honesty there.

But then he blows his honesty points by engaging in a curious form of doublethink. He accuses God of being unjust for punishing Israel (and, by extension, himself) even though he has just admitted that he (and they) have committed all the sins that God told them not to commit, breaking the covenant non-stop. If you acknowledge that you (and Israel) are covenant-breakers, then how can you simultaneously consider it injustice to have the benefits of the covenant revoked? It's like a murderer who (1) acknowledges that murder is wrong, and (2) acknowledges he committed the murder, but then simultaneously complains that it's not fair to put him in jail.

Sometimes Plotz's alleged confusion in his blog entries raises hard questions. I can't see how his doublethink here does. He admits he is unfaithful, but wants the benefits of faithfulness. He admits the Israelites broke the covenant, but wants them to retain the benefits of the covenant. That doesn't sound like confusion or justified doubt; it sounds like self-deception, whining, and an adolescent feeling of ultimate entitlement.

For MarkEHaag this spiritual conflict has contemporary political dimensions:

David Plotz asserts that Jeremiah is a traitor for his continual harping on Judah's imminent destruction at the hands of Babylon.

That seems a little one-sided. Jeremiah is prophesying a punishment for the Chosen People. [...] Their apostasy and incorrigibility are especially grievous, as they have enjoyed blessings bestowed on no other people. [...] In the dialectic of suffering and remorse and self-regard that governs the G*d/Israel relationship, it is precisely the divinity's extraordinary malice toward His Chosen People that marks them out as the recipients of special grace.

Plotz, of course, isn't really talking about Israel. He's talking about America. And his understanding of what it means to be "patriotic" is peculiarly American: one must do everything in one's power to make one's country and one's fellow citizens feel good about themselves, to encourage them to think of themselves as better than their opponents, to drive them on to with the game of geo-political pre-eminence. Suffice it to say, in other times and in other places, true patriotism was understood not as a simple willingness to help one's country feel good about itself as it is, as it currently subsides in the present earthly moment, but to try to improve it morally and eschatologically, to raise up one's land and one's folk, through sublime horror if need be, to a higher level, to make of it something more awe-worthy, grand and eternal, above any petty human sort of merely political competition. That is, something that might truly merit a raging G*d's prickly, somewhat self-absorbed attentions . . . .

On a lighter note, miateredhead ties the conversation back to last week's  discussion of spanking, imagining a God who spares the rod:

OK, Sodom and Gomorrah, you are in time-out!

Worshipping that calf again! I told you...give it to me! Now! You may not worship it again for a whole week, and I mean it!

Adam, Daddy understands how tempting that apple was, especially with that mean old serpent egging you on. You won't do that again, will you honey?

OK, I'm going to count to 10, and everybody who's going with Noah had BETTER be on that ark!

There's a lot of good reading and good discussion to be found in Blogging the Bible Fray. Check it out.  GA10:00pm PST

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Friday, Jan. 26, 2007

If the songs of Madonna and Britney Spears affirm the virtues of a good spanking from time to time, the idea of corporal punishment has become decidedly less vogue in the arena of childrearing. The trend towards pacifism found its ultimate expression this past week in a California bill to outlaw spanking by parents altogether. Widely dismissed as an excessive manifestation of the liberal nanny state, the proposed law receives a rare defense from Emily Bazelon.

Many cast a skeptical eye on the supposed link between child behavior and discipline in the first place. "There are so many things going on societally" points outchadosaurus, among them "parents … being lazy, short sighted, concerned more with being best friends than parents, selfish" that it's impossible to cite spanking as "either the problem or the solution." Isonomist- chalks up the escalating rate of juvenile misbehavior and violence to the disintegration of the two-parent household since the 1960s. Taking the interrogation of such a link further, Vepxistqaosani3 laments the general lack of respect shown superiors:

If the argument that spanking is ineffective be true, then it follows that American children should be better behaved today than in the past.

But friends and relatives who teach in the public schools assure me that this is not the case; that children today are far more disrespectful and unruly than ever. Who among us over forty can remember even the most notorious juvenile delinquent mouthing off profanely and obscenely to a teacher? But that is not even unusual today.

unempirical attacks the proposed spanking law as overly broad, and therefore prone to abuse by overzealous prosecutors. wolfmann questions the basic enforceability of yet more statutes aimed at regulating behavior within the home. Inquisitor14 blasts Bazelon's article as "the worst kind of irresponsible indefensible social theory … especially as the author admits that there is not a preponderance of evidence on either side here."

An advocate of the occasional smack to the backside, kjm rails against the underlying ego psychology of modern parenting:

Just follow a badly misbehaving kid thru a store while his mother is busy telling him, "Mommy said for you to stop that," Mommy said for you to be quiet," Mommy said you won't get a candy bar if you don't behave," ad nauseum, and you pray they will pick the kid up and deliver two quick smacks to the backside.
A couple of swats on the hind end thru layers of clothes (the classic definition of spanking) teaches a child that he owes you and others around him respect and good manners and that, as a parent, it is your obligation to see that he learns this valuable lesson so that others will like him.
Letting a child grow up thinking he is the center of the universe, which many unspanked children seem to feel, is a disservice and poor parenting.

janeR agrees: "A sting to the behind is better than letting the child go beserk in a tantrum or run out into traffic if they don't get their way." Arkady makes a compelling argument for preserving parental authority in matters of discipline:

In short, there's almost no reward or punishment that someone couldn't see as doing a terrible disservice to the child. The "ban spanking" crowd wants to prevent other parents from using one tool that they don't approve of, but they don't seem to have considered that they could as easily have taken from them the tools they consider appropriate. Each parent decides what rewards and punishments to use. To the maximum reasonable extent, I'm in favor of leaving those calls to them, since they know their children best.

OskarS, a "25 year-old Swede who has never been spanked," writes in to register strong opposition to any form of corporal punishment:

Since I grew up in a world were harming your child was illegal, this whole discussion is completely baffling to me. To say that you can't raise a kid without spanking is so absurd that I can't believe what I'm hearing…

Now, you might say that I'm extremely pacifist, or that I'm too much of a bleeding heart liberal, that I'm out of the norm. I'm really not. Every single parent of small children I have ever known (quite a number of them) would say the exact same thing.

We don't grow wilder or out of control, we don't grow up to be criminals. For those of us who do it's not because they weren't spanked, it's because of bad parenting. And having a lousy parent spank you would not help a whole hell of a lot.

Ouch. Ouch. Geoff, stop that! More in Family Fray. AC5:19pm PST

mechanized army."

I'm not personally worried about the labor situation in the United States. I hear there's call-center work to be had in India, so I've got something to fall back on. But for the rest of you suckers, get in on the debate in our Moneybox Fray. Your livelihood could depend on it. GA3:15am PT