Saturday, November 25, 2006

A joke from Endub

Junior Gruntled #2 shares her father's sense of humor.

Lately the police have been disturbed by the number of sociologists they have found embedded in gangs of drug dealers and thieves. Each time the cops raid such a nest of villains, they expose the tweedy underbelly of society.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Borat Buffoons

Justin Seay and Christopher Rotunda, two members of the Chi Psi fraternity at the University of South Carolina, make drunken, misogynist, racist fools of themselves before the camera in "Borat." Just like Borat himself.

They got $200 for their troubles, and a world of embarrassment. Sacha Baron Cohen, who plays Borat, has a film that has taken in $93 million and counting. The frat boys have sued. Their suit will, no doubt, help the film earn even more.

In the whole film, these guys are the only ones who really embarrass the United States. Just about everyone else, I think, could be charged with an excess of politeness in trying to accommodate a rude, possibly clueless stranger.

The most puzzling part of this lawsuit is that Seay and Rotunda say they were told that the documentary would only be shown outside the United States. That, in their minds, makes it ok. Compare this with the storm that greeted the Dixie Chicks for saying that they were embarrassed that President Bush was a fellow Texan, and for saying it in London. If they had said the same thing in Austin, they would have gotten grief from Republicans, but it would have sunken to a minor difference of opinion among Americans.

No, I think Mr. Seay and Mr. Rotunda deserve their fifteen minutes of ignominy. They have, so far, offered no apology for any of their remarks, nor expressed any remorse for embarrassing their families, their fraternity, their university, and their country. Their only gripe is that they were tricked into revealing to their family, friends, and neighbors what they usually only show to their "brothers" – and, presumably, foreigners.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving to All

The peculiar custom of the Gruntleds is to have the Thanksgiving meal a day early. Last night we were short the eldest Junior Gruntled, who was picked up from college by Grandma. We were up two students, though, who added to the cheer.

Today we sit by the fire and read. And eat leftovers.

We are flying the Kentucky flag today, which has the wonderful state motto, "United We Stand, Divided We Fall." May you all stand – and sit, and lounge about, and perhaps go play in the brisk air – together this day.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Here's To Assortative Marriage

Men and women are increasingly likely to marry someone with the same educational background. It used to be that college women were less likely to marry than were less-educated women. Women born after 1960 – that is, my cohort and after – however, are more likely to marry if they are college graduates than not.

One of the pieces of life advice I give to students is "smart men marry smart women." This claim has a double sense. One sense is just to describe assortative marriage: educated men are likely to marry educated women, and vice-versa. The other sense is more prescriptive: men who are smart will seek to marry women who are smart. Beauty fades; brains endure. You will probably be married a long time, so find someone you can talk to. This advice is true for women, too, of course. In fact, since women actually do the selecting in the final analysis, it is really smart women who choose smart men. But the men have to make an effort first. Since women are usually ready for marriage sooner than men are, those men who are ready to settle down earlier get first pick. I urge them to pick for brains.

So as we settle in for the Thanksgiving holiday, one of the things I am most thankful for is Mrs. Gruntled – B.A. with highest honors, Yale lawyer, mother of my smart kids, and, at the moment, baking pumpkin pies. And we share jokes. May you all make the most suitable marriage that Providence allows.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Gay Marriage and Polygamy Tie the Knot

The law is capable of fine distinctions. A society could legalize homosexual marriage and not legalize polygamy, or vice-versa. But politics is not really capable of fine distinctions. If the proponents of same-sex marriage convince the courts that all adults have an equal-protection right to marry one another, then those same courts will conclude that any number of consenting adults have the same right. The political movement to keep the state out of the bedroom applies not only to the gay bedroom, but to all the adult bedrooms in the house.

I cite as just the latest evidence John Pomfret's Washington Post article, " Polygamists fight to decriminalize bigamy." Pomfret cites multiple ways in which the gay marriage and polygamous marriage movements are closely tied – whether the former want it or not:

Consciously taking tactics from the gay-rights movement, polygamists have reframed their struggle, choosing in interviews to de-emphasize their religious beliefs and focus on their desire to live "in freedom."

The U.S. Supreme Court's 2003 decision in Lawrence v. Texas, which voided laws criminalizing sodomy, also aided polygamy's cause because it implied that the court disapproved of laws that reach into the bedroom.

Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University … has written two op-eds for USA Today calling for the legalization of bigamy -- and same-sex marriage. "I find polygamy an offensive practice," said Turley, who has become something of a celebrity among polygamists in Utah. "But there is no way its practice among consenting adults should be a felony."

Turley is right – the political movement to let consenting adults marry any way they want to is a potent one. The action in polygamy prosecution has shifted recently as a result of these new political realities. Even the Attorney General of Utah, who is on the front line of this struggle, has publicly announced that he will not enforce the state's bigamy laws. Instead, he only goes after polygamists for rape, incest, and welfare fraud – as he would with non-polygamists, too.

Proponents of gay marriage are usually liberal. Proponents of polygamy are usually conservative. If they had their way, they might each write the law to include their kind of marriage and exclude the other kind. But the political movement they are both riding – marriage is a private choice of individuals that society should just accept – is a tiger they are holding by the tail. If they don't let go, the tiger will eat both movements, and much more beside. And then we will have no marriage at all. Only whatever private contracts any consenting adults want to make.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Janet Edwards' Trial Ends in a Shambles

Rev. Janet Edwards officiated at a lesbian wedding in order to provoke a trial. At the trial she hired busses to bring in supporters, got other famous provokers to come, and sent out invitations.

This week, the Permanent Judicial Commission of Pittsburgh Presbytery ruled that the charges had been filed four days too late, so the case could not be heard.

I don't know who screwed up. Jim Mead, the presbytery executive, laments the mess. He is right that the PJC acted properly, given the case that had been handed to them. And he praises the "hard work and best intentions of the fine people on the Investigative Committee." Without evidence that the investigating committee deliberately sabotaged the case, we ought to assume that it was an honest mistake on their part.

Still, this is not the first time that the church has been cheated of a clear decision on whether its official standards on homosexual practice are real or not. A few years ago there was the notorious case of the gay elder in First Presbyterian Church, Stamford Connecticut. It took so long to reach a decision that the elder's term ran out, and the case was declared moot.

The left and the right of the church are mobilized all the time, and often suspicious of the church's order. The loyalist center, on the other hand, is slow to mobilize and is trusting of the denomination's basic institutions. There is one good way, though, to rouse the ire of the loyalist center: to manipulate the church's rules and procedures in an indecent and disorderly way to sneak in one outcome or another.

Let us hope that the remaining high-profile cases are handled scrupulously.