Same-Sex Marriage

by Kieran Healy on October 18, 2005

Over at Volokh, Maggie Gallagher is visiting for a bit and arguing against the legalization of same-sex marriage. At least, soon she will begin arguing against it. Right now, “she is”: “clearing”: “some”: “ground”: to prepare for her main case. It looks like she wants to make some broad sociological generalizations about the place of the institution of marriage in society and the likely effect of a legalization of same-sex marriage on that institution. Essentially, she thinks that the main _public_ purpose of marriage is procreation — this is the reason why it enjoys the legal status it does. In “this post”:, she asserts that marriage (or some functional equivalent) is a cultural universal — the “cultural” qualifier is important because she also thinks marriage is a functional solution to the apparently biological problem of fathers buggering off and abandoning their children:

bq. The argument I am making is this: every society needs to come up with some solution to the fact that the default position for male-female sexual attraction (that is unregulated by law or society) is many children in fatherless homes. The second human reality societies must face is that procreation is not optional, it is necessary. Individuals don’t have to do it but societies do. The word for the social institution that addresses these problems, in this and every known human society is marriage. Sex makes babies, Society needs babies, babies need mothers and fathers.

Some quick responses to the sociological angle below the fold.

[click to continue…]

Spelling vs Grammar

by Kieran Healy on October 18, 2005

I was listening to the radio and heard the following observation. It was attributed to Dr William Temple (speaking at a school prize-giving in 1938) and apparently is quoted by Eric Partridge in _Usage and Abusage_:

Spelling is one of the decencies of life, like the proper use of knives and forks. But intellectually, spelling — English spelling — does not matter. Intellectually, _stops_ matter a great deal. If you’re getting your commas, semi-colons and full-stops wrong, it means you’re not getting your thoughts right and your mind is muddled.

This would probably be “Matthew Yglesias’s”: position, and it nicely splits the difference between prescriptivists and descriptivists. It seems like a useful distinction for everyday use, and the link between syntax and punctuation is much tighter than that between semantics and spelling. I suppose if I had to choose between always having my sentences parse correctly and always spelling every word properly, I’d choose the former.

Coalition of the Clamped

by Tom on October 18, 2005

I don’t know whether a definitive bean-counter’s verdict has yet been ventured on the costs and benefits of London’s Congestion Charge, but I’m in favour of it anyway, partly because that nice Paul Krugman was kind enough to write a very clear description of the economic case for road-pricing which I found pretty convincing, but mostly because as a resident on the edge of Zone 1, I can now walk to work without choking on the traffic fumes. Hoorah.

[click to continue…]

Murder in the Cathedral

by Henry Farrell on October 18, 2005

This bit from the “New York Daily News”:

bq. Cheney and Libby spend hours together in the course of a day, which causes sources who know both men very well to assert that any attempts to discredit Wilson would almost certainly have been known to the vice president. “Scooter wouldn’t be freelancing on this without Cheney’s knowledge,” a source told the Daily News. “It was probably some off-the-cuff thing: ‘This guy [Wilson] could be a problem.'”

has a rather obvious “historical analogy”:, although the language of “Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?” has a better ring to it than the sub-mafioso “this guy could be a problem.” Still, I don’t imagine we’re going to see a public ceremony of repentance and ritual scourging any time soon.

Via “Josh Marshall”:

Galbraith Score Update

by Daniel on October 18, 2005

Apparently Sir Ian Blair has no plans to resign. This is good news because, when combined with his statement that he wasn’t going to resign in the immediate aftermath of the Menezes shooting, it raises his “Galbraith Score to 2. It might even be as high as 3 if he said he wasn’t going to resign after he was caught trying to arrange a cover-up of the independent inquiry into the shooting. The trigger score is four, remember (it’s derived from the JKG quote “Anyone who says four times that he won’t resign, will”) so there is plenty of hope that we will be rid of the authoritarian, careerist oaf soon.

Minor Pinter reaction update

by Chris Bertram on October 18, 2005

I’m pleased to see that reactionary gadfly Peter Briffa, a playwright himself, has “a better appreciation”: of Harold Pinter’s merits than most of his co-thinkers. (Actually, I doubt Peter has any co-thinkers, but you know what I mean.) The Pinter-reaction prize for unintentional self-reference goes to Christopher Hitchens, who is “quoted by Oliver Kamm”: as writing:

bq. Let us also hope for a long silence to descend upon the thuggish bigmouth who has strutted and fretted his hour upon the stage for far too long.

Indeed, Christopher, indeed.