Magic Number 168

The data I work with belongs to Purdue University and I’m not at liberty to disclose details. But I can generally share that this year’s incoming freshman class — like every college freshman class at every college — hasn’t got a very good idea of what lies ahead.


This is evident from their answers to the question, “How many hours a week to you plan to study?” Some students’ answers are vague and evasive: “As much as necessary” or “Depends on what classes I take.” But quite a number of students respond in a way that shows they not only don’t know how much they’ll need to study — they also don’t know how much time there is to begin with.

Most colleges recommend students study two hours for each hour of class time. That means studying 30 hours for 15 hours of class (5 three-credit courses). You can see these recommendation pitched to students at Purdue, as well as many other colleges.

Is that even possible? Are there 30 + 15 = 45 hours in a week? It turns out, if you do the math, that there is that much and more. There are 24 * 7 = 168 hours in a week. In fact, every week has 168 hours in it. I checked.

A student who devotes 45 hours to class and study will still have 123 hours remaining. If the student decides to get 7 hours of sleep each night, they’ll use 49 hours a week. That leaves 74 hours. Getting around campus takes time, so they should allocate 15 hours or so just for moving around.  But that leaves 59 hours. If they devote 3 hours a day to meals and hygiene (21 hours/week), there still are 38 hours unaccounted for. And that’s 38 hours of free time after every serious necessity it allowed for.

Some students will attend church every day, others once a week, and other never. Some will watch a lot of television or play a lot of online games. Many will join clubs and students organizations. Some will need to relax and do nothing for a while each day. But whatever their personal choices, 38 hours a week is a generous allowance.

What about work, you ask? A large and growing share of college students work while taking classes. But few of them work more than 20 hours a week. So there’s time for that, too. And our research at Purdue confirms that part time work correlates with better grades.

There are students with children or aged parents or other family responsibilities who work full-time. They truly struggle. For them, I think it is fair to say there just isn’t enough time. Bu for the majority of ordinary full-time student, those 168 hours are a weekly windfall.

New York Magazine this morning has an article about college students’ stress. It reports how students at elite institutions feel pressure to hide the pressure they’re feeling! At Stanford they call it “Duck Syndrome” after the smooth appearance of a duck floating on water, that never reveals the frantic peddling going on beneath the surface.

I don’t mean to make light of real stress and pressure. But happily, each person starts out with 168 hours a week to accomplish their goals.


An Old Solution to a Modern Problem

Two articles this week in news magazines explain problems in our American, global-market economy and society. Neither suggests a solution to those problems. So I’ll do that here.



The first article was in Slate and was titled, This is the Perfect Tomato. It describes the efforts of researchers to develop a variety of tomato that is both shelf-stable and tasty. In general, tomatoes that taste good are too soft to be handled from the grower to the grocery, while tomatoes firm enough for shipping are tasteless. But a scientist named Harry Klee managed to develop a tomato with all the desirable qualities.

He was aiming for a compromise—a tomato that grew well and tasted good. What he got shocked him. Like its commercial parent, Klee’s new tomato boasted excellent shelf life, disease resistance, and productivity. But by some miracle, it tasted so good that its flavor scores were statistically identical to its heirloom parent. Klee dubbed his miracle fruit the Garden Gem.


But the next chapter of the story is that no major grocery chain will buy the delicious Garden Gem tomato because it is smaller than other varieties. Here’s a second write-up about the Garden Gem, from Genetic Literacy  Project.  It says, “Big Tomato doesn’t care about flavor. Tomato farmers don’t care. Tomato packers don’t care. And supermarkets don’t care. When it comes to flavor, the tomato industry is broken.”

Smaller means having to handle more fruits to make a given quantity, and that adds to cost. And the grocery chains are not willing to bear more costs. They know Americans who get their food from grocery stores will eat what they are given. So they simply insist on providing only those varieties that ensure their profit. There is no real market where supply meets demand. People willing to pay extra for better quality can not do so. There is only profit maximization by the company. It is very much the same situation as was described by Upton Sinclair in The Jungle in 1906.

What they wanted from a hog was all the profit that could be got out of him; and that was what they wanted from the working man, and also that was what they wanted from the public. What the hog thought of it, and what he suffered, were not considered; and no more was it with labor, and no more with the purchaser of meat.


The second issue comes from Huffington Post, which usually just clips reports from other publications but occasionally does its own reporting. The article is titled, The Myth of the Ethical Shopper. And it argues that the global garment industry is so utterly dominated by unregulated sweatshop labor than no amount of conscientious comparison shopping can make a difference for the workers. It doesn’t matter which company is rated as a fair trade source or what the CEO says. The industry is segmented and too flexible to be regulated. Target can have as benevolent a policy as you’d wish, and Target can ask the clothing labels is sells to abide by those policies. But the clothing will still be made by contractors in distant places where the rules don’t apply:

In Delhi’s garment cluster, “children start learning the job at the age of 8,” writes the University of London’s Alessandra Mezzadri. “They master it by the age of 12.” She calls the area a “composite sweatshop”: For every tailor working in a factory, there are several employed in homes, workshops or backyards. Around 80 percent of the workers are informal — mostly migrants, some of them trafficked, hired and fired as orders are commissioned and completed, divvied out by brokers, paid a few cents for each piece of clothing they deliver. The children get paid half as much as the adults. During her fieldwork, she found kids sitting on apartment floors, sewing and cutting, often under the supervision of their parents.


At this point I hear people say that most people just want cheap goods and don’t really care who suffered to make it. But that may not be true: at least not for younger adults shown in this recent social experiment filmed in Germany:


Just as the Slate article suggest there’s no hope for a tasty tomato, the HuffPost article says consumers have no power to prefer ethically made clothing.

I promised a solution at the top of this article, and that solution is a shift to products made by local guilds. Guilds dominated manufacturing during the Middle Ages, and were replaced by industrialized mass manufacturing. Big industry was a step forward in the 18th century. It ended the problem of the scarcity.  But today in the US few are troubled by not enough clothing to wear or not enough food to eat. Our problems are too few well-paying jobs, inferioir quality products and the depletion of fossil fuels.


The case for guilds is made here in The Distributist Review.

The overall result of monopolistic capitalism has been less competition, less variety, lower quality, the loss of local jobs and less power for the people to do anything about it. When big business leaders lead an economy to the brink of economic disaster, the government deems them “too big to fail” and bails them out at the expense of the general public. Monopolistic capitalism has resulted in the shift of economic power and influence away from the average citizen and big businesses use that power to gain advantages not available to citizens or smaller businesses. How exactly has this protected the consumer? . . . The guilds envisioned by distributists consist of small local businesses. Distributist guilds would provide more competition, more variety, better quality, and more true economic power for the people.


I asked my family how many merchants and vendors we have a real human relationship with. And we came up with a handful. We buy eggs from a neighbor. We get hardware from Charlie Riggle at Roachdale Hardware. We buy an occasional cup of coffee from Jack at the Parthenon in Crawfordsville. Moody Meats in Ladoga. My wife listed several other regular contacts she has for soap, yarn, honey – people she sees once or twice a year at festivals. All of these people know what we like, and see us as return customers. And, we see them as people who need to make a buck doing what they do. Do they charge more that the chain stores? The egg neighbor doesn’t, but most of the others do. But we don’t mind because we are close enough to these merchants that we see how they work. We’ve had conversations about ingredients and processes – we know what we are buying.

You might be saying, “But none of those small local sellers are guilds!” And that’s right. They have some of the characteristics of a guild — probably the most important ones. Forming real guilds would retain those advantages and add more.

Now you are saying, “Sure, I’ll just trot down down to my local smithy and have him hammer me out a new car on his anvil.”  And it is true that machinery would have to stay capital intensive. Perishable goods (food, clothing, and furniture) would be better candidates for local guilds.

Guilds need not be Luddite. A local tailor would use the best available sewing machines. A local community-supported vegetable producer would plan the best cultivars. They just wouldn’t be motivated by greed.


The right to be wrong

President Obama was visiting Oklahoma this week and several ‘Muricans took the opportunity to wave the Confederate flag outside his hotel and along his caravan route.

[Source: Politico]

Philip Kennicott of the Washington Post published an essay a few years ago about the lingering effects of the Civil War. It was called, The Civil War taught us to fight for the right to be wrong. The essay is online and you can read it at the link. But the essence is here in this excerpt:

[T]he Civil War legitimized something essential, and dark, that remains with us. Ultimately, the South was fighting for the right to be wrong, for the right to retain (and expand) something ugly and indefensible. It lost the war, and slavery was abolished. But the right to be wrong, the right to resist the progress of freedom, the right to say “no, thank you” to modernity, to leave the fences in disrepair and retreat into a world of private conviction, remains as much a part of the American character as the blood spilled to preserve the Union. Nothing great has been accomplished in America since the Civil War — not footsteps on the moon, or women’s suffrage, or the right (if not the reality) of equal, unsegregated education — without people also passionately fighting for that dark right, too.


That “world of private conviction” he mentions exists wherever anyone says (or thinks), “Nobody can tell me what to do!” And when that thought is combined with, “I don’t know what to do,” the results is an insistence on the right to be wrong.

I was well raised, and was given a lot of good advice and reasonable rules to live by growing up. The only case of exercising the right to be wrong that I can recall is when my mother told me not to wear my dad’s old high school athletic jacket to a basketball game. The jacket was very tattered, having been worn around the farm from 1952, when my dad earned it, to 1977, when I wanted to wear it.  And I had a perfectly nice jacket of my own to wear.

My mother said no and I said, “OK.” So I took the coat back upstairs and put on my own, nicer coat and threw dad’s letter jacket out the window into the yard. Then I paraded my nice, presentable self before my mother as I left for the game. On the way to my car I picked up the old coat, put it on instead of the one I’d left the house wearing, and arrived at the game looking ratty. Victory!

But unlike my harmless escapade, people are hurt everyday because they, or someone else, exercises their right to be wrong. Some of them are ripped apart by alligators.

I think it is right and good that the stupid Confederate flag is being pushed away. But what I’d really like is an ethic of rectitude, where people wish for guidance, and other people know how to give it.

Thomas Carlyle (1846):

You do not allow a palpable madman to leap over precipices; you
violate his liberty, you that are wise; and keep him, were it in
strait-waistcoats, away from the precipices! Every stupid, every
cowardly and foolish man is but a less palpable madman: his true
liberty were that a wiser man, that any and every wiser man,
could, by brass collars, or in whatever milder or sharper way,
lay hold of him when he was going wrong, and order and compel him to go a little righter.


In the Dark

The power went off yesterday.

I’m not sure when, because my wife and I were outside. She was weeding onions. I was cutting a persimmon tree into firewood. It must have been sometime between 3:00 and 5:00 in the afternoon, though the clocks indicated 00:00. It came back on sometime late in the evening – also at precisely 00:00 according to the clocks.

My wife and I have spent more time without electricity and other conveniences than most Americans our age, thanks to the years living in African and Asian backwaters.  What other couple do you know who had been married more than a year before they spoke to each other on the phone?

Jenny "outside."
Jenny “outside.”

The same is true for our daughters, now in their early-20s and teens. They grew up in Naryn, Kyrgyzstan with a loose connection with electricity, running water or internet access. When electric light is unreliable one acquires a certain complaisance that makes being suddenly plunged into blackness as natural as taking a breath. Americans can learn it; my kids grew up with it.

Sarah having a bath.
Sarah having a bath.

The lights would go out while we were reading a book aloud. One of the girls would pop up and light a candle and we’d resume the story with hardly more than a dramatic pause.

And speaking of dramatic, my oldest daughter heard the “escape from Efrafa” and “General Woundwort attacks” passages of Watership Down by candlelight accompanied by the music of smashing window glass because we were besieged for several nights by a pack of stone-throwing Kyrgyz who wanted us to go away. My oldest daughter is just about the most dauntless person I know.

In Zwedru, Liberia we relied chiefly on candles and kerosene. We enjoyed “current” when it chanced to come on but we didn’t rely on it. There was an electric refrigerator for chilling drinking water and making custard. But we never put more than a days’ worth of perishables in it.  In Naryn, Kyrgyzstan the supply of “tok” or “tsvet” was pretty good. Vladimir Lenin established in the 20s the goal of “Soviet power plus the electrification of the whole country.” Even in the farthest reaches of the then-expired Soviet empire in the late 90s and early 2000s, Naryn still had ample hydroelectric power. It went off when a cow rubbed against a pole or when the apparatchiks at the power company wanted to vex the customers.  But it was on more than not. In January 1999 we spent three solid days in darkness due to an ice storm. Ironically we were in Bethesda, Maryland at the time and would have had power if we’d stayed in Central Asia.

Anyway, the power outage yesterday didn’t stop us from having a nice dinner of grilled pork kebabs. It did stop me from washing the sawdust out of my hair until much later. But I admit that, while taking the inconvenience in stride like the old hand I am, I had thought of, “What if this is it?”

At various times in America’s past, people have seriously pondered (with equal seriousness) whether today would be the day that the commies, Apaches or Martians would attack. Lately, it is more fashionable to imagine muslim attackers. (And when I say fashionable, I don’t mean to suggest it is at all realistic.) When I was a young adult the threat was nuclear war, and expressions of concern ranged from artsy t-shirts (I had one) to backyard bomb shelters to a golden age of apocalypse (or as the feral kids in Beyond Thunderdome have it, “pock-eclipse”) movies.

Today the fashionable disaster scenario involves zombies — a  shambling backwards kind of disaster rather than a dazzlingly advanced technical one. After a little digging on the internet I discovered at least one media critic (Nicolas Barber on BBC Culture) who agrees with my zombie-as-metaphor theory:

[V]ampires and werewolves symbolise the thrill and the romance of having superhuman strength and no conscience. But there’s nothing glamorous about being a zombie. Unlike vampires and werewolves, they’re not frightening because of how powerful they are. They’re frightening because of how dismal it would be to become one yourself. Another difference is that werewolves and vampires are content to share the planet with the rest of us. They might tuck into the odd innocent bystander, but Dracula and the Wolfman don’t threaten our way of life. [Zombies] are either the cause or a symptom of a complete societal breakdown.
It can’t be a coincidence, then, that zombies are in vogue during a period when banks are failing, when climate change is playing havoc with weather patterns, and when both terrorist bombers and global corporations seem to be beyond the reach of any country’s jurisdiction.


I suspect, though, that “a complete societal breakdown” would be much more “dismal” that interesting.  There would be less of everything, including less gun violence and less wandering from interesting place to interesting place meeting Kevin Costner and Mila Kunis.

But, on the other hand, a lot of things that feature prominently in today’s American lifestyle and habits could go to the wayside and still leave a pretty decent human existence.








Oxi again!

The Greek people have voted No! to the European ultimatum. This means they won’t accept the EU’s punitive terms for a bail-out. Whether it means Greece leaves the European shared currency remains to be seen. Lots more trouble remains for Greece. But they can face the difficulties better now that they have chosen their own fate.

[Source: Reuters]

One aspect of the story that I haven’t read in any of the press coverage is that “Oxi!” has a historic resonance with the Greeks. My wife spent part of her childhood in Athens and tells me that each year on October 28th the Greeks celebrate Oxi Day, a remembrance of their defiance of German and Italian forces threatening  Greece in 1940.

Myy wife remembers Oxi Day from the perspective of a little kid in the late 60s. The Wikipedia page linked above tells only a little.  From Wikipedia we learn that in late 1940, by which time Poland, Belgium, Holland and France had fallen to the Nazi Germans, the Greeks received an ultimatum from Italy and Germany: Greece must permit them to march across their land and to occupy certain strategic places (sea ports, airports, etc.) If they refused, the Germans would not simply march through a subjected Greece, but would attack and defeat it as an enemy.

The Greeks said, “Oxi!” 

You can read some good additional detail at this site run by an American organization to remember the event. And there is more at the aceofgreece website.

If you didn’t click, you  missed Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill praising Greek courage for standing against the German threat. What’s more, Hitler says the Greeks fought with the most courage of any enemy the Germans faced in the war, and he says that the delay caused by Greek resistance meant a late start and consequent failure of Germany’s attack on Russia. Stalin is quoted saying Greek resistance decided WWII.

So history repeats itself. An underdog Greece, motivated by its desire for self-government, stands up to a ruthless Germany and says, “Oxi!” 


Depending on where you get your news, you may be saying, “But didn’t the Greeks run up a big credit card bill? Aren’t they now refusing to pay their just debts?” Good question, and the answer is, again, Oxi!

Paul Krugman and other economic experts have written extensively about how the single shared currency, the Euro, has doomed Greece (and probably will doom other countries.) If you want an economic explanation, you can’t do better than any of the posts on Krugman’s blog. Here’s Krugman’s Monday morning editorial in the New York Times.

If you prefer a non-technical explanation, then think of the single European currency as a thermostat. You usually don’t think about them, but your house has several temperature controls. There is a thermostat to control the temperature in the rooms. There is another thermostat in your water heater. The oven in the kitchen has a thermostat, too.

Now imagine that your house has only one temperature control and it is connected to everything. This is analogous to Europe having only one currency. Europe’s leaders can adjust the money supply and the exchange rate to benefit the economy. But since there are many countries in Europe and only one currency, they can only set the currency to benefit one country. And that country has been Germany since the EU began.

If you set your single thermostat at 72 degrees, the rooms will be pretty comfortable. But the bath water will feel chilly. And you can forget about baking anything. You can raise the single thermostat to 400 degrees and cook your Thanksgiving turkey, but you’ll die. A single thermostat controlling everything in a house just isn’t feasible. And this absurd scenario is exactly analogous to how Europe’s shared currency works  doesn’t work.

One other aspect. You may have heard that the Greeks spent lavishly after joining the EU, trying to live up to the European standards. Have you heard that much of that spending was mandatory? Joining the EU meant embracing EU standards for things like automotive emissions. And guess which country makes and sells the cars that satisfy the EU standards. Did you guess Germany? Good for you. So even to the extent that the Greek people (as opposed to the Greek government) was extravagant, they were forced to spend by the fist of Germany.


[Source: hellenicinsider]




A Lesson About Fruits & Words

When my wife and I were Peace Corps volunteers in West Africa there was a tree growing near our house that produced a fruit with thin skin, a sweet, pulpy orange flesh and a large seed in the center. The Liberian people called it “plum.” Their indigenous languages don’t adjoin two consonants, and they would often say “prem” instead of “plum” because P-R elides easier than P-L. And because they don’t like consonants at the ends of words, they would say “preh” instead of “prem” instead of “plum.”

You may recognize the fruit in the picture as a mango.

My experience was different. I had never seen the tropical fruit before going to West Africa. But I had seen plums and I knew that plums are purple and shiny on the outside and firm and juicy and sweet on the inside. So I learned that the Liberians mis-named the fruit. It wasn’t the only thing they gave peculiar names to. They also called papaya “paw-paw”, limes “lemong” and aluminum corrugated roofing panels “zinc,” which they pronounced “zee’.”

But I had more to learn than the Liberians’ idiosyncrasies.  I thought I knew about mangoes from growing up in Indiana. The mangoes we grow in our gardens are hard and green outside, hollow inside with many small seeds. Imagine my surprise when my wife explained that the green fruit is a “bell pepper” rather than a mango. It turns out that Hoosiers and other mid-westerners are just as wrong as the Liberians.


Lesson: People are apt to call things by different words. And when they do, other people won’t know what they are talking about.

The word “marriage” has been used of late by various people to mean various things. But what? Marriage is a civil contract between people.  Civil contracts are flexible and negotiable, and they draw their legitimacy from the government.

Marriage is also a holy sacrament. As such, it is specifically and only what God Almighty declares it to be.

These are two very different ideas, yet the public debate went on for years without clarification. There is no way people with these different ideas about the words could ever understand each other. And they never did. But I don’t think the debate was split two ways. I think it was split four ways, with the following types involved:

  1. Reasonable, secular people who support same-sex marriage as a matter of equal rights, just as they support fair housing and non-discriminatory hiring policies.
  2. Reasonable, religious people who defend traditional marriage as a holy sacrament. Their own personal feeling about gays and relationships doesn’t enter into the discussion, but only the clear and unaltered Will of God. (This is the group I personally fit into.)
  3. Hateful iconoclasts who support same-sex marriage as a way of undermining American culture and tradition.
  4. Hateful bigots who defend traditional marriage as a way of denying civil rights to people who offend their personal prejudices.

I would not venture to guess how many of each there are. But I’m certain that all four groups exist. Numbers don’t really matter in America anymore, because our government responds to vocal and proximate minorities rather than to the majority.

As an example of #1, I offer Jonathan Chait. He recently made a post on New York Magazine under the heading, Same-Sex Marriage Won Because Its Opponents Never Had an Argument. Chait’s column is based on his critique of political or social arguments made by proponents of tradition:

If you scan across the range of anti-same-sex-marriage arguments more typically on offer, the quality of thought drops off precipitously. In Time, Rand Paul writes another of his trademark college-libertarian-style op-eds that manages to avoid taking any formal stance on banning same-sex marriage while insisting that Big Government is really to blame for the existence of a debate that places him in an uncomfortable position. The Federalist’s Stella Morabito lists 15 reasons why same-sex marriage will lead to horrible consequences, most of which consist of right-wing fever dreams.


Chait is a liberal social writer and is concerned with equal justice under law. He’s heterosexual and married to a woman he admires greatly. As far as he is concerned, if the law affords a privilege to some, it ought to afford that same privilege to others.  I don’t think he’s very thorough in his critique. The mentioned 15 reasons given by Morabito substantive and imminent concerns as well as right-wing fever dreams. But I recognize the validity of his position as a political commentator in a secular society. Chait never mentions the holy sacrament because that’s not his purview.

Examples of the second group are surprisingly hard to come by, which explains why they lost the argument. But I’ll offer this excerpt from the Catholic Catechism is an example of the thinking of the defense of traditional marriage as a holy sacrament.

Holy Scripture affirms that man and woman were created for one another: “It is not good that the man should be alone.” The woman, “flesh of his flesh,” his equal, his nearest in all things, is given to him by God as a “helpmate”; she thus represents God from whom comes our help. “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.” The Lord himself shows that this signifies an unbreakable union of their two lives by recalling what the plan of the Creator had been “in the beginning”: “So they are no longer two, but one flesh.”


There is nothing there about civil law. The argument rests on unchanged scripture and God’s unchanged Will. It is easy to understand why this would fail to persuade Chait while being absolutely compelling to believers. God either doesn’t exist at all and is therefore unimportant, or He does exist and is the most important thing there is.

Now, one of the arguments against traditional marriage is that it is sexist and oppressive to woman. The passage I quote above, on the other hand, says explicitly that woman is man’s equal and that she represents the position of God in the partnership. Marriage is needed because of man’s loneliness, not woman’s weakness. Clearly the holy sacrament is not what opponents are opposed to.

In using the word holy sacrament, I make a distinction between Christian denominations. Because the meaning of marriage varies a lot from one church to the next. According to the Wikipedia page on Christian marriage, “Protestants consider it to be sacred, holy, and even central to the community of faith, while Catholics and Orthodox Christians consider it a Sacrament. “

Note that almost anything can be sacred if it is offered up to a holy purpose. An ugly church building can be just as sacred as a beautiful one. Plenty of oldsters would say the American flag is sacred. What makes a thing sacred is that it has been offered up. A sacrament, on the other hand, is inflexible. And only a couple of Christian denominations say marriage is a sacrament. For the rest, as you’ll see if you read the link above, the church has become just an extension of the state in awarding a state license. I remember my cousin’s ceremony, which took place inside a church but was the farthest thing from a holy sacrament. It amounted to little more than:

  • Preacher (to groom): You wanna hit that?
  • Groom: I do!
  • Preacher (to bride):  Do you plan to get some, too?
  • Bride: I do!
  • Preacher: Sssssshhwwiinnggggg!

The ceremony lasted about nine minutes, and was followed in short order by infidelity, acrimony and divorce. Shame on my cousin, same on the preacher who conducted the farce, and shame on the denomination that allowed such an abuse of a thing it claims to hold sacred.

My third set of actors are those I’ve described as motivated by the desire to undermine or destroy tradition. I give you Sara Burrows, writing in The Federalist, and her recent column arguing why monogamy should be “next”:

Brad and I are not legally married, nor do we ever plan to be, but there aren’t a lot of practical differences between us and a married couple. We’ve owned a home together, have a child together, and have every intention—although no promises—of staying together ‘til death do us part. We are hoping polyamory can help make that happen.

Note that she sees “not a lot of practical differences” between her and a married couple. To make the comparison easier, she lists her accomplishments: own a home, have a child, stay together. She argues that society needs to embrace “polyamory” because she thinks sleeping around would make it easier for her to stay with Brad.

Burrows’ argument for polyamory is either sensibly pragmatic or a heinous blasphemy, depending on whether one applies her argument to a civil contract or to holy matrimony. If the former, then there’s little grounds for objection on moral grounds. Civil contracts can say anything the signers agree to. But if one thinks of the sacrament of holy marriage, Burrows is appalling. She is either very ignorant or very wicked.

I am not going to make the effort to search for links, but there is no doubt in my mind that, competing with Burrows’ case for polyamory as the “next” thing, there are others making the case for bestiality, for pederasty, and for who knows what else.

Finally, there is group #4, who is exemplified by the hardware store operator-slash-Baptist preacher who put is a “No Gays” sign on his store front in Tennessee

Jeff Amyx, who owns Amyx Hardware & Roofing Supplies in Grainger County, Tennessee, about an hour outside of Knoxville, added the “No Gays Allowed” sign on Monday, because gay and lesbian couples are against his religion. Amyx, who is also a baptist minister, said he realized Monday morning that LGBT people are not afraid to stand for what they believe in. He said it showed him that Christian people should be brave enough to stand for what they believe in.


Notice here that the basis of Amyx’s stance is “what he believes in.” People believe all sorts of things, and those who are wrong can be just as fervent in their belief as those who are right. Amyx believes in “his religion,” which is nominally Baptist but more explicitly “his.” I have no idea what Amyx’s religion says. I do know the Bible. It says marriage is between a man and a woman; it says nothing about selling a hammer to a lesbian.

Want another example just for fun? Here’s a man in Arkansas who write to his local NBA television station to complain that they’d adopted a logo with gay colors. The station replied that the peacock has been NBC’s logo since 1956.



To conclude, the issue has resolved in confusion because the word “marry” means different things to different people and too little effort was made to to achieve a common understanding. The discourse was won by the first group I described, though they’ll have to deal soon with their allies in group #3. The issue was lost by group #2 because they let people from #4 do most of the talking.