Get government out of the marrying business

History professor Stephanie Coontz proposes, in an op-ed piece in today’s NT Times, that the U.S. government should give up the business of officially sanctioning marriages:

Perhaps it’s time to revert to a much older marital tradition. Let churches decide which marriages they deem “licit.” But let couples — gay or straight — decide if they want the legal protections and obligations of a committed relationship [emphasis added].

This strikes me as a logical continuation of the principle established by the reformation-era Anabaptist movement. Used to be that the state (via state-sponsored churches) had a hand in baptisms, because they were a handy time to register newly born citizens for taxation and the draft. Then the Anabaptists came along and opposed infant baptism – and five hundred years later no one thinks it at all odd that baptism is a purely religious rite.

Les Francaise paresseux – ou brillant?

The Big Sleep – New York Times

Apparently peasants in France and Alpine Europe used to basically sleep all winter, which tradition they maintained to the end of the nineteenth century. Sounds farfetched, but also oddly attractive – between Moscow’s situation at the eastern edge of Pacific Time and its northerly latitude, daylight is barely long enough to make waking up worthwhile.

The “science” of criminal profiling

Malcolm Gladwell takes on criminal profiling in this week’s New Yorker, tying the discipline’s pseudo-scientific methods into a neat narrative knot. Gladwell directly compares the practice to the tricks used by fortune-tellers, but only after destroying profiling’s fundamental assumptions (i.e. that crimes encode information about those who commit them). It’s good reading.