Divorce Insurance

It’s good we’ve finally come to this. If you’re the type of person to get married, but want a little piece of mind, you ought to call WedLock. The idea of divorce insurance is seedy on its own. What really bothers me is it’s such a shitty deal.

WedLock, as it’s coyly named, is a new type of casualty insurance that gives the unhappily married policyholder a payout after he or she is unhitched. It costs about $16 a month for every $1,250 of coverage. But to discourage people from signing up just prior to their divorce, policyholders must ante up for four years before the policy will pay out. It adds a premium of $250 per unit for every year the marriage survives beyond four. So if a policyholder who bought 10 units got divorced after 10 years, he or she would have handed over $19,188 and would receive a payout of $27,500.

Divorce Insurance

You Can’t Win Them All

I give good gifts to my wife. It’s not bragging if it’s true and all. I spend all year listening carefully, on the look out for hints. Then, come gift time, BAM, perfect gifts.

This year, however, was a bloodbath, a total decimation. I got her 2 necklaces and a dress and she couldn’t get them out of the house fast enough. They were at the post office first thing Friday morning on their way back. I’m choosing to take it in stride, though, and blaming the current administration. I’m going to regroup and retool for next year. And come holiday season next year, BAM, perfect gifts.

You Can’t Win Them All

The Arc of the Moral Universe

Justin Katz of Anchor Rising is a very interesting person to argue with. He’s eloquent and clearly passionate in his support of the issues that are important to him, and his sensitivity and decorum are to be lauded. Even though I disagree with him on every point of substance we’ve raised, I salute and respect his commitment to having these difficult and important conversations.

Plus, the dude used the word “especial” non-ironically. Got to give it up.

The core of Justin’s argument against legalizing same-sex marriage has to do with procreation. He asserts the primacy of procreation in marriage over and over in his posts and comments. In our most recent exchange in the comments section, I think I got as close as I’ve ever come to understanding what Justin means when he links marriage to procreation. Marriage, he says, “is primarily intended to encourage that expectation that procreation happens within its boundaries. Men and women should marry because what men and women do can create children, and children, as often as possible, ought to be raised in the stable marital homes of their biological parents.”

Let’s investigate further the expectation that procreation should happen with the boundaries of marriage. Where does this expectation come from? If it comes from a religious conviction that a marriage is the only legitimate context for having a child, then I have to grant Justin his right to that belief, and still ask for a secular explanation.

I assume that he has one. He might point out that studies have shown that outcomes are better for children that are raised by their married biological parents. This research is extremely interesting, but misleading. This paper from the Center for Law and Social Policy is very instructive:

This research has been cited as justification for recent public policy initiatives to promote and strengthen marriages. However, findings from the research are often oversimplified, leading to exaggeration by proponents of marriage initiatives and to skepticism from critics. While the increased risks faced by children raised without both parents are certainly reason for concern, the majority of children in single-parent families grow up without serious problems. In addition, there continues to be debate about how much of the disadvantages to children are attributable to poverty versus family structure, as well as about whether it is marriage itself that makes a difference or the type of people who get married.

In other words, correlation does not imply causation. Further investigation suggests that many of the negative outcomes (in terms of behavioral problems, education achievement, etc) are also correlated with low family income and social status, which is not surprising. (Here is another report that indicates that the outcomes associated with single-parenthood may well vary by race.)

It’s intuitive that a child living with both of his or her parents would benefit from that situation, but does it matter if the two parents are married or simply cohabitating? My intuition is that it shouldn’t matter, and the admittedly thin data seems to bear this out.

Research suggests the importance of distinguishing between cohabiting families with two biological parents and those with a biological parent and another partner. Some evidence indicates that school achievement and behavioral problems are similar among children living with both biological parents—regardless of marital status—and that children in both formal and informal step-families also fare similarly in these areas.

All this to say that I’m unconvinced that the state has a specific interest in encouraging that marriage be the appropriate context for having and raising children, and that I am convinced that the state has an interest in providing support and assistance for families with children.

But let’s set this aside. Even stipulating that, as a society, we have an interest in promoting procreation within marriage, I’m struggling to understand why allowing same-sex marriage undermines this interest. No rational heterosexual couple would be discouraged from marriage just because homosexual couples can do it too.

A same-sex couple that wants to have children can’t (barring biological innovation) have a biological child together, so there’s no mechanism for them to create the “ideal” family unit — children living with their married biological parents. Same-sex couples that want children will find ways to have them whether they can marry or not; if marriages promote stable family structures, wouldn’t we (if the welfare of children was our primary concern) want to encourage same-sex couples to marry, not prevent it?

By Justin’s logic, allowing same-sex couples to marry undermines the link between marriage and procreation, and this link must be protected. I counter that allowing same-sex couples to marry would have the opposite effect: it would expand the incentive to have children within marriage to all couples that want children, not just straight couples.

In fact, and I’ve said this before, there’s no argument from procreation against same-sex marriage that isn’t, at its core, an argument against homosexuality itself. If the problem with a same-sex couple is that they can’t procreate, this problem exists whether they marry or not. A prohibition on same-sex marriage won’t drive gay people into heterosexual relationships, and allowing same-sex marriage won’t drive straight people into homosexual relationships. Some married couples will have kids, some won’t. Some unmarried people will have kids, others won’t. I’m simply unable to draw a connection between same-sex marriage and the behavior of straight people.

Here’s Justin: “We can balance the principle of procreative marriage with minimizing government involvement in our lives simply by saying that marriage is an opposite-sex relationship. To include homosexuals in the definition would undermine that tacit understanding.” I admit it: I don’t get it. How does expanding the definition of marriage constitute more government involvement in the lives of, for instance, married people? And how does saying that marriage is an opposite-sex relationship minimize government involvement? I’m stumped here.

But all of this social policy argumentation is just a pantomime, isn’t it? I know that no matter how sharp and scintillating my arguments, no matter how precise and persuasive my data, the chances that I will convince Justin (or someone like him) to embrace same-sex marriage are slim. The chances that he will convince me are just as slim. Why? Because at the core, our positions aren’t based on dispassionate analysis of the implications of either policy; they’re based on deeper, more emotional convictions. For Justin, I imagine, his position stems from his religious beliefs. For me, I’m persuaded by my innate sense of morality and fair play, and by my love for my family. So is this a hopeless conversation?

Far from it, I hope. I don’t want to try to convince Justin that same-sex marriage is the best thing since they started making Peeps for holidays other than Easter. I just want to convince him that he’s entitled to his personal convictions on the subject, but that he’s not entitled to enshrine them in law. Justin, and others, have said that marriage is “fundamentally procreative,” but I don’t know how to understand that statement, in light of Justin’s own arguments, unless we are to interpret “fundamentally” as meaning something like “usually” or “traditionally.” That’s a perfectly reasonable opinion, but it’s not a convincing argument.

Finally, I have to acknowledge preemptively that, yes: proponents of same-sex marriage are indeed trying to change the definition of marriage. This is explicitly, unashamedly, my goal. I think that such a change would be a change for the better. The civil rights history of country involves this kind of definitional change. In this century alone we’ve changed the definition of “voter” from “white man” to “man” to “adult.” This was a change that was not accomplished without difficulty and resistance, but it was a change that resulted in a more just society.

Marriage has changed in meaning, too. Marriage started out as a transaction between two men, involving the transfer of property (a woman) from one to the other. In modern times, marriage became a legal instrument between a man and a woman to unite their assets and liabilities. It’s time for marriage to take the next step: the benefits of civil marriage must be opened to any pair of eligible adults.

This is a cause that I’m passionate about. It’s one that I believe in strongly as a matter of conviction. The injustice of our current system of legal marriage is more than just an abstract wrong to me and my family and friends: it’s real, it’s unfair, and it has to end. That said, I’m ultimately optimistic that I’m on the right side of history here. Demographics are moving us inexorably towards a society that favors equal rights for homosexuals, and I’m completely confident that in a generation or two we’ll look back on this period with the same distaste and confusion with which we look back on Jim Crow. In the meantime, it’s up to us to fight the fight now.

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Arc of the Moral Universe

Not All Discrimination Is Equal

Look, up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s… The Ostensible Champion of Liberty and Tolerance! Or at least that’s what fellow Rhode Islander Justin Katz has dubbed me in his gracious response to some comments I left over at Anchor Rising. Before I have myself fitted for the cape and tights, it seems right and proper to address the challenges Justin has laid down in his post.

I’m struck, first of all, by Justin’s framing of the subject of our conversation as the “inevitable collision of the gay rights movement with certain fundamental freedoms, such as that of religion.” It’s hard for me to see how seeking to expand the civil rights of gay Americans impinges the religious freedoms of other Americans (or how the right to marry isn’t as fundamental as freedom of religion), but his lengthy response urges me to try.

Firstly, I must correct a seeming misapprehension. Justin says:

For me to have a lack of sympathy for those whose conclusions I oppose would require me to believe that they are all lying about their motives and are, in fact, consciously striving for the downfall of our society. It is disheartening to think that the courteous and discoursive [sic] MRH might believe something equivalent from the other side.

Flattery will get you everywhere, you handsome and articulate fellow! Of course, there’s no need to ascribe to me such a negative view of opponents of same-sex marriage, just as there’s no need to assume that supporters of same-sex marriage believe that gay people and their supporters want to bring about the downfall of society. We can certainly disagree – and even disagree without sympathy — without believing that the other’s motivations are so base. Take heart, Justin, that my courtesy does not merely cover disdain.

Our mutual good intentions thus assured, let us move to the actual matter at hand.

I view the denial of the right of same-sex couples to marry as a form of discrimination. And yet, if that right were granted, might there not be a new “reverse” discrimination against those who oppose it? Here’s Justin:

I offer you the not-so-hypothetical examples of a Christian organization that places adoptive children only with married couples and the business that only prints invitations for marriage ceremonies. In either case, with the civil-rights argument, that religion or that business has a definition of marriage — one that relates directly to their beliefs about the relationships that they are encouraging — that would, overnight, be invidious discrimination.

I’ll grant that, in a world where same-sex marriage is legal and discrimination based on sexual orientation is illegal, the invitation company might not be free to refuse to print invitations to same-sex marriages. Let’s also grant that, if they take public funds, the Christian agency might not be free to decline to place children into households where both parents are of the same sex. Their definitions of marriage would suddenly come into conflict with that of the state and, indeed, they would be guilty of legal discrimination.

Should our sympathy for this printing company and this adoption agency weigh more or less heavily than our sympathy for a gay couple that wants to marry? My initial answer was that, of course, we feel more for the latter, because I tend to sympathize with victims of discrimination, not agents of discrimination. Justin’s riposte was as follows:

My response to the expression of sympathy for “the victims of discrimination,” rather than “agents of discrimination,” is to wonder whether Matt’s sympathies are applied on the basis of individual cases or he’s speaking of victims and agents as class distinctions. If the former, one would expect his sympathies to cycle: The Catholics who are rebuffed for discriminating against homosexuals for purposes of adoption (to keep with the prior example) are, in turn, being discriminated against by the government in relation to the their ability to take private initiative in keeping with their beliefs about the most beneficial homes for children. If the latter, the application of sympathy — presumptuous in its assignment of roles — amounts to declaring a moral preference for homosexuals versus traditional Christians.

My sympathies apply to victims of discrimination both as individuals and as a class. Let’s address the challenge to the latter lemma first. In the spirit of cordiality and charity, I’ll interpret this as a rhetorical maneuver rather than as a genuine claim, but will respond with a rhetorical maneuver of my own: does sympathizing with the victims of racial discrimination, as a class, amount to a moral preference for blacks over whites? Of course, it does not. Rather, it amounts to a moral preference for equality and justice over inequality and injustice.

In the case of individual victims of discrimination, would my sympathies cycle, as Justin suggests, to Christians who are unable to deny service to homosexuals? I suspect it would not, because I don’t consider the imposition of equality to be discrimination. Was the decision in Brown v. Board of Education discrimination against segregationists? Surely not. Of course, the two cases are not entirely parallel. The distinguishing factor seems to be that the objections are motivated by religion rather than some other value system. I’m not sure that this should make a difference. Justin seems to think it does, however, and maybe some of you do as well, so let’s consider it so and proceed.

We are confronted with a choice, then. We either discriminate against same-sex couples by denying them the right to marry, or we discriminate against “traditional Christians” by forcing them to recognize same-sex marriages. Are we at an impasse? Faced with discrimination on either side, are we unable to judge between them? Of course not. Not all instances of discrimination are equal, and there is no moral obligation to tolerate intolerance. We must have a rubric to decide which is worse, and mine works by evaluating the harm done to the class or individual discriminated against. It seems clear enough to me that more harm is done by denying same-sex couples the right to marry than by granting it.

Justin said something else very interesting:

It oughtn’t take but so much intellectual distance to realize that the struggle isn’t between religious dogma and objective civil rights, but between two competing ideological worldviews with different understandings of what marriage, in its essence, is.

I don’t agree, unsurprisingly. I think extending marriage rights to same-sex couples is a simple question of civil rights. But Justin is right that there are competing ideas of what marriage is. And here is where we stop dancing around the real point. We’re arguing a point of public policy. We know what the traditional religious view of same-sex marriage is, but if we are to make it the law, we need another basis. Our secular democracy demands extra-Biblical justification for its law-making. So what is the secular, social argument against same-sex marriage?

Unfortunately, it’s not a very good one. Justin bases his opposition to same-sex marriage on:

… the utility of marriage to bind the genders in biologically affirmed union and to tie generations in an historical thread of ancestry and progeny, often with religious underpinnings. If this is the vision of marriage that one holds, then homosexual relationships, whether they inspire approval or disapprobation, are simply not marriage, and to redefine marriage to include them would inevitably erode the institution’s utility.

As loath as I am, in general, to argue from marginal cases, surely defining marriage as a procreative pair cannot be sustained in the face of some simple counter-examples. Can a heterosexual couple who are (independently or mutually) infertile be said to be truly married under this definition? What about a married couple that abstains from sex? And do we want the state to invalidate marriages that do not produce progeny, or require fertility and genetic testing before validating a marriage certificate? Do we want the state to compel married couples to attempt to conceive? No, we do not.

The other side will counter, lamely I think, that it is not actual fertility, but rather some kind of potential, Platonic fertility that matters: a marriage must include male and female genitalia, whether they are joined in sexual congress or not. This is, of course, absurd.

How, practically, would redefining marriage to include same-sex relationships “erode the institution’s utility?” This is the question that has never been answered to my satisfaction. Marriage, as Justin points out, has many benefits to society. These include the strengthening of familial and societal ties, the establishment of persistent kin groups and affinities, and the financial stability of combining households, benefits, and assets. Where, in any of this, should gender matter? Is there a fear that, should the option of same-sex marriage become available, men and women that would otherwise marry each other and produce offspring will be tempted to instead marry members of the same sex? If this is Justin’s argument, I think he drastically overestimates the number of closeted homosexuals in our society.

Besides, any of the arguments that society depends on “traditional marriage” for its procreative potential apply just as well to same-sex marriage as they do to homosexuality simpliciter. Homosexuals are, by and large, going to refrain from marrying members of the opposite sex and reproducing with them whether same-sex marriage is legal or not. Do opponents of same-sex marriage also want to outlaw homosexual behavior? Do they want to compel heterosexual behavior?

Advocates of the right to same-sex marriage draw a clear distinction between religious marriage – marriage as defined to any particular religious group that offers it as a rite – and civil marriage – marriage as defined by the regulations and structures of legal statute. I have never seen an argument against same-sex marriage that was not grounded in religious belief. I believe strongly that any religious person should be free to decline to officiate at, attend, or acknowledge any marriage that offends his or her beliefs. I believe just as strongly that he or she should not have the right to enshrine those beliefs in law.

Not All Discrimination Is Equal

Fear Of The Unknown

I work about an hour from my house, which sucks out loud for any number of reasons. For many months, I rode with a carpool to try to mitigate the financial and environmental downsides of the commute. I found two guys who also lived in the general area, and after some initial hurdles relating to how ridiculously early they liked to get to work in the morning, we settled into a fine little carpool.

That’s not to say it was perfect. For one thing, our compromise departure time still had me leaving the house at 6:45 a.m., which is not my favorite time of day. If that wasn’t enough, while they’re both very, very nice people, the three of us have different pain thresholds when it comes to more-or-less inane small talk before 8:00 a.m. They like football; I only follow baseball. They enjoy talking about work on the drive there and back; I want to forget about work the minute I leave the building. And so on.

The biggest difference between them and me, though, is this: they’re extremely politically and socially conservative Christian Republicans. I’m none of the above. Our carpool boasted a fundamentalist Evangelical (whom I’ll call “Mark”), an extremely observant Catholic (whom I’ll call “Dan”), and me.

Our political and religious differences really were not, on their own, a problem. I think there’s real value in confronting oneself with people who think differently. It’s healthy to talk, debate, and even argue with people who believe things that you don’t. Most of the time, I really enjoyed talking about religion, politics, and morality with people on “the other side.” I got to hone my arguments, understand the other position, and maybe even start to make inroads towards convincing them of my way of seeing things.

I wasn’t surprised to find that we had different perspectives on the war, on abortion, contraception, on stem-cell research, or on gay marriage. On the other hand, I was (perhaps naively) stunned to find that I shared a carpool with two college-educated software engineers who didn’t believe in evolution. We spent several car rides talking about evolution and I like to think that I made some small amount of headway against their knee-jerk opposition. I don’t think I changed any minds, but I might have planted the tiniest seed of doubt. I even lent Mark my copy of Ken Miller’s Finding Darwin’s God, hoping that he might get something out of it and maybe even learn a little.

A few weeks ago, Mark came by my office to say that he was dropping out of the carpool. I wasn’t heartbroken to see it come to an end. I’d been thinking about leaving the carpool myself. The opportunity to sleep an hour later in the morning was, I’m ashamed to say, worth more to me than the opportunity to save a tank of gas a week, and I had some angst about associating so closely with people who opposed what I believe to be fundamental principles of fairness. What was shocking to me was the reason he chose to leave the carpool. It wasn’t that he could no longer stand to associate with heathens such as myself; rather, he wanted to spend more time praying in the mornings, and to use the hour-long ride to and from work to work on “Scripture memorization.”

A few days later, I found my copy of Finding Darwin’s God in my mailbox at work. A year after I’d lent it to him, Mark had returned it with a post-it saying, “I didn’t quite get through it, but it was very interesting. Thanks.” I wrote him the following email: “Didn’t finish? What happened, man?” He wrote back saying that he just “didn’t have time” to finish it, but that he’d read another book instead. It was a book on “Intelligent Design,” a concept I thought we’d thoroughly dispatched with in the carpool.

I find the entire saga somewhat dismaying. It points out what I think is one of the most damaging and depressing aspects of the fundamentalist community (of any fundamentalist community) – its insularity. Mark passed up the opportunity to associate with two people with different beliefs (because let’s not forget, I might be Jewish, but Dan’s Catholic, and apparently Catholics and Protestants really don’t get along that well, theologically speaking) in favor of spending more time by himself. How many other people in his life, do you think, would argue with him about whether English should be the national language, or whether condoms lead to promiscuity, or whatever other half-thought-out opinion he holds?

About a year ago, Mark was very proud to have delivered the (hour-long) sermon at his church, and he sent the other two of us a link to his church’s website, where MP3s of each sermon could be downloaded. I confess that I didn’t actually listen to much of his particular piece, but I did look at the titles of the various “messages” from the weeks around his. At a time when the news was full of stories about the war in Iraq and torture at Abu Ghraib at Guantanamo, Mark’s church was talking about personal repentance, sexual purity, and about a deepening personal relationship with Jesus. These religious communities, of which American Evangelicals are a notable example, are failing themselves and their society by their insularity.

I don’t mean to indict all religious activity here, but I think there is something deeply irresponsible – something willfully blind – about turning so far away from the world. It is, I believe, fundamentally immoral to elevate one’s personal spiritual concerns above an awareness of what is going on in the world. An insistent, solipsistic focus on the ritualistic repetition of unchallenged beliefs, and the masturbatory pre-occupation with the familiar and internal over the external, represents an inexcusable abdication of moral, ethical, and intellectual responsibility.

It has practical consequences. There are facts about the world that these people don’t know and aren’t learning because they are reading the Bible (for the twentieth time) instead of the newspaper. They perpetuate a cycle of intolerance and ignorance because their children are educated at home, and aren’t exposed to the inevitable diversity of opinion and experience that public or private schooling provide. They put aside books that would challenge their preconceptions in favor of books that reinforce them. And they deprive themselves of the opportunity to broaden their minds by interacting with people they disagree with.

I recognize that some of these charges could be leveled at me. I talk a good game when it comes to diversity, but how much time do I really spend exposing myself to opinions I disagree with? One of the reasons I enjoyed the carpool so much was that it kept my argument “muscles” from atrophying: there are few things more stimulating than mounting a stirring defense of the right to sexual privacy, and few things more entertaining than telling a Catholic that, really, you don’t care if he thinks you’re going to Hell.

But aside from these occasional skirmishes, how often do I face thinking that’s really different from my own? I only skim conservative political blogs, and I’m not going to waste my time reading a book arguing that evolution can’t account for “irreducibly complex” biological structures and processes, or that purports to give the “politically incorrect” truth about the evils of Islam, or that claims that I, and those who agree with me, are liars, traitors, and worse.

So what’s the difference? Why do I think Mark needs to read Ken Miller while I’m excused from reading Ann Coulter? One obvious and facile answer is that Miller is right while Coulter is an idiot. Even so, my own bookshelf isn’t above rebuke: I don’t read anywhere near enough sensible conservative writing, and I should fix that. I like to that I’m a leg up on people like Mark because I have the tools to distinguish what’s worth reading from what’s not – but he’d probably claim that he has as much right to dismiss Richard Dawkins as I do to dismiss Bill Bennett.

So, am I just as blinkered and small-minded as poor Mark, whom I’m raking over the coals here? I don’t think so; a discussion of why will have to wait for the next essay.

Fear Of The Unknown

The Secret to a Successful Marriage

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To enjoy the following exchange you need to know the following background information: R— works for the university’s development office, raising money from reunion classes for the Annual Fund. Her officemate, J—, happens to be the officer responsible for my class.

Rachel: Do you know XXXXXXX XXXX? He was in your class.

me: Yes, he’s married to my ex-girlfriend.

Rachel: Who?

me: XXXX XXXX. Why?

Rachel: His mother is in the class of XXXX. I’m going to try to get a meeting with her and was trying to make a connection.

me: Huh. Well, I used to date her daughter-in-law, does that help?

Rachel: Maybe. Wanna solicit him for a donation?

me: Not really, no. I can’t remember how well we know each other, and “we’ve both seen your wife naked” isn’t that great a bonding line for fund-raising, methinks.

Rachel: Well, you never know until you try.

me: Plus, I never really saw her naked, so that’d be lying anyway.

Rachel: I was actually just about to ask that. I didn’t want to doubt your high school studliness, though.

me: Topless, baby. Aw yeah.

Rachel: J— suggests, though, that if you could sort of imply that you still have digital evidence of seeing his wife naked, perhaps you could get some blackmail-style gift to the Annual Fund.

me: Hmm. Well, this pre-dated digital cameras, remember. So I could type up, in some digital format, a prose description of XXXX‘s breasts, if that would help.

Rachel: Okay, that’s hilarious.

me: Not sure how good it would be for our relationship, but anything for the annual fund.

Rachel: “Our relationship” meaning yours and mine, or yours and XXXX‘s? Or yours and XXXXXXX‘s?

me: The former. Well, all of them.

Rachel: I guess it’s true that I don’t relish the idea of your painting a vivid word-picture of another woman’s “lovelies.”

me: I just want to point out that it is entirely your fault that I’m recalling her breasts at the moment, and not my fault at all.

Rachel: Hardly! You’re the one who jumped from “used to date her” to “saw her naked.”

me: Deny all you want.

Rachel: Well, I’m not threatened.

me: Good.

Rachel: You may picture other women’s breasts all you like, as long as the only ones you access in person are mine.

me: Woohoo! I’m printing this out, and attaching it, via Scotch tape, as an addendum to our ketubah.

The Secret to a Successful Marriage

24: Episode 13, 7 PM – 8 PM

Key Words: , ,

Barry Landis is going to get it today, and Jack Bauer is the one that’s going to give it to him.
9:05: Oh man, Barry Landis, you don’t even know.
9:05: Kim looks so proud of Barry Landis. It’s like Jack Bauer is supposed to forget that Kim has been dating older guys her whole life. You’re not shocking anyone, Kim.
9:05: I want Lynn McGill to imperiously berate the red shirted guard. “I didn’t know my junky sister was going to jump me, I was embarrassed!”
9:07: NJBD 1: (C.T.U. Doctor)
9:08: Tony Almeda does what he want to around here. “My name is Tony Almeda, you killed my wife, prepare to die. MY NAME IS TONY ALMEDA, YOU KILLED MY WIFE, PREPARE TO DIE!”
9:10: It’s hard to interrogate someone after you put antifreeze into them.
9:10: 40%, huh?
9:11: Why do so many people shuffle in and out of command of C.T.U.?
9:12: If you were in Las Vegas playing poker and President Logan sat down at your table would it be impossible for you to stop giggling to yourself and planning what you were going to do with all of his money? Conversely, how fast would you move away from a Black Jack table that President Logan was sitting at? You know he hits 16 all the time stealing your Queen.
9:16: Strike One, Barry Landis! (You don’t need to be qualified…)
9:17: Strike Two, Barry Landis! (You have no idea what I’m doing…)
9:18: Barry Landis has really silly eyebrows and he knows how to use them.
9:19: There’s a marriage joke in there about “constitutional rank”, but I’m not sure what it is. I feel like a failure.
9:22: I don’t believe Jack Bauer would have a go bag and not have some sort of gas mask protection in it.
9:27: So there’s all this space that’s not contaminated, why don’t all the peeps go into the other C.T. U. secret passage ways?
9:28: Barry Landis wants everyone to breathe. Barry Landis keeps talking about breathing, when the underlying drama is that everyone’s going to die because they won’t be able to breathe.
9:31: Come on. Really? They’re going to make Harry Swinton kill himself. And they’re not going to make him have kids or anything? And what about Lynn McGill’s mom? She’s going to lose 2 of her kids on the same day?
9:37: Chloe hates Barry Landis, Jack Bauer hates Barry Landis, I bet Kim starts hating Barry Landis soon.
9:38: Oh man. Harry Swinton does have kids. Sheesh.
9:39: RUDY! RUDY! RUDY! RUDY!
9:40: Come on Harry, make it, please. I want this. DAMN IT. This makes me sadder than Edgar dying.
9:41: I can’t believe they just did a close up of Lynn McGill’s mouth while he was dying. TWICE.
9:42: NJBD: 2 (Harry Swinton and Lynn McGill)
9:43: Jack Bauer wants to spend “one day” with Kim Bauer explaining everything. Can you imagine anything worse than a “24” styled show about Kim and Jack Bauer hanging out? There would be three full episodes of them waking up and traveling to the meeting spot.
9:48: Now it’s Charles Logan’s turn to be proud of something shitty. He’s the reason presidents don’t write their own speeches.
9:49: What do you think it was like planning a wedding with Charles Logan? “Damn it, Martha, I don’t know if I want the filet or the salmon. I don’t know how much more of this I can take.”
9:50: Wait a second, did you see how the terrorist dialed his phone? He just tapped on it with his forefinger. Did they make a new kind of cell phone that’s easier to dial?
9:53: It’s a little late to be kissing ass, Barry Landis, what are you thinking?
9:54: Where are all these C.T.U. agents in full battle gear come from. Didn’t THEY have a bag with a gas mask in it? Unbelievable. They have helmets and no gas masks?
9:55: NJBD: 1 (Agent Burke)
9:55: NJBD: 1 (Tony Almeda) I did not see that happening. It’s too bad Tony knocked out all the doctors, isn’t it?

0 JBKC, 0 tortures, 5 NJBD, Prediction Ratio 0% (0 for 1)
We still don’t have an accurate count of how many C.T.U. staff died. I was wrong about both Tony Almeda predictions. But how long do you think it takes Jack Bauer to tell Karen Hayes he doesn’t work for her?
Totals for the season, 22 JBKCs, 4 tortures, 51 NJBDs, Prediction Ratio 40% (4 out of 10).

24: Episode 13, 7 PM – 8 PM

Sex? Or cancer?

Perhaps you’ve read about the new vaccine against cervical cancer? Apparently, it’s “virtually 100% effective” against the most common strains of human papilloma virus that cause the disease. Would you not expect the arrival of a vaccine against a deadly cancer to be heralded with joy and triumph from everyone?

Ah, surely you’ve underestimated the Christian right. You see, some people are apparently afraid that immunizing prepubescent girls against cervical cancer might send “a subtle message condoning sexual activity before marriage.”

Alas for the rougly 10,000 women a year who may develop the disease, HPV is sexually-transmitted, which means the guardians of moral purity in America have decided that its prevention is dangerous.

“Some people have raised the issue of whether this vaccine may be sending an overall message to teenagers that, ‘We expect you to be sexually active,'” said Reginald Finger, a doctor trained in public health who served as a medical analyst for Focus on the Family before being appointed to the ACIP in 2003, in a telephone interview.

“There are people who sense that it could cause people to feel like sexual behaviors are safer if they are vaccinated and may lead to more sexual behavior because they feel safe,” said Finger, emphasizing that he does not endorse that position and is withholding judgment until the issue comes before the vaccine policy panel for a formal recommendation.

Let’s, for the moment, leave aside how realistic it is that vaccinating a 12 year old girl against cervical cancer really would encourage her to run out and have sex (since I’m pretty sure cervical cancer is near the bottom of the list of fears young people have about sex, somewhere below pregnancy, AIDS, herpes, and “am I doing it right?”).

Let’s also set aside the ridiculous idea that vaccination and abstinence are somehow mutually exclusive, as if vaccination somehow causes pre-marital sex:

“I’ve talked to some who have said, ‘This is going to sabotage our abstinence message,’ ” said Gene Rudd, associate executive director of the Christian Medical and Dental Associations…. “Parents should have the choice. There are those who would say, ‘We can provide a better, healthier alternative than the vaccine, and that is to teach abstinence,’ ” Rudd said.

For the sake of argument, let’s stipulate that the tendentious proposition put forth by Dr. Finger (his actual name!) is true, and that providing a vaccination to young women somehow increases the likelihood that they’ll run out of the doctor’s office into the back seat of some guy’s car. To decide whether or not you favor vaccination, then, you must make a moral calculation about the risks involved in either providing or withholding the vaccine. On the one hand, there’s the possibility that a young woman might get vaccinated, have sex, and not get cancer. On the other hand, there’s the possibility that a young woman might not get vaccinated, still have sex (since no one’s claiming that withholding the vaccine guarantees abstinence), and, possibly, get cancer and die.

It seems to me that opposing mandatory vaccination is reducible to claiming that is worse for a woman to have sex and not get cancer than it is for that woman to have sex and get cancer.

What kind of twisted, punitive, misogynistic logic would lead someone to insist that cancer (cancer!) be a consequence of behavior they find objectionable? (Here’s a hint: it’s the same logic that insists that pregnancy be a consequence of such behavior.) Abortion, contraception, and now cervical cancer: what a world.

Update: Unsurprisingly, I’m not alone in my dismay. Andrew Sullivan and Matthew Yglesias weigh in.

Sex? Or cancer?