Friday Miscellany

It's Friday! Time for a little bit of this, a little bit of that: 

  • Barney Frank is engaged! How sweet is that?  Chris Geidner at MetroWeekly put up this

The two have been together since the spring of 2007, according to Frank's office. [Jim] Ready, who is 42 years old, lives in Ogunquit, Maine, where, per Frank's office, he has a small business doing custom awnings, carpentry, painting, welding and other general handyman services. He also is a photographer. 

And yet, ironically enough, the retiring U.S. Congressman's marriage won't be recognized by federal law. If (god forbid) Frank should predecease Ready any time soon, his widower will have no rights to collect the spousal benefit of his husband's federal pension. In fact, as Geidner writes:

One of the plaintiffs in the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders's ongoing lawsuit challenging Section 3 of DOMA, Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, actually is the same-sex widow of a former member of Congress. Although they married after Rep. Gerry Studds (D-Mass.) left Congress, Dean Hara would have been entitled to benefits that are given to surviving spouses of federal employees had he had an opposite-sex spouse. 

The happy grooms haven't announced a date. Will our nation's foremost brilliant curmudgeon allow the New York Times' Sunday Styles' Vows reporter to attend the wedding? Inquiring minds want to know. 

  • As you know by now, Joe Paterno died of lung cancer, deteriorating at a shocking rate after the Sandusky scandal broke. A month ago I chastised him, as did so many pundits, for failing to call the police when he learned that his assistant coach Jerry Sandusky had assaulted a child in Penn State's locker rooms. Then I heard about his final interview with the Washington Post, in which he explained:

“I didn’t know exactly how to handle it and I was afraid to do something that might jeopardize what the university procedure was,” he said. “So I backed away and turned it over to some other people, people I thought would have a little more expertise than I did. It didn’t work out that way.”

After reading that, and talking to my wife, the jock and prosecutor who both abhorred the crime and adored the coach, I grasped that Paterno was so old-school that he honestly didn't understand what he was being told. (See also: the 1970s responses of families whose children were molested by Bill Conlin.) Not so long ago, most Americans truly did not comprehend the damage done by child sexual assault—and didn't grasp that it could happen to boys as well as girls. It sounds as if that was true for Paterno. 

As many have said, no person should be judged solely by his worst lapse. And so let me make up for my rush to judgment by linking to Rick Reilly's remembrance, over at, of all that Paterno did right, including this: 

If a player was struggling with a subject, Paterno would make him come to his house for wife Sue's homemade pasta and her tutoring. One time, he told a high school blue chipper named Bob White he wouldn't recruit him unless he agreed to read 12 novels and turn in two-page book reports to Sue. They were the first books he ever finished. White wound up with two degrees and a job at the university.

Paterno was other things, too, like controlling and immovable. He lingered as head coach when he promised time and again he wouldn't. And when he needed to follow up on what he'd been told about Jerry Sandusky and a child in the shower in 2002, he failed miserably.

But he followed up for thousands of others.

  • Earlier this week, I wrote about the Obama administration's decision to require all employers' health plans to cover contraception, with no co-pays, no deductibles—and no exemptions for employers with religious objections to birth control. The Guttmacher Institute, by the way, notes this:

Contraceptive use by Catholics and evangelicals—including those who attend religious services most frequently—is the overwhelming norm in U.S. society. Contraceptive use is almost universal among all sexually experienced U.S. women (99%), including Catholic women (98%). For those employees who share their employer’s religious objection to contraception, providing coverage would not in any way force them to use contraception in violation of their beliefs.

After my post, a reader emailed to ask exactly how many women this changes things for, since her insurance already covered contraception. Great question, and one I've never investigated; I have no idea, for instance, whether my wife's health insurance would cover contraception, for the obvious reason that our method is pretty reliable. (I do love that terrible joke, don't I?) I was told* that most employers currently offer coverage for contraception, but that few cover the full range of FDA-approved contraceptives and none without a copay.

It's hard to know exactly how many women working for religious employers will now have access to contraception as part of their health insurance plans. The Department of Labor says that religious employers have about 185,000 employees; but as of the late 1990s there were at least 300,000 churches. Of course, some if not most of those employers—Unitarian or Jewish congregations, say—have surely been covering contraception. So eliminating the religious exemption is important for many women. But eliminating the co-pay for the other millions of women who are sexually active is critical.

We know that many people in this country don't buy their medications regularly, because their budgets are simply that tight. My hunch is that this provision alone will significantly reduce the need for abortions

Happy weekend, all!

*Note: an earlier version of this post quoted an intermediary who sent this information. I thought that attribution was required; I was mistaken, and by request, have removed the intermediary who pointed me to this data. 

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