Moose out front shoulda told ya

I won’t be blogging much, if at all, over the next few days. Work is ramping up for a software demonstration. This wouldn’t be burdensome, except we “temporarily” shelved the product more than fourteen months ago. I need a refresher, which will consume most of my time.

More than that, my hosting service for Rolling Doughnut expires on Thursday. I could renew, which I’ve done the past few years, but I’m consolidating my web projects onto one hosting account. Rolling Doughnut is the last migration. Obviously it can’t wait any longer, unless I let it go dark. That won’t happen.

The switch involves name server changes and all the fun technical stuff corresponding with setting up a server that could mean down time for the site. I suspect the migration to the new installation of Movable Type will be trouble-free, but there’s no guarantee. If it’s down, don’t fret. Or, fret and refresh repeatedly until the site comes back. You choose. I’m not the boss of you.

Also, I’m still using an old template (from MT 2.64, I think) that’s no longer delivered. I like it because of the color scheme, so I want that to move, too. The site may look a little buggy until I test everything, hopefully over the next few days. The RSS feed should be fine, though. If not, please check back for the new feed later this week if that’s how you read the site. I appreciate that people read Rolling Doughnut, so I want to keep it as convenient as possible. However you read my site, thanks for continuing to read.

Four-second movie review

I finally watched The Passion of the Christ last night. I found it stunningly amateurish. I don’t get the hoopla. It felt more self-indulgent than pornographic, as I’d heard. Jesus dealt with tremendous suffering, but Mel Gibson presented him as more superhero than messiah. And a drop of rain starting an earthquake? Fascinating. But the best part was the end, dealing with the resurrection. The square hole in the naked, perfectly-coifed Jesus’s hand? I laughed. Out loud. I imagine that’s not what Mel Gibson wanted.

Burn the ban

We’ve finished with the bi-annual marriage amendment stupidity, but it’s still an election year. That means we still have to knock down the bi-annual anti-flag desecration amendment. I don’t have much new to add that hasn’t already been said. The First Amendment still exists and actual flag desecrations remain rare, so our (lack of) need doesn’t seem changed. But we’ve solved every other issue facing the United States, so it’s worth revisiting the most important second most important issue facing our nation.

On this issue, I like former Senator Bob Kerrey’s editorial in today’s Washington Post for what he says about the strength of our nation’s symbol. In demonstrating the principles for which the flag represents, he also makes the following point:

No doubt the sponsors and advocates of this amendment mean well. They believe it is a reasonable and small sacrifice of our freedoms. They believe no serious consequence will come of this change.

It does not matter how well-intentioned they are. Those who advocate this amendment do not understand our freedom. They do not believe our government derives its power from the people it represents. They do not believe in individual rights. They do not believe in dissent. They do not believe we are strong. If they did, they would know that rare occurances of flag burning will not destroy our nation. If it offends, the fault lies with the offended who does not trust the indestructible truth of our principles.

Real patriotism cannot be coerced.

This amendment’s advocates believe it can, and must, be coerced if it does not pour forth from everyone. They are wrong.

I can read your lip service

I don’t know which passage to laugh at more:

For the past 15 years, progressive free-market politicians have offered an appealing mantra …

After reading a new oxymoron such as “progressive free-market politicians,” I knew I didn’t need to read on for any serious discussion of capitalism. The usual drivel about how the author supports capitalism, but every fair person understands that it’s not perfect and needs a little help, is sure to follow. I’ve heard it before and I know it’s still code for more government intrusion. It’s never possible that government interference in capitalism is causing the problems. Never.

The other laughable part is that supposedly logical conclusion.

Historically, voters turn away from conservative free-market politicians after they conclude that capitalism needs help in living up to its commitment to create widely shared abundance. After World War II, voters in rich countries entered a social democratic bargain in which capitalism became the bedrock of the economy but was tempered by a large public sector and a unionized industrial sector that provided social insurance, education, pensions and health care.

Capitalism has a commitment to create “widely shared abundance”, which conservative free-market politicians ignore. Setting aside government interference as a cause, if you don’t get some of that guarantee of widely shared, for whatever reason (luck, laziness, …), progressive free market politicians will hand you some widely redistributed. In this view, how can anything be a tempered bedrock, especially when adding so many socialist guarantees?

I’d continue, but uncontrollable laughter makes typing impossible.

Soap and alcohol will prevent herpes

Forgive my indulgence once more. I’d intended to bypass circumcision stories for a bit, since I’ve hammered away at the subject recently. My intention was sincere, but reality sometimes intercedes with something so absurd that commentary must follow:

… [New York State Health] Commissioner Antonia Novello, in pink suit and gold jewelry, and a sea of men with long beards, black suits and hats signed a new protocol Monday that attempts to respect both an ultra-Orthodox Jewish ritual and public health concerns.

“To be able to represent the religious freedom and the public health — it might not be the most perfect protocol in the world, but before this, we had nothing,” Novello said.

I don’t believe the public health commissioner’s job is to represent religious freedom. Of course, I should say “freedom”, since any solution that allows circumcision infringes the boy’s religious freedom. Also, there isn’t really a protocol better than nothing, as you’ll soon see.

The protocols are aimed at preventing the spread of herpes through the practice of metzizah b’peh, in which the circumcision wound is ritually cleaned by sucking out the blood and spitting it out.

The policies stem from seven cases of neonatal herpes connected to the ritual. They included one child who suffered severe brain injury from the virus and another who died.

What’s Commissioner Novello’s job description? How many cases of neonatal herpes connected to the ritual are necessary to step past the fear of challenging a practice that has no place in a modern society? It’s not seven, as we now know. So, how many?

The new state guidelines require mohels, or anyone performing metzizah b’peh, to sanitize their hands like a surgeon, removing all jewelry, cleaning their nails under running water and washing their hands for up to six minutes with antimicrobial soap or an alcohol-based hand scrub.

The person performing metzizah b’peh also must clean his mouth with a sterile alcohol wipe and, no more than five minutes before it, rinse for at least 30 seconds with a mouthwash that contains 25 percent alcohol.

The circumcised area must be covered with antibiotic ointment and sterile gauze after the procedure.

When Listerine is a necessary supply for the person performing surgery, it’s clear that something is fundamentally wrong with anyone who endorses (or in the case of Commissioner Novello, allows) this circumcision ritual’s continuance. It’s not reasonable for someone to slice a child’s boy’s genitals and suck the blood from the wound. Modern medicine matters. The right of the infant male to keep an adult’s mouth away from his genitals matters. The parents get their ceremony, and no one in government risks stating the obvious offending a religious group, but that does not mean everything is rainbows and ice cream. The circumcised boy may trade his foreskin for an infectious disease.

In addition to the rabbinical policies, the state Health Department also added neonatal herpes to the list of diseases health care workers are required to report to state officials.

In adults, herpes is common — almost 80 percent carry the oral form of the disease, according to the state Health Department. It is far less common, and potentially more dangerous, in children and babies.

If a baby who underwent metzizah b’peh does contract herpes, the mohel, the infant’s parents and health care workers will be tested. If the mohel has the same viral strain as the baby, the mohel will be barred from conducting any future circumcisions.

Allow me to recap… The new neonatal herpes infection will be reported. I’m sure the infected boy(s) will be happy being a statistic. No word on what that statistic accomplishes. It doesn’t matter, though, because almost 80% of adults have oral herpes, so the boy will probably get it anyway. No harm done. But at least the mohel will be barred from infecting any infants in the future. Preventing it before the first infection of an innocent child boy doesn’t count as a public health concern, apparently. What kind of compromise keeps the obscene act, yet does nothing to require the circumciser to prove he does not carry the disease?

Antonia Novello should be fired immediately.

Put down that chainsaw and listen to me

I’ve been away from the Internets over the last 24 hours, so I don’t know whether or not anyone (libertarians especially) is talking about the motorcycle accident involving Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. It seems he may not be licensed. He definitely wasn’t wearing a helmet, which is what I focused on in the news reports.

I can’t fathom why he chose not to wear a helmet when he rode, but Pennsylvania law does not require motorcyclists to wear helmets. I’m fine with not requiring helmets, as a matter of law. It’s not the government’s role to prevent individuals from doing what most of us would consider stupid. Such is the price for liberty. However, like car insurance requirements for automobiles, it seems reasonable to impose expectations upon those who choose to ride. Requiring insurance coverage, both liability and disability, is reasonable.

The likelihood of being seriously hurt on a motorcycle is higher than other modes of transportation. Riding without a helmet is more dangerous than riding with a helmet. I’m intentionally ignoring incentives to ride more aggressively when “protected” by a helmet. It’s not possible to account for that in this space, nor is it necessary. All things equal, the first statement is true. Any change to a remaining variable is the rider’s choice. Riding with a helmet is wise. Yet, I don’t support universal helmet requirements.

When I owned a motorcycle, I always wore full protective gear. Without exception, I wore a full-face helmet, jacket, gloves, long pants, and boots. Only the helmet is required in Virginia, and only the half-shell at that. I also took a motorcycle safety class and earned a valid Class M license in Virginia. The only way to ride safer than I did was to not ride.

I don’t think I’m better than Mr. Roethlisberger because my choices seem safer than his. I evaluated what I had to lose (income, physical ability, life) and compensated as well as I could. I suspect he did the same, although we weighed the risk differently with respect to negative outcomes. He also has significantly more financial strength to meet the risk he assumed. That matters.

Right or wrong, and I bet you’ll see Mr. Roethlisberger wearing a helmet when he resumes riding sometime after his career, those decisions are better made by the individual engaging in the “dangerous” activity than by legislators. Most motorcyclists already have parents who object. If the natural set aren’t sufficient to stop them from riding stupidly, no artificial set in the state house can ever compensate. What’s next, a law requiring the Steelers to include a helmet clause in their contract with Mr. Roethlisberger, since that would be for the “public good” of their fans? Where does it stop?

Freedom must include the freedom to be dumb.

Second Acts in America

Friday night, Danielle and I sat through more than 100 minutes of rain and many innings of Phillies ineptitude at RFK, as the Phillies lost to the Nationals. Normally, that would be a major downer, but the night had barely started when I knew all would be fine. I saw President Bush throw out the first pitch on opening day last year, but Friday night was more entertaining for me. My inner Finance geek loved this:

Preventive vs. Primitive

Provided without initial comment:

Dr. David Watson has already begun thinking about his pitch for a new vaccine to block the sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer.

“What I will probably do is point out that last year alone, more people died of cervical cancer, which was pretty much directly produced by Human Papillomavirus, than were killed in 9/11,” said Watson, president of Pediatrics West, a private practice with offices in Concord, Westwood, and Groton. “People appreciate those sorts of comparisons.”

Parents will soon start hearing similar pitches from their children’s doctors, supplementing a television and magazine ad campaign already begun by Merck & Co., the manufacturer of the vaccine, which is expected to receive federal approval next week. [ed. note: approved today by the FDA]

A vaccine that prevents HPV? That’s great news, right? Only if you’re interested in fact-driven medicine; too many seem motivated by fear of the unknown or the inevitable. Or worse, they’re stuck in outdated, irrational thinking.

THE ARTICLE regarding a virus to prevent the Human Papillomavirus (“A fresh shot,” Health/Science, May 29) is well taken, but it is unfortunate that it did not mention the value of circumcision as a preventive measure.

Medical literature describes the higher incidence of cervical cancer in wives of uncircumcised [sic] males and the higher incidence of cancer of the penis in those males.

Africa is now in a frenzy with masses of men trying to be circumcised to reduce the incidence of HIV. Uncircumcised [sic] males tend to accumulate bacteria and virus unless there is meticulous hygiene.


The only reference to circumcision the article should’ve made is that the argument pushed by Dr. Heifetz is now irrelevant. Modern science is winning, but Dr. Heifetz would prefer that we continue slicing foreskins to prevent something that can now be prevented with higher efficacy in the people affected by the disease. Also, the issue of personal responsibility arises again, as HPV is a sexually-transmitted disease.

Is Dr. Heifetz suggesting that circumcision voids any need for safe sex [i.e., condoms and monogamy]? The doctors discussing the HPV vaccine aren’t making such claims, only that a vaccine is reasonable given the prevalence of HPV in our (predominantly circumcised) society. Dr. Heifetz can only rely on the same, tired excuses for circumcising non-consenting infant males, without seeing the obvious connection that less invasive solutions exist for every bogeyman he props up.

I’ll remember that the next time someone suggests that I’m a crazy person for thinking routine infant circumcision is bullshit.

Why not, since we only have one point-of-entry?

I thought this suggestion by Donald Rumsfeld might signal an embrace of reason:

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld wants to end Army helicopter support for a joint U.S.-Bahamas drug-interdiction program that over the past two decades has resulted in hundreds of arrests and the seizure of tons of cocaine and marijuana.

The Army’s seven Blackhawk helicopters and their crews form the backbone of Operation Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, which the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration credits with helping drive cocaine and marijuana smugglers away from the Bahamas and its easy access to Florida.

The Bahamas anti-drug program, Rumsfeld wrote, “now competes with resources necessary for the war on terrorism and other activities in support of our nation’s defense, with potential adverse effects on the military preparedness of the United States.”

Alas, it’s not meant to be. Ending army effort does not mean ending our irrational, never-ending war on drugs.

The letter asks [Attorney General Alberto] Gonzales to help identify “a more appropriate agency” to provide the air support.

Of course. Rather than address the more fundamental question of whether or not we should be doing this, Sec. Rumsfeld wants another agency to do it. Looking at the results of the effort, though, he’s right; we should continue accruing successes.

When the program began in 1982, up to 90 percent of the cocaine smuggled into the U.S. from Latin America came into Florida through the Bahamas and Caribbean. Now, most of the cocaine moves across the U.S. southwestern border, in part because of the pressure on traffickers operating off Florida’s coasts.

“If we start letting our guard down here now, and we reduce our presence here, it will be more economical (for smugglers) to come back this way. And certainly the state of Florida is ground zero for that,” [Mark R. Trouville, chief of DEA’s Miami field office] said.

I’m sure Texas is happy for Florida.

“You made us do it” is bad government

The editors at Opinion Journal hate liberty. I can think of no other explanation to support this statement in today’s editorial on the now-failed marriage amendment:

We remain opposed to federal interference in this issue, believing that issues of family life and law are best settled in state legislatures.

As opposed to the individual’s home? Why? Given the manner in which state legislatures are dealing with this issue, do I trust them to err on the side of individual rights? Of course not. Anyone who doubts that need only look at the mess that Virginia is trying to pass this November.

States have also devised a range of policies for civil partnerships or other legal rights for gay couples. These innovations reflect the reality that most Americans oppose extending the term “marriage” to gays but are open to other legal arrangements.

The marriage debate demonstrates nothing more than naked majoritarianism. The Constitution does not work that way. Denying rights at the state level because the solution is federalist is still a denial of rights. Why should a gay couple care if their oppressor is the United States Congress or the Virginia General Assembly? Either offer the same marriage benefits to every individual or extract marriage from civil government. No individual should have the right to determine, through government, which rights another individual is allowed to possess. He possesses them from birth. The government can only secure or infringe.