I’d like to buy the world a Coke water.

Here’s a “scary scenario”, courtesy of the Sudanese ambassador to Washington during his press conference in response to economic sanctions in response to the ongoing atrocity in Darfur.

… John Ukec Lueth Ukec, the Sudanese ambassador to Washington — held a news conference at the National Press Club yesterday to respond to President Bush’s new sanctions against his regime. In his hour-long presentation, he described a situation in his land that bore no relation to reality.

During the bulk of the press conference, the ambassador denied any deaths in Sudan, while contradicting himself that it was only collateral damage, comparable to U.S. actions in Iraq. Clearly, he’s reaching for anything. Continuing:

What’s more, the good and peaceful leaders of Sudan were prepared to retaliate massively: They would cut off shipments of the emulsifier gum arabic, thereby depriving the world of cola.

“I want you to know that the gum arabic which runs all the soft drinks all over the world, including the United States, mainly 80 percent is imported from my country,” the ambassador said after raising a bottle of Coca-Cola.

A reporter asked if Sudan was threatening to “stop the export of gum arabic and bring down the Western world.”

“I can stop that gum arabic and all of us will have lost this,” [the ambassador] warned anew, beckoning to the Coke bottle. “But I don’t want to go that way.”

I know nothing of soft drink ingredients, other than they consist mostly of sugar. I don’t understand the chemistry of why gum arabic is essential, or how it works. It doesn’t really matter. Should Sudan retaliate by prohibiting the export of gum arabic, I have a strong suspicion that Coca-Cola and Pepsi will figure out an alternative approach to making their soft drinks. Inevitably, his threat will fail to achieve his desired results.

That doesn’t mean he won’t achieve results. He will, but the citizens of Sudan who rely on gum arabic exports will be harmed. Their income and trade will shrink, exacerbating an already questionable situation. Dictators have a funny way of not caring about that. The U.S. will probably get the international blame for that, even though it will be clear where it should fall.

A Democrat Who Understands Economics

For once, I’m happy that I voted for a politician rather than against the other guy.

Virginia Governor Timothy Kaine, parting with some fellow Democrats, said he’s “passionate” about strengthening global-trade ties and that those advocating protectionism have a “loser’s mentality.”

“The only way you’ll succeed is by being an aggressive competitor rather than trying to hoard your dwindling assets,” Kaine, 49, said in an interview yesterday in Washington with Bloomberg News editors and reporters.

On the whole, I still voted mostly against the other guy. But good for Gov. Kaine for getting it right on trade. If only our national politicians could figure out something so obvious.

Via Cato @ Liberty

The issue is meddlesome big government.

Here’s an interesting twist on a bad idea, this time from England:

Secret plans to encourage the nation to give up eating meat are being examined by the Government.

A leaked e-mail expresses sympathy for the environmental benefits of a mass switch to a vegan diet – a strict form of vegetarianism which bans [sic!] milk, dairy products and fish.

The change would need to be done “gently” because of a “risk of alienating the public”, according to the document.

The extreme [sic!] policy is being examined on the basis it could make a major contribution to slowing climate change.

Success from this campaign would help, for various reasons. And as a vegan, I’d love such success. People going vegan would help, for various reasons. And as a vegan, I’d love a mass conversion to veganism. I’m not cheering, though, because diet isn’t the government’s business.

But how is this any different than the advocacy we have in the United States, where the government pushes meat and dairy through its ridiculous food pyramid and subsidies for those favored industries?

The majority doesn’t want their tax dollars used to promote my diet. They should understand that I don’t want my tax dollars used to promote their diet. Simply being in the majority does not validate an opinion.

Via Arkanssouri by way of A Stitch in Haste

Update (06/03/07): I’ve struck two sentences that made my aversion to government involvement in promoting specific diets unclear. The new sentences better say what I meant.

History will wonder why all businesses employ 14 people.

Sen. Barack Obama hates liberty. And economics. And jobs. And health care. There’s no other way to describe the eventual outcome of his fantasy world where wishes lead to outcome.

Mr. Obama would pay for his plan by allowing President Bush’s tax cuts for the most affluent Americans — those making over $250,000 a year — to expire. Officials estimated that the net cost of the plan to the federal government would be $50 billion to $65 billion a year, when fully phased in.

The Obama proposal includes a new requirement that employers either provide coverage to their employees or pay the government a set proportion of their payroll to provide it. …

Obama advisers said the smallest businesses would be exempt from this requirement. The advisers said that those business might have under 15 employees, but that no number has been set.

And on it goes with the make-believe. Soak the rich. Corporations are evil. Government can solve every problem if given enough money. Why can’t progressives make some progress in understanding economics?

I’m sure I’ll have more later on this. For now, it’s late, so let it stand that this is a bad idea and will lead to reduced employment, less health care, and lower quality. That’s not a perfect trifecta for a man who wants to lead our country.

I can excuse a lot in voting, but I don’t let ignorance slide. Sen. Obama will not receive my vote in 2008.

The headline is right but mistaken.

Once again, here’s an editorial that correctly points out that infant circumcision is almost never a medical decision.

Are all little boy babies being circumcised these days? No, though I’d have to say that among my patients it remains a fairly common parental choice¹. Still, circumcision, or the removal of foreskin from the penis, is actually not so much a medical issue as it is a personal or cultural decision.

If you’re having a boy, it’s probably best to think the circumcision issue through during pregnancy so you can make a comfortable, confident choice for your son after delivery.

Okay, good, so we got that out. That leaves us with the awful truth that it’s medically unnecessary surgery chosen by parents and imposed on children. That should bring forth a most obvious point: what about the ethical implication that maybe the boy will not want healthy, erogenous skin removed from his penis.

Being an editorial written in the United States, you can read the editorial as many times as you like, you’ll never find this discussed. Since I’m used to newspapers not printing my letters to the editor because I don’t live in the local area, I’m reprinting what I sent to the Daily Herald.

In Dr. Helen Minciotti’s article, “Circumcision a personal decision, not a medical issue” (May 28, 2007), while correctly suggesting that there is no medical need for infant circumcision, she missed the most vital aspect of infant circumcision. There is a significant ethical issue involved in cutting the healthy genitals of infant males for non-medical “personal or cultural” reasons.

A doctor’s ethical obligation is to his/her patient, not the patient’s parents. When surgery is unnecessary, as is the case with almost every infant circumcision, the patient himself must consent. We grant parents the ability to make surgical decisions for their children by proxy, but in every other surgery, we require medical need for the child, not the fear that something might go wrong or that the parents think the child will be more accepted by society after the medically unnecessary surgery.

Given the purely elective reality of infant circumcision, it is unethical to cut a boy’s genitals for any reason other than need, whether those reasons are “personal”, cultural, or chasing potential benefits for medical maladies that Dr. Minciotti admits are unlikely to be necessary for most intact males. Parents and doctors should not impose unnecessary surgery on a boy until the boy can consent to the permanent, unnecessary change in his body.


I don’t expect doctors to be the new philosophers for civilization. But shouldn’t they at least get this kind of basic lesson in ethics during medical school? They’re being unleashed on society with a scalpel. Some sense of reservation in wielding that scalpel should be required rather than our current system of cutting children on request.

¹ The author practices medicine in the Chicago area. Infant circumcision rates are generally higher in the Midwest, as they are in the South. Parents in the Northeast and West are less likely to circumcise their children sons.

Memorial Day

There’s a lot going on with the contract search and home renovations/repairs, so I’ve been a bit busy. I have a bunch of stuff to catch up with here, which I’ll do tomorrow. For today, I just want to post a quick Memorial Day thought.

As I’ve mentioned here before, two of my brothers are in the military. One brother is in the Navy, serving as part of an aircrew flying in Iraq. He’s been out for almost six months, in Japan, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Thankfully, he’ll be home from this tour one week from today. Today, it’s important to me to remember that too many families are dealing with loss instead of homecoming. I do not want to forget that.

My other brother is finishing up training in the Marines. He’ll be home in a couple of weeks for a short leave between training and shipping out to his new base in Japan. I don’t know much right now, but I hope Japan means Japan and not Iraq. I’m not optimistic, unfortunately. Unlike my brother in the Navy who lost any misguided illusions about war he may have had before he shipped out, I don’t think my brother the Marine has an understanding of the horrific nature of any way, noble or not. Breaking that must occur, but I hope it comes easy and soon. For now, I appreciate his desire to serve.

May they both continue to stay out of harm’s way.

The evidence keeps building.

Still more hints:

All in all, the event looked a lot like any other bris, or ritual circumcision. The only difference was that Leo never had to shed his diaper.

“I wanted to feel that connection with tradition,” said Leo’s mother, Erica Wandner. And it was important to her that the baby be given a Hebrew name in memory of Wandner’s mother. But neither Wandner nor her husband, Robin Grossinger, wanted to inflict pain and trauma on their new baby for a surgical procedure doctors say is not medically necessary.

The couple, of Berkeley, Calif., are among a small but growing number of American Jews who are questioning what is arguably the most sacred rite in Judaism. Despite an often strong affiliation with the Jewish community, they believe circumcision is inconsistent with the Jewish ethical imperative not to harm another human being.

Universal isn’t holding up so well.

Interestingly, this article contains the same idea as the article I linked earlier.

Brielle Epstein, whose 1-year-old son, Arie, is “intact,” said she knows “at least a couple of dozen practicing Jewish families” who don’t circumcise.

“They’re a little in hiding,” she said. “But when people find out we didn’t, they come out and say, ‘Oh, we didn’t either.’ People are starting to realize it’s not really that important. There are lots of biblical traditions we no longer follow, such as animal sacrifice and polygamy. Circumcision may be another one we don’t all follow.”

People may not conform, but they want to appear to conform. I’d like to people to be bold enough before receiving confirmation, but even this type of independent thinking contributes to the long-term benefit of society.

I also want to give credit to the journalist and editor who kept this next quote in the story:

Epstein, who lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and two children, said she used to educate people about female genital mutilation, and “the more we thought about it, the more we made the comparison.”

I had to do a double-take to realize that no qualification followed. Bravo.

The rest of the article is excellent. There are a few quotes that I disagree with on principle because they ignore the notion that performing unnecessary genital surgery on a child is wrong. I’m not indifferent to religious reasoning, but it must come from the male being circumcised. Any religious justification must move beyond tradition and include a modern ethical framework that includes the child.

I want everyone to “get it” right now, but articles like this give me hope that the future will be better.

Surface Thinking: It’s not just for vegans anymore!

And so the irrational attacks on vegansim continue, this time in the New York Times, courtesy of
Nina Planck, author of Real Food: What to Eat and Why. Consider:

When Crown Shakur died of starvation, he was 6 weeks old and weighed 3.5 pounds. His vegan parents, who fed him mainly soy milk and apple juice, were convicted in Atlanta recently of murder, involuntary manslaughter and cruelty.

This particular calamity — at least the third such conviction of vegan parents in four years — may be largely due to ignorance. But it should prompt frank discussion about nutrition.

As I wrote when this story first appeared earlier this month, was that story about veganism or ignorance? It wouldn’t have mattered if the parents fed their son cow’s milk and chicken broth, such a limited diet still would’ve been inappropriate and insufficient for anyone, much less a six-week-old child. That’s where the story ends. Or should end, if there isn’t an agenda to push. So we get this:

I was once a vegan. But well before I became pregnant, I concluded that a vegan pregnancy was irresponsible. You cannot create and nourish a robust baby merely on foods from plants.

And what support does Ms. Planck offer?

Indigenous cuisines offer clues about what humans, naturally omnivorous, need to survive, reproduce and grow: traditional vegetarian diets, as in India, invariably include dairy and eggs for complete protein, essential fats and vitamins. There are no vegan societies for a simple reason: a vegan diet is not adequate in the long run.

I’m being simple because I don’t realize that people have always done it. That means it’s good. Or I can reiterate something I wrote earlier today and apply it to the last sentence: it sounds correct so it must be correct. It’s a little too simple to say a vegan diet isn’t adequate, so that’s why no vegan societies exist. For example, what about this?

… Cornell University study finds that it is primarily people whose ancestors came from places where dairy herds could be raised safely and economically, such as in Europe, who have developed the ability to digest milk.

Do people from areas where that evolutionary development didn’t occur still need milk?

Ms. Planck provides more incomplete analysis throughout. She often hits upon the correct problem – improper nutrition – while trying to maintain a cohesive narrative against vegansim, even though veganism can provide proper nutrition. When she states that vegans tend to use soy too much in feeding their children because it reduces protein absorption, she blames veganism rather than poor nutritional sources of protein. I could use the same logic she does and end with is fact: cow’s milk can leech calcium and minerals from bones, which is quite different than the desired, advertised result. But I won’t, because relying on such simplicity leads to conclusions like this:

An adult who was well-nourished in utero and in infancy may choose to get by on a vegan diet, but babies are built from protein, calcium, cholesterol and fish oil. Children fed only plants will not get the precious things they need to live and grow.

Cholesterol is a fascinating subject. Vegans never develop high cholesterol because they don’t consume cholesterol in their diet. That would be nice if it were true. It’s not. But it’s equally untrue that vegans have no source of cholesterol. As long as they have a functioning liver and decent nutrition, cholesterol isn’t a problem.

The fish oil nonsense is the winner, though. Pretending that it’s fish oil and not the nutrients in fish oil demonstrates how Ms. Planck whiffed in her argument. Sufficient nutritional intake is the issue. It always has been and always will be, regardless of whether or not we’re discussing veganism. If critics of veganism can demonstrate that proper nutrition isn’t possible, they should do so. Trotting out the stories of a few children who died from ignorant parenting isn’t proof.

Original link via Glenn Reynolds, where he offers this damning indictment against veganism:

I had a girlfriend who was on a vegan diet. She came down with Kwashiorkor. Luckily, the folks at Cornell Student Health diagnosed it quickly, even though it’s a protein-deficiency disease normally found in starving third-world children, because they had seen it so often among women on vegan diets.

Everyone always knows someone. So, let’s see, college-aged adults, surely the most rational, informed people around, eat a diet with insufficient protein, despite all the sources of protein found in nature, and veganism is to blame. Gotcha. Potato chips and lettuce would be a vegan diet, but it’s not a rational vegan diet. Can we please focus on rational and not vegan? Would an omnivore who subsists on chicken tenders and mozzarella face nutritional deficiencies? No, which identifies the true problem here.

Ms. Planck provides sufficient fodder for link goodness. Read her original essay on the irresponsible parents who fed their son soy milk and apple juice. Or read the background information on her New York Times article, offered at her home page, which includes this from a family practitioner she interviewed:

‘… Most breast-fed vegan children will do okay until solids are introduced, as long as the vegan mother is well nourished. Most commonly you see Vitamin B12 and iron deficiencies in vegan children. Vegan families must place close attention to protein sources, calcium, Vitamins D and B12, and iron. Often this can be achieved via fortified foods, but I’ve seen that not all vegan parents want to choose these types of foods. …’

The doctor explicitly states that veganism isn’t dangerous, but poor nutrition is. This is not news. And anecdotal evidence that “not all vegan parents want to choose these types of foods” is different than the claim that veganism is to blame. Do all omnivorous parents choose the types of foods with sufficient nutrition for their children? Maybe I’ll theorize instead that omnivorous parents are lazy because they don’t want to put any thought into nutritional planning for their families, so they just throw a few slabs of meat on the table since the animal most likely got all of its nutrients from plants. I could argue that, and I’d be on roughly the same illogical level as the article Ms. Planck wrote, but I won’t. I have a functioning brain.

Finally, perhaps you’d like to read the description of her book, which portrays the book as more of a polemic against the industrialization of food. I haven’t read the book, but I probably agree with her argument if she’s saying the processed nature of the modern diet is harmful. Again, that’s more about proper nutrition than veganism.

Update (1:47pm): Sherry Colb has an excellent take-down of Ms. Planck’s article, including a legal flaw in Ms. Planck’s use of Crown Shakur’s death to further her anti-vegan message. Thanks to Kip for the link.

Web Design Annoyance

I know Rolling Doughnut could use a better layout and a few technological bells and whistles. Still, this site gets the basics right.

For example, a problem among websites that I’m starting to see more is a major annoyance with Search functionality. I appreciate the extra help provided by placing the word Search in the text box. It helps me locate it among the mess. Thank you.

But when I highlight the field, the word should disappear. Some sites get this correct and it disappears. Too many, though, don’t. Often I don’t discover this until I’ve already typed a word or two of my search. I then have to edit the text or empty the field and start over. Why? Do the majority of searches include the word search? I doubt it.

If your site is so crammed that you need to include Search to make it obvious, you should probably simplify the design. That’s work, which I don’t bother with myself. Fine. But make the word disappear.

Opinion is not universally a fact.

To recap, the New Yorker review of Christopher Hitchens’ new book, God Is Not Great, included this:

… Hitchens lunges at male circumcision. He claims that it is a medically dangerous procedure that has made countless lives miserable. This will come as news to the Jewish community, where male circumcision is universal…

I briefly challenged that in my entry about the review. Although it’s from Canada, this story adds to the clear distinction that the reviewer, Anthony Gottlieb, is pushing his belief as a fact, presumably because it sounds correct so it must be correct.

Growing up in Victoria, Alana Moon went to Jewish school, attended synagogue most Saturdays and celebrated the Sabbath.

But when her son, Amani, was born, Ms. Moon couldn’t rationalize the idea of making her newborn go through elective surgery. She refused to have him circumcised – and joined a small but growing number of Jews who are rejecting an ancient, fundamental tenet of their faith.

In recent decades, circumcision rates have plummeted in hospitals across Canada, largely because of the medical consensus that the practice doesn’t have the health benefits once believed. Increasingly vocal members of the anti-circumcision lobby, who say the process is unnecessary and barbaric, have also played a role.

Now, a Jewish wing has joined their ranks, including a small number of scholars and rabbis, support groups and websites. They point out that a circumcised penis isn’t required to make someone Jewish, even according to Orthodox law. An alternative bris ceremony, minus the surgery, is gaining ground among Jews opposed to circumcision.

I won’t hold my breath waiting for a retraction from the reviewer.

Still, I’m willing to consider that this next paragraph helps explain Mr. Gottlieb’s mistake, but it will be evident how not questioning his assumption can help perpetuate it.

A small pocket of Jewish boys are now growing up with their foreskins intact – a trend many Jews find troubling. Parents who make the radical choice not to circumcise face such huge social and familial pressure, many refuse to talk about it or tell their friends.

“There’s that whole thing, are you loyal to the faith? Are you loyal to the tribe?” says a Toronto mother who, like many contacted for this story, asked to remain anonymous.

A Jewish friend of mine left her son intact. From the few stories she’s told me, it’s clear this sort of pressure is quite real. Is it possible, though, that there are more Jewish parents refusing to circumcise their sons than we know about, since we can’t count those who refuse to discuss it? I won’t make any claims on the prevalence, but it’s at least obvious that universal is untrue.

One final thought:

… Amani, is now 7. “I think he’s going to thank me when he’s older,” Ms. Moon says.

I’m sure he will, but if he doesn’t, he has the choice to have himself circumcised. Whether he chooses it for aesthetics, potential health benefits, or to practice his religion, the choice to remove a healthy part of his body will be his. That’s appropriate.