What’s good for the goose isn’t good for the gander?

For some reason, my position is still often considered the radical position. I posted a comment yesterday, now deleted, on this blog entry by a mother-to-be. In discussing her lamaze class, she wrote (CAPS in the original, bold emphasis mine):

… We watched videos showing different labors and births, and we did see one C-section, which convinced me more than ever that I DO NOT WANT ONE, unless it is medically necessary. The instructor was very good about saying “partners” instead of “Dads” most of the time, but at one point we did feel very judged when she asked us all about circumcision, and we said we were planning on having our son circumcised.

To which I responded with this:

So you don’t want a C-section unless it’s medically necessary, but it’s okay to circumcise your son, even though it’s not medically necessary. Why would your son feel differently about medically unnecessary surgery than you?

I probably should’ve responded with something like this, too:

I live with my circumcision, which convinced me that I DID NOT WANT ONE, since it was medically unnecessary.

Or I could’ve asked if she’s watched videos of a medically unnecessary circumcision. I wonder what her son would think if he could watch one. I doubt it would’ve mattered since she deleted my comment. I’m not surprised. In my experience, parents who have such a contradictory, narcissistic view of birth medicine tend to hate debates challenging their illogical decision to have their son’s healthy genitals cut.

Circumcision is medically unnecessary, despite whatever mistaken notions this mother may hold about potential benefits. It’s that simple, which is frustrating because this woman understands the concept that medically unnecessary procedures are undesirable and unwanted. But rather than protect her son, she will force on him a standard she rejects for herself.

Anyone want to argue with me on my stance that some parents act as though their sons are their own personal property rather than fully-formed human beings with a basic inalienable right to the body he’s born with? I’m not arguing that they believe it, although I’ve encountered parents who will admit to that abomination. But their actions speak volumes louder than any empty rhetoric offered to justify genital cutting.

National health care is not a charity.

Via Kevin, M.D. comes a fascinating look at reactions from Canadian journalists to Michael Moore’s new documentary film, Sicko.

Michael Moore is handing out fake bandages to promote his new film Sicko, an exposé of the failings of the U.S. health care system.

But he may feel like applying a couple to himself after the mauling he received yesterday from several Canadian journalists – present company included – following the film’s first viewing at the Cannes Film Festival.

We Canucks were taking issue with the large liberties Sicko takes with the facts, with its lavish praise for Canada’s government-funded medicare system compared with America’s for-profit alternative.

While justifiably demonstrating the evils of an American system where dollars are the major determinant of the quality of medicare care a person receives, and where restoring a severed finger could cost an American $60,000 compared to nothing at all for a Canadian, Sicko makes it seem as if Canada’s socialized medicine is flawless and that Canadians are satisfied with the status quo.

The Canadian journalist can’t be that naive. The Canadian certainly pays to have a severed finger removed. It makes no difference if he pays the hospital, his insurance company, or the government taxing authority. The amount he pays may be different, but that’s a matter of economic risk redistribution, not the allegedly-but-not-really free health care that nationalized systems provide. That’s before we discuss the economic rationing necessary for Canada to provide such a service “for free”.

I’ve never heard of an American not having his finger reattached due to lack of funds. I’m open to hearing about such stories, if they exist. Regardless, this issue is far more complex than some people don’t like paying “a lot” for health care.

People will continue to commit evil acts.

This letter to the editor of Time, in response to the Virginia Tech shootings, is curious. The letter writer is from Toronto, so his perspective on our Constitution is probably a little bit different. Yet, what he says is similar to what we hear from many gun-control proponents in the United States. Here’s an excerpt:

If there are protections in the Constitution, drag that document kicking and screaming into the 21st century by amending it. Let the military and the police have their weapons, and let legitimate hunters and farmers have their long guns. But everyone else? Just let them try to club or stab 32 people to death in one go.

Marc Kramer, TORONTO

Clearly he misses the point that gun ownership among the citizenry is meant as a deterrent to tyrannical government, the kind where “the military and the police have their weapons”. To be fair, Mr. Kramer does not expect all citizens to be disarmed. I am left wondering who will decide who qualifies as a “legitimate” hunter? A farmer? So in the process of disarming citizens, we’re also to give the government the power to decide who meets a narrow definition of acceptable (long gun) gun owners. This argument is far too deferential to state power.

Still, Mr. Kramer’s argument disintegrates in the end because he implies that banning guns will end mass murder. I’m sure someone would have a difficult time stabbing 32 people to death in one go. But what about driving their car into a crowded area? Although these accidents weren’t intentional, is it crazy to believe that someone with murderous intentions could try the same? Should we now ban cars, except for those few who “need” them?

Guns and cars are different. I get that. But we’re not discussing them in the everyday, intended use context. We’re discussing what can be a weapon? Cars can easily be made a weapon, as can many different otherwise innocent objects. When put together, they can become a bomb.

The discussion must move beyond the simplistic “guns are icky and the Constitution is outdated for allowing them”.

Economics Lessons: Yard Sale Edition

My homeowners association is hosting a community yard sale today, and we’re participating. It’s not going to be the most profitable yard sale possible. We’re learning Frédéric Bastiat’s broken window fallacy in the most literal way possible, which blows because I already understand this and don’t need the experience.

One item (previously) for sale was a bookshelf. It had a pleasant $30 price tag on it, ready to go to a good home. That was until the moment the wind gusted and carried it into one of the side windows of my neighbor’s car. To fix the broken window and the dent will cost us approximately $500.

The economically illiterate will suggest that this is good, because now the glass installer will make a sale he would not have received. Good for him, but I am most certainly not better off, and am unhappy to be participating in this unnecessary charade. I’m still unemployed without a contract. Money is going out without coming in to replace expenditures. The money now going to pay for this window is money that might be needed for items I might need more than new glass for my neighbor’s car. Like food.

It won’t come to that, of course, so Whole Foods has nothing to worry about. But what about the new company I might invest in but now must live without that last $500? What if I might’ve used that $500 to buy sport suspension on a new MINI (when I land a new contract)? Would MINI USA like to have that $500 instead of the local glass installer?

So, yeah, money is circulating in the economy. That’s wonderful. But there’s more than what is seen. I might start doing this.

Good luck getting the needle near me.

I can’t find an alternate source to verify this story, which I like to do when I read the types of claims made in the story. However, in this case, I think that has more to do with it being about Belarus than anything. The details are probably accurate. Regardless, they make for a good thought experiment if the facts don’t check exactly.

Officials from Belarus’ Ministry of Health on Friday formally rejected the idea of circumcising most men in the former Soviet republic as a means of controlling the spread of the HIV virus. “This is not something we are considering,” said Mikahil Rizhma, a government spokesman, according to a Korrespondent magazine article. “In our opinion using a condom is much more effective.”

That’s a wise move, and not particularly surprising¹. Countries without at least a history of routine circumcision (i.e. English-speaking countries) are unlikely to adopt such an irrational over-reaction based on a few recent findings. That’s not really news. This, however, is instructive:

News reports of a possible plan to mandate circumcision operations for most men had caused consternation in Belarus, as the state-run health system routinely administers flu vaccines en masse to government workers, whether they wish it or not.

Now let’s forget circumcision in the story and focus on forced preventive health care. Is it irrational to believe that the United States could take that path? We’re already seeing a trend to ban smoking and trans fats because they’re bad for health. “That’s bad for you” to “this will be good for you” is a short leap. What’s to stop health busybodies in a single-payer system from mandating (or at least trying to mandate) preventive health measures? Other than rationing based on inviolable economic laws, of course.

As the title of this entry suggests, I wouldn’t put up with it. I suspect many Americans would agree when it pertains to their body. The outcome will depend on the success of the statist busybodies in seizing control. But assuming they can’t get control, we still must get back to circumcision. As practiced in the United States, it rarely involves doing it to one’s own body. It’s almost always done to a child who can’t fight back. Considering how many don’t question the procedure now, resistance to mandatory circumcision will depend more on who makes the political decisions, not the economic waste (and ethical obscenity) of circumcising the healthy genitals of infant males.

¹ This is not good, though:

HIV-consciousness is low in the country, with most health officials treating the disease as an infection endangering intravenous drug users, but not the general population.

Cultural blind spot or potential flaw in a single-payer health system? It’s probably the former, but such blind spots could show up in the single-payer health system based on political pandering.

Government cares with our money.

Here’s the fundamental flaw in how politician’s think, summed up in the course of discussing the $2,900,000,000,000 budget proposed by Congressional Democrats:

… said House Appropriations Chairman David R. Obey (D-Wis.). “I haven’t had too many people grab me back home and say, ‘Obey, why don’t you come to your senses and cut cancer research?’ That’s what the president’s budget has done for the past two years, and that’s what it would do again.”

Rep. Obey deceives. Accept this budget or you hate cancer research. That’s an unfair assessment. Everyone wants to find cures for cancer. It’s an undeniably “good” cause. But Rep. Obey makes the assumption that something everyone wants will not happen without the point of the government’s gun commandeering money from Americans and spending it on cancer research. He doesn’t trust people to spend their money on the things he wants they want.

Does milk do the brain good?

Find the mistake in this logic defending milk:

We’re pretty darn sure that how much calcium you consume up to a certain age is a key factor in your life-long bone density. More calcium, denser bones, less chance for osteoporosis. All available evidence shows that milk still has a bunch of calcium in it.

Sentence one, no problem. Sentence two, no problem. Sentence three, no problem. But putting them together requires more than those three sentences. Just because milk has a bunch of calcium does not automatically mean it’s effective or efficient at building stronger bones. This is shallow analysis getting a free pass because it’s commonly accepted.

Link courtesy of Veg Blog.

Truth is independent of what will sell.

There are many opinions about Christopher Hitchens. My appreciation of him concerns his intellect and witty writing more than anything. Still, I get that there are criticisms. Some of them (boorish behavior) exist beyond my interest. Others concerning the accuracy of his opinions are interesting. However, some of those criticisms embrace ignorance because Mr. Hitchens dares to call out our society’s appalling actions. For example, the New Yorker’s review of Mr. Hitchens’ new book, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, makes a common, illogical mistake.

… After rightly railing against female genital mutilation in Africa, which is an indigenous cultural practice with no very firm ties to any particular religion, 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, and where doctors, hypochondria, and overprotective mothers are not exactly unknown. Jews, Muslims, and others among the nearly one-third of the world’s male population who have been circumcised may be reassured by the World Health Organization’s recent announcement that it recommends male circumcision as a means of preventing the spread of AIDS.

I don’t endorse any particular animosity Mr. Hitchens may expresses¹ about religions that practice child circumcision, but he is quite correct on the madness of child circumcision.

The reviewer missed what I believe is the point of the book, that religion is sometimes irrational and what it endorses is quite often unjustified in logic. That applies to circumcision, which is forced, medically-unnecessary genital surgery on an individual. That is wrong, regardless of how noble, religious, or culturally accepted the circumciser’s intentions happen to be.

Is the reviewer saying that, if female genital mutilation had firm religious ties, it would be acceptable? Of course, the reviewer is also mistaken that circumcision among Jews is “universal”, but that’s more an attempt to say “we all do this, and we’re always right, so male circumcision must be good”. That’s ridiculously naive.

And notice how it’s impossible to skip the recent announcement that circumcision might prevent (heterosexual, female-to-male²) HIV transmission. It’s quite convenient that, in a religious discussion, the reviewer wants you to know about the potential health benefits of male circumcision. I’m not reassured, as I don’t engage in behavior that puts me at risk of HIV.

Like many men, including Mr. Hitchens, I’m sure, all I’m left with is the truth that most people refuse to question forcibly reducing a male child’s genitals through unnecessary surgery because it has a long history of acceptance and God apparently approves. That is wrong. Any god who would demand³ such an abomination is not a god who deserves respect or allegiance.

¹ I have not read the book yet. I have ordered it.

² This is a key point the reviewer forgot, whether because it’s inconvenient to point out how limited this alleged benefit is, or because he couldn’t be bothered to worry about details that might challenge what he wants to believe.

³ Based on Dr. Leonard Glick’s research in Marked In Your Flesh, I’m convinced that God doesn’t demand circumcision.

I guess I’m now jumping into the 2008 discussion.

I’m not a die-hard fan of Ron Paul. His position on immigration is offensive and his support for returning to the gold standard is ludicrous. But he’s consistently voted against expanding the size of the federal government. So, he’s not a great choice for president, except he’s a better choice than all of the other announced candidates.

Last night, the Republicans held their second primary debate. I didn’t watch, but this clip from Congressman Paul is worth watching.

Rep. Paul doesn’t fully explain what he’s trying to say, but anyone with a shred of sense can figure out the gist. We should probably demand more from a president, of course, but consider Guiliani’s performance in that clip. Would we rather have a president who stumbles on his words (hey…) or a president who’s an unquestioning, deceitful prick?

Video link via Andrew Sullivan.

Can you spot the phrase meant for Google?

There’s an obvious solution to these types of lawsuits:

A [twelve-year-old] girl and her grandparents have sued the Chicago Board of Education, alleging that a substitute teacher showed the R-rated film “Brokeback Mountain” in class.

Whether or not Brokeback Mountain is appropriate for a twelve-year-old is valid decision for parents. Here, it was probably stupid. Of course, seeking $500,000 in damages is also stupid.

Ultimately, I don’t care about the details. This is more important.

“It is very important to me that my children not be exposed to this,” said Kenneth Richardson, Turner’s guardian. “The teacher knew she was not supposed to do this.”

“This was the last straw,” he said. “I feel the lawsuit was necessary because of the warning I had already given them on the literature they were giving out to children to read.”

End public provision of education. Allow parents to educate their children at the private school of their choice and the odds that parental wishes won’t be honored will decrease. I don’t think it’s a big deal if a kid sees an occasional curse word in literature, but I understand that not all parents agree. Different parents want different amounts of cultural scrubbing. So, yeah, one size doesn’t fit all. Let’s have that guide us, not whether or not Jake Gyllenhaal’s ass is educational.