Democrats want to bring the troops home if doing so hurts Republicans.

I’m interested in yesterday’s House vote guaranteeing time at home for troops returning from Iraq for personal reasons. As I’ve written before, I have two brothers in the military. My 19-year-old brother is in the Marines. He just left for Iraq for the first time. This concerns me, even though he’s beyond excited about going. He’s in for a shock, of course. But this bill isn’t geared┬╣ to him.

My brother in the Navy left for Iraq on Monday. This is obviously an occupational hazard, so as much as he is realistic and uninterested in returning, he must follow orders. Within the context of the House’s bill, my brother is returning to Iraq six weeks after returning home from his first tour. He will probably not be in Iraq more than a few months, but he barely settled in and unpacked. How long do the president and the Congress think this can continue if most service members think like my brother in the Navy rather than my brother in the Marines?

┬╣ I understand that the bill is directed at one man only, President Bush. It’s a cowardly political move aimed at shaming Republicans rather than having Democrats lead. Democrats must stop believing the president’s rhetoric about presidential power for war-making.

Rely on a full complement of facts.

Wired’s Science Blog commented on the circumcision study I mentioned last night that allegedly clears up the controversial position that circumcision affects sexual sensation. In an intelligent twist, the writer agrees with me.

They criticized the study for not testing the sensitivity of the actual foreskin (which does seem like a bit of an oversight).

A bit, yes.

And then there’s the methodology:

They tested the sensitivity by having the men watch porn and then…

Might the use of porn make a difference? Not all men care for porn, so is one stimulus sufficient for the realm of human (male) sexual response? Did all of the men view the same porn, or did each man have a selection to meet his preference? Was the study group self-selected? Did the men in the study like their individual circumcision status? Was there an element of kink involved for the men in being studied? Can you think of any other questions that might factor into the study?

I’m not questioning the methodology here, because this is all I know of it. While the questions above may be – and probably are – easily answered, there are several glaring flaws that can never be explained away. What relevance does the study have to circumcision when the study didn’t research the foreskin, the anatomical part removed during circumcision? And what relevance does the study have in America, where the circumcision issue is an ethical dilemma? The circumcised is almost never the person choosing the circumcision. Let’s start there instead of looking for explanations that our ethical violations allegedly (and preposterously) don’t result in physical changes.

Oh, hai.

I’ve been away from blogging for nearly two weeks for various reasons. Some I mentioned, but primarily I’ve lacked motivation. I’m not burned out from blogging or in any way preparing to quit. I still like the outlet and the chance to focus my thoughts and ideas. But not having a job right now has given me a little time to fully detach and figure out a bit about my future creative direction(s). For now, they’re private, but this is a good development.

That’s the result. However, I can verify how it seems like it’s possible to get many tasks done and achieve more when insanely busy than when working without constraints or commitments. That’s just the motivation part. As I mentioned, I am still without income. I’ve just embraced that. And, no, you don’t have to worry. I’m not in danger of starving any time soon. The bank will not foreclose on my house, although a large part of me wishes they would. (Indeed!)

I’ve let laziness creep in a bit. That’s not entirely awful. But it isn’t permanent, either. I’m fairly certain the job search is coming to a successful close, and mentally I’m getting the itch to blog. Of course the latter happens as I’m heading to New York for the weekend. I’ll return with the haphazard pattern that constitutes full-force here at Rolling Doughnut on Monday(-ish). Thanks for being patient.

It’s the effort, so don’t worry about facts.

From the beginning I knew this story would be a logical disaster. From the title (“Study: Circumcision Doesn’t Reduce Sexual Sensation”) to the opening paragraph, this will cause trouble.

Controversial new research casts doubt on the long-held belief that circumcision reduces sexual sensitivity for men who have undergone the procedure.

Unfortunately, there is no “long-held” belief that circumcision reduces sexual sensitivity. Most Americans hold the opposite belief, that circumcision causes no change. When people in that large group concede that it reduces sensitivity, this is generally viewed as somehow good because it’s assumed to mean longer times to climax. That’s a subjective valuation, and I don’t remember when subjective valuations became fact.

The story continues:

Now, in a Canadian study appearing in the most recent issue of the Journal of Sexual Medicine, researchers found that the glans, or head of the penis, is just as sensitive on a circumcised man as on an uncircumcised one.

Let’s assume the findings are correct. I haven’t read the study or assessments of the methodology, so I’ll temporarily conceded the point, for the argument. So? Circumcision targets the foreskin, and the majority of the foreskin is removed during circumcision. Not the glans. (Usually.)

Based on factual understanding of the surgery, this study fails to analyze the proper context. Circumcision removes the many nerve endings that exist in the foreskin. Might this possibly, somehow, just maybe affect sexual sensation?

While psychologist Kimberley Payne, one of the study’s authors, said the research seems to refute the idea that the foreskin keeps the penis sensitive, she was hesitant to draw a broader conclusion from her study.

“This just scratched the surface, and there is so much more to look at,” she said.

No kidding. Like ethics, for starters. But I also addressed a study, with due caution, that demonstrated the opposite of this study. Who to believe is the question being thrown around, instead of what. For example:

But both Payne and [June Reinisch, the former director of the Kinsey Institute] criticized the Van Howe’s [sic] study, which was funded by the anti-circumcision group the National Organization of Circumcision Information Research Centers, as biased.

“Scientific study must be conducted dispassionately and without bias. The motivation of this group is highly suspect,” said Payne.

I’m going to assume that motivation was simply poor word choice. The motivation – ending forced genital cutting without medical need – is not suspect. Question potential methodological errors that permit a preferred conclusion, if you want. That’s worth debating. But Reinisch might want to undergo a little self-examination.

As for the failure to measure the foreskin’s sensitivity, Reinisch said that was irrelevant, as it rolls back from the glans during arousal.

“The foreskin’s job is to cover the penis and protect it,” she said. “Its job is not to be a part of the sensitivity.”

Let’s pause here. She is wrong. During intercourse, does a man insert his penis only until his glans is stimulated, or does he actually insert further because the foreskin (remnant) feels good? Seriously, is Ms. Reinisch going to assert the former? Is she also unaware that the glans can move in and out of the foreskin during intercourse, if the man still has his foreskin? What might occur there?

“Of course nerve endings are lost,” she said of circumcision. “The question is: Does it make any difference in satisfaction? In pleasure?”

Oh, that. Remember, of course, that this study only looked at the glans, which is not removed during circumcision. But she can draw conclusions with the painfully obvious questions pertinent to circumcision still unanswered to her satisfaction. Still, only NOCIRC is biased pre-disposed to its own conclusions.

“Nature has certainly provided an enormous amount of sexually sensitive tissue,” [Reinisch] said, calling the brain the most powerful sex organ of all.

“I’m not suggesting everyone be circumcised,” said Reinisch. “I’m suggesting that there are some benefits. I believe it’s really a personal choice.”

The value of the potential benefits are subjective, but I won’t get sidetracked there. I agree that it’s really a personal choice. But the inevitable result of this study is that some parents will circumcise their sons because circumcision “doesn’t reduce sexual sensation.” That isn’t personal choice. That is parental direction. There is a difference. I wonder if Ms. Reinisch will concede that.

P.S. Click here to see the image that ABC News attached to the story. It’s sinister enough that I think it might make people pause a bit, except I think it’ll be seen as funny. You know, cutting genitals is funny. Hahaha. No?

Michael Vick and Justice

As everyone knows by now, a grand jury indicted Michael Vick on various charges stemming from an alleged dogfighting operation. This story is old news, although it will be hanging around for awhile. I’ve avoided it for several reasons, but not the obvious ones.

I make it abundantly clear that I’m a Hokie. I can’t imagine loving any other school the way I love Virginia Tech, or being so invested in the larger sense of community. Of course, in the last eight years, Michael Vick has been a huge part of that. His arrival on the football field in 1999 propelled us to our first national championship game. We lost that game, but our place in the national discussion of college football jumped infinitely as a result. The money poured in, the recruits got better, and the winning feels like tradition now. Where athletic success was a pleasant surprise when I arrived at Tech in 1991, there are now expectations. Thank you, Michael Vick.

That does not mean I’m willing to support and defend Michael Vick without reservation. Anyone who could commit the acts he is charged with is vile scum. If Vick is indeed guilty of the allegations against him, I hope he rots in a fiery pit filled with the rotting carcasses of every dog he and/or his friends executed. That would be too good, but it’s a start.

However, he is innocent until proven guilty. I’m not naive in understanding the allegations. I suspect he is guilty. But I believe in our justice system more. I will withhold judgment until such faith is no longer warranted. I refuse to embrace hysteria.