If you have ears, allow something rational to pass through them to your brain.

In what can only be described as the most bizarre pro-circumcision editorial you’ll ever read, Hilary Bainemigisha urges men in Uganda to get circumcised to fight HIV. There are soccer metaphors and a weird belief in the penis as the “author of life”. All of it is idiotic, and the circumcision claims are irrational, as usual, including a recitation of the “circumcision is the best HIV prevention strategy” myth. There’s even a claim that men should get circumcised, no wait, get the facts and decide for yourself, then get circumcised. And then we’re graced with this, which is supposed to show how necessary circumcision is:

A study in the 12 months before the population survey revealed that 32% of HIV-positive women and 22% of HIV-positive men had sex with non-regular partners in the past year. 34% men and 5% women who were HIV-positive had sex with more than two partners. Of these, only 16% men and 17% women used condoms. And among discordants (where one partner is positive and the other negative), 5% used condoms consistently.

I’m beginning to wonder if people really are this stupid and blind to reality. If you have unprotected sex with multiple partners and a significant percentage of those partners are already HIV-positive, you will become HIV-positive. It is inevitable. Yet, the author asks:

Is this the environment you and your sons want to swim through with an uncircumcised [sic] tail?

If I were you, I would look at my penis, look at all the male members of my family and think about the five million who die annually of HIV. Then I would mobilise all of us, at whatever age, to get to hospital. I would also vow to afford the same protection to any newly born son to the family.

Not only is he indifferent to what he’s just demonstrated, he’s now lumped male children into the push for circumcision based on studies that looked exclusively at voluntary adult circumcision. If you’re going to live in your own world, devoid of facts, you might as well throw in a lack of ethics, I suppose.

Also, I’m proposing a new maxim. The trustworthiness of the circumcision proponent decreases exponentially with each euphemism for penis. If you can’t be mature enough to write penis instead of tail, you do not deserve to be taken seriously¹.

But remember, circumcision does not make you invincible. It only improves your escape chances by 60%. You still need to move along with the Abstinence Be Faithful, Use a Condom (ABC) approach, if you want to see your grandchildren.

No kidding. So why is it so difficult to understand that with the ABC approach, the risk of HIV is reduced for all, including intact males?

Finally, I call upon our female population to add a voice to my plea.

Find a way of getting men off their behinds to face the knife. The tool in question belongs to you as much as it belongs to men and had it not been for you, there would not be need to circumcise it.

First, see my new maxim in relation to tool².

More importantly, no, the man’s penis doesn’t belong to his partner (or should I say “partners”, given the statistic offered and ignored). Just like a child’s penis does not belong to his parents. We do not accept such thinking for men wishing to change the bodies of their female partners or daughters. The same must hold true for the author’s contention.

Update: The original version of this entry incorrectly referred to Hilary Bainemigisha using the pronoun she. It’s been corrected. I apologize for the confusion.

¹ To the extent that anyone proposing circumcision to prevent HIV should be taken seriously.

² I find member most common, which is the best proof of the immaturity on this issue.

Will Democrats challenge or fold?

John Cole’s position on the nomination of Michael Mukasey for Attorney General is the best I’ve read:

And so on and so forth. Again, confirmation is probably the right thing to do, but I would do it with some opposition, because the despicable bastards on the right will just expect you to let him continue the popular Bush policy of ‘DOING WHATEVER THE FUCK WE WANT’ should he be greenlighted without opposition.

And George Will’s column in today’s Washington Post is exactly the opposition necessary given this president’s absurd Constitutional claims. Primarily, this, in the form of questions for Mr. Mukasey:

The Bush administration says “the long war” — the war on terrorism — is a perpetual emergency that will last for generations. Waged against us largely by non-state actors, it will not end with a legally clarifying and definitive surrender. The administration regards America as a battlefield, on which even an American citizen can be seized as an “enemy combatant” and detained indefinitely. You ruled that presidents have this power, but you were reversed on appeal. What do you think was the flaw in the reasoning of the court that reversed you?

I’ve read that civil libertarians are unlikely to find reasons to agree with Mr. Mukasey’s approach. The American “enemy combatant” example alone is enough for me to be aghast at his concern for our Constitution. His inevitable push for more “tools” in the president’s never-ending war is scary, too. Unlike what the Wall Street Journal prefers us to believe, Mr. Will understands the Attorney General’s job.

Attorneys general serve at the pleasure of the presidents who choose them but swear to uphold the Constitution.

The Constitution should be held above mere politics. I have no faith that it will be before January 2009.

Sen. Obama’s class warfare isn’t refreshing.

For all the talk about a change in the politics of the Left signaled by the campaign of Sen. Barack Obama, I’d expect to see change rather than the same class-based stupidity.

“In our new economy, there is no shortage of new wealth,” he told the Tax Policy Center. “But wages are not keeping pace…This isn’t the invisible hand of a market at work. It’s the successful work of special interests. For decades, we’ve seen successful strategies to ride anti-tax sentiment in this country towards tax cuts that favor wealth, not work. And for decades, we’ve seen the gaps in wealth in this country grow wider, while the costs to working people are greater.”

I wish that Sen. Obama meant the perverse nature of tax incentives and the inefficient complexity of the tax code because that would be a conversation worth pursuing. Instead, he’s doing little more than imitating John Edwards.

Sen. Obama seems to believe that U.S. income taxes are regressive, so he’s advocating $80 billion in tax cuts for “work”. This is in a system in which the bulk of the burden is already carried by the group allegedly “favored” so much in Washington. That $80 billion has to come from somewhere, so that’ll be from “wealth”.

I guess I should be grateful such a rebel is running for high office.

For specific analysis of Sen. Obama’s plan, I recommend this entry by Chris Edwards at Cato @ Liberty. For example:

Third, Obama proposed special tax breaks for seniors, which would take 7 million more elderly completely off the tax rolls. But that would inject a very unfair element of age discrimination into the tax code. Old folks are already taking young folks to the cleaners in terms of federal fiscal policy. Obama would make the injustice worse, yet he had the chutzpah to claim in his tax speech: “It’s time to stand up to the special interest carve outs.”

Vote for Sen. Obama and you too can have other people pay your share.


Who needs to act responsibly when that can be pushed off to another generation day?

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson told Congress on Wednesday that the federal government will hit the current debt ceiling on Oct. 1.

He urged quick action to increase the limit, saying it was essential to protect the “full faith and credit” of the country, especially at a time of financial market turmoil.

Wouldn’t the “full faith and credit” of the country be better protected by not spending more money than we have?

This request isn’t unusual, since it happens every year or so when the Treasury has to follow the law at the same time our elected representatives are spending recklessly the fruits of redistribution. Remember this from March 2006:

“I know that you share the president’s and my commitment to maintaining the full faith and credit of the U.S. government,” [then-Treasury Secretary John] Snow said in his letter to leaders in the House and Senate.

Our script is stuck on stupid, apparently.

To put this in perspective, the debt ceiling was $5.95 trillion when President Bush took office. The Senate Finance Committee recently approved a new debt ceiling of $9.82 trillion. Just shy of $6 trillion in debt in more than 200 years. Just over $3 trillion more in under 7 years, with a new request for the ability to accrue another $900 billion. Heckuva job.

For those who enjoy war, everyone is a potential enemy.

I agree with Andrew Sullivan in describing President Bush as “a fucking disgrace”, based on this recap of the president meeting with a group of sycophants conservative journalists at the White House:

President Bush may have been most emphatic though when it came to the topic of “those left wing ads” attacking General Petraeus. The president brought the infamous New York Times MoveOn ad up without prompting, saying of his reaction to it: “I was incredulous at first and then became mad.”

“It is one thing to attack me — which is fine,” the president said. But the president’s view the attack on Petraeus as “an attack on men and women in uniform.” [sic somewhere in there]

As usual, our president sees the world only in black or white, and his view is concerned with the petty rather than the important. I don’t feel safer knowing this, even though I think Kathryn Jean Lopez expects us all to applaud the president’s irrational mind.

For bonus points, the blog entry at The Corner has an ad in the sidebar that asks “Why is MoveOn attacking Rudy Guiliani?” The answer: “Because he’s their worst nightmare.” Schoolyard egotism is not mature statecraft.

Maryland Court rules in favor of discrimination.

For anyone who still thinks the anti-same-sex marriage amendments and proposals of the last several years were motivated by anything other than bigotry, consider today’s news from Maryland’s highest court:

A divided Court of Appeals ruled that Maryland’s 1973 ban on gay marriage does not discriminate on the basis of gender and does not deny any fundamental rights, and that the state has a legitimate interest in promoting opposite-sex marriage.

I’m sure the reasoning to get to “legitimate interest” for denying equality is faulty, but I’ll leave that analysis to other bloggers. Instead, I want to focus on this:

“Our opinion should by no means be read to imply that the General Assembly may not grant and recognize for homosexual persons civil unions or the right to marry a person of the same sex,” Judge Glenn T. Harrell Jr. wrote for the four-judge majority, which also included Judges Dale R. Cathell, Clayton Greene Jr. and Alan M. Wilner.

It’s a cop-out because our rights are not decreed by legislatures, as the Court seems to be implying. However, the Court is definitely saying that the legislature may offer rights beyond the (incorrect) boundary for marriage it has set. That quote is easy enough to interpret.

“I think it was the legitimate response,” [Delegate Don Dwyer, R-Anne Arundel] said. “They did as other states have done and ordered the legislature to act.”

Dwyer, one of the General Assembly’s most conservative members, said he plans to introduce a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, as he has three times in the past, “to make sure we have the insurance to make sure this will not come up again in the future.”

The Court ruled in agreement with Dwyer’s¹ position. It’s temporary in my opinion, but his side has won. He can’t accept that as vindication. He has to make certain that gays and lesbians in Maryland never get full access to their rights. That’s what bigotry looks like.

¹ Del. Dwyer’s made appearances here in the past on this issue. In January 2006, he sought to impeach Circuit Court Judge M. Brooke Murdock for ruling that same-sex marriage restrictions violate the Maryland Constitution. Once an activist legislator, always an activist legislator, apparently.

Nationalized does not mean sane or restrained.

Megan McArdle links to a recent Matthew Yglesias post on nationalized health care. Here’s the key part of the excerpt she quotes:

In effect, a highly centralized state run health care system is able to put a cap on how much demonstrative caring can be done through the health care system.

She replies to a hypothetical example of how the government would cap such demonstrative caring through health care with this:

But after the legal revolution of the 1970’s, American public services look, well, like American ones: unable to deny anything to anyone. What would actually happen in the case Matt describes is that the patient would form an activist group, sue, get the treatment, and use the government settlement to buy the kids organic fruit and a trip to Disneyland.

Bingo. This is why I don’t trust the argument that nationalized health care would result in no further government funding for infant circumcision. One boy would get a UTI that results in a kidney infection. The lawsuit shows up, the verdict ignores logic, and we’re back to funding infant circumcision. And we probably end up with pressure to perform it on all male infants because it will save the government money in the long run. We can’t legislate away unintended consequences.

“Insubordinate teacher reprimanded” wouldn’t get readers, or how news cheats with facts.

In what can only be counted as a P.R. “win” for vegans, this story:

An art teacher removed from the classroom for encouraging pupils not to eat meat vowed Monday not to return to Fox River Grove Middle School until it eliminates milk and all other animal products from the lunch menu.

I heard about this when it first appeared last week. My opinion was and is that the story is about insubordination, not veganism. But that wouldn’t sell. Remember Nina Planck?

As much as I agree with his message (and it isn’t 100% agreement, as you’ll see in a moment) and what I’m sure are good intentions, turning this into a debate on food choices will ultimately hurt vegans by making us look irrational and weird. For example:

Dave Warwak, 44, also said he plans to ask the McHenry County state’s attorney to file child-endangerment charges against the school district because the school continues to promote milk and other animal products as part of a healthy diet.

With friends like these…

In other clichéd “vegans are weird” news, most freegans are vegans. Most vegans are not freegans.

(First story via FARK. Second story via Hit & Run.)

Maybe Bush should nominate Harriet Miers.

The Wall Street Journal is upset that Sen. Harry Reid is politicizing the pending nomination for Attorney General.

“Ted Olson will not be confirmed,” declares Senate Majority Leader Reid. “He’s a partisan, and the last thing we need as an Attorney General is a partisan.” That standard could certainly stand some fleshing out. As “partisans” go, Mr. Olson doesn’t come close to Bobby Kennedy, the brother of JFK; or Griffin Bell, close friend of Jimmy Carter (and a fine AG); or for that matter Janet Reno’s Justice Department, which was run for years not by Ms. Reno but behind the scenes by close friend of Hillary Clinton and hyper-partisan Jamie Gorelick.

Selective memory? Do we really need to go further back than Alberto Gonzales to find a partisan Attorney General?

… the real Democratic game was given away by none other than Mr. Leahy, whose own “partisanship” is so raw he can’t disguise it. Number Two on Mr. Leahy’s helpful “Checklist for Choosing the Next Attorney General” is this: “A proven track record of independence to ensure that he or she will act as an independent check on this Administration’s expansive claims of virtually unlimited executive power.”

The belief that the president is bound from unlimited powers is not a partisan position, since it requires only an honest reading of our Constitution. <sarcasm>Although, to be fair, I do see the point that advocating for an Attorney General who will acquiesce to the Decider’s legal preferences isn’t raw partisanship.</sarcasm>

I won’t argue that Mr. Olson can’t be the independent official that Democrats claim to want. Members of Congress should make the case for why Mr. Olson isn’t qualified if/when he’s nominated. But the Journal’s editors should acknowledge that whoever becomes the next Attorney General should not expect his/her job to include being a “legal advisor to the president.” Let President Bush hire qualified White House counsel instead.

We should not shy away from an independent Attorney General, even if it’s a new idea because the founders rejected it. It is possible that we might have a better, broader understanding of effective limited government. As we’ve learned, though, the Journal’s editors are in no way interested in limited. And they’re often good at demonstrating no concern for effective.

The Wacky World of Politicized Economics

Michael Kinsley analyzes the federal student loan program and forgets that more than two scenarios are possible.

Here’s how the program works: Banks and other private companies lend money to students. The federal government pays part or all of the interest — currently 7 or 8 percent. The government also guarantees the loans.

What is wrong with this picture? Well, the government itself borrows the odd nickel to finance the national debt. This borrowing, obviously, is also guaranteed by the government. For that reason, it carries an interest rate of only 3 or 4 percent. If the government can borrow money at 3 or 4 percent, why should it pay 7 or 8 percent for the privilege of guaranteeing loans to someone else? Wouldn’t it make more sense for the government to lend the money itself?

The third possibility is that the government could remove itself from student loans entirely, which is the only legitimate position for it to take. Let the market develop solutions, including appropriate insurance mechanisms to pool the risk of adults without a credit history borrowing money for an activity that can’t be securitized. Let’s find out that it can’t or won’t be provided by the private market before we decide it must be provided by the government.

But there’s a bigger flaw here. If the government begins taking on more and more borrowing responsibility, it will not be able to continue at its rates. At some point that guarantee becomes worthless. Or more likely, people realize that the guarantee isn’t as guaranteed as it’s been sold.

Think about the IOU issued for social security. Carry the logic further, as Mr. Kinsley wishes us to do here, into trusting the government to provide all sorts of services. At what point do we reach the threshold where there aren’t enough people in private industry to create sufficient new wealth for the government to redirect this wealth into “guaranteed” services, via taxes? At some point, money becomes worthless and life becomes nationalized. That attractive 3 or 4 percent interest rate will mean nothing.

I won’t pretend to know what that threshold is. I think we’re closer than we collectively believe. I’d suggest that people like Mr. Kinsley think we’re further away, but I fear that’s giving them too much credit. I don’t think they believe a threshold exists, much less where we are in relation to it. That’s dangerous.


Mr. Kinsley demonstrates his contempt for individual preferences in his conclusion:

… the “one-size-fits-all direct loan program.” This would be no bad thing, but it doesn’t seem to have been the case. I’m not sure what “one size fits all” means here, but if it refers to the interest rate that students and their families have to pay, it’s true that there is only one rate in the government program, compared with many in the private one — all of them higher, but maybe there are people for whom the variety is worth it.

Who doesn’t want a free lunch, right? But let me make an effort.

The variety is worth it for me, since I am not in the process of taking out student loans, nor do I expect to do so in the future. A variety of interest rates, even if they’re higher, would be preferable. That way he who engages in the risk takes on the cost of the risk. Why should I help pay for every college student’s default risk through my taxes, which is how that interest subsidy is funded now, and would be funded under Mr. Kinsley’s plan?

As a matter of disclosure, I have an existing student loan from my college years that was and is subject to government guarantees. I would not have used the system as it was/is, if I’d had a choice. As I think I’ve written, a significant portion of my undergraduate debt was in my mother’s name. That’s just as irrational. The entire student loan situation in the United States relies on the faulty notion that college students are irresponsible children. Worse, we’ve added lending institutions and the American taxpayer to this assumption. Mr. Kinsley’s idea would deepen this idiocy.