“Bring it on down to Omeletteville!”

I have two angles on this story:

Two days after naming its mascot “PorkChop,” the Philadelphia Phillies’ new Triple-A affiliate abruptly dropped the moniker after receiving complaints from Hispanics that it was offensive.

The Lehigh Valley IronPigs, whose mascot is a large, furry pig, had selected PorkChop from more than 7,300 fan submissions. The team, which begins play in 2008, announced Monday that the mascot will be named “Ferrous” instead.

I had no idea of the derogatory implication. I don’t have an opinion on changing it in response to complaints, other than to say it’s probably the smartest business decision. I also think that Ferrous is a better, if not particularly original, name for a mascot. And it permits this kind of sticky-sweet blech:

Ferrous can be described as a portly, affable IronPig wearing the IronPigs home uniform and jersey number 26 – the atomic number for Iron (Fe).

How precious.

My second point is to remember how complaints about vegans typically accuse us of irrationally anthropomorphizing animals. Um, no. That’s what omnivores do.

But PorkChop? Seriously? Who looks at an animated pig, a walking, jersey-wearing mascot created to interact with children, and thinks “Mmmmmm, you’re so awesome, you remind me of dinner, your name shall be…PorkChop!”?

Post Script: I still love the name IronPigs.

Markets in Everything

The background:

A melee at a Kmart store in Wauwatosa Saturday morning was started by a computer glitch.

The store was running a promotion in which it would give away $10 to anyone applying for its credit card, but the computer glitch led to everyone’s application being granted — bestowing up to $4,000 in instant credit to anyone who applied even if they shouldn’t have qualified.

Generally the lesson should be that businesses should take better care to test their software before unleashing it into use. In software development, test, test, and when you’re done with that, test some more. Oh, and then test again.

But what’s interesting is how quickly the entrepreneurial spirit kicks in:

Two employees confirmed for police that anyone who applied was being given instant credit — from $850 up to $4,000. They also told police that people started calling other people to the store for so-called free money. The store ran out of credit applications.

One witness told police someone went to another Kmart, got some applications there and was selling them in the Wauwatosa Kmart parking lot for $20 apiece.

I should wave a finger and tsk, tsk this. There’s a missing level of fairness and decency here, knowing that the advertised benefit is a mistake and the people who are clamoring presumably wouldn’t qualify without a software glitch. (Sounds eerily familiar to the current subprime “scandal”…)

I won’t tsk, tsk, though. The applicants are adults. If they get themselves into debt from “free money”, I have no problem with the economic damage they’ll cause themselves when Kmart comes collecting. A software glitch does not include the right to engage in a fraudulent agreement to borrow without intending to repay. And Kmart is large enough for its management to know that it needs to test its software. It will now deal with the fallout, although it has a legitimate claim on every debt incurred by its customers.

More importantly, the individuals selling the applications are the only people who demonstrated any intelligence here. Sketchy morals, perhaps, but an acute sense of the immediate market. That counts for something.

Sloppy Burial of Relevant News

How much media play will this news get in the United States?

Circumcision may reduce a man’s risk of infection with the AIDS virus by up to 60 percent if he is an African, but it does not appear to help American men of color, U.S. researchers reported on Monday.

Black and Latino men were just as likely to become infected with the AIDS virus whether they were circumcised or not, Greg Millett of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found.

“We also found no protective benefit for a subset of black MSM (men who have sex with men) who also had recent sex with female partners,” Millett told reporters in a telephone briefing.

Looking at the link, note that it appears filed in the “Africa” category. It’s filed from Washington, D.C., discusses the absence of protection black and latino men receive from circumcision, but it’s miraculously pushed to another country’s news. Why, if not to bury the article from U.S. readers?

Also, the article, in its opening phrase, uses the same lazy assumptions for Africans that nearly every previous story has spread. Nowhere does it mention that voluntary, adult circumcision may reduce a man’s risk of female-to-male transmission. It’s only important that readers be reminded that circumcision is now officially awesome.

The nonsense continues:

Doctors believe circumcision protects men because of specialized cells in the foreskin of the penis, which is removed in the procedure. The foreskin is filled with immune cells called Langerhans cells, which are the immune system’s sentinels and attach easily to viruses — including HIV.

In addition, sexual intercourse may cause tiny tears in the foreskin, allowing the virus into the bloodstream.

Aside from the incoherent mess of the first paragraph, note that doctors “believe” this is why circumcision appears to work. While I find such speculation absurd, speculating relies on ignoring the possibility that long-term results will not match the short-term results if behavior does not also change. And if behavior changes, circumcision becomes less important.

Nonsense like this complicates the ability to demonstrate the need to change behavior:

The data has been so clear that the World Health Organization now recommends circumcision as one of the ways to prevent HIV infection. But circumcision does not protect men 100 percent — the studies in Africa have suggested it is 50 to 60 percent protective.

This is an ignorant simplification of the data. From one of the three African studies commonly referenced, the trial included 1,393 adults voluntarily circumcised and 1,391 adults who remained intact. Within those two groups, 22 circumcised men contracted HIV in the study period, while 47 intact men contracted HIV. That’s a 1.6% infection rate for circumcised and 3.4% infection rate for intact. That means 69 new HIV cases resulted during the study among 2,784 men. That’s an absolute infection rate of just under 2.5%. That 50 to 60 percent figure is valid, but only in a context not being offered to readers of the news story. It’s not quite as egregious as this, but it makes such egregiousness more likely.

More importantly, that 2.5% infection rate in the study was significantly lower than the 6% infection rate in Kenya. Assuming that the presence of the study measured the actual population, with all extraneous factors controlled for apart from circumcision, the intact men should’ve seen an infection rate of 6%. They didn’t. What was different in the study for the participants that wasn’t as common among the general population of Kenya? I’d theorize the presence of safe sex education in the study helped, but the basic point is that something else was even more helpful than circumcision.

Bottom line: this news article isn’t reporting. It’s one nugget of common sense wrapped in a lazy regurgitation of propaganda.


In its own reporting, the Washington Post can only offer this incredulous reporting, in a larger story about HIV-positive gay men and unsafe sex:

And, in a finding that puzzled experts, another study showed that circumcision — long thought to reduce HIV infectivity — doesnothelp [sic] shield black or Latino men from the virus.

The Reuters story above reports the startling theory that the higher infection rate of HIV among black and Latino men in the U.S. exposes them to more risk, as a group. Since we’re theorizing, might the lower prevalence of HIV in other groups in the U.S. imply that there’s less HIV to be protected from through circumcision? I would call my theory a halfothesis because there’s more complexity than dividing by race, but the basic point is worth considering. The U.S. HIV epidemic does not mirror the epidemic in Africa. Why are we speculating with the bodies of males (children, particularly) based on incorrect assumptions and cultural comparisons of the United States and Africa? We should not be puzzled when the theory fails to transfer to our society.

Thankfully, the Bread-O-Meter is on a different network.

I’ve never enjoyed local news because of its propensity for a brainless lack of questioning and reflexive embrace of feel-good sentimentality incompatible with common sense. Watching the local news last night only because someone wanted possible new indications of a snow day, I suffered through this story on new food allergies in children. The important bits:

Margaret has eosinophilic esophagitis, a severe food allergy in which white blood cells build up in the esophagus, causing swelling and narrowing, making it difficult to swallow….

To control the disease, Margaret must stick to a strict diet — a tough task because she can only eat very few foods. Staples include pork, potatoes, rice and most vegetables. She has to avoid most other foods, like those with wheat, gluten and dairy.

How does being able to eat most vegetables equate to being able to eat very few foods? Is it too hard to comprehend that something beyond macaroni-and-cheese will provide sustenance to a child?

“It’s hard to feed a 2-year-old, anyway, but take away Cheerios, take away cake, take away milk, take away cheese, take away so many foods that normal toddlers eat and it makes it more difficult,” Julia Schifflian said.

Possibly, it appears. This indicates a lack of imagination, which, to be fair, is widespread in America. I see no reason to believe that wouldn’t be rectified rather quickly as these parents seek what’s best for their daughter as they deal with her illness. But when cake is the second item mentioned as how this disease hampers your efforts to fill out your child’s diet, that’s an unreasonably low starting point.

P.S. Listening to the radio this morning, Howard Stern mentioned that he doesn’t eat meat, only chicken and fish. Okay.

“Voluntary” and “adult” always get tossed aside.


The UNAIDS country programme coordinator, Dr Kékoura Kourouma, has advised Rwandans to start circumcision with children at a tender age as one of the measures to protect them from acquiring with HIV/Aids.

“If the government plans to implement circumcision, it would be easier and cheaper when it targets children. This would enable the programme to achieve its targeted objectives”

UNAIDS will sell the rights of children for pennies. Imagine how many condoms and educational pamphlets we could buy in 2022 if governments would instead invest the money spent on circumcising today’s infant males.

He further said that the demand for male circumcision as a method of combating HIV/Aids is likely to increase dramatically due to the prevailing results from two studies, in Kenya and Uganda.

Of course, even though those two studies looked at the affect of voluntary, adult circumcision, not forced infant circumcision. Demand increases now because UNAIDS promotes fear and snake oil solution. Demand increases in the future because today’s circumcised infants embrace the West’s cognitive dissonance. This has been the only plan since the beginning. And the United States willingly extorts those foreskins in cooperation.

The only drawback is now we’ll have to play them.

Stay classy, Morgantown. Stay classy:

“Everyone [in the media] was counting Pitt out,” West Virginia fullback Owen Schmitt said. “That stuff gets to a team.”

Pitt already had all the motivation it needed, then got a little more on the way into the stadium. Coach Dave Wannstedt, freshly rewarded with a three-year contract extension, said the Panthers’ team bus was hit with a rock on the way to the stadium. LeSean McCoy, Wannstedt said, stood up and said, “Hey, it’s just like the movies.”

Now that number 1 and number 2 in the BCS lost, with numbers 3, 4, and 5 idle, I am praying that the vote shakes out with Virginia Tech sitting behind only Ohio State. That would put us in the BCS National Championship game.

It won’t happen, of course. Voters are going to reward LSU. (Yes, they beat us in week 2. We were a different team then.) We may or may not jump Georgia and Kansas, despite winning our conference. Neither Georgia nor Kansas accomplished that. And we lost to the team ranked second in the nation in each of our losses. The second loss was on a spectacular fluke play made by a Heisman trophy candidate with 11 seconds left in the game. There’s a case to be made!

I’ll be dreaming until the depressing news hits at about 8:03 tonight.

“I love money. I love money more than the things it can buy.”

I’m late getting to the essay on libertarianism by Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch from Sunday’s Washington Post. Leaving definition three in the sub-title aside (I am not infatuated with Ron Paul because he is not a libertarian¹.), the opening paragraph is a useful path to a broader discussion of libertarianism:

How to make sense of the Ron Paul revolution? What’s behind the improbably successful (so far) presidential campaign of a 72-year-old 10-term Republican congressman from Texas who pines for the gold standard while drawing praise from another relic from the hyperinflationary 1970s, punk-rocker Johnny Rotten?

Among several positions held by Rep. Paul that I find objectionable, his fondness for the gold standard is silly. The value of gold is subjective, just as the value of dollars or euros or whatever other store of value we’ve agreed upon is subjective. I don’t like gold, aesthetically. I don’t wear jewelry. The only reason I’d need gold is because other people find it valuable. That it possesses value is strictly arbitrary.

I like Jason Kuznicki’s eloquent conclusion (from an unrelated analysis of goldbugs) as a better way of stating why gold isn’t the issue:

… Gold — its weight, its luster, its aura — seems to endure. It may or may not be a technically feasible as a money any longer, but as a throwback to a more certain age, it’ll obviously do. The modern-day goldbugs have all of the anxieties provoked by Austrian economics, but none of its epistemic complexity. Those who wish to preserve something of value should be partisans not of gold, but of the civil society and the market that make money of any type worth holding.

That last sentence, especially.

P.S. Title reference here.

¹ For example:

But his philosophy of principled libertarianism is anything but negative: It’s predicated on the fundamental notion that a smaller government allows individuals the freedom to pursue happiness as they see fit.

Rep. Paul believes in a smaller government. He does not connect that with individual liberty. On several fundamental rights, he is content to allow states to interfere as long as it’s “democratic” interference. But the root of libertarianism is liberty. Smaller government generally makes liberty more likely, but protection of rights must be primary. If a state seeks to deny rights to the minority at the whim of the majority, the federal government’s power to prohibit that is legitimate.

To be fair, I think Rep. Paul encourages useful debate. I just wish he weren’t incorrectly labeled something he is not.