Basics do not possess nuance.

This blog entry at Feministe is from last week. It references a strange Erica Jong column that isn’t worth discussing. While I agree with most of the Feministe entry, I do not understand how these two ideas can be in the same work. [All emphasis in excerpts is mine.]

I think I’ve made my feelings on male circumcision relatively clear. But you are out of your damn mind if you think that male circumcision is anything like most forms of female circumcision. The majority of female circumcisions involve removing part or all of the clitoris, which is simply not analogous to the removal of foreskin; a more appropriate comparison would be between removing the clitoris and snipping off the head of your dick. Female circumcision isn’t less bad because women don’t think about their vulvas (trust me, we do – and were you to suggest removing a part of mine, I’d be pretty damned opposed to it, despite my interests in children, writing and politics). It’s perfectly possible to question the cultural practice of male circumcision without playing the “what’s-worse” game with female circumcision.

I am out of my damn mind (with the proper nuance), as any regular reader knows, but I’ll expand on this in a moment. From further down in the entry:

… For me, it’s a basic bodily autonomy issue: Foreskin may arguably not be a huge deal, but I think it’s simply wrong to remove a part of a person’s genitals without their consent.

In my insanity, I’m still able to see all facets of both male and female genital cutting. I’ve never argued more than basic bodily autonomy. But if acknowledging that the victim’s gender is irrelevant to the fact that a basic violation occurred means I’m out of my damn mind, so be it. I do not want that definition of sanity.

As I’ve written before, the WHO recognizes 4 types of FGM. Most are physically worse than typical male genital cutting, and those types are far too common among the four. This is a disgrace to mankind, but so is any form of mutilation, even if it results in less damage than the typical male genital cutting. The issue is one of basic bodily autonomy, not severity of damage. In a perfect world where all unnecessary, forced genital cutting is prohibited, it would probably make sense to enact different punishments based on the extent of damage inflicted. But some punishment would be appropriate in every case because each cut is an assault.

In our imperfect world, we outlaw “lesser” cutting on females and congratulate ourselves on our respect for their rights. Many who see male genital cutting as a violation properly suggest that it should be prohibited. But the moment any moral equivalence is made that both victims are human beings with the same inherent rights, the fight is on. Why? It’s possible to understand the difference in quantitative damage in most cases while realizing that analyzing that is secondary to recognizing the qualitative violation in every case. Knowing that both are wrong is not an argument that the typical male genital cutting is as damaging as infibulation. In other words, don’t read into my words anything other than what I am explicitly saying. Medically unnecessary genital surgery on a non-consenting individual is wrong because it violates basic bodily autonomy. Gender is irrelevant in determining the existence of a violation or the need for prohibition.

Continuing from the last excerpt:

However, I don’t think circumcised men are horribly “mutilated.” I don’t think that there’s anything weird or unattractive about it. I don’t think that they’re all psychologically scarred. And I think it’s shitty to suggest otherwise.

I agree, to an extent. Each individual circumcised male must reach his own judgment about the effect of his circumcision. For me, I consider it a horrible mutilation, it’s weird, and it’s unattractive. But I don’t think this is true for all men, nor do I need to convince any man that he should agree about his own body. Where anti-circumcision advocates attempt that, we are misguided. But those men who believe as I do should not be dismissed. (I do not think the entry “dismisses” me.)

I’ve seen the psychologically scarred comment a lot. It’s generally offered by circumcision advocates who think that “circumcision for(ced on) all males” is a great policy. They can’t comprehend that someone would disagree, even though they readily understand that no female would ever want her genitals cut, even when evidence suggests that some women choose it¹. That’s just the other side of the incomplete analysis usually offered when comparison between female and male genital cutting appear.

The few comments to the entry that addressed this were less than enthusiastic about calling out this nonsense. For example:

Trixie23 says:

THANK YOU for clarifying that female circumcision is NOTHING to compare to male circumcision…it shouldn’t even be called that. Female circumcision is an AMPUTATION!

It is an amputation, except where it’s not. Or where it is an amputation equivalent to male genital cutting.


# Lizzie (greeneyed fem) says:

Also – I know we’re all on board with the FGM not being anywhere near in the same category as male infant circumcision – but can I just point out that most dudes are circumcised around birth?

I’m not a guy, so I don’t know what kind of affect that has on you – but I remember NOTHING about my hernia surgery from when I was two weeks old. I’m pretty sure I would remember someone taking a knife to my genitals at age 11 or 12, which is when most FGM happens.

The surgery is not wrong because you can remember it. Age of imposition is as irrelevant as gender in understanding that medically unnecessary genital surgery on a non-consenting individual is a violation of basic human rights. Those rights are inherent at birth, not when the child reaches 2 days, 9 days, or 10 years old.

¹ Elective vaginoplasty in America is the easiest comparison, but there are examples in countries where FGM is common. I’ll agree that if you want to argue that those women are influenced by cultural pressure, but I’ll argue the same holds true for male circumcision in America. People do many stupid things for reasons directly contradicted by evidence proving otherwise.

He’s a Knight? He should only be allowed to ride a horse.

The article says this idea won’t go anywhere, but it’s a suggestion to the EU, so I wouldn’t quite discount it so quickly:

The former head of Royal Dutch Shell has gone way out on a limb and urged the European Union to ban all vehicles that get less than 35 mpg, saying it is the only way to significantly address global climate change and force the auto industry to build more efficient vehicles.

Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, who spent his career working for the giant oil company, says an outright ban is needed because so-called “gas-guzzler” taxes do not work – and aren’t fair because they let those with the means to pay them skirt responsibility for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Gas guzzler taxes are only ineffective – permitting “those with the means to pay skirt responsibility for reducing greenhouse gas emissions – to the extent that politicians direct those gas guzzler taxes to the general fund to pay for expenditures not related to reducing the effects of greenhouse gases. The fault does not rest with those who pay the tax.

“‘It is a social thing,” he explained. “We mustn’t say the wealthy can avoid doing what is needed by society. When we eliminated coal fires in London we didn’t say to people in Chelsea you can pay a bit more and toast your crumpets in front of an open fire. We we [sic] nobody, but nobody, could have an open fire.”

Moody-Stuart, who is currently chairman of the mining group Anglo American, says he is a great fan of the free market, “but like most things, they have a failing. Without regulation to channel their power, markets will not deliver things which are of no immediate benefit to the individual making his or her choice, even though they may be beneficial to society.”

We all know who gets to decide what is (allegedly) needed by society.

And of course Moody-Stuart is a “great fan of the free market”, but it’s just not quite right. Some human needs to be the guiding hand rather than the invisible hand. The PC? When that showed up, Altair IBM sold 70 billion PCs the first year because they knew it would sere an immediate benefit. The iPod? When that showed up, Apple sold 98 billion of them in the first 3 weeks. The incandescent fluorescent light bulb? Don’t even get me started on those ridiculous sales when the government regulator gave Edison the idea.

Every time one of these imbeciles opens his mouth, I wonder if he’s ever opened a book.

Will Doctor Corps be voluntary?

Kevin, M.D. makes a key point today in the discussion about the reality of implementing universal/single-payer health care in the United States:

2) My take on Massachusetts’ Commonwealth Care considering cutting physician reimbursements: it demonstrates a profound of lack of insight by the politicians trying to fix health care. Unbelievably, this plan proposes year-to-year reimbursement increases that lag even Medicaid. Good luck finding any doctor accepting Commonwealth Care, once again making universal coverage useless without physician access.

Since the laws of economics cannot be altered, the only long-term solutions to the inevitable physician shortage from socialized medicine are forced-service or higher taxes to provide physicians with reimbursements close enough to a market wage for these intelligent, skilled individuals to choose to remain in medicine. Since the former solution requires either a violation or revocation of the 13th Amendment, I’m guessing politicians will rely on the latter. (Not a given, though.) That leaves only the latter, higher taxes. Inevitably, some politician(s) will suggest imposing user fees on patients (i.e. taxpayers), but that only begs the question of why not leave the entire system to the market to more efficiently and effectively allocate limited resources. Neither ignorance is justifiable as policy.

When politicians offer their rainbows and puppies version of single-payer financing, they lie.

Four commas times three is madness.

Check in on any political blog today and you’ll see mention of President Bush’s proposed budget for FY2009 (which starts Oct. 1st). Much of the attack has already been made in better detail, so, other than pointing out that 3 trillion dollars is $3,000,000,000,000, the only budgetary point I’m going to mention is this:

The document also assumes $70 billion in costs for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars next year, a fraction of the true costs, which could reach $200 billion in 2008. Beyond 2009, the budget includes no war costs at all.

Lying, in addition to not being very Christian, is an interesting way of “supporting the troops”. I wonder if he’s trying to be snarky to indicate what he expects will happen if Obama or Clinton wins in November. That would require more foresight and less middle-finger-waving than the Bush administration has shown in the last seven years, so I doubt it. Regardless, it’s a significant political abuse of our money to ignore what will eventually be taken from us.

However, as awful as that is, this poor reporting from the article is embarrassing (emphasis mine).

Budget analysts and Democrats say the good news in later year is likely illusory. The Bush budget plan makes room for $61 billion in 2009 to stop the growth of the alternative minimum tax, a parallel tax system enacted in 1969 to make sure the rich pay income tax that is increasingly squeezing the middle class. The cost of an AMT fix will continue to grow each year, but the budget makes no more allowances for the cost of that fix.

This is simply devoid of any historical accuracy.

Why Was the AMT Enacted?
Congress enacted the AMT in 1969 following testimony by the Secretary of the Treasury that 155 people with adjusted gross income above $200,000 had paid zero federal income tax on their 1967 tax returns. … In inflation-adjusted terms, those 1967 incomes would be roughly $1.17 million in today’s [ed. note: the article is from May 2005] dollars.

The Washington Post article can’t believe that 155 people in 1969 constituted “the rich”. Details matter with the AMT because its egregiousness becomes more apparent to the typical voter who doesn’t dwell on such details. The goal in reporting is not to convince him that it is egregious, but omitting specifics deprives him of a relevant fact necessary for him to reach an informed conclusion. Omitting specifics becomes a method for endorsing the policy. Maybe we can’t expect the average voter to seek out The Tax Foundation, but presumably he does read a mass-market source of information.

Also, while I agree with concern that the AMT is “squeezing” the middle class, it’s irrational to believe that we should fix “middle class” rather than “squeezing”. See here.

I don’t know which post I like better.

Two excellent posts from Cato@Liberty. First, Michael Tanner provides an update on how well RomneyCare is working in Massachusetts.

Faced with rising costs that threaten to put the program $150–400 million per year over budget, the Massachusetts Connector Authority is now adopting a number of changes to RomneyCare. They include:

  1. Pressuring insurers not to increase premiums (ie. premium caps).
  2. Ordering insurers to cut reimbursements to hospitals and physicians by 3–5 percent.
  3. Reduce the choices available to consumers.

It seems that in the fight between economics and political dreams, economics wins. <sarcasm>How shocking.</sarcasm>

Second, Jim Harper discusses an issue separating Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama with implications far beyond the purported scope of what’s barely been discussed.

Senators Barack Obama (D-IL) and Hillary Clinton (D-NY) disagree quite starkly on whether illegal immigrants should be licensed — or, more accurately, on whether driver licensing and proof of immigration status should be linked.

The right answer here isn’t obvious, but it is important.

Many people believe that illegal immigrants shouldn’t be “rewarded” with drivers’ licenses. Fair enough: the rule of law is important. There’s also a theory that denying illegal immigrants “benefits” like driver licensing will make the country inhospitable enough that they will leave. This has not borne out, however. Denying illegal immigrants licenses has merely caused unlicensed and untrained driving, with the hit-and-run accidents and higher insurance rates that flow from that.

The major reason, though, why I agree with Senator Obama is because the linking of driver licensing and immigration status is part of the move to convert the driver’s license into a national ID card. Mission-creep at the country’s DMVs is not just causing growth in one of the least-liked bureaucracies. It’s creating the infrastructure for direct regulatory control of individuals by the federal government.

I agree with this. As a libertarian concern about unintended consequences drives some of my disdain for anything more than limited government. But as a libertarian who understands a little about history and tyrants, concern about intended consequences drives me more. Stupidity in government is bad. Evil in government is worse. Any politician who supports a national ID system is evil and must be stopped from enacting his or her plans.

“It is a Redskins day, baby.”

Remember this?

A player should be judged on the merits of his accomplishments against those of his contemporaries, not against those who come after him. This is the same situation happening to Art Monk, who spent most of his 15+ years with the Washington Redskins. In 1992, he became the NFL’s All-time Receptions leader, passing Steve Largent. All-time leader. Monk was none too shabby compared to his contemporaries.

… Monk waits for the Hall of Fame call that won’t ring. As for Largent? His career resides in the Hall of Fame.

That call that won’t ring? It rang today for the first man ever to catch 100 passes in a single season. (It also rang for a worthy first-time candidate.):

It was a Hall of Fame day for the Washington Redskins, with Art Monk and Darrell Green elected to the shrine Saturday.

Image from

I already have my tickets for the induction ceremony.

Watch them lead the dog’s tail.

I have two issues with this beyond the obvious fact that it involves an economic stimulus package that will only stimulate inflation, debt, and tax increases:

Senate Democratic leaders yesterday put off an expected showdown over an economic stimulus plan until next week, worrying that the absence of Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) could doom efforts to force changes to the package fashioned by House leaders and President Bush.

“I still have two Democratic senators” on the campaign trail, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said. “Next Tuesday is Super Tuesday, and they’re both very busy, as is Senator [John] McCain. So I probably can’t get them back here until Monday, but I need them back.”

Point the first: They’re sitting United States Senators, being paid by the citizens of the United States for a job they are clearly ignoring. They are not being paid to campaign for their next job. If the economic stimulus package is so important and two Senators running for president can’t be bothered to put their paid job before their ambitions, they’re not people any sane person should want in a position of power.

(We may be getting a bonus that they’re derelict in their duty because the economic stimulus package is irrelevant to economic growth and a waste of future taxpayer money. That’s the rare positive unintended consequence from government and politicians. The cynic in me realizes the delay means more time to lard the final bill.)

Point the second: Senators Obama and Clinton have had years in office to be involved with important changes. They could’ve stepped up and sponsored a bill to end the noxious discrimination of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. But Obama hasn’t. Clinton hasn’t. Why should I trust either to lead now?

While Obama’s answer is typical politician lying through omission, Clinton’s answer in the linked video is particularly repugnant. Does she honestly believe that the ability of a repeal to pass the approval of a Republican Congress and President matters to the validity of the underlying principle? The proper response to bigotry and ignorance is to expose them, not cower in their presence. Force the issue as many times as it takes. Pandering only demonstrates an unwillingness to lead in potentially uncomfortable situations.

Dereliction and pandering. It’s shameful that a major party can’t nominate anyone better than Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

All Your Problems Are Belong To Us

A sane person barely trusts politicians to perform their limited, legitimate duties. No sane person could possibly believe that expanding their power beyond that small scope is anything but a terrible idea.

With that in mind, Sen. Arlen Specter has a stunning belief in the government’s boundaries, even by politician standards. He wants an explanation from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on why the NFL destroyed the Spygate tapes.

“That requires an explanation,” Specter told The [New York] Times. “The NFL has a very preferred status in our country with their antitrust exemption. The American people are entitled to be sure about the integrity of the game. It’s analogous to the CIA destruction of tapes, or any time you have records destroyed.”

The destruction of tapes proving that a football team cheated against another football team is analogous to the government’s destruction of tapes proving that it tortures prisoners. I can’t possibly give that any further boost. Sen. Specter forced the fullest possible amount of grotesqueness into this conversation.

He went on to say:

“I don’t think you have to have a law broken to have a legitimate interest by the Congress on the integrity of the game … What if there was something on the tapes we might want to be subpoenaed, for example? You can’t destroy it. That would be obstruction of justice,” Specter said to The Times.

If violation of the law (even illegitimate laws) need not be the criteria, is it reasonable to assume that we’ll soon have an anti-tape destruction bill zipping through Congress to prevent Joe in Milwaukee from destroying his tapes of that night in Tijuana where he got just a wee bit tipsy and took pictures of himself giggling at the window displays advertising drugs that aren’t legally sold over the counter in the United States. I imagine such a bill would garner 97 votes¹ in the Senate and 434 votes² in the House, just as soon as the economic stimulus package passes.

Anyone else think this is grounds to remove Specter from office? He hasn’t broken any law, but he’s clearly not mentally capable of carrying out the duties of a United States Senator.

¹ Senators McCain, Obama, and Clinton are too busy to do their jobs vote.

² Ron Paul will vote against it, although he will stuff it full of pork for his constituents. But he’ll vote against it, so that makes it okay.