Talk About The Issue, Not Rush Limbaugh

I’m probably supposed to deal with this:

Limbaugh then elaborated on the reference to him in the lyric. “I would remind the rapper Jay-Z: Mr. Z, it is President Obama who wants mandated circumcision. That means if we need to save our penises from anybody, it’s Obama. I did not know I was on anybody’s balls, either. I’m happy to know that they think I am, though.” The mention of Obama is in reference to the fact that the Center for Disease Control is considering recommending circumcision to high-risk adult men to reduce the spread of HIV, according to The New York Times.

Rush Limbaugh is a hack using controversial buzzwords because he knows it will get him attention, which is all he wants. He’s a deejay, not a political thinker. Using his nonsense for political arguments on any side of any debate is stupid.

With that out of the way, Ed Brayton has a post in which he begins:

The record of demagoguery and lunacy from the right wing continues. The CDC is considering — just considering, mind you — adopting a policy to encourage — just encouraging, mind you — people to have their children circumcised on the grounds that it reduces the risk of disease. Run that through the silly straw prism of right wing spin and it magically becomes “Obama is going to force us all to cut off our genitals!”

Fine, fair enough. Again, Rush Limbaugh is a moron. But Mr. Brayton links to an article that unfairly maligns Ed Morrissey’s post about circumcision and the CDC’s potential recommendation that I used yesterday as a starting point for discussing single-payer and circumcision. Whatever other issues Mr. Morrissey may have in how he presents political arguments, he was correct in the suggestions of his piece. Any other interpretation is a failure by the reader to interpret his words using their common meanings. As he wrote:

Why should the CDC push circumcision at all? The government has no business being in the middle of that decision. Under ObamaCare, however, when the government starts paying more and more of the health-care tab, they will point to ambiguous cost savings down the road — in this and other cases, decades down the road — to pressure Americans into surrendering their choices now.

As I mentioned in my entry, he unnecessarily cluttered his argument with the term “ObamaCare,” but other than that, I can’t find anywhere he mentioned that the government would force circumcision on anyone. “Pressure” does not mean “force”. The writer at Salon directly, and Mr. Brayton indirectly, are undeniably wrong.

Yet, Mr. Brayton’s post generated this comment:

… While I think the net effect of such a policy would be detrimental, to equate it with forced circumcision is BAT SHIT INSANE. …

To equate a recommendation with forced circumcision is not BAT SHIT INSANE. I’ve written this several times over the last week, but it’s worth repeating here: For the circumcised male, why does he care whether circumcision is mandated by the government or merely by his parents? The result – forced circumcision – is the same for him. Eliminating the choice of a healthy child is the issue, not who forces the circumcision.

We can and should rebuke those like Limbaugh who offer absurd suggestions of government-mandated circumcision as a result of health care reform. It’s political nonsense intended to distract. But we mustn’t falsely accuse someone of making that argument who hasn’t, in fact, made the argument. Doing so is no less a distraction from the legitimate issues.


From another comment to the Ed Brayton post:

You can count on Limbaugh to say something stupid, but the Ed Morrissey quote is right. CDC guidelines are pressure on doctors and patients. They are supposed to be. The real problem with the Morrissey piece is the following:

“Why should the CDC push circumcision at all? The government has no business being in the middle of that decision.”

That is wrong. The point of the CDC is to study the spread of infectious disease and recommend the most effective ways to slow or stop the spread.

As Mr. Morrissey wrote in the paragraph before the one I excerpted above:

I’m neutral on the issue of circumcision, which has become a controversial practice, but find this idea of interventions very, very odd. In the first place, circumcision does not provide an immunity to STDs, not AIDS or anything else. Studies indicate that circumcised males may have less danger of acquiring an infection, but as the NYT points out, that’s from heterosexual relations — a very minor channel of AIDS communication in the US. Men have much better choices than circumcision for avoiding HIV infection, including the use of condoms (still not a perfect defense, but better than circumcision), refraining from intravenous drug use with shared needles, avoiding high-risk sexual practices altogether, and so on.

Any recommendation to circumcise infant males to reduce the risk of HIV is unethical because it encourages genital cutting on a healthy, non-consenting individual. It is also stupid. Infant males are not at risk of HIV now, and will be at little risk of the only type of transmission (female-to-male) that voluntary, adult male circumcision has been shown to reduce when they begin having sex, even if they do not use condoms, which no one is suggesting they may do after circumcision. Like WHO and UNAIDS, the CDC is considering recommending infant circumcision because they know such recommendations convince parents. If they were confident that men would embrace it, they’d focus on adult volunteers. They know that’s a dead-end for mass acceptance, so they recommend it for those who can’t say no. It is not force by government, but when told to a receptive audience acting on behalf of another, the difference is in tactic, not outcome.

2 thoughts on “Talk About The Issue, Not Rush Limbaugh”

  1. The CDC got so alarmed by all the palaver that they issued a disclaimer saying circumcision recommendations would be “completely voluntary”.
    Completely vooluntary. Who could argue with that? Certainly not Intactivists. We have always said that if a man wants to have the best part of his penis cut off, that’s his choice. (Hell, if he wants to cut the whole thing off – and some do! – that’s just Natural Selection at work.)
    So all I want to do is hold the CDC to their word, and accept nothing less than “completely voluntary” circumcision, which has to mean for adult men only.
    So as Charlton Heston might have said if he’d still had his, “You can take my foreskin from my cold, dead hands!” And yes, there is a bumpersticker, T-shirts to follow.

  2. Single payer really has nothing to do with the CDC and circumcision.
    Let’s suppose there’s an overall judgment that performing circumcisions lead to lower future health costs. Then why would private insurers encourage it any less than a public one? I would imagine that the private profit drive would be even stronger in a private company. In fact, why wouldn’t insurers charge lower rates for circumsized males? What an incentive for parents!
    You may say that there’s choice with respect to private insurers. That may be. But the infant has no part in that.
    There are obviously important problems involving liberty and public health care. But this is not one of them.
    Another thing about circumcisions, that I think people ought to know, is that the younger a Doctor is, the less they like performing them. There’s definitely a changing of the guard. Circumcision, as they see it, is a waste of time (and ethically dubious).

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