Just a reminder…

As always, when public health officials talk about voluntary, adult male circumcision, they never mean voluntary or adult.

THE Ministry of Health is targeting to have over 100 000 men circumcised in three years time, Minister Benedict Xaba told senators at the weekend.

Presently, only 4 370 men have been circumcised. “The policy and strategy for male circumcision have been passed by cabinet. Together with partners such as FLAS (Family Life Association of Swaziland) and PSI (Population Services International), we are scaling up the programme so that even infants – 30 000 are targeted- would be circumcised. [emphasis added]

It’s easy to meet a numerical target when the recipients can’t opt-out of your scheme. This makes me angry, of course. But it gets better:

“Mobilisation in communities has already been done such that chiefs are now sensitised about it. This programme is well funded by PEPFAR.”

My government, instituted to protect natural human rights, didn’t protect mine when I was born and now it takes my money and uses it to fund others who will violate those same natural rights of children born today.

Expect the Unexpected: Revisited

Our political obsession with identifying Others is potentially as dangerous as it is offensive. Safety is a legitimate role for the government, to the extent it can reasonably be achieved. But we need to uncover the psychopaths (or related variants) who would be murderers, regardless of skin color. Racial profiling is the appearance of safety for political cover. With this week’s news about Colleen Renee LaRose, the Philadelphia woman (Image) suspected of recruiting for terrorist organizations, I want to repost an entry I wrote almost five years ago.


With a new terrorist threat to the New York subway system gripping the nation, the blogosphere is abuzz. I obviously share everyone’s concern and want our police and security forces to thwart any (potentially) forthcoming attacks. In an effort to accomplish this, the debate seems to descend to an argument simple profiling. When the constitutionality of profiling inevitably arises, the proponent either responds with some variation of “Constitution be damned” or “random” searches. New York implemented a random search policy for backpacks, which was incomplete, at best. (ed. note: Dead links omitted.) Yet, the proponents of profiling continue to advocate ineffective policies. Consider this from La Shawn Barber, who writes extensively and credibly about the threat of terrorism:

Will Islamofascists bomb the NYC subway? Is it all just a rumor? Your guess is as good as the government s. Flip a coin. Draw a straw. Throw it against a wall and see if it sticks.

Are they still searching little old ladies and skipping young men of Middle Eastern descent because it would be racist to search them? Probably.

It would be racist but I’m not against if for that reason. Immediate threats to safety must shake the debate from simple intellectual discourse. But within that intellectual discourse, reason can provide insight into how such a policy could fail, and fail miserably.

I don’t normally agree with Michelle Malkin on much, as evidenced by the posts here where I’ve referenced her blog. But with her reporting on last weekend’s suicide bomber in Oklahoma, she’s doing excellent work highlighting deeper facts in the case. There are indications that the bomber, Joel Henry Hinrichs III, was a Muslim. He attended a local mosque in Norman, OK. His Pakistani roommate hasn’t been heard from since the bombing. Mr. Hinrichs’ bomb included TATP, an explosive compound not commonly used in America, but popular with terrorists. He tried to purchase a large amount of ammonium nitrate. On Saturday, he apparently tried to enter the stadium during the Oklahoma football game before settling on the bench where he blew himself up (intentionally or unintentionally). Etc. I don’t know what story these and other facts will eventually tell, but it seems clear that there is more to the story than just some depressed guy commiting suicide. While I’m not ready to declare this an Islamofascist suicide bombing on American soil, the details of this case should be pursued.

This case also highlights the ineffectiveness of racial profiling in our attempt to prevent further terrorism. Click this picture of Mr. Hinrichs. (Image Source) Ignore the beard; a roommate of mine in college had a beard like that and he was no terrorist, unless you count accidentally killing fish when his hydroponic fish tank failed. So let me ask the obvious question. Say Mr. Hinrichs had tried to bomb the New York subway. Would racial profiling for “young men of Middle Eastern descent” have caught him? Is it reasonable to assume that if we rely on racial profiling, terrorists will switch tactics to include racial (and gender) profiles we’re not looking for?

Grace, go to bed. You obviously have had a very busy day of crazy.¹

Here’s actress Debra Messing testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health in her role as an ambassador for PSI, asking for more federal tax dollars to support “voluntary, adult” male circumcision in Africa (emphasis added):

… I would like to tell you today about two prevention tools that could make a difference if there is continued investment: male circumcision and HIV testing and counseling.

First, voluntary adult male circumcision. There is now strong evidence that male circumcision reduces the risk of heterosexually acquired HIV infection in men by about 60 percent, yet only about one in ten Zimbabwean adult men are circumcised. PSI and its partners run circumcision clinics in Zimbabwe and other countries, with support from PEPFAR and other donors.

I was invited to observe the procedure, which is free to the client, completely voluntary and according to the young man I spoke with who underwent the procedure, painless. The cost of the procedure at that clinic—including follow-up care and counseling—is about $40 U.S. dollars.

UNAIDS and the World Health Organization have issued guidance stating that male circumcision should be recognized as an important intervention to reduce the risk of heterosexually acquired HIV infection in men.

Even with no demand creation, the clinic I visited serves upwards of 35 clients per day. It is estimated that if male circumcision is scaled up to reach 80 percent of adult and newborn males in Zimbabwe by 2015, it could avert almost 750,000 adult HIV infections—that equals 40 percent of all new HIV infections that would have occurred otherwise without the intervention—and it could yield total net savings of $3.8 billion U.S. dollars between 2009 and 2025. Male circumcision programs get robust support from the U.S. government in Zimbabwe and other countries, but greater resources would yield greater results.

Always remember that when public health officials – or actresses – talk about voluntary, adult male circumcision, they never mean voluntary or adult.

¹ Title quote reference here.

(My) Marriage and the State

At The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, Jason Kuznicki asks questions about marriage under three scenarios. Two of those scenarios are relevant to me, and they’re interesting because they correlate closely with my personal life.

The first scenario:

1. The United States government, at both the state and federal levels, peacefully dissolves into anarchy. The functionaries all read David Friedman, agree with him, and close up shop. Are you still married? Or not?

My short answer is, “of course we’d still be married.”

My long answer is more complex. Danielle and I have been in a relationship since the latter half of 2003. More than six years later, we haven’t yet married, but we have a shared mortgage. That’s enough to me to signify my commitment that I’m not going anywhere. When we’ve talked about this, she’s agreed. Our relationship is what matters, not the approval of others.

In a bit of coincidental timing, we decided last week to get married. There was no traditional popping of The Question. It came up because of specific, values-based legal nonsense that makes it significantly cheaper – free versus many thousands of dollars – to have the state’s sanction. After discussing it in rational terms in our kitchen, we decided it’s time to jump through the state’s hoops.

The engagement will be short-lived, because we’ll be married soon. Neither of us wants a religious ceremony, so we have none of the time-constraining obstacles that involves. The courthouse will suffice. Packing family and friends traveling great distances into a courthouse for a “Do you? Yes. Do you? Yes.” ceremony seems rather much a waste of everyone’s time and resources. There will be plenty of time to celebrate, as if we haven’t done that by being committed for so long already.

Also, I’m not big on symbolism, in general, so adding the state’s approval means nothing. While I won’t get into the martyrdom of saying I won’t get married until everyone in my state commonwealth may enjoy their right, the fight for marriage as a way to be approved by the good opinion of others led to me evaluating state approval from minor into nothingness. If my neighbors – representing whatever boundary one wishes to draw and call the “state” – think they need their god’s judgment and blessing, that’s interesting. If they think I need their god’s judgment and blessing, and the discriminating hand of the state is the only way to achieve this, then I don’t think much of their god. And I won’t care about the state that enforces these subjective, unprovable rules.

As unromantic as it may appear, Danielle and I became married long ago through our choices, with no definitive anniversary date. The state had nothing to do with that. If it disappeared tomorrow, maybe we’d continue celebrating whatever the official wedding date turns out to be, but we’d continue on unchanged by its influence.

3. Your entire family, on both sides, and any children if you have them, all reach a consensus: You and your wife are all wrong for each other. They’re not going to recognize your marriage, no matter how happy you are, and regardless of how you conduct yourselves. Still married? Or not?

Again, my short answer is, “of course we’d still be married.”

My long answer depends on the opposite scenario. It’s the traditional story. After a couple has been together beyond the family’s opinion of long enough, the hints start appearing. Direct questions follow. If you still don’t marry, the pleas begin. Danielle and I reached the pleas some time ago.

Or, to be precise, I reached the pleas some time ago. As the man, I’m expected to take the traditional role. But I missed the script. Not intentionally or consciously. (Mostly not consciously, since I’m not oblivious.) I know and trust Danielle enough to reasonably expect her to say something if our relationship needed to change. Since she shares my opinion on marriage as well as two individuals probably can, especially when one of those people is me, she didn’t try to force anything when the hints or questions or badgering started. As unromantic as it seems to outsiders, since it doesn’t fit the frame inside which we’re supposed to place it, we decided together to get married, without a bended knee or a diamond.

Our families and friends had an image of how our relationship was supposed to develop. Speaking for myself, I never cared about that. Their validation (or revoked validation, in Jason’s scenario) is irrelevant to the extent that I’ll allow it to affect my behavior. They’re happy that we’re making it official, and that’s good, but it doesn’t sway my value of the state-sanctioned validation they sought for us compared to our voluntary choices and manner of expressing our relationship.