I spent $34 to fill my car’s gas tank.

I have about $15 free to spend on other things now that I wouldn’t have had in August. I should be punished because I now have money that Shell should have. Wouldn’t Shell be justified in demanding a tax on that windfall gain, if we’re to believe politicians (i.e. economic illiterates)?

I assume Shell would demand the proceeds of that tax rather than the more generous gesture consistently implied by The People’s representatives, which is that the Treasury can keep the punishment for the brazen theft from consumers perpetuated by the greedy capitalist oil companies. They are greedy capitalists, after all.

Finland should legalize honor killings, too, since the individual doesn’t matter.

I don’t know the intricacies of Finnish law. I don’t need to know them to know that this is obscene.

A circumcision performed on a Muslim boy in Finland was not a penal offence, Finland’s Supreme Court (KKO) decided Friday in a precedent setting case.

However, according to the Supreme Court a circumcision done for religious reasons helped the son in the development of his identity. The operation also helped him to become attached to his religious and social community.

How does the court know it helped him in his identity? What they mean is that they assume it will help him develop his identity as a Muslim because Muslim’s circumcise. That is an appeal to subjugating the individual to the group. It is anti-liberty. At some point, preferably sooner, tradition must be analyzed for what it is, not how long it has been around, or which non-legally-binding books demand it.

It gets much, much worse:

The court decided that the child’s parent was allowed to decide on the operation as it was not against the interests of the child. The boy’s bodily integrity was violated only a little and as the operation was conducted under local anaesthetic, it did not cause the child unnecessary suffering.

Why not say it’s okay to rape women, as long as the rapist wears a condom? I mean, it’s not like he’ll get her pregnant or give her a disease. It only violates her bodily integrity a little. Some counseling, a bit of time, and voila, the problem disappears.

Just like circumcision only removes a few thousand nerve endings and some tissue. So what if he’s healthy and surgery imposes objective risks. He¹ will be thankful, as long as his parents’ subjective opinion demands it. It’s minor, really. It’s not for the individual to complain. It’s merely his body, and what is that, really?

The only valid precedent set by the Finnish Supreme Court is that its judges are insane anti-liberty cretins. Demonstrated by Finland’s existing prohibition on female genital mutilation, they’re also disgusting hypocrites.

¹ Or she? Her opinion is also irrelevant, subject to whatever whim her parents hold, right?

Which Atlas Shrugged character is he?

I’ve been wrapped up in playoff baseball for the majority of the last three weeks. Much of the world is passing through my filter with scant attention. But Senator Obama managed to poke through that filter with a loooooong commercial about taxes. I sat dumbfounded through the second minute because I couldn’t believe he’d use such an obvious pander. From the ad:

On taxes, John McCain and I have very different ideas. Instead of giving hundreds of billions in new tax breaks to big corporations and oil companies, I’ll cut taxes for small and startup businesses that are the backbone of our economy.

Instead of more tax breaks for corporations that outsource American jobs, I’ll give them to companies who create jobs here. Instead of extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest — I’ll focus on you.

If he is speaking to all Americans, as he clearly wants us to believe, who are the non-“you” taxpayers he is speaking about rather than to? Has there ever been a clumsier example of creating a “Them” for “Us” to despise?

Senator Obama may think he can pass off his class warfare bribe as an enlightened, good-for-society measure. Given the unthinking, partisan nature of much of America, he’ll probably pull it off with his half of the electorate. That does not change the undeniable fact that there is a group – consisting of “all men are created equal” Americans – he thinks he can harm because a) they have something he wants and b) they’re a minority of the population to be demagogued into submission. How very progressive.

Seeking help from the Benevolent Giver of Rescue

I sent a letter to my Congressman today.

Congressman Davis:

I write to you with a heart and mind burdened by disillusionment with capitalism. I’ve plodded along for years, just being a good American. I pay my bills on time. I go to work every day. I own a home. I vote. I do my part.

Recently, I decided to improve my life just a little bit, adding a simple pleasure to my leisure time. I purchased a new computer (stimulating the economy!) with a Blu-ray drive. I now have better picture quality when watching movies. God bless America and her bounty.

But, and this is a surprise to me because I expected everyone else who shares this country to have the same understanding that each person’s actions affect the common good, but they don’t. The evil CEO at Netflix is being so very greedy, it’s disgusting. As I’m sure you know, Netflix raised its monthly membership fee by $1 for users who want Blu-ray rentals. They are picking my pocket. I want Blu-ray on my membership, but it should be free. I know you agree.

I have not budgeted for an extra dollar in my membership fee. When I signed up, I said to myself, “Self, $14.99 is the limit. And you will have Blu-ray access.” Now imagine my displeasure to learn that I can’t have what I want for the price I deserve. I know you share my displeasure. How much deprivation do they think is appropriate? I say none! I need to be rescued so that I don’t have to cancel my membership. So, I ask: what will you do for me?

Direct deposit would be nice, but I’ll accept a check each month. Just think, it’ll help the post office, so I can see the logic. I’m willing to accept that little extra inconvenience for myself if it’ll benefit the greater good. The obscene $1 hike doesn’t happen until November, so there is just enough time to pass legislation in the Congress so that my $1 arrives in a timely manner.

Also, I know there are millions of other people affected by this price-gouging. Just think, if there are 1 million people who must now pay an extra dollar each month, that is $1,000,000 of windfall profits for a service that should be free. Each month. That’s $12,000,000 per year. And I bet the number is higher. That can’t stand. We need a tax on windfall DVD rental profits!

Thank you for your serious consideration. Please do not let the DVD rental market seize up. I await your reply.


I urge you to do the same on this matter of national urgency.

Blue is the new professionalism?

Via Amy Alkon, I see that TSA has new uniforms. (Conveniently unveiled on September 11th. Symbolism, woohoo!) I have no doubt this will improve the airport security experience. It says so right on the website. Click on What’s Behind the Uniform and you’ll be treated to exciting claims. For example:


TSA is revamping the checkpoint process and relying on more personal interaction to detect suspicious behavior. Training officers to increase one-on-one passenger interaction will foster a calmer, quieter environment that will result in a better experience for travelers and increased security.

Should I assume that the gaggle of TSA officers who attempted to bully me last month for exercising my rights hadn’t undergone the new training yet? Will new uniforms enable them to foster a calmer, quieter environment that doesn’t include 7 attentive thugs blocking the line for all passengers and patronizing me that their thuggery is somehow making us safer? Have they been corrected to understand that personal interaction that ends with me exercising my rights does not, in fact, mean that I have engaged in suspicious behavior in need of detecting?

I’m not counting on it.

If you lie down with communists, you wake up without rights.

Now this is an issue, as we reach the closing ceremonies?

Ambassador Clark T. Randt Jr. pressed the Chinese government on Saturday to immediately release the Americans, the statement said. U.S. officials would continue to raise concerns about the detentions with senior Chinese officials, it said.

“We are disappointed that China has not used the occasion of the Olympics to demonstrate greater tolerance and openness,” the statement said.

It urged China to show respect for human rights, freedom of speech and religion.

It is a savage view that believes the best individuals should hope for is to be tolerated by a government.

The blunt criticism came just hours before the end of the Games, which have largely followed the plan of China’s leaders for a smooth-running event that would increase the country’s international prestige.

And the world played the willing dupe, despite the Communist government’s well-known lack of respect for human rights. Somehow, participating in the games would convince the rights-abridging propagandists to not be rights-abridging propagandists?

Under pressure to address human rights and free speech concerns, China said it would allow protests during the Games in three designated areas. But none of the more than 70 applications to demonstrate was approved, and some people were arrested as they sought the permits, rights groups and relatives said.

“We found it unusual that none of these applications have come through,” [IOC president Jacques] Rogge said at a news conference Sunday.

Unusual? What part of rights-abridging propagandist makes arresting people seeking permits to protest – an infringement on at least two rights – in any way unusual or unpredictable?

Similar thoughts at A Stitch in Haste.

Overheard in the Supermarket

Standing in the express aisle at the supermarket buying my lunch today, the gentleman two customers in front of me purchased a bottle of wine. The cashier confused him when she asked for identification. Understandably, since he appeared to be pushing fifty. To help him the customer between us helped him by telling him “it’s a new state law” that everyone must be asked to verify his or her age when buying alcohol. His response? “Oh, that’s a good thing. That way kids can’t buy alcohol.”

Ehhhhhhhh. A small child could figure out that this gentleman was old enough to buy alcohol. It is objectively stupid to require the cashier to verify the obvious. It wasted the customer’s time. It wasted the cashier’s time. The customer between us? Wasted time. Me? Wasted time. All of this theater for no improvement in alcohol safety, even if we grant that as a legitimate government function. We have the appearance of responsibility to remind us that we’re good and nothing else.

The worst part of this is that this requirement is not state law (yet), at least as far as I’m aware. I believe it is only a policy of the grocery store. This says only that “No person shall … sell any alcoholic beverages to any person when at the time of such sale he knows or has reason to believe that the person to whom the sale is made is (i) less than twenty-one years of age…”. Anyone staffed in a position to operate a cash register is probably intelligent enough to understand that she has no reason to believe that a man who looks fifty is not less than twenty-one years of age. No matter. We’re now trained to assume that everything the government does is correct and good. Think of the children, except don’t actually think. You might figure out that you can function without a firm hand forcing you.


In case parents are too stupid to understand how to teach their children alcohol responsibility, the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control offers an insulting guide to Virginia Alcohol Laws and Parental Responsibility. It includes 10 tips for hosting an alcohol-free party because there’s no way you could responsibly include alcohol in a setting with children because they are incapable of learning responsibility through modeling responsible behavior. You must treat your 10-year-old son and your 20-year-old daughter the same.

There is no do-over in surgery.

I’m still catching up on some of the circumcision-related news items form the last few weeks. Sometimes, I step away from the topic for short periods to recharge my tolerance for the inevitable frustration that arises when considering the various ways the rights of the circumcised are ignored, and the manner in which every breathless proclamation seems to instill even more determination that every male will just love being surgically altered shortly after birth. Stepping away eliminates reduces the number of verbal tirades I feel compelled to unleash. I always come back, though.

This story, forwarded to me by a loyal reader who forwards me useful material that I too often fail to translate into entries, is worth mentioning. Now that I’m looking, I can find a few references to it, but most media seems to have ignored it. Probably because it directly challenges the cheerleading for infant circumcision in the recent past. Anyway, the gist:

A quarter of a century after the outbreak of Aids, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has accepted that the threat of a global heterosexual pandemic has disappeared.

In the first official admission that the universal prevention strategy promoted by the major Aids organisations may have been misdirected, Kevin de Cock, the head of the WHO’s department of HIV/Aids said there will be no generalised epidemic of Aids in the heterosexual population outside Africa.

This is the appropriate point to remind everyone – the unethical scientists at WHO specifically – that the recent research we’ve been bombarded with repeatedly for the last two years suggests that voluntary, adult male circumcision reduces the risk of HIV transmission from female-to-male through heterosexual intercourse. Those infants who’ve been circumcised in the mad rush to embrace fear unsupported by at least the anecdotal evidence any mildly observant individual in a Western society could pick up? Ooops. But, hey, women will dig it, so there’s that.

In case you think this might cause the media to apply any critical thinking to the way they’ve reported on circumcision, fret not, they’re fully prepared to let you down if you get optimistic. In the same article, this:

Critics of the global Aids strategy complain that vast sums are being spent educating people about the disease who are not at risk, when a far bigger impact could be achieved by targeting high-risk groups and focusing on interventions known to work, such as circumcision, which cuts the risk of infection by 60 per cent, and reducing the number of sexual partners.

Interventions known to work. Process that for a moment. It’s known to work¹ at reducing the risk of HIV transmission from female-to-male through heterosexual intercourse! Isn’t the point of this story to report on the possible exaggeration of an epidemic among heterosexuals? I can imagine the editorial review of this article. “Everyone, shake your pom poms with me. Give me a “C”! Give me an “I”! Give me an “R”! Give me a “C”!

I won’t put it in print, but I’m swearing right now.

¹ There is room to debate this, primarily on methodology. Another time, perhaps.

Beware: The vegetables are out to kill you!

How many times do we have to go through foodborne illnesses, with vegetables blamed as the cause rather than carrier, before someone with a national forum finally speaks the truth and tells people to stop being stupid? Once again a vegetable is tainted with harmful bacteria – this time, tomatoes and salmonella, respectively – and the reaction is to blame the vegetable and act stupid. For example:

Restaurants are removing tomato slices from sandwiches and grocery stores are plucking red plum tomatoes from their produce aisles following a nationwide alert that raw tomatoes may have infected scores of people with a rare form of salmonella.

Of course that’s a reasonable response because tomato slices are served raw, which allows the bacteria to survive. But how does that then lead to this?

Salmonella is more frequently associated with poultry, which carry the bacteria. But produce is increasingly a vehicle for salmonella infection as well. Scientists and public-health experts don’t completely understand how pathogens contaminate produce. …

Don’t completely understand? Fine, but are they aware of the link? Let’s see how the paragraph continues:

… The bacteria can be found in animal feces, which can spread through contaminated water, manure or improper handling. It can enter tomatoes through the roots or flowers, or through cracks in the skin of the fruit or the stem scar. Once inside, the microbe is hard to kill without cooking. Tomatoes have been linked to 13 outbreaks of salmonella since 1990, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington advocacy group.

Holy smokes! Who would’ve guessed that? Too bad we don’t have any prior evidence to suggest that animal agriculture is the cause. Blame the vegetables! Except, that’s irrational. We have prior evidence of salmonella contamination, as well as evidence involving E. coli that suggests this exact link:

The likely source of an E. coli outbreak in spinach that killed three people and sickened more than 200 was a small cattle ranch about 50 kilometres from California’s central coastline, state and federal officials said Friday as they concluded their investigation.

They found E. coli “indistinguishable from the outbreak strain” in river water, cattle feces, and wild pig feces on the ranch about a kilometre from the spinach fields, the California Department of Health Services and U.S. Food and Drug Administration said in a joint report.

Let’s continue burying that in the story, though. Meat is fine because it should be cooked. I, dirty hippie that I am, with my “natural” foods, I need to be careful because that will kill me. And, anyway, I’m not getting enough protein, so who am I to tell anyone else what is and is not the cause of anything to do with food?

Thankfully, with our main course of ignorance, we’ll get a heaping side dish consisting of rent-seeking regulation:

Consumer advocates and produce trade groups say fresh produce needs mandatory safety standards. Currently, growers follow voluntary guidelines issued by the FDA.

Lovely. Our existing animal agriculture safety regulations are followed so closely that vegetables regularly become contaminated. But, if we just regulate the vegetables enough, we’ll all be safe. That’s a brilliant line of thinking.

Or I could just mutter “barriers to entry” and end this entry.

Advocating logic is undesirable, like practicing unsafe sex and sexually assaulting women.

Still catching up from the last two weeks, this was in the first draft of my last entry. It got a bit too long, so it became a stand-alone entry.

Via Andrew Sullivan, this quote from UNAIDS on travel restrictions placed on HIV-positive individuals by the United States (pdf):

UNAIDS recognizes that States impose immigration and visa restrictions as a valid exercise of their national sovereignty. However, in imposing any restrictions on entry and stay relating to HIV or health, UNAIDS calls upon States to adopt non-discriminatory laws and regulations which rationally achieve valid objectives through the least restrictive means possible.

UNAIDS would like to take this opportunity to reiterate that HIV-related travel restrictions have no public health justification. It is also our view that, where such restrictions are based on HIV status alone, they are discriminatory. There is no need to single out HIV for specific consideration as an exclusion criterion. …

Etc, etc. Exactly how much hypocrisy is allowed before principled becomes merely a mish-mash of preferred outcomes? How long ago did UNAIDS pass that point? A non-discriminatory recognition of human rights would be an excellent start, as opposed to something like this (pdf):

7.3 Since neonatal circumcision is a less complicated and risky procedure than circumcision performed in young boys, adolescents or adults, such countries should consider how to promote neonatal circumcision in a safe, culturally acceptable and sustainable manner.

Now compare with this, from the same link:

The message that male circumcision is very different from female genital mutilation also needs to be emphasized.

Or this:

Female genital mutilation, also called female genital cutting and female genital mutilation/cutting, violates the rights of women and girls to health, protection and even life as the procedure sometimes results in death.

Which can be said about male genital cutting. Still, UNAIDS doesn’t discriminate because it puts this in its report on “Safe, Voluntary, Informed Male Circumcision and Comprehensive HIV Prevention Programming” pdf:

Governments that introduce or expand services for male circumcision will have a responsibility to
launch public health campaigns that:

(iii) emphasize the voluntariness of male circumcision;

(iv) clearly distinguish male circumcision from female genital mutilation, which is a violation of the human rights of women and girls, is illegal in most countries where it still takes place, has no health benefits and carries considerable physical and psychosocial risks for girls and women;

The male genital cutting UNAIDS pushes is hardly voluntary, which makes it a violation of the human rights of men and boys. But we can’t say that because then we’d have to question what’s been done to so many. Instead, UNAIDS needs to silence criticism by drawing odd, strained attention to only the outcomes that fit its narrative. (It is hardly alone in this, of course.) For example:

How is male circumcision different from female genital mutilation?

While both male circumcision and female genital mutilation are steeped in culture and tradition, the health consequences of each are drastically different. Female genital cutting or mutilation comprises all surgical procedures involving partial or total removal of the external genitalia (type I) or other injuries to the female genital organs. …

And on it goes, willfully missing the obvious truth that the more than one million cases of “voluntary” male genital cutting or mutilation performed each year on infant males in the United States comprise surgical procedures involving partial or total removal of the external genitalia or other injuries to the male genital organs. The inherent human right to be free from that without consent does not disappear simply because cutting a boy’s genitals might reduce his risk of HIV in the future if he has unprotected sex with an HIV-positive female.

Infant male circumcision: ethical, legal and human rights considerations

Studies have shown that the circumcision of infants is simpler and carries fewer medical risks than circumcision of older people. Parents considering circumcision of an infant boy should be provided with all the facts so they can determine the best interest of the child. In these cases, determining the best interests of the child should include diverse factors—the positive and negative health, religious, cultural and social benefits. Because the HIV-related benefits of circumcision only arise in the context of sexual activity, and because male circumcision is an irreversible procedure, parents may consider that the child should be given the option to decide for himself when he has the capacity to do so.

And given the irreversible nature of circumcision, what happens when a male decides that having his normal, healthy foreskin would be in his best interests? Setting aside the topic of (potential) health benefits for the moment, parents may argue for positive religious, cultural, and social benefits for female genital cutting. UNAIDS recognizes that none of those are legitimate, so it rightly dismisses them. Yet, because it’s a penis, those same religious, cultural, and social benefits, as determined dictated by the parents suddenly matter? No.

So, yeah, UNAIDS is right on the U.S. denial of entry to HIV-positive individuals. But UNAIDS does not practice what it preaches.

Post Script: See the section of the report titled “Protecting Women in the Context of Male Circumcision” for an understanding of this entry’s title.