CIRCUMCISION WOES. So try this on for culturally sensitive size: Among the cheapest, easiest, and most effective strategies for reducing AIDS transmission in a populace is to circumcise the men. In South Africa, studies have shown that circumcised groups have transmission rates that are up to 60 percent lower than the average rate. The problem is how do you explain that while circumcision reduces risk, it doesn't end it? How do you keep it from becoming an excuse not to use condoms? How do you separate it from "female circumsions," a mutilating procedure with no known health benefits?
BLAME THE BLING?Juan Williamstakes up the "controversial" line that the real source of contemporary African-American poverty is not racism, but rap music -- specifically, "a culture steeped in bitterness and nihilism" which is "facing African American young people today." I always feel like claims of this sort don't get subjected to any of the sort of calm critical scrutiny that ought to accompany a thesis about serious big picture social trends. I mean, don't white kids listen to hip-hop, too? And isn't there a lot of bitterness and nihilism in the segments of teen popular culture that we don't associate with black people?
RIGHTWING RAPPROCHEMENT. For those who remain convinced that John McCain will prove unacceptable to the Republican base, news that McCain is increasingly locking up the support of Bush's loyalists and campaign operatives has to be rather disconcerting. These guys and gals, after all, won't want to hitch onto a losing horse so soon after being on the winning team, and their preferences and willingness to make common cause with an old enemy says something pretty profound about their estimation of McCain's primary chances.
LESSONS LEARNED. I've seen more than one blogger note the irony of Kenneth Pollack and Daniel Bynum concluding their very pessimistic assessment of Iraq with the sentiment that "How Iraq got to this point is now an issue for historians (and perhaps for voters in 2008); what matters today is how to move forward and prepare for the tremendous risks an Iraqi civil war poses for this critical region." I seem to recall something or other about a "threatening storm" playing a role and
The absurdities associated with copyright enforcement in the 21st century seem to be endless. The NYT had an article on another one this morning. Apparently publishers of sheet music are up in arms over guitar tablature sites. These are sites where guitarists pass along tips to each other on how to play particular songs. (I know nothing about guitar playing, so I welcome clarification.) The sheet music publishers argue that these sites, which are accessible at no charge, are a violation of their copyright for the sheet music and should be shut down.
WHO NEEDS A VACATION? Not the American people, apparently. Sustained time off of work is increasingly becoming a quirky memory, one of those strange traditions practiced by our superstitious ancestors:
The Conference Board, a private research group, found that at the start of the summer, 40 percent of consumers had no plans to take a vacation over the next six months � the lowest percentage recorded by the group in 28 years. A survey by the Gallup Organization in May based on telephone interviews with a national sample of 1,003 adults found that 43 percent of respondents had no summer vacation plans.
SALI SINKING. Not that anyone should care, but I have a new favorite midterm race. Courtesy of some folks at the palace of Grand Vizier Kos, I have come to develop great affection for the race in the First Congressional District of Idaho. Last week, Dick Cheney unlimbered his rhetorical firepower -- the only kind of firepower it is safe for him to unlimber, truth be told -- on behalf of Bill Sali, the Republican candidate running against Democratic hopeful Larry Grant.
THIS WEEK IN PANEL BALANCE. Classic Sunday chat show roundtable on ABC's "This Week" yesterday: George Will, Reuel Marc Gerecht, Fareed Zakaria, and Robin Wright. For those keeping score, that's a conservative, a neoconservative, a moderate conservative, and a straight news reporter. The subject was the fiasco of American strategy in the Middle East, however, and an elite consensus of outrage and despair on that subject is clearly beginning to emerge such that the ideological slant of the team didn't prevent the discussion from being, on the whole, fairly cogent and sober-minded.
Mortgage applications in 2006 are running at a pace that is about one-third lower than the year-round average for 2003. One-third fewer mortgages should mean that revenue is roughly one-third lower. This would presumably translate into a substantial drop in employment in the industry, but not according to the Washington Post.