Althouse | category: circumcision



an endless succession of beans and nuts.

"How Rod Dreher's Blog Got a Little 'Too Weird' for The American Conservative."

I'm reading this Vanity Fair article by Caleb Ecarma. Subtitle: "The right-wing commentator’s columns, which were unedited and bankrolled by a single donor, will be shuttered Friday after a 12-year run. Sources say it was ultimately a diatribe on circumcision that was a bridge too far."
Over the last 12 years, Dreher... has built a cult following with some of the most bizarre diatribes in opinion journalism. He has warned that so-called sissy hypnosis porn is “profoundly evil;” detailed the “formal” Catholic exorcism of a friend’s suicidal wife; and recalled—in unsettling detail—the time he witnessed a Black classmate's uncircumcised penis....

Howard Ahmanson Jr., the heir to a California banking fortune [was] the sole benefactor of Dreher’s six-figure salary.... This unique funding arrangement—a single donor choosing to cover one writer’s entire salary—was paired with an even more unusual editorial arrangement: Dreher was allowed to publish directly on TAC’s site without any revisions or legal oversight.... 

That is, I would say, Dreher was allowed to write a real blog. And he got real money for blogging the real way. It's appropriate that a writer be paid. But all the money came from one guy. How can you write like that?! I guess it depends on the guy. You'd have to think about whether this one guy is getting what he wants... or enough of what he wants... to keep the money flowing.

Ahmanson must have loved Dreher, so where did Dreher go wrong? Sources tell Vanity Fair it was that post about circumcision. Dreher wrote:

“All us boys wanted to stare at his primitive root wiener when we were at the urinal during recess, because it was monstrous. Nobody told us that wieners could look like that.” 

I took a moment to look up Ahmanson. From his Wikipedia page, check out his "occupation": 

"Heir, idle rich, financier." Oh, Wikipedia!

It wasn't just calling a black man's uncircumcised penis a "primitive root wiener."

Some of Dreher’s commentary on the gay and transgender communities also proved off-putting to Ahmanson, such as his lurid musings on anal sex, rectal bleeding, and the “partially rotted off” nose of a gay man who contracted monkeypox. 
“At some point, he basically decided, 'This is too weird,’” the source, paraphrasing Ahmanson, explained to me. “‘I don’t want to read this or pay for this anymore.’”

The problem was either that or the fact that Dreher, who lives in Hungary, revealed that the Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán said NATO is "in a war with Russia" and he wants out of the European Union. That caused a stir.

In his final TAC post, Dreher closed by saying to his readers: “All you Mongoloids were the Primitive Root Wiener in my Lucky Dog, and I love you very much.” I'm sure his closest readers understood all the references. I only get "Primitive Root Wiener" and it's hard to fathom why he would write that... other than that to blog well you have to take chances and say some unusual things. I'm going to guess that Dreher will be better off on his own at Substack with the money coming from a multitude of readers and not from one man — who, of course, had to worry about having his own reputation wedded to the words of a blogger.

"The rabbi presented him with a children’s book titled 'Jewish Traditions and Customs,' intended to discourage Villanueva from any notion of converting."

"'The book would make clear who was Jewish and who was not, why a highland Peruvian, a cholo, was not, and could not be, Jewish'.... But when Villanueva opened the book, what he found was a revelation. It described precisely the way he and his followers were already living, and he arrived home delighted, the mystery solved at last. Guess what, he told his congregation: They were Jewish! They’d been Jews all along!... Is it a matter of bloodlines? Tradition? Observance? Faith? But Villanueva was neither aware of nor interested in religious gatekeeping.... In one memorable scene, Villanueva and his congregation return to the rabbi in search of circumcision (not the metaphorical kind) but are turned away; their only other option is a surgeon who will perform the procedure for the hefty sum of $60 apiece. One imagines that many men would simply (and perhaps relievedly) abandon the enterprise at this point, but Villanueva would not be deterred: Three years later, he and a dozen followers were back with cash in hand."

ADDED: That last link goes to Amazon, where there is this blurb from Judith Thurman: "If Gabriel García Márquez had written the Old Testament, it might read like Graciela Mochkofsky's staggering true account of a humble Peruvian carpenter's spiritual odyssey from a shack in the Andes, via the Amazon, to the Promised Land of Israel with a community of devoted followers."

Too little, too late.

I'm reading "A Botched Circumcision and Its Aftermath/The constant discomfort of a genital injury creates a covenant of pain. It is impossible to think about anything else" by Gary Shteyngart (The New Yorker):
Most poorly performed circumcisions stem from two misjudgments on the part of the circumciser: either too much or too little foreskin is removed. In my case, it was too little (and, one might add, given that I was seven years old instead of the eight days prescribed by the Torah, too late). After the infection had subsided, the shaft of my penis was crowded by a skyline of redundant foreskin that included, on the underside, a thick attachment of skin stretching from the head to the shaft of the genital, a result of improper healing that is called a skin bridge. A small gap could be seen between this skin bridge and the penis proper. In texture and appearance, the bridge reminded me of the Polly-O mozzarella string cheese that got packed in the lunchboxes of my generation. It produced no pain on its own after the infection had died down and the two years of difficult urination were over, but the strangeness of my penile appearance—and the manner in which it was brought about—became lodged in my consciousness....

"Though they circumcised their daughter, her parents were relatively liberal by the standards of the time and believed that all their children should be educated regardless of gender."

"When El Saadawi was ten they tried to marry her off in accordance with local custom, but her mother supported her when she resisted. El Saadawi allegedly deterred other suitors by smearing aubergine on her teeth to make them black.... After graduating in 1955 El Saadawi returned to her home village to work as a doctor, turning her experiences into a novel, Memoirs of a Woman Doctor. She also married her second husband, Rashad Bey, a lawyer, but swiftly divorced him when he proved too 'patriarchal.' He threw the manuscript of one of her novels out of the window, tore up her Medical Association card and once tried to throttle her.... El Saadawi’s anger was not just directed at Egypt, Islam and the Arab world. She was also a harsh critic of western hypocrisy, colonialism, militarism, capitalism and US support for Israel. She considered the Islamic veil to be a 'tool of oppression' but also condemned the make-up and clothes worn by women in the West. 'Women are pushed to be just bodies — either to be veiled under religion or to be veiled by make-up,' she said. 'They are told they shouldn’t face the world with their real face.'" 

From "Nawal El Saadawi obituary/Prolific Egyptian author and fearless campaigner for women’s rights who became the ‘Simone de Beauvoir of the Arab world’" (London Times).

"Free speech or die, Portland. You got no safe place. This is America, get out if you don’t like free speech."

"Death to the enemies of America. Leave this country if you hate our freedom.... You call it terrorism, I call it patriotism. You hear me? Die.”

Those are 2 statements by Jeremy Christian, from his appearance in the courtroom as he was arraigned after the murders on the MAX Green Line train in Portland. I read those statements first "in the NYT, which uses the verb "shouted" and a photograph of Christian with his mouth wide open to convey the tone of his speech. I was unsatisfied with the NYT because it shifted to the subject of Mayor Tom Wheeler's rejection of permits for "alt-right" events in Portland.

Looking for more detail about the arraignment, I switched to The Washington Post, which has video of Christian making the above-quoted statements. The video makes a different impression:

I was surprised how scripted Christian sounded, as if he were delivering a memorized speech. I also heard an additional sentence, after "Leave this country if you hate our freedom": "Death to Antifa." I'd been inclined to think of Christian as a ranting lunatic, but the delivery of these lines makes him seem more controlled in his structure of beliefs — not that the beliefs are cogent.

Christian leaps from the love of freedom of speech to a sentence of death to those who don't like freedom of speech. "Free speech or die" seems like a variation on "Live free or die," but you have to misunderstand "Live free or die," which is supposed to express willingness to die for the cause of freedom, not a desire for other people to drop dead if they don't value freedom above everything else.

Perhaps it's disgusting to analyze the words of a person who has done something so evil, but Christian's words are being quoted and used. He's not being hidden away and denied a voice, so it's not as if I can close the door and say don't listen to the rants of a madman.

He's being quoted and used as a jumping off point for things people want to say, and what's particularly irritating — aside from the rank sensationalism of bloody murder — is the blithe assumption that Christian's agenda is racism. You can see that the arraignment quotes have no racist content at all. The statements from the murder scene (and in a recording made of him on a train on an earlier occasion) were anti-religion (and not just anti-Muslim). Where's the racism?

The WaPo article proceeds to talk about the "long and violent history of white supremacist and other racist activities" in the Pacific Northwest. It gives us a quote from a professor of urban studies at Portland State University, Karen Gibson: “The idea that Portland is so liberal supersedes this dark, hidden secret about racism.” Maybe so, but the article never establishes that Christian is a racist.

WaPo drags in Donald Trump:
Some residents said President Donald Trump has caused those racist demons to stir again....

“I don’t have that feeling like it can’t happen here — the way people talk about Portland — because we’ve got racism. We’ve got all kinds of things,” said Murr Brewster, who came to see a memorial at the city’s transit center. “It’s everywhere and the trouble is, it’s getting more and more prevalent.”
Primed, we hear next about Mayor Wheeler's effort to stop the planned rally, which, we're told, is billed on Facebook as "a Trump Free Speech Rally." Then this paragraph galumphs in:
Christian attended a similar rally in late April wearing an American flag around his neck and carrying a baseball bat. Police confiscated the bat, and he was then caught on camera clashing with counter-protesters.
That might put him on the pro-Trump side. But where's the racism? Was he armed with a bat because he wanted to fight the counter-protesters? That fits with "Leave this country if you hate our freedom. Death to Antifa."

Elsewhere, I'm seeing assertions that Christian was actually for Bernie Sanders. And here's a piece in The Oregonian, premised on a deep read of Christian's Facebook page: "His posts reveal a comic book collector with nebulous political affiliations who above all else seemed to hate circumcision and Hillary Clinton." And:
The question of whether Christian was a Trump supporter or a Sanders supporter, doesn't have an either/or answer, except: he definitely was not a Clinton supporter.

"Bernie Sanders was the President I wanted," wrote Christian in December. "He voiced my heart and mind. The one who spoke about the way America should gone. Away from the Military and Prison Industrial Complexes. The Trump is who America needs now that Bernie got ripped off."

But on Nov. 11, he posted that he was unable to bring himself to vote for Trump.

"I've had it!!! I gonna kill everybody who voted for Trump or Hillary!!!" he said in another post in early January. "It's all your fault!!! You're what's wrong with this country!!! Reveal yourselves immediately and face your DOOM!!!"
I'd say that sounds like a Bernie Sanders supporter. After Sanders dropped out and endorsed Hillary, he had nowhere to go. I don't know why white supremacists are getting blamed for Christian's insanely murderous rage. It would make more sense to blame the those who've been inflaming anger on the far left.

But back to the NYT, where this post began, because after reading The Washington Post, I did see more reason in the shift from what Christian said at the arraignment to Tom Wheeler's rejection of pro-free-speech rallies. Christian made free speech sound like an ugly, evil cause related to murder. Now, you should see that the violence Wheeler uses to justify repressing a free-speech rally is violence from those who oppose the rally, the counter-protesters. But Christian's extolling of free speech may obscure that. His jumbled, awful remarks at the arraignment are useful to anyone who would like to shape our brains to think: Free speech = Violence. And: To suppress speech is to suppress violence.

And who doesn't wish that the police could have arrested Jeremy Christian when they had him speaking and carrying a baseball bat at a rally?

Recipient of the world's first penile transplant impregnates a woman through sexual intercourse.

I rewrote the BBC's headline, which is "First penile transplant recipient 'to become father.'" There are obviously ways that a man could become a father other than through sexual intercourse with a functioning penis.
The 21-year-old recipient, whose identify is being protected, lost his penis in a botched circumcision. The operation took place in December. Surgeons at Stellenbosch University and Tygerberg Hospital performed a nine-hour operation to attach a donated penis.
Dr Van der Merwe said he was "very pleased" when he heard that the man's girlfriend was pregnant, and had not asked for a paternity test as there was no reason not to believe the couple. "This is what we intended, that he should be able to stand up and be able to urinate and have intercourse, so it is a milestone for him," Dr Van der Merwe told the BBC.

"That’s how I found myself Biblically nude in a kind of spiritual locker room, a shower space in a converted brownstone, waiting on a man with a razor...."

"When the mohel arrived, he looked, I’m sorry to say, like Danny Devito in curls. We stood in silence. I opened my towel. Hello, groin. He opened a shaving bag with glinting instruments. Hello, knife. My mohel produced a pen-sized lance, which he wielded ever so gently, like Lady Grantham with a paring knife. He sliced, sliced, squeezed, dripped, and was done. The whole transaction was over in seconds, long before I could scream, or faint, or decide if I liked it."

From "My Adult Circumcision/How I made the cut for my new religion."

"Imagine a photographer, who instead of being a conservative Christian, is a whole-earth hippie type."

"He tries to run his business consistent with his moral views. Among those views is his belief that circumcision is a violation of a child’s human rights. He has Jewish clients, but when one of them asked him to photograph his son’s brit milah (circumcision) ceremony, the photographer declined, stating that he won’t photograph circumcision celebrations...."

"When [mohel, A. Romi Cohn] circumcises an infant, he said, he almost always put his mouth on the baby’s penis to pull blood away from the wound..."

"... in an ancient part of the circumcision ritual, known in Hebrew as metzitzah b’peh, that is still commonplace in parts of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community but is rare in other branches of Judaism."
The city estimates that metzitzah b’peh is used in some 3,600 local circumcisions each year. The city’s health department says that, between 2000 and 2011, 11 babies contracted herpes as a result, and 2 of them died. This spring, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared that the procedure created a risk for transmission of herpes and other pathogens and was “not safe.”

So on Thursday, the city’s Board of Health is scheduled to vote on a proposal that would require parents to sign a consent form indicating that they are aware of the risk of herpes transmission when a circumcision procedure, or bris, includes direct oral contact.
Cohn is an 83-year-old Holocaust survivor who has performed the ritual 25,000+ times, free of charge, and, he says, without ever causing an infection. He says he'll go to jail before complying with this new regulation (which only requires informed consent — it's not a prohibition). He's sought out by parents who say things like "I don’t want a 99 percent job, I want a 100 percent job... I want [my son] to be fully Jewish."

The American Academy of Pediatrics says the medical benefits of circumcision outweigh the small risks.

"The new policy could bring about a shift in affordability. The guidelines now make plain that the benefits of circumcision are great enough to 'justify access to this procedure for families choosing it and to warrant third-party payment for circumcision of male newborns.'"

It's about insurance.
"How Rod Dreher's Blog Got a Little 'Too Weird' for The American Conservative."

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