Bloggers on the release of the British sailors captured by Iran.

Bloggers on the release of the British sailors captured by Iran.

Bloggers on the release of the British sailors captured by Iran.

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
April 6 2007 4:56 PM

Name, Rank, Abject Confession

Bloggers are mixed about whether to forgive or empathize with the released British sailors, who say their self-abasement on Iranian television was coerced. They also ponder New York's circumcision-as-HIV-prevention campaign and this year's Ivy League admission stats.

Name, rank, abject confession: The released British sailors today recounted their experiences as captives of the Iranian regime. Apparently, they were blindfolded, separated from one another, and made to withstand the psychological torment of hearing weapons being cocked behind them. This might explain their willingness to apologize to Iran for trespassing and for condemning their own government on Iranian television, but does it excuse it? Bloggers are torn.

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Conservative Ed Jenks * at MAXINE isn't buying the blabbing-under-duress excuse: "I understand the reality of the impression that 'fighting back was not an option' but I really do not understand moving beyond Name, Rank, and Serial Number in an act-of-war military scenario. Come on, just look at these British Military people in Iranian suits ... disgusting!"

Righty Punditarian at The Astute Bloggers agrees: "[S]uch conduct is the result of a weak and defenseless, politically correct attitude that has already vitiated England's martial spirit. In England, for example, homeowners are prosecuted when they defend themselves against robbers, and the police advise victims of crime to submit to their attackers without a struggle."

Joe Gelman at Neocon Express compares the British sailors' conduct with that of Sen. John McCain, who famously refused during the Vietnam War to be released from a POW camp until all of his comrades were, too: "[N]ot everyone can be John McCain, and I grant that it can be unseemly to criticize others in a difficult situation, or to be kicking others when they are down. But honesty is the best road to recovery: would it be too much to expect some kind of middle ground between abject humiliation and surrender, and McCain-type heroism in these types of situations?"

Noting that the sole female sailor, Faye Turney, was held separate from the other captives and that the sailors were threatened with prison time (and claimed to hear weapons being cocked behind them), conservative Meryl Yourish writes: "Gee. That doesn't match the letters that were supposedly written by Faye Turney, or the claims of the British sailors on Iranian TV. I'm shocked, shocked I say, to discover that the Brits were coerced. Gee. No wonder they didn't let the Red Cross or any representative of the U.K. visit them. Because that wouldn't have fit the Iranian puppet theatre, using live people in fear of their lives, instead of puppets. I fully expect to hear from Human Rights Watch over this. Well, no, not really."

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Read more about the British hostages' story.

The unkindest cut: Working from the new statistics from Africa that show male circumcision can reduce the transmission of HIV, New York City's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is initiating a campaign to encourage men in the Big Apple to undergo the procedure. Cyberspace finds this plan controversial, not least because Africa is not New York City.

Joe at politics, technology, and economy blog Joe At Large is himself uncircumcised and can appreciate the backlash of "uncut" men to this new health campaign. He says, "[B]efore we go out making any recommendations to health departments and male populations I think it's important to get at all the facts and address the criticisms. I think it's a valid point that there is a very big difference between straight men in Africa and gay men in New York City."

Stuart Rennie at the Global Bioethics Blog elaborates: "There are a lot of unknowns and issues raised by the use of male circumcision as HIV prevention strategy in a place like New York. One is that the African studies were about the reduction of HIV risk among circumcised men in hetrosexual relations. The high-risk groups in the US are mostly injection-drug users and men who have sex with men, and the studies say little to nothing about that."

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The blogger at anti-circumcision site Male Circumcision and HIV is incensed by the fact that Dr. Thomas Frieden, the former New York City health commissioner, was remiss on cracking down on Orthodox Jewish mohels who spread herpes to circumcised infants by orally staunching the blood of their cut penises—a practice known as metzitzah b'pei: "Because Dr. Friedan is living in a city that has a very large voting block who hold circumcision as sacred, it's not surprising in a way. But it is still shocking that religion and culture has a death grip on public policy in an era of the scientific method and democracy."

Read more about New York's circumcision campaign.

Getting in getting harder: It's spring, which means college acceptances are being mailed to high-school seniors nationwide. According to the New YorkTimes, however, the most elite universities are turning down applicants with perfect SAT scores. It's time for high-school juniors to bone up on their interpretive-dance ice-skating skills.

Rachel at Thus Spoke says that "[o]ne of the biggest factors in this "avalanche" of applications is the Common Application. This is the first year my alma mater has accepted the CA; applications went up 19%. Seriously."

But Kevin Carey at education site The Quick and the Ed thinks the Times is up to its old tricks again: "But is that what the numbers actually say? It's true, as the Times article notes, that the number of high school graduates increased from 2.4 million in 1993 to 3.1 million last year. But that's a very selective timeline; 1993 and 1994 were--not coincidentally--the years with the fewest graduates since the early 1960s. One could just as easily note that the number of high school graduates today is almost exactly the same as it was 30 years ago."

Read more about Ivy League admissions.

Correction, April 6, 2007: This article originally misspelled MAXINE's editor's name. His name is Ed Jenks. (Return  to the corrected sentence.)

Michael Weiss is the director of communications at the Henry Jackson Society, a London-based think tank that promotes democratic geopolitics. He is also the spokesman for Just Journalism, which examines how Israel and the Middle East are portrayed in the U.K. media.