April 28th 2007

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: East Timor election: what's cooking?

EDITORIAL: Implications of East Timor's election

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Kevin Rudd's character under scrutiny

OVERSEAS TRADE: Wheat-growers back single-desk selling

MANUFACTURING: Japan still shows the way

STRAWS IN THE WIND: Easter and the media / Literacy, and all that / Anzac Day / Jews and Muslims / Pre-Budget ruminations

DAVID HICKS AFFAIR: Media's blind eye to Hicks treason

THE COLD WAR: How Moscow framed Pope Pius XII as pro-Nazi

GREAT BRITAIN: Why Britain is no longer great

PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION: Lottery players fleeced for $100 million

ETHICS: New safeguard for vulnerable patients

HEALTH: Married gays die 24 years younger

OBITUARY: Dr John Billings (1918-2007) and the Culture of Life

AS THE WORLD TURNS: The unmarriage revolution / Unexpected outbreak of morality / Mediocrity on the march / Children recruited to spy for Big Brother

Antidotes to narcissism (letter)

Problems with surrogacy (letter)

Politicised public service (letter)

Bell tolls for national icon (letter)

CINEMA: Spartan sacrifice that saved Greece


BOOKS: BACKS TO THE WALL: A larrikin on the Western Front, by G.D. Mitchell with Robert Macklin

Books promotion page

The unmarriage revolution / Unexpected outbreak of morality / Mediocrity on the march / Children recruited to spy for Big Brother

News Weekly, April 28, 2007
The unmarriage revolution

Artificial insemination, or AI, is having a disproportionate cultural and legal effect and is advancing a cause once celebrated only in the most obscure radical journals: the dad-free family.

Today's sperm banks provide lengthy online catalogues of donors, containing such basic stats as height, hair colour, eye colour and education, as well as results from personality tests for an extra fee.

The sophisticated marketing of sperm banks, which appeals to single women and lesbians as well as infertile married couples, has coincided with what I call the “unmarriage revolution” - that is, the decoupling of marriage and child-rearing.

There are multiple ironies in this unfolding revolution, not least that the technology that allows women to have a family without men reinforces the worst that women fear in men.

Think of all the complaints you hear: men can't commit, they're irresponsible, they don't take care of the kids. By going to a sperm bank, women are unwittingly paying men to be exactly what they object to.

But why expect anything different? The very premise of AI is that, apart from their liquid DNA, we can will men out of children's lives.

- from Kay S. Hymowitz, Los Angeles Times, April 16, 2007.

Unexpected outbreak of morality

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has warned that increasing numbers of (British) doctors are refusing to carry out abortions and this threatens to “plunge the abortion service into chaos”.

The real crisis is that more than 190,000 abortions take place in England and Wales in a year. The fact that more doctors are refusing to carry them out on the grounds of conscience seems to me like an unexpected outbreak of morality in a profession which has become scarily cost-driven in the past decade.

One of the results of cuts in junior hospital doctors' hours is that they can be more choosy about what they do. Abortions are one area they are avoiding, not just because it's undemanding, but because it stinks.

- from Melanie McDonagh, The Telegraph (UK), April 17, 2007.

Mediocrity on the march

The increasingly Kafkaesque nature of British society recently received two illustrations in a single week. Under a new, government-mandated system of appointing junior doctors to training posts in Britain's nationalised health service, senior doctors could not see the curriculum vitae of any applicant, for fear that it might prejudice their choices.

Instead, the candidates responded, via computer, to interview questions, most of them having more to do with the doctors' ability to present themselves as paragons of political correctness than with anything relevant to medicine.

The computer marked the answers and generated a short list of candidates. The senior doctors then interviewed the short-listed candidates directly, but in asking questions they had to stick with a script that government bureaucrats had prepared for them.

Some senior doctors refused to participate in this farce, and 11,000 doctors demonstrated against the new system in London. The government had to retreat, though its record suggests that it will not accept defeat for long.

- from Theodore Dalrymple, “Leveling Britain”, City Journal (New York), March 22, 2007.

Children recruited to spy for Big Brother

Tony Blair's government has completed its transformation into Big Brother: it is recruiting children to spy on the adult population.

Many were disturbed when Home Secretary John Reid announced earlier this month that “talking” CCTV cameras will be introduced in 20 towns and cities across Britain.

Reminiscent of the telescreen that so tormented Winston Smith in Orwell's 1984, these cameras will not only spy on us, they will tell us off, too.

Even more disturbing, however, is the fact that the Government wants goody-two-shoes children to provide the authoritarian voice for the cameras.

According to the Respect Taskforce, this is about “encouraging children to use their pester power, in a positive way”.

This isn't the first time the Government has harnessed the “pester power” of the young to reshape the behaviour of the old.

Last year, a report proposed urging schoolchildren to educate their parents about eco-living, in the hope that this would generate a “cultural shift” among the population.

The Department of Health has used the children of lung cancer-stricken mums and dads in its anti-smoking ads.

As the GP and author Dr Michael Fitzpatrick said, turning kids into an instrument of the campaign to deter adults from smoking is “reminiscent of totalitarian regimes”.

Indeed it is. In 1984, Winston Smith hates those “horrible children” who spy on everyone, including their parents.

In Smith's world of Big Brother and child spies, “it was almost normal for people over 30 to be frightened of their own children”.

- from Brendan O'Neill, “Parents, watch out for your children”, The First Post (UK), April 16, 2007.

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