September 29th 2007

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Articles from this issue:

FEDERAL ELECTION 2007: NCC policy initiatives on biofuels and Internet safety

EDITORIAL: Horse flu outbreak: time to face hard facts

CANBERRA OBSERVED: John Howard's risky succession strategy

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: Will we learn from our quarantine debacle?

DEFENCE: Emerging nuclear challenges for Australia

NATIONAL SECURITY: Another triumph for the ABC or potential calamity?

EMPLOYMENT: Offshore assets most Australians never see

SCHOOLS: How much should we pay teachers who don't deliver?

LIFE ISSUES: 'Rosita', poster-child for pro-abortion lobby

UNITED STATES: Questions over Republican nomination

OPINION: Disgrace of the West's 'cognitive dissonance'

AS THE WORLD TURNS: libertarianism, lesbian's twins, Chinese toys, anti-Americanism

Kevin Rudd's motherhood statements (letter)

Kevinism or a Ruddism? (letter)

Facility with languages (letter)

Australia needs American help with defence (letter)


BOOKS: FAITH THROUGH REASON, by Janne Haaland Matláry

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libertarianism, lesbian's twins, Chinese toys, anti-Americanism

News Weekly, September 29, 2007
The cultural contradictions of libertarianism

Libertarianism was complicit in the vociferous attack during the 1960s on the bourgeois family.... (Philosopher and author) Ayn Rand was predictably wary of kinship ties and, like radical feminists, saw the family as a soul-killing prison.

(Economist) Murray Rothbard struggled with the vexing question of how to square the biological fact of the dependency of the young with the libertarian devotion to freedom. His conclusion was that parents should not be legally bound to feed or educate their children, and children should have an absolute right to leave home at any time.

Today, libertarians support the loosest of divorce laws, and many wonder why the state should be involved in the marriage business at all, a question that has come to the fore in the debate over gay marriage.

Today, a record 37 percent of American children are born to single mothers, and the number appears to be on the rise. Most of these children will be either poor or very limited in their ability to move up the economic ladder.

The complex, dynamic (capitalist) economy that libertarians have done so much to expand needs highly advanced human capital-that is, individuals of great moral, cognitive, and emotional sophistication. Reams of social-science research prove that these qualities are best produced in traditional families with married parents.

Family breakdown, by contrast, limits the accumulation of such human capital. Worse, divorce and out-of-wedlock childbearing leave the door wide open for big government. Dysfunctional families create an increased demand for state-funded food, housing, and medical subsidies, which libertarians reject on principle.

And in courts all over the country, judges who preside over the manifold disputes occasioned by broken families are forced to be more intrusive than the worst mother-in-law: they decide who should have primary custody, who gets a child on Christmas or summer holidays, whether a child should take piano lessons, go to Hebrew school, move to California, or speak to her grandmother on the phone. It is a libertarian's worst nightmare.

Libertarians ... have an almost unlimited enthusiasm for biotechnology, especially for advances that might allow us to manipulate our natures and extend our lives. Taken together, these elements constitute what might be called the libertarian dream-the dream of shaping your own meaning, liberated from family, from the past, from tradition, from biology...

- from Kay S. Hymowitz, "Freedom fetishists", Commentary (New York), September 2007.

Lesbian couple sue over unplanned twin

A lesbian woman felt violated and devastated when she learned she was pregnant with twins, after she had told a Canberra obstetrician she only wanted one child through IVF, a court heard yesterday.

In what is believed to be the first case of its kind in the territory, a former Canberra woman and her female partner are suing obstetrician and gynaecologist Sydney Robert Armellin for the wrongful birth of one of their twin girls, now aged three, claiming more than $400,000 for the cost of raising her to the age 21.

The birth mother, now working in Melbourne as a social research and planning consultant, wept as she told the ACT Supreme Court how hard it had been to cope with the unplanned twin pregnancy.

She and her partner, who were living in Watson at the time, had planned to go to England after the birth, but their plans were scrapped when they discovered they would be having twins, jeopardising their careers, relationship and health.

- from Victor Violante, "Lesbian pair sue for cost of twin", The Canberra Times, September 18, 2007.

Hazardous toys from China

China manufactured every one of the 24 kinds of toys recalled for safety reasons in the United States so far this year, including the enormously popular Thomas & Friends wooden train sets, a record that is causing alarm among consumer advocates, parents and regulators.

The latest recall, announced last week, involves 1.5 million Thomas & Friends trains and rail components - about 4 per cent of all those sold in the United States over the last two years by RC2 Corporation of Oak Brook, Illinois. The toys were coated at a factory in China with lead paint, which can damage brain cells, especially in children.

Just in the last month, a ghoulish fake eyeball toy made in China was recalled after it was found to be filled with kerosene. Sets of toy drums and a toy bear were also recalled because of lead paint, and an infant wrist-rattle was recalled because of a choking hazard.

Over all, the number of products made in China that are being recalled in the United States by the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission has doubled in the last five years, driving the total number of recalls in the country to 467 last year, an annual record.

It also means that China today is responsible for about 60 per cent of all product recalls, compared with 36 per cent in 2000.

Much of the rise in China's ranking on the recall list has to do with its corresponding surge as the world's toy chest: toys made in China make up 70 to 80 per cent of the toys sold in the US, according to the Toy Industry Association.

- from Eric S. Lipton and David Barboza, "As more toys are recalled, trail ends in China", New York Times, June 19, 2007.

America the ugly?

In the immediate aftermath of the attacks on America that took place on September 11 six years ago, several younger commentators proclaimed the birth of an entirely new era in American history. What the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor had done to the old isolationism, they announced, September 11, 2001, had done to the Vietnam syndrome.

I could easily understand why they thought so. After all, never in their lives had they witnessed so powerful an explosion of patriotic sentiment - and not only in the expected precincts of the right. In fact, on the left, where not so long ago the American flag had been thought fit only for burning, the sight of it - and it was now on display everywhere - had been driving a few prominent personalities to wrench their unaccustomed arms into something vaguely resembling a salute.

One of these personalities, Todd Gitlin, a leading figure in the New Left of the '60s and now a professor at Columbia, even went so far as to question the inveterately "negative faith in America the ugly" that he and his comrades had tenaciously held onto for the past 40 years and more.

I naturally welcomed this new patriotic mood with open arms. It seemed to me a sign of greater intellectual sanity and moral health, and I fervently hoped that it would last.

But ... I knew from my own scars that no matter how small and insignificant a group the anti-Americans of the left might for the moment look to the naked eye, they had it in them to rise and grow again.

It is impossible at this point to predict how and when the battle of Iraq will end. But from the vitriolic debates it has unleashed we can already say for certain that the attacks of September 11, 2001, did not do to the Vietnam syndrome what Pearl Harbor did to the old isolationism.

The Vietnam syndrome is back and it means to have its way.

- from Norman Podhoretz, "America the ugly", Wall Street Journal, September 11, 2007. Extract from his new book, World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism, just released by Doubleday.

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