December 18th 1999

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Articles from this issue:

BOOKS: CHILDREN OF ENGLAND: The Heirs of King Henry VIII, by Alison Weir

Editorial - The essentials of Christianity

New book examines Swiss drug failure

Books: 'She Still Won't be Right, Mate', Psychiatrists Working Group


COMMENT - Marriage central to family life : World Congress

COMMENT - Islam and the family

BIOETHICS - Are commercial interests blinding gene researchers?

COMMENT - Snowy River myths need correction

UNITED STATES - America's forgotten people

CANBERRA OBSERVED - Business tax: now the 'hard sell'

VICTORIA - Gippsland call to reject dairy deregulation

WORLD TRADE ORGANISATION - Why Australia couldn't win in Seattle

Paying the piper ...?



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by Various

News Weekly, December 18, 1999
Biology is destiny
'Reading [Melanie Phillip's The Sex Change Society] is like reading intellectual pornography; it's so politically incorrect that part of you remains watchful, wondering if you'll be caught. Still, a lot of it makes sense. Feminism, or 'gender feminism', the author tells us, has ruined the lives of women as well as men. The feminist idea that 'biology is not destiny' is rubbish.
'Furthermore, it's not only men who are violent and aggressive - women are, too. Phillips gives us details about 'lesbian batterers', after whose attentions women were 'bitten, kicked, punched, thrown down flights of stairs, and assaulted with weapons including guns, knives, whips and broken bottles'.

'The thing that seems to concern Phillips most is the breakdown of the family.

'Again, feminism is largely to blame. Women, duped by feminist thinking into believing they'd be better off without men, breathing the post-war fumes of 'hedonism and licence', have been living in a world where 'guilt was abolished, conscience died and shame became the new taboo'.

'Now a lot of them live in a grim environment of single parenthood, illegitimacy and absentee fathers. And yet, in the past, most women were perfectly happy being married. 'The bitter gender hostility of the feminist message,' Phillips tells us, 'simply doesn't square with common female experience'.
'How good is marriage? As an institution, Phillips loves it and goes a long way to demonstrate its value. Married people, she says, have 'lower rates of sickness and premature death'.

'The American social demographer Linda White 'has shown, remarkably, that a married man with heart disease can be expected to live on average 1,400 days longer than an unmarried man with a healthy heart'.

'Married people who have cancer, Phillips claims, are likely to live longer than unmarried people who do not. And if you get married, apparently, you're less likely to die from tuberculosis or diabetes, or to go bonkers and kill yourself.'

William Leith reviewing The Sex Change Society: Feminized Britain and the Neutered Male by Melanie Phillips, in This is London, November 22, 1999

Divorce myths
Parental divorce need not scar children, some commentators maintain, so long as it is not characterised by intense conflict. But the argument accords very poorly with the findings of a study on parental divorce recently published in Social Forces (Volume 77 [199]: 1283-1335).

Written by sociologist Thomas L. Hanson of the University of California - Riverside, this study tests the hypothesis that 'parental conflict prior to divorce can explain why children with divorced parents exhibit more academic and adjustment difficulties than children of parents who stay together'.

Analysing data from the 1987-88 and 1992-94 National Survey of Families and Households, Hanson first calculates that 'parental divorce increases behaviour problems by about one-third of a standard deviation and reduces global ratings of well-being by about 50 per cent of a standard deviation'.

Further statistical tests show that 'parental conflict accounts for [only] about 10 per cent of the effects of divorce on some measures of delinquency, health and psychological well-being'.

Hanson interprets the overall pattern of findings as evidence that 'both family process (conflict) and family structure (divorce) have independent negative effects on child well-being'.

For four of the 16 measures of child well-being (mostly behaviour-related measures), 'children from high-conflict families in which the parents divorced were doing just as well and sometimes better than children from high-conflict families in which the parents stayed married'. But for these same four measures of child well-being, 'divorce appears to have particularly deleterious consequences ... for children in low conflict families - suggesting that when parents exhibit low levels of conflict, many children appear to lose a great deal when their parents divorce.

In any case, Hanson stresses that 'these [four] areas of child well-being are exceptions ... For most of the indicators of child well-being - divorce has a similar effect on children regardless of the level of pre-divorce conflict'. Divorce, Hanson further warns, may not even reduce the family conflict which precedes it, 'and in fact may increase conflict'.

The Family in America, December 1999

New proletariat
'When the African National Congress came to government in 1994, it was stepping into a new world. This was bewildering for it because so much of its ideology was based on communism. The new circumstances gave a chance for its non-communists to exert their influence.

'Today, Trevor Manuel of the ANC is the most capitalist finance minister South Africa has ever seen.

'We have a conservative fiscal policy, which has given us low inflation and low debt. We have reduced trade barriers and opened the South African economy to the world. There is even talk of privatisation and there is no talk of nationalisation.
'But a communist flavour remains. ANC members still call each other 'Comrade'.

'During recent wage negotiations between the government and public sector workers, the Minister of Public Service, Geraldine Fraser-Moloketi, herself a communist, quoted from Lenin to justify the fact that she earned 20 times as much as the workers.

'They were told to accept the 'revolutionary discipline' and be happy with their small wage increases.

'Explanations why the leaders of the proletariat should be enormously richer than the proletariat itself, are a standard part of communism in practice. But really this is just sentimental blather for old communists.'

Andrew Kenny, The Spectator,
November 27, 1999

'It would seem, on the face of it, that the only thing standing between George W. Bush and the presidency is a persistent reservation about his intellect. The doubts have crystallized around a reporter's now-famous pop quiz, in which the Texas governor could not identify various difficult-to-pronounce heads of state. Bush, according to many in the press, needs to wonk himself up, and fast. He needs to cocoon himself with all those Stanford Ph.Ds and re-emerge with a deep, studied interest in the stability of Central Asia and the efficacy of scattered-site housing. He needs to throw out some acronyms and cite some studies, maybe quote Hayek now and then. He must learn to mask his boredom with the daily grind of government. If he could only show some mastery of the issues, he'd be a brilliant candidate.

'Nonsense. Bush hasn't done a bad job of masking his boredom with the details of governance; he's done an excellent job of flaunting it. When asked by Tucker Carlson of Talk magazine to enumerate his weaknesses, Bush baldly replied, 'Sitting down and reading a 500-page book on public policy or philosophy or something.'

' In another moment with Carlson, Bush reported having read a profile of Al Gore by Louis Menand in which the vice president discusses Maurice Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Perception. This prompts Menand's observation that 'it is a little hard to imagine having this conversation with George W. Bush.' Bush does not take umbrage at this slight to his mental capacities. Instead, he sees in it proof of his political virtuosity. 'Bush finished the piece,' writes Carlson, 'convinced that Gore lacks the warmth and personal appeal necessary to win a presidential race.' More recently, Bush advisers have confided their pleasure at the pop quiz 'fiasco,' saying it makes their man seem like a normal guy.

'In fact, Bush's lightweight persona has the feel of a deliberate strategy. What Bush understands, and the pundits do not, is that he is a brilliant candidate not despite his anti-intellectualism but because of it. He has stumbled upon a fortuitous moment in which the political culture, tired of wonks and pointy-heads and ideologues, yearns instead for a candidate unburdened by, or even hostile to, ideas. It is a moment made for the chipper governor from Texas, and he is soaring upward, propelled by his own weightlessness.'

Jonathan Chait, The New Republic, December 20, 1999

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