Amnesty International's support of completely legalised prostitution has strirred the waters of debate in a big way. Even if you do not need convincing that prostitution is a bad thing that should not be encouraged, it is worthwhile reading what Jokin de Irala and Cristina Lopez of the University of Navarre, and researcher Melissa Farley have to say on the subject. As with so many other things today that seem self-evident, one needs good arguments to support common sense.
Also, for the record, Michael Cook has put up an edited version of a letter written by sociology professor Paul Sullins about the aftermath of a recent debate in Sydney on same-sex parenting.
For light relief take a look at Susan Reibel Moore's homage to Lewis Carroll on the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. It makes me want to read the book again.
It's called "medicalisation" or, more caustically, "disease-mongering". I refer to the the issue discussed in today's articles about "Pink Viagra..." and "Medicating our unhealthy lifestyles" -- namely, the often drug-company-driven recourse to costly medical technology for health problems that on the whole require only a change in lifestyle, and sometimes for problems whose very existence is doubtful.
I find this issue personally challenging as I am one of the gadzillions of adults on statins to reduce bad cholesterol, which should be possible by dietary change. I just mention that in case my article seems to be delivered from some high moral ground. Far from it. Healthy living for most of us is a work in progress.
Of all the symptoms of a world that has lost its way, the most far-reaching must be the retreat from motherhood and fatherhood. In a post on Demography Is Destiny today, Shannon Roberts ponders a study carried out in Germany, where the birthrate has not risen above 1.5 children per woman for four decades, to get at the reasons for this dismal statistic. Shannon has many good thoughts on the subject, and you might like to share yours.
Until recently The Onion, the satirical newspaper and YouTube channel, featured panels of pundits discussing issues like "Is The Government Spying On Schizophrenics Enough?" or "Are Politicians Failing Our Lobbyists?". The ensuing discussion was always over the top in its ignorance and banality. But too often for comfort, it mirrored the kind of political punditry which we see every day on TV. Where did this theatre of the absurd come from? Perhaps from the 1968 debates between William F. Buckley Jr and Gore Vidal. A brilliant documentary has brought this fascinating chapter in media history to life again. See the review below.
Next week MercatorNet will be taking a short break for a staff workshop. There will be no newsletter on Monday and Tuesday.
British journalist and occasional MercatorNet contributor Brendan O'Neill is no friend of political correctness. He wrote this week in The Australian that "Something terrifying has happened during the past five years: a belief that was held by virtually all human beings for centuries has been rebranded as bigotry, something that may no longer be expressed in polite society."
On cue, Twitter began to light up with comments like "“How dare you say that the gay-marriage campaign is intolerant, you bigoted so-and-so?! Get out of Oz!” This illustrates the point of the essay below, that we need to recover the true meaning of tolerance. We'd love to get your comments.
Following the Supreme Court’s majority decision in June to legalise same-sex marriage in the United States, New York Times columnist David Brooks appealed to “conservatives” (those who do not accept the possibility of marriage between people of the same sex) to stop fighting a losing battle over sexual morality. Instead, he suggested, they should take their Christian values into underprivileged areas and help people overcome material and spiritual poverty.
This struck Dr Thomas Lickona, director of the character education centre at the State University of New York and a fan of Brooks’ writing on character, as a false choice, and he wrote to Brooks explaining why. Today we have run an edited version of his letter, which we heartily endorse.
Amazon is one of the great inventions of the internet era, making it easy to purchase almost anything online. But convenience comes at a cost, a brutal work ethic with many casualties. One of its own executives called it "purposeful Darwinism". What do you think? Is it worth it?
Contrary to what many people think, invoking the spectre of a slippery slope with rattling chains and Boris Karloff organ music does not actually scare people. In fact, the term "slippery slope" is widely ridiculed in debates about same-sex marriage and euthanasia. It tends to have the same effect as an elderly lady warning her grandchildren about newfangled music.
Nonetheless, "slippery slope" describes something quite real. As people in the Netherlands and Belgium have found, the boundaries for euthanasia are expanding all the time. More and more people are becoming eligible and more and more vulnerable people are taking up the option. Coming from the editor of MercatorNet, that's not news. But when it comes from one of America's leading bioethicists, it is. Read all about it below.
Celebrity marriages are notoriously fragile affairs -- more so than the average run of marriages, as Naomi Schaefer Riley points out in her piece -- but we thought Miss Piggy and Kermit's love affair was made of sterner stuff. Alas not. A sad reminder, for those who needed it, not to look to Hollywood for role models.
But there are some great things coming out of that crazy mixed up place, and one of them, according to our reviewer, is the animated film Inside Out. And before we leave the world of screens, do have a look at the piece Michael Cook has posted about some (market) research with English youngsters on how they -- and their parents -- use their electronic devices. The kids are priceless; the parents sound scary.
For inspiration, check out the interview with Professor William Madges, curator of an exhibit about John Paul II and the Jewish people, “A Blessing to One Another”. A beautifully presented collection of photos, video footage, documents and artefacts, it has toured the United States and is now being exhibited in the Vatican.
New York Times columnist David Brooks has always seemed to me someone on the fringes of that publication, who holds his position there not just because he writes very well but because he reassures conservatives that the Times is a broad church where everyone can find a pew.
Actually, Brooks is not all that conservative, but lately he has written in a vein that suggests more of a leaning in that direction. Today Francis Phillips reviews his book, The Road to Character, which came out a few months ago and has had a stint as the Times #1 Bestseller. Being English and more likely to read the London Times, Francis brings a nice objectivity to the task.