The other day I spoke to the World Congress of Families in Sydney about on-line journalism with a print journalist, Miranda Devine, a columnist at the Daily Telegraph, and Karl Faase, a radio presenter. Not sure why they called upon journalists to enlighten so many very decent and respectable people.
My favourite quote about what makes a good journalist comes from Fleet Street veteran Nicholas Tomalin: rat-like cunning, a plausible manner, a little literary ability, a willingness to betray, if not friends, at least acquaintances, and a passionate attachment to second-rate causes (not his exact words, but close enough). These are not qualities which characterise decent and respectable people.
Thankfully, I was not required to speak at great length, because that would have exposed another of Tomalin’s prerequisites, “an implacable hatred of spokesmen, administrators, lawyers, public-relations men, and all those who would rather purvey words than policies”.
However, this emotion does inspire our selection of articles this week. Anne Flack reports from Austria on a European Union survey which claims that LGBT people suffer from high levels of vilification and violence. She points out that the survey is poorly designed and almost meaningless. From Belgium, Steven Bieseman and Tom Mortier argue that legalised euthanasia is turning the ideology of absolute self-determination into a religion.
We’ve all heard that our rapidly ageing work forces will easily cope by getting older people to work longer. Wishful thinking, writes Denyse O’Leary from Canada. And Peter Jon Mitchell reviews a new book on theories of parenting. He complains that many researchers are ignoring the data on what makes a good family.
Back to the World Congress. US sociologist Brad Wilcox told the crowd that "in the vast majority of the developed world, children are more likely to thrive academically when they have two parents in the home”. This seems like a no-brainer, but the push for gay marriage means that adults’ rights are trumping children’s needs. Why family-friendly policies are being ditched in so many countries so quickly puzzles me, to be honest. Perhaps I need to rev up another of Tomalin’s KPIs, “a paranoid temperament”.
Abortionist Kermit Gosnell was found guilty yesterday of the first-degree murder of three babies in his clinic in a poor Philadelphia neighbourhood. In fact, his crimes are so sickening that even the abortion lobby has disowned and denounced him.
But the lurid details are a distraction from the guilt of Gosnell’s enablers. The atrocities at the Women’s Medical Society happened because politicians and bureaucrats shirked their statutory obligations. According to a Grand Jury Report, after the 1994 election of pro-choice Governor Tom Ridge (a Catholic, Republican, and Harvard grad), “the Pennsylvania Department of Health abruptly decided, for political reasons, to stop inspecting abortion clinics”.
The bureaucrats did not want to enforce the laws because disagreeable discoveries might have brought abortion into disrepute. “We discovered,” said the Grand Jury, “that Pennsylvania’s Department of Health has deliberately chosen not to enforce laws.”
Kermit Gosnell deserves to spend the rest of his life in jail. But what about his enablers? In shielding abortionists from the law, these people have exposed the notion of “safe, rare and legal” abortion as a farce. The rule of law has been corrupted for the sake of the ideology of pro-choice.
In a final irony, America’s leading centre for bioethics, headed up by Ezekiel Emanuel, formerly President Obama’s health-care policy advisor, is a 20-minute drive away from Gosnell’s abortion clinic. Has the scandal on its doorstep rattled the academics there? Apparently not. “Kermit Gosnell” is not mentioned on its website or its Twitter feed; the latest post is an article on the ethics of hiring people who smoke. That’s what ideologues do: they yawn at tragedies that stop the hearts of decent people.
Sheila Liaugminas covers the Gosnell verdict in her post this week. You might also be interested in a documentary on the case, 3801 Lancaster. It’s quite powerful.
In other articles this week, Robert Oscar Lopez, a gay writer, makes a strong case against same-sex marriage and Robert Reilly expresses his dismay that the US State Department is exporting “gay rights” to countries with very different cultures.
The death toll in the Bangladesh building collapse has risen to 1,127. Karl D. Stephan reflects on the need for more ethics in building regulation and a Bangladeshi journalist, William Gomes, points the finger at corrupt politicians and businessmen.
It was sad to read that Massachusetts communities were reluctant to inter the remains of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Apparently police had to search for a week to find a burial plot. Finally, they announced on Thursday, 19 days after his death, that a “courageous and compassionate individual came forward to provide assistance to properly bury the deceased”.
Three cheers for the funeral director who kept the body. “This is what we do,” the director of Graham Putnam & Mahoney Funeral Parlors in Worcester told the Boston Globe. “I’m burying somebody who is dead. Everybody who is dead has the right to be buried.” Perhaps the managers of cemeteries felt the same way, but they were frightened by the protesters who stood outside the funeral home with placards like “Do not bury him on US soil” and “Bury the terrorist on US soil and we will unbury him”.
The anger of people who may have been linked to victims of the bombing is understandable, but wrong. In the long run, forgiveness is more powerful than hatred, tolerance than exclusion. It is reassuring to see that someone was generous enough to offer this man a final resting place.
As the week draws to a close, we have posted several stories. George Friedman looks back nostalgically to the certainties and united front of the Cold War era. Jill Tiefenthaler, president of Colorado College, explains why a liberal arts education is more necessary than ever. In a very moving story, Anne Ponton remembers the birth of her premature twins – a stark contrast to the appalling crimes allegedly committed by abortionist Kermit Gosnell.
Finally we have posted two articles about a minor, but still significant, dispute over the legacy of economist John Maynard Keynes. The issue is the absurd indignation over some tactless remarks made by a Harvard professor on his homosexuality. An expert on Keynes, Ricardo Crespo, says that it is essentially irrelevant. Taking a different tack, I contend that the media firestorm is a worrying sign of intolerance.
The popularity of restaurants always puzzles me. In Melbourne I lived opposite a hole-in-the-wall pizza joint. Its owner-cook was a huge, stout, unshaven fellow who looked at empty tables night after night for 18 months, as miserable as Manet’s barmaid in his famous painting “A Bar at the Folies-Bergère”.
One day the pizza joint closed and a couple of weekends later another restaurant opened which was full every lunch, every dinner, every evening until late into the night. It didn’t even appear to have a name, but it had patrons.
So I was a bit curious about the fate of Pappa Rich, a Malaysian joint in the ground floor of an office building two or three doors up the road from MercatorNet’s suite. In its favour: police protection, as the local station is about 10 steps away, and medical attention from a clutch of specialists upstairs. Against it: no passing traffic, apart from burly cops cradling trays of take-away coffees from the café on the corner where all the passing traffic is. A big waste of money, I thought.
Well, as usual, I was wrong. Pappa Rich is a Malaysian multinational brand and it had done its research. On opening day and every day since, weekdays and weekends, day and night, the restaurant was full and queues of 20 or 30 were waiting patiently for their fresh Roti Canai, Curry Laksa, Nasi Goreng, Fried Kuey Teow, and Tau Foo Fa King. A Malaysian friend of mind says that it’s just like Mom used to make for home-sick Malaysians.
Malaysian Chinese, that is. Most of the Malaysians in Sydney are not Bumiputra, sons of the soil, but Chinese. That’s largely because since 1971 the Malaysian government has pursued a policy of positive discrimination in favour of the native Malays who make up about 70 percent of the population. Most of the university places are reserved for Malays and 95 percent of the government jobs are taken by Malays. Chinese with ambition pull up stumps and go overseas. And stay there. It is a tragedy for a bustling, resource-rich country of 30 million.
On the weekend Malaysians went to the polls. The opposition, led by former deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, was not without its own problems, but it had promised to end the obsolete policy of affirmative action. But once again the government won, albeit with a decreased majority. Binoy Kampmark explains how in his article this week.
Even if you don’t live in the region, it’s worthwhile taking an interest in the Malaysian experiment with affirmative action. Not only has the country lost some of its best and brightest, but the beneficiaries lose ambition and industriousness. It’s a lesson for the US as well as the Supreme Court studies whether states can ban affirmative action in university admissions.
For readers Down Under, here’s a commercial for the World Congress of Families in Sydney, from Thursday, May 16, to Saturday, May 18. There is a very impressive line-up of speakers from all over the world, some of them MercatorNet contributors. (I am speaking on “Promoting the family in on-line media”.)
Substantial student scholarships and family rebates are available to help people with tight budgets. Just ring Terri Kelleher on 03-9816-0800.
I am making an unscheduled appearance for the weekend newsletter. Carolyn Moynihan, who normally composes it, recently had a nasty fall after a near miss by a careless driver. She will be convalescing with some minor injuries for a while.
So this week’s message is shorter than usual, I’m afraid.
Among the articles on the home page, geopolitical analyst George Friedman argues that the US and its European allies do not have the resources to stop the bloody civil war in Syria, however appalling it may be. Ashley Crouch writes from Manhattan about the fantasy world of fashion magazines.
And we have two features based in the Netherlands. Queen Beatrix has abdicated after 33 years in favour of her son Willem-Alexander. This ends more than 100 years of women on the Dutch throne, writes Susie Protschky. And on a less festive note, I have reviewed an audacious fraud by Dutch social psychologist Diederik Stapel, in which I detect lessons for the same-sex marriage debate.
There’s lots to read in the blog posts as well. Since we placed a selection of them on the main feed, they have been far more popular.
Huge cracks appeared in the building on the day before the disaster. Since several factories had collapsed with the loss of scores of lives in the last few years, employees were probably nervous. But the building’s owner, who was also a local politician, assured them that it was safe. Afterwards he disappeared although he was caught as he tried to cross the border into India.
Disasters like this happened in the United States, too, in the early days of the industrial revolution. In 1860 something similar happened in Lawrence, Massachusetts. A mill buckled under the weight of the sewing machinery, killing about 150 workers. Nothing happened to the owners. In 1911, a fire broke out in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York and 146 workers, mostly young immigrant women, died. The circumstances were very much like a fire which killed 112 in Dhaka last November. The New York owners were prosecuted but acquitted. In fact, they actually profited from the disaster because the insurance payout exceeded the cost of the losses.
Incompetence, skulduggery and knavery are constants in human nature. Surely the Western brands whose products were being cut and sewn in these grimy factories in Dhaka must have known that costs were low because safety standards were low. I’d endorse comments by Human Rights Watch on this tragedy: “It is time for companies to say that they will take no clothes from companies that do not meet minimum standards. Ignorance and cost can no longer be an excuse for some of the biggest companies in the world."
There is reading aplenty in this issue of the newsletter. Raffaele Chiarulli says that Iron Man 3 is a delightful combination of humour, whizz-bang special effects and intellectual depth. Andrew E. Harrod reports from Germany about a gay politician with a unique family: two fathers, two mothers and one child. Luke Kemp and Deputy Editor Carolyn Moynihan disagree on opportunities for Gen Y as the baby boomers start turning up their toes. Karl D. Stephan explains why the explosion in the town of West, Texas, was so destructive.
Finally, we have two articles on abortion. I have written one about a new abortion bill in Tasmania, which could be the world’s worst, if it becomes law. And Robert Reilly says that he cannot share President Obama’s cheery words for Planned Parenthood.
Lots to read. You’d better get to work straight away!
Oh, and before I forget, we are reaching the end of our appeal for funds. We desperately want to keep MercatorNet going -- please consider a donation.
Down Under yesterday we commemorated Anzac Day (see Marcus Roberts' fine post on Demography), and having a holiday on Thursday is not conducive to getting everything done by Friday afternoon. Perhaps that is why I am even later than usual with this newsletter; that’s the only excuse I can think of.
Last week our parliament voted to “Mondayise” this holiday -- and Waitangi Day (our “founding” day) -- when they fall during a weekend so that workers get their full quota of public holidays. For various reasons -- some noble, some merely commercial -- it was a closely won vote, unlike the same sex marriage law which sailed through on the same day with an almost two-thirds majority.
Ironically, one of the three grey-haired National (conservative) MP’s who distinguished themselves by their impassioned and witty speeches for gay marriage on the basis, putting it briefly, that tradition is bunk, was heard passionately arguing in the House a few weeks ago against Mondayising Anzac Day on the basis that this tradition is very important to New Zealanders.
Shifting the emphasis to the holiday aspect would not, he averred, “do anything to grow the weight of history that makes these days worthy of being so important that they require people to stop their routines to reflect, which is, after all, the reason we have public holidays, so that we can remember, pay tribute, and teach the next generation why we as a nation are where we are, and what was sacrificed to get us here.”
Indeed. Traditions are great, apparently, when they suit your party line but not when you have a personal reputation for liberal thinking to make.
Speaking of the next generation, my sister travelled home from a visit to our brother in Napier yesterday and for part of the trip had a boy of about 13 next to her. He was a pleasant lad, a military cadet, who was happy to have taken part in the Dawn Parade and a later turnout. The sad bit was that his mother saw him onto the bus at Napier and his father was to meet him at the other end; they are divorced and each has a new partner. The boy revealed all this matter-of-factly, but how pitiful it is that the young are learning to respect the sacrifices of past generations while missing out on the best things that they fought for -- values that have received another heavy blow with the redefinition of marriage.
There’s good news, however, in my piece about a lesbian academic who changed her mind about sex and other things when she struck up a friendship with a good Christian pastor. In other articles Susan Hansson clarifies the debate about religious liberty; Brendan Malone suggests there is a good take-home message in zombie movies; and, to be really controversial, Christie Thompson highlights some points from a bipartisan report refuting official claims about the use of torture on detainees.
Finally, on the Reading Matters blog Clare Cannon highly recommends a recent fantasy series for younger readers -- watch her video. How I wish I had time to read some of these stories, which often sound superior to adult novels!
Quite some time ago, I worked as a beginning journalist in the business section of a Sydney newspaper. One of the senior fellows there was a Afrikaner from Johannesburg. But he was no fan of the apartheid regime then in power. He told me that when he was a junior reporter there, he was told to attend the morning police press conference. He returned bursting with excitement. “What’s up?” the editor said. “Amazing. There were six murders all in one night. This must be front page stuff,” my friend said. “Blacks, were they?” said the editor. “Forget it.”
I was a bit shaken by this story – as was he, which explained why he migrated to Australia. But the problem of what makes news is still with us, even if the desperately unjust situation in South Africa belongs to the past. What makes bombing deaths in Boston worthy of more space in newspapers than bombing deaths in Baghdad? It’s actually a question which I have tackled in the lead story.
Carolyn Moynihan has done a round-up of expert opinion on lessons from the Boston Marathon bombings. One interesting angle from an authority on the media is that breaking news is broken. The idea that tweets and social media will deliver quick, accurate information is quite wrong – as several ghastly blunders by major news organisations proved.
In other articles this week, Ronan Wright reviews a stunning Danish film, A Hijacking, a drama about negotiations between a shipping company and Somali pirates. Olivia Carter discusses the first study which shows (scientifically) that a five-month-old child is conscious. And Bernadette Tobin analyses the issues at stake in patenting genes. This is an important issue with big consequences for health, business and human dignity which is now before the US Supreme Court.
If you are a Sydney resident and you would like to help us create a better MercatorNet, come to our focus group on May 4 in the CBD. Contact our Business Manager, Tim Lee for details (firstname.lastname@example.org).
I think my only encounter with Byzantium, growing up, was learning some stanzas of G K Chesterton’s epic poem about the Battle of Lepanto (1571). We actually recited them aloud, as we did many poems in those days, and consequently I have never forgotten the opening lines: “White founts falling in the courts of the sun, / And the Soldan of Byzantium is smiling as they run…” No-one, as I recall, explained the intriguing image or much else about the poem other than the fact that it was about a Catholic victory over the Moslems. Still, its unforgettable rhythm, images and sounds are occasionally evoked by some event.
It came to me today as I read the article written for us by Lars Brownworth, author of a book called The Forgotten Byzantine Empire that Rescued Western Civilisation. He reminds us that there is a Christian “Byzantium” which has survived ancient schisms and Muslim domination, only to be driven out by the current upheavals in the Middle East. Thanks to ancient prejudices, however, the Western world apparently couldn’t care less that Christian communities dating back to the time of the Apostles are disappearing. This is a real tragedy and injustice; I wonder what GKC would have to say about it.
History rises up to rebuke us again this week in our excerpts from Martin Luther King Jr’s powerful Letter from a Birmingham Jail. It is 50 years this week since he wrote his defence of civil disobedience against unjust laws and, while racial segregation has ended, many people do not understand the natural law argument on which he based his defence. Indeed, a lot of intellectuals and political activists reject natural law completely – and so they are completely wrong when they claim the “civil rights” mantle for the campaign for gay marriage. And that’s all I have to say here about the stupidity and injustice New Zealand politicians inflicted on the country this week.
In other articles Patrick Stokes suggests a principle that should govern protests against the dead; Pat Fagan of the Heritage Foundation rolls out some of the data confirming the essential connection between the intact family and national prosperity; and Tim Lee backgrounds the imminent Malaysian elections.
Speaking of gold… You might have noticed we are running an appeal for funds right now. We need your support to continue our work -- we need to raise $30,000 this month to cover our costs until the end of the year. To help us battle on, please give whatever sum you can afford.
It’s hard to know what to say about the bombing at the Boston Marathon. So far three people have died and there are horrific injuries. Perhaps the best thing is to say nothing and pray for the killed and the wounded and their families. Trying to fit this tragedy into a prefabricated framework may feed the ego, but it makes you look like a jerk.
Exhibit A is Dan Bidondi, a writer for a conspiracy website who was the first to ask Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick a question at his press conference. "Is this another false flag attack staged to take our civil liberties?" To which the governor politely replied, No, and asked for the next question. But it gave Mr Bidondi a crack at appearing on TV and an excuse to tweet his notoriety.
It’s always best to wait for the facts. Whoever the bomber is, killing and maiming probably came second in his mind to spreading fear and hatred. Feverish speculation is a good way to lend him a hand.
So far this week we have posted three articles. Ronan Wright reviews a film from Argentina about priests working in a ghastly slum. It may be helpful in understanding the new Pope’s background. I have written an obituary of Robert Edwards, the investor of IVF. He died two days after Margaret Thatcher and he may have changed the world more than she did. And Carolyn Moynihan has given the New York Times a big F for its coverage of the abortion scandal in Philadelphia.
Finally Robert Reilly reflects upon the philosophical background to the push for same-sex marriage. It's a long article, but well worth reading.
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