Saturday, January 24, 2009

Feminists eat your heart out

Comment from Australia

This is the scene on a picture-perfect Sydney day I experienced recently: a bride, beautiful in white; the handsome groom by her side; the sun setting slowly over the Harbour, casting an ethereal glow on the small congregation gathered on the sand. He says his love is like the "undulating waves of the ocean"; she weeps as the ring is placed gently on her finger. As the marriage celebrant pronounces them "man and wife", our elegant bride punches her fist into the air, lifts up her train, and performs an impromptu victory lap. It might seem odd to some but the guests at this wedding, myself included, understand her elation.

For some women getting married is like winning a footy grand final. For almost a decade this bride had waited patiently for her Prince Charming to go down on bended knee, while her biological clock ticked ever louder. Their on-again, off-again travails took them to every corner of the globe, our heroine visiting soothsayers and shamans to find the key to his heart. He suddenly awoke one morning with a revelation that the size nine stiletto by the side of the bed was actually a glass slipper. He had found his Cinderella.

It seems my friends are not alone. On the other side of Sydney, another such drama has apparently been played out, with a different denouement. Football star Craig Wing has broken up with his girlfriend of almost a decade, Zoe Foster, amid whispers that she is tired of waiting for him to propose. The 28-year-old beauty writer reportedly wants to settle down and start a family. And it seems she has the support of our readers. "You go girl! Such a shame he didn't want to propose but good on you for realising and deciding to move on with your life instead of hanging around until the relationship soured," online reader Helena commented.

It's a problem facing many women who are approaching their 30s, when fertility rates begin to decline. "Society is very focused on individual success so there's no pressure on men to settle down," says Relationships Australia's Anne Hollands. "Often, the pressure comes from women's biological clocks."

Some three-quarters of Australian couples now live together before getting married, up from 22 per cent in 1978; most only concede to marriage because they want to have children. When the big day finally arrives, Muriel eat your heart out - too much frou-frou is barely enough. "We almost feel as though we can defy the one-in-three divorce rate if we do it in the traditional way," says Ms Hollands. Witness popular movies such as Sex And The City (sassy career chick left waiting at the altar), Made of Honor (beautiful woman can't get hunky Patrick Dempsey to settle down) and Bride Wars (best friends planned details of their weddings since childhood).

"Marriage has never gone out of fashion . . . every girl still wants the big, white wedding," says Barbara Bell, a celebrant for 14 years. It's quite extraordinary that, a century after the first wave of feminism, women are still desperate to be given away to a man, goods-and-chattels style.

Even the blokes are perplexed. "It's the 21st century. Women are supposed to be equal. If she (Zoe Foster) wants to be married, why doesn't she exercise her equality and do the proposal?" writes Dave of Sydney. Indeed, the Sunday weddings pages and personal advice websites such as are full of stories about sisters who are doing it for themselves. "I just proposed to my fiance a month ago and I loved it!" gushes Alycia. "We went to his favourite band's concert in Las Vegas and I had them pull us up on stage and I got on the mic and asked him and gave him the ring in front of everyone!"

A recent news poll found 20 per cent of Aussie women support the tradition of proposing marriage on February 29 - the extra day of a leap year. In reality, most are waiting for a knight in shining armour to ride in on his trusty steed (or for a Macquarie banker in a pin-striped suit to drive up in his reliable Lexus).

"We had one bride who sold her car to buy the dress," says Jill Hulse of Paddington Weddings. "At every fitting, she jumped up and down like Tigger (from Winnie The Pooh). On her final fitting, she tried to do a cartwheel!"

Wedding couturier Suzanne Tapp says many men don't see the sense in a wedding in these tough financial times. "Why blow $30,000 on a wedding?" she says. "That's a home deposit." So, if you're still waiting for your man to pop the question, he could be a) too selfish; b) too frugal; c) too scared; d) waiting for an epiphany, or e) just not that into you. Or perhaps - and most likely - it's simply not "right" and that Prince Charming is waiting in the wings.


'Warrior Gene' Predicts Aggressive Behavior After Provocation

I thought "poverty" was the source of all troubles! So Leftists say, anyway

Individuals with the so-called "warrior gene" display higher levels of aggression in response to provocation, according to new research co-authored by Rose McDermott, professor of political science at Brown University. In the experiment, which is the first to examine a behavioral measure of aggression in response to provocation, subjects were asked to cause physical pain to an opponent they believed had taken money from them by administering varying amounts of hot sauce.

The findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In addition to McDermott, the research team included Dustin Tingley of Princeton University, Jonathan Cowden of the University of California-Santa Barbara, Giovanni Frazetto from the London School of Economics, and Dominic Johnson from the University of Edinburgh. Their experiment synthesized work in psychology and behavioral economics.

Monoamine oxidase A is an enzyme that breaks down important neurotransmitters in the brain, including dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. The enzyme is regulated by monoamine oxidase A gene (MAOA). Humans have various forms of the gene, resulting in different levels of enzymatic activity. People with the low-activity form (MAOA-L) produce less of the enzyme, while the high-activity form (MAOA-H) produces more of the enzyme.

Several studies have found a correlation between the low-activity form of MAOA and aggression in observational and survey-based studies. Only about a third of people in Western populations have the low-activity form of MAOA. By comparison, low-activity MAOA has been reported to be much more frequent (approaching two-thirds of people) in some populations that had a history of warfare. This led to a controversy over MAOA being dubbed the "warrior gene."

The PNAS paper is the first experimental test of whether MAOA-L individuals display higher levels of actual behavioral aggression in response to provocation. A total of 78 subjects took part in the experiment over networked computers (all were male students from the University of California-Santa Barbara). Each subject (A) first performed a vocabulary task in which they earned money. Then they were told that an anonymous partner (B), linked over the network, could choose to take some of their earnings away from them. The original subject (A) could then choose to punish the taker (B) by forcing them to eat unpleasantly hot (spicy) sauce - but they had to pay to do so, so administering punishment was costly. In reality, the "partner" who took money away was a computer, which allowed the researchers to control responses. No one actually ingested hot sauce. Their results demonstrate that

Low-activity MAOA subjects displayed slightly higher levels of aggression overall than high-activity MAOA subjects.

There was strong evidence for a gene-by-environment interaction, such that MAOA is less associated with the occurrence of aggression in the low-provocation condition (when the amount of money taken was low), but significantly predicted aggression in a high-provocation situation (when the amount of money taken was high).

The results support previous research suggesting that MAOA influences aggressive behavior, with potentially important implications for interpersonal aggression, violence, political decision-making, and crime. The finding of genetic influences on aggression and punishment behavior also questions the recently proposed idea that humans are "altruistic" punishers, who willingly punish free-riders for the good of the group. These results support theories of cooperation that propose there are mixed strategies in the population. Some people may punish more than others, and there may be an underlying evolutionary logic for doing so.


A small victory for openness in Britain

Gordon Brown performed a swift U-turn over government plans to block the publication of MPs expenses yesterday. The Prime Minister told the Commons that the plans to amend Freedom of Information laws to exempt MPs expenses would be abandoned. The House had been due to vote on the measures today, with Labour MPs under a three line whip to vote in favour. But Mr Brown said yesterday that the lack of cross-party support meant a vote would no longer held tomorrow and the issue would be reviewed further.

Speaking at Prime Minister's Questions, he blamed the Tories for withdrawing their support from the controversial move and leaving the Government isolated, a charge that David Cameron, the Conservative leader, denied. "We thought we had agreement on the Freedom of Information Act as part of this wider package," he said. "Recently that support that we believed we had from the main opposition party was withdrawn. "So on this particular matter, I believe all-party support is important and we will continue to consult on that matter." Mr Brown made the announcement in response to a question from Douglas Carswell, the Tory MP, who asked why he was whipping the MPs to pass the matter.

The Conservatives denied, however, that there had been any "trickery", with the Shadow Leader of the House Alan Duncan saying that the party had rejected the moves on principle. "What was wrong with this is that Parliament made the law, the law included Parliament in it and now we're looking backwards and saying 'Oops, we don't like it'," he said. Mr Cameron later issued a statement welcoming the Government's "embarrassing U-turn". "To exempt MPs from the FOI Act would be completely wrong. They should be treated the same as everybody else," he said. "The public demand and deserve greater transparency from their politicians and this would have been a step in the wrong direction. "This is about the simple principle that MPs are given taxpayers' money to help them represent voters. Taxpayers struggling to get by in this recession surely have a right to know how their money is going to be spent."

More here

Big government, not big media, threatens free speech

Self-appointed consumer watchdogs--including Obama's recent pick for FCC chair, Julius Genachowski--have long complained about media consolidation. So it was no surprise that when the FCC recently loosened restrictions barring companies from owning a newspaper and TV station in the same city, these critics went apoplectic and are now urging the House to follow the Senate in blocking the measure.

Media consolidation supposedly threatens free speech. A few conglomerates, critics warn, have seized control of our media outlets, enabling these companies to shove a single "corporate-friendly" perspective down our throats. As Senator Byron Dorgan put it, "The free flow of information in this country is not accommodated by having fewer and fewer voices determine what is out there. . . . You have five or six corporate interests that determine what Americans can see, hear, and read."

Leave aside that Dorgan's comments are hard to take seriously in the age of the Internet: his position is still a fantasy. Media consolidation is no threat to free speech--it is the result of individuals exercising that right.

All speech requires control of material resources, whether by standing on a soapbox, starting a blog, running a newspaper ad, or buying a radio station. Media corporations simply do this on a larger scale.

Consider the critics' favorite bogeyman, News Corp. When Rupert Murdoch launched the company, he and his fellow shareholders pooled their wealth to create a communications platform capable of reaching millions. They further expanded their ability to communicate through mergers and acquisitions--that is, through media consolidation. As News Corp.'s owners, shareholders were able to exercise their freedom of speech by deciding what views their private property would (and wouldn't) be used to promote--the same way a blogger decides what ideas to champion on his blog. Like most other media companies, News Corp. even extended the use of its platforms to speakers from all over the ideological map--including opponents of media consolidation.

Do News Corp.'s resources give Murdoch an advantage when it comes to promoting his views? Absolutely. Free speech doesn't guarantee that everyone will have equal airtime, any more than free trade guarantees that every business will have the same amount of goods to trade. What it does guarantee is that everyone has the right to use his own property to speak his mind.

Some of today's most prominent voices, such as Matt Drudge, have succeeded without huge financial resources. But regardless of how large a media company grows, it can never--Dorgan's complaints notwithstanding--determine what media Americans consume. It must continually earn its audience. Fox News may be the leading news channel today, but if it doesn't produce shows people want to watch, it will have all the influence of ham radio. Just think of how newspapers and the big-three network news stations are losing audiences to Web-based sources.

Now consider the actual meaning of government restrictions on media ownership. The FCC is telling certain Americans that they cannot operate a printing press or its equivalent. Such restrictions cannot protect free speech--they are in fact violations of the right to free speech. There is no essential difference between smashing someone's printing press and threatening to fine and jail him if he uses one; either way, he can't use it to express his views.

What galls critics of media consolidation is not that News Corp. stops anyone from speaking--it's that they don't like the choices Americans make when free speech is protected. In the words of one critic: "[M]arket forces provide neither adequate incentives to produce the high quality media product, nor adequate incentives to distribute sufficient amounts of diverse content necessary to meet consumer and citizen needs." Translation: Can you believe what those stupid consumers willingly pay for? If I got to decide what Americans watched, read, and listened to, things would be different.

In order to "correct" the choices Americans make, these critics demand that the FCC violate the free speech rights of some speakers in order to prop up other speakers who, absent such favors, would be unable to earn an audience. In short, they want a gun-wielding Uncle Sam--not the voluntary choices of free individuals--to determine who can speak and therefore who you can listen to. The critics of media consolidation are frauds. They are not defenders of free speech--they are dangerous enemies of that freedom.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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