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Irish Times
(subscription-only)  
HOSTS ITS WEEKLY
HEAD2HEAD DEBATE [©]

Should the State sanction gay marriage?
14th January 2008

Eloise McInerneyTony Allwright

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Antagonists Present Their Respective Cases

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Letters Published in Response to the Debate

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Online Poll and Further Debate

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Excerpts from the Online Debate

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More Angry Comments

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Radio Debate

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TV Debate

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Married Biological Parents Are Better for Children
- Studies that support this statement
- This section is more easily found/remembered at
http://tiny.cc/ssm

Antagonists Present Their Respective Cases

YES: Eloise McInerney says everyone has a right to choose marriage and
discrimination on the basis of
sexual orientation is no better than racism.

NO: Tony Allwright says the recognition of gay marriage would discriminate
against other kinds of partnerships
and be open to abuse.

YES: I read a rather grim story recently in Newsweek magazine. A woman in Seattle was trapped in the basement of her home when flood waters poured into it. She phoned her partner, who came to try and get her out, but the pressure of the water was too strong. They called the fire brigade but, by the time it arrived, the water had already filled the basement and she was unconscious.

She was rushed to hospital where, unaccountably, her partner was banned from her bedside as she fought for her life, allowed entry only in time to hold her hand as she died.

Afterwards, her partner was also forbidden to make any of the funeral arrangements. This happened because, although they had been partners for 10 years and had committed to each other in a public ceremony, the couple were not legally married.

Neither had they ever had the option to get married, because they were both women, and the state of Washington does not allow same-sex marriages. (Afterwards, the testimony of the bereaved woman, Charlene Strong, was crucial in having legislation passed to legally recognise same-sex couples in the state.)

During the recent Civil Union Bill debate, Charles Flanagan TD told a similar story of a gay man in his constituency who was treated as a stranger by the family of his deceased partner, relegated to the sidelines during the funeral and denied the rights and respect that we would normally accord to someone in his position.

Sadly, these kinds of stories repeat themselves again and again. Stories of couples forced to separate because they were born in different countries and couldn't achieve residency through marriage; of parents whose children were taken away from them when their partner died; of bereaved people being forced to sell the house they shared with their partner because the State had more right to it than they.

The only thing that will put an end to these stories and end the hardship and discrimination faced by same-sex couples is the provision of full civil marriage for all, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

After much procrastination, the Irish Government has finally decided to begin addressing some of the problems faced by same-sex couples in Ireland, and will table the heads of a Bill on civil partnership before the summer.

We have no idea when actual legislation will emerge, or what exactly it will provide, but one thing is clear - it won't be full equality.

What are on offer are special rights, not equal rights. Same-sex couples will continue to be treated as second-class citizens, and the law will continue to treat their relationships as inferior and undeserving of the same respect accorded to heterosexual relationships.

Unfortunately, there are people who would agree that this should be the case, many coming from a religious perspective - claiming that marriage is sacred, defined in the eyes of God as existing between one man and one woman. But nobody is asking for church weddings here. Religion doesn't, and shouldn't, have a part to play in state contracts.

Others argue that marriage exists to protect children, and since gay people don't have children, they should have no right to marry.

But gay people do have children, they do raise families, and they do so just as well and as capably as heterosexual couples, often in the face of official discrimination. These children are being denied the very protections under law that we consider so important.

Gay parents are a fact, now, today, in this country - why should their children be discriminated against?

But marriage is not just about children. If it were, why would we allow people beyond child-bearing age to marry? Why would we allow those unfortunate couples with fertility problems to marry? Why, for that matter, would we allow people who choose not to have children to remain married?

Because there is a recognition that marriage is also about love and commitment. Some claim that gay people don't want commitment, pointing to the jaded stereotype of the promiscuous gay man.

This argument is a tautological one - gay people don't commit, therefore they should not be allowed to commit, but without the legal mechanisms and expectations of commitment, how are they supposed to do so in the first place?

Apart from that, it completely ignores the promiscuity of heterosexuals. A trip to most straight nightclubs on Saturday night speaks volumes.

Sexual orientation cannot be changed, anymore than skin colour. We think it's wrong to discriminate because of the latter, so why should it be okay to discriminate in terms of the former?

Gay people are normal people. They work, they pay taxes, they participate in their communities, they contribute to society, they raise children.

Marriage is not a privilege, it's a right. Is it really fair to continue denying same-sex couples the same rights and respect as other Irish citizens?

• Eloise McInerney is communications officer of LGBT Noise, a group set up last November to lobby for gay civil marriage in Ireland. (www.lgbtnoise.ie)

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NO: Civil union, civil partnership, gay marriage. It's all the talk, these days. Unless you're one of those (say in the Vatican) who believe homosexuality is some kind of curable disease, or else a fun lifestyle choice like drinking wine instead of beer, you would have to feel sorry for the plight of gays and lesbians in a hetero world.

A tiny minority wherever they go, often - and wrongly - despised, disliked or disparaged, whether to their face or not, I doubt they can ever feel fully comfortable except amongst fellow-gays.

Furthermore, except for those torn few who suppress their true sexual nature, conventional marriage is out, as is having children and enjoying a "normal" family life. Conventional marriage is, of course, a State-endorsed union between one man and one woman who vow to stay together for life.

Thus, when you hear proposals for making marriage available to gays, you'd have to be especially hard-hearted to remain unsympathetic. Of course, there's nothing to stop two gays vowing to remain together as a couple for life.

But without legal standing they would be denied the social benefits of marriage, specifically the opportunity to be taxed as a single unit rather than individually; tax-free inheritance of assets between spouses; the continued payment of a pension to a surviving spouse; and certain other less pecuniary rights such as next-of-kin status.

These benefits help couples procreate and raise children by reducing the financial penalty of the parent who spends more time rearing and less time earning. Only last week, Kate Holmquist lamented in The Irish Times how motherhood reduces earning power.

Yet numerous studies demonstrate that kids have a better chance in life if reared by their married biological parents. This is society's return for the tax breaks. Thus, the practical argument against gay marriage is that without the possibility of children, marital tax concessions have little payback.

It is true, however, that availability of gay marriage might help reduce promiscuity among gays, but although this may be intrinsically beneficial to society, it is not comparable with raising responsible future citizens.

Granting legal status to gay unions means conveying very real financial advantages. So, a question immediately follows: what's so special about a partnership that's gay? If gays are to benefit, there are plenty of other partnerships that should also be considered: two elderly brothers who have shared a house all their lives; a spinster daughter and/or bachelor son living with their widowed mother; lifetime bridge partners who have long shared a home together; celibate gays; three siblings.

Once you move away from the one-man-one- woman formula, the possible permutations become limitless. The one thing that would distinguish gay partnerships from all the others is that sex is involved, albeit fruitless sex. But that is a ridiculous prerequisite for tax breaks.

Yet without it, the doors would open to all kinds of people - genuine and mountebank alike - claiming to be civil partners as a tax-convenient ploy, some undoubtedly exercised on the deathbed of a conveniently ageing relative or friend.

Linda McCartney, resident in England for three decades, hired top lawyers to have her will probated in New York, which avoided 40 per cent inheritance tax, estimated at Ł60 million.

Without discriminating in favour of gay sex, it will be impossible to stop two people hitching up for purely tax purposes, or indeed three or four. In jurisdictions - such as the UK - which have granted significant tax advantages to gay couples in civil unions, it is only a matter of time before non-gay couples claim and obtain similar rights. It's already happening.

Britain's two elderly Burden sisters, who have lived together all their lives, are appealing, on anti- discrimination grounds, to EU courts to avail of the inheritance tax waiver now available to gay couples. Otherwise, when one of them dies, the other will have to sell their shared house to pay her sister's inheritance tax. Eventually, someone will succeed in extending gay tax breaks to non-gays.

Just as abortion law - originally highly restrictive - has over the years become de-facto abortion-on- demand until late into pregnancy, so tax- advantageous civil unions will eventually become available to any couple (or triple) who ask for it.

The "equal rights" argument does not hold water because gays already have the right to marry someone of the opposite sex; they just usually choose not to, albeit for understandable reasons.

So, for all the understanding gays deserve, any kind of statutory non-traditional marriage for them or anyone else is insupportable and unjust. It's either too discriminatory against non-gays, or else too wide open to abuse by tax-dodgers.

Resultant tax concessions would, in the absence of any discernible payback, unjustly increase the tax burden on others. Non-marital vows and commitments are personal arrangements. The State has no business getting involved.

Tony Allwright is a part-time engineering and industrial safety management consultant and a blogger (www.tallrite.com/blog.htm)

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Letters Published in Response to the Debate

DEBATE ON GAY MARRIAGE - 16th January 2008

Madam, - Tony Allwright (Head 2 Head, January 14th) gets it all wrong when it comes to gay marriage.

His loosely veiled discrimination against lesbian and gay couples seeking the right to civil marriage is framed in terms of concern over providing the same benefits to "other partnerships" - such as cohabiting elderly brothers .

Let's nail this once and for all: if the Government wants to legislate for cohabiting siblings then it can if it wants. But that it is an entirely separate argument to legislating for full equality for gay and lesbian couples by granting them access to full civil marriage.

Moreover, it might be possible to take Mr Allwright seriously if he didn't display such obvious bigotry towards homosexual people who, in his view, indulge in "fruitless sex". With this comment his mask slips, and it is all too obvious that he is merely a mouthpiece for the far right whose outdated view of human sexuality belongs to an Ireland that we all hoped we had left behind. - Yours, etc,

GRAINNE HEALY, Co-Chair, MarriagEquality, Hogan Avenue, Dublin 2.

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My response: It is not a separate issue, unless - in order to exclude non-gay
unions (eg between two siblings or friends) - gay marriage is to include a
specific provision that gay sex is to be practiced.  This would be a ridiculous
and unenforceable condition. 

Madam, - Were you distracted by the crossword when you sanctioned some unknown, self-described blogger and part-time engineering and industrial safety management consultant named Tony Allwright to pen a piece against the possibility of the Irish State sanctioning gay marriage?

Is this the latest in "reality journalism"? What makes his particular opinions worthy of being shared with your readers? Mere mortals are best confined to the Letters page.

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My response: I wonder what kind of person would qualify as having views “worthy of being shared”? A lawyer? A politician? A movie star? A journalist? And why would mere membership of “LGBT Noise” apparently make Ms McInerney's views “worthy of being shared”?

 

Madam, - Surely The Irish Times should rise above accommodating those who loosely and lazily refer to uncited "numerous studies" and events and consequences in unnamed "other jurisdictions", and who pejoratively introduce the abortion argument, not to mention tax-dodgers - both other arguments for other days. 

bulletMy response: Correct, my “numerous studies” were indeed uncited. 
But
everything on both sides of the argument went uncited, as citation
is not common practice in print media as it is on the internet. 

On the other hand, I never used the phrase
“other jurisdictions”.  I referred to
one other jurisdiction, namely the UK's which recognizes gay unions. 

My reference to abortion and tax-dodging was to illustrate the scope
for manipulating gay-marriage legislation to evade taxes.  I did not
comment on the rights and wrongs of abortion or tax-dodging per se. 

Furthermore, Mr Allwright makes no mention of the legitimacy of tax breaks for married couples in so-called "fruitless" sexual relationships. He can keep his mountebank pity for the "tiny minority" who seek equal opportunity and respect as equal citizens of this republic. - Yours, etc,

bulletMy response: Correct, I did not mention fruitless heterosexual relationships. 
I think a case can be made for excluding them from tax breaks if a way can
be found to do so fairly and enforceably.  That's an argument for another day. 

TIM FORDE, Swords, Co Dublin.

MORTAL COMBAT - 17th January 2008

Madam, - "Mere mortals are best confined to the Letters page," writes Tim Forde (January 16th). Mortal, yes. Mere, no! - Yours, etc,

OLIVER McGRANE, Marley Avenue, Rathfarnham, Dublin 16.

DEBATE ON GAY MARRIAGE - 21st January 2008

Madam, - Grainne Healy (January 16th) displays a poor grasp of the concept of equality when she states that the call "to legislate for cohabiting siblings" is "an entirely separate argument to legislating for full equality for gay and lesbian couples".

Either you want equality or you don't. It is clear that Ms Healy wants special treatment for gay and lesbian couples by virtue of the sexual nature of their relationships. The chaste, the lonely and cohabiting siblings are expected to fork out for her privilege. - Yours, etc,

MANUS MAC MEANMAIN, Elizabeth Street, Dublin 3.

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Online Poll and Further Debate

The Irish Times hosts a poll and a vigorous debate, here, with 28 pages of comments adding up to some 300 individual comments in all.  This is a huge response, as it is rare that the number of pages exceeds ten.  Indeed, out of 44 debates to date (end January 2008), 39 have had fewer than ten, and they in fact averaged only 2˝ pages of comments. 

The five others averaged 18, of which my debate was exceeded only by last March's question, Should gay and lesbian couples be allowed to adopt children?”, with 30 pages, and a poll result of 63% YES to 37% NO.  Clearly, gay issues strike a strong chord with Irish Times readers. 

The vast majority of debaters attack my article (with several ad-hominen assaults) rather than even refer to Ms McInerneys', but few attempt to refute my actual arguments. 

Many people talk of

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religious objections,

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the unnaturalness of homosexuality,

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the difficulty of gays raising children,

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the right of gays to love each other and live together,

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the undermining of straight marriages,

as if I had raised these issues as reasons to deny marriage to gays.  But I never said any such thing.  Some people seemed to infer that because I said nothing homophobic, that only proves how clever I am at being a closet homophobe (which I am not, closet or otherwise). 

A very large proportion of debaters - and therefore presumably voters - state that they are themselves gay.  This puts into some perspective the poll, which eventually stood at

Irish Times poll shows three times as many people polled favour gay marriage than oppose it

Excerpts from the Online Debate

Excerpts from the 300 comments were published on 21st January, as follows.

Join the debate online

Last week Eloise McInerney and Tony Allwright debated the question "Should the State sanction gay marriage?" Here is an edited selection of your comments:

My grandfather was born in Ireland. He would be rolling over in his grave over this. Will the Emerald Isle transition to the Lavender Isle? Homosexual behaviour is diseased and threatens the common good. There is no such thing as a "committed" sodomite relationship.
Mary Ann Kreitzer, United States

As a Catholic priest, I fully support the co-equality of every human being made as we are in the image and likeness of God. To treat as equal before the law of the land the love between same-gender adults is a work of justice that cries to Heaven for implementation. Surely it is past time that the Irish State did as our ancestors envisaged all those years ago and "treat all our children equally."
Bernard J Lynch, United Kingdom

Tony Allwright asserts that if same-sex marriage were introduced, there would be nothing stopping people marrying each other for tax breaks. Bizarrely, he doesn't follow that thought through and realise that such fraudulence is entirely possible with heterosexual marriage.
Michael Pidgeon, Ireland

Homosexuality is unnatural behaviour and is opposed by the major religions. I live and let live and don't force my opinion, but gay adoption and marriage is a step too far. The child's innocence would be morally corrupted and two dads will never replace a mother's unique role and, like it or not, that child will be victim to intolerable cruelty throughout his school years through no fault of his/her own.
Joe, Ireland

Note to "Joe" who won't give his full name: the "intolerable cruelty" you claim children of gay marriages would suffer would very likely be inflicted by people like you.
Ciarán Reilly, Ireland

My parents brought me up to believe that marriage was a union of two people who love each other. Does it matter that these two people are the same sex?
Pat Mahood, Ireland

Tony Allwright writes that "It is true, however, that availability of gay marriage might help reduce promiscuity among gays". I for one vow that as soon as I can marry my lady, I will stop preying on innocent straight women.
Annie, Ireland

The right to marry is a human and civil right. Denying that right to lesbians and gay men is a fundamental denial of our rights as human beings and as citizens. It is profoundly discriminatory, and unegalitarian.
Ailbhe Smyth, Ireland

Well it's just a simple issue of minority discrimination which should be solved as soon as possible. All arguments against gay marriage apply essentially to straight marriage as well. People who love each other and want to be together should be treated in the same way, disregarding the question of their sexuality. I strongly hope that Ireland will sanction gay marriage soon.
Vladimir Dotsenko, Ireland

The definition of marriage is a partnership between one man and one woman, so until you take the decision to call something which isn't by the term of something which is, the question, thankfully, is merely rhetorical!
Susan Philips, Ireland

We have had same-sex marriage here for years, and despite what some claim, civilisation has not ground to a halt, children of same-sex couples have not been socially crippled, and we still have freedom of religion.
Kaitlyn Burris, Canada

As someone who did make use of the civil partnership regulations in the North, I see no reason why my friends 10 miles up the road can't avail of a similar and preferably better facility of complete equality in the form of a marriage. As far as my partner and myself are concerned we are "married" to each other even if technically it's called a civil partnership. Now is the time for change!
C, Newry, Ireland

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More Angry Comments

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Several angry comments also appear at, appropriately, AngryPotato.net, another Irish
blogsite

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It's also worth checking out the thread at Cedar Lounge, where they don't seem too happy
with me, though some of the comments are quite reasoned.

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Maureen McM  dissects me on Sapphic Ireland and says I have turned her into a now-angry
dyke
”. 

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While over on Crux.Lightbb, Martin Rafael says that Podpořte stoupence tradiční rodiny
proti obhájkyni úchyláků, která propaguje homo-sňatky v Irsku
”, to which Antonio Ghislieri
responds,
Vyzkoušel jsem tradiční rodinu 2x, nyní bydlím s chlapem a mohu jenom
doporučit
”.  So I'm glad that's been clarified then. 

Astonishingly, hardly anyone has made any comment whatsoever - supportive or disparaging - about the
arguments on the YES side by my antagonist Eloise McInerney.  She must be very disappointed at being
so comprehensively ignored. 

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Radio Debate

Fianna Fail Councillor Malcolm ByrneOn 17th January, I was invited to debate the gay marriage issue with a very polite Councillor
from the ruling Fianna Fail party, called Malcolm Byrne, who is openly gayShannonside FM
were the host, under the chairmanship of Joe Finnegan. 
 

You can listen to and/or download an MP3 podcast here

I was also asked to participate in a few other live debates, but declined because I don't want to find
myself as some kind of crusader, and more to the point such events are not my strongest suit. 

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TV Debate

On 10th November I was invited to a debate about gay marriage on RTÉ's Questions and Answers TV
programme.  A few days earlier, Cardinal Seán Brady, who is the so-called Primate of All Ireland, had
warned that were the Irish government to bring in legislation to give cohabiting couples the same
rights as married couples, the Catholic Church would mount a constitutional challenge. The TV panel
was invited to discuss the question Is Cardinal Brady right about civil partnerships?”, with David
Quinn, leader of the Iona Institute, making the principal defence. 

You can view the very spirited discussion here

You can also listen to and/or download an MP3 audio of my own contribution here

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Married Biological Parents Are Better for Children
Studies that support this statement

This section is more easily found/remembered at
http://tiny.cc/ssm

Quite a number of my critics object to my statement that

numerous studies demonstrate that kids have a better chance in life
if reared by their married biological parents

because I did not provide any citation.  So here is a selection of reputable articles, books
and documents in the public domain which support this contention.   

Nevertheless, as David Quinn over at the Iona Institute has often said, the onus of proof is
actually on cohabitees, singles and gays to demonstrate that their unconventional concept of
parenthood is no less beneficial to children than that of conventional married biological
parenthood.  This involves demonstrating that a mother or a father is effectively surplus to
requirement: children don't suffer if one of them is absent, removed or replaced. 

I know of no research that reaches such conclusions. 

As a result, the notion of gays rearing children is, in fact, a social experiment, in which children
are used as the guinea pigs, with the results only being known when those children reach
adulthood. 

Is this moral?

Such experiments can be defended only if the alternative to gay adoption is no adoption at all,
and a childhood spent in an institution.

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Marriage from a Child's Perspective:
How Does Family Structure Affect Children, and What Can We Do about It?


A Child Trends Research Brief (ref
ED467554), by Kristin Anderson Moore, Susan Jekielek
and 
Carol Emig, June 2002

Excerpt:
Research clearly demonstrates that family structure matters for children, and the
family structure that helps the most is a family headed by two biological parents in
a low-conflict marriage ... There is thus value in promoting strong, stable marriages
between biological parents
.

It also contains this cautionary note:
This Child Trends brief summarizes research conducted in 2002, when
neither same-sex parents nor adoptive parents were identified in large
national surveys.

Therefore, no conclusions can be drawn from this research about the
wellbeing of children raised by same-sex parents or adoptive parents.
”. 
In either direction.

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Ontario Superior Court of Justice Court File No. 684/00

This is Professor Steven Nock's expert evaluation, under Affidavit, of the scientific
literature concerning the effect of legal recognition of the marriages of gay and lesbian
couples on their children. In particular it addresses the research of Dr. Jerry Bigner, into
whether “The children of gay and lesbian parents are as healthy and well adjusted as
those of their heterosexual counterparts
”. 

He concludes that
1) all of the articles reviewed contained at least one fatal flaw of design or execution; and
2) not a single one of those studies was conducted according to general accepted standards of scientific research.

He also points out that the effect of gay and lesbian marriages on children in such unions
cannot be answered because they are too new to have generated sufficient statistical data. 

 

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 Growing up with a single parent: What hurts, what helpsGrowing Up with a Single Parent:
What hurts, What Helps

by Sara McLanahan and Gary Sandefur, 1994

Excerpt:
If I were asked to design a system for making
sure that children's basic needs were met, we
would probably come up with something quite
similar to the two-parent ideal...The fact that
both parents have a biological connection to the
child would increase the likelihood that the
parents would identify with the child and be
willing to sacrifice for that child, and it would
reduce the likelihood that either parent would
abuse the child ...

 

 
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Domestic Partnerships: A response to recent proposals on civil unionsDomestic Partnerships:
A response to recent proposals on civil unions

by the Iona Institute, 2007

This report refers to several other reports
which consistently point to measurably
better statistical outcomes for the child
who is reared by his/her biological married parents.

There is a specific chapter entitled,

How marriage benefits children

 

bullet

Child Poverty in Perspective: An Overview of Child Wellbeing in Rich Countries” 
UNICEF Report Card 7, 2007

Excerp
t: “At the statistical level there is evidence to associate growing up in
single-parent families and stepfamilies with greater risk to well-being – including
a greater risk of dropping out of school, of leaving home early, of poorer health,
of low skills, and of low pay.

bullet

Do Mothers and Fathers Matter?:  
The Social Science Evidence on Marriage and Child Well-Being


by Maggie Gallagher & Joshua K. Baker, Institute for Marriage and Public Policy,
27th February 2004

Excerpt: “Marriage is an important social good associated with
an impressively broad array of positive outcomes for children and adults alike”

The authors conclude that children in intact married homes are less likely to

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suffer child poverty,

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suffer sexual and physical child abuse,

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suffer physical and mental ill-health,

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misuse drugs,

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commit crime,

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suffer educational and employment disadvantage,

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become divorced or unwed parents themselves. 

“Communities where good-enough marriages are common have better outcomes f
or children, women, and men than do communities suffering from high rates of divorce,
unmarried childbearing, and high-conflict or violent marriages.”

bullet

The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier and Better Off FinanciallyThe Case for Marriage
Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier

and Better Off Financially


by Linda Waite and Maggie Gallagher, October 2001

A reviewer writes:
Professor Linda Waite's outstanding book
restates and reconfirms the overwhelming
evidence in favour of marriage as the best of
all available family structures.

bullet Fathers' involvement and children's developmental outcomes:
a systematic review of longitudinal studies
”, by
 
bullet Anna Sarkadi, Department of Women's and Children's Health, Uppsala University, Sweden
bullet Robert Kristiansson, Centre of Clinical Research, Västerĺs County, Sweden,
bullet Frank Oberklaid, Centre for Community Child Health, Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne, Australia,
bullet Sven Bremberg, National Institute of Public Health, Östersund, Sweden

Acta Paediatrica, Volume 97 Issue 2 Page 153-158, February 2008

This is a systematic review of existing research into the effects
of father involvement (both biological fathers and father-figures)
on children's developmental outcomes.

There is evidence to support the positive influence of father
engagement on offspring social, behavioural and psychological
outcomes.

High father engagement in poor families (with stable marriages)
predicted lower incidence of delinquency during the early adult years
for both sexes,

“Current institutional policies in most countries do not support the
increased involvement of fathers in child rearing

bullet Unexpected Legacy of Divorce
- A 25 Year Landmark Study

Unexpected Legacy of Divorceby Judith S. Wallerstein, Julia Lewis, Sandra Blakeslee

In demonstrating the deleterious effect on
children of divorced (biological) parents,
this in-depth study of a hundred real-life
cases amounts to a strong argument for
fostering the institution of marriage. 

Contrary to the popular belief that kids
bounce back after the initial pain of
their parents' split, children of divorce often
continue to suffer well into adulthood.
Their pain plays out in their relationships,
their work lives and their confidence about
parenting themselves.

When marriages fail, there is no way most
mothers [whether they or the fathers
get custody] can maintain the same level of
physical and emotional involvement with
their children ... [who say] the biggest loss
they faced was the loss of their mother ...
In their thankless task of keeping everything afloat [single] mothers often lose the ability
to keep their primary emotional investment in their children”
(page 171). 

bullet

Generalising the Cinderella Effect to unintentional childhood fatalities, by
bullet

Greg A. Tooley (School of Psychology, Deakin University, Victoria, Australia), 

bullet

Mari Karakisa (School of Psychology, Deakin University, Victoria, Australia),

bullet

Mark Stokesa (School of Psychology, Deakin University, Victoria, Australia) and

bullet

Joan Ozanne-Smith (Monash University Accident Research Centre, Victoria, Australia)

In May 2008, The Australian newspaper summarised this academic study into the effects on children
of step-parenting, which examined more than 900 coronial inquiries into child deaths from
violence or accident.

It demonstrates that children with a step-parent or no biological parent are up to 22 times more
at risk - particularly the under-fives - than those with both biological parents or even a
single biological parent.

 

bullet

Creating an Opportunity Society

Creating an Opportunity Societyby Ron Haskins and Isabel Sawhill
The
Brookings Institute in the US
(a liberal think-tank with close ties to the Democratic Party)

The book, published in 2009, examines economic opportunity
in the United States and explores how to create more of it.  It 
recommends pro-marriage policies as one key way to help the
poor, especially their children, climb out of poverty.

“There is a growing consensus that having two married
 parents is the best environment for children. Marriage brings
 not only clear economic benefits but social benefits as well,
 enabling children to grow up to be more successful than they might otherwise be
... To those who argue that this goal [promoting marriage] is old-fashioned or
inconsistent with modern culture, we argue that modern culture is inconsistent
with the needs of children.”

 

bullet Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (NIS-4)
Report to US Congress, 2010
Also available via http://tinyurl.ie/neglect

by Sedlak, Andrea J, Mettenburg, Jane, Basena, Monica, Petta, Ian, McPherson,
Karla, Greene, Angela, and Li, Spencer

The rate of Harm Standard abuse for children living with two married biological
parents [shown in gold below] ... is significantly lower than the rate for children
living in all other conditions of family structure and living arrangement ... The
rates in the highest and lowest risk groups differ by more than a factor of 11.”

Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect, p5-20
 

bullet

Colour code:
bullet

Gold = Married Biological Parents

bullet

Purple = Other Married Parents

bullet

Silver - Unmarried Parents

bullet

Pale Blue = Single Parent with Partner

bullet

Turquoise = Single Parent, No Partner

bullet

Light Grey = Neither Parent

bullet

“Harm” comprises all maltreatment, abuse and neglect

bullet

“All Abuse” comprises physical abuse, sexual abuse and emotional abuse

bullet

“All Neglect”  comprises physical neglect, emotional neglect and educational neglect

 

bullet

Marriage Facts

by Monte Neil Stewart,
President of the Marriage Law Foundation,
Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, 1st July 2008
:

Ever stronger current, rigorous social science studies have ever more firmly established
that family form matters and that children receive maximum private welfare when they
are raised by a married mother and father in a low-conflict marriage ... This evidence has
troubled many in the academy who believe that all family forms are normatively equal.

 

bullet

Marriage and the Public Good: Ten Principles”,

by the Witherspoon Institute, June 2006:

“There are crucial sex differences in parenting. Mothers are more sensitive to the cries,
words, and gestures of infants, toddlers, and adolescents, and, partly as a consequence,
they are better at providing physical and emotional nurture to their children ...
[Complementing that,] fathers are more likely than mothers to encourage their children to
tackle difficult tasks, endure hardship without yielding, and seek out novel experiences.”

 

bullet

How Will Gay Marriage Weaken Marriage as a Social Institution”,

by Maggie Gallagher, University of St Thomas Law Journal, Fall 2004:

 
bullet

Marriage ... is the only institution that can both (a) produced the next generation
of babies and (b) connect thus babies to both their father and the mother ...

bullet

Getting men and women into stable marital union was understood to protect the
interests of children and society in a stable social order ...

bullet

Babies are most likely to grow into functioning adulthood when they have the care
and attention of both their father and their mother ...

bullet

The weight of social science evidence strongly supports the idea that family
structure matters and that children do best when raised by their own mother and
father in a decent, loving marriage”

bullet

Marriage: The Safest Place for Women and Children

by Patrick F Fagan and Kirk A Johnson, PhD, The Heritage Foundation, Washington
 
bullet

The evidence shows that the married intact family is by far
the safest place for children ... [British] rates of serious
abuse
of children are
bullet

lowest in the intact married family but

bullet

six times higher in the step family,

bullet

14 times higher in the always–single mother family,

bullet

20 times higher in cohabiting–biological parent families, and

bullet

33 times higher when the mother is cohabiting with a boyfriend
who is not the father of her children.”

 

bullet Biological married cohabiting parents are safest for children
 
bullet

When an abused child dies, the relationship between
family structure and abuse gets stronger: It is
bullet

lowest in intact always-married families,

bullet

three times higher in the step family,

bullet

nine times higher in the always–single-mother family,

bullet

18 times higher in the cohabiting–biological parents family, and

bullet

73 times higher in families where the mother cohabits with a boyfriend.”
 

bullet Biological married cohabiting parents are safest for children
 
bullet

In legislation and social policy, the government should not penalize parents for
marrying ...

bullet

[as for] abuse, government policy should not encourage — either directly or in
unintended ways — single motherhood and cohabitation.

 

bullet

Broken Homes and Battered Families:
A study of the relationship between child abuse and family type


by Robert Whelan, MA, then Director of Committee on Population and the Economy,
53 Cavendish Rd., London SW12, now Deputy Director of (UK-based)
Civitas: The Institute for the Study of a Civil Society.

©Family Education Trust, 1994, ISBN 0-906229-121-1
 
bullet

An increase in child abuse has accompanied the breakdown of the
traditional family, based on marriage, which is revealed as being
a comparatively safe environment for children.

 

Note that the above two (blue) charts originate in this report (and are transcribed into the Fagan & Johnson report).

 

bullet

Are Mothers and Fathers Both Necessary?

Broken Homes & Battered Children: A Study of the Relationship Between Child Abuse and Family TypeThe American Psychological
Association is often quoted as
supporting the contention that
children do as well raised
by a lesbian or gay parent/couple
as they do raised by their own
mother and father.

This position is summarised in the
following two “Whereases” in an
APA policy statement entitled
Sexual Orientation, Parents, &
Children

 

 

  1. WHEREAS there is no scientific evidence that parenting effectiveness
    is related to parental sexual orientation: lesbian and gay parents are as
    likely as heterosexual parents to provide supportive and healthy
    environments for their children (Patterson, 2000, 2004; Perrin, 2002;
    Tasker, 1999);
     

  2. WHEREAS research has shown that the adjustment, development, and
    psychological well-being of children is unrelated to parental sexual
    orientation and that the children of lesbian and gay parents are as likely
    as those of heterosexual parents to flourish (Patterson, 2004; Perrin, 2002;
    Stacey & Biblarz, 2001). 

Patricia Casey, Professor of Psychiatry at Dublin's Mater Misericordiae Hospital,
who is an expert in this area, refutes these findings, saying they are “deeply flawed”.

In 2007, they were also considered by the Irish High Court, which concluded that
the supporting evidence was “insufficient”.

According to Prof Casey, the flaws include that

  1. “the sample sizes are small, some have too short a follow-up period, and many
    do not use adequate outcome measures
    ”;
     

  2. the studies “frequently compare children of lesbian single mothers with children
    of heterosexual single mothers. In other words, they compare children of
    single mothers with children of other single mothers
    ”.

This contrasts to the (unflawed) books and peer-reviewed studies, some listed above,
which demonstrate, via surveys which are “large in scale, longitudinal, quantitative”,
that “children, in general, do best when raised by their married biological parents”.

Moreover, advocates of parenting by same-sex couples “amounts to a claim that
children don't really need mothers, or that they don't really need fathers
”, which is
certainly unproven, and also contrary to “common-sense intuition”.

The onus for proving this surely lies with those advocates, before turning children into
guinea pigs in a social engineering experiment.

 

bullet

Experiments in Living: The Fatherless Family,
by Rebecca O'Neill of Civitas, the Institute for the Study of Civil Society. 

This study draws on 112 sources to find (in 2002) that

“The weight of evidence indicates that the traditional family based upon a married father
and mother is still the best environment for raising children, and it forms the
soundest basis for the wider society”

Moreover, in general  

bullet

Lone mothers
bullet

are poorer, sicker and have worse interactions with their children

bullet

Non-resident biological fathers
bullet

Often lose contact with their children,

bullet

are sicker and engage in higher-risk behaviour

bullet

Children living without their biological fathers are
bullet

poorer, sicker, more deprived, have trouble in school and
with colleagues, more likely to be abused

bullet

Teenagers living without their biological fathers
bullet

are more likely to have sexual health problems, become
teenage parents, offend, smoke, drink, take drugs, play truant,
get expelled, curtail their education

bullet

Young adults who grew up not living with their biological fathers
bullet

risk having fewer qualifications, more unemployment, lower incomes,
more homelessness, more jailing, worse health, worse marriage records
 

bullet

A Millennium Cohort study in Britain found that
bullet

one in four children of cohabiting parents witnessed
the break-up of their family before the age of five years,

bullet

compared with one in ten children of married couples.

 

bullet

Irish Polls

Two independent polls, each of a representative samples of around a
thousand people people in Ireland, were conducted for the Iona Institute in
2007 and 2009. Although they are not in themselves evidence that
Married Biological Parents Are Better for Children”, the results clearly
indicate that a majority of Irish people believe this statement to be
essentially true.

Irish Poll, 2007

  1. The main reason the State supports marriage is to
  1. promote the happiness and well-being of the married couple: 28 % agree

  2. to help parents raise children: 57% agree

  3. No difference / Don't know: 15%

  1. In most cases, the absence of a father from the home is likely to harm a child
    emotionally or developmentally
    Agree: 54%, Disagree: 29%, Neither or don't know: 17%
     
  2. I believe it is better if the parents of a child are married.
    Agree: 52%, Disagree: 29%, Neither or don't know: 19%

Irish Poll, 12th January 2009:

  1. In general it is better for children if their parents are married.
          Agree: 61%, Disagree: 18%, No opinion: 21%
     

  2. In general marriage is better for society than couples living together.
          Agree: 53%, Disagree: 23%, No opinion: 24%
     

  3. In general, a child has a right to a father and a mother where possible.
          Agree: 92%, Disagree: 2%, No opinion: 6%
     

  4. Except in cases of abuse or neglect, parents should decide what is best
    for their children rather than an outside organisation.
          Agree: 72%, Disagree: 15%, No opinion: 6%

 

bullet

President Barrack Obama, 2008

These quotations are not of themselves evidence, but given who delivered
them -  someone clearly of the left who was himself raised largely by
a single mother - they are significant. 

Quote, 2008: “Of all the rocks upon which we build our lives,
we are reminded today that family is the most important.
And we are called to recognize and honor how critical every father
is to that foundation. They are teachers and coaches. They are
mentors and role models. They are examples of success and
the men who constantly push us toward it.

But if we are honest with ourselves, we'll admit that too many
fathers also are missing – missing from too many lives and
too many homes. They have abandoned their responsibilities,
acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families
are weaker because of it.

Quote, 2008: “We know the statistics -- that children who grow up
without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and
commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and
20 times more likely to end up in prison. They are more likely
to have behavioural problems, or run away from home, or become
teenage parents themselves.  And the foundations of our community
are weaker because of it.

 

bullet

The Centre for Social Justice
This is an independent think tank established in 2004 to seek effective solutions
to the poverty that blights parts of Britain.

From its own research, it concluded, on 18th December 2011, that there are
five ways in which marriage matters:

  1. Marriage brings stability:
    Just one in 11 married couples split before
    their child's fifth birthday compared to
    1 in 3 unmarried couples.

  2. Marriage is directly linked to better mental and physical health amongst adults:
    The same benefits are not found amongst co-habiting couples,
    it is specifically a
    Marriage Effect

  3. Marriage reduces the risk of violence and abuse:
    Children growing up in lone parent or broken families are between 3 and 6 times
    more likely to suffer serious abuse than those growing up with both biological parents,
    and the risk of domestic violence is significantly increased for co-habiting women
    than married women

  4. Marriage leads to better mental health for children:
    Children of lone parents are more than twice as likely to suffer mental health problems
    than children of married couples, and those of co-habiting couples are 75% more likely
    to have mental health problems than their peers with married parents

  5. Marriage leads to better life outcomes for children: 
    Children of married parents are more likely to achieve at school, less likely to use
    drink and drugs and less likely to get involved delinquent or offending behaviour.

A British Household Panel Study found in 2010 that

bullet

75% cent of those under the age of 35 expected to marry,

bullet

80% of those living together want to marry and

bullet

close to 90% of all young people want to marry

bullet

Queers as Folk: Does it really make no difference
if your parents are straight or gay?

by Mark Regnerus, associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas,
posted Monday, June 11, 2012, at 6:02 AM ET

In a survey-based social-science project, 15,000 Americans aged 18-39 were surveyed.

On 25 of 40 different outcomes evaluated, the children of women who’ve had
same-sex relationships fare quite differently from those in stable, biologically-intact
mom-and-pop families, displaying numbers more comparable to those from heterosexual
stepfamilies and single parents.

Even after including controls for age, race, gender, and things like being bullied as a youth,
or the gay-friendliness of the state in which they live, respondents raised in same-sex
relationships were more apt to report

bullet

being unemployed,

bullet

being less healthy,

bullet

being more depressed,

bullet

being more likely to have cheated on a spouse or partner,

bullet

smoking more pot,

bullet

having had trouble with the law,

bullet

having more male and female sex partners,

bullet

being subject to more sexual victimization, and

bullet

being more likely to reflect negatively on their childhood family life, among other things.

Prof Regenery's full report of this survey, “How different are the adult children of parents
who have same-sex relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study
”,
appears in the July 2012 edition of the Social Science Research journal. 

 

bullet Father Absence and Youth Incarceration
by Cynthia C. Harper, University of California San Francisco and
Sara S. McLanahan, Princeton University.

Father Absence and Youth IncarcerationThis paper was published in the
Journal of Adolescent Research, 14(3),
369–397 Copyright © 2004, Society for
Research on Adolescence

It is a US longitudinal event-history
analysis, which demonstrates that a
significant consequence of fatherlessness
lies in higher rates of criminal
imprisonment. 

“Adolescents in father-absent households
... faced elevated incarceration risks. The
adolescents who faced the highest
incarceration risks, however, were those
in stepparent families ... Social policies to
support children should broaden beyond an
emphasis on marriage to address the risks
faced by adolescents living in stepfamilies
as well.”

It finds that raising a boy in a single-parent household doubles the likelihood of his
ending up in prison compared to boys raised by two parents. 

Other factors, such as teen motherhood, low parent education, racial inequalities,
and poverty add to incarcerations rates. 

 

bullet Marriage: America’s Greatest Weapon Against Child Poverty
by Robert Rector, Heritage Foundation, Washington, 5th September 2012.

Rector, a Senior Research Fellow at the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society,
is a leading national authority on poverty, the US welfare system and immigration,
who concentrates on, inter alia, family breakdown and America’s various social ills.

bulletThe “principal cause [of child poverty] is the absence of married fathers
in the home. Marriage remains America’s strongest anti-poverty weapon ...
being married has the same effect in reducing poverty that adding
five to six years to a parent’s level of education has
.”
bulletThe poverty rate for single parents with children in the United States
in 2009 was 37.1%.
bulletThe rate for married couples with children was 6.8%.
bulletBeing raised in a married family reduced a child’s probability of
living in poverty by 82%.

In the US, this is giving rise to a two-caste society, with marriage and
education as the dividing line, irrespective of race.

Moreover, the decline of marriage generates poverty in future generations:
living in single-parent homes increases the poverty of children in adulthood by 50%,
even after adjusting for differences in family income and poverty

State of the Nation Report 2014
(ISBN 9781474111195PDF, 6.03MB, 285 pages)
by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission,
which monitors the progress of government and
others in improving social mobility and reducing
child poverty in the United Kingdom.

The SMCP Commission is an advisory
non-departmental public body, sponsored by
the Department for Education, the Cabinet
Office and the Department for Work and Pensions.

P20 of The UK Government’s Child Poverty
Indicators, which is an attachment to the main
report:

Children of lone parents and couples
who are cohabiting are at a higher risk
of poverty than those of married/civil
partnership couples. Children of lone parents have
generally been at slightly more risk of poverty
than those of cohabiting couples
.”

Children suffer less poverty when raised by married couples

Though the report does not distinguish between married/civil partnership couples,
statistically the bulk of the data is likely to have come from married couples.  Indeed,
the report usually uses only the term married couples”; references to civil partnership
appear to be merely a politically correct add-on

Emotional Problems among Children with Same-sex
Parents: Difference by Definition

published by the Social Science Research Network
written by D. Paul Sullins
Department of Sociology, The Catholic University of America, USA.
19th December 2014

This reports on the results of surveys of a representative sample in the US of
207,007 children, including 512 with same-sex parents. 

(512 is ten times more than the sample number in any other comparable study. 
Moreover the 512 were randomly selected rather tan self-selected and the
evaluation was objective rather than conducted by people close to the children.)


The report states, inter alia, that:

bullet “Emotional problems [are] over twice as prevalent for children
with same-sex parents than for children with opposite-sex parents”.

bullet“Biological parentage uniquely and powerfully distinguishes child outcomes
between children with opposite-sex parents and those with same-sex parents”

bulletIn every analytical model ... the relative risk due to same-sex parents was
significant and substantial

bullet“The primary benefit of marriage for children, therefore, may not be that it
tends to present them with improved parents (more stable, financially affluent, etc,
although it does this), but that it presents them with their own parents.”

bullet“The two family forms will continue to have fundamentally different,
even contrasting effects on the biological component of child well-being,
to the relative detriment of children in same-sex families.”
Britih JournalChild Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
in Same-Sex Parent Families in the United States:
Prevalence and Comorbidities

published in the British Journal of Medicine and
Medical Research
written by D. Paul Sullins
Department of Sociology, The Catholic University of
America, USA.
21st January 2015

This reports also draws on the results of surveys of the
same representative sample in the US of 207,007
children, including 512 with same-sex parents. 

bullet“Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
is more than twice as prevalent among children with
same-sex parents than in the general population”.

bulletMoreover, “children with ADHD are over
three times more likely to be stigmatized or bullied
(than are those without ADHD) among those with
opposite-sex parents, and over seven times more
likely to be bullied among those with same-sex parents”. 

               In other words, bullying of ADHD kids doubles when they have same-sex parents.

So same-sex parenting seems to lead to an increase not only in ADHD
but also in the amount of ADHD-related stigmatization and bullying.
The “no difference” theory is dead:
A US study finds that opposite-sex parents are better than same-sex parents
.

Published  in Mercatornet
by Michael Cook
9 February 2015

This article discusses the above two academic papers.

Invisible Victims:
Delayed Onset Depression among Adults with Same-Sex Parents

A research article by D Paul Sullins
Department of Sociology, The Catholic University of America, Washington DC
published in the Depression Research and Treatment Journal
on 19 April 2016

One of the most compelling aspects of this study is that it is longitudinal,
evaluating the same people (nearlyh 9,000 - see next paragraph) over a
long period of time. Indeed, its data source — the National Longitudinal
Study of Adolescent Health
— is one of the most impressive, thorough and
expensive survey research efforts still ongoing.

Starting in 1995, the research was based on interviews of a representative
sample of 20,745 American adolescents aged 13–19, and following as many
as were possible, who by the time of reaching the age of 28 in 2008
amounted to 8,762 individuals. 

The chart below summarises its findings: that children of same-sex couples
encounter, in certain areas, greater problems in later life than those of
opposite-sex couples.

The relationship of elevated depression risk recently discovered
among adult persons raised by same-sex parents with possible
precipitating conditions in childhood has not previously been
acknowledged.

This chart comes from a separate article, “The Data on Children in
Same-Sex Households Get More Depressing
”, by sociology professor
Mark Regnerus
at the University of Texas, which uses data from Table 1
of the primary article.
From http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2016/06/17255/

This section is more easily found/remembered at
http://tiny.cc/ssm

Back to relevant blog posts ...
bulletNovember 2007: Recognizing Non-Marital Unions
bullet

January 2008: Should the State Sanction Gay Marriage?

bulletFebruary 2008: Do Fathers and Mothers Matter?

Alternatively: Return to top of this page

 

 

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 What I've recently
been reading

The Lemon Tree, by Sandy Tol, 2006
“The Lemon Tree”, by Sandy Tol (2006),
is a delightful novel-style history of modern Israel and Palestine told through the eyes of a thoughtful protagonist from either side, with a household lemon tree as their unifying theme.

But it's not entirely honest in its subtle pro-Palestinian bias, and therefore needs to be read in conjunction with an antidote, such as
The Case for Israel, Alan Dershowitz, 2004

See detailed review

+++++

Drowning in Oil - Macondo Blowout
This
examines events which led to BP's 2010 Macondo blowout in the Gulf of Mexico. 

BP's ambitious CEO John Browne expanded it through adventurous acquisitions, aggressive offshore exploration, and relentless cost-reduction that trumped everything else, even safety and long-term technical sustainability.  

Thus mistakes accumulated, leading to terrifying and deadly accidents in refineries, pipelines and offshore operations, and business disaster in Russia.  

The Macondo blowout was but an inevitable outcome of a BP culture that had become poisonous and incompetent. 

However the book is gravely compromised by a litany of over 40 technical and stupid errors that display the author's ignorance and carelessness. 

It would be better to wait for the second (properly edited) edition before buying. 

As for BP, only a wholesale rebuilding of a new, professional, ethical culture will prevent further such tragedies and the eventual destruction of a once mighty corporation with a long and generally honourable history.

Note: I wrote my own reports on Macondo
in
May, June, and July 2010

+++++

Published in April 2010; banned in Singapore

A horrific account of:

bullet

how the death penalty is administered and, er, executed in Singapore,

bullet

the corruption of Singapore's legal system, and

bullet

Singapore's enthusiastic embrace of Burma's drug-fuelled military dictatorship

More details on my blog here.

+++++

Product Details
This is nonagenarian Alistair Urquhart’s incredible story of survival in the Far East during World War II.

After recounting a childhood of convention and simple pleasures in working-class Aberdeen, Mr Urquhart is conscripted within days of Chamberlain declaring war on Germany in 1939.

From then until the Japanese are deservedly nuked into surrendering six years later, Mr Urquhart’s tale is one of first discomfort but then following the fall of Singapore of ever-increasing, unmitigated horror. 

After a wretched journey Eastward, he finds himself part of Singapore’s big but useless garrison.

Taken prisoner when Singapore falls in 1941, he is, successively,

bullet

part of a death march to Thailand,

bullet

a slave labourer on the Siam/Burma railway (one man died for every sleeper laid),

bullet

regularly beaten and tortured,

bullet

racked by starvation, gaping ulcers and disease including cholera,

bullet

a slave labourer stevedoring at Singapore’s docks,

bullet

shipped to Japan in a stinking, closed, airless hold with 900 other sick and dying men,

bullet

torpedoed by the Americans and left drifting alone for five days before being picked up,

bullet

a slave-labourer in Nagasaki until blessed liberation thanks to the Americans’ “Fat Boy” atomic bomb.

Chronically ill, distraught and traumatised on return to Aberdeen yet disdained by the British Army, he slowly reconstructs a life.  Only in his late 80s is he able finally to recount his dreadful experiences in this unputdownable book.

There are very few first-person eye-witness accounts of the the horrors of Japanese brutality during WW2. As such this book is an invaluable historical document.

+++++

Culture of Corruption: Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks, and Cronies
Culture of Corruption: Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks, and Cronies

This is a rattling good tale of the web of corruption within which the American president and his cronies operate. It's written by blogger Michele Malkin who, because she's both a woman and half-Asian, is curiously immune to the charges of racism and sexism this book would provoke if written by a typical Republican WASP.

With 75 page of notes to back up - in best blogger tradition - every shocking and in most cases money-grubbing allegation, she excoriates one Obama crony after another, starting with the incumbent himself and his equally tricky wife. 

Joe Biden, Rahm Emmanuel, Valerie Jarett, Tim Geithner, Lawrence Summers, Steven Rattner, both Clintons, Chris Dodd: they all star as crooks in this venomous but credible book. 

ACORN, Mr Obama's favourite community organising outfit, is also exposed for the crooked vote-rigging machine it is.

+++++

Superfreakonomics
This much trumpeted sequel to Freakonomics is a bit of disappointment. 

It is really just a collation of amusing little tales about surprising human (and occasionally animal) behaviour and situations.  For example:

bullet

Drunk walking kills more people per kilometer than drunk driving.

bullet

People aren't really altruistic - they always expect a return of some sort for good deeds.

bullet

Child seats are a waste of money as they are no safer for children than adult seatbelts.

bullet

Though doctors have known for centuries they must wash their hands to avoid spreading infection, they still often fail to do so. 

bullet

Monkeys can be taught to use washers as cash to buy tit-bits - and even sex.

The book has no real message other than don't be surprised how humans sometimes behave and try to look for simple rather than complex solutions.

And with a final anecdote (monkeys, cash and sex), the book suddenly just stops dead in its tracks.  Weird.

++++++

False Economy: A Surprising Economic History of the World
A remarkable, coherent attempt by Financial Times economist Alan Beattie to understand and explain world history through the prism of economics. 

It's chapters are organised around provocative questions such as

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Why does asparagus come from Peru?

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Why are pandas so useless?

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Why are oil and diamonds more trouble than they are worth?

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Why doesn't Africa grow cocaine?

It's central thesis is that economic development continues to be impeded in different countries for different historical reasons, even when the original rationale for those impediments no longer obtains.  For instance:

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Argentina protects its now largely foreign landowners (eg George Soros)

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Russia its military-owned businesses, such as counterfeit DVDs

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The US its cotton industry comprising only 1% of GDP and 2% of its workforce

The author writes in a very chatty, light-hearted matter which makes the book easy to digest. 

However it would benefit from a few charts to illustrate some of the many quantitative points put forward, as well as sub-chaptering every few pages to provide natural break-points for the reader. 

+++++

Burmese Outpost, by Anthony Irwin
This is a thrilling book of derring-do behind enemy lines in the jungles of north-east Burma in 1942-44 during the Japanese occupation.

The author was a member of Britain's V Force, a forerunner of the SAS. Its remit was to harass Japanese lines of command, patrol their occupied territory, carryout sabotage and provide intelligence, with the overall objective of keeping the enemy out of India.   

Irwin is admirably yet brutally frank, in his descriptions of deathly battles with the Japs, his execution of a prisoner, dodging falling bags of rice dropped by the RAF, or collapsing in floods of tears through accumulated stress, fear and loneliness. 

He also provides some fascinating insights into the mentality of Japanese soldiery and why it failed against the flexibility and devolved authority of the British. 

The book amounts to a  very human and exhilarating tale.

Oh, and Irwin describes the death in 1943 of his colleague my uncle, Major PF Brennan.

+++++

Other books here


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After 48 crackling, compelling, captivating games, the new World Champions are, deservedly,
SOUTH AFRICA

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