1. What do you see?
What colours do you see in this image?
I’m told that most of us see pink and white but some see grey and green. Actually I see grey with a faint pinkish tinge and aqua. My wife sees reality quite differently.
You might recall this dress, which I maintain is blue and brown:
Together with this cartoon:
2. Women’s brains
It is widely thought that women and men have different brains, but on the whole, no, says Dr Sarah McKay talking to Lyn Malcolm on All in the Mind – see Women’s brain business. Every brain is different, a mosaic, and there is no way of telling whether a scan is from a male or a female brain.
There are some differences. For example, men on average have a better ability to rotate a 3-D object in their mind’s eye, but the difference is statistical. Some women can do it brilliantly and some men are hopeless. There is no way of telling whether the difference is genetic, or based on differences in cultural experience growing up.
McKay has looked at all the other myths about women – whether they experience PMT and whether menopause affects their moods. Research has shown that only one in 20 women have mood changes which appear to be linked to menstruation. Significantly, that was in a study when the women were asked how they felt on a daily basis, but were not told that the study was looking at the link if any with menstruation. Other life experiences are way more important.
However, with menopause, a quarter of women may suffer reasonably severe symptoms, about half of women may have the odd symptom and another quarter of women may just sail through completely unaffected.
In pregnancy, the story is complex. In general terms the baby is not affected in utero by the life experiences of the mother. However, severe trauma can affect the health and cognition of the baby, as Canadian researchers found with children who were in utero during a severe, damaging storm.
And the mother’s brain does change with the hormonal changes of pregnancy. For example, the empathy and social cognition brain regions are fine-tuned.
Unfortunately most brain research is done on healthy young males, for a variety of reasons including availability. One reason is that some researchers think including women might confuse the study, and some:
are just kind of too scared to start looking at women’s health and comparing it to men’s health for fear of having their research abused to support outdated gender stereotypes, so they’ve kind of shied away from that.
3. Is there virtue in housework and other caring roles?
Waleed Aly and Scott Stevens, with help from Anne Manne address a question sent in by Jessica Lake, a lecturer in the Swinburne Law School. She suggested them we look at the moral dimension of housework:
- “Here I don’t simply mean the gender imbalance with regards to labour within the home, but rather whether we have a moral obligation to care for ourselves and others. And whether, by increasingly outsourcing these dimensions of our lives to cleaners, au pairs, nannies, shopping assistants etc we are losing some important moral grounding in our own humanity. Should we all endeavour to clean the toilet or calm a tantrum? Would it make us better people?”
To cut to the chase, yes it would make us better persons, but only if we undertake the work in order to help other people rather than to make ourselves better persons.
This made me think of an experiment described by Johann Hari in talking to Phillip Adams about his new book Lost Connections: Uncovering the real causes of depression – and the unexpected solutions. The experiment asked the question, If you decided to spend two hours a day making yourself happier, would it work?
In one country, the USA, it did not work. In three other countries – Japan, China and Russia – it did. What is going on?
In the USA people chose to do something for themselves, in the other countries they chose to do something for other people. In the US, and probably Australia, people have an individualistic idea of what it is to be happy, in the other countries they have a collective idea.
4. A new dawn in Malaysia
For now, the people have spoken, and Malaysia has been saved from kleptocracy.
Malaysia woke up this morning [Thursday] to a new dawn. The ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition lost their 61-year hold on government and Mahathir Mohamad, now the prime ministerial candidate for the Pakatan Harapan coalition, is poised to be sworn into power after a 15-year hiatus.
Former Malaysian leader Dr Mahathir Mohamad is poised to become the world’s oldest prime minister after defeating Najib Razak in a fiercely contested election that put an end to the ruling coalition’s six-decade hold on power.
The plan is for Anwar Ibrahim, Mahathir’s former deputy, who has been in the slammer for trumped up charges, to be given a royal pardon, win a seat somewhere in a bi-election, and then take over.
Meanwhile Anwar’s wife, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, will be Mahathir’s deputy prime minister.
There had been a heist of public money where billions of dollars had gone astray, some $700 million directly into Najib Razak’s pocket. All sorts of laws had been introduced to restrict press freedom and to make it difficult for any opposition to gain a footing. Corruption was well on the way to becoming a structural part of the state.
We’ll have to see how it all works out over time, but many Malays are over the moon that a first step has been taken. Here’s more:
There is a good summary by Dr Bridget Welsh talking to Tom Switzer.
5. Trump withdraws from the Iran nuclear deal
Probably the most important thing to happen in Trump-land last week was Trump withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal. There is a handy analysis by John Mearsheimer, Professor of international relations at the University of Chicago and author of The Tragedy of Great Power Politics talking to Tom Switzer.
Mearsheimer reckons, either the whole nuclear deal will fall over and Iran will be making bombs in no time flat (how will Israel react?), or the Europeans will stagger on without the USA. In which case the deal may still fall over later.
Mearsheimer says the US is on best mates terms with the country most responsible for instigating terrorism – Saudi Arabia. Trump will not get a ‘better’ deal out of Iran. They should get out of Iran’s face and learn to live with them.
6. Shorten’s masterstroke of timing
Most of the commentary was that Shorten had bombed out badly in his handling of the citizenship thing. I’d suggest that on the contrary it may work out well. In five bi-elections we can now have a test run for the next election, four of them Labor seats. However, the Liberals are not going to run in the two seats in WA. If Labor had lost those two seats, plus Susan Lamb’s Longman in Queensland, Bill Shorten’s leadership would have been toast. But then with Albo or Plibers at the helm, Turnbull would have been toast in the election.
The LNP strategy is to ‘kill Bill’, so they want to preserve him for the election. And to turn the WA bi-elections into a boxing match between Labor and The Greens. Longman is centred on Caboolture, north of Peter Dutton’s seat and south of the Sunny Coast. One Nation could be quite strong in that area, and it is not natural Labor country.
Susan Lamb is in trouble in Longman according to a ReachTel poll with the LNP ahead 53% to 47%. But:
A majority of respondents (53.7%) believe the third phase of the income tax cuts proposed by the Turnbull government, to flatten the tax rate on incomes between $41,000 and $200,000, is unfair.
Moreover, One Nation, whose preferences delivered Longman to Labor last time and is on 15% there, will not preference Labor over the Liberals unless they preference The Greens last.
I’m not keen on ReachTel individual seat polls, which had Kevin Rudd losing his seat by about 10 points in 2013. Currently Labor only hold 7 of the 30 seats in Queensland. The LNP can’t afford to lose any. If Labor holds Longman Turnbull is in trouble. Jane Prentice, an assistant minister, being dumped in preselection in Ryan won’t help.
However, in Insiders today Laura Tingle told us that the economy is genuinely improving, including in regional Australia. Turnbull is likely to let this sink in. Most likely he will call an election next year so Australians stick with a safe pair of hands and don’t risk that shifty Bill character, whose word cannot be believed.
And then Australia misses the chance to be led by a person who could have been one of the best PMs ever, and turns away from a fair and decent society.