Sunday, September 16, 2007

Fox News Special Details Planned Parenthood Abortion Mill Deception, Concealing Rape etc.

No write-up can adequately describe this Fox News segment from "Hannity's America". It accurately depicts Planned Parenthood as money hungry abortion peddlers. It follows the controversy of the largest abortion mill opening in Aurora, Illinois after having constructed the premises under false pretenses. The video plays audio recordings of Planned Parenthood employees caught on tape covering up statutory rape.

See the video here


Liberal Interpretation: Rigging a study to make conservatives look stupid

Article below by William Saletan. I have already pointed out some of the illogicalities in the "study" concerned here (Scroll down) but Saletan goes into more detail. See the original article for links

Are liberals smarter than conservatives? It looks that way, according to a study published this week in Nature Neuroscience. In a rapid response test-you press a button if you're given one signal, but not if you're given a different signal-the authors found that conservatives were "more likely to make errors of commission," whereas "stronger liberalism was correlated with greater accuracy." They concluded that "a more conservative orientation is related to greater persistence in a habitual response pattern, despite signals that this response pattern should change."

Does this mean liberal brains are fitter? Apparently. "Liberals are more responsive to informational complexity, ambiguity and novelty," the authors wrote. New York University, which helped fund the study, concluded, "Liberals are more likely than are conservatives to respond to cues signaling the need to change habitual responses." The study's lead author, NYU professor David Amodio, told London's Daily Telegraph that "liberals tended to be more sensitive and responsive to information that might conflict with their habitual way of thinking."

Habitual way of thinking. Informational complexity. Need to change. Those are sweeping terms. They imply that conservatives, on average, are adaptively weaker at thinking, not just button-pushing. And that implication has permeated the press. The Los Angeles Times told readers that the study "suggests that liberals are more adaptable than conservatives" and "might be better judges of the facts." Agence France Presse reported that conservatives in the study "were less flexible, refusing to deviate from old habits 'despite signals that this ... should be changed.' " The Guardian asserted, "Scientists have found that the brains of people calling themselves liberals are more able to handle conflicting and unexpected information."

These reports convey four interwoven claims. First, conservatives cling more inflexibly to old ways of thinking. Second, they're less responsive to information. Third, they're more obtuse to complexity and ambiguity. Fourth, they're less likely to change when the evidence says they should. Let's take the claims one by one.

1. Habitual ways of thinking. Here's what the experiment actually entailed, according to the authors' supplementary document:

[E]ither the letter "M" or "W" was presented in the center of a computer monitor screen. . Half of the participants were instructed to make a "Go" response when they saw "M" but to make no response when they saw "W"; the remaining participants completed a version in which "W" was the Go stimulus and "M" was the No-Go stimulus. . Responses were registered on a computer keyboard placed in the participants' laps. . Participants received a two-minute break halfway through the task, which took approximately 15 minutes to complete.

Fifteen minutes is a habit? Tapping a keyboard is a way of thinking? Come on. You can make a case for conservative inflexibility, but not with this study.

2. Responsiveness to information. Again, let's consult the supplementary document:

Each trial began with a fixation point, presented for 500 ms. The target then appeared for 100 ms, followed by a blank screen. Participants were instructed to respond within 500 ms of target onset. A "Too slow!" warning message appeared after responses that exceeded this deadline, and "Incorrect" feedback was given after erroneous responses.

An "ms"-millisecond-is one-thousandth of a second. That means participants had one-tenth of a second to look at the letter and another four-tenths of a second to hit the button. One letter, one-tenth of a second. This is "information"?

3. Complexity and ambiguity. Go back and look at the first word of the excerpt from the supplementary document. The word is either. Participants were shown an M or a W. No complexity, no ambiguity. You could argue that showing them a series of M's and then surprising them with a W injects some complexity and ambiguity. But that complexity is crushed by the simplicity of the letter choice and the split-second deadline. As Amodio explained to the Sacramento Bee, "It's too quick for you to think consciously about what you're doing." So, why did he impose such a brutal deadline? "It needs to be hard enough that people make a lot of errors," he argued, since-in the Bee's paraphrase of his remarks-"the errors are the most interesting thing to study."

In other words, complexity and ambiguity weren't tested; they were excluded. The study was designed to prevent them-and conscious thought in general-because, for the authors' purposes, such lifelike complications would have made the results less interesting. Personally, I'd be more interested in a study that invited such complications-examining, for instance, whether conservatives, having resisted doubts about the wisdom of the status quo, are more likely than liberals to doubt the wisdom of change.

4. Maladaptiveness. The scientific core of the study is a hypothesized brain function called "conflict monitoring." The reason why liberals scored better than conservatives, the authors argued, is that the brain area responsible for this function was, by electrical measurement, more active in them than in conservatives.

The authors described CM as "a general mechanism for detecting when one's habitual response tendency is mismatched with responses required by the current situation." NYU's press release called it "a mechanism for detecting when a habitual response is not appropriate for a new situation." Amodio told the press that CM was "the process of detecting conflict between an ongoing pattern of behavior and a signal that says that something's wrong with that behavior and you need to change it."

The indictment sounds scientific: CM spots errors; conservatives are less sensitive to CM; therefore, conservatives make more errors. But the original definition of CM, written six years ago by the researchers who hypothesized it, didn't presume that the habitual response was wrong, inappropriate, or objectively mismatched with current requirements. It presumed only that a stimulus had challenged the habit. According to the original definition, CM is "a system that monitors for the occurrence of conflicts in information processing." It "evaluates current levels of conflict, then passes this information on to centers responsible for control, triggering them to adjust the strength of their influence on processing."

In experiments such as Amodio's, the habit is objectively wrong: You tapped the button, and the researcher knows that what you saw was a W. But real life is seldom that simple. Maybe what you saw-what you think you saw-will turn out to require a different response from the one that has hitherto served you well. Maybe it won't. Maybe, on average, extra sensitivity to such conflicting cues will lead to better decisions. Maybe it won't. Extra CM sensitivity does make you more likely to depart from your habit. But that doesn't prove it's more adaptive.

Frank Sulloway, a Berkeley professor who co-authored a damning psychological analysis of conservatism four years ago, illustrates the problem. Appearing in the Times as a researcher "not connected to the study"-despite having co-written his similar 2003 analysis with one of its authors-Sulloway endorsed the study and pointed out, "There is ample data from the history of science showing that social and political liberals indeed do tend to support major revolutions in science." That's true: When new ideas turn out to be right, liberals are vindicated. But when new ideas turn out to be wrong, they cease to be "revolutions in science," so it's hard to keep score of liberalism's net results. And that's in science, where errors, being relatively factual, are easiest to prove and correct. In culture and politics, errors can be unrecoverable.

The conservative case against this study is easy to make. Sure, we're fonder of old ways than you are. That's in our definition. Some of our people are obtuse; so are some of yours. If you studied the rest of us in real life, you'd find that while we second-guess the status quo less than you do, we second-guess putative reforms more than you do, so in terms of complexity, ambiguity, and critical thinking, it's probably a wash. Also, our standard of "information" is a bit tougher than the blips and fads you fall for. Sometimes, these inclinations lead us astray. But over the long run, they've served us and society pretty well. It's just that you notice all the times we were wrong and ignore all the times we were right.

In fact, that's exactly what you've done in this study: You've manufactured a tiny world of letters, half-seconds, and button-pushing, so you can catch us in clear errors and keep out the part of life where our tendencies correct yours. And now you feel great about yourselves. Congratulations. You haven't told us much about our way of thinking. But you've told us a lot about yours.


Polish Women Resent EU-Pushed Gov't Program Discouraging Stay-at-Home Mothers

Polish women are expressing their indignation at a new EU-funded government campaign that discriminates against stay-at-home moms by pressuring women to be self-sufficient wage earners outside the home, Polish Radio (PR) reports. Financed by the EU Structural Funds, the Polish government is launching a massive campaign to encourage women to work outside the home. Beginning in September, the "Woman Fulfilled in Business" campaign will launch TV ads, documentaries, billboards and a website. One of the posters to be put up around cities compares a self-satisfied, independent workingwoman to one who is futilely "waiting for a fairy tale prince".

Women's rights activist Inga Kaluzynska is disturbed by the heavily biased message that the government is pushing. Reminded of the communist era, she noted that the campaign slaps stay-at-home mothers with a negative image. "This ideological project reminds me of socialist times," said Kaluzynska, as quoted in PR. "Communists also wanted to send women on tractors. Women are free to choose a lifestyle but this program will only deepen negative stereotypes of women who stay at home and it will undermine the value of family life."

The campaign is "simply harmful to womanhood," she continued. In addition, "it is symptomatic that this project is welcome by leftist ideologues and abortion enthusiasts who are by definition prejudiced against natural role models." "As a mother and a feminist, I don't find this project women-friendly."

Similarly, lawyer Joanna Potocka of the Adam Smith Center described the government campaign as "discriminatory" and "unfair" towards stay-at-home mothers whose hard work should be "acknowledge and respected". They should not be portrayed as "sitting in the kitchen" all day. Indicating that the campaign is agenda-driven, Potocka summed up the situation, saying, "Women in Poland have the highest participation in self-employment in the whole of European Union. Therefore it seems that this campaign is badly targeted, as it is addressing a non-existent problem." "Polish women are not helpless," she declared. "The campaign discriminates against one lifestyle and therefore limits the freedom of women," Potocka concluded, "Working outside of home, staying at home, or combining the two should be treated equally by the government."


The medicalization of misery

By Tanveer Ahmed

As a doctor working in mental health and within the public hospital system, I am a regular witness to those living on the bottom rungs of our society. They are the homeless, the drug addicts and those suffering from severe mental illness. More often than not, they are all three at once. I am struck by their amazing uptake of mental health language. They skilfully weave technical psychiatric language into their reporting of symptoms. As a result, comments such as "I'm pretty sure I'm coming down with a depressive disorder" or "I think I'm developing a personality defect" are not uncommon, even from people with minimal education.

This is in part a reflection of wider society and how the language of human distress has been overtaken by psychological terminology. I hear very few people tell me they are unhappy. They are almost always depressed, even if their life choices or circumstances would be perfectly consistent with them being miserable.

Increasingly they no longer suggest they feel depressed, but that they are getting depression, in the same way we may catch a cold. The consultation then moves to the awkward dance modern therapists play. I become the healer attempting to cure their condition, pretending somehow their malaise is one of biology and not of meaning. The result is that it can blind them to the possibility their actions may have played a role in their problems.

Barely a week goes by when we don't hear of the crisis in mental health. Rising depression, worsening drug and alcohol problems and a strained social sector make us think that despite our stupendous prosperity, we remain in some kind of existential abyss. It is a symptom of the market society and individualism that our grievances must be turned on to the self.

This is in spite of psychiatry remaining a hazy field, an arena where diagnosis and treatment are poorly correlated and where clinical energies focus on symptom relief. It is reflected further in the tremendous amount written about happiness studies. If being dissatisfied with life is pathological and health is a right, the implication is that happiness is also our birthright.

The use of psychiatric terminology is also more and more colloquial. During the Andrew Johns saga and his eventual secular confession, bipolar disorder was used widely in the press as a synonym for erratic behaviour. The former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett, a tireless campaigner in raising awareness for depression, openly admits he uses the term not in its medical context, but as a synonym for emotional distress.

But just like fashion and baby names, language eventually filters down the social ladder. The dominance of mental health language in projecting our distress is of dubious value when applied to the most disadvantaged groups. Indeed, it may be complicit in helping them to maintain lives of dependence and misery, the sick role curing them only of their autonomy and personal responsibility.

Bureau of Statistics figures from 2005 show about a third of the 700,000 people receiving the disability pension have been diagnosed with a mental illness. This is a critical group because the vast majority are young and otherwise physically able. Many could be in the prime of their lives. Forty years ago, fewer than in one in 30 working-age adults relied on welfare payments as the main source of income. The figure today is one in six. In particular, the proportion of the population on the disability support pension has doubled since 1981.

An important player in this debate is the doctor, for they determine if someone meets the criteria for disability. Patients who are on the margin of receiving the pension or Newstart will often ask to receive the pension. The disability pension is more generous than the unemployment benefit and there is little mutual obligation.

The sick role, however, comes with an obligation to seek and comply with treatment. The patient's compliance with treatment is the priority for a doctor. There are many times when giving in to a patient's wishes elsewhere can ensure their compliance with medication. The pension is often one such compromise. The flipside is that 90 per cent of those receiving disability pensions never return to the workforce. This is not a fact well known to professionals determining disability. Colleagues working in mental health were flabbergasted when they heard the figure.

For many on the margins of eligibility, there is an incentive to remain sick. The welfare market operates like any other - a better price will increase demand. This lack of incentive to take a more active role in society can strip them of meaning in their lives and perpetuate what may have started as mild mental illness. A feedback loop of disability, welfare and worsening mental health is created. This is a hidden factor straining both Australia's mental health and welfare systems. They are operating in a kind of pathological symbiosis.

This cycle describes many people who are said to be in a state of deep poverty. They are hardly poor in a historical sense, for they have enough money to eat and are housed, educated and medically treated by the state. In formulating their situation, poverty in this sense is more like a psychological condition than one determined by socioeconomics.

While the middle classes debate their happiness and psychiatry acquires a cultural prestige well beyond its powers, the poor inherit the new straitjacket of psychological language. It not only costs the taxpayer billions of dollars, but encourages recipients to wallow as victims of passive circumstance, stripping their lives of meaning and purpose.



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 times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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