Friday, February 08, 2013
Where evil lurks: Neurologist discovers 'dark patch' inside the brains of killers and rapists
How can that be? Crime is caused by "poverty", don't you know?
A German neurologist claims to have found the area of the brain where evil lurks in killers, rapists and robbers.
Bremen scientist Dr Gerhard Roth says the 'evil patch' lies in the brain's central lobe and shows up as a dark mass on X-rays.
He discovered it when investigating violent convicted offenders over the years for German government studies.
'We showed these people short films and measured their brain waves,' he said.
'Whenever there were brutal and squalid scenes the subjects showed no emotions. In the areas of the brain where we create compassion and sorrow, nothing happened.'
The dark mass at the front of the brain, he says, appears in all scans of people with records for criminal violence.
He says his researches have led him to believe that some criminals have a 'genetic predisposition' to violence.
He added: 'When you look at the brain scans of hardened criminals, there are almost always severe shortcomings in the lower forehead part of the brain.
'There are cases where someone becomes criminal as a result of a tumour or an injury in that area, and after an operation to remove the tumour, that person was completely normal again.
'Or there are physiological deficits, because certain substances such as serotonin in the forebrain are not working effectively.
'But this is definitely the region of the brain where evil is formed and where it lurks.
'Of course it is not automatic. The brain can compensate somewhat for violent tendencies and it is unclear how that works.
'But when I will look at young people, and I see there are developmental disorders in the lower forehead brain, I can say that there is a felon in the making with 66 per cent probability.
'It is easy to spot this anti-social behaviour from very early on.'
Dr Roth said no two criminals are alike. He divides them into three groups for the purposes of his hunt for evil.
The first he classifies as 'psychologically healthy,' people who grow up in an environment where it is 'OK to beat, steal and murder'.
The second type is the mentally disturbed criminal who looks at his world as threatening. 'A wrong look, one false move, he can explode and become a killer,' he said.
The third group are pure psycopaths, a group in which tyrants such as Hitler and Stalin belong.
He said not all monsters are born and that many are made worse by their environments on their roads to evil.
He added: 'Experts detect a mental decline in some people that begins in the kindergarten. It is the task of society to offer widespread support to the children and their parents before they become criminals.'
Dr Roth is one of Germany's best-known brain specialists and has was at the forefront of calling for sentencing reforms a few years ago.
The fact is, the richer you are, the happier you are
We all know that money doesn’t buy happiness, don’t we?
For years, many economists agreed, arguing that economic growth doesn’t generate more well-being for ordinary folk, a conclusion which came to be known as Richard Easterlin’s paradox, after the academic who first described it in the 1970s. Yet it turns out that once again the economics establishment got it spectacularly wrong.
Economic growth – and the higher gross domestic product (GDP) per person and improved wages that usually accompany it – does actually improve happiness and well-being, according to several recent papers by top economists, drawing on far more data than their predecessors ever had access to and using novel statistical techniques.
The truth, it turns out, is that the aspiring classes were right all along. The richer we are, the happier we are. It’s (almost) that simple, and the evidence is now overwhelming.
One especially brilliant piece of research – by Daniel Sacks, Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, all US academics – demonstrates that happiness improves as incomes rise. The paper shows that richer citizens report higher well-being than their poorer compatriots, at any given point as well as over time; that people in richer countries are happier than those in poorer countries; and that GDP growth boosts well-being. Most remarkably of all, there is no maximum wealth threshold at which point higher incomes cease to boost well-being: quite simply, the richer, the better, with no upper limit.
These findings are confirmed by an excellent paper from Ruut Veenhoven and Floris Vergunst. Using statistics compiled as part of the World Database of Happiness (yes, there is such a thing), they discover a positive relationship between GDP growth and improving happiness. GDP and happiness have gone up in most countries, and average happiness has risen more in nations where the economy has grown the most.
These results are devastating to the anti-growth crowd, including many environmentalists, and to those who say that it is pointless, too stressful and unsustainable for countries to focus on boosting their GDP, and who are thus secretly enjoying Britain’s current bout of stagnation. They should also shame David Cameron, who famously wanted to replace a focus on hard-headed GDP with a softer emphasis on a new measure of national well-being.
Separate research, by Jan Delhey and Christian Kroll, shows that traditional measures of economic output, while crude, are actually “surprisingly successful at predicting a population’s subjective well-being”. So there you have it: growth is good for us, not just in terms of creating jobs and allowing us to buy iPads, but also in promoting the conditions in which individuals and families can pursue their version of happiness.
This is also terrible news for one influential strand of thinking on the Left, which has long argued that what makes people happy is not what they earn in absolute terms – and whether pay cheques are going up – but merely what they earn compared with others. These Leftist economists claim that people are only happy if they feel richer than their neighbours. Such proponents of “happiness economics” therefore argue that working harder to earn more is tantamount to running to keep still, because everybody else is engaging in the same supposedly pointless race.
Frighteningly, they deduce from this false premise that the answer is to treat emotions such as envy and jealousy as suitable grounds for confiscating incomes, and to tax higher earners much more heavily, with French-style 75pc tax rates, to penalise those silly enough to want to get on in life. While most readers of this newspaper will find this to be a ridiculous point of view, it is one that remains hugely influential in universities and in parts of the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties. The good news is that this bonkers ideology has now been entirely demolished by the new research.
The best way to promote happiness is to maximise economic growth – and, crucially, to make sure that as many people as possible in society take part and are able to enjoy higher incomes and thus improved well-being. These findings are yet another reason why the Coalition needs to develop a single-minded obsession with expanding the economy and creating more jobs. There should be a new rule: each and every new regulation and tax should be judged against how it will affect the UK’s GDP. Any policy that damages the economy, even slightly, or imposes even the smallest extra cost on job-creators, should be ditched.
Real wages have been falling for several years now. The average pay rise over the past year was 1.4pc in the private sector, less than inflation of 3.1pc as measured by the retail price index, translating into a real terms pay cut of 1.7pc. Without much faster growth, and hence bigger pay rises, people will keep on getting poorer and therefore unhappier. At some point, the pressure from this will become unbearable.
Without substantial amounts of growth, it will also become impossible to keep spending more on healthcare without massively hiking taxes, which would be disastrously counter-productive, or slashing spending in other areas, such as on schools. Hospitals will have to be shut, nurses fired and new medicines will become unaffordable. It will be a catastrophe, regardless of who is in power. Without growth, our culture will gradually mutate back into one of managing decline, rather than one which embraces aspiration, entrepreneurialism, progress, technology and growth.
Yet we still have to listen to all of the tired old excuses for why pro-growth policies, especially those of a supply-side variety, should be blocked. We are told that measures to boost job creation and investment will help the rich, so therefore should be blocked; that we need to endlessly punish bankers, even if it reduces credit availability even more; that we must not unleash shale gas, in case it increases our carbon emissions, even though doing nothing will boost the cost of energy and even though other countries couldn’t care less; that there isn’t enough empty space left in Britain to build the good quality homes our young people so desperately need; that even skilled workers should not be let in to work here if they come from the wrong countries; that airports can’t be expanded; and so on.
These are all obsolete arguments from an age of prosperity, even though we are now stuck in an age of austerity. Britain is still behaving as if we were in the mid 2000s, when strong growth allowed our bien-pensant political establishment, especially those of its members drawn from a privileged background, to snobbishly obsess about work-life balances and hugging huskies. The world may look very different today, at least to those struggling to make a living, but it is scandalous how little appetite there still is in Whitehall for tearing down barriers to economic expansion and job-creation. We desperately need pro-growth reforms, and we need them now.
Fear of Muslim hate cows Australians and impededs free speech
Two of the films nominated for best picture in the coming Academy Awards, Argo and Zero Dark Thirty, contain warnings, with plenty of creative licence but also plenty of historical accuracy, about the challenge to democracy posed by a resurgent strain of uncompromising Islam.
The threat has been deemed real enough in the Netherlands, which now has more than a million Muslims in a nation of 16.7 million people, for a million Dutch voters - one in seven - to vote for the Party for Freedom, led by Geert Wilders, who will be making a lecture tour in Australia later this month.
Four years ago, in an interview with ABC Radio, Wilders was asked why he wanted to curb Muslim immigration to the Netherlands. He said the integration of Muslims was failing:
"If you look at all the statistics, you see that non-Western people, often from … Morocco and Turkey … are over-represented many, many times when it comes to crime, when it comes to prison population, when it comes to illiteracy, when it comes to dependency on social benefits.
"We see also in the second-biggest city of the Netherlands, Rotterdam, that in three years' time the majority will be from non-Western backgrounds. You see in the same city, and most of the south … 55 per cent of the Moroccan youth under the age of 24 have been in contact with the police. You see that there are more mosques being built than churches. You see that once again the Dutch people are tolerant … but they fear for the identity of their own country."
All of this is contested territory. Muslims protest about being lumped in with the fundamentalist fringe. They protest, too, that traditional problems associated with immigration are conflated with Muslims.
What is not contested is that a dangerous Islamic fringe is active in numerous countries. Wilders will be accompanied to Australia by five Dutch police officers. He lives under permanent 24-hour security.
Fear has arrived here before him. On Wednesday, the organiser of the tour, Debbie Robinson, told me yet another venue had cancelled and there had been another act of corporate suppression directed at the tour.
"This morning the venue in Sydney cancelled. There was a meltdown. The events manager at the venue was screaming. Right now we have no Sydney venue."
It was not her only setback. "Yesterday PayPal froze the funds in the account that is processing ticket sales. They will not tell me why. All staff keep saying is the account is under review. It's been like an Orwellian nightmare."
This follows a refusal by Westpac to allow her to set up a payment system and refusal by more than a dozen venues to host a Wilders event, citing security concerns.
The first attempt at a lecture tour last year was cancelled due to visa problems. The then minister for immigration Chris Bowen delayed granting a visa until after the cancellation.
This was just the start. On January 21, the president of the Q Society, Geoff Dickson, sent an invitation to 830 state and federal politicians in all parliaments: "On behalf of Q Society of Australia I would like to issue you a warm invitation to attend one of the speaking engagements we are offering to listen to the Honourable Geert Wilders."
The invitation said Wilders would be speaking in Melbourne on February 19, Perth on February 20 and Sydney on February 22.
"Mr Wilders is a Dutch politician who heads the Party for Freedom, which won 10.1 per cent of votes in the Dutch House of Representatives at the September 2012 elections. Mr Wilders will be here to share his experiences on how Islam is changing the Netherlands in particular and Europe more generally.
"Q Society is a volunteer, Australia-wide organisation whose charter is to educate Australians as to how Islam may change this country … We believe Islam is different from other religions and poorly understood …
"If, in 20 years, some Australian politicians are living under armed guard because of comments they have made about Islam, we believe we would have failed as individuals, and collectively as a society, to protect our democracy and our freedom."
Of the 830 invitations sent out, only four were accepted. The other 99.5 per cent of politicians declined or did not respond.
Robinson is disheartened by all the fearfulness. "The Sydney event may have to be cancelled if I can't even get a venue. I'll have to refund everyone. This is supposed to be a democracy but something Orwellian is going on."
Australian politicians still trying to square the circle over Aborigines
They all want blacks to behave like whites -- but that's not "racist" apparently. Blacks, however, just go their own way -- which is their right
It isn't often that Tony Abbott begins a speech with the words "Paul Keating was right", but it happened during a rare outburst of bipartisanship when the nation's parliament reviewed progress toward closing the gap on indigenous disadvantage on Wednesday.
The Opposition Leader employed the words of the former Labor prime minister to define a mission that is embraced by both sides of politics and, increasingly, businesses across the country.
"As long as there is serious indigenous disadvantage in our country, it constitutes a stain on our nation's soul," Mr Abbott quoted Mr Keating as saying. "Until the first Australians can fully participate in the life of our country, we are diminished as a nation and as a people."
Mr Abbott also welcomed Prime Minister Julia Gillard's candour in delivering a mostly positive, but mixed, report card on progress towards meeting six targets that were agreed after former prime minister Kevin Rudd delivered the formal apology to the stolen generations in 2008. "We need this level of candour to achieve genuine progress and genuine closing the gap."
Ms Gillard reported that the pledge to deliver early childhood education for all four-year-olds in remote communities within five years would be achieved this year. Two other targets, the halving of child mortality rates within a decade and halving the gap in year 12 education attainment by 2020 – were on track to be met.
But Ms Gillard reported that, despite some progress, a "massive and unacceptable" gap remained between indigenous and non-indigenous employment and that in some areas of literacy and numeracy, results had gone backwards.
Only three of eight reading and numeracy indicators were tracking as expected and the other five required "considerable work", she reported. Moreover, the central aim of closing the life expectancy gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians has become more daunting.
The annual report on progress says indigenous male life expectancy – where the estimated gap is at 11.5 years – will probably have to increase by almost 21 years by 2031 and observes "the current rate of progress will have to gather pace if the target is to be met".
Ms Gillard used her speech to attack moves by the Northern Territory and Queensland governments to wind back alcohol reforms, declaring: "I have a real fear that the rivers of grog that wreaked such havoc among indigenous communities are starting to flow once again.
"The government will take action in response to any irresponsible policy changes that threaten to forfeit our hard-won gains."
She cited the dismantling of the banned drinkers' register in the Northern Territory and the possible easing of alcohol restrictions in Queensland. Mr Abbott said he shared the Prime Minister's concern about the banned drinkers' register, saying it should be re-instated.
He also applauded Ms Gillard for her action to secure Labor's first indigenous member of the federal parliament in Nova Peris, saying: "I believe it would help us immeasurably as a parliament and a nation to have more indigenous people in this place to support the work of my friend and colleague, Ken Wyatt."
Both leaders committed themselves to the passage of the proposed referendum recognising indigenous Australians, with Ms Gillard declaring that, without it, the nation's story would remain incomplete "and the soul of our nation will remain unhealed".
Indigenous leaders welcomed the progress, but pressed both sides of politics to commit the resources to fund programs to close the gap. They also pressed for two new targets to be included to reduce incarceration of indigenous people and the level of violence in communities.
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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.