Uncommon Sense

politics and society are, unfortunately, much the same thing

Does Kathy Griffin show leftists have more in common with Islamic extremists than with America?

Kathy Griffin’s “edgy” comedic style has brought her into the spot light once again. This time she finds it “funny” and a work of “art” to display a severed head of President Trump. Incendiary speech is one thing the president is often criticized for, speech that supposedly incites violence. Apparently, we are supposed to ignore the actual violence inflicted upon city after city by leftwing antifa activists (who ironically employ violence, hate, and intolerance in the effort to fight against violence, hate, and intolerance). Are we also supposed to ignore the incendiary nature of Griffin’s shock art? I mean, if warning about the very real possibility of ISIS infiltrating our nation is the same as “violence” why shouldn’t Griffin’s so-called art qualify as the same thing?

0530-kathy-griffin-graphic-donald-trump-head-cut-off-tyler-sheilds-9

This is quite different from that Missouri rodeo clown back in 2013 who got fired for wearing an Obama mask. Not only was that guy banned for life by the Missouri State Fair Commission, that organization also demanded sensitivity training from the rodeo association.

And remember all that talk early on in President Obama’s first term about how people should respect the presidency? Remember how almost any criticism of Obama was branded as racist? Remember when Chris Rock said President Obama was like the “dad of the country” and “our boss”?

Yeah, that’s the opposite of how Trump has been treated. Granted, Trump troubles me in many ways. So did Obama. But I never said Obama wasn’t my president. Today, instead hearing how the president is our boss or the dad of the country, the leftwing mantra has been “not my president”. Harvard University recently did a study on anti-Trump news media bias in his first 100 days and there was shown to be substantially more bias against Trump than there was against the previous three presidents. According to the study, even Fox News (a network that is supposedly a shill for Trump) had a 52% negative coverage rate. Are we supposed to think CNN’s 93% negative coverage rate makes them more fair and balanced than Fox News? I don’t.

This also brings to mind a curious thing about the general political environment in the United States. Just as any rightwing criticism of President Obama was labeled racist, likewise any criticism of Islamic extremism is labeled Islamophobic. The frequent terrorist acts reported in the news all over the world are typically treated as isolated incidents, whereas the isolated mean things Europeans or Americans sometimes do to Muslims is branded as an epidemic of Islamophobia or Xenophobia.

Leftists went out of their way to defend Obama on any and everything he ever did (even defending his lies that were admitted to be lies), and they do the same for Islamic extremism. Why should we pretend Democrats know the difference between Islam and Islamic extremism? When they criticize Republicans for criticizing Islamic extremism, Democrats suddenly forget that distinction. Democrats prefer to accuse Republicans of thinking all Muslims are terrorists simply because Republicans condemn terrorism. When they do that, it is Democrats who fail to recognize the distinction. When Republicans say “we need to protect ourselves against terrorism” Democrats hear “we need to protect ourselves against Muslims”.

Republicans are well aware of the difference between terrorists and peaceful Muslims who just want to live their lives, such as Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser who frequently speaks out against Islamic extremism and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a feminist activist and victim of FGM who also speaks out against Islamic extremism. Republicans recognize both of them as 1) from Muslim origins and 2) not terrorists. Yet both are branded as Islamophobic by the political left.

I can’t help but notice the overwhelming impulse liberals have to defend Islamic extremists, to invite them into Western countries, and extend the hand of friendship. When a terrorist act kills innocent civilians, rest assured leftists will rally to sympathize with MUSLIMS and act all apologetic, as if Westerners were the aggressors and not the victims (making me wonder, if terrorism has nothing to do with Islam, why do liberals reach out to Muslims after a terrorist attack? Is this another example that liberals fail to distinguish between the two?). At the same time, these same liberals condemn the political right here at home as terrorists, racists, fascists, and bigots in every way. It seems to me western liberals identify more closely with Islamic extremists than they do with Western civilization. Just look at Kathy Griffin, holding that mock bloody, severed head of President Trump thinking she’s actually making a statement against hate, not realizing who she is mimicking.

bias, bigotry, culture, Democrats, hate speech, humor, hypocrisy, ideology, intolerance, islam, left wing, liberalism, news media, political correctness, politics, progressive, racism, scandal, study, terrorism, video

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The World Doesn’t Need the UN Population Fund

original article: The World Doesn’t Need the UN Population Fund
May 9, 2017 by SUSAN YOSHIHARA (The Stream)

When President Donald J. Trump cut U.S. funding to the U.N. Population Fund, abortion advocates howled. But Trump made the right call. The billion dollar-a-year agency has run out of reasons to exist, even by its own metrics.

The agency still relies on the same “overpopulation” gimmicks that justified its creation in 1969. In a 2011 media stunt in hot and crowded Manila, it “welcomed” the seven billionth human born. The world is indeed getting more crowded, but not with babies. Old people are expected to outnumber youth on the planet within sixty years.

From investment firms to national security analysists, experts agree: Many countries suffer not from overpopulation, but from a sharp decline in fertility. It took western countries a century to grow old. Developing nations are managing the feat in just one generation. Their ability to seize the promised “demographic dividend” is fading fast. The World Bank has identified a waning appetite for consumer goods in the geriatric West. They say today’s developing economies won’t be able to manufacture their way to economic growth like China did.

Demographers have been ringing the alarm bell for two decades. Yet the U.N. Population Fund has forged ahead with its mission to limit births.

A One Trick Pony

The Fund claims to help couples have the number of children they want. But the facts show the opposite. It does nothing to relieve infertility. It promotes education for women and girls, but does nothing to help women who want to have a large family. On the contrary. The UNFPA offers the same answer for every woman: Have fewer children.

Yes, the U.N. Population Fund has added to its portfolio to remain relevant. It opposes female genital mutilation, endorses maternal health, abhors the spread of HIV/AIDs, and promotes adolescent and women’s rights. But the U.N. already has agencies with these mandates, such as the World Health Organization, UNAIDs, UNICEF and U.N. Women.

Planned Parenthood said President Trump would “kill” thousands of women this year because they won’t get U.N.-funded contraception. But the Fund did not save a single life last year. Rather, it helped “avert” two thousand theoretical deaths in childbirth by providing contraception.

Hypocrisy

Even the U.N. Population Fund’s claim to the mantle of women’s rights is spurious. China’s abusive family planning program has persisted under its watch. Even Beijing has admitted it went too far. The Chinese National Health and Family Planning Commission now allows for two children. But it still exacts punishment on couples who have one more. That includes the threat of forced abortions, loss of livelihoods and homes. And still the U.N. Population Fund defends its partnership with the Chinese agency.

When shell-shocked Nigerian families welcomed back their daughters abducted by Boko Haram, they found that the girls had suffered unspeakable abuse. What did UNFPA recommend? Abortion. For this, its executive director was rightly rebuffed. But the organization’s leadership can’t seem to help itself. They act as if ridding the world of unintended pregnancies and unwanted children will help solve every problem.

What the U.N. Population Fund won’t admit is that “unintended” and “unwanted” are social science constructs, not the sentiments of parents. Such terms often contradict what women really say. A woman may tell a researcher that her beloved child was never “unwanted.” The researcher, however, may code her child as “unwanted,” due to a survey question she answered years earlier about desired family size.

Women are quite capable of making up their own minds. The U.N. Population Fund, however, often doesn’t like what they decide. Hence much of its spending goes to “advocacy.” Translation: Trying to convince women they should stop at two children.

The fact is that ninety five percent of women in the developing world say they already know about family planning. They just don’t opt for the methods the U.N. recommends. This fact should have the U.N. Population Fund declaring victory, not wringing its hands about “lack of uptake.”

Defying still more facts, the UNFPA insists that lack of access to contraception is a global crisis. Just like the “crisis” of overpopulation, the agency stretches credulity to the breaking point. It claims 225 million women want, but cannot get, contraception. It even posted the myth on a massive Times Square billboard. Yet the Guttmacher Institute assures us that only four or five percent of those 225 million women say they don’t have access. The rest don’t want it. In other words, the global family planning market is already nearly saturated.

It’s time for the United States and its partners to shut down the U.N. Population Fund. Its billion-dollar budget should be used to solve real problems, not chase the ghosts of the 1960s.

abortion, bureaucracy, crisis, culture, extremism, foreign affairs, funding, government, ideology, politics, public policy, reform, study

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Transgender movement not actually based in science

original article: Science finds 1,500 genetic differences between boys and girls, destroys ‘transgender’ arguments
May 8, 2017 by Pete Baklinski

Scientists have uncovered 1,559 genetic differences between males and females that relate not only to the sexual organs, but surprisingly to other organs such as the brain, skin, and heart.

“Overall, sex-specific genes are mainly expressed in the reproductive system, emphasizing the notable physiological distinction between men and women,” the scientists found. “However, scores of genes that are not known to directly associate with reproduction were also found to have sex-specific expression (e.g., the men-specific skin genes),” they added.

The findings suggest to the casual reader that there is much more involved in the notion of changing one’s gender to the opposite sex than simply surgery and hormonal treatment.

“Our results can facilitate the understanding of diverse biological characteristics in the context of [the male and female] sex,” the researchers stated in their conclusion.

The study, titled The landscape of sex-differential transcriptome and its consequent selection in human adults, was published in BMC Biology earlier this year.

In the study, researchers Moran Gershoni and Shmuel Pietrokovski of the Weizmann Institute’s Molecular Genetics Department mapped out thousands of genes — the biological databases of all the information that makes every person unique — from 53 tissues that are similar to males and females, such as the skin, muscle, and brain.

The study was conducted to examine the extent to which genes determine how certain diseases target males and females differently.

“Men and women differ in obvious and less obvious ways – for example, in the prevalence of certain diseases or reactions to drugs. How are these connected to one’s sex? Weizmann Institute of Science researchers recently uncovered thousands of human genes that are expressed – copied out to make proteins – differently in the two sexes,” a report from the Weizmann Institute about the findings stated.

biology, health, medicine, science, sex, study

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Scholars warn higher ed seized by leftist indoctrination

original article: Scholars warn higher ed seized by leftist indoctrination – but debate on fixing it unresolved
January 23, 2017 by KATE HARDIMAN

A new report suggests left-leaning professors have transformed the teaching of traditional civics with an emphasis on activism, creating a pipeline of students eager to serve the goals of secular-progressive causes.

But how best to fix the problem is one area that remains unsettled among some scholars.

“Making Citizens: How American Universities Teach Civics” argues that “instead of teaching college students the foundations of law, liberty, and self-government, colleges teach students how to organize protests, occupy buildings, and stage demonstrations.”

Universities in America have redefined civics to mean “progressive political activism,” and the notion of a “good citizen” is now synonymous with “radical activist,” according to the report, recently published by the National Association of Scholars, a right-of-center academic watchdog group.

After surveying curricula at four major universities as a case study the report finds they are teaching fewer traditional civics classes while placing a greater emphasis on directing free student labor to progressive organizations in large part through the rise of “service learning” and “community engagement” courses.

“The New Civics seeks above all to make students into enthusiastic supporters of the New Left’s dream of ‘fundamentally transforming’ America,” the report states, adding pet causes pushed include environmentalism, socialism, identity politics, expanding government bureaucracy, and teaching students to essentially despise America’s founding.

“I was most startled that a number of these service learning professors cited Maoist China as one of their models for instruction,” David Randall, the association’s director of communications and report author, told The College Fix in a phone interview.

Randall said the new way of teaching civics is “grossly politicized,” adding “this is a reason for the public to be alarmed.”

He pointed to a specific example at Pomona College where a service learning course, and its funding, contributed to an anti-Trump rally.

Joy Pullman, an education pundit writing on the report at The Federalist, defines this new civics as “actually anti-civics: it teaches students how to be bad citizens, how to dismantle rather than preserve and improve their country.”

“New Civics teaches young people to revolt against the country that, among other things, educated them, provided for their security against foreign aggressors, and secured liberties most people in the world never had and still don’t have: freedom of speech, freedom of association, the right to a representative government dependent on citizen consent,” according to Pullman.

Reaction to the report has been mixed. Some agree it should sound alarm bells.

“It’s well-known that America’s K-12 schools are mediocre, when compared to the grammar schools of other countries. Less well known is just how mediocre our colleges are. The NAS report helps us understand why that is,” law professor Francis Buckley of George Mason University’s Scalia Law School told The College Fix via email.

But others are concerned about the report’s remedial recommendations, which include a coordinated civic literacy curriculum at the high school and college levels, a required course in traditional American civics, and a mandate that the traditional civics requirement be met only through classroom instruction. The report also suggests cutting all federal and state funding for service-learning and civic engagement at the university level.

Such recommendations pose “a severe threat to academic freedom because government officials would be imposing their judgments on college campuses rather than allowing universities to do what they think is best,” author and co-editor of Academe blog, John Wilson, told The College Fix via email.

“It’s particularly disturbing because the NAS wants the government to destroy purely voluntary programs of civic education that no students are forced to participate in,” Wilson said.

NAS’ Randall said he disagrees such oversight would hurt academic freedom.

“A state government has the right to determine what is being taught in a civics class. The setting of the syllabus is a matter appropriately governed by the state authorities,” he said. “The most basic thing is that I don’t believe the method, service-learning, has educational value. I think it is within the government’s right to provide funding only to those courses and programs that it believes have educational value.”

Another critique of the report came by way of respected law Professor Stanley Fish, who suggests the association’s call for the promotion of virtuous citizenship is akin to a political goal, much like the progressive left’s goals.

“Fostering intellectual freedom? Yes! Search for truth? Yes! Promotion of virtuous citizenship? No! Promoting virtuous citizenship is no doubt a worthy goal, but it is not an academic goal, because, like the programs the report derides, it is a political goal,” Fish argued in a Chronicle of Higher Education piece titled “Citizen Formation is Not Our Job.”

Meanwhile, some university officials have defended themselves in the wake of the report.

For example, a top official at the University of Colorado at Boulder, one of the institutions focused on in the study, has issued a statement calling the NAS report “an opinion piece” and taking issue with the characterization of CU Boulder.

“CU Boulder offers students the chance to choose from a wide variety of classes and community experiences — from courses in Western civilization to working with local K-12 students experiencing poverty and homelessness,” Provost Russell Moore stated. “Our faculty, as required by regent law and academic custom, have developed a high-quality, balanced curriculum that helps us to shape tomorrow’s leaders and positively impact humanity.”

bias, corruption, culture, education, government, ideology, indoctrination, left wing, liberalism, nanny state, oversight, progressive, propaganda, public policy, reform, relativism, scandal, study

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Billion$ spent to fix failing schools; fail

original article: Obama administration spent billions to fix failing schools, and it didn’t work
January 19, 2017 by Emma Brown

One of the Obama administration’s signature efforts in education, which pumped billions of federal dollars into overhauling the nation’s worst schools, failed to produce meaningful results, according to a federal analysis.

Test scores, graduation rates and college enrollment were no different in schools that received money through the School Improvement Grants program — the largest federal investment ever targeted to failing schools — than in schools that did not.

The Education Department published the findings on the website of its research division on Wednesday, hours before President Obama’s political appointees walked out the door.

“We’re talking about millions of kids who are assigned to these failing schools, and we just spent several billion dollars promising them things were going to get better,” said Andy Smarick, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute who has long been skeptical that the Obama administration’s strategy would work. “Think of what all that money could have been spent on instead.”

The School Improvement Grants program has been around since the administration of President George W. Bush, but it received an enormous boost under Obama. The administration funneled $7 billion into the program between 2010 and 2015 — far exceeding the $4 billion it spent on Race to the Top grants.

The money went to states to distribute to their poorest-performing schools — those with exceedingly low graduation rates, or poor math and reading test scores, or both. Individual schools could receive up to $2 million per year for three years, on the condition that they adopt one of the Obama administration’s four preferred measures: replacing the principal and at least half the teachers, converting into a charter school, closing altogether, or undergoing a “transformation,” including hiring a new principal and adopting new instructional strategies, new teacher evaluations and a longer school day.

The Education Department did not track how the money was spent, other than to note which of the four strategies schools chose.

Arne Duncan, Obama’s education secretary from 2009 to 2016, said his aim was to turn around 1,000 schools every year for five years. “We could really move the needle, lift the bottom and change the lives of tens of millions of underserved children,” Duncan said in 2009.

Duncan often said that the administration’s school-improvement efforts did not get the attention they deserved, overshadowed by more-controversial efforts to encourage states to adopt new standards and teacher evaluations tied to tests.

The school turnaround effort, he told The Washington Post days before he left office in 2016, was arguably the administration’s “biggest bet.”

He and other administration officials sought to highlight individual schools that made dramatic improvements after receiving the money. But the new study released this week shows that, as a large-scale effort, School Improvement Grants failed.

Just a tiny fraction of schools chose the most dramatic measures, according to the new study. Three percent became charter schools, and 1 percent closed. Half the schools chose transformation, arguably the least intrusive option available to them.

“This outcome reminds us that turning around our lowest-performing schools is some of the hardest, most complex work in education and that we don’t yet have solid evidence on effective, replicable, comprehensive school improvement strategies,” said Dorie Nolt, an Education Department spokeswoman.

Nolt emphasized that the study focused on schools that received School Improvement Grants money between 2010 and 2013. The administration awarded a total of $3.5 billion to those schools, most of it stimulus funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. “Since then,” she said, “the program has evolved toward greater flexibility in the selection of school improvement models and the use of evidence-based interventions.”

“Here in Massachusetts, it actually took several years to see real improvement in some areas,” Duncan said at the time. “Scores were flat or even down in some subjects and grades for a while. Many people questioned whether the state should hit the brakes on change. But you had the courage to stick with it, and the results are clear to all.”

Smarick said he had never seen such a huge investment produce zero results.

That could end up being a gift, he said, from Duncan to Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for education secretary and is a prominent proponent of taxpayer-supported vouchers for private and religious schools.

Results from the School Improvement Grants have shored up previous research showing that pouring money into dysfunctional schools and systems does not work, Smarick said: “I can imagine Betsy DeVos and Donald Trump saying this is exactly why kids need school choice.”

bailout, bureaucracy, crisis, education, funding, government, nanny state, politics, public policy, reform, spending, study, unintended consequences

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Psychological study rigged with liberal bias; researchers oblivious

Let’s try an experiment. What if we could gauge liberal leanings of the American public by tracking tech purchases? Now, before you start complaining about how disturbing or invasive such tracking might be or how suspicious and absurd it is to even ask about tracking people in such a way, let me say this: you’re right!

But this wasn’t my idea. I got the idea from a psychological study published in Psychological Science in March 2013 entitled Ideology and Brand Consumption. The study is replete with liberal bias from the researchers and they appear entirely oblivious to it. The study is not about general political leanings. No, the study particularly targets U.S. conservative political leanings. Here’s the abstract (bolding is mine):

Do mundane daily choices, such as what brands people buy in a supermarket, reflect aspects of values and ideologies? This article presents a large-scale field study performed to determine whether traits associated with a conservative ideology, as measured by voting behavior and religiosity, are manifested in consumers’ routine, seemingly inconsequential product choices. Our analysis of market shares for a variety of frequently purchased products shows that both of these measures of conservatism are associated with a systematic preference for established national brands (as opposed to their generic substitutes) and with a lower propensity to buy newly launched products. These tendencies correspond with other psychological traits associated with a conservative ideology, such as preference for tradition and the status quo, avoidance of ambiguity and uncertainty, and skepticism about new experiences.

The abstract mentions a conservative leaning three times and makes no mention of a liberal leaning. It should be no surprise that the researchers have left wing political leanings, given their description of a conservative ideology clearly stems from a liberal bias. Look at the traits the abstract lists as “associated with a conservative ideology”:

  • preference for tradition
  • preference for the status quo
  • avoidance of ambiguity and uncertainty
  • skepticism about new experiences

Plenty of conservatives would agree on a preference for tradition, but a preference for the status quo? That’s obviously a liberal point of view on conservatism, as such a term is not how conservatives typically describe themselves. Sometimes liberals can be accused of defending the status quo too, especially in bloated government institutions such as public education. As to ambiguity, liberalism thrives on that so of course an aversion to ambiguity would get the attention of the liberal researchers.

Uncertainty is a problem for every one, not only conservatives. It just depends on the context for us to see this. For example, the purpose of the social safety net (such as unemployment benefits, social security, Obamacare, etc.) is obviously meant to help people, not least of which by providing some level of financial peace and security (even if it fails to actually achieve the promises made to the American people). The social safety net is intended to reduce uncertainty and help people manage risk, and is most vocally championed by liberals. Tenure is meant to accomplish the same thing for teachers (liberals love tenure, whereas most complaints about tenure I hear are from conservative and libertarian students displeased with their liberal teachers – who dominate the academy). We all appreciate reducing uncertainty in some form, but these liberal researchers seem to have overlooked this simple and plain fact of the human condition about themselves.

Skepticism about new experiences is another favorite liberal critique of conservatism, not something conservatives typically say to describe themselves. The article is written from a viewpoint that seems entirely bereft of sociopolitical balance – a liberal examination of a conservative perspective hardly qualifies as a conservative perspective.

The secondary data points mentioned in the study are also from a thoroughly left wing bias. Without leaving the first page we see risk aversion mentioned, and included in the examples are the purchase of medical and auto insurance (conveniently, the social safety net most favored by liberals escapes mention as an example of risk aversion, when that is precisely its purpose). Keep in mind, in most states the purchase of auto insurance is required by law. Obamacare is a glaring example of the researchers’ political blind spot in that it MANDATES the purchase of health insurance. Not a single Republican in Congress voted for the Affordable Care Act. It was enacted by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010, three years before this psychological study was published. Liberals widely favored the mandate aspect of Obamacare, conservatives did not – conservatives favored health savings accounts as these would transfer control of health decisions from an insurance bureaucracy back to into the hands of the patient. The purchase of insurance is one thing, mandating it is quite another. This factor is completely disregarded in the Psychological Science article. The researchers instead thought only the “risk aversion” aspect of purchasing insurance was relevant because it fits neatly into their narrative. This is certainly true given the partisan goal of the study, but not as useful for understanding the reality of the situation as it ignored the liberal proclivity for reducing risk by favoring policies which control people’s choices.

The researchers refer to the 2005 edition of Miriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary to define conservatism (UPDATE: Miriam-Webster showing signs of political hackery). They state this definition as “disposition in politics to preserve what is established” and “the tendency to prefer an existing or traditional situation to change”. This, again, is more a matter of how liberals see conservatives rather than how conservatives see themselves. Conservatism is not a “disposition in politics to preserve that which is established”. Some obvious examples would be Roe v. Wade, a landmark Supreme Court ruling highly lauded by most liberals but highly condemned by most conservatives. The same is true of Obamacare and its mandate to purchase health insurance. Conservatives are working to undo both matters of law, the exact opposite of “preserving what is established”.

On the other hand, conservatives are certainly interested in preserving the individual’s right to make his/her own decisions that don’t cause harm to others. Some examples are opposing the institution of slavery (one of the seminal issues that led to the founding of the Republican party), opposing Jim Crow (established and defended by Democrats taking liberty with other people’s rights), and supporting the expansion of civil union laws rather than allow the federal government to usurp the religious institution of marriage – which is a violation of the separation between church and state, something liberals have said for generations is vital to maintaining liberty.

Let’s return to part of the hypothetical scenario I mentioned up top – tech purchases. Consider two major consumer products in the tech market: smart phones and Microsoft’s Windows operating system. Both forms of technology give us good reason to practice patience, or exercise a “preference for the status quo” and “skepticism about new experiences” as this liberal study would suggest.

Some of us remember Windows Millennium Edition (Windows ME). That was a publicly disastrous product launch for Microsoft. It left a bad taste in the mouth of Microsoft’s customers, so much that many of those customers have been cautious about upgrading to the next latest edition ever since. Windows 8 proved a similar problem in that many Windows users simply hated it, and reverted back to a previous version. This pressured Microsoft to push out the next version of the OS and many people, including conservatives, are quite happy with Windows 10 (the most recent version of the OS as of this article). Many Windows users learned to wait before upgrading to any “new” version from Microsoft. This group of customers will gladly let other more adventurous people test the latest version of Windows first. After the inevitable update fixing who knows how many problems (as also happened with Windows 10), this more cautious group becomes much more likely to upgrade. But according to this liberal study on conservative consumer habits, this could be an example of a “preference for the status quo” rather than the very sensible patience for predictably problematic new technology to be improved.

Smart phones have a similar problem. There are customers who, for whatever reason, simply must have the latest smart phone as soon as it is released to the general public (if not before). These devices are at their most expensive retail price at this early release stage. And they typically have the same sort of quality problems as a new Windows OS. Common sense tells us with the practice of a little patience, most of these problems can be fixed and the prices for the smart phones will drop once the market is more saturated with them among the first triers. But according to the liberal study this pragmatic and reasonable self restraint might demonstrate a “skepticism about new experiences” something akin to a resistance to trying any new technology simply because it’s unfamiliar. Those of us who live in the real world can understand the benefits of new technology that it has been well vetted by the adventurous first triers. If that qualifies as “conservative” so be it.

Contrary to what liberals tell themselves, conservatism is a disposition to preserve freedom, not any old thing that has been established. In the conservative mindset the single greatest threat to freedom is the abuse of power. A healthy skepticism of power is fundamental to the American experiment; it’s part of America’s DNA. In the effort to PRESERVE freedom the conservative endeavors to CONSERVE power (use it sparingly). And how does the abuse of power occur in the grand American experiment? Quite often it happens through the offer of government assistance. Ironically, it turns out government aid usually means government making decisions for us, and a decision the government makes on our behalf is a decision we (as individuals) no longer have the right to make for ourselves.

Freedom is also threatened by the abuse of freedom itself, which why we need laws in the first place. This necessitates a sort of social compact where we try to reach a balance between laws and liberties. In the conservative mindset this balance favors liberties. The abuse of power and the abuse of freedom are best addressed by an aversion to abuse and waste, thus self restraint is encouraged in both cases, where power (the use of force) is limited or conserved (hence the term “conservative”).

Contrast this with the liberal balance between laws and liberties, which favors laws. It is not conservatives who are constantly trying to regulate various aspects of life. It is not conservatives who pushed to regulate the use of tobacco, or sugar, or speech. The ever increasing list of words we are to avoid using (for fear of offending anyone) is not an invention of conservatives; it is the hallmark of modern liberalism. (Jailing students for distributing free copies of the US Constitution is a thoroughly liberal policy.) On the one hand, liberals claim to value and defend free speech when what they really mean is APPROVED speech, which is the opposite of free speech. The ambiguity and purposeful misuse of language is the playground of tyrants. And let us not purposefully confuse the Republican Party with conservatism. The Republican Party has spent decades distancing itself from conservatives, attempting to become diet Democrats. And they have succeeded. There is scarcely a trace of conservatism left in the Republican Party of today.

The so-called resistance to change often cited as a tenet of conservatism is predictably reductive as well. Rather than acknowledge the fact change is merely different, and that difference could be either good or bad, the typically mindless liberal view is that change is automatically a good thing (that’s how the vague and vapid slogan “hope and change” was so successful). The problem is none of us knows change is always good. Getting cancer is “change” but none of us is likely to treat that change as good. How do we know a political or social change is going to be good if we don’t examine it first? But, as mentioned earlier, in the liberal mindset, recognition that life is not so simple is dismissed as a small-minded resistance to change. To suggest change ought to be vetted before we impose it on our entire society is typically dismissed as bigotry. (Consider Obamacare again: liberals dismissed health savings accounts as a solution to the problem of astronomical health care costs saying this was another example conservatives don’t care about people, whereas mandated health insurance was the preferred liberal solution, ignoring the highly likely possibility that insurance itself is the primary CAUSE of astronomical health care costs.) That’s one of the underlying premises of this study because it’s a fundamental premise of liberalism – that conservatives are “skeptical about new experiences” and “prefer the status quo” because they don’t like change.

I learned of this study by randomly encountering an article in Psychology Today by Art Markman titled Conservatism and Product Purchase. Dr. Markman’s article didn’t address the liberal bias of this study. His interest was more on confirming a standard liberal view of conservatism. He ends his article with this:

There is evidence suggesting that conservative ideology is often taken on by people who find newness and change to be stressful.  For individuals who are anxious in  new situations, familiar products and brands are comforting.  So, the same factors that promote conservative political affiliation also seem to affect everyday purchases.

It seems to me this study and the impetus behind it was in the common liberal vein of trying to “explain away” conservatism as if it were a pathology. That’s not my description. This is the description of social psychologist Jonathan Haidt. The New York Times has a good article describing Haidt’s work in William Saletan’s 2012 piece “Why Won’t They Listen?“. Saletan’s article adeptly explains Haidt’s attempt to enrich American society by explaining something about human psychology that most of us simply don’t think about, or don’t think about in a well rounded way.

If actual understanding is a goal of yours, Saletan’s article is definitely worth a read. If you’re satisfied in simply telling yourself what you want to believe perhaps your social media echo chamber would be better for you.

bias, conservative, culture, ideology, indoctrination, left wing, liberalism, pandering, philosophy, progressive, propaganda, study

Filed under: bias, conservative, culture, ideology, indoctrination, left wing, liberalism, pandering, philosophy, progressive, propaganda, study

Almost Everything the Media Tell You About Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Is Wrong

original article: Almost Everything the Media Tell You About Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Is Wrong
August 22, 2016 by Ryan T. Anderson

A major new report, published today in the journal The New Atlantis, challenges the leading narratives that the media has pushed regarding sexual orientation and gender identity.

Co-authored by two of the nation’s leading scholars on mental health and sexuality, the 143-page report discusses over 200 peer-reviewed studies in the biological, psychological, and social sciences, painstakingly documenting what scientific research shows and does not show about sexuality and gender.

The major takeaway, as the editor of the journal explains, is that “some of the most frequently heard claims about sexuality and gender are not supported by scientific evidence.”

Here are four of the report’s most important conclusions:

The belief that sexual orientation is an innate, biologically fixed human property—that people are ‘born that way’—is not supported by scientific evidence.

Likewise, the belief that gender identity is an innate, fixed human property independent of biological sex—so that a person might be a ‘man trapped in a woman’s body’ or ‘a woman trapped in a man’s body’—is not supported by scientific evidence.

Only a minority of children who express gender-atypical thoughts or behavior will continue to do so into adolescence or adulthood. There is no evidence that all such children should be encouraged to become transgender, much less subjected to hormone treatments or surgery.

Non-heterosexual and transgender people have higher rates of mental health problems (anxiety, depression, suicide), as well as behavioral and social problems (substance abuse, intimate partner violence), than the general population. Discrimination alone does not account for the entire disparity.

The report, “Sexuality and Gender: Findings from the Biological, Psychological, and Social Sciences,” is co-authored by Dr. Lawrence Mayer and Dr. Paul McHugh. Mayer is a scholar-in-residence in the Department of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University and a professor of statistics and biostatistics at Arizona State University.

McHugh, whom the editor of The New Atlantis describes as “arguably the most important American psychiatrist of the last half-century,” is a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and was for 25 years the psychiatrist-in-chief at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. It was during his tenure as psychiatrist-in-chief at Johns Hopkins that he put an end to sex reassignment surgery there, after a study launched at Hopkins revealed that it didn’t have the benefits for which doctors and patients had long hoped.

Implications for Policy

The report focuses exclusively on what scientific research shows and does not show. But this science can have implications for public policy.

The report reviews rigorous research showing that ‘only a minority of children who experience cross-gender identification will continue to do so into adolescence or adulthood.’

Take, for example, our nation’s recent debates over transgender policies in schools. One of the consistent themes of the report is that science does not support the claim that “gender identity” is a fixed property independent of biological sex, but rather that a combination of biological, environmental, and experiential factors likely shape how individuals experience and express themselves when it comes to sex and gender.

The report also discusses the reality of neuroplasticity: that all of our brains can and do change throughout our lives (especially, but not only, in childhood) in response to our behavior and experiences. These changes in the brain can, in turn, influence future behavior.

This provides more reason for concern over the Obama administration’s recent transgender school policies. Beyond the privacy and safety concerns, there is thus also the potential that such policies will result in prolonged identification as transgender for students who otherwise would have naturally grown out of it.

The report reviews rigorous research showing that “only a minority of children who experience cross-gender identification will continue to do so into adolescence or adulthood.” Policymakers should be concerned with how misguided school policies might encourage students to identify as girls when they are boys, and vice versa, and might result in prolonged difficulties. As the report notes, “There is no evidence that all children who express gender-atypical thoughts or behavior should be encouraged to become transgender.”

Beyond school policies, the report raises concerns about proposed medical intervention in children. Mayer and McHugh write: “We are disturbed and alarmed by the severity and irreversibility of some interventions being publicly discussed and employed for children.”

They continue: “We are concerned by the increasing tendency toward encouraging children with gender identity issues to transition to their preferred gender through medical and then surgical procedures.” But as they note, “There is little scientific evidence for the therapeutic value of interventions that delay puberty or modify the secondary sex characteristics of adolescents.”

Findings on Transgender Issues

The same goes for social or surgical gender transitions in general. Mayer and McHugh note that the “scientific evidence summarized suggests we take a skeptical view toward the claim that sex reassignment procedures provide the hoped for benefits or resolve the underlying issues that contribute to elevated mental health risks among the transgender population.” Even after sex reassignment surgery, patients with gender dysphoria still experience poor outcomes:

Compared to the general population, adults who have undergone sex reassignment surgery continue to have a higher risk of experiencing poor mental health outcomes. One study found that, compared to controls, sex-reassigned individuals were about five times more likely to attempt suicide and about 19 times more likely to die by suicide.

Mayer and McHugh urge researchers and physicians to work to better “understand whatever factors may contribute to the high rates of suicide and other psychological and behavioral health problems among the transgender population, and to think more clearly about the treatment options that are available.” They continue:

In reviewing the scientific literature, we find that almost nothing is well understood when we seek biological explanations for what causes some individuals to state that their gender does not match their biological sex. … Better research is needed, both to identify ways by which we can help to lower the rates of poor mental health outcomes and to make possible more informed discussion about some of the nuances present in this field.

Policymakers should take these findings very seriously. For example, the Obama administration recently finalized a new Department of Health and Human Services mandate that requires all health insurance plans under Obamacare to cover sex reassignment treatments and all relevant physicians to perform them. The regulations will force many physicians, hospitals, and other health care providers to participate in sex reassignment surgeries and treatments, even if doing so violates their moral and religious beliefs or their best medical judgment.

Rather than respect the diversity of opinions on sensitive and controversial health care issues, the regulations endorse and enforce one highly contested and scientifically unsupported view. As Mayer and McHugh urge, more research is needed, and physicians need to be free to practice the best medicine.

Stigma, Prejudice Don’t Explain Tragic Outcomes

The report also highlights that people who identify as LGBT face higher risks of adverse physical and mental health outcomes, such as “depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and most alarmingly, suicide.” The report summarizes some of those findings:

Members of the non-heterosexual population are estimated to have about 1.5 times higher risk of experiencing anxiety disorders than members of the heterosexual population, as well as roughly double the risk of depression, 1.5 times the risk of substance abuse, and nearly 2.5 times the risk of suicide.

Members of the transgender population are also at higher risk of a variety of mental health problems compared to members of the non-transgender population. Especially alarmingly, the rate of lifetime suicide attempts across all ages of transgender individuals is estimated at 41 percent, compared to under 5 percent in the overall U.S. population.

What accounts for these tragic outcomes? Mayer and McHugh investigate the leading theory—the “social stress model”—which proposes that “stressors like stigma and prejudice account for much of the additional suffering observed in these subpopulations.”

But they argue that the evidence suggests that this theory “does not seem to offer a complete explanation for the disparities in the outcomes.” It appears that social stigma and stress alone cannot account for the poor physical and mental health outcomes that LGBT-identified people face.

As a result, they conclude that “More research is needed to uncover the causes of the increased rates of mental health problems in the LGBT subpopulations.” And they call on all of us work to “alleviate suffering and promote human health and flourishing.”

Findings Contradict Claims in Supreme Court’s Gay Marriage Ruling

Finally, the report notes that scientific evidence does not support the claim that people are “born that way” with respect to sexual orientation. The narrative pushed by Lady Gaga and others is not supported by the science. A combination of biological, environmental, and experiential factors likely account for an individual’s sexual attractions, desires, and identity, and “there are no compelling causal biological explanations for human sexual orientation.”

Furthermore, the scientific research shows that sexual orientation is more fluid than the media suggests. The report notes that “Longitudinal studies of adolescents suggest that sexual orientation may be quite fluid over the life course for some people, with one study estimating that as many as 80 percent of male adolescents who report same-sex attractions no longer do so as adults.”

These findings—that scientific research does not support the claim that sexual orientation is innate and immutable—directly contradict claims made by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy in last year’s Obergefell ruling. Kennedy wrote, “their immutable nature dictates that same-sex marriage is their only real path to this profound commitment” and “in more recent years have psychiatrists and others recognized that sexual orientation is both a normal expression of human sexuality and immutable.”

But the science does not show this.

While the marriage debate was about the nature of what marriage is, incorrect scientific claims about sexual orientation were consistently used in the campaign to redefine marriage.

In the end, Mayer and McHugh observe that much about sexuality and gender remains unknown. They call for honest, rigorous, and dispassionate research to help better inform public discourse and, more importantly, sound medical practice.

As this research continues, it’s important that public policy not declare scientific debates over, or rush to legally enforce and impose contested scientific theories. As Mayer and McHugh note, “Everyone—scientists and physicians, parents and teachers, lawmakers and activists—deserves access to accurate information about sexual orientation and gender identity.”

We all must work to foster a culture where such information can be rigorously pursued and everyone—whatever their convictions, and whatever their personal situation—is treated with the civility, respect, and generosity that each of us deserves.

biology, civil rights, culture, government, homosexuality, ideology, judiciary, justice, politics, science, sex, study

Filed under: biology, civil rights, culture, government, homosexuality, ideology, judiciary, justice, politics, science, sex, study

Remember those experts who said condoms would reduce pregnancy and STDs?

original article: The Condom Conundrum
MORE PROPHYLACTICS, MORE TEEN PREGNANCIES
July 21, 2016 by John Stonestreet

Remember those so-called “experts” who assured us that condoms would cut rates of fertility and STDs? Well, they now face a conundrum.

Those who’ve pushed condoms like candy in public schools have given us any number of rationales. They told us that young people “are going to do it anyway,” so more condoms would equal fewer pregnancies. They also said that more condoms would lead to fewer STDs, or sexually transmitted diseases. And as they proceeded to pass out condoms by the handful to our school-age children, they told us that religion and morality should be left out of it, in the name of public health and, of course, science.

New research, however, suggests these prophets of prophylactics were wrong—desperately wrong—and that it’s time for a fresh look at the issue.

A recently released study by University of Notre Dame researchers Kasey S. Buckles and Daniel M. Hungerman has found that access to condoms in schools actually increases teen pregnancies by about 10 percent—that’s right, increases it! Buckles and Hungerman selected 22 school districts in 12 states that started such programs back in the 1990s, including New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. The study analyzed teen-fertility data from nearly 400 high-population counties over a span of 19 years.

Among the contributing factors Buckles and Hungerman cite is the possibility that condom-distribution programs can crowd out efforts to encourage young people to delay sexual activity. Condom-distribution programs may actually encourage more teenagers to have sex.

Is this really that surprising? If adults tell teens that the decision to engage in sex is theirs and give them condoms, what message do they receive?

It makes sense, especially given another finding of the study. Buckles and Hungerman found that sexual activity, along with STDs, increased in counties with condom-distribution programs. This puts a lie to all those lofty assurances from the Sexual Left that condoms would prevent all that. No, more likely, they encouraged it!

Michael J. New, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Michigan at Dearborn, notes that this ugly outcome likely is a result of increased sexual risk-taking as a result of condoms in the schools. All at taxpayers’ expense.

Now Buckles and Hungerman are quick to point out that they believe the effects of teen fertility would be less alarming if the condom-distribution programs were also accompanied by mandatory sex-ed counseling. But New says such education efforts would not totally offset the jump in teen fertility caused by condom distribution. There would still be more births to teenaged mothers, and presumably more teen STDs, than if there were no condoms in the schools in the first place.

“Overall,” says New, “the study adds to an impressive body of research which shows that efforts to encourage contraceptive use either through mandates, subsidies, or distribution are ineffective at best or counterproductive at worst. In many countries, increases in contraception use are correlated with increase in the abortion rate.”

Now it would be optimistic at best to assume that the folks who brought these condom-distribution programs to us, and their cheerleaders in the media, would own up to the conundrum they have created and work to make things right. But no, we’ll have to do that ourselves.

So the first step to changing what our schools do is to read the study and make sure that members of your local school boards have a copy. Just come to BreakPoint.org and click on this commentary for a link to it, along with more information to get you up to speed.

And second, we shouldn’t be surprised that non-Christians teach our sons and daughters a non-Christian worldview concerning the human body, the unitive act, or marriage. Teaching our own kids about sex and design and relationships and marriage, while pointing out and countering the lies about sex proclaimed in the culture, is first and foremost our job as parents and as Christian communities.

children, culture, education, ideology, science, sex, study, unintended consequences

Filed under: children, culture, education, ideology, science, sex, study, unintended consequences

Does school choice work? It depends on whether you ask parents or education bureaucrats

original article: Even When School Choice Works, Critics Call It a Failure
July 11, 2016 by Vicki Alger

Thomas Paine recommended vouchers to help parents afford private schools for their children more than 200 years ago. While most college students today use vouchers to attend public or private colleges and universities, the concept remains needlessly controversial when it comes to parents using them for their school-age children.

For example, in a recent Washington Post article Emma Brown recently claimed school choice hasn’t worked based on evidence from New York City, where students are no longer assigned to public high schools based on their zip codes.

For starters, the Big Apple is hardly, as Brown calls it, “a real-life laboratory for questions of school choice” just because in 2004 the city deigned to allow parents of eighth-graders to choose up to 12 public high schools to attend out of a possible 400.

Currently, more than half of all states have parental choice programs that include private schools – not just public schools. New York isn’t one of them.

But Brown’s own evidence shows that empowering parents over their children’s education works. According to Brown, as of 2015 NYC’s overall public high school graduation rate has improved steadily and now exceeds 70 percent. Even neighborhood-based racial graduation rate gaps have diminished. Yet because they exist, school choice must be a failure. Brown seems to be implying (although she doesn’t say so explicitly) that returning to the old way of assigning students to schools would level the playing field.

It likely would…but not in a positive way since assigned schooling minimizes the likelihood students will be able to attend schools that are the best for for them. And, by removing competition for students schools have little (if any) incentive to customize instruction to individual students’ needs.

The reality is, parental choice programs are helping participating students (overwhelmingly those from disadvantaged backgrounds) as well as non-participating students who benefit from the effects of their schools having to compete for students and associated funding.

A new research synthesis helps shed light on the growing body of research proving that parental choice works.

Currently, there are 50 private school scholarship programs in 26 states and Washington, DC. What’s more, over half of them were implemented in the past five years. But do such programs work?

Experts from the University of Arkansas conducted a global review of “gold standard” studies, and using scientifically exacting methods concluded that private school choice results in statistically significant improvements in reading and math performance, 0.27 standard deviations and 0.15 standard deviations, respectively.

To put those results into perspective, 25 percent of a standard deviation represents approximately one year of academic growth on most measures of student achievement. These results are all the more remarkable because most private school choice programs limit eligibility to students from low-income families, and these students typically struggle academically.

Such results should come as welcome news for addressing chronic achievement gaps and high college remediation rates – but they likely won’t.

Parental choice in education, private-school parental choice in particular, remains a political hot button. Teachers and administrators unions, among others, fiercely oppose supporting parents’ right to choose non-public schools for their children.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration has done everything in its power to shut down the successful DC Opportunity Scholarship Program – (although it was recently reauthorized) in spite of evidence from the US Department of Education “What Works” division that the program is effective, efficient, and popular. It’s also accomplishes more for a whole lot less.

Thankfully, parents and policymakers in the states are moving ahead with an ever-growing array of parental choice programs, including vouchers, tax-credit scholarships, and education savings accounts (ESAs). Such progress will be difficult if not impossible to stop, no matter how loudly critics complain.

bureaucracy, children, culture, education, fraud, government, nanny state, politics, public policy, reform, study

Filed under: bureaucracy, children, culture, education, fraud, government, nanny state, politics, public policy, reform, study

The Gun Control Farce

original article: The Gun Control Farce
June 21, 2016 by Thomas Sowell

Surely murder is a serious subject, which ought to be examined seriously. Instead, it is almost always examined politically in the context of gun control controversies, with stock arguments on both sides that have remained the same for decades. And most of those arguments are irrelevant to the central question: Do tighter gun control laws reduce the murder rate?

That is not an esoteric question, nor one for which no empirical evidence is available. Think about it. We have 50 states, each with its own gun control laws, and many of those laws have gotten either tighter or looser over the years. There must be tons of data that could indicate whether murder rates went up or down when either of these things happened.

But have you ever heard any gun control advocate cite any such data? Tragically, gun control has become one of those fact-free issues that spawn outbursts of emotional rhetoric and mutual recriminations about the National Rifle Association or the Second Amendment.

If restrictions on gun ownership do reduce murders, we can repeal the Second Amendment, as other Constitutional Amendments have been repealed. Laws exist to protect people. People do not exist to perpetuate laws.

But if tighter restrictions on gun ownership do not reduce murders, what is the point of tighter gun control laws — and what is the point of demonizing the National Rifle Association?

There are data not only from our 50 states but also from other countries around the world. Professor Joyce Lee Malcolm’s empirical study, “Guns and Violence: The English Experience,” should be eye-opening for all those who want their eyes opened, however small that number of people might be.

Professor Malcolm’s book also illustrates the difference between isolated, cherry-picked facts and relevant empirical evidence.

Many gun control advocates have cited the much higher murder rates in the United States than in England as due to tighter gun control laws in England. But Professor Malcolm’s study points out that the murder rate in New York has been some multiple of the murder rate in London for two centuries — and, during most of that time, neither city had serious restrictions on gun ownership.

As late as 1954, “there were no controls on shotguns” in England, Professor Malcolm reported, but only 12 cases of armed robbery in London. Of these only 4 had real guns. But in the remainder of the 20th century, gun control laws became ever more severe — and armed robberies in London soared to 1,400 by 1974.

“As the numbers of legal firearms have dwindled, the numbers of armed crimes have risen” is her summary of that history in England. Conversely, in the United States the number of handguns in American homes more than doubled between 1973 and 1992, while the murder rate went down.

There are relevant facts available, but you are not likely to hear about them from politicians currently pushing for tighter gun control laws, or from the mainstream media, when those facts go against the claims of gun control advocates.

Despite hundreds of thousands of times a year when Americans use firearms defensively, none of those incidents is likely to be reported in the mainstream media, even when lives are saved as a result. But one accidental firearm death in a home will be broadcast and rebroadcast from coast to coast.

Virtually all empirical studies in the United States show that tightening gun control laws has not reduced crime rates in general or murder rates in particular. Is this because only people opposed to gun control do empirical studies? Or is it because the facts uncovered in empirical studies make the arguments of gun control zealots untenable?

In both England and the United States, those people most zealous for tighter gun control laws tend also to be most lenient toward criminals and most restrictive on police. The net result is that law-abiding citizens become more vulnerable when they are disarmed and criminals disobey gun control laws, as they disobey other laws.

The facts are too plain to be ignored. Moreover, the consequences are too dangerous to law-abiding citizens, whose lives are put in jeopardy on the basis of fact-free assumptions and unexamined dogmas. Such arguments are a farce, but not the least bit funny.

civil rights, constitution, culture, gun rights, ideology, law, study

Filed under: civil rights, constitution, culture, gun rights, ideology, law, study

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