Sunday, June 13, 2010

Strange psychopathy controversy

The matter reported below reminds me of the disgraceful behaviour by Frank Sulloway, in using legal means to prevent publication of a critique of his absurd theories about birth order. But, unlike Sulloway, Hare is no kook so I can only presume that he is in his dotage. He must be very elderly by now.

What eventually ensued is what should have happened in the first place. The paper was published and Hare was given a right of reply.

I have some personal interest in this as I too have had published a paper questioning a popular measure of psychopathy. My paper was however published promptly -- perhaps because the authors of the measure that I questioned are now dead!

I also have a personal interest in that I have had a heap of critiques published -- papers which simply tear apart some existing research without adding new data. It is actually quite difficult to get such papers published anyway as editors prefer papers with new data. The episode described below is going to make the acceptance of critiques all the more difficult, which is a great pity -- as criticism is an essential feature of scientific advance

And psychopathy is still a quite poorly understood phenomenon so debate about it is important. The fact that Leftism and psychopathy seem to have a lot in common makes it particularly important, in fact

Academic disputes usually flare out in the safety of obscure journals, raising no more than a few tempers, if not voices. But a paper published this week by the American Psychological Association has managed to raise questions of censorship, academic fraud, fair play and criminal sentencing — and all them well before the report ever became public.

The paper is a critique of a rating scale that is widely used in criminal courts to determine whether a person is a psychopath and likely to commit acts of violence. It was accepted for publication in a psychological journal in 2007, but the inventor of the rating scale saw a draft and threatened a lawsuit if it was published, setting in motion a stultifying series of reviews, revisions and legal correspondence.

“This has been a really, really troubling process from the beginning,” said Scott O. Lilienfeld, a psychologist at Emory University and a collaborator with one of the paper’s authors. “It has people wondering, ‘Do I have to worry every time I publish a paper that criticizes someone that I’ll get slapped with a lawsuit?’ ” The delay in publication, he said, “sets a very dangerous precedent” and censors scientific discourse.

The inventor of the clinical test, Robert D. Hare, an emeritus professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, sees a different principle at stake. “The main issue here is that these authors misrepresented my views by distorting things I said,” he said in a telephone interview. “I have been doing this work for 40 years and never seen anything like it.”

For its part, the psychological association maintained in a statement that it had never refused to publish a paper because of a threatened lawsuit but that it had “a responsibility to all parties to evaluate a legal claim.” The paper’s authors — Jennifer L. Skeem of the University of California, Irvine, and David J. Cooke of Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland — also had lawyers, and the Scottish university did an extensive review of its own, people familiar with the process said.

“All I can tell you is that delays in the editorial process come from multiple sources,” said Gary VandenBos, the psychological association’s publisher.

The paper — “Is Criminal Behavior a Central Component of Psychopathy?” — was circulated widely among forensic psychologists well before publication. Experts say the scientific issue it raises is an important one.

Dr. Hare’s clinical scale, called the Psychopathy Checklist, Revised, is one of the few, if not the only, psychological measures in forensic science with any scientific backing. Dr. Hare receives royalties when the checklist is used; he called the income it generated “modest” compared with providing paid expert testimony — which he said he does not do.

Dr. Skeem and Dr. Cooke warned in their paper that the checklist was increasingly being mistaken for a complete definition of psychopathy — a broader personality construct that includes deceitfulness, impulsivity and recklessness, though not always aggression or illegal acts. The authors contended that Dr. Hare’s checklist warps that concept by making criminal behavior a more central component than it really is.

Dr. Hare maintains that he has stressed “problematic, not antisocial or criminal, behavior” and that his comments were distorted.

Dr. Skeem said she was “just worn out” by the prolonged dispute. “When we first wrote the paper,” she said, “we saw it simply as a call to the field to recognize we were going down a path where we were equating an abstract concept with a checklist, and it was preventing us from looking at the concept more closely.”

The report appears in the June issue of the journal Psychological Assessment — that is, along with a rebuttal by Dr. Hare, and a return response from Dr. Skeem and Dr. Cooke.



The Consistency of Hatred, from Grand Mufti to Helen Thomas

Ari Fleischer was press secretary to an American president, not to some commissar or caudillo, yet his reaction to Helen Thomas' latest anti-Israel outburst would have been more fit for a totalitarian than a free society. He demanded that Hearst fire its White House correspondent, who'd probably been there longer than most of the furniture.

The idea of punishing a columnist for her views, however vicious, might befit some tinpot dictatorship, but it has no place in this country, where extremists do a more than adequate job of exposing themselves, thank you. Which is what Miss Thomas has just done. Followed by her apology and resignation, voluntary or otherwise.

Rather than demand Helen Thomas' dismissal, Mr. Fleischer -- and all those others outraged by her hissy fit -- ought to send her a thank-you note. Consider this mine. For years her animus toward the Jewish state could be read quite clearly between the lines of her columns, or even smelled. Now she's admitted it by using the old Go Back Where You Came From ploy against Israel's Jews. She said they "should get the hell out of Palestine" and "go home."

And where would that be? Miss Thomas answered: "Poland. Germany." The problem for the Helen Thomases of the world is that Israel is where the Jews came from -- a minor detail Miss Thomas seems to have overlooked.

Now at least there could be no excuse for reading Miss Thomas' prose as if it were untainted by her pet hatred. Not that her virulent views have ever been a secret from those who've followed her tantrums over the years, whether in her columns or during presidential press conferences. After one of her little tirades, another White House press secretary -- Tony Snow, a man of pointed understatement who is still much missed -- said only, "Well, thank you for the Hezbollah view."

What may be most impressive about Miss Helen's latest outburst is how little this hateful line has changed since it was being enunciated by Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, aka Der Grossmufti von Jerusalem when he was enjoying Herr Hitler's hospitality in Berlin during the Second World War. After its outbreak, the official leader of Palestine's Arabs, having opposed any compromise with the hated Jews before the war, took refuge in Berlin, whence he attempted to raise an Arab army to fight alongside the Nazis.

The man was all heart. In the summer of 1943, the mufti found time to write Hungary's foreign minister protesting a plan to let some of its Jews escape the Final Solution then under way in Europe. His letter expressed alarm that the Jewish Agency had managed to obtain "immigration certificates for 900 Jewish children to be transported [to Palestine] from Hungary accompanied by 100 adults."

The mufti warned Budapest that such action would "by no means solve the Jewish problem" and, if any Jews were allowed to leave, they be sent instead to . . . Poland, where their fate would surely have been sealed. The suggestion that Jews be sent to Poland is scarcely new with Miss Thomas.

Historical note: Kielce, Poland, was the scene of the first post-war pogrom in July of 1946, when dozens of survivors of the Holocaust returned there only to be massacred by a mob abetted by local authorities.

Helen Thomas was kind enough not to specify just where in Germany or Poland the Jews should go "back" to -- Dachau? Auschwitz? Europe is full of such spas that once catered to Jewish clientele. Miss Thomas didn't even mention Russia and the killing fields of Babi Yar.

But her point was clear enough: Jews are just interlopers who should get the hell out of the Middle East. Maybe she's never noticed that Hebrew, like Arabic, is a Semitic language. It's a mystery how anyone on reading the Old Testament can deny that this people has it roots among the nomadic tribes of the Fertile Crescent, but mere fact has never been a barrier to bigotry.

For years, indeed decades, all such fulminations from Arab spokesmen were dismissed as just rhetoric, propaganda to stir up the Arab street and the mobs it produces on order. Surely the leaders of Arab Palestine could be negotiated with; their strident tirades were just for show. When face-to-face negotiations between Israel and her neighbors, including the Palestinians, finally began in the 1990s, peace was supposed to be just around the corner.

It wasn't. Instead, it was the protestations of peace and goodwill that have proven transitory, and the hateful propaganda that has proven lasting. Even in the mouths of Americans like Helen Thomas.



Another rage-filled Leftist: The Prime Minister of Australia

Quite normal for Leftists. Rudd's predecessor as leader of the Labor Party -- Mark Latham -- was the same and all conservative bloggers know how rage-filled are the emails and comments that they get from Leftists. Rage and hate are of course closely allied emotions. Hate is just a bit quieter about it

Kevin Rudd is surrounded by c**** and everything is f*****. Let me explain. I don't mean the Prime Minister is making mistakes, or that his government is hopeless. I mean he has a potty mouth. He swears all the time, about everything, no matter whom he's addressing.

He likes the f-bomb almost as much as he loves the c-word. He's f****** sick of p***** saying he's just a nerdy f****** bureaucrat, all right? It's just bulls***! He's as tough as the next b******. Got it? Anyone who says otherwise can eat s***.

And he desperately wants us all to hear him loud and clear. In the past week, political geeks such as me have been chuckling over the revelation that the Prime Minister interrupted high-level climate-change negotiations at the Copenhagen summit last year to observe: "Those Chinese f****** are trying to rat-f*** us." Rudd spoke this sentence to a roomful of journalists, as part of a background briefing at the summit.

But none of them reported the line, because the understanding at such a briefing is that everything is off the record. When something is off the record, it means journalists are getting information that is useful for informing and enhancing their stories, in return for their tacit agreement that the source and exact wording of the supplied information will be kept secret.

A background arrangement such as this is useful for a leader such as Rudd, because it allows him to be frank in his assessments without having to deal with an outbreak of Rudd-effigy burnings across Beijing, or explain to the Australian dairy industry why China has decided to cancel 400 years' worth of advance import deals.

So the line stayed a secret until journalist David Marr published his fine new Quarterly Essay about the curious quirks of Captain Kevin. Marr also details how Rudd, during a long day of interviews, had an extraordinary explosion of temper when he realised Marr wasn't planning to write a particularly flattering piece.

Marr wrote that Rudd delivered "a dressing-down which registers about a 3.8 on his Richter scale". "He doesn't scream and bang the table as he does behind closed doors, (but) in his anger, Rudd becomes astonishingly eloquent. This is the most vivid version of himself I've encountered. "At last he is speaking from the heart, an angry heart."

Marr's thesis is that the real Kevin Rudd is this furious, self-righteous foot-stamper - a grown man who has tantrums just like those of a toddler. "He's a politician with rage at his core, impatient rage," Marr adds.

Oh, how I wish Marr had written exactly what the Prime Minister had said. I'm sure the air between them turned blue for a few moments, as Rudd questioned Marr's thesis, talent, intelligence, motivation and parentage. It would, if nothing else, be delightfully amusing to read.

But really, the words themselves are not as important as what they reveal: the Prime Minister's routine, casual and cynical use of the "off-the-record" convention as an opportunity to swear. He does it all the time, and he usually gets away with it....

Anyway, foul language is part of the Labor Party's genetic code. When modern lefties use a c-word to refer to one another, it's unlikely to be "comrade".

The phrase "rat-f***" has a long and proud Labor heritage. It's the sort of thing they say in Sussex St [Labor Party headquarters for the State of NSW] when the dim sims [NSW Labor Party identities often meet over Chinese food -- as Sussex St is adjacent to Chinatown] are running low. Now, Rudd has inadvertently brought it into the open. Bring it on, I say.



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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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