Saturday, November 28, 2015

Not Criminally Responsible: The case for forensic psychiatry in reintegrating people with mental illnesses

                     My new piece for The Walrus:

IN SEPTEMBER, a forensic-psychiatry patient at Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health absconded during a scheduled outing. Thomas Brailsford had been found not criminally responsible for cutting off his mother’s head in 2010, so the news of his escape created, to put it mildly, some apprehension among the public.

During the twenty-four hours or so Brailsford was on the loose, media sensationalizing transformed Toronto into a modern-day Sleepy Hollow, with panicked Ichabod Cranes trying to evade a ghoulish headhunter. Quite naturally, many people wondered why Brailsford was left in a position where he could so easily vanish—it was the second time he’d gone AWOL from the centre within twelve months.

In the decade I worked at CAMH and its predecessor, the Queen Street Mental Health Centre, up until 2004, I saw some of the workings and causes of this type of dilemma...

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The New York Times has it wrong - there are plenty of powerful women in Hollywood and it's not sexism that's keeping them out

Maureen Dowd's "The Women in Hollywood Speak Out" article in The New York Times asserts that pervasive sexism is preventing women from directing blockbusters and running studios.

There may be a very small element of truth in that, but the crux of the article suggests both a lack of understanding about how Hollywood works and a pretty large heap of sour grapes.

In the first place, there are lots of women in powerful positions in Hollywood. Sherry Lansing ran Paramount for years, there are big time women producers cluttering Hollywood. I know some of these women, and they are very good at what they do, which is why they were able to be in a position to do it.

The main thing to remember about Hollywood is that despite the not entirely unfair caricature of Hollywood being filled with horny old men who get into show business to bed sexy young actresses, these days, that's mostly a sleazy fringe of a major industry. Hollywood's movie business is a business. Like any other business, money and good PR drive it. Studios are actually looking for more women directors because they know it reflects well on the organization. But, despite Hollywood's big players liking to look like they're vanguard of progressivism,  they're actually quite conservative when it comes to their business ledgers. No studio head is going to hand a $300 million budget to a director unless there's a high level of confidence that the investment will turn into a profit.

And the fact is, there aren't few women directors who have demonstrated that they can generate those kinds of revenues with their films. Hollywood is also not a place where a lot of original thought occurs on the whole. There are some brilliant visionaries there, and many of them are women. But as in any other field, most people have average capabilities and follow trends. When I worked at a major Hollywood production company, people occasionally asked me whether the lack of female directors was due to sexism. My response was to say that if a duckbill platypus directed a movie that had an $80 Million box office weekend, you can bet your life that on Monday, there would be planeloads of Hollywood executives flying to Australia to try to sign the first duckbill platypus they see to a directing contract.

Women tend to make movies that appeal to women's sensibilities. That's great, but the money is in watching aliens from outer space trying to annihilate the Earth and having comic book superheroes save us from certain death.

Indicative of Dowd's article, and demonstrative of my point, is this complaint from Leslye Headland:
Headland made this fall’s ‘‘Sleeping With Other People,’’ a raunchy rom-com starring Jason Sudeikis and Alison Brie, in 25 days for $5 million from a script she drafted in two weeks, chronicling her obsession with a ‘‘lame’’ ex-boyfriend. ‘‘Quentin Tarantino can make ‘Pulp Fiction’ for $8 million and you can slap him on any magazine,’’ Headland said. ‘‘He’s the poster boy. He was for me. I want to be that guy even though he looks like a foot. God bless him, and he can do whatever he wants to my feet. But with a female director, you’re just not celebrated the same way.’’
Pulp Fiction was a huge hit that revitalized the careers of Bruce Willis and John Travolta, made stars out of Samuel L. Jackson and Uma Thurman, and inspired dozens of imitations and iconic cultural touchstones, like Jackson and Travolta's conversation about "the Royale with Cheese, " and "bring up the Gimp." Most people have never heard of Sleeping With Other People, and fewer still have seen it or could name anything memorable about it.

Pulp Fiction grossed $213 million dollars on an $8 million dollar budget in 1994. Sleeping With Other People grossed $814 thousand on a $5 million budget in 2015. You don't have to have to be an expert in either economics or gender studies to figure out that the reason Pulp Fiction's director Quentin Tarantino is celebrated and Sleeping With Other People's director Leslye Headland is not has nothing to do with sexism.

Track record matters in Hollywood. You don't just get to walk into a studio and have them hand you the next Spiderman or Star Wars. You have to show them you could make a successful action movie on a much smaller scale. And the idea of men being able to walk in and be handed a big budget project by mere virtue of their sex is preposterous. It's not a competition between men and women. It's a competition between a director and every other director in the business, male or female. If women want to have more power in Hollywood, then they're going to have to do it the old fashioned way, by working their way up and showing they can do the job. Those women who can make money for a studio will have no trouble getting more responsibility and power in a town that only loves winners.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Frankenworms Grow Heads and Brains of Other Species

Credit: International Journal of Molecular Science
Call them Franken flatworms. Scientists have created worms with the heads and brains of other species just by manipulating cell communication.

The research is an example of how development is controlled by more than genetics alone.

The researchers did not alter the flatworms' DNA in any way, but instead manipulated proteins that control conversations between cells...

How to Beat Donald Trump

...The goal of convincing a Republican primary electorate that Trump is personally unequal to the job of president is unlikely to succeed. They’ve seen Donald Trump dominating and commanding all the other Republican presidential candidates (except Carly Fiorina) in one-on-one personal confrontations on the debating platform. They know, or think they know, that Donald Trump built a gigantic business empire. They have watched as a network “reality” television show portrayed him over 14 seasons as America’s supreme problem-solver and team leader. Now the same party leaders who insisted that Sarah Palin could do the job of president, if need be, want to persuade the rank-and-file that Trump can’t? Good luck with that.

Attacking Trump on national-security grounds will be especially challenging. Many Republicans see immigration as itself a national-security issue, arguably the paramount national-security issue...

Steve Paikin: Is deranged criticism the newest political phenomenon?

The first time I heard about this new political phenomenon, it was directed at former U.S. president George W. Bush.

The gist of it was Bush’s opponents were so furious at him that they had become unhinged in their criticism. Bush wasn’t just a bad president: he probably stole the 2000 election from Al Gore, he may have even been warned by the Saudis about September 11, his decision to attack Iraq may have been partially motivated by the influence of the American logging industry – even though much of Iraq is desert – and so forth.

Bush was such a bad president, and his views were so illegitimate, normal criticism wouldn’t do. A much more hyper critical, over-the-top response was required. The phenomenon became known as “Bush Derangement Syndrome.”

As with many American phenomena, if you wait long enough, it’ll come north, and this one now apparently has.

In Canada, my liberal friends have been suffering for several years from “Harper Derangement Syndrome.” They hate the man so much personally, and despise his agenda so viscerally that they’re incapable of discussing his record rationally...

Barbara Kay: Bill Maher 1, Chrystia Freeland 0

Maher went on to blast multiculturalism: “this idea that somehow we do share values that all religions are alike is bullshit, and we need to call it bullshit.” That galvanized Freeland who “now more than ever” called for respect for “diversity,” because — here’s where she lost the thread — “we in Canada are not going to say Muslims are worse than Christians, or are worse than Jews, or worse than atheists.” Maher shot back, “Not as people, the ideas are worse.”

Maher and his other guests were keen to talk about those ideas, but Freeland just couldn’t bring herself to go there. You could almost see alarm bells ringing in her brain: “Offensive to Muslims! Abort! Abort!” It was as though an automatic pilot had overridden her manual controls. Unable to engage, she remained doggedly on script: “it is incredibly dangerous, and very wrong, to … say there is something wrong with being a Muslim,” which nobody on the panel had said; in fact, both King and Domenech spoke sympathetically of Muslim victims of jihadism...

...Clearly Maher (as well as King and Domenech) and Freeland were talking past each other. The American panelists, intellectually marinated in First Amendment rights, understood that while it is wrong to defame any faith group collectively (like, say, “Muslim men hate women”), it is impossible under U.S. law to demonize an idea ( “Sharia law is misogynistic”). But Western progressives, splendidly represented by Freeland, no longer grasp the distinction. They have internalized the pernicious, anti-democratic, dangerous notion of “Islamophobia” — the very concept was invented and promoted by stealth-jihad strategists — which interprets as defamation criticism of Islam itself...

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Amazon's Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin succeeds at creating a reusable space rocket

Read about it HERE

Thomas Sowell: The survival of the left

BIOLOGISTS EXPLAIN how organisms adapt to their physical environment, but ideologues also adapt to their social environment. The most fundamental fact about the ideas of the political left is that they do not work. Therefore we should not be surprised to find the left concentrated in institutions where ideas do not have to work in order to survive.

The academic world is the natural habitat of half-baked ideas, except for those fields in which there are decisive tests, such as science, mathematics, engineering, medicine;and athletics. In all these fields, in their differing ways, there comes a time when you must either put up or shut up. It should not be surprising that all of these fields are notable exceptions to the complete domination by the left on campuses across the country.

In the humanities, for example, the test of deconstructionism is not whether it can produce any tangible results but whether it remains in vogue. So long as it does, professors skilled in its verbal sleight-of-hand can expect to continue to receive six-figure salaries.

You might think that the collapse of communism throughout Eastern Europe would be considered a decisive failure for Marxism, but academic Marxists in America are utterly undaunted. Their paychecks and their tenure are unaffected. Their theories continue to flourish in the classrooms and their journals continue to litter the library shelves.

Socialism in general has a record of failure so blatant that only an intellectual could ignore or evade it...

D'oh! CAIR, Glenn Greenwald & MSNBC's 'No-Fly List Is Islamophobia' Poster Boy Arrested in Turkey as Part of ISIS Cell

A man, who just two years ago was the poster boy for the far-Left media's attacks against the U.S. government's no-fly list for "unfairly" targeting Muslims, finds himself and several family members sitting in a Turkish prison -- arrested earlier this month near the Turkey-Syria border as members of an ISIS cell.

It's a long way from 2013 when Saadiq Long's cause was being championed by MSNBC's Chris Hayes, Glenn Greenwald, and Mother Jones, and was being represented by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) terror front.

His story got considerable media attention when his CAIR media representatives here pushed the story that Long wanted to return to his native Oklahoma from his current home in Qatar to visit his ailing mother but couldn't because he was on the TSA's no-fly list. They said his case represented institutional "Islamophobia."...

Bret Stephens: Radical Parents, Despotic Children

...For almost 50 years universities have adopted racialist policies in the name of equality, repressive speech codes in the name of tolerance, ideological orthodoxy in the name of intellectual freedom. Sooner or later, Orwellian methods will lead to Orwellian outcomes. Those coddled, bullying undergrads shouting their demands for safer spaces, easier classes, and additional racial set-asides are exactly what the campus faculty and administrators deserve.
In other words, the radical children who grew up to run the universities have duplicated the achievement of their parents, and taken it a step further. In three generations, the campuses have moved from indulgent liberalism to destructive radicalism to the raised-fist racialism of the present—with each generation left to its increasingly meager devices. Why should anyone want to see this farce repeated as tragedy 10 or 20 years down the road?...

Canadians pay 42% of income in tax — more than they spend on food, shelter, clothing combined

Canadians shell out more on taxes — federal, provincial and local, and indirect — than they do on food, shelter and clothing combined, says a report by the Fraser Institute released Monday.

The Canadian Consumer Tax Index compares how much the average taxpayer forks out today, compared with 1961, posing the question: Are Canadians getting enough bang for their bucks?

It finds taxes have grown more rapidly than any other single item of expenditure for the average family. Last year, that added up to 41.8% of income, compared to 33.5% in 1961.

Given the sheer number of indirect levies  – such as the taxes on sales, property , fuel, vehicles, imports, alcohol and tobacco  – it’s hardly surprising people don’t realize how much they actually pay.

But with such a hefty chunk of income being eaten up in this  way, Charles Lammam, co-author of the report, said taxpayers should ask whether they’re getting value for money...

Monday, November 23, 2015

Canada's government will spend millions of your dollars to be virtue-signalling social justice warriors

High on the new Liberal government’s agenda is an comprehensive inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls. But there seems little point — we already know what it will say.

We know because the ministers responsible have told us. It seems odd to have the verdict before the trial, especially if devoted to “evidence-based decision-making.” But Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett already denounced the previous Tory government for pointing out that the killers were largely aboriginal men because “it was appalling in terms of blame. I think it doesn’t deal with the effects of colonization. It doesn’t deal with the effects of child abuse.”

Likewise, Canada’s new justice minister, Jody Wilson-Raybould, a former prosecutor and former Assembly of First Nations’ regional chief, whose department will help plan the two-year, $40-million inquiry, says it must “get at as many of the roots causes of why this situation has been enabled in the first place, issues that are reflective of the colonial relationship that exists, root causes like poverty and marginalization and inequality.”

So colonization did it. If we already know that, why spend two years and $40 million to say it again?

One possible answer is to find solutions. And both Bennett and Wilson-Raybould are rightly determined to do so. But again, what can the inquiry possibly say about solving problems like colonization, poverty, marginalization, inequality and other such root causes that has not already been said?...

Orwell's words about pacifism could apply today to the fight against Islamism

Just substitute "Islamist" for "German" and "Japanese" and George Orwell's essay on pacifism applies every bit today as it did 75 years ago:
Pacifism. Pacifism is objectively pro-Fascist. This is elementary common sense. If you hamper the war effort of one side you automatically help that of the other. Nor is there any real way of remaining outside such a war as the present one. In practice, ‘he that is not with me is against me’. The idea that you can somehow remain aloof from and superior to the struggle, while living on food which British sailors have to risk their lives to bring you, is a bourgeois illusion bred of money and security. Mr Savage remarks that ‘according to this type of reasoning, a German or Japanese pacifist would be “objectively pro-British”.’ But of course he would be! That is why pacifist activities are not permitted in those countries (in both of them the penalty is, or can be, beheading) while both the Germans and the Japanese do all they can to encourage the spread of pacifism in British and American territories. The Germans even run a spurious ‘freedom’ station which serves out pacifist propaganda indistinguishable from that of the P.P.U. They would stimulate pacifism in Russia as well if they could, but in that case they have tougher babies to deal with. In so far as it takes effect at all, pacifist propaganda can only be effective against those countries where a certain amount of freedom of speech is still permitted; in other words it is helpful to totalitarianism.

I am not interested in pacifism as a ‘moral phenomenon’. If Mr Savage and others imagine that one can somehow ‘overcome’ the German army by lying on one’s back, let them go on imagining it, but let them also wonder occasionally whether this is not an illusion due to security, too much money and a simple ignorance of the way in which things actually happen...