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Archive for the ‘health care’ Category

Guest Writer Ron Williams again… Attorney, Businessman and Citizen

It is clear to even the most casual observer that the sole political agenda of the Republican Party is to prevent the reelection of Pres. Barack Obama. It is equally clear that it is the absolute, single-minded focus of the Far Right of the Republican Party to prevent the reelection of a Black Man, any black, as President of the United States.

Thus, for nearly two years, as the President negotiated health-care with the Republican Party, those negotiations were futile, because no matter what would have been offered by this President the answer from this Republican Party would have been “no”. It is clear that no matter what initiative this President put forward, the Republican Party answer would always have been “no.”

And today, we see the Republican Party, and in particular the Far Right portion of that party, deciding to attach items on their political agenda to the debt ceiling bill as a means to further weaken the president and as a means to move their political agenda forward. As a political strategy, the move is almost brilliant. They were able to attack Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security (three programs that the Republican Party has been attempting to repeal sent each of them were first adopted) while at the same time further demonstrating the weakness of this President.

The mistake President Obama continues to make is to attempt to negotiate substantive programs with a group of people whose agenda is not to negotiate on those programs, but to attack the man himself. They will never negotiate to yes until they have used the so-called negotiations to attack the President (demonstrating his weakness) and until they have also gotten what concessions they otherwise wanted.

I predicted when this whole debt limit “crisis” began that the Republican Party would string this out until the end of July, after they had extracted significant concessions from the President and the Democratic Party, that is they had gotten as much as they could based on the time limit left. I am being somewhat facetious when I suggest that if these negotiations continued much longer, President Obama would eventually have negotiated away the entire Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid programs.

It is telling that the Republican Party started these negotiations stating that there could be no revenue increasing tax changes that would affect the wealthy. And that exactly where they ended. How can you have negotiations when one side gives up nothing in the other side makes all the concessions? That because their whole purpose of the Republican Party was to use the debt ceiling issue as a means of moving their political agenda forward with demonstrating their basic weakness of President Obama. And the Democratic Party and this President let them.

What Barack Obama should have said to the first overture from the Far Right that they would not agree to raise the debt ceiling unless there were major cuts to the various social programs, was “no.” He should have simply stated that he would veto any legislation that came across his desk that did anything other than simply raise the debt ceiling. And then stopped negotiating. Whenever they said “well let’s talk about this,” his response should have been “there is nothing to talk about.”

The President should have said, “I’ve told you my position. Congress, you do what you feel you need to do. If you want to pass legislation that has provisions other than raising the national debt attached to it, do so. I will veto it. And if you choose to then put the full faith and credit of the United States government at risk because you want to attach non-relevant politically motivated subject matter on what should be otherwise routine legislation, do so, but I will not be a party to this game-playing”.

If he had said that from day one, and then stuck to his guns,, this so-called crisis would’ve gone way. Then should he want to discuss modification of Medicare, Medicaid and/or Social Security that could have been done in conversation along with tax code changes.

The president has got to learn to stand up. If he doesn’t he will be a one term president. As it is, he is losing his base and maybe a one term president in any event. It may already be too late.

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By Ron Williams – citizen, contributor and patriot – 9-22-10

[Ron Williams is a retired attorney living in The Woodlands, TX and a welcome guest contributor to Social Mode]

It took a tough, smart candidate to win the Democratic nomination and the win the election for President.  It then takes a tough, smart President to govern the United States.  Candidate Obama was that tough and smart candidate.  While I believe that President Obama is being smart, I do not think he is being tough.  By this I mean, playing hardball with those who are opposed to his presidency and to his policies

For the last two years, political opponents of President Obama have consciously spread deliberate innuendo and outright lies in order to oppose the political agenda of the President Obama and the Democratic Party.  These opponents have used every tool at their disposal in their attempt to discredit the Democratic Congressional Majority and President Obama.  Over the last two years, we have seen the Democratic Majority and President Obama may tepid responses to these loud, angry and forceful attacks from the Right Wing of the Conservative Republican Party.

It is true that President Obama promised to have a less confrontational and more collaborative approach to governing this country.  He spoke of plans to reach out to the Republican Congressional Minority to work together and forming legislative solutions to the serious problems facing this country.  And I believe we have seen him struggle mightily to honor that commitment.  It seems however, that the Republican Party adopted a legislative strategy that was to simply oppose each and every solution proposed by the Administration to address the serious problems facing this nation, regardless of the actual real world impacts of this strategy on the welfare of the average American.  The strategy was combined with a constant attack on the Administration’s proposals, even when they were mirror images of programs opposed by the conservatives themselves just a few years ago.

Democrats in both the Administration and in Congress did negotiate with the Republicans in good faith on these legislative initiatives.  The result was legislation ripe with loopholes that have allowed the same large corporations and big businesses that caused our current economic situation ,to continue “business as usual” operation.  So, we have people who in large part operated in cahoots with the bad actors in the business world to create the mess we are in, doing everything in their power to keep those who are in charge now from doing anything serious to fix the problems.  And on top of that they continue to attack the folks who are trying to fix the problems.  The audaciousness of the Republican Party and the right wing Conservatives is breathtaking.

But their strategy has worked.  Poll numbers for the Democratic Party and the President have been going down dramatically for the last year, while the Republican Party poll numbers have gone up slightly. Republican Party has been apparently rewarded for since the doing nothing but saying, “NO.”

This lowered public support for the President and his programs have had the effect of making it more difficult for the President to aggressively address the problems facing this Nation.  The actions of the Republican Party therefore may actually be seen as unpatriotic and unAmerica, because they are not working to solve America’s problems they may be actually working to prevent the problems from being solved.  It would be another thing if the Republicans presented alternative programs to address the nation’s ills.  But instead they have simply become the party of “NO.”  With the exception of Congressman Paul cap Ryan of Wisconsin, the Republican Party is not offering any serious solutions to the nation’s current economic woes.  More should be expected of them.

However, I am addressing the actual state of affairs in suggesting that President Obama in the cab Democratic Party aggressively respond to what the Republicans are actually doing, and vociferously point out that they are not working for the good of the country but instead are simply working as hard as they can in order to get themselves reelected.  Further, if past behavior is any indicator of future behavior, should they recapture leadership of either the House or the Senate, we can expect legislation directed solely toward the benefit of high paid lobbyists and the companies they represent in that once again got us into the mess in the first place.  In most instances, this representation works to the detriment of the average American citizen.

President Obama should point this out at every reasonable occasion using a high tone, but still affirmative language.  The President’s surrogates however, should be much more blunt and on point.  Additionally, the Democratic Party should be running ads in every competitive district pointing out the simple fact that despite Republican opposition, significant legislation has been passed.  The voting record of each individual Representative or Senator should be highlighted along with their ties to big business and their lobbyists.  These points should be hammered home aggressively and repeatedly.

Additionally, I recommend that research be done on all of these pundits and commentators who have made it a point of deliberately distributing false and misleading facts about the President.  Every time one of them issues a lie, that lie should be immediately corrected, the media notified that this particular commentator has issued a lie, pointing out how many other times he or she has done so.  I see no reason why people who deliberately publish misleading information to be given a free pass when their falsehood is brought to light.

Until President Obama and the Democratic Party begin to aggressively counterattack the current tactics being used by the Republican Party and its right wing conservative (Tea Party) constituents the undecided moderate voters will continue to get a distorted and inaccurate picture of what has been accomplished and which party has the best chance of saving this country.

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CNN has a very unnerving report about some crazy loophole, government meets private sector dealings.

First, doctors as PR people:

Internal company documents show that Pfizer and Pharmacia (which Pfizer later bought) used a multimillion-dollar medical education budget to pay hundreds of doctors as speakers and consultants to tout Bextra.

Pfizer said in court that “the company’s intent was pure”: to foster a legal exchange of scientific information among doctors.

But an internal marketing plan called for training physicians “to serve as public relations spokespeople.”

According to Lewis Morris, chief counsel to the inspector general at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “They pushed the envelope so far past any reasonable interpretation of the law that it’s simply outrageous.”

Pfizer’s chief compliance officer, Doug Lanker, said that “in a large sales force, successful sales techniques spread quickly,” but that top Pfizer executives were not aware of the “significant mis-promotion issue with Bextra” until federal prosecutors began to show them the evidence.

By April 2005, when Bextra was taken off the market, more than half of its $1.7 billion in profits had come from prescriptions written for uses the FDA had rejected.

Second, fake companies to get through legal issues:

“We have to ask whether by excluding the company [from Medicare and Medicaid], are we harming our patients,” said Lewis Morris of the Department of Health and Human Services.

So Pfizer and the feds cut a deal. Instead of charging Pfizer with a crime, prosecutors would charge a Pfizer subsidiary, Pharmacia & Upjohn Co. Inc.

A couple of thoughts.

If the federal government ever wonders again why the public doesn’t trust them/listen to them the officials need to review this situation.  It’s just crazy that the bailouts of all these financial entities went against major popular opinion and really didn’t end up solving problems (I know, that’s debatable…).   In the aftermath the government came out and said how tough they were going to be with people that abuse taxpayers.   So, now in this case….

“If we prosecute Pfizer, they get excluded,” said Mike Loucks, the federal prosecutor who oversaw the investigation. “A lot of the people who work for the company who haven’t engaged in criminal activity would get hurt.”

Did the punishment fit the crime? Pfizer says yes.

It paid nearly $1.2 billion in a criminal fine for Bextra, the largest fine the federal government has ever collected.

It paid a billion dollars more to settle a batch of civil suits — although it denied wrongdoing — on allegations that it illegally promoted 12 other drugs.

In all, Pfizer lost the equivalent of three months’ profit.

It maintained its ability to do business with the federal government.

The Obama administration should take a stand on this because all the new health care reform is likely to stimulate more of this type of activity – strange dealings with the government.   This situation is exactly why I want either a completely private health care system OR universal one.  This hybrid system is just terrible.  We’ll see more of this as long as their are big government programs that use private companies with profit incentives.   I don’t think it’s bad to profit driven, I just think it’s dangerous when it’s the government handling the relationship, and not the customers.

And maybe the fed prosecutor was right in that a lot of people will get hurt for holding Pfizer accountable… but I just don’t see how that’s a justification for letting them off the hook.   Ends don’t justify the means and all that.

And this is the zinger:

“I worry that the money is so great,” he [Loucks] said, that dealing with the Department of Justice may be “just of a cost of doing business.”

Oh, I’m sure that’s already true.

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The first of the newly created Mother-Son Debates focuses on Health Care Reform.

Russell’s (Son) Position:

The US will have universal health care (some form of it) within 15 years.  As the only industrialized nation without it there’s not much precedent against it.  The United States does not yet feel the necessity for covering everyone and was very much lagging behind other countries in the discussion of health care reform.  Most industrialized nations started the debate early in 20th century and were well on their way/done with the basics by the end of WWII – many countries out of necessity due to the high costs of WWII.  The continued superpower status and relatively rich population keep reform at bay.  A prolonged high unemployment rate and lengthy war deployments may push things along further faster.  Major reforms do not come about because of consideration of specific/individual trials and tribulations – a country needs a statistically significant number of citizens experiencing general difficulties.  Health care reform doesn’t differ drastically from education, transportation nor the military.  These are things we all want/need but don’t see the immediate value in.  We simply had several more centuries to figure out that a more educated, mobile and protected society is going to be more productive (no other justification is required for reform).  Furthermore, health care didn’t need to be figured out before early1900s because most people didn’t live long enough (lifespans in industrialized countries were still around 50 years or lower) for end of life medicine to be such a burden on society.  With the end of major world wars, improvement in nutrition, widespread clean water and germ theory people lived longer to be exposed to more complicated illnesses.  Medical technology progressed enough in the 1900s to give people hope they could cheat death long enough to make death something we didn’t handle culturally very well.  So here we are today:  still wealthy enough to think we can pay for all this health care out of pocket, still avoiding conversations about death and still about two decades behind the rest of the industrial world on social issues.   We’ll have universal health care, but it won’t be activism that brings it about.  Activism might move it along a year or two sooner and help us integrate the inevitable reform.

Donna’s (Mother) Position:

Healthcare is a basic human right, and as such, to be protected as a public good. All of a civilized society benefits from providing a progressively financed, single standard of high-quality healthcare to all of its citizens.

In the United States, a healthcare system centered on employer-based health insurance benefits developed and expanded in the mid-to-late 20th century.  But this system leaves large segments of the U.S. population with either no coverage for even basic healthcare needs or inadequate coverage.

Costs are exploding for individuals, companies and public entities, and though more than 16 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product is now consumed by healthcare, more than 45,000 Americans die every year simply due to lack of access to care.

The U.S. is the only industrialized nation not to provide universalized access to healthcare to its citizens, and the World Health Organization reports that in several of the major measures of health outcomes, the U.S. lags well behind (life expectancy, infant mortality — to name just two).  We spend more than twice as much per capita on healthcare and yet our outcomes do not reflect it.
I’ve heard it said that if we had this level of spending on our Olympic team and our results were as poor, we’d have a society up in arms about making fundamental change.  It’s like paying for the Yankees and getting a minor league team or less.

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Does anyone see the irony AND similarity between the Wilson shout-out, “You lie…!” during President Obama’s address September 9th, 2009, on health-care legislation to a joint session of Congress and the Kanye West shout-out that he thought Beyoncé deserved to win the Moonman for Best Female Video.

Wilson, 62, shouted “you lie” at Obama during the  speech which came after Obama said his health-care overhaul wouldn’t benefit undocumented immigrants.

Later that evening FactCheck.org, a Washington-based watchdog group, said Obama was telling the truth.

On Sunday (September 13), Kanye West interrupted Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech speech at the VMAs to express his independent and self-professed ‘invaluable’ opinion.

Can we dare say ‘art imitating life’ or is it that there is a growing lack of contingencies for un-civil behavior?

What is it we value?   Ya, I’m talking to you…   What is it you value?   Right; watching VMAs to see the wardrobe malfunctions and the Dolt meter red line…

Clearly what matters is so different for those entitled from those that aren’t entitled that this will continue to happen until the fear subsides and we come to value solution over exhaust.

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I’m about half way through reading The Blue Sweater, by Jacqueline Novogratz.  Give me a another day or two and I should have it wrapped up.

This is a great book, but not in that “great read” sense.  Sure, it’s a good read and an excellent way to spend a Sunday afternoon in the spring sun.  But it is more than a read.  A call to action? A warning to those that think making an impact is easy? A thesis on developing economies? A subtle case proving understanding behavior and cultural context is one of the more potent economic tools and a requirement for development success?  It’s all of those things so far.

My first reaction was: how the heck does one end up where one does in life?  Jacqueline’s stories leave you wondering what the odds really are for all of our lives to end up where they do.  Yet at the same time I ask about the unlikely probability of Jacqueline’s life, the futures of the people she works with seem all too likely.  Certainly makes a strong case for what a culture and environment of exposure to many possibilities can do.  I suppose that’s one of the main points of this book.

For those looking for a Dummies Guide to Changing the World.  This isn’t it.  As much as it is a call to action (do something!) it is also a warning that results do not come easy.  Though her story is tightly packed into 250 or so pages, you can tell that her work was not an overnight success.  The Acumen Fund and other successes are the result of decades of hard work (most of it before we had PCs, cell phones and the Internet!) and carefully forged relationships.  Heck, I’m not sure I could even learn 1 additional language in the same time she seemed to pick up 2 or 3 plus doing everything else.  Creating a microlending institution for developing countries and communities is not the easiest way to get involved.

I was less surprised by the difficulties she had in adapting to behavior (economic, political, cultural) systems built on different consequences than those of the US.  Many people hold that there is some Platonic value system that will work anywhere and everywhere once people understand it.  There isn’t.  Jacqueline learned this.  The idea of consequences and associated returns to effort is universal to behavior modification but identifying what those consequences, returns and efforts are for specific cultures is an exceedingly difficult anthropological task.

I can safely say I know very little details about Rwanda and many other areas in Africa.  Certainly I have an OK base of basic knowledge picked up from periodicals, documentaries, wikipedia and a handful of novels and non-fiction books.  This book goes deep enough to showcase that real people are far more complicated than an AP report or wiki entry can capture.  As descriptive as the book is in many aspects, I get the sense that only an extended trip to these locations could properly instill appreciation and understanding.

Last tidbit from me until I finish the book.  The idea of running a fund to provide capital to businesses that can help eliminate poverty seems completely insane in a business sense.  and yet, after you see how they pull this off you’ll wonder why more big banks, VCs and money types aren’t invested in this approach.  I’d definitely like to get my hands on some data to compare ROI on this approach and this market versus Internet VCs, or banking for average small biz in America….

Argh! So much to read, learn and do.  best to get on with it.

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You might have seen this proposal request from Mark Cuban.

I went ahead and threw a hat into the ring with Angel Technology.

Let’s see what happens, eh?

It’s a brave new world out there, time to compete.

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What? How could that be?… Here are some more dazzling examples of “putz-on-a-page” concerning fMRI and neuroscience:

First, here’s the good news…

Brain’s blood surge doesn’t match activity

  • Based on the 28 January 2009 article by the same name by David Robson
  • All [….. ] are comments and edits of jhb

CONTRARY to popular belief, a rush of blood to a certain brain region [as seen in an fMRI study] is not always linked to neural activity there, a finding that may guide future brain scan experiments.

Functional MRI scans measure blood flow in the brain. Neuroscientists interpret this as a sign that neurons are firing, usually as someone performs a task, [observes or senses the environment in some way] or experiences an emotion [implied due to reports and periphery recordings]. This enables them to link the emotion to the brain region where there was [a change in the area’s] blood flow.

Now, Aniruddha Das from Columbia University in New York and colleagues have shown that blood flow can occur without accompanying neural activity. Das used separate techniques to measure blood flow and neural activity in the visual cortex of two macaques trained to carry out a visual task.

Sitting in darkness except for a light that switched on at regular intervals, the monkeys were trained to look away if it was red, and fix their gaze on the light if it shone green.

When the timing [interval] of the pauses between the light flashes [were] changed, blood flow still increased when the macaque expected [would have normally received the timed] flash, but [without a colored light cue] there was no [‘escape’ or orientation movement] or subsequent increase in electrical activity from firing neurons [in those neural areas that were shown to be involved] (Nature, DOI: 10.1038/nature07664). Das suspects that the brain sent the rush of blood in anticipation of the neurons’ firing.

Christian Keysers from the BCN Neuroimaging Centre in Groningen, the Netherlands, does not believe the result is relevant to the design of previous fMRI experiments and so is unlikely to have an impact on their results. But Das says care needs to be taken in future to ensure that this misinterpretation does not lead to errors.

~~~~~~~~~~

The Journal of Neuroscience, December 31, 2008, 28(53)

BOLD (blood oxygenation level-dependent) Signals Do Not Always Reflect Neural Activity

Behavioral/Systems/Cognitive (see pages 14347–14357)

Anna Devor, Elizabeth M. C. Hillman, Peifang Tian, Christian Waeber, Ivan C. Teng, Lana Ruvinskaya, Mark H. Shalinsky, Haihao Zhu, Robert H. Haslinger, Suresh N. Narayanan, Istvan Ulbert, Andrew K. Dunn, Eng H. Lo, Bruce R. Rosen, Anders M. Dale, David Kleinfeld, and David A. Boas

Each year, thousands of publications present functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data that suggest that a particular brain region is active during a particular cognitive task. Casual readers [casual readers and some less casual readers] of such papers might forget [presume or not attend to the fact] that this technique does not actually measure neural activity, but rather blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) contrasts.

Synaptic transmissions require large energy expenditures, and increased energy metabolism has been hypothesized to act directly on blood vessels to increase blood flow and alter BOLD signals.

This week (Feb-09), however, Devor et al. report that this hypothesis is not always the correct one. [One can only imagain that new neural pathways being laid down show somewhat different blood flow than neural activity from repetitive or redundant activities as measured by neural activity.]

As expected, stimulating the forepaw of rats increased blood oxygenation, vessel diameter, glucose uptake, spiking, and synaptic release in the contralateral primary somatosensory cortex [associated with sense reception on the forepaw]. In the ipsilateral cortex, however, neural activity and glucose uptake increased, but blood oxygenation and blood flow did not.

These results indicate that blood flow is not directly tied to metabolism, and BOLD signals do not always reflect neural activity as recorded by various fMRI devices.

~~~~~~

Conditioning works even if you don’t know about it…

The brain, as a physical organ, has shown classical conditioning without an agent, autonomous man or the need for an interpreted purpose.

Some other experiments have shown that monkeys fire “anticipation” neurons in different areas before they perform a movement itself. There must be some neural circuits that cause vasodilation in these areas of the brain in anticipation of the light. Reducing things down to cell membrane transport to find the ‘cause’ starts to get a little like trying to find the soul or the personality when those things are mere metaphors that allow us to communicate and, after use and misuse, come to be personified and be the thing we are trying to understand rather than the behavior of the organism.

All in all this type of reduction approach has led us to some strange interpretations for headlines in magazines and pop science-shizzle articles to attract readers but not many have the cohunes of NewScientist, a normally damn good resource who boldly stated on their recent cover: Darwin Was Wrong!

More examples of “putz-on-a-page” concerning fMRI and neuroscience:

http://neuroanthropology.net/2008/04/10/bad-brain-science-boobs-caused-subprime-crisis/

http://neuroanthropology.net/2008/06/11/wired-for-belief/

To Trust or Not to Trust: Ask Oxytocin

…magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan 49 participants who were given…
July 15, 2008 – Mind Matters – By Mauricio Delgado

Monkey Mating Requires Lots of Brainpower

…magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to analyze the brains of male marmoset…
February 02, 2004 – News – By Sarah Graham

Is Your Brain Thinking on its Feet?

…magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to monitor their subjects’ brain…
November 09, 2000 – News – By Harald Franzen

Escape from the Insipid: Our Brains May Be Wired for Daydreaming

…magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). While the subjects were not performing…
January 18, 2007 – News – By Nikhil Swaminathan

Why the Brain Follows the Rules

…magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner to see what parts of the brain…
June 10, 2008 – Mind Matters – By Caroline Zink

Scientists Identify Brain Region Responsible for Calculating Risk versus Reward

…magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate how 14 healthy subjects…
June 15, 2006 – News – By David Biello

Right Brain May Be Wrong

…magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). As a first step, psychologist Markus…
March 24, 2005 – Scientific American Mind – By Steve J. Ayan

MRI Study Shows Lying Brains Look Different

…magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study the brains of volunteers…
November 14, 2001 – News – By Sarah Graham

Politically Correct: Why Great (and Not So Great) Minds Think Alike

…magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Researchers focused their examination…
March 19, 2008 – News – By Nikhil Swaminathan

The Dope on Dopamine’s Central Role in the Brain’s Motivation and Reward

…magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), to examine the normal human brain…
September 15, 2008 – News – By Tabitha M. Powledge

The Political Brain

…magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study shows where in the brain the…
June 26, 2006 – Scientific American Magazine – By Michael Shermer

Can You Believe Your Shifty Eyes?

…magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), if the behavior she had observed was…
April 19, 2007 – News – By Nikhil Swaminathan

Your iBrain: How Technology Changes the Way We Think

…placed. To make sure that the fMRI scanner was measuring the neural…
October 08, 2008 – Scientific American Mind – By Gary Small, Gigi Vorgan

Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Thinking about Morality

…a hypothesis stemming from previous fMRI investigations into the neural…
July 29, 2008 – Mind Matters – By Adina Roskies, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong

Searching for God in the Brain

…magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), Beauregard seeks to pinpoint the brain…
October 03, 2007 – Scientific American Mind – By David Biello

Neuroscientists Take Important Step toward Mind Reading

…on functional MRI data. By analyzing fMRI scans of viewers as they looked…
May 29, 2008 – Scientific American Mind – By Christopher Intagliata

Saying no to yourself: The neural mechanisms of self-control

…button press). On each trial of the fMRI study, subjects were given three…
September 11, 2007 – 60-Second Science Blog

Five Ways Brain Scans Mislead Us

…at the capabilities and operation of fMRI, perhaps the most commonly…
November 05, 2008 – Scientific American Mind – By Michael Shermer

Brain-Scan Cell Mystery Solved

…until now the mechanism underlying fMRI’s robust success has been a…
October 06, 2008 – Scientific American Mind – By Nikhil Swaminathan

BRAIN TERRAIN

…resonance imaging (fMRI). Unlike other imaging methods, fMRI allows…
March 21, 2000 – Scientific American Magazine – By Carol Ezzell

Fact or Phrenology?

…magnetic resonance imaging–or fMRI–has made quite a splash since its…
March 24, 2005 – Scientific American Mind – By David Dobbs

Freeing a Locked-In Mind

…with the advent of functional MRI (fMRI) scans, it became possible to…
April 04, 2007 – Scientific American Mind – By Karen Schrock

Are You a Liar? Ask Your Brain

…Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) technology to determine whether someone…
November 15, 2007 – News – By Larry Greenemeier

Hypnosis, Memory and the Brain

…magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). They carefully selected 25 people to…
October 07, 2008 – Mind Matters – By Amanda J. Barnier, Rochelle E. Cox, Greg Savage

Can brain scans read our minds?

…magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to analyze changes in the flow of blood…
December 12, 2008 – 60-Second Science Blog

Does fMRI See the Future?

…magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, to chronicle the brain in action….
January 22, 2009 – 60-Second Science

Can fMRI Really Tell If You’re Lying?

…magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) purports to detect mendacity by seeing…
August 13, 2008 – Scientific American Magazine – By Gary Stix

The Brain Is Not Modular: What fMRI Really Tells Us

…magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). We have all seen scans with…
May 13, 2008 – Scientific American Magazine – By Michael Shermer

The Sound Track of Our Minds

…headphones while lying in an fMRI machine; each of the musical tapestries…
August 03, 2007 – News – By Nikhil Swaminathan

Brain Images Make Inaccurate Science News Trustworthy

…magnetic resonance imaging (or fMRI)—the tool that creates a…
April 07, 2008 – 60-Second Psych

Partial Recall: Why Memory Fades with Age

…imaging magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to determine whether those…
December 05, 2007 – News – By Nikhil Swaminathan

When Craving Is Better Than Getting

In a recent article about brain cells, Joshua Freedman a U.C.L.A. neuroscientist, noted that a monkey feels maximal reward not when he eats a grape but rather when he gets it in his possession, anticipating he can eat it. Reward anticipation is very strong and can have a negative impact, (think: addiction), according to researchers from Rutgers and New York universities. They studied the effect of cognitive therapy on the physiological reactions to anticipating positive reward, and the results are published in Nature Neuroscience this week. To get a handle on these cravings, researchers presented human subjects with cues for a monetary gift. For each presentation, they were asked to either think of the reward or think of something calming  that was the same color as the cue (which was blue).   The calming strategy cut the physiological arousal (measured by skin conductance response) nearly in half. Additionally, they found marked reductions in the activity of the left and …
June 30, 2008 – 60-Second Psych

Magnetic Revelations

…magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has become the leading research tool…
October 16, 2001 – Scientific American Magazine

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In a previous article I suggested that it becomes incumbent on the reader, listener, watcher or any engaged person to be able to tell when something in the media didn’t seem right or justifiable, etc. as in CNN and Evil - Snivil… I promised those that there are some rules of thumb for detecting faulty, deceptive or malicious content. The one selected is the Sagan Baloney Detection Kit. There are dozens of them out there on the web, in science methodology texts and even some in writing books. Like any set of rules of thumb, they are not absolute but provide an approximation that will save time and angst when sifting through the escalating volumes of content we have access to.

Like every source of ‘help,’ use what works for you and toss the rest. Know that those that want your eyeballs understand this list better than most of us and do what they can to keep you from recognizing these red flags in their materials.

Let us know what we missed and what we need to cull from our list.

Baloney Detection Kit: Based on selections are taken and similar to those in a book by Carl Sagan “The Demon Haunted World” Ballantine Books (February 25, 1997) ISBN-10: 0345409469

These collectively or individually are ‘red flags’ that suggest deception. The following are tools for detecting fallacious or fraudulent arguments wherever they present themselves.

  1. Wherever possible there must be independent confirmation of the facts
  2. Encourage substantive debate on the evidence by knowledgeable proponents of all points of view.
  3. Arguments from authority carry little weight (in science there are no “authorities”).
  4. Try not to get overly attached to a hypothesis just because it’s yours, your parents, etc.
  5. Quantify, wherever possible.
  6. If there is a chain of argument every link in the chain must work.
  7. “Occam’s razor” – if there are two hypotheses that explain the data equally well choose the simpler
  8. Ask whether the hypothesis can, at least in principle, be falsified (shown to be false by some unambiguous test). In other words, it is testable? Can others duplicate the experiment and get the same result?
  9. Conduct control experiments – especially “double blind” experiments where the person taking measurements is not aware of the test and control subjects.
  10. Check for confounding factors – separate variables impacting the conclusions.

Common fallacies of logic and rhetoric

  1. Ad hominem – attacking the arguer rather than the argument.
  2. Argument from “authority”
  3. Monocausality: Cause and effect statements
  4. Argument from adverse consequences (focus on the dire consequences of an “unfavorable” decision; attack a sovereignty or you’ll be fighting them on the streets of New York).
  5. Appeal to ignorance (absence of evidence is not evidence of absence).
  6. Special pleading (typically referring to god’s will, Buddha’s mysteries or passions of Islam).
  7. Begging the question (assuming an answer in the way the question is phrased).
  8. Observational selection (counting the hits and forgetting the misses as in fortune telling).
  9. Statistics of small numbers (such as drawing conclusions from inadequate sample sizes).
  10. Misunderstanding the nature of statistics (President Eisenhower expressing astonishment and alarm on discovering that fully half of all Americans have below average intelligence!)
  11. Inconsistency (e.g. military expenditures based on worst case scenarios but scientific projections on environmental dangers ignored because they are not “substantiated”).
  12. Non sequitur – “it does not follow” – the logic falls down.
  13. Post hoc, ergo propter hoc – “it happened after so it was caused by” – confusion of cause and effect.
  14. Meaningless question (“what happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object?).
  15. Excluded middle – considering only the two extremes in a range of possibilities (making the “other side” look worse than it really is).
  16. Confusion of correlation and causation.
  17. Straw man – caricaturing (stereotyping, marginalizing) a position to make it easier to attack.
  18. Suppressed evidence or half-truths.
  19. Weasel words – for example, use of euphemisms for war such as “police action” to get around limitations on Presidential powers. “An important art of politicians is to find new names for institutions which under old names have become odious to the public”

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