McCain-Palin, 2008


Looks like the Veepstakes goes to Sarah Palin…
The AP is not so sure, but all signs point that way…
CNN says it is so.
Here is what the McCain campaign is saying about the pick:

My Friends,
I am honored to announce that I have chosen Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska as my choice for the Republican nominee for Vice President. As a father with three daughters, I can’t express how proud I am to choose the first female Republican Vice-Presidential nominee.
Sarah Palin is a trailblazer and a reformer. As the first female governor of Alaska, she challenged a corrupt system and has been a tireless advocate for reform – passing a landmark bill on ethics reform. She has taken on the old politics in Alaska and reformed the state’s energy industry. She rejects wasteful pork barrel spending. She’s fearless – exactly the type of leader I want at my side and the type of leadership we will bring to Washington.
My friends, together Sarah Palin and I make the strongest presidential ticket and I know that she joins me in asking for your support as we head into our Convention week in Minnesota. We’re shaking things up in this campaign – and Governor Palin and I are ready to bring real reform to Washington.

From the FOXNews account:

Born in Sandpoint, Idaho, on Feb. 11, 1964, Palin moved with her family at the age of three months to Wasilla, Alaska, though she returned to her birth state to attend the University of Idaho, where she studied journalism and graduated in 1987 with a bachelor’s degree.
Palin is the mother of five children — Bristol, Willow, Piper, Track and Trig, who was born in April with Down syndrome.
She grew up in Wasilla, just outside of Anchorage, played on Wasilla’s state champion girls’ basketball team in 1982, wore the crown of Miss Wasilla in 1984 and competed in the Miss Alaska contest.
She began her professional career as a television sports reporter, but after she married her husband, Todd, she helped run his family’s commercial fishing business. Other professional endeavors included the ownership of a snow machine, watercraft and all-terrain-vehicle business.
She ran for Wasilla City Council in 1992, winning her seat by opposing tax increases. Four years later, she was elected mayor of Wasilla at age 32 by knocking off a three-term incumbent.
At the end of her second term, party leaders encouraged her to enter the 2002 race for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor. Against veteran legislators with far more experience, Palin finished second by fewer than 2,000 votes, making a name for herself in statewide politics.
Palin had exceptionally high approval ratings through mid-2007 and received high marks for her accessibility, a change from Frank Murkowski’s administration.

The information about Sarah Palin is pouring in (Did someone give a speech last night?). Here is an interview with Newsmax where she discusses social and energy issues.
And a long Anchorage news article regarding her run for Gov.

NARTH fact sheet: Female homosexual development, Part 2 – Child sexual abuse

In the first part of my review of the NARTH fact sheet on female homosexuality, I critiqued the empirical foundation of the NARTH theories about causation of female same-sex attraction.
In this post, I examine the statements regarding sexual abuse and causation. It may be surprising to some observers to read this:

Although sexual abuse does not directly cause same sex attraction, studies report male sexual abuse of lesbians as generally being twice as high as of heterosexual women, that is, on average, 50 percent of lesbian women report a history of sexual abuse. (26, 27) If family relational dynamics and gender nonconformity are already in place, sexual abuse can clench the direction of detachment, gender insecurity, and disidentification possibly leading to same sex attraction.

The article does not specify sexual abuse as a direct cause of same-sex attraction. However, the author does believe that being abused as a child can push a girl in that direction if she suffered detachment from her mom and was gender nonconforming as a child.
I checked the references offered by NARTH for the assertion that sexual abuse of lesbians by men are “twice as high as of heterosexual women” and that “50 percent of lesbian women report a history of sexual abuse.” I cannot find these statistics.
Reference 26 is to a survey of lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals and their siblings by Balsam, Rothblum, and Beauchaine in 2005 (see reference list at the end of the post). In this study, the authors used a convenience sample of same-sex attracted people and asked them to recruit a sibling to participate. They reported childhood sexual abuse (CSA) prevalences for straight (30.4%), lesbian (43.6%) and bisexual (47.6%) female participants. The effect size of these differences are very low, between 1-2%.
Reference 27 is to research reported in the Journal of Gay and Lesbian Social Services by Hughes and team in 2000. In this study, forty-one percent of lesbians reported CSA while among straight women the number was 24%.
The NARTH article adds:

Sexual abuse can be emotional, verbal, or physical. A girl who is sexually objectified though inappropriate sexual comments, denied age appropriate privacy or whose father has voyeuristic tendencies, has been sexually violated without ever being touched. (28, 29)

I do not contest that the paternal behaviors referenced here are inappropriate and potentially harmful. However, the references for these statements does not provide research support for the statements about CSA. One, (29) is not to a research study but to a book for a lay audience by Janette Howard and the other (28) is a 1991 research study by Peters and Cantrell which failed to discriminate lesbians and straight women via abuse variables.
There are some discouraging percentages in this literature but they apply to women overall, with a moderate elevation for lesbians. Here is what I found in a brief PsychLit search.
Table CSA
A look at the table demonstrates that most research finds a modest elevation for lesbians but does not demonstrate the 50% figure nor support for the conclusion that prevalences are twice as high for lesbians as straight women. Prevalences are sadly and unacceptably high for all women.
I fear that this fact sheet will become basis for inaccurate information spread by sexual identity and ex-gay ministries. Whatever the reason for the differences, it cannot be helpful to paint a false picture. Sexual abuse is a trauma that often requires therapeutic and spiritual intervention but whether it is involved in the origins of same-sex attractions continues to be an open question.
References:
Balsam, K.F.; Rothblum, E.D., & Beauchaine, T.P. (2005). Victimization over the life span: A comparison of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and heterosexual siblings. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. 73, 477-487.
Bradford, J., Ryan, C., & Rothblum, E.D. (1994). National lesbian health care survey: Implications for mental health care. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 62, 228-242.
Briere, J., & Elliott, D. M. (2003). Prevalence and psychological sequelae of self-reported childhood physical and sexual abuse in a general population sample of men and women. Child Abuse & Neglect. 27, 1205-1222.
Finkelhor, D., Hotaling, G., Lewis, I.A., & Smith, C. (1990). Sexual abuse in a national survey of adult men and women: Prevalence, characteristics, and risk factors. Child Abuse & Neglect. 14, 19-28.
Hughes, T.L., Haas, A.P., Razzano, L., Cassidy, R., & Matthews. A. (2000). Comparing lesbians and heterosexual women’s mental health: Results from a multi-site women’s health survey. Journal of Gay and Lesbian Social Services, 11 (1), 57-76
Peters, D. & Cantrell, P. (1991). Factors distinguishing samples of lesbian and heterosexual women. Journal of Homosexuality, 21, 1-15.
Vogeltanz, N.D., Wilsnack, S.C., Harris, T. R., Wilsnack, R.W., Wonderlich, S.A., & Kristjanson, A.F. (1999). Prevalence and risk factors for childhood sexual abuse in women: National survey findings. Child Abuse & Neglect. 23, 579-592.

Factcheck.org on Obama's opposition to the Born Alive Infant Protection Act

Abortion may be the most troubling issue Barack Obama has faced in his bid to lure Evangelical voters to his campaign. Extremely controversial is Obama’s handling of questions surrounding the federal and IL state versions of the Born Alive Infant Protection Act (BAIPA).
This Newsweek article excerpts Factcheck.org’s examination of the controversy. Here is the thumbnail version:

We find that, as the NRLC said in a recent statement, Obama voted in committee against the 2003 state bill that was nearly identical to the federal act he says he would have supported. Both contained identical clauses saying that nothing in the bills could be construed to affect legal rights of an unborn fetus, according to an undisputed summary written immediately after the committee’s 2003 mark-up session.

It appears that Obama did not believe living, possibly pre-viable infants had legal status as persons. It is unclear to me what he believes now. His campaign’s most recent explanation involves an argument that suggests a vote against BAIPA at the state level was necessary to protect Roe v. Wade but a vote in favor at the federal level would have no bearing on RvW. I do not understand this reasoning.
I suppose another way to frame the issue is to ask when is an abortion complete? If the fetus is delivered and is alive but of questionable viability, how do we regard this life? The Obama doctrine appears to be that an infant born alive but of questionable viability is not a legal person – or at least this was his view while an IL Senator. Here is a speech on the 2001 Senate floor:

Obama, Senate floor, 2001: Number one, whenever we define a previable fetus as a person that is protected by the equal protection clause or the other elements in the Constitution, what we’re really saying is, in fact, that they are persons that are entitled to the kinds of protections that would be provided to a – a child, a nine-month-old – child that was delivered to term. That determination then, essentially, if it was accepted by a court, would forbid abortions to take place. I mean, it – it would essentially bar abortions, because the equal protection clause does not allow somebody to kill a child, and if this is a child, then this would be an antiabortion statute.

Rick Warren at the Saddleback Civil Forum asked Sen. Obama when a baby is entitled to human rights and Obama said such answers are above his pay grade. From a reading of this material, making these determinations was at his pay grade at one time not long ago. Simply saying he favors the federal bill now really does not address what protection he now believes should be afforded these infants.

Washington Times: Is abortion a mental health risk?

This morning, the Washington Times published my article on the American Psychological Association Mental Health and Abortion Task Force.
In it, I call for the APA to start over on this topic. One study formed the essential basis for the Task Force conclusions. I do not agree that the Gilchrist study is better than the 2005 Fergusson study which did demonstrate a reason to be cautious. However, even if one concludes Gilchrist is best, that does not mean it is sufficient or adequate to make a dogmatic conclusion. By calling one study, the 1995 Gilchrist study, “the best scientific evidence,” the task force has misled the public by portraying the best evidence as being good enough evidence.

A conservative defense of sex research

During the Saddleback Civil Forum, if Rick Warren had asked the candidates about funding sex research, it might have gone like this.
Warren: What is your position on researching sex?
McCain: (with resolve and without hesitation) – Missionary!
Obama – Uh, well, it depends on how you define “sex” and “research.” Scientifically and politically, it is above my pay grade to determine what my position is in that arena.
Pure fiction, of course. I doubt sex research will come up in this year’s election. However, the topic has become a concern to some politicians. According to an ABC News report, “Sex, massages and taxpayer dollars,” some legislators are bothered by some NIH grants to universities to study sexuality. Some of Michael Bailey’s work aroused more than curiosity. To wit:

A few years ago, NIH gave a $147,000 grant to a Northwestern University psychology professor who was paying women to view pornography while a device measured their sexual responses.
That study didn’t go over too well in the halls of Congress.
Arizona Rep. Jeff Flake was among 20 Republicans to sign a letter to NIH’s director asking for an explanation for why taxpayer money was going for such a study. They called it “a bizarre spending decision.”
Today, Flake believes Congress has failed to properly oversee NIH and its spending.
“It’s Congress’ job to set guidelines for how NIH and other agencies spend taxpayer money and then exercise oversight to ensure that those guidelines are being followed. “However, over the last several years, Congress has neglected its oversight function,” Flake’s office told ABC News. “It’s difficult for Congress to criticize NIH for wasteful grants when Congress itself is earmarking billions of dollars every year on similarly wasteful pet projects.”

I have to disagree with Rep. Flake and his colleagues. As a social conservative, I am very interested in research which helps us better understand how sexuality works. Regarding sex research, I think Guggenheim Fellow Alice Dreger raises a valuable point when she argues:

What about the studies that look into things like which kind of pornography stimulates women versus men? Useless and prurient? I don’t think so. I know this sort of research horrifies conservatives, but they should really wake up to the fact that research into sexual stimulation can actually help promote family life by helping married couples understand how to have satisfying sex lives within the context of monogamy. (Is it better that a guy cheat on his wife with a prostitute, or better that he learn a vibrator and some massage might make his wife a lot more receptive? I vote for the latter.)

Of course, an unexciting sex life does not force anyone into seeking prostitutes, but I think Dr. Dreger’s argument should be taken seriously. Counselors know that otherwise solid couples, yes even very religious couples, are not exempt from sexual questions and concerns. Better that counselors are armed with good science on sexuality than the latest issue of Cosmo. Reading the Song of Solomon, while quite, uh, interesting, might not be enough to help overcome issues which would benefit from basic information. Lay people might be surprised that research is needed to better understand sex and attraction, but such science is important for reasons that might not seem apparent.
In my work, I have found the research coming out of the Bailey lab to be very helpful. His research informs my work with people on a regular basis. I often consult with heterosexually married, same-sex attracted men who wish to maintain their marriage. Bailey’s (and other researchers’) brain research, for instance, provides significant insight into how the brain responds to sexual cues. This is valuable information for those who seek insight into why they respond as they do. And many of them use this information to pursue their values and beliefs to avoid sex with men and enhance their marital adjustment with their wives.
I guess the bottom line for me is that funding sex research doesn’t mean advocating an anything-goes stance toward sex. Studies done solely for prurient interests should be questioned, but basic science of sexual attraction and arousal can have positive, and even conservative, applications.

Narth fact sheet: Female homosexual development

Narth recently released a fact sheet that is relevant to some information I posted regarding reparative therapy research.
The paper has some bright spots but overall reverts to the same reparative drive theoretical formulation for which NARTH is known. On the NARTH website, Dean Byrd praises the APA for taking a more nuanced perspective toward causation and same-sex attraction, but in this paper, NARTH does not follow the APA’s lead.
The paper begins by attempting to make a case for sexual fluidity by quoting mainstream researchers. I suspect researchers such as Michael Bailey, Ken Zucker, and Lisa Diamond will be uncomfortable with how their work is integrated in this piece. The unnamed NARTH author then suggests that the reason research supporting developmental causes is minimized today is due to bias against these findings. For some reason, Rogers Wright is quoted in this context. However, Rogers is referring to psychotherapy and not research on causal factors. Regarding the research on environmental factors, the paper says:

There is, in fact, a wealth of older research identifying many common developmental, temperamental and family patterns connected to homosexuality. This research has never been scientifically refuted.

The citations for this statement are a 10 year old paper by Mark Yarhouse and a 15 year old book by Goldberg. Yarhouse and I were making a case for reorientation therapies broadly speaking several years ago. However, our model now calls for a cautious and realistic assessment of the literature on change and causal factors. Our sexual identity therapy framework is based, in part, on the observation that we do not know what causes sexual orientation in any general sense, nor do we know what, if any, factors might lead to fluidity. Our model stresses value congruence rather than change in orientation.
In fact, “the older research” has been addressed as inadequate to explain the complexity of sexual orientation (e.g, Bell, Weinberg & Hammersmith, 1981; see this post about Fisher and Greenberg’s review of psychoanalytic literature, and this post as well). In the context of the NARTH claim, I would like to ask anyone to produce the three best studies which support the “common developmental, temperamental and family patterns connected to homosexuality.” I am serious about this. Preferably I would like proponents to post them in a comment for discussion but these references may also be emailed to me.
Based on this lead, I expected the author to make a case that the observation of sexual fluidity for some meant that therapy could be helpful in promoting change of orientation. However, the paper did not quite come to that conclusion, saying

The concept of sexual fluidity, defined as the spontaneous evolution or transformation of one’s sexual preferences, is different from the concept of changeability involving intentional effort directed towards altering or changing one’s sexual preferences. As mentioned, many researchers attest to the reality of female sexual fluidity. This does not directly translate into proof that any woman can easily change or alter her same sex attraction. It does however confirm that sexual feeling and behaviors are not absolutely immutable or unchangeable. The degree to which a woman can or will experience change will be uniquely determined based on her history and motivation to do so.

While I appreciate the distinction between spontaneous fluidity and intentional attempts to change, I do not think significant evidence has established that motivation is a catalytic component for such fluidity. Certainly some women testify that they sought change and experienced it but others sought change and did not. We do not know that change is determined by “history and motivation.” This sentence almost sounds like change is related to motivation in some dose-dependent manner – the more motivation, the more the change. This can be a very frustrating and defeating message for people who are quite motivated and yet continue to experience same-sex attraction.
The paper then indicates via quote from George Rekers that gender nonconformity and a feeling of being different is associated with adult homosexuality. This is the same data Bem appeals to in crafting his erotic becomes exotic (EBE) theory. Although less so for females than males, these are true observations. In 1995, Bailey and Zucker summarized the research on gender nonconformity and adult sexual orientation this way:

As our analyses demonstrated for both men and women, research has firmly established that homosexual subjects recall substantially more cross-sex-typed behavior in childhood than do heterosexual subjects. By rough criteria, effect sizes were large for both men and women. Indeed, they were among the largest effect sizes ever reported in the realm of sex-dimorphic behaviors.

However, instead of stopping there, the NARTH paper leaves research and goes to theory and clinical anecdote by suggesting:

Typical in the history of women with same sex attraction are failures of attachment with the mother resulting in disidentification (rejection as role model).

The research cited does not suggest that gender nonconformity leads to failures of attachment, but the lay reader might not catch the shift from data to theory. The NARTH paper cites no studies which demonstrate higher levels of attachment failures, nor higher levels of disidentification with mother. The reference is to a speech given by NARTH Board Member, Janelle Hallman at a NARTH conference.
Then Elizabeth Moberly’s theories are referenced as evidence. Dr. Moberly, who was not a clinician nor did research on sexual orientation, proposed the basic reparative drive theory which holds:

…that the homosexual-whether man or woman has suffered from some deficit in the relationship with the parent of the same-sex: and that there is a corresponding drive to make good this deficit-through the medium of same sex or “homosexual” relationships.”

The NARTH paper also claims poor fathering, marital distress and sexual abuse play a role in lesbian development. Feminist researchers are quoted out of context to make a point about the need for positive attachments among women. However, the reader is not informed that no research has linked poor mother-daughter attachments to later lesbian development
In a second part of this critique, I will take the sexual abuse statistics separately. Let me say now that I reviewed the studies referenced, and I cannot determine how the NARTH author arrived at a statistic of 50% of lesbians, on average, have been sexually abused. One must take into account representative sampling when offering such data. I am looking for something more recent but one 1994 study using a representative sample of lesbians found that 21% of lesbians reported sexual abuse as a child.
The NARTH paper concludes this way:

Women who deal with same sex attraction, possess a history of disindentification with their mothers, and therefore with their femininity. This leads to a longing for connection with the feminine that becomes sexualized in adolescence or adulthood. Without a secure attachment to mother, she fails to identify with mother as a female role model losing the opportunity to develop trust and a healthy gender identity. Because of an empty or distorted view of her feminine self she has an inability to connect in a healthy way with other girls. Her sexual development is arrested.

It is possible that the NARTH author believes that since the paper mentions biological, psychological and social factors in the same paper that a “bio-psycho-social model of causation” is being advanced. However, a review of the paper finds no such model where these factors are integrated with research support.
Despite the use of some research studies in this paper, the conclusion leaves data and moves to the reparative drive theory first articulated by Elizabeth Moberly. Back in March, I posted about Dean Byrd’s review of the APA paper on sexual orientation. Then I wondered

…when NARTH would make an APA-like statement about theorized environmental factors such as child abuse and same-sex parenting deficits. What if NARTH acknowledged “what most scientists have long known: that a bio-psycho-social model of causation best fits the data?” Wouldn’t there be a need for a statement cautioning readers of their materials that evidence for parenting playing a large or determining role is meager? Paralleling Dr. Byrd’s assessment of the APA pamphlet, shouldn’t NARTH say with italics, “There is no homogenic family. There is no simple familial pathway to homosexuality.”

Still wondering.

Royal College of Psychiatrists statement on abortion and mental health

Regular readers will no doubt note the number of posts on abortion, mental health and related topics. I am doing some research and writing on this topic and want to get some of the information I am finding into view. Here is one interesting statement from another mental health association regarding abortion and mental health effects. This from the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Great Britain.

Position Statement on Women’s Mental Health in Relation to Induced Abortion
14th March, 2008
In the Government Response to the Report from the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee on the Scientific Developments Relating to the Abortion Act 1967, the following request was made:
“In view of the controversy on the risk to mental health of induced abortion we recommend that the Royal College of Psychiatrists update their 1994 report on this issue”
The College has undertaken a literature review to inform the following position statement, which includes the recommendation that a full systematic review around abortion and mental health is required.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists is concerned to ensure that women’s mental health is protected whether they seek abortion or continue with a pregnancy.
Mental disorders can occur for some woman during pregnancy and after birth.
The specific issue of whether or not induced abortion has harmful effects on women’s mental health remains to be fully resolved. The current research evidence base is inconclusive – some studies indicate no evidence of harm, whilst other studies identify a range of mental disorders following abortion.
Women with pre-existing psychiatric disorders who continue with their pregnancy, as well as those with psychiatric disorders who undergo abortion, will need appropriate support and care. Liaison between services, and, where relevant, with carers and advocates, is advisable.
Healthcare professionals who assess or refer women who are requesting an abortion should assess for mental disorder and for risk factors that may be associated with its subsequent development. If a mental disorder or risk factors are identified, there should be a clearly identified care pathway whereby the mental health needs of the woman and her significant others may be met.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists recognises that good practice in relation to abortion will include informed consent. Consent cannot be informed without the provision of adequate and appropriate information regarding the possible risks and benefits to physical and mental health. This may require the updating of patient information leaflets approved by the relevant Royal Colleges, and education and training to relevant health care professionals, in order to develop a good practice pathway.
These difficult and complex issues should be addressed through additional systematic reviews led by the Royal College of Psychiatrists into the relationship between abortion and mental health. These reviews should consider whether there is evidence for psychiatric indications for abortion.

In my opinion, this is where the APA Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion should have stopped.

Did Barack Obama vote to withhold treatment to infants surviving abortion?

This question continues to dog the Obama campaign and now the National Right to Life organization has amassed documentation regarding the claim and the Obama response.
Rather than reproduce it all here, I am going to post the link and comment more a bit later.
Click here to read the NRTL news release.
The Weekly Standard has some reporting on this issue as well.
Jill Stanek, the Illinois nurse who blew the whistle on infants left to die has ongoing coverage of this controversy.
The New York Sun has an article clarifying the issue even more. It seems Obama is now saying that the Illinois bill might have impacted Illinois law but that he would have voted for the federal version since there was no federal abortion law.

Indeed, Mr. Obama appeared to misstate his position in the CBN interview on Saturday when he said the federal version he supported “was not the bill that was presented at the state level.”
His campaign yesterday acknowledged that he had voted against an identical bill in the state Senate, and a spokesman, Hari Sevugan, said the senator and other lawmakers had concerns that even as worded, the legislation could have undermined existing Illinois abortion law. Those concerns did not exist for the federal bill, because there is no federal abortion law.

However, he is a prime supporter of the Freedom of Choice Act which would become federal law. Does that mean he would support the repeal of the federal Born Alive Act?

PA's Tom Ridge McCain's VP choice?

Jake Tapper at Political Punch makes an plausible observation regarding McCain’s VP choice. Tom Ridge may turn out to reminisce the role of George Bush the First in the McCain campaign. George Bush was a moderate on abortion who was tapped by ardently pro-life Ronald Reagan to be his Vice-president. Could Ridge fill a similar role for McCain?

Obama and McCain at Saddleback church

Barack Obama and John McCain answered the same questions from pastor Rick Warren tonight regarding a wide range of issues at the Saddleback Civil Forum.
Televised by CNN and FOXNews, I thought the format was well-conceived and allowed viewers to compare candidates on the same questions.
One controversy which was immediate was Barack Obama’s reply to the question, “when does a baby qualify for human rights?” Obama took an agnostic position saying theologically and scientifically the answer was “above his pay grade.” McCain answered directly that life begins at conception. Obama also said the number of abortions had stayed the same through the Bush presidency, a claim immediately contested by the Americans United for Life via one of the Fox News commentators. I am looking for some documentation on the matter but I do not think Obama is correct on that point.
Here is video where Obama says the number of abortions have stayed the same.

The debate may have helped Obama with Evangelicals in one sense: he made a clear profession of faith in Christ. However, in my opinion, Evangelicals will now have to do a real check of what they consider basic. Is the sanctity of life a core issue or can it be considered a second tier issue in order to vote for a candidate who articulates an orthodox testimony of spiritual salvation?
As for McCain, I think he helped himself enormously with Evangelicals via his performance in this forum. He demonstrated an emotional connection with the audience and had stories which connect with people. McCain’s responses seemed more at home at Saddleback with many more applause pauses from the crowd than received by Obama. I found him much more persuasive in that setting and with that audience than Sen. Obama.
But then I am biased and I suspect Obama supporters will view the evening as a win in that Obama played reasonably well in a ballpark unfamiliar to prior Democratic candidates.
UPDATE: According to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group with close ties to Planned Parenthood, abortions declined throughout the Bush administration.