Monday, May 30, 2016

UC Davis' Crawl Into Infamy, Or, It's Hard To Find What You Don't Look For

Okay, this:
A new study by researchers at the University of California, Davis, indicates that mixed breeds don’t necessarily have an advantage when it comes to inherited canine disorders.
Oh? Whatever did the study say?
“Overall, the study showed that the prevalence of these genetic disorders among purebred and mixed-breed dogs depends on the specific condition,” said animal physiologist Anita Oberbauer, professor and chair of the Department of Animal Science at UC Davis and lead author of the study.
Tell us more!
The researchers evaluated records for more than 90,000 purebred and mixed-breed dogs that were examined at UC Davis’ veterinary medical teaching hospital between 1995 and 2010.

From this group, 27,254 dogs were identified as having one or more of 24 genetic disorders, including various types of cancers, heart diseases, endocrine-system ailments and orthopedic problems, as well as allergies, bloat, cataracts, epilepsy, an eye lens problem and a liver condition.

The 24 disorders were selected for the study because they can be diagnosed accurately, are highly prevalent in the overall dog population and are debilitating to the extent that owners would seek veterinary care for the animal. In addition, the selected disorders represent a variety of different locations and physiologic systems in the dog’s body.
Oh, so in other words, genetic disorders common among all dogs were not more common in purebred dogs. Wow, color me surprised.

This crap has circulated for three years now, and has been used as an excuse for failing to look for certain problems (cough, cancer) within well-known populations. UC Davis' pussyfooting here is both true and embarrassing, in that the AKC could be guaranteed to slobber on anyone pointing away from their institutional rot.

Update 2016-05-31: How could I omit Carol Beuchat's rejoinder? She lays out the cases much more convincingly using graphs. Also, Christopher Landauer's playful retort.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Ezra Klein Doesn't Understand Libel Law

Ezra Klein has a penchant for being spectacularly ignorant and wrong, but is nevertheless unafraid to opine on such subjects, viz. healthcare. A couple days ago I encountered a typing of his which purported to make the case that Peter Thiel's funding of lawsuits against Gawker is a bad thing, because, money:
Billionaires might have the resources to fund endless lawsuits that bury their media enemies beneath legal fees, but that doesn't mean they should use that freedom. There's plenty that billionaires can do that they shouldn't, and the more frequently and gleefully they cross that line, the likelier they are to eventually lose the ability to cross it.
But of course, this would not be possible if Gawker didn't have journalistic standards that would make a whore blush. Klein makes the reasonable point that at one time, we did not allow third parties to finance lawsuits — that practice is known as champerty, and was forbidden under the old English common-law regime. But as even Klein admits, citing Walter Olson (all emboldening mine):
...[T]he law used to bar unrelated third parties from paying someone else to engage in litigation and financing a lawsuit in exchange for a share of the damages.

But those laws have fallen out of favor over the past 50 years, in part because lawyers began to see easy access to the courts as being in the public interest. This was driven in part by the rise of public interest litigation — think, for example, of an environmental group finding a third-party plaintiff to sue a company to stop an environmentally sensitive development project.
 So live by the sword, die by the sword, as it were. But so far, at least, all of Klein's perceived threats to Gawker are entirely illusory, or caused by their own sleazebag tendencies. I have a hard time crying for them.

Update 2016-05-30: Comes an excellent summary of why this is a nothingburger, or at least, why the broad public treats it so, by Cathy Young, with many examples of why Gawker is ragingly hypocritical here.

Red Shirts (And Swimsuits?) Found Not So Harmful

My friend Heather Houlahan recently discovered ThinkGeek's playful Star Trek: Next Generation swimsuits:
This of course led to the predictable caveat about not wearing the red one, so it was with no small amount of glee I came across a Royal Statistical Society paper in Significance magazine debunking the old belief that red shirt = death in any flavor of Trek.
According to the Joseph’s Star Trek Blueprints, the only set of Enterprise blueprints endorsed by Paramount Pictures, the Enterprise’s 430 crew members consisted of 55 command and helm personnel, 136 science and medical personnel and 239 engineering, operations and security personnel. This means 16.4% of casualties were in command and helm, 5.4% were in science and medical and 10.0% were in operations, engineering and security. Of the remaining 27.3% of casualties, 12 were killed by contact with the galactic barrier or Rigelian fever, which could have affected personnel regardless of duty assignments.
So, "Based on an analysis of casualties that considers the overall total number of personnel in each color of uniform, wearing a redshirt may not be the automatic death sentence that it is popularly considered to be." However, "redshirts consist of 60.0% of all fatalities where the uniform color is known", with the overall chance of a casualty being in the ship's security detail is 64.5%. Keep your insurance paid up, guys. No word on TNG, though, or swimsuits for that matter.

The Arrogance Of Windows 10

Microsoft's Windows product has stumbled a great deal in the post-Bill Gates era, most notably with the disastrous rollout of Windows Vista (and its reputation for poor performance). Forcing people to upgrade to Windows 10 may eclipse everything that's ever happened before:
Microsoft has been trying to lure computer users into its new operating system for months, bombarding them with unending pop-up screens. But many users are comfortable with the systems they have, have no interest in learning new operations and have simply clicked the “X” to get rid of the unwanted solicitation.

You can’t do that anymore.

Microsoft changed the coding on the “X” so that clicking it now instructs MS to “upgrade” your computer to Windows 10. Yes, really.

In fact, the two options on the page, “OK” and “Upgrade Now,” do the same thing as the “X.”

To avoid the forced “upgrade,” a user has to go into the fine print.

Inside a logo box in the ad is a scheduled date for a mandatory upgrade. The user must look in the tiny type just below that line and find where it says “here” and click on that to avoid the upgrade.
In addition to engaging in clickbait-style user interface changes, this is deeply deceptive and wholly unacceptable by large users. I can't imagine an institutional Windows customer would stand still for this kind of forced upgrade. 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The SJW Left Gets Its Hokum Greenlit With Pitch

The idea that sexual dimorphism is real apparently lies outside the realm of that which is permissible to discuss among Social Justice Warriors. I heard yesterday of a new series called Pitch about a first female major league pitcher; never mind that this is physiologically, um, extremely difficult due to little things like size and strength differences. For instance:
When Jackie Robinson fought for equal opportunity on the baseball diamond, all he asked for was the right to compete under the same rules as white players. At the time Branch Rickey scouted Robinson, there was demonstrable, convincing evidence that blacks were good and even great athletes: boxers (Jack Johnson and Joe Lewis), football players (Fritz Pollard), and famously, Olympic track star Jesse Owens were all great by any standard of their games. By being the first to sign Robinson (and many other Negro League stars), Rickey was able to arbitrage quality talent ahead of his major league competition, who for reasons that had entirely to do with superstition, i.e. prejudice, shut themselves out of those wells. But there is no woman analogue to any of these players versus men. There is no star second basewoman in the wings precisely because women cannot compete on a level playing field with men in athletic endeavors; most likely, such an individual would be barely capable of playing at the minor league level.

This is not prejudice speaking, not the silly "your uterus will fall out" nonsense that kept Katherine Switzer out of the Boston Marathon, but the voice of empiricism, i.e. the results of evolutionary sexual differential pressures. Women may be able to run long distances, but they still cannot keep up with men on any event; using the marathon as a specific example, the fastest woman is still thirteen minutes slower than the fastest man. And there are competitive advantages to speed, strength, and (among pitchers, especially) height: per the ESPN article above, the average major leaguer, since 1960, is 5-6% taller than the typical male in the general population. Why would we expect women, who are generally shorter than men, to make it through the same gauntlet of minor league failure that washes out so many taller men? And in the absence of an obvious competitive advantage adhering to a signing team, why on earth would a major league club want a woman player, other than as an Eddie Gaedel freak show and public relations stunt?

Update 2016-05-21: I wanted to present this list of male vs. female tennis matches as an example of the sorts of advantages size and strength confer. While the most famous is probably an over-the-hill Bobby Riggs vs. Billie Jean King match in 1973 (one which the aging Riggs lost overwhelmingly to King, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3), the rest, mostly even matches, went as you might expect:
  • Martina Navratilova, nearly retired, lost 7-5, 6-2 to a 40-year-old, retired Jimmy Connors in 1992.
  • The Williams sisters, then 16 and 17, unwisely boasted they could beat any 200 or under ranked male player. Karsten Braasch took them up on it and whupped both soundly, defeating Serena 6-1 and Venus 6-2. "I didn't know it would be that hard. I hit shots that would have been winners on the women's tour and he got to them easily," Serena said afterwards.
  • And a number of others documented there: Bill Tilden vs. Susanne Lenglen, Bobby Riggs vs. Margaret Court, and in passing stories about Kim Clijsters and Lleyton Hewett, and Chris Evert-Lloyd being beaten by her low-college-tennis-level brother.
What's interesting to me is that the Negro Leagues evolved mainly as a place for black players to actually play. I have yet to even hear of a woman who wants to play against men at any professional level. That doesn't mean she doesn't exist, but she would be an extreme outlier.

That brings up another point: baseball is a game of populations. Finding the top talent is a matter of weeding out failures. Let us posit that the average ballplayer exactly equals the average population male height of 5'10". This means half the male population is that tall or taller. Yet you've already eliminated all but about 2.4% of the female population. So you're now starting to look at extreme outliers on population already just on the basis of height alone, and a tiny fraction of the overall population. How many such women would you have to find in order get even a handful that could compete at that level? How would you even get them into competition to discover that talent? The social issues alone are daunting, but the deck is stacked heavily against women as competitors.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Commercial Feminism Watch, #2 In A Series: The Wage Gap Whisperers

I have previously written about "commercial feminism", a locution apparently originated by game developer Chihiro Onitsuka. An enterprising branch seeking sinecures beyond the usual strongholds in academia and the feminist press, the latest efforts focus on shaming progressive-leaning Silicon Valley into more diversity hires, and more importantly, increased bureaucracy. Shanley Kane is on it, of course, as well as those selling software to stockpile psycho, but the field seems ripe for expansion. The veins of guilt infusing white liberals seem to know no limit, and are therefore a resource waiting for the miner's pick. I caught wind of one such scheme today:
Ken Abosch spends his days digging into financial accounts and numbers that most companies don’t want their employees knowing about — namely, how much you get paid compared with your colleagues. But he’s actually part of a team of data-loving whizzes at the consulting firm Aon Hewitt who get multiple calls a week asking for help to fix issues with pay gaps. “It’s like the doctor who sees patients who are mostly ill,” says Abosch, Aon’s North American compensation practice leader, “because the majority of clients we assist do have some issues that need to be addressed.”

Call ’em the salary whisperers of America. While that’s not their official job title, for Abosch and thousands of other internal auditors across the country, it may as well be. Their so-called pay audits have gained in popularity in the past couple of years as more companies — especially those in the tech sector — take financial information that used to be kept secret and make some of it public. We’re talking about revealing pay gaps for women, minority employees and the average worker whose pay slips pale in comparison to their executive bosses. And this trend for exposing salaries has ushered in a new era of transparency, pushing some companies toward a pledge of equal pay.
Feeding as it does the impulses both to atone for success and to parade and reward envy, the major surprise here is that such wizards had not been on the scene earlier. One wonders, of course, who pays the salary of someone with the nebulous title of "Director of Equity Research and Shareholder Engagement", and more importantly, why, especially given the convincing evidence of the wage's gap almost entirely spectral nature, a product of women's own choices. You will seek in vain any mention of actual performance from Arjuna Capital; that, apparently, is not a concern of theirs, which luckily makes their game self-limiting.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Voxsplaining Hillary's Preemptive Media Victim Card

A couple people posted this amazingly dumb piece by David Roberts purporting to Voxsplain to the rest of us how the press will victimize Hillary out of some misguided notion of fairness. Everyone covering the election, according to this theory, is a gigantic machine on autopilot, or a single-celled amoeba that only responds to the stimulus of "balance":
Among all these classes of professionals, all these institutions, that whole superstructure of US politics built around two balanced sides, there will be a tidal pull to normalize this election, to make it Coca-Cola versus Pepsi instead of Coca-Cola versus sewer water.

The US political system knows how to play the former script; it doesn't know how to play the latter. There's a whole skein of practices, relationships, and money flows developed around the former. The latter would occasion a reappraisal of, well, everything. Scary.

So there will be a push to lift Donald Trump up and bring Hillary Clinton down, until they are at least something approximating two equivalent choices.
This reading conveniently omits Hillary's dreadful public speaking voice, one which always sounds like a condescending, exasperated schoolmarm. She is probably the worst public speaker of any major party candidate to run for President since Bob Dole; at least George W. Bush could fake enough folksiness to get by. Hillary does not pretend. And whether you think that opinion can be chalked up to sexism or not, Penelope Eckert's observation that "She is not softening anything for anybody" is a kind of tell: Hillary doesn't expect she'll need to compromise, not here, not today, and not tomorrow, either. The alteration of her accent to match that of her audience adds to charges of disingenuousness and shiftiness. Her problems begin in the mirror.

But this is the kind of thing I've come to expect from Vox; their reporting on Hillary has been all but universally sophomoric and transparently partisan from the beginning. Whether it's their terrible apologia for Clinton's speaking fees, the embarrassing attempt to shoo away the email scandal as so much press bias, weak excusifying for her triangulations, or attempts to soften her abysmal record at State, Vox only rarely lifts a finger to criticize (as this piece highlighting Daily Show skewering of gaffes, the friendliest possible venue for such stuff). You would not find there, for instance, Alex Pareene's cautionary advice which shows Team Hillary playing into Trump's hand by the choice of phrases they use to describe him:
“Dangerous Donald,” the “loose cannon,” hated by loser Republicans, capable of doing anything. This is all straight out of the orange idiot’s dream journal.

And it is apparently the line the Democrats have decided to take. They’re going to build Trump up as a reckless and virile force of nature—and a true outsider—rather than expose him as a pitiful clown and an obvious fraud. This is completely backwards. As any writer who’s ever received an angry personal response from Trump can tell you, you get under his skin by mocking and emasculating him, not by feeding the myth of his power and strength, the precise qualities his authoritarian followers adore.
Now in a general election, I doubt Trump has even 15% of the vote as "authoritarian", which is where this falls apart. But the larger point is that the Clinton campaign appears to be making some missteps on their own. The 1990's "vast right-wing conspiracy" echoes down to the present day.