Thursday, July 28, 2016

Trump Surpasses Clinton In Post-Convention Bounce

Bearing in mind that this was as of Monday, Nate Silver shows Donald Trump barely edging Hillary Clinton based on his "now-cast" model, which takes into account various other factors besides polling data. Particularly, it shows Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida all going to Trump, which would be the first time such a thing has happened that I can recall.

My overall case against Trump winning (not the political case, mind you) is that
  1. There is no (significant) Democratic crossover Trump voter.
  2. No polls have shown him consistently tied with Clinton, let alone winning.
  3. His negatives are historically high, with 70% of Americans having a negative opinion of him.
#2, at least, appears shaky, but the Democratic National Convention has yet to wind down, and we shall see what the polling data looks like after that.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Race, The Democratic Bosphorus

California's Senate campaign, thanks to a crazy first-two-past-the-post primary system that has the effect of solidifying one-party rule in the state, is between two Democrats, state Attorney General Kamala Harris, and long-time Representative Loretta Sanchez. Sanchez, who is comparatively unknown in large parts of the state, polls well among Hispanics but no other group, and trails Harris by a margin of 3-to-1 in fundraising. Sanchez had some words to say about Barack Obama's endorsement of Harris:
Sanchez made the comment during a taped interview for public affairs show “Conexión” that aired Friday on Univision 19 in Sacramento. The remarks follow a blistering statement Sanchez issued after the endorsement earlier this week, accusing the president of being part of the nation’s “entrenched political establishment.”

In the interview, the congresswoman noted that Obama and Harris have been longtime friends, but said that race was also a factor in his endorsement:

“I think they have, what he said they have, is a friendship of many years. She is African American, as is he. They know each other through meetings,” Sanchez said in Spanish during the interview.
 Sanchez beat "B-1" Bob Dornan for the seat in 1996 when I lived in the district, marking the first significant inroad of the Democratic Party to what had been safe Republican territory for over a generation. While Sanchez's remarks here are comparatively tepid — she doesn't exactly claim race was an overriding factor — it's clear she thinks it is a factor. For all that Donald Trump rightly gets press for being divisive, the Democrats themselves have chosen a politics of divisiveness: division by race, by sex, by sexual preference. Yet we appear to enter an era when minority status may no longer provide political advantages; witness Asian-Americans successfully quashing renewed efforts to resume affirmative action in UC admissions two years ago. The politics of victimhood end with the realization that not everyone can be a victim.

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Dickish Milo Yiannopoulos Finally Gets Kicked Off Twitter

So, Internet exploder extraordinaire Milo Yiannopoulos finally got kicked off Twitter permanently as a result of a squabble with Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones. Despite the New York Times' claim that Yiannopoulos was "one of the most egregious and consistent offenders of its terms of service", the truth is that Twitter has yet to point to specific violations of those terms by the man known as @Nero. Unfortunately, the case against him is much more tangled than the Times story lets on, something Cathy Young details in a long Allthink piece.
There are two different questions here. One, does Milo deserve sympathy and support? And two, is Twitter's enforcement of anti-harassment rules politically biased, rife with favoritism, and generally inconsistent?
(The TL;DR answers are: not so much in this case, and yes.) Young observes that "his online conflicts tended to escalate into nasty personal attacks", viz. this one about former Breitbart colleague Ben Shapiro on the occasion of his son's birth:

Young continues:
 Milo is a very smart, talented, charismatic man. I still believe he was on the right side when he joined the fight against the crypto-totalitarian "social justice" cult. But I've always thought that, unfortunately, any backlash against "progressive" cultural politics was likely to be a magnet for actual racism, misogyny, and other bigotries. Today, Milo is actively boosting these malignant forces. As his "Daddy" Donald Trump would say: Sad!
Even though Twitter hasn't commented on the matter more extensively, it seems almost certain that the problem stemmed, in part, from faked tweets he posted, purported to be from Jones, which in turn "was both impersonation, a severe violation of Twitter rules, and a pretty clear move to pour more fuel on the fire."

If Yiannopoulos took up arms against political correctness, he didn't much care about the identity and behavior of his allies, something Brendan O'Neill recently wrote about (via Reason's Robby Soave):
These attacks on Ms Jones speak to something more than the raucousness of Twitter, which can often be a good thing, certainly to the extent that it allows unheard, eccentric and potty voices to be heard. It speaks, more importantly, to the derailment of the important task of challenging PC. Tragically, for those of us who want to prick PC from a genuinely liberal and pro-autonomy perspective, the anti-PC mantle has in recent months been co-opted by the new right, or the alt-right, as some call them. These lovers of Trump (they call him ‘daddy’) and conspiracy theorists about feminism (whose wicked influence they spy everywhere) have turned being anti-PC from a decent, progressive position into an infantile, pathological, Tourette’s-style desire to scream offensive words out loud, like the seven-year-old who’s just discovered the thrill that comes with saying ‘f**k’.
Yet simultaneously, as Freddy DeBoer points out, it's pretty obvious that Yiannopoulos got the boot at least in part because he's not in the club (emboldening mine):
When Emmet Rensin was suspended from Vox for following liberal logic on Trump to its obvious conclusions, it was trivially easy to find Vox employees who had said far worse things on Twitter, while Vox employees, with absolutely no consequences. The #WeAreTheLeft debacle was made extra funny/sad by the fact that so many of the signatories of that letter were objectively guilty of the kinds of behaviors the letter indicted. People who gleefully trashed Justine Sacco complain about pile-ons; people who say doxing is wrong get others fired from their real-life jobs. There are no principles; there’s only who you’re cool with and who you aren’t. I’ve been for saying this for years, 8 in fact, and the response has always been a kind of muttered shiftiness, a desire to change the subject. Because most people know I’m right. They always have. But for some reason, there’s this dedication to maintaining the pretense, this addiction to plausible deniability. Nobody really thinks this stuff is about principle, but to be a member in good standing, you have to go through the motions. That hasn’t changed.
Which is what makes this so frustrating, and why all defenses of free speech ultimately grow tiresome, because they tend to involve the defense of sometimes terrible behavior. As Ken White recently wrote at Popehat, "nobody needs free speech rights to protect admirable speech by people we like." Anita Sarkeesian, Yiannopoulos' longtime #Gamergate foe, appears to have finally won the game started when she landed on Twitter's "Trust & Safety" board. But let us assume that she and her like-minded cohorts indeed turn Twitter into a mammoth echo chamber, a place where orthodoxy and adorable cat pictures are the only permissible tweets. Where will she go to gin up the death threats so central to her shtick?

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

You're Entitled To My Opinion: Salon's Ghostbusters Head Fake

This is the second thing I've written about the new Ghostbusters reboot (here, and also here, in passing), which I kind of hope will be the last. I expected the movie would have at least a good opening weekend, which it did at a $46M gross, still not enough to dethrone The Secret Life of Pets. Sony has already committed publicly to a sequel; they could scarcely do otherwise, lest it be seen as an admission of failure. The film seems destined for a precipitous decline in coming weekends, but as Yogi Berra allegedly warned, "It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future." But today, I am not here to discuss the Ghostbusters movie itself (which I have not seen), but a recent Salon story about the gender divide among reviewers of that film.
As of the time of writing, the film’s scores from female reviewers are considerably higher, with 84 percent of women giving the movie a thumbs up. Time’s Stephanie Zacharek comments, “The movie glows with vitality, thanks largely to the performers, who revel in one another’s company.” Meanwhile, the New York Times’ Manohla Dargis writes that it’s “cheerfully silly” and Kate Muir of U.K.’s The Times says it’s a “rollickingly funny delight.”

On the flip side, 77 percent of the critics who gave the film a thumbs down are male. Roger Ebert’s one-time sidekick, Richard Roeper, called it a “horror from start to finish,” while David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter referred to “Ghostbusters” as a “bust.” That disparity has hampered the film’s reception: Currently, there’s a 10 percentage point difference between male and female opinion on the movie. If reviewing were left up to male critics alone, “Ghostbusters” would have a 74 percent approval rating.
In other words, Salon's Nico Lang holds men accountable for some "right" opinion of a film, i.e. the one she presumably holds. She goes on, not to see if there's a general split by sex in films, but to discover heresy:
These gender gaps were static across the board: On average, men were overrepresented in negative reviews by a six percentage-point margin—with 82.1 percent of “rotten” ratings coming from male critics. These films include “Suffragette” (78 percent of negative reviews came from men), “Julie and Julia” (80 percent), “It’s Complicated” (76 percent), “Hope Springs” (78 percent), “Mamma Mia” (80 percent), and “The Iron Lady” (79 percent). The latter was the only film to receive harsher reviews from female critics, in which Streep played Margaret Thatcher. Just 43 percent of female critics liked it.

“Suffragette” (73 percent Tomatometer):
Negative reviews that came from men: 78 percent
Female critics who liked it: 82 percent

“The Devil Wears Prada” (75 percent):
Negative reviews that came from men: 82 percent
Female critics who liked it: 80 percent

“Julie and Julia” (75 percent):
Negative reviews that came from men: 80 percent
Female critics who liked it: 85 percent

“It’s Complicated” (57 percent):
Negative reviews that came from men: 76 percent
Female critics who liked it: 60 percent

“Hope Springs” (75 percent):
Negative reviews that came from men: 78 percent
Female critics who liked it: 79 percent

“Ricki and the Flash” (65 percent):
Negative reviews that came from men: 85 percent
Female critics who liked it: 76 percent

“The Hours” (81 percent):
Negative reviews that came from men: 97 percent
Female critics who liked it: 97 percent

“Mamma Mia” (54 percent):
Negative reviews that came from men: 80 percent
Female critics who liked it: 60 percent

“August: Osage County” (64 percent):
Negative reviews that came from men: 86 percent
Female critics who liked it: 68 percent

“The Iron Lady” (51 percent):
Negative reviews that came from men: 79 percent
Female critics who liked it: 43 percent
Again: the "correct" opinion, and male haters. (Also notice she does not measure the same thing on each side, i.e. what is the actual percentage difference between genders?) Perhaps one day it will dawn on Ms. Lang and her similarly-inclined friends that men are a large portion of the moviegoing public, too, and are entitled to their opinions as anyone; the old saying about opinions being like assholes still applies. That is not to say that there shouldn't be movies tailored to specific audiences. One of my focuses in that regard is that people who complain of specific underserved markets need to go out and fill them, and reap the rewards — and bear the costs. If the 2016 Ghostbusters goes on to long success, I'll tip my cap; that's how capitalism works. Yet it may come to pass that this one becomes a cult film among women, but not well regarded more broadly, i.e. it won't be the blockbuster the original was. That's fine, too. None of us owes an opinion of a particular work to someone else, save in Stalinist dystopias.

Update 2016-07-22: Adding to the list of the impure is Eileen Jones' surprisingly candid pan at the socialist website, Jacobin. Excerpt:
Don’t believe the hype. The Ghostbusters publicity campaign has used puling fanboy misogyny — which is always worth ignoring — to whip up a furious counter-reaction promoting the film as a feminist cause célèbre.

It’s worked like a charm. Earnest think pieces have excoriated despicable “Ghost Bros” for wrecking the dreams of women everywhere by blaming the female leads when the “the worst trailer ever” was released. Platoons of solemn interviewers have asked Feig how he’s weathering the terrible storm surrounding his film, as if controversy doesn’t typically help a movie’s box office returns.

People forget that the Ghostbusters brouhaha is just a pumped-up variation of the same publicity scam that attended the opening of Bridesmaids, 2011’s “feminist triumph,” a women-centered comedy also directed by Paul Feig and starring Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy in a large female ensemble.
 In that, the overall pre-release publicity stunting of the film reminds me of nothing so much as the original The Blair Witch Project, in which bad editing and cinematography substituted for actual plot and writing, amplified by a relentless and visionary PR campaign that defined "viral" before many of its modern appurtenances existed. Say what you want about Feig as a director, he really seems to understand how to knot together the cultural and business aspects of filmmaking.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Alton Sterling Meets The Murder Factory

A lot of generalized, not particularly well-thought-out points about the Alton Sterling shooting:
  1. Presuming Louisiana subscribes to the same grand jury system as the rest of the US, expect to see a stacked-deck grand jury presentment of the sort engineered to get the cop exonerated (Darren Wilson, there) in the Michael Brown case. This is tolerated because grand juries are tools of prosecutors and almost never fail to convict indict, unless the subject is a law enforcement officer.
  2. Even if the case were to get to trial, the prosecution would have a rough go of it, because of the presumption of truth baked into the system. That is, the system presumes cops never lie; their accounts of events, even in the face of video, are rarely questioned.
  3. That is further exacerbated by the fact that Louisiana is one of many states whose statutes feature a "police bill of rights" that gives cops extra protections civilians simply do not have. This gives them time to corroborate stories, delay investigations, and other things no other accused murderer could do. "Louisiana’s law allows officers to wait up to 30 days before being interviewed as part of an investigation."
  4. Finally, the "living Constitution" is frequently translated in terms favorable to police, in the form of tests that include the world "reasonable", e.g. Graham v. Connor. Cops get off with a lot of stuff civilians can't because of it.
Update: Scott Greenfield has more to say on "reasonable":
The reasonable person. The reasonable cop. The reasonable whoever. These are the sorts of rules that courts love to embrace when confronted with hard, maybe even insurmountable, problems and they can’t develop a principled test that would actually inform people what they can do without getting prosecuted.

And you love these rules. Well, not so much lawyers, but the rest of you. Because “reasonable” sounds so, well, reasonable. And as Seth Godin asks, who isn’t reasonable?
Also worth reading: "The First Rule of Policing And Alton Sterling".

Update 2: Well, then (N.b. I do not endorse "pigs"):
Update 3: Why are ex-military given priority for civilian police jobs? Is this begging for factory-installed undiagnosed PTSD? (Not saying this was a factor in this or the I-can't-believe-this-is-happening-so-damn-soon-after-but-yeah-it-is Philando Castile shooting.)

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

How Black Lives Matters Entryism Shut Down The Toronto Pride Parade

Walter Olsen, whose Overlawyered blog is on my sidebar, today comes to us with a Storify link to his tweets of Sunday's takeover by Black Lives Matter protesters. The most disturbing part is Black Lives Matters was asked to lead the parade:
"BLM said they did not tell organizers about their plan to hijack the parade, an act that has since been called a “win” by the group, but widely criticized by many others.
Pride president Mathieu Chantelois called BLM's hijacking of the event the mere opening of negotiations:
“Yesterday, we agreed to have a conversation about this. We agreed that we will bring this to the community and to the membership, but at the end of the day, if my membership says no way, we want to have police floats, they decide.”
 Unsurprisingly, this has resulted in a flood of hate mail aimed at BLM, whose behavior is simply inexcusable and childish. BLM went on to complain about this as "pink-washing":

Relations between the petulant BLM protesters and city hall appear to be still surprisingly good, as the city planned on giving them a race relations award, part of a pattern of collapse in the face of organized protest, no matter how childish.
The short history of Black Lives Matter in Toronto proves that so long as you’re the victim group du jour, bullying and intimidation can win you obeisance from officials, to say nothing of reverential coverage in the media. When they staged a sit-in outside police headquarters to protest police racism, the Toronto Star depicted them as freedom fighters. After they demonstrated outside the home of Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, she met them on the steps of Queen’s Park and declared, “I believe we still have systemic racism in our society.” When they accused the city of racism for shortening the schedule of an African music festival (the neighbours had complained about the noise), the city hurriedly restored it. In response to their demands, both the city and the province have called for investigations into the racist practices of the police – despite the obvious fact that Toronto is one of the most racially peaceable cities in all of North America.
As much as I'd like to think the Pride organizers will win this one over time, I'm not entirely convinced.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Ouroboros: Black Lives Matter Shakes Down Toronto Pride

The Toronto Pride festival yesterday ground to a halt for half an hour for a Black Lives Matter protest. "The parade didn't re-start until after Pride Toronto executive director Mathieu Chantelois signed a document agreeing to the group's demands." Those demands are interesting to read:
Among the nine, three explicitly cite funding, while the rest (save #8) are implicit funding demands, either through hiring/staffing demands or expenditures (as for "community spaces", "community full control over hiring", "increase community stages/spaces", etc.). It is hard to see how this can possibly stick; Chantelois signed an agreement under duress, i.e. the Black Lives Matter leaders forced him to submit or else they would not allow the parade to continue. So if this gets to court, it's very hard to imagine how this would be enforceable. Moreover, kicking police out of Pride activities sends a terrible message: it really is Us vs. Them, with no dialogue possible.

Already, Pride has backed off the idea that the police ban will remain in force in future events, saying,
"Pride Toronto never agreed to exclude police services from the Pride parade... We have had, and will continue to have, discussions with the police about the nature of their involvement as parade participants," the organization said in a statement.

"Frankly, Black Lives Matter isn't going to tell us there's no more floats in the parade," Pride Toronto executive director Mathieu Chantelois told CP24 earlier in the day.
One wonders just how much longer they will adhere to the other, less visible but still significant terms inflicted on them. While the tantrum's outcome drew praise from many quarters, it appears from this vantage that it was nothing short of a commercial shakedown of the sort American race hucksters have engaged in for decades. Intersectionalism means there's always someone more privileged than you, if you just try hard enough; converting that to money and power is always the goal.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

How Not To Handle Failure

Firebrand attention whore Milo Yiannopoulos has hit on some pretty interesting work at, in which the company attempted to counter interviewer sex bias by using voice masking technology. The results (emboldening, for once, is original equipment): is a platform where people can practice technical interviewing anonymously and, in the process, find jobs based on their interview performance rather than their resumes. Since we started, we’ve amassed data from thousands of technical interviews, and in this blog, we routinely share some of the surprising stuff we’ve learned. In this post, I’ll talk about what happened when we built real-time voice masking to investigate the magnitude of bias against women in technical interviews. In short, we made men sound like women and women sound like men and looked at how that affected their interview performance. We also looked at what happened when women did poorly in interviews, how drastically that differed from men’s behavior, and why that difference matters for the thorny issue of the gender gap in tech.
One of the big motivators to think about voice masking was the increasingly uncomfortable disparity in interview performance on the platform between men and women1. At that time, we had amassed over a thousand interviews with enough data to do some comparisons and were surprised to discover that women really were doing worse. Specifically, men were getting advanced to the next round 1.4 times more often than women. Interviewee technical score wasn’t faring that well either — men on the platform had an average technical score of 3 out of 4, as compared to a 2.5 out of 4 for women.

Despite these numbers, it was really difficult for me to believe that women were just somehow worse at computers, so when some of our customers asked us to build voice masking to see if that would make a difference in the conversion rates of female candidates, we didn’t need much convincing.
They ran this experiment on 234 interviews, of which roughly two-thirds were male. Et voilà:
After running the experiment, we ended up with some rather surprising results. Contrary to what we expected (and probably contrary to what you expected as well!), masking gender had no effect on interview performance with respect to any of the scoring criteria (would advance to next round, technical ability, problem solving ability). If anything, we started to notice some trends in the opposite direction of what we expected: for technical ability, it appeared that men who were modulated to sound like women did a bit better than unmodulated men and that women who were modulated to sound like men did a bit worse than unmodulated women. Though these trends weren’t statistically significant, I am mentioning them because they were unexpected and definitely something to watch for as we collect more data. 
Women were leaving at a rate seven times that of men after a poor performance, and an overall retention curve that looks like this (blue is male, red is female):
 Which is to say, women get frustrated easier and quit earlier. What does this mean overall for women in STEM fields?
Now, as I said, this is pretty speculative, but it really got me thinking about what these curves might mean in the broader context of women in computer science. How many “attrition events” does one encounter between primary and secondary education and entering a collegiate program in CS and then starting to embark on a career? So, I don’t know, let’s say there are 8 of these events between getting into programming and looking around for a job. If that’s true, then we need 3 times as many women studying computer science than men to get to the same number in our pipelines. Note that that’s 3 times more than men, not 3 times more than there are now. If we think about how many there are now, which, depending on your source, is between 1/3 and a 1/4 of the number of men, to get to pipeline parity, we actually have to increase the number of women studying computer science by an entire order of magnitude.
That's... kind of daunting. So, recapping, not only do women not interview as well as men, they also give up quicker, and thus to make up for the lack of women capable of these feats,  we need ten times as many women as men at the front of the STEM pipeline to meet parity. "When I told the team about the disparity in attrition between genders," she continues, "the resounding response was along the lines of, 'Well, yeah. Just think about dating from a man’s perspective.'" The ideas that women should never have to perform under stress, should be hired for jobs regardless of qualification or experience, idiotic theories that Star Wars posters keep girls away from STEM fields — all these and many more amount to so much post hoc-ery evading the unfortunate reality that, as a population, women lack male resilience. It does appear there are steps available for those wishing to improve this state of affairs, e.g. girls engaged in team sports develop more confidence in themselves subsequently. But even there, the confidence gap cuts off a lot of girls at the knees (emboldening this time mine):
Studies evaluating the impact of the 1972 Title IX legislation, which made it illegal for public schools to spend more on boys’ athletics than on girls’, have found that girls who play team sports are more likely to graduate from college, find a job, and be employed in male-dominated industries. There’s even a direct link between playing sports in high school and earning a bigger salary as an adult. Learning to own victory and survive defeat in sports is apparently good training for owning triumphs and surviving setbacks at work. And yet, despite Title IX, fewer girls than boys participate in athletics, and many who do quit early. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, girls are still six times as likely as boys to drop off sports teams, with the steepest decline in participation coming during adolescence. This is probably because girls suffer a larger decrease in self-esteem during that time than do boys.
 All of which is to say, I don't see a potential solution at the scale needed to move the needle significantly overall, successes at Harvey Mudd notwithstanding; these results suggest women will just move from one institution to another, rather than expanding the overall pool.

Friday, July 1, 2016

NOW, Emma Sulkowicz, And Modern Feminism

I have said elsewhere that combating the smaller voices in the culture war amounts to a losing proposition. So what are we to make of the National Organization of Women handing the vile narcissist Emma Sulkowicz its "Woman of Courage" award? This, apparently, was the same organization that wailed on Dean Nicole Eramo earlier this year for having the temerity to question the anonymous "Jackie's" hyperbolic story of gang rape that later unraveled under, you know, actual investigation. The politics of modern feminism, or at least in the dungheap that it has become, are about symbolism, perpetual victimhood, and a studied refusal to grapple with inconvenient yet glaringly obvious facts. In Sulkowicz' case, those facts would include damning (and seductive) texts after the alleged "rape" that make it clear she wanted a relationship with him (which he later rejected). What possible "courage" could attach to this award? Sticking to her idiotic and risibly false story despite having been found a fraud?

NOW's problems with the real world may stem from its age. Having lately turned 50, NOW opened shop in the age of sit-ins and complaint:
Betty Friedan, the Feminine Mystique author famous for leading the group, called for every woman to focus her work on what made her angry, recalls Muriel Fox, now 88, one of the group’s founders and its publicist.

“Everyone there knew that she wanted to work on what made her mad,” says Fox, now 88. “That’s the reason the movement was so successful. We had wonderful leaders, but we had thousands of people who all were leaders working on what made them angry about the situation at that time.”
Apparently, irrational rage is the only thing that matters anymore. NOW's irrelevance is, it seems likely, one genesis of the declining number of people willing to adopt the label "feminist". Whatever that label stands for, surely justice isn't part of it.