Sunday, March 17, 2019

Sunday Linkies

  • The ACLU has come out in favor of M2F participation in biological women's sporting events, an announcement that was immediately panned by Martina Navratilova: The ACLU's source for this claim is a data-free essay from ... Everyday Feminism.
  • Reason ran a fine essay on sex differences in athletics that probably won't do much to change the current situation, larded as it is with loud advocates resting on spectral evidence that doesn't really address the differences between M2F transgender athletes and biological women. 
  • A terrific thread from @FondOfBeetles showing how adolescent boys routinely break records set by the best women in track. Opening shot:
  • A useful article from T Nation on the subject of transgender athletes:
    Most experts say that the average testosterone production for biological females ranges between 0.52 to 2.8 nmol/L. The Mayo Clinic put that range even lower (2). And while experts may vary in what they consider average among females, the consensus is almost always below 3 nanomoles/L.

    But remember, federations like the IOC require a male-born person to suppress and maintain testosterone production at 10 nanomoles/L.

    So even if a woman was genetically blessed with testosterone levels that reached 3 nmol/L, that would still be less than half of what a trans woman would be allowed to have during the competition. To look at it another way, her male-born competitor would have just over three times as much testosterone, even with hormone-altering drugs.
  • Sex differences in the human brain show up before birth. The last refuge of the blank slate-ist is gone.
  • Kirsten Gillibrand has zero endorsements
  • Finland's government has collapsed following failed efforts to reform the country's healthcare delivery system.  This is interesting for a lot of reasons, not least because Finland has better per-capita spending on healthcare than France, which is often used as a model for US single-payer/M4A advocates (the light blue line below is Finland):

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

New Blog: FondOfBeetles

A fine new blog, FondOfBeetles, came into my view on Twitter with a long essay on sex segregation of athletics, and more context of what men competing against women would look like based on the existing record books. Excerpt:
A comparison of our 69kg Olympic weightlifting record holders suggests differently (Figure 6). Liao Hui (male; 166/198/359kg) and Oksana Slivenko (female; 123/156/276kg) were, at the time of their record breaking lifts, two people of the same weight and about an inch different in height. Hui outlifts Slivenko by 43kg in the snatch and 42kg in the clean & jerk, for a total of 85kg greater combined. 85kg is 13st5lb, about the weight of a typical male 100m sprinter, and over 30% of the female combined lift weight. Even when body size is approximately equivalent, females are not close to male strength.

The strongest female in the world. So, the 69kg male weightlifter hammers the 69kg female weightlifter on strength. Where are the females who are stronger than Hui? How tall and heavy are they? The answer is, in Olympic weightlifting, they don’t exist. Holding the records in the heaviest female weight category (+90kg) is Tatiana Kashirina, with 155/193/348kg (Figure 6). You’ve read that correctly. The male record holder for the 69kg category can outlift the female record holder in the top category, a female who has a 4 inch height advantage and over 6 stone of weight on him, a female who might reasonably be described as the strongest woman in the world. Clearly, the strength performance gap between males and females is not one of scale.
Kashirina would beat the male records in the 56kg (139/171/307kg) and 62kg (154/183/333kg) categories (21). Chen Lijun holds the clean & jerk and combined records at 62kg; he’s 1.62cm (5’4’’). So the strongest woman in the world has a shot against males who are 46kg (7st3lb) lighter and at least six inches shorter than her. She’s only lifting 13% more than the male record holder in a weight category almost half her bodyweight.
Sidebar link coming presently.

Monday, March 4, 2019

The USPTO Enabled The Theranos Scam

Ars Technica today reports on the USPTO's role in Theranos' con job. Enabled in very large part by Elizabeth Holmes' never-reduced-to-practice patent of a "microfluidic patch that could test blood for infectious organisms and could deliver antibiotics through the same microfluidic channels", the thing metastasized:
 The provisional application, filed in September 2003 when Holmes was just 19 years old, describes “medical devices and methods capable of real-time detection of biological activity and the controlled and localized release of appropriate therapeutic agents.” This provisional application would mature into many issued patents. In fact, there are patent applications still being prosecuted that claim priority back to Holmes’ 2003 submission.


...[M]ore than a decade after Holmes’ first patent application, Theranos had still not managed to build a reliable blood-testing device. By then the USPTO had granted it hundreds of patents. Holmes had been constructing a fantasy world from the minute she started writing her first application, and the agency was perfectly happy to play along.
An appalling story.

Martina Navratilova Backtracks On M2F Transsexuals As “Cheats”

Martina Navratilova backtracked on her comments calling M2F transsexuals competing in womens’ events “cheats”:
I know that my use of the word ‘cheat’ caused particular offence among the transgender community. I’m sorry for that because I certainly was not suggesting that transgender athletes in general are cheats. I attached the label to a notional case in which someone cynically changes gender, perhaps temporarily, to gain a competitive advantage. We should not be blind to the possibility and some of these rules are making that possible and legal. The context may be different, but the case of Lance Armstrong, and the harm he did to his sport, is surely instructive.
Navratilova drifts toward something that she can’t quite bring herself to say — the idea of excluding transsexuals from Olympic (and other) sports on the grounds that adding new categories amounts to a change in the historical categories:
It would be a big mistake for women’s tennis, which of course I know best, to be broken up into too many categories. Male and female, juniors, seniors and veterans, able-bodied and wheelchair, seems enough to me, certainly at the top level.


But we should be wary of solving the transgender problem (if I may call it that) by creating further categories. For while they are intended to be fair and inclusive, multiple categories can also fragment a sport and cause confusion.
 The good news is that Navratilova appears uninterested in dropping the subject; "The communists tried to shut me up 45 years ago and look how that worked out...". Neither, apparently, are dumb hot takes like this one at OutSports, which considers multiple cases of trans women suing their way into (or getting bounced from) women's competition as "progress", and hilariously compares Navratilova to Nazis, employing "Joseph Goebbels nomenclature". Once more: the argument against trans women competing against biological women in sports rests on the idea that sports are a game of populations. Just because some trans women were defeated by biological women doesn't mean that, with enough time and trans women contestants, trans women wouldn't eventually fill the record books on games designed to fairly accommodate biological women's different and lesser physical capacities.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Spielberg As King Canute: The Changing Landscape Of First-Run Movies

It must sting to be Steven Spielberg these days. Not so long ago, he complained of the shrinking market for non-blockbusters in theatrical release:
Steven Spielberg on Wednesday predicted an "implosion" in the film industry is inevitable, whereby a half dozen or so $250 million movies flop at the box office and alter the industry forever. What comes next -- or even before then -- will be price variances at movie theaters, where "you're gonna have to pay $25 for the next Iron Man, you're probably only going to have to pay $7 to see Lincoln." He also said that Lincoln came "this close" to being an HBO movie instead of a theatrical release. [Emboldening mine. — RLM]

George Lucas agreed that massive changes are afoot, including film exhibition morphing somewhat into a Broadway play model, whereby fewer movies are released, they stay in theaters for a year and ticket prices are much higher. His prediction prompted Spielberg to recall that his 1982 film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial stayed in theaters for a year and four months.
The lack of long runs and the coin-minting that follows might be one reason Spielberg has lately taken to slagging on Netflix:
Less than a week after Netflix's Roma walked away with three Oscar awards, IndieWire reports Spielberg intends to propose an Academy rule change that would disqualify Netflix original films from Oscar contention. He's expected to make his case during the next Academy Board of Governors meeting scheduled for April.

"Steven feels strongly about the difference between the streaming and theatrical situation," said a spokesperson for Amblin, a production company founded by Spielberg. "He'll be happy if the others will join [his campaign] when that comes up [at the Academy Board of Governors meeting]. He will see what happens."
But what I suspect rankles Spielberg even more is the nature of the top grossing movies today. Kaya Savas in the Winter, 2018 issue of The Score, the Society of Composers & Lyricists' quadrennial magazine took a look at the scene twenty years ago, when Spielberg ruled Hollywood, and wondered: what changed?
Of the top 10 grossing films of 1998, only three were either sequels or a remake of an existing established franchise. Also take a look at the variety of production budgets and the different genres all represented here. We even see the Oscar winner for Best Picture of that year with Shakespeare in Love cracking the top 10. The film landscape was so incredibly different.


In 2017 we see how much has changed in 20 years. In 2017, our top 10 worldwide films were all sequels or remakes, and all were action tentpoles. Also, only 3 of the films were produced for under $100 million. So what happened? When did this all start...?

It was in 2008 that we saw a shift start to happen. The U.S. economy was in the midst of a recession as were other countries around the globe. 2008 was also the first year to have a Marvel Studios movie released. Iron Man did a respectable $585 million at the box-office worldwide, fantastic numbers for the year. But still, Iron Man placed eighth in worldwide grosses for the year, being beat out by movies like Mamma Mia! ($609.8 million), Hancock ($624.4 million), and Kung Fu Panda ($631.7 million). The top film for 2008 was of course, The Dark Knight, which barely crossed the $1 billion mark.
Savas blamed the singularity of fantasy/spandex movies on audiences (still) lacking the discretionary budgets they had before the recession, and thus wanting a guaranteed good time — escapism. What Savas called "middle class" films — mid-budget stories that don't rely on the power of franchise, fantasy, or both — have all but uniformly changed to streaming distribution.
When Netflix and Amazon began looking for original content, there was a whole generation of storytellers eager to work, but with no place in the current theatrical exhibition space. Directors could direct again, without serving a brand vision. We saw challenging and more unique offerings. Auteurs like the Coen brothers and Cary Fukunaga found a place to exercise their creativity. It wouldn't be surprising to see someone like Terrence Malick follow suit.
Spielberg here pines for the old days of simpler distribution — a business model that made him a fortune. This is a rearguard action that he cannot win. Silver screen's prestige couldn't save the serial business model from television; neither can barring Netflix series from Oscar eligibility bring back theatrical blockbusters with 16-month legs. Just as SAG was eventually forced to merge with AFTRA, the old, bright line between first-run movies and television has more or less vanished, save for the very top. He can work with it, or like King Canute, he can pretend he has the power to change the sea with mere words.