A pet peeve (HAR!!!): computer geeks and statistics experts reducing complex issue into “simple” charts and graphs that have apparent credibility because of their form rather than their substance. I encounter this seductive form of fake erudition—“You can’t argue with statistics!”—in every field I explore: baseball, politics (Sorry, Nate Silver), social science, science (climate change models are a spectacular example), education. “Simple, straightforward” arrays of statistics that hide biases, dubious assumptions, projections, value judgments, undisclosed definitions, and who knows what else are presented to persuade on the false representation that they are “hard” representations of fact. Very frequently, they are not, and when they are not, they incompetent, irresponsible and dishonest. Also arrogant to the core.
You could find no better example of this than this dog chart, by David McCandless, which purports to summarize “big data”—read: “data that can be manipulated to show whatever you want it to show” indicating which dog breeds are “over-rated,” as well as how they score on a “costs and benefits” scale. The fact that anyone could take such a garbage graphic seriously is unsettling, but of course, it will only impress people who know absolutely nothing about dogs and dog breeds. That’s what all such arrays of statistics are for: to convince and mislead those who are too lazy or uninformed to really understand the topic at hand and its complexities, but who want to lay claim to an “informed opinion.”
Just look at this monstrosity (you can read it better here): Continue reading
From The Christian Science Monitor:
Audiences can see [naturalist and filmmaker Paul Rosolie] don a special suit, slather himself in pigs’ blood, and then be swallowed whole by an anaconda, the largest snake species in the world, on “Eaten Alive,” Dec. 7 on the Discovery Channel….According to trailers for the show, Rosolie and a Discovery Channel team venture into the Amazon rainforest to search for an anaconda, then prepare for Rosolie to be eaten alive by the snake, the largest of which can measure 30 feet long. After putting on a “snake-proof suit,” and covering himself in pigs’ blood to make himself more palatable (to the anaconda), Rosolie kneels next to the snake. …According to reports, Rosolie is later removed from the snake by a cord attached to his suit, after having been swallowed whole.
What? Naturally PETA is up in arms (Dear PETA: If only you didn’t complain about harmless animal spectacles like Ground Hog Day in Punxsutawney, people might pay attention when you have something legitimate to complain about…), but so are rational, serious zoologists and animal activists. The stunt has outraged officials at The Columbus Zoo & Aquarium, for example. “If this snake would ingest something very large, like a human, and then have to regurgitate that prey or that food, that obviously could be harmful to the snake,” said Tom Stalf, CEO and President of the Columbus Zoo. Some believe, given the Discovery Channel’s reliability, that this is a hoax rather than a cruel stunt.
If it is going to be unethical, I suppose I would prefer network engage in the hoax rather than really traumatize the big reptile for the amusement of 21st Century equivalents of side-show gawkers.
Sources: CSM, Snopes
For breedism read racism, for the illogic, bias and cruelty is the same. PetSmart, the nation’s predominant retailer of animal companion products, and one that has built its image, brand and success on being dog-friendly (customers can bring their furry pals on leashes into the stores), engages in the ignorant and deadly practice of anti-pit bull prejudice. Their customers should make it very clear to the company that its unethical and irresponsible stance will not be tolerated.
I’m not going to tolerate it, not because it will make a difference to PetSmart, but because I couldn’t look my dog in the eye again if I didn’t. Continue reading
Tony, Tony, Tony. We’re so disappointed.
Pieces of my head are on the ceiling, thanks to the violent cranial explosion caused by this story, a KABOOM! from across the pond. Usually my head isn’t so sensitive to non-American unethical conduct, but this, as you shall soon see, is special.
Andrew Holland, 51, a Welsh bus driver, was accused of owning an extreme porn video featuring a woman having sex with a tiger. He had been arrested and charged over the video, which he claimed friends gave him as a joke. Holland lost his job, was targeted with hate mail from vigilantes, and he suffered a heart attack that he says was caused by the stress of the case.
Then, after inflicting all of this on Holland, prosecutors looked at the video closely, and, for the first time, with the sound turned on. Oops. That was no tiger—that was a man in a tiger suit. The big clue was when they they heard the randy tiger, in the throes of sexual ecstasy, growl out,
Yes, just like Tony the Tiger, the Frosted Flakes icon, except that in Great Britain they are called “Frosties.” Continue reading
It’s a dog’s life, whatever THAT means…
Pet dogs are more than property and less than citizens. When they become surrogate children, as they often do, the legal battles over which member of splitting couples will have custody can become as furious and emotional as anything in “Kramer vs. Kramer.” Now the Vermont Supreme Court has approved a a new approach to these cases, deciding one on the basis of “the best interests of the dog.” Here is the relevant portion of the decision, in the case of Hamet v. Baker: Continue reading
I don’t know what kind of a person Darren Wilson is, and I don’t know if he was justified in shooting Mike Brown. But it there is increasing anecdotal evidence that a lot of police officers have a cruel, vicious and callous streak as evidenced by their attitudes toward animals, and to me, this suggests that are a lot of people in uniform with the authority to use deadly force who should not be police officers at all.
Jonathan Turley highlighted two nauseating cases in recent days.
The first unfolded in Baltimore, when Nala, a young Shar Pei, escaped from her owner’s yard over the weekend and a neighbor tried to check the dog’s tags. Don’t try this with unfamiliar dogs that might be stressed, everyone: Nala snapped at her, causing a minor wound. The neighbor then summoned police to deal with the dog, though she has acknowledged that the bite was her own fault, and Nala was just frightened.
The police and took control of Nala using the long dog-control pole. The neighbor reported that the two police officers abused the dog without cause in the process, twisting its neck and hurting her. One officer kneeled on Nala’s chest, causing her to whimper in pain.
They were just warming up.
Officer Jeffrey Bolger then said, according to multiple witnesses, “I’m going to fucking gut this thing.” As the neighbor and others watched in horror, Bolger pulled out a knife and slit Nala’s throat while Officer Thomas Schmidt held her down. Witnesses say that the dog was already immobilized against the ground and was posing no threat. Animal cruelty charges have been brought against both Bolger and Schmidt.
So you see, that animal control officer who shot the wild kittens as children watched wasn’t so bad after all. Continue reading
The Washington Post informs us that greyhound racing, a once popular form of gambling that as recently as 1991 brought in $3.5 billion and was operated at more than 50 tracks in 15 states, is in freefall and headed to oblivion. Betting on the dogs netted only $665 million in 2012, and just 21 tracks remain in seven states, with some of them already on borrowed time. Any decline in state sanctioned gambling is good news (yes, I am shedding no tears over the closing of one casino after another in Atlantic City, even the ones not owed by Donald Trump), but dog racing was always a particularly unsavory and unethical breed of the malady. Good riddance. The sooner that last greyhound has chased his last mechanical rabbit, the better off we are.
I have a bias here, it is true. My uncle, the youngest brother of my mom, was addicted to dog racing in Massachusetts, where the “sport” was banned in 2010, but not in time to save Uncle Charlie. He had a wife and two sons, and worked hard as a truck driver, but threw away an unconscionable percentage of his limited resources betting on racing canines. Maybe he would have crippled his prospects and harmed his family by finding other ways to waste his money if there had been no greyhound racing; probably he would have. Nevertheless, it was this corrupt, ugly, stupid gambling industry that wrecked his life. I hate it.
Dog racing was initially linked to allowing slot machines, another evil beast, to become legal, as little by little—first lotteries, then casinos—the states abandoned their ethical duties to embrace the cheap income that could be made by enticing the poor and the stupid to blow their paychecks on false hopes of a big jackpot. One they were hooked on the instant gratification of video poker and credit card one-armed bandits, however, greyhound racing became too slow a method of losing money. “It’ll take you half an hour to lose $50 at a racetrack. You can do it in five minutes sitting in front of a slot machine, ” said an insider interviewed by the Washington Post. This is called progress. Continue reading