Today's Blogs

Hey Ref, Are You Color Blind?

Bloggers contemplate racial bias in the NBA, debate the spread of a code to break HD-DVD copyright protection, and mull over Time’s list of the 100 most influential people.

Hey ref, are you color blind?: A study examining racial bias among NBA referees has found that white refs are more likely to call fouls on black players, and vice versa. Commissioner David Stern said that after seeing a draft of the study, the league conducted its own research and concluded there is no bias. Bloggers mostly side with the academics.

Seton Hall University professor Shavar Jeffreys at points out that the study “is not about whether NBA referees are consciously racist, but the extent to which unconscious cognitive bias affects NBA officiating. Given the pervasiveness of racialized thinking, there’s no reason to believe the NBA would be immune.” Law professor Michael Dorf at Dorf on Law explores the difference between “affinity bias” and racial stereotyping: “[I]f stereotyping were at work, one would not necessarily expect the race of the referee to matter. Indeed, one might think that the stereotype of white players as clever, hard-working oafs would lead to more foul calls.”

Players including Kobe Bryant and LeBron James have denied the bias claims, but Zack Wagner at No Blow Too Low rebuts them: “This is asinine. The study in all likelihood uses a technique called statistical regression, which determines correlation by removing outside factors. … No one is saying that race is acting on a conscious level.”

Steven D. Leavitt at the Freakonomics blog, paraphrasing an analysis by ESPN’s John Hollinger, argues that the bias really isn’t that significant: “The coefficient estimates imply that if LeBron James faced only white refs the whole season relative to having only black refs the whole season, he would be expected to run up an extra 11 or 12 fouls over the course of the season and score about .3 fewer points per game. … These are not very big numbers.” Bill Harris at tech and gaming blog Dubious Quality tries to put the results into perspective: “Seriously, if that’s true, it means the NBA is probably one of the least discriminatory institutions in the country.”

Will Leitch at Deadspin considers the study’s possible consequences: “We have a feeling this study could end up having real legs; NBA players typically don’t need much of an excuse anyway to grouse about calls, but they certainly were handed one here.”

Read more about bias among NBA refs. Read the study for yourself.

Revenge of the nerds: When the code used to crack copy protection on Blu-ray and HD-DVD discs was posted to the Web site Digg, the site’s administrators took it down in the face of legal threats. But the move spawned a nerd mob rebellion, with users posting the code all over the Web. Late Tuesday, Digg founder Kevin Rose announced that Digg would stop removing the code, against its lawyers’ advice: “If we lose, then what the hell, at least we died trying.” Bloggers wonder what this means for copyright protection—and for Digg.

“[I]t shows the power of user-generated content,” writes Nicholas Deleon at tech blog CrunchGear. “Take away that power and the users threaten to leave, which is what happened to Rose’s Digg. Too much power and you threaten your own survival from a legal standpoint.”

Cory Doctorow at BoingBoing slams the Digital Millenium Copyright Act: “If there was ever an example of why the DMCA needs to die, this is it. The idea that a sixteen-digit number is illegal to possess, to discuss in class, or to post on a news site is offensive to a country where free speech is the first order of the Constitution.”

Not everyone agrees. Zen Shooter takes a swing at code-spreading digital pirates: “[I]t strikes me as very strange and stupid indeed that people are well satisfied with themselves when what they’re doing is putting the artists they admire out of business. When Shakira’s music is available free everywhere, Shakira will have to stop making music and go get a job at a Bogota Kinko’s. When you steal *The Matrix* movies you’re making it harder for the Wachowskis to make new films.”

James Lileks predicts a depressing future of licensing hell and writes: “Who will be to blame? A sclerotic industry that couldn’t figure out a way to maintain its profit levels in the new paradigm, and every dork who can’t be arsed to pay for cable but downloads the shows he wants to see anyway.”

Read more about the copy protection code. Fred von Lohmann at the Electronic Future Foundation offers a “Legal Primer” on the code issue

Time for debate: Time publishes its list of the 100 most influential people in the world this week. It includes the likes of Osama Bin Laden, Sacha Baron Cohen, Barack Obama, and Leo DiCaprio. It does not include George Bush.

Conservative Ed Morrissey at Captains’ Quarters scratches his head: “So who does Time consider more influential than that? Queen Elizabeth II. That’s right, the figurehead monarch that has no political power at all, and whose family forms the basis of a sneering wing of the global media, has more influence than the President. … Who else? The Anglican Archbishop of Nigeria. Don’t know his name? Perhaps that’s a measure of his influence.” Rachel Sklar at The Huffington Post’s Eat the Press explores the logic of including Tyra Banks but not W: “It makes sense: The nation has been abuzz with Tyra Banks’ veto of the recent Congressional bill to withdraw troops from Iraq. Damn you and your careless abuse of power, Tyra!”

Steve at conservative Political Dogs takes issue with a few selections, including Elizabeth Edwards: “The only reason why Time per her in is because she has breast cancer, and she is a liberal. Has she done anything huge to change our world as we know it? Why wasn’t Betty Ford put in this list? Ford did more for breast cancer awareness than ANY OTHER WOMAN on the planet.”

Read more about the Time 100.