Transitive moral responsibility?

This was topical when I wrote the draft, and then I got distracted with schoolwork and forgot about it. So the specific examples are a bit dated, but the basic points are still worth discussing—and unfortunately examples of this continue to turn up on a regular basis.

“… issuing a marriage license to a same-sex couple would “irreparably and irreversibly violate her conscience.”

That’s the reason Kim Davis’ attorneys gave for why an immediate stay of enforcement was required while they continue to ask anyone they can think of who might side with them, since both mom and dad have told them “no”. Later in that same article, there was this line:

Despite her refusal, her office will begin issuing licenses Friday morning. Couples, however, will be marrying “at their own risk.” It is unclear if the licenses will be legally valid.

Question: why would the legality of marriage certificates issued in compliance with applicable laws be in question just because the county clerk isn’t on the job? So if she were on vacation or hospitalized, no licenses can be issued? If she died (or even just moved away), they would have to call a special session of the state legislature or special election, and no licenses until that happens? Surely her authority implicitly flows through her deputies, (absent evidence of malfeasance)? I mean, she sure thinks so—that’s why she won’t let her deputies do it while she’s there.  If we’re going to start assuming that people do not have authority to perform government actions without affirmative proof that they do, every single time, the whole system will fall apart. Which is what some conservatives want, but I don’t think that’s Kim Davis’ goal. Continue reading

“Hamilton Electors” Are Being Dramatic, Not Effective

I believe that this is one case where living up to the original intent of the founding fathers is a good idea: the electoral college shouldn’t vote for Trump.
But what is currently going on is at best a symbolic protest. Even if these people were GOP delegates, and thus taking votes away from Trump, it wouldn’t matter. So long as he has more than 270 votes, he’s still elected. Perhaps more importantly, if nobody has 270+ votes, nobody wins.

There are 2 ways faithless electors can keep Trump out of office:

  • 270 of them can change their vote to someone who is neither Trump nor Clinton (and presumably not Stein or Johnson, either). And they all have to pick the same someone.
  • 38 of them can change their vote to Clinton (while the 232 pledged to her still vote for her).

Now, getting died-in-the-wool GOP electors to vote for Clinton is a really tall order. These people are picked for their partisan loyalty, not their patriotism or smarts—not saying they don’t have those things, just that they aren’t requirements for getting the job. But getting an eighth of the GOP electors to do so still sounds more plausible to me than getting half the electors (or 7/8ths the GOP electors) to agree on some third person.

And if nobody gets 270 votes, Congress decides. Unlike the electoral college, they only have three options: Trump, Clinton, and Johnson. So probably Trump. Unless they deadlock and we end up with Ryan and {I forget—McConnell?}. I’m not entirely convinced that would be better.

So, yes, if your point is that the electoral college is dumb and should be eliminated, then switch your vote from Clinton to, I dunno, McCain.

But if your point is that the electoral college has an important purpose in protecting people from themselves, then Democrat electors not voting for Clinton is at best a risky strategy, and likely just pointless. Heck, even getting 7 fewer votes for Trump (while still letting him win) would be a more effective statement.

Is reuse really a new thing?

I was reading this and thinking “I was never particularly into Jonny Quest, but the premise is solid, and if they do something about Hadji it could be a pretty good movie”.

But why  all the remakes? Why does everything have to be a rehash of something from a few decades ago?

The obvious answer is because of ever-lengthening copyright.

But then I thought about how characters and stories have been reused for centuries—millennia, even. From reusing Osiris’ story for both Moses and Jesus, through the endless retellings of Cinderella, to the many adaptations of Robin Hood and Sherlock Holmes.

Continue reading

RNC vs Apple

Oh, look, Fox News thinks supporting the status quo is apolitical, at least when it’s a status quo they like.

Co-host Steve Doocy noted that Apple had dropped its support of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland to protest some of Trump’s comments on the campaign trail. “But should the company be getting political?” Doocy asked.

Got it: not supporting the RNC is “political”; supporting the RNC is “not political”.

Root — the author of The Power of Relentless, a book which unironically uses the word “mega-success” in its subtitle — said that the company is making “a very, very big mistake, tragic, and I think [Apple CEO] Tim Cook is going to regret this.”

Yeah, I’m pretty sure the guy who felt a social responsibility to come out as gay is going to regret not supporting Trump’s and/or the GOP’s hate-mongering and bigotry.

“I think Apple has a big problem now,” he said, “because there are what? Sixty million-odd Republican voters? If every one of us pulls our support of Apple products or sells our Apple stock, I think the board will quickly make the decision to fire Tim Cook.”

“I think a boycott is a good move now,” Root continued. “I think all Republicans should boycott Apple products and pull their support of Apple stock until the decision to is made to fire the biased, prejudiced Tim Cook.”

Doocy said that “while we love the design and everything else — whether it’s the iPod or iPad or whatever else — it’s made in China! Isn’t this just what Donald Trump’s been saying about the jobs?”

Yep, because you’re all going to switch to using smartphones and laptops made in…oh, wait, China. So that doesn’t work.

So you’re all going to stop using smartphones and laptops and make do with a dumbphone…which is made in China.

It really doesn’t matter what brand, if you want to stick to US manufacturing, that pretty much means no computing devices, and very few consumer electronics. Though the Mac Pro is “manufactured” (I think actually assembled) in the US, so you can still buy that.

Oh, except you’re boycotting Apple because they manufacture things in China.

That is, if the whole political/apolitical distinction they’re making weren’t bullshit to begin with.

Default-Male in Movies

A couple weeks ago, Polygraph released a massive study of dialogue in films, broken down by gender, and compared in various genres and other categories.

What I find most striking about this is that a lot of the skew comes simply from the number of male/female characters in the main cast. Sarah Connor has roughly as many lines as John Connor in Terminator 2, but she’s basically the only female character, so the film as a whole is 3/4-male dialogue.

But why is this? Why is it not at all unusual to have a movie that has an entirely male cast, or just a token female, but even movies whose premise could justify an all-female cast have several men? Sister Act, a movie about a woman hiding in a convent, has fully a quarter of the dialogue given to men. There’s no particular reason for the men to have that much of the dialogue, and other than the mobsters (who need to be men so they can’t easily infiltrate the convent), there’s no reason all the other character couldn’t be female.

The male equivalent of a movie like Bridesmaids could well have no significant speaking parts for women, and it wouldn’t stand out at all. Bridesmaids has six female leads, and still gives 18% of the dialogue to men; The Hangover has only 3 male leads, each of which has a female significant other, and yet women only get 11% of the dialogue. So it’s in part a matter of choice. Writers and directors are choosing to give all the dialogue to the leads in male-lead movies, and choosing to include significant male characters in female-lead movies. Similarly, there’s a general trend that when the lead character is a woman, the sidekick is a man; when the lead character is a man, the sidekick is a man. Why is this?

Why is it so hard to say “all characters are female, unless there’s a reason to be male”, but very common to start from the premise that all characters are male until proven otherwise? Why don’t movies start from the assumption that the lead cast (and the supporting cast, separately considered, for that matter) will be 50/50, roughly reflecting the populace, and only shift from that when story needs or exceptional actors dictate?

And, no, “that would be unrealistic” isn’t an argument. I mean, sure, for certain historical stories, gender skew reflects the times. But look what Outlander has been able to do in 18th-century Scotland and France: there were a lot of women in those places at that time, and it’s not that hard to include them in your story. And, ok, so you’re telling a real story—I get it, Woodward and Bernstein were, in fact, men, as were most (all?) of their sources and all of the people they were investigating. But that’s not most movies. Even most movies “based on a true story” are at least as far removed from the source as The Hobbit: the Battle of Five Armies is from The Hobbit. Why not, while making those changes, insert some women if there weren’t many?

(But please, do it well! Adding a character just so you can say there’s a female character, but not really integrating the character into the story, making them a love interest for no real reason, and then killing them off so that a male character whom you also added and wasn’t part of the original story can be the badass that kills the male villain whom you also added and wasn’t part of the original story is not really helping things. I’m pretty sure making a couple of the dwarves female would’ve been less jarring.)

And when you’re making up your story? well, you see, that’s the nature of fiction: you can decide the genders of the characters. It can be aspirational or inspirational, instead of “realistic”. You can make half the cops in your fictional police department in your fictional city women—so long as they act like cops, it shouldn’t really matter.


It’s not a perfect analysis, of course—sometimes the lead character is relatively taciturn. But looking at movies I’m familiar with, I think it’s safe to say the aggregate is pretty representative. Plus, they’ve got a detailed explanation of their methodology, a FAQ, and access to most of the data. And it’s sad.

It’s a truism that little boys aren’t interested in movies with female leads, while little girls are perfectly capable of identifying with male leads. I don’t know to what degree this is actually true, or if anyone has even researched it seriously, but how much of this is due to exposure? If boys and men can avoid movies with female leads and still have tons of choice, that makes it easy to be persnickety. Whereas if girls and women basically have the choices of “empathize with male leads”, “watch a very tiny subset of dramas and romcoms”, or “don’t see movies”—well of course they develop the ability to relate to movies that have male leads. Maybe if rejecting female action figures meant rejecting half the set (instead of just one token character), little boys would get over this.