Marshall, the movie

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We assembled a group of folks who mirrored the characters in the movie Marshall: two Jews, a black woman, and a white non-Jewish male (i.e., one of the villains). The movie gets 86 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and, as far as I know, no starlets had to watch Harvey Weinstein shower in order to get parts in the film.

It is a good biopic in that it starts in medias res and doesn’t try to cover the entire arc of the great man’s life. The movie covers, essentially, just one case and not one that is significant enough to merit mention on the Wikipedia entry for Thurgood Marshall.

The late 1930s cars that they polished up for the movie are alone worth the price of admission.

How accurate is the rest of the movie? TIME talks about this and there is a better 2005 article from legalaffairs.org. It seems that the case was real, but Hollywood added some drama.

Spoiler alert…

In both the movie and in real life, the Greenwich, Connecticut woman who complains of being raped was married to a rich older husband. Eleanor Strubing was born in 1908, so she was 32 years old at the time of the purported rape.

In the movie, the rich white guy, as in the typical U.S. family court today, turns out conveniently to be a wife-beater. Thus, the female victim is left with no choice but to have sex with other people when her (abusive) advertising executive husband is out of town earning the money that supports her lavish household. In the historical record there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that the surrounded-by-servants woman was beaten up by anyone. And, in fact, the wife remained married to the purported abuser until his death in 1961.

In the movie, the black chauffeur left a wife and two children 1000+ miles away. In real life, the accused rapist was living with a common-law wife in the attic above the rape victim’s bedroom.

Compared to the historical record, the movie amps up the dramatic tension of the lawsuit. The accused rapist denies everything. In real life, the accused chauffeur had the same story throughout the litigation: he had sex with the married woman, but it was consensual.

In the movie, the accused rapist is terrified of being lynched if he became known that he had sex with a white woman. There is no suggestion in the historical record that he was concerned about people finding out about interracial intimacy. (i.e., the movie stages a virtue contest for us between Americans of the World War I generation and Americans today; yay for us because we turn out to be more virtuous!)

In the movie, the lawyers defending the accused rapist are physically attacked by local thugs. This doesn’t seem to correspond to anything in the historical record. Between the rich white guy beating up his wife and the thugs beating up the defense lawyers, Hollywood seems to have added a lot of violence. What does it say about us that a movie can’t be financially successful unless there is violence?

Conclusion: Worth seeing for the acting, period costumes and sets, etc. The dialog is anachronistic (e.g., people talk about “making a difference”) and the plot is only loosely based on a true story. We all thought it was worth going out, though, and we made the trip to the theater in a Tesla X, so we saved the planet!

Why our navy keeps running into commercial ships

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Looking for an answer to the question “Why do we have a Navy instead of spending the money on a bigger Air Force?” I read Sea Power: The History and Geopolitics of the World’s Oceans.

Sadly, the book doesn’t answer my question. Plainly it is bad to have container ships being sunk by pirates or enemy nations, but why can’t they protect themselves with drones that are based on the container ships themselves? Or, rather than spend $5-10 billion on a ship that will be a sitting duck for a drone missile or submarine, why wouldn’t it be more cost-effective to protect shipping with land-based airplanes, such as the AC-130? The author simply assumes that it is good to spend trillions of dollars on a navy.

But maybe the book does explain the two recent collisions between our multi-billion dollar ships and generic cargo vessels:

By reading through a variety of sources (including Clarksons, the “bible” of international shipping), it is possible to estimate that there are between fifty and sixty thousand large commercial ships— bulk carriers, cargo ships, tankers, container ships, chemical ships, passenger and roll-on/ roll-off ships, and liquefied natural gas tankers active throughout the world. … What I felt over the forty years of my career was the way the oceans became more and more full; by some estimates there are four to six times more ships plying the world’s oceans than there were some thirty years ago. If you look at a map of the world from space with the high-density shipping lanes marked in red, orange, and yellow, the strategic highways and choke points are quite clear— red belts through the South China Sea, the Mediterranean, clusters around the Suez and Panama canals, long strips around the bottom of Africa, arrows of red in and out of the Arabian Gulf and through the Strait of Malacca. It is a vast and busy universe in which tens of thousands of vessels of all descriptions are under way at any given moment.

If we are going to invest in these crazy expensive ships do we need to have a peacetime mode where they fully participate in the anti-collision transponder system that is used by commercial ships? Military trucks when they’re out on America’s clogged Interstates don’t operate under different rules from all of the other drivers.

Hollywood book idea: I went to this married guy’s hotel room and then…

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As with the stories told by plaintiffs suing Bill Cosby, it seems that a lot of the stories about Harvey Weinstein begin with a consensual trip to the at-the-time-powerful mogul’s hotel room.

For example, “‘I had to defend myself’: the night Harvey Weinstein jumped on me” (by Léa Seydoux in the Guardian):

When I first met Harvey Weinstein, it didn’t take me long to figure him out. We were at a fashion show. He was charming, funny, smart – but very domineering. He wanted to meet me for drinks and insisted we had to make an appointment that very night. This was never going to be about work. He had other intentions – I could see that very clearly.

He invited me to come to his hotel room for a drink. We went up together. It was hard to say no because he’s so powerful.

How about this for the title of a book with collected stories about Hollywood: I went to this married guy’s hotel room and then…

What are Windows users doing with these new HEIC-format files from iOS 11?

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Because I want life to be as miserable as possible, I upgraded my iPhone 7 Plus to iOS 11. It didn’t occur to me to go into the Settings->Camera->Formats menu and change the “Camera Capture” setting to “Most Compatible.” The default of “High Efficiency” results in a directory full of HEIC format files. In keeping with Microsoft’s policy of trying to avoid providing any feature that wasn’t part of Windows XP, my desktop computer, running Windows 10, can’t read these. Neither can Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop.

Recall that Google abandoned its faithful users by dropping support for Picasa and refusing to open-source the product. So it would seem that there is no hope of making HEIC files part of a Picasa-based workflow (but maybe it would still work if Microsoft put support into the OS?).

Readers: If you’re using Microsoft Windows and the iPhone what are you doing to manage HEIC photos on your desktop or laptop?

[Update: Even when the Camera is set to “Most Compatible,” if you inadvertently touch the “live” button on the Camera app it will revert to creating HEIC despite the annotation in settings saying “Most Compatible will always use JPEG/H.264”. So even if you have the phone set up to create JPEGs you are one thumb away from creating HEIC files by mistake. I then de-selected Live and checked to make sure the Camera was still on “Most Compatible,” but it continued to create HEIC still images (though without the short movie .MOV file). I power-cycled the phone and it went back to creating JPEGs (at least until the next inadvertent activation of “Live”)]

Wall Streeters in favor of genocide

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I’m getting hardcopy mail from Vanguard index funds. My vote to elect a Board of Trustees is supposedly critical. As with my November vote for Congress, etc., every two years, I know nothing about any of the candidates. What seems to be new this year from Vanguard is a shareholder proposal to “institute transparent procedures to avoid holding investments in companies that, in management’s judgement, substantially contribute to genocide or crimes against humanity, the most egregious violations of human rights.”

A return on investment is nice, but not if it means supporting genocide, right? Wrong! “The Board of Trustees recommends you vote AGAINST the following proposal.”

I’m wondering if this is why Wall Streeters have a public relations problem…

If you are against inequality can you also be against Harvey Weinstein?

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Harvey Weinstein styles himself as a social justice warrior, e.g., against private gun ownership and against the tyranny of Donald Trump. In the eyes of many good-hearted people he can no longer wear the mantle of social justice warrior, however, because he advanced the Hollywood careers of women who agreed to watch him shower, massage him, have sex with him, etc. (and some women said “no,” which, as soon as Weinstein’s string of hits faltered, led to unfavorable press coverage)

[Facebook Messenger comments from a friend:

Actually I would watch Weinstein shower for the job.
I just wouldn’t enjoy it. But work is not always fun.

]

Suppose that, due to the fallout from these stories, all of the casting couches in Hollywood are sent to Goodwill. Which young people will get ahead? How about children of successful movie stars. The established star can tell a studio “I’m going to appear in big Movie X only if you cast my child in small Movie Y.” How about children of rich families. The rich parents can tell a producer “I’m only going to fund your indie work of genius if you cast my child.”

Plainly a post-Weinstein Hollywood will be less likely to offend our aesthetic sensibilities, but will it be less equal?

Related:

 

Good plug-in hybrid that doesn’t signal virtue?

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Our family’s 2007 Infiniti (Nissan) has hit 85,000 miles and all of the advanced systems that seemed like a good idea at the time are failing. Perhaps it is time for a 2018 car.

Here are some requirements…

  • should be a reasonably roomy sedan (Accord/Camry size would be ideal)
  • hatchback would be a plus for fitting in bulky strollers
  • hybrid with at least 25 miles of electric range would be nice
  • should not be a virtue-signalling brand or design (i.e., cannot be a Tesla or a Prius)
  • should not be a wealth-signalling brand such as BMW, Mercedes, et al.

We could probably get by with an all-electric car, but I’m worried that keeping track of its charge state would become another task in an already overloaded household (kids, dog, grandparents, etc.). With the hybrid if we forget to charge it we can still drive it. Also, we don’t have a functional garage or any kind of power outlet near the driveway other than a conventional 15A 115V.

We’re surrounded by smug people who plaster their cars with bumper stickers exhorting fellow citizens to think and vote virtuously (think “Prius with bumper stickers professing love for Obama and Hillary and hatred for Trump”). We don’t want anyone to think that we’re judging them, trying to persuade them, etc. So the car should just look like a car.

One idea: Honda Clarity plug-in hybrid. It has a 47-mile electric range (25 miles in the Massachusetts winter?). It looks like an Accord or Civic (but uglier?). I think that it is a hatchback, but of course it would be marketing death for Honda to promote that.

Readers: Better ideas?

Americans are afraid to be seen as homophobic? Or my joke was not funny?

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From the NBAA show in Las Vegas, I posted the photo below of a rubber ducky wearing a Statue of Liberty outfit and holding a sign reading “FAG”:

Keeping in mind that the swag at an American business jet conference is targeted at Americans born circa 1960, I thought that this was at least somewhat humorous. Yet none of my American-born Facebook friends were willing to go on record with a “like”. Are they afraid of being seen as homophobic? Or is there nothing funny about this marketing project?

Status of women in Morocco

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One of the arguments for why we need to lose thousands of American lives and spend trillions of dollars on wars against Muslims is that we are protecting women from oppression. Enlightened European or American laws and customs will enable women to enjoy a much better life than they can have under Islam-influenced government and therefore 10 or 15 years of killing is justified.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Application_of_Islamic_law_by_country says that Morocco derives much of its law from “Sharia jurisprudence.” Mom and I enjoyed a bus tour around Casablanca as part of our September cruise. The tour guide was a self-described “feminist” in her mid-50s who gave us her perspective on the status of women in Morocco.

“Since 1999 we have women working in all occupations,” said the guide, “including judges, doctors, and police officers.” She added “By law they must receive equal pay,” and the audience of American women (median age: 70) erupted in applause (most of those applauding their working Moroccan sisters had themselves been sustained by the labor of a man, either by being a stay-at-home wife or a successful divorce plaintiff).

The guide said it was “normal” to have 6 children, though the latest generation may have only 2 or 3. She herself was one of 9 siblings (the population has tripled since 1960). If both parents work, who takes care of these children? It turns out that public school runs from 8-12 and 2-6. It costs about $2 for lunch and supervision from 12-2 if both parents are working or busy. The guide explained that she left her children at school all day whenever a cruise ship was in port.  [Why such a long school day? The kids will have Arabic in morning and French in afternoon. Plus it is “compulsory” to learn a third language, which is typically English. Thus approximately 75 percent of Moroccans speak at least some English. I later talked to another guide who sends her children to private school in which all instruction is in French or English.]

The biggest change for women, according to our guide, was in 2003 when Morocco adopted “divorce law modeled after Europe.” Prior to 2003, a woman could obtain a divorce unilaterally, but not with a cash profit: “She walked out with her clothes and the children if she wanted them.” After divorcing her husband, a woman would have to rely on wage labor, the income of a new male partner, or family support. Since 2003, however, a female plaintiff will automatically get the house, the children, and what the guide called a “pension” (alimony and child support) that is determined by the judge. Unlike in the U.S., however, where a plaintiff might have to fight for 1-3 years to get these things, a Moroccan women can get them immediately and without any litigation costs. Our guide explains that the woman is entitled to an immediate divorce if she goes before a judge and alleges that her husband hit or threatened to hit her (in the U.S. a plaintiff can get a de facto divorce with an allegation of domestic violence, but still may have to go through the formalities of a trial to make it final).

She then asked for permission from the group of American senior citizens to “say something dirty.” This was readily granted. The guide then explained, with the assistance of some hand gestures, that the second ground for an immediate divorce was “if the husband wanted to have sex from the back, which is prohibited by the Koran [Wikipedia].” Was a demure female plaintiff really expected to relate conversations from her bedroom in front of a potentially male judge? No. The guide explained that “The woman doesn’t have to say this in court. She takes off her shoe and turns it upside down to show the judge.”

What if a plaintiff doesn’t want to allege domestic violence or specific bedroom requests? “She needs to go to a few meetings with the judge. If she can’t agree with her husband, the marriage will be declared irreconcilable and divorce will be granted.” (i.e., a plaintiff simply needs to stonewall to obtain a no-fault divorce)

[Consistent with the 70-year-old woman who approved of a father walking out on his wife of 15 years, and breaking up the nuclear family that his two young children had enjoyed, so long as he could find a more agreeable sex partner, the audience of American seniors was generally warm to the idea of a parent going to the courthouse to get rid of an unwanted spouse.]

If divorce and getting the house, kids, and cash is easier than in the U.S., remarriage is more costly for the woman. “The husband can reclaim the house and the children if she remarries.” Remarriages before the children reach adulthood are rare. Note that this tracks former U.S. law and custom. Most of the profits from marriage were via alimony, which was expected to last just a few years until the recipient got remarried and alimony was thereby terminated. The assumption was that alimony recipients wouldn’t want to have sex outside of marriage, but that they would want to have sex with new partners, so that it wouldn’t be possible to simultaneously tap a current and former sex partner.

Cruise passengers asked the guide about polygamy (Wikipedia). With profitable no-fault divorce available after a single courtroom appearance, absent consent from all wives, it would be practically impossible to sustain traditional simultaneous polygamy in Morocco and, indeed, a 2004 law codified that, requiring written permission from an existing wife before a man could marry a second wife. (Of course, with American-/European-style family law, Morocco now has serial polygamy in that multiple women may be living off a single high-income man.)

What if family court litigants were never married? Is it possible for a Moroccan to obtain the spending power of a primary care doctor by having sex with a medical specialist? “She can get paid. She can get something,” responded the guide, “but there is a limit.” Out-of-wedlock children are not as profitable as children of a marriage. As in the U.S., DNA testing is used by courts when ordering cashflow.

From a structural/legal point of view, women in Morocco are in many ways better off than women in a lot of U.S. states. There is no risk of being the loser in a winner-take-all custody fight. There is no risk of paying child support or alimony to a man. There is no risk of being ordered to share parenting with a discarded husband. Revenue from the marriage and children will not be impaired by legal fees because, as long as a female plaintiff can prove that she is female, she is guaranteed to prevail.

Why sacrifice American lives and trillions of dollars under the banner of freeing women from the chains of Islamic government when, in fact, women under Sharia-influenced law may be doing better than under the laws of many U.S. states?

Related:

Las Vegas after the shooting

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I am just back from Las Vegas. The shooting is memorialized by a collection of flowers and candles, roughly the area of a parked car, in the median of Las Vegas Boulevard next to the Luxor casino. When I visited at 9:30 pm on a weekday there were a handful of people at the memorial.

Locals said that what was striking about the aftermath of the shooting was how quickly life returned to normal. People went to work on schedule. Tourists showed up for their helicopter tours to the Grand Canyon. I didn’t find anyone in this city of 2 million people who had actually been at the concert, but one of my Uber drivers had been nearby and took fleeing people away from the scene. Businesses everywhere displayed “#VegasStrong” signs.

To judge by Facebook and the media, people who don’t live in Las Vegas might have felt more personally affected by this event than people who live in the Las Vegas region.

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