This fall, restrictive new voting laws in more than a dozen states could keep millions of people from exercising their constitutional right to vote. ID and birth certificate requirements, restrictions on early voting, and shutdowns on election day registration happen to affect non-rich, non-white, non-middle-aged, non-male voters most. This flurry of regulatory activity could confound Jane and John Q. Public: how are citizens supposed to know whether they need an ID, license plate number, proof of insurance, blood sample and baptism certificate in order to cast their vote? The answer might be in the interwebs.
In 2 Samuel 13:1-22, Amnon rapes his half sister Tamar. Nothing happens to him.
Men have been in the business of deciding when it is okay and when it is not okay to rape women for thousands of years. If Missouri Rep. Todd Akin's claim that women's bodies magically fend off rapist sperm or the GOP's meditation on what's really rape sound medieval to you, that's because they are. Check out our timeline of the male notions and common-law statutes that have defined rape over time, and see for yourself which eras the GOP's views on rape line up with:
Property theft: The Code of Hammurabi, one of the first sets of written laws, which dates to about 1780 BC (and contains the old "eye for an eye"), defines rape of a virgin as property damage against her father. If you were married, sorry lady: You were an adulteress. Punishment? You get thrown in the river.
Translation: Girl, you're screwed.Batigolix/FotopediaGod is a dude:Deuteronomy 22:28-29 says if you rape a virgin, you have to give her dad 50 shekels and take her to the altar.
Et tu, Roma? The Latin root raptus referred to the abduction of a woman against the will of whatever male controlled her life. What the abductor did with her was secondary.
Rape of the Sabine Women, by Giuseppe Cesari.Dirk Huijssoon/FotopediaTodd Akin, 1.0: As the Guardian recently pointed out, one of the earliest British legal texts, Fleta, which was written around 1290, laid the foundation for Akin's notion that if you get preggers, you weren't raped: "Without a woman's consent she could not conceive."
(Mississippi and) The Middle Ages: During the 13th century, the severity of punishment under Saxon law varied according to the type of woman raped—whether she was a virgin, a wife, a widow, a nun, or a whore. That's appropriately medieval. But in the United States, well into the '90s (yes, the nineteen-nineties) some states still had laws that held statutory rape wasn't rape if the woman was "impure". Mississippi was the last state to ditch such a law—in 1998. King Edward I and his wife Eleanor. From an early 14th century manuscript/Wikipedia
Pre-wave feminism: King Edward I of England was a forward-thinking chap. He enacted the landmark Statutes of Westminster at the end of the 13th century. They redefined rape as a public wrong, not just a private property battle. The legislation also cut out the virgin distinction and made consent irrelevant for girls under 12, laying the basis for the modern principle of statutory rape.
"The wife hath given up herself": In a treatise on capital crime and punishment from around 1670, English judge and lawyer Sir Matthew Hale wrote this little gem: "[T]he husband cannot be guilty of a rape committed by himself upon his lawful wife, for by their mutual matrimonial consent and contract the wife hath given up herself in this kind unto her husband, which she cannot retract." The law had quite a bit of traction. A man could legally rape his wife in North Carolina until 1993.
If you were brown: It didn't count, whether you were a slave or a "savage." And after abolition, the white legal establishment pretty much ignored rape against black women.
Rape to prove rape: Men in common law courts in the 18th and 19th centuries had a bit of trouble agreeing on how much proof a woman had to give to show she wasn't lying. Some said the hymen had to be broken. Some said she had to provide evidence of semen. Virginity test, anyone?
Egyptian women protest the ruling military council's "virginity tests" in December 2011. Ayman Mose/ZUMA Press"Absolute rape," kind of like "legitimate rape": English physician Samuel Farr was pretty certain women couldn't get pregnant without an orgasm. The Guardian quotes the mansplanation from his 1814 Elements of Medical Jurisprudence: "For without an excitation of lust, or the enjoyment of pleasure in the venereal act, no conception can probably take place. So that if an absolute rape were to be perpetrated, it is not likely she would become pregnant."
You can't thread a moving needle: Or: If you don't squirm a lot, it's not rape. Dr. Lawson Tait, an eminent 19th century gynecologist and medical officer who helped police with criminal investigations, was "perfectly satisfied that no man can effect a felonious purpose on a woman in possession of her sense without her consent." Said he: "You cannot thread a moving needle."
The FBI calls rape by its name: As the Post's Gerhart explains, the federal government used the "rather prim euphemism, 'indecent assault,' a phrase that seems as linguistically tortured as 'legitimate rape,' from the 17th century until 1929, when the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program renamed it like this: "the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will." That definition was still totally 17th century, btw.
Lady rules: Feminists had been fighting to raise the statutory rape age in states since the 1890s (in response, some legislators proposed raising the age of consent to 81). Nonwhite feminists had been fighting for equal treatment under the law. Second wavers gave the movement another push, demanding a range of other expansions to make the definition of rape gender neutral, include date rape, and scrap medieval marital exceptions and virginity requirements.
Sue Lyon in Stanley Kubrick's 1962 Lolita.Zellaby/Fotopedia83 years later: January of 2012: that's when the FBI decided to update its definition of forcible rape. As Kate Sheppard pointed out last year, the year 1929 "was quite a while ago—before the Great Depression, before Mickey Mouse, and before the Empire State Building, to name a few. It was also before roofies had been invented and before date or partner rape were even concepts." The new, expanded definition includes other forms of sexual assault, other genders, and instances where the "victim is incapable of giving consent because of temporary or permanent mental or physical incapacity, including due to the influence of drugs or alcohol or because of age."
Backward, ho!: Last year, House Republicans pushed to limit taxpayer funding of abortions by excluding non-"forcible" rapes from federal abortion funding. Their plan failed. But the Republican war on women was just starting to heat up.
There's a long list of scenarios that could sour the mood at the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. "Newt University" could go off the rails. "Violent anarchists" may make an appearance. Fifteen thousand protesters and Occupiers could gum up the GOP's works. The ban on puppetry might sadden Republican children. And then tropical storm Isaac, orginally forecast to hit Tampa just in time to spoil Mitt Romney's big kickoff party. Mother Nature's latest display of flagrant liberal bias now headed toward NOLA—but not before RNC organizers canceled the first day of the convention.
What is Isaac?
It's a tropical storm that was thought to hit Tampa on Monday, the first day of the GOP nominating convention. Here's an image from the National Hurricane Center's Wednesday night forecast showing the fast-moving storm's probable path (colloquially referred to as the "cone of doom" in Florida):
Isaac has been used for four distinct tropical cyclones in the Atlantic (tropical storms in 1988 and 2012, and hurricanes in 2000 and 2006). Names for hurricanes and storms are generally retired in the event of direct fatalities or extensive damage.
What are the chances the storm touches down in Tampa?
A direct hit by Isaac would be the first one Tampa has experienced in nine decades. Even including the worst-case scenario—torrential downpours, sizable storm surges, and full-scale hurricane-force winds—forecasters put the odds of evacuation at around 3 percent. (However, some analysts gave Isaac a 50 percent chance of harming American oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico.)
Are people besides convention-goers being affected by this storm?
Yes, very much so, and given the widespread danger Isaac poses in the Caribbean, it seems sort of myopic to focus on the RNC: Puerto Rico has opened 428 shelters, and 50 people have hunkered down so far, according to Gov. Luis Fortuno. (Roughly 4,000 people are already without power, and more than 3,000 don't have access to clean water.) The Virgin Islands are battening down the hatches as well and were hit with 40-mile-an-hour winds and a 10-foot surge of waves on Thursday.
While working at Walmart, Koon gave the Federal Emergency Management Agency an interview (its since been wiped from the government agency's site) that offers some insight into his (and the corporation's) disaster preparedness philosophy:
We have an extensive database that helps us keep track of what the most popular items are after each type of disaster, which enables us to get the right merchandise to an area more quickly in preparation for or in response to an emergency…
Our ideal situation is one in which private sector, non-governmental organizations and local, state and federal government emergency management organizations…develop inter-operable plans that maximize those strengths and minimizes gaps in coverage…We feel that we are on the right road to get to this eventuality, but it will still be a long trip. It started with Hurricane Katrina, where the folly of planning in a vacuum and hoping for the best was exposed and the benefits of involving the private sector were clearly illustrated.
Koon's faith in Walmart's ability to figure out a hurricane isn't a total aberration; in 2008, multiple media outlets trumpeted "Wal-Mart to the Rescue," an economist's study (PDF) that concluded the big-box store performed impeccably in the post-Katrina recovery, thanks to "superior organizational routines that emerge through private ownership and competitive markets." Few of these media reports pointed out that the author, Stephen Horwitz, is a politically conservative libertarian whose CV includes numerous articles for The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies.
What have leaders in Florida been saying recently?
"Public safety—that's going to be the No. 1 priority. We can have the convention again," Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll said on Wednesday.
"We'd be dealing a lot with storm surge issues down there," Koon told reporters. "We're also working on a high number of potential evacuations."
Here's footage of a press conference Scott held on Thursday morning:
If this becomes a hurricane, where do folks find shelters?
The Hillsborough County government has a list [PDF] of public hurricane shelters for both low and high intensity storms (all the listed locations are at local public schools).
Is Tropical Storm Isaac a liberal conspiracy?
Um, no, but we'll keep you posted if new information comes through suggesting otherwise. In the meantime, here's Rush Limbaugh (a man famous for branding The Dark Knight Rises an anti-Romney conspiracy) talking about how President Obama is orchestrating the storm-related panic in order to throw the Republican convention into Day After Tomorrow-type chaos:
I can see Obama sending FEMA in in advance of the hurricane hitting Tampa so that the Republican convention is nothing but a bunch of tents in Tampa, a bunch of RVs and stuff. Make it look like a disaster area before the hurricane even hits there.
Is there something about GOP conventions that attract hurricanes?
Not quite, but this isn't the first time something like this has happened, either. For instance, just back in 2008, Hurricane Gustav hit Louisiana while Republicans were beginning their national convention in St. Paul, Minnesota. Even though the hurricane ended up missing St. Paul by hundreds of miles, weather concerns caused organizers to cancel or roll back several opening-day events.
UPDATE 1 (Friday, August 24, 11:50 a.m. PDT): At maximum sustained winds at 60 mph (the threshold for turning into a hurricane is 74), Tropical Storm Isaac has gained strength, but does not seem to be showing signs of rapid intensification. The Washington Post reports:
Much of southern Florida could receive 6-9” in the next few days, with locally higher amounts. Areas in Haiti and Dominican Republic could see 10-20” of rain, with 6-12” in Jamaica and eastern Cuba. Besides flooding, additional threats include coastal storm surge, tornadoes, and of course, winds from the storm itself.
The storm does appear to be veering West, away from the site of the Republican convention in Tampa. However, National Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen said Friday that "[n]ot by any stretch of the imagination [is Tampa] out of the woods with this thing."
Here's the National Hurricane Center's updated wind speed probability for the storm, for 8:00 a.m. EDT on Friday:
Update 2 (Sunday, August 26, 2:30 p.m. PDT): Sunday afternoon, Tropical Storm Isaac started blasting the Florida Keys with rain and heavy winds, and could escalate into a Category 2 hurricane by the time it reaches the northern Gulf Coast in the next couple of days. Isaac has already killed nine people: seven in Haiti (where 8,000 people were evacuated) and two in the Dominican Republic.
But the political casualties seem to be getting more attention. Even though the hurricane is not expected to directly hit the RNC, the National Hurricane Center has put out a tropical storm warning for Tampa Bay, and convention events have been postponed until Tuesday afternoon, when the worst of the storm is expected to have passed.
Gov. Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency and canceled all of his convention-related activities today and tomorrow in order to help prepare the area and the 70,000 convention-goers for the mess. The Obama administration has dispatched FEMA, which already has emergency response teams on the ground, and coastal residents have been warned they may need to evacuate.
Isaac is not going to rain on the Republican parade though. RNC Chair Reince Priebus affirmed: "The Republican National Convention is going to take place. We know that we will officially nominate Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan."
Forecasters are not sure exactly what the path of the storm will be, and say hurricane conditions could reach anywhere from New Orleans to the Florida Panhandle by late Tuesday. –Erika Eichelberger
Update 3 (August 27, 2012 10:50 a.m. PDT): Isaac has passed by Tampa and left the RNC unscathed, but is gathering strength and barreling its way towards the Gulf Coast, headed for New Orleans. The National Weather Service projects it will hit land as a Category 1 hurricane by late Tuesday.
Though the storm, which coincides with the seventh anniversary of Katrina, is nowhere near that monster storm's Category 5 strength, it could still be pretty dangerous, according to AccuWeather. It's big, extending hundreds of miles from its center, and moving fast, and will likely bring inland flooding, downed trees, power outages and storm surges of up to 12 feet.
Thousands have been evacuated in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, and even though New Orleans residents haven't yet been ordered to leave their homes, many in the Katrina-ravaged Ninth Ward have understandably "self-evacuated." FEMA has moved thousands of pounds of emergency supplies to distribution centers in the area, and over 4,000 Louisiana National Guard troops have been deployed to help with the response.
But on to more pressing things. As networks move some of their correspondents and anchors from Tampa to New Orleans, Republicans worry they may have to share airtime with footage of people evacuating and/or trying not to drown.
RNC Chair Reince Priebus, for his part, is totally focused on the storm's potential victims. "Obviously we want to pray for anyone that's in the pathway of this storm," Priebus said today on NBC's "Today" show, "but the message is still the same: that all Americans deserve a better future and that this president ... didn't keep the promises he made in 2008." –Erika Eichelberger
Update 4 (August 28, 2012 9:00 a.m. PDT): This morning Isaac was heading towards landfall, and will most likely hit the Louisana or Mississippi coast as a Category 1 hurricane late tonight or early tomorrow. The storm could bring winds of up to 90mph, and certain places may see rainfall of up to 20 inches. Twenty-two people have now been left dead in its wake.
This morning Obama delivered a statement on Isaac from the White House. He urged residents to "listen to your local officials and follow their directions" and said he had signed a disaster declaration for Louisiana to ensure federal funding and FEMA help are at the ready.
"We’re dealing with a big storm and there could be significant flooding and other damage across a large area," he said. "Now is not the time to tempt fate. Now is not the time to dismiss official warnings. You need to take this seriously."
Or not. Because, as Rush Limbaugh notes, Obama is probably tampering with the forecast in order to screw with the RNC. The National Hurricane Center is "the regime… It's the government. It's Obama." –Erika Eichelberger
The United States is one of the only countries in the world that doesn't give sick workers paid leave.
Now some New York City politicians are trying to change that—at least for their little corner of the country. A proposed city law would require most employers to give staff at least five days of paid sick leave each year. A veto-proof majority of City Council members support the bill, which has both grassroots and glitzy backers, but Council Speaker Christine Quinn (who killed a similar bill in 2010) refuses to bring it to a vote, citing potential strain on business and a crappy economy.
North Carolina is dealing with sea level rise by banning science. California is doing something else: actually making plans.
The Golden State has made itself a leader on climate change in recent years, with initiatives to slash greenhouse gas emissions and amp up renewable energy, and has now just released a hefty report on global warming's impacts on the state and how it plans to adapt to a hot new West.
The report, put out by the California Energy Commission and Natural Resources Agency on Tuesday, combines the work of dozens of research teams and will lay the foundation for a climate change adaptation strategy for the state, due out by the end of this year. Here are some of the solutions they've brainstormed:
1. Chill-out stations. Life in a hotter California is not going to be fun. The state is projected to warm up to 8 degrees by 2100, according to the report, which means more dehydration, more heart attacks, more infectious diseases floating about. The study says cooling centers in cities will be key, and the public health department is pushing to green urban areas, install "cool" roofs and pavement that reflect sunlight, and up the capacity of health centers.