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The Notorious Princeton Mom Thinks It's Only Rape If the Attacker Uses a Gun or a Knife

| Fri Dec. 12, 2014 2:01 PM EST

Author Susan Patton, aka the "Princeton Mom," is jumping into the national discussion about campus sexual assault, telling CNN's Carol Costello that the current definition of rape has been warped into nebulous exaggeration.

"[It] is no longer when a woman is violated at the point of a gun or a knife," Patton explained. "We're now identifying as rape what really is a clumsy hookup melodrama or a fumbled attempt at a kiss or caress."

Patton's comments were prompted by a new report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics showing that only one in ten sexual assault assailments use weapons and 80 percent of victims are familiar with their attackers. She basically depicts these situations as inebriated, bad choices between two friends, and nothing more.

Patton goes on to describe most assaults as "learning experiences" and wonders, "why do you not just get up and leave? Or why do you not, as a woman, tell a man who’s making advances that, ‘You know what? Stop, leave.’”

It's sad to say, but Patton's views are nothing out of the ordinary, despite the fact one in five undergraduate women experience sexual assault in college. But in light of the recent controversy ignited by Rolling Stone's UVA story and mounting rape allegations against Bill Cosby, Patton's opinions are especially obnoxious.

Watch and behold a perfect example of how not to talk about rape:

 

 

 

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Chart of the Day: The World Has More Oil Than It Needs

| Fri Dec. 12, 2014 12:28 PM EST

I don't have a lot to say about this, but I wanted to pass along this chart from Chris Mooney over at Wonkblog. Basically, it shows that although both supply and demand for oil have been roughly in sync for the past five years, demand abruptly dropped earlier this year and is projected to stay low next year. This is why prices have dropped so far: not because supply has skyrocketed thanks to fracking—the supply trendline is actually fairly smooth—but because the world is using less oil.

This is a short-term blip, and I don't want to make too much of it. Still, regular readers will remember that one of the biggest problems with oil isn't high prices per se. The world can actually get along OK with high oil prices. The problem is spikes in oil prices caused by sudden imbalances between supply and demand. Historically this wasn't a big problem because potential supply was much higher than demand. If demand went up, the Saudis and others just opened up the taps a bit and everything was back in balance.

But that hasn't been true for a while. There's very little excess capacity these days, so if oil supply drops due to war or natural disaster, it can result in a very sudden spike in prices. And that can lead to economic chaos. But if demand has fallen significantly below supply, it means we now have excess capacity again. And if we have excess capacity, it means that the price of oil can be managed. It will still go up and down, but it's less likely to unexpectedly spike upward. And this in turn means that, at least in the near future, oil is unlikely to derail the economic recovery. It's a small but meaningful piece of good news.

Here's What Democrats Got Out of the Cromnibus

| Fri Dec. 12, 2014 10:30 AM EST

The worst part of the "cromnibus" spending bill was the provision that guts a small piece of the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill and allows banks to get back into the custom swaps business. So why did Democratic negotiators agree to this? In a long tick-tock published yesterday, Politico tells us:

During [] negotiations with House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), his Senate counterpart, agreed to keep the provision in exchange for more funding for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission, according to aides.

OK. Democrats have been ambivalent about this particular provision of Dodd-Frank from the start, and therefore they were willing to cut a deal that allowed Republicans to repeal it. But what about the rest of the spending bill? Republicans got a bunch of venal little favors inserted, but what did Democrats get? Here's retiring Rep. Jim Moran:

In 20 years of being on the appropriations bill, I haven’t seen a better compromise in terms of Democratic priorities. Implementing the Affordable Care Act, there’s a lot more money for early-childhood development — the only priority that got cut was the EPA but we gave them more money than the administration asked for....There were 26 riders that were extreme and would have devastated the Environmental Protection Agency in terms of the Clean Water and Clean Air Act administration; all of those were dropped. There were only two that were kept and they wouldn’t have been implemented this fiscal year. So, we got virtually everything that the Democrats tried to get.

And here is President Obama:

The Administration appreciates the bipartisan effort to include full-year appropriations legislation for most Government functions that allows for planning and provides certainty, while making progress toward appropriately investing in economic growth and opportunity, and adequately funding national security requirements. The Administration also appreciates the authorities and funding provided to enhance the U.S. Government’s response to the Ebola epidemic, and to implement the Administration’s strategy to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, as well as investments for the President’s early education agenda, Pell Grants, the bipartisan Manufacturing Institutes initiative, and extension of the Trade Adjustment Assistance program.

What's the point of posting this laundry list? Curiosity. Last night a reader sent a tweet to me: "Honest question: what do progressives get out of this? 'Govt not shutting down' not enough." I was stumped. I really had no idea whether Democrats had gotten anything in this bill, or if they were just caving in to a whole bunch of obnoxious Republican demands merely in exchange for keeping the government funded.

But as it turns out, Democrats did get a bunch of stuff they wanted. And of course, that's in addition to getting the government funded before Republicans take over Congress in January, which is worthwhile all by itself. We can each decide for ourselves whether Democrats got enough, or if they should have held out for a better deal, but they weren't left empty-handed.

So what I'm curious about is this: why are virtually no Democrats talking about this? As near as I can tell, there was literally no attempt to sell this compromise to the base, or to anyone else. As a result, the general feeling among progressives is simple: this bill was an unqualified cave-in from gutless Democrats who, once again, refused to fight back against Republican hostage taking. And as usual, Republicans won.

I understand that trying to defend a messy, backroom bill that trades some dull but responsible victories for a bunch of horrible little giveaways isn't very appealing to anyone. And who knows? Maybe Democrats were afraid that if they crowed too much about the concessions they'd won it would just provoke the tea party wing of the Republican party and scuttle the bill. The tea partiers were already plenty pissed off about the cromnibus, after all.

Still, shouldn't someone have been in charge of quietly making the progressive case for this bill? It wouldn't have convinced everyone, but it might have reduced the grumbling within the base a little bit. Why was that not worth doing?

Study Confirms What Your Mother Always Says About Your Father

| Fri Dec. 12, 2014 10:10 AM EST

One day he's going to die doing something stupid:

A 20 year study of the Darwin Awards, an annual review of the most foolish ways people have died, found almost 90 per cent were 'won' by males.

Of the 318 valid cases remaining, 282 (88.7 per cent) were awarded to males and just 36 to females, a gender difference entirely consistent with male idiot theory (MIT) that states men are idiots and idiots do stupid things.

Writing in the Christmas edition of the British Medical Journal, the researchers say it is puzzling that men are willing to take such unnecessary risks - simply as a rite of passage, in pursuit of male social esteem or solely in exchange for "bragging rights".

The study is tongue in cheek but to be honest it's not even really surprising. We're awful. I'm a man. I come from a long line of men. (My father was a man. His father was a man...) Some of my best friends are men! But men are awful. Women are awful, too, but, you know, less awful.

Torture Is Not a Hard Concept

| Thu Dec. 11, 2014 11:06 PM EST

Like all of us, I've had to spend the past several days listening to a procession of stony-faced men—some of them defiant, others obviously nervous—grimly trying to defend the indefensible, and I'm not sure how much more I can take. How hard is this, after all? Following 9/11, we created an extensive and cold-blooded program designed to inflict severe pain on prisoners in order to break them and get them to talk. That's torture. It always has been, and even a ten-year-old recognizes that legalistic rationalizations about enemy combatants, "serious" physical injury, and organ failure are transparent sophistry. Of course we inflicted severe pain. Moderate pain would hardly induce anyone to talk, would it? And taking care not to leave permanent marks doesn't mean it's not torture, it just means you're trying to make sure you don't get caught.

Christ almighty. Either you think that state-sanctioned torture of prisoners is beyond the pale for a civilized country or you don't. No cavils. No resorts to textual parsing. And no exceptions for "we were scared." This isn't a gray area. You can choose to stand with history's torturers or you can choose to stand with human decency. Pick a side.

Here's How Much the Storm Is Helping California's Epic Drought

| Thu Dec. 11, 2014 6:21 PM EST
People canoeing and kayaking in a flooded parking lot in Healdsburg, California.

In the midst of the most intense drought in hundreds of years, Northern California is being bombarded with rain (here are some crazy photos). In a state that produces roughly half of the country's fruits and veggies, the water is more than welcome. The storm is expected to dump 2-8 inches of water in the Bay Area, and 2-5 inches in Southern California. But California would need 18-21 more inches of rain over the next six months in order to make up for the drought, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The state usually gets about 23 inches of rain per year.

Check out the similarity between a drought intensity chart from two weeks ago, when California was still pretty dry, and two days ago, after several days of rain.

Compared with the levels two weeks ago, there's been a small but noticeable increase in the state's reservoir water; California's two largest reservoirs, Shasta Lake and Lake Oroville, have both seen a three percent rise. The image below, updated on December 10th, compares how much California's reservoirs can hold (in yellow) with how much they're currently holding (in blue).

California Department of Water Resources

Some experts are worried that the rain will make people forget about the fact that California's still in a drought. "Thursday it'll rain, and people will say, 'Oh, I'm very excited,' and Saturday it'll rain, and 'Oh, drought’s over.' Not even close," Jeffrey Mount, a senior fellow with Public Policy Institute of California focused on water, told KQED. "This has been three consecutive years of extreme dryness, and that extreme dryness translates to much lower groundwater levels, and very dry soils. It’s going to take a lot of rain to break this drought."

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Dozens of Staffers Just Walked Out of Congress. This Powerful Picture Shows Why.

| Thu Dec. 11, 2014 3:55 PM EST

On Thursday afternoon, dozens of congressional staffers walked out in protest of the recent grand jury decisions failing to indict the two officers who killed Eric Garner and Michael Brown. The result was an incredible display of solidarity, with staffers raising their hands in the air to invoke Brown's "hands up, don't shoot" image. See the photos below:

 

Here's the Ugly Side of Bipartisanship

| Thu Dec. 11, 2014 2:36 PM EST

Dylan Matthews, after running down all the obnoxious amendments to the omnibus spending bill currently wending its way through Congress, wonders aloud if it's still worth supporting:

If you're Barack Obama, or a liberal Democrat generally, most of these riders are setbacks, in some cases significant ones. Indeed, Obama's condemned the Dodd-Frank and campaign finance provisions. He could, in theory, reject the deal and demand that Congress send him a bill without changes to Dodd-Frank, or one that doesn't meddle in DC's affairs, etc. And yet he has come out in favor of House passage of the bill.

Is he making a massive mistake?

This is one of those things that demonstrates the chasm between political activists and analysts on the one side, and working politicians on the other. If you take a look at the bill, it does indeed have a bunch of objectionable features. People like me, with nothing really at stake, can bitch and moan about them endlessly. But you know what? For all the interminable whining we do about the death of bipartisanship in Washington, this is what bipartisanship looks like. It always has. It's messy, it's ugly, and it's petty. Little favors get inserted into bills to win votes. Other favors get inserted as payback for the initial favors. Special interests get stroked. Party whips get a workout.

That's politics. The fact that it's happening right now is, in a weird sense, actually good news. It means that, for a few days at least, politics is working normally again.

I understand that this sounds very Slatepitchy. But it's true. Even at its best, politics is lubricated by venality, ego, and mutual backscratching. And you know what? By the normal standards of this kind of stuff, the obnoxious riders in the current spending bill are pretty mild. Really. The only one that rises above the level of a political misdemeanor is the provision that allows banks to get back into the custom swaps business, and even that's hardly the end of the world. Swaps may have provided a tailwind to the 2008 financial collapse, but they were far from its core cause.

So should working politicians avert their gaze from the muck and vote to keep the government functioning? Of course they should. Government shutdowns are immensely costly in their own right, after all. This kind of crass calculus sucks, but that's human nature for you. All things considered, I'd say we all got off fairly easy this time around.

There's a Big Coal Giveaway in the Cromnibus Bill

| Thu Dec. 11, 2014 2:17 PM EST

This story originally was originally published by The Huffington Post and is republished here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

The 1,000-page omnibus spending package released Tuesday night is reigniting a fight over rules for U.S. financing of coal plants abroad.

In October 2013, the Treasury Department announced that it would stop providing funding for conventional coal plants abroad, except in "very rare" cases. And in December 2013, the Export-Import Bank announced a new policy that would restrict financing for most new coal-fired power plants abroad. The bank, often called Ex-Im, exists to provide financial support to projects that spur the export of U.S. products and services. The change in coal policy aligned with President Barack Obama's June 2013 call to end US funding of fossil fuel energy projects abroad unless the products include carbon capture technology.

But the language in the omnibus blocks both Ex-Im and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the US's development finance institution, from using any funds in the bill to enforce these new restrictions on coal projects.

Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), chair of the House Committee on Appropriations, touted this prohibition in his statement on the spending package. He said the measure would help "to increase exports of US goods and services." Rogers told The Hill that coal exports "are just about the only bright light in the coal business these days."

Environmental groups have fought for years to get the government's financial institutions to stop funding fossil fuel projects abroad, including a number of coal-fired power plants, mines, pipelines and natural gas export terminals. Friends of the Earth President Erich Pica said in a statement that including this rider in the omnibus "undercuts one of the most important contributions President Obama has made to climate policy internationally."

"This continued desperate attempt by Republicans to prop up the moribund coal industry is a fools errand," Justin Guay, associate director of the international climate program at the Sierra Club, told The Huffington Post. "The coal industry is a dead man walking; it's time to align our economy with an industry that actually has a future."

Jon Stewart Can't Believe the Right Wing Defense of the CIA Torture Report Either

| Thu Dec. 11, 2014 2:00 PM EST

From rectal feeding to threats aimed at children, the horrific practices outlined by the Senate Intelligence Committee's torture report have provoked widespread condemnation of the CIA. As if these torture methods weren't enough to swallow in one news cycle, a number of talking heads were quick to applaud the torturers. Andrea Tantaros of—surpriser!—Fox News and her unbelievable "America is awesome" rant is just one example.

Last night, Jon Stewart showed he's just as disgusted with these responses as the rest of us. Watch below: