Interesting Read: “Want to help prevent rape? Withdraw Kavanaugh’s nomination”

Sandra Newman, in the Washington Post:

The most charitable explanation for the laissez-faire attitude of Kavanaugh’s defenders seems to be that sexual assault is so common that many people find it normal… This produces a strong incentive to believe some rapes are worse than others; that the rapes on crime shows are atrocities, while those that our acquaintances or ideological allies perpetrate are regrettable mistakes. The high prevalence of sexual violence can also produce a feeling of helplessness: if it’s so common, perhaps it’s just a given of male sexuality that nothing will ever change?

However, the evidence suggests we can prevent rape. First, it occurs at radically different rates in different societies. It may seem shocking that 6 to 15 percent of American men admit to serious sex crimes, but the percentage of men who say they’ve committed rape in China is 23 percent, and in Papua New Guinea, it’s a staggering 60.7 percent. The percentages of women who say they’ve been raped in these countries are similarly high. This large variation makes it clear that rates of rape are highly malleable. Sexual assault in wartime is notoriously high — but it also differs dramatically from army to army, and the rate changes rapidly in response to policy changes from above. For instance, the notoriously high rate of sexual violence by the Red Army at the end of the Second World War decreased abruptly when the Soviet leadership decided it was a political problem and instituted rules to discourage it. In the Salvadoran civil war, rapes by government soldiers plummeted once the United States threatened to withdraw military aid if the government’s human-rights record didn’t improve.

The crucial elements seem to be whether a rapist fears punishment and whether he feels it will be viewed as a serious crime by peers. In her study “Understanding Sexual Violence,” conducted for the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health in 1990, Diana Scully conducted extensive 89-page interviews with over 100 incarcerated rapists. Her first significant finding was that rapists assumed they would never be punished. As one said: “I knew I was doing wrong. But I also knew most women don’t report rape, and I didn’t think she would either.” The rapists were also remarkably preoccupied by what other people would think of them, talking about their victims’ moral failings and lying about details of their crimes to make them seem less violent. They overwhelmingly saw the kind of rape they had personally committed as normal. As one subject put it, “When you take a woman out, woo her, then she says: ‘No, I’m a nice girl,’ you have to use force. All men do this.”

Scully concluded that these calculations played a crucial role in their decisions to force women into sex. Rapists saw rape as “a rewarding, low-risk act” they could engage in safely, and for which no reasonable person would blame them. In their eyes, their incarceration was the result of plain bad luck. All this is chillingly reminiscent of the reaction of powerful men targeted by the #MeToo movement — and of the reactions of conservatives this week who are willing to propose that Kavanaugh is guilty while excusing his act as a drunken mistake.

Sexual assault is a crime that is notoriously difficult to prove. Even with the laudable intent of preventing future rapes, we reasonably balk when forced to decide whether to put a possibly innocent man in prison. There is no such problem when considering whether to deny someone the chance to be a Supreme Court justice. All but five men in the world already share the terrible fate of not serving on the court. And, perverse though it may seem, the nomination of an accused sex offender is a great opportunity. Delaying or withdrawing this nomination will send a message that there is no such thing as ordinary, forgivable, just-a-bit-of-drunken-boyishness attempted rape. If we care about all the sexual assaults that haven’t yet occurred; if we care about the girls and boys who will become victims; if we care about preventing the debilitating, life-threatening trauma disorders victims often suffer, we must treat attempted rape as disqualifying for a Supreme Court justice.

Florence: An Ongoing, Slow-Rolling Disaster

In case anyone needs a rejoinder to the ‘ha ha, stupid people who won’t get out of harm’s way’ disaster-glee…

Evacuation, like most disaster resilience actions—and really, like most of life—is easier if you have wealth, health and extensive social networks. Being able to pack up your life and leave takes privileges you may not even realize you have. Everyone is doing the best they can based on their personal context.

It takes money to displace yourself. It takes having somewhere better to go and a way to get there. Having a full tank of gas is a luxury when you live paycheck to paycheck. Spending money up front and then waiting for reimbursement requires that you have the money in the first place, while knowing what expenses are covered and how to file the paperwork requires knowledge not everyone has or has access to.

Missing shifts at work is unthinkable when every dollar counts. Some workplaces keep employees as long as legally possible, more worried about lost profits than lost lives.

Delayed evacuation carries a different risk due to the sheer number of people trying to escape on roads that can barely handle rush hour, much less a mass exodus. People can be trapped in gridlock on the roads, running out of gas—or, worse yet, still be out in the open when the storm comes and the floodwaters rise…

Vulnerable populations—immigrants, single parents, elderly, people with disabilities, people in poverty—all face unique risks. Evacuating depletes community support during a diaspora, a frightening prospect when the people around you are essential to your survival. It increases stress on elderly, sometimes with fatal consequences: clearing out retirement and homes can actually kill their residents. Yet staying in place and suffering through mass infrastructure failures can do the same thing.

People with disabilities, injuries or illness may require specialized equipment to survive. Without a custom vehicle or assistance from others, it may be literally impossible to evacuate…

People impacted by disasters need you to have empathy. They need you to advocate for preparing for the next disaster while still recovering from this one. They need your support, whether it’s in the form of cash donations; voting for politicians with the integrity to vote for spending money on mitigation before the next disaster rather than on relief afterward; or even sending them cute animal pictures to cheer them up after another long day of cleaning up the mess. They need your help, not your judgement…

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Another Storm Resource

The Energy Information Administration has an interactive map of energy infrastructure with storm information. It looks like something that energy nerds could spend some time with even when we’re not expecting major storm disruptions. The graphic at the top of the post is a screen grab. Check out the real thing. Also lots of useful links to energy information on the page.

Open thread, also too.


Open Thread: Woodward & All the President’s Minions

Bob Woodward’s massive volumes are not meant to be read from start to finish, any more than one would read the motel Yellow Pages alphabetically in search of an open diner. They are expensive objects meant to establish the buyer’s political savvy, or to search the index for anecdotes about one’s frenemies. Most of them roll out for the media tour under the hidden subtext that Everything Is Working Out for the Best; the newest — note the snappy title! — falls into the small & lethal category of This Subject Has Become A Problem And Will Be Dealt With Accordingly.

Yet despite Woodward’s sterling history among the highly credentialed, reviewers no longer seem completely convinced he can repeat his 1974 marketing coup. Isaac Chotiner, at Slate, says “Bob Woodward’s new book presents Trump staffers as our last line of defense. We’re doomed.”

Woodward’s book—which arrived at around the same time as the already infamous, still-currently anonymous New York Times op-ed about the men and women in the executive branch supposedly working to protect America from Donald Trump—is as much a portrait of the craven, ineffective, and counterproductive group of “adults” surrounding Trump as it is a more predictable look into the president’s shortcomings. It’s not entirely clear how aware Woodward is of what he has revealed about the people he’s quoting at length. (Sources tend to come off well in his books.) But intentionally or not, Fear will make plain to the last optimist that, just as Republicans in Congress are unlikely to save us, neither are the relative grown-ups in the Trump administration.

Is Woodward the last optimist? He obviously believes that Trump is unfit to be president, but a reader can’t quite shake the sense that he somehow thinks maybe, just maybe, things could be different with the right coaching or incentives. Fear is a book full of stories about Trump being contained; his instincts being thwarted; his worst qualities being slightly minimized by people who claim to be afraid of what would happen if they weren’t there. “It’s not what we did for the country,” former Trump economic adviser Gary Cohn says early on. “It’s what we saved him from doing.” Quotes like this aim to settle the ethical debate—which has been going on from the start of the Trump presidency—over whether anyone should be working for a bigoted and corrupt president with no respect for democracy, even if they are planning to, in that most tiresome phrase, contain his worst impulses. But that conversation has obscured the more pressing question of what those supposedly well-intentioned individuals can actually accomplish from the inside. Even allowing for the self-serving nature of the accounts that Woodward offers here, the answer appears to be: not much.
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Angry, Bitter Open Thread: Serena, Naomi, and the Nasty Little Sexist

I may not know much about tennis, but there’s few women lucky enough to have avoided the “Smile, Bitch, or Else” moment when some petty little pocket tyrant gets to hold our job / career / life hostage. I’m gonna assume it’s even worse for Black women, because the combination of racism and sexism usually is. And it wasn’t just Serena Williams the pismire was punishing for his own failures, either. Sally Jenkins, in the Washington Post:

Chair umpire Carlos Ramos managed to rob not one but two players in the women’s U.S. Open final. Nobody has ever seen anything like it: An umpire so wrecked a big occasion that both players, Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams alike, wound up distraught with tears streaming down their faces during the trophy presentation and an incensed crowd screamed boos at the court. Ramos took what began as a minor infraction and turned it into one of the nastiest and most emotional controversies in the history of tennis, all because he couldn’t take a woman speaking sharply to him…

When Williams, still seething, busted her racket over losing a crucial game, Ramos docked her a point. Breaking equipment is a violation, and because Ramos already had hit her with the coaching violation, it was a second offense and so ratcheted up the penalty.

The controversy should have ended there. At that moment, it was up to Ramos to de-escalate the situation, to stop inserting himself into the match and to let things play out on the court. In front of him were two players in a sweltering state, who were giving their everything, while he sat at a lordly height above them. Below him, Williams vented, “You stole a point from me. You’re a thief.”

… Ramos has put up with worse from a man. At the French Open in 2017, Ramos leveled Rafael Nadal with a ticky-tacky penalty over a time delay, and Nadal told him he would see to it that Ramos never refereed one of his matches again.

But he wasn’t going to take it from a woman pointing a finger at him and speaking in a tone of aggression. So he gave Williams that third violation for “verbal abuse” and a whole game penalty, and now it was 5-3, and we will never know whether young Osaka really won the 2018 U.S. Open or had it handed to her by a man who was going to make Serena Williams feel his power. It was an offense far worse than any that Williams committed. Chris Evert spoke for the entire crowd and television audience when she said, “I’ve been in tennis a long time, and I’ve never seen anything like it.”…

Ramos had rescued his ego and, in the act, taken something from Williams and Osaka that they can never get back. Perhaps the most important job of all for an umpire is to respect the ephemeral nature of the competitors and the contest. Osaka can never, ever recover this moment. It’s gone. Williams can never, ever recover this night. It’s gone. And so Williams was entirely right in calling him a “thief.”

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Thursday Morning Open Thread: Never Stop Fighting

Republicans Move To Confirm Kavanaugh

I just realized that I don’t recall a post on Brett Kavanaugh, Donald Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court. The hearings are coming up this week, and there are lots of questions. Here is some background.

How Brett Kavanaugh Would Transform the Supreme Court

…His confirmation would result in a rare replacement of the court’s swing justice, moving Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. — a much more reliably conservative vote than Justice Kennedy — to the court’s ideological center…Justice Kennedy and Chief Justice Roberts were on the opposite sides of 51 closely divided decisions in which Justice Kennedy joined the court’s liberals…All of those precedents are at risk.

While Chief Justice Roberts, 63, would represent a sharp change as the swing justice, that does not mean that the court will make a sudden leap to the right. Chief Justice Roberts is generally inclined to move in incremental steps, and he cares about the Supreme Court’s legitimacy and prestige. “It is a jolt to the legal system when you overrule a precedent,” he said at his confirmation hearings in 2005.

That did not stop him from joining a decision in June that overruled a 40-year-old precedent in a decision that dealt a sharp blow to public labor unions. In general, though, a court with the chief justice at its center would most likely move steadily to the right in measured steps.

Kavanaugh worked in the Bush administration. Trump has declared executive privilege on that work so that Congress can’t examine Kavanaugh’s documents. (BuzzFeed, CNN)

Here’s the breakdown of likely Senate votes. Most commentators expect that Republicans will win.

Call your congresscritters. Stiffen the Democrats’ spines and excoriate the Republicans!