" last week's episode of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," came with a disclosure: "The following story is fictional and does not depict any actual person or event."
Which is true to the extent there hasn't been a big rape case at Tompkins Square University, mostly because there's no college with that name. However, nearly every single plot point drew off of real life events from the past couple years at college campuses around the country. (WARNING: SPOILER ALERTS AHEAD)
Here's a point-by-point breakdown:
- "Law & Order: SVU": The episode begins with girls being hazed at Nu Iota Pie, during which the pledges' body fat is circled with marker.
- In Real Life: A sorority at Young Harris College allegedly drew with permanent marker on the parts of female pledge's bodies that jiggle.
- SVU: The victim at the center of the episode was a college freshman named Lindsay, and she commits suicide at the end.
- IRL: Lizzy Seeberg, also a freshman, committed suicide not long after she reported her campus rape.
- SVU: One of the main allegations against the fictional college is that they tried to keep their sexual assault numbers down as reported in the Clery Act reports, a federally mandated log of crime statistics on campus.
- IRL: Swarthmore College, Occidental College, and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill have all faced allegations they pressure officials to keep the number of sexual assaults down in Clery Act reports.
- SVU: The investigators discover another girl, Renee Clark, had reported a sexual assault, but after the school didn't believe her, she ended up leaving the school and committing herself to a pysch ward where she began electro shock treatments. The student later comes back out and tells a jury that the school failed to address to her rape, and in the last scene, says she plans to go back to college.
- IRL: Angie Epifano was admitted to a psychiatric ward due to her suicidal threats after failed to address her reported rape. She left school and only later forced her college, Amherst, to address their problem with sexual assaults with a blistering and widely read op-ed. She also hopes to return to school.
- SVU: Renee, one of the students in the episode, was hit with an honor code violation after she spoke out about the school's handling of the assault for "intimidating my rapist."
- IRL: Landen Gambill, who filed a federal complaint against UNC, was hit with an honor code violation for "intimidating her rapist."
- SVU: The fraternity with the rapists on "Law & Order" is nicknamed the "rape factory" by students on the fictitious campus.
- IRL: Wesleyan University has been sued for failing to warn students about an actual frat on campus known as a "rape factory."
- SVU: One student says after she reported her rape, campus security was told "sex is like a football game," when you look back, what would you have done differently?
- IRL: Annie Clark was told by an administrator that "rape is like football" when she tried to report her sexual assault at UNC.
- SVU: The fraternity passed around a misogynistic t-shirt featuring a woman tied up, reading "We don't take no for an answer."
- IRL: Amherst College had their own sexist t-shirt featuring a woman tied up.
- SVU: Students at the frat circulate a list of 10 ways to rape.
- IRL: Miami University came under fire for a flier on campus detailing 10 ways to get away with rape.
- SVU: Students at the fictional college chanted on campus "No means yes, Yes means anal."
- IRL: Members of a fraternity at Yale University chanted that same phrase in 2010.
- SVU: There's the video of the rapists in the show laughing about how a girl was "raped to death."
- IRL: The student who was seen in a video laughing about how a girl is "so raped" in Steubenville, Ohio was a college student, but dropped out after the tape went public.
- SVU: Students at the very end stood on campus holding signs with the absurd comments made to victims by administrators, friends and roommates.
- IRL: Student survivors have used the tactic of showing signs with quotes they were told along with protesting on campus in support of victims.
With the exception of the Dean of Students being charged as an accessory to rape in the episode
, the show mostly played off of actual events, but the survivors whose stories they took from say they feel exploited.
Epifano wrote a blog post on Feministing
revealing that she began sobbing within two minutes of watching the episode because the story made her relive "every second of injustice and pain that I experienced at Amherst."
"It's sickening, appalling, and unnerving to realize that the worst experiences of your life have been condensed into 45 minutes of cable TV drama," Epifano said.
Epifano did give "SVU" credit for putting sexual assaults in college into the TV spotlight.
Alexandra Brodsky, who signed the federal complaint against Yale University over how the school handles sexual assaults, told Jezebel
that the episode shows that once a survivor goes public, "your story is no longer your own."
"'Law & Order' is brazenly capitalizing on the pain and trauma of young women and not only failing to compensate them for stealing their stories, but actually denying that they exist by claiming that the 'story is fictional and does not depict any actual person or event,'" wrote Lisa Wade
, a professor of sociology at Occidental College. "Stunning."
In the latest issue of New York magazine, Jonathan Chait puts forward an interesting argument which many casual political observers may not expect: if Barack Obama wins reelection he'll let us go off the "fiscal cliff" and end up raising taxes, fixing the deficit, and passing stimulus to boot. The newly released interview between Obama and the Des Moines Register (originally considered off the record) makes me think Chait is totally right.
Chait is not the first person to bring this up. I first heard this argument to do nothing back in the summer. In June, a lot of progressives like Lawrence O'Donnell began putting forward this calculated argument without much fan fare outside the devoted blogosphere.
Now here's why I'm leaning towards believing this is the game plan; the White House said they'd veto any deficit reduction without increased revenues. And even more, Obama reluctantly allowed the transcript of a phone conversation between him and the editor and publisher of the Des Moines Register be made public which had another clue (emphasis added):
"In the short term, the good news is that there’s going to be a forcing mechanism to deal with what is the central ideological argument in Washington right now, and that is: How much government do we have and how do we pay for it? So when you combine the Bush tax cuts expiring, the sequester in place, the commitment of both myself and my opponent -- at least Governor Romney claims that he wants to reduce the deficit -- but we’re going to be in a position where I believe in the first six months we are going to solve that big piece of business.
It will probably be messy. It won’t be pleasant. But I am absolutely confident that we can get what is the equivalent of the grand bargain that essentially I’ve been offering to the Republicans for a very long time, which is $2.50 worth of cuts for every dollar in spending, and work to reduce the costs of our health care programs. And we can easily meet -- “easily” is the wrong word -- we can credibly meet the target that the Bowles-Simpson Commission established of $4 trillion in deficit reduction, and even more in the out-years, and we can stabilize our deficit-to-GDP ratio in a way that is really going to be a good foundation for long-term growth. Now, once we get that done, that takes a huge piece of business off the table."
So there. That's enough clues to me to believe this is a route Obama is ready to go down. It depends on his reelection, the Democrats holding their majority in the Senate, and maybe even some Democrats taking back some seats in the House, although they certainly won't reclaim the majority.
It's an interesting and elaborate plan, but everything that's happened this year in politics has shown President Obama well knows he won't be able to do everything out in the open, he has to have some tricks up his sleeve.
Penn State Scandal: House Panel Won't Act Until Education Department Finishes Inquiry (243) Comments
| Posted July 14, 2012 | 2:41 PM
Members of Congress who want to hold a hearing to investigate child abuse reporting laws in light of the Penn State University scandal will have to wait. Penn State Facing Civil Lawsuits For Failure To Report Jerry Sandusky's Sexual Crimes (565) Comments
| Posted July 13, 2012 | 4:14 PM
Penn State University has three civil lawsuits pending against it for the failure to protect children from being sexually assaulted on campus by one-time assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. Freeh Report: Penn State Administration, Joe Paterno Covered Up Jerry Sandusky's Child Abuse (UPDATED) (8271) Comments
| Posted July 12, 2012 | 9:21 AM
The most powerful officials at Penn State actively worked to cover up Jerry Sandusky's sexual abuse and rape of children, failing to protect them against a sexual predator for more than a decade, according to an internal investigation released Thursday.Jerry Sandusky Scandal: Graham Spanier, Former Penn State President, Claims He Didn't Know Anything (15) Comments
| Posted July 10, 2012 | 6:08 PM
Graham Spanier, the former president of Pennsylvania State University, claims he was never told anything about Jerry Sandusky sexually abusing children on campus.
Word cloud of the State of the Union address by President Barack Obama on Jan. 24, 2012.
This chart is in reference to a claim made by the MPAA about money lost to the film industry, cited in a press release, compared against the analysis of Sanchez writing at the Cato Institute.
The chart above is based off of Julian Sanchez's analysis of claims at the Cato Institute made by the Motion Picture Association of America to push for the passage of the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act (also known as SOPA and PIPA).
The MPAA insists we're losing $58 billion annually thanks to online piracy, which the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says costs the country 19 million jobs. Sanchez found that to have come from the work of the Institute for Policy Innovation. Tim Lee tries to figure out how they got that $58 billion number:
In IPI-land, when a movie studio makes $10 selling a DVD to a Canadian, and then gives $7 to the company that manufactured the DVD and $2 to the guy who shipped it to Canada, society has benefitted by $10+$7+$2=$19. Yet some simple math shows that this is nonsense: the studio is $1 richer, the trucker is $2, and the manufacturer is $7. Shockingly enough, that adds up to $10. What each participant cares about is his profits, not his revenues. Sanchez: "So, to stay focused on movies, Siwek takes an estimate of $6.1 billion in piracy losses to the U.S. movie industry, and through the magic of multipliers gets us to a more impressive sounding $20.5 billion."So now we're down from $58 billion to $6.1 billion, but it turns out, that is a global number. It's not what would be potentially addressed by SOPA and PIPA legislation. "Of the total $6.1 billion in annual losses ... estimated to MPAA studios, the amount attributable to online piracy by users in the United States was $446 million—which, by coincidence, is roughly the amount grossed globally by Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel," Sanchez writes.And thus we can see it illustrated in my chart above, the number the MPAA puts in their press release -- $58 billion -- is more accurately $446 million, according to the analysis by Sanchez writing at the Cato Institute. (Keep in mind, we're talking about online piracy in the film industry, as this is coming from the movie industry talking about their industry.)
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has asserted as recently as 2008 that online piracy costs the U.S. economy as much as $225 billion a year. This turns out to have originated in a 1991 sidebar in Forbes magazine. As Sanchez notes, "it was not a measurement of the cost of "piracy" to the U.S. economy. It was an unsourced estimate of the total size of the global market in counterfeit goods." The Government Accountability Office has no idea where these numbers came from. Their research found them to be at a loss for how they could claim that $225 billion number in the past couple years.
Democratic mayors in Democratic cities across the country shut down Occupy Wall Street encampments long ago. So long, it seems, you might as well assume most were closed before the Christmas shopping season was underway. You would've most likely been right. Except in Washington, D.C.Instead, there were two operating and continuing with protests and Christmas-themed demonstrations. But now, on the heels of a report of a rodent problem around McPherson Square in Occupy DC's camp, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray wants to evict the protesters after they camped there for more than three months already. The problem is, although it's smack in the middle of downtown D.C., he has the authority to police them but lacks the jurisdiction to evict them. McPherson square actually falls to the National Park Service, and they don't seem too interested at the moment.The Washington Examiner reports Gray noted the D.C. health department determined conditions at McPherson are "particularly a threat to the health and safety of both protesters and District resident." Not missing a beat, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who has spent at least a month targeting Occupy DC, said "The city is trying its best to protect the health, welfare, and safety of people in and around the campsite. In this situation, the National Park Service has so far been more interested in making excuses than protecting the public."It's not the first time Gray signaled his displeasure with Occupy DC. He requested that the City be reimbursed by the federal government for overtime costs to police the protesters. But he has also praised them for their efforts around pushing for D.C. statehood.
If the NPS caves to the Gray, the two groups of Occupiers will have to become friends or go home
In the letter Gray wrote, he says "At a minimum, the Occupy DC sites at McPherson Square and Freedom Plaza must be consolidated at Freedom Plaza to allow for the elimination of the rat infestation, clean up, and restoration of McPherson Square." (His italics and emphasis)The reason there is a second encampment is all because of Stop the Machine -- a protest planned for months for Oct. 6, mostly filled with anti-war activists as well as organized labor from various spots in the country. They did their protest by the book: they filed for permits, set up stages, had a media tent, a schedule, and so on. But seizing on the sudden outburst of Occupy Wall Street protests around the country within the two weeks leading up to their day, they adopted the tag "Occupy Washington DC" and decided to stay put. They got a permit to stay in Freedom Plaza extended through at least February 2012.Kevin Zeese, a Stop the Machine organizer, who remains active with the Freedom Plaza protest now calling itself Occupy Washington DC, rightly points out it's not as easy as Gray thinks for them to merge with Occupy DC."The mayor's suggestion that the two camps be consolidated at Freedom Plaza will present some challenges," Zeese said in a statement. "Feeding more people means a significant increase in cost and great stress on our kitchen team. Our peacekeepers will have more people to monitor and keep at peace with each other. The two camps have different personalities and we do not want to lose the personality of Freedom Plaza."Late last year, I covered a relatively small march with Occupy DCers on from McPherson Square to the headquarters of the Democratic and Republican National Headquarters. They stopped several times as arguments, although not heated, broke out among the protesters. They kept having discussions about whether or not to try to get people from Freedom Plaza to join them since it was along their route. Some felt like it was Occupy DC's action, not Occupy Washington DC's, and there hadn't been proper planning, and worried it would've come off rude to the Freedom Plaza crew because of the way these Occupiers operate through consensus in their General Assemblies. Really, there has been a division here since the beginning of October. Both started the same week. Both had similar points of view. Both have built a community using teach-ins, famous activists coming to visit, linking up with unions and progressive groups for larger demonstrations.
But they haven't meshed well, so don't expect things to easily integrate. At this point they both have their own way of doing things. And for the DC Occupiers, it would probably be for their benefit to see them get evicted. New York didn't have to answer how they would deal with the cold and the snow, or risk getting criticized for dwindling numbers and being "fair weather protesters." Winter in DC has only been mild and only recently has there been snow on the ground for more than a day. So now, if they aren't evicted, they have to decide if they stay there, or go home and
Thanks to ProPublica and their solid database journalism on the SOPA/PIPA legislation, and who made the graphic above from their SOPA tracker.
A couple other points about what happened with the "Black Wednesday" protest:
EFF says that 250,000 people sent messages to Congress through their site.
Reddit got their own Political Action Committee.
Fight For the Future: 70,000 websites participated -- 40,000 were completely blacked out, another 30,000 sites altered their homepages in some other way.
Talking Points Memo notes at least 5 million people signed one of the online petitions against the legislation.
Twitter said (via tweet, of course) "2.4+ million SOPA-related Tweets from 12am-4pm ET today. Top 5 terms: SOPA, Stop SOPA, PIPA, Tell Congress."
For Congress, the discussion has now turned to whether they should exempt search engines from the PIPA legislation. The RIAA is staunchly opposed to it, but the move would be an attempt to remove power-players like Google and Yahoo! from the debate.
But it seems that especially on the Republican side, lawmakers are rapidly dropping support. If not opposing the legislation, they're saying they need it to slow down or be tweaked -- such as Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).
BuzzFeed has a round up of 50 lawmakers making a statement about SOPA/PIPA on Twitter.
So, who changed their position as a result of the Wednesday, Jan. 18 massive blackout?
- AZ-3 - Ben Quayle (R)
- NE-2 - Lee Terry (R)
- PA-17 - Tim Holden
Want to Change the Bill
- AK - Lisa Murkowski (R)
- FL - Marco Rubio (R)
- MO - Roy Blount (R)
- TX - John Cornyn (R)
- UT - Orin Hatch (R)
- MD - Ben Cardin (D)
- NM - Jeff Bingamen (D)
- SD - Tim Johnson (D)
- IA - Chuck Grassley (R)
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) introduced the OPEN Act to be the House version of a bill Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) introduced in the Senate.
Here's the total breakdown (House & Senate) of where they stand now:
Jan 18: 80
Jan 19: 65
Jan 18: 31
Jan 19: 101
Jan 18: 0
Jan 19: 41
Jan 18: 429
Jan 19: 332
Back in December, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chair of the House Oversight Committee, started sending off letters demanding a rigorous amount of information and communication records from the National Parks Service, as well as the Interior Department and the Obama administration. Why? Because Issa believes they've allowed Occupy DC protesters to "damage a park that had recently been rehabilitated with taxpayer funds."Occupy DC set up camp at the beginning of October in McPherson Square, and at this point, is one of the last remaining encampments in a major U.S. city.Conservative news outlets found out that McPherson had gotten stimulus funding and pounced on it without verification or further details.Turns out that, according to the National Parks Service, if protesters have damaged anything, it's nowhere near the $400,000 mark that conservatives claim, it was only $8,000 (Via Roll Call):“The NPS ... takes seriously its responsibility to protect the resources that have been entrusted in its care,” wrote O’Dell. “First Amendment activities, however, often come with a measure of wear and tear on our national parks, not dissimilar to what results from frequent and high-volume use by visitors and tourists to our parks in the National Capital Region and around the country.” O’Dell said that of the $400,000 stimulus grant, only $8,000 was used to re-sod the park with new grass. The rest, she said, was spent on “hardscape improvements that have not, to our knowledge, been damaged over the course of the demonstration.”Issa's letter acknowledged the money was not just for sodding, but also "concrete curbs, refurbished benches, new light poles, water fountains, new paint, new chain fencing, 12 new trash cans and new light meters." (In my recurring visits covering the protest, I haven't noticed anything other than the grass to have been damaged.)O'Dell said they'd be happy to brief them on the issue, but that's not good enough for Issa. On Jan. 10, he essentially said if they didn't answer every one of his questions subpoenas were on their way. He gave them a Jan. 24 deadline to answer his 18 questions.Maryland's Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Dem on the Oversight Committee, thinks Issa is wasting their time with the idea they should investigate protesters."Our committee has the power to achieve great benefits investigating waste, fraud and abuse on behalf of the American people,” Cummings told Roll Call, “but investigating Occupy Wall Street protestors is a poor use of our resources and authority."