Weighing the Allegations against Brett Kavanaugh

Do not count me among those who would minimize this alleged assault. I went to a high school that had more than its share of drunken parties, and my classmates could do crazy and stupid things, but an act like this was beyond the pale. This isn’t “boys will be boys.” Actions have consequences, and it’s hardly unjust to tell a person that if he mistreated another human being like this — even a long time ago — he has to remain “merely” a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

.. Given the totality of the evidence, I believe it is more likely than not that Bill Clinton committed rape and sexual harassment. I believe it is more likely than not that Donald Trump has committed sexual assault. I believe it is more likely than not that Roy Moore engaged in sexual misconduct with underage girls. But the evidence against Kavanaugh falls far short of the evidence arrayed against each of these men.

.. “The notes say four boys were involved, a discrepancy that Ford says was an error on the therapist’s part. Ford said there were four boys at the party but only two in the room.” Nor do the notes mention Kavanaugh’s name, even though her husband says Ford named Kavanaugh in the sessions.

Those are important discrepancies, and if six years ago she told the therapist four men and says two men now, that suggests that her memory of the event may be suspect.

.. Finally, there are no other allegations of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh. If there’s one thing we’ve seen time and again, it’s that one allegation often triggers a cascade of additional claims. There seem to be precious few men who engage in serious sexual misconduct just once.

The Undoing of Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin’s Friendship, and How It Changed Both of Their Countries

On June 15, 1998, however, Clinton calls Yeltsin specifically to discuss Kosovo. He makes it clear that nato is considering military action to stop Yugoslav President Slobodan Milošević’s troops from terrorizing Kosovo.

.. Serbia is Russia’s traditional ally, and American military intervention will show that Moscow is helpless either to protect or influence it. It will serve as proof that Russia has lost its superpower status.

.. Yeltsin tells Clinton that he had invited Milošević to Moscow so that he can talk sense into him. At the same time, he is trying to talk sense into the American President. “Military action by nato is unacceptable,” he says.

.. Clinton tells Yeltsin that Milošević has broken his promise to Yeltsin: Serbian troops, Clinton says, have displaced two hundred thousand civilians.

.. Clinton talks about needing to take action before the harsh winter threatens displaced Kosovars, especially the estimated ten thousand who are hiding in the mountains. Yeltsin agrees.

.. Clinton calls Yeltsin to tell him that he, the leaders of France, the United Kingdom, Germany, “and the rest of the Europeans” have concluded that they must launch air strikes against Milošević. “As you know, Milošević has stonewalled your negotiator and Dick Holbrooke”—the American negotiator—“and he has continued to move his forces into Kosovo and to evacuate villages,”

.. Clinton begs Yeltsin not to allow Milošević to destroy their relationship—in his framing, it is all the Serb’s fault.

.. Yeltsin just gets sadder. “Our people will certainly from now have a bad attitude with regard to America and with nato,” he says. “I remember how difficult it was for me to try and turn the heads of our people, the heads of the politicians towards the West, towards the United States, but I succeeded in doing that, and now to lose all that. Well, since I failed to convince the President, that means there in store for us a very difficult, difficult road of contacts, if they prove to be possible. Goodbye.”

.. Nineteen years later, it seems clear that one President was being more honest than the other. Contrary to Clinton’s assertion, he and the other nato leaders certainly had a choice in the situation, and the choice they made—to launch a military offensive without the sanction of the United Nations—changed the way that the United States wields force. By bypassing the Security Council and establishing the United States as the sole arbiter of good and evil, it paved the way for the war in Iraq, among other things.

.. It also changed Russia. What was seen as a unilateral American decision to start bombing a longtime Russian ally emboldened the nationalist opposition and tapped into a deep inferiority complex. Sensitive to these sentiments, Yeltsin responded that May by celebrating Victory Day with a military parade in Red Square, the first in eight years. In fact, military parades took place all over the country that year, and have been repeated every year since. What was even more frightening were a series of nongovernmental Victory Day parades by ultranationalists. That these public displays, some of which featured the swastika, were tolerated, and in such close proximity to celebrations of the country’s most hallowed holiday, suggested that xenophobia had acquired new power in Russia. Later that year, Yeltsin anointed Vladimir Putin his successor and signed off on a renewed war in Chechnya. This offensive, designed to shore up support for the country’s hand-picked new leader, was both inspired and enabled by Kosovo. It was a dare to the United States, an assertion that Russia will do what it wants in its own Muslim autonomy.

We will never know whether Russian politics would have developed differently if not for the U.S. military intervention in Kosovo. And, of course, the new war in Chechnya and the emergence of Putin himself were symptoms of deeper problems, including Russia’s failure to reinvent itself as a post-Soviet, post-imperial state. For this, Yeltsin himself bears most of the responsibility. Still, these transcripts tell a tragic story of much more than a friendship gone sour.

Republicans inch towards action on global warming

The key is to avoid the language of guilt and repentance for climate change

Some coastal Republicans who must contend with the consequences of a warming planet do not attempt to deny the scientific consensus. Carlos A. Gimenez, the mayor of Miami, was plain when talking about rising sea levels last year: “It’s not a theory. It’s a fact. We live it every day.”
..  More than half of the Republicans who represent districts won by Hillary Clinton in 2016 are members of the Climate Solutions Caucus, a bipartisan group that advocates climate-change fixes.
.. Some endangered Republicans defend the environment, if only in a NIMBYish way. Unfortunately for the overall sanity of their party, those Republican politicians are the most likely to lose their jobs if a Democratic wave transpires this autumn.
..  52% of Republican voters think there is “solid evidence” of global warming—up from 39% three years ago. Only 24% believe that human activity is to blame, though, compared with 78% of Democratic voters.
.. That huge partisan gap has grown since the 1990s, when President Bill Clinton and Vice-President Al Gore turned green and made it a Democratic cause. “There’s a huge identity-based effect based on the cues Republicans have received from Fox News, conservative media and elected officials telling them that the science is uncertain
.. Yet moderate and younger Republicans are more likely to agree with the established science. And support for green policies can be found in odd places.
.. Slim majorities of registered Republicans back limiting carbon-dioxide emissions from coal-fired power stations and favour a carbon tax on fossil-fuel companies
.. Conservatives have long had difficulty talking about climate change because the debate is often framed in the “language of repentance, guilt and doing with less, which doesn’t work well in the conservative community
.. That a rich, well-run country cannot pass a bipartisan law to deal with climate change is a tragedy. But if much Republican opposition to climate science is purely political—a way of identifying yourself as not a Democrat—then it can be swayed.
.. Republican voters will back carbon taxes if they are told Republicans favour such a policy.

To Beat Trump, Get a Grip

Democrats won’t win in 2020 by calling him a ‘traitor’ and doubling down on identity politics.

 If precedent holds, he can be unseated in 2020 by a candidate perceived as his opposite: experienced, serious, knowledgeable about policy. If Democrats attempt to rush the process, amid current charges that Mr. Trump is a “traitor” and Russian agent and that his Supreme Court nominee is an extremist, they will further energize their take-it-to-the-streets wing but alienate all but partisan Northeast and Pacific Coast voters.

.. Mr. Trump stumbled in Helsinki, but stumbles do not amount to treason.

.. Democrats and some media are now calling for Mr. Trump’s impeachment, presuming that a post-November Democratic House majority would bring such a vote. But it is a risky strategy that would polarize Americans deeply. The case against him would have to be airtight and based on indisputable fact. Otherwise Mr. Trump would be strengthened rather than harmed.

.. Democrats should take a fresh look at why and how Mr. Trump won the 2016 election. The party’s national leadership claims it was because of support from white supremacists, religious nuts, nativists, misogynists and Latino-haters. This is a failure to recognize what actually happened. President Trump was the consequence—not the cause—of a nationwide loss of confidence in all of the American establishment: political, media, cultural, business, financial. Sen. Bernie Sanders played on similar sentiments on the Democratic side and, had he known his potential sooner, could have won his party’s nomination.
.. Most voters knew before the election that Mr. Trump was a crude, freewheeling, womanizing egotist, a man who very well might finance his ventures with money from sketchy sources. They discounted all those negative factors because he was so obviously different from the establishment candidates in whom they had lost trust. Think about it: In one campaign, Mr. Trump polished off the Bushes, the Clintons, and even Ted Cruz. Voters did not love Mr. Trump; they rejected the other guys.
.. Ranked first, not surprisingly, was Mr. Sanders, given his strong 2016 showing. Also near the top was former Vice President Joe Biden, who relates well to middle-American voters. But most of the rest of the contenders take an angry, accusatory line toward Mr. Trump. Leading the pack were Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, from Massachusetts and California, respectively, where bashing the president earns cheers from the party faithful.
.. Shrill attacks and identity politics got a strong start during Bill Clinton’s two presidential terms. Under fire on multiple fronts, the Clinton White House took an aggressive posture toward critics, asserting that it was just “fighting back.” Democrats repeated that pattern in President Obama’s 2012 campaign. They labeled Mitt Romney, a temperate former governor of Massachusetts, as antiwoman, antigay, antiblack, anti-Latino, anti-immigrant and a tool of big finance.
.. Most voters see abortion and gay rights as accepted issues and wonder why Democrats present them as threatened. They do not see racism as on the rise or the country as moving back toward Jim Crow. On the contrary, they see several decades in which the barriers to equal opportunity, legal or otherwise, have been steadily dismantled. They do worry about the problems of big-city neighborhoods: violence, drug use, broken families, unemployment, daunting dropout and incarceration rates. But they see little evidence that “white privilege” is the cause.
 They like immigrants and refugees but generally believe everyone should take a legal path to citizenship.