Archives for September 2018

Anonymous editorial in Wall Street Journal tries to cast doubt on Kavanaugh’s assault of a teenage girl

If the acuity of anyone’s memory should be subject to questioning, it would surely be that belonging to two teenage boys who were described as being, at the time, “stumbling drunk.” Forget about how much each remembers years later; how much did they remember the next day?

Mark Judge says he has no recollection of the events now clearly described by the victim, Christine Blasey Ford, while Brett M. Kavanaugh emphatically denies he has ever engaged in a sexual assault.

Traumatic experiences have the power to imprint themselves in memory in such a way that the past becomes enduringly present. Conversely, alcohol has the power to erase memory, release inhibitions, and incapacitate good judgement.

Before answering more pointed questions about the event that Ford recounts, Kavanaugh should be asked under oath whether and if so, how often, he was as a teenager “stumbling drunk”; whether he ever drank until he passed out; and how he thinks alcohol may have affected his memory.

An anonymous editorialist, writing for the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal claims:

This is a case of an alleged teenage encounter, partially recalled 30 years later without corroboration, and brought forward to ruin Mr. Kavanaugh’s reputation for partisan purposes.

To refer to Ford’s account as having been “partially recalled 30 years later” is to promote a disingenuous narrative revolving around the frailty of memory.

Who can clearly remember anything that happened 30 years ago?

And yet we do indeed all know that memory is not like a fading photograph. What we remember and what we forget has everything to do with what each experience signifies and which did or did not have an emotional impact.

The question about Ford is not how could she remember? It is a question for those who would sow doubt: how could she forget?

A girl at an age where she is just beginning to learn how to navigate in the treacherous waters of adolescence gets assaulted, denigrated, and humiliated.

Her injury is then compounded and gets locked inside by the knowledge that her assailant is almost certain to never own up — least of all when he is right on the brink of becoming a Supreme Court justice.

The 15-year-old was too afraid to speak up at the time of the assault and as a 51-year-old she had every reason to expect that by taking a stand she would once again be attacked.

But if the appointment of a judge on the highest court perpetuates an injustice — as it has in the past — how can confidence in the rule of law be maintained?

Law will be seen as nothing more than already too often it is: an instrument used for the protection of power.

While Kavanaugh has repeatedly taken oaths to protect the constitution, the evidence suggests he has a greater concern about protecting himself.

#MeToo now challenges #MeFirst.

Leaked files expose WikiLeaks’ inner workings

The Associated Press reports:

Julian Assange had just pulled off one of the biggest scoops in journalistic history, splaying the innards of American diplomacy across the web. But technology firms were cutting ties to his WikiLeaks website, cable news pundits were calling for his head and a Swedish sex crime case was threatening to put him behind bars.

Caught in a vise, the silver-haired Australian wrote to the Russian Consulate in London.

“I, Julian Assange, hereby grant full authority to my friend, Israel Shamir, to both drop off and collect my passport, in order to get a visa,” said the letter , which was obtained exclusively by The Associated Press.

The Nov. 30, 2010, missive is part of a much larger trove of WikiLeaks emails, chat logs, financial records, secretly recorded footage and other documents leaked to the AP. The files provide both an intimate look at the radical transparency organization and an early hint of Assange’s budding relationship with Moscow.

The ex-hacker’s links to the Kremlin would become increasingly salient before the 2016 U.S. presidential election, when the FBI says Russia’s military intelligence agency directly supplied WikiLeaks with stolen emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman and other Democratic figures.

In a statement posted to Twitter, WikiLeaks said Assange never applied for the visa or authored the letter, naming a former associate of his as the alleged source of the document. WikiLeaks did not return a follow-up email seeking clarification on whether Shamir applied on his behalf, or whether a lawyer or someone else at WikiLeaks might have drafted the letter. The Russian Embassy in London said it doesn’t discuss the personal details of visa applicants.

WikiLeaks has repeatedly been hit by unauthorized disclosures , but the tens of thousands of files obtained by the AP may be the biggest leak yet. [Continue reading…]

#MeToo in the monastery: A Chinese abbot’s fall stirs questions on Buddhism’s path

The New York Times reports:

Over the past two decades, religion in China has boomed, and no faith has benefited more than Buddhism. The number of temples has tripled, monks and abbots have become well-known public figures, and China has used the faith to build ties around the world, sending out nuns and monks on good-will missions.

The person most closely associated with this revival is the Venerable Xuecheng, a charismatic monk who was fast-tracked for success. He became abbot of his first temple at 23 and head of the Communist Party-run Buddhist Association of China at 49.

His use of social media and emphasis on compassion attracted the sort of bright, white-collar professionals who once spurned traditional Chinese religions. Many rank him as the most important Chinese Buddhist reformer in a century.

But over the summer, all of these worldly successes vanished.

Accused of lewdness toward nuns and financial misconduct, Xuecheng, 52, has in recent weeks been stripped of his titles and banished to a small temple in his home province of Fujian. Government investigators now occupy the cleric’s main temple in Beijing, have purged his cadre of loyal monks and are scouring his books for financial wrongdoing. [Continue reading…]

Utility companies are at odds with public demand for 100% renewable energy

Vox reports:

Renewable energy is hot. It has incredible momentum, not only in terms of deployment and costs but in terms of public opinion and cultural cachet. To put it simply: Everyone loves renewable energy. It’s cleaner, it’s high-tech, it’s new jobs, it’s the future.

And so more and more big energy customers are demanding the full meal deal: 100 percent renewable energy.

The Sierra Club notes that so far in the US, more than 80 cities, five counties, and two states have committed to 100 percent renewables. Six cities have already hit the target.

The group RE100 tracks 144 private companies across the globe that have committed to 100 percent renewables, including Google, Ikea, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Coca-Cola, Nike, GM, and, uh, Lego.

The timing of all these targets (and thus their stringency) varies, everywhere from 2020 to 2050, but cumulatively, they are beginning to add up. Even if policymakers never force power utilities to produce renewable energy through mandates, if all the biggest customers demand it, utilities will be mandated to produce it in all but name.

The rapid spread and evident popularity of the 100 percent target has created an alarming situation for power utilities. Suffice to say, while there are some visionary utilities in the country, as an industry, they tend to be extremely small-c conservative.

They do not like the idea of being forced to transition entirely to renewable energy, certainly not in the next 10 to 15 years. For one thing, most of them don’t believe the technology exists to make 100 percent work reliably; they believe that even with lots of storage, variable renewables will need to be balanced out by “dispatchable” power plants like natural gas. For another thing, getting to 100 percent quickly would mean lots of “stranded assets,” i.e., shutting down profitable fossil fuel power plants.

In short, their customers are stampeding in a direction that terrifies them. [Continue reading…]

Kavanaugh’s accuser has proved she isn’t lying and now she’s sacrificed her right to privacy

The Washington Post reports:

Earlier this summer, Christine Blasey Ford wrote a confidential letter to a senior Democratic lawmaker alleging that Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her more than three decades ago, when they were high school students in suburban Maryland. Since Wednesday, she has watched as that bare-bones version of her story became public without her name or her consent, drawing a blanket denial from Kavanaugh and roiling a nomination that just days ago seemed all but certain to succeed.

Now, Ford has decided that if her story is going to be told, she wants to be the one to tell it.

Speaking publicly for the first time, Ford said that one summer in the early 1980s, Kavanaugh and a friend — both “stumbling drunk,” Ford alleges — corralled her into a bedroom during a gathering of teenagers at a house in Montgomery County.

While his friend watched, she said, Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed on her back and groped her over her clothes, grinding his body against hers and clumsily attempting to pull off her one-piece bathing suit and the clothing she wore over it. When she tried to scream, she said, he put his hand over her mouth.

“I thought he might inadvertently kill me,” said Ford, now a 51-year-old research psychologist in northern California. “He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing.” [Continue reading…]

Hurricane Florence is a climate change triple threat

Michael Mann writes:

Just a year ago we were dealing with an historically devastating Atlantic hurricane season. It was marked by the strongest hurricane – Irma – ever observed in the open Atlantic, the near total devastation of Puerto Rico by a similarly powerful category 5 monster Maria, and Hurricane Harvey – the worst flooding event in US history. At the time, I commented here and elsewhere about the role climate change had played in amplifying the destructive characteristics of these storms.

Not to be outdone, the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season, initially predicted to be quiet – quelled by an incipient El Niño event and cool, early summer ocean waters – has suddenly erupted. If the current disturbance in the western Gulf of Mexico known as “95L” earns the status of tropical storm, the 2018 season will be the second time in recorded history that we’ve seen five tropical storms simultaneously present in the Atlantic basin (the last time was in 1971).

What happened to cause all of this? An early autumn ocean “heat wave” has brought sea surface temperatures in the western Atlantic to bathtub-level warmth. Just as summer heat waves on land are greatly increased in frequency and intensity by even modest overall warming, so too are these ocean heat waves becoming more frequent and more extreme as the oceans continue warm. All else being equal, warmer oceans mean more energy to intensify tropical storms and hurricanes.

But when it comes to coastal threat, it hardly matters how many tropical storms there are over the course of the season. A single landfalling hurricane can wreak havoc and destruction. Think Katrina in 2005, Irene in 2011, Sandy in 2012, either Harvey or Maria in 2017 and now Florence in 2018.

In this sense, the sometimes fractious debate about whether we’ll see more or fewer storms in a warmer world is somewhat misplaced. What matters is that there is a consensus we’ll see stronger and worse flood-producing storms – and, in fact, we’re seeing them already. That brings us to Hurricane Florence: a climatologically-amplified triple threat. [Continue reading…]

1 in 3 children in UK live in poverty, study finds

The Guardian reports:

More than 14 million people, including 4.5 million children, are living below the breadline, with more than half trapped in poverty for years, according to a new measure aimed at providing the most sophisticated analysis yet of material disadvantage in the UK.

The measure seeks to forge a fresh political consensus between left and right over how to define and track poverty, with the aim of encouraging better-targeted poverty interventions, and making it easier to hold politicians to account.

It finds poverty is especially prevalent in families with at least one disabled person, single-parent families, and households where no one works or that are dependent for income on irregular or zero-hours jobs. [Continue reading…]

Give Britain a new referendum on Brexit, says Mayor of London

The Observer reports:

The mayor of London has issued a dramatic call for another referendum on EU membership, insisting that the people must be given the chance to reject a Brexit deal that will be bad for the economy, jobs and the NHS.

Writing in the Observer, Sadiq Khan says that, with so little time left to negotiate, there are now only two possible outcomes: a bad deal for the UK or “no deal” at all, which will be even worse. “They are both incredibly risky and I don’t believe Theresa May has the mandate to gamble so flagrantly with the British economy and people’s livelihoods,” he writes.

Khan says that backing a second referendum was never something he expected to have to do. But so abject has been the government’s performance, and so great is the threat to living standards and jobs, he says, that he sees no alternative than to give people a chance to stay in the EU. [Continue reading…]

Russia’s brazen lies mock the world. How best to fight for the truth?

Jonathan Freedland writes:

Comedy is now diplomacy by other means. A mighty nation has taken to conducting a grave international dispute by means of humour, expecting a similarly comic response in kind. How else are we to view the interview granted with RT, the state propaganda outfit formerly known as Russia Today, by the Morecambe and Wise of the east, the two men who identified themselves as Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov?

Posing as Russian sports nutritionists, a professional fraternity whose record is not entirely unblemished, the comedy duo told the channel that they were indeed the men the UK authorities had identified as visiting Salisbury in March, but they hadn’t made the trip to kill the former spy Sergei Skripal. On the contrary, they were there as wide-eyed tourists, lured by the prospect of seeing a cathedral “famous for its 123-metre spire”. Wasn’t it odd that they had visited Salisbury so briefly on the first of two consecutive day trips? Not at all, the TV funnymen insisted: these strong sons of the Russian winter had had to abandon their first attempt to see the sights, deterred by the impassable Wiltshire slush.

Titter ye not, as fellow TV comedian Frankie Howerd might have put it. But titter we have, as the Boshirov & Petrov show has spawned a thousand parodies. Their purported explanation was laughable and we have duly laughed. But is it the right response? [Continue reading…]

Trump administration engages in ‘diplomatic malpractice’ by sabotaging Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation

The New York Times reports:

As part of its policy to end all aid for Palestinian civilians, the United States is blocking millions of dollars to programs that build relationships between Israelis and Palestinians, according to current and former American officials briefed on the change.

The move to prevent Palestinians — including, in many cases, children — from benefiting from the funds squeezes shut the last remaining channel of American aid to Palestinian civilians.

The money had already been budgeted by Congress for allocation in fiscal year 2017, which ends this month. In the past, these designated funds went mostly to programs that organized people-to-people exchanges between Palestinians and Israelis, often for youth. Some went to programs for Israeli Jews and Arabs.

Advocates had hoped this last $10 million pot of money would remain available to projects with Palestinians, even as the Trump administration cut all other aid.

But last week, officials from the United States Agency for International Development told congressional aides that programs that benefit Palestinians alongside Israelis would not receive any new money, said Tim Rieser, foreign policy aide to Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat from Vermont. Mr. Leahy established the broader program managed by U.S.A.I.D.

The agency’s officials did not want to cut programs with Palestinians, but had to accommodate a White House that does not want to send American funds to Palestinians, Mr. Rieser said.

As a result, only programs with Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs will get funding, contrary to the tradition of the funds and intent of Congress. [Continue reading…]