Lincoln’s words stand out on Presidents Day weekend, when history is being made from Beijing to Ukraine to the US. It’s true, as L.P. Hartley wrote, that “the past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” But we visit that foreign country all the time.
The uses and misuses of history are at the root of so many struggles playing out in American society and politics right now.
The debacle was only one of the factors behind last week’s recall election that bounced three school board members from their seats. Also at play, Nicole Hemmer wrote, were “extended pandemic school closures … an attempt to move away from testing and GPA requirements for admission into high-ranking public schools, a growing achievement gap, an enormous budget deficit and, in the case of one school board member, the use of a racial slur in an anti-Asian rant…”
Reflecting on Black History Month, Danté Stewart noted, “There are those who seem to think our lives are just lessons, somehow reducing us to helping White people to ‘get it.’ My mind cannot escape the simple fact that so many people ran to our books and our art or to the streets in 2020, believing that simply reading or marching would somehow magically change the White supremacist power structure so pervasive in our country without fundamental change in how we live together.”
“That may no longer be true. In an era when conservative politics is acutely nationalist and consumed by a sense of cultural threat, a number of new polls show Latino voters growing more Republican.”
“One has called for the dissolution of the bipartisan Wisconsin Election Commission, which fairly administers elections in the Badger State; another proposed a bill in the Arizona state legislature that would allow that partisan body to simply overrule a secretary of state’s decision to officially certify the results of an election.”
Still, he noted, Putin could launch an invasion. What the Russian president fears most of all, in Friedman’s view is not the unlikely prospect of Ukraine joining NATO, but rather “the expansion of the E.U.’s sphere of influence and the prospect that it would midwife a decent, democratic, free-market Ukraine that would every day say to the Russian people, ‘This is what you could be without Putin.'”
As a child, ice dancer Kaitlyn Weaver dreamed of reaching the Olympics — and she realized that goal competing for Canada at the 2014 and 2018 Games.
Watching the figure skating competition at this year’s Beijing Games amid the controversy over Russian athlete Kamila Valieva’s positive drug test has been painful for Weaver and so many others, not least Valieva herself.
The 15-year-old Russian skater was allowed to compete in the individual event Thursday, but instead of leading the field as many had expected, she stumbled, fell and finished fourth.
If a country can’t follow the rules, Weaver observed, “they shouldn’t be allowed to participate at all. This travesty of an Olympic event we are finding ourselves in has had many failures. The first was not banning Russia after the findings of systemic, state-sponsored doping during the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi. Proof of cheating, doping, switched out samples through a hole in the wall, and government funding were all found to be true. If you haven’t watched the movie ‘Icarus,’ the depth of manipulation and threats might shock you. And I wouldn’t be surprised if it makes you want to turn your back on sport altogether.”
The problem with raw cookie dough
The argument for “living with Covid” has been that we all take risks, from driving cars to eating rare hamburgers to eating raw cookie dough, and that the possibility of getting the coronavirus is just another risk. Sepkowitz called this a “continued confusion between advice given for individual health and advice given for public health. … Undercooked chicken is not contagious. If you want to take the risk, go for it. Go ahead and skydive all you want as well, perhaps while eating raw cookie dough…Yes, masks and distancing and vaccines effectively do protect a person’s own health. But the CDC has to worry about that guy over there working the cash register and your friend’s frail grandmother and your friend’s frail grandmother’s health aide.”
Prince Andrew settles
Prince Andrew’s settlement with Virginia Giuffre, who alleged she was trafficked by Jeffrey Epstein, has major implications, wrote Kara Alaimo.
“What has happened is extraordinarily unusual. The son of the Queen of the United Kingdom — a man who is royalty — was stripped of his privileges by his own mother after being accused of sexual misconduct and made to account for his behavior in a foreign court, though he ended up settling with Giuffre out of court.”
Upbeat Super Bowl
Never mind the dramatic football game and the widely praised halftime show. For many, the most anticipated parts of the Super Bowl this year, as always, were the ads.
In Tim Calkins‘ view, the key takeaway of the commercials was that “Americans are fatigued by the pandemic, and are looking forward to brighter days ahead.”
“There was almost no mention of the pandemic, aside from an ad from testing company Cue. There were no masks, no thank-yous to the first responders, no reminders to get a booster. There weren’t even subtle references to it…”
What was new? “A slew of ads for two technologies that are transforming the country and becoming more widely accepted: crypto and electric vehicles.”
Former President Donald Trump suffered a string of reversals this week: documents revealed that his longtime accounting firm said it would stop working with the Trump organization and noted that 10 years of his company’s financial statements could no longer be relied on; a judge ruled that Trump and several of his children would have to give depositions in the investigation of his business empire’s finances by New York’s attorney general; and another judge said Trump couldn’t automatically claim immunity in lawsuits regarding the January 6 Capitol riot.
The “court rulings are forcing Donald Trump to think about a future when the world will learn more truths about the former president than it has ever known, and he may suffer crushing injuries to his mystique and his bottom line,” wrote Michael D’Antonio.
When Joe Biden took the oath of office as President last year in the midst of a pandemic, after an insurrection at the Capitol and at a time when millions of Americans were demanding racial justice, some analysts likened the stakes of the moment to the start of Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidency following the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
“But the legislative comparison stops there: with ambition, not achievement,” Naftali wrote. Although Biden can take credit for the infrastructure bill and his Covid relief package, they pale in comparison to the rush of legislation under Johnson, including the creation of Medicare and Medicaid, the Voting Rights Act and the “war on poverty.”
It’s not Biden’s fault. Last year “wasn’t 1965” and “this isn’t like the moment that LBJ mastered so brilliantly. It is much, much harder, politically, and Joe Biden is not LBJ. Instead, Biden should be assessed on his own terms and in the context of his own time. With almost no margin for error in either House of Congress, an ideologically diverse (let alone iconoclastic) caucus, a partisan Republican bloc, and amid a politically divisive pandemic, it is remarkable Biden got much of anything passed…”
“The President and his congressional allies might keep that in mind as they consider how to make effective use of the power they do have before the midterms this November, when they will face the voters again and ask for more.”
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