Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials
Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:
The Baltimore Sun on an endorsement deal between Nike and Colin Kaepernick:
If President Donald Trump hadn’t bragged at a campaign rally in Alabama that if he were an NFL owner, he would fire any “son of a bitch” who knelt during the national anthem, would Colin Kaepernick be a face of Nike’s Just Do It campaign? Would a black-and-white image of Mr. Kaepernick’s face with the words, “Believe in something even if it means sacrificing everything” be ricocheting around the internet today if an NFL team, any NFL team, would have so much as signed him as a backup quarterback? Would players still be following his example to kneel or even raise their fists during the national anthem if his efforts to bring attention to racial injustice had been taken at face value and not as an affront to the flag, military and country?
All those posting images of burned or defaced Nikes since word spread of Mr. Kaepernick’s new Nike campaign over the weekend should consider this: It is they who transformed him from a quarterback whose career had been middling since taking his team to (and losing in) the Super Bowl into an icon, someone whose cultural power far transcends sport.
Nike isn’t so much thrusting him back into the spotlight as it is recognizing that he’s already there — and capable of selling shoes. Mr. Kaepernick’s jersey leaped to the top of sales lists after the anthem protests started in 2016 and stayed in the top 50 last year despite the fact that he wasn’t on an NFL roster. Nike’s stock may have dipped slightly in early trading after the announcement, but here’s betting that the sports equipment giant did some marketing research before signing what is reportedly a multi-year, multi-million-dollar deal with an athlete who is suing his former league and may never play again. Whatever buzz Under Armour may have gotten from its unconventional and statement-making ad choices in the past (like the exceptional Misty Copeland campaign of four years ago) pales next to this.
Why does Mr. Kaepernick still resonate? Part of it is certainly the fact that he has, as the ad suggests, genuinely sacrificed a great deal in the name of principle. That’s always an intriguing narrative, and particularly so in the Age of Trump. Last week’s tributes to the late Sen. John McCain traded heavily on that notion. But there’s also the simple fact that Mr. Kaepernick’s message about protesting racial injustice has only become more relevant since its origins at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement. Then, the nation’s first African American president was (however imperfectly) seeking to achieve the kind of racial reconciliation many assumed had already arrived with his election. Now, we have a president who posits moral equivalence between white supremacists and those who protest them, emboldening those who would exacerbate and exploit racial division.
News about the Kaepernick ad came on the same weekend that the Tallahassee Democrat reported on robocalls linked to a white supremacist group in which a man speaking in a racist exaggeration of a minstrel performer’s dialect pretends to be the Democratic nominee for Florida governor, Andrew Gillium, who is African American. The recording, which includes a backdrop of jungle sounds, makes reference to his Republican opponent’s statement a few days before that Florida voters shouldn’t “monkey this up” by voting for Mr. Gillium.
Colin Kaepernick still matters because his message still does. NFL owners couldn’t make him go away by keeping him off a team (whether through outright collusion, as his lawsuit alleges, or a more informal groupthink), and they couldn’t stop the protests that stemmed from his activism through ham-fisted attempts at compromise with the players. President Trump raised the stakes too high for that. Nike, who has had Mr. Kaepernick under contract since 2011, is doing nothing more than taking advantage of the opportunity the president and his allies so cynically created.
The Washington Post on Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination:
Sniping about Brett M. Kavanaugh’s paper trail dominated Day One of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearings on the judge’s Supreme Court nomination. Republicans pointed out that a very large number of documents have been disclosed. Democrats countered that, regardless of the number, they still represent a small fraction of the files that could have been released. The Democrats have a point: The Republicans are running a rushed review of a man who is on track to occupy a seat on the nation’s highest court.
Committee Republicans never even requested papers from Mr. Kavanaugh’s time as White House staff secretary to President George W. Bush, which Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) has deemed irrelevant. In fact, Mr. Kavanaugh has said that serving as staff secretary prepared him more than any other past job for his service as a judge, and other previous staff secretaries have insisted that the post is more substantive than Republicans have claimed. Even if it took more time, there should have been a nonpartisan process to release all staff-secretary documents that would have been germane to Mr. Kavanaugh’s hearings.
The Trump administration also withheld more than 100,000 pages of documents under the president’s authority to protect sensitive executive-branch communications. It’s true that releasing certain files would risk harming White House decision-making, by making presidential advisers fear that frank private counsel might be exposed during or shortly after their tenures. But the vast number of hidden documents raises questions about abuse of this authority.
Even when the committee has received documents, many came with strict conditions on their use: More than 100,000 pages were designated for senators’ eyes only. Usually, relatively few records are deemed “committee confidential.” Worse, a private lawyer working for Mr. Bush has been deciding which documents receive the designation. Senators may have questions stemming from committee-confidential documents that they cannot ask, or that might seem strange outside of the factual context that inspired them. The National Archives should have made all of these decisions, even if it delayed the hearings.
Finally, the Bush team dropped more than 42,000 committee-confidential pages on Monday — the day before Mr. Kavanaugh’s hearings were set to begin. That Mr. Grassley’s committee staff was apparently able to sort through them at lightning speed does not mean it was reasonable to expect every other senator to do so.
Whatever the Democrats’ intentions in seeking more documents — they have been accused of trying to delay the hearings — there is no good excuse for truncating the committee’s vetting. Records should be public so that Americans can know more about a judge who will be determining so many weighty questions that affect them. Questions — even from hostile senators — should be informed for the same reason. Republicans are wrong to rush the committee’s consideration just so they can ram through Mr. Kavanaugh’s confirmation before the November elections. It’s a process that will leave many Americans wondering, with reason, what they are not being told.
The Toronto Star says Canada needs to prevent meddling in their elections:
Make no mistake: Facebook is feeling the pressure. Scarred by criticism that it enabled Russian meddling during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the social media giant summoned its biggest tech peers to a summit late last month, meeting behind closed doors with Google, Microsoft, Snapchat and others at Twitter headquarters in San Francisco.
The meeting’s objective was proactive — compare and co-ordinate plans of action on how the platforms can best prevent similar foreign attacks, distortions and disinformation campaigns targeting the upcoming American midterm elections.
But even as the companies huddled, one of their own senior security leaders sounded a sobering warning: It’s already too late to protect the 2018 election, declared Alex Stamos, Facebook’s recently departed chief security officer.
The best the United States can hope for now, said Stamos, is to shift its security effort beyond the vulnerable midterms as “there is still a chance to defend American democracy in 2020,” when Americans choose their next president.
Take the warning at face value and then ask yourself: What about the integrity of Canada’s next federal election? If America democracy stands vulnerable in 2018, are the risks likely to be any less for Canada in 2019?
So far, the only policing underway on either side of the border involves the tech giants themselves — and that is not nearly adequate. In late August, for example, Facebook announced it deleted more than 600 accounts for building misinformation campaigns. Separately, Microsoft announced the closure of several web domains believed to be registered by Russian intelligence for phishing operations. And Google busted what it called fake news accounts on YouTube.
Imagine the outcry if these same companies sent self-deputized teams into polling stations during next year’s federal election in Canada to serve as scrutineers, the last line of defence in ensuring a fair vote. If we lack faith in tech firms to safeguard our ballot boxes in the physical world, why would we trust them any further as the only defence in the digital world, which is fast becoming the battleground for everyone’s vote?
Ideas are flying fast and furious on how new policy can best address the crisis of digital democracy. Canada’s Public Policy Forum lays out a range of them in its recent report, “Democracy Divided: Countering Disinformation and Hate in the Digital Public Sphere.”
One important proposal that should be implemented quickly: Updating Canada’s Elections Act to shine disinfecting sunlight upon digital advertising. Let Facebook and friends stand alongside publishers (including the Star) in full transparency with full details on who is paying for digital election ads.
Equally important is the need to reclaim sovereignty over our data, which can be monetized, sold and resold with impunity. Consent over the trade in information that accrues every time you click a button must be freely and clearly given. And we need a far clearer understanding of the price of consent.
What about new legal sanctions? Should there be a law against actual fake news? The idea is already falling flat in the unrestrainedly free-speaking United States, where a president who already categorizes anything unflattering as “fake news” baselessly accused “Social Media Giants” of “silencing millions of people.” Donald Trump’s tweet concluded that, “People have to figure out what is real, and what is not, without censorship!”
The idea of empowering anyone to label some news as “fake” is fraught. But Canada should at least explore whether there’s a place for a new law to prevent organized, willful manipulation that puts in front of your eyes false information designed to capture your vote.
Any actor, foreign or domestic, that intentionally damages Canadian democracy needs to be held to account. It’s all well and good that Facebook is taking the problem seriously enough to police itself. But how do we police Facebook?
The Boston Globe on Ayanna Pressley’s win the Democratic primary:
Capping off an improbable rise from the Boston City Council to the threshold of Congress, Ayanna Pressley made history Tuesday night by defeating Representative Michael E. Capuano in a closely fought Democratic primary. The resounding victory clears the way for Pressley, whose chances were discounted when she decided to take on a 20-year incumbent, to become the first black woman ever to represent Massachusetts in Congress.
It’s a milestone to behold, especially given the obstacles she overcame. Pressley went into the race with fewer resources and without the blessing of the Democratic establishment. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, former governor Deval Patrick, and even some of her council colleagues quickly closed ranks behind Capuano. The two had few concrete policy disagreements, and supporters of Capuano pointed to his long voting record as a reliable supporter of progressive causes.
But Pressley — who became the first woman of color elected to the city council and then compiled an impressive record reforming the hidebound liquor licensing system — convinced voters to expect more. She made the case that the Seventh Congressional District — which the Legislature drew specifically as a majority-minority district — needed a representative with a more intimate understanding of its needs. Capuano, a former Somerville mayor, brought home billions from Washington. Pressley convinced voters that it was just as important what a representative brought to Washington.
And her victory carries an unmistakable message, amplified by Tuesday’s other electoral upsets further down the ticket: Massachusetts politics is changing. Candidates aren’t willing to wait their turn anymore. The power of incumbency is weakening.
The campaign “dared to do what Massachusetts Democrats aren’t supposed to do,” Pressley, 44, said in her victory speech in Dorchester Tuesday night.
Pressley’s insurgent campaign should be a wake-up call to the old guard. Her victory is a political earthquake, and there will be aftershocks. New political alliances have been formed, anchored by a new guard of female politicians who stood by Pressley, notably Attorney General Maura Healey and Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu.
While much of the attention has been on Pressley, she was only the most prominent of challengers who sought to unseat incumbents. First-time candidates performed strongly in State House races. Boston emergency room doctor Jon Santiago beat longtime Representative Byron Rushing and newcomer Nika Elugardo ousted Representative Jeffrey Sanchez.
Some of the ferment might reflect special circumstances — namely, the grassroots anger at the Trump administration. But it also appears to confirm a trend.
No, not every incumbent should go — this editorial page endorsed many of them for reelection. But every voter benefits from competition; just by running, challengers help hold incumbents accountable.
Let’s see more of this in the Boston City Council elections next year, and in 2020. Turning competition from the exception into the rule would help foster trust in city halls and on Beacon Hill, whose insularity goes hand-in-hand with uncontested elections.
The new reality — that officeholders should expect challengers — should encourage politicians to stay on their toes and take nothing for granted. At the same time, the success of challengers like Pressley should entice anyone who’d ever contemplated a primary challenge in Massachusetts.
Run. It’s a new world, and you don’t have to wait. Just ask Ayanna Pressley.
The New York Times on President Donald Trump’s view of the Justice Department:
By now, few might lift an eyebrow at President Trump’s crusade to delegitimize his own Justice Department and, specifically, his attorney general, Jeff Sessions. It long ago became clear that Mr. Trump regards federal law enforcement — as he sees all of government — as a political tool to advance the interests of himself and of his party (assuming those interests align, of course; if not, the party is on its own).
Yet even by that debased standard, Mr. Trump’s latest Twitter tantrum against Mr. Sessions, on Monday, set a new low, providing a kind of anti-civics lesson for the nation he’s supposed to lead.
“Two long-running, Obama era, investigations of two very popular Republican Congressmen were brought to a well publicized charge, just ahead of the Mid-terms, by the Jeff Sessions Justice Department,” he wrote. “Two easy wins now in doubt because there is not enough time. Good job Jeff.”
With this latest outburst, the president has again laid bare his contempt for the rule of law. Mr. Trump does not even pretend to care about the allegations of corruption against the two lawmakers in question. His concern is only that they are “very popular” members who would have scored “easy wins” in November, if only Mr. Sessions had kept his fat mouth shut until after the midterms — or better yet, buried the allegations permanently.
Chris Collins, Republican of New York, who was indicted last month on insider trading charges, is facing multiple counts of securities fraud, wire fraud and lying to federal agents. Investigators were aided in their efforts by the fact that the representative’s alleged misbehavior was caught on video while he was attending the White House congressional picnic last summer.
Duncan Hunter, Republican of California, indicted just a couple of weeks after Mr. Collins, is accused of misappropriating $250,000 in campaign funds for personal use. He and his wife, also named in the 47-page indictment, allegedly dipped into the political kitty to buy items ranging from running shoes to family vacations to plane tickets for their pet.
Both lawmakers have pleaded not guilty. Mr. Collins has suspended his campaign, while Mr. Hunter’s name will remain on the ballot and he has a strong chance to win re-election against an inexperienced Democratic challenger.
These indictments carry a personal resonance for the president. Mr. Collins was the first member of Congress to endorse Mr. Trump’s candidacy. Mr. Hunter was the second. For a president for whom blind loyalty matters above all, the possibility of losing two such devoted followers must be especially vexing.
The heart of the matter for Mr. Trump is, as always, what’s in it for Mr. Trump. Keeping Congress under Republican control is key to the president’s fortunes, both political and legal. As Mr. Trump sees it, Mr. Sessions has once more put everything at risk with his traitorous insistence upon upholding the law.
Indeed, Mr. Trump continues to make clear that if only he had known then what he knows now — especially as regards the Russia investigation — Mr. Sessions would never have been offered the job.
Mr. Trump’s beef is not with Jeff Sessions or the Justice Department. He has a problem with the law — or at least with the idea that it should apply to him and those who do his bidding. Republicans, especially Republican lawmakers, are by their silence complicit in this perversion of justice.
USA Today on football safety:
You can add the name Jordan McNair to the list of college, high school and middle school players who might have needlessly died for the love of football.
A simple, well-known procedure — immersing McNair, 19, in a tub of ice water — when he collapsed at an off-season University of Maryland workout in May could well have saved his life. But it didn’t happen. This failure drew national attention to how unprepared many football programs are to keep their players safe.
The focus on concussions can obscure the deaths that continue to occur each year. Last year, 13 high school and college players died from incidents that include heat stroke, head injuries and sudden cardiac arrest.
Just two weeks ago in Crowley, Texas, Kyrell McBride-Johnson, 13, collapsed at a middle school practice and died that night. His mother told The Dallas Morning News that he was signaling for water before collapsing. An autopsy has not been completed, but the death of anyone so young raises troubling questions.
The simple truth is that player safety at too many schools and colleges comes in a poor second to winning. Even as the climate warms, colleges, high schools and middle schools are starting football season earlier than they used to.
Five decades ago, Notre Dame and Michigan opened their seasons on the third Saturday of September and Ohio State on the fourth Saturday. This year, spurred by longer seasons and lucrative TV schedules, all three teams played their first game Sept. 1, necessitating practices in midsummer heat. High schools and middle schools mimic the college schedules. (In 1968, the NFL season began on Sept. 14; this year, it kicks off this Thursday.)
Starting the season later could by itself reduce the number of heat stroke deaths. But even with the current schedule, schools know how to prevent potentially fatal incidents and to rescue students if they occur. In 2013, more than a dozen leading sports medicine groups and the National Federation of State High School Associations endorsed a list of best practices to prevent injuries and save lives.
Grading states against that list and other smart practices, the University of Connecticut’s Korey Stringer Institute found that 28 states have failed to put in place half the measures to keep students safe. Even the states that scored highest in the 2018 study — New Jersey and North Carolina — have less than 80% in place. California and Colorado, with the worst records, employ less than a third of them.
That’s inexcusable. If states have the wherewithal to run high school football programs, they have the wherewithal to do more to ensure that students don’t die.
Many of the policies are based on common sense and carry minimal costs. Preventing heat stroke, for example, requires players in hot weather to acclimate: no more than one practice a day, and no practice lasting more than three hours. But the majority of states don’t require this, according to Douglas Casa, the Stringer Institute’s CEO. Nor do all states require cold-water immersion tubs be on hand; a tub costs about $150, can be purchased at a hardware store, and is known to save lives. Many don’t have an emergency plan posted on the field and known to all school staff.
And just a handful require an athletic trainer on site for all “collision/contact” practices. Yes, this costs some money, but if a school can afford to maintain a football field and pay for coaches, insurance, uniforms and travel, the cost of a single staff member with medical training is not too much to ask.
More than 110 years ago, after at least 18 college players died during a single season, President Theodore Roosevelt saved the game by pressing for commonsense safety measures.
Today, everyone knows what the solutions are. It’s long past time for state athletic officials and lawmakers to act.