“You keep me searchin’ and I’m growing old,” sang Neil Young in one of his most famous hits, released 50 years ago. “Keep me searchin’ for a heart of gold.” There was a flash of that quest for a better world last week when the 76-year-old rocker took a stand against Covid-19 vaccine misinformation.
Young told Spotify to remove his music, Jill Filipovic wrote, “if it continues to feature those who regularly disseminate lies and conspiracy theories about Covid-19.” He cited Joe Rogan, who hosts the streaming platform’s most popular podcast.
The battle lines over truth and falsehood aren’t just cutting across the political sphere, they are dividing people in media, music and sports.
Filipovic noted, “Rogan claims his show is an intellectually honest exploration of ideas. The Covid misinformation Rogan is spreading is told as truth. And a startling number of people clearly believe it.” She argued that Young is right and that Spotify “should draw the line at dangerous life-threatening conspiracy theories and the kind of misinformation that could result in unnecessary illness and death.”
At a rally against vaccine mandates in Washington, DC, last Sunday, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. “claimed that the Biden administration’s policies on vaccines were worse than the Nazis’ persecution of the Jews, saying, ‘Even in Hitler Germany (sic), you could, you could cross the Alps into Switzerland. You could hide in an attic, like Anne Frank did,’” wrote Peter Bergen.
“The Biden administration’s legitimate public health push for vaccine mandates to save an untold number of American lives is quite the opposite of the Nazis hunting down and killing 6 million Jews during the Holocaust,” Bergen observed. “The use of safe vaccines by more than 200 million Americans is not a perversion of science as practiced by the Nazis, but a legitimate and approved use of medical science. And that’s to say nothing of his reference to Anne Frank, who ultimately perished in Bergen-Belsen, a Nazi concentration camp.” Kennedy later apologized for the Anne Frank reference.
When quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ Green Bay Packers lost in the NFL playoffs last weekend, the discussion wasn’t only about what happened on the field. “Rodgers’ road from being one of the best-liked and most respected players in the league to being a target of derision shows how prevalent and polarizing Covid-19 misinformation has become,” wrote Dean Obeidallah.
“Rodgers did get ‘canceled’ – but it still wasn’t by a ‘woke mob.’ Remember that the football star claimed last fall that ‘the woke mob’ was trying to ‘cancel’ him in response to misleading comments he’d made about his Covid-19 vaccination status, as well as for peddling unproven ways to treat the coronavirus. Yet it wasn’t until Saturday night, after the San Francisco 49ers pulled off a stunning upset to beat Rodgers and his favored Packers…that it became clear just how much public support Rodgers has lost.”
For more on Covid-19:
Dr. Kent Sepkowitz: A humble prediction for what comes after Omicron
Lauren Ghazal: If nurses are heroes, your heroes are in crisis
How Trump changed the Supreme Court equation
Eight days after Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died in September 2020, then-President Donald Trump walked into the White House’s Rose Garden and introduced Amy Coney Barrett as his choice to fill the seat.
Trump had promised to nominate conservatives to the Supreme Court and had already put Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh on the bench. The Republican-controlled Senate moved quickly to confirm Barrett just days before the 2020 election.
The impending vacancy created by Justice Stephen Breyer’s announcement Thursday that he’ll retire this summer is very different. Biden is taking more time to choose a judge with lifetime tenure, saying he will make his pick by the end of February. And more importantly, Breyer’s replacement won’t change the ideological balance of the court – unlike Barrett, who took the place of a liberal. Her confirmation gave conservatives a 6-3 advantage on the bench, raising the question of whether precedents like the one established by Roe v. Wade would be upheld.
Still, Biden will make history by fulfilling his promise to appoint the first Black woman to the court. “By doing so, he will help correct generations of bias and underrepresentation that have kept Black women from interpreting the laws whose worst impacts we are most likely to face,” wrote Fatima Goss Graves, head of the National Women’s Law Center.
Conservatives faulted Biden for his pledge: The Wall Street Journal editorial board wrote, “Mr. Biden’s campaign promise that he’d appoint a black woman to the Supreme Court is unfortunate because it elevates skin color over qualifications.”
But Ruth Marcus argued in the Washington Post that presidents have long applied similar thinking to their selection of Supreme Court justices: “Does Justice Sandra Day O’Connor have an asterisk attached because Ronald Reagan pledged he would name a woman to the Supreme Court? ‘It is time for a woman to sit among our highest jurists,’ Reagan said during the 1980 presidential campaign. She turned out to be a fine justice, but her qualifications at the time were far less than those of the candidates on Biden’s list.”
Jeffrey Toobin wrote that “the appointments of Supreme Court justices have always been political acts by presidents. And their choices have reflected the identity politics of their era. Far from striking out in some new direction, Biden has merely updated a tradition as old as the American presidency itself.”
Looking back at Breyer’s career, Toobin described him as a man from another time. An Anglophile and devotee of Marcel Proust, Breyer is a technocrat who “was forever searching for the bipartisan solutions to society’s problems. Breyer believed in compromise and competence. He thought reasonable people could always make progress if they worked together in good faith. It was Breyer’s misfortune, though, to live in an ideological age. More to the point, he was mostly liberal on a mostly conservative court.”
Breyer was confirmed to the court in 1994, with 87 of the 100 senators backing him. We may not see such overwhelming bipartisanship again for a long time – each of Barack Obama’s two confirmed appointees received no more than 68 votes, and Trump’s appointees were confirmed with no more than 54.
If Biden is unable to attract Republican votes for his nominee, he’ll have to rely on the two Democrats who have defied him in recent months, Julian Zelizer noted.
“With the midterms approaching, Senate Republicans are likely to oppose the nomination – whoever it is – and use it to rally the base. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his troops could warn that Biden’s pick will threaten constitutional rights…”
“Biden should be able to ignore all of that – if he has the support of Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. But this raises the question of whether the President will face a repeat of the Build Back Better battle, with just two Democrats tanking the party’s ability to move forward and allowing the Republican minority to rule the roost.”
Democrats should take a cue from the way Republicans handled the Barrett nomination, wrote Stephanie Cutter in the New York Times. “Within minutes of the president’s nomination of Judge Barrett, Republican senators began to declare their support for her…Qualifications are critical and must be verified. But speed is also essential. Democrats should take a page from Mr. McConnell’s book and move as quickly as possible.”
Worry in Kyiv
For much of the world, the massing of Russian troops on Ukraine’s border prompts an uneasy guessing game: what will President Vladimir Putin do – and when? But for Ukrainians it is much more personal.
Writing from Kyiv, Olesia Markovic said, “Many citizens choose to follow commonsense survival rules: stocking up on food and setting up meeting points with their loved ones in case communication is down…The key facility designed to be a mass shelter in case of air strikes is the underground infrastructure of the Kyiv subway. Yet, its capacity is limited to ‘hosting’ about 200,000 people, which is not enough for Kyiv’s population of at least 3 million.”
“People admit the uncertainty and the lack of clear emergency instructions are draining their intellectual and emotional resources, making it hard to focus on current tasks and their ability to make long-term plans. Yet, denial would be even more harmful.”
On the timing of any potential Russian action, many people suspect Putin will not want to upstage the start of the Beijing Winter Olympics. The Russian President is due to attend the opening ceremony Friday with his fellow authoritarian leader, Xi Jinping, wrote Frida Ghitis. “To cement their hold on power, autocrats love to stage mega-events, none better than the Olympics. They represent an opportunity to proclaim their success to their people and to the world; to make the unspoken argument that, whatever price they have extracted in repression, the ends have justified the means. For maximum impact, however, they need the world’s rapt attention.”
Mark Twain described October as “one of the peculiarly dangerous months to speculate in stocks. The others are July, January, September, April, November, May, March, June, December, August, and February.” This January, the markets seem gripped with anxiety about the Federal Reserve Bank’s impending move to raise interest rates in an attempt to tame the worst inflation in nearly 40 years. But not all the economic news is dire – unemployment is low and the US economy grew 5.7% last year, the largest annual increase since 1984.
Our friends at CNN Business Perspectives offered a variety of views on the economy this week, including Mark Zandi’s take that “the economy has become prone to asset bubbles. There was the dot-com stock market bubble in 2000 and the housing bubble of the mid-2000s. When these bubbles ultimately deflated, they did significant damage to the economy. It is premature to think that we are in the next asset bubble, but it is not premature to worry that one is forming.” Noted bear analyst Jeremy Grantham believes we’re already in a stock market “superbubble,” accompanied by a worldwide real estate bubble.
Nicole Hemmer: What the SAT’s waning relevance really tells us
David M. Perry: The real reason some people are so afraid of ‘Maus’
Douglas Heye: McConnell has a leg up on Trump. Will the GOP listen?
Claire Pierson: It’s time Europe got on the same page on abortion rights
Anna Sulan Massing: Jamie Oliver is veering into cultural appropriation. Because he’s Jamie Oliver
And just like that…
Rebecca Bodenheimer said she could see it coming “from a mile away.”
“On last week’s episode of ‘And Just Like That,’ the HBO Max reboot of ‘Sex and the City,’ Miranda Hobbes (played by Cynthia Nixon) blew up her marriage.”
“Nixon’s performance was stunning in this scene, the most well-written, honest moment of the whole reboot for me. With her voice catching, Miranda confesses to feeling trapped in her marriage to Steve (David Eigenberg), telling Carrie, ‘I don’t want to be this person anymore, I want to be something more. This isn’t enough.’” (Like CNN, HBO Max is owned by WarnerMedia.)
In real life, as Bodenheimer noted, the divorce rate for couples over 50 has doubled in recent decades. “Seeing more of my own peers get divorced in recent years has reinforced for me that although not free from pain, divorce can be a positive development, particularly for women who don’t feel fulfilled in their partnerships. This is why, whenever I know a friend really wanted out of their marriage, I congratulate them on their divorce; I don’t assume any announcement of divorce is necessarily a sad one.”