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It’s All About May 25

KIEV, Ukraine — The word “maidan” means “square” in Ukrainian and in Arabic. And the “Independence Maidan” of Kiev, like the “Tahrir Maidan” of Cairo, has been the scene of an awe-inspiring burst of democratic aspirations.

Progress toward colorblind society

The Supreme Court’s ruling Tuesday upholding Michigan’s ban on race-based preferences in state university admissions should send a message to lawmakers in Sacramento seeking to undo California’s Proposition 209, the 1996 voter-approved measure on which the disputed Michigan measure was modeled.

Privacy, please

Scarlett Johansson left nude photos of herself on her computer. A hacker grabbed them and sent them to gossip websites. A Pennsylvania high school issued laptop computers to students and then remotely activated the laptops’ cameras to watch the students when they were away from school. On my computer, a program called Disconnect reveals that my favorite websites spy on me and track what I like to read, what I browse, what I buy.

Dithering on Ukraine

After an agreement to “de-escalate tensions and restore security” in Ukraine was announced Thursday, Secretary of State John Kerry was very explicit about U.S. expectations. “We fully expect the Russians … to demonstrate their seriousness by insisting that the pro-Russian separatists who they’ve been supporting lay down their arms [and] leave the buildings” in eastern Ukraine, he said. “I made clear to Foreign Minister [Sergei] Lavrov today that if we are not able to see progress … this weekend, then we will have no choice but to impose further costs on Russia.”

The adolescent president

WASHINGTON — Recently, Barack Obama — a Demosthenes determined to elevate our politics from coarseness to elegance; a Pericles sent to ameliorate our rhetorical impoverishment — spoke at the University of Michigan. He came to that very friendly venue — in 2012, he received 67 percent of the vote in Ann Arbor’s county — after visiting a local sandwich shop, where a muse must have whispered in the presidential ear. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., had recently released his budget, so Obama expressed his disapproval by calling it, for the benefit of his academic audience, a “meanwich” and a “stinkburger.”

An easier Tax Day

Rep. Dave Camp’s pending retirement from Congress may put an end to his long crusade to make common sense of the nation’s tax code, unless someone else takes up the mantle. It would be tragic if the effort is not sustained.

Shrink the feds’ share of the West

For a brief period more than a week ago, American politics seemed to be transported back to the 1990s. The source of the time warp: Cliven Bundy, a Nevada rancher who was engaged in a tense standoff with officials from the federal Bureau of Land Management.

Regulatory overkill

WASHINGTON — Occasionally, the Supreme Court considers questions that are answered merely by asking them. On Tuesday, the court will hear arguments about this: Should a government agency, whose members are chosen by elected officials, be empowered to fine or imprison any candidate or other participant in the political process who, during a campaign, makes what the agency considers “false statements” about a member of the political class or a ballot initiative?

NATO must get back in business to deter Russia

Russia’s aggression in Ukraine marks a paradigm shift, the end of trust in the post-Cold War order. This order, based on respect for territorial sovereignty, the integrity and inviolability of borders and a belief relations can be built on common values, has collapsed. International treaties no longer hold, and the use of raw force is again legitimate. In its annexation of Crimea, Russia threw the rulebook out the window. The world is back in a zero-sum paradigm. This is not about only Crimea or relations between Ukraine and Russia. The shift changed the assumptions underlying European security and dealings between democratic states and Russia.

When geography matters

WASHINGTON — Igor Stravinsky, the Russian composer, said of Poland, perilously positioned between Russia and Germany: “If you pitch your tent in the middle of Fifth Avenue, it is quite likely you will be run over by a bus.” Poland has been run over hard and often; indeed, between 1795 and 1918 it disappeared from the map of Europe.

Malaysia’s catastrophe

If you are perplexed by Monday’s announcement about the missing Malaysian airliner, no wonder. Prime Minister Najib Razak declared the flight “ended” in the southern Indian Ocean, and the state-owned airline said “we have to assume beyond a reasonable doubt” the plane went down in the ocean, far off its course to Beijing. Both announcements were vague; neither said much about why or how.