DeSantis: Hang 'Em High, Disney Sues DeSantis, MTG Says the Darndest Things (Again), Why an Ex-NBA Player Escaped from Florida, Racist Guardsman Leaker Wants to Be Mass Murderer, Steely Dan Sings
My take on news, pop culture, sports, and whatever else interests me.
Everybody’s an Expert
The Dunning-Kruger effect occurs when a person overestimates their own competence despite a lack of knowledge or skills in a certain area. In daily life, this is reflected when someone who is an expert in a field gets advice from someone who has no training, experience, or education in that field. To which they mutter, “Everybody’s an expert.”
A recent YouGov poll emphasizes this wild fantasy of competence that many people have. Of the 20,000 people polled in the U.S., 1 in 3 (32%) felt confident that they could safely land a passenger airplane in an emergency, relying only on the assistance of air traffic control. Nearly half the men (46%) thought they could, compared with only 20% of the women. After all, they’ve seen it in the movies, so it can’t be that difficult.
What are the actual odds? “There is a zero percent chance of someone pulling that off,” said Patrick Smith, a commercial air pilot and founder of the Ask the Pilot blog. “Do people think they can perform transplant surgery? No. Then why do they think they can land a plane?”
I often think about the Dunning-Kruger effect because every day I read comments from incompetent and uninformed politicians, business leaders, and others arrogantly posing as experts. Yes, we all have a right to express our views, regardless of how lame they may be, but when it comes to making them public or to passing laws that affect others, we have a responsibility to support our views with actual evidence and not just the bluster of entitlement.
These political wannabes think they can pilot our country based on nothing but their own inflated egos, but their actual abilities have resulted in crash after crash. As today’s stories will show…
This Week in Florida Sinking Deeper into the Swap
DeSantis signs bill giving Florida lowest death penalty threshold in US (Tampa Bay Times)
SUMMARY: “People in Florida can now be sent to death row with an 8-4 jury vote, instead of a unanimous requirement, after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the bill into law Thursday morning.
“DeSantis pushed to reduce Florida’s death penalty threshold, citing the outcome of the Parkland school shooting case — where the gunman who killed 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High was given a life sentence after only nine of the 12 jurors voted for death.
“‘Once a defendant in a capital case is found guilty by a unanimous jury, one juror should not be able to veto a capital sentence,’ DeSantis said in a statement.”
MY TAKE: DeSantis continues his scorched-earth trampling of the Constitution with the same fury as Sherman’s March to the Sea. Florida now has the lowest jury vote requirement in the country. Is that really something to celebrate? Only if you want to waste money and execute innocent people.
The reason for the unanimous requirement is that putting someone to death is a serious matter not to be decided without the most safeguards possible. This is especially important when we realize that 1 in 8 people sentenced to death is exonerated. According to The Washington Post, “From 1973 to 2013, 8,466 sentences of death were handed down by U.S. courts, and 1,359 individuals were executed — only 16 percent. Even excluding those who remained on death row as of 2013, only about 24 percent of condemned inmates have been executed.”
Once we lower the standards by which someone is sentenced to death, we will undoubtedly make more mistakes. Yet, Floridians will still pay for those trials. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, “Florida has estimated that the true cost of each execution is approximately $3.2 million, or approximately 6 times what it would cost to keep the person in prison for life.” And, no, society isn’t safer with executions. There’s no credible evidence it deters crime.
I don’t have room to debate the pros and cons of the death penalty here, just the incredible detriment to our justice system when we are willing to put people to death based on eight out of twelve. If four people are unconvinced, that should be a clear sign that the state has not made a compelling case for execution. DeSantis said, “Once a defendant in a capital case is found guilty by a unanimous jury, one juror should not be able to veto a capital sentence.” First, if they were found guilty by a unanimous jury, that means one person didn’t vote against them. That’s the meaning of unanimous. Second, even if I agreed (which I don’t) that one person shouldn’t hold up the conviction, why up the number to four people? What’s the research to justify that number? Third, why shouldn’t one person hold up a jury in a life or death situation? What evidence or legal theory is he presenting to say that a one-person scenario creates injustice? None. Just more pandering to those unfamiliar with facts.
[NOTE: For an interesting explanation of the history of the unanimous verdict, read “The Unanimous Verdict According to the Talmud: Ancient Law Providing Insight into Modern Legal Theory.”]
Florida prosecutor sorry for racist memo that singled out Hispanic residents (The Guardian)
SUMMARY: “A state attorney in Florida has apologized for a racist memo produced by staff in a rural county office of all-white prosecutors, advocating more severe punishments for defendants who are Hispanic.
“The document covering plea deals was exposed by a whistleblower former employee who worked briefly for Jack Campbell, state attorney for the second judicial circuit based in Tallahassee.
“It states that Hispanic drivers caught without a valid license are recommended for a guilty verdict and court costs while others avoid prosecution.
“In an interview with the Guardian, Campbell said he regretted the “error” in the production of the memo, which he confirmed as genuine, and said he had disciplined the “entry level” prosecutor who wrote it.
“…Mackenzie Hayes, the whistleblower, claimed in an account published by the news blog Our Tallahassee the memo was part of a wider culture of racism in the prosecutor’s office that covers a six-county region heavily populated with migrant workers.”
MY TAKE: Campbell further explains that the memo should have said “undocumented immigrant” instead of Hispanic, because undocumented people have no accessible criminal record. Still, this memo implies that because they are undocumented, they have a criminal record and should be punished accordingly. That assumption is discriminatory.
Also, the whistleblower isn’t citing just this memo. Hayes is also accusing the prosecutor’s office of “a wider culture of racism.” This memo could have been just a clerical error, except no one in the prosecutor’s office who read it pointed it out as being an error in their policy.
Disney sues DeSantis, calling park takeover ‘retaliation’ (AP News)
SUMMARY: “Disney sued Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday over the Republican’s takeover of its theme park district, alleging the governor waged a ‘targeted campaign of government retaliation’ after the company opposed a law critics call ‘Don’t Say Gay.’
“The lawsuit was filed in Tallahassee minutes after a Disney World oversight board appointed by DeSantis voted to void a deal that gave the company authority over design and construction decisions in its sprawling properties near Orlando.
“‘Disney regrets that it has come to this,’ the case said. ‘But having exhausted efforts to seek a resolution, the Company is left with no choice but to file this lawsuit to protect its cast members, guests, and local development partners from a relentless campaign to weaponize government power against Disney in retaliation for expressing a political viewpoint unpopular with certain State officials.’”
MY TAKE: I doubt that anyone on either side would disagree that DeSantis set out to punish Disney for disagreeing with his policies. Based on the timing and the level of invective, there is no other probable motivation. This establishes one of the most destructive precedents possible in a government, threatening businesses who exercise free speech with economic penalties.
The usual route for people disapproving of a business’s political stance is to stop spending money at that business. That’s how the free market and free speech intersect. But DeSantis wants to make Disney an example so he can bully the rest of Florida’s businesses into staying quiet while intimidating them into campaign donations. If he wasn’t governor, he’d be arrested for extortion.
Each week, DeSantis’ policies are exposed for being anti-American as he amasses a voting base who has never read the Constitution, who wants to dumb-down education, and who doesn’t much care about human rights.
Dwyane Wade Moved His Family Out of Florida Over Anti-LGBTQ+ Laws (The Daily Beast)
SUMMARY: “Retired Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade said his family no longer feels ‘accepted’ in Florida due to the state’s new anti-LGBTQ+ laws. Wade, a father to a transgender daughter, said it’s one of the reasons he moved his family out of Florida in 2019. ‘That’s another reason why I don’t live in this state. A lot of people don’t know that,’ Wade told sportscaster Rachel Nichols in response to a question about Florida lawmakers’ push for restrictive LGBTQ+ policies. ‘I have to make decisions for my family, not just personal, individual decisions.’ Last year, Gov. Ron DeSantis passed the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, which prohibits classroom discussion on gender identity and sexual orientation from kindergarten to third grade. The law was expanded to include all grades earlier this month. ‘You know, obviously, the taxes is great,’ Wade said. ‘Having Wade County is great. But my family would not be accepted or feel comfortable there. And, so that’s one of the reasons why I don’t live there.’”
MY TAKE: Ron DeSantis has often boasted that “Florida is where woke goes to die.” It’s also where integrity, decency, and protecting the innocent goes to die. I couldn’t be more impressed by Wade as a representative of the athletic community and as a father protecting his family. I applaud not just his decision to relocate in defense of his family, but his courage in publicly announcing his reasons in order to make others aware of the dangers of living in Florida.
The problem is that not all marginalized Floridians can afford to leave the state, whether because of cost, jobs, or extended family. They are forced to endure DeSantis’ toxic political antics as he severs the state from all connections to the U.S. Constitution. Welcome to DeSantis World, the Crappiest Place on Earth.
Without your support, this newsletter would not exist. Please subscribe.
Kareem’s Video Break
This is how cooperation works. Sure, it doesn’t result in both of them where they want to be, but you have to love the dedication to each other.
Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene’s Hot Take On Fox News Settlement Goes Awry (HuffPost)
SUMMARY: “Far-right representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (Republican, Georgia) inspired disbelief with her response Tuesday to Dominion Voting Systems’ massive $787 million (£634 million) settlement with Fox News in its defamation suit against the conservative network.
“…Conspiracy theory-endorsing Greene tweeted this questionable take on the outcome: ‘We have food critics that criticize restaurants, consumer reports that criticizes products, auto critics that criticize automobiles, and conservative Americans have just wrapped up a week of nuking a beer company, but you can’t criticize a voting machine company or you’ll get sued for millions and millions of dollars.’”
MY TAKE: Greene is the perfect example of the Dunning-Kruger effect, offering opinions when she lacks the ability to be logical, which should be a prerequisite for our lawmakers. Greene is unaware of the difference between criticizing and defaming. Criticizing the Fast and Furious franchise for using the word “family” too much isn’t the same as saying a company rigged the presidential election. One is an opinion and the other is an accusation. In one, the audience has an expectation of personal bias; in the other, we have an expectation of proof because, if true, the entire democratic process is undermined.
That wasn’t Greene’s only piloting into the side of a mountain that week. She also complained about a report that the Democrats weren’t going to hold primary debates: “How are Democrat voters ok with this? Your own party is telling you that you have no choice and they refuse to even give you a choice. They should just go ahead and call themselves the Democrat Communist Party.” She seemed unaware that in 2020, the Republicans also had no official primary debates. By extension, she just accused the GOP of being the Republican Communist Party.
In response to her “Democrat Communist Party” slur, in March of 2022, she spoke at an event organized by white nationalists who supported Communist Russia’s invasion of democratic Ukraine as the crowd chanted “Putin!” How anti-Communist is Greene? Read this: “Russian State TV Touts Marjorie Taylor Greene as Donald Trump's Replacement.”
Incompetence, intolerance, and illogical thinking equals a replacement for Trump. Just the qualities Russia is looking for. And apparently some Americans want to collude with Russia by voting for them.
[NOTE: When I refer to Russia as being communist, I’m not reducing the complex, nuanced politics of Russia to this simple word. I’m referring to how Americans in general look at communism and how the word, like socialism, has become a pejorative to characterize the left, even as the right aligns with some of the same principles and leaders.]
Guardsman in leak case wanted to kill a ‘ton of people’: US (AP)
SUMMARY: The Massachusetts Air National guardsman accused of leaking highly classified military documents kept an arsenal of guns and said on social media that he would like to kill a “ton of people,” prosecutors said in arguing Thursday that 21-year-old Jack Teixeira should remain in jail for his trial.
But the judge at Teixeira’s detention hearing put off an immediate decision whether he should be kept in custody until his trial or released to home confinement or under other conditions. Teixeira was led away from the court in handcuffs, black rosary beads around his neck, pending that ruling.
MY TAKE: So, this 21-year-old “hero” to some far-right Republicans turns out to be a racist and mass murderer-in-waiting (“Airman Accused of Leak Has History of Racist and Violent Remarks, Filing Says”.) Marjorie Taylor Greene said: “Jake Teixeira is white, male, Christian, and anti-war. That makes him an enemy to the Biden regime.” Wouldn’t the fact that he published classified documents putting many lives and our national security in danger make him an enemy to, well, America? Before being fired, Tucker Carlson said: “He revealed the crimes, therefore he’s the criminal. That’s how Washington works. Telling the truth is the only real sin.” Doesn’t it matter which truths you tell? For example, if I published the codes to launch our missiles, I’m telling the truth, but just because something is true doesn’t mean it needs to be broadcast. If I stick a hidden camera in Carlson’s home and then broadcast compromising video, is telling “the truth” really my only crime?
Other Republicans saw this as a political opportunity. “The Biden administration has failed to secure classified information,” tweeted Republican Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy. “Through our committees, Congress will get answers as to why they were asleep at the switch.” Somehow, Biden is responsible for this man’s access to documents in the Massachusetts Air National Guard. How, exactly? That doesn’t matter. What matters is the opportunity to avoid facing real issues like health care (Americans are dying younger, while people in similar countries are living longer), infrastructure, the economy, and daily mass shootings. Instead, they hope these public hearings will do damage to Biden as the election nears. Hey, Kevin McCarthy, since Biden is responsible for all things, don’t forget to give Biden an attaboy for catching the guy.
A Transgender Lawmaker Is Exiled as Montana G.O.P. Flexes New Power (The New York Times)
SUMMARY: “As Montana lawmakers entered the critical final days of their legislative session on Thursday, one of the state’s only transgender lawmakers, Zooey Zephyr, was left exiled from the House chamber, monitoring the debate and casting votes on a laptop as she sat on a hallway bench near a bustling snack stand.
“Even as her Republican peers sought to isolate her in the wake of her impassioned comments against a proposed ban on what doctors call gender-affirming medical care for children, Ms. Zephyr said she would not remain idle. She spent much of the day on the bench, working with headphones in her ears to block the sound of chattering lobbyists, the hiss of a milk foamer and the voices of lawmakers ordering coffee.
MY TAKE: If I lived in a state where the legislators felt so emboldened that they could punish other legislators for the most minor infractions, I would be organizing voters to impeach them as impediments to democracy. The GOP has a supermajority in both houses of the legislature, so elected representatives feel like they have a popular mandate to do whatever they want and to nurture whatever prejudices they have. Who’s going to stop them?
Early in April, Zephyr told the other House members that “passing a bill to prohibit hormone treatments and surgical care for transgender minors would be ‘tantamount to torture’ and would result in ‘blood on your hands’ for lawmakers who approved it.” The House Republicans reacted just like the high school popular crowd in movies, by shunning her and not allowing her to participate in floor discussions. Last week, they went full Mean Girls by banning her from the chamber for the rest of the 90-day legislative session. Republicans made speeches about how Zephyr’s comments incited violence and insurrection because she pointed a microphone toward protestors outside supporting her. Sadly, these legislators don’t seem to understand the difference between peaceful protest and an insurrection, which means they don’t understand how democracy works.
Ironically, Zephyr was correct in her original statement that their clearly anti-trans bill will only encourage the rising hate crimes against the LGBTQ+ community (“New FBI Data Shows More Hate Crimes”) as they try to alienate and demonize them. Their blood will indeed be on those legislators’ hands.
RELATED: “Montana Lawmaker Suggests She’d Rather Her Daughter Die by Suicide Than Transition”
SUMMARY: “Republican Rep. Kerri Seekins-Crowe, who recently sponsored a bill banning gender-affirming care for minors, suggested in March during a debate on the floor of the Montana statehouse that she had blocked the treatment for her own daughter, even as her daughter was suicidal.
“…Someone once asked me, ‘Wouldn’t I just do anything to help save her?’ And I really had to think and the answer was, “No,”’ Seekins-Crowe said.”
MY TAKE: Seekins-Crowe referred to her daughter’s suicidal tendencies as “emotional manipulation.” Statistics indicate that 82% of transgender individuals have considered suicide and 40% have actually attempted to kill themselves. Protect the children? Maybe even protect her own child? Not on her watch.
Kareem’s Jukebox Playlist
Steely Dan: “Deacon’s Blues”
One of the things I like about jazz is its ability to adapt and enhance other musical genres. It’s like a great basketball player who can go to any playground pick-up game and learn how to fit into any group to make them a better team. Whenever jazz teamed up with rock, we got some amazing sounds.
Steely Dan was probably the most successful band to create a fusion of jazz, blues, and rock. Founded in 1971 by Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, Steely Dan reflected their love of jazz and rock. Early in their career, they were known as the Don Fagen Jazz Trio, among other names, and once included Chevy Chase as their drummer.
In 1977, they released the album Aja, their most jazz-influenced recording yet—and their most successful. Many jazz greats played on this album, including saxophonist Wayne Shorter.
I selected “Deacon’s Blues” over some of their more well-known hits like “Rikki Don’t Lose that Number” and “Reelin’ in the Years” because it is the perfect blend of jazz and rock and because it has insightful, poetic lyrics. The song reflects on the struggles of the young outsider looking for meaning, particularly Becker and Fagen’s youthful dreams of becoming jazz musicians (a fantasy I sometimes shared.) I’ve always really liked the chorus: “They got a name for the winners in the world/I want a name when I lose/They call Alabama the Crimson Tide/Call me Deacon Blues.” Fagen’s explanation for those lines struck me as a kind of empowering anthem for the marginalized: “[I]f a college football team like the University of Alabama could have a grandiose name like the ‘Crimson Tide’ the nerds and losers should be entitled to a grandiose name as well.”
I’d rather be woke than asleep. As Ben Franklin said “our republic is founded on the principle that it will continue only as long as the people keep democracy alive.” Thank you Dwayne Wade, Zooey Zephyr, the Tennessee Three, and Amanda Zurawski, for your wokeness and keeping democracy alive.
I agree with you RE the horror of DeSantis and the death penalty verdict changes, but you are misunderstanding the quote. A death penalty case is made up of 2 verdicts. The first unanimous verdict results in the conviction. Usually, the second penalty must be unanimous in order to impose death. DeSantis is whining about why when you have a unanimous verdict for conviction do you need a second unanimous verdict for death. It’s this second unanimous verdict that he is scrapping.
It’s a horror show. The USA has such harsh penalties for crime. Even life without parole, the sentence that is imposed when the jury does not impose death in a capital case is atrociously harsh. There really is no reason why every prisoner, no matter the crime, should not be offered the possibility of parole. People change over time. And just because you have the possibility of parole does not mean you get granted release.