Discover more from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Does Woke Mean Broke?, DeSantis Proposes Murdering Migrants, Women Are Drinking Themselves to Death, Nuns Rebel Against Bishop, Women Star in Majority of TV Shows, Bola Sete Plays Jazz Guitar
My take on news, pop culture, sports, and whatever else interests me.
Sometimes I have to laugh at myself. There are a few rare times when I finish a newsletter and sit back with a satisfied sigh and think, “That should solve the problem.” After all, I spent four days reading, researching, and writing flawless logical arguments. I argued, I counter-argued, I used incisive metaphors. Certainly, the world will now join hands in celebratory agreement and whatever evil I just exposed will immediately cease to exist. Paradise regained. You’re welcome, World.
Then, I slap myself out of my sleep-deprived delirium and start the next newsletter.
I realize that my purpose isn’t to solve problems. That’s way too grandiose. Problems of some sort will always plague humanity. I just want to lend a hand in pushing the giant rock up the hill while also giving comfort to others who are struggling with the weight. The more we work together, the lighter the load for everyone. That’s my real purpose: to lighten the load. That’s what I hope this newsletter does.
Does Woke Equal Broke or Will Conservatives Choke on Anti-Woke Smoke (Whew!)
When the movie Barbie was released, conservative gadfly Ben Shapiro mocked, smirked, and ranted for 43 minutes (including setting fire to a Barbie doll), concluding that the power of his outrage and that of other Barbiephobe conservatives would bury the movie financially: “My prediction: [Barbie] is just absolutely going to fall off a cliff after [week one]. The repeat business on this movie is going to be nonexistent.”
But conservative kung fu was not strong: Barbie has made more than $1.2 billion worldwide and is on track to become the highest-grossing film of 2023. It’s Warner Bros.’ fastest billion-dollar earner in history and has set a record for the highest opening for a woman director.
Hey, we’re all wrong sometimes, especially when trying to predict the successes and failures of pop culture. But what’s noteworthy here is how out of step with reality Shapiro’s prediction is. There is a vast group of people out there who don’t care what conservatives say about pop culture. To them, it’s nothing more than the drone of gramps complaining about “that damn rap music.” One of the largest groups that don’t care about Shapiro-style mansplaining is women.
That doesn’t mean that conservative pot-shots at businesses have not been occasionally effective. The boycott of Bud Light after they aligned with a transgender social influencer to promote their beer has resulted in Anheuser-Busch cutting hundreds of jobs. (Great accomplishment: they put hundreds of people out of work.) The boycott against Target for its annual Pride Month merchandise has also resulted in substantial losses in U.S. sales.
Sadly, both companies immediately retreated when bullied. Anheuser-Busch issued a vague non-statement about how they want to bring people together over a beer, not divide them. Then, they suspended the executives responsible for the campaign. Target’s chief growth officer, Christina Hennington said, "The reaction is a signal for us to pause, adapt and learn so that our future approach to these moments balances celebration, inclusivity and broad-based appeal.”
Conservatives have used this corporate jibber-jabber as proof that they backed down two giant companies from their “woke” stance. They’re right. Both Anheuser-Busch and Target look like they have been cowered by the worst of humanity. I don’t think either company would have backed down if conservatives demanded they stop carrying products that support Juneteenth or African-American pride. But LQBTQ+ people are so much easier to ignore and marginalize—and that’s what makes those companies’ retreat so shameful.
Ironically, Kid Rock was recently photographed drinking Bud Light, just months after he posted a video of himself shooting cans of Bud Light while screaming, “Fuck Bud Light and fuck Anheuser-Busch.” Oh, yeah, he also serves the beer in his Nashville bar. A waitress at his bar is reported as saying that the bar stopped selling the beer for a week after his video was posted, then started up again.
“Go woke, go broke” is an urban myth as quaint and laughable as Big Foot, Trump’s “irrefutable” evidence, and Giuliani’s “scientific evidence.” One of the reasons some people get away with making the claim is that they deliberately don’t define woke. It means one thing when they describe one company, but another for a different company. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, gun manufacturer Ruger supports diversity and inclusion policies, as do Bass Pro Shops, Cracker Barrel, Ford, Fox, GM, Home Depot, Molson Coors, Walmart, and many more. They’re all “woke,” and they aren’t going broke. Conservatives don’t even mention them. Facts don’t really matter to this crowd. Remember, 19% of Americans (about 63 million people!) believe (or aren’t sure) that the Earth is flat.
The phrase “Go woke, go broke” reveals the moral hollowness of those who love to say it. A person of strong moral character would support what they consider right, even if it costs them financially—conscience over commerce. Remember every group that’s been persecuted in this country’s history: Blacks, Jews, Irish, Italians, Asians, Catholics, women, etc. Would you defend these people, even if you knew it would cost you customers? If not, you aren’t really a fan of the U.S. Constitution, democracy, or the America most of us strive to create. You’re just a cheap tourist complaining about the food.
DeSantis Okays Murder
DeSantis Wants Drug Runners to Be Shot ‘Stone Cold’ Dead at the Border (The Daily Beast)
SUMMARY: Ron DeSantis just unveiled the most disturbing and morbid part of his aggressive immigration and border security plan if he were elected president. “We’re going to authorize the use of deadly force against the cartels,” he told radio host Erick Erickson on Friday. “If you have somebody coming in with the fentanyl in the backpack, they even break through the border wall where there is wall, if they’re doing that, that’s the last thing they’re going to be able to do because we’re going to leave them stone cold dead at the border. We’re not putting up with it anymore,” DeSantis continued, prompting the crowd to clap. His first major policy proposal as a GOP presidential hopeful was the rolling out of his “No Excuses” plan, which echoes Trump-esque policies such as ending birthright citizenship for the children of undocumented immigrants and building a southern border wall…
MY TAKE: The notorious Judge Roy Bean is known in American Western lore for his overreaching, illegal, and immoral verdicts as a Justice of the Peace. Bean promoted his own brand by calling himself “The Only Law West of the Pecos” (like DeSantis’s brand of “Florida is where woke goes to die.”) Bean’s brand of justice is reflected in one of his early official acts: to shoot up the saloon of a Jewish competitor. Mostly, he used his position to steal money from the citizens.
The Wild West seems to be where DeSantis derives his notions of justice, because it sure isn’t from the U.S. Constitution or the American legal system. Now he’s branding himself as a law-and-order gunslinger. He won’t actually sling the gun himself, of course, his avatars at the border will, because then the onus of actually murdering someone will be on them, and DeSantis can disavow any responsibility.
“We’re going to authorize the use of deadly force against the cartels.”
This is a meaningless statement, like saying he’s authorizing the police to use deadly force against criminals. They already have the authority to use deadly force against criminals, but they don’t have it to use against all criminals or all crimes. It sounds like DeSantis is walking down the middle of the street and calling out the cartels for a showdown. He’s not. Law enforcement can’t shoot someone simply because they suspect they are a member of a cartel. That’s murder, and the shooter will be prosecuted.
“If you have somebody coming in with the fentanyl in the backpack, they even break through the border wall where there is wall, if they’re doing that, that’s the last thing they’re going to be able to do because we’re going to leave them stone cold dead at the border. We’re not putting up with it anymore.”
First, let’s deal with the facts. Close to 90% of illicit fentanyl is seized at official border crossings (“Who is sneaking fentanyl across the southern border? Hint: it's not the migrants”). DeSantis knows this fact, yet he ignores it in order to link a massive problem in the U.S. to an imaginary villain—migrants. The first part of his statement is to be able to characterize migrants as drug-runners. If he’s that worried about the problem, why is he sending over a thousand law enforcement agents to the Texas-Mexico border and not to the legal border crossings to help search where the actual fentanyl is coming? Because he’s about the theater of caring, not actually doing anything meaningful.
As for shooting migrants “stone cold dead,” how exactly does that work? What if a drug gang slaps a backpack full of fentanyl onto the back of a twelve-year-old child (the kind of thing they’re known for doing: “Youth are Smuggling Drugs on Behalf of Cartels”)? How will the officers know from a distance and in the dark whether it’s a child or an adult? If they see them through some hi-tech scope and see that it’s an adult, how do they determine from a distance that they’re carrying fentanyl? They would have to search them first. Once they do discover someone carrying it, will they execute them once in custody? Any of these scenarios involves murdering an unarmed person.
DeSantos doesn’t seem to understand that the point of so many of our greatest Westerns was the triumph of an impartial legal system over the vigilante style of justice that ended in murder and lynchings, often of innocent people. He needs to take another look at The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance when Ransom (Jimmy Stewart) says: “I don't want to kill him, I just want to put him in jail!” Tom (John Wayne) realizes the time of right being decided by the fastest gun is coming to an end and disappears. Just as DeSantis’ time should be coming to an end—and he should disappear.
Every week I think to myself, “Well, he can’t get any worse.” And every week he proves me wrong. Can it get worse than “stone cold” murder? Stay tuned.
Kareem’s Video Break
I often worry that coaches and parents are adding so much pressure that kids forget to enjoy playing sports. This video gives me hope.
I’m writing. You’re reading. If that works for you, then please subscribe so we can keep that relationship going.
This Week in Women’s Daily Reality
SUMMARY: Deaths related to excessive alcohol consumption are rapidly rising in the United States, especially among women, a new study finds.
While drinking is still killing more men than women, the rate of alcohol-related deaths is rising faster among women, according to the report published Friday in JAMA Network Open.
…Previous studies found that women are drinking greater amounts of alcohol, with binging becoming increasingly common, and that may at least partially explain the rising rates of complications like cirrhosis…
MY TAKE: I was watching a documentary show the other day in which a group of single women in their mid-twenties to early thirties were discussing how they would not want to marry a man who didn’t drink because he wouldn’t be able to have fun with them. To them, there was no fun without alcohol. That’s pretty much America’s attitude toward drinking.
Honest, dispassionate discussions of alcohol use are nearly impossible in America because booze is so heavily intertwined as a cultural symbol of fun and a remedy for all our social ailments. Any criticism leads to knee-jerk reactions as if you’ve just slapped someone’s mother. We have romanticized drinking to the point that every time a celebrity on a talk show mentions drinking, the audience cheers. Whenever Stephen Colbert jokes about getting hammered or drinks hard liquor during his show, the audience whoops with delight. To them, it’s a symbol of…what exactly? It’s not rebelliousness since most people do it.
About 65% of U.S. adults over 18 are drinkers. Contrary to what many people may think, people with higher incomes (80%) are more likely to drink than lower incomes (49%) and people with college degrees and above (75%) are more likely to drink than those with no college (51%). This goes against prevalent stereotypes of beer-swilling rednecks in pick-ups drinking from a recently purchased six-pack. Also concerning, binge drinking among adults 35 to 50 hit record rates in 2022, with 30% reporting binge drinking, up from 23% in 2012. Alcohol is the fourth-leading preventable cause of death in the United States.
But it’s women who are often portrayed on television and in movies as in desperate need of a big glass of wine whenever they (1) have a bad day, (2) need to endure a shock, (3) have trouble with a relationship, (4) want to be happier, (5) want to be romantic. Mostly, bad writers give us the cliched woman who can only unwind from her day at work or parenting by drinking. Not only is it lazy writing, but it also promotes the romanticizing of drinking as an indicator of being fun and a way to cope with conflicts. It’s very much the way cigarettes used to be symbols of sophistication and independence—when, in fact, it was simply an addictive poison.
I’m not calling for a revival of Prohibition, but we need to de-fetishize drinking, stop making it a necessary ingredient to having fun, and stop promoting it as a medicine for social anxiety, depression, or even a bad day at work. In reality, alcohol is less the cure than the disease itself. Part of the solution is for Hollywood to stop pimping booze as a fun lubricant for adventure, romance, and happiness.
Nuns say they no longer recognize Fort Worth bishop’s authority, ban him from property (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
SUMMARY: The Monastery of the Most Holy Trinity in Arlington said in a statement Friday that it no longer recognizes the authority of Fort Worth Bishop Michael Olson and he is banned from entering the property.
“Our Monastery in general and our Mother Prioress in particular have been subjected to unprecedented interference, intimidation, aggression, private and public humiliation and spiritual manipulation,” they said in the statement, referring to Olson’s report claiming a prioress of the monastery broke her vow of chastity.
The Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth said in a statement Friday they had not been notified of the “dangerously rebellious decision by the dismissed prioress and the other nuns.”
“Bishop Olson asks the faithful of the Diocese of Fort Worth and all people of good will to pray for the Carmelites that they will stop their open disobedience,” said the diocese in the statement. “Bishop Olson and the Diocese of Fort Worth stand with Pope Francis and will remain faithful to the canonical process that is currently underway.”
MY TAKE: If you read the entire article, you will see that there is a more convoluted story involving the dismissal of a nun for breaking her vows of chastity and a $1 million lawsuit. Lots of names. Lots of accusations. Not really the point here.
To me, the point is that it takes a lot of moxie for a group of devout nuns to reach a point where they are willing to take on the Catholic Church. Their accusations against Bishop Olson for “unprecedented interference, intimidation, aggression, private and public humiliation and spiritual manipulation” sounds so familiar to many women looking at the paternalistic pandemic in so many workplaces. Of course, the nuns knew the Church was male-centric when they took their vows, so this must be such an egregious betrayal from Olson to force this reaction.
A statement released by the Carmelite nuns explained their actions: “But our filial trust has been abused by the personal and public behaviors of a man who, in the pursuit of his unspecified personal ends, does not fear to shout at nuns or to humiliate them in private and in public when they protest that their rights have been ignored, who does not hesitate to violate their sacred enclosure through his officials, and whose actions in respect of personal property and privacy are more than seriously questionable.”
How delicious it is to hear the Church hierarchy refer to them as “dangerously rebellious” and scold them for their “open disobedience” as if they were teen girls missing curfew. Perhaps the Church—already in desperate need of some good PR—may recognize these bold women as a welcome asset rather than infantilizing them.
Women Star in Majority of the Most Popular TV Shows, Study Finds (The Hollywood Reporter)
SUMMARY: For the first time since the Hollywood gender parity coalition ReFrame was formed in 2017 by the Sundance Institute and Women in Film, the majority of the most popular shows on television and streaming were toplined by women.
According to the ReFrame Report on Gender & Hiring in TV, 108 (54 percent) of the top 200 scripted series in the 2022-23 season featured a woman in the lead role, up from 45.5 percent last year. Women of color were No. 1 on the call sheet on 39 shows (21 last year). Supporting casts are also diversifying: The ensembles of 152 shows (76 percent) were composed of at least 50 percent people from an underrepresented gender identity with 129 (64.5 percent) of them featuring casts of at least 25 percent women of color.
Writers achieved gender parity, with 50.08 percent of episodes penned by women (up from 48.4 percent), while the share of episodes directed by women increased from 36 percent to 40 percent. (Still, they only nabbed 31 of 113 pilot helming gigs, and just three of those — all for streaming services — were directed by a woman of color.)
The percentage of female showrunners ticked up from 29.5 percent last season to 32.5 percent (women showrunners of color rose from 3.5 percent to 9.5 percent). Women wrote or co-wrote the majority (55 percent) of episodes on network TV, half (50 percent) on streaming and 39 percent on cable.
MY TAKE: There are two things necessary for gender parity: (1) women need to be SEEN in a full spectrum of roles that reflect complexity of character, and (2) women’s voices need to be HEARD as they tell us their own stories without a male translator.
The first means that women are portrayed in art as having a full range of intellect and emotion. They can be goofy, they can be boring, they can be smart, they can be ruthless. They can even be all those things at once. The second means the off-camera people—showrunners, writers, directors, crew, etc.—are also involved in telling their own stories.
This report indicates genuine progress, and that is a reason for cautious optimism. Especially since we’ve seen the once very public push for diversity shrinking (“6 DEI leaders just left senior roles in Hollywood and media—it’s part of a larger problem: ‘It’s absolutely alarming’”). Nationwide, about 60% of chief diversity officers of S&P 500 companies left their jobs between 2018 and 2021. Their position is often one of the first eliminated in economic downturns. Perhaps part of the exodus is because they are not getting corporate support in making actual changes. Research indicates that DEI efforts stalled in 2022 (“DEI programing stalled in 2022—how that could ‘alienate’ young workers in the future”), which does not bode well for commitment to changing systemic racism.
But let’s celebrate our victories when we can—and work to keep them as victories and not past glories.
‘We need help and we’re not getting it’: what a surge in murders means for Black women in Iowa (The Guardian)
SUMMARY: …[A]t least 13 Black women…were killed in Iowa in 2020, more than six times the number who were killed the year before, when two Black women were slain, according to a Guardian analysis of Iowa’s public safety data. By comparison, the overall number of homicides in the state increased by about 63%, from 70 in 2019 to 111 in 2020. All but one Black woman killed in Iowa died from a gunshot wound, according to a Guardian analysis of public health data, police data and news clippings.
In 2020 and 2021, there was an unprecedented national rise in homicides, most of them committed with guns. Within this national increase was an alarming yet overlooked rise in the homicide rate for Black women.
The Guardian looked back at 2020, a year also marked by the pandemic and nationwide protests for racial justice, and found that for Black women in the US, the homicide rate rose 33%. That’s a sharper increase than for every demographic except Black men, and more than double the rate of white women, according to a Guardian analysis of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. Nearly half of the killings of Black women and girls nationwide in 2020 were committed by someone they knew – including partners, family members, friends and acquaintances.
…In Iowa, a small, majority white, mostly rural state with a strong gun culture and few gun restrictions, this trend was particularly pronounced. Overall, Black residents represented half of the 106 people killed in Iowa in 2020, according to data from the CDC, despite making up 5% of the state’s population.
MY TAKE: Don’t look to Dateline or Netflix for a true crime documentary about any of these victims. Or a Lifetime movie about a plucky woman fighting back. There’s nothing “sexy” about these crimes. Who cares about Black women in Iowa? (I’m wondering how many people skipped this article when they read the headline.)
The reason this article is so significant is because it is a microcosm of a larger issue that faces women—especially Black women—across the country. According to The Guardian’s research, “During the pandemic, homicides of Black women and girls tripled in Kentucky, more than doubled in the District of Columbia, and doubled in Wisconsin and Ohio.”
In 2020, Black women and girls were murdered at a rate of eight per 100,000, a rate four times higher than White or Latina women. Indigenous women were second, with a rate of 5.8 homicides per 100,000. This murder rate is higher than that of White men and boys (4.7 per 100,000).
The increase is attributed to disparities that include overall life expectancy to educational and job opportunities to health care. The marginalized are viewed by others, and sometimes by themselves, as being disposable. That makes them more likely to be murdered and their murders less likely to be solved.
The GOP has already made clear its intentions to continue the kind of social and economic pressure that creates more hardships on women, especially Black women, by banning abortion, restricting birth control, suppressing minority voting, and urging no-fault divorce. All of these contribute to the problem. Not one candidate has addressed how they might alleviate the murders. They want to focus on banning drag shows and keeping children from learning about Black history. Well, this right here is Black history in the making—just the kind that they will not want their children reading about because it makes the kids ashamed, not of themselves, but of their parents.
Kareem’s Jukebox Playlist
Bola Sete: Tour de Force
I don’t often present purely instrumental selections unless they really soar. This video of Brazilian jazz guitarist Bola Sete playing “Tour de Force” with the Vince Guaraldi Trio at Ralph Gleason's Jazz Casual in 1963 soars. In jazz, it’s usually the sax or trumpet or piano (even the bass!) that gets the glory, but Sete makes us appreciate just how much great guitar playing contributes to a lively and sprightly jazz sound.
Sete is revered as a forerunner of New Age music, but it was Dizzy Gillespie who boosted Sete’s career when he included him in his album New Wave! Sete continued to impress other musicians around the world whose music he translated into his jazz sound. Legendary blues guitarist John Fahey said listening to Sete for the first time was “a turning point … I couldn’t sit still. I’d never heard anything like it since Charley Patton, and this was better. I was transformed, purged – I was not the same.” Carlos Santana called Sete “an orchestra by himself.” Amen.