GOP Congressman Blasts GOP for Doing Nothing and Colt's Owner Claims His Arrest Proves Bias Against Billionaires
Dem. strategist Donna Brazile's Racist Remarks about Vivek Ramaswamy, Cher and Barbra Streisand Threaten to Leave U.S. If Trump Wins, New: Kareem’s Movie Masterpiece Vault, Hall & Oates Sue & Sing
What I’m Discussing Today:
Kareem’s Daily Quote: Robert Frost asks us to re-examine our life goals—because we might just achieve them.
Colt’s Owner Claims Bias Against Billionaires for His Arrest: Perhaps we need to show support with “I Can’t Yacht” t-shirts. Not just tone-deaf, socially blind.
GOP Congressman Blasts GOP for Doing Nothing: He’s not wrong, but there’s no joy for the country in his admission.
Democratic strategist Donna Brazile Gets Smugly Racist about Vivek Ramaswamy: I physically cringed watching her despicable comments.
Cher and Barbra Streisand Threatens to Leave U.S. If Trump is Re-elected: At least 20 celebs made the same threat in 2016. I sympathize with their despair, but the fight is here.
Kareem’s Video Break: Get in the holiday spirit by watching one of the most touching videos ever.
New: Kareem’s Movie Masterpiece Vault: Trying something new: I’m recommending older movies worthy of being called masterpieces. Let me know if you like this feature.
Hall & Oates Sing: Hall may be suing Oates, but “She’s Gone” reminds us why they still matter.
Kareem’s Daily Quote
I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
Robert Frost, “After Apple-Picking”
In Robert Frost’s brilliant but melancholy poem “After Apple-Picking,” the narrator has a sudden realization toward the end of his life that maybe his lifelong driving ambition (“great harvest”) was the wrong choice. He fears he squandered his life in pursuit of material success and is now left alone, without family or friends. Without love. As we come to the end of another year—when we assess our actions of the past and make promises about the future—this seems like a perfect time for a brief meditation on Frost’s quote.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
There are two things about these lines worth noting. First, we look at how the orchard owner comes to this sudden harsh re-evaluation of his life. What makes a person have such a profound and disturbing judgement about their whole life? Well, he looked through a piece of ice, of course:
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
He lifts a piece of ice off the drinking trough and holds it up so he can look through it at his vast orchard. What he sees isn’t the beautiful fruition of his lifelong ambition, but a “world of hoary grass.” (Hoary means “gray or white with age.”) The icy distortion actually allows him to see his accomplishments accurately for the first time. He recognizes that his life’s work is decaying before him—as all material things must—and that he accomplished nothing of lasting value. For me, the pane of ice represents art and the power art has to make us see our world more clearly. A story, a movie, a poem, a song, a painting—they all have the power to grab us by the shoulders and shake us out of the slumber of our biases.
This rare moment of insight is when we know something is wrong and we now have the opportunity to take steps to change. There is no point to insight if we don’t use it to better our lives. Unfortunately, we sometimes don’t have the courage to change, and we sink back into the overstuffed sofa of familiarity. As Joni Mitchell sings, “I get the urge for going, but I never seem to go.”
The second aspect of the quote is about what goals we choose to pursue. How do we know we are chasing the right dream and not someone else’s dream. A few years ago, I read a poll taken of professional men and women in their mid-thirties to mid-forties. They all had college degrees or post-graduate degrees. They all had the careers they’d worked hard for and the families they’d wanted. Yet, 85% said they were unhappy. One of the greatest sadnesses is achieving one’s goal only to discover it is unsatisfying. As the old saying goes, “Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it.” Though I prefer Oscar Wilde’s take: “When the gods wish to punish us they answer our prayers.”
Add to that this recent article I read: “No. 1 life regret of dying patients: I see it ‘all the time,’ says psychology expert—what to do ‘before it’s too late’.” In the article, an in-home caregiver who takes care of people who are dying says that in their final days many of her patients express the same regret: “I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
Our orchard owner is wondering the same thing. In his blind, fanatical drive to succeed, has he inadvertently pushed aside all the delights of life that make it fulfilling and happy? Sometimes successful people mistake the envy of others for happiness because that’s as close as they will get. To them, the facade of happiness and contentment—as thin and glossy as a staged Christmas card—is sufficient. This blindness to their own false narrative is the essence of of all tragedies. Just ask King Lear and Othello.
The choice is between being motivated by a passion for life or by a fear of the judgement of others. No wonder the orchard CEO says at the end of the poem:
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
He worries that death (sleep) is near and that he has squandered his life in trivial pursuits. The poem is a pane of ice each of us is meant to hold against our own world and ask ourselves, “What do you see?”
SUMMARY: Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said his March 2014 arrest for driving under the influence was a result of prejudice against him for being white and wealthy.
The longtime NFL owner spoke about the circumstances of his arrest in an interview with the HBO show Real Sports that aired on Tuesday. Irsay later pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of operating a vehicle while impaired after initially facing four additional counts of possession of a controlled substance.
“I am prejudiced against because I’m a rich, white billionaire,” Irsay told HBO’s Andrea Kremer. “If I’m just the average guy down the block, they’re not pulling me in, of course not.”
Asked how he thinks it sounds for a white billionaire to claim that he’s a victim of prejudice, Irsay stood by his remarks.
“I don’t care what it sounds like,” Irsay said. “It’s the truth ... I could give a damn what people think how anything sounds or sounds like. The truth is the truth, and I know the truth.”
MY TURN: I’m sure many of my regular readers have observed by now that I often include stories that directly relate to the daily quote. In this case, Irsay’s quote (“The truth is the truth, and I know the truth.”) is that King Lear-type tragedy (he’s not a king but certainly is as wealthy as one, which means he’s treated by others as if he’s royalty). As such, financial success has clouded his judgement with the arrogance to believe his money makes him better able than others to see Truth because of his success.
Well, here are some facts: When he was pulled over, cops discovered various prescription drugs and $29,000 in cash. In his field sobriety test, he walked unsteadily (which he blamed on recent hip surgery) and struggled to recite the alphabet. He said he pleaded guilty just to get it over with. He was suspended by the NFL for six games and fined $500,000. Irsay, 64, confessed that he has gone to rehab for addiction 15 times.
Irsay inherited his money and the team, which slightly undercuts where such classist arrogance comes from. Since he’s so interested in truth, here are some facts from the book Suspect Citizens: What 20 Million Traffic Stops Tell Us About Policing and Race:
Blacks were 63 percent more likely to be stopped even though, as a whole, they drive 16 percent less. Taking into account less time on the road, blacks were about 95 percent more likely to be stopped.
Blacks were 115 percent more likely than whites to be searched in a traffic stop (5.05 percent for blacks, 2.35 percent for whites).
Contraband was more likely to be found in searches of white drivers.
And this from Nature Journal:
Black men are 2.5 times more likely than white men to be killed by police during their lifetime.
Black people who were fatally shot by police seemed to be twice as likely as white people to be unarmed.
Now that is prejudice, Irsay.
For someone in his position to cry “billionaire bias” has repercussions through society. He’s now given aid and comfort to racists and enabled their bigotry. The truth is the truth, pal, and the truth is your public statements are dangerous and put others in harm’s way. To paraphrase Lear, “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have an unthinking billionaire blathering about bias.”
Vivek Ramaswamy Hits Back at Donna Brazile for ‘Racist’ Mockery (The Daily Beast)
SUMMARY: Vivek Ramaswamy hit back at Democratic strategist Donna Brazile on Sunday after she intentionally mispronounced his name during an appearance on Friday’s episode of Real Time with Bill Maher.
“I wonder what they’d do if a white Republican intentionally mispronounced Donna’s name & then told her to return ‘home,’” Ramaswamy wrote on X, quoting a post that included the clip and alleged Brazile implied Ramaswamy should go home to India.
During a panel discussion with host Bill Maher and former Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Brazile first mispronounced Ramaswamy’s name and then said he “needs to shut the hell up and go home.” Maher corrected her, though she dismissed the correction.
“Whatever,” she said, adding: “Is it Vivek Ramasama?”
The audience erupted into laughter, though Maher kept trying to make sure she knew his name. “Thank you so much,” Brazile replied with a snicker. “I learn so much for coming on this show.”
“I just feel like there’s something wrong with everybody refusing to learn to say his name,” Maher told Brazile. “I just feel there’s a little racism there.”
MY TAKE: This exchange made me both uncomfortable and disappointed. Donna Brazile did a great disservice to the Democratic Party by sounding like Trump, who deliberately mangles opponents’ names in order to demean them. Brazile has twice been acting Chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) as well as contributor to ABC News, Fox News, and CNN. However, this racist and xenophobic exchange showed no journalistic integrity.
First, if she truly didn’t know how to pronounce Vivek Ramaswamy’s name, that makes her incompetent in her job. Not a good look. Second, her admonishment that he should “go home” is what racists and bigots have been shouting for hundreds of years. Ramaswamy was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, was educated at Harvard and Yale, and made a fortune as a businessman. So, where does she mean by “home”? Any attempt to claim she actually meant Ohio would be disingenuous. Anybody demanding that someone with a clear immigrant heritage “go home” means the ancestral country.
It would be disturbing for anyone to make this racist remark, it’s worse that she’s Black. Her acting like his name is too complex for an average person like herself is disrespectful to all immigrants as well as to the intelligence of Blacks.
I don’t like Vivek Ramaswamy. Despite his Ivy League education, he’s ill-informed on how government works. He’s ignorant of the nuances of social issues. He lacks critical thinking in almost everything he says. He may symbolize the American Dream, but he doesn’t represent American values. We believe in much more than business success.
I remember that when I changed my name from that of the slaveowner family who owned my ancestors, some people would deliberately mispronounce my chosen name as a way to disrespect my choice. Imagine that everything you accomplished brought honor to the name of people who raped, beat, bought, and sold your family. Maybe you’d change it too. In any event, a Kareem by any other name would skyhook as sweet.
GOP Rep Offers Brutal Assessment of Party’s Accomplishments (The Daily Beast)
SUMMARY: Republican Rep. Chip Roy on Wednesday offered up a stinging assessment of his own party’s effectiveness in Congress over the past few years—suggesting that the GOP’s leadership failures are hurting his own chances at reelection. “One thing. I want my Republican colleagues to give me one thing—one—that I can go campaign on and say we did,” he shouted from the dais during an impassioned speech. “Anybody sitting in the complex, if you want to come down to the floor and come explain to me, one material, meaningful, significant thing the Republican majority has done besides, well, ‘I guess it’s not as bad as the Democrats.’"
RELATED: “Ken Buck blasts his party’s hardliners for ‘lying to America’” (Politico)
SUMMARY: Republican Rep. Ken Buck laid into his own party Sunday, blasting those who continue to propagate the lie that the 2020 election was stolen for “lying to America.”
“Everybody who thinks that the election was stolen or talks about the election being stolen is lying to America,” the Colorado Republican said during an interview in CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
…“Too many Republican leaders are lying to America,” he said in his announcement video in early November.
MY TAKE: I’m still reeling from this refreshing blast of honesty from the Republican Congressmen. But I take no joy in their admission. I happen to believe that the country is better off when conservatives and liberals work together, sharing ideas and offering counter-arguments to force both parties to think logically before passing legislation.
But that’s not what’s going on right now. The GOP has been hijacked by the weakest minds in the party. They lack any ability to critically think, which should be the main job qualification for any elected official, and they have no love for the principles of the U.S. Constitution, which is the foundation of our democracy.
As Rep. Chip Roy points out, they have abandoned any effort to improve the living standards of the the people in order to focus on obstructing Democrats who are trying to improve the living standards of the people. If they can’t get credit for something, they don’t want it to happen, even if it’s good for the country.
The GOP has been reduced to a roving gang of bullies who taunt and shove marginalized people. Then they boast about how they banned books, gerrymandered voting power from Blacks, restricted the rights of women, etc. That’s just virtue signaling for good public relations with their base. But what exactly have they accomplished that improved anybody’s life in any measurable way? Especially that of their base?
For those out there complaining about the economy (because that’s the collective talking point of every Republican), what specific laws, programs, initiatives have the GOP passed that improved the economy? What plans have they offered to implement if they’re elected? Plenty of nuthin’. To slightly alter Bob Dylan’s warning in “The Times They Are A-Changin'”: “Please get out [Congress]/If you can't lend your hand.”
Kareem’s Video Break
The holiday season is here and I couldn’t be happier about it. While others may cynically complain about commercialism or decry the hypocrisy of celebrating peace amidst all the war and violence, I don’t see it that way. Love and peace is aspirational. We celebrate them because they are core values we want to embrace—and promote.
This video clip of the opening of Love Actually reminds me of what I love about people. Ironically, it was added on at the last minute because the filmmakers feared that even though the movie was released two years after the 9/11 terrorist attack, people were still too traumatized to accept the frivolity of a romantic comedy. Just the opposite happened: this was the affirmation people needed. Twenty years later it’s still teaching us about love.
Feel like sharing and giving? Let me help.
SUMMARY: Barbra Streisand and Cher both vow to move abroad if Donald Trump is elected president again.
Streisand recently told late-night host Stephen Colbert, “I will move. I can’t live in this country if he became president.”
Cher told The Guardian, “If he gets in, who knows? This time I will leave (the country).”
Empty promises. They both claimed they’d emigrate if Trump won in 2017, and both stayed in America, along with 18 other Hollywood stars who had vowed to move abroad, including Samuel L. Jackson, Miley Ray Cyrus, Bryan Cranston, Whoopi Goldberg, George Lopez and Chelsea Handler.
MY TAKE: The list of 2016 celebs who said they’d leave the country also includes: Lena Dunham, Amy Schumer, Snoop Dogg, Raven Symone, Omari Hardwick, Neve Campbell, Ne-Yo, Jon Stewart, Keegan-Michael Key, Chloe Sevigny, Eddie Griffin, and Amber Rose. Needless to say, none made the move.
It would be easy to smugly make fun of them. After all, the rich have more options to express their displeasure with a candidate by moving elsewhere. It’s a form of protest most people can’t afford. They have to live with the consequences.
Still, I am sympathetic to the celebrity outrage. Trump becoming president the first time could be dismissed as an anomaly, a glitch in the system that allowed the candidate who lost by three million votes to become president. A lot has happened since then: a judge agreed that Trump committed rape, another judge confirmed Trump committed business fraud, Trump admitted that as president he lied to the people about the seriousness of COVID-19, allowing Americans to die, and Trump has been indicted for election fraud. Certainly, no one who takes pride in the United States would want this man as president again. He did nothing for the country as president except help his wealthy friends amass more wealth.
So, when we read polls that place Trump far ahead as the likely GOP candidate, a certain despair sets in about the ability of his supporters to understand facts as well as their lack of moral commitment. To see so many Americans gleefully turn their backs on the Constitution to support a heinous criminal and sex offender is demoralizing. I get that they may see this as similar to getting out of Germany right before the Nazis take power. No judgement.
For me to abandon the country when we most need to fight would be to abandon the world. If the U.S. falls to Trumpian fascism, other democracies will be seriously weakened. Trump would then have the power to blackmail other countries to fall into line (as he tried to do with Ukraine). If I didn’t abandon the U.S. in the midst of some of its most racist decades, I won’t now. For celebrities to leave only silences their voices just when we need to hear them the most.
New Feature: Kareem’s Masterpiece Movie Vault
Today I’m introducing a new recurring feature, “Kareem’s Masterpiece Movie Vault,” in which I recommend a great movie from the past that I think you will like. It might be a well-known classic or an overlooked gem. But it will be a movie that affected me in some way and has stayed with me through the years as a masterpiece.
Five Easy Pieces (1970)
In the late sixties and early seventies, Hollywood was facing an identity crisis. Some of their most high-profile, expensive, star-stuffed movies were not making money. To the rescue came a bunch of young, brash, filmmakers who wanted to make movies differently. Among that new group was Bob Rafelson, who at 36 made one of the best movies in American film history. Five Easy Pieces was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay.
The plot follows a classically-trained-musician-turned-oil-field-roustabout Bobby Dupea, played by Jack Nicholson in the finest acting of his career. Bobby has tried to flee what he sees as his fate: to become a classical musician like everyone else in his family. Ironically, in fleeing, he ends up in exactly the same position. Only the faces have changed. His dilemma is perfectly captured in the famous restaurant scene in which Bobby tries to calmly get toast, which is not on the menu. After giving the hostile waitress an elaborate order to get toast without breaking any rules, he explodes. Later in the car, one of the hitchhikers he and his girlfriend picked up praises him for his cleverness. His reply encapsulates the theme: “Yeah, but I didn’t get the toast.” Despite all his fist-shaking outrage over life’s unfairness, he still doesn’t get what he wants.
The problem is that Bobby is the same selfish, myopic person he was before. He can’t change his “fate” because he doesn’t have the insight to recognize that he creates his own despair. He’s not a likable guy, but we identify with his quest for meaning and are touched by his passionate failures.
There is nothing predictable or familiar about this movie. In fact, it is filled with many memorable scenes that make you wish more movies today were as daring and smart.
Kareem’s Jukebox Playlist
Hall & Oates: “She’s Gone”
Last week Daryl Hall sued John Oates over plans to sell a stake in a joint venture. These things happen. But I prefer to remember them for their great fusion of rock, soul, and rhythm and blues. Fifty years ago, Hall & Oates were at the top of their artistry. They wrote most of their own songs, with six of them hitting number one. They still rank as the most successful duo of all time, ahead of even the Everly Brothers, the Carpenters, and Simon & Garfunkel.
In 1973, they released their album Abandoned Luncheonette. “She’s Gone,” which is from that album, charted on both Billboard Hot 100 and the R&B list. Reportedly, Hall & Oates wrote it at a time when both had just gone through painful break-ups. This song has one of my favorite opening lines: “Everybody's high on consolation.” I don’t think any lyric before or since has captured so succinctly the hidden giddiness of friends consoling someone over lost love. It’s not that they aren’t sincere, but there’s also the feeling of “thank goodness it’s not me.”
There’s a live version of the song and a promotional video directed by Oates sister. The sound quality of the live version isn’t as good as the one I posted and the promo video is distractingly strange. Side note: The line in the chorus—“I'd pay the devil to replace her”—I used to think was: “It’d take the devil to replace her.” Theirs reflects the depths of the man’s despair. Mine suggests she’s demonic, which expresses his anger. You decide which line is better. You’re welcome, Hall & Oates.
Meanwhile, enjoy the best break-up song ever.
Until next time, faithful reader…
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.