GOP Kills Border Deal They Asked For & Trump's Plans for the Environment Are Truly Scary
FL School Wants Parental Consent to Teach Black History, MTG's Unhinged Bathroom Accusation, SC Wants to Bring Back Electric Chair, Trump's "Horrific" Plan to Gut Environment, Joni Mitchell Sings
What I’m Discussing Today:
Kareem’s Daily Quote: A character named Action from West Side Story tells adults what not to say to youth.
G.O.P. Backlash to Border Deal Reflects Vanishing Ground for a Compromise: This is the border bill they asked for, now they don’t want it out of fear it will make Biden look good. Your representatives looking out for you.
South Florida School Demands Parent Consent for Black History Month Events: Florida treats learning about Black Americans as some sort of history porn.
House Dem Brutally Hits Back at Marjorie Taylor Greene’s Gross Bathroom Claim: Greene fights against accusations of incompetence by claiming her accuser spends a lot of time in the bathroom. Another moment to make America proud.
South Carolina wants to resume executions with firing squad and electric chair, says "instantaneous or painless" death not mandated: SC governor brings us one step closer to normalizing torture.
‘In a word, horrific’: Trump’s extreme anti-environment blueprint: Trump insiders warn that if Trump is elected the environment will become one giant dumping ground to be exploited until there’s nothing left.
Kareem’s Video Break: This opening scene of Guardians of the Galaxy always makes me laugh. Coincidentally, his moves are the same ones I make every morning on my way from the bedroom to the refrigerator.
Joni Mitchell sings “Amelia”: Last week, Mitchell won her tenth Grammy. This heartfelt and poetic song about searching for one’s true self shows us why she is one of the greatest songwriters of all time.
Kareem’s Daily Quote
Doc: Why, when I was your age—
Action: When you was my age? When my old man was my age, when my brudder was my age. You was never my age, none of ya! And the sooner you creeps get hip to that, the sooner you'll dig us!
West Side Story
In this scene from West Side Story, convenience store owner Doc tries to talk the Jets out of a rumble with the Sharks. Like most oldsters, he makes the classic mistake of trying to compare his life experiences with theirs. Action, rightfully, isn’t having it.
Human progress is driven by the ability to record history and pass it along to subsequent generations. That way each generation can build off that accumulated knowledge. This is true whether we’re talking about science or human relationships. The problem is that, while we are eager to accept factual knowledge in order to build bigger and better things, we are openly hostile to advice about personal choices.
The reason is that facts don’t have an agenda and personal advice does. Attempts to mold the values of the young are thankfully met with skepticism by them because they know that the advice is usually about trying to mold them in the image of the advisor. Even advice with the best of intentions comes with strings and judgment, even if unconsciously.
The thing we adults have to remember is that we are the product of a specific time period and specific experiences. Those influences aren’t always relevant to subsequent generations. Gen Z has grown up with online dating, pandemic isolation, global warming, a rise in right-wing efforts to legislate their morality, and a lot of other social nudges we aren’t yet even aware of.
My featured song today is Joni Mitchell’s “Amelia,” which coincidentally has a stanza that addresses my quote:
People will tell you where they've gone
They'll tell you where to go
But till you get there yourself you never really know
And where some have found their paradise
Others just come to harm
The other day I was watching a show and there was a twenty-something struggling to make a choice about what to do in a relationship. I started to mentally formulate my sage advice when it occurred to me that I don’t remember how I felt or thought back then. My choices then were made by the person trapped in a particular time capsule. I don’t remember that guy as well as I’d thought.
Parents may want to protect their children from heartache, but that is not always possible. They are on their journey in their own time stream. We can’t bring in Alexander Graham Bell to fix our broken cell phones. We are all products of our times and the times are always a-changin’.
It’s easy to issue forth proclamations from the Olympian heights of age when we are no longer at the mercy of rampant hormones, parental expectations, and peer pressure. Every generation embraces their own slang and music, while harshly dismissing the slang and music of the subsequent generations. The warm cocoon of nostalgia makes them forget the pettiness and drama that dominated their lives.
We have to accept that we have reached an age when true wisdom is realizing that our advice must remain unspoken unless directly solicited. In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden spends the entire novel trying to protect innocence, especially in his younger sister Phoebe. Only at the end when he watches her on a carousel precariously trying to grab the gold ring does he realize the futility of his quest and the damage he might be doing to Phoebe’s journey:
All the kids kept trying to grab for the gold ring, and so was old Phoebe, and I was sort of afraid she’d fall off the goddam horse, but I didn’t say anything or do anything. The thing with kids is, if they want to grab for the gold ring, you have to let them do it, and not say anything. If they fall off, they fall off, but it’s bad if you say anything to them.
The hardest part of any sport is knowing when to take the shot and when to bide your time. Turns out, that’s also the hardest part of parenting.
G.O.P. Backlash to Border Deal Reflects Vanishing Ground for a Compromise (The New York Times)
SUMMARY: Republicans demanded a border crackdown but have rejected a bipartisan plan to impose one, underscoring the intractable politics of the issue in an election year.
Republicans in Congress who have spent months demanding that any aid to Ukraine be paired with a crackdown against migration into the United States got what they asked for when a bipartisan group of senators released a $118.3 billion agreement that would provide both.
On Monday, many of them rejected it anyway.
It was the latest indication that the political ground for any agreement on immigration — particularly in an election year when it is expected to be a central issue of the presidential campaign — has vanished.
With former President Donald J. Trump eager to attack President Biden’s record on the border and right-wing Republicans in Congress falling in line behind him, a compromise was always going to be a long shot. The long-awaited release on Sunday night of the text of the 370-page bill only served to inflame Republican divisions on an issue that once united them.
Even as Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader and a champion of funding for Ukraine, took to the floor to push for action on the bill, many of his fellow Republican leaders were savaging it. Speaker Mike Johnson denounced the measure as “even worse than we expected” and, in a joint statement with his leadership team, repeated what had become his mantra about the deal — that it would be “dead on arrival” in the House.
MY TAKE: Republicans have been using the problems at the border to flog Biden for years. Now they have a bi-partisan bill that gives them most of what they wanted and they have decided to reject it. It’s like asking someone out for a date every day for a year until they finally say yes, then telling them you’re busy that night washing your cat’s butt.
Clearly, their main motivation in rejecting the bill—despite their huffing and puffing about Ukraine funding—is denying Biden a win that he could use during the upcoming election. And yes, Democrats’ capitulation to get a deal done is partly motivated by wanting to wave it triumphantly before voters.
Senator Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ), who had helped negotiate the bill, argued that these same Republicans who had traveled to the border to get their photos taken while demanding the problem be addressed, now demand that nothing be done: “After all those trips to the desert, after all those press conferences, it turns out this crisis isn’t much of a crisis after all. Sunday morning, it’s a real crisis,” she said. “Monday morning it magically disappeared.”
Fellow negotiator Senator James Lankford (R-OK), revealed that even before any details of the bill had been hammered out, he received threats from a popular right-wing radio host: “[He] told me flat out, ‘If you try to move a bill that solves the border crisis during this presidential year, I will do whatever I can to destroy you, because I do not want you to solve this during the presidential election.’”
Politics will always involve gamesmanship, but people of good conscience should know when to stop playing politics and do something that benefits the country. It’s hard to imagine that even Republicans at home believe the Republicans in Congress are acting in the country’s best interest right now. Especially after years of obstructing legislation that, once passed, they tried to take credit for. Their constant attempts to interfere with funding the government have hurt us all and have resulted in no benefits for America.
By the way, this excuse of rejecting the bill, because it funds Ukraine, isn’t the brilliant position they think it is. GOP appeasement of Russia’s attempt to conquer Ukraine is not unlike Britain’s appeasement of Hitler in 1936. Hitler repeatedly broke the 1919 Versailles Treaty by his troop placements. Britain refused to join France in demanding Hitler withdraw his troops. Germany annexed Austria, France, and Czechoslovakia while Britain stood by and let it happen. Their excuse was they weren’t ready to fight a war, but neither was Germany. When asked during a post-war trial whether Germany would have been able to stand up to the united forces of Austria, France, and Czechoslovakia, Gen. Alfred Jodl, chief of the German Army, admitted, “It was out of the question.”
History has taught us that this kind of appeasement with a dictator like Putin, who has admitted to trying to undermine U.S. elections, is to embolden him to expand his military efforts. Eventually, we will have to intercede, at a much higher cost in money and American lives. But the GOP is willing to risk all that just so they can garner a few more votes to secure their careers. I guess they aren’t as against communism as they claim.
It’s no wonder Republicans have made dumbing down history a major campaign project. Anyone familiar with history would be appalled at their actions. And scared.
RELATED: South Florida School Demands Parent Consent for Black History Month Events (Daily Beast)
SUMMARY: Black History Month has now become an educational target in Florida schools.
In the wake of the state’s strenuous laws on education, parents in one school system are now required to give their consent for their children to learn about the month-long celebration, which has been federally recognized since 1976.
According to Miami ABC affiliate WPLG, parents of students at IPrep Academy were asked to sign permission slips in order for their children to participate in Black History Month “class and school wide presentations showcasing the achievements and recognizing the rich and diverse traditions, histories, and innumerable contributions of the Black communities.”
If parents do not sign the forms, students do not learn about Black History Month.
“I was shocked,” IPrep parent Jill Peeling told WPLG, explaining that she thought that maybe she misunderstood the purpose of the form. “It’s a step too far. This is Black History Month. This is supposed to be a celebration.”
MY TAKE: Every week there is yet another news item from Florida in which Republicans insist on inserting the government as the arbiter of morality in America. For a party that claims to want less government interference, they keep ramming more and more government restrictions down people’s throats. Florida has become some twisted peninsula version of Dr. Moreau’s Island, where instead of a mad scientist experimenting on human-animal hybrids, they are experimenting with their children’s futures to create less educated, less compassionate, more racist, and more fearful hybrids.
Practically speaking, what would the effect be on children when authority figures like teachers make learning about Black involvement in America seem like history porn? It sends a message that Black history is not mainstream history but some sort of alternative narrative not to be taken as seriously. That sends the additional message that Black people are not to be taken seriously because they are alternative humans.
SUMMARY: The United States’s first major climate legislation dismantled, a crackdown on government scientists, a frenzy of oil and gas drilling, the Paris climate deal not only dead but buried.
A blueprint is emerging for a second Donald Trump term that is even more extreme for the environment than his first, according to interviews with multiple Trump allies and advisers.
In contrast to a sometimes chaotic first White House term, they outlined a far more methodical second presidency: driving forward fossil fuel production, sidelining mainstream climate scientists and overturning rules that curb planet-heating emissions.
“Trump will undo everything [Joe] Biden has done, he will move more quickly and go further than he did before,” said Myron Ebell, who headed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) transition team for Trump’s first term. “He will act much more expeditiously to impose his agenda.”
MY TAKE: “I will end his war on American energy,” Trump has said of the incumbent president, even though in reality the US hit record levels of oil and gas production last year. That statement in the face of the facts tells us that Trump’s stance is about appealing to the portion of the population that denies we are facing an environmental crisis. What’s the best way to ignore a problem? Make it worse. This is the same philosophy of a parent threatening a crying child with, “I’ll give you something to cry about.”
Some politicians want to build America for the future. Trump and the GOP want to pillage it like invading Cossacks. Take everything of value, return to their opulent palaces, and leave the ravaged villagers to live in squalor. There are people in the U.S. without clean drinking water, there are droughts, floods, and kids getting cancer from nearby factories spewing soot. Yet, Trump would roll back environmental protection systems meant to fight these problems.
“A return of Trump would be, in a word, horrific,” said Andrew Rosenberg, a former National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration official, now fellow at the University of New Hampshire.
“It would also be incredibly stupid. It would roll back progress made over decades to protect public health and safety, there is no logic to it other than to destroy everything. People who support him may not realize it’s their lives at stake, too.”
When I was a kid, people used to throw their trash out the windows of their cars. You could see the trash lining the highways as you drove. Thankfully, we passed anti-littering laws. Of course, that’s better than medieval Europe where they used to throw the contents of their chamber pots out the window onto the streets. (In fact, the British word for toilet, “loo,” comes from the French “guardez l'eau” which means “watch out for the water.”)
With Trump in charge, we’ll all have to “watch out for the water” he’ll be dumping on Americans’ heads. Perhaps he’ll change the country’s name to Trump’s Dump.
South Carolina wants to resume executions with firing squad and electric chair, says "instantaneous or painless" death not mandated (CBS News)
SUMMARY: Lawyers for a group of death row inmates who have run out of appeals are expected to argue to the South Carolina Supreme Court that two of the state's execution methods — the electric chair, which is old, and firing squad, which is new — are cruel and unusual punishments.
Attorneys for the four inmates also plan to argue Tuesday that a 2023 law meant to allow lethal injections to restart keeps secret too many details about the new drug and protocol used to kill prisoners.
In the balance are the death sentences of 33 inmates who are on South Carolina's death row. While there hasn't been a formal moratorium, the state hasn't performed an execution in nearly 13 years after the drugs it used for lethal injection expired and companies refused to sell more to prison officials unless they could hide their identities from the public.
A nationwide shortage of lethal injection drugs has led other U.S. states to add new execution methods to their death penalty protocols. Alabama just executed one condemned inmate by nitrogen hypoxia, a method that it authorized in the wake of a string of botched lethal injections that two death row prisoners survived. The controversial method had never been tested before inside the death chamber when Alabama used it to execute Kenneth Eugene Smith last month, but it is one of three states, along with Oklahoma and Mississippi, that technically allows executions via asphyxiation by nitrogen gas.
No legislation has been proposed in South Carolina to add nitrogen gas.
South Carolina says all three execution methods allowed in the state — electrocution, lethal injection, and now, firing squad — fit existing protocols. "Courts have never held the death has to be instantaneous or painless," wrote Grayson Lambert, a lawyer for Gov. Henry McMaster's office.
MY TAKE: As I have said in the past, some people have committed such horrific crimes that I would shed no tears if they died. Yet, the death penalty has proven to be such a horribly flawed method of delivering justice that we can’t use it and still call it a justice system. We execute innocent people, and we use it more against minorities who have committed the same crimes as Whites, it has not been proven to deter others, and it costs a lot more to administer than life in prison without parole.
Perhaps the most frightening sentence is from the governor’s office: “Courts have never held the death has to be instantaneous or painless.” The U.S. Constitution is pretty clear about “cruel and unusual punishment.” How would the governor define “cruel” other than unnecessarily painful?
Yes, there are times when I read about a crime so disgusting that I imagine doing terrible things to the perpetrator. But there are also times when someone cuts me off on the freeway and I imagine doing the same things to them. My initial burst of fear, anger, and adrenaline are not the measures with which I want to mete out punishments. The judicial system is meant to be impartial and dispassionate to assure justice, not revenge. The electric chair has proven to be inefficient, sometimes requiring several attempts while the flesh sizzles on the condemned. The firing squad, gas chambers, and lethal injections have also failed at times, with the convict writhing in agonizing pain.
The real suffering I worry about is not so much that of the condemned but that of a society willing to embrace a punishment that risks killing the innocent for no good reason. That is a barbaric society uninterested in justice, just in sating some primal need that ironically makes them less safe.
Kareem’s Video Break
This opening sequence from Guardians of the Galaxy is one of the most fun and entertaining movie openings ever. The set-up is similar to Raiders of the Lost Ark, but instead of Indiana Jones’ stern scowl, we are introduced to a quirky and lovable Star-Lord, the goofy best pal we all wish we had.
Just do it already!
This Week in Dumb Things Politicians Said
SUMMARY: A House Democrat got into a wild war of words with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene on Monday involving mutual accusations of poor restroom behavior and an allegation of white supremacy.
It all started earlier in the day when Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) railed against the MAGA congresswoman during a hearing of the House Rules Committee. McGovern, the top Democrat on the committee, fumed against her attempts to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and censure his Democratic colleague, Ilhan Omar, on the basis of a mistranslated speech.
“The clowns are running the circus around here,” McGovern raged. “And we’re wasting hours and hours of time this week on Marjorie Taylor Greene because what? She wants to impeach somebody. And don’t even get me started on her absurd censure resolution of Congresswoman Omar that she introduced because she doesn’t know how to use Google Translate.”
His screed didn’t escape the Georgia Republican’s attention. “Wow this is coming from the same guy who is well known to lay his suit jacket on the actual bathroom floor while spending a lot of time in the stall of the first floor bathroom of the Capitol,” Green wrote in a post on X replying to footage of his comments. “Eww. That’s probably when he comes up with all this [poop emoji].”
MY TAKE: When I write about Marjorie Taylor Greene I’m not really writing about her. To me, she is just a symbol of why American politics is in such trouble. (She’s not the only one, just the most obvious, like a giant pimple on the tip of Congress’s nose.) The fact that being incompetent, uninformed, illogical, and vitriolic has in no way impeded her rise in politics is a sad commentary on voters’ indifference to their own well-being.
Just for fun, let’s take a quick look at this exchange. McGovern accuses her of wasting government time on an impeachment that has no evidence (and failed to pass) and for using an inaccurate translation of a speech Omar gave to call for a censure. Greene tweeted: “Today, I’m introducing a Censure Resolution on Ilhan Omar for admitting she’s working as a foreign agent for a foreign country. I urge my colleagues to vote to Censure, but I wish I had the votes to expel and deport her.” McGovern rightfully called into question Greene’s competence for launching into action without facts. A reasonable assessment.
Instead of countering McGovern’s accusations with reason, Green’s response was to claim McGovern sometimes laid his jacket on the bathroom floor and spent “a lot of time” in the stall. Yes, people in Georgia actually voted for this woman. Yes, she embodies the worst traits of humanity. Yes, she’s still in Congress voting on the future of our country.
Kareem’s Jukebox Playlist
Joni Mitchell: “Amelia”
Last week, 80-year-old Joni Mitchell won a Grammy for her latest album (Joni Mitchell at Newport [Live]) after a career in which she’d been nominated 18 times and won 10 Grammys. What makes this win especially remarkable is that it came after suffering a brain aneurysm in 2015 that left her unable to walk, sing, or play the guitar. She relearned playing the guitar by watching videos.
Brandi Carlile introduced Mitchell: “Joni is one of the most influential and emotionally generous creators in human history. She redefined the very purpose of a song to reflect the contents of a person's soul and before she took this leap, the popular song was observational. It was brilliant and influential, of course, but the exhilarating risk that we all now take by turning ourselves inside out for all the world to see started as far as I can tell with Joni Mitchell doing it first.” After her Grammy performance, The Atlantic described her as “the philosopher for an ascendant generation of musicians, both in rock and roll and outside of it.”
I could feature a Joni Mitchell song every week for a year and still have plenty of songs left over to write about. I am awed by her brilliance as a songwriter. This week we’re listening to “Amelia,” one of her most thoughtful and poetic songs.
In a 1996 interview, Mitchell described her inspiration for the song: “I wrote the album while travelling cross-country by myself, and there is this restless feeling throughout it… the sweet loneliness of solitary travel. In this song, I was thinking of Amelia Earhart and addressing it from one solo pilot to another, sort of reflecting on the cost of being a woman and having something you must do.”
In the end, even if we’re part of a squadron, we’re all just solo pilots struggling to navigate our way through turbulence to happiness. This song brings us soaring closer to that destination.
Hey, squadron member, why not share our flight plan with others?