Discover more from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
GOP Plot to Remove Elected Judiciary, Will US Ever Elect a Woman Prez, Alabama Spanked for Defying SCOTUS, Floridians Save Abortion Clinic, Trump's Poison-Pill Endorsement, The Everly Brothers Sing
My take on news, pop culture, sports, and whatever else interests me.
Kareem’s Quote of the Day
We can have no progress without change, whether it be basketball or anything else. Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.
Coach John Wooden
My coach at UCLA and dear friend for 50 years loved to throw out pithy sayings, sometimes his own, sometimes variations of someone else. His goal was to produce great basketball players, sure, but also great men who would apply his principles of teamwork, discipline, morality, and compassion to their lives long after they stopped playing basketball. He wanted us to reach our full potential—on and off the court.
National GOP Plot to Control Judiciary by Removing Elected Justices
Why This Is One of the Most Important News Stories Yet
It’s not news that the Republican Party has been on an ethical downward spiral for years. This is not an accusation against rank-and-file members of the party or even several notable Republicans who have shown integrity in the face of their party’s moral decline. In general, the GOP has supported a rapist (“Judge clarifies: Yes, Trump was found to have raped E. Jean Carroll”) and insurrectionist (“Watchdog group sues to remove ‘insurrectionist’ Trump from 2024 ballot”) for president. They have encouraged deep national distrust of our electoral system—just because they lost. They have also worked hard to suppress voters of color, the elderly, and students who might disagree with them. They have severely restricted abortion, reducing women to second-class citizens. They have banned books and gutted education in order to denigrate Black history and further marginalize LGBTQ+.
I often wonder how they justify these insidious actions that are clearly detrimental to democracy and still think of themselves as patriotic Americans. They are like abusive parents who believe beating their children is for their own good. Every bruise is a badge of good parenting. And, man, they are bruising this country.
Now they are trying to scorch-earth the American judicial system. Elected district attorneys are being suspended or fired for not falling in line with anti-woke agendas (“Florida Gov. DeSantis suspends another Democratic prosecutor as he seeks GOP presidential nomination”). The removal of elected officials of a rival political party is the definition of totalitarianism. But they are not done. They have begun a full assault on state supreme courts in an effort to undermine free elections and democracy. This tactic is so blatantly undemocratic, so openly traitorous that it’s shocking Republicans and Democrats alike are not marching on every one of these state capitals demanding the protection of democracy.
Let’s take a look at their destructive handiwork:
SUMMARY: On Tuesday, it was reported that North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Anita Earls could be ousted from her seat for judicial ethics violations. Did she fail to disclose gifts from a billionaire benefactor on whose cases she was ruling? No. Maybe she’d gone on luxury vacations across the globe paid for by some of the richest men in the country and neglected to mention them on disclosure forms? Nope. Perhaps one of these billionaires bought her mom a house? Not that either. Her true crime: Earls, the only Black woman on North Carolina’s high court, spoke out about racial bias in her courtroom. Her alleged misconduct was speaking to the media about how few clerks of color the court employed and how her colleagues treated certain attorneys, including a Black woman, who argued before them. For that, a Republican-stacked judicial “ethics” commission has gone after her. Its targeting of Earls could fulfill the wishes of the gerrymandered Republican Legislature by removing a tireless advocate of racial equality.
Earls, who was elected with 1.8 million votes in 2018 and is a frequent dissenter to the right-wing majority’s decisions, was responding to a study of advocates who argued at the high court. This study found that 90 percent of the lawyers were white and nearly 70 percent were male. Asked for her response, Earls noted the lack of racial diversity among the court’s clerks and her colleagues’ disparate treatment of certain advocates at oral argument. She went out of her way to say she didn’t think that this was the result of conscious bias, but “we all have implicit biases.” Earls also criticized decisions by Chief Justice Paul Newby, a Republican, to end implicit bias training and disband commissions looking into racial justice issues.
MY TAKE: This Republican response is part of their larger, national campaign to pretend systemic racism doesn’t exist, despite the numerous studies that have proven otherwise (“Studies find evidence of systemic racial discrimination across multiple domains in the United States”). Red states are sanitizing history, as Florida recently did by touting the benefits of slavery for slaves. Or Oklahoma’s top education official declaring that the Tulsa Massacre in which White vigilantes killed hundreds of Black residents had nothing to do with racism. The goal is to rewrite history to its pre-sixties standards when “good Negroes” knew their place, which was at the back of the room, smiling in gratitude for the generosity of Whites.
Do you think it’s relevant that Justice Earls is the only Black woman on the court? Or that Monique Worrell, the state attorney DeSantis suspended, was the only Black woman state attorney? (FYI: Worrell is suing DeSantis because of her removal.) Women and Blacks are the two groups the GOP is targeting the most because they think they’re the most vulnerable, the most unwilling to fight back or to gain enough support to join the fight.
The ethics rule that is being applied by the GOP says that judges should conduct themselves “at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.” They argue that without definitive proof of a specific judge, she can’t speak out about racism. However, when a study reveals a problem and a judge acknowledges the problem, that should give the public confidence that the problem is being addressed. If everyone ignores the study, that creates lack of confidence that those in power care. Using this standard, there would be a case for removing judges who didn’t acknowledge the study.
The only way to fix a problem is to admit there is one. But Republicans aren’t interested in fixing a problem that doesn’t personally affect them. They are like alcoholics at a family intervention denying they drink too much. Nor do they want to feel any guilt for a problem that affects others who aren’t part of their social circle. I’m reminded of Phil Ochs’ satiric song “Outside of a Small Circle of Friends”:
Look outside the window, there's a woman being grabbed
They've dragged her to the bushes and now she's being stabbed
Maybe we should call the cops and try to stop the pain
But Monopoly is so much fun, I'd hate to blow the game
And I'm sure it wouldn't interest anybody
Outside of a small circle of friends
Why Republicans Could Impeach a Liberal Judge Before She’s Heard a Case (The New York Times)
SUMMARY: Republicans in Wisconsin are coalescing around the prospect of impeaching a newly seated liberal justice on the state’s Supreme Court, whose victory in a costly, high-stakes election this spring swung the court in Democrats’ favor and threatened the G.O.P.’s iron grip on state politics.
The push, just five weeks after Justice Janet Protasiewicz joined the court and before she has heard a single case, serves as a last-ditch effort to stop the new 4-to-3 liberal majority from throwing out Republican-drawn state legislative maps and legalizing abortion in Wisconsin.
The drama over Republican threats to impeach and possibly remove Justice Protasiewicz could raise new questions about democracy and the legitimacy of elections in a state where G.O.P. lawmakers and their allies spent two years disputing the 2020 presidential contest’s outcome.
For Republicans, the liberal Supreme Court majority serves as an existential danger. If the court, as expected, invalidates Wisconsin’s legislative maps, it would strip Republicans of what now amounts to permanent majorities in the Legislature. But removing a newly elected justice could prompt a backlash in 2024 from Democrats and moderate Republican voters who abandoned the G.O.P. during the Trump years.
MY TAKE: The GOP started with the same tactic as they did in North Carolina: trying to get her removed for comments about Republican gerrymandering she made during her campaign because they claimed she violated the judicial code of ethics. But those accusations were dismissed by a state judiciary disciplinary panel. That left the GOP with nothing concrete to remove a duly elected official. But they’ll try.
But the will of the people means nothing to them. This is clear by the congressional map Republicans drew in 2018 that was so biased in favor of their party that even though Democratic candidates for the state assembly won 54% of the popular vote, “Republicans ‘won’ 63 of the assembly’s 99 seats, only three seats short of a supermajority that would enable them to override a veto by the Democratic governor.”
This is the type of “democracy” they are trying to preserve.
RELATED: Federal Court Again Strikes Down Alabama’s Congressional Map (The New York Times)
SUMMARY: A panel of federal judges rejected Alabama’s latest congressional map on Tuesday, ruling that a new map needed to be drawn because Republican lawmakers had failed to comply with orders to create a second majority Black district or something “close to it.”
In a sharp rebuke, the judges ordered that the new map be independently drawn, taking the responsibility away from the Republican-controlled Legislature while chastising state officials who “ultimately did not even nurture the ambition to provide the required remedy.”
The Legislature had hastily pushed through a revised map in July after a surprise Supreme Court ruling found that Alabama’s existing map violated a landmark civil rights law by undercutting the power of the state’s Black voters. The revised map, approved over the objections of Democrats, increased the percentage of Black voters in one of the state’s six majority white congressional districts to about 40 percent, from about 30 percent.
In its new ruling, the three-judge panel in Alabama found that the Legislature had flouted its mandate under the court’s ruling.
“The law requires the creation of an additional district that affords Black Alabamians, like everyone else, a fair and reasonable opportunity to elect candidates of their choice,” the judges wrote. “The 2023 plan plainly fails to do so.”
MY TAKE: The three federal judges are all Republicans, two of them appointed by Trump. Yet, they refused to be bullied into voting according to their party but rather decided based on law. Alabama Republican lawmakers didn’t like the U.S. Supreme Court calling them out for their open racism and chose to defy them. Like elections, they choose to accept outcomes that favor them. That is not the “law and order” they profess to promote.
Here’s the Big Picture: The GOP has been stumping across America, singing the song that White Americans want to hear: There is no systemic racism in America. They have three presidential candidates of color—Nikki Haley, Tim Scott, and Vivek Ramaswamy—who all deny systemic racism exists despite the overwhelming research that proves otherwise. They are like scamming psychics reading Tarot cards telling the client they will fall in love, be rich, and have loving children. For that, customers gladly pay whatever is asked. In this case, they pay with donations and votes.
Why this push to gaslight the country about racism? First, because it’s easier to deny a problem exists than to try and fix it. Second, if you can convince people that racism doesn’t exist, when you do something racist, it isn’t really racist—because racism doesn’t exist. Gerrymandering, suppressing votes, banning books about Black history—none of it is racist because racism doesn’t exist. Logic doesn’t exist either because they never use it.
Kareem’s Video Break
As a parent of five children, I know how precious these moments of connection are. And I know how quickly kids grow out of wanting to spontaneously hug. Great dad moment.
The 3 Soft Taco Combo at Taco Bell costs $8.29. One month of my Substack costs $7 for which you get 8-10 newsletters. Yeah, really.
Kareem’s Brief Takes
Women win Mexican primaries; one is likely to be first female president (The Washington Post)
SUMMARY: Half of Mexico’s Congress is female. The cabinet is gender-balanced. And now, women have won the primaries of the two leading political blocs — making it likely that this traditionally macho nation will elect its first female president, ahead of the United States.
SUMMARY: Mexico’s Supreme Court threw out all federal criminal penalties for abortion Wednesday, ruling that national laws prohibiting the procedure are unconstitutional and violate women’s rights in a sweeping decision that extended Latin American’s trend of widening abortion access.
MY TAKE: America gives the impression that it respects and appreciates women by producing TV shows and movies with smart, tough, intelligent women. But the social and political reality across much of the nation is that women are being shoved back into the metaphoric kitchen where their choices are being systematically reduced.
As I said earlier about racism, if conservatives pretend racism doesn’t exist, then no one’s a racist. If they can point at all our popular culture depictions of spunky, successful women, then surely there is no systemic misogyny. Instead, we should point to the oppressive campaign to ban abortion, delete no-fault divorce, and support a rapist and accused serial molester as the best representative of their party.
While the rest of the world marches forward with progressive social issues, the U.S. stumbles backward. While the GOP is tightening the choke collar on abortion rights, the U.S. has the highest maternal mortality rate among developed countries. That means that of the 10 highest-income countries, women in the U.S. are most likely to die from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth. This is because of a lack of maternity care providers and postpartum support. The situation is worsened by OB-GYN doctors leaving states with restrictive abortion laws. The message this sends is that women’s lives are not as valuable as men’s.
Yes, we can point to women on the Supreme Court and in other positions of power. But electing Obama as president didn’t eradicate systemic racism. Years of domestic abuse are not wiped out by bringing home flowers every six months. And our treatment of women in red states is political domestic abuse.
We don’t respect women enough to allow them to make choices about their own bodies, let alone elect them to the presidency. If only we aspired to be as admiring and supportive as our TV shows.
SUMMARY: Just a few weeks ago, one of the few abortion clinics left in Orlando, Florida, looked like it would have to close its doors. A government agency had ordered it to pay $193,000 in fines – enough to potentially bankrupt the clinic.
But supporters of the clinic, the Center of Orlando for Women, had an idea: they would crowdfund the money to keep it open. Within days, they succeeded.
As of Friday, the fundraiser had amassed more than $199,000 from roughly 5,500 donors. Many of the donations were less than $50.
MY TAKE: If you read the full article, you’ll discover that the fines themselves were undeservedly fabricated in order to punish the clinic. Yet, local Floridians jumped in and saved what they deemed a crucial service. That pumped up my Hope for Humanity Meter a few notches.
Republicans have massively misread the room regarding abortion, as polls continue to show. In fact, since SCOTUS overturned Roe v Wade, and despite the dozens of laws restricting or banning them, abortions have increased (“Abortions Rose in Most States This Year, New Data Shows”). Their attempts to pretend to have a moral high ground while systematically deconstructing our voting system, our educational system, and the rights of women, LGBTQ+, People of Color, and others reveal their true face, their monstrous Dorian Gray portrait hidden in the attic.
As the Dude said in The Big Lebowski, “This aggression will not stand.”
Trump endorsements helped win primaries … and lose in November (The Washington Post)
SUMMARY: …[N]ew research from Michael Heseltine of the University of Amsterdam demonstrates [that h]aving Trump’s support is a huge asset to Republicans seeking their party’s nomination. He is also a drag on their general-election chances.
…“Across all election cycles, his endorsements produced little benefit for candidates in the general election,” Heseltine writes. “Endorsed candidates did not benefit financially and collectively received an aggregate vote share penalty of approximately 1.5 percentage points.”
MY TAKE: Republican candidates don’t regard Trump as someone who can win the presidency (after all, he’s failed to win the popular vote twice). To them, he is more of a landmine that needs to be delicately circumvented. Yes, he has a cult following. But those followers aren’t enough to win. And they aren’t smart enough to be swayed away from Trump through reason. The main goal for all candidates is to not get his followers angry so they distract other voters with relentless and unhinged attacks.
Clearly, having the endorsement of a rapist, sexual predator, compulsive liar, and insurrectionist isn’t as valuable as it used to be. Yet, Vivek Ramaswamy, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and Kari Lake continue to fawn over him. What does that say about their moral compass?
Kareem’s History Bites
The Rise of Suffrajitsu
In the early 1900s, women who were active in the suffrage movement were often brutally attacked and sexually assaulted by both police and male vigilantes during protest demonstrations. As a result, some women began to train in jiu-jitsu. An English journalist combined “suffragette” and “jiu-jitsu” to anoint the practice as “suffrajitsu” (like Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez into Bennifer). In England, about 30 trained women formed what became known as The Bodyguard, nicknamed “Amazons” by the press (as a way to diminish and insult any woman audacious enough to fight back). They routinely carried clubs hidden in their dresses. Women were instructed how to defend themselves against police and domestic abuse using jiu-jitsu, but also using hatpins (which could be as long as 16 inches at the time), clubs, and even whips.
In America, jiu-jitsu was being promoted by President Theodore Roosevelt in order to promote manliness. Feminists reacted by forming their own self-defense classes modeled after those in England. One suffragist who’d had her skull fractured twice by police began training in jiu-jitsu, boxing, and the use of clubs. English suffragist Edith Garrud said in a 1965 interview that a policeman confronted her at a protest outside Parliament, telling her, “Now then, move on, you can't start causing an obstruction here.” She replied, "Excuse me, it is you who are making an obstruction.” Then she threw him over her shoulder.
The 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote in 1920.
Kareem’s Jukebox Playlist
The Everly Brothers: “All I Have to Do” & “Cathy’s Clown”
In 2015, Rolling Stone rated the Everly Brothers as number one on their list of 20 Greatest Duos of All Time. When you listen to the wonderful harmonies in this video, you can understand why. I was only ten years old when Don and Phil Everly released their first big hit, “Bye Bye Love,” but I knew then there was something electrifying in their voices. These were the early days of rock-’n’-roll when the genre was still finding its voice, and the Everly Brothers helped define the simple innocence of fifties-style teenage romance.
This video has the bonus of presenting two of their most popular songs. “All I Have to Do Is Dream” was written by the husband and wife team of Felice and Boudieaux Bryant, who wrote many of their hits. “Cathy’s Clown” was written by Don and Phil themselves, and it is so catchy that it’s hard not to sing along during the chorus. So, give in and sing.
A side note: If you look at the brothers’ magnificent mountain of hair next to the Beatles’ hair on their debut album Meet the Beatles, you’ll notice that the Everly Brothers (as well as Elvis and Johnny Cash) probably had much longer hair. But because the Beatles combed theirs down instead of swirled up, they were referred to as “long-haired freaks” and vilified. How a simple change in hairstyle could scare and anger so many people. I guess Coach Wooden was right about change after all.