Discover more from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Iowa Backs Child Labor, Illinois Ends Book Bans, Americans Can't Name Famous Asian Americans, More C. Thomas Bribes, Elon Spikes Free Speech, Black Drivers Targeted for Loud Music, Marvin Gaye Sings
My take on news, pop culture, sports, and whatever else interests me.
A Tale of Two States: One Exploits Children, the Other Protects Them
SUMMARY: The Iowa legislature has passed a Republican-led bill that would roll back child labor protections, including the hours teens are allowed to work and the establishments where they can be employed.
If signed by Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds – who has expressed support for the measure – the bill would allow 14- and 15-year-olds to work two additional hours per day when school is in session, from four to six hours. They would also be able to work until 9 p.m. during most of the year and until 11 p.m. from June 1 to Labor Day, two hours later than previously allowed. The bill would also allow 16- and 17-year-olds to work the same hours as an adult.
Supporters say the relaxed laws would provide greater job opportunities for teens, though opponents have raised concerns that certain occupations permitted under the bill could place children in harm’s way and take their focus away from school and extracurricular activities. The legislation is one of several youth employment bills across the country aiming to relax child labor protections.
MY TAKE: Why are Republicans from so many states so intent on removing safeguards for child labor? Because child labor is cheaper. Businesses will save money by paying less for labor and states will pay less by having an excuse not to offer reasonable social services to low-income families. The GOP logic is that it’s okay for 16-year-olds to serve alcohol, but not to read books about civil rights or LGBTQ+ issues.
According to The Guardian, “Backed by big business and lobby groups, politicians nationwide are pushing attempts to expand work hours for minors, expand the industries minors are permitted to work in, reduce enforcement and legislate sub-minimum wages for minors. These rollbacks at the federal and state levels are being proposed even as child labor violations have soared in recent years.”
Child labor abuses are rampant in the U.S., with ten states already reducing child labor laws. This week, two ten-year-olds were among the 300 children found to be working illegally at McDonald’s restaurants (“McDonald’s franchisee fined for illegally using workers as young as 10.”) Congress is currently considering a bill that would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to work in certain mechanized operations in the logging industry under parental supervision (“‘Dumb and dangerous’: US sees surge in efforts to weaken child labor regulations.”) The logging industry has the highest workplace fatality rate in the country.
But I’m sure the kids will be fine. Right?
SUMMARY: Illinois is poised to become the first state to punish public institutions that ban books.
Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker has said he supports a House bill that would withhold state funding from any of the state’s 1,600 public or school libraries that remove books from their shelves. It passed in the Illinois Senate on Wednesday, and Pritzker is expected to sign the legislation.
“In Illinois, we don’t hide from the truth, we embrace it and lead with it,” the governor said when the bill was first presented. “Banning books is a devastating attempt to erase our history and the authentic stories of many.”
MY TAKE: What a joyous contrast to Iowa to see a state actually protecting children. Allowing access to ideas, knowledge, and dissenting opinions is what gives us the ability to improve our lives and our country. I’m so used to seeing states passing laws to curtail education that I actually had to read the article twice to make sure I hadn’t misunderstood it.
“In our state, no one should ever have to justify their humanity,” Moore said at the signing. “In our state, no one should have to justify their own humanness.”
The governor’s approval comes as some Democratic-led states have enacted similar protections, while several state legislatures with a GOP majority have moved in the opposite direction to pass near-total bans on abortion and gender-affirming care for minors.
“While other states are dead set on ripping away reproductive rights and attempting to erase the existence of trans and nonbinary individuals, we’re doing the opposite,” Lt. Governor Aruna Miller said in a statement. “We’re making Maryland a state that is welcoming, inclusive, and that safeguards the rights of all people.”
MY TAKE: First Illinois does the right thing, then Maryland. Is it possible that fighting against marginalization and the restriction of basic human rights—the foundation of this country—will become trendy again? Ironically, according to polls, these laws actually reflect the will of the majority rather than the cantankerous we-know-what’s-best-for-you minority. Perhaps the majority is ready to take back the country again and uphold its principles.
So many politicians and the states they represent have been cowered by the loud, aggressive reactionaries attempting to rally angry mobs brined in fear and loathing, so it’s hopeful to see those willing to stand up for rational thought.
Kareem’s Video Break
Need to stand up and get the ole juices flowing again? Nothing better than some classic Chuck Berry to get you moving. These girls will show you a few moves.
If you wanna dance, then pay the band. It’s a metaphor. You’ll figure it out.
SUMMARY: More than 1 in 4 Americans are unable to name a famous Asian American, according to a study released Tuesday.
The study, conducted by the nonprofit Asian American Foundation, found that, when asked, 26% of respondents said “I don’t know.”
Jackie Chan, who is not American, was the next most popular answer for the third year in a row (12%). Bruce Lee, who died 50 years ago, was the second most popular choice (6%) and Vice President Kamala Harris was the third (5%). In all, it boils down to 44% of respondents either not knowing or giving a wrong answer.
…In addition, the study found that 18% of Americans did not know what roles Asian American men and women are often portrayed as in television and film. The most popular choice for women was geisha/sex worker/stripper (15%) and Kung Fu/martial artist (23%) for men.
The number of Americans unable to identify a famous Asian American has decreased since the first study…which was released in 2021.
MY TAKE: May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and this study reveals why we desperately need this month to educate the population. The lame answers given in this study would be like asking to name famous living White Americans and the most popular answers were Hugh Grant and John Wayne.
I’m equally disturbed by the stereotypes of geisha/sex worker/stripper and Kung Fu/martial artist created by film and television. Although there is much more diversity in the film industry now, those stereotypes can linger for generations, making it easier to see an ethnic group as a type rather than real people. When this happens, it’s easier to treat them as “others”—outsiders not part of the core.
In case you get asked by someone doing a study, here are a few famous living AAPI people you might mention: Ang Lee (director), Dwayne Johnson (actor), George Takei (actor), Jerry Yang (co-founder of Yahoo!), Yo-Yo Ma (musician), Awkwafina (actor), Mindy Kaling (actor, writer), Sen. Tammy Duckworth (U.S. Senator), and Bowen Yang (SNL comedian). This is a small sample of a very long list of people representing the 24 million AAPIs in America who we need to cherish and celebrate.
Repeat Offenders: People Who Keep Letting Us Down
SUMMARY: In 2008, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas decided to send his teenage grandnephew to Hidden Lake Academy, a private boarding school in the foothills of northern Georgia. The boy, Mark Martin, was far from home. For the previous decade, he had lived with the justice and his wife in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. Thomas had taken legal custody of Martin when he was 6 years old and had recently told an interviewer he was “raising him as a son.”
Tuition at the boarding school ran more than $6,000 a month. But Thomas did not cover the bill. A bank statement for the school from July 2009, buried in unrelated court filings, shows the source of Martin’s tuition payment for that month: the company of billionaire real estate magnate Harlan Crow.
…Thomas did not report the tuition payments from Crow on his annual financial disclosures.
MY TAKE: Harlan Crow has been giving “gifts” to Thomas for decades, including half a million dollars in vacations and funding the political group that pays Thomas’ wife’s salary. Thomas and Crow defend these gifts as demonstrations of kindness and generosity. It’s still not clear if it’s legal to receive so much financial support from someone who spends millions each year to advance right-wing causes and who has had interests before the U.S. Supreme Court. It is, however, clear that it’s not ethical.
If Thomas really thought that all these gifts were pure, he would have declared all of them to at least give the appearance of being impartial. But this hiding behind the technicalities of disclosure does not promote trust in his impartiality as a Justice. These revelations are just symptoms of his corruption, which we’ve all known about since his nomination.
Elon Musk’s Twitter is helping governments shut their citizens up (The Washington Post)
SUMMARY: So much for free-speech absolutism. Elon Musk proclaimed his devotion to expression above all else when he took over as Twitter CEO — but his tenure has seen the platform become, in many ways, more restrictive. A recent report on global government-ordered takedowns is the latest example.
Rest of World, a nonprofit publication that covers global technology, examined self-reported data on companies’ compliance with requests from authorities to take down users’ posts or hand over their data. It found that Twitter hasn’t refused a single demand since Mr. Musk took over. Those demands, meanwhile, have only mounted — surging from 550 in the six months before the site’s sale to more than 970 in the six months after. Twitter’s records show that it fully complied in 808 requests and partially complied in 154. What they don’t show is a single case in which it did not acquiesce. The numbers come from the Lumen database maintained by Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society.
MY TAKE: It’s a tale as old as time: faux patriots rattling their swords about defending freedom to the death, only to cave in the minute it costs them money. Since Musk took over Twitter, it’s been losing money—lots of money (“Elon Musk Expects About $20 Billion Loss on Twitter Investment.”) When Musk first took over, he was like a kid with a shiny new toy. He tweeted nonsense, insults, contradictions, and misinformation with a manic energy that caused advertisers and some celebrities to flee. He yammered self-righteously about free speech, then banned news outlets and colluded with governments to curtail free speech.
His antics even affected his other businesses, with investors growing impatient and fearful (“Tesla Investors Tell Board to Keep ‘Overcommitted’ Elon Musk on a Tighter Leash.”)
We will leave him to wrestle with the ethics of how he does business. But he doesn’t then get to use Twitter to lecture us on his moral purity while picking our pockets.
SUMMARY: As he announced a reward for the capture of a 38-year-old Texas man accused of fatally shooting five people after some of them complained about his firing a rifle in his yard, the state’s governor, Greg Abbott, went out of his way to describe Francisco Oropeza and those he allegedly murdered as “illegal immigrants”.
The Republican’s words drew ire from immigration advocates, state and federal lawmakers and other politicians as Abbott’s words hewed closely with his track record of using anti-immigrant rhetoric in the wake of mass shootings.
They decried Abbott’s rhetoric as dehumanizing and indicative of an attempt to deflect attention from the role Republican lawmakers played in shaping Texas’s lax gun laws that Democrats say have created an unsafe environment for residents.
MY TAKE: Reportedly, at least one of the murder victims was here legally. But maybe more important than their immigration status was that two of the murdered women were discovered in a bedroom lying on top of two children whose lives they saved by sacrificing their own.
Abbott later apologized for the insensitivity and inaccuracy, but the damage had already been done. First, by making their immigration status his main description of the victims, he reduced them to being less valuable and their deaths less tragic. Second, the fact that he felt comfortable using their supposed immigration status at all tells us he was angling to use the event politically because he didn’t expect any backlash (which also shows how out of touch he is). I hope it also reflects how out of office he’ll be come next election.
SUMMARY: Black drivers make up a measly 16 percent of Florida’s driving population, but they are three times more likely to be ticketed for loud music under a new law, according to a new analysis by WUFT News. Citing traffic data and court records, WUFT News reports that 37 percent of tickets for loud music issued from May to December last year went to Black drivers. It breaks down to 11 tickets issued for every 100,000 Black drivers, compared to 3.9 tickets per 100,000 white drivers. The law against loud music, passed nearly one year ago, is ostensibly meant to cut down on noise. But some of those ticketed say the law is clearly being used unfairly, as it is left up to police officers to decide who to cite. “Stop being racists, simple. Something is disproportionately affecting one group, and it’s designed to be that way. If it’s walking and quacking like a duck, it’s a duck. It’s racist,” Carven Exantus told WUFT News. The owner of a business offering golf-cart tours around Miami, Exantus said, “We’re getting harassed to the point where I can’t even conduct business.”
MY TAKE: Racism is most effective when it has plausible deniability. Any officer can say they are just following the law by ticketing offenders. They can make the claim that Blacks play their music louder than Whites. For that defense to actually work, we’d need some proof other than anecdotal, especially since the anecdotes may be biased. Blacks are 16% of the Florida population, yet get ticketed almost three times as much as Whites. Sure seems like it’s a way to, at the very least, harass Blacks, and at the most, an excuse to stop them in order to look for other crimes.
Here’s what good cops responding to a noise complaint looks like:
Kareem’s Jukebox Playlist
Marvin Gaye: “What’s Going On”
I just have to hear the first few notes of the soprano saxophone, and I’m instantly nodding along and swaying with the music, not just because of the beautiful melody but because it’s one of the most hopeful and compassionate songs I know. It transports me to 1971, when the song was released, and I remember what it felt like then to be so frustrated with the violence and hate around us, yet so sure that we would all eventually bond together to overcome those who wanted war, wanted hate, and wanted to oppress.
The song ranked six in the Rolling Stone list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time” and was nominated for two Grammys. The album What’s Going On is on my top ten of all albums ever. It’s one of the first concept albums in which the songs are interrelated, conveying a larger story. Three of the songs from the album made the top ten list of the Hit 100, making Gaye the first male solo artist to have that distinction.
Fifty-two years later and the song is as powerful as ever, enhanced by Gaye’s gentle but powerful voice. If you’ve never heard this song before, you’re welcome.