Kareem Reacts to This Week's News Headlines: Supreme Court Justice Threat to the US, Cops Shoot Black Man in Bed, Nicole Kidman Ad Must End, Trump Wants to Pardon Rioters, KKK at West Point, and More
My thoughts on the top--and not so top--stories in this week's news.
Every time I write this column, I fret over the many important issues in the news that I didn’t get to. But I’m determined to try to keep a balance of hard news stories with some lighter ones, so I have to let some issues slide, knowing I’ll get to them later.
This week seemed to be especially active in racism and democracy doomsday. But I’ve thrown in a couple treats to take the edge off.
Ginni Thomas pressed Wisconsin lawmakers to overturn Biden’s 2020 victory (The Washington Post)
Summary: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s wife, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, a conservative activist, tried to influence lawmakers in two states—Arizona and Wisconsin—to break the law by overturning the 2020 presidential election. She sent emails on Nov. 9th, a few days after the election was called for Biden by most news media.
My Take: This may not seem like a major story to some, but when the wife of a Supreme Court Justice attempts to undermine national elections and thwart democracy, then there should be major concern. Given her high-profile pimping for conservatives, there is no way her husband did not know what she was doing. Yet, keeping silent about this political attack on our country is a clear violation of his oath of office.
Thomas’s email read: “Please stand strong in the face of media and political pressure. Please reflect on the awesome authority granted to you by our Constitution. And then please take action to ensure that a clean slate of Electors is chosen for our state.” I guess she saw no irony in the fact that her email might be considered a form of “political pressure.”
Sadly, we have so many candidates for Most Ethically Corrupt Justice, but Clarence Thomas, based on his comments and decisions, is easily the least intelligent of the bunch. He should be a role model for Black children and a point of pride for all Black people. Instead of illuminating the path for our country’s future, he sheds no light, only reflecting what his wealthy masters want. His open campaign against the rights of women, LGBTQ+, and other marginalized people in order to continue the status quo is the definition of being ethically corrupt.
Police shooting of unarmed Black man in bed renews anguish in Ohio (The Washington Post)
Summary: Police body-camera footage shows police entering the apartment of Donovan Lewis, 20, at 2:30 a.m. and immediately shooting him as he sat up in bed. Audio reveals the officers told the shot Lewis to crawl out of the room. He died later in the hospital.
My Take: Because my dad was a cop, my first instinct is to always withhold judgement in police shootings because I know there can be extenuating circumstances the public isn’t immediately aware of.
But this hurts me to my soul. All I could think when I read this was, “Again?” and “Will it ever stop?”
There will be those who will attack Lewis because, let’s face it, he wasn’t a model citizen. The cops were there to serve arrest warrants on charges of domestic violence, assault, and improper handling of a firearm. But they burst into his bedroom and instantly shot him while he was in bed. There was no gun, no weapon evident.
For me, the most disturbing effect is that when I first saw the headline, I wasn’t certain whether this was a new story or one I’d already read. It was new. But it was also a story I’d already read—a thousand times over the years.
I don’t make the news, but it takes a staff for me to research, proofread, add photos, and to sneak into the locker room to put itching powder in LeBron’s shoes. Help keep this going.
‘Somehow, Heartbreak Feels Good in a Place Like This’: How Oscar-Nominated Screenwriter Billy Ray Crafted Nicole Kidman’s Iconic AMC Ad (Variety)
Summary: AMC paid $25 million for the ad promoting watching movies in the theater. The ad has become a cult favorite, with people reciting it along with Kidman.
My Take: I hate this ad. I was shocked to read they spent $25 million dollars, that it has a rabid following, that people haven’t petitioned to have it removed.
I get that the ad came out when AMC was desperate to get moviegoers back in the seats after the pandemic. I applaud their efforts. Nicole Kidman is a terrific actress and she’s the right age and has the right gravitas to be persuasive to a broad range of ages. The script was written by Oscar-nominated screenwriter Billy Ray (The Hunger Games, Captain Phillips). The pedigree is great, but the content is not.
The ad features Kidman dressed elegantly, walking into an empty theater, sitting by herself, and watching clips of famous movies. I’m instantly irritated that she’s overdressed for the movies, announcing that she’s a movie star, so listen to her. Then I’m bugged that she’s walking into an empty theater, as if this is an exclusive showing for her. She doesn’t have to worry about the average people chomping popcorn beside her, so of course she’s not concerned about COVID. Based on this ad, we never believe that Nicole Kidman EVER goes to a movie theater, so we feel like we’re being conned.
The famous line—”Somehow, heartbreak feels good in a place like this.”—feels cheesy and insincere. Her frozen smile makes the line seem creepy, not touching. And, worse of all, I have to watch this ad while I’m ALREADY SITTING IN THE THEATER. You’re urging me to do what I’m already doing. Very annoying.
If you somehow haven’t seen the ad, here it is:
Alabama Pastor Is Arrested While Watering Neighbor’s Flowers, Video Shows (The New York Times)
Summary: The Rev. Michael Jennings, who was watering a neighbors plants while he was out of town, was arrested by police for “obstructing government operations” because he refused to show ID that he wasn’t legally required to show.
My Take: I know that after the story about the man being shot in bed this may seem tame, but if you’re Black and reading the papers, these are the stories you notice every single day. And then you hear conservative pundits whining about how there is no systemic racism. I heard a couple of incredibly dumb guys arguing on a podcast how it’s really anti-racists who are racist. But, of course, these are guys who never have to worry about getting arrested for watering a neighbor’s plants or getting shot sitting up in bed.
Trump vows pardons, government apology to Capitol rioters if elected (The Washington Post)
Summary: Trump vowed to issue full pardons and an official apology to rioters who attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
My Take: Of course he would. He’s already admittedly stolen classified top secret government files, attempted to overturn a legitimate election, lied to the country about the seriousness of a pandemic resulting in thousands of unnecessary deaths, and endorsed his followers’ desire to hang the Vice-President. I find it astounding that there’s anyone left in this country who is willing to follow him—at least anyone who values democracy and what the Constitution says. This is pretty much like saying he’d pardon John Wilkes Booth.
Plaque Bearing Image of Hooded K.K.K. Figure Hangs at West Point (The New York Times)
Summary: The U.S. Military Academy at West Point has a large bronze plaque at the entrance of Bartlett Hall Science Center that includes an image of a hooded figure and the words “Ku Klux Klan” written below it.
My Take: Ok, last article about racism today. But it’s worth noting that one of the reasons systemic racism exists is because it gets active and passive support from our most cherished institutions. Small plaque, you say, easily overlooked? The plaque is one of three commissioned to tell the history of the U.S., each 11 feet high and 5 feet wide, dedicated in 1965 to West Point graduates who had served in World War II and the Korean War. Regardless of intent, the image can seem like a passive endorsement of the KKK.
West Point is currently discussing what to do about the plaque.
Summary: Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) released a claim that the elections in Alaska are a scam because Republican Sarah Palin and Republican Nick Begich lost to Democrat Mary Peltola, who will become Alaska’s first woman to hold the House seat, and the first Alaska Native in Congress. Alaska uses a ranked-choice system (go here for a good explanation of how it works and why Alaska uses it), which is designed to allow more choice to voters than a strict two-party system.
Cotton complained: “Ranked-choice voting is a scam to rig elections…60% of Alaska voters voted for a Republican, but thanks to a convoluted process and ballot exhaustion—which disenfranchises voters—a democrat ‘won.’”
My Take: It’s exhausting to hear so many people in politically powerful positions spout such nonsense because it really starts to eat away at any hope that we as a country can progress through smart, informed leadership. Instead, we get dunces like Cotton. Without analyzing how their system works, it’s clear Cotton doesn’t understand basic math. The 60% who voted Republican split their votes—and when given the chance to vote in a run-off, many chose the Democrat over Palin.
Also, as many others have pointed out, Cotton is complaining about the same basic set-up of the Electoral College system, which in 2016 gave a Republican presidential candidate (Trump) the presidency despite losing in the popular vote.
Cotton has four more years of insipid comments, bad logic, and misinforming his constituents before he’s up for re-election. Why, Arkansas, would you elect the worst student in the class? If you were getting heart surgery, would you pick the worst student in medical school?
A Pair of Ahmad Jamal Live Albums Capture an Innovator in His Prime (The New York Times)
Summary: The great jazz musician Ahmad Jamal, 92, is releasing in November a couple of albums of unreleased live performances from the sixties.
My Take: I haven’t heard the new albums, but I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce you to Jamal in case you’re unfamiliar with his work. I grew up listening to him so his music is as much a part of who I am today as dribbling a basketball.
In this article, he says something that moved me: “I’m still evolving, whenever I sit down at the piano. I still come up with some fresh ideas.” I’m 75, and I like to think I’m still evolving, coming up with fresh ideas. I can no longer do that on a basketball court, but I can do it in my writing. That’s why I’m constantly writing in different genres: non-fiction, fiction, TV shows, documentaries, graphic novels.
Here’s 87-year-old Jamal playing “Autumn Leaves” in a Paris concert. The way he plays is like he’s inventing a new language and we somehow understand what he’s saying.
Now that’s how you end with a bang. You know what to do now, right?