Kareem Reacts to This Weeks' News Headlines: Trump Faces Prison?, McEnroe Gets It Wrong, Racism in Housing, "House of Dragons" Meh, DeSantis Sucks, and More
My thoughts on the top stories in this week's news.
This week’s round-up of top news stories will once again come from a variety of sources that I read daily, including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Daily Beast, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter as well as Apple News and Flipboard, which gather news from sources from Fox News, The Wall Street Journal, Esquire, Rolling Stone, People and dozens more.
Yeah, it’s a lot. Now that I look at the list, I’m surprised I have the time. But I have many interests and reading all these news sites allows me to sample a large variety of stories and opinions.
Summary: The FBI served a search warrant at Trump’s home at Mar-a-Lago and found a couple dozen boxes that included classified documents, some marked Top Secret, some included the names of our foreign agents. Even more serious, Trump may face obstruction charges because he and his associates kept the documents for over a year after they were requested to be returned.
My Take: The more information that comes out, the more damning—and illegal—we see that Trump’s actions were. Why take the documents in the first place? Why, when told it was illegal to have them, not return them? And worst of all, what possible logical support can anyone give for these actions?
I know we have to give elected officials some legal latitude given the complex decisions they have to reach. But it is crucial to the survival of any democracy that we do not allow unlimited breaches of the law, especially when they are done with full knowledge that the acts are illegal. That kind of hubris and arrogance must be punished to dissuade future elected officials from abusing their office. In 2016, Trump bragged, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn't lose any voters, OK? It's, like, incredible.” He was right: he continues to take pot shots at our country and his followers, totally oblivious that he’s shooting holes in the boat their families are floating on. They not only cheer him on, but hand him the bullets.
Summary: Tennis star Novak Djokovic will not be playing at the 2022 U.S. Open because of the requirement that he be vaccinated against COVID-19. In supporting Djokovic, tennis legend John McEnroe called his decision a “gutsy move” and the U.S. Open’s vaccine policy “bullshit.”
My Take: First came sadness. When someone I admire as much as I do McEnroe makes such a silly and dangerous statement, it depresses me. After the last couple years of seeing popular athletes ignore science facts and research statistics, I should know better than be surprised. But the more we have gotten to know, the more we realize why vaccinations and boosters are so crucial. We know that getting COVID doesn’t protect you from getting it again. We know that vaccines don’t prevent you from getting it, but they reduce the severity of symptoms and the number of deaths.
McEnroe said, “I think it’s bullshit that he’s not allowed to play, to be blunt. I think it’s quite a gutsy stand, in a way, to do what he’s doing, because he’s potentially sacrificing being unequivocally the best ever, since he got thrown out of Australia… If he’s not in New York, this is another one that he could have won. So he’s risking something, but that’s also what made him so great.”
While McEnroe worries about Djokovic’s career, he doesn’t worry about the fact that Djokovic knowingly mingled with the public when he knew he was infected with the virus. How much illness and possibly even deaths was he responsible for? What about the careers—not to mention health and lives—of people Djokovic could come in contact with in America. He also lied when he gave false information to Australian border officials and lied when he claimed not to know he was positive for COVID when he attended a crowded tennis event in Belgrade where he presented awards to young children.
Yeah, I’m not concerned one bit about multimillionaire Djokovic’s career.
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Summary: This prequel to HBO’s internationally popular Game of Thrones drew a record-breaking 10 million viewers for its first episode. The series has already been renewed for a second season.
My Take: I have to admit to being a little let down after all the time, money, and hype around the series. It has what one expects to see: dragons, bloody conflict, political backstabbing, graphic sex, cool costumes, and creepy family relationships. But it delivers all that in a predictable and unenthusiastic package. The villain is one-dimensional. The political shenanigans are familiar. What’s missing is the audience caring about what happens because we have no stakes in the outcome, no attachment to the characters. It’s only the first episode, but they would have been better served to make the first one longer to give us characters whose fates we cared about. I’d give it a B-. So far.
Summary: A Black Baltimore couple, both professors at Johns Hopkins University, contacted an appraisal company, 20/20 Valuations, to appraise their home in order to refinance. The company came back with a $472,00 valuation, which the couple thought was way below value. So, they de-Blacked their home by removing all family photos and had a White friend of theirs stand in as owner while they sought another appraisal. This time their home was valued at $750,000. Dr. Shani Mott and Dr. Nathan Connolly are suing for discrimination.
My Take: Every week I read articles or hear news pundits opine about how there is no systemic racial discrimination in this country. They say this despite the fact that every week new studies come out proving the opposite. News articles like the one I’m highlighting here are described as lone instances, not part of a larger system. Of course, the overwhelming number of people saying this are White and have never had to face unrelenting discrimination. But this kind of treatment is a daily occurrence for Blacks whether in education, health care, employment, or just selling your home. As Dr. Connolly explained: “We were clearly aware of appraisal discrimination. But to be told in so many words that our presence and the life we’ve built in our home brings the property value down? It’s an absolute gut punch.”
Summary: In 1890, Mississippi officials adopted a constitutional provision deliberately designed to exclude certain Black voters. “We came here to exclude the Negro,” said the convention’s president. “Nothing short of this will answer.” The provision denied voting rights to those who committed certain felonies—those considered to be more likely to be committed by Blacks. Last week, a majority of judges on the notoriously conservative U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld the provision, admitting its racist origin but declaring it had been sufficiently tweaked since then to no longer be discriminatory. As a result, 10% of the state’s voting age population—16% of the Black voting age population—cannot vote. That’s the highest in the nation.
My Take: Committing certain felonies should not exclude a person’s right to vote forever. The article discusses a Black army veteran convicted of cashing bad checks who spent two years in prison and then went on to receive a bachelor’s and master’s degree. Yet, he still can’t vote. One mistake should not erase your rights as a citizen. But this law effectively does what it was meant to do, suppress Black voters.
Ron DeSantis’s Florida (NYT)
Summary: Journalists Patricia Mazzei and German Lopez discuss Ron DeSantis’s hold over Florida and his aggressive conservatism as he tries to wrangle a presidential nomination.
My Take: De Santis is the toxic political offspring of Trump’s anti-democracy campaign mating with the uninformed insurrectionist mentality eager for a fascist leader to tell them what to do, think, and believe. My expectations of some politicians’ intelligence is low, but he is far under even that low bar. Everything he says is meant to provoke emotion without having any support in fact, science, research, or logic.
He recently said about Dr. Anthony Fauci, “I’m just sick of seeing him! I know he says he’s gonna retire—someone needs to grab that little elf and chuck him across the Potomac.” The crowd enthusiastically cheered. What were they cheering? That their governor expressed violence? Yes, it’s hyperbole, but he knows that he has the power to influence others to act on his hyperbole. Fauci has received numerous death threats while one man was recently sentenced to three years in prison for threatening to break every bone in Fauci’s “disgusting elf skull.” Is DeSantis’s anger with Fauci because the doctor tried to curb the sickness and death in Florida that DeSantis allowed to happen?
DeSantis doesn’t care about any of the conservative values he pushes. He’s a pure political computer self-programed to appeal to those who can’t think for themselves in order to please those with lots of money. He found a niche that requires only blustering, lying, and marginalizing others—and he hopes to ride that into the White House.
I like to think we’re better than that. But I’ve been wrong before.
Summary: RRR is India’s most expensive film ever made and one of its most successful. It’s been 20 years since India had a film nominated for an Oscar in the Best International Feature category. Many think RRR deserves to be nominated.
My Take: You may be wondering why I’m writing about this film (which is currently on Netflix). Because it’s one of the most outrageous, bizarre, entertaining, action-packed, and melodramatic movies I’ve ever seen. It’s a spicy jambalaya of genres from historical to action to musical. It has John Woo-type betrayal, Hong Kong kung-fu physics-defying fights, Bollywood dancing, all stewed in anti-imperialism themes.
Should it be nominated for an Oscar. Probably not. There’s no real emotional or thematic depth here. It’s all very surface, especially with character development and relationships. However, it definitely should be watched—even at its over three-hour length—just for the sheer audaciousness and bravado of its filmmaking choices. It’s about as bold and unapologetic as movies get.
To be fair and accurate, this movie has so many amazing action sequences that you’ll be sweating by the end. However, I’ve added this clip of a dance sequence in which the two Indian men are bullied by the White privileged Englishmen and respond with this cultural display. It is reminiscent of the dance scenes in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and in West Side Story in which opposing groups display their cultural pride in a dance-off. This is one of the most energetic and delightful examples of that kind of scene.