Kevin McCarthy Lies About American History and Elon Musk Promotes Debunked Conspiracy
Sports Illustrated Secretly Used AI Authors, Rival Candidate Accuses Rep. Ilhan Omar of Not Being Attractive Enough to Represent, Henry Mancini Transports Us to the Irish Countryside
What I’m Discussing Today:
Kareem’s Daily Quote: Charles Darwin explains the most important characteristic for the survival of species. I discuss what it means to our daily lives.
Kevin McCarthy Proud to Be Wrong About History: He did go to high school, right? He should correct mistakes, not broadcast them to the public, right?
Sports Illustrated Secretly Used AI Authors: They even gave them fake bios and photos. A blow to journalistic integrity that threatens to affect the sanctity of other news outlets.
Elon Musk Still Crazy After All These Rants: He went to Israel to rehab his antisemitic rant—and came back to endorse a long-debunked conspiracy theory. Does this man know how to read a newspaper?
Rival Candidate Accuses Rep. Ilhan Omar of Not Being Attractive Enough to Represent: I’m waiting on his swimsuit photos to decide how smart he is.
Kareem’s Video Break: This is supposed to be an ad, but the product seems like an afterthought in this funny and artistic short film.
What I’m Reading: A clever Audible Original offers a clever, twisty tale that turns the Sherlock Holmes/Prof. Moriarty rivalry on its head.
Henry Mancini Plays: Want to be transported to a relaxing Irish countryside? This song will do it—and no TSA fondling.
Kareem’s Daily Quote
It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.
Professor Leon C. Megginson paraphrasing Charles Darwin
I feel a little rattled whenever a favorite TV show gets canceled (Billions, come back!) or I read about the bankruptcy of American icons like Sears and JCPenney (I still miss the catalogs). Such change feels like a dark disturbance in the Force.
We all know that change is inevitable—like puberty, menopause, and a new Dr. Who. The challenge is to recognize which changes are good so we can encourage them, and which are bad so we can prevent them.
Not everybody likes change. Some fear change because they feel like they are suddenly thrust into a foreign country where they don’t speak the language and don’t understand the customs. Afraid of being marginalized, conservatives often make fun of newfangled ideas, technology, slang, music, fashion, and whatever else stinks of unfamiliarity. The plethora of personal pronouns has sent some into a dizzying spiral too confused to add “they” to their lexicon. They complain that these changes are often accompanied by increased immorality, laziness, and possibly poor personal hygiene. They defend the old ways and traditions as if their lives depended on them.
This unflinching defense of the past is because they see change as diminishing their importance in the future. The U.S. is increasingly moving away from church attendance and affiliation, which has made some evangelicals fight harder to push religion into schools while banning books they think might turn children away from traditional beliefs. It is projected that the U.S. will have a non-White majority by 2045, so the GOP has amped up its efforts to make it harder for non-White minorities to vote. Reduce their voice and power now so they won’t be a threat in the future.
As history has proven, these efforts are ultimately futile. Their small victories along the way only humiliate themselves and shame their descendants. They will be vilified along with proponents of slavery and opponents of women’s suffrage. All because they feared change.
In the 1970 movie Getting Straight about campus protests, graduate student Harry is arguing with the university president as students riot around them. The president, unwilling to acknowledge what the violence around him means, insists he must rule as he always ruled—with parental strictness. Harry tells him those days have passed: “Stop trying to hold back the hands of the clock! It'll tear your arms out!”
Even well-meaning Holden Caulfield in J.D. Salinger’s classic novel The Catcher in the Rye comes to understand that his Quixotic quest to protect children from growing up and losing their innocence to the corruption of adulthood is a losing cause. In the end, he watches his younger sister on a carousel leaning precariously to grab a ring and realizes he must squelch his impulse to protect her: “The thing with kids is, if they want to grab for the golden 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.”
In “Revolution 1” The Beatles sing, “Well, you know/We all want to change the world.” The problem is that we’re not always talking about the same thing when we talk about change. Sometimes politicians use the word change but they mean the opposite of progressive change; they mean reverting to some nostalgic past when dinosaurs like them ruled the Earth. That’s why when they speak vaguely about bringing about change, we have to force them to define the specifics.
Here are my specifics: Change is about improving lives by making sure that everyone has equal opportunities and choices in controlling their lives. Equally, change means stopping any behavior that exploits, harms, or belittles people. To bring about that change is not always a passive sofa-and-Netflix-friendly activity. It requires action.
Newton’s First Law of Motion states that a body at rest remains at rest, especially when the body is as heavy as our snack-sodden society. His Second Law states that a body in motion at a constant velocity will remain in motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an outside force. When applied to social change, that means we the people have got to get that body moving in a straight line toward progress, all the while guarding against interference from selfish outside forces trying to impede change for their own enrichment. That usually involves a combination of public peaceful protest, voting, and speaking out in your community.
Darwin made clear that strength and intelligence aren’t enough to ensure survival—we also need to adapt to change. And sometimes survival means we need to instigate change. As civil rights leader and congressman John Lewis said: “When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, it’s my philosophy that you have a moral obligation to get in trouble, to make some noise, to point people in a different direction.”
If ever there was a time to make some noise, this is it.
SUMMARY: Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) may have led Congress, but he probably shouldn’t ever teach history.
That’s the verdict after the former House speaker posted a tweet on Sunday that is getting mocked for its historical inaccuracy.
McCarthy’s post on X (née Twitter) included a video in which he claim, inaccurately, that “in every single war that America has fought, we have never asked for land afterward — except for enough to bury the Americans who gave the ultimate sacrifice for freedom.”
McCarthy’s post quickly attracted criticism as well as a community note that pointed out that McCarthy’s own district in California would currently be part of Mexico if it hadn’t been ceded to the United States at the end of the Mexican-American War of 1848.
MY TAKE: I guess it’s possible that McCarthy is unaware of basic history facts that every high school student is taught, but that would make him highly unqualified for his job as a member of Congress. What is more likely is that he is deliberately lying about our history in order to promote an alternate history in which the U.S. is nothing but beneficent to all we conquer.
Part of the Republican agenda is to rewrite history into a Disney fairytale so that Americans can feel only pride in their past, never guilt. Recent laws in several GOP-controlled states have specifically forbade teaching history that makes students feel bad about themselves. Toward that end, lessons about slavery have been watered down to the point where Florida wanted to teach the benefits of slavery to slaves—they learned a trade—as if that canceled out rape, murder, torture, and families being torn apart. They treat history as if it were an abusive alcoholic father who, after a lifetime of violence against his family, deserves a headstone that says, “Here lies a loving father and husband.” Lies then take on a dual meaning.
History is more important than that. The reason a doctor needs a family history when treating a patient’s illness is to better diagnose and treat the problem. This helps them avoid wasting time with inaccurate treatments or giving medicine that might be harmful. Our country’s history tells us what we did right and what we did wrong so that we can do more right and avoid shameful wrongs.
Toward that end, let’s do a quick fact-check:
America was founded by taking the land from England after the Revolutionary War.
Before and after, we fought the Native Americans and took their land.
1848: Mexico ceded 55% of its territory (529,000 square miles), which has since become “the states we call Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, California—including McCarthy’s own district—as well as most of Arizona and Colorado, and chunks of Oklahoma, Kansas, and Wyoming.”
1898: After winning the Spanish-American War, the U.S. gained Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines.
1899: U.S. acquires American Samoa.
Spanish-American philosopher George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” This is not a case of not remembering the past, but of trying to erase it by giving it a Hollywood rewrite in which the U.S. is always the White Savior of the less fortunate. Sometimes we are saviors—and those times should be honored and celebrated so we do more of that. But sometimes we aren’t—and those times should be acknowledged and studied so we do less of that.
The arrogance of McCarthy and his disrespect towards Americans is amplified by his eagerness to post his wacky speech despite the inaccuracies of his main point. He knows that those who read and care about the truth and facts aren’t his constituents anyway. His audience are those who agree with his lies because they don’t know they are lies or don’t care. To them, it is better to feel good than do good.
The effectiveness of McCarthy’s lying can be seen in the Comments section of the above video in which people thank him for his lies the way Kevin Bacon responds to being struck with a paddle in Animal House: “Thank you, sir. May I have another?”
Reports say McCarthy is considering leaving Congress. I already know his epitaph: “Here lied Kevin McCarthy.”
SUMMARY: A day after visiting the sites of the Oct. 7 Hamas massacres and meeting with Israeli government officials amid backlash over his promotion of antisemitism, X owner Elon Musk boosted yet another unhinged right-wing conspiracy theory.
In order to lend credence to Pizzagate, a years-old conspiracy about a Democratic-run pedophile sex ring that was the precursor to QAnon, Musk peddled the false claim that an ABC reporter convicted on child pornography charges had “debunked” Pizzagate. In reality, the reporter in question never once covered the crazed conspiracy theory.
Hours after tweeting a meme declaring “Pizzagate is real,” the mercurial billionaire quietly deleted the post following widespread criticism.
…According to Musk’s meme, “Pizzagate is real” because the expert who refuted unhinged claims that prominent Democrats like Hillary Clinton “trafficked children” had himself been sent “to jail for child porn.”
The edgelord billionaire then followed up that post with a link to an NBC News article about former ABC News journalist James Gordon Meek pleading guilty to federal child porn charges. The article makes no mention that Meek ever reported on Pizzagate or any other QAnon-adjacent conspiracy theories.
Why would that be? Because Meek never covered Pizzagate. It would appear that Musk is sharing a meme based on a fabricated New York Post headline that circulated online after Meek pleaded guilty, claiming that he was the one who personally “debunked” Pizzagate.
According to a Reuters fact-check, no such headline exists on the New York Post’s website, and none of the coverage of Meeks in the Post mentions Pizzagate.
MY TAKE: Just when I was hoping to take a break from Elon Musk’s relentless anti-American rants, he’s back from his image rehabilitation tour in Israel with more craziness. I don’t mind his own self-destructiveness, but he wants to drag the country down with him.
His recent antisemitic posts on X (which he later called “one of the most foolish, if not the most foolish, thing I’ve done”) cost him millions in advertising from Apple, IBM, Airbnb, Amazon, Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Disney, Paramount, Lionsgate, Sony Pictures, Universal, and Warner Bros. Discovery (“X May Lose Up to $75 Million in Revenue as More Advertisers Pull Out”). In an effort to slap a Band-Aid on a severed arm, Musk flew to Israel to make nice by giving the impression of a penitent and rational man.
Not so fast. Upon returning, he took to X to endorse a Pizzagate conspiracy that has been debunked because there is absolutely no evidence. Why is it bad when the world’s richest man with 155 million X followers promotes false conspiracies? First, he’s whipping up a mob of people to manipulate to do his political bidding by lying. Second, he does damage to the concept of critical thinking when he endorses harmful and dangerous theories that have no evidence. He’s not just lying, he’s announcing to the world that he doesn’t need facts to reach opinions. Or maybe he’s announcing he’s incapable of understanding how facts relate to opinions. Either way, he’s encouraging the kind of illogical thinking that leads to political marginalization and violence.
Musk’s reaction to the advertiser exodus from X: “Go fuck yourself… Go. Fuck. Yourself. Is that clear?”
Yes, Elon, everything is clear to us because we employ reason. If only things were clear to you.
Kareem’s Video Break
Sometimes someone makes something for the sheer love of it. The last place I would look for such a gem is a commercial for an Apple iPhone, but this short film barely cares about the product, instead focusing on telling this sentimental but engaging story by combining stop-motion and live-action to create a funny yet touching story.
‘Tis the season to be sharing. And giving.
‘Sports Illustrated’ Reportedly Used AI-Generated Authors (The Daily Beast)
SUMMARY: Sports Illustrated has published numerous articles by AI authors without disclosing it, according to two people involved in content creation at the sports magazine. “At the bottom [of the page] there would be a photo of a person and some fake description of them like, ‘oh, John lives in Houston, Texas. He loves yard games and hanging out with his dog, Sam.’ Stuff like that,” one source told Futurism. The technology news site found that AI-generated writers were regularly replaced with new ones and their profile pictures were listed for sale on online AI headshot shops. Initially, the articles did not state that they were produced with the help of AI or that the credited writers weren’t real, but the magazine later described the stories as “created by a third party” and disclosed that “Sports Illustrated editorial staff are not involved in the creation of this content.” When Futurism contacted the magazine’s publisher, The Arena Group, all the AI authors were deleted from Sports Illustrated’s website without comment. The SI Union wrote in a response on Monday afternoon that the practices detailed in the report “violate everything we believe in about journalism” and called for “transparency from Arena Group management.”
MY TAKE: First, full disclosure: I have appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated numerous times and I have written articles for them. I am an enthusiastic fan of the publication and will continue to read it. But I now have qualms.
I’m not reacting here to Sports Illustrated using AI to generate stories (I can’t get myself to say it “writes” stories). I’m more concerned about the duplicity of SI in misleading its readers. If this reporting is correct, then they manufactured false names and profiles to create the appearance that real humans were the authors. That’s what real humans call lying.
Again, the crime isn’t in using AI. That’s as inevitable as bad airline food. The cost benefits are too tempting. The crime here is that they undermined journalistic integrity at a time when journalists are under attack by a right-wing mob of truth deniers. Journalists are getting roughed up at political rallies and mainstream journalism itself is being accused of dishonesty by faux news outlets like Fox, Breitbart, and The Daily Wire. Now, SI has given them more ammunition.
Democracy depends on journalists with integrity. AI can’t generate integrity.
Rep. Ilhan Omar’s Democratic Challenger Says the Congresswoman Is Not “Attractive Enough” to Hold Office (Mother Jones)
SUMMARY: Former Minneapolis City Council member Don Samuels, one of the primary challengers to Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), mentioned a reason he thinks she’s unfit for office: Omar is allegedly “not cute enough.”
During his appearance last week on The Break Down, a weekly politics podcast, one of the co-hosts asked Samuels to elaborate on his critiques of Omar’s alleged “lack of town halls [and] constituent services” (you can hear the question start at about the 22-minute mark). Here’s how he responded:
“To see government not be responsive like that, to the people that pay them, it is offensive to me. And to not be responsive and available to those people, to meet with them and find out what their concerns are and to answer their tough questions? To not get back to people on the phone? Who do you think you are? And who do you think you’re working for? You’re not cute enough, you don’t dress well enough, nothing about you is attractive enough to overcome that deficit.”
Omar responded to Samuels’ comments in a post on X, calling them “beneath the dignity of any adult, let alone someone seeking public office” and “reminiscent of the worst kinds of lies and misogyny that we are hearing from people like Donald Trump, who think they can say anything about women and get away with it.”
MY TAKE: Regardless of your opinion of Rep. Ilhan Omar, it is clear that Samuels is the throwback candidate who espouses 1950s attitudes about women while being clueless that he’s 70 years behind the times.
Yes, many men would agree with his sexist assessment, who measure a woman’s worth based on her placement on their arbitrary Attractiveness Scale. But those are not the kind of people we should be electing into public office, not just because their ideas are degrading and demeaning, but because they are so stuck in the past that they are incapable of being a leader in a modern society. They are anchors to progress when we need jet propulsion.
What I’m Reading (Audible)
Moriarty: The Silent Order
Last year I recommended Moriarty: The Devil’s Game, the first season of this Audible Original production, which is basically like an old-fashioned radio drama. I loved the creative originality of the story, which had Moriarty as our lovable and brilliant hero framed for murder by a devious, immoral Sherlock Holmes.
The second season offers more twisty suspense but also features Helen Mirren as the ruthless and murderous villain. Holmes and Moriarty continue to battle one another in a story that involves the assassination of President McKinley, a brewing war between England and the U.S., and the joys of watching clever deducing. I highly recommend this compelling and satisfying show.
Kareem’s Jukebox Playlist
“Theme from The Molly Macguires”
This is a first: I’m featuring an instrumental song from a movie. The Molly Maguires was released in 1970 starring Sean Connery and Richard Harris about a secret Irish American organization among Pennsylvania coal miners. There are a lot disagreements among historians about the Molly Maguires, but the gist is that coal mining in the 1870s was a treacherous occupation that exploited the miners in inhumane and deadly ways. Union organizers were fighting the wealthy mine owners, to their own peril. The owners did not hesitate to hire thugs to beat and even murder union leaders. Eventually, this led to twenty suspected members of the Molly Maguires being convicted of murder on flimsy evidence and then hanged.
The soundtrack is by the incomparable Henry Mancini, who composed the music for The Pink Panther, wrote “Moon River” from Breakfast at Tiffany’s and “Love Theme from Romeo and Juliet.” His work earned him four Academy Awards, a Golden Globe, and 20 Grammy Awards.
“The Theme from The Molly Maguires” has a gentle but melancholy Irish sound achieved by using period instruments like the Irish harp, tin whistle, and squeezebox. Every time I hear this song, I am transported to the Irish countryside where I am walking through a quiet field of foxglove. Close your eyes when you play it and you will feel your body relaxing and drifting to your favorite place.