Discover more from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Kevin McCarthy Sells Soul Cheap, MTG & Hannity Want to Make It Illegal for Dems to Vote, "Dilbert" Creator Wants Whites to Stay Away from Blacks, No Voter Fraud Study Suppressed, and More
My thoughts on the top--and top-ish--stories in this week's political, sports, and pop culture news.
A phrase that irritates me more than “it is what it is” is “it’s plain common sense.” Common sense is used to convince someone that the arguer has the weight of reason and popularity behind them. To disagree with “common sense” is to announce yourself as an outsider to what most people believe. The implied threat behind that phrase is that there are dire consequences to going against the crowd.
But where did the crowd get these “common sense” beliefs? Most were handed down to them by parents and grandparents in a generational game of telephone that leaves all players ill-informed.
Here’s why the phrase is meaningless and immediately announces the user of the phrase as a lazy thinker unwilling to do their homework. Sure, there is such a thing as common sense when it comes to certain physical actions—don’t stick your hand into a running blender, don’t kiss a rattlesnake on the lips (yes, they have lips)—but everything else is up for grabs.
The history of common sense is a toxic dump site of wrong opinions: “Don’t go outside without a jacket. You’ll catch your death of cold.” While cold can lower your immune system a bit, you need virus germs to catch a cold, which you’ll probably find the moment you come in out of the cold at your destination. We don’t lose heat through our heads any faster than we do through our butts. Common sense once allowed husbands to beat their wives (it wasn’t made illegal in the U.S. until 1920).
The problem is that conservative politicians have been promoting “common sense” as a preferable way to form opinions. The reason for this is because they have no studies, no facts, no statistics, and no reputable experts to support many of their conclusions. They then pass laws that they say will fix what they also claim are ills of society. But they don’t prove there is a legitimate problem—nor that their legislation would fix the problem, even if it did exist. “Hey, it’s common sense!” they explain. “Oh, okay, go ahead,” we’re supposed to say.
For example: Voter suppression laws are being passed with the promise that they will fix the voter fraud problem. How do Republicans know there is widespread voter fraud? Because they lost elections. Yet, studies and experts agree there is no problem. But the GOP has been passing laws across the country to fix the non-existent problem. How do these laws fix the problem? By preventing people who don’t support Republicans from voting.
The same “common sense” approach is being used by the GOP to attack the rights of women, children, Blacks, Latinx, LGBTQ+, immigrants, and the poor. “Common sense” is a phrase meant to bully someone from asking pertinent questions like, “What is your proof?”
What have we learned? Common sense that says don’t lick your finger and stick it into a live wall socket: Good. Common sense that says banning books by Toni Morrison because they discuss racism or JK Rowling because the “spells are real”: Bad.
As I look through today’s stories, I see how often “common sense” has justified people saying truly terrible things and doing even worse things.
Politics: Are You Scared Yet? (You Should Be)
SUMMARY: “Top Democrats in Washington cried foul after Kevin McCarthy, the new Republican House speaker, released more than 40,000 hours of surveillance footage from the January 6 US Capitol attack to Tucker Carlson, the far-right Fox News host who has consistently downplayed the deadly riot.
“The Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, told colleagues McCarthy’s decision ‘poses grave security risks’ and ‘needlessly expos[es] the Capitol complex to one of the worst … risks since 9/11’.
“But McCarthy told the New York Times he had ‘promised’ to release the footage, apparently as part of dealmaking with which he clinched the speakership after far-right rebels forced him through 15 nominating votes.
“‘I was asked in the press about these tapes,’ McCarthy added, ‘and I said they do belong to the American public. I think sunshine lets everybody make their own judgment.’”
MY TAKE: Kevin McCarthy has already proven himself a detriment to the GOP with the going-out-of-business sale of his soul to the right-wingers in exchange for his speaker job. But now he’s putting the country in jeopardy by releasing tapes without vetting them for security risks to the Capitol complex, which has already been invaded once.
If he really believed these tapes “belong to the American public,” then he would have released them to all the major news outlets at the same time, thereby insuring most of the public would see them. Instead, he sold them to Fox, not for money, but for the money equivalent of positive reporting regarding him and his cronies. Specifically, he gave the tapes to Tucker Carlson, who is to journalism what a barnacle is to an ocean liner. Carlson has openly admitted to lying to his audience, the latest incident being his private condemnation of those spouting election fraud conspiracies, while promoting those theories on-air.
How has this greedy and selfish act helped the country in any way?
Politics: The Plan to Ban Democrats from Voting
MTG wants to prevent a “civil war” by banning Dems who move to red states from voting for 5 years (Salon)
SUMMARY: “Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., suggested that Democrats who move to Republican-controlled states should be banned from voting in elections for up to five years.
“The far-right firebrand on Tuesday floated the idea after right-wing host Charlie Kirk asked how the GOP could stop liberals from ‘trying to invade our states or our counties.’
“‘What I think would be something that some red states could propose is: well, okay, if Democrat voters choose to flee these blue states where they cannot tolerate the living conditions, they don't want their children taught these horrible things, and they really change their mind on the types of policies that they support, well once they move to a red state, guess what, maybe you don't get to vote for five years,’ Greene said. ‘You can live there, and you can work there, but you don't get to bring your values that you basically created in the blue states you came from by voting for Democrat leaders and Democrat policies.’”
MY TAKE: One of the questions that haunted me when I was growing up was: how did the German people ever get to a point where they permitted a dictator to commit genocide while they went about their daily business? I would ask adults how this could happen but no one could give me a rational answer. I think they were just as baffled. As I got older, I could see that countries descend into corruption the same as individuals—one foul act after another. It starts small with behavior that seems comically absurd, too stupid to even consider as anything but a joke. Then it grows until the absurdity becomes our daily lives and the stupid are running things.
It’s mind-boggling that Greene was recently re-elected despite her open lies and ignorance about most topics she speaks publicly about. Who can forget her comment: “Tonight, I stopped at the Wilder Monument in Chickamuaga, GA, which honors the Confederate soldiers of the Wilder Brigade. I will always defend our nation's history!” Except the Wilder Brigade fought for the North. You have to know history to defend it.
Likewise, you have to know the U.S. Constitution to defend it (which she swore to do when she took office). Her proposal to not allow Democrats to vote for five years when moving to a majority Republican state is, as many legal scholars have pointed out, unconstitutional. Worse, she never thinks anything through: Republicans moving to blue states shouldn’t be allowed to vote? She’s from Georgia, which has two Democrat U.S. Senators. How blue or red does the state have to be?
On Sean Hannity’s show, Greene said, “In my life and my world, all of my friends are regular Americans. Everyone I talk to is sick and tired and fed up with being bullied by the left, abused by the left, and disrespected by the left.” This is the default setting of all bigots: that they are “regular Americans,” while anyone who disagrees with them are not. (FYI: This is the logical fallacy of “appeal to popularity.”) I would be offended if she lumped me in with her as a regular American given how wrong, illogical, and uninformed she is on pretty much everything she says. Is that what she thinks a regular American is?
Sadly, but predictably, Hannity agreed with her fascist plan to restrict voting. Of course, if Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had suggested the same idea in favor of Democrats, Hannity and Greene would have taken to the airwave to decry her as a socialist/communist.
Politics: How Democracy Gets Destroyed from Within
Ex-Attorney General in Arizona Buried Report Refuting Voter Fraud Claims (The New York Times)
SUMMARY: “Mark Brnovich, a Republican who served as Arizona’s attorney general until January, buried the findings of a 10,000-hour review by his office that found no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election, newly released documents reveal.
“The documents were released on Wednesday by Mr. Brnovich’s successor, Kris Mayes, a Democrat who took office last month as the top law enforcement official in the battleground state, which remains at the forefront of the election denial movement.
“The sweeping review was completed last year after politicians and other conspiracy theorists aligned with former President Donald J. Trump inundated Mr. Brnovich’s office with election falsehoods. They claimed baselessly that large numbers of people had voted twice; that ballots had been sent to dead people; and that ballots with traces of bamboo had been flown in from Korea and filled out in advance for Joseph R. Biden Jr., who won Arizona by a little over 10,000 votes.
“But investigators discredited these claims, according to a report on their findings that was withheld by Mr. Brnovich. (The Washington Post reported earlier on the findings.)
“‘These allegations were not supported by any factual evidence when researched by our office,’ Reginald Grigsby, chief special agent in the office’s special investigation’s section, wrote in a summary of the findings on Sept. 19 of last year.”
MY TAKE: If Brnovich’s successor was not a Democrat, this study would never have been revealed. The Big Lie is still being heralded across the country, even though no one offers any proof. In Arizona, taxpayers’ money was spent to accumulate and investigate voter fraud, only to have the results suppressed when they didn’t match Brnovich’s narrative agenda.
Fortunately, Brnovich is facing legal backlash as some call for him to be at the very least investigated, and possibly disbarred (“Arizona governor seeks ethics review of former attorney general” The Washington Post). That’s a good start. But I hope they go even further in order to dissuade other politicians from misuse of state funds for personal political gain. I’m talking to you DeSantis.
You know how you cast a vote in favor of this newsletter? By subscribing.
Kareem’s Video Break
I love this kid. He knows what sports is all about. My favorite part is the coach trying to nudge him along but he shakes him off. He hit a home room and he’s going to enjoy his victory—his way.
Art & Politics: Who Knew a Popular Cartoonist Could Be So Tone-Deaf?
‘Dilbert’s’ Scott Adams: ‘White people should get the hell away from Black people’ (The Mercury News)
SUMMARY: “Pro-Trump ‘Dilbert’ creator Scott Adams, who has previously claimed he’s been a victim of racism in Hollywood and corporate America, went on a racist diatribe this week, labeling Black people as a ‘hate group’ and saying that White people should ‘get the hell away’ from them.
“During his Real Coffee with Scott Adams online video program Wednesday, the controversial East Bay cartoonist offered up his latest provocation. He cited a recent poll that he said shows that ‘nearly half of all Blacks are not OK with White people.’ If so, Adams said, ‘That’s a hate group.’
“Adams cited a Rasmussen survey of 1,000 American adults that dealt with the phrase, ‘It’s OK to be White.’ The Anti-Defamation League has deemed the phrase a hate slogan that started as a trolling campaign by members of the controversial forum 4chan.
Among other things, the Rasmussen poll found that 72% of the 1,000 American adults surveyed agreed with the statement, and that even a majority of Black people — 53% — did as well. The poll also found that 79% of respondents agreed with the statement, ‘Black people can be racist, too,’ including 66% of Black people.”
MY TAKE: Dilbert creator Adams’ reaction is outrageously unhinged. First, this is one poll of only a thousand people. Of the thousand people, how many were Black? It’s absurd to reach a passionate conclusion about the opinions of all 40 million Black Americans based on however many were polled (if it reflects the Black population percentage, it would be 130 Black people).
Second, the questions are so ambiguous that the answers can’t really determine anything. Here are the two questions: 1. Do you agree or disagree with this statement: “It’s OK to be white.” 2. Do you agree or disagree with this statement: “Black people can be racist, too.”
If the Anti-Defamation League is correct that the phrase is a hate slogan used by racists, then some of the Black respondents might have been reacting to the phrase rather than the sentiment. For example, if asked, “Do you agree with the statement, ‘My country, right or wrong.’?” one might hesitate. Yes, I support my country, right or wrong. On the other hand, I will openly criticize it when I think it is wrong on order for it to correct its course and be right. (Echoing US senator Carl Schurz’s 1871 statement: “My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.”) If I answer yes, it doesn’t make me more patriotic than answering no. In fact, no conclusions could be reached by that poll question.
The second question also suffers from a lack of clarity because it doesn’t define “racist.” To some, racist might mean having feelings of fear or superiority toward another race. To others, it might mean taking overt actions against another race. To others, it might mean showing a preference for one’s own race in relationship to other races. Using those definitions, the answer should have been one hundred percent that Black people can be racist because all people are racist in having an innate preference. But it’s how we act that matters. How we overcome innate preferences to expand our minds, rather than be imprisoned by them.
And yet, this famous person used his platform to spew his ill-informed, knee-jerk, butt-hurt reactions without any critical thinking. As a result, The Washington Post, Cleveland’s Plain Dealer, and other papers have announced they would no longer run Dilbert cartoons. This is not Adams’ first encounter with racist repercussions. According to The Daily Beast, “Last year, 77 newspapers with publisher Lee Enterprises made a similar move after Adams introduced his first Black character, only to use the figure to make fun of ‘wokeness’ and the LGBTQ community.”
Predictably, Elon Musk chimed in defending Adams and calling the media “racist against whites & Asians.” He also tweeted surprise at the backlash: “What exactly are they complaining about?”
Famous people have the right to share their opinions. But they have the responsibility to make sure what they say is based on reason because the results can often harmfully affect those they comment on. Kanye West’s antisemitic comments didn’t just fade into the ether (“Kanye West Linked To 30 Anti-Semitic Incidents According To Anti-Defamation League” AllHipHop). Instead, these kind of comments from Adams and Musk encourage more racism. Fame doesn’t insulate celebrities from the consequences of their opinions—anymore than it protects those harmed by those opinions.
RELATED THOUGHTS: I want to take a moment to be outraged myself—at the reporting about the poll. The Mercury News article I excerpted above starts by stating that Adams “went on a racist diatribe this week.” It’s not the job of the reporter to tell me it was a “racist diatribe,” but to just tell me what he said so I can decide whether or not it’s racist or a diatribe. Both words are highly prejudicial.
The Washington Examiner begins its article about the poll like this: “Voters are not buying into ‘woke racial politics and anti-white attacks from liberals, according to a new survey on the simmering ‘it’s OK to be white’ pushback.” The columnist starts by telling us how to interpret the poll rather than giving us the unadorned information and letting us decide. Both articles bias the reader from the start, but the Examiner article is a column, so we expect it to be opinionated. However, it’s just not a very well reasoned opinion, extrapolating major conclusions from paltry information. As it’s called in the logic biz: bias confirmation. He already had a bias and found a silly little poll to confirm it.
Kareem’s Short Takes
The Little Mermaid star Halle Bailey responds to racist backlash: 'As a Black person, you just expect it' (Entertainment Weekly)
SUMMARY: “Halle Bailey has opened up about all the racists who are butt hurt about her casting as Ariel in Disney's live-action/CG-animated The Little Mermaid.
"As a Black person, you just expect it and it's not really a shock anymore," Bailey tells The Face in a new cover story interview. "When [Chlöe and I] first signed to Parkwood, [Beyoncé] was always like: 'I never read my comments. Don't ever read the comments.' Honestly, when the teaser came out, I was at the D23 Expo and I was so happy. I didn't see any of the negativity."
When the singer, one-half of Beyoncé-blessed duo Chloe x Halle, was first announced in the role of Ariel, racists crawled out of the woodwork to decry the casting. Another wave of vitriol came when the first teaser trailer, touting Bailey's rendition of "Part of Your World," screened at Disney's big fan convention, the D23 Expo.
MY TAKE: Sigh. Some fans are obsessed with demanding that movies recreate the needy fantasies in their minds. When moviemakers make other creative choices—sometimes better, sometimes not—they swarm like vindictive piranhas eager to consume all who have failed them. Most of these intractable fans worship sci-fi, fantasy, and general other-worldly genres.
But when their comments veer from complaining about the dicey ending of Game of Thrones to the race, gender, or sexual preference of fictional characters and the actors who portray them, they have crossed a line that is no longer about the integrity or artistry of the works but about the fans’ fragile ego-system of biases. Though they may try to disguise it with fan-talk, they are really saying that they are unable to imagine fabrics other than their slobber-soaked comfort blankie.
California Students Draw Horrific Racist Images for Black History Month (The Daily Beast)
SUMMARY: “A California school district is scrambling during Black History Month after elementary students drew racist cards for their Black classmates, leaving many in the community questioning the district’s culture.
“‘These cards were passed out to the Black kids at my grandchildren's school…Pepper Tree Elementary, for Black History Month,’ Earlie Douglas posted on Facebook on Feb. 17. ‘My grand daughter was told that they were making her one for her that says ‘you are my favorite slave’ and they were drawing a picture of a slave hanging from a tree.’
Along with the post, Douglas attached images of the alleged drawings. In one illustration, ‘To my favorite cotton picker’ is written over a crayon-colored field of cotton on a sheet of paper folded in half.”
MY TAKE: If this were the 1960s or 1970s, I’d probably shrug this off as the usual racism. But it’s harder to swallow this kind of direct assault today. I’m not that mad at the children who did this because they are too young to have formed their own biases, and all they can do is reflect the prejudices of the adults and society around them. As I’ve said before in similar cases, the offenders may have very liberal parents who are horrified at what their kids did. But these children are learning somewhere that it’s okay to be openly racist and that they don’t fear consequences to their behavior and are desensitized to how it affects others. That is a larger issue of how systemic racism subtly seeps into their subconscious and encourages children to express it.
Kareem’s Good News Takes
SUMMARY: “Hundreds of students across Florida walked out Thursday in protest against Gov. Ron DeSantis and his policies concerning higher education.
“Students walked out of their classrooms at the University of South Florida, University of Florida, Florida State University, and more in opposition of his efforts. Some high school students also joined in on the statewide walkout.
“DeSantis recently announced plans to ban colleges and universities from having programs on diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as critical race theory.”
MY TAKE: Much of the social evolution of American society was driven by student protests of the 1960s and 1970s. Hundreds of thousands marched and demonstrated against the Vietnam War and for civil rights, women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, and environmental awareness. It’s refreshing to see students once again fighting against the attempts to diminish their education for political gain. Perhaps this is just the beginning to a nationwide movement.
Nebraska cheerleader competes by herself at state competition, but crowd doesn't let her feel alone (Omaha World-Herald)
SUMMARY: “When Morrill High School coach April Ott broke the news to Katrina Kohel that she was the only one left on the cheer squad, she promised her that even if she couldn’t compete at the state tournament, they could still enjoy the whole experience.
“They’d get fun coffee drinks, watch the more than 2,700 girls and 225 teams compete in the three-day cheer and dance competition in Grand Island and just have a good time.
“But Kohel, the lone senior on what had been a squad of four, had other ideas. After talking it over with her mom, Della, she decided she had nothing to lose.
“‘I want to go to state, and I will cheer by myself,’ she told her coach.
“And that’s what she did.
“…[I]t was the first time that a cheerleader had competed by herself at state. The rest of the 115 teams in the cheer competition varied in size from four to 20 or more girls.”
MY TAKE: This is the kind of story that defines what sports is all about: the opportunity to test oneself—and inspire others—through competition. Kohel’s story spread at the event, and she soon had bleachers filled with supporters, including other competitors. (In the video, you’ll notice an official trying to quiet the cheering crowd.) She ended up eighth out of the twelve squads in her division, which was the highest her team had placed in three years. She also competes in track and field, volleyball, and basketball.
She’s definitely my sports hero of the week.
Kareem’s Jukebox Playlist
Harry Chapin: “Mail Order Annie”
Those of you familiar with Harry Chapin will recall some of his most popular hits: “Taxi,” “Cat’s in the Cradle,” and “W.O.L.D.” In the 1970s, he was one of the highest paid singers in the world with 14 songs that charted and albums that sold in the millions. He was also an Academy Award-nominated documentary director and dedicated much of his life to fighting world hunger.
As a songwriter, Chapin often told complex stories of people seeking love, redemption, or meaning. The song I chose isn’t one of his big hits. Instead, I wanted to introduce you to “Mail Order Annie”, which is about a nineteenth century Midwest farmer nervously waiting at a train station as his mail-order bride disembarks. I can’t imagine any other popular singer-songwriter of the time writing about such an obscure subject. Yet, he captures the self-deprecation, loneliness, longing, and relief that is just as apt today if the song were called “Dating App Annie.”