My Thoughts on the War in Israel by Hamas
Israel and Hamas Bring US into War, Taylor Swift's Influence on Culture and Politics, Alexa Lies about Elections, Biden Gets Deep-Faked, The Penguins Sing "Earth Angel"
What I’m Discussing Today:
Kareem’s Daily Quote: Pogo the opossum identifies humanity’s most dangerous enemy.
Israel and Hamas at War: The inevitable just happened. But why is it inevitable for so many innocents to suffer unnecessarily?
What Is the Meaning of Taylor Swift: She has the charm of Mary Tyler Moore and the economic and cultural power to change the course of the country.
This Week in AI Misinformation: Alexa speaks treason? Say it ain’t so.
Kareem’s Video Break: Mamas don’t let your babies go without kisses. Or else this.
The Penguins Sing “Earth Angel”: The song broke records and made Black history.
Kareem’s Daily Quote
“We have met the enemy and he is us.”
Pogo in Walt Kelly’s poster for Earth Day 1970.
If I were writing a book called Kareem’s Quotes to Live By (which I am not), this would be in the first few pages. Walt Kelly wrote and illustrated Pogo from 1948 until shortly before his death in 1973. This particular cartoon featuring his swamp-dwelling opossum Pogo was used in an anti-pollution poster for Earth Day in 1970, then revived for the above comic strip for Earth Day 1971. But it has since become famous well beyond the original intended context of pollution.
The quote is a take-off of Navy Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry’s famous “We have met the enemy and they are ours,” spoken after defeating a British naval squadron during the War of 1812.
For me, Kelly’s quote urges us to look at our own self-destructive behavior, whether it’s in our personal relationships, in our moral certainties, or in our political convictions. People like Trump, DeSantis, Gaetz, MTG, and others personify our refusal to look at the world rationally. Metaphorically, it’s like the story of the golden calf in Exodus 32. When Moses ascended Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments, the Israelites became fearful and impatient and fashioned a golden calf to worship. They met the enemy—and it was them. They lacked faith just as we lack faith in our own intelligence, handing decision-making powers to shiny but hollow idols who desecrate our laws for personal ambition.
“We have met the enemy and he is us.” How else do you explain a rapist and fraud who wanted to suspend the U.S. Constitution being the front-runner for president?
SUMMARY: The Israeli government formally declared war Sunday and gave the green light for “significant military steps” to retaliate against Hamas for its surprise attack, as the military tried to crush fighters still in southern towns and intensified its bombardment of the Gaza Strip. The toll passed 1,100 dead and thousands wounded on both sides.
More than 24 hours after Hamas launched its unprecedented incursion out of Gaza, Israeli forces were still trying to defeat the last groups of militants holed up in several towns. At least 700 people have reportedly been killed in Israel — a staggering toll on a scale the country has not experienced in decades — and more than 400 have been killed in Gaza as Israeli airstrikes pound the territory.
The declaration of war portended greater fighting ahead, and a major question was whether Israel would launch a ground assault into Gaza, a move that in the past has brought intensified casualties. Meanwhile, in northern Israel, a brief exchange of strikes with Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group fanned fears that the fighting could expand into a wider regional war.
MY TAKE: Most of the time, war is an acknowledgment of the failure of the qualities we admire about humanity: imagination, intelligence, and morality. These qualities are especially lacking in those who initiate a war.
In this case, Hamas in Palestine and Hezbollah in Lebanon (with Iran’s help) chose the timing to derail talks between Saudi Arabia and Israel that would have undermined Iran’s economic and political influence in the region. I hate that they might have achieved their goal, thereby further destabilizing the Mideast.
This is a conflict without heroes. Everyone has blood on their hands. There have been atrocities enough to go around. But we can’t dwell on past grudges if we want to change the future.
I would like the Palestinians to have a secure, thriving homeland. I would like the Israelis to have stability and safety. I want both to stop this endless and unproductive cycle of blame and virtue signaling as to who is the biggest victim and who has the moral high ground. When has a mutually beneficial relationship ever been accomplished starting from those positions?
I want peace.
I realize even saying those words, given the complexities of the Mideast politics and history, seems like a naive statement of a 1950s beauty pageant contestant. But they would not be the first countries to have overcome complicated and hurtful pasts to see a future of cooperation that benefits both of them.
To accomplish that, we need good people with good intentions, not political animals willing to sacrifice thousands of innocent lives to further their own political careers. China, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and the U.S. are all involved (among others), all seeking their own advantages from the chaos in that region. That’s why it’s going to take not just a village, but a lot of countries working together to agree to stop profiting off the conflict like vultures picking at carrion.
Hamas forfeited its humanitarian arguments the moment they launched rockets and took hostages. The U.S. will side with Israel, as it should in this particular situation. But my hope is that we will use our might not for retaliation, but to force an immediate ceasefire and for all parties to sit down to meaningful negotiations based on respect rather than animosity.
Violence will not solve the complex problems of the Middle East but only lead to more violence, usually against the innocent. That is the history loop they keep repeating. Except for the innocents suffering as a result of the violence, I’m not sure who really wants peace. Yet, peace is the only worthwhile legacy.
What Is the Meaning of Taylor Swift
Celebrities of Taylor Swift’s magnitude are like a mighty river rushing through our society. They have the ability to sate our thirst and feed the soil so we can be nourished, they can power electricity to light up cities, they can provide areas where we can swim and frolic together as a community. No wonder rivers were worshiped as gods in some cultures. No wonder Taylor Swift gets god-like treatment from her fans.
In “The Boy in the Bubble,” Paul Simon sings, “Every generation sends a hero up the pop charts.” For the past 17 years, Taylor Swift has been at the top, a position she earned through enormous talent as a singer, songwriter, and performer. Not everybody with enormous talent makes it up there. And, despite having enormous talent, not everybody deserves to be up there.
She has already been credited with changing the music business in positive ways (“8 Ways Taylor Swift Has Changed the Music Business”). She has also vastly bolstered local economies. One study estimates that her followers (“Swifties”) have spent around $5 billion in destinations around the country (“The Taylor Swift Impact – 5 Months and $5+ Billion”), with the total economic impact being closer to $10 billion. One rule of thumb is that for every $100 a fan spends on live performances, another $300 is spent on hotels, food, transportation, etc. Swifties average $1,300 spending in local economies. The phenomenon has been called “Swiftonomics.”
So far, she has proven herself worthy of her exalted status.
Not only does she donate millions to worthy causes, she recently gave $55 million in bonuses to every person working on her Eras tour. When she urged people to register to vote, an instant surge in voter registration occurred. She has supported LGBTQ+ rights. Last week, California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom said Swift’s influence on the 2024 presidential election would be “profoundly powerful.”
Anyone who wields so much power over our culture, our economy, and our politics demands that we keep a close watch.
Two recent examples of her influence are worth taking a closer look at.