Shaq: Kyrie Irving "Idiot," Has Twitter Gone to the Dark Side?, DeSantis Lies about Crime, Pelosi Attack Is Funny to GOP Candidates, The Frauds Pushing Voter Fraud, & More
The Heroes and Villains of America revealed themselves this week. Next week we get to decide which ones will run our country.
I spent close to four hours this week on my mail-in ballot. I researched every candidate, proposition, and judicial nominee. Even on propositions I was certain about, I did a deep dive just to make sure I hadn’t missed some nuance in the fine print. Even after all that research and filling in my ballot, I wasn’t a hundred percent sure about everything. You never can be in life. All you can do is use reason, logic, and facts to come to the best conclusion.
Laziness is what is threatening democracy. It’s easier for people to join a political party and regurgitate their policies than go through the effort of researching, agonizing, and deciding. Political ads are a joke, usually twisting the facts into some half-truth clothed in an emotional appeal meant to bypass critical thinking. The theory behind political ads is to make you vote for something that makes you feel good about yourself the way dogs are rewarded with a treat when they do what we ask.
From what I can tell, many people use midterm elections to punish rather than forge a better future. For example, there are issues with the economy right now and polls show voters want to blame Democrats. But the facts about the economy show the exact opposite. The deficit has been reduced, even though it had ballooned under the previous Republican presidents. Yes, there’s inflation, but that inflation is worldwide. Do you seriously think that a Republican Congress will do anything vastly different concerning the economy than the Democrats? The real issues are about domestic freedoms and protecting the rights of the marginalized.
With that in mind, I’ve gathered stories that address some of the people and issues in next week’s election in which the country will define its values and its belief in democracy.
Sports & Politics: This Is Why They’re the Best NBA Commentators
Summary: On Inside the NBA Tuesday, Shaq and Barkley expressed their disgust with Kyrie Irving’s continual antisemitic posts and disappointment that Irving is not more harshly punished by the NBA. Barkley mentioned players who have recently been suspended for homophobic slurs and believes Irving deserves the same treatment. Shaq added, “When you’re as great at basketball as he is, people listen to you… It hurts me that we have to sit up here and talk about stuff that divides us. We have to sit up here and answer for what this idiot has done. I stand for equality of all people.”
Reggie Miller also commented on the lack of NBA players denouncing Irving’s antisemitism: “In years past, this league has been great because the players have led the way and they have strong voices. When (former Los Angeles Clippers owner) Donald Sterling stepped in it, when (Phoenix Suns owner) Robert Sarver just recently stepped in it, our voices in the basketball community and our players were vocally strong in some type of discipline being handed down – or be gone. The players have dropped the ball on this case when it's been one of their own. It's been crickets."
My Take: I couldn’t be prouder of Shaq, Charles, and Reggie for their bold and straightforward comments. They are at the forefront of Black athletes that are condemning the recent antisemitic social media posts by Kyrie Irving and Ye (Kanye West). It’s a genuine “I am Spartacus” moment.
The NBA Players Association also released a statement on Nov. 1: “Anti-Semitism has no place in our society. The NBPA is focused on creating an environment where everyone is accepted. We are committed to helping players fully understand that certain words can lead to hateful ideologies being spread We will continue to work on identifying and combatting all hate speech wherever it arises.”
Yet, Irving has been defiant about his postings. You can read his long, rambling, at times contradictory defense here. Mostly he reveals his lack of awareness of how history works. It’s not an all-you-can-eat buffet from which you can pluck just the dishes you like without any understanding of the context.
His inability to understand why his posts are news can be seen in this statement: “There’s things being posted every day. I’m no different from the next human being, so don’t treat me any different. You guys come in here and make up this powerful influence that I have (and say) you cannot post that. Why not? Why not?” If he really thinks someone with millions of followers spouting hate speech is the same as Jim in accounting posting on Facebook, then he really is out of step with reality.
The Nets finally forced Irving to acknowledge the damage he’s done and donate $500,000 to groups opposing hate speech. In his statement you can almost hear his arm being twisted: “I oppose all forms of hatred and oppression and stand strong with communities that are marginalized and impacted every day. I am aware of the negative impact of my post towards the Jewish community and I take responsibility." But there was no explicit apology—which tells us everything about what he really believes.
Honestly, there’s little hope that he will change because he’s insulated by fame and money and surrounded by yes-people. There is no motivation to learn how to distinguish propaganda from facts. All that’s left is for the world to decide how it should respond to him.
Kareem Note: The problem of antisemitism is much bigger than Irving or Ye. They are merely the unwitting spokesperson for the right-wing political movement that is blatantly taking over the GOP. (For the full story, read “Jewish leaders call on GOP candidates to reject antisemitic comments”). Many Republican candidates running for some of the most powerful positions in their states and in the country—such as Pennsylvania’s GOP gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano—feel perfectly free to publicly spout antisemitic statements without fear of reprisal from their own party or the voters. That should be a very troubling sign for all marginalized groups because fascists always start by demonizing one group—right before they go after the others.
Social Media: Has Twitter Become the Ninth Circle of Hell?
LeBron James said Elon Musk needs to address 'scary AF' surge of N-word use on Twitter (Business Insider)
Summary: LeBron expressed his concern that since Elon Musk has taken over Twitter, there has been a 500% increase in the use of the n-word. Musk responded (“Elon Musk Responds To LeBron James Calling Out Surge In Racial Slurs On Twitter”) with a quote from his head of Safety & Integrity at Twitter indicating the use of the n-word was from inauthentic accounts, which they took down: “To give you a sense of scale: More than 50,000 Tweets repeatedly using a particular slur came from just 300 accounts.”
Summary: Celebrities including Shonda Rhimes, Toni Braxton, and Sara Bareilles have left Twitter in anticipation of new owner Elon Musk’s previous statements regarding less oversight on users.
Stephen King says he'll quit Twitter if Elon Musk makes him pay $20 a month to be verified: 'they should pay me' (Insider)
Summary: After purchasing Twitter, Elon Musk proposed charging $20 a month for verified users (indicating the user is the real person and not an imposter account). Author Stephen King reacted by threatening to quit. So did Nate Silver, editor of the popular political analysis site FiveThirtyEight. Both pointed out that they were responsible for bringing millions to Twitter which makes the platform money. Musk responded (Elon Musk Defends Controversial Blue Checkmark Twitter Plan to Stephen King) by suggesting $8 because “We need to pay the bills somehow!”
My Take: Social media is the fastest, most efficient way to promote hate speech, inaccurate news, and conspiracy theories. Because all the platforms are private companies, they have to take the responsibility of self-regulating. This is hard to do when your main goal is to make money. Musk refers to himself as a “free speech absolutist,” but there is no such thing in the real world. Even if you ignore your ethical duty to society, there are practical issues. If I own a restaurant and one of my customers stands up and starts shouting the n-word or calling for insurrectionists to hang a politician they don’t like, I can shrug and say, “Free speech.” In which case, many of my customers will leave. Free speech is about a robust exchange of ideas that sometimes can be intense. But when that intensity crosses the line society deems unacceptable, Twitter will have to adopt that line or lose business.
Musk understands that and announced he will form a content moderation board will include “the civil rights community and groups who face hate-fueled violence.” This caused outrage among the far-right groups who had counted on him to remove all speech barriers (“Elon Musk has owned Twitter for less than a week. Conservatives are already canceling him”).
Stay tuned. The battle is far from over.
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Why Do I Have a Substack Newsletter?
We need a break from all that contentiousness. Here’s a video which perfectly explains why I do what I do here. What is my goal? To bring people together. Well, this little girl says it better (and sweeter) than I could…
Florida: Home of the Zombie Apocalypse
Summary: While giving a speech at a political rally for a candidate in New York, Florida governor Ron DeSantis declared himself a “law-and-order governor” from a “law-and-order state.” DeSantis stated: “The number one thing I hear, where people get so fed up, is they are sick and tired of the crime that you see, particularly in New York City.” But statistics compiled by Daily Beast show the opposite to be true: “But with the latest carnage in Tallahassee [nine people were shot by gunmen in Tallahassee the night DeSantis gave his speech], the number of shootings in that city this year had surpassed 169. New York has reported just over 1,100 in this same period, but with a population of 8 million people to Tallahassee’s 200,000. That means Tallahassee’s incidence of shootings per 1,000 residents is six times that of New York City. (Tallahassee’s overall rate of violent crime is just under twice that of New York City.)
“As for DeSantis’ entire ‘law order state,’ Florida’s violent crime rate is 383.60 per 100,000. That is higher than New York’s violent crime rate of 363.76. ”
My Take: DeSantis knows he’s lying—he gets regular crime reports—but he continues to lie, along with other Republicans, because lying about crime is effective. In the first three weeks of October alone, GOP candidates spent one quarter of their ad budget ($64.5 million) of ads focusing on crime. Democrats spent 15% ($58 million) on crime ads.
Why? Recent Gallup polls show that 56% of Americans believe crime has increased in their area, up 11 points from 2021 and 18 points from 2020. It’s the highest number in 50 years of polling. This fear is worse among Republicans: 73% believe crime is getting worse in their area.
The truth: The FBI’s 2021 crime report concluded that violent crime actually dropped nationally by 1% from 2020, with robbery declining by 8.9%. Homicides did increase by 4.3%. But with the news blaring crime and with true crime stories the hottest genre on TV, people think there’s much more crime than there is.
It certainly is a breach of integrity to exploit the fears of the vulnerable—parents, the elderly, women—in order to get their vote. By the way, for those who would vote Republican because of fear of crime, what proposals do they have to curb crime and is there any evidence these proposals have worked in the past or will work now? Nope, because their strategists have specifically warned candidates against giving specific proposals.
Politics: Humor that Only a Sadistic Child Could Appreciate
Editorial: GOP responds to Pelosi attack with cruel, baseless jokes. It’s shameful (The Los Angeles Times)
Summary: After the attack on Paul Pelosi, numerous Republicans and other right-wing pundits joked about the assault, while some put forth conspiracy theories that involved the criminal being a secret lover or that the Pelosis staged it themselves.
My Take: Have you heard the one about an 82-year-old man who gets hit in the head with a hammer wielded by someone obsessed with right-wing conspiracy theories? Pretty damn funny, right? The attacker, who intended to kidnap Nancy Pelosi, may have fed on right-wing conspiracies, but they are not to blame for his actions. He’s not rational enough to represent any party or belief system.
The people who are rational enough (sorta) are all those who immediately latched onto the event for political gain. They decided to join in the assault, but with lies and snarky innuendo. They are the true villains of the story, showing themselves to lack integrity and intelligence.
Trump’s incoherent, rambling take: “It’s weird things going on in that household in the last couple of weeks.” [He was suggesting that the glass in Pelosi’s home was broken from the inside-out, though it wasn’t.] “So it wasn’t a break-in it was a break-out. If there’s even a little bit of truth to what’s being said, then it’s crazy. But… the window was broken in and it was strange that the cops were there, you know... So, I don’t know.” (Yes, that man was indeed president.)
When Kari Lake, the GOP nominee for governor of Arizona, she was asked about school security, she said, “Nancy Pelosi, well, she’s got protection when she’s in D.C. — apparently her house doesn’t have a lot of protection.” For some unknown reason, the audience laughed enthusiastically. Never mind that they’re laughing at an old man’s skull fracture, I just can’t find the joke. Later, on Tucker Carlson’s show, she claimed she was being silenced for “speaking the truth” while going on to speak a lie about the assailant being found “half naked.” Is that really the kind of person who can be counted on to be a truthful governor of Arizona?
Elon Musk tweeted a story from the Santa Monica Observer, a known extreme right-wing outlet, that suggested that Pelosi was drunk and “in a dispute with a male prostitute” (stoking homophobia among conservatives). Wrote Musk: “There is a tiny possibility there might be more to this story than meets the eye.” He later deleted it, but not before his 112 million followers read it.
Unfortunately, the list of GOP stand-up comics goes on and on. But like the desperate class clown snorting Jell-o up his nose, they are more sad spectacle than funny. And they prove how much they love America and their constituents by lying directly to them, believing their audience is too stupid to check the facts.
The truth about election fraud: It’s rare (The Washington Post)
Summary: A Fox News poll found that 55% of those surveyed were extremely or very concerned about election fraud, but that three-quarters of Republicans were concerned. However, based on FACTS, election fraud is very rare in the U.S. Despite election deniers like Trump and many other GOP candidates, “an Associated Press review of every potential case of voter fraud in six battleground states found fewer than 475 out of more than 25 million votes cast in those states — Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The disputed ballots amounted to just 0.15 percent of Biden’s victory margin.”
My Take: Three-quarters of Republicans are very concerned about voter fraud. That may be one of the most frightening sentences I’ve ever written. That’s because these people are making decisions in the coming elections that are to guide the future of the country and they are operating on the same logic as someone who believes puppies are agents of Satan.
Republicans in power know there was no significant voter fraud because they’ve seen the evidence. But they also know they can’t win an election with their platform, so they instead have gone full Salem Witch Trial by just throwing accusations that the opponents must then spend time defending against. The only voter fraud going on right now are the attempts by various states to suppress voter turnout by the poor, the elderly, and the marginalized (“New US state voting laws present most intense voter suppression threat in decades”).
When there isn’t voter fraud, politicians create it. Florida governor Ron DeSantis ordered the arrest of 20 people, which he bragged was “just the first step” in cracking down on alleged wide-scale voter fraud. Unfortunately for him, video evidence has since been released that showed even the police officers arresting many of these people—who had registered to vote despite being ineligible as convicted felons—were sympathetic because the laws are so vague (“The backlash against Ron DeSantis’s puzzling voter fraud arrests”). No “wide-scale” voter fraud has yet been revealed. Just 20 confused felons out of a population of 21 million.
Music: Remembering “The Killer”
Jerry Lee Lewis, Piano-Bashing Pioneer of Rock ‘N’ Roll, Dies at 87 (The Hollywood Reporter)
Summary: “Nicknamed ‘The Killer,’ Lewis was an electric performer who was still performing into his late 80s. Known for such rock standards as ‘Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin On,’ ‘Great Balls of Fire,’ ‘Baby Baby Bye Bye,’ ‘Breathless’ and ‘High School Confidential,’ he accumulated 10 gold records during his career, with his biggest, the 2006 all-star duets release Last Man Standing, selling more than a half-million units worldwide. But his career became embroiled in a scandal when it was revealed that he had secretly married his 13-year-old cousin.”
My Take: Lewis shook up music in a way that few had done before or since. Only Little Richard had that same riveting energy. Yeah, I’m not ignoring his sketchy past with his cousin (they were married for 13 years and had two children), I’m just acknowledging his artistry and its place in musical history.