Discover more from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Texas Just Became the Most Corrupt State in the Country, Trump Warns Biden Will Cause WWII (?) and Praises Putin (??), Jann Wenner Disses Women and Black Musicians, TV Reviews, Roy Orbison Sings
My take on news, pop culture, sports, and whatever else interests me.
Kareem’s Daily Quote
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)
When I was a younger man, I was very passionately in agreement with this opening stanza of Thomas’ poem “Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night.” It is a rousing call to rally against the encroachment of death, to fight rather than succumb to death’s gentle entreaty. Thomas was 33 when he wrote those lines, and they exude youth’s natural rebellion against the inevitability of death.
Today, at 76, I see death as less of a ruthless foe and more as an amiable traveling companion. Death looms daily and, therefore, defines our lives. It forces us to choose what’s valuable. It inspires us to be better, to do better. There’s a wonderful exchange in the movie Bang the Drum Slowly in which one character, a young professional baseball player who is dying of a rare disease, says, “Everybody'd be nice to you if they knew you were dying.” To which his friend says, “Everybody knows everybody is dying, that's why people are as good as they are.”
So, while I continue to rage against the dying of the light, I’m also not afraid to gentle into that good night. That is the relationship with death I am comfortable with.
Meanwhile, like the song says, “Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think.”
Texas Attorney General Is Acquitted in Landmark Senate Trial (The New York Times)
SUMMARY: The Texas Senate voted on Saturday to acquit the state’s attorney general, Ken Paxton, after a nine-day impeachment trial that focused on allegations of corruption and divided the Republican Party.
Mr. Paxton, a three-term incumbent who had been suspended from the post since his impeachment in May, was immediately reinstated.
Despite a process overseen by Republicans, with Republicans in the defense and in the prosecution, the result ended in near party-line votes, with members of his party lining up behind Paxton. Only two Republican senators voted in favor of conviction on any article. With a two-thirds vote required for conviction, no article received even a majority vote.
Mr. Paxton responded quickly to what he called a “sham impeachment” that he said had been coordinated partly by a “kangaroo court” in the Texas House.
“The weaponization of the impeachment process to settle political differences is not only wrong, it is immoral and corrupt,” he said in a statement.
MY TAKE: Please note that anytime a politician uses the word “weaponization,” they are pandering to conspiracy nuts and misdirecting people from the real issues. This should be clear when someone like Paxton—who was credibly accused of 16 articles of impeachment and still faces fraud charges that could send him to jail, as well as revelations about using burner phones and pseudonyms to meet up with his mistress—calls his accusers “immoral and corrupt.” This has been the Trump-inspired playbook of the GOP: when you get caught with your hand in the cookie jar, accuse the person who caught you of being the real thief.
For the past few years, it’s been neck-and-neck between Florida and Texas for the distinction of being the Most Corrupt State in the Country (with Wisconsin coming up fast). DeSantis really went all out to push his state over the finish line, what with banning anything his personal morality disapproves, discouraging people from getting COVID vaccinations, enacting racist voting restrictions, and wanting to send missiles and troops into Mexico, an allied nation.
But Texas really stepped up their corruption game by acquitting Paxton. Jeff Mateer, who was Paxton’s second-in-command, testified to a complex slew of wrongdoing that involved Paxton’s favoritism to a construction company (whose owner was arrested by federal agents in June) that employed his mistress.
To be fair to Republicans, while the Senate Republicans were the ones who acquitted him, the House Republicans voted 60 out of 121 to impeach him. Even Paxton’s close friend, Rep. Jeff Leach, had persuaded other Republicans to vote against Paxton despite the personal pain. “I have loved Ken Paxton for a long time,” Leach said. “I’ve done life with Ken Paxton. We’ve traveled together. Attend church together. I’ve block-walked for Ken. I’ve donated to Ken. I’ve supported Ken, I’ve asked others to do the same… Which is one of the reasons this is so difficult for me and many of our House members, and I know will be for many of you as well.”
Only two Republicans out of 19 in the Senate voted in favor of conviction. Politics over patriotism every time.
Republican Lt. Governor Dan Patrick served as the judge during the trial. After the acquittal, he scolded Republicans who had voted against Paxton for wasting taxpayers’ dollars. Money is something Patrick cares deeply about because before the trial began, he received a $1 million contribution and $2 million loan to his campaign from Defend Texas Liberty, who coincidentally backed Paxton. The Texas Speaker of the House, a Republican, responded, “I find it deeply concerning that after weeks of claiming he would preside over this trial in an impartial and honest manner, Lt. Gov. Patrick would conclude by confessing his bias and placing his contempt for the people’s House on full display.”
If Texans could just put aside party loyalty for a moment and look at the facts, certainly they would conclude that they’ve elected some pretty awful people. They can do better than the grifters they have now. So far, they’ve refused to hold their elected officials accountable for their crimes, so maybe they get what they deserve.
Trump: ‘Cognitively Impaired’ Biden May Cause ‘World War II’ (The Daily Beast)
SUMMARY: Donald Trump bungled his criticisms of rival Joe Biden in a speech Friday at the Pray Vote Stand summit in which he said the current president is “cognitively impaired” and will lead the world into a second world war. “Just think of it,” Trump said. “We would be in World War II very quickly if we’re going to be relying on this man.” This is unlikely; World War Two ended 78 years ago. Trump also seemed to suggest that he is leading former President Barack Obama in polls of the 2024 race, despite Obama not being in the contest. “As you know, crooked Joe Biden and the radical left thugs have weaponized law enforcement to arrest their leading political opponent, and leading by a lot, including Obama—I’ll tell you what,” Trump said.
MY TAKE: Ordinarily, the incoherent ramblings of Trump wouldn’t be news because he’s been doing it for years. But this is the Republican frontrunner by a large margin. He has challenged Biden and Rupert Murdoch to mental competency tests, though this speech may be test enough for many. His base supporters won’t care because they are acolytes who blindly worship, not informed citizens weighing evidence. To them, Trump is not a man, but a projection of their fantasy of the benevolent father/king.
However, two other factors may influence the less brainwashed voter. First, Trump once again aligned himself with one of the worst dictators in the world, Russia’s Vladimir Putin. While Trump was recently on Meet the Press, he was told that Putin had praised Trump for his position on the Ukraine invasion, to which Trump responded: “I like that he said that. Because that means what I’m saying is right.” Technically, that’s an example of circular logic. I’m a good person because only a good person would say they’re a good person. That kind of thinking alone should exclude him from the presidency.
Republicans Against Trump quickly tweeted: “A vote for Trump is a vote against America.”
What did Trump say that so delighted Putin (who has admitted that he tried to subvert our elections by helping Trump: “US: Putin approved operations to help Trump against Biden”)? Trump said he could end the Russia-Ukraine War in a matter of hours. When pressed during the interview about how he would do that: “But I would say certain things to Putin. I would say certain things to Zelensky.” Brilliant plan, indeed! “Certain things.” Reminds me of Nixon’s promise that he had a plan to end the Vietnam War if elected. He didn’t.
The second factor: Trump’s former attorney, Jenna Ellis, who faces criminal charges for her role in election subversion in 2020, warned against voting for Trump. “I simply can’t support him for elected office again,” Ellis said. “Why I have chosen to distance is because of that frankly malignant narcissistic tendency to simply say that he’s never done anything wrong…And the total idolatry that I’m seeing from some of the supporters that are unwilling to put the constitution and the country and the conservative principles above their love for a star is really troubling.”
Of course, while what she’s saying is accurate, it’s important to remember that she contributed in undermining the Constitution by helping to try to overturn a legitimate election. Idolators at least have an excuse: they’re mentally incompetent. But she committed her treasonous acts out of arrogance and greed. Like her boss.
Kareem’s Video Break
Some sweet harmonies from dads singing to their children. My kids just got me braying through “Midnight Train to Georgia.”
Hallelujah! Time to harmonize with this newsletter and subscribe.
SUMMARY: Rolling Stone magazine co-founder Jann Wenner justified the lack of diversity in his upcoming book, The Masters—which exclusively features interviews from white, male musicians—by claiming Black artists “just didn’t articulate at that level.” Wenner told The New York Times in an interview published Friday that it wasn’t a “deliberate” selection of musicians, but instead it was “intuitive over the years.” “The people had to meet a couple criteria, but it was just kind of my personal interest and love of them,” Wenner said. As for why he didn’t interview any women, he said, “Just none of them were as articulate enough on this intellectual level.” He added, “Of Black artists—you know, Stevie Wonder, genius, right? I suppose when you use a word as broad as ‘masters,’ the fault is using that word. Maybe Marvin Gaye, or Curtis Mayfield? I mean, they just didn’t articulate at that level.” He continued to dig himself even deeper, saying “maybe I should have gone and found one Black and one woman artist” for “public relations sake.” But, he said, he’s “old-fashioned and I don’t give a [expletive].”
MY TAKE: Well, this was disappointing. Not the fact that Wenner’s selections were all White musicians. That could have been designed to demonstrate a difference between White and Black approaches to music (with an all-Black volume to follow, of course). But it wasn’t a thematic choice. It was a racist choice based on his disdain for and dismissal of Black musicians who didn’t “articulate” in a manner he deemed superior.
Wenner founded Rolling Stone magazine, once the most influential rock music publication in the world. Though its influence may have waned, I have a lot of respect for what he accomplished. Not so much for the ignorance of his comments.
As a result of his statements, he was immediately removed from the Board of Directors of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation. He followed that with an apology:
In my interview with The New York Times I made comments that diminished the contributions, genius and impact of Black and women artists and I apologize wholeheartedly for those remarks.
‘The Masters’ is a collection of interviews I’ve done over the years,” he continued, “that seemed to me to best represent an idea of rock ’n’ roll’s impact on my world; they were not meant to represent the whole of music and its diverse and important originators but to reflect the high points of my career and interviews I felt illustrated the breadth and experience in that career. They don’t reflect my appreciation and admiration for myriad totemic, world-changing artists whose music and ideas I revere and will celebrate and promote as long as I live. I totally understand the inflammatory nature of badly chosen words and deeply apologize and accept the consequences.
That doesn’t satisfy me. First, his original remarks:
“maybe I should have gone and found one Black and one woman artist” for “public relations sake.” But, he said, he’s “old-fashioned and I don’t give a [expletive].”
Those words don’t relate to his explanation in his apology. It’s a declaration of entitlement that acknowledges he deliberately shunned Blacks and women, which he justifies by claiming he’s “old-fashioned.” Misogyny and racism are indeed “old-fashioned,” but that is not an explanation. He flaunts his arrogance and dares anyone to challenge him.
Consider yourself challenged. I don’t accept his excuse that the interviews were “not meant to represent the whole of music and its diverse and important originators but to reflect the high points of my career and interviews I felt illustrated the breadth and experience in that career.” If anything, they reflect his inability to elicit insights and depth from women and Black musicians, perhaps because of his indifference toward them. They didn’t speak to his need to define his personal culture and his manhood, so they were of less interest to him. That answer would have been understandable. His answers are not.
Worse, he’s done severe damage to his legacy and to the Rolling Stone brand, even though he sold his stake in 2017. And those of us who appreciated his accomplishments feel pretty deflated that in the end, he turned out to be just another curmudgeonly misogynist and racist.
Ordinary U.S. Muslims Are Still Being Victimized by the ‘War on Terror’ (The Daily Beast)
SUMMARY: Few travelers would likely be familiar with the meaning of “SSSS” if it was stamped on their boarding passes at the airport. If you’re Muslim, however, this has probably happened to you or someone you know in the last two decades because of the terrorist watchlist that was implemented post-9/11.
While the watchlist reportedly has over 1.6 million names on it, it has continued to insidiously operate in the background of most people’s travel experiences in and through the U.S.
The watchlist made news last month because of a lawsuit brought by Farid Sulayma, an American and Muslim leader living in Seattle. Singled out for scrutiny each time he travels, Sulayma cannot check-in online, is routinely pulled aside for additional searches, and has been questioned, cuffed, and detained for hours simply for trying to get where he needs to go. Like many other Muslims, he is a victim of a national security policy that has evaded accountability, but which continues to exist as a way of perpetuating the humiliation, demonization, and otherization of Muslims.
MY TAKE: To put this watchlist in perspective: 1.6 million names are on it, and there are 3.45 million Muslims in the U.S. That means roughly 46% of U.S. Muslims are on the government watchlist (though not all people on it are Muslims). To get on the watchlist requires only a “reasonable suspicion to believe that the person is a known or suspected terrorist.” What is not required: “irrefutable evidence and concrete facts are not necessary.” Immediate family members, friends, or associates of a suspected terrorist on the list may also be added to the list, even though they have done nothing.
Secret government enemy lists that people can’t access to see if they’re on the list or appeal in order to question why they are on the list are the stuff of totalitarian nightmares. It’s not even guilty until proven innocent because there is no opportunity to prove one’s innocence. Instead, it’s a lifetime of harassment, singled out at airports, searched, isolated, and treated as a criminal for having done nothing.
The even more devastating implication is that this list signals to the mainstream population that Muslims must be guilty of something, or the government wouldn’t target them. This promotes public suspicion of all Muslims in the community and encourages discrimination and violence (“US Muslims See Rise in Islamophobia”). This attitude was voiced in 2016 by Trump: “I think Islam hates us.”
President Biden sharply contrasts that sentiment when he said in 2022: “Muslims make our nation stronger every single day, even as they still face real challenges and threats in our society, including targeted violence and Islamophobia that exists.” The watchlist is part of the “challenges and threats” and needs to be seriously modified if it intends to be a useful tool of national security rather than a deadly weapon of prejudice.
Kareem’s History Bites
Japan’s Unknown Second Bombing of U.S.
Japan bombed the U.S. twice, both times killing Americans. Everyone knows about Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, which killed 2,403 people and led to our entry into World War II. FDR declared it “a date which will live in infamy.” He was right.
Less infamous is May 5, 1945, when five children ages 11-14 and one pregnant adult were killed near Bly, Oregon.
In a desperate effort against the U.S., between November 1944 and April 1945, Japan launched 9,300 Fu-Go balloons, each armed with four 11-pound incendiary devices and one anti-personnel bomb. The main objective was to start large-scale forest fires in North America. However, only 300 of them were observed in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. None of them started any fires because of the damp conditions at that time of year.
The only fatalities occurred when a reverend and his pregnant wife drove five Sunday school students up Gearhart Mountain for a picnic. While the reverend was parking the car, his wife Elsie and the five children discovered the balloon and somehow triggered the bomb, killing all six of them.
Remains from the balloons have continued to be discovered, the last in 2019 in British Columbia. In 1987, as a gesture of healing, a group of Japanese women who had been part of the Fu-Go project while they were just schoolgirls, brought 1,000 paper cranes to the victims’ families.
What I’m Watching: TV
Harlan Coben’s Shelter (Amazon Prime)
You know you’re a big-deal author when your name is part of the show’s title. In this case, that honor is well deserved. I’ve enjoyed many of Coben’s mystery/suspense novels for their labyrinthian plots and entertaining sense of humor. I’m especially partial to his Myron Bolitar series about an ex-basketball player turned sports agent who also solves complex mysteries on behalf of his clients. Shelter is based on his spin-off series about Myron’s nephew Mickey, a high school basketball phenom who also solves mysteries. I’ve read two of the books in this series and was engrossed by both. The TV series captures the same intense innocence as the books, with the same plot twists and turns that are mostly surprising. Lots of cliffhangers, lots of action, but also characters you really care about.
One Piece (Netflix)
This may be the goofiest, yet most charming, series in a long time. Based on a Japanese anime TV series, this historical fantasy is set in a surreal world that roughly approximates our 17th and 18th centuries when pirates roamed the seas. In order to fully enjoy the absurdity of the show—the main character’s body can be elastic, and long-distance communication is through giant snails—you have to just give in to the delightful imagination of the writers. There are sword fights, sea creatures, lots of humor, and creative surprises. The show’s relentless optimism is catching, making for some touching moments.
Kareem’s Jukebox Playlist
Roy Orbison: “Blue Angel”
I love contrasts, especially the contrast of featuring Jackie “Mr. Excitement” Wilson last week and Roy “Mr. Motionless” Orbison this time. Orbison dressed all in black with dark sunglasses and stood nearly statue-like in front of the microphone. He didn’t have to move because his voice moved everyone else within listening distance.
He wrote or co-wrote most of his many hits. Between 1960 and 1966, he had 22 singles on Billboard’s Top 40. Rolling Stone listed him as number 13 on its “100 Greatest Singers of All Time.” Though his career faltered in the seventies, he enjoyed a resurgence of popularity in the eighties. In 1988, he co-founded the supergroup the Traveling Wilburys with George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, and Jeff Lynne.
The challenge was deciding which song to feature because he had so many great ones, including “In Dreams,” “Crying,” “Oh, Pretty Woman,” “Running Scared,” and “Only the Lonely.” I chose “Blue Angel” because it represents a male vulnerability he wrote about that was largely ignored at a time when guys had to tough it out and walk it off. Listening to him sing just the words “blue angel” at the end is like having each note chipping away at a block of marble until only a glistening sculpture of sadness and longing is left.