Trump Blackmails DeSantis, Herschel Walker Run-Off Is About the Voters, Racism and Vets, DeSantis Claims He's Sent from God, Polls Got It Wrong About Abortion, "Wakanda Forever" Review, Music & More
My thoughts on the top--and not so top--stories in this week's political, sports, and pop culture news.
I’ve been thinking a lot about forgiveness lately, maybe because after every major election day I like to believe, perhaps foolishly, that we can stand back from the animosity of our political battles to forge a path together. That starts with forgiving others we think have wronged us—and forgiving ourselves when we realize maybe we were wrong.
I see people constantly saying, “I forgive but I don’t forget,” which they think makes them both moral and tough. Actually, they are neither. The phrase means the exact opposite of forgiving. To forgive is to forget the transgression in order to start fresh. Hanging on to grudges doesn’t reflect true forgiveness, just lip-service. Yes, we must remember the past in order not to repeat our mistakes, but forgiveness is not about being on a higher moral ground, it’s acknowledging that we all want the same basic things: freedom that doesn’t impinge on others’ freedom, a better future for our children, a safe place to pursue our passions.
The elections made clear that voters aren’t ready for the restrictive social agenda of some Republicans or those who would question the validity of our elections. Let that be a starting point for us to move forward.
I’m not saying that we abandon our principles or compromise our beliefs, but rather that we start with a clean slate and try to persuade each other through facts and logic, not lies and manipulation. Let’s assume our political foes are just people stranded on the side of the road and we can choose to help them, or drive on muttering that it’s their own damn fault.
Politics: How Is This Not an Arrestable Crime?
Donald Trump Threatens to Expose Dirt on Ron DeSantis (The Daily Beast)
Summary: Trump tried to head off any competition for the GOP’s presidential nomination by warning Florida governor Ron DeSantis to stay out of the race. “If he did run, I will tell you things about him that won’t be very flattering,” Trump said of DeSantis. “I know more about him than anybody other than perhaps his wife, who is really running his campaign.”
My Take: Let’s start with the crime of extortion. Private citizen Trump threatens a sitting governor with revealing dirt in exchange for services rendered: not running. It may not be cash, but bullying DeSantis not to run is worth millions in political ads. How is this not blackmail? If you’re tempted to say, “That’s just politics,” then you’re enabling this kind of behavior.
It’s criminal corruption and should be punished every time we uncover it. Trump gets a pass for his illegal act yet a woman who voted in Texas not knowing she was ineligible, was sentenced to five years in prison. Did I mention she was Black? Did I even have to?
You also have to wonder why, if he has dirt on DeSantis, he doesn’t share it out of concern for the public. Don’t the voters of Florida deserve to know everything relevant about their governor?
Finally, clearly Trump thinks it’s some kind of insult to claim DeSantis’ wife is running his campaign. If it was true, it would make sense that he would trust the person closest to him. Trump’s insinuation, of course, is that DeSantis must be less of a man to let a woman have such power. (Although, he did blame his wife Melania for urging him to support Dr. Oz in his losing campaign for Senator from Pennsylvania. Mixed messages?) Trump’s wives were all arm-candy models which, to him, is the highest pinnacle a woman should strive for. For any woman to support Trump, a man who holds them all in such low esteem, is a shocking expression of self-loathing.
Just to keep score: He extorts a governor, insults women, and brags about withholding important information from voters. A true American hero.
[Kareem’s Note: None of this may matter in the long run, because after the elections last week, Trump has lost considerable power among conservatives who are marching on Mar-a-Lago with sharpened pitchforks and flaming torches (“Rupert Murdoch Knees Trump in the Balls While He’s Doubled Over Coughing Up Blood,” Vanity Fair). All his old pals at the New York Post, The Wall Street Journal, and Fox News are referring to him as a toxic loser who must be thrown overboard from the Republican super yacht. It’s one thing to be a grifter exploiting and lying to people—that’s been the GOP playbook—but it’s unforgivable to not be successful at it.
Even his old buddy Piers Morgan has written Trump out of his will: “[L]ast night’s biggest loser was the permanently whining, fuming former president, and he has only himself to blame. Make no mistake, these results represent a crushing political smackdown for Trump…. If they want to win in 2024, it’s time the GOP dumped Trump the Grump.”
Of course, their abandoning Trump didn’t come when he was lying to the public about how dangerous COVID-19 was, or when he was accused of sexual assault by 26 women, or when he encouraged an armed attack on the government, or when he lied about voter fraud, or when he tried to commit voter fraud. None of that mattered to his Republican supporters.
Can Trump read the writing on the wall? Doubtful. He’s always been more interested in banning books than reading them.
Politics: Veterans Day for All Veterans
Racism led to lower benefits for Black veterans, studies find (The Washington Post)
Summary: A new report, “Discretionary Injustice,” by the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center, as well as a March report from the Brandeis Institute for Economic and Racial Equity, found vast disparity in the treatment of Black soldiers versus White soldiers. One finding was that “the GI Bill, often vaunted for its substantial financial assistance to those who served, actually ‘contributed to the racial wealth gap’ and negatively impacted African Americans through its racist implementation.” One soldier, Sgt. Joseph H. Maddox was accepted by Harvard University, but was denied Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) financial assistance because the agency wanted to “avoid setting a precedent.”
A group of Democratic lawmakers have sponsored the Sgt. Isaac Woodard, Jr. and Sgt. Joseph H. Maddox GI Bill Restoration Act that would extend certain benefits to African American vets and their families, if they can prove racism affected their benefits.
My Take: This isn’t one of those sexy stories involving misbehaving millionaire athletes or hot-looking celebrities, so there’s a good chance no one will read it in the media (and might even skip over it here). I hope not.
The country just celebrated Veterans Day, which for most non-veterans means mattress sales and maybe watching Jennifer Lawrence in Causeway or Tom Cruise in Top Gun: Maverick, getting teary-eyed for a few seconds while muttering something about sacrifices. Yet, veterans have been an overlooked marginalized group for decades who have had to fight the U.S. government for scraps of what they were promised while the rest of us think we’ve done our part by saying, “Thank you for your service.”
Just a couple months ago, Republicans voted down a bill [Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2022] that “would open up Department of Veterans Affairs health care to millions of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans exposed to toxic substances during their service even if they don’t have a service-connected disability. The bill also would provide new or increased disability benefits to thousands of veterans who have become ill with cancer or respiratory conditions such as bronchitis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.” After being nationally shamed by advocates like Jon Stewart and all the major veterans groups in the country for not voting for it, they finally passed it.
“Thank you for your service” can’t just be an empty phrase, it has to be backed up with real actions that benefit those suffering with life-long ailments obtained while serving in the military. Why do they always have to fight Republicans—who claim to be strong supporters of the military—after having fought our nation’s enemies abroad?
As Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
First, you got some serious political musings. Next, you’re getting a cool video of Daniel Craig dancing. Then more politics, a movie review, and an homage to a wonderful singer. What more would it take to get you to subscribe?
Kareem’s Video Break
This video, directed by the wildly creative Taika Waititi (Thor: Love and Thunder, Jojo Rabbit) and starring Daniel Craig, is a lot of fun. This is not an endorsement of the product, but of the talent that made this funny and joyful video. You will smile!!
Politics: Georgians Get to Choose Content of Character
Summary: Because neither Democrat Sen. Raphael Warnock nor challenger Herschel Walker managed to get 50% of the votes (as of this writing, Warnock got 49.4% and Walker got 48.5%), there will be a run-off election on December 6th.
My Take: I have been critical of Walker in the past for very good reason. He’s a liar (“Fact check: Herschel Walker’s false and misleading recent claims”), lacks integrity, is misinformed about the issues, and has no basic critical thinking skills to reach rational conclusions.
Even so, there would be no animosity about Herschel Walker if he truly represented principles he claims to. I wouldn’t agree with them, but I could respect his perspective and the integrity of his convictions. But he does not embody any of those principles—as he has proven over and over again. He has lied about his business, his family, his position on abortion, and more. All this is irrefutable proof of corruption of a man who does not hold any political office. Imagine the amount of corruption possible if he were to become a U.S. Senator? This is man who does not represent Georgia, but only his own political ambition.
Georgians, if you’ve followed the news (from reliable sources), you’ll see that there are no Republicans who hold Walker in any esteem. They only support him because they need the seat in the Senate. And they have openly said so. Dana Loesch, a conservative radio host and former spokesperson of the National Rifle Association, sums up Republican support with this statement: “And please keep in mind that I am concerned about one thing, and one thing only at this point. I don’t care if Herschel Walker paid to abort endangered baby eagles. I want control of the Senate.” In other words, screw Georgia and Georgians. They want a patsy who will do as he’s told—which is what they got on Walker.
Republicans have become so desperate that they sent in Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to get emotional about the media revealing the truth about Walker, claiming they were “trying to destroy” him and “his family.” However, it’s Walker’s own son that was most condemning: “You’re not a ‘family man’ when you left us to bang a bunch of women, threatened to kill us, and had us move over 6 times in 6 months running from your violence.”
The Georgia Senate race is much more important than who controls the Senate (which is probably not even an issue now), it’s about the character of the voters themselves. Voters often complain that there’s no difference between candidates, that they’re all corrupt. This is an instance where there is a clear difference and a vote for Walker is merely encouraging the corruption they claim to hate.
Politics: Worship at the Politician of Your Choice
Ron DeSantis’s God Complex (The New York Times)
Summary: Frank Bruni’s opinion piece discusses a recent political ad by Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis that “took my breath away.” “In little more than 90 seconds, its unseen narrator mentions ‘God’ 10 times, beginning with the assertion that ‘on the eighth day’ God gazed at a newly created world and decided that it needed a protector. ‘So God made a fighter,’ the narrator says — sonorously, somberly. That’s the ad’s refrain, intoned again and again, and accompanied each time by a shining, commanding image of DeSantis.”
My Take: DeSantis won the election by nearly 20 percentage points, so one might argue that such ads are effective. That’s the scary part. Especially since DeSantis is huffing and puffing his way to a Republican nomination for president in 2024. However, even former Republican National Committee (RNC) chair Michael Steele accused DeSantis of “blasphemy” over his campaign ad, which likened him to a prophet sent by God.
The problem with those who feel they are ordained by god to rule—like all monarchs throughout history—is that they see themselves therefore as infallible in matters of governing (like the Pope in matters of faith). As such, they will unapologetically use whatever means necessary to ram their religious convictions down the throats of all people, all the while claiming the moral high ground. He’s been doing it in Florida for years as he dumbs down education, penalizes LGBTQ+ children, marginalizes women—and generally does the opposite of what his own Bible teaches. The ad itself shows a startling lack of humility but no lack of messianic egomania.
Politics: Remember This in 2024
‘My Main, Core Issue’: Abortion Was the Driving Force for Many Voters (The New York Times)
Summary: Despite polls showing that inflation and crime were the top issues going into the mid-term elections, abortion rights proved to be much more important that the polls realized. “In all five states where abortion-related questions were on the ballot on Tuesday, voters chose to protect access to the procedure or reject further limits. And in some places where the future of abortion rights were uncertain, Democratic candidates who campaigned on the issue fared well — particularly in Michigan, where voters re-elected the Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, and in Pennsylvania, where the Democrat Josh Shapiro won the governorship and the Democrat John Fetterman won the Senate race.”
My Take: The fact that abortion rights played such a significant role in the elections is a major reason to rejoice. Not just for abortion rights, but for inspiring a voter turnout to reject smug Republican efforts to reduce women’s rights in this country. You can be sure that eliminating abortion was just a toe in the water to see what they could get away with. More restrictions on women would surely have followed.
The hope is that conservative politicians will see this as a rejection of their social program of marginalizing anyone who doesn’t fit into their Iowa-in-the fifties vision of America. This should inspire women, LGBTQ+, Blacks, Latinx, and other groups to work together to protect all of our rights from those intent of hoarding all opportunities and power for themselves.
Politics: Nevada Stands Tall for Democracy
Voters Reject Election Deniers Running to Take Over Elections (The New York Times)
Summary: “Every election denier who sought to become the top election official in a critical battleground state [Nevada] lost at the polls this year, as voters roundly rejected extreme partisans who promised to restrict voting and overhaul the electoral process.”
My Short Take: Nevada deserves a lot of credit for holding strong for democracy when there was a lot of pressure to abandon it in favor of populace mob mentality stoked by Republican deniers. I just wanted to take a moment to thank them.
Wakanda Forever Is Serious Fun
It took four years to bring us a sequel to Black Panther (2018), the international phenomenon that proved the world could have a Black superhero as the main character of an expensive movie that will still make money. Writer/director Ryan Coogler is back at the helm again and he’s only gotten better as a director and a writer.
The running time is 2 hours and 41 minutes and, for the most part, the time is used to present intense action, endearing characters, and visual wonderment. There are numerous action scenes and they are all pretty exciting. For me, every time I see Wakanda, I get the exact reaction Coogler wants: it feels futuristic yet hometownish. And when I experience the sense of community and gender equality, I get a longing to live there.
There is understandably a more serious tone to this movie than the first one because they had to deal with the death of actor Chadwick Boseman and therefore the fictional death of his character, Black Panther. Much of the character motivation throughout involves coping with grief. While that is understandable, I do wish we’d had a little more humor here and there.
When I was a kid, Namor was one of my favorite characters from the Marvel Universe. He was the Black Panther of the ocean, protecting his people from the outside world who sought to exploit and destroy his people. Colonialism under the sea. He was a dark superhero in that he didn’t care about the surface world and its problems—or even its rules and laws. He was a monarch the same way that the Black Panther was a monarch.
The film takes a lot of liberties with Namor’s origin story—and I’m okay with that. I love it when new artists do their own take on established characters. If Frank Miller hadn’t reinvented Batman in The Dark Knight, we wouldn’t be watching him today. I wish the underwater kingdom that Namor rules was as intriguing and visually spectacular as Wakanda in order to keep the parallel believable, but that’s a minor point.
Here’s all you need to know: I will be watching this film again and again, and delighting in it each time.
Music: A Haunting Voice
Gal Costa, Singer Who Embodied Tropicália’s Innovative Spirit, Dies at 77 (The New York Times)
Summary: “Gal Costa, one of Brazil’s greatest singers and a model for generations of Brazilian performers, died on Wednesday at her home in São Paulo. She was 77.
“Ms. Costa’s voice, a lustrous mezzo-soprano, was a marvel of grace and vitality, equally capable of gravity-defying delicacy, tart teasing, jazzy agility and rock intensity. Over a recording career that spanned more than 50 years and three dozen albums, she championed innovative Brazilian songwriters and cross-fertilized Brazilian regional styles with international pop and rock.”
My Take: Gal wasn’t just an innovative and powerful performer, she also was a subtle political force. When Brazil’s dictatorship between 1969 and 1972 exiled the leading songwriters of tropicália, Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso, she recorded their songs to keep their voices alive for Brazilians.
Listen to this video and you’ll have just a taste of her haunting and infectious voice.