Trump Commits Treason (Really), MT Greene Defends Farts (Seriously), Twitter’s Hate Spiral (Sadly), Reparations Are Trending (Finally), and More
A lot of the issues I discuss today are focused on responsibility. Responsibility can be about owning up to something bad that has happened, or it can be about taking charge to make sure something bad doesn’t happen. Or both. It takes a special person to do either.
Private businesses like Twitter, Facebook, Exxon, and so forth often excuse unethical behavior with the defense that they are acting responsibly on behalf of their shareholders. Their legal duty is to make them—and themselves—money.
I have no issue with companies making money, as long as they do so ethically which, to me, means also protecting the people who live in the country where you’re making all your money. Unfortunately, people whose success is built on the exploitation of others can never be convinced that they have done anything wrong. Just the opposite. Their success is proof they are right: Might Makes Right. Which is why it is up to us, the people, to hold businesses and our elected officials, to some ethical standard.
Politics: Treason or Sedition?
Trump Calls For 'Termination' Of Constitution Over Elon Musk's 'Twitter Files' Leak (The Huffington Post)
Summary: Former President Donald Trump called Saturday for the “termination” of articles of the Constitution following the “Twitter files” leak of a series of messages between the social media platform’s leaders in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election.
Trump suggested that the contents of the leak warranted a complete election re-do or simply a coup in which he would be installed as president.
“A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution,” Trump wrote on Truth Social, the platform he started after being kicked off Twitter early 2021.
My Take: I thought I was pretty jaded after nearly 60 years of political activism. I’d seen it all. But Trump’s latest social media rant actually made my stomach turn. An ex-president of the United States calling for overturning the Constitution he swore to defend with his life just so he can be president again.
The so-called “Twitter Files” released by Elon Musk on Twitter does suggest there were efforts by both Democrats and Republicans (mostly Democrats) to squash certain stories. It’s clear that Biden’s campaign tried to keep explicit photos of Hunter Biden and his romantic partners from going public (which any respectable news outlet wouldn’t have shown anyway). So far, as The Washington Post reported, “But by the time the dust settled Saturday, even some conservatives were grumbling that it was a dud. Musk’s Twitter Files produced no smoking gun showing that the tech giant had bent to the will of Democrats.”
Regardless of what will come from Musk’s files, it is clear that anyone supporting Trump, either through money or votes, is a co-conspirator. What is treason if not the tearing up of our Constitution to install a non-elected dictator?
Politics: Georgia’s Peach Is the Pits
Critics Think Marjorie Taylor Greene's Latest Question About COVID Stinks (The Huffington Post)
Summary: Far-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) recently tweeted: “I just want to ask you. If a pair of underwear, really thick ones, high quality cotton, can’t protect you from a fart, then how will a mask protect you from covid??”
The extremist lawmaker, whose personal Twitter profile was banned for 11 months for sharing COVID-19 misinformation, noted that “so many people” still wear masks. The pandemic, entering its third year, has killed more than 1 million people in the U.S.
[FYI: People don’t just wear masks to prevent COVID, but also flu, and RSV (“RSV, covid and flu push hospitals to the brink — and it may get worse”). Here is a list of studies that prove the effectiveness of masks. At the very least, someone choosing to wear a mask does no harm to anyone else so why the animosity?]
My Take: The real crazy here isn’t so much her ridiculous tweet that shows a turtle’s understanding of science, it’s that more than 45,000 people gave it a Like. We’re tempted to dismiss such uninformed politicians—Kanye West, Ted Cruz, Ron Johnson, etc.—as jokes because they lack any ability to use logic. But we can’t ignore the sheer numbers of these scavengers trying to diminish the rights of so many, especially since they’ve been so successful across the country with suppressing voters, women’s rights, and LGBTQ+ rights.
Greene was just re-elected as as U.S. Representative in Congressional District 14 in Georgia. She defeated her Black opponent, Marcus Flowers, with nearly twice as many votes (65.9% to 34.1%) in a district that is 75.3% White and only 8.8% Black. Flowers had an uphill battle, except for the fact that Greene was a terrible candidate, spouting lies, misinformation, showing a lack of understanding of basic facts, history, and science. (FYI: Fart molecules are smaller than COVID molecules. As one person tweeted in response, “The same way socks aren’t designed to be used as a condom.”) He should have won based purely on self-preservation.
And yet, 170,000 people flushed their votes down the toilet for someone who does nothing for them or for the country. Someone who once supported executing top Democrats (“Marjorie Taylor Greene indicated support for executing prominent Democrats in 2018 and 2019 before running for Congress”). Someone who even members of her own party hold in contempt. As Republican Congresswoman Young Kim of California said about Greene, “Antisemitism, conspiracy theories and threats should never be part of our political discourse. This should not be tolerated by either party. I came to Congress to focus on policy issues that unite our country and improve the lives of my constituents in the 39th District. Comments like what we've seen from Rep. Greene make that more difficult and are not what the Republican Party stands for.” That’s her own party.
Green’s bio says she graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia, which is an insult to the school. Here’s an example of her recent brainstorm in front of the the Texas Youth Summit: “Air Canada, get this, has ordered 30 electric airplanes…I mean, it shouldn’t surprise you, look who’s the president of — I mean, Justin Trudeau, right?” (note: Does she think Trudeau is president of Air Canada or Canada. He’s neither: he’s prime minister of Canada.)
She continued by questioning the physics of electric planes: “We were talking, how is there an electric airplane and what does that look like? Remember back a long time ago when you’ve seen movies where people in those slave ships and, they’re down there and they’re rowing, and they’re being whipped to row?” She added: “We’re saying, how are they gonna keep powering these electric airplanes, what are they gonna have, it’s like a spin class in a tube? Where they’ve got everybody riding spin cycles, and those mean nasty airline stewardesses that forced you to wear masks all the time on the plane…are they gonna be forcing you to like keep spinning to keep the airplane in the air? It’s absurd!”
Heart Aerospace, the manufacturer of the short-range planes, explained in a press release: “It is driven by electric motors powered by batteries, which allows the airplane to operate with zero emissions and low noise.”
Yes, the concept of batteries was too much for someone who is helping to decide the fate of our country and the rights of its people. Over 170,000 people decided she was the best and brightest they could come up with. Woe unto them. And unto us as she lumbers around Congress clueless, witless, and soulless.
Why It Matters: Former RNC chair Michael Steels recently claimed that Greene could become a powerhouse of influence in the House (“Former RNC chair Michael Steele says MTG 'will be the most powerful speaker of the House' if McCarthy wins the speakership, arguing she'll be able to 'control what comes out of Kevin's mouth'”). Steele warned that Greene and other ultra-conservative Republicans would have “immense sway” over McCarthy because he’ll be forced to make major concessions to them in order to gain their support. This battery denier and fart defender will be a major power in Congress.
Kareem’s Video Break
I’ve been injured during games and have relied on the sensitivity and professionalism of the medical staff to help me. Thank goodness I never ran into these guys.
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Social Media: Why Not Use Your Power for Good?
Kanye West Leaked Messages Showing Elon Musk Told Him He’d “Gone Too Far” Before Suspending His Twitter Account For Promoting His Presidential Campaign With A Swastika (BuzzFeed News)
Summary: “Elon [Musk] confirmed that Ye’s account was suspended for ‘incitement to violence’ on Thursday, just months after the rapper lost several lucrative business deals following more antisemitic remarks.]
Hate Speech’s Rise on Twitter Is Unprecedented, Researchers Find (The New York Times)
Summary: “Before Elon Musk bought Twitter, slurs against Black Americans showed up on the social media service an average of 1,282 times a day. After the billionaire became Twitter’s owner, they jumped to 3,876 times a day.
“Slurs against gay men appeared on Twitter 2,506 times a day on average before Mr. Musk took over. Afterward, their use rose to 3,964 times a day.
“And antisemitic posts referring to Jews or Judaism soared more than 61 percent in the two weeks after Mr. Musk acquired the site.
“These findings [are] from the Center for Countering Digital Hate, the Anti-Defamation League and other groups that study online platforms.”
Surging Twitter antisemitism unites fringe, encourages violence, officials say (The Washington Post)
Summary: “Current and former federal officials are warning that a surge in hate speech and disinformation about Jews on Twitter is uniting and popularizing some of the same extremists who have helped push people to engage in violent protests including the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on Congress.
“The officials are predicting that Twitter will contribute to more violence in the months ahead, citing the proliferation of extreme content, including support for genocidal Nazis by celebrities with wide followings and the reemergence of QAnon proselytizers and white nationalists.”
My Take: I’ve put these three stories together because they are all related to a bigger, darker story about the vast impact of social media on our country and the difficult-to-define responsibilities of the gatekeepers of social media platforms.
For example, a viral “blackout” challenge circulating on TikTok has cost the lives of at least 20 children aged 14 and younger. The challenge asks kids to hold their breath until they pass out. The same challenge took 80 lives in 2008. Lawsuits have failed because the company has immunity under the Communications Decency Act, which shields publishers of other people’s work. That means we have to rely on the companies themselves to take a moral stand and police themselves.
Monitoring hate speech is even more critical to the country’s health and well-being. When hate speech increases, violence against the groups being publicly hated usually follows. One reason is that when platforms like Twitter and Facebook (Meta) allow hate speech to exist on their platform, there is a tacit approval of it in the minds of many people. To them, that means it’s not only okay to use hate speech, the platform is giving silent approval of that message. It’s as if they were in a classroom and they shouted the n-word at a Black child while the teacher just shrugged and said, “free speech.”
Just to clarify for those thinking the First Amendment covers all free speech: it doesn’t. It keeps the government from imposing unnecessary restrictions of speech (or forms of speech) that hinder the free exchange of ideas and opinions. Private businesses, like all social platforms, can restrict speech any way they want because your freedom of speech is not being restricted, only your access to their business.
Elon Musk bought Twitter with the promise of opening up the platform with fewer restrictions but quickly discovered that lines do have to be drawn and that no matter where you draw them, someone is going to be angry. That’s when you have to abandon the quest to be the popular kid at school and become the principal who has to abandon the ego strokes of popularity in order to make sure everyone gets a good education.
The line Musk drew was “incitement to violence,” which is ironic because that would be the same standard that was used before he bought Twitter. Incitement to violence is interpretive: it doesn’t necessarily mean directly telling someone to go out and assault someone. It can be saying something so heinous, and without factual or logical merit, that it creates a climate where people feel encouraged or justified attacking members of the besmirched group. That definitely is incitement to violence.
But so are many others on Twitter, yet they are permitted to continue their hate speech without interference. In this case, Ye’s paranoia may be justified because he sees Musk booting him from the platform put not all the others.
Bottom Line: Musk needs to institute a consistent policy that restricts hate speech which, by definition, incites hatred that leads to violence.
In Related News:
Summary: “Twitter has proved a cherished forum for climate scientists to share research, as well as for activists seeking to rally action to halt oil pipelines or decry politicians’ failure to cut pollution. But many are now fleeing Twitter due to a surge in climate misinformation, spam and even threats that have upended their relationship with the platform.
Scientists and advocates have told the Guardian they have become unnerved by a recent resurgence of debunked climate change denialist talking points and memes on Twitter, with the term #ClimateScam now regularly the first result that appears when ‘climate’ is searched on the site.
My Take: Since Watergate (and All the President’s Men), we’ve been advised to “follow the money” when investigating motive behind terrible public behavior. Twitter is just the megaphone for companies to drown out the warnings about climate change in order to curtail any legislation that would affect their earnings. From 1997-2018, Koch Industries reportedly spent $145 million financing 90 groups that attacked climate change science. Exxon knew about the science behind climate change as early as 1977, then spent millions to spread misinformation (“Exxon Knew about Climate Change almost 40 years ago”).
Twitter—and the rest of social media—has provided an insidious method to misinform us about every aspect of our lives that others can profit from. So, no, this isn’t just about free speech, it’s about business ethics in which a company wielding such enormously influential power that can be used by Russian, North Korean, and Chinese governments to sway elections, by corporations to undermine our best interests, and by hate groups to attack other Americans. The heads of these social media companies have the power to use their businesses for good—we have to insist that they do.
Politics: What Do We Owe for Our Past Mistakes?
California Panel Sizes Up Reparations for Black Citizens (The New York Times)
Summary: “A nine-member Reparations Task Force has spent months traveling across California to learn about the generational effects of racist policies and actions. The group, formed by legislation signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2020, is scheduled to release a report to lawmakers in Sacramento next year outlining recommendations for state-level reparations.
“‘We are looking at reparations on a scale that is the largest since Reconstruction,’ said Jovan Scott Lewis, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who is a member of the task force.”
Rhode Island’s capital city will spend $10 million in reparations, and it could benefit White residents (CNN)
Summary: “Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza approved the $10 million budget plan in early November, prompting the launch of the program days later. It was the result of more than two years of work by city leaders, activists and scholars, the city said. Some of those efforts included the creation of a commission to study the issue of racial inequity and reparations, the publication of a 194-page report detailing how people of color have been harmed by the city and their institutions for more than four centuries and a report outlining 11 major areas the city could address to level the playing field between White people and residents of color in Providence.
“‘These funds move us one step further towards closing the present-day racial wealth and equity gap,’ Elorza wrote in a Facebook post announcing the signing of the budget last month.
“The program does not include direct cash payments to descendants of enslaved people, a practice which has been discussed by reparations commissions across the United States. Instead, the city’s plan is to fund an array of initiatives aimed at closing the racial wealth and equity gap.”
My Take: Reparations is a difficult topic for many people—especially White people—to wrap their heads around. One’s first reaction is understandable, “Why am I responsible for something I didn’t do, something that happened hundreds of years ago?” It’s a legitimate question to ask because once that door is opened, where else does it lead? How far back do we go? Which injustices do we redress? Can we afford to do anything? Will our actions actually have a positive effect or is it just an empty gesture?
I don’t have the answers to all those questions. But I do have one answer: Let’s at least start with tackling the biggest, most egregious wrong—and try to make it right. Our motivation isn’t just a troubled conscience about kidnapping and enslaving 600,000 from Africa, but that the legacy of slavery still affects the 40 million African Americans (13% of the U.S. population). Four hundred years of systemic racism has kept many Black families from thriving economically and passing down inherited wealth and influence, keeping them economically and socially marginalized and with fewer opportunities. It has also resulted in lower levels of education and health care and a lower life expectancy. Reparations is merely a tool to help counter the damage already done and prevent the same cycle over and over.
It’s clear that Whites and Blacks are divided about the effects of slavery and therefore whether any steps toward reparation should be taken. A Pew Research poll this year showed 55% of All Black Adults saying “the legacy of slavery affects the position of Black people in American society today a great deal.” Only 28% of Whites agree. Also understandable, since most Whites do not face the consequences of systemic racism on a daily basis which makes it invisible to them. Fortunately, we do not base our decisions on what we personally experience but on all the data, statistics, and research that proves systemic racism continues to impact the Black community.
Bottom Line: Reparations makes sense as a means of, not just accepting responsibility for the past, but of contributing to fixing the damage done for a more just and equitable future.
Music: Grammy-Nominated and Kareem-Approved
The Baylor Project: The Evening: Live At Apparatus
My Take: The husband-and-wife duo of vocalist Jean and drummer Marcus Baylor offers an intimate jazz experience that feels like they’re playing in your living room on a rainy day. Also featured are pianist Terry Brewer, saxophonist Keith Loftis, trumpeter Darren Barrett, trombonist Mark Williams, and bassist Yasushi Nakamura. Jean Baylor’s voice is powerful but with a clear vibrancy of a bird soloing on a cool, cloudless day. You’ll want to add this album to your collection—or playlist.
Movies: Best Mystery of the Year
The Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
My Take: [First, a disclaimer: I have a small cameo in which I play (Academy Awards take note) myself. For about 30 seconds. Other playing-themselves cameos include: Angela Lansbury, Stephen Sondheim, Natasha Lyonne, Serena Williams, and Yo-Yo Ma.]
Not only is this delightful sequel to Knives Out the best mystery movie of the year, it’s one of the best movies of the year. Period. And it’s actually better than the original. The plot is a typical Agatha Christie-type set-up of isolating a bunch of deplorable people with a powerful someone even more deplorable (Edward Norton as a ditzy, over-rated Elon Musk type), and watching the bodies fall.
Daniel Craig returns as the brilliant detective Benoit Blanc and he is charming, funny, and relentlessly smart in untwisting one of the twistiest mysteries ever. Most mysteries’ denouements fail to deliver at the end, but this ending is sweetly satisfying.
The Glass Onion had a one-week run in theaters and will now be on Netflix on December 23. This is a fun Christmas movie that the whole family will enjoy—if the whole family likes clever, witty murder mysteries.