Trump Officially Sex Offender, Santos Arrested, US Will Set Record in Mass Killings (We're #1!), SC Women Senators' Heroic Choice, Goldman Sachs Pays $215 Million, Jennifer Warnes Sings
My take on news, pop culture, sports, and whatever else interests me.
Jury finds Donald Trump liable in civil sex abuse case of E. Jean Carroll (USA Today)
SUMMARY: A federal jury found Donald Trump liable Tuesday in a civil case for sexual abuse and defamation of E. Jean Carroll in 1996 and said he should pay her $5 million in total damages, a verdict that could further complicate the former president's election bid in 2024.
The jury, which deliberated fewer than three hours, opted not to find Trump liable for rape but rather sexual abuse that injured Carroll.
Trump told Fox News Digital he will appeal the verdict, and said on his Truth Social website that he still has "no idea" who Carroll is. "This verdict is a disgrace," the former president said in an all-caps post.
…The jury was also asked to determine if Trump's conduct was "willfully or wantonly negligent, reckless, or done with a conscious disregard of the rights of Ms. Carroll." It said yes.
Jurors also found that Trump's rhetorical attacks on Carroll in social media posts were "defamatory," "false," and made "with actual malice."
MY TAKE: Anyone following the trial—or Trump’s career—is not surprised by the verdict. Sadly, nothing about the case nor the aftermath is surprising. But there are some points worth taking a closer look at to see how this trial and our reactions illuminate who we are as a culture.
First, there is a rush by GOP politicians to defend Trump. They proclaim he’s actually victorious because he wasn’t found guilt of rape, but of sexual assault and defamation. So, he did sexually assault a woman and then he maliciously lied about it in order to destroy her reputation. How is that a victory? Referring to George Santos, Kevin McCarthy told the CNN reporters that anyone found guilty of a crime should resign. Although Trump’s case was civil, not criminal, they certainly determined he committed a crime. Trump’s most telling moment in his deposition was when he was asked whether he stands by his comments that celebrities can grab women by the pussy without their consent. Yes, he said it was true, “Unfortunately—or fortunately.” Fortunately!? A man without morals—or remorse over not having any.
How can anyone support a man you wouldn’t want your daughter to be alone in a room with? So much evidence, not just his own confessions of abuse, but the testimonies of others (“26 Women Have Accused Trump of Sexual Misconduct”).
But don’t worry, his sycophants’ defense is the same as if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around does it make sound? In this case: If a sexual crime is committed against a woman is it really a crime?
Second, Heather Cox Richardson pointed out, “While his base supporters will not care about this verdict, lots of women will, and it raises the issue of the many other women who have accused him of assault.” For years, everyone has agreed that the Trump base is basically an immoveable object impervious to facts, logic, or even their own self-interest. They have found a daddy and, even if he’s an abusive daddy, they have someone to follow. Trump described their desperate neediness best in 2016: “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn't lose any voters, OK?”
If they’re okay with murder, why not sexual abuse. E. Jean Carroll was asked by Trump’s attorney why she didn’t go public with her accusations when Trump first ran for president. She replied, “I noticed that the more women who came forward to accuse him, the better he did in the polls.” Yes, the more crimes he commits, the more popular he is among certain people. Those people showed up at his CNN town hall to applaud him and snicker when he dismissed Carroll despite the jury’s findings and when he called CNN moderator Kaitlan Collins a “nasty person” when he was being evasive in answering her questions.
These are the people many Republican politicians are courting like panicky teenagers begging for a last-minute prom date. This base believes in free speech, except for opinions they don’t agree with, so they ban books. This base believes in the rule of law, unless the verdict goes against them, in which case it’s a conspiracy. They believe in patriotism so much they violently attack the Capitol Building. They believe in the sanctity of life enough to restrict women’s rights, but not enough to embrace gun control laws that might prevent the epidemic of mass shootings. In other words, they are a mindless mob, easily manipulated to vote however Republicans want them to by feeding them meaty chunks of words like socialism, marxism, radical liberals, traditional values, protect the children, etc. They gobble it down then lick the greasy hands that fed them.
US on track to set record in 2023 for mass killings after series of shootings (The Guardian)
SUMMARY: After a series of shootings and other attacks, 2023 is on track to be the worst in recent history for mass killings in the US.
Mass killings are defined as incidents in which four or more people are killed, not including the shooter or other type of perpetrator. According to data from the Gun Violence Archive, the US is on pace for 60 mass killings this year. There were 31 in 2019, 21 in 2020, 28 in 2021 and 36 in 2022.
The US is seeing on average more than one mass killing weekly.
As of 7 May 2023, there had been 202 mass shootings – defined by the archive as involving at least four people killed or injured by firearms, excluding the shooter – since the beginning of the year.
MY TAKE: We are living in the worst possible remake of Groundhog Day in which we wake up every day to another horrific murder spree, followed by Republicans pretending to be sympathetic—issuing “thoughts and prayers” on a loop—while doing very little to address the problem.
To be fair, they are highly motivated to do nothing by the political contributions they receive from the NRA and other like-minded groups as well as a public massively misinformed about guns who equate owning a gun with personal freedom. Yet, ironically, they don’t equate having people feeling safe in schools and malls and on the street as being a form of freedom. Freedom from perpetual fear.
Instead of exploring the best ways to restrict gun use, they have passed laws to arm more people. Since 2021, Texans over the age of 21 have been allowed to openly carry a handgun without a permit. Florida passed a similar law this year. The theory is that the more guns on the street, the less actual gun violence. But the statistics don’t support that claim: “New CDC WONDER data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that states with the highest rates of overall gun death in the nation are those with weak gun violence prevention laws and higher rates of gun ownership according to a new Violence Policy Center (VPC) analysis. In addition, states with the lowest overall gun death rates have some of the strongest gun violence prevention laws in the nation and lower rates of gun ownership.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott proclaimed, “Politicians from the federal level to the local level have threatened to take guns from law-abiding citizens, but we will not let that happen in Texas.” And yet, Texas is facing the highest level of gun-related deaths in three decades (“Deaths from firearms keep climbing in Texas, decades after lawmakers began weakening gun regulations”). According to the Texas Tribune: “Texas lawmakers have approved more than 100 bills that loosened regulations on firearms over the last two decades, from blocking campus “zero tolerance” policies that expelled gun-carrying students to preventing hotels from restricting handguns.” What possible justification is there to allowing students to carry guns on campus?
Following the mass shooting in Allen, Texas, which resulted in at least eight dead and seven injured, Abbott said, “People want a quick solution. The long-term solution here is to address the mental health issue.” Let’s take a closer look at that statement. Yes, people want a quick solution because they don’t want to keep seeing the bodies of innocent people, especially children, piling up on a daily basis. His saying this implies that there is no quick solution, especially if it involves gun control laws. He then launches into the “long-term solution” of addressing mental health. Mental health is the latest GOP misdirection to avoid confronting the facts that prove, in general, the more guns, the more shootings.
The statement is what’s known as a false dilemma: suggesting there are only two choices and implying that one (short-term) isn’t possible. First, there’s no reason we can’t have both a short-term solution and a long-term solution. We are capable of doing both. And there may be many other possible solutions we haven’t yet considered.
Access to guns isn’t the only issue. Having a law that encourages people to carry concealed weapons creates a culture that values violent solutions. People with mental health challenges who live in a culture in which guns are a symbol of expression will express their loathing of that culture, and their personal frustrations, with the very instruments that would most insult and punish that culture.
President Biden has asked for a modest gun control bill: “Once again I ask Congress to send me a bill banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Enacting universal background checks. Requiring safe storage. Ending immunity for gun manufacturers. I will sign it immediately. We need nothing less to keep our streets safe.” So far, most Republicans have resisted. After all, they’re locked and loaded with thoughts and prayers.
I speak as the son of a police officer and as a collector of Old West guns. I also speak as a father and a community member who wants to at least try to curb the mass killings. At least try.
A quick meditation on the Second Amendment: To me, the Second Amendment does not state that every private person has the right to bear arms. It clearly only refers to bearing arms to form a well-regulated militia (which is our military), not cowboy wannabes swaggering around with a pistol on their belt. But even if I conceded that it did grant the right for everyone to be armed, that right is not a commandment. We aren’t compelled to arm ourselves. Why don’t we try cutting back on guns, try more regulations? The biggest fear isn’t that it won’t work, but that it will.
Kareem’s Video Break
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This Week in Fighting Back Against Reactionaries
Last week we had some very positive stories about politicians taking a stand against the GOP legislative campaign against education, women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, voting rights, and more. Many of you expressed your joy in the Comments section. Fortunately, this week we have more warriors—Republicans and Democrats—willing to do battle for the marginalized.
The Unexpected Women Blocking South Carolina’s Near-Total Abortion Ban (The New York Times)
SUMMARY: When the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last summer, advocates on either side presumed that the country would divide along the bright color lines: red states completely banning abortion, blue states protecting it.
That prediction failed to anticipate the Sister Senators.
The Sisters, as they call themselves, are the women in the South Carolina State Senate — the only women, three Republicans, one Independent and one Democrat, in a legislature that ranks 47th among states in the proportion of women. As a block, they are refusing to allow the legislature to pass a near-total ban on abortion, despite a Republican supermajority.
Three times in eight months, Republican leaders in the chamber have tried to ban abortion beginning at conception. Three times, the women have resisted, even as fellow Republicans have threatened primary challenges and anti-abortion activists have paraded empty strollers and groups of children heckling the women as “baby killers.”
…But as men argued that abortion was killing babies, the five women insisted that abortion bans are about controlling women — and that they will not be controlled. They have argued the ban reduces women to “baby machines” like the dystopia of “The Handmaid’s Tale” and rejected as ludicrous claims from male legislators that women use abortion as birth control.
MY TAKE: Although the five women do not agree on the exact timing of when abortion should be permitted, they do agree that there is a national effort among Republicans to reduce the rights of women. Their true agenda is a return to “traditional values” (notice how often Republicans use “traditional” when speaking) which to them means that we create a caste system that puts the greatest value on straight White Christian married families, followed by straight non-White Christian married families, followed by straight Christian divorced families. After that, the others at the bottom of the ladder can scramble for scraps.
Here’s the problem with the world “traditional”: It is a feel-good word that is deliberately so vague that anyone can interpret as they want. Which traditions are the ones we want to keep and which ones are terrible? Where about the tradition of being able to legally beat one’s wife with no consequences? How about 12-year-old children working in mines? How about segregation? Or women not being able to vote? All American traditions.
Technically, women being able to get an abortion is “traditional.” Since 1972—51 years ago—abortion has been a legal tradition, with 76% of Americans supporting it in 1976 and 85% supporting it in 2022. Let’s go back further: in colonial times, abortion was legal and aids to induce abortion were advertised in the newspapers. Early teachings of the Catholic Church were murky: St. Augustine wrote that abortion was not murder and was only a sin if it was intended to conceal fornication or adultery. So, “traditional” should never be used unless it is clearly defined. Anytime a politician uses that word, they are secretly smirking at how gullible their audience is.
Meantime, it’s nice to see these brave and bold women actually represent their constituents’ freedoms and not just pander to those wishing to impose “traditional” Father Knows Best paternalism.
RELATED NEWS: Alabama Lawmakers Introduce Bill Treating Abortion as Murder (The Daily Beast)
SUMMARY: Alabama lawmakers have introduced a bill to allow people who obtain abortions to be prosecuted for murder. Despite promises from anti-abortion rights politicians that they would prosecute only abortion providers, not patients, Alabama state Rep. Ernie Yarbrough introduced a bill Tuesday that would amend the state penal code to include abortion under the umbrella of homicide and assault. (The bill contains limited exceptions for some instances of rape and domestic violence, and an exception to save the life of the patient “if all other reasonable alternatives to the medical care or treatment have been exhausted.”) The bill would grant fetuses the same rights as any person under the state criminal code. Alabama criminal law currently allows only for the prosecution of abortion providers and prohibits the prosecution of patients.
MY TAKE: Mobs are frightening because they represent how quickly and easily people will abandon rational thought and personal morality when given the chance to merge with a hive-mind. It’s like deliberately getting drunk so you can excuse anything you did while drunk.
This Alabama law has turned Alabamians into a mob, but not just the average rampaging setting-cars-on-fire mob, but the lowest, most reprehensible of mobs: a lynch mob. They want blood, and they’re willing to murder to satisfy their compulsion to show themselves morally superior. Ironically, the law proves them to be the exact opposite. There is no scientific, religious, practical, or constitutional justification for this law. It insults women, sure, but even more it insults education and rational thinking.
What makes a mob so frightening is their refusal to listen to reason. Facts, logic, evidence—they are all irrelevant to the mob mentality. They seek only to satiate their own hunger for self-righteousness. Alabama ranks fifth from the bottom in quality of life among states. I can see why.
RELATED NEWS: Goldman Sachs to Pay $215 Million to Settle Female Employees’ Discrimination Case (The Wall Street Journal)
SUMMARY: Goldman Sachs has agreed to pay $215 million to settle a class-action lawsuit with a large group of former and current female employees, ending a long-running case that alleged the Wall Street bank systematically discriminated against women.
For the next three years, the U.S. bank will have an independent expert analyze how it evaluates its employees’ performance, and how it elevates staffers from junior to senior positions, according to a statement late Monday that detailed some of the settlement terms. An independent expert would also do pay-equity studies to address any gender pay gaps.
In addition, Goldman will improve certain communications to employees at the vice-president level about career development and the criteria it uses for promotions.
The settlement covers about 2,800 women who have held associate or vice-president positions at the bank’s U.S. investment-banking, investment-management and securities divisions from around the early 2000s up until late March this year.
MY TURN: Study after study confirms there is discrimination against women in employment, business, socially, and politically. Yet, enough people deny this—without any evidence—or don’t care that it’s true to allow the continuation of this discrimination. All attempts to do away with this misogyny is met with outcries of reverse discrimination.
A 2017 poll from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that “a majority (56 percent) of women believe that where they live, women are paid less than men for equal work. And roughly a third (31 percent) say they’ve been discriminated against when applying for jobs because they are women. Overall, 68 percent of women believe that there is discrimination against women in America today.”
A 2022 study in the Harvard Business Review showed that even when there is a gender balance in the workplace “simply adding women into a workplace does not change the organizational structures and systems that benefit men more than women.” In fact, in many industries in which women make up the majority of employees, the same biases persist, often resulting in a culture in which men make most the decisions and in which family obligations are not taken into consideration.
I ask again: How is it possible that women, who make up the majority (50.52%) of the population in the U.S. don’t put an end to this discrimination. Add to that the men who fully support gender equality and there should be no way it persists in our social and business institutions. Should be.
George Santos pleads not guilty to federal indictment and says he won’t resign (AP)
SUMMARY: U.S. Rep. George Santos, infamous for fabricating his life story, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges he duped donors, stole from his campaign and lied to Congress about being a millionaire, all while cheating to collect unemployment benefits he didn’t deserve.
Afterward, he said he wouldn’t drop his reelection bid and defied calls to resign.
Santos’ 13-count federal indictment was a reckoning for a web of fraud and deceit that prosecutors say overlapped with the New York Republican’s fantastical public image as a wealthy businessman — a fictional biography that began to unravel after he won election last fall.
MY TAKE: Ordinarily, George Santos stories fall under the category of amusing can-you-believe-that-idiocy anecdotes. What’s funnier than him being charged with the same crimes he co-sponsored a bill to fight against (‘Santos co-sponsoring bill to fight crime he's accused of”). Clearly, he’s a not-too-smart liar and a grifter who bluffed and cheated his way into Congress. That didn’t take intelligence, just bluster, desperation, and a lack of a moral compass. The story becomes less amusing when we see how desperately some Republicans in Congress, especially Kevin McCarthy, defend him because they’re afraid if he gets booted, he’ll be replaced with a Democrat, eroding their slim four-seat majority in the House (“Republican Leaders Stand Behind Santos After His Indictment”).
Following his indictment, Santos called the charges against him a witch hunt (see video above): “The reality is, it's a witch hunt. Because it makes no sense that in four months, four months, five months, I'm indicted. You have Joe Biden's entire family receiving deposits, nine family members receiving money from foreign destinations into their bank accounts. It's been years of exposing... and yet no investigation is launched into them. I'm going to fight my battle. I'm going to deliver. I'm going to fight the witch hunt.”
Can you spot the three logical fallacies in this statement? Look again.
First, is the classic favored by middle-schoolers and dodgy politicians called “whataboutism” in which the accused defends themselves by accusing someone else of doing something. However, what someone else has done has no relevance to what you have done. If you run someone over with a car and then claim Hitler did a lot worse things, that doesn’t excuse what you’ve done.
Second, he launches into a guilt-by-association accusation against President Biden. Republicans have launched an investigation into the Biden family dealings, mostly his brother and son. (Oddly, Santos said no one is investigating, a factual error—or lie.) In fact, the desperate GOP investigation into the Biden family showed no proof of any misconduct (“House Republican Report Finds No Evidence of Wrongdoing by President Biden”).
Third, labeling his indictment a “witch hunt” (a favorite Trump ploy) implies that the prosecutors are looking for something that doesn’t exist, like witches. But the crimes he is accused of do exist and they have enough evidence to charge him. So, no “witch hunt.”
Santos is like the incompetent mob boss’s son who no one respects or wants around but they need because they’re going to the mattresses.
Kareem’s Jukebox Playlist (Theme Songs)
Jennifer Warnes: “It Goes Like It Goes”
I wanted to do something a little different today and include a movie theme song. Theme songs are sometimes taken less seriously because of their attachment to movies as if they were an appendage to the larger, more costly art work. But a great theme song can not only enhance the movie, but also thrive on its own.
“It Goes Like It Goes,” from Norma Rae, won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1979. Jennifer Warnes’ confident but soulful voice reflects the movie’s protagonist, Norma Rae (Sally Field), as she evolves from an insecure working woman to an inspiring union organizer.
I especially appreciate the chorus:
So it goes like it goes and the river flows
And time it rolls right on
And maybe what's good gets a little bit better
And maybe what's bad gets gone
Those last two lines perfectly sum up how we look at the flow of life. They also could be the motto of this newsletter.
I should have realized this long ago, but recent Republican behavior makes it clear that they've never care about law and order. They care about white supremacy and believe that anything they do to preserve it can't possibly be a crime. As awful as these last years have been, a friend of mine suggested to me that they've provided some real clarity about what is wrong with America. Unfortunately, a lot is wrong.
Special thanks today for the story about the South Carolina senators. I wasn’t aware of their courageous stand and it has given me quite a lift. We fought so hard to get the abortion question as settled law that to have it overturned was gut-wrenching. A slight hint of positive news gives me hope that women will continue to fight for the agency my generation thought we had handed to them fait accompli.