Tucker's Racist Text, Nikki Haley's Horrible Tape, Giuliani's Sickening Confession, Education's Downhill Slide, AI's Bedside Manner Beats Real Docs, Gordon Lightfoot Sings, and More
My take on news, pop culture, sports, and whatever else interests me.
This Week in Dumb Stuff Politicians (and Their Apologists) Said
Carlson’s Text That Alarmed Fox Leaders: ‘It’s Not How White Men Fight’ (The New York Times)
SUMMARY: A text message sent by Tucker Carlson that set off a panic at the highest levels of Fox on the eve of its billion-dollar defamation trial showed its most popular host sharing his private, inflammatory views about violence and race.
[This is the text message sent on January 7, 2021 to a producer.]
“A couple of weeks ago, I was watching video of people fighting on the street in Washington. A group of Trump guys surrounded an Antifa kid and started pounding the living shit out of him. It was three against one, at least. Jumping a guy like that is dishonorable obviously. It’s not how white men fight. Yet suddenly I found myself rooting for the mob against the man, hoping they’d hit him harder, kill him. I really wanted them to hurt the kid. I could taste it. Then somewhere deep in my brain, an alarm went off: this isn’t good for me. I’m becoming something I don’t want to be. The Antifa creep is a human being. Much as I despise what he says and does, much as I’m sure I’d hate him personally if I knew him, I shouldn’t gloat over his suffering. I should be bothered by it. I should remember that somewhere somebody probably loves this kid, and would be crushed if he was killed. If I don’t care about those things, if I reduce people to their politics, how am I better than he is?”
The text alarmed the Fox board, which saw the message a day before Fox was set to defend itself against Dominion Voting Systems before a jury. The board grew concerned that the message could become public at trial when Mr. Carlson was on the stand, creating a sensational and damaging moment that would raise broader questions about the company.
MY TAKE: Carlson supporters will wonder what the fuss is about. Sure, he shares some dark thoughts, but he then redeems himself with an expression of regret and sympathy.
Except for this part: “Jumping a guy like that is dishonorable obviously. It’s not how white men fight.” The implication is that White men fight with honor while non-White men fight without honor. He further implies that the reason he is able to pull back from his non-White dishonorable thoughts is because of his White honor. Right there is the seed from which White supremacy grows and spreads.
If you’re at all surprised by this, then you haven’t been paying attention these last few years as he promoted White nationalism again and again. Nor can we credit Fox with suddenly growing a conscience or having journalistic ethics by firing him. They crunched the numbers and saw Carlson as a financial liability (he’d already cost them nearly a billion dollars.)
Despite our delight in his public humiliation, Fox News continues to promote Carlson clones that spout the same whitewashed misinformation. Nothing in this news cycle will make any difference. You know what would make a difference? If ethically minded companies refused to advertise on Fox News programs. That would be a real act of patriotism.
Nikki Haley in Leaked Audio: Dylan Mulvaney Is Only 'Dressing Up Like a Girl' (Jezebel)
SUMMARY: Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley said the following last week at a town hall in Bedford, New Hampshire: “Have any of you all seen Dylan Mulvaney? You know who that is? On the beer cans? Let me tell you something. I know that there are transgender people out there—that is not a transgender person. That is a guy dressing up like a girl, making fun of women. [inaudible]. We don’t act like that. Yet companies are glorifying him. And then we’re supposed to tell our girls, ‘Be strong and be confident?’ What are we doing?”
MY TAKE: Transgender discussions by some Republicans are never about transgender individuals. It’s just a gateway drug to the harder stuff. They hang a piñata representing transgendered individuals, then bash it endlessly because many people don’t understand the facts and because it’s a small group that has fewer defenders. However, if they are successful in smashing this one, the next piñata will be Blacks, Latinx, Jews, immigrants, and anyone disagreeing with their agenda.
Because she’s a candidate, it’s important that we pay close attention to what Haley says because therein we can see what her future policies might be if she were elected. So, let’s take a closer look at her statements [my comments are in brackets and bolded]:
Have any of you all seen Dylan Mulvaney? You know who that is? On the beer cans? [Mulvaney’s face was not on beer cans sold to the public but on promotional cans Bud Light sent to her as a nice gesture since they were working together. Nevertheless, this was enough to unhinge Kid Rock, Travis Tritt, and a few others. Anheuser-Busch, owner of Bud Light, is a Belgium company that responded to the controversy by suspending employees who partnered with Mulvaney and by releasing an apologetic, super-patriotic ad to remind beer drinkers they don’t actually care about rights, they just want your money.] Let me tell you something. I know that there are transgender people out there—that is not a transgender person. That is a guy dressing up like a girl, [Haley claims she knows what a transgender person is and isn’t. What specifically does she know? She knows that Mulvaney is an easy target since other right-wingers have already targeted her, making it easier to pull them to her side.] making fun of women.[This is the disingenuous talking point of those who lump gay men, drag show performers, and transgender women into one category to justify their contempt and attempts to curtail their rights. They pretend it’s a women’s issue without any compelling evidence of harm. Drag shows, being entertainment, may offer some form of exaggeration and parody, but as a celebration of women. Which characteristics of being a woman are being made fun of? If women dressed as men and acted hyper-masculine, would we raise the alarm that men were being harmed?] [inaudible]. We don’t act like that. Yet companies are glorifying him. And then we’re supposed to tell our girls, ‘Be strong and be confident?’ What are we doing? [It’s not clear how transgender people who, despite living in a hostile society, still courageously stand up for who they really are is not a demonstration of strength and confidence. The secondary issue in Haley’s last sentence is why do we have to tell girls to “Be strong and be confident”—because we have systemic misogyny that belittles females from young ages and implies that they are not equal to males. But, since she knows that many Republican voters are part of that misogyny, she won’t directly address causes or solutions. So, her final question of “What are we doing?” can be answered, “In your case, Nikki Haley, you’re doing nothing.”]
In that same meeting, Haley also called transgender girls participating in school sports “the women’s rights issue of our time.” While mostly red states have been passing laws forcing K-12 students to participate in sports as the gender based on their biology at birth, the actual number of people this affects is very, very small. The actual “women’s rights issue of our time” is abortion, which affects about 170 million people in the United States. Knowing abortion bans are not popular, she’s avoiding taking a direct stand, (“Nikki Haley promised to address abortion ‘directly and openly.’ Then she didn’t.”) hoping to appeal to both sides. This is political cowardliness.
In the end, Haley is not doing women any good by being disingenuous, uninformed, illogical, and contradictory. (Is she making fun of women by being all those things?) There are a number of Republican women politicians who I strongly disagree with, but whose integrity I would not question. Haley is not one of those women.
Giuliani admits using ‘dirty trick’ to suppress Hispanic vote in mayoral race (The Guardian)
SUMMARY: Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani has admitted to a “dirty trick” that his campaign used to suppress the Hispanic vote during the city’s 1993 mayoral race.
On Tuesday, Giuliani revealed his voter suppression tactics to the far-right Donald Trump ally Steve Bannon and Arizona’s defeated Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake during a discussion on his America’s Mayor Live program.
In the conversation, Giuliani – who was central to Trump’s efforts to subvert the result of the 2020 presidential election – lamented that he had been “cheated” during the 1989 mayoral race he lost before explaining his 1993 campaign strategy, saying: “I’ll tell you one little dirty trick,” to which Lake replied: “We need dirty tricks!”
MY TAKE: Although this unholy trinity laughs at Giuliani’s election misdeeds as if they were high school hijinks, they are all partners in the attempt to take down democracy by damaging our faith in the electoral system with baseless accusations. Bannon was convicted of contempt of Congress and stayed out of prison only because his former boss, Trump, gave him a full pardon. Giuliani is a defendant in a multi-billion dollar lawsuit for his lies about the presidential election, and Kari Lake is a prominent election denier who recently lost an election which she denied losing. Quite the moral bunch to be sitting around cackling about cheating during an election.
Although Giuliani says the “dirty trick” wasn’t illegal or even immoral because it was designed to keep “illegal immigrants” from voting, this would be hard for even the most gullible to believe. Undocumented people were not able to legally vote anyway, and there’s no evidence that there was a danger of them breaking the law, so this wasn’t really designed for that, but instead to scare immigrants who could legally vote but still had fear of government representatives. Many people would be scared if they were told they’d be confronted by investigators when they voted. This would be especially true of people who came from countries with corrupt governments and police.
Congratulations, Giuliani, for scaring away people who went through so much to come to this country to strive for the American Dream, which you and your ilk hawk like street vendors with fake Rolex watches, only to snatch it away from those who don’t agree with your politics. After hearing this, the group who doesn’t agree with your politics just got a whole lot bigger.
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Kareem’s Video Break
She loves making coffee for Daddy, but she loves her cookie more. Who can blame her?
Kareem’s Short Takes
Eighth-Graders’ History, Civics Test Scores Hit Record Low (Wall Street Journal)
SUMMARY: Eighth-graders’ test scores in U.S. history and civics fell to the lowest levels on record last year, according to Education Department data released Wednesday.
In the first release of U.S. history and civics scores since the start of the pandemic, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as the Nation’s Report Card, showed a decline in students’ knowledge that reversed gains made since the 1990s.
According to the data, 13% of eighth-graders met proficiency standards for U.S. history, meaning they could explain major themes, periods, events, people, ideas and turning points in the country’s history. About a fifth of students scored at or above the proficient level in civics.
Declines in students’ understanding of U.S. history that occurred before the pandemic continued, while longstanding gaps in student achievement across specific groups persisted, data show. Low-performing eighth-grade students had significant drops in civics and U.S. history scores, while high-performing students mainly held steady.
The falling federal test scores in U.S. history and civics coincide with the downward spiral seen in other subjects tested since the pandemic. Federal test results released in October revealed the largest drop in math scores ever and a nationwide drop in reading that wiped out three decades of gains.
MY TAKE: Certainly the COVID pandemic had an effect on the education of our children, but this slide in knowledge of history and civics has been going on for years. One reason is the interference of uninformed and ill-equipped parents and politicians meddling with the curriculum of subjects they know very little about.
For parents, they use their own knowledge as a standard by which to measure how much their children should be taught in basic subjects. They make an exception for subjects that might further their children’s careers and earning potential. They just don’t want them to know more about critical thinking, history, literature, art, and social sciences because that might cause them to reject their parents’ opinions.
Politicians are more practical: the less children know about history and critical thinking, the more likely they are to vote Republican and to endorse GOP policies even when they have no evidence.
This dumbing-down of our children is one of the greatest dangers to America’s existence because democracy depends on an informed citizenry who can understand what we did right and wrong in our history in order to set a more successful course for the future.
Only about 20% of eighth-graders passed the national civics tests in 2022, with many unable to answer basic questions. So, how would you do on the same test given to eight graders? Here are five sample questions.
Question 1: At the time Columbus arrived in the Americas, most of the area that is now called Mexico was controlled by people called the
A) Inuit B) Apache C) Aztecs D) Iroquois
Question 2: Which of the following is an example of people using power without having the right to do so?
A) A governor vetoes a bill passed by the state legislature.
B) A group of people against nuclear power march outside a nuclear power plant.
C) The owner of a newspaper prints her own opinions in the newspaper.
D) A police officer arrests someone because the person looks suspicious.
Question 3: What do all constitutional governments have?
A) A bill of rights
B) Legal limits on political power
C) A President as the head of government
D) Separation of church and state
Question 4: Susan B. Anthony was a leader who helped
A) children win the right to an education
B) women win the right to vote
C) older people win the right to get social security
D) immigrants win the right to come to the United States
Question 5: Indentured servants were different from slaves because indentured servants
A) came from the West Indies
B) were paid less money
C) did much easier work
D) were freed at the end of their term
[Answers at end of this newsletter]
Black turnout dropped sharply in 2022 midterms, Census survey finds (The Washington Post)
SUMMARY: Turnout in last year’s midterm elections fell from a century-high point of 50 percent in 2018 to 46.6 percent in 2022, and census data released Tuesday suggest the drop was concentrated among Black voters, younger voters and college graduates.
Black voter turnout dropped by nearly 10 percentage points, from 51.7 percent in 2018 to 42 percent in 2022, according to a Washington Post analysis of the Census Bureau’s turnout survey. White voter turnout slipped by only 1.5 points to 53.4 percent. The 11-point turnout gap between White and Black voters is the largest in any presidential or midterm election since at least 2000.
MY TAKE: I write a lot about the terrible things politicians do and say that marginalize, stir up hate, and corrupt democracy. I often wonder how such awful people can even get elected given the terrible things they do that actually harm their own constituents. I accept that there is a percentage of the country that refuses to be informed and doesn’t have the ability to think rationally. Let’s call it Kid Rock Syndrome.
But this report disturbs me to the core. For sixty years myself and many others have been fighting against the systemic racism that keeps Blacks from having equal opportunities, that makes them targets of injustice in education, health care, and the justice system. Marching and rallies are great tools to raise awareness of injustice, but those tools are meant to inspire people to vote for people who will support equality and banish those who foster divisiveness to enhance their own political career and fortunes. Voting creates actual change.
Right now, there is a national campaign by Republicans to make it more difficult for Blacks to vote. Many civil rights groups are fighting this anti-democracy gambit on multiple fronts in an effort to protect the Black vote. Not voting is the same as helping racist politicians take away your rights and the rights of the rest of the Black community.
The coming 2024 election will be a proving ground as Americans go to the polls to define who we want to be and what kind of country we will be handing over to the next generation. We have the opportunity to embrace democracy and ensure rights for women, children, LGBTQ+, immigrants, people with different religions, people with no religion, and anyone else that is currently under attack by the self-righteous who govern by bias rather than logic, by ego rather than ethics. Not voting is like gift-wrapping your belongings and handing them to a burglar.
ChatGPT may have better bedside manner than some doctors, but it lacks some expertise (CNN)
SUMMARY: ChatGPT can be a useful tool for patients who are seeking medical information and guidance, but the artificial intelligence tool can’t fully replace the value of a human physician – it says so itself.
“While I am a language model that has been trained on a vast amount of information, I am not a licensed medical professional and I am not capable of providing medical diagnoses, treatments, or advice,” the chatbot wrote in response to a question from CNN.
Still, new research published this week suggests that physicians may have some things to learn from the chatbot when it comes to patient communication.
A panel of licensed health care professionals assessed responses to about 200 different medical questions posed to a public online forum, including patient inquiries about medical diagnoses, need for medical attention and more.
Responses from ChatGPT were “preferred over physician responses and rated significantly higher for both quality and empathy,” according to a study published Friday.
More than a quarter of responses from physicians were considered to be less than acceptable in quality compared with less than 3% of those from ChatGPT. Conversely, nearly half of responses from ChatGPT were considered to be empathetic (45%) compared with less than 5% of those from physicians.
On average, ChatGPT scored 21% higher than physicians for the quality of responses and 41% more empathetic, according to the study.
MY TAKE: I’ve been carefully following AI uses across the spectrum of our daily lives, including writing student essays, writing pop songs, movie scripts and novels, creating award-winning art and photographs, and other applications. It’s easy to feel a little scared that, given some time, AI will replace humans at many professions that right now seem impossible. We are all still grappling with whether this will be a good thing or bad thing.
For right now, though, this article about AI medical advice is disconcerting in that it proved to be more “human” than the human doctors. It was patient and compassionate where real doctors were efficient but insensitive (also, more accurate). While accuracy is certainly a main goal, making the patient feel heard also contributes to their well-being. That can have greater health benefits than just the one visit. When a patient feels the doctor cares, not just about the malady, but also about the suffering, that patient is more likely to return to the doctor for subsequent visits, thereby maintaining a healthier life. A patient who does not feel valued by the doctor will be less likely to return for other problems.
According to two UCLA studies, Black patients have a higher hesitancy to seek medical attention, not because of historic injustices like the infamous Tuskegee Syphilis Study, but because of unsatisfactory health care experiences (“Black Americans’ COVID vaccine hesitancy stems more from today’s inequities than historical ones.”) Study co-author Kerri Johnson, a UCLA professor of communication and psychology, explained, “Characterizing race-related disparities in health care experiences as a relic of the past excludes current medical experiences and absolves the current health care system from making needed change.”
It’s not just Blacks who have hesitancy toward the healthcare system; many marginalized groups fear not being taken seriously because of previous bad experiences. Especially concerning is when the elderly are reluctant to seek treatment, because that can be a fatal mistake.
In this case, let ChatGPT be a teacher whose lesson is that our doctors need training in people skills as much as in medicine, because both are necessary to heal and save lives.
RELATED: “AI Singers Are Unnervingly Good and Already Ubiquitous” (Vulture)
SUMMARY: [I]n early April, an anonymous producer released an original song called “Heart on My Sleeve” featuring AI vocals modeled on those of Drake and the Weeknd. “Heart on My Sleeve” was streamed by tens of millions of people, some of whom noted that they liked it better than recent singles by the actual Drake and Weeknd. The producer, who goes by Ghostwriter977 on TikTok, might’ve been motivated by revenge; they claim to have worked as an uncredited songwriter for pop artists and “got paid close to nothing just for major labels to profit.”
MY TAKE: The above paragraph is only a small sample of a longer article that details what may be a radical revolution in the music industry, changing how music is written, performed, and produced. Famous singers’ voices can be used to sing almost any song. That artificially created song could go on to make hundreds of thousands of dollars without the original artists seeing a cent.
While I’m sure the financial side will eventually be resolved, I’m more concerned about the type of music we will be settling for when AI-driven computers mimic the emotions and traumas that artists suffered in order to create the work they do. I worry that we be squeezing those potential artists out of business before they get started.
Have we finally come down to the oft-told scenario of a thousand monkeys at keyboards eventually producing Hamlet? Or Hamlet-lite?
What I’m Reading
The New Brownies' Book: A Love Letter to Black Families by Charly Palmer and Karida L. Brown
In 1920, Black writer, historian, and political activist W.E.B. DuBois teamed up with the founders of the NAACP to produce The Brownies’ Book: A Monthly Magazine for Children of the Sun which anthologized articles, stories, art, and activities that celebrated being Black. A hundred years later, Palmer and Brown have resurrected the magazine into a book that features the work of, as they describe it, fifty “talented and exciting Black creators, including playwright and poet Ntozake Shange, writer and editor Damon Young, Def Poetry Jam co-creator and painter Danny Simmons, sociologist and educator Dr. Bertice Berry, children’s book illustrator James E. Ransome, muralist Fabian Williams, collage artist Marryam Moma, and many more.”
This is a must-have for Black youth to experience art, photographs, and stories that will entertain the entire family. You can pre-order the book here.
Kareem’s Jukebox Playlist
Gordon Lightfoot: “If You Could Read My Mind”
Singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot died on Monday at the age of 84. He defined folk-rock in the ‘60s and ‘70s, not just with his poetic lyrics but with his social commentary, as in “Black Day in July” about the 1967 Detroit Rebellion. Bob Dylan considered Lightfoot a mentor, saying, “I can't think of any Gordon Lightfoot song I don't like. Every time I hear a song of his, it's like I wish it would last forever.”
I selected one of his most popular songs, “If You Could Read My Mind,” which he wrote about his divorce. I love the imagery he uses from movies and novels to show how our romanticized notions about love can come crashing down when faced with reality. I also like how his daughter Ingrid suggested he change his original lyric, “I'm just trying to understand the feelings that you lack” to “I'm just trying to understand the feelings that we lack.” Great call, Ingrid.
Answers to the sample history questions: 1) C; 2) D; 3) B; 4) B; 5) D
I aced your civics quiz - but I have to admit I was a little unsure on one of them! :) I teach at the college level, and have realized that the love of reading is really going away from young people. Honestly, it’s kind of going away for older people - I even find myself listening to audible books more than reading these days. I’m not sure if it’s just simply the cost of progress and using electronic devices - or needing to get information quickly, or if there are some other causes. I would not mind a deep dive on this subject someday.
I had a student recently that told me that she would not vote for Biden because he used to be a member of the KKK. The meme she was talking about was easily debunked - I sent her a Snopes article that was only about 6 paragraphs long. Her response was that she just said, ‘OK’ and followed that up with ‘yeah but I’m not gonna read all of that.’ Lots of my students are like that, reading, seems like a real chore to them even if it means finding out something important, especially about a false thing they might believe. I would like to find some positive things to do to reverse this trend, or at least change it in a meaningful manner.
Love your stuff as always!
"Not voting is like gift-wrapping your belongings and handing them to a burglar." I wish I could write that across the mind and heart of every American.