Discover more from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Who Are Heatwaves Harming Most?, Fox Host Accuses Biden of Not Solving Racism, Alice Cooper: Trans Is a Fad, Trump Vows to Jail Enemies, Women Surgeons' Patients Do Better, The Cadets Sing
My take on news, pop culture, sports, and whatever else interests me.
Kareem’s Quote of the Day
“From one thing, know ten thousand things.”
The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi
I’m trying out two new features in today’s newsletter. First, “Kareem’s Quote of the Day,” in which I share quotes that mean something to me. They could be from people I have known, such as Coach Wooden or Bruce Lee, to people from the past who I wish I’d known. They might be well-known or obscure. The quotes could be from novels, movies, speeches, poems, or song lyrics. They might be wise, or they might be whimsical.
I probably won’t explain them in the future, but I will say a few words about today’s selection since it’s my inaugural one. Miyamoto Musashi (c. 1584-1645) was a renowned Japanese swordsman who was undefeated in 61 duels. He was also a philosopher, teacher, and writer. The quote is really about how a single work of art can change one’s perception of the world. A painting of a landscape or a single person can reveal so much more than just the subject. Robert Frost’s poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” is, on the surface, about a person stopping to watch snow falling in the woods. But a closer examination shows us a person so beaten down by obligations and lack of joy that he questions whether he should continue to live. Sometimes I look at this newsletter as a kind of poem that focuses on small things in order to reveal a larger insight into life. And sometimes, I just want to inform and entertain.
My second feature is “Kareem’s History Bites.” (Yup, there’s a hint of sarcasm there.) I’ve been a history buff all my life, even having written several history books (Brothers in Arms: The Epic Story of the 761st Tank Battalion, World War II's Forgotten Heroes, On the Shoulders of Giants: My Journey Through the Harlem Renaissance, What Color Is My World? The Lost History of African American Inventors). My goal with this feature is just to offer some small historical fact that makes you go, “Huh, that’s interesting.”
Add your voice to the Comments to let me know whether or not you enjoy these new features and should continue them.
SUMMARY: Racism is at the heart of the American government’s failure to tackle the growing threat of deadly heatwaves, according to the author of an authoritative new book on the heating planet.
Jeff Goodell, an award winning climate journalist, told the Guardian that people of color - including millions of migrant workers who are bearing the brunt of record-breaking temperatures as farmhands, builders and delivery workers - are not guaranteed lifesaving measures like water and shade breaks because they are considered expendable.
…“To be blunt about it, the people most impacted by heat are not the kind of voting demographic that gets any politician nervous. They’re unsheltered people, poor people, agricultural and construction workers. People…seen as expendable. They’re not seen as humans who need to be protected. Racism is absolutely central to the government’s failure to protect vulnerable people.”
MY TAKE: When I was fourteen, I saw a low-budget British movie called The Day the Earth Caught Fire. Nuclear tests changed the Earth’s orbit, sending us closer to the sun. Temperatures rose, the water evaporated, and people died. The movie scared me.
Well, I’m scared again. We have seen the future—and it is HOT! Scientists predict that heatwaves will only get worse in the coming years (“Dangerous heat predicted to hit 3 times more often in future”). One study predicts that Chicago, which reached 103 degrees four times between 1979 and 1998, will hit that 103-degree mark 11 times a year by the end of this century.
Studies have found that the number of deaths caused by heat waves are vastly underestimated due to the method of determining death. Heat can cause a heart attack, but the death is then attributed to coronary disease rather than exposure to heat. Even so, deaths in the U.S. are fewer than in Europe, where last summer’s heat wave killed an estimated 62,000 people.
Air conditioning is not the answer. It accounts for almost 20% of the total electricity used in buildings. Together with the one billion single-room air-conditioning units worldwide, they are a major cause of the greenhouse gases that are warming the planet and creating more demand for air-conditioning. The snake eating its own tail.
The only question is: Who will bear the brunt of the hardships caused by extreme heat? As usual, the poor and the politically marginalized, which disproportionately includes People of Color, will get sick and die at a higher rate because they lack the political clout to matter. This is especially true in the current GOP campaign to disenfranchise the voters who would be most affected by the heat (“Republicans Unveil Sweeping Bill to Massively Suppress Voters Ahead of 2024”).
Equally troubling is the reluctance of the government to get involved due to old notions of “scientific” racism that suggested dark-skinned people are less affected by the heat. However, the truth is that between 2005 and 2015, emergency room visits for heat-related causes increased by 67% for African Americans, 63% for Hispanics, 53% for Asian Americans—and only 27% for Whites. One reason is that urban areas with large populations of People of Color have fewer trees and green spaces, higher poverty, and more crowding. POC also may not be able to afford air-conditioning units or the energy costs of running them.
Outside of urban areas are agricultural workers, which are comprised mostly of noncitizens (50%) and Latinx migrants (75%). Compared to other U.S.-based workers, they are about 20 times more likely to die from heat-related illnesses.
Additionally, well-documented healthcare differences between Black, Latinx, and indigenous communities mean that People of Color are more susceptible to the risks caused by extreme heat.
And yet, many Republicans refuse to address the issue. GOP presidential candidates Trump and Vivek Ramaswamy have declared climate change a hoax and anointed fossil fuels as our country’s savior. How can they make such an outrageously false and dangerous claim? Because Republicans agree. About 76% said that climate change won’t have a serious impact or only a minor impact on their communities.
Their communities. And to hell—literally—with the communities of others.
This Week in Dumb Things Said by Famous People
Fox News host questions why racist shootings haven’t stopped under Biden (The Independent)
On Monday, Fox News anchor John Roberts tossed around the question of why — if Joe Biden said he was going to unify Americans — a white supremacist would still carry out a racially motivated mass shooting at a dollar store in Jacksonville, Florida, according to The Daily Beast.
After the shooting, Mr Biden offered a condemnation of the attack.
“We must refuse to live in a country where Black families going to the store or Black students going to school live in fear of being gunned down because of the color of their skin,” the president said. “Hate must have no safe harbor. Silence is complicity and we must not remain silent.”
Roberts was sceptical. If Mr Biden said during his inauguration that he was going to unite the country, why wasn't the country united?
“He pledged to unite the country back in his inauguration speech, several times prior and after that, and yet horrific things like what happened over the weekend still happen,” Roberts said…
MY TAKE: Roberts wants to know why Biden hasn’t solved racism. Here’s an answer: Roberts has a national forum in which, instead of examining the causes and results of racism in this country that might contribute to easing the problem, he instead stokes divisiveness by posing a question that lacks any logic. Unless Roberts is truly as uneducated and uninformed as his question suggests, his goal is to create more turmoil by blaming Biden for something that his network has encouraged for decades: racism, misogyny, LGBTQ+phobia, and xenophobia.
Here’s a question for Roberts: Was the white supremacist murderer in Jacksonville more likely a follower of Joe Biden or Fox News?
SUMMARY: Veteran shock rocker Alice Cooper, known for his bizarre makeup and costumes and outrageous antics, has bashed transgender people in a new interview, in which he invoked the bathroom predator myth and the debunked idea that children are identifying as cats.
Now he has lost a brand partnership with a cosmetics company as a result.
Stereogum interviewer Rachel Brodsky mentioned that Cooper “played around with gender expectations early on” and that some of his “‘theatrical’ rock peers have commented about gender identity, with Paul Stanley and Dee Snider calling gender-affirming care for kids a ‘sad and dangerous fad.’” She then asked Cooper for his thoughts.
“I’m understanding that there are cases of transgender, but I’m afraid that it’s also a fad, and I’m afraid there’s a lot of people claiming to be this just because they want to be that,” he replied. “I find it wrong when you’ve got a six-year-old kid who has no idea. He just wants to play, and you’re confusing him telling him, ‘Yeah, you’re a boy, but you could be a girl if you want to be.’”
“I think that’s so confusing to a kid,” he continued. “It’s even confusing to a teenager. You’re still trying to find your identity, and yet here’s this thing going on, saying, ‘Yeah, but you can be anything you want. You can be a cat if you want to be.’ I mean, if you identify as a tree… And I’m going, ‘Come on! What are we in, a Kurt Vonnegut novel?’ It’s so absurd, that it’s gone now to the point of absurdity.”
MY TAKE: If Cooper was just standing around jawing with neighbors in a backyard barbecue and said all this, we could dismiss it because it has a limited audience, and others are free to counter his opinions with actual facts. But Cooper is a celebrity with a large following, and his opinions are mostly presented to the public without factual context.
Cooper worried, “Well, I can see somebody really taking advantage of this, though. A guy can walk into a woman’s bathroom at any time and just say, ‘I just feel like I’m a woman today’ and have the time of his life in there, and he’s not in the least bit… He’s just taking advantage of that situation. Well, that’s going to happen. Somebody’s going to get raped, and the guy’s going to say, ‘Well, I felt like a girl that day, and then I felt like a guy.’ Where do you draw this line?”
However, the article points to a study from the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law that concludes, “reports of privacy and safety violations in public restrooms, locker rooms, and changing rooms are exceedingly rare” and are not related to laws that allow trans people access to the facilities matching their gender identity.
Cooper is merely spouting the conventional objections of conservatives that are not supported by actual evidence. He cites no experts, no research, no facts, no studies. Just a seat-of-his-pants notion.
As for his claim that transgender people are merely following a fad, it is likely that there will be some people with mental health issues who may be confused, but this is true of everything. People join religions, political parties, and cults out of peer pressure or need to belong. They kill themselves with TikTok fads (“TikTok’s Viral Challenges Keep Luring Young Kids to Their Deaths”). But the evidence—massive evidence—is that the vast majority of people struggling with gender identity are sincerely attempting to fix a social stigma. Yet, Cooper wants to punish them all by encouraging a distorted view that leads to bullying, loss of rights, and marginalization.
Naysayers like to talk about what’s “natural” as if there is only one template for natural, and that is based on the majority. But Nature is not efficient at pumping out template-perfect babies. The CDC says that 1 in every 33 babies is born with a birth defect (120,000 a year), and that’s just what can be observed physically. LGBTQ+ is not a defect, it’s a variation, the same way that one singer might interpret another’s song. We all have to be aware that the myth of normalcy, of a nature-approved template, harms us all. We are all art.
To their credit, Vampyre Cosmetics has canceled their deal with Cooper: “In light of recent statements by Alice Cooper we will no longer be doing a makeup collaboration. We stand with all members of the LGBTQIA+ community and believe everyone should have access to healthcare. All pre-order sales will be refunded.”
SUMMARY: Donald Trump says he will lock up his political enemies if he is president again.
In an interview on Tuesday, the rightwing broadcaster Glenn Beck raised Trump’s famous campaign-trail vow to “lock up” Hillary Clinton, his opponent in 2016, a promise Trump did not fulfill in office.
Beck said: “Do you regret not locking [Clinton] up? And if you’re president again, will you lock people up?”
Trump said: “The answer is you have no choice, because they’re doing it to us.”
MY TAKE: I sometimes wonder what people mean when they say they love America. Because when they support Trump, they support the opposite of what America is supposed to stand for. The same people who want to force schoolchildren to recite the Pledge of Allegiance (47 states require it, even though the Supreme Court held that the requirement violates the First Amendment) may not remember that the Pledge ends with “indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Yet, law-and-order Republican patriots back a man who faces 91 criminal charges totaling 717 years in prison. Sure, if he were a Black man shoplifting a sweater, he’d be more likely to face actual prison time. Even so, why do Republicans reject the judicial system when it goes after someone they support without caring about the evidence? And how does supporting a man who admits he wants to lock up his political rivals—even though there is no evidence of crimes—“because they’re doing it to us.” They support democracy when the votes go their way (otherwise, the election is rigged), and they support law and order when it prosecutes their enemies and ignores their friends.
In fact, the Georgia GOP wants to remove the prosecutor who charged Trump (“Georgia GOP Gears Up To Remove Atlanta Prosecutor Who Indicted Donald Trump”). They passed a law, now being fought in court, that allows a commission of political appointees (in other words, Republicans) to remove and discipline elected prosecutors for not prosecuting enough. However, the GOP now wants to use that same law to remove District Attorney Fani Willis for prosecuting one of their own, Trump. Said Jill Habig, executive director of the Public Rights Project, “This is part of a national trend that we’re seeing of predominantly white, often gerrymandered state legislatures targeting prosecutors — often Black prosecutors, and often prosecutors elected in cities and counties with larger Black and brown populations.”
Not exactly “liberty and justice for all.” Not exactly the America of the Constitution.
Kareem’s Video Break
This is my fantasy. To suddenly break out into an amazing, energetic dance that shocks and delights everyone.
Kareem’s History Bites
Frustrated that people continued to consume so much alcohol [during Prohibition] even after it was banned, federal officials had decided to try a different kind of enforcement. They ordered the poisoning of industrial alcohols manufactured in the United States, products regularly stolen by bootleggers and resold as drinkable spirits. The idea was to scare people into giving up illicit drinking. Instead, by the time Prohibition ended in 1933, the federal poisoning program, by some estimates, had killed at least 10,000 people.
From “The Chemist’s War”
Looking for spiritual meaning in an indifferent universe? Look no further.
Women Surgeons Have Fewer Complications Than Men, Study Finds (The Daily Beast)
SUMMARY: Two new studies show that patients of female surgeons have better outcomes than those with male surgeons. The Wall Street Journal reports that the women aren’t necessarily technically superior to the men, but they do spend longer in the operating room and may communicate better with the patients. “Picking up problems early is where you start to save patients,” Dr. Angela Jerath, author of one of the studies, explained. The result? Fewer post-surgery complications, including fewer deaths.
MY TAKE: This isn’t about gender bragging rights. It’s about two studies that may lead the way for improved health care for all of us. In general, women surgeons spend more time on the actual surgeries, and even before surgery, they spend more time listening to patients in order to choose the best care solutions.
What makes this especially significant is that in 2021, only 22.6% of general surgeons were women, and only 5.9% of orthopedic surgeons were women. That means that a vast majority of patients are not getting the benefit of this level of care. According to The Wall Street Journal, “Male surgeons spent a mean of eight minutes less per operation compared with women, even after matching similar patients, surgeries and hospitals. Complications including bleeding, perforations of the intestine or bowel, bile duct lesions, leakage and abscesses occurred nearly 30% more often for male surgeons.”
The outcome of these studies should be a reevaluation by all physicians—from medical school to currently practicing surgeons—as to whether or not they are communicating sufficiently with patients and consider slowing down surgery times for extra caution. The benefits are too great to ignore.
Kareem’s Jukebox Playlist
The Cadets: “Stranded in the Jungle”
What I miss about listening to the radio in my youth was the cornucopia of musical genres that would be played side by side. You had hard rock, soft rock, surf rock, jazz, Frank Sinatra, doo-wop, R&B, soul, country, songs from musicals, and even comedy songs—all on the same station. That exposure to so many different types of music made me appreciate a wide variety of performers and styles. Today, music is so segregated by personalized stations that many kids grow up listening to only one or two genres of music.
I’m glad I was exposed to those crazy, whimsical songs like Allan Sherman’s “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah,” Bobby Pickett’s “Monster Mash,” Brian Hyland’s “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polkadot Bikini” and others. Occasionally, whimsy will rear its fluffy head, and Baha Men’s “Who Let the Dogs Out” (2000) or Awkwafina’s “My Vag” (2014) is released. But not too often.
Doo-wop singers The Cadets had one hit: “Stranded in the Jungle.” The song has been covered by many others, including Frank Zappa. It’s about a man whose plane crashes in the jungle while he’s en route to a date with his girlfriend. Locals chase and try to cook him, but he escapes, hitches a ride on a whale, and is reunited with his girlfriend. Yeah, you read right. But it’s all such joyful nonsense—and sometimes that’s just what I need.