Kakistocracy: We Are Here!

It’s time to Break It Down!

That, in effect, says it all. Succinctly! So much so, this will be my shortest blog ever.

We are now observing the circus-like debacle surrounding the effort to confirm Rear Admiral Dr. Ronny Jackson for the position of Secretary of Veterans Affairs, concurrent with the elaborate mental gymnastics employed to save Scott Pruitt’s job as Environmental Protection Administrator. I searched for just the right word; it wasn’t easy. In addition to the two current aforementioned high profile Team Trump members navigating thin ice during this first month of spring, there are of course numerous others who’ve already fallen victim to early exits. The list of their names is long. Ten that leap out at first thought are:

  1. Michael Flynn
  2. Tom Price
  3. John McEntee
  4. Sean Spicer
  5. Omarosa Manigault-Newman
  6. Steve Bannon
  7. Anthony Scaramucci
  8. Sebastian Gorka
  9. Rob Porter
  10. Hope Hicks

Mr. Trump exclaimed long ago that he would hire the best people. In point of fact, not only has he failed miserably to make that promise a valid assertion, there is a case to be made that he has done just the opposite; that he has in reality built his own personal Kakistocracy. What in the Sam Hill is that, you may ask? Thank you for inquiring. See the definition below:


A Kakistocracy is a system of government, which is run by the worst, least qualified, or most unscrupulous citizens. The word was coined as early as the seventeenth century. It is a term that also was used by English author Thomas Love Peacock in 1829, but gained significant use in the twenty-first century.

With that, as noted in the opening, I’ve said it all. Kakistocracy: We Are Here!

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com. Find a new post each Wednesday.

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Forget The Mistake: Remember The Lesson!

It’s time to Break It Down!

Last Thursday, the Starbucks franchise surged toward the top of trending media topics. And, I might add, not for good reason. As almost anyone not firmly ensconced under a rock, or immersed in a Rip Van Winkle-like slumber knows by now, a Philadelphia Starbucks manager called police and urged them to arrest two men, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson. Which they did! Spoiler alert; the men were black.

As they waited for a friend to join them, the store manager concluded that since they declined to make a purchased, they had to leave. This resulted in the manager calling the police and asking that they arrest the men. The officers detained the men, complete with handcuffs, the perp walk out of the Starbucks at 18th and Spruce Streets in the Center City District.

A number of people in the coffee shop, at the time, captured video of the incident, and some tweeted about it. One person who did both was Melissa DePino, a novelist. She tweeted the following:

Melissa DePino‏ @missydepino

@Starbucks “The police were called because these men hadn’t ordered anything. They were waiting for a friend to show up, who did as they were taken out in handcuffs for doing nothing. All the other white ppl are wondering why it’s never happened to us when we do the same thing.”

5:12 PM – Apr 12, 2018

Public reports reveal that police were initially called because two black men had not ordered anything and were waiting for their friend. In essence the men were arrested, placed in a police cruiser, and considered a threat while actually not having done anything. In an 8-minute long video, the two black men can be seen maintaining a calm demeanor throughout the duration of their encounter with the officers. One of the officers can be heard saying the men were asked to leave the Starbucks for reasons that remain unclear.

Brittany Packnett was another witness/tweeter. In the midst of the incident, she posted on her Twitter account:

Brittany Packnett


13 Apr

Replying to @MsPackyetti

“The extremely jacked up part is how calm these two brothers are as they’re walking out in handcuffs for doing *exactly nothing* because they already know their totally righteous anger could end in their death.

This is tired. Racism is tired. What say you, ‪@starbucks?!!”

If we were on the Game Show Jeopardy, the answer would be: What is being guilty of “waiting while black,” Alex?

Ms. Packnett directed her tweet straight to the source, Starbucks. To their credit, it appears the Company was not only attentive, but also responsive. They began by issuing their own tweet:


FollowFollow @Starbucks


Replying to @MsPackyetti

We’re aware of the incident on Thursday in a Philadelphia store with 2 guests and law enforcement, resulting in their removal. We’re reviewing the incident with our partners, law enforcement and customers to determine what took place and led to this unfortunate result.

10:34 PM – 13 Apr 2018

That was not Starbucks’ only measure of response. Moreover, it was far from the most significant. Starbucks Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Kevin Johnson has taken several steps to both make clear his, and the Company’s concern about the incident, and to show in no uncertain terms that the events that unfolded in Philadelphia nearly a week ago do not reflect the culture that Starbucks is invested in, and committed to deepening and expanding.

Johnson called the actions of his employee reprehensible! He went on to take ownership by stating plainly, “I am accountable.” He added, “I will fix this.” He also said that his responsibility was not just to look at that individual, but to look more broadly at the circumstances that led to the incident in order to take steps to make sure that it never happens again.

The manager of the store no longer works for Starbucks. Mr. Johnson flew from Seattle to Philadelphia and met personally with Nelson and Robinson on Monday; he apologized to them during the meeting.

Johnson called for “unconscious bias” training for Starbucks store managers. Rosalind Brewer, the company’s Chief Operating Officer (COO), who happens to be African American, weighed in on the matter, including the call for training for the store managers. In an interview with NPR, she referred to the matter as a “teachable moment for all of us.” She noted that as an African American executive with a 23-year-old son, she found the videos painful to watch. She went on to add:

“It would be easy for us to say that this was a one-employee situation, but I have to tell you, it’s time for us to, myself included, take personal responsibility here, and to do the best that we can to make sure we do everything we can.”

Benjamin Waxman, a spokesman for Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, said over the weekend that the office decided that there “wasn’t sufficient evidence to charge [the men] with a crime.”

On Monday, Johnson said that there are scenarios that warrant a call to police – including threats and other disturbances – but that in this case, “it was completely inappropriate to engage the police.”

To be clear, Starbucks does not have a universal policy on asking members of the public to leave. The company delegates safety and customer service protocol decisions to store managers. For example, managers may leave restroom doors unlocked or add key-code entry control if they feel the store is more at risk for criminal behavior.

One Starbucks official acknowledged that the incident is at odds with common practice at Starbucks. He noted, “The stores are community hubs where people often drop in to use the Wi-Fi or chat with friends without necessarily buying anything.”

Lauren Wimmer, who happens to be white, is the attorney who represented the two men. She said she spent a good portion of her time in law school at Starbucks without buying much and never had a problem with store employees. She asserted the incident was about race.

I would be remiss to close out this post without making a salient observation. The blog has centered on a dynamic encounter between three distinct elements: African American males, an urban police department, and a largely white business establishment. The business called the police on the black guys, the black guys remained calm under pressure, and the police, clearly did not fear for their lives…translation, the black guys are still alive. Perhaps, more notably, at the end of the day, by most accounts, neither the black guys nor the police officers were deemed to have been at fault. How cool…and rare, is that? Unless you represent Starbucks in this tribe-part scenario, that is.

In response to Starbucks’ commitment to train its employees in the wake of the arrest of two black men in Philadelphia last Thursday, the company has announced it will close 8,000 company-owned stores and train approximately 175,000 employees on Tuesday afternoon, May 29th.  Ms. Brewer, the COO, referred to this incident as a “teachable moment for all of us.” As time races inexorably toward May 29th, my sincere hope for Ms. Brewer and the Starbucks family, for Mssrs. Nelson and Robinson, as well as for any of you who may be coffee lovers, is that Starbucks can “Forget The Mistake. Remember The Lesson!” I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com. Find a new post each Wednesday.

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20/20: Perfect!

It’s time to Break It Down!

Spring is in the air. Every year about this time I seem to run across stories about black academic excellence across the American educational landscape. Perhaps the most extraordinary example involves Chicago’s Urban Prep Academies, a collection of all male charter schools located and operating in Chicago. In 2002, former Hales Franciscan High School President (and Alpha man) Tim King organized a group of African-American civic, business, and education leaders, expressly for the purpose of creating a new high school in Chicago focused on providing a strong, college-preparatory high school option for boys in under-served African-American communities.

The Chicago Board of Education approved Urban Prep Academies’ charter application in 2005, and Urban Prep opened its first school, Urban Prep Charter Academy for Young Men — Englewood Campus in September 2006. Urban Prep became the first charter high school for boys in the country. The school opened its second facility in the East Garfield Park community in 2009, and moved closer to the West Side in 2011. Urban Prep’s third campus, serving the historic Bronzeville community, opened in 2010. Approximately 85% of Urban Prep students are low-income, and nearly all are African American.

Admission to Urban Prep is non-selective and determined through a lottery system. Enrollment is open to all matriculating 9th graders in Chicago. Lottery admission information is available on Urban Prep’s admission webpage.

The school became the focus of national attention in March 2010, when it was announced that 100% of the first graduating class had been accepted at a four-year college or university. Incredibly, Urban Prep students have continued that streak every year. I’m confident even Joe Biden would consider that a big…deal.

In other years, there have been (African American) students who have earned acceptance at every Ivy League University, which is without question, a phenomenal accomplishment. This year’ superlative is a 17-year old young man from Houston, Texas, Michael Brown. I had read about Brown, and thought of him again as I was changing flights a couple of days ago in Houston.

Michael became a celebrity of sorts earlier this month when news broke that he had applied to, and gained acceptance by 20 colleges, including four Ivy League schools. Brown did not just gain acceptance by all the schools to which he had applied, he earned a full ride to each, and a total of more than 260,000 in scholarship money.

When interviewed by his hometown paper, the Houston Chronicle, he said, “It’s surprising I was accepted at all of them.” According to the paper, Mr. Brown, a resident of the city’s economically challenged Third Ward, has compiled quite an impressive academic portfolio, replete with an array of extra-curricular and volunteer activities, and a quite substantive 4.68 G.P.A. Michael noted that he derived most of his motivation from his mother, Berthinia Rutledge-Brown, who completed her own degree while he was in elementary school. Her drive and commitment helped him understand what going to college might look like, allowed him to recognize the correlation between tenacity and achieving an education, and to appreciate the connection between achieving an education and subsequently succeeding in obtaining employment opportunities. He doubts she was cognizant that he was actively taking in all that information…but that is exactly what he was doing.

As one might imagine, the sifting that winnows down 20 schools to a final selection is quite a process. He has yet to make a final decision. Several days ago, he narrowed the list to a final seven:

  • Northwestern
  • Georgetown
  • Stanford
  • Princeton
  • Yale
  • Penn
  • Harvard

Also among the 20 were Amherst, Vanderbilt, Johns Hopkins, and the home state University of Texas. Recently, he reduced the list to the Final Four, Yale, Georgetown, Stanford, and Harvard. Brown noted that he began getting serious about college toward the end of ninth grade. His current assessment is that his decision, ultimately, will likely come down to Harvard and Stanford. He has plans to visit both soon.

But lest I leave you with the impression that all is sweetness and light, perish the thought. A pair of newswomen from the local Washington, DC Fox 5 affiliate, co-anchor Holly Morris, and contributor, Sarah Fraser, opted to weigh in on Brown’s freaking awesome accomplishment. And all in they went, panning him for his audacity in thinking he could apply to 20 colleges. They went so far as to call his decision “obnoxious,” and suggested he was showing off by doing so.

After hearing about the pushback from the DC Fox commentators, Brown called the station, spoke with a producer, and then had a 10-minute interview. However, he declined to provide his permission to air the interview, unless the anchor issued an apology, which, in classic Donald Trump fashion, she has refused to do.

Brown had indicated he plans to major in political science and economics. Former President Bill Clinton has weighed in, tweeting an offer to answer any questions Brown might have about Georgetown, (Clinton’s alma mater).

Bill Clinton


What an incredible accomplishment, Michael. Follow your heart and your head; your future is incredibly bright. I can’t wait to see what comes next. In the interim, if you want to talk about Georgetown give me a call.




2:44 PM – Apr 5, 2018

2,836 people are talking about this

Upon being asked about his personal view of his achievement, in a moment of intra-personal reflection, Brown said:

“I just felt very accomplished because I was very intentional with every school I applied to, so it was good that all of that paid off and my application strategy worked.”

At the end of the day, it was a great achievement by a special young man. It was an outstanding accomplishment by him, and undoubtedly a memorable moment for his mother, and a time for his teachers, counselors, and academic support team to beam with pride. The young man wears glasses, so I’m not sure about his eyesight, but his academic prescription is20/20: Perfect!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com. Find a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribeclick on Follow in the bottom right hand corner of my Home Page at http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com; enter your e-mail address in the designated space, and click on “Sign me up. ”Subsequent editions of “Break It Down” will be mailed to your in-box.

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I Remember When: 50 Years Ago Today

It’s time to Break It Down!

The afternoon of Sunday March 31, 1968 was a special day. I was at church. Though, being a PK, that is not what made it special. I was in church nearly every Sunday morning, and more Sunday afternoons than I can count. Lots of Sunday nights too. That’s just what preacher’s kids did circa 1968.

Yet, this was a special Sunday. For a young man sharing the salad days of my teen years, growing up in the South during the unpredictable, and ever changing days of the civil rights movement, I was on the verge of, or so I thought I was, meeting the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Despite how it is often portrayed, the civil rights movement was not just one thing, but a fluid, and complex compendium of actions, circumstances, and events. Notwithstanding any of that, no single individual ever soared higher in the movement’s operational apparatus than did Dr. King. Yes, he moved around throughout an organically evolving circuit from Atlanta, to Montgomery, to Albany (GA), to Birmingham, to Washington, DC, to Selma, to Chicago, to Memphis, promoting a series of non-violent protests, meanwhile, in his spare time, he spawned a Poor Peoples’ Campaign, and an Anti-War Campaign to protest the War in Vietnam.

Back to that 5thSunday in March 1968. That afternoon, I went to a small African American church in Washington, NC; Little Washington, as it’s affectionately called, not to be confused with the District of Columbia. I was there for a Civil rights rally. There was a long line of dignitaries and luminaries on the itinerary. When the program reached that point, at which the penultimate speaker was scheduled to take the mic, The Rev. Dr. Reginald Hawkins emerged. He gave a powerful and compelling oration. I was there; I witnessed it. But in all honesty, I do not remember a thing he said after he apprised the assembly that Dr. King, who was to be the final speaker, was not able to attend that day. As an aside, by way of context, at the time, Dr. Hawkins was an active candidate, running for the Governorship of North Carolina; the first African American to do so. He noted that Dr. King had been called to Memphis, where he was engaged in an active role in mass meetings, and street actions (often a euphemism for marches), related to trying to resolve the Sanitation Workers Strike in Memphis, Tennessee.

It’s difficult to find adequate, or appropriate for that matter, words to describe the level of my disappointment…even all these many years later. I was disconsolate. I didn’t cry; but it wasn’t out of the question. My frustration was palpable. It actually still is. Really!

A few days later, Thursday evening, April 4, 1968, at around dinnertime, I was watching the news with my family. In the middle of the broadcast, the newscaster interrupted his regular reporting to announce that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., has been assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. It was a moment in time, like a number of others, where one remembers where they were, and/or what they were doing when they heard the news. It seemed like there were a lot of those moments in the 60’s. JFK, Malcolm X, MLK, and Robert Kennedy, were all killed between 1963 and 1968.

Today is the 50thAnniversary of Dr. King’s murder. All the men noted at the end of the previous paragraph were legendary. They were giants in their respective fields of endeavor. Without reservation, I readily admit, King’s life and his work influenced me more than the others. So did his death.

My 14-year-old mind, at the apex of its elastic powers of imagination, instantly transported me back to the previous Sunday afternoon, in that small, jam-packed, non-air conditioned, and sweltering edifice. I thought…if only Dr. King had opted to come to Washington, NC, rather than go to Memphis. In the vortex that was my mental gymnastic, Dr. King could have avoided, or at least delayed the premature termination of his life’s journey, and work, I would have seen, and possibly even met him, and if there were an anniversary today, it would have some other significance.

Of course that’s what I thought at 14. Perhaps it was selfish and self-absorbed. OK, so it was selfish and self-absorbed! Fifty years later, not much has changed. At least, not much has changed on some level.

In all fairness, today, I do very much appreciate the work, and the enormous sacrifice Dr. King made throughout his career. His trip to Memphis turned out to be, for him, the ultimate sacrifice. Humbly, and sincerely, I thank him for all of his service. However, none of that persuades me to regret the fact that he was taken from us far too soon. Upon sober reflection, I’d gladly have forgone even the intent for him to have visited and appeared in Little Washington, just for him to have the opportunity to continue to operate as the head of the spear of the civil rights movement. I would love for the generations that followed him to have benefited from his continuing to dispense wisdom and counsel.

We are frequently told the universe has every answer that we could ever need. The logical extension of that reasoning is, Dr. King was the answer for a given point in time. He came, he saw, he provided a range of answers to a series of questions during his time. He graduated from high school and matriculated at Morehouse at 15, he earned a Ph.D., he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, he gave the most quoted speech at the March On Washington, he orchestrated the Selma to Montgomery March, he was an often published author, he made the Birmingham Jail famous, he elevated the plight of the poor (in the richest nation in the world), he stood against a war in Southeast Asia, and…he had a dream. He did all this, a-n-d, he died for the cause…all before turning 40 years of age.

We largely remember Dr. King in triumphant, even if tragic, fashion. Yet befor he died, he was unpopular, much maligned, and frequently demoralized. Still, in the classic spirit of the Alpha man he was,  King was resolutely forward-focused. Backward was simply not a word in his otherwise extensive vocabulary.

As I have written about before, including in January of his year, his birthday became a holiday. But in this post, I choose instead to memorialize a day that has lived in infamy for me personally, for the past 5 decades. “I Remember When: 50 Years Ago Today!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com. Find a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribe, click on Follow in the bottom right hand corner of my Home Page at http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com; enter your e-mail address in the designated space, and click on “Sign me up.”Subsequent editions of “Break It Down”will be mailed to your in-box.

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Fake News: Oops, Just Make That News!

It’s time to Break It Down!

The exigencies of TrumpWorld are often disorienting. However, that’s just the way things work in/with the current administration. Or, as the Washington Post framed it this past weekend: “Scoop. Denial. Scoop confirmed. That’s business as usual for writers covering the Trump White House.”

As America zips like an unpredictably wayward shooting star, from one Trump inspired saga to the next imbroglio, to whatever follows, we are challenged to maintain some fundamental sense of social equilibrium. The man most recently elected President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, has cultivated and highly refined a knack for what I like to call establishing a false flag narrative. For example, he vociferously declares a premise to be fake news one day, then subsequently, whether a day, a week, or some other undetermined later timeframe, reverses course. That’s pretty much the general idea.

According to the New York Times, the paper had a big scoop earlier this month. Based upon its sources, the paper reported that President Trump was considering re-staffing the legal team serving as his counsel in the investigation conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller, regarding whether Russia interfered with our 2016 election.

But wait! Enter the predictably unpredictable wayward shooting star, D.J. Trump. Within hours of the story’s release, Mr. Trump challenged the veracity of the story. He tweeted:

“The Failing New York Times purposely wrote a false story stating that I am unhappy with my legal team on the Russia case and am going to add another lawyer to help out. Wrong. I am VERY happy with my lawyers, John Dowd, Ty Cobb and Jay Sekulow. They are doing a great job. . . . The writer of the story, Maggie Haberman, a Hillary flunky, knows nothing about me and is not given access.”

Classic Trump. Classic false flag narrative. As it turned out, this story, and a second one earlier this week (Last week now) updating Trump’s legal search turned out to be, shall we say, in a word, accurate. Last Thursday, Trump’s lead attorney, John Dowd, resigned three days after Trump added Joseph diGenova, a former federal prosecutor and sometimes Fox News commentator, to his legal team.

During the previous week, the Washington Post broke some news about a pending shakeup among White House advisers. Sources held that Trump had decided to remove national security adviser H.R. McMaster. A few hours later, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders flatly rejected the very idea.

“Just spoke to @POTUS and Gen. H.R. McMaster – contrary to reports they have a good working relationship and there are no changes” at the National Security Council,” she tweeted.

That denial stood up for a week, until last Thursday when the White House announced McMaster’s departure (UNC Ph. D.) and the President named his replacement in the name of former U.N. ambassador John Bolton, not surprisingly, also a periodic Fox News commentator. Fox News is trending as a major supplier of staff members to the Trump administration. Who knew they had such hefty HR chops?

Of course the White House has it’s own rationalization. Officials contend it’s possible for events to change quickly, and a denial at one moment is, in fact, an accurate and truthful reflection of the immediate state of play. Until the president actually makes a decision, they say, a news story projecting the course of events can be speculative and even inaccurate. They add it is particularly true of personnel decisions because new events can intervene, undermining the President’s previous confidence in a top aide.

To make that point, one administration official alluded to President Obama’s expression of confidence in his embattled veterans affairs secretary, Eric K Shinseki, in May 2014. However, later in the same month, under mounting pressure and criticism of Shinseki from Congress, President Obama reversed course and accepted Shinseki’s resignation.

Also in support of the administration’s position, former White House press secretary Sean Spicer said in an interview that reporters have their own form of denial – by speculating about events and then never correcting the record when things don’t pan out, as they were first described. He added:

“I’ve seen plenty of reports saying so-and-so is going to be out by the end of the week, and then so-and-so is still there a few months later. No one admits they got it wrong.”

The arguments in favor of the administration notwithstanding, last week’s stories from The NYT and WP suggest that Trump’s penchant for claiming fake news just doesn’t hold water. Frequently, the news isn’t fake, just inconvenient, and ill timed from the White House’s point of view.

As a result, some White House reporters view the administration’s denials of otherwise well-sourced information with healthy skepticism.

Peter Baker, a veteran NYT reporter viewed it this way:

“Unfortunately, this happens often enough that reporters have learned that we can’t trust the denials. It doesn’t help anyone when reporters have to assume that what the White House tells us may not be true or that a White House statement will prove inoperative just days or even hours later.”

Maggie Haberman, who with Mr. Baker, co-wrote the stories about Trump’s legal team, reacted to Trump’s denials with what amounted to the verbal equivalent of a sigh.

“He denied (the two stories) both times,” she tweeted on Thursday. “It all stems from him. People can focus on staff and I certainly have, but at the end of the day it’s the president who runs things this way and makes the choices to deny true stories and attempt to confuse people.”

The denial tactic is an enduring staple of the Trump administration. As the post-election transition ensued, a spokesman denied a Washington Post report that General Jim Mattis would be his nominee for secretary of defense; Trump confirmed it within hours at a public appearance. In October, the White House denied a Post story that Trump would decertify the Iran nuclear agreement as not in the national interest. Surprise…he ended up doing so.

Some have speculated that all this could just be Trump’s mechanism for confusing an issue and playing to his eager-to-believe-anything-he-says-base. Reporters have surmised that Trump sometimes employs denials to maintain an orderly calm until it’s no longer possible to do so. In fact, some outlets reported Thursday that Trump was angry that Bolton walked through the White House’s front gate and was spotted by reporters, thereby spoiling a big “reveal.”

The mere introduction of something that turns out to be false into our information system means that it’s out there, and the vast majority of people will never hear the correction. Nikki Usher, an associate professor in the school of media and public affairs at George Washington University said:

“Even introducing something that turns out to be false into our information system means that it’s out there, and the vast majority of people will never hear the correction. Or if they do hear the correction and acknowledge it to be factually accurate, we now know this doesn’t even matter because their enduring partisanship remains. It is the best tactic, actually, to introduce false information into the news ecosystem because most people will never notice that it has been corrected. If they do, they’ll find reasons to dismiss the correction as insignificant, leaving their underlying support intact.”

When all is said and done, don’t be discouraged when Trump cries fake news; relax, exhale, and before you know it, it will simply be news. Fake News: Oops, Just Make That News!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com. Find a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribe, click on Follow in the bottom right hand corner of my Home Page at http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com; enter your e-mail address in the designated space, and click on “Sign me up.” Subsequent editions of “Break It Down” will be mailed to your in-box.

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As The Fox World Turns: Mueller Attacked, Smith Claps Back, and Peters Exits

It’s time to Break It Down!

Fox News, also known as Fox News Channel (FNC) is a basic cable and satellite television news channel owned by the Fox Entertainment Group, a subsidiary of 21st Century Fox. The network was created by Australian-American media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who hired former Republican Party media consultant and CNBC executive Roger Ailes as its founding CEO.

FNC has been accused of biased reporting, promoting the Republican Party and shilling for a variety of conservative causes. In many circles, much of what appears on the network is not actually considered news. Not surprisingly, unless you are immersed in the FNC orbit, you already knew that. While critics and detractors contend the channel is detrimental to the integrity of news overall, FNC employees retort that its news reporting division operates independently of its opinion and commentary programming division; they (those on the opinion side) have in turn denied bias in news reporting.

For the past 14 months, since Donald Trump has been President, FNC has emerged as the President’s virtual lifeline, inspiration, and cultivator of a cult-like following. It has been frequently reported that Trump starts his mornings with a healthy dose of Fox and Friends. His subsequent tweets often take on the tenor of whatever rant the Fox hosts started the morning by hammering. Recently Sean Hannity has been excoriating Robert Mueller. Monday, for the first time, Trump actually used Mueller’s name in a full-frontal attack. To turn a phrase, as usual, Trump and FNC, at least the opinion and commentary segment, are simpatico.

Shepard Smith, who serves in the capacity of FNC’s chief news anchor, and who signed a new contract Thursday, expressed his gratitude and excitement at being given the opportunity to continue leading the news division. He said:

“I am incredibly proud to be part of a group of journalists who helped build the Fox news division from scratch 22 years ago and extremely thankful for the opportunity to continue to lead our breaking news coverage for years to come. Our team’s commitment to delivering facts to our loyal viewers in context and with perspective, without fear or favor, is unwavering. The investment that Mr. Murdoch has infused into our already strong news division affords us endless opportunities. I am excited for the future and honored to continue to call Fox News my home.”

It appears the proverbial, all Trump, all the time, love fest has begun to take a toll on the collaborative interworking dynamics at the vaunted network. Mr. Smith was one of the network’s original hires in 1996. He has been one of the few; I would even say rare, Fox employees to eschew the company’s party line (pun intended) when it comes to Trump. In fact, he has gone so far as to contradict the President’s claims that the investigation into possible Russian interference in 2016 was a Democratic “hoax.” Smith said on air in February:

“This is an American investigation. And this is not a hoax. The Russians interfered. The Russians were sanctioned by Congress, the President has not put those into place, and the question is why,” he said at the time.

The well-regarded anchor, who Rupert Murdoch described as an “exemplary journalist,” stated firmly, the line between news and opinion on the network is clearly drawn – and he knows which side he’s on.

Oh yes, I mentioned the stresses of push-pull, yin-yang, and the resulting toll. In an interview with Time magazine last Thursday, Smith compared the networks news and opinions divisions this way:

“We serve different masters. We work for different reporting chains, we have different rules. They don’t really have rules on the opinion side. They can say whatever they want. I get it that some of our opinion programming is there strictly to be entertaining. I get that. I don’t work there. I wouldn’t work there. I don’t want to sit around and yell at each other and talk about your philosophy and my philosophy. That sounds horrible to me.”

He did not directly call out colleagues such as Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, and Laura Ingraham, by name. But there is little doubt any of them missed the hard inside fastball, around zipper level. Moreover, if you’ve ever listened to Sean Hannity and Company, and I admit, since the ascendancy of Trump to the throne…I mean, to the Presidency, I have periodically glanced “over there” to see how differently they cover the news of the day, and occasionally to see what passes for excuses for not covering Trump’s latest hijinks, you know that about all you had to do was count down 3, 2, 1, before they’d utter some variation of a Trump inspired response.

OK, so it took until the next day, but sure enough, on Friday, Hannity tweeted (of course he did…Trump must have been so proud) that Smith was “clueless” about what Hannity does on his show each night. Hannity said he counted Smith as a friend and respected his ability to deliver breaking news, but he wrote that Smith held “political views I do not share.” In the past, Hannity has called Smith “so anti-Trump.”

Laura Ingraham is the most recent addition to the FNC prime time lineup. She tweeted that she “always liked” Smith, but thought his comments critical of Fox News opinion programming were “inconsiderate & inaccurate.” At first blush, that sounded downright snow flakey. How could she possibly be so sensitive and still be a stout representative of the Right? Fake news, I guess.

But there’s more. Yesterday, Ralph Peters, a retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel who served as a military analyst for FNC, in announcing his departure from the network denounced the outlet as a “propaganda machine,” devoted to President Trump. He went on to add that FNC was:

“Wittingly harming our system of government for profit.”

In his stunning internal exit memo, Peters said he felt compelled to explain his leaving the organization to his colleagues before skewering the network he has called home for years. He distilled his thoughts in a nuclear fashion, thusly:

“Four decades ago, I took an oath as a newly commissioned officer. I swore to support and defend the Constitution, and that oath did not expire when I took off my uniform. Today, I feel that Fox News is assaulting our constitutional order and the rule of law, while fostering corrosive and unjustified paranoia among viewers. Over my decade with Fox, I long was proud of the association. Now I am ashamed.”

In Peters’ letter, first reported on by BuzzFeed, and independently confirmed by CNN, Peters said he felt FNC “degenerated from providing a legitimate and much-needed outlet for conservative voices” to morphing into a “mere propaganda machine for a destructive and ethnically ruinous administration.”

Peters called out the Fox News opinion hosts’ relentless attacks on the FBI, Justice Department, intelligence agencies, and other branches of government. He characterized Fox News as harming the country in exchange for making a profit. He went on to emphasize that his criticism did not apply to Fox Business, or the hard news reporters, whom he described as some of the best men and women in the business.

Naturally, FNC came to its own defense. The network issued the following statement last night:

“Ralph Peters is entitled to his opinion despite the fact that he’s choosing to use it as a weapon in order to gain attention. We are extremely proud of our top-rated hosts and all of our opinion programming.”

Clearly, FNC has faced some degree of strife and criticism internally. In October, “Fox News Sunday” anchor Chris Wallace told the Associated Press he was bothered by how some of his colleagues on the opinion side of the network used their platform to attack the media. At this point, it may not be much more than a drip, drip, drip. But the frequency just may be increasing. From my perspective, that’s a good thing. As The Fox World Turns: Mueller Attacked, Smith Claps Back, and Peters Exits!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com. Find a new post each Wednesday.

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Another Week, Another Swamp Denizen, or Two, or Three, Drained

It’s time to Break It Down!

A week ago yesterday Donald Trump’s Chief Economic Adviser, Gary Cohn exited TrumpWorld. Yesterday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was fired-by-tweet. There are many reasons that could have prompted the President to unceremoniously terminate Tillerson’s employment, ranging from his alleged reference to his boss as an “effi’n (full spelling) moron,” (which he subsequently refused to deny), to his opposing opinion about the efficacy of proceeding with plans for Trump to meet directly with North Korea’s Kim Jung-un. In any event, while that was indeed the main event, there was both a bonus, and a double-bonus that were also pretty good; I suppose that’s why they’re called bonus and double bonus.

In addition to firing Tillerson, the administration also fired his top spokesman, Steve Goldstein. Shortly after Trump’s morning tweetocide of Tillerson, Goldstein noted that Tillerson had not spoken directly to the President about the move. He said:

“The Secretary had every intention of remaining because of the tangible progress made on critical national security issues. The Secretary did not speak with the President this morning and is unaware of the reason, but he is grateful for the opportunity to serve, and still believes strongly that public service is a noble calling and not to be regretted.”

Goldstein, it appears, did not get the memo. It’s true Donald Trump appreciates loyalty. However, the complete thought is, Donald Trump appreciates people who are loyal to him. Mr. Goldstein’s display of allegiance to Tillerson, who’d already been dismissed, was clearly a deeply misplaced gesture, from Trump’s perspective. Nevertheless, Goldstein took his own termination with high honor and nobility. He said in his lengthy post termination statement:

“I was proud to speak on behalf of the Secretary of State to the American people and allies throughout the world and this has been the honor of a lifetime.

It’s within the purview, you are appointed by the administration and you are appointed for the time being. That is what is listed on your commission and it is determined by the White House who they want in these roles.

I don’t have regret, other than you always want to try to do more, but I feel proud of what we achieved and I am so impressed by the Secretary of State. He is a truly great man.

I look forward to getting more rest and hopefully winning an indoor rowing competition.”

In yesterday’s final Trump firing – strike three as it were, Trump’s ‘body man’ John McEntee was fired abruptly, and escorted from the White House for security reasons, according to the Wall Street Journal. Representative Elijah Cummings, Democrat – MD wrote about McEntee’s firing:

“This recent report about President Trump’s personal assistant is just the latest indication that the process for vetting White House employees for security issues is seriously flawed.”

Last week, Trump said there is no chaos in the White House, just lots of great energy. Inexplicably, his supporters agree. I do not. I cannot. Full stop!

As 2016 Donald Trump said repeatedly, “Drain the swamp.” That, of course, was the thrust of last week’s post, (https://thesphinxofcharlotte.com/2018/03/07/draining-the-swamp-one-former-trump-appointee-at-a-time/). In a not so surprising way, it’s as though this week is a déjà vu all over again, a “Groundhog Day” the movie, kind of week. The thing is that has quickly become the legacy of TrumpWorld.

A great deal has been made of the tumult, turbulence, and turmoil that unfold on a regular basis, almost solely as a result of the fact that the current occupant of the White House…is the current occupant of the White House. He claims he is ‘Making America Great Again,” and that he is the only one who can. His supporters and spinners insist that he is unduly targeted and unfairly attacked because of his “unconventional” tactics and unfiltered comments. The other 60+% of Americans, including the more than three million more who voted for his opponent rather than him, argue that his rhetoric is crass, demeaning, and filled with hateful flourishes, while his policies are designed to segment and separate groups into competing, often near-warring factions.

George Orwell warned in his dystopian novel, “1984,” that authoritarianism begins with language. In that setting, “newspeak” was language twisted to deceive. From the very onset, Team Trump attempted to use news and language to deceive Americans. Trump’s first Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, alleged on his first day on the job, in his first instance behind the podium, that Trump’s Inauguration was the largest ever. That was a deception, a claim that if made by anyone not representing President Trump, would simply have been called a lie. The administration would go on to double down on this fanciful misrepresentation when Counselor to the President, Kellyanne Conway, characterized Spicer’s depiction as “alternative facts. A rose by any other name, or in that case a lie euphemistically framed.

The President hired Spicer and Conway, so it is understandable that they shill for their guy. After all, they owe him their loyalty, which he unabashedly demands, and their jobs, from which he has been known to threaten to dismiss staffers. However, day before yesterday, the House Intelligence Committee opted summarily to end its Russia investigation. They declined to even consult with the Democrats on the committee before doing so. In explaining the rationale for their decision, spokesmen for the committee said they found no evidence of collusion by the Trump Campaign with the Russians, and that despite the findings of the U.S. intelligence community that the Russians endeavored to help Donald Trump’s campaign, while simultaneously working to undermine Clinton’s, the Committee concluded that the intelligence agencies were simply wrong on that singular point.

Unlike Trump’s appointees, the House members on this committee are elected, and have taken an oath to represent and take actions that reflect the will of the people who sent them to Washington. I suppose they either believe they were elected by the 38% (Trump supporters), and surely some of them were, or that they to are obligated to render fealty to Trump, just as his appointees seem to feel they must do. But, I digress. This brief edition is about the Tillerson imbroglio.

Remember last may when James Comey discovered he was fired from TV, while talking to a group of FBI Agents in Los Angeles? Well, Tillerson’s episode yesterday reflected the next phase, direct from Trump’s favorite social media platform…his Twitter Account. “Another Week, Another Swamp Denizen, or Two, or Three, Drained!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com. Find a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribe, click on Follow in the bottom right hand corner of my Home Page at http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com; enter your e-mail address in the designated space, and click on “Sign me up.” Subsequent editions of “Break It Down” will be mailed to your in-box.

Consult the links below for more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post: