Transparency: Now You See It, Now You Don’t!

It’s time to Break It Down!

Monday night’s first Presidential Debate between Secretary Clinton and billionaire tycoon Donald Trump is in the books. It has been deemed the most watched tete-e-tete in the history of Presidential Debates, with an estimated 84 million viewers, according to CNN. There will be two more debates between the duo competing to become the 45th President of the United States. So while a number of polls, analysts, as well as men and women on the street assessed Clinton to be the winner of the contest, it is worth recalling that Mitt Romney took sitting President Barack Obama to the woodshed in their first debate in 2012, and yet POTUS rallied to prevail in the next two meetings, and to recapture the Presidency.

Meanwhile, it’s been a tough week in my adopted hometown of Charlotte. While the entire state is reeling from the consequences of standing foursquare behind HB 2, familiarly known as the “Bathroom Bill,” in Charlotte, two black men were killed on successive days last Tuesday and Wednesday, civil unrest erupted as protests ensued, Governor McCrory declared a State of Emergency and called out the National Guard, numerous protesters were arrested, and just yesterday, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department was forced to evacuate due to a bomb scare. Suffice it to say, in any number of realms, there is a lot to hold our attention, a lot about which to be concerned, and most certainly, a lot worthy upon which to focus a blog post.

I considered all of the above, and after doing so, I opted to spend a few moments elevating another topic that I believe is critical, or at least should be, to all people who consider themselves concerned about truth, justice, and the American way, particularly as it is practiced in The Old North State (North Carolina, in case you are unfamiliar with the appellation). At a time when African Americans in particular, seem to be under siege and threat of death by what should often be the most routine of police encounters, North Carolina is joining a number of other states in enacting a dubious law, HB 972, that will limit citizens’ access to police video.

The new law goes into effect in North Carolina October 1st (Saturday). In a seemingly ironic twist, a number of states, most importantly (to me), North Carolina among them, have opted to respond to a growing outcry in the wake of black men shot and killed by police by dramatically tamping down public access to police initiated video, including video from dash cameras, and from body cameras. That the official enactment follows so closely the killing of Keith Lamont Scott by a Charlotte police officer simply added more fuel to an already active debate. That debate was further stoked by Chief Kerr Putney’s initial position that he would not release video related to the Scott shooting. In a community with already frayed relations and fleeting trust between community and police, the mere prospect that the Chief would run out the clock until the new law took effect upped the ante and heightened the tension as the protests continued day after day.

To provide some idea of how…and more importantly why concerned citizens have every right to be (concerned), the short title for the law primarily sponsored by Representatives Faircloth, McNeill, Boles, and Hurley is Law Enforcement Recordings (Body-Worn & Dashboard Cameras)/No Public Record. The phrase to the right of the slash, No Public Record pretty much says it all. The idea behind body and dash cameras was that they would help provide a record of law enforcement’s actions when interacting with the public, and establish a basis for ensuring that the rights of citizens engaging law enforcement officers are not abrogated. This new and very unimproved law effectively disconnects the utilization of cameras from protecting the rights of citizens. In effect, in the prevailing environment when citizens are demanding transparency, accountability, and protection of their rights, they will now be thrust into an environment that looks and feels a lot like life before video cameras.

Upon signing HB 972 into law in June, Governor McCrory justified the law by insisting that body-camera footage, along with footage from dash cameras can “mislead and misinform” the public.” In an amazing display of disregard for other peoples’ common sense, the Governor added that the new law, as configured, will actually “ensure transparency.” Of course it will!

The operational framework of HB 972 is stated thusly:


As you can see, in addition to cameras, the law also covers a hypodermic syringe and needle exchange program. The combining of the very unrelated matters appears to be a function of one of those ploys legislators with competing interests use; adding item B as a condition of getting item A. I will not address the syringe/needle portion of the law.

Not surprising, there are those who disagree. Count me among them. According to the tenets of the new law, footage resulting from cameras will be categorized as personnel records. As a result, the only people who are allowed to see the video are those in the video and their relatives. In order for journalists and the public to access video footage, they will have to secure a court order. Even police departments that wish to release video footage on their own aegis will have to seek approval to do so from a state superior court judge. Also, police departments are authorized to deny access to video if they determine that footage will damage an officer’s reputation, harm an investigation, or jeopardize an individual’s safety.

I cannot close this post without including a disclaimer. There are phenomenal men and women in our nation’s police departments. I not only believe that, I know a number of them. Having said that, the rules have been revised to make it much more difficult for the public to benefit from tools that were originally put in place with them in mind.

So why is this matter important…to me personally? Race is pivotal in police shootings. Body cameras and dash cameras are a vital tool in addressing this matter. According to the Washington Post, although black men account for 6 percent of America’s population, they accounted for 40% of the unarmed men shot to death by police in 2015. Interestingly, the majority of instances in which police shot and killed someone with a weapon or who brandished a gun, the person was white. Conversely, a tremendously disproportionate number, 60%, of people killed after exhibiting less threatening behavior were black or Hispanic. So aitch yes, I am concerned about, for all practical purposes, taking cameras out of citizens’ equation for interacting with police. It’s pretty much abracadabra, “Transparency: Now You See It, Now You Don’t”

I’m done; holla back!

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Tragedy in Tulsa…This Time!

It’s time to Break It Down!

This past Friday evening the paths of a Tulsa police officer and an unarmed black man crossed. A short time later, Terence Crutcher was transformed.   He was no longer a stalled motorist seeking help on a Friday night in Oklahoma. No, he was the latest member of one of the most ill fated clubs of all, an unarmed black man, killed by a police officer.

The result was another absolutely harrowing, totally inconsolable and irreparable, yet all too familiar consequence. Most of us have had life altering experiences. Mr. Crutcher, abruptly and I’m fairly certain, unexpectedly, faced the ultimate, a life-ending encounter. Experiences such as his are at the crux of one of our most volatile contemporary national conversations. Similar experiences spawned the Black Lives Matter Movement (#BLM), which in turn served as a catalyst for the Blue Lives Matter Countermovement, which led, indirectly, to the Colin Kaepernick inspired “Not standing for the National Anthem” protests.

This story, like each of those that preceded it, has it’s own specific details. Moreover, every person’s life is indubitably unique and demands its particular solemnity. Yet, it must be said, this tale is merely the next sequence in a continuing saga; a sorrowfully pathetic narrative that we should all find offensive.

So what happened to Terence? Here’s what we know. Allow me to fast forward and begin with the end. A police officer feared for her life. That most often really is the end of the story, an officer in mortal fear. While we do not yet know what the final determination will be, as it relates to this particular installment, we do know that magic phrase is very often a get out/stay out of jail card on par with Dorothy clicking her heels three times and riffing “No place like home, no place like home, no place like home.”

I will not regale you with all the details; here are a few of the pertinent ones as reported by ABC News:

  1. Police received a call regarding a stalled vehicle.
  2. The responding officers did not know whether the driver was armed.
  3. Crutcher’s most recent court records were for traffic violations over 10 years ago.
  4. Since 2007, Tulsa’s officers have been involved in 24 fatal shootings (according to the newspaper Tulsa World).
  5. Officer Betty Shelby, whom police say shot Crutcher, was one of several officers on the scene with guns drawn.
  6. Scott Wood, Officer Shelby’s attorney, said the officer “believed” Crutcher was armed when she shot him.
  7. Officer Shelby’s husband, also a Tulsa police officer, was above the scene in a (police) helicopter, a fact police deemed “a happenstance.
  8. Chief Chuck Jordan called the shooting “very difficult to watch” and has sought an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice.
  9. Police spokesperson Jeannie Mackenzie told reporters Mr. Crutcher “refused to follow commands given by the officers.” She added, “They continued to talk to him. He continued not to listen and follow any commands. As they got closer to the vehicle, he reached inside the vehicle and at that time there was a Taser deployment, and a short time later there was one shot fired.”
  10. Officer Tyler Turnbough, also white, used a stun gun on Mr. Crutcher. It is unclear why one officer drew a stun gun while another drew a handgun against an unarmed man. It also remains unexplained why Mr. Crutcher was considered a threat to multiple armed officers.

Video and audio documentation related to the events leading to Mr. Crutcher’s death were released Monday. Prior to releasing that information, Chief Jordan announced that Mr. Crutcher had no weapon, neither on his person, nor in his vehicle.

The best of the video, taken from a helicopter above the scene, shows Mr. Crutcher walking toward his vehicle with his hands in the air. When he reached the vehicle, he placed his hands on top of his SUV. Dashcam video also appears to corroborate his hands were on top of the SUV. Based on the audio recording, a voice from the helicopter says, “Time for a Taser.”

Another voice can be heard saying, “That looks like a bad dude too. Probably on something.”

The video does not appear to show what might have validated those perceptions. I will decline to speculate whether any of those voices, or the views that accompanied them, came from Officer Shelby’s husband, who as mentioned earlier, was in the helicopter.

What the video does show is that there were three officers standing in a line behind Crutcher, and at least one more standing several feet behind them. As the tape continues to roll, Mr. Crutcher can be seen falling to the pavement. As blood pooled around his body, approximately two minutes appear to pass prior to anyone checked on him.

Danny Williams, a U.S. Attorney indicates there will be a Department of Justice civil rights investigation of the shooting, separate and apart from that conducted by local authorities. He noted:

“The Justice Department is committed to investigating allegations of force by law enforcement officers and will devote whatever resources are necessary to ensure that all allegations of serious civil rights violations are fully and completely investigated.”

Looked at from a variety of angles, and from different cameras, of course, the video appears to show the same disturbing fact pattern. “Yet another” unarmed black man walks down a road, this time in Tulsa, with his hands in the air. Police follow behind him closely until he reaches his vehicle, where he stands momentarily. Then, he falls to the ground after one of the officers pulls the trigger.

As for Attorney Wood’s assertion that Officer Shelby feared Mr. Crutcher was reaching for a gun inside the car, Benjamin Crump, a member of the Crutcher family’s legal team, observed at a news conference that, “the vehicle window was rolled up…making it highly unlikely he was reaching into the vehicle.”

This story will continue to unfold for some time. The details vary from incident to incident, for sure, but the theme is worth noting, and repeating.  I am compelled to remind all who read this post of what strikes me as a super vivid irony.  Monday Ahmad Khan Rahami, suspected of several terrorist bombings in New York and New Jersey over the weekend, was captured alive and arrested…after a shootout with authorities, while Friday night, Terence Crutcher, unarmed, was killed by the officers he encountered. Today we observe, in respectful repose, “Tragedy in Tulsa…This Time!” It’s the “this time” that serves as a not subtle at all reminder, #BLM!

I’m done; holla back!

P.S. While I was writing this post, a police shooting and immediate fallout were unfolding here in my own City, CLT. It was tempting to switch horses in midstream and write a hometown story. However, the Tulsa story was further developed, and more facts were immediately available. I will say, pray for Charlotte, and especially the family of the deceased. You can check for the still unfolding details here:

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Downright Deplorable: Accompanied by the Stats to Back it Up!

It’s time to Break It Down!

On a day when the country was focused on the horrors of 9/11 and on honoring the 2,977 victims (not including the 19 hijackers), and also a day when both major Party candidates were scheduled to be off the campaign trail, it is difficult to imagine how one of them could actually go a long way toward upstaging the thematic focus of the day. But one did…and to my personal surprise, it was not one named Donald Trump. Yikes!

Hillary Clinton, who was diagnosed with having pneumonia last Friday, but instead of following her doctor’s orders to rest, opted to try to power through. A decision she has since admitted did not work out so well. Although, apparently, she was forced to make this admission only after she got “overheated” at a 9/11 event in NY this past Sunday, the 15th Anniversary of that fateful day.

I first wrote about the catastrophic details of that day on the 10th Anniversary in 2011, and reprised it in 2013 (in a post entitled “Calling All Patriots; Nine-Eleven Ten Years Later” (, when the blog posted on the Anniversary date. Today’s brief reference was intended to provide a highly appropriate nod to the seriousness of that day, to the degree to which Americans rallied after the tragedy, and to acknowledge that we continue to pay tribute to nearly 3,000 lives senselessly lost to terrorism. Mrs. Clinton’s ill-timed health scare was just an unfortunate coincidence that warranted mentioning, primarily due to the irony that she planned for it to be low key, no fuss kind of day. So perhaps it’s true, “The best-laid plans of mice and men oft go astray.”

Alternately, the Title of today’s post draws from a comment Hillary Clinton made last Friday at a rally in New York. According to a report from Time Magazine, she said:

Half of Donald Trump’s supporters belong in a “basket of deplorables” characterized by “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic” views.

The statement, quite possibly made after her physician recommended rest, has sparked quite the kerfuffle. Team Trump has attempted to frame it as on par with Mitt Romney’s 47% gaffe. The entire statement is:

“You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right?” Clinton said. “The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic—you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up.”

Now, as quiet as it has been kept, that is not all she said. In that Time Magazine story it was also noted that she said:

“The other half of Trump’s supporters feel that the government has let them down” and are desperate for change. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.”

I like the Trumpsian spin. There are a couple of reasons why I like this move. First, the facts justify the remark. Admittedly, it was impolitic for Clinton to say it. However, that doesn’t make it a false statement. What’s wrong with a little truth telling? After all, isn’t it Trump and his supporters who are always railing against political correctness?

Let’s attempt to put this in some degree of context. Mr. Trump has:

  • Called Americans stupid
  • Called for a Muslims ban
  • Called for monitoring Mosques
  • Called for a Wall separating Mexico from the U.S.
  • Called Mexicans rapists (while stating maybe some are good),
  • Asked blacks what the hell have they got to lose
  • Praised Putin
  • Praised Saddam Hussein
  • Assailed a “Mexican” Judge, who is actually American, because of his heritage
  • Offered to pay legal fees of supporters who attacked protesters at his rallies
  • Taunted a journalist with disabilities
  • Conveniently failed to remember who David Duke was after choosing not to run himself as a member of the Reform Party…because of David Duke’s involvement
  • Acted as Birther-in-Chief; insisted President Obama was not born in America
  • Implied President Obama is a Muslim
  • Accused POTUS of having founded ISIS/ISIL

*Refused to apologize for any of the above…in fact, tried to spin much of it as logical, normal, or otherwise, perfectly reasonable

So if Trump, who appears to have winked and nodded at David Duke and his ilk, in an effort to curry favor with that segment of the electorate, chooses to insert himself into the conversation about deplorables, he must at some point accept the role that he so expertly defined for himself. Well, the truth is he doesn’t really have to accept it, but if the voters are paying any attention whatsoever, they will see it for themselves, which is more important anyway.

The second reason I like Mr. Trump’s protestation is because a number of journalists are finding their voices and pointing out the obvious; the Trump campaign has consistently stoked, promoted, and yes provoked the flames of anger, blame, hatred, bigotry, and racism that a number of Americans, mostly white, coincidentally, harbor. One of those journalists, Washington Post Columnist Dana Milbank, framed it thusly:

“As a matter of statistics, it is probably true that people expressing racist sentiment … constitute more than half of Trump supporters,”

In an interview with on CNN’s “Newsroom,” Milbank effectively told Brook Baldwin that, half, the only aspect of the comment that Clinton apologized for, was likely understating the case. About that he said:

“More than half of Trump’s supporters display racist or bigoted tendencies”, according to data collected by the American National Election Studies. He went on to add, “You actually can unpack those numbers. It’s really quite shocking. Something like 62% of white voters have these sorts of sentiments, and by better than two-to-one, they vote Republican.”

I understand very well, no one wants to be called, thought of, or in anyway characterized as racist. I suppose that is especially true of Trump supporters, since he has directly appealed to their sense of righteous indignation over the Clinton comments. That is all well and good. It would be a considerably more compelling argument if Team Trump were as diligent in distancing itself from some of its many statements and actions of record. Unfortunately, in the America that Trump and many of his supporters harken back to in order to make America “Great Again,” we would return to the pre-civil rights era when the Constitution and the rights it ensures were largely deemed the sole province of white men.

In addition to Mr. Milbank, a number of journalists of color have also weighed in on the deplorable state of Trump backers. The list of luminaries includes Ta-Nahisi Coates of the Atlantic, Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post, Charles Blow of the New York Times, Bakari Sellers of CNN, Juan Williams of Fox News, and James Boule of Slate. Boule in particular had this to say on “Face the Nation:”

“But ‘half’ wasn’t wrong. ‘Half’ wasn’t a gross generalization at all. ‘Half’ was by all indications close to the truth. . . .”

“I’m inclined — so I’m inclined to see it as strategy and not so much as a gaffe because when I heard the remark, my first question was, well, is this true, right? Regardless of how it sounds or what it looks like, is it actually — what is the case about Donald Trump’s supporters?”

“And if you break down the numbers and you look at the Real Clear Politics average and that gives Trump about 43 percent of the registered voters. It was about 30, 31 million people. Compare that to polls that show 65 to 70 percent of all Republicans who say that Barack Obama either wasn’t born in the United States or is a Muslim. You look at pilot data from the American National Election Study and it shows upward of 40 percent of Republicans saying things like, blacks are more violent, blacks are lazier, Muslims are more violent, Muslims are lazier.”

“Among Trump supporters in particular, 60, 50, 70 percent of them agree with statements that political scientists categorize as being explicitly racist. So I’m — I’m looking at Clinton’s statement and half, which is about 31 million people again, doesn’t really seem that out of bounds. Forty to 50 percent of Republicans I would say, looking at the full spectrum of data, agree with beliefs that we would categorize as explicitly prejudiced. So regardless of whether or not Clinton needs [to] walk it back or not, I think she’s being correct and accurate. . . .”

I have previously written about the pretzel-like contortions many Republicans have resorted to, ostensibly because of Trump. A number of prominent members of the GOP have called Trump’s words or actions deplorable, or worse, or words to that effect. Yet, they still find themselves locked into a position of saying they will vote for him, either in an effort to save the GOP Congressional majority, salvage their own re-election bids…or both. That’s politics; I understand. But none of that does anything to make Hillary’s “Basket of deplorables” any less real. An that is, Downright Deplorable: Accompanied by the Stats to Back it Up!”

I’m done, holla back!

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Labor Day – Three Years Later, Actually Five Years Now

It’s time to Break It Down!

(This post appeared originally in this space on August 31, 2011. It was re-purposed and presented again September 3, 2014. Today, September 7, 2016, it has been edited and updated to reflect the most recent unemployment data.)

Monday was Labor Day.  At its core, According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Labor Day in the United States was designed to commemorate the creation of the labor movement; dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers.  The holiday focuses on contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well being of our country.

First observed in September 1882, the event has always been observed on the first Monday of the month.  Initiated by the Central Labor Union of New York, the celebration became a federal holiday in 1894.

In addition to its formal structure and purpose, Labor Day has a number of symbolic associations.  It is considered:

  • The unofficialEnd of Summer
  • The last 3-Day warm weather weekend for vacationers
  • By High Society standards, the last day for which it is appropriate for women to wear white
  • The beginning of the College Football Season (the preceding Saturday)
  • The start of the NFL Season (typically the following Thursday; this year, the previous)
  • The conventional kick-off of hard core political campaign season (which this year includes a Presidential Election)
  • Backto-School shopping

On the formal side, while the Labor Department’s blurb omits any reference to it, Labor Day also validates and recognizes an often controversial mechanism that frequently divides American opinion; the labor union.  Scorned by many who fancy themselves as Free Enterprise Capitalists, unions and their members have not only been actively involved historically, in debates that framed public policy for American workers, they have won or forced hard-earned concessions that in the shimmering glow of reflective perspective, must be considered to have fundamentally altered the playing field (known as the workplace), including:

  • Pensions
  • Health Care Benefits
  • Paid Vacations
  • Equal Pay to women
  • The Development of Child Labor Laws
  • The 5-Day Work Week
  • The 40-Hour Work Week
  • The 8-Hour Work Day
  • Worker’s Compensation benefits
  • Female Flight Attendants permitted to marry

These and many other important cherished and effective employee rights are attributable to the efforts of the American Labor Movement.  But, this is not an ode to Labor UnionsUnions also have downsides.  They create or contribute to:

  • The potential for strikes
  • Additional costs to all employees (membership dues; whether a member or not)
  • Loss of individuality (ability to represent one’s self in a grievance)
  • Subject to fines & discipline by the Union
  • Disincentives to productivity and competition
  • Lack of promotions
  • Burdensome salary demands (relative to the market)
  • Loss of profits (and/or pay) due to strike
  • Inefficient & ineffective contracts
  • Increased unemployment due to failure to reach agreement w/management

The first Labor Day celebration was led by a Labor Union.  The history of the Day has been linked, inextricably, with Labor organizations, ever since.  But if it is the American Worker the Day was intended to commemorate, Labor Day 2011 was set in an auspicious and trenchant backdrop:

  • The Unemployment Rate in the U.S. was reported to be 9.1% in July 2011
  • The economy added only 117,000 jobs in July (154,000 in the private sector, -37,000 government jobs lost); better than expected, but still a dismally low number
  • Businesses are stockpiling $2 trillion in cash

Three years hence, the picture, thankfully, was much improved:

  • The Unemployment Rate in the U. was reported to be 6.2% in July 2014
  • The economy added 209,000 jobs in July 2014
  • (August2014 employment data will be released the first Friday in September)


In 2011, President Obama, announced after the Debt Ceiling Deal on August 2nd, that he would present a jobs proposal for Congress to consider, and was set to do so, after Labor Day, (on September 8th).  The proposal included a combination of tax cuts, spending on infrastructure, and measures designed to assist the long-term unemployed, while bolstering certain sectors of the economy.  This potion sounds eerily similar to the ideas Democrats proposed when negotiating the Debt Deal.

Republicans were lined up to oppose the plan, suggesting instead, among other things, a Balanced Budget Amendment; a balm the GOP/Tea Party also suggested during the Debt Deal negotiation.  In short, there was little expectation for significant movement, or the adoption of sweeping legislation to address the lack of jobs in America…and there wasn’t.  What we had instead was, déjà vu…all over, again!  Then, I was compelled to ask, “Labor Day: Where Is The Celebration?” Fast forward three years, and the truth is the labor dynamics in this country have improved appreciably. However, our country is still beset by challenges.

Each day we are faced with a series of old, and it seems developing challenges abroad. Syrian, Iraq, the Ukraine, Russia, North Korea, China, Somalia, are all global hot spots, just to name a few. Then of course, there is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the burgeoning by ISIS/ISIL, also known as the Islamic State. And oh yeah, we are still winding down in Afghanistan.

In the August 2016 Jobs Report, issued September 2, 2016, the nation’s Job’s Report has continued to improve:

  • The Unemployment Rate in the U.S. was reported at 4.9%
  • The economy added 151,000 jobs in August 2016
  • Paychecks grew 2.4% compared to a year ago
  • Jobs Growth record extended to 78 consecutive months

August job growth is historically volatile, and is the slowest month for job growth since the Reports have been published. The increase in jobs was notable, but not as substantial as the 275,000 in July. While the number was disappointing, it was not surprising, given the trend for the month of August.  Moreover, the number more than doubles the 5-year average for the month of August, which is 71,000. It is also important to add, the Unemployment Rate remained below 5%.

Unlike in 2011, in 2014, and again Monday, in my opinion, Labor day brought us more of a day of respite and reflection in honor of our country’s Labor Movement. On top of all that don’t forget, as the sixth bullet from the top advises, the conventional kick-off of the hard-core political campaign season is upon us. The General Election is just 62 days away, and with it, the selection of our next President just nine weeks from yesterday. By all means be sure to exercise your franchise; vote.

It’s “Labor Day – Three Years Later, Actually Five Years Now,” and while we’ve got plenty of issues to temper our celebration, we should indeed celebrate America’s phenomenal Labor Movement. I’m done; holla back!

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Star Spangled Protest: The Verse You Missed

It’s time to Break It Down!

The challenges of living in and leveraging the dynamic opportunities of a multicultural society such as that found in the United States of America are many. There are more reasons for that than I could ever address adequately in any single blog post. Today I will take a brief look at our nation’s Anthem, and examine several “Key” related points, pun intended, including the man who penned it, the little known third verse, the antipathy toward black athletes who dare point out the inconsistencies and/or inequities related to the fundamentals of our Constitution, its Amendments, our Creed, and of course, the Anthem.

I cannot begin to recall how many times I have heard Conservatives remind us that ours is an exceptional nation. This characterization implies an unimpeachable blessing bestowed upon us by no less than the almighty God, an inherent righteousness assigned to any and all causes that America deigns to endorse, as well as an irreducible validation of our systems and values, e.g., Capitalism, Free Enterprise, and the irresistible force that is the power of the United States Military Industrial Complex.

Since this past weekend we have engaged in a national dialogue, much of it digitally, about an NFL player opting not to stand for the National Anthem. Colin Kaepernick is a member of the San Francisco 49’ers, in fact a quarterback who incidentally is currently not projected as a starter at his position. Mr. Kaepernick cited his concern about blacks dying in the streets and officers getting paid leave, which is frequently the most onerous consequence to them, resulting from their actions.

Kaepernick is an African American, the son of a white mother and a black father. He was adopted and raised by white parents. Not surprisingly, as has come to be the norm, social media has erupted over this so-called controversy. Many critics across racial lines have suggested that neither the timing, nor the venue in which he expressed his stated concerns was appropriate. As you might imagine, he drew pointed ire from Veterans and Veterans’ groups. Moreover, he attracted a spate of racial epithets from a number of white people.

It is also important to note that some Veterans supported him, and others at least supported his right to exercise his First Amendment rights; a point I will come back to later. At least one Veteran’s group also extended its support, and it must be observed, not all whites thought he was wrong to express the sentiments he did.

America is an exceedingly complex society. It has been that way since the outset, and when one looks back at our evolution and development as a nation state, it is fair to say at this juncture, our complexity increases almost daily. We used to describe our country as a melting pot. Subsequent metaphors many of us adopted for a time included a tossed salad, and a quilt. Today, we are comprised of a global consortium of interconnected communities representing every corner of the world. We are rapidly approaching that magical moment when white people will no longer represent the majority of the American population. Undoubtedly, there are those who submit that when that barrier is crossed, we will no longer be great. Sigh!

Consider that backdrop when you evaluate Kaepernick’s actions and comments. The comments and the varied responses are a reflection of a broadening chasm between people who look at America and see an Empire receding rapidly from a glorious past, and those who view a burgeoning giant ready to rise triumphantly into a brilliant future marked by immeasurable contributions from our growing diverse communities. The contrast is almost as stark as the distinction between isolationist Maoist China and the American society that boldly embraced the notion of E Pluribus Unum (Out of many, one).

Colin Kaepernick’s battle is neither his alone, nor a new one. As recently as two weeks ago during the 2016 Summer Olympics, American Gymnast Gabby Douglas was flayed because as she stood (and she did stand) on the Medal Stand with her four Olympic teammates, she did not place her hand over her heart, as her teammates did during the Anthem. She did not announce any protest, before or after her appearance, and in fact later apologized for having been a distraction. Nevertheless, her action, or lack thereof, became a huge issue. By the same token, in those same Olympics, American Wrestlers similarly did not place their hands on their hearts, and (are you surprised) there was no furor. Now if I note that Ms. Douglas was black and the Wrestlers were white, someone will ask, why does everything have to be racialized? I not only agree, I would ask, why didn’t anyone think of that before singling out the black American Gymnast…but not the white American Wrestlers? I’m just saying!

But this is bigger, much bigger than that. When Muhammad Ali declared himself a conscientious objector in 1967 and refused to serve in the Vietnam War, he was effectively pilloried. He lost his Title as the Heavyweight Boxing Champion, his boxing license, his passport, and three of what could have been the most productive years in his boxing career, spanning from ages 25 to nearly 29. If only there had been the Internet and social media in that era, I can only imagine the fallout that would have resulted.

It did not take long for the next episode. At the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, American Track and Field Team members Tommie Smith, the fastest man in the world at the time, and John Carlos each wore a black glove and black socks as they raised their arms in a salute to unity with people fighting internationally for human rights around the world when  they received their Gold and Bronze Medals, respectively. Smith actually set a World Record in the race (200 Meters) that would last for eleven years. The two were immediately sent home and faced significant fallout for the duration of their careers. While many of us know this, a lesser known footnote about that race is Silver Medalist Peter Norman, of Australia, also felt moved by the two runners support of global human rights, and also wore a badge in support for the effort. His career was also forever affected by that fateful act. Australia had it’s own issues and operated a system similar to South African Apartheid that affected the country’s Aborigines. Norman was never permitted to compete for Australia again.

Decades later, Ali, at his funeral earlier this year was honored and given a hero’s Rites. His actions from 50 years ago are viewed through a different lens these days. Even Smith and Carlos’ actions today generally receive favorable reviews by most Americans. It’s difficult to predict if Kaepernick will be looked at similarly at some point in the future.

But there’s more. The Anthem itself must be assessed in its fullness, rather than based on just the single verse that is sung at most events. Francis Scott Key, wrote the Anthem during a battle at Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland, September 13-14, 1813. Like many of the notable Southern elites of his time, Key was a slave owner. He was a Marylander, and yes, Maryland is a Southern State. The infamous Mason-Dixon Line runs through the state; more accurately, it separates Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Most folks have no idea the Star Spangled Banner has four verses. The song was originally a poem, “The Defence of Fort McHenry.” The third verse rather graphically and pointedly speaks to spilling the blood of slaves and sending them to their graves. Yes, that was indeed a sign of the times, but now…is not then! When I reflect upon it, I find it surprising that many more people, especially African Americans, do not stand or cover their heart during the Anthem…and I’m reasonably sure if more people knew the history, there would be less acquiescence with the rituals. Here’s hoping this post spreads the word. See verse three below, and after verse three the Anthem in its entirety:

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore

That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,

A home and a country should leave us no more!

Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.

No refuge could save the hireling and slave

From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:

And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!”


The Star Spangled Banner Lyrics

By Francis Scott Key 1814


Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light

What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?

Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,

O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?

And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,

Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.

Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?


On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,

Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,

What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,

As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?

Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,

In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:

‘Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!


And where is that band who so vauntingly swore

That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,

A home and a country should leave us no more!

Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.

No refuge could save the hireling and slave

From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:

And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!


Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand

Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!

Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land

Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.

Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,

And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”

And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

All things considered, there are many vexing issues related to this dust-up. There is of course, the disparate treatment of America’s black and white athletes when they run afoul of Anthem Rituals. It is also unfathomable how any person prone to a balanced perspective could ignore the implications of a slave owner’s theme song adopted as the country’s national standard. Finally, there is the issue of honoring those who serve.

I did not serve, but I do have a number of Veterans in my family. I love, honor and respect each and every one of them. But let’s be clear, they and every man and woman who served and fought, did so for our freedoms…all of them. Specifically, they did not fight just for the Second Amendment. Yes, we have the right to bear arms. But without question, they also fought for the First Amendment, which if you are counting, comes before the Second. This means you; I, and Colin Kaepernick all have Freedom of Speech. As such, he is not only able to sit during the National Anthem, he may do so knowing that those who serve do so in order to ensure that he can do just that. So, the next time this issue arises, be mindful of the…Star Spangled Protest: The Verse You Missed!”

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“What The Aitch Do You Have To Lose?”

It’s time to Break It Down!

Though it’s been three weeks since I’ve written about 2016 Presidential Politics, the Campaign has indeed continued apace. Both Parties have held their respective Conventions and are gearing up to do battle for the next seventy days or so.

For her part, Team Clinton continues, and I would expect will for the duration of the campaign, to absorb hits about her use of email, this time involving the Clinton Foundation. Mr. Trump has gone so far as to refer to emails that appear to connect the Foundation, Secretary Clinton, and wealthy donors seeking meetings as evidence of a Pay-to-Play scheme. He has called for a Special Prosecutor to be named to investigate the matter. Needless to say, that would be a very convenient outcome, from his perspective.

For his part, Team Trump has found itself in an interesting position. After having an eventful, though largely positive (for him) Republican National Convention, he received a significant 6-point bounce the following week that saw him surpass Hillary in the Polls going into the week of the Democratic National Convention. Then came the Democratic Convention, which brought its own 7-point bounce, which catapulted Mrs. Clinton back into a lead in most Polls.

Then things really got interesting. The Trump Campaign hit a number of sour notes, including one with a Gold Star Family. The offshoot in summary was many of the Polls were unkind to Mr. Trump. He trailed by double digits in several, including in some states where Republicans are expecting to contend, or even to have a slight advantage, such as Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

It is clear the Trump Campaign found these developments unsettling. So with roughly 80 days to go before Election Day, Team Trump undertook it’s second significant shake-up and installed it’s third new Leadership Team. This time Paul Manafort, who in the spring replaced Corey Lewandowski as Campaign Chair, was displaced on August 17th, by the duo of Kellyanne Conway, Campaign Chair, and Stephen Bannon, Campaign CEO. Conway is the head of her own Polling Firm, and Bannon is a former executive at Breitbart News.

I may be one of the few people who truly believes this is still genuinely a race. I absolutely think Donald Trump continues to have a viable shot, no pun intended Second Amendment people, at becoming the 45th POTUS. Let me be clear, I think Mrs. Clinton will win. However, today anyway, I feel given the amount of time left, and the number of unknown variables that may still impact the outcome, Donald J. Trump still has a puncher’s chance. And he’s obviously going to keep flailing away.

Today though, I want to take a moment to examine one of Mr. Trump’s most recent cavalier (in my opinion, anyway) premises. This should not take long. Last Thursday, Donald Trump came to Charlotte, NC and among other things launched his initial pitch to African Americans. The next day in Dimondale, Michigan, Trump continued to hone, refine, and embolden his pitch to the African American community. Recent polls suggest he is polling 1 to 2 percent nationally among African Americans, and actually zero in a couple of swing states, Pennsylvania and Ohio. With metrics like that, it is easy enough to understand why he would consider targeting, again, no pun intended Second Amendment people, African Americans as a group with whom he would like to expand his support.

With that disclaimer, it is important to note a couple of distinct issues:

  • The first is that Mr. Trump chose to issue his most passionate plea to date for African American support in, as I noted above, Dimondale, Michigan. Dimondale, according to the 2010 Census is 93% white, and includes 9, as in one less than 10, African Americans, which translates into .73%. To be clear, that is less than three quarters of one percent.
  • The second point I want to elevate is the language Mr. Trump chose to use to implore support among African Americans. He said, and I quote, “What the hell do you have to lose?” That is the more indelicate version of today’s title. Fine, call the title politically correct, if you must. But to be sure, the larger point here is, whether Donald Trump, his surrogates, his supporters, and his newly minted Campaign Leadership Team realize and appreciate, there are millions of African Americans who not only take great exception to the brazen temerity of the query, but who would be happy to respond…if only he would come to some location that actually presented him with an audience of living, breathing African Americans.

While I think the question is disrespectful, he upped the ante on the downright ludicrous by insisting if elected, in his 2020 reelection bid, he would actually garner more than 95% of the black vote. OK, if, as Mr. Trump eventually claimed, his insistence that President Obama founded ISIS was sarcasm, his black vote assertion, on its face, is sheer hyperbole. President Obama, in his reelection bid attracted 93% of the black vote. For Mr. Trump to fix his mouth to say he would better that is laughable. Hilarious in fact!

This has been a fairly popular discussion over the course of the past several days. In winding down this conversation, I will leave you with three responses, including one of my own, to Mr. Trump’s presumptuous sounding question. Before I get to the responses, let me expand on the meaning of “presumptuous sounding.” It is a fairly common consensus that Mr. trump is really not seeking to expand or increase his support among African Americans. Instead, he is executing a strategy to increase his level of palatability among white voters, many of whom have expressed the notion that he is not Presidential, that many of his rants are racist and or bigoted, and that his proposed Muslim ban and wall separating us from Mexico are in a word, contemptuous.

Now, here are responses from two of my friends and me regarding “what we have to lose:”

  1. JW said, ”Donald Trump paints a bleak picture of Black Americans and asks, “What the hell do you have to lose?” Join me in the self portrait of a Black man’s what’s to lose challenge: This Black man is a comfortably retired Ph. D, all five kids college educated, two with advanced degrees, living in a country club community, multi-lingual, no arrest records, a registered Democrat and veteran. What’s to lose? My standing as an intelligent individual with a full serving of political integrity. Chime in brothers…”
  2. KW said, ”Trump’s assertion requires critical analysis. Let’s start with my immediate family: I am a product of Detroit public schools. I have three college degrees including a Masters Degree in Organizational Management. My wife is a product of public schools in her hometown. She has two college degrees including a Bachelors of Science degree. One of our daughters graduated from college at the age of 17! She earned two more degrees from UCLA (a public university). Our oldest daughter has three college degrees. Our 22-year-old son has two college degrees and will earn a third degree in May 2017. Our youngest daughter earns her first college degree in May 2017 and she will be 19 years old. So: earned degrees in the Williams household: 13 to date with two more expected in May 2017. Oh, I forgot. That’s impossible because we are all Black. I also forgot to mention all 13 degrees were conferred with honors ranging from Cum Laude to Summa Cum Laude. Trump: Get away from me with that minutia. You embarrass Republicans and Americans. BTW: what college did your wife graduate from??? Feel free to share this. I wrote and approved this message.”
  3. I said, ”African American, two degrees, 34+ year career in public service, retired, blogger, with some definite ideas about what’s at stake if African Americans and America gamble on Donald Trump. I think Mr. Trump is simultaneously pandering to blacks while enflaming the white racist voting bloc, in an effort to offset the lack of support he is sure to garner from us. Such racist and bigoted appeals are certain to harden the shell that already makes life challenging for black folks trying to navigate our society. And then, there is this… Of course you already know this, but you may not have seen it here.”

In case you were contemplating whether Donald Trump is sarcastic or just full of…call it hyperbole (to keep it clean), this discussion sums it up pretty well, in my opinion. In fact, the post responds even more cogently to the inquiry, “What The Aitch Do You Have To Lose?”

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Obama Plays the Inexperience Card

It’s time to “Break It Down!”


Last week, in the spirit of the Olympics, I reprised a Gabby Douglas story from four years ago, primarily due to the fact a number of folks just couldn’t let it go, when it came to Gabby’s tresses. Today, partly due to the Olympics, which are now in full swing, and partly to acknowledge the anniversary of “Break It Down,” I am revisiting my inaugural post.

Tempus fugit (Time Flies)!  Saturday will mark another significant milestone in the life and development of “Break It Down!”  I initiated this blog August 20, 2007, on a lark…almost a dare.  That was nine years (and 476 editions) ago.  Having related the story several times over the past several years, I will not repeat the complete details today.

I will note that on that summer’s eve, I contemplated, in five paragraphs, the experience, or in reality the lack thereof, of then Senator Barack Obama, as he navigated the early stages of his historic Presidential Campaign.  The prodigious parameters of that history were not evident at the time.  To be sure, over the next 14-½ months, he bested the odds and won not only the Democratic Nomination, but also the Presidency.  In so doing, my lack of conviction, along with that of many others, in Mr. Obama’s ability to claim the nation’s biggest political prize exposed for what it was; a patently errant assessment.

I want to make one more note about the blog.  In addition to this week marking the Sixth Anniversary of Break It Down, this week’s post commemorates the Four-year Anniversary of my using WordPress as my primary Host Platform.  The link, is simpler and more straightforward than the Blogger (Blogspot) link,  The site design and presentation at Word Press is cleaner, and less busy than the one at Blogger.  Please note, while I may migrate Break It Down exclusively to WordPress, the blog remains available at both sites for the foreseeable future.

So this was the message in Post #1, five brisk paragraphs and a sign-off:

In an apparent calculated act of derring-do, Obama declares the virtue of inexperience. Gotta love it!   ;-)

Personal footnote of recollection: I recall Jimmy Carter running the “anti-Washington” (i.e., lack of Capitol Hill experience) campaign in ’75-76. You know what, it worked.

The problem was, once JC sent all the reigning bureaucrats & policy wonks home, he was left with an assembly of newbies who didn’t understand how to get things done in DC. The result was a very smart guy, genuine humanitarian, and erstwhile successful leader presided over a disastrous presidency, fraught with innumerable policy failures (see the Shah of Iran, double-digit inflation, & the outrageous Interest/Mortgage rate morass) and public relations gaffes (remember the killer rabbit, and the failed helicopter gambit).

Fortunately for him he was able to live long enough and subsequently do enough good deeds to distance himself from most of an unremarkable tenure as a one-term president, followed by a resounding defeat by that cowboy actor Teflon guy.

Of course none of that has anything to do with Obama…except in the unlikely even he prevails, let’s hope he doesn’t take that inexperience thing too far. As W constantly reminds us, getting to the White House is one thing (after all, he’s done it twice), providing prudent and effective leadership once there is quite another.


Posted on Mon, Aug. 20, 2007

Just for perspective, see a story the news carried on the subject that day:


Obama posits virtue of inexperience

What rivals criticize as naiveté, he presents as break from status quo


Associated Press

DES MOINES, Iowa –Democrat Barack Obama on Sunday tried to parlay his relative lack of national experience into a positive attribute, chiding his rivals for adhering to “conventional thinking” that led the country to war and has divided the country.

In their latest debate, the candidates also said they favored more federal action to address economic woes that have resulted from a housing slump and tighter credit. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson called the current financial crisis “the Katrina of the mortgage-lending industry.”

Prodded by moderator George Stephanopoulos at the outset of the debate, Obama’s rivals critiqued his recent comments on Pakistan and whether he would meet with foreign leaders — including North Korea’s head of state — without conditions.

“To prepare for this debate I rode in the bumper cars at the state fair,” the first-term senator from Illinois said to laughter and applause from the audience at Drake University.

The debate capped an intense week of politicking in Iowa, an early voting state in the process of picking a nominee. The Iowa State Fair is a magnet for White House hopefuls each presidential election.

Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., directly addressing a question about Obama’s relative inexperience, said: “You’re not going to have time in January of ’09 to get ready for this job.” Dodd has served in Congress for more than 30 years.

Former Sen. John Edwards said Obama’s opinions “add something to this debate.” But Edwards said politicians who aspire to be president should not talk about hypothetical solutions to serious problems.

“It effectively limits your options,” Edwards said.

Obama said he could handle the rigors of international diplomacy and noted that many in the race, including Dodd, Edwards and Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Joe Biden, voted to authorize the Iraq war in 2002.

“Nobody had more experience than Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney and many of the people on this stage that authorized this war,” Obama said. “And it indicates how we get into trouble when we engage in the sort of conventional thinking that has become the habit in Washington.”

The debate, hosted and broadcast nationally by ABC, took place less than five months before Iowa caucus-goers begin the process of selecting the parties’ presidential nominees.

As we reflect upon the Campaign of 2008 it really does harken the recognition of how swiftly time and events pass.  Indeed, I am reminded, especially, of how a supremely confident Senator from Illinois approached his moment.  I shall always recall that it propelled me to write the words, “Obama Plays the Inexperience Card!” Needless to say, he has gained an enormous amount of experience in the intervening years.

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link:

Find a new post each Wednesday.

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