The Long Arc of the Moral Universe: Is That Karma I’m Seeing?

It’s time to Break It Down!

As I hear, speak, read, and write about, and watch the current events of the day unfold, it has become increasingly evident over the past few years that the ideological chasm that divides our country is deep, wide, and firmly entrenched. For example, if you like #45, or perhaps more pointedly, if you dislike Hillary Clinton, there is apparently nothing that the Commander-in-Chief can do or say to cause you to second guess, or regret the fact you voted for him, and/or that he won. A number of polls suggest that up to 96% of the people who voted him have no regrets, and that only 2% do.

A never-ending series of counter-positioned narratives began emerging as soon as he was inaugurated. The Administration started spinning immediately. The day after the Inauguration reports surfaced claiming the crowd gathered on the National Mall was the largest in history. At his maiden press briefing, Sean Spicer, White House press secretary attacked the media (a recurring theme), accusing them of deliberately misleading the public about the size of the new administration’s inauguration crowd. As Mr. Spicer put it:

“Photographs of the inaugural proceedings were intentionally framed in a way, in one particular Tweet, to minimize the enormous support that had gathered on the National Mall. That was the largest audience to witness an inauguration, period. Both in person and around the globe.”

The press secretary offered scant facts to disprove the media reports of comparatively low turnout, and most of it was misleading or inaccurate. The overall contention that the 2017 inaugural drew the “largest audience” ever is just untrue.

Among Spicer’s flawed assertions were, he claimed:

  • It was the first time floor coverings were used to protect the grass on the Mall. It was not. The coverings were used in 2013.
  • It was the first time usage of fencing and magnetometers on the Mall for preventing hundreds of thousands of people from being able to access the mall as quickly as in the past. False. According to a 2017 Congressional Research Service screening magnetometers, or metal detectors, have been used in past inaugurations. The claim was further disputed by New York Times reporter Michael Schmidt, who tweeted that two unnamed law enforcement officials told him “Magnetometers were not used in the areas of the of the Mall that Spicer indicated.

Spicer chastised the press for tweeting out “inaccurate numbers involving crowd size:”

  • “No one had numbers because the National Park Service, which controls the National Mall, does not put any out. We do know a few things. So let’s go through the facts.”
  1. We know the platform from where the President was sworn in to 4th Street holds about 250,000 people
  2. From 4th Street to the media tent is about another 220,000.
  3. From the media tent to the Washington Monument, another 250,000 people.
  • “All of this space was full when the President took the oath of office.”

Many news organizationsincluding PolitiFact, note that it’s difficult to gauge crowd size. The National Park Service discontinued the practice in the National Mall after the Million Man March in 1995. If Mr. Spicer’s claims of full spaces were correct, which photographs contradict, it would put the crowd size at least 720,000, which is higher than the preliminary estimates reported in the media, but on par with the 700,000 to 900,000 organizers expected to attend. #45 touted 1.5 million on January 21 at CIA headquarters.

The catch is that still would not be the top figure.

Here are the attendance estimates for the 2017 and 7 previous inaugurations:

Inauguration Estimated attendance 
Trump, 2017 250,000 to 600,000
Barack Obama, 2013 1 million
Obama, 2009 1.8 million
George W. Bush, 2005 400,000
Bush, 2001 300,000
Bill Clinton, 1997 250,000
Clinton, 1993 800,000
George H.W. Bush, 1989 300,000

So this testy indoctrination was the template for the relationship between the administration, the media, the truth, and We The People. One might say it is tenuous. At best! My favorite assessment to date was formulated and expressed by David Broder, in a NYT article on April 10, 2017, in which he wrote about #45:

“It’s not so much that he isn’t well informed; it’s that he is prodigiously learned in the sort of knowledge that doesn’t accord with the facts of our current dimension.”

You can interpret that however you choose. But as I’ve already noted, his fan club could care less. Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to the President, perhaps put it best when she explained Mr. Spicer’s amazing assertions, designed I suppose to align with #45’s conclusions about inaugural crowd size. She introduced the term “alternative facts.” That pretty much says it all.

So let’s pivot back to that ideological chasm I mentioned earlier. Before #45, President Barack Obama served 8 years as President. His tenure was not without its share of drama. One of numerous Republican stunts he survived was a crusade by Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann calling for his impeachment. In one of the more bizarre episodes of the GOP’s total access, no holds barred approach to obstructionism during President Obama’s tenure; Ms. Bachmann had the temerity to spearhead a movement for impeachment while she was actually under investigation for multiple ethics violations. She was the subject of five separate ethics probes related to her 2012 Presidential Campaign, including:

  • In Iowa, a special prosecutor was appointed to investigate Bachmann’s alleged improper payments to a state senator
  • She was under investigation for improper use of presidential campaign funds to promote her book
  • She was investigated for the theft of an email list of a Iowa homeschoolers
  • She was under investigation for money laundering
  • The Office of Congressional Ethics also investigated Bachmann’s 2012 presidential campaign

Forget the absurdity of it all. If you are reading this, you undoubtedly already know two things. First, Barack Obama was not impeached; second, Michele Bachmann’s tenure in Congress was short lived, ending in 2015, prior to that of President Obama. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is credited with the quote, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” I’d like to think that arc is also laden with karma. Today is #45’s 125th day in office. Over the little more than four months he has held the post, he has distinguished himself in some interesting ways.

  • He was forced to fire General Michael Flynn for having lied to Vice President Pence, after insisting upon hiring him despite President Obama advising him not to do so.
  • He fired FBI Director James Comey after Comey admitted in a Congressional hearing that there is an ongoing investigation in which he was included.
  • He allegedly asked the FBI Director to drop the Flynn Investigation.
  • He is reported to have asked Intelligence Chiefs to publicly push back against the FBI probe.
  • He appointed his daughter Ivanka to an official White House post after saying he would not do so.
  • He claimed during a Commencement speech at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy that he is the most unfairly treated politician ever.
  • He rolled out a Muslim Ban (or pause, if you prefer) that has been rejected by multiple federal courts.

Harkening back to the Obama years, the GOP officialdom elevated opposition and obstruction to a high art form. South Carolina Representative Joe Wilson yelled out “You lie” at President Obama in a joint session of Congress. Illinois Representative Joe Walsh threatened President Obama in a tweet after 3 Dallas police officers were killed. Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann actively campaigned for President Obama’s impeachment, and of course, in the most famous dis of all, citizen, and then candidate, Donald Trump led the Birtherism charge, maintaining that President Obama was not born in America. The candidate did not concede President Obama was American until mid-September, just a few weeks before the election.

A week ago, Texas Congressman Al Green (’06!) addressed the House of Representatives and called for the impeachment of #45. Representative Green said he was acting as a matter of conscience, and called the basis for his actions, “perspicuous.” He added, “No one is above the law, and that includes the President of the United States of America.”

At a town hall in Houston on Saturday, Congressman Green shared with his constituents a number of threatening voicemails he received. ABC News reported that the voicemails were directed to his office, and included messages like:

  • “You ain’t going to impeach nobody.”
  • “Try it and we will lynch all of you,”
  • “You’ll be hanging from a tree.”

Notwithstanding the threats communicated in the voicemails, the Congressman told constituents at the town hall:

“We are not going to be intimidated. We are not going to allow this to cause us to deviate from what we believe to be the right thing to do and that is to proceed with the impeachment of President Trump.”

Let me be perfectly clear. I have absolutely, positively no expectation that #45 will be impeached. Call me cynical, but I do not believe a Republican Congress is going to impeach its new champion. Nevertheless, in the interim, I fully believe there will be a great deal of GOP angst for the duration of this administration’s tenure, even if it’s 4 or 8 years. To that end, to paraphrase Dr. King, The Long Arc of the Moral Universe: Is That Karma I’m Seeing?”

I’m done; holla back!

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What If Barack Had Said or Done…? OMG!

It’s time to Break It Down!

Please ignore my addressing the former President in an overly familiar manner. Stay with me. I will endeavor to make this brief. The central point here is that #45 has said or done too many things to count that would have disqualified candidate Obama, or resulted in the summary termination of an Obama Presidency.

I don’t have enough time to write about, and no one has enough endurance to read about all the things that could be included in a post such as this. Recognizing that the ground is so fertile, one can always revisit, collect, and introduce new material, I am going to select 10 items, just to make the case. Without further ado, let’s do this.

  1. “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” – June 16, 2015
  2. “I will build a great wall. – And nobody builds walls better than me, believe me – And I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great wall, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.”
  3. “An ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that Barack Obama’s Birth Certificate is a fraud.” – August 6, 2012
  4. “According to Bill O’Reilly, 80% of all the shootings in New York City are blacks – if you add Hispanics, that figure goes to 98%, 1% white.” – June 5, 2013
  5. “Grab them by the pussy.” – 2005 tape
  6. Visited his own private properties for golf outings during 10 of his first 11 weekends in office, after complaining frequently during the campaign about President Obama’s golfing outings.
  7. Promoted the narrative that his Inauguration crowd was the largest in history.
  8. Claimed Barack Obama wiretapped him in Trump Tower
  9. Banned American media while inviting in Russia media to a White House meeting
  10. Shared classified Israeli intelligence with Russia (which is an ally of Iran, which is an enemy of Israel, with which Trump claims interest in having the best relationship ever).

Let me be perfectly clear. I am not suggesting these five statements and five actions constitute the worst assertions or acts that #45 has made or engaged in during or before his Presidency. In fact, they are a mere sample, and a small one at that, of the limited filter for his comments and actions. Indeed, also a window into his character.

The simple premise of this post is this President has been given incredibly broad latitude, in general, but specifically, an immeasurably greater amount than would have been granted to President Obama. In a highly partisan world, I understand how and why that is perfectly acceptable with people who supported Mr. Trump, and who are delighted that, as a result of his efforts, they have “taken their country back.” However, for everyone else, and even for those Trump supporters who presumably want to see this nation live up to its Creed, this double standard, or possible refutation of standards altogether, should be a source of grave concern.

Of all things related to the current administration, nothing that I can think of is more antithetical to historic American values and political policy positions than our newfound ease with the coziness Team Trump has not only demonstrated, but also insisted upon, vis-à-vis Russia. Yes, President Obama’s administration attempted the infamous “Russian reset.” But let’s face it. That was not in the wake of the fallout and feedback of Russian hacking, as apprised by our national intelligence apparatus. It actually appears that #45, his surrogates, and many of his supporters favor Moscow’s version of events over that of our own national security community.

It has just surfaced the former FBI Director James Comey wrote a memo detailing #45 asking him to curtail the Flynn Investigation. Sources close to the situation say Comey, who is a Republican, never wrote memos about President Obama. This is at least the second time he wrote about the current President, including the irrational diatribe about his Inauguration crowd size. The source indicated that while it was not unusual for Mr. Comey to write such memos, he did not do so in instances in which the communications were normal and the communicator was truthful. 

Just think about that. Suppose for a moment that the FBI, or the CIA, or Homeland Security, or the NSA, or all of them, plus the other 12 agencies that form our security community posited that President Obama won an election that Russia conspired to affect on his behalf. How about if the FBI Director indicated that there was an on-going investigation that intended to at least look to see if there was a possibility Obama appointees were somehow tied to Russia’s attempts to interfere with our election. How would the GOP Congress respond to that? How would the media in general, and Fox News in particular react? What would be the collective response of the American electorate? More interestingly, what would those Trump supporters, who blithely dismiss so much about all this, be saying?

“What If Barack Had Said or Done…? OMG!” Enough said…you already know. I’m done; holla back!

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Men’s Health: A Compelling Quality of Life Issue – Vol. III

It’s time to Break It Down!

(Disclaimer: This post appeared originally on June 29, 2011 and was reprinted on July 2, 2014 (  It contains references that are graphic in nature, and which may be considered offensive; reader discretion is advised.  The initial catalyst for posting this information was my 2011 Colonoscopy.  I had a second procedure in 2014, and a third last week. Today seemed like a perfect time to reprise this post).

A few days ago I had my third Colonoscopy, which is the endoscopic test of the colon and the distal part of the small bowel with a camera.  The procedure is recommended for men over age 50, on a periodic basis; every 10 years if no irregularities are found, and more frequently if non-benign polyps or other issues arise during the test.  In my previous tests, the results indicated non-benign polyps were found. Subsequently, I was scheduled for a follow-up after 3 years, as a regular sequential step in my Annual Physical regimen. That is a precautionary measure, not any kind of alert or scare.  That is as it should be.

I am delighted to end the suspense, as it relates to this year’s Colonoscopy. My test revealed normal mucosa, and no arteriovenous malformation, diverticula, polyps, masses, evidence of colitis or any other abnormalities. That’s about as good as it gets. Given my previous history, my next exam is scheduled for 5 years from now instead of three. I’m moving in the right direction. Perhaps if I garner comparable results next time, I can earn the 10-year periodic exam.

This is not intended to provide a blow-by-blow of my procedure.  I am addressing this topic to provide a public service.  I have observed both anecdotally and from numerous data streams, men in general and African American men in particular, are notorious for neglecting our health.  There are too many reasons to enumerate, but a few include:

  • Distrust of doctors (Some black men still reference the Tuskegee Experiment)
  • Fear…of doctors, of medicine, bad news, of pain, of surgery, of anesthesia, the unknown
  • Unawareness of early warning signs
  • No regular doctor
  • Lack of health care benefits (African Americans are more likely to be Unemployed or Underemployed, and therefore less likely to have insurance)
  • Misplaced priorities(some men take better care of their homes and/or cars than they do their personal health)
  • Good intentions; bad execution (Many of us “intend to” schedule an appointment to see a doctor, but don’t)
  • Procrastination (Delay, delay, delay)
  • Superman complex (The perception that one is young, healthy, and totally bullet proof)
  • We are on a super secret suicide mission (No, we just act like it)

Those are 10 of my own very unscientific, totally straight off the top of my head reasons.  After setting them to paper, I decided to look for an expert opinion…OK; I checked to see what a doctor thought.  Not surprisingly (to me anyway), there was a fair amount of overlap.

Dr. Sharon OrrangeAssistant Professor of Clinical General Internal Medicine at the University of Southern California has weighed in with what she believes are “The 10 Real Reasons Men Don’t Go to the Doctor.”  Since she actually practices medicine, I will allocate more weight to her opinion than mine…though keep in mind, I do have the inherent advantage of being a man.  Dr. Orrange’s 10 most compelling (or real, as she puts it) reasons are:

  1. You are afraid we will put our finger up your butt.We will, especially if you are over 40 or have any complaints related to your bowel movements.  Yes, you get a rectal exam after the age of 40 once a year for a feel of your prostate and so we can check your stool for microscopic blood that you can’t see.
  2. You are afraid we will examine your balls.  We will, if you are 40 or younger. The peak age for testicular cancer is 18-40 so guidelines recommend you get a once a year testicular exam. Don’t worry it won’t hurt at all.
  3. I feel FINE.  I am glad you feel fine, but you can feel FINE with high cholesterol, high blood pressure and elevated blood sugars.  Your mother or wife won’t feel fine when they are taking care of you after you have a stroke.  Don’t wait until you feel awful to come see us.
  4. Going to the Doctor is a chick thing.Many of you feel this way but remember we live longer than you do.  If doctor visits are a chick thing well, then, nursing homes are a guy thing.  You have to get over this.  It’s true, the waiting room magazines are not for guys but when you come see us you will see that many of the medical assistants, doctors, phlebotomists and medical records folks are men.  Real men go to doctors.
  5. You are embarrassed to talk about what’s going on with you.The bright red blood on the toilet paper when you wipe, the red itchy rash in your groin and on your feet, the problems you have at times getting a boner, getting up at night a few times to pee, we hear it all the time.  You are not alone and our job is to show you how common this is and help fix it for you.
  6. You don’t find the office hours convenient.  I get this and urge you to find a doctor who is accessible and can work around your office hours.  Seriously though. The average guy watches 16 hours of TV a week, you can come for a 30-minute visit once a year and maybe a couple of follow-up visits as needed.
  7. Going to the Doctor is giving in to your nagging wife.  I had a patient who gave his wife for her 20th anniversary a copy of his Lipitor prescription, thinking this was a GIFT to his wife that he was taking care of his medical issues.  It is true; women rightly do nag their dads, brothers, and husbands to go to the doctor because they are tired of square dancing with women at the assisted living facilities.
  8. You don’t realize we are here for prevention.You don’t have to be sick to come see us and if you establish a relationship with us you have easy access when you do get sick.  Once a year we can touch base with you to discuss age appropriate screening, which we KNOW, helps keep you well.
  9. You don’t have a relationship with a physicianIf you are not attached to a regular physician by the age of 40 you are more likely to get in trouble. Unlike women who need annual pap smears and contraception, you haven’t had to see someone regularly from the age of 18-30.  Find someone your friends use, or enlist your partner’s help to find someone that might be a connection.  You want someone accessible and younger physicians are much more likely to e-mail so look until you find the right match.
  10. You think we will pick on you for your habits.  Drinking a 12-pack on the weekends, not exercising and eating bad foods, among other things.  These things are not as uncommon as you might expect.  We will put you on a long leash and let you pick and choose the habits to get rid of as needed.

If you are a Doctor Dodger, the reality is, it is of little consequence whether your reasons for doing so more closely resemble Dr. Orrange’s list or mine.  If your recalcitrance leads to a preventable heart attack, some form of cancer, or a stroke, you will have contributed directly to reducing your quality of life, as well as that of your family members.  Such actions could also lead to premature death.  It really is pretty simple; fear, embarrassment, death (sooner rather than later)…pick one dude!

Let’s be clear here, human beings are not immortal.  Psalms 90:10 advises us: “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.”  Proponents of the Bill Maher School of Thought dismiss such biblical advisory as akin to magic, wizardry, or witchcraft.  But I am reasonably certain even Mr. Maher concedes that we all will die.  Moreover, I wouldn’t bet the farm that he doesn’t have a regular physician, regardless of his rationale.

The point of seeing healthcare professionals on a regular basis is not to live forever; none of us will.  Rather, the idea is to leverage the best possible existence out of our all too brief time here on earth.

As most of us know, women live longer than men.  Once upon a time, this was largely attributable to the rigors of backbreaking manual labor, and long before that, due to the results of men losing too many battles with the lions or other members of the Wild Kingdom, in the quest to determine who would eat…and who would be dinner.

Neither of those historical tableaus aligns with today’s American reality.  No, the underlying contemporary contributory factors for those of us now living in the USA are that poor exercise habits, irresponsible dietary choices, too much smoking and drinking, and eschewing regular checkups and prevention screenings combine to lead to a lower quality of life (health wise), and ultimately, to a shortened lifespan; on average five years less than for women.

According to a 2007 Harris Interactive survey that included over 1,100 men, the American Academy of Family Physicians found that:

  • Many men go to the Doctor only when they are very sick
  • Before they did, many of these men waited several daysto see if they felt better
  • Most of these men had a regular doctor
  • Most had currently active health insurance
  • Most said they felt comfortable talking to their physician

In an even more recent survey, conducted by Esquire magazine in January of 2011, researchers found that:

  • Roughly half of American men ages 18-50 had no primary care physician
  • One third had not had a check-up in more than a year
  • More than 40% had never had their cholesterol checked
  • 70% had never had a prostate exam

Do you perchance know the leading causes of death in America?  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), complete information available in 2007, broke down like this:

Number of deaths for leading causes of death:

  • Heart disease: 616,067
  • Cancer: 562,875
  • Stroke(cerebrovascular diseases): 135,952
  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 127,924
  • Accidents (unintentional injuries): 123,706
  • Alzheimer’s disease: 74,632
  • Diabetes: 71,382
  • Influenza and Pneumonia: 52,717
  • Nephritis, nephritic syndrome, and nephrosis: 46,448
  • Septicemia: 34,828

Source: Deaths: Final Data for 2007

Based on CDC research, Heart Disease and Cancer, the top two causes of death in the United States in 2007, led to nearly twice as many deaths as the cumulative totals of causes 3 through 10.  In fact, the number of deaths attributable to Heart Disease alone, (616,067), nearly equaled the total for causes 3 through 10 (667,589).

It is important to recognize that the relative death rate for men is higher than that for women for all causes listed in the Top 10.  While there are hereditary factors that contribute to individual proclivity to develop Heart Disease, a timely and committed change in lifestyle in concert with an appropriate medical remediationprevention, and/or maintenance strategy can help most men (and women) live a relatively normal life.

In a departure from my previous posts on the subject I am compelled to add that in addition to whatever periodic schedule one adheres to for his or her Colonoscopy, one should also schedule an Annual Physical. I had mine a few months ago, including a battery of tests and supporting lab work. The results were outstanding for the second consecutive year. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to institute a regimen to monitor and promote positive health consequences. This is where I could make a call to arms for the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) or healthcare reform. But I’ll leave that for another day. This pitch is for men…and women who have men they care about in their lives.  Of course, women require Colonoscopies too. But as I noted elsewhere in this post, as with most medical matters, they already do a much better job than men. I enthusiastically urge all of you to do everything within your power, individually and collectively, to to do the right thing for your own health, and for the health of those whom you love.

In summary, this post is a cry for help on behalf of men.  Perhaps, more aptly stated, it is a call for men to step up and help themselves.  As a general rule, ours is an interdependent society.  That means, someone, somewhere relies upon you.  So men, I urge you to unite on behalf of a cause that is intuitively selfish, but intellectually selfless.  I entreat you to recognize this undeniable truth; “Men’s Health: A Compelling Quality of Life Issue – Vol. III!”  Yes, this is a cause that requires you to think of (and act) for yourself first.  But in doing so, your wife, or significant other, your children, your siblings, your parents, your friends, your co-workers, your career, your civic association, your fraternity, and yes, your state of mind, will all benefit.

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link  A new post is published each Wednesday.  For more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post, consult the links below:

Trump’s First 100 Days: A Plethora of Activity, A Paucity of Accomplishments (One Man’s View)

It’s time to Break It Down!

While I spent a fair amount of time leading up to the 2016 National Election discussing politics, including the Democratic and Republican fields of candidates, and ultimately the two finalists, I have written less about politics in general, and virtually nothing about the eventual winner, since the Inauguration. That was a conscious decision, of course. Moreover, though I do not presage a permanent shift moving forward, I am making an exception for today.

As we all know, Donald J. Trump is the 45th President of the United States. And, unless you’ve been in a cave, you know Saturday marked 100 days of his Presidency. I will not be attempting to entertain you with some fanciful (and I believe false) narrative that explains how despite all the less than spectacular assessments of his performance, he has somehow exceeded expectations. I’ll leave that to Fox and Friends. So if that’s what you need, or more pointedly, if that’s what you require, I’ve generously provided a heads up on where you can turn.

Having stipulated that, the President did hold on to the SCOTUS balance that existed prior to the death of former Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, with the successful confirmation of Neil Gorsuch. He’s also rolled back some regulations he maintains help business (though a number of ordinary Americans view them as anti-consumer). As a candidate #45 made numerous boasts and promises. Among them was the oft-repeated assertion that we (the people) would win so much we would become tired of winning. Hold that thought.

On Saturday, October 22, 2016, Candidate Trump traveled to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the site of the 16th President’s (Lincoln) most famous speech, to make a pitch of his own. In a facility named for former President Eisenhower, and on land irrevocably tied to Lincoln, Trump extolled his vision for the first hundred days of a Trump Administration. You can click on the final link below to see what he served up.

In this post, I’m going to keep it short, and much simpler. On the real, here’s what you need to know, vis-à-vis #45 and many of his boastful promises. I understand, fully, that by and large his supporters couldn’t care less about the things he claimed he’d do, versus those he hasn’t done, or hasn’t done yet. For you, he’s a jolly good fellow. I get it. For everyone else, there’s this:

  • As noted earlier, he won…yet he has not released his taxes
  • Hillary is not in jail
  • Mexico is not paying for the wall
  • The Muslim ban (or pause, if you insist) has been rebuffed by the federal judiciary
  • Obamacare has not been repealed & replaced
  • China has not been labeled a currency manipulator
  • No plan to destroy ISIS was produced in 30 days
  • NAFTA has not been overturned…or renegotiated
  • The U.S. has not withdrawn from NATO
  • We have not torn up or exited the Iran Nuclear Agreement
  • The Wall Street-to-Washington Swamp has not been drained
  • He has not sued all those female accusers (as far as we know)

I could go on, but hopefully, you get the point. If you don’t, methinks you’re just not trying hard enough. One of Trump’s frequently used phrases, both as a candidate, and since January 20th, is, “People are saying.” If you’ll allow me a “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander” moment, I must note, people are saying the Trump Administration has been characterized by chaos and incompetence.

In assembling an administrative team composed largely of individuals who’ve never served at any level, or in any capacity of government, it is easy to argue that many of his cabinet members are competent, and frankly ill suited for their current roles. This disconnect, has consistently led to dissention, disruption, and disorder. Trump surrogates and supporters push back, insisting that, on one hand, Trump voters wanted someone who would break the status quo, and on the other hand, that his slow-going is due to having been a businessman, and not having governmental experience. As someone who is not guilty of being able to contemplate two distinct, if not opposing thoughts, at once, I concede both of those things may be true. That however, does not mean We The People are well served by both…or either. In fact, our day-to-day experiences, to date, suggest we most certainly are not.

I cited above a list of things Trump has not done. But every coin has a flip side. In that light, a few things he has done include:

  • Claimed his was the largest Inaugural in history. It wasn’t.
  • Promised Ivanka would not serve the country in an official capacity. She does.
  • Insisted President Obama wiretapped him. He didn’t

Suffice it to say, neither of these lists is exhaustive. But both are emblematic of the propensity and frequency with which this President seems to just say things that, to paraphrase David Broder in a New York Times article, “Are not so much an indication that he isn’t well informed; but that he is prodigiously learned in the sort of knowledge that doesn’t accord with the facts of our current dimension.” My Star Trek Translator boils that down to, “That dude lies like a Ferengi.” To be clear, Mr. Broder did not add that translation.

Who knows? Perhaps Team Trump will consider this list and re-double its efforts to make it happen in some cases. I certainly do not expect any of his supporters, surrogates, or voters to abandon him. I know there is nothing any of that lot could have said to make me withdraw my support for President Obama when he was POTUS. I extend kudos to them for their loyalty…even if it is misplaced.

Circling back to Candidate Trump’s boasts about winning until we get tire of winning, no mas! I don’t know about you, but if this is winning, I’m tired. That’s pretty much all I got…”Trump’s First 100 Days: A Plethora of Activity, A Paucity of Accomplishments (One Man’s View)!”

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President Obama Returns to Chicago: Revisits Community Organizing and Civic Engagement

It’s time to Break It Down!

This week marked a special occasion in the annals of Presidential observation. No, I do not mean counting the final 72 hours before #45’s one-hundredth day in office. Rather, I am referring to the return of President Barack Obama to the public square. The former POTUS returned to the city where 14 and-a-half weeks earlier, he delivered his farewell address as Commander-in-Chief; that day at McCormick Place, Monday at the University of Chicago.

Mr. Obama’s return was characterized thusly: a “conversation on community organizing and civic engagement,” with the goal to “encourage and support the next generation of leaders.” His design was to create an environment in which he could converse expressly with young people; a group he believes is critical to reviving a flagging, moribund Democratic Party. To be clear, those are my adjectives, not Mr. Obama’s.

The setting incorporated a stage that included Obama and six students, plus an audience of 300 students. The format included brief introductory remarks by the former President, the introduction of the students sharing the stage, the individuals on the stage posing questions of each other, but also taking questions from the 300 students in the audience, who represented colleges and universities throughout Chicagoland.

Spoiler Alert: Despite the imminent proximity of the much bally-hoo’d 100-day mark of the current President, and the torrential stream of blamesplaining targeting Mr. Obama, the previous C-i-C adroitly avoided mentioning #45 or any of his policy prescriptions. There had been rampant speculation about whether the occasion might be used by Mr. Obama to weigh in on his successor and the administration’s first months. This event, however, was not about that. A source from Team Obama said the adopted Chicagoan had no intention of confronting the current administration’s policy, and the often-professorial Obama declined to be drawn down that rabbit hole. In fact, he was so assiduous in giving a wide berth to the topic of the new administration that he neither deigned to defend his own legacy in the office, nor spoke in support of the Affordable care Act, AKA Obamacare, his signature accomplishment, and a program under perennial assault by the GOP.

The occasion certainly could have served as an opening for the former President to beat back unsubstantiated wiretapping allegations made by the current occupant of 1400 Penn Ave., or to take on the often awkward, and occasionally meandering Republican agenda. Never one lacking message discipline, he blithely passed. Alternatively, he opted to lead a seminar on engaging a new generation of youth and prodding them to become active participants in the political discourse and process. Upon reflecting upon how he sees his role in the post-Obama Presidency era, he intoned:

“The single most important thing I can do is to help in any way I can prepare the next generation of leadership to take up the baton and to take their own crack at changing the world.”

Bypassing #45 was clearly the result of Mr. Obama’s own authentic design. He has determined, at least for the time being, that it is prudent to cede criticism of the current administration to those camps that have already elevated doing so to a cottage industry. This appears, in part to be due to reflecting on and appreciating the space his predecessor gave him in the early going. It’s also fair to note that Mr. Obama and his advisors have reasoned that now is simply not the right time to invest time and energy in confronting the newbies.

They realize, after all, that the current administration drew much of its synergy from the mere existence of then President Obama. To that end, they believe that challenging the current administration would make Obama a foil for #45’s efforts to rally his supporters, which in turn, could buttress the efforts of the current administration to enact its policies, which of course, Mr. Obama opposes.

With those predicates, the event at the University of Chicago, where a pre-POTUS Mr. Obama taught constitutional law, transpired absent any tension related to the 45th President. The former President appeared relaxed, casual, and comfortably ensconced in the moment. In other words, he appeared to enjoy himself.

In a moment of reflection, hearkening back to his speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in which he introduced the notion of their being no “red” America or “blue” America, he conceded the aspirational nature of the assertion, going on to add, that it’s obviously not true as it pertains to our politics and civic life.

By and large, Mr. and Mrs. Obama have elected to avoid the intense glare of the public spotlight since leaving the White House on January 20th. Both have committed to writing Random House memoirs as they continue to make Washington, DC their home while Sasha, their youngest daughter completes high school. She will graduate in 2019. However, in the intervening three months since the Inauguration, they have spent most of their time on an extended vacation, even as his staff has been establishing an office in Washington. Planning is underway for his Presidential Library, which will be located in Chicago.

It is anticipated that Monday’s event in Chicago was the kickoff of a series of public appearances Mr. Obama will make in the United States and Europe. He is scheduled to appear next in Boston for a speech at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, where he will receive the institution’s Profile in Courage award.

At the Chicago event, he discussed various elements of civic engagement, community organizing, and the importance of actively facing the challenges confronting contemporary society. For over an hour, he served as the resident Commander-in-Chief & Professor of interviews. He posed the questions, and kept the “show” moving. He initiateded a variety of queries, including:

  • Asking Ayanna Watkins, a senior at Kenwood Academy High School in Chicago, about the importance of access to social studies and civic education. She responded, “Awareness is something that holds a lot of youth back from getting involved.”
  • Asking Harish Patel, a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago, why he had chosen to run for the office of state representative last year. His short response was he, “didn’t see many Patels in office and wanted to fix that.”
  • Asking Max Freedman, an undergraduate at the University of Chicago, and the lone Republican on the panel, about issues of political correctness on college campuses. Freedman answered with a personal anecdote from eighth grade, when Mr. Obama was launching his first Presidential Campaign, prompting the former President to note, “I’m old.” “But please continue. Eighth grade!”

Much of Mr. Obama’s conversation Monday echoed themes from his farewell address in January, including a plea not to take democracy for granted. He underscored his continued concern for issues such as economic inequality, climate change, justice, and the spread of violence. He suggested it was a lack of leadership that stopped the country from making the necessary inroads into solving those problems. He said:

“All those problems are serious, they are daunting, but they are not insoluble. What’s preventing us from tackling them and making more progress really has to do with our politics and civic life.”

And so, the venerable former Chicagoan, via Honolulu, came full cycle vis-à-vis his Chi-town roots. He arrived in Chicago as a 31 year-old community organizer, steeped in the ways of civic engagement. During his 2008 Presidential Campaign, his opponents belittled his experience (as a community organizer). Arguably, it served him well, as he went on to win twice, serving two terms in the highest office in the land. And now, as he seeks his next career path, he is reprising the tenets of the career that launched him upon the veil of our collective consciousness. “President Obama Returns to Chicago; Revisits Community Organizing and Civic Engagement!

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Don’t Be Deceived: The Struggle (of America’s Original Sin) Is Real!

It’s time to Break It Down!

All too often when the subject of slavery, or white privilege is broached in contemporary American society, the reactions range from stoic ambivalence, to angry denial, to a rank disbelief that “you people have not let that go yet,” by white people, and inexplicable uneasiness and misplaced guilt by black people. I cite those reasons as evidence of the readily apparent. In the event you did not know, it’s time you knew, the simple truth is, all of those responses are wrong. In fact, they are not merely inappropriate; they are inordinately misguided.

I’ve written posts in the past that discussed in detail how a number of states have approved textbooks that in effect seek to diminish, if not deny the Atlantic slave trade, characterizing the practice as “immigration,’ and referring to slaves as guest workers. Let me put it in the plainest, most direct way I can. There are alternative facts, and there is bovine defecation. The latter rules in this case.

When such heavily laundered euphemisms are substituted for the most brazenly horrific acts EVER committed by Americans against other human beings in the United States, people who were, arguably, just as American as the recent immigrants themselves, people who were forcibly transplanted to our shores. The blatant hypocrisy and sheer thuggery, cannot, and I must add, will not be swept under the proverbial rug of historical memory. Aitch to the no!

I do not often wax religious, though, as a PK, I do have that skill set in my toolkit. Raising this topic in such close proximity to the observance of Easter, or Resurrection Sunday, as its often familiarly called, however, makes it at least worth noting in a passing reference, the role of Christianity in perpetuating the American slave trade. And, to be clear, I refer to by its proper name, slave trade, because that’s what it was. Boom! Daniel Burke, CNN’s Religion Editor, delved forthrightly into the issue.

In 1845, Frederick Douglass wrote “Life of an American Slave.” The formal title was ”Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave.” In this immortal work, Douglass wrote:

There is a wide gulf between Christianity proper and the slaveholding religion of this land. One is good, pure and holy, the other, corrupt and wicked, the climax of all misnomers, and the boldest of all frauds. We have men-stealers for ministers, women-whippers for missionaries and cradle-plunderers for church members.”

It is fair to say, for Mr. Douglass, as was and is the case for many other African Americans, the sin of slavery was intolerable, the complicity of Christians, unforgivable. Without apology, I am compelled to assert that postulate is as true today as it was in 1845, 172 years ago.

I am delighted to live in a world in which despite the ambivalent, the deniers, the disbelieving, the guilty, and all the other misguided souls, including the naysaying bovine defecators, there are others who concur with my sagacious conclusion. The Society of Jesus, or the Jesuit Order, as the group of powerful Catholic priests (including Pope Francis) is more familiarly known, indeed lists the horror of slavery among its immoral transgressions.

In 1838, Jesuits purchased 272 slaves on behalf of Georgetown University, a Jesuit University in Washington, DC. The acquisition of the slaves rescued the then young university, 49 years old at the time, but ruined hundreds of lives, destroyed families, condemning men, women, and children to the horror and cruelty of bondage, subjugation, and servitude.

Yesterday, the Jesuits and Georgetown repented. It took 179 years, but the university’s president and the school’s Jesuit leaders issued a “Liturgy of Remembrance, Contrition and Hope.” The Liturgy included the following statement by Georgetown President, John DeGiola:

“We express our solemn contrition for our participation in slavery, and the benefit our institution received. We cannot hide from this truth, bury this truth, ignore this truth. Slavery remains the original evil in our republic, an evil that our university was complicit in.”

Descendants of over a hundred of the slaves sold by the Maryland Jesuits attended the service. Many of them wore green ribbons, symbolizing hope and new life. Sandra Green Thomas, a participant in the Georgetown service said of her ancestors:

“Their pain is still here. It burns in the soul of every person of African descent in the United States.”

Of course, Hoya Nation is not the only American university community complicit in the slave trade. The entire Ivy League (Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Penn, Princeton, and Yale), excluding Cornell, was involved in some way, historians say. Religious groups also founded several of those schools. However, some in the American Jesuit community, particularly, view their slaveholding past in an especially painful light. They (understandably I say) see racism as a lingering stain on our contemporary society.

If slavery is too frequently deemed a slippery slope, leading directly to the abyss of a confrontational conversation, the topic of white privilege is a natural complement. Michael Harriott drove that point home in an article in The Root last Friday. As I noted at the outset, it’s frequently difficult to engender a serious and civil, but frank conversation on the subject. White people, in many instances, feel accused, without specific charges. They tend to think of the concept as something nebulous that seems to reduce a complex potpourri of history, racism, and social phenomena to a nonspecific groupthink phrase.

Nonsense, white privilege is real, and Harriott is quite precise in explaining just how, and why. The historical institution of slavery and the contemporary concept of white privilege are related…but they are not the same, and should not be conflated. According to Mr. Harriott’s dispensation, white privilege is a proper noun, a real, definable thing that we can acknowledge, explain and work toward eliminating. While race may be a social construct, white privilege is an economic theory that we should define as such:

“White privilege: n. The quantitative advantage of whiteness”

He went on to list 4 exemplars to explain white privilege in economic terms.

  1. Education – If education is the key to success, then there is no debate that whites have the advantage in America. In 2012, the U. S. Department of Education reported that about 33 percent of all white students attend a low-poverty school, while only 6 percent attend high-poverty schools. In comparison, only 10 percent of black students attend a low-poverty school, while more than 40 percent of black students attend high-poverty schools. This means that black students are more than six times more likely than white students to attend a high-poverty school, while white students are more than three times more likely than black students to attend a low-poverty school. The logical response to this is for whites to explain the disparity away with statistics of black unemployment and the minority wage gap, but that might not be true. In 2015, a research scientist named David Mosenkis examined 500 school districts in Pennsylvania and found that—regardless of the level of income—the more black students, the less money a school received. While this may not be true for every single school, people who study education funding say that they can predict a school’s level of funding by the percentage of minority students it has. Even though this is a complex issue that reveals how redlining and segregation decreased the property tax base in areas where blacks live—therefore decreasing funding—it underscores a simple fact: White children get better educations, and that is a calculable advantage.
  2. Employment – Even when black students manage to overcome the hurdles of unequal education, they still don’t get equal treatment when it comes to jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of Friday, April 7, the unemployment rate for African Americans was nearly double that of whites (8.1 percent for blacks, 4.3 percent for whites). There are some who will say blacks should study harder, but this phenomenon can’t be explained by simple educational disparities. A 2015 study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research shows that whites with the exact same résumés as their black counterparts are hired at double the rate. In fact, a white man with a criminal history is more likely to be hired than an African American with no criminal past. A similarly named, but different, organization—the Economic Policy Institute—examined 2015 data and discovered that at every level of education, whites were twice as likely to have jobs as blacks. If it is statistically easier for whites to get a better education, and better jobs, then being born white must be an advantage in and of itself.
  3. Income – But let’s say a black man somehow gets a great education and finds a job; surely that means the playing field is level, right? Not so fast. Researchers at EPI found that black men with 11-20 years of work experience earned 23.5 percent less than their white counterparts, and black women with 11-20 years of experience were paid 12.6 percent less than white women with the same experience. This disparity is not getting smaller. The wage gap between black and white workers was 18.1 percent in 1979, and steadily increased to 26.7 percent in 2015. When Pew Research controlled for education and just looked at income data, white men still surpassed every other group. These income inequalities persist to create the disparities in wealth between races, manifesting in generational disadvantages. A black person with the same education and experience as a similar Caucasian, over the span of their lives, will earn significantly less.
  4. Spending – It is a little-known fact that the average black person pays more for almost every item he or she purchases. While there is no discount Groupon that comes whit white skin, there might as well be. A John Hopkins study (pdf) showed that supermarkets were less prevalent in poor black neighborhoods than in white neighborhoods with the same average income, leading to increased food costs. News organization ProPublica recently found that car-insurance companies charge people who live in black neighborhoods higher rates than people in predominantly white areas with the same risk. When it comes to credit, it is even worse. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, The Atlantic reports, “even after controlling for general risk considerations, such as credit score, loan-to-value ratio, subordinate liens, and debt-to-income ratios, Hispanic Americans are 78 percent more likely to be given a high-cost mortgage, and black Americans are 105 percent more likely.” Even banks as large as Wells Fargo have lost cases for up-charging minorities. According to the Wall Street Journal, large auto lenders have paid more than $200 million since 2013 to settle lawsuits for charging minorities higher rates, but in November, both Democrats and Republicans voted to reduce regulations on the financial institutions that offer auto loans. The National Consumer Law Center filed a 2007 lawsuit that exposed how “finance companies and banks put in place policies that allowed car dealers to mark up the interest rates on auto loans to minorities based on subjective criteria unrelated to their credit risk.”

Instead of hurling the term “white privilege” around as an imprecise catch-all to describe everything from police brutality to Pepsi commercials, perhaps its use as a definable phrase will make people less resistant. Maybe if they saw the numbers, they could acknowledge its existence. It is neither an insult nor an accusation; it is simply a measurable gap with real-world implications. It is the fiscal and economic disparity of black vs. white. In America’s four-and-a-half-centuries-old relay race, the phrase “white privilege” does not mean that Caucasians can’t run fast; it is just a matter-of-fact acknowledgment that they got a head start.

In summary, whether the topic is slavery and it’s still prevalent consequences, or white privilege and its everyday examples, don’t be bashful, and by all means, don’t fall for the okey-doke. The struggle is not imaginary, and neither are the vestiges of slavery, nor the daily disadvantages (and advantages) of white privilege. Don’t Be Deceived: The Struggle (of America’s Original Sin) Is Real!”

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Don’t Look Now, but There’s a New Sheriff in Town

It’s time to Break It Down!

There was a period in my lifetime when the phrase, “What’s good for GM is good for America” was thought by many to reflect the operational orthodoxy of our nation. The source of this perceived wisdom, if you would call it that, was said to be the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of General Motors (GM). A little research reveals that, Charles Wilson did not exactly frame the comment the way it.  was interpreted and subsequently communicated for years.

As it turns out, Mr. Wilson, President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s nominee for Defense Secretary, was asked during a 1953 Congressional hearing whether, if he were to serve in the capacity of Defense Secretary, he could make a decision averse to the interests of General Motors? After responding affirmatively, he went on to say that he:

“Could not conceive of such a situation “because for years I thought what was good for the country was good for General Motors and vice versa.”

So rather than a braggadocios assertion about the universality of the GM brand, Wilson’s statement was more like a little homespun humility about the degree to which he had immersed himself in his life’s work. Be that as it may, even had the erstwhile meaning captured the essence of some level of nationalistic fervor about the goodness and pervasiveness of GM, the page turned this week.

GM was founded in 1908, and from 1931 to 2007 held the distinction of having been the largest automaker in the United States. At that point Ford Motor Company surpassed GM in value. By 2009, the Great Recession had taken the ultimate toll on GM (and Chrysler).

The current company, General Motors Company LLC (“new GM”), was formed on June 1, 2009, following the bankruptcy of General Motors Corporation (“old GM”), which became Motors Liquidation Company. At that point GM Stockholders lost all of their investment.

On July 10, 2009, General Motors emerged from government backed Chapter 11 reorganization after an initial filing on June 8, 2009. Through the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) the US Treasury invested $49.5 billion in General Motors and recovered $39 billion when it sold its shares on December 9, 2013 resulting in a loss of $10.3 billion. The Treasury invested an additional $17.2 billion into GM’s former financing company, GMAC (now Ally). The shares in Ally were sold on December 18, 2014 for $19.6 billion netting $2.4 billion. A study by the Center for Automotive Research found that the GM bailout saved 1.2 million jobs and preserved $34.9 billion in tax revenue.

With that lengthy preamble about GM, which had reclaimed its perch as America’s most valuable automaker, the breaking news is that in successive weeks, Tesla caught and surpassed the country’s top two automakers, Ford, last week, and GM this week.

What exactly is Tesla? Just in case you’ve been under a rock, or in a Rip Van Winkle state of consciousness, Tesla, Inc. (formerly named Tesla Motors, founded in 2003) is a major American automaker, energy storage company, and solar panel manufacturer based in Palo Alto, California. Martin Eberhard, and Marc Tarpenning initially founded the company in 2003, although it also counts Elon Musk, JB Straubel, and Ian Wright amongst its co-founders. The company specializes in electric cars, Lithium-ion battery energy storage, and, through their SolarCity subsidiary, residential solar panels.

Tesla first gained widespread attention following its production of the Tesla Roadster, the first electric sports car, in 2008. The company’s second vehicle, the Model S, an electric luxury sedan, debuted in 2012 and is built at the Tesla Factory in California. The Model S has been the world’s best-selling plug-in electric car for two years in a row, 2015 and 2016.

While the message stands as important in its own right, it’s imperative to acknowledge exactly what it represents, and what it does not. Tesla is…”a global pioneer at the forefront of new technologies including electric vehicles, assisted driving, shared vehicles, digitizing real-world information, sustainable energy generation and scalable energy storage.” It is not outpacing Ford and GM in vehicle sales.

The company’s stock rose more than 7%, Monday of last week, increasing its market value to $48.69 billion. Ford’s market cap is $45.31 billion. This week, Tesla valuation was placed at $51.5 billion, topping GM’s $50.2 billion. The company has yet to turn a profit, and lost hundreds of millions of dollars just last year. However, a couple of days ago, it became the most valuable American automaker, surpassing GM with almost $10 billion in profit on nearly $10 million vehicles. Tesla for its part sold only 84,000 cars last year (with starting prices of $68,000).

The encouraging first quarter numbers come as Tesla ramps up for production of the new Model 3, its cheapest car to date. The vehicle, a sedan, slated to launch this summer, will have an entry-level price of $35,000, and has already garnered nearly 400,000 pre-orders from people who made payments of $1000 for reservations last year.

It should also be noted that Tesla has a long-running saga of production problems, and it has not come close to filling its ambitious and cleverly marketed goals. It not only sells far fewer cars than its rivals in Detroit, it also employs a fraction of their workforce.

The competition has responded to the dubious nature of some of Tesla’s advantages. GM’s vice chairman Bob Lutz had this to say:

“This is the ultimate bubble, which is doomed to bust. Tesla cars are fine, but the business model is not. The high cost of production is not recovered in the sale price. All legacy car companies will soon have a variety of similar electric vehicles.”

According to the Wall Street Journal, David Cole, an investor in Detroit automakers, and chairman emeritus of the Center for Automotive Research added:

“Its (speaking of Tesla) market cap is based on hype and promises versus substance.”

Of course Musk has heard it all. Not surprisingly, he has formulated what he considers a most apt answer, and framed his response in a tweet Monday afternoon:

“Tesla is absurdly overvalued if based on the past, but that’s irrelevant. A stock price represents risk-adjusted future cash flows.”

At this very moment Tesla and GM are both working on expanding their electric vehicle profile and perfecting autonomous vehicle technology. Navigant Research released a report Monday that says Ford is ahead of Tesla and others in the self-driving car race.

GM and Ford have a near century-long or more  head start on Tesla. But there is no denying Tesla’s assault on the Stock Market is having an effect. It has made Musk one of the richest men in America and given him widespread influence across a number of arenas. Even critics who say Tesla could represent a technology bubble in the stock market acknowledge that the company’s success points to a new reality in the automotive industry that will reshape the experience of driving for most Americans. The story of the company’s rise illuminates the contemporary stratification of the American economy. Eco-friendly government tax credits, a boom in financial backing, and the promise of new school innovation coalesce to deliver, in Tesla, a badge for the drivers who can afford its imposing price point. Don’t Look Now, but There’s a New Sheriff in Town!”

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