Legerdemain: The Fine Art of Illusion, Distraction, and Okey Doke

Legerdemain: The Fine Art of Illusion, Distraction, and Okey Doke

Yesterday was a day the likes of which the United Nations, Americans, and the worldwide community have never seen. The point of this post is simple and direct. Keep your eye on the prize; do not lose sight of that with which we are dealing. I promise to frame it in succinct fashion.

The President of the United States stood behind a podium at the vaunted U.N. No American President has ever spoken to the world like this. In what will certainly be remembered as a unique United Nations General Assembly debut for an American President, the leader of the free world reveled in the self-possessed disruptive, bellicose, nationalistic persona that is uniquely his own. He employed the rhetorical flair that totally shattered and then rearranged national political norms in this country ten months ago.

In this venue, it’s clear the working goal was to transform America’s global role on the international stage. Never before has a United States President displayed authoritarianism to the extent that he actually threatened to wipe a country off the face of the planet. Reagan’s “Evil Empire,” and Bush’s “Axis of Evil,” pale in comparison. North Korea and Kim Jong-un (whom the President has given the sobriquet Rocket Man) are hereby on notice.

How the speech was received depended upon one’s political and ideological perspective. A cursory review revealed, unsurprisingly, that it played exceedingly well in TrumpWorld. The so-called non-politically correct straight talk was just what the doctor ordered.

One such voice, Nile Gardiner, an analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation, praised the President for his assertive and aggressive delivery, and for scuttling the deferential multilateral Obama doctrine. Trump BFF Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Prime Minister, called the speech bold and courageous.

Of course, there was no dearth of alternative facts…I mean, points of view. Margot Wallstrom, for example, Foreign Minister of Sweden, said of the speech:

“This was a bombastic, nationalist speech. It must have been decades since one last heard a speech like that in the U.N. General Assembly. … This was a speech at the wrong time to the wrong audience.”

Naturally, denizens of the other side of the deep and wide political and ideological chasm held a different view, as well. Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-CA, said of the speech:

“The goal of the United Nations is to foster peace and promote global cooperation. Today, the President used it as a stage to threaten war.”

The truth of the matter is, this is compelling stuff. But I cannot say often enough. There are other compelling matters with which we should be concerned. Three weeks ago I elevated ten items as examples of matters worthy of our continued focus, despite any array of distractions that might befall us. North Korea was on the list, by the way. But it wasn’t alone…and it’s still not. Each of the issues on that list is still vitally important. They were, and are:

  1. Various Trump-Russia investigations (Don’t be fooled; there are 5)
  2. North Korea’s continued missile testing and accompanying threats
  3. Donald Trump, Jr. and his scheduled testimony on his Russian meeting
  4. Paul Manafort
  5. Subpoenas for Paul Manafort’s attorney and his current spokesman
  6. Jared Kushner
  7. Trump business sought to build a Trump Tower in Moscow
  8. Transgender Troop Ban
  9. GOP push to limit Mueller’s investigation to 6 months
  10. Trump’s Charlottesville response

That’s it. I would never imply that a United States President would start a war to deflect from his personal challenges on the home front. However, I fully encourage you to stay focused on what’s important, and don’t forget (and by all means, don’t fall for)”Legerdemain: The Fine Art of Illusion, Distraction, and Okey Doke!” So I reiterate, I will not imply…but if you happen to infer or impute…well that just means you’re smarter than the opposition.

I’m done; holla back!

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

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

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Sixteen Years Later: Reflecting on Nine-Eleven

It’s Time to Break It Down!

(This post appeared originally in this space on September 7, 2011. It was re-purposed and presented September 11, 2013, and again today, September 13, 2017).

The buzz for today, will likely center, as it has for the past three weeks, on the weather. The principal thrust at this juncture is taking stock of, and responding to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Irma, which was the second consecutive Category 4 or above hurricane to reach land in the U.S. after a 12-year absence of storms packing that level of fury. Irma made landfall in the Florida Keys, came up to Miami, veered westward toward Tampa and Florida’s West Coast, and went up to the Northern tip of the state, dropping record levels of rainfall in Jacksonville, the largest city geographically, in the state and in the nation. The storm registered a high one-minute sustained wind speed of 185 m.p.h. This tied the record for the second strongest storm on record in the Atlantic, along with Hurricane Wilma (2005), Gilbert (1998), and the 1935 Florida Keys Hurricane. That trails only Hurricane Allen (1980), which reached 190 m.p.h. before striking a relatively uninhabited area of Texas. Irma was preceded by Harvey, which did most of its damage in the Houston area of Texas. It dumped more than 40 inches of rain on the state, is responsible for at least 71 deaths, and caused estimated damages of up to $200 million dollars.

In addition to Harvey and Irma, two additional storms developed in the Atlantic, Hurricanes Jose, and Katia. The storms, have surely been, and continue to be newsworthy. They produced such high profile media stories that some networks devoted coverage nearly 24/7. It’s not surprising that this almost total immersion into all things weather resulted in a reduction in media-based air, print, and cyber time for 9/11 commemorations.

However, instead of storm chasing, I am going to re-post a past “Break It Down” entry. Monday was the Sixteenth Anniversary of Nine-Eleven; a day America will never forget.  With that in mind, I ask that you please spend a few minutes directing your attention to the horror that was September 11, 2001.

(From the Archives, September 7, 2011)

Do you remember where you were, Tuesday, September 11, 2001?

On Monday we observed the 16th Anniversary of the day that has come to be known simply as, Nine-Eleven (9/11). That day 16 years ago, America lost, in one fell swoop, its blissful innocence, its long-standing appearance of invulnerability, and its deeply ingrained sense of security. By some accounts, what it retained is it’s self-righteous (some would say) belief in American Exceptionalism and entitlement; but that is a conversation for another post.

Suddenly we were at war, and the fight had uncharacteristically come to us, straightway.  This battle was personal, and it was on our home turf; no longer some shadowy ideological military exercise, or guerrilla warfare episode, played out on foreign soil, half a world away.

U.S. House of Representatives Joint Resolution 71 was introduced with 22 co-sponsors (11 Republicans and 11 Democrats) and approved by a vote of 407-0 on October 25, 2001 (with 25 members not voting).  The bill passed unanimously in the Senate on November 30, 2001.  The Resolution requested that the President designate September 11th each year as Patriot Day.  President George W. Bush signed the Resolution into law December 18, 2001 (as Public Law 107-89).

On this day, the President directs that the American flag be flown at half-staff at individual American homes, at the White House, and on all U.S. government buildings and establishments, home and abroad.  This year President Trump, as President Obama did before him, deemed the day one of National Remembrance and ServicePresident and Mrs. Trump commemorated the day with two events. The First Lady joined him as he led a moment of silence on the South Lawn of the White House, in remembrance for those lost September 11, 2001. Afterward he went to the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial to participate in an observance.

Even after more than a decade and a half, with sixteen years worth of context building, and development of perspective, the numbers behind Nine-Eleven are chilling.  Nearly 3,000 people lost their lives, and thousands of others were injured, and many more sustained post-event trauma.  Examples of the carnage include:

  • 2,977 Victims killed (not including the 19 hijackers)
  • 2,606 Killed at the World Trade  Center  Towers
  • 125 Killed at the Pentagon
  • 40 Killed in Shanksville, PA
  • 87 Killed on American Flight 11/NYC World Trade Center North Tower
  • 60 Killed on United Flight 175/NYC World Trade Center South Tower
  • 59 Killed on American Flight 77/Arlington – The Pentagon
  • 40 Killed United Flight 93/Shanksville, PA
  • 19 Hijackers
  • 246 Killed on the four planes
  • 19 Hijackers Killed (on the four planes)
  • 2,996 Killed on Nine-Eleven
  • 411 Emergency workers killed at the World Trade Centers
  • 341 FDNY firefighters killed
  • 2 Paramedics killed
  • 23 NYPD officers killed
  • 37 Port Authority Police Department officers killed
  • 8 EMT’s killed
  • 658 Employees of Cantor Fitzgerald, L.P. (Investment Bank) killed; most of any employer
  • 1,631 Bodies positively identified from World Trade Center Towers
  • 1,122 Bodies (41%) remain unidentified
  • Bone fragments were still being found in 2005 by workers preparing to demolish the damaged Deutsche Bank Building
  • 72 Additional remains found in 2010 by a team of anthropologists and archeologists

A Medical Examiner will continue to try to identify remains in the hope new technology will lead to the identification of other victims.  The death and destruction of Nine-Eleven led to the so-called Global War on Terror.  Mostly the front lines have been in Afghanistan and Iraq.  However, a central intent of the action has been to prevent a recurrence of Nine-Eleven-like events on U.S. soil.

The initial thrust began October 7, 2001 when the U.S., British, and Coalition forces invaded Afghanistan, and in March 2002, the U.S. and Coalition forces launched Operation Anaconda and the Taliban suffered significant losses, and left the region.  In the interim, involvement in the region ebbed and flowed, but the war, which the Obama Administration referred to as Overseas Contingency Operation, continues. The War in Afghanistan is officially the longest war in American History.  We have for some time been in the “every day is a new record” era.

U.S. Intelligence sources pointed to Al-Qaeda as the probable instigator behind Nine-Eleven.  It’s leader, Osama bin Laden initially denied involvement.  Over time, bin Laden became more emboldened; first conceding involvement, and ultimately admitting that he was instrumental in masterminding the horrific attacks.  During his Presidential Campaign, Mr. Obama declared he would not relent on the hunt for Osama.  The elusive terrorist was thought to be hiding in Pakistan.  Mr. Obama stated bluntly that if reliable intelligence pinpointed bin Laden, he would deploy U.S. forces to find and kill him, which he did on May 2, 2011.

The good news is, over the course of the past sixteen years, there have been no repeat Nine-Eleven scale events on U.S. soil.  That result is partly due to fastidiously focusing on prevention efforts, partly due to the fortuitous failure of would-be terrorists, and partly due to the fateful intervention of alert by-standers.

As we place the commemoration of Patriot Day 2017 in the rearview mirror, and sixteen years of Nine-Eleven related memories with it, Americans are still advised to be on high alert for potential incursions by terrorists, most likely of the lone wolf variety, where one person acts alone.  So here we are, “Sixteen Years Later: Reflecting on Nine-Eleven .” Let’s get ready for a Day of Remembrance and Service.

I’m done; holla back!

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
















Labor Day – Six Years Later

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, September 7, 2016, and today, September 6, 2017, has been edited and updated to reflect current unemployment data.) 

Monday was Labor Day.  At its core, according to the U.S. Department of LaborLabor 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 unofficial End 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)
  • The conventional kick-off of hard core political campaign season
  • 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
  • The8-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 Unions.  Unions 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.S. was reported to be 2% in July 2014
  • The economy added 209,000 jobs in July 2014
  • August 2014 employment data was 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 had improved appreciably. However, our country was still beset by challenges.

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

In the August 2016 Jobs Report, issued September 2, 2016, the nation’s Job’s Report 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 the previous year
  • Jobs Growth record extended to 77 consecutive months

The August 2017 Jobs Report, issued September 1, 2017, showed that the economy, for the most part, held steady during the month of August.

  • The Unemployment Rate in the U.S. was reported at 4.4%, up slightly
  • The economy added 156,000 jobs in August 2017
  • Earnings rose 2.5% over the past 12 months; however, the average work week shrank .1 hour to 34.4 hours per week, which means paychecks were a bit smaller
  • The Jobs Growth record has extended to 89 consecutive months (7 months for #45)

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 disappointing, however, it was still an increase. Though disappointing, the increase, when viewed through the lens of the trend line, was not all that surprising. 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 comfortably below 5%.

Unlike in 2011, in 2014, 2016, 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 64 days away. While there is no Presidential Election this year, please understand that elections have consequences. The entire House of Representatives, 535 members, is up for re-election, in addition to 1/3 (33 members) of the Senate. By all means be sure to exercise your franchise; vote!

It’s “Labor Day – Six Years Later,” 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!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the linkhttp://thesphinxofcharlotte.comFind a new post each Wednesday.

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Hurricane Harvey: Unprecedented and Fortuitously Timely

It’s time to Break It Down!

Hurricane Harvey has ravaged southeastern Texas since last weekend. Its devastating consequences brought record-level wind, rain, and flooding to the Houston area. The storm eventually reached Category 4 status by the time it reached landfall last Friday. Houston is the most populous city in the state of Texas and the fourth-most populous city in the United States, with a 2016 census-estimated population of 2.3 million people. It is located in the fifth most populous MSA in the country. By early Tuesday evening, rainfall, which had topped 50 inches, ceased and the sun shone through for the first time in several days.

That was the good news. The bad news was, despite opening two dams to release the rapidly building water flow; area flooding had caused thousands to evacuate, and had contributed to at least nine deaths. As if that were not enough, after moving off the coast, the storm re-energized over the water, and is expected to approach land in the Houston area again, but also northeast toward the Beaumont area, as well as into Louisiana, and possibly the Memphis area of Tennessee.

While much of the rain moves toward other states, Houston is still at risk of flood waters. The Brazos River has risen 40 feet since Saturday, and is expected to rise another 5 feet before cresting. It’s apt to note Harvey is no longer a Hurricane, but even as a Tropical Storm, it continues to leave its mark.

Harvey is a tropical cyclone that is the first major hurricane to make landfall in the United States since Wilma in 2005, ending a record 12-year period with no hurricanes of Category 3 intensity or higher making landfall. Harvey is the first hurricane to hit Texas since Ike in 2008, and the strongest to make landfall in the state since Carla in 1961. It’s also the strongest in the Gulf of Mexico since Hurricane Rita in 2005, and the strongest to make landfall in the Gulf area since Hurricane Charley in 2004.

Harvey joined Matthew (2016) as one of only two U.S. hurricanes to cause an extreme wind warning to be issued, indicating “tornado-like winds” within the storm, including isolated tornadoes. Harvey is also the wettest tropical cyclone on record in the contiguous United States, dropping a total of more than 50 inches of rain, surpassing the record set by Tropical Storm Amelia in 1978.

There are numerous plots and subplots stemming from Hurricane Harvey. Most are well chronicled during the evening news, in newspapers and magazines, and on cable news outlets 24/7, or thereabouts. The storm has uprooted thousands of people, and undoubtedly discomforted millions. The property damage estimates are already into the $billions. Every iota of coverage generated by the storm has been warranted.

Still, during the virtual avalanche of attention the storm had garnered, a few key items have largely receded into the background. Just for the record, here are ten issues worth simultaneously tracking, while you monitor Harvey:

  1. Various Trump-Russia investigations (Don’t be fooled; there are 5)
  2. North Korea’s continued missile testing and accompanying threats
  3. Donald Trump, Jr. and his scheduled testimony on his Russian meeting
  4. Paul Manafort
  5. Subpoenas for Paul Manafort’s attorney and his current spokesman
  6. Jared Kushner
  7. Trump business sought to build a Trump Tower in Moscow
  8. Transgender Troop Ban
  9. GOP push to limit Mueller’s investigation to 6 months
  10. Trump’s Charlottesville response

Unquestionably, Donald Trump and his supporters, surrogates, and spinners would like very much for you to forget about the items above. Don’t do it. I’m not suggesting you or anyone should downplay the devastation in Houston. In fact, I extend prayers and best wishes for all the residents of the state of Texas who were personally affected by, or who have family and or friends who were affected by Hurricane Harvey.

Having said that, I also believe it is worth noting in a more detailed way, the investigations referenced in item #1 above. Below are the 5 investigations, and their areas of emphasis:

Senate Intelligence:

  • Russia’s interference in the election
  • Collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia

Senate Judiciary:

  • The circumstances that led to national security adviser Michael Flynn’s dismissal
  • Leaks to the media

House Intelligence:

  • Russia’s interference in the election
  • Collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia
  • Leaks to the media

House Oversight:

  • Flynn’s contacts with Russian officials, including payments he received.

Special Counsel:

  • Any attempt to obstruct justice by Trump, or his allies
  • The Trump campaign’s ties to Russia
  • Russian meddling in the 2016 election
  • Possible financial crimes by Trump associates

Now let’s be clear. It is conceivably possible that all 5 of the aforementioned inquiries could result in finding that President Trump is as clean as the Board of Health. His right wing chorus has already acquitted him. They routinely and hyper-vigorously exclaim he is the victim of haters, left wing liberals, Democrats, the Main Stream Media, and the deep state. This, of course, is where I normally note, for example,  that most of the so-called leaks occurred in his White House. You know, the one in which he has appointed all the staff and Councils…including those who’ve failed to make it eight full months; see a list of at least 30 people and two Councils, including the following:

  • General Michael Flynn – National Security Advisor (resigned) – 22 days
  • Sean Spicer – Press Secretary (resigned) – 182 days
  • Anthony Scaramucci – Director of Communications (fired) – 10 days
  • Reince Priebus – Chief of Staff (resigned) – 189 days
  • Steve Bannon (mutual agreement) – 210 days
  • Sebastian Gorka (unclear) – 217 days
  • Carl Ichan (resigned) – 210 days
  • White House Manufacturing Council (dissolved) – 201 days
  • White House Economic Council (dissolved) – 201 days
  • Denise Morrison – Advisory Council (resigned) – 201 days
  • Inge Thulin – Advisory Council (resigned) 201 days
  • Thea Lee – Advisory Council (resigned) 200 days
  • Scott Paul – Advisory Council (resigned) 200 days
  • Richard Trumka – Advisory Council (resigned) 200 days
  • Kenneth C. Frazier – Advisory Council (resigned) – 199 days
  • Kevin Plank – Advisory Council – (resigned) – 199 days
  • Brian Krzanich – Advisory Council (resigned) – 199 days
  • Derek Harvey National Security Council Advisor (fired) – 186 days
  • Michael Short Assistant Press Secretary (resigned) – 186 days
  • Walter Shaub Director Office of Government Ethics (resigned) – 180 days – (resigned)
  • Robert Iger – Advisory Council (resigned) – 133 days (resigned)
  • Elon Musk – Advisory Council (resigned) – 132 days
  • Mike Dubke – Director of Communications (resigned) – 85 days
  • T. McFarland – Deputy National Security Advisor (resigned) 117 days
  • James Comey – FBI Director (fired) – 109 days
  • Angela Reid – Chief Usher (fired) – 105 days
  • Katie Walsh – Deputy White House Chief of Staff (resigned) – 69 days
  • Craig Deare – National Security Council Senior Director (fired) – 26 days
  • Travis Kalanick – Advisory Council (resigned) – 13 days
  • Sally Yates – Acting Attorney General – fired – 10 days

As we watch while Texans battle the elements and fight to emerge from Hurricane Harvey, be reminded that hurricane season is just a little more than 60% over, and will remain with us until November 30th. With that in mind, it’s even more important to retain focus, and keep your eye on the ball. I noted above that there is a GOP effort underway to sunset the Mueller Investigation at 6 months. Trump and his acolytes will try to deflect and if possible, even short-circuit the efforts to get to the bottom of any Trump shenanigans related to disrupting our election process. They, in effect, promote the notion of move along, nothing to see here.

I would not suggest they are going out of their way to exploit the tragedy of the hurricane for this purpose, but they will leverage the moment if we are not diligent about holding the President and his team accountable for the ten items I enumerated and more. If, as his backers suggest, there is nothing here but the overactive machinations of Democrats, if that is actually true, then just humor us, and allow the investigations, all of them, to run their course unfettered. What better way to robustly validate the unassailability of that theory?

At the end of the day, we are a democracy, and if we do not ensure that our elections are free and fair, what do we have left? Russia. We are better than that. Don’t fall for the okey-doke. Hurricane Harvey: Unprecedented and Fortuitously Timely!”

Holla back!

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

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

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Obama Plays the Inexperience Card Redux

It’s time to “Break It Down!”

(Note: This is a Reprised and Amended Presentation of My Original Blog Post)


Today, in acknowledgement of the 10th anniversary of “Break It Down,” As I have done occasionally in the past, I am revisiting my inaugural blog posting. Unlike in the past, I will augment the discussion, in light of having a new, also inexperienced President.

Tempus fugit (Time Flies)!  Sunday marked 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 ten years (and 529 editions) ago.  Having related the story a number of 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 and discussed, 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, not so unlike what Donald Trump did in 2015-16.  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, was exposed as a patently errant assessment.

I want to make one more note about the blog.  In addition to this week marking the Tenth Anniversary of Break It Down, this week’s post commemorates the Five-year Anniversary of using WordPress as my primary Host Platform.  The link, http://TheSphinxofCharlotte.com is simpler and more straightforward than the Blogger (Blogspot) link, http://TheSphinxofCharlotte.blogspot.com.  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 especially reminded of how a supremely confidently the Senator approached his moment.  I shall always recall that it propelled me to write, “Obama Plays the Inexperience Card!” Needless to say, he has gained an enormous amount of experience in the intervening years.

As I wrap this up in 2017, it is with an entirely new vantage point, and a completely different appreciation for what an inexperienced Barack Obama brought to his job, vis-à-vis what an inexperienced Donald Trump is currently bringing to the job. Mr. Obama inherited a fragile country with a downward spiraling economy, a nearly double-digit employment rate, and a foreboding 700,000 job losses per month. By the time he left 8 years later, the unemployment rate had been halved, to less than 5%, the country enjoyed the longest period of consecutive job gains, 75 months, in history, over 11 million jobs had been added, including 1.2 million in his last 6 months in office, while the Dow Jones rose from a slumping 7,949 when he took office to 19, 887 when he exited. While no President controls every single lever that triggers all that happens during his tenure, when things go south, he occupies the space where the proverbial buck stops. Conversely, when things trend rosy, he gets a fair amount of the shine.

In that light, Mr. Trump entered office in a much different environment, benefiting from what can rightfully be called the Obama Recovery. Let’s be clear. There is definitely still work to do. But anyone who suggests that Obama didn’t bequeath more and better than he inherited is full of bovine excrement. Full stop!

With that said, these are the salad days of the Trump Administration. It must be said he has delighted his base. At least the ones with whom I have spoken believe he’s the cat’s meow, and they say (whether they believe it or not) he’s been doing exactly what they hoped for when they voted for him. I would suggest that anyone who didn’t vote him, or support him, or who is undecided about supporting him, should let that sink in for a moment or two, or twenty.

Team Trump contends Democrats, liberals, the Main Stream Media, and some nebulous ill-defined entity referred to as the deep state, are solely responsible for all that has stymied or delayed even potential successes by the Trump Administration. So, health care, travel ban (or whatever appellation one cares to affix to it), Transgender Military Policy, Charlottesville Messaging, the Obama wire tapping claim, the Flynn firing, the Comey firing, the Spicer firing, the Priebus firing, the Scaramucci firing, the Bannon firing, and oh by the way dare I say, his tweets…Can we really blame all that on the Party that holds a minority in both houses, or a media that has no votes, and presumably no say in who Trump hires in the first place, or fires for that matter, or on the deep state, whatever the Sam Hill that is?

If you are a Trump trooper, you can, and you most certainly do. If you are not, then you probably think such an assertion is sheer lunacy on its face. Perhaps…just maybe, he is finding difficulty gaining traction because he is not only fighting through an experience deficit, but he is operating with a startling lack of curiosity, matched only by an overabundance of hubris. All things considered, I am inclined to look back on the time when I wrote, Obama Plays the Inexperience Card Redux,” and conclude that we (who should be a grateful nation) were considerably better served than with the current inexperienced occupant of the Oval Office.

I’m done; holla back!

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He Is Who We Thought He Was: End of Story!

It’s time to Break It Down!

In June 2015, Donald J. Trump burst on the scene as a GOP Presidential candidate that few people gave much of a chance to survive the first primary, much less become the venerable Party’s nominee, and certainly few if any expected him to advance to assume the mantel of the presidency. Trump has a long history of prominence as a businessman. But for more than two years now, his forays in the headlines of the national news, or as he frequently says, the fake news, have come primarily as a politician.

Allow me to pivot for a moment. I have read and watched news for most of my life. As a matter of fact, before I began school, my mother taught me to read using the local newspaper. So, I have maintained a nearly life-long, almost six decades, relationship with news periodicals and TV newscasts. I say all that to underscore that from 2009 to 2016, I saw President Obama castigated regularly in news reports almost every day, and called virtually every negative appellation that his detractors could think of and say.

Returning to the moment, I notice that newscasters on most networks are careful to avoid calling Mr. Trump a liar. When there are Trump supporters on the shows, who are either asked questions about Trump’s truthfulness, or are engaged by someone who has the temerity to actually call Mr. Trump a liar, falsifier, or even some less direct euphemism, they quickly push back arguing neither they, nor the “offender,” knows what is in Mr. Trump’s heart, and they insist that it is therefore unfair, and out of bounds to call him a liar. In those instances, when it is flatly impossible to divest him of having spoken untruths, they persist in noting that to lie, one must not only make a false statement, but one also must do so with the deliberate intent to deceive. With that distinction in mind, I don’t know what is in Trump’s heart. What I do know is he speaks untruths on what intrinsically seems like a historic rate.

To put that in terms that have been captured and catalogued, The New York Times (NYT), on June 21st, published an updated list of what the headline characterized as, “Trumps Lies.” Mr. Trump uttered each of the items on the list after he took office. To be clear, those are the words of the NYT. I’m confident they researched and lawyered the list before publishing it. Here is an abridged sampling:

That’s just a baker’s dozen listing of the president’s lying, misleading, and deceptive statements…all since he has become President of the United States of America. But let’s not forget, his political emergence was fueled by a lie; the assertion that Barack Obama was not born in America. I have long maintained he is methodically working to establish a framework in which facts, truth, and even reality is irrelevant. According to the NYT story, Trump lied publicly at least 20 of his first 40 days in office, and made untrue statements for the first 40 days.

Now, allow me to shift gears. If the L-Word (lie) has been discouraged like crosses at a vampire family dinner, the pretend horror and feigned personal offense taken by conservatives about the ubiquitous R-Word (that’s racist, just so we are clear), when referring to Trump, and his Executive Office associates, Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka, is so great, one would think Obamacare was still the law of the land. Oh wait. It is!

As most of us know, there was a small gathering this weekend in Charlottesville, VA. Jason Kessler, a self-described “pro-white” activist organized a rally to protest taking down a statue of General Robert E. Lee in the City of Charlottesville. Lee commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the American Civil War from 1862 until his surrender in 1865. To put that in the least complex terms possible, he was a key figure in a war…against the USA. His aforementioned surrender was important for one reason in particular. It meant his side lost!

Saturday’s rally was preceded on Friday night by a group of Tiki-torch carrying members of the above referenced activists who marched across the campus of the University of Virginia. The symbolic scene was reminiscent of Klansmen carrying torches and burning crosses.

By Saturday as the crowd assembled for the protest, the group consisted of the KKK, neo-Nazis, members of the Alt-right, and other white supremacists, or as they frequently euphemistically refer to themselves, white nationalists, many of them armed with long rifles and other weapons, shields, helmets, and other paramilitary gear. To paraphrase Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, they were better armed than our State Police.

The good news is, the available weaponry on hand notwithstanding, neither the protesters, nor members of law enforcement fired a single shot. I did not hear, read, or see that any of the counter protesters bore firearms. However, that was not where the story ended. The bad news is an individual described as a Nazi sympathizer weaponized his vehicle, crashed it into other vehicles, then backed up, and in the process, killed Heather Heyer of Charlottesville, and injured 19 people. In addition to Ms. Heyer’s untimely death, two state troopers, Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen, of Midlothian, VA, and Trooper-Pilot Berka M.M. Bates, of Quinton, VA, perished when their helicopter crashed while they were monitoring the events of the protest.

After these events Saturday, Trump spoke about the matter. He squeezed his remarks into a speech meant to be part of signing a Veteran’s bill expanding a program to allow veterans to seek private medical care. In perhaps the kindest thing he has said about former President Obama since he has taken office, he indemnified Obama, in a backhanded way, by conceding that the hatred and bigotry preceded both he and Obama. He went on to make a false equivalency, lamenting the actions that occurred on “many sides:”

“We’re closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Virginia. We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides.

It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump. Not Barack Obama. It’s been going on for a long time.”

Trump failed to mention the display of white supremacy or Nazi symbols in Charlottesville Saturday. His omission led to considerable pushback among both Democrats and Republicans. It’s not an overstatement to say his lack of citing the racist elements that fueled the events was the top story of the weekend. If anything competed with Trump’s own billing, it was that of input from former KKK leader David Duke, who articulated he was pleased with the protest because it made clear that Donald Trump’s promise to “Take back our country,” will be fulfilled. He also tweeted a poignant reminder to Mr. Trump:

“I would recommend you take a look in the mirror & remember it was White Americans who put you in the presidency, not radical leftists.”

That’s a sobering show of force from a member of Team Trump’s base. Alternately, there was an unquestionable expression of disappointment by numerous Republicans. For a brief time Monday, it actually appeared that the disconnect in his Party may have resonated with the president, and forced him into reflection mode. So much so, that Monday Donald Trump rendered a second statement, one in which he pointedly addressed the role of the negative and racist factions. For one day, he submitted to the influence of better angels…and a lot of concerned Republicans. He stated the following:

“Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”

This head spinning about-face did not sit well with much of Trump’s base, and ultimately, not with him. Numerous reports noted that Monday’s more fulsome statement seemed scripted and forced. More than a few observers concluded, his heart did not appear to be in it.

Well, much like a weather vane, if one waits a moment, in this case a day, Trump’s point of view and position on the matter changed again. Tuesday at Trump Tower, he came out with a copy of his Saturday comments in his pocket, and he went full-fledged reverse as he delivered statement number three on the subject. He had this, among other things, to say at that time:

“I think there is blame on both sides. What about the Alt-left that came charging at, as you say, the Alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt? What about the fact they came charging with clubs in hands, swinging clubs? Do they have any problem? I think they do.

You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. Nobody wants to say it, but I will say it right now.”

So there you have it. At one point he drew a fake comparison; at another point he maintained there was a moral equivalency between the purveyors of historical racist and bigoted practices, and those who have been historically oppressed and victimized by such behavior. How can one square that? Well, friends and neighbors, for me, it’s pretty simple. When it comes to Donald J. Trump, just as with the issue of whether he is a compulsive liar, there are those who passionately defend him, and insist that he is not. When it comes to the question of whether he is a confirmed racist, I’m sure the same holds true. You can imagine how his acolytes respond to the compound question, is he a megalomaniacal compulsive liar, who is also a confirmed racist?

You already know…”He Is Who We Thought He Was: End of Story!” It’s really just that simple.

Holla back!

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Reversal of Fortunes: Governor Dumps Party, Senator Balks at Party Line

It’s time to Break It Down!

Last week I examined Arizona Senator Jeff Flake’s op-ed for Politico Magazine, in which he in effect, took on what has become the GOP Party orthodoxy under #45. Flake’s unexpected revelation of conscience, not coincidentally, coincided with the release of his new book, “Conscience of a Conservative.” The timing of Senator Flake’s rebellion was somewhat ironic in that it followed a week in which his fellow Arizona Senator, John McCain, also rebuffed the President and his Party’s hard driving initiative to pass the so-called skinny repeal of Obamacare by the Senate.

In the normal course of human events, it is all but certain that what goes around, comes around. Often this happens sooner rather than later, certainly quicker than we might expect. This…is one of those times. On last Thursday, at a Trump Rally in Huntington, West Virginia, Governor Jim Justice announced his plans to switch his affiliation to the Republican Party. Three days later, Democratic West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin told the Charleston Gazette-Mail on Sunday that he would not be toeing the party line on every issue. Just like that, the Grand Canyon State and the Mountain State completed a game of political musical chairs in a matter of ten days.

At last Thursday’s rally, Governor Justice had this to say:

“Today I will tell you as West Virginians, I can’t help you anymore being a Democrat governor, So tomorrow, I will be changing my registration to Republican.”

This isn’t Justice’s first rodeo when it comes to switching parties. He was previously an independent and a Republican up until 2015 when he ran for governor as a Democrat. It is likely this move signals a bigger shift in the state’s political landscape. In Governor Justice’s latest State of the State address, he mentioned Trump five times, and noted his good friendship with the Trump family.

Like Trump, Justice is a billionaire who ran for election as a newcomer to politics, and was elected in November 2016. During his campaign, he took pains to show he was no fan of Clinton. “I cannot be a supporter of Hillary Clinton,” Justice told a West Virginia radio station last August.

After Justice moves across the aisle as reported, the GOP Governorship advantage over Democrats will increase to 34 to 15. Governor Bill Walker of Alaska is a registered Independent.

Although Senator Manchin did not switch parties, he made a much more, shall we say, colorful statement. In his Sunday comments to the Charleston Gazette-Mail, he said:

“I don’t give a s–t, you understand? I just don’t give a s–t. Don’t care if I get elected, don’t care if I get defeated, how about that? If they think because I’m up for election, that I can be wrangled into voting for s–t that I don’t like and can’t explain, they’re all crazy. I’m not scared of an election, let’s put it that way. Elections do not bother me or scare me.

The bottom line is, if it doesn’t help West Virginia, it doesn’t make sense to me, and just because there’s an election doesn’t mean I sign on or don’t sign on.”

Interestingly, while Justice’s action preceded Manchin’s, the Senator not only didn’t switch parties, he took the occasion of making a statement on the Governor’s move to indicate that he intends to continue to remain in the Democratic Party. At that time he said in a prepared statement:

“I have been and always will be a proud West Virginia Democrat. I am disappointed by Gov. Justice’s decision to switch parties. While I do not agree with his decision, I have always said that I will work with anyone, no matter their political affiliation, to do what is best for the people of West Virginia.”

Senator Manchin is up for re-election in 2018. With Justice’s move, Manchin will become West Virginia’s only statewide elected Democrat besides treasurer John Perdue.

Let’s just say, if it’s not already clear, Donald Trump carried West Virginia by almost infinity, in electoral math terms, 67.9 to 26.2, or 41.7 percentage points. Rewind back to the Arizona results, and the difference is stark. Trump still won, but only by a margin of 48.1 to 44.6, or 3.5 percentage points. While that’s not exactly a cliffhanger, when compared to the West Virginia results, it was obviously close enough to embolden McCain and Flake to rebel, whereas, Justice and Manchin are figuratively praying at the altar of Trump. In fairness, Senator McCain has developed a reputation as a Party Maverick. Still, if Trump’s success in his state mirrored that of the Mountain State, chances are McCain and Flake would be considerably more reserved in their Party pushback.

The point of this post was primarily to point out how quickly the McCain-Flake incidents boomeranged to give us the Justice-Manchin decision and comments. However, another notion I would like to advance and leave with you, especially if you read last week’s action as a sign of the beginning of the end for TrumpWorld, by all means, slow your roll. I closed last week with a reminder of my assessment that Trump-Pence will be around for a while, and at least for the foreseeable future.

I understand why it’s tempting to doubt that. There are a number of investigations, engendering enough smoke to suggest there’s a legitimate fire in our midst. And there may in fact be some fire out there. We’ll see soon enough. In the interim, just keep these sobering data points in mind:

  • The GOP holds a 34-15 advantage in Governorships.
  • The GOP holds a 241-194 advantage in House Members
  • The GOP holds a 52-48 advantage in the Senate (Including Independents who caucus with Democrats)
  • The GOP controls both legislative chambers in 32 states
  • The GOP controls 67 of 98 partisan state legislative chambers
  • Trump won 2,622 Counties – Clinton won 490 Counties
  • Since the election of Barack Obama in 2009, Democrats have lost 919 seats in state legislatures

Those are numbers that should spark grave concern by anyone who leans toward the ideals fostered and supported by Democrats, unless, of course, you subscribe to Trumpist philosophy and just deem it all to be fake news. I assure you, it’s the “realest.” Sad, very sad. And with that I give youReversal of Fortunes: Governor Dumps Party, Senator Balks at Party Line!”

I’m done; holla back!

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