Golden: My How Time Flies

It’s time to Break It Down!

Life is an adventure. No matter the circumstances of one’s birth, men, and women the world over circumnavigate myriad circumstances after leaving the birth canal and entering the world and this thing we call life. Some are born into great wealth and prominence, while others are visited upon by abject poverty and insufficiency. However, it is fair to say being born poor does not make one destined to a life sentence squalor and destitution. Similarly, being born with a silver spoon in tow doesn’t carry a guarantee of permanence either. Hence, life is an adventure.

Given events in Buffalo this past weekend, I would normally write about the pervasiveness of gun violence, and our collective lack of will to insist upon and/or promulgate effective policy initiatives to eliminate mass shootings. After thinking about it a great deal, I decided not to make that the object of this week’s post. Instead, I am going to follow-up last week’s healthcare note with another personal essay.

A couple of weekends ago, Gwen and I traveled to eastern North Carolina, which is the part of the state where I was born. My wife and I spent the weekend darting between Kinston, New Bern, Greenville, and Belhaven. I have roots in or near all those places. Sometimes, contrary to Thomas Wolfe’s assertion, you can go home again. In fact, not only can you, but doing so is actually a good thing. Broadly speaking, we took advantage of the opportunity to hang out with my friends and family. The specific purpose of the trip though, was to attend my 50th High School Reunion.

As I have grown older, I have attended fewer class reunions. I made several of the early ones; 10, 20, and 25. Then I went AWOL until 40. I had not thought about it much since then. But as the date approached (Mothers Day Weekend every year), it dawned on me that 50 years is a pretty big number, a long time ago, and to paraphrase Deon Cole (Cole Hearted on Netflix), there’s not a lot of summers left. It seemed like a good idea to make the trip.

Covid has robbed most of us of so much. Some of us, life itself. I know over the past two and a half years, we have traveled less, entertained less, and attended fewer functions. Moreover, too many of the functions we did attend were funerals. We missed a Final Four, lost a trip to Egypt, missed college and church homecomings, and just said no altogether to concerts. My 50th Reunion would not be added to the list.

In the fall of 1968, my 9th Grade class became the first desegregated freshman class at John A. Wilkinson High School in Belhaven. My fellow Black students and I had previously attended Belhaven Elementary & High School. Beaufort County Schools, where Belhaven is located, like most schools in North Carolina, adhered to a desegregation order that became effective at the start of school in August 1968. Belhaven, being in North Carolina in the 60’s, many parents of students, 9th Grade and earlier, moved their kids to private schools. As a result, while 10th-12 Grades retained a predominately White student population, Black students composed a majority of students in classes from 9th Grade on down. That of course led to its own set of dynamics. But that’s not focus of this post.

The Reunion was cool. Understand that the event, for all practical purposes was a dual event; a 60-year Homecoming Celebration of the former Belhaven Elementary and High School (the high school ended after the Class of 1968), and a fete for the current Senior Class along with featured Reunion Classes. I’m not sure what the Covid/Fire Code capacity was, but the event was sold out, and well attended. Many of my fellow classmates, Black and White, were there; some still live in the area. There were folks I had not seen in decades, and probably a few of whom I hadn’t seen in 50 years. 

That was the highlight of the trip, but it didn’t end there. We stayed at a waterfront hotel in New Bern, which was its own story. I would typically have stayed in Greenville, or more likely Washington for an event in Belhaven, both of which are closer to Belhaven than New Bern. But it just so happened to be East Carolina’s Spring Commencement weekend. Hence no room in the inn. New Bern is a little further than Greenville, and more than twice as far as Washington. But it’s a quaint town, on the water, and a former colonial and state capital of North Carolina. We had plenty of time, so it made for a more than adequate back-up plan for lodging, and provided an almost vacation-like ambience.

On Saturday morning, one of my cousins who lives between Kinston and New Bern came over and joined us for breakfast. Afterward, Gwen and I cruised over to Kinston, visited with my family, and then headed downtown where we met more family at the BBQ Fest on the Neuse, the town’s annual barbecue festival. While there, we went to see a mural featuring a number Kinston’s sports legends. A lot of people know of Kinston’s impressive basketball legacy (Cedric Maxwell, Brandon Ingram, Charles Shackleford, Jerry Stackhouse, Reggie Bullock, Mitchell Wiggins, Tony Dawson, Dontrez Styles, et. al., but there are also baseball and football stars who hail from Kinston (Quinton Coples, Derek Rivers, Dwight Clark, Ron Wooten, Lin Dawson played in the NFL, while George Suggs, Chris Hatcher, and Carter Cupps all pitched in MLB. Tyrone Willingham played football at Michigan State, and held Head Coaching positions at Stanford and Notre Dame. Ty holds a special place on my list because he and I were born the same day in Kinston, NC.

We left K-town and went to Greenville where we checked out a couple of my childhood friends. After that we completed a loop back to New Bern where we enjoyed a quiet dinner at our hotel. On Sunday, we headed back to Charlotte, stopping briefly in Durham where we checked in on another of my cousins, and his extended family. After a short visit, we returned home after a fulfilling weekend getaway. I will remember it all, but none more fondly than reconnecting with my high school graduating class at our 50th Reunion. 

Perhaps the best part…it’s been a week and a half, so I think I can safely say we did not contract Covid during the trip. “Golden: My How Time Flies!”

I’m done; holla back!

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

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Your Personal Health: It’s A Serious Matter

It’s time to Break It Down!

So yesterday, I did a thing.

Our time on this orb called earth is limited. One Biblical proclamation asserts that “The days of our years are threescore years and ten (70 years), and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years (80 years), yet is their strength labor and sorrow, for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” Psalm 90:10. 

Anthropological historians and demographers have noted that human lifespans have increased, primarily due to numerous factors, including, but not limited to, improvements in environment, food/food preservation, medication, labor saving devices, refrigeration, science, and living in an age of relative peace.

Over the course of the last few decades, life expectancy has increased around the globe. The average person born in 1960, the earliest year the United Nations began tracking global data, could reasonably have expected to live to be 52.5 years of age. Today the average is 72.  In the UK, where records have been kept longer, the trend is even greater. In 1841, a baby girl was expected to live to just 42 years of age, a boy to 40. In 2016, a baby girl could expect to reach 83, a boy, 79. In the U.S., life expectancy decreased from 78.86 years in 2019 to 76.99 years in 2020, and 76.60 years in 2021, a net loss of 2.26 years. While these changes in the U.S. and 19 peer countries have been published online by Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), the study has not yet been peer reviewed. However, the trend highlighted by these results are significantly attributable to the death toll from COVID-19.   

Laying COVID-19 to one side, the natural conclusion is that both the miracles of modern medicine and public health initiatives have helped us live longer than ever before – so much so that we may be running out of innovations to extend life further. The fact is, while medical advancements have improved many aspects of healthcare, the assumption that human lifespan has increased in some dramatic fashion over the centuries is, in a word, misleading. As always, the devil is in the details. Overall life expectancy hasn’t increased so much because we’re living far longer than we used to as a species. It has increased because more of us, as individuals, are making it that far.

I could go way more in depth about the differences and distinctions between life expectancy (which is an average), and life span of humans. Don’t worry; I won’t. In fact, this is where I shift gears.

I have written before about the importance of attending to one’s individual health. In a previous paragraph, I noted that the point that drives people to notice how much longer we live, is the fact that, more of us are living longer. Moreover, a key reason more of us live longer is more of us have and take advantage of better available healthcare. But let’s not get it twisted. None of us is here on permanent assignment. Nothing we do will alter that fact.

If there were only two people in the world, and one died of pneumonia, due to lack of available healthcare, at two years old, and the other lived to 80, the average lifespan of earth’s population would have been 41. Yet, if those same two people, instead, both lived to be 50, the average lifespan would be 50 years. Even though one of the two lived 30 years less than in the previous example, the average age increased by nearly a decade. Doing right by oneself matters. Providing, accessing, and utilizing advanced healthcare options is a critical necessity. It directly affects each of us and our quality of life as individuals, but it also redounds to us in a macro sense, because the more of us who partake of this benefit, the longer more of us are likely to live.

I had my fourth Colonoscopy yesterday. My medical history also includes a Flexible Sigmoidoscopy. Yesterday’s procedure was executed without incident, and the results were good. No polyps or other areas of concern revealed. 

I am writing about this for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, I’m relieved and frankly delighted to have received a clean report. I’m happy for my wife and me, but also buoyant that my extended family and friends do not have to share the burden I would be carrying had I received a bad report.

Secondarily, I write to caution and encourage every single person who reads this post to act proactively when it comes to your health. In Invictus, William Ernest Henley asserted, 

            It matters not how strait the gate,

            How charged with punishment the scroll,

            I am the master of my fate,

            I am the captain of my soul.

I submit that every adult among us has a responsibility to him or herself to be the best person he or she can possibly be. When it comes to our health, just as with our finances, it behooves us to be our own personal fiduciary. Some folks are reticent to consult medical professionals. Many of us know someone who received devastating news after a consultation with their physician. In too many cases, due to reluctance, hesitancy, fear, and sometimes just being too busy, we put off visiting a doctor, when there were troubling signs or symptoms that we could and should have shared with a physician much sooner, and as a result, received a more favorable diagnosis, or have had an opportunity to a get a more effective regimen prescribed. Stop playing. “Your Personal Health: It’s A Serious Matter!”

I’m done; holla back!

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

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Control The Narrative: How To Change The Subject

It’s time to Break It Down!

A couple of days ago the U.S. Supreme Court‘s long standing veil of pre-decision secrecy was pierced. According to a now confirmed leak, the 5 most conservative members of the Court, including the three Trump appointees are poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision, decided January 22, 1973, that makes some abortions legal in the United States. In publishing the first draft of the opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Politico broke with the Court’s longstanding protocols for security and secrecy.

For the past half-century, abortion, and abortion rights, or the lack thereof, have been among the most hotly contested, widely debated issues in the public policy sphere. Arc conservatives, neo-conservatives, and almost every other stripe assembled under the banner of conservatism have used almost every conceivable measure from civil debates to civil disobedience, to actually killing human beings…in the name of the pro-life movement. It seems oddly antithetical to the stated goal of preserving life, but like their support for unfettered access to guns and ammo, if they are for it, collateral damage doesn’t seem to resonate as anything more serious than a minor inconvenience. Just another way to “own the libs.”

Given the robust nature of the debate, and conservatives’ longstanding passion to achieve what now seems to be a likely victory, it smacks of disingenuousness to see and hear the nauseatingly hollow-ringing moaning and groaning about the source of the leak. Really? If ever there was a straw man, this lame argument steps to the head of the class. I wouldn’t put it past someone from the most conservative corner of the spectrum to have fed the intel into the public domain, specifically with the intent to render a preemptive strike on pro-choice forces, and dissipate early, any energy that might spontaneously ignite to mobilize public opinion, and more importantly, voters.

I could go on a long and laborious rant about the overwrought, under-sourced chorus of “Hillary and Trump are the same” assertions, and the counterpoint that even one Hillary term would have produced a remarkably different kind of Court. But that’s water under the bridge, or over the dam; whichever idiom you might prefer. At this point, preparing for the next round of races is essential. And, lest anyone has forgotten, in North Carolina anyway, voting has already begun. Any time and energy spent off topic, i.e., majoring in the minors, and/or minoring in the majors, is time wasted. Do not fall for the okey-doke. The likely overturning of the law is where the focus belongs. Misdirection such as this, is a long-practiced art of deception. “Control The Narrative: How To Change The Subject!”

I’m done; holla back!

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

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People Are Talking: Atwitter Over The Purchase Of A Social Media Platform

It’s time to Break It Down!

In case you haven’t heard, Elon Musk, currently accorded the title, “The World’s Richest Man,” is buying Twitter. Conservatives are cheering, underscoring their confidence, that Musk who has signaled his opposition to the media conglomerate’s initiatives to moderate extremism, such as reining in content, and suspending accounts that harass other users and/or traffic in misinformation, A.K.A. fake news.

For his part, Musk has argued that Twitter has overcorrected in such cases. Now that he is in a position to do something other than editorialize on the subject, social media users in general, and the Twitterverse in particular, are tuning in to see just what steps the CEO of Tesla, the world’s most valuable car company, SpaceX, whose mission is to ascertain how to transport humans to other planets in the event the Earth becomes uninhabitable, and now, new owner of Twitter, will take to make their fondest social media dreams come true. As Allison Morrow, of CNN Business noted yesterday, “Musk is not only the world’s richest person, he is arguably its most powerful too.” 

In conversations I have either participated in, or observed about the matter, conservatives have overwhelmingly backed the idea of Musk. Some approached apoplexy when it appeared for a fleeting moment that Twitter might nix the offer. Those individuals acted almost personally offended that some elitist liberal cabal would eschew the interests of stockholders by refusing the sweetheart deal Musk had put on the table. Of course, one of the first rules of negotiation, if it’s in fact a negotiation is, never accept the first offer. In the end, the offer was accepted, pretty much as it originated. That’s probably a clear indication, as any, that the fiduciary responsibility was taken seriously, as the arbiters of the refusal did not allow the initial offer to be diminished, before accepting it.

I saw another erstwhile conservative equate Musk buying Twitter with Jeff Bezos purchasing the Washington Post. While they are fundamentally different entities, from purpose, to structure, at the end of the day, they are both contemporary media platforms, and their content influences people around the globe. The deeper point, however, wasn’t related to the types of media, but to the idea of liberals expressing grave concerns about Musk’s acquisition, vs. Bezos’. That comparison suggests, all such acquisitions are equal, and liberals thought they were getting some kind of upper hand when Bezos bought the post, and that Musk buying Twitter is just a case of turnabout being fair play.

On one hand, it’s fair to say not all liberals think the same; nor do they all subscribe to the same principles. Ostensibly, that could also be said of conservatives. Laying all that to one side, both liberals and conservatives tend to paint with a broad brush. Most liberals and Democrats (not all Democrats are liberal) believe that all conservatives and Republicans support Trump. While not “all” do, polling consistently suggests that most, in fact, do. Of course, many conservatives and Republicans (it could be most) believe Hillary and Democrats ran a pedophilia ring out of a pizza restaurant in DC, and that Obama is not an American. Some even believe Obama was responsible for the federal government’s response to Hurricane Katrina.

The essence of conservative’s support for Trump circles back to the litmus test of the moment. Ergo, if you support Trump, you must believe:

            The 2020 Election was stolen

            Joe Biden is not the duly elected POTUS

            There was no insurrection on January 6, 2021

Elon Musk may reverse Twitter practices on fake news. But, if you believe any or all the three items above…it is my opinion that you’ve been hoodwinked, bamboozled, lead astray, run amok, and flat out deceived. I’ll leave it there. “People Are Talking: Atwitter Over The Purchase Of A Social Media Platform!”

I’m done; holla back!

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

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Attorney Still Caping For 45; Withholding Over 3,000 Emails

It’s time to Break It Down!

As tempting as it was to make today’s post a 4/20 blog, I “Just said no!” The 2020 Presidential Election was 523 days ago. In less than two weeks, it will have been a year and a half. Still, an attorney for the previous president, a man who endeavored to negate the incumbent’s defeat through a variety of legal maneuvers and assorted wrangling, continues the fight, in his own way.   

As reported yesterday, John Eastman, a far-right lawyer for the then-President who wanted to block his electoral loss in 2020, is still withholding about 3,200 documents from the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 insurrection, according to a new court filing this week.

In earlier developments, the court ordered Attorney Eastman to release 101 documents, which he had tried, unsuccessfully, to claim were confidential legal communications related to the former president. These documents were emails from January 4 through January 7, 2021.

Since that ruling, Mr. Eastman has continued to parse almost 100,000 pages of emails, also sought by the House Select Committee. These emails are from other dates around the election. Meanwhile he is currently arguing that thousands of documents, comprising about 36,000 pages, which are being sought by the House Select Committee, in its effort to investigate the January 6 insurrection, should remain confidential. The House Select Committee made a new filing this week.

David Carter, a Federal Judge in Santa Ana, California, is weighing whether Eastman can keep those pages secret. Carter is the same Judge who ruled tot force Eastman to release the 101 documents. That decision was pivotal for the Select Committee and represented a setback for Eastman.

Eastman’s lawsuit is also a, not so subtle, reminder that the Select Committee continues to be tied up in court on multiple fronts. As they fight for their subpoenas to be executed and adhered to, the clock is set to become as much a factor as uncooperative witnesses with a clear mission to obstruct the Select Committee’s objective of getting to the bottom of/determining the root causes of the January 6 hostilities.

The 101 emails the Select Committee received two weeks ago capture extensive discussions among Eastman and others about using court cases as a political argument to block Congress from certifying the vote, according to past proceedings in the court case.

In one email, a draft memo for Rudy Giuliani, that was obtained by the committee, the judge decided it was potentially being used to plan a crime. The memo recommended that then-Vice President Mike Pence reject some states’ electors during the January 6 congressional meeting.

About that email, Judge Carter wrote, “This may have been the first time members of the President’s team transformed a legal interpretation of the Electoral Count Act into a day-by-day plan of action.

“Based on the evidence, the Court finds it more likely than not that the President corruptly attempted to obstruct the Joint Session of Congress on January 6, 2021.”

As a result of determining the other emails he ordered released, were not about litigation, Judge Carter ruled they could not be protected as the work of an attorney. His reasoning was a startling acknowledgment by a federal court that the President’s interest in overturning the election could be considered criminal. 

The House committee does not have the wherewithal to prosecute 45 or his allies, but the panel has considered formally asking the Justice Department to investigate. In the case, the House made the bold move of arguing the President was trying to obstruct Congress and defraud the government by blocking his loss of the election and discussing it with Eastman, an argument with which Judge Carter agreed.

In addition, the state of California’s attorney regulators are reviewing Eastman’s legal ethics related to the election, though neither the former president, nor Eastman have been charged with any crime. Yet.

Judge Carter wrote, “If the country does not commit to investigating and pursuing accountability for those responsible, the Court fears January 6 will repeat itself.”

Eastman did not appeal Carter’s ruling on the 101 documents. “Attorney Still Caping For 45; Withholding Over 3,000 Emails!”

I’m done; holla back!

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

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Excellence Now, Excellence Forever

It’s time to Break It Down!

So, Monday, I had the kind of opportunity that makes parents proud. So much so, that I am taking a point of personal privilege and writing about it. The it in this case being my family…a topic I explore, every once in a blue moon.

My wife and I ventured a couple of states south to the Peach State, where our daughter is projected to wrap up her graduate studies in atmospheric sciences this summer. Shelby, long an academic superstar, graduated as salutatorian of her high school senior class, mastering the rigorous International Baccalaureate curriculum along the way, graduated with honors from college, and Monday, as a graduate student, she was inducted into the prestigious Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society.

The society’s motto is Φιλοσοφία Kρατείτω Φωτῶν (Philosophía Krateítõ Phõtôn), which is translated as “Let the love of learning rule humanity”, and its mission is “to recognize and promote academic excellence in all fields of higher education and to engage the community of scholars in service to others.” Kappa Phi is a member of the Honor Society Caucus, which is composed of four honor societies: Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Kappa Phi, Sigma Xi, and Omicron Delta Kappa.

Day tripping down to Athens for the quick visit of the University of Georgia’s campus was a pleasant getaway. We had visited the town to help set up Shelby’s first apartment, but neither of us had spent any time exploring the campus. Admittedly, it was a quick trip, but purpose-driven visit, so our exposure to the campus footprint was limited. But we liked what we saw.

Much more important than campus aesthetics is the reason for our jaunt, seeing our daughter get recognized for successfully navigating the rigors of a challenging course of study at a major American University. It was comforting to note that among her peers, professors, and advisors, Shelby appeared in her element. Her advisor was especially laudatory as he extolled her serious studentship. I think her mom was particularly comforted by the external confirmation that she had done a great job in igniting Shelby’s passion for learning.

Phi Kappa Phi is the nation’s oldest, largest, and most selective all-discipline honor society. The organization’s mission is to recognize and promote academic excellence in all fields of higher education and to engage the community of scholars in service to others,

The Badge of the Society is a globe against the background of the sun, whose rays form an expansive corona and radiate in a number of symmetrical equal concentrations from behind the globe. These signify equivalence among the various branches of learning and represent dissemination of truth as light. Encircling the globe is a band containing the Greek letters ΦΚΦ and symbolizing a fraternal bond which girds the earth and the lovers of wisdom in a common purpose.

The Seal of the Society has at its center the Badge. This is in turn surrounded by a crenelated line which represents the battlements and walls of Troy and which symbolizes a technological aspect of the ancient Greek culture reflected by the Society. In the space between this line and the periphery of the Seal appear three stars just above the Badge, one for each of the three original chapters. Just below the Badge is the phrase “Founded 1897.”

The Ribbon of the Society is a meander pattern which is common in ancient Greek art and thus symbolizes the classical features of the society.

Phi Kappa Phi’s motto, as noted above is, “Let the love of learning rule humanity;” its mission, “to recognize and promote excellence in all fields of higher education and to engage the community of scholars in service of others.” Congratulations Shelby…“Excellence Now, Excellence Forever!”

I’m done; holla back!

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

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It’s time to Break It Down!

Monday night was the end of this year’s college basketball season. Congratulations to the Kansas Jayhawks, the 2022 NCAA College Basketball’s National Champions. May they, Coach Bill Self, staff, students, and fans thoroughly enjoy their well-deserved “One Shining Moment.”

Of course, this post is not about any of the above. It’s an homage to my alma mater, the runner-up, University of North Carolina Tar Heels. If you are familiar with my posts, you know that from time to time, I write about the Heels. This is one of those posts.

The past year has been one of a roller-coaster of experiences for the team, and emotions for fans. On April 1, 2021, Roy Williams, the Tar Heel Coach for 18 years abruptly announced his retirement. Like a lot of Tar Heel fans, I initially thought it was an April Fools’ Day prank. It wasn’t.

Three days later, on April 4, the University of North Carolina named Tar Heel Assistant Coach Hubert Davis as their new Head Coach. A year later, Coach Davis and the Tar Heels were at the center of college basketball’s biggest, most compelling stage, the NCAA Championship Game, held this year at the New Orleans Super Dome.

North Carolina is an elite program. The Heels started playing basketball in 1910 and have amassed a record of 2,321 wins and 831 losses, for a winning percentage of .736. UNC Hoops has an extraordinary list of superlatives that include:

  • Third winningest program of all-time
  • 1 Premo- Poretta Title (Pre-NCAA), undefeated season 
  • 1 Helms Foundation Title (Pre NCAA), undefeated season
  • 6 National Titles, including an undefeated season in 1957 (Third most all-time)
  • 6 National Runner-up finishes, including 2022
  • 21 Final Four Appearances (most all-time)
  • 29 Elite Eight Appearances
  • 35 Sweet Sixteen Appearances
  • 52 NCAA Tournament Appearances
  • 8 Southern Conference Tournament Titles
  • 9 Southern Conference Regular Season Titles
  • 18 ACC Tournament Titles
  • 32 ACC Regular Season Titles (most all-time)
  • 49 All-American Players (Chosen 78 Times)
  • 130 NCAA Tournament Wins (most all-time) 
  • 17 Number 1 NCAA Tournament Seeds (most all-time)
  • 928 Weeks Ranked in the AP Top 25
  • 14 Times Defeated the Number 1 Ranked Team in the Country (8 Times – Duke)
  • 8 Retired Jerseys (Must have won at least 1 National Player of the Year Award)
  • 43 Honored Jerseys (Must have won National Title MVP, Olympic Gold Medalist, 1st or 2nd Team All-America, ACC Player of the Year, or NCAA Tournament MOP honors)
  • 11 Members of the Naismith Hall of Fame (5 as Coach)
  • 21 Olympians (6 Coaches)
  • 12 Current NBA Players
  • 19 Current International League Players
  • 16 NBA Coaches and Executives
  • Longest home winning streak against one opponent (59 straight home wins/Clemson)
  • Most consecutive 20-win seasons
  • Most consecutive top-three ACC finishes
  • Most 25-win seasons

Given Carolina’s amazingly consistent success, this season may not stand out at first glance. But when framed in the context of having had two subpar (for Carolina) seasons before this one, and then sustaining thrashing defeats by Tennessee, Kentucky, Miami, Wake Forest, Duke (at home), and an unexpected loss at home to a Pittsburgh team that lost more than twice as many conference games as it won, the Heels were thought at one point late in the season to be ensconced on the NCAA Bubble, and likely to miss the NCAA Tournament. Then an interesting, if not improbable, turnabout occurred. They beat Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium in Coach Krzyzewski’s last home game. He, Duke, and ESPN has organized an epic retirement celebration and send-off to the ACC Tournament. In a victory that will live in infamy (in Durham), the Tar Heels post season life was born. The Heels were forthwith launched on an NCAA Tourney run that saw four different players lead them in scoring in their first four tournament games, all wins, including a victory of the Number 1 Seed in the East Region, last year’s Champion, Baylor.

Then, for what many fans viewed as the piece de resistance, for the first time ever in NCAA Tournament play, the 8 Seed Heels faced off against the 2 Seed Duke Blue Devils in the nightcap of the Final Four semi-finals. In a certified Instant Classic, the Heels downed Duke, ending Coach K’s season, tournament run, and career, all rolled up into one. Meanwhile, Carolina’s rookie coach, Hubert Davis, who’d never been a Collegiate Head Coach anywhere, ended what many had envisioned, if not hoped for, a 6th National Title for Duke and for Coach K, the winningest NCAA Division 1 Coach of all-time. Congratulations Coach Davis; Happy Retirement Coach K. Duke fans and Coach K will now live with the reality that rookie Hubert Davis pulled back the curtain and went 2-1 against the Great and Powerful K, and in the process, giving him and Duke two of the biggest L’s in the history of the Duke-Carolina rivalry..

Many Tar Heel fans were so ecstatic at this turn of events, that they considered Saturday night’s win their Championship. Even though for most of the season, this would have been considered an unexpected outcome, do not count me among them. While I was glad we beat Duke, happy we beat Duke twice in one year, excited we beat Duke at Cameron in K’s last home game, delighted we beat Duke in the NCAA Tourney, joyful we beat Duke in the Final Four, jubilant we ended K’s career on college basketball’s biggest stage, because after all, K, and Duke are our rival (now). Why now? Because I attended Carolina so long ago, North Carolina State was our rival. But that was a lot of years ago.

Winning a College Basketball National Championship is a considerable accomplishment. Some outstanding coaches have never come close. The inception of the Tourney was 1939. It’s been played every year but one, since then, 2020. Thanks Covid. Carolina has won 6 times, third most. Only UCLA, 11, and Kentucky, 8, have won more Titles. Duke is number 4, with 5 Titles, and Kansas is number 5, with 4 Titles, including Monday night. Undoubtedly, for some fans, their real enthusiasm comes from the stark contrast in trajectory the team made in turning around the season. That’s fair. However, just making it to the Final Four is tough. Winning two games against the best remaining four teams at the end of the year is especially challenging. However, if you make it to the Final game, odds of winning the Title are never going to be better. It is for that reason; I rue not having prevailed Monday night. However, rest assured, I am, and forever shall be a proud Tar Heel. “It’s A GDTBATH!”

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Lynching Is Finally A Federal Hate Crime In The U.S.: It’s About D… Time

It’s time to Break It Down!

Yesterday, President Biden did a thing. CNN’s Kate Sullivan and Maegan Vazquez wrote that he signed a bill into law making  lynching a federal hate crime. Upon doing so, he acknowledged how racial violence has left a lasting scar on the nation and asserted that these crimes are not a relic of a bygone era. For context, see George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Sandra Bland, Breonna Taylor, The Charleston Nine, Philando Castile, and Eric Garner, just to name a few. 

The law, entitled the Emmett Till Antilynching Act of 2022, is named after a 14-year-old Black boy from Chicago who was brutally murdered by a group of White men in Mississippi for allegedly whistling at a White woman in 1955. His murder sparked national outrage and was a catalyst for the emerging civil rights movement. But, as the names noted in the previous paragraph clearly denote, the practice is not re4legated to 1955, or even to Y2K. It continues to this day. That the country filled with people that consider America superior to all other nations, had not resolved to at least make such a heinous act a hate crime, is disappointing, if not surprising.

Biden characterized it thusly: “Lynching was pure terror to enforce the lie that not everyone … belongs in America, not everyone is created equal. Terror, to systematically undermine hard-fought civil rights. Terror, not just in the dark of the night but in broad daylight. Innocent men, women and children hung by nooses in trees, bodies burned and drowned and castrated.

Their crimes? Trying to vote. Trying to go to school. Trying to own a business or preach the gospel. False accusations or murder, arson, and robbery. Simply being Black.”

Historically, lynching was frequently a tactic aimed at Black American, especially in strictly racially segregated southern states. According to Tuskegee University, which collects records on lynchings, 4,743 people were lynched from 1882 to 1968 and 3,446 of them were Black. The President referenced the unwritten rules that Black mothers, like Mrs. Till, passed on to their children – the same kind of admonitions contemporary Black parents must pass along to their children.

He emphasized the new law is not just about the past, and elevated as examples, the murder of a 25-year-old Black man who was on a jog and a 2017 Virginia rally of White supremacists and White nationalists where a counter protester was killed and scores were injured. 

“From the bullets in the back of Ahmaud Arbery to countless other acts of violence, countless victims known and unknown, the same racial hatred that drove the mob to hang a noose brought that mob carrying torches out of the fields of Charlottesville just a few years ago — racial hate isn’t an old problem. It’s a persistent problem.”

The interest in passing such a law in not newly found. Advocates have been trying to pass federal anti-lynching legislation for more than one hundred-twenty years.

On Tuesday, Rep. Bobby Rush of Illinois, who introduced the bill signed into law. He also introduced a similar version of his current bill in 2019. The following year, the House passed that bill but Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, held it up over concerns that it was overly broad. Paul announced his support for the latest version of the bill earlier this month.

Vice President Kamala Harris, as a California senator, along with New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker and South Carolina Republican Sen. Tim Scott introduced a bill that would make lynching a federal hate crime. The Senate approved the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act in late 2018, but the legislation didn’t make it through the House of Representatives.

Harris noted, during the signing ceremony, that since anti-lynching legislation was first introduced in Congress in 1900, “anti-lynching legislation has been introduced to the United States Congress more than 200 times.”

She went on to add, “Lynching is not a relic of the past. Racial acts of terror still occur in our nation. And when they do, we must all have the courage to name them and hold the perpetrators to account.”

The President, standing next to Michelle Duster, the great-granddaughter of Ida B. Wells-Barnett, pointed out that Wells-Barnett came to the White House in 1898 “in order to make a case for the anti-lynching law.” 

Only three House Republicans — Andrew Clyde of Georgia, Thomas Massie of Kentucky, and Chip Roy of Texas — voted against the bill. (When they show you who they are…) The legislation then passed the Senate by unanimous consent. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said at the time that Congress had tried and failed more than 200 times to outlaw lynching and that the new legislation was “long overdue.”

Rush, who attended the White House ceremony, said in a statement that he was “elated” to see the bill signed into law, adding, “I am so proud that we have come together — in a bipartisan fashion — to enact a law that will ensure lynchings are always punished as the barbaric crimes they are.”

Till’s cousin, the Rev. Wheeler Parker Jr., said in a statement: “My cousin was a bright, promising 14-year-old from Chicago. My family was devastated that no one was held responsible for the abduction, torture, and murder of Emmett. But we are heartened by this new law, which shows that Emmett still speaks in powerful ways to make sure that no one can get away with a racist crime like this ever again.” “Lynching Is Finally A Federal Hate Crime in the U.S.: It’s About D… Time!”

CNN’s Nicole Chavez contributed to this report.

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Who Was Bushrod Washington…And Why Does Ted Cruz Think He’s An Avatar For A Non-controversial Supreme Court Nominee?

It’s time to Break It Down!

The U.S. Senate, on Monday began its confirmation hearings for President Biden’s nominee, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. Senator Ted Cruz began his opening statement with a history lesson, of sorts. He advised Her Honor that Supreme Court nominations weren’t always controversial, and then cited an instance of such a non-controversial pick…who just happened to have been a (select the term that suits you) slave owner/slave holder/enslaver. In continuing his “lesson,”  he said, “Bushrod Washington, when nominated to the Supreme Court in 1798, as confirmed the very next day.” 

While Mr. Washington, a favorite nephew of George Washington, was confirmed via voice vote a day after President John Adams nominated him, it’s noteworthy, The Washington Post reports, that Washington was neither the first nor the last to be confirmed that quickly” – about 10 Supreme Court justices were confirmed the same day they were nominated – and “he was definitely controversial, largely because he was an enslaver.”

In reviewing the (for the purposes of this post), curious case of Bushrod Washington’s Supreme Court nomination, we learn that Washington brought enslaved African Americans back to Mt. Vernon after inheriting the estate in 1802, after Martha Washington’s death. Mrs. Washington had freed the estate’s remaining slaves, effective upon her death. That he was an enslaver was not in and of itself controversial. More than half of U.S. Senators, at the time, were slaveholders. However, when he sold 54 slaves for $10,000, to pay off his debts, and they were marched to Louisiana in chains, the newspapers of the day described his actions as excessively revolting.”

Bushrod was also the co-founder of an organization in 1812, known as the American Colonization Society. How apt! “Black Panther” fans will appreciate the hubristic irony. The organization was designed to send the growing numbers of free Black Americans to Africa, a place almost none of them had ever been. Abolitionists and Black people who resisted this movement, were met by complaints from Washington that “unworthy persons” were speaking “with my negroes.” With characterizations such as this, it’s easy enough to see why a certain segment calls any information that reveals what should be considered controversial about a man like Bushrod Washington, Critical Race Theory (CRT). In essence, they are saying, revealing actions their forebears actually took, is criticizing their race, ergo, CRT.

To wit, WaPo writer Gillian Brockell wrote, “So that is who Cruz mentioned in his speech Monday. For all intents and purposes, it was a throwaway line meant only to introduce Cruz’s real historical point: what had changed from those halcyon uncontroversial days.” Maybe, maybe not. Maya Angelou said, “When people tell you who they are, believe them. The first time. In any event, Cruz’s revisionist explanation of what changed raised its own set of questions. To that end, the questions I leave with you…”Who Was Bushrod Washington…And Why Does Ted Cruz Think He’s An Avatar For A Non-controversial Supreme Court Nominee?”

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Facts: The Definition of Stubborn Things

It’s time to Break It Down!

If you follow my posts, you may know, occasionally, I concede that a particular story has made a point so well, there is nothing I feel compelled to add. Daniel Dale has done just that with his fact check of the myth of Trump’s so-called “energy independence.” In short, it didn’t happen, particularly in the way many GOP pols like to tell the story. Read it from Mr. Dale in his own words.

Washington (CNN)The United States never stopped importing energy from foreign countries under President Donald Trump. 

Both before and after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine contributed to a spike in US gas prices, various Republicans bashed President Joe Biden for supposedly abandoning Trump-era “energy independence.” These Republicans have fostered the impression that the “energy independent” US did not need energy from Russia and elsewhere under Trump, but then, under Biden, has been forced to buy this foreign energy once more.

The truth is that the US was never close to genuine independence from foreign energy in the Trump era.

“Energy independence” is a political phrase, not a literal phrase. Despite how Trump and others have made it sound, it does not mean the US was ever going it alone. 

“A ridiculous term,” said Jim Krane, an energy studies fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.

“A horrible term,” said Jeff Colgan, professor and director of the Climate Solutions Lab at Brown University and an expert on the geopolitics of oil.

“This stupid term,” said Amy Myers Jaffe, an energy expert and a research professor at The Fletcher School at Tufts University.

The term has various non-literal definitions. And the US did satisfy some of these definitions under Trump in 2020 — as it did again in the 11 months of 2021, mostly under Biden, for which we have complete data.

For example, in both periods, the US exported more crude oil and petroleum products than it imported. It also produced more primary energy than it consumed.

But none of that means that the Trump-era US did no energy importing at all. From the beginning of Trump’s term to the end, the US very much relied on oil and gas from abroad.

In 2020, Trump’s last full year in office, the US imported about 7.9 million barrels per day of crude oil and petroleum products. That was down from prior years — the US imported more than 10 million barrels per day in 2016, President Barack Obama’s last full year — but still a whole lot of foreign energy. 

In fact, contrary to prominent Republicans’ suggestions over the last month that the US had just recently started consuming Russian energy under Biden, US energy imports from Russia spiked during the Trump presidency.

And that isn’t the only thing Republicans have gotten wrong. 

Contrary to claims from Trump and other Republicans, Biden has not “shut down” American energy: US crude oil production in Biden’s first year was higher than in each of Trump’s first two years and just narrowly shy of production in Trump’s last year, though substantially lower than production in Trump’s record-setting third year. And experts say it is economic factors and cautionary pressures from Wall Street, not anything Biden has done, that has made US oil companies reluctant to dramatically ramp up production from current levels. 

Multiple reasons for foreign imports 

Amid the US boom in oil and gas production from hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking, the quantity of US imports of crude oil and petroleum products has been trending downward since early in the second term of President George W. Bush. But there are numerous reasons why the US doesn’t just stop importing entirely. 

One key reason is that there is a mismatch between many of the refineries in the US, which were designed to handle heavy crude oil, and the lighter crude that is produced in the US through fracking. 

Another reason is that domestic energy production isn’t sufficient to fulfill the needs of all US refineries — for which it can be profitable to buy low-cost unfinished energy from abroad, turn it into higher-value petroleum products, and then export some of those products. Colgan noted in an email that even at moments when the US is a net exporter of oil, “it remains tightly integrated into the world market for oil, constantly exporting some grades of oil to foreign customers while importing other grades of oil into the United States. Same for oil products like gasoline and diesel.” 

Geographic factors are also at play. For example, refineries in California have relied on importssome from Russia, because importing has been cheaper than getting oil shipped from various parts of the US, such as the Permian Basin in the Southwest, to which California has no pipeline connection. 

Unless the US shifts completely to renewable or nuclear energy, Krane said in an interview, “we are going to be tethered to supply lines that stretch halfway around the world whether we like it or not.” 

Russian imports never ceased under Trump 

Before Biden announced a ban on imports of Russian energy last Tuesday, some Republicans suggested that the US had suddenly started importing Russian oil under Biden. 

For example, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said at an event in late February: “We were, before Biden took office, for the first time in any of our lifetimes, actually energy independent. Putin didn’t matter. Now, they’re importing millions of barrels of oil from Russia.” 

Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst said on Fox News on March 6 that Biden’s choices when he first came into office “put us in this tenuous position with energy independence in the United States. Instead of being an exporter of energy, we became a consumer of Russian oil.” 

The truth is that the US was importing a significant quantity of oil and petroleum products from Russia under Trump: over 137 million barrels in 2018, then 189.8 million barrels in 2019 and 197.7 million barrels in 2020. 

Imports from Russia did increase again, to 245.2 million barrels, in 2021. 

Analysts have attributed part of the spike in energy imports from Russia since 2018 to the sanctions Trump imposed on Venezuelan oil in 2019, which left US refiners looking for an alternative supplier. Regardless of the cause, it’s just not true that “Putin didn’t matter” to the US energy supply before Biden took office or that the US “became a consumer of Russian oil” under Biden. 

What is true is that, under both Trump and Biden, imports from Russia made up a fraction of total US petroleum imports — about 8 percent in 2021, just about tied with Mexico for second place.

The US reliance on foreign energy is in large part a reliance on close ally Canada, which provided 51 percent of US imports in 2021.

Biden’s impact has been overstated 

Republicans have portrayed Biden as an all-powerful enemy of the US oil and gas industry. 

Trump claimed in a speech in late February that Biden “shut down American energy.” Florida Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted a Wednesday suggestion that Biden was stopping oil companies from increasing production, writing: “If Biden would let America get back to 2019 production we won’t need a single drop of oil from #Venezuela or #Iran or anyone else.” 

There is no doubt that Biden’s attitude toward the US oil and gas industry is less friendly than Trump’s was. But the truth is that Biden isn’t stopping US energy companies from increasing production and certainly never “shut down” US energy production. 

“President Biden hasn’t done anything yet — no offense — because he can’t get anything passed through the Congress,” Jaffe said in an interview. 

Rather, US oil companies themselves have been reluctant to dramatically ramp up production. While the oil lobby has cast blame on Biden policies, experts cite various other reasons —including supply chain problems, challenges finding workers, and, critically, the current insistence from Wall Street that energy companies restrain spending and return cash to investors. 

“Oil and gas companies do not want to drill more,” Pavel Molchanov, an analyst at Raymond James, told CNN Business for an article in early March, before Biden announced the Russia ban. “They are under pressure from the financial community to pay more dividends, to do more share buybacks instead of the proverbial ‘drill baby drill,’ which is the way they would have done things 10 years ago. Corporate strategy has fundamentally changed.”

Krane, the energy studies fellow from Rice University, concurred in an interview after Biden announced the ban. 

“It’s not a lack of leasing that’s holding back US crude. It’s Wall Street,” he said. “The federal government is like a third-tier player in the US oil market. Market signals themselves are the main driver of energy production and decision-making in the US.” 

Even still, US field production of crude oil in 2021, about 11.2 million barrels per day, was only slightly lower than US production under Trump in 2020, when it was about 11.3 million barrels per day — and 2021 production was higher than production in 2017 and 2018, Trump’s first two years in office, though well below the record 12.3 million barrels per day in 2019. 

Numerous Republicans have castigated Biden’s decision to revoke the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have carried crude oil from Canada’s oil sands to the US. But the long-delayed pipeline would almost certainly not have been ready this year even if Biden had allowed construction to proceed. 

The federal Energy Information Administration projected this month that US crude oil production will hit 12 million barrels per day again in 2022, then set a new record of 13 million barrels per day in 2023. 

Moratorium put on hold 

Biden has called for a shift away from fossil fuel production and toward renewable energy sources, and he has put forward policies toward that end. Those policies have included an attempted temporary moratorium on new leases for oil and gas drilling on public lands and offshore waters. 

But the Biden moratorium wouldn’t have stopped drilling on existing leases. A judge put the Biden moratorium on hold in June. And the moratorium was intended to be in place only until the completion of a review by Biden’s interior department — which ended up recommending an increase to leasing fees but not a long-term halt to new leasing. 

As CNN’s Ella Nilsen reported last week, the Biden administration approved more drilling permits in its first year than the Trump administration approved in 2017, 2018 and 2019, though fewer than it approved in 2020. 

Since late February of this year, there has been a pause on the issuance of new leases and permits on federal territory. That pause, however, was prompted by a judge’s injunction in a lawsuit filed by Republican state attorneys general. 

In addition, it’s important to note that more than three-quarters of US drilling occurs on non-federal territory.

“Facts: The Definition of Stubborn Things!” I’m done, holla back! 

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

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