Memorial Day: What Your Teacher Never Told You!

It’s time to Break It Down!

(Please enjoy this reprised edition of “Break It Down!” This post was originally published May 30, 2012 at:

OK, so Memorial Day was earlier this week.  You may be familiar with my holiday week philosophy, which is: make it easy on the readers, who are always otherwise engaged, no matter the holiday.  Of course, in the process, I am also giving myself a break.  That makes for a natural win-win scenario.

With that overarching thought in mind, I will endeavor to apply three elementary rules of communication:

  1. Utilize the KISS Principle, AKA, Keep It Short & Simple (also Keep It Simple Stupid)
  1. Convey new or “not widely circulated” information
  1. Always remember to emphasize points 1 and 2 above

Memorial Day is a federal holiday to honor America’s fallen soldiers.  It originated after the Civil War.  Falling between Easter and Independence Day, it is often equated with a late spring break, or a pre-summer respite.

The weekend typically includes a cornucopia of sports.  For example this week included the NASCAR Coca-Cola 600, the NBA Conference Finals, College Men’s Baseball playoffs, and College Women’s Softball competition, among others.

With the rapidly heating-up political season thrown in the mix, the holiday is sometimes almost lost in the shuffle. But wait; Memorial Day has a special cultural significance.  In fact, it is because of that nexus we should pay special homage to this late spring holiday.

The first well-known observance of a Memorial Day type was held May 1, 1865 in Charleston, South Carolina.  Over 250 Union soldiers that had been prisoners of war, died in Charleston, and were quickly buried in makeshift graves. A group of blacks, mostly freedmen, organized the observance and led cleanup and landscaping of the burial site.

Most of the nearly 10,000 people who attended were freedmen and their families.  Of that number, 3.000 were children, newly enrolled in freedman’s schools.  Mutual aid societies, black ministers, and white Northern missionaries were also in attendance.

David W. Blight, Professor of American History at Yale University, and Director of the school’s Gilder-Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, & Abolition, described the day this way:

“This was the first Memorial Day. African Americans invented Memorial Day in Charleston, South Carolina. What you have there is black Americans recently freed from slavery announcing to the world with their flowers, their feet, and their songs what the War had been about. What they basically were creating was the Independence Day of a Second American Revolution.”

Professor Blight conceded there is no evidence that the Charleston event led directly to the establishment of Memorial Day across the country.  But the record is clear they formed the earliest truly large-scale event, complete with media coverage.  Their effort was the prototype, if not the catalyst.

Having said that, I believe I honored the rules established above for this post:

  • Told this story in a direct and uncomplicated fashion
  • Presented information I am confident most readers did not know
  • Recognized points 1 and 2, were accomplished and closed the post

Enjoy your bonus time, and be sure to reflect on Memorial Day: What Your Teachers Never Told You!”

I’m done; holla back!

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Waco Biker Melee: Where Is The WASP Outrage?

It’s time to Break It Down!

As I have frequently reminded readers, my norm for determining a blog topic includes a window shopping view of topics of the day that capture my interest. Usually there are quite a few to ponder. I choose one, and then endeavor to share the subject in a way that will appeal to some of the folks who regularly read my posts.

My initial inclination for todays post was to write about President Obama joining the Twitterverse, after six years in Office. What started as a purely human-interest piece, framed around Mr. Obama’s late breaking decision to formally enter the realm of Twitter by opening his own account. The tone and tenor of the conversation changed almost immediately. Almost quicker than one could say Abracadabra (not that there was anything magical about what transpired), the commentary took on a vile and racially divisive tone. No, it’s not prestidigitation; it’s not even surprising. Seven weeks ago (April 1st), I wrote a Post entitled, “President Obama Stumbles: Haters Rue Missed Opportunity!” ( Check it out, if you’ve forgotten, or in the event you never saw it. A few examples of the Tweets are here for your interest, edification, and/or perhaps, amusement.

President Obama


Hello, Twitter! It’s Barack. Really! Six years in, they’re finally giving me my own account.


John J. Johnson @JohnJJohnsonMN

‪@POTUS‪ What do you call the first black president of the United States?


2:00 PM – 18 May 2015

President Obama


Hello, Twitter! It’s Barack. Really! Six years in, they’re finally giving me my own account.


Gippo Dudee @DudeeGippo

‪@POTUS‪ nice job with the banner, gotta let everyone know that you’re some kinda communist nigger right?

12:15 PM – 18 May 2015

President Obama


Hello, Twitter! It’s Barack. Really! Six years in, they’re finally giving me my own account.


Jeff Gully @jeffgully49


#arrestobama #treason we need “ROPE FOR CHANGE” we still hang for treason don’t we?

3:28 PM – 18 May 2015

‪2 2 Retweets
‪4 4 favorites

Of course, as the Title belies, this post is not about POTUS or his Twitter Account. It’s about the deadly shootout Sunday in Waco, Texas, involving rival biker gangs, and police officers.

Recently I have commented on the seemingly steady stream of fracases in various communities across the American landscape. Typically violence is involved, often, but not always there is a racial component, and sooner or later some element, agency, or department of law enforcement must be engaged.

Just three short weeks ago, Baltimore was front and center. Three days ago, it was Waco. According to Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton, a police spokesperson, there were at least five gangs. He noted that bikers shot at each other, and at officers, who returned fire. He added:

“In my 35 years of law enforcement experience, this is the most violent and gruesome scene that I have dealt with.”

According to police, at least nine people died as a result of the gunfire exchanges. Police report 170 bikers were booked into the McLennan County Jail to be charged with Engaging in Organized Crime. That number has decreased from 192, originally reported by police Monday. Each was being held on $1 million bond. Other charges may be pending.

Sgt. Swanton expressed frustration and anger at Twin Peaks management. He suggested that the restaurant might have been able to do more to prevent the melee. For its part, corporate management at Twin Peaks issued a statement acknowledging that it was reviewing the circumstances of the shooting. In the release, they added:

“We are thankful no employees, guests or police were injured in this senseless violence outside the restaurant, and our sympathies are with the families of those killed.”

The initial position of Waco Police was that they would continue to refrain from naming the individual gangs, so as not to “give them publicity. However, earlier reports on the shooting pinpointed at least two gangs at the center of the chaos: “the Bandidos and the Cossacks.”

The Bandidos, with up to 2,500 members across 13 countries — 900 of them in the U.S. alone — are considered one of the country’s largest outlaw motorcycle gangs and “a growing criminal threat” by the Department of Justice.

The Bandidos are involved in the transportation and distribution of cocaine and marijuana as well as methamphetamine, which they also produce. The gang is also actively expanding its presence across Texas, where its membership is largely concentrated, and throughout other parts of the country, starting new chapters and recruiting members of allied clubs.

Less is known about the Cossacks Motorcycle Club, a local Texas gang reportedly founded just three years after the Bandidos, in 1969. But early expert analyses suggest rising territory-related tensions between the two Texas groups may have been at the root of Sunday’s shootout.

In 2013, Jack Lewis, the president of the Bandidos chapter in Abilene, Texas, was arrested in the nonfatal stabbings of two Cossacks members.

Steve Cook, executive director of the Midwest Outlaw Motorcycle Gang Investigators Association and a Kansas City law enforcement officer who says he previously worked undercover in the Bandidos, told both Vox and the Washington Post that the Cossacks may have been pursuing an alliance with the Bandidos’ rivals the Hells Angels in an effort to challenge the larger gang’s control of Texas.

“We knew the tensions with the Cossacks were as high as they’d ever been,” Cook told Vox. “I don’t think anybody could have forecast it to the degree that it happened.”

That is enough about the gory details of this incident. The real gist of the point I wish to explore for just a moment is, what was absent. During the Baltimore and Ferguson imbroglios, there was a palpable reaction; a visceral outrage about the thugs involved in committing senseless acts of violence. So what is different in Waco? Well, I’m glad you asked; here are 10 things:

  • No National Guard/late night curfews/incessant 24-7 News coverage
  • Recovered roughly 1000 weapons, including knives, pistols, rifles, & brass knuckles
  • Detainees were shown talking on their cell phones w/police nearby
  • 9 dead
  • 18 injured
  • Police officers engaged in exchange of gunfire
  • No reference of single-parent households
  • No signs of tear gas
  • No baton-wielding cops
  • No armored vehicles

No two of these scenarios is exactly alike. However, just four weeks ago, I penned a Post, entitled, “Dangerous Encounters With Police: The Flip Side!” ( The point of that post was how differently an individual may be treated by a police officer under duress. Today’s post reflects the same thought on a communal level. Despite the violent acts of nearly 200 bikers, the majority of whom were armed, and many of them firing their weapons at each other and at police, they are considered more human, and engender more empathy than unarmed black men, or the protesters who support them. If nothing else, that should be a catalyst for not only a national conversation, but also for the Change We Can All Believe In. Don’t hold your breath though. The question of the hour is”Waco Biker Melee: Where Is the WASP Outrage?”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link or http://thesphinxofcharlotte.blogspot.comFind a new post each Wednesday.

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Chicago’s South Side: Could There Ever Have Been Any Other Choice?

It’s time to Break It Down!

I don’t think so! For months now as critics and admirers alike have pointed to the winding down of President Obama’s tenure as our 44th President, a quiet but intense battle has raged. Usually beneath the surface, or out of the eyesight of the seemingly ever present eye in the sky of the news media, The University of Hawaii, Columbia University, The University of Illinois at Chicago, and the University of Chicago have vied for the prestigious opportunity to be name home for the Barack Obama Presidential Library. Without further adieu, congratulations to the University of Chicago, located on the City’s well-known, and often controversial South Side.

Let’s take a quick look at the contenders to get an idea why they were in the race in the first place:

The University of Hawaii – President Obama, despite the insistence of Birthers such as Donald Trump, was born in Hawaii. Pretty much automatically, The Aloha State and its Flagship University was a contender. Frankly, however, the University of Nairobi and/or the University of Indonesia (for the sake of those zany Birthers) stood about the same chance as the University of Hawaii of winning the Library. Hawaii is the most isolated population center on the planet. It is 2,390 miles from California, 3,850 miles from Japan, 4,900 miles from China, and 5,280 miles from the Philippines. In the fast paced politics of Negotiation 101, there were probably many reasons why the U of H was not going to be the ultimate home of the Obama Library, but almost certainly, the distance factor alone was sufficient to eliminate the Hawaiian Islands from serious consideration. It was nice of them to try, but it was never going to happen.

Columbia University – President Obama earned his undergraduate degree, a Bachelors of Arts in political science with a specialty in international relations from Columbia, after spending his first two years of college studying at Occidental College in Los Angeles. Columbia, an Ivy League research university, located in Upper Manhattan, New York City. It is in many ways the antithesis of the University of Hawaii. Located in America’s largest population center, is situated in the center of the BosWash megalopolis. Columbia is many things, but located in an isolated region is not one of them. Yet, I do not believe Columbia was serious player in this game. Barack Obama had not begun to make his mark during his Columbia era.

The University of Illinois at Chicago – The UIC has a lot to offer. First, it is in President Obama’s adopted hometown. Although there has been a number of feints and deflections about where President Obama will live after his presidency, and it’s yet to be determined…or at least announced, what we do know, is Chi-Town has served as the launching point for almost everything related to his political career, from his introduction to community organizing to his victory speech in Grant Park after his election in 2008. The school operates the largest medical school in the United States, and educates more of Illinois’ physicians, dentists, pharmacists, physical therapists, nurses, and other health care professionals than any other institution. Yet, I am reminded of an inside joke a friend of mine and I share. Cutting straight to the chase, UIC is a State School. All the Presidents Post Secondary education pursuits to date have occurred at private institutions, Occidental, Columbia, and Harvard, where he studied, and the University of Chicago, where he served as a Lecturer from 1992-1996, and a Senior Lecturer from 1996-2004, when he was elected to the U.S. Senate. Senior Lecturers are considered professors; just not full-time or tenure-track. Mr. Obama was invited several times to join the faculty in a tenure-track position, but declined.

It’s worth noting that Harvard was not among the list of schools vying for the Obama Presidential Library. A little research reveals that the Kennedy Library, located near the University of Massachusetts was initially slated for Harvard, President Kennedy’s alma mater. The shorthand version of what happened is it took the project so long to unfold, that what began as a popular idea devolved into one opposed by the community around the University, due to the anticipated crowds and commercialization of the area. There is not much reason to think attitudes have shifted in any fundamental way after the ensuing decades.

The University of Chicago – As President Obama put it in his own words in a video to the Obama Foundation yesterday:

“All the strands of my life came together and I really became a man when I moved to Chicago,”

That pretty much says it all. Any other location would have been an upset selection. He represented the South Side of Chicago in his Illinois Senate Seat, and of course went on to represent the State in the U.S. Senate. Ultimately, the Foundation decided on Chicago, and Mr. and Mrs. Obama signed off on the call. The president also said in the video:

“With a library and a foundation on the South Side of Chicago, not only will we be able to encourage and effect change locally but what we can also do is attract the world to Chicago.”

Finally, President Obama observed that Chicago is the nexus that connects the many elements of his life when he said the city of Chicago is that place where:

“All the strands of my life came together. The people there, the community, the lessons that I learned – they’re all based right in this few square miles where we’ll now be able to give something back and bring the world back home after this incredible journey.”

The City is where he began his career, met his wife, Michelle, and where his children were born. Chicago’s South Side: Could There Ever Have Been Any Other Choice? Really, no!

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link or http://thesphinxofcharlotte.blogspot.comFind a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribeclick on Follow in the bottom right hand corner of my Home Page at; 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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Jade Helm 15: The Next (Not So) Great Conspiracy Theory

It’s time to Break It Down!

Odds are, you’ve never heard of Jade Helm 1 thru 14, not to mention Jade Helm 15. Alternately, if you have heard of what I shall refer to as JH15, for convenience sake, you have either had the occasion to embrace or reject the conspiracy theory of the moment. Needless to say, the choice you made says a lot about you. I’ll just leave that right there.

Alrighty then, let’s peel this onion. What in the Jesse Helms is Jade Helm 15? First off, the two things are not related. The Late Jesse Helms was a Republican Senator representing the State of North Carolina for 30 years (January 3, 1973 – January 3, 2003). JH15 is a planned United States military training exercise that is scheduled to take place over multiple states in the US from July 15 through September 15, 2015. The exercise will involve U.S. Army Special Operations Command (SOC) with other U.S. Armed Forces units in a multi-state exercise that includes Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado.

Quickly, what do Greg Abbott, Ted Cruz, and Chuck Norris have in common? As I view the question, on its face, it appears to presage the punch line to a bad joke. However, in this particular instance, it is a serious question about an issue that has at least surfaced around the fringe of the public square.

These distinguished gentlemen, two politicians and an actor, all with immutable ties to the Lone Star State, have all recently asserted to varying degrees that the Pentagon is in effect, embroiled in a nefarious scheme to take over Texas. The Honorable Greg Abbott is the Governor of Texas. He is so concerned about the devious and dangerous nature of JH15 to Texans, that he has ordered the State’s National Guard to monitor Operation JH15.

Intrepid Senator Ted Cruz, the Junior Senator from Texas, and a freshly minted GOP Presidential Candidate, while blazing the campaign trail in the friendly confines of Columbia, South Carolina this past Saturday said he’d been hearing concerns about JH15, and he wanted answers. As he continued, he said:

“My office has reached out to the Pentagon to inquire about this exercise,” We are assured it is a military training exercise. I have no reason to doubt those assurances, but I understand the reason for concern and uncertainty, because when the federal government has not demonstrated itself to be trustworthy in this administration, the natural consequence is that many citizens don’t trust what it is saying.”

So, based upon his not so reassuring reassurance, one can infer Senator Cruz believes the Pentagon when it affirms the operation is a military training exercise, though he clearly believes the conspiracy theorists have legitimate grounds for concern.

Chuck Norris, who appeared in a number of action films, and portrayed a heroic lawman in the TV Show, “Walker, Texas Ranger, also joined the JH15 conspiracy bandwagon. On Sunday Walker, I mean Norris, published a column on the Conservative Website WND, in which he asserted:

“The U.S. government says, ‘It’s just a training exercise.’ But I’m not sure             the term ‘just’ has any reference to reality when the government uses it.

Concerned Texans and Americans are in no way calling into question our brave and courageous men and women in uniform,” Norris wrote. “They are merely following orders. What’s under question are those who are pulling the strings at the top of Jade Helm 15 back in Washington.”

Mr. Norris is a very talented individual, who plied his acting skills in both movies and on TV. He is also a skilled martial artist, holding belts in a number of martial arts, including:

10th degree black belt Chun Kuk Do

     9th degree black belt Tang Soo Do

8th degree black belt Taekwondo

   5th degree black belt in Karate

   black belt Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

   black belt Judo

He created the martial art known as Chun Kuk Do, based primarily on Tang Soo Do, but including elements from all the combat styles Norris knows. Chun Kuk Do, loosely translated as “The Universal Way,” like many other martial arts has an honor code. The code, which Mr. Norris claims as his personal code, has 10 principles, including:

Chun Kuk Do Principles

  1. I will develop myself to the maximum of my potential in all ways.
  2. I will forget the mistakes of the past and press on to greater achievements.
  3. I will continually work at developing love, happiness and loyalty in my family.
  4. I will look for the good in all people and make them feel worthwhile.
  5. If I have nothing good to say about a person, I will say nothing.
  6. I will always be as enthusiastic about the success of others as I am about my own.
  7. I will maintain an attitude of open-mindedness.
  8. I will maintain respect for those in authority and demonstrate this respect at all times.
  9. I will always remain loyal to my God, my country, family and my friends.
  10. I will remain highly goal-oriented throughout my life because that positive attitude helps my family, my country and myself.

After a quick perusal of the ten pillars of Chun Kuk Do, I can only conclude Mr. Norris suspended principles 5, 7, and 8 from his person code, at least when it pertains to JH15. Forgive me while I LOL!

As I wrote in another space, No doubt this distinguished group fancies themselves fiscally conservative. Yet, the Governor has found a rather ingenious way to waste Texans’ money. Obamaphobia is real. But it’s too late for such hijinks; he won. Twice…and despite the hype machine, he’s not running again. So, in conclusion, I give youJade Helm 15: The Next (Not So) Great Conspiracy Theory!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: or Find a new post each Wednesday.

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

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