Word Association: Trump = Quixotic!

It’s time to Break It Down!

As virtually every lucid American knows, Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican candidate for President. In becoming so, he has crafted his own fairy tale of a personal story, defeating sixteen major candidates along the way, many of them GOP heavyweights. When he announced his candidacy a little over a year ago, most people chuckled and presumed he would be relegated to a veritable trash bin of also-rans by the advent of the first couple of primaries. There being no shame in my game, I freely admit, I was one among the collection of most people.

However, let the record reflect, I became a believer sooner than most. It is quite possible I watched the progression of the race closer than many people did. In doing so, I noticed what to me was the development of an interesting phenomenon, and it emerged quickly.

In his campaign launch, Mr. Trump skewered Mexican immigrants, calling them, among other things drug dealers and rapists, as he offered, upon his personal authority, Mexico does not send us its best. He pledged to build a wall, and not just to erect it, but he insisted that he would force Mexico to pay for the wall.

On its face, this seemed to cast Trump’s kickoff as not just inauspicious, but divisive, troubling, and almost certainly, quickly disqualifying. The thing is it did not play out that way. Yes, his strident commentary was a trending topic for a few days. But any great clamor of disgust and disbelief was offset by a populist attaboy that while not rising to the level of groundswell was clearly palpable.

Then there was the case of the inconvenient war hero. Donald Trump questioned whether Arizona Senator John McCain, who was held as Prisoner of War (POW) for five and a half years by the North Vietnamese, was a war hero. As Trump put it, “I like people who weren’t captured.” While Senator McCain called on Trump to apologize to military families, particularly those of POW’s, he did not make a point of taking on Trump in a personal frontal assault. Several of the other sixteen candidates did though, perhaps seeing this as an opportunity to make quick work of the upstart Trump.

Next up, enter South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who defended his friend’s (Senator McCain) war record, and called Trump’s “antics” the last straw, and the multi-billionaire himself a jackass. Graham laid it all on the line, saying:

“I can understand being frustrated about immigration, but there’s no justification to slander a bunch of people that are hardworking folks. This is a line that is crossed. I think the American people, the caucus-goers; the primary voters are going to fix this. To the other candidates, this is your chance to do the right thing and disassociate yourself from somebody who has basically shown a lack of judgment to be commander-in-chief and to be President of us all.”

Shortly after Lindsey Gram’s appeal, Trump made a campaign trip to South Carolina. During the rally, in Graham’s home state, he thoroughly dissed the Senator, and topped off his rant by revealing the Senator’s cell phone number to the crowd,  a television audience, and America at large.

Among the rest of the GOP field, former Texas Governor Rick Perry answered the call most fervently. He aggressively called out Trump for having attacked Senator McCain’s war hero bona fides. At worst, it was a bad move; at best, it did nothing to bolster his campaign. He could take solace in having stood up and done the right thing. Alas, by shortly after Labor Day he was forced to suspend his campaign. Even though he had significant Super PAC support, he found himself unable to raise sufficient funds through traditional campaigning to keep his run afloat.

Donald J. Trump entered the 2016 Presidential race June 16, 2015. Rick Perry exited the race September 11, 2015. Once again 9/11 was a bad day, at least symbolically for Perry and his supporters. More important, in less than three months, I totally re-evaluated my position on Donald Trump and the degree to which he was a player among the Republican field. Before fall, and long before the fist primaries, I argued that Trump was not only for real, but I was certain he had a great shot to be the last person standing when the GOP dust settled. And here he stands.

The question now is what, if anything, does he stand for, as he and the GOP approach this month’s Republican National Convention. I have written before about Mr. Trump’s mercurial tendencies as it relates to the issues he supports and defends…or despises and attacks. If you ask Mr. Trump, he might tell you he is famous for his brand, and that his brand is that of a wealthy, successful, did I say wealthy, very wealthy businessman.

It is true that Mr. Trump owns and runs lots of businesses, and that he has earned billions of dollars. It is also true that he has lost lots of money, and filed for bankruptcy multiple times; at least four, I believe. But who’s counting?

Aside from his self-proclaimed business acumen, his foray into the political arena means its fair game to take a look at his positions on the major policy issues that confront our nation on a daily basis. As commander-in-chief, he will be called upon to navigate, with the help of his cabinet, our great ship of state, through the difficult currents of war, peace, the economy, immigration, and a host of other pressing matters.

With that in mind, here are ten issues upon which Mr. Trump zigged and then subsequently zagged:

  1. Debt – In March, Mr. Trump told the Washington Post that he would eliminate the $19 Trillion national debt “Fairly quickly, over a period of eight years.” By April he told Fortune that he could only pay off a percentage of the debt over a period of ten years. He was vague on the actual amount. He later told CNN that if the U.S. were unable to pay back its debt in full, “I would borrow, knowing that if the economy crashed, you could make a deal.” It should be noted that economists have denounced this strategy.
  2. Minimum Wage – Recently Mr. Trump gained lots of attention for his stance on the federal minimum wage, currently $7.25 an hour. He tweeted May 11, that “Goofy Elizabeth Warren lied when she says I want to abolish the Federal Minimum Wage. See media – asking for increase!” However, that has not always reflected his posture. November 11, he answered a debate question about raising the minimum wage, saying, “I would not do it.” May 8, he told ABC that he is “looking at an increase, but I haven’t decided in terms of numbers. But I think people have to get more.” The same day he told NBC “I would like to see an increase of some magnitude. But I’d rather leave it to the states. Let the states decide.” Not surprisingly, some media outlets, including The Washington Post, argue, “In the context of the policy debate, these phrases mean exactly nothing.” At least some Republicans are seeking clarification. The rest of America likely perfectly understands.
  3. Taxes – Similar to Mr. Trump’s minimum wage views, his tax plan elicited elevated scrutiny. Trump, in classic GOP fashion, promised tax cuts…for the wealthy. Conservatives, however, have accused him of backtracking and planning to raise taxes on the wealthy. Oh my! The Washington Post and MSNBC are among those saying that people overreacted, and that Trump never actually flip-flopped on tax breaks for the rich. Trump explained to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that taxes on the wealthy are definitely a part of his plan, “but by the time it’s negotiated, they’ll go up.” The confusion may very well be unwarranted, a result of Trump’s typically vague policy statements. But that still doesn’t explain his April 21, statement, in which he told the “Today” show’s Savannah Guthrie that he does believe in raising taxes on the wealthy. And let’s not forget that in 1999, Trump advocated a one-time tax of 14.25 percent on Americans worth $10 million or more. The tax hike would have been the largest in history, in terms of total dollars.  Oops!
  4. Temporary Ban on Muslim Immigration – December 7 (the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack) the Trump campaign issued a press release stating “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” Recently Mr. Trump walked back this controversial stance, telling Greta van Susteren that the ban was “only a suggestion.” He insisted the measure would be temporary. She asked him if he wanted to back off the idea. Trump responded, “Sure I’d back off on it. I’d like to back off on it as soon as possible, because frankly, I’d like to see something happen.” Just in the past few days, he has raised the stakes and reframed the discussion by de-emphasizing Muslims, and elevating the countries from which they hail. While visiting his golf course in Scotland over the weekend, he told reporters, “I want terrorists out. I want people that have bad thoughts out. I would limit specific terrorist countries and we know who those terrorist countries are.”  Can you say bait and switch?
  5. Abortion – May 10, Trump told FOX anchor Bill O’Reilly “I will appoint judges that will be pro-life.” He even claimed, “The biggest way you can protect” the sanctity of life “is by electing me president.” Surprising, given that Trump was, by his own admission, “in a meek fashion pro-choice.” Trump told O’Reilly “we will see about overturning” Roe V. Wade, but just last month the candidate told CBS News that “at this moment the laws are set. And I think we have to leave it that way.” Trump has also taken criticism for comments he made about punishing women who violate abortion laws – comments he backtracked only hours later.
  6. Nuclear Proliferation – March 25, Trump spoke with the New York Times regarding his brand of foreign policy. Despite stating “I personally think it’s the biggest problem the world has, nuclear capability,” Trump seems unsure of whether he would oppose other countries expanding their nuclear programs. In the same interview, he explained that allowing Japan and South Korea to build nuclear arsenals was “a position that at some point is something that we have to talk about.” He added, “They’re going to want to have that anyway with or without me discussing it, because I don’t think they feel very secure in what’s going on with our country.”
  7. The Iraq and Afghanistan Wars – August 6, Trump claimed at a debate that, “In July of 2004, I came out strongly against the war with Iraq, because it was going to destabilize the Middle East. And I’m the only one on this stage that knew that and had the vision to say it.” He has also stated frequently that he opposed the war even before it started. Yet, numerous fact checkers have subsequently found no trace of Trump’s vocal opposition to the war prior to the March 2003 invasion. The Huffington Post, PolitiFact, and The Washington Post (twice), have researched his claims and found not a shred of evidence to support them. He also changed his position on the war in Afghanistan. October 6, he said, “We made a terrible mistake getting involved there in the first place.” Fast forward to October 20, when he claimed, “I never said that.” Go figure!
  8. Torture – During the course of the March 3 debate, Trump stated that “We should go for waterboarding and we should go tougher than waterboarding” in the fight against terrorism. Previously, on December 2, Trump told Fox News “The other thing with the terrorists is you have to take out their families.” Debate moderator Bret Baier pointed out that targeting families would be illegal, and the military would refuse to carry out illegal orders. Trump replied, “They won’t refuse. They’re not going to refuse me. Believe me.” The next day, apparently after checking with someone who actually knows the law, predictably, he reversed field and told the Washington Post, “I do, however, understand that the United States is bound by laws and treaties and I will not order our military or other officials to violate those laws and will seek their advice on such matters.” There is a point at which stuff such as this stops being funny and starts being scary, when you consider this guy will be one of the Final Two pursuing the office of President.
  9. Attack Ads (on GOP and on Hillary) – May 11, Trump told the AP that he may avoid running attack ads against Hillary Clinton in the general election. “I just don’t find them to be very effective,” he explained. “I’ve had over $100 million in negative ads spent on me and every time it’s boosted my numbers.” But Trump has arguably become famous for his negativity on the campaign trail, criticizing opponents on both sides of the political spectrum. He routinely called Sen. Ted Cruz “lyin’ Ted” and accused John Kasich of being an “absentee governor.” Just two days ago, Trump’s official Instagram account posted a video that depicts Hillary Clinton laughing over the burning ruins of the U.S. embassy in Benghazi.
  10. Unifying the Party – When Donald Trump attended a meeting in Washington with the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, eyes and ears of the media and the nation were affixed and awaiting the result. Mr. Ryan was one of a number of prominent Republicans who were slow to endorse Trump, even after it was clear he would be the Party’s nominee. Ryan had told CNN “I’m just not ready to do that at this point. I’m not there right now.” For his part, Trump told the “Today” show May 4, “I am confident that I can unite much of” the GOP. But, May 9, he said, “Does [the party] have to be unified? I’m very different than everybody else, perhaps, that’s ever run for office. I actually don’t think so. I think it would be better if it were unified, I think it would be — there would be something good about it. But I don’t think it actually has to be unified in the traditional sense.” Mic drop?

There are plenty more where those came from, including Teleprompters, Hillary Clinton, and building and paying for a wall, of course, just to name a few. Ten is a nice round number though; I’ll stop there. I think that’s enough to make the point, Word Association: Trump = Quixotic (impulsive and often rashly unpredictable)!” Not exactly what you want in your next President…at least, I hope.

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com.

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It’s Never About Race; Or Is It?

It’s time to Break It Down!

Nearly two decades into the 21st Century, the phrase, “It’s not about race” is still nearly always a dead giveaway that, whatever the topic du jour, it is virtually always all about race. I’ll be the first to admit that is not the way it should be, or would be in a perfect world. Alas, we are not yet there.

Roughly two months ago, April 20, 2016, Treasury Secretary Jacob (Jack) Lew announced, in an open letter to the American people, that the newly redesigned $20 bill would feature abolitionist Harriet Tubman on the front. The $5 and $10 bills are also scheduled for redesign. The $10 note was due to be next in line, because of the need for security upgrades. However, as a result of an extensive 10-month survey and information gathering process, the Secretary was persuaded to leap over the less used $10 bill and move to the $20, a highly used bill that is a staple in ATM’s.

Secretary Lew’s determination to put Ms. Tubman on the next $20 bill was precipitated by an overwhelming response from Americans to a poll conducted by the grassroots group, Women on 20’s. Tubman was the first choice over three other contenders, including civil rights icon Rosa Parks, former First Lady and activist Eleanor Roosevelt, and Wilma Mankiller, the first female Chief of the Cherokee Nation. About his decision, Lew said:

“I have been particularly struck by the many comments and reactions from children for whom Harriet Tubman is not just a historical figure, but a role model for leadership and participation in our democracy.”

Harriet Tubman was a great American shero. Her exploits as a freedom fighter are legendary. Quite naturally, she took her work most seriously. In framing the context in which she viewed the struggle, Tubman once said:

“I would fight for liberty so long as my strength lasted.”

Fight, she did. She fought to free slaves, and she fought for women’s suffrage. Secretary Lew gleaned through polling, cards and letters, and from his own research that Tubman’s story was one of courage and commitment to equality; one that embodied the ideals of democracy that our nation celebrates. Through placing her portrait on the obverse side of the $20 bill, we will honor her, and continue to value that legacy. The reverse side will still feature the White House and the image of President Andrew Jackson.

Lew noted that the Bureau of Engraving and Printing would work closely with the Federal Reserve to speed up work on the new currency. The goal is for all three bills to go into circulation as soon as possible, consistent with security requirements.

Well, that seems straight forward enough. Hold up, wait a minute! Just when it appeared that it was possible for the federal government to work smoothly and efficiently to execute the people’s business, we are slapped in the face with the all too familiar reality of an intransigent and obstructionist elected politician. Representative Steve King, Iowa, recently introduced an amendment to bar the Treasury Department from spending any funds to redesign paper money or coin currency.

If this amendment were enacted, the Treasury Department’s plans to replace the image of Andrew Jackson with that of Harriet Tubman on the face of the $20 bill would be scuttled. Representative King has not publicly expressed a reason for putting forward the amendment. His office did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.

It is probably not news that Ms. Tubman would be the first African American to appear on American currency. While it is disappointing that Congressman King has decided, for reasons he has yet to see fit to share, to intervene and prevent the scheduled updating of our currency, despite existing security issues, I am also compelled to at least note the racial implications of his action.

Am I accusing Representative King of acting in a racist manner, or of having racist motivations? No, I am not. I am merely using my powers of observation, which I surely hope are not unique, and noting an apparent (at least to me) nexus between his action, and its evident impact. National media have reported news of his amendment. As such, while you may not have heard about it, the information is implanted in the public domain.

I noted in the very first sentence of this post, there is a propensity to throw a stone and hide one’s hand, when it comes to matters of race. But, as I stated then, the assertion that “it’s not about race,” is usually followed by a race-laden subject or discussion.

I will not deign to characterize the representative’s motives. Instead, what I will do is point out a few of the individuals and institutions that have gone on record as opposing the placement of Ms. Tubman’s image on the $20. An abbreviated list includes:

  1. Donald Trump
  2. Ben Carson
  3. Fox News
  4. Steve King

I’m sure there are others, maybe many, most, likely denizens of the GOP. For now, I will concentrate on those enumerated above. Each of them has invested considerable time, energy, and in the case of the three men, political capital, opposing any and everything even remotely associated with President Obama. Technically that does not include the Tubman initiative, since contrary to the opinion of the typical recalcitrant Obama hater; the decision-making regarding the currency was the purview of Secretary Lew, not President Obama. But, since Lew is an Obama appointee, I’ll play along and blame/credit the President for making the call. Whatever!

At this point, if I were engaged in a conversation about this matter, the other party or parties would be offering a litany of thinly veiled-to-totally transparent excuses attempting to defend the non-racial basis for this amendment. On a good day I would listen politely before dismissing the excrement as the half-baked crapola that it is. On a not-so-good day…well, let’s just hope it was a good day.

On this day, I’ve done my job. I have elevated the topic so that you may assess and evaluate for yourself. I leave you with this thought”It’s Never About Race; Or Is It?”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com.

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This Time Orlando:”Pulse” of the Nation

It’s time to Break It Down!

Before preparing today’s post I decided to make a cursory inventory. At least six times previously, I have written about mass gun violence (in America). In the most recent instance before today I discussed the facts surrounding the June 17, 2015 shooting of the Charleston Nine at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, SC. Just two days shy of a year later, I find myself impelled to beat the drum once more. In an ironic twist, I visited the Mother Emanuel Church this weekend. As I was completing my exercise regimen, a spin bike ride, early Sunday morning, before my trip to Charleston, I read a news story and watched on CNN the story and gory details about the massacre at a gay club in Orlando named Pulse.

Each time such a tragedy befalls us; we as a society are diminished. It marks yet another cruel and crushing blow to a nation that I certainly wish to see aspire to emulate its better angels rather than the very worst in our human nature. I have ranted and railed repeatedly about the role easy access to firearms plays in the frequent carnage. I’ve discussed the prevailing politics, examined the NRA and its proxies (lobbyists and Congressmen and women), and lamented the lack of reform. Been there, done that, time and time again.

Not today. In honor of those 49 souls who ended their earthly assignment last Sunday morning at Pulse, I will make a brief introduction, and share the powerful words of one survivor. In the event you wish to reference my thoughts from previous posts on the subject, you can click on links below for several of them.

The list of dearly departed includes:

Edward Sotomayor, Jr.: – A 34 year-old resident of Sarasota, Florida; worked at a travel agency that catered to the gay community.

Stanley Almodovar, III: – A 23 year-old pharmacy technician. Hi smother made him a tomato and cheese dip that he never got to eat; he never returned home.

Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo: – A 20 year-old dancer at the club. He was one of the youngest to die.

Akyra Monet Murray: – An 18 year-old from Philadelphia, who was in Orlando on vacation with her brother after graduating from high school.

Luis S. Vielma: – A 22 year-old who worked at Universal Orlando. J.K. Rowling, creator of the “Harry Potter” book series tweeted “I can’t stop crying.” Vielma worked on the Harry Potter ride at Universal.

Juan Ramon Guerrero: – A 22 year-old worked as a telemarketer while attending the University of Central Florida.

Christopher Andrew Leinonen: – A 32 year-old, and was Juan Ramon’s boyfriend. He established a gay-straight alliance at his high school.

Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera: – A 36 year-old who had moved to Florida from Puerto Rico in pursuit of a better life.

Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz: – A 22 year-old who worked at UPS, and who was known for memorizing the names of his regular customers.

Kimberley Morris: – A 37 year-old bouncer at Pulse. She enjoyed mixed martial arts and basketball.

Eddie Jamoldroy Justice: – A 30 year-old accountant who lived in downtown Orlando.

Enrique Rios: – A 25 year-old whom a cousin, Erick Leon, described as, “Loved by everyone who knew him.”

Anthony Luis Laureano Disla: – Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and settled in Orlando.

Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega: – Worked in Audience Management for the current season of the singing competition at Telemundo.

Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan: – A 24 year-old, was friends with Jonathan Antonio.

Cory James Connell: – A 21 year-old was leaving Pulse with his girlfriend when the shooter, whose name I will not write, entered the club.

Mercedes Marisol Flores: – A 26 year-old; her father Cesar is heartbroken that his daughter was killed.

Deonka Deidra Drayton: – A 32 year-old, she was a bartender at Pulse.

Miguel Angel Honorato: – A 30 year-old; he lived in Orlando, and managed a Mexican restaurant in Sanford, Florida.

Jason Benjamin Josaphat: – A 19 year-old; he attended Southern Technical College in Orlando.

Darryl Roman Burt II: – A 29 year-old; he was an employee on the Jacksonville campus of Kelser University.

Juan Carlos Mendez Perez: – A 35 year-old, was the best salesperson his co-worker, Claudia Agudelo, ever met.

Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon: – A 37 year-old, and a friend of Juan Carlos.

Oscar A. Aracena Montero: – A 26 year-old, was celebrating the recent purchase of a home.

Simon Adrian Carillo Fernandez: – A 31 year-old who was Oscar’s partner.

Shane Evan Tomlinson: – A 33 year-old, who had performed with his band Frequency at another club earlier in the evening.

Amanda Avear: – A 25 year-old was on Snapchat at the club when the shooting started.

Martin Benitez Torres: – A 33 year-old was a student at the Tampa Bay campus of Ana G. Mendez University.

Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez: A 25 year-old from Manati, Puerto Rico who worked at a Speedway Convenience Store. He had studies Health Care Management at Ana G. Mendez University in Orlando.

Javier Jorge-Reyes: – A 40 year-old from Guayama, Puerto Rico. He managed a Gucci Store in Orlando.

Tevin Eurgene Crosby: – A 25 year-old, who ran his own marketing company. He graduated from West Iredell High School in Statesville, NC in 2010.

Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez: – A 50 year-old, he was a professional dancer.

Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado: – A 33 year-old, he was a dancer, and proud of his son.

Joel Rayon Paniagua: – Grew up in Veracruz, Mexico; he lived near Tampa, and sent all his money home to family.

Juan P. Rivera Velazquez and Luis Daniel Conde: – Velazquez 37 and a hair stylist, and Conde 39 a make-up artist, were partners. They owned a salon together.

Juan Chevez-Martinez: – A 25 year-old who worked at a hotel.

Jerald Arthur Wright: – A 31 year-old; he worked at Disney World.

Leroy Valentin Fernandez: – A 25 year-old; he leased apartments for a living.

Jean C. Nives Rodriguez: – He bought his first home just over a month ago.

Rodolfo Ayalo-Ayalo: – A 33 year-old, he worked at OneBlood, a blood donation center since 2011.

Brenda Lee Marquez McCool: – A 49 year-old who has 11 kids, and beat cancer twice. Her son survived the shooting.

Angel L. Candelario Padro: – A 28 year-old who had recently moved to Orlando and started a job as a technician at the Florida Retina Institute.

Frank Hernandez: – A 27 year-old; he worked at a Calvin Klein store.

Paul Terrell Henry: – He was from Chicago, and had two children. His daughter Alexia recently graduated from high school.

Antonio Davon Brown: – A 29 year-old; he was a Captain in the U.S. Army Reserves, and a graduate of Florida A&M University.

Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz: – A 24 year-old, he worked at a bank.

Alejandro Barrios-Martinez: – A 21 year-old, he grew up in Cuba before moving to Orlando in 2014 to live with his father.

Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez: – A 25 year-old, known as “Drake” to his friends, was a native of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

That completes a listing of biographical summaries of the 49 men and women who lost their lives a Pulse, as shared by CNN. It is without question, their abrupt departure from life, and especially from their friends and loved ones, is a tragedy of incalculable magnitude. I will not even attempt to put that into words. Instead, I will rely upon the insight and heart-rending sentiments of one survivor, Ms. Patience Carter.

The following is a poem she wrote Monday night, before she shared a person statement yesterday about her experience in the Pulse incident:

The  Guilt of Feeling Grateful to be Alive is Heavy

 “Wanting to smile about surviving but not sure if the people around you are ready.

As the world mourns, the victims killed and viciously slain, I feel guilty about screaming about my legs in pain.

Because I could feel nothing like the other 49 who weren’t so lucky to feel this pain of mine.

I never thought in a million years that this could happen.I never thought in a million years that my eyes could witness something so tragic.

Looking at the souls leaving the bodies of individuals. Looking at the killer’s machine gun throughout my right peripheral. Looking at the blood and debris covered on everyone’s faces. Looking at the gunman’s feet under the stall as he paces.

The guilt of feeling lucky to be alive is heavy.

It’s like the weight of the ocean’s walls crushing uncontrolled by levies. It’s like being drug through the grass with a shattered leg and thrown on the back of a Chevy. It’s like being rushed to the hospital and told you’re gonna make it when you laid beside individuals whose lives were brutally taken.

 The guilt of being alive is heavy.”

With that powerful personal testimony, I think it’s all been said. “This Time Orlando: “Pulse” of the Nation!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com.

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No Middle Ground: Welcome to the Age of Incivility

It’s time to Break It Down!

Before moving to concentrate on today’s post, I want to highlight an issue related to the special significance to the current political narrative. On Monday evening, CNN and the Associated Press declared that Hillary Clinton has crossed the threshold to reach the combined number of Pledged and Super Delegates requited to clinch the Democratic Presidential Nomination. The New York Times added its imprimatur yesterday morning.

That was all before taking into account the six Primary contests conducted yesterday in California, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, and South Dakota. The candidates are expected to split the 694 available delegates. Next Tuesday, Washington, DC will officially close out the 2016 Primary Election season. Twenty delegates are at stake there.

Let me be clear, the quest for determining the Democratic Party’s nominee for President ends “officially” in Philadelphia on July 28th, at the Democratic National Convention. That is an incontrovertible fact. There are expected to be 4,765 delegates to the Democratic National Convention, so a candidate needs a simple majority of 2,383 delegates to win the presidential nomination. However…for all practical purposes, the contest ended Monday evening, when Hillary Rodham Clinton became the Party’s presumptive nominee.

Bernie Sanders has done an incredible job with his campaign. He exceeded expectations, most likely, including his own. He engaged youth and Millennials in historic fashion. He has vowed to fight on until the Convention. At the outset, Senator Sanders argued that the country was poorly served by crony Capitalism and the Party’s reliance on big money donors, and its penchant for rewarding the financial industry with bank bailouts, the auto industry with its own bailout, and generally dismissing regular middle class Americans.

His message resonated with many Americans and as a result, he built a small donation based Campaign that rivaled the big PACs, in fundraising, and enabled the Senator to take his Campaign through the entire Primary Season in a competitive way. Alas, there was one major problem. Secretary Clinton held her own in the early contests in the Northeast, built a sizable lead in the South, and held on and in some cases expanded her margin as contests moved to the Midwest and the West. As she maintained and/or expanded her lead, the Senator was forced to pivot. He could no longer focused solely on the crony Capitalism argument; he added that the Party electoral process was also corrupt.

Since then, the Sanders Campaign has made a huuuuge issue of the Democrat’s Super Delegate process. He and his supporters also skewered the Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who is a Clinton supporter. Undoubtedly, the next seven weeks will be filled with intrigue and maneuvering as the Clinton and Sanders campaigns navigate and negotiate a truce that in the end must produce something between Détente and a unified Party.

The 2016 General Election is scheduled for Tuesday, November 8th, five months from yesterday. You can be sure I will have a lot to say about politics and the election in the coming weeks and months. In the meantime, with all due deference to Bernie Sanders for conceiving and constructing an outstanding and an incredibly productive effort, Secretary Clinton has fashioned a lead among Pledged Delegates, among Super Delegates, in the popular vote, and in the number of state contests won. Congratulations to Hillary Rodham Clinton on positioning herself to become the first female Presidential Nominee of a major Party in American History.

That highlight was longer than I intended. Let me move directly to addressing the main topic. As a nation, we have become a prickly lot. I’ve written volumes about the notion some Americans label us an Exceptional nation. Indeed, we have amassed many accomplishments that render us distinguished. Yet, I must inject, America has long held a rather high-minded view…of itself. A home team media; a biased political class of powerful elites armed with a self-serving agenda, often crafts this narrative. Regardless of its origin, millions of Americans routinely buy into or co-sign such views.

Regardless of the appellation applied to a particular age, whether in this country or others, the name often is intended to convey some positive aspect or attribute of society, or of it’s people. That is as true for the largely European Age of Enlightenment as it is for the current worldwide Information Age. As you may know, the Information Age, also known as the Computer Age, Digital Age, or New Media Age) is a period in human history characterized by the shift from traditional industry that the Industrial Revolution brought through industrialization, to an economy based on information computerization. The onset of the Information Age is associated with the Digital Revolution, just as the Industrial Revolution marked the onset of the Industrial Age.

I want to momentarily elevate a different kind of Age, the Age of Incivility. In a paradoxical kind of way, President Barack Obama’s critics frequently credit or blame, you decide which is appropriate, him for the rise of incivility in America. While I am inclined to characterize any such attributions as bovine excrement, I do see how, and in select instances why, some folks might feel that way.

Donald Trump has been the Presumptive Republican Nominee for President for several weeks now. Mr. Trump bogarted his way to the top of the heap of GOP Presidential candidates by relentlessly attacking his fellow competitors, as well as a host of others, including Mexicans and Muslims. Mr. Trump has vacillated between controversial and flat out toxic, even in his own Party.

How controversial/toxic has he been? Just yesterday, Republican Paul Ryan, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, called Trump’s comments on (Kappa Alpha Psi Man) Judge Gonzalo Curiel “indefensible,” “wrong” and “racist.” At a news conference in the Anacostia section of Washington, DC yesterday, with a full complement of African Americans in attendance, Representative Ryan said, “Claiming that a person can’t do their job because of their race is sort of like the textbook definition of a racist comment.” Trump suggested Curiel could not adjudicate his case without bias because “He is Mexican, and I am building a wall.”   For the record, Judge Curiel was born in Indiana.

When Ryan was later asked on Fox News Radio’s Kilmeade and Friends program whether he considers Trump racist, Ryan responded:

“No, I’m not – I’m saying that the comment was. I don’t know what’s in his heart, I can’t speak to that whatsoever. What I’m saying is to suggest that a person’s race disqualifies them to do their job is textbook – that’s what I’m saying. I’m not saying what’s in his heart because I don’t know what is in his heart and I don’t think he feels that in his heart but I don’t think it is wise or justifiable to suggest that a person should be disqualified from their job because of their ethnicity.”

Despite his frustration, Ryan, who initially declined to endorse Trump said he would still vote for him. This exemplifies the challenge leaders of the GOP face. They appreciate the demographic filters associated with winning the White House. They also know, unquestionably, what it is like to lose two White House bids in a row.

I am certainly not going to say Donald Trump cannot be the next President. He does, however, continue to take actions and make statements that exasperate those in his own Party, who possibly want that high office more for him than it often looks as though he wants it for himself.

In retrospect, watching and listening to Ryan alternately prod Candidate Trump to be better, tiptoe around inconvenient truths, and dissemble with passion, all in an apparent effort to maintain a shred of credibility, I am reminded of the Biblical admonition found in Matthew 19:14, which advises, “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.” (–KJV) I think of this passage, not because of Mr. Trump’s wealth, though, as he frequently reminds us, he has done very, very well in amassing a fortune, but rather due to his propensity to spew venomous uncivil statements. To close the metaphor, it appears from my vantage point, it is more difficult for a camel to traverse the eye of a needle than for Paul Ryan and the GOP Establishment to corral and manage TrumpSpeak.

Republicans leadership has spent 7 and a half years demonizing and lambasting President Obama. The level of disrespect has been so prevalent. How pervasive and disrespectful has it been? From SC Congressman Joe Wilson’s 2011 “You lie” comment, directed at the President as he addressed a joint session of Congress on various aspects of the Affordable Care Act, to then House Speaker John Boehner’s, Ohio, bypassing the President and issuing an invitation to Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu to address Congress in 2015, to Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton initiating a letter to the leaders of Iran, signed by every Republican Senator except, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker of Tennessee, Dan Coats of Indiana, Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Susan Collins, of Maine, and Jeff Flake and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, also last year.

It is because of an innumerable list of reasons like those above that I have noted many times that Trump is effectively the anointed one; the anti-Obama, if you will. Therefore, it becomes a natural progression that the newly minted presumptive Republican Nominee takes off where his recently adopted Party left off. So yes, Obama haters can blame the President as often and as fervently as they like. Just be mindful, calling a pigeon a pimento cheese sandwich doesn’t make it be one.

Historically, we like to summon data rather than rely on “a feeling” to underscore the most vital of points. To that end, I submit two studies that suggest support for Trump is highly correlated to concerns about race and ethnicity. In one study, Hamilton College political scientist Philip Klinkner analyzed data the 2016 American National Election Study in a representative sample of 1,200 Americans to compare feelings toward Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. He evaluated the degree to which economic opinions, racial attitudes, and demographic variables predicted an individual’s feelings toward the two. His research showed one factor was much stronger than the others:

“My analysis indicates that economic status and attitudes do little to explain support for Donald Trump. Those who express more resentment toward African Americans, those who think the word ‘violent’ describes Muslims well, and those who believe President Obama is a Muslim have much more positive views of trump compared with Clinton.”

Klinkner found racial attitudes were highly determinative:

Moving from the least to the most resentful view of African Americans increases support for Trump by 44 points, those who think Obama is a Muslim (54% of all Republicans) are 24 points more favorable to Trump, and those who think the word “violent” describes Muslims extremely well are about 13 points more pro-Trump than those who think it doesn’t describe them well at all.

In the second study, the Washington Post conducted a similar analysis using data from a national poll co-sponsored by ABC News comparing Trump’s support to the other Republican primary candidates. The survey questions asked Republicans and Republican-leaning voters whether they themselves were struggling economically, and whether white people’s troubles were a direct result of “preferences for blacks and Hispanics.”

The biggest predictor of Trump support among Republicans and Republican-leaning voters was a belief that “the growing number of newcomers from other countries threatens U.S. values.” Republicans holding this belief felt 18 points more positive toward Trump on a 100-point scale, than Republicans who didn’t feel this way. Belief that Islam encourages violence, and that it’s “bad” for the country that blacks, Latinos and Asians will someday make up the majority of the population, accounted for eight-point jumps in positive feelings toward Trump. In summary, it’s about to go down. It’s up to you to fight, and especially vote to change this dynamic if you believe it’s inappropriate. For the time being, what we all face is…”No Middle Ground: Welcome to the Age of Incivility!”

I’m done; holla back!

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Memorial Day: What Your Teacher Never Told You!

It’s time to Break It Down!

(Please enjoy this reprised/updated edition of “Break It Down!” This post was originally published May 30, 2012 at: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.blogspot.com)

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 effective communication:

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

Memorial Day is a federal holiday, observed the last Monday in May, 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. In fact, many consider it the unofficial first weekend of summer, contrasted with the Labor Day Holiday Weekend, which for many signals the unofficial end of summer.

The holiday weekend typically includes a cornucopia of sports. For example Memorial Day 2016 weekend’s events included matches from the  French Open, the NASCAR Coca-Cola 600, a Game 7 in the NBA Conference FinalsCollege Men’s Baseball playoffs, College Women’s Softball competition, and Championships in Men’s and Women’s Collegiate Lacrosse, coincidentally, both won by teams from the University of North Carolina, among other sports.

With the rapidly heating-up political season thrown in the mix, the holiday is sometimes almost lost in the shuffle, especially this year with Donald Trump totally reinventing the GOP Presidential race, and Bernie Sanders fashioning his own brand of revolution in the Democratic Party’s race. But wait; Memorial Day also 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. BlightProfessor 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 1and 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!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the linkshttp://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: