Changing of the Guard: Lakers Move On

It’s time to Break It Down!

As the CIAA Tournament bucks the trend of sporting events that eschewed North Carolina due to the State’s insistence on adhering to the infamous HB2, and brings its crown jewel of conference competition (The CIAA Basketball Tournament) to Charlotte this week, and as the ACC season kicks off it’s last fortnight of pre-tournament hoops competition, my mind frequently contemplates basketball. The game still excites me and more often than not, I continue to lace ‘em up and play twice a week, including yesterday, and most likely tomorrow.

Most folks who know anything about my predilections and proclivities are familiar with my strong, some would say, exuberantly unyielding support for the Broncos (Fayetteville State University), the Tar Heels (University of North Carolina), and the Lakers (Los Angeles). In the light, yesterday marked the close of an era for the Lakers. Many of my fellow fans believe it’s about time, while others are convinced the change is long overdue.

Spoiler alert! Not only am I tackling something other than the recent politically-themed topics I’ve been tracking, I pledge to keep the conversation relatively brief. I understand not everyone is a sports fan in general, nor a Lakers fan in particular. I get it. This is where it’s really cool for me that it is my blog. But I digress.

So the long and short of it is this. Earvin Johnson, Magic to those who remember him as a player, returned to the Lakers franchise on February 2 to advise the owners on basketball and business. Johnson, who has long noted his interest in returning to the Lakers, if the opportunity presented itself, wasted no time in revealing his desires. He told USA Today, shortly after being hired that he wanted, “To be in charge.”

Yesterday, he was named president of basketball operations, according to a press release issued by Jeanie Buss, the Lakers’ governor. In his new role, Johnson will terminate his work with ESPN, where he appeared on the show “NBA Countdown.”

Speaking about his being reunited with the only NBA team he ever played for, Johnson said:

“It’s a dream come true to return to the Lakers as President of Basketball Operations, working closely with Jeanie Buss and the Buss family. Since 1979, I’ve been a part of the Laker Nation and I’m passionate about this organization. I will do everything I can to build a winning culture on and off the court. We have a great coach in Luke Walton and good young players. We will work tirelessly to return our Los Angeles Lakers to NBA champions.”

In additional moves the team fired general manager Mitch Kupchak, and also relieved Jim Buss of his duties as executive vice president of basketball operations. Buss had said he would step down after three or four years if the Lakers were not performing at a high level. Frankly, the team has toiled in mediocrity for several years, last reaching the playoffs in 2013, the year Jerry Buss the team’s Patriarchal owner, died.

In putting yesterday’s actions into perspective, Jeanie Buss said:

“Today I took a series of actions I believe will return the Lakers to the heights Dr. Jerry Buss demanded and our fans rightly expect. Effective immediately, Earvin Johnson will be in charge of all basketball operations and will report directly to me.

Our search for a new General Manager, to work with Earvin and Coach Luke Walton is well underway, and we hope to announce a new General Manager in short order. Together, Earvin, Luke and our new General Manager will establish the foundation for the next generation of Los Angeles Lakers greatness.”

In addressing the issue of her brother Jim, Jeanie said:

“He is an owner of this team and we share the same goal: returning the Lakers to the level of greatness our father demanded. Our fans deserve no less.”

The Lakers are among the most storied franchises in the history of the NBA. They have won 16 NBA Titles, second to the Boston Celtics, who have won 17. As of yesterday morning their record was 18-39, next to last in the Western Conference, and almost certain to miss the playoffs, yet again.

In the 80’s the Lakers were Magic’s team. Today they have come full circle, except, Earvin is not Magic. At least not yet, he isn’t. He has never:

  • Run a team
  • Served in any personnel role
  • Acted in the capacity of a scout
  • Been a GM
  • Led a team as president
  • Drafted a player
  • Made a trade
  • Haggled with a free-agent
  • Fired a coach* (No Paul Westhead doesn’t count for the purpose of this discussion)
  • Faced Laker Nation as team management

Jeanie Buss, the Lakers, and Laker Nation must hope Magic becomes the second coming of Jerry West (7 Titles) and not Bill Russell with the Supersonics, or Elgin Baylor with the Clippers, or Willis Reed with the Nets, of Kevin McHale with the Timberwolves, or Wes Unseld with the Bullets, or Larry Bird with the Pacers, Michael Jordan with the Wizards and/or (pre-GM) Hornets. The team’s first-round pick goes to Philadelphia unless it’s in the top 3, and their 2019 pick could go to Orlando. Welcome home Earvin.

Almost certainly, the most compelling reason for turning the reins over to Johnson is because he is Magic…at least he once was, and Lakers everywhere must hope he can be again. He does still retain star power. But can he attract free agents? Will he be the difference-maker that Kobe Bryant was unable to be at the end of his stellar career, and that coach Walton will need to help him stock up on guys who can take the team to the next level, or as its known in Los Angeles, back to the pinnacle to which they are accustomed? Magic elevated the team; can Earvin do the same? We will see. Changing of the Guard: Lakers Move On!”

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Irony Part III: Perhaps…The Mother of All Ironies

It’s time to Break It Down!

I know Valentine’s Day is for all intents and purposes merely a Hallmark Holiday for many, but a holiday it is. Yesterday, as I’m sure you know, was Valentine’s Day. Typically, I lean toward recycle mode during holiday weeks. Today, I’m opting for a compromise. I’m going with a rare trilogy theme. I can only recall once before when I actually used an entire month to develop strands of a central theme. This is not that. It has just played out that way.

For the past two weeks, I have ferreted out a variety of aspects dealing with a device commonly known in writing as irony. The topics of the past two weeks, and of this week are topically unrelated, and are tied together simply by the infusion, in each case, of irony.

The news this week has been rife with reports about newly former National Security Adviser, General Michael Flynn, and his tortuous route to the ranks of the  unemployed. The irony referenced in this post has to do with the response of the administration, stemming from Flynn’s resignation, or firing, depending upon whose account you choose to believe.

There really is a significant amount of background that ultimately led to the disassociation of General Flynn and the current administration. I will not be delving deeply into much of it. If you have followed the current administration, you already know. If you haven’t, chances are you neither know nor care. As a matter transparency and generally being forthcoming, and, in the event you haven’t noticed, I have opted not to write directly about the winner of November’s election for the country’s top official. That won’t change today.

I digress. Back to the matter at hand, it was reported several weeks ago that certain Russian operatives had attempted to sway the outcome of our general election, to the detriment of Hillary Clinton, and in favor of her opponent. It was revealed that said reporting reflected the consensus opinion of America’s 17 related National Intelligence agencies. The administration in waiting dismissed the findings, characterized the reporting as fake news, and leveled charges at the outgoing administration for trying to undermine its successor. Surely, methinks they protest too much.

As reported by NBC News yesterday, below are a number of key dates and occurrences related to the fateful trajectory of Adviser Flynn (alternative facts not included):

Summer 2015 — Flynn first meets Trump, according to an interview he gave to the Washington Post.

Dec. 2015 — Flynn took a paid trip to Russia and appeared at a gala for RT, the state-run TV station, where he dined with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

June 2016 — Russian hackers are identified as the culprits behind hacking of Democratic institutions and figures; U.S. officials will later say Putin was involved and the goal was to meddle with the electoral process.

Donald J. Trump


I highly recommend the just out book – THE FIELD OF FIGHT – by General Michael Flynn. How to defeat radical Islam.

11:49 PM – 22 Jul 2016

Nov. 18, 2016 — President-Elect Trump names Flynn his national security adviser.

Dec. 29, 2016 — Obama administration unveils sanctions against Russia for election-related hacking, expelling diplomats and shutting down two compounds. The same day, Flynn speaks to Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak by phone.

Dec. 30, 2016 — Putin says he won’t retaliate for the sanctions and invites children from the U.S. embassy to a Christmas party. Trump then praises Putin in a tweet.

Donald J. Trump


Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!

2:41 PM – 30 Dec 2016

Sometime after Dec. 30, 2016 — The FBI reviews intercepts and finds the Flynn-Kislyak conversation. The matter gets folded into the FBI’s ongoing probe into Russian election-related hacking and related issues.

Jan. 11, 2017 — Trump denies members of his staff had contact with Russia before the election, during the campaign.

Jan. 12 — Washington Post columnist David Ignatius first reports the contact between Flynn and Kislyak, raising questions about whether sanctions were discussed.

Jan. 13 — Trump spokesman Sean Spicer says Flynn did not discuss sanctions with the ambassador and the purpose of the call was to schedule a time for Trump and Putin to speak post-inauguration.

Jan. 15 — Vice President Mike Pence tells CBS’s “Face the Nation” that sanctions were not discussed: “It was strictly coincidental that they had a conversation. They did not discuss anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia.”

Jan. 19 — Obama administration officials — Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, CIA Director John Brennan and Acting Attorney General Sally Yates — discuss the situation and want to warn the Trump team that Flynn has misled Spicer and Pence. FBI Director James Comey vetoes that, saying it will compromise his ongoing investigation.

Jan. 20 — Trump inaugurated.

Jan. 20 or 21 — The FBI questions Flynn about his call to the ambassador as part of the bureau’s broader investigation into Russia, according to a senior U.S. official.

Jan. 23 — At Spicer’s first White House press briefing, he says that Flynn assured him the night before that the Flynn-Kislyak call did not involve sanctions. The subject, Spicer says, was a plane crash over the holiday, Christmas greetings, a potential conference in Syria on ISIS, and scheduling a call with Putin.

Jan. 26 — Acting AG Yates tells White House Counsel Donald McGahn what she knows about the call, according to the White House. Trump was told immediately, Spicer says, and the White House counsel launched an “exhaustive” review that included questioning of Flynn.

Jan. 30 — Trump fires Yates, saying she’s being axed for refusing to defend his executive order temporarily banning travel from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Feb. 9 — The Washington Post reports that Flynn, according to current and former U.S. officials, did discuss sanctions with the Russian ambassador; officials confirm the content of the discussion to NBC News. This day is the first time Pence is informed of the Justice Department warning about Flynn’s call — two weeks after Trump was told.

Feb. 10 — A spokesperson for Flynn tells NBC News that Flynn “can’t be 100 percent sure,” but doesn’t remember talking sanctions. Trump denies knowledge of the reports that Flynn and the Russian talked sanctions. “I don’t know about it. I haven’t seen it. What report is that?” he tells reporters. Also that day, Flynn speaks by phone to Pence, reportedly to apologize to him.

Feb. 13 — Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway tells NBC News that Flynn has the full confidence of the president. Moments later, Spicer says Trump is evaluating the situation. Hours after that, Flynn resigns, saying he “inadvertently briefed the Vice President Elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian Ambassador.”

Feb. 14 — At a press briefing, Spicer says Trump asked Flynn to resign because of an erosion of trust — not because any laws were broken.

Hallie Jackson


“No, absolutely not” says Sean Spicer, when asked if ‪@POTUS instructed Flynn to talk about sanctions with Russian ambassadors

1:35 PM – 14 Feb 2017 · Washington, DC

The record shows there is a lengthy summary of dates and acts. It appears that there are a number of inconsistencies and other incongruences relative to the assertions of the Trump administration. So in this third edition of ironies, we appear to have arrived at the irony of all ironies. How does the administration conclude, after all of the above, that the real concern is leaks to the media, rather than the actions of a National Security Adviser who apparently either misled (notice I generously did not say lied) the Vice President, or perhaps, who really acted on behalf of the administration, and is now just being a good soldier and taking the fall for his Dear Leader?

Well, on second thought, the administration couldn’t be expected to cop to the latter. But the former is supported by quite a compelling cacophony of arguments. Beyond that, it should be noted that had the report not surfaced (been leaked), the administration would still be poised to feign ignorance, and keep this story from the daylight view of the American public. While I won’t pretend I speak for the administration, I am confident the American public is in a better place as a result of the recent revelations. It was not that long ago the prevailing chants were “Lock her up” and “Drain the swamp!” Where is all that indignation and search for political purity? In summation, I give youIrony Part III: Perhaps…The Mother of All Ironies!”

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Irony Part II: McCain, Cruz, Burr, et. al. Speak on Blocking Any and All Clinton SCOTUS Nominations

It’s time to Break It Down! 

Last week I discussed the stark reversal of course by some GOP lawmakers and their expectations for Sally Yates performance as a member of the Justice Department staff. In summation, when GOP Senators questioned Ms. Yates during her confirmation hearings for the post of Deputy Attorney General, Jeff Sessions asked her a number of pointed questions that clearly framed his expectations that should she be confirmed, she would oppose any rules, regulations, or executive orders that President Obama, a Democrat, proposed, if she thought they not consistent with either the law or the Constitution. As fate would have it, after Mr. Obama left office, Yates was asked to serve as interim Attorney General until the new AG is confirmed.

So guess what happened. The new GOP President issued an executive order that Ms. Yates did not believe complied with some elements of the Constitution. She then proceeded to do, as she said she would during her confirmation; stood on principal and refused to ask Justice Department staff attorneys to defend the Executive Order, regardless of whether it’s a ban or a pause. The administration of course, promised a Muslim ban. It was even described that way by the administration…until it wasn’t. At any rate, not surprisingly, the administration fired Yates.

Interestingly enough, U.S. District Court Judge James Robart, a Bush appointee, ruled in favor of Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who sued to invalidate key provisions of the executive order. That fight continues as the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals three-judge panel heard arguments from both sides in an hour-long conference call at 3:00 p.m. PST yesterday.

The degree to which the GOP’s sense of holding the opposition’s feet squarely to the fire, while having no such affinity to be held to the same standard did not stop there. The GOP is now promoting its Party’s nominee for the Supreme Court. In doing so, the Grand Old Party, collectively, has been quite salty about what it views as Democrats’ attempt to obstruct, deny, or even delay the confirmation of the next Justice-in-waiting.

The most readily at hand reference for comparison sake for most people may be the fact that the GOP refused to even grant interviews to Merrick Garland, the last Obama nominee for the High Court. Justice Antonin Scalia’s died in February 2016. In March of that year, President Obama nominated Garland as an Associate Justice for the SCOTUS. Republicans not only refused to hold hearings to consider his confirmation, they declined to even grant him individual interviews, which is a courtesy commonly extended to candidates for the High Court.

As if that were not bad enough, the disdain, disparagement, and disregard did not end there. Late in last year’s electoral season, when it appeared that Hillary Clinton might win the Presidential election, Senator John McCain exclaimed:

“I promise you that we will be united against any Supreme Court nominee that Hillary Clinton, if she were president, would put up,”

After making those comments, Senator McCain appeared to up the ante, suggesting that if Hillary Clinton were elected, Republicans would block any Supreme Court nomination she would make. Ever!

Hark, there’s more. CNN reported on private remarks made by North Carolina Senator Richard Burr, who was running for reelection. According to the cable network, he said:

“There will be no lame-duck confirmation, and if Hillary Clinton becomes president, I am going to do everything I can do to make sure four years from now, we still got an opening on the Supreme Court.”

That sentiment aligned him perfectly with another conservative Senator, Ted Cruz, who told Dave Weigel:

“There is certainly long historical precedent for a Supreme Court with fewer justices. I would note, just recently, that Justice Breyer observed that the vacancy is not impacting the ability of the court to do its job. That’s a debate that we are going to have.”

And there’s more still. There was also support for the argument among conservative intellectuals. Manu Raju noted in a CNN story on November 1, 2016:

“Ilya Shapiro argues in The Federalist that the Senate should block any Clinton nominees, saying the Constitution allows it. Michael Stokes Paulsen writes in National Review that the Court should be reduced from nine to six justices. While he supports a legal change in the future, Paulsen says attrition by refusing to confirm would be a good way to get down to six.”

Technically, Shapiro is correct…as far as it goes. While there is no explicit, affirmative obligation to confirm, refusing to confirm is hardly conservative. In fact, it’s deeply anti-conservative, in the small-c sense of following norms and customs, as laid out by the Constitution, and according to precedent.

In short, the tacit implication of the arguments made by Senators McCain, Cruz and Burr’ is that Democratic presidents—whether Obama or, hypothetically, Clinton—are less legitimate than Republican presidents, who clearly should be allowed to make appointments on the Supreme Court. The essential motivation even though unstated, is just as clear—ideological disagreement—but there is no longer any reasonable argument, not even a pretense, of respecting the notion that Democrats ever have a mandate. It’s the only logical end, and in fact inescapable conclusion to the increasing politicization of the court-nomination process.

To that end, I simply cannot close without noting that while all the noise registered by Republicans may indeed be buttressed by their current numerical advantages, as they control the executive branch, the legislative branch, and they are poised to gain sway in the judicial branch, it’s time to drop the veil of phantasmical assertion that Democrats somehow are breaking new ground in their effort to at least offer a modicum of resistance to the Borg-like power sweep that the GOP is executing. In other words, welcome to“Irony Part II: McCain, Cruz, Burr, et. al. Speak on Blocking Any and All Clinton SCOTUS Nominations.”

I’m done; holla back!

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Jeff & Sally: The Irony Of It All

It’s time to Break It Down!

Senator Jefferson Beauregard “Jeff” Sessions III is the junior United States Senator from Alabama and a member of the Republican Party. He is the most senior junior Senator, and is also the current nominee, and likely imminent appointee as the next United States Attorney General.

Sessions served as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama, he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1996, and re-elected in 2002, 2008, and again in 2014. The Senator is considered one of the most conservative members of the Senate, and was rumored to be a possible Vice Presidential nominee by the current administration.

Sally Quillian Yates is an American attorney who practiced law at the King & Spalding law firm in Atlanta. In addition, she:

  • Was appointed Assistant U.S. Attorney by Bob Barr for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia
  • Served as Chief of the Fraud and Public Corruption Section in that office
  • Acted as the lead prosecutor in the case of Eric Rudolph, who committed the Centennial Olympic Park bombing. Rudolph was a terrorist convicted for a series of anti-abortion and anti-gay bombings across the southern United States between 1996 and 1998, which killed two people and injured over 120 others.
  • Rose to First Assistant U.S. Attorney in 2002 and to Acting U.S. Attorney in 2004. In the U.S. Attorney’s office she held leadership positions under both Republican and Democratic administrations.
  • Was nominated by President Barack Obama to be U.S. Attorney in the Northern District of Georgia.
  • Was confirmed by the Senate on March 10, 2010.
  • Was appointed by Attorney General Eric Holder to serve as Vice Chair of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee.

The United States Senate voted 84–12, in 2015, to confirm Yates as Deputy Attorney General of the United States, the second highest-ranking position in the Justice Department. While Yates was going through confirmation hearings, Senator Sessions posed a series of questions that ultimately led to him encouraging her to resist unlawful orders.

She served under Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who took office shortly before Yates’s confirmation.

As Deputy Attorney General, Yates was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Justice Department, which included approximately 113,000 employees. In 2015, she authored the policy, known as the “Yates memo” prioritizing the prosecution of executives for corporate crimes. During the final days of the Obama administration, she oversaw the review of 16,000 petitions for executive clemency, making recommendations to the President.

Circling back to Ms. Yates’ confirmation hearings to become Deputy Attorney General, and Senator Sessions’ questioning her, he grilled her intensely regarding her willingness to oppose a President (Obama) if he required her to execute “unlawful” views. As it turns out, Sessions is now on tap to lead the Justice Department.

During her hearing, the Senator observed:

“You have to watch out because people will be asking you to do things and you need to say no. You think the attorney general has the responsibility to say no to the President if he asks for something that’s improper?”

He went on, referring to AG Nominee Loretta Lynch…

“A lot of people have defended the Lynch nomination, for example by saying, ‘Well, he appoints somebody who’s going to execute his views, what’s wrong with that?’ ”

“But if the views the President wants to execute are unlawful, should the attorney general or the deputy attorney general say no?”

Ms. Yates responded:

“Senator, I believe the attorney general or the deputy attorney general has an obligation to follow the law and the Constitution and to give their independent legal advice to the President.”

So fast forward back to the present. Earlier this week, Yates, who had been running the Justice Department while Sessions completed the confirmation process, transformed her 2015 words to 2017 actions.

On January 2017, Yates accepted a request from the incoming Administration to serve as Acting Attorney General, beginning on January 20, 2017, and serving until the United States Senate confirms the new Attorney General. On January 30, 2017, Yates ordered the Justice Department not to defend Trump’s executive order on travel and immigration. She wrote:

“At present, I am not convinced that the defense of the executive order is consistent with these responsibilities of the Department of Justice, nor am I convinced that the executive order is lawful…I am responsible for ensuring that the positions we take in court remain consistent with this institution’s solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right. For as long as I am the acting Attorney General, the Department of Justice will not present arguments in defense of this executive order, unless and until I become convinced that it is appropriate to do so.”

Former Attorney General Eric Holder tweeted he trusted Yates’ judgment, in response to her statement. Not surprisingly, the administration reacted in stark contrast. Shortly afterward, she received a hand-delivered letter from the administration firing her.

She was replaced with Dana Boente, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. According to the White House statement on the subject, Yates “betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States.”

It is a peculiarly ironic time warp in which Sessions and Yates find themselves. It began manifesting itself when Sessions, a Republican, questioned Yates at her Deputy AG hearing. At that time, he and his fellow GOP’ers wanted assurances that as Deputy AG, Yates would not just roll over and execute the recommendations of the President, who at the time of course, was a Democrat. Time and circumstance have a way of showing themselves fickle. By the time Yates was actually faced with the real world scenario Sessions had asked about, the worm had turned, Yates was tapped to serve as acting AG until Sessions received confirmation, and the President, as we all know, is now a Republican.

Yates held up her end of the bargain. As she said she would, she declined to order staff to defend an executive order that she did not believe to be lawful. Based upon the predicate conversations during her 2015 hearings, her actions were, or should have been predictable. She did not disappoint. Let’s be clear, the administration also did the expected, in light of what it considered defiance. It fired Yates. All things considered, no one should be surprised by any of this; least of all the principals. “Jeff & Sally: The Irony of It All.”

I’m done; holla back!

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