The U.N. Guffawed: The Karma Of It All!

It’s time to Break It Down!

For years Donald Trump repeated the trite and untrue bromide that Barack Obama was not born in America. He alleged that he sent his own investigators to Hawaii to prove that non-fact. Not surprisingly, they got zero, zilch, nada, not one scintilla of evidence supporting this ridiculous alternative fact, which by the way is defined as, not a fact.

Yesterday though, Mr. Trump reached way back into his virtual vault of anti-facts. Standing front and center before the United Nations General Assembly, he began to spin one of the yarns his beloved Red Cap crew perennially and unanimously finds so spastically titillating. However, in full disclosure, the foundation for this claim starts with a premise he falsely claimed long before he ever heard of Barack Obama.

Actually, for decades, Trump has argued that people the world over were laughing at Americans, especially their leaders, and ultimately, Barack Obama in particular. You might say he has maintained a decades long fixation with the notion of people in other countries deriding our president.

And yesterday, under the bright lights of one of the world’s most auspicious stages, in reaction to Trumpian pulp fiction, the honorable assembly laughed. Out loud! According to Thomas Wright, a Europe analyst at the Brookings Institution:

“He has always been obsessed people are laughing at the president. From the mid-’80s, he’s said: ‘The world is laughing at us. They think we’re fools.’ It’s never been true, but he’s said it about every president. It’s the first time I’m aware of that people actually laughed at a president. I think it is going to drive him absolutely crazy. It will play to every insecurity he has.”

In a 2014 Twitter rant, he argued that not only had the U.S. been taken advantage of by other countries; he added that we were a “laughingstock to the entire world.” According to those captivated by his spell, his rise was at least in part fueled by his contention and their belief that his strength and resolve could change that situation.

In the early stages of Trump’s speech yesterday, which was intended to establish U.S. “sovereignty” over the whims and needs of other nations, he ran headlong into an unexpected and not at all pleasant dose of reality. In the first minute of the speech, Trump boasted that his administration had accomplished more during his two years in office than “almost any administration” in American history. That bit of fanciful blarney resulted in audible guffaws in the cavernous chamber.

For his part, Mr. Trump was flummoxed. After grasping for a suitable response, he finally managed, “Didn’t expect that response…but that’s OK.” Again, chuckles. This time the laughter was probably in sympathy with or embarrassment for him.

It’s a pretty safe bet Trump is sure to miss the irony of the laughter at his own expense. Later in the day, after he had an opportunity to compose himself, consult with aides, and develop an alternative fact narrative, he suggested the line was intended to elicit laughs.

Sure it was. Better late than never.

Trump would ramble on for another 34 minutes. But no other moments would match the impact or import of his rhetorical nadir for the day. The moment made for a pointed rejoinder for a man who seems to take such an exultant joie de vivre in poking our traditional allies and partners in the eye on trade, security alliances, and general diplomatic bonhomie.

At first blush, the moment was embarrassing, but it was more than that. It tore a gaping hole into a core fabulist assertion that has been a key element in Trump’s stock-in-trade bloviating for decades, and since his election. As I’ve noted on several previous occasions, the New York Times and the Washington Post have kept a running tab on Trump’s false or misleading statements since taking office. In case you are keeping track, the total has eclipsed 5,000.

From The Art of the Deal, to The Apprentice, to the White House, Donald Trump has never been shy about highlighting what he believes to be his accomplishments, even if it means employing a tactic he has referred to as truthful hyperbole. As the midterm elections begin to come into focus, Trump has spent increasingly more time touting his administration’s “long list of accomplishments.”

As he has done so, he has routinely claimed a stunning array of sweeping successes, and placed himself in a favorable position in historical comparison to America’s great leaders. Just last week at a speech in Missouri, he veered off script, asserting that his 2016 election was one of “the greatest movements in the history of our country.” Yesterday’s claim at the United Nations that he has done more in less than two years than most of his 44 predecessors defied reality, hubris, logic, reason, truth, and well, just about any other measure available to us, except perhaps the one he created, truthful hyperbole. Ah, but he apparently failed to account for the fact he was not at a MAGA Rally. Where are the Red Caps when you need them, he may have been thinking?  Sad!

Thomas Wright framed it thusly:

“It’s got to hurt. It was on camera and it was spontaneous. It was on one of the biggest stages in the world.” In summary, The U.N. Guffawed: The Karma Of It All!” I’m done; holla back!

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Local Boy Does Good: No Place Like Home

It’s time to Break It Down!

Michael Jeffrey Jordan, A.K.A. MJ, A.K.A. #23, A.K.A. principal owner and Chairman of the Charlotte Hornets, grew up in Wilmington, North Carolina, attended the University of North Carolina, and went on to become known and beloved by the masses as the NBA’s G.O.A.T. (A.K.A. Greatest Of All Time). Yesterday Jordan donated $2 million dollars to Hurricane Florence relief efforts in North Carolina.

Hurricane Florence invaded North and South Carolina last week, and to date is responsible for at least 34 deaths, 26 in North Carolina. Wilmington was especially hard hit. Floodwaters cut the city off from the rest of the state, making the peninsula an island. The community was hit with 26.58 inches of rain. The resulting encroaching waters cut off roadways into and out of Wilmington, isolating the city, preventing people who didn’t evacuate before the storm from doing so afterward, and making it impossible for those who did to return immediately after the storm to check on their family members and property.

This is not Jordan’s first philanthropic rodeo. However, his route to this point was not a straight line. In the 90’s former Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt, the city’s first African American Mayor, challenged Jesse Helms for his NC Senate seat. Twice. In 1990, and again in 1996. Helms won both contests. In the 1990 race, Senator Helms used his infamous anti-Gantt, anti–affirmative action “White Hands” ad.

Despite the Senator’s unorthodox, and racially insensitive ad, and a number of pleas from prominent athletes, including Arthur Ashe, for Jordan to endorse Mr. Gantt, Jordan declined to do so. To add insult to injury, it was reported by a number of sources that Jordan, in declining to endorse Gantt, explained his decision by commenting to a friend, that, “Republicans buy shoes too.” For the record, Jordan has always denied having said that. But, as urban legends often do, the narrative developed a life of its own, and persists in many circles, even to this day.

While Jordan went on to win multiple NBA Titles, six in all, as well as a matching six NBA Finals MVP’s to complement his Rings, and would ultimately leverage his Brand into NBA Team Owner, and Billionaire status, it is both inaccurate and unfair to characterize MJ as just a soulless capitalist, entirely unconcerned or connected to politics.

Speaking in his own defense, Jordan had this to say about his not-so-well-known largesse:

“If I’m guilty of anything it’s of not seeking publicity or keeping a record of everybody I’ve ever helped. We still have racism. But sometimes the more publicity you give it helps increase racism rather than decrease it.”

To point out a few instances of Jordan contributions that may not have been particularly well know, see below:

According to, Jordan donated $2000 to Gantt’s 1996 Senate campaign. (Estee Portnoy, Jordan’s spokeswoman, confirmed the donation to Slate. Despite the donation, Gantt lost that race, too.) Also in 2004, he contributed to Barack Obama’s senatorial campaign, leading Obama to joke that he “wasn’t sure whether he should cash [the check] or frame it.” Moreover, in 2012, he participated in a fundraiser for President Obama and “co-headlined” a $20,000 a plate dinner following it, ESPN also lists donations from a Michael J. Jordan with the occupation “Charlotte Bobcats Owner” to various groups associated with the Democratic Party.

In a statement published on ESPN’s the Undefeated, on July 28, 2016, under the headline “Michael Jordan: ‘I Can No Longer Stay Silent,’ ” Mr… Jordan wrote:

“As a proud American, a father who lost his own dad in a senseless act of violence, and a black man, I have been deeply troubled by the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement and angered by the cowardly and hateful targeting and killing of police officers.”

Later in the statement, Jordan announced he would donate $1 million each to the Institute for Community-Police Relations and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. He did not elaborate on why he chose this particular moment to speak out and donate money, and he was very careful to avoid offending anyone in his statement:

“Over the past three decades I have seen up close the dedication of the law enforcement officers who protect me and my family. I have the greatest respect for their sacrifice and service. I also recognize that for many people of color their experiences with law enforcement have been different than mine. I have decided to speak out in the hope that we can come together as Americans, and through peaceful dialogue and education, achieve constructive change.”

So, to be clear about the matter, while Mike has been reluctant to wade into things political, his reticence may have been at least somewhat overstated. Nevertheless, his “Undefeated” commentary and donation announcement is different. It wasn’t just a campaign donation: Jordan decided to use his voice and his platform to weigh in publicly on a pressing issue of race and social justice. He was still measured, and he still gave equal consideration to all sides. But there is no denying this was a long way from “Republicans buy shoes/sneakers, too,” whether he ever said those words or not.

Returning to yesterday, Jordan issued a statement accompanying his donation to assist the recovery effort from Hurricane Florence. In it, he said:

“It’s truly devastating to see the damage that Hurricane Florence is doing to my beloved home state of North Carolina and to the surrounding areas. The recovery effort will be massive, and it will take a long time to repair the damage and for the families to get back on their feet. Together with the NBA, we have launched a platform to aid those most impacted. Please join me, the Hornets organization, the NBA, and donate to one of the local organizations assisting in the relief and recovery efforts. To all those affected, stay safe and know that we’re here to help.”

The 55-year-old Jordan still has relatives who live in coastal North Carolina, including a nephew who attends UNC-Wilmington, which remains closed due to storm damage. In a telephone interview with the Associated Press, Jordan said:

“It just hits home. I know all of those places: Wilmington, Fayetteville, Myrtle Beach, New Bern, and Wallace, which is where my father is from. So quite naturally it hits home, and I felt like I had to act in a sense that this is my home.”

“Local Boy Does Good: No Place Like Home!” I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link or  A new post is published each Wednesday.

Nine-Eleven: A Seventeen-Year Retrospective

It’s Time to Break It Down!

 (This post appeared originally in this space on September 7, 2011. It was re-purposed and presented September 11, 2013, again September 13, 2017, and today, September 12, 2018).

A year ago at this time, and in this space, I opined the buzz for the day, would likely center, as it had for some time, on the weather. At that time the principal thrust was on taking stock of, and responding to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Irma, the second consecutive Category 4 or above hurricane to reach land in the U.S. after a 12-year absence of storms packing that level of fury.

Today, after several days of having been inundated by serial breaking news updates about the weather, those of us on the Eastern seaboard, especially we who reside in North Carolina, are in various states of battening down the hatches, at least figuratively. According to the National Weather Servicer, the storm, A.K.A. Hurricane Florence, which it characterized as an “extremely dangerous major hurricane,” is predicted to hit the North Carolina coast late Thursday or early Friday morning. Moreover, the National Hurricane Center projects it will drop as much as 30 inches of rain in some areas, and deliver wind gusts of up to the 140 mph range, which would mean it will be the strongest storm to hit North Carolina in over 60 years. But I digress.

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

(From the Archives, September 7, 2011)

Do you remember where you were, Tuesday, September 11, 2001? Yesterday we observed the 17th Anniversary of the day that has come to be known simply as, Nine-Eleven (9/11). That day 17 years ago, America lost, in one fell swoop, its blissful innocence, its long-standing appearance of invulnerability, and its deeply ingrained sense of security. By some accounts, what it retained is its self-righteous (some would say) belief in American Exceptionalism and entitlement; but that is a conversation for another post.

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

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

On this day, the President directs that the American flag be flown at half-staff at individual American homes, at the White House, and on all U.S. government buildings and establishments, home and abroad.  This year President Trump, as President Obama did before him, deemed the day one of National Remembrance and Service. He and Mrs. Trump commemorated the day at a memorial ceremony in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, site of one where one of the planes crashed, after passengers were said to have fought back against the hijackers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

As we place the commemoration of Patriot Day 2017 in the rearview mirror, and sixteen years of Nine-Eleven related memories with it, Americans are still advised to be on high alert for potential incursions by terrorists, most likely of the lone wolf variety, where one person acts alone.  So here we are, Nine-Eleven: A Seventeen-Year Retrospective!” I trust you had a productive Day of Remembrance and Service.

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link  A new post is published each Wednesday.

Labor Day: It’s All About The Workers

It’s time to Break It Down!

(This post appeared originally in this space on August 31, 2011. It was re-purposed and presented again September 3, 2014, September 7, 2016, September 6, 2017, and today, September 5, 2018.)

 All things considered, I had to win a spirited debate with myself in order to resist the impulse to make this post about Donald Trump. Between his weekend in exile away from the McCain funeral services, the Nike trolling him by picking Colin Kaepernick as the face of their 30th Year Anniversary “Just Do It” campaign, and Bob Woodward dropping his new book, “Fear: Trump in the White House,” laced with a plethora of racy quotes, there is no question that Donald J. Trump is the man of the hour, as far as the news cycle is concerned. The good news, or for many of us, the bad news is, a number of items stemming from these forces will be part and parcel to many news cycles to come.    

Monday was Labor Day. As with most holidays, I knock it down a few notches so readers can enjoy their time off, and ease into a vintage post, if they so choose.

At its core, according to the U.S. Department of LaborLabor Day in the United States was designed to commemorate the creation of the labor movement; dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers.  The holiday focuses on contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well being of our country.

First observed in September 1882, the event has always been observed on the first Monday of the month.  Initiated by the Central Labor Union of New York, the celebration became a federal holiday in 1894.

In addition to its formal structure and purpose, Labor Day has a number of symbolic associations.  It is considered:

  • The unofficial End of Summer
  • The last 3-Day warm weather weekendfor vacationers
  • By High Society standards, the last day for which it is appropriate for women to wear white
  • The beginning of the College Football Season (the preceding Saturday)
  • The start of the NFL Season (typically the following Thursday)
  • The conventional kick-off of hard core political campaign season
  • Backto-School shopping

On the formal side, while the Labor Department’s blurb omits any reference to it, Labor Day also validates and recognizes an often controversial mechanism that frequently divides American opinion; labor union.  Scorned by many who fancy themselves as Free Enterprise Capitalists, unions and their members have not only been actively involved historically, in debates that framed public policy for American workers, they have won or forced hard-earned concessions that in the shimmering glow of reflective perspective, must be considered to have fundamentally altered the playing field (known as the workplace), including:

  • Pensions
  • Health Care Benefits
  • Paid Vacations
  • Equal Pay to women
  • The Development of Child Labor Laws
  • The 5-Day Work Week
  • The 40-Hour Work Week
  • The8-Hour Work Day
  • Worker’s Compensation benefits
  • Female Flight Attendants permitted to marry

These and many other important cherished and effective employee rights are attributable to the efforts of the American Labor Movement.  But, this is not an ode to Labor Unions.  Unions also have downsides.  They create or contribute to:

  • The potential for strikes
  • Additional costs to all employees (membership dues; whether a member or not)
  • Loss of individuality (ability to represent one’s self in a grievance)
  • Subject to fines & discipline by the Union
  • Disincentivesto productivity and competition
  • Lack of promotions
  • Burdensome salary demands(relative to the market)
  • Loss of profits (and/or pay) due to strike
  • Inefficient & ineffective contracts
  • Increased unemployment due to failure to reach agreement w/management

The first Labor Day celebration was led by a Labor Union.  The history of the Day has been linked, inextricably, with Labor organizations, ever since.  But if it is the American Worker the Day was intended to commemorate, Labor Day 2011 was set in an auspicious and trenchant backdrop:

  • The Unemployment Rate in the U. was reported to be 9.1% in July 2011
  • The economy added only 117,000 jobs in July (154,000 in the private sector, -37,000 government jobs lost); better than expected, but still a dismally low number
  • Businesses were stockpiling $2 trillion in cash

Three years hence, the picture, thankfully, was much improved:

  • The Unemployment Rate in the U.S. was reported to be 6.2% in July 2014
  • The economy added 209,000 jobs in July 2014
  • August 2014 employment data was released the first Friday in September

In 2011, President Obama, had announced after the Debt Ceiling Deal on August 2nd, that he would present a jobs proposal for Congress to consider, and was set to do so, after Labor Day, (on September 8th).  The proposal included a combination of tax cuts, spending on infrastructure, and measures designed to assist the long-term unemployed, while bolstering certain sectors of the economy.  This potion sounds eerily similar to the ideas Democrats proposed when negotiating the Debt Deal.

Republicans were lined up to oppose the plan, suggesting instead, among other things, a Balanced Budget Amendment; a balm the GOP/Tea Party also suggested during the Debt Deal negotiation.  In short, there was little expectation for significant movement, or the adoption of sweeping legislation to address the lack of jobs in America…and there wasn’t.  What we had instead was, déjà vu…all over, again!  At the time, I was compelled to ask, “Labor Day: Where Is The Celebration?” Fast forward three years, and the truth is the labor dynamics in this country had improved appreciably. However, our country was still beset by challenges.

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

Moving forward again, in the August 2016 Jobs Report, issued September 2, 2016, the nation’s Job’s Report continued to improve:

  • The Unemployment Rate in the U.S. was reported at 4.9%
  • The economy added 151,000 jobs in August 2016
  • Paychecks grew 2.4% compared to the previous year
  • Jobs Growth record extended to 77 consecutive months

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

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

This year, the August 2018 Jobs Report will not be released until Friday. The July Report showed a dip of one-tenth of a percentage point, down to the second lowest rate for the year, by one-tenth of a point. In July:

  • The Unemployment Rate in the U.S. was reported at 3.9%
  • The economy added 157,000 jobs
  • Earnings were unchanged from June to July
  • The Jobs Growth record has extended to 100 consecutive months (18 months for #45)

August job growth is historically volatile, and is the slowest month for job growth since the Reports have been published. It’s important to keep an eye out for Friday’s Report, but it’s also of significance to note that despite historic volatility, the trend for this year has been one of consistently low unemployment, remaining comfortably below 5%.

As the sixth bullet from the top advises, the conventional kick-off of the hard-core political campaign season is upon us. There are lots of issues to consider, including, North Korea, Russia, the second Manafort trial, Michael Cohen’s plea deal, the Pecker and Weisselberg deals, the Brett Kavanaugh SCOTUS hearing, and…yes, Donald Trump, and his connection to any and/or all of the above.

The General Election is just 64 days away. The low unemployment rate is a good news story. However, while there is no Presidential Election this year, we are looking ahead to the midterms. Please understand that elections have consequences! The entire House of Representatives, 535 members, is up for re-election, in addition to 1/3 (33 members in regular elections, and 2 seats in special elections) of the Senate. By all means be sure to exercise your franchise; vote!

Labor Day: It’s All About The Workers,” and while we’ve got plenty of issues to temper our celebration, we should indeed celebrate America’s phenomenal Labor Movement. I’m done; holla back!

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

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