Register & Vote: The Foundation of Our Democracy Redux ’21

It’s time to Break It Down!

Yesterday was National Voter Registration Day in the United States. It is observed each year on the fourth Tuesday in September. There are 35 days left until the 2021 Municipal Elections in North Carolina, and unregistered voters have only a few days left to register in order to qualify to vote on November 2nd. The occasion is a nonpartisan endeavor intended to emphasize bringing attention to our democracy, exercising our franchise, and of course, engaging in executing our civic duty.

In 2016, 100 million people didn’t vote; the number was 80 million in 2020, despite record voter turnout. And those were presidential election years. You can expect the percentage of registered voters participating in NC Municipal election this November will be dismally low. In 2019, 3,073,903 North Carolinians were registered to vote. Of that number, 500, 640, or 16%, actually voted. Two years earlier, in 2017, 600,443 of 3,569,497 registered voters went to the polls: 17%. Municipal voting in NC will feature an additional complication this year. On June 28th, NC legislators enacted a bill (Session Law 2021-56) delaying elections until 2022 in the 35 cities and towns shown below:

Town of Ahoskie (Hertford County)

Town of Cary (Chatham & Wake Counties)

City of Charlotte (Mecklenburg County)

City of Clinton (Sampson County)

Town of Edenton (Chowan County)

City of Elizabeth City (Camden & Pasquotank Counties)

Town of Enfield (Halifax County)

Town of Erwin (Harnett County)

City of Fayetteville (Cumberland County)

City of Greensboro (Guilford County)

City of Greenville (Pitt County)

City of Henderson (Vance County)

City of Hickory (Burke & Catawba Counties)

City of Jacksonville (Onslow County)

City of Kings Mountain (Cleveland & Gaston Counties)

City of Laurinburg (Scotland County)

City of Lexington (Davidson County)

Town of Long View (Burke & Catawba Counties)

City of Lumberton (Robeson County)

Town of Mooresville (Iredell County)

Town of Mount Olive (Duplin & Wayne Counties)

City of New Bern (Craven County)

Town of Plymouth (Washington County)

Town of Princeville (Edgecombe County)

City of Raleigh (Wake & Durham Counties)

City of Roanoke Rapids (Halifax County)

City of Rocky Mount (Edgecombe & Nash Counties)

City of Sanford (Lee County)

Town of Siler City (Chatham)

Town of Smithfield (Johnston County)

Town of St. Pauls (Robeson)

City of Statesville (Iredell County)

Town of Tarboro (Edgecombe County

City of Whiteville (Columbus County)

City of Wilson (Wilson County)

Under this law, terms of mayors and council members in the jurisdictions above will be extended until their successors are elected in 2022. The pertinent caveat is the law permits a municipality to keep any regularly scheduled at-large elections in 2021, if it notified the county board of elections of this decision by July 19, 2021.

I remember entertaining conversations with many people who opted out in 2016. They all had reasons. Some contended their vote would not count, others argued the candidates were same/it did not matter which one would win, still others didn’t go to the polls because of one of many voter suppression tactics, and last, for the purpose of this post, far too many individuals succumbed to apathy. In reflecting on the aforementioned rationales, I am reminded of an old witticism, repackaged to apply to voting:

Upon learning of a new acquaintance’s voting status, Mr. Smith inquired, “Mr. Jones, why did you not vote? Was it due to ignorance, or because of apathy?”

After giving the query his full consideration, Mr. Jones replied, “Mr. Smith, I don’t know, and I don’t care.”

The reality is voting is central to making our government work effectively. I once had the honor and privilege to oversee a local election. It was a huge responsibility, and an incredibly important event in our community. There are always lots of moving parts, bracing tension, and a whirlwind of frenzy surrounding elections. Yes, there is even more of all of that during a quadrennial that features the Presidential Election, but every single election is critical. Municipal elections focus on public servants such as mayors and council members; the officials who are closest to the community. Those men and women oversee an array of issues, such as, how your streets are maintained, when and where traffic lights are added and what your next water bill will look like.

Let me be clear. This post is not about any individual elected official; nor is it about Democrats or Republicans…or any other political party. It is about you doing your part to ensure that our government, on all levels, works the way it is supposed to, and reflects the will of “We The People There are hundreds of new election laws across dozens of states, many of them specifically crafted to make it more difficult to vote.” To that end, I urge you to do your duty. Register & Vote: The Foundation of Our Democracy Redux ’21!

I’m done; holla back!

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

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COVID-19: The New Champ

It’s time to Break It Down!

Once upon a time, most knowledgeable observers believed the !918 Spanish Flu held an insurmountable lead on all subsequent would-be contenders for Americans dying, courtesy of a pandemic. That time is history. On Monday of this week, the number of Americans who died due to coronavirus eclipsed 675,000, and in doing so, superseded the 1918 contagion for deaths in America.  

A country of roughly 328 million people, that death toll means that roughly 1 in 500 of us (Americans) have died from Covid-19. The naysayers and deniers may argue that because we were a much smaller country a century ago, that pandemic was more virulent. And they’d have a point. But seriously, when does the retort, people die, get old, and more aptly, unacceptable? Since the emergence this summer, of the Delta variant, we’ve devolved to the point about 2,000 Americans per day are being taken out by this pandemic.

In many corners of the U.S., the question being hotly debated is whether a booster shot is needed. This, notwithstanding the fact, over 36% of Americans have yet to receive a shot…many of whom insist, they will never get one. Meanwhile, according to a CNN analysis, the average rate of coronavirus deaths in the 10 least vaccinated states was more than four times higher over the past week, than the rate in the 10 most vaccinated states.

In the least vaccinated states, the data revealed that roughly 8 out of every 100,000 residents died of Covid-19 over the course of the past week, compared to only about 2 out of every 100,000 people in the 10 most vaccinated states. The news organization used research gathered and provided by John Hopkins University and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for its analysis. Not surprisingly, less vaccinated states also tend to have higher hospitalization rates. In fact, this finding has shown that coronavirus hospitalizations are a significant contributor to the unavailability of hospital beds for emergencies and needed major surgeries.  

The Red/Blue Divide persists. As of September 13, 2021, the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) found that 52.8% of people in counties that voted for Biden were fully vaccinated compared to 39.9% of Trump counties, a 12.9 percentage point difference. While the rate of vaccination coverage has slowed in both county groups, the gap has widened, not lessened, over time. This is disappointing, but not at all surprising. Trump and his surrogates are almost as famous for being vaccine antagonists, as they are for being propagators of the big lie…and since they have been doing it longer, one might impute they are better at the former than the latter. And they have surely been amazingly consistent and effective at the latter.

With a couple of notable exceptions, the vaccine resistant leaderboard will most likely not surprise you. The Top 10 are Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, Tennessee, West Virginia and Wyoming. The only wonder is how did Florida and Texas escape the list. Their alternate universe is occupied by Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

At the end of the day everyone must be from somewhere. It’s been said, we don’t get to choose our parents, and as such, we don’t get to choose our birthplace. However, know this; well over 90% of people who have either died, or been hospitalized for serious coronavirus illness since January 1, 2021, have been unvaccinated. If you’re an adult who believes in the potency of the vaccine to lower your chances of contracting coronavirus, or of suffering greatly or dying if you do, and you happen to be looking for a vacation spot, or to relocate, consult these two lists. “Covid-19: The New Champ!”

I’m done; holla back!

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

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Peril: The Final Act

It’s time to Break It Down!

One year ago in this space, I penned a post framed around, what at the time was Bob Woodward’s (of Woodward & Bernstein fame) current book, called Rage. I titled the edition, Rage: #MAGA Deflection. It was, the latest tome examining the credibility, or lack thereof, of Donald Trump. There have been numerous books, claiming to reveal all manner of insider details about Trump and his administration. In Rage, Woodward conducted 19 interviews with Trump, 18 before the book went to press, 7 initiated by calls from Mr. Trump, and at least one Oval Office appearance. According to Woodward, the interviews totaled 9 hours and 41 minutes.

Woodward’s precursor to Rage, was called Fear. Good, bad, or indifferent, the author never interviewed Mr. Trump as he was writing Fear. This was not for lack of trying, but likely was the result of John Kelly’s enthusiastic gatekeeping. By the time Woodward wrote Rage, Kelly was long gone, and both Trump and Woodward made sure there was no repeat performance. The 19 interviews over the course of 9 hours and 41 minutes underscored the distinction.

Fast forward a year, and Woodward has another book, this one entitled Peril; penned with journalist, Robert Costa, set to be released a week from today. 

The book chronicles the transition from President Donald J. Trump to President Joseph R. Biden Jr., and stands as one of the most dangerous periods in American history. That is documented by things we saw, e.g., the January 6thinsurrection and attempted coup, as well as things we never knew, but are finding out as court cases from January 6 are adjudicated, as the House Select Committee on attacks goes about its work, and as the details from Peril are released.

Between Woodward and Costa, they interviewed over 200 people at the center of the turmoil. Their efforts produced more than 6,000 pages of transcripts—and a spectacularly definitive portrait of a nation on the brink of a crisis of epic proportion.

Peril delves deep, not only inside the Trump White House, but also inside the Biden White House, inside the 2020 campaign, into the Pentagon and Congress. It provides vivid, eyewitness accounts of what really happened.

The book is supplemented throughout with never-before-seen material from secret orders, transcripts of confidential calls, diaries, emails, meeting notes and other personal and government records, making for an unparalleled history. It offers a most unsettling analysis of all the things we knew, of all the things we thought we knew, and most assuredly, of all the things we hoped could never happen in America, that happened, or almost happened. 

This tome also the offers the first insider accounts of Biden’s presidency, and of the multiplicity of challenges he is facing: the continuing deadly pandemic, the millions of Americans facing soul-crushing economic pain, the bitter and disabling partisan divide, an array of global threats, and the imposing/lurking shadow of 45.

The book title was derived from a Biden Inauguration quote: “We have much to do in this winter of peril.” His perspective was clearly colored by Trump’s chaotic last days in office, including, but not limited to the January 6 debacle. 

Peril details the remarkable tale of the end of one presidency and the beginning of another. It provides the signature flourish of the culmination of Woodward’s dynamic trilogy on the Trump presidency, along with Fear and Rage. Moreover, it is the beginning of a collaboration with fellow Washington Post reporter Robert Costa; a collaboration that will hearken recollections of Woodward’s memorable coverage of the Nixon escapade, along with Carl Bernstein. That was then, this Is now. Welcome to “Peril: The Final Act!”

I’m done; holla back!

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

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Nine-Eleven: Twenty Years Later

It’s time to Break It Down!

Posted on September 8, 2021

(This post appeared originally in this space on September 7, 2011. It was re-purposed and presented September 11, 2013, September 13, 2017, September 12, 2018, September 11, 2019 and again today, September 8, 2021).

As I re-post this past “Break It Down” entry, today is two days after Labor Day, and three days before the Twentieth Anniversary of Nine-Eleven; a day America will never forget. I have previously reprised both days. Due to the “China Anniversary,” I ask that you please spend a few minutes directing your attention to the horror that was September 11, 2001, and to the respectful memory and contemplation of its many victims.

(From the Archives, September 7, 2011)

Do you remember where you were, Tuesday, September 11, 2001? Today we observe the 20th Anniversary of the day that has come to be known simply as, Nine-Eleven (9/11). That day 20 years ago, America lost, in one fell swoop, any notion of 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 Biden, as President Trump and President Obama did before him, deemed the day one of National Remembrance and Service.

Even after 20 years; two decades 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 traumas.  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, when 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 has 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 Laden became 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 in 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 twenty 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 a result of fortuitous failures of would-be terrorists, and partly a function of the fateful intervention of alert by-standers. Last year, President Trump negotiated an agreement to end America’s longest (20 years) war by May of 2021. President Biden, who succeeded Mr. Trump, committed to honor the agreement. Ultimately, he pulled American troops out of Afghanistan by August 31st. a pledge he ultimately honored, despite numerous suggestions, for a variety of reasons, that he abandon.

As we place the commemoration of Patriot Day 2021 in the rearview mirror, and twenty 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 in solo fashion. So here we are, “Nine-Eleven: Twenty Years Later!” I trust you will have a productive Day of Remembrance and Service.

I’m done; holla back!

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

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

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Mi Familia: This One’s Personal – Redux

It’s time to Break It Down!

In May, I wrote a very personal post. If you follow my work, you know that every now and then, I write about the intricacies of my life. Today’s blog is one of those posts, and an extension of the one from May. No extra media links, no footnotes; one hundred percent first person accounting.

Forty-eight years ago, I lost my brother to a violent crime. He lived in the Capital of The Empire State, Albany, NY. We were close, at least for siblings born twelve years apart. He was the eldest (there were only two of us), and broke camp soon after high school. He started a family and made a life in Albany. I visited a couple of times growing up. He came back home about the same number of times.

My mother died of cancer in 1962. He spent some time at home during the final stages of her illness. We bonded over our deep appreciation of comic books. At least that’s was the pretext. I think we knew, in our heart of hearts, this was the advent of the next phase of our individual, and collective lives, living without the physical presences and love of Gertrude Wiggins Miller. Our mom.

After that uniquely life altering experience, I moved about a bit. I was adopted by an aunt and an uncle, and spent a couple of years with them, living as a military brat, in Washington, DC for a semester, and in Ft. Belvoir, VA for a year and a half. I hung out with my dad in Brooklyn during the summers. I made it to Albany during one of the summer stints. Didn’t make it back again until Christmas Break of my Freshman Year in college. It was a great reunion after 7-8 years, albeit unavoidably short.

In retrospect, it turned out to be the last time we would see each other. Two and a half months later, I was pulled out of an afternoon class, to be greeted by devastating news. My big brother, mi amigo y compadre, had been murdered. It was an unfathomable sequence. While my rational mind understood the premise that people of all ages die, it simply never occurred to me that my brother, or I, would meet death’s angel before our father. Or my adopted parents, for that matter. While in later years, my dad would clearly establish himself as my unparalleled hero, in those days, the sun rose and set on my big brother. The abrupt and unforeseen end of our mutual admiration alliance, simultaneously ended my connection with the life my brother had made in Albany, including with his family…my family.

Over the past 10-15 years, I have often wondered what ever happened to my Albany family. As it turns out, though I had no bead on my brother’s family, his brood was not my only family in the area. On Mother’s Day weekend, a cousin here in NC traveled to visit her sister and brother-in-law…in Schenectady, 20 miles northwest of Albany. While there, she did some on-the-ground reconnaissance. She returned to NC with a nephew’s phone number. I subsequently called and spoke with him, and with a brother and a sister. Just like that, after decades, I was able to reconnect with a long lost (to me) part of my family.

Since then, we have begun the process of forging a proper and lasting familial bond. I look forward to escaping the confines of Covid, and spending genuine quality family time, catching up on what all of us have missed. It took a while, but this past weekend, my long lost, recently found family paid me a visit. My niece and her fiancé arrived Friday; the pair were joined by my nephew and his wife Saturday. From Friday at lunch through today, we spent quality time catching up, sharing meals, conversation, libation, a family Zoom call including fam from the Golden State, to the Empire State to the Old Dominion, to the Old North State, a Wedding Anniversary, countless recollections about various family members, and numerous introductions, virtual and in-person. Undoubtedly, we made many wonderful and lasting memories.

A good time was had by all. “Mi Familia: This One’s Personal – Redux!”

I’m done; holla back!

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

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

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