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A Soulless Coward: Popovich’s Lament

It’s time to Break It Down!

To paraphrase Charles E. Weller, a not particularly acclaimed typing teacher whose phraseology is much better known than he, “Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country.” Typing drill notwithstanding, never has a single catch phrase been truer…or quite frankly, more compelling, vis-à-vis the future of our great nation. The United States of America, of it’s own volition, plunged into the depths of governing darkness, when on November 8, 2016, it elected Donald J. Trump the 45th President of the United States.

Since President Trump was inaugurated in January, countless efforts have emerged to challenge his ascendance. Collectively those efforts are frequently referred to as The Resistance, or simply RESIST. The ongoing national conversation, or more aptly, debate, concerning whether we as a nation should embrace the TrumpWorld philosophy of dissembling, deflecting, and/or distracting, or stand and fight the power, not unlike Republicans of virtually every stripe, conventional, and non-conventional, did for the entirety of President Obama’s two terms, roils our political discourse daily. This trench warfare will almost surely continue for the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile, every now and then, a voice bursts upon the scene and speaks a clarion truth so scintillatingly poignant that it minimizes, if not mutes, all others. For this week anyway, Gregg Popovich has done that…for me. I admit, last week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, nailed it. His alleged “eff’n moron” appellation was acutely forceful, conceptually, yet subtle due to Tillerson’s deftly dancing around whether he really made the comment. San Antonio Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich left no such lingering question of certitude about whether he said what he said. He did.

Like in virtually every instance of resistance to TrumpWorld antics, the protest or act of resisting was preceded by Trump’s own comments. Sometimes it’s a tweet, at other times it’s remarks, but it’s always something. This time, during an impromptu news conference at the White House on Monday, Trump told the assembled media that he’d personally written letters to the families of soldiers who’d been slain in Niger, and that those letters had either been sent, or were going to be sent later in the day. He claimed to have written them over the weekend, and asserted that he would soon call the families. He insisted that calling is something that he traditionally does, but that he wanted some time to pass, and that he’d do it when it’s appropriate.

In discussing his actions, Trump apparently felt compelled to invent a fictitious contrast between his actions, and those of President Obama and other Presidents, whom he suggested never, or seldom called such families. More precisely, he said:

“If you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls, a lot of them didn’t make calls.” He went on to add, “President Obama, I think probably did sometimes and maybe sometimes he didn’t. I don’t know. That’s what I was told. All I can do is ask my generals. Other presidents did not call. They’d write letters. And some presidents didn’t do anything. But I like, I like the combination of – I like, when I can, the combination of a call and also a letter.”

As you might imagine, such a statement, ubiquitous and nonsensical claims of fake news and alternative facts to the contrary, is easily researchable. This one was quickly proved to be false.

From the standpoint of those inclined to pushback against the never nuanced machinations of Mr. Trump, there is seldom heard a more piercing, probing, or powerful voice than that of Gregg Popovich. He has weighed-in a number of times, and did so again Monday. Popp’s Spurs teams have won five NBA Titles. He is considered a basketball savant by many fans of the sport. In the past he has previously decried Trump’s disgusting tone and tenor, as well as his xenophobic, homophobic, racist, and misogynistic comments. However, according to Dave Zirin, a writer for The Nation, he’d never heard Popovich more frustrated, fed up, tense, and angry than he was about Trump’s comments Monday. In response to the above noted commentary, expressed by Trump, Popovich said:

“I’ve been amazed and disappointed by so much of what this President had said, and his approach to running this country, which seems to be one of just never-ending divisiveness. But his comments today about those who have lost loved ones in times of war and his lies that previous Presidents Obama and Bush never contacted their families, is so beyond the pale, I almost don’t have words (almost).

The man in the Oval Office is a soulless coward who thinks that he can only become large by belittling others. This has of course been a common practice of his, but to do it in this manner – and to lie about how previous Presidents responded to the deaths of soldiers – is as low as it gets. We have a pathological liar in the White House, unfit intellectually, emotionally, and psychologically to hold this office, and the whole world knows it, especially those around him every day. The people who work with this president should be ashamed, because they know better than anyone just how unfit he is, and yet they choose to do nothing about it. This is their shame most of all.”

Then he said, “Bye, Dave.”

The beauty of Popp’s comments, among other things is, by contrast to those attributed to Rex Tillerson, Popovich, always comfortable in his own skin, owned his comments like a boss. He prefaced his remarks by saying, directly, to Zirin:

“I want to say something, and please make sure this is on the record.”

Perhaps this rant was courtesy of the bald-faced nature of this particular lie, conceivably it was borne of the outrage that sprang from Popovich’s own history in the military; regardless, it was his time to vent…and he claimed it, without mercy.

In any case, there is one final notion, upon which I must place the finest of points. Mr. Trump casts himself as a counterpuncher. And sometimes, it’s true, he applies his rhetorical pugilistic skills in that manner. But as we know, he has also been known to take an occasional sucker punch, such as when he, without provocation, called the smattering (less than 10 at the time) of NFL players who had kneeled during the playing of the Anthem at football games, “SOB’s.” That was not a counterpunch; it was an all out unprovoked assault. His Bob Corker and Rex Tillerson remarks (noted in last week’s post) entailed counterpunching. The distinction is quite clear.

At least two news cycles have passed since Popovich made his remarks. I haven’t seen the tweet storm or heard of a savage rant aimed at him. To be clear, I’m not trying to incite such a reply. Rather I’m citing a trend that Mr. Trump seems somewhat less inspired to clapback in some instances, and/or against certain people. Feel free to read between the lines or make you own inferences. He seldom attacks Stephen Colbert, or Jimmy Kimmel, or Jimmy Fallon, or Seth Meyers, or James Corden, or John Oliver, or Trevor Noah, and most of them satirize him on a regular basis. Who knows, perhaps he has a sense of humor after all. What I can say for sure is, for the moment, Coach stands tall…”A Soulless Coward: Popovich’s Lament!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com. Find a new post each Wednesday.

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

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











TrumpWorld: You Just Cannot Make This Shizzle Up!

It’s time to Break It Down!

As most of us know by now, there is a new Sheriff in town, or at least a new resident ensconced at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (Washington, DC). Beginning November 9, 2016, that reality, for all practical purposes, divided America’s political and ideological world into two separate spheres. By January 21, 2017, the day after Inauguration, those opposing spheres had devolved into two full-fledged oppositional camps, and a resistance movement was launched.

The Administration’s first Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, in his initial appearance in the White House briefing room, made an indignant statement, condemning the media’s coverage of the inauguration’s crowd size. Needless to say, this is a tone Spicer, and his two successors and counting, have taken with the media on many occasions. His rant included the following:

  • Accused the press of deliberately false reporting
  • Asserted that the media intentionally framed their photographs to minimize its size
  • Insisted Trump’s was the largest audience ever to witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe
  • Admonished these attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration were shameful and wrong

Journalism Professor Steve Doig, of Arizona State University, has provided crowd estimates at several previous inaugurations. He has a deep and central understanding of the challenges associated with assessing crowd-size at such events. He made several pointed observations, including:

  • There’s no turnstiles; you didn’t have to buy tickets
  • Standard metrics for measuring a contained crowd are not available
  • The fallback is overhead imagery
  • That allows experts to estimate the density of the crowd and multiply it by the area it covers, to produce “a reality-based estimate of the crowd size
  • Based on the photographs available in the media showing the part of the crowd that was on the mall, the claim that this is the largest ever is ludicrous on its face

That of course was just the upshot of the first 24-hours of the Trump Presidency. The following day, as she set out on part of the circuit of Sunday morning news shows, President Trump’s Special Counselor, Kellyanne Conway clashed with “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd on NBC Sunday over the administration’s false assertion that Trump had the largest inauguration crowd in history. In pushing back against what Todd referred to as a falsehood, Conway told Todd:

  • You’re saying it’s a falsehood. Sean Spicer, our Press Secretary, gave alternative facts.

After laughing at Conway’s retort, Todd deadpanned a terse reply:

  • Wait a minute, alternative facts? Alternative facts are not facts, they’re falsehoods

Just for the sake of reference, the concept of alternative facts was popularized in Nineteen Eighty-Four, often published as 1984, a dystopian novel published in 1949 by English author George Orwell. In the novel, Big Brother, the Party Leader, rules, ostensibly, by tyranny. He apparently enjoys an intense cult of personality, even though he may not even exist. I’m not sure whether Trump’s greatest asset is cult of personality, however, I can attest, he does exist. Sad!

OK, enough reminiscing about the first weekend of the Trump Presidency. Let’s fast-forward to the current dimension, and the fascinating recognition that the phantasmagorical just keeps on coming. Ordinarily, I’d say you have to see it to believe it. However, some of the daily news items related to the President qualify routinely for the idiomatic expression, “Truth is stranger than fiction.” The world may debate, for years to come, whether Trump was a great President (though I doubt it), but one thing about which there will be no need to debate is, Donald Trump has done more for Twitter than anyone not named Jack Dorsey, Noah Glass, Biz Stone, or Evan Williams (Twitter creators).

The double-whammy combo of Trump tweets and bizarre comments is without question the king of the news cycle more often than almost anyone would like, except Donald Trump, and that includes his team. While it certainly keeps his surrogates, spokespersons, and sycophants, some of who are paid for their services, busy, I’m sure even some of them would like an off day.

Just so it’s clear what kind of things I’m referring to, let’s review. A couple of the most recent targets of opportunity actually involve Republicans, either cabinet members, erstwhile allies, or both.

In the first instance, Stephanie Ruhle, of NBC News reported, after stories leaked that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called President Trump a moron, that, “Tillerson didn’t call Trump a “moron” during a heated argument at the Pentagon; he called him a “fucking moron.”

Not surprisingly Trump called the report fake news, as did his Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Nevertheless, according to Ruhle’s sources, Mr. Tillerson’s comments followed Trump comparing the administration’s Afghanistan strategies to his own efforts to renovate a steakhouse. In retrospect, if Trump really said that, Tillerson was indeed, far too kind.

Of course, Donald Trump being Donald Trump, even if he thought it were fake news (and I don’t believe he did), he is not known for foregoing a pointed comeback, and he wasn’t about to start with Rex’s alleged slam. In an interview with Forbes magazine, published yesterday, Trump shot Tillerson a zinger saying:

I think it’s fake news, but if he did that, I guess we’ll have to compare IQ tests. And I can tell you who is going to win.” If spelling is a tell of any sort, so could I.

In the second case, Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, who recently announced he would not seek reelection in 2018 when his current term expires, has been engaged in a tit-for-tat with President Trump. In an interview this past Sunday with the New York Times, Corker, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said:

“The President has treated his office like a reality show, and is leading the U.S. down the path to World War III. He concerns me. He would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation.”

To the surprise of absolutely no one, Donald Trump, the avowed counterpuncher, didn’t disappoint. Upon hearing the Senator’s remarks, he responded thusly:

“Senator Bob Corker begged me to endorse him for re-election in Tennessee. I said ‘NO’ and he dropped out (said he could not win without my endorsement).”

In a subsequent tweet, Trump added:

“He also wanted to be Secretary of State. I said ‘NO THANKS.’ He is also largely responsible for the horrendous Iran Deal.”

A not to be lost bit of irony here is that Corker opposed the Iran Deal, and was instrumental in forging opposition to it. But hey, in TrumpWorld, a world of alternative facts, why not press that button? But this match was not over. In Corker’s next volley, he noted in his own tweet:

“It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning.”

Lest anyone deigns to think, “And that was the end of that,” think again. From the friendly confines of his tweet throne, Trump replied yesterday:

“The Failing @nytimes set Liddle’ Bob Corker up by recording his conversation. Was made to sound a fool and that’s what I am dealing with!”

I’m not sure about the purpose of the apostrophe following “Liddle.” By the way, Liddle is the current iteration of the appellation he applied to Marco Rubio during the Republican Primaries. Once again, despite the alternative fact referenced in the tweet, Corker was aware the NYT reporter was taping the conversation, as he was also taping. Just so you know.

From hailing his Inauguration crowd size as the largest ever, to calling Republican Attorney General Jeff Sessions beleaguered, to asserting there are very fine people among the KKK/Nazis/white supremacists, to referring to football players who kneel during the National Anthem as Sons-of-Bitches, to challenging Republican Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to an IQ test face-off, to consigning the appellation Liddle’ to Republican Senator Bob Corker, to the 1,318 false or misleading claims Mr. Trump has been credited with during his 263 days as President, according to yesterday’s edition of the Washington Post (that rounds down to 5 per day, in case you’re counting), this alternative fact-driven President seems locked in his own alternative universe…if not the Twilight Zone. What can I say? TrumpWorld: You Just Cannot Make This Shizzle Up!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com. Find a new post each Wednesday.

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

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


























Nightmare in Las Vegas: Another Episode of American Gun Violence

It’s time to Break It Down!

In the June 15, 2016 Edition of “Break It Down,” I wrote the following as the first two paragraphs of the post:

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.

This past Sunday night, October 1, at 10:08 p.m., 64 year-old Stephen Paddock of Mesquite, Nevada, opened fire on an outdoor festival in Las Vegas from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino across Las Vegas Boulevard during the closing performance by singer Jason Aldean. By the time the shooting stopped eleven minutes later, Paddock had unleashed what is considered the deadliest firearms assault in American history. Incidentally, it displaced the previous record of 49, attributed to the above-referenced 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting at the Pulse Night Club. The toll: 58 fatalities (including Paddock) and 527 injuries.

The shooter spent three days in a suite on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. Using that location as his operations center, he assembled a cache of weaponry that included 23 firearms (22 rifles and one handgun) inside the hotel. Some of the rifles were altered from semi-automatic to automatic so that they functioned with the rapid-fire action of machine guns. As police continued investigating the case, they discovered Paddock had at least 47 guns, explosives, and several thousand rounds of ammunition. Let’s not delude ourselves, or others, by saying he snapped. And…if you are an NRA member, or a hard core Republican, then by all means, let’s not even think of introducing the subject of access to firearms, or improved gun legislation into the discourse matrix.

Paddock used a hammer-like object to break two windows in the suite, from which he launched repeated barrages of gunfire on unsuspecting fans at the concert. The rapidity with which the bullets rained down on the venue created a level of confusion that made it impossible for those taking fire to discern from whence the attack was emanating. If ever there was one, this is an American made tale of woe.

It may surprise some to know, I am an NRA member, a life member, in fact. I maintain an up-to-date CCP…or Concealed Carry Permit, and have qualified for, and held a permit to provide security services. I am not your prototypical “anti-gun” guy. However, I do believe easy access to firearms contributes to the health crisis that is gun violence in America.

Gun violence results in tens of thousands of deaths and injuries every year. There were more than 73,500 nonfatal injuries, and over 33,500 deaths due to injury by firearms in this country in 2013. More than one third of the deaths were homicides, 500+ of those being accidental, and nearly 300 of undetermined intent. As you must know, gun ownership is perennially a hotly debated topic here in America. Approximately 1.4 million people were killed using firearms in the U.S. between 1968 and 2011, the equivalent of a top 10 largest U.S. city in 2016, roughly somewhere between the populations of San Antonio and Dallas, Texas.

Of course, gun legislation is not the only issue that has bubbled up with this tragic event. Another matter, just as controversial, and just as likely to be sidestepped in the mainstream conversation tableau, is what might commonly be referred to as the “white people cannot be terrorists” thesis. Mr. Paddock, like most white male mass shooters before him, has been referred to as many things, including, unstable, quiet, troubled, unassuming, and of course, the coin of the realm, “lone wolf.” One popular newspaper even had a headline that proclaimed: “Las Vegas gunman Stephen Paddock enjoyed gambling, country music, lived quiet life before massacre.” Just so we are clear, had Paddock been a Muslim, or an immigrant from a Muslim country, he would have been memorialized as a sadistic demon, the likes of which dear old exceptional America had never seen. If Woody Harrelson is available and willing, perhaps he can land the starring role in the movie. Already having immortalized the axiom “White Men Can’t Jump,” he’s had ample time to prepare to shine in “White Men Can’t Be Terrorists.”

Think whatever you like, but I find it virtually impossible to imagine memorializing the dude responsible for the largest mass shooting in American history as a quiet, country music lover who gambled a little in his spare time. Yet, even the President of the United States was reserved (given his acerbic style) in discussing the event. To his credit, he described the massacre as an, “act of pure evil,” which undoubtedly, it was. However, he must have kept his best stuff on ice. He didn’t call him fat or ugly as he did Rosie O’Donnell, he didn’t threaten to date him, as he did “Ivanka if she weren’t his daughter,” he didn’t even call him disgusting, as he did an opposing counsel who needed a break to breast pump, and he surely didn’t call him an S.O.B., as he did NFL players who exercise their First Amendment rights.

It has been asserted that such is the gravity and sway of white privilege. All this is not just relevant, but critically important at this pivotal juncture in our national experience. When an individual identifying as Muslim commits such a heinous act, the right, especially, will assert that Islam is the problem. When an African American does so, racist tropes are rolled out, followed by criminalization and dehumanization of an entire ethnic group. The normative experience of these other groups is consistently, if not universally contrasted with white men, who almost automatically get the “lone wolf” card.

For example, USA Today declared in a headline that Mr. Paddock was a “lone wolf,” prior to the completion of an investigation, before a motive was determined, preceding the acquisition of his travel history, his home being searched, or the contents of his computer being analyzed. His family and friends had not been questioned, nor the contents of his social media evaluated. White Privilege!

The lone wolf appellation is commonly applied to white suspects in mass shootings. Such felonious luminaries as James Holmes (Aurora, Colorado movie theater), and Dylann Roof (Charleston, SC – Emanuel A.M.E. Church) were given the label with the quickness when they killed twelve and nine people, respectively. While Paddock’s “act of pure evil” raised the stakes to become the most numerically significant wickedness of its kind, there is apparently still ample room in the big tent of white privilege to absorb the villainous stain and the malodorous stench so that he is not being labeled a terrorist.

We are paralyzed by an inexplicable reluctance, a deficit of courage, and an ideological intractability that precludes us from exercising the necessary resolve to act in our collective national interest by enacting needed responsible gun legislation. Moreover, we must rise to embrace the challenge to speak truth to power and to the meek alike. We must be willing to call a spade a spade, or more aptly, a terrorist a terrorist, when events such as this are foisted upon us. We must do this even when the perpetrator is white! Meanwhile, let us pray as we continue to navigate the “Nightmare in Las Vegas: Another Episode of American Gun Violence!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com. Find a new post each Wednesday.

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

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











Old Glory: The Misrepresentation and Appropriation of a Protest

It’s time to Break It Down!

So how did we get here? And where is here, anyway?

Let’s answer the second question first. Here, is the point at which any mention of Colin Kaepernick, or the protest that he initiated during the summer, over a year ago, is routinely referred to by opponents of the protest as some kind of attack on, or desecration of our nation’s flag. Let us be clear; it is no such thing. The movement, if you want to call it that, is about police brutality and racial inequality. That’s what prompted Kaepernick’s demonstrations, first sitting, and eventually kneeling, during the national anthem.

Back to the initial query, how did we get here? I’m glad you asked!

Prior to a preseason game in 2016, Kaepernick sat down, as opposed to the tradition of standing, during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner“. During his post-game interview, he explained his position by stating:

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

The quarterback indicated that he would continue to protest until he feels like the American flag represents what it’s supposed to represent. In the San Francisco 49ers’ final 2016 preseason game, Kaepernick switched from sitting to kneeling during the playing of the National Anthem. In a detail most people missed, or at least fail to acknowledge, Kaepernick’s decision to alter his demonstration was intended to show more respect to former and current U.S. military members, while still protesting during the anthem. Moreover, it should be noted, his decision to change methods resulted from a conversation with former NFL player and U.S. military veteran Nate Boyer, who served in the Army, and who was a Green Beret.

After the September 2016 police shootings of Terence Crutcher, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Keith Lamont Scott, in Charlotte, NC., Kaepernick stated publicly that those shootings were perfect examples of why he was protesting. Over the course of the 2016 season, Kaep played twelve games and ended the season with 2,241 passing yards, sixteen passing touchdowns, four interceptions, 466 rushing yards, and two rushing touchdown. On November 27th, he recorded 298 passing yards, three passing touchdowns, and 113 yards rushing in a game against the Miami Dolphins. In doing so, he joined Michael VickCam NewtonRandall Cunningham, and Marcus Mariota as the only quarterbacks in NFL history to record at least three passing touchdowns and 100 yards rushing in a game.

During the course of the 2016 season, Kaepernick and the 49ers restructured his contract. On March 3, 2017, he opted out of his contract with the San Francisco team, and is now an unsigned free agent. During the course of his protest, it is fair to say controversy ensued. So much so that despite there being no serious debate about whether Kaepernick is better than a number of quarterbacks who are currently on NFL rosters, he has yet to be signed by any team in the League.

Folks have lined up on the pro and con sides of the issue. Former football greats Jim Brown and Ray Lewis both condemned Kaepernick’s actions. Brown said he would never desecrate the flag as Kaepernick did, while Lewis said he would never kneel (postscript: Lewis did kneel this past weekend). Almost certainly, there has been no greater detractor of Kaep’s position than Donald Trump. I’ll say more about that later.

On August 17, former NYPD officer Frank Serpico gave a speech live on Facebook and stood with police officers at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge in support of Kaepernick. Retired Officer Serpico inspired the 1973 Al Pacino movie “Serpico,” a story about a whistleblowing officer in the then corrupt NYC Police Department. Though most of the 75 officers at the bridge, wearing #ImwithKap T-shirts, were African American, Serpico, then 81, was an exception.

Serpico admitted to not being a football fan. He said he felt it was important to support Kaepernick for his stance. He went on to say of Kaep:

“He’s trying to hold this government up to the ideals of our Founding Fathers.”

Sgt. Edwin Raymond, who was on his way to work after the rally, spoke of the need for racial healing. He framed his point thusly:

“Until discussing racism in America is no longer taboo, we own up to it, we admit it, we understand it, and then we can do what we have to do to solve it. Unfortunately, until then, we’re going to have these issues.”

As Preseason 2017 melded into the 2017 Season, a loosely aligned, not well-organized movement emerged to join Colin Kaepernick by boycotting the NFL. It was the lowest of low-key efforts. Few people seemed to be aware of it, and of those who did, only a fraction seemed down with the program. Prior to last weekend, the total number of NFL players who’d joined Kaepernick in kneeling was less than two handfuls, nine, to be precise. As for the boycotters, I’m not sure there were many more.

So, this past Friday, September 22nd, while Donald Trump, ostensibly was in Alabama to support Luther Strange, a U.S. Senate Candidate vying to replace now Attorney General Jeff Session, he forever and in dramatic fashion, altered that dynamic. Incidentally, Strange lost to Steve Bannon backed candidate Roy Moore. OK, it’s later. I said I’d say more about Trump’s adversarial fixation with Kaepernick. Said fixation hit it’s zenith Friday night as Trump not only took on Kaepernick and anyone else who would dare protest, but apparently, he decided it was an apt occasion to denigrate their parentage as well. In front of a Trump-friendly Alabama audience, he said:

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a b—- off the field right now. He’s fired.’”

Not surprisingly, many social media uses viewed this as a swipe at Kaepernick. However, over the course of the weekend, he would tweet two dozen times about sports, mainly football, but also basketball, hockey, and NASCAR. His tweets included disinviting the Golden State Warriors from a white House visit, extolling the Pittsburgh Penguins, who accepted a White House visit, and praising NASCAR for the way they deal with supporting the flag. Time to reiterate…it’s not about the flag.

There were 14 NFL Games Sunday, and another Monday Night. From London to Los Angeles, players on virtually every team knelt, stood with interlocked arms, or remained in the locker room. Even two Anthem singers got in the mix. Rico LaVelle dropped to a knee and raised a fist as he ended the song before the Lions-Falcons game in Detroit, while Meghan Linsey and her guitarist, Tyler Cain, dropped to a knee as she sang the last note of the song prior to the Titans-Seahawks game in Nashville. While in Alabama, Trump suggested if even one player knelt, the fans should get up and leave. Later during the weekend, as he tweeted, he suggested fans boycott the games. All things considered, it is compelling to see whom Trump sees as very fine people…and whom he sees as SOB’s. It might also help if he did not appear to subscribe to a “Just shut up and play” mentality. That really does translate into the football field being equated with the arena, sort of the old Colosseum of Rome. To further this point, Trump even managed to downplay, if not dismiss completely, CTE, or as it’s formally known, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, the brain injury that many professional football players sustain as a result of receiving multiple concussions, while playing the game. Sad!

Almost imponderably, conservatives take great umbrage if/when anyone suggests Mr. Trump is a white supremacist, and/or a racist. Undoubtedly, his serial choices, from conflating Nazis and white supremacists with those who protest them to referring to what before Sunday were a few African Americans as SOB’s, contribute to that view. Perhaps if his defenders weren’t locked into automatically pivoting to some perceived Obama lack every time a Trump fault is raised, the political discourse in America could actually advance.

Ultimately, the crux of the matter boils down to this point. Judging from consistent and continuous feedback, there is never an acceptable time, place, or format for people of color to register dissent about the systematic mistreatment, frequently resulting in their death. Not by wearing “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirts, not on Broadway (Hamilton), not by proclaiming Black Lives Matter (BLM), not by being articulate and promoting nonviolence, as Dr. King did, not by raising a fist in victory as Tommie Smith and John Carlos did, not by refusing to go to war, as Muhammad Ali did, and certainly not by kneeling on the NFL sidelines, as Colin Kaepernick did.

There is one other thing Colin did in the midst of this saga. He pledged a $1,000,000 (yeah, that’s right, one million dollars) to charity. What’s more important, by all accounts, he’s already donated virtually all of the money. Citizen, like it or not, in more ways than one, the era of shut up and play is over.

It is almost as though they are either unaware of, or they feel free to totally disregard the notion that the members of the armed services fight, and too often die for the right of men and women to stand…or sit for the flag (or any other symbol). By the way, there is a pertinent fact that should be elevated about the faux controversy regarding the flag. The practice of players standing for the flag is a relatively recent addition to the pomp and pageantry of NFL games. In fact, it’s less than ten years old. Prior to 2009, NFL players stayed in the locker room. The custom began when the U.S. Department of Defense gave the NFL $5.4 million dollars to stage on field ceremonies to make the teams “appear” more patriotic. In other words, it was a glorified, although admittedly slick recruiting tool. Don’t hate the messenger.

I am reminded that there was more tumult and raucous feedback over Michael Vick’s involvement in dog fighting than in the steady stream of unarmed African Americans killed by law enforcement officers, and then subsequently acquitted without even going to trial. Don’t get it twisted. That…is precisely why Kaepernick is protesting. Anything else is just noise, intended to deny, deflect, and/or deceiveOld Glory: The Misrepresentation and Appropriation of a Protest!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com. Find a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribe, click on Follow in the bottom right hand corner of my Home Page at http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com; 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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Legerdemain: The Fine Art of Illusion, Distraction, and Okey Doke

Legerdemain: The Fine Art of Illusion, Distraction, and Okey Doke

Yesterday was a day the likes of which the United Nations, Americans, and the worldwide community have never seen. The point of this post is simple and direct. Keep your eye on the prize; do not lose sight of that with which we are dealing. I promise to frame it in succinct fashion.

The President of the United States stood behind a podium at the vaunted U.N. No American President has ever spoken to the world like this. In what will certainly be remembered as a unique United Nations General Assembly debut for an American President, the leader of the free world reveled in the self-possessed disruptive, bellicose, nationalistic persona that is uniquely his own. He employed the rhetorical flair that totally shattered and then rearranged national political norms in this country ten months ago.

In this venue, it’s clear the working goal was to transform America’s global role on the international stage. Never before has a United States President displayed authoritarianism to the extent that he actually threatened to wipe a country off the face of the planet. Reagan’s “Evil Empire,” and Bush’s “Axis of Evil,” pale in comparison. North Korea and Kim Jong-un (whom the President has given the sobriquet Rocket Man) are hereby on notice.

How the speech was received depended upon one’s political and ideological perspective. A cursory review revealed, unsurprisingly, that it played exceedingly well in TrumpWorld. The so-called non-politically correct straight talk was just what the doctor ordered.

One such voice, Nile Gardiner, an analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation, praised the President for his assertive and aggressive delivery, and for scuttling the deferential multilateral Obama doctrine. Trump BFF Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Prime Minister, called the speech bold and courageous.

Of course, there was no dearth of alternative facts…I mean, points of view. Margot Wallstrom, for example, Foreign Minister of Sweden, said of the speech:

“This was a bombastic, nationalist speech. It must have been decades since one last heard a speech like that in the U.N. General Assembly. … This was a speech at the wrong time to the wrong audience.”

Naturally, denizens of the other side of the deep and wide political and ideological chasm held a different view, as well. Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-CA, said of the speech:

“The goal of the United Nations is to foster peace and promote global cooperation. Today, the President used it as a stage to threaten war.”

The truth of the matter is, this is compelling stuff. But I cannot say often enough. There are other compelling matters with which we should be concerned. Three weeks ago I elevated ten items as examples of matters worthy of our continued focus, despite any array of distractions that might befall us. North Korea was on the list, by the way. But it wasn’t alone…and it’s still not. Each of the issues on that list is still vitally important. They were, and are:

  1. Various Trump-Russia investigations (Don’t be fooled; there are 5)
  2. North Korea’s continued missile testing and accompanying threats
  3. Donald Trump, Jr. and his scheduled testimony on his Russian meeting
  4. Paul Manafort
  5. Subpoenas for Paul Manafort’s attorney and his current spokesman
  6. Jared Kushner
  7. Trump business sought to build a Trump Tower in Moscow
  8. Transgender Troop Ban
  9. GOP push to limit Mueller’s investigation to 6 months
  10. Trump’s Charlottesville response

That’s it. I would never imply that a United States President would start a war to deflect from his personal challenges on the home front. However, I fully encourage you to stay focused on what’s important, and don’t forget (and by all means, don’t fall for)”Legerdemain: The Fine Art of Illusion, Distraction, and Okey Doke!” So I reiterate, I will not imply…but if you happen to infer or impute…well that just means you’re smarter than the opposition.

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com. Find a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribe, click on Follow in the bottom right hand corner of my Home Page at http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com; 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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Sixteen Years Later: Reflecting on Nine-Eleven

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, and again today, September 13, 2017).

The buzz for today, will likely center, as it has for the past three weeks, on the weather. The principal thrust at this juncture is taking stock of, and responding to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Irma, which was 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. Irma made landfall in the Florida Keys, came up to Miami, veered westward toward Tampa and Florida’s West Coast, and went up to the Northern tip of the state, dropping record levels of rainfall in Jacksonville, the largest city geographically, in the state and in the nation. The storm registered a high one-minute sustained wind speed of 185 m.p.h. This tied the record for the second strongest storm on record in the Atlantic, along with Hurricane Wilma (2005), Gilbert (1998), and the 1935 Florida Keys Hurricane. That trails only Hurricane Allen (1980), which reached 190 m.p.h. before striking a relatively uninhabited area of Texas. Irma was preceded by Harvey, which did most of its damage in the Houston area of Texas. It dumped more than 40 inches of rain on the state, is responsible for at least 71 deaths, and caused estimated damages of up to $200 million dollars.

In addition to Harvey and Irma, two additional storms developed in the Atlantic, Hurricanes Jose, and Katia. The storms, have surely been, and continue to be newsworthy. They produced such high profile media stories that some networks devoted coverage nearly 24/7. It’s not surprising that this almost total immersion into all things weather resulted in a reduction in media-based air, print, and cyber time for 9/11 commemorations.

However, instead of storm chasing, I am going to re-post a past “Break It Down” entry. Monday was the Sixteenth 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?

On Monday we observed the 16th Anniversary of the day that has come to be known simply as, Nine-Eleven (9/11). That day 16 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 it’s 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 ServicePresident and Mrs. Trump commemorated the day with two events. The First Lady joined him as he led a moment of silence on the South Lawn of the White House, in remembrance for those lost September 11, 2001. Afterward he went to the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial to participate in an observance.

Even after more than a decade and a half, with sixteen 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 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
  • 2 Paramedics killed
  • 23 NYPD officers killed
  • 37 Port Authority Police Department officers killed
  • 8 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

A 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 Laden became more emboldened; first conceding involvement, and ultimately admitting that he was instrumental in masterminding the horrific attacks.  During his Presidential Campaign, Mr. 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, “Sixteen Years Later: Reflecting on Nine-Eleven .” Let’s get ready for a Day of Remembrance and Service.

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://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:
















Labor Day – Six Years Later

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, and today, September 6, 2017, has been edited and updated to reflect current unemployment data.) 

Monday was Labor Day.  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 weekend for 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; the 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
  • Disincentives to 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.S. 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 are 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 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, 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!  Then, 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.

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)

August job growth is historically volatile, and is the slowest month for job growth since the Reports have been published. The increase in jobs was disappointing, however, it was still an increase. Though disappointing, the increase, when viewed through the lens of the trend line, was not all that surprising. Moreover, the number more than doubles the 5-year average for the month of August, which is 71,000. It is also important to add, the Unemployment Rate remained comfortably below 5%.

Unlike in 2011, in 2014, 2016, and again Monday, in my opinion, Labor Day brought us more of a day of respite and reflection in honor of our country’s Labor Movement. On top of all that don’t forget, as the sixth bullet from the top advises, the conventional kick-off of the hard-core political campaign season is upon us. The General Election is just 64 days away. While there is no Presidential Election this year, 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) of the Senate. By all means be sure to exercise your franchise; vote!

It’s “Labor Day – Six Years Later,” 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.

To subscribeclick on Follow in the bottom right hand corner of my Home Page at http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com; 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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