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Football’s Brain Drain: The Rest of the Story

It’s time to Break It Down!

A couple of years ago, in November, the movie Concussion debuted. The film told a story, based on groundbreaking research, on a disease known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or more familiarly, CTE. The picture is a biographical sports drama film directed and written by Peter Landesman, based on the exposé “Game Brain” by Jeanne Marie Laskas, published in 2009 by GQ magazine. Will Smith portrayed Dr. Bennet Omalu, a forensic pathologist who fought against the National Football League, which was trying to suppress his research on what in 2002, the time frame in which the movie was set, was a little known disease.

That was then. Today, much more is known about the deadly disease, though still, not nearly enough. As a result of continually emerging data, which can only be accessed through autopsying deceased subjects, a number of pro football players have donated their brains to science in support of continuing efforts to learn more about how the disease works, and to promote more effective strategies, methods, and techniques to combat the debilitating, and ultimately deadly consequences of CTE.

Yesterday, Pro Football Hall of Famer Warren Sapp indicated via video on The Players’ Tribune that he plans to donate his brain to science in order to aid the research. He spent most of his career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he won a Super Bowl, and ended his playing days with the Oakland Raiders.

Sapp, a 13-year NFL pro said an email he received from former running back Fred Willis, and his own experience with cognitive issues were key factors in leading to his decision. He said he wanted to leave the game better than he found it, and he noted further:

“I’ve also started to feel the effects of the hits that I took in my career. My memory ain’t what it used to be. And yeah, it’s scary to think that my brain could be deteriorating, and that maybe things like forgetting a grocery list, or how to get to a friend’s house I’ve been to a thousand times are just the tip of the iceberg. So when it comes to concussions, CTE and how we can make our game safer for future generations, I wanted to put my two cents in—to help leave the game better off than it was when I started playing.”

Sapp also referenced another Hall of Fame defender, Nick Buoniconti, a former New England Patriot and Miami Dolphin. Nick was a key player on the Dolphins’ historic 1972 undefeated Season. In May, Buoniconti told S.L. Price of Sports Illustrated that he “feels like a child” because of his cognitive issues. According to that story, Buoniconti’s Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans (a nuclear medicine functional imaging technique), were consistent with Parkinsonian Syndrome and CTE.

According to an ESPN.com report this past April, William Weinbaum and Steve Delsohn wrote that Boston University researcher, Dr. Ann McKee, examined the brains of 48 former NFL players. Of those, 47 of the brains showed signs of CTE. In a September 2015 study, researchers from the Department of Veterans Affairs and Boston University said they found CTE in 87 of the 91 brains they had studied belonging to former NFL players.

Sapp had a number of other reflections, including:

  • “We’re playing in a macho league and we’re talking about Hall of Famers now who are immortalized forever, made busts and everything. Legends of the game, There’s no way any of us wanna really admit that we can’t remember how to get home or a grocery list that the wife has given us or how to go pick up our kids from the school, or whatever it may be.”
  • “You try to [say], ‘All right, I’m gonna get a little more sleep — maybe it’s something I did last night, maybe something I drank,’ or whatever it is. You try to find a reason that it’s not that it’s my brain, that I’m not deteriorating right before my own eyes.”
  • “It’s the most frightening feeling, but it’s also a very weakening feeling because you feel like a child. I need help. I need somebody to help me find something that I could’ve found with my eyes closed, in the dead of night, half asleep.”
  • “I used to call myself an elephant in the room. Never forget anything. Man I wake up now and be like, ‘OK, what are we doing? Let me get the phone.”’
  • “And it’s from the banging we did as football players. We used to tackle them by the head, used to grab facemasks. We used to allow Deacon Jones to do the head slap. All of that was something that we had to take away from the game. We used to hit quarterbacks below the knees. Now it’s a strike zone. Let’s keep making the game better.”

Sapp suggested that improvements should begin at the youth level by eliminating tackling until players get to high school. It’s a start. Needless to say, football, which has been elevated to America’s game, is a contact sport. Fans and players alike frequently view any effort to make the game more humane, more civilized, or just plain more safe, with a jaundiced eye. It’s fair to say, extraordinary steps may be required to save the game from itself. I think Mr. Sapp has the right idea. But then again, I’m not a huge fan of the game. But I’m sure that’s redundant. That’s beside the point. For now, let’s focus on today’s post, “Football’s Brain Drain: The Rest of the Story!”

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:











Cavs-Warriors III: Golden State Takes the Rubber Match

It’s time to Break It Down!

On Monday evening, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors played the last meaningful NBA Basketball game until November. I’m already ensconced deeply in the throes of withdrawal. To commemorate the passing of the hoops torch, so to speak, I’m writing a post about this year’s NBA Finals.

The Warriors clenched the best-of-7 series in 5 games, winning by a margin of 4 games to 1. For hoops aficionados, this year’s NBA Playoffs was a relatively uninspiring affair. The early rounds were rife with high scoring games and series sweeps. The one remaining hope for many of us who live and breathe the game was for Cavs-Warriors III to save us; to salvage an otherwise ignominious representation of the highest level of the game we have come to know by the familiar branding label, “The NBA – It’s FANtastic!”

To be perfectly candid, there was more than a less than stellar Playoffs coming between the NBA and a large segment of its loyal fandom. On July 4, 2016, Kevin Durant jumped the proverbial ship, leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder for the newly Runner-up Golden State Warriors. Now if you don’t follow the League, that move may sound like merely the latest pro basketball personnel transaction. But oh no! The resident hoops community was hyperactively astir because the reputed second best player on the planet signed a contract with the team that won a record setting 73 games during the regular season.

This development was especially worrisome for at least three groups of people.

  1. Those persons obsessed with the competitive balance of the league, and who therefore believe KD forever and irrevocably altered the ability of any team to compete with this iteration of the Warriors
  2. Those individuals who think KD was a wuss for signing with a team that had just beaten his team the month before, and therefore exhibited no competitive spirit.
  3. Cavs’ fans

During the regular season, Durant, who missed 20 games due to injury was monitored and evaluated based upon numerous metrics, including, in some circles, as much for what his subtraction from the Thunder meant to them, as what his addition meant to the Warriors. Back in OKC, Russell Westbrook, Durant’s former sidekick, was left to manage both his feelings, as well as the fortunes of a team suddenly without, arguably, the second best player in the league, and ascending. Meanwhile, out in Oakland, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green, in conjunction with Coach Steve Kerr set about figuring out the substantial challenge of integrating the force that is Durant into the Warrior’s already successful orbit, without mucking up either team chemistry, or player egos, either or both of which can be fragile commodities.

The Warriors, who won 73 games a year ago, fell off their stratospheric pace, yet still managed to win 67 games, good for most in the league during the regular season. Keep in mind; they accomplished this with KD missing nearly a quarter of the season. Then during the playoffs, to add an element of intrigue, they made a record-setting 15-0 playoff run, while their coach missed 10 games, leaving coaching duties to Assistant Mike Brown, who coached LeBron in Cleveland, before a brief stint with the Lakers. Brown was 10-0. The 15-0 start by the Warriors included 3 series sweeps in the tough Western Conference, plus pushing the Cavs to a brink of elimination 0-3 in the Finals.

If you know anything about sports fans, you understand fan loyalty is an inexplicable intrinsic concept. That is to say, fans will support their team under the direst of circumstances. For example, no NBA team has ever rebounded from an 0-3 deficit to win a 7-game (4 wins) series. Yet, there were Cleveland fans who at least gave voice to the sentiment that, after the Cavs won, albeit convincingly, game 4 at home, their beloved Cavs could actually make a different kind of history by coming all the way back and winning the Finals. Having beaten the Warriors last year, after having trailed 0-2, and then 1-3, in addition to having LeBron James, the game’s current best player, many fans in the Land believed the Cavs had spooked the Warriors in Game 4, and would finish the job.

As a Laker fan, I have had little to cheer about in years. As a hoops fan in general, and an NBA fan in particular, I was drawn to the many intense debates centered around LeBron’s relative greatness, vs. KD’s relative hypocrisy (he once panned the idea of creating super teams after LeBron’s “Decision” to leave Cleveland). The debates are fun, especially if you are not vested in who wins or who loses a game or series. As a 40-year resident of Charlotte, I do pull for the Hornets, and was an original Hornets’ season ticket holder. Partly because Dell Curry played for those Hornets, and partly because his son Steph grew up here, I pull for him to do well. I’m not a Warriors’ fan. However, as long as Dan Gilbert owns the Cavs, I can’t pull for them. If you don’t know the backstory, conduct a web search of Mr. Gilbert and LeBron. Finally, as NBA players go, Andrew Wiggins is my favorite player…just for the record.

Since the Hornets, Lakers, AW, and the T-Wolves weren’t in the playoffs, and the two teams remaining were the Cavs and Warriors, by the process of elimination, I pulled for Golden State. After about a quarter and a half of hotly contested play, the Warriors pulled ahead, and held off the Cavs for a 129-120 Title Clinching victory. This year’s series marked the first time in the history of the League the same two teams met in the Finals for three years in a row. Kevin Durant captured his first Title, averaged over 30 points a game, and won the series MVP. The Warriors avenged their collapse against the Cavs last year, and in doing so, expelled the demons, and expunged the stench of falling short after a storybook Regular Season, and a 3-1 Finals lead. All’s well that ends well. Of course, if you are a resident of Cavs’ World, all did not end well. Sorry, not sorry. “Cavs-Warriors Part III: Golden State Takes the Rubber Match!”

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:











Griffin vs. Nugent: Anatomy of a Threat

It’s time to Break It Down!

A week ago I spent several hours engaging a number of conservatives about what, at the time, was a fresh topic: Kathy Griffin’s depiction of a decapitated #45. At its best, it was a tasteless and over the top gesture; at its worst, it was a gruesome visual that led many conservatives to contend that it reflected an actual threat on #45’s life. I read that the FBI has committed to investigate the matter.

Having stipulated all of the above:

  1. I personally think Griffin went too far, and,
  2. I said that (more than once) in my encounter with several conservatives who revel in their full-throated support of the current President…and in their total and absolute disdain and rejection of his immediate predecessor (Barack Obama).

That is significant because, in engaging them, I asked did they not see the parallels between Griffin’s act and what President Obama faced during the entirety of his 8-year tenure in office? As an aside, numerous reports confirm that President Obama received more death threats than any President in history. By at least one account the number increased by 400 percent over the 3,000 or so per year that George W. Bush received, according to Ronald Kessler, author of, “In the President’s Secret Service.”

I am confident that most will not find it surprising, the gaggle of conservatives with whom I spoke felt Ms. Griffin’s action was not only reprehensible, but that nothing even remotely comparable happened to President Obama. They used a number of rationales to reach that conclusion, some of which I will address below.

At the outset, one individual said I could not cite a single example of anyone doing anything similar to Obama. Not one. The Tea Party immediately springs to my mind. Another accused me of bait and switch by even bringing it up. Then of course, they dared me to produce such an example. Having been around the block more than a time or two, I didn’t fall for the okey-doke. I noted that in my interactions with this group I was able to discern that all of the members were savvy enough to navigate the web and find numerous examples with just a few clicks.

At that point, the dimensions of the exercise changed. The response was altered to, not one single person with a significant social media presence had ever done such a thing. Joe Blow from Kokomo didn’t count. Say what? So I inquired what difference does a robust social media presence make?

The answer, I was told, was that because Ms. Griffin has more than a million Twitter followers, her message was spread instantly to a huge audience. Of course, it is worth noting that the four Presidents who have been killed while in office, Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, and Kennedy, were all killed by a lone gunman. By the way, each was gunned down prior to the age of social media. Moreover, while its fodder for another post, it should also be added, the perpetrators killed each of them using a firearm.

I went on to observe that one key distinction was Ms. Griffin’s act drew condemnation from the left, not just the right, and she quickly apologized. The apology, they argued was weak, and insincere. By this time I was becoming more than a little aghast at the double standard consistently used by these exemplars of conservatism. Well, not really. I’m accustomed to it by now. Nevertheless, I soldiered on. I asked if that was the same reaction they had when candidate Trump apologized for having made a comment about grabbing women’s genitalia? I guess they had no answer for that one so at least two of them asked me if I had ever mad a lewd comment to a female or a male?

At this point, I felt turnabout was fair play. I labeled that diversionary tactic exactly what it was, bait and switch. I went on to add the question was unapt, since I was not a candidate for President. It was at this point, out of nowhere, one of them introduced the possibility that the folks threatening President Obama might have been joking. I opted not to take the easy way out, being as how Griffin is a comedian, and all. Instead, I stayed on topic, and kept the subject on my initial point about what Obama experienced. I said I never got the impression that Ted Nugent was joking (And by the way, he does have an appreciable social media footprint).

At this point, the response level got even more extreme in its ridiculousness. A respondent replied that Nugent was a “real conservative” who was angry with Obama (and Hillary) because he felt they’d committed treason by their actions related to Benghazi. OK, point-counterpoint; I asked if they were aware some Americans believe Mr. Trump is guilty of Treason (Russia, Russia, Russia)? Then things just went off the grid. A gentleman responded some Americans believe Martians walk among us. He went on to discuss the waste of taxpayers’ money on the countless investigations, when…wait for it…there is no crime. While it would have been easy enough to reply, “And some Americans think #45 is a good President.” But I didn’t. I kept Michelle’s “Go high” uppermost in mind as I continued to respond.

I noted that in this country, we have a system of protocols that provide a certain order and sequencing to things. In that light, first come the investigations, and then the conclusions follow. Not the other way around. Hence, it just might be appropriate to complete a few of these investigations before we conclude no crime was committed. As to the waste of taxpayers’ money, I do not remember any strong assertion from the admittedly fiscal restraint promoting Republicans that any Hillary Clinton investigations were a waste of money. Not once!

At this point, one of them attempted to double back and re-insert the question of whether I had ever made lewd comments to a woman. Now I felt they not only had no pertinent answers, but that they had also reached the end of their collective hyper creative imaginations. Tempting, as it was to go rogue or break western, I restrained the urge. I noted that I would simply not dignify their efforts to malign my character. And, as a visitor to their social media space, I would certainly never deign to do such a thing to any of them.

All things considered, it was an interesting encounter. These are just the CliffNotes. It was also another not so subtle reminder of that deep and wide ideological chasm I reference frequently. The right, from #45 to Mr. Nugent, to folks I encounter from time to time on the WorldWideWeb seem not only unalterably opposed, but also physically incapable of issuing a simple apology or conceding an otherwise plain to see (by anyone outside #45’s supporters, surrogates, and spinners) reasonable point.

My own view is that in the strictest sense Nugent’s speech was hateful, but did not comprise a direct threat. Similarly, I find that no matter how tasteless Griffin’s depiction was, it was not a threat to #45. I fully expect the Secret Service, even #45’s Secret Service, to arrive at the same conclusion they did with Nugent. Stupid? Yes. Physically threatening? No. Having said that, I do believe the left is at a strategic disadvantage when it comes to these matters. The right is ruthless and relentless. It’s what they expect from each other, and they reward commitment to the cause. The left, not so much.

The right has devised a convenient response for may of #45’s more outré actions. They have drawn a peculiar line in the sand. On one side there is criminal behavior; on the other side political acts. According to them, none of the regime’s bizarre and otherwise inexplicable actions are illegal. They are merely politics. Right wing zealot style. Buckle up; it’s going to be a long and circuitous ride.

Nugent’s pearls of wisdom include but are not limited to:

  • “We need to ride into that battlefield and chop their (the Obama administration’s) heads off in November”
  • “If Barack Obama becomes the next president in November, again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year.”
  • “Harry Reid, Obama, and Hillary Clinton should be tried for treason and hung.”
  • Our unholy rotten soulless criminal America destroying government killed 4 Americans in Benghazi. Period! What sort of chimpass punk would deny security, turn down 61 requests for security, then tell US forces to STAND DOWN when they were ready to kickass on the allapukes and save American lives! Obama & Clinton, that’s who. They should be tried for treason & hung. Our entire fkdup gvt must be cleansed asap”
  • “Obama, he’s a piece of shit. I told him to suck on my machine gun.”

Mitt Romney thought so much of him (Nugent), he sought (received and accepted) his endorsement. When asked about Nugent’s comments, Romney would only say in a written statement released by his communications team:

  • “Divisive language is offensive no matter what side of the political aisle it comes from. Mitt Romney believes everyone needs to be civil.” – Andrea Saul, Romney Campaign Spokesperson

Romney’s eldest son, Tagg, was a bit more effusive. He put it this way, when he tweeted:

  • “Ted Nugent endorsed my Dad today. Ted Nugent? How cool is that? He joins Kid Rock as great Detroit musicians on Team Mitt!”

At the time, Nugent was somewhat more subdued, when he tweeted:

  • “after a long heart&soul conversation with MittRomney today I concluded this goodman will properly represent we the people & I endorse him”

And then there was #45, who, of course on Twitter, said this:

  • Ted Nugent was obviously using a figure of speech, unfortunate as it was. It just shows the anger people have towards @BarackObama.”

#45 would double down on his comments by inviting Nugent to the White House. It should come as no surprise his thoughts about Griffin were substantially different. About her, he tweeted:

  • Kathy Griffin should be ashamed of herself. My children, especially my 11 year old son, Barron, are having a hard time with this. Sick!”

There is a case study begging to be done on the nuanced matters tied to these two incidents. It’s apparent that TrumpWorld readily sees some kind of universal anger towards President Obama that, in their view, simply does not exist in the bitterness directed toward #45. The reasons for that, they say, are just products of liberals in general, Democrats in particular, and of course, the main stream and fake news media (which includes just about every media outlet not named Fox, or not based in Russia). More important, he was rightfully empathetic toward his son Barron, stemming from Griffin’s depiction, yet found no such insight into the feelings of Malia and Sasha, tied to Nugent’s despicable rants. Surprising? No, not really. When taken altogether, you have the necessary framework for, “Griffin vs. Nugent: Anatomy of a Threat!”

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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Memorial Day: What Your Teacher Never Told You! (Edition III)

It’s time to Break It Down!

(Please enjoy this reprised edition of “Break It Down!” This post was originally published May 30, 2012 at: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.blogspot.com, and reposted May 27, 2015 at http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com as Memorial Day: What Your Teacher Never Told You!)

OK, so Memorial Day was earlier this week.  You may be familiar with my holiday week philosophy, which is: make it easy on the readers, who are always otherwise engaged, no matter the holiday.  Of course, in the process, I am also giving myself a break.  That makes for a natural win-win scenario.

With that overarching thought in mind, I will endeavor to apply three elementary rules of communication:

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

Memorial Day is a federal holiday to honor America’s fallen soldiers.  It originated after the Civil War.  Falling between Easter and Independence Day, it is often equated with a late spring break, or a pre-summer respite.

The weekend typically includes a cornucopia of sports.  For example this week included the NASCAR Coca-Cola 600, the NBA FinalsCollege Men’s Baseball playoffs, and College Women’s Softball competition, among others.

With the plethora of activity always thrown into the mix, the holiday is sometimes almost lost in the shuffle. But wait; Memorial Day has a special cultural significance.  In fact, it is because of that nexus we should pay special homage to this late spring holiday.

The first well-known observance of a Memorial Day type was held May 1, 1865 in Charleston, South Carolina.  Over 250 Union soldiers that had been prisoners of war, died in Charleston, and were quickly buried in makeshift graves. A group of blacks, mostly freedmen, organized the observance and led cleanup and landscaping of the burial site.

Most of the nearly 10,000 people who attended were freedmen and their families.  Of that number, 3.000 were children, newly enrolled in freedman’s schools.  Mutual aid societies, black ministers, and white Northern missionaries were also in attendance.

David W. BlightProfessor of American History at Yale University, and Director of the school’s Gilder-Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, & Abolition, described the day this way:

“This was the first Memorial Day. African Americans invented Memorial Day in Charleston, South Carolina. What you have there is black Americans recently freed from slavery announcing to the world with their flowers, their feet, and their songs what the War had been about. What they basically were creating was the Independence Day of a Second American Revolution.”

Professor Blight conceded there is no evidence that the Charleston event led directly to the establishment of Memorial Day across the country.  But the record is clear they formed the earliest truly large-scale event, complete with media coverage.  Their effort was the prototype, if not the catalyst.

Having said that, I believe I honored the rules established above for this post:

  • Told this story in a direct and uncomplicated fashion
  • Presented information I am confident most readers did not know
  • Recognized points 1and 2, were accomplished and closed the post

Enjoy your bonus time, and be sure to reflect on “Memorial Day: What Your Teachers Never Told You! (Edition III)”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the linkshttp://thesphinxofcharlotte.com or /http://thesphinxofcharlotte.blogspot.com.

A new post is published each Wednesday. For more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post, consult the links below:











The Long Arc of the Moral Universe: Is That Karma I’m Seeing?

It’s time to Break It Down!

As I hear, speak, read, and write about, and watch the current events of the day unfold, it has become increasingly evident over the past few years that the ideological chasm that divides our country is deep, wide, and firmly entrenched. For example, if you like #45, or perhaps more pointedly, if you dislike Hillary Clinton, there is apparently nothing that the Commander-in-Chief can do or say to cause you to second guess, or regret the fact you voted for him, and/or that he won. A number of polls suggest that up to 96% of the people who voted him have no regrets, and that only 2% do.

A never-ending series of counter-positioned narratives began emerging as soon as he was inaugurated. The Administration started spinning immediately. The day after the Inauguration reports surfaced claiming the crowd gathered on the National Mall was the largest in history. At his maiden press briefing, Sean Spicer, White House press secretary attacked the media (a recurring theme), accusing them of deliberately misleading the public about the size of the new administration’s inauguration crowd. As Mr. Spicer put it:

“Photographs of the inaugural proceedings were intentionally framed in a way, in one particular Tweet, to minimize the enormous support that had gathered on the National Mall. That was the largest audience to witness an inauguration, period. Both in person and around the globe.”

The press secretary offered scant facts to disprove the media reports of comparatively low turnout, and most of it was misleading or inaccurate. The overall contention that the 2017 inaugural drew the “largest audience” ever is just untrue.

Among Spicer’s flawed assertions were, he claimed:

  • It was the first time floor coverings were used to protect the grass on the Mall. It was not. The coverings were used in 2013.
  • It was the first time usage of fencing and magnetometers on the Mall for preventing hundreds of thousands of people from being able to access the mall as quickly as in the past. False. According to a 2017 Congressional Research Service screening magnetometers, or metal detectors, have been used in past inaugurations. The claim was further disputed by New York Times reporter Michael Schmidt, who tweeted that two unnamed law enforcement officials told him “Magnetometers were not used in the areas of the of the Mall that Spicer indicated.

Spicer chastised the press for tweeting out “inaccurate numbers involving crowd size:”

  • “No one had numbers because the National Park Service, which controls the National Mall, does not put any out. We do know a few things. So let’s go through the facts.”
  1. We know the platform from where the President was sworn in to 4th Street holds about 250,000 people
  2. From 4th Street to the media tent is about another 220,000.
  3. From the media tent to the Washington Monument, another 250,000 people.
  • “All of this space was full when the President took the oath of office.”

Many news organizationsincluding PolitiFact, note that it’s difficult to gauge crowd size. The National Park Service discontinued the practice in the National Mall after the Million Man March in 1995. If Mr. Spicer’s claims of full spaces were correct, which photographs contradict, it would put the crowd size at least 720,000, which is higher than the preliminary estimates reported in the media, but on par with the 700,000 to 900,000 organizers expected to attend. #45 touted 1.5 million on January 21 at CIA headquarters.

The catch is that still would not be the top figure.

Here are the attendance estimates for the 2017 and 7 previous inaugurations:

Inauguration Estimated attendance 
Trump, 2017 250,000 to 600,000
Barack Obama, 2013 1 million
Obama, 2009 1.8 million
George W. Bush, 2005 400,000
Bush, 2001 300,000
Bill Clinton, 1997 250,000
Clinton, 1993 800,000
George H.W. Bush, 1989 300,000

So this testy indoctrination was the template for the relationship between the administration, the media, the truth, and We The People. One might say it is tenuous. At best! My favorite assessment to date was formulated and expressed by David Broder, in a NYT article on April 10, 2017, in which he wrote about #45:

“It’s not so much that he isn’t well informed; it’s that he is prodigiously learned in the sort of knowledge that doesn’t accord with the facts of our current dimension.”

You can interpret that however you choose. But as I’ve already noted, his fan club could care less. Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to the President, perhaps put it best when she explained Mr. Spicer’s amazing assertions, designed I suppose to align with #45’s conclusions about inaugural crowd size. She introduced the term “alternative facts.” That pretty much says it all.

So let’s pivot back to that ideological chasm I mentioned earlier. Before #45, President Barack Obama served 8 years as President. His tenure was not without its share of drama. One of numerous Republican stunts he survived was a crusade by Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann calling for his impeachment. In one of the more bizarre episodes of the GOP’s total access, no holds barred approach to obstructionism during President Obama’s tenure; Ms. Bachmann had the temerity to spearhead a movement for impeachment while she was actually under investigation for multiple ethics violations. She was the subject of five separate ethics probes related to her 2012 Presidential Campaign, including:

  • In Iowa, a special prosecutor was appointed to investigate Bachmann’s alleged improper payments to a state senator
  • She was under investigation for improper use of presidential campaign funds to promote her book
  • She was investigated for the theft of an email list of a Iowa homeschoolers
  • She was under investigation for money laundering
  • The Office of Congressional Ethics also investigated Bachmann’s 2012 presidential campaign

Forget the absurdity of it all. If you are reading this, you undoubtedly already know two things. First, Barack Obama was not impeached; second, Michele Bachmann’s tenure in Congress was short lived, ending in 2015, prior to that of President Obama. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is credited with the quote, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” I’d like to think that arc is also laden with karma. Today is #45’s 125th day in office. Over the little more than four months he has held the post, he has distinguished himself in some interesting ways.

  • He was forced to fire General Michael Flynn for having lied to Vice President Pence, after insisting upon hiring him despite President Obama advising him not to do so.
  • He fired FBI Director James Comey after Comey admitted in a Congressional hearing that there is an ongoing investigation in which he was included.
  • He allegedly asked the FBI Director to drop the Flynn Investigation.
  • He is reported to have asked Intelligence Chiefs to publicly push back against the FBI probe.
  • He appointed his daughter Ivanka to an official White House post after saying he would not do so.
  • He claimed during a Commencement speech at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy that he is the most unfairly treated politician ever.
  • He rolled out a Muslim Ban (or pause, if you prefer) that has been rejected by multiple federal courts.

Harkening back to the Obama years, the GOP officialdom elevated opposition and obstruction to a high art form. South Carolina Representative Joe Wilson yelled out “You lie” at President Obama in a joint session of Congress. Illinois Representative Joe Walsh threatened President Obama in a tweet after 3 Dallas police officers were killed. Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann actively campaigned for President Obama’s impeachment, and of course, in the most famous dis of all, citizen, and then candidate, Donald Trump led the Birtherism charge, maintaining that President Obama was not born in America. The candidate did not concede President Obama was American until mid-September, just a few weeks before the election.

A week ago, Texas Congressman Al Green (’06!) addressed the House of Representatives and called for the impeachment of #45. Representative Green said he was acting as a matter of conscience, and called the basis for his actions, “perspicuous.” He added, “No one is above the law, and that includes the President of the United States of America.”

At a town hall in Houston on Saturday, Congressman Green shared with his constituents a number of threatening voicemails he received. ABC News reported that the voicemails were directed to his office, and included messages like:

  • “You ain’t going to impeach nobody.”
  • “Try it and we will lynch all of you,”
  • “You’ll be hanging from a tree.”

Notwithstanding the threats communicated in the voicemails, the Congressman told constituents at the town hall:

“We are not going to be intimidated. We are not going to allow this to cause us to deviate from what we believe to be the right thing to do and that is to proceed with the impeachment of President Trump.”

Let me be perfectly clear. I have absolutely, positively no expectation that #45 will be impeached. Call me cynical, but I do not believe a Republican Congress is going to impeach its new champion. Nevertheless, in the interim, I fully believe there will be a great deal of GOP angst for the duration of this administration’s tenure, even if it’s 4 or 8 years. To that end, to paraphrase Dr. King, The Long Arc of the Moral Universe: Is That Karma I’m Seeing?”

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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What If Barack Had Said or Done…? OMG!

It’s time to Break It Down!

Please ignore my addressing the former President in an overly familiar manner. Stay with me. I will endeavor to make this brief. The central point here is that #45 has said or done too many things to count that would have disqualified candidate Obama, or resulted in the summary termination of an Obama Presidency.

I don’t have enough time to write about, and no one has enough endurance to read about all the things that could be included in a post such as this. Recognizing that the ground is so fertile, one can always revisit, collect, and introduce new material, I am going to select 10 items, just to make the case. Without further ado, let’s do this.

  1. “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” – June 16, 2015
  2. “I will build a great wall. – And nobody builds walls better than me, believe me – And I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great wall, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.”
  3. “An ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that Barack Obama’s Birth Certificate is a fraud.” – August 6, 2012
  4. “According to Bill O’Reilly, 80% of all the shootings in New York City are blacks – if you add Hispanics, that figure goes to 98%, 1% white.” – June 5, 2013
  5. “Grab them by the pussy.” – 2005 tape
  6. Visited his own private properties for golf outings during 10 of his first 11 weekends in office, after complaining frequently during the campaign about President Obama’s golfing outings.
  7. Promoted the narrative that his Inauguration crowd was the largest in history.
  8. Claimed Barack Obama wiretapped him in Trump Tower
  9. Banned American media while inviting in Russia media to a White House meeting
  10. Shared classified Israeli intelligence with Russia (which is an ally of Iran, which is an enemy of Israel, with which Trump claims interest in having the best relationship ever).

Let me be perfectly clear. I am not suggesting these five statements and five actions constitute the worst assertions or acts that #45 has made or engaged in during or before his Presidency. In fact, they are a mere sample, and a small one at that, of the limited filter for his comments and actions. Indeed, also a window into his character.

The simple premise of this post is this President has been given incredibly broad latitude, in general, but specifically, an immeasurably greater amount than would have been granted to President Obama. In a highly partisan world, I understand how and why that is perfectly acceptable with people who supported Mr. Trump, and who are delighted that, as a result of his efforts, they have “taken their country back.” However, for everyone else, and even for those Trump supporters who presumably want to see this nation live up to its Creed, this double standard, or possible refutation of standards altogether, should be a source of grave concern.

Of all things related to the current administration, nothing that I can think of is more antithetical to historic American values and political policy positions than our newfound ease with the coziness Team Trump has not only demonstrated, but also insisted upon, vis-à-vis Russia. Yes, President Obama’s administration attempted the infamous “Russian reset.” But let’s face it. That was not in the wake of the fallout and feedback of Russian hacking, as apprised by our national intelligence apparatus. It actually appears that #45, his surrogates, and many of his supporters favor Moscow’s version of events over that of our own national security community.

It has just surfaced the former FBI Director James Comey wrote a memo detailing #45 asking him to curtail the Flynn Investigation. Sources close to the situation say Comey, who is a Republican, never wrote memos about President Obama. This is at least the second time he wrote about the current President, including the irrational diatribe about his Inauguration crowd size. The source indicated that while it was not unusual for Mr. Comey to write such memos, he did not do so in instances in which the communications were normal and the communicator was truthful. 

Just think about that. Suppose for a moment that the FBI, or the CIA, or Homeland Security, or the NSA, or all of them, plus the other 12 agencies that form our security community posited that President Obama won an election that Russia conspired to affect on his behalf. How about if the FBI Director indicated that there was an on-going investigation that intended to at least look to see if there was a possibility Obama appointees were somehow tied to Russia’s attempts to interfere with our election. How would the GOP Congress respond to that? How would the media in general, and Fox News in particular react? What would be the collective response of the American electorate? More interestingly, what would those Trump supporters, who blithely dismiss so much about all this, be saying?

“What If Barack Had Said or Done…? OMG!” Enough said…you already know. 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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Men’s Health: A Compelling Quality of Life Issue – Vol. III

It’s time to Break It Down!

(Disclaimer: This post appeared originally on June 29, 2011 and was reprinted on July 2, 2014 (https://thesphinxofcharlotte.com/2014/07/02/mens-health-a-compelling-quality-of-life-issue/).  It contains references that are graphic in nature, and which may be considered offensive; reader discretion is advised.  The initial catalyst for posting this information was my 2011 Colonoscopy.  I had a second procedure in 2014, and a third last week. Today seemed like a perfect time to reprise this post).

A few days ago I had my third Colonoscopy, which is the endoscopic test of the colon and the distal part of the small bowel with a camera.  The procedure is recommended for men over age 50, on a periodic basis; every 10 years if no irregularities are found, and more frequently if non-benign polyps or other issues arise during the test.  In my previous tests, the results indicated non-benign polyps were found. Subsequently, I was scheduled for a follow-up after 3 years, as a regular sequential step in my Annual Physical regimen. That is a precautionary measure, not any kind of alert or scare.  That is as it should be.

I am delighted to end the suspense, as it relates to this year’s Colonoscopy. My test revealed normal mucosa, and no arteriovenous malformation, diverticula, polyps, masses, evidence of colitis or any other abnormalities. That’s about as good as it gets. Given my previous history, my next exam is scheduled for 5 years from now instead of three. I’m moving in the right direction. Perhaps if I garner comparable results next time, I can earn the 10-year periodic exam.

This is not intended to provide a blow-by-blow of my procedure.  I am addressing this topic to provide a public service.  I have observed both anecdotally and from numerous data streams, men in general and African American men in particular, are notorious for neglecting our health.  There are too many reasons to enumerate, but a few include:

  • Distrust of doctors (Some black men still reference the Tuskegee Experiment)
  • Fear…of doctors, of medicine, bad news, of pain, of surgery, of anesthesia, the unknown
  • Unawareness of early warning signs
  • No regular doctor
  • Lack of health care benefits (African Americans are more likely to be Unemployed or Underemployed, and therefore less likely to have insurance)
  • Misplaced priorities(some men take better care of their homes and/or cars than they do their personal health)
  • Good intentions; bad execution (Many of us “intend to” schedule an appointment to see a doctor, but don’t)
  • Procrastination (Delay, delay, delay)
  • Superman complex (The perception that one is young, healthy, and totally bullet proof)
  • We are on a super secret suicide mission (No, we just act like it)

Those are 10 of my own very unscientific, totally straight off the top of my head reasons.  After setting them to paper, I decided to look for an expert opinion…OK; I checked to see what a doctor thought.  Not surprisingly (to me anyway), there was a fair amount of overlap.

Dr. Sharon OrrangeAssistant Professor of Clinical General Internal Medicine at the University of Southern California has weighed in with what she believes are “The 10 Real Reasons Men Don’t Go to the Doctor.”  Since she actually practices medicine, I will allocate more weight to her opinion than mine…though keep in mind, I do have the inherent advantage of being a man.  Dr. Orrange’s 10 most compelling (or real, as she puts it) reasons are:

  1. You are afraid we will put our finger up your butt.We will, especially if you are over 40 or have any complaints related to your bowel movements.  Yes, you get a rectal exam after the age of 40 once a year for a feel of your prostate and so we can check your stool for microscopic blood that you can’t see.
  2. You are afraid we will examine your balls.  We will, if you are 40 or younger. The peak age for testicular cancer is 18-40 so guidelines recommend you get a once a year testicular exam. Don’t worry it won’t hurt at all.
  3. I feel FINE.  I am glad you feel fine, but you can feel FINE with high cholesterol, high blood pressure and elevated blood sugars.  Your mother or wife won’t feel fine when they are taking care of you after you have a stroke.  Don’t wait until you feel awful to come see us.
  4. Going to the Doctor is a chick thing.Many of you feel this way but remember we live longer than you do.  If doctor visits are a chick thing well, then, nursing homes are a guy thing.  You have to get over this.  It’s true, the waiting room magazines are not for guys but when you come see us you will see that many of the medical assistants, doctors, phlebotomists and medical records folks are men.  Real men go to doctors.
  5. You are embarrassed to talk about what’s going on with you.The bright red blood on the toilet paper when you wipe, the red itchy rash in your groin and on your feet, the problems you have at times getting a boner, getting up at night a few times to pee, we hear it all the time.  You are not alone and our job is to show you how common this is and help fix it for you.
  6. You don’t find the office hours convenient.  I get this and urge you to find a doctor who is accessible and can work around your office hours.  Seriously though. The average guy watches 16 hours of TV a week, you can come for a 30-minute visit once a year and maybe a couple of follow-up visits as needed.
  7. Going to the Doctor is giving in to your nagging wife.  I had a patient who gave his wife for her 20th anniversary a copy of his Lipitor prescription, thinking this was a GIFT to his wife that he was taking care of his medical issues.  It is true; women rightly do nag their dads, brothers, and husbands to go to the doctor because they are tired of square dancing with women at the assisted living facilities.
  8. You don’t realize we are here for prevention.You don’t have to be sick to come see us and if you establish a relationship with us you have easy access when you do get sick.  Once a year we can touch base with you to discuss age appropriate screening, which we KNOW, helps keep you well.
  9. You don’t have a relationship with a physicianIf you are not attached to a regular physician by the age of 40 you are more likely to get in trouble. Unlike women who need annual pap smears and contraception, you haven’t had to see someone regularly from the age of 18-30.  Find someone your friends use, or enlist your partner’s help to find someone that might be a connection.  You want someone accessible and younger physicians are much more likely to e-mail so look until you find the right match.
  10. You think we will pick on you for your habits.  Drinking a 12-pack on the weekends, not exercising and eating bad foods, among other things.  These things are not as uncommon as you might expect.  We will put you on a long leash and let you pick and choose the habits to get rid of as needed.

If you are a Doctor Dodger, the reality is, it is of little consequence whether your reasons for doing so more closely resemble Dr. Orrange’s list or mine.  If your recalcitrance leads to a preventable heart attack, some form of cancer, or a stroke, you will have contributed directly to reducing your quality of life, as well as that of your family members.  Such actions could also lead to premature death.  It really is pretty simple; fear, embarrassment, death (sooner rather than later)…pick one dude!

Let’s be clear here, human beings are not immortal.  Psalms 90:10 advises us: “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.”  Proponents of the Bill Maher School of Thought dismiss such biblical advisory as akin to magic, wizardry, or witchcraft.  But I am reasonably certain even Mr. Maher concedes that we all will die.  Moreover, I wouldn’t bet the farm that he doesn’t have a regular physician, regardless of his rationale.

The point of seeing healthcare professionals on a regular basis is not to live forever; none of us will.  Rather, the idea is to leverage the best possible existence out of our all too brief time here on earth.

As most of us know, women live longer than men.  Once upon a time, this was largely attributable to the rigors of backbreaking manual labor, and long before that, due to the results of men losing too many battles with the lions or other members of the Wild Kingdom, in the quest to determine who would eat…and who would be dinner.

Neither of those historical tableaus aligns with today’s American reality.  No, the underlying contemporary contributory factors for those of us now living in the USA are that poor exercise habits, irresponsible dietary choices, too much smoking and drinking, and eschewing regular checkups and prevention screenings combine to lead to a lower quality of life (health wise), and ultimately, to a shortened lifespan; on average five years less than for women.

According to a 2007 Harris Interactive survey that included over 1,100 men, the American Academy of Family Physicians found that:

  • Many men go to the Doctor only when they are very sick
  • Before they did, many of these men waited several daysto see if they felt better
  • Most of these men had a regular doctor
  • Most had currently active health insurance
  • Most said they felt comfortable talking to their physician

In an even more recent survey, conducted by Esquire magazine in January of 2011, researchers found that:

  • Roughly half of American men ages 18-50 had no primary care physician
  • One third had not had a check-up in more than a year
  • More than 40% had never had their cholesterol checked
  • 70% had never had a prostate exam

Do you perchance know the leading causes of death in America?  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), complete information available in 2007, broke down like this:

Number of deaths for leading causes of death:

  • Heart disease: 616,067
  • Cancer: 562,875
  • Stroke(cerebrovascular diseases): 135,952
  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 127,924
  • Accidents (unintentional injuries): 123,706
  • Alzheimer’s disease: 74,632
  • Diabetes: 71,382
  • Influenza and Pneumonia: 52,717
  • Nephritis, nephritic syndrome, and nephrosis: 46,448
  • Septicemia: 34,828

Source: Deaths: Final Data for 2007

Based on CDC research, Heart Disease and Cancer, the top two causes of death in the United States in 2007, led to nearly twice as many deaths as the cumulative totals of causes 3 through 10.  In fact, the number of deaths attributable to Heart Disease alone, (616,067), nearly equaled the total for causes 3 through 10 (667,589).

It is important to recognize that the relative death rate for men is higher than that for women for all causes listed in the Top 10.  While there are hereditary factors that contribute to individual proclivity to develop Heart Disease, a timely and committed change in lifestyle in concert with an appropriate medical remediationprevention, and/or maintenance strategy can help most men (and women) live a relatively normal life.

In a departure from my previous posts on the subject I am compelled to add that in addition to whatever periodic schedule one adheres to for his or her Colonoscopy, one should also schedule an Annual Physical. I had mine a few months ago, including a battery of tests and supporting lab work. The results were outstanding for the second consecutive year. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to institute a regimen to monitor and promote positive health consequences. This is where I could make a call to arms for the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) or healthcare reform. But I’ll leave that for another day. This pitch is for men…and women who have men they care about in their lives.  Of course, women require Colonoscopies too. But as I noted elsewhere in this post, as with most medical matters, they already do a much better job than men. I enthusiastically urge all of you to do everything within your power, individually and collectively, to to do the right thing for your own health, and for the health of those whom you love.

In summary, this post is a cry for help on behalf of men.  Perhaps, more aptly stated, it is a call for men to step up and help themselves.  As a general rule, ours is an interdependent society.  That means, someone, somewhere relies upon you.  So men, I urge you to unite on behalf of a cause that is intuitively selfish, but intellectually selfless.  I entreat you to recognize this undeniable truth; “Men’s Health: A Compelling Quality of Life Issue – Vol. III!”  Yes, this is a cause that requires you to think of (and act) for yourself first.  But in doing so, your wife, or significant other, your children, your siblings, your parents, your friends, your co-workers, your career, your civic association, your fraternity, and yes, your state of mind, will all benefit.

I’m done; holla back!

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