COVID-19 & The NBA: Jordan Supports League Vaccine Plan

It’s time to Break It Down!

Michael Jordan, considered by many to be the reigning NBA G.O.A.T., has come down on the side of the NBA’s strategy for player vaccination. As the League’s preseason is underway, presaging next week’s Season Opener, lots of attention has been garnered by several of the League’s marquee players. 

Andrew Wiggins and Kyrie Irving, stars for the Golden State Warriors and New Jersey Nets, respectively, have been cited in the last couple of weeks for their controversial stances on the vaccine. Wiggins initially, in interviews, stated his refusal to get the vaccine. Irving has declined to state his vaccination status, saying it’s personal. Both of their positions were more complicated than that of many other players because Health Departments in the cities of San Francisco and New York, where the Warriors and Nets play their home games, have established provisions that forbid allowing unvaccinated players from the home team from entering the arena. The proviso does not apply to players from visiting teams.

On September 28th, LeBron James told the press assembled at the Lakers’ Media Day, that he’d been vaccinated, despite his initial reservations. Ultimately, he concluded it was in the best interest of he and his family to get vaccinated. James said he did not plan to encourage other players to get vaccinated, calling it an individual choice. The Lakers Coach, Frank Vogel, indicated that the team is fully vaccinated. On October 3rd, Steve Nash, the Warrior’s Coach, announced that Wiggins had relented and gotten vaccinated.

There is no NBA vaccine mandate. The Players’ Union declared that a nonstarter at the outset of negotiations about determining and rolling out League-wide Covid restrictions. On October 10, Nets Coach Steve Nash announced the Nets expected to play home games without Kyrie; yesterday, General Manager, Sean Marks, released a statement indicating the team has suspended Kyrie Irving until he gets vaccinated. He added, the team concluded their players must be available full-time.

It is within this context that Jordan’s statement emerges. The six-time Champion and Finals MVP, and current Charlotte Hornets team owner made his statement in the wake of James’ overcoming his vaccine skepticism, Wiggins’ reversal, and Irving’s criticizing the League’s Covid Guidelines and resisting vaccination (which led to his suspension). Jordan, who is 58 years-old, voiced his support by saying:

“I am total in unison with the league, and I think everybody, you know, has been speaking about the vaccinations. And, you know, I’m a firm believer in science and, you know, I’m going to stick with that and hopefully, everybody abides by whatever the league sets as the rules.

I think once everybody buys in, we’re going the be fine.”

Despite the lack of a League-wide mandate, the NBA reports that over 90 percent of the League’s players have been vaccinated, including several entire teams. Andrew Wiggins recently received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine after holding out until the start of the NBA’s preseason this month. He admitted, he’s still a skeptic, saying in a press conference after the Warriors and Trailblazers played a preseason game:

“The only options were to get vaccinated or not play in the NBA. It was a tough decision. Hopefully, it works out in the long run and in 10 years I’m still healthy.

It feels good to play, but getting vaccinated, that’s going to be something that stays in my mind for a long time. It’s not something I wanted to do, but I was kind of forced to.”

In the overall scheme of things, it sounds as if the NBA’s vaccination plan will succeed. Its Ninety percent participation rate dwarfs that of the nation as a whole. It also appears that arenas across the League are implementing protocols to protect fans, players, and anyone who enters the facilities. It’s a long season; it will take time for it to play out in all relevant dimensions. Considering all that has unfolded to date, it’s refreshing to know that while some of the players remain unconvinced regarding the viability of this matter so vital to the health and welfare of all of them, as well as all of us, the G.O.A.T. and the King (and perhaps future G.O.A.T.) are on the same page. “COVID-19 & The NBA: Jordan Supports League Vaccine Plan!”

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And The Winner Is: Bubba!

It’s time to Break It Down!

I’m a southerner, all day long. As the saying goes, “I’m a Tar Heel born, Tar Heel bred, and when I die, I’ll be a Tar Heel dead. Speaking of the Tar Heels, the nickname for University of North Carolina (UNC) sports teams, and alumni, and more broadly, for denizens of the North Carolina, the Tar Heel State, the name Bubba has been indelibly integrated into our lexicon of appellations. Since November 14, 2011, Lawrence R. Cunningham, familiarly known as Bubba, has served as UNC’s athletic Director. I digress.

This post is about a different Bubba, Bubba Wallace. Meanwhile, I’ll spare you my varied contemplations about guys called Bubba.

Back to the story. Bubba Wallace made history Monday, becoming just the second Black driver to win NASCAR’s Cup Series race, the association’s top series. Wallace is the first Black man to win the Cup Series race since NASCAR Hall of Fame racer Wendell Scott, in 1963. It would be nearly impossible, and totally inappropriate to omit noting that when Scott won the race, he never took possession of the Trophy. Only this past August, NASCAR presented Scott’s family the winner’s treasure.

On December 1, 1963, Wendell Scott won the Cup Series at Speedway Park in Jacksonville, Florida. However, Scott didn’t get to celebrate his win and didn’t receive a trophy as part of the standard post-race presentation. At the end of the race, Buck Baker was flagged the winner and it wasn’t until the official scoring review that race officials determined Scott had won the event by two laps – with Baker finishing second.

Even with that revelation, it took nearly 58 years to approximate righting such an egregious wrong. Scott, who died in 1990, never received the spoils of victory. That Wendell Scott lived more than a quarter of a century after winning the race, and still didn’t get his trophy is an abomination. The fact that it took another 30 plus for NASCAR to award the Trophy posthumously is in a word, shameful. But, if they could wait more than half a century, it’s conceivable they could have somehow rationalized never doing it. I guess such abuses of all things civilized are the bases for the aphorism, “better late than never.”

Bubba Wallace is an Alabama native. Though he claimed not to often think about matters in terms of his being just the second Black driver to win the race, he conceded that when he did, he recognized his win brought a lot of joy and emotion to his family, friends, and fans. He deemed it, “Pretty fitting that it comes here in Talladega.”

Wallace came to notoriety last summer when a noose was found in his garage at Talladega. To come full circle from the circus that broke out over that occasion, had to be satisfying. In 2020, he was NASCAR’s lone Black driver, and drove for racing royalty, Richard Petty’s team. After the kerfuffle, he left Team Petty, and later signed with a new team, that was literally a “new team.” Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin formed a team and made Wallace it first driver. The Cup Series win at Talladega was a breakthrough moment for driver and team. Jordan and Hamlin were both already winners. Monday, however, belonged to Wallace. “And The Winner Is: Bubba!”

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

It’s time to Break It Down!

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

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

Town of Ahoskie (Hertford County)

Town of Cary (Chatham & Wake Counties)

City of Charlotte (Mecklenburg County)

City of Clinton (Sampson County)

Town of Edenton (Chowan County)

City of Elizabeth City (Camden & Pasquotank Counties)

Town of Enfield (Halifax County)

Town of Erwin (Harnett County)

City of Fayetteville (Cumberland County)

City of Greensboro (Guilford County)

City of Greenville (Pitt County)

City of Henderson (Vance County)

City of Hickory (Burke & Catawba Counties)

City of Jacksonville (Onslow County)

City of Kings Mountain (Cleveland & Gaston Counties)

City of Laurinburg (Scotland County)

City of Lexington (Davidson County)

Town of Long View (Burke & Catawba Counties)

City of Lumberton (Robeson County)

Town of Mooresville (Iredell County)

Town of Mount Olive (Duplin & Wayne Counties)

City of New Bern (Craven County)

Town of Plymouth (Washington County)

Town of Princeville (Edgecombe County)

City of Raleigh (Wake & Durham Counties)

City of Roanoke Rapids (Halifax County)

City of Rocky Mount (Edgecombe & Nash Counties)

City of Sanford (Lee County)

Town of Siler City (Chatham)

Town of Smithfield (Johnston County)

Town of St. Pauls (Robeson)

City of Statesville (Iredell County)

Town of Tarboro (Edgecombe County

City of Whiteville (Columbus County)

City of Wilson (Wilson County)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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COVID-19: The New Champ

It’s time to Break It Down!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Peril: The Final Act

It’s time to Break It Down!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Nine-Eleven: Twenty Years Later

It’s time to Break It Down!

Posted on September 8, 2021

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

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

(From the Archives, September 7, 2011)

Do you remember where you were, Tuesday, September 11, 2001? Today we observe the 20th Anniversary of the day that has come to be known simply as, Nine-Eleven (9/11). That day 20 years ago, America lost, in one fell swoop, any notion of its blissful innocence, its long-standing appearance of invulnerability, and its deeply ingrained sense of security. By some accounts, what it retained is its self-righteous (some would say) belief in American Exceptionalism and entitlement; but that is a conversation for another post.

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

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

On this day, the President directs that the American flag be flown at half-staff at individual American homes, at the White House, and on all U.S. government buildings and establishments, home and abroad.  This year President Biden, as President Trump and President Obama did before him, deemed the day one of National Remembrance and Service.

Even after 20 years; two decades worth of context building, and development of perspective, the numbers behind Nine-Eleven are chilling.  Nearly 3,000 people lost their lives, and thousands of others were injured, and many more sustained post-event traumas.  Examples of the carnage include:

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

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

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

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

The good news is, over the course of the past twenty years, there have been no repeat Nine-Eleven scale events on U.S. soil.  That result is partly due to fastidiously focusing on prevention efforts, partly a result of fortuitous failures of would-be terrorists, and partly a function of the fateful intervention of alert by-standers. Last year, President Trump negotiated an agreement to end America’s longest (20 years) war by May of 2021. President Biden, who succeeded Mr. Trump, committed to honor the agreement. Ultimately, he pulled American troops out of Afghanistan by August 31st. a pledge he ultimately honored, despite numerous suggestions, for a variety of reasons, that he abandon.

As we place the commemoration of Patriot Day 2021 in the rearview mirror, and twenty years of Nine-Eleven related memories with it, Americans are still advised to be on high alert for potential incursions by terrorists, most likely of the lone wolf variety, where one person acts in solo fashion. So here we are, “Nine-Eleven: Twenty Years Later!” I trust you will have a productive Day of Remembrance and Service.

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Mi Familia: This One’s Personal – Redux

It’s time to Break It Down!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m done; holla back!

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The Tale of Lindsey’s About Face: He Finally Wants To Impeach The President

It’s time to Break It Down!

Lindsey Graham has had a checkered relationship with Donald Trump. In 2015, Trump’s broadside attack on Senator John McCain elicited a pointed pushback from Senator Graham. Speaking of McCain early in his Presidential bid, Trump reiterated a long-held position:

“He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”

Trump’s sentiment was ludicrously paradoxical. Mr. “Only I can fix it,” who would eventually boast of knowing more about the military than the generals, received four student deferments from military service between 1964 and 1968. He told reporters of another medical deferment he received after graduating was for a bone spur in his foot. When asked which foot, Trump told reporters to look up the records.

In response, Senator Lindsey Graham, a close friend of McCain’s, tweeted, “If there was ever any doubt that @realDonaldTrump should not be our commander in chief, this stupid statement should end all doubt. At the heart of @realDonaldTrump’s statement is a lack of respect for those who have served – a disqualifying characteristic to be president.”

Trump also made a speech, calling Graham an “idiot,” after Graham called him a jackass in an interview with CNN’s Kate Bolduan. Trump traveled to South Carolina for a rally and proceeded to give out Graham’s cell phone number to attendees, and said, “Give it a shot,” urging people to call the state’s senior senator.

Fast forward to Trump’s Presidency. And over time, Graham became an ally and golfing buddy to Trump. In that key role, Graham opted to oppose Trump’s impeachment, not just once, but twice. Just in case you forgot the “why” behind each of those impeachments, let me remind you:

1. Trump urged the president of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden during the 2020 campaign — strongly implying he was owed that for all the good things he had done for Ukraine

2. Trump helped gather the crowd at the January “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington and, in a speech to the gathering, incited them using the Big Lie — the baseless notion that the 2020 election was somehow stolen from him. A chunk of that crowd composed of the rioters who stormed the US Capitol, leaving more than 100 police officers injured and 5 dead.

Despite the compelling evidence, including Graham’s evolving position on Trump and the January 6th incident, he voted twice not to convict Trump. Here we are, new President, new position on impeachment.

Without a doubt, the withdrawal of American troops and Afghans from Kabul has been at once a tragic display, and a heroic adventure. After twenty years, and America’s longest war, Joe Biden has declared enough. The President said he would not pass on the decision of whether to leave Afghanistan to another president. Most Americans, and most politicians on both sides of the aisle agree with that decision in principle. The details, the execution is where issues have arisen. The chaotic withdrawal has given rise to an array of political (both partisan and bipartisan) hyperbole. Enter Lindsey Graham, who recently said:  

“If we leave any Americans behind, if we leave thousands of those Afghans who fought along our side behind bravely, Joe Biden deserves to be impeached for a high crime and misdemeanor of dereliction of duty. If we leave one American behind, if we don’t get all the Afghans who stepped up to the plate to help us out, then Joe Biden in my view has committed a high crime and misdemeanor under the Constitution and should be impeached.”

I believe it’s time to bring home our troops, American citizens and the Afghan citizens who served as interpreters. I also believe, since President Biden largely bought into Mr. Trump’s pre-existing commitment to leave, the exit should have been better executed. None of that, in my opinion qualifies as a legitimate catalyst for impeaching Biden. But hey, in the final analysis, this is not my story. It’s “The Tale of Lindsey’s About Face: He Finally Wants To Impeach The President!”

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

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Obama Plays The Inexperience Card Redux ’21

It’s time to Break It Down!

(Note: This is a Reprised and Amended Presentation of My Original Blog Post)


Today, in acknowledgement of the 14th anniversary of “Break It Down,” As I have done occasionally in the past, I am revisiting my inaugural blog post. 

Before launching into the post, it’s certainly appropriate to contextualize my original post within the parameters of our contemporary timeframe. To do that, I note that post was about a young lion, Barack Obama, coming into what would become his era. A year ago, the Democratic Party, via virtual Convention, officially installed Joe Biden as its nominee. Whereas Obama was one of the youngest to ever carry the banner, Biden is the oldest. That bit of history/trivia was augmented by his selection of Kamala Harris as his running mate. She was the fourth woman to be part of a Presidential Ticket, the third as a VP Candidate, and the first woman of color. Biden had two previous unsuccessful runs. His 2020 effort determined that he was able to register the third time as the charm, while Senator Harris broke the proverbial glass ceiling for women on a ticket. 

By contrast, the GOP conducted its Convention, part virtual, part in person, in Charlotte, and part at the White House. The virtual aspects of the Conventions were necessitated due to COVID-19. Donald Trump, of course, was the Party’s nominee, as expected (at least by me) he retained Mike Pence, his first term VP, as his running mate. I mention it in passing, because there was speculation in some corners that Trump would replace Pence, perhaps with a woman. While Trump and his loyalists like to brand him as an anti-establishmentarian, the thought that he’d engage in such a high risk, low reward gambit struck me as unlikely. If there were any present-day pol that was unlikely to elevate a woman to his second-in-command, the name Donald Trump leapt out at me. Enough about the conventions. 

Tempus fugit (Time Flies)!  Friday marks a significant milestone in the life and development of “Break It Down!”  I initiated this blog August 20, 2007, on a lark…almost a dare.  That was fourteen years (and 730 editions) ago.  Having related the story several times over the past several years, I will not repeat the complete details today.

I will note, however, that on that summer’s eve, I contemplated and discussed, in five paragraphs, the experience, or in reality the lack thereof, of then Senator Barack Obama, as he navigated the early stages of his historic Presidential Campaign.  The prodigious parameters of that history were not evident at the time.  To be sure, over the next 14-½ months, he bested the odds and won, not only the Democratic Nomination, but also the Presidency, not so unlike what Donald Trump did in 2015-16.  In so doing, my lack of conviction, along with that of many others, in Mr. Obama’s ability to claim the nation’s biggest political prize, was exposed as a patently errant assessment. Without question, many people missed on their own un-Nostradamus like projections regarding Donald Trump’s prospects.

I want to make one more note about the blog. In addition to this week marking the Fourteenth Anniversary of Break It Down, today’s post commemorates the Nine-year Anniversary of my using WordPress as the primary Host Platform for the blog.  The link, is simpler and more straightforward than the Blogger (Blogspot) link,  The site design and presentation at WordPress are cleaner, and less busy than the setup I used at Blogger.  Please note, while I may eventually migrate Break It Down exclusively to WordPress, the blog remains available at both sites for the foreseeable future.

So, this was the message in Post #1; five brisk paragraphs and a sign-off:

In an apparent calculated act of derring-do, Obama declares the virtue of inexperience. Gotta love it!

Personal footnote of recollection: I recall Jimmy Carter running the classic “anti-Washington” (i.e., lack of Capitol Hill experience) campaign in ’75-76. You know what, it worked.

The problem was, once JC sent all the reigning bureaucrats & policy wonks home, he was left with an assembly of newbies who didn’t understand how to get things done in DC. The result was that a very smart guy, genuine humanitarian, and erstwhile successful leader presided over what was widely perceived as a disastrous presidency. President Carter’s solitary term was fraught with innumerable policy failures (see the Shah of Iran, double-digit inflation, runaway gas prices, & the outrageous Interest/Mortgage rate morass) and public relations gaffes (remember the killer rabbit, and the failed helicopter gambit).

Fortunately for him he was able to live long enough and subsequently do enough good deeds to distance himself from most of an unremarkable tenure as a one-term president, followed by a resounding defeat by that cowboy actor Teflon guy.

Of course, none of that has anything to do with Obama…except in the unlikely event he prevails. If he does, let’s hope he doesn’t take that inexperience thing too far. As W constantly reminds us, getting to the White House is one thing (after all, he’s done it twice), providing prudent and effective leadership once there is quite another.


Posted on Mon, Aug. 20, 2007

Just for perspective, see a news story that the AP carried on the subject that day:


Obama posits virtue of inexperience

What rivals criticize as naiveté; he presents as break from status quo


Associated Press

DES MOINES, Iowa –Democrat Barack Obama on Sunday tried to parlay his relative lack of national experience into a positive attribute, chiding his rivals for adhering to “conventional thinking” that led the country to war and has divided the country.

In their latest debate, the candidates also said they favored more federal action to address economic woes that have resulted from a housing slump and tighter credit. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson called the current financial crisis “the Katrina of the mortgage-lending industry.”

Prodded by moderator George Stephanopoulos at the outset of the debate, Obama’s rivals critiqued his recent comments on Pakistan and whether he would meet with foreign leaders — including North Korea’s head of state — without conditions.

“To prepare for this debate I rode in the bumper cars at the state fair,” the first-term senator from Illinois said to laughter and applause from the audience at Drake University.

The debate capped an intense week of politicking in Iowa, an early voting state in the process of picking a nominee. The Iowa State Fair is a magnet for White House hopefuls each presidential election.

Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., directly addressing a question about Obama’s relative inexperience, said: “You’re not going to have time in January of ’09 to get ready for this job.” Dodd has served in Congress for more than 30 years.

Former Sen. John Edwards said Obama’s opinions “add something to this debate.” But Edwards said politicians who aspire to be president should not talk about hypothetical solutions to serious problems.

“It effectively limits your options,” Edwards said.

Obama said he could handle the rigors of international diplomacy and noted that many in the race, including Dodd, Edwards and Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Joe Biden, voted to authorize the Iraq war in 2002.

“Nobody had more experience than Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney and many of the people on this stage that authorized this war,” Obama said. “And it indicates how we get into trouble when we engage in the sort of conventional thinking that has become the habit in Washington.”

The debate, hosted and broadcast nationally by ABC, took place less than five months before Iowa caucus-goers begin the process of selecting the parties’ presidential nominees.

As we reflect upon the Campaign of 2008 it really does harken the recognition of how swiftly time and events pass.  Indeed, I am especially reminded of how supremely confidently the Senator approached his moment.  I shall always recall that it propelled me to write, “Obama Plays the Inexperience Card!” Needless to say, he has gained an enormous amount of experience in the years ensuing since then.

As I wrap this up in 2021, it is with a completely different appreciation for what an inexperienced Barack Obama brought to his job, vis-à-vis what an even more politically inexperienced Donald Trump brought to the job for four years. Mr. Obama inherited a fragile country with a downward spiraling economy, a nearly double-digit employment rate, and a foreboding 700,000 job losses per month. By the time he left 8 years later, the unemployment rate had been halved, to less than 5%, the country enjoyed the longest period of consecutive job gains, 75 months, in history, over 11 million jobs had been added, including 1.2 million in his last 6 months in office, while the Dow Jones rose from a slumping 7,949 when he took office to 19, 887 when he exited. No President controls every single lever that triggers all that happens during his (or her) tenure, when things go south, he/she occupies the space where the proverbial buck stops. Conversely, when things trend rosy, he gets a fair amount of the accrued shine.

In that light, Mr. Trump entered office in a much different environment, benefiting from what can rightfully be called the Obama Recovery. Let’s be clear. There is definitely still work to do. But anyone who suggests that Obama didn’t bequeath more and better than he inherited is full of bovine excrement. Full stop!

With that said, in the salad days of the Trump Administration, he surely delighted his base. At least the ones with whom I have spoken believe he’s the cat’s meow, and they say (whether they believe it or not) he did exactly what they hoped for when they voted for him. I would suggest that anyone who didn’t vote for, or support him, or who is undecided about supporting him, should let that sink in for a moment or two, or twenty.

Team Trump contended Democrats, liberals, the Main Stream Media, and some nebulous ill-defined entity referred to as the deep state, were solely responsible for all that stymied or delayed even potential successes by the Trump Administration. So, healthcare, travel ban (or whatever appellation one cares to affix to it), Transgender Military Policy, Charlottesville Messaging, the Obama wiretapping claim, the Flynn firing, the Comey firing, the Spicer firing, the Priebus firing, the Scaramucci firing, the Bannon firing, and oh by the way dare I say, his tweets…Can we really blame all that on the Party that held a minority in both Houses for two years, and that held only one House of Congress for the latter two years, or on a media that has no votes, and presumably no say in who Trump hires in the first place, or fires for that matter, or on the deep state, whatever the Sam Hill that is located?

If you are a Trump trooper, you can, and you almost certainly do. If you are not, then you probably think such an assertion is sheer lunacy on its face. Perhaps…just maybe, he is found difficulty gaining traction because he was not only fighting through an experience deficit, but he was operating with a startling lack of curiosity, matched only by an overabundance of hubris. 

It took four years, two impeachments, the country’s most successful election (by the numbers), and an attempted coup, but Joseph Robinette Biden unseated Donald John Trump. He inherited a global pandemic, a crippled economy, a near 20-year war, and a country more polarized than it’s been in decades. The transition has created a space to exhale, even though the Big Lie still echoes in many corners of our country. Freedom won on November 3, 2020. 

With that I mind, all things considered, I am inclined to look back on the first time I wrote, “Obama Plays the Experience Card,” and conclude that we (who should be a grateful nation) were very well served by that guy from Honolulu. So today, my emphasis is again…“Obama Plays the Inexperience Card Redux ’21! 

I’m done; holla back!

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

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He Doesn’t Have To Go Home: But He Does Have To Leave The Executive Mansion

It’s time to Break It Down!

Yesterday, in an all but foregone conclusion, despite his repeated protests to the contrary, NY Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that he will resign, effective in two weeks. Governor Cuomo, who was the subject of multiple investigations, including one of his handling of the Covid crisis, which initially netted him notoriety and largely positive reviews, and a relatively quick and debilitating investigation of a spate of sexual harassment allegations. The sexual harassment scandal probe was executed by NY State Attorney General Letitia James, after having been called for by Cuomo.

The results, released last week, found the testimony of 11 alleged female victims credible. Said results spurred an immediate escalation of calls for Cuomo’s resignation, and vigorous protest from the Governor, who called the investigation and subsequent report, biased, unfair and politically motivated (Even though, as previously noted, he called for it).

A year ago, Cuomo basked in the glow of what was perceived at the time as a highly effective and largely successful response to the Covid virus in the state of New York. That would soon change, as concerns emerged, based on claims that Cuomo and his administration had implemented decisions that fueled negative results in nursing homes, and that they in turn scuttled efforts to gain access to reporting on their actions.

The purported nursing home scandal receded from the front burner as attention from the claims of sexual misconduct, and the investigation it led to, surged. Democrats from the party’s candidate for New York City Mayor, to members of the NY State Assembly, to national Democrats, all the way up to and including the President of the United States, called upon Cuomo to resign. Most not only urged him to step down, but added, they would support his impeachment, if he didn’t. In fact, most Democratic NY Assembly members indicated they would support impeaching Cuomo, if he opted not to resign. It should be noted here that NY Democratic Assembly members alone, have signaled they have enough votes to effectuate the Governor’s impeachment. Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, a native of Buffalo, is set to replace Cuomo. Democratic State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins will replace Hochul. When those moves are complete, NY’s three highest offices will all be held, at least until Hochul appoints her own replacement, by women.

This post is not intended to cover this madness in an exhaustive fashion. In fact, its singular purpose is to elevate and draw attention to the distinction in how differently the Democratic and Republican parties respond to allegations of sexual misconduct among members of their respective parties. Many in the GOP have viewed Cuomo’s self-inflicted calamity as an opportunity to attack Democrats, who have had the temerity to point to and focus on the alleged behavior of Republicans who’ve been accused of various instances of sexual misconduct (See Donald Trump and Brett Kavanaugh, e.g.). Conversely, I see it through the lens of Dems being willing to hold our own accountable in the same fashion as we do Republicans.What a novel concept. He Doesn’t Have To Go Home: But He Does Have To Leave The Executive Mansion!

I’m done; holla back!

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

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