A Time for Giving Thanks, Redux ’22

It’s time to Break It Down! 

This is a vintage post, originally pinned November 24, 2010, and subsequently edited and re-posted every year since 2013, including November 27, 2013, November 26, 2014November 25, 2015November 23, 2016, November 22, 2017, November 21, 2018, November 27, 2019, November 25, 2020, and November 24, 2021.

Still, it was not a given that I would re-share this post today. As I weighed recent events, the SCOTUS decision not to intervene and prevent the House Ways and Means Committee from accessing former president Donald Trump’s tax returns loomed large. It is a huge setback for Mr. Trump, as lower courts had already rejected his arguments for shielding his returns. The Supreme Court was considered a last line of defense. Trump and his team, undoubtedly hoped, if not expected the conservative leaning Court (6 conservatives, three of them Trump appointees) to side with Trump. Alas, it did not. No dissenting opinions were registered. After earnestly deliberating the question of today’s topic, I put the matter to a vote. It was unanimous; me, myself, and I decided to go with Thanksgiving. 

As in the past, since it is Thanksgiving Week, this post will deviate from the standard fare. I know that travel schedules (in some cases impacted by weather events, and COVID-19, again this year), meal planning, family time, shopping, football, basketball, parades, and if there is any time remaining, relaxation, will be the dominant theme this week. However, it is Wednesday, so there shall be a blog.

Those among us who have perfected humility, and ascended to a genuine Nirvana state, have no doubt also elevated giving thanks to an art form. The rest of us must fully invest our appreciation in the notion, “That’s why we have Thanksgiving!

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day, which kicks off what we commonly refer to as the Holiday Season. Almost instinctively, Thanksgiving and Christmas come to mind. Yet, there is so much more than that to the Season.

Over the next 54 days, many of us will enjoy succulent feasting at Thanksgiving, exchange gifts and contribute to the needy during Hanukkah. We will buy, give, exchange, and/or receive, and (in far too many instances) return gifts at Christmas, eat, drink, and celebrate the 7 Principles of Kwanzaa, and party and toast the dawn of 2022 on New Year’s Day. We will honor the life and works of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on MLK Day. In addition, even in these tough (though improving) economic times, still further fraught with the consequences of coronavirus, further complicated by soaring inflation, and a roiled supply chain, this weekend, millions of Americans will pay (literally) homage to our most celebrated of shoppers’ holiday weekend, Black FridaySmall Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday, by rising early, and proceeding to scour the aisles for those perfect gifts…and if not perfect, at least cheap, relatively speaking. There are even some precociously enterprising businesses that will start the shopping clock Thursday (though, fewer than in the recent past). Sigh!

In some previous years, I have recounted my reasons for being thankful. This year, like most, I find that I have more reasons than ever to sit contemplatively in humble repose, and affirm boldly, that I know, without caveat, not only the goodness, no the greatness of God, but also of his inestimable and inexhaustible beneficence. I thank Him for deliverance, and for imbuing me with the sense and sensibility to discern the distinction between Kairos and Chronos, Greek concepts for God’s time, and man’s time, respectively. In this the Year of our Lord and Savior, 2022, a.k.a. Year 6 A.D. (After Donald), I have again been reminded, God really does have a sense of humor. In accordance, I thank him dearly and daily for the wit of Stephen ColbertTrevor NoahDave Chappelle, and SNL. More important, I am thankful this moment also reflects Year 2 A.J. (After Joe)Amen!

Eons ago, when I was a college student, I pledged a fraternity. It is familiarly known as the Oldest, Boldest, and Coldest, but I digress. The point of this reference is that during the erstwhile pledge process, as prospective initiates, we were required to learn and recite several classic poems. There were many, each selected to convey a specific life lesson. Some of them have stayed with me, but none more than Invictus, written by English poet, William Ernest Henley (1849-1903).

The Latin translation for Invictus is Undefeated. You may recall it, but just in case, see it below:

Invictus (Latin for Undefeated) By William Ernest Henley:

Out of the night that covers me,

Black as the pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance

I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance

My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears

Looms but the Horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years

Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate:

I am the captain of my soul.

So, as you go about your way tomorrow, and all the tomorrows that follow, recognize that Thanksgiving, at its core, is not simply a day on the calendar. It is a spirit that dwells within each of us, an impulse that prompts us to thank God (for enabling us to be undefeated), and a level of insight that compels us to graciously share His blessings with our fellow men and women. Indeed, every day is “A Time for Giving Thanks, Redux ’22!”

I’m done; holla back!

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

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thanksgiving_(United_States)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kairos

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronos

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Ernest_Henley

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invictus

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanukkah

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kwanzaa

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Year’s_Day

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Luther_King,_Jr.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Luther_King,_Jr._Day

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Friday_(shopping)

Make America Great Again, Again (MAGAA): Trump Announces

It’s time to Break It Down!

Election ’22 has come and gone, for the most part. We know Democrats will control the Senate, Republicans will take the House, Dems claimed several State Houses (Governorships), the Macs, Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell will face challenges for their leadership positions, there’s a good chance Nancy Pelosi will retire, and oh yeah, Donald Trump is running for President in 2024, having announced his third bid.

At roughly 9:20 PM ET, last night, Donald J. Trump did what you knew was inevitable. He announced his candidacy for the Presidency in 2024. Two years in the making, Mr. Trump asserted that he plans to re-take the White House in two years. He submitted that he would accomplish this great turnabout using the cudgel of freedom, values, individual responsibility, and common sense.

During his announcement, Trump reprised his earlier, 2016, America First branding. He, of course, did not originate the phrase. The term originally referred to a policy stance in the United States that generally emphasizes nationalism and non-interventionism. The term was coined a century earlier, by President Woodrow Wilson in his 1916 campaign that pledged to keep America neutral in World War I. It was re-purposed in 1940 when The America First Committee (AFC) was founded to oppose U.S. involvement in World War II. Of course, in retrospect, neither of those efforts succeeded.

The reactions to Mr. Trump’s announcement were varied, and dependent upon a wide array of perspectives. The Fox News cohort, by all appearances, was excited. His announcement was aired during Sean Hannity’s show, likely by design, and amplified during the (Laura) Ingraham Angle. At the other end of the spectrum, some key elements of the GOP spectrum are articulating the position that moderate Republicans and independents pulled away from their candidates during the midterms, because they were mean, or embroiled in chaos, or enmeshed in election denial, in effect, preventing the Party from achieving its long anticipated Red Wave. Finally, many Democrats find the prospect of a Trump candidacy an appealing one.

Pundits and media mavens alike have long speculated on whether Trump would run in 2024. I’ve long contended he would run again. Why wouldn’t he? In 2020, he attracted more votes than any presidential candidate in the history of Presidential candidates, except for his opponent, Joe Biden. Hubris alone would likely be enough motivation. From the outside looking in, Mr. Trump certainly has other considerations. 

One of the things Trump established during his four years in office was that he is adept at using the precepts of the justice system to avoid, or at least delay, prosecution. At this juncture, prosecutors in multiple states and jurisdictions are building cases against the former President, and that doesn’t even include the January 6 Committee (which admittedly will soon be disbanded, or the Department of Justice, which could take action against him. Team Trump has endeavored to put a pleasant face on the decision to run, suggesting that Ron DeSantis’ increasing momentum threatens to put Trump at a decided disadvantage, if he didn’t act quickly to expedite his run.

Add to Governor DeSantis’ popularity, there are actually a few Republican elected officials who assign blame to Trump for stifling GOP advances during the midterm. The main accusatory theory of the case is that election deniers found sledding particularly difficult in last week’s election. Obviously, election denialism has been Trump’s calling card since prior to the 2020 election…and, of course, very much so, since then. It’s nearly two years until the 2024 Election. There is no certainty that Trump will be his Party’s nominee. But let’s face it; it could happen…”Make America Great Again, Again (MAGAA): Trump Announces!”

I’m done; holla back!

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

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

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

The Eleventh Hour of the Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month Redux ’22

It’s time to Break It Down!

Thirteen years ago, I wrote a post in recognition of Veteran’s Day, and the service personnel we as a nation honor on that day. In 2009, and again in 2015 when I reprised this post, Veterans Day fell on Wednesday. In 2018, the day fell on Sunday. In 2019, on Monday, and in 2020, on Wednesday. This year, the day falls on Friday. Although today is not Veterans Day, it’ll be here in a couple of days. I’ve decided once more, to edit/re-post the Veteran’s Day Edition of “Break It Down!”

Yesterday, of course, was Election Day. I could undertake a blow by blow of the outcomes, but the news with take care of making sure you get the A to Z. Meanwhile, back to my holiday norm. Many of you may know, or at least faintly recall that I frequently alter the blog format to integrate holiday traditions into the discussion. Often holidays are expanded by days away from work, long weekends, travel, and a host of leisure activities. In those cases, I prefer to scale back in recognition that aside from road map directions, GPS instructions, and the like, most of us do very little reading.

As most Americans know, this year marks the 104-year Anniversary of the Armistice that ended World War I, AKA “The Great War,” and/or, “The War That Ended All Wars.” At first, it was known as Armistice Day. It later became known as Veterans Day. But what do we really know about this day that has been set aside to honor real American heroes and sheroes?

Well, first, Veterans Day is not Memorial Day, and vice-versa. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Day is intended largely to honor Living veterans for their service, to acknowledge that their contributions to our national security are appreciated, and to underscore the fact that all those who served – not only those who died – have sacrificed and done their duty. Memorial Day honors those veterans who died in the service of their country, particularly those killed in combat, or because of wounds sustained in battle.

We also know that Veterans Day is a different kind of federal holiday. Except for Sundays, it falls on its actual date. In 1968Congress approved the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. This law, which took effect in 1971, amended the observance of certain federal holidays so that Washington’s BirthdayMemorial DayColumbus Day, and Veterans Day would be observed on Mondays instead of on fixed dates.

Congress passed the Act to increase the number of three-day holiday weekends for federal employees. After a loud and persistent outcry from Veterans and Veterans’ groups, who argued the historical significance of November 11th was compromised by the change, Veterans Day observance was returned to November 11th in 1978.

So how did this affinity for November 11th come about? As with many historical facts, it evolved. As noted earlier, Veterans Day began as Armistice Day. The significance of Armistice Day is that it was the day of the signing of the Armistice that terminated World War I (WW I). In effect, WW I ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. That was when the Germans signed the document, ending hostilities that had begun in 1914President Woodrow Wilson subsequently proclaimed the first Armistice DayNovember 11, 1919.

WW I was deemed The Great War, and was thought by many, at the time, to be “The War That Ended All Wars.” It was, as the numeric designation suggests, the First World War. Of course, more wars would ensue. There was World War II (WW II), later the Korean Conflict, and then Vietnam.

In 1953, a storeowner in Emporia, KansasAl King, launched an idea to honor all Veterans, not just those who served in WW I. The idea took root, sailed through Congress, and President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed it into law May 26, 1954Congress amended the Act November 8, 1954, changing Armistice to Veterans, and thus it has been ever since.

So now, especially remember…”The Eleventh Hour of the Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month Redux ‘22!” To augment a popular bumper sticker, “If you can read this, thank a teacher”…and a veteran.

I’m done; holla back!

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

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

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

Vote ’22 Part 2

It’s time to Break It Down!

Just as was the case last week; any week really, there’s a lot going on in the land. Many subjects would make for ripe, and interesting topics of conversation. Mr. Trump’s attorneys are said to be negotiating testimony by Trump, under oath, before the January 6 Committee, the Supreme Court ruled that Lindsey Graham must testify in the Georgia Inquiry, Liz Cheney hit the stump in Michigan…for a Democrat (Elissa Slotkin), Paul Pelosi, husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, was assaulted early Friday morning in their home; attacker was looking for the Speaker, and wanted to break her kneecaps, and to kill her if she didn’t admit to his version of the truth (according to his own testimony), Republicans, including Trump, and Trump, Jr. joked about the Pelosi incident, while the owner of Twitter, Elon Musk, shared a post from a noted conspiracy theory site to highlight the episode, Harvard University and the University of North Carolina are appearing before the Supreme Court in what is likely a last ditch effort to salvage some modicum of what’s left of race-conscious university admissions (Affirmative Action), in a Hail Mary that seems to have worked, at least in the short term, Chief Justice Roberts temporarily halted the release of Trump’s tax records, Mehmet Oz’s research was rejected in 2003, resulting in a two-year ban by the American Association of Thoracic Surgery, Twitter (under new management) is considering offering a new verification feature…for a price (possibly $8 a month, down from an earlier estimate of $20), and it’s November, Thanksgiving and Black Friday are coming. 

All 10 of those items might make someone’s Top 10. However, just like last week, I opine, none of them trumps (pun intended) the need to vote. Election Day is next Tuesday. North Carolina Early Voting began Thursday, October 20, and ends Saturday, November 5, at 3:00 p.m. If you’re a North Carolina resident, and you haven’t already voted; make a plan, and get it done.

As I indicated in last week’s post, I’m using my voice, last week and this week, and dedicating this space to urging you to vote. It’s my commitment, and your civic duty…”Vote ’22 Part 2!”

I’m done; holla back!

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

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

For more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post, consult the links below:

https://www.cnn.com/2022/11/01/politics/liz-cheney-elissa-slotkin-2022-midterms/index.html

Vote ’22: Part 1!

It’s time to Break It Down!

As per usual, there is a cornucopia of topics worthy of elevating to this space today. Mass shootings continue, unabated. The January 6 Committee is interviewing a series of high-profile Trump Lieutenants. The Justice Department is battling heroically to overcome the hedge of protection formed by the privilege barrier protecting Trump’s top attorneys from providing additional testimony. Ukraine alleges that Putin may be contemplating the use of a dirty bomb. President Biden issued a sharply worded warning against that possibility. Inflation rages. Interest rates are rising. Ye appears to be off his meds. Herschel is still Herschel. Covid-19 is still here.

In my humble opinion, while those items comprise a formidable Top 10, in the near term, none of them is more important than the need to be registered, and to exercise your franchise. Election Day is November 8; Early Voting has commenced in most states that allow it. I will use my voice, and this platform this week and next, to encourage you to attend to your civic duty.

Elections are always partisan matters. This one is no exception. The GOP will Biden-bash and tell you inflation and crime are what bedevil us, and…since Joe’s in charge, it’s his fault. Moreover, they will tell you, they and their largely Trumpian ways are the bromide for what ails us. Don’t fall for the okie-doke. They are not.    

Yes, inflation is soaring…worldwide, fueled significantly by the war in Ukraine, the global pandemic, and supply chain disruption. Look around the globe. 

Crime is out of control in Blue cities and states…they will tell you. Not so fast. In a new study from the center-left think tank Third Way, research shows that states won by Trump in 2020 have higher murder rates than those carried by Biden. The highest murder rates, the study found, are often in conservative, rural states. According to the study, murder rates in the 25 states Trump carried in 2020 are 40% higher overall than in the states Biden won. The analysis was based on 2020 data because 2021 data was not yet available.

The current unemployment rate is 3.5% – a 50-year low. There have been 10 million jobs created, including almost 700,000 manufacturing jobs during Biden’s first two years in office, and there are still 3 months for which the numbers haven’t been tabulated and two months left in the year.

Without a doubt, there is work to be done. Democrats are doing that work. They passed legislation, in some cases, without a single Republican vote (just as they did with Obamacare in the previous Democratic administration), including the Inflation Reduction Act, to lock in lower health care premiums for 13 million Americans and lower prescription drug prices for seniors. 

Partly because of the administration’s actions – including a historic release from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve – gas prices are decreasing. They’re down $1.20 since their peak this summer and just this week they fell another 10 cents.  That’s adding up to real savings for families. Republicans will tell you gas was much lower during Trump’s term. What they will not tell you is, gas was low because of the pandemic lock downs (incidentally, for which they blamed Democrats), and they howled non-stop about how the low prices were hurting businesses. All of that may be true, but d… it, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t complain about it in real time and try to credit Trump for it now. That is, not unless you are now, in retrospect, willing to blame his irrational behavior for making the effects of the pandemic worse. (That did happen).

I didn’t think so!

However, while there is progress, the advances are is at risk. In our vote, Americans face a choice. One that augurs two vastly different visions for America.

As President Biden said of the GOP, “Republican members of Congress are doubling down on mega, MAGA trickle-down economics that benefit the wealthy and big corporations. They’ve laid their plan out very clearly. It would raise your costs and make inflation worse.” 

The Biden administration gave Medicare the authority and flexibility to negotiate lower drug prices. Out-of-pocket prescription drug costs were capped at $2,000 a year for seniors and seniors’ monthly insulin payments were capped at $35 a month. Big Pharma and scores of lobbyists spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to prevent health care savings for Americans.

Many Republicans in Congress are calling to roll back these provisions that lower prescription drug costs – some of which take effect in January. That means the $2,000 cap on prescription drugs for seniors would be gone. The $35-a-month cap on insulin for seniors would be gone. The average savings on health care premiums of $800 a year for millions of Americans would be gone. Republicans would increase those everyday costs. 

Dems are requiring the biggest corporations begin to pay their fair share in taxes. In 2020, 55 of the wealthiest corporations in America paid zero dollars in federal income tax. No longer. President Biden signed into law a 15% corporate minimum tax. And no one earning less than $400,000 a year will pay more in federal taxes.

The Republican plan is to repeal the 15% corporate minimum tax and extend the Trump tax giveaway for the wealthy and large corporations. That would add $3 trillion over 10 years to the deficit and mean an average tax cut of more than $100,000 for the top 0.1% – those earning more than $4 million. 

Republicans plan to cut taxes for the wealthy, and some aim to cut Social Security and Medicare for seniors. Rick Scott, the Senator from Florida who is in charge of electing Republicans, has a plan requiring Congress to vote every five years on keeping, cutting or eliminating Social Security and Medicare. Senator Ron Johnson from Wisconsin has proposed putting Social Security and Medicare on the chopping block every single year.

Republicans have even said that if they win control of Congress they may refuse to raise the debt limit and force our country into default unless we yield to their demands to cut Social Security and Medicare.

You are faced with a choice. Vote for Democrats and protect Social Security and Medicare. 

It should be easier, not more difficult, for hard-working Americans to get by. Biden acted to ease the burden of student debt for families recovering from the pandemic. Republicans criticized the move, of course, but it helps working- and middle-class Americans as they recover from the pandemic. GOP criticism was especially tone deaf, considering those same Republican officials voted for a $2 trillion tax giveaway that mainly benefitted wealthy Americans and the biggest corporations.

Many Republicans in Congress want to pass a national ban on abortion. Biden would veto it, but he needs more Dems, and to retain both Houses of Congress. In a best-case scenario, Dems would codify Roe v. Wade in January.

Democracy in America is being tested. “Nothing about democracy is guaranteed. You have to defend it. Protect it. Choose it.” 

Joe Biden is confident that, just as they did in 2020, the American people will again vote in record numbers and make it clear that democracy is a value that both defines us and unites us as Americans. I, on the other hand, am not so sure.

I do however concur, the stakes couldn’t be higher; the choice couldn’t be clearer. 

Tuesday after next, the American people will decide whether we keep moving forward or go backward…”Vote ’22: Part 1!”

I’m done; holla back!

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

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

For more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post, consult the links below:

https://www.cnn.com/2022/10/25/opinions/american-people-face-a-choice-joe-biden/index.html

Slowly, Surely, Inexorably: Truth Crushed to the Ground Will Rise Again

It’s time to Break It Down!

People, including my friends and family…who am I kidding, especially my friends and family, ask me why I write about Trump so often? His adoring supporters would be quick to call it TDS, commonly known as Trump Derangement Syndrome. 

For the record, it’s not that. I write about him, because whether I (or you, or they, for that matter) like it or not, the guy is in the news every day, every single day. And not just CNN, or the NYT, or WaPo. Watch Fox News any day. Every day. Let me know when a day passes without him being mentioned. Granted, he’s discussed in different lights, depending on the media outlet, but liberal, or conservative, he is bound to be the subject of discussion, sooner or later. Every. Single. Day.

Several outlets reported Monday that documents revealed the Secret Service paid upward of $1.4 million to former President Trump’s company, renting rooms for as much as $1,185 a night, or almost six times the normal maximum hotel rate the federal government pays for traveling employees. This seemingly outrageous deviation from standard practices was reported more than once in real time. Each time it was knocked down by various Trump mouthpieces. Who you gonna believe?

House Oversight Chair Carolyn Maloney, a Democrat from New York, called the rates exorbitant. She added, they raise “significant concern about the former president’s self-dealing” and may have been “a taxpayer-funded windfall” for Trump properties.

Rep. Maloney indicated that her panel has sought a full accounting from the Secret Service on taxpayer money spent at Trump properties for more than two years, to no avail. In a letter to Secret Service director Kimberly Cheatle on Monday, Maloney said the committee found over 40 instances in which the agency paid Trump properties more than the maximum government rate to rent hotel rooms, based on records in hand. 

The letter cited one instance in which the agency paid $1,185 a night for rooms when a protective detail accompanied Donald Trump, Jr. to the Trump-owned Mar-a-Lago resort in November 2017. Placed in context, the maximum government rate for the area is $201 per night.

In another instance, Secret Service agents accompanying Eric Trump, also one of the former president’s sons, paid $1,160 a night at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, though the maximum government room rate for the city is $242 per night.

Maloney’s letter indicated Trump company officials claimed they charged only “minimal fees” for government officials who traveled with the former president and stayed at his properties. The temptation is to just add this to the ledger of 30k+ lies and misleading statements attributed to Trump during his time in office. While I’m uninclined to make that case in this post, you are free to use your own discretion.

Eric Trump said Monday, in an emailed statement, accommodations for the Secret Service or other government agencies “were provided at cost, heavily discounted, or free.”

He went on, “The company would have been substantially better off if hospitality services were sold to full-paying guests, however, the company did whatever it took to accommodate the agencies to ensure they were able to do their jobs at the highest levels.” LOLOL!

Special Agent Steve Kopek, spokesperson for the Secret Service said the Secret Service has received the committee’s letter about hotel charges, and “the agency will respond directly to the committee with the requested information.”

In Rep. Mahoney’s letter, she noted, of documents the Secret Service has provided so far, there is missing information, including, other stays at Trump properties. This includes, but is not limited to, Secret Service room expenses at Mar-a-Lago identified in a 2019 Government Accounting report. The documents also do not include any foreign Trump properties or travel after September 15, 2021. The agency continues to provide protection for Trump.

Government room rates are based on average rates for hotels in the area at the time of year. Agencies generally keep lodging costs at or below those rates, with requests to exceed those rates triggering special scrutiny. Beginning in 2017, the Secret Service was granted extra flexibility to exceed government rates when paying for employees on protective details.

During his presidency, Trump reportedly visited properties he owned 547 times, including 145 visits to his Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, according to the House Oversight and Reform Committee. When it came time for the US to host the Group of Seven Summit for world leaders, he also chose one of his properties, the Trump National Doral Miami, though he later backtracked due to criticism. 

If this were emblematic of a single curious instance of Donald Trump straying from accepted protocols and principles, it would still be damnable, but possibly defensible. A single curious instance? Maybe. But this is not a case of a single curious instance. It conforms with Trump’s pattern and practice; standard operating procedure if you will. Unless you are just down with Trump, no matter what he says or does, and let’s face it, some people are, this requires an interventive reckoning…”Slowly, Surely, Inexorably: Truth Crushed to the Ground Will Rise Again!”

I’m done; holla back!

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

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

For more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post, consult the links below:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-10-17/secret-service-paid-trump-hotels-exorbitant-rates-panel-says

Quiet Quitting COVID-19: Not A Good Idea

It’s time to Break It Down!

This is a short post, predicated on “the science,” but also on my opinion.

As I travel in my own orbit, near and far, I continue to be mindful of Covid-19. President Biden fast forwarded what his administration had intended to be a gradual assent out of the pandemic era. While the administration had plotted a step-by-step course to arrive at post-covid status, the President declared in a “60-Minutes” interview on Sunday, September 18, that, “We still have a problem with Covid. We’re still doing a lot of work on it. But the pandemic is over.”

Suffice it to say, the declaration surprised a few people. His own senior health officials among them, many of whom only learned about the President’s remarks from tweets and news headlines.

When the White House staff reviewed the transcripts after the interview was taped, it did not alert its Covid team. It’s fair to say the announcement met with mix reviews internally, but some argued that the virus is in a manageable state, and it was time to frame it as such.

That may well be, but at the end of August, not that long ago, a Bivalent (Third) Booster was approved. The CDC recommends that everyone 5 and older, including people who are immunocompromised, and received a third dose of Pfizer or Moderna, receive a booster dose. 

There are two types of approved boosters:

Bivalent (updated) Booster: either Moderna or Pfizer, given 2 months after the completion of a primary series or a monovalent (original booster or a 3rd dose (only for immunocompromised people)

Moderna bivalent booster is authorized for ages 18 and up

Pfizer bivalent booster is authorized for ages 12 and up.

Monovalent (original) booster: ONLY Pfizer and is only for ages 5-11 years.

While booster doses are available for everyone age 5 and older, they are strongly recommended (by the CDC) for people older than 50, people who live in long-term care facilities and anyone who received the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

I understand, there are those who dismissed Covid, and others who shunned vaccines. This is not a beat you over the head kind of post. You do you. Consider this one of the circulars in your utility bill…or that you used to get that way, in the event you’ve gone completely digital. Read it, or toss it, at your own discretion.

As for me, good, bad, or indifferent, I’m vaxxed…”Quiet Quitting Covid: Not A Good Idea!”

I’m done; holla back!

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

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

For more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post, consult the links below:

https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/coronavirus-covid-19-update-fda-authorizes-moderna-pfizer-biontech-bivalent-covid-19-vaccines-use

https://www.politico.com/news/2022/09/19/biden-pandemic-over-covid-team-response-00057649

(Protect) Trump Or Bust: The GOP Agenda

It’s time to Break It Down!

For the better part of two years, I’ve told anyone who would deign to listen that the GOP is on a mission, if not single-mindedly, assuredly, first and foremost, to ensure that the anointed one, a.k.a. Donald Trump is held harmless for undertaking myriad shenanigans. If that wasn’t clear after two impeachments, both of which resulted in party impresarios all but laughing Democrats out of the Chamber, the fact that 147 Republicans voted to overturn election results on January 6, eight senators and 139 representatives, should have provided enough persuasion. Alas, for far too many, it did not. 

Oh, did I fail to mention that prior to the vote in which 147 Americans elected to protect our democracy, voted to undo it, a violent mob breached the Capitol and threatened the lives of those very officials? I did fail to mention it; and so, did they, in their attempt to overthrow a duly executed election. Fortunately, failure was the GOP flavor-of-the-day. The insurrection/attempted coup failed, the effort to overturn the election failed, the apparent desired assassination of Vice President Mike Pence failed, and most notably, the drive to retain the Magnate of MAGAdom as Commander-in-Chief…failed.

But anyone who’s paid even a modicum of attention to the denizens of TrumpWorld knows they are indefatigable; quit is not in their vocab. And, in the event they thought about it, he’d wave his Svengali-like wand, and they’d be instantly re-energized. 

In the ensuing 21 months, a lot has transpired. Little, if any of it, surprising. A House of Representatives Committee comprised of 7 Democrats and 2 Republicans and investigated the events of January 6. They have held 8 hearings, and are scheduled to hold one more, most likely its last. The 9th hearing would have been held last Wednesday, but Hurricane Ian ravaged Florida during the week, and the committee delayed the hearing. Thursday, October 13, has been floated as the possible date.

The hearings have been Must-see TV for CNN and MSNBC, and not surprisingly garnered little coverage and scant viewership on Fox. That’s as expected, of course. Trump has endeavored to paint the hearings as a form of political vendetta by his political rivals. He revels as such a dichotomy, and his supporters, surrogates, and sycophants eat it up, hook, line, and sinker.

Never mind that in addition to all the havoc he created, or stoked, related to January 6, the FBI searched his estate in July and found thousands of documents, including more than 100 Classified as Top Secret, that should have been turned over to the National Archives. Trump, or his spokesperson is alleged to have claimed all the documents had been returned. Let’s be clear, they should not have been taken in the first place, a review by the National Archives revealed that a great many documents were still missing.

This led to a visit and subsequent search of Mar-a-Lago by the FBI. Trump and his most ardent defenders maintained, vociferously at some points, that all the Archives staff had to do was ask (nicely< I suppose), and he’d have returned the documents. Interestingly, it turns out, they had been doing just that since early 2020. The effort to follow that tack continued until at least June 2022. At that point, it seemed apparent that the former president had no intention of returning the requested material. In Trump’s divergent approach to responding, he asked a lawyer to tell Archives that all the material had been returned. The attorney, believing this not to be the case declined to make that assertion. Pretty much simultaneously, in other spaces, Trump just audaciously claimed the documents were his. At other times, he argued he had declassified the material…which he said he could do with his mind…simply by thinking about it. And Republicans claim Biden is operating at diminished capacity.

Dean Obeidallah, in an opinion piece, which appeared at cnn.com Monday, argued, “If the GOP wins control of the House of Representatives this November, it will become the “protect Donald Trump from prosecution” caucus. That’s the message we’ve been hearing with increasing frequency from Trump-loving Republicans since August 8, when FBI agents searched the former President’s Mar-a-Lago residence.”

Many in the GOP were incensed by the search. There were immediate calls to “defund the FBI” by some highly vocal GOP lawmakers such as Reps. Lauren BoebertMarjorie Taylor Greene and Paul GosarRepublican candidates for Congress from North Carolina, Ohio, Florida and elsewhere echoed that call – all part of an effort to stop the investigation of Trump.

You probably don’t need to be reminded; this is the same GOP that slammed Democrats for using the term “defund the police” after the murder of George Floyd in May 2020. But when it comes to the defense of Trump, hypocrisy doesn’t matter. In fact, it’s likely the order of the day.

Last Thursday – with little media fanfare – the official Twitter account for GOP members of the House Judiciary Committeetook matters a step further: During a floor debate on a measure to provide additional funding to the Department of Justice, the account tweeted: “Why would anyone support a bill that gives $140 MILLION to the same Department of Justice that raided President Trump’s home?” 

We have gone from some Republicans wanting to defund the FBI to lawmakers seeking to withhold funding to the DOJ, all seemingly to protect their beloved leader.

Republicans have no qualms playing hardball to defund something they don’t approve of. For example, in 2013, Republicans so desperately wanted to defund the Affordable Care Act – President Barack Obama’s landmark health care bill – that they caused a 16-day partial government shutdown

I have heard for some time that “GOP lawmakers are preparing a buffet of investigations” aimed at the FBI and Democratic members of congress, in response to its investigation of Trump. Republican Rep. Chip Roy of Texas, a member of the Judiciary Committee, told Politico that “we ought to do a deep dive into ensuring that the FBI is focused on organized crime, combating crime, and not witch-hunting Americans.”

Witch-hunting,” of course, is a reference to any investigation into the GOP’s beloved leader Trump.

A CBS poll released September 25found that 65% of Republicans respondents said that “loyalty” to Trump is “important.” GOP leaders get that, and as a result, they must defend Trump at all costs – including possibly hampering an investigation into Trump’s possible crimes.

Moreover, certain Republican lawmakers are talking about impeaching President Joe Biden if they regain control of the House. On September 25,speaking about the likelihood of impeaching Biden if the GOP regains control of the House, Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina told NBC’s “Meet the Press,” “I believe there’s pressure on the Republicans to put that forward and have that vote.” 

GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz joined the impeachment chorus last week while appearing on a podcast hosted by Steve Bannon, the former Trump adviser who was recently indicted in New York on money laundering and other fraud-related charges. Bannon pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Gaetz said that impeaching and investigating Biden would be high on the agenda of a GOP-led House.

“If we don’t engage in impeachment inquiries to get the documents and the testimony and the information we need, then I believe that our voters will feel betrayed and that likely, that could be the biggest win the Democrats could hope for in 2024, when it really matters to investigate them and to hold them accountable,” Gaetz said.

The Florida Republican added that if his party takes control of the chamber “bill-making” would be “a far, far diminished priority.”

From Republicans enacting laws barring women from controlling their own bodies to GOP bans on books to the cruelty of how certain GOP governors have treated Latino immigrants seeking a better life, the election will give voters the opportunity to accept or reject such extreme policies. And now, we have another issue to add to the mix: the GOP’s threats to defund or hamstring law enforcement if it pursues Trump.

Anyone who believes that Trump is above the law should obviously vote Republican in November. But for countless Americans who believe that all of us – including the rich and politically connected like Trump – should all be treated equally under the law, the choice is equally clear. “(Protect) Trump or Bust: The GOP Agenda!”

I’m done; holla back!

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

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

For more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post, consult the links below:

https://www.cnn.com/2022/10/02/opinions/trump-house-republicans-investigation-biden-2022-obeidallah/index.html

When Fact Is Stranger Than Fiction: You Can’t Make Up This Stufff

It’s time to Break It Down!

With visions of Josh (Haulin’-Azz) Hawley sprinting through the Capitol, I imagined General Paxton feinting and stutter stepping away from the steely-eyed process server, just trying to do his job. Oh yeah, that’s Attorney General (AG), not a military General. I’m not sure whether that makes the image better or worse. On the one hand, it was not an actual American serviceman, designated as a leader of men (and women) resorting to this pusillanimous tactic. On the other hand, the guy is the highest-ranking legal officer in the great state of Texas; the land where they say everything is big. I’m not sure what that makes Paxton. The Big Chicken?

Oh wait; I have led with the middle of the story. ICYMI, Mr. Paxton is at or near the center of a controversy in Texas about abortion access. He was subpoenaed as part of a lawsuit filed last month by several abortion rights groups, seeking to block Texas officials from bringing cases under Texas’ abortion bans for conduct that happened out of state before Roe v. Wade was overturned.

The affidavit says two subpoenas were issued for Paxton, one under his professional title as attorney general, and another addressed to him individually.

Day before yesterday, Ernesto Martin Herrera served the subpoenas to Paxton at his home, according to the affidavit. Mr. Herrera knocked on the front door and a woman opened it. He indicated he was there to give Mr. Paxton important legal documents. She said Paxton was on the phone and was in a hurry to leave. Herrera left his card and returned to his car.

About an hour later, a car drove into the home’s garage and Paxton exited the vehicle.

“I walked up the driveway approaching Mr. Paxton and called him by his name. As soon as he saw me and heard me call his name out, he turned around and RAN back inside his house through the same door in the garage.”

Later, according to the affidavit, his wife, State Senator Angela Paxton, started the truck. Several minutes later Ken Paxton ran out the door and into the car, trying to avoid Herrera. Mr. Herrera says he again yelled Paxton’s name, saying he had legal documents, but Paxton continued toward the truck.

When Herrera determined Paxton was not going to take the subpoenas from his hand, the affidavit says he yelled to Paxton that he was serving him with legal documents and left them on the ground.

Paxton left in the truck and left the documents on the ground; Herrera said in the affidavit.

AG Paxton responded to the allegation via tweets, saying he is being attacked for trying to “Avoid a stranger lingering outside my home.”

“This is a ridiculous waste of time and the media should be ashamed of themselves.”

“All across the country, conservatives have faced threats to their safety – many threats that received scant coverage or condemnation from the mainstream media.”

“It’s clear that the media wants to drum up another controversy involving my work as Attorney General, so they’re attacking me for having the audacity to avoid a stranger lingering outside my home and showing concern about the safety and well-being of my family.”

Was audacity really the right choice of words there? I digress!

Yesterday, Judge Robert Pitman ruled that Paxton does not have to appear at a hearing related to the abortion access lawsuit after an affidavit alleged that he ran away twice from a person who was serving him with a subpoena related to the lawsuit. Pitman also granted Paxton’s emergency motion to seal the documents.

The Judge said, “Plaintiff’s actions have caused a serious risk” for Paxton because the process server was “unidentified” and “loitered” at the Attorney General’s home for over an hour, repeatedly shouted at him, and accosted both the Attorney General and his wife, a Senator in the Texas legislature. He feared for his safety and refused to engage with the strange man who was lurking outside of his home and repeatedly shouting at him.”  

So, what’s the moral of this story? It is indeed good to have friends in high places…even when high places are your stomping grounds! Looking at this incident in retrospect, Herrera is lucky Paxton didn’t default to Stand your ground. “When Fact Is Stranger Than Fiction: You Can’t Make Up This Stuff!”

I’m done; holla back!

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

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

For more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post, consult the links below:

https://www.cnn.com/2022/09/27/politics/ken-paxton-subpoena-affidavit/index.html

Order In The Court: Special Master Style

It’s time to Break It Down!

There’s an argument to be made that second and third hand news is not news at all, just rumor and conjecture. The thing is that’s how news is typically conveyed. After all, when was the last you were at the front line of a war zone, or in a room with the Royals, or at the table when OPEC decided how much to charge for a barrel of oil? That’s right, when you get down to it, what passes for news is handed down by someone, verbally, or in writing, who got it from someone else, almost all the time.

In these ideologically divided and fraught times, often, the version of the news you choose to embrace depends upon the source, and which way you lean politically. How else does one explain after watching a guy flout convention and norms for the last seven years, nearly as many Americans who don’t trust him, are ready to pledge their support and vote for him to be President of the country? Again!

With that preamble, I want to take a few minutes to explore, for your edification, one of the latest episodes of “What Will He Do Next?

Perhaps you know D. Trump sought and was granted a special master to review the documents the FBI seized when they searched Mar-a-Lago. Judge Aileen Cannon, a Florida US District Judge, appointed by D. Trump, not only agreed to accede to the Trump request, but with DOJ sign-off, assigned a judge approved by Trump, to serve in the capacity of Special Master. 

court hearing in Brooklyn yesterday provided an initial glimpse of how Judge Raymond Dearie, the senior judge selected to fulfil the role, will approach the challenge of reviewing materials seized from former President Donald Trump’s Florida home. 

Judge Dearie is a seasoned and widely respected jurist. He showed skepticism of Trump’s arguments about how the review should proceed, while stressing a desire to move quickly. His appointment order – issued by Judge Cannon – said he must finish his review by the end of November.

Judge Cannon ordered the third-party review, in response to a Trump lawsuit claiming that the review was necessary to filter out materials covered by attorney client privilege, as well personal items that do not belong in the hands of the investigators. It should be noted that lawsuit may have the ultimate effect of running out the clock, as Republicans expect to wrest control of the House of Representatives in the upcoming midterm elections. If that happens as anticipated, a GOP led House will not only quash the current January 6 Hearings, but will likely initiate numerous hearings on Democrats, and possibly launch impeachment hearings against President Biden because, well because Democrats impeached Trump, and if they control the House…they can. But I digress.  

As Judge Dearie starts sifting through the approximately 11,000 documents seized at Mar-a-Lago, the DOJ has asked an appeals court to revive its criminal investigation into the materials marked as classified, as Judge Cannon blocked investigators from using the seized materials during the special master review. 

Here are a few takeaways from yesterday’s hearing in front of Judge Dearie:

Judge Dearie puts Trump on notice that he will need to put up or shut up on declassification

Judge Dearie indicated that he would not have much patience for Trump trying to muddy the waters around the classification status of documents marked as classified, especially if he opts not to produce evidence supporting the claims the records should not be treated as classified. 

“If the government gives me prima facia evidence that these are classified documents, and you, for whatever reason, decide not to advance any claim of declassification, I’m left with a prima facia case of classified documents, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s the end of it,” Dearie told Trump’s lawyers at the hearing.

Jim Trusty, a Trump attorney, said they were not able to fully disclose their defense until they could see the documents.

Judge Dearie, who acknowledged there was political strategy at play, also added there was the practical issue of what recommendations he would need to make to Judge Cannon. He added, “My view of it is you can’t have your cake and eat it.” 

Judge Dearie emphasizes need for speed, putting any Trump delay tactics in jeopardy 

Judge Dearie referenced his November 30 deadline, already after the aforementioned midterms, as he made clear that the review was going to need to move quickly.

“I’m not going to hurry, but we have a lot to do and a relatively short period of time,” he said. 

He made that comment after the Trump team had sought, in their letter Monday, to push back some of the interim deadlines proposed in a draft plan circulated among the parties. Specifically, Trump’s attorneys objected to a proposed October 7 deadline for them to inspect and categorize the materials Judge Dearie has been tapped to review.

During the hearing, Trusty denied they were seeking to revise the schedule as a delay tactic. (Wink, wink.)

“It’s not to be in favor of delay, we want resolution on these things, too.”

Not surprisingly, Dearie did not seem to buy their arguments on the timeline.

There was tension over whether Trump or the judge should even see the sensitive materials 

Judge Dearie stressed that he took seriously the need to protect government secrets, noting the “very strong obligation” that the government must ensure that highly sensitive information does not get out. 

He remarked that if he can make his recommendation to Cannon about certain classified documents without exposing himself or Trump’s lawyers to the material, he would do so.

“It’s a matter of need to know.” Judge Dearie said, referring to the standard in court cases that is used to determine when even those with a security clearance can view classified materials. 

Justice Department attorney, Julie Edelstein, noted that some of the department’s own investigators don’t yet have the special clearances they need to view the particularly sensitive documents.

Trump’s team pushed back on the idea that they could be barred from looking at some of the sensitive materials. Trusty said that it is “kind of astounding to hear the government say that the (former) President’s lawyers don’t have a need to know.”

Judge Dearie brings a serious and focused approach to the job

From the moment he stepped into the courtroom, there were signals that Judge Dearie was viewing the job seriously and had thought through the task at hand. 

He took the bench wearing a dark navy pinstripe suit; in the role, he is not serving as a judge, but as an adviser to the district court in Florida. 

At the outset, Judge Dearie cut directly to the chase, not belaboring any points. 

“I am going to do the best I can with the time available to us.”

He also indicated he saw his role as limited, as he stressed that he would follow closely the instructions from the judge in Florida who appointed him. He told the parties he was tasked with making a “discrete” number of legal judgments.

DOJ hints it may go to SCOTUS if it needs to

 

While the planning around the special master review is playing out, the Justice Department has also asked the 11th Circuit to intervene in the dispute, and on Tuesday, the government’s attorneys signaled they’d turn to the Supreme Court if need be. Of course, it’s entirely possible Trump’s interests may hold sway there.

The Justice Department is asking for the appeals court to lift the hold Judge Cannon placed blocking the use of the materials marked as classified in the Justice Department’s criminal probe. The DOJ is also asking that those documents be excluded from the special master review. 

If the 11th Circuit rules against the DOJ, Edelstein suggested, it would “most likely consider other appellate options at that point,” raising the possibility the Justice Department could ask the Supreme Court to intervene.

Much still unsettled about the next steps

 

The hearing ended with much still undetermined regarding the timing of the review’s next steps. 

Judge Dearie gave Trump’s lawyers until Friday to say which vendor, among the options put forward by the Justice Department, should be used for scanning and hosting copies of the records for the parties to access through the review. The rest of the timeline has yet to be set. 

After the documents are scanned and made available to the parties, the next step would be for the documents to be logged according to the four categories set out by Judge Cannon, with any disagreements between the parties about how records should be logged then brought to Judge Dearie for his take. From there, Judge Dearie will make recommendations to Judge Cannon for how those disagreements should be resolved. 

The four categories Judge Cannon has laid out are personal documents that are claimed as privileged, personal documents that are not privileged, presidential records that are claimed as privileged, and presidential records that are claimed as not privileged.

If one thing is clear from the early going, it is that in picking Judge Dearie, Team Trump may not have secured the lackey they’d hoped would ease their task. It’s still early, but so far, it appears Judge Dearie is playing it straight. “Order In The Court: Special Master Style!”

I’m done; holla back!

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

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

For more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post, consult the links below:

https://www.cnn.com/2022/09/20/politics/takeaways-mar-a-lago-special-master-hearing/index.html