Fake News: Oops, Just Make That News!

It’s time to Break It Down!

The exigencies of TrumpWorld are often disorienting. However, that’s just the way things work in/with the current administration. Or, as the Washington Post framed it this past weekend: “Scoop. Denial. Scoop confirmed. That’s business as usual for writers covering the Trump White House.”

As America zips like an unpredictably wayward shooting star, from one Trump inspired saga to the next imbroglio, to whatever follows, we are challenged to maintain some fundamental sense of social equilibrium. The man most recently elected President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, has cultivated and highly refined a knack for what I like to call establishing a false flag narrative. For example, he vociferously declares a premise to be fake news one day, then subsequently, whether a day, a week, or some other undetermined later timeframe, reverses course. That’s pretty much the general idea.

According to the New York Times, the paper had a big scoop earlier this month. Based upon its sources, the paper reported that President Trump was considering re-staffing the legal team serving as his counsel in the investigation conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller, regarding whether Russia interfered with our 2016 election.

But wait! Enter the predictably unpredictable wayward shooting star, D.J. Trump. Within hours of the story’s release, Mr. Trump challenged the veracity of the story. He tweeted:

“The Failing New York Times purposely wrote a false story stating that I am unhappy with my legal team on the Russia case and am going to add another lawyer to help out. Wrong. I am VERY happy with my lawyers, John Dowd, Ty Cobb and Jay Sekulow. They are doing a great job. . . . The writer of the story, Maggie Haberman, a Hillary flunky, knows nothing about me and is not given access.”

Classic Trump. Classic false flag narrative. As it turned out, this story, and a second one earlier this week (Last week now) updating Trump’s legal search turned out to be, shall we say, in a word, accurate. Last Thursday, Trump’s lead attorney, John Dowd, resigned three days after Trump added Joseph diGenova, a former federal prosecutor and sometimes Fox News commentator, to his legal team.

During the previous week, the Washington Post broke some news about a pending shakeup among White House advisers. Sources held that Trump had decided to remove national security adviser H.R. McMaster. A few hours later, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders flatly rejected the very idea.

“Just spoke to @POTUS and Gen. H.R. McMaster – contrary to reports they have a good working relationship and there are no changes” at the National Security Council,” she tweeted.

That denial stood up for a week, until last Thursday when the White House announced McMaster’s departure (UNC Ph. D.) and the President named his replacement in the name of former U.N. ambassador John Bolton, not surprisingly, also a periodic Fox News commentator. Fox News is trending as a major supplier of staff members to the Trump administration. Who knew they had such hefty HR chops?

Of course the White House has it’s own rationalization. Officials contend it’s possible for events to change quickly, and a denial at one moment is, in fact, an accurate and truthful reflection of the immediate state of play. Until the president actually makes a decision, they say, a news story projecting the course of events can be speculative and even inaccurate. They add it is particularly true of personnel decisions because new events can intervene, undermining the President’s previous confidence in a top aide.

To make that point, one administration official alluded to President Obama’s expression of confidence in his embattled veterans affairs secretary, Eric K Shinseki, in May 2014. However, later in the same month, under mounting pressure and criticism of Shinseki from Congress, President Obama reversed course and accepted Shinseki’s resignation.

Also in support of the administration’s position, former White House press secretary Sean Spicer said in an interview that reporters have their own form of denial – by speculating about events and then never correcting the record when things don’t pan out, as they were first described. He added:

“I’ve seen plenty of reports saying so-and-so is going to be out by the end of the week, and then so-and-so is still there a few months later. No one admits they got it wrong.”

The arguments in favor of the administration notwithstanding, last week’s stories from The NYT and WP suggest that Trump’s penchant for claiming fake news just doesn’t hold water. Frequently, the news isn’t fake, just inconvenient, and ill timed from the White House’s point of view.

As a result, some White House reporters view the administration’s denials of otherwise well-sourced information with healthy skepticism.

Peter Baker, a veteran NYT reporter viewed it this way:

“Unfortunately, this happens often enough that reporters have learned that we can’t trust the denials. It doesn’t help anyone when reporters have to assume that what the White House tells us may not be true or that a White House statement will prove inoperative just days or even hours later.”

Maggie Haberman, who with Mr. Baker, co-wrote the stories about Trump’s legal team, reacted to Trump’s denials with what amounted to the verbal equivalent of a sigh.

“He denied (the two stories) both times,” she tweeted on Thursday. “It all stems from him. People can focus on staff and I certainly have, but at the end of the day it’s the president who runs things this way and makes the choices to deny true stories and attempt to confuse people.”

The denial tactic is an enduring staple of the Trump administration. As the post-election transition ensued, a spokesman denied a Washington Post report that General Jim Mattis would be his nominee for secretary of defense; Trump confirmed it within hours at a public appearance. In October, the White House denied a Post story that Trump would decertify the Iran nuclear agreement as not in the national interest. Surprise…he ended up doing so.

Some have speculated that all this could just be Trump’s mechanism for confusing an issue and playing to his eager-to-believe-anything-he-says-base. Reporters have surmised that Trump sometimes employs denials to maintain an orderly calm until it’s no longer possible to do so. In fact, some outlets reported Thursday that Trump was angry that Bolton walked through the White House’s front gate and was spotted by reporters, thereby spoiling a big “reveal.”

The mere introduction of something that turns out to be false into our information system means that it’s out there, and the vast majority of people will never hear the correction. Nikki Usher, an associate professor in the school of media and public affairs at George Washington University said:

“Even introducing something that turns out to be false into our information system means that it’s out there, and the vast majority of people will never hear the correction. Or if they do hear the correction and acknowledge it to be factually accurate, we now know this doesn’t even matter because their enduring partisanship remains. It is the best tactic, actually, to introduce false information into the news ecosystem because most people will never notice that it has been corrected. If they do, they’ll find reasons to dismiss the correction as insignificant, leaving their underlying support intact.”

When all is said and done, don’t be discouraged when Trump cries fake news; relax, exhale, and before you know it, it will simply be news. Fake News: Oops, Just Make That News!”

I’m done; holla back!

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

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As The Fox World Turns: Mueller Attacked, Smith Claps Back, and Peters Exits

It’s time to Break It Down!

Fox News, also known as Fox News Channel (FNC) is a basic cable and satellite television news channel owned by the Fox Entertainment Group, a subsidiary of 21st Century Fox. The network was created by Australian-American media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who hired former Republican Party media consultant and CNBC executive Roger Ailes as its founding CEO.

FNC has been accused of biased reporting, promoting the Republican Party and shilling for a variety of conservative causes. In many circles, much of what appears on the network is not actually considered news. Not surprisingly, unless you are immersed in the FNC orbit, you already knew that. While critics and detractors contend the channel is detrimental to the integrity of news overall, FNC employees retort that its news reporting division operates independently of its opinion and commentary programming division; they (those on the opinion side) have in turn denied bias in news reporting.

For the past 14 months, since Donald Trump has been President, FNC has emerged as the President’s virtual lifeline, inspiration, and cultivator of a cult-like following. It has been frequently reported that Trump starts his mornings with a healthy dose of Fox and Friends. His subsequent tweets often take on the tenor of whatever rant the Fox hosts started the morning by hammering. Recently Sean Hannity has been excoriating Robert Mueller. Monday, for the first time, Trump actually used Mueller’s name in a full-frontal attack. To turn a phrase, as usual, Trump and FNC, at least the opinion and commentary segment, are simpatico.

Shepard Smith, who serves in the capacity of FNC’s chief news anchor, and who signed a new contract Thursday, expressed his gratitude and excitement at being given the opportunity to continue leading the news division. He said:

“I am incredibly proud to be part of a group of journalists who helped build the Fox news division from scratch 22 years ago and extremely thankful for the opportunity to continue to lead our breaking news coverage for years to come. Our team’s commitment to delivering facts to our loyal viewers in context and with perspective, without fear or favor, is unwavering. The investment that Mr. Murdoch has infused into our already strong news division affords us endless opportunities. I am excited for the future and honored to continue to call Fox News my home.”

It appears the proverbial, all Trump, all the time, love fest has begun to take a toll on the collaborative interworking dynamics at the vaunted network. Mr. Smith was one of the network’s original hires in 1996. He has been one of the few; I would even say rare, Fox employees to eschew the company’s party line (pun intended) when it comes to Trump. In fact, he has gone so far as to contradict the President’s claims that the investigation into possible Russian interference in 2016 was a Democratic “hoax.” Smith said on air in February:

“This is an American investigation. And this is not a hoax. The Russians interfered. The Russians were sanctioned by Congress, the President has not put those into place, and the question is why,” he said at the time.

The well-regarded anchor, who Rupert Murdoch described as an “exemplary journalist,” stated firmly, the line between news and opinion on the network is clearly drawn – and he knows which side he’s on.

Oh yes, I mentioned the stresses of push-pull, yin-yang, and the resulting toll. In an interview with Time magazine last Thursday, Smith compared the networks news and opinions divisions this way:

“We serve different masters. We work for different reporting chains, we have different rules. They don’t really have rules on the opinion side. They can say whatever they want. I get it that some of our opinion programming is there strictly to be entertaining. I get that. I don’t work there. I wouldn’t work there. I don’t want to sit around and yell at each other and talk about your philosophy and my philosophy. That sounds horrible to me.”

He did not directly call out colleagues such as Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, and Laura Ingraham, by name. But there is little doubt any of them missed the hard inside fastball, around zipper level. Moreover, if you’ve ever listened to Sean Hannity and Company, and I admit, since the ascendancy of Trump to the throne…I mean, to the Presidency, I have periodically glanced “over there” to see how differently they cover the news of the day, and occasionally to see what passes for excuses for not covering Trump’s latest hijinks, you know that about all you had to do was count down 3, 2, 1, before they’d utter some variation of a Trump inspired response.

OK, so it took until the next day, but sure enough, on Friday, Hannity tweeted (of course he did…Trump must have been so proud) that Smith was “clueless” about what Hannity does on his show each night. Hannity said he counted Smith as a friend and respected his ability to deliver breaking news, but he wrote that Smith held “political views I do not share.” In the past, Hannity has called Smith “so anti-Trump.”

Laura Ingraham is the most recent addition to the FNC prime time lineup. She tweeted that she “always liked” Smith, but thought his comments critical of Fox News opinion programming were “inconsiderate & inaccurate.” At first blush, that sounded downright snow flakey. How could she possibly be so sensitive and still be a stout representative of the Right? Fake news, I guess.

But there’s more. Yesterday, Ralph Peters, a retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel who served as a military analyst for FNC, in announcing his departure from the network denounced the outlet as a “propaganda machine,” devoted to President Trump. He went on to add that FNC was:

“Wittingly harming our system of government for profit.”

In his stunning internal exit memo, Peters said he felt compelled to explain his leaving the organization to his colleagues before skewering the network he has called home for years. He distilled his thoughts in a nuclear fashion, thusly:

“Four decades ago, I took an oath as a newly commissioned officer. I swore to support and defend the Constitution, and that oath did not expire when I took off my uniform. Today, I feel that Fox News is assaulting our constitutional order and the rule of law, while fostering corrosive and unjustified paranoia among viewers. Over my decade with Fox, I long was proud of the association. Now I am ashamed.”

In Peters’ letter, first reported on by BuzzFeed, and independently confirmed by CNN, Peters said he felt FNC “degenerated from providing a legitimate and much-needed outlet for conservative voices” to morphing into a “mere propaganda machine for a destructive and ethnically ruinous administration.”

Peters called out the Fox News opinion hosts’ relentless attacks on the FBI, Justice Department, intelligence agencies, and other branches of government. He characterized Fox News as harming the country in exchange for making a profit. He went on to emphasize that his criticism did not apply to Fox Business, or the hard news reporters, whom he described as some of the best men and women in the business.

Naturally, FNC came to its own defense. The network issued the following statement last night:

“Ralph Peters is entitled to his opinion despite the fact that he’s choosing to use it as a weapon in order to gain attention. We are extremely proud of our top-rated hosts and all of our opinion programming.”

Clearly, FNC has faced some degree of strife and criticism internally. In October, “Fox News Sunday” anchor Chris Wallace told the Associated Press he was bothered by how some of his colleagues on the opinion side of the network used their platform to attack the media. At this point, it may not be much more than a drip, drip, drip. But the frequency just may be increasing. From my perspective, that’s a good thing. As The Fox World Turns: Mueller Attacked, Smith Claps Back, and Peters Exits!”

I’m done; holla back!

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

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

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Another Week, Another Swamp Denizen, or Two, or Three, Drained

It’s time to Break It Down!

A week ago yesterday Donald Trump’s Chief Economic Adviser, Gary Cohn exited TrumpWorld. Yesterday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was fired-by-tweet. There are many reasons that could have prompted the President to unceremoniously terminate Tillerson’s employment, ranging from his alleged reference to his boss as an “effi’n (full spelling) moron,” (which he subsequently refused to deny), to his opposing opinion about the efficacy of proceeding with plans for Trump to meet directly with North Korea’s Kim Jung-un. In any event, while that was indeed the main event, there was both a bonus, and a double-bonus that were also pretty good; I suppose that’s why they’re called bonus and double bonus.

In addition to firing Tillerson, the administration also fired his top spokesman, Steve Goldstein. Shortly after Trump’s morning tweetocide of Tillerson, Goldstein noted that Tillerson had not spoken directly to the President about the move. He said:

“The Secretary had every intention of remaining because of the tangible progress made on critical national security issues. The Secretary did not speak with the President this morning and is unaware of the reason, but he is grateful for the opportunity to serve, and still believes strongly that public service is a noble calling and not to be regretted.”

Goldstein, it appears, did not get the memo. It’s true Donald Trump appreciates loyalty. However, the complete thought is, Donald Trump appreciates people who are loyal to him. Mr. Goldstein’s display of allegiance to Tillerson, who’d already been dismissed, was clearly a deeply misplaced gesture, from Trump’s perspective. Nevertheless, Goldstein took his own termination with high honor and nobility. He said in his lengthy post termination statement:

“I was proud to speak on behalf of the Secretary of State to the American people and allies throughout the world and this has been the honor of a lifetime.

It’s within the purview, you are appointed by the administration and you are appointed for the time being. That is what is listed on your commission and it is determined by the White House who they want in these roles.

I don’t have regret, other than you always want to try to do more, but I feel proud of what we achieved and I am so impressed by the Secretary of State. He is a truly great man.

I look forward to getting more rest and hopefully winning an indoor rowing competition.”

In yesterday’s final Trump firing – strike three as it were, Trump’s ‘body man’ John McEntee was fired abruptly, and escorted from the White House for security reasons, according to the Wall Street Journal. Representative Elijah Cummings, Democrat – MD wrote about McEntee’s firing:

“This recent report about President Trump’s personal assistant is just the latest indication that the process for vetting White House employees for security issues is seriously flawed.”

Last week, Trump said there is no chaos in the White House, just lots of great energy. Inexplicably, his supporters agree. I do not. I cannot. Full stop!

As 2016 Donald Trump said repeatedly, “Drain the swamp.” That, of course, was the thrust of last week’s post, (https://thesphinxofcharlotte.com/2018/03/07/draining-the-swamp-one-former-trump-appointee-at-a-time/). In a not so surprising way, it’s as though this week is a déjà vu all over again, a “Groundhog Day” the movie, kind of week. The thing is that has quickly become the legacy of TrumpWorld.

A great deal has been made of the tumult, turbulence, and turmoil that unfold on a regular basis, almost solely as a result of the fact that the current occupant of the White House…is the current occupant of the White House. He claims he is ‘Making America Great Again,” and that he is the only one who can. His supporters and spinners insist that he is unduly targeted and unfairly attacked because of his “unconventional” tactics and unfiltered comments. The other 60+% of Americans, including the more than three million more who voted for his opponent rather than him, argue that his rhetoric is crass, demeaning, and filled with hateful flourishes, while his policies are designed to segment and separate groups into competing, often near-warring factions.

George Orwell warned in his dystopian novel, “1984,” that authoritarianism begins with language. In that setting, “newspeak” was language twisted to deceive. From the very onset, Team Trump attempted to use news and language to deceive Americans. Trump’s first Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, alleged on his first day on the job, in his first instance behind the podium, that Trump’s Inauguration was the largest ever. That was a deception, a claim that if made by anyone not representing President Trump, would simply have been called a lie. The administration would go on to double down on this fanciful misrepresentation when Counselor to the President, Kellyanne Conway, characterized Spicer’s depiction as “alternative facts. A rose by any other name, or in that case a lie euphemistically framed.

The President hired Spicer and Conway, so it is understandable that they shill for their guy. After all, they owe him their loyalty, which he unabashedly demands, and their jobs, from which he has been known to threaten to dismiss staffers. However, day before yesterday, the House Intelligence Committee opted summarily to end its Russia investigation. They declined to even consult with the Democrats on the committee before doing so. In explaining the rationale for their decision, spokesmen for the committee said they found no evidence of collusion by the Trump Campaign with the Russians, and that despite the findings of the U.S. intelligence community that the Russians endeavored to help Donald Trump’s campaign, while simultaneously working to undermine Clinton’s, the Committee concluded that the intelligence agencies were simply wrong on that singular point.

Unlike Trump’s appointees, the House members on this committee are elected, and have taken an oath to represent and take actions that reflect the will of the people who sent them to Washington. I suppose they either believe they were elected by the 38% (Trump supporters), and surely some of them were, or that they to are obligated to render fealty to Trump, just as his appointees seem to feel they must do. But, I digress. This brief edition is about the Tillerson imbroglio.

Remember last may when James Comey discovered he was fired from TV, while talking to a group of FBI Agents in Los Angeles? Well, Tillerson’s episode yesterday reflected the next phase, direct from Trump’s favorite social media platform…his Twitter Account. “Another Week, Another Swamp Denizen, or Two, or Three, Drained!”

I’m done; holla back!

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

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

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Draining The Swamp: One Former Trump Appointee at-a-Time

It’s time to Break It Down!

Yesterday Gary Cohn, Trump’s top Economic Adviser resigned. Cohn resigned after losing a political and ideological debate with the President. A disagreement which centered around the virtue, or lack thereof, regarding the steel and aluminum tariffs that Trump has insisted he will impose, even on our closest trading partners, Canada and Mexico. This was not Cohn’s first occasion finding himself at cross-purposes with Trump. Last year in August, when Trump found it excruciatingly difficult to condemn white supremacists and Nazis after their disruptive activity in Charlottesville, VA, some reports contended Cohn nearly resigned.

In an interview with the Financial Times, conducted Thursday after the Charlottesville incident, Cohn, a high profile Jewish member of the administration and former Goldman Sachs executive, said Trump’s handling of the violence and protests (Trump condemned violence “on many sides,” drawing immediate backlash) caused him “distress.” He added:

“The administration can and must do better to condemn hate groups.”

In some corners, folks are noting that at least in resigning now, Cohn established that he really does have a red line regarding the President’s actions. While it apparently was not the President’s failure to issue a full-throated disavowal of white nationalists and Nazis, infuriating America’s major trading partners was simply a bridge too far for the free trade advocate. That did the trick. In full disclosure, it is also worth noting that Cohn coveted, and was vying to become the next Federal Reserve Chairman. In as much as that ship sailed in January when Jerome Powell was confirmed as the new Fed Chair, if Cohn is once again mad as hell, there is now no residual need to take it anymore. So he didn’t!

In case this development seems like “just another chaotic day in TrumpWorld, and it clearly does, Mr. Cohn’s exit reminds me of a narrative I touched upon over 5 months ago, when I cited a least 30 individuals and two entire Councils that had been dismissed, or who had resigned from the Trump administration. That list follows:

  • General Michael Flynn – National Security Advisor (resigned) – 22 days
  • Sean Spicer – Press Secretary (resigned) – 182 days
  • Anthony Scaramucci – Director of Communications (fired) – 10 days
  • Reince Priebus – Chief of Staff (resigned) – 189 days
  • Steve Bannon (mutual agreement) – 210 days
  • Sebastian Gorka (unclear) – 217 days
  • Carl Ichan (resigned) – 210 days
  • White House Manufacturing Council (dissolved) – 201 days
  • White House Economic Council (dissolved) – 201 days
  • Denise Morrison – Advisory Council (resigned) – 201 days
  • Inge Thulin – Advisory Council (resigned) 201 days
  • Thea Lee – Advisory Council (resigned) 200 days
  • Scott Paul – Advisory Council (resigned) 200 days
  • Richard Trumka – Advisory Council (resigned) 200 days
  • Kenneth C. Frazier – Advisory Council (resigned) – 199 days
  • Kevin Plank – Advisory Council – (resigned) – 199 days
  • Brian Krzanich – Advisory Council (resigned) – 199 days
  • Derek Harvey National Security Council Advisor (fired) – 186 days
  • Michael Short Assistant Press Secretary (resigned) – 186 days
  • Walter Shaub Director Office of Government Ethics (resigned) – 180 days – (resigned)
  • Robert Iger – Advisory Council (resigned) – 133 days (resigned)
  • Elon Musk – Advisory Council (resigned) – 132 days
  • Mike Dubke – Director of Communications (resigned) – 85 days
  • McFarland – Deputy National Security Advisor (resigned) 117 days
  • James Comey – FBI Director (fired) – 109 days
  • Angela Reid – Chief Usher (fired) – 105 days
  • Katie Walsh – Deputy White House Chief of Staff (resigned) – 69 days
  • Craig Deare – National Security Council Senior Director (fired) – 26 days
  • Travis Kalanick – Advisory Council (resigned) – 13 days
  • Sally Yates – Acting Attorney General – fired – 10 days

As you might imagine, and rightfully so, the list has only grown since that August 30th Post (https://thesphinxofcharlotte.com/2017/08/30/hurricane-harvey-unprecedented-and-fortuitously-timely/). I can no longer be held responsible for ensuring that the list is complete. It does change frequently. In an effort to hit the high points, here are some of the people who have seen the light, and escaped, been forced to resign, or in straight-up “Apprentice-fashion,” fired, since that Wednesday in August.

  • Tom Price Health & Human Services Secretary – Resigned in September (Travelgate)
  • Dina Powell Deputy National Security Adviser – Resigned in December (A former George W. Bush administration official, said to have left on good terms)
  • Omarosa Menigault Newman Communications Officer – Resigned in December (Said to have been forcibly escorted off the White House property; call it resigned if you like}
  • Brenda Fitzgerald CDC Director – Resigned in January (Tobaccogate)
  • Rob Porter Staff Secretary – Resigned (Technically; in reality, he was fired) in February (Spouse Beating Syndrome/which he denied)
  • Hope Hicks White House Communications Director – Resigned in February (Muellered)
  • Gary Cohn Economic Adviser – Resigned in March (Not Promoted)

Outside of Trump’s head, and the Fox News bubble, which I surmise has probably been arranged to portray a reasonable facsimile of the inside of Trump’s head, many observers and a host of news outlets have concluded the administration is immersed in chaos. Not surprisingly, Trump has dismissed this verifiably logical conclusion. He, in fact, insists that his White House is filled with positive energy. Yesterday at his news conference he argued he would have his pick of “ten top people” for the openings in his White House. “There is no chaos, only great energy!”

“Everybody wants to be there. And they love this White House because we have energy like rarely before. OK?”

While some Republicans have expressed reservations about whether they would like to work for the Trump White House, the President’s take on the matter is, “Maybe people don’t want to work for Trump, but everybody wants to work in the White House. Not only does it look good on a resume, but the White House is a great place to work; it’s got tremendous energy.”

Even among insiders at the Trump White House, there are those who see more chaos than that unlimited source of great energy the President claims. But that’s a conversation for another day. After contemplating the significance of the Trump Administration’s revolving staff door, I believe I’ve found an island of virtue in the midst of a sea of despair. The President has a jewel of a plan to keep his campaign promise. “Draining The Swamp: One Former Trump Appointee at a Time!”

I’m done, holla back!

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

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

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NBA Champs Skip White House: Take Students to Visit National Museum of African American History and Culture

It’s time to Break It Down!

On the final day of last summer (September 22, 2017), the Golden State Warriors’ phenom Step Curry voiced his disinterest in taking the customary ceremonial visit to the White House, a time-honored tradition observed by many Championship sports teams in America. Curry is one among a host of luminaries who have consistently expressed their displeasure with President Trump, based on his policies and his rhetoric. During the team’s media day, Curry had the following to say:

“My views haven’t changed at all. I don’t know if anybody’s changed. But that’s where I stand right now. I don’t want to go. That’s my nucleus of my belief.”

A number of Curry’s teammates, and his coach, Steve Kerr, expressed similar sentiments. Kevin Durant said he would not go. So did David West. Draymond Green added:

“We’re going to have a discussion to pretty much take the temperature of everyone. We’re going to decide what is best, whatever we think is best for us.”

Curry further explained his reservations thusly:

“Basically the things he said and the things he hasn’t said at the right times, we won’t stand for it. By acting and not going, hopefully that will inspire some change when it comes to what we tolerate in this country and what’s accepted and what we turn a blind eye to.”

Steph noted the travails of Colin Kaepernick, whom Trump disparaged for kneeling during the National Anthem as a way to protest police brutality toward minorities. He also referenced Seahawks’ defensive end Michael Bennett, who said he experienced racial profiling following the Mayweather-McGregor fight, when he had a gun drawn on him.

He conceded not going to the White House is not the equivalent of a silver bullet, and will not instantly or miraculously make all things right with the world. But it is, he said, his opportunity to give voice to those kinds of concerns. Coach Kerr, General Manager Bob Myers, and Co-owner Joe Lacob agreed the decision deserved a proper forum and the right amount of thought. Myers revealed that though there had been a discussion with the White House, they had not granted a formal invitation. But that was soon a moot point.

As you know, Mr. Trump considers himself the King of clap back. So, shortly after hearing about what he considered Curry’s unimaginably injurious slight, he withdrew the invitation that, while implied due to custom, technically had not yet been extended. But I digress. As I find myself saying, far too often these days, and thinking more frequently than I say, this kind of tit-for-tat hijinks might actually be mildly amusing…were it not for the fact that they involve the Leader of the Free World as an integral player.

Fast-forward to Saturday (the next day), and Mr. Trump fired up his Twitter feed, and framed his retort, “officially,” rescinding an invitation that was never, in reality, tendered, with however many clicks of his keypad:

“Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team.Stephen Curry is hesitating,therefore invitation is withdrawn!”

One presumes this kind of hissy fit of a rejoinder renders Trump immensely satisfied, and his teeming mass of ardent supporters in a state of full-scale euphorically orgasmic relief. Again, if only this were a segment of a weekly comedy special, instead of acts characteristically endemic of the daily routine of the man wearing the title POTUS. Sad.

Be that as it may, that was then. Yesterday, the Warriors sojourned to the Nation’s Capital and spent the day reaching back to students. Kevin Durant has roots in the D.C. area. He grew up in Suitland, MD, outside of the District. The students selected for the visit attend his former elementary school in Pleasant Seat. Speaking of those youngsters, Durant said:

“Kids from my area don’t really get that opportunity to be in front of champions like that. So hopefully it will inspire them to just be whatever they want to be in life.”

To merge the visit, contextually, with the pending end of Black History Month, the team planned a visit with those students to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Durant was particularly excited about the opportunity to be a part of the team taking kids from his old “hood” to see the Museum, while facilitating their introduction to members of the Warriors team. Before the visit he opined:

“Hanging with the kids tomorrow is going to be pretty cool as well. Celebrate our Championship with the kids, especially in the neighborhood I grew up in. It’s going to be pretty amazing. I just want them to take it in. I want them to meet Steph and Klay. … Hopefully we set a good example. I know we set a good example every time we walk on the court and every time we walk around. It’s going to be cool to be up close and personal.”

It is worth noting that Steph and Klay actually did visit the White House earlier, when the Warriors won the NBA Title in 2015 and subsequently visited with President Obama in 2016. Durant was not with the team at that time, but, as with the majority of the players, coaches, management, and team ownership, he was on board with the collective team decision to ditch what would have been the 2018 Edition of the (2017) NBA Champions’ White House visit. The paramount reason and specific business purpose for the Warriors’ visit to the Nation’s Capital comes this evening when they play The Washington Wizards. Nevertheless, it’s a near certainty that yesterday’s visit to the NMAAH&C with students from Seat Pleasant, Maryland was critically important to the entire organization, and especially to their newest star and DMV homeboy, Kevin Durant. That’s why this post is entitled, “NBA Champs Skip White House: Take Students to Visit National Museum of African American History and Culture!”

I’m done; holla back!

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

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Witch Hunt. Hoax. Fake News. Phony Scam. #NotAnymore!

It’s time to Break It Down!

Donald J. Trump has consistently maligned the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, using terms like witch hunt, hoax, fake news, and phony scam. If you’ve followed the situation, you know he hasn’t stopped there. Mr. Trump routinely levels broadside assaults against the FBI, and ignores the assessment of his own (as in he appointed them) Intelligence Agency Directors. In the considered opinion of the collective American Intel community, The Russians meddled in the 2016 Presidential Election. This has turned out to be quite problematic, but not because of the reason(s) one might think.

The very idea of this conclusion is akin to a bur in Trump’s very ample saddle. By his way of thinking, the mere suggestion that anything other than his personal brilliance, and stellar campaign tactics were responsible, in any way, for his victory, is not just a rank miscalculation, but also an affront to his not so refined sensibilities.

The Leader of the free world is so personally absorbed with his perception of being ill-treated by the FBI, he asserted that the Agency was responsible for the recent Florida school shooting because…they were obsessed with Trump, rather than with conducting the appropriate follow-up on Nikolas Cruz, the young man who killed 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL on Valentine’s Day. Of course, this completely ignores the fact that the FBI has 35,000 employees, and that the criminal investigation in Florida is in no way connected with the political meddling case. other than that, the argument is still completely illogical on its face.

Add to all this the fact that Trump refuses to take Vladimir Putin and Russia to task for their fundamentally bad actor moves; not even by executing Sanctions already approved by the U.S. Senate by a vote of 98-2, and in the House by a vote of 419-3, or a total in the entire Congress of 517-5. In other words, in this hyper-partisan era, 99.4% of the entire Congress voted for Sanctions that the President refuses to enact. Does that mean the President of the United States has more faith, trust, and confidence in Putin than in his own FBI, and more respect for Vlad than he does the United States Congress, in which his Party controls both Houses? You be the judge!

Last Friday, Deputy Attorney Rod Rosenstein held a news conference at which he detailed charges related to indictments against 13 Russian Nationals and three Russian entities for trying to influence the 2016 Presidential Election in the United States…in favor of Donald Trump. Boom! As they say in the MiO commercial, “This changes everything.”

A summary of the 37-page indictment, as detailed by Bloomberg, includes several key elements:

Twelve of the Russians worked in various capacities to carry out election and political interference operations targeting the U.S. — “by impairing, obstructing and defeating the lawful function of the government through fraud and deceit.”

The campaign started in 2014, ran through the presidential election of 2016, and continued after that.

“Some defendants, posing as U.S. persons and without revealing their Russian association, communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump campaign and with other political activists.”

An American with a Texas-based grass-roots organization suggested to the Russians that they should focus their activities on “purple states like Colorado, Virginia and Florida.” After the exchange, the Russians commonly referred to targeting those states.

Their financing was provided by the 13th defendant, Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin and companies which he allegedly controlled.
Mueller Accuses Russians of Pro-Trump, Anti-Clinton Meddling

The Russians posed as Americans, created fake personas, and ran social media pages and groups designed to attract U.S. audiences, including on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. They also used stolen identities of real Americans to post on those accounts.

The goal was “to sow discord in the U.S. political system,” including the presidential election, by supporting the Trump campaign and disparaging his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, with ads and rallies.

They’re charged with failing to disclose those expenditures, failing to register as foreign agents and obtaining visas through false and fraudulent statements.

The program was run from St. Petersburg, Russia.

It employed hundreds of individuals for its online operations

The organization, with an annual budget equivalent to millions of U.S. dollars, aimed to carry out “information warfare” against the U.S.

From Introduction to Substitute Assets, Mueller’s Indictment covers 99 individually enumerated topics, several of which also included alpha-based subdivisions. To give you an idea of the depth of the strategies and tactics the Russians employed, I pulled items 43-46 for your edification. These elements focus on the Russian operatives communicating derogatory information about Trump’s GOP Primary opponents, and Hillary Clinton, and communicating information in support of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. During the General Election, they produced and distributed an array of pro-Trump and anti-Clinton election materials, maintained corresponding social media accounts, and undertook a variety of efforts to suppress minority voting.

  1. By 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators used their fictitious online personas to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election. They engaged in operations primarily intended to communicate derogatory information about Hillary Clinton, to denigrate other candidates such as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and to support Bernie Sanders and then-candidate Donald Trump. 43. By 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators used their fictitious online personas to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election. They engaged in operations primarily intended to communicate derogatory information about Hillary Clinton, to denigrate other candidates such as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and to support Bernie Sanders and then-candidate Donald Trump.
  2. Certain ORGANIZATION-produced materials about the 2016 U.S. presidential election used election-related hashtags, including: “#Trump2016,” “#TrumpTrain,” “#MAGA,” “#IWontProtectHillary,” and “#Hillary4Prison.” Defendants and their co-conspirators also established additional online social media accounts dedicated to the 2016 U.S. presidential election, including the Twitter account “March for Trump” and Facebook accounts “Clinton FRAUDation” and “Trumpsters United.”
  3. Defendants and their co-conspirators also used false U.S. personas to communicate with unwitting members, volunteers, and supporters of the Trump Campaign involved in local community outreach, as well as grassroots groups that supported then-candidate Trump. These individuals and entities at times distributed the ORGANIZATION’s materials through their own accounts via retweets, reposts, and similar means. Defendants and their co-conspirators then monitored the propagation of content through such participants.
  4. In or around the latter half of 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators, through their ORGANIZATION-controlled personas, began to encourage U.S. minority groups not to vote in the 2016 U.S. presidential election or to vote for a third-party U.S. presidential candidate.
  • On or about October 16, 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators used the      ORGANIZATION-controlled Instagram account “Woke Blacks” to post the following message: “[A] particular hype and hatred for Trump is misleading the people and forcing Blacks to vote Killary. We cannot resort to the lesser of two devils. Then we’d surely be better off without voting AT ALL.”
  • On or about November 3, 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators purchased an advertisement to promote a post on the ORGANIZATION-controlled Instagram account “Blacktivist” that read in part: “Choose peace and vote for Jill Stein. Trust me, it’s not a wasted vote.”
  • By in or around early November 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators used the ORGANIZATION-controlled “United Muslims of America” social media accounts to post anti-vote messages such as: “American Muslims [are] boycotting elections today, most of the American Muslim voters refuse to vote for Hillary Clinton because she wants to continue the war on Muslims in the middle east and voted yes for invading Iraq.”

Considering there was 95 other numbered items in the indictment, you can imagine the degree of specificity and depth involved in Friday’s Mueller indictment. As these revelations come to light, I am particularly disheartened by the reality that many of my Woke Brothers and Sisters must now face. They were “played.” “Clinton Fraudation,” “Killary,”, “Hillary4Prison,” “Rather not vote,” so much Russian machination. In embracing this artful ruse, far too many otherwise Woke black folks helped elect a Useful Idiot-in-Chief. As ignorance is no excuse for not knowing the law, unwitting is no excuse for this horrific unintended consequence. Elections have consequences! There is really only one more point I wish to underscore with this post. The charade is over…Witch Hunt. Hoax. Fake News. Phony Scam. #NotAnyMore!”

I’m done; holla back!

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

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

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America The Racist: Yeah, It’s Black History Month

It’s time to “Break It Down!”

Happy Valentine’s Day!

As you know February is Black History Month. For 28 days Americans of African descent will be feted honored, and buffeted with an array of historical retrospectives ranging from Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, founder of Chicago, to Barack and Michelle Obama, two of the most famous Americans to call the Windy City home. But that’s not all. Over the course of the month a variety of groups and individuals will be making an effort to elevate a truth that has never been fully told, and that is too often flatly denied.

According to a study completed by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, The National Basketball Association (NBA) was 74.3 black during the 2015-16 season, and 81.7 percent of the players were people of color. The study determined that 18.3 percent of the League’s players were white (including Europeans), while 22.3 percent were international. That translated into 43 white Americans spread across 30 NBA teams. However, eight teams did not have a white player at the start of that season.

On the basis of the preceding summary, it may sound as though the NBA is ground zero for the emergence of the black nouveau riche in America. That might be one way to look at it. Another view might be that it is an oasis in the midst of a sprawling desert of despair for many black folks. The reality is the preceding statement is many African Americans’ truth.

From time to time someone with a commanding profile steps up, takes a megaphone and shouts the truth from the mountaintop. Enter Gregg Popovich, an NBA icon. You may know Pop as the Head Coach of the 5-time NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs, or as the guy who hired the first full-time, salaried female Assistant Coach in NBA history, or as the next Head Coach of Team USA, the Men’s Olympic Basketball Team. Is that high profile enough for you?

During the month of February, the NBA celebrates Black History Month in a variety of ways. The league honors trailblazers like Earl LloydNat “Sweetwater” Clifton and Chuck Cooper for breaking the league’s color barrier in 1950. Individual teams look back at their respective pasts. Players wear special gear, including sneakers and warm-up shirts to commemorate those who have come before. For the primarily African American league, the month of special activities serves as recognition of, and acknowledgment that the giant steps the NBA has taken toward international success and prominence have come as a result of strength, sacrifices, and contributions of a great many people, on the court and off of it, over the years.

In addition, they also call to the forefront of our minds how much further we all have to go. That was the aspect that Coach Popovich was most interested in discussing when he was asked about his thoughts on Black History Month, Monday, prior to a game between the Spurs and the Utah Jazz.

Popovich is known as a no-nonsense, give short shrift to mundane post-game interview questions kinda guy. He’s also quite well-known for speaking his mind on pertinent social issues of the day. Given the latter, it was not at all surprising that just a couple of days ago; he framed the importance of Black History Month in stark, blunt truth terms:

“I think it’s pretty obvious,” he told reporters. “The league is made up of a lot of black guys. To honor that and understand it is pretty simplistic. How would you ignore that? But more importantly, we live in a racist country that hasn’t figured it out yet. And it’s always important to bring attention to it, even if it angers some people. The point is, you have to keep it in front of everybody’s nose so they understand it still hasn’t been taken care of and we have a lot of work to do.”

As implied above, Popovich, who matriculated at the Air Force Academy, and who served five years in the military, has frequently voiced his displeasure with the state of affairs in the U.S. political system and broader discourse — has spoken about the importance of recognizing that many of the issues central to black history in the United States aren’t really “history” at all. Translation…they are not relegated to the past; rather, they are very much present day concerns.

For example, Coach Popovich said last February:

“Well, it’s a remembrance, and a bit of a celebration in some ways. It sounds odd because we’re not there yet, but it’s always important to remember what has passed and what the black population is experiencing now. It’s a celebration of some of the good things that have happened, and a reminder that there’s a lot more work to do.

But more than anything, I think if people take the time to think about it, I think it is our national sin. It always intrigues me when people come out with, ‘I’m tired of talking about that,’ or ‘Do we have to talk about that again?’ And the answer is, ‘You’re damned right we do.’ Because it’s always there, and it’s systemic, in the sense that when you talk about opportunity, it’s not about, ‘Well, if you lace up your shoes and you work hard, then you can have the American dream.’ That’s a bunch of hogwash.

If you were born white, you automatically have a monstrous advantage – educationally, economically, culturally, in this society and all the systemic roadblocks that exist, whether it’s in a judicial sense, a neighborhood sense with laws, zoning, education. We have huge problems in that they are very complicated, but take leadership, time, and real concern to try to solve. It’s a tough one; because people don’t rally want to face it.

In all likelihood, that includes many NBA fans, and no doubt, many Spurs fans, who might appreciate Popovich’s gifts as a coach and executive, but might not look so kindly on his assessment of the U.S. as a “racist country.” Regardless of whether all those watching, listening to, and/or reading his words share his viewpoint, it doesn’t appear that Coach Popovich is going to be dissuaded from espousing the legit truth, anytime soon.

Love it or hate it, that’s the good news. America The Racist: Yeah, It’s Black History Month!”

I’m done; holla back!

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

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

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