That’s What Ails Us Now

It’s time to Break It Down!

COVID-19 developed into a genuinely serious matter circa March 2020. It was during the month of March when the NBA shut down its Regular Season, the NCAA canceled its Basketball Tournaments, and restaurants, schools & colleges, churches, and a host of other establishments either shut down, or greatly curtailed their services and accessibility. As far as we could tell, life as we knew it, forever changed. Troopers that we Americans are, we marched on, figuring out our latest new normal. But wait; roughly 10 months later, just when most Americans thought things wouldn’t or couldn’t get much worse, along came the events of January 6, 2021, for all practical purposes saying something akin to, “Hold my beer!”

So here we are, almost two and a half years after COVID grabbed us by the neck, literally choking the life out of over a million of our fellow Americans, and over a year and a half since an insurrection kicked us in democracy’s gonads, with the unfolding of a violent uprising in and around the U.S. Capitol, symbolic Citadel of our nation’s government. Perhaps the most spiritually debilitating aspect of these two impositions upon our way of life is, neither has been vanquished. Americans are still contracting cases of, and in too many instances, dying from COVID. And yes, we are also reminded daily of the lingering consequences of what many argue was a straight up coup attempt.

We continue to be confronted by new variants of COVID. The most recent strain is Omicron BA.5. Just know, COVID is still with us. Some experts say it will be like the flu, with new variations springing up in perpetuity. I do not know whether that’s true. I do know…it’s still here. Conduct yourselves accordingly.

As for the insurrection, the House January 6 Select Committee continues its work. The committee conducted its seventh day of hearings yesterday. The focus was on zeroing in on the connection between Mr. Trump and extremist groups. The committee showed that the former president and his allies interacted with these violent groups and provided evidence that some rally organizers even expressed concern about the event, and the people gathering in Washington.

The panel listened to live testimony from a former spokesperson for the Oath Keepers, and another person who participated in the riot, in addition to showing clips of the deposition of former White House counsel Pat Cipollone. The committee cannot bring charges against Mr. Trump. However, its principal mission has been to uncover the full scope of his attempt to stop the peaceful transfer of power, and to connect his actions to the violence at the Capitol. The Justice Department (JD) is the ultimate arbiter of whether to bring criminal charges.

This is where I do as I often have, and express supreme skepticism regarding whether any charges will be leveled against Mr. Trump. To be clear, not because I believe charges are not warranted, but due to the convolution and complexity involved with navigating such charges in an environment in which the prospective defendant might also be a major political party’s nominee for President, and as such, the chief political rival of the President…or whomever becomes the other major party’s nominee. In addition to skeptical I’m also cynical. I believe that is the number one reason why Mr. Trump wants to be his party’s standard bearer, and of course, President, again. It’s difficult to imagine a greater incentive than keeping his name off the police blotter, and his rear end out of the hoosegow.

Perhaps the two pending items garnering the most attention surrounding the committee’s work, now, are:

First, Vice Chair Cheney noted near the end of the hearing that the panel had forwarded information to the JD regarding a yet to appear witness whom Mr. Trump had attempted to contact, prior to providing their testimony. The individual, reportedly, did not take Mr. Trump’s call, but had their attorney contacted the committee, which in turn, referred that info to the JD.

Second, Steve Bannon, who initially spurned an invitation, and subsequently a subpoena, to testify before the committee, earning a contempt of Congress citation, and an ensuing court appearance, has recently changed his tack, and volunteered to testify…in a public hearing. Other witnesses have testified first in private hearings before their public testimony. It is certain that Bannon hopes to explode and create chaos in the process and change the focus by sidestepping the private hearing, and launching, on air, into the kind of diatribe that is his stock and trade. It remains to be seen whether the committee will put the rabbit in the briar patch. Of course, a morose Trump, utterly frustrated that no one is defending him at these hearings aided in facilitating Bannon’s changed tune by giving him a letter, ostensibly releasing him to vigorously defend himself. It takes very little insight to understand that Bannon’s main, if not only, role will be to defend Mr. Trump, loudly and passionately. It’s a good deal if they can get it. Touché! “That’s What Ails Us Now!”

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 related to this post, consult the links below:

https://www.cnn.com/2022/07/12/politics/liz-cheney-witness-contacted-january-6/index.html

July 4th In Black & White

It’s time to Break It Down!

Monday was a holiday. Typically, during holiday weeks, I recycle a redux version of a previous post. Not today. Like Dré, I had something to say. Something I needed to say, and something you needed to know. Carry on.

Not every great dilemma is destined to be distilled and viewed through the prism of race. Let’s be clear, however, race, despite being merely a social construct, was literally invented to keep the Black man down. And for ages, across the world, it’s done a hellava job.

Gomes Eanes de Zurara, a Portuguese chronicler of the European Age of Discovery, a lesser light whom most non-historians probably never heard of, pretty much single-handedly composed the lie that effectively invented racism. He was commissioned by Alfonso V, King of Portugal to compose a glowing biography of the African adventures of his beloved uncle, Prince Henry the Navigator. Zurara completed the Chronicles of the Discovery and Conquest of Guinea in 1453, a book in which he described all the various people of the myriad countries in Africa as a distinct group, beastly and inferior. This was the first European book written about Africa. Of course, in direct contrast to Zurara’s slander, some of the most sophisticated cultures of the time resided on the African Continent. Not coincidentally, despite serious fakery, the Portuguese were contemporaneously pioneering the North Atlantic slave trade. They were the first to do it, so to speak. It became immediately convenient to have a justifying narrative to assert the inferiority of African people to the church, to other people, and notably, to themselves. With the stroke of a pen, Zurara invented both Blackness and Whiteness…because Blackness alone would have served no purpose without Whiteness. So let it be known, racism did not start based on some misunderstanding between groups, or cultures. It started based on a lie; one that has been perpetuated for over five and a half centuries.

In 1903, W. E. B. Du Bois prophetically foretold: “The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line.” It is a well-known sentence that is rarely quoted completely. Du Bois goes on to describe the color line as “the question of how far differences of race . . . will hereafter be made the basis of denying to over half the world the right of sharing to their utmost ability the opportunities and privileges of modern civilization.” In The Souls of Black Folk, he says it is “the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men in Asia and Africa, in America and the islands of the sea” and says, “It was a phase of this problem that caused the Civil War.”

There is no denying Dr. Du Bois’ prescience. After all, here we are, nearly 120 years later, and the problem of the color line is still front and center. Fast forward more than 110 years after Du Bois’ pronouncement, to the summer of 2016, and the first Issue of OTHERING & BELONGING EXPANDING THE CIRCLE OF HUMAN CONCERN, in which john a. powell and Stephen Menendian wrote: “The problem of the twenty-first century is the problem of “othering.” In a world beset by seemingly intractable and overwhelming challenges, virtually every global, national, and regional conflict is wrapped within or organized around one or more dimension of group-based difference. Othering undergirds territorial disputes, sectarian violence, military conflict, the spread of disease, hunger, and food insecurity, and even climate change.

Clearly, powell and Menendian expanded the dimensions of the debate to include a host of additional variables, including people and issues. For the purposes of this post, I will continue to highlight race and the American condition. Although the enlarged conversation warrants further discourse, I’ll have to revisit that at another time.

For now, just know this. On June 27, 2022, 25-year-old Jayland Walker was involved in a traffic stop in Akron, Ohio that after his fleeing, devolved into the final encounter of his life. News accounts report that he was shot by police, as many as 60 times. On July 4, 2022, 21-year-old Robert Crimo was involved in a traffic stop in North Chicago, that after his fleeing resulted in him being detained and arrested. Some might consider it important to note that Crimo is the lone person of interest/suspect in a mass shooting that resulted in killing 7 people and wounding dozens more during an Independence Day Parade in Highland Park. Consider it noted.

Yes, Walker is Black; Crimo is White. Yes, there have been many instances with comparable circumstances, and similar results. This is America! For all its alleged greatness, there is still a lot to work on, particularly when it comes to race, and as Du Bois framed it, the problem of the color line.

Unless we, here in America, gird our proverbial loins, and commit ourselves to confronting, deconstructing, and neutering this behemoth of a problem, we are assured of staying mired in the quicksand of America’s original sin.

Anti-CRT advocates and folks who claim to adhere to constitutional originalism fail to acknowledge and appropriately address the Constitution’s odious double malady, first of ignoring Black people, then secondly, of relegating us to 3/5 status. In short, the United States was founded by men who owned slaves, and who did not extend equal rights to women. We can, and in fact, we should, stop pretending all the documents they wrote were infallible. Oh, by the way, to celebrate July 4, 1776 and simultaneously ignore January 6, 2021 is the epitome of hypocrisy. Full stop.

Slavery, like it or not, is an irreducible fact, not some throwaway guest worker clause, or involuntary relocation plan (both euphemisms that are actively applied today), and it is an indelible black, no pun intended, mark on the ego-inspired notion of “American Exceptionalism.” George (no, not Washington) Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Contemporary America asks all of us to take the “blue pill,” and forget how we got here. The best and most compelling counterpoint to that ill-conceived plea is that there is a cadre of Americans who are never going to permit that to happen. We are here, America is our home, and we are not going anywhere. You can forget about those go back to Africa, or Mexico, or India, or China, or Japan, or fill-in-the-blank Muslim country jeers and sneers. We are here, and what’s more important, we don’t just sing America, We Are America…Oh Say Can You See Us…now. That dear friends and family, is “July 4th In Black & White!”

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 related to this post, consult the links below:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Souls_of_Black_Folk

http://www.otheringandbelonging.org/the-problem-of-othering/

Cassidy Hutchinson: Remember The Name

It’s time to Break It Down!

The House select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol resumed its public hearings June 9, 2022. The first hearing, conducted July 27, 2021, featured emotional testimony from several law enforcement officers on duty defending the Capitol on that day. 

After nearly 10 and a half months of information gathering, including interviewing over 900 witnesses, and assembling more than 10,000 documents, the committee announced it would “present previously unseen material documenting” the events of January 6. After preliminarily scheduling a break for the July 4th holiday, the committed announced Monday that it would hold its sixth hearing yesterday to consider recently obtained evidence on the attack.

During the hearing, Cassidy Hutchinson, a top aide to Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, delivered two hours of compelling, sometimes riveting testimony. Nicholas Wu wrote a piece in Politico yesterday, elevating 5 stunning moments from Ms. Hutchinson’s interview. To be sure, there were other damning revelations, but these 5 points more than adequately frame the callous disregard the former President showed for sober restraint, propriety, and the orderly transition of power spelled out in the United States Constitution. Ms. Hutchinson expounded on her knowledge of Mr. Trump’s post-election campaign to hold onto power – from his desire to go to the Capitol as unrest by his supporters became a riot, to his efforts to allow armed rallygoers to join him on the Ellipse hours before the attack.

Trump lunging for the Beast’s wheel

First, Ms. Hutchinson shared that she’d heard from Tony Ornato, a top presidential security official, about an altercation on January 6, as Mr. Trump continually pressed to go to the Capitol following his “Stop the Steal” rally on the Ellipse. When Mr. Trump was advised that he would be returning to 1600 PA Ave. instead of going to the Capitol, while riding in “the Beast,” he became irate.

She said she was told by Ornato that Mr. Trump lunged for the steering wheel of the car and was physically restrained by the head of his Secret Service detail, Robert Engel.

Mr. Ornato “described (Trump) as being irate. The president said something to the effect of, ‘I am the fucking president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’” Ms. Hutchinson said. She added that while Ornato relayed this story, Mr. Engel sat silent.

Trump throwing food at the wall

Second, Ms. Hutchinson related that, after then-Attorney General Barr gave an interview to The Associated Press in December 2020 saying there was no widespread voter fraud, Mr. Trump was so enraged that he threw his plate at the wall, smearing it with ketchup.

“There was ketchup dripping down the wall and a shattered porcelain plate on the floor.” Ms. Hutchinson testified nearby aides conveyed the president was “extremely angry” about the Barr interview. She told the committee she then grabbed a towel and started wiping the ketchup off the wall alongside a presidential valet.

A call from ‘angry’ McCarthy

Third, Ms. Hutchinson recounted House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called her on January 6 to relay his concern that Mr. Trump would try to come to the Capitol after the then-president mentioned it on a stage at the Ellipse rally.

“He sounded rushed and frustrated and angry,” Ms. Hutchinson said, adding that the California Republican told her Trump had offered assurances for a week that he would not be coming to the Capitol on January 6. Mr. McCarthy then asked Ms. Hutchinson, as she remembered it: “Why would you lie to me?”

“Figure it out,” she said Mr. McCarthy told her on January 6, as Congress prepared to certify the 2020 election results. “Do not come up here.”

A spokesperson for Mr. McCarthy did not immediately return a request for comment about Ms. Hutchinson’s recounting of the call.

Meadow’s warning – then non-reaction

Fourth, Ms. Hutchinson disclosed that Chief of Staff Meadows, her boss at the time, told her on January 2 that “things might get real, real bad” four days later. However, four days later, on January 6, when he was told the Capitol Police were being overrun, she recalled that he “almost had a lack of reaction.”

“I remember him saying something to the effect of, ‘How much longer does the president have left in his speech?’” She had to wait about 20 to 25 minutes to talk to Mr. Meadows that afternoon while he was on a call in a secure vehicle.

“It wasn’t something he regularly did.”

Trump OK’ing weapons at ‘Stop the Steal’

Fifth, Ms. Hutchinson divulged that just minutes before Mr. Trump took the stage at the Ellipse rally of his supporters on January 6, 2021 – a gathering to amplify his baseless election fraud claims, a rally that he vowed would be “wild,” and that later metastasized into the Capitol riot – that she heard Mr. Trump urging the Secret Service to remove security magnetometers and let in people with weapons.

His rationale, as she recalled it, was allowing in armed rallygoers because, “they’re not here to hurt me.”

Mr. Trump wanted the rally space to be full and “for people to not feel excluded,” and was “fucking furious” people were turned away. 

Suffice it to say, Mr. Trump denied it all, and in his standard disclaimer said, he barely knew who Hutchinson was…but he’d heard only bad things about her. “Cassidy Hutchinson: Remember The Name!”

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 related to this post, consult the links below:

https://www.politico.com/news/2022/06/28/january-6-hearings-cassidy-hutchinson-key-moments-video-analysis-00042914

Bowers’ Story: The Receipts Come Rolling In

It’s time to Break It Down!

Yesterday, another iteration of the January 6 Panel interviews unfolded. As I’ve noted in the past, there are occasions when the story is the story, and no interpretation or extrapolation is necessary. This is one of those instances. With that in mind, I pulled one rendition of yesterday’s J6 Committee hearings from KOLD News 13 in Tucson, AZ. The details follow below.

The House 1/6 committee outlined on Tuesday Donald Trump’s relentless pressure to overturn the 2020 presidential election, aiming to show it led to widespread personal threats on the stewards of American democracy — election workers and local officials who fended off the defeated president’s efforts.

The hearing opened with chilling accounts of the barrage of verbal attacks facing state and local elected officials, including Arizona’s Republican House Speaker Rusty Bowers who said he was subject to a “disturbing” smear campaign online, bull-horn protests at his home, and a pistol-wielding man taunting his family and neighbors.

Speaker Bowers tells the Jan. 6 committee about groups that regularly show up at his house.

The panel investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack at the U.S. Capitol resumed with a focus on Trump’s efforts to undo Joe Biden’s victory in the most local way — by leaning on officials in key battleground states to reject ballots outright or to submit alternative electors for the final tally in Congress. The pressure was fueled by the defeated president’s false claims of voter fraud which, the panel says, led directly to the riot at the Capitol.

Chairman Bennie Thompson declared, “A handful of election officials in several key states stood between Donald Trump and the upending of American democracy.”

We fought Trump pressure, GOP state officials tell 1/6 panel

Moments before Speaker Bower’s testimony Monday, Trump issued a statement calling Bowers a “RINO” or a Republican in name only, a term often used by members of the party to those who are not seen as conservative enough. Trump also wrote that Bowers had previously told him that the election was rigged and that he, indeed, “won Arizona.”

Arizona Speaker of the House Rusty Bowers is the latest RINO to play along with the Unselect Committee. In November 2020, Bowers thanked me for getting him elected. He said he would have lost, and in fact expected to lose, if I hadn’t come along. During the conversation, he told me that the election was rigged and that I won Arizona. He said he got more votes than I did which could never have happened. In fact, he said without me, he would have been out of office, and he expected to be prior to my coming along, and big Arizona rallies. The night before the election he walked outside with his wife and saw the tremendous Trump enthusiasm and told her, “You know what? Maybe I will win after all”—and he did. Bowers should hope there’s not a tape of the conversation.

Former President Donald Trump on the morning of Bower’s testimony

Speaker Bowers fired back at the claim by the former President telling the panel “anywhere, anyone, anytime has said that I said the election was rigged, that would not be true.”

Bowers walked through an account of being called by Trump on a Sunday after returning from church when the defeated president laid out his proposal to have the state replace its electors for Joe Biden with those favoring Trump. “I said, Look, you’re asking me to do something that is counter to my oath,” Bowers testified before the committee. Bowers insisted on seeing Trump’s evidence of voter fraud, which he said Trump’s team never produced beyond vague allegations. He recalled Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani at one point told him, “‘We’ve got lots of theories, we just don’t have the evidence.’”

Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers (R-Mesa) told U.S. House committee members that anyone who claims he said the election was rigged is lying.

Trump wanted Bowers to hold a hearing at the state Capitol, but the Republican leader said there was already a “circus” atmosphere over the election. The panel showed video footage of protesters at the Arizona state house including a key figure, the horned-hat wearing Jacob Chansley, who was later arrested at the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol riot.

Trump nevertheless pressed the Arizona official, including in a follow-up call, suggesting he expected a better response from a fellow Republican. But Bowers testified under oath that because of his faith, including a belief the U.S. Constitution is divinely inspired, what the president was asking him to do was “foreign to my very being.”

Republican Rep. Liz Cheney, the panel’s vice chair, embraced Bowers during a break in the hearing. She implored Americans to pay attention to the evidence being presented, declaring, “Donald Trump didn’t care about the threats of violence. He did not condemn them, he made no effort to stop them.” “We cannot let America become a nation of conspiracy theories and thug violence.”

The public hearing, the fourth by the panel this month, stemmed from its yearlong investigation into Trump’s unprecedented attempt to remain in power, a sprawling scheme that the chairman of the Jan. 6 committee has likened to an “attempted coup.” There will be more. But for now, consider “Bowers’ Story: The Receipts Come Rolling In!”

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 related to this post, consult the links below:

https://www.kold.com/2022/06/21/arizona-house-speaker-rusty-bowers-tells-jan-6-panel-he-was-pressured-overturn-election-results/

Juneteenth: Why It Matters

It’s time to Break It Down!

I’m sure there are Americans who’ve never heard of it, though the number is likely decreasing each year. As we delve further into the digital age, all variety of media explore more deeply, almost every topic known to man. Juneteenth certainly falls into that category.

To be clear, Juneteenth is an American federal holiday commemorating the emancipation of enslaved African Americans. The backstory on how Juneteenth came to be a thing in the first place is prima facie evidence of why the term American Exceptionalism is oxymoronic, in both derivation, and in contemporary assertion.

A year ago, on June 15, 2021, the Senate unanimously approved a resolution establishing June 19th as Juneteenth National Independence Day, a US holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.

Momentum for this legislation had been increasing since the spate of Black Lives Matter protests, sparked by the police killing of George Floyd, and Democrats taking over Congress and the White House after the November 2020 Election. However, Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson spiked the bill in 2020, saying it would cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Johnson relented on his opposition last year, despite lingering concerns. He said:

“Although I strongly support celebrating Emancipation, I objected to the cost and lack of debate. While it still seems strange that having taxpayers provide federal employees paid time off is required to celebrate the end of slavery, it is clear that there is no appetite in Congress to further discuss this matter.”

The measure was overwhelmingly approved by the House on June 16, 2021, and then signed into law by President Biden a day later, June 17, 2021.

In the beginning, Major General Gordon Granger announced in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, the end of slavery, in accord with President Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Initially issued September 22, 1862, the Proclamation went into effect January 1, 1863. Slave owners in Texas had for two and a half years, somehow managed not to pass that information along to their enslaved population. Hence, the oxymoronic utilization of the term American Exceptionalism, dating all the way back to the 19th Century. Go figure. 

Juneteenth became a state holiday in Texas in 1980. With Governor Kristi Noem’s signing of a bill in South Dakota on February 11, 2022, every state in the Union commemorates the day, though only a few states observe it as a paid holiday.

Senators Ed Markey, D-MA, and John Cornyn, R-TX, along with Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, D-TX are among the members of Congress who spearheaded the initiative to make Juneteenth the 12th federal holiday. It’s about time. “Juneteenth: Why It Matters!”

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 related to this post, consult the links below:

https://www.cnn.com/2021/06/15/politics/juneteenth-federal-holiday-senate-vote/index.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juneteenth

Inflation And Gas Prices Are High; So Are Retirement Accounts And Millennial Home Ownership

It’s time to Break It Down!

There is a woebegone narrative that suggests the United States has gone to hell in a handbasket. The story is built upon a framework that accurately points to an inflation rate unseen since the 80’s, and to record high gasoline prices, both legitimate causes for alarm and distress.

But that’s not the end of the story. In fact, quiet as it’s kept, tens of millions of American households are thriving at the highest level in decades.

Why is that significant? High gas prices, stock market volatility and inflation are hiding the reality that the economy is working for a high swath of Americans – and has richly bolstered their nest eggs.

Here’s something rare these days – a parade of encouraging news:

Houses: It’s hard to find one to buy –  and the 66% of Americans who do own homes are seeing the values soar. The middle class has made an enormous $2.1 trillion from homeownership in the past 10 years, Fortune reports.

Retirement accounts: Despite the recent sell-off, they’ve been fattened by the stock market. Moreover, the share of people who say they expect to work past their early 60’s has dropped below 50% for the first time.

Jobs: Today there are 11.4 million job openings. The current unemployment rate is 3.68% – back to pre-pandemic lows.

Safety nets68% of Americans say they have cash for a rainy day.

Millennial homeownership: It’s at 43%, up from 37% last year.

Reality check: There’s still plenty of pain in this economy – likely with much more to come.

The tight housing market is pricing out millions of renters and potential buyers.

Rising prices – at the pump and in the grocery store – are draining wallets.

That helps explain one of the bigger polling conundrums we’ve seen:

We think things are going fine for us, but terribly for America. 78% of Americans are confident in their personal financial well-being, but only 24% are confident in the financial well-being of the U.S., per Federal Reserve data reported by the Atlantic’s Derek Thompson.

The bottom line: Things haven’t been so good for many decades, Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research told The New York Times:

“You’d have to go back to the late 1990’s to find a similar era. Before that, the 1960s.”

At the end of the day, there is no getting around the fact that these are challenging times. But let’s be clear, these are not Dickensian “Worst of times.” Remember to appreciate the balance of the universe. “Inflation and Gas Prices Are High; So Are Retirement Accounts and Millennial Home Ownership!”

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 related to this post, consult the links below:

https://www.axios.com/2022/06/07/economic-data-america-housing-jobs-inflation?fbclid=IwAR1MESk7EC1FZFZn7PE4PUih3E6aV1KF8i-cc7xJo76WVvU_BU20Z3eNbTs

Memorial Day: What Your Teacher Never Taught You! (Edition VI)

It’s time to Break It Down!

(Please enjoy a reprised edition of “Break It Down!” This post was originally published May 30, 2012 at: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.blogspot.com, reposted May 27, 2015 at http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com as Memorial Day: What Your Teacher Never Told You!, again on May 31, 2017, on May 29, 2019, and last on May 27, 2020.)

This year, the third consecutive month of May we’ve experienced some degree of COVID 19, we were presented with, what for most of us was no longer unique, but still somewhat different Memorial Day. It’s been more than a century since the United states has been caught up in a worldwide pandemic, the likes of the novel coronavirus. As such, most Americans have never experienced anything quite like what we’ve been dealing with for nearly the past two and a half years.  But this is not a post about the so-called, “invisible enemy.” While we are in a much better place than when I logged this post in 2020, there is still much work to be done. There have been two doses of the vaccine, and two boosters to date. The rate has fallen precipitously since its peak, but as summer approaches, cases are rising again in many states, including here in North Carolina. More about all that in another post. Maybe.

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

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

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

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

The weekend typically includes a cornucopia of sports.  For example this week included the NASCAR Coca-Cola 600the NBA PlayoffsCollege Men’s Baseball playoffs, and College Women’s Softball competition, among others. I mentioned COVID-19 earlier, right? Scratch the sporting events.

Historically, there have been a plethora of activities thrown into the mix. As a result, the holiday is sometimes almost lost in the shuffle. That was less problematic this year. But wait; Memorial Day has a special cultural significance.  In fact, it is because of that nexus we should pay special homage to this late spring holiday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m done; holla back!

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

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

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

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_W._Blight

http://www.davidwblight.com/

http://www.snopes.com/military/memorialday.asp

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/05/25/1301862/-Memorial-Day-Has-African-American-Roots-First-One-Was-Conducted-By-Former-Slaves#

http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/KISS_principle

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

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

http://www.yale.edu/glc/index.htm

http://www.civilwarhome.com/freedmen.htm

It Happened Again: It’s Not Going To Stop Itself

It’s time to Break It Down!

On May 24, 2022, an armed man entered a Tops Friendly Market, a supermarket located in an East Side Buffalo community. The man killed ten people and wounded three others. It shouldn’t matter, but all ten of the people killed were Black. The shooter was White; he was apprehended and taken alive into custody. His social media posts imply he targeted that zip code in general, and targeted that establishment in particular, to maximize the number of Black folks he could kill.

When selecting a topic last week, this episode crossed my radar, but I elected to go in another direction. Yesterday, just ten days later, another gunman launched a deadly attack, this one at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. Nineteen students and two adults were killed during the incident. The shooter, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, a Hispanic surname, was killed by law enforcement officers, according to officials. He also shot his grandmother before going to the school. Texas Rangers reported she was airlifted to the hospital and was “still holding on” last night. 

Yesterday was the 144th day of 2022. Through yesterday, there had been at least 212 mass shootings, sixty-eight more mass shootings than days so far this year. CNN and the Gun Violence Archive (GVA) define a mass shooting as a shooting that injured or killed four or more people, not including the shooter. 

Last night President Biden issued televised remarks in response to the Uvalde shooting. During his appearance, he said:

“There’s a lot we don’t know yet. There’s a lot we do know. Parents who will never see their child again, never have them jump in bed and cuddle with them. Parents who will never be the same. To lose a child is like having a piece of your soul ripped away.”

He implored lawmakers to “turn this pain into action” as he ticked through some of the mass shootings since the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, when he was vice president.

“I am sick and tired of it. We have to act. And don’t tell me we can’t have an impact on this carnage. Why do we keep letting this happen?

“Where in God’s name is our backbone to have the courage to deal with and stand up to the lobbies?”

Former President Obama also weighed in, saying:

“Across the country, parents are putting their children to bed, reading stories, singing lullabies—and in the back of their minds, they’re worried about what might happen tomorrow after they drop their kids off at school, or take them to a grocery store or any other public space.”


Michelle and I grieve with the families in Uvalde, who are experiencing pain no one should have to bear. We’re also angry for them. Nearly ten years after Sandy Hook—and ten days after Buffalo—our country is paralyzed, not by fear, but by a gun lobby and a political party that have shown no willingness to act in any way that might help prevent these tragedies.


It’s long past time for action, any kind of action. And it’s another tragedy—a quieter but no less tragic one—for families to wait another day. May God bless the memory of the victims, and in the words of Scripture, heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds.”

I opted not to write about the previous shooting, not because it wasn’t important, but because I was confident nothing would fundamentally change, despite the many thoughts and prayers extended to the victims and their families. Today, that’s still true, but, I relented and wrote a post about yesterday’s senseless slaughter because, well because as a blogger who chooses what content to share, based on my personal interests and inclinations, not those of the marketplace, like influencers, I can. It’s what I do. To that end, I urge you to push for change. Why, you ask? Because…“It Happened Again: It’s Not Going To Stop Itself!”

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 related to this post, consult the links below:

https://www.cnn.com/2022/05/24/us/uvalde-texas-elementary-school-shooting/index.html

https://www.cnn.com/us/live-news/texas-elementary-school-shooting-05-24-22/h_d68a32c5adef3058e84ca04cc67399e9

Golden: My How Time Flies

It’s time to Break It Down!

Life is an adventure. No matter the circumstances of one’s birth, men, and women the world over circumnavigate myriad circumstances after leaving the birth canal and entering the world and this thing we call life. Some are born into great wealth and prominence, while others are visited upon by abject poverty and insufficiency. However, it is fair to say being born poor does not make one destined to a life sentence squalor and destitution. Similarly, being born with a silver spoon in tow doesn’t carry a guarantee of permanence either. Hence, life is an adventure.

Given events in Buffalo this past weekend, I would normally write about the pervasiveness of gun violence, and our collective lack of will to insist upon and/or promulgate effective policy initiatives to eliminate mass shootings. After thinking about it a great deal, I decided not to make that the object of this week’s post. Instead, I am going to follow-up last week’s healthcare note with another personal essay.

A couple of weekends ago, Gwen and I traveled to eastern North Carolina, which is the part of the state where I was born. My wife and I spent the weekend darting between Kinston, New Bern, Greenville, and Belhaven. I have roots in or near all those places. Sometimes, contrary to Thomas Wolfe’s assertion, you can go home again. In fact, not only can you, but doing so is actually a good thing. Broadly speaking, we took advantage of the opportunity to hang out with my friends and family. The specific purpose of the trip though, was to attend my 50th High School Reunion.

As I have grown older, I have attended fewer class reunions. I made several of the early ones; 10, 20, and 25. Then I went AWOL until 40. I had not thought about it much since then. But as the date approached (Mothers Day Weekend every year), it dawned on me that 50 years is a pretty big number, a long time ago, and to paraphrase Deon Cole (Cole Hearted on Netflix), there’s not a lot of summers left. It seemed like a good idea to make the trip.

Covid has robbed most of us of so much. Some of us, life itself. I know over the past two and a half years, we have traveled less, entertained less, and attended fewer functions. Moreover, too many of the functions we did attend were funerals. We missed a Final Four, lost a trip to Egypt, missed college and church homecomings, and just said no altogether to concerts. My 50th Reunion would not be added to the list.

In the fall of 1968, my 9th Grade class became the first desegregated freshman class at John A. Wilkinson High School in Belhaven. My fellow Black students and I had previously attended Belhaven Elementary & High School. Beaufort County Schools, where Belhaven is located, like most schools in North Carolina, adhered to a desegregation order that became effective at the start of school in August 1968. Belhaven, being in North Carolina in the 60’s, many parents of students, 9th Grade and earlier, moved their kids to private schools. As a result, while 10th-12 Grades retained a predominately White student population, Black students composed a majority of students in classes from 9th Grade on down. That of course led to its own set of dynamics. But that’s not focus of this post.

The Reunion was cool. Understand that the event, for all practical purposes was a dual event; a 60-year Homecoming Celebration of the former Belhaven Elementary and High School (the high school ended after the Class of 1968), and a fete for the current Senior Class along with featured Reunion Classes. I’m not sure what the Covid/Fire Code capacity was, but the event was sold out, and well attended. Many of my fellow classmates, Black and White, were there; some still live in the area. There were folks I had not seen in decades, and probably a few of whom I hadn’t seen in 50 years. 

That was the highlight of the trip, but it didn’t end there. We stayed at a waterfront hotel in New Bern, which was its own story. I would typically have stayed in Greenville, or more likely Washington for an event in Belhaven, both of which are closer to Belhaven than New Bern. But it just so happened to be East Carolina’s Spring Commencement weekend. Hence no room in the inn. New Bern is a little further than Greenville, and more than twice as far as Washington. But it’s a quaint town, on the water, and a former colonial and state capital of North Carolina. We had plenty of time, so it made for a more than adequate back-up plan for lodging, and provided an almost vacation-like ambience.

On Saturday morning, one of my cousins who lives between Kinston and New Bern came over and joined us for breakfast. Afterward, Gwen and I cruised over to Kinston, visited with my family, and then headed downtown where we met more family at the BBQ Fest on the Neuse, the town’s annual barbecue festival. While there, we went to see a mural featuring a number Kinston’s sports legends. A lot of people know of Kinston’s impressive basketball legacy (Cedric Maxwell, Brandon Ingram, Charles Shackleford, Jerry Stackhouse, Reggie Bullock, Mitchell Wiggins, Tony Dawson, Dontrez Styles, et. al., but there are also baseball and football stars who hail from Kinston (Quinton Coples, Derek Rivers, Dwight Clark, Ron Wooten, Lin Dawson played in the NFL, while George Suggs, Chris Hatcher, and Carter Cupps all pitched in MLB. Tyrone Willingham played football at Michigan State, and held Head Coaching positions at Stanford and Notre Dame. Ty holds a special place on my list because he and I were born the same day in Kinston, NC.

We left K-town and went to Greenville where we checked out a couple of my childhood friends. After that we completed a loop back to New Bern where we enjoyed a quiet dinner at our hotel. On Sunday, we headed back to Charlotte, stopping briefly in Durham where we checked in on another of my cousins, and his extended family. After a short visit, we returned home after a fulfilling weekend getaway. I will remember it all, but none more fondly than reconnecting with my high school graduating class at our 50th Reunion. 

Perhaps the best part…it’s been a week and a half, so I think I can safely say we did not contract Covid during the trip. “Golden: My How Time Flies!”

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 related to this post, consult the links below:

https://kinstonbbq.com

https://www.encmoments.com/home/georgia-artist-works-on-mural-of-kinston-sporting-legends

Your Personal Health: It’s A Serious Matter

It’s time to Break It Down!

So yesterday, I did a thing.

Our time on this orb called earth is limited. One Biblical proclamation asserts that “The days of our years are threescore years and ten (70 years), and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years (80 years), yet is their strength labor and sorrow, for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” Psalm 90:10. 

Anthropological historians and demographers have noted that human lifespans have increased, primarily due to numerous factors, including, but not limited to, improvements in environment, food/food preservation, medication, labor saving devices, refrigeration, science, and living in an age of relative peace.

Over the course of the last few decades, life expectancy has increased around the globe. The average person born in 1960, the earliest year the United Nations began tracking global data, could reasonably have expected to live to be 52.5 years of age. Today the average is 72.  In the UK, where records have been kept longer, the trend is even greater. In 1841, a baby girl was expected to live to just 42 years of age, a boy to 40. In 2016, a baby girl could expect to reach 83, a boy, 79. In the U.S., life expectancy decreased from 78.86 years in 2019 to 76.99 years in 2020, and 76.60 years in 2021, a net loss of 2.26 years. While these changes in the U.S. and 19 peer countries have been published online by Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), the study has not yet been peer reviewed. However, the trend highlighted by these results are significantly attributable to the death toll from COVID-19.   

Laying COVID-19 to one side, the natural conclusion is that both the miracles of modern medicine and public health initiatives have helped us live longer than ever before – so much so that we may be running out of innovations to extend life further. The fact is, while medical advancements have improved many aspects of healthcare, the assumption that human lifespan has increased in some dramatic fashion over the centuries is, in a word, misleading. As always, the devil is in the details. Overall life expectancy hasn’t increased so much because we’re living far longer than we used to as a species. It has increased because more of us, as individuals, are making it that far.

I could go way more in depth about the differences and distinctions between life expectancy (which is an average), and life span of humans. Don’t worry; I won’t. In fact, this is where I shift gears.

I have written before about the importance of attending to one’s individual health. In a previous paragraph, I noted that the point that drives people to notice how much longer we live, is the fact that, more of us are living longer. Moreover, a key reason more of us live longer is more of us have and take advantage of better available healthcare. But let’s not get it twisted. None of us is here on permanent assignment. Nothing we do will alter that fact.

If there were only two people in the world, and one died of pneumonia, due to lack of available healthcare, at two years old, and the other lived to 80, the average lifespan of earth’s population would have been 41. Yet, if those same two people, instead, both lived to be 50, the average lifespan would be 50 years. Even though one of the two lived 30 years less than in the previous example, the average age increased by nearly a decade. Doing right by oneself matters. Providing, accessing, and utilizing advanced healthcare options is a critical necessity. It directly affects each of us and our quality of life as individuals, but it also redounds to us in a macro sense, because the more of us who partake of this benefit, the longer more of us are likely to live.

I had my fourth Colonoscopy yesterday. My medical history also includes a Flexible Sigmoidoscopy. Yesterday’s procedure was executed without incident, and the results were good. No polyps or other areas of concern revealed. 

I am writing about this for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, I’m relieved and frankly delighted to have received a clean report. I’m happy for my wife and me, but also buoyant that my extended family and friends do not have to share the burden I would be carrying had I received a bad report.

Secondarily, I write to caution and encourage every single person who reads this post to act proactively when it comes to your health. In Invictus, William Ernest Henley asserted, 

            It matters not how strait the gate,

            How charged with punishment the scroll,

            I am the master of my fate,

            I am the captain of my soul.

I submit that every adult among us has a responsibility to him or herself to be the best person he or she can possibly be. When it comes to our health, just as with our finances, it behooves us to be our own personal fiduciary. Some folks are reticent to consult medical professionals. Many of us know someone who received devastating news after a consultation with their physician. In too many cases, due to reluctance, hesitancy, fear, and sometimes just being too busy, we put off visiting a doctor, when there were troubling signs or symptoms that we could and should have shared with a physician much sooner, and as a result, received a more favorable diagnosis, or have had an opportunity to a get a more effective regimen prescribed. Stop playing. “Your Personal Health: It’s A Serious Matter!”

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 related to this post, consult the links below:

https://news.vcu.edu/article/2022/04/us-life-expectancy-continued-to-fall-in-2021