Bryan Stevenson: A Real American Hero

It’s time to Break It Down!

A couple of weekends ago, my wife and I went to see a movie. Nothing unusual about that. It’s a treat we give ourselves on a fairly regular basis. So much so that we’ve actually seen another one since then.

But two weeks ago, we saw “Just Mercy,” based on the book, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, Bryan Stevenson’s memoir. The book and the movie regale us with the hardscrabble, heart wrenching, real live story of Walter McMillian. In the movie, McMillian’s character was played by Jamie Foxx, while the role of Bryan Stevenson was played by Michael B. Jordan. In my humble opinion (admittedly, I’m no movie critic…but like in art, I know what I like), both actors did their characters justice. No pun intended. But I digress. This is a short post, and critiquing the movie is not my objective. So, while I will say the movie is about a man, wrongfully imprisoned, and the lawyer who fought against, and beat the odds (and they were many and substantial) to secure his freedom.

Perhaps you know Mr. Stevenson’s story. If you do not, you would be well served to read the book (I have not) and to see the movie (as previously noted, I did).

Seeing the movie was just the onset of the genesis of the post. Three days after seeing the movie, I had the opportunity and privilege to see Mr. Stevenson in person when he came to Davidson College, as the school’s 2020 Reynolds Lecturer, sponsored by the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation. Gwen and I were the guests of our friend and occasional benefactor, Davis Liles, a proud Davidson College alum, and his wife Kay. Thanks again; it was a great way to spend an evening.

Mr. Stevenson, ever humble, spoke about his rural Delaware roots, his compelling and interesting career, a number of his person experiences, several of which dovetailed/intersected with some of the book/movie highlights, but most important, I believe, he delved into the experiences that helped shape his passion and lifelong commitment to social justice activism.

He earned both a Juris Doctorate from Harvard Law School, and Master’s Degree in Public Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, while at Harvard. He founded and serves as the Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), and also serves as a clinical professor at New York University School of Law.

Stevenson is based in Montgomery, Alabama, home of the EJI, where he has challenged bias against the poor and minorities in the criminal justice system, especially children. He has worked cases that have saved dozens of prisoners from the death penalty, advocated for the poor, and developed community-based reform litigation aimed at improving the administration of justice.

He initiated the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, which honors the names of more than 4,000 African Americans lynched in 12 Southern states from 1877 to 1950. According to Stevenson’s argument, the history of slavery and lynchings has influenced the subsequent high rate of death sentences in the South, where the practice has been disproportionately applied to minorities.

In 2018, Stevenson received the Benjamin Franklin Award from the American Philosophical Society as a Drum Major for justice and mercy. This is the most prestigious award the society gives for distinguished public service.

In summary, Stevenson had devoted his life, and frankly, more times than I’m sure he’d like to admit, put his life on the line, to be a warrior for justice for men, women, and children to whom the justice system frequently, if not routinely, has given short shrift. It’s fair to say, he is the reason why dozens of people are alive today, or at least the reason why they were not killed at a result of the death penalty. He cared so deeply and fought so passionately to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they were in every case, deserving of redemption, and frankly, and cases such as that of Mr. McMillian, plainly and simply NOT GUILTY!

Ladies and gentlemen, “Bryan Stevenson: A Real American Hero!”

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SOTU 2020: Check the Facts

It’s time to Break It Down!

Last night, over the course of seventy-eight minutes, Donald Trump gave his third State of the Union (SOTU) Address. As is his wont, he mangled numerous facts. Thanks to him, fact checking has evolved into an entire industry unto itself. As reported in the Chicago Tribune, “President Donald Trump’s portrayal of American renewal Tuesday drew on falsehoods about American energy supremacy and the economy as well as distortions about his predecessor’s record.”

Here are a few instances, culled from CNN and the Chicago Tribune, buttressed by my own thoughts, highlighting seven instances during which he blatantly deviated from selected data-driven provable facts, while he clumsily skewed others.

Oil and gas production

The claim: According to Trump, “Thanks to our bold regulatory reduction campaign, the United States has become the number one producer of oil and natural gas anywhere in the world, by far.”

Not exactly. The facts: “The US did not become the world’s top energy producer under Trump: It took the top spot under the Obama administration in 2012, according to the US government’s Energy Information Administration. 

The US became the top producer of crude oil in particular during Trump’s tenure. “The United States has been the world’s top producer of natural gas since 2009, when US natural gas production surpassed that of Russia, and it has been the world’s top producer of petroleum hydrocarbons since 2013, when its production exceeded Saudi Arabia’s,” the Energy Information Administration says.

Unemployment for disabled Americans

The claim: Trump asserted “the unemployment rate for disabled Americans has reached an all-time low” under his presidency.

That’s debatable. The facts: The unemployment rate for Americans with disabilities is lower than at any point in the Obama administration (probably all that really matter to Trump), but it did go up from 6.1 percent in September of last year to 7 percent in December. In addition, describing this as an “all-time low” obscures the fact that the government has only tracked this data since 2008.

Unemployment for African Americans, Hispanics and Asians

The claim: Trump said the unemployment rates for African Americans, Hispanics and Asians are at the lowest levels ever. “The unemployment rate for African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, and Asian-Americans has reached the lowest levels in history,” Trump said in his speech.

Sorta, maybe, not exactly. The facts: Trump is correct in a manner of speaking. The unemployment rate for each of these three groups is at a record low, at least since the government has been issuing data on them. (The data for African Americans and Hispanics goes back to the early 1970s, while data for Asians only goes back to 2000.) 

Trump inherited a positive trend that has continued during his tenure. The unemployment rate for all three groups had fallen substantially under President Barack Obama from the recession-era levels of 2009.

The African American unemployment rate was 5.9% in December 2019. That is an uptick from the 5.4% all-time low in August 2019, but it is still lower than the rate at any point under any other president for whom we have data.

The Hispanic unemployment rate was 4.2% in December 2019 — an uptick from the 3.9% all-time low in September 2019 but, again, lower than any point under any other president for whom we have data.

The Asian unemployment rate was 2.4% in December, an uptick from the 2.0% low of May 2018 but still a smidgen lower than the pre-Trump record — 2.6% in December 2016, Obama’s last full month in office.

The distinction between on record and in history is subtle, but not indecipherable. African Americans and Hispanics, for example have history in this country that started long before the 1970’s. Both groups were primary sources of labor, albeit free, in the case of most African Americans, and underemployed wage-wise, dating back to their earliest time in this country. Similarly, many of the earliest Asians, unlike contemporary trends, were laborers. The likelihood is that all three groups were fully employed for significant stretches of their time here in this country. Of course, it is often convenient, and always easy to overlook those by-gone eras.

Pre-existing conditions

The claim. Trump has repeatedly promised to protect those with pre-existing conditions, even as he has sought to kill the Affordable Care Act, which greatly expanded those safeguards.

“I’ve also made an ironclad pledge to American families. We will also protect patients with pre-existing conditions,” he said during Tuesday’s State of the Union address.

Nope. The facts: Trump’s claim about protecting those with pre-existing conditions is false. Though Trump says he would do this, his administration has consistently taken steps to undermine the Affordable Care Act — including joining a lawsuit aimed at striking down the law — without presenting alternative plans that would offer similar benefits. 

The Affordable Care Act barred insurers in the individual market from denying people coverage or charging them higher premiums because of their health histories. Also, carriers had to provide comprehensive coverage — offering 10 essential health benefits, including maternity, mental health and prescription drugs.

Trump has worked to undermine the Affordable Care Act from his first day in office, when he issued an executive order directing agencies to interpret its regulations as loosely as possible. He championed congressional Republicans’ bills in 2017 that would have weakened the law’s protections.

And his Justice Department is siding with a coalition of Republican states that are fighting in federal court to invalidate the Affordable Care Act. An appellate panel in December upheld a lower court ruling that found Obamacare’s individual mandate unconstitutional but sent the case back to the lower court to decide whether the entire law must fall.

The President has said repeatedly that he would roll out a new health care plan that would protect those with pre-existing conditions, but he has yet to do so. Last April, he backed away from pushing for a vote on a replacement plan until after the 2020 election.

Meanwhile, he issued another executive order in late 2017 that would make it easier for Americans to buy alternatives to the Affordable Care Act that are cheaper, but offer fewer protections, such as short-term health plans. The law’s defenders, however, fear that such plans could siphon off younger and healthier people, which could cause premiums to rise for those left buying policies in the Obamacare exchanges.

Trump’s administration is also allowing states to make major changes to their Obamacare markets, which could also leave low-income, older or sicker residents with few choices and higher costs. Few states have taken the federal government up on this offer so far.


The Claim: TRUMP: “Before I came into office, if you showed up illegally on our southern border and were arrested, you were simply released and allowed into our country, never to be seen again. My administration has ended catch-and-release. If you come illegally, you will now be promptly removed.”

No mas. THE FACTS: Not true. Under previous administrations, Mexicans were quickly returned back over the U.S.-Mexico border, while others were held in detention until they were deported. Some migrants from other countries were released into the interior of the United States to wait out their immigration cases.

And despite Trump’s claims that all migrants are now “promptly” removed, there is a 1 million immigration court case backlog, which means many migrants wait up to three years before a court hearing before a judge who will determine whether someone is deported. And after a judge rules a migrant deported, travel papers must be obtained, which often leads to further delays.

As for ending “catch and release,” Trump actually expanded that policy last year during a surge in migrants, releasing thousands of migrants who flooded shelters along the border. The surge has since passed, so fewer people are being held and fewer would need to be released. But an effort by immigration officials to detain children indefinitely was blocked by a judge, so children are still released into the country.

Jobs and economy

The claim: TRUMP: “The USMCA will create nearly 100,000 new high-paying American auto jobs, and massively boost exports for our farmers, ranchers and factory workers.”

THE FACTS: The president is exaggerating.

The U.S. International Trade Commission examined the deal with Canada and Mexico in an April report. The report estimated that the deal would add only 28,000 auto industry jobs six years after the deal is implemented. Separately, government officials are quoted in the report saying they believe the sector would add 76,000 jobs based on their methodology.

It’s still not the 100,000 jobs claimed by Trump.

The claim: TRUMP: “In eight years under the last administration, over 300,000 working-age people dropped out of the workforce. In just three years of my Administration, 3.5 million working-age people have joined the workforce.”

THE FACTS: Trump is being misleading with numbers to tarnish his predecessor’s record. It’s not clear what he means by “working-age.” But the total size of the U.S. labor force shows that the president is just wrong.

During the eight years of Barack Obama’s presidency, the labor force rose by 5.06 million, according to the Labor Department. The improvement reflected a rebounding economy from the Great Recession and population growth.

As the unemployment rate has fallen, more people are finding it attractive to work and joining the labor force. This has enabled the labor force to climb by an impressive 4.86 million in just three years under Trump.

The claim: TRUMP: “From the instant I took office, I moved rapidly to revive the U.S. economy — slashing a record number of job killing-regulations, enacting historic and record-setting tax cuts, and fighting for fair and reciprocal trade agreements.

THE FACTS: The U.S. economy indeed is healthy, but it’s had plenty of hiccups during the Trump administration.

Trump never quite managed to achieve the liftoff he promised during the 2016 election. Instead, gains have largely followed along the same lines of an expansion that started more than a decade ago under Obama.

Total economic growth last year was 2.3%. That is roughly in line with the average gains achieved after the Great Recession — and a far cry from growth of as much 3%, 4% or more that Trump told voters he could deliver.

The tax cuts did temporarily boost growth in 2018 as deficit spending increased. But the administration claimed its tax plan would increase business investment in way that could fuel lasting growth. For the past three quarters, business investment has instead declined.

It’s too soon to judge the impact of the updated trade agreement with Mexico and Canada as well as the pact with China. But Trump premised his economic policy on wiping out the trade gap. Instead, the trade deficit has worsened under Trump.


The Claim: TRUMP: “We are restoring our nation’s manufacturing might, even though predictions were that this could never be done. After losing 60,000 factories under the previous two administrations, America has now gained 12,000 new factories under my administration.”

THE FACTS: Not quite.

Manufacturing has slumped in the past year, after having advanced in the prior two years. The president’s tariffs regime and slower growth worldwide hurt the sector in ways that suggest that Trump’s policies robbed it of some of its previous strength.

Factory output fell 1.3% over the past 12 months, according to the Federal Reserve. Manufacturing job gains went from more than 260,000 at the end of 2018 to a paltry 46,000 for the 12 months ended in December, according to the Labor Department. Manufacturers lost jobs last year in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — the older industrial states where Trump had promised a renaissance.

That’s a few of the key issues about which Mr. Trump used his apparent silver tongue, at least to the ears of his followers, to spin a narrative that frequently looked the fact path straight in the eye…and then scurried to take an alternative route. SOTU 2020: Check the Facts!”

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Au Revoir Mamba: A Requiem for Kobe

It’s time to Break It Down!

Last Sunday morning, around 9:45 PDT, a helicopter crashed in Calabasas in Northern Los Angeles County, California. As we now know, that crash ended the lives of Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, A.K.A. GiGi, six other passengers, and the pilot, nine souls in total. Kobe Bryant gained immeasurable notoriety as a star among stars in the NBA constellation. There have been numerous memorials, and undoubtedly, there will be countless more.

But before going any further, let’s make it perfectly clear, the accident was a tragedy not just because Kobe Bryant was killed, though that was tragic. Rather it was a tragedy of immense proportion because in a moment, 9 people lost their lives, including one of Kobe’s own daughters, whom Kobe was scheduled to coach in a basketball game at noon Sunday at Kobe’s Mamba Sports Academy, two of her teammates, both parents of one of them, and the mother of the other, an Assistant Coach, and the pilot, in addition to Kobe. Every single one of those individuals was a vital functioning and contributing member of a family and friends circle. That multiple members were taken from three different families certainly deepens the blow. Those killed include:

  • Kobe Bryant, 41
  • Gianna (GiGi) Bryant, 13
  • John Altobelli, 56
  • Keri Altobelli
  • Alyssa Altobelli, Daughter, Team Member
  • Sarah Chester, Mom
  • Payton Chester, Daughter, Team Member
  • Christina Mauser, Assistant Girls Basketball Coach, Harbor Day School, and at Mamba Sports Academy
  • Ara Zobayan, Pilot

For many basketball fans, Kobe Bryant often appeared larger than life. This was especially true for the majority of folks who claim occupancy in Laker Nation. More than a few consider him the greatest ever. Drafted out of Lower Merion High School, located in Lower Merion, PA, a suburb of Philadelphia, he certainly distinguished himself with a highlight reel career that included 20 years with my beloved Lakers. Kobe amassed a resume highlighted by 18 All-Star Team selections, 15 times a member of the All NBA Team, 12 Times All NBA Defensive Team, 5 NBA Championships, 2 Time NBA Scoring Leader, 2008 NBA MVP, 4th on the all-time NBA regular season scoring list (Just passed by LeBron James this past Saturday night), 4th in all-time NBA post season scoring, first guard in NBA history to play 20 years, scored 81 points in a single game, and amassed 60 points in his final game as an NBA player. Without question, he’s a Laker Legend, and an NBA luminary of the first order of magnitude.

In laboring through constructing this retrospective, I’m the first to admit, I was not always all-in on Kobe. I am that rare Laker fan who was not the most avid Kobe fan. Don’t get me wrong; I always fully appreciated his talent and totally respected his game. He was all that, and a bag of chips. But in 1996, when the Charlotte Hornets used the 13th pick of the First Round to Draft him, I therefore and forever adhered to the notion he should have been a Hornet; my home team. Never mind that the Lakers are my all-time favorite NBA Team. Been a fan since the days of Baylor, West, Chamberlain, and Company. But as a Charlotte resident, and original Hornets’ Season Tickets owner, I’m also vested in their success. Moreover, I fully believe Kobe would have significantly altered and elevated their trajectory.

After his retirement, I softened my position. I never abandoned my opinion he should have played his career in a Hornets uniform, but I did understand (as I always did), that he made a shrewdly strategic business decision, and I absolutely respect that. I also recognize that he was instrumental in helping the Lakers win a handful of NBA Titles, and I don’t know if he’d have been able to do the same in Charlotte. On balance, he made the right call for Kobe. Each of us must do that for ourselves.

That brings me back to an undeniable reality. Our time on this earthly journey is brief, and unpredictable. According to Job 14, King James Version:

“Man that is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble. He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down: he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not. And doth thou open thine eyes upon such a one, and bringest me into judgment with thee.”

Mamba obviously had a great career in hoops. He had also created a successful Brand and had become a formidable business magnate. Of late, he was immersing himself into being a model husband and father of four daughters. By most accounts he was committed to helping GiGi develop her basketball talent and eventually achieve her stated dream of playing in the WNBA. More complete biographies will address the challenges Bryant overcame in his quest for unparalleled greatness. I am content to report that he lived his life by the standards he set, and the bar was high. He was not afraid to pursue his passion, or of the success that came from such pursuits. Many will say, he left us too soon. Unfortunately, to paraphrase Job’s sentiment, that call is  not ours to make. It’s above our pay grade.

So, as I conclude, instead of lamenting the irreversible, or framing an even longer good-bye, I say, go with God. “Au Revoir Mamba: A Requiem for Kobe!”

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He May Be One-of-a-Kind: However, King-like, He Most Certainly Is Not – Redux ’20

It’s time to Break It Down!

We just put a bow on another holiday weekend. While many may have moved on, once again, I have chosen not to do so. Instead, I am opting to carve out a moment of reflection on a few of the ideals so appropriately notated as millions across the United States, and around the world remembered Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. over the course of his Birthday Observance/Holiday weekend and beyond. I am also going to juxtapose Kellyanne Conway’s (Last year it was Mike Pence) characterization of Donald Trump as acting in the spirit of King, as Trump blew off the Observance, allegedly to prep for and fly to Davos, Switzerland for The World Economic Forum’s 50th annual meeting. Ignore the fortuitous coincidence that by jetting away, he afforded himself the opportunity to vamoose at the exact time the Senate began its impeachment deliberations.

In looking back on the many works of Dr. King, I am revisiting a post I wrote and posted Wednesday, January 19, 2011, and that I reprised January 18, 2017, January 17, 2018, and again last year, January 23, 2019, examining the advent of the King Holiday. It’s been 34 years since the initial observance of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday (MLK DAY), and 37 years since President Reagan signed the MLK, Jr. Holiday bill into law. Contemporary events remind us that now is an apt time to take a look into the rearview mirror of time.

After over three decades of inculcation into the very fabric of our society, it may be largely forgotten that the conceptualization, submission and continual resubmission of the idea, the enactment, and the gradual national observance, was not the product of universal acceptance of a grand and enlightened concept, but rather, was emblematic of the civil rights struggle itself; steeped in controversy, and the eventual victory of a relentless movement to achieve richly deserved, and long overdue social justice.

Several members of Congress, a number of states, and even a President, using a host of creative means, sought to undermine, outmaneuver, sabotage, subvert, and otherwise derail the efforts of the measure’s proponents. Ultimately, the movement was consolidated, snowballed, and would simply not be thwarted.

The effort to create a King Holiday was started by U.S. Representative John Conyers, Michigan, shortly after Dr. King’s death, in the spring of 1968. It was first introduced in the House of Representatives in 1979, but fell votes short of the number needed for passage in the Lower Chamber.

High profile opponents to the measure included Senator Jesse HelmsNCSenator John McCain, AZ, and President Ronald Reagan. Both Senators voted against the bill, and Senator McCain publicly supported Arizona Governor Evan Mecham for his rescission of MLK Day as a State Holiday in Arizona. The campaign however, reached a critical mass in the early 1980’s. Spurred on by Stevie Wonder penning a song in King’s honor called, “Happy Birthday,” a petition drive to support the campaign would attract over million signatures. It has been called the largest petition in favor of an issue in U.S. History.

Buttressed by what had become a wildly successful public campaign, Congress soon followed suit. The proposal passed in the House by a vote of 338-90, and in the Upper Chamber by a vote of 78-22. Given the dimensions of this overwhelming support, in the form of bicameral veto-proof votes, President Reagan signed the provision November 2, 1983, and it became Federal Law. The first observance under the new law took place January 20, 1986, rather than on January 15thDr. King’s birthday. A compromise in the legislation specified that the observance take place on the Third Monday in January, consistent with prior legislation (Uniform Monday Holiday Act).

Of course, that was not the end of the story. It would actually take more than 30 years after Dr. King’s death before the Holiday was fully adopted and observed in all 50 states. Illinois holds the distinction of being the first State to adopt MLK Day as a State Holiday, having done so in 1973. Twenty years later, in 1993, for the first time, some form of MLK Day was held in each of the 50 States. It was not until 2000 that South Carolina Governor Jim Hodges signed a bill to make MLK Day a paid holiday for State employees; giving the Palmetto State the dubious distinction of being the last of the 50 States to do so. However, Mississippi also sets itself apart by designating the Third Monday in January as a shared Holiday that honors the memory of Robert E. Lee and Dr. King…two fine southern gentlemen.

So, with that extensive preamble, let’s move on. As you must surely know, on November 8, 2016, Americans voted, and based on Electoral College results, elected Donald J. Trump President of the United States. Three days shy of the observance of the first anniversary of his historic inauguration, one he claims to be the largest ever witnessed (despite the fact it was not), his unverified claims, outrageous tweets, and dubious comments continue to frame him in stark contrast to his recent predecessors. I will not leave that last comment hanging, without noting that while many Americans believe that is a peculiar, and often unfortunate situation, there is a certain element of our country that believes Mr. Trump is not just a good thing, but exactly what they had hoped for, and precisely what our country needs. Suffice it to say, those are individuals with whom I disagree. Vigorously!

On Monday of this week, MLK, Jr, Jr. Day, in answer to the question, “What is President Trump doing to observe King Day, Mrs.. Conway, like Pence the year before, crossed the Rubicon of reason and common sense, asserting that “The President is preparing for Davos and agrees with many of the the things Dr. Martin Luther King stood for, and agreed with for many years, including unity and equality.”

To be clear, the simple truth of the matter is Trump did nothing, nada, nil, to observe or to commemorate the King Holiday. And you know what? I for one am perfectly fine with that. Based on his words, deeds and actions as President to date, it is clear Trump’s aims, views, and values do not align with those of Dr. King. To reinvent himself for the day would first and foremost be unlike himself, but equally as important, would clearly require a level of gross hypocrisy that would at the very least be off-putting to the most casual advocates and proponents of the King Holiday, Dream, Values and Vision.

Last year, Pence asserted that like MLK, Trump has also “inspired us to change.” “You think of how he changed America, he inspired us to change through the legislative process, to become a more perfect union,” he said. “That’s exactly what President Trump is calling on the Congress to do, come to the table in a spirit of good faith.” Left unsaid was…”To build the wall.”

Pence’s remarks came on the eve of the 2019 Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, a week after becoming the longest government shutdown on record, 30 days into the partial government shutdown, and 5 days before 800,000 federal workers will miss their second consecutive payday, if the shutdown isn’t ended. The thing is, arguments that the wall is immoral aside, Trump’s posture, and actions, reflect the polar opposite of those Dr. King articulated when he visited and spoke at the Berlin Wall in 1964. On that occasion, Dr. King said:

“For here on either side of the wall are God’s children and no man-made barrier can obliterate that fact.”

In its purest essence, Pence’s likening Trump to Dr. King was just another fabrication, statement of an untruth, deflection, and flat out lie. Using the occasion of the King Holiday to manipulate Trump’s followers was a dastardly, but not surprising act. This administration has shown time and time again that the race to the bottom…has no terminus. However, that’s pretty low. To add insult to this grievous injury, the day after Pence made the aforementioned comments, a year after Trump did nothing to acknowledge the King Holiday in 2018, and had no public events scheduled to do so in 2019, he accompanied Mr. Trump to the King Memorial to lay a wreath. They spent two minutes there, and Trump never mentioned Dr. King. Pence couldn’t have been more wrong. Two words…epic fail!

Let me be clear. I have never suffered any illusion that Donald Trump is a friend to the cause of equality, diversity, or inclusion. His wall promise and kowtowing to the likes of Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh, when he appeared poised to do the right thing, are just more evidence that his aims and methods are in no way reflective of, or in concert with those of Dr. King. Whether you label his words and actions racist (they often are) is inconsequential to me. But if you insist that you are not, but fail to summon the courage and intestinal fortitude to speak out when he spouts off on one of his offensive jags, or veers left, when clearly the moment calls for right, you display cowardice as best, and quite possibly reveal a picture window into your own moral and ethical failings. As for Mr. Trump, “He May Be One of A Kind: However, King-like, He Most Certainly Is Not Redux ‘20!”

I’m done; holla back!

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“The Streak:” It’s All Over Now

It’s time to Break It Down!

As we enter the third week of a new decade, there are a plethora of newsworthy items to select from in determining a topic du jour. The final edition of the Democratic Debates preceding the kick-off of the Iowa Caucuses and subsequent Primaries took place last night in Des Moines, Iowa, the United States House of Representatives is set to vote today on whether to send Articles of Impeachment to the United States Senate, the NCAA crowned a brand new National Champion in College Football Monday night, Donald Trump is feverishly tweeting attacks on the Democrats who have declared he will be impeached for life, and nearly a month into winter, the mid-Atlantic states are being toyed with by 70 degree temperatures. Each and every one of those items has the heft to carry the day. Alas, I’m going in a different direction.

If you have been a regular visitor to this space, or even perhaps a periodic one, you may know I occasionally dabble in sports topics, and that I lean heavily toward Carolina Blue. This weekend Tar Heel partisans the world over said good-bye to an era. As Saturday afternoon prepared to give way to evening, something happened that had never before occurred. A men’s basketball team representing Clemson University played a game against the UNC Tar Heels, and they left victorious. In a manner of speaking, the barbarians had not only stormed the gate, but they lived to tell the story in every colorful, and for Tar Heel fans, painful detail.

Casual sports fans, and certainly nonfans likely have no idea the dimensions of the tectonic hoops shift that took place Saturday in Chapel Hill. To place it in context, Carolina and Clemson have been playing basketball since 1926. Prior to Saturday, the Tigers had made 59 visits to Chapel Hill, in 93 years, and exited the premises 0-59. Cutting to the chase, it took 60 visits, over the course of 94 years to break what in Tar Heel parlance has for decades been known simply as, “The Streak.” It had endured my entire life; obviously dating back to before I became a fan, in fact before I was born.

Tar Heel hoops lore is replete with an abundant array of historical achievements.

  • Won 6 National Titles, trailing only UCLA (11), and Kentucky (8)
  • NCAA Runner-up 5 times
  • Won 18 ACC Tournament Titles
  • Won 32 ACC Regular Season Titles
  • Won 20 Outright ACC Regular Season Titles
  • Produced three players on the NBA 50 Greatest Players List
  • Became the second program to win 2,000 games (remain 1 of 4 to do so)
  • Through 2019, maintain the second highest winning percentage all-time (.739)
  • Played in 11 NCAA Title Games
  • Appeared in 20 Finals Fours (most of any team)
  • Made 48 NCAA Tournament Appearances
  • Won 123Games NCAA Tournament Games
  • Won an NIT Tournament Title
  • Appeared in the NIT 6 times
  • Been Ranked in the Top 25 in the AP Poll 915 weeks (most all-time)
  • Beaten #1 Ranked Teams 14 times (a record)
  • Averaged more wins per season played than any other team
  • Most consecutive 20-win Seasons (31)
  • Most consecutive Top Three ACC finishes (37)
  • Finished the Season ranked in the AP Top 25 50 times
  • Finished the Season ranked in the Coaches Poll Top 25 52 times
  • Finished the Season Ranked #1 in the AP Poll 5 times
  • Finished the Season Ranked #1 in the Coaches Poll 6 times
  • In 2008, received the first unanimous #1 Pre-season Ranking in either Poll
  • Ranked #1 by ESPN – Most Successful Program in the past 50 years (2012)
  • 1957 Season – 32-0; defeated Wilt Chamberlain & Kansas for the Title
  • Currently 16 NBA players are Tar Heel alums
  • !5 Tar Heels have played in the Olympics
  • 6 Tar Heels are in the Naismith Hall of Fame as players
  • 5 Tar Heels are in the Naismith Hall of Fame as coaches
  • 49 All-American Players – Chosen a total of 78 times

The next time Coach Roy Williams and the Tar Heels win a game, Coach Williams will eclipse Dean Smith as North Carolina’s career leader in wins, with 880. It will be a swell day for Carolina, for the Tar Heel Nation, and especially for Coach Williams. He’ll downplay play it of course, looking for ways to elevate and energize his team, and in deference to his mentor, Coach Smith. More than anything else though, at this point, it will mean the Heels have won a game. After a losing streak that has already reached three games, all in Chapel Hill (a not-so-good record in its own right), a first since his return to coach the Heels, Coach, the team, and all of Tar Heeldom are anxious for the relief only a W can bring.

But I digress. I saw a graph that framed this discourse more poignantly than anything else I’ve seen. It said, in essence, in chart form, “Number of Wins in Chapel Hill This Decade: Georgia Tech – 1, University of Pittsburgh – 1, Clemson University – 1, University of North Carolina – 0! The subject is “The Streak.” That it is enhanced by two games (so far) does, I suppose, add injury to insult. But for me, at least, it does not alter the narrative.

There are a lot of reasons Carolina is 8-8, but, as Coach Williams likes to say, when you put on the Carolina Jersey and step on the court, you are Carolina. No reasons, and/or excuses resonate. There are 15 games left in the Regular Season, all Conference games, and 9 on the road. By the time this season ends, it could be one of the worse ever in Chapel Hill. But even if the team were to catch fire, and roll through the rest of the season undefeated, I dadgum (a Royism, if you don’t know) assure you, there will be players and members of the coaching staff, as well as fans from near and far who will recall that on January 11, 2020, Clemson finally won in Chapel Hill. Congratulations Clemson; GO HEELS! “The Streak:” It’s Over 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; 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:


Iran Attacks Two Iraqi Bases Housing U.S. Troops: Back to You Donald

It’s time to Break It Down!

Last week Mr. Trump crowed that he authorized a drone strike at a Baghdad Airport Thursday night that resulted in the death of Iran’s top General, Qasem Soleimani, as well as Abu Mahdi Muhandis, the deputy head of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), which is backed by Iran. The action has drawn global attention, deepened partisan divisions in the U.S. where the Senate is waiting for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to forward Articles of Impeachment, and as of early this morning, Iraqi time, prompted the firing of more than a dozen ballistic missiles at two bases housing American troops.

Trump made the announcement in a statement Friday from his Mar-a-Lago resort. He said, “We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war.

Later at a Miami church for an Evangelicals for Trump event, Trump said Soleimani “was planning a major attack and we got him.” He claimed that the General was in Iran planning sinister and imminent attacks that would kill Americans.

Back in Washington, Democrats groused that Trump took this action without advising members of Congress, particularly the Gang of 8, a group of Democrats and Republicans who typically expect to be consulted in advance of such major military attacks. Meanwhile, most Republicans, at least on camera, took a wait and see attitude, and professed their belief that Trump had received sufficient intelligence intel to justify the attack.

The humongous irony in that assertion, by both Trump and many of his supporters is that he and they have for years now consistently decried the accuracy and effectiveness of American intelligence agencies. All of them! Any number of critics have presaged this moment with warnings of, “What will happen when something happens and we need to believe not Trump, or, the intelligence community, but Trump, echoing the findings of the intelligence committee.

Not surprisingly, those who always believe Trump barely noticed the intelligence community played any role (which frankly the exact nature of is still not fully determined) in ascertaining the nature of the threat level, and whether it was in fact imminent. It’s what they do.

As for Trump, remember, from November 2011 to September 2013, he tweeted at least half dozen times warning about President Obama initiating some armed aggression against Iran, first to get re-elected, then to show how tough he was…after he got re-elected without any such acts. Now it’s time to wonder if Trump’s ramblings on the subject of attacking Iran were simply the relentless echoes of his incessant musings about what he would do, if he were in the Oval. OK, some of us see no need to wonder.

While Mar-a-Lago guests and Miami church-goers were getting preferred intel ahead of at least Democrats in Congress, Mr. Trump eventually Tweeted Sunday afternoon, “These Media Posts will serve as notification to the United States Congress that should Iran strike any U.S. person or target, the United States will quickly & fully strike back, & perhaps in a disproportionate manner. Such legal notice is not required, but is given nevertheless!”

So, for nearly a week now, as the ebb and flow of the internal (American) discourse has vacillated across our airways and our individual consciousness, Iran did what was anticipated; they responded. Preliminary information is that the U.S. had prior knowledge the attack was coming and took necessary precautions. As a result, early reports from both American and Iraqi sources say there were no known casualties due to the strikes. Trump, who has not publicly addressed the nation did tweet, “all is well!”

After nearly a week, Congress is set to officially receive an update today. As an aside, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham boasted that he received a prequel from Trump during a golfing outing.

Over the past several days, Trump, practicing his usual bombast, has threatened to attack Iran forcefully, perhaps even disproportionally in the event they responded to Soleimani’s death with attacks on Americans or American targets.

Today, the ball is in Trump’s court. Hope your vehicles are sitting on Full. The price of gas just went up. “Iran Attacks Two Iraqi Bases Housing U.S. Troops: Back to You Donald!”

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; 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:



Happy New Year: Here’s to Auld Lang Syne Redux – 2020 Edition

It’s time to Break It Down!

During this holiday week, here’s a reprised edition of “Break It Down!”

This Issue has been revised from the Break It Down post I originally conceived, created, and published December 29, 2010, and subsequently re-posted in amended formats December 28, 2011December 31, 2014, December 30, 2015, December 28, 2016, January 3, 2018, and January 2, 2019. This is my first post of the month, of the year 2020, and of course, of the decade. This is the 653rd Edition of Break It Down, which debuted August 20, 2007 on the BlogSpot platform. I migrated the principal site to WordPress August 3, 2012, approximately three weeks before the Fifth Anniversary of the blog.  You may find this and most other posts at either site.

With this post I wish you a blessed and bountiful Happy New Year. Now, enjoy today’s blog.

The one-half fortnight between Christmas and New Year’s Day is a unique occurrence in the unfolding of the American version of the Gregorian Calendar.  It is the only instance in which the space of a mere seven days separates two major holidays. Unquestionably, the timing is propitious.  Millions of holiday travelers return home from their Christmas commemoration and revelry, just in time to get a day off to “celebrate” the New Year…and recuperate from the old, most notably their extracurricular activities, including the exploits of New Year’s Eve.

In last week’s post, I presented a re-formatted airing of my personally crafted Christmas Concert ( from past Noels.  This week, I doubled down and reverted to my trusty time capsule. Once again, this tack permits new readers to catch-up by seeing the piece, it allows long-time readers to reflect upon both the passing year as well as the theme lifted in the post, and finally, it ensures that those busy readers, with no time to invest in checking out a new blog during the holidays, will not have to miss anything. It’s a win, win…win!

With that loosely framed preamble behind us, here’s this week’s déjà vu all over again:

Since we are still in the Sweet Spot of the holidays, I shall practice minimalism. For your purposes, that means the blog should be available, but not intrusive. To that end, I am taking a page from the Christmas e-concert but going a step further. Instead of a concert, I give you a song…of reflection.

Robert Burns, a Scot, wrote a poem (Auld Lang Syne) in 1788 that has come to symbolize the spirit of mass contemplation that people around the world invoke as the clock strikes midnight, signaling not just the dawn of a new day, but of a new year. Undoubtedly, you have been somewhere, at some time, when you joined those assembled to sing Auld Lang Syne, which loosely translated means, Times gone by.

Once again, that time is upon us. After thoughtful reflection on my 2017, I have had no choice but to conclude, my travails have been few and small, especially when compared to my blessings, which have been both abundant and vast! All praises to the one true, omnipotentomnipresent, and omniscient God; a mighty fortress is He.

No need to thank me for my inherent thoughtfulness. But, by all means, “Drink a cup of kindness,” or eggnog, or Champagne, or “name your favorite adult beverage,” for me. And, if you are a teetotaler, water will do nicely, thank-you!

As I complete my first post of 2019, and, prayerfully and faithfully reflect upon 2018, I leave with you this familiar Irish Toast:

May the road rise up to meet you.

May the wind always be at your back.

May the sun shine warm upon your face,

And rains fall soft upon your fields.

And until we meet again,

May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

I invite you to click on the links directly below, which lead to an A cappella and a Jazz interpretation of Auld Lang Syne, arranged and performed by the late Lou Rawls (and listen to the remainder of this week’s edition of Break It Down):

It has been my unique honor and privilege to visit with you briefly for each of the 52 weeks this year. I hope you have derived a fraction of the pleasure reading the blog posts that I have experienced from preparing and providing them to you. May 2019 bring you the fulfillment of all your fondest desires. As it is shortly after midnight here in the Eastern Time Zone of the U.S.A., it’s my esteemed honor and pleasure to wish you Happy New Year: Here’s to Auld Lang Syne Redux – 2020 Edition!”

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; 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: