Ollie North: At It Again

It’s time to Break It Down!

I hadn’t heard or thought about the name Oliver North in many years. If and when I did, it was in relation to the ill-fated Iran-Contra affair, which was a political scandal that occurred in the United States during Reagan’s second term. The CliffNotes summary of the matter is that the United States, aimed to free 7 American hostages held in Lebanon by Hezbollah, a paramilitary group with military ties to the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. Senior Reagan official secretly facilitated the sale of arms to Iran, which at the time, not unlike now, was the subject of an arms embargo. The intent was to fund the Contras in Nicaragua while simultaneously negotiating the release of the hostages.

Ultimately, it was determined, subterfuge notwithstanding; that by making large-scale modifications to the plan, then Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North of the National Security Council played a central role in executing a covert and prohibited arms for hostages deal. On March 4, 1987, Reagan hit the airwaves in a nationally televised address, taking full responsibility, and saying, “what began as a strategic opening to Iran deteriorated, in its implementation, into trading arms for hostages.”

Fast forward, On May 7, 2018, the National Rifle Association (NRA) announced that North would become the organization’s next president within the following weeks. He will succeed Pete Brownell, the incumbent President, who did not stand for re-election.

After last week’s school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, in which 10 students and 2 teachers were killed, and a dozen others injured, North cited “a culture of violence” as the culprit in school shootings. He mentioned the drug Ritalin, TV, and movies, as causes for such shootings, which after last week, the 20thweek of 2018, numbered 22. Not surprisingly, he did not mention guns, lax gun laws, or any aspect of the Second Amendment, which the NRA vigorously supports at all costs. But there was one other NRA and gun lobby scape-goating favorite that he conveniently failed to note: violent video games.

At an NRA forum, North had this to say:

“The problem that we’ve got is we’re trying like the dickens to treat the symptom without treating the disease. And the disease in this case isn’t the Second Amendment. The disease is youngsters who are steeped in a culture of violence.”

He indicated, in a Fox News interview last Sunday, that prescribing of the attention deficit disorder drug Ritalin was partially responsible for violence such as that at the Santa Fe, Texas high school. North also gave violent movies specific mention. Commentators from a variety of media outlets were quick to point out that the former Marine was not only featured as a voice actor in “Call of Duty: Black Ops II Video Game,” but he also served as a pitchman. Undoubtedly, for North, it’s a case where, like beauty, violence is in the eye of the beholder.

There is little question, North created wide ranging parameters for creativity when he orchestrated the little known moving parts of the Iran-Contra scandal. In ascending to a pivotal leadership role with the NRA, he will almost certainly be called upon to match, if not exceed that level of mental legerdemain in his defense of all things NRA, including a relentless series of school shootings.

The constant barrage of shootings, especially at schools, but also in clubs and at concerts, has sparked a call for changes in gun laws. The NRA has been front and center in blaming culture, and in lobbying against any substantive changes. Now Oliver North stands front and center for the NRA.

Everytown for Gun Safety, a group which promotes stricter gun laws, said in a statement Monday that “The American people know who bears the most blame for gun violence: the NRA apologists who are always pointing their fingers at everyone else.”

The terms of engagement are different, and many more than 7 lives are at stake. It’s been more than 30 years, and once again, Oliver North stands in the midst of a controversy that roils the nation. Ollie North: At It Again!”

I’m done; holla back!











Happy Birthday: A Year In The Life of Special Counsel Mueller

It’s time to Break It Down!

Tomorrow will mark the one-year anniversary of the Justice Department’s appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to oversee the government’s investigation of possible Russian interference in our 2016 Presidential Election, including, but not limited to collusion between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russian officials. How one assesses the fruits of Mr. Mueller’s efforts very much depends upon where one sits.

The feverish and frenzied fanatical Fox News viewers see every act that Mueller has taken (and some that he hasn’t) as evidence of a deep state, democratic, liberal media conspiracy. Let’s take a moment to consider the upside down nature of that reality. If you have anything other than a short memory, you may recall that it did not begin that way.

Conservatives and Republicans were, if not giddy, at least satisfied that their interests were being served by getting rid of Comey, who despite his arguably malevolent actions against Hillary Clinton, had managed to find himself in persona non grata time out with Republicans. Here are 10 observations made about Mueller’s appointment in one Fox News story, the day after it happened, asserting that Democrats AND Republicans should be happy:

  1. First, the Attorney General’s wise recusal and Deputy’s swift appointment moves this distraction from politics to legal inquiry– where it belongs. This is good for the country.  Leaks may happen, but the White House and Congress can get back to legislating.
  2. Second, the media can sniff, but Mueller is a consummate professional, which is why two presidents appointed him FBI Director.  Expect front pages to yield thin pickings.  This too is good for America. It turns down the post-election hysteria on this issue.
  3. Third, Mueller’s reputation for being thorough, as well as efficient, offers light and quiet at the end of an unusually dark and noisy tunnel.  If Russians sought to disrupt faith in democracy, he will say so.  If there was no collusion of any sort, with any intent, by any party – he will say so. If some other conclusion is warranted, he will say so. Period.
  4. Fourth, Mueller is not after a second career.  He is not going to use this assignment as means to another end.  He is content with his status, wise man of the law.  There is a bit of William Webster and George Marshall about the man.  This means he is unlikely to be scoring political points, one way or the other. He is unlikely to want a book, movie or publication of salacious notes.  He is about duty, as called. We need more of that.
  5. Fifth, Mueller’s penchant for close attention to detail means he will not miss vital facts, but will likely stick to the assigned inquiry, not succumbing to that age-old “independent counsel” lark – launching ever-widening inquiries on spurious grounds.
  6. Sixth, Mueller’s assignment represents a brilliant political move, the equivalent of castling in chess.  While bringing forward a player with great versatility and respect to hold an important square, the move elevates respect for the FBI and diminishes interest in the controversial departing director, who held that post for a third of Mueller’s time.
  7. Seventh, the move demonstrates extraordinary good judgment on the part of the Deputy, and by extension the Attorney General.  Necessarily, it reflects faith in wise men by wise men, as well as in the FBI, rule of law and pursuit of truth.  This validates the president’s commitment to law enforcement, rule of law and truth.
  8. Eighth, the appointment reestablishes America’s longstanding commitment to openness, particularly when the “independent counsel” statute lapsed almost 20 years ago, and multiple prior Attorney Generals resisted initiating similar truth-seeking, including the last two, who resisted parallel calls for inquiries into possible mis-, mal- and nonfeasance by high-ranking members of the Obama administration.
  9. Ninth, while some Democrats and media hounds will credit themselves for this decision, the truth is that its speed, authenticity, clarity and level of professionalism speak to a new and un-politicized Department of Justice. America needs this change.  We need the confidence that flows from such clarity of reasoning, and an end to infusion of politics into what has always been a non-political domain.
  10. Finally, America should take a deep breath for another reason.  This was a decision that many called for and few expected; a moment of choice based on moral goodness and taking a step beyond what was necessary, into what was simply good for the country. If the investigation finds something, so be it.  If it finds no material collusion, which is what I personally expect it will find, the nation is again stronger for having asked.

Robert Charles, a former Assistant Secretary of State for President George W. Bush, a former naval intelligence officer and litigator, wrote that appraisal. He also served in the Reagan and Bush 41 White Houses. He is not a deep statist, a Democrat, or a member of the liberal media. He is, as it were, “one of them.”

One thing I can guarantee you. There is zero chance that a year later, anyone in TrumpWorld has anything remotely positive to say about Robert Mueller. I don’t know how Robert Charles feels about Mueller today. My guess is, Shepard Smith would still sign off of this summary, a year into the investigation. It’s equally assured that few, if any others at Fox News would concur. In a Fox Insider story yesterday, Tom Fitton, Judicial Watch President, offered a much more typical contemporary conservative characterization of the Mueller probe. He called it “an unmitigated disaster.” He went on to say, of the investigation:

“It hasn’t worked, it’s failing, it was created based on an illegal leak by James Comey, many of the people who inspired the Mueller investigation were fired from the government.”

That’s what you will hear from Republicans now. While Democrats, looking back, likely have a considerably more favorable view of Mueller, there is still much we do not know. My sincerest advice is, don’t let anyone tell you Mueller’s investigation is a direct route leading to Trump’s impeachment. I personally think that’s an unlikely outcome due to the combination of arithmetic, and GOP Trumpitis, otherwise known as allegiance, or as Mr. Trump might call it, loyalty. I’ve explained both before, and there is a good chance I will again, but for the moment, that’s enough. “Happy Birthday: A Year in the Life of Special Counsel Mueller!”

I’m done; holla back!

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

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‘Tis The Season: Elections Have Consequences!

‘Tis The Season: Elections Have Consequences!

Yesterday was Primary Election Day in four states, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, and my native North Carolina. For all practical purposes, this is the kick-off of the much ballyhooed midterm election season. I will not be casting the primaries into any kind of framework suitable for extensive review and analysis. In fact, this post is not so much about any or all of the elections, but rather about you, and your civic duty.

It’s a short blog, with one very specific message. Vote! That’s it.

No matter where you fall along the political and ideological spectrum, you should have no dearth of motivation to exercise your franchise. There are enough compelling bases to go around.

In the event you fancy yourself a Trump supporter, the coming election contests, both primaries and the general election, represent the opportunity to solidify what so many of you characterize as solid gains that put us (America) on the right track after nearly a decade of having been lost in the Obama-fashioned wilderness. At least that is a kinder, gentler way of expressing the dire nature of our current situation, based on the conservative commentary that I hear articulated on Fox News, that I see in my news feed, and that I hear when I am in conversation with my conservative and right-leaning associates. I suppose that’s a tautology. So be it; it’s a short post. 😉

Conversely, if you are alarmed by the systematic undoing of all things Obama, which Mr. Trump has engaged in for the last 403 days, or so, you’ve got more than a little impetus to drive you to your assigned polling place. If you are concerned by the penchant of the GOP-led House & Senate to endorse and support Trumpism, even when he declares that there are very fine people on both sides (despite the fact that one side is comprised of white supremacists and Neo-Nazis), you ought to be fired up…and ready to go…Vote. If you are reeling from Trump referring to African nations and Haiti as “s-hole” countries, you have an ample trigger to get your vote on. If you are tripping because the President of the United States, presumably the most powerful man in the world, called African American Athletes SOB’s, for exercising their Constitutional right to kneel during the National Anthem before football games, you d… sure ought to be provoked beyond measure to vote your conscious, and to do so, as often as the occasion presents itself.

In summary if you live in IN, OH, WV, or NC, I hope you voted yesterday. Moreover, I implore you to vote whenever your own primary rolls around, if you don’t live in one of those four states, and of course, no, make that especially, by all means, vote in your state’s general election in November.  Remember, “Tis The Season: Elections Have Consequences!”

I’m done; holla back!

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

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

Astonishingly Excellent Lab Results: In His Own Words

It’s time to Break It Down!

You Just Can’t Make Up This Stuff. Oh Wait! You Can, and Apparently, “Someone” (Guess Who) Did.

Yesterday, Mr. Trump’s former personal physician, Dr. Harold Bornstein said of the hyperbolically prosy letter (using language sounding incredibly similar to that routinely used by his patient) that he purportedly wrote in 2015 describing then candidate Trump’s health, patient Trump actually authored it. In Dr. Bornstein’s words, speaking of Trump:

“He dictated that whole letter. I didn’t write that letter. I just made it up as I went along.”

He added that Trump told him what he wanted the letter to say, and he responded with what he couldn’t say. The admission is an about face from his answer to the question of who wrote the letter, more than two years ago, when it came to light. At that time, the very un-doctor like terminology he used to characterize Mr. Trump’s medical fitness led many people to question whether he had written the summary. The two things that stood out most when reviewing the letter were the degree to which the way the letter was framed deviated from the usage of standard medical jargon and parlance, and the extend to which the writing style paralleled the way Donald Trump expresses himself.

In August 2016, James Hamblin, M.D., wrote a story in The Atlantic entitled, “The Bizarre Words of Donald Trump’s Doctor.” Take a gander below at the letter at the center of the newly revived controversy.



101 EAST 78th STREET

NEW YORK, NY 10075-0301

TELE: (212) 988-6600 FAX: (212) 988-6602

E-mail: hbornst1@gmail.com


December 4, 2015

To Whom My Concern:

I have been the personal physician of Mr. Donald J. Trump since 1980. His previous physician was my father, Dr. Jacob Bornstein. Over the past 39 years, I am pleased to report that Mr. Trump has had no significant medical problems. Mr. Trump has had a recent complete medical examination that showed only positive results. Actually, his blood pressure, 110/65, and laboratory test results were astonishingly excellent.

Over the past twelve months, he has lost at least fifteen pounds. Mr. Trump takes 81 mg of aspirin daily and a low dose of statin. His PSA test score is 0.15 (very low). His physical strength and stamina are extraordinary.

Mr. Trump has suffered no form of cancer, has never had a hip, knee, or shoulder replacement or any other orthopedic surgery. His only surgery was an appendectomy at age ten. His cardiovascular status is excellent. He has no history of ever using alcohol or tobacco products.

If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.

Harold N. Bornstein, M.D., F.A.C.G.

Department of Medicine, Section of Gastroenterology

Lenox Hill Hospital, New York, NY


In Hamblin’s Atlantic article, he noted that the letter had, after more than two years, thrust the eccentric Bornstein, with his shoulder length hair and John Lennon styled spectacles, smack dab in the middle of undesired limelight. Among other things, the letter stated unswervingly that Trump would be the healthiest individual ever elected President. This assertion was leveled despite the clear recognition that Trump, if elected, would be the oldest individual ever elected President, sleeps little, holds angry grudges, and is said to eat KFC and slabs of red meat. The claim of superlative health quite simply rang hollow.

Hamblin, noted the doctor could have taken the opportunity at that time to bow out. In what we can now dub an act of precognition, he said Bornstein could have said Trump dictated the letter, and he only signed it. He could have said Trump suggested at least some of the phrases…because it was not just the medical facts, but also the linguistic styling that was amiss. Keen-eyed readers with a mind (to do so) might have seen the handiwork of Trump, particularly in the adjectival phrases, such as: “his strength and physical stamina are extraordinary,” and “his laboratory test results are astonishingly excellent.” For extra emphasis, there was an instance of the Trumpian tendency of starting a sentence with “actually,” to build onto (as opposed to contradict) the previous sentence: “Mr. Trump has had a complete medical examination that showed only positive results. Actually, his blood pressure and lab results were astonishingly excellent.”

Instead of taking an “exit, stage left” posture, Dr. Bornstein stuck to his guns. He didn’t just claim the letter as his own, he injected that he rather liked the line about Mr. Trump being the healthiest person ever elected President.

In a CliffNotes sort of review, it’s worth noting that doctors typically describe lab results of the good variety as “normal,” or “within normal limits.” If a case warranted qualitative assessment, “reassuring,” or “encouraging,” would be considerably more likely than the boastful “excellent.” Moreover, even should excellent ever be deemed the qualifier of choice, it would never need the expansive effects of an adverb such as “astonishingly.”

Dr. Hamblin concluded in his August 2016 Atlantic Article, based on the array of overt clues, that it was unlikely Dr. Bornstein had written the letter. He continued:

“So for linguistic reasons alone, it would shock me if Bornstein wrote this letter. Add to that the other bizarre elements, and it was jarring to hear him stand by it last week, laughing in the process. In video footage that appears to have been taken covertly, Bernstein also admitted that he “wrote the letter in five minutes” while a car was idling outside waiting for him. This is a critical fact: It means that he cowed to the demands of his patient. (Trump had tweeted two days prior, “I have instructed my long-time doctor to issue, within two weeks, a full medical report—it will show perfection.)”

Bornstein’s revelations didn’t end with Trump’s dictation of “the letter.” He also said Trump’s bodyguard, accompanied by a Trump lawyer, and a third man visited his Park Avenue office and confiscated Trump’s medical files. Dr. Bornstein said the visit, which he termed a raid, took place February 3, 2017, two days after the New York Times (NYT) quoted him as saying he prescribed Trump a hair growth medicine for years. In describing the event, Bornstein said:

“They must have been here for 25 or 30 minutes. It created a lot of chaos.” He added that the incident made him feel “raped, frightened, and sad.” Hmm, I might call that a tad overly dramatic…but then, I wasn’t there.

Bornstein recognized two of the men; Trump personal bodyguard Keith Schiller, who until last September worked at the White House as operations director, and Alan Garten, a lawyer from the Trump Organization family Real Estate firm. An unidentified man also accompanied them. The doctor said the original and only copy of Trump’s charts and lab reports under the President’s names and various pseudonyms (don’t ask) were taken.

When asked about the incident, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders played it down. She responded:

“It would be standard procedure for the president, a newly collected president’s medical records to be in possession by the White House Medical Unit and that was what was taking place.”

Mrs. Sanders insisted that what happened was not a raid. Of course it wasn’t. Wink, wink.

Bornstein told NBC News that he couldn’t believe anybody was making such a big deal out of a drug to grow his hair. He said, “It was certainly not a breach of medical trust to tell somebody they use Propecia to grow their hair.”

The Dr. said Trump dropped him after the NYT article appeared. NBC reported that Bornstein, who is 70, had been Trump’s personal doctor for more than 35 years.

In closing, I’d like to say, as I did at the outset, you just can’t make up this stuff. Alas, everyday we are reminded, anew, that that simply isn’t so. First, we are immersed in the Dr. Admiral Ronny Jackson story, now, a made for TV drama about his decades long personal physician. I’m not sure whether these stories when taken together say more about Trump’s vanity and attempts to control the narrative of the physicians who treat him, or the ambitions of those docs. In any event, just remember, hang in there; like Friday, tomorrow is coming. Only sooner. There is sure to be another misadventure soon enough. It happens all the time. With that said, here we are again, totally made up…”Astonishingly Excellent Lab Results: In His Own Words!”

I’m done; holla back!

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

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

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Kakistocracy: We Are Here!

It’s time to Break It Down!

That, in effect, says it all. Succinctly! So much so, this will be my shortest blog ever.

We are now observing the circus-like debacle surrounding the effort to confirm Rear Admiral Dr. Ronny Jackson for the position of Secretary of Veterans Affairs, concurrent with the elaborate mental gymnastics employed to save Scott Pruitt’s job as Environmental Protection Administrator. I searched for just the right word; it wasn’t easy. In addition to the two current aforementioned high profile Team Trump members navigating thin ice during this first month of spring, there are of course numerous others who’ve already fallen victim to early exits. The list of their names is long. Ten that leap out at first thought are:

  1. Michael Flynn
  2. Tom Price
  3. John McEntee
  4. Sean Spicer
  5. Omarosa Manigault-Newman
  6. Steve Bannon
  7. Anthony Scaramucci
  8. Sebastian Gorka
  9. Rob Porter
  10. Hope Hicks

Mr. Trump exclaimed long ago that he would hire the best people. In point of fact, not only has he failed miserably to make that promise a valid assertion, there is a case to be made that he has done just the opposite; that he has in reality built his own personal Kakistocracy. What in the Sam Hill is that, you may ask? Thank you for inquiring. See the definition below:


A Kakistocracy is a system of government, which is run by the worst, least qualified, or most unscrupulous citizens. The word was coined as early as the seventeenth century. It is a term that also was used by English author Thomas Love Peacock in 1829, but gained significant use in the twenty-first century.

With that, as noted in the opening, I’ve said it all. Kakistocracy: We Are Here!

I’m done; holla back!

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

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

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Forget The Mistake: Remember The Lesson!

It’s time to Break It Down!

Last Thursday, the Starbucks franchise surged toward the top of trending media topics. And, I might add, not for good reason. As almost anyone not firmly ensconced under a rock, or immersed in a Rip Van Winkle-like slumber knows by now, a Philadelphia Starbucks manager called police and urged them to arrest two men, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson. Which they did! Spoiler alert; the men were black.

As they waited for a friend to join them, the store manager concluded that since they declined to make a purchased, they had to leave. This resulted in the manager calling the police and asking that they arrest the men. The officers detained the men, complete with handcuffs, the perp walk out of the Starbucks at 18th and Spruce Streets in the Center City District.

A number of people in the coffee shop, at the time, captured video of the incident, and some tweeted about it. One person who did both was Melissa DePino, a novelist. She tweeted the following:

Melissa DePino‏ @missydepino

@Starbucks “The police were called because these men hadn’t ordered anything. They were waiting for a friend to show up, who did as they were taken out in handcuffs for doing nothing. All the other white ppl are wondering why it’s never happened to us when we do the same thing.”

5:12 PM – Apr 12, 2018

Public reports reveal that police were initially called because two black men had not ordered anything and were waiting for their friend. In essence the men were arrested, placed in a police cruiser, and considered a threat while actually not having done anything. In an 8-minute long video, the two black men can be seen maintaining a calm demeanor throughout the duration of their encounter with the officers. One of the officers can be heard saying the men were asked to leave the Starbucks for reasons that remain unclear.

Brittany Packnett was another witness/tweeter. In the midst of the incident, she posted on her Twitter account:

Brittany Packnett


13 Apr

Replying to @MsPackyetti

“The extremely jacked up part is how calm these two brothers are as they’re walking out in handcuffs for doing *exactly nothing* because they already know their totally righteous anger could end in their death.

This is tired. Racism is tired. What say you, ‪@starbucks?!!”

If we were on the Game Show Jeopardy, the answer would be: What is being guilty of “waiting while black,” Alex?

Ms. Packnett directed her tweet straight to the source, Starbucks. To their credit, it appears the Company was not only attentive, but also responsive. They began by issuing their own tweet:


FollowFollow @Starbucks


Replying to @MsPackyetti

We’re aware of the incident on Thursday in a Philadelphia store with 2 guests and law enforcement, resulting in their removal. We’re reviewing the incident with our partners, law enforcement and customers to determine what took place and led to this unfortunate result.

10:34 PM – 13 Apr 2018

That was not Starbucks’ only measure of response. Moreover, it was far from the most significant. Starbucks Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Kevin Johnson has taken several steps to both make clear his, and the Company’s concern about the incident, and to show in no uncertain terms that the events that unfolded in Philadelphia nearly a week ago do not reflect the culture that Starbucks is invested in, and committed to deepening and expanding.

Johnson called the actions of his employee reprehensible! He went on to take ownership by stating plainly, “I am accountable.” He added, “I will fix this.” He also said that his responsibility was not just to look at that individual, but to look more broadly at the circumstances that led to the incident in order to take steps to make sure that it never happens again.

The manager of the store no longer works for Starbucks. Mr. Johnson flew from Seattle to Philadelphia and met personally with Nelson and Robinson on Monday; he apologized to them during the meeting.

Johnson called for “unconscious bias” training for Starbucks store managers. Rosalind Brewer, the company’s Chief Operating Officer (COO), who happens to be African American, weighed in on the matter, including the call for training for the store managers. In an interview with NPR, she referred to the matter as a “teachable moment for all of us.” She noted that as an African American executive with a 23-year-old son, she found the videos painful to watch. She went on to add:

“It would be easy for us to say that this was a one-employee situation, but I have to tell you, it’s time for us to, myself included, take personal responsibility here, and to do the best that we can to make sure we do everything we can.”

Benjamin Waxman, a spokesman for Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, said over the weekend that the office decided that there “wasn’t sufficient evidence to charge [the men] with a crime.”

On Monday, Johnson said that there are scenarios that warrant a call to police – including threats and other disturbances – but that in this case, “it was completely inappropriate to engage the police.”

To be clear, Starbucks does not have a universal policy on asking members of the public to leave. The company delegates safety and customer service protocol decisions to store managers. For example, managers may leave restroom doors unlocked or add key-code entry control if they feel the store is more at risk for criminal behavior.

One Starbucks official acknowledged that the incident is at odds with common practice at Starbucks. He noted, “The stores are community hubs where people often drop in to use the Wi-Fi or chat with friends without necessarily buying anything.”

Lauren Wimmer, who happens to be white, is the attorney who represented the two men. She said she spent a good portion of her time in law school at Starbucks without buying much and never had a problem with store employees. She asserted the incident was about race.

I would be remiss to close out this post without making a salient observation. The blog has centered on a dynamic encounter between three distinct elements: African American males, an urban police department, and a largely white business establishment. The business called the police on the black guys, the black guys remained calm under pressure, and the police, clearly did not fear for their lives…translation, the black guys are still alive. Perhaps, more notably, at the end of the day, by most accounts, neither the black guys nor the police officers were deemed to have been at fault. How cool…and rare, is that? Unless you represent Starbucks in this tribe-part scenario, that is.

In response to Starbucks’ commitment to train its employees in the wake of the arrest of two black men in Philadelphia last Thursday, the company has announced it will close 8,000 company-owned stores and train approximately 175,000 employees on Tuesday afternoon, May 29th.  Ms. Brewer, the COO, referred to this incident as a “teachable moment for all of us.” As time races inexorably toward May 29th, my sincere hope for Ms. Brewer and the Starbucks family, for Mssrs. Nelson and Robinson, as well as for any of you who may be coffee lovers, is that Starbucks can “Forget The Mistake. Remember The Lesson!” I’m done; holla back!

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

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

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20/20: Perfect!

It’s time to Break It Down!

Spring is in the air. Every year about this time I seem to run across stories about black academic excellence across the American educational landscape. Perhaps the most extraordinary example involves Chicago’s Urban Prep Academies, a collection of all male charter schools located and operating in Chicago. In 2002, former Hales Franciscan High School President (and Alpha man) Tim King organized a group of African-American civic, business, and education leaders, expressly for the purpose of creating a new high school in Chicago focused on providing a strong, college-preparatory high school option for boys in under-served African-American communities.

The Chicago Board of Education approved Urban Prep Academies’ charter application in 2005, and Urban Prep opened its first school, Urban Prep Charter Academy for Young Men — Englewood Campus in September 2006. Urban Prep became the first charter high school for boys in the country. The school opened its second facility in the East Garfield Park community in 2009, and moved closer to the West Side in 2011. Urban Prep’s third campus, serving the historic Bronzeville community, opened in 2010. Approximately 85% of Urban Prep students are low-income, and nearly all are African American.

Admission to Urban Prep is non-selective and determined through a lottery system. Enrollment is open to all matriculating 9th graders in Chicago. Lottery admission information is available on Urban Prep’s admission webpage.

The school became the focus of national attention in March 2010, when it was announced that 100% of the first graduating class had been accepted at a four-year college or university. Incredibly, Urban Prep students have continued that streak every year. I’m confident even Joe Biden would consider that a big…deal.

In other years, there have been (African American) students who have earned acceptance at every Ivy League University, which is without question, a phenomenal accomplishment. This year’ superlative is a 17-year old young man from Houston, Texas, Michael Brown. I had read about Brown, and thought of him again as I was changing flights a couple of days ago in Houston.

Michael became a celebrity of sorts earlier this month when news broke that he had applied to, and gained acceptance by 20 colleges, including four Ivy League schools. Brown did not just gain acceptance by all the schools to which he had applied, he earned a full ride to each, and a total of more than 260,000 in scholarship money.

When interviewed by his hometown paper, the Houston Chronicle, he said, “It’s surprising I was accepted at all of them.” According to the paper, Mr. Brown, a resident of the city’s economically challenged Third Ward, has compiled quite an impressive academic portfolio, replete with an array of extra-curricular and volunteer activities, and a quite substantive 4.68 G.P.A. Michael noted that he derived most of his motivation from his mother, Berthinia Rutledge-Brown, who completed her own degree while he was in elementary school. Her drive and commitment helped him understand what going to college might look like, allowed him to recognize the correlation between tenacity and achieving an education, and to appreciate the connection between achieving an education and subsequently succeeding in obtaining employment opportunities. He doubts she was cognizant that he was actively taking in all that information…but that is exactly what he was doing.

As one might imagine, the sifting that winnows down 20 schools to a final selection is quite a process. He has yet to make a final decision. Several days ago, he narrowed the list to a final seven:

  • Northwestern
  • Georgetown
  • Stanford
  • Princeton
  • Yale
  • Penn
  • Harvard

Also among the 20 were Amherst, Vanderbilt, Johns Hopkins, and the home state University of Texas. Recently, he reduced the list to the Final Four, Yale, Georgetown, Stanford, and Harvard. Brown noted that he began getting serious about college toward the end of ninth grade. His current assessment is that his decision, ultimately, will likely come down to Harvard and Stanford. He has plans to visit both soon.

But lest I leave you with the impression that all is sweetness and light, perish the thought. A pair of newswomen from the local Washington, DC Fox 5 affiliate, co-anchor Holly Morris, and contributor, Sarah Fraser, opted to weigh in on Brown’s freaking awesome accomplishment. And all in they went, panning him for his audacity in thinking he could apply to 20 colleges. They went so far as to call his decision “obnoxious,” and suggested he was showing off by doing so.

After hearing about the pushback from the DC Fox commentators, Brown called the station, spoke with a producer, and then had a 10-minute interview. However, he declined to provide his permission to air the interview, unless the anchor issued an apology, which, in classic Donald Trump fashion, she has refused to do.

Brown had indicated he plans to major in political science and economics. Former President Bill Clinton has weighed in, tweeting an offer to answer any questions Brown might have about Georgetown, (Clinton’s alma mater).

Bill Clinton


What an incredible accomplishment, Michael. Follow your heart and your head; your future is incredibly bright. I can’t wait to see what comes next. In the interim, if you want to talk about Georgetown give me a call.




2:44 PM – Apr 5, 2018

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Upon being asked about his personal view of his achievement, in a moment of intra-personal reflection, Brown said:

“I just felt very accomplished because I was very intentional with every school I applied to, so it was good that all of that paid off and my application strategy worked.”

At the end of the day, it was a great achievement by a special young man. It was an outstanding accomplishment by him, and undoubtedly a memorable moment for his mother, and a time for his teachers, counselors, and academic support team to beam with pride. The young man wears glasses, so I’m not sure about his eyesight, but his academic prescription is20/20: Perfect!”

I’m done; holla back!

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