Excellence Now, Excellence Forever

It’s time to Break It Down!

So, Monday, I had the kind of opportunity that makes parents proud. So much so, that I am taking a point of personal privilege and writing about it. The it in this case being my family…a topic I explore, every once in a blue moon.

My wife and I ventured a couple of states south to the Peach State, where our daughter is projected to wrap up her graduate studies in atmospheric sciences this summer. Shelby, long an academic superstar, graduated as salutatorian of her high school senior class, mastering the rigorous International Baccalaureate curriculum along the way, graduated with honors from college, and Monday, as a graduate student, she was inducted into the prestigious Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society.

The society’s motto is Φιλοσοφία Kρατείτω Φωτῶν (Philosophía Krateítõ Phõtôn), which is translated as “Let the love of learning rule humanity”, and its mission is “to recognize and promote academic excellence in all fields of higher education and to engage the community of scholars in service to others.” Kappa Phi is a member of the Honor Society Caucus, which is composed of four honor societies: Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Kappa Phi, Sigma Xi, and Omicron Delta Kappa.

Day tripping down to Athens for the quick visit of the University of Georgia’s campus was a pleasant getaway. We had visited the town to help set up Shelby’s first apartment, but neither of us had spent any time exploring the campus. Admittedly, it was a quick trip, but purpose-driven visit, so our exposure to the campus footprint was limited. But we liked what we saw.

Much more important than campus aesthetics is the reason for our jaunt, seeing our daughter get recognized for successfully navigating the rigors of a challenging course of study at a major American University. It was comforting to note that among her peers, professors, and advisors, Shelby appeared in her element. Her advisor was especially laudatory as he extolled her serious studentship. I think her mom was particularly comforted by the external confirmation that she had done a great job in igniting Shelby’s passion for learning.

Phi Kappa Phi is the nation’s oldest, largest, and most selective all-discipline honor society. The organization’s mission is to recognize and promote academic excellence in all fields of higher education and to engage the community of scholars in service to others,

The Badge of the Society is a globe against the background of the sun, whose rays form an expansive corona and radiate in a number of symmetrical equal concentrations from behind the globe. These signify equivalence among the various branches of learning and represent dissemination of truth as light. Encircling the globe is a band containing the Greek letters ΦΚΦ and symbolizing a fraternal bond which girds the earth and the lovers of wisdom in a common purpose.

The Seal of the Society has at its center the Badge. This is in turn surrounded by a crenelated line which represents the battlements and walls of Troy and which symbolizes a technological aspect of the ancient Greek culture reflected by the Society. In the space between this line and the periphery of the Seal appear three stars just above the Badge, one for each of the three original chapters. Just below the Badge is the phrase “Founded 1897.”

The Ribbon of the Society is a meander pattern which is common in ancient Greek art and thus symbolizes the classical features of the society.

Phi Kappa Phi’s motto, as noted above is, “Let the love of learning rule humanity;” its mission, “to recognize and promote excellence in all fields of higher education and to engage the community of scholars in service of others.” Congratulations Shelby…“Excellence Now, Excellence Forever!”

I’m done; holla back!

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

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It’s time to Break It Down!

Monday night was the end of this year’s college basketball season. Congratulations to the Kansas Jayhawks, the 2022 NCAA College Basketball’s National Champions. May they, Coach Bill Self, staff, students, and fans thoroughly enjoy their well-deserved “One Shining Moment.”

Of course, this post is not about any of the above. It’s an homage to my alma mater, the runner-up, University of North Carolina Tar Heels. If you are familiar with my posts, you know that from time to time, I write about the Heels. This is one of those posts.

The past year has been one of a roller-coaster of experiences for the team, and emotions for fans. On April 1, 2021, Roy Williams, the Tar Heel Coach for 18 years abruptly announced his retirement. Like a lot of Tar Heel fans, I initially thought it was an April Fools’ Day prank. It wasn’t.

Three days later, on April 4, the University of North Carolina named Tar Heel Assistant Coach Hubert Davis as their new Head Coach. A year later, Coach Davis and the Tar Heels were at the center of college basketball’s biggest, most compelling stage, the NCAA Championship Game, held this year at the New Orleans Super Dome.

North Carolina is an elite program. The Heels started playing basketball in 1910 and have amassed a record of 2,321 wins and 831 losses, for a winning percentage of .736. UNC Hoops has an extraordinary list of superlatives that include:

  • Third winningest program of all-time
  • 1 Premo- Poretta Title (Pre-NCAA), undefeated season 
  • 1 Helms Foundation Title (Pre NCAA), undefeated season
  • 6 National Titles, including an undefeated season in 1957 (Third most all-time)
  • 6 National Runner-up finishes, including 2022
  • 21 Final Four Appearances (most all-time)
  • 29 Elite Eight Appearances
  • 35 Sweet Sixteen Appearances
  • 52 NCAA Tournament Appearances
  • 8 Southern Conference Tournament Titles
  • 9 Southern Conference Regular Season Titles
  • 18 ACC Tournament Titles
  • 32 ACC Regular Season Titles (most all-time)
  • 49 All-American Players (Chosen 78 Times)
  • 130 NCAA Tournament Wins (most all-time) 
  • 17 Number 1 NCAA Tournament Seeds (most all-time)
  • 928 Weeks Ranked in the AP Top 25
  • 14 Times Defeated the Number 1 Ranked Team in the Country (8 Times – Duke)
  • 8 Retired Jerseys (Must have won at least 1 National Player of the Year Award)
  • 43 Honored Jerseys (Must have won National Title MVP, Olympic Gold Medalist, 1st or 2nd Team All-America, ACC Player of the Year, or NCAA Tournament MOP honors)
  • 11 Members of the Naismith Hall of Fame (5 as Coach)
  • 21 Olympians (6 Coaches)
  • 12 Current NBA Players
  • 19 Current International League Players
  • 16 NBA Coaches and Executives
  • Longest home winning streak against one opponent (59 straight home wins/Clemson)
  • Most consecutive 20-win seasons
  • Most consecutive top-three ACC finishes
  • Most 25-win seasons

Given Carolina’s amazingly consistent success, this season may not stand out at first glance. But when framed in the context of having had two subpar (for Carolina) seasons before this one, and then sustaining thrashing defeats by Tennessee, Kentucky, Miami, Wake Forest, Duke (at home), and an unexpected loss at home to a Pittsburgh team that lost more than twice as many conference games as it won, the Heels were thought at one point late in the season to be ensconced on the NCAA Bubble, and likely to miss the NCAA Tournament. Then an interesting, if not improbable, turnabout occurred. They beat Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium in Coach Krzyzewski’s last home game. He, Duke, and ESPN has organized an epic retirement celebration and send-off to the ACC Tournament. In a victory that will live in infamy (in Durham), the Tar Heels post season life was born. The Heels were forthwith launched on an NCAA Tourney run that saw four different players lead them in scoring in their first four tournament games, all wins, including a victory of the Number 1 Seed in the East Region, last year’s Champion, Baylor.

Then, for what many fans viewed as the piece de resistance, for the first time ever in NCAA Tournament play, the 8 Seed Heels faced off against the 2 Seed Duke Blue Devils in the nightcap of the Final Four semi-finals. In a certified Instant Classic, the Heels downed Duke, ending Coach K’s season, tournament run, and career, all rolled up into one. Meanwhile, Carolina’s rookie coach, Hubert Davis, who’d never been a Collegiate Head Coach anywhere, ended what many had envisioned, if not hoped for, a 6th National Title for Duke and for Coach K, the winningest NCAA Division 1 Coach of all-time. Congratulations Coach Davis; Happy Retirement Coach K. Duke fans and Coach K will now live with the reality that rookie Hubert Davis pulled back the curtain and went 2-1 against the Great and Powerful K, and in the process, giving him and Duke two of the biggest L’s in the history of the Duke-Carolina rivalry..

Many Tar Heel fans were so ecstatic at this turn of events, that they considered Saturday night’s win their Championship. Even though for most of the season, this would have been considered an unexpected outcome, do not count me among them. While I was glad we beat Duke, happy we beat Duke twice in one year, excited we beat Duke at Cameron in K’s last home game, delighted we beat Duke in the NCAA Tourney, joyful we beat Duke in the Final Four, jubilant we ended K’s career on college basketball’s biggest stage, because after all, K, and Duke are our rival (now). Why now? Because I attended Carolina so long ago, North Carolina State was our rival. But that was a lot of years ago.

Winning a College Basketball National Championship is a considerable accomplishment. Some outstanding coaches have never come close. The inception of the Tourney was 1939. It’s been played every year but one, since then, 2020. Thanks Covid. Carolina has won 6 times, third most. Only UCLA, 11, and Kentucky, 8, have won more Titles. Duke is number 4, with 5 Titles, and Kansas is number 5, with 4 Titles, including Monday night. Undoubtedly, for some fans, their real enthusiasm comes from the stark contrast in trajectory the team made in turning around the season. That’s fair. However, just making it to the Final Four is tough. Winning two games against the best remaining four teams at the end of the year is especially challenging. However, if you make it to the Final game, odds of winning the Title are never going to be better. It is for that reason; I rue not having prevailed Monday night. However, rest assured, I am, and forever shall be a proud Tar Heel. “It’s A GDTBATH!”

I’m done; holla back!

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

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Lynching Is Finally A Federal Hate Crime In The U.S.: It’s About D… Time

It’s time to Break It Down!

Yesterday, President Biden did a thing. CNN’s Kate Sullivan and Maegan Vazquez wrote that he signed a bill into law making  lynching a federal hate crime. Upon doing so, he acknowledged how racial violence has left a lasting scar on the nation and asserted that these crimes are not a relic of a bygone era. For context, see George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Sandra Bland, Breonna Taylor, The Charleston Nine, Philando Castile, and Eric Garner, just to name a few. 

The law, entitled the Emmett Till Antilynching Act of 2022, is named after a 14-year-old Black boy from Chicago who was brutally murdered by a group of White men in Mississippi for allegedly whistling at a White woman in 1955. His murder sparked national outrage and was a catalyst for the emerging civil rights movement. But, as the names noted in the previous paragraph clearly denote, the practice is not re4legated to 1955, or even to Y2K. It continues to this day. That the country filled with people that consider America superior to all other nations, had not resolved to at least make such a heinous act a hate crime, is disappointing, if not surprising.

Biden characterized it thusly: “Lynching was pure terror to enforce the lie that not everyone … belongs in America, not everyone is created equal. Terror, to systematically undermine hard-fought civil rights. Terror, not just in the dark of the night but in broad daylight. Innocent men, women and children hung by nooses in trees, bodies burned and drowned and castrated.

Their crimes? Trying to vote. Trying to go to school. Trying to own a business or preach the gospel. False accusations or murder, arson, and robbery. Simply being Black.”

Historically, lynching was frequently a tactic aimed at Black American, especially in strictly racially segregated southern states. According to Tuskegee University, which collects records on lynchings, 4,743 people were lynched from 1882 to 1968 and 3,446 of them were Black. The President referenced the unwritten rules that Black mothers, like Mrs. Till, passed on to their children – the same kind of admonitions contemporary Black parents must pass along to their children.

He emphasized the new law is not just about the past, and elevated as examples, the murder of a 25-year-old Black man who was on a jog and a 2017 Virginia rally of White supremacists and White nationalists where a counter protester was killed and scores were injured. 

“From the bullets in the back of Ahmaud Arbery to countless other acts of violence, countless victims known and unknown, the same racial hatred that drove the mob to hang a noose brought that mob carrying torches out of the fields of Charlottesville just a few years ago — racial hate isn’t an old problem. It’s a persistent problem.”

The interest in passing such a law in not newly found. Advocates have been trying to pass federal anti-lynching legislation for more than one hundred-twenty years.

On Tuesday, Rep. Bobby Rush of Illinois, who introduced the bill signed into law. He also introduced a similar version of his current bill in 2019. The following year, the House passed that bill but Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, held it up over concerns that it was overly broad. Paul announced his support for the latest version of the bill earlier this month.

Vice President Kamala Harris, as a California senator, along with New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker and South Carolina Republican Sen. Tim Scott introduced a bill that would make lynching a federal hate crime. The Senate approved the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act in late 2018, but the legislation didn’t make it through the House of Representatives.

Harris noted, during the signing ceremony, that since anti-lynching legislation was first introduced in Congress in 1900, “anti-lynching legislation has been introduced to the United States Congress more than 200 times.”

She went on to add, “Lynching is not a relic of the past. Racial acts of terror still occur in our nation. And when they do, we must all have the courage to name them and hold the perpetrators to account.”

The President, standing next to Michelle Duster, the great-granddaughter of Ida B. Wells-Barnett, pointed out that Wells-Barnett came to the White House in 1898 “in order to make a case for the anti-lynching law.” 

Only three House Republicans — Andrew Clyde of Georgia, Thomas Massie of Kentucky, and Chip Roy of Texas — voted against the bill. (When they show you who they are…) The legislation then passed the Senate by unanimous consent. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said at the time that Congress had tried and failed more than 200 times to outlaw lynching and that the new legislation was “long overdue.”

Rush, who attended the White House ceremony, said in a statement that he was “elated” to see the bill signed into law, adding, “I am so proud that we have come together — in a bipartisan fashion — to enact a law that will ensure lynchings are always punished as the barbaric crimes they are.”

Till’s cousin, the Rev. Wheeler Parker Jr., said in a statement: “My cousin was a bright, promising 14-year-old from Chicago. My family was devastated that no one was held responsible for the abduction, torture, and murder of Emmett. But we are heartened by this new law, which shows that Emmett still speaks in powerful ways to make sure that no one can get away with a racist crime like this ever again.” “Lynching Is Finally A Federal Hate Crime in the U.S.: It’s About D… Time!”

CNN’s Nicole Chavez contributed to this report.

I’m done; holla back!

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

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Who Was Bushrod Washington…And Why Does Ted Cruz Think He’s An Avatar For A Non-controversial Supreme Court Nominee?

It’s time to Break It Down!

The U.S. Senate, on Monday began its confirmation hearings for President Biden’s nominee, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. Senator Ted Cruz began his opening statement with a history lesson, of sorts. He advised Her Honor that Supreme Court nominations weren’t always controversial, and then cited an instance of such a non-controversial pick…who just happened to have been a (select the term that suits you) slave owner/slave holder/enslaver. In continuing his “lesson,”  he said, “Bushrod Washington, when nominated to the Supreme Court in 1798, as confirmed the very next day.” 

While Mr. Washington, a favorite nephew of George Washington, was confirmed via voice vote a day after President John Adams nominated him, it’s noteworthy, The Washington Post reports, that Washington was neither the first nor the last to be confirmed that quickly” – about 10 Supreme Court justices were confirmed the same day they were nominated – and “he was definitely controversial, largely because he was an enslaver.”

In reviewing the (for the purposes of this post), curious case of Bushrod Washington’s Supreme Court nomination, we learn that Washington brought enslaved African Americans back to Mt. Vernon after inheriting the estate in 1802, after Martha Washington’s death. Mrs. Washington had freed the estate’s remaining slaves, effective upon her death. That he was an enslaver was not in and of itself controversial. More than half of U.S. Senators, at the time, were slaveholders. However, when he sold 54 slaves for $10,000, to pay off his debts, and they were marched to Louisiana in chains, the newspapers of the day described his actions as excessively revolting.”

Bushrod was also the co-founder of an organization in 1812, known as the American Colonization Society. How apt! “Black Panther” fans will appreciate the hubristic irony. The organization was designed to send the growing numbers of free Black Americans to Africa, a place almost none of them had ever been. Abolitionists and Black people who resisted this movement, were met by complaints from Washington that “unworthy persons” were speaking “with my negroes.” With characterizations such as this, it’s easy enough to see why a certain segment calls any information that reveals what should be considered controversial about a man like Bushrod Washington, Critical Race Theory (CRT). In essence, they are saying, revealing actions their forebears actually took, is criticizing their race, ergo, CRT.

To wit, WaPo writer Gillian Brockell wrote, “So that is who Cruz mentioned in his speech Monday. For all intents and purposes, it was a throwaway line meant only to introduce Cruz’s real historical point: what had changed from those halcyon uncontroversial days.” Maybe, maybe not. Maya Angelou said, “When people tell you who they are, believe them. The first time. In any event, Cruz’s revisionist explanation of what changed raised its own set of questions. To that end, the questions I leave with you…”Who Was Bushrod Washington…And Why Does Ted Cruz Think He’s An Avatar For A Non-controversial Supreme Court Nominee?”

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

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Facts: The Definition of Stubborn Things

It’s time to Break It Down!

If you follow my posts, you may know, occasionally, I concede that a particular story has made a point so well, there is nothing I feel compelled to add. Daniel Dale has done just that with his fact check of the myth of Trump’s so-called “energy independence.” In short, it didn’t happen, particularly in the way many GOP pols like to tell the story. Read it from Mr. Dale in his own words.

Washington (CNN)The United States never stopped importing energy from foreign countries under President Donald Trump. 

Both before and after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine contributed to a spike in US gas prices, various Republicans bashed President Joe Biden for supposedly abandoning Trump-era “energy independence.” These Republicans have fostered the impression that the “energy independent” US did not need energy from Russia and elsewhere under Trump, but then, under Biden, has been forced to buy this foreign energy once more.

The truth is that the US was never close to genuine independence from foreign energy in the Trump era.

“Energy independence” is a political phrase, not a literal phrase. Despite how Trump and others have made it sound, it does not mean the US was ever going it alone. 

“A ridiculous term,” said Jim Krane, an energy studies fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.

“A horrible term,” said Jeff Colgan, professor and director of the Climate Solutions Lab at Brown University and an expert on the geopolitics of oil.

“This stupid term,” said Amy Myers Jaffe, an energy expert and a research professor at The Fletcher School at Tufts University.

The term has various non-literal definitions. And the US did satisfy some of these definitions under Trump in 2020 — as it did again in the 11 months of 2021, mostly under Biden, for which we have complete data.

For example, in both periods, the US exported more crude oil and petroleum products than it imported. It also produced more primary energy than it consumed.

But none of that means that the Trump-era US did no energy importing at all. From the beginning of Trump’s term to the end, the US very much relied on oil and gas from abroad.

In 2020, Trump’s last full year in office, the US imported about 7.9 million barrels per day of crude oil and petroleum products. That was down from prior years — the US imported more than 10 million barrels per day in 2016, President Barack Obama’s last full year — but still a whole lot of foreign energy. 

In fact, contrary to prominent Republicans’ suggestions over the last month that the US had just recently started consuming Russian energy under Biden, US energy imports from Russia spiked during the Trump presidency.

And that isn’t the only thing Republicans have gotten wrong. 

Contrary to claims from Trump and other Republicans, Biden has not “shut down” American energy: US crude oil production in Biden’s first year was higher than in each of Trump’s first two years and just narrowly shy of production in Trump’s last year, though substantially lower than production in Trump’s record-setting third year. And experts say it is economic factors and cautionary pressures from Wall Street, not anything Biden has done, that has made US oil companies reluctant to dramatically ramp up production from current levels. 

Multiple reasons for foreign imports 

Amid the US boom in oil and gas production from hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking, the quantity of US imports of crude oil and petroleum products has been trending downward since early in the second term of President George W. Bush. But there are numerous reasons why the US doesn’t just stop importing entirely. 

One key reason is that there is a mismatch between many of the refineries in the US, which were designed to handle heavy crude oil, and the lighter crude that is produced in the US through fracking. 

Another reason is that domestic energy production isn’t sufficient to fulfill the needs of all US refineries — for which it can be profitable to buy low-cost unfinished energy from abroad, turn it into higher-value petroleum products, and then export some of those products. Colgan noted in an email that even at moments when the US is a net exporter of oil, “it remains tightly integrated into the world market for oil, constantly exporting some grades of oil to foreign customers while importing other grades of oil into the United States. Same for oil products like gasoline and diesel.” 

Geographic factors are also at play. For example, refineries in California have relied on importssome from Russia, because importing has been cheaper than getting oil shipped from various parts of the US, such as the Permian Basin in the Southwest, to which California has no pipeline connection. 

Unless the US shifts completely to renewable or nuclear energy, Krane said in an interview, “we are going to be tethered to supply lines that stretch halfway around the world whether we like it or not.” 

Russian imports never ceased under Trump 

Before Biden announced a ban on imports of Russian energy last Tuesday, some Republicans suggested that the US had suddenly started importing Russian oil under Biden. 

For example, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said at an event in late February: “We were, before Biden took office, for the first time in any of our lifetimes, actually energy independent. Putin didn’t matter. Now, they’re importing millions of barrels of oil from Russia.” 

Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst said on Fox News on March 6 that Biden’s choices when he first came into office “put us in this tenuous position with energy independence in the United States. Instead of being an exporter of energy, we became a consumer of Russian oil.” 

The truth is that the US was importing a significant quantity of oil and petroleum products from Russia under Trump: over 137 million barrels in 2018, then 189.8 million barrels in 2019 and 197.7 million barrels in 2020. 

Imports from Russia did increase again, to 245.2 million barrels, in 2021. 

Analysts have attributed part of the spike in energy imports from Russia since 2018 to the sanctions Trump imposed on Venezuelan oil in 2019, which left US refiners looking for an alternative supplier. Regardless of the cause, it’s just not true that “Putin didn’t matter” to the US energy supply before Biden took office or that the US “became a consumer of Russian oil” under Biden. 

What is true is that, under both Trump and Biden, imports from Russia made up a fraction of total US petroleum imports — about 8 percent in 2021, just about tied with Mexico for second place.

The US reliance on foreign energy is in large part a reliance on close ally Canada, which provided 51 percent of US imports in 2021.

Biden’s impact has been overstated 

Republicans have portrayed Biden as an all-powerful enemy of the US oil and gas industry. 

Trump claimed in a speech in late February that Biden “shut down American energy.” Florida Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted a Wednesday suggestion that Biden was stopping oil companies from increasing production, writing: “If Biden would let America get back to 2019 production we won’t need a single drop of oil from #Venezuela or #Iran or anyone else.” 

There is no doubt that Biden’s attitude toward the US oil and gas industry is less friendly than Trump’s was. But the truth is that Biden isn’t stopping US energy companies from increasing production and certainly never “shut down” US energy production. 

“President Biden hasn’t done anything yet — no offense — because he can’t get anything passed through the Congress,” Jaffe said in an interview. 

Rather, US oil companies themselves have been reluctant to dramatically ramp up production. While the oil lobby has cast blame on Biden policies, experts cite various other reasons —including supply chain problems, challenges finding workers, and, critically, the current insistence from Wall Street that energy companies restrain spending and return cash to investors. 

“Oil and gas companies do not want to drill more,” Pavel Molchanov, an analyst at Raymond James, told CNN Business for an article in early March, before Biden announced the Russia ban. “They are under pressure from the financial community to pay more dividends, to do more share buybacks instead of the proverbial ‘drill baby drill,’ which is the way they would have done things 10 years ago. Corporate strategy has fundamentally changed.”

Krane, the energy studies fellow from Rice University, concurred in an interview after Biden announced the ban. 

“It’s not a lack of leasing that’s holding back US crude. It’s Wall Street,” he said. “The federal government is like a third-tier player in the US oil market. Market signals themselves are the main driver of energy production and decision-making in the US.” 

Even still, US field production of crude oil in 2021, about 11.2 million barrels per day, was only slightly lower than US production under Trump in 2020, when it was about 11.3 million barrels per day — and 2021 production was higher than production in 2017 and 2018, Trump’s first two years in office, though well below the record 12.3 million barrels per day in 2019. 

Numerous Republicans have castigated Biden’s decision to revoke the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have carried crude oil from Canada’s oil sands to the US. But the long-delayed pipeline would almost certainly not have been ready this year even if Biden had allowed construction to proceed. 

The federal Energy Information Administration projected this month that US crude oil production will hit 12 million barrels per day again in 2022, then set a new record of 13 million barrels per day in 2023. 

Moratorium put on hold 

Biden has called for a shift away from fossil fuel production and toward renewable energy sources, and he has put forward policies toward that end. Those policies have included an attempted temporary moratorium on new leases for oil and gas drilling on public lands and offshore waters. 

But the Biden moratorium wouldn’t have stopped drilling on existing leases. A judge put the Biden moratorium on hold in June. And the moratorium was intended to be in place only until the completion of a review by Biden’s interior department — which ended up recommending an increase to leasing fees but not a long-term halt to new leasing. 

As CNN’s Ella Nilsen reported last week, the Biden administration approved more drilling permits in its first year than the Trump administration approved in 2017, 2018 and 2019, though fewer than it approved in 2020. 

Since late February of this year, there has been a pause on the issuance of new leases and permits on federal territory. That pause, however, was prompted by a judge’s injunction in a lawsuit filed by Republican state attorneys general. 

In addition, it’s important to note that more than three-quarters of US drilling occurs on non-federal territory.

“Facts: The Definition of Stubborn Things!” I’m done, holla back! 

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

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Riot, Insurrection or Coup; Guilty on All Counts

It’s time to Break It Down!

No matter what you consider the events of January 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol, a riot, an insurrection, a coup, or as Donald Trump once said, “A very beautiful time with extremely loving and friendly people,” yesterday anyway, the verdict was guilty on all five counts for Guy Reffitt in the case of the US Capitol attack. Reffitt, a Texas Three Percenter and Trump supporter was charged with wanting to obstruct the congressional certification of the 2020 presidential election, transporting guns into DC, carrying a Smith & Wesson handgun onto the restricted grounds of the Capitol, interfering with Capitol Police protecting the Upper West Terrace and obstructing justice by threatening his son and daughter when he returned to Texas. A Washington DC, in the first federal trial related to the riot, composed of six men and six women, took less than four hours to deliberate yesterday.

The max sentence for obstruction of Congress and obstruction of justice, the most severe of the charges, is 20 years in prison. Reffitt’s sentencing is scheduled for June 8. The trial, which lasted a week, included painful reflections on the attack on Capitol Police, a civics lesson on Congress, and a family drama highlighting a son testifying against his father.

Mr. Reffitt’s case was the first of the January 6 cases to go to trial and tested the Justice Department’s ability to tie an individual’s actions to the broader Capitol Hill attack. Mr. Reffitt has been in jail since he was arrested in January 2021. His case catapulted to national attention when his son, Jackson Reffitt, did a national TV interview about turning in his dad to the FBI after disagreeing with him about his Trump support and Three Percenter involvement.

The conviction could have lingering ramifications on the more than 500 Capitol riot defendants whose cases are still pending. It is conceivable the verdict could persuade some waiting defendants to accept plea deals rather than face a jury. It may also lead to appeals of the criminal law used in a number of the January 6 prosecutions.

Nicole Reffitt, Guy’s wife, told reporters, after her husband’s convictions, “This fight is just begun.” And encouraged other January 6 defendants to follow her husband’s lead and go to trial, not taking deals from the government. She added, “They want us to take a plea. They are just making a point out of Guy, and that is to intimidate other members of the January 6ers. We will fight together.” She also criticized the Justice Department for what she called the “disgusting ploy” of using testimony from her children, including her underage daughter, against their father.

Reffitt’s defense lawyer called no witnesses and instead argued that he was an exaggerator, who took credit for bringing a gun to the Capitol and resisting police when he was a bit player in the scrum. In retrospect, it’s fair to say that wasn’t particularly smart.

Prosecutors played not only on witnesses’ emotional memories of the attacks, but also relied upon Reffitt’s own admissions in text messages and recordings.

Last Thursday, as his father cried across the courtroom, Jackson Reffitt testified that Guy Reffitt “snowballed into a far-right extremist” following the 2016 election of Trump. Guy Reffitt joined the Texas Three Percenters, Jackson said, and became increasingly hostile toward political figures, railing about then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whom he thought were breaking the law. 

Jackson Reffitt also told the jury about his father’s comments after the riot, that should Jackson or his younger sister turn their father in, they would be traitors, and “traitors get shot.” Also, probably not smart, but definitely scary.

Three Capitol Police officers testified about battling Reffitt outside the Capitol. They all noted that Reffitt led the mob forward, taunting police officers that they “couldn’t stop all of us.” Even once officers had knocked Reffitt back with chemical spray on the Upper West Terrace, rioters behind him were disassembling scaffolding and cutting white tarp nearby, following Reffitt’s lead, prosecutors argued. The crowd — which included alleged members of the Proud Boys right-wing group and the infamous QAnon Shaman Jacob Chansley, who wore face paint and horns — was ultimately able to break the police line at that part of the Capitol’s exterior, opening the path for some rioters to break windows to enter the Senate side of the building. 

Text messages and recordings, taken by his son, from after January 6 showed Reffitt recounting how police sprayed him with chemicals and how members of Congress “scurried like rats and hid” while the mob breached the building. 

“I had every constitutional right to carry a weapon and take over Congress as we tried to do,” Reffitt said to his family in one recording. 

Reffitt later said, “I’m not done yet.” 

One of the officers who faced off against Reffitt, Sgt. Matthew Flood, told the jury he left the west side of the Capitol to help evacuate lawmakers still trapped on the Senate floor. By that point, rioters had cut off all but one escape route — which they were able to use to rush lawmakers to safety.

“They were calling us traitors, saying that we were in their way, to get out of their way. They were saying that they supported us, and we were betraying them,” Capitol Police officer Shauni Kerkhoff said. “It made me feel angry because it’s our job to stand in the way.” “Riot, Insurrection or Coup: Guilty on All Counts!”

I’m done; holla back!

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SCOTUS Watch: We Have A Nominee

It’s time to Break It Down!

After 233 years and 115 Associate Supreme Court Justices, last week President Biden, as he promised in his campaign, nominated the first Black woman to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). When Justice Stephen Breyer announced his retirement (pending, until the end of the current term), President Biden indicated that he would name his nominee by the end of the month (February). Last Friday, February 25th, the President introduced Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, a Judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

While the headline will lead with Black woman, it should be noted that Judge Jackson has a wide array of legal experience. She is known to have exceptional credentials, unimpeachable character, and unwavering dedication to the law. Biden wanted someone committed to equal justice under the law, and who understands the profound impact that SCOTUS decisions have on the lives of American people.

Judge Jackson is widely regarded as one of the nation’s brightest legal minds and has an unusual breadth of experience in the American legal system, all of which when combined, gives her the perspective to be an exceptional Justice. She was Student Body President in High School, and graduated magna cum laude from Harvard, and cum laude from Harvard Law School, where she was also an editor of the Harvard Law Review.

Her career highlights include serving as a law clerk for Justice Breyer, served as a public defender, representing defendants who did not have the means to pay for an attorney (if confirmed, she would become the first former federal public defender to serve on the Supreme Court.), served as Vice Chair of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, served as a district court judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, and served in her current capacity as an appeals court judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

During his announcement of her nomination, President Biden described Judge Jackson as “a proven consensus builder, an accomplished lawyer, and a distinguished jurist.” All traits and attributes one would think essential for a Justice of the SCOTUS.

However, in a post Trump (presidency) world, we have come to expect the partisan divide to be self-evident. Following the script, a number of conservatives were quick to express that they were less than thrilled with the President’s nominee. The next day in a Fox News opinion piece, Carrie Severino, who heads the conservative Judicial Crisis Network, called Jackson “a politician in robes” and accused her of being bad for business, soft on illegal immigration, and hostile toward the pro-life movement.

Fox News host Tucker Carlson said Biden’s decision to consider only Black female candidates for SCOTUS would “humiliate” and “degrade” America. According to The Guardian, he said, “You should be elevated in America based on what you do … not on how you were born, not on your DNA, because that’s Rwanda.” This is where I ask you to recall the opening sentence of this post. The part that notes a Black woman has never been nominated, to say nothing of confirmed, in 233 years, and 115 prior nominees.

In response, WaPo columnist Jennifer Rubin called Carlson’s comments “the perfect distillation of White supremacy.”

In a piece he wrote for The Week W. James Antle III argued that Biden should have chosen Judge Michell Childs, who would have gotten more Republican votes but would not have made the Democratic Party’s progressive wing quite so happy.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said I understand that Judge Jackson was the favored choice of far-left dark-money groups that have spent years attacking the legitimacy and structure of the Court itself. With that said, I look forward to carefully reviewing Judge Jackson’s nomination during the vigorous and thorough Senate process that the American people deserve.

Senator Lindsey Graham said, “If media reports are accurate and Judge Jackson has been chosen as the SCOTUS nominee to replace Justice Breyer, it means the radical Left has won President Biden over yet again.”

While the GOP tide is decidedly slanted against Judge Jackson, a few conservatives have begun to express dissent. Yesterday, Lawyer William Burck, in a statement obtained exclusively by CNN, said of Jackson that “no serious person can question her qualifications to the Court and to my mind her judicial philosophy is well within the mainstream.”

Burck’s statement comes on the heels of similar endorsements by retired conservative judges J. Michael Luttig and Thomas B. Griffith, Republican appointees, who both sat on federal appeals courts. Their positions are at clear variance from the comments noted by the naysayers above.

All things considered, it is anticipated that after a spirited confirmation process, Judge Jackson will be confirmed. Undoubtedly, President Biden, ever the optimist, hopes several Republicans will, after meeting with Judge Jackson, and conducting confirmation hearings, vote for her, making her confirmation bipartisan. If not, however, it’s likely all 50 Democrats will support the President’s nominee, and Vice President Harris will seal the deal. Let’s just say, it’s about d… time. “SCOTUS Watch: We Have A Nominee!”

I’m done; “holla back!”

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

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Black History Month (BHM) Week 4: Guilty on All Counts

It’s time to Break It Down!

As we queue up the last full week of February, it turns out timing is propitious. Coinciding with the fourth and final installment in my BHM ’22 Series, a jury in Brunswick, Georgia delivered the verdict in the cases of Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael, and William “Roddie” Bryan; guilty on all counts in the federal hate crimes trial. The trio was previously found guilty in November, for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery.

The presiding Judge, Lisa Godbey Wood, spoke to each defendant along with the attorneys advising them they have 14 days to file any post-trial motions, and that the U.S. probation office would conduct a pre-sentencing interview before scheduling a sentencing hearing. The defendants showed little to no emotion.

The jury foreperson was one of three Black jurors. She was emotional during the court’s reading the verdict, and wiped away tears, while the jury was being polled.

Arbery’s parents, Wanda Cooper-Jones and Marcus Arbery, Sr. looked on attentively as the clerk read the verdicts. Leigh McMichael, Travis’ mother, and Gregory’s wife, watched stoically. After all the verdicts were read, Mrs. McMichael was the only person who remained seated. The Arbery family and their supporters, along with the prosecuting attorneys were on their feet, embracing and congratulating each other.

Judge Woods thanked the jury and recognized both sets of attorneys. She told the prosecutors they had a “difficult task” due to the nature of the charges and told the defense counsel that although they were court-appointed, they represented their clients zealously. She added, no one need wonder whether the defendants got a fair trial or whether the attorneys were skillful – they did and they were.

The verdict was rendered yesterday, “Twosday,” one day before the two-year anniversary of Mr. Arbery’s murder, and two days short of three months after the three defendants’ murder conviction.

During the course of the hate crimes trial, prosecutors established that all three defendants spoke privately and publicly about Black people using inflammatory and derogatory language, including racial slurs.

During Monday’s closing arguments, prosecutor Tara Lyons underscored that Arbery was killed because he was Black, saying:

“The defendants did not see 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery as a fellow human being.”

Arbery was out for a jog when the defendants killed him. Now, after the second trial, the verdict is in…“Black History Month (BHM) Week 4: Guilty on All Counts!”

I’m done; “holla back!”

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

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Black History Month (BHM) Week 3: Chronicles of the Evolution of African American Life Redux ’22

It’s time to Break It Down!

Twelve years ago, in February 2010, I wrote a series of 4 profiles on African Americans3 of whom were little known.  While their exploits were dramatic in all four instances, they were simply fundamentally, even stunningly life altering in some cases. In 2012, I synthesized the material from those four posts into one digest, which I reposted in 2019. I am reprising again today.

We live in an age in which, despite the ubiquitous nature of the Internet and the pervasiveness of the 24-7 news cycle, the names, exploits, and accomplishments of luminaries such as Henrietta LacksCharlotte Hawkins Brown, and Alexander Manly are enmeshed in an historical nebula; present, but barely known or visible.

By contrast, speak or write the name Barack Obama, and due to a variety of factors, almost anyone you meet in the civilized world is capable of spouting off a vast array of factoids, real, imagined, true or false.  As POTUS, President Obama certainly earned all the notoriety he amassed, while the relative lack of knowledge about LacksBrown, and Manly is in no way an accurate reflection of their relative importance.  All made important contribution to life, as we know it in America; at least one altered the dynamics of medical history around the world.

Alex Manly, who was African American, was also a descendent of Charles ManlyNorth Carolina’s 31st Governor.  In 1898Wilmington held the dual distinction of being North Carolina’s largest city, and predominantly black.  Mr. Manly was the editor of the Wilmington Daily Record, the only black-owned newspaper in the United States at the time.  He wrote a controversial editorial with both racial and sexual implications.  The piece was so super-charged that it is cited as the catalyst for the infamous November 10, 1898 Wilmington race riot. The gist of Manly’s editorial comments is aptly distilled in this quote:

  • “Our experience among poor white people in the country teaches us that women of that race are not any more particular in the matter of clandestine meetings with colored men than the white men with the colored women.”

The rest is history; it took three months, but in November, after the August editorial that included that quote, Wilmington burned…and Manly and the robust black leadership class fled the city.  Manly was an example of a bold and defiant voice that emerging black leaders would demonstrate in the American South and across this country in the coming years.  The reaction of much of Wilmington’s white citizenry was equally clear, and at that juncture, more powerfully defiant.

Charlotte Hawkins Brown was a native North Carolinian who was educated in Massachusetts, and who returned to her home state to lead an all-girls’ school, which she later transformed into a Junior College.

Ms. Brown made her mark fostering and improving African American achievement, especially among women.  Her considerable legacy includes:

Henrietta Lacks is not from North Carolina (she hailed from neighboring Virginia), but her story’s impact permeates not only the Tar Heel (and Old Dominion) state, and the rest of the country, but spans the entire globe.  Ms. Lacks, who lived a short life, by almost any measure, died of cervical cancer at age 31 in 1951.  Posthumously, she would go on to have an inordinate impact on cancer treatment as well as several other serious diseases, all over the world, through cells removed prior to her death.  The essence of her story is that:

  • Researchers at Johns Hopkins discovered a scientific breakthrough related to Ms. Lacks’ cells. In a departure from anything the scientists had seen before, the cells culled from Ms. Lacks continued to grow, outside of her body, and after her death. In fact, they did not just survive, they multiplied. In a circular irony, cells from Ms. Lacks’ culture were used to help Dr. Jonas Salk develop a vaccine for polio in 1955. Of course, Ms. Lacks had marched to help find a cure for that disease just four years earlier.

Unarguably, the Barack Obama story is one that most Americans are familiar with, at least tangentially.  President Obama, the son of a Kenyan father and a Kansan mother, was born in Hawaii, graduated from Columbia University, and Harvard University Law School, and went on to become a Chicago community organizer.  Oh yeah, on November 4, 2008, he was elected President of the United States.  As such:

One of President Obama’s historic appointments was the selection of Eric Holder as Attorney General (He also subsequently appointed Loretta Lynch, also an African American, who filled the position when General Holder stepped down to pursue other interests).  That would hold special significance this month anyway, as Mr. Holder is African American.  It has taken on an added dimension however, as Dr. Sharon MaloneMr. Holder’s wife, distinguished in her own right, shared a part of her family history in a 2019 PBS Special, in which she detailed how her Uncle Henry, born nearly 30 after slavery ended officially, was one of thousands of black men arrested on fabricated charges and forced into labor camps and compelled to work without pay.  As Dr. Malone told the story, she asked that we:

  • Imagine that this “convict leasing” system saw the groups of prisoners sold to private parties – like plantation owners or corporations – and that it was not only tolerated by both the North and Southbut was largely ignored by the U.S. Justice Department.
  • Now, imagine that nearly a century after your uncle served 366 days in this penal labor system, you find yourself married to the head of the U.S. Justice Department, who, ironically, just so happens to be the first African American in the position.

There are many reasons why this information is not just historically significant, but contemporarily relevant.  None is more compelling than debunking the idea that the vagaries and vicissitudes of slavery and its variant offshoots no longer plague our society in general and African Americans in particular.  As Dr. Malone put it:

  • “I want people to understand that this is not something that’s divorced and separate, and this doesn’t have anything to do with them.  If you were a black person who grew up in the South, some way or the other – whether or not you were directly involved in the system as my uncle was – you knew somebody who was, or your daily lives were circumscribed by those circumstances.”

Unless you are part of Dr. Malone’s immediate family, her Uncle Henry is likely even more of an unknown to you than Alex Manly, Charlotte Hawkins Brown, and Henrietta Lacks.  Yet, his story is as irrevocably interwoven into the fabric of African American and American History as that of President Obama.  In fact, African American History is American History.  Over this month, by all means, take at least one more moment to reflect on the fact it’s not just a month, it’s every single day, 24/7/365…“Black History Month (BHM) Week 3: Chronicles of the Evolution of American Life Redux ’22!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the linkhttp://thesphinxofcharlotte.com/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:













Black History Month (BHM) Week 2: This Is America

It’s time to Break It Down!

This past Sunday morning, the start of the second week of BHM, residents of a Houston, Texas neighborhood awoke to find White Supremacist flyers on the windshields of their cars, and in some instances, on their front doors. In last week’s post, I discussed a number of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s) receiving bomb threats in week one of BHM. The beat goes on.

William White, director of operations for tha Houston chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), in discussing the matter with CNN, said of the event, “This is horrifying.”

The flyer is entitled, “2026: A Race Odyssey.” It warns, “Think about it! At the current rate of decline, what will America’s major cities look like in ten years?” The center of the flyer depicts a racist caricature of African Americans in negative racial stereotypes. The pamphlet provides a web address for recipients to follow. CNN opted not to show the flyer, due to its racist and offensive nature.

Mr. White added, “I do believe that this is about voter intimidation. There is no place for that in the city.”

While February is BHM, the next election, the primary, in Harris County is March 1. Early voting starts next Monday, February 14.

White is not revealing the name of the neighborhood, due to safety reasons, but he does indicate it’s a diverse community. At least four residents received the flyers, although others may be afraid to come forward to report the act. Moreover, none of the residents are willing to speak with reporters; however, one of them did call his office to report the incident. CAIR is investigating. White hopes they may be able to get some information from area security cameras, as the perpetrator was disseminating the flyers. 

Mr. White is still gathering evidence to present to Harris County law enforcement and the FBI. He also hopes elected officials denounce the racist act. The Harris County Sheriff’s Office said deputies took an incident report from a resident, which they will forward to their internal Homeland Security Bureau.

The FBI issued the following statement:

“The FBI Houston Field Office is aware of the incident involving the distribution of white supremacist flyers in a Northwest Harris County neighborhood and we are in regular contact with local authorities. FBI policy prohibits confirming or denying an investigation. However, if during the local investigation, information becomes known of a potential federal civil rights violation, the FBI is prepared to investigate. The FBI is the lead investigative agency for criminal violations of federal civil rights statutes. In October 2021, FBI Houston launched our participation in a nationwide initiative that encourages the public to report allegations of hate crime to law enforcement.

This appears to be at least the second time the group targeted a neighborhood with White supremacist flyers in the Houston area. Last November, Telemundo Houston, a Spanish language network, reported that racist flyers, with the group’s logo, targeted a neighborhood of immigrants. Those flyers were titled: “Wake up, White America!”

About the incident, the Southwest Regional Anti-Defamation League Director, Mark B. Toubin stated, “We are concerned about a recent flurry of extremist propaganda distributions in ADL’s Southwest Region. The racist flyers found recently in northwest Harris County are particularly vile and disgusting and it is understandable people who found them in their yards would be outraged and upset. We applaud the good people who recognize the message in the flyers is hateful and wrong. The flyers are designed to attract attention to the individuals and organizations who disseminate them, and we appreciate those who reject the flyers and the disturbing message they contain.”

Just as with the bomb threats, the jury is still out on the individual(s) who carried out this despicable act. There are a host of voices figuratively screaming at their highest decibel levels, trying to convince anyone who will listen that: 1) Racism is no longer a substantive issue in America, 2) Those who focus energy on trying to eliminate it are the problem, and in fact, are the real racists, and 3) That anyone teaching American students historical (and obviously contemporary) facts about racists acts that occurred/are occurring in this country, is a purveyor of Critical Race Theory (CRT). The facts beg to differ. Are you listening? You really should. In 1961, James Baldwin uttered a now famous line. “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a state of rage almost all of the time. ”Welcome to…”Black History Month (BHM) Week 2: This Is America!”

I’m done; “holla back!”

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

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