If A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words, Kemp’s Plantation Lullaby = A Thousand Words Times Two

It’s time to Break It Down!

Last Thursday evening, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed sweeping legislation, which many argue will make voting harder for people of color. In fact, numerous voting activists contend the law will also serve as an impediment for poor and working people. Not surprisingly, Republicans, writ large, dispute this premise, and insist, their efforts, 253 bills in 43 states, so far, are not aimed at voter suppression, but rather, are designed to bolster integrity in the voting process. 

The GOP certainly provides an enthusiastic retort. However, methinks they protest too much. The genesis of this scorched earth spate of anti-voting bills can be tied directly to “The Big Lie;” the assertion that Donald Trump lost the 2020 Election as a result of wide scale Democratic and foreign-influenced voter fraud. This notion was repeatedly debunked. More than 60 courts, many Republican Judges, and the U.S. Supreme Court rejected, or refused to hear the specious claims. Republican officials, including Governors and Secretaries of State repeatedly verified and affirmed the integrity of their state’s elections…Brian Kemp among them.

So, let’s put this one in succinct fashion. Kemp actually had the signing ceremony photographed. The picture, one for the ages. It captured an image of an imperious Kemp, seated in an executive chair at a conference table in a stately room, flanked by six White male legislators, three on either side, with a photograph of Calloway Plantation, in Washington, Georgia. It is currently a museum, but was formerly, a slave working plantation, For a law reputed to facilitate Black and poor voter suppression, it is difficult to fathom more powerful optics.

The story would be resonant, even if it ended there. But that was not the end. Outside of the frame of the photograph, specifically, on the other side of the door, a second picture was developing. In this photo, Two White Georgia law enforcement officers were arresting Georgia State Representative Park Cannon, a Black female, for trying to gain entry to the signing and announcement ceremony.

Optics are critical; so is timing. Beneath the cover of darkness, seven masked men (yes, they were adhering to Covid protocols…imagine that), celebrated the signing of legislation that included such novel supposed bright ideas as making it illegal to provide snacks or water to people waiting in line to vote. Can you think of a more effective way to fuel suspicion among voting rights advocates and Black Americans that what Georgia Republicans did last Thursday wasn’t lawmaking. There is a robust argument that it was the 21st-century political equivalent of strongarm Jim Crow tactics to prevent Black citizens from voting.

It’s been said that a single image can supercharge a movement and change public opinion. Kemp and company gave us, not one, but two. “If A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words, Kemp’s Plantation Lullaby = A Thousand Words Times Two!”

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No Reasonable Person: A Sad Commentary on the Fictile Trump Coalition

It’s time to Break It Down!

If 2020 is destined to be remembered as the Year of COVID-19, 2021, early as it is, may very well be recalled at the Year of the Capitol Insurrection. Last week, and again this week, we’ve seen two more mass shootings on the American landscape. In the parlance of contemporary pop culture, that might be enough for some to turn the page. With all due respect to the victims of those tragedies, a story unto itself, I’m not ready to move on.

On January 6, thousands of people assembled at the Ellipse in Washington, D.C., for a Trump Rally. Afterward, many of them, inspired by rally rhetoric, changed their venue, and stormed the Capitol, in an unprecedented attack that will go down in the annals of history as the first time the venerable Citadel was breached since August 24, 1814, when invading British troops burned it. On that occasion, only a torrential rainstorm prevented it from being reduced to rubble. The January atrocity was not that devastating to the structure, but it was historic in another specific and notable way. The invaders, “Americans,” who built gallows on the grounds, broke windows and doors, scaled walls, and once inside, took down American Flags. Some of the attackers carried their own Flags…Trump Flags, and Confederate Flags. This is the stuff of never before executed sedition and terrorism. Five people died, as a result, including a Capitol Police Officer.

Trump and his team’s fiery oratory on January 6th were not the genesis of that day’s insurrection. Mr. Trump had promoted for weeks, a rally in Washington for that day, the day Congress was scheduled to certify Joe Biden as President. But even before that, Attorney Sidney Powell had joined Trump in promoting insidious conspiracy theories about election fraud, and a non-existent connection with the late Hugo Chavez and Venezuelan, Cuban, and Chinese election interference. Trump, Powell, and Rudy Giuliani were part of a group that filed over 60 lawsuits attempting to stop the count, or overturn election results in at least 6 states, including Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. All but one of the suits were tossed; many by courts with Republican majorities, including the U.S. Supreme Court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority and 3 Trump appointees. 

Caught up in the throes of defending against a more than $1 billion slander and libel lawsuit, filed by Dominion Voting Systems, Powell changed her tune. Using a defense similar to one employed by Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, in defense of a slander lawsuit against him, brought by Karen McDougal, Powell’s lawyers argued no reasonable person would have believed her. In Carlson’s case, U.S. District Court Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil, a Trump appointee, ruled that: 

The “’general tenor” of the show should then inform a viewer that (Carlson) is not ‘stating actual facts’ about topics he discusses and is instead engaging in ‘exaggeration’ and ‘non-literal commentary.’” 

Yesterday, in her defense, Powell’s attorneys said:

“Indeed, Plaintiffs themselves characterize the statements at issue as ‘wild accusations’ and ‘outlandish claims.’ They are repeatedly labelled ‘inherently improbable’ and even ‘impossible.’ Such characterizations of the allegedly defamatory statements further support Defendants’ position that reasonable people would not accept such statements as fact but view them only as claims that await testing by the courts through the adversary process.”

In summary, no reasonable person should be expected to believe the bovine excrement Powell was spouting. And guess what; more than 60 courts did not. Neither did election officials in those aforementioned 6 states. But wait! Who did? Apparently, Donald Trump, 67% of republicans, hundreds of GOP state legislators, and a majority of GOP U.S. Senators and members of the House of Representatives. I would add Tucker Carlson…but you can’t believe what he says, so who knows?

Erstwhile reasonable people might hope that upon finally hearing Powell’s defense/response/explanation, many of those Republican citizens and lawmakers might default to a reasonable man/woman standard, and let go of those ‘wild accusations,’ ‘outlandish,’ ‘inherently improbable’ and impossible’ assertions, because, they are in fact, wild, outlandish, inherently improbable, and, in the final analysis, impossible. Hope springs eternal. No Reasonable Person: A Sad Commentary on the Fictile Trump Coalition!

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Trump Urges His Band of Compadres to Do the Right Thing; Will They?

News reports revealed on March 1st that Donald and Melania Trump were inoculated for the Coronavirus in January, while he was still President. Not to be confused with shots heard round the world, their vaccinations were closely held information until a little more than two weeks ago. It’s almost as if he did not want his carefully cultivated mass of followers to know that he had gotten vaccinated for what he once referred to as the Democrats next big hoax, and what his zealous throngs passionately argued would go away on November 4th, the day after the Election.

Fast forward to yesterday; Trump, in a Fox News interview with Maria Bartiromo, urged Americans to get vaccinated to help curb the Covid-19 pandemic, calling it “safe and “something that works.”

He added, “I would recommend it and I would recommend it to a lot of people that don’t want to get it and a lot of those people voted for me, frankly.”

“But again, we have our freedoms and we have to live by that and I agree with that also. But it is a great vaccine. It is a safe vaccine and it is something that works.”

All this adds up to Trump’s most energetic endorsement of vaccination, to date. It comes at a time when vaccine hesitancy among Republicans continues to threaten the US’ path to herd immunity. While 92% of Democrats either have gotten vaccinated or want to get vaccinated, Republicans weigh in at only 50%, a CNN poll conducted by SSRS shows.

President Biden, Vice President Harris, and their spouses, were vaccinated on live TV. The living former Presidents, minus Trump, were also vaccinated amid significant fanfare, in an effort to promote getting shots for the virus. Trump’s absence stood out. It was immediately contrasted with the recent news of his quietly being vaccinated on one hand, and with the widespread vaccine apathy of his supporters, on the other hand. As he endeavors to remain relevant in the GOP political spectrum, this pivot appears to be his next gambit to ensure that he retains his immense popularity and influence in the Republican Party. He has hinted at being a powerbroker for the 2022 midterms, and possibly running again in 2024, or positioning himself to be the key player in choosing the nominee.

The question of the hour is, will Trumpians, groomed to downgrade the importance of the virus, and to denigrate mask wearers, social distancers, and avid hand washers, be willing and able to make an abrupt about-face and embrace the vaccines? The smart money says they will make the adjustment. After all, heretofore, whenever he says jump, their axiomatic response has been to ask, how high? Why should this time be different? This time should be precisely like all the other times because, as much of a deviation from the norm as Trump’s new advisory is, it’s the right thing to do. For the sake of the health and safety of all Americans, let’s hope that’s enough. Trump Urges His Band of Compadres to Do the Right Thing; Will They?

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Vaccinations Surpass COVID-19 Cases: A Stat With Which More of Us Can Live

It’s time to Break It Down!

The vaccination arc is beginning to make its mark, bending toward efficacy. Alas, more Americans are fully vaccinated than there are confirmed cases in this country, 31 million to 29 million as of Monday. Over 60 million Americans have gotten at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 31.3 million are fully vaccinated, according to a Centers for Disease Control issuance Monday. Andy Slavitt, a Biden official notes that 92 million doses have been administered, accounting for 18.1 percent of the U.S. population. On top of that, of sexagenarians, such a me, and septuagenarians, 60% and 70%, respectively have received their first dose, as have 24% of all adults. Additionally, 30% of those over 65, 39% of those over 75, and 12% of all adults are fully vaccinated.

Happily, as one of the more than 10% of North Carolinians who are fully vaccinated, I am looking forward to Friday, which will mark the two-week benchmark of my having received my second shot. Time flies. Tomorrow will be the one-year anniversary of the World Health Organization declaring COVID-19 a global pandemic. It will also be the anniversary of the NBA shutting down. That…was roughly 29 million+ cases and 520,000+ American deaths ago. When viewed in that light, a year seems not nearly long enough to have wrought so much pain and suffering. And yet, that is precisely what has happened.

Here’s a quick summary, courtesy of Yahoo News.

Approximately 1 in 4 U.S. adults have been inoculated and 12 percent can now, the CDC suggests, resume some semblance of a normal social life. Here are some of the numbers emanating from the accelerating COVID-19 vaccination drive:

On a seven-day average, 2.2 million COVID-19 shots are now being administered daily 

0 percent of Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine included in the CDC’s numbers as of Sunday night.

44 percent of fully vaccinated U.S. adults, and about half of all adults, are anxious about re-entering normal life, according to soon-to-be published data from the American Psychological Association

25.8 percent of New Mexico’s population has gotten at least one vaccine dose

15.8 percent of Alaska’s population is fully vaccinated

13.3 percent of Georgia’s population has gotten at least one vaccine dose

6.6 percent of Utah’s population is fully vaccinated

100 percent of K-12 teachers are eligible to get vaccinated in the U.S. as of Monday — “though the situation is more straightforward in some states than others,” The New York Times notes

312 million doses (at least) have been administered worldwide in 116 countries, according to Bloomberg‘s tally.

Virginia Tech epidemiologist Lisa M. Lee tells The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. is making steady progress in its vaccination drive. However, logistics continue to be the primary hurdle, “everything from secure and simple registration systems to directing traffic at large vaccination events.”

Logistics aside, states opening up fully and prematurely are a critical problem that threatens to stem progress, spur calamitous super spreader events, and possibly even reverse the aforementioned steady progress. Therefore, I enthusiastically urge any and everyone who cares about beating coronavirus to proceed with caution. The vaccine is doing its job. With the right amount of patience, we just might beat this thing, somewhat sooner, rather than much, much later. ”Vaccinations Surpass COVID-19 Cases: A Stat With Which More of Us Can Live!

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American Conservatives’ Open Political Secret: Fear of the Black (Mostly) and Brown Vote

It’s time to Break It Down!

Arizona. Georgia. Michigan. Nevada. Pennsylvania. Wisconsin. Six states, six Biden wins, six Trump losses, and six reasons why the Brennan Center’s recent report on state voting proposals reveals that lawmakers in 43 states have carried over, pre-filed, or introduced 253 bills that restrict voting access. The reason for this barrage of voter suppression initiatives is both clear, and simple. To put a fine point on, back in March of 2020, when Donald Trump was still and actively participating member of the Twitterverse, he tweeted this:


— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 29, 2020

Simplified translation – Mail-in voting leads to more people voting. More people voting means more people voting for Democrats, or if you prefer, against Republicans. More people voting for Democrats than Republicans means…more Democrats elected; more Republican losers. 

Consider what this means, in its essence. If enabling more people to vote means Republicans will consistently lose — well, isn’t that the baseline for how democracy works? The point of democracy isn’t that there must necessarily be two parties from which people can choose, it’s that people can choose. If people chose against Republicans — or against Democrats — that’s their choice. You can’t justifiably limit that choice solely to protect the party itself. 

Typical means used to curb or discourage voting include, limiting or eliminating mail-in voting, early voting, voting locations, voting drop boxes, and the people who can present one’s ballot. Also included are, increasing the degree of difficulty one must overcome in order to cast a vote, for example, by requiring a specific set of allowable reasons to vote absentee, matching signatures, notarized ballots, and state voter ID, to name a few.

Specifically, as it relates to mail-in voting, it’s important to stipulate that there is no evidence that mail-in balloting favors Democrats over Republicans. In fact, there is published research that shows encouraging widespread voting by mail yielded “a truly negligible effect” on turnout and vote share by party. This documentation is not limited to a single report. A similar conclusion was reported in the Washington Post. It noted that absentee voting in Michigan and Wisconsin might actually have contributed to putting Trump over the top in those states in the 2016 presidential election. Huge early and absentee voting initiatives contributive to Trump and down ballot Republicans winning virtually all the statewide races in North Carolina, except the Governorship in this past November’s 2020 Election.

An oft repeated GOP contention alleges that absentee votes or mail ballots are rife with fraud. This allegation is reinforced in two ways: by noting isolated past examples of fraud being committed on a small scale by individuals, and by emphasizing characteristics of mail balloting that seem like they might allow for fraud to occur. Each of these elements was integral in Trump’s poison pill hokum dispensed before the 2020 Election, and his “big lie,” afterward. He created the opening gambit by priming the pump with the assertion that there was no way he could lose, unless Democrats cheated, and he doubled down with the repeatedly disproved perversion that Democrats, foreign countries, and voting machine conglomerates conspired to commit voter fraud, thus stealing the election he claimed to have won in a landslide.

The thing is, he lost. He lost bigly. In fact, let’s give the victor his due. Joe Biden won. He won by more than 7 million votes. He received a record 81 million votes, and he bested Trump in the Electoral College 306-232. That’s the same Electoral College differential by which Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in in 2016…when he, not surprisingly, claimed a landslide win.

By now, the events of January 6 are permanently etched in American political lore. Immediately following a Trump Rally at the Ellipse, during which Trump and several of his surrogates pointedly fired up the crowd, urged them to fight like hell, and told them to go take back their government…adding that he’d be there with them (He wasn’t). The crowd, or at least parts of it, morphed into a mob, and the next thing you know, there was an insurrection ensuing on the grounds, and in the halls of the U.S. Capitol, the Citadel of American Government. Despite the fact the events of the day unfolded live on Network and Cable TV, many Republicans and conservatives instantly resorted to some kind of bizarre alternative narrative, blaming the carnage on Antifa and Black Lives Matter, when all who had eyes and watched could see that Trump supporters, hyped by his barrage of lies about a stolen election went to the Capitol to prevent Congress from executing its duty and certifying Joe Biden as President. Weeks later, Mitch McConnell described it this way:

“The people who stormed the Capitol believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president. And having that belief was a foreseeable consequence of the growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories and reckless hyperbole, which the defeated president kept shouting into the loudest megaphone on planet earth.” —Mitch McConnell 2/13/21

In summary, Donald Trump spent months, on Twitter, and at too many rallies to count, encouraging his supporters not to mail-in ballots, or vote early; rather, vote in-person on Election Day. After Team Trump’s strategic assessment projected that the likely outcome of this tack was a Trump early lead, overcome by the tide of Biden mail-in and early votes, in states where most GOP legislatures had refused to allow votes to be counted until after Election Day ballots. This dire analysis resulted in Trump trying to stop the count in several states where he led at the end of the night on November 3rd (Election Day), but which trended toward Biden due to still uncounted ballots. By the time it was over, more than 60 courts, many with Trump appointed Judges, including the Supreme Court, on which Trump appointed 3 of the 9 Justices, rejected Trump lawsuits to stop or overturn election results. This goes back to the opening. Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin were states Trump wanted, expected, and most importantly, needed to win. To his shock, to Republicans’ disappointment, and to Democrats’ awe, he lost all of them. All 6 are states in which African American, Latino, and/or Native American voters proved decisive, in favor of Joe Biden. In a nutshell, that’s why Trump and the GOP want to limit voting, particularly by people of color. Without a doubt, this is”American Conservatives’ Open Political Secret: Fear of the Black (Mostly) and Brown Vote!”

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What A Difference A Year Makes: 500,000+ Coronavirus Deaths And Counting

It’s time to Break It Down!

On Monday, two days ago, the U.S. Coronavirus death toll eclipsed 500,000. One year ago, today, not a single American was known to have died from the illness. On February 23, 2020, then President Donald Trump proclaimed the virus was under control in the United States. The first reported U.S. fatality, due to COVID-19, was on February 28 in the Seattle area. Months later, in April, it was determined via postmortem testing, that at least two people died in Santa Clara County, California, attributable to Coronavirus.

In my March 11th post last year, entitled, “Coronavirus: The Next Big Thing,” I laid out the basic details, as we knew them to be at that time. In what has been a year-long evolving litany of proposed remedies, we have witnessed, and in far too many instances, experienced, competing narratives between science and conspiracy theories about how to stem the scourge of the latest global pandemic. Focusing upon the national ramifications of the dreaded disease, the one-half million American lives lost, has to be the headline, but quickly thereafter, we must confront the opportunity costs of the politicization of the virus. 

The former President of the United States rejected, for far too long, the premise that Coronavirus posed a serious threat on American soil. Ergo, his enthralled mass of supports followed suit. Even now, many of them disparage mask-wearing, and more pointedly, the team of doctors and scientists selected to lead our national effort to defeat the menace that is COVID-19. The collective resistance of the man formerly holding what some consider the most powerful position in the world, along with his supporters, resulted in Coronavirus establishing a much more significant foothold than it might have gained otherwise. The list of actions that ultimately muted, and or delayed, our national response is long and substantive. 

Here is a less than exhaustive sample:

May 2018 – The Trump Administration disbanded the White House pandemic response team.

July 2019 – The CDC epidemiologist embedded in China’s CDC left the post; the role was eliminated.

January 22, 2020 – Trump said, “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China. It’s going to be just fine.”

January 24, 2020 – Trump said, “China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency. It will all work out well. In particular, on behalf of the American people, I want to thank President Xi!”

February 2, 2020 – Trump said, “We pretty much shut it down coming in from China.”

February 7, 2020 – Trump said to Bob Woodward, The Washington Post, “It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flu… This is deadly stuff.” (Made public September 9, 2020).

February 10, 2020 – Trump said, “I think the virus is going to be—it’s going to be fine.”

February 10, 2020 – Trump said, “Looks like by April, you know in theory when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away.”

February 24, 2020 (one year ago today) – Trump said, “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA… the Stock Market starting to look very good to me!”

February 25, 2020 – Trump said, “CDC and my Administration are doing a great job of handling Coronavirus.”

February 25, 2020 – Trump said, “I think that’s a problem that’s going to go away… They have studied it. They know very much. In fact, we’re very close to a vaccine”

February 26, 2020 – Trump said, “The 15 (cases in the U.S.) within a couple is going to be down to close to zero.”

February 26, 2020 – Trump said, “We’re going very substantially down, not up.”

February 27, 2020 – Trump said, “It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.”

March 4, 2020 – Trump said, “If we have thousands or hundreds of thousands of people that get better just by, you know, sitting around and even going to work — some of them go to work, but they get better.”

March 5, 2020 – Trump said, “I NEVER said people that are feeling sick should go to work.”

March 5, 2020 – Trump said, “The United States… has, as of now, only 129 cases… and 11 deaths. We are working very hard to keep these numbers as low as possible!”

March 6, 2020 – Trump said, “I like this stuff. I really get it. People are surprised that I understand it… Every one of these doctors said, ‘How do you know so much about this?’ Maybe I have a natural ability. Maybe I should have done that instead of running for president.”

March 7, 2020 – Trump said, “No, I’m not concerned at all.”

March 13, 2020 – Trump said, “I don’t take responsibility at all.”

March 14, 2020 – Trump said, “I’d rate it a ten,” [Trump’s rating of his coronavirus response]

March 17, 2020 – Trump said, “The only thing we haven’t done well is get good press.”

March 19, 2020 – Trump said, I intended “to always play it down.”  [Trump in a private taped interview with Bob Woodward, made public on September 9]

March 26, 2020 – The United States becomes the country with the most confirmed coronavirus cases. A title it keeps for the remainder of Trump’s time in office.

March 30, 2020 – Trump said, “Stay calm, it will go away. You know it — you know it is going away, and it will go away, and we’re going to have a great victory.”

April 3, 2020 – Trump said, “I’m feeling good. I just don’t want to be doing — somehow sitting in the Oval Office behind that beautiful resolute desk, the great resolute desk, I think wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens, I don’t know, somehow I don’t see it for myself. I just don’t. Maybe I’ll change my mind.”

April 6, 2020 – Trump said, “LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL!”

April 6, 2020 – U.S. death toll passes 10,000

April 9, 2020 – Trump said“I couldn’t have done it any better,” [When asked if his coronavirus response could have been better]

April 11, 2020 – U.S. death toll passes 20,000

April 14, 2020 – Trump said, “[w]hen somebody’s the president of the United States, the authority is total.”

April 15, 2020 – U.S. death toll passes 30,000

April 20, 2020 – U.S. death toll passes 40,000

April 24, 2020 – U.S. death toll passes 50,000

April 29, 2020 – U.S. death toll passes 60,000

May 5, 2020 – U.S. death toll passes 70,000

May 11, 2020 – U.S. death toll passes 80,000

May 18, 2020 – U.S. death toll passes 90,000

May 22, 2020 – Over 38 million jobless claims filed

May 27, 2020 – U.S. death toll passes 100,000

September 19, 2020 – U.S. death toll passes 200,000

October 2, 2020 – Trump tweets that he tested positive for COVID-19-19.

December 9, 2020 – 3,103 COVID-19 deaths in a one day

December 14, 2020 – U.S. death toll passes 300,000

January 1, 2021 – U.S. surpasses 20 million confirmed COVID-19 cases

January 4, 2021 – CDC reports that 4.6 million people have been vaccinated.

January 6, 2021 – Trump mob stormed Congress. Officials reported at least 3,963 new coronavirus deaths in the US, a new single-day record.

January 14, 2021 – The Trump administration promised to have 20 million people given their first shot by the end of 2020. Two weeks later, they have administered just over 11 million.

January 20, 2021 – Each day in January, covid-19 killed an average of 3,100 people in the United States — one every 28 seconds.

Trump’s term in office saw over 25 million confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States, over 400,000 of which resulted in death.

February 22, 2021 – U.S. death toll surpassed 500,000

The Biden administration has been in office just over a month. He has pledged to be guided by science in working to fight Coronavirus. The disease Trump conspiracy theorists claimed would disappear November 3rd, has continued to ravage the country. While there are signs it is receding at long last, partly due to getting past the holiday season, partly because of the expanding vaccination effort, and partly as a result of masking, social distancing, and handwashing, doctors and scientists warn, this is no time to relax. Doing so, may lead to another spike.

Research has shown a disparity in who’s getting vaccinated. Blacks and other people of color are disproportionately impacted by the effects of the virus, but are also the least likely to receive vaccinations. This combination presages a deadly double jeopardy. It is wrought by a confluence of circumstances that includes an uneven distribution system, further complicated by an inherent reluctance of certain groups to avail themselves of the vaccine. Black people in particular, are concerned about being on the receiving end of historical patterns of abuse, perpetuated by what at times has been a wantonly irresponsible healthcare system. That the current wave of vaccines came about so rapidly is by and large a good thing. It does not, however, lend itself to alleviating the reservations of people who have legitimate reasons to mistrust a system that has abused them on a horrific scale, on more than one occasion.

Nevertheless, there is an undeniable hankering to return to some level and degree of normalcy. Refusing the vaccine heightens the likelihood one will contract the virus, which increases the probability one will become seriously ill, which ups the odds one with prematurely perish from Coronavirus. Over half a million of our friends, family, co-workers and acquaintances have already died on that hill. Most of them didn’t have the option to take the vaccine. It’s coming to your cohort; sooner rather than later. Don’t be a vaccine martyr. Take the shot. Your kith and kin need you. “What A Difference A Year Makes: 500,000+ Coronavirus Deaths and Counting!”

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Blue Lives Mattered…Until They Didn’t: Is Kneeling Really That Bad?

It’s time to Break It Down!

OK, here’s the skinny; this is how privilege works.

How often have we been immersed in the righteously indignant refrain of Blue Lives Matter! Typically, a rejoinder to a Black Lives Matter event, or banner, or pronouncement. It’s as if, in the hearts and minds of those who declare it (Blue Lives Matter), two things cannot be true at once. They can, of course. In fact, Black Lives Matter, in and of itself, is not a diminution of Blue lives, White lives…or any other lives, for whatever its worth. Yes, Blue Lives Matter. But don’t tell that to Trump’s marauding MAGA-mob; that’s right, the same riotous interlopers who begat an insurrection on that vaunted citadel of American democracy, the U.S. Capitol, on January 6th.

On that day, as you, and most Americans, and countless people around the world, know by now, the marauding MAGA-mob attacked, not only one of our pre-eminent symbolic institutions, and the 535 men and women who work there as members of the U.S. House of Representatives, and the U.S. Senate, but they also attacked the men and women, the Blue Lives, if you will, who protect the Capitol and the Congress. Three Blue Lives were lost, due to the events of that day. One who perished from the injuries he sustained while trying to protect the Congress, as it went about its Constitutional duty and responsibility to certify the 2020 Election results, and two others who subsequently committed suicide. Many others sustained serious injuries, courtesy of the marauding MAGA-mob. Say it. Say it loudly. Blue Lives Matter! But, apparently, not that day. Not to those people. Not to Trump’s marauding MAGA-mob!

These were part and parcel to the same crowd that derisively scolded Colin Kaepernick, for kneeling during the Nation Anthem. Donald Trump, and many of his loyalists figuratively flayed Kaep, and anyone else across the sports world who dared kneel during the Anthem. They considered it a desecration of Old Glory, our preternatural flag. Even though a veteran suggested kneeling to Kaepernick, as a way to register a peaceful protest of police brutality and violence against people of color, Trump and his “super-patriot” crew would simply not hear it. Trump called them SOB’s and suggested they be fired. Team MAGA co-signed, and attacked Kaepernick, and anyone who agreed with or supported him, at every turn. To this day, many of them preach about the sanctity of the flag.

At least, they did, until January 6th. On that day, the marauding MAGA-mob repurposed the flag, along with the pole upon which it was hoisted, into a spear; a weapon to poke and bludgeon the enemy, which included…you guessed it…Blue Lives. Can you hear me now?

All of these actions reek of sheer hypocrisy. The variety that oozes privilege as its source and inspiration. I understand denying white privilege is in vogue. That’s a debate for another day, as far as I’m concerned. For now, I’ll leave it at this. “Blue Lives Mattered Until They Didn’t: Is Kneeling Really that Bad?”

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 Showtime

It’s time to Break It Down!

Yesterday afternoon, Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial kicked off on the Senate floor. Conventional wisdom suggests that the proceeding is a mere formality. Second impeachment trial; let that sink in.

So how can an historic second impeachment trial be categorized as a formality? Consider the prevailing context. Congress, both the House and Senate, like the country, is separated by a political and ideological divide. The chasm, as I’ve frequently noted, is deep and wide. The Senate is the jury; they are also witnesses. The Senate/jury is composed of 100 members, and is split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans. It would take 67 Senators to convict Trump. For anyone who may be arithmetically challenged, that means, if all the Democrats vote to convict, 17 Republicans would be required to join them in order forge a conviction.

In a vote to determine whether the proceedings aligned with the provisions of the Constitution, the outcome was 56-44 in favor. Yes, that’s right, only 6 Republicans were even willing to say it was Constitutionally permissible to conduct the trial in the first place. And that’s after 5 weeks of airing and re-airing the events of January 6th, including what amounted to a pre-insurrection pep rally, led by the individual formerly known as President. Apologies to Prince Rogers Nelson.

For two months after the November Election, Donald Trump hyped the untruthful notion that the election was fraudulently stolen from him. In the days leading up to January 6, when Congress was scheduled to meet to certify the final results, and officially declare Joe Biden President, Trump “invited” his supporters to come to Washington; thousands did. In a rally, just prior to the scheduled vote at the Capitol, Trump exhorted his already fired up crowd to “fight like hell,” or they would no longer have a country. He urged them to walk down to the Capitol, and added that, he would be there with them.

Now, as his recently reformatted legal team attempts to defend him, they are arguing he played no role in the MAGA-mob action that resulted in virtually the entire Congress fleeing to safe rooms, at least 5 deaths, including a Capitol police officer, and a lingering distrust among some members of Congress, who believe a number of their cohorts conspired to have them killed. The mob broke windows, doors, and furniture, yelled epithets, and threatened to kill Mike Pence, Nancy Pelosi, and others. That his defense team had the audacity to make that claim after the House Impeachment Managers presented the 13-minute video linked below was clear evidence that Trump has no self-awareness, and his legal team has no shame. The Impeachment Managers are expected to present new never-before-seen footage today of the insurgent Capitol mayhem inside the Citadel of the U.S. government; the inner sanctum of the People’s House.

Each side has up to 16 hours to make their case. Neither the House, nor the Senate is expected to use all their time. Initial estimates are that a vote may come as early as this weekend. I admit, I fully expect Trump to skate, even as I know, had a Democrat, any Democrat, done the things Trump has done, Republicans in Congress, and Republicans/conservatives throughout America would be calling for prosecution to the fullest extent of the law. And yet, it is what it is. And what it is, is, now on the record”It’s Showtime!”

I’m done; holla back!

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

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Mourning in America

It’s time to Break It Down!

As with many people I know, it would have been hard for me to have envisioned our country finding itself enmeshed in the degree of national civil discord that we find ourselves today. But, on the short odds that we’d find ourselves here, arriving at this unenviable space, largely via the courtesy of a President of the United States would have been simply unfathomable. At least, it would have been before 2016.

Now before keying another word, let me say, emphatically, Donald Trump is not the root cause of our national internal strife and rancor. It has always been with us. Having stipulated that, Mr. Trump has elevated matters in a distinctly next level way.

From disparaging Mexicans before descending down that escalator in 2015, to nauseating Birtherism claims, to boasting he could shoot someone on 5th Ave. and not lose any voters, to initiating lock her up chants, to at first, refusing to disavow David Duke, to rolling out the Muslim ban, to the good people on both sides assertion, to the s-hole countries comment, to siding with Putin over his own Intelligence community, to 30,500+ false and misleading statements, to 2 months of patently false claims about election fraud, culminating in a high-octane pre Capitol riot speech, he has increasingly stirred disunity and fanned the already sizzling embers of rage into white hot flames of tumult. America mourns.

In the August 5th Edition, I wrote about Jonathan Swan’s (Axios) Donald Trump interview, aired by HBO, when Trump discussed his antipathy toward the late Congressman John Lewis, also known as the “It is what it is” interview. Well, Swan has delivered on another epic storyline. This time, as part of an eight-episode series, entitled Off the rails, plus a bonus piece co-written Swan and Zachary Basu; called, Inside the craziest meeting of the Trump presidency. The story is linked below, for your edification. To give you a sense of the internal acrimony, as Trump’s term wound down, here are a number of the more compelling quotes for you:

“How the hell did Sidney get in the building?” White House senior adviser Eric Herschmann grumbled from the outer Oval Office as Sidney Powell and her entourage strutted by to visit the president. 

“Hold on a minute, Sidney,” Herschmann interrupted from the back of the Oval. “You’re part of the Rudy team, right? Is your theory that the Democrats got together and changed the rules, or is it that there was foreign interference in our election?”

“It’s foreign interference,” Powell insisted, then added: “Rudy hasn’t understood what this case is about until just now.”

But Powell, fixing on Trump, continued to elaborate on a fantastical election narrative involving Venezuela, Iran, China and others. She named a county in Georgia where she claimed she could prove that Dominion had illegally flipped the vote.

Herschmann interrupted to point out that Trump had actually won the Georgia county in question: “So your theory is that Dominion intentionally flipped the votes so we could win that county?”

As for Powell’s larger claims, he demanded she provide evidence for what — if true — would amount to the greatest national security breach in American history. They needed to dial in one of the campaign’s lawyers, Herschmann said, and Trump campaign lawyer Matt Morgan was patched in via speakerphone.

By now, people were yelling and cursing.

Flynn went berserk. 

“You’re quitting! You’re a quitter! You’re not fighting!” he exploded at the senior adviser. Flynn then turned to the president, and implored: “Sir, we need fighters.”

Herschmann ignored Flynn at first and continued to probe Powell’s pitch with questions about the underlying evidence.

Flynn was ranting, seemingly infuriated about anyone challenging Powell, who had represented him in his recent legal battles.

Finally, Herschmann had enough. “Why the fuck do you keep standing up and screaming at me?” he shot back at Flynn. “If you want to come over here, come over here. If not, sit your ass down.” Flynn sat back down.

The meeting had come entirely off the rails.

This was a remarkable level of personal familiarity, given it was the first time Byrne had met the president. All the stanchions and buffers between the White House and the outside world had crumbled.

Byrne kept attacking the senior White House staff in front of Trump. “They’ve already abandoned you,” he told the president aggressively. Periodically during the meeting Flynn or Byrne challenged Trump’s top staff — portraying them as disloyal: So, do you think the president won or not?

At one point, with Flynn shouting, Byrne raised his hand to talk. He stood up and turned around to face Herschmann. “You’re a quitter,” he said. “You’ve been interfering with everything. You’ve been cutting us off.”

“Do you even know who the fuck I am, you idiot?” Herschmann snapped back.

“Yeah, you’re Patrick Cipollone,” Byrne said.

“Wrong! Wrong, you idiot!”

The usually mild-mannered Lyons blasted the Powell set: “You’ve brought 60 cases. And you’ve lost every case you’ve had!”

Trump came back into the Oval Office from the dining room to rejoin the meeting. Lyons pointed out to Powell that their incompetence went beyond their lawsuits being thrown out for standing. “You somehow managed to misspell the word ‘District’ three different ways in your suits,” he said pointedly.

In a Georgia case, the Powell team had misidentified the court on the first page of their filing as “THE UNITED STATES DISTRICCT COURT, NORTHERN DISTRCOICT OF GEORGIA.” And they had identified the Michigan court as the “EASTERN DISTRCT OF MICHIGAN.”

These were sloppy spelling errors. But given that these lawsuits aimed to overturn a presidential election, the court nomenclature should have been pristine.

Powell, Flynn and Byrne began attacking Lyons as they renewed their argument to Trump: There they go again, they want to focus on the insignificant details instead of fighting for you.

Trump replied, “No, no, he’s right. That was very embarrassing. That shouldn’t have happened.”

The Powell team needed to regroup. They shifted to a new grievance to turn the conversation away from their embarrassing errors. 

Every judge is corrupt, she claimed. We can’t rely on them. The White House lawyers couldn’t believe what they were hearing. “That’s your argument?” a stunned Herschmann said. “Even the judges we appointed? Are you out of your fucking mind?”

Powell had more to say. She and Flynn began trashing the FBI as well, and the Justice Department under Attorney General Bill Barr, telling Trump that neither could be trusted. Both institutions, they said, were corrupt, and Trump needed to fire the leadership and get in new people he could trust.

Byrne, wearing jeans, a hoodie and a neck gaiter, piped up with his own conspiracy: “I know how this works. I bribed Hillary Clinton $18 million on behalf of the FBI for a sting operation.”

Herschmann stared at the eccentric millionaire. “What the hell are you talking about? Why would you say something like that?” Byrne brought up the bizarre Clinton bribery claim several more times during the meeting to the astonishment of White House lawyers.

Trump, for his part, also seemed perplexed by Byrne. But he was not entirely convinced the ideas Powell was presenting were insane.

He asked: You guys are offering me nothing. These guys are at least offering me a chance. They’re saying they have the evidence. Why not try this? The president seemed truly to believe the election was stolen, and his overriding sentiment was, let’s give this a shot.

The words “martial law” were never spoken during the meeting.

But this was a distinction without much of a difference. What Flynn and Powell were proposing amounted to suspending normal laws and mobilizing the U.S. government to seize Dominion voting machines around the country.

Powell was arguing that they couldn’t get a judge to enforce any subpoena to hand over the voting machines because all the judges were corrupt. She and her group repeatedly referred to the National Emergencies Act and a Trump executive order from 2018 that was designed to clear the way for the government to sanction foreign actors interfering in U.S. elections.

These laws were, in the view of Powell, Flynn and the others, the key to unlocking extraordinary powers for Trump to stay in office beyond Jan. 20.

“How exactly are you going to do this?” an exasperated Herschmann asked again, later in the conversation. 

Newman again cited the 2018 executive order, which prompted Herschmann to question out loud whether she was even a lawyer.

Then Byrne chimed in: “There are guys with big guns and badges who can get these things.” Herschmann couldn’t believe it. “What are you, three years old?” he asked.

Lyons, the staff secretary, told the president that the executive order Powell and Flynn were citing did not give him the authority they claimed it did to seize voting machines. Morgan, the campaign lawyer, also expressed skepticism about their idea of invoking national security emergency powers.

Herschmann was primed to brawl and ready to dump on Powell. It had been a long day.

“Rudy,” he said, turning to Giuliani, “Sidney was just in the Oval telling the president you don’t know what the fuck you’re doing. Right, Sidney?” He turned to Powell: “Why don’t you tell Rudy to his face?”

Three days later, Giuliani would publicly distance himself from Powell, telling Newsmax that Powell did not represent the president, and that “whatever she’s talking about, it’s her own opinions.”

It didn’t take long for the yelling to start up again. They were now in hour four of a meeting unprecedented even by the deranged standards of the final days of the Trump presidency.

Now it was Meadows’ turn, blasting Flynn for trashing him and accusing him of being a quitter. “Don’t you dare challenge me about whether I’m being supportive of the president and working hard,” Meadows shouted, reminding Flynn that he’d defended him during his legal troubles.

Powell at one point turned to Lyons and demanded, “Why are you speaking? Are you still employed here?” The staff secretary, who had already resigned, laughed and joked, “Well I guess I’m here until midnight.”

It was after midnight by the time the White House officials had finally said their piece. They left that night fully prepared for the mad possibility Trump might still name Sidney Powell special counsel. You have our advice, they told the president before walking out. You decide who to listen to.

Yeah, that was one crazy day. Meanwhile, We are “Mourning in America!”

I’m done; holla back!

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

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

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Au Revoir Mamba: A Requiem for Kobe Redux ’21

It’s time to Break It Down!

As a lifetime Lakers’ fan, I decided to add today’s post to my litany of reprised editions. For many of us, 2020’s downward spiral is underscored by the COVID-19 pandemic…but the spiral was launched by the crash of Kobe’s copter. To wit, without further ado…

A year ago yesterday, on Sunday morning, January 26, 2020, around 9:45 a.m. PST, a helicopter crashed in Calabasas in Northern Los Angeles County, California. As we now know, that crash ended the lives of Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, A.K.A. GiGi, six other passengers, and the pilot, nine souls in total. Kobe Bryant gained immeasurable notoriety as a star among stars in the NBA constellation. There have been numerous memorials, and undoubtedly, there will be countless more.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, as I conclude, instead of lamenting the irreversible, or framing an even longer good-bye, I say, go with God. “Au Revoir Mamba: A Requiem for Kobe Redux ’21!”

I’m done; holla back!

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

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

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