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A Slap in the Face

At this year’s Oscars, Chris Rock was the master of ceremonies. As everybody knows, he is a comedian, maybe even the best comedian of his generation. He made a joke about Will Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, also a movie star.

It was a bald joke—a joke about baldness. Jada Pinkett Smith has alopecia. This means that she is losing her hair. Her hair is currently cut extremely short.

The joke wasn’t that funny, but it’s not unusual for comedians to sometimes miss the mark with a joke. Will Smith became furious. He charged the stage from the audience and slapped Chris Rock on national television.

I’m sorry. I really don’t care. The fact that a joke goes sour is not a surprise. The fact that a highly paid actor cannot keep his emotions in check is also not a surprise. I have little interest in whatever beef two millionaires have against each other.

Neither of these two talented men is going to bring down gas prices. They are not going to fix inflation. They are not going to help the Senate pass a voting rights bill. They are not going to force Attorney General Mary Garland to prosecute Donald Trump or the prominent Republicans who orchestrated and carried out the January 6th insurrection.

The joke was in poor taste, but still, Chris Rock should not have been assaulted. Will Smith should be held accountable—and he now has, by being banned for 10 years from the Academy. Fine. Let’s get to things that really matter.

Ukraine Update

At the time of writing, this war has dragged on for approximately five weeks. The conventional wisdom that Ukraine was going to fold like a lawn chair was wrong. Somehow, against all odds, they have stopped the Russian advance towards their capital Kyiv. It’s unclear exactly what the biggest surprise has been—the fact that Ukrainian people have put up tenacious resistance, or the fact that the Russian army is not this great juggernaut that we were led to believe.

Even early in the war, there were signs that the Russian army was not going to be all that effective. Almost from day one, the Russian army had problems with supplies. Their tanks breaking down and being mired in mud was like World War II. But, to me, the biggest sign that Russia really could not handle the Ukrainian Army was the fact that Russia very quickly started targeting the civilian population: schools, Red Cross headquarters, humanitarian corridors, nuclear plants, and apartment buildings. I think this was a deliberate act. I think this is a war crime.

This war has created a huge humanitarian crisis, both inside Ukraine and across Europe. The latest estimates are that around 4.5 million Ukrainian refugees—10% of the country’s entire population—have flooded into the surrounding countries.

None of the surrounding countries are rich. To be honest, I’m not sure any country has the resources readily available to admit 300,000 refugees, right now. It’s a huge problem. (Imagine if 34,000,000 Americans poured into Mexico and Canada over a period of a month!)

The United States and the European Union have pledged money, food, and supplies, and none of this is happening fast enough. On the other hand, inside Ukraine there’ve been some cities that have been under siege for weeks. Mariupol has been pounded for over a week. Residents are trapped. Escape routes have been cut off. Food and supplies are running low. I doubt there is any heat or running water. This is a huge problem.

I stand by what I said last month. Putin is a bully, and You cannot confront a bully with words. You need to use either the threat of force—a serious threat backed up by strength and determination—or you actually need to use force.

Poland wanted to give Ukraine some of their old MIG fighters. The United States said no. The United States, its NATO allies, and others, are worried about a direct confrontation with Russia getting out of control. They are worried about a nuclear war.

There is no doubt that a nuclear strike is possible, given who Putin is. He’s a bully, an autocrat, a tyrant, a white nationalist, and—though we can’t diagnose this from a distance—quite possibly an actual madman.

But knowing who, if not what, Putin is, our question should be, Who are we as a nation? Do we really support democracy? Do we truly believe in freedom?

If so, we need to take a more active role in this unnecessary war. We need to send Patriot missiles so that Ukrainians can shoot down Russian missiles, like the one that just hit a train station and killed over 50 civilians, in midair. We need to send F-14, F-16, and F-22 fighter jets to Ukraine so they can enforce their own no-fly zone.

If Russia looks at this as an act of war, then so be it. I think that we need to do everything we can to save lives and to stop this war—this illegal, unjust, senseless war—as quickly as possible. Anything less is a slap in the face to democracy, liberty and freedom.

Covid is not dead

I know everybody is acting as if the pandemic that has gripped the world for the last two years is over. If it’s over, I did not get the memo.

On April 2, 2022, there were over 27,000 new cases of coronavirus in the United States. There were 651 deaths. In the United States, we’ve had over 982,000 deaths since the beginning of Covid. We weathered the initial surge. Then we had the delta variant which was extremely deadly. Just as the cases were beginning to drop off from the delta variant, we were slammed with the omicron variant.

Two new variants seem to be sweeping through Europe: BA.1 and BA.2. Oh, and there is a BA.3 on its way. We should know by now that whatever happens in Europe soon happens in the United States. Coronavirus cases in New York, Massachusetts, and New Jersey are up 30% in the past week. Get ready! Because even though new peaks haven’t reached North Carolina—they will.

I’m not saying this to scare you. I’m not saying this to rain on your parade. Instead, I’m saying this so that you and your loved ones can make level-headed decisions in the days ahead.

I’m continuing to wear my mask. I suggest that you do also. Continue social distancing. Wash your hands frequently. Get vaccinated. If you are ready vaccinated, get your booster shot. If you’re like me, you got your booster back in September or October of last year. We know that the booster shot gives you outstanding protection for the first three months or so.

But by six to eight months, a lot of the effectiveness of the booster has waned. Just recently the FDA and the CDC approved a second booster. I plan on getting my second booster next week. Do as much as you can to protect your family and yourself. We have lost way too many Americans. Stay on your toes. Get your second booster.

A couple of things

  • In college basketball, the North Carolina Tar Heels defeated the Duke Blue Devils in an epic semifinal game in March Madness. I have always enjoyed watching Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski’s coach. He is one of the greatest coaches in basketball history. And this was his last game—a great way to step into retirement.
  • Herschel Walker may be one of the worst gubernatorial candidates in modern history. One of the highlights of his awful campaign is that he’s been lying about his record at the University of Georgia. He has said on multiple occasions that he graduated in the top 1% of his class. Be serious! Come on, be serious! Nothing that Herschel Walker has shown me over four decades would suggest that he spent a lot of time reading books or studying. The idea is laughable. Herschel Walker may be a nice guy, and he was a great athlete. But according to The Atlanta Constitution, he never even graduated from college, much less in the top 1%!
  • Representative Madison Cawthorn is an embarrassment. Like Herschel Walker, he lied about his college education (he dropped out after one semester), was accused of sexual misbehavior by more than a dozen fellow students, lied about being admitted to the US Naval Academy… Cawthorn has done a ton of things that are awful, but calling President Zelensky (Ukraine) a thug should be the last straw. Hendersonville deserves better. Western North Carolina deserves better. The United States Congress deserves better. Dare I say it: We the American People deserve better. Madison Cawthorn is the slap in the face that none of us deserve.
  • I’m not sure what US Attorney General Merrick Garland is thinking. We now have evidence that January 6th was not a spontaneous attack on our Capitol. Instead, it was planned. Household republican names were active in planning. Not just the guy wearing the horns but prominent republicans – Michael Flynn, Alex Jones, Roger Stone, Stephen Bannon and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, was heavily involved. As a Democrat who believes in Democracy and the constitution, I’m demanding that Merrick Garland do something!
  • How did the four men who planned on kidnaping and killing Gretchen Whitmer, governor of Michigan, get off scot-free? Did these guys get entrapped by the FBI? The whole ordeal is very confusing to me. The picture the media painted was very cut and dry. Extremists hated Whitmer’s mask mandate and so they decided to act. Was the media wrong? Was the story more complex? I don’t understand.

Let us pledge to do better
Sometimes, it seems half the world is getting a slap in the face from the other half! We have got to do better!

By |2022-08-20T22:00:13-04:00August 20th, 2022|Entertainment, Foreign Affairs|Comments Off on A Slap in the Face

The Real Fight

Welcome to 2022!  This is the year that we beat Covid-19 into submission. At least, I hope so. I can give you the statistics, but I guess you already know them. We are in the midst of yet another spike. Over 75% of the new cases are the new Omicron. This new variant is supposed to be highly contagious but, less deadly.

All I know is I do not want the coronavirus. I do not want the original virus. I do not want the Delta variant of the virus. I do not want the Omicron variant. I will continue to do what I can to avoid this virus. I will continue to wear a mask. I will continue to social distance. I do not go to restaurants, movie theaters, or sporting events. I avoid crowds. I am vaccinated and boosted, I encourage you to do the same.

American democracy

When we think about American democracy, we think about one-man (one-woman), one-vote. Yet, the original United States Constitution was not really about every adult voting. The original Constitution was about the rich voting or more correctly men who owned land voting. The Framers believed that people who held land were more important than “regular” folk. They believed that white-skinned people from Europe deserved the vote, but not the original inhabitants of the continent. Or women. Or people from Africa brought over to be property. Senators were not even elected by “we the people,” but appointed by state legislatures.

Over the centuries the Constitution has been changed. Now, we can vote for our representatives to both the House and Senate. But the real question remains—is America about us or about the rich?

Not my job

Recently Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) called out Warren Buffett, billionaire CEO of Berkshire Hathaway. It appears there is a steelworker strike of the Special Metals plant in Huntington, West Virginia (where I live). Berkshire Hathaway owns the parent company of Special Metals, Precision Castparts. Sen. Sanders asked Warren Buffett to pay his workers more. He correctly pointed out that these steelworkers work for a company that makes plenty of money. Yet Warren Buffett said, “That’s not my job” [to raise their pay.]

Really? Isn’t this the classic rich-vs.-poor struggle that we’ve seen in the United States for over close to 200 years.

In A People’s History of the United States, author Howard Zinn describes a, 1839 fight between tenants and the Rensselaer estate in New York’s Hudson Valley. The tenants were farmers that lived on the estate. They had to pay taxes and rents to the Rensselaers. The famers believed that the taxes and rents were too high: they barely had enough money to live on after they paid their dues.

The disagreement between the Rensselaers and their tenants became a huge fight. The sheriff was brought into collect rent or to evict tenants, but he retreated after being confronted with hundreds of angry farmers. Then the sheriff returned with a posse—and thousands of angry farmers threw stones and beat the posse with sticks. Again, they retreated. A petition for an anti-rent bill was submitted to the New York legislature in 1845. The bill was signed by 25,000 tenants. It was defeated. Finally, a guerrilla war broke out. People were killed on both sides. Although the farmers won some minor victories, the landlord-tenant structure basically stayed in place. This fight lasted for more than 20 years. Yet in the end, not much changed.

The fight between rich and poor is an ongoing battle in the United States. Think about the fights that we’ve been discussing in this space for over a decade. When you think about them in the context of rich versus poor, they make more sense.


Universal healthcare shouldn’t be a big deal. It’s not that we can’t afford it. We clearly can. Universal healthcare would raise millions of Americans out of poverty. Universal healthcare would not be tied to your place of work but instead would be tied to your citizenship here in the United States.

Think about it: if you’re poor and working two jobs and develop a toothache, you would have nothing to worry about. You would simply go to a dentist and have you tooth taking care of. Done.

Living wage

Think about a living wage. This would basically mean you would only work two jobs if that’s what you truly wanted to do. Most people who work two jobs, do it because they need the money. Now, if we had a living wage in the United States, people would have enough money to cover their living expenses. They could buy a car (not lease). They could rent an apartment in a decent neighborhood—or buy a house. They could pay more in taxes, which would upgrade the school system.

Yet, we don’t have a living wage or universal healthcare in the United States. Why? I think the answer is obvious. What did Warren Buffett say? It is not my job. (What if the management of that steel company decided to pay every worker $250,000 per year? Would Warren Buffett sit back and say that’s not my job? Or would he fire all management personnel and hire some folks who would get the situation of worker pay under control?)

We don’t have universal healthcare or a living wage because the rich want the poor to stay needy.

January 6

A recent poll by one of the major news outlets found 1/3 of the electorate thought that under certain circumstances it was okay, or even necessary, to overthrow our government. After the events of January 6, I’m not surprised by these polling numbers.

Let’s just think about the aftermath of the 2020 election. Over the last 50 or 60 years, the presidential election has been out in the open. The person who got the most votes was elected president.

(Except in 2000 and 2016. Come to think of it, a majority of American voters have cast ballots for a Republican only once in the past 30 years—yet three times the Republican candidate “won” the presidency, thanks to the Electoral College—another of the Founders gifts to the rich at the expense of the poor).

Yet our 2020 election really depended upon just a handful of Republicans who believed in American democracy.

There was the Secretary of State in Georgia, Brad Raffensberger, who withstood presidential pressure, recorded on an angry, whiny one-hour phone call, and pressure from fellow Republicans, to “find” votes. Almost the same pressure was seen in Arizona. Michigan Republican lawmakers were actually flown to the White House to meet with President Trump. He tried to persuade them to do “something” to help his cause. And there was Vice President Pence, who surprised not only the president and his White House cabal, but the American people, by standing up for principle and certifying Biden and Harris as the winners—and Trump and himself as the loser—of the election.

Think about how close we came to a coup. The riot, the insurrectionists, on January 6, 2021, were simply the icing on the coup cake.

At the crossroads

American democracy is at the crossroads. Donald Trump, Fox News, Kevin McCarthy, Marjorie Taylor Green, Madison Cawthorn, Alex Jones, Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Newsmax, and other members of the right-wing propaganda machine have left reality and democracy behind.

They have to keep their public riled up. This means they have to push more and more outrageous conspiracies. Yesterday’s conspiracies like Hillary Clinton leading a satanic cult of pedophiles based in a Washington, DC, pizzeria, are tame compared to the new conspiracies these anti-American propagandists are dreaming up.

Are the rich bothered by these developments? Nope. They are going to be okay no matter what goes down.

So this is our fight. The fight is not with each other. The fight is against the rich. I’m not talking about athletes who make a couple million a year. I’m talking about people who are truly rich. People who have so much money they can’t give it away. I’m talking about Rockefellers, Carnegies, DuPonts, Vanderbilts, and others. Their newer counterparts include the Kochs, the DeVos clan, and the Waltons (of Walmart)—older tycoons like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, and more recent entrepreneurs Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Elon Musk of Tesla, and Marc Zuckerberg of “Meta,” i.e. Facebook.

Can we fix it?

There are probably somewhere around a thousand American families that have this kind of money—half a billion or more, per person! What can we do about them?

We must take corporate and billionaires’ money out of politics. No political TV ads. No super PACs.

We must stop gerrymandering. This is killing our democracy. We need national standards for voting and districting.

We need voting to take place on Saturday, not on a Tuesday. If you want people to vote in state and local elections, that day should be a holiday. This is how we make America work for the everyday people instead of the rich alone.

By |2022-08-18T23:21:19-04:00August 18th, 2022|Domestic Issues, Healthcare|Comments Off on The Real Fight

Whose America?

This is not the America that I grew up in.

I grew up in the 1970s. Forty years ago, for a person of color, the world was still your oyster. You could do anything that you wanted—as long as you put your mind to it.

Work hard and be rewarded

Workers leaving Pennsylvania shipyards, Beaumont, Texas (LOC)

You had to work hard. The mantra that was beaten into all of us was to get your education. Education was the ticket to a better life. Education was the way out of the ghetto. That was the way out of low-end jobs. Education.

People of color understood that the playing field wasn’t level, but this obstacle could be overcome with hard work. Then something happened during the 1980s. America stopped investing in education. We stopped investing in ourselves. Sure, President Clinton and President Obama did their best to reverse this trend, but when you look back over the last 30 to 40 years, we simply have not invested in ourselves.

Instead, we believed, as a nation, that tax cuts for the wealthy would help everyone. It was like magic pixie dust. Tax cuts would turn everything into gold and silver.

The fact is that tax cuts helped only the rich. No one else. There was no money for infrastructure. There was no money for education. There was only money to help the rich get richer—just as they were designed to do.

President Joe Biden

As comedian Steve Martin used to say, “I’m just a wild and crazy guy.” Joe Biden wants to do something crazy. Joe Biden wants to invest in us.

In his State of the Union address, Joe Biden laid out a plan in which we would invest in the United States of America. We would repair and build bridges. We would improve our infrastructure. We would improve our electrical grid. We would invest billions into high-speed broadband. We would invest in ourselves so that we can compete with China, Russia, and any other nation in the world. We would invest in education again. Two years of free community college, this is one of the best ideas I have heard in decades. Let’s not saddle our young adults with tens of thousands of dollars of debt.

How can you be an American and oppose this? Well, if you are a Republican and you really don’t want to see a Democratic president succeed, you can oppose this. The first thing out of your mouth would be surprise at the “ridiculously” high price tag.

I would ask how much should we spend on a country of over 330 million people in order to improve the lives of everyone? A couple hundred million? A couple hundred billion? Or should we spend what is necessary in order to improve the lives of Americans?

Here’s my question: Would you invest $10,000 in your own education and training? $40,000 for the wellbeing of your family of four? Well, that’s more than what Joe Biden is asking: $3 trillion dollars for 330 million people comes to $9,090 per person. Don’t you think everyday Americans are worth an investment of ten thousand dollars, when we just let the top CEOs of America’s biggest companies—Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and others—increase their personal wealth by well over a billion dollars each last year?

Republicans commonly pass spending bills for aircraft carriers, fighter jets, and tax cuts without a second thought about how to pay for them. (Of course, many of them lied to us and told him that the tax cuts would pay for themselves. That has never happened. That never will happen.) Now, that we are trying to help the American people, now they want a price tag. I’m sorry, I’m not playing this game.

Senator Tim Scott from South Carolina gave what can only be described as a sad rebuttal to President Joe Biden’s State of the Union Address. It is clear that Senator Scott lives in a bubble in which no reality can really penetrate. Then again, when you think about it, he has to live in a bubble. If he were to see that the Republican Party has turned in the party of white supremacy, he would have to question his own self-worth. Why does he belong to a party that hates who he is?


By |2021-05-16T15:55:10-04:00May 16th, 2021|Coronavirus, Economy, Newsletter, Poverty, Race|Comments Off on Whose America?
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