Archive for the Playthell on politics Category

Tulsi Gabbard is Right on Syria!

Posted in On War and Peace in the Mid East!, Playthell on politics with tags , , , on November 22, 2015 by playthell

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, waits for a photo with Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, in the Rayburn Room of the Capitol after the new 113th Congress convened on Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013, in Washington. The official oath of office for all members of the House was administered earlier in the House chamber. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Military Officer, Combat Veteran and Congresswoman

 Barack Obama should listen to her Wise Counsel

While Hillary Clinton rattles her sabers and talks tough in an attempt to show that she is hawkish enough to be Commander-In-Chief, and most members of Congress support the Presidents dual policy of overthrowing the Assad government in Syria and defeating ISIS, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard – a Democrat from Hawaii – is boldly calling this policy what it is: a contradictory plan at war with itself that is doomed to failure!  Her logic is so impeccably clear it is puzzling that President Obama, and the Congress for that matter, does not see it, especially since it is supported by our recent history in the Middle East.  As a wise wag once observed, “To do the same thing over and over yet expect different results is the definition of madness!”

The central theme in Gabbard’s critique of US policy in Syria is that the goals of overthrowing President Assad and defeating ISIS are in conflict; both objectives cannot be achieved simultaneously and that, as in all realpolitique, we have to choose the lesser evil.  And she argues correctly, as does President Vladimir Putin of Russia, that Assad is the lesser evil.

While the two senior GOP Senators who covet the Oval office – John McCain and Lindsay Graham – advocate arming the “Syrian opposition” against Assad, and point to their military experience as policy credentials, Gabbard, who has actual combat experience in the region, unlike these old farts from the Vietnam era – dismisses their arguments and offers the following analysis.

“The US and the CIA should stop this illegal and counter-productive war to overthrow the Syrian government of Assad and stay focused on who our enemy actually is: The Islamic Extremist Groups,” says Gabbard.  “Right now we can see why this is counter-productive…by working to overthrow the Syrian government of Assad we are strengthening our enemies, the Islamic extremists who will lock in and take over all of that country.”

Her reasoning is based on an astute recognition of reality that is supported by logic and the motion of history.  The points she makes that the overthrow of Assad would result in the expansion of Isis by placing control of Syria in their hands; CIA actions at the behest of the Obama Administration to overthrow Assad are illegal and US activities in Syria could result in an “accidental war” with Russia, who is a longtime ally of the Assad regime are irrefutable!

Although there can be no disputing the factual basis of her arguments – all of which I have made in several previous essays – it is a point of view that is seldom voiced by members of Congress.  While I am convinced this dangerous campaign of silence regarding these critical facts about the Syrian situation is partially the result of ignorance, which is bad enough, the imperatives of domestic politics is responsible for the silence of the chicken hawks who are willing to send our young people off to die on foreign soil in yet another misbegotten war while squandering trillions in American treasure and ponds of American blood.

However unlike these armchair warriors who talk tough out on the stump and on the floor of Congress, but will do anything to keep themselves or their progeny out of harm’s way, Gabbard is an officer in the Hawaiian National Guard who has done two tours of duty in Iraq.  Hence to her war is not a rhetorical abstraction she can exploit to win votes: It is a tragic fact.  She has lost friends and comrades in arms to wars in the Middle-East.  And she does not hesitate to cite their views on this matter.  And they all agree that American policy in Syria amounts to dangerous folly.

Major Tulsi Gabbard


Earning her Brass

Although she does not employ this specific language in her criticism of US policy in Syria, her descriptions nevertheless corresponds closely with historian Barbara Tuchman’s view of folly in her important book “The March of Folly,” in which folly is defined as the continued pursuit of a policy that all the observable evidence demonstrates will end in disaster for the pursuer.  By this definition US policy in Syria may well prove to be Barack’s Folly.

This is why the President would do well to listen carefully to the advice of his Hawaiian home girl; for although she is a surfer babe who looks like a Playboy center fold, she is one smart tough cookie.   Hillary should thank her lucky stars Gabbard didn’t decide to throw her hat in the presidential race; given her eloquence, intelligence and fearless independence she might have proven as formidable an opponent as Barack.

Major Gabbard on the Battlefield
tulsi_gabbard_in battle
A fearless leader of men

 An important part of the Congresswoman’s critique of US Syria policy is her observation that the overthrow of Assad will simply be a repeat of the catastrophic events in Iraq, Algeria, Egypt, et al.  In each case she correctly argues, a “secular dictatorship” was overthrown by the US and her allies only to result in an Islamic Jihadists take it over of the government.  It is astonishing that proponents of overthrowing the Assad government could have failed to grasp this tragic reality and wish to take us there again in only a decade.  If ever the philosopher George Santayana’s axiom rang true it is now: “Those who refuse to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat its mistakes.”


This is a Multi-Media Presentation

Double click to watch Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard present her argument
Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
November 2015


Is Ben Carson Nuts?

Posted in Playthell on politics with tags , , on November 12, 2015 by playthell
Dr. Ben Carson - Crazy
Dr. Ben Carson on the campaign trail

 An Idiot Savant Who is good with his hands?

Without a doubt the most interesting thing about the rise of Dr. Ben Carson as a leading candidate for the Republican presidency is that nobody has made an issue of his race.  That no one seems to notice this is further evidence of its uniqueness as an American political event.  Although Carson will be loath to admit it – given that he is the darling of the ignorant lunatic right that make up the Republican base – the reason his race is not an issue is because the outstanding presidency of Barack Obama has laid the silly question of whether a black man is capable of handling the job a moot point.

It is proof that the advice given to generations of black Americans by their teachers, preachers and parents is true: If you are the first black person to enter an arena you must be “twice as good” as your white competitors so that the door will remain open for the next black person to enter.  Arguably, Barack Obama has been more than thrice as good as his predecessor George W. Bush.

Despite his pristine Anglo-Saxon pedigree and Myriad advantages as the son of a former US President /plutocrat, the incompetence of George W. Bush  led to the first successful military assault on the US since the War of 1812 -despite several warnings of the impending attack; the worst collapse of the American economy since the Great Depression of the 1930’s; a war of choice against an un-offending nation that has destabilized the entire Middle East – which they had also been warned would happen by experts on the region – created ISIS and produced the conditions for a military conflict between the US and Russia that could easily spiral into a nuclear confrontation capable of destroying the world.  In fact, its gonna take a miracle to prevent this grim scenario from materializing.  Hence by any objective standard the leadership of Barack Obama – who corrected course, stabilized the sinking ship of state, and kept the nation afloat – has been a blessing.

It is incontestable that Ben Carson greatly benefits from the fact that he is running in a political environment in which a sitting black President saved the American Auto industry; led the economic recovery from the Bush crash; protected the American homeland from major terrorist attack; killed Osama bin Laden; kept the USA from starting anymore foreign wars; provided the American people with an affordable health care plan;  made equal pay for women the law; blocked the environmentally disastrous dirty oil pipeline from Canada; signed a major nuclear arms treaty with Russia and won a coveted Nobel Peace Prize for it, and many other achievements far too numerous to list here.

However the data is easily available online for anyone who wants to find it. And the book “The New New Deal,” which details how wisely the 700 billion dollars appropriated under the Economic Recovery Act was invested in the public interest free of any evidence of corruption is readily available on Amazon.

Barack The Maginificent!

Barack being fortified with the laying on of hands.

Church Leaders Laying on Hands

Although our President has been dubbed “Barack the Magnificent” by the great and wise Calypsonian “Mighty Sparrow,” a Trinidadian, Ben Carson has not, and will not, admit his debt to President Obama is yet another example of how contemptuous he, and the Republican Party in general, is of the truth.  As I write Carson is deeply embroiled in multiple controversies about things he wrote in his Autobiography, “Gifted Hands,” which cannot be corroborated by independent investigations conducted by professional journalists.

As it looks increasingly probable that Dr. Carson was lying about several incidents that are critical to the myth he has carefully constructed about himself, the pertinent question is why?  When Dr. Carson wrote this book he was already considered one of the greatest neuro-surgeons in the world.  And he had risen to this exalted status from the slums of a deindustrializing Detroit.  As the son of a single working class mother he had not been afforded any of the advantages that most kids who go to Yale and become world renowned surgeons took for granted.  He had done it all by his own hard work, exceptional intelligence and iron discipline; a model of intestinal fortitude fueled by grand ambitions.

This would be an outstanding resume for anyone.  Hence the question is why did he feel the need to invent a series of incidents to embellish this already marvelous story?  One thing is certain; we won’t get an explanation from Dr. Carson, the author of these fables.   Indeed he has decided to adopt a stance West Indians call “wrong and strong.”

When reporters interrogate him about his claims to have met with General Westmoreland, the commander of US forces in the Vietnam War, at a time and place that the General’s schedule shows he was not present; or his claim to have sheltered white students in the biology lab of his high-school during black rioting following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, which none of the white former students interviewed by reporters remember; or the offer of a scholarship to West Point, when admission to the elite military academy is by congressional appointment and all expenses are paid, Carson becomes surly and accuses the press of being out to get him.

 Carson in a Hissy Fit
Ben Carson IV
The Liberal Media are after Me!

A rank amateur at the art and science of politics, Carson evidently had no idea of the intense media scrutiny he would receive if it looked like he could end up in the Oval office.  Now he is running around like a chicken with a freshly wrung neck leveling ridiculous charges against the press; which will only insure that they will increase the scrutiny and all the skeletons in his closet as well as the bald faced lies he has told will be uncovered and held up to public scrutiny. In other words, he has chosen a self-destructive path from which it is difficult to forsee a road to victory.

As I write the press continues to break new stories about Carson that cast further doubt about his veracity and raises new questions about his character.  For instance the Washington Post just broke a story about Dr. Carson being a defendent in a paternity suit brought by an unidentified woman in Florida, which Carson denounces as “blackmail,” yet refuses to submit to a paternity test.

This response does not pass the smell test; as a doctor Carson knows that the easiest way to determine truth from a lie in this instance is to take a DNA test.  So what’s up wit dat?  Carson may be viewed as a victim by anti-media conspiracy kooks and the fundamentalist fanatics on the Christian Right, but he is increasingly looking like a pathological liar and pompous prick to the rest of us.  Yet despite the hysterical claims that the “liberal media” is out to get him the question remains: Why did Ben Carson fabricate stories about his life?

It is conventional wisdom among medical professionals that talented surgeons suffer from “a God complex.”  When you consider what they do it is not hard to imagine how they might develop such an inflated self-concept because some of the things that they can do are God like.  Saving lives by entering a person’s body and removing malignant organs or correcting the function of body parts to make them perform better, even transplanting organs from one body to another, replacing faulty parts with good ones like taking your car to a body shop, is incredible stuff that we mere mortals can only marvel at.  Thus it is not hard to understand how a person who is capable of such amazing feats, that literally give people new and better lives, could develop a God Complex.

Alas, despite his attempts to appear humble, Ben Carson is beginning to come across as a raging megalomaniac who is out of touch with reality.  His response to a reporter who questioned him about whether he would submit to brain surgery conducted by someone who had never attempted it before reveals the extent of his egomania and hubris.

He contemptuously dismissed the question with the comment that anyone who would ask such a question, suggesting it is analogous to his run for the presidency has no idea of the level of intelligence and skill it takes to conduct neuro-surgery.   It is such a silly statement, unconnected from any sense of reality, one is forced to wonder if he is delusional, on drugs or some special species of idiot savant: a guy who performs life enhancing miracles in the operating room and spouts dangerous life threatening drivel outside.

If we followed Dr. Ben Carson’s prescriptions it would result in the deaths of many innocent people; whether we are talking about affordable health care, gun control, or his militaristic views on foreign relations – especially our relations with Russia, which would hasten the pace of our movement toward nuclear catastrophe in which millions would perish.

Given his religious fanaticism it is worth asking if Dr. Carson would welcome such a doomsday scenario, after all many fundamentalist Christians  believe that the world will end in a fiery holocust come the Rapture, which will follow the Battle of Armegeddon when God and the Devil has the final throw down; the brawl for ir all!   As crazy as this may sound to rational people, there are millions of Americans who actually believe this deranged fantasy and many of them believe that the holocaust fortold in the Bible represents nuclear war between Russia – the forces of evil, and the US the elect of God.

One need only listen to the things Carson says regarding US-Russian relations to become suspicious of whether he shares these views.  Among the things Dr. Carson has advocated on the record is “We should fight them everywhere” and “We need to be supplying weapons to the Ukraine.” This is a plan of action that would lead inexorably to a war with Russia.

Since any military conflict with the US would involve all the members of NATO, a military alliance that the US has craftily constructed to surround Russia militarily – violating the spirit if not the letter of the agreements that ended the cold war – the Russians would have no choice but to go on a nuclear alert, and should the conflict proceed we could accidentally slide into nuclear war.

The way Carson talks about setting up a “no fly zone” in Syria and ordering American planes to intercept any Russian aircraft that crosses it suggests that he views the situation like a schoolyard fight where one kid draws a line in the sand and dares  the other to cross it.  He even employs the language of a school yard fight, calling Vladimir Putin a “bully” who we have to “stand up to.”   As outrageous as his statements on the Affordable Health Act are, or the self-aggrandizing lies he tells to spice up his life narrative, they pale in relation to his positons on a nuclear armed and increasingly nervous Russia.

To any sane and sober observer it is clear that the election of Dr. Ben Carson – a medical version of “Dr. Strangelove” – is a terrifying thought.  Hence, contrary to his cries of harassment by the “liberal media,” bringing out the truth about just what a whacko Carson is represents their finest hour.  It is amusing to hear right-wing whites who are borderline racist accuse the press of attacking Carson because he is black!

It is a scurrilous charge that insults both the integrity of honest reporters and the intelligence of the American electorate.  The fact is that, as I previously pointed out, race has nothing to do with Carson’s troubles with the press; it is his incessant lying about his personal history and his willingness to say anything to placate the crazies in the Republican base – people who can only support a black person who is willing to deny his people’s history of oppression – i.e. the real history of the USA.

A case in point is how he speaks of America’s history of “freedom,” this from a man that would have been a slave when the constitution was written, and whose children could be auctioned off like piglets –a wretched condition that lasted 250 years!  Another striking example is his support of white racist flying the Confederate flag at NASCAR events, flying in the face of the struggle by black and white Americans to remove this symbol of slavery and treason from American life after the mass murder in a South Carolina church by a young white mass murderer who was enamored of the flag and all that it symbolized. .   The things that Carson says in defense of these positions suggest a man who is totally out of touch with reality.

For instance he says: “Swastikas are a symbol of hate for some people, too. And yet they still exist in museums and places like that. If it’s a majority of people in that area who want it to fly, I certainly wouldn’t take it down.”  This comment won him the endorsement of the retired redneck NASCAR star Richard Petty, who describes the doctor as “very humane.”  Carson is so ignorant of the world beyond the operating room he comes across as a character in a comedy of the absurd.

He apparently does not know that flying a Nazi flag in public is illegal in Germany, and if those rednecks dared to fly a Nazi flag over their events the organized Jewish community would drive NASCAR into obscurity and ruin by getting all the major corporate sponsors  withdraw their support and no television networks would broadcast their races – including FOX.  NASCAR would revert to the backwoods cracker event that it used to be. And they well know it; so that’s not going to happen.  Is this guy really so out of it that he cannot distinguish the difference between displaying a Nazi flag in a museum exhibit denouncing Nazism and triumphantly flying a Confederate flag at a NASCAR race?

Whatever one may decide in this instance, the overall character of his comments – of which we have discussed a representative sample – suggests that he is either a soulless charlatan ready to tell as many lies as he thinks he needs to in order to advance his political career; a colossal ignoramus about history, politics, economics and foreign affairs; or he has serious mental problems.  His performance in the Republican primary debate tonight, November 10th, leaves no doubt that he is an ignoramus in all of these critical areas.  He is a super-lightweight vying for the Heavy-Weight crown of politics, and his mental stability remains an open question.

How then do we explain his appeal to so many white Republicans? After all, they have put him within a few points of the lead in the Republican presidential campaign, heads and shoulders above capable career politicians like Governors Jeb Bush, John Kaicish and the governor of New Jersey, all of whom are talking crazier in an effort to compete with the frontrunners Trump and Carson. I believe the answer to this enigma lies in the nature of the contemporary Republican/Tea Party.

This is a party that has built a worldview based upon the denial of science, failure to recognize the international realities but clings to the outmoded and dangerous ideology of “American Exceptionalism,” rejection of the facts of US history, weaving a web of outright lies about their democratic opponents, and continues to refer to Russia as the “Soviet Union.”

It is also a party that resists taxing the rich among us despite a mountain of evidence that the distribution of wealth between the rich and the rest of us is economically inefficient; morally bankrupt and unchristian; openly despises the government as an institution and has convinced millions of Americans that the Federal government, which they elect, is also their enemy.  It is no wonder that such a party cannot govern.  The recent Republican rule under George Bush more than adequately makes this point.

Given the bizarre world of the Grand Obstructionist Party it is not surprising that Ben Carson looks like a hero to his base and a weirdo to the rest of us.   Carson is common fare for black Republicans; whom I have repeatedly pointed out are all strange birds – remember Herman “Suga” Cain and “Uncle” Justice Thomas, Mr. “Nine Nine Nine” and the black mummy on the Supreme Court who acts like a sounding board for the opinions of that right-wing greaser Antonin Scalia.  There seems no end to the irrational things Carson has said he believes; his vociferous insistence that the Pyramids of ancient Egypt were a granaries built by Joseph to store grain for the Jewish people, not tombs for the pharaohs as archaeologists have demonstrated for over a century.

 As dangerous a religious fanatic as any ISIS soldier
Dr. ben carson professes his religion
Nobody told this egotistical Buffoon that the US is a secular society?

 He clings to this silly belief despite the fact that, as the big builder and political rival Donald Trump pointed out, the Pyramids are solid rock structures with room for little else except the pharaoh’s tombs.  This kind of information is very easy to research, but Carson says he got his information from the Bible, which suggests that Carson has no interest in factual information or scientific analysis outside of the medical field.

This is reason enough to confidently conclude that to elect him President would be a danger to the entire world!  After all the known facts are carefully considered, one thing is certain: Something is missing in the mind and character of Ben Carson that unsuits him to be the Chief Executive of the American government and especially Commander-in-Chief of the US armed forces – the last thing the world needs now is another tough talking religious zealot and reckless chicken hawk directing American firepower.    If I had to sum it up succinctly, I’d say the guy is nuts!

To View some of Carson’s Lunacy Click Links Below
On the origins of the Universe and Evolution
Hear Dr. Ben Carson’s prescription for starting a nuclear war



Playthell Benjamin
Harlem, New York
November IIth 2015

An Open Letter to Rock Hermon Hackshaw  

Posted in My Struggle On the Left!, Playthell on politics with tags , on May 20, 2015 by playthell


 On Drones, Detentions, Jihadists, Race and Obama!!!!

Yo Rock!  I should like to address your last statement first.  You write: Let me repeat what I started off with: Playthell has taken a stance “that suggests Obnama is above critique”. THAT’S ALL I FUCKING SAID (until now). I stand by that statement. Sometimes we are too protective of those we love. I think one should tell loved ones when their breath stinks. West and Smiley are to be afforded their right to critique our first mulatto president.” My response is: I have written over 300 essays on Barack Obama and they are all on the Commentaries, but this conversation is critiquing Cornel West’s criticism of Obama.  So you point is not only irrelevant but UNTRUE.

If you were a SERIOUS critic you would carefully search through my commentaries and critique the ones where you think I am wrong. But you are obviously too intellectually lazy to do that; you want me to lead you to specific commentaries which you say DON’T EXIST!!!   Well don’t hold your breath because I have no intention of encouraging you in your intellectual slovenliness!!!!!

Anyone who has followed my work over the last thirty years on WBAI, Village Voice, my OP-ED columns in the New York Daily News, my features in The London Guardian and Sunday Times of London, my book on Dr. Dubois, etc knows that I CRITICIZE EVERYBODY!!!!!   So you have NO IDEA what you are talking about.  When it comes to assessing people who exercise power over our fates I am an honest referee.

However you fairly discredit yourself with me when you say America’s first “Mulatto President.”  What tha fuck is that supposed to mean???  Are you aware that Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington were mulattos?  Are you also aware that some of our greatest freedom fighters were MORE THAN ON HALF WHITE???????

Adam Clayton Powell and Walter White were Octoroons and Thurgood Marshall was a quadroon indistinguishable from whites!!!!   Our greatest scholar Dr. WEB Dubois was a quadroon and our great historian Rayford Logan, who wrote the tragic story of the collapse of Reconstruction after the Civil War “The Betrayal of the Negro” couldn’t find ANY TRACE of African blood in his family tree!!!!   You remind me of the 19th century Black Nationalist intellectual/activist/African Reemptionist Alexander Crummel who used to refer to Frederick Douglass as “That Mulatto Showman.”  Your comment is equally absurd!

Barack is the same complexion as MUHAMMAD ALI, ELIJAH MUHAMMAD, MALCOLM X AND MY MOTHER!!!  So fuck off with this kind of silly ass shit!!!   Don’t ever step to me with some dumb stuff like this because it will make me lose RESPECT FOR YOU!!!!!!    Being black in American is not a mater of color alone but a state of mind, a consciousness that comes from what Dr. Dubois call “life behind the veil,” it is identifying with a legacy of struggle against white supremacy.  Tell me Rock, who do you think embodies that tradition best, Barack Obama or Clarence Thomas, Dr Ben Carson, Herman Cain and Dr. Alan Keyes??? I believe if these Sambos were mixed blood they wouldn’t identify with us at all, but Barack CHOSE to be black.

  Barack and Ali: Two HeavyWeight Champs!
Ali and Barack
Is this Black enough for yo ass?

I say this because American race relations had changed so much by the time Barack came out of Harvard at the top of his class he could have easily passed himself off simply as an American of biracial lineage  like the great classical pianist Andre Watts has done – especially since his father was NOT Afro-American, and lived very comfortably among white Americans today.  But HE CHOSE TO BE WITH US INSTEAD…AND ENTHUSIASTICALLY SO!!!

Piano Virtuosso Andre Watts

Andre Watts

The son of an AfroAmerican Father and Hungarian mother

I for one am very happy to have in in our ranks and couldn’t be happier if he were as black as Jack Johnson!!!   Do you now recognize how fuckin stupid you sound to me???  I’d bet my bottom dollar that you probably are MORE MIXED BLOOD THAN OBAMA!!!!!  Millions of Afro-Americans are mixtures of European, American Indian and African.  Most often the African blood is the smallest percentage!  Because I know much more about our history than you my views are based on much more substantial ground.

My views on Obama’s blackness are based on the following.  The stories of him given by the black project dwellers in Chicago; he courted and won a fabulous brilliant black American wife who hails from the Afro-American working class who says she fell in love with him when she witnessed him speaking to a group of folks in the projects; the fact that he spent TWENTY YEARS SITTING AT HE FEET OF REVEREND WRIGHT which nearly cost him the presidency – and his comprehensive knowledge of Afro-American history and culture.  THAT’S PLENTY BLACK ENOUGH FOR ME AND THERE IS NOBODY BLACKER THAN ME!!!!!!!!!

Do you think the fact that you were born black gives you some leg up on Barack?  Well it doesn’t with me…I just named a list of highly educated Afro-Americans who appear to be as black as their African ancestors were when they steep off the boat onto American soil….and these Mofos are straight up traitors!!!! If they So get the fuck outta here with this color struck 19th century bullshit!!!!!

Who is “blacker” in the tradition?
Seattle Sea Hawks barack shakes hads with Sherman
Barack Welcoming Much Maligned Richard Sherman
Or deep dark Republican adversary Herman “Sugar” Cain
Mackin on Michelle Bachman ….an evil righwing bitch!
Drones and Detentions are the Right Tactics against the Jihadists

As regards President Obama’s tactics in fighting the global Jihad you proclaim: “I still support Obama: always have. My main critique has to do with his “drones” program, whereby thousands of innocent third-world people have been killed. The second has to do with the “rendition” program wherein thousands have been detained and denied their freedoms and human rights without due process and with flimsy (at best) evidence; the rest I will keep to myself until his term is over. I have deliberately chosen not to attack BO too much, given what he has been up against from Day One with these repugnicans.”

First, you sound as silly to me with the “due process” arguments as the cluless idiots that complained because Osama bin Laden was not read his Miranda rights before they shot his evil ass!  So you want to see these people released because they didn’t get “due Process; just like the did Calph Ibrahim, the leader of ISIS, whom US forces oncehad in custody but released? And as regards holding off on constructive criticism of  President Obama, well that’s where you and I differ.  I am interested in what is the best policy for addressing specific problems without regard to the personalities making the policy.  Hence if I think the President is wrong on policy questions I regard it as my solemn duty as a citizen/journalist to point that out and criticize those policies for the sake of our country NO MATTER WHAT THE REPUBLICANS SAY!!!!   Indeed, you are far more GUILTY of the things that you accuse me of!!!

Now let us consider your criticism of Barack’s tactics in fighting the Jihadists, I have a few questions Rock.  Your answers will tell us all we need to know about how you formulate your position on the use of drones. Your failure to provide a serious analysis will tell us even more!  Do you believe that we are in a global war with Islamic Jihadists who spend their days and nights trying to devise a way of inflicting another attack on the US that will make 9-11 look like child’s play? Do you believe that their ultimate objective is to explode a nuclear device or high radiation “dirty bomb?”

Do you believe that this is a world-wide movement and if the US stops using drones human soldiers will have to do the job?  Do you know that compared to the number of innocent civilians who were killed from “collateral damage” during armed assaults by soldiers on “search and destroy” missions render the number of such persons killed by drones STATISTICALLY ISIGNIFICANT??????

Do you know that there are 15 suitcase size nuclear bombs missing from the Russian arsenal and no one knows where they are? Do you have ANY IDEA what is required to protect a country this size where peopel can freely come and go as they like? Do you know know that the Jihadists who flew the lanes on 9/11 trained right here in the USA? Have you any idea how many terrorist “sleeper cells” are operative in the US today?

Are you aware that there are vocal and influential forces on the left and right who are so obsessed with their petty privacy that they are making in more difficult to detect these cells? Do you believe that if the Jihadist succeed in establishing ISIS they will not use it as a base to conduct Terrotists attacks all over the world…especially the US?  Are you aware that they have state as much?

What do you know of their ideology and objectives? Do you know that if the Jihadist wanted to attack New York with a nuclear weapon they don’t have to land it on the docks; they can explode it aboard a ship in the harbor and level all five boroughs of NYC?  DO YOU UNDERSTAND THIS MEANS THAT THE BOMB MUST BE STOPPED AT THE POINT OF DEPARTURE???

Do you have ANY idea what kind of intelligence assets the US government must have in order to prevent this from happening? Are you aware that American covert actions based on electronically gathered  intelligence have foiled scores of terrorist plots that the general public never hears about because it would expose intelligence gathering methods?

Have you ANY IDEA what that requires Rock? If you don’t know the answers to these problems, which require decisions upon which the fate of our nation rests, then you are a verbose ignoramus….and should STFU!!!!!! IT’S WAR DOG!!!!! I am prepared to prevent the Jihadists from realizing their goals BY ANY MEANS NECISSARY!!!!!!! HOW ABOUT YOU?????

It ought to be obvious by now that I regard your comments as the acme of absurdities, a glowing example of Facebook jibberish masquerading as serious thought. As a young man I served in the US Strategic Air Command, I served on a nuclear armed base whose mission was the nuclear destruction of the Soviet Union.  That experience made a radical leftist out of me, but since I had a Top Secret Security Clearance and my unit was tasked with stopping Russian Saboteurs, I learned a LOT about security matters.

Alas, as far as I can see you have NO EXPERIENCE with such matters, and appear to know as much about the subject as a MULE KNOWS ABOUT PLAYING THE PIANO!!!   Fortunately, in America anybody can frely express their opinions, but not all opinions carry equal weight…and yours is exceedingly lightweight on these questions.

Thus I anxiously await your answers to these questions Rock and I will promptly post them on the Commentaries and respond.  However I believe you are all blow and no go; I don’t believe that you have the balls to attempt a serious reply to this intellectual assault!  Now put up or SHUT UP!


The Struggle for Enlightenment Continues
Playthell G. Benjamin aka Publius Africanus
Harlem, New york
May 20th, 2015

A Clear Case of Treason?

Posted in Playthell on politics with tags , , on March 13, 2015 by playthell

Joe Cotton

Tom Cotton: The Pugnacious Dork who is marching us into a war with Iran

 Some Constitutional Scholars think so and I agree

Anyone listening to the chatter on the right of our political spectrum will no doubt have heard the phrase “according to the Constitution” ad nauseum.  It is quoted among this crowd as if it were Holy Scripture.  Which, ironically, is quite fitting since the exact meaning of both is ambiguous and therefore open to multiple interpretations and endless speculation.  Hence many students of the evolution and character of this foundational document disagree on its meaning.

The letter to the leaders of Iran, written by Tom Cotton, an iconoclastic freshman Senator from Arkansas, and signed by 46 other Republican Senators who should have known better, advising their leaders against concluding the nuclear weapons agreement President Barack Obama is presently negotiating, begs questions about the constitutionally mandated division of powers between the various branches of government – the executive and legislative branches in the present case – and whether Senators must obey federal laws in the exercise of their prerogatives.

The law in question here is the Logan Act of 1799, which expressly states:

Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.”

In the opinion of Temple University Law Professor Peter Spiro: “This letter seems squarely to satisfy the elements of the law.” If this is true, then 47 members of the US Senate are guilty of treason!  Let us consider the text of the Republican letter.  Titled An Open Letter to the Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the letter states:

“It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system.  Thus, we are writing to bring to your attention two features of our Constitution — the power to make binding international agreements and the different character of federal offices — which you should seriously consider as negotiations progress. First, under our Constitution, while the president negotiates international agreements, Congress plays the significant role of ratifying them.  In the case of a treaty, the Senate must ratify it by a two-thirds vote.  A so-called congressional-executive agreement requires a majority vote in both the House and the Senate (which, because of procedural rules, effectively means a three-fifths vote in the Senate).  Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement.”

First of all the letter is an embarrassment because of its misreading of the constitution on the relative powers of the President and the Congress in the conduct of US foreign relations.  Although much is made of the fact that Senator Cotton is a Harvard Law School grad, he nevertheless made a critical error when he argues that treaties with foreign countries must be “ratified” by two thirds of the Senate.  One need only look at the explication of the role of the President and Congress provided on the Senate Webpage – which is easily accessible to the hubristic Senator – to reognize that he has inflated the Senate’s role.  The revelant passage reads:

“The Senate does not ratify treaties. Instead, the Senate takes up a resolution of ratification, by which the Senate formally gives its advice and consent, empowering the president to proceed with ratification.”

He is also dangerously wrong on his interpretation of the constitutional mandate for the Senate to “Advise and Consent” on questions of foreign relations.  For in the matter of treaties the Senate’s role is not invoked until after the President has completed his negotiations with a foreign power.  Hence what these Senator’s did was clearly illegal!  By my close reading of the Logan Act, I think Professor Spiro is right on the money in his opinion that the Republican letter “seems squarely to satisfy the elements of the law.”

As with all important federal legislation the intention of the architects of the law must be understood and considered in our interpretation of its meaning.  The Logan Act is named after Dr. George Logan, a member of the Pennsylvania State Legislature that was elected to the US Senate, who attempted to interfere in US foreign policy by holding negotiations with the French government in 1798, just 15 years after John Jay negotiated the Treaty of Paris officially ending the Revolutionary War with England.

However the Bon homie that characterized the relationship between the French and the English colonies in North America during the revolutionary era had deteriorated to the point where the two nations were on the brink of war by 1798. This situation led the recently formed United State of America to pass several laws in order to insure the security of a country composed of many nationalities, some of them Frenchmen or sympathizers with France.

Hence Congress passed the “Alien and Sedition Acts” to prevent those who supported France from abusing the right to free speech through open advocacy of the French cause, especially aliens. They also passed the Naturalization Act which changed the residency requirements for naturalized citizens from five to fifteen years, and they passed the Logan Act to prevent American citizens from meddling in matters of foreign diplomacy, which is clearly defined as a presidential prerogative.

Viewed from this historical perspective the violation of the letter and spirit of the Logan Act by the Republicans becomes even clearer when we look at Supreme Court precedents in their ruling on the Constitutional separation of powers between the Executive and Legislative branches of our Federal Government: which is based on a three-fold division of power between the Executive, Judicial and Legislative departments that “check and balance” each other.

One of the definitive rulings cited by legal scholars on this question is the opinion of Justice George Sutherland, in the 1936 case of the United States v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corp. “The President alone has the power to speak or listen as a representative of the nation” the Justice concluded.  “He makes treaties with the advice and consent of the Senate; but he alone negotiates.  Into the field of negotiation the Senate cannot intrude and congress itself is powerless to invade it.” So there you have it.

Although given the politics of the situation it is unlikely that these Republican Senators will be prosecuted. Yet their scandalous attempts to subvert the President’s efforts to conduct foreign policy negotiations with the intent of achieving a treaty with Iran regarding nuclear weapons, and avoid starting yet another war in the Muslim world, exceeds their constitutional authority and clearly violates the Logan Act.  Since they all pledged under oath to “defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic,” they are guilty of treason most foul!

However it is a safe bet that they will not be prosecuted for their crimes against the nation; indicting 47 Senators of the opposite party for treason would be too easy for right-wing bloviators in the media such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and their spawn to make it look like a partisan bloodbath.  Yet the reaction from the print press, even the conservative newspapers, has been caustic; the Republican Senators have become the objects of sustained ridicule.  The New York Daily News, a major daily with a large working class readership, greeted the Senators’ letter with the bold headline “Traitors!”

The intensity and contempt of the major media has conspicuously shaken many of those who signed Joe cotton’s letter.  Dr. Rachel Maddow of MSNBC reported last evening that some of the Republican Senators are now saying that they were not serious, and all the hoopla  results from the fact that “the Obama Administration can’t take a joke.”  It is clear that many realize that they have screwed up and it could cost them a shot at the presidency in the next election.  Hence the best way to chastise these reckless Republicans is to whip their asses at the polls.  Alas, while I have no doubt that these scoundrels have committed treason….I believe the problem will be solved politically: at the ballot box not the courtroom.

Captain America to the Rescue!

Tom Cotton

A real head ass Southern Peckerwood!
Playthell G. Benjamin
On the Road
March 13, 2015

Senator Warren is Right: Investigate the Fed!

Posted in Playthell on politics with tags , , on October 2, 2014 by playthell

Carmen Segarra

She exposed Fed’s unsavory relationship with Financial Industry

Was the Fed’s Relationship with Goldman Sachs Criminal?

The revelations of a former Bank Regulator with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Carmen Segarra, provides a shocking insider’s view of the unhealthy relationship between the nation’s top financial institutions – the Wall Street crowd that wrecked the US economy and sparked a global recession – and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York which is tasked with regulating them.  Ms. Segarra, a highly qualified lawyer who holds degrees from Harvard, Cornell and Columbia universities, and has also studied international law at the Sorbonne in Paris, has not only spilled the beans about shady dealings between federal regulators and the mammoth Wall Street investment banking firm of Goldman Sachs, but has charged in court that she was fired for vigorously pursuing her duties.

Usually these kinds of shady dealings are inside stuff, the kind of secret palavers that never enter the public sphere; hence should a whistle blower go to the press it’s a “he says,”, “she says,” dispute.  Ms. Segarra realized this, and took steps to negate that problem by secretly recording the meetings she had with her superiors.  When she recognized what was happening, that bank regulators were still looking the other way at financial mis-dealings even after the great financial crash of the Bush years – she went to the Spy Store and purchased a miniature recording device that was easy to conceal and recorded 48 hours of meetings.

Ms. Segarra recognized that these kinds of massive organizations, whether government bureaucracies or private corporations, enjoy the services of powerful legal firms, while the whistle blower stands alone.  When one considers the fact that taking such a stand means that one’s career in the industry is over because no one wants to employ a squealer, and the whistle blower is left with what they can get from suing the employer for wrongful termination, a process that can take years – which is the situation in which Ms. Segarra now finds herself now – it takes a person of heroic character to step forward with allegations of wrong doing.

However Ms. Segarra’s actions flowed from her motives for becoming a bank regulator.  Whereas many of her colleagues viewed their position as a stepping stone to employment in the banking industry, Segarra took the job because she witnessed the financial devastation of her friends and family as a result of the Great Recession resulting from the Bush Administration’s policy of non-regulation of the financial industry.

After the passage of the Dodd-Frank Bill establishing a new regulatory regime on the nation’s financial institutions the FED hired a new group of regulators to vigorously enforce the new regulations.  Ms. Segarra took one of those jobs in the belief that she could use her expertise to help fix our broken banking system. “I actually studied business law and regulation in law school.” She tells us.  “I co-wrote a law review article on Y2K [the millennial computer bug], which ended up being published. As a result of that, my co-author and I were asked to work on setting up the Y2K legal and compliance program for a bank. I discovered early on that I enjoyed learning about a law and immediately applying it, much the same way that I enjoy learning and speaking a new language.” She speaks several languages by the way.

Ms. Segarra goes on to tell us “as a general practitioner, I have worked closely with a wide range of laws and regulations that apply across the banking and investment sectors, as opposed to just specializing in one particular type of law or regulation. As a bank examiner, you get to use that knowledge and those skills to evaluate what others have built, and, if and when necessary, point out ways to improve them.”  However she would soon discover that there were obstacles in her path as she tried to do her job, and what was worse those obstacles were placed there by her supervisors, the very managers who were supposed to assist her in carrying out her duties – which was to put procedures in place that would help prevent another financial meltdown that could imperil the world economy.

She first noticed the lack of diligence on the part of FED regulators when she witnessed the Examiner embedded in Goldman Sachs make a statement that suggested the investment banking house was too big to be subjected to certain regulations they were charged with enforcing.  Shocked by the comment she later questioned her manager about it and suggested that this was a situation she should look into.  Instead of getting the enthusiastic green light she expected, the manager told her “you didn’t hear that.”  A regulator from the FDIC, which insures the assets of depositors against bank failures up to $250.000, was also present in the room and she asked him if he had heard the comment and he assured her that he did.

Since she was lured to the bank examiner’s job by their mandate to investigate and monitor the practices of those very financial institutions deemed “too big to fail,” which the government had just spent hundreds of millions of tax payer dollars bailing out of the red in order to prevent the total collapse of the banking system, which would have ushered in a depression worse than the 1930’s, she was appalled by the attitude of the embedded regulator at Goldman Sachs and her supervisor.

Segarra was to discover that even after the passage of Dodd-Frank, which the disloyal Republican opposition who controlled the House of Representatives refused to fully fund, many of the same old practices that had permitted the kinds of shady financial dealings which led to the collapse was still going on.  She would also come to realize that this problem was fostered by the close relationship between the regulators and the institutions they were supposed to regulate.  The FED’s well-intentioned but misguided decision to embed regulators in the institutions they were watching over had resulted in overly friendly relations with the top executives of those institutions.  And this led to a bending of the rules.

The extent of this cozy relationship had already been described in an independent 2009 report written by David Bind, a Columbia University professor of finance who had previously been a banker. Professor Professor Bind led an investigation into systemic problems that contributed to the financial crash; his report concluded that the regulators had failed to do their job of vigorously policing Wall Street to prevent them from engaging in risky or illegal activities.

Instead they had fallen into a condition that he calls “Regulatory Capture,” which resulted the bank  “Examiners” treating the banks like “a watch dog who licks and intruder in the face and plays catch rather than bark at him.”  Since the report had attracted so little attention Ms. Segarra does not seem to have been aware of it.  But based on her experience the professor got in right.

The evidence Ms. Segarra has compiled on her secretly recorded tapes amount to a smoking gun with finger prints and DNA samples on the handle.   It’s irrefutable!   We hear her supervisors try and discourage her from following leads regarding wrong doing at Goldman Sachs – some of it blatant.  For example she uncovered an acquisition in which Goldman Sachs was advising both sides for millions of dollars in fees, and the firm also had a large ownership share in one of the companies, in which her supervisor had a personal stake of several hundred thousand dollars.   Carmen Segarra correctly flagged this as an egregious case of conflict of interests.

This led her to interrogate executives at Goldman Sachs about their conflict of interest policy and found that they had none.  She thought this was incredulous, an outrage for a company that was conducting deals all over the world amounting to billions of dollars.  How could a financial behemoth with global reach not have a clearly defined conflict of interest policy?  If ever there was a situation that cried out for an investigation this was it!

Yet when she reported her discovery to her supervisor she was met with a lukewarm response bordering on indifference.  She was told that this was her personal “perception” of the situation and the FED arrived at conclusions on important matters by “consensus.”  She thought this was a ridiculous line of argument when the evidence of conflict of interests and the absence of any policy to deal with it was overwhelming.   When she said as much she was told by her supervisor that she was considered “arrogant” by higher ups in the agency, and that if she wanted to advance in her career in the agency she should learn to become a team player.  At which point Segarra asked outright if she was in danger of being fire for trying to do a good job.  The supervisor sidestepped the question but made it clear that she was on the road to nowhere.  And we hear it all loud and clear on the tapes!  Ms. Segarra was eventually fired, and she is suing the New York Fed for unjustified termination.

Now that the tapes are being made public there is a growing outcry for an investigation of how the FED operates and their relationship with Goldman Sachs. The outrage is reflected even in that voice of the Wall Street establishment, The Wall Street Journal, which has denounced the preferential treatment given to certain gigantic Wall Street firms by both the FED and the federal courts.  Carmen Segarra has opened a gigantic can of worms and provided us an unfettered view of what’s going down on The Street, which allows us to see the anatomy of a system that continues to produce  financial crises that devastate the middle and working classes while the investor class continues to get richer.

It is even more important that the federal regulators do their jobs honestly and efficiently now than it was before the crash, because if a major banking institution fails now the government has less authority to bail them out.  And as we are told in a New York Times article of September 30th 2014, it was the fall of Lehman Brothers that set the forces in motion that led to the world-wide financial panic.  What is clear in retrospect as we learn from the Time’s extensive interviews with major players in the government who decided not to rescue Lehman Brothers – Ben Barnake, Federal Reserve Chairman, Tim Geithner, President of the New York FED bank, and Hank Paulson, Treasury Secretary – is that they had the authority to rescue Lehman and made a political decision not to.

Having already received scathing criticism from the left and the “free market” crowd on the right for employing the resources of the US Treasury to rescue Bear Sterns, a private investment firm, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae – two giant government backed mortgage companies, in 2008, when FED Chairman Ben Bernanke approached him about rescuing Lehman Brothers Paulson refused, telling him that he did not want to become known as “Mr. Bailout.”  However after the financial system crashed like falling  dominoes from forces set in motion by the fall of Lehman Brothers, Paulson did indeed become “Mr. Bailout.”  Hence it is frightening to learn from Ms. Segarra that it could all happen again because bank regulators are not doing their jobs.

That’s why we are blessed and highly favored to have an intrepid intellectual warrior and fearless defender of the working class and public interests such as Senator Elizabeth Warren, a former Harvard law professor – who is calling for a thorough investigation of the relationship between the FED, Goldman Sachs and other financial institutions.   It is one of the most important issues of our times and it should be thoroughly investigated.  Like Carmen Segarra, I too know honorable, law abiding people who were wiped out by the Bush Crash, including my sister Melba, a career educator and as fine a citizen as ever lived in America, whose life savings were ravaged!

Senator Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren

So I not only support Senator Warren’s call for a congressional investigation, I think she should chair it.  This would be a historical irony and poetic justice for those who torpedoed her chances of heading the regulatory agency she designed to regulate Wall Street bankers, now she’s baaaaack!  And she has returned in an even more powerful incarnation; at least as a government regulator the reactionary Republicans in Congress would have exercised some authority over her; but as the Senator from Massachusetts they have none!

We should also make this an election issue.  Let those who are opposed to an investigation into the dirty dealings of the avaricious plutocrats, and their unholy alliance with government shills, go on record with their opposition.  I believe their ranks will be thin!  Furthermore I think we should demand that President Obama appoint a special prosecutor under the auspices of a Department of Justice headed by a new Attorney General named Kamala Harris, the brilliant, beautiful, energetic Attorney General of California.


Kamala Harris


Hopefully the next US Attorney General

She would be the ideal Attorney General to oversee such a historic investigation because along with Bo Biden, the Delaware AG, Ms. Harris has been a leading figure in investigating and prosecuting financial institutions whose wrong doing led to the Bush crash that caused so many Americans to lose their homes and life’s savings.  The lead investigator in this case would be Carmen Segarra and the Special Prosecutor would be former New York Governor Elliot Spitzer who was death on the Wall Street crowd when he was the New York AG.  Nobody knows those scoundrels better and he is a ruthless prosecutor.  This is my dream team….are you listening Chilly B?


To Hear Carmen Segarra’s Secret Tapes Click on the link Below

Playthell G. Benjamin

New York, New York

October 1, 2014

Barack Obama vs The Supreme Court

Posted in Playthell on politics with tags , , , on June 30, 2014 by playthell
Barack and Roberts
Let’s get ready to Rumble!  

On the High Court, Minorities and Organized Labor

Although the press boisterously proclaims the recent Supreme Court decision is a defeat for President Obama, it is actually another defeat for the American people dealt by the Robert’s court, especially for minorities and the working class in general.  Reduced to its fundamental significance it makes it possible for the Republicans, or any opposition party, to virtually veto presidential appointments by never adjourning for ten days even if the senate is not conducting any formal business.

By virtue of the changes in the Senate rules initiated by the majority of Democrats who now control the Senate, under the enlightened leadership of Senator Harry Reid, adopting a procedure that allows presidential appointments with a simple majority vote, this reckless ruling will have little effect. The case that brought the issue of the limits of executive power before the Supreme Court was filed by Noel Canning, a soft drink bottling company, who protested a decision by the National Labor Relations Board that found them in violation of collective bargaining laws.

Canning argued that the NLRB’s ruling was invalid by virtue of the fact that it did not have the necessary quorum legally required to make such judgments, because the board members appointed by President Obama were unconstitutionally installed.   The High Court ruled unanimously in Canning’s favor, and declared the president had exceeded his constitutional authority.

Fortunately, despite the fact that this ruling is potentially disastrous for organized labor, its consequences will be minimized due to the fact that of the present five board members three are Democrats.  However the 465 decisions handed down by the board during the period the Supreme Court now says it  was illegally constituted stand in danger of being re-litigated, which could throw the critically important work of the Labor Relations Board into chaos.  Such a state of affairs would greatly benefit the corporate class and wreak havoc on organized labor – a boon for the plutocrats and a bust for the working class.

In this sense the ruling was characteristic of decisions by the Robert’s Court. Although this ruling was sparked by a labor dispute, its implications are far reaching.  It goes to the heart of the American approach to popular constitutional democracy, calling into question whether the time honored system of checks and balances, the “three fold division of power,” can promote efficient government in a polity which is fractured into extreme ideological parties.

The ruling addressed the fundamental question of the constitutional power of the President to make interim appointments while the senate is in recess. It is a model of legal reasoning, arriving at a consensus on the intent of the Constitution by a close reading of the text and weighing that against historical precedent.  Hence while virtually all legal scholars agree that the ruling is a defeat for President Obama that could plague future presidents and make it nearly impossible to govern this complex nation effectively, it does not negate the right of the President to make interim appointments.  The Devil is in the details alas.

The question presidents will have to satisfy in the future is what constitutes a congressional recess and how long must the Senate be out of session before the President can justifiably invoke this power of interim appointments. The justices, who ruled unanimously, appear to agree that the Senate must be out for a minimum of 10 days, and a quorum of Republican Senators met every 6 days although they conducted no business.

President Obama, who recognized this as a charade designed to prevent him from making important appointments because the Republicans had ideological differences with his choices, appointed members to the NLRB so that they would have enough members as required by law to make decisions on matters of critical importance to working Americans.   However the Court held that even if President Obama’s claims of Republican obstructionism prove true, it is not sufficient grounds to ignore the constitutional restraints on executive powers.

While one cannot credibly argue that the Court’s decision is part of the Republican plot to cripple this President because of the unanimity of the Justices opinion, it will nevertheless strengthen those forces who do seek to cripple President Obama.

When added to the Citizens United Decision giving plutocrats the right to spend unlimited money to elect candidates they favor; the neutering of the Voter Rights Act; the lowering of protections for women seeking legal abortions, and the ruling earlier today barring public unions from compelling Home Care Workers to pay dues despite they work on a unionized job and enjoy the benefits of a unionized worksite, and the gutting of Affirmative Action programs combine to work against the interests of all women, the working class in general and Afro-Americans in particular.

Since this decision supplies fuel for the political arsonists in the Republican Party who accuse President Obama of conducting himself like a King and overstepping his constitutional authority – when he is merely trying to govern – and would love to find cause to initiate an impeachment proceeding, the question of whether or not this decision regarding the limits on presidential power is part of a right-wing conspiracy to cripple President Obama’s presidency is a moot point…..because it is a distinction without a difference.

The US Supreme Court
Supreme_Court_US_2010 II
Their decisions have brought justice and Injustice



On Education for Citizenship

Posted in Playthell on politics with tags , , on February 11, 2014 by playthell

Thomas Jefferson

 “Those who expect to be both ignorant and free, expect what never was and never will be.” 

Whatever Happened to Civics?

For several years now I have been increasingly disturbed by the decline of civics instruction in our public schools.  But when I express this concern most people look at me as if I had suddenly begun speaking in ancient Greek, or some other unintelligible language.  If they are in their forties or younger they appear to have no clue what I am talking about.  I don’t know exactly when it happened, or how those who determine educational policy in our public schools decided to remove Civics from the curriculum.  I just looked up one day and it was gone!

Yet civics was the only course in our educational system that is designed to teach students how our political system works and the proper functions of government.  A vital part of civics instruction is the systematic study of current events, which provides a basis for making intelligent choices once we are old enough to vote.  When I was a boy civics was an integral part of public school instruction, and it has determined my approach to understanding the responsibilities of citizenship as an adult.

The first responsibility of citizenship in a participatory democracy with contending political forces is to educate youself on the issues so that you can make informed decisions at the ballot box. In a racist, sexist, predatory capitalist system where the struggle for the necessities of life is becoming increasingly Darwinian – i.e. dog eat dog and only the big dogs shall survive – making the right choices  in the voting booth is a life and death matter.  One need only look at the Social Darwinst proposals of the Republican Party to recognized the danger facing the working  class in America.  Already they have become invisible; nobody even mentions their name anymore.

For a while, I felt like I was the only one who recognized the end of civics instruction as a crisis that is rendering America’s participatory democracy dysfunctional.  This was clear to me in the results of the first congressional elections after the innaugaration of President Obama, when the Republicans took control of the House of Representatives only two years after their policies had wrecked the nation’s economy. (see: “On Our Dysfunctional Democracy” on this blog)  And what’s more, the most potent force in the New Republican coalition is the “Tea Party,” an ultra-right band of iconoclast who ran on an anti-government platform.

Amazingly, the Tea Party has managed to convince millions of Americans that the government they elect is their enemy.  This has led to the Extraordinary spectacle of masses of struggling Americans voting against their economic interests in the belief that they are striking a blow for freedom.  The full extent of this absurdity was made clear to me when I was traveling in Georgia and came upon a demonstration against “Obamacare” led by a snaggle tooth red neck with a mouth full of rotten teeth.  From the look of things the guy had never seen a dentist in his life., but here he was vociferously fighting against a program that would make it possibe for him to finally visit a dentist.

This absurdity of supporting people and policies that is against one’s interests is repeated in myriad ways by the working class whites who make up much of the Republican base. Why, they even applauded the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case; which is a major step in transforming out participatory democracy in which candidates from all classes could run for public office in an effort to promote policies that address the interests of working people, to a system where only the rich or their representatives can effectively contest for office.

How does one explain this kind of self-destructive behavior?  Why would people vote against their best interests?  And what does it harbor for the future of American democracy? Succinctly put, it is the epidemic of political ignorance among the electorate that propels this self-destructive behavior. Thomas Jefferson warned of this danger during the founding of the American Republic.

“An enlightened citizenry is indispensable for the proper functioning of a republic. Self-government is not possible unless the citizens are educated sufficiently to enable them to exercise oversight. It is therefore imperative that the nation see to it that a suitable education be provided for all its citizens. “

Given the complexity of American society today, a mass society of several hundred million people composed of diverse races and ethnicities residing in a continental nation extending from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans, Jefferson’s words are far more relevant now than they were in the 18th century, when America was a simple agrarian society composed of small towns and villages about a third of the size we are now.  Hence the study of civics is needed now more than ever, when citizens are confronted with problems of amazing complexity that they are ill-equipped to analyze.

One of the groups that recognize the gravity of this problem and is calling for the restatement of civics instruction is the New York Bar Association.  After studying the problem of widespread ignorance among the citizenry about how our government and politics work, they tell us in a in a recently published document titled Report and Recommendations of the Law, Youth, and Citizenship committee on Civic Education.

“A constitutional democracy flourishes only if the constitution reflects democratic values alive in the citizenry. In the past decade, nearly every measure of Americans’ knowledge, understanding and appreciation of democratic values and fundamental constitutional principles has reflected a shocking level of decline. Despite New York’s adoption of the ‘Participation in Government’ requirement for graduating high school seniors over a decade ago, a sense of political disengagement has worsened in our state due to a lack of civic knowledge and the skills necessary to be an effective citizen.” On this score all the observable evidence suggests that the State of New York is the State of the Nation.

It is this gross ignorance of the legitimate functions of government, as well as our political history, that allows Republican Congressman to feel safe while committing a crime against humanity by cutting eight billion dollars from the federal food stamp program at the same time they are denying a couple of million unemployed Americans extended benefits during an economic crisis where there are no jobs that pay a living wage.

Many of these citizens have worked hard all of their lives but now face hunger and homelessness while these same Republicans give every possible benefit to the rich.   Furthermore, these same Republican shills for the plutocracy are vociferous opponents of minimum wage laws and have voted repeatedly to repeal the Affordable Healthcare Act, while concocting a web of lies to discredit this benefaction to the American people.

A politically enlightened electorate would throw the bums out!  Instead millions of voters know so little about how our government actually works they cannot distinguish the progressive Democrats who have tried to pass Jobs bills based on investment in rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure, from reactionary Republicans who only want to cut all government benefits for working Americans and give extravagant tax holidays to the super rich.

Hence we are being told by the political numbers crunchers that the Republicans will not only retain Control of the House of Representatives in the coming elections….but might well gain control of the Senate. This would be a catastrophe, because if these reckless Republican fanatics –  and the spineless opportunists who know that this is foolishness but go along to get along – gain control of both Houses of Congress there is every reason to believe that their policies would wreck the economy again, entangle the nation in more foreign conflicts that extract a high cost in blood and treasure, create permanent gridlock in the government, and perhaps even impeach the President on trumped up charges! If ever we needed an enlightened electorate it is now.

John Boehner
Boehner with crack pipe 
The Worse House Speaker Ever!


Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York


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