Megan Marries Her Prince

Posted in The Royal Wedding of Meghan and Harry with tags , , on May 20, 2018 by playthell

Harry and Megan…The look of Love

A Fairy Tale Wedding Makes History

There is a balm in Gilead

To heal the sin sick soul

There is a balm in Gliead

that Makes the wounded whole

With these poetic words coined by Afro-American slaves, those “Black and Unknown Bards” celebrated in the epic poem of James Weldon Johnson, who wondered how with those who dwelled in hell of American slavery, without the benefit of tutoring in the art of posy, came “to touch the sacred fire,” the Afro-American Bishop and leader of the Episcopal Church in America Michael Curry, proclaimed to the world the power of love just before the paramount leader of the world Anglican Communion Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, blessed the union of a grandson of British kings with the great granddaughter of American slaves as he joined them in holy matrimony.

Resplendent in colorful vestments of a prince of the high Anglican church and Eloquent beyond the power of words to describe, the Bishop treated the British to a sermon forged in the smithy of the Afro-American Religious experience and invested with the magnificent rolling cadences of the Afro-Sermon, an oral art form that most of the world first heard when the Dr. Martin Luther King – whom the bishop quoted in his ecumenical sermon that referenced catholic and protestant thinkers – spoke to the world of the power of love.   The Bishop was the embodiment of what the wonderful writer Zora Neale Hurston said of all successful Afro-American preachers, he was ”The poet he must be to survive in a Negro pulpit…for we are a people that love magnificence and can’t get too much of it.” Indeed, Bishop Curry was one of “God’s Trombones,” to whom the bard James Weldon Johnson pays homage and tells us “had all the devices of eloquence at their command.”  The Archbishop of Canterbury calls the American Bishop “a stunning preacher!”

Due to the early hour I was asleep when the festivities began, but as luck or fate would have it I awoke as the bishop began to speak, and I was convinced that whatever went on in this fairytale affair, the black bishop’s sermon, followed by the angelic voices of the gospel choir singing the Rhythm and Blues anthem “Stand by Me,” made immortal by the late great Ben E. King, was a high point of the day. As one BBC commentator declared with great enthusiasm: “St; Georges’ chapel had never heard anything like it….it almost stole the show.”

God’s Trombone

          Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Epispocal Church

Justin Welby

The Archbishop of Canterbury performs the Royal Wedding

This was followed by a marvelous rendition of Shubert’s Ava Maria, performed by a young afro-wearing elegantly attired 19-year old virtuoso, the first black instrumentalist to win the BBC Young Musicians competition, who made the baritone voice of the cello sing with a haunting lyricism.  Then after the saying of their wedding vows, in which Harry and Megan bequeathed to each their world possessions and vowed to love and cherish each other with faces animated by sunshine smiles and the glory of love, pledged till death they do part, the bride and groom strolled down the aisle to the majestic blare of a Baroque trumpet choir and exited the ancient Windsor Chapel to the swelling cheers of the adoring crowds that had assembled to get a glance at the royal couple as they rode in an open carriage drawn by four white horses, escorted by a host of mounted guards decked out in colorful uniforms mounted on sturdy steeds, immaculately groomed for this auspicious occasion. It was a celebration fit for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex as the BBC broadcast their journey through the city to a soundtrack of the gospel choir singing Curtis Mayfield’s joyous musical prayer.

Although opinions will vary about the significance of this wedding, it was no picayune affair.  It was a historic moment, an event that changed the course of history.  Perhaps it’s true important can only be fully understood when viewed from the added dimension of historical perspective.  A half century ago Sammy Davis Jr. was mobbed by white racist haters when he came to London to perform with his blond Swedish bride by his side. Hence the fact that a lass issued from the loins of a black woman, and raised to adulthood under her guiding hand, could marry into the revered Royal Family, the cherished dream of many a British maiden, and be roundly applauded by high and low born British subjects, is a sure measure of the declining significance of race in the 21st century.

On the symbolic level it is second only to the election of Barack Obama to the US presidency. Some skeptical observers and petty haters will point to the fact that both Megan and Barack were not “genuine blacks,” in that each had a white parent, but as for the designation of who is considered black that has been a distinction without a difference in America, and to a lesser degree in Britain too.  However, I will leave the measure of it’s true significance for future historians to decide.

The wedding ceremony was also a measure of the diminishing significance of gender roles. The bride, awash in sparkling diamonds and begowned in a white dress with flowing sixteen-foot veil, chose to march down the aisle alone to the sacred sound of George Frederick Handel’s Baroque masterpiece “Eternal Source of Light Divine” – which was originally composed as an “Ode to the Birthday of Queen Anne.” Alas, despite the majesty of the music it sounded somewhat impoverished to my ears after having hear it sung by the peerless coloratura soprano Kathleen Battle, accompanied by the gifted trumpet virtuoso Wynton Marsalis, who enriched the composition with the magic Afro-Americans bring to the art of music making. Tis a pity they did not command a performance from these marvelous artists.

Meghan consented to be escorted to the alter by Prince Charles, heir to the British Crown, only near the end of the aisle; and she refused to promise to “obey” her husband.  It was the independent modern woman and political activist on women’s issues that Meghan is.  She is a very bright, highly educated, talented woman who had made a very successful life for herself before she ever met Harry.  She was no damsel in distress waiting to be rescued and swept away by a dashing prince in shining armor. In fact, as my friend Kwaku, whose family hails from the British West Indies, pointed out “Charlie is a lucky guy; she is a catch!”  Harry chose a woman much like his mother the late Princess Diana: A great commoner and humanitarian.  And much of Meghan’s character is due to the way she was raised by her mother, Doria Ragland, who cut an elegant fashionable figure as she sat in the pews shedding silent tears watching her daughter make history marrying the British prince.

Doria Ragland Bears Silent Witness

Meghan’s Afro-American Mom

But most of all, the Bishop’s sermon and the gospel choir – which was mostly Afro-Brits but sang in a convincing Afro-American style – put on display the dramatic difference between the exuberant style and manner of the Afro-American worship tradition, and the staid rituals of the Anglican church in Britain; which the Reverend Susanne, a priest in the Anglican Communion of Canada, mockingly called “the chosen frozen,” as many pious Britons sat stiff as stuffed owls perched in their pews.  As I took it all in, I was reminded of the comment of the outstanding German theologian and Nazi resister Deidrick Baumhofer, who remarked after visiting a Sunday morning service at Abyssinia Baptist Church in Harlem, “This is the way God was meant to be worshipped!”

Many members of the audience however were visibly moved by the spirit of the soulful music and the dramatic power of the Bishop’s sermon, which one British commentator described as “Afro-Americacentric.” It was the spirit of Christianity transmogrified by Afro-Americans in the New World, nudging out the antique conventions of the Old World.  Judging from the expressions of sublime joy on their beaming faces, none enjoyed the ceremony more that the bride and groom.  Although like the Afro-American poet Paul Lawrence Dunbar, I don’t believe in aristocrats, and would just as soon do away with the lot of them,  I say all the best to Meghan and Harry as they experience the joy of each other.  It was a jolly good show with the full measure of pomp and circumstance for which the British are world famous… Dilly Dilly!

Click on Link to hear

“There is a Balm in Gilead”

Performed by the Fisk Jubilee Singers

Click on Link to see:

Kathleen Battle and Wynton Marsalis perform, “Eternal Source of Light Divine,” by George Fredrick Handel



Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
May 20, 2018

End of A Delusion?

Posted in On Donald Trump, On Foreign Affairs, Playthell on politics with tags , , on May 17, 2018 by playthell

Kim Jung Un and Donald Trump

Did Kim Chump Trump?

North Korea’s dramatic termination of a scheduled meeting with the leaders of south Korea, and the rejection of Donald Trump’s proposal for complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, caught clueless Donnie and his acolytes off guard and left them stumbling around like dancers in the dark.  Just a fortnight ago, like Giddy high school girls with their knickers a twitter waiting their prom date, Republicans in Congress were projecting Donald Trump as the next Nobel Laureate for peacemaker.

Since the guiding ambition of Trump’s political career is to outdo former President Barack Obama, a political Super Nova, and undo his legacy, Trump became quickly enamored with the idea of wining the Nobel Prize because the much-coveted award was conferred upon President Obama.  Alas, being the brazen braggart and tireless self-promoter that he is, Trump could barely contain his delight at the prospect.  In fact, one got the impression that Trump believes this award could salvage what promises to be a tarnished legacy.  Alas, the North Koreans are paying close attention and understand that they are the key to realizing Trump’s grandiose ambition…and they are suddenly playing hard to get.

That he so easily swallowed the fiddle faddle about the North Koreans being willing to scrap their nuclear arsenal is further evidence that Trump is a rank amateur at the game of politics, and clueless about the complexities of international relations. On the face of it the proposition struck me as absurd, given the threat the US poses to North Korea’s national existence. The Trump administration’s position wandered into the realm of fantasy when they began to demand that the North Koreans disarm even while the US kept military forces station on it’s border; has yet to sign a peace treaty ending the war that resulted from a horrific American invasion over half a century ago; maintains injurious economic sanctions against them and is presently conducting a joint military exercise with South Korea just off their shores, which they rightly regard as a rehearsal for an invasion of their country.

Hence it should come as no surprise to anyone whose head is not buried in their ass and has a reasonable understanding of the political realities that shape the state of US-North Korean relations, that Kim and his posse are backing away from any idea of Nuclear disarmament.  And the fact that Trump’s newly appointed National Security Advisor John Bolton, a crazy old warmonger, has suggested in a public statement that the US should impose “the Libyan Model” on North Korea does not inspire confidence that American objectives coincide with theirs.

Trump’s fumbling attempt to fudge Bolton’s statement in his White House press conference with the Secretary General of NATO, a day after the release of the North Korean statement of their position on the matter, only revealed his confusion on the subject and almost certainly had the opposite effect of his intention to put Kim Jung Un’s mind at ease.  The point of referencing the Lybian Model for the Koreans was to remind Americans that after Mumar Khadaffi voluntarily gave up his nuclear weapons program he was later overthrown and assasinated with the help of the US and NATO.  Trump was arguing that if they gave up their nukes the US would insure the safety of Kim Jung Un’s regime, but should they fail to comply with US demands they would suffer the same fate as Lybia.  Neither position was acceptable to the North Koreans.

Alas, Donald Trump has been running about crowing like a barnyard rooster, telling the world that he has convinced Kim Jung Un to “completely denuclearize,” before the US will consider any concession to North Korean concerns.   But in light of the official government statement issued by Kim Kye Gwan, the first vice-minister of Foreign Affairs of the DPRK, it looks as if The Donald has been “cuttin tha fool” before the world…again, as my grandfather would put it.  The North Korean’s were unambiguous in their position.

prior to the DPRK-U.S. summit, unbridled remarks provoking the other side of dialogue are recklessly made in the U.S. and I am totally disappointed as these constitute extremely unjust behavior. High-ranking officials of the White House and the Department of State including Bolton, White House national security adviser, are letting loose the assertions of so-called Libya mode of nuclear abandonment, “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization,” “total decommissioning of nuclear weapons, missiles and biochemical weapons” etc. while talking about formula of “abandoning nuclear weapons first, compensating afterwards.”

Wherever the Trump administration got the idea that the North Koreans would go for the okey doke and concede to demands that the US would consider the acme of absurdities if demanded of them by a foreign power, the Korean statement leaves no doubt that it is not anchored in reality. The candid statement goes on to say:

This is not an expression of intention to address the issue through dialogue. It is essentially a manifestation of awfully sinister move to impose on our dignified state the destiny of Libya or Iraq which had been collapsed due to yielding the whole of their countries to big powers.

I cannot suppress indignation at such moves of the U.S., and harbor doubt about the U.S. sincerity for improved DPRK-U.S. relations through sound dialogue and negotiations. World knows too well that our country is neither Libya nor Iraq which have met miserable fate. It is absolutely absurd to dare compare the DPRK, a nuclear weapon state, to Libya which had been at the initial state of nuclear development.”

In his attempt to explain the deal he is offering to North Korea at the press conference to discuss NATO – i.e. give up their nukes in exchange for American private sector assistance with economic development – it was embarrassingly clear that Trump, a notorious non-reader, had not read the North Korean statement.  For they had unambiguously addressed and dismissed this offer:

The U.S. is trumpeting as if it would offer economic compensation and benefit in case we abandon nuke. But we have never had any expectation of U.S. support in carrying out our economic construction and will not at all make such a deal in future, too.  It is a ridiculous comedy to see that the Trump administration, claiming to take a different road from the previous administrations, still clings to the outdated policy on the DPRK… If President Trump follows in the footsteps of his predecessors, he will be recorded as more tragic and unsuccessful president than his predecessors, far from his initial ambition to make unprecedented success… if the U.S. is trying to drive us into a corner to force our unilateral nuclear abandonment, we will no longer be interested in such dialogue and cannot but reconsider our proceeding to the DPRK-U.S. summit.

It is abundantly clear that Trump has embraced a dangerous delusion.  Fueled by the arrogance of power and blinded by the self-serving doctrine of “American Exceptionalism,” Donald Trump believes he can seduce or coerce Kim Jung Un into accepting a deal hatched in the fevered imagination of John Bolton, that insults the dignity of North Korea as a sovereign nation and threatens their security.  The Koreans recognized Bolton as the incubator of aggressive policies in the Trump Administration and called him out on it: “We shed light on the quality of Bolton already in the past, and we do not hide our feelings of repugnance towards him.”

Dredged up from the pits of foreign policy purgatory and provided unmediated access to the ear of Donald Trump – whose head is a tabula rasa on which anything can be written by an advisor – Bolton, a bellicose neo-con ideologue from the Project for a New American Century, the think tank whose misguided foreign policy views landed us in the Iraq War – which is still in progress 17 years later – will increasingly shape Trump’s view of the world.  Hence, as the bluesman Percy Mayfield warned: “The whole-world is in trouble…and the danger zone is everywhere!”


Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York




Is Trump Having a Beckett Moment?

Posted in On Donald Trump with tags , on May 2, 2018 by playthell

North Korean Leader Kim Jung-Un and his Warriors

Giving Diplomacy A Chance?

After months of hurling insults and threats at Kim Jung Un, the leader of North Korea, calling him “Little Rocket Man” and posturing over who’s got the biggest balls and nukes, and who would blink first in a nuclear confrontation, Donald Trump, with his vain eyes on the Nobel Peace Prize, has now adopted the posture of peacemaker. And it should surprise no one to discover that a chance to bask in Norwegian limelight accepting the Nobel, more than saving a million innocent souls from the slaughter house of modern war, is Dastardly Donald’s true motivation.

Recently Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo – who had just resigned as head of the CIA to accept the yet unconfirmed nomination – returned from a secret mission to North Korea where he conducted negotiations to prepare the way for a Summit Meeting between Trump and Un. An unexpected and unprecedented development in American foreign relations.

The stated reason for the Summit is to negotiate a historic deal for lasting peace between the US and North Korea, two nations that have been at war ever since the Armistice of 1953, which stopped the shooting but never formally ended the war with a peace treaty.   Hence, under international law we have been in a state of war with Korea for over 60 years!

During all this time the two nations have been at a stand-off, with US troops stationed only a few miles from the border of North Korea, a burlesque of a nation created out of the division of the Korean peninsula along the 38th Parallel in an attempt to create order out of the chaos of war by splitting the Korean people into two hostile nations reflecting the Communist and Capitalist power blocs that defined the post war world.  If Trump can successfully negotiate a treaty finally ending hostilities with North Korea it would insure him a unique place among American presidents in our diplomatic history.  It would stand him alongside Richard Nixon in his “China Opening;” which poses a supreme irony because as things now stand Trump is headed for another Nixonian moment: impeachment or resignation.

Although the available evidence suggests that “The Donald” is not a thoughtful man given to meditating on history, he has been formally diagnosed by a multitude of psychiatrist and psychologist as suffering from “Malignant Narcissism.” A poignant example of this is the recent revelation that Devious Donnie dictated his own initial medical assessment, which declared him “the healthiest president in history!” The assessment also said he weighed 230 pounds, although he looks like he has worked at a carnival engaging in pie eating contests over the last ten years!  These facts lead many skeptical critics – this writer first among them – to suspect that as usual Trump’s diplomatic overture to North Korea is driven by egotism rather than altruism.  Alas, the accidental president is more concerned with proving he is master at “the art of the deal” than playing peacemaker.

In any case, like Thomas Beckett after the King appointed him the Archbishop of Canterbury, Trump seems to have suddenly become aware of the gravitas of his office and wants to leave a legacy that lives up to his high station which, like Beckett, he arrived at by accident and is totally unprepared for.  And thus, he has peeped at the man in the mirror and wondered what his legacy will be…where will he stand in the pantheon of presidents?  Will his grandchildren beam with pride when his name is mentioned in their history classes…or seek to hide under their desks?

Whatever his motivation, Trump’s move toward diplomacy rather than nuclear war comes as glad tidings to an astonished world that has looked on in horror from the sidelines as relations between leaders of the US and North Korea – two nuclear armed nations – rapidly deteriorated amid the clamor of saber rattling and name calling. Although relations between these two countries have been troubled for nearly three quarters of a century, they have grown dramatically worse during the short presidency of Donald J. Trump, who sought to impose his will on them by military action.

Since the possibility of a successful land invasion is an obvious fantasy, Dangerous Donnie openly threatened to destroy North Korea with nuclear weapons: “Raining fire and fury upon them such as the world has never seen!” And North Korea promised to retaliate by destroying American allies and assets in Asia, and even drop a nuke or two on the US homeland.

After Trump issued that threat we have witnessed an increase of ballistic missile tests, as the North Koreans race to develop a missile that can serve as a credible deterrent to American aggression. The latest ballistic missile test by North Korea – which introduced an ICBM they claim is capable of hitting the White House – offers compelling evidence that “The Donald’s” public proclamations and actions went over like a lead balloon with the so-called “hermit nation,” which has been bracing for an American attack since the middle of the 20th century.  It began to look like war was inevitable.

In a dramatic turnabout we now have Trump reaching out to Kim Jung Un for a Summit Meeting. Kim in return has decided to suspend ballistic missile tests, and the leaders of the two Koreas, Un and Moon, have met and talked, each stepping across the 38th parallel setting foot on the other’s soil for the first time since the peninsula was divided over half a century ago.  The question is: What are the chances of success? If one faces the hard facts objectively, free of fantasy, Kim and Donnie could well be like the couple sleeping in the same bed but dreaming different dreams.

Trump is not simply demanding that North Korea stop its missile testing and halt its production of nuclear weapons but give up their nuclear arsenal altogether…to “denuclearize.”  Yet finding foreign policy experts who believe the North Koreans will accede to such a demand may prove harder than finding needles in haystacks.  For instance, the former Governor of New Mexico Bill Richardson, who once served as Ambassador to South Korea and is one of America’s foremost experts on the region says: “It will never happen!  The North Koreans will never give up their nuclear weapons.”

Dr. James Stavridis, a former Four-Star Admiral in the US Navy, who is Dean of the distinguished Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, echoes Governor Richardson’s belief that the North Koreans will not agree to scrap their nuclear arsenal and says that if he was advising Kim Jung Un he would not tell him to do so.  Richard Haas, longtime president of the prestigious Council on Foreign Relations and author of A World in Disarray also believes there is no chance that Trump’s upcoming talks with Kim Jung Un will result in the North Koreans agreeing to give up their Nukes.

In fact, Haas believes there is a danger in entering these negotiations with such unrealistic expectations. Given his volatile temperament alas, who knows what will happen when Trump doesn’t get what he wants; his response is unpredictable and could prove catastrophic.  And now that Trump has selected John Bolton, that old neo-con warmonger from the Project for a New American Century – the think tank that gave us the Iraq War* – as his National Security Advisor anything can happen!


Playthell G. Benlamin

Harlem, New York

May, 1 2018

The Brightest Smile in Town!  

Posted in On Donald Trump with tags on April 24, 2018 by playthell

 Charmed by a Real Smoothie Melania is all Smiles

 Yo Doophus Donald!  This is How You Do It!

When I first peeped that beaming mega-watt smile spreading across Melania’s face as she chatted up Barack Obama at the last rites for the former First Lady Barbara Bush, two thoughts immediately came to mind.  First, there is the strange realization that she smiled a brighter smile at a funeral in the company of Barack Obama than she manages to muster at parties with the orange ogre to whom she is married.

Realizing that bizarre fact conjured up a scene from Shakespeare’s Othello, when the beautiful white Desdemona gazes upon “Noble” black Othello and opines: “Would that God had made me such a man.”   If I could read her mind I’d bet my bottom dollar that this is what Melania was thinking!

How could it be otherwise, human nature being what it is.  After all, this is not the first time we have witnessed Melania in the presence of Barack. Remember the first time “The Donald” and Melania visited the White House during the transition period?  Remember how Dirty Donald walked of and left Melania – the mark of  man who prefers to buy pussy…fuck em and forget em! – as she was was getting out of the limo bearing a gift for the Obama’s.  Barack graciously descended the stairs, took Melania by the arm, gave her a warm kiss, and escorted her into the White House on his arm while the self-absorbed narcissist she married never even looked back to see how she was faring.

 The Odd Woman Out?

 The World witnessed  what life is like with a narcissist
 A Black Knight to the Rescue
 Wonder what Barack is Telling her?

When the picture of a brightly smiling Melania hit the internet on Twitter – Doophus Donnie’s favorite forum – the Tweeting Twit in the Oval Office greeted it with silence. But it is of no matter, because a picture is worth a thousand words and the pictures posted here tell us everything that need be said on the question at hand.  Perhaps this explains why the blabbermouth joker in the white House, who has something to Tweet about everything else, has been so quiet you could hear a snake pissing in the wind. Not so of others in Twitter World, which has been abuzz with comments that are distinguished by their candor.  A succinct sampling will suffice. The following remarks are representative.

Jennifer Fojas @jenlowfo

That’s the happiest I’ve ever seen her!

Jennifer Piotti


She must love sitting with a real president!



What it looks like to be next to a real man, you get smiles & all.

Thom Rutledge


And she’s smiling. You don’t see that when she is with President what’s his name?


Susan Troxell

FollowFollow @susanktroxell


Replying to @crazymary1964 @andylassner @POTUS

I will NEVER forget this ‘small’ event. Her face after this encounter. HIS face after this encounter. Spoke volumes to me. He’s an abuser – always has been, always will be. He should be sitting in a locked room all by himself, with no contact with other humans.

 Audrey Regan


Obama doing his best to make Melania feel comfortable. That’s all this is. Melania must be very grateful to be seated beside him.


BACKUPYOUCREEP‏ @EmaCornaCopia Apr 21

 Givin her his dignity, grace and style# POTUS

Persistently Uppity


Donald was standing at the back of the line when they handed out dignity, grace and style. And they ran out before he finally made it up to the front.

Add “make Melania smile” to the long list of things Obama can do that Trump can’t.

Where is the Love?
What’s Love got to do with it?


Aquarius Solrac


Dear @realDonaldTrump, why can’t you make #Melania smile the way #BarackObama does? Maybe it’s your micro-penis.

Although it is seldom discussed in the media in deference to the First Lady, not wanting to add to her persistent humilation by her husband, Melania’s sadness has not gone un-noticed.  In an article titled “Inside the Trump Marriage, published in the May 2017 issue of Vanity Fair, writer Evgenia Peretz observes:“Traditionally, presidents have at least made a show of having healthy, happy marriages. Even the Clintons, despite marital troubles, appeared to have moments of genuine affection, humor, and bonding.”

Ms. Peretz  went on to observe that  during Innugaration Day  the truth about the Trump’s relationship was put on public display.  “But from almost the first moments of Inauguration Day, during the ceremonial arrival at the White House, it seemed something was amiss with the Trumps…During Franklin Graham’s blessing, Donald turned around to look at Melania. She smiled momentarily. But once his back was turned, her face fell into a miserable frown. Later that night, as the president and First Lady had their “first dance,” twice over, to “My Way,” she was often stiff and pulling away from his face.”

The article notes that the shock and outrage many women felt as they watched this sad spectacle on television sparked them to hold up signs during the “Women’s Demonstration” against Trump that shouted “Free Melania!”  The sadness experienced by Melania due to Dirty Donald’s boorish / whorish behavior is graphically expressed in poignant pictures that captured the moment.

Pissed at the New Prez!

Was it Something Dastardly Don Did?

This is what Real Love Looks Like!

All  Smiles…


Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
April 24, 2018 

Does Dirty Donald Deserve Respect?

Posted in On Donald Trump with tags , , on April 20, 2018 by playthell

Does the Trick Really Have All the Fun?
Respect for Devious Donnie, and the Presidency, is an Oxymoron

On the face of it Donald Trump is a compulsive liar, a brazen braggart, a foulmouthed bully, a racist, a serial sexual predator, a swindler and a megalomaniac.   He is the kind of man you don’t want your son to emulate and your daughters to avoid.  And these flaws are just the ones that easily meet the eye.  For those who care to take a deeper look a real horror show awaits their gaze.  But, if your standard for presidential leadership is honor, integrity, respect for women and non-white peoples, a public servant rather than an autocratic ruler, respect for democratic process and the institutions that make this possible, we need look no further to answer the question posed by this essay.

Donald Trump clearly does not meet this standard.  Hence those who argue that we ought to respect Trump because he was elected President, and we should respect the office, are standing on intellectual and moral quicksand.  I would remind them, yet again, that Adolph Hitler was elected too!  And I use the example of Hitler purposely, because as much as it enrages his supporters, Devious Donald and Adolph have much in common.  But since I have explored this question in five previous essays I shan’t relitigated it here. *  Yet to the astute and careful observer those similarities will be all too obvious. In fact, former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, who has just published a book titled “Fascism” has warned us about Trump’s fascistic tendencies.

However, it is enough to point out Trump’s myriad transgressions against the prestige and dignity of the American presidency through his odious personal behavior, embarrassing ignorance of the critical issues facing the nation and assaults on the constitutional norms he has vowed to uphold.  After covering Trump’s presidential campaign, Matt Taibbi, the crack investigative reporter with Rolling Stone magazine, wrote a book summing up his view of Trump entitled “The Insane Clown President.” Alas, those who though he was being hyperbolic will have to think again.  Now that we have gotten a good look at Trump in the Oval Office, the objective observer must confess that Taibbi nailed him.

From the outset his un-presidential posture was a source of embarrassment to the Republican Establishment and an odious offense to the party’s intelligentsia.  At first his candidacy was dismissed as a joke. But when he began to prevail over the crowded field in the Republican primaries and they began to take the possibility that Dirty Donald could actually win the Party’s nomination, it suddenly became no laughing matter. The longtime Republican stalwarts who were vying with Trump – a Johnny Come Lately –  to represent the party in the presidential election began to say what they really thought of him in an effort to warn their members not to vote for Devious Donald.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio declared in no uncertain terms that “Donald Trump is a con-man!”  This charge was echoed over and again by other candidates.  Mitt Romney, the past Republican presidential candidate, trashed Trump’s business acumen:” A business genius he is not!”  An able businessman with a Harvard MBA, Romney knows whereof he speaks.  No matter what you think of the Equities business, and there is much to criticize on moral grounds, there is no question that one must be astute in business matters in order to survive – let alone thrive as Romney has done. Trump on the other hand, had been the defendant in 3500 civil suits growing out of incompetent or unethical business practices, and was recently ordered to pay 25 million dollars to students who were swindled in the Trump University scam.

Jeb Bush, a Former Florida Governor – who had been all but anointed by the press and party leaders, being the son and brother of US presidents and possessing the traditional qualifications for President –  warned early on: “Donald Trump is a chaos candidate, and if he wins he will be a chaos President!”  The prescience of this warning qualifies Jeb for the honorific “Prophet Jeb.” As Trump’s presidency has been distinguished by unrelenting chaos!

As harsh as the criticisms of his political competitors were, they did not rise to the level of the vitriolic critiques coming from the Republican intelligentsia, who banded together to form a “Never Tump!” movement. Led by the likes of George Will and Bill Kristol – the intellectual heirs of those formidable conservative polemicists William F. Buckley, Norman Podoretz, Irving Kristol, et al – banded together and launched the “Never Trump” movement.  They saw that the election of Donald Trump would be the end of the Grand Old Party that they had committed their lives and careers to.

Tim Miller, who had been Jeb Bush’s Communications Director before he dropped out of the race, had this to say about a possible Trump victory:” “It is disturbing seeing him even in the ballpark of being president…I think it’s a bad sign of our republic that we are this close to electing a complete buffoon and fraud, because he encapsulates the worst qualities of a human.” John Podhoretz, a right-wing commentator and the son of Neo-con icon Norman Podhoretz, spoke for many long time Republicans who detest Democrat Hillary Clinton and Trump in equal measure, when he wrote in his New York Post column: “Since I want everybody to lose…I’m going to be pleased and horrified in equal measure no matter what happens.” 

Long time columnist, author and a leading theoretician of the Republican party George Will, would declare Trump a dunce “who doesn’t know what it means to know something.” Will magnified his point by sarcastically observing that Trump has the advantage over him in Twitter exchanges “because he can say everything he knows in 145 characters and I can’t.”  He then quit the Republican Party rather than be led by Trump.

I believe that future historians studying this period will consider these dissenters heroes.  While the party apparatchiks are making a deal with the devil, because they feel they have a clueless dupe who will sign any legislation they put in front of him so long as it is opposed by Democrats – the ideal president in the view of anti-tax radical Grover Norquist – some of the party’s leading intellectuals are taking principle stands because all the observable facts suggest that although Trump may be good for the agenda of their party, he will be bad for the health of our republic.  And they have chosen to place country over party.

During the year since Trump was elected, he has realized all our worst fears.  He has never evolved into the “presidential” leader we were promised by his handlers. Alas, Dirty Donald has remained the same crude, ignorant, potty-mouthed, lying charlatan that he was during the campaign.  He has routinely called everybody who criticizes him dirty names – hence my tagging him “Dirty Donald” – and called the free press an “enemy of the People.”

He has hidden his tax returns from public scrutiny like a dope dealer, and repeatedly violated the “Emoluments Clause” in the constitution forbidding a sitting President from accepting money from foreign governments. A case against Trump for this violation has been filed by Harvard law professor Lawrence Tribe, an authority on Constitutional Law, and his co-attorneys.  Trump has trashed the authority of the courts, threatened nuclear war against North Korea on Twitter, and is the subject of multiple investigations, federal and state.  As I write he is involved in a messy scandal with a porn star, and his former Campaign Manager and personal lawyer had their offices and homes raided by the FBI with no-knock search warrants.

As I write former FBI Director James Comey, whose abrupt dismissal by Trump – who admitted that he did it to stop the investigation of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian agents on national television – prompted the appointment of a Special Prosecutor, is about to publish a book telling his side of the story after months of vilification by Trump.  On Sunday April 15, Comey appeared in a special interview on the ABC television network to discuss his new book, and he rendered a devastating critique of Trump’s leadership of the Nation, and expressed the view that Trump is definitely unworthy of due to his moral failings alone.

Although Trump is having a Twitter tantrum calling Comey a liar, when it comes to a test of credibility Trump’s chances of prevailing are about equal to those of a butterfly from a hatchet blow.  After all, fact checkers at the Washington Post have identified over 2000 lies told by the president of the USA during his first year in office, the all-time record!        

Despite his desperate thrashing about in protests against his accusers, it is hard to see how Trump will survive to the end of his first term.  From the look of things based on rumors, leaks and publicly announced indictments the blow that lays him low can come from anywhere –  laundering dirty Russian money; obstruction of Justice; Perjury; campaign finance laws; converting the White House into a profit center for the Trump Organization; collusion with Russian military intelligence to steal the presidential election, or tax evasion.  All seem plausible.

Added to his legal problems, is the potential for blackmail due to Trump’s moral laxity.  For instance, the fact that he has his “fixer” posing as a lawyer, Michael Cohen, paying off women with whom he had adulterous sexual liaisons, exposes the President to Blackmail. According to intelligence experts, the Russians probably know all about Trump’s sexual peccadillos.  Some believe the Russians have film of Trump’s misadventures on his visit to Russia to promote a beauty pageant.

If so, that would explain why Trump trashes everybody but Vladimir Putin. His refusal to implement sanctions imposed on Russia by Congress, sanctioning them for interfering in the last US presidential borders on Treason!  Some will argue that “Treason” as defined in the Constitution can only occur if the nation is at war.

Well, considering that “Cyber Warfare” has been recently added to the list of offences warranting a nuclear response, one could argue that technically we are in a state of war!  In any case, Trump’s behavior has so befouled the White House debased the presidency, it is impossible to respect that high office and respect Dirty Donald too!



Playthell G. Benjamin,
Harlem, New York
April 19, 2018

Vote No on Pompeo!

Posted in Playthell on politics with tags , on April 13, 2018 by playthell

Senate Hearings Exposes Dangerous Constitutional Ambiguities

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s confirmation hearings for Mike Pompeo, who Donald Trump has chosen for Secretary of State, the chief diplomat of the USA, often sounded like a tower of babble as they attempted to define the Constitutional limitations on executive war making powers. The confusion centered on which branch of government has final authority to commit the nation to war, and the debate magnified the ambiguity of constitutional mandates that on the face of it seem beyond question.  For instance, the language of the Constitution places the war making power squarely in the hands of the Congress in Article I, Section 8, Clause 11.

It states: “All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives…The Congress shall have power to…provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States… To declare war…To raise and support armies… To provide and maintain a navy.”  And Article II, Section 2, names the President Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. But he is empowered to order troops into combat only after the Congress has declared war: “The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States…”

It is no wonder that questions regarding which branch of government has the ultimate war making authority was a major theme in the discourse between the Senators and Secretary of State nominee Mike Pompeo.  This was no academic exercise, as President Trump has threated to bomb Syria any day now.  Hence the Senators were anxious to know how Pompeo, as Secretary of State, would advise Devious Donald.  Especially since Trump has already stated the view that he does not need authorization from Congress to rain bombs down upon the Syrians.  However, when this question was put squarely to Pompeo by Senator Coons, a Democrat from Delaware, Mike seemed as slippery as a greased pig.

Although he looks like a Mafia enforcer from central casting with his husky physique and wise guy Joe Palooka smirk, Pompeo has a sterling academic pedigree.  He graduated first in his class at West Point – which is harder to gain entrance than Harvard – and later earned a law degree from the Harvard Law School, which Senator Coons said in a self-effacing manner he had been rejected and was forced to attend Yale. In an attempt to evade answering the Senator’s question, Pompeo used the occasion to show off his academic chops by citing a gaggle of academic debates on the War Powers question in a transparent display of obfuscation.  He concluded by saying that so many precedents have been set by Presidents ordering military strikes without consulting with Congress it was impossible to say with certainty that it was unconstitutional.

Pompeo fared no better in terms of clarity when he was asked whether he agreed with Trump that Special Counsel Robert Muller’s investigation into Russian meddling is a fraud…a “witch hunt” and should be fired.  He spouted some spurious Mumbo Jumbo about the legal issues being so complex that he couldn’t offer an opinion on the matter.  Refusing to accept that mealy mouth prattle for an answer, one Senator asked him point blank if he would stand up to the President, and even resign, if he fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Assistant A. G. Rosenstein, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller, in order to stop the investigation into Russian attempts to subvert our democratic process, Pompeo said he would probably remain at his post taking care of the nation’s business, just as other Secretaries of State had done when the president they served was in trouble, he would stay steady at the wheel and guide the nation through troubled waters.  This too was an obvious dodge.

However, the most dangerous liability of Mr. Pompeo, which would preclude me from voting to confirm his nomination as Secretary of State, is the charge made by some members of the National Security establishment that he “politicized intelligence” in his recent position as head of the CIA.  This is especially dangerous because Pompeo is on record as having opposed the nuclear deal with Iran; he favored “2000 bombing raids” to destroy Iranian nuclear capability instead.  And his belief that a land invasion of North Korea is a feasible military option marks him as an unthinking fanatic.  Sixty years ago, when the North Korean communist revolutionaries had fought invading US forces to a standstill, General Douglass McArthur, conqueror of the Japanese Empire, observed: “Any American President who commits American troops to a ground war in Asia needs their head examined!”

A man who harbors such irrational beliefs and is also willing to “politicize intelligence” is dangerous.  After all, we have seen his like before, and they proved to be mid-wives to catastrophe.  Both the disastrous wars in Vietnam and Iraq was the result of politicized intelligence.  In his revelatory book “Deadly Deceits: My 25 Years in the CIA,” Ralph McGhee, one of the first CIA agents on the ground in Vietnam, provides us an inside view of how we stumbled into one of the most costly wars – in blood, treasure and social turmoil – in US history.

It all began when the CIA was persuaded to cook the intelligence product to a prescribed recipe; so instead of providing Congress and policy makers with objective information they fed them ideologically tainted propaganda.  This is the same way Dick Cheyney, Donald Rumsfeld and their fellow neo-con ideologues in the Project for a New American Century – whose policy papers directed Bush’s foreign policy after the 9/11 terrorist attack by Islamic Jihadist – convinced a clueless George Bush to invade Iraq.

I wrote an extensive analysis of the process by which they took over Bush’s Foreign policy, see: “How the Iraq War Was Spawned in a Think Tank,” on this blog.   The intelligence products they fed the Bush Administration led General Colin Powell, a highly decorated combat veteran, to disgrace himself and cut the fool before the world; giving false information in a speech before the United Nations.

Pompeo was an enthusiastic supporter of the Iraq War. And despite the fact that he is a Sunday school teacher, he is also a highly trained military officer and such a transparent coldblooded war monger he couldn’t be more obvious if he had on fatigues and bandoleros, holding an assault rifle on his lap!  When we realize that Pompeo, like virtually all of the Senators, views the world from the distorted perspective of “American Exceptionalism,” a malignant myth that holds The United States of America above other nations – strains of Deutschland Uber Allis – we have a deadly mix of militarism, nationalism and self-righteousness!

Perhaps the best measure of the impoverished state of our political discourse is revealed in the fact that the wisest and most candid voice among the august Senators was Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky.  An eccentric anti-imperialist Libertarian, Senator Paul reminded me of the great 19th century writer Mark Twain as he delivered a scathing assault on the warmongers who believe they can remold the world in their own image through the promiscuous use of military power.  Not only was Paul vehemently opposed to further American military adventures in the Middle-East, but he thinks all US troops should be pulled from Afghanistan and Iraq; he offered Trump the same advice Henry Kissinger had offered President Nixon during the protracted war in Vietnam: “Just declare victory and come home!”

Rand Paul
Giving Pompeo a Dose of Reality

This is also sage counsel for formulating American policy toward North Korea. Alas, this advice was infinitely more profound than anything I heard from Mike Pompeo who, despite his tough guy persona, is a spineless jelly fish when in the presence of Trump. The only sign that he has a bit of a back bone was when Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat from New Hampshire  asked him if he agreed with Trump that our present problems with Russia are caused by the Mueller investigation, and he dissented. Pompeo also pledged to implement the sanctions imposed on Russia by Congress, which Trump has refused to do.

Yet this is the exception that proves the rule.  Many observers – this writer included – suspect that lips to posterior is his natural posture in dealing with the President, hence Pompeo is too busy genuflecting to stand up and speak candidly to Dirty Donald on critical issues.  Now is no time for unprincipled suck ups because Trump’s incompetence and amorality has thrown our nation into serious crisis. This is why Pompeo must never become our Secretary of State!  Let’s see if the Senators can muster the balls to kick this cad to the curb.


(Click to See Mike Pompeo Stonewall Senator Mendez’s questions)



Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
April 13, 2018


Big Ups To Playthell “Samori” Benjamin!

Posted in Samori Goes to the J School with tags , on April 3, 2018 by playthell

Intrepid Sports Reporter Interviews Hall Of Fame Yankee Reggie Jackson


 The Columbia University Graduate school of Journalism is the top of the food chain in the profession; it is recognized around the world as the best in the business! For journalism it is the equivalent of the Harvard Business School for those going into corporate management.  The graduates of both schools are expected to become leaders in their profession.  And more often than not they fulfill this high expectation.

In the world of journalism the J-School’s Master of Science is as prestigious as the Harvard MBA. The applicant pool for both schools represent the best and the brightest strivers from around the world; so gaining admission is quite an honor! A degree from the J-School will open all doors in your journey to the top as a sports reporter, which has been your life-long dream.

You are entering the J-School with years or solid work as the Sports Editor at WBAI FM here in New York, where you have reported on Football, Baseball and Basketball; producing wonderful highly original features on women in sports – athletes and reporters, creating a valuable archive of testimonies from the world’s greatest athletes told in their own voices.

Although this great listener owned station on the Pacifica Network was not able to pay the big bucks offered by commercial media, you chose to labor on survival jobs in order to take advantage of the freedom to be creative and do your own thing that WBAI offered. Working there also provided an opportunity to work along side great journalists like Amy Goodman the creator and producer of Democracy Now!  The Polk Award winning reporter Robert Knight, and you were tutored by the seasoned reporter Jose Santiago, who came to WBAI  from NBC  news.  As the News Director Jose assinged you to cover City Hall for several years, where you learned the craft of hard news beat reporting on deadline.

Your position as Sports Director at WBAI – a fifty thousand watt station broadcasting from the heart of the greatest city in the world – heard throughout the metropolis and surrounding areas, provided you the opportunity to attend professional games and gain access to the locker rooms. And you have made the most of this opportunity with on-air reports, posts on, and writing a highly original book on the rise and fall of African-Americans in Major League Baseball – “Where Did Our Love Go?” – which will be published BEFORE you enter the J-School in September!   This book is a labor of love, inspired by your life long love of Baseball, which began when you played in the Harlem Little League as a boy.

At the Batters Plate

Slugging in the Harlem Little League
At the World Series Victory Celebration!

Drenched in champagne in the Yankee Clubhouse

While your admission to the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism is the reward for all the work you have put in mastering your craft, it symbolizes something more in our family. First of all, it honors the memory of Uncle Jimmy Strawder,who was denied admission to Columbia University, where he wanted to study journalism, BECAUSE HE WAS BLACK!

A talented writer who edited his high school newspaper, and wrote witty articles and commentaries, some of which I have read thanks to his classmate Ms. Barbara Vickers, who preserved the clips and sent them to me, Uncle Jimmy applied to Columbia after returning from World War II. He was drafted into the racially segregated US Army as an enlisted man, from the racially segregated town of St. Augustine Florida, where white supremacy was proclaimed and practiced in law and custom.

One of the brightest bulbs in any box, Uncle Jimmy was soon selected for Officers Candidate School which he successfully completed and became the first BLACK COMBAT OFFICER in the pacific theater, assigned to the Australian Army. He was honorably discharged as a First Lieutenant with Battle Decorations!

His performance in the military, which test the mettle of a man as nothing else, established his measure as a man in terms of courage, character and intelligence – since selection to Officers Candidate School was based on standardized competitive exams. And if the white boys who weathered the Great Depression, fought and defeated the Fascist menace, then came back home to build the country were “The Greatest Generation,” then African-Americans like Uncle Jimmy WERE THE GREATEST OF THE GREATEST GENERATION!!!!!

For the Black soldiers returned home to the country from which the German NAZI’s had borrowed their Master Race theories, and against whom the Japanese went to war because they believed white Americans planned to subject them to the treatment they imposed on their black citizens. The black heroes – who were young, gifted and Black – kept their souls in tack and kept moving on up! And against all odds yet did they rise!

You need only sample  the subsequent careers of some of these black officers after the war to recognize the myriad ways their contributions enriched American life.   I think of men such as as the progressive innovative Mayor of Detroit Coleman Young; college president Dr. Roscoe Brown; Harlem lawyer and successful businessman Percy Sutton, the great pioneering journalist who became Director of the powerful United States Information Agency Carl Rowan; the magnificent Blues Philosopher, novelist, cultural critic and prolific author Albert Murray, and Dr. Randolph Bromery. A fighter pilot with the all black Tuskegee Airman – a crack squadron that never lost a bomber under their escort – Bromery went on the become one of the nation’s most distinguished geologist and was selected to study the rock samples gathered on the moon.  He would also become the first black Chancellor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.  In a recent documentary film on Afro-American Officers in the second World War, Uncle Jimmy’s service was honored, he watched it with the family and was deeply moved.

Uncle Jimmy, filled with the optimism of a young man who was handsome as a movie star and swift on the cap. And had served with distinction in the great war to “preserve freedom and democracy,” was certain that he was Columbia University material. And his performance on the entrance exams proved it!

However, The Columbia University Admissions Office decided otherwise. In a terse and patronizing letter that added insult to injury, they congratulated Uncle Jimmy on his outstanding war record and his excellent performance on their entrance exam, part of which was in Latin! Then they informed him that his application was rejected BECAUSE “COLUMBIA COLLEGE HAS ITS QUOTA OF NEGROES.”

There was no shame in these cultivated northern crackers game! just like that they crushed his dreams. As he was already married with a child, he went to work. However you really can’t keep a good man down forever because cream will eventually rise to the top of the barrel. Uncle Jimmy remained married to my beautiful Aunt Nita for over half a century until she danced and joined the ancestors; bought a beautiful Brownstone in Brooklyn; became the CEO of Hamburger Heaven, a popular white owned restaurant chain in New York in the 1950’s – an unheard of accomplishment for a black man at the time – raised four wonderful children of their own and adopted several others, and ended up a successful restaurateur as owner of “FERRY BANK,” a beautiful high end restaurant in Brooklyn Heights in which Spike Lee shot scenes from two of his movies.

If any of you New Yorkers ever dined at that fabulous eatery, the handsome, elegant, man who strolled about graciously greeting guests was my Uncle Jimmy: A great man who lived into his nineties! He was the most important male role model in my life after the untimely death of my father – Uncle Jimmy’s best friend – when I was only four years old. I have traveled far and wide in my life and time, met a lot of impressive people – poets and players, wise men and fools -spoke to everybody twice, but I have never met a better man than Uncle Jimmy.

Since he believed that success was the best revenge against those who would destroy your dreams, Uncle Jimmy took the position that Columbia University owed our family degrees, and urged those coming behind him to collect them. Well thus far his son, Jimmy Strawder Junior took a degree in architecture, and went on to become an award winning architect. His grand son Monsour also took a degree and now heads a law firm and investment bank in South Africa. Monsour’s son Jabari – a world champion Rubix Cube solver – is now pursuing a degree in Computer Science. My daughter Makeda- Samori’s twin sister – did graduate work in Nutrition, and my son will be entering the Graduate School of Journalism in the fall…FULFILLING UNCLE JIMMY’S DREAM!

This is the legacy you will carry with you when you enter the J-School son. Although I am not a religious man Samori, I believe that if there is a place somewhere out there beyond the rainbow, where great souls go when they die, your adoring grandmother Queen Elizabeth – that elegant dusky daughter of Dixie – and Uncle Jimmy are joined in a spirit dance of jubilation!

Uncle Jimmy at his 90th Birthday Party

He Still Retains the Paternal Touch

As for me, I can conjure no words to express my love and admiration for you, who has always done the right thing and never caused me and your mother a moments trouble. You deserve EVERYTHING good that will come to you in this life.  So, My Son, I shall say to you what the great black Florida writer Zora Neale Hurston’s mother said to her when she left Eatonville to attend Barnard, Columbia’s women’s college, nearly a century ago: “JUMP AT DE SUN!” I have no doubt that, like Zora, you will make the most of this rare opportunity and distinguish yourself as one of the great sports reporters of the 21st century.

This is assured. For, as is evident in the forthcoming book, your work is guided by the broader questions posed by the great Trinidadian writer/political philosopher C.L.R. James, in the opening of his seminal book on the game of cricket, Beyond a Boundary: “What do they know of cricket…who only cricket knows….”

Going to the Source

Getting the Story of Afro-Americans in the Major Leagues Today
 In Miami Reporting on the Knicks

Taking a Break on South Beach!
At Madison Square Garden: The Mecca of Basketball


Covering the New York Knicks
Graduation Day at SUNY!
Receiving the Bachelor’s Of Science in Broadcast Journalism
A Native New Yorker

Reporting on the Stars in the World’s Most Exciting City
An Athlete and Veteran Reporter at 12!

Hangin in da Club with Knicks Star Forward Anthony Mason 

Samori began writing /Presenting Sports Commentary on My WBAI  Show  at Nine
And Grew Up to Become Sports Editor!

Columbia is Getting a Great Candidate



Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York,
April 4 2018