Archive for December, 2010

Christmastime In Baghdad

Posted in On War and Peace in the Mid East! with tags on December 28, 2010 by playthell

It’s Crying Time

Iraqi Christians have Shed Many Tears Since The Fall Of Sadam

Of the myriad ironies and unexpected consequences resulting from the American invasion of Iraq, the devastation of the Christian community in that predominately Muslim nation ranks near the top.  Fueled by a combination of self-righteousness and abysmal ignorance, the American strategists who planned the invasion believed they could also shape the peace to an American design.  But there have been many surprises; among the most tragic is the plight of Iraqi Christians.  It was also the easiest to predict.

In a nation where the two major Muslim communities have been unable to resolve their theological disputes in 1800 years, it was the height of arrogance for Americans to think that they could maintain the peace between Muslims and Christians once the prevailing system of authority was undermined and the chaos of war engulfed the nation.  Since life becomes cheap in wartime – with mass slaughter everywhere – it becomes harder to suppress the forces of internecine violence.

The Christian community began to come under attack as early as 2003, right after the American Invasion, when Sadam Hussein’s rigidly enforced peace between various Religious factions fell apart.  But the latest atrocity occurred on October 31, when Sunni Muslim fanatics burst into a Baghdad church during services and massacred 68 worshippers, wounding several others.  The blood thirsty fanatics in Al Qaeda proudly took credit for this mass slaughter, and even pursued the Christians to their homes and attacked them with bombs!

Al Qaeda has published the addresses of Christians on the internet so that any freelance Muslim fanatic can attack them at will.  Furthermore they have given added incentive to the Muslim’s – mostly Sunni’s affiliated with Al Qaeda – to attack and kill Christians by unjustly painting them as secret agents of western imperialism, and therefore traitors to the Iraqi nation as well as enemies of Islam.  That’s why many Iraqi Christians are abandoning the country altogether – some are moving to the US and Europe, and others are relocating into the northern part of the country into Kurdish territory.

Their mere presence among the Kurds might well energize the Kurdish Secessionist movement.  For although the Kurds are Muslims they are not Jihadist, in fact they have managed to keep religion out of their politics, and their brand of Islam is far more progressive than among the Arab Iraqi’s.

In fact they view the Arabs as backward and dangerous fanatics. That’s why the Christians are flocking there as I write.  All of this raises some inconvenient and down right ugly questions about the consequences, and therefore the wisdom, of the American invasion of Iraq.  And it supplies further evidence for those who argue that the invasion is that biggest foreign policy blunder in American history!

Of course, I opposed the invasion from Jump Street!  I am not one of the “Johnny Come latelys” among the punditocracy who are now speaking out about the wrongheadedness of the war in Iraq.  My argument against this ill fated military adventure was based on a solid analysis of the Bush administration’s claims, against the facts of history and the political realities of the Islamic world.  Published as “The Iraq Attack: Bush’s March Of Folly,” it can be read on this blog as “The Prophetic Commentary On Iraq.”

Read it and you will find that my analysis of the complex issues of war, religion, history and politics led me to conclusions that have now been verified by history.  There was no alchemy here, just serious study and rigorous analysis free of the distortions of ideology or misguided patriotism.

What is now obvious, though none in the corporate media will dare say it upon pain of dismissal – is that by any objective measure of the quality of life, for the average Iraqi things were better under Sadam Hussein; especially for Christians…who are finding life impossible without him.


Playthell Benjamin

December 27, 2010

Harlem, New York

Merry Christmas!

Posted in Cultural Matters on December 24, 2010 by playthell

Party Over Here!


Ain’t Nothin But A Party!

Although my building has over a hundred apartments there is a core group of longtime tenants who are like and extended family.  Built at the turn of the century, this building was designed for an affluent class.  the interior design is modeled on the interior architecture of Versailles Palace in France, with servant’s entrances in the larger apartments like mine.   Once the home of Louis 16th and Marie Antoinette before they were beheaded in the Revolution of 1789, Versailles is famous for its marble and gold leaf, elaborate cornices and mouldings, and beautiful doors of paned glass – what we popularly refer to as “French doors.”  The annual Christmas Party is held in the elegant Lobby, made of polished Italian marble with a marvelous ceiling of stained Tiffany Glass.  Christmas comes but once a year but when it comes it brings good cheer!!!  Here is some of my impressions from this years Christmas Party.

I would like to dedicate this Christmas card to Mr. Matthew Golson Sr – the greatest landlord in the world!!!  In the more than 30 years I have lived in my apartment – which was once occupied by the great Paul Robeson – I began a career as a writer and probably would not have been able to sustain it had it not been for many kind considerations I received from Mr. Golson.  But given his characteristic modesty I doubt that he has ever thought of it that way.  He attended the Party, and when he came over and started talking to me, I must confess that I wasn’t sure who he was.  This is because I have not seen him in years and although he is 92 years old he looks like a man in his sixties!

I was on my way to write a review of a Latin Show at the time and I had no batteries for my camera, as I intended to pick some up along the way.  That’s why I don’t have any pictures of him in this photo-essay.  Hence you will simply have to rely on my powers of description.   The first thing one notices about Mr. Golson is his elegance of style and manner.  He has the kind of quiet self-assurance that makes him both a man’s man and a ladies man.

He is a paragon of black male elegance that is rapidly fading away.  Matthew Golson  is the living embodiment of an age that produced such paragon’s of black male high style and genius as Duke Ellington – who used to live right around the corner – Nat King Cole, Joe Louis – who lived in the building when he was Champ – Jackie Robinson, Paul Robeson – a building alum –  Sugar Ray Robinson, Billy Ekstine, Andy Kirk – who lived in the building until he danced and joined the ancestors well into his nineties, and legions of others.  That they were the most elegant, stylish and graceful men in America – since they and their sisters invented all the nation’s popular dances from the Charleston to the Lindy Hop – it beyond question!   The white folks love to talk about “The Greatest Generation’….well I think these black, brown and beige men and women were the greatest Generation!

I know quite a lot about our history, having once been a history professor.  So you can take my word for it when I say it is a matter of historical fact that everything white men had to overcome in order to advance in America black men  also had to overcome plus deal with the formidable  barrier  of racism!  And from just what I have been able to see of Mr. Golson’s business acumen in the real estate business here in New York City – a Darwinian world where unbridled greed and racism prevail even in these relatively enlightened times – it must be considered something of a miracle.

It occurred to me that evening as I watched Mr. Golson dapping around the room – “Sharp as a Mississippi sissy on Easter Sunday morning,” as my uncle Buddy  used to say – it occurred to me that here was a fascinating story waiting to be told.  And I shall tell as soon as I can interview him!  It is the kind of triumphant story all young people should hear – especially young black males.  I am certain that it is the kind of heroic story that can save some of their lives…and inspire others to greatness!


It’s a Wonderful Place For A Party


An Elegant Vestibule of Abundant Space



And What A Party We Had!


As Christmas Decorations Adorned The Room


Most Everybody Was There

Old, Young And….



….Beautiful Babies Too!





A Born Star!

Everybody wanted to hug him Up



As Proud Parents Looked On


With Miles Of Smiles



Grand Parents Were Hangin Out Too


My Good Friend Vanessa Chillin With Her Grandson

There was great food, plentiful drink…


….and polite conversation



Pretty Smiles



And Joyous Laughter!



The Overweight Lover Was In the House!

Rockin da Crowd!




Everybody Was Dancing



Droppin it like it’s Hot!


Doin It To Death!



But The Young Bloods Stole The Show!

Doing tha Douggie!



They Were Down with It….

And Couldn’t Quit It!



They Threw their Hands In the Air

And Boogied Like they Just Didn’t Care



Moving and Grooving


Tha Boyz Was Doin It!



Strutting their Stuff!

Letting It all Hang Out



The Grown Folks Took The Floor


This Is How We do It!

But This Is What’s Happening

Right Now!

A Great Musician Was In the House!


Partying Hardy With The Ladies



And A World Renowned Artist

All The Way From Ethiopia



The Mixologist Kept the Spirits Flowing


Yo!  Pick your Poison…I Just Serve It



We Had A Jolly Good Time!



And We Owe It all…

To the Tenants Committee!



Merry Christmas To All!

Livin Large On Sugar Hill!






Photos and Text by: Playthell Benjamin

  • Photo of Makeda and Samori By:
  • June Benjamin

Hail To The Chief!

Posted in Playthell on politics with tags , , , on December 23, 2010 by playthell

A Triumphant  Moment

Barack Obama Outfoxes the GOP

President Obama has demonstrated once again that he is a consummate master at the art of politics.  His compromise on tax policy has proven to be an astute move worthy of a Russian chess master. The President correctly calculated that the most important issue to the Grand Obstructionist Party was to save money for the rich – to keep them from having to pay their fair share of taxes, funds desperately needed for projects that contribute to the public good.  And since they are shameless shills for the plutocrats the tax cut was a do or die issue for the Republicans. Faced with an incoming Congress that will be controlled by Republicans – many of whom were elected by the Tea Party crowd – that are significantly crazier than the present GOP mob in Congress, he struck a compromise.

Predictably, there was a hue and cry from self-righteous purist and clueless pundits on the left who accused him of selling out to the Republicans.  But by striking this compromise he got extended unemployment benefits for millions of Americans suffering through protracted unemployment. Prevented the taxes of working and middle class Americans from a precipitous rise – which would have been as high as 50% on the poorest Americans!  He won a sweeping food safety act that will protect Americans from contaminated food – a situation which results in sickness and even death for thousands of Americans every year.

He put an end to the silly and dangerous “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy regarding Gay military personal, and the funding of programs to address the needs and afflictions of heroic 9/11 first responders. The crowning achievement of these brilliant legislative victories is The New START Treaty. This is because if mankind dies not control and eventually destroy nuclear weapons, they will surely destroy us! It’s just a matter of time.  By any objective measure the President has given a Virtuoso performance in the art of politics that is unequalled in the history of the Presidency.

Here is a lesson that his critics on the left should take note of.  While his most caustic critics just want a fight, which would afford them an opportunity to make rhetorical points about what evil villains the Republicans are – which is true enough – the President just keeps piling us legislative victories that will benefit the American people. That’s why I voted for him, and I believe that’s true for most Americans who voted to elect this President.

Of course, the response of ideologues of the left and right only goes to show what I have been saying all along: They are more alike than different in their response to demands of realpolitique.  The fact that they are coming from different ends of the political spectrum is a distinction without a difference in this regard.  This will be clear as the response to these magnificent achievements of the American people.  Already we hear some on the left complaining about the President’s “giveaways to the rich” and his failure to solve the unemployment crisis.  And the comment of Joe Scarborough that “The President has no world view” just a series of legislative victories…duh?  Well, that’s why Joe is an ex-congressman and Barack is the President.  Given the fact that Joe is an Anglo-Saxon who looks and talks like John Wayne, he should be President not this black guy with the terrorist name!  The last thing Barack needs is political advice from Joe – a colossal failure at the game of politics!

As for the eternal whiners on the left: they remind me of the line from that old Ray Charles song: “I bought my baby a 500 dollar dinner and she said, “Thanks for the snack.  I bought her a million dollar house and she said “thanks for the shack!”  He should continue to ignore them and keep on keeping on.  Aside from the thrill of victory over the legislative triumphs, I got a special kick out of witnessing the hang dog look on the visage of that prune faced peckerwood Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, and that verbose pasty faced punk Lindsay Graham from the backward state of South Carolina – who is as adept as a circus clown at talking out of both sides of his mouth!  I say a plague on both their reactionary houses and hail to the chief!




Playthell Benjamin

Harlem New York

December 23, 2010

The Best Ever!

Posted in On Sports! with tags , , on December 22, 2010 by playthell

The Invincible Lady Huskies

Tonight history was made in the world of sport that brings to the surface uncomfortable questions about the nature of gender equality in American culture.  The event in question is that the University Of Connecticut women’s basketball team broke the all time record of 88 consecutive wins by a major college team set by the UCLA men’s squad from January 23, 1971 to January 19, 1974.
Earlier in the day the U-Conn coach, Geno Auriemma, spoke to the press who had come up to Storrs Connecticut to cover this historic event. The caustic language with which this coach of the apparently invincible women’s basketball team addressed the male sports writing fraternity caused me to sit up and take notice.

When he charged that the only reason they were there was because the ladies were about to beat the all time winning record set by the great UCLA men’s team, which was coached by the legendary John Wooden, he got my undivided attention. Coach… rubbed their noses in their hypocrisy and sexism when it comes to evaluating female athletes.  He pointed out that they have been winners for years, with an unmatched record of excellence, but they hardly got more than a line or two in the male dominated sports press!  As the father of a talented female athlete I felt like rejoicing.

In the movie “Love and Basketball,” another insightful Spike Lee Joint, there is a line that says, “Basketball is basketball…athletes are athletes.” Although this seems obvious enough, there are many people who will argue that the achievement of these women should not be given the same importance as the UCLA men’s team because the competition is not as good and the game they play is of an inferior variety of ball.  But that is like comparing apples and oranges; like people who attempt to say which musicians are greater: Jazz musicians or those who perform European classical music.  They are two different things; both making music but the requirements and challenges are different.

I have learned much about this question from talking with my daughter Makeda.  As a girl growing up she was never particularly interested in watching males play sports.  Having a twin who was an athlete exposed her to sports and eventually led her to want to play them, especially after I ruthlessly rejected her request to become a cheerleader.  Makeda became a multi-sport athlete in high school – basketball, track and fencing – then went on to compete as a sprinter – 100 & 200 meters) at the University Of Delaware: Which is a Division I program.  She also took a degree in Sports Science and did graduate study in nutrition at Columbia.  She is a certified sports nutritionist among other certifications in the health/fitness/sports fields.

Makeda On the Track

Athletes Are Athletes!


Makeda explained to me that women would never be able to compete successfully against men on the elite level because of the presence of testosterone in males.  But she also points out that this is irrelevant because the competition between elite women athletes is well matched.  Like in boxing, you don’t put light-weights in the ring with heavy weights!  The point is to put good athletes in the arena of competition who have similar physical endowments.  Nobody who watched this game between U-Con and Florida State can deny that they were witnessing a performance by first rate collegiate Athletes.

There are, however, certain areas in which women excel in the game because of their lack of certain levels of physical prowess.  My daughter points out that women basketball players master the fundamentals better than men.  Whereas women play a real team game, Makeda views the men’s game – especially in the NBA – as an exercise in narcissistic exhibitionism that has largely abandoned team play for personal aggrandizement.  The U-Con women were paragons of team play, and as near as I could tell they have raised it to such a high art that nobody can beat them.  They are the winingest team ever in major college basketball!

Superstar Mya More is a fabulous basketball player by any standard.  For instance shooting the ball a distance from the basket, where the ball must travel through the air, is an equal accomplishment for both men and women.  And Maya’s jump shot is deadly!   She scored over 40 points in this historic game.  And she has a great supporting cast; they play the game like Goddesses from a Greek Drama, rising above the level of mere mortals to perform fantastic feats…supernatural things.  The Lady Huskies have been beating their opponents by over thirty points…tonight was no different!   These great athletes are justly celebrated by fans of women’s sports and their friends.  History was made tonight…girl power rules!




Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

December 22, 2010


Speed Kills!

Posted in On Sports! with tags , , , on December 20, 2010 by playthell

Deshan Jackson, Speed Burner

Reflections on the “New Meadowlands Miracle”

For the many thousand fans who abandoned their television sets at the beginning of the fourth quarter of the Giants/Eagles game last Sunday – an important contest for the top position in the NFC East with serious playoff implications – the subsequent news about the Philadelphia victory must have come as a big shock.  For three quarters of the game the Giants dominated the Eagles – dogged them really.  Everything was going their way. It seemed the perfectly planned game, and everything was working out just like the offensive coaches drew the plays up on the black board.  Football is a game of complex strategies, and when they click we see spectacular feats on the field.

The giants did everything right and the score showed it.  Their defense had not only bottled up and contained the Eagle’s quarterback Michael Vick – an athlete who is so gifted running and throwing the ball that he gives defensive coordinators and even head coaches heartburn – but their offense had scored repeatedly. Eli, the Giant’s Super Bowl winning quarterback, had a banner day – equaling his all time best performance by throwing four touchdown passes!  For Giant’s fans it seem that God was sitting on his throne in Heaven and all was right with the world.

Ironically both Manning brothers, Payton and Eli, were playing critical games in their division, and both were competing against black quarterbacks.  Although they were born and raised in the Deep South, I really don’t think this fact crossed their minds.  Which is as powerful a statement about the changes in race relations in the US over the past 50 years as one is likely to find.   Payton was handling his business with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Eli was humiliating the Eagles much vaunted defense.

At the beginning of the fourth quarter the Giants were up by three touchdowns on the Eagles.  It seemed a done deal.  How could the Eagles come back from such a sound thrashing?  I was getting ready to go out to the theater, and had conceded the game to the Giants – which was a big drag!  Although I am a devoted New Yorker I am also a do or die Philly fan; especially nowadays when the magnificent Michael Vick is running the team.

Due to the fact that I grew up and played football in an era where the conventional wisdom was that no black athlete had the combination of intelligence, calm and athletic skill to play the quarterback position – although they were playing the position spectacularly all around me in the all black high schools and colleges of the South – I am partial to teams with black quarterbacks.

This is becoming harder and harder to pull off however, because black quarterbacks are becoming ubiquitous in the NFL.  And when you look at the major college ranks – which is the pipeline for the National football League – it seems fairly certain that there will soon be more star black quarter backs running professional teams.  For instance, both teams that will be playing for the much coveted National Collegiate Championship in a few weeks – Auburn and Oregon universities – will be led by black   quarterbacks.  Auburn’s quarterback, Cam Newton, is having a better college career than Michael Vick.  And Vick was off the chain as a college player.  But then, Newton is not only fast like Vick, and is the leading rusher on his team, he is also six foot six and weights 250 pounds!   And he’s just a kid…he could get bigger.

Hence it is safe to say that we are witnessing the dawn of the era of the black quarterback.  And the model for a uniquely black approach to the quarterback position is Michael Vick.  I say this because Vick has the kind of talents that are characteristic of the most gifted black athletes…especially his world class speed.  When coupled with his rifle-like arm, which enables him to throw the ball 70 yards in the air with uncanny accuracy, Vick becomes the most dangerous weapon in professional football.

This explains what happened to the giants on Sunday; they found themselves competing with Superman!  At some point during the last quarter it was like Mike said “fuck this!” and just dominated the game whenever the defense put the ball in his hands. With eight minutes to go the Eagles scored an amazing 28 points against the second best defense in the NFL.  It was a magical, mystical, unbelievable experience. During this period Vick passed for two touchdowns and ran for one. But the touchdowns were made possible by several spectacular runs – some on Third and Long – by Vick to keep the drive alive.  As the points began to pile up I could hardly believe what I was witnessing – I thought my lying eyes were playing tricks on me.   It was the single most impressive performance that I have ever seen at the quarterback position!


Mike the Magnificent!

Elevating The Game!

Hence it is unfair the way the Giants and their coach are being pillored in the press this morning.  In big bold headlines their hometown newspapers are accusing them of dogging it…choking…falling apart when the chips were down. These headline writers – who are probably fat boys that never played a down of football.  All day long I have listened to the sports pundits cum football “experts” with tedious explanations for what happened, how the giants blew that game with such a formidable lead in the final minutes of the game.

Much of this discourse sounds more surreal than the actual events they are describing.  Their commentary is inspired by the famous quote from the former Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi.  Who was supposed to have said “Winning is the only thing!”  I have long blamed Lombardi for profaning the noble ideal of sports competition, because it nullifies the character building aspects that justifies all the time and money we expend teaching children to play these games.  The idea is to win with magnanimity and lose with grace.

It is the polar opposite of the ethics of war, where all is fair and you are out to kill your opponent!  However these armchair quarterbacks in the media need to watch the latest HBO documentary on the Coach Lombardi.  He says that he never said that and he considers it to be the worst thing ever associated with his football legacy!  It is time for the verbose sports wags to learn this lesson and adjust their attitudes accordingly.  Nobody had any reason to hang their heads in shame after Sunday’s game.

The giants were valiant gridiron warriors; but they were up against a force of nature. Former Super bowl winning quarterback and perceptive sports analyst Trent Dilfer put it best: “Michael Vick can do things no other human being can do. He is indefensible!”  While Mike tied the game, his favorite receiver Deshan Jackson – who may be even faster than him – put the nail in the Giants coffin with a 65 yard punt return in the final twelve seconds of the game.  They shocked the world.  The lessons here are: It ain’t over til it’s over…and speed kills!





Anatomy Of A Miracle


The Rocket Takes Off



The Giant’s Coaches Were Shocked!


Dadgumit!  Foiled Again!  Says Giant’s Head Coach.


Miles Ahead!

He Raised the Ball in Victory at the 30 yard line: Supreme Confidence



A Great Showman Strutting His Stuff In the End Zone



Gettin Dap From His Dogs!

Party Time!



The State Of the Art at Wideout!


The Answer to all Defensive Schemes!






Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

December 20, 2010

Tom Buffenbarger Is Talking Like A Fool!

Posted in Playthell on politics with tags , on December 19, 2010 by playthell

Living in a dream world

The only explanation I can conjure for the kinds of crazy things that are being said in public about President Obama by otherwise smart and savvy people is that the prolonged economic crisis, plus the protracted class war that is beating the working class down to the ground and robbing them of their dreams, is driving some people crazy!  A poignant case in point is the comments of Tom Buffenbarger, leader of the powerful Machinist Union, who spewed his anti-Obama invective on the Kieth Olberman show on MSNBC, Thursday night.

Part of Mr. Buffenbarger’s problem is that he was a passionate Hillary Clinton booster, and he has never accepted that the fact that Barack Obama defeated what looked like an invincible candidate.  But for him to continue to argue that Hillary in the Oval Office would have solved all of our problems is retarded.  He says that President Obama hasn’t accomplished anything for the working people of America.  And he conveniently forgets that Hillary was tasked with devising a solution to the nation’s health care ills, and even with her husband in the Oval Office and a Democratic Congress she got nowhere!

Barack got his health care bill passed! What Buaffenbarger and other cry babies on the left – who think it is sufficient to have temper tantrums in public because they didn’t get everything they want – should be doing is organizing mass demonstrations in support of health care as the states try to get it repealed in Federal Court.  Instead they are still sitting around whining about not getting the “public option.”  William Wimpensinger, who was the progressive leader of the Machinist union for many years, once remarked that the greatest mistake made by the labor movement was when the AFL-CIO decided to discontinue using the term “class struggle.” Perhaps that’s why American workers don’t understand the nature of the struggle they are in – and based on the way they voted in the recent elections they are clueless.

The only way anybody could arrive at the conclusion that President Obama has “done nothing for the working class,” especially a labor leader, is if they have had their head buried in their ass for the last two years!  Everything Mr. Obama has done has been directed at helping working people.  That’s why the plutocrats hate him!  Who, pray tell, was Mr. Obama trying to help when he expended so much political capital to pass health care legislation?  And who was he trying to help with the passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Act, making equal pay for women the law? When he saved 1.4 million industrial jobs by rescuing the auto-industry, a major employer of Tom’s union members, in whose interests was he laboring?

And who was the President helping when he got credit card reform passed, or ended the parasitic role of banks in the student loan process?  Was he working in behalf of the rich when he brought about the most stringent laws regulating financial activities on Wall Street?  If so, why did all of the Wall Street types rush to the ranks of the Republicans bearing gold in the last election?  And who was the President helping when he passed a 7oo billion dollar stimulus package that kept thousands of public sector workers employed.  The working people of America has never had a better friend in the white House during my lifetime.  And when the progressive United Auto Workers union met recently in Detroit, they gave the President an high marks for his efforts.

Anathema for anti-labor zealots

A constant target of right-wing hatred

But then, the UAW has a worker education center at Black Lack Michigan.  Here workers are primed on the issues by an amazing array of authoritative teachers.  When I was an editorial page columnist for the Daily News I once ran a seminar at Black Lake for Editorial writers and columnists who worked for newspapers published by union locals.  During my stay there I got a first hand look at their program for politically educating workers.  They spared no effort.

The workers got to hear first hand from many professionals who explained the complex issues facing them. For instance there was a corporate lawyer whose father had put him through law school as an auto-worker.  He talked of the ironic class treason that led the children of union workers to represent corporations in their efforts to undermine unions. They also got to hear from a member of the Mexican parliament, who was also an economist. Her take on NAFTRA, “North American Free Trade Agreement,” contained insights not to be found in either the utterances of American politicians or the coverage of most American media.

Clearly Tom Buffenburger could profit from such a course of study – assuming that he is a damned fool rather than a shameless charlatan. I cannot say which he is but he is certainly one or the other…and I fear he may be a bit of both.  Although he has to be swift on the cap to get where he is in the rough and tumble world of organized labor, it is clear that what passes as analysis from his mouth these days is baseless and irresponsible nonsense!

Mr. Bffenbarger has been called “a prophet,” because of the following 2008 statement: “”Hope? Change? Yes We Can? Give me a break! I’ve got news for all the latte-drinking, Prius- driving, Birkenstock-wearing, trust fund babies crowding in to hear him speak!  This guy won’t last a round against the Republican attack machine. He’s a poet, not a fighter.”  Those who champion Mr. Buffenbarger’s prophetic powers now believe that they are witnessing the manifestation of his prescience.  Not the least of whom is the self-styled prophet himself

But I beg to differ. As is generally the case, Mr. Breffenburger takes his role models from his narrow Eurocentric view of the world.  For the history of Black people is full of examples of poets who were also warriors.  The most impressive examples of warrior poets in history are the leaders of the armed resistance against the Portuguese colonial empire in Africa.  A serious scholarly book has been written about their exploits: Poets and Guerillas.”  Hence we have a precedent for the warrior poet who is our Commander-In-Chief.  However Barack Obama is a results oriented commander; he is not into either symbolic or Pyrrhic victories.

Although he has chosen the Stateman’s role over that of the General, President Obama is very much at war: with reactionary racists at home and Muslim Jihadists abroad.  And despite compromises, and even setbacks, he is winning on both fronts!  If Tom Buffenbarger is the model for union leadership however, it is no wonder organized labor has taken such a beating at the hands of the anti-labor Tea Party Crowd!   For the kind of talk that he is engaging in can only further confuse the workers and aid the cause of the far right, who is dedicated to making Barack Obama a one term President and take back the White House.  These people make no pretense that they will not repeat the blunders of George Bush…in fact we have every reason to believe that this time they will be worse.  Woe be unto the workers then!



P.G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

December 20, 2010

On Republicans And National Security!

Posted in Playthell on politics on December 14, 2010 by playthell



Playing Russian Roulette With The World!

If anybody doubts that the Grand Obstruction Party has become a danger to the national security of the United States they should pull their heads out of their butt long enough to see that in spite of their tough talk the Republicans have been a failure at governing, and nowhere is that failure greater than in foreign policy and national security.

The dangerous game they are playing in delaying ratification of the President Obama’s nuclear weapons treaty  – a great diplomatic victory – is their latest scandal. But their incompetence in national security matters should have been abundantly clear after the Republican obsession with building a Star Wars anti-missile system around Russia, although the Russian communist Party had collapsed and the Cold War was officially over, led them to sleep on the abundant warnings from the CIA that Osama Bin Ladin was planning to crash jet planes into American skyscrapers.  One result of this obsession with star wars weapons, and crack pot theories about constructing a unipolar world on the principle of “American Exceptionalism,” was the tragedy of 9/11/

Perhaps it is because nobody in the corporate media circles that shape public opinion dare tell this transparent truth, that the public remains so confused on this question.  Nor do they seem to understand that the invasion of Iraq simply aggravated the Republican’s first blunder by starting a war of choice that the Nobel Laureate in economics Joseph Stieglitz says will cost around three trillion dollars all told!  When you consider the fact that the nation’s civil engineers have estimated we could completely rebuild the US infrastructure and put much of the unemployed to work for half that amount, the tragic dimensions of Republican misrule become self-evident.

Yet in a bewildering display self-immolation, the American electorate put the Republicans in charge 0f the House of Representatives by a landslide vote in the last election.  And these reckless rightwing radicals  are now blocking ratification of the New Start Treaty; in spite of passionate pleas from former National Security Advisors – whether Democrats or Republicans – to ratify it immediately.  But the Grand Obstructionist Party has made it clear what their top priority is: keeping the rich from having to pay their fair share of taxes!

There is no shame in their game; unless they get their way on this issue they are prepared to bring all government business to a halt, no matter how critical to our national security.  And that includes holding up the vital New START Treaty, which would allow the US to monitor the movement of nuclear weapons and weapons grade uranium with live observers on Russian soil.

At a time when the foremost nuclear threat to the US comes from stateless terrorist cells who will transport the weapon by boat or private plane; the Republican Senator from Arizona, Jon Kyle, is threatening to hold up ratification of the New Start Treaty unless it is accompanied by a commitment to resume work on an anti-missile shield to stop incoming missiles! Aside from the fact that such a shield is probably unworkable – leading American physicist such as Dr. Mishu Kaku have gone on the record with this warning – and is irrelevant to the threat at hand, it will certainly spark a new nuclear arms race among other nations.

Thus the Republicans are trying to take this nation down a dangerous path that is completely counter to the road we should be travelling.  Ever since I served in the Strategic Air Command, where I enjoyed a “Top Secret” clearance that provided me access to Americans plans for fighting a nuclear war with Russia, I decided that the mere possession of nuclear weapons should be declared a crime against humanity.

Nuclear war would subject the world to horrors that is unimaginable to the average person; it would literally be the end of the world as we know it.  I believe that’s why people don’t really want to think about it, much less talk about it. The only sane, just and humane course of action in dealing with these dooms day weapons is to rid the world of all nukes ASAP!   This is the policy of President Obama, who negotiated this critical treaty on nuclear security and anxiously awaits Congress’s ratification.   Alas, in order to gain more bucks for the filthy rich, the Grand Obstructionist Party is willing to play Russian roulette with the world!

It’s all A Game to Them

Turd Blossom Thumbing his Nose At The World






Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

December 14, 2010

On Shooting The Wounded!

Posted in Playthell on politics, Uncategorized with tags , on December 10, 2010 by playthell
Unemployed workers Signing up for Compensation

Are Democrats Playing Russian Roulette with Workers?

Today Congressional Democrats rejected the tax deal President Obama worked out with the Republicans that would extend unemployment benefits for two million workers, preserve  tax cuts for the working and middle classes, and according to a wide range of economists of varying ideological persuasions, will stimulate job growth.  The reason House Democrats found this deal unacceptable is because it also preserved the Bush tax cuts for the top income brackets.  Now all of the firebrands and armchair revolutionaries on the left who wanted to see a fight around this issue have got one…but be careful what you wish for.

Ironically, nobody in the Obama Administration likes the idea of maintaining the Bush era tax rates for the filthy rich; the President has said this repeatedly, including when he announced the deal.  But he can envision no way to get the things he wants for those Americans most in need of government assistance without entering into this compromise.  Neither can I.   And based on the things they are saying the President’s critics are clueless too; they don’t know how to bust that grape either.   Since it is clear that the Grand Obstructionist Party doesn’t give a shit about these struggling Americans, they will let unemployment benefits die and let tax rates rise.  After all, the Plutocrats they serve will survive; it’s the working people, in whose interests the pugnacious self-righteous pols in the Democratic Party claim to labor, that will go down to wreck and ruin.

It is one thing to witness this kind of reckless behavior from irresponsible ideologues on the left, who continue to confuse their ideological constructs about the world with reality; but we have a right to expect far better from people whose stock- in – trade is politics!   Their behavior is especially puzzling because all of them understand that if they don’t take this deal they will soon be facing a Republican dominated House that may do no telling what.  The only thing that we can be absolutely certain about is that their choices will be far worse!  Hence the deal must be done now!

Only people who are not facing eminent ruin, or have any real memory of it, can believe this is a wise course of action – especially as they all admit that they must do the deal within the next month.  Now that the Democrats in the House have rejected a done deal lets see what their plan is.  I can see no way to avoid the disaster President Obama seeks to avoid that does not involve this compromise.  Anyone who thinks that if the Democrats allow two million workers lose their unemployment, and tax rates rise on 156 million Americans, they can win the national election in 2012 is dangerously deluded!  I think their ass will be grass come 2012, as it ought to be!

This is no time for ideological posturing; real people’s lives are at stake.  And any way you read the results of the recent election it does not add up to a vote for more pain.  Although the results of their decisions at the polls seems designed with more pain in mind.

Which is why I argued that the election results were irrational – a triumph of the untutored mob. Yet decisions made by the professional left also contributed to this disaster at the polls.  Like the petulant morons who counseled people to stay home and not work vigorously to elect Democrats!

These people never learn; and although I share much of their vision of the ideal society I am not about to cut off my nose to spite my face by deciding to sit on the sidelines while the Tea Party out organizes us.  Everybody has a wish list of things they would like to see come to pass in America.  If it was left up to me I would have lined everybody  who played a part in the recent economic disaster on one side, and those who started the bogus war in Iraq on the other, and force them to fire at each other!   And I would slash the military budget drastically.  But I know that’s a pipe dream so I don’t bring them up in serious arguments.

Most on the left are not so reasonable; they routinely debate their wildest fantasies as if they are real.  Perhaps this explains why I can detect no semblance of a plan of action that can arrest the resurrection of the radical right emanating from the left.  In the aftermath of the political devastation wreaked by the royal ass whipping progressive forces received at the polls, the left continues to engage in internecine warfare between those who approach politics as a process by which relationships of power are shaped – which means gaining control over state power.  And those who view politics as endless polemics over obtuse ideological issues that hold no meaning for average Americans whatsoever.

To these leftist ideologues – who act much more like religious crusaders than sober political strategist who base their strategy and demands on the political realities – “the people” are ideological abstractions.  In their view the masses are ready for revolution, all they need is an ideologically correct vanguard to lead them!  It takes a powerful capacity for self deception in order to blot out the transparent facts of the American political landscape; taking refuge in abstract theorizing about who the American electorate really is in order to see them as chomping at the bit for the kind of progressive changes envisioned by the left. Sadly for the country, this delusion has prevented them from becoming a real player in American politics, and they have become contented in the role of a national debating society!

This exercise in willful deception which conceptualizes the masses of American workers as repressed agents of social change awaiting only the right catalyst to burst forth and revolutionize the USA, creating a just society based on socialist democracy; rather than the empty headed, jaded, racist, befuddled seekers after bread and circuses that most of them are, is the kind of dangerous delusion that leads the most passionate leftist ideologues into theoretical cul de-sacs.

The late great American man of letters  H. L. Mencken, pegged them just right when he dubbed the American electorate “Boobus Americanus.”  And this was at a time when Utopian Marxist were celebrating the “wisdom” of the masses.  If there was any doubt that Mencken was right the results of the last elections supplied conclusive evidence of his deep insight into the flaws in American character.  (See “Our Dysfunctional Democracy” and “Triumph Of The Untutored Mob!” )  The failure of the left to accept this reality and see the American electorate as they really are, is what now leads them to such frustration that their response to the election results resembles that of a sheriff who leads his posse into a town that has been ravaged by criminal gangs…and shoots the wounded!


Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

December 10, 2010

Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea!

Posted in Playthell on politics with tags , , on December 8, 2010 by playthell

Weighted Down by the Forces of History?

Barack Obama Strikes A Deal with GOP

At the risk of appearing wishy washy, I must confess that I agree with the compromise President Obama has struck with the Republicans regarding tax policy. I feel a need to declare this right off, since it was just day before yesterday that I demanded the President stand and fight; yield not another inch; even fall on his sword and be taken out bleeding on his shield: but never, never, give in: no more compromises with the evil doers who dwell in the dungeons of the Grand Obstructionist Party! I was encouraged in the moral righteousness and political correctness of my position by a swelling chorus on the left that seconded my emotions.

Everywhere I turned I found my conviction that the President should fight to the death before extending the Bush tax giveaways to the Plutocrats reinforced. The Democratic members of Congress echoed my thoughts like a Greek chorus.  I had even counted myself among those who would abandon the President should he refuse to take a stand – see “The President Must Stand And Fight!” –  especially since the latest poll showed that 56% of the public is opposed to extending Bush’s taxation folly, and 14% want to let all the tax cuts lapse.  That’s 70 % of the American public who are ready to back the President’s play if he chose to stand up to the Republican shills for the filthy rich.  And he has acknowledged this fact.  But it does nothing to help him achieve his critical objectives, which must be addressed immediately.

As I write the President is holding a press conference to explain his actions.  He presented his position with the clarity of a law professor enlightening his students about the workings of the American government.  His speech was clear and concise: he said the choice before him is to wage a fight that would eventually expose the Republicans as charlatans, but would also result in collateral damage to the millions of Americans who are depending on extended unemployment benefits, and millions more employed workers whose taxes would dramatically rise when all the tax cuts expire a month from now. Given these alternatives President Obama chose to address the critical needs of those whose economic survival depends on these benefits; even if it means that he has to compromise with the dreaded Republicans to do it.

The questions from the Washington press corps were predictable and some were too clever by half.  I think the President handled them like he was their daddy!   His attitude throughout was “I am the adult here, and this is no time for petulance.”  As I have said repeatedly Politics is the art of the possible; it is both art and science, a game for master players, and President Obama, guided by deep humanistic concerns, has played his hand just right.  Although neither he, nor I, like the deal he did, it was the only acceptable game on the table.  As Mr. Obama said “ Our country was born in compromise; without compromise we would have no union.”  All of this is true on its face.

Predictably, the know-it-all white boys – this time on the liberal left, are complaining about his style.  Mark Halpern, for instance, says the President “should have been bigger in his attitude.”  Halpern thought Mr. Obama was too confrontational; and this after all of the prattle about him being too easy. Even a guy as bright as Keith Olberman couldn’t resist taking cheap shots at the President for “getting angry with his democratic base.”

I have often said Keith is one of the smartest guys on television, but he is talking like a fool in this instance. The President expects the Republicans to oppose him no matter what he does; but he has every right to expect the Democrats to support him!  So when he pompously implored the President: “You are yelling at the wrong people,” I say Bullshit!  He is aiming his shots right where they belong!

The rest of the largely white left is also bitching and moaning – although the black left and reactionary racial nationalists are sometimes worst – yet none of them have any real solution to this dilemma.  Bernie Sanders, the independent socialist in the Senate, a man with whom I am normally in agreement, is actingly like a deluded ideologue by threatening to filibuster the bill that would consummate the deal.   The Senator, albiet well meaning, reminds me of the man who was running down the street and stumbled over the naked truth but ran on as if nothing had happened.   It is enough to make one wonder if these white boys cannot accept the fact that Barack Obama is way smarter than them – although white girls and many black girls are no better.   None of them seem to understand that that’s why he is the President and they are not!

These omnicient  pontificators conveniently forget that Barack won the most powerful office in the world even though he had to bear the burden of race on top of having to successfully negotiate all of the obstacles the white folks had to overcome.  I don’t think these guys can even imagine the troubles he’s seen; that’s why they don’t recognize that they are in the presence of a superior politician and theoretician.  Although Barack was forced by the political realities to extend the tax cuts for the Plutocrats for two more years, in return he got tax cuts for workers and the middle class – some of whose tax burdens would have doubled – extended unemployment benefits for the long term unemployed, and secured tax breaks for college expenses.  And judging from the predictions coming from the business sector, it may very well have the added advantage of stimulating investment in the US economy which will result in job creation.

Hence the President did not walk away empty handed; he struck quite a bargain on behalf of millions of Americans  – 156 million all told – who desperately need the benefits he is providing.  And I’ll bet they are ecstatic about it. I have heard nothing from the President’s critics that even make sense, let alone offer a better solution.  Beyond expressions of self-rightous anger and wishful thinking there is no there there!   Furthermore…. it has not escaped my notice that all the people in the press and peanut gallery who are screaming for the President to let the unemployment benefits for millions lapse, in order to teach the Republicans a lesson, are all gainfully employed.





Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York


Legros Honors Our Great Artist!

Posted in Cultural Matters, Theater with tags , on December 6, 2010 by playthell

Actress Vinie Burrows with Sierra Leone Ambassador and Friend

Legros Cultural Arts Inc. held their third  annual awards ceremony to honor outstanding artists at the elegant Gonzalez Y Gonzales, a Latin supper club on the lower east side of Manhattan.  It was a multi cultural affair covering a wide array of artists. The program began with a solo dance performance especially choreographed for this occasion.  It was both imaginative and dynamic and was an excellent way to begin the festivities.

Kamaria Dailey!

The Magic Of Movement


The Majesty Of Dance


Anu Anam!

A Visual Alchemist Synthesizing Two Worlds

The first recipient was Ms. Anu Annam, a beautiful and elegant East Indian woman who is a visual artist.  But like all of the artists honored here she is a socially conscious cultural worker who has worked on a number of projects such as Haitian relief.  She told of being bi-cultural, regularly traveling back and forth between India and the US.  Ms. Anum spoke of the experience as enriching, and noted the difference in the status of South Asians in the US.  She also spoke of the pressure from parents to do something “safe” like become a doctor or lawyer.  But after they saw the millions that performing artists like Beyonce is making they have accepted her choice.  She also paid high compliments to Legros for bringing her together with such a diverse group of Artists, thus broadening her cultural perspective.

The next honoree was the photographer Jocelyn Denis.  She was a jovial and loquacious lady, oozing with charm and beaming with intelligence.  Her remark about photography reminds me of  the legendary Afro-American photographer James Vanderzee, one of the great photographic artist of the twentieth century.  When she said  “If no body photographs an event how do you know it actually happened?”  I was reminded of Vanderzee’s comment when he looked around at the splendor of the Harlem Reniassance and observed: “A Picture will last forever.”


Ms. Jocelyn Denis: Photographer Of Our Cultural Life

Sharing a bright moment with her Lawyer



The Exquisite Ms. Noreen Crayton

Singer, Songwriter, Thespian

Ms. Crayton was one of the most eloquent of the recipients.  Having begun her singing career in the church, as has so many other great black singers, she was warm, charming and intelligent. And she give abundant props to Legos for creating this forum where multi-cultural  artists can meet and interact.  She was a delight to listen to.


Vinie Burrows: A Great Lady Of the American Stage

Actress, Playwright, Producer, Theater Founder, Freedom fighter!

Ms. Vinie Burrows has given 6,000 performances that she can document.  There is no greater American Thespian than this lady. Upon her introduction by the eloquent and erudite playwright J. E. Franklin, the audience gave her a rousing ovation.  She began by thanking the many people from varied walks of life who came out to honor her.  Then Ms. Burrows recalled that early on she began to understand that she “had to struggle not only as a black person but as a woman.” She said of upon receiving her Lifetime Award, “In my case, a life time is very long time.” Yet she chose to exercise the woman’s prerogative and leave us to guess at her age – which is superfluous in this instance because she is nimble of mind and young at heart.

Ms. Burrows recalls that she was primed for the life she has led in the theater with the mysterious rituals of the Catholic Church.  “My sense of struggle came from growing up during the Great Depression.” And her encounters with the racism of the commercial theater led her to concentrate on the one woman shows.  Of which she created eight: “I not only made a living; I made a great life.”

This is an important distinction that too many young actors do not understand.  For them its all about the “bling,” the glitter and glamour.  After lamenting the dreadful economic climate that young people are facing today, and reminding us of the need to struggle in behalf of the freedom of oppressed everywhere, she gave a dramatic reading of Margret Walker’s epic poem “For My People!”

It was a performance that at once captured both the pathos and joi de vivre of Afro-American life.  Ms. Walkers epic Poem, though written in the middle of the last century continues to ring true today.  It is only through those sensitive souls who can feel the pain of a people that we can experience the full depth of that people’s saga.  And in accurately capturing the hopes, dreams, pain and passions of a single people the poet becomes seer and her truth becomes universal!  Ms. Burrows brought the entire range of our experience to life and illuminated our humanity.

After Ms. Burrows retired to her seat, another great American thespian and engaged artist, the fabulous Ruby Dee, took the stage to sing her praises.  It was spiritually uplifting just to be in the presence of these great women; freedom fighters  whose art was forged in the fires of struggle.  After Ms. Dee concluded her remarks a lady singer with powerful pipes took the stage and sang “Feeling  Free,” which she said was a Nina Simone song.  She sang in a passionate voice that called our spirits to rejoice in the celebration of art.  The entire evening was testimony to the healing power of great art.  Bravo!


Sable Sisters Of The  American Theater

Grand Dames: Actress Ruby Dee and Playwright J. E. Franklin!


Eye Candy! Was Everywhere!

You can Always Tell Dancers By Their Splendid Bodies



A Trinidadian Face Man

The Lone Male Honoree

Stephen Hadeed Jr.  A Gentleman Thespian


In Recognition Of a Job Well Done!



Text and Photographs By:

Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

Dec 1, 2010