Archive for December, 2011

Postscript on the Iraq War

Posted in Cultural Matters, On Foreign Affairs, Playthell on politics on December 30, 2011 by playthell

A Bombed out crater where buildings used to be

Rethinking American Exceptionalism

The question on the lips of all thoughtful Americans just now, as American flags are lowered for the last time over Iraqi territory and our warriors disembark, is was it worth all the American blood and treasure our nation expended there?  How one answers this question depends upon your perspective and values; which are shaped by a multiplicity of factors.  Among these none are more influential than class, knowledge of the facts at the time of the invasion, historical memory, ideology, general educational level, race, and whether or not you believe in the dangerous myth of American Exceptionalism.

Of all our misconceptions as a nation, this fervent belief that white Americans have been exceptionally good and just among the peoples of the world has been the most destructive.  It is the reason that the majority of Americans can get all choked up reciting the time worn mantra extolling the USA as the one country that has always stood for freedom, justice and equality for everyone.  The problem is that it’s not true!

There is much for which Americans can justly take a bow: the first people in the world to found a nation on the universal humanist principle that “all men are created equal,” and produced a constitution that placed power so thoroughly in the hands of the people that 200 years later those who govern must still have the consent of the governed.  These are achievements that deserve sustained applause.  However when the story stops there it distorts the master narrative so grotesquely the American saga becomes a dangerous self-serving lie!

Alas, this is also a country born in genocide and slavery; its European settlers perpetrated the largest case of land theft in modern history; passed laws that made it legal to sell the children of black parents and violate their wedding bed at will, and the Supreme Court of the land once decreed that “black men have no rights that a white man is bound to respect.”

These pious bible thumping Puritans slaughtered Native Americans and other people of color with impunity; shot workers down it the streets when they attempted to organize; and instituted a legal color caste system based on White Supremacy that spans most of the history of this country; a system based on a master race theory so vicious it served as the blueprint for the Nurnberg Laws the Nazi’s used to arrest and slaughter millions of European Jews!

The ideology that led to genocide by the racial hygenicists in Nazi Germany was deeply rooted in the American Eugenicist movement.  This movement, which was based in 19th century Social Darwinist ideas that argued the class and racial hierarchy in society reflected the natural endowments of the population, took root in American society in the early twentieth century.  Eugenicist propagated the belief that some groups genes should be reproduced because they improved the quality of the nation’s population, and conversely some genes should not be reproduced because it led to an increase of mentally, physically and morally defective people that weakened the nation.

These ideas were fashionable in the US decades before the rise of Nazism in Germany and were promoted by elite academic institutions such as Stanford University. In 1902 Stanford’s President, David Starr, published a treatise titled “The Blood of a Nation,” which argued that human qualities and deficits such as talent, poverty, criminal behavior, etc. were transmitted through a person’s blood.  These ideas were subsidized by the super-rich class Franklin Roosevelt would derisively but accurately label “The economic royalist,” through foundations they set up to fund causes they believed would improve American society.

The main culprits in funding this so-called “race science” were the Rockerfeller, Carnegie and Harriman foundations, and the enlisted professors from Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Stanford among others.  The ideas promoted by the Eugenicists informed policy makers who instituted racial apartheid; laws preventing marriage or procreation between whites and non-whites, discrimination against non- Tuetonic white ethnics in immigration policy and elswhere; anti-unionism, and forced sterilization.

The Rockefeller Foundation even funded the notorious Nazi doctor Josef Mengele’s research before he took up his criminal practice at Auswitz, a death camp where European Jews were slaughtered en-mass. And British historian Edwin Black, whose parents were Jewish holocaust survivors, has written a detailed account of how the IBM corporation supplied machines to the Nazi’s that enabled them to carry out the mass murder of Jews with industrial efficiency.  See: IBM and the Holocaust.

The ultimate connection of racist American ideology and Practices with the rise of Nazism in Germany lay in the connection between Adolph Hitler and the influential New York Eugenicist Madison Grant.  A lawyer and President of the New York Zoological Society and founder of the Bronx Zoo, Grant published a ponderous tome titled “The Passing of the Great Race” in 1917.

Here was the classic statement of the case that the blond Teutonic master race is the source of all great civilizations. The arguments in this book were virtually cut and pasted in Hitler’s manifesto Mein Kempt, his recounting of racial history is all based on Grant’s pseudo-scientific thesis. While this is obvious from a reading of the two texts, historian Jonathan Spiro discovered a letter from Der Fuerer while sifting through Grant’s papers in which Hitler declared: “Your book is my bible!” See: Defending the Master Race: Conservation, Eugenics, and the Legacy of Madison Grant

Hitler’s Mentor
A Passionate Racist

The evil system of legal racial oppression in America, that was the incubator of these racist theories, spanned a couple of centuries.  It was finally ended only 47 years ago by the Civil Rights Bill of 1964, which was only supported by many in the white power elite when it became clear that the Russians were using the black American freedom struggle as propaganda.

The Russians designed propaganda employing images of black children being vicious beaten by policemen because they wanted to get a drink of water at a lunch counter, to dissuade the emerging nations of Africa and Asia from allying with the US led NATO block – which was largely composed of their former colonial masters – and show them that white Americans were no different.

Hence the Afro-American struggle for basic human rights was an international embarrassment that exposed white Americans as hypocrites who routinely betrayed the values they seek to preach to the rest of the world, and our nation’s economic inequality has become just as potent an argument against US values.

As Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey said in his recent speech at the Reagan Library – a curious mix of fact and fiction – “America’s role and significance in the world is defined, first and foremost, by who we are at home. It is defined by how we conduct ourselves with each other. It is defined by how we deal with our own problems. It is determined in large measure by how we set an example for the world… one of the most powerful forms of foreign policy is the example we set.”

However clueless Christie is divorced from reality like all right-wing ideologues who hoist the banner of American Exceptionalism.  Hence he didn’t really understand that his statement was an indictment and not the celebration of American values he intended it to be.  His confusion of fact and fiction was nowhere better demonstrated than in the claim that “Unfortunately, through our own domestic political conduct of late, we have failed to live up to our own tradition of exceptionalism.”  Could he really believe that this is a recent problem?

The sad fact is that our history demonstrates the USA has a split personality; the contradiction between the professed ideals of the nation and the exercise of power by the white elite –which I consider the major theme of our history – is the essence of schizophrenia. It comes as no news that Americans are shamefully ignorant of our history; yet it is shocking to see such ignorance or denial – which has taken the form of a dangerous self-deception – expressed before the world press by a man who is touted as the best Republican prospect for the presidency.  The failure to accept who we really are, a nation with high ideals and tragic flaws, has led much of America’s leadership to believe that our perfection, our Exceptionalism, gives us the right to invade other countries and effect “regime change.”

What must change however is the self-righteous arrogance with which Americans exercise power in the world. To his credit Christie clearly understands this, although he will have his work cut out trying to convince the rest of his party. He observes: “The United States must also become more discriminating in what we try to accomplish abroad. We certainly cannot force others to adopt our principles through coercion. Local realities count; we cannot have forced makeovers of other societies in our image. We need to limit ourselves overseas to what is in our national interest so that we can rebuild the foundations of American power here at home…”

If this does not become the accepted view of American leaders and the general public, the Iraq debacle will really have been all for naught and we shall soon be at war with Iran.  I can already hear the sabers rattling!  This would be a catastrophe that could fatally wound our political economy, promote protracted conflict at home, and end American prominence in the world.

For the true believers it is impossible to accept that this bloody three trillion dollar assault on an unoffending nation, was a criminal mistake.  That this ten year conflict resulting in the destruction of tens of thousands of American lives…through death and devastating life altering injuries to their minds and bodies  – overwhelmingly from the working poor and unemployed –  may well result in a worse situation than they found; that America’s cure was worse than the disease.

But as the bombs go off in Bagdad, a sure sign that the Sunnis and Shiites have resumed their murderous 18 hundred year old conflict over some esoteric theological disagreement, which renders each side apostates in the eyes of the other, it will be hard to escape the conclusion the American invasion has made the lives of most Iraqis worse. and our position in the Middle east more perilous.

None of the Republican candidates for president dare admit that the Iraq War was a tragic fiasco, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi’s, unleashing antagonistic religious conflicts which insure the killing will continue long after American  forces are gone, and expanding the influence of their fellow Shiites in Iran.

Instead the princes and powers of the Grand Obstructionist Party escape into flights of fantasy of the sort that we are hearing from Senator John “Insane in the Brain” McCain, and echoed in the hysterical rhetoric of his hawkish right-wing cohorts. Most of these dunderheads defer to Senator McCain because, it spite of their tough talk they have never served in the armed forces…never placed themselves in harm’s way.  Yet they are the first to call for the deployment of American troops everywhere in the world, and seem to have never heard of an opportunity to invade some country they could refuse.

McCain says President Obama’s decision to end the 10 year old war in Iraq is an act of political opportunism; that we should stay there until we can leave with honor in victory.  The careful observer can see the glint of madness in his eyes, as he puffs up like a blow fish while spouting murderous madness that bears no relationship to reality.

McCain’s vision and judgment is hopelessly blurred by the fact that he has never recovered from his experience in Vietnam, where he not only witnessed the retreat of the “invincible” American military juggernaut, defeated by a peasant army who labeled themselves the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam, but he loathes the fact that his high tech jet was shot down, captured, and then told when and where to shit, shave and shower by little brown Asian warriors whom he still calls “gooks!”

We are fortunate indeed that Barack Obama was elected President of the USA; had McCain won the election we would already be at war with Iran and probably Pakistan too, and instead of withdrawing American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan we would be widening that war in search of an illusory “victory” no one can define. we Although this entire debacle is arguably the worst diplomatic disaster in American history, the leading Republican candidate for President is surrounding himself with foreign policy advisers who were the architects of Bush’s Iraq war policy!

It’s long past time for us to get out of Iraq, and Afghanistan too!  Yet Republican candidates are vying with each other to be the first to bomb Iran, and the severe sanctions against that country contained in the new military authorization bill could force Iran into taking actions that could lead to war, in fact all the signs suggest that as I write we are blundering into war with Iran.

If anything is clear in all this, it is that we must struggle to keep the warmongers of the “Grand Obstructionist Party” out of the Oval Office and the leadership of Congress. That is the most urgent lesson of the Iraq War.  And as to the question of American Exceptionalism, we would do well to consider this observation by the great 20th century Irish writer George Bernard Shaw: “America is the only country in the history of the world to go from barbarism to decadence without ever passing through civilization.”  If you believe that institutionalized racial oppression and a recurrent tendency to invade other countries barbaric…Shaw has a point.

Shaw: Playwright and  Fabian Socialist

Was he Right?


Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New york

December 30, 2011

Is Ron Paul a Racist Texas Cracker?

Posted in Playthell on politics with tags , , , on December 24, 2011 by playthell
                    The Quack Who Would Be King

 Is Libertarianism a Cloak for Racism?

The revelation that Congressman Ron Paul once published News Letters filled with racist invective – even counseling whites how to murder black youths and get away with it – is sending shock waves of surprise and disgust across the nation.  And the reckless anti-Semitism of some of the diatribes he published seals his fate as a failed presidential aspirant. Like everybody else it caught me by surprise, yet I was not as shocked as many.

I have always suspected that some of the views expressed by Libertarians under the guise of limiting government were racist.  One of the main reasons for my ambivalence was that there were blacks who subscribed to libertarian views…most notably “The Sage of South Central,” who is a lawyer and built a career in major media based on these views.

Larry Elder: “The Sage of South Central?”

Leader of the Right-Wing Coon Platoon

All the talk from people like Ron Paul about the Supreme Court having wrongly decided the Brown v Board of Education case, and his insistence that the 1964 Omnibus Civil Rights Bill is unconstitutional, roused my suspicion.  It was easy for people to dismiss the racist implications of these comments because the eccentric Texas Congressman spouts a lot of mindless anti-government prattle. His obsession with the Federal Reserve System and his pledge to dismantle government regulatory agencies, like the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy, are so crazy it is easy to just dismiss him as a quack rather than a racist.

However as one who grew up under American apartheid – segregation was the term of art – I am naturally suspicious of anybody who presents arguments against the governmental actions employed to end it.  Although Ron Paul denies that he is a racist, or that his views are influenced by an allegiance to racist ideology, if his views had been adopted by the Congress and Supreme Court the consequences for black Americans would have been such that in reality it wouldn’t matter if he is a racist or not; alas the apartheid system of white privilege and black oppression would have remained intact.  Thus whether or not he was acting out of racist motives would be a distinction without a difference in real life.

Coming from anyone the idea that the centuries old system of white supremacy would have simply disappeared on its own due to “market forces” would be folly; but for someone like Ron Paul, who grew up under that system, it is a sign of a deluded if not deranged personality.  In other words, I suspected that Paul was either a fool, madman, or a lying racist charlatan.  I have come to believe that he is a bit of all these things.

His ideas about the role of government are those of a madman, a deluded iconoclast on a mission, especially his proposal to dismantle the Energy Department which controls our nuclear arsenal and regulates civilian atomic energy companies.  He has also pledged to scrap the EPA which protects us from industrial pollution of our air and water among myriad other vital functions.

And evidence has now surfaced leaves no doubt that the old quack is also a virulent racist!  Alas he is leading the Republican pack in the first  primary race in Iowa.  It will be interesting to see how Ron Paul’s young acolytes will respond to the revelations that, although they have been a subject of controversy in the Texas media since 1994, Ron Paul used to publish scurrilous racist propaganda.

How many of these Activist are bewitched by Paul

Learning through struggle 

This is no picayune matter.  The question that continues to agitate me is: How did the major media sleep on this for so long?  Consider some of the sentiments published in Ron Paul’s newsletters, which were published under various brands:  Ron Paul’s Political Report, Ron Paul’s Freedom Report and the Ron Paul Survival Report. After studying Paul’s News Letters the London Guardian, one of the great newspapers of the world, reported that they “compared African Americans to zoo animals, warned of a coming race war, and generally promoted racist, anti-Semitic, and fringe militia views.”

However when Paul was questioned about the contents of his publications by veteran CNN reporter Gloria Borgia recently he got huffy and said “”Why don’t you go back and look at what I said yesterday on CNN and what I’ve said for 20 something years. 22 years ago?” He told Gloria Borger in reference to the racist diatribes: “I didn’t write them, I disavow them. That’s it.”

When Ms. Borgia persisted in asking questions as to how he could not have known that these articles were being published in his newsletters, especially since he had made a million dollars off them in 1993, Paul insisted that these racist tirades were written by other writers whose identities he can’t recall. Then the Texas Congressman really got pissed off, lost his famous cool, and stormed off the set during the interview!

However, like many fallen political stars, Paul’s contemptuous behavior towards the mainstream press has only served to attract other nosey reporters who are poking around trying to see what else he is attempting to hide.  And they have unearthed a real can of worms.  For instance, USA Today’s Jackie Kucinich, recently dug up Paul’s response to questions about the racist tirades in his newsletters in an interview with the Dallas Morning News in 1996.

Kucinich points out that occasion the devious doctor admitted that he knew of the racist tirades and even offered an explanation.  But he jumped out of the frying pan into the fire when he argued that the following statement was based on objective research that came from research compiled elsewhere.  “Given the inefficiencies of what DC laughingly calls the criminal justice system,” the newsletter argued,  “I think we can safely assume that 95% of the black males in that City are semi-criminal or entirely criminal.”

What kind of America would it be for black men if this deranged old racist cracker became President?  As one reads the succession of pathologically racist statements that flow from publications bearing his name they take on the character of vicious parody worthy of a black/face minstrel show for Ku Klux Klansmen.

If Paul’s views were put into a movie it would be a 21st century version of “Birth of a Nation,” D. W. Griffiths 1915 racist parody of Reconstruction era politicians and that denigrates of black males in general.  It is a movie that rivals Leni Riefenstahl’s path-breaking Nazi propaganda film “Triumph of the Will,” which won the hearts and minds of Germans for Hitler, in its celebration of the Klan and justification of terrorism and racist murders of black people.  The growth of the Ku Klux Klan increased dramatically as a result of Birth of a Nation; especially after President Woodrow Wilson, who was a former Princeton history Professor, declare the movie to be factually true and called it “history writ in lightening.”

The scene in Birth of a Nation where Afro-American Congressmen are eating chickens and watermelons while Congress was in session presages Paul’s statement that the LA riots, which were a response to the police brutalizing of Rodney King that the entire world watched with horror on television, only ended “When it came time to pick up their welfare checks.”

In another diatribe he accuses Dr. Martin Luther King of “seducing underage boys and girls.” He characterizes the late great Texas Congresswoman Barbara Jordon – one of the most eloquent and brilliant members of Congress, and by far Paul’s superior as a legislator – as “”Barbara Morondon…an archetypical half-educated victimologist.”  This kind of racist invective goes on ad nauseum in Paul’s publications.

The question for black Americans is: If this is what the deranged doctor thinks about our best and brightest, what tha fuck does he think about the rest of us?  Since we can pretty much deduce the answer to that question, in spite of phony apologia from his white supporters and black Tea Party quislings, the question is what kind of white folks does he appeal to?  Who are his constituents?

In a classic apology for Paul’s racist screed  written by Michael Brendan Dougherty, the politics editor at Business Insider, and published in the Atlantic Magazine, we get a look at who Paul’s constituents are.  “As crazy as it sounds,” Dougherty writes, “Ron Paul’s newsletter writers may not have been sincerely racist at all. They actually thought appearing to be racist was a good political strategy in the 1990s. “

Dougherty goes on to explain that this racist appeal was part of a strategy to reach poor uneducated whites they called, “Outreach to Rednecks,” because they were looking for a way to “to insert their libertarian theories into the middle of the nation’s political passions.”  Hence Ron Paul deliberately cultivated racial hatred for political advantage; he is the most despicable kind of racial provocateur.

Now we are told that the ditzy doctor has abandoned his racist strategy, however some of his followers obviously didn’t get the message.  As I write, an avowed Ron Paul acolyte and California Tea Party zealot from Carson City California, Jules Manson, is calling for the murder of President Obama and his “monkey children.”  He even posted the call on Facebook before the company took it down; yet as of this writing he still has the site.  I hope the Secret Service busts his dumb deranged cracker ass!!!

Jules Manson

 The would be assassin, Murder mouthing the President

This incident reminds us that despite the presence of some prominently displayed blacks like Allen West and Herman Cain, many of their white Tea Party compatriots view them as lackeys and lawn jockeys.  When you look at the racist imagery they have created to depict President Obama, who is brighter than these two mugs put together, it is inconceivable that they envision Cain and Alan as other than fools and buffoons.

Congressman Allen West
 A Shameless Quisling and Self Hatin Sambo!

However nowhere is the adage “politics make strange bedfellows” more dramatically demonstrated than in the mix match crew that form Ron Paul’s constituency.  Aside from the racist and weirdoes, there is a growing contingent of idealistic young people, many of them college students.  They are mostly attracted to his anti-Fed mumbo jumbo and his foreign policy declarations.  The strange character of Ron Paul’s acolytes reflects the bizarre nature of his ideas.

Like a broken clock that’s right twice a day, Paul gets it right on some foreign policy questions.  His insistence that the attack on 9/11 was the result of American foreign policy in the Middle-East is undeniably true; as is his insistence that the growing Iran hysteria is based on dangerous lies that could well land us into another major war in the Middle East that will prove even more costly than the wars we are now ending!

It is this honesty, amid a hail of lies, deceptions, evasions and denial of reality that characterize the views of his Republican adversaries, that has won Paul a following among politically naïve, historically illiterate, idealistic young people.  However they are destined for heartbreak because Ron Paul’s pretentions to the Oval Office are doomed to failure.  As well they should.

His ideas about government are dangerous and silly, and his fantasies about race are odious and a menace to the stability of this Republic.  Futhermore he fiendishly taps into some very old Christian prejudices that have led to mass murder when he accuses “the Jews” of bombing the World Trade Center!   I’ll bet that’s where the mindles anti-Semitism spouted by some of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators comes from.   For these reasons, even if   Ron Paul should come up with a good idea, most people will dismiss it out of hand because he has convinced them that he is a pugnacious buffoon spouting madness.  I say good goddam riddance!  The last thing we need is a racist Texas Cracker in the White House.

Who Knew?

 They sent in the clowns!


Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

December 23, 2011


“Fighting Fire with a Feather”

Posted in Cultural Matters, Guest Commentators, Playthell on politics with tags , , , , , on December 20, 2011 by playthell

Brother Ed Brown

 SNCC Comrades Commune together 50 years later

Remembering Ed Brown: Pan-African Soldier 

“His devotion, eloquence and generosity of spirit has ennobled and adorned the movement in our time. Because of his quiet self-confidence and humility he never sought publicity but thousands, especially poor folk, here and on the Continent have had their lives vastly improved by Ed’s effectiveness and compassion. He is truly one of the great un-sung heroes of our generation.  We shall not soon see his like again.”[Ekwueme Michael Thelwell]

 Eddie Charles Brown, Jr., a great-souled human being committed to fighting the oppression of all people from Mississippi to South Africa, died at his home on November 23, 2011. In political circles, Ed was respected for his enduring commitment to our people. As a consequence of his tireless devotion to, and success in advancing the culture and economic progress of poor black folk, Ed Brown was widely recognized as among the most incorruptible, responsible, resourceful and effective of the activist leaders of the Movement. As his SNCC colleagues said of him, “More than most, Ed’s life embodies and exemplifies to a remarkable degree, the principle of undying love for our people both here and in the Motherland.”

Although the consummate organizer and political activist, in matters of the aesthetics of black musical culture and the southern oral tradition, Ed had the soul of a poet and the eloquence of a griot. Similarly, his great sensitivity to African cultures is reflected in the quality of the extraordinary collection of traditional African religious art, which he and his wife Valinda have painstakingly gathered over many years.

A year prior to his passing Ed gave his Shahada (acceptance of Islam) to his younger brother the Imam Jamil Al-Amin (formerly known as H. Rap Brown) to whom Ed’s observable devotion, loyalty and commitment was widely seen as an unconditional and admirable example of brotherly love.  The janaza (last rites) for Ed were held November 24, 2011 at the West End Community Mosque in Atlanta, Georgia.

 Freedom fighter: Imam Jamil Al Amin

 Ed Remained Devoted to his Brother

A native of Louisiana, Ed was born, on August 19, 1941 to Thelma Warren and Eddie Charles Brown, Sr. in New Orleans and raised in Baton Rouge. Ed’s historical efforts to fight segregation and all forms of oppression as well as to empower Black people started in 1960 as young student at Louisiana’s Southern University.  He and 16 other classmates confronted the University and staged a sit-in protesting the racial segregation prevalent in Louisiana at the time.

After he and the others were arrested, expelled and banned from enrolling in any university in Louisiana, Ed began the ongoing struggle for justice, which would define his entire life.  This expulsion led Ed to Howard University in Washington, D.C. in 1961, where he landed on the front line of the Civil Rights Movement.  As a leader and organizer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) he fought to win constitutional rights for Blacks and all disenfranchised people.

During SNCC’s historic Mississippi Summer project of 1964 he was project director in embattled Holmes County, the heart of the Delta.  Ed always proclaimed that he was “fighting fire with a feather,” but he knew he would prevail because he often ironically said, he was protected by “asbestos gloves.”

SNCC attracted the best and brighest

Inspiring Young People of concience like Bob Dylan 
And Wise Elders Too

The Great American writer James Balwin hangin with SNCC workers

A Life of Service

As will be seen from the details which follow, in a busy and active life, Ed never held a job not directly concerned with human advancement.  Highly regarded for a selfless incorruptibility in white political and philanthropic circles, Ed bridged the gap between both communities and was able to direct very significant financial resources into poor black communities.

The three abiding concerns guiding his professional life here and in Africa can be seen to have been: democratic political liberation, economic empowerment and the celebration and enhancement of our peoples’ cultures. By virtue of Ed’s efforts in these areas a great many thousands of people have had their lives significantly improved.

Among fellow workers, he is remembered for his uncommon diplomatic skill, personal charm and political tact.  Kalamu Ya Salaam who served with him on the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Commission recalls, “What I most remember is that the respect he commanded coupled with a delightful sense of humor and tact enabled him to soothe the most outrageous egos, resolve conflicts and bring apparently irreconcilable warring factions harmoniously back together.”

As a staffer at the Citizen’s Crusade Against Poverty in Washington, D.C., in 1965, Ed developed information networks among community-based organizations to support anti-poverty legislation.   In 1967, he organized efforts to improve the political and economic conditions of Blacks in the Mississippi Delta as the Executive Director and founder of the Mississippi Action for Community Education (MACE) and The Delta Foundation in Greenville, Mississippi.

At MACE, he developed community-based enterprises producing Fine Vines blue jeans and establishing catfish farms in the Delta.  In 1974, Ed raised funds and helped organize the Sixth Pan African Congress held at the University of Tanzania at Dar-es-Salaam’s Nkrumah Hall with delegates representing 52 independent states and/or liberation movements in Africa, the Caribbean and other people of African descent.

As Executive Director of the New Orleans Area Development Project in 1976, Ed organized advocacy groups to work for reform by organizing communities to fight police brutality and creating parent-teacher committees for education reform.  Ed went on to serve as President and CEO of the Southern Agriculture Corporation in the 1980s where

he worked to organize and gain capital funding for small Black southern farmers. In the 1990s as Executive Director of the Voter Education Project in Atlanta, Ed continued his tireless efforts to register Blacks and poor people to vote and to fight legislation restricting poor and disenfranchised people of all color from voting.

From the 1990s through 2006, Ed took his “asbestos gloves” to nations outside the United States.  As a senior consultant to the National Democratic Institute, Ed designed and implemented civic and voter education programs to prepare for national elections in Ethiopia, Namibia, Zambia, Nigeria, and Zimbabwe.  He was especially involved in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa which resulted in the freeing of Nelson Mandela.  As an international election observer for The Jimmy Carter Center, Ed worked in Ghana, Zambia and The Dominican Republic.

As a human rights activist in corporate board rooms, Ed served on the World Council of Churches and Emergency Fund for Southern Africa raising funds for humanitarian relief; at the Center for National Security Studies monitoring American defense policies and budgets; and with the American Friends Service Committee, U.S. Department of Agriculture Citizens Advisory Committee Equal Opportunity and Atlanta Council for International Cooperation.  He also consulted with the Asian Council of Churches and participated in the Consultation of Minority Peoples of Japan in Tokyo.

In addition to his international work during this time, from 1994 until 2003, Ed moved into the arena of municipal and city planning as southeastern marketing director for Sidney B. Bowne Engineering. He served as the strategic planner developing relationships between the company and city and state officials in the company’s negotiation and establishment of Geography Information Systems.  He worked on transition teams for the mayors of Macon and Albany, Georgia, in 2003 as a consultant with ABC Management where he evaluated and recommended management of staff for city departments and developed strategic plans for incoming mayoral administrations.

Ed developed an early appreciation and love of art while studying at Howard University under Professor Sterling Brown.  He became especially interested in the history of African art and cultures. During his later journeys throughout the continent, he began collecting African sculptures and masks which he and his wife, Valinda, expanded with African and African-American art.  Ed became a co-owner of Boston’s Harris/Brown Art Gallery, which exhibited major African-American artists.  He is widely known for furthering dialogue regarding the importance of nurturing artists of African-American and African descent.

 Professor Sterling Brown: Poet and Literary Scholar
  Mentor to Ed Brown and Tony Morrison

As a board member of the High Museum of Art, he was especially proud of being instrumental in helping to establish the annual David Driskell Young Artist Award.  He also served on the board of the Atlanta Photography Group where he chaired the Youth Education Program and as chairman of the Funding Committee of the Academy Theater. Ed’s many years of advocating the ascension of African-American artists has resulted in their inclusion in successful exhibitions at various art venues.

Ed’s love and dedication to Black culture embraced music of all kind.  He established and promoted the Mississippi Delta Blues Festival while at MACE.  He especially enjoyed jazz and gospel and he and his wife made annual pilgrimages to New Orleans for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. But Ed’s most enjoyable times at his home with Valinda were preparing deliciously wonderful New Orleans cuisines and sharing those absolutely satisfying meals with friends and family who prized the opportunity to get a cup of Ed’s Gumbo.

Ed was a master New Orleans Chef, who was admired deliciously for his seafood, duck, or pheasant gumbos, and quail in rich brown sauce, and turtle soup with sherry and crawfish bisque and fried catfish and spinach shrimp dressing and sweet potato pone. His demonstrations of affection for food and sharing led to his wife’s publication of a loving cookbook.  Ed was an elaborate storyteller, so with each meal came colorful adventures with Ed Brown.

 Keeping a Great Tradition Alive
  At The Mississippi Delta Blues Heritage Festival

Ed was a passionate historian of African culture and he accumulated a large library of African history.  He spent many rewarding years studying Yoruba culture.  During the 1970s with an extended stay in Nigeria, following an elaborate ritual that included him running alongside camels with a net over his head, Ed was initiated into the ruling Ogboni Society of Yoruba manhood.

Ed Brown is survived by his loving wife, Valinda; three sons, Michael Johnson, Kevin George and Keith George; two sisters, Pat Brown Leak (Alex) and Cheryl Brown Hill (Donald); brothers Jamil Al-Amin (Karima) and Lance Brown (Pat); grandchildren Alexis Johnson, Aliyah Johnson, Tyler Johnson, Kristin George, Christopher George, Brandon George and nieces, nephews, cousins and a host of other family and friends.

Ancestral Spirits

The Art Ed Loved 


BY: Professor Michael Thelwell

Pelham Massachusetts

December 2011














Barack Obama and the Global Jihad

Posted in Playthell on politics with tags , , on December 16, 2011 by playthell
President Lincoln After the battle of Antietam            


“The Constitution Is Not a Suicide Pact”


On Terrorism, Unlimited Detention and the Constitution

A fire storm is brewing around President Obama, as hysterics on the left and right vociferously denounce his decision not to veto the National Defense Authorization Act, which they claim ushers in a police state – the same argument they made about the “Patriot Act.”  The NDAA authorizes the continued pursuit of terrorist in every country around the world – wherever the intelligence reports leads – including the US.  It also authorizes American forces to capture terror suspects and empowers the government to detain them indefinitely without stating charges and bringing them to a speedy trial.

The core of the complaint against the President was succinctly stated by Laura W. Murphy, the director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “If President Obama signs this bill, it will damage both his legacy and America’s reputation for upholding the rule of law. The last time Congress passed indefinite detention legislation was during the McCarthy era and President Truman had the courage to veto that bill.”  However there are obvious problems with this argument.

Whether the first assertion is true – that signing this legislation will ruin the president’s legacy and the reputation of the US – is a matter of speculation about the future.  But referencing the McCarthy era is a false historical analogy, because the American homeland had suffered no military attack and was in no imminent danger of one.

If one insist upon engaging in the risky business of constructing historical analogies, a practice many professional historians avoid, a comparison of President Obama’s actions with those of Abraham Lincoln’s during the Civil War would be on much firmer ground. What is at question here is the scope of the theater of war and the denial of Habeas Corpus, the constitutional provision that requires the government to charge a detainee within 72 hours or release them.

Abraham Lincoln – who is now almost universally regarded as our greatest President, the savior of the Union –  not only ignored a Writ of Habeas Corpus  issued by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Roger B. Taney – author of the notoriously racist Dred Scott Decision – but Lincoln suspended the right of Habeas Corpus altogether on September 24, 1862.  His executive order offered this explanation:

during the existing insurrection and as a necessary measure for suppressing the same, all Rebels and Insurgents, their aiders and abettors within the United States, and all persons discouraging volunteer enlistments, resisting militia drafts, or guilty of any disloyal practice, affording aid and comfort to Rebels against the authority of United States, shall be subject to martial law and liable to trial and punishment by Courts Martial or Military Commission… the Writ of Habeas Corpus is suspended in respect to all persons arrested…”

When Lincoln was accused of subverting the Constitution he said: “The constitution is not a suicide pact.”  The bill that President Obama is signing into law is far more respectful of the rights of American Citizens.  Yet he has a more elusive and potentially destructive enemy, whose theater of war is world-wide and they have rejected the recognized rules of war.  Still, the President has insisted on retaining the role of our federal courts in trying terror suspects, while Republicans argue for military tribunals exclusively.

The paramount issue here is the imperatives of national security vs. Individual rights, and the arguments of both sides have merit.  Like the critics of this bill, I am also disturbed by the absence of any Court supervision in determining who is a terrorist, and the possibility of abuse by future Presidents.  But the American electorate has the power to  make their representatives repeal this law anytime they wish.  That power, the power of the ballot, will remain.

President Barack Obama is tasked with keeping American citizens safe from another attack that could be more devastating than 9/11….a nuclear weapon or dirty bomb.  As Commander In Chief of the armed forces it is his responsibility to insure that this will not happen.   It is an awesome task, one that must be mistake free, and thus far the President has performed marvelously.   Furthermore, he is on firm constitutional ground in signing this bill.  Article I, Section 9, clause 2 of the Constitution, clearly states: “The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.” 

I regard this passage as proof that President Lincoln was right, and President Obama, a brilliant Constitutional scholar, concurs.   It shows that the architets of American Democracy foresaw the possibility of a national security emergency that might require extraordinary measures which abridge the normal rights Americans enjoy.  That’s why the US Constitution, despite the limitations of this 18 century document in dealing with 21st century problems, was not intended  to be a “suicide pact.”

The measures President Obama is taking to wage war against the Jihadist is neither unprecedented nor unconstitutional.  What Americans  who are concerned  with protecting civil liberties for the majority of law abiding citizens should really be worried about is what will happen to our democracy if the Jihadists should succeed in detonating a dirty bomb or nuclear weapon in an American metropolis.

Should this happen, we will lose all of our civil liberties with popular consent!  People will be so frightened by the horror of it they will agree to anything if they think it will make them safer.   Alas, as odious as they are to Americans, those are the choices that confront us. This is what real  life is like in the era of the Islamic Jihad.  President Obama is choosing the lesser evil.

At War with the Jihadist

He is facing an Enemy that Lincoln couldn’t imagine


Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

Deember 17, 2011

Much Ado About Nothing?

Posted in Occupy Wall Street, Playthell on politics with tags , , , on December 14, 2011 by playthell
                  Stopping Independent truckers from making their rounds

Is the OWS Movement politically Irrelevant?

The bill passed by the Republicans in the House of Representatives yesterday to extend tax cuts for working and middle class Americans – over 90% of the electorate – is offensive to fundamental ideals of the Occupy Wall Street Movement, which has mobilized hundreds of thousands of protestors on the streets nationwide. Yet, while the Grand Obstructionist Party is brazenly assaulting the interests of the working and middle classes, that movement is focusing its energies on shutting down commerce on the west coast; instead of conducting massive protests in Washington…the scene of the crime!

If the OWS leadership had any clue as to how changes are actually made in the USA, they would be energetically targeting the Republican legislators who passed this atrocious bill and conducting public information campaigns in their home districts; exposing their Congressman’s venality.  If we take the OWS spokesmen’s  arguments seriously, that there is no difference between the Democrats and the Grand Obstructionists Party, we must place the Anti-Wall street rebels in the same category as the man who couldn’t tell his rectum from a hole in the ground!

In exchange for extending the Presidents’ tax cuts to struggling families, the Republican bill reduces benefits to the unemployed, defunds the President’s health care program, kicks thousands of government workers off their jobs in the midst of the worst economic depression since the 1930’s, and funds the Keystone oil pipeline that will put billions of dollars into the pockets of their oil industry sponsors; with no serious debate about the environmental effects or economic wisdom of this massive and hazardous project.   Yet they refuse to raise taxes on the 1% by a single dime!

This country cannot afford the Republican bill, and the Democrats dare not accept it; if they wish to retain their claim as the party that represents the interests of the working and middle classes. Yet while this legislative obscenity is making its way to the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reed has pronounced it “dead on arrival,” and the Republicans are using his stance to claim that the Democrats are killing their “jobs bill,” which would employ thousands of workers,  the Occupy Wall Street movement is focusing its energies on shutting down the ports along the Pacific coast.  If ever there was a situation where the old adage “ Rome burned while Nero fiddled” applied, this is it!

Most of the Trade with Asia comes Through these Ports 

The Right String but Wrong Yo Yo? 

Aside from aiming at the wrong target, since their actions are politically irrelevant, their strategy of shutting down the ports is bringing the anti-Wall Street movement into conflict with labor unions.  The decision to launch the present demonstrations was adopted at a meeting of the “General Assembly” of OWS protestors in Oakland on November 18, where it was resolved that they would “blockade and disrupt the economic apparatus of the 1% with a coordinated shutdown of ports on the entire West Coast on December 12.” A fundamental justification for this action was to give support to the dock workers in Longview Washington, who are in a Darwinian struggle with EGT, the corporation that operates massive grain elevators along the Pacific coast.

The outcome of this struggle will determine if 4000 union members will be employed, or the jobs will be go to non-union scabs with greatly reduced wages and benefits. Yet the International Longshoreman and Workers Union – ILWU – issued a statement denouncing the proposed shutdown of the ports on December 6, a week before the demonstrations began. Since this action had not been discussed and voted on by union members, the leadership could not support it.

“The ILWU has a long history of democracy,” said union President Bob McElrath. “Part of that historic democracy is the hard-won right to chart our own course to victory.”  Aside from issues of union democracy – which is a real issue here since closing down the ports can result in a loss of pay for independent truckers and dock workers as Christmastime approaches – there is also the matter of binding union contracts regarding work stoppages.  If the affected corporations take the Unions to court and win a breach of contract decision it could cost the union $5,000 a day!

When the anti-Wall street rebels responded by dismissing the union’s legitimate concerns as simply the manifestation of a timidity born of decades of union retreats and identification with the interests of the bosses, they placed themselves in the position of the stranger in the Ibo Proverb who comes to a funeral and cries louder than the bereaved family.  Such people are always viewed with suspicion by the aggrieved party.

One thing is certain, should the OWS movement and organized labor become adversaries it will result in a devastating defeat of the movement for economic justice.   Big labor is the only working class institution that has the financial resources, political clarity, organizational infrastructure, and organizing skill any movement to transform economic relations in capitalist America must have to succeed.   Without the active participation of progressive unions like the ILWU, the massive demonstrations against the Wall Street plutocrats will turn out to be much ado about nothing!

The Demonstrators’ Numbers are Impressive

But…The troops are 3,000 Miles from the Battlefield!


Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

December 13, 2011

Politics Make Strange Bedfellows!

Posted in Guest Commentators, Occupy Wall Street with tags , , , , on December 7, 2011 by playthell

               Hypocrisy in black and White

Evangelical Christianity Vs. Free Market Theology

The Republicans held a Family Forum on recent Saturday, in Iowa, the state where a current poll identified 37% as born-again Christians.  Romney and Huntsman did not accept the invitation to discuss the social value concerns of conservatives in Iowa.  The new frontrunner, Gingrich, participated, along with Bachmann, Cain, Santorum, Perry and Paul. 

In a time when the official unemployment rate is 9 percent, homes are being foreclosed in the millions and the economy is growing at a snail’s pace, the pre-occupation of the electorate is not on social issues but on jobs. But there is the intersection of family, morality and economic policy.  In the closing stages of the discourse, the moderator raised the question what is the moral justification for war.  As the presidential candidates spoke, the moderator kept repeating the question as no one was willing to wrestle with the moral question of war.

The Republican Party prides itself with having an evangelical base. During the Bush/Rove years of conservative ascendancy at the beginning of the twenty-first century, the mobilization of the evangelical vote was critical to the electoral strategy.  It is not surprising that Mitt Romney despite the unpreparedness and moral baggage of his opponents has not been able to increase his percentage of support in the Party above 25 percent.  Romney’s baggage is his born-again transformation on abortion.  And there is also the hanging question about evangelicals and whether they are willing to accept someone of the Mormon faith as a Christian.

Mitt the Chameleon and his booster Jersey Fats

 Would you buy a used car from These Mugs?

Ron Paul was a presidential candidate in the previous cycle and as is the case this time around.  He has argued that the United States is a world trouble- maker and the troops should return home and the multitude of bases around the world closed.  Such a position does not sit well with conservatives or neo-conservatives that support the notion that America must be the policeman of the world and must continue to spend handsomely on national security.

The retort given to the moral justification of war was the moral imperative to protect America’s national interest.  Candidates like Santorum, Gingrich, Bachmann and Cain expressed a willingness to order a pre-emptive strike against Iran to halt that country’s development of nuclear weapons.

The Family Forum failed to deal adequately with family or with moral issues.  There is a line of march which every Republican candidate is expected to drink from the communal cup.  All the candidates are expected to be pro-life although the discussion did not get into the controversial ballot issue that went down in defeat in Mississippi that presumably conception began with the release of the egg.

A for real Madman but……

The sanest Republican on Foreign Policy and the Military

All candidates are vehemently opposed to same sex marriage and favor a constitutional amendment that specifies that marriage is exclusively between a man and a woman.  Ron Paul accepted the creed but was opposed to “federalizing” the issue as he felt that is a matter for the church and the states.  Family is an important issue in American presidential politics.

Traditionally, America would not elect or select a Party nominee who was divorced.  Reagan shattered that tradition.  Americans want some family togetherness in the White House.  Herman Cain’s campaign has been damaged by the unproven charges of sexual harassment.  Newt Gingrich’s divorces will make his candidacy less palatable to those in the evangelical movement.

The question of family goes beyond that of abortion, divorce or same sex marriage.  A family is an economic entity and is assisted or affected by public policy.  Most advanced European countries offer benefits to a mother after giving birth.  The United States in terms of legislation, offers family leave but not a certain amount of financial support after the birth of the child as it is in the case in Canada.

There is a concern for the child until the child leaves the womb.  Justification is made for the state to protect life in the womb but once that child has entered the world screaming, the conservative values suffer the same fate as the umbilical cord.  In debate after debate, the line of march is that the market is the moral force.  When asked about the foreclosure crisis, the candidates invariably bellowed that the market should be allowed to resolve the situation.

The social gospel of Christianity does not synchronize with economic gospel of the market economy.  In many respects, this is a peculiarity of American politics. In Brazil and other Latin American countries, liberation theology emerged as a social movement that had its origins in the Catholic Church in the 1970s.  The Vatican hierarchy moved decisively to stamp out the social gospel of liberation theology, which took the position that the equitable distribution of wealth and the predicament of the poor were matters that were germane to the mission of the church.

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was comfortable connecting the social gospel with the need to fight against the “banality of evil”, using non-violence and mass mobilization throughout the South and elsewhere where Martin Luther King, Jr. fought racism and Jim Crow.  The civil rights movement was integrally linked to the black church.

The Family Forum never raised the issue of poverty in America.  The Census Bureau has redefined poverty in America and has discovered that over fifty million Americans are in the category of near poor.  In a nation of over three hundred million, over a third of the populace are in the precarious position of being poor or near poor yet that is not a burning issue to evangelicals or those concerned with family values.

There is this great disjuncture between the values of Christianity and the market economy.  In the 2008 presidential election, there had emerged cracks in the evangelical movement as the younger generation became concerned with issues of poverty and the environment.  If the market economy is allowed to be the mechanism for solving all our social problems, there will be a tremendous upsurge of unrest all over the country.  People will demand some kind of redress of grievances and demand that the market economy be modified to serve the needs of people who have long since left the womb.

The Republican Front Runner

 Porky Pig!!!


By: Dr. Basil Wilson

New York City


Death of a Salesman!

Posted in Playthell on politics with tags , , , on December 5, 2011 by playthell
                   Herman Cain waves farewell to his supporters


Black Walnut really was Just the Flavor of the Month

When Herman Cain announced his withdrawal from the Republican presidential race it came as no surprise to most sane Americans; the guy was actually dumber than Sarah Palin on political matters!  And the principal contribution of the Alaskan Barbarian to American discourse is to make ignorance fashionable.  A Cain presidency was always an impossible dream even in his own eyes; that’s why he had no contingency plans to deflect or counteract charges that were sure to surface from the train of injured and aggrieved white women he had buried in his skeleton closet. What could this colored dude have been thinking?

I believe that Herman Cain is basically a salesman, and evidently a good one too, who is convinced that he can sell ice cubes to Eskimos.  As such he is imbued with what sociologist call “the eternal optimism of the hustler.” That’s why he continued to seem upbeat to the end.  A close reading of the lyrics to his swan song will reveal that he plans to continue to influence Republican presidential politics from his political grave.  Hence it seems that we have not seen the end of Herm, even though everybody now knows he is a worm.

While wiser heads in the Grand Obstructionist Party would rather “Sugar Cain” just disappear – after all he is an embarrassment to a party which continually scolds the rest of us with pious prattle about moral rectitude – Newt ‘The Poot” Gingrich is already assumed a lips to posterior position in the hope that the Atlanta Lothario will endorse him and urge his acolytes to follow his example…which could be curtains for Mitt, who really thought he was da shit!

Odd Man Out?

 The Mittster

Newt is a straight up ho: ain’t no shame in that peckerwood’s game!  It may very well turn out that, whatever his virtues, and despite the fact that he has been running non-stop for president for eight years, Mitt the Stiff might get steam rolled and obliterated by Newt’s momentum if he gets a ringing endorsement from his fellow Georgia boy.  However there is danger here for Newt; as too close identification with Sugar Cain will surely conjure up  “The Poot’s” own foul history of adultery, betrayal and unlawful carnal knowledge of his female staff.

Once that conversation starts it won’t be long before enterprising reporters and malicious dirty tricksters began pointing to the testimony of a male staffer who swears he saw Newt getting some head from a female staffer parked in her driveway, while her children was walking past the car.

This was at the same time that Newt was calling for the impeachment of Bill Clinton for lying about getting a Lewinsky in the Oval office!  Seems the good ol southern boys can’t keep their peckers in their pants!  It’s all so ludicrous, especially when we consider that Anthony Weiner, a stalwart Democratic warrior for the liberal agenda and powerful ally of the President, was driven from office just for flashing his weenie in cyberspace…and he never even got his weenie wet!

Newt The Poot: A Pompous Fraud

Shameless Sophist and Amoral Whore 

If it were not for the aggrieved women who spoke out about Cain’s voluptuous and sinful carnal life, he might have continued to fly under the radar and maintain his self-righteous pose as a saved Christian.  But once it became clear that that Bro-man was living double…his ebony ass was in a world of trouble!  Especially when it came out that the objects of his lust were alabaster blonds of the type that populate the wet dreams of NAZI’s.

However I continue to marvel at the fact that so many southern whites continued to support “Herm The worm” even after a posse of white women made scandalous charges of sexual harassment against him.  And this was the real deal; not just the verbal abuse Uncle Clarence Thomas was charged with; this joker was grabbing hands full of vanilla nookie without permission and trying to force women to polish his pipe in exchange for a job!  When Sugar Cain was growing up in Georgia, that kind of charge would have gotten him an invitation to a neck tie party which he would not have survived!

The way those Southern peckerwoods rallied around the Sugar Cain, while calling these blond “White Ladies” a bunch of lying whores is almost as amazing to me – a black male who grew up in the apartheid south and was the same age and weight as Emmitt Till, and well remember his gruesome crucifixion for merely whistling at a white woman –  as the election of Barack Obama to the presidency!  If you had asked me about the probability of either event four years ago I would have called it even Steven!

Even though he is an ignorant sleaze ball Cain, who didn’t know squat about politics, could still have gone a long way in this race.  He may be a good businessman capable of running a successful pizza parlor, but he constantly exposed himself as a political ignoramus who is definitely not ready for prime time.

Listening to him in interviews, I heard nothing that convinced me this political ignoramus could be a successful Mayor of Atlanta; hence the assumption that this fuzzy headed fool could be President of the United States is ludicrous on its face.  In fact, Rachel Maddow’s research staff showed that his major slogans including “999” came from cartoons!  But even so, this shameless charlatan took the signature quotation in his farewell speech from the Pokémon movie!

That such an incompetent poseur – who is a bit of a real life cartoon – could ever have been a leading candidate in the presidential campaign of a major American political party is a sad commentary on the shameful ignorance of the American electorate.  And the fact that big time Republican money men like the billionaire Koch brothers supported him shows how debased our political culture has become, as well as how little they care about the public interests.  All rich Republicans  care about is keeping the money they have and making more!

Left to their own devices I am convinced these people would privatize much of the public sector and create a caste society based on economic status that would be as effective as the old caste society based on race that characterizes all but the last 57 years of American history – it was finally dismantled in law, if not in practice,  by the Omnibus 1964 Civil Rights Act.  Herman Cain is a shill for the most avaricious and socially backward segment of the plutocracy.  He even called himself “A Koch brother from another mother!”  One would be hard put to find a more despicable intellectual quisling than this soulless charlatan who is a traitor to both the race and class from which he hails.

There are many reasons why the American electorate should kick such a man to the curb, and stomp him if he falls to be sure he does not rise again.  But I see no credible evidence that race was a major factor in his demise.  In fact, I think Cain’s experience as a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination proves Dr. Basil Wilson’s thesis that class has trumped race in American politics for the first time in our history.

One could have made that argument with the election of Barack Obama, except that the rise of the “Tea Party Patriots” that changed the complexion of Congress and arrested the progress of President Obama’s agenda, was based on blatant racist appeals that were so virulent and shameless they reminded me of the racist white backlash that followed the election of the first black Americans to congress following the Civil War. But since many of the people who were frothing at the mouth in their passionate opposition to Barack ended up supporting Herman Cain, it is reasonable to assume that ideology had as much to do with this as race.

It’s not just that Barack is black – old “Black Walnut” is of a much deeper dye – but he was an ‘uppity” black who was always the smartest guy in the room and he knew it!!!  Plus he doesn’t even have a proper nigger name that we can recognize they agonized.  Southern whites figured if we got to have a nigger in the White House, then by God let’s put one of our boys in there who knows his place and does our bidding.  Let’s git us a real white folks nigger who will tell the world how good we been to him, and if the rest of them lazy trifilin coons  aint got a job or ain’t rich “They should blame themself!”  Herm the Worm was tailor made for the role.

Yet in the end he turned out to embody the worst stereotypes about black men – they are stupid,  oversexed and cannot be trusted around white women.  It is safe to conclude here was a prince who turned out to be a frog; a ding dong daddy who sacrificed his political potential to his passion for vanilla poon.  In the end Sugar Cain proved just another sleazy salesman who thought his pitch could fool all the people all the time, but only a handful of clueless fanatics and his silly wife were willing to buy what he is selling.  This goose is cooked!  The jig is up; that’s why he is getting out the game.

The worm couldn’t Stand the Heat

So he quit the Game!



Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

December 5, 2011

Resurrection Of A Freedom Fighter

Posted in Movie Reviews, Occupy Wall Street, Playthell on politics on December 1, 2011 by playthell

 Byard and MLK in Montgomery 1956

A Timely Portrait of A Master Organizer

Last night I saw a documentary film on the life of the Byard Rustin, at the Dwyer Cultural Center in Harlem. “Brother Outsider,” an independently produced project by filmmakers Bennett Singer and Nancy Kates, is a excellent film on one of the most important Americans of the twentieth century.  This critical slice of recent American history  has garnered numerous awards and is  widely acclaimed by film critics. The LA Times calls it “Persuasive” and the Wall Street Journal calls it “Brilliant.”

To these accolades I would add Timely!  For me the film is like a revelation from on high, because it succinctly makes all of the points I have been trying so desperately to make in my commentaries on what the budding Occupy Wall Street movement must do in order to achieve its laudable but highly ambitious goals.

The quintessential organizer, Byard was little known nor long remembered by the general public; he was deliberately kept in the background because he was openly gay and the FBI – whose leader J. Edgar Hoover was an omnivorous pervert – sought to use Bayard’s sexual preference to smear the movement with the charge of moral turpitude.  But I would be dishonest if I failed to concede that rampant homophobia in the black community also played a critical role in Bayard’s obscure public profile.  Yet Byard remains a legendary figure among movement people who struggled to make America a more humane and civilized society in the twentieth century.

As Michael Thelwell – an Emeritus Professor of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts, who was one of SNCC’s most effective organizers during the 1960’s – makes clear in the film: Bayard tutored them all!  In the struggles for peace, racial equality and economic justice, Bayard strides like a colossus across twentieth century America.

A man of impressive personal qualities – Tall dark and handsome, spell binding orator, gifted singer, competent instrumentalist, impressive athlete and fearless intellectual  – Byard introduced Martin Luther King to the Gandhian philosophy of non-violent passive resistance.   And he personally tutored Dr. King in its methods during the Montgomery Bus Boycott – which Bayard organized and directed from a secret hideout.

Bayard was also the principal organizer of the great March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, an event which was the catalyst that spurred the passage of the historic Omnibus Civil Rights Bill of 1964, an event that transformed America!  The anti-Wall Street rebellion is in desperate need of such a leader, and through the magic of media they can have him at his best!!!

The role of media in the development of mass transformative movements is critical, because this is how the ideology, strategy and tactics devised by the leadership are conveyed to the masses.  This is clearly demonstrated in the way in which young dissidents have employed the new social media, made possible by the emergence of the Internet, to create a species of mass movements unlike anything we have seen before.

However as we closely observe this phenomenon it is becoming clear that these movements – from Taquir Square in Egypt which ignited the Arab Spring, to the Occupy Wall Street movement which is an extension of the events in Taquir Square that has spread like wildfire around the world to faraway places like Melbourne Australia and Auckland New Zealand, are spontaneous combustions that bear only a superficial relationship to historical movements that have succeeded in seizing power and actually transforming societies.

It is becoming increasingly clear that bypassing the stages of development which these movements that succeeded in taking power evolved through, the OWS movement is sorely lacking a critical element: A competent leadership with clearly defined goals and a strategy for achieving them.  Hence they will have to educate themselves by other means and do so quickly….alas they have managed to get the masses out into the streets but they have no coherent program to guide their actions.  They are all amped up with nowhere to go!  Fortunately, salvation is at hand.  And if the movement “leaders” reach out grab it this documentary will prove a gift that keeps on giving.

It is conventional wisdom among educational theorist that audio visual media is the most effective of all teaching tools because we remember more of what we see and hear simultaneously than what they see or hear separately. That’s why the documentary film is such a powerful tool for mass education, or indoctrination.  The first person to demonstrate the power of this form was the great German cinematographer Leni Reifensthal.

When the riddle of how the Nazi’s beguiled the German people, the most highly educated in the world, and convinced them that it was a good idea to elect an Austrian corporal with no experience in government to the Chancellorship of Germany, an event that resulted in the death of 50 million people around the world, Reifensthal’s film “Triumph of the Will” is cited as a major factor.  Her work was considered so important in the effort to win the hearts and minds of the German people for Der Fhuerer, that she was barred from ever making films again after the Nazi defeat.

The present film, “Brother Outsider” has all the ingredients that OWS leaders need to shape this rag-tag rebellion into the kind of effective movement that can transform American economic relations – i.e. the relationship between classes – as radically as the Civil rights movement transformed race relations a half century ago.  OWS organizers should pay special attention to what Bayard has to say about building effective organizations without recourse to violence, and watch film clips of him operating in real time in the heat of struggle.

Bayard Droppin Science at the Great March on Washington! 

He succintly laid out the goals of the movement 

They should pay especial attention to how he formulates complex demands into clear simple slogans that can be easily communicated to the masses and offer a path to negotiation for the reigning princes and powers.  Byard is dropping real science here…not meaningless ideological bromides!!!   His axioms have been tested in the laboratory of actual struggles and produced the desired results: Which is how you test if your science is real or pseudo-science!

One of the most important things to be learned from the critical lessons conveyed in this film is how crazy the so-called “revolutionaries” actually were.  Viewed in retrospect it is embarassing; especially since I was one of them.  Although many of these firebrands are celebrated by untutored activists today,  it is undeniable that all serious gains won by the Civil rights movement came to a screeching halt once the “black revolutionaries” siezed the spotlight  It was good street theater but it did not advance the movement .  Alas, the gun totin antics and militant rhetoric rhetoric of the “revolutionaries,” black and white, moved most of the country to the right and helped elect Richard Nixon!

If the OWS leadership pays close attention and heed Bayard’s instructions, this master organizer and movement tactician will teach them invaluable lessons that will help them avoid dangerous pitfalls and succeed in achieving real victories. By virtue of the alchemy of the internet, which is driving this world wide revolt against the plutocrats, Brother Outsider can become as effective a weapon of carefully directed mass mobilization and political education for the anti-wall Street movement, as Triumph of the Will was for the Nazi’s!  And that would be a very good thing!


Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

November 31, 2011