Archive for February, 2012

On The Catholic Church and Reproductive Rights

Posted in Cultural Matters, Playthell on politics, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on February 10, 2012 by playthell

   The Supreme Dogmatist

 A Perilous Road for the President

     Like a tornado that suddenly rises up and wreaks havoc on the countryside, the issue of reproductive rights for women and the role of government in enforcing those rights,  has sparked a controversy that has engulfed the nation and threatens to become a major factor in the outcome of the next presidential election.  At the heart of this issue is the question of the proper role of church and state in defining the rights of citizens in a secular society.

The specific issue that gave rise to the present imbroglio between church and state is whether secular institutions affiliated with the Catholic Church should be required to provide contraceptives as a part of their health care package for female employees. The regulations in the Affordable Health Care Act, or Obamacare as the Republicans love to label this grand gift to the American people, require all employers to provide contraceptive services and the Catholic Church is up in arms crying foul.

Just this morning Archbishop Timothy Dolan, of the Catholic Diocese in New York, was on television whining about being duped by the President.   Timmy says he was fooled by President Obama’s Notre Dame Speech into believing that he was a friend of the church…and now the President has betrayed their trust.  Oh bosh!!!!

Like all religious dogmatist who believe that they know the will of God, either because he speaks directly to them like the Protestant Evangelicals who are demagoging this issue at that Woodstock for right-wing nuts, the CPAC convention, or in the case of Catholics, through the Pope, the Catholic Church believes it has the right to take public money for church sponsored institutions, like universities and hospitals, yet deny legal healthcare options to thousands of working women – many of whom are not Catholic – because it offends the doctrine of their Church.

The relentless determination Catholic organizations is such that they have filed yet  another suit seeking to nullify the birth control regulations, even as they have a case on the way to the Supreme Court.  Aside from the legal issues involved here, the larger question is whether a group of pugnacious dogmatic eunuchs should be allowed to decide reproductive options for hundreds of thousands of American women.

These are men who know nothing about female sexuality; even when they violate their vows of celibacy, all the evidence shows they prefer buggering young boys to sleeping with grown women! So why should we listen to them at all?  Because of their moral standing they say?

Well, in a church that once called for the enslavement of Native Americans and after killing them off, introduced African Slavery into the New World; a church where the priest have raped the children under their tutelage everywhere in the world with regularity, and the Bishops often cover it up and assign them to other parishes unbeknownst to the parents, the Catholic Church’s claim to moral authority stands on very shaky ground.

Pope John Paul 

Tarnished by his refusal to deal with pedophile priests 

Furthermore, as a militant atheist, the Catholic clergy look as silly, dictatorial and out of touch with the modern world as the Iranian Mullahs parading around in their funny costumes. I believe the weight of their opinions should be confined to the church.

I have heard enough opinions from professors of constitutional law to convince me that the President will prevail in the Supreme Court – especially if Uncle Justice Thomas and Silly Scalia recuse themselves as judicial ethics demands since both men are committed Catholic dogma.   But Barack must also win in the court of public opinion if he is to nullify this issue as a weapon for the Republican bomb throwers in the coming election; where the votes of millions of Catholics is at stake.

Since it is estimated that 98% of Catholic women have used contraceptives, and the latest opinion polls show that the majority of Catholics agree with the president, I think he will win the public opinion battle too.  Especially since the Archbishop declared “We’re not in the public opinion business,” and defended church doctrine without regard to the feelings of parishioners; which he seemed to cavalierly dismiss.

The Republican pretenders to the Oval Office – a gaggle of charlatans, churls, and spiritually empty blaggards whose moral compass is a weather vane – shall demagogue this issue of women’s reproductive rights at their peril, because millions of American women will exact their revenge at the polls come November.  I can hardly wait!!


Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem New York

February 10, 2012

On The Struggle for Black History

Posted in Cultural Matters with tags , , , , on February 8, 2012 by playthell

      Dr. Carter G. Woodson: Father of Afro-American Histography

Why Afro-American History is Still Suppressed

Although most Americans are oblivious to it; February is Black History Month.  In black communities all across the nation it is a time for celebrating the struggles and achievements of our great ancestors. It began as “Negro History Week,” when it was established by Dr. Carter G. Woodson in 1926, and was extended into black history month during the turbulent 1960’s.

Woodson, who held a PhD in history from Harvard, founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in 1915 – a period when the public crucifixion of black people called “lynching” had averaged one every two and a half days since 1882 – in an effort to rescue the race from extinction in America.  And like the Civil Rights/Labor Leader A. Phillip Randolph, Woodson believed that his efforts should be financed by black people themselves.

Hence Dr. Woodson sold memberships to the Association and the members got a regular Negro History Bulletin with facinating facts about the accomplishments of their race.  Black people of all nationalities and classes bought memberships.  It was the most successful example of academic entreprenuership that I know of.  To read an indepth portrait of Dr. Woodson check out the book “Reconsidering The Souls of Black Folk,” by Playthell Benjamin and Stanley Crouch, Running Press, Philadelphia and London 2003.

A voluntary group of professional scholars – black and white – the Association was dedicated to excavating and publishing the history of African Americans, employing state of the art research methods. And the next year, 1916, Dr. Woodson established the Journal of Negro History to publish the findings of the new historians he was training for peer review and public consumption.  All of the great black historians who came of age in the first half of the twentieth century studied with Dr. Woodson; among them the Harvard trained PhD’s Rayford Logan and John Hope Franklin.  See “The Place of Carter G. Woodson in American Historiography,” by Dr. John Hope Franklin.

Dr. William Edward Burghardt Dubois

The Father of Black Studies

Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois, the first Afro-America to earn a Harvard PhD and wrote the first modern scientific history based on an African American theme – The Suppression of the African slave Trade  in 1896 – spoke of Dr. Woodson in heroic terms.  

Woodson literally made this country, which has only the slightest respect for people of color, recognize and celebrate each year, a week in which it studied the effect which the American Negro has upon life, thought, and action in the United States. I know of no one man who in a lifetime has, unaided, built up such a national celebration.”

Dr. Woodson dedicated his life to setting the record straight regarding the Afro-American contribution to American civilization because he was convinced that our survival depended on it.  Looking around the world at the destruction of the native Americans, the growing extinction of the Australian Aborigines, the Maori people of New Zealand, and the atrocities of King Leopold in the Congo that moved Mark Twain to denounce him and catalogue his horreddous crimes in “The Soliloquy Of King Leopold,” Woodson concluded that a world that thought itself “civilized” tolerated genocide against these peoples because they were considered sub-human, and therefore expendable in the advance of Western Civilization.

Although the world has turned upside down since then, those who argue that  Black History Month Celebrations is an anachronism, a relic from another world that has outlived its usefulness in a nation with a black First Family, are tragically mistaken.  Some whites are openly hostile to the teaching of Afro-American history, or the history of any of the non-white ethic groups that make up the US population.  In fact, Arizona has just passed a law banning teaching the history of the Hispanic people who were the original inhabitants of the state. This is no accident.

For the purveyors of white supremacy and the false doctrine of “American Exceptionalism,” teaching the history of black folks, Native Americans, Puerto-Ricans, Mexicans, et al, is self-defeating.  The history of these groups document the criminal history of “White Supremacy” and contradicts the master narrative of American civilization as the “land of the free and home of the brave where all men are born equal,” upon which white America’s claim to exceptionalism is based.

Hence when Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum get teary eyed recounting how their immigrant ancestors found freedom and unlimited opportunity to prosper in this land of the free; I am reminded that this is a country founded on genocide and chattel slavery – practices the ex-slave intellectual, abilitionist activist/orator and gifted writer Frederick Douglass said “would disgrace a nation of savages.”  These events has defined the character of American civilization as much as the crafting of the US Constitution in the summer of 1787.

That’s why the history of black people continues to be suppressed….and that’s why we must continue the fight to see it taught in every institution of learning in this country; especially those that receive public funding!  The fate of the nation may yet depend upon it!

Frederick Douglass: Abolitionist and Public Intellectual

The Premiere Moral Clarion of 19th Century America!



Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

February 8, 2012  

Why I Won’t be at the Giant’s Parade!

Posted in Cultural Matters, On Sports! with tags , , , on February 7, 2012 by playthell

  The Victorious Giants in the Canyon of Heroes

 On Football, War and American Society

Among the many splendid insights the brilliant and prescient Trinidadian revolutionary activists, political theorist and intellectual polymath CLR James provided to those of us who are trying to understand the riddle of human life, is his recognition of the role of sport in society.  According to the distinguished Barbadian professor of British Diplomatic history Keith Sandiford James taught historians that “it is impossible to understand the Victorians without understanding the role of sport.”

Hence when CLR James tells us in his seminal book on Cricket – the quintessential Victorian upper class game – “He knows not Cricket who only Cricket Knows,” we are alerted to the deeper meanings of the game in British society through his interrogation of the value system that determine the rules of the game.

The same can be said of football.  It is a war game that organizes it players like combat squads, and the language of the game is strictly military, with talk of ‘Field Generals,” “penetration of lines,” “throwing the bomb” and the like.  It is the perfect game for the most warmongering society on earth.

The game’s terminology goes perfectly with the war song that is our national anthem, which speaks of “bombs bursting in air.”   The perfect background sound for the vicious bird of prey, the Bald Eagle, which is our national symbol.  But a strange thing has happened: The game of football is being used to take people’s minds of the real wars and internal strife that plague or nation.

Eric Williams Came from Australia for the Party

A Happy Camper!
The Room Erupted in Joy!!

When the Giants took the Patriots Down!

Our Host: Brother Zach 

The Thrilling Giant’s Victory even put a Smile on the face of  a Raven’s Fan! 

I didn’t give these issues a thought as I cheered the Giants at Super Bowl Party hosted by Zach Husser, a community organizer in Hackensack New Jersey who routinely mobilizes people to take collective action in defense of the public interests.  And I think of these things all the time.

Like all other football fans, I too was caught up in the combination of grace, elegance and physical prowess displayed by the great athletes out on the football field.  During my boyhood in Florida football had been a civic religion; and I had measured my manhood by the game.  So I was as bewitched by the spectacle of the Super Bowl as anyone.

But as I looked at the pictures I took of the enthusiastic crowd the day after, reveling in the scrumptious culinary delights while heightening the euphoria sipping vintage spirits, I wondered if Zach could command an enthusiastic crowd such as this to protest the looming invasion of Iran.  And I remembered the slogan advanced by the Emperor Diocletian in the dying days of the Roman Empire: “Panen et Circenses!”  Give the untutored mob “bread and circuses” and they won’t notice the empire is falling apart.

That’s why Americans would rather throw a ticker tape parade in the “Canyon of Heroes”- located in the financial center of the American empire- for football players, make believe warriors, grown men playing a boys game, rather than our real warriors.  The young men and women we sent to hell and back on the killing fields of Iraq and Afghanistan – the cream of the working class and some of the bravest and most honorable of our fellow Americans who voluntarily answered the nation’s call to service – are ignored.

That’s got to be a big part of the reason the suicide and homeless rate is so high among veterans of these wars.  They want a parade too, one that acknowledges their supreme sacrifices on our behalf: A chance to bask in the nation’s gratitude in a national healing ritual that celebrates their service to the nation.  I’m down with them….and until they get a parade I’m not going to any more parades for pampered, highly paid and over praised, athletes whose work is their common pleasure!

 Mambo Yo Yo!

Victor Cruz Salsa Dancing in the End Zone!


Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

February 7, 2012

Barack or Mitt: Which Way America?

Posted in Playthell on politics, Uncategorized with tags , , , on February 2, 2012 by playthell

             Richie Rich versus a Man of the People

Barack Tackles the Housing Crisis; What Would Mitt Do?

As the presidential election approaches President Obama is turning up the heat on the Grand Obstructionists Party and forcing the Republicans to take a stand against his proposals to address the economic desperation of millions of Americans.  His speech in Falls Church Virginia yesterday, proposing a government led solution to the housing foreclosure crisis, is his latest challenge.

He has already forced the GOP to take a stand on whether our government should directly address the unemployment crisis by putting forth the “American Jobs Act,” a comprehensive proposal that would rebuild the nation’s infrastructure and create massive employment opportunities as they construct the underpinnings of a new high tech “Green Economy.”

The Republicans who control the purse strings in the House have said a resounding no to this bill; in spite of the fact that it cuts the payroll taxes for 98% of American businesses. It also gives a complete tax holiday on up to 50 million dollars for companies that add workers, and provides a “Returning Heroes” tax cut for companies that hire veterans.  The bill would also prevent the layoff of over a quarter of a million teachers, at a time when we desperately need more teachers.  And that’s just a glimpse of all the critical economic issues this bill addresses.

By blocking its passage and trying to kill it, while vociferously opposing a picayune tax on the rich to fund it, the Republicans have made their contempt for the struggling masses of Americans crystal clear.  Although this fact should have been clear when they opposed the economic stimulus bill.  If there are those who still don’t get it, who remain unclear about which party is fighting for the working class, the President’s proposal to help 10 million beleaguered home owners and the Republican response should leave no doubt.

Although the details of President Obama’s proposal are too complex to fully explicate in this commentary, a few facts will suffice. First off all, the President’s proposal offers a broad refinancing plan that will save the average home owner $3,000 a year; then he proposed a uniform set of rules that borrowers and lenders must play by, with strict disclosure requirements designed to prevent conflicts of interest, and a greatly simplified mortgage contract that anyone can understand.

The President pointed out in his speech that his “Consumer Protection Bureau” – another magnificent gift to the American people – will chastise those who violate the rules the way they did to bring on this crisis. Furthermore the President’s proposal exempts unemployed home owners, whose homes are federally financed through FHA and other government programs, from foreclosure for a year.  Other major banks, including Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, are following the President’s lead.

To demonstrate the government’s commitment to strong enforcement of the new laws President Obama has created a task force composed of federal and state investigators from the Department of Justice; Housing and Urban Development, and the Securities and Exchange Commission.  These policies will change the nature of the mortgage business, and put the government firmly on the side of the consumer.

Mitt Romney has offered no proposals to address any of these critical issues, and like all Republicans he opposes the President’s initiatives.  This bespeaks a basic difference in approach to the problem by the President and Mitt Romney, the Republican front runner.  And it tells us all we really need to know about where each party stands.  “While government can’t fix the problem on its own, responsible homeowners shouldn’t have to sit and wait for the housing market to hit bottom to get some relief,” says the President.

Mitt Romney, whom we are constantly told is the business wizard we need to save the nation from a Republican induced economic disaster, offers a very different solution.  “But the idea of trying to stop the foreclosure process kept it from occurring, kept the market from bottoming and recovering.  You have to let the market work and let home values recover as a result of that.  Don’t try to stop the foreclosure process.  Let it run its course and hit the bottom.”  This is the same approach Mitt took to toward the auto-industry in his now infamous New York Times Op-Ed piece: “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.”

The difference between President Obama’s and Romney’s view of the American auto-industry, is that the President wouldn’t cold bloodedly allow a couple of million auto-workers, and other’s in related industries, to be thrown out of work, while Romney said tough shit!  Its thing with the housing crisis; President Obama’s wants to assist homeowners, whose only economic asset is their homes, and Mitt Romney views them as deadbeats who can’t pay their bills and thus should be left to the Darwinian machinations of the capitalists marketplace!

Their diametrically opposed perspectives on these critical issues mark the difference between a community organizer who worked to empower the poor – instead of taking his Harvard Law degree and rushing to a white shoe law firm – and a money grubbing vulture capitalist who is indifferent to the poor.

It is the difference between a Saul Alinsky Radical who fights for the poor, and a latter day Social Darwinist who believes the present distribution of wealth and power is the natural order of things….and only the strong should survive: survival of the fittest.  Like Barack, I want a government that helps the unfit become fit to survive.  It’s not only the Christian thing to do, as he pointed out at the prayer breakfast this morning: it is difference between civilization and barbarism!

 The Choice is Clear!!!

The Faces of Reaction and Progress


Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

Feburary 2, 2012