Archive for April, 2012

On Conservatism and Racism

Posted in Guest Commentators, On Right Wing Pundits and Bloviators with tags , , , , on April 27, 2012 by playthell
           Buckley and Reagan: Icons of American Conservatism

 Conservatives Deny their Racist Roots

 The Racism-Conservatism Link: What Love in Utah and West in Florida need to know about why there are so few of them.   My colleagues in our Embassy in Montevideo Embassy gave me that year’s “William F. Buckley Award for Eloquence in Policy Advocacy.” They thought that was an honor for me and were surprised and dismayed when I declined to accept that ‘recognition’ and cited racism of the person for whom the award was named as my reason.

I proposed they re-name the award for Carlton B. Goodlett or James Baldwin. “Who?” was the collective response from this group of forty Foreign Service and military officers. At that moment, I remembered very keenly from my Orange Park school days many of the loftily disparaging, intellectually disguised things Buckley had written about African-Americans.

We all (I hope to include West and Love) know Buckley founded the National Review and was considered the guiding light of intellectual ‘conservatism’. This magazine’s early positions regarding race and the legacy of its founder and guiding spirit were critical to the rise of public face of postwar right-wing interests.

Mainstream ‘conservatism’s’ supposed renunciation of racism depended in large part on a little-examined notion that having defended white supremacy in the South in the 1950s, Buckley later apologized for that position. His fans across the socio-political spectrum cite that (non) apology. It’s part and parcel of a contention that racism and conservatism are not ineluctably connected.

The newly enlightened Buckley was renouncing a position entirely different from the one he’d actually advanced in the 1950s.  Writing in 1957 in defense of jury nullification of federal voting laws, Buckley insisted that whites in the South were “entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, where they do not prevail numerically,” because the white race was “for the time being, the advanced race.” In 2004, asked whether he’d ever taken a position he now regretted, he said: “Yes. I once believed we could evolve our way up from Jim Crow. I was wrong: federal intervention was necessary.”

Where in ’57 he’d asserted a right even of a minority of whites to impose racial segregation by literally any means necessary, including breaking federal law, in ’04 Buckley expressed regret for supposedly having believed only that segregation would wither away without federal intervention. Stupid the man was not. He gets credited today with honesty about his past and with having, in his own way, “evolved up.” “Modern conservatives,” think they get to ignore the realities of their movement’s origins and continuing racist makeup.

Buckley did evolve, just not in the way his fans like to imagine. His effort to construct working-class white Southern racists as an advanced race was brief. (Given Buckley’s ideas of what advanced races like to do — sail, listen to Bach, defend high culture against barbarity — it’s not surprising if they disappointed him.) Remember in 1965, at the famous Oxford Union debate with the more erudite, clear-thinking and articulate James Baldwin, Buckley foolishly chose to fight a rearguard action on civil-rights legislation, and took a new position.

Claiming now that “everybody already agreed that race prejudice is evil,” he accused the civil-rights movement of “no longer seeking equality but the actual regression of the white race.” He announced that if it “ever came to race war,” he was “prepared to fight it on the beaches, in the hills, in the mountains.”

Then Buckley even tried to joke that what he really objected to was “any uneducated Southerner, black or white, being allowed to vote.” That’s less a turnabout on equal rights for blacks than a retreat to a more logically consistent, Yale-bred snobbism, and the joke was serious: that same year, barely cloaked racist “commentator” James J. Kilpatrick put forth in the National Review an argument mixing states-rights populism with ruling-class prerogative, warning that “federalism would be destroyed unless states were free to impose voting qualifications, and that such qualifications must discriminate equally, not racially.”

Needless to say, the greatest mind produced in the USA- James Baldwin- tore Buckley a new rear end. Baldwin’s analysis and synthesis of Buckely’s nonsense deeply impressed the Oxford Union crowd and the BBC television audience. The Oxford Union voted overwhelmingly in favor of Baldwin’s erudition, logic and exposition. Buckley tried to smile away his shame and comeuppance. (In later years after moving to London, I made a priority trek to the site of Baldwin’s destruction of the conservative icon.

I had to see and pay my respects at the altar where Baldwin had laid Buckley to rest a decade earlier. A decade after London, I had to greatest of all experiences when my wife and I had James Baldwin as a dinner guest with eight of our friends in Madrid).  Race long remained a defining conservative issue for the National Review. In the 1970s the magazine persistently defended apartheid South Africa on the same basis that it had once defended Jim Crow.

James Baldwin: Novelist, Essayist and Dr. King Modern Prophet
A Witness and Drum Major for Justice!

The problem isn’t that old Bill Buckley gets a pass. If conservatives today really mean to mark out an American conservative ethos with no remaining ties to racism, wouldn’t they need to reckon, far more seriously and realistically than they seem prepared to do, with the painful legacy of the postwar right when it comes to what was then called racial integration? With the Cold War, integration was the hot issue of the day — and that was the day when the right wing was taking over the Republican Party under Richard Nixon’s “Southern Strategy.”

Nelson Rockefeller was a fire-and-brimstone Cold Warrior but hyper-liberal on race; he was just the type the Buckleyites were knocking out of ‘conservative’ and Republican party leadership. Ties between ‘conservatism’ and straight-up, hardcore, undisguised disgust at the presence of African Americans in any position other than servile were once so tight that for some of us with long enough memories it is annoyingly bizarre even to have to review them. And the deeper one digs into the history of race and the right wing, the trickier things get.

There’s another remark of Buckley’s that gets him routinely credited with acknowledging, in old age, postwar conservatives’ error on race and personally recanting it: a comment he made during an interview (with Judy Woodruff) in 2006 regarding his imbecilic opposition to the 1964 Civil Rights Act. “The effect of that bill should have been welcomed by us,” Buckley told Woodruff.

He framed his old objection to the act in terms of William Rehnquist’s supposedly having persuaded him and Barry Goldwater, when developing positions for the Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign, to view opposition to the act as an inescapable conclusion of the supposed strict constitutionalism on which Goldwater was running, a position that Buckley told Woodruff he’d since come to regret for its “constitutional formalism.”

Buckley’s 2006 frame is a false one. Advancing states-rights and anti-judicial-review arguments against civil-rights laws was nothing new to Buckley in ’63-’64, and his arguments certainly didn’t depend on any “formalist” urging from Rehnquist. By the time of the Goldwater campaign, nearly 10 years of unrelenting objection to every form of civil-rights legislation had appeared in the National Review, weirdly blending the (supposedly race-neutral) “strict-constitutional” argument with Buckleyite claims for the right of cultures deemed superior by Buckleyites to violate the Constitution.

The ‘conservative’ icon continued to push the view that even a minority of whites has a right — nay, a duty! — to take measures necessary to prevail against a majority of blacks. Goldwater and running-dog Rehnquist appealed to majority and states’ rights in resisting federal enforcement of removal of racial segregation laws. Buckley’s view, to Goldwater-Rehnquist, revealed too much. It allowed the discerning public to see clearly that “states’ rights” was the code phrase for white supremacy. I understood that in junior high school. It still is.

Rehnquist actually advised Buckley during the 1964 platform discussions to tone down, to get with the program of pushing the rights of majorities in local communities over those of the federal judiciary and legislature, the right-wing party line regarding segregation: “The effect of that bill should have been welcomed by us.”

More likely the cagey old bastard meant conservatives should have welcomed the effect of the Civil Rights Act on white voters in the South. They of course did respond to its passage by flocking to the Republican Party, just as Nixon wished, an effect explicitly “welcomed” at the time by Buckley, and by others who would soon be leveraging that effect for the election.

What do well-educated, rich white men have in common with southern and rural Midwestern whites? Nothing, but color. It is clear they are using race as a wedge issue to establish numerical hegemony and maintain leadership over this untutored lot. Their policies in no way benefit their party base.

Their economic interests differ in every particular, but try explaining that to a Haley Barbour Mississippian. It would be interesting, however, to see educated ‘conservatives’ (oxymoron?) engaging in intellectual honesty by digging into and acknowledging their history. We can’t wait for that.

Former Mississippi Governor Hailey Barbour

The face of the Republican South

Double Click on link below to see the Baldwin -Buckley Oxford Dbate


By: Bernard Fennell

Foriegn Service Officer – Retired

Blue Springs Missouri

April 27, 2012

It’s Mittster the Trickster!

Posted in Playthell on politics with tags , , , on April 25, 2012 by playthell
                 It’s Official: Republicans Are Running An empty Suit

         Romney’s Victory Speech is Hollow Mockery

Last night Mitt Romney pretty much sewed up the Republican nomination by sweeping the primaries in four states, and his most formidable challengers have left the field.  With only two deluded old fools – Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich – attempting to block his path, and Newt just announced he is retiring from the race next Tuesday,  Mitt is a shoo in.  Assuming the mantle of Republican standard bearer, Romney presented a victory speech that gave us a glimpse of what he stands for…and as the writer Gertrude Stein once said: “There was no there there.”

The speech was stiff and rang hollow; it was a burlesque on a serious statement of vision for a nation facing monumental issues.  After an introduction by his smiling blond Stepford wife, who thanked the audience for supporting “us,” Mitt the Stiff began his speech by enumerating a series of economic disasters that are consequences of the Republican destruction of our economy, and vainly attempted to hang the blame on President Obama, who actually saved the nation from a deep depression and turned things around.

Looking out on his adoring audience of New Hampshire airheads courting heartbreak – because win or lose it will be crying time – the Mittster said “I have a simple message.”  And as he began to speak it was clear that he misspoke; he should have said simple minded.

Although a confederation of well-paid white male pundits are praising the speech as the best ever from Mitt, it was like saying Spider Man is better looking than Freddie Kruger.  The Mittster’s monologue was characterized by vague promises, name calling, uninspired empty rhetoric and myriad absurdities.

It was all smoke and mirrors that attempted to confuse shadows with substance.   His language reminded me of the “New Speak” George Orwell introduced in his classic novel 1984.  Orwell tells us “Newspeak was designed not to extend but to diminish the range of thought, and this purpose was indirectly assisted by cutting the choice of words down to a minimum.”

It was as if Mitt used this as the model for his monologue, which was innocent of erudition or eloquence, and often perverted the meaning of words so that they appeared to be their opposite.  Consider the following statement Mitt makes about President Obama: “he will run a campaign of diversions, distractions, and distortions. That kind of campaign may have worked at another place and in a different time.  But not here and not now.  It’s still about the economy …and we’re not stupid.”

This is a perfect description of himself!   Mitt’s campaign began with a television ad in which they took a clip of Barack quoting John McCain’s campaign manager in the last election, and edited it to look like a statement of the President’s position.  This was a blatant amoral lie.  Romney’s entire campaign is based on lies and distortions of the President’s record, and distractions, like the phony dust up over his wife.

Its quintessential Romney speak.  The incoherent mutterings of a desperate man who has no substantive criticism of the President, and thus must rely on lies and distortions in an effort to so confuse people they will vote against their interest.

The most egregious perversion of language, and insult to his audience, is when he proclaimed “we’re not stupid” as he tries to convince them to cut their throats.  Mittster the trickster could barely conceal his contempt for this howling untutored mob, who appeared to cheer on cue.

The New Hampshire Airheads Cheer Their Demise

Laughing on the way to the Graveyard?


Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

April 25, 2012

At Last: Catholic Bishops Challenge Republican Morality!

Posted in Playthell on politics with tags , , , on April 22, 2012 by playthell
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan


Is the Ryan Budget Immoral Social Darwinism?

The right-wing Republicans, who are mostly Evangelical Protestants, rushed to join forces with the Catholic hierarchy when they needed ecclesiastical sanction for their attack on women’s reproductive freedom.  Twisting themselves in knots with spurious Constitutional arguments that the requirement for employers to provide health insurance which offers contraceptives to female employees as a benefit represented a “war on religion.”

In a kind of Orwellian New Speak, the Republicans introduced a spate of medieval laws that stopped just short of re-introducing chastity belts, and enthusiastically sought the blessings of the Catholic Church for their nefarious activities.  But after they heard the statement from the American Conference of Catholic Bishops on the Ryan Budget, which the Republicans just passed in the House, John Boehner and Paul Ryan are now wishing someone would rid them of these troublesome priests!

After thoroughly vetting the document, the Bishops publicly announced yesterday that the Ryan/Romney Budget is so immoral it would “make Jesus Christ Cry!”  Needless to say, Paul Ryan, the author of this budget and a self-proclaimed devout Catholic who just recently claimed that his budgetary decisions were guided by Catholic teachings, is in deep doo doo.

While I am unwilling to take sexual advice from pious eunuchs in black gowns, a saving grace of the Catholic Church is concern for the poor all over the world and it’s denunciation of avarice as a mortal sin.   According to Congressman Ryan, who is prepared to give the rich trillions of dollars in tax cuts, reducing benefits to the desperately poor, for which they are a life line, is the best way to “”help people get out of poverty out onto life of independence.”

The Bishops disagree.  They say the Ryan /Romney budget contains “unacceptable cuts to hunger and nutrition,” and that for “moral and human reasons” Congress’ proper role is to “protect essential programs that serve poor and hungry people over subsidies that assist large and relatively well-off agricultural enterprises;” which is to say agri-business.

The Bishops pulled no punches their condemnation of the Ryan/Romney budget’s reduction of food aid to citizens who desperately need it. “Cuts to nutrition programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program will hurt hungry children, poor families, vulnerable seniors and workers who cannot find employment.  These cuts are unjustified and wrong.”

Echoing the Bishops on MSNBC a Catholic  priest Scholar of church doctrine, echoed his Bishops when he called the Ryan / Romney Budget “Immoral Social Darwinism,” and denounced Congressman Ryan’s intellectual hero Ayn Rand, the author of Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged as an “amoral atheist philosopher and social Darwinist” who believes compassion is folly and the powerful should crush the rich . To put it accurately if indelicately, the Catholic leadership has pooped on the Republican parade.

By their lights Newt Gingrich, who has made much of his conversion to Catholicism, has honored President Obama by proclaiming him “The Food Stamp President.”  And they have declared President Obama’s position to me more in accord with Catholic teaching than the avowedly Catholic Paul Ryan, who has the unmitigated gall to say on the record that he disagrees with the Bishop’s interpretation of Catholic teaching.  Politics makes strange bedfellows.


Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

April 22, 2012


Is Mitt Getting the White Boy Pass?

Posted in Playthell on politics with tags , , , on April 21, 2012 by playthell
  A Lying So and So….real phony balony

A Reflection on Race, Politics and Privilege

The boisterous kerfuffle around Valarie Rosen’s observation that Ann Romney is not a reliable source in assessing the aspirations of the majority of American women because she has never held a job, serves notice that Miss Ann is off limits for critical comments even though her husband says she’s his consultant on women’s affairs.

The extent to which people of all political persuasions have been willing to participate in a charade to obscure the real issue that Ms. Rosen was addressing is instructive.  Ms. Rosen observed that a woman who has never worked a job is not a reliable source on the aspirations of millions of women who earn their living in a Darwinian workplace, where they still face discrimination in pay when they compete with men!

As I write a report is being released showing that women still only make 77 cents for every dollar paid to men for comparable work, but Romney won’t say whether he would veto a bill to repeal the Lilly Ledbetter Act if a Republican Congress that opposed it sent a bill to his desk. Hence it is reasonable to ask what his wife is telling him.

If Ms. Ann is telling Mitt that position is cool, we need no further evidence that Valarie Rosen was spot on!  The response to Rosen’s factually correct observation serves notice that there are aspects of the Romney’s life and values that are not to be examined.

The problem is that many of those who are crying loudest – i.e. Republicans – consider these same questions fair game when the target of their inquiries and attacks is the Obamas.  This is just the latest manifestation of a double standard regarding Barack and his white opponents that we first saw during his campaign against John McCain.  A powerful case in point is that President Obama’s church became a major issue, with legions of white simpleton’s in the punditocracy offering the most virulent criticism.

Pretentious sophist like Bill O’Reily prattled on as if he had diarrhea of the mouth attacking Reverend Wright, Mr. Obama’s pastor.  Yet he and millions of pious Catholics would have gone bonkers if I pointed out that he belonged to a church where the priests routinely rape the kids in their trust and their Bishops cover it up!  And what’s a sexual predator who had to settle a harassment case out of court doing dispensing moral critiques?

At the same time Obama’s Pastor Reverend Jeremiah Wright – an elegant man who is a theologian, great preacher and former United States Marine – was under sustained attack, Senator McCain was thick as thieves with two far right Evangelical preachers that were warmongering bigots: John Hagee and Rod ParsleyNo one made a big issue of it, and nobody dare make an issue of Mitt’s Mormonism.  Yet for years now, Minister Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam has been largely barred from the public debate for expressing quite similar views.

The teachings of the Church of the Latter Day Saints and the Nation of Islam are both unique theologies born in the USA – one is an improvisation on Christianity the other on Islam – and their beliefs about race mirror each other.  The Mormons say black people are cursed, and the Nation of Islam says whites are devils!

Mr. Farrakhan has been silenced for his views, but Mitt is running for President.  Yet no one dare mention, let alone criticize, his religious beliefs.  Hence it’s fair to ask: Is the Mittster getting the white boy pass?


Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

April 20, 2012

GSA Employees Party in Vegas

Posted in Playthell on politics with tags , , , on April 17, 2012 by playthell
The GSA Scandal is a Smoke Screen

The Real Scandal is Republican Tax Policy

Today the so-called “Buffet Rule” – which is named after multi-billionaire investor Warren Buffet and would require people making more than a million dollars a year to pay a tax rate that is at least equal to the rate paid by their secretaries – came up for a procedural vote in the Senate.   No one expected the bill, which was sponsored by Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, to garner a filibuster proof  60 votes due to resistance from the Grand Obstructionist Party.  They just wanted to get the Republicans on record defending tax giveawys to the rich.

House Republicans are trying to confuse the issue by opening hearings over the reported financial misconduct by members of the Government Service Administration.  At issue is a retreat held in Las Vegas on President Obama’s watch; although no reasonable person could expect the president to monitor the vast agency’s activities while he was trying to save the world from financial collapse.

To listen to the Republican’s talk abot this issue one would think that the government deficit would disappear if these corrupt, wasteful government bureaucrats were kicked to the curb.  It is a transparent attempt to change the subject from tax inequities to government waste.  All told, the  bacchanal in which 300 agency employees were flown to Vegas during 2010, cost 822 thousand dollars. But compared to the trillion dollars in lost revenues over the next decade due to Republican tax cuts to the rich it’s a pittance.

While there seems ample reason to conclude that the Vegas Conference served no really useful purpose, staff development retreats in which the objectives and results are called into question are nothing new; whether in the public or private sector.  In fact,  President Obama came under  fire from the right when he criticized private corporations holding costly confabs in that Sodom in the desert; especially corporations seeking government loans and bailouts that same year. “You can’t go take that trip to Las Vegas or go down to the Super Bowl on taxpayers’ dime,” he said.

Faster than Billy the Kid could draw his guns Nevada politicians rained criticism on the President; both Democrats and Republicans.  There was little difference between the opinions of Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid and right-wing Republican Senator John Ensign, who has since been driven from the Senate in disgrace.  All of them were in favor of corporations spending government bailout money in Vegas; which only demonstrates the old axiom “All politics is local.”

Obviously, anyone involved in wrong doing should be punished and the guidelines tightened on how tax payer money is used for these types of activities.  But we must not allow this scandal, which is relatively modest compared to other examples of Government waste and fraud in which the Grand Obstructionist inquisitor has shown no interests – billions of tax payer dollars poured into Iraq were stolen outright for instance – to be used as an excuse not to adequately fund the critical functions of government by refusing to tax the rich while slashing the budgets of critical agencies like  Environmental Protection and the departments of energy and education.

This is the real agenda of far right Congressman Darrel Issa, the richest man in the House, who is using the investigative powers of his position as Chairman of the Government Oversight Committee – especially the subpoena, to foil any plan to raise taxes on his class by discrediting government spending.

He is an avid supporter of the Ryan plan that seeks to balance the budget on the backs of the poor, and President Obama has accurately described as “thinly disguised Social Darwinism.”   Hence any investigation of government agencies initiated by Chairman Issa must be viewed with a jaundiced eye.

Under the able leadership of the senior Senator from New York, Charles Schumer, the Democrats are giving Republicans just enough rope to hang themselves.   According to Schumer, the Democrats are going to force the Republicans to vote on these issues over and over again…repeatedly forcing the Republicans to go on record defending a trillion dollar tax cut to the rich in a time of economic crisis for the rest of us.

All the polls show that this policy is wildly unpopular; that’s why Mitt Romney refuses to reveal the cuts that he would make in the Federal budget.  And he has been overheard saying that he will not specify the  cuts he will make because it can be used against him in the general election.

It is the master plan of the Grand Obstructionist Party, laid down by Paul Ryan and his cronies in the House.  Ryan lays out large numbers when he talks about cutting the federal budget without saying where he will cut; that’s because he’s scared to death to offer specifics.  He knows most of the working and middle class whites think of welfare payments to black and Hispanic people when they think of government cuts. This is the 21st century’s version of Ronald Reagan’s “Welfare Queens.”

Darryl Issa

A  Morally Deformed 21st Century Social Darwinist

If these people knew that cutting funds to the EPA could result in fire blasting from their water faucets because of oil pollution in their aquifers, or a dramatic rise in cancer rates because of air pollution, they would be outraged.  But as the old adage says: The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray.

Anyone who wants to know the true intentions of Mr. Romney  should pay attention  to a secretly recorded speech he made last night; what he had to say is frightening.  Among other things he has pledged to scrap the Department of Education and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.  This would have devastating consequences for the working and middle classes…and would be life threatening for the poor.

That’s why the Ryan budget is a stealth budget!  They are banking on the ignorance of the electorate to get over.  It’s our job to not let that happen by getting the word out, and working to reelect the President and recapture the House of Representatives.  Anything else is folly!

The Devil! 

Paul Ryan, Chairman of the Congressional Budget Committee


Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

April 16, 2012

Hillary Rosen is Right!

Posted in Playthell on politics with tags on April 14, 2012 by playthell

 Speaking truth to Power

 On Women, Work and Shameless Hypocrisy

I have long argued that leaders of the Grand Obstructionist Party calculate the ignorance of their constituents into their formula for victory.  Their latest shenanigans around the factual comment of Democratic Party strategist Hillary Rosen, who pointed out that Ann Romney is a housewife who has never held a job in the workplac in her life, exposes both their venality and their hypocrisy.

After all, Mitt Romney publicly proclaimed that he understood what women wanted because his wife Ann has been out talking with women and “reports” back to him.  In the language of CEO speak that means he has delegated the responsiblilty of interpeting  the aspirations of women to her.

Thus it was he that introduced his wife as an advisor to his campaign.  That makes her fair game for criticism, and her judgment open to question; since we are told that she is an advisor on critical issues to a man who is running for the presidency of the United States. Hence what Hillary Rosen said is beyond appropriate: it is fitting….spot on!

I am referring to what she actually said; not the transparent lies and gross distortions of her comments presently being circulated by media shills of the GOP at WABC – “White Apartheid Broadcast Company” – and the FOX network.  Although the leadership of the Democratic Party, including President Obama and the first lady, are running over each other to distance themselves from what they know is a bogus interpretation; they are just playing politics.

Understandably they don’t want to get bogged down in an argument trying to explain what Ms. Rosen meant when they are already leading the Republican challenger by almost 20 points with women voters. Hence their decision to heap denunciations on Ms. Rosen is politically smart but unprincipled alas.   Since I am not in the habit of confusing politicians with saints, and would much prefer Machiavelli as an ally to Mother Theresa, I am not shocked at the demagoguery and opportunism of both the Democrats and the Republicans on this issue.

The Republicans are desperate to find an effective route into the hearts and minds of women voters, but President Obama has such a formidable record of support for women they are like drowning men grasping at straws.  What is obvious about their strategy is that the GOP strategists think women are stupid….and they have millions of women whose political choices prove it.  After all, they are passing laws all over the country that limit the life chances of women in this society, while Barack Obama’s first act was to sign the Lilly Ledbetter law, making it illegal to pay women less than men for comparable work.

And when he got the chance to appoint justices to the Supreme Court, one of the most consequential and enduring exercises of presidential power, he appointed two women to the Supreme Court over vociferous Republican opposition.  There are many more instances of dramatic support for women on the part of President Obama, like provisions in the Affordable Health Care Act, which Ann’s husband has vowed to scrap.

In view of these facts, to think that a comment about Ann Romney’s qualification to speak on behalf of millions of working women, when she has never held a job, will reduce the dramatic gender gap between Mitt and Barack, is a blatant insult to the intelligence of women.  But this issue could easily backfire on the Grand Obstructionist Party, because the Democrats can win this argument.

There are so few women who can identify with the plush life of Ann Romney that any gain the Republicans can get from this line of argument will prove insignificant.  I am convinced that intelligent working women will immediately recognize this Republican contrived kerfuffle for the bogus bullshit that it is.

What is puzzling is the way the chattering class in the media, the pundits and bloviators who comment on the news, have jumped on this issue.  Thus far they have shed far more heat than light.  Since it is hard to believe that they are as uniformly stupid as they sound, frankly I’m at a lost to explain their bizarre behavior.

All of them genflect before Ann Romney, bestowing a gravitas on her mutterings that I fail to see.  The only explanation I can conjure up is that producers in cable television with a news cycle that runs 24/7 jump on any issue that can attract viewers, even if they all know the controversy is bogus.  Ms. Rosen went so far as to apologize for an insult she did not make in order to put an end to this distraction.  It is a telling comment on the state of news commentary that it was left to comic Stephen Colbert to treat the controversy as the joke that it is.

The FOX NEWs and WABC radio crowd are doing what they were created to do…defend the Republican line no matter how absurd and inaccurate.  Alas, they thrive on this kind of hypocrisy; it is their stock in trade.  But the mealy mouth drivel coming from others in mainstream media, especially the liberals, is puzzling.  Why don’t they just tell the truth and point out that this is a manufactured controversy?

What Ms. Rosen was actualy saying is that Ann Romney, a woman who has never worked for her daily bread outside of her home, but has spent her life as the pampered wife of a multi-millionaire, is not a reliable reporter on the problems of women who must daily engage in a Darwinian struggle for bread in an economy where good jobs are becoming harder to find, real wages are stagnant or falling, and women are still discriminated against.  And many of these women are supporting several children on their own.

All most women will need is  to see is that stupid FOX interview where a clueless Ann Romney talks about how much trouble she had raising five rambunctious boys in a fabulous mansion, and able to afford all the help she needed.   When they witness this pampered priviledged woman suggesting that her ordeal is comparable to working women trying to raise children on non-union jobs who, if left to her husband, would be denied union representation, and even work, if Mitt thought he could make more money for his fat cat friends by eliminating her job; I am convinced that they will  conclude that Ms. Rosen was right!  Ann Romney is clueless!

 Ann Romney: Clueless, Pampered, Housewife…..

……and transparent demagogue.


Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

April 13, 2012

Special Prosecutor Indicts Child Killer!

Posted in Playthell on politics with tags , , , on April 13, 2012 by playthell
  Ms. Corey Speaking to the Press

Angela Corey Lays Down the Law

The Announcement of a second degree murder charge against child killer George Zimmerman by Special Prosecutor Angela Cory in Sanford Florida yesterday, and the response of victim Trayvon Martin’s family and supporters, provided some remarkable examples of grace, courage, splendid oratory and legal erudition.  The amazing grace of the parents of slain youth Trayvon Martin borders on saintly.

The fathers comment that he bore no hatred for the man who murdered his innocent son, and the mother’s impassioned thanks to the Lord that there has been an arrest…yet stating that she would accept an acquittal of Zimmerman without rancor, strike me as bordering on Christ like.  Since I am not a Christian I’m not nearly so charitable.

If it was my son and I could get my hands on a gun, the safest place for George Zimmerman would be jail.  I despise the murderous clown and would love to bust a cap in his butt; yet Travyon Martin is no relation to me.  Their’s is a special graciousness.  Unlike the fake Christianity of the Christian Right – those racist bullies who know neither charity nor justice – Trayvon’s parents clearly take the teachings of Jesus Christ seriously.

The bible thumping right wing “Evangelicals” could learn a lot about how to be a good Christian from them.   It doesn’t take much rummaging about in those archives of ancient prudence, our great libraries, to discover that black Americans have always been better Christians than white Americans: A people who built a civilization based on genocide, massive land theft, chattel slavery, and a legal caste system based on race, while incessantly praising the virtues of freedom.  Their worse sin is transforming Jesus Christ from the Savior of the poor and downtrodden, to the God of heartless billionaires who would crush the poor underfoot. It is an unspeakable blasphemy masquerading as the message of Jesus.

The positions taken by Special Prosecutor, Angela Corey, provide a striking profile in courage.  Her decision to not impanel a Grand Jury demonstrates her willingness to take full responsibility for the decision of whether to indict George Zimmerman.  A less courageous, politically opportunistic, prosecutor would have passed this decision off to a Grand Jury; that way they could also deflect the blame if the decision proved unpopular.

After assuming full responsibility for the decision Ms. Corey showed additional courage charging Zimmerman with Second Degree Murder, a charge that carries a 25 year minimum sentence and a maximum sentence of life in Prison.  She explained that her decision is based not only on the probable cause standard, but on the more demanding standard of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt the case must meet to prevail in court.

And she pledged to fight any attempt to invoke Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law.  Since both the author of the law, and the Governor who signed it, say it doesn’t apply to Zimmerman’s actions; Ms. Corey is standing on solid legal ground.   She was cool, calm, witty, and erudite.  I am convinced that she is the perfect prosecutor for the job.   I also believe the actions she has taken thus far will do much to restrain Floridians from shooting each other down in the streets.

Finally, the role played by the media in forcing the governor of Florida to appoint Ms. Corey as Special Prosecutor was indispensable; I don’t believe it would have happened otherwise.  And it is no exaggeration to say that the powerful advocacy of Rev. Al Sharpton, on his WNBC show, Politics Nation, was the catalyst for it all.

George Zimmerman: Child Killer

Jail is the safest place to be! 


Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

April 13, 2012

A Washington Post / ABC Poll Profiles the Electorate

Posted in Playthell on politics with tags , , , on April 12, 2012 by playthell

        President Obama in battle for the working class                   

 What does it tell us about the American Voter?

From April 5-8, 2012, the Washington Post and ABC News conducted a scientifically sampled telephone poll to determine how Americans feel about President Obama and his likely Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, in the coming elections.  As I pondered the meaning of the results, I was reminded of a conversation between a female interviewer on the “Today Show” and V.S. Naipaul, a Nobel Laureate in literature of East Indian heritage.

Naipaul had just finished a book, “India: A wounded Civilization,” and the interviewer said she had always wondered what the red dot on the foreheads of Indian women means and asked him to explain it.   To wit a cynical Sir Naipaul replied: “It means my head is empty.”  That’s the feeling I get about the American electorate upon reading this latest poll.

By a better than two to one margin Americans found the president more “likable” and “inspiring” than Mitt the Stiff.  They also gave strong approval for his handling of women’s issues, concern for the economic welfare of the average Americans, his health care policies, international diplomacy, and being more consistent in his political positions than Romney.

Yet on the matter of job creation the President and Mr. Romney are running neck and neck; 46% to 43% favoring the President.  And on the question of who can best manage the economy Romney tops the President at 47% to 43%.  When it comes to who can best solve the federal deficit problem, Romney beats the President by 13 percentage points: 51% to 38%.

According to the emerging political theology that economic issues will decide the coming elections, this poll is heresy.  When asked who they would vote for President if the election was held today, Barack smacks down Mitt at 51% to 44%. The problem with this poll is that it makes no sense.

It appears that large segments of the electorate  is an untutored mob that makes critical political decisions based on a non-rational process where facts play a minor, and in some cases insignificant, role.  And people are choosing who they will support for President based on intuition, ignorance, racism, mysticism and whimsy.

Mitt Romney opposed the bank bailout, which saved us from the horror of a world financial collapse.  He went thumbs down on the Economic Recovery Act that prevented the onset of another Great Depression.  He also opposed the auto-industry rescue, which saved over a million jobs and preserved the last major American manufacturing sector.  Romney’s answer to the housing crisis brought on by the loosey goosy “free market” economic folly of the Bush Administration, that he not only supported but yearns to reinstate, is to let the market “bottom out.”

In the private sector he was a job destroyer and exporter; hence if we are to believe his claim that “corporations are people” he is a serial killer!   as Governor of Massachusetts he was 47 of 50 governors in Job creation, and he has cosigned the notorious Ryan Budget, which would take us back to before the New Deal of the 1930’s in terms of the entitlements that form the “social safety net” that has enriched the life chances of millions of Americans for three quarters of a century.  It is an approach to social welfare that President Obama correctly labels “thinly disguised Social Darwinism.”

Mitt also refuses to come clean on his taxes and financial assets, and is known to have millions in off shore tax havens like the Cayman Islands and Switzerland.  The only reason for such accounts is to avoid paying taxes on the money, and he is already paying a much lower rate on his income than the average American worker.

Yet most Americans still believe Mitt is the best guy to manage the American economy?   Duh?….that’s like putting a hawk in charge of the hen house!  Alas, I am compelled to conclude that the most important thing these latest poll numbers tell us about millions of American voters is that “their heads are empty!”  This is a frightening revelation, because it means that without an effective mass political education campaign anything can happen in the coming elections.

 Mr One Percent

The hawk who wants to guard the chickens!


Playthell Benjamin

Harlem New York

April 12, 2012

The Easter Parade in New York

Posted in Cultural Matters, Photo-Essays with tags , , on April 9, 2012 by playthell


 This Cancer Surgeon is Sharp as his Scalpel!
 But he had Competition
 From Poet Don Raphel
  And Don Jaun





The Ladies Made their Fashion Statements


 With their Lovely Easter Bonnets


 They Come in all Sizes and Colors



A Different Angle 


There Was Drama 





A Different Angle






High Fashion







 Sometimes the Whole Family Wore Bonnets


 A Family Affair


 There Were All kinds of Bonnets



Fashion Eclectics



And Fashion Outlaws 


Free Thinkers 


Fashion  Subversives



And  Fantasy!

 Fashion Iconoclast


And Afrocentrists!


And the Bodacious Bonnets of Harlem Church Women

Yet for High Style and Male Elegence

Old School Ruled!  


The Easter Parade Was Bootylicious Too!



Eye Candy Was Everywhere


Everywhere you Looked one could see

The Object of the Commodores’ song: “Brick Hooouse!” 

They looked like Kinetic Ebony Sculptures

As they Promenaded About in Varied Costumes





 Stand outs in the crowd

Free Spirits!

Only in New York

The Cavaleir and his Lady

In their own world

Shongo and the Dragon Lady

Representin on the Fifth

The Long and the Short of it

Double Click on likn to hear “Easter Parade” sung by the Great Sarah Vaugh and Billy Ekstine


P.G Benjamin

Harlem New York

Easter Monday 2012
















































































































































On Obamacare and the US Constitution

Posted in Playthell on politics with tags , , , on April 4, 2012 by playthell


The Most Powerful Court in the World

 Will the Supreme Court Kill Affordable Healthcare?

President Obamaa former President of the Harvard Law Review and a Professor of Constitutional Law at the prestigeous University of Chicago, has contemptuously dismissed the argument that the Affordable Health Care Act is unconstitutional and all but dared the Supreme court to declare it so.  But as I listen to the legal wrangling and lawyerly double talk that characterize the arguments before  United States Supreme Court over the legality of President Obama’s Affordable Health Care  Act, I am once again reminded of how the life chances of Afro-Americans has often been determined by Supreme Court decisions.

Sometimes these decisions arise from the opinions of the justices in litigation brought to them in cases filed by plaintiffs in lower courts where complex constitutional issues are involved, such as Brown vs. the Board of Education.  Other times they arise from challenges to laws passed by the legislative branches of government on the state or national level whose constitutionality is in question, like the Affordable Health Care Act. 

In either case the Supreme Court has been a source of light and darkness; the impetus of great progress, and dramatic retrogression, over the course of American history.  In fact, it is fair to say that Supreme Court decisions in landmark cases have been a major force in shaping the present society we now inhabit.

In their rulings on everything from whether a woman can have an abortion; to whether Black Citizens enjoy the same rights as whites to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; to breaking up giant corporations like Standard Oil or the Bell Telephone System because they were too big; to the Citizens united decision which threatens to turn our democracy into a plutocracy by allowing corporations to contribute unlimited amounts of money to support specific candidates through Superpacs; the Supreme Court has shaped contemporary American society in fundamental ways.

Any objective reading of major decisions the High court has taken will reveal that the dominant pattern of these decisions reflect the ideology and concerns of the party and President who appointed them.  There are exceptions, but they prove the rule.

The experience of Justices David Souter and Hugo Black are instructive.  When Justice Black was elevated to the Bench in 1937, he had served several terms in the US Senate, where he had supported President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s attempt to expand the Court by Six Justices, and supported his belief that the government should intervene in the management of the economy in order to assists citizens who were suffering through the Great Depression.

But Roosevelt overlooked the fact that Black had been a member of the Ku Klux Klan – having joined the Robert E. Lee Klan No. 1 of Birmingham on Sept. 11, 1923and it became a sensation when it was revealed in a Pulitzer Prize winning series in the Pittsburg Post-Gazette by Ray Sprigle.

Chief Justice Roberts

Can this Joker be trusted to Save Obamacare?

Yet in spite of the fears generated by the revelation of Black’s Klansman’s past, for most of his tenure on the Court Justice Black’s opinions belied his earlier history.  But in his final years on the bench, when the Civil rights movement was sweeping his native southland, his votes began to reflect his reactionary racist Alabama roots.  For instance he voted in favor of the legality of Southern police departments arresting Civil Rights demonstrators, arguing that their actions were not protected under the “free speech” provisions of the First Amendment.

Although his Justice Souter was selected as a conservative by George H. W. Bush, when the 84 year old liberal lion of the High Court William Brennan died, and Bush replaced the greatest defender of Civil Rights in American history, Thurgood Marshall, after his passing, with right-winger Clarence Thomas in 1991, the radical righties on the Court rejoiced and prepared to reverse land mark decisions on critical issues like civil rights, abortion and religion –all triumphs of a liberal Court.   But Souter flipped the script and became their worst nightmare.

Hence when George II got an opportunity to appoint a Justice to the Court the chant from conservative ranks was “No more Souters!”  Thus we got John Roberts, who as a deputy to reactionary Solicitor General Kenneth Starr, had actually filed briefs urging the Court to reverse liberal decisions.  Now, as Chief Justice, some Court watchers believe that in a 5-4 decision he could actually be the deciding vote in favor of the Affordable Health Care Act.

Although it would go against his ideological inclinations, and those who look to him to deal the death blow, his reverence for the integrity of the Court will over-ride ideology.   Stranger things have happened on the High Court.  Let’s hope the optimists are right, and if you are so inclined fall on your knees and pray; for the survival of Obamacare is a life and death matter for millions of Americans….and Republicans really don’t care!