Archive for January, 2013

President Obama and Black Joblessness

Posted in Playthell on politics with tags , , , on January 31, 2013 by playthell


                  Nobody knows the troubles I’ve Seen

 Is Barack to blame for Black Unemployment?

This commentary was sparked by an article posted on my Facebook page regarding a statement made by NAACP leader Ben Jealous, on the black unemployment crisis under the Obama Administration. The interpretation given this statement by some of the black commentators revealed such gross ignorance of the political process and the obstacles President Obama has faced trying to exercise his vision of government, that I was compelled to respond in the hope of adding clarity on this important issue.

Originally posted on the Website “Your Black World” – an attempt to clone the now defunct website “The Black World Today” – the article quotes Ben Jealous to the effect that “Black Americans are doing far worse than when President Obama took office…the country’s back to pretty much where it was when this president started…White people in this country are doing a bit better.  Black people are doing far worse.”  

Jealous’ statement is illustrated by numbers cited from the bureau of Labor Statistics.  “The Most staggering statistic is reported in September 2011,” we are told, “when black unemployment reached 16.7 percent – making it the highest unemployment rate for African-Americans since 1983.” 

The article goes on to tell us: “Commentators such as Yvette Carnell, Dr. Wilmer Leon and Boyce Watkins at Your Black World have consistently stated that the president’s performance should be judged based on the quality of his results not the color of his skin.”  From the comment it appears that the author considers this pedestrian observation a statement of profound insight.

However based upon the statements the author chose to cite from these commentators, one gets the impression that Mr. Obama is not to be judged on his performance in the extremely complex job as Chief Executive Officer of the United States and Commander-In-Chief of American Armed Forces; but as a racial spokesman such as Ben Jealous, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson – and according to Dr. Cornel West, MLK Jr.

We are told that these leaders intend to present the President with a “Black Agenda” that he should pursue in his next four years.   Dr. Boyce Watkins, the self-styled “People’s Scholar,” had this to say: “I’m hopeful that Ben is serious in what he’s saying about the Obama Administration, since I’m sure he’s getting in trouble with Obama’s cabinet over his remarks…I have had a hard time finding any concrete evidence whatsoever that the black community at-large has benefitted from having a bi-racial president.”  This kind of talk is more befitting a color obsessed ignoramus or charlatan than someone who expects to be taken seriously as a scholar.

Much noise was made about the fact that Dr. Watkins was refused tenure by his colleagues at Syracuse.  According to Watkins he was denied tenure because of racism, but his colleagues said his work just didn’t measure up…that he was incompetent.  Based upon his comments here I am inclined to believe his colleagues.

For if he is no better at finance than he is at political analysis he deserved to be kicked to the curb!  Having been booted out of his cushy job in the academy, Watkins now seeks to become yet another spokesman for the race, and his PR hook seems to be bashing Obama like his role model Cornel West.  Every mediocre actor knows you can always get over playing to the cheap seats.

Like the other comments cited in this article, Boyce Watkins statements are a burlesque on serious political analysis; he is a pompous poseur, just another pretentious chatty academic mediocrity.  When it comes to making a good political deal he reminds me of a man who can’t tell his ass from a hole in the ground. It is a matter of public record that President Obama has tried his best to get the Congress to pass his jobs bills, but the Republicans in the House repeatedly block it.

These jobs bills are designed to address all the unemployed, including white workers.  So I would like the know-it-alls like Boyce Watkins to tell us how the President is supposed to get a “black agenda” designed to deal specifically with black problems through this Congress?   And beyond these jobs bills will Mr. Watkins and the other “experts” please tell us what the President can do to affect the unemployment rate?  I anxiously await their answers.

The fact is that the only thing any President can do to deal with mass unemployment is what FDR did: MAKE THE GOVERNMENT THE EMPLOYER OF LAST RESORT!!!!!!  And since the president is not a king who can wave his scepter and make shit happen…tell us what he is supposed to do?  It is easy for intellectuals who have never run an election for village dog catcher to talk tough.  But the President of the United States is a politician and Chief Executive of the largest and most powerful country in the world.

Hence he can’t run around talking smack about being black…he has to govern!  Barack, brilliant politician that he is, recognizes that this would be a bad move; once he pitches the employment crisis in racial terms he will be walking into the trap the Republicans have been setting since right after he won his first term.

They want to make this a racial issue because they know that in any racial conflict they will win…this is not rocket science its basic arithmetic!  These colored jokers posing as serious thinkers just run their mouths, but Barack has to run the country!!!!  These are very different tasks that require different tactics, and if he listened to these guys “advice” Barack would be standing on the sidelines running his mouth along with them!

So Watkins and his fellow angry egg heads are full of BS, and I don’t mean bean soup.  Rather I mean the same thing the distinguished Princeton Philosopher Harry G. Franks meant in his book titled “Bullshit!”  And as for those who are claiming that Barack dissed the black church: That is a damned lie!!!!

I dare them to present any evidence for that claim!!!  As for those like Boyce Watkins, who refer to Barack as “bi-racial” in an attempt to diminish his blackness: let me remind you that so was Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington and BEN JEALOUS!!!!!!   So what has that got to do with anything?  Is Clarence Thomas, Herman Cain, Allen West, Allen Keyes and Tim Scott black enough for you?  Please grow the hell up and act like rational beings!!!!!!!

When Work Disappears


The community is thrown into crisis

If Watkins, Cornel West and their fellow malcontent eggheads want to actually do something constructive: ORGANIZE A MILLION WORKER MARCH ON THE CONGRESS TO INSIST THAT THE PASS THE PRESIDENT’S JOBS BILL!!!   Furthermore, I see a lot of doctors by the name of the President’s black critics, but I see no important SCHOLARLY WORKS on the president’s actual accomplishments from them.  ALL OF THE IMPORTANT WORK IS BEING DONE BY OTHER – MAINLY WHITE – SCHOLARS AND JOURNALISTS!!!

Anyone who really wants some in-depth analysis of President Obama’s accomplishments that benefited black people should hurry up and read, “THE New New Deal” by the award winning Time magazine reporter Michael Grunwald, and if you want to know why he has not been able to do more read “It’s Even Worse Than it Looks,” by the leading scholars on the US Congress, Norman J. Ornstein and Thomas E. Mann.

But one need not dig so deeply to recognize the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act will be a tremendous benefit to the black community where 70% or more households are headed by women!  And who will benefit more from taking the banks out of the College Loan program?  What about the $100 million dollar grant to black colleges, what about universal health care?  Clearly Watkins is either a bald headed liar or a damned fool!!!!

If the president’s black critics read some real scholarship they would not be taking these intellectual lightweights like Boyce Watkins and Cornel West so seriously.  And if you want a broad based understanding of the President’s foreign and domestic policies there are 500 essays that deal with these questions incisively at

Incidently there is a section titled “On Dr. Cornel West,” in which there are nine essays where he is seriously critiqued the way he has called for critiquing President Obama…and he fares far worse than the President.  If the veil of ignorance remains firmly over your eyes regarding the facts about Barack Obama’s actual achievements it’s your own damned fault!  So go sit down somewhere and shut your silly trap!!!!!!


Playthell George Benjamin

Harlem New York

January 3, 2013

Reclaiming the Liberal Legacy

Posted in Playthell on politics with tags , , on January 25, 2013 by playthell

Barack being fortified with the laying on of hands.

The Chosen One

Reflections on Obama’s Second Inaugural Address

      Grand occasions of state demand high flown rhetoric, soaring eloquence and optimistic visions for the future from the orators tasked with celebrating the august event.  President Obama satisfied these demands in high style in his second Inaugural address; a speech marked by brutal honesty and impassioned eloquence designed to present the liberal democratic case as millions of his countrymen listened with greedy ears and joyous hearts to his message of hope and progress, as he navigates the ship of state through troubled waters during his next four years at the helm.  It was a stake through the heart of the Darwinian Reaganite clap trap that “government is the problem,” which has become the mantra of the Grand Obstructionist Party.

Jettisoning the ultra-cool demeanor that earned him the moniker “No Drama Obama,” Chilly B. began his speech with a strong declarative statement: “What makes us exceptional — what makes us American — is our allegiance to an idea, articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’”  The newly reelected President went on to quickly point out, “While these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by his people here on earth.”

While these claims are more or less true, depending upon one’s perspective, his next claim, although it has become conventional wisdom, is a burlesque on history. “The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a Republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed.” 

But, in truth, all of these statements are more myth than history.  It is at best special pleading, an attempt to make American history harmonize with the Master Narrative of US civilization, which is spun by the official mythmakers and based on a strong foundation of “American Exceptionalism.”  All successful American politicians, especially those who pretend to the highest office, must pay homage to this bogus self-righteous myth if they are to have a ghost of a chance at success.

For instance while it is true that the Founding fathers gave us a republic, they gave us a slaveholding Republic like Rome.  A patrician democracy where even among the free white population voting was conceived of as a right that should be restricted to straight, property holding, white Christian males!  Hence from the outset their practice contradicted their preachment about the equality of man.  This resulted in an unequal society where the majority of wealth and power in America is still monopolized by a small minority of white males.

To erase the glaring contradiction of African slavery in their newly minted “democracy” it became necessary to deny the humanity of black people. Frederick Douglass described what that did to the promise of America and the character of white Americans in his 4th of July speech in 1852. I wish Barack had quoted from Douglass, especially since we are still suffering the consequences of America’s racist legacy – most notably in the distribution of wealth by race and gender.

However the President is a constitutional scholar who knows a lot of American history – in striking contrast to most of the Republicans who run around invoking the Constitution as if they are quoting scripture, and are equally ignorant of both the Bible and the Constitution – hence he knows that he is fudging the facts, but he also recognizes that he is cast in the role of politician not professor. Hence political propaganda designed to inspire the electorate and win them to his position in the policy debates, not fastidious professorial pontification which could alienate them with his facts, was Mr. Obama’s  objective.  In reading the speech I have taken the President’s objectives into account.

Yet, even so, I believe the President would have actually strengthened his argument had he donned his professor’s cap for a brief interval and told the tawdry tale of how men who created a radical document that celebrated a universal humanism, and appointed the people as the ultimate arbiters of who shall rule them,  declaring that those who would govern must first gain the consent of those to be governed, was betrayed by greed and racism.  It is quite enough to say that this was a new idea in the world, and it has changed the world for the better, then quote Frederick Douglass on the realities of life for African Americans in the slaveholding republic they created.

On the Fourth of July 1852, Douglass, an escaped Afro-American slave who became a brilliant writer/editor/publisher and the foremost spokesman for freedom and justice in the nation, was invited by his fellow citizens of Rochester New York to present the keynote speech at their annual celebration.  He said in part:

Fellow citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here today? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? And am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?   Would to God, both for your sakes and ours, that an affirmative answer could be truthfully returned to these questions!”

Douglass went to say what he thought of American democracy 65 years after the ratification of the US Constitution.

What to the American slave is your Fourth of July?” asked Douglass. “I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim.  To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds your of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass-fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity,  are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy-a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States at this very hour.”

Never, to my knowledge, has anyone spoken more courageously and candidly about the shameless hypocrisy of white Americans who passionately professed their love for freedom while practicing an absolute tyranny against millions of their countrymen on the basis of something as superficial as skin color, a biological characteristic that has nothing to do with the content of one’s character.  It is both hypocritical and pathological….a species of collective madness.

This historic hypocrisy on race has caused white Americans to routinely corrupt their most cherished ideals; which make racism a very touchy subject. Virtually all Euro-Americans would prefer to avoid the issue because discussing the race question inevitably brings up the subject of benefit, injury and blame.  Who benefitted from the American racial caste system that spans over three quarters of our history all told?  Who was injured by it?  Who has the liability of compensation to the victims of the monstrous crimes against humanity represented by chattel slavery and the legal caste system that followed for a hundred years after the fall of the slaveocracy?  And, most touchy of all, there is the question of who should be compensated and for how much?

Alas, it is understandable that the President skirted these issues and it is unreasonable to expect him to have addressed them.  After all, it was a political speech designed to inspire a sense of unity in the American people and lift the spirits of the nation.  Hence it should surprise no thoughtful observer of the art of politics that the President may have found hyperbole more useful than history. I have already conceded that on this occasion Mr. Obama was a politician not a professor.   And politics is the art of the possible.

Hence if unity was his goal, a candid review of the myriad sins that stain the nation’s character was not the best strategy for achieving the president’s political objectives.  And since I believe that achieving these objectives must be the president’s paramount concern I defer to his judgment, since he is, after all, the most successful politician in American history.

To expect the President to speak with the unbridled candor of Frederick Douglass, who was an independent minded commentator/editor that was responsible only to his supporters – like yours truly – is as unrealistic as comparing him to Martin Luther King in the way that Cornel West is inclined to do.

For while Dr. King and Frederick Douglass were protest leaders, discontented agitators intent upon shaking things up, President Obama is responsible for the fate of the nation and is trying to calm things down after a very acrimonious election. Hence he must proceed with caution because what he says has serious consequences. Nevertheless, if the President had included even a carefully worded statement that succinctly capsulized the points made by Douglass it would have given more zest to his next statement.

“For more than 200 years, we have, through blood drawn by lash and blood drawn by sword, we learned that no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive half-slave and half-free. We made ourselves anew, and vowed to move forward together.” 

The mention of slavery and Civil War is so opaque it sounds more like a poetic allusion whose meaning is clear only to the tutored ear well-tuned to nuances of American history.  However it is my view that it is the job of intellectuals, who are unburdened by the heavy responsibilities that weight on the President, many of whom have lifetime tenure in their jobs in great universities, or independent commentators like the present writer, to clarify these issues.

From this point on in the speech the President transitions beautifully to the present, showing how venerable American ideals persist over time and what they look like at the dawning years of the 21st century.  With a strong sense of I and thou, as espoused by the philosopher Martin Buber, Mr. Obama’s policy prescriptions are presented as a collective effort of the American people to elevate the public good over private greed. “Together, we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce; schools and colleges to train our workers.” He said.

Skillfully employing the rhythmic cadences that echo the refrains of an Afro-American sermon, he reiterates “Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play.  Together, we resolved that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune.” In this artfully rendered passage the President pointed out the critical role of government in regulating the activities of the private business sector, and reaffirmed the virtues of the liberal welfare state.

Then Chilly B threw a mean left hook that nullified the arguments of his critics on the right, who hysterically charge that he envisions himself as an American Caeser, a law unto himself; an unrepentant fascist communist liberal who wants the government to take everybody’s guns and money.  He treated the charges as the absurdities that they are and coolly dismissed them.  “Through it all, we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society’s ills can be cured through government alone. Our celebration of initiative and enterprise; our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, are constants in our character.”

 The President went on to reemphasize the role of public policy in meeting the varied needs of the American people.  It was an unmistakable repudiation of the “go it alone” philosophy of the “Free Market” ideologues in the Republican Party who are screaming bloody murder as I write.  But their cries are in vain, destined to fall on deaf ears because that ship has sailed…it was settled in the election, where the choice between President Obama’s liberal communitarian views were chosen over the Darwinian dog eat dog, survival of the fittest dogma of the GOP.

Then President Obama turned cheer leader, extolling the virtues of the American people in soaring rhetoric that expressed his undaunted confidence that together we can master any challenge. “This generation of Americans has been tested by crises that steeled our resolve and proved our resilience. A decade of war is now ending. An economic recovery has begun. America’s possibilities are limitless, for we possess all the qualities that this world without boundaries demands: youth and drive; diversity and openness; an endless capacity for risk and a gift for reinvention. My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it — so long as we seize it together.”

President Obama also acknowledged that social mobility is becoming rare in the present economy, in which corporations are making greater profits from a cybernated production process that is rapidly replacing human labor with robots and other machines, creating the mass “technological unemployment” that the prescient British economist, John Maynard Keynes warned during the Great Depression of the 1930’s would be a growing problem in the future. Well that future is here.

The President has begun to address this impending tragedy for the working class by the way he invested the stimulus money in projects that could yield new technologies which will generate new jobs to address the growing structural unemployment crisis, a crisis the Republicans continue to confuse with the cyclical crisis of the boom and bust of the capitalist business cycle.  But the President knows better.

Mr. Obama understands that it will require serious government intervention in order to solve the tragic phenomenon of chronic unemployment that millions of Americans are suffering through – even as the business sector enjoys record profits as a result of the American taxpayer bailout yet, refuse to invest in America because they can get quasi slave labor overseas while enjoying the protections provided by our government.

Hence President Obama reminded the American people that “We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American, she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own.”  And he left little doubt about the responsibility of our government in making this equality a reality.

We understand that outworn programs are inadequate to the needs of our time. We must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government, revamp our tax code, reform our schools, and empower our citizens with the skills they need to work harder, learn more, and reach higher. But while the means will change, our purpose endures: a nation that rewards the effort and determination of every single American. That is what this moment requires. That is what will give real meaning to our creed.”

The President also signaled the direction of his foreign policy which, in contrast with the American Exceptionalists neo-con ideologues that beguiled the Bush Administration into launching a war of choice against and unoffending nation – is a policy that seeks peace and cooperation with other nations.  We should thank the Gods of politics that Mitt Romney didn’t become President, for he was surrounded by these crazy characters and they are trying their best to prod America into a war with Iran, at the behest of the Israeli government.  The President will be far harder to persuade than Mitt.

Mr. Obama summed up his views on foreign relations thusly.

“We will defend our people and uphold our values through strength of arms and rule of law. We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully — not because we are naive about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear. America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe; and we will renew those institutions that extend our capacity to manage crisis abroad, for no one has a greater stake in a peaceful world than its most powerful nation.” 

Predictably, neo-con hacks like William Kristol Jr., who, as the Director of the far right think tank Project for a New American Century, was a major architect of the catastrophic Bush Iraq war policy, attacking the President’s quest for peace and glorifying war.  He is just the sort of petulant little Republican chicken hawk who loves to start wars for others to fight.  But he doesn’t get it.  Americans have had more than their fill of foreign military adventures: hence his day is done!  He is just one more hysterical Republican chatter box cutting the fool in public.

It is clear that President Obama fully realized the importance of his inauguration taking place on the holiday of Dr. Martin Luther King, and he left no doubt that he considers it an ancestral imperative to continue Dr. Kings legacy of expanding human freedom and fighting to elevate the least of us.  Symbolically he declared himself by using Dr. King’s personal Bible to swear his oath of office, an unprecedented honor no black American has ever received, and he declared himself rhetorically with this unambiguous statement.

“We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths — that all of us are created equal — is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on earth.”

The Spirit of Dr. King was Omnipresent

Barack and Dt. King 

Invoked by President Obama

Barack Obama has done Dr. King, and the rest of us, proud despite the hysterical blather of Corny West, the clown prince of Obama bashers.  I will have no more to say about this shameless charlatan and self-aggrandizing mountebank, who seizes every opportunity to interject himself into the Obama saga, to rush from the wings like a minstrel figure with bulging eyes and bushy hair and Bogart the stage upon which the magnificent drama of American politics is being played.  But he is only succeeding in disgracing himself, as more people see him as the envious, avaricious, fraud that he is.

As with all great orators, the President left the audience with a transcendent message of hope, delivered with all the passion and eloquence of a black Baptist preacher, and embodying the fundamental tenants of Christian charity that form the foundation of the “Beloved  Community” envisioned by Dr. King.

You and I, as citizens,” he said, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time — not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals. Let each of us now embrace, with solemn duty and awesome joy, what is our lasting birthright. With common effort and common purpose, with passion and dedication, let us answer the call of history, and carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom.”

Senator Mitch McConnell, an unreconstructed southern neo-Confederate redneck, says the era of liberalism is back.  He says that President Obama intends to bring the old Democratic Party back.  I say hell yeah!  You got it exactly right; President Obama has reclaimed the liberal legacy.  You can tell from the way the Republicans are squealing like pigs.  And some of us like it like that….the majority of Americans who voted Barack Obama into the Oval Office for the second time on the promise that he would restore and defend the liberal agenda.  I say Bravo!!!

  The President Speaking to the Nation

Barack obama-ks-t1larg 

 A New Beginning a New Vision




 Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

January 25, 2013

All Hail the Chief!

Posted in Barack's Second Inaugaration with tags , on January 22, 2013 by playthell

Barack Obama Sworn In As U.S. President For A Second Term

Barack Obama: The 44th President of the USA
 Barack’s Second Term begins amid pomp and Circumstance

Although I was surprised to see John Boehner with tear stained eyes as the Marine band played Hail to the Chief, after Barack Hussein Obama took the oath of office, reciting after Chief Justice Roberts, tears came easily to me.  Those black folks who think this is not a moment for celebration has lost their souls….and the whites who share this view have lost their minds!

One need only look at the people on the podium – a gay poet, the wife of a slain civil rights worker, the Greek Orthodox Bishop, who said it was the greatest honor of his life to offer a prayer for the nation, et al.  It was what contemporary America looks like; it was the coalition that elected the President.

Still looking like any brother you might encounter in a pickup basketball game in the hood, Barack is a role model to all the millions of young black males who are contemplating their futures in this society.  And the message is that with a little help from family, friends and good teachers a little black boy in America today can grow up and become the most powerful man in the world!

It is that hope and possibility which was on display when the president took the podium to address the nation, and through the miracle of mass communication the entire world, as he shared his aspirations for the American people during his second term in the Oval Office.

Amid the spectacle of prancing horses and the triumphant sound of fluttering trumpets, President Obama greeted the massive sea of humanity; representing every physical phenotype and diverse religious and political belief.  He began with his usual graciousness, and then he proceeded to deliver an oration that combined a deep sense of Christian charity that calls upon us to take care of our neighbors; to feed the hungry, feed the sick and care for the elderly as a matter of public policy not just pious preachment.

The President Speaks to the Nation


Giving the people a reason to hope for better days

The President reiterated the promise of the declaration of Independence that we are all “created equal,” and called for saving the environment; developing a humane and effective immigration policy; having the right to love and marry whom we please and federal law will protect our rights; investing in the education of our youths; while imploring the Republicans to join him in a bi-partisan effort to solve the nation’s problems.

His style ranged from barbershop conversation and fireside chat, to policy wonk and inspired preacher.  And the society envisioned in his rhetoric promises a brighter future for all who seek one.  However the prospects for the success of his policy objectives passing both houses of Congress, given the crazed behavior of the right-wing zealots, do not seem hopeful.  Despite the cheering crowds gathered several bodies deep in an effort to get a glimpse of the President and First Lady, there are millions of white Americans – and a few blacks – who dread this day.

Hence when they got out of the Limo and began to stroll down the boulevard to the reviewing stand I’m sure the Secret Service agents got heart burn – given the animosity toward the of gun crazed paranoid racists, who possess every type of weapon, and may be poised to wreak havoc.  I know I was on needles and pins watching them walk amidst the wildly cheering masses.

Elegantly promenading down this historic avenue, the First Lady’s style was an eclectic fashion statement combining finely tailored designer garments with off the shelf J. Crew. It is a statement that says American designers are tops and you can be sharp in clothing that the average woman can afford.  Yet the more I heard about the fortifications of the presidential limousine – they talkin James Bond stuff yo – the more I wanted them to get back inside the ride.

For those of us who grew up under the racial caste system – American apartheid – it is a remarkable sight to witness this outpouring of love for our black First Family; it is certainly a sight that the wisest observers of the American racial scene just ten years ago would have dismissed as a dangerous delusion!

Hence I enjoyed every minute of the pomp and circumstance, feeling good about having played my part as a responsible informed citizen in helping to bring this day about. Unlike Corny West, I don’t feel at all slighted by not having been invited to the inauguration parties.

It is more than enough for me that Barack will be in the Oval Office, while Michelle runs the White House, looks after the girls, lends a mighty hand to military families and teaches the nation how to eat for good health.  I cannot imagine better role models for the youth of America and the world.  I feel like our nation hit the jackpot.   All the pomp and circumstance is but the open and passionate display of the love that millions of Americans feel for our first family. This writer included.

You can it in the performances of the marching bands as the pass the reviewing stand.  Music enlivens any occasion; it is what lodges the texture of an experience in our memories.  As the great novelist and musician Ralph Ellison observed in Things Remembered Times Past –his classic essay on the creation of Be-bop at Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem:  “Music gives resonance to memory.”

Hence when I hear those big brass bands with thunderous percussion sections of snares, tenor drums, cymbals and a bass drum line, I conjure up memories of the euphoria I felt playing the Mellophone in a brass section performing the thunderous brass parts in Stars and Stripes Forever; or playing snare drums while the bass drums and cymbals crashed around me like thunder and lightning.  It is such an ecstatic sensation it may be impossible to describe in words…and words are my game.

When played with a high degree of musicianship, this ecstatic feeling is transferred to the listeners.  As they demonstrated again today, nobody plays these John Phillip Sousa marches better than the United States Marine Corp Band, which was founded by Maestro Sousa and for whom he wrote all of those great marching songs.

I learned to love these marches as a boy when I lived next door to a family of gifted musicians where the father, grandfather and three brothers played brass instruments, and were crazy about John Phillip Sousa’s compositions.  Yes they are jingoistic anthems designed to create a martial spirit.  They are also great compositions and if you like brass and drums you gotta love Semper Fidelis, El Capitan, Anchors Away and The Stars and Stripes Forever! 

I still get goose pimples when I hear these marches and I love a good parade!  Generations of men in my family fought under that Stars and Stripes all over the globe.  And even when the nation was false to itself and profaned their most cherished ideals, sacrificing them on the altar of racism, these black men fought for what it promised; certain that there was no better deal to be had anywhere else.

Those who survive those conflicts are all happy campers today.  When they witness Barack Obama sworn in as Commander-In- Chief, they feel their sacrifice has been justified.  The prideful presence of the surviving Tuskegee Airmen, donned in their battle caps says it all.

So Let the naysayers on the extreme right and left try and piss on this magnificent parade if the dare.  As the nation swoons to the sultry beauty of Byonce’s rendition of the National Anthem ll they will accomplish is to further seal their fate as irrelevant bystanders in the theater of political combat in America.   Serves them right!

Anyone who is such a clueless cold fish that they fail to be moved by this amazing national spectacle, this visual panegyric to our democratic process, whose flaws lie more in the character failings of the electorate more than the system’s design, deserves to be confined to the sidelines warming the bench when the real game is being played.

Only master players who love the game of politics can hope to compete in a game where relationships of power are being created and shaped. One of the president’s strongest rhetorical devices was to consistently invoke the image of “we the people.” And he pointed out that in our system of government ultimate power resides in them.

A majority of the people believes him and identify with him. They love him for it and will follow him wherever he leads.  Let’s hope he can work his magic to defeat the House Republicans in the Congressional elections two years hence.


Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

January 21, 2013


Beneath the Spin

Posted in Guest Commentators with tags , , , on January 21, 2013 by playthell

Cornell West povert tour

             A Dangerous Duo


Mr. Smiley, do you intend to return the Millions of dollars that you reportedly made from herding poor Black people and Hispanics into the Wells Fargo “Ghetto Loan” scam to the people who lost their money and homes? And Dr. West, In your learned opinion, what is the appropriate course of action for your friend and associate to take, in accordance with the “prophetic tradition?”

A discrimination lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice, and several articles, including one seeded on Newsvine entitle, “Tavis Smiley – “Ghetto Loan” Peddler for Wells Fargo,” closely associates PBS talk show host, Tavis Smiley, with the Wells Fargo Bank scam targeting poor and middle-class Black and Hispanic borrowers. The article quotes Kelvin Boston, and Keith Corbett of the Center for Responsible Lending, as calling Tavis Smiley “the big draw” of the Wells Fargo scam. Specifically, the article states the following:

.“Smiley was the keynote speaker, and the big draw, according to [Kelvin] Boston [host of “Moneywise”] and Keith Corbett, executive vice president of the Center for Responsible Lending, who attended two of the seminars. Smiley would charge up the audience — and rattle the Wells Fargo executives in attendance — by launching into a story about how he hated banks, and how they used to refuse to lend him money for his real estate projects in Compton, Calif., and elsewhere… But what appeared on the surface as a way to help black borrowers build wealth was actually just the opposite, according to a little-noticed explanation of the “Wealth Building” seminar strategy, contained in a lawsuit recently filed by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

.“Wells’ plan for the seminars all along was to target black borrowers for higher-cost subprime mortgages, not for wealth-building, the suit charged. And the seminars were a part of the bank’s overall illegal and discriminatory practice of steering black and Hispanic borrowers into riskier and more expensive loans, the suit said.”  Subsequent to the law suit, Richard Prince reported in The Washington Independent that Smiley issued a statement indicating that he would sever all ties with Wells Fargo until charges that the company steered minorities into higher-rate loans are resolved.

The article went on to say,  “Wells Fargo sponsored Smiley’s radio show on Public Radio International, and underwrote the annual C-Span-televised “State of the Black Union” conference that Smiley organizes. Smiley’s foundation also distributed Wells Fargo materials to young people at foundation events, he told Journal-isms.  “I cut everything off with Wells Fargo,’ Smiley declared. He said the move cost ‘a lot of money;’ he said, he did not know how much.”

.On July 12, 2012 Charlie Savage reported in the New York Times that Wells Fargo Bank agreed to pay $175 million to settle the discrimination suit which, according to the Department of Justice, targeted over 30,000 Black and Hispanic borrowers for subprime loans with a higher interest rate than for similarly situated White borrowers between 2004 and 2009.

.What makes it particularly ironic that Tavis Smiley would be associated with this scheme to target poor and middle-class minorities is that Smiley is the primary promoter of what he calls “The Poverty Tour,” along with his friend and associate, former Princeton professor, Cornel West. During the tour, on their joint radio talk show, and on numerous media appearances, Smiley and West have gained a reputation for being President Obama’s harshest critics, indicating that the president is not sufficiently focused, and “accountable,” to the nation’s poor and minority community.

.In a statement by Wells Fargo put out after the bank agreed to a settlement of $175 Million, they said that while not admitting to any wrong doing, Wells Fargo agreed to a settlement of the law suit because the bank felt that it was the right thing to do.  CNNMONEY quoted Mike Held, president of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, as saying, “Wells Fargo is settling this matter because we believe it is in the best interest of our team members, customers, communities and investors to avoid a long and costly legal fight, and to instead devote our resources to continuing to contribute to the country’s housing recovery.”

.The settlement includes Wells Fargo paying the Black and Hispanic victims of discrimination $125 million in compensation, and an additional $50 million in down-payment assistance to borrowers in the affected communities.  So the question that remains is, if Wells Fargo Bank feels that paying compensating to the poor and middle-class victims of this scam is the right thing to do, shouldn’t Tavis Smiley, the most strident advocate of “accountability” and fervent crusader for the interest of the poor, feel obliged to do the same?

Certainly, benefiting from the misery of the poor and minority community would run counter to Mr. Smiley’s zeal for the need of the powerful to maintain accountability.  We’d also like to put that question to Smiley’s friend and associate, Dr. Cornel West. What do you think your good friend and associate should do, Dr. West? What does the “prophetic tradition” dictate is the proper course of action?   We’ll be anxiously awaiting your response.

 Click To hear a former Wells Fargo Loan Officer

How black and hispanic home buyers were duped

Eric L. Wattree

Janurary 21, 2013

Los Angeles

America’s Othello’s Unvarnished Truth!

Posted in Playthell on politics with tags , , , on January 16, 2013 by playthell
Colin Powell II
A young warrior fresh from the front

 Why the Republicans are howling

As I listen to the rising decibel level of Republican yelps after Colin Powell’s comments on Meet The Press last Sunday, I am once again reminded of the profundity of my granddaddy George’s wisdom; the kind of wisdom that comes from sharp observation of the ways of mules and men over many years.  “Boy” he said “If you throw stones in a pack of jackals only the ones who get hit will howl.”

Well, judging from the impassioned response from card carrying Republicans to a few remarks about the state of the Grand Obstructionist Party made by Colin Powell, a Republican icon, lots of people felt smacked down!

The intensity of the Republican response demonstrates the truth of Mr. Powell’s remarks.  And, ironically, he is speaking frankly to his fellow Republicans in an effort to stop them from committing political suicide. Composed of soulless opportunists, clueless ignoramuses, unrepentant racists, obsequious black quislings and mindless right-wing ideologues, the Republican Party is dangerously out of touch with the expanding electorate and courting disaster.

Yet, even so, Republican responses to Mr. Powell’s comments are way over the top.  Everything from his qualifications for the high offices he has held to his loyalty to the Republican Party has now being called into question, and there seems to be no epithet to down and dirty to heap upon him.  He has been called everything but a child of God by his fellow Republicans!

To the objective observer it is obvious that all of this odious behavior is further evidence that the Republican Party is in a deep crisis that threatens to tear it apart.  They are lost in a masquerade and cannot bear to gaze upon their true image unmasked in the mirror Colin is holding before their faces.

The Chariman of Joint Chiefs

Colin powell map

Supreme Commander

There is no one in America with a more impressive record of service to this nation, whether in war or peace.  At one time he was combat officer minted in the ROTC program at the Harlem campus of City College; a general officer who became Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; a National Security Advisor to the President of the United States, and Secretary of State; Colin Powell has held top offices in the military and civilian sectors.  And he did it all as a Republican.

At the height of his prominence opinion polls showed that General Powell was the most trusted and respected man in public life.  And it is fairly obvious after the experience of Barack Obama that he could have been President had he run for the office.  I think he would have beaten George W. Bush for the Republican nomination and easily defeated Al Gore for the presidency.   And like Bush, Powell also holds an MBA.

There is much speculation as to why he never ran for the presidency, since he was so obviously qualified for the job and wildly popular with Americans of all colors and ethnicities.. The most convincing explanation I’ve heard is that Colin never ran for the nation’s highest office because Alma Powell, his wife of many years, was adamantly opposed to it.  Alma had suffered through his tours of duty on the front lines in Vietnam early in their marriage.

Although he came through that hazardous experience unscathed, she was convinced that some racist white American nut would surely assassinate her husband before allowing him to take up residence in the Oval Office.  And given the vicious character assassination directed at the former General by rightwing nuts as I write, she had a point.

Alma was not willing to suffer through that; she felt Colin had given enough of his life in service to this country and they deserved a break.  She did not wish to spend the balance of her days as the widow of a martyr.  Alas Alma was not alone in her fears that a run for the Oval Office by Colin would result in tragedy.

A group of prominent black Americans led by Hollywood entertainment mogul Quincy Jones and multi-millionaire businessman Bruce Llewellyn, Colin’s cousin, met with Powell and begged him not to run because they believed the racist rightwing propaganda machine would attempt to besmirch his character and muddy his legacy.

The members of this delegation felt that Powell was too important as a role model to black youth and a symbol of Afro-American possibility to risk it all in a presidential race that they evidently believed that he could not win.  It was a generational thing.  For instance, when Michele Obama was asked about the possibility of Barack being assassinated after he decided to run for the presidency she said: “Barack is a black man living in Chicago; he can get shot just going to the gas station.”

I thought Colin Powell should have run and I believed he would have won. He was a strong supporter of Affirmative Action; was hesitant to deploy American military forces; supported the New Deal safety net; respected the rights of organized labor and felt there is an important role for government in developing the nation’s economy just like General Dwight Eisenhower.

And most importantly, he was a pragmatist rather than an ideologue, and could have worked with politicians across party lines in order to get things done.  All of which are opposed by his fellow Republicans.  Hence he has long been a square peg in a round hole, a misfit in the Grand Obstructionist Party.

For years I believed that Powell was in some sort of bizarre denial.  Although many progressive black people were Republicans when he was a boy – given that the southern branch of the Democratic party called “Dixiecrats” was the bailiwick of the most racist reactionary rednecks in the nation, the avowed enemies of black progress who supported a legal racial caste system that served as the model for the Nazi Nuremburg laws directed against German Jews –  by the 1980’s when Colin became a power in Republican politics the GOP had become the home of those same southern racist!

The reason iconic southern segregationists, who had built their reputations on the oppression of Afro-Americans, switched party’s was because the Democrats had become the party that passed the great Civil Rights bills that destroyed the de jure racial caste system in the US – American apartheid aka “The southern way of life.”

Hence the question might reasonably be asked: What did Powell expect?  He was a black member of a party that had adopted a “Southern Strategy” designed to appeal to the racial resentments of white southerners over the victories of the Civil Rights movement.  This strategy prompted white southern politicians cum hardcore racist reactionaries like Strom Thurmond, Jessie Helms, Trent Lott, et al to switch political parties..  How is it possible that Powell did not understand this?

The sad truth is that Colin became the protégée of certain members of the national security establishment, who recognized his talents and placed it above his color, and Mr. Powell entered into a Faustian Bargain with the Republican establishment.  Furthermore, the consciousness of himself as a black man probably didn’t really dawn on him until he was at City College.

This is because in the Jamaican society that shaped his parents Colin was considered a “brown” rather than a “black” man.  And while this distinction meant nothing in the US because the only distinction that really mattered was whether you were white on “Negro” – a socially constructed rainbow “race” whose complexions ran from “Light bright damned near white” to ebony black – in the triple color caste system of Jamaica  the distinction between “black” and “brown” could determine your life chances.

But the Party has changed since Powell’s glory days; first with the rise of neo-cons and now the Tea Party, and now there’s the Devil to pay.  Unwilling to sit silently by like that South Carolina Sambo Timmy Scott, or co-sign the dangerous far right mumbo jumbo of nuts like disgraced Army Colonel and recently defeated Republican congressman Alan West, Powell spoke out about some inconvenient truths that has made him a pariah in his own party.

Everything Colin Powell said is beyond question.  After giving a ringing endorsement to Chuck Hagel’s appointment as Secretary of Defense, a position which is anathema to the right-wing ideologues in the GOP, Powell charged the Republicans with blatant race baiting by major party leaders like ex-governors Sarah Palin and John Sunnu.  And he presented compelling evidence to support his charge.  He said an element of the party just didn’t like minorities.

Powell accused the party of trying to suppress the votes of minorities.  He said the Party was having an “identity problem” he observed that “the country has changed” and if the party does not change with the demographics “they are in trouble.”  That’s putting it mildly, which is characteristic of the precise measured way he speaks about important issues.

It would have been no exaggeration to say that the Republicans are on the path to permanent minority status that will never win another national election unless they change with the times and accommodate themselves to the new political realities.

When Colin Powell was the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of the military I always thought of him as a kind of American Othello.  Like Shakespeare’s great black General Othello the Moor, General Powell was the supreme military commander in a nation dominated by white people.  His civilian superiors were all white as was his military subordinates.   Placing him in the same racially charged environment that Shakespeare placed his character in….the result was a tragedy.

General Powell had heard racist things said about him to his face, and he was the subject of intrigues and resentments from white villains and fools driven by envy, avarice and blind ambition – morally deformed cretins who wished him harm and anxiously awaited his fall from grace as they actively plotted to bring it about.

Forsooth, Colin Powel’s Grand Obstructionist Party, in whose interests he yet labors, is full of such treacherous characters: and they wish him ill even as they conspire against our President…to whom he has pledged fealty.

Perchance he shall escape the foul fate mad dogs like Dirty Dick Cheney and McDaddy McCain wish for him.  But brother man had better watch his back.  Maybe his ritual crucifixion – those of coarser sensibilities are calling it a lynching – is the price he must now pay for making a deal with the devil, bartering his racial soul for power and glory.Perhaps he now wonders if they were fools gold.

The answer to this riddle begs a wiser mind than I possess – hence I’m not saying this is the general’s dilemma…but it could be.  After all, like his literary ancestor Othello, all he did was tell the round unvarnished truth.

 The Lion in Winter


Old Soldiers Never Die!

( Double Click to see Powell’s TV Interview)


Playthell G, Benjamin

Harlem, New York

Janurary 15, 2013

On The Savaging of Chuck Hagel

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On Israel, Playthell on politics with tags , , on January 9, 2013 by playthell

Chuck Hagel

             A Decorated combat Veteran and Ex-US Senator

 Should Ideologues and Special Interests Determine American Foreign Policy?

      While some members of my party – and I am a “Yellow Dog Democrat” – are agitated over the fact that President Obama may be about to appoint yet another Republican to the helm of the Department of Defense – whose raison d’etre is waging war – I have other concerns regarding the appointment of Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense.

As near as I can tell,  these Democrats are principally concerned about the possibility that President Obama’s choice will confirm the myth that only Republicans can be trusted to direct the nation’s defense.  While this is a legitimate complaint from the winning party, who have ample reason to suspect the motives of the losers, I have bigger fish to fry.

For whatever dangers the perpetuation of the myth of the Republican strong man poses – which are not insignificant – the protests coming from the hawks in Mr. Hagel’s own party such as Senator Lindsay Graham and others are far more disturbing.  The questions they raise go directly to the issue of defining a national security policy that is based on an objective analysis of the realities facing our nation.

In order to create effective policies that address American national interests in a dangerous world faced with many complex problems, the first thing any analyst must do is scrap the bogus ideology of “American Exceptionalism,” because it promotes the idea that Americans have a mission to reshape other societies in our image that engenders an evangelical approcach to foreign policy

The next most important precondition is to free policymakers from the corrosive influences of special interests.  Foremost among these interests are political pressure groups and the Military/Industrial complex i.e. the defense contractors who welcome any opportunity to acquire multi-billion dollar government contracts.  Ironically, it was a very popular Republican President and top military commander, Dwight Eisenhower, who warned us of the dangers of developing a military/industrial complex because he believed it would spur the nation to wars for profit.

By virtue of his independent position on the Middle-East and rejection of those who wish to manufacture war hysteria, Chuck Hagel is anathema to both factions. In the storm brewing around his nomination we are witnessing a convergence of these forces that amounts to a dangerous and unholy alliance.  I would argue that the clear and present danger represented by these forces far outweighs the concerns of my fellow Democrats about untoward appearances…which is largely a matter of cosmetics.

I see no cause for great concern here, since President Obama is Commander-In-Chief and whoever is Secretary of Defense will carry out his orders and implement his vision of the world.  Having spent his entire first term in the presidency conducting two major foreign wars, and several police actions, he is no novice in matters of war and peace.

Hence the President will not be intimidated by military men.  The danger represented by the forces that oppose Hagel’s nomination causes me far greater concern, because they reveal the extent to which American foreign policy options are determined by special interests rather than US national interests.

When we look at the policy struggles on a variety of critical issues involving the national interests, it is frighteningly obvious that far too many cowardly politicians keen on political survival are willing to “sell their souls to the company store”.  That’s why we find ourselves in the absurd position of constantly being on the verge of inflicting disaster on our own economic system – throwing the nation into a second Republican induced depression – because Republican Congressmen are scared to death of bucking the commands of anti-tax zealot Grover Norchrist and his Tea Party allies; rightwing zealots who have pledged to run candidates against them in the Republican primaries should they deviate from the Tea Party line.

Given the unlimited spending by special interests, which is now legal due to the disastrous Supreme Court decision in the “Citizens United” case, the anti-tax lobby is very well funded by people like the multi-billionaire Koch Brothers.  The Republicans are reminding us in grand fashion that he who pays the piper calls the tune.

Alas, this cowardly attitude is also reflected in the arena of foreign policy.  Hence, due to the genuflection of avaricious, hypocritical, opportunistic politicians – terrified by the likes of the passionate American Zionist billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who is willing to spend hundreds of millions to defeat candidates that refuse to tow the Israel Lobby’s line on Mid-East policy – the fate of the nation may well be determined by special interests at the expense of the national interests.

Nothing demonstrates this possibility more than the nature of the attacks against former Senator Hagel.  And it is all the more frightening because when you subject these charges to close scrutiny it is readily apparent that Hagel’s major sins have to do with him defending American interests in the world, and unapologetically privileging that interest over Israeli interests.

He has called for negotiations with Hamas, the militant Palestinian organization that the Israelis call terrorists – but was elected to govern Gaza by the Palestinian people, and he opposes taking military action against Iran.  He reluctantly voted for the Iraq invasion but later considered it a mistake, and he opposed the expansion of the war in Afghanistan.

Furthermore,  he wants to reduce the size of the American military and end many foreign deployments.  All of which goes against the policies advocated by the Israel Lobby and their neo-con shills.

In return for his unflinching position that American and Israeli interests in the Middle-East are not identical, and that when they diverge American interest should be paramount, Hagel has been denounced as unqualified by such neo-con ideologues as Bill Kristol Jr. – a pretentious blabbermouth who was hugely influential in persuading Bush to invade Iraq, and even declared an enemy of Israel and worse: an anti-Semite aka a Jew Hater.  In the past this charge has proven to be a kiss of death for anyone in public life.

Everybody who knows Hagel says this is a damned lie, a misrepresentation of his position and character.  After all, this is a man who as a US senator voted for $38 billion in aid for Israel.  And Senator Lindsay Graham’s charge that President Obama’s nomination of Hagel is a defiant “in your face” challenge to Senate Republicans that is yet another slap at Israel, demonstrates the degree to which the Republican arguments bear no relationship to reality.  The Republican mantra that President Obama has shown unprecedented hostility to Israel is sheer poppycock.  No matter how many times they repeat it.

The fact is that the feigned love for Israel by Republican politicians amounts to little more than crass political opportunism and vulgar shameless pandering to the Christian Zionists.  Since Jews are few in number compared to Christians, and most Jews are liberal Democrats anyway, a function of their high level of education, it is the impassioned but untutored Christian fundamentalist soldiers to whom the pro-Israel Republican rhetoric is directed.

However high ranking national security figures in Israel are wary of the intentions of the Republican right and hold a very different view of President Obama.  In an interview in the prestigious journal Foreign Affairs Efraim Halevy, the former head of the MOSSAD, Israel’s CIA, criticized Romney’s use of Israel as a political prop.

“Regarding the election,” Halevy said, I think many of the statements made by the Republican candidate are very undesirable as far as Israel is concerned. I remember an article of Governor Romney’s in the Washington Post in March where he advocated dispatching American warships to the Eastern Mediterranean. Shooting from the hip on these matters is a very dangerous sport to be engaged in. And I think that drawing Israel into this campaign is detrimental to Israeli interests, and I regret that one of the candidates is doing this.”

In response to Mitt Romney’s claim that President Obama had “thrown Israel under the bus,” Halevy offered a counter-view of President Obama’s treatment of Israel. “On the practical side, the United States has been very supportive of Israel during President Barack Obama’s administration — both financially and strategically, we have received a lot of support.” Halevy went on to compare the positions of Romney and President Obama regarding Israeli security.  “What Romney is doing is mortally destroying any chance of a resolution without war,” he said.  “Obama does think there is still room for negotiations. It’s a very courageous thing to say in this atmosphere.”  

And in a later Op-Ed column in the New York Times of October 12, 2012 Mr. Halevy had this to say regarding Republican and Democrat support for Israel: Despite the Republican Party’s shrill campaign rhetoric on Israel, no Democratic president has ever strong-armed Israel on any key national security issue.” He also goes to great lengths to name a list of Republican Presidents who did exactly what they are now falsely accusing President Obama of doing.

Halevy’s views are echoed in the assessment of Ehud Barak, the Israeli Minister of Defense.  Speaking in an interview on CNN during the heat of the presidential campaign last July, Barak said “I should tell you honestly that this administration under President Obama is doing, in regard to our security, more than anything that I can remember in the past.”  When the Republican views of President Obama policies toward Israel are compared with the position of these high ranking Israeli’s, I am reminded of the wise Ibo proverb: “Beware of the stranger who comes to the funeral and cries louder than the bereaved family.”

Let us examine the case against Chuck Hagel and see if his detractors have a point; let’s look objectively at what the evidence suggests.  The crux of the charges against Hagel center around statements he made regarding US policy toward Israel, Iran and the militant Palestinian organization Hamas.  The evidence for the charge that Mr. Hagel is anti-Semitic resides in his comments during a 2006 interview in which he spoke of how the “Jewish Lobby” was “intimidating a lot of people.”

Hagel’s offense here was that he said “Jewish” rather than “Israel” Lobby, and that grave “offense” was compounded by him telling the truth about how they make “friends” and influence the votes of politicians through organized intimidation.   His reference to the “Jewish Lobby” was simply a matter of semantics, confusion regarding the Lobby’s proper name that puzzles a lot of Americans.  Yet in spite of the caterwauling from the Neo-Con warmongers and the pro-Zionists hawks – Christian and Jewish – the modus operandi described by Hagel is true!

The best evidence of this is the carefully directed campaign against his nomination as Defense Secretary being conducted by these very forces as I write.  And whether they are called the “Jewish Lobby” or the “Israel Lobby” is irrelevant: It is a distinction without a difference.  When one analyzes the content of the anti-Hagel rhetoric it becomes abundantly clear that his greatest sin was mentioning the existence of the “Israel Lobby” at all.

What else are we to conclude from the criticism that “Christians are part of the lobby too?”  And even worse are Arizona Senator John McCain’s statements that Hagel’s observations were “inappropriate,” and “There’s no such thing as a Jewish lobby,” McCain said when asked about Hagel’s comments. “There’s an Armenian lobby, there’s not a Jewish lobby. There’s an Israeli lobby. It’s called AIPAC, very influential.”

Aside from the fact that this is dishonest buffoonery, McCain also labeled the lobby incorrectly, and his offense is a far graver one because he said “Israeli Lobby,” which means a lobbying effort by a foreign government to influence America foreign policy in their favor.  This slip is really revealing; perhaps Senator McCain accidentally said what he really believes but dare not say on purpose.  His statement demonstrates that he, like everybody on Capitol Hill, knows the Lobby exists and that they exercise great power over American politics.

But we have seen John McCain change what were supposed to be principled positions so often he rivals Mitt Romney for the title “Mr. Chameleon.”  And we have already seen the extent to which he is willing to go in risking the national interests to gain a political advantage.  After all, this is the joker who argued that Sarah Palin, the airhead Alaskan Barbarian, was qualified to be the Chief Executive of the most powerful country in the world and Commander-In-Chief of the US armed forces.

His choice revealed a cavalier disregard for the national security of the United States, as well as a disdain for American women.  All of the educated women I know considered McCain’s choice of Palin for his vice President an insult to women who had worked long and hard to qualify themselves for top positions in this country.

Most thought that he wanted somebody as clueless and ineffectual as his wife Cindy, and he would treat her likewise, shunting her off into irrelevance once she helped him win the presidency by attracting the “Dumb Dora” vote.  However I have written about all this in earlier commentaries so I won’t rehash it here; my purpose is to remind people who this verbose charlatan is and suggest that the reader consider the source in weighing the drivel that flows from the pie hole of the Mack Man.


What is important here is that American citizens understand the role of the Israel Lobby, and the militant pro-Israel neo-con cabal hatched in the Project for A New American Century, whose egghead policy wonks were the architects of the disastrous Iraq Invasion.  We avoided another reign of errors by this crazy crew only because we defeated Mitt and reelected the President.

One of the scariest things about Romney – and they were legion – is the number of these clowns he had tapped as foreign policy advisors.  For an in-depth analysis of their role in taking the nation into a war of choice read: “How the Iraq War was Hatched in a Think Tank” on this blog.

As early as 2002, stunned by the 911/attack and the recognition of a rising tide of militant anti-American Islamists, even a major neo-con intellectual  who had been editor of Irvin Kristol’s mag “The Public Interest,” a bible of the neo-cons, wrote the following in reference to the power of the Israel Lobby and questioned if it was in the best interests of the United States.

“Today the Israel lobby distorts U.S. foreign policy in a number of ways. Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, enabled by U.S. weapons and money, inflames anti-American attitudes in Arab and Muslim countries. The expansion of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land makes a mockery of the U.S. commitment to self-determination for Kosovo, East Timor and Tibet. The U.S. strategy of dual containment of Iraq and Iran pleases Israel-which is most threatened by them-but violates the logic of realpolitik and alienates most of America’s other allies. Beyond the region, U.S. policy on nuclear weapons proliferation is undermined by the double standard that has led it to ignore Israel’s nuclear program while condemning those of India and Pakistan.”

Although this commentator is on the right, his commentary is on the money and I have made all of these same points in a variety of essays.  No objective observer who is basing their analysis on the facts can arrive at any other conclusion…facts are stubborn things and can’t be wished away by ideologues.

Regarding the power of the Israel Lobby to besmirch the character and wreck the careers of politicians – and journalists too – who disagree with their vision of Israel’s role in the Middle East, and refuse to rubber stamp every policy of the Israeli government because they believe it is not in best interests of the US, the evidence is voluminous.  For the definitive account of how this Lobby works read “The Israel Lobby,” by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, professors at the University of Chicago and Harvard.

After studying American policy in the Middle East, which supports Israeli policy at the risk of alienating everybody else, professors Mearsheimer and Walt raised the following question: “Why has the US been willing to set aside its own security and that of many of its allies in order to advance the interests of another state? One might assume that the bond between the two countries was based on shared strategic interests or compelling moral imperatives, but neither explanation can account for the remarkable level of material and diplomatic support that the US provides.” 

The answer that emerges from their study is clear.  Instead, the thrust of US policy in the region derives almost entirely from domestic politics,” they argue, “and especially the activities of the ‘Israel Lobby’. Other special-interest groups have managed to skew foreign policy, but no lobby has managed to divert it as far from what the national interest would suggest, while simultaneously convincing Americans that US interests and those of the other country – in this case, Israel – are essentially identical.”

Woe be unto the politician or pundit who disputes this view of American Israeli national interests.  The fearless professors Walt and Mearsheimer predicted that they too would become the target of attack for undertaking this study of the Israel Lobby and candidly weighing the evidence in their conclusion.

And they were right, as the Anti-Defamation League’s formidable propaganda machine produced a book, The Deadliest Lies: The Israel Lobby and the Myth of Jewish Control, attacking the authors personally and dismissing their study, publishing it under the byline of their pugnacious and hypocritical president Abraham Foxman.

However for those who are students of this question, this writer included, Foxman’s tome was dismissed as self-interested “special pleading” – a term of art among professional historians for writers who attempt to arrange historical facts to justify conclusions that are unsupported by an objective examination of the evidence.   It is the difference between history and propaganda.  Looking to Foxman for objective analysis of a book that criticizes practices of which he is guilty is the equivalent of placing the fox in charge of the chicken coop.

The fate of long time White House Press Corps reporter Helen Thomas is another dramatic example of how the Anti-Defamation League employs their influence to trash the careers of those who oppose them on Mid-East policy. Ms. Thomas was interviewed on camera by Rabbi David Nesenoff of, as she walked to work in Washington one morning.

Ms. Thomas was asked what she thought about the Israelis and she said “I think they should get the hell out of Palestine.” She went on to say of the Palestinians “These people are occupied…and it’s their land.”  The following response from pro-Israeli forces was typical of the kind of attacks Helen Thomas received: “She is advocating religious cleansing. How can Hearst stand by her? If a journalist, or a columnist, said the same thing about blacks or Hispanics, they would already have lost their jobs.”

To begin with neither statement is true.  Racist things are said about black people all the time in the media – including the president – and there are no consequences for the utterers.  Thomas was addressing the European Zionist Jews who invaded Palestine, dispossessed the Palestinian Arabs and founded the colonial settler state of Israel in the mid twentieth century.

Hence the feeling that they should return from whence they came is a widespread feeling in the Arab world and Helen Thomas, like the actor comedian Danny Thomas, is of Arabic heritage.  And there are really foul things said by Jewish commentators about the Arabs on a routine basis.

And I dare say that any American would feel exactly the same way had Arabs colonized England or the US the way the Zionist did in Palestine!  I believe any American who says otherwise – if you can find one – would be a damned liar.  Helen Thomas, who known as “The Dean of the White House Press corps,” raised this question after she was fired from her job reporting on the White House, which she had been doing for over fifty years.  The comment is recorded in a 2010 Playboy magazine interview.

Of course I don’t condone any violence against anyone.” She said. “But who wouldn’t fight for their country? What would any American do if their land was being taken? Remember Pearl Harbor. The Palestinian violence is to protect what little remains of Palestine. The suicide bombers act out of despair and desperation.
Three generations of Palestinians have been forced out of their homes—by Israelis—and into refugee camps. And the Israelis are still bulldozing Palestinians’ homes in East Jerusalem. Remember, Menachem
Begin invented terrorism as his MO—and bragged about it in his first book. That’s how Israel was created, aided and abetted by U.S. money and arms.”

Among those who would be the first to declare war against any foreign force that violated one inch of US territory – even if were in Guantanamo Cuba where an imperialist US government forced a weak Cuban government to accept a perpetual treaty ceding part of their territory to the US for use as a naval base in the late 19th century – is the American Exceptionalist crowd; who are so rabidly pro-Israel.   Helen Thomas accused the US of employing double standards in dealing with the Palestinians and she is right!

Ironically the “Christian Zionist,” who outnumber the Jews among pro-Israel Americans, care not a whit about Jews as such.   Their interest in Israel is inspired by “End Time” theology, which teaches that the Jews must return to Israel before Jesus Christ, “The Messiah,” can return to earth and pass final judgment on the world.

After the Battle of Armageddon, there will come the Rapture and the good saved souls will ascend to heaven to live forever with the righteous of all ages in the presence of God; while the wicked sinners will descend into hell to burn in its fires forever.

Alas, in a strange twist of fate, these pro-Israel Christians also believe that if the Jews do not accept Jesus Christ as the Messiah – which thus far they have not been inclined to do – they too shall burn forever in the fires of hell with the rest of the infidels!  And despite how they may feel about the Jewish prophets in the bible, the way they really feel about contemporary Jews in America is another matter.

Those views were candidly expressed and captured on tape by Reverend Billy Graham, an iconic divine among the Israel loving Evangelical Christians, in a private  conversation with President Nixon in the White House during1972 , which was recorded.  Speaking of the positions of Jews in the mass media Reverend Graham said, “This stranglehold has got to be broken or the country’s going down the drain.” “You believe that? Asked Nixon.. “Yes, sir,” Graham answered. “Oh, boy,” Nixon said, “So do I. I can’t ever say that, but I believe it.”

That the Christian Zionists hold these anti-Jewish beliefs is no secret to the leadership of organized Jewry. They have entered into a Faustian bargain with these Jew haters because they support Israel; just as they have served as holocaust deniers in lobbying against any attempt by Armenian Americans  to persuade the US government to officially recognize the genocide committed against their people by the Turks in 1915, in which a million and a half Armenians were slaughtered.  In yet another Faustian bargain, US Jewish leaders have actively assisted in suppressing recognition of the Armenian victims of Genocide in exchange for Turkish support for Israel.

The testimony of Armenian American journalist and author Mark Arax exposes the duplicity of the powerful Anti-Defamation League on the Armenian genocide, which is shameless and amoral in light of their unceasing and merciless denunciation of those who attempt to deny the Nazi genocide against Jews.  In doing research for a feature story on Jewish holocaust deniers of the Armenian genocide for the Washington Post, Mr. Arax interviewed Abraham Foxman, who heads the Anti-Defamation League.  He recalls:

Then I found my way to the equivocators and deniers who sat at the helms of the major American Jewish organizations. None was more blunt than Abraham Foxman, the head of the Anti-Defamation League in New York. The Armenian Genocide had become his own convenient cudgel to keep Turkey in line.  Foxman had just returned from a meeting with Turkish military and government leaders to discuss pressuring Congress, the State Department and President Bush to turn back the genocide resolution once again.

“Our focus is Israel,” he explained. “If helping Turkey helps Israel, then that’s what we’re in the business of doing.” But such a bottom line would seem an uncomfortable place for a Jewish leader to be when the question was genocide.  “Was it genocide?” he said. “It was wartime. Things get messy.”

Like Winston Churchill, who led Britain’s triumphant struggle against the Nazis, pro-Israel American Jews are quite willing to “make a deal with the Devil” if it empowers Israel.  Since these Jews believe Christianity, especially the fundamentalist variety, is hokum anyway, they are quite willing to risk burning in the Rapture if the Christian fanatics are willing to employ their formidable resources to advance Israel here and now.  They will deal with the Rapture when it arrives.

Together these pro-Zionist Christian and Jewish forces have destroyed the careers of anyone who dares to criticize American policy toward Israel as biased and not in the best interests of the United States, or even worse, criticize Israeli policy toward their Arab neighbors – the dispossessed, powerless and occupied Palestinians in particular.

The case of Helen Thomas is instructive because the attack was led by the ubiquitous Abraham Foxman, who openly called for her to be fired.  And she was!   Just as  Mark Arax’s story died a mysterious death at the Washington Post.   Stories of the ruined careers of journalists, and even professional Foreign Service officers, who opposed the objectives of the Israel Lobby abound and are too numerous to reiterate here.

But we must not allow them to destroy the nomination of Chuck Hagel; hence it is imperative to support the president and urge him to stand firm in this appointment.   When a spineless opportunist like Senator Lindsay Graham, a Republican from South Carolina who is terrified of losing his seat, says Hagel’s views are “out of the mainstream,” well that depends upon how one defines “mainstream.”

Senator Graham’s conception of the mainstream is defined by the policies of the neo-cons that took control of a confused George W. Bush’s Foreign policy after the 9/11 attack.   This is an interventionist policy designed to create a unipolar world under American hegemony, a Pax Americana that resembles the ancient Pax Romama when Rome ruled the world – which means the end of the bipolar world order characterized by a perpetual Cold War /Arms Race with the Soviet Union.  This  view has squandered the so-called “Peace Dividend,” that should have accrued from vast savings on military expenditures when we no longer had to prepare for a possible war with Russia.  What is clear about this view is that it is a formula for perpetual war. Hence it is a good thing that Chuck Hagel is viewed as out of step with this crowd.

However the neo-cons are a recent phenomenon as shapers of American foreign policy. They have been around for years producing policy polemics. But their views on America’s role in the world are opposed by a venerable group of foreign policy /national security intellectuals, who have served at the highest levels of our foreign policy establishment.  Their opposition was clearly stated in a December 25, letter to the Washington Post, in which four former National Security advisors to American presidents – James L. Jones, Brent Scowcroft, Zbigniew Brzenzinski, and Frank Carlucci – strongly supported the nomination of Chuck Hagel.  Their statement reads:

We strongly object, as a matter of substance and as a matter of principle, to the attacks on the character of former senator Chuck Hagel. Mr. Hagel is a man of unshakable integrity and wisdom who has served his country in the most distinguished manner in peace and war. He is a rare example of a public servant willing to rise above partisan politics to advance the interests of the United States and its friends and allies.”

“Moreover, it is damaging to the quality of our civic discourse for prospective Cabinet nominees to be subjected to such vicious attacks on their character before an official nomination.  This type of behavior will only discourage future prospective nominees from public service when our country badly needs quality leadership in government.” 

And, by the way, Colin Powell – who has been a combat soldier, a general officer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, National Security Advisor and Secretary of State – is giving Mr. Hagel a ringing endorsement as I write.

One of the most formidable myths constructed by the pro-Israel Jewish leadership in organizations like AIPAC – American Israel Public Affairs Committee – and the Anti-Defamation League is that they speak for all American Jews.  But the fact is that they have the loudest megaphone and simply drown out dissenting voices.

This is true whether it is Jewish religious communities like the Satmar Hassidum, who view the state of Israel as a sacrilege because only the Messiah can establish the new Israel, or Jewish theologians like Dr. Mark Ellis – author of the revelatory text “Beyond Auschwitz” or independent radical intellectuals like Lenni Brenner, whose book “Zionism In the Age of the Dictators” sent shock waves among supporters of Zionism – and had to be published in England because he couldn’t find an American with the balls to publish this incendiary and enlightening text – or the late great Village Voice investigative reporter Robert I Freedman, who was the premier reporter on the fanatical rightwing Jews, here and in Israel.

However there is one dissenting Jewish voice that they have not been able to silence, although they would like to, Thomas Friedman of the New York Times.  A New York Times columnist who has been awarded the coveted Pulitzer Prize three times for his writings on foreign affairs, Friedman’s knowledge of Israeli policies toward their neighbors in the Middle East is formidable.  The fact that he also happens to be pro-Israel makes his views all the harder to dismiss.  Friedman’s views on Hagel’s nomination are summed up in his December 26 column Give Chuck a Chance.

It is a column well worth reading in its entirety; especially if, like most Americans, you are not up to snuff on the issues surrounding the attacks on Mr. Hagel.  But for our purposes here one excerpt will suffice.

I am certain that the vast majority of U.S. senators and policymakers quietly believe exactly what Hagel believes on Israel — that it is surrounded by more implacable enemies than ever and needs and deserves America’s backing. But, at the same time, this Israeli government is so spoiled and has shifted so far to the right that it makes no effort to take U.S. interests into account by slowing its self-isolating settlement adventure. And it’s going to get worse. Israel’s friends need to understand that the center-left in Israel is dying.

“The Israeli election in January will bring to power Israeli rightists who never spoke at your local Israel Bonds dinner. These are people who want to annex the West Bank. Bibi Netanyahu is a dove in this crowd. The only thing standing between Israel and national suicide any more is America and its willingness to tell Israel the truth. But most U.S. senators, policymakers and Jews prefer to stick their heads in the sand, because confronting Israel is so unpleasant and politically dangerous. Hagel at least cares enough about Israel to be an exception.”

One need only compare this glowing recommendation of Mr. Hagel with the mealy-mouthed equivocations of Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority leader of the Senate, another Republican who is scared of losing his seat, to recognize the power of the pro-Israel lobby in the US.  Even the fact that Mr. Hagel saved the life of McConnell’s brother during combat in Vietnam was not sufficient to win Mitch’s enthusiastic endorsement!

Such is the power of special interests, and thus the reason why it must be opposed in favor of policies that truly serve the national security interests of the United States.  I believe it is the historically appointed role of Progressive American intellectuals to expose these lies by presenting counterstatements of fact, which is the burden of this essay.

The minimal essential lesson I’d like the reader to learn is that the attack on Chuck Hagel is motivated by special interests that are not in the national interests, and thus Mr. Hagel is the hero of this dangerous melodrama that threatens to become a genuine tragedy….unless we stand up for this old soldier who is still standing up for us.

A Real Soldier at War

Chuck Hagel at war

Chucky  scares the shit outta the Chicken Hawks!


Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

Janurary 8, 2012

Who Won in the Cliff Deal?

Posted in Playthell on politics with tags , , , , on January 3, 2013 by playthell

             Barack After the Cliff Deal - January 2, 2013

President Obama comments on the Art of the deal

 A victory for the political process and the American people

As is to be expected from hard core ideologues on both sides, the deal hammered out by Vice President Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to prevent the nation from going over the fiscal cliff and smashing the fragile economic recovery on the rocks of uncertainty is being vociferously denounced and condemned as a sellout.  For instance right-wing columnist Charles Krauthammer, who is a psychiatrist, called the deal “a complete surrender” on the part of Congressional Republicans.

Since Dr. Krauthammer has long struck me as a man desperately in need of his own services – as in “doctor heal thyself” – it does not surprise me that he would say something crazy. Yet his views are echoed throughout the Tea Party crowd that voted against the deal.  And the response from the left echoes the hysteria on the right.

For instance Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat from Iowa, declared “no deal is better than the one currently on the table.” And Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a Manhattan based Democrat called the deal a “tremendous victory for Republicans.”   Obviously the naysayers do not fully grasp the nature of compromise, which requires one to give up some cherished goal in order to get the other side to agree to something else you want.

It also means that you don’t always get to choose what you will have to give up; often it is demanded as a concession by the opposition in exchange for ceding something you want from them.  That’s how the game goes.  Neither side can get their way so you negotiate the best deal you can.

That’s how a functioning government works in a system with a threefold division of power where each branch of government serves to check and balance the power of the other.  The American government was designed this way because the architects of the US constitution was determined to prevent the rise of tyrannical rulers such as existed in Europe, with their doctrine of “The Divine Rights of Kings.”

That’s why they specified that those who govern must have the consent of the governed.  That’s also why they wisely placed the military under the control of civilians who are elected by the people, and it has prevented the rise of a military caste that can take over state power.  However they left us with a solution to the problem of gridlock: vote for one party to control the presidency and the Congress.

This will insure that big things will get done.  But so long as we have political parties that are ideologically disparate in their vision of the role of government, we will have these bitter partisan conflicts that threaten to paralyze the critical work of governing this complex nation.  Hence despite its ignoble beginnings in a racist, sexist, genocidal, slave holding republic it remains a good system for self-government…maybe the best in the world.

Although neither side got everything they wanted in the fiscal negotiations, they managed to come to an agreement that steered the nation away from financial disaster while realizing some of their goals.  The Republican goals were simple: prevent raising taxes on the rich while slashing benefits for the poor and middle-classes.

Since cutting entitlements that the majority of Americans have come to rely on is unpopular, the Republicans pander to the prejudices of the electorate by promoting anti-gay and immigrant policies, cultivating fear of “big government” and foreign enemies, and stoking the racist prejudices and fears of working class whites.

While this proved to be a losing strategy in the presidential elections, it is still an effective strategy in certain congressional districts that elected far right Tea Party types who support economic policies that are against their interests.  And it is these recalcitrant ideologues that have rendered the Republican controlled House dysfunctional and reduced John Boehner from the Speaker to the Weeper of the House.

Unable to control his caucus Boehner had to pass the baton to Mitch McConnell to hammer out a deal with Vice-President Biden in the Senate and then pass the Bill down to the House for a vote.  It was an ass backward process that has reduced him to a figure of ridicule among political pundits around the world, and will guarantee him the contempt of future historians – especially when his leadership is compared to the brilliant leadership of Nancy Pelosi who preceded him in office.

Under Speaker Pelosi we got historic legislation that saved the American economy from collapse and set the nation upon a path of reconstruction and reform that will benefit the American people for generations.  On the other hand, the 112th Congress under John Boehner’s leadership is one of the least productive in history.  It is the epitome of what President Truman called a “do nothing Congress!”  In order to understand just how bad this Congress is one need only compare its legislative record with that of the 80 Congress that Truman was referring to.  The 80th Congress passed 900 bills, while the 112 Congress has passed less than a third of that number!

When we consider the fact that the Republican majority has voted 33 times to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act, with the same predictable result, while neglecting to even deal with critical legislation appropriating funds to create massive public works projects devoted to reconstructing infrastructure that is critical to our economic revival, it is reasonable to conclude that these Congressman,  and those who elect them to office, are the political equivalent of the inmates taking over the asylum.  This is why some historians are already calling the 112 “the worst Congress in history.”

In terms of who won and who lost in the deal it’s a mixed bag.  Clearly the rich won by getting a 200,000 dollars exemption above the President’s original proposal to raise taxes on all income over $250, 000. And they also gained on inheritance tax rate.  The President was forced to concede these things in exchange for extending unemployment benefits to 2 million Americans suffering long term unemployment; it also preserved the earned Income Tax Credit for low wage workers, as well as preventing a tax hike on 98% of taxpayers and extended the college tuition credit.

The President also saved the Alternative Minimum Tax, maintained the payment structure for doctors who serve Medicare patients and kept the farm subsidies which prevented a sudden and dramatic rise in the price of milk.  The compromise prevented the drastic cuts to important government programs, including the military, if the automatic cuts had kicked in.

When all things are considered the objective observer must see outcome as a win for the President…especially when we consider the fact that he forced many Republicans to break their pledge to never vote for a tax hike.  And he achieved this without cutting a single dime from the bedrock entitlement programs that workers, led by the unions, struggled so hard to achieve in the twentieth century.

These programs dramatically raised the living standards of all working people in this country…including some lower management types.  However the appropriate response to this victory is a “whew!” we just avoided going over the cliff and began preparing for the even nastier and more dangerous battles over fiscal policy that lay just down the road.

Judging from the howls emanating from the Grand Obstructionist Party’s firebrands it’s gonna be a bloody mess that might yet result in economic disaster as we face the Debt Ceiling and the Sequestration law.  Although this compromise may enrage the ideologues at both ends of the political spectrum – like the idiots who still argue that the President should have gone over the cliff – it is a victory for the American people and a vindication for the political process.


Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem New York

Janurary 3, 2013