Archive for October, 2013

The Twenty Four Billion Dollar Fiasco!

Posted in Playthell on politics with tags , , on October 17, 2013 by playthell
Boehner John Republican Caucus Boehner’s Republican Caucus is a Hot Mess

 The Cost of Governing by Crisis

Although the nation narrowly averted a catastrophe last night when the Congress passed a bill to end the federal government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling, thereby saving the nation from financial ruin, it was a very costly fiasco.  The credit rating agency Standard and Poors have calculated the cost of the government shutdown and near default; we lost 24 billion dollars out of the American economy and reduced economic growth by one percent!   This money could have been put to use refurbishing the US infrastructure, or providing research funds for President Obama’s alternative energy project, or much needed improvements to the nation’s schools, to name a few.

It is doubtful whether the Tea Party fanatics will be chastened by this boondoggle.  If the comments of Texas Senator Ted Cruse – a shameless, reckless, charlatan – is any indication these arrogant ignorant churls have learned nothing.  Hence we will be confronted with a similar Scenario shortly after the New Year begins, since this budgetary fix only extends to February.  A lot can happen to alter the picture by then, but the way it looks right now we are headed back into the same quagmire from which we barely escaped.

Despite the fact that President Obama confidently assured us this kind of crisis would not happen in the future at the conclusion of his press conference announcing the end of the present dust up with the Grand obstructionist Party, events may prove his assessment a bit too optimistic.  Trying to reason with these people is like attempting to negotiate with suicide bombers, because in their twisted minds there is no positive role for government to play beyond police functions and the maintaining the military.

It is a backward view of the role of government that can only impress anarchists and numb skulls. If we look at the anti-government fanatics in the GOP we find an abundance of impassioned but clueless ideologues, and among these are people who are convinced that life will be just fine without a well-functioning government. It is a puzzling phenomenon, especially if you have flown across this country from coast to coast as I just did twice.

From my window seat I marveled at the size and complexity of this great nation: the many miles of highways, the railroads, the great cities and suburbs, the forest and rivers, the towns high in the mountains, the enormous amounts energy required to fuel this massive economy, the millions of gas guzzling cars and trucks, the many farms required to feed this nation, the massive factories that dot the landscape, etc.  It takes a special species of fool not to recognize that such a vast continental nation needs a massive federal government to manage its affairs.

One needs only look at the chaos in the little agrarian nation of Somali in order to recognize the importance of a strong central government.  And I suggest that those Republicans who wish to live in a country with no government should emigrate there, just as Somalis who wish to live in a country with a strong government routinely immigrate here.  But the truth is that all these people love government when they benefit from it by getting funding for their pet projects.  None of them are willing to lead a fight to close a military base in their district, or to end farm subsidies if they are from an agricultural state.   and none dare mention reducing social security, veterans or Medicare benefits.

The best example of this hypocrisy is the “sweetener” in the bill just cobbled together by Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell.  Even as old Mitch was making an emotional speech against government spending he had attached a multi-billion dollar allocation for his state – an act of shameful duplicity.  Yet it serves to demonstrate the indispensable role of federal funding to the well-being of the states and exposes the folly of the anti-government rhetoric and actions of the political incompetents in Grand Obstructionist Party.

Joe Scarborough, host of MSNBC’s early show Morning Joe and the model of a “reasonable,” Republican, seemed genuinely shocked to learn that the bi-partisan bill hammered out by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell that saved the nation from default, and the myriad calamities that would have spawned, contains a 2.5 billion dollar allocation for a river dam’s project in Kentucky.

The fact that this project is located in McConnell’s home state raises eyebrows among observers of Republican politics, and the hackles of Republican politicians who just shut down the federal government in a protest against government spending.  Already McConnell’s adversaries in the Tea Party are sharpening their axes in preparation for his beheading, and it serves the hypocritical rascal right!

A Scurrilous Scoundrel
Mitch McConnell

Caught with his hand in the Pork Barrel!

 Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
October 17, 2013

A Party of Pootbutts!

Posted in Playthell on politics with tags , on October 16, 2013 by playthell

Boehner shutdown

The Weeper of the House and his Tormentors

 Sacrificing the Public Interests to Save their Seats

As I write Senate Majority Leader and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are announcing a deal on the budget resolution hammered out in the Senate.  But despite their optimism Republicans who control the House of Representatives, and thus are invested by the Constitution with the sole power to generate appropriation bills to fund the government and pay the nation’s bills, continues to fiddle fuck around while the Federal government remains shut down due to their refusal to fund its operations and we are still careening toward default, and event that would destroy “the full faith and credit” of this nation for the first time in our history.

Given the dominant position of the US in the world economy a default would almost certainly lead to a world-wide financial collapse, as foreign economies would fall like a deck of cards, ushering in a global depression.  The recovery here at home – which the Republicans caused and has done everything within their power to block President Obama’s policies to end it – is still in progress and could easily be wiped out by such a cataclysmic event.

Yet House Speaker John Boehner, the strange orange colored man whose proclivity for tearful outburst in public has earned him the sobriquet “The Weeper of the House,” refuses to put a bill to end this impending disaster by bi-partisan vote.  As of this moment, from all appearances, Boehner, a man who appears to have no sense of history or vision for the future; no clue about the imperatives of this moment; no fidelity to the public interests; has bowed to the will of the lunatic Tea Party clique with no higher purpose than keeping his position as House speaker.  The public interests be dammed!

While it is true that the far right Tea Party zealots have turned the Grand Old Party Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight David Eisenhower into the “Grand Obstructionist Party that is making the US ungovernable, the Republicans have long been inept at managing the economy.   The Great Depression of the 1930’s resulted from a bank crash under Herbert Hoover, and the Bush crash at the turn of the 21st century also resulted from a banking crisis, both resulting from Republican economic policies.

It is also true that it was under democratic Presidents that the country was guided out of the Republican depressions.  Since we have had only two economic collapses on this scale it is fairly easy to figure out which policies would lead to recovery; the blueprint had been developed in the 1930’s, the government must become the employer and bail the economy out. The Works Progress Administration created by the New Deal legislation was the major vehicle for delivering government sponsored jobs. And they did a lot of useful work, and there is plenty of work that needs to be done in rebuilding the US infrastructure.  However the Republicans opposed Franklin Delanor Roosevelt’s New Deal programs that brought the country out of the economic disaster which, at its peak, saw one in every three Americans out of work and millionaires jumped from rooftops as the saw their fortunes evaporate.

Although Roosevelt was a patrician wasp, he was accused of being a communist and a traitor to his class.  Barack Obama, being African American and from the working class has been vilified with all kinds of scurrilous charges ranging from being a secret operative of Islamic radicals out to do the US in, to a communist intent upon “socializing” the US economy.  These kinds of arguments can only appeal to the ideologically deranged, the abysmally ignorant and the pathologically racist.  Most of the Republican establishment – battered and bruised as it is – knows better than this but dare not argue against such dangerous nonsense – just as most are afraid to vote to fund the government and stave of default by raising the debt ceiling.

The sad truth is that the Republican members of Congress are terrified of incurring the wrath of the Tea Party and their big money backers; whose influence has been greatly expanded due to the disastrous Supreme Court decision in the “Citizens United” case which declared laws limiting campaign spending are a violation of the First Amendment guarantee of free speech. And they are even more afraid of what David Fromm and other GOP intellectuals have called the “Republican Entertainment Complex.”  This fear makes Rush Limbaugh, a porcine airhead and dope fiend, the “de-facto” ideological leader of the Republican Party.

The fact that there is no evidence that Limbaugh is able to sway elections seems lost on the cowardly crowd in the Congress. Desperate to keep their seats they are willing to play Russian Roulette with the American economy.  Already their folly in shutting down the federal government has resulted in millions of dollars added to the interest payments on our treasury bonds, consumer surveys are predicting a significant decline in holiday spending, and the Chinese – who hold 1.3 trillion in American treasury notes – are calling for the scrapping of the US dollar as the standard international currency, and the credit rating agencies are threatening to reduce the US credit rating, which will dramatically increase the interests our government must pay on treasury bonds.  All of this will raise rather than lower government spending with no tangible benefits for the added cost.

Yet in the face of this impending calamity the majority of Republicans who know their behavior is folly and could wreck the international financial order, as well as their party, while throwing the nation into depression, have been too intimidated to do the right thing.  They have messed around to the point that a single Senator, Ted Cruz, a megalomaniacal charlatan from the backward state of Texas, could enter into a prolonged speech thwarting the will of the Senate to act, and single handedly push the nation into default by missing the deadline for raising the debt ceiling.

However Cruz has just announced that he will not take any action to block the legislation.  A total fraud who quotes Ronal Reagan verbatim without attribution, certain that his audience is too dumb to recognize it, he is trying to put a victorious face on his capitulation but it is a defeat!  His blatant hypocrisy is worse than Sarah Palin’s, because the Alaskan barbarian is an airhead who is too stupid to know that she is spouting bullshit, but Cruz is the product of Princeton and Harvard and knows better.  Alas, the Grand Old Party has indeed become the Grand Obstructionist party, a haven for pugnacious ignoramuses and impotent pusillanimous poot butts who are afraid to act in the best interests of the nation…. even when the majority of the American people will applaud their actions!                                                                                                          

 The Pusillanimous Poot Butts!!

Boehner's Nemisis

They Know as much about governing as a mule knows about playing a fiddle!!!


Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
October 16, 2013 

Molding Marvels from Clay

Posted in Ceramic Sculpture, Cultural Matters with tags , on October 11, 2013 by playthell


Fascinating Figures from the Fantastic Imagination of a Visual Alchemist


On The Transreal Art of Susannah Israel

There are many hidden treasures in the hills and valleys of Northern California; gold being the least among them when compared to the impressive colony of  artists that live and work there.  And the tradition of ceramic art in the region  represents a unique cultural treasure –  you can see it exhibited even in the facades of buildings – and spawned a  tribe of modern alchemists who turn sand into great art.  

The medieval Moors that ruled Spain were said to possess an alchemy that could magically turn sand into gold….but this proved a myth when confronted by modern science.  Great ceramic artists turn sand into priceless treasures for real; and once created, like fine diamonds,  they will grow more valuable with time.  One of the brightest stars in this artistic galaxy that illuminates the East Bay art world is Susannah Israel: Sculptor, Teacher and insightful Critic.

In a world where art schools and universities turn out “well-trained” artists in a never ending stream – people who have been tutored in the history and techniques of their chosen field – the search for an original style is endless.  And in the modern era this has more often than not led to gimmickry, farce and sometimes tragedy; far less to success.  Ms. Israel is one of the rare artists who have achieved an original style that is as distinct as the sound of Miles Davis’ trumpet, which is unmistakable to even to the casual jazz fan.

Ms. Israel’s work reminds us that there really is a sharp distinction between innovation and what I have called elsewhere “a mindless search for novelty.”  Just as she demonstrates that personal style is the result of mastery in art.  Alas, while to the untutored ear all of Miles Davis’s records sound alike, Ms. Israel’s art is said to lookalike by commentators with untutored eyes: the novice, philistine and pretentious dilettante.

In such instances the observer appears to be mesmerized by the distinctiveness of the artist’s style, much as Immanuel  Kant was mesmerized by the church steeple outside his window, as they ponder the meaning of the work. I have always felt that people who think all of Miles’ music sounds alike were either tone deaf or tasteless, and I get the feeling that those opinionated wags who say Susannah’s art all looks alike are in need of a seeing eye dog, who would probably exhibit better taste and judgment.  With Miles it is the pervasive use of the mute in one of his most prolific and musically profound periods that leads the careless listener to conclude that all of his music sounds the same.

Yet the careful listener can easily hear the vast difference between Miles’s languid legato phrasing in “On Green Dolphin Street” and “Someday My Prince Will Come,” compared to the rapid fire staccato statements on up tempo tunes, although he is using the mute in both performances.  Likewise, the careful viewer can easily see the dramatic differences in the work of Professor Israel.  Like Miles’s Mute, it is the otherworldly character of her figures that stands out in the minds of most people.

While this is a signature element of her style, the variety of ways in which it is expressed is dizzying.   Susannah has produced over 5000 works of sculpture – which have brought her honors and accolades and are exhibited in museums around the world – and from what I have seen of it every piece is unique.  They express the full range of human emotion – pathos, bathos, mirth, mystery and more – a truly remarkable achievement.

This can be clearly seen in the photos of her work below.  Artist who achieve an original style often arrive there by different routes.  For Miles Davis and Charlie Parker, two of the greatest innovators of 20th century music, it was the need to free themselves from the musical conventions established by the great virtuosos that preceded them on their instruments – such as Johnny Hodges and Benny Carter on alto-saxophones, and  Roy Eldridge  and  Dizzy Gillespie on trumpets – and find their own voice.

Susannah, however, although no less intent on freeing herself from  the influence of her mentors, nevertheless arrived at her style by virtue of philosophical considerations anchored in her personal history.  Part Chinese, part Spanish Sephardic Jew, and Part Irish, she has never fit into the neatly defined racial and ethnic categories that have shaped race relations in America.

Her father, Dr. Calvin Israel, a Spanish Jew that grew up in Jazz Age Harlem and cut this teeth in Greenwich Village with the “Beats,” was first a radical labor organizer then metamorphosed into a professor of Literature and a Beckett scholar.  Her mother – Bonnie Burbank– was a history teacher and a painter.  It is no wonder that Susannah is such a lover of books and avid reader that she  is a throwback to the likes of Robert Penn Warren, a two time Pulitzer Prize winning writer, banishing television in favor of books.

All that reading made for an inquisitive mind and a free thinker.  Thus it is also not surprising that she would question social conventions and even taboos about race, gender and sexual orientation.  Living in San Francisco – with its open minded cosmopolitan ambiance – facilitated her unconventional take on social reality.  It is reflected in the family she formed; a Afro-American father, a multi-racial mother, a white daughter and a bi-racial daughter who is Black like Barack.   Ironically this was the “all-American family” even as most white Americans continue insist it’s still Ozzie and Harriet.

As a result of her experience with race and ethnicity, and the fact that many of her closest friends and colleagues are gay or lesbian, added to some misguided attempts to classify her art by gender, Professor Israel decided to make a statement in her art about arbitrary and dangerous distinctions between human beings, and thus she makes her figures unrecognizable based on gender or race. Hence the otherworldly characters that populates her oeuvre, which many would describe as surreal.

My decision to label her work  “Transreal” is no mere play on words; it is meant as a mark of distinction.  Although Surrealism was revolutionary in its time, when Salvador Dali was all the rage early in the last century, the aesthetic philosophy that guides Professor Israel’s work is of her own invention.  What Susannah shares in common with surrealists  is her unwillingness to be bound by the limitations of “reality” imposed on “representational” art and surrender to the dictates of her imagination.  She tells us:

“My approach to my materials is a combination of well-practiced skill and reckless disregard for established convention. I willingly sacrifice lifelike anatomy to questions of composition and gesture. I use both high and low-fire clays. A confirmed alchemist, I am always testing new formulas. I use nontraditional materials with clay – paint, metal, found objects, – when they serve the work best. I tell my students  ‘Use all your options,’ and I actually do take my own advice.” 

This is the source of her unique style, and her works  only “look alike” to the untutored or prejudiced eye.  Many people  who insist that all of Ms. Israel’s work looks alike know nothing of serious art, they are  pompous ignorami, given to muttering muddled manure masquerading as learned opinion.  But let me hasten to add that professional critics who have ventured an opinion on Professor Israel’s sculptures have been kind, if not reverential.

Professor Michelle Gregor, an outstanding ceramic sculptor in her own right, has called Ms. Israel “A ceramic sorceress.”  This salutary assessment of Susannah’s work was echoed  in a statement from the California Conference for the Advancement of Ceramic Arts, who called her “one of the most fascinating artists working in the field today.’  Yet Susannah points out that despite her good fortune in winning critical acclaim, the commercial market place has been indifferent, if not hostile, to her work and the field of ceramic art in general.

Fortunately the art merchant’s opinions shall have but little moment, because great art will find an audience and a market long after the memory of these snide and ignorant philistines, who genuflect before Mammon while sacrificing truth and beauty upon the altar of commerce,  have faded from the scene.  In fact they shall be remembered in history as the art world’s equivalent of the television executives who turned down Bill Cosby’s  “Huxtables”.  Which,  soon after it was aired, became the most popular television show in the world!

Susannah’s treasures in clay will last as long as the rock of Gibraltar if the curators do their jobs.  Yet despite her great originality she is working with materials provided by mother earth that some conservative critics say is not the stuff from which great art is created – for them clay is for modeling bronze sculptures.  And the difference between the two in their considered opinion represent the distinction between “art” and “crafts.”

Yet one has only to study the remarkable sculptures Susannah molds from clay to see that,  despite their attempts to sway the conversation through intimidation by pretensions  to expertise, they are clueless.  And while I claim no specialized knowledge of the art and science of ceramics, I recognize intelligence and beauty wherever I see it; whether in music, painting, literature, sport or an intellectual treatise.  And I see  generous doses of beauty, intelligence and inventiveness in the sculpture of this gifted artist.

As I carefully studied the uniqueness of her work, I was astonished at the subtle ways she manages to give each of her statues a distinct  facial expression that seem to mirror spiritual qualities.  Sometimes it seems that she just gives the clay a slight twist to produce a remarkably different attitude, bequeathing each figure a unique personality.

This heightened facility for subtly and nuance is the mark of an artist equipped with uncommon gifts, and defines virtuosity among molders of clay.  Those critics who refuse to recognize the achievements of the best ceramic sculptors as fine art should be placed in the same category as those pompous churchmen who believed Johann Sebastian Bach was ruining the music of the high church.

The representations of Susannah Israel’s  work in this photo-essay, though only a peek into the  vast oeuvre of this prolific sculptor, speaks far more eloquently to her gifts than any words a poet, much less a critic,  could conjure.

Each Statue Expresses a Distinct Persona

Even the casual observer can see it
Majestic in their Silent Repose
The Evidence of a Rich, Fecund Imagination
The Myriad Postures of Repose
To Each its Own


Chillin in tha Cut
 Sometimes They Appear…

 ….To be in conversation

They even Gesture for Emphasis…

…..Like Real People!


 As if they were alive
Edit - copy
How animated they are!
Soul in a Restful Place
 Terra Cotta Beauties
 Susanna's Terra cotta -Edit
Reach out to the Visitor


 Everywhere They Sit….
 ………Like otherworldly beings bearing silent witness to human folly
They Seem to gaze at Us…..


…….As if we are on display
Sometimes they even seem vain
Checking out their finely wrought forms in the mirror


 They hang out in Cliques


 In A Temple to Art    


 And Other Times………

……..They seem to be just hangin out
 With Godlike Aura’s


 They Fix their gaze down Upon Us
      Dissatisfaction with the Foibles of Mortals
Seem Etched on Their Faces
 Their Faces are life like Masks…
On which the entire range of human emotions are revealed
Some Masks….
….Look as if they might speak
Some Got Attitude


Like they don’t give a fig….”Whatever!”
And others……..
Look as if they speak to Each Other Every Night

And Boogie Down…..

 In the Dark!
 Other’s Prefer Ballet
Daring Duets at Dawn… It’s a Splendid Alchemy
 And Some Prefer Solo’s


 Dance!  Ballerina Dance!

 Some Regal Figures Look Like they are…..


Watching Each Other’s Back

 Paragons of the Contemplative Life….

A Visual Paean to the Life of the Mind


They Stare into Some Distant Horizon

Staring into the future 
 Which only They Can See
Fantastic Creatures Seem to Dwell Everwhere
Like Magical Astral Travelers


 They Cavort on Desktops

As if they were in a Playground
 Prometheus Tames the Eagle
Susannah Twists the Myth

 Mixing Myths and Metaphors: A Modern Medusa…….

………Or a highly stylized Lone Ranger with Tonto Rising?

Sometimes they lurk in the Dark

Like Frozen Shadows

 Many of these Fantastic Creatures began as Drawings


This is how Susannah Conceptualizes her Sculpture
 They Now Paper the Walls
In that Temple to Art that she calls Home
Through Susannah’s special alchemy these drawings……
………are transformed into Marvelous Sculptures
A Hundred Years Shall Pass
And the Glow of their Majesty will Flare even Brighter!
Professor Susannah Israel!
 The Innovative Artist that Created these Treasures….
Demonstrating the Magic of her Potter’s Wheel


 The Artist Amid her Creations

Edit - selcted for essay

A Spiritual Communion with Clay


 Professor Israel is also a distinguished Writer /Teacher/Critic
Susannah III
The Statuesque East Bay Bohemian Amazon /Artist/Intellectual in her study


As Resident Director of the Oakland Mueseum of Ceramics….
The Fecund Sorceress Meditates…over he next Creation
Double Click to hear Miles Davis:”Someday My Prince Will Come.”



 Text and Photos By: Playthell G. Benjamin
October 12, 2013

The Worst House Speaker Ever?

Posted in Playthell on politics on October 3, 2013 by playthell

John Boehnoer

A Reckless Charlatan

 Boehner’s Name will live in Infamy!

Based on the most recent polls the Congress of the United States has a 10% approval rating from the public.  This is the lowest rating on record!  And that was before the Republicans shut down the federal government in a fit of rage, much like a spoiled child who throws a temper tantrum when they can’t get their way.  Only much more is at stake in this tantrum, for the fate of the nation hangs in the balance.

The path the GOP – Grand Obstructionist Party – is taking could well cost lives among the population for whom government benefits are a lifeline.  People such as a mother in Utah – a white American mind you – who explained on MSNBC today that without a special formula her twin babies could die, because it would cost her $750.00 to get it otherwise….and she can’t afford it!

These kinds of stories abound.  There are, for instance, nearly a million civil service workers, people who provide vital services to the American people, that have been locked out of their jobs.  And what is worse several Republican members of the House, the scoundrels who caused this crisis, are now saying that they are not sure whether they will vote to pay these workers for their forced layoff!   This is not only reckless and stupid, it is amoral and evil.   The path the Republicans have chosen is a classic example of folly…in fact it is not too much to say it is criminal folly.

In this instance I am not employing the term “folly” in the usual sense, which the dictionary defines as “a thoughtless or reckless act,” although it certainly meets this definition, but in the sense the historian Barbara Tuchman defines it in her Pulitzer Prize winning book “The March of Folly.” According to Ms. Tuchman, a two time Pulitzer Prize winner, Folly is when a nation chooses a policy that all the objective evidence suggests will lead to disaster.  By this standard the Republican Party is engaged in the extremist folly.

Unable to get its way through the normal democratic process provided by the US Constitution, the Grand Obstructionist Party has decided to use the routine practices of governance such as passing a budget to fund the lawful activities of the of the federal government, and raising the debt ceiling, to re-litigate policy issues that they failed to achieve through the normal process.  In other words, since they were not able to achieve their policy objectives by electing like-minded people they are now trying to force their will on the nation by shutting down our national government altogether.

As is often the case when governments engage in folly it eventually leads to tragedy.  And that is where we are presently headed at break neck speed.  Already poor children who depend upon food stamps, surplus government foods, hot meals at school, and community food pantry’s are going hungry as I write.  And needless to say, while this crisis affects millions of Americans of all races the victims of this Republican folly are disproportionately black…especially women and children.

It is critically important that working and middle class Americans understand what is happening here, because the Tea Party Republicans who are driving the GOP’s legislative agenda are full blown anti-government fanatics who feel that they are on a mission to drastically reduce the federal budget by any means necessary, and they are supported by the voters in their specially designed right-wing Congressional Districts.  There is nothing more dangerous than a group of self-righteous fanatics on a mission.

The extent of their fanaticism is such that these people not only refuse to compromise, they are so reckless they cannot even accept partial victories.   Like all fanatics, whether motivated by sacred or secular ideologies, they want all or nothing and appear quite willing to cut off their nose to spite their face.

President’s original budget request for 2014 was over one trillion dollars, but the Senate Democrats, with the President’s consent have reduced it to almost half that sum in the present budget to a little over 900 billion dollars in an attempt to compromise with the House Republicans in order to pass a budget and fund the government.  The figure they agreed to is actually close to the numbers in the budget proposed by Paul Ryan, which President Obama ran against and won!

Yet although President Obama was reelected on his platform the Republicans in the House, most of whom represent gerrymandered districts – which is to say “safe” Republican districts created by election commissions appointed by the Republican governors in those states, many of whom were elected because they pledged to fight President Obama’s policies.   So they are insulated from the wrath of the national electorate.

This bit of political chicanery has resulted in a situation where the radical far right-wing minority in the Grand Obstructionists Party can blow up the federal government and plunge the nation into one crisis after another without fear of retribution at the polls.   But as their folly in shutting down the Federal government begins to inconvenience citizens who are on holiday in Washington and find national monuments – like the World War II veterans who made a pilgrimage to that sacred shrine honoring their sacrifice and found it closed.

This is why the Republican iconoclasts are attempting to restore funding to select parts of the government to avoid enraging the public; but President Obama will not play that game, he knows that it is folly to try and finance government operations on an ala carte basis.  The Republicans – shameless charlatans that they are – are now running around posing for pictures with the vets and declaring themselves the true friends of the armed forces, although they have recently cut millions in funding for veteran’s benefits from the federal budget.

With all of the chaos the government shutdown is causing, which is damaging to the nation and might fatally injure the Republican Party’s chances at winning the Presidency, the question all thoughtful people are asking is: Why doesn’t Boehner just pit the budget resolution on the floor for a vote by the entire House and end the crisis the members of his caucus created.

The answer alas, is that Boehner is a man who privileges personal ambition over the stability of the nation, because he knows that should he put the bill up and it is passed by a bi-partisan vote he will be stripped of his Chairmanship.  And that’s too great a price to pay for a lower middle class guy from a mid-western hick town who has ascended to a level beyond his boyhood dreams; hence he is drunk on the intoxicating opiate of power.  Boehner loves being Speaker of the House, and he appears all to ready to sell his soul to keep it.

By placing personal ambition over the public interests, Boehner has demonstrated that he is unfit for a job that requires just the opposite.  That’s why he may well be the worst House Speaker ever.   Since he has the misfortune of following Nancy Pelosi wielding the Speaker’s gavel, whose record of accomplishment during her brief tenure in office is one of the most impressive of all times, historians will have little trouble pointing out just what an ineffective sad sack he is.  No wonder he’s always crying.

The Weeper and the Speaker: Johnny and Nancy
John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi
Contemplating their place in History?



Playthell  G. Benjamin
October 3, 2013
Harlem, New York

A Tyranny of the Minority!

Posted in Playthell on politics, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on October 1, 2013 by playthell
Boehner with crack pipe
John Boehner: Is he Smoking Crack?

The Lunatics Have Taken Over the Asylum!

The prescient French intellectual Alexis de Tocqueville warned against the development of a “Tyranny of the Majority” in his two volume 1831 treatise Democracy in America.  However he, nor anyone else, worried about a tyranny of the minority.  I suspect that such a thing was unimaginable in a system where the majority rules.  Yet what we are facing as I write is a tyranny of a minority of the Republican Party – the far right Tea Party faction – who is directing the Republican legislative agenda in Congress.  In the last election the so-called “Tea Party Patriots” elected over 60 people to the House of Representatives, these people were political Neanderthals fueled more by rage than reason, and committed to “limited government.”

They marched into Washington determined to dismantle the Federal government and the art of compromise, a normal process of governance, became betrayal. Disruption of the orderly processes of government became the order of the day as they manufactured one crisis after another, and they have succeeded so well that at this moment in American history we have no national government at all. This is the second time in 17 years the federal government has been shut down based on the 1868 law requiring that government shut down if Congress does not appropriate the funds to operate, and both times it was radical right wing Republicans – the Grand Obstructionist Party, that shut it down.

The United States of America, a popular democracy that is unique among the nations of the world because power is in the hands of the people through their exercise of the ballot, stands in danger of inflicting a devastating crisis upon itself through the irrational actions of some elected leaders.  If this sounds like madness that’s because it is; Republican politics has become a species of self-destructive madness, anarchy in the guise of patriotism and religious virtue.

As a weary nation watched the deadline for the government shutdown approach, most citizens hoped and prayed the radical Republicans would soon come to their senses, put partisan politics aside, and act responsibly in the public interest.  No such luck alas, and our national government has shut down.  All responsible citizens should be afraid, and if you are a federal worker you should be very afraid!

Listening to the various governmental spokesmen and “experts” on American government and economy one scarcely knows what to believe regarding the consequences of the shutdown.  Their contradictory explanations must resemble a tower of babble to the average citizen with a cavalier interest in politics.  However there is no doubt that almost a million federal employees are out of work today and are uncertain what the future holds or even if they will receive their next paycheck.

So it is an immediate tragedy for them.  But in a nation of over three hundred people that’s not very many people, and millions of Americans are indifferent to their plight, while millions of right-wing Republicans, who seem to view our federal government as a pit of evil that does more harm than good, feel that government workers are parasites who are getting what they deserve.

These attitudes offer indisputable proof that the removal of “Civics” courses from our public schools, along with the decline of newspapers devoted to serious journalism, the splintering of the media into a morass of outlets in which unedited information is broadcast over the airwaves or posted online without fact checking, polluting the empty heads of a clueless public, has combined to dumbfound and so confuse millions of Americans that they are ill-equipped to comprehend either the benefits of a strong national government or the causes of the present crisis.

One need only look at the responses of American citizens in “man on the street” television interviews to understand the depth of confusion among the populace.  Although the polls show that 72% of the public disagree with the Republican strategy of shutting down the government in order to defund the Affordable Health Care Act, or “Obamacare,” all of the people in the street poll conducted by MSNBC blame both parties, the President and Congress equally.  This is further evidence that Thomas Jefferson was right when he predicted an ignorant electorate would pose great a danger to the proper functioning of our brand of participatory democracy.

Based upon the actions of the right-wing iconoclasts in the Grand Obstructionist Party, who have now succeeded in shutting down the federal government and believe they have performed a heroic deed, even members of congress do not appear to understand the possible consequences of their actions.  Some prescient scholars of American government have long predicted that our system of divided government, with its countervailing forces where each branch of government check and balance the other, could result in a disaster that renders the nation ungovernable.  As the nation stands on the precipice of disaster, with the congress so gridlocked they can’t even pass a budget, we may have arrived at that moment.

Although the financial markets are up this morning, perhaps because the state insurance exchanges mandated by the Affordable Healthcare Law has gone into effect, if this shutdown of the federal government is not ended soon it will surely result in financial catastrophe.  Aside from the fact that people in critical positions such as Air Traffic Controllers are being asked to work without pay, this kind of grand folly does not inspire trust in investors that the US government will pay the interests on its bonds.  Hence as the vote to raise the debt ceiling ensues in a couple of weeks it could set off a panic in financial markets worldwide, which would spark a new depression more severe than the Bush imbroglio.  We simply cannot predict what will happen since the markets operate on confidence.

The long and the short of the matter is the United States of America is about to suffer a self-inflicted wound that could put our ailing economy on life support.  At the moment nobody can envision a way of this political morass.  The Republicans have come up with a convoluted argument in which the crux of the crisis is the refusal of the Democrats to “negotiate.”  But their idea of negotiation is to demand that the President essentially scrap his signature legislative achievement, the Affordable Health Care Act, an achievement that both Democratic and Republican presidents have tried to implement for a century, going all the way back to Teddy Roosevelt.   With 45 million people uninsured in the richest nation in the world any program designed to expand health care coverage is long overdue.

Needless to say, this is a demand the President cannot and will not accept.  Apparently, the Republicans have underestimated both the resolve of the president and his supporters, because many of us will fight them to the bitter end…. no matter the consequences.  In my view this is President Obama’s finest hour; he must not give an inch.  This is a fight to the finish and the American people must decide if they want to continue electing inflexible ideologues to congress that hate government and have no interests in governing, people whose real interest is in crippling the ability of the federal government to provide services to the people that need them, or mature responsible legislators who cherish government and are committed to making the necessary compromises to govern well, placing the public interests above personal or party interests.

Ironically, the people who need government most, based on the record of government transfer payments – either through jobs or subsidies – are in the “red states” represented by the people who are trying to dismantle the federal government.  And just now, it is the far-right Tea Party caucus in the Republican Party who are driving this effort, although they are fewer in number than establishment Republicans they are conducting a reign of terror by threatening to run candidates to their right in future primaries.

And the kiss of death for any Republican leader is to appear to be working with President Obama, the man they all love to hate!  Just look at all the flak governor Christie got for working with the President in order to bring relief to the hurricane ravaged state.  Their irrational hatred of the President is fired by who he is more than anything he has done.  They hate him first because he is African-American, and thus they cannot admit that there is virtue in anything he does.  Hence they oppose him even when he accepts their positions.

The ruthless tactics of the Tea Party cabal have turned John Boehner into a burlesque of a House Speaker, a cowed pot butt pretender who is afraid to act in the best interests of the nation by simply bringing the Budget Resolution up for a vote and telling members of his party to vote their conscience.  No one doubts that the budget resolution preventing the government shutdown would have carried the day.

However should the speaker man up and do his job – which is to lead, instead of behaving like a clueless castrati in the choir suffering from a deficit of testicular fortitude in order to save his speakership – this crisis can be quickly resolved.  Yet John Boehner, “The Weeper of the House,” is proving to be a jellyfish who seems perfectly willing to follow the lead of people with the mentality of suicide bombers.

This has resulted in a bizarre state of affairs where,  as President Obama points out, a minority of one political party that controls the House of Representatives gets to nullify the will of the Senate, the President, the Supreme Court, and ultimately the will of the American people who voted for this President over Mitt Romney in an election where the Affordable Healthcare Act was a major issue.  Hence what we are witnessing in Washington is truly a “Tyranny of the minority.”


Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
October 1, 2013