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It Don’t Mean a Thing If it ain’t got that Swing!

Posted in Blues For A word Sorcerer, Uncategorized with tags , , , on September 18, 2020 by playthell

Remembering Stanley Crouch

BLUES FOR A WORD SORCERER

Alas, the sad news has reached my ears that Stanley Crouch, a unique tribune of our times, has danced and joined the ancestors. A poet, essayist, dramatist, short story writer and novelist. Stanley was by any objective measure a GREAT writer. A native of South-Central Los Angeles, Stanley began writing for the theater in a company that grew out of the great Watts riot of 1965. When I met him in 1968, he was a Poet in Residence at Pomona, one of the prestigious Claremont Colleges, just outside LA, popularly known as “The Harvard of the West.”

I was visiting the school as a guest lecturer to help make the case for the importance of Black Studies, add Stanley was part of the black campus movement attempting to establish a Black Studies Department. At the time he was a militant Black Nationalist, decked in a dashiki, dark shades with a big Afro, and had just produced a collection of weaponized words, radical poems titled: “Ain’t No Ambulances for No Niggers Tonight!”

It was clear that Stanley shared the view of writing advocated by the peerless word warrior, Ishmael Reed: “Writin is Fightin.”  And like Ish, his esthetic conception and literary concerns were shaped by the Black Arts Movement, which like the black cultural awakening in the 1920’s which is known to history as “The Harlem Renaissance, was also born in Harlem with the founding of The African Jazz Art Society in 1958.  The founders: Cecil and Ronnie Brathwaite, Max Roach and Abbey Lincoln, represented a cross section of the visual and musical arts.

The writers – especially Leori Jones aka Amiri Baraka and Larry Neal – greatly inspired and influenced him would come to Harlem from Newark via Greenwich Village, and Philadelphia.  And like everybody who were studying the extremely complex art of Jazz drumming, Stanley was profoundly influenced by Max Roach, the most influential innovator in improvisational percussion of the 20th century. These influences, deeply rooted in Black Cultural Nationalism, inspired and shaped Stanley’s poetic style.

Despite being far away on the western frontier in The City Of Angels, Stanley herd the word, as it was being transfigured and weaponized by cultural warriors in Harlem’s hip black coffee House “The Truth.”  A gathering place for Black revolutionaries on the political and cultural front, word sorcerers weaved dreams with the magic of the spoken word.  Poetry that made our spirits dance and fortified us for the liberation struggle.

Roland Stone aka Yusef Rachman, Ed Spriggs, Calvin Hernton, Roland Snellings, aka Askia Muhammad Toure, Leroi Jones aka Amiri Baraka, Larry Neal, Jayne Cortez, Soyna Sanchez, Aisha Rachman, were all born of this black cultural awakening in Harlem.  And as these Black Bards traveled across the country like circuit preachers spreading the good word, the Black Arts Movement caught fire.  Chit-Town produced Amus Moore and Don L. Lee  aka Haki Madibuti, and LA gave us Stanley Crouch, one of the most able of the radical Black Nationalist bards.

Although he would eventually fall under the tutelage of the celebrated novelist/essayist Ralph Ellison, and Blues Philosopher Albert Murray, weighty intellectual hep cats from our parent’s generation,  and reject Radical Black Nationalism, abandoning his leftist literary comrades, he remained a literary pugilist.   And would later savagely skewer those comrades in a critically acclaimed collection of essays: “Notes of A Hanging Judge.” For which he was awarded the highly prestigious “MacArthur Genius Award.”

‘Stanley would become one of the most decorated writers in American letters. Primarily an essayist, Stanley wrote on a variety of subjects, but his greatest distinction was as a masterful critic of the quintessential American art of Jazz, which he correctly viewed as the contribution of US civilization to the canon of great art. I discovered his love for Jazz the first time we met. After my speech he invited me over to his crib to hang out, and he had a set of drums in his living room.

Having once played the drum kit myself but had long abandoned them for the Afro-Cuban Conga drums, I had remained a fan and was interested in hearing him play. He put on a record and began to play along. He said he was working on “some different stuff,” that he was not ready to reveal. Among the students hangin out was the young lady who later became the famous television star “Judge Mable, and a young saxophonist I believe was Davis Murray, who became one of the truly original voices on the tenor sax.

After that visit I did not see Stanley again until about six years later, when we met again in New York. But I had followed his brilliant column “Crouch on Jazz,” which was published in Players magazine, a black version of Playboy. I thought they were the most elegantly crafted insightful was essays I had ever read on the art of Jazz. There was a grandeur to his conception of the music that set his writing apart from the common lot of critics, even in the Big Apple, where good writers are common fare.

Crouch’s writings on Jazz conjured up the observation of Zora Neal Hurston in a letter to James Weldon Johnson – two great early 20th century Afro-American writers who migrated from Northern Florida to the Big Apple just like me – when she said: “We are a people who love magnificence and cannot get too much of it.” In New York he joined the staff at the Village Voice, an incubator of great music critics. From his conspicuous prestigious perch at the Village Voice, Crouch quickly became the most outstanding Jazz critic in the big Apple…the world capital of Jazz. And his influence was such that Stanley became an intellectual mentor to the trumpet genius and brilliant composer Wynton Marsalis, and he was a major force in the creation of “Jazz Lincoln Center,” the nation’s most important monument to Afro-American culture!

Known as “the writer’s paper,” and the “home of the New Journalism,” the Voice, with its reverence for fine English prose and creative storytelling, was the perfect place for Stanley, as the editors prized the individual writers voice – especially the great Bob Christgeau, who edited Stanley’s finest essays penned during his tenure at the voice. Several of which ended up as award winning anthologies.

Stanley really blossomed at the Voice, as he branched out from Jazz criticism and wrote about art, literature and politics. Although the subjects of his interest changed, his pugnacious poetic style didn’t, concocting a prose style that prized poetic simile and metaphor. Often his prose seemed to dance off the page, animated by the polyrhythmic phrases.

A lover of literature, I was bewitched by Stanley’s compositions and avidly read his texts. In conversations about various and sundry issues, Stanly began to chide me about writing more, At the time my writing was limited to a few academic treatises published in obscure journals, and the lyrics to songs I had written for a great singer with whom I was smitten.

Stanley began to chide me to write more. He would say: “Listen man, it would be so easy for you because you speak in essays.” His comment really got my attention because Mike Thelwell,  my colleague at the University of Massachusetts who is a great writer and professor of Black World literature, had told me this a couple of years earlier as he pushed me to write, but to no avail.  I was a voracious reader, and I was always telling him about something I had read. But one day he said to me: “You know why you read so much? Because reading is a lot easier than writing!”

He badgered me until I began to take myself seriously as a writer. And once I started I have been unable to stop having now written hundreds of serious essays…1000 of them posted online at www.commentariesonthetimes.wordpress.com. I have written for some of the finest publications in the English language, here and in England. Along the way I have won several awards, and two Pulitzer Prize nominations for Feature Writing and Distinguished Commentary. The nominating letters are posted at Commentaries on The Times. I was in my forties when I began to write seriously, and had it not been for Stanley’s insistent prodding and encouragement, I might never have pursued a writing career. We became serious intellectual sparring partners for years.

In 2003, Stanley and I was commissioned to write a book commemorating the 100th anniversary of Dr. WEB DuBois’ classic American text: “The Souls of Black Folk.” Since I was a co-founder of the WEB DuBois Department of Black Studies at the University of Massachusetts in 1969, one year after our first meeting – the first free standing, degree granting, Black Studies department in the world, and acquired Dr, DuBois’s voluminous papers – and held a professorship in history there, we agreed that I would write the historical overview, reconstructing the intellectual milieu, in the US and Germany – that shaped DuBois’s education and worldview.

Reconsidering The Souls of Black Folk” consists of two complex essays in intellectual, cultural and political history and criticism centered around the historical context, text and legacy of “The Souls of Black Folk” and its brilliant author. The book was selected for discussion at the opening session of the National Black Writers Conference, sponsored by Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, and hosted by the Studio Museum of Harlem. C-Spans Bhttps://www.c-span.org/video/?176136-1/reconsidering-souls-black-folkook World covered the event, and I have appended the link to their video below.

See> https://www.c-span.org/video/?176136-1/reconsidering-souls-black-folk

It Don’t Mean a Thing If  Ain’t Got That Swing – Duke Ellington Orchestra 1943,  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qDQpZT3GhDg

Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

September 2020

Had I Spoken at the Democratic Convention

Posted in Uncategorized on September 1, 2020 by playthell

This is What I Would Have Said

Friends, truth seekers, country men, lend me your ears!  I have come to speak the unvarnished truth about the historic choice that confronts us in the coming presidential election.  In choosing a President, the person who will serve as the chief executive of our government and Commander-In-Chief of our awesome armed forces – including our doomsday nuclear arsenal which can destroy our planet in a flash – what matters most is character and competence. Our guy, Uncle Joe, has both in abundance.  An embarrassment of riches!

Alas the other guy has a severe deficit of both.  Indeed, I think it fair to say: If character and competence were ink, Dirty Don tha Con wouldn’t have enough to cross a T, or even dot an I!   Since the good character, humble demeanor and humane vision of Joe Biden has been roundly attested to and duly praised by the high and the humble, from the suites to the streets, in a hail of poignant panegyrics worthy of a hero or a saint, and his competence for the high office he seeks has been duly demonstrated from decades of public service, and the wise counsel he provided President Obama that helped make him the GOAT, the Muhammad Ali of the political arena – The Greatest of All Times – I shall concentrate on the deficits of Devious Dangerous Donnie Dimwit.

In her eloquent, wise and extraordinarily relevant address to this convention our beautiful and brilliant former first lady Michelle Obama, once more implored us to take the high road, when the nasty amoral Trumpanzees who have converted the Grand Old Party into the Grand Obstructionist Party “go low.”  However, despite the fact that I fairly worships the ground she treads upon, I must dissent.  I find the position of former Attorney General Eric Holder much more to my liking: “When they go low…kick em!

It is in that spirt that I critique the cretin that is presently befouling the White House.  I feel this is of singular importance because no one thus far, in the flurry of florid oratory, rich in metaphor and elegant turns of phrase, pregnant with intellectual gravitas, none has flagellated the scurrilous scoundrel to my satisfaction.  I would bet my bottom dollar that when Uncle Joe comes up to speak, he will also fail to flog the foulhearted fool with a fitting flagellation!  For he is a Christian gentleman, and thus it is in his nature to forgive the transgressions of knaves and blaggards, to seek the higher ground that Lady Obama commends.  Hence the task of whipping Trump’s treacherous treasonous jive ass in the fashion he so richly deserves falls to me.

It is a calling I joyously accept!  For I am as perfectly suited to this…as killer whales to water.  Indeed, I feel born to this role, to this moment. For I am neither a Christian, a gentleman, and certainly not a lady!  In my comments about the present occupant of the Oval Office – I hesitate to refer to him as “the president” because, like the late great congressman John Lewis, I do not consider his “election” to be legitimate. Aside from the fact that he was trounced by Hillary Clinton in the popular vote by a three million majority, our intelligence agencies tell us that Russian military intelligence posted a million and a half disinformation messages attacking Hillary and supporting Trump.  And both the Mueller Report and the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee Report concluded that the Trump campaign welcomed Russian interference in behalf of the Moscow Candidate.

Hence, rather than address  Devious Donald as “President,” I have decided to follow his example of labeling everyone he disagrees by a negative nickname – “Crooked Hillary,” “Shifty Shift,” “Sleepy Joe,” “Sloppy Steve,” et al.  And I remind his Christian apologists of the biblical injunction: “Ye shall reap what ye sow.”  It has been a revealing exercise, since there are so many negative nicknames that suits Don Tha Con perfectly!

After covering Ditzy Donald’s presidential campaign, crack reporter Matt Taibbi wrote a book about the candidate titled “The Insane Clown President.”  It would be hard to find a titled that so accurately describes its subject, indeed history has proven Taibbi prescient in his projection.  For Trump has turned out to be just that…and worse.  In an interview on Democracy Now, with the highly informed veteran Journalist Juan Gonzales, Taibbi described his impressions of Dopey Donald after observing him closely for two years: “He is the perfect foil to reflect everything that is tasteless and vulgar and disgusting and cheap and greedy about American culture.”

Although Taibbi refers to Donnie Dimwit as “insane,” it is used as more of a symbolic rhetorical device.  However, there is compelling evidence that Trump is suffering from serious psychopathologies, and it affects his behavior in the political arena. A group of psychiatrists and psychologists became so troubled from watching his antics on television that they felt the nation should be alerted to the fact that we have a dangerous sociopath running the nation’s affairs.  And the published a book to do just that titled “Duty to Warn,” describing his psychopathology as “Malignant Narcissism and Paranoia.”  In the beginning it was less than twenty doctors who advanced this theory, but as Deranged Donald has continued cut the fool before the world the number of doctors who now lend their names and reputations to the Duty to Warn statement number upwards of 70, 000!

Many of these doctors constitute the elite of their profession, and they are not deterred from forming opinions on Trump’s mental state because of the “Goldwater Rule,” which argues that in order to assess a persons mental state the doctor must personally examine them, and we should not be deterred from referencing their opinions based on an antiquated rule which was a political act rather than a scientific finding.  In fact, as many of you know, the CIA regularly relies on this kind of psychiatric profiling of foreign leaders when advising the President and Congress on matters of national security and foreign policy.

In fact, this diagnosis was introduced into the psychiatric  literature by the distinguished German Psycho-analyst Eric Fromm, a refugee from Nazi terror living in the US, when he was contracted by the OSS, Office of Strategic Services, to develop a psychiatric profile of Adolph Hitler!  Hence, we have a President of the United states who suffers from the identical psychopathologies as the most destructive political leader of the 20th century!

This fact should keep us all awake at night, every night, when we consider the fact that this sicko is in command of our nuclear arsenal.  That he literally has the power to destroy the world!   And our nuclear chain of command does not have the failsafe checks on the Commander-In-Chief that the ordinary citizen thinks it does.  That’s why the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, the world’s foremost experts on the probability of accidental nuclear war, has the hands on their Doomsday Clock poised at seconds to midnight! To their everlasting credit, Senator Ed Markey and Congressman Ted Lieu recognized the grave danger this poses and authored a bill to do something about it by requiring congressional consent before Dangerous Donald could launch a nuclear first strike.  But the bill never saw the light of day, because our political leaders found other issues more important…more urgent.

The indisputable truth is that although there is much criticism of The Donald’s myriad moral and mental shortcomings, his missing marbles, few understand the depth of the danger the world is in every minute this crazy corrupt charlatan remains in the White House.  Alas, we have received numerous warnings, the latest coming from his own niece, a PhD psychologist who has observed his antics from a front row seat for decades, and has written a book calling Dastardly Donald: “The world’s Most Dangerous Man!”

The evidence of his mental maladies is everywhere manifest.  One only needs to watch his act, his ongoing live reality show, in order to identify the symptoms.  The Malignant Narcissist believes the world revolves around him; that time moves when he moves.  It is his show 24/7, the world is his stage and the rest of us are but minor players upon it.  Hence, in his mind he knows more about war than the generals and more about medicine than the doctors.  He understands the Corona-Virus better than the scientist who have spent a lifetime studying it.  And when their prescriptions for suppressing its spread differs from his they are all involved in a plot against him, a conspiracy by the “Deep State” “to make him look bad.”  That is the paranoid component of his madness wedded to the dangerous Megalomania.  And while he claims to be a proud grandfather, his decision to pull the US out of the Paris climate agreement to halt global warming, which along with nuclear war threatens the extinction of mankind, makes him the worst grandfather ever.

Deadly Donnie believes he understands world events better than the intelligence agencies that American taxpayers provide billions annually to fund.  And he routinely dismisses their findings when they disagree with his gut feelings, even refusing to read their detailed presidential briefing papers. Which explains why he refused to act on the CIA warnings about the Corona-Virus developing in Wuhan China long before it became a Pandemic, which led to the disaster we are now coping with.  He has declared himself a “stable genius” who alone understand and can fix the complex problems facing the nation.  In fact it was just such a statement that first led me to draw a connection between Don that Con and Adolph Hitler, whom his first wife said he so admired that he kept a volume of Adolph’s collected speeches on his bedside table.

But before I learned anything about his strange fascination with the German autocrat, or the fact that they suffered from the same mental maladies, I wrote an extended essay titled “Is Donald Trump a Uniquely American Fascist?”  This treatise was inspired by the fact that Hitler had made the same claim, the language was slightly different but it was the same in essence: “It All depends on me.”

What stood out for me was that both of these supreme egotists had conflated the nation and their personality into one entity.  This is why The Don feels that any criticism of him is “Treason,” a charge whose definition in the Constitution is unbeknownst to this pugnacious narcissistic ignoramus.  But this misunderstanding, coupled with Dirty Don’s grandiose conception of himself, is the key to understanding his personality and how it affects his often bizarre behavior.

To those who loudly protest that “Trump is no Hitler,” I readily agree.  For one thing Hitler was an aspiring artist and a connoisseur of the arts and architecture.  Hence when the Nazi armies marched into Paris, they had strict orders to preserve the art and architecture.  Donnie Dumbass, ignorant philistine that he is,  had to be restrained from ordering the bombing of ancient temples in Iran, priceless irreplaceable architectural and art treasure from ancient Persia.  The cultural heritage of all man the Iranians have preserved from antiquity. Alas, uncultured white trash that he is, this meant nothing to Donny Dimwit!

In the famous scene of Hitler entering Paris in his motorcade, the first stop he made was to visit the world-renowned Paris Opera House, where he toured the building to admire the architectural design.  He was a lover of great music who founded the annual Bayreuth opera festival, which celebrates the magnificent music of Richard Wagner, performed by great artists from all over the world.  Hitler was also an impassioned Nationalist, just as Donny Drumfp claims to be, but when time came to answer the call to arms in defense of the national interest, Hitler was a brave solder in combat and Don tha Con was a draft dodging coward, whose rich corrupt daddy bought him a phony medical report that falsely claimed he had a handicap that rendered him unfit for military service!

Hitler was a reader and student of history; Donnie Dimwit won’t even read his daily presidential briefings.  Hitler had a political philosophy and wrote a book to define it…Trump believes in nothing beyond building his brand, basking in the admiration of his acolytes, and making money.  And while Hitler spent his leisure visiting art exhibits and attending performances of classical German music, Trump was hanging out with lowlife child molesters like his ace boon coon Jeffery Epstein!   By now the shocked listener feels compelled to cry out: But Hitler was the most evil man that ever lived, how can you compare him to Trump?”

To wit I quote my grandfather’s defense: “I ain’t told a word of a lie yet”  Alas, facts are stubborn things…they persist even when they are embarrassing, inconvenient or discrediting.  In a burst of sophistic apologia by the Evangelicals who have entered a Faustian Bargain with this Devil, or a pitiful final attempt by Trumpanzees to salvage their savior,  they offer a final protest:  But Hitler killed Six Million Jews, and sparked a world war that killed 50.000 million!  President Trump has committed no atrocity that approaches Hitler’s crimes.   I readily concede the point.  However I caution you that if Deranged Donald is elected to another four years in the Oval Office, given his assault  on efforts to stem climate change, and his carless child-like infatuation with nuclear weapons, he could end putting forces in motion that will extinguish all life on planet earth…making his fellow German authoritarian, who like Donnie Drumfp attributed his “genius” to German blood – look like a small time butcher!

Hence, in dealing with this dangerous tragi-comic joker, we must arm ourselves with an unadorned understanding of who he is.  As the late Afro-American poet Maya Angelo warned: “When a person shows you who they are the first time…believe them!”  Hence in negotiating with Dirty Don tha Con we must always remember that we are dealing with a mentally ill, amoral, dangerous, Big Apple flim flam man who needs to “win” at any cost.  He is not a statesman, and he neither knows nor cares about how to govern.

The late Republican speaker of the House Paul Ryan – a wonkish fellow for whom mastering and making policy was a joy – said after one meeting with The Don: ”The guy knows absolutely nothing about government.”  This is who he is…it is what it is alas, and we must act accordingly: When he goes low kick him!  We owe it to generations yet unborn to get his evil charlatan out of the Oval Office ASAP!  This is the task history has assigned to enlightened Americans in the coming election.

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Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem New York
September 1, 2020

 

NOW LET US PRAISE A GREAT ARTIST!

Posted in Uncategorized on September 1, 2020 by playthell

IN REMEMBRANCE OF CHADWICK BOSEMAN

Three Reviews of his Magnificent Performances

For lovers of cinema, Chadwick Boseman has provided many magnificent moments with his marvelous performances on the Giant Silver Screen. I have loved the movies since I was a boy, bewitched by the magic images dancing around on a giant silver screen as we sat in awe staring in a darkened room. In the movies one could be transported anywhere in the world and out of this world.

But, alas, there was no Chadwick Boseman when I was a boy, and no movies like the ones he made. Movies that celebrate the beauty, bravery, heroism, and nobility of our collective spirits. A spiritual gravitas that enabled us to struggle in the savage wilds of North America and emerge four centuries hence strong, gifted and black…”with our souls in tact’ That’s why I write about the arts. Although I consider writing about politics a duty, writing about the arts is pure pleasure. Yet the time and effort I can devote to the task is limited, hence I only write about the MASTERPIECES!

Brother Boseman, who lately danced and joined the ancestors, was a sterling example of the best of the Afro-American cultural tradition – a tradition forged in the fires of persistent struggle over four long treacherous centuries, in which the Euro-American majority subjected Afro-Americans to unimaginable trials and tribulations. All the while being forced to recite drivel about Living in “the land of the free,” where “all men are created equal,” with freedom and justice for all,” when we knew it was a gargantuan lie! This is the real “American Exceptionalism”

Although to speak this obvious truth to white power would often invite disaster, despite your First Amendment right to say so. Colin Kapernik being a conspicuous example! That’s why the movies of Chadwick Boseman are essential tools to better understand our experience. For he has brought our heroes to life on the giant screen in living color. By brilliantly portraying such iconic figures as Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall, Jessie Owens, James Brown, et al, he not only celebrated their greatness in bravura performances, he also brought to life the struggles of Afro-Americans in a country that is dedicated to the preservation of White Supremacy as I write.

Although I am always writing a treatise about something or the other, as my patron saint Dr. WEB DuBois said – “Something done and something doing” – writing about the arts is almost a guilty pleasure for me during these troubled times. I share Frederick Douglass’ unease when he was asked by fellow activist, and thoughtful intellectuals, how he could squander time and talents writing about the emerging art of photography while the country was being torn apart by the Abolitionists Movement, Civil War, and Reconstruction?

In truth, these are questions asked by well meaning philistines, sincere people with good intentions yet miss the meaning of art in our lives. Although politics determines our life’s chances, since it is the process by which power is created and distributed; the arts stimulate our imagination, nourish our souls, and make our spirits dance. Often the arts have been called upon to illuminate the power of the Gods!

In ancient traditional African societies, “Art of art’s sake” was a foreign idea, as all art had an organic connection religious ritual. The art of Chadwick Boseman strikes a close communion with the Ancestor Veneration Rituals of traditional African societies. The “Igungun” ritual of the Yoruba’s, a civilization from which many neo-African cultures of the Black Atlantic Diaspora of the America’s derive.

The function of these rituals was the celebrate the ancestors by evoking their spirits as we honored their virtues. That’s what Chad Boseman did in marvelous, heroic, performances on the silver Screen. A fundamental function of art everywhere is to imagine things unseen, to create new visions of human possibility. That is one of the major functions of myth making, and story telling, a function essential to all humanity, because the homo sapian sepecies alone have this gift!

This is accomplished magnificently in the movie Black Panther, where we see Chadwick Boseman in what will no doubt be his most influential and remembered role: The wise and brave King of the mythical African Kingdom of Wakanda, which captured the imagination of people all over the world, broke box office records, and presented our children with a superhero worthy of them!

REVIEWS:

Bio-pic of Jackie Robinson – Some Reflections on Forty Two” at https://commentariesonthetimes.me/…/some-reflections-on-fo…/

Bio-pic on James Brown: “Get On Up,” at https://commentariesonthetimes.me/2014/08/12/get-on-up/

BLACK PANTHER at https://commentariesonthetimes.me/…/black-panther-a-cinema…/

Chadwick Boseman as James Brown in “GET ON UP!”

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Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

August 28, 2020

Can A House So Divided Continue to Stand?

Posted in Uncategorized on January 8, 2020 by playthell

Nancy Pelosi and Senate Leader “Moscow Mitch” McConnell

Thing Are Falling Apart!

“A house divided against itself cannot stand,” Abraham Lincoln declared at the 1858 Illinois state Republican Convention, “I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved; I do not expect the house to fall; but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other.” This was only four years before Lincoln was elected President and the United States of America fell apart, degenerating into Civil War – the most destructive war in history at the time.

It was the first modern war where industrialized methods were used to produce and transport men and materials, it lasted four years and exacted a price in blood and treasure that devastated the nation. Yet Lincoln could not see it coming, and therein, I believe, lies a critical warning for our times; when Americans are arguably the most divided since the Civil War, and some Trump supporters are openly and increasingly calling for “Civil War” should he be impeached; which is now a fait accompli.

To gain some perspective on the dimensions of this bloody 19th century catastrophe that nearly destroyed the United States, we have but to point out the fact that 51 thousand Americans lost their lives during three days of combat at Gettysburg Pennsylvania, while from 2001 to July 7 2018, 2,372 American soldiers were killed in Afghanistan.

Hence over sixteen times more Americans were slaughtered by Americans in three days at the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863, than were killed in the Afghan war in 17 years! The battle however was a resounding victory for the Union forces, and spelled the beginning of the end for the southern Confederacy which saved the Union.

On November 19th 1863, four and a half months after the Union victory, Abraham Lincoln would stand on the blood soaked soil of Gettysburg to dedicate the opening of a new National Cemetery in remembrance of those who had fought and died there to save the Union. Although he feared his oration of 272 words did not rise to the occasion after following Edward Everette – a Massachusetts politician, preacher and famous orator that spoke for two hours – President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is remembered in history as one of the greatest speeches ever presented on a public occasion in America.

The press praised it widely and Everette even wrote to Lincoln that he felt the President’s brief speech touched the central issues of the war much more profoundly than his wordy oration. In fact, Lincoln’s view of why the war was fought can be summed up in the last words of his oration “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Alas, the question that confronts us today is whether truly representative democratic government shall perish from the USA? And I have referenced these events from our tumultuous past because I believe our understanding of current events can be greatly enhanced by the added dimension of historical perspective. Although it is axiomatic among professional historians that history does not repeat itself, that great American wit Mark Twain made a telling point when he observed “History may not repeat…but it rhymes.”

Hence if we view the fundamental cause of the Civil War as the failure of our constitutional government to peacefully resolve internal conflict, then we may be witnessing a recurrent phenomenon; a class of event that is not unique to America, but can be observed in nations embroiled in internecine conflicts across time and geography.

As hard as it is for many Americans to believe, our constitutional democracy is on very shaky ground. The election of Donald J. Trump as President has proved a grave mistake, a blunder of biblical proportions, and our democratic system of governance is imperiled. From the outset the validity of Trump’s election has been in question. Even as fair minded a man as Congressman John Lewis – an icon of the great Civil Rights Movement who is deeply committed to the democratic process, and once put his life on the line to insure that it worked for all Americans – openly refused to attend Trump’s inauguration, declaring his election “illegitimate.”

And the nation’s capitol saw one of the largest demonstrations in its history when the women marched and chanted “Not my president!” They were expressing their righteous anger, protesting what they viewed as a stolen election that prevented the first woman from becoming President. And to add insult to injury Hillary Clinton was the best qualified candidate ever to run for President, and Donald Trump was demonstrably the least qualified for the office. And that is exactly how he has conducted himself as president.

Not only has Trump been an embarrassment with his crude vulgar rhetoric, amoral behavior and disdain for the dignity of the presidency; he also poses a real and present danger to the national interests with his reckless attacks on the fundamental institutions that make our constitutional democracy work. He has repeatedly referred to highly competent dedicated professionals in the intelligence and foreign service communities as “scum,” accusing them of “treason” for doing their jobs – much of which he does not even understand – and declaring them agents of a mythical “Deep State,” that is orchestrating a “coup” against him at the behest of the “evil” Democrats.

He has called the major journalistic institutions, the newspapers of record that future historians will consult when assessing his legacy, “Enemies of the people!” Through the agency of his Twitter feed the Tweeting Twit has weaponized lies – he has been busted telling outright lies over 14 thousand times by professional fact checkers at the Toronto Star and Washington Post – Devious Donald is seriously undermining confidence in their government for millions of his acolytes.

Yet that is just part of the story. Dirty Donnie has also undermined confidence in our presidential and even senatorial elections by his refusal to admit the massive Russian interference in our last presidential election on his behalf even happened, and taking vigorous measures to prevent it’s recurrence. Indeed, he continues to refer to the Russian intervention, which all 17 US intelligence agencies agree happened, as “a hoax.”

When we consider the fact that former the National Intelligence Director James Clapper says Russian intelligence agencies, at the instruction of Vladimir Putin, posted 157 million disinformation messages attacking Hillary and promoting Fat Don tha Con on the internet, it is virtually impossible for a thoughtful person to conclude that such an effort could not influence 77 thousand votes in three states combined! Contray to the claims of that raging buffoon, Jiveass Jim Jordan, Devious Don’s shameless shill in the House of Representatives, trump did not “win the Electoral College in a landslide.” But it is undeniable that he lost the popular vote by three million votes!

Trump’s transparent lies began when he declared his inauguration was “the biggest ever” and denied the photographic evidence from the US Parks Service that clearly contradicted his bogus claim. Then he invented a bizzare conspiracy theory claiming that “millions of illegal aliens voted for Hillary.” When the extent of Russian meddling began to emerge, first from thoughtful analyst in the intelligence community such as retired spook Malcolm Nance, who wrote a book length treatise on it “The Hacking of America, and the FBI stepped up its investigation into the matter, Trump fired the FBI Director James Comey, and was later heard bragging about it to representatives of the Russian government in the Oval Office.

Alas, blabber mouth thoughtless fool that he is, Devious Donald told NBC Evening News host Lester Holt in a nationally televised interview that he fired Comey to end the investigation into Russian attempts to subvert the will of the American people through a covert cyber-attack. It was this act of stupidity and hubris that sparked the appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller as “Special Prosecutor,” with a mandate to thoroughly investigate the matter. After interrogating hundreds of witnesses and perusing thousands of documents, Mr. Mueller issued a 400 page report detailing extensive Russian interference in the presidential election to support Trump.

He identified the exact units and agents in the Russian intelligence apparatus that carried out the operation and issued indictments against them. Mr. Mueller explained that although he could not establish a “conspiracy” between the Russian operatives and members of the Trump campaign that would meet the standard of evidence required by the statute, the Trump campaign knew of and welcomed the Russian interference. But since “collusion” is not specifically addressed in the law, he would leave it to Congress to decide.

He also pointed to ten instances that could be construed as “Obstruction of Justice,” which he would also leave it to Congress to determine because of a Department Of Justice regulation prohibiting the indictment of a sitting President. However a thousand former Federal Prosecutors, Democrats and Republicans who served in urban and rural areas, say they would indict and convict a suspect on the evidence Mueller provided. Furthermore, Mr. Mueller clearly stated in his Report and later in testimony before Congress, that his investigation did not exonerate the President.

However, by the time the Mueller Report was released, Devious Donald had replaced Jeff Sessions – who had recused himself from all matters involving the Russian investigation, sparking outrage and charges of disloyalty from from Trump – and replaced him with Bill Barr, who proved eager to to do for Trump what the unethical lawyer Roy Cohn had done for him as a businessman in New York. Barr, who as Attorney General, had jurisdiction over Mueller and thus had access to the Report before the public saw any part of it, helped Devious Donald deceive the American people by misrepresenting the Report’s findings and witholding parts of it from the public and Congress.

Barr simply announced that the extensive investigation by Mr. Mueller “found no collusion and no obstruction of justice.” This pronouncement was quickly seized upon and repeated endlessly on Fox News, a right-wing propaganda outfit posing as a legitimate journalistic institution, and that has become the gospel truth for members of the Trump personality cult, that untutored mob they call “the Republican base.”

Since few people have either the time or inclination to actually read a dense legalistic document of 400 pages, and many Republican members of Congress openly declared that they would not read it, while Trump resorted to Twitter, partisan rallies and right wing media to declare himself “totally exonerated” in his hyperbolic style, the Mueller Report detailing the Russian cyber-attack and his crimes of obstruction has become largely irrelevant.

While the meticulous presentation of of the evidence of Russian intervention contained in the Mueller Report has not prevented Trump from labeling it “a hoax,” the new Inspector General’s investigation of the FBI, debunking Trump’s claims that the FBI “spied on his campaign” at the behest of President Barack Obama, seems destined for a similar fate. Attorney General Barr has already disputed it’s findings and has appointed a hand picked Federal Prosecutor to conduct another investigation that will yeild the results he seeks, which is to give legitimacy to Trump’s bogus claims.

Right before our eyes Barr and Trump are lying about the results of the investigation. Listening to them talk, they seem to have embraced the principle of The Big Lie, Invented by Dr. Joseph Goebbles, Minister of Propaganda for the Third Reich, it is a simple proposition that has proved to be very effective with targeted audiences subjected to controlled messages repeatedly beamed into their brains: “Tell the people a lie long enough and they will believe it!”

Dr. Goebbles had control of the national radio net work and the film industry, but Trump has the FOX network and Twitter – a more intimate means of communicating with his followers than Hitler ever had. And there is much evidence showing that the fervent acolytes in the Trump personality cult called the “Republican Base,” only believe what they hear on FOX, or right wing verbal arsonists like Rush Limbaugh on WABC radio, along with Trumps Tweets.

Hence they live in a fact free propaganda bubble that bears little resemblance to the reality that other Americans share by virtue of the reporting from objective journalistic organizations; whose reporters are bound by the ethics taught in Journalism schools, peer reviewed by colleagues and policed by professional organizations. The reporters who are winning Pulitzer Prizes for their careful reportage.

Herein lies the crux of the crisis we are now facing in defining reality: What is truth? One of the basic strategies of dictators in making reality conform to their will is to obfuscate and deny the existence of objective truth, Napoleon Bonaparte for instance, said “History is lies commonly agreed upon!” This is why in the effort to establish a dictatorship the first casualty is truth. We hear echoes of Bonaparte’s claim in Trump’s mouthpiece, Kelleyane Conway, who when confronted with unpleasant facts about Trump said: “We have alternative facts!”

This is a dangerous declaration, because Trump has been diagnosed as a “compulsive liar;” the main symptom of which is the willingness to lie even when you know that your lies can be easily disproven. We see this pathological behavior in Don tha Con all the time, it is his modus operandi. The danger we now face as a nation, is that the Republicans have proved willing to violate their oath to “defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic,” and place their personal and party interests above the national interests. This fact pattern conjures up some of the most dire warnings of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington at the founding of this nation, warnings that now have the ring of prophecy.

In his Farewell Address to the nation delivered on Sept. 19, 1796, President George Washington warned about the dangers of the factionalism promoted by the development of political parties in the new republic:

“I have already intimated to you the danger of Parties in the State… Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the Spirit of Party generally. This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human Mind. It exists under different shapes in all Governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed… The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities…The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty…It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.”

Although delivered over 200 years ago, this is a remarkably accurate description of the antics of Dirty Donald and the Republican Follies! One need only witness their attempts to disrupt the impeachment hearings with transparent lies and shameless sophistries, to recognize the willingness of partisans of the Grand Obstructionist Party to disgrace and beclown themselves to please a corrupt, wannabe autocrat, who demands a permanent lips to posterior posture from all who wish to remain in his good graces.

Why do they do it? Why does educated and accomplished elected officials shamelessly genuflect before this vulgar, pompous, ignorant, boisterous buffoon? The answer lies in their careerist opportunism and the ignorance of the Republican electorate who display a cult like devotion to their savior: “The Donald.” All Republican politicians live in dread of offending him and becoming a victim of the terrible tweets of this twisted twit!

For they have seen the ruin that can come to those who fall from favor with him and become the targets of his vulgar verbal assaults. And, like most elected officials, they understand their constituents and therefore well know that they are dealing with an untutored mob mesmerized by a big city bunko artists whose persona was forged on reality TV and a business career without accountability to superiors. To the “Republican Base” alas, Dirty Donald” is everything they hope to be…the stuff of their dreams.

When your head is empty you can even be convinced to go for the okey doke about Trump being “a blue collar billionaire,” a classic oxymoron. Yet this weird love affair between the plutocrat and the plebes cannot be fully understood without recognizing that they do share something fundamental in common, white trash values; Dirty Donnie is white trash with money! That’s why he can so easily con them with bullshit raps like “us against the elites,” when he is the a prominent member of the most powerful elite in America: The Plutocracy!

But perception is reality for most people alas, and when your mind is a tabla rasa incapable of critical thought, you are the perfect patsy for a bodacious bunko artist playing the long range con. This is the danger that Jefferson saw when he warned the nation: “A democracy cannot work with an ignorant electorate, because they will elect and return the worst people to power.”

The millions of Americans who see Devious Donald for the ignorant dangerous amoral lying charlatan that he is are determined to get his treasonous ass out of the Oval Office as quickly as possible. To them impeachment is the logical, legal and most efficient method of accomplishing this; it was the remedy provided by the architects of the Constitution to remove a criminal, incompetent or power crazed president from office. But the acolytes of The Donald, brainwashed by FOX and the right-wing disinformation complex, are just as convinced of his innocence and are certain that he is the victim of a “coup” directed by the “Deep State” and carried out by deluded evil “liberals” supported by “fake news” from the “Lame Stream Media.”

So here we are, one nation with two different views of reality, and a growing suspicion and mutual hostility toward each other. In a gun crazed nation with millions of firearms in private hands, including military assault weapons, where mass shootings have become commonplace, and a Malignant Narcissist in the Oval Office spouting increasingly reckless rhetoric which echos across the Twitter sphere on a daily basis and fires up the mindless Trumpanzees, anything can happen!

People often ask me how the present period compares with the turbulent 1960’s, which despite nation-wide riots and urban rebellions that set American cities ablaze from coast to coast we survived, and went on to thrive. It is a question that I have been giving serious thought lately, because it is a compass that will help us understand where we are now as the ship of state plows through troubled waters. As one who not only lived through the Sixties, but was a part of the black resistance movement that abolished southern apartheid and outlawed de jure racial discrimination all over this land, I suppose I have a unique perspective on the current state of the Union.

One obvious difference is that radical Black Activists viewed ourselves as part of the Third World Revolution, which was breaking out all over Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Islands of the seas. When I started in the movement I was an angry teenager, a 17 year old college student fighting for my constitutional rights.  Three years later, influenced by the writings of Third World Revolutionaries and news reports of their victorious movements,  spurred on by Thomas Jefferson’s talk about the right and duty to overthrow tyranny, I was an armed revolutionary advocating the overthrow of the racist capitalist American government.

However most Afro-Americans, then as now, continued to believe in the promise of equality contained in the Declaration of Independence and guaranteed by constitutional law. The biggest differences between the 1960’s and now is the absence of bi-partisanship when both parties had liberals and conservatives in their ranks. For instance, civil rights activists and southern segregationists were largely democrats. And major Civil Rights legislation of the period was all passed with Republican support despite the fact that it was authored by Democrats.

And most of all, there was no disagreement on the basic facts in our news media – which was confined to three networks ABC, NBC and CBS – whose reporters all adhered to a universal code of journalistic ethics that dictated the rules of objective reportage. Today the proliferation of propaganda outlets committed to promoting a “news” product determined by political ideology rather than fact based reportage, where the very distinction between reportage and opinion has been obscured, coupled with the internet where there are no journalistic standards at all in much of what is posted as “news,” our public discourse has been reduced to a tower of babble.

In such a confusing information environment many citizens cannot distinguish fact from fiction and thus choose the narrative of events that appeals to their prejudices or desires. This fractured view of reality promotes tribalist divisions among the populace. And when a demagogue like Devious Donald Trump tells his tribe that honest journalists, such as was envisioned by the founders who enshrined a free press in the Constitution because they considered it essential to a democratic society based on the rule of law, are their “enemies,” these divisions can threaten the stability, or survival, of our constitutional democracy.

This is what Americans are confronted with as I write, and whether a society thus divided can hang together is the paramount question that confronts us in this moment. And, deprived of the prescience of seers, or the heroic optimism of those who walk by faith, the future looks problematic to me.

***************

 

Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

1/8/20

 

 

 

On Dirty Donald’s Letter to Madam Speaker

Posted in Uncategorized on January 8, 2020 by playthell
In Speaker Pelosi The Donald has met the Woman he can’t Dismiss

All Malignant Narcissism and Paranoia

Donald J. Trump the accidental 45th President of the United States, whose candidacy was boosted by covert Russian activities, leading many astute observers to suspect that he may be a “Moscow mole,” says that he penned his letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “for history.” However, like most things outside of real estate, Devious Donald is clueless. What he does not understand is that future historians, far removed from the partisan passions of this moment and subject to rigorous peer review, will consult a wide variety of evidentiary sources.

First among these will be the great reporters at mainstream journalistic institutions who won Pulitzer Prizes for their reporting on the Trump presidency and impeachment. Ironically, the very people that Trump routinely demonizes and dismisses as “fake news” will be a primary source of evidence for historians who will delineate Donnie’s dirty deeds, define his character, and shape his image in our history books for America’s posterity.

The historians will also take into account the observations of contemporary scholars, as well the copious records and internal memoranda of the Trump Administration which, although concealed now, will then be public records. The historians will surely give great importance to the analysis of Psychiatrists and Psychologist on the state of the president’s mental health, and all of these sources will determine how they view Trump’s “Letter for History.” If ever there was a situation where the warning “be careful what you wish for” applied: This is it!

There are certain things about this poison pen letter that seems to me beyond question, none of it flattering to Trump. It is a propaganda instrument, and although it expresses Trump’s true feelings he is too illiterate to have written it. It is clearly the product of a sick mind, which speaks to its authenticity. And although the exact nature of Devious Donald’s illness has been diagnosed, the fear of litigation has restrained the nation’s great journalistic institutions from referencing the psychiatric profile developed by the 27 doctors that put together the “Duty to Warn” document, alerting the nation to the fact that we have elected a President who is afflicted with a serious psycho-pathology. The assessments of future historians however, will not be restrained by such considerations.

Donald Trump’s letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi supplies abundant evidence to support the diagnosis of the mental health professionals; it is an indispensable road map for exploring the twisted mind of the man who “wrote” it. The doctors warned that the nature of Trump’s pathology posed a clear and present danger to our nation. They diagnosed his condition as “Malignant Narcissism and Paranoia;” the same diagnosis of Adolph Hitler adopted by the US Office of Strategic Services – forerunner to the CIA – during World War II.

Hitler’s diagnosis was based on a psychiatric profile developed by the distinguished German psycho-analyst Eric Fromm, under a contract from the OSS, when Fromm was a refugee from German Fascism residing in the USA. This begs the question: If such psychiatric profiling was valid for a leader who posed a danger to our national existence during World War II, why not now when diagnostic tools and methods are a 70 years advanced?

Since the Duty to Warn analysis was published, it has been endorsed by over 70, 000 Psychiatrists and Psychologists. Among their number are some of the most distinguished scholars and clinicians in the field. However due to the “Goldwater Rule,” which was adopted by the American Psychological Association in response to a suit from Republican backers of Senator Barry Goldwater, mainstream media organizations shy away from citing the conclusions in “Duty to Warn.”

Goldwater’s supporters claimed that his bid for the presidency was quashed by Lyndon Johnson largely because of a published psychiatric profile of Goldwater by a group of Psychiatrist who warned that his cavalier attitude toward nuclear war posed a danger to the world. Their suit argued that since none of the doctors had personally examined Goldwater, it was unethical for them to offer an opinion of his mental state which cost him the presidency.

The APA bowed to the attacks of Goldwater’s supporters and ruled that it is “unethical and unprofessional” conduct for a member of their association to offer a diagnosis of someone they have not “personally examined,” and vowed to sin no more; prohibiting psychiatrists from offering such opinions in the future. This ban became popularly known as “The Goldwater Rule.”

However, the Psychiatrists who have signed the “Duty to Warn” analysis have dismissed this restriction. Their rejection rests on two main arguments: The Goldwater Rule is based upon political expedience not science, and observing Dangerous Donald’s behavior in the public arena as a political actor is far more important method of assessing his character and motivations than having him on a couch in their office. For as anybody who has ever been in therapy knows, you can lie to a therapist during interviews, but actions speak far louder than words…it is deeds that paint the truer portrait of who we are.

I would go even further and argue that the entire factual basis of the Republican claims regarding Senator Goldwater’s defeat is a fiction, conjured up by his apologists to explain away his embarrassing rejection at the polls. Any objective examination of the historical record will clearly show that Senator Goldwater was out of touch with the electorate on a variety of critical issues, and one could persuasively argue the his promise to repeal Social Security was far more important to his devastating defeat.

Lyndon Johnson won in a real landslide election – not the fake “Electoral College landslide” that Republican Congressman and shameless Trumpanzee shill Jim Jordan claims for Don tha Con. In the 1964 Presidential election Lyndon Johnson won 44 of 50 states with 61% of the popular vote and 486 Electoral College votes compared to a mere 52 votes for Senator Goldwater. It was the largest margin of victory in a presidential election since 1820, 144 years before!

By contrast, Trump lost the popular election by almost three million votes and stumbled into the presidency with a mere 77 thousand votes spread over three big Midwestern states which gave him a majority in the Electoral College of 304 to 227 over Hillary Clinton, a margin of 77 votes. When we consider that President Johnson defeated Senator Goldwater by a margin of 434 Electoral votes, it is painfully obvious how deluded Trump’s insistence that he won by a “historic” landslide is.

When we add the claim of James Clapper, who was head of National Intelligence at the time, that Russian intelligence agencies posted 157 million disinformation messages designed to help Trump and hurt Hillary on a variety of internet platforms, the legitimacy of Trump’s election is called into question. That’s why Congressman John Lewis refused to attend the inauguration of Devious Donald – which many Americans, this writer among them, considered a day of infamy for our nation when we installed a Moscow Candidate in the Oval Office – and women staged a massive demonstration in Washington.

This skepticism about his legitimacy is the paramount reason why Trump still denies the magnitude of Russian interference in our election, despite the conclusion of all 17 US intelligence agencies that it happened. He continues to deny this fact even after the exhaustive Muller Investigation, which in a rigorously detailed report of several hundred pages not only identified the exact units of Russian military intelligence that carried out the pro-Trump cyber-attack, but even issued indictments for specific individuals who directed it. In his frenzied fight for legitimacy, Devious Donald has gone to absurd lengths to explain his dramatic trouncing in the popular election – even making insane claims that “millions of illegal immigrants voted for Hillary.”

Yet in three years, with all of the investigative powers of the American government, Trump has produced no evidence for his fantastic claim. His deranged lies were not confined to this travesty; Don tha Con continues to insist that his inauguration was the most largely attended in American history; even dismissing the photographic evidence provided by the US Parks Service clearly showing that the crowds at President Barack Obama’s inaugural were far larger! It was these claims, along with Trump’s grandiose declarations that “Only I can solve the nations problems” – a claim often made by deluded autocrats like the 20th century Fascists Benito Mussolini and Adolph Hitler – that sounded the alarm for mental health professionals.

Alas the symptoms of their diagnosis – Malignant Narcissism and Paranoia – are clearly evident in Trump’s letter to the Speaker of the house. Grandiose delusions of self-importance; conflating the interest and destiny of the nation with his own; fact free revisionist history that support his claims of victimhood; inability to express contrition; compulsive lying to get his way; lack of empathy; hysterical feelings of paranoia; are everywhere on display in Trump’s twisted missive to the Speaker.

They are so pervasive we can clearly identify several of these pathologies in the opening passage. The pathological lying; dangerous denial of reality; paranoid sense of victimhood; lack of contrition; are prominently displayed. Yet this is the high point of the diatribe…it goes down hill from here:

“I write to express my strongest and most powerful protest against the partisan impeachment crusade being pursued by the Democrats in the House of Representatives. This impeachment represents an unprecedented and unconstitutional abuse of power by Democrat Lawmakers unequaled in nearly two and a half centuries of American legislative history. The Articles of Impeachment introduced by the House Judiciary Committee are not recognizable under any standard of Constitutional theory, interpretation, or jurisprudence. They include no crimes, no misdemeanors, and no offenses whatsoever. You have cheapened the importance of the very ugly word, impeachment!”

From the most casual reading of this tempestuous tirade two things are obvious: it is far to literate and thoughtful to have been composed by Donnie Dimwit so it was cobbled together by a committee subject to his approval. And it was written as a propaganda screed designed to becloud the real issues and create mass confusion; a smokescreen allowing the Senate to just let Trump walk away in a fog of legal Mumbo Jumbo. There is no other rational explanation for making this putrid letter public.

Banking on their ignorance, anger and irrational cult like devotion to Dirty Donald, the Republicans think they can sell their base any kind of bogus tawdry tale. Furthermore, if one does not have an understanding of what the Constitution mandates, much of the legal polemics sound like unfathomable babble. Unable to distinguish constitutional fact from fiction, they seek refuge in their tribe. The strategy of Devious Donald’s letter mirrors his approach to politics in general; an approach which prizes the “Big Lie” axiom of Dr. Joseph Goebbels, Minister of Propaganda for the Third Reich:

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the state can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

************

“To attract people, to win over people to that which I have realised as being true, that is called propaganda…Success is the important thing. Propaganda…is not supposed to be lovely or theoretically correct. I do not care if I give wonderful, aesthetically elegant speeches, or speak so that women cry. The point of a political speech is to persuade people of what we think right…We do not want to be a movement of a few straw brains, but rather a movement that can conquer the broad masses. Propaganda should be popular, not intellectually pleasing. It is not the task of propaganda to discover intellectual truths. Those are found in other circumstances…”

One need not be a great thinker in order to recognize the themes laid out by Dr. Goebbels to win the allegiance of the untutored mob, prominently displayed in the in the strategy and political practice of Dirty Donald and the timid automatons in the GOP. All Republican elected officials are terrified of the control Don Tha Con exercises over the “low information” white voters that make up the “Republican Base,” whom he can inflame against them whenever they fail to rigidly adhere to the Trumpist line; no matter if his whacky pronouncements bear any resemblance to objective reality or not.

Like those who flocked to Hitler, Trump’s most passionate acolytes are disillusioned white workers, many of whom are evangelical protestants. Powerless and economically insecure, panicked over the erosion of their “white privilege,” they are convinced that their problems are caused by immigrants, non-whites, traditional elites, and non-Christian elements in the population. And these sordid sad sacks, these pitiful plebes, haven’t a clue that they are being played; that they are the storm troopers advancing the interests of the most reactionary anti-worker faction of the plutocrats!

Hence in their eyes the liberal intellectual elite, Hispanics, black folks; Muslims, Jews, homosexuals etc – their objective allies – are viewed as the enemy. That’s why blatant White Nationalism and the illusion of a return to a golden age – a delusion of grandeur common to all nationalist movements – is so effective in winning them over. To be effective all mass movements must have a power packed slogan that mirrors the hopes and dreams of the disillusioned masses and moves them to action. Trump achieves this with “MAGA: Make America Great Again!” This slogan is so broad and all embracing it can be invested with specific content that make it mean whatever the hysterical Trumpanzees who pack his rallies are told it means.

A fundamental part of Trump’s approach to truth is to quickly accuse his adversaries of the crimes he are guilty of! And sadly, listening to the impeachment debate, it seems as if the GOP – Grand Obstructionist Party – has whole heartedly adopted this Trump-Goebbles strategy of persistently obfuscating truth with blatant lies. This is why the Trump presidency is called a “post fact period,” an attempt to destroy the belief in “objective truth” for millions of Americans; a standard practice of all authoritarian dictators and wannabe autocrats.

From the outset we can see that obfuscation of objective truth is the paramount objective of this poison pen diatribe, which Dumb Donald believes is a grand historical document of state. It is as if Dirty Donald and his co-conspirators in the Grand Obstructionists Party are referencing Dr. Goebbel’s dogma the way Catholics adhere to the pronouncements of the pope! And Devious Donald’s putrid, paranoid, self-aggrandizing tirade, posing as a historical pronouncement worthy of a great statesman, is compelling evidence that that suspicion is the truth of the matter.

*************

Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

1/7/20

Impeach Treacherous Treasonous Trump Now!

Posted in Uncategorized on September 29, 2019 by playthell
Devious Donald ” The Moscow Candidate” and his Handler

Kick Dirty Donald’s Corrupt Cakes to the Curb!

Like the wise seasoned political pro and master strategist that she is, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has orchestrated the impeachment process to remove Dastardly Don from office like a grand Maestro conducting a complex symphony of many movements. Politically astute voters and pundits committed to preserving constitutional democracy in America, this writer prominently among them, have been calling for Dirty Donnie’s impeachment for a while now. We thought it was time to kick him to the curb when he repeatedly violated his oath to “defend the Constitution,” and enforce the laws of the land.

Devious Donald’s cavaleir disregard for law and established custom, when he began violating the Emoluments clause prohibiting US presidents from accepting payments from foreign governments through his various businesses; refusing to take measures to defend the US electoral system against Russian cyber attacks; obstructing justice by firing Jim Comey, and using his bully pulpit to repeatedly attack the American press as “Enemies of the people” for carrying out their constitutionally mandated duty to serve as the people’s watch dog over those we elect to positions of power.

Thomas Jefferson, arguably the most thoughtful of the Founding Fathers, warned that “a democracy cannot work with an ignorant electorate.”  Hence he viewed creating an informed citizenry to be at the heart of their project of building a functional constitutional republic of self-governing people that could stand the test of time.  Tis belief no doubt inspired Jefferson’s declaration that, if given a choice between “a free press and no government, or a government and no free press,” He would choose “A free press and no government!”    Nothing so dramatically exposes how far Dirty Donald has wandered from the spirit of governance envisioned by the architects of the American Republic as his assault on our free press.

These are times that conjure up Benjamin Fraknlin’s statement upon the drafting of the US Constitution in Philadelphia, his home town, in the hot dog’s days of August 1787: “Gentleman you have got yourselves a republic…if you can keep it.” Trump’s scurrilous and unconstitutional attack against our free press – a fundamental pillar of American democracy would have been odious in any case, but to call them enemies while repeatedly praising Vladimir Putin, whom all 17 US intelligence agencies say ordered the subversion of our election to help Dirty Don tha Con become president, is treasonous!

And Trump has been openly accused of Treason by former Governor Weld, and the other pretenders to the Republican presidency.  The simple fact that the heads of US intelligence agencies all say that they have never been tasked with either developing an assessment of the extent to which Russian interference determined the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, nor to develop a plan to counteract such Russian interference in the future, provides ample grounds for the charge of treason.

It does not require a deep knowledge of US Constitutional law to recognize treason when we see it. Treason is clearly defined in the Constitution as “giving aid and comfort to an enemy with whom the nation is at war.” All one need understand is the President is first and foremost our Commander-In-Chief, entrusted with the responsibility of defending this nation against foreign enemies, and Donald J. Trump, the 45th president of the United States has failed to do this. The only possible refutation to the verdict of treason is to argue that Cyber-Warfare is not really war.

I would argue that such a position is the acme of absurdities! Cyber-warfare is an extension of the technological arsenal in the war making arsenal of nations.  And it is no exaggeration to say that Cyber-attacks are rapidly becoming the most powerful of our weapons; given the diverse capabilities to inflict harm on the enemy it provides. Alas, cyber-warfare can not only subvert elections, it can jam communications systems, bring down electrical grids, freeze banking functions, and threatens to break into nuclear weapons system and fire the nuclear nuclear weapons of another nation.

Indeed, Cyber-Warfare is not only real war, it is rapidly becoming the most dangerous form of war! And Devious Donald, our commander-In-Chief, has not only refused to defend the nation against Russian Cyber-War attack, but continues to deny that it even happened despite mountains of detailed evidence presented in the Mueller report, and has not only defended Putin, even publicly taking his word over his own intelligence agencies, but has met with him in private for over an hour with no American observers present in Oslo, and told Russian diplomats in the Oval Office after firing FBI Director Jame Comey, who was the chief investigator into the Russian affair, that their intrusion into our election was no biggie because the US does it too!

Despite the fact that Treasonous Trump’s statement was true: It is not the business of American president’s to give aid and comfort to an enemy who gas committed and act of war against the nation he is sworn to defend!  This Scurrilous act is part of the reason why Nancy Pelosi, leader of the House of Representatives – upon whose shoulders the Constitution places the awesome weight of removing a duly elected American President from office – finally ordered the commencement of a formal impeachment inquiry.

The Speaker’s caution had begun to seem  like inexplicbale foot dragging to those of us who feel the case for impeaching Don tha Con had long been made.   The Specame around to empowering six committees in the House to conduct investigations to provide evidence for drafting Articles of Impeachment. Although she has been slow getting there – albeit wisely proceeding with caution – it is better LATE THAN NEVER!

Nancy Pelosi: Speaker of the House

Argueably the Most Effective Speaker Ever

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Witness Nancy Pelosi’s Evolution on the Impeachment Issue

 

ABC News Coverage of Speaker Pelosi’s Announcement of
Impeachment Inquiry

 

Nancy Pelosi: “Barr Has Gone Rogue!”

See CNN

 

Republican Presidential Challengers:

ACCUSE TRUMP OF TREASON!

 

Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

9/29/ 2019

Jester and Queen!

Posted in Uncategorized on June 7, 2019 by playthell
Queen Elizabeth and The Great Pretender

Donnie Dimwit and Melanie Mannequin Visit Buckingham Palace!

It was amusing to witness the mobbed up New York real estate hustler and Moscow Candidate Donald Trump, who accidentally became US President, interacting with the Queen of England in the hallowed Halls of her palace, where the artifacts of an empire on which “the sun never set” are everywhere on display. Trump, who lived in his own version of a castle in the sky with his air head side piece Melania the Manequin, before taking up residence in the White House, harbors an imperial view of his presidency which more closely resembles the absolute rule of Nicholas II, the last of the Russian Romanov’s, than the Constitutional monarchy presided over by Queen Elizabeth II.

For the Queen reigns but dose not rule over the realm, the executive power of government resides in the hands of Theresa May, the Prime Minister. Despotic Donald, on the other hand, wishes to reign and rule over the American people without opposition, when in fact he is our servant. In our democratic republic the Constitution invests all power in the citizenry, we the people, and those who govern can do so only with our consent; as was so eloquently stated in the Declaration of Independence, a foundational document composed by Thomas Jefferson -arguably the most enlightened of the “Founders” – that precedes the Constitution and lays out the philosophical ideals upon which the American republic is founded. Trump, an incompetent ignoramus whose training and temperament totally unsuits him for the US presidency, constantly attacks the very pillars of American democracy. He has attacked the Courts, the opposition party in Congress, and denounced the free press as “the enemy of the people!”

Hatred of the press is a normal reaction for a shameless charlatan and compulsive liar, whom fact checkers at the Washington Post and Toronto Star have cataloged more than 10, 000 lies which have issued from his lips. His lies and self-aggrandizing rhetoric so alarmed the psychiatric community they felt a “duty to warn” the nation that our president, the most powerful man in the world who possess the launch codes to America’s Doomsday nuclear arsenal, is mentally ill and poses a grave danger to the fate of the world!

An astonishing 70, 000 psychiatrists and psychologist have signed a diagnosis of “Malignant Narcissism and Paranoia” based on his behavior in the public arena. Alas, the symptoms of these illnesses are everywhere apparent in Devious Donald’s grandiose claims for his questionable achievements as a businessman and President, his hyper-sensitivity to any criticism, and his constant claims that phantom conspirators in “the Deep State” are out to get him.

Given the diligence of British intelligence services it is a sure bet that the Queen was thoroughly briefed on every aspect of “The Donald’s” character flaws. After all, she has the highest confidence in her intelligence agencies and is not plagued by paranoid delusions that they are engaged in an effort to “sabotage” and “bring her down.” Hence the queen devised a strategy of schooling the American president without triggering his insecurities.

In a fascinating display of the diplomatic skill for which the British are world famous she used the occasion of her formal speech, and a gift of the historic “Atlantic Charter,” a joint declaration issued by Prime Minister Winston Churchill and President Franklin Delanor Roosevelt from the deck of a battleship out in the Atlantic Ocean 1n 1941, amid the chaos of World War II, which set forth a vision for the Post War world that would serve to prevent a repeat of the tragic global conflagrations that had devastated the lives of millions twice within a generation.

Churchill and Roosevelt Issue Atlantic Charter

Putting Forth a Racist Vision of the Post War World

In her Banquet speech the Queen reminded Donnie Dimwit that defeating the German Nazi’s and their fascist allies in Italy and Japan required close cooperation between the nations who opposed them. Speaking of British US cooperation in the complex operation on D-Day, directed by the American general Dwight David Eisenhower, which would be celebrated in a couple of days, she recalled:

“As Supreme Allied Commander, he had ultimate responsibility for the execution of the Normandy landings. In his headquarters in St James’s Square – not far from Buckingham Palace – British and American officers worked closely together to plan the freedom of a continent, and it would be no exaggeration to say that millions of lives depended on their common endeavour.”

Then she turned her attention to the importance of the international institutions that were established in the post World War II period to prevent another World War issuing from Europe, an arrangement that has prevented a global war for 70 years:

“As we face the new challenges of the Twenty First Century, the anniversary of D-Day reminds us of all that our countries have achieved together. After the shared sacrifices of the Second World War, Britain and the United States worked with other allies to build an assembly of international institutions, to ensure that the horrors of conflict would never be repeated. While the world has changed, we are forever mindful of the original purpose of these structures: nations working together to safeguard a hard won peace.”

To reinforce the theme of Anglo-American cooperation the Queen emphasized the familial ties between Brits and Americans:
“Of course, it is not only our security which unites us; but our strong cultural links and shared heritage. Every year, there are almost four million visits by Americans to the United Kingdom, with a great number claiming British descent. And with your own Scottish ancestry, Mr President, you too have a particular connection to this country.”
Then she gave The Donald a copy of the Atlantic Charter to study.

The Queen Schools The Donald

Droppin Science  at Buckingham Palace

However, after pondering the Queen’s emphasis on their blood ties, and perusing the document, I am struck by how Eurocentric it’s perspective is, which is another way of saying the world as white folks in the West saw it. Viewed from a Third World perspective – Africa, Asia and Latin America – much of Churchill’s and Roosevelt’s declaration’s grand gluttonous phrases are hypocritical blather!

This underscores the extent to which even many highly educated white folks have failed to come to grips with their actual history, and thus have a distorted view of reality. Indeed, much of the conflict in the world today derives from a failure of white folks to learn the lessons of their history, despite all the time, effort and money they have expended on writing and teaching it. There is a simple explanation for this failure: In order to learn from history you must tell the truth!

Alas, the Atlantic Charter is pregnant with absurdities based upon racist assumptions. A telling case in point is the following assertion. Article three of the declaration says of the British and American leaders: “they respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live; and they wish to see sovereign rights and self-government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them.” Given the fact that virtually all the countries in Africa and Asia, the majority of mankind, was living under the colonial domination of the very European nations that made up “the grand western alliance” that had helped to defeat the Nazi’s.

Not only is the role of the Western Alliance in the victory over fascist Germany greatly exaggerated, as Soviet Russia played the major role in the victory over German fascism with the US suffering 400,000 deaths and the Russians 27 million, but millions of non-white peoples in their colonies were denied by force of arms the very rights and freedoms celebrated in the Atlantic Charter. This inconvenient fact makes their claims prima faice absurd! This hypocrisy was heightened by the fact that the British were the largest colonial oppressors on earth, and the United States of America was born in a bloody anti-colonial revolt against the British imperialist!

Furthermore, by his own admission, Adolph Hitler had adopted his master race theories from the American Eugenicist Madison Grant, Devious Donald’s fellow New Yorker and Columbia University graduate, after reading Grant’s influential racist tome “The Passing of the Great Race.” And Hitler patterned his racist immigration policies on the US National Origins Act, which was largely inspired by the Eugenicists arguments of Grant and created the border patrol on the Mexican border; allotted 86.5% of the slots to immigrants from western and northern Europe; 2.5% from all of Africa, the Middle East and Pacific islands; Chinese and Japanese were excluded, and the rest came from the Americas.

Hitler roundly praised this racist policy in his personal manifesto Mein Kemp. And Afro-Americans were still living under laws based on the Master Race thesis that served as the blueprint for Nazi laws governing the treatment of German Jews. Only in a world where white supremacy was viewed as the norm could the pious preachments of the Atlantic Charter make sense. Yet it is a pretty sure bet that even if Dumb Donald actually read the Charter, he would never arrive at this understanding of it. He is far too ignorant of history and world politics to recognize the contradictions. If most of the enlightened thought leaders in the western world fail to recognize this paradox, there is no chance that Donnie Dimwit will get it.

In any case Dumb Donald’s delusions of grandeur prevented him from from recognizing some things that should be obvious. For instance his misconception of the Trump family as American royalty led him to the pretentious suggestion that his children, who were not even invited to the ball but crashed it at American taxpayer’s expense, formally meet with the Children of the British royals for a “Next Generation” palaver, presumably to plot the future world order. However the royals – who were forced by political circumstance to be nice to the Trumps – probably share my view of them as white American trash with money; the vulgar “noveau riche.”

One need only study the body language and facial expression in a photo of Prince Harry escorting Princess wannabe Ivanka, to recognize that he resembles a carnival performer who was forced to hold his nose while he kissed a pig because it was part of the act. And the fact that the Trump family portrait from Buckingham Palace was posed in front of a sign that conspicuously prohibited “taking pictures” represents the acme of clueless absurdities.

Prince Harry and Ivanka

An Unpleasant Function of State
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Trump’s Children Posing in No Photo Zone

Bumbling in Buckingham

However, we may be thankful that the scripts provided Donald the Clown were written on a level that he could comfortably handle, and he managed to muster up sufficient self-discipline to stay on script and not go off on an embarrassing ab lib. Yet it is hard to imagine that given his churlish remarks about the Mayor of London, and his impromptu rants about the American singer/actress Bett Midler, that punctuated The Donald’s sojourn on her Sceptered Isle, the Queen could see this jester as anything but a pretentious fool, a doophus dickhead who possessed none of the earthy wisdom exhibited by Court Jesters of yore.

Suffering a Pretentious Fool Gladly

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Watch the Queen’s Speech

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Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
June 7, 2019

The Afro/Modernist Art of Ademola

Posted in Ademola at Gallery, Uncategorized with tags , on April 25, 2019 by playthell

Ademola: The Master with his Creation

Neo-African Aesthetic Alchemy from the Black Atlantic World

Ademola Olugbefola is a major Afro-American artist who was a leading figure in the evolution of the Black Arts Movement of the 1960’s, which means that he has been about the business of defining a black aesthetic in the visual arts for the past half century. The BAM grew out of the black liberation struggle that blossomed during the mid-twentieth century, just as the African liberation movements began to triumph, overthrowing the system of European colonialism on the continent.

The Afro-American freedom Movement was inspired by events in Africa, which we supported. It was a revelation to see brilliant Africans on television speaking at the United nations, after having been programmed for generations by a racist white supremacist education system and mass communication apparatus, especially the Tarzan movies, to loathe Africans as an embarrassment. By virtue of the emergence of independent African nations on the world stage, courted by the US government in order to persuade them to join the western capitalist bloc in the cold war against the communist nations, Africa had now become a source of great pride.

While the great Civil rights movement was solely focused on gaining full equality for Afro-Americans under constitutional law, a fundamental requirement for blacks to have any chance of dramatic progress after centuries of forced inequality by government policies, others branched out and tackled complex cultural questions regarding literature, music and the visual arts. The paramount concerns of these cultural warriors was who are we? Where did we come from? What were we before we were forced to become Americans by capture and enslavement? And how can we recapture some of what we once were?

The result of these explorations led to an explosion of Afrocentric dress and hair styles among “culturally conscious” Afro-Americans and inspired a tsunami of activity on the part of intellectuals and artists. Black poets sang panegyrics to the beauty of blackness, black Jazz musicians wrote compositions such as Art Blakey’s “Message From Kenya,” and John Coltrane’s “Africa Brass.” And we heard Dizzy Gellespie’s “Night in Tunisia” through different ears. The great drummer and composer Max Roach, along with his beautiful Afro crowned wife Abbey Lincoln – a singer/actress – had joined with Ronnie and Cecil Braithwaite to organize the African Jazz Art Society, which launched the Black Arts Movement in 1958 that came to full bloom during the 1960’s.

Max and Abby, the first family of the “Black Cultural Revolution” were everywhere, making politically conscious music like the album:”We Insist! Freedom Now,”which became, for radical political activists, the sound track of “The Revolution.” The idea of a real armed revolution in the US may sound far out to contemporary readers, but back then in the fires of struggle, it seemed all too real. It was real enough for some people to give up their freedom and others their lives. Hence it was in this turbulent cauldron of struggle and hope, that the art of Ademola was born. A quintessential New Yorker, he was right in the midst of this cultural and political turmoil.

Having a deep interest in fashion and theater set design, Ademola was among the first of the visual artists to heed the call to create a modern art based on a Black aesthetic philosophy derived from their study of traditional African art.  Thus they were mining the same tradition that  had inspired the major creative figures in the rise of modern western art: Picasso, Georges Braque, Salvador Dali, et al.  (for a deeper discussion of this see the discussion with Ademola and this writer on the video below this essay)   It was this deep and abiding interest that led him to join with a band of fellow black artists and create the Weusi Academy.

Among these artistic visionaries was the Master Sculptor Painter Otto Neals, Thomas “Taiwo” Duval, a painter and master African drummer; Abdul Aiziz, Master Print Maker and painter; Abdul Rachman, an innovative painter who produced works of such original conception, complexity of design and bold use of colors that Ademola coined a term for it: “Epic Symbolism.” Recently Otto Neals had a retrospective exhibition of his sculpture mounted in the beautiful galleries of Kenkelba House. It was a sensation! It set new standards of achievement for future sculptors to strive for. There were other gifted artists who joined, or were greatly influenced by the innovative works of the Weusi Academy artist, that are too numerous to account for here.

On Saturday April 14th, Ademola opened a solo show at the X Gallery in Harlem titled “Past and Present Mixed Media.” Located on Malcolm X Boulevard at 118th Street, and named in his honor, the gallery has presented a series of unique exhibitions under the able direction of its Founder and Curator Lisa DuBois. An outstanding photographic artist in her own right – many of her works are fine art – Lisa’s camera lens is an all-seeing eye that has captured some of the most poignant images of our time in the US and abroad. Hence she is an excellent person to curate a show such as this, for a great part of her mission is the bring the works of under-represented artist of talent to the public.

Lisa DuBois

Artist, Visionary and Curator Of  X Gallery

However, this concern does not include the present artist, as Ademola’s oeuvre has been reviewed, celebrated and critiqued in a wide variety of books, catalogs, periodicals, videos, and broadcast media. The pieces in the Gallery’s exhibit were selected from Ademola’s many works over more than half a century. They include objects de art that have appeared in many museums and galleries across the US and abroad, as well as a new selection of minature abstract landscapes.

A great fan of dance, the exhibition also includes some of Ademola’s abstract renderings of dance movements, which one viewer who identified herself as a professor of dance said inspired her to dance! The Exhibition will remain on display until April 28.

Ademola Receives an Award from X Gallery

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The Alchemist In His Studio

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Mask of the Poro Society

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Confrontation!

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In the Realm of Ancestral Spirits

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Musicians Making the Harvest Grow

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Cosmic Graffiti

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Ile Ife!  Home of the Gods

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The Mystery of Ifa 

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The Heliocentric Worlds Of Sun Ra

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Astral Travelling

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Spirit Dance

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Ocha! The Evidence of Things Unseen

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The Grand Opening at X Galleries

Lisa Directing the Show

Artist and Curator a Fine collaboration

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It Was A Diverse New York Artsy Crowd

Like this Dancer/Artist

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It Was a Lively Crowd!

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Freedom Day!

Max Roach and Abbey Lincoln

 

To watch Ademola discuss his Art with Playthell Click on Link

This is a multi-part discourse follow the lables

 

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Text and Photographs by: Playthell G. Benjamin
Video by: The inimitable Kwame Barthwaite
Harlem, New York
April 25, 2019

Politics Make Strange Bedfellows!

Posted in Uncategorized on February 25, 2018 by playthell

J. Edgar Hoover, Founding Director of the FBI

On Trump, the FBI and Me

Andrew McCabe, the Deputy Director of the FBI, has been fired by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, after after quitting his post at the agency.  A seasoned law enforcement professional who has honorably served the nation for over 20 years, McCabe was drummed out of office by the reckless and vulgar attacks of Donald Trump, the wanna-be dictator who presently occupies the Oval Office.

On the face of it, there is a rotting in the body politic when a megalomaniacal compulsive liar, who has spent his life dealing with mobbed up companies in the New York construction racket, and laundering dirty Russian money, can drive a dedicated lawman who has led the fight against dangerous criminals and terrorists out of his post.

There is no greater indication that we are living in fantastical times than the fact that I feel compelled to defend the FBI against the attacks of the President. Furthermore, I am willing to go about this work in concert with odious characters who in normal times I would have nothing to do with.  Politics does indeed make strange bedfellows.  Alas, I approach this alliance like a carnival performer who is compelled to hold his nose and kiss a skunk because the act must go on.

My views on the Federal Bureau of Investigation has varied radically over the years. As a boy I listened to thrilling stories about the brave FBI who protected us from the evil Communist that denounced God and were trying to enslave us.  My admiration and respect increased as I was brainwashed by propagandistic movies like “I Was a Communist for the FBI,” where Frank Lovejoy played an earnest, incorruptible, undercover FBI agent who suffered the scorn of his family and friends that thought he had joined the evil Communist Party.  Then came Elliot Ness and The Untouchables, the fearless G-Men shooting it out with machine guns against the bad guys.  But that was the 1950’s, during the Red Scare of the McCarthy Era, the height of the Cold War when Communist conspiracies were believed to be unfolding everywhere.

However, during the tumultuous Sixties I developed a very different view of the FBI, when I became a victim of the FBI’s Counter-Intelligence Program; the notorious Co-In-Tel-Pro.  After having witnessed contempt for the law by racist white judges in Florida, and the lingering racist etiquette in the military despite efforts to stamp it out, observing the American nuclear strike force inside Central Security Control where the decision to launch nuclear weapons is made, and confronting the terrible plight of the plains Indians who lived on a reservation located near the base like a fort in the old west, I became radicalized.

These experiences made me a confused angry young man who wanted to bring about radical change in American society quickly.  It was during this period that I fell in league with a group of young Marxist revolutionaries who convinced me they had the blueprint for building a revolution that would bring justice to the poor and oppressed in America. Most of our elder tutors in radical politics were former communist who had joined the party because they were the only political party in the US that supported them in militant opposition against institutionalized white supremacy in the US -something the Democrats nor the Republicans had the inclination to do.   And they quit the CP when they abandoned their position on supporting the birth of a “Negro Nation” in the southern black belt.  These veterans of the militant anti-racist movement had suffered the anti-democratic attacks of the McCarthy era, and they presented a very different portrait of the FBI.

As I went on to engage in many militant struggles against race and class oppression as a founding member of the Revolutionary Action Movement aka RAM, I became a subject of interest to the FBI and their Co-IN-Tel-Pro files on RAM fill several volumes.  We assumed that we were being spied on by the FBI, but it was only after the Church Committee Hearings, the release of Co-In-Tel-Pro files under the Freedom of Information Act, and the publication of the pathbreaking study “Racial Matters: The FBI Secret File on Black America,” by historian Kenneth O’Reilly that I recognized the extent of FBI surveillance and covert action dirty tricks employed to disrupt our struggle against racist oppression, which we believed was justified by “any means necessary” as Malcolm X had declared. A principle which we knew white Americans passionately adhered to when their own freedom was involved.

The fact that J. Edgar Hoover, who had been the FBI Director from its creation by Congress in 1935 – after his appointment by President Calvin Coolidge in 1924 to head the Bureau of Investigation, which preceded the FBI – was an avowed racist, meant that in his eyes all anti-racist struggles by Afro-Americans was subversive.  Hoover saw Dr. Martin Luther King, a brilliant and saintly apostle of non-violent “passive resistance,” as much a danger to National Security as armed revolutionary Maoist like RAM.

When I discovered that Hoover’s first covert action campaign was against Marcus Garvey – leader of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, a mass black nationalist movement in the 1920’s that advocated Black Pride, collective economics and repatriation to Africa – I decided the FBI was the avowed enemy of Black Liberation.  And I view Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ orders to the FBI to investigate “Extreme Black Identity Activist” aka “Black Lives Matter” today, as a resurrection of Hoover’s discredited strategy.

For all these reasons, and more, I am one of the least likely candidates to mount a defense of the FBI.   However, as is often the case in politics: There are no permanent friends or enemies, only permanent interests.  Hence, ever since I became conscious of the political forces arrayed against the progress of non-white and working-class Americans, the rise of a right-wing oligarchy that would nullify all the progressive laws that benefit disadvantaged Americans going back to the New Deal, I have fought to oppose it.

I believe the election of Donald Trump is paving the way for just such a development, aided by the unlimited corporate spending made possible by the Citizen’s United Decision, which is turning our popular democracy into a plutocracy where the rich can buy politicians that are shills who place their private interests above the public interest.  The recently passed tax bill is a dramatic instance of the Republicans rewarding their donors.

Furthermore, being the amoral avaricious narcissist that he is, I believe Trump would willingly collude with the Russians to achieve the pinnacle of power.  And he would think nothing of obstructing justice to hide his dirty deeds because he believes the end will justify the means.  And so, apparently, does the Republicans in Congress, who see in the Trump presidency a rare opportunity to finally get their backward agenda enacted into law.

This explains why the Republican Congress, whom the Founding Fathers invested with the power to check the abuse of executive authority, are conspiring with the President to obstruct justice. Hence the fate of our democracy may well rest upon the shoulders of Robert Mueller, the Special Prosecutor, who has the will and the power to force the Congress to act based upon the results of his investigation…or failing to act the Republicans will be swept from power by the Democrats in the next election.   This would be the beginning of the end of the Trump Presidency and their radical right-wing Republican agenda.

The FBI, our premiere investigative agency, is central to the success of Mueller’s mission. That’s why Trump is itching to fire Mueller, and has mounted a vigorous campaign to besmirch the reputation and thus discredit the FBI.    Since politics is the art of the possible, which often means choosing the lesser evil, I am compelled to take an uncompromising stand in defense of the FBI; despite the presence of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General.  Sessions – who always strikes me as an unrepentant old school southern redneck right out of central casting – wishes to deploy FBI agents against “Extreme Black Identity Activist.  Yet, despite shades of Co-In-Tel- Pro the FBI remains, by far, the lesser evil when compared to a Trump autocracy.

 

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Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
February 10, 2018

Is Omorosa Trump’s Olivia Pope?

Posted in Uncategorized on December 24, 2017 by playthell

The Way they Were

Notes on Power, Privil ege, Sex and Race

The saga of Fat Donnie and Omorosa has burst upon the world stage with a bang.  Although We have seen this glamorous black woman hanging out with Donnie since his reality show days on The Apprentice, a hugely popular television show on NBC, where Omorosa became the star attraction among the contestants, her role in the Trump presidency propelled her to new heights in the real world.

Given the many pictures of them together all over the internet that suggest a secret intimacy, something more than meets the eye, it is unsurprising that many people wonder if we are not witnessing a real-life version of the hit ABC evening soap opera “Scandal,” in which Olivia Pope, a beautiful cunning Afro-American woman played by the ravishing Kerry Washington, captivates the white male US president, alienating his affections for his clueless white wife. Is life imitating art?

Well, maybe, but even if Devious Donnie and his chocolate sweetie are rubbin bellies, there are some sharp differences between the character, competence and experience of Omorosa Manigault and Olivia Pope.  Aside from the suggestion of a sexual scandal in their relationship with the President; the aura of sex and glamour that surrounds them; and their ruthless amoral approach to wielding power; Olivia and Omorosa have little in common.  A friend of mine, who is a successful show business entrepreneur that is a huge fan of Olivia Pope, and has interacted with Omorosa in a business setting, offers this assessment.  “These two women are light years apart in character and competence. Olivia is Queen of the Hill; she is running the whole show. Omorosa is a light-weight opportunistic bitch…just like her boss!”

First of all, Olivia is a brilliant and highly competent woman who is at the center of events in the White House, a big-time player.  Omorosa is an ornament, the black mascot whose role is to lure Afro-Americans to root for the Trump team.  The fact that 90% of Afro-American women voted for the Democrats in recent elections that were critical to Republicans, highlighted Omorosa’s irrelevance to Trump and the Republican Party’s black recruitment project.  And that’s because most black people regard her as little more than a slick ghetto hustler from hardscrabble Youngstown Ohio, looking out for numero uno.

Olivia Pope

Livin Large and in Charge

In this sense Omorosa has much more in common with Melania, a Euro-trash hustler and soft porn model from the impoverished Eastern European country of Slovenia, who may have been working as an illegal immigrant before she hooked the trick of a life time.  Neither of them are taken seriously by serious people – Melania is such a ditz she actually plagiarized Michelle Obama’s speeches twice!

Melania Strump

Euro-Trash as America’s First Lady

From all appearances the end came when the Republican princes and powers who counsel wanna-be King Donald convinced him that Omorosa is all blow and no go.   They presented unimpeachable evidence that she has not been effective in delivering the black vote, winning over black leadership, nor stimulating mass black love for the Great Leader who, by his own repeated declarations, is alone wise enough to save the nation.  In fact, just the opposite has happened. Fat Donald is despised in black communities in every section of the nation, and an energized Afro-American vote supplied the margin of victory in dramatic Democratic wins in Virginia and Alabama.  Once it became clear that Omorosa was useless, she got the same treatment that used toilet paper gets.

O Where is Her White Knight Now?

Trump’s Strumpet: Kicked to the Curb

Those with sources in the White House like Urban Radio White House reporter April Ryan, say Omorosa’s colleagues universally regard as ignorant and arrogant, with a permanent imperious attitude to boot. And beyond that nobody knew what her job description was; “Sister Girl” was all over the place.  So, there was much rejoicing amongst the white folks in the White House upon word of here unceremonious and abrupt departure.  Now she is playing the wronged, wounded, black woman who is pained over the way the Republicans are treating “My people…”

Well, from all the reactions I’ve witnessed from Afro-Americans, and I’ve seen a few – they are prominently displayed all over the internet – Omorosa fares no better than with her white co-workers in the White House.  Many long time Black Republicans have publicly accused her of being a “gatekeeper,” who used her position to block out more competent Afro-Americans -and they are legion – from Trump’s inner circle. She is widely regarded in the wider black community as a quisling and vulgar opportunist whose allegiance is dictated by expedience.  I’m reminded of a verse from “No Hiding Place,” an old hymn that was popular in the black community when I was a boy: “I went to the rock to hide my face / but the rock cried out no hiding place / O sinner man, there’s no hiding place down here.”

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Perusing photographs of Donald Trump and Omorosa Manigault together conjures up bitter memories from a shameful American past, where access to beautiful black women was regarded as the right of rich and powerful white men; a prerogative practiced by some of the most distinguished white men in American history, virtually all of them unabashed white supremacist.

We witnessed this practice after it accidentally spilled out into the open a couple of years ago when MS. V. Stiviano – a beautiful half black half Mexican lady – who was the clandestine concubine of Donald Sterling, owner the San Diego Clippers basketball franchise, put his racist hatred and penis envy of his black players on blast.  When she put his business in the streets he lost the franchise and his clueless white wife.

Beauty and the Beast

Donald Sterling and his Dusky Concubine

I have written an in-depth essay exploring the issues of race, class and ethnicity surrounding this affair (see: “Beauty and the Beast” at https://commentariesonthetimes.me/2014/05/16/on-racism-privilege-and-power/ )

Historically, racist white males were the most ardent at bedding beautiful black women, because it was a status symbol among their peers, the “good ol boys.”   It was part and parcel of the etiquette of white male supremacy.   However, like most of America’s barbaric history of white supremacy, this practice was banished from the public eye and relegated to the dustbin of US history.  I am aware of this tawdry tradition, which encompasses most of our national history, because I witnessed it growing up in Florida and I studied about it in scholarly texts.

Powerful white men of the political class who had black female lovers include George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Thaddeus Stevens and Strom Thurman.   Hence if Trump and Omorosa have ever been undercover lovers it would be nothing unusual in American history. The relentless, fevered, promotion of the white female as the most feminine, beautiful and sexually desirable woman on earth makes it hard for some whites to believe that a rich powerful white man would choose a black woman.

Prince Harry gets a pass – except from the White Nationalist crowd terrified of genetic annihilation – because his fiancée Megan Markel is not visibly black, although her mother is a dreadlock wearing Soul Sista and Queen Elizabeth described her future daughter-in-law as “exotic.”  But Megan would have been simply classified as “Negro” for most of my lifetime, and if she lived in the south during segregation as I did, she would have been subjected to every legal restraint that the blackest African Americans were subjected to because the Supreme Court refused to make a distinction between the legal status of “pure Negroes” and people of “mixed blood” when the issue was clearly raised in the 1896 Plessy v Ferguson decision.

I had neighbors when I was growing up in Florida that were whiter than Megan but were legally classified as “Negroes,” and so were some members of my family who moved to New York and Pennsylvania where they “passed” for white, which was illegal. In fact, Afro-Americans have a term to describe our folks who look like them: “Light, bright damned near white!’

Congressman Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania – the architect of Radical Reconstruction policies that secured the status of former slaves as free  people – is the only one of the powerful white men I listed above who was willing to marry his Afro-American lover, Lydia Hamilton Smith, who was of mixed blood but was considered a “colored woman.”  A divorcee with two sons by a previous marriage to a free black man, she was formally identified as his “housekeeper” during the 21 years they lived together 1847-1868.  But she was known to all their neighbors and friends as Steven’s “common law wife.”

In the biopic “Lincoln” we see Steven’s proposing marriage, but like Olivia Pope Lydia refused his proposal of marriage because she felt it would hurt the important work she wanted to see him accomplish. Lydia told him that she would rather have the passage of the 13th Amendment permanently abolishing slavery than a marriage certificate.  However, for the others their black concubines dare not hope to be honored by marriage. And this racial prohibition remained true even after they had children together.  Sally Hemmings had seven children for Thomas Jefferson, but she remained his slave, and her children became the property of Jefferson’s children by his white wife upon his death.

Strom Thurman, a Senator from South Carolina, who was the longest serving member upon his death, impregnated a black teenage maid that worked for his family.  They had a child with whom Thurman maintained a secret relationship even while he was leading the racist “Dixiecrat” movement to deny his daughter and her mother basic human rights.   Yet they never outed the old hypocrite, although many people in South Carolina knew. I first heard of her from a friend who was her classmate at South Carolina State, an all- black college, where a special room was set aside for Thurman’s secret visits to his daughter.   And his daughter, Essie Mae, published her account of their relationship after Thurman’s death.

Essie Mae

Strom’s Secret Black Daughter

Although Thurman spent his early political career as a Democrat, like virtually all the hardcore white racists in the Democratic Party, he switched to the Republican Party after Democratic President Lyndon navigated through Congress and signed the 1964 Omnibus Civil rights act and 1965, and he was much celebrated during his final days in Congress.  Largely as a result of the radical changes in American race relations brought about by this bill, white men in powerful political office can marry their chocolate lady loves.  Bill di Blasio, the Mayor of New York, Americans premiere city, the financial and cultural capitol of the world, has married his Black First Lady Chirlane.  Not so long ago this would have cost di Blasio the election, but he just won a second term.

The Mayor and First Lady Of New York
A Sunday Kind of Love

However, regarding the question that is the raison d’etre for this essay, the answer is no!  Even if Omorosa was sleeping with Fat Donnie, she is not his Olivia Pope, she has little in common with Pope. The nature of her overall relationship with Trump would cast her in the mold of Sally Hemmings or  Strom Thurman’s mistress.  Now, if rumors about a clandestine liaison between George W. Bush and the brilliant, glamorous, Condoleezza Rice are true, Condi would be George’s Olivia Pope.  In any case Omorosa has promised to write a book about her experiences in the Trump White House…I hope she tells all.

 

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Playthell G. Benjamin
December 2017