Game Recognizes Game….

Posted in Game Reognizes Game! On Trump and King, On Donald Trump, On the 2016 Presidential Election with tags , , on January 6, 2017 by playthell
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The Devious Donalds: A charlatan and a Crook, Cut Buddies from Way Back

 

WARNING: Bullshit Artists at Work!

“One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit….
“The bullshitter is involved in a program of obfuscation, not merely the substitution of truth for lies.”
Dr. Harry G. Franks
Professor of Philosophy at Princeton

Princeton philosopher Harry G. Franks became so intrigued with the phenomenon of bullshit and the practice of bullshitting he wrote a 67 page treatise on the subject titled On Bullshit.  Although I know but little of philosophy, nor am I curious enough about bullshitting to write an extended treatise on the subject, I feel not the slightest doubt that I know bullshit when I hear it and can spot a bullshit artist miles away.

I seem to have a built in bullshit detector that allows me to detect bullshit before it leaves the bulls ass.   So when I pull yo coat to a bull shitter bet the family jewels on it: Donald Trump, and his mentor in the art Donald King, are virtuoso performers in the ancient art of bull shitting!  And when I saw them hooking up at a political rally in Cleveland I thought of that old Louis Jordan hit “Beware Brother Beware!”

The first time I saw Donald Trump in person was at a press party to announce the forthcoming fight between “Iron” Mike Tyson and Michael Spinks for the Undisputed Heavy-Weight Championship of the World.  It was a unification match because both fighters held a portion of the Heavy-Weight crown awarded by different sanctioning bodies.  Since the fight game is all about glitz and hype, The Donald was right in his element as the princes and powers of the fight game and various VIP hangers on assembled in the Grand ballroom of The Plaza, a famous old New York landmark hotel that was given a face lift by Trump and plastered with his name.

Located at Central Park South, with a view of the magnificent Arboretum, everything about the newly refurbished hotel was plush.  The lively crowd was dressed to the nines; the cuisine and drinks were exquisite; it was big time.  Trump was the MC and controlled the mike like a Bronx B Boy.  My most poignant memory of the occasion was that upon first sight I could see that Donnie Trump was a pure bullshit artist.  His opening remarks consisted entirely of an accounting of his “brilliant real estate deals.”  I thought he was the most shallow important person I have ever met.

In this he reminded me of nobody more than Don King – Trump’s mentor in the lucrative fight game – whose personal history and style beguiled “The Donald.” Their stories could not have been more different.  Donald Trump was born to the purple with a silver spoon in his mouth and grew up in a huge columned mansion in Queens that his daddy named “Tara,” after the slave master’s house in the romantic plantation fantasy “Gone With the Wind.”   Freddie Trump, his father, was a patriarchal autocrat who had amassed millions of dollars from the real estate business in the outer boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens.

Fred Trump employed scurrilous racial exclusion policies and other questionable business practices such as employing mobbed up construction contractors and overcharging the government for building costs.  He once had to return 1.5 million dollars to the federal government for faudulent billing, and he was forced to pay fines for discrimination against Afro-Americans in his rental properties.

The two black professional women that brought the discrimination suit against Fred Trump’s company were recently interviewed on MSNBC, along with the Jewish rental agent who corroborated their story.  The agent distinctly remembered Fred Trump, with a teenage Donald by his side, telling him that despite the black ladies qualifications “You know I don’t rent to niggers!”

These are the kinds of lessons Donald learned from his daddy, along with two cardinal rules: Winning is the only thing that really matters in life, and winners are born with the right stuff to excel.  That explains Herr Donald Drumpf’s publicly expressed belief that his success is “due to my German blood.”  He has also testified on numerous occasions that “My father is the smartest man I know.”

Trump is a life-long New Yorker who wanted to be a big baller in the Manhattan real estate business and gain national celebrity – something his daddy never had the balls to attempt.  Although Fred’s multi-million dollar fortune and strong political connections – he and Abe Beame, the Mayor of New York when Trump did his first big deal in Manhattan, grew up together – paved the way for little Donnie and opened many doorsthat were closed to his competitors.

Don King was born and bred in the gritty mid-western town of Cleveland – aka “the mistake by the lake” – and badly wanted to escape the drudgery of factory work. Perhaps he also wanted to escape the fate of his father – a strong working class family man, who was killed in a factory explosion when Don was a boy – and live the glamourous life.

King pursed this dream with a relentless determination, dropping out of the prestiegous Case Western Reserve University after a year, his admission providing evidence of his intelligence, and contiuing to chase his dreams without regard to social conventions or the law until he finally realized them in the big time boxing business – where he amassed a fortune of over 100 million dollars while making 90 boxers millionaires!

Trump came from a lily white privileged environment where he had never worried about paying his rent, nor knew anybody who did. Whereas King grew up in a community where almost everybody was a couple of paydays away from financial disaster and many thought “ho money is better than no money.” One spouted the “Golden Rule” and acquired their fortune with the protection of the police, the other pursued their fortune by deceiving and dodging the long arm of the law; guided by the belief that “A po man can’t fool with the Golden Rule in a crowd that don’t play fair.”

Yet The Dons had certain traits in common. Both believe in the “rule of gold;” they are both megalomaniacs and born motor mouths; bunko artists /salesmen who believe they can sell icicles to Eskimos. And they will say whatever suits their purpose; regardless of its relationship to the truth. Both are authoritarian personalities who love the limelight and flaunt their wealth in the vulgar ostentatious fashion of street hustlers.

Of course, Don King is a street player from Cleveland, a cold-blooded gangster who was deadly to his adversaries, but he was rescued from that dangerous life after first beating a murder charge for killing a man who tried to rob him, and later doing a stint in prison for murdering one of his soldiers who had stolen $600 from him. King has two dead bodies to his credit: he stomped one to death and shot the other.

Don King: “Only in America!”
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Patriotic Gangsta or Shameless Bunko Artist?

King talked his way into the boxing business by cultivating a relationship with a rising young heavy-weight named Cassius Clay, whom urban legend has it was introduced to King by the popular singer/bandleader Lloyd Price, who years later would put together the concert that accompanied the title fight between Muhammad Ali and the fearsome George Foreman in Zaire Africa called “The Rumble in the Jungle.”

It was through his association with Ali that King rose to prominence as a boxing promoter, virtually monopolizing big fight promotions for a couple of decades during the last third of the 20th century.  It was Don Kings prominence in the fight game that brought him into an association with Donald Trump, and at one point they became thick as thieves.  Compared to the wily streetwise King, Trump was like the “white boy lost in the blues” as the song goes.

The Dons!
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Mesmerized by the Master Player
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“There is nobody like Don King,” says Donald Trump

In the videos and photographs of Trump and King together it is King who comes across as the master and Donald the apprentice…that was definitely the case when it came to the glittering milieu of World Championship boxing – which was in a golden age.  What King offered Trump was a chance to make millions, and become a figure on the world stage, by putting on his world title boxing matches – which attract more mega-stars from more fields than any single event – at Trump’s venues in Atlantic City, breaking the monopoly of Las Vegas – especially Caesar’s Palace – on the big fights with international appeal.

The power of the Casinos to generate big money by attracting the “high rollers” from around the world is what had caused fight promoters to abandon Madison Square Garden in New York, which was known as “The Mecca of Boxing,” for Las Vegas.  Together Trump and King decided to make a sleepy seaside city on the Atlantic Ocean the new Mecca of Boxing.

Hence they formed a lucrative partnership and did indeed make Atlantic City a major player in the fight game, especially after 1985 when Trump convinced state legislators to scrap the luxury tax and reduce the event tax by 50%.  The exhibition of boxing matches King promoted at Trump’s Castle and other venues he controlled – like the Atlantic City Convention Center, where he built a walkway between the two making it easy for fight fans to get to the gambling tables – began in 1986 and included a who’s who of boxing talent in that period.

The world class fighters under contract to King that appeared in Trump’s venues beginning in 1985 include: Hector “Macho” Camacho, Julio Cesar Chavez, Gerry Cooney, Vinnie Pazienza, et al. Their crowning achievement in the boxing business was the World Heavy-Weight Championship unification match that featured Michael Spinks vs. “Iron Mike” Tyson – a joint promotion with Butch Lewis, who controlled Spinks.   Boxing is a unique business, by the time Trump got in the fight game the promoter’s business was the selling of rights: To television, live site owners, and concessionaires.

As a Casino owner Trump’s business was to calculate “the drop” – which is to say accurately estimate how much money the “high rollers” in the fight crowd would “drop” on the gaming tables gambling in the Casino before and after the fight.  This is a risky business because the site owner must pay a substantial fee in order to acquire the rights to exhibit the fight; the fee for the Spinks vs Tyson rights was three and a half million dollars.   Given the popularity of the fight this was a well calculated risk and resulted in a seven and a half million dollar drop – even though the fight lasted only 90 seconds!

Two Champions: Tyson and Spinks

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King put Trump in position to make millions in a single night!

 I was at the party Trump gave to announce the fight at the posh Plaza hotel on Central Park South at 59th Street.  It displayed the vulgar opulence worthy of a man who aspired to be King of New York City.  The co-champs were joined in a voluptuous feast attended by boxing wise guys, glitterati from the fight crowd, journalists like the great Jack Newfield, et al.  I was there as a writer with deep ties to the Spinks camp because I had been head of public relations for Butch Lewis Productions, which held the promotional rights to all of Michael Spinks fights.

I got a close up look at Trump during the party and my first impressions have proved lasting.  His entire conversation was about the latest properties he had acquired, and he came across as a narcissistic bore who was as shallow as a dry creek bed during a drought.  And when I got lost on the way to the bathroom and stumbled upon Trump and Tyson’s wife Robyn Givens in a hidden alcove away from the crowd, the way they jumped and stiffened up upon seeing me left me with the suspicion that they might have been playing stink finger.

Having considerable experience in seducing OPP, I usually know one when I see one!  And now, based on new evidence that has come to light, and Trump’s public admission that he is a serial pussy snatcher, I am convinced that my original hunch was right!   For instance, writer Harry Hurt, author of “Lost Tycoon,” tells us he heard many rumors about Trump banging Robyn, and reports having seen them alone together – just like me – and also tells how Trump was overhead bashing Robyn’s incompetence at the art of fellatio!

Then we get this bizarre story from the book TrumpNation, written by New York Times reporter Tim O’Brien.  According to O’Brien, during one interview with Trump the rumors about his dangerous liaison came up and he realls what The Donald told him:

“Tyson sat down in Donald’s corner office hundreds of feet above Fifth Avenue and the two men chatted for about fifteen minutes before the boxer got to the point. Donald recalled their conversation in detail.

“Mr. Trump, could I ask you a question?” Tyson asked.

“Whatever you want, Mike,” Donald responded.

“Are you fucking my wife?”

“What?”

“Are you fucking my wife? Everyone’s telling me that you’re fucking my wife.”

Tyson then pulled out a copy of Vogue magazine that feature a picture of Ms. Givens wearing a Trump Princess hat from Donald’s yacht.

“Everyone’s telling me that you’re fucking my wife and I think you’re fucking my wife,” Tyson said.

“Mike, let me tell you something: I never ever even thought about it. And I heard those rumors and they’re disgusting. In fact, I called you a couple of times to tell you that I heard those rumors and it pisses me off. And I never, ever even thought about it. She’s your wife, she’s with you, she’s loyal to you, and it’s total bullshit.”

“Mike it’s absolutely bullshit, it’s false,” Donald reiterated. “I give you my word.”

“Could I lie down on your couch?” asked Tyson.

“Why?”

“Because I’m so tired I just want to nap.”

“Sure, go ahead.”

Needless to say, after reading this I became convinced that my suspicions were on the money.  I hadn’t thought about it for years, and then I heard Tyson relate a tale about catching Robyn in a car with Brad Pitt under suspicious circumstances in his much acclaimed one man Broadway show spinning anecdotes from his amazing life – staged and directed by the brilliant innovator Spike Lee.

When Trump became a candidate for President, and Mike Tyson stepped forward as a vocal enthusiastic supporter of the man who banged his boo, I really started thinking about the issue again.  From all appearances it seems that “Iron Mike” is actually a Mammy Cut wearing poot butt Whittol – which is old English for “a willing cuckhold.”  Trump played him off like a poot-butt, just like his mentor King would have done.   Alas, the apprentice learned the con well from his mentor – the Master bunko artist!

Prancing with the Stars!

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A Privileged White Guy Surrounded by Self-Made Successful Black Men

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Jesse Jackson, Trump, King, and Ebony/Jet publisher John Johnson

I suspect that it is hard to overestimate the extent to which Trump’s way of dealing in the world has been influenced by Don King, who not only introduced him to the colorful characters in the big time boxing game, but to luminaries of the Afro-American community, and even heads of state.   Human nature being what it is Donald Trump could not help but be impressed with men like Reverend Jesse Jackson, an activist/thought leader on questions of vital importance to the nation, and John Johnson, the publisher of Ebony and Jet Magazine, publications that survived dramatic changes in the magazine market that had wiped out several gargantuan white magazines such as Look and Life. 

After all, when Trump started out in business he had a Wharton degree in Real Estate Finance, plus the benefit of his father’s millions, advice, and connections in the construction business.  And he was a straight white male.  Trump had the complexion and the connections from jump street!  The only thing these black men had in common with him was that they were straight!   They had none of his advantages plus had to deal with the burden of blatant racial discrimination!  How could Trump not be impressed with their achievements?

All Smiles!

Donnie and Dad Chillin with Butch and King at the Spinks-Tyson Fight
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Everybody loves the limelight of a World Heavy-Weight Championship fight
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The President Elect and his Mentors: A Racist and a Crook

A Ménage a Trois?

 donald-trump-robyn-and-tysomDangerous Liaisons!
 Chillin with President Bush
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Trump was beguiled by this black hustler who schmoozed with Presidents

Butch Lewis introduced me to the business of boxing; he sought me out by virtue of a couple of articles that I wrote about the Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Tommie Hearns World Welter-Weight Championship unification match.  The articles were titled “The Sugarman and the Mo-Town Cobra: Notes on Those Wonderful Welter-Weights” and “The Sugarman was Just Too Sweet for the Motown Cobra: Notes on the Poetry of Pugilism.”  These two essays not only brought me to the attention of Butch Lewis, they also got the attention of Sugar Ray Leonard, which resulted in my nearly promoting the match between Leonard and Marvelous Marvin Hagler for the Undisputed World Middle-Weight Championship.

Negotiating with Sugar Ray

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Sugar and Marvelous Marvin was the Dream Match
I was all up in th Boxing Game

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Chillin with The Greatest!

I got my first real impression of Don King’s character when I went to work for Butch; before that King was just a verbose colorful sport who was probably the best promoter since P.T. Barnham i.e. the quintessential bullshit artist.  It was the nature of the game.   However the portrait Butch painted of him was of a ruthless criminal and con-man whose word meant nothing and he would beat you for every dime if he could. Butch explained how he began his career in the boxing business by chauffeuring Joe Frazier around in a limo he borrowed from the used car dealership where he was a car salesman.  This is how he met Don King.

The reputation that Butch had in the business as a “never say die” competitor imbued with what sociologist call “the eternal optimism of the hustler,” plus great salesman skills and could sniff out a deal where others saw nothing, was all on display when he first approached Don King.  Hanging around on the fringes of the game Butch recognized that he had to come up with a unique angel to break into the business.

Butch Lewis

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Butch in his trademark shirtless formal dress

Butch was what King Pretended to be…..

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Butch and Heavy-Weight Champion Joe Fazier Present President Mandela with Belt

His opportunity came when King made the match between Muhamad Ali vs. Leon Spinks Heavy-Weight Championship fight in 1978.  Two years earlier Spinks had captured the attention of the sporting world by winning the Olympic Gold medal in dramatic fashion.  A compelling part of Spink’s story was that he was a member of the United States Marine Corps when he fought in the Olympic Games.

In a very creative move Butch decided to approach King with a proposal that he sell the fight to the US Navy to be broadcast by close circuit to their troops on military bases and ships at sea.  Since butch would be working purely on commission, which means if he couldn’t close the deal King wouldn’t owe him a penny, The Don said hell yeah!  It was a no lose proposition for him.

Well Butch pulled it off; to King’s astonishment he sold the fight to the Navy!   Butch used to say that’s what made Kings hair stand up in that wild fashion that gave him the look of a cartoon character experiencing an electric shock.  However, Butch had done the deal on a verbal commitment and King welched on the agreement and robbed him, played him like pimps play whores.

He didn’t take all of the money but he took most of it.  Then, adding insult to injury, King had the unmitigated gall to offer Butch a Job!  Butch was so incensed he not only turned down the job but bought a high powered rifle began to make serious plans to kill King.  Fortunately, Butch thought the better of it and decided to become his business competitor instead.  Thankfully, due to the superb writings of Jack Newfield – a great investigative reporter and die hard boxing fan who had them dress him in a boxing robe and gloves on his death bed – we have learned that the dirt Don did to Butch was par for the course in his dealings with fighters.

Newfield’s documentary film on King “Only In America” tells it all in the words of the people King Screwed.  I am appending a clip of the film at the end of this essay.   The same character flaws and dirty dealings that we see in Don King we can also observe in Donald Trump.  The hype and bullshit, the pathological lying; the screwing of contractors who he refused to pay after they have completed work for him; the megalomania; the love of the limelight; his avoidance of paying taxes – King was unsuccessfully prosecuted by the government on tax fraud charges – that keeps him under audit; the character assassination of his competitors, for instance King called Tyson’s first manager Bill Clayton “Satan.”  It’s all there.

There is another King trait that we also see in Trump, and it could well be his undoing politically.  And that his ability to abandon relationships and forget promises to those who work with and support him on the spur of the moment and adopt opposite positions if it suits his interests.  Two examples will suffice.

When anti-apartheid groups in the US organized a boycott against entertainers or athletes performing in South Africa because of the anti-black policies of their Nazi like all white government, Don King talked Heavy-Weight Champion Mike Weaver into defending his crown in South Africa.  King, who is usually well tailored in fine business suits and whose only real devotion is to enhancing his brand and making money, ceremoniously donned an African Dishiki and  cloaked his appeal to black South African leaders, as well as his rationale to the anti-apartheid groups, in the argument that because weaver was such a magnificent example of African manhood – being that he is ebony black with magnificently sculpted muscles – that his destruction of the white South African champion would raise the morale of the African resistance.   Luckily he won and I’m sure many average south African blacks got a big kick out of it – although Don was in it strictly for the money!

In the period before the Michael Dokes vs Gerre Coetzee fight for the World Boxing Asociation Heavy-Weight Championship – which was held in Richfield Ohio before a Dokes’ hometown crowd on September 23, 1983 – Don King was full of bluster about “black brotherhood,” practically casting himself as a liberator of black self-confidence in South Africa by promoting fights where black fighters would humiliate the WhiteSouth African fighter.

However, when the white south African knocked Mike Dokes out, Dokes recalls Don King stepping over him as he lay dazed on the canvas in his rush to embrace the white South African, who was now under contract to King due to a clause in the contract.  Hence the south African was now King’s new Heavy-Weight Champion!  Henceforth King would advertise the fact that although he was white Coetzee opposed the white supremicist Apartheid system.  All the black liberation talk quickly went down the drain.  It was quintessentially King!

As I write, Trump is also engaged in a blatant bait and switch.  Many of his most ardent supporters in the untutored mob that played such a critical role in his election to the presidency did so because he promised to build a wall on the Mexican border; make the Mexican government pay for it; “drain the swamp of lobbyist for special interest;” punish companies that relocate overseas; and protect essential elements of the “social safety net” like Social Security and Medicare.

Trump also pledged not to scrap the Affordable Health Care Act, which millions of his supporters rely on for medical treatment, until a “better and cheaper” medical care plan was in place.   In fact he said: “I don’t want a single day to pass” between scrapping “Obamacare” and coverage under the new plan. He also pledged to place a ban on Muslims visiting the US and mass deportations of foreigners living in America without proper papers.

He is now retreating on many of these promises before he has been officially sworn in.  And he is doing it with a smile, saying that he never meant to be taken literally.  The president elect has all of the characteristics of a bullshit artist who is all bunko!  The biggest suckers he played, without a doubt, are the po dumb rednecks in the Klan and other racist anti-Jewish organizations who endorsed him thinking he was their savior.

David Duke, the patron saint of American racist anti-semites virtually said as much.    The truth is that Trump doesn’t give a damn about their racist anti-semitic obsessions; aside from his dad Freddie, Don King was his greatest influence and his Orthodox Jewish Son-in- law Jerob Kushner his most influential advisor as I write!  If the result were not so tragic, it would be hilarious how this fast talking New York rich boy bullshit artist has played these white trash asholes like a fiddle!

It is no wonder the Reverend Al Sharpton, who know both men well by virtue of the fact that they were once cronies, said on national television: “If you really want to understand Donald Trump, just think of him as the white Don King!”

Homies Hangin Out on the Town

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The Donald, Big Al and The King

MY HERO!

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Ain’t no shame in his game!

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The Michael Dokes vs. Gerry Coetzee WBA Chanmpionship
https://youtu.be/Qy0zxuhO2Js
Click to hear Author Jack Newfield on Don King

https://charlierose.com/videos/12812

Don King: Unauthorized, by Jack Newfield

This documentary covers essentially the same story as “Only in America”
Note: The videos on Donald Trump linked below, like virtually all accounts of Trump’s career fails to take into account the tremendous influenc Don King had on his flamboyant braggadocious style and sharp business practices.  Nevertheless they are important for the light it shines on the rest of his life.
See:”
Donald Trump: A True Narcissistic Sociopath”
https://youtu.be/jkUFUkvNYAQ
President Trump | FRONTLINE
https://youtu.be/RlXBTSjTytE
PlaythellG. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
January 5, 2017

 

Celebrating Kwanzaa at the Apollo!

Posted in Cultural Matters, Photo-Essays, Theater with tags , , on January 2, 2017 by playthell
apollo-at-kwanzaa-iii Forces of Nature

             Greeting the New Year With Forces of Nature 

In over thirty years of writing about the performing arts in New York City, the cultural center and arts mecca of the world, I have never witnessed a show as spectacular as the Kwanza performance put on by the “Forces of Nature Dance Theater” at Harlem’s venerable Apollo, which correctly bills itself as “The Soul of Black Culture.” Founded and directed by Abdel Salaam, whose sharp intellect and fecund imagination appears to know no limits; the company enjoys an embarrassment of riches in regard to gifted choreographers and dancers.

The company’s dance vocabulary ranges from traditional African dance to Modern, Post Modern, to Afro-American vernacular dance – the creative well from which all original American dance flows – to its latest expression such as Hip hop. The elements of great dance theater include music, costumes, lights, gifted attractive dancers, and daring imaginative choreographers who believe in the gifts of their dancers and are not afraid to challenge them with works of great complexity.

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Real Black Magic!

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A Complexity of Vision

The work was both old and new, innovative yet preserving the best of pan-African dance traditions recast and polished for theatrical performance. One of the highlights of an evening with many incandescent moments was when Forces of Nature was joined onstage by a Native American dance troupe. It was a revelation, the thoughtful observer is compelled to beg the question as to how Europeans, escaping the squalor to which the working poor were confined in European cities, could ever have denounced such magnificent people as mere “savages.

Afro-Indio

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Homage to a forgotten Relationship

The performance was serious political commentary and fun; it employed pathos and bathos – tragedy and comedy – without restraint. The works gave free rein to the most voluptuous creative impulses of the choreographers, who produced works that made maximum use of the fabulously sculpted black, brown and beige bodies that were the vehicles for their ideas. The wide range of musical styles to which the dances are set reveal the unfettered scope of the choreographers imagination.  The Drum Choir that accompanies some of the dances has reached a level of virtuosity that I have rarely witnessed in percussion ensembles – despite the fact that I have ben a drummer and student of drumming for over half a century!  It was Black Magic! A splendid exercise in rhythm and movement as alchemy; that hoodoo that we do so well.

The Drums Speak!

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Their conversation was superb

I am convinced if I spent a thousand and one nights in the theater my chances of catching a better show than this are about equal to a snowflakes chances of survival in a pizza oven. Rare and marvelous events such as this is the reason why I live in the Big Apple. At the bottom of this essay is an interview with the founder and creative genius Abdel Salaam, who along with his gifted wife Dyane Harvey Salaam, are the artistic inspiration and guiding hands that steer the course of Forces of Nature. 

Inside the Beautiful Apollo Theater

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The most famous theater in New York

The ornately beautiful theater with it’s elegant gold leafing forming intricate patterns around the stage and balcolnies, was packed to the rafters and we could feel the good vibes as the highly regarded radio host Imhotep Gary Byrd, who was celebrating his 50th year on the air, controlled the mike like a Bronx B-Boy.

Imhotep Gary Byrd

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A Neo-African Griot Anointing the audience with glorious tales

Bedecked in flowing African robes Imhotep was more than a concert M.C. beguiling the audience from the stage where more world class stars were born than any other in this city of great theaters; he was a Neo-African Griot droppin soulful science about the meaning and history of Kwanzaa, the restoration of the Apollo by the late Percy Sutton, and our destiny as a people, as we grooved to the beats of Pan-African rhythms welcoming the new year.  And the magnificent show concluded early enough for people to make it to their Watch Night services in their churches…that sacred Afro-American ritual commenrating the abolition of the enslavement of Africans and their ancestors in the United States, which, curiously, was never mentioned during the Kwanzaa celebrations.

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Forces of Nature in Concert!

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These two videos capture the broad eclecticism of their Repotoire

An Interview with Abdel Salaam

An Revealing Discussion of the Sources of his Electic Art

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Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
January 2, 2016

 

No Longer at Ease….

Posted in On the 2016 Presidential Election, Playthell on politics with tags , , on December 22, 2016 by playthell
hangin-in-new-york-summer-2013-237A once peaceful Place is now a Top Terror Target

On Life in the Time of Terrorism and Trump

Yesterday I was strolling in Columbus Circle, the busy juncture where Broadway and Central Park West meet and subway lines converge.  It is a beautiful area of mid-Manhattan with ornate statuary commemorating America’s past wars in Grand Army Plaza, and the entrance to Central Park – a natural jewel in Manhattan’s concrete crown – on one side of the busy intersection – and the Jazz at Lincoln center complex on the other, America’s newest cultural icon.  Usually I am exhilarated when I am in this public space, abuzz with the marvelous mosaic of human diversity who have journeyed from all over the world, where a glance southward affords one a birds eye view of the magnificent skyscrapers that shape the world famous New York Skyline….but when I am there now I am no longer at ease

The magnificent silver globe mounted on a pedestal that towers above the subway entrance once intrigued me as a striking new addition to long standing land marks in Columbus Circle, which is why I photographed it, but now when I look at it I feel a sense of dread, danger and impending doom.

That’s because this globe serves as an Icon for the Trump Hotel that now sits just a few feet away.  Which means that it has become a prime target of terrorists because America’s President Elect, Donald Trump, is too greedy and arrogant to divest himself of these properties the way other Presidents have done.  Jimmy Carter sold his little peanut farm in Georgia when he became President, but as with everything else “The Donald” – a megalomaniacal New York real estate hustler with the business ethics of a pirate – is doing it his way.

The Entrance to Central Park
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People of all Nation’s Congregate Here
Jazz at Lincoln Center

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A New Cultural Icon

From all appearances Donald Trump’s policies will greatly enrich the ranks of Islamic Jihadists and increase the attempts at terrorist attacks, and anything which bears the Trump name will be prime targets, the destruction of which will bring glory to the name of the Jihadists who carry out these attacks against the treasures of the “Great Satin” and win them and, their 70 virgins, a special place in the Gardens of Allah.

All of the learned experts on the Jihadist movement have concluded that Trump’s approach to dealing with the Islamic world will provide recruiting materials for the Modern Jihad that is far better than the best television advertising that money could buy.  Malcolm Nance, author of the book “How to Defeat Isis,” and one of the brightest scholars on the Jihadist movement warns:

“Good God, they’re probably cutting videos of this right now.  Donald Trump is validating the cartoonish view that they tell their operatives…that America is a racist nation, xenophobic, anti-Muslim, and that that’s why you must carry out terrorist attacks against them…It’s irresponsible and it needs to stop.”

It is obvious from the moves he’s making and the thoughtless belligerent drivel that flows from his mouth, that Donald does not understand this.  And General Flynn, his National Security Advisor appears to be just as clueless.  Both of them seem to be intent on waging Samuel Huntington’s “war of civilizations.”

The problem with this approach to the modern Islam Jihad, which was largely inspired by the transgressions Christian warriors of the West in Muslim lands, is that they are going to turn what is now a war with certain forces in the Middle-East into a war with the billion believers in the entire Muslim world.

This is the point that Malcolm Nance is making when he points out that “Trump’s position is just what Osama Bin Ladin preached.”  George Bush was so aware of the danger that could result from such thinking that right after the devastating 9/11 attack on the US by Al Qaeda militants that he visited a Mosque and declared that the US was not at war with Islam, and even accused the attackers of being apostates who were misrepresenting Islam!

Looking at the situation we now find ourselves in regarding the US presidency, George Bush is suddenly beginning to look like a leader of Solomonic wisdom.  This is due in large part because he had some foreign policy pros around him, and he listened to their advice.  Trump is surrounded by right-wing ideologues with no actual experience with either politics or diplomacy.   Hence in the President Elect we have the political equivalent of a rudderless ship adrift at sea; anything can happen.  However, based on what we know about mass transformative movements, Trumps actions will prove to be like throwing gasoline on a smoldering fire!

The Downtown View from Columbus Circle
hangin-in-new-york-summer-2013-243
New Yorkers who lived through 9/11 can easily imagine them crumbling

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Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
Decembar 22, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stumbling Towards Armageddon!

Posted in Did Russia Interfere in the US Election?, On Foreign Affairs, On Nuclear War with tags , , on December 18, 2016 by playthell
atomic-finger
What the end of the World Looks Like
 On the Danger of Covert Cyber-Wars between Nuclear States

As I write a very scary scenario is developing that features a rapidly escalating conflict between the US and Russia.  From all appearances it seems that we are in a state of cyber-warfare with Russia and millions of Americans are giddily pushing our government to become more aggressive in taking the offensive!

The catalyst for this growing hostility toward Russia, a nation situated on the other side of the globe thousands of miles away that Americans love to hate, is an assessment by our intelligence agencies that the Russian government tampered with our recent presidential election in an effort to help elect Donald Trump…who is far more pro-Russian in his views that Hillary Clinton; a warmed over cold warrior with long standing anti-Russian attitudes.  As a consequence of the spook’s conclusions regarding a covert Russian cyber assault on our political process, there is a growing cry among Americans for president Obama to do something dramatic in order to teach the Russians a lesson they will never forget.  They are crying out for a full scale cyber-war while apparently giving but little consideration to where it could lead.

Of all the bizarre behavior that human beings engage in, the euphoria that accompanies the decision to go to war is the ultimate folly. For whatever the outcome there will be bloody murder, massive carnage and destruction, and squandering of large quantities of the nation’s treasures that are making war. The strange and tragic character of warfare is highlighted by the fact that only human beings, who claim dominion over all other animals due to our uniquely developed brains which enable us to reason, engage in the systematic slaughter of their own species.  Yet despite the best efforts of our greatest philosophers, scientist and other deep thinkers, alas no one has found a formula for ending this plague upon humanity.

Yet it is indisputable that in the age of nuclear armed states that stockpile doomsday weapons of mass destruction with the capacity to destroy all life on this planet, humanity will find a way to end war or war will put an end to us. I wish I could share the optimism of Mao Tse Tung, the Chinese revolutionary philosopher/activist, who confidently proclaimed “The bomb will not destroy man…man will destroy the bomb.  The atomic bomb is a paper tiger.”  But knowing what I know about nuclear weapons, having seen them up close and gaining an intimate knowledge of their destructive capacity while serving in the United States Strategic Air Command, empowered with a Top Secret security clearance, I am far more aware than most citizens of the world as to the danger their very existence poses to our survival.

Indeed, I believe that every nation that stockpiles nuclear weapons is existentially engaged in a crime against humanity that dwarfs all the crimes of Nazi Germany….it ain’t even close!   It is no accident that General George C. Marshall, the most important American military officer from the Second World War, was deeply concerned that by dropping atomic bombs on Japan Americans would eclipse the Nazi’s war crimes! Yet when I entered the Strategic Air Command 15 years later, the colonel who introduced us to the atomic weapons on the base at Glasgow Montana – whose mission was the nuclear destruction of the Soviet Union – cavalierly dismissed the bombs dropped on Japan as “little more than fire crackers compared to the ordinance that we have on this base.”  He pointed out that the blast power of those bombs was the equivalent of 20.000 tons of TNT and the ordinance on our base had “megatons capacity.”

The Colonel went on to point out that if fully armed, the 25 bombers on our base could wreak enough destruction that the continuation of life on earth would be problematic.  That was in 1960, over half a century ago, when nuclear weapons system were relatively primitive compared to those deployed by the US and Russia today.  And it has made the world a far more dangerous place.  When I was in SAC the main strategy for nuclear war centered around intercontinental Strato-Bombers, mainly the B-52 on the American side, and some comparable aircraft on the Russian side.  The Nuclear Triad existed then – bombers, submarines and intercontinental ballistic missiles – but the bombers were the main delivery vehicles for nuclear weapons.

A half century later this equation has radically changed; it is the ballistic and cruise missiles that are now the main nuclear strike force, and these weapons are largely dependent upon computers in the launch process. Herein likes the potential for an accidental catastrophe that could destroy our planet.  In times past the means to launch a nuclear war required a great technological/industrial complex.   But today a computer whiz sitting in a cave in Pakistan could possibly provoke a nuclear exchange by hacking into the military computer systems of Russia, China or the USA.   They only need to access one, and make them think they are under attack by the others to start a nuclear war.

Hence when President Obama talks publicly about launching cyber- attacks against Russia, and threaten to do some of them as covert actions, he is setting the stage for a third party to step in and wreak havoc.  Nothing that any of the experts on Cyber-warfare have said addresses this very real possibility.  What the world needs now, most of all, is for Russia, China and the US to convene an urgent summit meeting to hammer out a treaty regarding the use of Cyber-space, just like they have done regarding germ warfare and poisonous gases.

Nevertheless, this event, Russian interference in the US election, should be treated as just another incident in the long history of international espionage; a practice in which the US has engaged more vigorously than any other nation state.  The US has subverted elections; organized the assassination of foreign leaders, overthrown democratically elected governments; engaged in torture; trained torturers and militarily attacked unoffending nations thousands of miles from our shores and slaughtered well over a million innocent souls whose only offense was that they sought to organize their societies in ways that Americans disapprove of.  And these actions are justified by recourse to the bogus doctrine of American Exceptionalism, a dangerous myth with no basis in historical fact.

That these transgressions are not well known to a willfully ignorant US electorate is part of our tragedy.  Yet with such a tawdry record the US government’s pretense that the Russian hacking of the Presidential election represents some special species of evil that they have never seen before is ludicrous and dangerous hypocrisy.  And it is rapidly fueling a hysterical hatred for Russia that could force US leaders to take some actions that we shall soon regret.

Failure to convene an international conference between nuclear armed states with the greatest haste could well lead us down the path to extinction. In the meantime, the critical question facing Americans is whether the election of Donald Trump – a man who lost the popular vote to Hillary by almost three million votes, won the Electoral College by less than a hundred thousand votes spread over three states, and is wholly unqualified for the job – is legitimate.  This is the issue that should consume our interests at this historical moment.

Is The Donald Legit?

Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump speaks at his South Carolina campaign kickoff rally in Bluffton, S.C., Tuesday, July 21, 2015. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

An incompetent Demagogue who got elected President

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Watch Dr. Stephen Cohen Explain US Russian Relations
http://www.cnn.com/videos/tv/2016/12/17/exp-gps-1218-stephen-cohen-us-russia-cold-war.cnn
Our most learned and insightful Russian Scholar speaks to CNN
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For a quick lesson on Nuclear Weapons watch this video

 What would Nuclear War be like?

https://youtu.be/tW7IgKJWtqk
Watch this brilliant lecture with dramatic graphics on Nuclear War
Presented by Dr. Irwin Redlener
Columbia University Professor 
World Renowned authority on disaster Preparedness
 (What Would Happen in Washington DC was Nuked?)
https://youtu.be/WCme_K6MYLY
A Presentation of the History Channel
Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
December 18, 2016

Did Putin Hack US Election?

Posted in Did Russia Interfere in the US Election?, On Donald Trump, On the 2016 Presidential Election with tags , on December 15, 2016 by playthell
malcolm-nanceIntelligence Expert Malcolm Nance: Author of “Hacking America”

Malcolm Nance thinks so…..and Electors Want to Know

As I write a group of electors led by Christine Pelosi, daughter of Nancy Pelosi, and elector from California, have asked President Obama to grant them a security clearance and allow them to examine the Central Intelligence Agency’s report which concludes that Russian intelligence agencies not only interfered in the US presidential election but did so in an attempt to help Donald Trump win.

The dissident electors now number has risen to 50 as I write, and it only takes  36,to swing the election to Hillary Clinton if they electors conclude that Trump was fraudulently elected as the result of Russia’s thumb on the scale.  Although it would be vigorously applauded by millions of Americans, who gave Hillary nearly three million more votes than Trump in the general election, this would be a dangerous and unprecedented development in US politics.  Alas given the Republican denial and win at any cost attitude, a rejection by members of the Electoral College could tear this divided nation apart despite the fact that Trump is perhaps the most disliked presidential elect in history.  However it is hard to envision a constructive response from the Republicans, since they have clearly placed the fortunes of their party above the fate of our nation.

According to the CIA – and 16 other US intelligence agencies – the Russian intrusion was accomplished by hacking into the confidential e-mails of the Democratic National Committee and giving the documents to Wiki-Leaks, who put them on the internet.  The conclusion that this was an effort to help Trump is based on evidence that they also hacked the Republicans but refused to release any of the information. But now the electors are insisting on examining the CIA findings.

Christine Pelosi

christine-pelosi

California Elector

Once it has been established that the hacking operation occurred it is fairly easy conclude that their actions were intended to aid a Trump victory.  If we assume that national states act in their best interest one has only to examine the attitudes toward Russia held by Trump and Clinton.  Throughout the election process Trump has insisted that he could make a deal with Putin, insisted that there is no good reasons for Russia and the US to be adversaries; expressed a willingness to work with the Russians to destroy ISIS; denounced the Obama

Administration commitment to overthrowing President Assad of Syria as dangerous folly that will further destabilize the region and empower the Jihadists; questioned the importance of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and questioned the sacrosanct but dangerous doctrine of “American Exceptionalism,” even pointing out: “If you are a Russian you might not think America is so exceptional.”

Hillary Clinton was quick to respond with the declaration: “Just because Putin doesn’t recognize it doesn’t mean it’s not true!” A cold war hawk with a deeply antagonistic view of Russia forged during the Soviet era, there seems to have been little adjustment in her perception of Russia as a threat to American security since they abandoned Communism and disbanded the Warsaw Pact.

In fact Hillary Clinton supports NATO now as vigorously as she did during the Cold War and promotes a strategy of encroachment into Eastern Europe with the aim of encircling Russia with pro-American military forces; was implicated in the coup that overthrew the pro-Russian government in the Ukraine – a provocation that could have sparked a nuclear war – and has gone on record with her belief that NATO is the wisest investment that the US has made when Trump suggested that the US insist upon the members paying their fair share of the cost…especially since the alliance is designed to protect their national security.  Added to these facts, in an emotional anti-Russian diatribe Clinton once called Putin “another Hitler.”   It was such an insane charge she was forced to walk it back.  Hence, as the facts show, Putin had more than ample reasons to wish for a Trump victory and to take measures to insure it.

Malcolm Nance, a former Naval Intelligence Officer who has been in the spy business for nearly four decades is so convinced that the Russian intelligence apparatus, directed by Vladimir Putin, a former Director of the KGB – Russia’s counterpart to the CIA – did indeed interfere in the US election with the goal of helping to elect Donald Trump that he has already published a book on the subject: “The Plot to  Hack America.”

Nance, whose knowledge of this subject so impressive he makes the skeptics look like “useful idiots” for the Kremlin, says that the biggest surprise for him is “the crisis of patriotism” displayed by Republicans in the face of interference into the most important function in our democracy by a hostile foreign power.  For instance, during his campaign President elect Trump actually called upon the Russians to hack Hillary’s E-mails and make them public, and there was barely a peep of protest from the Republicans.  It is hard to find a more convincing example of the extent to which American politics has become debased and the perversion of the patriotic ideal by flag waving Republicans crying “America First!”

When viewed from historical perspective, one could argue that the present attitude toward Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s computers is an extension of the Republican attitude that led to the burglary and bugging of the DNC headquarters by former intelligence operatives hired by CREEP – The Committee to Reelect the President – that led to the Watergate scandal under Nixon. This kind of behavior is a reflection of a deeply held belief by Republicans that the Democrats are illegitimate, that their social welfare policies are inimical to capitalism; hence they treat them as enemies, not competitors in the same league.  This is why they often look like traitors rather than a loyal opposition when dealing with President Obama (see: “The Case for Treason” on this blog.”

Hence when democrats such as Senator Harry Reid accuse the Federal Bureau of Investigation of covering up the Russian role in undermining Hillary Clinton’s campaign it is not merely partisan rhetoric spouted by a sore loser.  Consider this report in the New York Times filed on December 13th:

“When Special Agent Adrian Hawkins of the Federal Bureau of Investigation called the Democratic National Committee in September 2015 to pass along some troubling news about its computer network, he was transferred, naturally, to the help desk.

His message was brief, if alarming. At least one computer system belonging to the D.N.C. had been compromised by hackers federal investigators had named “the Dukes,” a cyberespionage team linked to the Russian government.

The F.B.I. knew it well: The bureau had spent the last few years trying to kick the Dukes out of the unclassified email systems of the White House, the State Department and even the Joint Chiefs of Staff, one of the government’s best-protected networks.”

The article goes on to tell what the FBI knew of the activities of these Russian Cyberspies, and when they knew it.  With this kind of intelligence inventory circulating among US government agencies tasked with maintain national security, it is no wonder the Malcolm Nance was able to produce a book length analysis of the phenomenon in such short order.

Mr. Nance insists that there is no question among intelligence professionals that the Russians interfered in the US elections, and his role was to warn the nation about what they know.  As early as October 13th Nance warned that the Russians were putting “not just a finger, but their whole hand” on the scale to help Donald Trump win the presidential election. However, despite his impressive credentials and demonstrated expertise in matters of espionage his warning was largely ignored.  But as the major media examines the CIA’s claims and write about it Malcolm Nance’s views are gaining an expanding audience….and the tide is beginning to change.

Malcolm Nance on Voice Of America
nance-on-voice-of-americaDroppin Science on the Pro-Trump Cyber-Spies
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Malcolm Nance on Trump Inviting Putin to hack Hillary
http://www.msnbc.com/kate-snow/watch/nance-trump-s-russia-remarks-a-disaster-733347907519
Malcolm Nance on Russian Hacking of Election
http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc-news/watch/has-russia-damaged-us-election-786660931508
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Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
December 14, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

It Was Bound to Happen!

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On Nuclear War with tags , on November 24, 2016 by playthell

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A Russian Nuclear Missile capable of hitting US Targets.

Reflections on the New Russian Missiles

Often virtually alone among American pundits, I have repeatedly warned about the danger of NATO expansion into Eastern Europe.  My abiding fear is that, given the vast superiority in conventional forces of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – an American led military alliance whose raison d’etre was the containment of the Soviet Union by military encirclement – the continued expansion of NATO into Eastern Europe will eventually lead to nuclear war.  Hence I have argued against such menacing intrusions into the region, because given the critical role of computers in the launch function of nuclear weapons systems: Accidental nuclear war is more likely than ever.

This is due to two major factors: The US refusal to recognize Russia’s Sphere of Influence, and Article Five of the NATO Treaty which commits the US to engage Russia militarily should they have a military conflict with Latvia!  Alas, very few Americans are even aware of this fact, let alone understand that it could precipitate a conflict that could destroy the world.  In fact, most media commentators talk about the antagonism between Russia and NATO i.e. the USA, as if it were a wrestling match not a march toward Doomsday.   The deployment of this new missile system forces us to confront the terrifying reality of nuclear holocaust.

The question being asked by most American foreign policy analyst is “why now?”  The answer given by a professor at the Naval War College, who serves as a consultant to MSNBC, is that there are two basic reasons for President Putin’s decision to deploy the missiles just now: Putin’s “contempt” for President Obama, and based on the things Trump has said regarding improving relations with Russia Putin feels that Trump would never go to war due to a conflict between Russia and a former member state of the Soviet Union.

I think it is more the former than the latter; Putin would have considered such a move too risky earlier in the Obama presidency, especially when Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State.  An anti-Russian hawk whose views were forged in the heated environment of the Cold War era, such a move on Putin’s part, although perfectly reasonable in view of NATO’s strategy of encircling Russia with military proxies, would have been a dangerous act of brinksmanship.

And under a Clinton presidency would have plunged the world to the edge of disaster.  Hence if there is any silver lining to be found in the dark clouds that surround the election of Donald Trump, it is that he does not share Hillary’s hostility and paranoia regarding Russian military power and Putin’s intentions.  Although it has been used against him by Democrats and Republicans alike whose attitude toward Russia was forged during the Cold War, Trump’s position that we should be friends with Russia rather than enemies, and NATO is a dangerous anachronism whose cost is far greater than its benefit to the US is the more enlightened position.  Even it is true – as his critics commonly claim – that Trump has no real knowledge of the situation and is just guessing: He is like the broken clock that’s right twice a day.

The most surprising thing regarding the deployment of these new Russian missiles is that it should come as a surprise to anyone who has been observing NATO’s strategy in Eastern Europe with any degree of objectivity.

a-new-russian-defensive-missile-batteryIskander Missile Battery in Kalingrad

I have written repeatedly this would happen, and Professor Stephen Cohen- arguably the most insightful American scholar on Russia – has issued many dire warnings that NATOs aggressive actions  was pushing Putin into a corner and he would be forced to take a stand.  Now it has happened and the world is a more dangerous place because of it.  Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was unambiguous about Russian intentions in deploying the Iskander Missiles:

“Russia is doing all that is necessary to protect itself against the backdrop of NATO’s expansion toward its borders. NATO is indeed an aggressive bloc, that is why Russia is doing everything that is necessary.  Russia has all the sovereign rights to take the necessary measures across all the territory of the Russian Federation.”

Although Russian officials are reluctant to specify the exact model of missiles they deploy, Viktor Ozerov –  the Senator who Chairs the Defense and Security Committee in the Upper House of their parliament – told the news channel Russia Today that the Russian decision to deploy these new missiles was a response to the danger to Russian security posed by the US cruise missiles recently deployed to Poland and Rumania – two former members of the disbanded Warsaw Pact, the Russian dominated counter-part to NATO.  Senator Ozerov explained:

“One of the reasons why Russia opposed the deployment of the American ABM [anti-ballistic missile] system in Europe was the concern that this infrastructure may be quickly converted to deploy strike systems, in particular land-based cruise missiles. These concerns are being confirmed today.   In response to that we will be forced to beef up our air and space defense system in that direction, [and to] deploy additional forces to defend our military facilities and command centers. This includes the deployment of S-400 and Iskander systems in Kaliningrad, and the formation of new units in the Western and Southern military districts”

Both of these missile systems are defensive in nature.  The Iskander system is capable of firing cruise and ballistic missiles, and the S-400 is an anti-missile system designed to protect critical Russian sites such as cities and strategic missile silos, both of which are critical to the survival of the Russian nation.  Hence in view of NATO’s steady encroachment into the Russian sphere their statement to the Associated Press that the Russian missile deployment “does not help to lower tensions or restore predictability to our relations”  or “avoid incidents and the risk of misunderstandings” rings hollow.

Like a town crier in the night, Professor Cohen has been sounding the alarm in a thus far futile effort to get American policymakers to turn away from the road to war with Russia.  Reading his cautionary writings in retrospect they seem like exhortations from Old Testament prophets warning the Princes and Powers of their time to reject the path of death and destruction and choose the path of live preserving righteousness.

 Conventional NATO Forces amassed on the Russian Border
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The US would not permit similar Russian forces in Mexico or Canada

Cohen argues that this build-up is unprecedented even during the last 40 years of the US/Russian Cold War and amounts to the opening of a “NATO Eastern Front.”  This kind of military mobilization accompanied by bellicose rhetoric and saber rattling, looks like preparation for war to a country that has been invaded from the west twice and lost millions of its citizens in their struggle to resist.

Due to America’s self-righteous arrogance fueled by the dangerous mythology of “American Exceptionalism” – which is shared by both President Obama and Hillary Clinton, but ironically not Donald Trump – is pushing us straight on course for a military conflict with Russia.  Professor Cohen candidly points out the suicidal folly of this policy.

What NATO is mobilizing there is a lot more than a couple of divisions here and a couple of divisions there, some armor here and some there.  We need to understand that tens of thousands of western troops will be parked now permanently, they may say that they are rotating, but they are there permanently on Russia’s borders. Along with nuclear-ready missiles, along with a lot of tanks and, above all, in Russia’s eyes, the missile defense installation.  The US builds up forces all around Russia and then blames Moscow for Holding on to Nukes this is so serious, so fraught with the possibility of war.”

Alas, According to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientist, who are the world’s foremost authorities on the causes and consequences of nuclear war:  “The probability of global catastrophe is very high, and the actions needed to reduce the risks of disaster must be taken very soon.”  To note the dire state of the human predicament, as I write the scientist have set the Doomsday Clock at three minutes before midnight!  Let us hope…and pray if you are the prayerful type, that our leaders can be persuaded to change their nihilistic course before the hand strikes midnight…..

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Dr.Stephen Cohen on the Myth of Missile Defense

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Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
November 23, 2016

“All These Stones”

Posted in Guest Commentators, On Donald Trump, On the 2016 Presidential Election with tags , , on November 18, 2016 by playthell

Demonstrators protest against U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, outside the Trump Tower building in midtown Manhattan in New York March 19, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Speaking Truth to Power at Trump Tower!   Righteous Anger over the election of a Hater
 When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, 6“As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.” 7They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?” 8And he said, “Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is near!’ Do not go after them. 9“When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.” 10Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; 11there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven. 12“But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. 13This will give you an opportunity to testify. 14So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; 15for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. 16You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. 17You will be hated by all because of my name. 18But not a hair of your head will perish. 19By your endurance you will gain your souls. NRSV Luke 21:5-19
Sermon TSP 26th Sunday After Pentecost Year C – 13 November 2016   21718

 A Canadian Divine Reflects on the US Elections

What a week it’s been! Maybe you saw the picture in social media, of a Church Sign in Massachusetts – it read, Jesus is coming; hopefully before the election.”    I spent Monday to Thursday with clergy from all across Canada at a preaching conference. Our guest professor was from Georgia, and when she saw that we Canadians were just as anxious as she was, we all huddled together to watch the election that left the world in such shock and disbelief. Since then, I’ve been trying to keep up with the commentaries, trying to make sense of what happened – what it means when a business-oriented person with no political experience takes over the highest, most powerful political position in the world. Add to that the rhetoric of hate, racism, exclusion and misogyny, and the fact that he doesn’t even seem to care that statements he denies can be proven instantly with blatantly incriminating footage, and we’re left with a lot of confused and frightened people.

So what do we do about this? You’ve heard me say that it’s not up to me to tell people who to vote for or which political party is better. My role as a spiritual leader is to be clear about what Jesus taught us was important as we make our decisions. But when someone speaks a vile rhetoric of fear and hate and exclusion into the world, I’m going to say something. I have to.

Now, we don’t know how this will play out, and we know that there’s a lot going on under the surface in terms of what people were resisting in this election, but here’s something to think about. People are deeply concerned because values they thought were universal are now in question. People are afraid that racism and exclusion and treating women without respect, have been“normalized” during this campaign. Since the election, there are reports about little children telling their Muslim classmates that they’ll soon be deported. And crude jokes that objectify women have been circulating at an alarmingly increased rate. I’ve read articles from the U.K., Canada and Europe expressing concern about these trends spreading out from the United States.

People are asking, “What can we do to resist this?” Well, here’s a start…maybe our reaction should be to dig deep within ourselves, and figure out who we really are, and what values are most important to us. You know, we’ve been fairly sheltered in North America, particularly those of us with white privilege. We can spout a rhetoric that’s politically correct, because it costs us nothing. But it looks like now is the time to put ourselves on the line to stand up for what is most important.

If we truly value racial equality – it we really believe women should be treated with respect – if we’re honestly offended when we hear someone talking about deporting innocent citizens, then it’s time to shake off our protected comfort zones and speak up – to live into what we say we believe. We generally assume that people want to be kind, to respect others, to be honest and to care about vulnerable people. But now we have an opportunity to sharpen our awareness of how we want to live…an opportunity to be more intentional about living with grace and respect: A chance to speak up when we see signs of this “normalization” of treating others poorly.

A priest from this area wrote an open letter to her adult sons on social media, and many of us followed her example. She wrote that open misogyny, hatred, fear, racism, and bold faced lying have taken the reins of power in our neighbours to the south, proving that any one of us, any nation, can lay aside kindness, honesty, love and mercy the moment they feel their privilege is threatened. She went on to say that she herself would look within to find the grace to preach love and to try to live it, but that she had great hope that her sons and their generation, who were raised to be tolerant, to be excited by diversity and difference, would lead us into a future where love and mercy would remain paramount as they reshape our world.

What I’m getting at here is a suggestion that while riots may or may not be the answer, I don’t think that being quiet or ignoring the facts is an alternative for those of us who follow Christ. At a time like this, we’re called to speak our truth and model it clearly for all to see. Something I’ve been thrilled to see in response to the deluge of hate and fear, is the bold voice of love – a voice that has faith in strength and integrity that exists in the hearts of most people. Trusting that God’s power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine. And as is so often the case, today’s gospel helps us to see how to respond when what’s important is threatened.

Jesus is responding to people who are admiring the great beauty of the Temple. He warns them that at any moment, the Temple could be razed to the ground – and all those huge stones that made the mighty walls will be reduced to a pile of rubble.  He predicts great upheaval and betrayal. What’s Luke getting at here?  Luke is trying to make a statement about the impermanence and uncertainty of human achievement.

The people are marvelling at the Temple’s glory, but Jesus pulls their attention away from its beauty and structure, hoping that they’ll focus on something that’s much more important…..their faith, and how it shows up in their lives. Just before this story, Jesus had drawn their attention to a poor widow putting her two coins into the treasury. Nobody would have ever noticed her amidst the grandeur of the Temple, and the respected leaders parading with their prayers and great offerings, until Jesus pointed out that she was an example for all of them – it was her heart that was sincere.

We can have the most beautiful place of worship in the world, and still get it all wrong. What’s more important than the building is what we learn while we’re inside, and how we take it into our lives and into the world. That’s what the people said in Mississippi when the church of a Black congregation was burned and vandalized by political haters….they said you can burn down our church building, but you can’t take away our faith. God’s transformation of their lives was not something that could be destroyed.

This is certainly a challenging story for us right now. The question of the importance of our house of worship is a complex one. Recently, I’ve had occasion to go downtown to our Cathedral a few times. And you know, when you walk toward it, the bells calling you in from way down the street, there’s something quite beautiful you feel as you go inside. This is our Diocesan Mecca. Our Jerusalem. This is the great Cathedral that has gathered us together in Christ’s name for decades.

The ceilings are high and the surroundings are glorious. The choir is heavenly and the organ is majestic. It’s wonderful. And it’s emotional. It hits us on a very real, visceral, human level. And I think of our family from St. Paul Lorne Park, and the grief that is still very real about losing the place where God touched you, met you, challenged you – where there were weddings and funerals and baptisms and celebrations over the years — beautiful memories that go deep, but now that building is no longer home. Buildings do matter.

And I think of the Trinity people who have the same deep connections right here, in this space, all that history, all the prayers whispered in this space, and now we’re in the process of changing things, and it feels uncertain. Buildings do matter. I for one, am thrilled at the wisdom of your vestry vote that said that getting to the bottom of the structural issues causing flooding is to come first in our priorities. I think your wisdom in this will pay off big time. And the changes to the worship space are also practical, in fixing a spongy floor, and bringing us up to full accessibility with a code ramp, which the Diocese and the Province both insist on. I believe you’ve been faithful stewards of these resources coming to us. We’re not going for fancy – we’re going for solid. Thank God for that.

But in all of this, I am aware that our worship spaces mean just as much to us as they did to those people centuries ago, who travelled miles whenever they could, to get to Jerusalem’s beautiful Temple. We can’t help but become attached to our places of worship. They mean something to us. Our prayers are in them, our stories are in them, our faith journeys have been formed in them. And I think Jesus gets that. I think he sees it. He knows what it’s like to make that trip to Jerusalem to worship in the Temple…to see the scrolls be taken out and read to the people of God.

And yet, Jesus tells us that buildings are not forever, but our faith is. Jesus knows that our life of faith must go beyond our temples and synagogues and holy places. He knows that there will come a time for all of us when we will be called on to give an accounting of our faith outside of these walls. A time like the present. So we have to ask ourselves, without this building, what’s left? How would our faith and trust in God survive the loss of this structure?

My friends, we are called to be good stewards of our buildings and the money we use to maintain them. But we are also called to be good stewards of the Great Story of Salvation and Liberation that we tell within these walls. We are called to bear witness to the world about what matters the most. Even in apocalyptic times, when things get rough, when money runs short, when governments fall apart or challenge our peace. What is Jesus’ answer to how we respond to these apocalyptic events? Testify, he says! Tell the world what you have found in following me.

Now, I’m not talking about standing on a soapbox and screaming about Jesus from the street corners. I run away from people like that. I’m talking about living an authentic life out there that shows who we really are and models what we believe. Tell that person who feels unworthy that they matter to God, that they are precious to God, even when the world sets them aside. Tell that local politician that you’re counting on them to care for the marginalized. I think we church people always live in this tension between the faithful and responsible care of our buildings, and the faithful sharing of what we call the Good News.

Our faith is not confined to a building or defined by it. We will do our best to care of it, but Jesus says, when things get tough, tell your stories of salvation. Tell what these years of gathering here around word and table have done for you – how they’ve changed your life. When a nearby government seems to threaten what’s important to you, testify! Tell your children and your neighbours that you believe in love and mercy and truth and grace, and that no influence from any womanizer, liar or racist, will ever change that.

My friends, the world is full of the grace and love of God. The people of God down through the centuries, even in the hardest of times, have been called to speak up against oppression – to stand strong for justice. And today Luke asks us, where, and on what, is our gaze fixed? If our eyes are locked on temporary things, we might miss seeing those beautiful things that will last. If we only see grandeur and splendour, we may miss finding the beauty in the lost soul nearby. And if we blindly tolerate or ignore the negative rhetoric out there right now, we might miss our chance to affirm all that is life-giving, all that is worthy and true.

What the world needs right now, is people who dare to humbly say out loud what we’ve learned within these walls – to speak boldly about peace overcoming violence, about truth overcoming lies, about love overcoming hate, about care for others overcoming greed. My friends, it’s time to share who we are and how we’ve been transformed by love. It’s time to testifyHallelujah!

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Reverend Susanne Sharon
Episcopal Diocese of Toronto, Canada
November 1, 2016