Archive for the Playthell on politics Category

A California Thug in the People’s House!

Posted in Playthell on politics with tags , , , , on May 24, 2013 by playthell
Dayrl Issa
Thug Life: Yo you talkin to me?

 Daryll Issa is a Menace to America

Why wasn’t I surprised to discover that before he became a Congressman Daryll Issa was a car thief, a liar and a repeat offender?   Because he is still a liar, a bully and runs his committee like a gangster.  The way he conducts his committee is so outrageous that Attorney General Eric Holder, a mild mannered gentleman not given to hyperbole, called his behavior “shameful” to his face.  And he is still a thief; now he is trying to steal the last election by misusing the investigative powers of his committee to nullify the Democratic victory by tying up key components of the government in an attempt to make it impossible for President Obama to govern; to do the job the people elected him twice to do.

Instead Issa is engaging in a transparent attempt to create an atmosphere of hysteria designed to produce the preconditions for the impeachment of the President on bogus charges.  Hence I am not surprised that he has a criminal past because he has a criminal mind.  In essence he is still a liar and a thug.

When you look at the nature of his crimes they clearly denote basic issues of character that are not easily overcome.  For instance it was brought to our attention by Martin Bashir – A transplanted broadcast journalist on MSNBC who brings a nose for scandal among the high and mighty typical of the British press – that Issa has a vocal accuser who is not shy about going on the record.

Jay Bergey, who was in the same army troop with Issa, says his most enduring memory of Congressman Issa was when Issa stole his yellow Dodge Charger during December 1971.  When he heard through the grape vine that Issa was the thief he says “I confronted Issa, I got in his face and threatened to kill him, and magically my car reappeared the next day abandoned on the turnpike.”

Three months later, on March 15, 1972, after mustering out of the army Issa and his older brother was arrested in Ohio and charged with stealing a red Maserati from the showroom of a car dealership in Cleveland.  However since Issa was a veteran and had enrolled in college before the case came to trial, a sympathetic judge dismissed the case.  And he did so despite the fact that Issa, a habitual offender, was arrested on an illegal gun possession charge while the Maserati case was still pending.  On December 1, nine months after the Maserati bust, Issa was pulled over by police in Adrian Ohio who discovered a 25 caliber automatic pistol, a box of ammo and a tear gas gun with cartridges for it.

In court Issa argued that he was carrying weapons to protect his car and defend himself.  He was charged with carrying a concealed weapon, but pleaded to the lesser charge of possession of a unregistered gun, paid a small fine and was sentenced to six months’ probation.  There is a familiar scenario here, Issa got “the white boy pass;” which means that he was allowed to walk for a violation that many young black men have been sent to jail for!

This is this kind of white male privilege that contributes to the arrogance of white boys like Mitt Romney, who was allowed to get away with things that Barack Obama would have been crucified in the press for; things such as refusing to disclose tax returns or making the dealings of his Cayman Island bank accounts and dummy corporations in Bermuda public.  And if Barack had ever been a member of the Nation of Islam, the press would have allowed us to forget it…not to mention if he were still an unapologetic Minister when he ran for President.

Yet mum was the word on Mitt’s religion despite the fact that Mormon theology regarding black people is a mirror image of the Black Muslim theology on whites: Mormons preached that blacks were spawns of the devil and the NOI preaches that whites are the devil!  Looks like six on the one hand and a half dozen on the other to me.

This vast disparity was apparent to all careful observers, and the decision to give Mitt a pass on this when nobody in black American believes that they would have remained silent if the shoe was on the other foot, contributes to an almost paranoid attitude about the intention of the “white media” regarding Afro-Americans.  Which is why the press Prima Donnas who are wailing like banshees, because they were investigated by the US Attorney General, is finding little sympathy in the black community.

The major media has been even worse in their reporting of Issa’s criminal past.  The watch dog organization Media Matters has studied the coverage of this man who heads one of the most powerful committees in Congress and they report that “In 11 interviews since Election Day, no network or cable anchor has asked Issa about the allegations against him.  Their study covered the period from November 3, 2010 to   January 201l.

In print publications during the same period Media Matters examined 15 articles that dealt with Issa in major journalistic publications and only one even mentions his criminal past! Among the publications examined were: The Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, et al.   Does anybody believe that if Congressman Cummings, a black Democrat from Baltimore who serves on Issa’s Committee, had such a criminal record everybody wouldn’t know about it?

Darryl Issa is one of the worst politicians to ever chair a Congressional Committee, and given the collection of charlatans, scoundrels, fools, thieves, slave masters and Indian killers who have sat in that chamber this is no picayune charge.  He is a shameless hypocrite and malicious thug who consistently places his party’s interests over the national interests.  The hearings Issa is presently holding on the Benghazi killings is nothing more than vulgar exploitation of a national tragedy to gain a partisan political advantage.

His fained outrage over the misuse of the investigative powers of the IRS is a transparent sham; for he was silent as a lamb when the IRS employed those very same powers in a malicious attempt to intimidate the NAACP into silence on George Bush’s invasion Iraq.  That’s why Julian Bond, the former President of the NAACP and legendary activist for justice in the US, has come out strongly in support of the IRS action.

Although a dear friend who is also abrilliant and  indefatigable tutor in matters of tax law thinks the IRS Director of Exempt Organizations  Lori Lerner, who took the Fifth at Congressman Issa’s hearing, should be jailed for her actions at the IRS; I am persuaded by the Arguments of Lawrence O’Donnel – a journalist, Harvard trained lawyer and former Congressional staffer who was tasked with interpreting IRS regulations in drafting legislation – and Eleanor Holmes Norton, a long time Washington lawyer and member of congress representing the District of Columbia.

Both of these observers feel the IRS was fulfilling the law, and that a regulation added by unelected government bureaucrats cannot trump the basic statute.  This is a matter that will be passionately debated and obviously I am not qualified to resolve this growing legal dispute, but I am one heart with them in this matter.

Hence I think Ms. Lerner treated Devious Daryll exactly the way he deserves to be treated: Like a verbose asshole who is unworthy of his exalted position and does not deserve a serious commitment of her time and effort.  In a terse statement she said:” “I have not done anything wrong; I have not broken any laws. I have not violated any IRS rules or regulations, and I have not provided false information to this or any other congressional committee.”

Let him hear what she has to say in court, since he has already decided she is guilty.  This half-baked hustler from Cali apparently does not even understand the Constitution that he is constantly citing. His response to her decision to invoke her constitutional rights under the Fifth Amendment is scandalous; a real scandal, not the fake scandal lust the Republicans are perpetually promoting.  But sham and deceit have long been favored tactics of Daryll Issa.

A Malignant Cancer in Congress preventing the ability to govern
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The harm this clown is doing could injure millions of Americans

The Much Maligned IRS

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 Issa met his match in Lori Lehrer

Issa was also investigated for suspicion of setting a fire in the warehouse of his own company in order to collect the insurance money.  He became a suspect when a secretary told investigators that all the blueprints and other documents necessary to resume the company’s business were mysteriously move to a vault in another location before the fire, and he greatly increase his insurance coverage.

And the fact that the inflammable substance that started the fire was poured in the one area of the building that was not covered by the sprinkler system led investigators to conclude that the fire was started by somebody who knew the design of the building.  All these factors made Issa a logical suspect in the arson but they never managed to tie the fire to him. Once again the rascal slipped away unscathed, and all the richer for it.

Issa began his involvement in politics as a lobbyist for business interest, and he was a supporter of reactionary pro-corporate Republican polices from the outset.  In a long and revealing article by Ryan Lizza in the New Yorker, we are told:

In 1994, according to one version of Issa’s official biography, he “received Inc. Magazine’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award.” He began to work with consumer-electronics trade associations, made trips to Washington to lobby for the industry, and started to get involved in politics. In an increasingly Democratic state, he soon became one of the biggest donors to Republicans. He helped fund Proposition 209, a 1996 ballot initiative that would ban affirmative action in public institutions. It passed with fifty-five per cent of the vote. He helped bring the Republican Convention to San Diego in 1996 and got to know the Party leaders. “It was an evolution of involvement,” Issa told me.”

Alas this moral chameleon and deluded egotist, who seems devoid of shame or compassion that now chairs the powerful House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which the rules of the House says “may at any time conduct investigations of any matter.”  This means that Issa has the power to subpoena anyone. The result is the fiasco we see now.   These bullshit sideshows posing as serious Congressional hearings would have embarrassed the architects of the US Constitution.  Although many of them were just as morally depraved as Issa, they at least understood the need to govern, and that governing is a serious business!

However the Issa clown show, a tragi-comic farce directed by a poot-butt pretender posing as the guardian of American democracy, will go on because the Obama administration has offended the pompous, prissy Prima Donnas of the press, who in their unbridled egotism and self-importance think their right to scoop the competition, even if it imperils the lives of American operatives trying to prevent another 9-11, should be defended at all cost.

So while they are whining about being investigated, right-wing nuts are doing their best to bring the machinery of government to a halt, makes them de-facto enablers of the cretins like Darrell Issa.  It is no wonder that when Issa  got out of the service he went into business and got rich selling alarms to foil car thieves….it takes one to know one.

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

Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

May 23, 2013

 

Viva Afro-Americanos!

Posted in Cultural Matters, On Foreign Affairs, Playthell on politics, Uncategorized with tags , , on April 13, 2013 by playthell
 Viva Americanos
Jay and Beyoncé Surrounded by Cuban Fans

On  Race, Class and US Policy on Afro- Cubans

I was delighted to hear that the second most popular power couple in the world, international superstars Jay Z and Beyoncé, who rank just below Barack and Michel in world-wide popularity, decided to spend their fifth wedding anniversary in Cuba.  There are many reasons why I rejoiced at the news.  First of all I have always regarded the economic boycott as unjust.  It began because the US Congress, acting as shills for the United Fruit Company, a giant American agri-business corporation who viewed the Island nation of Cuba as it’s private plantation…much as the firestone company viewed the West African nation of Liberia as a little more than their rubber plantation.

Hence when a young white Cuban lawyer named Fidel Castro, frustrated by the anti-democratic rule of military thugs on the Island which was a de facto American colony – led a revolution that deposed the corrupt military strong man Fulgentsia Batista, an American puppet, and began to institute sweeping changes, the US became a fierce opponent of the Cuban Revolution and has remained so over half a century later.

Since the Cubans never committed any offense against the American people, US hostility toward Cuba was sparked by internal economic reforms in that revolutionary Cubans made in their country, which ended the dominant role of the United Fruit Company and other American business interests, along with US support for the decadent white racist Cuban elite, who were their partners in the fleecing of the toiling Cuban masses.

It is the remnants of that white Cuban privileged class residing in southern Florida, centered in Miami, that keeps that hostility alive today and tries their best to prevent American citizens from traveling to Cuba – even as they have constantly complained about the Cuban government not allowing their citizens to travel to the US.  Hence it should surprise no one that the loudest voices criticizing Beyoncé and Jay’s visit to the Island are Cuban Americans from Florida.

The chatter began with protests from two Congresswomen – give their names – and has now been joined by that little snarky charlatan Marco Rubio; who is playing to the rightwing white Cubans in Southern Florida that comprise his base.  “According to recent news reports,” says Rubio, “Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s Cuba trip, which the regime seized on for propaganda purposes, was fully licensed by the Treasury Department.  If true, the Obama Administration should explain exactly how trips like these comply with U.S. law and regulations governing travel to Cuba and it should disclose how many more of these trips they have licensed.”

I think President Obama should pay this little Pisher no rabbit ass mind!  He should not be taken seriously on anything regarding Cuba.  This is the same guy who won a Senate seat by lying about his family history. During the election he presented himself as the son of Cuban refugees who fled Castro’s oppressive communist regime, and he won the hearts of all the suckers who will support anybody that has an axe to grind with Fidel.

However an enterprising reporter at the Miami Herald fact checked his story and discovered it was a fabrication.  The truth is that Rubio’s family fled Cuba under right-winger dictator Batista, in 1958, before Castro came to power.  I believe this is why Rubio was not interested in running with Romney in the VP slot; he is afraid his lies will resurface and there is abundant video of him telling this big lie. Only a party composed of shameless liars, who run campaigns based on lies – ala Mitt Romney – would even consider a shameless liar like Rubio as a candidate.  I hope they do select him as their presidential candidate…because this joker will never win the US presidency!

The white Cubans of southern Florida have intimidated politicians into supporting a policy that is not in the best interests of the US; hence I think American citizens should violate the travel ban en mass and force the government to prosecute them!  This would again raise the question as to whether the US government has the right to arbitrarily restrict our right to travel where we please.

It is a challenge that several Americans who support the Cuban Revolution have raised in the past – Afro-Americans such as Reverend Luscious Walker and Dr. Johnetta Cole prominently among them.  Reverend Walker led multi-racial groups of Americans bearing critical supplies denied to Cubans due to the protracted American economic embargo for 21 years straight.

Reverend Lucius Walker and El Presidente
Lucius and Fidel
Embracing the Cuban Revolution

He would get around American travel restrictions to Cuba by embarking from Mexico or Canada, two nations in the hemisphere that saw no danger to themselves from a revolution on the little Island of Cuba.  Reverend Walker saw no danger to the US either; rather he saw US policy as a menace to Cuba and all of Latin America – a view that was reinforced when he was shot by American sponsored “contras” while on a mercy mission to the people of Nicaragua.    That’s why he continued to travel to Cuba while refusing opportunities to travel there legally under a special dispensation of the US government.

Walker’s intention was to directly challenge the morality of the US government’s policy by taking bibles on his missions claiming he was bring “God’s word to Cuba,” and the Justice Department wisely decided not to take the bait.  On his last trip to Cuba Rev. Walker took a variety of medical supplies such as EKG machines, medicines that were hard to get in Cuba but was in abundant supply in the US, Incubators, etc.  Rev. had a special name for these gifts from Americans of conscience: “Friendshipments.”

When this black American preacher from humble origins danced and joined the great ancestors of our struggle at 80 years old, having remained in the fight for a better world through international solidarity with oppressed and working peoples to the end of his days, the reverence with which he was regarded by the Cuban people was expressed in an editorial of Granma, the official organ of the Central Committee of the ruling Communist Party.  “Cubans, in gratitude, “the statement said, “have to say that we don’t want to think of a world without Lucius Walker”.

Dr. Johnetta Cole demonstrated her solidarity with the Cuban Revolution by writing and lecturing about the realities of revolutionary Cuba and leading Vinceramos Brigades down to the Island to help harvest the sugarcane crop and exchange ideas with revolutionary anti-colonial delegations from around the world, in defiance of US government policy.  Dr. Cole used to argue passionately in defense of the revolutionary policies of the Cuban government when we were colleagues in the W.E.B. DuBois Department of Black Studies at U-Mass.

While these Afro-Americans travelled to Cuba to express solidarity with the Revolution, Jay Z and Beyoncé appear to have just wanted to take a vacation on this beautiful exotic island where Salsa was born.  I have never heard either of them express a political concern beyond working to reelect President Obama by bundling money.  And I have no idea what they think about the plight of Afro-Cubans, since they have been mum thus far.

 Dr. Johnetta Cole
COLE, JOHNETTA
Anthropologist and Defender of Cuban Revolution

 I do know that there is a thriving Hip Hop scene that is heavily black and political.   In fact, I have had Afro-Cubans tell me that it is the true voice of black Cuba, since they have no other vehicle by which to publicly address racial issues. Hence there is no telling what they talked about with Cuban rappers, although inquiring minds certainly want to know.  Despite their silence however, Beyoncé and Jay Z’s controversial Cuban sojourn affords us an opportunity to discuss weighty questions such as the role of race and class race in shaping contemporary politics and economic relations in  Cuban society; and how these issues affect  American policy towards Cuba.

Beyonce at the Tropicana!
Beyonce at the Tropicana
Goddesses of Neo African Dance
 A Taste of Afro-American Style

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Dssto the height of fashion!
Chillin with the Youths

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And they are lovin it! 

 And so did the Children

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The time of their lives! 

 

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

The suppression of serious discourses about race by the Cuban government, which is dominated by Hispanic Cubans – i.e. White Cubans”– is a persistent theme in the critique of revolutionary Cuba by Afro-Cubans.  While most Afro-American Marxist, and friends of the revolution of all ideological stripes, praise the dramatic advances of Afro-Cubans since the revolution, parroting the position of the Cuban government that the race problem is passé, I am reminded of Faulkner’s statement that the American South will never escape it’s past, and noted that “the past isn’t even past.”

This can also be said regarding the question of anti-black racism in Cuba; alas while official policy denounces racism, racist feeling and ideology is deeply embedded in Cuban culture and can only be rooted out by persistently confronting in a thousand forums.  Instead it has been the policy of the Cuban government to suppress discussions of the race issue.  Hence, based on myriad reports from Afro-Cubans, racism persists in that Spanish speaking Caribbean nation despite government denial.

Suspicions about the shortcomings of the revolutionary Cuban government’s policies on race relations began early on by some of the first Afro-Americans to visit the Island after the Revolution.  One of these was political theorist and cultural critic Harold Cruse, author of the seminal text “The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual,” which offers one of the most astute critiques of the inability of white Marxist to accommodate nationalist aspirations on the part of blacks, which is a healthy response to white supremacy – whether on the right or left.

 Harold Cruse
OBIT Harold Cruse
Skeptical of White Cuban Communist

Hence Cruse reported that while Leroi Jones – aka Amiri Baraka, whom he described as a beatnik poet from Greenwich Village flirting with revolution – was enraptured by everything they saw and heard on the official government tours, Cruse was skeptical because “there were too many white communist walking around looking important.”

After having spent years in the American Communist Party, Harold Cruse, who would go on to become a Professor of history at the University of Michigan, was suspicious of the motives of white communists because he felt that they pursued their group interests while suppressing such tendencies on the part of blacks, mislabeling it “bourgeois black nationalism”

 George Padmore

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Father of the African Independence Movement

It was in essence the same reason why George Padmore, a Trinidadian activist intellectual who is rightfully called “The Father of the African independence movement,” quit the International Communist movement and wrote his famous book length polemic “Pan-Africanism or Communism.”  As the director of The Bureau of Negro Affairs for the Comintern, Padmore was the highest ranking black man in the history of the international Communist Movement. (See: Dr. J.L. Hooker’s Black Revolutionary)

By the time this delegation of intellectuals, journalist and artist visited Cuba,  we already had the experience of Robert Williams, President of the Monroe North Carolina NAACP and ex-Marine, who had organized his community to resist the Ku Klux Klan with arms and was forced into exile in Cuba. It was no accident of history that the revolutionary Cuban government was willing to grant political asylum to Robert Williams.   He had recently come to their attention by virtue of a telegram Williams sent to Adele Stevenson, the pompous patrician American Ambassador to the United Nations, after the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion of October 17th 1961.

From the moment the revolutionaries came to power in Cuba the US government began plotting against them.  This interference would prove counter-productive because it helped to drive a nationalist reformer interested in honest government and a more just economic system that would raise the standard of living for the Cuban working class into an alliance with the Soviet Union.  Had the US supported the Revolution the course of history would have been different and infinitely better.

Alas powerful US economic elites viewed the revolution as a disaster for their interests and prompted the Kennedy Administration to take action to depose Castro and quash the revolution by launching a counter-revolution. After all, the Central Intelligence Agency had successfully overthrown the democratically elected government of Iran in a covert action and installed the dictatorial Shah, just eight years earlier.  High on hubris the CIA was tasked with organizing, arming and training a counter-revolutionary military force composed of white Cuban’s who had fled the Island.

Convinced that the majority of Cubans opposed the revolution, which was the result of relying on a narrative constructed by the losers -the CIA had calculated that once the invaders landed on Cuban soil the Cuban masses would join them and overthrow the Castro government.  What they failed to understand is that it is impossible to overthrow a military strongman like Batista by revolutionary action without broad popular support.

The Cubans had voted by their actions, since the reason that Fidel turned to revolution in the first place was because the democratic process had been subverted and rendered impotent by right-wing military dictators like Machado and Batista, who were little more than Marionettes whose strings were pulled from Washington.  Hence when the CIA sponsored counter-revolutionaries landed at the Bay of Pigs they were met by an armed Cuban people who crushed them!

Captured Cuban Exiles at Bay of Pigs
Bay of Pigs
A CIA Covert Action Gone Awry

When news of the invasion was reported in the American press it set off a firestorm of protests and acrimonious debates. The Fair Play for Cuba Committee, a group of American activists who expressed solidarity with the Cuban Revolution, organized demonstrations from coast to coast.  Leading American intellectuals spoke out against the Bay of Pigs invasion and chapters of the Fair Play Committee spread like wildfire across college campuses.

Dr. C. Wright Mills, long time Columbia University Professor and one of America’s most distinguished social scientist, was then 80 years old and too ill to attend the demonstrations but he sent a telegram to that was read at one of the largest rallies. “If I were able I would be fighting alongside Fidel Castro” he declared.  However opinion polls taken after news broke of the disastrous American sponsored invasion, even as the Kennedy Administration attempted to deny it at the United Nations, opinion polls revealed that 82% of the American people supported the invasion.

Kennedy was perplexed but pleasantly surprised by the positive public response to his embarrassing diplomatic debacle.  However Robert Williams was outraged by the hypocrisy of so many white Americans favoring supplying arms to help so-called “oppressed” white Cubans regain their “freedom,” but remained silent about the barbaric racist police state tactics that he was living under in the American South.  Hence he wrote a letter to UN Ambassador Stevenson that was read by the Cuban Foreign Minister before the UN General Assembly while Stevenson was sitting there.  The text of William’s letter read:

“Please convey to Mr. Adele Stevenson: Now that the United States has proclaimed support for people willing to rebel against oppression, oppressed Negroes of the south urgently request tanks, artillery, bombs, money and the use of American airfields and white mercenaries to crush the racist tyrants who have betrayed the American Revolution and the Civil War.  We also request prayers for this undertaking.”

Robert F. Williams

The letter was embarrassment enough, but to make matters even worse for the American Ambassador the Cuban Foreign Minister turned to him and said derisively: “I would like to ask Mr. Stevenson what would happen if the government of the United States, which claims to be the champion of democracy, dared to arm not only the Negros in the cotton fields of the South, or right here in Harlem?” Scholars have uncovered a Top Secret cable from Stevenson to Secretary of State Dean Rusk that reveals his ignorance of the Bay of Pigs invasion, as he laments the fact that he was not provided talking points by the State Department beforehand, so that he would not look like a stumble bum trying to respond to these issues.

A Puzzled Steveson Unsure of what to Say

Adlai Stevenson

An object of ridicule, trying to defend the indefensible

Robert William’s response foreshadowed a statement of unequivocal support for the Cuban Revolution and denunciation of the invasion by a wide range of distinguished Afro-American intellectuals, lawyers, artists, activist, preachers, et al.  Titled “Cuba: A Declaration of Conscience by Afro-Americans,” and published in the Baltimore Afro-American, a nationally distributed black owned and edited newspaper, it declared:

Because we have known oppression, because we have suffered more than other Americans, because we are still fighting for our own liberation from tyranny, we Afro-Americans have the right and the duty to raise our voices against the forces of oppression that now seek to crush a free people linked to us by the bonds of blood and common heritage.” The document went on to boldly warn: “Afro-Americans, don’t be fooled – the enemies of Cuba are our enemies, the Jim Crow bosses of this land where we are still denied our rights.”

 This document was signed by black American intellectuals and activists ranging from Robert Williams,  to  Leroi Jones – who became Amiri Baraka – to Dr. WEB DuBois, and its undeniable truth posed a dilemma for the US in its “Cold War” struggle with Communist Russia to win the hearts and minds of the non-white peoples in the emerging nations of Africa and Asia – whose UN delegates had ridiculed the American Ambassador with laughter when the Cuban Foreign minister put the questions to him regarding arming oppressed Afro-Americans and it was telecast around the world.  The Russians made sure everybody in the Third saw it.

Although it is little understood by most Americans, black or white, the US government’s struggle with the communist bloc to win the allegiance of the emergent Third World nations was a major factor in the victories of the Civil Rights Movement in the US.  (See: Civil Rights and Foreign Policy) Hence the Robert Williams story was a nightmare for US diplomacy, especially after he fled into exile in Cuba, where he conducted regular broadcasts into the American South on a program he dubbed “Radio Free Dixie,” named after the American government’s subversive broadcasts into communist countries called “Radio Free Europe.”

These broadcasts could be heard around the world and his pamphlet “The Crusader,” was widely distributed.  I was one of the people who distributed it in the US, as I travelled around the country making speeches under the auspices of the Opportunities Industrialization Center – a manpower training program that began in Philadelphia but spread to 105 cities, and was always located in the heart of black communities.

As a member of the Revolutionary Action Movement, a quasi-underground movement that was the first to advocate and organize for armed struggle during the 1960’s, I had ready access to the Crusader because the Chairman, Max Stanford aka Dr. Muhammad Ahmed, received regular shipments from Cuba, by way of Canada.

I supported Robert Williams from the moment that I learned the details of the Monroe North Carolina struggle in the explosive book “Negros With Guns,” which was based on a series of interviews given on WBAI radio in New York City while Rob was underground on the run from the FBI, who were seeking to arrest him on a trumped up kidnapping charge.  Since it was clear that his only offense was organizing his community to defend themselves against racist white terrorists, all fair minded Americans who understood the facts rallied to Rob’s defense.

Robert and Mable Williams

robert-and-mabel-williams

They Shot it out with the Klan and fled to Cuba
The NAACP in Monroe: Ready to Rumble!
Blacks with guns in Monroe
Too hot for the National Office to Handle

Having been expelled from his office as President of the Monroe chapter then abandoned by the NAACP, Williams had relied on the organized left – whom he had met through his activities with the Fair Play for Cuba Committee - to get him first into Canada and then into Cuba.  The aid, comfort, security and communications platform provided to Williams by the revolutionary Cuban government was deeply appreciated by Afro-Americans.

That feeling did not change even after Williams quit Cuba five years later and relocated in the “The People’s Republic of China, where he was treated as a revolutionary hero and hung out with the top levels of the Chinese government, including chairman Mao, at a time when China was largely a mystery to the US State Department.

Radio Free Dixie!

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Robert and Mable Williams broadcasting from Cuba

Rob and Chairman Mao

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Two Revolutionaries Talkin Revolution

There are various versions of why Rob left Cuba, some say it was the result of a conspiracy by the Russian Communist Party and their American surrogates who for some muddled ideological reasons created suspicions regarding Robert Williams on the part of the Cuban government.  But I find the explanation offered by Dr. Carlos Moore, a black Cuban who had supported the Revolution in an interview conducted on WBAI by this writer.

According to Dr. Moore, it was the great following that Rob enjoyed among Afro-Cubans that began to worry white Cuban Officials, who had made discussions of the race problem a counter-revolutionary act.  And all Rob talked about was the race in America, which began to awaken the racial consciousness of Afro-Cubans.  Dr. Moore went on to become the foremost critic of the Castro government’s policy on race relations, producing many important treatises of varying lengths – including the revelatory books “Castro, The Blacks and Africa” and “Pichun.”

As early as 1960’s, when Afro-American leftist intellectual /activist were completely enamored with the Cuban revolution, Carlos Moore was writing about the persistence of racism in Cuba and the prohibition against honest discussion of the issue.  His persistence in raising the issue got him in trouble with the government and he soon went into exile.  Over the last half century Dr. Moore has lived all over the world, but he has continued to speak out about the unresolved race issues in Cuba, something not only the Cubans don’t want to discuss, Afro-American leftist intellectuals don’t want to talk about either.

As President Obama began to relax the rules regarding travel and investment in Cuba 1n 2009, and the Cuban government embarked on a new economic policy that allowed for the development of private enterprise.  This policy is designed to garner hard currency for foreign exchange in the wake of the devastating economic problems that resulted from the collapse of the Soviet Union, who had been their main benefactor.   As many white Cubans residing in Miami returned home to visit for the first time in decades, Dr. Moore was watching.

He recorded his views of the new policy in a long article published in the McClatchy papers.  It was published on April 21, 2009 under the titled “From Myth to Reality: Putting Context to Cuba’s Racial Divide,” and he observes:

Images of the first batch of Cuban-Americans arriving at Havana’s international airport, since the United States’ lifting of restrictions on travel and remittance-sending to the island, were clear: teary-eyed, Spanish-speaking cousins, laden with gifts and money, for their relatives in Cuba, were all white! … The spectacle of the white Cuban returnees, however, reveals even more by highlighting what or rather who is missing: dark-skinned Cuban faces.”

Dr. Carlos Moore

Dr. Carlos Moore

A Dissident Black Cuban Scholar

Dr. Moore goes on to raise some critical questions.  Among the most telling is:  “How does one explain such a dramatically white homecoming in a country where 62-70% of the population is estimated to be non-white…” After explaining the dramatic difference in wealth between black and white Cuban families he asks:

 “What do these two differing racial realities largely unacknowledged inside and outside Cuba portend for the United States’ emerging Open Door policy? In purely human terms, the warming relations between “cousins” on both sides of the Florida straights may be laudable, but certainly not devoid of long-term political implications inside Cuba. To understand why, a new map of Cuba the real Cuba will have to be drawn.”

Here Dr.  Moore is alluding to the persistent claim by Afro-Cubans that they are drastically undercounted in the government census.  Again, his critiques of race relations in Cuba were denounced by the Cuban Government, and commentators on the American left.  Moore has been smeared as a right-wing Cuban in league with the reactionary white Cubans in Miami, a CIA agent, everything but a child of God!

However his claims that white racism persists in Cuba; that it is covered up by the government and it is dangerous to discuss it publicly; that white Cubans from Miami are pouring money into the pockets of their relatives in Cuba, and black Cubans are losing ground – the arguments that got him run out of post-revolutionary Cuba, has recently been echoed by a prominent Afro-Cuban intellectual in an article published in the Sunday edition of the March 24 New York Times, over three years after Dr. Moore’s report in the McClatchy papers.

Titled “For Blacks In Cuba, the Revolution Hasn’t Begun,” Roberto Zurbano tells us:

“Racism in Cuba has been concealed and reinforced in part because it isn’t talked about.  The government hasn’t allowed racial prejudice to be debated or confronted politically or culturally, often pretending instead that it didn’t exist.  Before 1990 Black Cubans suffered a paralysis of economic mobility while, paradoxically, the government decreed the end of racism in speeches and publications.  To question the extent of racial progress was tantamount to a counter-revolutionary act.  This made it almost impossible to point out the obvious: racism is alive and well.”

On the question of the economic position of Afro-Cubans, Mr. Zurbano reports:

“If the 1960’s, the first decade after the revolution, signified opportunity for all, the decades that followed demonstrated that not everyone was able to have access to and benefitted from those opportunities.  It’s true that the 1980’s produced a generation of black professionals, like doctors and teachers, but these gains were demolished in the 1990’s, as blacks were excluded from lucrative sectors like hospitality.  Now in the 21st century, it has become all too apparent that the black population is underrepresented at universities, and in spheres of economic and political power, and overrepresented in the underground economy, in the criminal sphere, and in marginal neighborhoods.”

Mr. Zurbano explains the role of the exile community in the US – those smiling alabaster faces at the airport – in the rising prosperity of White Cubans, even as black Cubans sink deeper into poverty.  “Most remittances from abroad – the Miami area, the nerve center of the mostly white exile community – go to white Cubans.  They tend to live in upscale houses which can easily be converted into Restaurants – the most common kind of private business in Cuba.”

In formulating a solution to Cuba’s problem of racial inequity, Mr. Zurbano argues:

“An important first step would be to finally get an accurate count of Afro-Cubans.  The black population is far larger than the spurious numbers of the most recent censuses.  The number of blacks on the street undermines, in the most obvious way, the numerical fraud that puts us at less than one fifth of the population.  Many people forget that in Cuba, a drop of white blood can – if only on paper – make a Mestizo or white person, out of someone who in social reality falls in neither of these categories.  Here, the nuances of skin color are a tragicomedy that hides longstanding racial conflicts.”

A content analysis of the major themes and conclusions in this analytical essay by Mr. Zurbano will reveal that they are virtually identical to those that Dr. Moore has been arguing for decades, and mirror his take on the Cuban scene in the 2009 essay cited above.  For telling this unvarnished tale of race relations in Cuba, Mr. Zurbano has been removed from his influential post as Editor at Casa d La Americas.

Like Carlos, for telling the truth about racism in post-revolutionary Cuba…he has been sentenced to silence.  That’s one of the main reasons why more Afro-American scholars and journalists should follow Jay Z and Byonce’s example and go see for themselves!   Incidentally, Jigga has already responded to Rubio and his fellow GOP haters with a rap, which reduced to its essence is just an elaborate way of saying “Kiss my rich black ass”….to which I say OLE!!!

Checkin Out the Scene in Cuba

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Down to Earth Superstars

 

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Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

April 12, 2013

 

The Wild Wild West!

Posted in Playthell on politics with tags , , on April 4, 2013 by playthell
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A Texas Sherrif Vowing to Capture Outlaws

On Hate Media, Gun Worship, and Domestic Terrorism

If one gives only a causal listening to the hateful rhetoric emanating from the media shills of the Republican right, accompanied by the unending panegyric to the virtues of guns, which has become a fetish and a rite of passage into manhood for a large section of American males – mostly white – the murders of multiple high ranking law enforcement officials seems a logical outcome.  As the bible says: “Ye shall reap what ye sow!”

Although they will all run for cover and attempt to wash their hands of this growing menace to our justice system – which has resulted in the murder of the Director of Prisons in Colorado and two prosecutors and a wife in Texas _ the systematic slaughter of government officials seems to me a logical outcome of the hatred of government and worship of guns that has become the mantra of the Republican infotainment complex.

Although recently denounced by long time GOP strategist David Frum, one of a dwindling number of Republicans who are trying to take political reality into account and move the party away from self-destructive rhetoric and policies, the “Republican entertainment complex” is still a driving force in the Grand Obstructionist Party.

However the GOP is not content to let the right-wing media bloviators – Rush, Sean, Glenn, Laura, Michelle Milkin, et al – launch crazy charges against the Democrats; Republican members of Congress as well as candidates for office talk just as crazy.  Michelle Bachman has gone on record saying she wants her constituents “locked and loaded!”

The Alaskan Barbarian, Sarah Palin, put a bull’s eye around a picture of Congresswoman Gabby Gifford – a democrat from Arizona – and the congresswoman was shot through the head by a crazed gunman.   Nevada Senate candidate Cheryl Engle talked about resorting to “Second Amendment solutions” if the Tea Party could not get its way at the polls during the last election campaign. Then there is defeated former Republican Congressman from Florida Alan West, who was mustered out of the military after being accused of committing war crimes – that has claimed  there are 78 democrats in Congress who he knows are members of the Communist Party!

When these irrational claims are coupled with the constant questions about President Obama’s birth place and speculation about him being a secret agent for the Muslim Jihadists, the contradictory accusations that the president is a secret Communist and also closet fascist who is a new Hitler out to enslave white Americans, because he is really an uncover black racist intent upon destroying “white civilization,” and so on in a never ending drone, it is no wonder that a growing number of racist numbskulls on the right who can’t tell shit from shineola, feel that the country is being destroyed by the President that saved it.

Wrapped in a mass of lies recited ad infinitum, the Republican propaganda spreads confusion and incites hostilities as a matter of political strategy.  We know that other gunmen like Richard Popolovsky of Pittsburg was driven to attack law enforcement officers and murder three of them with an assault rifle because he was incited by propaganda from the rightwing hysterics who blather on night and day about the sinister intentions of their government.

These blabbermouths in the rightwing media, Led by FOX News and WABC AM – White Apartheid Broadcast Company – radio are abusing their rights under the First Amendment and helping to destabilize the social order by increasing racial, ethnic and gender antagonisms; they are playing the same role in contemporary American society as Dr. Joseph Goebbels played when he incited the Christian Germans to murder the Jews in the millions during the holocaust: And they should be called out and denounced, the way I have done.  (See: “Is Rush Limbaugh an American Goebbels?” on this blog)

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The group suspected of carrying out the present assassinations of top law enforcement officials in Colorado and Texas, is the Aryan Brotherhood, a loose confederation of racist fascist minded criminals that originated in the notorious San Quentin prison in California during the 1960’s and has spread throughout the Federal Prison system like a malignant cancer.  Like many Americans, I first heard of these murderous maniacs from the prison writings of politically conscious black inmates like Eldridge Cleaver’s “Soul on Ice” and George Jackson’s “Soledad Brother.”  It was a horrendous picture they painted and left one to wonder what would become of these racist homicidal cretins once they were back on the street.   Now, a half century later we know.

A Tattooed Aryan Warrior

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A Billboard for the Police

At present the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas has been the subject of an ongoing joint year-long task force composed of local and federal police forces. This investigation has resulted in the arrest of 34 of their members, many in important leadership positions.  And they have been hit with an array of very serious charges.  Among these are: three murders, many attempted murders, kidnappings, assaults and conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and cocaine.  They are also accused of the sweeping charge of exerting control over prison populations and neighborhoods in Texas through intimidation and violence.

The two murdered DA’s, Mark Hasse and Mike McLlelland, participated in this investigation that has “devastated” the Texas Brotherhood in the words of one law enforcement official.  It has been reported that the Brotherhood vowed revenge against law enforcement agencies; that’s  why they are the prime suspects in these murders.  It also explains why the US Assistant Federal Attorney, Jay Hileman, in an unprecedented move, quite the case…citing unspecified “security” concerns.

This is some serious shit. The Justice Department is sending in a new Federal Attorney, Tim Braley, a deputy chief of the Justice Department’s organized crime and gangs division, who will lead the investigation that will coordinate the efforts of several agencies. Mr. Braley will have the full force of the police powers of the American government at his command.  And they are going to crush the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas.

As white men with no formal education to speak of and thus going nowhere in life, dead end dudes, genuine American failures who can claim neither racial nor gender discrimination for their failure to advance in affluent America – they chose to support themselves through criminal activities.  And since they justified their criminal activities by investing them with political meaning, they are all the more dangerous because they have convinced themselves that they are white warriors redeeming an effete and dying white race; whose existence is threatened by the dark and foreign hordes invading America.  This is the crowd that is inspired to act on the desire to “take our country back.”

In order to understand the danger posed by this organization – which, ironically, will be considerably lessened now that these assholes have actually attacked the law enforcement apparatus of the American state – we have to examine what they believe…the twisted way in which they see the world.  However unraveling their beliefs is no easy matter because this is not an organization run by intellectuals capable of developing a coherent ideology.

From my research on them based on reportage and the analysis of law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, the Aryan Brotherhood began as a prison gang to afford protection for white inmates against the black and Mexican gangs in the California prison system.  In the beginning they were closely identified with Nazi ideology, but being more criminal than political at the outset they have become mostly a criminal organization run from prison with branches on the street headed by former inmates.

According to the FBI and the Southern Poverty Law Center, the premiere government and non-government agencies who track these groups, the Aryan Brotherhood believes that only straight white males should run the important institutions of this country, and they see their role as defending what is left of “white power” and “white civilization.”  To achieve this vague goal they are willing to resort to murder; in fact the requirement for membership is that the prospective member kills a black or other non-white person.  Hence we can assume that all of the thousands of members have gotten away with the murder of some person of color.

However the Aryan Brotherhood movement is not one organization with a centralized leadership, rather it is composed of several organizations with different leaders.  And some are more racist than others.  For instance in the California prisons the Aryans formed alliances with the Mexican Mafia, Asians and even Native Americans against the notorious Black Gorilla Family, even though in the parlance of the racist right-wing white supremacists  they are all “mud men.”

One of the most interesting first-hand accounts regarding the Aryan’s and the race question comes from an Afro-American man who encountered them in the federal prison system.  Titled “Why I Fear the Aryan Brotherhood – and You Should Too,” published on the Daily Beast website, a reliable news source edited by longtime British journalist/editor Tina Brown, under the byline “Anonymous,” the informant tells us:

I got up close and personal with members of the Brotherhood more than 20 years ago in Nevada… There were 13 white guys, and seven of them, I could tell by the tattoos, were members of the Brotherhood. But by then I was a seasoned convict (having served four previous sentences, this wasn’t my first rodeo), so I’d been around prison gangs before and knew the ropes. I kept my head down, my eyes averted, and ate my meals alone at the far end of the table…at least for the first few weeks.”

But that would soon change, partially as the result of an event over which he had no control, and partly due to his superior education and writing skills.  The writer tells us:

Then two things happened in fairly rapid succession. First, a small article about my case made it into a local paper in which the feds accused me and my crew of absconding with millions of dollars with our nefarious credit-card activities in the casinos in and around Nevada. The amount made me out to be a serious professional, worthy of respect even in the Brotherhood’s eyes, albeit only grudgingly given. The second thing that happened was the leader of the group, a huge guy with reddish hair and beard appropriately named “Big Red,” had a legal problem I helped him to solve.

Helping Big Red with his problem turned out to be a revelation. “The one thing I learned relatively quickly was that while the members of this tight-knit group might have been long on brawn and violence, they were short on brains” he recalls.”  Big Red needed some documents from the military that could help him in his upcoming murder trial, “But none of them could fill out the stack of forms, so I volunteered to help.”

This offer of assistance radically transformed his relationship with the Aryans    “When the documents I requested came back about a month later, I was considered a legal whiz on the order of F. Lee Bailey.  I was, to a degree, “in.” They considered me a harmless black mascot, I considered them fools to be played. As the saying goes, I was “stuck like Chuck.”

After Big Red decided the writer looked like the running back Earl Campbell, his favorite football star, he was in like Flynn.  Although he tells us “It’s amazing to me how gridiron prowess can overcome even the deep-seated antipathy of a dyed-in-the-wool bigot. Of course, other than having black skin, I looked nothing at all like Campbell.”  It even got to the place where Big Red forbade any of the Aryans from using the word “nigger,” and they spoke freely around him.

They identified with 19th century outlaws like Jesse James and Confederates who opposed the federal government, some claim direct descent.  The writer tells us:

These were men steeped in strong oral traditions and past heroic acts. They were still mentally fighting the Civil War (like so many other whites) and traced their roots back to men like Confederate guerrilla William Clarke Quantrill, whose Quantrill’s Raiders sacked the pro-abolitionist town of Lawrence, Kansas, at the beginning of the Civil War. One guy, Luke, claimed to be a direct descendant of one of the men who rode with Quantrill. He alleged that his great-grandfather was Cole Younger, the outlaw who robbed banks with Jesse James’s gang after the end of the Civil War.”

While all of his testimony provides us a unique look into the character and world view of these men – and how these racist anti-government, criminal gangs operate, it is the writer’s observations about what these long sentences in prison, often with extended periods isolated in Super-Max facilities, does to their personalities and the consequences for society when they are eventually released.

Recounting the day that the news flash came on TV showing the horrible bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma  City, by the home grown terrorist Kevin Macvey, he describes the response of an  Aryan leader. This ain’t shit,” he said,  “just wait until we get started. They done took me from my family for over 30 years because of some of punk-assed drug-conspiracy bullshit, and eventually they’re going to have to pay … We’re going to make them pay.”

We should pay particular attention to the writer’s conclusions:

“If these recent killings represent the Brotherhood’s twisted form of retribution, the fact that it has taken so long to begin is all the more chilling. To me this would demonstrate a hard-nosed determination that all citizens should find frightening. We shouldn’t be whistling past the graveyard on these killings… While the U.S. population grew 2.8 times since 1920, the U.S. prison population grew more than 20 times, and most dramatically since 1980. The fear among law enforcement is (or at least should be) is that now we have dozens upon dozens—if not hundreds (who knows, maybe even thousands)—of murderous chickens finally coming home to roost.

If our informant is right, it does much to explain the mysterious assassinations of law enforcement officials in Colorado and Texas.   This is a frightening development; something we expect to see in Latin American countries like El Salvador, Colombia and Mexico; not the USA.  But given the ready access to military assault weapons in this country, a group like the Aryan Brotherhood operating in secret can wreak havoc: which is their objective.

The Aryan Brotherhood of Texas is one of the most violent in the nation.  In a June 11, 2012 article in the Houston Chronicle, Malcolm Bales, the US Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas, pointed out that a lot of their violence occurs between rival factions of the Brotherhood, “What we noticed  is that they tend to beat up on each other a lot,” he said…“We continue to get information about people who have been disappeared, and the level of violence associated with their organization is something that we cannot tolerate.” The tattoo that each member wears on their body says it all: “God forgives, Brothers don’t.”

An Imprisoned  “General” in the Texas Brotherhood

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A Really Violent Criminal with Military Weapons

However as an ongoing criminal enterprise the Aryan Brotherhood could learn a lot from the Italian Mafia.  The reason the Mafia has survived so long is because they observe the rules of the game they are playing; the object of which is to outsmart the police and be very selective about who you kill.  Under no circumstances would the Cosa Nostra order hits on prosecuters, their wives or the Director of prisons.

When they get caught doing the crime either they do the time or the squeal…they have far better sense that to assault the law enforcement agencies of the state.  That’s why they have survived so long.  Unlike the “Celtic Warriors” in the Aryan Brotherhood who are trying to restore the white race to its former supremacy, the made Mafia soldiers do not regard themselves as latter day Centurions trying to restore the glories of ancient Rome; they are just trying to run a successful illegal enterprise and make all the money they can.  They confine their celebration of the glories of Italian culture to pigging out on pasta, listening to Operas, wearing finely tailored Italian silk suits, and choosing Italian names like La Cosa Nostra.

For the most part they are sober businessmen who frown on drug addiction and value marriage and family.  Hence they don’t get whacked out on drugs and pose for pictures brandishing their guns on the internet! They keep a low public profile and most of all…they are careful about who the shoot!  This is why Federal Attorney Bales says “I don’t compare them to the Mafia.  They are too weird and dysfunctional in how they handle their lives – heavy drug use and sociopathic personalities.”

Although the facts in the present assassination spree points to the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas as the likely perps – they have both motive and opportunity- in the USA one is presumed innocent until proven guilty.  Hence we shall have to await the results of the investigation to know what really happened, and the FBI will surely find out.

But with lawmen and outlaws shooting at each other all over the place, this tragic drama sounds like a tale from the wild wild west set in the 21st century.  And one would have to be deaf, dumb and blind, unable to see or hear evil, not to recognize the role played by the verbal arsonists like Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck, and their co-conspirators, in creating the racial hatred and anti- government paranoia that inspires angry, ignorant, powerless, straight white males to the ranks of racist nativist, white nationalist organizations like the Aryan Brotherhood….After all, it is the same method employed by the original Aryan brotherhood in Germany!

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Playthell G. Benjamin

March 3, 2013

Harlem, New York

The Goat!

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East!, Playthell on politics with tags , , , on March 30, 2013 by playthell
Image: U.S. President Obama smiles while he addresses students at the Jerusalem Convention Center in Jerusalem
Greatest Of All Times

Barack Obama In Israel

As is the case with so many essays published at Commentaries On The Times, the present essay came to me serendipitously, like a revelation from on high.  I had just finished watching a video of President Obama’s speech before students and other selected quest in Israel, and marveling at his political skills as he wooed and won the audience; who gave him repeated and boisterous standing ovations.

I got the feeling that I was watching the most gifted politician in American history.  Then I heard a guest on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, discussing his new book about forgotten US Presidents who had left their mark on American civilization, and was confirmed in that feeling.

When he was asked if he thought President Obama would be remembered, the author quickly pointed out that Barack Obama will be remembered if only because he is the first African/American President.  But then he went on to enumerate the President’s monumental achievements – saving the world economy from ruin, rescuing the US auto-industry, the Affordable Health Care Act, The Lilly Ledbetter Act, Icing Osama bin Laden, etc – and assured us they will never be forgotten.

As Erhardt talked I kept thinking about the President’s speech, and how Bibi Netanyahu was getting a dose of what the reactionary Republicans have been getting at the hands of this highly intelligent, profoundly humane, visionary, virtuoso at the art of politics.

For just as in America, Barack was winning the intelligent youths of Israel and touching the heart strings of all Israeli’s who dream of a peaceful future with their Arab neighbors.  It was not long before Bibi, Barack’s former antagonist, assumed a lips to posterior posture and maintained it for the balance of the President’s visit.  Politics does indeed make strange bedfellows.

Barack and Bibi in Israel
Barack and Bibi
Watch the hands: Who’s Listening to whom?

Taking a trip to Israel was viewed as an act akin to walking unarmed into a lion’s den by many astute observers from all over the American political spectrum. The right wing Republican infotainment complex was so certain the trip would be a disaster for the President that FOX NEWS – the flagship media shill of the Grand Obstructionist Party- was running advertisements for an upcoming program exposing President Obama’s hatred for Israel, hosted by that greasy headed numbskull charlatan Sean Hannity.  Unfortunately for them, the ad debuted just as the President was being addressed as “Dear Barack” by Israeli in a ceremony where he was conferred Israel’s highest civilian award…no other American President has received this honor.

 Israel Honors Barack

Barack being Honored in Israel

Simon Perez Places ….Medal on President Obama

Although such a reception would have been newsworthy during the best of times in the US Israeli relationship, it was especially remarkable now.  Just a couple of months ago Prime Minister Netanyahu brazenly attempted to interfere in the US presidential election by showing an open preference for his old Boston business partner Mitt Romney.  But when Obama won reelection it almost finished Netanyahu’s political career.

Among the most important duties of any Israeli Prime minister is to manage and maintain good relations with the US, without whose largess Israel’s security is compromised, and Netanyahu’s disrespectful treatment of President Obama had imperiled that critical relationship.  It almost cost Netanyahu the last election a few weeks ago. And this blunder was followed by the recent attempt to block the President’s nomination of former Republican Senator and decorated combat veteran Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense, led by the US Israel Lobby, an appointment that is now a fait accompli.

The speeches Barack Obama presented on his Mid-East sojourn were models of political acumen; they were designed to advance his goal of working out a solution to the intractable Israeli/Palestinian conflict.  And this is the basis upon which they must be judged, not one’s pet ideological peeves.  And the nit picking of academic historians, though accurate in factual detail, may well-represent a cure that is worse than the disease, in that it will sacrifice today’s progress on the altar of yesterday’s truths.

Of course thoughtful people who are familiar with the facts about the Middle-East will disagree with the substance of some of the President’s assertions, and others will question the symbolism of some of his acts – like placing a stone from the monument honoring Dr. Martian Luther King on the tomb of Theodore Hertzel, the founder of Modern Zionism; who was a racial nationalist and thus was far more like Minister Farrakhan than Reverend King, although pro-Zionist Jews will be quick to deny this fact.

It comes as no surprise that many of the President’s critics on the left were cynical about the trip altogether.  In an article titled “Why Obama’s Israel Trip is One Big Mistake” published on  Slate.Com,  Janine Zachariah scoffs at the President’s attempt to win over the Israeli’s and assures us: “If Obama wants to talk about drafting ultra-Orthodox Jews into the Israel Defense Forces or the price of apartments in Tel Aviv, he’ll find an audience. Those relatively marginal issues are what dominated Israel’s recent election, not the future with the Palestinians.” 

As usual, the hysterics on the left are wrong in their snarky critiques of the President.  Ms. Zachariah presents a laundry list of charges against Israel, which in her opinion nullifies any reason the President may have for visiting the Jewish nation.  Yet she offers no explanation as to how Barack will be able to address these complex issues without winning over substantial portions of the Israeli and American electorates.

It is as if the left yearns for a dictator who can issue a directive and the machinery of state act upon it the way the Catholic bureaucracy responds to an encyclical from the Pope, or the Chinese Communist Party carried out to the dictums of Chairman Mao without opposition.

But this is the USA, and we have a divided government in which the power of the executive is checked by the countervailing power of the legislature.  Hence the President will need the cooperation of Congress in order to successfully address the complex issues outlined by Ms. Zachariah, and he won’t get it if the Israel Lobby can successfully paint him as an enemy of Israel.

However, as is characteristic of the President’s critics on the left, Ms. Zachariah does not take the political opposition into account.  And as I have pointed out ad nauseum: That’s why the American left is confined to the status of a national debating society throwing verbal spitballs from the sidelines of American politics.  They are not even in the game where real power is exercised.

However as President of the United States Barack Obama is in the arena grappling with these monumental problems, trying to make deals that will further his objectives of peace and justice in the Middle East.  Which means his tactics must accommodate political reality, the commentariat can say whatever they want.  And even if he does not succeed he will have done no worse than all the American presidents before him.  But let’s not count him out just yet; for Barack is no ordinary politician.

The President’s political gifts were prominently on display during his Israeli Sojourn.  He beguiled the Israeli’s with his infectious charm, sun shine smile and moving eloquence.  And, Contrary to Ms. Zachariah’s prediction, he did talk about the future of the Palestinian people, in fact he called for the birth of a Palestinian State…and he was greeted with tumultuous applause. After effusive praise of Israel’s virtues and the history of Jewish suffering, the President told the audience:

There is no question that Israel has faced Palestinian factions who turned to terror, and leaders who missed historic opportunities. That is why security must be at the center of any agreement. And there is no question that the only path to peace is through negotiation. That is why, despite the criticism we’ve received, the United States will oppose unilateral efforts to bypass negotiations through the United Nations.

But the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and justice must also be recognized. Put yourself in their shoes – look at the world through their eyes. It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of her own, and lives with the presence of a foreign army that controls the movements of her parents every single day. It is not just when settler violence against Palestinians goes unpunished. It is not right to prevent Palestinians from farming their lands; to restrict a student’s ability to move around the West Bank; or to displace Palestinian families from their home. Neither occupation nor expulsion is the answer. Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people in their own land.”

The reaction of Haaretz, Israel’s leading newspaper, is a measure of the way Israeli’s responded to the President’s speech.

“For Barack Obama to come to Jerusalem, and speak to Israeli students and talk persuasively of the possibility of a secure and peaceful future, for him to do that and garner a roaring ovation of approval, he would have to have given one hell of a speech. He did.  This was the speech that these young Israelis not only needed but wanted to hear. A speech that radically redefined centrism in Israel, bringing it down to extraordinary common denominators in directions Israelis have learned to think of as diametrically opposed.  He spoke of security and peace as inextricably and necessarily linked, not a narrow choice between options, but a conscious choice for both.  They roared.”

The article went on to point out that the Israeli college students President Obama was speaking to were different from American students in important ways.

“This was not the student crowd that Obama is used to. These students are Israelis. This is a crowd that is world-weary, hair-trigger volatile. They have come by it honestly. In comparison to their American counterparts, they are, by and large, older by several years – some would say, several lifetimes. They enter college after years in the military, often followed by the escape-valve rehab of a marathon trek to remote continents.

They know a snow job when they hear it. And the rare times when someone makes a sincere and enormous effort to understand them, to see things from their point of view, and to bring them a message that no leader in Israel has managed to bring them, they know that too.”

The praise for President Obama becomes ever more effusive, and ends with this observation “This is not the same country after this speech. Four years from now, when he hands back the White House, Barack Obama should consider a change of direction, even a change of venue. Let him run here. It’s about time we knew again what a real leader was like.”

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Of all the reasons given for the affinity between the USA and Israel, one of the major reasons is never mentioned: their mutual origins as colonial settler states.  Perhaps this is because of the fundamental character of these societies: which is the massive land theft and displacement of the indigenous populations by force and the establishment of a racial caste system in which the invaders become the ruling elite.  This is true whether we are talking about the creation of the USA by Englishmen in the 18th century; the Republic of Liberia by Afro-Americans in the 19th century; or the state Israel in the 20th century. 

However if we simply changed the word “Arabs” to “Indians” this observation on the founding of Israel by  the great Zionist warrior, Moshe Dayan – in a 1969 speech in Haifa, quoted from quoted in Ha’aretz, April 4, 1969, could well have been made by an American statesman.

“We came here to a country that was populated by Arabs and we are building here a Hebrew, a Jewish state; instead of the Arab villages, Jewish villages were established. You even do not know the names of those villages, and I do not blame you because these villages no longer exist. There is not a single-Jewish settlement that was not established in the place of a former Arab Village.” ­

The similarities between the Israeli and American experience with nation building can be easily seen in the fact that American cities from Chicago Illinois, to Tecumseh Michigan, to Chicopee Massachusetts are named after the Indian villages that once resided upon this land before it was stolen by white invaders from Europe.

President Obama was no more candid in his discussion of the founding of Israel than any of the US presidents who have preceded him.  And the reason is simple: it contradicts the Master Narrative, i.e. the national myth of their civilization…hence neither Israeli nor American Leaders are anxious to discuss the real story of their nation’s founding.

Phillip Weiss, an American Jewish journalist, published an article titled It’s Time for the Media to Talk about Zionism on the World News Daily Information Clearing House, a website that bills itself as offering “News you won’t find on CNN or Fox News.”  Mr. Weiss excoriated the major American media for its lack of objective reporting and candid commentary on the state of Israel and its policies toward the Palestinians.  In this criticism he is joined by a host of brilliant Jewish critics of Israel and the one sided reportage on the question of Palestinian rights and national aspirations.

Don’t ask don’t tell is the rule regarding the crimes against the indigenous peoples that were essential to the founding of America and Israel.  But unlike Native Americans, the seizure of Palestinian lands occurred in the Middle of the 20th century, when genocidal invasions were unacceptable; largely as a result of the furor over the Jewish holocaust in Germany.   The Palestinians are 20th century victims of land hungry settler/colonialists, and they have been waging a protracted war against Israel for over half a century.

Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is also the root cause of their problems with Iran.  And President Obama’s position on Iran will not help the situation.  While he is resisting Netanyahu’s blatant attempt to persuade him to commit the US to a military conflict with the Persian nation, he has nevertheless adopted the Israeli view of the threat to the national security of the US and Israel, which is more propaganda than truth, more fiction than fact.

When I consider Israel’s security, I also think about a people who have a living memory of the Holocaust, faced with the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iranian government that has called for Israel’s destruction. It’s no wonder Israelis view this as an existential threat. But this is not simply a challenge for Israel – it is a danger for the entire world, including the United States. It would raise the risk of nuclear terrorism, undermine the non-proliferation regime, spark an arms race in a volatile region, and embolden a government that has shown no respect for the rights of its own people or the responsibilities of nations.

That is why America has built a coalition to increase the cost to Iran of failing to meet their obligations. The Iranian government is now under more pressure than ever before, and that pressure is increasing. It is isolated. Its economy is in a dire condition. Its leadership is divided. And its position – in the region, and the world – has only grown weaker.

First of all, Iran has not grown weaker because the misguided American attack on Iraq has empowered the Shiites, which is a de-facto extension of the power and influence of Iran in the region and would make a war with Iran infinitely more difficult than the Iraq war, in which the US deployed troops for ten years at a cost of two trillion dollars!  It was the greatest foreign policy blunder in American history…an attack on Iran will prove worse!

If the Iraq war was folly, an American war with Iran initiated by Israel would be an exercise in self-mutilation: a disaster for US relations in the region, and on the home front because it would wreck the US economy. Furthermore the President’s contention that Iran acquiring an atomic bomb “would raise the risk of nuclear terrorism, undermine the non-proliferation regime,” is dishonest hyperbole that will not advance the goal of peace in the Middle East – since everybody knows that Israel has a formidable nuclear arsenal yet refuses to even sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and thus do not allow inspections on its soil.

This attitude will result in a permanent state of hostility with their Muslim neighbors, which has caused Israel to become a garrison state, ever vigilant at the possibility of violence. And it shall remain so as long as the question of Palestinian sovereignty is unresolved.  Hence it is the possibility of peace offered by President Obama that inspired the most fervent hope and tumultuous applause

 

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Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
March 30, 2013

 

Politics Makes Strange Bedfellows

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East!, Playthell on politics with tags , , on March 21, 2013 by playthell
Barack and Bibi in Israel - March 2013
A Very Odd Couple

Barack Must Avoid Mid-East Pitfalls and Quagmires

On his present foray into the Middle East President Obama must proceed with caution.   This is the most volatile region of the world; the political landscape is strewn with pitfalls which can quickly metamorphose into quagmires that can bog an interventionist superpower down for a decade, cost trillions in treasure and rivers of blood – much of it resulting from the slaughter of innocents -yet end up leaving the situation worse than you found it.  This is the story of Iraq, the longest war in American history, where after a decade of combat and social engineering the cure has turned out to be worse than the disease.

When the US attacked Iraq with Operation “Shock and Awe” – a devastating aerial assault calculated to break the spirit of the Iraqi people and sap their will to resist,  which I called “March Madness” in a commentary – we were assured by pompous poseurs masquerading as great military thinkers such as Dirty Dick Cheney, “Rummy” Rumsfeld, and Paulie Wolfowitz, that American forces would be greeted with open arms by Iraqi citizens and hailed as heroes.  We were also told by George II’s National Security Advisor Dr. Condoleezza Rice – “a mere theoric who knows no more of war than a spinster” as Iyago said of Cassio –  that the war would be over in a few weeks, and it would be completely paid for by Iraqi oil revenues. George Bush, then the commander-In-Chief, even flew out to an aircraft carrier in his moth eaten pilot’s jumpsuit a couple of months later and formally declared victory.  History testifies to the fact that they were wrong on all counts!  And it could prove to be the most costly blunder in American history.

A Serial Blunderer

Bush Declares victory

He declared victory…… but didn’t call the troops home

Now Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu is trying to get President Obama to do it all over again.  Thus far Barack has kept his own counsel on these matters and ignored Bibi’s various attempts to try and persuade him to commit American military power to an assault on Iran.  However the American intelligence forces are already deeply involved in hostile covert acts inside Iran that range from implanting exotic computer viruses in their nuclear research programs to assassinating nuclear scientist.  Which makes the arguments about the danger Iran represents to us sound absurd and hypocritical.  Given the historic American meddling in the internal affairs of this country, it is they who should be afraid of us.

If the President is to have a positive and lasting effect on the course of events in the region he must first stand up to the Israeli’s and force a settlement with the Palestinians so  that America can gain credibility as an honest broker of peace.  His visit with Palestinian leader Mohmoud Abbis – about which i shall have more to say in a future commentary – is a good beginning.

And he must seek to avoid any wider war with Iran.  The best case for diplomacy over military adventurism lay in the consequences of the Iraq war, and the evidence is compelling.  In a New York Times Op-Ed written by John A Nagil, a veteran military officer who saw combat in Iraq and now research professor at the Naval Academy, we get a succinct cost/benefit analysis of the war in Iraq.

“The cost of the Iraq War….are staggering,” writes Nagil, “nearly 4,500 Americans killed and more than 30,000 wounded, many grievously; tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis wounded or killed; more than two trillion in direct government expenditures; and the significant weakening of the major regional counterweight to Iran and consequent strengthening of that country’s position an ambitions. Great powers rarely make national decisions that explode so quickly and completely in their face.”

Reading this comment several things come to mind.  First there is the fact that two trillion may sound like a lot of money in the abstract, but to fully understand what that means in practical terms it should be pointed out that we could completely rebuilt the American infrastructure and put a million people to work in this same period.  And Professor Nagil’s final observation regarding bad decisions by great powers was the subject of a 2,500 word essay written on the eve of the invasion of Iraq.

Titled “The Iraq Attack: Bush’s March of Folly – I argued that the invasion of Iraq was a classic case of folly as defined by the two time Pulitzer Prize winning historian Barbra Tuchman, and would be the undoing of George Bush’s presidency. That when historians looked back on his administration in the cold light of the future, it would be this misbegotten war that will define his legacy…and it would be viewed as the reign of a hapless buffoon who was beguiled into taking the nation to war on false pretenses.  And so it has come to pass.

It reasonable to assume in light of my predictions about Iraq, and the fact that I also pointed out that the real threat of Jihadist getting a nuke lay in Pakistan – another argument that all the wise guys in the punditariat now share – my predictions about Iran should be taken more seriously than the major media wags who are now mouthing the hysterical charges of the Israeli government that Iran poses a grave and present threat to the national security of Israel and the United states.  My response to this charge can be summed up in one compound word, which happens to be the title of a profound book on the subject by Princeton Philosopher Dr. Harry G. Frank: BULLSHIT!

To insist that even gaining the capability of making an atomic bomb on the part of the Iranians justifies a military strike on their country is transparent madness driven by hubris, which is but an expression of the arrogance of power.   When viewed from the perspective of Iran, who knows that the US has thousands on nuclear weapons that are sufficient to destroy all life on earth several times; is the only nation to actually employ an atomic bomb in warfare; refuses to declare a no first strike policy, and tolerates a nuclear arsenal in Israel which is estimated by experts on nuclear weaponry to be larger than Great Britain’s; yet they refuse to even sign the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty,  hence they don’t allow inspectors on their soil: the American and Israel position is an insult to the national sovereignty of Iran, and a burlesque of the art of diplomacy.

Hence it is reasonable to believe that if the US and Israel continues down this road it will eventually lead to a war with Iran. One need only look at the size of Iran on the map as compared to Iraq, and consider their level of military organization to see that a war with Iran would be a very different proposition from war with Iraq.  Plus the Iranians are Persians not Arabs, they were a great civilization when America, and even Western Europe, was a wilderness.

What President Obama should be calling for is a nuclear free zone in the Mid-East and energetically pursue his agenda of ridding the world of nuclear weapons altogether.  And in the meantime he must resist any attempt by the Israel’s, supported by their neo-con and Christian Zionists allies in the US, to push America into a war with Iran.

 

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Playthell  G. Benjamin

Harlem,  New York

March 23, 2013

Rand Paul: Charlatan, Fool or Paranoiac?

Posted in Playthell on politics with tags , , on March 11, 2013 by playthell
Rand Paul 
 The Paranoid Strain in American Politics

A star is born in the Grand Obstructionist Party!  This seems the obvious conclusion based upon the response to Senator Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, who conducted an old style filibuster by speaking for twelve hours on the Senate floor last week during the confirmation hearings for John O. Brennan, the President’s choice to head the powerful Central Intelligence agency.

The verbose Senator was roundly applauded by a mixed bag of paranoids and ideologues across party lines, as he railed on ad nauseum about the dangers of drone warfare, boldly demanding that the President assure us that no non-combatant American citizen who is sitting and quietly having his coffee will be suddenly attacked by drones on US soil.

It is a fear that struck me as having about the same probability of occurring as an invasion by men from mars. Yet given the wackadoodle nature of politics in the Republican Party these days, plus the widespread ignorance and gullibility of the American public when presented with conspiracy theories about the sinister intentions of their government, the most responsive government to public opinion in the world, many Americans are cheering Rand Paul for what they regard as the heroic stance of this lone Senator against the encroaching tyranny of government.

Even if the Kentucky Senator occasionally gets something right – like his opposition against escalating hostile actions against Iran – we must remember that a broken clock is right twice every day, but you wouldn’t  base important appointments on their ability to tell time.  And basing your views of how the world works on the blathering of Ron Paul, who reminds me of every pill freak I have ever know – don’t laugh cause this guy is a doctor and could well be self-medicating – is an exercise in folly.

Rand Paul’s views are often mercurial, ill-informed and reflect what the distinguished historian Richard Hofstadter called The Paranoid Style” in American politics in his 1964 essay published in Harper’s Magazine.  Spurred by the reckless and dangerous rhetoric employed by Senator Barry Goldwater, a rightwing Republican from Arizona, in his bid for the US presidency, Professor Hofstadter offered the following observations.

“American politics has often been an arena for angry minds. In recent years we have seen angry minds at work mainly among extreme right-wingers, who have now demonstrated in the Goldwater movement how much political leverage can be got out of the animosities and passions of a small minority. But behind this I believe there is a style of mind that is far from new and that is not necessarily right-wind. I call it the paranoid style simply because no other word adequately evokes the sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy that I have in mind.

In using the expression “paranoid style” I am not speaking in a clinical sense, but borrowing a clinical term for other purposes. I have neither the competence nor the desire to classify any figures of the past or present as certifiable lunatics., In fact, the idea of the paranoid style as a force in politics would have little contemporary relevance or historical value if it were applied only to men with profoundly disturbed minds.

It is the use of paranoid modes of expression by more or less normal people that makes the phenomenon significant. Of course this term is pejorative, and it is meant to be; the paranoid style has a greater affinity for bad causes than good. But nothing really prevents a sound program or demand from being advocated in the paranoid style. Style has more to do with the way in which ideas are believed than with the truth or falsity of their content. I am interested here in getting at our political psychology through our political rhetoric. The paranoid style is an old and recurrent phenomenon in our public life which has been frequently linked with movements of suspicious discontent.”

The fact that this description of American politics was written a half century ago, but could have been written about American politics today, supplies compelling evidence that this phenomena is a recurring theme in American political history.  Two contemporary examples will suffice: one on the right and one on the left.

The belief by an impassioned minority that the attack on the world trade towers and the Pentagon on 9/11 were carried out by the Bush Administration is a striking example of paranoia on the left.  And Rand Paul’s filibuster demanding that the president assure the nation that he would not use drones against non-combatant Americans on US soil is characteristic of the paranoia that fuels the Tea Party movement on the Republican right.  Although there are some who support this concern from both extremes of the political continuum – which is the case with Code Pink’s support of Paul’s filibuster – the Kentucky Senator is a right-wing Libertarian.

While some see Paul as checking the power of the President by demanding accountability, I think he was grandstanding for the press in an attempt to raise his national profile.  Already he is murmuring about a run for the presidency in 2016, but playing upon the paranoia of fringe elements on the right and left of the American political spectrum does not strike me as a winning formula.

The ideological range of those who have rushed to support Paul’s filibuster is intriguing; it reveals a Sympatico between elements of the right and left that share a paranoia about governmental power, exposing fissures in the ranks of the Democrats and Republicans.  On foreign policy matters Republican opinion ranges from neo-con hawks that are ever ready to intervene anywhere in the world with military might in order to enforce American foreign policy goals, such as Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham, to Libertarian isolationists like Rand Paul.

The Democrats tend to be less interventionist than the Republicans, but they can be persuaded to deploy military forces on foreign soil if they are convinced that “freedom” is being trampled underfoot by bloodthirsty tyrants, and innocent lives are at stake.  It is an expression of what Henry Kissinger calls “the evangelical” character of American foreign policy. While earnestly seeking a peaceful world, President Obama has nevertheless been drawn into the conflict in Libya, and may yet be lured into the Syrian imbroglio – a move that will inspire some resistance among Democrats and Republicans alike.

The question at issue in Senator Paul’s filibuster however is the Presidents employment of drone warfare, and if is constitutional.  On this question party lines have become blurred. While anti-war Democrats concerned with guarding the civil liberties of Americans applaud Senator Paul, right wing Republican militarists such as Graham and McCain supports the President’s use of drones, ridicules their Republican colleague’s concerns and dismiss them as the foolishness that they are.

Taking the floor in an uncharacteristic defense of the President Senator McCain – who normally acts like he is still carrying a grudge because he lost his presidential bid against Obama – intoned “We’ve done, I think, to a lot of Americans by making them think that somehow they’re in danger form their government.  They’re not. But we are in danger from a dedicated longstanding, easily replaceable leadership enemy that is hell bent on our destruction.” 

Senator Lindsay Graham Joined the defense by pointing out that there was a drone program under George Bush, and there was none of the fears and anxieties being whipped up by Rand Paul and his supporters.  However Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont – Chairman of the powerful Judiciary Committee – voted against the President’s nominee, incensed by the refusal of the President to provide memos detailing their legal arguments in defense of using drones against American citizens anywhere.  Thus far the Obama administration has only been willing to provide such memos to the Intelligence Committee.

It seems that Attorney General Eric Holder’s terse letter to Senator Paul, in which he answered the Senator’s questions about whether the President thought he has the right to fire a drone to kill a non-combatant American on American soil with a simple “No,” was enough to assuage the Libertarian Republican’s fears.  But the fact that liberal Democratic Senators Lehey of Vermont and Jeff Merkley of Oregon joined far right Republican reactionaries like Tim Cruz of Texas in rejecting the President’s choice to lead the CIA, dramatically illustrates the extent to which the Paranoid strain in American politics infects members of both parties.

A Blathering Clown!

Rand_paul_370x278

 This Doctor’s  Prescription Spells Disaster!

That’s how they all ended up supporting the interminable blathering of a Senator who is either a charlatan or a paranoid fool…or a bit of all the above.  Alas the paranoid vision of the far right and the real left – the Marxist, not the miscast liberal Democrats – is such that you can barely tell them apart on some critical issues.  Their only distinction is that one is coming from the right and the other from the left, and as I have written elsewhere: It is a distinction without a difference!

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Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
March 10, 2016
 

Tavis and West Expose True Motives

Posted in My Struggle On the Left!, On Dr. Cornell West, Playthell on politics with tags , , , on March 5, 2013 by playthell
                   Cornel West and Tavis Smilie Heckle and Jeckle: Two Trickster Crows

 Truth Crushed to Earth….Will Rise Again!

When I was a boy in Florida the old folks would say “Truth cometh in the morning.”  Well that was never truer than on this Saturday morning, as I awoke to the snarky voices of Tavis Smilie and Dr. Cornell West chattering away on my radio.  I had fallen asleep listening to the soulful blues infested voice of the late great Dinah Washington singing the Duke Ellington/ Juan Tizol tune “Caravan,” and awoke to a hear the dissonant sound of a sarcastic soliloquy fashioned in the fevered brain of Dr. Longhair, and pouring from his pie hole in a lava like flow of putrid bile.  He was joyfully engaging in his favorite sport: Obama bashing.

First, the fuzzy headed professor contemptuously ridiculed the President’s negotiating skills, trashing him for not being able to get the “Public Option” passed instead of congratulating him on the massive overhaul of the medical delivery system that he did manage to finess through Congress with consummate political skill.  This achievement is a major reason why a panel of presidential historians has already selected him as one of the top ten American Presidents.

Yet it was the Affordable Health Care Act – along with the president’s achievements in preventing the collapse of the world economy and ending the Depression at home; his diplomatic triumphs in signing a nuclear arms agreement with Russia that helped insure the survival of life on this planet in a very real way; plus ending two wars, etc – that prompted me to rate him even higher on the scale in the pantheon of American presidents. (See: The Real Barack Obama vs. The Reagan Myth” on this blog)

However what I personally find most galling about Cornel West’s criticism of President Obama is his smug assumption of moral and intellectual superiority.  Part of this of course can be attributed to the smug pretentions of academics that hold PhD’s from prestigious universities – a feeling that is enhanced if they hold professorships at such universities – but I remain at a lost to discover the source from whence the professor’s feeling of moral superiority over the President arises.

With the diligence of Diogenes in search of an honest man, I  perused the history of both men and found nothing in my interrogation of professor West’s record that would provide evidence to support his arrogant assumption of moral superiority over President Obama.  In Cornel West I see a talented intellectual who is well educated in his fields of religion and philosophy, and a gifted orator whose notoriety as a public intellectual is do more to his silver tongue and public relations skills that his intellectual gravitas.   He is a highbrow rapper who, like Little Wayne, has made a fortune playing to the cheap seats.

Conversely, Barack Obama is one of those rare special altruistic personalities who decide to spend their life in public service early on; addressing problems that will enhance the quality of life for their fellow citizens, and they purposely make choices about the type of education they will pursue guided by what they think they will need to become change agents through participation in the political process.

That’s why Barack chose the law, Constitutional law, because he thought it would best equip him to become an agent of change.  That’s also why his fellow Harvard man Dr. WEB DuBois chose the study of history, sociology and economics over a career as a philosopher, and was indifferent to the importuning of Harvard’s George Santayana, perhaps America’s most influential philosopher, to become his protégé – an opportunity West would have leaped at.

Dubois saw that those disciplines would better arm him in the fight to uplift his oppressed people.  And his educational choices led him to become one of the greatest Americans of the last century, and his ideas, scholarship and activism contributed mightily to the advancement of black people here and in Africa.  These are very special people; men like Barack and DuBois.  Indeed, Barack Obama has shown a consistent commitment to changing the plight of the poor and powerless throughout his adult life.

First there was his decision to take a job as a community organizer in the dangerous poverty pockets of Chicago – the people Harvard sociologist William J. Wilson calls “The Truly Disadvantaged” in his revelatory text by the same name.  Then we have Barack Obama’s legislative record in the Illinois State Assembly, and his record in the US Senate.  All of these records unambiguously demonstrate a consistent record concern for the least among us – the poor and the powerless. If you would like to examine President Obama’s legislative record in historical context, see the list at the end of my essay “Civilization or Savagery” on this blog.

Alas, Professor West and his doppelganger Tavis Silly inflicted a conversation on the audience about the looming budget sequester that was so lightweight it would be an act of generosity to call it simple-minded prattle.  Maybe it’s because these guys are in such demand they don’t have time to thoughtfully reflect on these complex issues…or maybe they are shameless charlatans and vulgar careerist who have entered into a Faustian bargain with Mammon and they will say or do anything that will help them achieve their true goal: making money.   I tend toward the former assumption; although it is clear that these guys are scrupulous about getting paid…and as much as possible. After all Cornel gets $30, 000 for a speech.

I see no record of self-less service and sacrifice on the part of West.  From all appearances he is doing just fine on Cloud Nine, spouting dangerous sophistry masquerading as political wisdom, while abdicating his proper role as intellectual  point man in the fight against the Religious Right; whose theology fuels much of the ideology of the contemporary Republican Party.  Instead he attacks what he thinks are President Obama’s moral failings; he even called the President a “war criminal” the other day- while simultaneously calling racist reactionary rednecks like Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich his “Dear Brothers.”

Transparent opportunist that he is, when Dr. West and sidekick Tavis Silly invited Paul Wykoff, Vietnam war combat veteran and head of an organization of Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, on the show to discuss the plight of veterans, they quickly tried to enlist the old soldier and political progressive into their persistent attack on the President and turn the conversation into a referendum against his leadership and policies.

Paul Reickoff

Paul-Rieckhoff - Iraq and Afghanistsn vets

 Spokesman for Iraq and Afghanictan Combat Veterans 

As West droned on in his annoying voice about the “Dronification of War,”using it to  continue his attack on President Obama, the conversation took an unfortunate for Dr. West and sidekick, exposing them for the lightweight blabbermouths that they are.     Rykoff first explained what it was like fighting on the front lines, since he is an ex-infantryman who saw combat.  He shocked them when he not only refused to denounce the use of drones – since he knows it will save American soldiers from risking life and limb to do the same job these robots do.

But the real kick in the head was when Wykoff said that President Obama was a very elightened leader on questions of war and peace.  He explained that the president had a sophisticated understanding of the technological options open to him as commander-In-Chief and were deploying them Solomonic wisdom .  He went on to say that more importantly President Obama has always pursued non-military options and prefers diplomacy to bombs because unlike many other people in Washington he understands that you cannot impose democracy in a country with bombs and bullets.

To hear Mr. Rykoff  tell it, President Obama is just about as enlightened and humane a leader as one could hope for in matters of war and peace.  Needless to say, I was on the edge of my seat with my ears cocked like a hound dog in anxious anticipation of the learned Dr. West’s response.  Would he acknowledge the possibility that he might have been wrong when he recently labeled the president a war criminal?   My wait proved to be in vain, as vain as Cornel West’s ego, for he  quickly changed the subject without comment.

West fared no better in trying to elicit Wykoff’s aid in painting an ominous portrait of the Africa Command’s mission on the African continent.   Wykoff saw nothing sinister in it, and only questioned whether we should be spending more money on developments at home.  After all, he was on the show to discuss the desperate plight of those who have bravely fought America’s foreign wars but are struggling at home.

I shall soon have more to say about what I think of drone warfare, and the Africa command.  But suffice it to say that in my view Dr. West’s position on drone warfare is neither intelligent nor morally superior to the Presidents; as he evidently thinks it is.  The more I hear from Cornel West the less convinced I am that he is a man of integrity, whose concern the poor and oppressed trumps his need for ego-gratification and the material rewards that accompany celebrity and intellectual notoriety in America.

Some of my colleagues have decided that he and Tavis are simply pimping off the misery of black people, the poor, the unemployed, and the economically distressed working and middle classes.  Since I once held Dr. West in high regard I don’t want to believe that he is that cold blooded.  I think Professor Bushy Bead is motivated by a combination of age old human failings of biblical proportions: Envy, Avarice, Ambition and revenge.  And these vices are fueled by combustible resentments of unrequited love.

If I had the ear of the President I would put a bug in his ear and hip him to how to handle this poot-butt professor; but since I don’t I’m forced to make a public plea: Please show this guy some love!  I would also tell him to consider President Lyndon Johnson’s strategy for handling that dangerous demagogue J. Edgar Hoover, who as head of the FBI, and thus had the capacity to create all kinds of problems for the President during a critical period of American history, when he was trying to do great things.

When Attorney General Robert Kennedy asked Johnson in exasperation, “Why don’t you just fire Hoover?”  To wit that wily old political player Lyndon Johnson responded: “Cause I’d rather have hoover inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in!”

Unrequited love is a Dangerous Thing
Cornel and Barack 
It leads to irrational destructive actions

 

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Playthell George Benjamin
Harlem New York
March 5, 2013 
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