Archive for November, 2009

The Prophet Comes To Harlem

Posted in Cultural Matters, Playthell on politics on November 23, 2009 by playthell

The Rev. Doctor Jeremiah Wright Preaches at Salem

      

It was altogether fitting that Jeremiah Wright should be invited into the pulpit at Salem, a congregant of the first black American Church: The African Methodist Episcopal Church founded in 1792 in Philadelphia, just five years after the ratification of the United States Constitution in that same city. And from his first utterances the pastor put the meeting squarely within the fighting tradition of this church that once conspired with enslaved Africans to overthrow the slave regime with blood and fire, and who’s Bishops helped to organize the African National Congress in South Africa that would eventually bring on the collapse of the apartheid regime and put Nelson Mandela in power! 

      When Rev. Wright took the stage he was greeted with a standing ovation accompanied by African drums and shouts of salutation.   Dr. James McIntosh introduced him with all the grandeur of a court griot reciting praise songs heralding the arrival of a great warrior of the people.  And to this crowd, the present writer included, he most surely is. From the outset the Reverend Dr. Wright made it clear that this was not a worship service, rather he had been asked by long time media watch dog and cultural warrior sister Betty Dobson – who looked like an African Queen Mother in her flowing traditional gown – to speak to the question of the portrayal of the black community in American mass media.

       As a man with more degrees than a thermometer – which include two master’s and a PhD  in theology – the Rev Dr. Wright held forth in a scholary lecture worthy of a professor of media studies.  Beginning his talk with an analysis of how images are manipulated in theater and film, the central thesis of his polemic was that the black experience with major white media “has been traumatic.”  And, as he correctly notes, this is largely because black people are not allowed to tell our story from our perspective.  Instead the black experience is too often interpreted by others who may or may not understand our spiritual strivings, or have our best interest at heart.  

        As an example of how the black voice has been silenced in mass media, he quoted a Nigerian professor who pointed out that in the epic movie “Armistead,” which was based on the true story of the 19th century trial of a heroic mutiny by captured Africans on a Cuban ship, the Africans had no intelligible spoken parts. He then contrasted this with Speilberg’s treatment of the Spanish characters whose dialogue was accompanied by English sub-titles. “Did Spielberg deny voice to the Jewish victims in the holocaust?” he asked.  I must confess that I had never considered this point; a fact which Dr. Wright cited as an example of how the black community has become conditioned to accept dehumanizing images of ourselves.   But then, I never saw the movie.

       The Reverend Doctor Wright went on to demonstrate the truth of essayist and cultural theoretician Albert Murray’s axiom that white media will always choose pathology over heroism when selecting a story about African-Americans. This point is also being stressed by Afro-American film critic Armond White in his critique of the new film “Precious.” As is his fashion, White cites a number of films with African American themes that are far more deserving of the press Precious – a tawdry tale of pathology – is getting; the instant classic “Cadillac Records” among them.  To further illustrate his point Dr. Wright cited the fact that when he and a group of black theologians held a conference on “The Prophetic Witness of the Black Church,” and presented learned papers on the subject to try and bring some clarity to the confusion about black church traditions and his mission spread by hysterical verbal arsonist at the White Apartheid Broadcast company aka WABC am, the white media ignored it and continued to spout ignorant and incendiary disinformation.  

      Dr. Wright cited an Iraqi scholar who has written a book on American/Iraqi relations; She told him “you Americans construct the narrative of Iraq in the media, The Iraqi’s are voiceless.”  Yet once the narrative has been established – no matter if its fiction – the entire conversation becomes about the narrative, not the reality.  The Iraqi scholar pointed out that she was also a victim of a misleading media narrative.  And she cautioned him to remain true to his identity.“The media tramatizes, stigmatizes, and systemizes the dehumanization of African people.  And then the media paralyzes African people” observed Dr. Wright.

        He also talked about how the white media controls the interpretation of our history, and he began to resurrect historical images black people constructed in a counter narrative to white supremacist fantasies. Naturally he commented at some length on Dr. Dubois’ masterpiece of American letters “The Souls of Black Folk.”  Especially his deeply moving and enlightening essay “Of the Sorrow Songs,” the first treatise on the sacred music of the African American slave community written by a trained scholar.  Then in a sing song cadence he pointed out that William James, distinguished Prof. of religion at Harvard and brother of the great novelist Henry James, had declared “God Dam America for her treatment of the Philippines!”

Upon his quotation of James’ Jeremiad the audience rose from their seats in a boisterous ovation.  Dr. Wright then discussed the early black theater movement at the turn of the 20th century.  Analyzing the cultural nationalist character of the early New York musical revues by the gifted actor/comedians Williams and Walker – “In Abyssinia,” “In Bandana Land,” etc – he asked how many people in the audience had ever heard of Bert Williams.  Few hands were raised in the crowded sanctuary, so the learned Doctor explained that these shows represented an attempt by conscious black artists to rescue the African American image from the constant racist attacks and vulgar parodies of the blackface minstrel shows that were all the rage among Euro-Americans.

       Rev. Wright also pointed out that we are still fighting for control of our image in mass media, and argues that we “have internalized our degradation. Internalized self-hatred, worship of all things white and reject all things African.”  He also observed that publishing and print media is dying, being wiped out by the internet.  Of course, this prediction is not new.  Ten years ago I wrote an essay titled “Why I Retreated Into Cyberspace,” in which I argued that the pulp media was headed toward extinction; but now I know that may be an overstatement of the immediate problem.  However, in so far as the future of serious Afro-American literature of the sort that nurtured the intellect and inspired hope in previous generations, the torrent of “ghetto novels” written by people who are untutored in literary history and technique, and promoting decadent rather than uplifting images, is threatening to drive it from the marketplace.  There may come a time when serious black literature may be published only by university presses, which are subsidized and do not depend upon the market.

 At one point Rev. Wright compared the miseducation of Afro-Americans to the training of sheepdogs; pointing out that a sheepdog will attack other dogs to protect the sheep!  And he cited Clarence Thomas as an example.  He relied on black psychologist like Niam Akbar, who pointed out that our ancestors were in bondage but they were not slaves because they never consented to it, and he cited an unbroken pantheon of black freedom fighters in all fields, while periodically injecting lines from the Afro-American spiritual Freedom over me: “Before I’ll be a slave I’ll be buried in my grave.”  Curiously, since we were in a church, the rest of that verse which he did not recite would be most appropriate: “and go home to my God and be free!”  In this part of the speech Rev. Wright fully utilized the oratorical devices of the black preacher. His speech became a dynamic crescendo, in which he reiterated his major theme at regular intervals around a rhythmic cadence that was both inspirational and irresistible, bringing this highly political crowd of atheist and near atheist to their feet in a rousing standing ovation!  

People turned out in the rain!

To Hear the Much Maligned Preacher For Them self

Since it takes money to run an organization and CEMOTAP does not seek foundation or government funding – because he who pays the piper calls the tune – they pass the collection plate at their meetings to cover expenses. In this sense they are operating in the tradition established by some of our most successful leaders – such as A. Phillip Randolph and Dr. Carter G. Woodson – who insisted that black people must finance their own struggle.  Hence instead of seeking the support of foundations or the comfort and security of a university professorship Dr. Woodson, whose academic credentials could easily match any professor at Harvard where he earned his PhD, founded The Association for the Study of Negro Life and History and financed his research by selling memberships. 

      African Americans of all classes invested in the work of the organization by purchasing these memberships and allowed Dr. Woodson to publish a first rate scholarly journal; a bulletin for widespread popular consumption; establish a company to publish his and other pioneering scholarly works of enduring value, and train a cadre of professional historians who rewrote American history from the black perspective employing the highest standards of scientific historical research.  Asa Phillip Randolph, who led the fight to organize the lowest workers on the payroll of the Pullman company, which was then one the largest and richest corporations in the world, refused to accept money from white labor unions.  Even when he was about to be evicted from his office he refused offers of assistance from John L. Lewis, the leader of the powerful United Mine Workers.  Randolph insisted that black folk must finance their own liberation!  CEMOTAP has learned that lesson well; which is why they routinely delve into controversial issues that other African American organizations dare not touch.

Longtime Activist Ted Wilson Was There

 

 

The Moving Spirit and Organizer of the Literary Tribute to Amiri Baraka

“Let Loose On the World”

 

Anti-Vaccination Activist Curtis Cost Was there Too

Hawking his latest book warning about the dangers of vaccination

Led by anti-police brutality activist and former cop Delacy Davis, who initiated the giving and set the standard by putting two hundred dollars in the collection plate, many others gave quite generous sums.  In the spirit of the church, whose methods of raising money are tried and true, Dr. McIntosh made the most innovative pitch for money I have yet heard.  “Do any of you have a backache?” He asked the crowd, many of whom had been sitting for hours waiting to hear Jeremiah the Prophet. “I am a physician,” he announced, “trained in the science of medicine, so I am qualified to diagnose the cause of your pain: Evil spirits!  It’s those wretched dollars you’ve got in your pocket!   Just dump them into the plate and it will ease your pain.” Then the good doctor called upon the audience to banish the evil Andrew Jackson and the undercover African Alexander Hamilton and confine them to the collection plate. 

The pitch, to say the least, was productive as the people rushed to rid themselves of evil spirits masquerading as US currency.  It was, by any measure, a triumphant evening. At the end of the day, it was another enlightening CEMOTAP production.  And this time the prophet was honored in his own land.

 *****************

 

Playthell Benjamin

Harlem New York

November 23, 2009

David Brooks Missed The Point Again

Posted in On Right Wing Pundits and Bloviators, Playthell on politics with tags , , , , , , , on November 20, 2009 by playthell

 

  “Tis better to be thought a fool than open your mouth and remove all doubt”

Mark Twain

 

On Rushing To Therapy

 Reading David Brooks is a strange experience.  Although the writing is usually well crafted and his arguments crammed full of interesting information – erudite even – somehow he often manages to miss the point.  On such occasions he is far more glib than learned; his arguments have only the illusion of depth. The latest example of this curious phenomenon is his November 10, column in the New York Times “The Rush to Therapy.”   After thoroughly misreading the historical record regarding race and populism in a transparent apologia attempting to explain away the vulgar racism of the so-called “Tea Party Patriots” in his column, “No, It’s not about Race” – for which I was compelled to straighten his cap in my critique “David Brooks Is Clueless,” available on this site – he has now chimed in on the slaughter at Fort Hood. And once again his missive promotes confusion rather than provide clarity.

 For Mr. Brooks’ taste the nation has fretted far too much over the psychological problems of Major Nidal Hassan, who went “postal” and shot up a bunch of his fellow warriors at Fort Hood; men who were presumed to be his comrades-in-arms, men whose psychological problems he was commanded to heal.  “Major Hassan was portrayed as a disturbed individual who was under a lot of stress” he writes.  “We learned about pre-traumatic stress syndrome, and secondary stress disorder which one gets from hearing about other people’s stress.”  It is fair to say that Mr. Brooks gives short shrift to such arguments and snidely notes: “A shroud of political correctness settled over the conversation.  Hasan was portrayed as a victim of society, a poor soul who was pushed over the edge by prejudice and unhappiness.  There was a national rush to therapy.” 

 In his infinite wisdom Mr. Brooks ridicules our naiveté and calls a spade a spade: “This was understandable.  It is important to tamp down vengeful hatreds in moments of passion but it was also patronizing. Public commentators assumed the air of kindergarten teachers who had to protect their children from thinking impermissible and intolerant thoughts.”  While I have heard enough from the ubiquitous Times columnist to know that we probably have radically different ideas about what constitute “impermissible and intolerant thoughts,” in my view “protecting’ Americans from having such thoughts is as much the business of Mr. Brooks, who assumes the air of a college teacher, as those he denounces in his column. 

 For instance, I have read nothing penned by Mr. Brooks that explains to the American people the role US foreign policy played in making us the target of the Islamic Jihad.  Why not Sweden if it’s all because they hate our personal freedom, secular society, and licentious sexuality?  While I cannot claim to be an expert on Mr. Brook’s oeuvre, I suspect one would never learn the answers to these questions reading it.  Alas I can say with certainty that you will learn nothing useful in answering these fundamental questions in the column under discussion.

And if the commentators Mr. Brooks criticizes are guilty of being “patronizing” because they wish to factor in the mental stress Dr. Nidal was suffering, his attitude toward the ravages of mental depression can be justly labeled contemptuous as well as abysmally ignorant of the nature of acute depression.  Had Mr. Brooks bothered to tune in on one of the premiere tribunes of our times, Bill Moyers – a man of towering intellect, balanced judgment and sterling character – he might have written a more intelligent column; a quality Mr. Brooks apparently confuses with intellectual exhibitionism.

 In a moving and enlightening program examining a new documentary on the mental maladies resulting from the experience of combat – i.e. organized mass murder – we were provided an inside look at the profound stress military psychiatrists are subjected to.  Much of their work is trying to help soldiers suffering from Post-traumatic Stress Syndrome – which means they must listen attentively as these warriors attempt to exorcise their demons by reliving the horrors of combat through talk therapy, and then give them pills to keep them calm in an attempt control the suicidal impulses that accompany acute depression, even inducing a chemical euphoria disguised as happiness. 

 The tales told by men who had fought in war and its effects on the psychiatrist who are tasked with helping maintain their mental health, leave no doubt that Dr. Nidal may well have been motivated by some species of mental breakdown.   It is certainly a good place to start in any interrogation of the factors that might have compelled him to launch a murderous assault on the soldiers he was entrusted to guide and protect, both as an army officer and a Psychiatrist.  Yet Mr. Brooks argues that this approach “absolved Hasan – before the real evidence was in – of his Responsibility.”

 In Mr. Brook’s view it wasn’t about the mysterious workings of a mind that snapped under great stress – due to the extreme horror of the stories he was hearing; the fact that the horrors related by the soldiers were being perpetrated against his Muslim brethren, and the pressures he was under now that he had been ordered to deploy to the battlefields and assist in those atrocities – rather it was all a question of “the master narrative” Dr. Hasan chose to make sense of events in his world.    He tells us that “evidence is now mounting to suggest he chose the extremist War On Islam narrative that so often leads to murderous results.”  Mr. Brookes goes on to argue: “The conversation in the first days after the massacre was well intentioned, but it suggested a willful flight from reality.” 

 While I agree that there was a “flight from reality,” I am also certain that we have different conceptions of what reality means.  However I think Brooks got it right when he observed that the initial conversation among the nation’s opinion makers “ignored the fact that the war narrative of the struggle against Islam is the central feature of American foreign policy. It ignored the fact that this narrative can be embraced by a self-radicalizing individual in the US as much as by groups Tehran, Gaza or Kandahar.”  However for our thoughtful conservative pundit – whom many consider the smart set’s conservative thinker – failure to recognize these facts denies “the possibility of evil.”  

 That Mr. Brooks cannot conjure a scenario where a narrative presenting the unvarnished truth about the role of US policy in the Islamic World might drive a devout Muslim military psychiatrist to righteous anger, which metamorphoses into murderous madness, exposes his provincial ethnocentric view of the world.   The fact is that Dr. Hasan had delivered a lecture warning of the dangers of sending American Muslims to fight in the Middle East; he told his colleagues it was a dangerous practice and Muslims should be stationed elsewhere in the world.” Instead of taking the warning seriously his medical colleagues thought him a sad deluded guy who was becoming overly influenced by Islamic propaganda, and they didn’t even think it was serious enough to file a report on the matter.                                                                                                                                                                        

 But what is far worse are the revelations thar are surfacing as I write about the fact that Major Nidal – who is a member of the long suffering Palestinian people, a people whose grievances against the US go back 60 wears – had recommended that several soldiers he counseled should be Court Marshaled for committing “war crimes!”  Predictably, the response of the amoral wags on the right is that Major Hasan had violated Dr. patient confidentially rules by reporting their crimes, rather than outrage over the fact that they were war criminals.  But then the Republicans are quite comfortable with the known war criminals in the highest echelon of the GOP. 

 They enthusiastically celebrate the biggest war criminal of them all, Dirty Dick Cheney: The Butcher of Baghdad!  A man who was the principal architect of the Iraq invasion the unapologetic author of America’s torture policies.  Both crimes of war!  And I have yet to hear our Mr. Brooks say a mumbling word on this naked truth.  Instead we have been subjected to a web of transparent lies and pompous right-wing gibberish from Republicans that exposes an appalling poverty of ethics.  If I have unfairly maligned him; if I have misspoke on this subject; If I have overlooked some eloquent argument, or enraged diatribe, issuing from the pen of our smart conservative at the Times opposing his party’s love affair with Dirty Dick, and their obscene indifference to his crimes, then Mr. Brooks should call me out like I’m calling him out.   I anxiously await his response.

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Playthell Benjamin

Harlem New York

November 18, 2009

Oprah and Sarah: Sista/Girlfriends

Posted in Cultural Matters, On Right Wing Pundits and Bloviators, Playthell on politics with tags on November 17, 2009 by playthell

 

Two Self Important Airheads

  Is Oprah Wynfrey the Queen of Mindless Chatter?

 Although I have long considered Oprah Wynfrey a highly articulate airhead I have refrained from saying so in public.  I thought her omnipresence in the media as an elegant, eloquent, black woman who invented herself and rose from poverty and racist oppression in Mississippi to dominate the television talk show format was such a positive image for my daughter and other little black girls growing up in a culture that devalued their humanity was all good.  When others complained – which includes virtually all of the highly educated women I know, black and white – at how “light-weight” and “frivolous” her concerns are, I played past their complaints because I thought Oprah was serving the greater good  of racial uplift through setting an example of black female empowerment.

 While Oprah sycophants dismissed her female critics as “haters,” I knew they had a point.  I just remained mum on the matter.  But her decision to have a muddled headed verbal arsonist who whips up racial animus for political gain like Sarah Palin on the show, and never ask her a single serious question, was the straw that broke my silence.  Of course, any careful examination of Oprah’s public statements and programming choices would suggest that my concerns are at best a secondary consideration for her.   Oprah’s eyes are on a different prize: To be the undisputed Queen of Talk Television as reflected in the Neilson ratings.  No matter what!  

 To this end she has forgone marriage and children; the Oprah show appears to be her entire raison d’etre.   Hence if the price of being the “Queen Of Talk” is to avoid talking about anything truly controversial – like the raging health care debate or the epidemic of teenage homicides in her back yard – then she’ll talk about incest among privileged white folks and chat with Jenna Jamison about what it’s like to be a porn star.  In fact, anything that avoids having a real conversation about the pressing issues that are tearing our country apart will do if it garners ratings.  I think that the decision to have Jenna Jamison on to discuss making porn movies rather than Michael Moore discussing ‘Capitalism,” his seminal movie critiquing our economic system and the reasons so many people are winding up on the junk heap of life despite having been hard workers and law abiding citizens, is the height of obscenity!  I believe this in spite of the fact that I don’t necessarily find pornography obscene.  In fact I enjoy it a lot more than I did that burlesque of an interview in the Oprah /Sarah show.

I have been monitoring Oprah’s show ever since Barack Obama, the brilliant silver tongued Chicago pol whom she anointed “The One” in a kind of mystic revelation to the nation, in order to see if she makes any attempt to help the millions who watch her better understand the complex issues they must make decisions on.  Day after day I watched in vain hoping against hope for some contribution from Oprah to the grand controversies raging about us: but no dice. 

It seems that the dramatic fall in ratings for her show – 7% over the summer, putting her fourth in some markets where she had always been in first place – plus a double digit decline in her magazine’s circulation have made the Queen gun shy and terrified of the hatred displayed by the untutored white mob.  Many of whom are among her most loyal fans, people who are so stupid they believe Barack Obama is a socialist and a fascist. They don’t understand that these systems are at opposite ends of the ideological spectrum!! And for all I know neither does Oprah, especially since she would never learn that critical difference based on her reading list.

 A race for ratings appears to be the only reasonable explanation for the soft ball interview she gave to Sarah Palin.  Unless you believe that Oprah really is as stupid as she appeared to be. Although I have no evidence to support this speculation; I am convinced that Sarah Palin was invited on the Oprah show for two reasons: To repair her image in the eyes of her Republican fans – she seems to have adopted her fellow Chicagoan Mike Jordon’s amoral axiom “Republicans buy sneakers too” – and to seize the opportunity for a ratings spike from the mindless mob that will tune in to see her.  We’ll see if the gamble pays off.  In the meantime however, she is alienating people of principle who are fighting on life and death issues and feel she should use her powerful platform to have some substantive discussions on these critical questions.   Frankly, whatever her reason, if she cannot speak on the great issues of the day – abandoning the media discourse to ignorant unprincipled barbarians like Limbaugh and Hannity – then she is irrelevant!

 That irrelevance was never more obvious than during Oprah’s Sista Girlfriend gabfest with the Alaskan barbarian.  There are some questions that any self-respecting journalist, or media interviewer who desires to be taken seriously, must ask of this highly influential but divisive political actor and right-wing pop icon.  Oprah fell far short of this minimum essential standard.  And lest anyone think this is only the opinion of a far left democratic male, I suggest that they go to CNN’s archives and look at the 7: O clock hour on Tuesday morning where a panel of women evaluated the Oprah-Palin interview.  The women represented Republicans, Independents, Conservative and Libertarian but no Democratic women, because they are presumed to be biased.  

 All four of the women thought the interview was an embarrassment. The conservative called it “boring;” the Libertarian thought it devoid of any substantive political ideas; the Republican pointed out that in a book of four hundred pages only thirteen pages deal with policy issues, which she said was “telling,” as was Palin’s lack of substance in the interview.  The Libertarian woman said “She was well spoken and looked nice but it stops there.”  All of them made it clear that they wouldn’t be buying the book.  Lee Ann, the Independent, who is African American and accused her of “trivilizing the decision some women make to have abortions,” said: “I’m being fiscally conservative right now!”  The reaction of these women was dismissive to the point of condescension: and justly so.  

 How could Oprah not ask Palin about the incitement of racist hysteria and blood lust in that white mob in Strongsville Ohio?  The video is on You tube for all the world to see.  I keep it book marked among my favorites so that I can call it up and look at it whenever I hear people carrying on about what a nice misunderstood lady Sarah is.  Palin has described her self as a pit bull with lipstick, well that’s synonymous with a vicious bitch with painted lips!   And her behavior lives up to her self-description.  How could Oprah not ask Sarah about her claim that President Obama’s health care plan will put senior citizens to death – as well as myriad more slanders that demand interrogation from any interviewer with a modicum of journalistic skill and integrity? 

 Oprah loves to crow about her days as a news woman, so it is reasonable for the viewer to expect some attempt at journalistic probing, some attempt to ask the kinds of fundamental questions that would shed some light on why we should care about this moose hunting Alaskan shrew cum political opportunist and far right snake oil salesperson. Why didn’t Oprah ask her if she still believes that sex education in our public schools should be confined to “absence only” preachment?  Why didn’t she insist upon knowing whether Sarah agreed with her followers who question whether the President is a natural born American?   Why didn’t Oprah want to know if Sarah agreed with her Tea Party supporters that the President is a NAZI and that his healthcare reform program is the equivalent to the system of NAZI death camps?   And at the very least Oprah should have insisted that girlfriend tell the nation if she thought that it was a good idea for poor dumb rednecks to show up at public meetings wearing guns – even at appearances by the President.  

 Alas, not one of these questions emanated from the lips of “The Queen Of Talk!”  She didn’t even take the opportunity to tell Sarah that the questions Katie Couric asked her would have been asked by any legit journalist conducting the first interview with someone who had just been selected as the vice presidential candidate of a major political party and thus could one day perchance become president.  So any thoughtful person must ask: What was the purpose of this interview?  I can fathom no reason for this embarrassingly shallow Sista/girlfriend chat beyond mutual self-promotion;which is, I suppose, about all we can expect from two meglo-maniacal airheads.  At least now we know that Ophra’s big head is swollen with conciet not pregnant with knowledge.  Like Plato’s sophist, their virtue is for trade: Ain’t no shame in these dames game!

 I was once told by a top programming executive with a major media conglomerate that the most successful talk show hosts are not much smarter than their audience.  They speak the same language, share the same concerns and are amused by the same entertainments.  And while I cannot vouch for the veracity of this claim as a general proposition, in Oprah Winfrey’s case it is undoubtedly true.  Yet she is often passed off as a woman of substance by those who care not a whit about intellectual gravitas or cultural integrity.  Making money, commerce not culture, is the object of their project.  And by this measure Oprah, like the rotund Rushbo, is a very big success indeed.  But I have concluded that she is irrelevant to those of us struggling for equity and justice in this country.  As a girlfriend of mine aptly put it: Oprah is white America’s Mammy!

 

Mammy-o!

 

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 Playthell Benjamin

Harlem New york

November 17, 2009

 

 

Sonny Fortune Live At Sistas

Posted in Music Reviews with tags , , , , , , on November 15, 2009 by playthell

Randolph, Dubois and Sistas Place 241 

All Soul!

The absence of a piano left a lot of room for Sonny to play, and his improvisations grew more complex because of it.  Although one never knows how artistic decisions are made by band leaders in these economically difficult times – maybe he doesn’t hear a piano or maybe he just can’t afford another cat on the gig.  In any case it has worked out well for sonny because his playing is full of imagination and complex manipulations of melody and harmony, all invented at the speed of thought.   Sonny is in good voice tonight in terms of the lyricism, pathos and bathos in his sound.   And he is one of the few great alto-saxophonists in the post Bird/cannonball/Stitt era who actually has his own sound – which is some sort of miracle considering what those past masters achieved on the instrument.

As I write he is anointing the audience with his interpretation of Duke Ellington’s moving tone poem ‘In a sentimental mood.”  His offering is greeted with love and laughter because this is a straight ahead jazz crowd and they know and observe the etiquette of the proper jazz audience.   They sighed in the right intervals, and applauded each instrumental offering vigorously. 

As I write he is anointing the audience with his interpretation of Duke Ellington’s moving tone poem ‘In a sentimental mood.”  His offering is greeted with love and laughter because this is a straight ahead jazz crowd and they know and observe the etiquette of the proper jazz audience.   They sighed in the right intervals, and applauded each instrumental offering vigorously. 

 Bottom Swing!

Randolph, Dubois and Sistas Place 201

Walking The Bull Fiddle and Making it Swing

 As with all serious jazz ensembles virtuosity is demanded of every player; this is ensemble playing at its best, when unity is achieved in the midst of great diversity.  They are all improvising and creating complex musical statements.  For one thing it requires that the instrumentalists really listen to each other:  For they must play as one.  Bassist Steve Williams and Drummer Steve Johns created a seamless web of rhythm.  Williams is a complete bassist, and excellent accompanists and soloist, which is no picayune feat on that large and somewhat awkward instrument.  On “Kind Of Blue” Miles’ anthem to sophisticated city blues, Williams demonstrated how deep is the well from which his art is formed.

Real Jazz Lovers!

Randolph, Dubois and Sistas Place 204 Barbara and John

Sonny’s tender though passionate rendition of Sentimental mood was followed by an explosive rendition of John Coltrane’s mystic hard driving “Impressions.”  Although this composition is Usually the province of the heaver tenor sax sound, Sonny pulled it off admirably because he has a big sound on the alto and once played tenor with his Philly home boy McCoy Tyner, who had greatly influenced the sound of John Coltrane during the vintage quartet years. Although Sonny is a natural alto-player he adapted quickly, and beautifully, to the tenor and soprano saxophones.  In effect he was holding down the departed maestro’s chair.  This was a singular honor that would have been jumped on by any tenor player in the world who was not themselves a bandleader. 

 On this tune we got a chance to witness the virtuosity of the drummer and bassist.  The drummer is a swinging machine who has mastered the art of polyrhythmic playing.  He is an electrifying soloist with great dynamics and can radically change the mood and colors of the tunes by the way he swings.  And it don’t mean a think if it ain’t got that swing!

 Swingmeister!

 Randolph, Dubois and Sistas Place 230

 The Engine Of The Band

 

Sistas Is The Kind of Club Musicians Love!!

 Randolph, Dubois and Sistas Place 222Sonny Fortune, Playthell and Rene McClean

 Groovin High With Two Great Saxophonists

 

The ideal Jazz audience is one who is knowledgeable about the music, pays close attention to the performance, applauds at the proper time, and enthusiatically show their love at the end of the set.  This is an apt description of the audience at Sistas, located right in the heart of Bed Stuy, which is composed of jazz devotees who know their stuff, and are not shy about showing their love.  As I write my final lines Sonny is singing a romantic rendition of Autumn In New York.  And it was all good!

 Ms. Vernell Reflects the Joy of the Music!

 Randolph, Dubois and Sistas Place 247

In the Sunshine of her Beautiful Smile

 

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* To see sonny Live, click this link:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mfrszEyHR9M

 

* Text and Photos by:

Playthell Benjamin

Harlem New York

November 15, 2009

 

Zora Returns To Harlem

Posted in Theater with tags , , , , , , on November 12, 2009 by playthell

Antonia as Zora 

Antonia Badon As Zora Neal Hurston

 For theater lovers in New York City there is an embarrassment of riches.  There is of course the usual Broadway fare; but there is also a wide variety of daring productions Off-Broadway and Off Off Broadway.  And then there are those who put on productions in all sorts of makeshift theaters, employing their artistic creativity to entrepreneurial tasks just as Shakespeare did to create audiences for his theatrical entertainments.   One of the newest venues for theatrical performance is the Baton Rouge restaurant on 145th street near Convent Ave, just up the street from the campus of City College.  This is the second incarnation for this posh Harlem café.  Not too long ago it opened as the “Sugar Hill Bistro,” an elegant eatery that featured jazz performances.  It opened with great promise, inspiring the peerless trumpet virtuoso Wynton Marsalis to perform with his band gratis.  Here’s hoping that this time out the owners will have better luck in this grand restaurant of several floors. 

 On this enchanted Sunday evening, amid the exotic aromas of Louisiana cuisine and period art, the beautiful and talented Louisiana born actress Antonia Badon recreates the life and times of the fascinating Harlem Renaissance writer Zora Neale Hurston, a /folklorist and adventuress.  She enters the stage dressed in the glamorous style of bygone days, wide brim straw hat, high heels and all.  After lamenting her present predicament she reverts to childhood, affecting the change of age with a series of costume changes and speaking in a child’s voice.  While all theater requires a leap of the imagination, the spare sets in the cramped performance space afforded by this packed dining room tested the limits of the audience’s imagination. 

 The script, like all of Laurence Holder’s plays, evokes all the important people, places and events that recreate the historical milieu in which the drama is set.   Zora made her entrance into New York as a student at Barnard College, Columbia University’s college for women, and Holder delves into her experience studying with Franz Boas, the pioneering American anthropologist.   She went from naïve country girl to a Jazz Age flapper as the result of an amazing red and black flapper outfit that displayed her striking physical assets to great advantage.  Ms. Badon pranced and danced about the stage as she brought Holder’s historical portrait of Zora and 1920’s Harlem bubbling to life. 

 The Real Zora

 Zora looking glamorous

 Looking smart and glamorous

 

 The costume changes, which are essential to creating the grand illusion that we are witnessing the different phases of Zora’s life is aided greatly by excellent choices of music, as nothing evokes the zeitgeist of a bygone age like music.   Her fourth costume change is a chic black suit, which she wears as if it were molded to her voluptuous pecan tan frame, and it evokes a sophisticated Zora as she recounts her experiences as a published writer living off the patronage of Charlotte Osgood Mason, a rich eccentric white woman with quaint ideas about black people and the art they create.   She recounts how she had to do a little “Tommin” in order to remain in the good graces of the silly white woman whom they all referred to as “Godmother,” because she insisted that the art they produce must be “primitive!”   She also evokes the pathos that accompanied the death of the “Harlem Renaissance” when the depression came, the money dried up, and Harlem was no longer in vogue.

We next see her dressed in bohemian style smoking wisdom weed and contemplating an offer by a lover to get hitched.  However she makes it clear that the domestic role wives were expected to play held no charms for her.  But considering her bleak economic prospects she agrees to marry Herbie, who is a musician and dancer.   It didn’t last long, and she laments the failure of her marriage and her failed relations with men in general.  From her father, to Langston Hughes – whom she had once adored but had a falling out with over the play they co-authored, “Mule Bone.”  Next we see her as the folklorist who has collected a great collection of folk tales that she cannot get published.  She ruminates over her plight and wonders if the reason she can’t find a publisher is because “They don’t like the way I portray my people: Big, bad, and independent!”   Then she is suddenly approached about writing fiction and we witness the birth of her fine 1934 novel Jonah’s Gourd Vine.

 **************

When she returns after the intermission Ms. Badon is Zora at her most glamorous; she is stunning in a floor length gown and mink stole adorning her honey brown skin.  The big band music is swinging and she is in high spirits as she plays the grand dame who is riding high with literary success.  She storms about chastising the black critics who misunderstood what she was trying to achieve in her beautifully textured novel Their Eyes were Watching God, which Oprah Winfrey made into a television movie starring the fabulous Halle Berry. 

The most poignant aspect of this cleverly written vignette is her excoriation of Richard Wright and his sad suffering Negroes.  She told us how she would never invite those sad sacks to dinner at her crib.  It was a wonderful way of exploring the conflict between Zora and Wright – which in effect represents two visions of black American life in the apartheid south.  The audience was with her – grunting their approval – as she agonized over the fact that poor Richard’s tragic vision of black people was all the white folks wanted to hear.  Thus there was little room for Zora’s affirmative vision of black southern life.  She also denounces the patrician and hypercritical reviews of the Howard University Philosopher Alain Locke.  She dances to conjure music, old time gospels and curses the philandering younger man she married.  Then as she retires for a costume change we are anointed with the heavenly and sensuous blues sound of Charlie Parker playing “Stella By Starlight.” 

When we next see Ms. Badon she is decked out in a white linen jacket and wide brim white straw hat, looking too marvelous for words as the music evokes the elegance of a bygone age in Afro-American life.   She denounces the Communists, accuses them of using Richard Wright and Paul Robeson, and sings the praises of American democracy while denouncing the desires of some black folks who would abandon black institutions in favor of integrating with whites.  This attitude led her to oppose the landmark 1954 Supreme Court Decision in Brown Vs The Board of Education of Topeka Kansas. Here Laurence Holder has not only done his home work but has made the most of the fruits of his labors; capturing the complex nuances of Zora’s thought about race, art and politics in American society.

With the next costume change Zora is adorned in her bathroom ruminating about her illness, and the lack of interest by publishers in her work although she was one of the most versatile writers in America.  And most of all she laments the destruction of what was left of her reputation due to a false charge of sodomizing a 10 year-old-boy.  She tells us the case was thrown out after the authorities discovered that the boy’s mother concocted the story due to a personal grudge she had against Zora, and furthermore the boy had a history of emotional problems. 

 Alas, we finally see Zora as a down and out writer moving on in age with no interests in her work by magazine editors and book publishers.  But still she regales us with a tall tale.  In this Zora at least, the fire in her soul never dies. It is a heroic performance by Ms. Badon, who holds the audience – which included the Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist and distinguished editor Les Payne – in the palm of her hand for an hour and twenty minutes. When she had spoken her last lines, the applause was tumultuous from the packed room; and she received their generous ovation like the gracious southern lady that she is.   Bravo!!

 Actress and Entreprenuer Antonia Badon

 DSC00684

 

Promoting her Play at Harlem cultural event

 

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Playthell Benjamin

Harlem New York

November 10 2009

* This review was originally published on

The Black World Today

January 27, 2007

*Ms. Badon is presently playing Zora at:

 The George Faison Theater in Manhattan

** Photo of Ms. Badon by: Playthell Benjamin

Is John Allen Muhammad Crazy

Posted in Playthell on politics with tags , , , on November 10, 2009 by playthell

John Allen Muhammad 

Scheduled to Burn Tonight

 

 Reflections on the Impending Execution of a Domestic Terrorist

 As I write we are but a few hours away from the much publicized execution of John Allen Muhammad, the notorious Washington Beltway sniper, who shot and killed 10 innocent people that were simply going about their business.  The random pattern by which Mr. Muhammad selected his victims created an atmosphere of stark terror around the nation’s capitol because everybody understood that anybody could be next. Anxious law enforcement agencies launched a massive dragnet, which was supported by the Fruit of Islam, the paramilitary arm of the Nation Of Islam, who joined the search because Muhammad had once been a member of the NOI and they wanted to make it clear that they abhorred his actions too.  John Muhammad was eventually captured, tried and sentenced to death!  Now the time has come when the hour of his execution  is at hand. 

His lawyers petitioned the US Supreme Court to halt the execution on the grounds that Mr. Muhammad suffers from mental illness, and therefore it is “cruel and unusual” punishment to put him to death. And such punishment is expressly forbidden in the Constitution.  But the High court refused to hear his case.  The experience of Mr. Muhammad with the US justice system is of special interests to me because, although I concede  the arguments of death penalty opponents that the influence of race and class weighs against the poor and non-whites and results in members of these classes receiving death sentences at a far greater rate than whites, and wealthy people of all colors, and I am even willing to call a halt to all executions until those problems can be properly addressed: I continue to insist that there are crimes for which society has the right to put the perpetrator to death! 

Thus I am no bleeding heart on the death penalty issue; yet I am opposed to it in this case because Mr. Muhammad is clearly “insane in the brain” as the rappers would put it.  The man at one point during his murderous rampage called the cops and announced that he was God!  And this is but one manifestation of his madness. Hence the difference between John Muhammad and say, Kevin McVey, the right wing fanatic who was executed for blowing up a government building in Oklahoma, is that McVey had an ideology and program which he boldly executed with military precision and Muhammad was acting randomly.  The Oklahoma bombing was a cold calculated act which McVey owned up to without apology, and Muhammad’s shootings were the random acts of a madman for which he has yet to give a coherent explanation.  

Although both engaged in domestic terrorism, McVey deserved the death penalty but Muhammad should be confined to a hospital for the criminally insane.  If the insanity defense has any validity now is the time to apply it.  However the one thing that McVey, Muhammad and Major Hassan, the Fort Hood gunman whose victims are being memorialized as I write, have in common, is that they are all damaged products of America’s wars in the Muslim world who were taught to kill without conscience by their government. And this is a fact that nobody in our government or media want to talk about.

 

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

 

* Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

November 10, 2009

Fools Fakers, Liars, Charlatans and Whores

Posted in Playthell on politics with tags , , , on November 9, 2009 by playthell

Bachmann 

Michel Bachman: A far right Psycho

 

Republicans Reveal Their True Character In Healthcare Debate

 After a century of failed attempts the congressional Democrats have finally passed a reform bill that establishes good healthcare as an entitlement of citizenship – a benefit other advanced countries in the world, and even poor little Cuba, have long ago established for its citizens. Predictably the Republicans conducted themselves like charlatans and insurance industry whores in a floor fight designed to try and derail this humane and historic legislation.  Lately I have sadly concluded that Republicans are a danger to national security.  This is no rhetorical flourish, nor an exercise in hyperbole; I am deadly serious.

The recent massacre at Fort Hood demonstrates the constant danger we face of internal conflict and domestic terrorism. In fact, despite vigorous Republican protest, we were warned by the Department Of homeland security that the greatest threat of terrorist attack comes from domestic forces, mostly on the far right. Yet top Republican spokesman – including members of Congress like Michele Bachman and Minority Leader Jim Boehner – have shamelessly pandered to these racist, nativist and violent elements in American society in their futile attempt to discredit President Obama and deny health care to millions of Americans.

 

A Typical Republican Whacko!

tax-day-tea-party-demonstrators

Ms. Piggy’s head is pregnant with ignorance!

 

These far right fanatics have so distorted the President’s vision they have convinced their working class base that a medical program which provides health care as a human right of citizenship, rather than a monopolistic profit based service industry, is the equivalent of Nazi death camps! And all the while waving their bibles and wrapping themselves in the flag as they lead their naïve followers astray.

 During Saturday’s debate the Democrats articulated the virtues of the bill – covering the uninsured; outlawing the practice of excluding people for “pre-existing conditions and stiffing the sick;” providing competition to the private insurance companies to bring down the price of premiums, etc – while the Republicans spouted empty rhetoric about “preserving freedom” and “controlling budget deficits.”  Yet these cynical charlatans are ignoring the will of the people as expressed in the recent Presidential elections, and they were cheer leaders when George II started a three trillion dollar war choice – in face of massive protests from people around the world. Ther remains a fight to be waged in the Senate before Health Care becomes a done deal, but the BS arguments we heard from Republicans in the House presages what we are likely to hear in the Senate.  Hence Democrats must stand on principle and beat those suckers down with the truth!

 The amoral Republican bunko artist also spouted a lot of duplicitous hogwash about protecting the interests of senior citizens and the “working man.” Yet the principal advocates for seniors, AARP, has enthusiastically endorsed the bill, as has the AMA and the nation’s largest labor unions.  Hence as I listen to the Republican’s claim to be acting in the interests of the working class and the elderly, I am once again reminded of the old Ibo proverb: “Beware of the stranger who comes to the funeral and cries louder than the family of the corpse.”

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Playthell Benjamin

Harlem New York

November 9, 2009

 

At The World Series With Samori

Posted in On Sports! with tags , , , on November 8, 2009 by playthell

Sportscaster/Writer Samori Benjamin Dripping Champaign

 Samori on last night of world Series 032

 

At The Victory Party in the Yankee Club House!

 

Their First Victory at Home

Samori and others 480

Philly Fans Do A Victory Dance!

 

Samori Covering The Game

 Samori and others 463

A Yankee Fan In Philly

 

First Night!

World Series, first two games 014 

A Love Supreme

 

In Yankee Stadium

 World Series, first two games 013

 Waiting For the Game to Start

 

In the Yankee Dugout

World Series, first two games 017

Hiding From The Rains

 

Inside Yankee Stadium

World Series, first two games 020

The Fans Mull To And Fro

 

A Message To Philly Fans

World Series, first two games 050

Up Yours!

 

Whaaassssuuup!

World Series, first two games 070

Bring it on Philly!

 

Game Time!World Series, first two games 061 

The First World Series In The New Stadium

 

At The Moment Of Victory!

Samori on last night of world Series 018

 Yankee Stadium Erupts!

 

Down On The Field

Samori on last night of world Series 029

The Celebration Begins!

 

Father and Son

World Series, first two games 071

The Thrill Of Victory!

 

The Victory Parade!

Samori on last night of world Series 040

Hard Core Yankee Fans

 

Yankee Blue Was Everywhere!

Samori on last night of world Series 035

As B-Boys Waited for JZ to Rock Broadway!

 

Cam Was On the Scene

Samori on last night of world Series 033

A Yankee 4 Life!

 

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*A Photo-essay

By: Samori Benjamin

*Photos of Samori by:

Deanna

Text by: Playthell Benjamin

On The Blood Bath At Fort Hood

Posted in Cultural Matters, On War and Peace in the Mid East!, Playthell on politics with tags , , , , , , on November 6, 2009 by playthell

Dr. HassanMajor Hassan:  The Military Psychiatrist who Freaked Out

The Evidence of Things Unseen?

 Barely a day has passed since Major Nidal Hassan opened fire on his fellow soldiers at fort Bragg, but the relentless spin by the military and civilian authorities has begun.  Since it is obvious that the Major had a mental breakdown of some sort, they recognize the futility of attempting to deny this.  However beyond that simple admission they are inclined to treat this tragic event as if it is an unfathomable mystery.

While it is always a good thing not to jump to conclusions without a proper investigation of the facts, the gravity of this situation invites speculation. Hence I’d like to offer mine.  Perhaps those who will hear this might be persuaded to interrogate the available facts guided by my theory of events, which I believe is the direction the investigation should take.   First let’s consider what we actually know about the situation.

It is a fact that Major Hassan is an American born Muslim of Palestinian heritage.   It is also a fact that he is a military psychiatrist who regularly counsels soldiers returning from combat in the two protracted wars the US is waging in the Muslim world. Dr. Hassan specializes in treating soldiers who are suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome.  It is also true that PTS is often caused by the guilt soldiers feel about the acts they committed – which often results in the deaths of innocent men, women and children – while fighting overseas.

I have witnessed the result of this kind of guilt in friends and family members who fought in Vietnam; some of them have been profoundly wounded although they bear no physical scars.   As a result of the deep introspection brought on by this experience, some have come to sympathize with the Vietnamese; even donating money to build schools or support orphanages in villages they once pillaged.

Dr. Hassan is stationed at Fort Hood; the largest American army base in the world, hence the base is full of soldiers who have participated in the bloody carnage in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Alas the critical question we need to ask is: What must it be like for a Muslim American of Middle-Eastern lineage to listen to the horror stories about unspeakable atrocities the US military is committing against his co-religionist and ethnic kith and kin?  Yet this is the question that thus far the official spokesmen want to avoid, because the implications are too unsettling.   However it is the question that all thoughtful people should ask; especially pundits who are tasked with explaining complex issues to the public.

Since I believe comparative analysis of classes of phenomena that occur in all countries and cultures subjected to the same conditions can help us arrive at universal truths, I’d like to compare Dr. Hassan’s experience with that of another army psychiatrist who was tasked with conducting psychoanalysis on soldiers fighting in a war of insurgency: Dr. Franz Fanon.

Like Dr. Hassan, Dr. Fanon was part of an invading army attempting to suppress an insurgency in the Muslim world – the French in Algeria.  And although he was neither Muslim nor Arab, as a black man from Martinique he was also a colonial subject of France subjected to the same racist oppression as the Arabs.  And this became the basis for his identification with the Algerians.

Unlike Dr. Hassan however, Fanon’s patients were the Algerian insurgents.  Yet listening to their stories turned him to their cause and he deserted the French army and emerged as the leading theoretician of the Algerian Revolution!  This decision hastened the collapse of the French empire in Africa.   I believe that Dr. Hassan was affected in a similar way listening to the terrible tales told by the returning American soldiers, but he behaved in what is becoming a typically American way of expressing nihilistic rage: grab a gun and shoot everybody in sight!

For a while this kind of behavior was called “going postal” because the most famous instance of this type of mass slaughter to express a grievance was committed by a fired postal worker who returned to his former workplace and shot up the place.  But now, alas, it has become such a recurrent phenomenon the enraged postal worker has faded into memory.

I believe that in Dr. Hassan’s mind he was striking a blow for his Muslim brethern, whom as a Muslim living in America just now he would have little trouble identifying with- especially the thousands of innocents who have been slaughtered by American forces – and there is emerging evidence that he was stressed out about the fact that he had been ordered to deploy to the Middle East within weeks.

Given the dread that he has reportedly expressed about the impending deployment, it is reasonable to believe that this was the trigger that set him off.  It’s really a no brainer; especially since med-school classmates and others have come forth and revealed the fact that Major Hassan thought himself a Muslim first and American second and considered the war on terror a war on Islam.   The fact that he was screaming “Allah u Akbar” when he opened fire convinces me that he was striking a blow for Islam.  Washington we’ve got a problem.  I anxiously await Dr. Hassan’s explanation for his actions in the forthcoming trial.

 

Superior Officers Investigating the Tragedy

Fort Hood Shooting

They look as confused by events as everybody else

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

Playthell Benjamin

Harlem New York

November 5, 2009

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Are The Election Results a Repudiation Of President Obama?

Posted in Playthell on politics with tags , , on November 5, 2009 by playthell

Barack Parody

They call him a “Communist and Fascist” without understanding either 

 

Or is it an Indictment of a Fickle Electorate?

Although Michel Steele, the verbose colored lickspittle who fronts for the mostly white southern and reactionary Republican Party, was crowing like a barnyard rooster over the Republican victories in the Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial races, his claims of a Republican resurgence is a bit premature.  In spite of hand wringing at the New York Times and gloating at the Wall Street Journal, reading the numbers tells a quite different story.  The portrait of American political culture painted by the numbers suggest that we are living in a Barnum and Bailey world where anything can happen. For instance in both states that elected Republican governors the exit polls show that the vast majority of voters did not consider their vote to be a repudiation of the President’s policies. 

 In New Jersey for instance 19% of the voters said they were voting against the President and 19% said they were voting in favor of the President.  The rest of the electorate said that their feelings about the President played no role in their decision.  And a majority of Virginia voters said the same thing.  These elections appear to have been decided strictly on local issues. And interesting enough, the election in the 23ard Congressional District upstate New York also suggest that localism was the principal determinant of the outcome. 

In this instance the Republicans lost a seat they had held for over a century.  And the way they lost bodes well for the Democrats in coming elections unless the Republicans can find a cure for the plague of right wing zealots who have infected their party and are destroying it from within.Had the far right Republicans stood solidly behind De De Scozzafava, the local citizen’s and their party’s choice, they would have won this election just as they have done since 1907.   But the far right lunatic fringe decided to go against their Party’s candidate and support the Conservative party candidate a right-wing kook named Doug Hoffman, because De De wasn’t far enough to the right.  Incensed at Sarah Palin and her minions meddling in local affairs, the Republican candidate pulled out of the race and cast her support to the democrat Bill Owens, who will be the first Democrat to win this Congressional seat since it was created.  

The Alaskan Barbarian

Sarah

She Screwed the Republican Party Candidate!

The Mayor’s race in New York City also taught us a couple of interesting lessons in the way it played out.  Along with millions of New Yorkers I was convinced that a Bloomberg victory was a foregone conclusion.  After all, his campaign had total dominance of the are waves.  It seems that we hardly heard a peep out Mr. Thompson but Bloomberg’s ads were everywhere all the time. The reason why can be seen in the vast difference in their campaign expenditures:  8 million Vs. 100 Million dollars.  It has been estimated by analysts on MSNBC that Bloomberg spent $180.00 for every vote cast for him.  It seemed like a slam dunk for Bloomie.  Yet he only won by five percent. 

This tells me that a solid coalition between the white working class, the progressive middle and minorities could have defeated him in spite of the disproportionate spending.  And it also suggests that the electoral process would be better served by changing the way we finance elections.  First we should place a legal limit on how much private money can be spent on a campaign for public office…even if it’s the candidate’s own money.  These steps will insure fairness in elections even more than term limits, which, in a town as big and complex as New York, can only serve to deprive us of experienced competent leadership because it denies those who wish to continue that leadership a voice.

Finally, when we consider that the issues which drove the elections in Virginia and New Jersey were jobs and taxes the Republican victories defy logic and presents us with an enigma since the economic crisis was caused by eight years of Republican mismanagement. Furthermore the congressional Republicans backed by the Governors were willing to stand by and allow the banks and the auto-industry to collapse rather than have the government intervene and clean up the mess they manufactured! 

If these Republicans had had their way, our economic problems would be infinitely more horrifying because the economy would have plunged into a deep depression. That the Republican victory was the result of the vacillations of the Independents, only confirms my suspicion that their ranks are generously populated with morons.  For how can any thinking person fail to take sides in this monumental struggle over the future of American civilization?  Alas, I am afraid the real lesson of this election is that the struggle to educate the American electorate on the critical political and economic realities that confront us …continues.

Playthell Benjamin

Commentaries on the Times

Harlem New York

November 4, 2009

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