Archive for April, 2010

Springtime In The Magic City

Posted in Cultural Matters, Photo-Essays, Travels in the New South with tags , on April 24, 2010 by playthell

 Dusk falls on Miami as the sound of Jazz fills the air 

 The Ladies At Jazz In The Gardens!

Fine Like Vintage Wine!

Glaga!

 

 A  Salutation From The Producer

 

Leon “Kawku” Saunders Welcomes Ms. Alicia

 

Star Eyes

 

A Pecan Tan Fox

 

 

 A Standout In The Crowd

 

 Chic and Sexy

 

 Blasé!

 

 

 An Imposing Woman!

 

Tall, Tan Terrific!

 

Misty From The Sound Of Music

 

A Big Beautiful Woman!

 

The Joy Of Music!

 

Deep In The Groove!

 

Alyce!

 Power& Beauty

 

 The Goddess Oshun!

 

 A Gift From Trinidad!

 

 The Magicians Girls!

 

A Black and Tan Fantasy

 

Cape Verdian Girls!

 

Afro-Portuguese Honeys

 

Hail To The Music!

 

The Rhythm Is The Master

 

Happy And Nappy!

 

An Afrocentric Beauty

 

Fit As A Fiddle!

 

An Ebony Brick House

 

Some Cuban Flava

 

Alicia Chillin

 

Women Of Substance!

 Sistas!

 Smart, Elegant And Sexy!

 

 The Mayne Sisters

 

Jazz Diva Cassandra Wilson

She wowed the crowd with her Mississippi Blues

 

Photos and text by: Playthell Benjamin

Miami Florida

March 22 Circa 2010

Bam In the Belly Of The Beast!

Posted in Playthell on politics with tags , , on April 22, 2010 by playthell

  Talking dollars and sense

 

President Obama Puts Wall Street On Notice

With characteristic calm and moderate language “No Drama” Obama came to the Great Hall at Cooper Union and put Wall street on notice. The freewheeling days when shady sharpies were allowed to shoot craps with billions of dollars of other peoples money on “The Street” while so-called regulators over at the Securities and Exchange Commission – whose raison d’ etre was to protect the interests of investors  – spent thousands of hours watching porn movies according to the results of an investigation reported on ABC Evening News today – are over.  “I believe in the power of the free market, said the President…“but the free market was never meant to be a free license to take whatever you can get however you can get it!”    

While critics on the left and right will find President Obama’s position unsatisfactory – the right thinks he’s a socialist while the left views him as a capitalist stooge – Wall Street bankers wish he would go away and let them alone.  This was evident from the absence of major Wall Street players like CEOs Jamie Diamond of J. P. Morgan Chase and the President of Citi-Group Vikram Pandit, whose bank made 4.4 Billion in profits after paying off preferred dividends this year.  Clearly Citigroup, who lost 696 million dollars last year, has had a spectacular recovery. Morgan Chase also posted a profit this year. 

Yet it is a measure of Wall Street’s loss of esteem that both of these CEO’s are being spurned as robber barons that betray the public interests and imperil their economic future by members of the graduating classes at Syracuse and Colombia, where the administrations have invited them to deliver commencement addresses over student protests. A big exception to the CEO no-show was Lloyd Blankfien of Goldman Sachs –  scheduled to receive up to $100 million in bonuses this year – whose company is facing a major fraud investigation by the SEC.

 Vikram Pandit

 

 Financial shark who snubbed the Prez

Since BAM refused to flagellate the Wall Street bandits with the kind of caustic rhetoric Employed by Franklin Roosevelt during the Great Depression – or Teddy Roosevelt back at the turn of the twentieth century – the attitudes of many on Wall Street toward the rather modest reforms proposed by the president is baffling.  It is compelling evidence of their unrepentant arrogance.  Although the previous Presidents hailed from the ruling class, they excoriated the bankers and branded them with labels like “Economic Royalist.” But President Obama, encircled by Republican reactionaries and the howling untutored racist mob whose anger they have skillfully manufactured, is determined to get the basic provisions of his bill passed rather than get his rocks off  hurling invective at the investment bankers.  This President really keeps his eyes on the prize and is totally results oriented!

 Jamie Dimon

 

 A Wall Street Titan Once Praised by Obama

While this bill will certainly increase transparency and expose shady practices that have heretofore been carried out behind closed doors, while making it harder for banks to behave like Atlantic City casinos, skeptics remain concerned that such exotic financial schemes as credit default swaps and derivatives are still allowed to remain legal.  These Wall Street practices were at the heart of the near financial disaster we just barely escaped; thus there is sufficient reason for concern that they are still with us.   However  President Obama major goals for the regulatory legislation he is shepherding through Congress: Transparency, protecting the investor, and ending banks that are too big to fail are all positive moves in the right direction.

Clearly the objective of this speech was not to chastise the scoundrels on Wall Street, but to simply denounce the reckless practices that nearly took us all down the tubes, promote his bill to stop them and prevent a repeat  of the recent panic, and force the Republicans to declare whether the stand with the people or remain shills of Wall Street fat cats.  However, while I understand that politics is the art of the possible and BAM has a world to lead, I still fantasize about everybody that had a hand in designing the financial instruments that led us into this prolonged and devastating economic crisis – which is destroying so many lives and murdering dreams all over the world – being sentenced to a firing squad composed of the investors they robbed.

Lloyd Blankfein: CEO Goldman Sachs

In a World Of Trouble

It is perversely amusing watching the way Republicans have painted themselves in a corner with the fake populist rhetoric they have been serving up at the Tea Party wildings; the party of the plutocrats posing as the friends of Joe Six Pack.  Now that BAM has presented them with some real solutions which will curb the excesses of high rolling Wall Street brigands, they are going to have to poop or get off the pot.  In his cool calm collected manner, president Obama has once again maneuvered the hapless Republicans right where he wants them: Behind the eight ball.  Let the GOP charlatans filibuster this bill if they dare!

 ***************

 

Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

April 22, 2010

 

A Menace To Society!

Posted in On Right Wing Pundits and Bloviators, Playthell on politics with tags , , , on April 21, 2010 by playthell

 

 Mitch McConnell, Republican Senate Leader

 

 Why Republican Rule Will Ruin America

All we need do to demonstrate that it will hasten our decline to a second rate country should the nation follow the policies prescribed by Republican ideology, is to look at the policies they advocate and compare them to the most pressing problems confronting the nation.  For instance, we need a national health care program so that we can have a healthy workforce and American manufacturers such as the auto-industry can compete with foreign manufacturers, who benefit from such enlightened programs and realize greater profits while selling their products at lower prices.

We need stringent regulation of the financial industry to prevent another collapse of our economic system brought on by practices on Wall Street that should be illegal.  And in order to prevent the disappearance of our last great manufacturers, the government must supply financing when credit freezes in the private sector – a policy that President Obama employed to save the US auto-industry and the millions of jobs in related industries.  As I write we are receiving the good news that not only has General Motors paid back eight billion dollars on their government loan five years early, but they are also forecasting a profit for the first time in years!

We desperately need to convert from a petroleum based economy, which spew carbon emissions into the atmosphere heating up the planet and imperiling our children’s future.  We need peaceful relations with the rest of the world, and diplomacy not saber rattling is the key to achieving it.  And we need to finally rid the world of nuclear weapons!  This is the agenda that President Obama is pursing 24/7.  It is a plan that will create a safer world and keep American in the forefront of nations in the 21st century.

          The Republicans however, have built their entire political strategy around trashing the President’s agenda; even if it means the ruination of America and jeopardizing the future health of our planet.  For instance, after promoting lassie Faire economic policies that wrecked the financial system  - squandering a surplus of over a hundred billion dollars bequeathed to them by Bill Clinton – most Republican’s were willing to stand idly by and allow the American banking system to collapse and take the world with them.  And they stuck to this absurd position even as their two term president, George Bush, repudiated his free market dogma and came a begging to the Democratic Congress to bail him out of the financial mess his ill conceived policies had wrought.

Rather than seek peace with the other nations by entering into international treaties to solve problems of mutual interests and collective security, the reactionary white nationalists that control the Republican Party are pushing an agenda based on the self-serving but bogus ideology of “American Exceptionalism.” This approach to international relations is a prescription for endless war that will squander the nation’s human and financial capital.  Yet the Republican chicken hawks still refuse to recognize that diplomacy is a better foreign policy than war, and in spite of their constant whining about government spending for productive activities that will advance our society, they are willing to squander billions on destructive wars in the third world.

Hence, despite the suggestion of recent polls forecasting a Republican resurgence, it is barely conceivable that any significant percentage of the American electorate could be seriously considering voting for the Republican Party in the next Congressional elections. During the last eight years of Republican misrule under George Bush, they proved the veracity of Murphy’s Law: Everything that could go wrong did go wrong! 

If Americans return the Republicans to power in the next elections they will have demonstrated once again that H.L. Mencken was right when he called the masses of US citizens “Boobus Americanus,” meaning they are thoughtless and empty headed. They will also provide incontestable evidence that Thomas Jefferson was right when he warned that an ignorant electorate will elect and return the worse people to power!

The Republicans have demonstrated over and over again that they are contemptuous of government and if elected to office they cannot govern.   Which is why the Nixon Administration ended in disgrace and resignation to avoid impeachment and conviction in the Senate, and the Reagan administration conducted illegal operations in the white house basement designed to subvert the constitutional powers of the Congress to declare war and fund American military activities.  And according to Republican strategists and statistician Kevin Phillips: Ronnie Reagan also presided over the largest transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich in history.  He also left a tremendous deficit.  Then George II came along and easily surpassed all of Reagan’s sins.  Although they talk a good game the Republicans have failed balance the federal budget, obey the law, or protect the homeland from a devastating attack.

 Each of these administrations had top executive branch officials to go to jail and the worst attack by a foreign power on American soil since the War of 1812, during the early years of the Republic, took place on their watch even though they had plenty of warning.  Then after the attack by Islamic Jihadists from Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the Bushmen attacked the Iraqi’s and overthrew Sadam Hussein who had nothing to do with the horrid affair, while allowing Osama bin Ladin who ordered the attack go free. 

And worst of all is the fact that the Republicans are beginning to hint that they will block the ratification of the agreements President Obama and Russian President Medvedev recently negotiated to reduce their nuclear arsenals by a third.  Although this agreement is only a first step and a rather tepid one since it leaves both nations with enough weapons to destroy all life on earth several times, reactionary Republicans may well attempt to trash it.  And the sad fact is that many GOP leaders know third arguments are bullshit, their fetish for power compels them to talk like reckless morons and behave like pious whores who claim they hate sin yet commit them enthusiastically for personal gain.

The Grand Old Party has obviously decided to fill its ranks with the most angry, disillusioned and clueless dregs of white society because thoughtful people with humane instincts aren’t buying the backward looking vision of the GOP.  Since there are not enough rich evil people to win national elections, and the blacks they attract can hold a rally in a phone booth, the Republican Party’s destiny depends upon their ability to rally poor dumb red necks behind their reactionary programs.

As near as I can tell, there are three kinds of people who populate the Republican Party: Rich evil mostly white people, poor dumb rednecks who can’t tell there ass from a hole in the ground, and cold blooded black opportunists on the make whose allegiance is dictated by expedience.  Since there are not enough rich evil people to win national elections, and the blacks can rally their followers in a phone booth, the Republican Party’s destiny depends upon their ability to rally the red necks behind their reactionary programs. 

This required them to identify and court a group of people who were stupid enough to support policies that are against their self-interests.  Enter “Joe the Plummer” and the Dumb Doras, who are enamored by that white trash debutante Silly Sarah Palin. Hence far from offering real solutions to the multiple crises’ that face America – much of which is of their making – the Grand Old Party, with its open support of the Tea Party fanatics and Second Amendment gun nuts, has become a menace to American society.

The Vessel Of Republican Pieties

 

Silly Sarah!

Where Have All The Altar Boys Gone?

Posted in Cultural Matters, On Right Wing Pundits and Bloviators with tags , , on April 19, 2010 by playthell

 

The Holy Father?

 

One would be hard put to find a more poignant example of blatant hypocrisy and shameless amorality than the deafening silence or tepid commentary offered up by the self-righteous posse of verbose right-wing Catholic commentators and bloviators who line their pockets with coin preaching morality to the rest of us.

As revelations of the widespread rape of children by Catholic Priests, and the ongoing cover-up from the local dioceses to the Vatican, threatens to engulf and severely tarnish – if not bring down – the Pope, these avatars of the chattering classes have been distinguished by their silence about crimes that I think should carry the death penalty.

Suddenly, they who have issued such scathing denunciations against the preachments of the Reverend Doctor Jeremiah Wright, or Muslim minister Louis Farrakhan – who were, for the most part, denouncing real crimes of white Americans against people of color – now display none of that righteous outrage when addressing the actual sins of the Catholic Church.

Where are the thunderous screeds of Patrick Buchanan, the snide derision of Bill O’Reiley, The pretentious prattle of Peggy Noonan, or the pugnacious invective of Sean Hannity?  Their silence is so out of character that we must call them out for the opportunist charlatans that they are.

A Motor Mouth Fraud!

For weeks on end back during the presidential election we were bombarded with the endless repetition of a small excerpt of a sermon by Reverend Jeremiah Wright regarding how America was inviting the wrath of god by its unjust policies against non-white people at home and abroad.  I wrote an analysis of the Reverend’s actual sermon and found it to be for the most part true – see “On Paranoia, Politics and Religion” – and Professor Bernard Bell has written a learned and comprehensive treatise on the long tradition of the American Jeremiad of which Rev. Wright’s sermon is simply the latest addition.  (see The Reverend Wright and President Obama.

 Pat Buchanan

To listen to the rants of these Irish wags you would have thought the Reverend had committed an unforgivable crime: Like raping a child under his spiritual guidance and gotten away with it!  However we have heard hardly a peep out of this crowd concerning the latest revelations about the Priest who molested 200 deaf boys, many of them during confessionals!

In spite of complaints from their parents, the DA refused to prosecute him for these horrendous crimes due to the unholy influence of the church.  And the present Pope not only advised the previous Pope John Paul – whose record on the rape of children by priests was abominable – not to defrock the pedophile priest, but allowed him to be installed as headmaster of the school!

Furthermore, when the Vatican was recently questioned about this outrage by the press, they issued the following statement “The church is not a multi-national company where the chief executive is expected to take responsibility…the Pope is not personally directing the actions of individual priests.”

In fact, the Catholic Church is a dictatorship where the Pope has absolute power.  His judgment is considered infallible and his pronouncement on any matter is repeated as sacred dogma beyond dispute. Furthermore the Vatican is considered a sovereign government which cannot be compelled to answer questions in lawsuits about this matter.  Hence they are hiding behind a legal fiction and stonewalling on this tragic issue, which allows priests to cover up their crimes against children with impunity.

In the Papacy we see the naked truth of Lord Acton’s axiom: “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Now, that’s really something to talk about!  Yet, aside from the obecene apologies for the Papacy emanating from Pious Pompous Peggy, we have heard hardly a peep from the diabolical Irish talkers who befoul our airways with rancid rhetoric 24/7.  Which forces everyone concerned with truth, justice and the welfare of children to ask: “Where have all the self-righteous Irish altar boys gone?

Pious, Pompous, Peggy

 

 A Shameless Apologist for the Papacy!

 ****************

 

Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York 

March 31, 2010

 

A Giant Step For Mankind

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, Playthell on politics on April 9, 2010 by playthell

Presidents Obama and Medvedev Sign Strategic Arms Treaty 

 

Although President Obama’s signing of the new Strategic arms treaty cutting US and Russian nuclear arsenals – which contain 96% of all  atomic weapons – and barring the building of new ones, is certain to be greeted with hysterical cries from the right that he has sold the country out, and cynics on the left will dismiss the treaty as little more than window dressing since each side still retains the capacity to wipe out the world, it nevertheless remains true that this treaty is an important step toward the goal of ridding the world of these dooms day weapons. 

Already we have been provided a glimpse of how the Republicans, those perennially backward looking political anachronisms with no vision for human progress, will greet this historic diplomatic achievement. Rudolph Giuliani, the former New York Mayor who aspired to be President, has dismissed the desire to rid our world of nuclear weapons: “This is a sixty year fantasy of the left, just like a national health care program,” he proclaimed without irony or shame.  Although he worked for the Reagan Administration, Giuliani’s statement ignores the fact that Ronald Reagan passionately denounced the use of nuclear weapons and called for their elimination during a speech in Communist China!

Considering that this is one of the milder criticisms from the Republicans – the utterances of Pat Buchanan and Michel Bachman were far worse – we have further evidence of why Republican control of the national government represents a menace to America and the world.  To be sure, this is not the end of the road in the struggle to dismantle standing nuclear arsenals or prevent proliferation of these weapons capable of the instantaneous destruction of our civilization and annihilation of our species. 

This treaty is also not free of booby traps that could eventually blow everything apart in the future.  For instance, the US commitment to building a anti-missile defense system in countries that used to be a part of the Warsaw Pact, an activity the Russians adamantly oppose, has the potential to wreck the agreement in the future.  Another stumbling block in President Obama’s effort to eliminate nuclear weapons will arise in his attempt to get the Russians to support American designed sanctions against Iran.  And given the physical proximity of Iran to Russia, the Russians will never agree to a nuclear attack on Iran. 

Furthermore, with twenty million Muslims within their borders, and millions more perched just outside their borders, Russian national interest dictates a dramatically different posture toward Iran from the US. As the eminent Russian expert Stephen Cohen recently pointed out: “There is no evidence that the Iranians have ever promoted Islamic radicalism within Russia.” For which, given their present problems with terrorism, we can be sure the Russian are genuinely grateful.  On the other hand, while there is no possibility of the Iranians striking the US with a nuclear missile, they could easily hit Russia.  The obvious lesson here is that if the Russians can co-exist with a nuclear armed Iran…so can we.  No matter what the Chicken Littles on the right say.

 “Fat Boy” Explodes On Nagasaki Japan

 

 July, 1945: Never Again!

There is a grave danger in allocating too much importance to the threat posed by small countries who may be working on their first atomic bomb, or the troubling existence of suitcase nuclear bombs somewhere out there in the world; lest we forget that it is the strategic nuclear weapons that pose a danger to the continued existence of life on this planet.  The first, and only, time an atomic bomb was used I was only three years old.  This means that I have lived under the terror of atomic war for my entire life. 

 When I was a boy growing up in Florida in the 1950’s we regularly had A-bomb drills, so that we would know what to do in case the Russians dropped an atomic bomb on St. Augustine.   Although the idea strikes me as the acme of absurdities when I reflect upon it in retrospect, at the time it seemed a very real possibility.  And we lived in terror of it.  It was not uncommon to hear kids say “If I grow up” rather than “when I grow up.”  In a kind of bizarre gallows humor, laughing to keep from crying, we even made up jokes about the atomic bomb drills.  

 For instance we would create these instructional manuals with construction paper, which had a fold over cardboard top that read:” In case of an atomic attack lift this tab.” People would inevitably raise the tab to see what was beneath it, and they would be greeted with another sign that said:” “Not now jackass, it said in case of atomic attack!”  There was another popular instruction that parodied the actual instructions we were given in our civil defense packets.  We handed out leaflets and posted signs that said: ”In case of an atomic attack, bend over and pull your head between your legs as tight as possible, then kiss yo black ass goodbye!”

Even then, as children, we knew that possession of nuclear weapons in a world full of belligerent countries could easily lead to disaster.  And just a few years later, I was assigned to the  the Strategic Air Command and granted a “Top Secret” security clearance at the apex of the Cold War.  It was here that I recieved a full fledged education on nuclear weapons.  I concluded at the time that the use of nuclear weapons is a crime against humanity; now I have come to believe it is a monstrous crime to merely posesss such weapons and black mail other nations by threatening to use them unless they comply with our demands. 

At the time people organized anti-nuke rallies because the contest for global hegemony by the US and Russia threated the lives of people all over he globe!  But most people have developed a false sense of security because the nuclear threat has been played down since then, even as the danger multiplies. For instance “Fat Boy” was equivalent to approximately 20 thousand tons of high explosive TNT.  But the Thermonuclear Hydrogen bombs of today have the explosive capacity of 100 million tons of TNT!  Hence the human species cannot survive an all out nuclear war with strategic weapons.  And so long as hostile nations have each other targeted with such weapons, the fate of man will remain problematic. It can all be over in a flash.  The most pressing need in regard to the nuclear danger, aside from total nuclear disarmament, is to put the subject back on the agenda for serious discussion to remind people that a nuclear sword of Damocles continues to hang over our heads.  That’s why the signing of the new strategic arms limitations treaty today is a giant step for mankind.

Dooms Day!

 

 This Thermo-Nuclear Explosion Makes Fat Boy Look Like A Toy

 

Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York 

April 8, 2010

Easter Sunday In New York City!

Posted in Cultural Matters, Photo-Essays with tags , , , on April 6, 2010 by playthell

Parishioners of

Harlem’s Abyssinia Baptist Curch

Bouyed By The Words Of Rev. Butts

Remembering Easter

New York

Is the place to be

Come Easter Sunday

From uptown in Harlem

To Broadway and Greenwich Village

Since it was not possible to be everywhere

I decided to start uptown

In Harlem

For it was on Easter Sunday

When I was thirteen

That I first visited Harlem

The first thing I saw when I emerged from the A train

Was a man in a pea green suit

And green suede shoes

And a beautiful brown lady in pink

I wish I could have preserved that moment

That’s why I have decided to preserve some magic moments

From the Easter of 2010

And I discovered

The Easter spirit is far more alive in Harlem

Than downtown on Fifth Avenue

So it’s a good thing I perched outside Abyssinia Baptist Church

Where The Reverend Doctor Butts holds forth

And the parishioners

Routinely dress like members of the Ebony Fashion Fair

So I knew they would be really fly

On Easter Sunday morning

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

A  Pretty Pink Bonnet

And All The Rest Too!

A Vision In White

Head Sculpture!

Strolling

Spiritually Fortified

Friends!

Regal!

A Brown Fox!

Sistas!

This is How You Fill Up A Dress!

A Bootilicious Babe

Walking Away In Style!

Couples

Old School Cool

Elegant Natty Dreads

Stylin and Profilin

The Brother’s Represent!

Bearing A Gift Of Easter Lilies

Solid As A Rock!

The Deacons

Guardians Of The Faith!

The Men Of Abyssinian

Standing The Test Of Time!

Nobody Knows The Troubles I’ve Seen

Man On The Go

Plotting His Next Move

High Fly

Like a roach on a porch…to smooth to move!

Cool Papa Do!

Chilly Willie

Big Boy & Shorty George

Watching The Girls Go By

Nonchalance

A Gentleman Of Style

Deacon C. Vernon Mason…

Surveys The Crowd

Clean As The Board Of Health!

A Paragon Of Male Elegance

Old School Player!

On The Good Foot

A Sophisticated Savage

Groomed and Decorated For The Easter Parade

Building A Solid Foundation For The Future

A Young Man Of Vision

Keep On Pushing!Don’t Yhall  Git Weary Chillun

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

Down Town

Avenue Of The Swells

A Fifth Avenue Dame!

Chic!

A Fifth Avenue Dandy!

In Central Park

On The Cusp Of Spring

A Beautiful Easter Bonnet!

With All The Frills Upon It

A High Fashion Diva

A Ballerina In The Park

In A Contemplative Mood

The  Sitting Ballerina Dazzles A Fan

As She Reflects On the Meaning Of Life With Documentarian David Rich

Poised For Action

She Moves When Someone Feeds The Bucket

And Then She Goes Through

A Repertoire Of Movements

She Blew Us Candy Kisses

Struck Grand Poses

And  Assumed Elegant Stances

From Any Angel

She Is Marvelous!

And Gracious Too

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

Even Little Girls

Wear Easter Bonnets

And Decorate Themselves Like

Easter Eggs!

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