Saturday, October 25, 2008

Some Say Obama is Arrogant
But, I Say He's Just Puttin' on Ayers

The sound bites from the Right claim that Senator Obama is palling around with terrorists. The sound bites from the Left claim that Ayers was just a guy in the neighborhood with whom Senator Obama sat on a charitable board. Neither gets to the heart of the matter.

The only two researchers that I know of that are painstakingly digging into this issue are Stanley Kurtz and Steve Diamond. Kurtz is a researcher from the far Right. Diamond is a researcher from the far Left.

The MSM finally came out with an article on October 3rd in the New York Times that takes a look at the relationship. The conclusion: No big deal.

Both Kurtz and Diamond, who have been researching for months, call the NYT reporting a whitewash, ignoring mountains of available evidence.

Kurtz has written some of his findings here and here.

Since, in my debates about the nature of Obama's real politics as opposed to those he presents before a general election, I have been accused of extreme bias by only listening to one side, I will present the arguments of the researcher from the Left.

Steve Diamond, a lawyer and college professor, is from the far Left as you may tell by reading his blog. He has posted many articles dealing with his research on the Obama/Ayers connection.

I will quote extensively from one long article by Diamond titled 'Ayers/Obama Update: The David Blaine Award Goes to ... The New York Times Magic Act!
So what is the evidence of the influence of Ayers' world view on Obama and his presidential candidacy?

First, what is the Ayers' world view? Ayers is what political scientists call a "neo-stalinist." Neo-stalinism is an authoritarian form of politics which attempts to control and build social institutions to impose state control of the economy, politics and culture on the general population. It has similarities to the original Stalinism found in the former Soviet Union but it arose in other countries and used slightly different forms and in some instances created regimes that were at odds for various reasons with the Russian regime.

Classic examples of neo-stalinist regimes - regimes that Ayers and people in his political camp respect and support - are the Chavez regime in Venezuela, the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua, the Castro regime in Cuba, and the maoist regime in China.

How could such a world view have anything to do with Obama? Well, the route that Ayers and his camp have followed to promote his form of authoritarian politics is a critical policy area: education.

Ayers advocates what he calls a "social justice" approach to education. What that means is the promotion of his authoritarian politics through our public school system. Four key tactics that Ayers supports in order to help implement his world view are

* the creation of "local school councils" (LSCs) like those that Ayers has promoted in Chicago for the last 20 years;
* "small schools" which Ayers has also promoted since the early 1990s in Chicago and elsewhere;
* the advocacy of what Ayers and others call "social justice" teaching; and
* the payment of reparations through education spending to correct what he has seen for 40 years as the fundamentally racist nature of American society.

Local school councils and small schools, I should hasten to point out, have nothing to do with improving student test scores and outcomes. That is not their purpose and, in fact, the Ayers camp is actually opposed to objective standards like test scores as a measure of the effectiveness of our schools. The purpose of these entities is to create a political base for Ayers and his band of fellow traveling authoritarians to push their wider political agenda.

Once inside the schools Ayers, who now heads the curriculum division of the leading education professional association, attempts to alter the teaching content of classrooms to include a "politically correct" "social justice" curriculum.[...]

And it turns out that Barack Obama also supports all four of those key tactical ideas and has since the earliest days of his political career.[...]

Thus, for example, the Times did not tell its readers that when Barack Obama was a community organizer in Chicago from 1985 to 1988 the organization he led, the Developing Communities Project (DCP), was a leading player in the lobbying campaign for "local school councils" in Chicago in the wake of a strike by the Chicago Teachers Union.

LSCs were mandated by a state law put in place in 1988 as a result of that lobbying. But the Times did not explain that Bill Ayers was a leading activist in that lobbying effort, a leading member alongside Obama's DCP in the Alliance for Better Chicago Schools which led the campaign for the LSCs.[...]

And when the New York Times discussed the joint work of Obama and Ayers on the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, they did not explain that among the most important projects of the Challenge were the very same four policies so critical to Ayers political strategy:

* promotion of local school councils,
* financial support for small schools,
* promotion of a "social justice" teaching agenda, and
* a race based approach to education policy.

They ignored the written evidence I provided them that demonstrated that Obama was appointed to the chairmanship of the Challenge board by Bill Ayers, who conceived, founded, secured $50 million to support and led the Challenge from 1993 to 2002.

They ignored the hundreds of thousands of dollars funneled by the Challenge to the Small Schools Workshop which was founded by Ayers and then directed by Mike Klonsky who continues to head it up still.

Since the Times is uninterested, let me explain who Klonsky is. Klonsky was an actual stalinist active in the SDS with Ayers who supported the Russians politically until 1968 when he was called by Bill Ayers' future wife, Bernardine Dohrn, who was in eastern Europe at the time and told the Russians had invaded Czechoslovakia. Klonsky decided then his best bet was to back China! Klonsky formed a maoist party a few years later and even traveled to Beijing in 1977 where he was warmly greeted by the Communist Party leadership.

In the late 80s Klonsky went back to graduate school - as a Ph.D. student studying under his former SDS comrade, Bill Ayers, now on the faculty of the University of Illinois at Chicago. He wrote his doctoral dissertation on "small schools." He and Ayers have used that project, with the help of the hundreds of thousands of dollars approved for them by Barack Obama while Obama chaired the Annenberg Challenge, to invade numerous Chicago schools as part of their political campaign to establish an authoritarian beach head in American society. ...

However, as the 90s unfolded mainstream support for the LSCs began to fade. Thus, when Ayers proposed the Leadership Development Initiative in 1996, he ran into a buzz saw of opposition at the board of directors of the Annenberg Challenge,...

But the CAC funded the Initiative anyway. How did that happen? Barack Obama led the effort to craft slightly altered wording to the statement of purpose for the Initiative and eventually Weber relented. Ayers got his $2 million and over the next several years worked with Ken Rolling, the executive director of the CAC, to set up programs to recruit and train candidates for the LSCs, thus strengthening Ayers ability to establish his base inside the Chicago public school system.[...]

...As business and other support for the LSCs set up in 1988 waned because they were not actually improving student outcomes, Mayor Daley began moves to gut the LSCs of their power to fire principals and control teachers.[...]

...This, too, is ignored by the Times even though it is clear evidence of the intensely close political alliance between Obama and Ayers as Obama was beginning his climb to prominence in Chicago and Illinois politics.[...]

Oh, and in case you thought it might be just a tiny bit useful to consider whether Ayers today has any influence on Obama, the candidate, the Times, perhaps now exhausted by their sleight of hand, simply states: "Since 2002, there is little public evidence of their relationship."

Would that it were so. But again the Times ignores the very public evidence.

In fact, Obama supports an approach to education based on race - one of the four central lifelong concerns of Ayers - as indicated in his appointment as a key education advisor Linda Darling-Hammond. Darling-Hammond is a leading race theorist in education who has taught at Columbia and now Stanford. She contributed a chapter on education for a book edited by Ayers.

She is, like Ayers, an advocate of what is known as "social justice" teaching. She is, like Ayers, an admirer of authoritarian regimes like that of Singapore, one of her favorite examples of allegedly improved approaches to education despite the rigid control of the population there by the state.

She is, like Ayers, a strong supporter of a proposal to mandate that whites repay "people of color" the billions of dollars of "education debt" that has allegedly accumulated after centuries of racism, oppression, and slavery. In other words, reparations.

She published a blue print for the radical Forum on Education and Democracy that argued that repayment of that "education debt" must be the top priority of the next President of the United States.[...]

Of course, neither "social justice" teaching nor "education debt" have anything to do with improving student outcomes in America's schools. They are, at best, a platform for advocating the radical authoritarian politics of people like Ayers, Darling-Hammond and Klonsky.[...]
Senator Obama has been hailed as a great speaker. But his greatest ability, in my opinion, is using rhetorical sleight of tongue to obfuscate his political agenda. (As opposed to Biden's rhetorical flourishes) Steve Diamond points it out in the sentence, 'Barack Obama led the effort to craft slightly altered wording to the statement of purpose.'

Successful snake oil salesmen have to be able to do this when their actual product is not palatable to the public or useful for stated purposes.


Ludwik Kowalski said...

This is not a comment on the above.

Those who know very little about Stalinism might learn a lot from my short and easy-to-read 2008 book entitled "Hell on Earth: Brutality and Violence Under the Stalinist Regime." The book (ISBN 978-1-60047-232-9) can be ordered online, for example, at

or from a large bookstore, like Barnes&Noble or Borders. Excerpts are at:

Please share this URL with those who might be interested.

P.S. It is not a scholarly volume with new information or ideas; it is an educational book for those Americans who know very little about tragic aspects of Soviet history. It mixes well-known facts, described by survivors of gulag camps, with comments and observations worth discussing.

As shown on the back cover, the book was not written to make money (royalties are committed to a scholarship fund); it was written to expose horrors of proletarian dictatorship. The book is dedicated to all victims of Stalinism, including my idealistic father. My goal is to place as many of its copies as possible in American homes, libraries and bookstores. But that is a very difficult task, especially for a self-published author. Would you, or someone you know, be able to review my book for a local, or not-so-local, newspaper? A review would probably convince bookstores that the book is worth ordering.

Thank you for your help.
Ludwik Kowalski, Ph.D.

James said...

I think the comment above, from Dr. Kowalski, is a good example of why it's unhelpful to use concepts like "Stalinist" and "socialist" when they don't actually apply.

Despite the claim above about what political scientists think, the philosophy of Ayers isn't "neo-Stalinist," any more than Obama's political approach is remotely like socialism.

By using such concepts without regard for their accepted meanings, serious discussions about politics can degenerate into conversations about irrelevant issues, like Soviet gulags.

Steve Burri said...


Your simple denial isn't much of a replacement for counter argumentation. But, since you also are a proponent of reparations, I expect that any means are acceptable to achieve your desired ends.

To state that William Ayers is not a Neo-Stalinist will require mounds of evidence to refute the mountains of evidence showing that he is.

Despite his timely rhetorical assertions, there is plenty of documentation that Senator Obama is a socialist.

Show me something and we'll talk.

James said...

Steve, I am not a proponent of reparations, so I think you're going a bit too far when you accuse me of being willing to adopt any means to achieve my ends, without any examples.

If you believe there's "mounds of evidence" that Ayers is a "neo-Stalinist," then I'd be very interested in knowing how you define that term. Certainly, Ayers has never promoted the political philosophy, nor the personal or leadership style, of Joseph Stalin or his ilk.

Nor has Obama ever promoted the tenets of socialism, as that term is defined in the dictionary or in political philosophy or practical politics.

So, again, it would be interesting to know what you mean by the term. Is it, in your mind, synonymous with liberalism, for instance? Or with redistributing wealth, which Obama calls for doing to almost exactly the same degree as McCain? (Their income tax policies and budgetary proposals differ by only a few percentage points, for example.)

Steve Burri said...


Thanks for coming back and continuing the discussion. Too often I get 'drive by' comments with no attempt to continue.

As in my original post, I would direct you to Steve Diamond's blog, Global Labor and Politics to check his analysis made from his research.

Also, Zombietime posts an article reviewing The Weather Underground's 1974 book, Prairie Fire. Both Ayers and Dohrn are part of its authorship and have, long into the 21st Century, stood by that philosophy.

Ayers, now with a doctorate in education, still operates within this philosophy, promoting it in his education programs. For several years, Senator Obama funded Ayers' constructed programs through the Chicago Annenberg Challenge. They also served together on the board of the Woods Foundation to fund many other programs that I consider of a similar ilk. (After spending over $100 million the CAC determined that no benefit was gained by the students.)

Senator Obama's education advisor, Linda Darling Hammond, is, like Ayers, a proponent of reparations called 'education debt' as stated here. "As Gloria Ladson-Billings, former president of the American Educational Research Association, has noted, the problem we face is less an "achievement gap" than an educational debt that has accumulated over centuries of denied access to education and employment, reinforced by deepening poverty and resource inequalities in schools."

James said...

Thanks, Steve, for making this a welcome forum for discussion, and one that encourages more than just a "drive-by" approach to commenting.

While I don't agree with much of what Steve Diamond writes on his blog, he does seem to carefully distinguish between socialism, communism, and Stalinist ideology.

"Prairie Fire" was a radical pamphlet endorsing a form of communism, but it says nothing to suggest that its authors support Stalinism.

I've read about Ayers' educational philosophy, and he doesn't incorporate communism into his educational beliefs. In fact, I'm not even sure how educational policies could be communist (assuming that's still what you're talking about). In any event, his educational work has been endorsed by leading Republicans and mainstream Democrats, so clearly those groups don't believe that he's espousing radical principles through his current work.

Obama did not fund Ayers' work at any time, and certainly not through the Annenberg Challenge. They did both serve on that board for a time, but Obama didn't provide money to Ayers nor did he direct funds to him.

As for Darling-Hammond, I have no interest in defending her views on education. But I don't see any problem with acknowledging that the major challenges facing our nation on education include poverty, the unequal resources currently invested in our nation's schools, and our long history of discrimination in education, which has caused some communities to devalue the role of education in their children's future. These are major problems to be addressed and, in my view, are undeniable as well. Acknowledging these problems has nothing to do with advocating for reparations for slavery.

Steve Burri said...


Just a couple of things before I have to run.

Perhaps you should defend Darling Hammond, she is an Obama education advisor. Obama is the bottom line of this argumentation.

The CAC didn't fund Ayers directly, but as Diamond states, Klonsky's group received hundreds of thousands. That group was founded by Ayers. Klonsky was a student of Ayers as well as a former SDS fellow member.

Ayers was also the chairman? of the Collaborative for the CAC. This is the portion that created the programs and suggested the persons or groups to receive the grants.

On his own blog, Ayers states, "Education, of course, is never entirely neutral—it always has a value, a position, a politics. Education—teaching and schooling—either reinforces or challenges the existing social order. For humanists and democratic educators, the largest, most generous purpose of education is always human enlightenment and human liberation, and the driving principle is the unity of all humanity." There is an agenda.

It would be foolish for Ayers to be forthright in his ends. In true Saul Alinsky rules for radicals fashion he knows to manipulate language as a means to promote these unstated ends.

James said...

Thanks, but I have no interest in defending Obama's education adviser. I'm sure she can take care of herself.

So what you're saying is that Obama didn't fund Ayers after all. Instead, the CAC, a Republican-funded institution, provided grants to a group connected with Ayers. I'm not sure what's remarkable about that.

Ayers is right about one thing: education, just like history, is never neutral. It always reflects a point of view; if it seems not to, then it simply reflects a perspective we take for granted. This is simply a fact. This is why, for instance, we always take care that our public schools reflect American values, teach critical thinking and otherwise encourage good citizenship.

If you're saying that you object specifically to the goals of "human enlightenment and human liberation, and ... the unity of all humanity," then I think you may be in the minority. I doubt I'd agree with Ayers' education philosophy, but I'm all for students who are enlightened and free, and have only the greater good of humankind at heart.

Steve Burri said...


Well, we agree on several things.

", just like history, is never neutral. It always reflects a point of view; if it seems not to, then it simply reflects a perspective we take for granted. This is simply a fact. This is why, for instance, we always take care that our public schools reflect American values, teach critical thinking and otherwise encourage good citizenship."

We would have to discuss what American values are, but I like your three pillars.

"If you're saying that you object specifically to the goals of "human enlightenment and human liberation, and ... the unity of all humanity," then I think you may be in the minority."

Agreed on the surface. I'm sure there are many differing ideas on human enlightenment.

The unity of all humanity is a romantic, utopian dream. One can seek to be at peace, as far as it is in your power, but unless the whole world is enslaved under one regime, conflict and war will always be around the corner.

Back to work.