Saturday, October 11, 2008

Obama, Ayers, the "S" Word, and the "Most Politically Backward Layers in America"

Bill Van Auken, the Socialist Equality Party’s vice presidential candidate, has an insightful article posted on the World Socialist Web Site. The focus of this article is the McCain-Palin campaign’s recent efforts to link Barack Obama to William Ayers, a former member of the 1960s group, the Weather Underground.

I agree with Van Auken that such efforts – along with those attempting to paint Obama as a “socialist” – are nothing more than a “virulently right-wing appeal directed to the most politically backward layers in America.”

Although it doesn’t appear to be working in the Republicans’ favor,
I still can’t believe how stupid some Americans can be. Okay, that's too harsh; let me put it this way: I have a hard time with how uninformed some Americans are when it comes to certain issues.

Case in point: the knee-jerk reaction of some to the term “socialist.” Honestly, it can border on the pathological, which is mind-boggling given that they, along with the vast majority of Americans, accept and want to protect a program like Social Security – a socialist program if ever there was one.

I recently heard one McCain supporter say, while being interviewed by the BBC, that an Obama win will make Europe very happy! What the #!%*. It’s as if this guy believes that a country like Sweden is America’s greatest enemy!

Come to think of it, Sweden has a Democratic Socialist government, and it’s because Obama was
once endorsed by the Chicago Democratic Socialists of America that some McCain supporters are in a frenzy, maintaining that this endorsement (which took place over ten years ago) proves that Obama is a “radical”! Seriously, I’m not making his stuff up. Yet one has to ask: What are these folks who are crying “Democratic Socialist” and “radical” scared of? That we’ll end up like Sweden? Hey, we could do a lot worse!

This same particular McCain supporter who was interviewed by the BBC also declared that, if elected, Obama would bring “more socialism to America,” yet failed to articulate what he understood socialism to actually mean, let alone to distinguish between the many expressions of socialism. He probably meant “big government,” i.e., the government’s spending of taxpayers money and its interference in people’s lives.

This, of course, is rather ironic given that John McCain recently supported the biggest government intervention ever in the financial sector – approving (along with Obama, it must be said) the spending of billions of tax payers’ dollars to bailout Wall Street. (It also needs to be said that this unprecedented transfer of public funds to the major banks and the American financial elite at the expense of the broad mass of the people is not a socialist solution. For instance, see here and here.) Of course, McCain’s support of the government’s intervention in the so-called free market, its “socializing” of Wall Street, as some pundits have called it, doesn’t seem to register with a lot of McCain-Palin supporters. Could it be they really are “the most politically backward layers in America”?

They also seem incredibly fearful, and that’s always scary. For as Van Auken points out: “The atmosphere in these Republican events resembles more and more that of a lynch mob. And the continuous attempts to paint Obama as a ‘traitor’ and ‘terrorist’ have the potential of inciting real violence, including attempts on the Democratic candidate’s life.”

I just find all of this deeply disturbing, and although I commend McCain for finally taking a stand against some in his audiences who express inaccurate and rabid views, it’s all a bit too little and too late. Furthermore, his campaign’s attack ads on TV and the internet continue.

Which brings us back to Van Auken’s take on the McCain-Palin campaign’s fixation on linking Barack Obama to William Ayers. Following is how Van Auken addresses this issue. As you’ll see, it’s a very informative and well-reasoned examination of the facts. (Oh, and if you think Van Auken as a Socialist is all for Obama, think again – and read this! In short, Socialists don’t consider Obama one of their own.)


At the center of this extreme right-wing turn in the Republican campaign strategy is a McCarthyite smear campaign linking Obama to William Ayers [pictured at right], a former member of the 1960s-era Weather Underground group, who today holds the title of “distinguished professor” of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago and is a liberal reformist.

The McCain campaign unveiled a 90-second Internet campaign ad that rehashes the fact that Ayers hosted an event in his home when Obama was running for state senator in 1995 and that the two subsequently served together on the board of a non-profit organization.

Cutting back and forth between photos of Obama and Ayers, it concludes with the narrator’s ominous sounding voice-over: “Obama’s friendship with terrorist Ayers isn’t the issue. The issue is Barack Obama’s judgment and candor. When Obama just says, ‘This is a guy who lives in the neighborhood,’ Americans says, ‘Where’s the truth, Barack?’ Barack Obama, too risky for America.”

McCain echoed the same witch-hunting theme virtually verbatim at a campaign event in Waukesha, Wisconsin on Thursday: “Look, we don’t care about an old washed-up terrorist and his wife, who still, at least on Sept. 11, 2001, said he still wanted to bomb more. That’s not the point here. The point is Senator Obama said he was just a guy in the neighborhood. We know that’s just not true. We need to know the full extent of the relationship because of whether Senator Obama is telling the truth to the American people or not. That’s the question.” [The McCain-Palin campaign concerned with “the truth”! Now that’s rich. See, for instance, the previous Wild Reed post,
Holding McCain Accountable to His Falseholds.]

This thoroughly reactionary campaign, based on half-truths and innuendo, has been dutifully echoed by the mass media, with the New York Times publishing a front-page article on the Obama-Ayers connection last week, MSNBC running an investigative report on the subject and Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News making it the overriding political story each and every day. [See the previous Wild Reed post, As Obama Campaign Gains Momentum, Fox News Goes Into “Oh, Crap” Mode.]

Ayers — referred to by the McCain campaign as “terrorist Ayers,” as if it were some military title — is, it deserves pointing out, a private citizen with no connection to Obama’s presidential campaign. He was never convicted of any crime nor charged with anyone’s death.

Yet, the clear aim of the Republican campaign is to link him — and by association, Obama — to the terrorist attacks of September 11, thereby painting the Democratic candidate as a traitor and unfit for office.

The Weather Underground, the group in which Ayers was a leading figure, emerged out of the mass opposition to the Vietnam War that saw millions of Americans take to the streets to demand an end to US military slaughter.

The group expressed the frustration and disorientation of a section of the protesters who, despairing of the possibility of winning the American working class to the struggle against war and capitalism and influenced by the retrograde theories of Maoism, turned to what they saw as a more radical form of protest, involving isolated bombings.

During a period in which the US war machine was responsible for killing over 3 million Vietnamese, the Weather Underground’s activities cost a total of three lives, all of them members of the group itself, who were killed in an accidental explosion.

Part of the McCain campaign’s focus on this issue is aimed at demonizing the mass opposition that helped to force an end to the Vietnam War and rehabilitating the war itself. Only in this context can one understand the incongruous accusation by McCain — the former fighter pilot shot down while bombing heavily populated areas of Hanoi — that Obama is guilty of associating with someone involved in the “bombing of innocent civilians.”

The inability of the Obama campaign to mount a direct and forceful response to this diatribe is bound up with its essential acceptance of this version of the Vietnam War, expressed in the Democratic candidate’s continuous “honoring” of McCain’s military service. The Democrats, no less than the Republicans, are determined to put behind them the so-called “Vietnam syndrome,” a euphemism for the enduring hostility of the American people to sacrificing the lives of its youth in wars of aggression.

While essentially cowing in the face of the Republican smear campaign over Ayers, the Democrats have done nothing to expose the real dangers represented by the political forces to which their Republican rivals are now making such a direct appeal.

The nature of these political layers emerges clearly in the associations of their vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, who was picked for her ability to “energize the base,” i.e., whip up the Republican right.

Her husband was a member, and she at least a political sympathizer, of the Alaska Independence Party (AIP), an outfit that called for the secession of Alaska from the union and formed the Alaskan chapter of the Constitution Party, an extreme right-wing organization advocating Christian theocratic rule in America. Its founder, Joe Vogler [pictured at left], was killed in 1993 in what was described by the media as a “plastic-explosives sale gone bad.”

The politics of the AIP paralleled that of the right-wing militia movement that gave rise to such elements as Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, the authors of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that claimed the lives of 168 people.

Moreover, Palin’s central appeal is based on her hard-line anti-abortion position, embraced by the Christian right and an anti-abortion movement that has given rise to the largest share of terrorist attacks carried out on American soil over the past two decades, including murders of health care practitioners, bombings, arsons, assaults and threats of violence.

Yet neither the Democratic Party nor the media has shown an inclination to cast any light on these relations, much less subject them to the kind of front-page treatment given to the four-decades-old exploits of William Ayers and his tenuous connections to Obama.

The role of the Christian right and of semi-fascistic elements within the Republican Party remains the great unmentionable in American politics. They are accorded political protection and legitimacy precisely for the role they play in diverting the anger and frustration of sections of the population into reactionary channels that serve to prop up the ruling establishment.

The right-wing campaign presently being waged by the Republican Party has ominous implications. While it is highly questionable whether it will shift votes from Obama to McCain, it is serving to mobilize the most reactionary political forces and whip them to a fever pitch.

To read Bill Van Auken’s article in its entirety, click here.

Recommended Off-site Links:
Obama’s “Problem” with William Ayers - Steve Clemens (Mennonista, October 11, 2008).
Congressman Says McCain “Sowing Seeds of Hatred” - Associated Press (October 11, 2008).
McCain: Lewis’ Remarks on Campaign Tone are Unfair - Ann Sanner (Associated Press, October 13, 2008).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
In Curtailing “Red Meat Rhetoric,” McCain is Booed By Supporters
As Obama Campaign Gains Momentum, Fox News Goes Into “Oh, Crap!” Mode
“Clichés and Tired Attack Lines”
Sarah Palin and the Rove-Cheney Cabal
Holding McCain Accountable to His Falsehoods
The Shadow is Real
It Won’t Last
All Those Community Organizers? Who Needs Them!
Sarah Palin’s “Theocratic Fascist” Affiliations
Progressives and Obama (Part 1)
Progressives and Obama (Part 2)
Progressives and Obama (Part 3)
Historic (and Wild!)
An American Prayer

Image 1: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., campaign headquarters is seen in Richmond, Va., Saturday, Oct. 4, 2008. (AP Photo/Lawrence Jackson)

Image 2:
US Republican presidential nominee Senator John McCain (R-AZ) smiles as he speaks during a rally in La Crosse, Wisconsin October 10, 2008.
(REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

Image 3:US Democratic presidential candidate Illinois Senator Barack Obama arrives during a rally at Progress Plaza in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Obama opened a double-digit lead over rival John McCain in a key opinion poll on Saturday while investigators found Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin had abused her powers as Alaska governor. (AFP/Emmanuel Dunand)

Image 4: William Ayers. (Photographer unknown)

Image 5: Joe Vogler (Photographer unknown)


Anonymous said...

W just brought more socialism to the United States in the last 3 weeks than we've seen since 1933. How can Obama out-do this even if he wanted to? We're broke, eh? The next President will be left to clean up the mess, though, and shoulder enormous amounts of unearned and undeserved blame (yes, even Mr. McCain). Perhaps Mr. Obama will benefit from all the time he missed in his first and only term as the junior Senator from Illinois: senators are elected to 6-year terms. Of those 6 years Obama serves, what, 2 years? Of those two years, Obama spends at least a year on the campaign trail. A year in the Senate is hardly enough time to do any real damage to country. We'll see what Obama does with is 4-8 years in the White House.

Anonymous said...

Don,t think Obama will make it that far with all the scandals. AXJ predicts McCain will be the next president by Electoral Votes.

Donna said...

What scandals?

The McCain/Palin outfit would like us to believe that what they're windbagging about are Obama-related "scandals," but the American people clearly aren't buying it.

Anonymous said... has Obama by a mile.

Jack said...

I had ask in an earlier comment if any catholic bishop has suggested denying communion to any politicians who failed to support any catholic social justice other than the abortion issue. Is the abortion issue the only ACTUAL social justice teaching of the church. It seems the bishops of the church count the abortion issue as the only serious catholic social teaching. All the others seem like just suggestions. Pssibly I am wrong and this site is limited to gay/lesbians only. Jack

Michael J. Bayly said...

Hi Jack,

No, the abortion issue does not comprise the entirety of the Church's social justice teaching - although one could readily think that given how some Catholics (including bishops) carry on.

Oh, by the way, I appreciated your recent review of Archbishop Chaput's book.



Anonymous said...

Anyone who thinks socialism superior to market economy need only consider market economies has brought 90% of all innovation and 95% of the world's wealth for people.

Also, socialism inevitably leads to serfdom, as Nobel Laureate F. Hayek wrote in the 1940s, The Road to Serfdom. Not merely enslaved to bureaucratic choices "for us," but control of the economy invariably leads to control of the polity, e.g., communism.

If not already, you might wish to read:

Even European socialist economies -- which had the luxury of socialism piggy-backing on America's market economy -- are moving decidedly away from their post WWII socialism, including Sweden, Germany, and Britain. Only France with its unions remains in the grip of socialist and communist fevers. But other than wine, what is French and worth buying? If you can find something, it is not a socialist product, like clothing, parfums, etc.

So socialism works only when certain conditions prevail, none of which exist in the U.S.

Donna said...

Why must market capitalism and socialism always be at opposite ends of the spectrum? It seems to me that both have redeeming qualities and potential fatal flaws. From my observation, society seems to work best when the better elements of each work hand-in-hand.

Gay Species' criticism of socialism is unconvincing as he is way too uncritical of "market economics," which, when left unfettered, can and have wrought death and destruction on millions of people, not to mention the environment. Innovation, yes, but at what price? Also, not all development is progress.

And what can "fetter" capitalism? How about utilizing socialist ideals and practices (such as government regulation)? We already do this - some countries more so than others, with the degree of such practices often depending on a range of conditions.

Perhaps socialism alone is not helpful, but then I'm not convinced that capitalism on its own is all that helpful either. Again, why does it have to be either/or? Why not both/and?

As for 90-95% of all innovation having resulted from market economics . . . well, how on earth is that figure worked out!

It clearly doesn't account for some of the foundational innovations, like the wheel! Surely cooperation (a socialist ideal, in retrospect) has led to more advances than competition and the quest for personal financial gain. (Well, I hope it has!)

I just think the whole issue is way more complex than presented by Gay Species, although admittedly, my knowledge on such matters is not as thorough as I'd like it to be.

Anonymous said...

Donna raises a good point: While socialism and markets are mutually incompatible, markets do not serve all interests, and planned (social) economies play an important functions for which markets serve no role.

A great case in point is medicine. Illness is not a profit-driven enterprise (unless insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies can cherry pick their customers). Rather, illness often afflicts segments of the population with extreme disequalbrium. For example, a child with lymphoma can never provide an insurance company with enough revenue to offset the costs of basic medical intervention.

Free-market capitalists (of which I am NOT one) argue these folk should simply die. Socialists, by their practices in Canada and Sweden, also argue these folk should simply die. Both "ration" health care for those who actually will benefit long-term, not for those who mortality serves neither the bureaucrats' actuaries nor the insurance companies' bottom line.

But MARKET disciples believe such patients, while ultimately fatal, provide the basis to do research and development, and therefore, what may be a "waste" by socialist and capitalist economies may prove useful in the future to lymphoma patients and those like them.

Ronald Reagan, largely forgotten, caused AIDS research to overshadow cancer research deliberately on the advice of his NIH and CDC advisers. The reasoning was that an understanding of the immune system (then archaic) could not but help cancer research, and as FACTS have shown, nearly all cancer advances in the past 20+ years comes from an increased knowledge of the immune system.

Today, BOTH cancer and HIV are no longer "death sentences," because HIV research opened frontiers in both diseases, which now allows those who suffer from EITHER to benefit from ONE. THAT kind of thinking, for which Reagan was especially keen, gets lost for his "silence" to keep his Right Wing's calls for quarantine off center stage. But look at the BUDGETS. Reagan funded AIDS research more than is widely thought, because he listened to his EXPERTS.

Here is a classic case where the "market" serves no one. It took tax dollars, allocated to specific researchers, to investigate certain dynamics no free-market has the time, the money, or the return on profits to expend. And, Reagan, recognizing the market's limits, funded tax research into AIDS over CANCER, on the expert advice that the two are related. In LESS THAN 10 YEARS, the most complex disease in modern times not only had treatment, but equally if not more important, CANCER patients now live longer lives because of Reagan's budgets. IN TEN YEARS, a retrovirus is now managed as a chronic disease rather than a DEATH SENTENCE. Reagan, no one else, thought smartly enough to contemplate the possibility through TAXES.

To profit off medical illness, if it worked, would be fine, but it does NOT work, and Reagan's advisors showed him how taxes could serve the greater good (Fauci, Koop, etc). Even a Ronald Reagan knew that, while his "heirs" G.W.B. only seek to fatten stockholders.

So markets do not solve everything, and only dogmatists from CATO Institute, Tom Delay, and Republican Capitalists believe otherwise. LOOK AT WHAT THEY HAVE BEGOTTEN.

A market economy requires REGULATION, but not OVER-REGULATION, like Jimmy Carter's pernicious Community Reinvestment Act, which not surprisingly brought lawsuits against lenders who found borrowers without repayment sources demanding free housing, many illegals. Conversely, Richard Nixon wrought Regulation Z and the Holder in Due Course (Credit Card) Acts, both the most pro-consumer credit laws enacted. Who wrought the 1999 Financial Services Modernization Act? Bill Clinton signed it into law -- which Ronald Reagan did not do, and would not do. Terminating the Glass-Segal Act was anathema to anyone, including Reagan, who lived through the Depression. But "feel our pain" philanderer Clinton gave us DADT, DOMA, NAFTA, FMA, and people think HE is progressive and liberal? Clinton talks a good talk, he bought my vote, but he is as crooked as G.W.B.

Markets, provided competition avails, are superior to all alternatives; otherwise, a "planned economy" for retirement, disability, unemployment, medical care, etc. are required. The problem is that Democrats -- from F.D.R. to Bill Clinton -- cannot structure planned economies properly, which is why Social Security is insolvent, Medicare is extortion, and NAFTA is license for foreigners to steal.

Renegade Eye said...

Bill Ayers is a rich kid, who in the 1970s had temper tantrums against his parents during the Vietnam War, then returned into the fold of the Democratic Party. He never was a socialist. He lacked any belief in the working class, so he blew up buildings. Now he puts his faith in Democratic Party politicians. See this.

As I've said before, Stalinism died with the end of the Cold War. It was supposed to be the end of history, and capitalism will reign. Boom, Hugo Chavez is talking about the need for socialism. The issue is raised again.

With the productivity developed in a wealthy country like the USA, all homelessness, starvation can be ended. Food can be raised for stopping malnutrition, rather than farmers paid for not growing food. That's not utopian talk. That is possibility talk.

Anonymous said...

Jack raises one of my biggest gripes about the church's hierarchy.

One supposes from the documents of Vatican II, the individual bishop as well as episcopal collegiality serves to oversee the Church, to guide and pastor its flock, and to seek first the kingdom of god.

Forty-four years AFTER Vatican II, and I'll be damned if I can recall any bishop, much less their collegiality, promoting the pastoral constitution of the Church in the Modern Wrold (Gaudium et spes, 1964).

The document suffers from being both theocratic and communitarian -- the first to use communitarianism by the West. With those issues sidelined, the very first principle established in the Dignity of the Human Person, in which the "excellence of freedom" states that God willed that man should "be left in the hand of his own counsel. . . . , freely choosing what is good, and by his diligence and skill, effectively secures for himself the means suit to his end." (G/S 1.17)

The Council even calls for essential equality of all individuals as God's image, with discrimination of all kinds chastised, EXCEPT that state of life in which homophiles find themselves condemned as "intrinsically disordered." The Councils teaches the "norm for human activity -- to harmonize with the authentic interests of the human race, in accordance with God's will and design, and to enable men as individuals and as members of society to purpose and fulfill their total vocation," (G/S III.35), EXCEPT for same-sexed lovers, caregivers, and their partners.

To these ends, the Church proposes to regulate human activity towards its eschatological ends. One activity rejected is "anyone who would unduly despise of idolize the human body," such as Saint Paul claims in Romans 1. To worship the creator through his creatures and creation is anathema, a great harm and dislocation, that only "social and exterior union comes from a union of hearts and minds, from the faith and love by which its own indissoluble unity has been founded in the Holy Spirit." (G/S, IV. 42). Of that unity, only males united to females is sanctioned, even though the Council states:

"But marriage is not merely for the procreation of children: its nature as an indissoluble compact between two people of the partners," again EXCEPT of the same sex. "Even in cases where despite intense desire of the spouses there are no children, marriage still retains its character of being a whole manner and communion of life and preserves its value and indissolubility," again EXCEPT among andropile and gynophiles in same-sex bonds.

Thus, the California Conference of Catholic Bishops has established unequivocally the sinfulness of allowing gay couples to marry and enjoy the fruits of unitive love and called for support of Proposition 8. Bishops have instructed their priests and deacons to pronounce the Church's moral opprobrium of same-sex unitive love. This is how communitarians impose THEIR beliefs onto OTHERS, because they have the truth and better knowledge than ordinary human beings. Communitarianism has two faces: (1) conservatism, and (2) socialism, and both are anathema to liberals, of which yours truly is one.

The late philosopher Bernard Williams in his essay, "From Freedom to Liberty: The Construction of a Political Value" in which he insists:

(1) No one can intelligibly make a claim against others simply on the ground that the activities of those others restrict his primitive freedom;
(2) Similarly no SANE person can expect that his primitive freedom merely should be protected;
(3)Equally, no sane person can think that he has a right against others to what is demanded by his primitive freedom (i.e., to anything he happens to want);
(4) No one can intelligibly think that his good [period, as opposed to good for him] that his primitive freedoms should be unlimited.

Why? Impartiality, the foundation of Justice, rejects arbitrary coercion to act in only circumscribed orthopractic ways, when human freedom affords alternatives without harm to anyone. To interject oneself in another's choice of actions so to preclude each pursuing his osn project with (or without) respect for another is oppression.

Anonymous said...

GS, why is sex pleasurable?

Anonymous said...

Mark asks, "Why is sex pleasurable?"

To answer that question philosophically (why?) is impossible. We simply know that for most species, humans included, the sex drive is among the most primitive, instinctual, and pleasurable appetites (to use philosophical jargon). Like sex, sleep, food, play, excretion, all have a pleasurable component.

In the philosophy of Epicurus, the first materialist and author of hedonism and Epicureanism, it is a philosophical axiom of biological nature "to pursue pleasure and to avoid pain." Indeed, the axiom is self-evident (meaning, the opposite is untenable). Every modern philosopher and biologist since has accepted the axiom, although most revise the wording slightly: Pursue the most pleasant, avoid the least pleasant.

The re-wording by axiologists allows us to "defer immediate gratification" for longer-term satisfaction, which a rational calculus entertains. The role that the "most pleasant" plays in our daily lives is virtually incalcuable. Hume speaks of these two passions (i.e., pleasant and unpleasant) as the original impulse that first distinguishes all passions (i.e., "emotions"), is the cause underlying most of our choices, and is plainly a natural endowment of nature itself. All normative (i.e., "should") judgments follow from our passions, and reason is a slave to the passions by moderating them to serve a rational purpose. Emotions are therefore the judgments of value that provoke intentional desires.

Ergo, the appetites and the emotions, while written here separately, always concur together, as do epistemic judgments about facts. Thus emotions are judgments of value that constitute normative choices in behavior. Coupled with appetites, then, the sex drive may be intensely pleasurable (or so I've heard), but coupling the appetite with our value judgments (i.e., emotions) and our facts (i.e., true/false aspects of reality) are indispensable for human survival.

So, to answer your question, Why is sex pleasurable? I can offer three reasons which may or may not coexist: (1) natural endowment or instinct, (2) value judgments are reasoned valuations of the pleasure achieved and pain of absence avoided, and (3) the facts that healthy individuals endeavor to perpetuate themselves and their kin (as well as species) operate in tandem to seek out sexual relations with others.

Also, the hedonist axiom is the foundation of a naturalistic morality known as benevolence theory, because of empathy we share for others in good fortune and bad. Because of our capacity to share "analogous" feelings of hurt and pain vs. pleasant and pleasurable, much of our primitive morality and goodwill towards all stems from the "hedonist axiom."

Anonymous said...

GS, your answer is too difficult. The answer is "Sexual pleasure is Nature's advance payment for offspring." That's it. Any other explanation is a human construct.