A Ticket for Speech

According to the Associated Press, Linda Ramirez-Sliwinski, a trustee in the Chicago suburb of Carpentersville, was issued a 75 dollar ticket for disorderly conduct after neighbors complained to police. 

Here’s what happened. Two children were playing in a tree next door to her house. She told the boys to get out of the tree because she was worried for their safety and because the magnolia tree was small and the boys were damaging it. 

The father, who evidently doesn’t understand what a trustee is, told her that it was none of her business.

This was her response: “I calmly said the tree is not there for them to be climbing in there like monkeys.”

The boys happened to be black. The mother of one of the boys called the police. In Illinois, there is an ordinance that bans conduct that disturbs or alarms other people. The police said that one boy was scared and a mother was disturbed. 

Why isn’t everybody in a panic over calling a black male “boy”? Could it be because context is everything?

Ramirez-Sliwinski says she will fight the ticket—as she should—but that she will not seek re-election to the board.

Turns out that there’s more to the story. Ramirez-Sliwinski is an Illinois delegate for Barack Obama, a position which she has resigned. The resignation was announced by Amy Brundage, a spokesperson for the Obama campaign. 

The AP story irresponsibly states that she was “using the word ‘monkeys’ to describe black children playing in a tree.” No, she wasn’t. She was using the word “monkeys” to describe boys playing in a tree.

Meanwhile, poverty among black children is still much greater than it is among white children. When are we going to do something about that?

Obama Cruising to the Nomination

Howard Dean, the chairman of the DNC, the man who is supposed to be looking out for Democrats, says, “I think there is 800 [superdelegates], and 450 have already said who they are for. I would like the other 350 to say who they are for at some point between now and the first of July, so we don’t have to take it to the convention.”

Mort Kondrake, who would love to see an Obama candidacy, says, “The only way out of this that I can see, since there is not going to be a re-do in Michigan or Florida, is for somebody, and Phil Gretason [sic], the governor of Tennessee is trying to organize this, is a pre-convention of the super delegates—get them all together and have them decide.”

A “pre-convention”? Conventions are not supposed to be public relations affairs where the party parades around looking as if it’s unified. We don’t want stage-crafted “democracy.” Conventions are where issues are discussed and the candidate that stands the best chance of being elected president and who best represents the interests of Democratic voters is selected. Liberal elites are desperate to bring the election to a close because they’re scared witless that, by August, Obama will have self-destructed, denying them the claim of the first African American presidential candidate. 

Clinton and Obama debate

Ending the primary is not what Democratic voters want. As Clinton has pointed out, two-thirds of Democrats in a recent poll want the primary process to work itself out through voting. There are millions of people who haven’t yet voted, and they want their say. Of those who want the race to end, the same percentage of Democrats want Obama to drop out of the race as want Clinton to drop out of the race. The party should take note of this fact, because, coupled with the one-third of Clinton supporters who say they will switch to McCain if Obama wins the nomination, it signals how many Democrats are worried about an Obama candidacy.

* * *

Very interesting story out today by ABC news on Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter. I don’t agree with everything he said, but I greatly admire his standing up for substance over symbolism. He says in no uncertain language that he would have left Trinity United over Jeremiah Wright’s teachings. “I could not sit and tolerate that kind of language, and especially over a very long period of time,” he said. “If I were in my own church and heard my pastor saying some of those kinds of things, we’d have a conversation about what’s going on here, what is this all about, and then I would have to make my own personal decision about whether or not to be associated or affiliated.” When asked if he would have quit, he answered, “Absolutely.”  

Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter

He talked about the pressure from the black community, pressure that has already caused prominent members of the black community to switch their vote to Obama. The most disappointing defector to the Obama camp was House member John Lewis, who admitted that he switched because of anger and harassment from the black community. Nutter said that he hears all the time, “Why not support a brother?” He answers, “Somehow, someway, for some people there’s an automatic assumption that a mayor who is African American or some other elected official has to support another African American.”

As for the possibility of an historic moment, he added, “Certainly the opportunity to demonstrate to my 13-year-old daughter that there is a bright future for her, that a woman could get elected president of the United States, is equally compelling.” This historic possibility has been lost on the press. Black men got the right to vote in 1870. It would take another fifty years for women—all women—to get the right to vote. There’s no rule that says race comes before gender in “historic firsts.”  

Nutter said, “Either candidate will clearly make history. But you only get to vote for one. The most important thing is winning in November, putting a Democrat in the White House.” He continued, “I’m a great fan of history. I don’t know that when people are struggling to pay the bills, that they ultimately conclude that, ‘Well, if we can just make history with this vote, then all of my problems will be solved.’”  

Nutter condemned the Democratic Party for disenfranchising voters in Florida and Michigan, two states Clinton won by large margins. The Democratic Party is refusing to seat those delegates. “Think about who we are in the Democratic Party and the country we are in,” Nutter said. “That we would somehow leave out any of our citizens in this process, I think, would be an absolute disgrace. We need to be a bit smarter about it.”

Many in the black community are confused by Nutter’s endorsement. They thought for sure that he would support Obama. Instead of scratching their heads, however, they should listen to what he said and realize that his endorsement is rooted in reason, a commodity in short supply among those caught up in Obamamania. What Nutter says about electability is on point.

* * *

A great many democrats have been sucked into the Obama cult of personality, and, with virtually every media outlet claiming that Obama’s speech on race was historic and satisfying in terms of addressing the outstanding problems of his association with Jeremiah Wright (without going into detail about Obama’s close association with James T. Meeks and Salem Baptist and other black leaders of Wright’s ilk), it’s not particularly surprising that a majority of Democrats have come to this conclusion. After all, Obama is winning the election. Democrats needed a reason to justify their vote and the corporate media handed it to them. It’s all hunky dory now.

As for Republicans, their responses are for the most part a combination of subconscious fear of being perceived as racist by interviewers (many respondents, especially those who perceive interviewers as having reason to suspect them of racialized politics, are deceptive with interviewers in polls when race is a factor), a deep-seated hatred of Clinton that has them convinced that there is no way Clinton can be a strong candidate (they don’t know anybody who would vote for Clinton, so how could most Americans?), and a press so completely in Obama’s camp that they are convinced that McCain won’t be covered fairly in the general election if Obama is the candidate.

Given everything we can plainly see about the circumstances surrounding this poll, the results are predictable. More accurate are polls asking Clinton supporters whether they will support Obama or McCain in the event Clinton doesn’t get the nomination. The finding that one-third of Clinton supporters will support McCain given such an outcome is a much clearer indication of the possible consequences of an Obama candidacy. Numbers to this question put to the Obama side have risen of late because Obama supporters, frustrated by Clinton’s reluctance to quit in the middle of the fight, have turned on her (when the question was first asked, only a small proportion of Obama supporters would switch parties given the opposite scenario).

If the polls ever switch in Clinton’s favor, it will happen despite the overwhelming force of the corporate media’s surreal push for an Obama’s candidacy. Moreover, with Obama contributing so much money to the campaigns of superdelegates, who, more than 80 percent of the time support the candidate who contributes the most money to their campaign, it looks bleak for Clinton.

Disloyal Obama’s Duplicity

Bill Burton, a key Obama adviser, when asked why Obama disinvited his spiritual mentor Jeremiah Wright to speak at Obama’s presidential race kick off, said, “Senator Obama is proud of his pastor” and that Obama wanted to “avoid having statements and beliefs” of Wright show up on blogs and conservative talk shows. So Otis Moss III was asked to speak instead. Of course, Moss’s statements and beliefs are no different from Wright’s, but then the media hasn’t pursued that. They have made this about Wright, because they believe they can—as Obama has done—dismiss him. But it’s not about Wright; it’s about Trinity United Church of Christ and black liberation theology.

At the time, Al Sharpton criticized Obama over the disinvitation saying that blacks were rightly distressed by Obama failing to stand by his pastor. Sharpton doesn’t make this criticism any more, even though Obama has failed to stand by his pastor in even more dramatic fashion as of late.

Wright understood why Obama distanced himself from church teachings. “When his enemies find out that in 1984 I went to Tripoli [to visit Muammar el-Qaddafi] with [Louis] Farrakhan,” he said, “a lot of his Jewish support will dry up quicker than a snowball in hell.” Wright also knew that such statements as the following one could prove fatal to Obama (if, of course, the media ever harped on them): “White America and the Western world came to realize [in the wake of the 9-11 terrorist attacks] that people of color had not gone away, faded into the woodwork or just ‘disappeared’ as the Great White West kept on its merry way of ignoring Black concerns.” (I guess I don’t really need to point out that this quote hasn’t been discussed at all in the current discussion over Wright’s teachings, even though it is a well known among those who are paying attention.)

Obama knew full well the character of Wright’s language, telling Wright during the disinvitation conversation: “You can get kind of rough in the sermons, so what we’ve decided is that it’s best for you not to be out there in public.” For those slow on the uptake, this means that Obama is lying when he says he was unaware of the controversial remarks. Clinton’s misremembering of events during one hour 12 years ago in a war zone goes to the heart of her trustworthiness, we are told, but no similar claim is made about Obama’s continuing and deliberate deception in hiding his spiritual mentor from the public and denying that he heard controversial remarks (a story Obama can’t keep straight).

This really is the story: Obama’s lying. But the media isn’t reporting the story this way. The corporate media angle is that his speech was the best speech ever on race and Americans for the most part believe he addressed their concerns. The media doesn’t provide the proper angle because, as it is as obvious as anything could be at this point, their goal is to see to it that Obama gets the nomination. Whether their overwhelming support for Obama stems from the desire to ameliorate the guilt they feel as whites over racism or sabotage Hilary Clinton’s chances is a matter of interpretation. (Maybe it’s both.)

Wright has cancelled many of his appearances of late, one suspects because the attention they would receive would prove embarrassing to Obama. But one wonders why Wright, who once said that Obama was “the hope of the world,” continues to do Obama’s bidding. Wright warned both Obama and Moss years ago that an Obama presidential campaign would make criticism of Trinity inevitable. I’m sure he didn’t expect Obama to turn his back on the church and reduce its preacher to a crazy old uncle who says bizarre things when that inevitability manifested itself in the clips of Wright’s sermons shown on YouTube.

Obama now says he would have quit the church if Wright hadn’t retired. “Had the reverend not retired and had he not acknowledged that what he had said had deeply offended people and were inappropriate and mischaracterized what I believe is the greatness of this country, for all its flaws, then I wouldn’t have felt comfortable staying there at the church.” But that’s not what Obama said in the “greatest speech ever.” Remember what he said then? “I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother.” 

Obama can’t get his story straight. He says he never heard controversial remarks despite being a member of the church for twenty years. Then he says in his speech he did hear controversial remarks. Then he says after his speech that he didn’t hear controversial remarks, that he wasn’t there those days. Then we learn that he didn’t let Wright speak at the ceremony announcing his run for the White House because of Wright’s controversial statements. He says Wright is family and he can’t disown him and that’s why he didn’t leave the church. Now he says that had Wright not retired he would have left the church.

Obama knows that, if white America ever realizes that for two decades Obama faithfully, willingly, and enthusiastically attended a church where the minister preached the things Wright preached week in and week out, Clinton will likely be the nominee of the Democratic Party. But the truth is that this is exactly what happened. So rather than simply admit it and take this opportunity to explain to America what Trinity United is all about, Obama lies. And the media covers and spins.

Wright and Trinity United got attention a while back when another member of the church, Oprah Winfrey—who says that “Obama is the one we’ve been waiting for” (The Matrix?)—actually stopped attending the church (she hasn’t been a member for nearly a decade), because she didn’t like Wright’s rhetoric—again, rhetoric Obama has always known about but which he denies knowing. Wright didn’t take Oprah’s leaving well. When asked about it, he said, “She has broken with the (traditional faith)…. She now has this sort of ‘God is everywhere, God is in me, I don’t need to go to church, I don’t need to be a part of a body of believers, I can meditate, I can do positive thinking’ spirituality.’ It’s a strange gospel. It has nothing to do with the church Jesus Christ founded.”

Although Obama never left the church, he has turned his back on the church’s teachings. As readers of my blog know, Wright advanced what he called a “Black Value System,” one of the tenets of which is the rejection of “middleclassness.” This value issues from the Marxist character of black liberation theology. Obama has fully embraced the middle class lifestyle, pitching his campaign specifically to the middle class voter—the white affluent college-educated liberal who wants desperately to vote for any black man to prove to themselves that anything is possible in America. Working people (except working class blacks, who are tragically voting on the basis of identity politics and not on the basis of their objective interests during this campaign season) get this and therefore are supporting the candidate with the practical policy and program proposals (who has the added bonus of potentially beating McCain in November).

You can’t trust Obama. He has either sold out completely or he was always lying to the south side of Chicago. In any case, he has been lying to Americans all along and he won’t stop lying about all of this.

Obama is getting a free ride from the corporate media. Obama tells the public that any statement his preacher made that offends them he did not personally hear (because he wasn’t in church on those days) and he categorically condemns and denounces it. Then he says he heard controversial statements made by Wright while sitting in the pews of Trinity United. Then he says he didn’t. Now Obama says he would have left the church had Wright not retired. But Wright was making these remarks at least throughout the present decade.

Did Wright tell Obama he was going to retire in 2008 way back in 2001 when he gave his “Chickens coming home to roost” sermon and Obama rode it out until then? Oprah left because of what Wright said and there was a public war of words over the matter. Why didn’t Obama do the same? Is the new minister (Otis Moss) acceptable to Obama since Obama remains a member of the church? The press is not pressing Obama on any of these things. Nobody who gets anywhere near him is openly challenging his obviously absurd answers to the questions he asks himself. 

Electability is the central issue in this campaign, yet the media is too busy piling up Democratic voices on one side calling on Hillary to step aside and marginalizing those voices that point out how close the contest is. They want to stop the fight before the final bell because they the fear that Obama will stick out his chin and Clinton will land a knockout blow. They suspect there’s more in Obama’s past hanging over his candidacy and they desperately want Clinton to concede before that information gets out. They couldn’t contain the Wright sermons and they don’t want a repeat of that debacle before the big primaries coming up. While they were able to make a confusing speech appear to the public as a special speech by hyping it, there’s no guarantee that they can spin future speeches in the same way. 

The problem is not so much with what Reverend Jeremiah Wright has said, but with how Barack Obama has reacted to the controversy. For twenty years, Obama was a member of a church that preached black liberation theology, a Christian worldview with roots in Marxism. Yet, when he needed to appeal to white voters, Obama denied he knew about the character of Wright’s theology, denounced church teachings, and reduced Reverend Jeremiah Wright, his spiritual advisor, the man who put him in touch with his black identity, to a rough-and-tumble style preacher. Obama didn’t stand up for the black community or for black liberation theology. He gave a speech in which he treated racism for the most part as a thing of the past. He depicted the radicalism of Wright and others as anger and frustration held over from the 1950s and 1960s. It was a remarkable moment in which a politician believed to be something different was revealed as little more than a superficial and willing pawn of the establishment.

There are some who are claiming that Barack Obama is being subjected to a Willie Horntoning. They defend the reverend, but also cast Obama as the victim. He’s not. Obama is pulling a Sister Souljah. The progressive community should be out front in condemning Obama for this. The media’s reaction to Wright’s comments was predictable. Obama’s reaction to Wright’s comments were despicable.

Recently, The Washington Post interviewed Peter Paris, professor emeritus of Christian social ethics at Princeton Theological Seminary. Paris worries that Obama’s condemnation of some of Wright’s words could hurt him in some black churches. It is interesting that, instead of condemning Obama for his betrayal of the church, many progressive theologians are concerned about how Obama’s speech plays among black church goers with respect to how it helps or hurts Obama.

“So many black churches understand the role of prophetic speech alongside of pastoral speech, and I don’t think that Obama helped…communicate that strongly enough,” Paris said. “I hope that he doesn’t find black churches moving away from him in that respect.” Paris said that Wright’s comments about past slavery and modern-day segregated schools are not, as Obama claimed, “distorted.” “Jeremiah Wright is seen as a major prophetic voice in the black community,” Paris said, “and there are many people who adore him.”

Yet Paris, who was a divinity school classmate with Wright in the 1960s, is an Obama supporter. Why, if Paris and others realize that Obama’s characterization of black liberation theology as distorted is wrong, do they support him? Do folks still think Ferraro was wrong to say that the reason why Obama is doing so well is because some Americans are caught up in the idea of a black president?

I think people have to understand Obama’s motive. Either he joined Trinity United because he believes in black liberation theology and its black Christian Marxist roots or he used Trinity United to find his black identity and build a constituency. It doesn’t appear that Obama ever believed in black liberation theology. He used the church as a stepping stone and then when he got to where he wanted to be—at the threshold of the Democratic nomination—he turned his back on them.

Even if Obama still holds to black liberation theology and is denying it because he knows he couldn’t get elected otherwise, then he’s perpetrating a fraud of mega-proportions. If you know people won’t like you because of what you believe, and you have the courage of your convictions, then you don’t pretend to be something else; you tell them what you believe and let the chips fall where they may. Obama is too busy feeding everybody what they want to hear to have any convictions.

As an aside, I wonder how much press this latest thing about Italians with their “garlic noses” will get. Wright is big on this metaphor of Rome as the United States. No way did Barack Obama not know about this thread. It pops up over and over again. Two days ago Obama discussed the “very objectionable things [said] when I wasn’t in church on those particular days.” How convenient. If Wright says anything objectionable, just assume that Obama wasn’t in church that day. That may work for Obama true believers, but to rational persons it’s ludicrous.

If the press was going after Obama the way it’s going after Hillary this race wouldn’t be close. Seriously, I would really like to see a video of Obama laughing and clapping in the pew over one of Wright’s objectionable comments. Trouble is, they’re likely hiding that evidence. For some reason or another, even though Obama threw Wright and Trinity United under the bus, they’re still protecting him.

Sometimes There Really are Just Two Ways of Looking at Something

If you are a person who believes that what Jeremiah Wright said about 9-11 and white America is false and wrong, then you probably should not on principle support Obama since he approved of those statements by not leaving the church or by encouraging the removal of Wright as its pastor. Folks who sit in church silently while their minister is damning America for tolerating homosexuality endorse those statements when they fail to sack the minister or leave the church. Obama can offer no justification for why he did neither. He has admitted he lied when he claims to never have heard the statements.

If you are a person who believes that what Wright said about 9-11 and white America is true and right, then you probably should not in principle support Obama since he condemned those statements, denigrated Wright the person, and turned his back on the community. Obama gave a speech in which he came out in favor of the convenient understanding of racism, a speech aimed at making white people feel good about his presidency by making racism appear for the most part as residual anger among older black Americans. Obama betrayed Wright’s teaching. So if Wright is somebody you admire, then Obama offends you. And you see the speech for what it was: a superficial, self-serving attempt to confuse the issue.

Obama sought to walk a tightrope, as the media was constantly reminding us. But there is no tightrope to walk. There are only two ways to feel about this if you operate on principle, each rooted in your political worldview. These worldviews are represented by the establishment standpoint, on the one hand, and the popular standpoint on the other. If you are of the former, then Obama’s failing is that he is a member of a radical black anti-American church. If you are of the latter, then Obama’s failing betrays your core values as an advocate for social justice.

Following Obama’s lead, the media used empty words to make a speech that couldn’t possibly work appear as if it did. They manufactured an illusion, one that millions of the believers sitting at the feet of the Obama cult of personality needed no prompting to believe. Why can I see the speech for what it is? Because I am consistently justice oriented. I can see what Obama is up to. He’s the establishment’s black candidate.

But others who adhere consistently to the establishment standpoint also see through the speech. They can see how he changed the subject from the problem of his minister’s anti-Americanism to the problem of racism in America, a switch he exploited to gain traction among liberals seeking satifaction on the question of race. Obama’s speech was an object lesson in the importance of developing a consistent worldview rooted in principle, as well as why bipartisanship is an undesirable goal and centrism is an extremist ideology.

By the way, have you noticed that white Christian ministers can say all sorts of nasty things about America, but when a black Christian minister does it he is a racist anti-American demagogue?

Ayn Rand and Her Embarrassingly Bad Attempts at Argument

Ayn Rand is a pseudo-intellectual charlatan of the first order of magnitude. Her boring dime store novels and forced bits of sophomoric sophism are eagerly consumed by college Republicans who desire anything remotely intelligent-sounding for the purposes of cloaking their anti-social reactionism in a veil of false authority. 

Rand fandom is the mark distinguishing the intelligent person from the wannabe smart person. Love of Rand separates brains from hacks. Those who study philosophy and the sciences laugh at Rand worshippers behind their backs (sometimes to their fronts). As soon as we find out a person is a Rand devotee, we know immediately that the person is a intellectual lightweight, a self-important newbie to the world of thought. We sometimes wonder why Rand fans aren’t L. Ron Hubbard fans. At least his novels were interesting. At least he could smile without it looking like his face was going to twist up into a knot. 

Here’s an instance of Ayn Rand’s “brilliance” on display. In the late 1940s, Rand was writing screenplays in Hollywood and gaining a following for her book The Fountainhead (a book that was so bad it was rejected by twelve publishers and then almost uniformly panned by reviewers when it finally found an outlet). In 1947, she appeared before the House Un-American Affairs Committee to protest a film she believed falsely portrayed life in the Soviet Union as enjoyable (Rand was Russian).

Ayn Rand testifies before the US House of Representatives’ Committee on Un-American Activities, October 20, 1947

She claimed the film was a piece of propaganda and so she defined propaganda, saying, “I use the term to mean that communist propaganda is anything which gives a good impression of communism as a way of life. Anything that sells people the idea that life in Russia is good and that people are free and happy would be communist propaganda.”

Immediately we can see how silly this is. It’s a simple fact that many millions of Russians found life enjoyable during this period. One might have simply asked the majority of those who had lived under the Czar how much better life was after the Revolution. One might have asked them if they were more free under the Czar. Depicting Russians as happy wasn’t propaganda at all; it was a truth that Rand dreaded because it contradicted her propaganda, namely, that nobody in Russia was happy. It would have been propaganda to have censored images of and testimony concerning happiness and freedom.

Just listen to what she said in response to John McDowell’s question. “You paint a very dismal picture of Russia. You made a great point about the number of children who were unhappy. Doesn’t anybody smile in Russia any more?” She responded, “Well, if you ask me literally, pretty much no.” She claims that literally the Russian people pretty much don’t smile. When asked to clarify, she says, “If they do, it is privately and accidentally. Certainly, it is not social. They don’t smile in approval of their system.” This is propaganda. Russians did smile publicly then, They did smile in approval of their system. 

McDowell milked it for all it was worth, unintentionally allowing Rand to make an even bigger fool out of herself. “That is a great change from the Russians I have always known, and I have known a lot of them,” he said. “Don’t they do things at all like Americans? Don’t they walk across town to visit their mother-in-law or somebody?” Rand answered, “Certainly they have friends and mothers-in-law. They try to live a human life, but you understand it is totally inhuman.”

The “totally inhuman” characterization doesn’t jibe with objective accounts of Soviet life. Nor does this: “Try to imagine what it is like if you are in constant terror from morning till night and at night you are waiting for the doorbell to ring, where you are afraid of anything and everybody, living in a country where human life is nothing, less than nothing, and you know it.”

Then McDowell asks, “You came here in 1926, I believe you said. Did you escape from Russia?” Rand answers, “No.” McDowell asks, “Did you have a passport?” Rand, “Strangely enough, they gave me a passport to come out here as a visitor.” So we are to believe that this “totalitarian dictatorship,” in which everybody lives in “constant terror from morning till night,” “where you are afraid of anything and everybody,” “where human life is nothing,” even “less than nothing,” gave Ayn Rand a passport to visit the United States?

The Other Libertarianism

For centuries, libertarianism has meant freedom from inequality and hierarchy. This understanding of libertarianism is synonymous with anarchism. As Alexander Berkman, perhaps the brightest mind of US anarchists, noted in Now and After: The ABC of Communist Anarchism (1929), “the greatest teachers of Socialism – Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels – had taught that Anarchism would come from Socialism. They said that we must first have Socialism, but that after Socialism there will be Anarchism, and that it would be a freer and more beautiful condition of society to live in than Socialism.” Of the Bolshevik movement he wrote, “their greatest teacher, Lenin, had said that Anarchism would follow Bolshevism, and that then it will be better and freer to live.”

(Unfortunately, the Revolution was from the beginning put on the defensive by capitalist encirclement and invasion, forcing it into a siege socialist posture, and then betrayed by reformers before it arrived at communism. Capitalists had to make sure that the Soviet Union did not succeed in the long run because they knew that not only did socialism work, but that its end game, communism, would mean the end to the capitalist life of living off the work of the people.)

Berkman said these things because he knew that anarchism and communism are in essence the same thing: people controlling their own lives without classes and the state. To make sure people understood this, he and many others called themselves anarchist communists or communist anarchist. These terms, along with the most recent libertarian socialism, have the same meaning as the term democracy in its non-restricted sense, namely rule by the people.

But in order to move towards democracy, the working class must recognize the limitations of liberal (bourgeois or capitalist) democracy and then struggle to replace it with a libertarian order, i.e., proletarian democracy. One of the barriers to this is propaganda that confuses the people about the meaning of words. “Libertarianism” as is currently used by bourgeois politicians and the media is really one rhetorical aspect of a propaganda strategy adopted in the 1950s by the enemies of the “New Liberalism” (limited social democracy) of Roosevelt and the New Dealers. This attack was led by such social darwinists as F. A. Hayek at the intellectual level. Today, states rights conservatives such as Ron Paul claim to be libertarian.

Those who study political and economic history and theory, and who are truthful about such matters, know this is not what libertarianism means. After all, Ron Paul’s beliefs are antithetical to liberty. If you wish to speak truthfully, and not talk in spin, then you don’t use “libertarianism” to refer to the philosophies of authoritarian capitalism or social darwinism. These philosophies and practices are fundamentally opposed to liberty.

The right-wing intellectuals and politicians presenting themselves as libertarian are in really anti-libertarian. Indeed, they are an authoritarian. Such is the state of the Orwellian world in which we live. They support capitalism, which is a system of controlling people for profit. Capitalism, like slavery and feudalism, is a hierarchy of control. Libertarianism, in contrast, is about individual freedom, and such freedom can only come when there are no hierarchies of control.

Here’s the hard truth of the matter: The capitalist class is a parasitic social stratum that must be eliminated in order for liberty to exist in its fullest sense. People cannot be free where the few exploit and control the many. No person who is forced by unequal and unjust circumstances to rent himself to survive is free. Any person who profits from a situation in which other persons are forced by unequal and unjust circumstances to rent themselves to survive is a parasite. Capitalists must be dispossessed of their control over the means of production and come work alongside the people who actually reproduce the world everyday. Capitalists and their managers must be metamorphized from parasites to contributing members of society. There are no vampires in a free world.

Racism and Anti-Racism—Black and White

Black conservative professor Walter E. Williams—a man who, when not using biblical examples and calling labor leaders “czars” in the exams he gives his students at George Mason University, sits in for Rush Limbaugh on the latter’s radio program—has published an essay this morning on TownHall.com, in which he is livid about a definition of racism used at the University of Delware. Why so upset? Because the definition, while incomplete, makes the system of white supremacy that he and the elites who privilege him embrace look bad.

According to Williams, the University of Delaware’s Office of Residence Life Diversity Facilitation Training document defines racism this way: “A racist is one who is both privileged and socialized on the basis of race by a white supremacist (racist) system. The term applies to all white people (i.e., people of European descent) living in the United States, regardless of class, gender, religion, culture or sexuality. By this definition, people of color cannot be racists, because as peoples within the U.S. system, they do not have the power to back up their prejudices, hostilities or acts of discrimination.”

To it’s credit it accurately reflects history and recognizes the reality of structural and institutional power. However, it does not recognize that blacks can be racist surrogates for whites against blacks. When a black man stands up for the system of white supremacy by denying the suffering of black people and working against the struggle for racial justice around the world, then that black man is a surrogate for racism. Such blacks are privileged (conservatives love them and give them essays in their publications) and indeed have been socialized in the white supremacist system to hold anti-black sentiment and to embrace the system of white privilege. Such blacks have high profiles because they serve as useful idiots for the system of white supremacy.

The other problem with the definition quoted is that it conveys the nonexistence of anti-racist whites. To be sure, the majority of white people benefit from the system of white supremacy whether they are prejudiced against black people or not. But white people can reject white privilege and struggle with blacks against the system. So while, as a white man, I am privileged by a racist system, I am a white anti-racist (a race traitor) because I stand with blacks against that system.

Note (March 16, 2020): I no longer agree with the premise of automatic racism among whites.

Don’t Confuse Anecdote with Structural Fact: Poverty and Unemployment are Structural Facts

Poverty and unemployment are structural and cyclical features of capitalism. They are the facts of life of the capitalist economy. Capitalists cannot put all labor into action at once; therefore, there are always unemployed people, and, without wages and salaries, and without government support, these people will always be poor. When the economy is doing well, the rate of unemployment is lower. When the economy is doing poorly, there are more unemployed people. But there is always unemployment and it has nothing to do with effort or lack of effort. It has to do with business cycles and the structure of capitalist production. Such things mark the nature of the beast.

Can individuals improve themselves? Sure. I know individuals who have. Are there people who are unemployed because they don’t want to work? Sure. I know people like this, too. But individual effort does not eliminate poverty any more than laziness explains unemployment. People who make this argument confuse anecdote with structural fact. 

I can provide two examples that illustrate my point. In 1969, unemployment was 3.4 percent. In 1983, unemployment was 11 percent. These facts contributed to poverty rates of around 11-12 and over 15 percent respectively. Now, if we believed that unemployment and poverty were caused by lack of effort, we would have to explain why it was that three times more people were lazy in 1983 than were lazy in 1969. It is an odd idea, and I don’t know how we would go about measuring aggregate laziness. It certainly couldn’t be measured by the unemployment rate, since that would form a tautology. It raises other questions, such as, if laziness causes unemployment, what causes laziness? Why did laziness decline after 1983? Whey did it go back up only a few years later?

We can dispense with such silliness. The reality is that unemployment was much lower in 1969 because we were at the peak of a economic boom. Unemployment was so much higher in 1983 because we were in at the bottom of the trough of a severe business recession. Poverty was much lower in 1969 because of the economic boom, along with the the fact that the government spent money on anti-poverty programs. In 1983, many of those government programs were being underfunded, and this surrender in the war on poverty combined with the recession to drive up the poverty rate. 

These realities are structural and cyclical features of capitalism, a very unstable economic system. They do not reflect individual behavior. Other observable facts dramatically disprove any crazy theories that could be devised to explain them. Most people who are poor work very hard. The problem is that they don’t get paid very much money for the work they do. And the work the poor do is the work they can find.

This about it. If it is impossible for everybody to work their way to the top (which it is), then it is rather meaningless to say anybody can work their way to the top, unless you believe that it is proper for the exploited to become the exploiter. The system is unjust because there is a structural barrier preventing most people from making it to the top. That barrier is capital—that is, the fact that a handful of people have the ability to profit and the majority don’t. Such a system is immoral precisely for that reason, namely, the few exploiting the many. 

Capitalism is a game in which most people lose everyday and will always lose. We can prove that simply by looking at the numbers provided by the capitalists themselves (Statistics for All Manufacturing Establishments in 2005, published by the US census Bureau). For every hour that an industrial worker labors in America, that worker earns an average wage of $17.69 (that’s $707.60 a week before taxes—not a lot of money). Yet that same worker produces $115.58 in value! Subtracting out the wage, that means the capitalist makes, on average, $97.89 off the worker every hour. That’s $2044.61 a week! The capitalist doesn’t produce that value. The worker produces all of it. Yet the worker only gets a fraction of the value he produces. The capitalist pockets all that dough he didn’t earn. Obviously, the worker is getting ripped off. Worse, the more productive the worker is the more he gets ripped off!

Here’s the paradox: if everybody could work their way to the top, and they did, capitalism would cease to exist. That’s obvious—without most people being exploited workers, capitalism cannot work. (Socialist revolution is everybody working their way to the top.) Furthermore, it’s a fact that people work hard and never make it out of poverty. Poverty is low in successful countries such as Sweden only because of massive government support for people. Without government intervention, capitalism systematically generates poverty and unemployment. Of course, you can continue believing the myth that people who work hard can work their way up the ladder if you want—a lot of people believe false things—but it doesn’t make it true.

The truth is that the people who work the hardest in our society are among the poorest, and the people who work the least are the richest. Indeed, the richest people, those who do no work at all, don’t even raise their own kids or mow their own lawns. They pay other people to do that—money they got by exploiting you!

Finally, it’s a myth that democracy is built on capitalism. Capitalism has existed for around 500 years. Democracy has existed since the dawn of the species, at least 100,000 years ago. In fact, capitalism is one of the least democratic systems in history. It ranks up there with feudalism and slavery, and for most people in the world, capitalism is as bad. Most capitalist countries aren’t democratic at all. True democracy—where you and me get to decide on the most important things our lives and community—can only be possible when we the people control the means of production, and such a situation cannot be capitalist. But the least any worker should settle on in the meantime under capitalism is social democracy and high labor density. To oppose those things is to oppose your own interests. 

Mormonism and the Fallacy of Religious Bigotry

Al Sharpton has come under fire for criticizing Mormonism. He denies he criticized the faith (he says he was misinterpreted), but let’s assume for the moment that he did. His detractors say that because he did this he is a “bigot.” To be specific, they say he is engaging in “religious bigotry.” Right-wing blowhard Glenn Beck has made the biggest deal out Sharpton’s remarks.

But is there such a thing as “religious bigotry”? I’m an atheist. I criticize organized religion, as well as belief in the supernatural. I don’t think it’s merely silly to believe in the supernatural and to engage in religious rituals; I know it is harmful to society. Does this make me a bigot? If this were true, then I would be a bigot for criticizing belief in hobbits and trolls or the Easter bunny. Under such a loose definition, anybody who criticizes belief based on error or faith is guilty of bigotry. This is giving religion a status it doesn’t deserve.

Perhaps it’s even more absurd to accuse a believer of religious bigotry. Sharpton is a Christian. Since when must Christians tolerate the beliefs of Mormons? Christians don’t accept Joseph Smith as a prophet of Jehovah. For them, Mormonism is a false doctrine. It’s a disagreement over dogma, not an exercise in bigotry. Criticizing Christians for such a thing is the same as criticizing Jews for not believing Jesus was the son of Yahweh. Does disbelief in Jesus as God among most Jews make them bigots? Of course not.

As if the attack of Sharpton’s statements for religious bigotry were not enough, there is this: Mormonism is one of the most virulently racist dogmas that has ever existed. We now entered the realm of irony. According to Mormon doctrine, the physical appearance of Africans is the result of God’s curse placed upon Cain for killing Abel. God gave Africans “flat noses” and “black skin,” according to church leaders, as punishment for his sin. The curse runs deep. Blacks are spiritually inferior to whites. For this reason, until recently, blacks have been excluded from the priesthood. What caused the change of heart? The US government threatened to take away the church’s tax free status (which should be removed from all churches anyway) unless it changed its bigoteddoctrine. Sharpton, a black Christian, is a bigot for criticizing Mormonism, an anti-black religion?

Let’s get our concepts straight: One can be bigoted against a racial or ethnic group, but one cannot be bigoted against a religion. Religion is foremost an arbitrary system of ideas with no basis in reason or fact. The claim that a person who criticizes religion is a “bigot” is analogous to the claim that a person who criticizes white supremacy is a bigot. Being anti-religious is analogous to being anti-racist! Moreover, to accept the claim that it is bigotry to oppose a candidate for president because he believes in Mormonism would mean that I cannot publicly oppose a candidate for president because believes in Satanism, lest I be a bigot.

I will criticize any candidate for public office who believes in the supernatural. And because some religions are worse than others, I may actually prefer a candidate whose religious views I judge to be less harmful to society. History records JFK’s candidacy as a great trump of civil rights because the nation looked past his Catholicism. But voting against JFK for his Catholicism is not analogous to voting against a presidential candidate because he is black or because she is a woman. And if one day the Supreme Court is dominated by Catholics, we will be justified in worrying about the fate of Roe v. Wade. For unlike skin color, religion has a substance.

A point of clarification is necessary. If we are defining bigotry in its traditional sense as intolerant and obstinate devotion to one’s own opinions and prejudices, then bigotry is not something for which one can be too harshly criticized. Such strident devotion is to be expected in religion. A Pentecostal is going to be intolerant and obstinately devoted to his own opinions and prejudices when it comes to religion. That’s what it means to be a devout Pentecostal. However, I am using bigotry here in the sense of racial bigotry or racism. 

Ignorance and Sympathy in the Israel-Palestine debate

I have been discussing the Israel-Palestine question with a group of conservatives today and it is quite interesting to see how misguided conservatives are in their basic understanding of the situation. 

But what is truly astonishing is how blind they are to how they themselves would respond to the situation if they were Palestinian. Some people really believe that a people who are made to suffer the way Palestinians are have no right to resist. They seem, moreover, incapable of grasping the essential truth that one of the inevitable consequence of aggression is that some oppressed people will respond to oppressive violence by resort to violence themselves.

Trying to generate sympathy for the Palestinian resistance I asked them, “Have you had your land taken from you, your house bulldozed, your route to a hospital blocked so that your husband died, your ambulances shot at, your sons taken into police custody and tortured, your apartment building bombed into rubble?” Of course they cannot answer this question. They have never had these experiences. They don’t know that the cost of Israel’s occupation of Palestine has been far greater for Palestinians than it has been for Israelis. 

Between 9.29.2000 and 10.31.2007, 4345 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli security forces and Israeli settlers, the vast majority at the hands of security forces. In contrast, 707 Israeli civilians and 317 Israeli security forces have been killed by Palestinians. Of course, Israeli civilians are not legitimate targets of violent resistance. Neither are Palestinian civilians, the number of their dead standing at more than six times the number of Israeli civilian dead. Source: B’Tselem Statistics

Does oppression justify resistance? Of course. It requires it. Does oppression justify terrorism? I imagine from the perspective of some Palestinians living in Gaza it does. Of course, I don’t agree with harming civilians (which the statistics above show that Israel does far more than Palestinians). But you don’t have to agree with the character of a response to understand why that response is occurring. 

However, basic sympathy is a concept apparently alien to this group of conservatives. They continually justify Israeli brutality towards Palestinians on the grounds that Palestinians in Gaza lob rockets into Israel. I asked them this simple moral question: “If you believe that Israel is justified in bombing civilian apartment buildings in Gaza in retaliation for rockets being launched into Israel, then why don’t you believe that Palestinians are justified in launching rockets into Israel in retaliation for Israel bombing apartment buildings in Gaza.” I await an answer. But, really, it is a rhetorical question, one that speaks to the reality that violence begets violence, and to the moral truth that it is the occupier that has the burden to stop the vicious cycle.

The question most supporters of Israel should be concerned with is this, “How do Israelis make themselves safe consistent with basic human decency and morality?” (I hope conservatives will at least give lip service to human decency and morality). The answer to that question is clear: follow international law, end the occupation, and recognize a Palestinian state. If Palestinians still routinely lob rockets into Israel after a just settlement, get back to me and I will entertain arguments for why this is still happening.

The Americas weren’t empty when Europeans got here. There were tens of millions of people already living there. So Europeans took their land, reduced their numbers by over 90 percent, and herded the remnants onto reservations. If international law had been in effect back then, then the United States would be an outlaw state. The same dynamic holds for for Palestine and Palestinians, except in this case there is international law. Yet the law has not resulted in the judgment that Israel is an outlaw state.

There are those who still believe that because Israel defeated Arab armies in Palestine that they now rightly claim Palestine. This is an argument in favor of lawlessness. It is illegal under international law to acquire territory by force. Occupation, whether legal or illegal, is temporary and can never lead to sovereignty over the occupied territory. The land belongs to the people living there. Territory by conquest asserts the “principle” of “might makes right,” a thoroughly immoral and lawless standard of right.

However, given the failure of the international community to compel Israel to follow the law, and given the reasons for that failure, it would seem that “might makes right” is the prevailing principle in world affairs today.