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In Chicago, ex-radical Ayers better known as a scholar

Discussion in 'Political Zone' started by WoodysGirl, Oct 17, 2008.

  1. WoodysGirl

    WoodysGirl Everything is everything... Staff Member

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    By Deanna Bellandi, Associated Press Writer – 59 mins ago


    AP – This Dec. 3, 1980 file photo shows former Weather Underground member William Ayers as he enters the Criminal …

    CHICAGO – These days, Bill Ayers doesn't want to talk about the Weathermen, the Vietnam-era radical group he helped found that carried out bombings at the Pentagon and the Capitol.

    That doesn't mean the man who has become a political headache for Barack Obama is hiding his past. In fact, all you need to do is stand outside Ayers' office at the University of Illinois in Chicago to be confronted with it.

    Ayers' connection to the Weather Underground is plastered on his door. A postcard for a documentary on the group shows an old mugshot of Ayers. Nearby is cover art from Ayers' 2001 memoir, "Fugitive Days."

    But also affixed to the door is the title that reflects how Ayers, now 63, has become known in the past two decades in Chicago: distinguished professor.

    "He gives of himself greatly to his students. He gives of his time, his energies, his commitment," said Pamela Quiroz, an associate professor who works in the college of education with Ayers. "He is just a superb individual."

    Quiroz is among more than 3,200 people, mostly academics, who have signed an online petition protesting the "demonization" of Ayers during the campaign for the White House.

    John McCain's camp has accused Obama of "palling around with terrorists," citing, among other things, a 1995 meet-the-candidate coffee that Ayers hosted at his home for Obama when the younger man launched his political career by running for state Senate. The two also served together on a Chicago school reform group and a charity board.

    The subject flared up again during Wednesday's final presidential debate when McCain said Obama needs to explain the full extent of his relationship with Ayers, whom he called "an old, washed-up terrorist."

    By all accounts, the two men were not close, and Obama has repeatedly denounced Ayers' radical activities.

    Ayers has declined repeated requests for interviews. This week, he opened his front door a crack to tell an Associated Press reporter, "I'm not talking, thanks."

    Ayers' beige stone rowhouse on Chicago's South Side is just a few blocks from Obama's home. He lives there with his wife, former fellow radical Bernardine Dohrn. Now a law professor at Northwestern University, Dohrn was a fugitive for years with her husband until they surrendered in 1980 and charges against him were dropped because of government misconduct, which included FBI break-ins, wiretaps and opening of mail.

    Although Ayers has refashioned his life from street-level revolutionary to intellectual, he has not entirely renounced his past.

    When "Fugitive Days" was published, a photo accompanying a Chicago Magazine article showed him stepping on an American flag. He also told The New York Times, in an interview that appeared coincidentally on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001: "I don't regret setting bombs. I feel we didn't do enough."

    The Weather Underground claimed responsibility for bombings in the early 1970s at the U.S. Capitol, a Pentagon restroom and New York City police headquarters. No one was injured. In 1970, a Greenwich Village townhouse that the group was using to build a bomb blew up, killing three members, including Ayers' girlfriend. The bomb, Ayers wrote in his memoir, was packed with screws and nails.

    Had it been detonated, he admitted, it would have done "some serious work beyond the blast, tearing through windows and walls and, yes, people, too." It belied the group's claims that its targets were buildings, not people. "We did go off track ... and that was wrong," Ayers told the AP when his book came out.

    "I'm not a terrorist," he said at the time. "We tried to sound a piercing alarm that was unruly, difficult and, sometimes, probably wrong. ... I describe what led some people in despair and anger to take some very extreme measures."

    Still, in Chicago, he is known more for his work in education, which has earned praise from Mayor Richard Daley, whose own father, the iron-fisted mayor of this city during the Vietnam era, famously sent police to do battle with anti-war demonstrators during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. This spring, when Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign first raised Ayers' relationship with Obama, the younger Daley issued a statement defending him.

    "I also know Bill Ayers," Daley said. "He worked with me in shaping our now nationally renowned school reform program. He is a nationally recognized distinguished professor of education at the University of Illinois-Chicago and a valued member of the Chicago community."

    Ayers has a doctorate in education from Columbia University in New York and has written or edited more than a dozen books, most about teaching. Ayers is on sabbatical this academic year but still spends time at his university office.

    In an opinion piece this week in The Wall Street Journal, Sol Stern, a senior fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute who is writing a book on Ayers and social justice teaching, challenged the notion that Ayers is a reformed revolutionary. Stern said he has read most of Ayers' work and concluded: "His hatred of America is as virulent as when he planted a bomb at the Pentagon."

    Scott Snyder, a UIC junior in chemical engineering who describes himself as a conservative, said he is uncomfortable with Ayers working at a public university.

    "The majority of taxpayers probably would not appreciate their money being spent to somebody with a history of disrespecting numerous public institutions within the United States," Snyder said. "He spent his life sticking it to the man, where now he is employed by the man."

    UIC education professor Bill Schubert, who has known Ayers since he sat on the university committee that hired him in 1987, said the Ayers he knows is a Chicago Cubs fan and a good cook who invites colleagues, students and others over to his home for dinner.

    But mostly Ayers is a good teacher, said Schubert, who recently wrote a letter about Ayers that he initially circulated among friends when questions about him began to mount. The piece, titled "The Bill Ayers I Know," has since made its way to the Web and extols Ayers' scholarly work and his commitment to teaching.

    "I feel like I'm telling factual information about him," Schubert said, "and I am saying that he's a good colleague and friend."

    Still, Ayers' past is a delicate matter. Schubert wanted to discuss only Ayers the educator, not Ayers the radical. Asked how he reconciled the two, Schubert paused for a long moment, then said: "That's a question that's too complicated to answer, I think, because it's dependent on different conceptions of what he did."

    Robert Becker, an associate professor of anatomy and cell biology at UIC, is, at 60, a member of Ayers' generation but doesn't share his politics.

    "He's unrepentant. He took a violent route along with his wife, and is lucky he didn't blow himself up," Becker said. That said, he added that he does not believe Ayers' past disqualifies him from a position on campus: "I'm a pretty conservative person, and I'm not going to deny him the right to be a member of the faculty. I believe that departments should hire who they feel is best for their departments."

    Janise Hurtig, a researcher at the university who has known Ayers for about eight years, said he strongly backed a project she and another educator worked on that offers adult writing workshops in Chicago neighborhoods. If the renewed publicity about Ayers' past has weighed on him, Hurtig said, she hasn't noticed.

    "He and Bernardine are very thoughtful and reflective about their past, and it's their past," she said.

    Ayers had been invited to speak at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln at an education conference Nov. 15, but the school canceled those plans Friday because of safety concerns.

    Marjorie Kostelnik, dean of the College of Education and Human Sciences, said the decision was based on e-mails and phone calls the university's threat assessment group had received. She did not describe the communications as threats but said they left officials concerned about safety.

    Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman and others had urged the university to rescind its invitation.

    "Bill Ayers is a well-known radical who should never have been invited," Heineman said Friday. "The people of Nebraska are outraged."


    Associated Press Writer David Mercer contributed to this report from Champaign, Ill.
  2. Hostile

    Hostile Persona Non Grata Zone Supporter

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    I can appreciate the students who feel they learn from him.

    I cannot look past those kinds of activities and say he is a good man. Good men do not need to build bombs to make a political point.

    Mahatma Gandhi was a good man. He changed political wrongs for positive results. Did he make bombs?

    Martin Luther King Jr. was a good man. He changed social wrongs for positive results. Did he make bombs?

    Mother Teresa was a good woman. She gave of herself for positive changes. Did she make bombs?

    Terrorists make bombs for political change. Whether they blow up government buildings, abortion clinics, navy ships, or a human being who opens the package, they are terrorists.

    Can you name me one person in history who used a bomb for something positive in government? Not even dropping the atomic bombs qualifies. That was war.

    Is Mr. Ayers a captivating teacher? He probably is. The most captivating person I have ever known was a murderer. Forgive me if I don't praise him for being captivating.

    Mr. Ayers is a blight on our country not a positive influence for change. I consider myself a nice person. I wouldn't piss in his mouth if his guts were on fire. Let 'em burn.
  3. VCDefectors

    VCDefectors Benched

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    Perhaps someday republican followers will someday be able to explain why Ayers (a complete non-factor in this campaign) is even being discussed. You'd have to be pretty stupid to actually believe that Obama has some secret underworld agenda to undermine the security of this nation. Seriously, where do people come up with this stuff?
  4. Heisenberg

    Heisenberg Pow! Pow! Zone Supporter

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    I don't really want to wade into this discussion too much since I've already expressed my opinions on it enough, but I'll do it anyway. :D

    It comes down to changing the narrative from one in which they lose. It'll be explained as some kind of "judgement" issue, but it's more about throwing points out and then voters connecting the dots in their head. You say he "pals around with terrorists", you introduce him with an emphasis on his middle name, you dig around in the donor list of his campaign and look for foreign donors, etc. You don't draw the conclusion FOR voters, but you put out all the points to paint a narrative and let them do it themselves.

    It's about making him seem un-American or un-Patriotic. It's the same tactics used for the last 8 years against Democrats. It's nothing new. This time though, they have a man with a funny name and a guy with a short history on the national stage. It helps them paint the narrative. However, events in the world are making it less effective this time around.

    When you focus on issues, the fact of who represents which party comes up. That's a losing proposition.
  5. trickblue

    trickblue Old Testament...

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  6. VCDefectors

    VCDefectors Benched

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    That sounds about right. I also think America, by and large, have had their fill of Republican buffoonery for a while. Ya know, soccor moms, fake Christians, Dittoheads, Coulter evangelicals, disgruntled soldiers who go around telling Americans to love it or leave it. It's just not trendy right now.
  7. Big Dakota

    Big Dakota New Member

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    I love me some Charlie:D
  8. Maikeru-sama

    Maikeru-sama Mick Green 58

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    Like John McCain has stated several times, "I don't care about some old washed up terrorist".

    I agree with McCain.
  9. avaj

    avaj Guest

    1) I guess people can never change
    2) I guess no one has ever made mistakes in their lives
  10. MetalHead

    MetalHead Benched

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    C'mon man,let's call a spade a spade.
    A man is defined by his actions.
    Stealing makes you a thief.
    Lying makes you a liar.
    Killing makes you a killer.
    Bombing a federal facility only makes you a university professor.
    How can you dismiss Ayer's doings?
    Has Ayers repented?
    Neither has Charles Manson.
    You are what your record says you are.
  11. MetalHead

    MetalHead Benched

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    Then why did he bring him up during the last debate?
  12. avaj

    avaj Guest

    So your telling me you should be held accountable for your actions the rest of your life, although you have changed your life. As for has he repented, that is between Him and His God. We are to repent to Him and not man.
  13. Hostile

    Hostile Persona Non Grata Zone Supporter

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    Yes. Three people died. For the rest of his life he should be accountable for that.

    Should Ted Kazinski (sp?) be released?
  14. bbgun

    bbgun Benched

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    So a left-wing, unrepentant domestic terrorist has found a home on a college campus? A campus where only a fraction of the professors are registered Republicans? Whose faculty give overwhelmingly to the DNC? That's about as shocking as Annie Oakley carrying an NRA card.

    Any attempt to mainstream or normalize this cretin will fail.
  15. avaj

    avaj Guest

    Yes I think he should be held accountable, but doesn't mean he can't be forgiven. If God can forgive us, then who is man

    We all have done wrong in our lives, some have a bigger impact then others, don't mean we can't change

    You might now have taken a man's life, but I'm pretty sure you have hurt someone just same.
  16. Hostile

    Hostile Persona Non Grata Zone Supporter

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    Forgiven and trusted are two different things. There are certain types of people that regardless of their current frame of mind I will not extend my hand in friendship to. A domestic terrorist is one such person.

  17. avaj

    avaj Guest

    Well that isn't saying much there are a lot of men (husbands) that can't be trusted :D
  18. MetalHead

    MetalHead Benched

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    You are what your record says you are.
    I could look at him differently if he publicly repented to the people of the country he attacked...his own!
    This is a very forgiving country.
    What do you think of a man who not only has not repented,but wishes he did more damage?

    He may have changed his technique,but not his mind.
  19. MetalHead

    MetalHead Benched

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    What are your feelings about Tim McVeigh?
  20. avaj

    avaj Guest

    Actions speak louder then words

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