Founding Father Speaks
Wade Rathke (above) the founder and former head of the controversial "community organizing" group ACORN paid a visit to Western Mass, speaking at Springfield College yesterday and at UMass today. Rathke has deep roots in our Valley, having begun his career advocating for welfare recepients in Springfield, as reported recently by the Springfield Republican:
SPRINGFIELD – Wade Rathke, founder of the scandal-prone Associations of Community Organizations for Reform Now – ACORN – has plenty of fond memories of the city of Homes.
His first job as a community organizer.
His first arrest.
His first riot.
Long before his sprawling anti-poverty network was dragged into the national spotlight, Rathke sparked one of the largest public disturbances in Springfield’s history.
To read the whole article click here. Last night's Springfield College appearance reportedly didn't go too well, with protesters disrupting his speech. Fears ran high that a similiar disturbance might occur at UMass, which has a reputation for shouting down lecturers, although it usually takes the form of lefties censoring right-wing speakers.
Although controversial for his entire career, Rathke has become especially so since President Obama was elected, in part because the President himself was once a community organizer. Because of that Rathke has become a lighting rod for those who wish to use him as surrogate to attack the president.
The lecture was held in Gordon Hall, a building which didn't exist back when I was a student. In those days a notorious partyhouse stood on the site.
Gordon Hall is sort of a headquarters for left-leaning economics departments, as suggested by this sculpture inside depicting the workers of the world uniting.
Despite all the concern of inciting violence, Rathke's speech was actually on the dull side. Far from coming across as a fiery radical, most of his speech was confined to material from the new book he is promoting.
There was a good crowd for the event, but since professors sometimes assign students to attend these affairs its hard to gauge the real level of interest. Among those in attendance was Masslive correspondent for UMass S.P. Sullivan.
Rathke himself came across as likeable but wonkish, more like a college professor himself than a subversive radical. If anything he tried to sidestep controversy, distancing himself from ACORN's current scandals, which he stressed mostly occurred after he left. He seemed to be a sincere advocate for the poor, but was unconvincing when he expressed surprise that critics referred to him as a socialist. That's about akin to Rush Limbaugh expressing surprise that someone called him a conservative. In general Rathke came across as an expert on labor issues, certainly a leftist but one more interested in the nuts and bolts of organizing rather than someone with a grand vision of revolution.
After the speech everyone was invited to partake of snacks. As I always say, no public event is a complete waste of time if food is served.
The protesters from the Springfield College speech reappeared at UMass but stayed outside. Actually it was a shame in a way, because Rathke's speech could have used a little livening up. On the other hand, UMass doesn't need another free speech scandal. Corruption was a common theme of the protesters.
Our local congress-critters also came under attack.
Against all expectations, it turned out to be a subdued event where everyone behaved.
First Anti-Neal Ad
Here is the first political ad by an opponent of Congressman Richard Neal.
Meanwhile Neal, who has a mixed record on abortion rights, protected himself from possible attacks from pro-lifers by voting for the restrictions against paying for abortions that were added this weekend to the health care reform bill.
In Amherst these two silhouettes suggest a dialog between Amherst's poetic superstars Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost.
In real life the two never met, with Dickinson dying when Frost was only twelve years old. Across the street is this beautiful tree.
I've never seen Calvin portrayed as a peeing woman before.
A cleverly titled book in the window of Faces in Northampton.
Nice grafitti on my neighbor's fence.
Keeping it simple.