2009-09-25 / Columnists

The Rockaway Beat

Commentary By Howard Schwach

The association for Community Organizations for Reform Now is more widely-known by its acronym, ACORN.

It is much in the news these days because conservative groups are beginning to challenges its orthodoxy and because media outlets are beginning to understand just how far the organization will go to achieve its seminal goal, which is to overthrow government and turn the power over to the people. In the pursuit of that goal, it oft-times goes overboard in mentoring people about how to get around government rules thinking nothing of breaking a rule here or there to get those who admire its aim to get elected to government. It often lies to make a point about the government and how it mistreats its constituents.

That's why it could register people who do not exist or counsel a prostitute and her pimp (even though they were conservative plants) how to get around government regulations and fool the IRS. During the past election, it was caught registering people who don't exist so that those non-existent citizens could then vote for the Democratic candidate.

In fact, Barak Obama, the Democratic candidate was a community organizer in Chicago and knew well the tactics of ACORN and its goals.

In fact, both ACORN and the organizations Obama worked for came out of the Saul Alinsky "Back of The Woods" tradition. Saul Alinsky was the quintessential liberal-radical and is considered by many to be this nation's "liberal prophet." He is generally thought of as the founder of modern community organizing in America, the political practice of organizing communities to act in their own general self-interest.

Although Alinsky's first work, "Reveille for Radicals" is perhaps bestknown, his "Rules for Radicals" is the book that codified the way community organizers should act if they want to "lift the masses and assume power over both the government and the financial sectors."

In "Rules for Radicals," which was published in 1969 in conjunction with a new school that Alinsky set up to train radical community organizers, he wrote:

"Any revolutionary change must be preceded by a passive, affirmative, nonchallenging attitude toward change among the mass of our people.

They must feel so frustrated, so defeated, so lost, so futureless in the prevailing system that they are willing to let go of the past and change the future. This acceptance is the reformation essential to any revolution.

To bring on this reformation requires that the organizer work inside the system, among not only the middle class but the forty percent of American families - more than 70 million people - whose income ranges from $5,000 to $10,000 a year. They cannot be dismissed by labeling them blue collar or hardhat. They will continue to be relatively passive and slightly challenging.

If we fail to communicate with them, if we don't encourage them to form alliances with us, they will move to the right. Maybe they will anyway, but let's not let it happen by default."

In the 1930s Alinsky formed the "Back of the Yards Community Council" in Chicago, in one of the worst neighborhoods in the city, bringing together political, religious and union leaders to overthrow the corrupt system that ruled them. Over the years, however, his rules were further radicalized by those who wanted not only to take on a corrupt government, but to take power simply for the ability to take power and control the community. The mantra was that anything that worked to achieve the aims of the community organizers was fine. "The end justifies the means," was not an aphorism to Alinksy or to the groups that adopted his "rules for radicals."

One of the groups that grew out of the Alinksy Back of the Woods training program was ACORN, a group that began in Chicago and one that Obama worked with on many occasions. During the election, conservative Republicans tried to tie Obama to ACORN's excesses in voting registration, but the mud failed to stick.

He defended the organization as did many of his supporters, saying that it was a premier organization in guaranteeing the rights of the poor and minorities.

Personally, my first contact with ACORN, an organization that I knew about only peripherally at the time, came when I was still teaching at IS 53 in Far Rockaway back in the early 1990s. I was the middle school facilitator working in the Carnegie Middle School Reform Initiative, and, as such, had responsibility for the school's sixth grade reform program. I lived in Bayswater then, and had the habit of picking up Newsday each day on my way to work. One day, the paper's frontpage story blared the fact that the majority of gifted programs in the New York City public schools excluded blacks and Hispanics.

When I read the inside story, it named IS 53 in Far Rockaway as one of the worst in that regard. The story said that the school, located in a minority area, had six gifted classes, a total of 180 students without one minority student in the program. I almost choked. In fact, we had six gifted classes with a total of 180 students, and only three of those students were white. In fact, that number counted my daughter, Amy. and her friend, Maria, who were then in the Advanced Learning Institute at the school.

I immediately called Newsday and got the editor on the phone. He told me that the statistics had come in a press release from ACORN, a group that Newsday considered a reliable source. I then noted that the organization was quoted throughout the article, decrying the state of minority education in the city in general and in Rockaway in particular.

ACORN's information was full of misinformation and racist innuendo.

I told the editor that the story was all wrong and he had the story's reporter call me at school. The reporter called, and said that he was sure that the information was correct, that ACORN was a respected national organization. I invited him to come to the building to see for himself what was going on. At his editor's urging, he did, and the paper printed a retraction the next day. He told me that he would never trust ACORN again. ACORN officials, however, continued to argue that we faked the classes somehow and that I was not telling the truth about the racial makeup of the classes. So, when ACORN came up during the last week's of the past presidential election, I was not at all surprised that its workers were cooking the books to get some more votes for Barak Obama, a man who they consider to be the holy grail of political candidates.

Both ACORN and Obama are heavily involved in Chicago's Woods Foundation, an organization committed to minority issues and an outgrowth of the Back of The Woods organization begun so many years ago by Saul Alinsky.

At the time of the election, ACORN put some of its own spin on the way it registered new voters. At a news conference, officials with the group acknowledged cases in which workers submitted false or duplicate registrations, but argued that the fraudulent ones were only a small percentage of all of the people then registered to vote.

Sure! ACORN should be defunded by the government agencies that provide it with millions of dollars a year. It should be investigated. And, it should be revealed for what it really is - an organization that will tell any lie and do any deed necessary to achieve its ultra-liberal aims.

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