Thursday, October 02, 2008

Well then allow me to retort

My dad told me last night that my brother Jacob's blog had blown up a bit, comments-wise, after his recent post endorsing Barack Obama. So I went there, read the comments, and now have a few responses for Messrs. Skelly and Fatt.

Regarding Obama's supposed lack of experience, here’s a bit of a history lesson:

1983: Obama graduates with a degree in political science (with an emphasis in international relations and a thesis on Soviet disarmament) from Columbia University.

1985: Obama moves to Chicago and becomes a community organizer with a church-based group dedicated to improving living conditions in poor neighborhoods. (Hmm … that sounds familiar, doesn’t it? I bet Jesus would like this guy and his efforts. You know, Jesus? The guy about which Obama said, earlier this year in Christianity Today magazine, the following?:
“I am a Christian, and I am a devout Christian. I believe in the redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I believe that that faith gives me a path to be cleansed of sin and have eternal life. But most importantly, I believe in the example that Jesus set by feeding the hungry and healing the sick and always prioritizing the least of these over the powerful.”
Y’know, that guy.

Moving on:

1988: Barack Obama matriculates at Harvard Law School.

1990: Becomes first black president of the Harvard Law Review.

1991: Graduates magna cum laude from Harvard Law.

1991: Rather than taking a cherry, high-paying job at a prestigious law firm (which, as a magna cum laude graduate from Harvard Law, he certainly could have), Obama instead chooses to move back to Chicago and work as a civil rights lawyer and a constitutional law professor. He also runs Project Vote, which gets 150,000 people registered to vote in the 1992 election.

1996: Elected to the Illinois State Senate. Serves for eight years, during which time he sponsors 233 bills on health care and public health and 125 bills on poverty and public assistance, among many others.

2002: Makes speech against pursuing war against Iraq. You know, Iraq? The country that didn’t attack us on 9/11 and that didn’t, it turns out, have any weapons of mass destruction? Weapons of mass destruction being, of course, the entire reason given to the American public for the Iraq War in the first place. (There weren’t any.)

2004: Elected to U.S. Senate. Serves on the Committee on Foreign Relations; the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions; the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs. Sponsors 121 bills and co-sponsors 490 bills since taking office in January 2005. Misses 303 votes in the Senate during this time—117 votes less than John McCain, who missed 109 more votes than Senator Tim Johnson, who had a brain hemorrhage in December of ’06. That’s right: McCain missed more votes than a guy who had a brain hemorrhage.

Now, that should answer the experience question. I am not, of course, saying that John McCain isn’t experienced; of course he is—But “experience” is a slippery metric that doesn’t really mean anything in and of itself. It’s the quality of the experience that matters—not the quantity. I would argue that the quality of Barack Obama’s experience is much better suited than the quality of John McCain’s experience to fixing the problems facing America in the 21st century.

Joe Biden is of course experienced as well. That guy got elected to the Senate when he was 29, which is great—But he’s not a visionary like Obama, and so I think the ticket is in the proper order, Barack on top and Biden in the veep slot.

Quick note: Sarah Palin is not experienced for shit. What was she doing in 1984, a year after Barack graduated from the (Ivy League) Columbia University? She was coming in 2nd in a beauty pageant. Then she went to the University of Idaho and worked as a sportscaster and pitched in with the family fishing business.

This is getting long, so I’ll quickly address the following comment by Skelly, who wrote: “the government is going to be the government, and until they’re stealing my house, burning my clothes, and eating my food - i’ll have a damn good life”

Of course, “they” are not stealing your house—But, according to an editorial in today’s New York Times, “At last count, six million people were expected to default on their mortgages this year and next, putting them at risk of losing their homes unless they can catch up in their payments or catch a break on their loan terms.”

People are losing their homes. Maybe you aren’t, but other people are. And then so what about this?:
This verse enjoins us to care about our neighbor and his or her possible lost home, no matter who or where they are. Biblically, not caring about someone else's foreclosure or mortgage default is clearly not an option.

Now regarding not voting: Of course it is your right to not vote. But I contend that every single vote matters. Sure, one vote in 100 million doesn’t make all that big of a difference—Unless, of course, something happens like it did in Florida in 2000, when the national election was decided by just over half a million votes.

Finally, we should all desire to vote, because only by voting do we keep Washington accountable. The fewer people vote, the more that corrupt politicians (of which not all of them are, believe it or not) can and will get away with. It’s our responsibility to vote for whom we think would best serve the nation and our fellow citizens, for we are our truly our brothers’ keepers.

Also Obama will lower your taxes:

OK, I'm finished now.


skelly said...

Great retort, Hunter - I really dig how the Slaton family has managed to crank out such great writers. I enjoyed your post very much, and it was very thought provoking.
Now, allow me to re-retort-tort...

The quote of mine you singled out was preceded by "i don’t really know anyone that has such a bad life because of the government." My point was simple: As free Americans, it is nobody's responsibility other than our own to make wise decisions with our money. It isn't the governments fault that a lot of people got into mortgages they couldn't handle. That was 6 million or so individuals/families that bought something they couldn't afford. Average Americans have unbelievably poor spending habits. It doesn't mean that I don't love my neighbor or am a bad Christian because several million people bought homes they didn't have the money for.

As far as the voting thing is concerned, you said we should vote for the person we think will serve the people and the good of our country better (paraphrased) - but I don't see either of them as being better for the country than the other.

You said that Obama's quality of experience was better than McCain's, but that statement is completely relevant to your opinions, which others might not share.

Hunter, I'm not trying to debate you or Jake or step on anyone else's opinions or feelings. I just think, in fairness, that if I say "I don't like either Pres/VP option this year, so I'm not going to vote for someone I really don't want to see win," that's entirely okay and valid. I'll continue on with my life and attempt to make myself, my family, my friends and hopefully the world better and more loving in some small or big way before I leave it. It's not apathetic or cowardly, it's just that my gig may be a little different than someone else's.

Thanks for taking the time to write a good and decent post, yet again.

Skelly. Out.

skelly said...

correction in paragraph 4:
i meant to type the word "relative," however, "relevant" appeared.

my apologies.


Jake Freedom said...

The only thing I disagree with about your post, Hunter, is the last line where you stated:

"OK, I'm finished now."

Ha - I doubt that will ever be true. But whatever, good conversation guys. We'll see what happens...

Anonymous said...

Nice post. A couple quick points:

(1) Obama was also, of course, a professor at the University of Chicago College of Law, where he was offered a tenured position (he turned it down). See the NYT here:

(2) As you will see in yesterday's article posted in Slate, Palin attended, like, five different colleges, after which she had all of one degree:

Doesn't make her unqualified or anything--I'm just saying...

(3) When deciding whether it's our responsibility to help other people who are in bad situations due to bad decisions, one might consider placing oneself in the other's shoes. I mean, it's quite unremarkable when those of us in a relatively high socio-economic class make good decisions and do well for ourselves. However, I wonder what it would be like, for instance, to be born a minority and raised in a single parent home with no money, no support (family or otherwise), and possibly not even speaking the language. I don't find it remarkable that such of our fellow Americans sometimes end up down and out. There are amazing exceptions and success stories, sure, but if I had been born into such circumstances (and where you’re born is more or less luck, right?), I would hope that others would give a brother a hand from time to time. But that’s just another opinion, and you know what they say about opinions. -lwh

Anonymous said...

professor thing was already in there; my bad. i just think being a constitutional law professor at the university of chicago college of law is pretty relevant.

Hunter R. Slaton said...

Briefly to respond. Skelly, you wrote: "As free Americans, it is nobody's responsibility other than our own to make wise decisions with our money. It isn't the governments fault that a lot of people got into mortgages they couldn't handle."

Fair enough. Maybe that’s true.

But consider this: What if an American automobile manufacturer made a car that really loved to flip over at speeds in excess of 80mph? Going over 80mph is against the law and not smart, sure, but this car still shouldn't be allowed to be sold on the market. Should the government do something about it? Tell the car manufacturer to fix it or recall it?

I think you would say yes.

Same situation with an unsafe toy, or contaminated drinking water, or unhealthy food. One of the government's most important functions is to protect individuals from the depredations of corporations that by their very nature prize their bottom line over the health and well-being of their customers.

So how does this relate to the mortgage crisis?

It’s simple: The Republicans have long advocated for a deregulated market. They totally let the mortgage lenders off the leash, allowing them to sell unsafe mortgages to people who, though it's possible they should have known better, didn't -- Just like the person in the aforementioned car who probably shouldn't've gone 80mph but did, flipping the car and killing his family.

Does the person who took on the unsafe mortgage bear some personaly responsibility? Yes. But so does the government -- the largely Republican-controlled government of the last 14 years, I might add. The government should have been watching these mortgage lenders and, when they tried to start offering these sub-prime mortgages, said, "No. That may not be strictly illegal, but it's unsafe and will in the long run be bad for both homeowners and the economy."

But they didn't do that. They think that the market is best left entirely to itself. Which clearly has been proven false by the mess we're in currently, as well as by corporate fraud and accounting scandals earlier this decade, including Enron.

So whose fault is it? It is the fault of the individual who took on the unsafe mortgage, the fault of the company that offered it to him, and the fault of the government that looked the other way while the dominoes were put in place.

So in this case, some people really are having a bad life right now, partly because of what the Republican-controlled government has done.

skelly said...

I agree that there is a need for greater regulation.
I don't think you can accurately say that the deregulation was a result of ONLY the Republican party.(

I don't disagree with you that the government has not protected Americans like they should have, I just think that the other side of it (the fact that too many people are trying to leave way beyond their means) is equally important - if not more important.
How do we learn that we have to change our spending habits if the government is always going to be there to bail us out of the mess we got ouselves into?

matt perry said...

i would like to point out that the shit didnt hit the fan until the dems. took over the last couple of years. up till that things might not have been the smoothest but to place blame by making statements about people being in trouble because of what the republicans have done might hold some weight but in my opinion is more of a twisting of the truth. im not excusing reps. for past mistakes, but merely pointing out that they do not hold sole blame for the crisis that we now are confronted with. either way, politics suck, i hate election years, but i love the passion that you have for your stance, so i say to each his own, and blessings to all, with run on sentences in-tow.

Anonymous said...

Since you apparently believe Barack Hussein Obama to be the savior, I thought this would be interesting reading for you all from the Wall Street Journal.

Wall Street Journal OPINION
SEPTEMBER 23, 2008
Obama and Ayers
Pushed Radicalism
On Schools

By STANLEY KURTZ (Mr. Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center)

Despite having authored two autobiographies, Barack Obama has never written about his most important executive experience. From 1995 to 1999, he led an education foundation called the Chicago Annenberg Challenge (CAC), and remained on the board until 2001. The group poured more than $100 million into the hands of community organizers and radical education activists.

The CAC was the brainchild of Bill Ayers, a founder of the Weather Underground in the 1960s. Among other feats, Mr. Ayers and his cohorts bombed the Pentagon, and he has never expressed regret for his actions. Barack Obama's first run for the Illinois State Senate was launched at a 1995 gathering at Mr. Ayers's home.

The Obama campaign has struggled to downplay that association. Last April, Sen. Obama dismissed Mr. Ayers as just "a guy who lives in my neighborhood," and "not somebody who I exchange ideas with on a regular basis." Yet documents in the CAC archives make clear that Mr. Ayers and Mr. Obama were partners in the CAC. Those archives are housed in the Richard J. Daley Library at the University of Illinois at Chicago and I've recently spent days looking through them.

The Chicago Annenberg Challenge was created ostensibly to improve Chicago's public schools. The funding came from a national education initiative by Ambassador Walter Annenberg. In early 1995, Mr. Obama was appointed the first chairman of the board, which handled fiscal matters. Mr. Ayers co-chaired the foundation's other key body, the "Collaborative," which shaped education policy.

The CAC's basic functioning has long been known, because its annual reports, evaluations and some board minutes were public. But the Daley archive contains additional board minutes, the Collaborative minutes, and documentation on the groups that CAC funded and rejected. The Daley archives show that Mr. Obama and Mr. Ayers worked as a team to advance the CAC agenda.

One unsettled question is how Mr. Obama, a former community organizer fresh out of law school, could vault to the top of a new foundation? In response to my questions, the Obama campaign issued a statement saying that Mr. Ayers had nothing to do with Obama's "recruitment" to the board. The statement says Deborah Leff and Patricia Albjerg Graham (presidents of other foundations) recruited him. Yet the archives show that, along with Ms. Leff and Ms. Graham, Mr. Ayers was one of a working group of five who assembled the initial board in 1994. Mr. Ayers founded CAC and was its guiding spirit. No one would have been appointed the CAC chairman without his approval.

The CAC's agenda flowed from Mr. Ayers's educational philosophy, which called for infusing students and their parents with a radical political commitment, and which downplayed achievement tests in favor of activism. In the mid-1960s, Mr. Ayers taught at a radical alternative school, and served as a community organizer in Cleveland's ghetto.

In works like "City Kids, City Teachers" and "Teaching the Personal and the Political," Mr. Ayers wrote that teachers should be community organizers dedicated to provoking resistance to American racism and oppression. His preferred alternative? "I'm a radical, Leftist, small 'c' communist," Mr. Ayers said in an interview in Ron Chepesiuk's, "Sixties Radicals," at about the same time Mr. Ayers was forming CAC.

CAC translated Mr. Ayers's radicalism into practice. Instead of funding schools directly, it required schools to affiliate with "external partners," which actually got the money. Proposals from groups focused on math/science achievement were turned down. Instead CAC disbursed money through various far-left community organizers, such as the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (or Acorn).

Mr. Obama once conducted "leadership training" seminars with Acorn, and Acorn members also served as volunteers in Mr. Obama's early campaigns. External partners like the South Shore African Village Collaborative and the Dual Language Exchange focused more on political consciousness, Afrocentricity and bilingualism than traditional education. CAC's in-house evaluators comprehensively studied the effects of its grants on the test scores of Chicago public-school students. They found no evidence of educational improvement.

CAC also funded programs designed to promote "leadership" among parents. Ostensibly this was to enable parents to advocate on behalf of their children's education. In practice, it meant funding Mr. Obama's alma mater, the Developing Communities Project, to recruit parents to its overall political agenda. CAC records show that board member Arnold Weber was concerned that parents "organized" by community groups might be viewed by school principals "as a political threat." Mr. Obama arranged meetings with the Collaborative to smooth out Mr. Weber's objections.

The Daley documents show that Mr. Ayers sat as an ex-officio member of the board Mr. Obama chaired through CAC's first year. He also served on the board's governance committee with Mr. Obama, and worked with him to craft CAC bylaws. Mr. Ayers made presentations to board meetings chaired by Mr. Obama. Mr. Ayers spoke for the Collaborative before the board. Likewise, Mr. Obama periodically spoke for the board at meetings of the Collaborative.

The Obama campaign notes that Mr. Ayers attended only six board meetings, and stresses that the Collaborative lost its "operational role" at CAC after the first year. Yet the Collaborative was demoted to a strictly advisory role largely because of ethical concerns, since the projects of Collaborative members were receiving grants. CAC's own evaluators noted that project accountability was hampered by the board's reluctance to break away from grant decisions made in 1995. So even after Mr. Ayers's formal sway declined, the board largely adhered to the grant program he had put in place.

Mr. Ayers's defenders claim that he has redeemed himself with public-spirited education work. That claim is hard to swallow if you understand that he views his education work as an effort to stoke resistance to an oppressive American system. He likes to stress that he learned of his first teaching job while in jail for a draft-board sit-in. For Mr. Ayers, teaching and his 1960s radicalism are two sides of the same coin.

Mr. Ayers is the founder of the "small schools" movement (heavily funded by CAC), in which individual schools built around specific political themes push students to "confront issues of inequity, war, and violence." He believes teacher education programs should serve as "sites of resistance" to an oppressive system. (His teacher-training programs were also CAC funded.) The point, says Mr. Ayers in his "Teaching Toward Freedom," is to "teach against oppression," against America's history of evil and racism, thereby forcing social transformation.

The Obama campaign has cried foul when Bill Ayers comes up, claiming "guilt by association." Yet the issue here isn't guilt by association; it's guilt by participation. As CAC chairman, Mr. Obama was lending moral and financial support to Mr. Ayers and his radical circle. That is a story even if Mr. Ayers had never planted a single bomb 40 years ago.

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