Sunday, October 05, 2008

"A guy who lives in my neighborhood"

Here is a bit of documentation on the ties between Barack Obama and Weatherman terrorist William Ayers. Even the most tenuous of the ties, even taken in isolation from the others, show that Ayers had a closer relationship to Obama than Obama admitted when he characterized Ayers as "a guy who lives in my neighborhood".

I've not found any contemporaneous online confirmation of the coffee-klatch at Ayers' home that launched Obama's political career, or of the donations Ayers gave to Obama's early campaigns, but no one seems to be denying them. "A guy who lives in my neighborhood"? That and a political supporter.

Despite open editing, wikipedia's entry on the Chicago Annenberg Challenge tells the tale of their connection there:

Below is the bulk of the text of that entry as of 5 October 2008. Salient facts: Ayers wrote the grant proposal and co-chaired the Chicago School Reform Collaborative, which hired Barack Obama to chair the Board of Directors for the project. "A guy who lives in my neighborhood"?

The CAC's successful grant application was written in 1993 by William Ayers, co-founder of the militant organization Weatherman and professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago.[2][3] After extensive community-based discussions also involving Anne Hallett of the Cross City Campaign for Urban School Reform, and Warren Chapman of the Joyce Foundation.

At its founding, the Annenberg Challenge was made up of three constituent parts:

▪ The Chicago School Reform Collaborative, co-chaired by William C. Ayers;

▪ a Board of Directors initially recruited by the Collaborative, which was chaired from 1995 to 2000 by Barack Obama[4], at the time a practicing attorney.

▪ The Chicago Schools Research Consortium, a research arm of the Challenge.

The Collaborative was the operative on the ground body of the Challenge. It was made up of representatives of various constituencies in the Chicago school reform movement. That reform movement had begun in 1987 in the wake of an unpopular strike by Chicago teachers. Bill Ayers was active in that reform effort through a group called the Alliance for Better Chicago Schools, or ABCs. ABCs was an alliance of various activists and reform groups that included the Developing Communities Project which Barack Obama headed up at the time as well as Chicago United, a business sector group, that was headed up by Thomas Ayers, father of Bill Ayers.
A key accomplishment of the reform movement was the passage in 1988 of a new state law that established local school councils in every school in Chicago as a competing center of power relative to the teachers union and the Chicago school administration.

The Collaborative's responsibility was to help identify potential grant recipients, prepare requests for proposals and develop other means for the Challenge to intervene in supporting the local school council-led reform process in Chicago. In 1995 the mayor of Chicago succeeded in the first of several efforts to undermine the power of these councils. But the Challenge fought back by funneling millions of dollars into the councils and associated reform groups, including $175,000 to the Small Schools Workshop. The Workshop had been established in the early 1990s by William Ayers who hired Mike Klonsky, a Chicago cab driver who had earned a Ph.D. in education from the University of South Florida, and former activist with Ayers in Students for a Democratic Society, or SDS. Klonsky had achieved limited notoriety in 1977 when he traveled to Beijing to seek the endorsement of Communist China for a political party he had helped establish in the United States, the Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist).

At times the attempt by the Challenge was controversial. An effort to funnel $2 million to the Local Schools Councils was criticized by one Challenge board member, Arnold Weber, a business sector representative and former President of Northwestern University, who saw the Councils as a potential "political threat" to school principals. Of course, the councils were formed precisely to provide parent and political activists with the power to influence schools.

The Board would engage in fundraising and approval of grants. The Board also hired a Executive Director, Ken Rolling, from Woods Fund of Chicago.
The Research Consortium was responsible for assessing the impact of the expenditure of the Challenge's grant money. Ironically, they concluded that the $110 million spent in Chicago over six years had little or no impact on outcomes for students.

The Chicago Annenberg Challenge received a grant of $49.2 million from the national Annenberg Challenge based at Brown University. The grant was to be matched 2:1 by private donors. By 1999 the Chicago Challenge succeeded in raising an additional $60 million.

Other CAC board members were prominent Chicagoans from both the private and non profit sectors.

Following the link in the above quoted wikipedia entry relating to the Woods Fund of Chicago shows that both men serve on the board of that foundation in 2001. "A guy who lives in my neighborhood?"

Obama also, twice that can be easily documented from online sources, appeared as part of panel discussions featuring Ayers. Once in 1997 and once in 2002. Unlike being hired by Ayers, or having his political career launched at Ayers home, this does not indicate a close relationship. It, in itself, is, however, enough to put the lie to Obama's description of "a guy who lives in my neighborhood."

However, given the close ties between the two at the CAC and the launch of Obama's political career at his home, two years earlier, it appears that Ayers as main speaker invited Obama to serve on the panel at the 1997 symposium.

In the case of the 2002 conference, it seems likely that they were invited to serve on the same panel by the conference organizers. Given the rest of what we know about their relationship, and the intellectual homogeneity of American academe, this was probably not coincidental, but deliberate--because they would put forward the same point of view.

In each case, besides a link to the relevant announcement, a copy of the interesting paragraphs is provided

Ayers will be joined by Illinois State Sen. Barack Obama, Senior Lecturer in the University of Chicago Law School, who is working to block proposed legislation that would throw more juvenile offenders into the adult system; Randolph Stone, Director of the Mandel Legal Aid Clinic at the University of Chicago; Alex Correa, a reformed juvenile offender who spent 7 years in Cook County Temporary Detention Center; Frank Tobin, a former priest and teacher in the Detention Center who helped Correa; and Willy Baldwin, who grew up in public housing and is currently a teacher in the Detention Center.

2:15-3:45 p.m.
IV. Intellectuals in Times of Crisis
Experiences and applications of intellectual work in urgent situations.

William Ayers, UIC, College of Education; author of Fugitive Days
Douglass Cassel, Northwestern University, Center for International Human Rights
Cathy Cohen, University of Chicago, Political Science
Salim Muwakkil, Chicago Tribune; In These Times
Barack Obama, Illinois State Senator
Barbara Ransby, UIC, African-American Studies (moderator)

One wonders if lecture notes for either event can be found, or if that potential proof of a likeness of thought between the two "neighbors" has vanished down the memory hole.


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