Introducing new UU blog forum: “UUA Presidential Debate 2009”

I’m proud to introduce a new UU blog featured on DiscoverUU.com:

UUA Presidential Debate 2009: A Fact Driven Forum to Compare the UUA Presidential Candidates.

The blog has been created by Martin Voelker who happens to also run the blog: jUUggernaut, but is attempting to create a non-biased discussion forum for UU’s to discuss their UUA Presidential Candidates.  With all the general political engergy in the air this year, I think it might just be a great thing for UU’s to pay attention to the election of a major leader for our democratic religion at a strong grass-roots level.

From what I’ve seen, both are excellent candidates. However, both offer some VERY different (but not necessarily contradictory) views on the approach to strengthening UUism in both quantity and quality.

Visit DiscoverUU.com’s UUA Presidential section for the UUA Debate forum along with links to the presidential candidates’ blogs and campaign web sites. Let’s get some good discussions going in the comments section.

FYI: I have yet to endorse either candidate and look forward to undergoing this exploration with all of you. For some early reactions to their address at the UUA General Assembly, click here.

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UU AFFIRMATION

I believe in my right to search for the good, to choose it for myself, and hold it in my heart.

I affirm this right in you as well.

Together we share in the joy of community, the power of reverence, and the challenge of freedom.

This is the promise of my heart extended to you, as we walk on separate paths, together.

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Visit DiscoverUU.com for the best UU minister blog posts, sermon podcasts, and UU News.

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8 Responses to “Introducing new UU blog forum: “UUA Presidential Debate 2009””

  1. Larry Ladd Says:

    Hi Aaron,
    In the interest of transparency, I recommend that you disclose that the site described as a “Fact-drive Forum” on the presidential candidates is acutally sponsored by a vocal supporter of one candidate (Peter Morales) and thus cannot be seen as objective in any way. Indeed, the establishment of such a site could be seen as a disingenuous campaign tactic.
    Larry Ladd

  2. Aaron Sawyer Says:

    I did disclose the creator of the site, but I think the site’s structure (posting quotes from each candidate and allowing for unmoderated discussion) is a format that surpasses bias.

    It’s impossible for the site to be constructed by someone who does not have an opinion on the matter and the duty of its participants to engage in healthy, fair debate.
    I think we’re capable.

  3. Larry Ladd Says:

    Hi Aaron,
    While I know that you have the best of intentions, your site is promoting the “Fox News” of the UUA presidential campaign, a site that says it is “fair and balanced” but is inherently biased. It is not transparency to report the name of the sponsor without revealing his affiliations and established views. Editorial decisions by a biased sponsor are questionable on the basis of the bias alone, but the site has already chosen selectively what it will report so that one candidate looks more attractive than another. I hope that you will reconsider your decision so that the UU community can be better served.
    Larry Ladd

  4. Aaron Sawyer Says:

    Larry,
    I will need you to provide at least one example of bias to match your accusation.
    I am very uncommitted in regards to my support for either of the candidates, but lean toward Hallman EVER so slightly. (I seem to switch ever few days.)
    I do not see the bias you are accusing the site of. I only see pure and complete quotations under general headings. The discussion site is basically devoid of even the medium for editorial comment unless it were to edit the quotations with slander.

    The forum in which the event took place was structured with ‘Question’ followed by two responses. The forum site will be a direct transcription of that event, while allowing other sourced materials to be pulled from candidates web sites, etc.

  5. Larry Ladd Says:

    Hi Aaron,

    Remember that I use the “Fox News” analogy. No pure facts are incorrect, it’s how they are presented or selectively presented.

    The “complete transcript” was prepared by a Morales supporter but made to look very official as if produced by the UUA or equivalent body.

    There is no way to know whether the “complete transcript” is accurate unless someone takes a tape and monitors it. (Slight changes in phrase make a speaker sound eloquent or not). Because of its preparer, we may never know.

    The comment “Morales spoke without notes” and “Hallman read her manuscript” is information that is correct but unnecessary to say unless intended by make him look better.

    Responses to questions report applause (almost all of which were to Morales answers) and orchestrated by Morales supporters (easily identified by the tee shirts and leadership) while failing to mention the moderators ground rules of no applause and the repeated requests from the moderators for the Morales supporters to follow the rules.

    So I hope that you will reconsider your enthusiastic endorsement!

    With best wishes,

    Larry Ladd

  6. Aaron Sawyer Says:

    Hi Larry,
    I hear the UUA is going to provide a transcript as well. I’ve heard a few Morales supporters may feel the UUA is ‘in the bag’ for Hallman as well, but I don’t feel they’ll make the same transcription slander accusation that you are (unfounded and without evidence).

    I’ll recommend to the UUA Pres Forum’s moderator that they use the UUA transcription when it becomes available and refrain from description outside of the comments section as it opens up opportunities for accusations of bias.

    In your above comment, a biased description would have used a word like ‘eloquent’ or ‘halting’ to describe their delivery. Remarking about the use of a note card may also be spun to indicate possible unpreparedness on Morales part, etc.

    In short: I am also leaning Hallman, but think you’ve made an unfounded accusation of slander regarding the transcript and have a very weak example of descriptive bias. You’re seeing things that aren’t there.

    It happens to the best of us when we’re passionate about something. Therefore, I suggest you ad your well-thought input to the mix on the above site. I’m sure you’re a capable and persuasive guy and bet you’ll be well-received in the spirit of good debate.

  7. juuggernaut Says:

    Larry, here are my responses:

    The “complete transcript” was prepared by a Morales supporter but made to look very official as if produced by the UUA or equivalent body.

    1) The transcript looks professional because I owe this to the two candidates and the readers. The UUA has received my transcript with full permission to make editorial decisions of any kind (omissions, inclusions, layout – anything). They’ll run their choices by the UUA’s Paul Rickter/Richter and the Election Campaign Practices Committee – I don’t envy the woman who has to go through all that from the UUA communications office.

    There is no way to know whether the “complete transcript” is accurate unless someone takes a tape and monitors it. (Slight changes in phrase make a speaker sound eloquent or not). Because of its preparer, we may never know.

    2) Anyone who doubts the accuracy of the transcript has direct and immediate access to the original recording that was transcribed. He or she will find that the accuracy is extremely high, and will have to concede further that the majority of the handful of edits were made to delete false starts by Rev Hallman. This practice was clearly stated at the bottom of the transcript, while omitting that it primarily benefited the readability of Hallman’s statements.

    The comment “Morales spoke without notes” and “Hallman read her manuscript” is information that is correct but unnecessary to say unless intended by make him look better.

    3) Fairness demands to acknowledge that one speaker’s text is ‘a tempore’ while the other one’s is not. Since the reader does not know this I decided to say it. We assess texts by a different standard depending on whether they are spoken or written word.

    Responses to questions report applause (almost all of which were to Morales answers) and orchestrated by Morales supporters (easily identified by the tee shirts and leadership) while failing to mention the moderators ground rules of no applause and the repeated requests from the moderators for the Morales supporters to follow the guidelines.

    4) It is standard practice to note audience reactions in transcripts, and for good reason. Case is point is Rev. Hallman’s joke “I think one of the primary experiences of experiencing another culture is marriage. That aside, I will move on… [laughter]”, Not mentioning the laughter would be falsely implying that the joke bounced off of a bored audience without effect. Same for spontaneous applause (or even applause ignited by one speaker’s campaign faithfuls, provided it had any duration or loudness). The moderators admonitions add nothing to the discussion of the statements made by the candidates. In my opinion, demanding to halt applause was the wrong demand in the first place. We’re adults! Do you really think people will be swayed by noise level rather than content?

    Finally something Janet Hayes of the Office of Communications brought up. She suggested to always put the person into the left column who spoke first to avoid the perception of favoring one. Sure, it’s one reasonable way of doing it, and they are welcome to do so (they have my blessings). But I looked at that layout not from the perspective of a paranoid campaigner but as an editor with the reader in mind. My equally reasonable decision was to stick with: Morales left column, Hallman right column. However, to avoid the perception of bias, I noted who answered which question first. In addition, that point is moot for posting the segmented Q&A where I’ll simply post the first answer first, the second second because the layout restrictions online don’t allow it any other way.

    But let’s look at the politics: Initially, Rev. Hallman thought she’d run unopposed and that the presidency was hers, a fair assumption, given the deserved support she enjoys. Now her campaign plays it like a soccer game because she is ahead (longer track record and the allegiances that a long, successful tenure rightfully builds, a lot more campaign funds, and a campaign that got into gears two years ago). Given the relative underdog status and lower visibility of her rival it is in her best interest to keep his visibility low to maintain her lead. When Spain scored that 1-nil against Germany the day after the campaign forum, they did exactly that: don’t give them a chance to score, stall them and try to keep the lead until the clock runs out.

    We all know that UUA elections stink. Most people simply trust their peers’ and ministers’ judgment, some congregations vote en bloc, others send unaccountable individual delegates, and others would like to attend but can’t afford the time and cost. In the end it comes down to who either already knows the most congregations, or gets to introduce him or herself personally. The candidate’s platform seems of lesser impact.
    This is where my blog tries to break things open: Let’s at least have a focussed discussion on what the candidates stand for, rather than just a horse race predetermined by factors other than merit, clarity of vision, and track record for achieving the stated goals.
    Incidentally, I’m looking for an ombudsman who can be directly contacted if someone feels their comment or submission was unfairly suppressed and adjudicate it. As soon as such a person comes forward allegations of bias are moot. (see my edited ABOUT page)

    I find your allegations to be a feeble, nitpicking attempt at drawing attention away from an excellent source of discourse. Such insinuations are among the oldest tricks in the book. I sincerely hope their use is a sign of desperation.

  8. Larry Ladd Says:

    We’ve clearly exhausted this method of communication. It would be a great service to the Unitarian Universalist community if the sponsorship of the website could be transparent, but, alas, it appears that it will not be. Aaron, your web work is terrific and I always enjoy the material you post. With best wishes, Larry

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