Thursday, February 28, 2008

Opportunity to come together?

From:"Brian Menard"
Date:Fri, 29 Feb 2008 20:38:37 -0500

Young: Good questions and comments. I read them quickly, and look forward to responding in kind. I'm jammed time-wise at least through the weekend, though. Two snow days, one of which cancelled an all-day principal shadowing experience that sets up big assignment that consists of a huge part of my grade in one of my last to MEd classes, has put me into an undesirable circumstance. Sucks for me. So, anyway, it may take a while to offer the thorough response your quality contribution deserves. Bear with me, and keep the posts rolling even though I may seem like I'm ducking out. One process thought, though. In all your computerness, do you have the knowledge, skills, and platform to move us from e-mails to blog format? It might make things easier to follow, especially with threading, and would certainly make it easier to trace back and see what we've done. (I know I've deleted a lot of posts from all four of us that I'd like to pull up again.)

Date:Fri, 29 Feb 2008 17:26:58 -0800 (PST)
From:"Young H. Kim"

I think we all agree that the four of us are not merely "conservative" or "liberal"in the labeling-sense of the word. Here's one thing that does bother me about the Reps attacking the New Deal or the "welfare state". You can't tell me that there were no problems of urban jungles or rural trailer parks before FDR; poverty existed all through history. What have the conservative Reps done for the poor and the working class that even comes close to what FDR and LBJ achieved, especially in terms of helping those who are less fortunate and less privileged? What have conservatism offered to the nation in terms of being morally responsible in a capitalist society? Kemp's "enterprise zones"? Are these successful today? I have no idea, actually.If the conservatives in the past had their way, we wouldn't even have Social Security, Medicare, the Civil Rights and the Voting Rights Acts. Is this not the case? There is a reason why blacks moved from the Rep party to the Dems. Was it Dem disinformation and deception that caused this shift? I don't think so. Dems proposed and enacted policies that favored the poor and the minorities. Of course,the results of those acts are not without flaws and abuses, but I guess I'm asking for the compassionate or idealistic conservative model for a better society. It can't be just about the trickle-down economics because we've already had a quite unsuccessful application of it.To me, the definition of "conservative" for the last half century or more has been"reactionary" and "maintaining status quo". How has conservatism progressed to put forth policies for the betterment of our nation today? I absolutely agree that American conservatism has lost its way; I believe many Americans are for individual liberty and limited government, but liberty as freedom from what? And how limited should gov't be? Unregulated free market? Remove government from education and social welfare? Conservatives/Republicans are constantly critical of liberals/Democrats, but what are the alternatives they have championed that would make our capitalist society more compassionate or ideal? Why don't pro-choice,affirmative action and gun control policies fit into the concept of making a better society? Is it about separating the social and political conservatism?I assume that there have been things proposed that fall in line with the brand of conservatism that you support, but they probably were never really given a full chance for one reason or another; this is where there is a definite disconnect between conservatives and Republicans, between ideology and party politics, just asthere's a disconnect between progressives/liberals and Democrats--what the ideologues support is not (necessarily) what gets implemented through party politics. I believe we also have to make a distinction between the ideological and the partisan political arguments.If anything, our discussion is helping me to rethink and refine my own sense of what it means to be a liberal or a progressive, so I thank you all for that.

From: "Brian Menard"
Date: Fri, 29 Feb 2008 08:06:07 -0500

One of the squarepegroundhole difficulties I have always had in fitting on this side or that side is that I generally appreciate the idealism of liberals, but so often the means pursued are so based in the policy equivalent of Dream Whip that they habitually screw things up just as much - if not worse - that things as they are. Conservatives, on the other hand, are more inclined to settle for falling back upon "keep what works, and maximize freedom" as a panacea that ignores our collective imperative to improve ourselves and society. This is one reason I loved Jack Kemp. He was an idealistic conservative...steadfastly conservative in the means he prescribed in pursuit of admirable ideals. This is different, I think, from George Bush's "compassionate conservative" mantra. I lauded Bush for his efforts to make compassion respectable in conservatism, and am content to describe myself as a compassionate conservative. However, I think the idealistic conservatism of Kemp describes me better. Compassion is an important quality to have, but it is more one-way than idealism. Compassion lets you care about others, help others, improve the lot of others. Idealism, on the other hand, allows for a Platonic recognition of conceptual ideals - however unattainable they may be in reality - that we can all strive to achieve for the betterment of ourselves and others as individuals as well as collectively. The question becomes: How do we do this? Fixing creating new problems in the process of trying to fix old ones (whether or not the old ones actually get fixed) is not progress, it's just new problems. For example, Johnson's War on Poverty and the Great Society did not succeed, but they did create a massive welfare state (built on FDR's foundation for the massive welfare state established decades before) that locked generations in poverty in urban jungles and rural trailer parks with no hope and no opportunity for escape. Would the hardcore conservative "solution" of "do nothing, but remind these people that they have freedom" have done better? No, it wouldn't. But creating programs that would create real opportunity for those who actually care about doing something to escape from dire economic circumstances has a positive benefit. Jack Kemp's "enterprise zones" are one example of addressing needs and striving for improvement through more positive means based in human nature instead of in denial of human nature. Similarly, my melding of idealism and practicality recognizes that something different or foreign or new need not be something bad, yet, recognizes also that ideas and culture matter: the philosophical ideas that shaped our system and culture are not inherently bad and provide a core that in some regards draw us together and in other regards are crucial for the successful continuation of our nation as a nation. As a nation of immigrants, and a nation founded on a bold experiment in implementing enlightened political philosophy, we must be open to ideas and practices that enrich us further, but we must also be cautious of things contrary to the essence of what makes us "one from many".

----- Original Message -----
Sent: Thursday, February 28, 2008 8:38 PM

Brian M--I really appreciate you making the effort to explain your views to the left coast. I hope that you don't get too frustrated with our tone; We're just trying to understand how you guys see it. Further, it's obvious that your not too right of center or extreme--I appreciate that. I think that we all have a lot of emotion, that does not always find an appropriate outlet. Anyway, here's to understanding.I like listening to music as I write and send emails, thus all of the links.John Cruz (again)--Check out the end of the song, when he alters the lyrics, very funny.


Subject: Communism, a Failure of Reason
Date: Fri, 29 Feb 2008 01:11:30 +0000

One of the problems with blurring economic and political systems, is an inability to make important distinctions between the two. Certainly, some right-wing think tanks have purposed that capitalism will help bring about democracy. I believe this to be a fallacious assumption. Capitalism exists quite well without democracy. China is only the latest in a large number of examples.
Further, socialism can exist with democracy. I am reminded of democratic-socialist nations like Sweden. Can anyone argue that Sweden is not a democracy?
Yes, Marxist-Leninist doctrine--Or communism, or whatever one might call it--Is a complete fairy-tale and a total failure. Marx was a brilliant philosopher with many great ideas and insights--Nevertheless, his philosophy was inherently flawed, as humans are flawed. Anyone, who has ever been in the Army, or lived in a commune has a pretty good idea of why communism is completely unrealistic. In fact, even Marx believed that communism was just the final step in a process that would lead to Utopia.
Utopia, like Heaven cannot exist on Earth. Luckily, communism has been largely discredited. My concern however, when the extreme forces on the left fell--the extreme forces on the right took credit and gained something from it.

From:"Brian Menard"
Date:Thu, 28 Feb 2008 19:32:06 -0500

Young: Thanks for the extended version cum responses to my response to your contracted version. After getting more of your thoughts, I think we agree in a lot of these areas than it first appeared to me. A few additional response thoughts...

China: No, this is not a true communist nation. Marx would be critical were he to see it today. I think the spirit in which Marx offered his theory was somewhat romantic, in that he really wanted to create a Utopian society in place of the darkness and devastation he saw around him sweeping through the aristocratic-based unchecked capitalism that de facto locked people into their castes. I wonder if you remember the portion of Ms. Carr's "poetry notebook" assignment when we shared a favorite song with the class. I, the Nixon-worshipping heartless fascist Republican, did John Lennon's "Imagine". After I read the lyrics and played the song, Dave Lutz (who thought it would be hilarious to do the Rolling Stones' "Brown Sugar" in Ms. Carr's class) immediately piped in, "Why, that's COMMUNISM!" A discussion on the distinction between theory and practice and idealism versus prudence versus pragmatism was not in order at the time, so I don't think I spent much time explaining that while I thought it was a nice thing to "Imagine", I did not confuse Utopian dreams with accomplishable targets. Anyway, China is an exciting and scary place in the world in an exciting and scary phase of development. Part of the underlying theory behind U.S. policy toward China for 35 years has been the expectation that if we can just plant the seeds of capitalism there, it will eventually flourish and ultimately blossom into democracy that the Party dictatorship cannot suppress. Meanwhile, the Party leadership understands that Mao led China into "communism" without first going through the capitalist phase Marx believed was required to provide a nation with the infrastructure that enables communist society to exist as it does; thus, I am convinced, they are using this current experiment in capitalism as a means to a more perfect communist end, all the while aware that they need to grow it in a controlled way or risk what U.S. policy hopes will result. Tiananmen Square is the most obvious example of what results from the tension, and I fully expect that at some point another and more wide-scale example will occur.

----- Original Message -----
From: Young H. Kim
Sent: Thursday, February 28, 2008 6:17 PM

BRM, I intentionally kept my initial response short due to time, so I see that that has created some miscommunication and misunderstanding. You make it quite difficult for me to restrain myself from responding, but I mean that in the best way possible,and I certainly harbor no wrath toward you being "overly academic" though my comments must have come across to you that way; no, I welcome it, and I apologize for any offense in that regard.However, I wonder if by outlining the academic theories, you are also defending theactual practice of conservative ideology or the conservative movement. I believe weagree that the theory and the practice/reality are quite different from each other,whether it be conservatism, liberalism, capitalism or communism. I certainly am no expert on Western thought, philosophy or intellectual/political history, so I freely defer to you the details on those subjects. Please see below for a clarification of my previous comments.

YHK: Of course, there is plenty of blame on both sides; I'm not discounting anything. Michael Moore is an example of liberal extremists that comes to mind, and I certainly do not agree with all liberals or believe that all liberalism is free from blame or perfect. I certainly am not an atheist or a relativist or even a"philosophical anarchist" (remember this label that was put on me in the past by your mother, I think?). However, if you're comparing Al Franken and Michael Moore vs. Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh, I'll have to defend the left insofar as they align with my beliefs and world view. And I can only speak and have been speaking from what I believe, feel, and understand to be right and just.

YHK: I didn't mean to say that Marx took into account human nature. I was only talking about my view of human nature in simple terms. It's my understanding that his better known theories are purely based in political and economic terms. I don't consider him a philosopher per se who provides insight into human nature. However, I believe that he does more or less accurately describe the flaws and dangers of capitalism, as did Adam Smith. A pure communist state will be difficult to create,I agree, but what would you say of China today? A mere dictatorship? ;-)

YHK: Do you see capitalism practiced this way today, where the haves see it is in their interest to help the have-nots? I don't. Do you see that the have-nots of the world are capable of destroying the haves? Seems unlikely. USA is the superpower and even post-9/11 hasn't made the world see us as helping the have-nots. Same can be said domestically. I believe it is more likely that our nation destroys itself from within. And I see conservatism at the heart of not being morally responsible to the have-nots, and liberalism doing a frustratingly piss-poor job of looking out for and helping the interests of the have-nots. There was a very interesting series by the LA Times a while back on how philanthropic organizations like the Gates Foundation actually do more harm to the people they help through charity by keeping investments in those companies whose business practices damage their environment and hurt their living standards. This is just one paradox of capitalism today.

YHK: I am not as optimistic of Smithian capitalism as you are. I agree that Marxism as practiced in history failed because human beings need to be rewarded for individuality, entrepreneurship, innovation and creativity. A free market system must be regulated, as liberals tout, and thereby improved because left alone to human nature, it will surely fail in theory and practice. Unregulated capitalism rewards the robber barons and the Gordon Geckoes of the world, and I feel that is pretty much what we have today.

From:"Michael Busick"
Date:Thu, 28 Feb 2008 14:00:11 -0800

Actually, I was just pointing out the irony in the following: This administration espouses installing a democracy in Iraq (where none have ever flourished) while being in favor of illegal wiretaps, out-of-country secret torture/interrogation facilities, and the Patriot Act in this country. This administration goes on and on about how our enemy hates our freedom and then they come out in favor of a constitutional ban on gay marriage. It just seemed to me as thought this administration doesn't really want to throw out our enemy's entire playbook. :) Doesn't Iraq have universal health care now? Aren't schools being rebuilt there while they're falling apart here? Again, since 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, how come we didn't bomb them back to the stone age?

From:"Brian Menard"
Date:Thu, 28 Feb 2008 16:32:15 -0500

Young: Do I take it from your response that you discount liberals from blame and rest it exclusively on conservative shoulders? If so, I think you're being disingenuous or self-delusional, either of which would surprise me. I go to great lengths to assess my side of the political debate fairly and evenhandedly, freely admitting the faults of folks professing views akin to mine. Do you not do the same because you honestly don't think your side has such faults, because you think your responsibility in this dialogue is merely to point out one side's view, or some other reason? It is one thing to assess allegations differently; something else to discount them altogether. Would you accept my challenge for you to name three recognized liberals - in politics, media, however they are known - and offer criticism of each of them? I'm happy to do the same on the conservative side. I'll even extend the challenge to all four of us, and match the combined liberal list with conservatives. As for human nature, I would agree with your assessment of such negative components of it. I would add that I believe, as did the establishers of the American flavor of political theory a couple centuries ago, that there are also higher elements of human nature (compassion, love, gratitude, etc.) that balance its negative elements (greed, self-interest, meanness, spite, etc.). At the risk of incurring your wrath again for being overly academic, the irony I find in your comment, though, is that human nature is something that Marx left out of his little equation. The reason that true communism will never be tried and that socialism fails to achieve its goals is that they build human nature out of the model. They fail to trust the positive side and fail to compensate for the negative side. Capitalism, in Gordon Gecko's "greed is good" sense, is flawed for other reasons. Adam Smith never advocated capitalism as a means for powerful individuals to profit at the expense of everyone else. His book "Capital" has a complementary volume, "The Theory of Moral Sentiments". A complete view of capitalism sees the economic principals of capitalism guided by the moral principals of humanity, so that capitalism is the tool for moral society to use for its overall benefit. Tocqueville illustrates similar ideas in "Democracy in America" when he discusses the concept of self interest rightly understood. Rather than being something for individuals to practice with reckless abandon for their unending financial benefit, individuals should understand that such practice will ultimately lead to the downfall of the haves at the hands of the have-nots. Thus, those more blessed on this Earth not only have a moral responsibility to take care of those less fortunate (which allows people to say, "Okay, I choose not to be morally responsible, so screw 'em!"), but it is actually in their own broader interest to do so. Every human system put into practice has flaws, but I see the flaws of Marx as deficiencies of theory (and thus condemned to fail from the start) while the flaws of Smith are deficiencies of practice (and thus improvable). I have no doubt I'll catch things coming back my way in response, so I look forward to what folks think on the matter. Cheers,Brian

----- Original Message -----

From: Young H. Kim
Sent: Thu, 28 Feb 2008 11:57:12 -0800 (PST)

Whoa, you're blowing my mind with the Hegelian reference, but loving it! Just toreply briefly, I believe there is always an opportunity and a willingness to cometogether, but it is dependent on whether the people who are in control or the peoplewho represent us have true leaders and statesmen among them to open those doors ofopportunity. But, truly, I just don't see the conservative movement (at least thecurrent version of it) as exhibiting a willingness to share ideas, wealth, or power,and I don't mean just in the political sense. As long as we always think inUs-vs.-Them terms, whether domestically or internationally, the door will stayclosed. I know that is cliche, but it is the simplest way to put it.But in the philosophical sense, I think Hegel and Marx is still right on abouthistorical determinism and the engine of political struggle, especially given thatthe world is now full-on capitalist again; I wouldn't say doomed, but the world is acontentious place because the ones that have the power will always seek to controlit by whatever means necessary, and the ones that do not have power will always seekto take it away or destroy it, even little by little. This struggle will always beUs-vs.-Them. That is my ultimate view of human nature.

From: brian_menard@hotmail
Subject: Opportunity to come together?
Date: Thu, 28 Feb 2008 09:45:38 -0500

"(...wouldn't that just seriously piss off their patriarchal society?) and tell them where they can stick it in the sand."

Intentionally or not, I think Michael has opened a door to collaboration that has often frustrated and confounded me about why it seems always to stay closed. To be stereotypical, liberals like to complain about all that is wrong/unfair/unjust that must be made right, and conservatives like to complain about why others can't just do things OUR way. Liberals think conservatives have no problem criticizing folks around the world, while hypocritically being apologists for insufficiencies at home; conservatives think liberals have no problem criticizing us at home, while hypocritically giving a pass to regimes around the world that do things far worse than what we live with here.

My question: Is there sufficient willingness for both sides to listen more than they talk and to prioritize action in those areas of agreement over politicizing areas of contention, or are we doomed to swing back and forth between periods of control by one side or the other as the Hegelian force of History shall determine?

From:"Michael Busick"
Subject:RE: News Media Bias?
Date:Wed, 27 Feb 2008 22:34:36 -0800

Given that the Bush administration has been getting away with much worse than what Clinton tried to get away on the Lewinsky scandal -- when it comes to media attention and scrutiny -- I honestly don't see how the media can be left-leaning. I also believe the only reason why the media isn't trying harder to "get the goods" on the Bush administration is that the Bushies have denied media access to anyone who consistently criticizes them. Therefore, no reporter wants to get "Dowded" so they've been keeping their mouth shut -- and guys like Jeff Gannon (real name Jeff Guckert -- and seriously, shouldn't a reporter be arrested for not providing a real name in order to get access to the White House press room?) from "Talon News" get free rein to lob softball questions. There's no logical reason why a waged military conflict based on lies isn't at least as big a story as an extramarital affair in the White House. I figure the buzz after that Yahoo article which counted the number of Bushie lies that led up to the invasion -- and continued through the occupation of -- Iraq (counting over 900 and still climbing) lasted about three days before the American public moved on (or back) to Britney Spears' and Lindsay Lohan's latest travails. Also, the media consolidation during the last 5-10 years hasn't been favoring the left because the mega-media companies gobbling up stations (like Clear Channel) are right-leaning. I blame Congress for this Iraq mess as much as I blame the media -- which is also as much as I blame the American people for not doing more to protest it. It seems to me that if our enemy hates our freedoms, we shouldn't continue to try to take them away -- while claiming to win said battle against the enemy. If they don't like our freedoms, then hey, let's start with legalized gay marriage, legalized marijuana use, universal health care, and equal rights for women (wouldn't that just seriously piss off their patriarchal society?) and tell them where they can stick it in the sand. :)