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Here are some of the feisty e-mails and letters that are coming in to Radical Middle Online Newsletter. They're arranged in reverse chronological order.
To send YOUR OWN e-mail to the editor, just click on E-Mail the Editor.
So Much To Learn from Other Nations
December 15, 2005
I have lived in India, and traveled to China and Brazil (where I now have Brazilian kinfolk!). After reading your article “Brazil, China, India: These Are Our Enemies?” (November 15, 2005), it struck me how each country shows its poverty differently.
In China of 1986, there were no beggars in the city streets. We were not escorted into the rural areas, but did visit ever so briefly a commune that gave me a sense of disorder, when skinny, unkempt children swarmed us in contrast to docile, on-task city children -- a glimpse that the rural areas were surviving very much on their own (but maybe freer?).
Beggars teemed in the cities and large towns of India. In the smaller villages, at least in Kerala, I sensed a more coherent society, where everyone seemed to have food and a place to stay, even if meager accommodation. The wealthier citizens lived almost as simply as the farmers.
Rio is a very visible patchwork of street-less favelas (slums) and “regular” neighborhoods where the common amenities we take for granted are found. I saw no beggars, but I heard guard dogs behind walls of well-groomed homes. The tension between “haves” and “have-nots” was palpable.
We have a lot to learn from China, India, and Brazil if we want to avoid institutionalizing poverty more than we already have. With economic justice as a "common endeavor" (as you put it), we and our international partners could achieve a world where no child or adult goes to bed hungry. We have the resources; we need to fan the attitude and the will.
Sandra P. Wassilie
With "Enemies" Like These . . .
December 1, 2005
In your article "Brazil, China, India: These Are Our Enemies?" (November 15, 2005), you articulated something that had been nagging at me a while.
Here in Silicon Valley, we can't afford the luxury of demonizing our competitors, so I've had a hard time understanding why everybody in Washington DC seemed worried about the rise of other countries.
Your article helped me realize that it is really a matter of impotence. We -- the hard-liners, at least -- don't actually have any faith in the inherent strength of our "soft virtues" (wisdom, leadership, morality, democracy) or our ability to positively influence others.
When you actually believe that your core values are inherently powerful, then you welcome strength in others as an opportunity to prove your worth by helping them. THAT is true power, and that is what we seem to lack now.
Ernie Prabhakar, Ph.D.
November 15, 2005
I nominate Tim Penny (D), former U.S. Representative from Minnesota, for inclusion in your sidebar listing of Arguably Radical Middle Politicians.
He is the author of Common Cents (1995) and the forthcoming (tentatively titled) Politictionary (2006), which critique governmental "doublespeak" and political strong-arming. And he's co-author of the Road to Generational Equity manifesto, which you list on the right-hand side of your home page!
As a freshman Rep., he bucked the Washington DC insider system and led a bipartisan coalition that hammered out federal budget proposals that paved the way for fiscal responsibility and gigantic reductions of the federal deficit under the Clinton Administration. He is adamant about the need for a new "Common Ground" mentality that allows for innovation and flexibility in meeting upcoming challenges.
Courageously, he is an advocate of instant-runoff voting, which would make it easier for voters to support alternatives to the Republicans and Democrats (by permitting people to list a first and second choice for each race).
November 1, 2005
I love your Katrina dialogues (“The Katrina Dialogues,” October 1, 2005). They are a form of Virtual Meshworking that really does an elegant job of pulling together the brain / mind syndicate needed to restore, renew, repair and rebuild New Orleans as a bio / psycho / cultural / economic place as well as a geographic space.
Your article is a demonstration of the intelligences that are already present in the system that could leverage potential into a whole new solution. It includes many healthy approaches to re-establishing infrastructure. At the same time it totally challenges all the tired old attempts to go back to how things used to be.
This is the first thing that I've read that shows how to pull together sources of power, authority, and influence so that the post-Katrina recovery job could not only get done, but so a wholly new and inspiring outcome could be achieved.
October 15, 2005
I enjoyed your recent book Radical Middle: The Politics We Need Now and thought the overall perspective and many of the ideas were excellent. However, I have to admit I was a bit taken aback when I read, "The poll-driven centrism of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) has little in common with the principled, liberalism-plus-common-sense perspective [of the Washington Monthly]," pp. 23-24.
Being VP of the Progressive Policy Institute, the think tank of the DLC (and a think tank you highlight on your website), I have to say that I don't agree with your assessment of the DLC.
Everyone I work with has very strong principles and takes positions based on those.
Do you have any evidence to base your assertion on, or do you just toss it off to be fashionable, as the left does today so often in bashing the DLC?
What Women Don’t Need
October 1, 2005
What a great piece on self-help books (“The Radical Middle Is More Than a Politics -- It Is Also a Psychology,” April 15, 2005). I have felt that way for years, but would not admit it for fear of being considered insensitive.
And I share your view that the bestselling book He’s Just Not That Into You is a mean spirited, manipulative diatribe, and find it sad that so many women believe that stuff.
I admit I read part of it at Barnes and Noble, since many of my women friends (most of whom are married or in relationships) can't stop raving about it.
You are right that men needn't be at their woman's beck and call every moment to be good partners. I personally find that men who do all the "right" things usually turn out to be not particularly honest. They know what works -- so what.
As a mature adult, I don't need incessant phone calls and don't expect a man to prove himself to me constantly.
Thanks for having the courage to print a politically incorrect, but very welcome article.
Radical Middle Psychology Is About Service
September 15, 2005
You are mistaken about “complexity, ambivalence and connection” being at the leading edge of radical middle psychology (“The Radical Middle Is More than a Politics . . . ,” April 15, 2005).
There is a synthesis taking place with the two extremes of conservative and liberal coming together around a common theme of service. The vanguard is being led by organizations such as Center for Purposeful Living and Totally Responsible Person.
The extremes are all about "me." The middle will be about "how can I/we serve the greater good." The Radical Middle Psychology will be defined by service.
Time To Ask WHY Our Health Costs Are So High
September 1, 2005
With all due respect, you and others spend too much time worrying about HOW you are going to pay for the high health care costs and no time wondering WHY the costs are so outrageously high in the first place (e.g. your articles "Mushy Middle? No Way," September 1, 2005, and "Universal, Preventive, and Cost-Effective Health Care Is Within Our Grasp!," September 2003).
High health care costs are the symptom of a runaway disease -- our moneyed political system. The health care industry is laughing its way to the bank. Get the money out of politics and the health care system will get better virtually overnight.
It all began when Congress allowed hospitals and clinics to switch from being non-profit humanitarian centers to being profit-making businesses with physicians, clinic administrators, and hospital CEOs being paid on the basis of profits and growth. Hospitals are now allowed to employ their own referring physicians (a once-fraudulent practice that is now accepted). Drug companies are allowed to patent drugs that were funded by the taxpayers and charge what the market will bear.
Low-cost health care and our special interest form of election funding are mutually exclusive. Over $98 million has been spent on lobbying and campaign contributions from drug and health care interests since 1999 -- not a pretty sight. Public financing of campaigns (at $15 per taxpayer per year for both state and federal elections) would eliminate our moneyed political system and allow us to finally deal with high health care costs, and much else besides.
Jack E. Lohman
Centrists Do Need Policy Priorities
August 15, 2005
I just read your 12 point plan (“Mushy Middle? No Way!,” September 1, 2005). Great stuff.
It's interesting how you note that Centrists need policy priorities. Not only do I completely agree but my colleague Joe Weedon and I just reconfigured The Yellow Line blog to be what we've dubbed an ideablog.
Basically, we've asked a number of other very good Centrist bloggers to join us at TYL and post articles that deal with new ideas and new perspectives (as distinct from just discussing the news). We hope this spurs debate. We're already planning to debate your 12 points in a week or so after we've all fully digested them (and after I've completed my move to Texas).
Anyway, we're trying to create a new kind of blog. And your 12 points are exactly the direction we're looking to go. I can't tell you how glad I am that you put it out there.
Alan Stewart Carl
Cleaner Cars Is Not Nearly Enough
August 1, 2005
I am glad to see you included "cleaner cars" in your Creative-Centrist Agenda (“Mushy Middle? No Way!,” September 1, 2005). But we need to move FASTER and MORE INTELLIGENTLY away from dependence not just on Middle Eastern oil, but on all oil (a goal you stressed in your book but not in your Agenda ... curious).
And we can. On July 19 the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation held a symposium launching an important policy paper, "Breaking the Oil Syndrome: Responsible Hydrocarbon Development in West Africa." The paper argues that the U.S. must form a strategic alliance with West African hydrocarbon states that can help secure U.S. energy needs while advancing human and infrastructure development in West Africa.
As Co-Director of Earth Rights Institute, I had the opportunity to be the only NGO voice (and only woman) on the panel. I focused my comments on the distribution of resource rents and the importance of using such revenue for poverty reduction and infrastructure development.
The lead author of the policy paper, Paul Michael Wihbey, made the essential point when he said, "The U.S. . . . could benefit tremendously if it recognizes that good governance, infrastructure, and human development are keys to the security and sustainability of oil-exports from West African hydrocarbon states."
So -- we get hydrocarbon from West Africa, and in return, it gets jobs, profits, and development assistance from us. What could be more radical middle than that?
Radical Middle Could Use More Spirituality
July 15, 2005
My wife Christina and I will be attending the founding conference of the Network of Spiritual Progressives this month in Berkeley hosted by Tikkun Magazine and the Tikkun Community. My feeling is that the Radical Middle and especially you would find common cause with and be inspired by the ideals of the spiritual progressives. Do check out www.tikkun.org and the conference information there.
I often have the feeling from your articles that you have bought into materialism to too great an extent. I always enjoy the thoughts in the Newsletter and I appreciate what I perceive as your integrity, but your spiritual dimension, which I suspect you share with me, seems currently suppressed.
The relation to the spirit that I believe we share is non-denominational. It is an awareness that there's no “true path,” but it's still definitely inspired by the inner conviction and even experience of the reality of the spiritual dimension. It is expressed inwardly rather than through outer ritual, and is the most intimate inspiration of our lives.
It is my sense that the competing elites are so arrogant and out of touch with reality that their hold on society is very vulnerable to an accurately formulated, currently relevant restatement of the spiritual values expressed during the founding decades of our country.
John G. Root, Jr.
Isn’t “Politics” Too Thin a Reed?
July 1, 2005
I just read your thoughtful piece on the recent lefty conference, which I can well imagine was as disheartening as you say ("'Take Back America' -- or All Together Now, America?," July 1, 2005).
What I wonder is this: Do you ever think you may be asking politics to meet needs that it is unfair to ask of it?
May Spiral Dynamics Enhance You
June 15, 2005
Just wanted to thank you for your article describing your experience of the Confab ("Don Beck's Spiral Dynamics Confab: Political Evolution Now!," June 1, 2005). It was frank, thoughtful, and captured the essence of Spiral Dynamics through your eyes, and others' words.
You've done a great service to the cause of human evolution, and I hope your work is enhanced by what you now know about our work.
Give Some Props to the “Gang of 14”
June 1, 2005
As you know, on May 23 a bipartisan group of 14 Senators negotiated a compromise to avoid filibustering of judicial nominees under most circumstances. I suggest you add some of that “Gang of 14” to your sidebar listing of radical middle politicians.
Even if it would only generate a few more e-mails or phone calls to them, hearing our thanks will pull them further towards the radical middle, just as hearing the whining and hatred of colleagues within their parties will push them further towards the radical middle.
The public is sick of rancor between our highly respected representatives. We are looking for responsibility in government, something most of these 14 Senators seem to hold dear!
I am not saying the group of 14 should all of a sudden propose a new power-hungry political party -- simply that they BUILD on this idea of an ultimately VERY effective center of gravity in our Senate and elsewhere in our government.
I especially recommend that you include in your list Ben Nelson (D-NE), Mike DeWine (R-OH), and Mary Landrieu (D-LA), along with Ken Salazar (D) from my state of Colorado, and possibly even "Joe" Lieberman (D-CT) -- surely religiosity is compatible with radical centrism.
Thanks for an inspiring site and ideas.
Once a Union Guy, Now a Facilitator
May 15, 2005
I have been following your newsletter with interest for over a year now. It provided some interesting perspectives as I went through a middle age career transition.
I spent 25 years with a large public employee union (as a green-leaning left-libertarian!) and had my fill of rigid thinkers and old paradigms.
Thought you might want to check out the place I landed: the Interactivity Foundation. We work on creating background materials for democratic governance discussions by citizens.
While the techniques are still developmental, they focus on anticipatory thinking that allows formulation of contrasting policy possibilities, not consensus packages.
Remember Your Audience and Speak In Our Language
May 1, 2005
Hello, I have something for you to consider.
I am 24 years old, and after two years of trying to find a place for my thoughts in the political world, I have discovered it was more difficult to find this place than I thought.
I found that I am independent and quite centrist, though learning this was no easy road. I now suspect there are many more centrist Americans than one might think. The problem is that they are simply dumb to politics and for you to give these people the ability to properly align themselves you'll have to educate them as you speak to them.
Often I find myself reading articles with www.dictionary.com in another window just to figure out what you or others (who all seem to carry some sort of advanced political degree) are saying.
I'm not saying you're doing badly, I enjoy your writing, but there are more people like me who simply need a nudge in the right direction (spoken in our language!). Not everyone reading your work is nearly as advanced as you, nor as well informed.
I try desperately to keep up with the changes and stay informed between my job, my business, my child, and my errands. There are many things I don't know but I ask for a little help from the writer to inform me as well as educate me. I think that may be a good way to gain new readers as well as entertain current readers. Just tone it down a little so to speak. Thanks.
We So Need a Political Party
April 15, 2005
In “‘Centrust’ Party Rising” (January 15, 2005), John English and you are right. Almost nothing we propose can come into existence unless and until a genuine political party goes to work in the halls of our government.
Until radical middle representatives in the House and Senate are able to propose legislation, make speeches, and get media coverage, the general public will continue to ride the momentum of the present addictions to conflict and sheepdom.
How can we encourage enlightened, competent people to form a tangible, formal, radical middle party? That is the question.
Lee Panek III (“Leeski”)
We So Need a Practical Politics
April 1, 2005
I've read Tony Giddens’s book "The Third Way," and I've read Halstead and Lind’s The Radical Center. I've read your book Radical Middle. With some 70% of the population in the middle, I don't think we can overemphasize the need for a practical politics.
After 25 years as a moderate Democrat, I switched to Republican a little over a year ago because I support personal responsibility and the need to get away from a welfare state. I even ran for State Representative in '04, only to discover how organized and active the Religious Far Right actually was in the GOP (and even among the Democrats here in Kentucky).
There doesn't seem to be room in either the Democratic or Republican parties for the center. It's time for a change!
I've authored some 50 articles on politics and economics over the years. Our local newspaper has even called me the "progressive voice" of southern Jefferson County. Let me know how I can help. Thanks, and best of luck.
Don’t Take the Old-Fogie Route
March 15, 2005
I enjoyed reading about your deepening relationship with your father through literature (“The Politics of Literature 101: Did Father Know Best?," February 1, 2005). However, I think the potshots you took at Profs. Kennedy and Gioia -- and, by extension, all “postmodern” anthologizers and Gen-Y youth -- were crude and diminishing to the spirit of your “radical middle” mission.
I’m thirty years younger than you, and I’ve never read some of the authors you caricatured as “hip” such as Alice Walker -- though I wouldn’t claim to be wiser for having missed their works thus far. However, both in school and in my own time, I have read Homer, Plato, Virgil, Shakespeare, Austen, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Twain, Joyce, and many more examples of what you seemed to privilege.
Amidst all this, I’ve seen lots of movies (far more than most of my friends), played more than my share of video games, and managed to have a pretty good life, social life included.
I have two major points. One is that, in literature as in politics, it seems to me that the Radical Middle should be a big tent, and that cherishing the old (and famous) ought not require rejecting the new (or old and not-so-famous).
The other is that I wish you wouldn’t take the old-fogie route of lamenting how shallow and uncultured today’s youth are -- including college-educated, Alice-Walker-reading youth. That seems beneath you, frankly, and it’s untrue to boot. I think young people today are, on the whole, just as smart, sophisticated, and wise as young people have ever been.
British Labour Party Member Here
March 1, 2005
Your movement is wonderful!
I am a member of the British Labour party and have both strongly left-wing values and strongly right-wing values.
I am immensely disillusioned with the left. I've felt for a long time that activists need to embrace some conservative values as well as many left-wing values, but obviously this is absolute heresy, especially here.
Time To Seriously Downsize Our Foreign Policy
February 15, 2005
I am disappointed that, in your article on 26 ways of doing U.S. foreign policy (“Our Next Foreign Policy Needs to Learn from ALL of Us,” November 2004), you failed to even mention the potential of a "supplemental world federation" as a technique for downsizing foreign policy.
You resemble a rabid enthusiast for international law. However, reorganization of the world does not need great global power. If the world reorganized so that all nations lacked decisive monetary or military power, a small amount of federalization could yield a gigantic transformation of traditional international relations.
For example, a network of contracts for "rebellion deterrence" between tiny armies and governments at all levels on all continents could provide far greater military security for the human population than is attainable by glorifying unlimited national sovereignty. Unfortunately, thus far no proposal that could plausibly be ratified has been proposed.
My organization, Home Rule Globally, has since 1992 encouraged greater inventiveness; and now such aspirations are also promoted by the Global Constitution Forum here in Philadelphia, headed by law professor Dr. James T. Ranney.
John R. Ewbank
Why Nebraskans Become Radical Middle
February 1, 2005
You might want to add the two senators from Nebraska, Chuck Hagel and Ben Nelson, to your sidebar listing of Arguably Radical Middle Politicians. Especially Hagel, who could very well be the 2008 Republican presidential candidate.
Nelson is more iffy -- he's middle of the road in terms of his voting record, but he's probably not very innovative or risk-taking. He seems like a go-along-to-get-along type of guy. Bob Kerrey from Nebraska might be another person to add, though he's now retired from politics -- he heads the New School for Social Research in NYC.
You've probably figured out by now that I'm a native Nebraskan. When you grow up in a conservative state and then move to a liberal city, it helps you to see the goodness of both ends of the political spectrum, as well as the excesses, and I find myself now very attracted to "radical middle" politics (as well as libertarian politics). Great site you have here -- thanks!
Radical Middle for Business
January 15, 2005
I run a small but influential non-profit called The Future 500. Our members are large global companies, including Coca-Cola, General Motors, Hewlett-Packard, Nike, Mitsubishi, and others. We advance what might be called "The Radical Middle for Business."
While we have major corporate backers, we struggle to stretch our resources to achieve our objectives. They are very similar to yours, except they are primarily in the corporate / activist arena rather than the political / legislative. To us, the marketplace is like an unnoticed legislature, through which "bills" can be enacted which result in fundamental change.
If one understands the workings of the marketplace sufficiently, it is easier to get a policy passed there than through the more mechanistic and power-ruled state and federal legislatures. We have, for example, united companies like Weyerhaeuser and Mitsubishi with the Rainforest Action Network and Greenpeace to change the market for wood and protect millions of acres of forest.
We define "middle" differently from the way it is used in politics. We see a metaphor in nature, where the overlap between two systems (called the "verge") contains the richest mix of species, and the most dynamic creativity. I gather you share this definition, at least intuitively.
Please let me know if you or any of your readers have any thoughts regarding the above, or can offer principles, practices, or people to contact. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Underrepresented and Disrespected
January 1, 2005
I just wanted to say that I saw your book at Borders. It's about time someone had the guts to write a book that truly speaks to a constituency that is underrepresented and disrespected. You rank right up there with former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura, who (tried to) revitalize a tired political system that for too long had been dominated by prominent political dynasties.
And I agree with you that the cable news shows are too much of a noisefest. Both major parties are becoming petty and self-destructive.
Mr. Dana W. Carlson
FOR LETTERS PRIOR TO 2005, GO HERE.
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