Third Party & Independents Archives

A Conservative Refugee's Journey

Before I start posting on the issues of the day, I figured I should probably explain why I’m appearing here in the Independent/Third Party column almost two years after last writing for the right-hand side column. The reason can perhaps best be explained by two headlines I once came across, reporting on the same study. One read “Black Incomes Fall Further Behind Whites.” The other read “Black Incomes Rise Faster Than Whites.” Oddly enough, both were accurate. Which got me to thinking.

That both headlines could be true – black incomes had grown faster on a percentage basis, but less in whole dollars because they started from a lower base wage – shows how statistics can be used to argue whatever point we might wish to make. The same often holds true for Bible passages. And in our decidedly partisan world, where we seem more concerned with proving our point than considering it, we tend to pick and choose only those items that support our own position. That is no way to come to a proper conclusion.

I apologize if this all seems somewhat self-indulgent, but I felt it important to explain my change of heart. Over the years, I’ve done some 180 degree turns (and an occasional 360) on a number of issues. Some may see that as wishy-washy, but I see it as the natural result of life long search for answers. My hope is that my posts here will reflect that learning process.

While I’m at it, here are a few insights into how I’ll shape my views as I post in the days ahead. Note that a few fly directly in the face of conservative doctrine, while others aren’t exactly part of the liberal canon:

1) When in doubt, err on the side of liberty.
2) No blanket villainization simply due to party, social status, occupation or opinion. Left, right, rich, poor, black, white, immigrant or native-born, CEO or custodian – who one is does not make them automatically good or evil.
3) Money is a lousy measuring stick, whether gauging personal success or commitment to a cause.
4) One’s stance on an issue does not necessarily prove motive (e.g., anti-affirmative action does not equal racist, pro-environment does not equal anti-American Dream)
5) We pay plenty for government already.
6) We don’t get all the government we pay for.
7) Free markets are like chiropractors – they can do a lot of good, but they can’t cure every ailment.
8) Maintaining and improving our standard of living is a worthy goal, but it should not be our only goal.
And last, but not least…
9) I’m not 100% sure of anything.

That last one is where the fun begins. I don’t have all the answers. Nor does anyone else. I figure if we can agree on a few simple goals – a safe world for ourselves and our children, economic opportunity and security, justice for all – we can then debate how best to achieve them. I’m glad to be back. Time to get to work. Thanks for indulging me.

Posted by Paul Szydlowski at June 10, 2008 9:48 AM
Comments
Comment #255105

Hi Paul, Welcome back,

At last, a voice of reason in a semi-arid wasteland of rhetoric and hate.

Your 9 principles are, and should be, the basis of any rational discussion of politics, economics, social theory, or practically any subject. I get so tired of reading the same old blather on the part of most posters on all three sites. If they are not expounding on their hatred of Bush and Co, they are looking at the world through filters made up, mostly, of their own prejudices and phobias.

Having read and contributed to all three, I can honestly say I have yet to read any that would convince me to change my mind. I miss reasoned discourse and logical arguments on behalf of closely held opinions.

Your 9th principle is most apt. None of us, left, right, or center, have all the answers. Most of us aren’t even sure of the questions.

A story: A man went back to his alma mater for a class reunion. Wandering through the halls where he had spent four years of his life, he chanced upon his old economics professor. He renewed the acquaintance and asked what he was doing. The professor replied that he was constructing the final exam. The man looked over the test and said, ” Professor, these are the same questions on my final 20 years ago!” “Yes,” the professor replied. “That’s the great thing about economics. The questions stay the same, only the answers change”.

Posted by: Old Grouch at June 10, 2008 11:01 AM
Comment #255110

Welcome to the world of the Independent thinker and voter. And welcome back.

Posted by: Ron Brown at June 10, 2008 11:36 AM
Comment #255118
Paul Szydlowski wrote: Yes, it is difficult to always be 100% certain of anything.

No, it is not always wishy-washy to change your mind/position.

Yes, who one is does not automatically make them good or evil. For example, illegal aliens are not the real villians. The irresponsible politicians that despicably pit American citizens and illegal aliens against each other for profits and vote are the real villans.
Also, not everything can be blamed only on politicians, when the voters are also culpable for repeatedly rewarding irresponsible and corrupt incumbent politicians with perpetual re-election.

Yes, one’s stance on an issue does not necessarily prove motive (e.g., wanting illegal immigration stopped does not mean one is a racist, a xenophobe, nor have “antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations”).

Yes, we pay plenty for government already, and we don’t get all the government we pay for.
The bloat, graft, corporate welfare, subsidies for the wealthy, and waste is out-of-control.
Voters don’t like it, and have given Congress record low approval rates (as low as 11%-to-18%), but for some strange reason, continue to repeatedly reward irresponsible incumbent politicians with perpetual re-election. Stands to reason, eh? Most people will perpetuate they things they are repeatedly rewarded for. Repeatedly reward your children for bad behavior for many years, and then observe the end result.

Yes, when in doubt, err on the side of liberty. That’s a strong argument for the position many take with respect to Article V of the Constitution. Read it and tell us what your interpretation is.

Paul Szydlowski wrote: I figure if we can agree on a few simple goals – a safe world for ourselves and our children, economic opportunity and security, justice for all – we can then debate how best to achieve them.
Many Americans agree both on what many problems are, and the solutions. Too often, it is the small and exaggerated differences that receive the emphasis, to divide and distract the voters (especially with the extremely effective partisan warfare).

Some of the first steps (goals) are not so much new things we must create, invent, or do (with a few exceptions, such as new alternative energy research).
The majority of our problems are these 10+ abuses we should STOP doing.
However, do-nothing Congress and government refuse to stop those abuses.
Therefore, the its now up to the voters, and repeatedly rewarding irresponsible incumbent politicians with perpetual re-election is not the solution, but will almost certainly guarantee things continue to deteriorate … at least until that becomes too painful.

Paul, unless you’d prefer not to, why did you leave the Republican party. Just wondering. I was once a Republican, since I was old enough to vote (for 29 years), until year 2006, when I became an Independent, and plan to stay that way.

At any rate, the voters have the government that the voters elect (and deserve).

Posted by: d.a.n at June 10, 2008 12:40 PM
Comment #255119

Paul, eminently reasonable reintroduction.

Let me nit-pik on one statement, not for what it says, but for what many will read into it: “I don’t have all the answers. Nor does anyone else.”

While it is true enough no one person has all the answers to all knowledge challenges and problems facing humankind. That in no way implies that there are NOT many who do have the answers to some, each according to their education, research, empirical evidence, and talents.

Hence, it is a gross error for folks to walk away with your statement thinking there is no one worth listening to or learning from other than themself. Human knowledge builds upon the knowledge of forebears. Knowledge exists, much of it empirically verifiable, or at the very least demonstrable to the point of achieving consensus of those who commit themselves to objective knowing.

We live in a society of such complex specialization of knowledge that only a small percentage of voters know very much at all about what they are voting for. Hence, voting is largely a visceral response, gut feeling, uneducated to educated guess on whether plan A or plan B will more efficiently and effectively solve a set of problems without creating more in its wake.

It is the irony and perhaps ultimate failure of our information age, that so many people don’t know whose information to trust, and thus, trust no one and reject virtually all information and data and empirical results as biased one way or another. And another greater segment of society decides whose information to trust based on irrational criteria such as sex, skin color, political party affiliation, religious affiliation, or whether their words make them feel good or not.

I think the jury is still out on universal suffrage as the foundation for governance. We have fallen so far behind on insuring education kept pace with universal suffrage advances. The failures to advance education in the humanities, philosophy, and world literature along with their concurrent education in critical analysis and logical critique fail the structure of this Constitutional Democratic Republic, founded on the concept that suffrage requires some qualification if the government and the nation is to succeed for posterity.

Posted by: David R. Remer at June 10, 2008 12:50 PM
Comment #255122

Old Grouch, love your story. Apropos’.

Posted by: David R. Remer at June 10, 2008 12:56 PM
Comment #255128

David,

Your response may have been a minor nitpick, but you get to the heart of what I meant by my statement that no one has all the answers. It’s precisely because so many of us reach a point where we think we know it all - where we believe no one can teach us anything new - that we stop listening to others. It’s the mental equivalent of sticking our fingers in our ears and chanting, “I can’t hear you.”

If anything should be taken away from my statement, it’s that we all have much to learn and we can only do that by considering what others have to say. As Bob Dylan sang long ago, “He not busy being born is busy dying.” Those whose opinions are set in stone are not busy being born. Those are the folks to whom I was referring.

Anyway, thanks for giving me the chance to clarify.

Posted by: Paul Szydlowski at June 10, 2008 2:19 PM
Comment #255138

Some observations on your points, P.S.

1) When …liberty.
This sounds like a slogan, or an excuse to claim that anything one opposes is an invasion of individual liberties.

2) villainization … Left, right, rich, poor, black, white, immigrant or native-born, … automatically good or evil.
Yet people often vote against their own interests because they do not trust those who are on the opposite side of any one of the polarities mentioned.

3) Money is a lousy measuring stick…
In this country? Get Real. Those with more money consider those with less money to be inferior members of the human race, objects of charity, or employees who might steal from them, or not give them value for their dollar.

4)…pro-environment does not equal anti-American Dream.
Factor in NIMBYism here, people often vote locally for the most radical environmental agendas, but oppose those who advocate the identical agenda for larger political units.

5) We pay plenty for government already.
Agreed, because we pay for administration, instead of for fuction

6) We don’t get all the government we pay for.
The middle men take too big of a cut, and bribes paid to elected officials have to be added into the price of the end product or service.

7) Free markets…can’t cure every ailment.
Some people swear by them, but we all have different gambling preferences, based on outlay and risk.

8)…standard of living… should not be our only goal.
The government has already arranged the currency and the banking system in a way that makes wealth flow upstream, stay there, and keep increasing.

9) I’m not 100% sure of anything.
There is an objective reality in almost every situation

Thanks for the opportunity. Please write and respond more in the future.

Posted by: ohrealy at June 10, 2008 4:27 PM
Comment #255215

ohrealy,

There may well be objective truth in almost every situation. Sometimes the challenge is to look past our own prejudices and biases and see and accept that truth.

If someone is so blinded by their own ideas, and lots of folks are, they may never see the truth.

Posted by: Old Grouch at June 11, 2008 3:41 PM
Comment #255220

Old Grouch, all problems don’t have solutions that are acceptable to enough people. They just become part of the reality in which we live. We are at a point where the government is a Gordian Knot that no one can untangle, and we won’t give enough power to any party to cut it. Everyone protects their own turf, and colludes with others protecting different turf to keep everything rolling along in pretty much the same way forever, or until the wheels come off.

Posted by: ohrealy at June 11, 2008 3:57 PM
Comment #255251

ohrealy, our nation has been very much more divided in the past than what we are witnessing today. The Civil War comes to mind.

Our political system has always faced seemingly intractable problems. Most of them were resolved eventually.

I agree that the some of the problems we now face may seriously alter the direction of our future toward a far more negative one. But, I am witnessing a sense of urgency and anxiety amidst the voters than I have not seen since the Viet Nam War. That era marked a transition and turning point for many aspects of American life, many for the better, some for the worse.

I think we are living in such a transition and turning point that began in 2006 and will continue through the next decade at least. How we fare will depend in large part on how we vote. As always in a democratically elected government and nation, it is up to the people which direction we move. I am hopeful, and see some encouraging signs.

I wouldn’t bet my house on them just yet, though.

Posted by: David R. Remer at June 11, 2008 9:06 PM
Comment #255273

ohrealy,
Sorry, but Every Problem has a solution! For if I destroy the whole Known Universe of Man do I not solve All the Problems of the Human Race?

True, you may not like the solution being offered by the Left or Right of Society, but unless you can come up with a “Provable Viable Political Solution” it will always remain in the Eyes of “We the People” what is Unalienable Right Regardless.

Posted by: Henry Schlatman at June 12, 2008 1:02 AM
Comment #255274

Paul,
Welcome to the Center of America. However, if you ever do figure out all the answers to the Argument of Pure Logic and Reason please let me know.

Posted by: Henry Schlatman at June 12, 2008 1:05 AM
Comment #255275

No, it is not always wishy-washy to change your mind/position ,Look at our two candidates Running for president ;) Welcome Back Paul.

Posted by: Rodney Brown at June 12, 2008 1:17 AM
Comment #255290

While it is hopeful that we may be turning a corner and beginning to face some problems, I personally, doubt it.

Large problems don’t find easy resolution.

The British problem didn’t find resolution until we began shooting them, and still took several major conflicts to finally resolve.

The Indian problem continued until we annihilated the Native American population through starvation and disease mostly and slaughter when that didn’t do it.

The Slavery problem took our largest war to that date costing over a million casualties.

The repression of German and Japanese tyrants took 2 world wars, to bring about western dominance in the world.

Peak Oil shortages will lead to a third world war. Allocation of wealth which nearly caused a revolution in the thirties, may well cause another. The third world war may delay this revolution and, in fact, may be precipitated to avoid this internal conflict. Depopulation may be a desired resultant of that war.

Pessimist? Perhaps. I believe we should make all haste in replacing oil. I haven’t yet seen any real efforts to do so. While Adam Smith may be alive and well, So are Malthus and Machiavelli.

Posted by: googlumpugus at June 12, 2008 8:09 AM
Comment #255295

Googlumpugus,
As an American that is old enough (barely) to remember Neil Armstrong stepping out on the moon and survived the 70’s to say that “Large problems don’t find an easy resolution” goes against everything that I have come to discover as an Unlearned Unbridled Anti-Authoritarian Child of the 70’s by Freewill & Self-Nature.

For why I know that the Youth of the 60’s and Silver Spoons of the 70’s will always believe that Man lives in a Limited World, I challenge you to find a single Learned Child of the 21st Century who is willing to fall for that Argument against their Peers.

Yet, I challenge the Left and Right of Society to bring me a “Better World” than their Parents and Grandparents. For why I am limited to proving that it can be done, making it a Reality has to come from My Peers and the Children of the 21st Century.

Because can you see the day when the Consumer of America can make money for suppling the Corporations of Society the excess electricity and methane gas created by the daily trash they create ? 5-10MW times 300 Million plus should take a bit out of the total needs projected over the next 25 years.

Posted by: Henry Schlatman at June 12, 2008 9:18 AM
Comment #255325

DRRemer, like I said a while ago, if you look at electoral college maps, it looks like we fought the Civil War for about a hundred years. Social changes work their way through the political process very slowly, as with the distinguished senior senator from WV, now considered a hero by many, although his career has been mostly obstructionist.

In 1970, students put up barricades on Sheridan Rd in Evanston. I guess they were obstructionist. The young people there now, would never believe it. There is a general level of conformity now which didn’t exist to the same extent then.

googlum, “The British problem didn’t find resolution until we began shooting them”, or more accurately, until the French Navy got in position off the coast of Virginia, after the Brits were scattered by a hurricane off Hatteras.

“Peak Oil shortages will lead to a third world war.” I don’t agree. We’re the only people left on earth who are stupid and arrogant enough to rely on imported oil and military conquest. If we don’t stop this dependency soon, the scientific developments necessary will be happening elsewhere. We would be better off having the student body of MIT running the Dept of Energy.

Mr. Henry Schlatman, I apologize as always for all my shortcomings, but I honestly do not understand most of what you are writing.

Posted by: ohrealy at June 12, 2008 4:17 PM
Comment #255372

ohreally,

True the French ended the Revolutionary War, but hostilities continued into 1812.

I think that China and India are dependent on imported oil as many other economies are. This will increase as their expectations rise. Failure of that will create unrest in their societies, as it will ours. There WILL be an oil war. Perhaps not tomorrow or the next 10 years, but it WILL happen. Oil drives economies. We are seeing subtle challenges to western dominance, now. Greenspan told you what Iraq was about.

We have the means to operate using coal, coal oil and nuclear energy, as well as drilling in restricted areas. Hostilities will end those restrictions. Greed for money and power is unquenchable. As conditions worsen, foreigners will bear the blame. The Chinese will blame us, we’ll blame them, or the Arabs. Politicians will pander to it. It is human nature. The Germans blamed Europe and the Jews for their lack of resources and poverty. Japan blamed China and the US. What cured the Depression was a psychological enemy to fear and hate. The rationale becomes inevitable.

Posted by: googlumpugus at June 12, 2008 9:20 PM
Comment #255395

orealy,
What so hard to understand that issues like poverty, energy,environment, and the entire list can be solved by allowing Man to completely destroy the third planet from the sun known as Earth?

And for a Viable Political Solution, ask your grandparents if they believe that the Democratic and Republican Civil, Political, and Religious Leaders should dictate to you what is a Civilized Citizen?

Posted by: Henry Schlatman at June 13, 2008 4:23 AM
Comment #255470

googlum, India is trying to grow biofuels, which is pretty ridiculous, and China is in a bigger Coal Rush than we are. Neither of these nations shows the kind of agressive tendencies that we do, but since China owns enough of our national debt, maybe we can trade Alaska to get out of paying the Bush debt.

Mr. Henry Schlatman, your sentence structure is unfamiliar to me. I would try to contact my last living grandparent, but she died in 1991 at the age of 99, and I don’t even understand the rest of your sentence about what I would ask her.

Posted by: ohrealy at June 13, 2008 5:54 PM
Comment #255502

China is building a military,and is agressive with Tibet. India is aggressive with Pakistan.

I just believe all wars come from competition for dwindling or rich resources. Economic recessions and depressions exacerbate this competition.

It’s not likely we’ll sell Alaska. The nice thing about foreign debt, is that it’s hell to collect.

Posted by: googlumpugus at June 13, 2008 11:24 PM
Comment #255587

goo, the bad thing about foreign debt is that if anyone attempts to collect, the debtor nation falls into economic depression if they can’t pay up. See Brazil in the 1970’s if I recall my dates correctly.

Posted by: David R. Remer at June 14, 2008 6:38 PM
Comment #255588

goo, China has also laid claim to Taiwan for a half century and never acted to make it sovereign. What would the U.S. reaction be if the British laid claim to the Virgin Islands? Would we just diplomacy the issue as China has done with Taiwan? Depends on who is sitting in the Oval Office, I guess.

I seem to recall a little Western reaction in a place called the Falkland Islands a few decades ago.

Posted by: David R. Remer at June 14, 2008 6:40 PM
Comment #255786

Ohrealy,
Sorry to hear about your lose; however, I wonder what your Grandmothers’ answer would be if I asked her as an American Layman Citizen if I was born breaking the Laws of this Nation?

And why I cannot tell you why she and the other Grandparents of Society still forbid me to answer that Question of Enlightenment, the Courts of the Land, My Community Elders, and Peers who know of the Argument of Logic and Reason which I speak of can tel you why it is not in Your Inherent Best Interest to let me hold such Self Knowledge and Wisdom as an Unlearned Unbridled Anti-Authoritarian Child of the 70’s by Freewill & Self-Nature.

Posted by: Henry Schlatman at June 16, 2008 8:44 PM
Comment #256579

I’d suggest you find an ideology and stick with it. Wandering the barren moonscape of the ideologically confused is not productive.

I’m a lifelong conservative and not one of your nine insights necessarily flies in the face of conservative canon. Just thought you should know that

Posted by: David M. Huntwork at June 24, 2008 3:10 AM
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