A Fair and Balanced Guide to Politics and the Most Important Election of Your Life

The penalty that good men pay for not being interested in politics
is to be governed by men worse than themselves. -Plato (427-347 BCE)


The Basics of Government

Election year is here and that means we are going to be subjected to an ever increasing barrage of sound bites, commercials, and attack ads. Most Americans will tune out until after the November 2nd elections thinking, "There must be a better way... "

The Preamble of the Constitution of the United States of America says:

          We the people of the United States,
          in order to form a more perfect union,
          establish justice, insure domestic tranquility,
          provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare,
          and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity,
          do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

After this, things get a little sticky. What else beyond the basics should government provide for the people? Should government be expected to take care of its citizens in sickness and in health, from the cradle to the grave?

Left and Right

Left								       Right
liberal	 						 	conservative
liberal use of government power		conservative use of government power
big government					     	    small government
democrats						  	 republicans

In the United States today, republicans are generally in favor of less government (they view government as harmful) and democrats in favor of more government (they view government as helpful). This is also referred to as left vs right and liberal vs conservative.

Moderation in All Things, Especially All Things Political

Why is everyone bitching? Can't we all agree on common sense things, like protecting the environment and paying everyone a decent wage? Isn't that obvious?

Well, no, it's not. Sure, these are great ideas, but someone has to pay for them. And in the end, it's you and me that have to pay the bills.

On one hand, we could have a perfectly clean environment, but then we'd have to pay $100 a gallon for gasoline. On the other hand, we could have cheap gas, but breathe dirty air and drink filthy water.

The Right Answer

But nothing is black and white, only shades of gray. All of those gray areas make a lot of people uncomfortable. They want right and wrong. They don't want to have to think about the problem. They want simple answers to hard problems.

Actually, the right answer to any political problem is easy to discern- it's ALWAYS somewhere in the middle. Guaranteed, the extreme left position and the extreme right position are both dead wrong.

What are the Issues?

Our Neighbors- War and Foreign Policy

left right
Liberals see the United States as one nation in a community of nations, where all nations can work together to build a better world. Respect for other cultures, religions, and worldviews is an implicit part of their beliefs. Conservatives believe we should use our dominance in world affairs to make changes in the world as we see fit. There is no question in the minds of many conservatives that we have the moral high ground and thus have the implicit right to impose our will on the world, even if it means invading a foreign country.

Our Money- Paying The Bills, The Business End of Government

Big business is increasingly dependent on free trade with foreign countries to provide those "everyday low prices" which seem to be keeping our economy going. But those low prices at Wal-Mart are largely due to products which used to be made in this country but are now made in foreign countries.
left right
Liberals believe in using the power of government to improve the life of the working man, sometimes at the expense of the business owner. The owner must then spend some of his or her profits to pay higher wages and improve working conditions. They believe that these rights extend to other nations that we do business with. Strict conservatives believe that the government should not be involved at all in business. Bush conservatives believe in using the power of government to improve the life of the business owner and corporate board members, since they provide jobs to all of those workers.

Our Natural World

Businesses can produce products more cheaply if they don't have to worry about pesky environmental laws.
left right
Liberals cherish the world around us and believe in using the power of government to limit man's impact on the environment. Conservatives believe that man is the dominant animal on our earth and should thus use the resources of the earth as he sees fit.

Our People- Social Issues

left right
Liberals believe that some people start out in this world disadvantaged and that few ever catch up to their more privileged brethren. They have an inherent trust in people and would rather waste some money in helping out those who don't need it than denying help to some who do. Conservatives believe that through hard work, anyone can achieve success, no matter how disadvantaged their start in life. They have an inherent distrust in people and would rather needy people go wanting rather than waste a single penny.

Our Government- How Much Power and How We Give It

In politics today, no one can hope to be elected to public office without having a lot of money. Our political system is somewhere between one person one vote and one dollar one vote. If you really want to see what's going on, all you have to do is follow the money trail.

left right
Liberals believe that big dollar political donations from big businesses to republicans hurts the political process and takes the voice away from the little guy. Conservatives believe that big dollar political donations from big unions to democrats hurts the political process and takes the voice away from the business owner.

Moderation is the Key

The Bush Brand of Government

The Bush administration calls itself conservative, and it is in many ways, but a number of its policies aren't conservative at all.

True conservatives believe that the government should stay out of the business world. But the Bush administration is not afraid to abandon conservative principles when it comes to helping out big business. The one consistent thing throughout the first three years of the current administration has been its willingness to bend over backwards to please its big-business contributors. The Bush administration and its supporters and apologists maintain that big government is bad (of course they except themselves) but somehow big business is good. At least the government answers to the people. Big business answers to no one.

Conventional wisdom is that liberals are the big spenders, but the national debt has hit record levels under Bush. Who benefits from this huge increase in government spending? Defense contractors and Iraq reconstructors, the same big-business contributors.

Conservatives are also supposed to be for less federal government and giving more control to the states. Attorney General John Ashcroft seemed to forget about this when he went after some of the states over Right-to-Die and Medical-Marijuana laws. It's surprising that his office has time to pursue these matters, what with the war on terrorism and all.

The main hypocrisy shared by many republicans involves the power of big government, both state and federal, into the private decision of a woman to terminate her own pregnancy. How they can justify taking that decision away from a woman and her family and thrusting it into the halls of government is beyond me. If they truly believe that all life is sacred, then they should outlaw all abortions, with no exceptions for rape or incest. If they believe that some abortions should be permitted under certain circumstances, then trust the woman to make the right decision.

The War on Terror and the War in Iraq

Left and Right have gotten all mixed up with the two Bush administrations and the terrible September 11th tragedy. The first Bush administration (1988 to 1992) pursued a global policy highly dependent on and respectful of the United Nations. The United Nations was seen as a means to resolve disputes between nations and a key player in the global brotherhood of mankind. The Clinton administration continued this philosophy.

The second and current Bush administration first ignored then snubbed the United Nations, preferring to assert our nation's economic and military strength over the desires of the world community. After an arguably justified and successful war in Afghanistan, the Bush administration took our country into what amounted to a war for oil under false pretenses. Does anyone seriously believe that if Iraq had no oil reserves, we would be sending our young men and women to die over there?

The right wing fails to grasp that the objection to a war in Iraq was not about a lack of patriotism or a lack of will to defeat terrorism. Should we go to war and risk young lives when the need is questionable and the outcome is so uncertain?
I believe that unless all of the following questions could have been answered with a greater than 90% probability, we should never have gone to war.

The military outcome was never in doubt. The true outcome will not be known for least one generation.

Our nation has a nasty habit of buddying up to dictators, and, in Bush's words, evil-doers. There is a famous photograph circulating on the web showing Donald Rumsfeld, our secretary of defense, shaking hands with Saddam Hussein, sometime in the 1980's. You won't see this picture on Fox news or on network TV. These were the years when Saddam was our buddy, the years when we turned a blind eye to Saddam gassing his own citizens using chemicals which we sold him.

Did Saddam have chemical weapons? "We know he has them, we have the receipts" Why didn't we stop Saddam during those years? This is the way we conduct foreign policy, as long as he has something we want, we don't mind dealing with the devil. In this case, Saddam had oil and his country was in a very strategic location, where we wanted a 'friend'.

How many future Saddams are we supporting today?

The War on Science

In science it often happens that scientists say, "You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken," and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. -Carl Sagan, astronomer and writer (1934-1996)

As a member of the scientific community, I take great personal offense at the blatant politicization of science practiced by the Bush administration. They walk a thin line trying not to piss off the Bible thumping creationists or the scientific evolutionists, never quite committing to either. They use the same science to support their pre-conceived notions on one hand that they use to deny it on the other.

Under the Bush administration, the way we do science has become tainted by politics, religion, and the Bush brand of morality. If the science says we need to take some action that would harm or offend a big Bush contributor, that science is twisted, reworded, and suppressed. That is what happened with global warming. That is what happened with the energy bill. Unfavorable results regarding abstinence-only education were redefined to make those programs appear successful when they are not. In fact the White House has proposed to change the entire peer review process so that all scientific research passes through the White House.

The Bush administration has begun a systematic dismantling or non-enforcement of environmental regulations. It has masked its intentions by such euphemistic names as 'clear skies' and 'healthy forests' while allowing industry to plunder our national resources.

Any sensible national energy policy must include energy conservation. This country is highly dependent on oil, most of which we have to buy from other countries. How do we reduce this dependence? We could quickly and easily reduce our imports by more than 10% by simply reducing the huge amount of energy that we waste. This is really a no brainer. But the Bush administration (like the Clinton administration before it) has taken no action to try to conserve energy. Instead, they think we should drill for oil in Alaska in areas set aside as nature preserves. While the need to drill for oil is arguable, it makes no sense to me to drill without first implementing an energy conservation program. It will take a minimum of 5 years and possibly 10 years to even begin producing oil from new wells drilled in the arctic. During this time, energy conservation policies implemented immediately at no cost will save more energy than will be produced.

Conservation has been a fundamental principle of our country since its founding. Early Americans conserved, reused, and recycled everything they could. This blatant gluttony (who can build the biggest SUV?) is a recent phenomena based on corporate greed and driven by corporate advertising in the corporate controlled media.

But what do you expect when you have two oilmen in the Whitehouse?

The War on Morality and Ethics

George W Bush and the republican party waste no opportunity to present themselves as having the moral high ground. They use their supposed moral superiority to pursue their own agendas and to justify intrusions into the private lives of all Americans.

The republican party forged an unholy alliance with the religious right a generation ago. Through a calculated strategy designed to appeal to southern white males, they have carefully chosen sections of the Bible to demonstrate their holiness and justify their agendas while ignoring those portions which refute their platform. You never hear them quote from the book of Matthew chapter 19 verse 24 where Jesus admonishes men to give up their wealth to the poor or from chapter 6 verse 6 where prayer is meant to be a private time not a public showing or chapter 5 verse 44 where Jesus says "Love your enemies". Instead, the aquisition of wealth is exalted, public prayer is encouraged, and our enemies are pursued halfway around the world.

Perhaps if we can accept a young gay person for what they are, we can reduce the teen suicide rate. I am still trying to figure out just how gay marriage is going to affect my marriage or my family. Whether or not gays are allowed to marry has absolutely no bearing on me, my wife, or my children. It seems much more harmful to me to continue to treat so many people as second class citizens than to treat gays like everyone else. Just what harm does it do to allow gays to marry?

Republicans crusade against using federal funds for birth control while insisting against all evidence that abstinence only methods work.

Barry Goldwater, the republican candidate for president in 1964, said in one of his last interviews, "The religious right scares the hell out of me "

How to be a good Democrat How to be a good Republican
You have to believe the AIDS virus is spread by a lack of federal funding. You have to believe that an epidemic which affects persons of all races, ages, genders, and sexual orientations is a just reward for sinful living
You have to believe that the same teacher who can't teach 4th graders how to read, is somehow qualified to teach those same kids about sex. You have to believe that 4th graders whose parents couldn't even take the time to help their children learn to read will grow up and somehow be able to make wise decisions about sex after learning from their classmates on the school bus
You have to believe that guns in the hands of law-abiding Americans are more of a threat, than US nuclear weapons technology, in the hands of Chinese communists. You have to believe that a gun in the hands of that nut that's tailgating you at eighty miles an hour on the freeway is just what the founding fathers intended when they wrote the second amendment
You have to believe that there was no art before Federal funding. You have to believe that the 36 cents a year you'll save when the NEA is finally abolished will be worth eliminating K-12 arts education projects and after-school arts programs.
You have to believe that global temperatures are less affected by cyclical, documented changes in the earth's climate, and more affected by yuppies driving SUVs. You have to be willing to bet your childrens' childrens' childrens' futures that you know more about the vagarities of global climate change than a majority of the world's climatologists
You have to believe that gender roles are artificial but being homosexual is natural. You have to believe that if homosexuals are allowed to be persecuted, that they will all suddenly realize that they would be much happier living a heterosexual lifestyle and change their sexual orientation overnight
You have to be against capital punishment but support abortion on demand. You have to believe that the government knows better than a woman what to do with her body
You have to believe that businesses create oppression and governments create prosperity. You have to believe that the free market is the best approach for issues like worker safety, product liability, and a clean environment
You have to believe that hunters don't care about nature, but loony activists who've never been outside of Seattle do. You have to believe that restricting economic expansion in order to save a species or two is an unjustifiable governmental intrusion on the free market
You have to believe that self-esteem is more important than actually doing something to earn it. You have to believe that the fact that you have been successful financially is due only to your ability and has nothing to do with the fact that you were born white and middle class
You have to believe the military, not corrupt politicians, start wars. You have to believe that corrupt politicians could start wars without a military
You have to believe the NRA is bad, because it supports certain parts of the Constitution, while the ACLU is good, because it supports certain parts of the Constitution. You have to believe that the NRA is simply exercising its right to free speech by supporting cop-killer bullets and assault weapons
You have to believe that taxes are too low, but ATM fees are too high. You have to believe that you can continue to cut taxes each year and never have to cut services
You have to believe that Margaret Sanger and Gloria Steinem are more important to American history than Thomas Jefferson, General Robert E. Lee or Thomas Edison. You have to believe that women and minorities have contributed less to our nation than white males and can justifiably be ignored
You have to believe that standardized tests are racist, but racial quotas and set-asides aren't. You have to believe that minorities just naturally don't do as well on standardized tests which is the same reason they don't move up the corporate ladder like white guys do
You have to believe Hillary Clinton is really a lady. You don't know how to react to a woman with a brain so you resort to slander and personal insults
You have to believe that the only reason socialism hasn't worked anywhere it's been tried, is because the right people haven't been in charge. You have to believe that social security and medicare are failures and that our present health care system adequately serves the needs of all the people
You have to believe conservatives telling the truth belong in jail, but a liar and sex offender belongs in the White House. You have to believe that the financing and arming of rebels in an attempt to overthrow the government of a foreign nation is the way we should conduct our foreign policy
You have to believe that homosexual parades displaying drag, transvestites and bestiality should be constitutionally protected and manger scenes at Christmas should be illegal. You have to believe that you are fighting a holy war with god on your side against the forces of evil and depredation- just like so many in the past
You have to believe that illegal Democratic party funding by the Chinese is somehow in the best interest of the Country/World. You have to believe that "a president's son who flipped his oil companies faster than a Texas S&L can daisy-chain a Dallas condo; unloaded stock as a corporate board insider shortly before its price plummeted; and walked away from the whole mess with more money than Bill Clinton ever dreamed of making on a little real-estate deal all using money from his dad's buddies" is fit to be the next president of the United States.
(quoted section from Molly Ivins)
the above column credited to:
Mark de Jong
the above column credited to:
me, prior to Y2K elections....
hmmmm, maybe Bush was the real Y2K bug?

What do you think? email me

Thanks to whyvote.tripod.comfor keeping the old site live for the last decade or so

last updated July 27, 2004