Straight Talk Advice

Oct 03, 2012

Don’t just vote. Get informed first.

Dear Straight Talk: In 1787, our founding fathers gathered behind closed doors to decide what form of government the fledgling United States would have. The newly-freed colonists held their breath. When the delegates finally emerged, someone asked Benjamin Franklin, "Well, Doctor, what have we got — a republic or a monarchy?” Franklin smiled and replied, “A Republic — if you can keep it.”

Today the buzz is about getting people to vote. You commonly hear, "It's every citizen's duty." However, the problem isn't people not voting, it's people going to the polls peer-pressured, scared, brainwashed, or lied to. Take negative campaign ads. Informed people burst out laughing, saying, "How could any well-informed voter believe that!" Actually, these ads are designed for the uninformed. Telling them to, "Vote, vote, vote!" is like instructing ballplayers to run around the bases, while neglecting to mention that they must hit the ball first.

Adding to the trouble, many uninformed people think they are informed. Cable news churns out nonstop spin and superficial outrage. Most radio and Internet sources aren't much better. Unbiased news is hard to find nowadays. Many people come to me with political questions. Below are my top sources of unbiased information. Get informed, then go vote. —Colin Meinrath, Los Angeles

•  Common Sense with Dan Carlin: non-partisan commentary on U.S. and global politics.
• Many "fact-checking" websites are misleading. Not this one.
•  KCRW's Left, Right & Center: honest inquiry by people who prefer talking over screaming.
  New York Times: still a great place to get daily headlines and the story behind them.

Katelyn 17, Azusa, Calif. Ask me a question

I like that Colin gives solutions. Many complain, yet neglect to offer alternatives. Some even say the “other side” should fix the problem. We are also crippled by political correctness. Oppose a minority opinion and your head is on a stick.

Brandon 20, Mapleton, Maine Ask me a question

Most voters won't haul their butts out again for four more years. Skipping out on congressional elections gives you no influence on those who pull the president's strings. Think hard about your senators and legislators and vote for them, too. Follow their voting record at

Alex 16, Newton, Mass. Ask me a question

The media, besides feeding us biased information, rarely holds candidates accountable. Politicians lie over and over and get away with it. What happened to the George Washington's of this country who weren't concentrating on winning, but on serving? Let's support candidates who will change the culture in Washington — and let's all work together to change things at home.

Colin 19, Los Angeles Ask me a question

Adding to my letter: Our two dominant parties are strangling this country. They care more about winning elections than America's welfare. Another famous founding father, John Adams, warned of this. He said, “There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the Republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.”

Only candidates committed to working across party lines get my vote. It's depressing how many boast about their unwillingness to do this!

Dear Readers: Many thanks to Colin for starting this conversation. Being informed and willingly non-partisan is the difference between “We the People,” thinking and creating a strong Union, and “We the Sheeple,” trampling it as two opposing, brainwashed, stubborn herds. Make a practice of studying the non-partisan news sources Colin suggests — most other sources, liberal and conservative alike, really are junk food. Then, on November 6, vote with your own informed mind. Deadlines for voter registration are practically right now! Don't waste another second. Registration forms are at post offices, libraries and online. In some states (California included), you may now register entirely online.

Editor's Note: Most political issues are complex and contradictory — just like humans. The thing to realize in any disagreement is that all sides are partly right. Elected Republicans and Democrats used to be friends. They worked together and respected each other's arguments. They also knew that sacrifice is the foundation of creating and serving a great ideal. In the words of Hazrat Inayat Khan, "The greater the ideal, the greater the sacrifice it demands... sacrifice of a possession is the first step; the next one is self-sacrifice, which was the inner note of the religion of Jesus Christ. Charity, generosity, even tolerance and forbearance, are a kind of sacrifice, and every sacrifice in life, in whatever form, means a step towards the goal of every soul."

The Republic of America, "with liberty and justice for all," is one of the world's greatest ideals. We each must become informed and willing to sacrifice — so we "can keep it," as Ben Franklin warned would be difficult. The news sources Colin lists are accountable, thorough, unbiased and non-partisan. If the New York Times already carries a 'liberal' label in your mind, consider that you have been lied to. It carries the best of both liberal AND conservative viewpoints — the very definition of unbiased and thorough. Let's get informed — and work with each other, not against each other. —Lauren

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  1. By Jan Thielemann, age , from Redding, CA on 10/21/2012

    This is about your column in the Sunday, October 14, 2012, Redding Record Searchlight. Your column was titled “Here are unbiased political news sites”.

    I thought this was great, until I read your comment, “New York Times: still a great place to get daily headlines and the story behind them.”

    The New York Times is the most liberally biased newspaper in the country.

    I didn’t even look up the other sites, because I felt you recommendations were politically motivated.

    And, you are a 501c3 non-profit.

    Reply to this comment

  2. By Lauren Forcella, age , from Sebastopol, CA on 10/21/2012

    Dear Jan,

    Thank you for writing. First off, please let me assure you that the tone and content of this column is nonpartisan. I, personally, am a completely independent thinker, and Straight Talk TnT, as an organization is all about working together, beyond political orientations, to bring about a thriving, just, and sustainable world.

    Colin Meinrath, who wrote that letter with the news sources you refer to is a panelist, as I’m sure you noted upon reading the entire column. He is a very intelligent, sincere, and independent thinker and was eager to respond to your letter. 

    Again, thank you for writing and best wishes always,

    Reply to this comment

  3. By Colin, age , from Los Angeles, CA on 10/21/2012

    Dear Jan,

    I’m glad you wrote in, because this is exactly the kind of open discussion we need to be having in this country.  First off, I would like you to understand that I don’t have an agenda here.  My only bias is for my country. 

    I am aware that there is much criticism of the Times on the right.  I have never found any of these claims to have a basis in fact. You said that the New York Times is the “most liberally biased” newspaper in America.  My experience has always been that the Times is more or less unbiased.  Yes there are many leftward leaning articles, but it has many conservative leaning articles as well.  Overall, I would say there is no bias, at least not as far as right vs left goes.

    I can certainly think of many news sources that have a left-leaning bias.  I’m not saying that this isn’t a problem, but I don’t think that the NY Times is part of it.  Also, please don’t let your impression of the Times slant your view of the other sources I provided.  They are all very different and intentionally so.


    Reply to this comment

  4. By Colin, age , from Los Angeles, CA on 10/21/2012

    Other good nonpartisan political websites:

    Reply to this comment

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