Sunday, February 3, 2013

Pro Common Sense

In the interests of full disclosure, I am not anti-gun. I spent almost 9 years in the Air Force and qualified on two handguns and an M-16. When I was growing up, I hunted with my grandfather, and even owned my own double barrel, 20 gauge shotgun. I was also responsible, as a kid, for dramatically increasing the copper content of the soil around our house, as well as a few trees (sorry again Mom!), due to heavy BB gun use.  I've been a military history buff since I was a little kid and I love me some Quentin Tarantino. So I'm hardly a frothing crusader for repealing gun rights. But having said all that, I fully support some common sense gun regulation.

No, I'm not looking to take everyone's guns away. In fact, almost no one is, so I wish the NRA and others on the 'no compromise' side of this argument would stop whining like 2 year olds whose ice cream just hit the floor. Look, guns exist for only one reason: to kill. You can talk up target shooting and skeet shooting, etc. But the truth is that firearms were not invented and perfected to shoot clay pidgeons. They were invented to kill human beings. And over time, they have become more and more efficient at ending lives. I'm not saying that a gun is evil, but let's not pretend they are holy relics or talismans of liberty either. Guns are as likely to support tyranny as they are to protect freedom. Guns are not the cornerstone of Democracy. The cornerstones of Democracy are governmental checks & balances, freedom of expression and our judicial system, not who has the most, or biggest guns.

It's important to remember that there are two different spheres of life where guns exist; military and civilian. The military has much different needs than does a convenience store owner down the street. For the military, it's all about killing people in the quickest, most efficient manner possible for a particular situation. Whether that's a sniper rifle to kill a single individual from a mile away or a special forces team clearing a building with FN P90 assault rifles. Fast, reliable and deadly are the key features. And these weapons are put into the hands of highly trained soldiers. Individuals who have been drilled over and over on how to operate rationally in the chaotic environment of flying bullets. These are specialized weapons in the hands of those who have been trained to be specialists in the dark art of killing other human beings.

Then we have the civilian world, where the needs are much different. Here it's about sport or personal defense. There is no need for 30+ round magazines or a high rate of fire. Neither will help you hit a target on a range or take down a game animal and neither is needed for self defense. If one standard pistol magazine isn't enough to defend yourself, you're either in the middle of a gang shootout or you're running with Officer John McLane. In either case, your problems are unlikely to be solved with a few more rounds. And for the survivalists out there, I'm afraid a larger capacity magazine is not going to help you if the government really does come for you. Your AR-15 isn't going to save you from a highly trained tactical strike team or a platoon of trained infantry.

Military grade weapons have no place in civilian society. That's why your neighbor can't mount a quad .50 on his garage and you can't pick up Stinger missiles at Walmart! Neither of you has any legitimate need for that kind of firepower. Home defense? Try a shotgun. Talk about fear factor! I'd be more scared staring down the muzzle of a 12 gauge than an AR-15 any day! The AR-15 might miss, at least with the first few rounds, but the shotgun probably won't.

The other thing that so many people seem to not understand is that owning a gun does not imbue you with magical powers. You hear it after every mass shooting. The chorus of, "if only they had all been armed this would never have happened!" Look, Rambo, owning a gun doesn't make you Jason Bourne. Shooting targets on a range or hunting deer does not remotely qualify you to be calm and rational in the middle of a firefight.  Sure, if some of the teachers at Sandy Hook had been armed, the result might have been different. Perhaps they would have stopped the gunman, but that difference could also have been that several more bystanders may have been wounded or killed as multiple 'good guys' started spraying shots down range without carefully clearing their target.

It doesn't help that the Second Amendment is so non-specific. The whole thing is one sentence with one or two commas, depending on where you source the text. You would think that might make it straight forward, but it's not. Read it for yourself:

"A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

It seems like the only part most people care about is the last section, but the whole first part seems to clearly be a qualifier, implying that it specifically pertains to militias. There are some who interpret the Second Amendment as some paranoid safety valve, put in by the founding fathers as a defense against an overreaching government. That seems like a strange thing to shoehorn into the bill of rights. Not to mention, it's like a bride calling from her wedding reception to put a divorce lawyer on retainer. It also doesn't seem to fit when you read the whole amendment. I can't get past the militia bit, personally. When I read it, what I see is a warning not to ban guns because to do so would functionally disarm the state militias, who were pretty much the entire US army of the time. But we no longer base our security on civilian militias whose equipment is provided by the individuals themselves. We now have a professional military and the militias have been superseded by the National Guard, who have their weapons provided for them by the individual states. I think the Second Amendment is actually a bit anachronistic. Remember this comes from a time when the founders never imagined that the United States would have a standing, professional military numbering more than a million men and women.

This whole issue is way too complicated to fix by just arming everyone. Just as we will never stop every mass shooting by tightening gun laws. However, there are obvious steps that can be taken to make it a little harder for some individuals to arm themselves. Making background checks universal, whether you're shopping a brick and mortar store or just browsing at a local gun show, will make it harder for those with ill intent to pick up a weapon while adding only a minor inconvenience for everyone else. It's like security at the airport. Sure it's annoying, but everyone has to deal with it and it does provide a basic barrier to those trying to do harm. Is it fool proof? Of course not. Having laws and punishments setup for murderers doesn't stop 100% of killings, but that's no reason not to have them in place. Will banning some assault rifles stop the next Sandy Hook? Probably not, but it may very well save lives among the thousands of other shootings. And it will do so without causing the vast majority of gun owners the tiniest inconvenience. All I ask is for gun rights activists to stop and take a slow, deep breath. Holster their bravado. Then listen with an open mind and think rationally about what is actually being proposed and consider the real world impact.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Constitutional Arbiter

The other day I came across a Facebook post that reminded me how crazy, supposedly responsible people can be. It was a post of a letter sent to Vice President Biden by an Oregon Sheriff named Tim Mueller. In this letter, Sheriff Mueller details his love of the Constitution and the oaths he has given for his current position, as well as a short stint in the Army and concludes by declaring that he won't enforce any laws he or his citizens consider unconstitutional. Here's the part of the letter that I find just incredible to read, coming as it does from a law enforcement officer, emphasis mine:

"Any federal regulation enacted by Congress or by executive order of the President offending the constitutional rights of my citizens shall not be enforced by me or by my deputies, nor will I permit the enforcement of any unconstitutional regulations or orders by federal officers within the borders of Linn County Oregon."

Here we see a prime example of why we can't have a reasonable conversation about guns, not to mention many other subjects. It's because so many people, who seem intelligent, some of whom hold positions of responsibility are, at least on certain subjects, idiots. Sincerely determined ones at that. Let me put it this way, if I may paraphrase what Mueller is saying in this letter:

"Vice President Biden, I, Sheriff Tim Mueller, love the Constitution. I have sworn oaths to protect and defend it as a law enforcement officer and as an MP in the Army. As such, I am an expert on what is and is not Constitutional and not the Courts, as the Constitution would have you believe. Therefore, I am telling you, the Constitutionally elected Vice President of the United States of America, that I refuse to enforce any federal law I don't agree with and will even attempt to thwart enforcement by federal authorities. 

It's irrelevant that any such law was proposed and passed into law under a Congressional framework that is explicitly laid out under the US Constitution. That very same document about which I expressed my undying love at the beginning of this letter. In fact, my adoration for the Constitution is so deep and unyielding that I am willing to violate my own oaths, to that very same document! God bless America and the Constitution!."

I wish this guy was unique, but you might be surprised how many people subscribe to this tortured line of reasoning, either personally or in support of those shrubs who do. It always breaks down to the idea that individual citizens can make a determination about what is and is not Constitutional. Despite the fact that these laws were passed under Constitutional authority. Sure, some laws have been passed and then later ruled un-Constitutional, but that was done through the Court system, as the Constitution explicitly specifies. In fact, laws are treated much like a person's innocence; we assume they are Constitutional, because they were passed Constitutionally, until such time as they are challenged and subsequently ruled to violate the Constitution. You see, that's how this whole 'America' thingy is supposed to work. 

The bottom line is that, as a citizen, you have the right to disagree with a law, call for its repeal, speak out publicly, challenge it in court and demand your representatives work to repeal it. But just because you don't like it, doesn't make it un-Constitutional! It may be unwise, stupid or even corrupt, but you do not have the right to choose what laws apply to you, based on your own, skewed interpretation of the Constitution. And if you're in a position of power and authority, such as Mueller, you sure as hell don't have the right to declare your own personal insurrection against the Constitutional authority of the United States simply because you disagree with something! And to do it under the guise of patriotism is enough to have me reaching for an Excedrin and/or a bottle of Captain Morgan. I've had enough of blowhards who think they can pick and choose what laws apply to them. If we start down that road we stop being the United States and instead become the Confederate Counties of America, where every locality has its own random, illogical laws based not on a governmental framework, but rather the simple minded prejudices of the local authorities. We all know how that works; segregation, discrimination and restrictions on the very liberties that schmucks like Mueller are so hot and bothered about. You see once you start letting individuals choose what laws should be followed, you're setting up every 'Mueller' as their own petty dictator. Put simply, Mueller is actually undermining the very Constitution he is supposedly so devoted to. Is that ironic or just pathetic? No, wait, I think it's both.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Art of the Pirouette

It's no secret that I will be voting to re-elect President Obama. But despite what some will claim, I'm not making that choice because I think he's perfect or because I think Democrats can do no wrong. I have been disappointed in a number of choices that he's made over his first term. Even allowing that some of these issues were outside his control, something most of his opponents would never admit publicly, I'm not really happy about the way some things have gone. I'm also not comfortable with a straight party line vote, but that's most likely what I'll do. Again, not because of some idealized view of Democrats, believe me. I'm quite aware that they can be as untrustworthy as their colleagues across the aisle.

But, in the end, the Republican party has forced me into this. They have offered no level headed, logical alternatives. Many of their premier voices utter such nonsense that it amazes me that they have any supporters at all. And it's not just Representative Todd Aikin and his "legitimate rape" idiocy. It's not just VA Governor Bob McDonnell's bill to force women to have an internal, vaginal ultrasound for daring to exercise their Constitutional rights. A procedure that could be argued is all but rape itself, since it would have resulted in non-consensual, penetration of a women simply to humiliate her for making a legal choice. It's not just the bizarre, time warp that has us actually discussing the wisdom of contraception in 2012. It isn't just economic 'plans' that rely more on magic than solid, empirical evidence and basic common sense. No, it's all of this and more. The storm of insanity from the Right would be awe inspiring if it wasn't so scary.

It's scary because a surprising number of Americans have jettisoned critical thinking for empty, emotional rhetoric that is about rousing anger, not informing the voting public. And the master of this trade is none other than Willard 'Mitt' Romney. This will be a historic election, no matter the outcome, but not for any of the reasons you probably think. I have been shocked and amazed at Romney's audacity. His deadpan, almost eerie ability to say whatever seems correct for that specific time and place. I'm not talking about the time tested political skill of focusing a message for your audience or even misdirection or exaggeration. I mean perfect, gold medal worthy pirouettes from black to white and back again, all in the blink of an eye. Not simply framing his policies to his audience, but to say one thing to one group in the morning and then declare something completely different to another. Sometimes completely reversing positions! Just doing that would be impressive enough, but he does it with such absolute belief. As if he truly doesn't remember what he said months, days or even hours ago.

Before the internet and the days of multiple cable news channels, this would not have been possible. It would have been a disaster, since there were limited media outlets so any reversals would be clear to just about everyone. But these days, you can get away with it. There's so much noise and so much partisan compartmentalization that large portions of the voting public will never know that a candidate's remarks, reported by CNN, were contradicted by others they made on Fox only hours later. It's the pinnacle of the art of telling people what they want to hear. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say it's the low point of that strategy, because it does not serve the country well. If Romney wins, and I'm scared to death he might, it will signal the end of any sort of accountability for political candidates. It will usher in an era where candidates will lie to our faces as a standard political tactic and we will elect individuals about whom we can be sure of nothing, except their desire for political power. Some will argue that we've always had that, but I don't believe that's true. Up till now there have been limits beyond which few politicians would go. And those that did often paid a high price for it. Gov. Romney brings an entirely new level of dishonesty to the game.

Look, I make no secret that I believe a Romney-Ryan victory would be a disaster for the country. Neither has shown any hint of the type of level headed, pragmatic thinking that is required of a President. Neither seems to have the vaguest understanding of foreign policy or how to work with our Allies rather than dictate to them. Their economic plans still hinge on cutting revenue, i.e. cutting taxes, and only later negotiating a way to pay for them. And both of these men have shown a staggering comfort with telling bald faced and easily provable lies at the drop of a hat. Some of you reading may sneer and claim that Obama has done the same, but that would be just as much of a lie. I have no doubt there are examples of exaggeration or political fancy footwork from the Administration. But I think you'd have a difficult time finding many, if any, examples of the President saying one thing to an audience in the morning and contradicting himself completely eight hours later. Given a few minutes, I could dig up several such examples of this with Romney, and I'm not exaggerating. There are sites and blogs that have long lists of quotes and video links that chronicle his dishonesty from his first Senate run to the current campaign. You can watch and read as his seemingly sincere beliefs magically change to fit whatever audience he's attempting to win over. Even if you kinda like the guy, how in this wide world can you trust anything he says at this point? The only thing about Governor Romney that I have absolute certainty about is that he wants to be President. That alone should NOT be enough!

Land of the Gullible

I received an email forward the other day that reminded me why so many Americans believe so many astonishing things. The email was supposedly from a September 2008 edition of 'Meet the Press' where Senator Obama was being questioned about his stance on the National Anthem. Strangely it was also attributed, at the bottom, as being from a Washington Post columnist as well, which should have been a tip-off to readers that something wasn't quite right. The text contains explosive statements about Obama's plan to disarm America and that the flag is a symbol of oppression and so on. Suffice it to say that you would be hard pressed to find many Americans who wouldn't be shocked by the comments attributed to, then, candidate Obama.

The only problem is that it's completely made up! The actual guests on that edition of 'Meet the Press' were Sen. Joe Biden and Tom Friedman. According to info on this urban legend from, a site that is sort of a Myth Busters for rumors and other misinformation, the seeds for this doozie were sown by a political columnist's satirical "Semi News" feature. A feature explicitly subtitled, "A Satirical Look at Recent News". Yet, either by ignorance or intentional design, this piece was used to mislead gullible people into thinking Senator Obama was about to replace the national anthem with 'I'd like to teach the world to sing." No, seriously, that was one of the so-called quotes!

I know I shouldn't be, but I'm still amazed that this story could have been taken seriously. Though, to be fair, I'm just as amazed that people think an African prince wants to give them millions of dollars or that a long lost acquaintance you've never heard of is desperate to have sex with you, and by the way she's a hot redhead with a "killer bod". What makes these things insidious is that they play to our weaknesses. If you weren't lonely, then you'd be a lot less likely to believe an email from some anonymous, sex obsessed woman. If you didn't already have deep seated distrust of Senator/President Obama then you'd never be taken in by an email claiming that he wants "to disarm America to the level of acceptance to our Middle East Brethren." They play to our own prejudices. In that way they can be a bit of a wake up call, alerting us to some of the thoughts, desires and concerns that lurk just beneath the surface of our conscious mind.

We're all gullible to some degree, otherwise advertising agencies would all be out of business and Miller Lite ads wouldn't feature armies of busty, scantily clad women. The important point is to recognize our own biases and factor that knowledge into our decision making. If you recognize that you have a knee-jerk response to anything related to a particular person, then be honest enough with yourself to acknowledge it as the baseless emotional response it is. We all have this problem to some degree, as it's part of being an emotional creature. But it's pointless, and sometimes self destructive, to let it rule your actions. Maybe you do dislike President Obama, but just make sure your disagreement is based on actual policies and positions and not a bunch of lies and urban legends designed to play to your emotions and trick you into following someone else's agenda.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Paying Taxes

Mitt Romney's comments in a recently released video have once more brought us back to the tired and completely misunderstood subject of who does or doesn't pay taxes. This is stupid for all sorts of reasons. It's also, like many items involving public policy, way more complicated than it's represented. Let's take a look at some important facts.

The way it's almost always put is that at least 40% of American's don't pay any taxes. This is complete and utter bull, and should be obviously so to anyone with a functioning frontal lobe. Everyone pays taxes. That's right, every single American and every single person who lives in this country pays taxes. Think I'm crazy? Take a breath and think about it for a moment. Every 5 year old who buys a candy bar pays sales tax, just like every illegal immigrant who buys groceries. Many Americans, pay taxes on property they own, including cars. Anyone earning a paycheck pays payroll taxes. And yes, a lot of us pay federal income taxes. Oh, and don't forget state and local taxes. Even if you didn't pay Federal income taxes, nobody gets a free ride, despite what the talking heads want you to think.

But even if we only focus on just Federal income taxes, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), even the bottom fifth of American households average a 4% income tax rate, according to 2007 numbers. A not insignificant amount when you consider they are only making around $18000 a year as it is. Incidentally, numerous tax cuts and short duration programs instituted in the 2009 Recovery Act, among other legislation, have inflated things a bit making the numbers over the last few years swell abnormally. Also consider that many who actually don't pay Federal income taxes are in that position, not because they are freeloaders, but because they make such a pittance. But wait, not every income tax avoiding person is even poor! Some are just able to take advantage of a tax code that is littered with loopholes designed specifically for this purpose. Who's responsible for that? Well, many of the same people who thump their chests about the freeloaders!

Am I the only one who finds it disgusting to hear millionaires whine that people barely earning enough to get by aren't paying enough taxes? Mitt Romney, all by himself, earns enough each year to raise 400 low income individuals into line with the national median income. Yet he thinks someone who doesn't make enough to qualify for income tax is a freeloader? Why aren't politicians and pundits laughed off the stage for saying things like this?

Look, I could dig up numbers to shine a light on this from all sorts of angles, but the point is that this entire line of attack is designed for only one purpose; to pit one group of Americans against another. To convince one demographic that they are doing all the work while the others are taking advantage of them. In the current climate it's being done to convince middle class conservatives that they are the real downtrodden ones and not the so called poor. The entire argument appeals to our baser instincts of suspicion and paranoia. There is little if any factual data to support it and what little there is has been horribly distorted, but that doesn't matter in a political world where lying has become normal. It would be nice if we weren't so gullible, but then again it would be nice if people in positions of authority had a sense of honor and integrity. Oh well, I can dream.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Taylor's Bad Year

Poor Taylor Kitsch. It's not been a good year for the young actor, thus far. Best known for the critically acclaimed NBC series "Friday Night Lights" (2006-2011), he also co-starred in "X-men Origins: Wolverine" as Gambit alongside Hugh Jackman and Leiv Schreiber. This year looked great on paper. Early spring 2012 would bring the (very) big budget, and eagerly awaited cinematic arrival of Edgar Rice Boroughs' Kingdom of Mars books where Kitsch would take the title role in "John Carter". It arrived to mixed reviews and low attendance, though it did ultimately pull in over $250 million. However it was reported to have cost the studio over $200 million to make, so disappointing might be an understatement. Then in the early summer came his starring role in "Battleship", a big budget science fiction adventure based on, of all things, the board game of the same name. It sunk rapidly at the box office with dismal reviews, and like "John Carter" barely made back the cost of production.

While both movies were major disappointments to the studios, they are very different in quality. I saw "John Carter" when it hit the theaters and overall, I liked it. It was well acted, the effects were top notch and it was an interesting story. I think what really knee-capped the film was its own PR. The studio spent a lot of money on ads, including a Super Bowl spot, but the problem was that they never really gave you a sense of what the movie was about. The previews showed aliens and snippets of action, but left the viewer scratching his head as to what the hell was going on. They lacked focus and rather than try and sketch out the premise for viewers, they relied on wowing us with special effect shots. It just wasn't enough. I figure it will make up some fiscal ground on DVD and PPV, but it will best be remembered as a flop. In my opinion "John Carter" was a solid movie that was served badly by the studio's marketing department. It deserved better.

I only just saw "Battleship" on PPV the other night. I'd have to say it deserved every empty seat in the house. It's not that it was horrible, exactly. I mean, it wasn't on the scale of the 2011 remake of "The Three Musketeers," but it wasn't good. However, I would say that, like the last Musketeers flick, the writers deserve the lion's share of ridicule. Though, in fairness, the writers were given a truly herculean task. Take Aliens, a major naval presence and a planet in peril and somehow tether it to a simple, grid based, two dimensional guessing game. What you end up with is a plot strewn with holes and WTF moments. In isolation, some of the choices seem to work, but many fall apart when you roll it all together.

!SPOILER ALERT! (A minor one, anyway)

For example, aliens travel to earth from deep space, yet seem incapable of avoiding a simple satellite collision that destroys one of their ships. I guess whoever planned this little intergalactic excursion skimped on radar. Then they submerge in the Pacific Ocean, and from then on seem capable of only moving in small, though cinematically impressive, hops across the ocean surface. Maybe the salt water washed off the special hull coating that allowed them to fly? And the aliens' most used weapon, though cool looking and destructive to naval vessels, really didn't seem like it would be of much use in any other circumstance. This weapon also seemed to have a propulsion and guidance system little better than conventional artillery and only marginally more destructive, shot for shot.  While you can certainly think up a bunch of imaginative reasons for each anomaly, we shouldn't have to and it's making the viewer work way too hard to justify a shoddy screenplay.  I remember thinking that the showiest alien weapon, a sort of self directing sphere, was very Transformer-like. On reflection, I'd say the entire script was reminiscent of "Transformers." Way more flash than substance.

Two big budget movies, two big budget bombs, and both headlined by Taylor Kitsch. Neither was his fault, of course. He did a good job in "John Carter" and did what he could with the dreck he was given for "Battleship" but I still feel for him just a little. Either of these movies could have been his stepping stone to the movie star 'A' list, but it was not to be. Gotta wonder how that will work out for him. Stars that can bring in the crowds with name recognition alone can get movies made, but what happens when your name is associated with financial disasters? Kevin Costner did manage to pull himself back, at least somewhat, from his "Waterworld" and "The Postman" debacles, but it took quite a while and he's never recaptured the heights of "Dances with Wolves". I hope Taylor weathers things, because I think he is a talented actor and deserves to rise or fall on his performance rather than the studios box office expectations. But only time will tell. As to these two films? I recommend "John Carter", but unless you're looking for mindless special effects or a Mystery Science Theater level viewing experience, don't bother with "Battleship".

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Empty Chair

So, most of you have heard about the odd performance piece Clint Eastwood put on at the Republican National Convention, where he cross examined an imaginary President Obama signified by an empty chair. I like Clint, even if I don't agree with his politics and, as Bill Maher pointed out the other night, he went up there with no prompter and a chair and he got good responses from the audience, so you gotta give him credit for stepping out there. But it wasn't till I was watching The Daily Show with Jon Stewart this weekend that I realized the significance of Eastwood's conversation with the empty chair. A significance that is obviously lost on the Republicans themselves.

As Jon Stewart put it, "Eastwood finally revealed the cognitive dissonance that is the beating heart and soul and fiction of [the Republican] party.   . . . I could never wrap my head around why the world and the President, that the Republicans describe bears so little resemblance to the world and the President that I experience. And now I know why. There is a President Obama that only Republicans can see. And while the President, the rest of us see has issues, apparently this President, invisible to many, is bent on our wholesale destruction." This theory is startlingly true. And it's been true since the campaign began. No, let's be honest, it's been true since January 20th, 2009. The GOP has based the majority of its attacks, not on the actual policies President Obama has championed or put into place, but instead, they have continually referred to a mythical, alternate reality version of Obama. Always exaggerating anything he said or did, and shockingly, often telling outright lies!

I can't even count the number of 'scandals' pushed, and often generated from thin air by Fox News and other GOP leaning sources that were completely untrue. And I mean proven false by objective investigation. But Republicans, and especially Fox News, know one very important thing about Americans and the media. They know that a salacious lie told today will be remembered, even if it's completely debunked tomorrow. Get your version out there first and proclaim it loudly and repeatedly. Then even if irrefutable proof arises later, you simply let it go without comment and your viewers and supporters will never even notice. Any proof offered later will be considered liberal propaganda. It's simple, and it works.

Look, I have a number of issues with Obama and his policies. I'm ticked off that the Gitmo gulag is still in operation. I'm ticked that we have made it OK to execute Americans via drone with little oversight. I'm ticked that we are still expected to be in Afghanistan for years to come, when we really aren't doing any lasting good and really don't have any control over the stability of the Karzai government. I'm pissed that the Bush tax cuts are still in place and continuing to feed the deficit. That's just what comes immediately to mind. Though even some of those items bear the fingerprints of the GOP. My point is that I can understand reasoned disagreement with the policies of this President. What I cannot understand is how much time is spent by Conservatives ranting and raving about policies Obama never proposed or on intentional misinterpretations of policies that actually were implemented. If we can't even agree on the basic facts, then how can we ever agree on anything else?

As an American, you must decide this November who you will support for President. I'm not asking that you blindly vote to reelect Barack Obama. But I do ask that you base your voting decision on facts. Not sound bites. Not some off the cuff remarks by Mike Huckabee or Sean Hannity. Not some unconfirmed headline you read on the Drudge Report. Not a Crossroads GPS funded attack ad. Base it on facts, that is all I ask. Wanna know the details on past and current fiscal policies and how they affect the deficit now and in the future? Actually go to the official sites and find the info! Don't pull it from! Visit the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which is the non-partisan organization that is relied on by both parties for 'scoring' legislation. You want to hear some level-headed analysis of a Supreme Court ruling? Don't wait for Nancy Grace to enlighten you, go to the SCOTUS Blog, where experienced law scholars parse through the dense rulings and discuss the repercussions without adding partisan spin. Hear about a scandal that sounds shocking? Then investigate it through non partisan sources, or at least across a wide swath of sources, to see if maybe the reason it's so shocking is because it's made up! Vote for who you think is best for America, going forward. Just make sure you're basing your decision on factual information and not single sourced from a partisan pundit with an axe to grind.