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When you’re a mayor, you don’t have Republican potholes or Democratic schools that are failing, you just have problems that you need to fix.

– U.S. Congressman David Cicilline (D-RI) on the productive virtue of non-partisanship, during the Problem Solvers Hangout, an internet video chat that was held yesterday by No Labels. Three other Problem Solver Congressmen joined Cicilline and No Labels co-founder Jonathan Miller along with several members of the No Labels community for a free exchange of ideas and a frank and honest discussion about problems, solutions, and the country’s future.

Information about the event, including video of it in its entirety, can be found here.

The one thing missing from the Senate yesterday during the series of votes on various gun control proposals – seven in all – that was most important and crucial to the proceedings, the lack of which can be faulted for each bill’s defeat, and that which has indeed been largely missing from the entire gun control debate overall, is this: respect.

From Trevor Burrus, writing yesterday (before the vote) for the Opinion section at FoxNews.com:

This week the Senate is debating gun control, and we’ll see whether calmer heads can prevail. As I said in Fox News Opinion once before, the gun control debate is fundamentally a culture debate, dominated by extreme voices on both sides.

Very true. And both sides are guilty of, to put it politely, conduct unbecoming of, well, anyone:

Gawker illustrated this when it published a list of “all the a**holes who own guns in New York City.” Later, the upstate New York newspaper The Journal News printed a similar list.

The dramatic behavior of Gawker and The Journal News hurts the gun-control cause. Shaming gun owners will bolster resistance to all proposals, reasonable or not. As the culture debate rages on, Democrats and their supporters cannot continue to demonize and misunderstand gun owners.

The problem is predictably exacerbated by celebrities and those in the spotlight:

Mayor Michael Bloomberg laughably tried to bridge the culture gap with ads featuring a stereotyped gun enthusiast – identified by his rural setting, pickup truck, and Cabela’s-inspired wardrobe – whose finger is wrapped around the shotgun’s trigger, violating one of the fundamental tenets of gun safety.

Gun owners also feel exasperated when elected officials show their ignorance of guns. Recently, Diane DeGette (D-Co.) seemed not to know that gun magazines are reusable, echoing the famous description by Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) of a barrel shroud as the “shoulder thing that goes up.”

A few weeks ago, actor Jim Carrey released a satirical video called “Cold Dead Hand” on the website Funny or Die. Carrey places himself on the set of “Hee Haw,” resorting once again to the tired cliché that gun-rights supporters are ignorant yokels. He goes on to attack the size of gun-owners’ manhoods, and close the video with a one-finger salute.

Carrey previously established the communication baseline of this debate by taking to Twitter to call gun-rights supporters “heartless” and saying that those who purchased an “assault rifle” after Newtown have “very little left in their body and soul worth protecting.”

Carrey’s stereotyping of gun-rights supporters, and his rage at those who resist suggested reforms are perfect examples of “gun disgust,” the term I used in my previous piece to describe those who give guns the same emotional response as a dirty public restroom. Under this view, guns contaminate society, and thus deaths by guns are somehow worse than deaths by other instruments.

The message here also applies to the larger, more general divisions of the greater political scene – the very first step in getting anything accomplished, through any means, is coming to some level of mutual respect and understanding. We must be willing to believe that the other side may actually have good intentions, and maybe even common ground with us. This is the most important concept in bringing about an agreement.

In the case of guns, the gap is indeed largely cultural, as in rural versus urban, more so than it is rich/poor, black/white, liberal/conservative, or Republican/Democrat.

We cannot bridge the cultural divide until a respectful tone is adopted. That goes for both sides.

Gun-rights supporters need to stop characterizing all gun-control advocates as ultimately wanting to “ban guns.” Most do not. For gun control advocates, it would help to disavow the rhetoric of people like Jim Carrey and to treat gun-rights supporters with respect rather than elitist disdain.

If both sides can do this, some common ground might be possible. Expanding background checks and allowing for better mental health record-keeping could keep guns out of the hands of some dangerous people.

Though most of it is posted here, I recommend going back and reading this post through in its entirety. I, for one, was both glad and relieved to hear a like-minded voice and rational sentiment similar to my own coming from what I would normally perceive to be the “other side.”

Though this reaches kind of far into the childish and petty – which I try to avoid both participating in and even acknowledging – I think it is worth pointing out what is happening, for anyone like me who didn’t know anything about it. From admittedly liberal news sight PoliticusUSA.com comes this article, first pointed out to me at The Secular Jurist (emphasis mine):

More dirty tricks by a desperate minority: The 2012 election taught conservatives that they are the minority, even on social media like Twitter and Facebook. While the Tea Party has started their own version of Facebook (tick tock — waiting for them to be sued for stealing the layout), their solution on Twitter has been to silence speech they don’t agree with by spam blocking en masse to get progressives suspended. Last weekend they got over a dozen accounts suspended.

“#TGDNexposed” was trending on Twitter after progressives uncovered the coordinated assault. Zach Green, Founder of UniteBlue.com, explained to Politicus how conservatives are trying to silence the speech of progressives using the hashtag #TGDN, “A group of conservatives organized under the hashtag #TGDN has been targeting progressive accounts with the intention of getting them suspended. They report progressive accounts as Spam, which is particularly effective against smaller accounts with few followers. We’re helping the Left find and follow one another so they are protected.”

Into this assault stepped #UniteBlue. Mr. Green described #UniteBlue in an interview with Politicus as “a watering hole for progressives to connect on Twitter. Our sole purpose is to connect the Left with the understanding we’re stronger together.” Unite Blue functions on Twitter as a list to protect progressive accounts from being suspended via conservative “spam blocks” by getting them more followers.

I, for one, am about to totally go and de-friend everyone not listed as “Liberal” on my Facebook account. That’ll show ’em.

Spam blocking in order to silence progressives is just another tactic of a minority trying to hijack the dialogue. Remember the death panel town halls of 2010? If they can’t win with messaging, they will resort to dirty tricks executed with the necessary belligerence of the minority.

Zach broke it down for Politicus readers, “The 2012 election showed progressives simply outnumber conservatives now. Republicans saw that, and their solution is to silence the Left. Make voting harder. Gerrymander districts. Rig the Electoral College. Spam-block and suspend accounts. UniteBlue will work to connect the Left on Twitter because we’re stronger together.”

Though the inclusion of ‘spam-block and suspend accounts’ in that list of truly despicable and troubling fringe-conservative plots is enough to give you a migraine from the cognitive dissonance it invokes, it is a fundamentally dishonest attempt by the right to silence what the don’t want to hear. Hopefully this story won’t get too much play – I’d rather liberals not be seen losing their shit over anything anyone does on Twitter – but it does seem unavoidable to conclude that the only thing more petty than making a big deal about this is the original act itself. Getting people blocked on Twitter? Come on people. It does give you a pretty good idea of where the average, man-on-the-street conservative extremist’s head is.

From the Associated Press, some factual inaccuracies exposed that are both interesting and provide a snapshot of where we are in the gun debate:

WASHINGTON (AP) — The intensifying gun-control debate has given rise to sloppy claims on both sides.

Here’s a sampling, with the first two examples from the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing on guns Wednesday, and the third from Vice President Joe Biden’s online video chat last week during a Google Plus forum.

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IOWA SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY, the top Republican on the committee: “The 1994 assault weapon ban did not stop Columbine. The Justice Department found the ban ineffective.”

THE FACTS: The 2004 study conducted for the Justice Department did not conclude the decade-old ban was a failure or a success. The nuanced report found that the effects of the ban “have yet to be fully realized” and it might take years to see results directly attributable to the prohibition on certain weapons and large capacity magazines. The ban expired later in 2004.

The study’s author, Christopher S. Koper, then of the University of Pennsylvania, considered the restrictions modest and speculated that they would have similarly measured results — perhaps as much as a 5 percent decline in gunshot victimization over time if the ban were kept in effect.

His main finding: There were not enough statistics and time to understand the impact of the ban and “it may take many years for the effects of modest, incremental policy changes to be fully felt, a reality that both researchers and policy makers should heed.”

The study made no recommendation whether the ban should be renewed. But it said that if the ban expired, it was “possible, and perhaps probable” that new assault weapons and large capacity magazines coming into the market “will eventually be used to commit mass murder.”

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WAYNE LaPIERRE, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association: “I think without any doubt, if you look at why our Founding Fathers put it (the Second Amendment) there, they had lived under the tyranny of King George and they wanted to make sure that these free people in this new country would never be subjugated again and have to live under tyranny. I also think, though, that what people all over the country fear today is being abandoned by their government. If a tornado hits, if a hurricane hits, if a riot occurs, that they’re gonna be out there alone. And the only way they’re going to protect themselves in the cold and the dark, when they’re vulnerable, is with a firearm. And I think that indicates how relevant and essential the Second Amendment is in today’s society to fundamental human survival.”

SEN. DICK DURBIN, Illinois Democrat: “Well, Chief Johnson, you’ve heard it. The belief of NRA is, the Second Amendment has to give American citizens the firepower to fight back against you, against our government.”

THE FACTS: Durbin mischaracterized LaPierre’s statement in this exchange, which also involved James Johnson, Baltimore (Md.) County police chief.

LaPierre drew a distinction between what he saw as the original purpose of the Second Amendment and a contemporary fear that the government will abandon citizens, so that they must be able to protect themselves against criminals after a disaster. His statement was not a call to arms against the government.

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We’ve got to stop being the stupid party. It’s time for a new Republican Party that talks like adults. We had a number of Republicans damage the brand this year with offensive and bizarre comments. I’m here to say we’ve had enough of that.

– Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal – a Republican – in his keynote address at the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting, as reported by the Washington Post.

(More on this interesting and much-anticipated development later.)

Glenn_Beck_by_Gage_Skidmore_3copy_2Conservative Republicans have for a long time now been thought of as living – metaphorically – in their own little world. (I doubt I need to give any examples, but just for fun, shall we reflect on Karl Rove’s now-infamous Rejection of Reality and subsequent meltdown on election night 2012, prompting his Fox co-host Megan Kelly to ask – and liberals soon thereafter to tattoo on themselves and mow into their front yards – “Is that just math you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better?”) Glenn Beck, however, in his latest attempt as a Republican to make himself feel better, seems keen on bringing the Republican Reality-Blocking Bubble out of the realm of metaphor and into, ironically, reality (emphasis mine):

Right-wing television host Glenn Beck last week revealed a personal goal that he hopes to achieve: building his very own self-sustaining community that he will name “Independence, USA”.

On “The Glenn Beck Program” last week, the television host said his free market community will ideally produce its own food and entertainment content and live in a city completely cut off from the rest of the world. Beck described his imaginary community as having its own homes, baseball fields, a theme park, small businesses, news, information and technology, and education system.

Independence, USA would remain distant from outside stores and businesses and would therefore have to produce everything for itself. And in order to ensure sustainability, Beck said his community’s members would have to “be able to produce more than they consume.”

Wow, what a novel idea! Xanadu! Utopia! Actually, I think the word I’m looking for is…commune. Yeah, I think I might have heard this idea somewhere before. And it never ends well.

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A fanatic is someone who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.

-Winston Churchill

A post I’ve discovered on Daily Kos, from almost exactly a year ago, has gotten to the heart of the problem, more succinctly and concisely than I have yet to put it. One needn’t even look past the title to find its insight: “An open letter to the people who hate Obama more than they love America.” This is the bone-deep problem with the extremist elements on the right, and a trait by which those known as “extremist” can be defined: their hatred for Obama and what he represents takes precedent over anything and everything, including the well-being of the nation, the economy, the health of the citizenry, and on, and on. This is the root of their obstructionism, from which stems all the actions they’ve taken, and even seems at times to be obstructionism for its own sake – they oppose whatever Obama does and says simply by virtue of him doing or saying it. Opposing him is what they stand for, is what defines them, and is their overwhelming and superseding goal.

And they have just about said as much. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is a big player in the Republican party, is widely quoted as having said, two years into Obama’s first term, “my number one priority is making sure president Obama’s a one-term president.”

Number one priority.

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