Saturday, February 11, 2012

Social media users plan to block Westboro Baptist Church from picketing Powell boys' funeral

Social media users plan to block Westboro Baptist Church from picketing Powell boys' funeral

  • Facebook screenshot photo
Hundreds of people are banding together on Facebook and other social media sites with a plan to shield mourners at Charlie and Braden Powell's Saturday funeral from protesters from the Westboro Baptist Church.

The Kansas-based church, known for picketing funerals for U.S. soldiers as a form of anti-gay protest, said Wednesday it planned to picket the memorial in protest of Gov. Chris Gregoire’s support of gay marriage, KIRO 7 news partner The News Tribune reported. Occupy Seattle later said it would counter-protest.

From The Tribune:

Margie Phelps, daughter of the Topeka, Kan.-based Westboro Baptist Church’s founder, tweeted Wednesday night that the church will attend the boys’ memorial service. The protest is to “remind” Gov. Chris Gregoire “they died because of her rebellion,” a reference to her support of same-sex marriages.


In a later tweet referencing a story about Washington legalizing same-sex marriage, Phelps wrote “This is why God’s cursed you w Josh Powells blowing up kids.”

Jason and Annika Smith of Tacoma said they're so upset with Westboro's threat of protest, they've joined other people online to condemn what the church is planning.

"It's disgusting. I don't even understand it," Annika Smith said.

"The fact that Westboro is trying to capitalize on this tragedy is just, it's an outrage," Jason Smith said.

The couple said they're looking for ways to visibly block out the Westboro protesters, perhaps by holding up blankets or sheets of fabric.

"We're not trying to yell at them, we're not trying to get anyone angry; we're just trying to make sure these people can actually  mourn in peace," said Jason Smith of Tacoma, one of the counter-protest organizers.

Occupy Seattle told The Tribune it doesn’t plan to disrupt the funeral, but wants to “protect it from Westboro’s abhorrent message.”

In response to Wesboro's plans, Alina Powell, the boys' aunt, sent this message to KIRO 7 via email (original emphasis and formatting retained):

"I have just received confirmation that the Westboro Baptist Church is planning to protest my nephews' funeral.  This is a horrible, disdainful act that serves no purpose other than to continue the years-long objectification of those little boys.  Charlie and Braden were not trophies to be won and paraded around; they were not bait to ferret out 'guilt' in a man; they were not 'evidence' in a 'crime'; and they most certainly arenot political pawns to be used by a church to spread yet more messages of HATE!  They are only little boys and they deserve better!  I am LIVID that my nephews continue to be used as a tactical maneuver, and I am LIVID that their service will be besmirched by an event a loving God would never approve!  Please let my nephews rest in peace!!  Hate has taken far too great a toll on us ALL already!--Please, STOP THE HATE!"

The funeral is scheduled to happen at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Life Center Church in Tacoma. Representatives there told KIRO 7 extra security will be on hand Saturday, as well as Pierce County Sheriff's deputies and Tacoma police.

"We are committed to honoring Charlie and Braden by allowing those closest to them to mourn in a loving, solemn and dignified manner," Life Center said in a statement.

Life Center added that any groups attempting to use media attention for political demonstrations will be asked to remain off church property.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Latest Gaffe Reveals Romney ‘Not Concerned’ About Electability

Latest Gaffe Reveals Romney ‘Not Concerned’ About Electability

by Ezra Dulis
Barack Obama coasted to electoral victory in 2008 on the phrases “Hope and Change” and “Yes We Can!”, but it appears that in 2012, his winning campaign slogans could instead be “I like the ability to fire people” and “I’m not concerned about the very poor.”
Of course, these aren’t his words. They’re the words of his potential opponent in the general election, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Romney’s seeming callousness toward poor and unemployed Americans has gone viral among left-wing pundits and social media users, and this is a major problem. As much as conservatives may quibble about context and Romney’s actual intentions, we must keep in mind that Romney will be facing the same electorate that voted Obama into office in 2008–the same electorate that believed Sarah Palin, not Tina Fey, said, “I can see Russia from my house.”
The voters of 2012 will, by and large, not choose a candidate based on proposed policies and governing records; they will choose based on a simple narrative, a log line that makes the case for one’s candidacy in as few words as possible. In 2008, Obama’s was “First Black President.” McCain’s was “Veteran Endured Torture, Served His Country With Honor,” and Palin’s was “Ordinary Mother Rose to Governorship.” By the same token, candidates craft counter-narratives about their opponents. The anti-Obama narrative, “Too Radical, Too Inexperienced,” did not stick, and the anti-Palin narrative, “Stupid,” did, thanks almost wholly to the shameless left-wing advocacy of the mainstream media.
It is an unfortunate fact that having the truth on our side is not enough. Not every voter is as informed as those of us who follow politics religiously; we are the exception to the rule. Nationwide elections such as this are decided not based on truth but the perception of truth, and while I do not say this to justify deception by the Republican Party’s eventual nominee, that individual must be able to withstand the deception and false impressions presented by Obama and his media proxies.

With those facts on the table, it follows that among the four remaining GOP candidates, Mitt Romney is the weakest possible one to run against Obama. The pro-Romney narrative is “Experienced Businessman, Centrist Governor,” and if that were all there was to the election, that would make him our most electable candidate. However, the counter-narrative will destroy him. Obama can no longer run on “First Black President.” He can’t inspire based on “Hope and Change” after allowing the country to stagnate for four years. His reelection rests solely on his counter-narrative to the Republican candidate, and the primary facet of his response to Romney will be “Privileged, Rich, Out of Touch.”
Mitt Romney is the son of a governor who was a rich businessman in his own right. He went to a ritzy private school. He has an Ivy League MBA. He co-founded Bain Capital, a venture capitalist firm that some have labeled as predatory. He has stated he pays an effective income tax rate of 15 percent. He has stated he’s “not concerned about the very poor” and that he “likes the ability to fire people.” At a time when many people are struggling to pay the mortgages on their homes, Romney owns six.
Yes, these things don’t matter to us as conservatives. We don’t begrudge anyone their wealth, we believe in capitalism, and we know all the intricacies of his capital gains taxes and generous charity that mitigate the “15 percent tax rate” bit. But the average voter will not spend the time or effort figuring this out. They will hear these talking points, believe them, and regurgitate them, and it will destroy Romney’s candidacy.
Romney plays right into the left’s overarching narratives–the moral outrage at Wall Street’s opulence, the envy of millionaires “born into” their wealth, the disconnect between the GOP and the poor. He provides a villain and scapegoat for Obama’s campaign. And he does this not because these talking points can be used against him but because he can’t rebut them effectively on the national stage.
Consider how he whiffed the question about releasing his tax returns in South Carolina’s CNN debate, eliciting boos from the audience. That issue had been making its way around the press for weeks; he had time to prepare a believable excuse if not a compelling defense. When George Stephanopoulos asked him about banning contraception, the sheer silliness of the question was all that kept Romney from looking like the bigger fool in the exchange, feebly protesting for minutes as the former Clinton adviser pushed the question again and again. When Mitt squares off with lefty journalists, he doesn’t come out on top, which means they will get to define him with Obama’s counter-narrative. That was a campaign killer for Sarah Palin, and it will be for Governor Romney, too.
Romney has other electability weaknesses; until recently, he’s held off on personally going negative, relying on PACs and other proxies to attack his opponents for him. This lends credence to the left’s Citizens United boogeyman, the narrative that evil billionaire corporatists like the Koch brothers are trying to buy the election. And his Mormonism is a liability, as well–not because of anti-LDS prejudices among the electorate, but because it will give Obama the ability to play the race card effectively. “The Mormon church did not allow blacks to serve as priests until 1978; why was Romney part of the church prior to that?”, the media will ask. It’s a troubling Catch-22; he can’t denounce his own faith, and he likely can’t point to a record of pushing for that change prior to ‘78.
We need not kid ourselves; faced with what Andrew Breitbart calls the Democrat-Media complex, the Republican Party needs a candidate that will not be playing defense the whole time–a candidate who can put Obama and his proxies on the ropes, controlling the national dialogue instead of reacting to it. And Mitt Romney’s gaffes and inability to transcend the labels that will inevitably come from the left–”Privileged,” “Out of Touch,” and “Racist”–should give serious pause to those convinced of his electability.
To make an analogy from Mr. Romney’s own past, one can be a missionary in France who’s the most brilliant theologian and apologist ever, but if he can’t speak the language, he’s sunk. In the same way, one can be the most likable, moderate, competent governor in a field of candidates, but if he can’t effectively counter the narrative opposition and instead personifies their stereotypes, he and his entire party is sunk.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Path to Victory in November for Barack Obama and the Democrats


The GOP has won repeatedly by defending tax cuts for the rich. But as Michael Tomasky argues, Democrats could prevail in 2012 by showing that middle-class fairness produces growth.

I have praised Barack Obama on previous occasions for finally (after nearly three years) figuring out he needs to position himself as the defender of the middle class and the Republicans as the defenders of the wealthy. It’s been a big improvement. But he’s still mostly missing something, and it’s a very important something—something Democrats miss a lot. Obama, in the standard Democratic fashion, is largely making an argument about society. Republicans, in contrast, offer a theory about economic growth. Now, the Republicans’ theory is a ridiculous lie. But even so, it is much more arresting and persuasive as an argument because it is tied to crucial end results. Obama and the Democrats will have far less trouble selling their message if they figure out how to construct their case more the way Republicans do.
Mandel Ngan, AFP / Getty Images
If I asked you to summarize in a sentence the main theme of Obama’s recent big speeches, the Osawatomie address and the State of the Union, you would probably say something like: he’s for building up the middle class and making the rich pay more because things are out of whack and unfair. And if I asked you to summarize the GOP’s trickle-down economics, you would say: the idea is that cutting taxes and regulations on those at the top will eventually help everyone.
I think I’m being fair here. And if I am correct, notice the difference between the two hypothetical descriptions. The summary of the Obama message makes an argument about the country (things are unfair), and it proposes steps (building up the middle class, making the rich pay more) that will presumably make things fairer. But the summary of the Republican message takes it one critical step further. It says: if we do these things, the economy will grow and prosper. Obama is making an argument about society: unfairness is wrong and must be corrected. Republicans are offering a theory of action toward the specific end of growth.
What Obama needs to do more forcefully is make the next step of the argument by answering the questions: Why must fairness be restored? What will it lead to? To liberals, it’s enough that it will lead to a fairer society. Therefore, it doesn’t even occur to many liberals that the “What will it lead to?” question even needs to be answered. A fairer society is enough. But for many Americans, it’s not enough. A fairer society is fine, they think, if we can afford it. But what these Americans want is a society where there are lots of good jobs. A prosperous society. So what Obama and his speechwriters should be hoping people summarizing his speeches would say is something like: he’s for building up the middle class and making the rich pay more because things are out of whack and unfair, and because doing so will create a more prosperous society. That’s the missing piece.
In my formulation, then, a happier and larger middle class isn’t just an end unto itself. It’s a means to an end—an end made up of more jobs and greater prosperity. It’s an answer to trickle-down economics: the Republicans say that if taxes are cut for the top 1 percent, prosperity will result; we Democrats say that if we take various steps to help the middle class, some involving taxes and others involving investment, that will lead us to prosperity. Democrats should not be afraid to have that argument. They should relish it.
There are people out there making it. My friends Nick Hanauer and Eric Liu have just published their second book together, The Gardens of Democracy, in which they make the case for what they call “middle-out economics,” which “does not rely on the droppings of the super-rich.” (Of which, by the way, Hanauer is very much one—he was a ground-floor investor in Amazon and runs a venture-capital firm; Liu was a White House domestic-policy adviser under Bill Clinton.) Instead, it “starts with the broad middle to generate wealth and pushes wealth outward so that it can circulate throughout the economy.”
At a terrifically interesting lunch at the Brookings Institution last Friday, Hanauer, who wrote a column for Bloomberg View in November that generated a massive response, said pointedly: “I am not a job creator. The middle class are the job creators. Believe me, capitalists like me, we hire only and exactly as many people as consumers ask us to hire. Their demand creates the jobs.”
Obama sometimes connects the middle class to jobs and prosperity. But he doesn’t do it as often and as explicitly as he ought to.
I recommend their book, which makes several provocative arguments that challenge conventional economic and political wisdom. And I commend also in this vein an article we published nearly a year ago in Democracy, the journal I edit, by David Madland of the Center for American Progress. Madland explains clearly how middle-class growth can be positioned as the exact opposite of trickle-down growth, and he cites a pile of social-science research showing that a prosperous middle class is not just an end in itself but that it also leads to better social outcomes, like greater trust and better governance.
Obama doesn’t always fail to connect the middle class to jobs and prosperity. In the Osawatomie speech he said: “When middle-class families can no longer afford to buy the goods and services that businesses are selling, when people are slipping out of the middle class, it drags down the entire economy from top to bottom. America was built on the idea of broad-based prosperity, of strong consumers all across the country.” But he doesn’t make this argument as often and as explicitly as he ought to. Whether the idea of fairness can attract a voting majority is, alas, an iffy proposition. But the idea of a more prosperous society that also happens to be fairer should finally consign supply-side economics into the grave in which it has so long and so richly deserved to be entombed.