Saturday, January 23, 2010

Talk About Me, But Not With Me

As expected, conservatives are bashing the media for not giving their March for Life wall-to-wall coverage and canceling all commercial breaks or previously scheduled programs to hear their ranting. As I said, this was completely expected. Even with Fox News taking out huge newspaper ads and giving the teabaggers billions of dollars worth of free advertising, they still complained, so this is no surprise.

This is typical, if the media shows up, scream at them and call them biased, and if the media does not show up, scream at them and call them biased.

But there is one thing you do not get to do. You do not get to distribute a pdf instructing all of the marchers not to talk to anyone who is "with the press" and then complain that there is not enough coverage.

Why on earth should a journalist show up if you are telling everyone to ignore them?

I will tell you this, we did send reporters to cover the event. And we are editing our footage as I write this, well, my business partner is editing the footage. So we are covering their event. However, after seeing the interviews, I can tell why they instruct marchers not to talk with the press: these folks have no idea what they are talking about. A literal quote, "We don't have to have facts or figures."

Blog for Choice Day

Yesterday marked the 37th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision, Roe v Wade, which effectively legalized abortion in the US. Last night, I joined the Washington Area Clinic Defense Task Force, NARAL, the DC Abortion Fund, clinic escorts, and pro-choice activists at the Rhodeside grill to celebrate the anniversary with a screening of the documentary The Coat Hanger Project. If you have no idea what a coat hanger has to do with reproductive justice, make sure you check the documentary out. Ask someone over 40 what it means, and they will know, because they have lived at a time when a woman's right to control her reproductive health was infringed. It is a great thing that so many young people have no idea how the coat hanger relates to this, but it is important to teach the lessons of a time that once was.

But abortion is legal, right? The battle is over, right? Sure. And no. While my business partner is editing our footage from interviews with folks at the March for Life, I thought I would share my experience this weekend with you. I spent the last three days in the cold, waking up early, and putting on a bright orange vest to stand outside of a Planned Parenthood and escort patients through the protesters outside the clinic. The Roe v Wade anniversary brings folks from all over the country, and bus loads make the visit to clinics in the area. People from Texas show up to the 32 degree whether in sandals and a sweat shirt (it is rather funny at times).

Most of the folks that show up to protest at clinics and Planned Parenthoods come to pray. Typically, a handfull will partake in what they call "sidewalk counseling." You might know it better as harassment, intimidation, or stalking. Think back over all the medical decisions you have made in your life. Undoubtedly, many of those decisions were made because of some complete stranger who yelled at you on the sidewalk, right?

The sidewalk counselors approach and follow patients who are coming and leaving. They hand out literature and try to convince patients to go somewhere else for their service. Keep in mind that they never have any idea whether the woman is there for an abortion, birth control (which is still murder an anti once told me), an STD test, or maybe just counseling. The anti's would prefer you got all these services elsewhere. Usually this means a crisis pregnancy center, or a special interest organization dedicated to convincing women, through any means, not to have an abortion. Crisis Pregnancy centers do not provide any information about abortions unless it is damning information. They do not provide birth control. They are notorious for spreading blatantly false information, as you can see in this video put together by the good folks at NARAL VA after their investigation:

Our job as escorts is mostly to be there. We are there because the anti's are there. When patients arrive, we inform them of the protesters, and the fact that they are welcome to ignore the sidewalk counselors. We then walk with them through the protesters and make sure the path is free and the entrance accessible.

That is what I spent my weekend mornings doing during the Roe v Wade anniversary. And while I was escorting, our team of reporters were out at the March for Life interviewing many anti-choice demonstrators. Expect our video to go up by the end of the weekend.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Best When Boring

January 22nd Press Release:

JANUARY 22ND, 2010

CONTACT: Will Urquhart, 202.587.4145,

This afternoon, on the 37th anniversary of the historic Roe v Wade decision, we are pleased to announce that on February 8th we will be launching the website for a documentary we have been working on for some time now about clinic defense and the Washington Area Clinic Defense Task Force. We are also announcing, for the first time, the working title of the project, Best When Boring, a well-known motto amongst pro-choice clinic escorts.

Best When Boring is a deep look at the history and current state of clinic defense in the DC, Maryland, and Virginia area. We have collected video, audio, pictures, newspapers and organizational documents dating back to 1989. We have conducted interviews with clinic escorts. We have also had an individual embedded with the escorts, volunteering approximately every other week since the summer of 2009 at various clinics.

While we still have plenty of work to do, at this point we are prepared to release a website for the project, and on February 8th we will release a brief preview of the film in coordination with the site release.

So please join us on February 8th at (the site will not be active until 2/08/10 at 9:00am EST).

Will Urquhart
Managing Partner, Sum of Change

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Operation Rescue's President Cannot Explain How Health Care Bill Funds Abortion

(Footage purchased from Sam Sumner)

As you may be aware, this weekend (tomorrow to be exact) marks the 37th anniversary of the passage of Roe v Wade, the supreme court decision that effectively legalized abortion nationwide. We have been working on a documentary about clinic escorts for some time now (tomorrow we will be making a big announcement about the film, sign up for our emails and you will be one of first to hear about it), so this weekend is a big chance for us to get some footage.

When I got back home from volunteering at the clinic, I saw an email from Operation Rescue announcing a press conference at the White House today. Luckily, I was able to track down a freelance videographer who sold us some great exclusive footage of Operation Rescue's President, Troy Newman, failing several times to name a single part of the current health care bills that allows for federal funding of abortion (although he knows for a fact it does, he just cannot tell you how):

We took a little extra time to write up a transcript for the video-impaired among us:
SUMNER: Can you just give us a brief summary of what it is in this bill that allows for federal funding for abortion?

NEWMAN: Well, you know, nobody's really read the bill. And that's the ironic thing, you know, Obama has said that he's going to make this available, it's gonna be on C-SPAN, but nothing could be further from the truth. The bill that was brought through the house was radically changed by the time it was voted on. The bill that was running its way through the Senate and a lot of us had read was radically changed behind closed doors, so nobody really knows. One thing we do know, is that it contains abortion funding. In fact, I have been calling this health care system, this Obamacare, right from the very beginning, nothing more than an abortion clinic bail out fund. It's all about abortion, it's all about eugenics. And one need only look at the history of abortion and eugenics to know that that's absolutely true. The people that are sitting in the White House today the people that are running congress, despise people of what they would consider to be lower means. It's a detailed eugenic program that they're trying to impress upon the American people.

(Note from Sam: "I have to admit, at this point I was a little caught off guard. I hear whacko things all the time, but does this dude seriously believe the Obama's want to kill poor people? I quickly gathered myself, let it go, and continued pressing for an answer, how does this bill fund abortion?")

SUMNER: Okay. When we were speaking to some of the escorts earlier, they said that this bill does not allow for federal funding. I mean, what do you say to that?

NEWMAN: Have they read the bill? The parts I read detail it explicitly.

SUMNER: I don't know if they have read the bill. But can you explain what parts in the bill actually allow for the federal funding then?

NEWMAN: Well, you know, again, the bill has not even been made public, that has been the huge problem in this. But let's take for instance, a hypothetical...

SUMNER: Aren't both the bills available online though?

NEWMAN: ...If you look at a hypothetical situation that, that this bill would not contain abortion funding, there's already been a huge push to call abortion health care. And so it would just be a stroke of the bureaucratic pen to make sure that abortion is included in this health care bill. So any sort of revamp of health care that includes a government option of funding, it will include government funding of abortion. We already have government funding for abortion in every single state through medicare.

SUMNER: But the bills are available online. Do you know what parts in the bill actually allow for federal funding?

NEWMAN: I don't have the bill, the bill's 2,000 pages long.

SUMNER: So you haven't read it?

NEWMAN: I have read portions of it, and it does detail that... both the house bill did before the Stupak amendment, and the Senate bill did, the parts I read. But again, this has been revamped, it's been rewritten and it is not available right now."

There you have it: "One thing we do know, is that it contains abortion funding..." although... "the bill has not even been made public..." although... "I have read portions of it" although... "the bill has not even been made public."

So this super-secret bill that hasn't been made public absolutely funds abortion and he knows it because he has read the super-secret bill that hasn't been made public but is an attempt to kill poor people.

Medical marijuana dispensaries in the District?

This post is also featured at Plight of the Pumpernickel.

Washingtonians may soon be able to get their buzz on legally within city limits, that is if a DC Council bill that proposes the installation of up to 5 medical marijuana dispensaries passes.

The bill, sponsored by D.C. Council member David A. Catania, would put into practice a 1998 voter-approved initiative that called for DC's legalization of medical marijuana.

According to an article Tuesday in the Washington Post, the bill, currently co-sponsored by nine of 13 council members, was given new life last month when the Democratic-controlled Congress removed restrictions put in place by the former Republican majority.

Catania's proposal mandates that the District would have what he calls "a closed system to regulate the cultivation, distribution and possession of marijuana."

"What I wanted to make sure we don't do is take something that is evidence-based and scientifically proven for medicine and turn that into a system where there is an opportunity for mischief," said Catania (I-At Large).

While many have expressed excitement over the potential dispensaries, DCist weighed in with some concerns.
It looks like this bill has the votes to pass, but we expect there will be plenty of changes to the particulars while it makes its way through two committees. For instance, will doctors be totally in charge of deciding which patients can get medical pot, or will D.C. ultimately only allow certain kinds of medical problems to be treated with weed? Not to mention, who is going to be allowed to grow the stuff, and where?
Fair questions. Will the DC system resemble those in California, or will it take on a character of its own? Also, when I think Washington, DC, I don't usually think farmland. Could we be seeing some pot patches in Rock Creek Park? That might make the morning jog a bit more mellow.

Everyone has their two cents. The comments on the DCist article are nothing short of amazing. While I may not agree with monkeyrotica, he/she sure is hilarious:
Can strip clubs get in on this action, too? I have a dream that one day, District residents, black and white, will be able to walk hand-in-hand into a full-service deep-tissue massage parlors that also offer target practice in the basement and a casual medical marijuana hookah parlor in the louge, complete with exotic dancing, and the whole "treatment" regimen will be covered by Obamacare. Throw in a colon hydrotherapy clinic, and I'd never leave. I may not get to the Promised Land with you, but I have seen the mountain top.
Touche, monkeyerotica, touche. Also, kudos for getting me to write the word 'monkeyerotica' on my blog. I never thought I'd see the day. I also never thought weed would be legal in our nation's capital, but there you have it.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Training Tuesday: Learning from Obama for Local Campaigns

Today's Training Tuesday comes to us from the Organizing 2.0 Conference in New York back in December. During lunch, we were joined by Colin Delaney, of He and Charles Lenchner, of the Working Families Party, held a conversation about how to translate lessons about new media from the Obama campaign to local campaigns.

Not every campaign will be able to have MyBO and an online outreach team led by some of the best minds in the business. There are many new and exciting things that the Obama campaign did in 2008 that will simply be unrealistic for a local candidate to try. However, there are also many things the campaign did that any campaign, no matter how small, can replicate. In the video below, Colin Delaney and Charles Lenchner lead us in a discussion about just that:

Monday, January 18, 2010

Short Video: Teach Your Friends To Make Calls Online For Coakley

Yesterday, we attended a Grow the Hope (GTH) house meeting with their Rapid Response team, Organizing for America (OFA 2.0), and the Carrots and Sticks Project. After the meeting everyone decided to stick around and make calls into MA to help elect Martha Coakley in the race for Ted Kennedy's former Senate seat. We took a moment before leaving to talk with Jon Randall, Maryland's 8th district liaison from OFA 2.0, and we put together this video, quickly detailing how to make phone calls online to support Coakley:

Got that?
1: Got to MyBO and login, or sign up. Then open another tab, or page, and go to
2: Make Calls.

Easy enough? Your calls can make the difference.

And just in case you are wondering whether or not you can actually make a difference making calls, here is some math for you:

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Music Monday: Petworth at the DC9

Last week, we joined Petworth at the DC9 on 9th St in Washington, DC. Petworth is a relatively young band with their new bassist joining them just months ago. The Washington City Paper gave a great description of them after catching their show at the Black Cat in September of '08:
“Garafalo,” a tune about the alterna-it-girl of yesteryear that also recalls the alternarock of yesteryear. A stuttery guitar intro gives way to easygoing jangly twee-pop, complete with chorus pedal and barely comprehensible moaning.

We got the chance to sit down with the band before the show and snag an interview for our Music Monday series. They are an interesting group, with two members working for non-profits and the third in school. "Slow burn" is how they describe their writing style, evolving songs over months and years.

Livefeed: Grow the Hope House Meeting

Today, Sunday the 17th from 2:00-4:00pm, we will be airing a live feed of a Grow the Hope house meeting:
A new year is upon us, and it is time to get back to work. We are hosting our first House Party of 2010 and it should be a good one.

We will focus on building the emerging Media Rapid Response Action Team, which will counter lies and distortions in the media about the President and his policy agenda. We will hear from exciting speakers including Yvette Lewis, Jon Randall and Jeremy Koulish, Executive Director of Carrots and Sticks who will update us on the Green Bank campaign.
Please allow a moment for the live feed player to load below:

Jeremy Koulish from Carrots and Sticks is going to speak today on the Green Bank.
America currently faces a dual economic and ecological crisis. The challenges of global competition and the looming climate crisis have taught us that the old 20th-century economic model built upon dirty industry cannot succeed moving forward; we must rebuild the nation's economic backbone with 21st-century technology and a clean energy infrastructure. Yet the federal government has remained stuck in the old ways of doing business - they have, to this point, woefully underfunded clean energy investment and forward-looking job creation measures.

Thankfully, there is a policy measure that can help fix both of these problems. Rep. Chris Van Hollen has proposed the creation of a Green Bank (H.R. 1698) that would sell government bonds and use the proceeds to provide loans for essential clean energy R&D, transmission and deployment and energy efficiency projects.