Thursday, June 25, 2009


You may have noticed my blog somewhat inactive as of late. All my time is now devoted to Sum of Change Productions, LLC. So I will no longer be writing here at Left Chattering. I will still be writing, with the Sum of Change news and blog team. I hope you will check it out.

Friday, June 19, 2009

More Thoughts on Abortion Clinic Escort Training from Sum of Change Filmmakers

From Mitch Malasky, Executive Producer at Sum of Change Productions.

The abortion escort session that Will and I went to on Monday was certainly a wake-up call for me. Abortion has never been a top of the list issue for me personally and I had never even heard of clinic escorting until a couple weeks ago, when we met some escorts while shooting a short piece about one of the many vigils for Dr. Tiller. But now, I am 'trained' to become one. I use quotations because, as they told us, we aren't supposed to feel ready to actually go out and escort (and I certainly do not), just more aware of what it is going to entail and why it is necessary. I have always been socially and politically conscious, but I have not actively fought to support an issue often, much less one like abortion. Abortion is always something that I've long had an opinion about, but doesn't directly affect me (at least not yet), and wouldn't the same way it would a woman. There are many other issues that I care deeply about, probably more so than abortion. But what I've learned in the past few weeks has called me to service and caused me to take action.

The class itself was about half men, something I didn't expect. Personally, I find this significant though. Men seem to be the ones who keep making abortion an issue instead of a right, so the fact that men (at least some of us) are taking a stand is important. The class included a lot of history about how abortion protests have developed, how clinic escorting came to be, and how the Washington Area Clinic Defense Task Force (WACDTF) the group that supervises the escorting and ran the training, came to be. It also gave us a bunch of logistical details, what days and times there is escorting, what to expect from the 'antis' (their term for anti-abortion protesters), and what types of things an escort does. But I am going to focus on two aspects that struck me the most.

The first is that the session was not very hypocritical and wasn't about pushing women to have abortions, but rather to make the best decision. One the things that upsets me the most is the hypocrisy of so called 'pro-lifers' who end lives to prove their point. They want the government to stay out of their own lives, but not the lives of women who are unprepared or medically unfit for motherhood. The pro-choice crowd, on the other hand, believes that it is your decision to make and you should make it. Not once did anyone suggest that you should prevent a potential patient from considering all her options, including those you might not believe in, nor did they tell us that we should encourage women to get the procedure. The escort's only goal is to make sure that the women feel safe, physically and emotionally, to make the decision that makes the most sense for her.

The thing that was most eye awakening to me was a short role play that we did at the end to simulate what actual escorting is like. The role play itself was pretty shotty and low tech, but really made me understand how unnecessarily extra traumatic the experience is. I could feel how close and uncomfortable it can get when you have 10 people swarming around you. We were obviously using very mild language, but I can only imagine how much worse it gets for women when protesters get personal. We ran the simulation three times, and I played all the roles, an escort, an anti, and then a companion accompanying a woman to the clinic. All three attempts were very valuable lessons. As an anti, I could feel how much freedom I had to interfere, to get in the way, to berate my subject and as an escort I discovered what (few) options I had to do my job and how hard it was to actually non-violently protect the women. Most significant to me, however was the final simulation, when I was 'playing' a companion, someone who came in support of a woman getting a procedure. We started very unexpectedly, with very little shift from explaining what we were doing to being in the middle of it, and that abrupt shift I discovered simulates the feeling of being unexpectedly berated from all sides. Even in this safe, un-elaborate, confined, and contrived scenario, I got very nervous and panicky. By the time I got to our 'entrance' to the clinic, I had forgotten all about my friend for whom I was supposed to be a companion and discovered that I had accidentally abandoned her in the mob of antis and escorts. I could tell that if I felt that apprehensive as a fake companion in a contrived scenario, women on their way to clinics must feel exponentially more intimidated.

I am very glad that I went to the class and that we've began to undertake this project. I feel enriched by the experience so far and proud to be taking a stand. Please keep checking back to Sum of Change for blog updates and news about the movie as it gets produced. We appreciate all comments, positive or negative, that could improve our understanding of the issue and our final movie and hope we get your continued support.


Mitch Malasky

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sum of Change Filmmakers Go Through Abortion Clinic Escort Training

From the folks at Sum of Change Productions:

Last night, as part of our research for an upcoming project, Will Urquhart and Mitch Malasky from Sum of Change Productions, attended a training to become abortion clinic escorts. We are in the early stages of a documentary on the work that these escorts do, and the personal stories attached to the job.

We, as a group, decided that volunteering as escorts would not only be a good way to have a direct impact in the struggle to protect women's rights, but that a deep understanding of the nature of escorting would make our documentary that much better. It is always nice when the right thing and the smart thing happen to coincide.

We will be blogging about our experiences with clinic escorting as we go through the process. To get involved, we contacted the Washington Area Clinic Defense Task Force (WACDTF). WACDTF was founded in the 80's to provide clinics with volunteers, when requested, who can deal with protesters and help patients get to the clinic peacefully. The training session was great. Our instructors went over tactics one can use to resolve a situation non-violently (which I will not detail, for obvious reasons). Many of the tactics are fairly simple, as are many of the conflicts one will come across as an escort. Obviously, there are conflicts that require much more than a training can provide to settle. It appears to be more of an art than a science.

As our instructor told us at the beginning, this training is not going to leave one feeling comfortable. This is neither a comfortable nor easy task. Clinic escorts put themselves in harms way, so that others can be out of harms way. We are excited, and certainly a little nervous. Our first volunteer opportunity should be coming up very shortly and we will be sure to write more about our experiences.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Iran, A World Watching

In what is the largest protest by Iranians since the 1979 revolution, mobs of nonviolent protesters have saturated our tv's and tweetdecks. Nonviolent protests met with violent Iranian authorities or militias. It is both inspiring, and terrifying, to those of us who can, so easily, take for granted our life in the US. Although we are no strangers to stolen elections (see 2000, Bush v Gore), in the United States a stolen election is the outlier, not the norm. Most importantly, these events make one appreciate freedom of speech.

At this moment, what Iranian civilians are saying is putting them in harms way. Authorities are monitoring twitter (one of the only means of communicating outside the country) searching for dissenters. Just to get a message outside of the country requires more internet savvy than I can comprehend. Imagine for a minute, armed men kicking your door down and arresting you because of something you said on twitter.

The movement for change in Iran needs our support more than ever.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Grow the Hope's Hunger Action Team

On Saturday, June 13th, Sum of Change Productions joined volunteers from Grow the Hope's Hunger Action Team who are organizing food drives to help restock the Manna Food Center in Rockville, Maryland. A sign of the economic crisis, supplies are reported to be down by 50%. The Hunger Action Team is a part of a local volunteer organization called Grow the Hope (GTH). GTH was formed by volunteers from the Bethesda Obama Office (the BOO). David Hart, the founder of GTH, said that they are working to "nurture the spark of creativity and hope that came alive during the Obama campaign."

Utilizing the same tactics they used to help elect President Obama, GTH organized house meetings, calling on members of the community to join the Hunger Action Team and take direct actions to combat the food crisis. On June 13th, volunteers gathered at a Giant in Silver Spring, Maryland, with a shopping list. They asked people to buy some extra food; a can of tuna, a box of cereal, some peanut butter. Anything nonperishable.

When President Obama (then candidate) talked about building an organization that lives on past his campaign, this is what he meant. The same strategies that helped forge a campaign for change, often as simple as volunteering some time outside a grocery store, are the same strategies we can use to make real and direct changes in our communities.

You can join Grow the Hope and build a Hunger Action Team in your neighborhood too. I urge you to sign up and ask how you can help.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Utter Racism

Bigots across the country have found a race that is acceptable in society to be prejudice against; Muslims. This is nothing new, and I doubt even a few of you were surprised at the first sentence. Ever since 9/11, conservatives have been all too giddy to connect every problem, every issue, every everything to terrorism. But seriously!?! These fucking bigots are going to blame the Holocaust Memorial shooting on Muslims?
it is because of Muslims--who are the biggest contributor to the worldwide rise in anti-Semitism to Holocaust-eve levels--that neo-Nazis feel comfortable--far more comfortable!--manifesting their views about Jews.
Everyone got it? Muslims, not secret Muslims but invisible Muslim forces, shot up the Holocaust Memorial, not a white-supremacist. That is how delusional the neoconservatives have become. It has little to do with national security, it is pure racism. That is why Muslim terrorist need to be held off US soil, tortured, without charges, but white supremacists deserve a full and fair trial.

Debbie Schlussel, your opinion on anything relating to Islam, or Muslims in general, no longer counts you bigot.

Tell me this: does anyone believe a white supremacist was influenced in his racism by Muslims? That is what we call well outside the realm of realistic probability. What is far more likely, is that the rapid increase of chatter at white supremacist websites made this man more "comfortable" acting out his hatred.

PS: It was not long ago I was writing about the racist war on terror re:

Monday, June 8, 2009

NY Times Correction, More Reasons Young People Don't Read Newspapers

The New York Times ran an article titled "1 in 7 freed detainees rejoins fight, report says" which I used to explain a major reason young people do not read newspapers. The article regurgitated a claim by the Pentagon without the slightest bit of questioning or investigative journalism. I, and many others, questioned the legitimacy of this claim, but the reporters that brought us the news did not. Today they had to clarify.
But the article on which he based that statement was seriously flawed and greatly overplayed. It demonstrated again the dangers when editors run with exclusive leaked material in politically charged circumstances and fail to push back skeptically.
And Jill Abramson, the managing editor for NY Times' news, went on...
Abramson said, “The whole game of leaks can be problematical if you aren’t given a document or the time to look at it in a full way.”
Ah yes. No document to back up the claims. This is a completely ridiculous excuse. Two days after the article first appeared, I contacted the Pentagon to ask for a clarification of how they determine whether or not a detainee has rejoined the fight. I received this pdf, which clearly demonstrates that the 1 in 7 number was an "unverified" statistic.

The lack of truth (the lies), in this article were not due to the pentagon withholding the relevant "document" at all. In fact, the Pentagon was more than willing to provide a document relating to the news. And had they bothered to read the document, they would have seen this part:
Definition of “Suspected” — Significant reporting indicates a former Defense Department detainee is involved in terrorist activities, and analysis indicates the detainee most likely is associated with a specific former detainee or unverified or single-source, but plausible, reporting indicates a specific former detainee is involved in terrorist activities.

In other words, the entire point of the article, the title, was unverified. And yet, the investigative journalists, that we are supposed to bend over backwards saving, did not even take the time to ask for relevant documents. They were not given to them, so they assumed they did not exist. That is why I laugh in the face of anyone that says the death of the newspaper means the death of investigative journalism.

The New York Times needs to run another clarification:
We did not bother to take the time to ask questions of the Pentagon, or to even ask how they determine that a detainee has returned to the fight. Instead, we took the lazy way out. We ran with what they gave us. We owe better than that to our readers.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

This Was Fun, the Celebrate-Ignorance-Conservative

So, I'm on twitter. Just messin' around with the good old #tcot folks (if you don't know what that means, google "hashtags"). Anywho, I get into one discussion like so:

@wolfravenous convo part 1

A simple question. If you claim that waterboarding saves lives, any rational person would assume that you have seen some type of evidence to lead you to that conclusion. But there you underestimate the power of the celebrate-ignorance-conservative. This is in no way directed at all conservatives, just the 21%'ers. The real whacko, neocon, gone crazy from losing to Obama, crowd. And the conversation continues:

@wolfravenous convo part 2

Still yet to provide one piece of evidence to back up the claim. Just another claim that he or she "could" provide more evidence that torture saves lives than I could about abortion saving lives. Evidence #1. There. Me: 1. Jackass: 0 as of yet.

@wolfravenous convo part 3_2
@wolfravenous convo part 3_3

So classic. The celebrate-ignorance-conservative will be quick to straight out lie about what he just said. The statement was not, in any way, that interrogation saves lives. And then, this:

@wolfravenous, I win
@wolfravenous, I win-response

So nice. You would have thought that this person would walk away, conceding my point. But no. Alas, the celebrate-ignorance-conservative will just delve farther into nonsense when proven wrong.

@wolfravenous convo part 4

And more nonsense:

@wolfravenous convo part 5

And then, the explosion of nonsense.

@wolfravenous convo part 6

So let's get this straight:
Water torture saves lives. No wait. I didn't say that. I said interrogation saves lives. Fine. Interrogation saves lives, water torture doesn't. Well wait. Water torture, is interrogation, so it does save lives. (sticks fingers in ears) BLAH! BLAH! BLAH! I CAN'T HEAR YOU! BLAH! BLAH! BLAH!

Friday, June 5, 2009

This Was No Lone Nut, Dr Tiller's Assassination Was Orchestrated

I came across a blog today, An Email About George Tiller's Killer (Non-Obscene for the Kids). This email tears right into the claim that Mr Roeder was a psycho, acting completely on his own, without the backing of any organized group.
According to papers Roeder filed today, his possessions amount to a 16yr.-old Taurus and $10, and he only works occasionally at minimum-wage jobs. Yet he managed to finance several 400-mile round trips to Wichita from the KC area in the last month to case the church and know Dr. Tiller by sight, bought a handgun, gas and meals etc.
You see? There had to be funding. I have done plenty of long distance driving, and 400 mile trips are not free.
Somebody had to put him up to it, help him plan it and pay his expenses, and will now feed him to the sharks. Hopefully, and maybe with a bit of psych help, he will realize how he was used and name names.
We can only hope. But for now, the FBI is investigating the murder. I imagine the money trail will certainly be one of their focuses. Operation Rescue, and the other groups he was a part of, have been broiling this guy up with their hate speech directed towards Dr. Tiller. That is something that is very difficult to prove guilt in court. Funding, on the other hand, makes them an accomplice and conspirator. We will be sure to follow this one.

Hat-tip to Cody Kessler (Cody_K) for bringing this to my attention.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Coverage of the Vigil in DC to Honor Dr. George Tiller, Call to Action

On Monday, June 1st, people in DC and the surrounding areas assembled outside the White House for a vigil in honor of Dr George Tiller. Sum of Change Productions was there to document the occasion and brings us this video:

"We will not stand for cowards who resort to violence."

Dr Tiller touched many lives, and this vigil, or any, will never fully repay all that he gave to society. In most MSM outlets he is referred to as an "abortion doctor" although anyone who knows anything about him knows full well that he was far more than that. He cared for women and families, and provided them with many services, often when few others would. His assassination was "cowardice" and we shall treat it as so.

We want to take a moment to thank all the clinic workers and clinic escorts, they have lost a colleague, and our nation has lost a hero. Clinic escorts provide a valuable service. As the Washington Area Clinic Defense Task Force (WACDTF) puts it, they "ensure a peaceful and reassuring presence for patients, their companions, and staff, at several local clinics." It is a wonderful way that you personally can take action on this issue. People in the DC area can contact the WACDTF if you would like to volunteer. Others should contact your local clinic.

And do not forget, you can always contribute to the National Network of Abortion Funds (NNAF). The NNAF was formed in 1993. It is a "network of over 100 grassroots groups in more than 40 states that help women pay for abortion services." If you can spare, now is as important a time as ever to do so.

Lastly: Thank you Dr George Tiller for your years of service and dedication, you will be missed.