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Mark Brewer and Steve Pestka: Taking the “Democratic” Out of the Democratic Party

As MLive reports, the state Chair of MI’s Democratic Party, Mark Brewer, has asked the Democratic primary candidates in my congressional district to take the democracy out of the primary.

He doesn’t call it that, mind you. His DoubleSpeak for asking Steve Pestka and Trevor Thomas not to talk about each other’s record is “Clean and Fair Campaign Agreement.”

I write today to ask you both to put [commitments to focus on Justin Amash] in writing by signing and abiding by the enclosed “Clean and Fair Democratic Primary Campaign Agreement.”

One of the clauses in the proposed agreement is:

To avoid attacks on each other’s records and positions by any means, including the media, campaign literature, advertisements, phone calls, mailings, e-mail and speaking engagements. [my emphasis]

Apparently, the guy running MI’s Democratic Party thinks it’s “fair” to voters to gag all discussion of candidates’ past records. And Steve Pestka, who said he will sign this gag order, agrees!

A couple of notes about this proposed gag order.

This is yet another attempt (at least the fifth I have heard or witnessed over the course of this primary) by leaders in the Democratic Party–the same one running against the GOP’s war on women–to silence all discussion of Democrats’ own attacks on women’s autonomy. As far as I’m aware, the only part of Pestka’s record that Thomas has addressed (thus far) was his anti-choice votes while serving in the MI House (indeed, MLive suggests that’s what this is about, as well). Pestka’s campaign, meanwhile, just wanders around saying Thomas has no record (ignoring, of course, Thomas’ role in getting DADT repealed; apparently that doesn’t count).

So this is not about gagging discussion on a policy that Justin Amash would use to bash the Democrat, cause he’s rabidly anti-choice too. Rather, it is about preventing voters from learning what Steve Pestka did the last time voters entrusted him to represent their interests. Mark Brewer’s idea of a “fair” primary is to prevent women from being reminded that Pestka’s record includes a history of legislating against women’s autonomy.

Apparently, we girls aren’t allowed to hold him accountable for voting against our interests.

Furthermore, Brewer built this gag order to be asymmetrical. He didn’t ask Pestka and Thomas to avoid talking about their own records–meaning Pestka would be gagged from mentioning he served in the House and Thomas would be gagged from talking about his role in a key civil rights victory. Rather, this gag order would allow Pestka to continue sending out lit pointing to his time in the State House as one thing that qualifies him to serve in Congress, without allowing Thomas to point out some of the terrible votes he made while there.

If you’re going to gag discussion about past records, Chairman Brewer, you’ve got to gag discussion on both sides!

There’s one more really disgusting aspect to this gag order. Brewer attempts to gag not just the campaign itself, but both his reference to “the media” in the passage above and in the scope of those the candidates would have to gag if they agreed to this–“campaign teams, including staff, surrogates, advisors, consultants, vendors and volunteers”–people far beyond Thomas himself. I’m not formally part of Thomas’ campaign at all (I have donated to his campaign, though), but I am “the media.” I also happen to be a 3rd CD voter who finds the paternalistic way the Democrats have pushed Pestka–“shut up girls! don’t talk about his anti-choice record!”–to be profoundly anti-woman. Is Chairman Brewer really proposing that Thomas be fined every time I speak, as a 3rd CD voter and registered Democrat, for the importance of a candidate who fully supports women’s rights?

That’s what the Democratic Party has come to?

Who knows. Maybe there’s a bright side to this. Pestka’s campaign loves to attack Thomas–who grew up, went to college, and worked in the area, then returned home after succeeding in DC–as a “carpetbagger.” Since this gag order also imposes a fine for personal attacks, I assume Pestka’s campaign will start doling out $1000 to a charity of Thomas’ choice every time they continue to make such stupid attacks.

Maybe Thomas should name Planned Parenthood as the charity Pestka will have to donate to?

What if the FBI Infiltrated Anti-Choice Groups?

The suspect in the attack on the Grand Chute Planned Parenthood office, Francis Grady, explained to journalists at his court appearance today why he attacked the clinic.

A reporter asked why Grady attacked the clinic.

“Because they’re killing babies there,” he responded.

For the record, Planned Parenthood does not list its Grand Chute office among the affiliates that offer abortions (the nearby Appleton Planned Parenthood does provide abortions). They weren’t killing babies in there. They weren’t even ending pregnancies before fetuses became babies.

They were providing medical screenings and helping families prevent unwanted pregnancies from being conceived.

Update: I’ve been corrected. The “Grand Chute” location is actually the North Appleton location that does provide abortions. Thanks to RM for the correction.

Nevertheless, Grady chose to attack a medical clinic in such a way as to cause terror. He hasn’t been charged with a terror attack mind you, but what he did does constitute terrorism, as defined under law.

(5) the term “domestic terrorism” means activities that—

(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;

(B) appear to be intended—

(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;

(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or

(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and

(C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.

Now, lucky for the police, Grady appears to have saved them an investigative hassle they were facing: confirming allegations that Grady had protested the clinic in the past.

The Grand Chute police chief said if Grady does have ties to the anti-abortion demonstrations, it would be a departure from what usually takes place.

“For the most part those demonstrations are very peaceful,” Peterson said. The protesters generally follow the rules and avoid blocking entrances or driveways.

But Peterson also said Grady’s views on abortion are going to play a key role as the case moves into the courts.

“Motive is going to be important at some point in this process,” he said. “Certainly if he’s been involved in the past, it’s going to help tell us why he might have done this.”

Grady was scheduled to make his first appearance Wednesday in federal court in Green Bay, Wis., where he was charged with arson of a building used in interstate commerce and intentionally damaging a facility that provides reproductive health services.

The local “Pro-Life” group has dismissed any connection, stating that “mainstream pro-life” people don’t have extensive criminal records, as Grady does.

Well, I guess we can dismiss that theory!

But here’s the dilemma. Here we have a known criminal–with drug convictions–alleged to have committed a terrorist attack. If Grady were Muslim, you can bet the FBI would be recruiting infiltrators to attend meetings and catalog participants. The FBI would ask phone companies for call and email records to learn who was part of the anti-choice community, just to know who might harbor such strong feelings that he or she might launch another terrorist attack. The FBI would develop training programs so agents understand–or just as likely, misunderstand–the culture of the anti-choice community.

I don’t condone that. That would be a gross violation of the anti-choice community’s First Amendment. But that is, in fact, how our country fights other suspected and imagined terrorists, Muslim ones.

The double standard sure does suggest our country condones terror targeted at women seeking medical screenings.

My Lady Parts Will Be Voting This Year

A funny thing happened when I wrote that I was excited that Trevor Thomas might run for the 3rd Congressional District because he was involved in one of the most exciting underdog victories progressives have had in recent years.

A local Democratic activist (he’s known me for years but apparently hasn’t followed what I’ve been up to) left a comment telling me I had to have the humanity to talk to some people in West Michigan before I spoke about the race. He followed that with a comment claiming I’ve just lived in Grand Rapids for 16 days so I “simply do[] not have a well-informed take on West Michigan.” (This, at a time when I’ve got a post up reminding Pete Hoekstra about the Laotian-Americans in his own town.)

Now, for any other Democrats who don’t want to bother reading my posts or consulting the voter rolls or lists of MDP members with West Michigan addresses, let me correct the mistaken impression that I’ve lived here just 16 days: I’ve lived in West Michigan for 18 months. I moved to Holland in August 2010, then moved to Grand Rapids last April because I liked its mix of artsy culture and Midwestern grit. As I walk every day though some of the most Democratic neighborhoods in the city, I’ve learned to love the city.

Sure, I haven’t lived in Grand Rapids long, but I’m the kind of person who has been moving to this city of late. I’m the kind of person who has begun to make the city more Democratic. I’m one of many kinds of people local Dems need to understand if they want to understand how their city is changing and how we can win the 3rd CD in November.

I probably shouldn’t have used the word “bigot” in my original post and I apologize that I did. But let me explain why I was upset by the impression that the local party doesn’t want a pro-choice candidate on the Democratic ticket here in Grand Rapids. I’ve lived in MI a long time now. I’m very familiar with the argument that says there’s a particular kind of Midwestern Democrat that is great on economic issues but may be anti-choice, the argument that says women just have to suck it up and accept that.

But then, in 2009, one of those otherwise great Dems, Bart Stupak, decided to risk blowing up the Health Insurance Reform Bill to make sure he got to dictate to women in every congressional district in this country what kind of medical care they could get. One of those otherwise great Dems made it the law in this country that there should be medical insurance, and then separate medical insurance for the lady parts.

Since that time, women have been told more and more they just have to suck it up, sacrifice autonomy over their own medical care because other issues are more important. Our Democratic President ignored the science on Plan B. Planned Parenthood has become the new ACORN. And Republicans have pursued the latter effort even at the expense of cancer patients.

So I apologize I used the word bigot. But let me make one thing clear: I will not take kindly to the Democratic party telling me paternalistically I just have to suck it up, it knows what’s best for Grand Rapids and me and my lady parts. There are far too many women in this country who are losing medical care for things that go far beyond abortion and contraception for that to be acceptable this year.

My lady parts will be voting this year.

I Always Hated Pink, Anyway

From when I was 6 until I was 16, in two different houses, my bedroom was painted pink. I don’t think I ever liked the color, but I learned to loathe it along the way, even if it was just my parents’ half-hearted attempt to encourage me to be girlie.

But I suspect that’s only a part of the reason why, as a breast cancer survivor, I learned to hate the pink ribbons purportedly serving my interests.

It may have been when Eureka developed an ad campaign around the pink ribbon. I was less than thrilled that Eureka tried to use my cancer as a reason to sell women more vacuum cleaners along with their stale gender stereotypes.

But I think the moment when I most realized that the cancer industry was about turning breast cancer patients into profit centers came when I went to a Komen-funded Young Survival Coalition conference. The organization itself–focused on breast cancer resources for those diagnosed under the age of 40–was a godsend. But the conference insisted on calling us patients and survivors “customers.”

Customers, I thought (as I got the swag bag full of drug marketing gimmicks). I’m a customer because I have cancer?

Though we conference attendees had our revenge at the session sponsored by Genentech, the maker of the anti-nausea drug Kytril. As the speaker thanked “Genentech, maker of Kytril,” someone yelled out “it doesn’t work.” And another. Then me. And another. And another. It took getting a bunch of us in a room together to compare notes and learn that a bunch of us found the $50/pill medicine to be less effective than older drugs.

You have to be a shrewd customer to survive cancer without getting fleeced.

Komen just pretended to reverse its decision defund Planned Parenthood’s cancer screening services (it promises only to consider PP applications in the future, not to fund them). And, as Greg Sargent reports, they deny that Nancy Brinker did anything wrong.

But now that everyone has become aware of Komen’s sleaziness, it’s time to look at what they–and the cancer industry–do more generally. They fund efforts to diagnose and find a cure but–as this excellent diary describes–they work against things like prevention. They also tend to push back against research that shows we’ve been over-diagnosing and over-treating breast cancer. (I know such studies are controversial, but as someone who learned only after my treatment that European countries would have treated my case very differently, for a fraction of the cost and invasiveness, but with statistically equivalent outcomes, I take them seriously.)

One of the leading breast cancer doctors and advocates, Susan Love, had this to say Tuesday.

Rather than putting politics into the breast cancer movement, lets rise above the political divisions and work together. Let’s redirect all the money that will be spent on investigating Planned Parenthood into funding studies looking to find the cause and prevent the disease once and for all. Let’s redirect our anger to making mammograms unnecessary because we know how to prevent the disease.

We ought to use this scandal to examine more closely where cancer money gets spent–on treatment, turning cancer patients into customers–and rarely on prevention.

While I appreciate the gesture, pink ribbons to me have come to symbolize cancer patients as profit centers, both for consumer goods capitalizing on an association with the goodwill (and Komen), as well as for ungodly expensive drugs that don’t always provide better outcomes. They’ve come to symbolize the same kind of passive compliance I think of when I remember those damn pink walls.

It’s time we aspired to stopping cancer, not just throwing tons of increasingly expensive drugs and consumer products at it. And that, in turn, means finding some other entity besides Komen to take the lead.