One weekday morning last week, a truck displaying graphic pictures of dead fetuses drove through a North Oakland neighborhood and dropped off some fliers that screamed "Your neighbor ... is a lesbian abortionist!" The flier shows a photo of the doctor and gives her home address and work number at Planned Parenthood in Concord. It concludes: "Pray for the repentance of [the doctor] and that she will stop savagely murdering innocent preborn boys and girls through abortion, the American Holocaust!"
This "neighborhood alert" was the handiwork of Operation Rescue West, one of the nation's more in-your-face antiabortion groups. It wasn't the first time such groups had targeted the Oakland gynecologist. Last fall, her neighbors received letters in the mail similar in theme to the fliers dropped off last week. Feeder is not naming the doctor because, well, she's probably gotten enough hate-mail as it is.
Now, Feeder readers, the question might have crossed your mind: Why would Operation Rescue bother coming to the godless, prochoice Bay Area? Turns out its little army of God was already out here to stir things up at a San Francisco gynecology conference. The targeted Oakland doctor apparently came to the attention of fervent abortion fighters when she began flying out to Wichita, Kansas, one week a month to work at a controversial late-term abortion clinic run by Dr. George Tiller. Antiabortion extremists view Tiller as evil incarnate. Twenty years ago someone planted a pipe bomb at that clinic, and in 1993 he was shot in both arms by a protester, according to the Los Angeles Times.
While Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue West, preaches nonviolent protest, the group's confrontational tactics -- holding protests outside the homes of Tiller's employees -- make working for his clinic a stressful experience, even, apparently, for out-of-town doctors. "She comes to our neighborhood to kill children," Newman says of the Oakland woman, "so we went to her neighborhood to tell her neighbors what she does for a living."
Antiabortion Web sites list intimate personal details about the local doctor and her loved ones, including the names of her partner and their young son, the date she got married at San Francisco City Hall, and her hobbies. The Operation Rescue site also notes the "irony" of the abortionist marrying a midwife: "Midwives deliver babies while abortionists kill them," the site says. Newman says he and his comrades even have a slogan for the lesbian couple: "I whack 'em, you smack 'em." He vowed to continue the group's campaign against the doctor in the coming months.
Oakland City Councilwoman Jane Brunner, who represents the neighborhood where the doctor lives, is encouraging neighbors to put prochoice posters in their windows. "They have absolute sympathy for her," she says. Neighbor Tim Kingston, an occasional Express contributor, says he bought flowers for the doctor -- whom he had never met before -- the same day Operation Rescue dropped off the fliers. Kingston thinks the fliers backfired. For one thing, no one in North Oakland cares that the doctor is a lesbian, he says. If anything, the fliers have rallied the neighborhood around her: "All her neighbors are incredibly supportive and irate about these clowns coming in."
For the sake of Oakland's most famous fiancés, let's hope familiarity doesn't breed contempt between Mayor Jerry Brown and his lady. Anne Gust, soon-to-be Mrs. Gust-Moonbeam, has quit her high-powered job at Gap Inc. and will be running her romantic partner's campaign for attorney general. An executive veep for the Gap, Gust packed up her paper clips last week after fourteen years with the clothing retailer. As far as Feeder knows, Gust has no experience managing statewide campaigns -- that is, if you don't count the annual sales blitz for cotton khakis.
Feeder tracked down the mayor via e-mail to get confirmation of Gust's new job. "Anne's long management experience and many years of legal practice will be very helpful in my campaign to become the state's chief legal officer," Brown helpfully replied. So, yes, it looks as if Jerry and Anne will be spending a lot of time together over the next year. Good thing they'll be newlyweds. (Hmmm, this could make a great reality TV show.) One advantage of hiring your lover to run your campaign: She'll work cheap. In fact, Gust is offering her services gratis. "The challenge and the excitement will be the reward," Brown deadpanned, insomuch as you can deadpan in an e-mail exchange.
War of the Welds
No journalist wants to be stuck with sloppy seconds when it comes to a hot scoop. Either you're breaking the story, or you're explaining to your editor how you got beat. Ever since the Oakland Tribune broke the story about allegedly substandard welding work on the Bay Bridge, San Francisco Chronicle columnists Phil Matier and Andy Ross have persistently tried to poke holes in the bridge story. Is professional jealousy motivating the Chron's dismissive coverage? Trib editors certainly think so.
The pissing match between the dailies came to a head last week when the duo penned a column panning the bridge investigation with the headline, "Bridge weld imbroglio is costing millions." That was too much for Tribune editors to let pass without comment. In a highly entertaining Thursday editorial, the Trib waxed indignant about being taken to task by the likes of Matier and Ross. "In the Chronicle piece by two columnists whose sourcing often ranges from 'a couple of birdies' to 'word is,' the bridge weld probe 'came up empty,'" the editorial lamented. It went on to scold the scribes: "Tell that to the FBI, fellas. Listening beyond those parroting the company line might be instructive." The Trib's executive editor Kevin Keane explained his thinking to Feeder the following day: "We took the lead on this story, so they're eager to dismiss it, as any competitor in this business would be."
Not so, Ross insists. The columnist even applauded the Trib for getting the story out, but also hinted that the Tribune Tower folks are perhaps a bit edgy these days because the paper is out on a limb by itself on this faulty-weld thing. "We're simply reporting the facts as we know them," he says. "That's all we've done." It's simply a fact, for instance, that the investigation of the welds is costing taxpayers millions of dollars and that Matier and Ross like to talk to little birdies, who are good sources of both information and protein.
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