The Business Case Against Karen Handel

Susan G. Komen Senior Vice President for Public Policy Karen Handel, the presumed designated sacrificial executive for the Komen folks, on account that outsiders suspected she was behind the plan to stop funding Planned Parenthood (and certainly appears to have pushed for it enthusiastically), has indeed resigned from that foundation, although she seems not particularly inclined to fall on her sword in doing so. Instead she looks to be planning to make as much trouble for Komen folks as she can on her way out the door.

And, well, look. If Ms. Handel was indeed brought in after certain decisions regarding Planned Parenthood were already made, and the Komen folks decided they just needed someone who’d be happy to manage and execute the plan, then it’s perfectly reasonable for Handel to cry foul as she’s shown the exit. And as Handel is declining a severance package (and its likely non-disparagement clause), she’ll be able to rend her garments and beat her chest about how awful the Komen folks were to her to the anti-abortion crowd, which will make them even less inclined to support Komen in the future. So don’t cry for Karen Handel; I think she’ll be just fine in all of this.

But it does once again bring into focus just so spectacularly blunderheaded this whole adventure by Susan G. Komen has been from a policy point of view, and this is something that Ms. Handel, as the VP of Public Policy, should have been on top of for her organization. Leaving out any direct issues of morality or politics (I know, I know, go with me for a minute here), what’s basically happened is that on account of $700,000 worth of grants, the Susan G. Komen Foundation in just one week wrecked a billion-dollar brand identity that took decades to develop. Solely from the point of view of policy and brand strategy, it’s impressive in an entirely horrifying way. While I fully believe the Komen folks have brought this on themselves (“oh, no one will mind if we withdraw our support for Planned Parenthood if we reverse engineer this totally obvious excuse to do so!”), my business mind cringes in sympathy for them.

(There is a gripe in some quarters that the Komen folks should be able not to fund whomever they wish. I agree with this 100%, of course, and have consistently said so. I think where I diverge with the gripers is that I also understand that actions have consequences. Komen was perfectly within its rights not to give funds to Planned Parenthood; the people who complained about it — many of whom had previously donated time and treasure to Komen — were also perfectly within their rights to do so, and to withhold their donations, plan to boycott companies that allied with Komen, and to look for new organizations to support. This is what one would call the free market at work.)

The Komen folks erred in lots of ways, but from a business point of view, where they erred the most is in understanding what their brand stood for and who supported it, and for not developing a messaging strategy regarding their new funding policy that was more than one response deep, just in case that response failed spectacularly, as it did in this case. From a purely business point of view, Karen Handel deserved getting canned not because she supported (or drove) the decision to have Komen drop its support for Planned Parenthood, but because as its Vice President of Public Policy she completely failed to do her job. Komen got its ass handed to it. That Handel didn’t anticipate that better, or help her organization respond to it better, and indeed seems to have exacerbated the situation, is why she should be shown the door. And she has. As often happens when one does a bad job.

126 thoughts on “The Business Case Against Karen Handel

  1. Remember: Mallet of Loving Correction is out for this thread. Try to keep comments focused on the circumstances regarding Ms. Handel’s resignation, and not general issues of abortion, please.

  2. The basic problem was that some anti-abortion people have been hammering Komen for years for its support of breast screening at Planned Parenthood. And Komen believed that the anti-abortion people were in the majority. They really thought few would complain. So those of us who believe in abortion and birth control choice needed to complain, and we did. As we used to say back in the ’80s, and need to keep saying “We’re pro-choice, and we vote.” Not only do we vote, but we spend in support of organizations that have our best interests at heart. Komen proved that they don’t have the best interests of women at heart.

  3. If you are going to do something that is stupid, at least do it right. To paraphrase the immortal Sir Humphrey Appleby, she did a damn stupid thing in a damn stupid way and is now getting the reward for it. Businesses do immoral and amoral things all the time and precious few destroy their brand or cause a PR disaster in doing so, she failed to do what is essentially part of (if not the whole of) her job.

  4. FWIW, there’s a couple really good articles around about how the backlash against Komen was as much about dissatisfaction regarding the disturbing level of commercialization of breast cancer they were engaging in as it was about Planned Parenthood. Which makes a lot of sense, since it seemed to me that they spent more time (if not money) on promoting all the things you could buy to support the foundation as they did on promoting the actual scientific research and medical expenses used to fight breast cancer itself.

  5. I’ve given to Koman (through walks and other endeavors) plenty of times in the past. I personally want to thank Handel for helping me to see that instead of being a non-partisan organization devoted to the issue of screening, preventing and searching for a cure for breast cancer, Koman is a political group for whom one issue is breast cancer. It’s nice when execs help me to be a more conscientious donator.

    That is my flip way of saying that organizations can either choose to be non-partisan or they can be dedicated to a real cause. This isn’t limited to right wing orgs like the Salvation Army, Koman and otehrs. Groups like HSUS, PETA and Greenpeace also choose politics over helping who they claim to want to help. I don’t give money to any of them, even if I share some of their concerns. Their politics get in the way of their mission and there are better alternatives.

    Honestly, as disappointed as I am in Koman I’m glad I actually know their agenda. I think that unless they plan to fundamentally change the way they function, they should keep Handel on staff. She represents who they are.

  6. TransDutch: I suspect there are plenty of folks who could hire her. The anti-Planned Parenthood folks are many and numerous. Heck, I would not be surprised to see her become involved with the campaign of one of the current GOP Presidential candidates. And probably be billed as a martyr to the cause.

  7. You know, a thought does occur, if this had happened four or five years ago, she’d have got away with both the over-commercialising and the anti-abortion thing. It just wouldn’t have had the momentum it has now, the public mood is slowly (oh so slowly) swinging back away from the hysterical 00′s to a more moderate and inclusive stance. So, yay!

  8. I’m sure she’ll find a job somewhere, probably with pro-life people/organizations who thought she did the right thing.

    (This is not to say I thought she did the right thing. I’m saying there are certainly people who think she did, which is the problem of considering something only upon its surface merits.)

  9. karenhandelkomen.com–her resignation letter–makes it clear that she will earn more in speaking fees and get more support for GA Governor next cycle than Komen would have paid her.

    Her campaign just started–on Megyn Kelly’s show, of course.

  10. Which is likely why she declined the severance package. Railing about how Komen is in the pocket of the Homoborter Feminist Conspiracy is key for Handel to build HER brand.

  11. Hypothetically, what if Handel did have a communications strategy planned but it was shot all to bits when Planned Parenthood went public unexpectedly?

  12. “karenhandelkomen.com–her resignation letter–makes it clear that she will earn more in speaking fees and get more support for GA Governor next cycle than Komen would have paid her.”

    Well, if it’s less than about $370k/year, it’s really not all that much money…

  13. PR is all about handling things on the fly and coming out of a shitstorm smelling of roses. If her strategy is shot all to bits, then it is her job to deal with that and correct it, ’cause y’know that happens all the time. Handel dropped the ball and that is why firing her is the right thing.

  14. Can you think of a scenario where Planned Parenthood wouldn’t have gone public?

    Some rather Machiavellian theories floating around suggest Handel was chosen to be the lightning rod should (when?) the move stir up controversy as it did. Her outspoken opposition to Planned Parenthood makes her an obvious heavy. She then falls on her sword and then goes onto a new gig with some other conservative organization who thanks her for her service.

    That only makes sense if Susan G. Komen for the Cure doesn’t face serious repercussions and increased scrutiny now. While there may have been some grumbling in the past about pinkwash and how funds were spent, Komen was for the most part above reproach. Now there’s a lot of ill will being directed towards them and a more vocal community is questioning what they do.

    Has any corporation pulled their support yet? That will be the test of the impact of this whole debacle.

  15. father:

    My question would be why didn’t she anticipate Planned Parenthood doing something along that line? Planned Parenthood hasn’t been notably shy in its communication strategies when it feels it’s advantageous to get the jump on another organization. It would not have been unreasonable for Handel to prep for such an eventuality.

  16. @John: If only she’d had access to a senior well paid employee of SGK whose role was to anticipate that kind of blowback and plan a communications strategy to ensure they were ready for it…

  17. This seems like an object lesson in getting your information from an echo chamber that privileges ideological purity over objectivity and accuracy. In this case, it was a right-wing echo chamber, but it doesn’t have to be. That’s one reason I worry about search engines like Google giving preference to sources like the ones I most often look at.

  18. If one really wants to indulge in conspiracy theory, surely the most interesting direction to explore is the one in which some entity outside the Komen organization engineers Handel’s hiring in order to (a) orchestrate the plan whereby Komen will announce its cessation of support for Planned Parenthood, (b) cause said cessation to blow up in Komen’s face, and (c) leave the Komen organization in tatters and Handel’s secret backers with exactly the result they wanted.

    I mean, really. If someone had wanted to deliberately tarnish the Komen image and brand, there’s hardly a more effective way for that job to have been done….

  19. John C. Bunnell – That would mean either (1) that Handel’s pro-breast cancer, which seems unlikely, or (2) that she’s relentlessly self-serving, which is more likely, but also a reason for simple incompetence. The whole thing just seems like generic upper-management cluelessness to me.

    She’s certainly well-positioned to fail upwards from her bad job, though, not because of her Machiavellian ways but just because she’s the kind of person that kind of thing happens to.

  20. Considering the level of political acumen in some corners I kinda wondered if maybe this wasn’t her dramatic ~entry~ onto the national political stage. (several of you have already suggested something similar) after all, one only needs to be able to see Alaska from their front door to capture a vocal voting segment of the population.

    But, wow. To take down SGK so brutally? Anyone who would vote/support her after this would have to be seriously misguided or else sociopathic in their goals.

  21. Unreasonable or arrogant? Not anticipating, or flat out ignoring the PP has an activist history could also be attributed to an arrogance or unfounded belief in how the SGK foundation is viewed. If she thought (and I’m not saying she did, just offering a hypothetical) that SGK had enough hearts and minds in the game, she may have felt that the backlash would be minimal or easily managed. Folks can get awfully tunnel visioned, especially if they believe their fight has some moral or ethical high ground.

  22. jesse @1:56: FWIW, there’s a couple really good articles around about how the backlash against Komen was as much about dissatisfaction regarding the disturbing level of commercialization of breast cancer they were engaging in as it was about Planned Parenthood. Which makes a lot of sense, since it seemed to me that they spent more time (if not money) on promoting all the things you could buy to support the foundation as they did on promoting the actual scientific research and medical expenses used to fight breast cancer itself.

    I’ve got a theory that for some people who went after SGK it was less the Planned Parenthood thing than the, “Holy crap, I’m getting so freaking tired of all the pink garbage.” An awful lot of the commentary I saw made it a point to mock the so-called “pinkwashing.” I also saw very few responses that didn’t mention SGK’s tendency to sue anyone who used the color pink or “for the cure.” That, of course, looks like brand protection, which, in turn, reeks of commercialization.

    So…yeah. I think SGK tapped in to a pre-existing public unease more than than simply creating something from nothing.

  23. Question/observation:

    Handel was the VP of public policy, not public relations.

    Now, certainly any VP of any company should be aware of public image, even if they’re the VP of office supplies procurement. And I imagine that “public policy,” having the word “public” in it, should be more geared toward the public’s perception of the company than the guy who makes sure they don’t overpay for paperclips.

    Yet I can’t help noticing that “policy” and “relations” are two different words and are not synonyms for each other. Related, yes, but not synonyms.

    I would love to know what her actual job description said.

  24. ” the people who complained about it — many of whom had previously donated time and treasure to Komen — were also perfectly within their rights to do so, and to withhold their donations, plan to boycott companies that allied with Komen, and to look for new organizations to support.”

    This needs to be re-iterated early and often whenever entities or executives moan about how its not fair that their decisions should impact their business. Just as there’s no law saying you can’t do any-fool thing you like, there’s likewise no law requiring the rest of us to donate a bent penny to help you do it
    (or fail to, in this case).

  25. -E:

    This is why I discussed her performance on policy grounds. Part of her job is communicating policy effectively and prepping the organization for repercussions of policy changes.

  26. The basic problem was that Komen’s management didn’t realize or understand that PP has been around for ages, and its helped lots of women who had no other options for birth control, healthcare, whatever, many of whom no doubt are quite loyal to the organization for decades afterward. And these women no doubt make up a sizable proportion of Komen’s supporter base.

    Whereas, conservative pro-life men, and pro-life women who maybe never were in a position of needing Planned Parenthood’s services (even ignoring abortion), are maybe not such a large base of support for Komen?

    My cynical take? Companies who put pink ribbons on their products were probably getting heat from conservatives, and in turn putting heat on Komen to ditch PP. It’s one thing for conservatives to threaten a boycott of Komen itself. It’s another if they threaten to boycott companies that do pink ribbon products, and stop buying their products whether pink or not.

  27. This entire fiasco was bone-headed from the get-go.

    One: SGK decided to sacrifice birds in the hand for potential birds in the bush, i.e. they already had donors who knew and approved of the Foundation’s connection to PPFA, but for some reason thought that either those donors would not bail out, protest, or otherwise express dissatisfaction, if the tie was severed, and SGK apparently believed that people who didn’t already donate would flock to them in droves, once the deed was done. Not only did current donors protest and donate to PPFA, but apparently the anti-abortion critics who had written letters for the past two decades failed to show up with their checkbooks. UH OH!

    Two: Planned Parenthood has been fighting off attacks, raising money, branding, and messaging for almost 100 years (counting back to 1916 & the Sangers’ first clinic). PPFA does this very, very well. They are quick, vocal, on-message, and use all the tools available. There is no internal dissension, no dissembling, no mixed messages. If you work for PPFA, you support their mission, and that mission has been clear since birth control was illegal and Margaret Sanger went jail for providing it. There was never any question of whether PP would respond, or even how. That no one at SGK took this into account and prepared for it is beyond bone-headed, it’s insanely stupid. I can’t believe that SGK, an organization that is ALL ABOUT public relations and branding, didn’t get in front of *their own* messaging.

    Karen Handel is demonstrably incompetent and her resignation is possibly the only intelligent thing she’s done in the past 3 months. She should have been fired; maybe she would have been, and she quit in order to avoid having to sign anything.

  28. -E: I’m not a member of the corporate universe, but this thought occurred to me: is head of public relations a VP level position? It seems to me, in my mostly naive view, that PR would fall under the auspices of public policy.

  29. Here’s a somewhat cynical thought: Perhaps Ms. Handel is significantly more cunning than her last few weeks would imply, and playing a longer game. Could she have maneuvered to get the VP position at Komen with the intent of wrecking Komen for its prior support of Planned Parenthood? (It’s as far out as most conspiracy theories, but one does wonder sometimes…)

  30. Jesse wrote: “FWIW, there’s a couple really good articles around about how the backlash against Komen was as much about dissatisfaction regarding the disturbing level of commercialization of breast cancer they were engaging in as it was about Planned Parenthood.”

    I suspect people were willing to tolerate the pinkwashing *until* Komen took the mask off and was revealed to be Rick Santorum in drag. Then SGK’s credibility was shot, and they lost the benefit of the doubt – and the least charitable interpretation of the pinkwashing took over.

  31. Two things:

    One: Doc Rocketscience – PR at a nonprofit is generally its own thing, although the VP may be called VP of Communications. Public Policy is about shaping, well, “public policies” like legislation, advisory rules, things like that.

    Two: General – Until this whole thing, I had no idea that SGK funded Planned Parenthood on any level, and I think a LOT of other people were in that same boat. So not only did they wreck their image over $700k and not much else, they also brought it to light in a way that guaranteed there’d be backlash and pressure over the decision from both sides, which seems like running the ship aground for no good reason.

  32. I have never given to Komen because of the support they give to PP and as such see no reason to start now. Having said that, Komen did disturb the hornet’s nest as a result of the blunder and I reckon they needed someone to blame.

  33. I am surprised that this whole thing was so bone-headed. You’d think that being able to afford Ari Fleischer to vet your attack dog would yield better results.

    I’m not sure who that says more about.

  34. Ambassador Nancy Brinker, the head of SBK (she was appointed Ambassador to Hungary by G. W. Bush, and she apparently insists on the title) is more than a little bit wingnutty herself. Back in 2003, the gym chain Curves tried to get SBK to ditch Planned Parenthood, and SBK refused. Since then, of course, we have a different administration and the wingnut rhetoric has reached astonishing levels. So this decision was not Karen Handel’s alone. SBK has also prominently not mentioned the $12 million in research funding they pulled from institutions that didn’t pledge to never ever use embryonic stem cells ever.

    Also, do not underestimate the appeal of losing a battle in the “culture war”. Humans have pretty strict rules about cheating: it’s wrong…unless you’re the good guy, and you’re losing the fight. Karen Handel tried to strike a blow at evil (I am trying to view this from the perspective of a pro-lifer) and been defeated. She is now a martyr for her cause. A comfortable, well-fed, well–funded martyr….who now has the moral license to do pretty much anything in her struggle against Evil.

  35. I want to stress that I don’t think Planned Parenthood saw this coming. I got a general fundraising letter from them last week and they didn’t mention Komen one time. However, when the word got out about what Komen had done, many of us who saw Komen’s behavior as an attack on women rushed to support Planned Parenthood. We were not specifically asked to, we just responded to the news.

  36. Rown Cota–thanks. I had a bit of the same confusion as Doc Rocketscience. My industry is Publishing, and in my days at one of the Big Six, it was clear that the folks who controlled the image of the company as a whole, the profile of the authors, and the perception of the books themselves were three entirely different departments. They would often coordinate, but in some environments with bad internal politics, they might not talk to each other at all.

    JS: Yours is the only commentary I’ve seen on the situation that explicitly addresses it as a performance issue regardless of Handel’s title or job description. However, I’ve just seen a lot of people commenting (here and elsewhere) in a manner that suggests they think Handel’s job was specifically PR, thus my caution.

  37. Laurie Mann:

    What I’ve seen suggests that the Komen folks let the PP folks know in December that their grants were being reviewed in some manner. I’m willing to believe the PP folks were happy not to talk about it until the ax came down, but I also think they probably had some time for strategy in terms of how to deal with the possible event.

  38. @ Jon Hendry: I think you exactly right. I’ve never given to SGK and have never really liked them but I tolerated them cause it wasn’t worth the fight. But now I’m willing to actively boycott the pink products (vocally) because they went too far. For the record, my response last year to the full-on attack on PP was to immediately give them a big chunk of money so I’m certainly not unbiased (and I didn’t give PP more just now … but that is just cause I give once a year and they are not due).

  39. John, there’s a difference between people in control of Planned Parenthood knowing something and them telling their supporters “Komen is about to screw us big time.” I don’t think they did that. Also, Komen makes it sound like the the eruption on social media was orchestrated, and I don’t think it was.

  40. @WonderOfItAll: blaming the person who said. “Let’s show those hornets who’s boss!” seems fair.

    Handel apparently was also a little less reserved in her Tweeting on the subject, per Gawker.

  41. They probably would have gotten farther if they’d announced a potential rules change; publicly announced that they regretfully wouldn’t be funding PP because of its links to abortions but here–we’ve found another group to fund in these areas so there won’t be a loss in service and especially didn’t try the bullshit routine that they came up with. I still think there’s going to be a link come out (emails or something) between Handel and other Anti-PP people along the lines of “Finally, we can take them out now that you’re in Komen.” Mark my words, this was orchestrated.

  42. Reed Hastings and Karen Handel have both demonstrated a unique ability. They have presided over the very swift destruction of years of carefully crafted brand loyalty. They both succeeded so admirably because they failed to undertand their customers. Instant communication is good for the consumer, but treacherous for corporations.

  43. There are a bunch of lessons in this whole mess. Probably the most important being that when you are supposed to have a singular humanitarian mission, you shouldn’t screw it up by becoming an organization with a political agenda. Any political agenda. Somewhere along the line they lost sight of the real goal.

    It was a monumental cluster from the start and it isn’t over yet. I agree with John’s sentiment that it’s hard to watch something so successful implode in such a spectacular fashion. You have to feel for all the good people associated with the charity who just want to help cure breast cancer. It’s sad.

  44. lil mike: The lesson learned if you’re a non profit? Do not fund PP unless you plan to fund them forever.

    Yeah, that’s one of the more interesting takeaways in my opinion. James Taranto said it pretty well in a WSJ piece: “Nice charity you’ve got there. It’d be a shame if anything happened to it. The message to other Planned Parenthood donors is that if they don’t play nice and keep coughing up the cash, they’ll get the Komen treatment.”

  45. Parker: that’s a self-serving interpretation. As many others have already noted (way back when this kerfuffle started, even!) it was because of the bullshit excuse they ginned up to do this.

    It’d have been one thing if they’d come out and said “we don’t agree with PP, so we’re severing ties”. But instead they invented an administrative excuse (no donations to orgs getting investigated by Congress. Oh wait, only PP is, and Komen’s new muckety-muck made defunding PP a priority).

    Bottom line: don’t lie for political reasons.

  46. OK, John, I think I’ve got the answer; it’s all about pink.
    There’s something about pink which compels organisations to trash their own brands, and I’m surprised you didn’t spot this one; after all, you ritually disembowelled Harlequin’s similarly ill-advised venture into vanity press not so very long ago.
    Obviously we need properly funded research into the precise shades of pink which rot the brain sufficiently to make commercial suicide look like a good idea, before- and this is an important point- the unfortunate victims are showing overt signs of zombiedom.
    We need to to be able to diagnose this before they get to the stage where bits start falling off and they start eating other people’s brains…

  47. Kevin Williams: It’d have been one thing if they’d come out and said “we don’t agree with PP, so we’re severing ties”.

    I seriously doubt it. There’s no scenario where Komen can split from PP without the kind of backlash we just saw. Whether they dissemble or whether they plainly state an ideological reason, the uproar and result would have been the same.

    In any case, both organizations ended up looking bad. Komen looks completely spineless from both the pro and anti- abortion perspectives, and PP looks thuggish and coercive.

  48. In any case, both organizations ended up looking bad. Komen looks completely spineless from both the pro and anti- abortion perspectives, and PP looks thuggish and coercive.

    I disagree with you totally.

    For example…just how DID Planned Parenthood act thuggishly and coercively?

  49. Parker:

    “Whether they dissemble or whether they plainly state an ideological reason, the uproar and result would have been the same.”

    This is a nice talking point that has no real basis in reality, however. We don’t know if Komen could have ended its relationship without backlash precisely because Komen decided to dissemble and hide its actual agenda. And even if it were true, it doesn’t excuse Komen’s bad actions.

    “PP looks thuggish and coercive.”

    That’s an interpretation that doesn’t much work outside the right wing, however. Beyond those boundaries, PP looks like it handled things pretty well, and has in fact achieved something due to Komen that it would not have otherwise: wider recognition that its services in the women’s health arena extend well beyond abortion.

    Pointing out that Komen ended its relationship for transparently political reasons isn’t “thuggish and coercive” in any event. One, it appears to be true, so I’m not sure how pointing out the truth is “thuggish.” Two, Planned Parenthood’s reaction was to raise funds from other sources, which is sort of the opposite of coercion, as regards Komen.

  50. Parker:

    You’re using lazy thinking. Namely:

    1) Assuming all supporters of PP are
    a) monolithic, and
    b) unreasonable.

    2) You’re likewise calling up the specter of Conservative Victimhood.

  51. Wrong, Parker. Factually incorrect. I’ve been a PP supporter for decades. I get ALL the e-mails, ALL the mailings. By the time PP posted a remarkably restrained response on its own site, the SBK “backlash” donations were at $85k and growing. The social media campaign I saw was driven by thousands of individuals who are, in fact, able to appreciate honesty and transparency, even if they don’t agree with the ideology. To co-opt a classic: it’s the lying, stupid. And the ignorance and contempt for women it betrayed.

    You’re very much inside your own particular echo chamber here.

  52. Michael Siegel just did a post about the SGK policy that was cited as the reason for unfunding PP, and concludes: “There was never any intention, I believe, of applying the policy equally across the board to all grantees. If there were, not only would grant funding have to be withdrawn from Beth Israel Deaconess, but it would also have to be withdrawn from Yale University, from Columbia University, from Penn State University, and from the University of California at Santa Cruz.” (http://tobaccoanalysis.blogspot.com/2012/02/will-komen-foundation-withdraw-funding.html) I found that interesting, since all that I’d read on this either implied or stated that the policy was developed so that it would only apply to PP. If other grant recipients also fall into that category, as he states, and PP was the only one singled out, it makes SGK look even worse than they already do.

  53. Ah, yeah, that’s the other thing another poster mentioned on the other thread: SGK’s policy (if honestly applied) would have let any random congressweasel prevent them from funding any one of their charities – PP got the Congressional investigation treatment because one representative wanted it, for reasons which I’m /sure/ were apolitical.

  54. Parker’s argument sounds like my kids’ approach when they were little.

    “You ate cookies before dinner, didn’t you.”

    “No.”

    “Dude. You’ve got chocolate smears all over your face. Why are you lying to me?”

    “Because I didn’t want to get in trouble!”

    Of course, like Parker, my kids didn’t grasp that the underlying problem was that you did something you weren’t supposed to do, and lying about it just made things worse. SGK pretended to be a non-political, nonpartisan group while making political, partisan decisions about who would get grants for breast-cancer screening programs, and then turning around and lying about it. “Well they would have gotten in trouble if they’d told the truth!” Indeed, just as if my kids cheerfully said “Yeah, I ate so many cookies I’m too full for dinner!” they would STILL have been in trouble, because doing something wrong is still wrong even if you cop to it.

  55. @Parker

    Um, no. SGK’s wounds are entirely self-inflicted. Regardless of their questionable motives or agenda, there were ways that SGK, with the application of some competence and class, could have severed ties with PP and left little room for much criticism or backlash – at least of the kind that would stick and come back to haunt them. But, no, SGK chose a direct path to maximum shitstorm and blowback. SGK damaged – perhaps even destroyed – itself and no one but the folks at SGK are to blame. That PP did not suffer SGK’s machinations in silence does not make PP either a bully or a coercive entity.

  56. @Parker

    It seems that the missing part of your argument is that the people who were choosing support Komen, chose to remove that support when they decided to stop funding PP is an entirely BS sort of way. Komen changed its policies, so people changed their feelings towards Komen and moved their support elsewhere. Your complaining is all about some individual having free-choice. But then that’s pretty much what that sort of BS argument boils down to. Choice.

  57. Mythago: Your condescension has been noted. Next time spare me the anecdote.

    You’ve established that, for you at least, the (perceived) dissemblance is not the real issue–fine. But are you quite certain that a group, whether “pretending” to be partisan or not, shouldn’t be able to make these kinds of critical decisions about its alliances and fund recipients? Replace the “controversial” (read: abortion) component of PP’s business with some other expenditure that is personally distasteful to you, and see if you still feel the same way about mandating across-the- board indiscriminate handouts. If this is political, its because PP is a decidedly political organization–in a way that SGK (well, until recently) never was. There’s no right/left split when it comes to breast cancer research.

  58. Billy Quiets at 8:40 pm:

    There are a bunch of lessons in this whole mess. Probably the most important being that when you are supposed to have a singular humanitarian mission, you shouldn’t screw it up by becoming an organization with a political agenda. Any political agenda. Somewhere along the line they lost sight of the real goal.

    Actually, I think there is only one lesson in this mess and that is: women’s bodies and choices are political football, and have been for the 230-ish years that these here United States have been a political entity. We have had to fight right to own property, the right to not *be* property, the right to participate in the polity, the right to choose your own spouse or name, or to divorce said spouse, the right to raise children you bear, the right to choose not to bear children, the right to feed your children… We are still fighting for the rights and protections that should be “self-evident.” I could go on and on and on, for days and days.

    SGK itself began as a fairly radical, activist foundation. In 1982, news anchors couldn’t (or wouldn’t, depending on policy) say the word “breast”. Breast cancer research was 99% conducted on men and male animals, the reason being that female hormones (like the kind that affect breast cancer) made female bodies too changeable to be good lab subjects. SGK specifically formed to challenge these sorts of things, and to do so vocally and publicly. There is no way that SGK has *ever* been a non-political organization. To imagine otherwise is incredibly naive, and is a function of how “liberal” America has become in the past 30 years: now SGK is considered mainstream, even conservative!.

    That said, SGK is perfectly within their rights to change their political ideology, and reflect that in their grant distributions. They still would have lost donors and received pro-Choice backlash, but hey, them’s the breaks. But by not doing so honestly and transparently, they soiled the entire brand, lost all credibility, and look like hypocritical fools, to boot.

  59. “women’s bodies and choices are political football”

    Amen.

    Very informative post, Constance. I didn’t know that about SGK’s beginnings.

  60. Parker: “I didn’t know that about SGK’s beginnings.”

    Hey, there’s a reason that other activist causes (AIDS/HIV awareness springs to mind) stole the Komen playbook. SGK created a marketing model for activism that worked. They did an awesome job for their cause, and I’m deeply sad at how they’ve soiled themselves. (Possibly literally, as well as figuratively. Ahem. I’m not so sad that I can’t mock, obviously.)

  61. Late edit comment: Aren’t you missing the word “how” in the first sentence of the third paragraph?

    (Dodges mallet..) Still, I agree with you completely.

  62. I don’t see how Handel’s resignation gets Komen off the hook. The decision was made by the organization. They are in the business of raising money for women’s health. Insofar as they are raising money on that basis, they are allies of other health charities. The brand is damaged, and that is key to their organizational mission. The leadership that allowed this mistake to happen needs to step aside, and the new leadership needs to publicly and obviously align itself with the cause of women’s health. Donors have plenty of options, and Komen will be judged by its next steps.

  63. Another facet of this story: The resulting controversy exposed the arguments against SGK to a wider audience. I sponsored friends’ walks and bought pink-lidded Yoplait. I didn’t know about “pinkwashing,” or their decision to de-fund institutions doing stem-cell research.

    It just so happens a new documentary, “Pink Ribbons, Inc.,” is just now coming out. I’ll bet the producers are thrilled. The timing could hardly be better for them.

  64. Parker: it’s an analogy, not an anecdote. I don’t think it’s any more condescending than pointing to an op-ed piece from the WSJ, of all places, as Received Truth.

    And no, the (actual) dissemblance is one of the real issues. SGK made the error of pretending it was apolitical when it really wasn’t. It compounded the effects of that error by lying about its reasons for doing so – and continuing to lie about those reasons. That’s kind of a bad move in an organization that relies on other people donating time and money for its lifeblood. People tend not to want to do that if they think your organization is untrustworthy. They wonder what else you’re lying to them about, starting with their plans for your money.

    I don’t know what the “perceived” in your comment is supposed to represent; are you claiming that you actually believe the ‘investigations’ story? I mean, really? I don’t get the sense that even people who hate PP really believe that, since it’s already been pointed out that many grantees and supporters of SGK are ‘under investigation’.

    As Constance already said, if SGK wanted to transition to being a pro-life breast cancer activist organization, it certainly had the right to do so, and if it had done so honestly, it may have lost some support but would likely have gained it elsewhere – without the cost of its integrity.

  65. Kind of reminds me of that German zoo director. He had a publicity campaign to get a new bear enclosure built, starring the resident bears, but when he had the money for the new enclosure he had to euthanise the bears to vacate the area for construction
    Probably still doesn’t understand why he got fired.

  66. @ Parker

    Replace the “controversial” (read: abortion) component of PP’s business with some other expenditure that is personally distasteful to you, and see if you still feel the same way about mandating across-the- board indiscriminate handouts.

    What part of fantasy land did you fish that out of?

    How does mythago’s and others’ decision not to donate to Komen equal mandating across-the- board indiscriminate handouts? Are you saying donors should have to donate to charities without having any say in what those charities do with it? ‘Cause that’s called a tax.

  67. I suspect he was trying to say that SGK is being forced to give money to PP no matter what, a la his silly analogy to criminals demanding protection money. I would think the word “grant” would have cleared that up, as even a private-sector greedbag such as myself knows what a grant is.

  68. I suspect he was trying to say that SGK is being forced to give money to PP no matter what

    The funny thing is that SGK is going to have to give PP money for at least the next several years because of the way that they (SGK) fucked this up. Lots of people are going to be watching, and I’m sure that PP will announce how their grant applications do.

  69. Mythago, Exactly.

    I had no idea SGK was funding PP or else I never would have donated. If they had come out and said they were no longer supporting PP I would have continued donating. Now, even though I think it’s a shame for the people who honestly work with SGK to fund breast cancer research, I will not be donating. Their leadership has proven to be monumentally dishonest and inept. I’m quite sure there are other breast cancer organizations that are neither.

  70. One problem for those of us who are, well, let’s just say in the minority in this particular echo chamber (but politely so, I hope), is that it’s not the case that Komen became political in the last couple of weeks — donating to Planned Parenthood is an overtly political act, and many of us were not aware that they had done so. I’m not conservative in any meaningful sense (real life has more than one dimension, so the conservative/liberal thing is just silly for most thinking beings), but on the abortion issue, I do have strong beliefs, and many years ago I made the decision to never knowingly and voluntarily give money to any organization which gave money to Planned Parenthood.

    This has mostly just caused me to have to go through annual unpleasant discussions with corporate flunkies upset that I was keeping them from reaching their 100% United Way goals, but it is frustrating at times because of the fact that it’s so hard to find out who does pass on funds to PP — if I had ever needed to make a decision about donating to Komen (*), it probably would have occured to me to check, but the whole cross-funding thing is so opaque that it’s doubtful that I would have been able to find out.

    (*) I’m in favor of women’s health, being quite fond of quite a few women (indeed, I would love to be able to contribute to 99% of what Planned Parenthood does), but I generally keep my charitable giving more targeted than what Komen does, and I don’t run, which cuts off another avenue, so it never came up.

  71. One interesting question I’ve not yet seen examined in detail: to what degree is the apparent anti-PP bias in the national Komen organization reflected (or not reflected) in its local/regional affiliate organizations? (My local paper published, earlier this week, a statement from the Oregon Komen leadership which I’m still digesting.) And as a corollary, might it be appropriate for those interested in preserving “the mission” to encourage their local affiliate entity to separate itself from the national Komen organization?

  72. @Boyd: SGK has a grant program which various groups may apply to, and if their grant applications are accepted SGK may give them funds to use for breast-cancer screening programs. That does not make SGK “political” or its grant program “political” unless the criteria used for those grants was political – and nobody has suggested that, prior to its decision about PP, that such was the case. As has been pointed out repeatedly, SGK invented a flimsy and dishonest litmus test designed not to exclude groups that were political or controversial, but to exclude PP.

    Of course it is entirely right and proper for you, or anyone else, to decide not to direct your money to PP (even indirectly) if you so choose. That doesn’t make SGK’s actions apolitical.

  73. “I don’t think it’s any more condescending than pointing to an op-ed piece from the WSJ”

    As the Spaniard said: I do not think that word means what you think it means.

    “Are you saying donors should have to donate to charities…”
    “I suspect he was trying to say that SGK is being forced…”

    Wrong on both counts. The clause you’re trying to interpret was in response to Mythago’s “…political, partisan decisions about who would get grants for breast-cancer screening programs…” The opposite of “political, partisan decisions” would be grants that are blind to the politics, expenditures and activities of the receiving organization. Another more careful reading of both comments will offer up the meaning to you.

    You’re very much inside your own particular echo chamber here.”
    Perhaps. “Echo chamber” is a pretty apt description of these threads in general.

    My apologies for throwing off the cadence of the echo. Back to your regularly scheduled unanimity.

  74. @Boyd Nation: How do you figure donating to Planned Parenthood as an overtly political act? One could make an argument that refusing to donate to Planned Parenthood because somewhat less than 3% of what they do is abortions is overtly political. But I think it’s VERY difficult to justify that donating to Planned Parenthood for the 97+% of what they do is overtly political. If I donate to Planned Parenthood, it has little or nothing to do with abortion one way or the other.

    It seems like people on the pro-life side of the political spectrum (with respect to abortion) tend to think of people on the pro-choice end as being actively pro-abortion. I think that’s wildly inaccurate in the vast majority of cases. In most cases, when it comes to things like donating to an organization like Planned Parenthood, it just doesn’t register. Which means there is nothing political about such a donation. I don’t think anybody (or at least the overwhelming majority of contributors) is donating to Planned Parenthood because they want MORE abortions. It’s because Planned Parenthood does a massive amount of good that has nothing at all to do with abortion.

    To be clear, I don’t think you’re doing anything wrong (in a moral sense) by refusing to donate to Planned Parenthood. I happen to disagree with your position, but I respect your right to feel the way you do and to be guided by your conscience. I just think you’re way off-base when you assume that those who do choose to donate are doing anything overtly political (unless you think supporting reproductive health in general is political).

  75. If they wanted to stop giving grants to Planned Parenthood, all they had to do was not give Planned Parenthood any more grants. No need for a press release; just a quiet word with the grant committee, and next year Planned Parenthood gets a polite note thanking them for their application instead of a check.

    Why didn’t Komen do that?

    Anyone who spent even a few minutes thinking about it would notice that the Komen donor/volunteer base includes a whole lot of people who have benefitted from Planned Parenthood in the past. If asked to choose between Komen and Planned Parenthood, at least some of those donors and volunteers were sure to pick Planned Parenthood. At least some of those who would pick Planned Parenthood were certain to be dedicated and persuasive people who would explain at length to anyone within range why they should choose Planned Parenthood too.

    Why wasn’t Komen prepared for that?

    These are the questions that make me wonder if this isn’t all a huge performance art piece.

  76. The opposite of “political, partisan decisions” would be grants that are blind to the politics, expenditures and activities of the receiving organization.

    Reviewing the receiving organization’s expenditures to make sure that they are using the grant funds solely for their intended purpose and are doing so appropriately (those would be “expenditures and activities”) is neither political nor partisan. The opposite of “political, partisan decisions” would actually be grants that are made without regard to political, partisan issues irrelevant to the grant. Nobody but you has suggested that such grants are, or should be, “indiscriminate handouts”. Has anyone really argued that if PP were using its Komen funds for hookers and blow instead of breast-cancer screening that SGK would be wrong to withhold money from them?

    If it pleases you to assume that the only reason anyone disagrees with you is that you’re the lone voice of reason in an echo chamber full of dolts too foolish to grasp your meaning, well, nobody’s gonna stop you. But that’s not a very effective response to anyone who has pointed out where you are arguing badly or are, uh, condescending.

  77. In regards to the question of giving money to PP being a political act, I think the echo chamber is kicking in a little heavily there. The only way to not view performing abortions as a political act is to pretend that everyone agrees with you on the subject, and that’s just not the case.

    I know that it’s become a common talking point on the left to say that PP shouldn’t be held accountable for their participation in abortion because it’s “only” a small part of what they do, but I believe that that percentage is a red herring. For those of us for whom abortion is a deeply immoral act, the percentage doesn’t matter, just the participation in the act, even if it’s only once. Most of the relevant analogies would be needlessly inflammatory, so I’ll leave it at that — some deeds are bad enough that having performed them once without repentance is enough that I won’t support the party involved.

  78. Boyd Nation:

    “The only way to not view performing abortions as a political act is to pretend that everyone agrees with you on the subject”

    Well, no. The way not to view performing abortions as a political act is to consider them a medical procedure. One may recognize that others consider performing them a political act without holding that opinion one’s self.

  79. That’s why I asked you to engage in that little thought experiment. Money is fungible. If in place of the abortion component of their business PP was subsidizing “hookers and blow” for the poor, no one would dare argue that it’s ok for them to get grant money for mammograms. As it happens, the morality of abortion is far more controversial. But the point is that it *is* still controversial, and in fact something about which free-thinking people — and free thinking organizations, partisan or not, are able to disagree. Whether PP and its allies would have let them slip away peacefully under different circumstances is debatable and I guess unknowable. I strongly suspect they would have leveraged their not inconsiderable might against them in any case, but that’s just me.

    “But that’s not a very effective response…” Agreed, which is why that’s not what I said or implied.

  80. With all due respect, John, I think that’s self-serving. One would have to both consider them a medical procedure and be unaware or unwilling to recognize that others disagree. That’s part of the nature of politics — in some ways, it’s a discussion of questions that may have a right answer, but we don’t actually know what that right answer is, even though we may be sure that our view is the right one.

  81. Just for the record, Parker, I think that abortion should be illegal but that both hookers and blow (depending, perhaps, on what you mean by “blow”) should be legal. Your larger point, of course, about fungibility is quite correct.

  82. If in place of the abortion component of their business PP was subsidizing “hookers and blow” for the poor, no one would dare argue that it’s ok for them to get grant money for mammograms. As it happens, the morality of abortion is far more controversial.

    More controversial than….what? Misusing grant money? If PP took its Komen grant and spent it all on the Save Adorable Kittens Project, that would be improper and Komen would be absolutely right to stop giving PP money, regardless of the fact that saving adorable kittens is not a controversial moral issue. The point is not whether abortion is or isn’t controversial (obviously, it is). The point is that Komen is an organization that pretended it is above such controversies, when it clearly was not, and then lied about that fact.

    If the Catholic Organization to Fight Breast Cancer learned that it was giving money to PP and terminated that grant, I doubt you would have seen a fraction of the controversy. That’s because such an organization explicitly adheres to Church values, and nobody giving them money should be surprised that they will distribute it according to their religious teachings – which include the view that abortion is grievously immoral.

  83. @Boyd Nation: I think John addressed your first point very well, so I’ll address your second. I think most people who are pro-choice feel that way because we don’t view abortion as “a deeply immoral act”. As such, the percentage of their total services made up by abortions is completely irrelevant to any sense of need for accountability. I don’t think they need to be held accountable for abortions because I view them as a legitimate medical procedure.

    The problem is that portrayal of Planned Parenthood by the right as abortionists who are out to kill your unborn babies. The fact that certain people on the right seem to think it’s fine to massively distort what Planned Parenthood does (hey, it’s ok because it’s not a factual statement, right?) is an exacerbating factor.

    But coming back to the core point, I recognize that you and many others believe that abortion is a deeply immoral act. But it seems to me that you, and many who share your beliefs on this issue) are unwilling to accept that there are truly compassionate and well-meaning people who believe otherwise. And for us, there is absolutely nothing political about a donation to an organization that does massive amounts of good and also happens to perform abortions. They’re just a medical procedure to us. That’s not to say we’re unaware of the political baggage attached to the procedure. But donating to a good (by our definition) organization despite political baggage that’s irrelevant to our reasons for donating is not something I think you can rationally portray as an overtly political act.

  84. Boyd Nation:

    “One would have to both consider them a medical procedure and be unaware or unwilling to recognize that others disagree.”

    I don’t think anyone disagrees that abortions are medical procedures, actually.

    Beyond that, you’re suggesting that one is obliged to care in all circumstances whether someone else believes one’s act has a political aspect to it, and I think that’s nonsense. There are people who believe eating meat is a political act, but I’m not obliged to care about that when I get a hamburger, nor am I obliged to consider purchasing a whopper a political act. There are other people who believe purchasing a gun is a political act, but the gun purchaser is not obliged to have that as a consideration when she selects a handgun, or to feel that the purchase is a political statement.

    You may think [x] is a political act; someone else may not. You’ve not sufficiently explained why that other person is obliged to care what you think about it when they engage in the act (or in the act of supporting it), and more to the point, is obliged to consider their own actions a political act just because you do.

  85. To try and head off this particular rabbit: The point in this discussion, to me, is not really about the specific definition of a political act; it’s that drawing that line so that stopping donations to an abortion provider (and announcing it) is a political act but beginning those donations in the first place is not is a really odd place to put the line.

    To extend your analogy a bit here, what this would feel like for me if I had donated to Komen is more akin to how you would feel if you bought your burger and then discovered that BK was quietly giving some portion of your purchase price to the Santorum campaign (which, for all I know, they might be). It’s the lack of obvious connection that’s damaging.

  86. @Boyd: I’m having trouble with the analogy of a for-profit corporation donating to political groups which serve its interests and/or the inclinations of its owners, as similar to a non-profit group which disavows any partisan leanings and supposedly exists for the sole purpose of a particular, non-political cause.

    I mean, if BK were selling burgers by advertising itself as “the not-for-profit burger chain with only one purpose: to generate money for underprivileged culinary arts students!” that might work, I guess.

  87. “you cannot be in favor of women’s health and in favor of making abortion illegal.”

    See, that kind of statement is supremely unhelpful. It is only true for one particular definition of “women’s health” which is in fact a meaningless phrase as far as those things go, if for no other reason than that it can mean whatever the speaker wants it to mean.

  88. The point in this discussion, to me, is not really about the specific definition of a political act; it’s that drawing that line so that stopping donations to an abortion provider (and announcing it) is a political act but beginning those donations in the first place is not is a really odd place to put the line.

    The point is that the same act might be political or apolitical depending on the motivation of the actor. For example, buying a Whopper because you like hamburgers is not necessarily a political act. But if the city council is thinking of outlawing Burger King, and you make a point of eating there to express your opposition to the proposed ban and to express solidarity with BK, then buying Whopper becomes a political act.

    Likewise, if I start shopping at my local big box store to save money, that’s not a political act. But if I stop shopping there because I decide that big box stores are bad for my community, that is a political act.

  89. While I think an act might be apolitical in the absence of knowledge, I think it would be disingenuous to claim that the absence of motivation removes the political aspect of the act. If Our Good Host knows that some consider meat to be murder (Deer Lard, was that the worst Smiths song ever, or is there something else I’m forgetting?), eating that Whopper is a political act, even if it’s not solely a political act — it’s an expression of his political belief that eating meat is an acceptable act, even though it’s also a good way to prevent hunger. Similarly, shopping at Wal-Best-Home-Mart is an expression of a belief that promoting economies of scale is at least as beneficial as promoting local businesses, or at least is near enough to be balanced by the personal gain in savings.

  90. it’s that drawing that line so that stopping donations to an abortion provider (and announcing it) is a political act but beginning those donations in the first place is not is a really odd place to put the line.

    Baloney. If you funded the organization in the first place because it met the criteria that you had set up and that you were funding similar grant applications then the political side (if there is one) is much smaller than creating a rule *specifically* to eliminate a particular group from consideration and then claiming that it was purely partisan, while not defunding other groups that violated that rule (see, eg, Penn State).

    Your point that everything is political is true, but so true that it becomes meaningless. Every time I have meat I may be making a political statement, but if I’m sitting in the privacy of my own home, the degree and effect of that statement are minimal. Contrast that with me taking a hamburger down to a local PETA protest and ostentatiously eating it there. The latter is what the Komen foundation did. They got called on it, and rightly so.

  91. Boyd Nation @ 8:04 pm: Under your definition, nearly everything is a political act, which makes the term “political act” lose all meaning. After all, for every action I take, I know it’s almost certain someone, somewhere considers it unacceptable.

  92. Boyd: some consider meat to be murder … shopping at Wal-Best-Home-Mart is an expression of a belief

    Shorter: All acts are political.

    Quickly followed by: And therefore anything anyone does to anyone we don’t like is OK.

    Parker: It is only true for one particular definition of “women’s health”

    Since it keeps making it into the news about someone pushing for a law that outlaws abortion, even if the life of the mother is endangered, I’m not sure what you’re basing that on other than making it mean whatever you want it to mean.

    if for no other reason than that it can mean whatever the speaker wants it to mean.

    Yeah, exactly.

  93. Parker: If in place of the abortion component of their business PP was subsidizing “hookers and blow” for the poor, no one would dare argue that it’s ok for them to get grant money for mammograms.

    Wait. what?

    PP is a women’s health organization. You just substituted an aspect of women’s health for something that is illegal.

    How does that have anything to do with PP anymore?

    Now, if you were talking about the Catholic church and its sexual predator problem a while back, then substituting “molesting choir boys” with “hookers and blow”, that might be an acceptable substitution.

  94. “Wait. what? You just substituted an aspect of women’s health for something that is illegal.”

    Yes, Greg. That was the point. I know it’s fun to cherry-pick, but context, i.e., the comment I was responding to, is important.

  95. @Boyd: You know, shoping at StuffMart might also be an expression of the belief “There is no other store within walking distance of where I live, and I don’t have a car”, or perhaps “I do not have enough money to buy food from the locally-owned Food Yuppique specialty grocery store”. Eating a hamburger might be an expression of the belief “I am hungry”. You’re arguing for a definition of political that, conveniently, lets you define all meaning out of the term.

    I don’t know why it’s so hard to simply say that you disapprove of PP and would prefer that SGK did not fund them. Contorting yourself into arguments that ‘everything is political’ is silly.

  96. So, anyone else been following the Fast Track comic strip series on the non-overlapping blogospheres?

    Yes, essentially all acts are political. Therefore, criticizing someone for politicizing an action is essentially a non-statement. That it would be convenient for those criticizing Komen at the moment for it be otherwise is unfortunate but irrelevant.

    Now, I do apologize for leading us a bit astray, in a sense. Leading back to the original topic, certainly, the PR aspects of this were handled poorly in an attempt by Komen and, one assumes, Karen Handel to have their cake and eat it too. However, on the big cosmic scale of badness, I’m not as bothered by their use of weasel words as I am by their past and future decision to subsidize abortion. The point where I came in was that they did not sufficiently publicize the initial decision to give money to PP — silence can be just as political as bungled PR releases.

  97. Boyd@10:29: in this particular echo chamber

    Hi!

    I’m not conservative in any meaningful sense (real life has more than one dimension, so the conservative/liberal thing is just silly for most thinking beings)

    Since all us conservative/liberals are incapable of thought, and since you are obviously in the superior “not-conservative-and-not-liberal” zone, perhaps you could enlighten us, oh wise and hyper intelligent thinking being…

    Boyd: some deeds are bad enough that having performed them once without repentance is enough

    And this from the thinking being who doesn’t succumb to one-dimensional views of the world.

    Boyd: Most of the relevant analogies would be needlessly inflammatory,

    Inflammatory you say? But totally accurate and correct, one assumes. If it hadn’t been for that pesky “inflamatory” bit, you’d have laid right into them?

    Boyd: One would have to both consider them a medical procedure and be unaware or unwilling to recognize that others disagree.

    Right. So, if I tape bacon to my cat, and if even a single person on the planet says that’s immoral, then taping bacon to my cat becomes “political”. Because what makes something “political” is that one other person disagrees with what I’m doing.

    Boyd: Yes, essentially all acts are political.

    Only if we use the dictionary you had humpty dumpty write for you.

    When one reviews all the juicy nuggets in your posts all at once, certain things become clear.

    First of all, expressing you’re opinion of yourself as the rare thinking being compared to the rest of us poor conservative/liberal two party unthinking plebians is an interesting way to establish a rapport with your audience. Good job that.

    Second, you hold abortion as immoral as murder. Unforgivable under any circumstance. Everything else simply falls into alignment with that absolute, whether it makes sense or not. Your re-definition of the word “political” didn’t make sense to me until I realized that people attacked Komen for being “political”, but you support Komen for dropping their donations to PP, so “political” is a critic of a pro-life position, and your response has nothing to do with a dictionary, and everything to do with “political” was used to attack someone you consider an ally, therefore you attack the defintion of “political” to defend Komen.

    Your behavior there is precisely a politically motivated action. Your definition of “political” is nonsense. If *everything* is political, then there is no point for the word to exist. Your definition is flat out wrong in the most basic level. The only reason you attempted to redefine it was for truly political reasons: because the term “political” was used to attack your ally Komen, so you attack the term “political”. Which you explain most succinctly here:

    Yes, essentially all acts are political. Therefore, criticizing someone for politicizing an action is essentially a non-statement.

    Criticism of Komen is a nonstatement because *wave magic wand to redefine words* you said so.

    This from the guy who starts off calling us unthinking two party pleebs in an echo chamber and introduces himself as the only thinking human being around. You start off with “Hello, my name is Wylly Coyote, Super Genius”, and then you put yourself in a catapult and fire yourself right into the side of a cliff.

  98. Yes, essentially all acts are political. Therefore, criticizing someone for politicizing an action is essentially a non-statement

    Excellent. You’re one of those Internet posters who don’t actually read what other people are saying. Good to know.

    (And John Scalzi, 3:36 am? Ouch.)

  99. @Boyd Nation:

    However, on the big cosmic scale of badness, I’m not as bothered by their use of weasel words as I am by their past and future decision to subsidize abortion.

    Two points Boyd.

    1) As far as I’m aware, there’s precisely zero evidence that Planned Parenthood has ever used a penny of funding from SGK for anything other than the declared purpose – which was not performing abortions. Where I come from, there are words for people who obtain money under false pretenses, misappropriate it and (presumably) knowingly make false declarations to an auditor. “Convicted fraudster” are two of the more printable. Might want to be careful about making insinuations of criminal wrongdoing there, mate.

    2) You may not care about the lack of accountability and transparency – or “weasel words” as you’ve tried to hand-wave it off in a weasel-like manner – shown by SGK. I expect a little better from charities because on the not at all cosmic scale of my household finances our charitable giving is a pretty big deal.

  100. Boyd @ 11:08 pm: However, on the big cosmic scale of badness, I’m not as bothered by their use of weasel words as I am by their past and future decision to subsidize abortion.

    Except that if I understand correctly, SGK did not subsidize abortions. They subsidized breast exams, and that is pretty much indisputably a good thing. The exams happen to be conducted by an organization that also performs abortions, which you and many others view as a bad thing. But that organization also happens to be very well known to the general public as a provider of reproductive healthcare, especially for women. Further, that organization has locations in all sorts of underserved communities across the country. Can you suggest an organization that is equally well-known, accessible, and capable that suits your morality? And if not, are you really willing to deny potentially life-saving screening to an underserved population because the organization that performs the screening happens to also do something else (totally unsupported by the SGK donations) that you consider wrong?

  101. And if not, are you really willing to deny potentially life-saving screening to an underserved population because the organization that performs the screening happens to also do something else (totally unsupported by the SGK donations) that you consider wrong?

    @FenianEMT: I think Boyd has made it perfectly clear that he most certainly is. I’m also fairly confident that his cosmic tolerance for weasel words would be much lower if SGK came up with a flimsy rationale to defund an organisation that was “subsidising” so-called abstinence education regardless of the collateral damage caused.

  102. Komen gave money to PP to be used for breast exams.
    PP used said given money for breast exams.
    PP also gets money from other sources and that money supports abortion services.
    Komen stopped donating money to PP for *breast exams* because PP also happens to support abortons.

    Imagine taking your kid to the emergency room because they fell out of a tree and got hurt, but then you find out the ER doctor happens to eat meat. And you’re a vegatarian. So you pull your kid OUT of that ER, drive across town to another ER that promises to be “veggie only”.

  103. hm. and just in case vegatarians read something into my post, its not that vegatarianism is bad or innately political. it becomes political in the analogy because whether the doctor was a vegatarianism or not has nothing to do with taking care of your kid.

    substitute vegatarian/carnivore with protestant/catholic if you are still stuck.

  104. Mildly sorry to have let the conversation die off while in transit today, although I think it had pretty much run its course, in the sense that anyone whose mind was going to be changed or broadened had picked up anything they were going to. Just to touch on a couple of points as I bow out of the discussion:

    - Abstinence education doesn’t work.
    - Money is still fungible.
    - If people stopped donating to PP as long as they provided abortion, then either the organization would stop providing abortions, or a similar organization would arise to provide the good services that PP currently provides. There would be truly unfortunate problems during the transition, but the death toll would be smaller than that under the current situation.

    I appreciate the politeness of most of you during this disagreement and hope that I have provided the same.

  105. There would be truly unfortunate problems during the transition, but the death toll would be smaller than that under the current situation.

    how polite.

  106. Just to touch on a couple of points as I bow out of the discussion

    Boyd, announcing that you’re getting the last word in is never polite, no matter how civilly phrased.

    “Money is fungible” is being used in a sloppy way here, and I won’t suggest intentionally so, but sloppy nonetheless. “Fungible” and “intermingled” are not synonyms.

    There is no evidence that PP would have used money otherwise spent on abortions to fund breast-cancer screening, and there is evidence to the contrary in the other direction, as SGK audited the use of those funds. PP did not shift funding from abortion to breast-cancer screening; they simply planned to shut down the screening, without affecting abortion at all.

    What is true is that the grant funds were being used by an organization that also, separately, provides abortions. There is nothing wrong with being offended by that, and choosing to send your charitable donations to organizations that have nothing to do with abortion.

  107. . There would be truly unfortunate problems during the transition, but the death toll would be smaller than that under the current situation.

    @Boyd: Please don’t bother responding to this, I’d rather you didn’t in fact. But I sincerely hope you never lose anyone who love to the kind of callous prickery you displayed in that comment. As Mythago said, you’re perfectly entitled to be offended by abortion providers and say that you’re not willing to direct your charitable giving in their direction. Treating low-income women whose lives may literally be saved by Planned Parenthood breast screenings as acceptable collateral damage in the service of your political ideology is beneath contempt.

  108. There would be truly unfortunate problems during the transition, but the death toll would be smaller than that under the current situation.

    This from the guy who criticized people for one-dimensional thinking?

    How many dimensions do you think you’re considering there, Boyd? I see only one: Abortion is unforgivable. And you’re willing to sacrifice anything to stop it. Well, to be clear, you’re not sacrificing yourself in anyway. No. Not yourself. But you certainly ARE willing to sacrifice women’s lives.

  109. If people stopped donating to PP as long as they provided abortion, then either the organization would stop providing abortions, or a similar organization would arise to provide the good services that PP currently provides. There would be truly unfortunate problems during the transition, but the death toll would be smaller than that under the current situation.

    We had to destroy the village to save it.

  110. So many men here who view women’s lives and health as expendable. Charming.

    For the record, you really cannot be in favor of promoting women’s health and against abortions. All the evidence, collected over time from many countries, shows that outlawing abortions has a deleterious effect on women’s health. The medical evidence is that birth is more dangerous to a woman’s physical and mental health than abortion is. If you oppose abortion, then you must admit to yourself and everyone else that you think that increasing the birth rate is more important than women’s health. That’s just reality. I understand that conservatives have lately been having lots of problems with this whole “reality” thing, and I think that that may be in part why Ms. Handel failed to do her job: being a conservative, she insulated herself from certain aspects of reality, namely, that people who truly, passionately care about women’s health (i.e., Komen’s target demographic) also tend to be pro-choice. Why is that? Well, because of the reality that abortion is an essential part of women’s health.

  111. @ Sally Strange

    Well, it’s not “so many.”

    Thank you, the qualification was genuinely appreciated. Many men are pro-choice. I’m pro-choice, not for any utilitarian principles of social engineering, but because I regard turning pregnancy into slavery to be abhorrent. I guess being anti-slavery can file under promoting mental health.

    Incidentally, I’m guessing that it’s forced birth that is deleterious to women’s health, as, given a choice, many women elect to have children. I only bring it up to preempt any idiotic anti-choice argument suggesting pro-choice proponents are opposed to pregnancy in general.

    If you oppose abortion, then you must admit to yourself and everyone else that you think that increasing the birth rate is more important than women’s health.

    They think unborn fetuses are distinct persons, despite all reason, because their religion tells them so. It’s imposing their religious views on everyone that’s more important to them. Not only do I doubt many care about how many people are born, but scant few seem interested in the welfare of the mother or child after they’ve forced the mother to complete the pregnancy.

    The debate is fundamentally irreconcilable. Religious zealots must simply be opposed and women’s sovereignty over their bodies maintained. Self-ownership is the keystone of justice. There can be no concord with an ideology that makes excuses for rendering human beings as property, or that sacrifices living people for unborn fetuses.

  112. I can’t believe no one has come up with the obvious conspiracy theory: Karen Handel is PRO Planned Parenthood and its defending by SGK was a conscious effort to raise awareness and donations for the organization. And it worked, smashingly.

    /end conspiracy theory.

    As for what makes an act political, I don’t think it’s a matter of personal belief but of cultural expectations. In the USA, my walking around in t-shirt and jeans is a non-political act. In Saudi Arabia, the same action would be political as I’m violating legal and social rules.

    When straight couples get married, it’s not a political act. When same-sex couples get married, it is political. It’s not necessarily because same-sex couples want it to be political (though some do), but because America has politicized the issue by passing legislation that denies or allows same-sex marriages.

    Given that a number of political groups are attempting to defund PP and in several states they’ve been able to and we have a presidential nominee who claims that women shouldn’t get abortions even if the pregnancy is a result of sexual assault, I’d suggest that giving funds (or not) to PP is political. Now, you may say that it’s ridiculous: only 3% of PP’s funds go to abortion services and donations can be earmarked to the other 97%. I’d agree. It’s also ridiculous that a black woman sitting in the front of the bus was once political.

  113. They think unborn fetuses are distinct persons, despite all reason, because their religion tells them so. It’s imposing their religious views on everyone that’s more important to them. Not only do I doubt many care about how many people are born, but scant few seem interested in the welfare of the mother or child after they’ve forced the mother to complete the pregnancy.

    However they phrase their justifications, the end result is an increase in the birth rate. I think it’s worthwhile pointing out that that is the end result of their beliefs. Since most people understand that overpopulation by humans is a pretty serious problem, and only an idiot would think that increasing the birth rate is a good idea.

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