Komen Continues and Whatever Happened to Assange?

ACORN International Organizing
Team ACORN Paterno Paolo Guarnaccia and Astrid V. Anselmi

Paterno     After days of heated discussions the leaders of La Citta finally saw that the sides might be divided on candidates for mayor but could be united on a democratic process for selecting the candidate.  Being able to put aside individual differences and preferences for the good of the entire movement is an important early test for organizational survival, especially under political pressure.  The meeting last evening ended early for a change and everyone left with a smile on their face rather than shouting last remarks.  These are all good signs.

Another good sign half-way across the world was the announcement of the resignation of the polarizing and controversial VP for public policy and former losing candidate for governor in Georgia and staunch anti-abortion campaigner and anti-Planned Parenthood advocate.  She left without either grace or surprise given the reversal of the defunding of Planned Parenthood under withering public pressure and outrage by women and some of their own affiliates.    It seemed important to her to say that the Komen Foundation was already moving on a Planned Parenthood ban before she came on the scene and took the job, and that, yes, she had advocated the defunding, but wanted to make sure everyone knew that every level of the organization had vetted and approved the decision all the way to the board and no doubt to the founder and CEO of the foundation.   

All of which just deepens the indictment of the Susan Komen Foundation and makes the case even more clear that the Georgian had been hired in all likelihood to take the right wing heat off of Komen, but then the deluge.  It seems clear that Komen is simply trying to shelter itself from the wind without any true core around its mission and means.  The founder spoke of learning lessons and recommitting to the mission to protect women, but I have to ask what that means at this point.  Out of $97,000,000 in grants to support women’s community health initiatives, $700000 to Planned Parenthood was already a paltry sum…less than 1% of the operation’s total funding.   When it comes to protecting women’s health, we all need an outfit that we can depend on come any weather, and Komen seems not to be ready to stand in the storm and take the gale.  The emerging organizations suggesting that there might be better ways and better places for donations to support women seem worth a good look.

There are other lessons here from the Planned Parenthood resistance to the defunding purges of the right and easily cowed liberals.  Outfits like Komen depend on the public as do corporations like Ford, which quickly distanced itself from the Komen mess.  If support for organizations unjustly attacked develops resistance, then those kinds of institutions and organizations are force to heel to some level of accountability.  More authoritarian, hierarchical and closed institutions like churches and private philanthropic foundations lack any accountability or transparency, so are immune to questions of fairness or justice when they desert organizations under scurrilous attack, like ACORN and others.  NPR might have support from the public but also depends on the government, and the ideological warfare in the halls of government is scorching the earth everywhere.  These are hard times.

And, hey, whatever happened to Julian Assange and Wikileaks, speaking of beleaguered operations.  I read a curious and contradictory interview in The Rolling Stone which made it virtually impossible to sort out if there was any future for the organization.  Assange jumped back and forth between coherence and a kind of conspiratorial, head over his shoulder attitude that couldn’t be helpful in saving the value of the operation.  Speculation is that his hearing in Britain was likely to result in his extradition to Sweden.  Not sure if there’s a future for this organization, no matter how valuable it has been around the world, if there’s no willingness to learn a way to communicate a better, clearer path to the future.