Squaring the Culture




"...and I will make justice the plumb line, and righteousness the level;
then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and the waters will overflow the secret place."
Isaiah 28:17

09/24/2009 (9:45 am)

What's Wrong With This Picture?

The video to the left is from the recent sting operation by independent reporters regarding the Baltimore office of ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. We all know the story by now; the reporters pose as pimp and prostitute, the workers give them advice how to game the tax laws. (You can read about how the project came about here.)

Yesterday, ACORN filed suit in Circuit Court for Baltimore City against Andrew Breitbart, the owner of the Big Government blog on which the films were presented, and against Hannah Giles and James O’Keefe, the two reporters who posed in the video. They seek punitive and compensatory damages for their ruined reputations, and they seek an injunction to stop the circulation of the videos. Good luck with the latter — they’re on YouTube and they’ve gone viral.

The two employees who were captured on video have been fired by ACORN. The organization has frozen hiring until an investigation is complete. Congress has cut off federal funding for the organization. ACORN claims damage was done to its reputation, and claims also that the two employees, Thompson and WIlliams, suffered “extreme emotional distress” as a result of the video. Also, the lawsuit claims that O’Keefe and Giles violated Maryland law by taping audio without the consent of the people being taped.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Put yourself in the place of a legitimate citizen organization. You’ve been visited by a hostile team of reporters who are aiming at ruining your reputation. They’ve discovered a pair of rogues working in one of your offices, and broadcast the video of these two clowns violating your organization’s clear intent and helping criminals establish businesses that hide their crimes and steal from the taxpayers. Your reputation has suffered, your donors are running for the hills, and you want compensation.

Why the hell are you concerned about the “extreme emotional distress” of the two human sewers that the reporters discovered? These two are the reason the reporters were able to ruin your reputation! You should be suing them! Sure, it makes sense also to sue the reporters to get compensation for the damage, but you should be suing these employees for every penny they earn for the rest of their lives, for bringing their garbage into your legitimate place of business and making your organization look like a criminal enterprise. You should be spreading memos throughout the organization with pictures and descriptions of those two, saying “If you do what these two did, expect to be fired, jailed, folded, spindled, mutilated, and have teams of flesh-eating lawyers gobbling the income from your estate for the rest of eternity.”

CNN’s story on the matter cites a relevant falsehood (without identifying it as a falsehood.) It says:

ACORN — the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now — said O’Keefe and Giles also attempted to capture similar videos at ACORN offices in other cities but failed.

What they do not say is that O’Keefe and Giles claim exactly the opposite — that they visited exactly five ACORN offices, and obtained exactly five videos of employees helping them break the law. They had no trouble finding ACORN employees to help them, because that’s what ACORN does: it helps people break the law.

So why is ACORN listing the pain and suffering of these employees in the lawsuit? Simply because the lawsuit is not aimed at producing justice. They know other employees are engaged in precisely the same activity. They hire them to do that. If they went after the employees like a sane organization would, they would lose all their employees overnight. So they can’t do that.

The purpose of the lawsuit, frankly, is to discourage honest people from attacking ACORN, so they can continue to operate without scrutiny. They want people to think twice before blowing the whistle on their criminal enterprise. And the purpose for listing the pain and suffering of criminals in the complaint is to throw more mud on the wall to see what sticks. If they manage to get a judge to award them compensation for the suffering of these two, all that much more pain for the reporters who dared to cross them. It can’t hurt their lawsuit, so they do it.

The lawsuit is not about justice, not even a little. The whole picture does not look like a legitimate organization seeking redress of real grievances. It looks like a criminal enterprise engaging in warfare.


ACORN has the right in the United States to sue in court to seek compensation for damages. That’s the legal side, and the rights of individuals, regardless of how vicious or immoral they might be, must be protected equally, or none of us are safe. Courtesy of one of my commenters, allow me to quote a conversation from the 1966 film A Man for All Seasons, between Sir Thomas More and his son-in-law to be, William Roper:

William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!
Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
William Roper: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!

Having said that, I want to be clear: I believe that what these reporters did was morally right. I believe that ACORN is a deeply corrupt organization, from top to bottom. I believe that ACORN’s employees were doing precisely what they were hired to do, and that they were fired solely for appearance’s sake. I do not believe any other conclusion is possible.

And I believe this lawsuit is an evil act.

The phrase that comes to my mind is from the prophet Isaiah, where he condemns the Israelites for fasting with wrong motives: he says they pray and fast in order to “strike with a wicked fist.” (Isaiah 58:4, New American Standard Version) That’s what ACORN is doing here. They got caught doing what they do. They are using the laws of the land to punish the righteous for exposing them, to make sure nobody else ever exposes them again without thinking twice. They want to perform their evil deeds in the dark, as evil people always do. So they use the laws to punish the righteous.

wrybob1This is not, by far, the only sort of misuse of the system we call “Justice.” Research has established that one of the greatest contributors to the costs of medical care is what we call “defensive medicine,” medicine that serves no purpose other than to protect the doctor, and more to the point, the insurer, against lawsuits. This has become necessary because people use the courts, not to get justice, but to get rich. They sue if the doctor makes an error (which is common enough, since doctors are human,) or if nature deals them a bad hand and they can blame the doctor somehow. They reason, “The doctor has lots, and I have only a little, so why shouldn’t I get some of it?” The sort of thinking that says “I should only ask for what is just” has vanished from our culture. So has the sort of thinking that says “I should offer what is just,” because lawsuits have driven that sort of thing underground. One does not admit error, because that puts you at risk in the lawsuit. We have become corrupt, and our corruption has broken the system of justice.

I’ve begun a series of articles reviewing theological thinking about politics in the American colonies before the American Revolution. It’s a bit boring, but the reason I’m doing it is so I can wrap my mind around what it might take to build, from the ground up, a society that honors God’s laws, that rewards righteousness and discards wickedness as though it were garbage. The current American system does not do that; it rewards wickedness, and protects it.

The system actually protects righteous people if the people are, on the whole, righteous. The reason the system protects wickedness is that the land is full of wicked people. We have become corrupt, and have earned our demise. We need to resurrect righteous thinking; we need to mark the money-grubbing that abuses the system as the evil that it is, and we need to resist that sort of thinking when it arises within ourselves. We need to call corruption by its name, and we need to root it out from among us, “…each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1)

The cure begins in the mirror; each of us bears the responsibility to become righteous, and the responsibility to learn to think, speak, and act like righteous men and women. The only version of this that will bear legitimate fruit is the version that relies on God, Himself, to build righteousness in us. No counterfeit will produce anything worthwhile. The mere fact that one calls oneself “Christian” (or any other denomination) does not produce what’s needed. It’s just as easy for a Christian to get greedy or foolish as it is anybody else. What we’re after is not religious words, but godly behavior; not church attendance, but decency.

There can be no other foundation for a righteous nation; the laws that defend liberty, defend wickedness where wickedness is common. The only solution is to make wickedness uncommon.

John Adams’ name has risen in esteem recently, as historians rediscover the mark he left on the fledgling nation, so I’ll end this by recalling his warning issued to militiamen of Massachusetts in 1798:

We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge or gallantry would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution is designed only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for any other.

We are no longer a moral and religious people, so ACORN is free to strike with wicked fists against the righteous who expose their criminality. This does not have to be, but the cure begins right there where you sit.

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42 Comments »

September 24, 2009 @ 11:14 am #

Beginning to end, a good article.

From the beginning: Heh. I think this falls in the category of “PLEEZE don’t throw me in the briar patch!” I can’t believe that ACORN is suing – and I think they’ll regret having done so. I think they’ve walked into a major trap, and somehow either don’t see it or think their connections will be able to protect them from discovery.

From the end: “Our Constitution is designed only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for any other.” This is an absolutely critical statement for anyone who wishes to completely disassociate religion from law to consider. In many online conversations, the topic of whether an atheist can be “moral”. The statement that “atheists can be just as moral as theists” is proposed. Of course, in a sense, it can be true, but you cannot get people with such a position to clarify their source of “moral” behavior.

Either we are disciplined or we are not. If we _are_, then the discipline is either internal or external. Internal discipline is that which is developed through the moral teachings of parents to children. If we lack that foundation, then the law enforces discipline (of a sort) extenally. If you develop a society where the primary discipline of the citizens is external, then the question becomes whether you can ever make enough laws to have an orderly society. Can they be enforced? can they be enforced without corruption (which I define here as meaning those in power _choosing_ who will have to obey the laws and who will not).

If you favor keeping religion and law separate, chances are you favor making the law as the sole arbiter of societies standards. There’s really no accountability of the enforcer to anybody, which means that corruption is almost inevitable. “Equal justice before the law” is a remarkable concept when you think about it. Are our legislators and governors today really as accountable as the average citizen? If not…why not?

September 24, 2009 @ 2:23 pm #

RedState deconstructs this lawsuit in Watch me Get the ACORN Lawsuit Dismissed in 15 Minutes (or Less) I don’t know how to do Trackback thingies, but the article states:

The problem, however, is that the statute specifically defines “oral communication” in section 10-401(2)(i) as: “any conversation or words spoken to or by any person in private conversation.”

The problem for ACORN is that, as a matter of law, the employees at ACORN had no reasonable expectation of privacy in what they said to members of the public who entered their offices. As made clear by Katz v. United States and its progeny (made applicable specifically to the Maryland Wiretap Act by cases such as Malpas v. State, 695 A.2d 588, 595 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 1997)), “What a person exposes knowingly to the public, even in his own home or office, is not a subject of Fourth Amendment protection.”

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that O’Keefe and Giles investigated the law before proceeding. Getting involved in the U.S. legal system will be punishment enough for them, but the publicity will only hurt ACORN more.

September 24, 2009 @ 3:12 pm #

Mr.Cooper…

I suspect you misunderestimate the young people and Breitbart…

Yes, they could probably get the suit dismissed. But why would they? They are about to break open a juicy watermelon…the cash awards they will reap will far exceed the cost of defending the suit, I think. I think it’s going to prove to be the gift that keeps on giving…

September 24, 2009 @ 3:40 pm #

Phil,

I’m still reviewing the materials you pointed me to. I’ll tell you now that I’ve encountered some mismanagement and internal corruption – which is not uncommon among large organizations – and convictions for filing false voter registration forms – most of which resulted from ACORN reporting its own employees to the authorities. What I haven’t encounted is evidence of ACORN being a criminal enterprise.

I’ve encountered lots of plausible yet unsupported inferences to that effect. I’ve also encountered lots of conclusory allegations that were presented as facts. But I’ve encountered no facts that would justify my belief that ACORN is a criminal enterprise.

Perhaps I’m just blinded by my ideological tendencies. If that’s the case, perhaps you or you readers can assist me by pointing me in the direction of ACTUAL FACTS – rather than plausible but otherwise unsupported inferences – suggesting that ACORN is a criminal enterprise.

And let me ask you in advance to be patient with me. If ACORN is a criminal enterprise, as you claim, I want to know it. I’m asking you and your readers sincerely, to point me to the facts that establish this. Please resist the temptation to denounce me as too partisan to respond to. If the facts are as clear as you say, your task will be easy.

Also, I wanted to point something out about your assumptions. You said in your post:

“CNN’s story on the matter cites a relevant falsehood (without identifying it as a falsehood.) It says:

ACORN — the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now — said O’Keefe and Giles also attempted to capture similar videos at ACORN offices in other cities but failed.

What they do not say is that O’Keefe and Giles claim exactly the opposite — that they visited exactly five ACORN offices, and obtained exactly five videos of employees helping them break the law. They had no trouble finding ACORN employees to help them, because that’s what ACORN does: it helps people break the law.”

How do you know which of the parties are telling the truth? Do you have any justification for accepting the “reporters” word at face value and rejecting the ACORN spokesman’s word – other than your pre-existing belief in ACORN’s corruption? And if you don’t have any other justification, how can you state as fact what is reasonably in dispute?

This is what I’m talking about. Much of what I discovered in the materials you pointed me to were these kinds of “facts” – which are nothing more than diputable propositions stated as fact. These are not the kind of facts I’m looking for.

Thanks,

Joe H.

September 24, 2009 @ 4:24 pm #

suek –

Are you saying they’re likely to counter-sue? On what are you basing that expectation?

September 24, 2009 @ 4:36 pm #

Some of it is evil, but there is an element that simply involves how the legal system is set up.

Years ago I became involved in a lawsuit when a tenant turned out to be straight out of that Michael Keaton movie called Pacific Heights. The one where the tenant gamed the system to drive his landlord crazy. My tenant was actually overheard saying “This is what we do. We’ll wear them down because we know how to work the system, and we have less to lose than they do.”

Anyway, my attorney told me that during his years of landlord/tenant representation, it had become very apparent to him that the law favored either deadbeat tenants or sleazy landlords. Those who tried to do the right thing but ran into problems, and looked to the system to help make things right, almost invariably found theselves on the short end of the stick. Those who could care less about their reputations, or any type of ethics, and were willing to cynically push the envelope of the system, almost always came out on top.

We will see how this one shakes down.

September 24, 2009 @ 5:53 pm #

I’m saying that as a party being sued, they have a right to discovery. ACORN has been very resistant to efforts to clarify their organizational structure and their connections to the other nearly 300 organizations they interweave with. I can’t help but think that discovery – if not severely restricted – is likely to reveal more than ACORN wants to reveal.

September 24, 2009 @ 6:10 pm #

Joe H…

What is _your_ definition of a “criminal enterprise”?

For example, if their goal is not specifically criminal – say, for example, putting _their_ candidate into office then they have a legitimate organization, imo. Now if they have something legal as their goal, but don’t care if what they do to accomplish their goal is criminal, are they then a criminal organization? Do they have to direct their employees to do what’s illegal to qualify as a criminal organization, or just be negligent? Let’s say, for example, that they hire former jailbirds almost exclusively, if those former inmates then committed crimes would that be something that made the organization criminal? How about if the organization somehow benefitted by their crimes?
What level of criminal participation by employees would you have to see to consider the organization itself to be criminal?

September 24, 2009 @ 6:28 pm #

Suek,

I could give you my definition of a criminal enterprise, but because Phil is the one who made the accusation, perhaps we should get his definition.

Joe H.

September 24, 2009 @ 6:52 pm #

Phil, here’s another excerpt from your post that illustrates my problem with your theory, and my need for established facts. You argued:

“So why is ACORN listing the pain and suffering of these employees in the lawsuit? Simply because the lawsuit is not aimed at producing justice. They know other employees are engaged in precisely the same activity. They hire them to do that. If they went after the employees like a sane organization would, they would lose all their employees overnight. So they can’t do that.”

Aside from the fact that there are obvious alternative reasons for employers not to go after former employees – Acorn hires poor people who are almost certainly judgment proof, and ACORN would be immediately counterclaimed – your theory makes no sense. If ACORN hired these people to do exactly what they were doing, the fired employees should be suing ACORN. ACORN, after all, is a deep pocket. And if ACORN truly hired these employees to break the law, ACORN would be almost certain to settle these cases quickly, to keep their rampant criminalty hidden. Moreover, the two employees would not be subjecting themselves to additional legal exposure, given that they are on tape giving the advice they gave.

In fact, if your claims about ACORN’s criminality are accurate, the best way to destroy ACORN would be to get these two fired employees to sue. The quick pre-discovery settlement, and ensuing publicity, would encourage a flood of similar litigation on behalf of thousands of current and former ACORN employees (who could claim that they were duped by ACORN into participating in a criminal enterprise, and were thereby defamed).

Do you see why I’m skeptical?

Anyway, what established facts justify your belief that ACORN “knows what these people are doing” and “hires them to do exactly that.” Do you have any evidence supporting these allegations? If so, point it out. Again, don’t give me plausible but unsupported inferences – give me facts.

Joe H

September 24, 2009 @ 7:54 pm #

>>Anyway, what established facts justify your belief that ACORN “knows what these people are doing” and “hires them to do exactly that.”>>

This falls into the same category as the Health Bill and illegal immigrant beneficiaries. That is, Obama is right – the bill states that the benefits are not available to illegals. However, there is no means of determining who is an illegal, or who is a citizen, and the Dems have 6 times defeated amendments to include a requirement to prove citizenship or at least legal residence in the us. Effectively, then, even though the bill specifically excludes illegals, because there is deliberately no enforcement possible, it includes illegals.

I see ACORN as the same – what are they doing to exclude such people as workers? In fact, those workers who were fired (actually, it appears that they were NOT fired, but suspended without pay)were actually long term ACORN workers.

Would that fact change your viewpoint?

September 24, 2009 @ 8:15 pm #

Suek,

I don’t know what ACORN is doing or not doing to prevent workers from doing things like what was seen on the videos.

But that is the wrong question. Failing to effectively exclude bad workers is quite different from intentiionally hiring people specifically to do bad things. Phil claimed that ACORN was intentionally hiring people to do bad things. I merely asked him what evidence his conclusion is based on?

Credible testimony – subject to proper cross examination – in which an ACORN official testified that it hired people/was hired, to perform illegal acts, would be good evidence.

By the way, taking videos of people without their consent is not illegal in most of the states where ACORN operates. If ACORN is truly hiring people and instructing them to break the law, the “reporters” have conclusively demonstrated that there would be little to no difficulty for reporters to infiltrate ACORN and get footage of ACORN superiors instructing employees to break the law.

That would be factual evidence of Phil’s claim.

Joe H.

September 24, 2009 @ 8:30 pm #

Phil–

I’m sorry you have all these trolls on your site, but I guess that’s an indication that your posts are hitting some people where it hurts.

Something about ‘Maryland’ and ‘Illegal recording’ triggered a memory cell, so I did a little searching and the name Linda Tripp came up. In 1997, she was indicted in Maryland for ‘wiretapping’ Monica Lewinsky and put through the legal wringer, but the result was:

“All charges against Tripp were dismissed on May 26, 2000 when the prosecution decided not to proceed with the trial of the case.”

September 24, 2009 @ 9:01 pm #

Trying to draw the conclusions from John C.’s deliberately provocative sentence…

The possibilities?

1. “If you disagree with me, you’re a troll.”

As Joe mentioned before, not very helpful at getting at truth, but it makes great playground bully material? If this is your point, what kind of dark crap do you have in that background of yours, John?

2. “I know Joe said name-calling wasn’t particularly useful, but I’ll do it again anyway just to piss him off!”

This one can only mean one thing…in his head, John is still three, sitting in the back seat and needling his 2-year-old brother into crying again. If this is where you’re going, get on to maturity, would ya?

There is actually the potential for a very good conversation going here – downright civil! I’m all for it…and hope it proceeds.

September 24, 2009 @ 11:11 pm #

FWIW, I believe an organization has an affirmative duty to see to it that its employees behave and operate in an ethical manner.

From what I have seen and read, I do not believe ACORN hires employees and tells them in so many words that they need to break laws to accomplish the organization’s goals.

But I do believe they have a feeling of entitlement – that the ends to which they aspire are not only desirable, but that they are their right. And that any means neccessary will be tolerated to assist in achieving these goals.

I don’t know if I would label it a criminal organization from what I know at this point. I think of a criminal organization as something like the Mafia, or a drug cartel, or the Crips, or the Aryan Brotherhood. All the members are criminals per se and the organization basically exists to “profit” by committing crimes.

I think of Acorn as more akin to an organization that has become corrupt to its soul through hubris, a blind eye by the media and others who should have been paying attention, political correctness, the presence of some criminals in the organization who would not hesitate to break the law to further their ends, and other such factors. I can’t help but think of Enron, with its cabal of crooked leaders and many young masters of the universe who followed those leaders blindly.

Anyway, these definitions are somewhat academic. I believe at a certain point an organization becomes corrupt enough that there is no turning back or re-establishing of credibility possible, and I do believe the corruption in Acorn is systemic enough that is has reached that point.

September 25, 2009 @ 6:39 am #

Joe wrote:

Aside from the fact that there are obvious alternative reasons for employers not to go after former employees – Acorn hires poor people who are almost certainly judgment proof, and ACORN would be immediately counterclaimed – your theory makes no sense. If ACORN hired these people to do exactly what they were doing, the fired employees should be suing ACORN.

What you’re arguing here is why ACORN did not go after the two employees. My observation included that, but added something else: why is ACORN listing their pain and suffering as a harm in the complaint? A legitimate organization recently burned by the flagrant misbehavior of these two would not be concerned about their pain and suffering, and would actually consider that suffering just desserts for the damage they did. So, I’m standing by my original theory as the best fit to the facts.

As to the ACORN employees suing ACORN, I agree, they should be. But, as you point out, they’re poor, which usually means they’re unfamiliar with the legal system, think they can’t afford a lawyer, can’t interest lawyers in their cases, and often can easily be intimidated. Also, it’s fairly likely that they believe in ACORN’s cause, and understand why they had to be let go. So it’s pretty unlikely they would sue. The reports we’ve heard about ACORN’s general mistreatment of employees suggest that they’re pretty well aware of the power they have over poor employees; I suspect they have deliberate tactics for keeping the lawsuit potential out of the minds of their staff, and/or intimidating those who might think of it.

As to this:

In fact, if your claims about ACORN’s criminality are accurate, the best way to destroy ACORN would be to get these two fired employees to sue. The quick pre-discovery settlement, and ensuing publicity, would encourage a flood of similar litigation on behalf of thousands of current and former ACORN employees (who could claim that they were duped by ACORN into participating in a criminal enterprise, and were thereby defamed).

…I hadn’t thought of that, and I note that using the legal system as a weapon is a common tactic of the left, but not a common tactic of the right. I guess it’s an artifact of the disproportionate political leanings among attorneys.

It’s also probably impractical. As I said above, I’m guessing that the two employees are supportive of ACORN’s cause and understand why they had to be let go. They would probably rather cut off their fingers than cooperate with Andrew Breitbart in a lawsuit against ACORN. Nobody ever said partisanship was sensible.

A number of commenters over at RedState.com thought of suek’s notion, that discovery gives the defendants access to documentation they would not have access to otherwise, and suggest that ACORN made a tactical mistake by suing. It’s actually a mistake I would expect from an organization that’s used to getting its way by bullying.

September 25, 2009 @ 7:00 am #

Hey, John:

Darkhorse is a guy I’ve known online for about 15 years; I wouldn’t call him a troll. Joe Huster is his best friend; darkhorse introduced us about 2 years ago via email. So I would not call him a troll, either. Frankly, I’m a little disappointed that I don’t have real trolls here, although I have mixed feelings when the “Sadly, No” folks list me in their wall of shame. The occasional notice I get from number2pencil, who I believe to be an employee of the DNC, and from the White House on health care topics, I count as positive recognition.

I did remember that the lefties used Maryland’s wiretap law to harass another good citizen; thanks for reminding us all. I also recall that somebody paid some old couple in Florida to record Newt Gingrich’s private conversations using sophisticated recording gear that they just happened to have in their car, and that the folks who applauded the persecution of Linda Tripp (who was WELL within both moral and legal bounds to act as she did) were predictably silent about the flagrant violation of the law in Gingrich’s case. It’s incidents like these that confirm my conclusion, from long observation, that Democrats generally use moral principles like a beer bottle in a brawl: grab it and hit somebody with it when it’s useful, discard it as soon as it gets in the way.

September 25, 2009 @ 8:43 am #

Hi, Joe,

First off, thanks for keeping the discussion calm and friendly. I’m also attempting to scale back the intensity of my verbal assaults, as I’m learning at long last that my anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness, and really does not accomplish any purpose that I need to be pursuing either. So, it’s good that we can keep this friendly.

However, that does not mean that I’m any more agreeable to playing asymmetrical games which I’ve found so many leftists are so good at — the sort of game in which the leftist takes the position “What’s mine is mine, but what’s yours is negotiable,” or the similar game in which all claims from the right have to meet a courtroom standard of evidence, but all claims from the left are accepted without question. The left has, for example, painted a picture of Karl Rove as The Master Underhanded Tactician, wherein he plants embarrassing or criminal thoughts in the minds of Democrats in the middle of the night and then flies away, cackling on his broomstick, while the hapless Democrat is left flapping the breeze with his malfeasance showing in public. If we apply the standard Joe is applying to ACORN, here, Mr. Rove is as pure as the wind-driven snow, and so was Richard Nixon, as neither of these have ever been indicted for any crime, let alone convicted.

More to the point, I recall a discussion in which I compared the reported elements of the CIA’s interrogation program against practices for which we prosecuted Japanese officers for war crimes, and found no similarity worthy of notice — and Joe’s response was to note that we did not know what was done by the CIA’s interrogators out of the public eye. In that instance, Joe used the absence of evidence to suggest a crime; in this case, though, he uses the absence of evidence as support for the claim that there is no crime. So I’m seeing differing standards of evidence that appear to depend on Joe’s predispositions.

That’s common enough among humans, but it’s not where we want to operate.

The correct standard is in the middle between those two points. The absence of evidence cannot be used as proof of a crime, but this blog is not a courtroom, and none of us use courtroom standards to draw conclusions about the affairs of the day, nor should we. In fact, the more correct standard of evidence for us to use is that of a reporter, or perhaps of a police detective; we’re following clues to see if we can determine what probably happened, and only after we have a theory that explains the facts adequately are we concerned about discovering a courtroom standard of proof. Circumstantial evidence may not be sufficient to convict in a court of law (though it is sometimes,) but it can be sufficient to convince that police detective that he’s pursuing the right suspect — and it’s proper for that to be our standard as well.

The evidence supporting the claim that the tactic of abusing the voter registration process is an organization-wide tactic has already been supplied, at least 3 times and possibly more, on at least 2 other threads. To rehearse: consistent pattern across at least 20 states; instructions in their written manual; testimony implicating national-level ACORN officers in a plea agreement; organization deliberately constructed to direct blame at lowest level; history suggesting the strategy. With regard to Joe’s question, I would think that the 2nd and 3rd items in this list would be dispositive.

The more serious claim is that the organization is structured to perpetrate a fraud, obtaining under false pretense public money granted for non-partisan purposes and redirecting it to partisan purposes. As I’ve noted several times, the senior members of the organization identify it in internal documents as a key player in the securing and use of government power by Progressives — and yet, the organization routinely represents itself to the public as non-partisan and non-profit for tax and funding purposes.

I’ll say this as clearly as it can be said: if this is deliberate, it is fraud. I’ll go further: if this is deliberate, the ENTIRE ORGANIZATION is DELIBERATELY DESIGNED to commit this fraud. Joe knows this — and has yet to say word 1 about it. I would think that Joe, as a corporate attorney, would have some knowledge of the uses to which a flexible network of related corporations might be put, and would immediately suspect a shell game when he sees a structure like ACORN’s. If the structure is done deliberately to obscure the transfer of funds from non-partisan to partisan organizations, in order to facilitate partisan ends with funds obtained from the government on the basis of non-partisan status, then the entire organization is a criminal enterprise.

One of the features most frequently noted about the operation of the network of corporations in ACORN is that there seem to be no secure walls between the partisan functions and the non-partisan functions. Those portions of the organization employ the same people, and occupy the same physical spaces. The funds seems to flow seamlessly from one group to another, with no accounting that is available to the public. Former employees who are blowing the whistle, insist that the key to understanding the organization is to look at their accounting books — and also insist that high-level employees who have been fired, have been fired explicitly for asking for the books. If there is any internal accounting at all, and if funds are moving from non-partisan to partisan parts of the organization (or vice-versa,) the senior levels of ACORN have to know it; and if they don’t, they’re guilty of criminal malfeasance. That’s the BEST CASE. The worst is a lot more sinister, and also a lot more plausible.

Evidence is beginning to turn up that the conspiracy actually goes outside the organization. To wit — unions have been found to be directing funds to ACORN. This has to be partisan; what does ACORN have to do with unions? The Obama campaign was discovered moving funds to ACORN in a fraudulent fashion. Again, this has to be partisan. Democrats, up until the recent sting operations that suddenly turned ACORN toxic to politicians, have been defending ACORN funding tenaciously, and deflecting any inquiries. John Conyers, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, recently backed away from an investigation of ACORN with the observation that “the powers that be decided against it.” What “powers that be” can alter the decisions of the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee? Why would those powers want to avoid investigations of ACORN?

Joe could get his courtroom proof of all this if state attorneys general would investigate and prosecute. Some are starting to move in that direction, while Democrats in office are running away from ACORN as quickly as possible. And I understand his reticence to accept that his own party has been engaging in systematic fraud at the highest levels. But he should begin to admit, if only to himself, that that’s what it looks like has been going on. ACORN is a criminal enterprise — but the criminal enterprise is far wider, and seems to encompass the leadership of the Progressive movement.

September 25, 2009 @ 9:21 am #

Actually, now that I’ve written that diatribe, I really want to ask Joe only one question with two follow-up questions, and hear his response:

If I walk into 5 separate McDonald’s restaurants in 5 different cities and order a Quarter-Pounder, and in each of the 5 instances a different server behind the counter asks me, “Would you like fries with that?” is it reasonable to conclude that the McDonald’s organization is instructing its counter help chain-wide to up-sell french fries?

If the answer is “Yes” — and if it’s not, he’d better have a bullet-proof explanation, ’cause it sure seems reasonable to me — then why is it not reasonable to conclude that an organization for which 70 employees have been arrested in 20 different locations for doing precisely the same thing, has been instructing its employees to do that thing? And why is it not reasonable to conclude, when a pimp and prostitute walk into 5 separate ACORN offices in 5 separate cities and get handled in exactly the same way all 5 times (a way that facilitates them breaking the law,) that the organization has been instructing its employees to respond to law-breakers in that fashion?

I’m really curious to hear this answer.

September 25, 2009 @ 3:39 pm #

Phil,

The answer to your “McDonalds” question is “yes.” But the McDonalds example is disanalogous to the ACORN examples in critical respects.

First, McDonalds is in the business of selling food. McDonalds’ stated purpose is to sell as much food as it can. Your conclusion, that the supervisors are instructing their line workers to ask people about purchasing additional foods makes perfect sense, given the purpose of McDonalds, and given what we know about marketing. It is not only a plausible explanation. It is the only reasonable explanation for their behavior. If someone claimed that this behavior stemmed from a secret desire of McDonalds’ employees to “fatten people up,” I’d have good reason to reject that explanation.

In the ACORN examples, we first don’t know (for a fact) that the “reporters” went to only five ACORN offices. That is what they said, but the ACORN spokesperson said otherwise. Both parties have a potential incentive to lie, so that claim remains in dispute.

Second, in each of the ACORN examples, there are other explanations, equally or more plausible than the one you’ve settled on. This distinguishes them from the McDonalds example.

On the “voters’ fraud” issue, the counter explanation is obvious – in each of these cases, low paid workers have a direct financial incentive to cut corners on signing people up to vote. Absent any intent to match these false registrations up with fraudulent voters, ACORN has no apparent reason to submit false voter registrations – your belief that they do so to undermine democracy is not very convincing.

Thus, absent direct evidence, it is unreasonable to conclude that submitting false voter registrations is ACORN’s policy.

As to the five ACORN workers’ responses to the “reporters,” here’s a link to what I think is an equally plausible explanation:

http://www.anonymousliberal.com/2009/09/why-acorn-stings-really-bother-me.html

This will probably strike you as an exercise in “after the fact excuse making,” but I suspect that this is primarily due to the fact that you are already convinced that ACORN is corrupt. The explanation strikes me far differently, probably because I have yet to become convinced of the “ACORN is corrupt” premise.

At any rate, the financial incentive explanation is a far better explanation of the voter fraud charges, particularly given that most of the convictions were the result of ACORN turning their employees into the authorities. The “shocked response” explanation is a plausible explanation for the behavior we saw, particularly if we drop the disputed premise that the “reporters” went five for five.

Third, ACORN’s “official purpose” is not to give illegal tax advice or submit false voter registrations, or to accomplish anything else that requires them to give illegal tax advice or submit false voter registrations. They have been accused of having these purposes while providing the public with other “official” purposes, but that is what these examples supposedly prove. To see these examples as analogous to the McDonalds’ example, we have to assume what the examples supposedly give us reason to believe – which is begging the question.

So, no, I don’t think the analogy works. ACORN might still be corrupt, but the McDonalds’ analogy does not justify that conclusion.

Joe H.

September 25, 2009 @ 5:30 pm #

Joe,
No ACORN is not in the business of selling food. What they are in the business of is exerting influence within a community. Ostensibly, this is in order to get people involved so as to better community participation in various activities. One might be voter participation, another might be to get people involved in a neighborhood watch program.

So, in order to get this participation for what they want, they have a vested interest in not being too hard on the activities of the residents who live there. Now one could argue that a organization interested in the betterment of communities would not pass a blind eye over activities which are detrimental to that community. However, once you start turning a blind eye to the “small stuff” (petty crime, drug use, prostitution, etc.), human nature dictates that it becomes easier to gloss over bigger things (CHILD prostitution and human trafficking to pull a random example out of the air.)

I think ACORN in this instance is thinking that their ultimate goal (election of candidates more suited to their own ends) has meant that they turn a blind eye to the “small stuff” and they have done it so often, that they, at least at the local office level, can no longer see where the line is supposed to be.

September 25, 2009 @ 5:53 pm #

Perhaps Horatius. Yours is a plausible explanation. But it is not the only plausible explanation. Before we can rule out the other explanations, we need more evidence.

Don’t get me wrong. ACORN has definitely tolerated corrpution among its directors – even going so far as dismissing board members who were threatening to expose this corruption, and allowing the brother of the founder to remain on the payroll after discovering that he embezzled nearly one-million dollars. And ACORN appears to be poorly organized and managed, which undoubtedly resulted in its violation of federal regulations.

But those are: (1) fact based conclusions; that are (2)very different from “ACORN is a criminal enterprise, from top to bottom.” I don’t see much evidence justifying that conclusion. Lots of perfectly legitimate organizations – megachuches and trade unions come to mind – are mismanaged and contain corruption. But they are seldom “criminal enterprises, from top to bottom.” Many of these organizations still manage to accomplish a substantial portion of their missions. I think ACORN is likely in precisely this situation.

Maybe not – they might be utterly corrupt. But I’ve yet to see evidence of that.

Joe H.

September 25, 2009 @ 5:57 pm #

For those of you who are interested, this link provides a very plausible explanation of how ACORN allowed corruption to seep in.

http://correspondents.theatlantic.com/wendy_kaminer/2009/09/acorn_a_cautionary_tale.php

Joe

September 27, 2009 @ 12:52 pm #

Joe,

The analogy between McDonald’s and ACORN was simply to verify that the common behavior of employees at various offices of the same organization might imply uniform practices within the organization. Your observation that McD’s is in the food service business misses the point; that would explain all sorts of questions related to food, but it’s the uniformity of the questions across different restaurants that leads us to infer that there’s an organization-wide instruction being delivered. If you went into 5 different McDonalds restaurants and were approached in all 5 by individuals asking you to sign a petition to clean up local water resources, it would occur to you to ask what the connection was between McD’s and the water ecology group, wouldn’t it? Uniformity is the key here.

You draw much from the fact that McDonald’s claims to be in the food sales business, whereas ACORN does not claim to be in the law-breaking business. The problem with that is that if ACORN really was aiming at disabling the system or breaking laws, they would be expected to hide the fact. So any attempt to rule out a natural inference from uniform behavior on the mere basis that ACORN does not openly state law-breaking to be their organization’s purpose, begs the question. What we’re trying to establish is whether or not they ARE actually in the law-breaking business; surely the fact that they don’t say so cannot be used to dismiss the inference that they are.

Nor does the financial incentive argument help; in fact, I think it proves my point. The incentive clearly produces the behavior we’ve noticed. That behavior is against the law. It’s been drawn to ACORN’s attention several times (by the mere fact that employees have been arrested) that the incentive produces behavior that is against the law. They’ve had plenty of opportunity to change — but have not changed. It’s plausible that they’re just intensely stupid — sales organizations inadvertently incent counter-productive behaviors all the time through badly designed compensation plans — but given the pattern across several states and over several election cycles, it seems clear that at the very least they don’t mind if their employees go to prison, which is pretty repulsive by itself; and if that’s really true, it’s hard to imagine that they’re unhappy with the results they’re getting.

Put yourself in their shoes for a second, Joe. You’re an honest guy; if you had a company and got a report that employees of yours were being ARRESTED for behavior caused by an incentive in your compensation plan, how long would it take you to design another plan and put it into effect? I can tell you that if it happened to me, I’d have a new compensation scheme in the works within the first ten minutes of receiving the first arrest report. Tell me honestly — would you do differently? And yet, so far as we can tell, these arrests span 3 or 4 election cycles that we know of and have not resulted in changes. That says something pretty bad.

Consequently, the mere fact that some 60-odd employees in 12 different states all got arrested for the same thing, but ACORN did not change their practices, in and of itself suggests an organization-wide intent that deserves investigation by national law enforcement personnel. I cannot see an ordinary person drawing any other inference.

If the arrests were the only evidence at hand, I would say it was premature to claim that the organization itself is criminal. However, as I pointed out in the longer post, above (9/25 at 8:43 AM,) the arrests are far from being the only evidence at hand.

As to the five ACORN workers’ responses to the “reporters,” here’s a link to what I think is an equally plausible explanation:

Candidly, that’s a better response than I’ve heard from any other source from the left. I don’t find it all that convincing, though, because he’s claiming that stuff like “call the underage prostitutes ‘dependents’” and “you’re in the contract entertainment business” is part of the natural response to an outrageous request. Think that one through, and I think you’ll see how lame it is. I would have thought the natural response would have been something along the lines of, “You have GOT to be kidding,” followed by raucous laughter. If they managed to make me believe they were completely serious, my next response would have been to put them off, with “Well, give me your name and phone number, and let me talk to my supervisor,” and then discuss it after they’re gone.

I could see one office, maybe two, playing along just for jollies. Five, no. That’s too many. That makes it seem like they’re used to helping people who want to fly under the radar.

Regarding whom to believe, Joe, please be serious. The reporters know exactly whom they’ve visited, and whom they have not. By contrast, how would a national officer of ACORN, who’s had five offices visited incognito without those offices knowing what was going on until the videos went viral, know which other offices had been visited before they’ve even done an internal investigation? The videos don’t show much of the reporters, they show the workers mostly, so they probably didn’t have photos to send around. Even if they had photos, I don’t get the impression that the ACORN organization is so tight that they could, in a matter of a week or two, send them around and receive back reports from all offices with information definite enough to call a “sighting” of a pair of young white kids, with anything like accuracy. “They made that up” is actually the most plausible explanation for their claim that the reporters visited a bunch of other offices (not necessarily a lock, but certainly the explanation that comes most readily to mind even for the casual observer.) I would like to see additional investigation, but the presumption in this case rests squarely with the reporters, who have very little reason to lie — unless THEY are a criminal enterprise like the one they’re claiming to be examining. And if you think the evidence we have about ACORN is not sufficient to make that claim, how much less evidence do you have pointing to something similar with these young reporters? I regard even the ATTEMPT at claiming that the counter-claims are a straight “he said, she said” to be evidence of bias. It’s not even close to being a wash.

Now, why am I calling ACORN a criminal enterprise?

Three reasons:

1) the organization seems structured to carry out a fraud, obtaining public funding under false pretenses to fund partisan political activities. This could not be done without full knowledge of the highest officers of the company, who structured the organization. The behavior of firing internal employees who asked for the books comports perfectly with this explanation. The structure of the organization comports perfectly with it. It’s the best-fit explanation, and not only that, but it’s the automatic suspicion of nearly everybody. Do you have any question in your mind that ACORN is partisan? How sincere is their claim that they’re merely helping the poor? At the very least, you have to know that they’re deliberately targeting populations that they expect will register Democratic; the claim that they’re non-partisan is pure hocum, and everybody knows it. NOBODY believes that ACORN is non-partisan.

In fact, the reaction of Democrats in Congress tells us that they know the organization is a fraud. They should be calling for investigations (like Conyers did.) Instead, the Dem leadership is dropping ACORN like they’re radioactive. Why? because they know perfectly well that if ACORN gets investigated, not only will ACORN be discovered to be fraudulent, but the money trail will lead to other favorites of the Democrats as well, including the unions, the Congress, and the White House. So, they drop it quickly and hope the attention moves to other things. The reaction makes it possible to suspect that not only ACORN, but THE ENTIRE DEMOCRATIC PARTY IN AMERICA, is a criminal enterprise. I am not kidding.

2) We have not focused on this in this conversation, but ACORN runs a protection racket that is in clear violation of the RICO statute. They threaten activist demonstrations and legal action, then accept donations to buy them off and direct their activism elsewhere. Again, this is not something that could even plausibly be carried out by low-level employees, it could only work if supported at the top of the organization.

3) The uniformity of the patterns, combined with the information about the Cloward-Piven strategy, provide evidence of operational instructions combined with motive.

Investigations might prove me wrong, but there’s no question that investigations MUST take place.

September 27, 2009 @ 2:02 pm #

By the way, Joe said he would consider testimony under oath to be persuasive. Rep John Boehner has excerpts from the 2008 courtroom testimony of former ACORN employee Anita Moncrief, from the case of Monica Moyer, et al v. Pedro A. Cortes, Secretary of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, et al from state court in Pennsylvania, posted on his blog, under the title “10 Questions for ACORN’s ‘Independent’ Investigator.” I recommend you read it.

September 28, 2009 @ 4:22 pm #

Hey Joe…

Question for you…

ACORN has received substantial amounts of money from the Feds as well as other sources. I don’t want to get into a discussion of how much they’ve actually received, but I think we can agree that it’s been substantial.
My question is…

What do they do with the dollars?

September 28, 2009 @ 6:52 pm #

Phil;

This will be my final response on this thread – then you can have the last word.

“The analogy between McDonald’s and ACORN was simply to verify that the common behavior of employees at various offices of the same organization might imply uniform practices within the organization. Your observation that McD’s is in the food service business misses the point; that would explain all sorts of questions related to food, but it’s the uniformity of the questions across different restaurants that leads us to infer that there’s an organization-wide instruction being delivered. If you went into 5 different McDonalds restaurants and were approached in all 5 by individuals asking you to sign a petition to clean up local water resources, it would occur to you to ask what the connection was between McD’s and the water ecology group, wouldn’t it? Uniformity is the key here.”

This is a different example than your initial example – in which the uniformity of the practice was best explained by the purpose of the institution. However, your change of example does not help you. I concede if I went to five separate McDonalds and were uniformly approached to sign a specific petition, I could reasonably infer that the behavior was the result of the instruction of McDonald’s executives. But that’s because: (1) there is no better explanation for the behavior, and (2) McDonald’s executives would have had to, at minimum, sign off on the idea for the employees to continue their petition drive.

Such is not the case with ACORN. There is a better explanation for the persistence of their employees turning in false voter registrations (the fact that it saves those employees from actually having to do the work to obtain their wage). This explanation also fits better with the fact that ACORN itself turned in most of the rogue employees to the authorities.

Second, ACORN employees would not have to sign off on the practice of filling out false voter registration forms for the practice to occur and/or continue.

These distinctions severely undermine your inference. But even worse is the fact that, statistically speaking, the practice of not turning in false registration forms is the uniform practice of ACORN employees. ACORN has employed many thousands of voter registration employees – a tiny fraction of whom have been discovered to have taken the short cut of filling our false forms. If you were correct in claiming that the uniformity itself was the key factor (which you are not – it’s the explanation of the uniformity that we’re trying to explain) – the statistically unanimous practice of ACORN employees not turning in false registration forms would be fatal to your inference.

“You draw much from the fact that McDonald’s claims to be in the food sales business, whereas ACORN does not claim to be in the law-breaking business. The problem with that is that if ACORN really was aiming at disabling the system or breaking laws, they would be expected to hide the fact. So any attempt to rule out a natural inference from uniform behavior on the mere basis that ACORN does not openly state law-breaking to be their organization’s purpose, begs the question. What we’re trying to establish is whether or not they ARE actually in the law-breaking business; surely the fact that they don’t say so cannot be used to dismiss the inference that they are.”

ACORN and McDonalds were different with respect to the best explanations for the cited uniform practices. With your first example (McDonald’s employees uniformly attempting to sell more food), the stated purpose of the organization provided additional grounds for believing that instruction by McDonald’s supervisors was the best explanation for the uniform employee behavior. The stated purpose of ACORN does not provide grounds for such an inference. Additionally, the fact that ACORN derives no benefit from filing false voter registration forms, provides grounds for doubting that supervisor instruction was the cause for employee misconduct.

These were surely relevant points for me to make, don’t you think?

And contrary to your question begging assertion – I did not try to “rule out a natural inference from uniform behavior on the mere basis that ACORN does not openly state law-breaking to be their organization’s purpose.” I instead pointed out that this was an important distinction between McDonalds and ACORN that weakened your (first) analogy. And it is. No question begging there.

“Put yourself in their shoes for a second, Joe. You’re an honest guy; if you had a company and got a report that employees of yours were being ARRESTED for behavior caused by an incentive in your compensation plan, how long would it take you to design another plan and put it into effect? I can tell you that if it happened to me, I’d have a new compensation scheme in the works within the first ten minutes of receiving the first arrest report. Tell me honestly — would you do differently? And yet, so far as we can tell, these arrests span 3 or 4 election cycles that we know of and have not resulted in changes. That says something pretty bad.

Consequently, the mere fact that some 60-odd employees in 12 different states all got arrested for the same thing, but ACORN did not change their practices, in and of itself suggests an organization-wide intent that deserves investigation by national law enforcement personnel. I cannot see an ordinary person drawing any other inference.”

Again, 60 out of how many thousands – particularly where most of the 60 were detected by other ACORN officials and turned in by those same officials. 60 out of 10,000 is .06%. How clean does an organization have to be to satisfy you that the acts of a few don’t represent organizational practice?

“If the arrests were the only evidence at hand, I would say it was premature to claim that the organization itself is criminal. However, as I pointed out in the longer post, above (9/25 at 8:43 AM,) the arrests are far from being the only evidence at hand.”

There is evidence of corruption and mismanagment, but of criminal conspiracy – that I’m not convinced of.

As to the five ACORN workers’ responses to the “reporters,” here’s a link to what I think is an equally plausible explanation:

“Candidly, that’s a better response than I’ve heard from any other source from the left. I don’t find it all that convincing, though, because he’s claiming that stuff like “call the underage prostitutes ‘dependents’” and “you’re in the contract entertainment business” is part of the natural response to an outrageous request. Think that one through, and I think you’ll see how lame it is. I would have thought the natural response would have been something along the lines of, “You have GOT to be kidding,” followed by raucous laughter. If they managed to make me believe they were completely serious, my next response would have been to put them off, with “Well, give me your name and phone number, and let me talk to my supervisor,” and then discuss it after they’re gone.”

Perhaps you’re right Phil – but if you practiced law you’d be amazed at the stupid things people routinely do when confronted with unfamiliar circumstances. Most of civil litigation is cleaning up the results of client stupidity – often arising from otherwise intelligent people.

“Regarding whom to believe, Joe, please be serious. The reporters know exactly whom they’ve visited, and whom they have not. By contrast, how would a national officer of ACORN, who’s had five offices visited incognito without those offices knowing what was going on until the videos went viral, know which other offices had been visited before they’ve even done an internal investigation? The videos don’t show much of the reporters, they show the workers mostly, so they probably didn’t have photos to send around. Even if they had photos, I don’t get the impression that the ACORN organization is so tight that they could, in a matter of a week or two, send them around and receive back reports from all offices with information definite enough to call a “sighting” of a pair of young white kids, with anything like accuracy. “They made that up” is actually the most plausible explanation for their claim that the reporters visited a bunch of other offices (not necessarily a lock, but certainly the explanation that comes most readily to mind even for the casual observer.) I would like to see additional investigation, but the presumption in this case rests squarely with the reporters, who have very little reason to lie — unless THEY are a criminal enterprise like the one they’re claiming to be examining. And if you think the evidence we have about ACORN is not sufficient to make that claim, how much less evidence do you have pointing to something similar with these young reporters? I regard even the ATTEMPT at claiming that the counter-claims are a straight “he said, she said” to be evidence of bias. It’s not even close to being a wash..”

This is kind of weak Phil – but I’m going to let it go with little comment. Suffice it to say that both sides have an incentive to lie (the so called “reporters” are trying to discredit ACORN, after all, and “cherry picking” is an obvious strategy. Also, ACORN officials had plenty of time to field reports from other branches after the story broke. I’m not saying I know who is lying – but the fact that the reporters “knew who they visited” is not grounds for concluding that they accurately reported who they visited.

“Now, why am I calling ACORN a criminal enterprise?

Three reasons:

1) the organization seems structured to carry out a fraud, obtaining public funding under false pretenses to fund partisan political activities. This could not be done without full knowledge of the highest officers of the company, who structured the organization. The behavior of firing internal employees who asked for the books comports perfectly with this explanation. The structure of the organization comports perfectly with it. It’s the best-fit explanation, and not only that, but it’s the automatic suspicion of nearly everybody. Do you have any question in your mind that ACORN is partisan? How sincere is their claim that they’re merely helping the poor? At the very least, you have to know that they’re deliberately targeting populations that they expect will register Democratic; the claim that they’re non-partisan is pure hocum, and everybody knows it. NOBODY believes that ACORN is non-partisan.”

I’m pretty sure that ACORN is partisan. They work with poor people and the Democratic party seems more sympathetic to their concerns. But that does not mean that the purpose of their organization is “obtaining public funding under false pretenses to fund partisan political activities.” Some of this may have occured – it is difficult to say for sure because some of the funding sources appear to be co-mingled. But ACORN’s public monies are only a small portion of their funding – so it seems a serious stretch to conclude that misuse of public money for partisan gain is ACORN’s purpose. Tax exempt churches often support voter information events that unmistakably support Republican candidates. That is a partisan use of a federal subsidy. But no one argues that churchs who do this are criminal enterprises for this reason.

“2) We have not focused on this in this conversation, but ACORN runs a protection racket that is in clear violation of the RICO statute. They threaten activist demonstrations and legal action, then accept donations to buy them off and direct their activism elsewhere. Again, this is not something that could even plausibly be carried out by low-level employees, it could only work if supported at the top of the organization.”

I don’t know anything about this, so you’ll have to provide the link.

“3) The uniformity of the patterns, combined with the information about the Cloward-Piven strategy, provide evidence of operational instructions combined with motive.

Investigations might prove me wrong, but there’s no question that investigations MUST take place.”

I’m all for investigations.

Joe

September 29, 2009 @ 5:59 am #

…The occasional notice I get from number2pencil, who I believe to be an employee of the DNC, and from the White House on health care topics, I count as positive recognition…

…I’m a little disappointed that I don’t have real trolls here, although I have mixed feelings…

I’m a little disappointed not to be taken for a real troll;) And, I might comment more often if I got paid by the DNC but, no, this is strictly a volunteer gig for me. My occasional comments are occasional because: 1. I’m lazy, 2. I only occasionally have something to say, and 3. My time for reading and commenting here varies.

I can’t see that it matters much one way or the other but: I’ve voted for both parties; I’ve worked, unpaid, on one mid-sized mayoral campaign, a handful of small (as in very small, like, “Dear community board, we need more bike lanes.”) political campaigns; and I’ve canvassed here and there for, oh, judges, community board members, school boards, and cup cake sales. I have a couple kids. I attend church, usually Presbyterian but sometimes Episcopal. I run a small business that mostly focuses on design. I don’t do any work for any political party or any organization that works with a political party. Other than the odd lunchtime politics chat, my work has nothing to do with the blogs I read.

My motivations for reading and commenting here vary but, in short, I’m struggling to understand post-Reagan conservatism. I feel like I have a decent handle the role of the various players and ideas on the left but I’m still puzzled by the turns the right has been taking in the last thirty years or so. I try to keep up with the mainstream right as time permits–basically NRO, some Fox, and the Weekly Standard–but I also try to read a few conservative blogs with, um, more diverse views.

I don’t agree with much of what I read here–recently, the only sane voice I hear is Joe–but I try to use, oh, a badminton racquet for my comments. On a blogs that I have more in common with, I don’t mind swinging a hockey stick.

September 29, 2009 @ 12:36 pm #

Numbertwopencil,

You commented at the end of your post “recently, the only sane voice I hear is Joe”

I agree that Joe’s voice is sane and his arguments are reasoned, but so is Phil’s, and so is the majority of the people who comment on this blog. In the absents of any other evidence I believe everything you said about yourself, but when you said that Joe’s voice was the only sane voice on this blog you lost a lot of credibility. GIGO applies to everyone. A well reasoned and thought out argument can still be wrong. Whether it be Joe’s, Phil’s or even you.

Sincerely, Dale…

September 29, 2009 @ 3:33 pm #

I’m a little disappointed not to be taken for a real troll;)

Oh. Well, in that case, who cares what you think, ya damn troll!!!

Seriously, n2p, I don’t agree with your point of view, but your facts are usually pretty solid. I reserve “troll” for the idiots who confuse their inner angst with factual support for their positions, but don’t really understand the difference when you explain it to them. Also, for cloddish giants who live in caves and under bridges, but I haven’t seen many of those since I left Pittsburgh. ;)

I’m struggling to understand post-Reagan conservatism.

Feel free to ask directly. I’m pretty bright, I don’t bite, and I was a mindless liberal in my youth (as the rest of my family still is) so I’m pretty aware of where my thinking differs from theirs. I suppose I represent a religious conservative, which is not the same as, say, a Republican party operative, an Ayn Rand conservative, or a Libertarian. (Yes, there are significant differences among sub-groups in the conservative movement.) On the other hand, I think I’m a lot better educated and a lot more pessimistic than the average religious conservative, and my thinking processes are a lot more systematic.

I’ll give you this part unsolicited: I’ve been watching Western civilization deteriorate for my entire adult life, and expect it to collapse in fairly short order. The deterioration consists of the complete loss of any reasonable standard of virtue, the loss of historical or cultural context for assessing any act or thought as virtuous or vicious, the thorough-going rejection of the traditions of excellence that made the West great, the failure of education resulting in a complete inability to reason soundly, and so forth. I’m concurrently 1) fighting a holding action to slow the deterioration as much as possible, and 2) attempting to reconstruct as much of the thinking of the West as I can, both in my own mind and in the minds of those who read what I write. The purpose for the latter is so that when the West collapses, the people who follow after us will have sound ideas on which to base future attempts at civilization. Think Harry Seldon in The Foundation Trilogy, or Liebowitz in A Canticle for Liebowitz, both of which influenced me pretty heavily when I was a young man. Sorry if that sounds like delusions of grandeur, and no, most religious conservatives do not think in nearly so apocalyptic terms.

September 29, 2009 @ 4:27 pm #

I’m sane. Thanks everyone. Its a start.

I think “political sanity” would be a useful concept to unpack. What makes us call one person’s voice “sane” and another persons . . . well . . . “not sane?”

My guess is that it will have lees to do with reasoning than we think.

Joe H.

September 29, 2009 @ 5:45 pm #

>>I’m sane. Thanks everyone. Its a start.>>

I agree … you’re sane.

That doesn’t mean that you’re right, however!

September 29, 2009 @ 7:38 pm #

You are EMINENTLY correct, Suek. Determinations regarding who is right should be made on the FACTS!

Joe H.

September 29, 2009 @ 11:21 pm #

…when you said that Joe’s voice was the only sane voice on this blog you lost a lot of credibility…

I’m okay with that. It’s a step up from troll.

…Feel free to ask…

Thanks. When I’m less lazy…

…most religious conservatives do not think in nearly so apocalyptic terms…

But…but…most people, perhaps 50% of Americans believe in an imminent apocalypse. I assume that more religious conservatives (though I guess I’m thinking Christian conservatives) think apocalyptically than average.

…My guess is that it will have lees to do with reasoning than we think…

Maybe aim for “politically reasonable” and put sanity aside for the moment?

September 30, 2009 @ 9:04 am #

We may actually get a chance to find out(about ACORN – not about Joe and NTP):

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,557461,00.html?test=latestnews

October 1, 2009 @ 5:56 pm #

Here’s an interesting footnote. It raises two questions in my mind – where are the millions going (for what purpose) and isn’t there a problem with some of the methods used by ACORN?

http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/why-did-bank-of-america-pay-acorn/

October 1, 2009 @ 7:02 pm #

Yet another…

http://www.redstate.com/erick/2009/09/23/inside-the-acorn-rolodex-acorn-has-its-own-political-party-other-than-the-democrats/

I don’t suppose Joe is still reading this post and the following comments, but if you are…

Is your position that ACORN is _not_ a criminal organization, or is it that ACORN has not been _proven_ to be a criminal organization?

October 2, 2009 @ 3:50 pm #

Man! This stuff just keeps turning up…

http://directorblue.blogspot.com/2009/10/dont-miss-bombshell-acorn-legal-memo.html

October 3, 2009 @ 4:38 pm #

Lots of stuff here.

http://www.acorncracked.com/index.html

October 5, 2009 @ 4:00 pm #

Probably my last linky…looks like this “parking spot” is about to disappear. I must say though…it certainly has been educational. Different places have different outlooks, and most of it is simply not very favorable to ACORN.

http://astuteblogger.blogspot.com/2009/10/acorn-illegally-used-prisoners-as.html

October 7, 2009 @ 3:43 pm #

Found another.

http://atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com/atlas_shrugs/2009/10/atlas-exclusive-acorn-threw-out-republican-voter-registrations.html

If it weren’t so serious because it’s a serious corruption of the voting process, it would be funny.

October 13, 2009 @ 4:44 pm #

And with this in mind…what _are_ they doing with all the millions they’ve received from wherever they’ve received it?

http://newsbusters.org/blogs/tom-blumer/2009/09/28/acorn-question-local-media-what-world-are-these-people-really-doing

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