Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Acorn Shows Common Phases of Denial

When several offices of Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (Acorn) were stung by hidden cameras of James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles seeking tax and housing help to run a prostitution ring including bringing underage prostitutes from El Salvador, the response of Acorn illustrates common phases of denial.

They missed the first, which is the limited hang-out of dirty laundry. It works especially well for politicians, but it can work for non-profit organizations, too. It acknowledges liabilities, coming forward with a partial list. It inoculates against charges about what is hung out. It could have been used when O’Keefe and Giles stung the Baltimore office. Acorn could have inoculated themselves against further damaging stings. That Acorn chose not to hang-out when they could have done so is an error in keeping what might have been a one-day story alive for weeks.

Next is “we did not do it.” Because the evidence was just too large in this case, this phase was not possible. The third phase is “we did not do it and the people who say otherwise are scoundrels.” Acorn seized on this phase, blaming O’Keefe, Giles and the vast right-wing conspiracy of Fox and talk radio. Acorn surrogates say that O’Keefe and Giles are doing the bidding of racists who hate President Barack Obama. Acorn has lurched from this to the fourth phase: “we did it, but it is not what you think.”

Acorn CEO Bertha Lewis has said the tapes were “indefensible actions of a handful of employees” and warranted an independent review of the group’s procedures. “We have all been deeply disturbed by what we’ve seen in some of these videos. I must say, on behalf of ACORN’s Board and our Advisory Council, that we will go to whatever lengths necessary to reestablish the public trust. For nearly forty years, ACORN has given voice to communities, and gotten results. Right now, our nearly 500,000 member are working their hearts out for quality, affordable healthcare for every American and to help stop the foreclosure crisis. We must get this process right, so the good work can go forward.”

Implicit in this statement is the first phase, too, limited hangout. It is too late for that; it is like slamming the barn door after the cows have already fled.

The fifth phase is real reform: “We did it and it will not happen again.” It is deeds, not mere words. The U.S. Government is helping them to get to this phase. The U.S. Senate voted 83 to 7 to prohibit the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development from giving taxpayer funds to Acorn. The U.S. Census Bureau has dropped Acorn from partnership in the 2010 census.

One should not be surprised if the Acorn board of directors jettisons Lewis in a symbolic move to save the organization and she becomes some sort of czarina in the Obama Administration.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Knee-Slappingly Funny People

There are a number of people that say and write things so hysterical that I can’t control myself, laughing out loud even when decorum says I should not. I have three laughs: the explosive guffaw, the giggle and the hiss. Increasingly the hiss is reserved for people who have known me for more than 30 years.

Among people in Madison, WIBA-AM morning host and stand-up comedian Mitch Henck is one of these. As a radio host, he is not only funny but callers to his show, especially Rob are funny, too. Bill Richardson is funny as is Brian Schimming. They have different styles. Christian Schneider is funny because he pokes fun at himself.

Emeritus Professors W. Lee Hansen and Stanley Kutler are funny. Lee is usually kind which makes his funny moments funnier, especially when he uses economic analysis to diagnose big and little ills. Kutler is kind and thoughtful but his humor is irrepressible. Among current professors, Charles Franklin is a scream, especially because he acts as if he is not.

State Representatives Phil Montgomery , Robin Vos and Mark Pocan are funny, too. Big Phil’s delivery is so dry. Robin Vos can not hide his sense of humor. Mark Pocan is never afraid to make fun of himself.

Elsewhere in Wisconsin, a few people crack me up. Among the people I have known for a long time, Andy Connor, Dennis Farnsworth, Jerry Langfeldt and Paul Johnson have different styles, all of them funny. Bob Uecker’s stories make everyone laugh.

Elsewhere, when Mark Steyn substitutes for Rush Limbaugh, Steyn is funny. He cracks jokes and then reprises them when you least expect it. His writing is the same way.

There are a couple of writers that I consider funny. One is P.J. O’Rourke. Another is R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. at American Spectator. O’Rourke lampoons weighty subjects; I loved “Parliament of Whores.” Bob Tyrell has a different style: he has the style of H.L. Mencken rolled together with Ambrose Bierce.

I have my moments of funniness but I am better as a straight man, letting others have the best lines.