ACORN, the Saint’s Excuse, and the Ruddigore Fallacy

Today’s New York Times discusses the impending end of ACORN, brought down by bad publicity, loose oversight, sloppy governance, and a little matter of the cover-up of a million dollar embezzlement. It would be helpful to other non-profit organizations that do needed good works to learn the proper lessons from ACORN’s fate, but the reaction of some supporters don’t advance that cause. Bertha Lewis, Acorn’s chief executive, has blamed “relentless, well-funded right-wing attacks” for ACORN’s demise, painting the organization as a victim rather than its own assassin. ACORN’s leader’s thought that the usual standards of good governance, diligence, and competence didn’t apply to it, because the group’s mission was virtuous and its accomplishments great. Continue reading

Ethics and Irony: the Postman Rings Twice for ACORN

“The Postman Always Rings Twice,” James M. Cain’s novel that is better known as a 1946 film noir classic starring Lana Turner and John Garfield, has a famous ironic twist. The story’s hapless drifter narrator escapes punishment for a murder he helped commit, but gets executed anyway for a death that was really an accident. Cosmic justice is done, if not legal justice. It turns out that the postman rang twice for ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, too. Continue reading

Wising Up to The Cognitive Dissonance Game

Wade Rathke, ACORN’s founder, is using his blog to attack James O’Keefe, whose bizarre pimp-and-prostitute charade exposed the culture of corruption in the organization he created. O’Keefe, who was arrested for trying another sting on a U.S. Senator, certainly deserves criticism. But it is safe to say that Rathke’s purpose is a little different than that of most pundits, for O’Keefe’s stunt hurt his baby. Rathke’s intent, other than  revenge, is to use the power of cognitive dissonance to make ACORN’s ethical failings seem less serious by making making O’Keefe look worse. Continue reading

Ethics, Irony, and James O’Keefe

James O’Keefe, the young freelance conservative operative who exposed the systemic corruption in ACORN by posing as a pimp in need of tax advice for a hidden videocam, was one of four men arrested yesterday for trying to tamper with Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office phones. It appears that he was attempting to pull off another sting operation, with O’Keefe’s compatriots posing as telephone workers. Continue reading