Hard Workplace Truths From “The Evil HR Lady”[Updated]


Susan Lucas is an human resources veteran who shares her abundant workplace wisdom on her blog, a truly excellent one, Evil HR Lady.

She has written an invaluable list she calls “Problems at Work? 10 Signs That It’s Not Them, It’s You.”  It can be literally a life-saver for frustrated career failures, disheartened underlings, especially, perhaps, those encouraged by warped parents, teachers, mentors and  peers to always avoid blame, accountability and responsibility by attributing it to prejudice, bias and personal animus.

Some highlights: Continue reading

“Don’t Worry! We’ve Got Your Back!” Markey’s Indefensible Cowardice and Cillizza’s Inexcusable Bias

Some Senators are Red, and some are Blue. Then there's Ed Markey...

Some Senators are Red, and some are Blue. Then there’s Ed Markey…

Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey, who is at least temporarily filling John Kerry’s seat in the U.S. Senate, listened to the testimony and questioning regarding President Obama’s embarrassing plan to attack Syria just enough to kill a few people and be annoying (to prove he really, really meant what he said about that red  line), and then cast his vote on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s compromise resolution approving the attack as “present.” Why? Well…

1. He’s a long-time Democratic loyalist from the House, and would no more oppose a Democratic president than fly…

2. He’s from peacenik Massachusetts (just like me!), and he knows that in the only state to give George McGovern its electoral votes, voting to drop missiles on foreign land that haven’t attacked us first is very unpopular, and…

3. He’s a lily-livered coward and a disgrace to his state.

Markey is also a liar, as his ridiculous “explanation” for his abdication of responsibility shows: Continue reading

A Handbook For Manipulation and Deceit, Rationalizations Included


This wasn’t considered newsworthy by the mainstream media, and that alone is worthy of some pondering: a 70-plus page how-to guide titled “Preventing Gun Violence Through Effective Messaging” has surfaced, produced last year by the Washington, D.C.-based firm of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner.* The guide is a political strategy lesson for anti-gun advocacy, and its favored tactics involve emphasizing emotional hot-buttons over rational discourse and informative debate. The manual was produced, it appears, for the Seattle-based Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility (WAGR) before the Sandy Hook tragedy, but its advice tracks in every way with the approach employed by Democrats, including President Obama, during the disgraceful rush to exploit public horror over the shooting in an effort to pass strong anti-gun measures in the states and nationally.

Of course this is newsworthy. The public is the target of manipulation, deception and persuasion tactics that are designed to provoke half-baked opinions and positions based on emotion rather than rational analysis. If the public recognizes such tactics as the cynical ploys they are, such tactics will not be as effective. Such tactics shouldn’t be effective, and should be employed by honest, ethical advocates on any side of any issue. The mainstream media chose not to publicize the manual because 1) most reporters agree with the manual’s objective, and 2) the mainstream media eagerly facilitated the unethical methods recommended, and will probably continue to do so.

“The debate over gun violence in America is periodically punctuated by high-profile gun violence incidents including Columbine, Virginia Tech, Tucson, the Trayvon Martin killing, Aurora, and Oak Creek,” the guide points out. “When an incident such as these attracts sustained media attention, it creates a unique climate for our communications efforts.”  Early on, the document it makes it clear that the “communication efforts” must always concentrate on stirring up emotions, not relying on facts or engaging in substantive debate. “A high-profile gun violence incident temporarily draws more people into the conversation about gun violence. We should rely on emotionally powerful language, feelings and images to bring home the terrible impact of gun violence.”

For example,  the guide addresses Stand Your Ground laws and advises substituting pejorative (and misleading) descriptions like  “Shoot First” and “Kill at Will,” asserting that these terms are “more accurate and persuasive.” At every turn, the guide cautions against getting bogged down in potentially nuanced statistics and facts, and urges anti-gun advocates to overwhelm any efforts at balancing or considering pros and cons with talking points based on  emotion salted with one-sided, group-tested statistics and generalities...”The core frame should be personal and emotional—centered on ‘people’ and not on facts, laws, or legislation.”  The top things to remember, cautions the guide,



Recommended phrases to use in forums and interviews include,

  • “It breaks my heart that every day in our country (state or city) children wake up worried and frightened about getting shot.”
  • “Just imagine the pain that a mother or father feels when their young child is gunned down.”
  • ” The real outrage – the thing that makes this violence so unforgivable – is that we know how to stop it and we’re not getting it done”

To the authors of the guide, effective persuasion “means emphasizing emotion over policy prescriptions, keeping our facts and our case simple and direct, and avoiding arguments that leave people thinking they don’t know enough about the topic to weigh in.”

That’s right, keep them ignorant and thinking that they aren’t. It’s the American way.

The guide is professional and well-thought out. It is certainly a useful document for any advocate to study before going on a talk show, or before drafting remarks at a rally, and it is obvious that this is exactly what such advocates do, if not with this document, then with similar ones. It is creepy to read line after line that is immediately recognizable as an endlessly repeated “talking point” during the Trayvon Martin uproar and the Sandy Hook aftermath. The manual also could grow cynicism on a rock. There is nothing honest or genuine about the political and policy-making process that the guide presupposes and attempts to control. There is nothing productive either. The objective is only to win—to get a desired policy initiative past the stage where public support is important and into the back rooms where the deals can be cut . You know that there was an equivalent document during the Affordable Health Care Act. These are blueprints for rushing policies into law, not for educating the public or fairly exploring complex issues before taking giant leaps of faith. They are, in short, instruction books on how to exploit the ignorance of the American people and distort the democratic process.

This is a bi-partisan practice, of course. The only difference between this guide and those produced by conservative consultants is that if one of those was found, the mainstream media would have reported it, Media Matters would have announced that it was a smoking gun document showing how evil Republicans corrupt America with their lies, and on MSNBC, Lawrence O’Donnell would have smirked over it for a week.

The number of rationalizations at the ready, therefore, begin powerfully with “Everybody does it” (#1 on the Rationalizations list). So is, as a direct result, #2, “They’re just as bad” and #7, “Tit for tat,” Such a document and the politics behind it also invokes #3, Consequentialism, and #4, Marion Barry’s favorite, “If it’s legal, it’s ethical.”  It employs # 11, the Dissonance Drag, since the reason it will be deemed acceptable by anti-gun types is because they happen to like the people using the strategy; if the same document outlined the NRA’s approach, they would sincerely and passionately feel it was despicable.

It is the very embodiment of The Saint’s Excuse (#12), otherwise known as “It’s for a good cause,” as well as #13, Self-Validating Virtue. #17,  Hamm’s Excuse or “It wasn’t my fault,” is one of the predictable responses to criticism: “Hey, this is how the game is played. We didn’t make these rules; this has been going on for decades. Don’t blame us!”  My least favorite rationalization of all, #22, Comparative Virtue,  “There are worse things,” is also in play; so is “We have no choice” (because the evil NRA keeps buying legislators and rational debate doesn’t work!), # 24#27, “These are not ordinary times!” is a natural, of course.  So is #30, The Troublesome Luxury, usually expressed as “Ethics is a luxury we can’t afford right now!”

Politics being politics, it’s perfect for #31, The Unethical Role Model, as in “Thomas Jefferson/Abe Lincoln/ Jack Kennedy would have done the same thing.” Heck…A new book suggests Jesus might have done the same thing!

Fourteen out of thirty-two possible rationalizations is an impressive arsenal, all right, but they are still rationalizations for what is a Machiavellian, “the ends justifies the means,” “by any means necessary,” unethical strategy that intentionally aims at the weaknesses of democracy and exploits them through the cynical use of psychology, manipulation, and deceit. Yeah, I know, it works, just as so many methods used by governments and interest groups to deceive the public and warp their perceptions have worked and work still.

That’s not really working, though, is it now? Causing a system designed to involve an informed and rational citizenry  to malfunction by exploiting laziness, ignorance and hysteria isn’t working, just because it succeeds. In fact, such tactics result in the kind of politics and government we have right now.

That is called, not working, but failing.

* According to the guide, Quinlan was part of “a team of communicators” with “decades of experience advising organizations on message development and strategic communications.” Other members of this team were Frank O’Brien, creative director and founder of OMP, another Washington, D.C.-based firm, and Jeff Neffinger and Matthew Kohut at KNP Communications, also headquartered in Washington, D.C. Among GQR’s clients are the Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the Joyce Foundation, several state education associations, Defenders of Wildlife, National Public Radio and the Sierra Club. Among OMP’s clients are Planned Parenthood of America and the Natural Resources Defense Council.


Sources: WSJ, Washington Examiner, Examiner

Slate’s Unethical “Redskins” Blackout

You know what Redskins really means, don't you? It means standing up to political correctness bullies.

You know what Redskins really means, don’t you? It means standing up to political correctness bullies.

Via the usually rational reporter David Plotz, we learn that Slate has decided that the Political Correctness Gods will no longer allow the on-line magazine to use the name of Washington’s NFL team when it is reporting on Washington’s NFL team. This is, of course, presumptuous, arrogant, and lousy journalism. It is not the media’s job to re-make the world into what pleases them. Slate doesn’t like the Redskins name so it’s not going to publish it. This seems to be the current mode of operation in the media today–it is no longer dedicated to reporting and commenting on the news, but rather reporting and commenting on the news it doesn’t find “offensive.”

The Redskins, as a team nickname, is certainly the strongest case for those who believe in censorship of team names with ethnic or national origins. The NCAA has already gone way beyond any rational execution of that mission however, and even in the case of Redskins, an unquestionably racist term when applied to Native Americans, the objection to a sports  team name with supposedly negative historical implication has a lot of the “a chink in the armor” nonsense about it. For in Washington, D.C. and in football bars and Sunday afternoon gatherings, Redskins is not a slur, and does not refer to native Americans. It is the name given to a squad of NFL players who play pro football in the name of Washington, D.C., and a franchise that is worshiped in the city. When the name is used, it is not aimed at Native Americans or intended to denigrate them. It does not refer to Native Americans, and not intended to give offense. It is intended to designate the football team, because that is the team’s name. How can someone be offended at the use of a name that is not intended and is not a slur in the context of the use in question? There two answers to this: 1) Most people, including rational Native Americans, aren’t, and 2) Because such people want to be offended.

The name “Redskins” was never intended as a slur, as I have explained here before. Continue reading

“The Ethicist” Gets Lost: Bad Advice, Worse Defense, In The Case Of The Self-Plagiarizing Student

Oh, Chuck, Chuck, Chuck...

Oh, Chuck, Chuck, Chuck…

Chuck Klosterman,The New York Times’ third “Ethicist,” ruffled ethics feathers last week when he decreed that submitting the same paper to multiple college courses was ethical. (You can read his advice to a guilty-feeling student here.) Essentially, his argument in the column came down to three rationalizations, The Compliance Dodge (No rules were broken!), the Trivial Trap (It’s no big deal, and nobody was hurt ) and my least favorite of all, The Comparative Virtue Excuse ( “You’re not betraying the public’s trust,” Klosterman says—in other words, “At least you didn’t kill someone.”),with nods to several more. On the first, which is a close relative of Marion Barry’s Excuse, so you know what I think of it, Klosterman essentially argues that following formal rules constitutes sufficient ethics, which is the hallmark of the unethical. On the second, he himself cheats: he says no one was harmed, yet he ignores the fact that the student intentionally kept the fact that he used one paper for two assignments from the professors involved. Why was that? The student didn’t tell the professors because he knew they wouldn’t approve. Thus the student withheld information that was material, that would have resulted in negative consequences, and that the professors making the assignment had a right to know. That’s a failure of candor and a breach of the duty of honesty in communications. That’s unethical. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: What Rationalization Is This?

A gang of Washington, D.C. rocks, plotting an attack on city buses.

A gang of Washington, D.C. rocks, plotting an attack on city buses.

If living near the District of Columbia doesn’t transform you into a right-wing nut, it’s probably because you quickly learned not to read the columns in the Washington Post Metro Section. There refugees from the darkest, looniest corners of the Sixties have held sway for about fifty years, making illogical, emotional, angry and reliably leftist arguments, often in semi-literate form. The Post obviously believes, with good reason, that these would embarrass the paper if they were allowed to invade the Op-Ed Page, so they are buried in the middle of the paper.

The Post has a passel  of these writers, who only occasionally venture into the land of the fair and reasonable. About 30% of the time, their creative output is devoted to race-baiting. I decided decades ago that my sanity and political equilibrium depended on my ignoring these daily sanity-bombs, way back in the days when a community-revered wacko named Dorothy Gilliam regularly defied logic in her 700 word rants. I now only learn about the most absurd of these columns only when a Post letter-writer flags one of them as particularly mind-blowing.

Coutland Milloy has been the main offender on the Post’s Metro page since Gilliam retired to the Big Angry Leftist Padded Room in the Sky, and he was in top form last week, when he addressed the recent problem of city buses being pelted with stones in some of the poorer areas in D.C. Read his piece if you dare: his basic premise was that it is significant that at a public hearing about the problem, nobody “spoke up for the kids” or discussed “why” the rocks were being thrown. You don’t really have to read the essay to guess its larger thesis: the areas are poor, city resources are misaligned, gentrification is breaking up neighborhoods, kids are frustrated, so it’s not the kids fault that they are attacking Metro buses. In the printed version of the Post, his column was titled “Don’t Pin the Rock Problem On The Kids.” Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Month: Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH)

“It is a shame that anytime something goes wrong, they pick on women and minorities..All of the things they have disliked about things that have gone on in the administration, they have never called a male unqualified, not bright, not trustworthy. There is a clear sexism and racism that goes with these comments being made by unfortunately Sen. [John] McCain and others . . . How do you say that a person with Susan Rice’s background is not qualified? I wonder what your qualifications are for your job. Where did you finish in your class? You know, I know one of them finished in the bottom of their class. Susan Rice was a Rhodes scholar. How do you say a person like Susan Rice is not qualified?…I mean, Susan Rice’s comments didn’t send us to Iraq and Afghanistan. Somebody else’s did. But you’re not angry with them.”

—-Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), accusing GOP Senators John McCain, Lindsay Graham, and Kelly Ayotte (a woman) of sexism and racism for their harsh criticism of UN Ambassador Susan Rice for her repeated assertion on multiple news shows that the Benghazi attack that killed the American ambassador in Libya was a spontaneous demonstration over a YouTube video after the Obama Administration had been told otherwise.

It must be comforting to be able to rationalize all criticism arising from your own conduct and to attribute it to the biases of your critics. Crippling, but comforting. If one cannot regard criticism as legitimate, then one can never assess one’s own mistakes and weaknesses and work to improve.

Fudge is one of the habitual race-card players in Congress: earlier this year, she accused the bi-partisan House ethics committee of racism because a disproportionate number of the Congressional Black Caucus’s members were under investigation. (This was, of course, because a disproportionate number of  the Congressional Black Caucus’s members, like Fudge, have engaged in dubious practices that indicate a weak grasp of ethics.) This time, she had lots of company, including Rep. James Clyburn (D-NC), who later said that the word “incompetent” was racist code. Brilliant! This means that no black public official can ever be called incompetent! Sure to be added to the code book if this theory sticks: inept, ineffective, corrupt, careless, irresponsible, and unqualified. Fudge, Clyburn and their colleagues propose to make legitimate criticism of black and female officials—those who are Democrats, that is—impossible, one word at a time. Continue reading

Ethical Quote of the Month: Gen. David Petraeus

“Yesterday afternoon, I went to the White House and asked the President to be allowed, for personal reasons, to resign from my position as D/CIA. After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair. Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours. This afternoon, the President graciously accepted my resignation.”

—-Gen. David H. Petraeus, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, in a public statement announcing his resignation from that position.

How quaint.

Democrats and Republicans must have felt that they had stumbled into the Way-Back Machine and delivered into England circa. 1904. A high government official resigning over adultery, sex,…”personal misconduct?” How bizarre! Naturally, Sen. Diane Feinstein, who heads the Senate Intelligence Committee,  announced that she would have supported Petraeus if he had chosen to stay. “I wish President Obama had not accepted this resignation, but I understand and respect the decision,” she said in a statement, and described Petraeus’s resignation as an “enormous loss for our nation’s intelligence community and for our country.”

The right way to leave after an affair, apparently, is to try to cover it up, submit to extortion, corrupt others in the process, and only quit when the hideout is surrounded, the hounds are clawing at the door and someone is yelling at you through a bullhorn—you know, like former GOP Sen. John Ensign, who waited two years to resign while his colleagues, like Feinstein, looked the other way. Nobody gets it in Washington—“it” being the ironclad principle that leadership must set the highest example, not the lowest level it can get away with, or the whole system rots below. Nobody, apparently, except the man who just resigned. Continue reading