Boy, The GOP Really, Really Likes Census Scams!

Let me quote my favorite writer—me, of course—to set this one up. From March 17, 2010

It was [Chairman of the Republican National Committee Michael Steele] who approved some sleazy direct mail hack’s clever idea to send potential GOP donors counterfeit census forms. Arriving in thick envelopes with “Do Not Destroy. Official Document” on the front (“See, it’s not a lie! It IS an official document, right? Just from a different official—you, Mr. Steele! Get it? …), and the imposing legend  “Census Document Registered To: [ the name  of the recipient]” stamped there as well  (“It  really is kind of a a census document, capiche, Mister Steele? So they can’t complain later—it’s just not the one they think it is! But they’ll open it every time! I love this mailing!”), the package included a four-page form complete with an eight figure “Census Tracking Code.” (“Nice touch, eh Mister Steele? Joey here thought that one up. It will really have them believing this, the suckers!”) But the questions would quickly begin striking anyone not half asleep as rather odd for the Census, with queries like,

“Do you traditionally vote in all elections?”

“Do you generally identify yourself as a: Conservative Republican, Moderate Republican, Liberal Republican, Independent Voter who leans Republican or Other?”

“How much does it concern you that the Democrats have total control of the federal government?”

“Do you think the record trillion-dollar deficit the Democrats are creating with their out-of-control spending is going to have disastrous consequences for our nation?”

Even the sleepy, drunk or stupid, however, should have figured out the scam when they read, “When finished answering your Census, please return it along with your generous contribution in the enclosed postage-paid envelope.”

Gotcha! So clever! So well-executed! Soooooo dishonest, deceitful, and wrong….Not only did the mailing aim to deceive, it also confused, and the Census Bureau expressed worries that the fraudulent mailings would undermine response rates for the official census forms, causing citizens to ignore or not fill out the real forms when they arrived later. Lower mail response rates will increase Census costs, because the Bureau must send census-takers to every home that does not respond.

The good news is that the incident reminded House members what it was like to agree on something, and they passed a unanimous, bi-partisan measure banning fake census fundraising appeals, because the fact that such mailings were obviously and putridly unethical wasn’t enough any more. Not with Michael Steel in charge of the Republican fundraising. His influence is strong, after all: doing his best Steele impression after the House vote, National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Paul Lindsay said, “The NRCC remains opposed to misleading mailings,” which is 1) a lie 2) an insulting lie 3) an embarrassingly obvious lie. It is opposed to them although it just sent out an intentionally misleading mailing of epic dimensions. The statement means one of these three things: “We are being controlled by Satan!”, “We are completely insane!”, or “We are lying our heads off!” One guess, and the first two don’t count.

But wait! There’s more! Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/7/2018: Something In This Post Is Guaranteed To Send You Screaming Into The Streets

Good Morning!

1 Oh no! Not my permanent record! My wife gave a small contribution to Mitt  Romney’s campaign, and has been hounded by RNC robocalls and mailings ever since. GOP fundraising started getting really slimy under the indefensible Michael Steele’s leadership, and continued to use unethical methods after Steele went on to job at a bait shop or something. Last week my wife got an envelope in the mail with a block red DELINQUENCY NOTICE! printed on it. A lie, straight up: there was no delinquency, just a my wife’s decision that she would rather burn a C-note than give it to the fools and knaves running the Republican Party. She registered an official complaint with the RNC, and received this response from Dana Klein, NRCC Deputy Finance Director:

“My job as the Deputy Finance Director is to communicate with supporters to let them know the status of their NRCC Sustaining Membership. Unfortunately, I have bad news for you. As of right now, you have a delinquency mark on your record for your failure to renew your membership. But, I have some good news. You can remove this delinquency mark if you renew by the FEC deadline on Wednesday.”

Both my wife and I were professional fundraisers for many years. This is deceptive and coercive fundraising, and anyone who voluntarily supports an organization that uses such tactics is a victim or an idiot.

Or, I suppose, a Republican.

2. Another one…This is another one of the statements that I am pledged to expose every time I read or hear it: a Maryland legislator, enthusing over the likelihood that a ballot initiative will result in legalizing pot in the state, ran off the usual invalid, disingenuous and foolish rationalizations for supporting measure. (Don’t worry, pot-lovers: I’m resigned to this happening, not just in Maryland, but nation wide. As with the state lotteries, our elected officials will trade the public health and welfare for easy revenue every time. Minorities and the poor will be the most hurt, and the brie and pot set couldn’t care less.) Only one of his familiar bad arguments triggered my mandatory response pledge: ” to legalize a drug that is less harmful than alcohol.”

This is the bottom of the rationalization barrel, “it’s not the worst thing.” Alcohol is a scourge of society, killing thousands upon thousands every year, ruining families and lives, wrecking businesses, costing the economy millions of dollars. Just yesterday there was a report that fetal alcohol syndrome was far more common that previously believed. There is no question, none, that U.S. society would be healthier and safer without this poison accepted in the culture: unfortunately, it was too deeply embedded before serious efforts were made to remove it. Now pot advocates want to inflict another damaging recreational drug on society, using the argument that it’s not as terrible as the ones we’re already stuck with. Stipulated: it’s not as harmful as alcohol. It’s not as harmful as Russian Roulette or eating Tidepods either. I have a bias against taking seriously advocates who use arguments like this; it means they re either liars, and know their logic is absurd, or idiots, and don’t.

3. Riddle me this: What do you get when you cross casting ethics, weak and lazy school administrators, political-correctness bullies-in-training with “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”?

Answer: a cancelled high school musical, and per se racism supported by the school.

New York’s Ithaca High School was beginning production of the Disney film-based musical “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” but made the unforgivable error, in the eyes of student activists,  of casting of a white student as a Romani heroine Esmeralda, played in the classic film by that gypsy wench, Maureen O’Hara, and in the Disney version by a Toon.  Several students quit the show in protest,  and formed an activist group to reverse the decision. It sent a letter calling the casting “cultural appropriation” and “whitewashing,” calling the student the “epitome of whiteness.” The letter admitted that she was also “a stellar actor, singer and dancer” that any stage would be “lucky to have,” but what is the talent, skill and competence required for a role compared to what really matters, her skin color? The students demanded that the school either choose a different show or recast Esmeralda a black and brown actress. Continue reading

“Fake News” Friday Continues! Episode II: The CIA Says Russia Was Helping Trump [UPDATED]

trump-tweet

Yes, those emails.

(No, it wasn’t illegal, just incredibly unethical.)

It all began with this story in the Washington Post:

“The CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, according to officials briefed on the matter.

Intelligence agencies have identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and others, including Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, according to U.S. officials. Those officials described the individuals as actors known to the intelligence community and part of a wider Russian operation to boost Trump and hurt Clinton’s chances.”

When the New York Times later came out with a story headlined  “C.I.A. Judgment on Russia Built on Swell of Evidence,” non-partisan law prof/blogger/ skeptic Ann Althouse inquired, as the mainstream news media did not, whether the content of the article supported that headline “because there’s so much fake news these days.” (Ann is funny.)

She wrote in part,

“There’s a lot of material in the article that is not about [ Russia helping Donald Trump win]  at all. I’m excluding that, which is padding if the headline is the correct headline. Go to the link if you want to see what it is. The first relevant material comes in the 16th paragraph: The DNC’s servers and John Podesta’s email account were hacked and a lot of damaging and embarrassing material was released onto the internet.

“Next:

American intelligence officials believe that Russia also penetrated databases housing Republican National Committee data, but chose to release documents only on the Democrats. The committee has denied that it was hacked.

“So here’s the crucial disputed question of fact: Were the GOP servers also hacked? We’re not told what evidence supports the belief that the GOP servers were also hacked, but the GOP says they were not. Yet some “intelligence officials believe” it was. Why? Where’s the “swell of evidence” you were going to tell me about?

“Even if that fact were nailed down, there would still be more leaps needed to get to the conclusion. First: Was there any embarrassing material? What? If I knew what, I could begin to think about the next question: Why would embarrassing material be withheld? All I can see from the supposed “swell of evidence” here is an assumption that if the DNC was hacked, the GOP committee was also hacked, and that if bad material was found in the DNC server, bad material would also be found in the GOP server, and since we only saw the DNC material, there must have been a conscious decision — by whom?! — to leak only the DNC things and that decision must have been made to help Trump win. That’s not evidence itself, only inference based on evidence.

“Finally, there are a few paragraphs about why “Putin and the Russian government” might be thought to prefer a Trump presidency to a Clinton presidency. Trump and Putin have given each other some compliments.

“That’s no swell of evidence! That’s a lot of leaping guesswork. And this is nothing more than I already read in the article the NYT put out on December 9th, which I put effort into combing through and rejected for the same reasons I’m putting in this new post.

“This might be the biggest fake news story I’ve ever seen!” Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Democratic National Committee Spokeswoman Mo Elleithee

The public tolerates the news media being such a full-throated shill for the Democratic Party that there is no reason for partisan websites to be outrageous about it. Thus when Talking Points Memo breached not just journalistic principles of fairness and objectivity, but also honesty, it needed to be called out. To its credit, the Democratic National Committee delivered the slap-down to its loyal ally, even though, as usual, the victim of the biased media mugging was a Republican.

TPM published an online account of last week’s contentious debate between CNN anchor Carol Costello and RNC spokesman Sean Spicer over the media’s treatment of Republicans in the wake of rancher Cliven Bundy’s offensive comments about blacks and slavery. Costello’s argument was that it was fair to tar the GOP with Bundy’s ignorant views, since many in the party supported his anti-government actions. Astoundingly, TPM though that it would enhance Costello’s views if its readers thought that Spicer was a skinhead. Thus it doctored a photo, using CNN’s set, showing Spicer like this, after he had shaved his head for charity a while back:

RNC-Chairman-skinhead

In fact, he had appeared on TV looking this way:

RNC-spokesman-real-head-of-hair

Continue reading

The Republican Pattern Of Deceitful Tactics: Can This Party Be Trusted? No.

cdn-media.nationaljournal.com

I owe an apology to Michael Steele, the ethically clueless, dim-bulb predecessor to Reince Priebus as Chairman of the Republican National Committee. Still nauseous from Steele’s despicable 2010 fake census mailing fundraising scam, I referred to Priebus era deceptions like employing misleading editing of excerpts from Solicitor General Donald Verrilli’s defense of the Affordable Care Act before the Supreme Court, and sending out solicitations for donations that look like overdue bill notices as examples of “the Curse of Michael Steele.”  I’m beginning to think, however, that Steele wasn’t the problem, and that it was he who was infected by the unethical instincts of the GOP, rather than the other way around.

The Tampa Bay Times recently reported on the experience of citizen Ray Bellamy, who wanted to make a political contribution to Alex Sink, a Democrat running for Congress in Florida.  A Google located “http://contribute.sinkforcongress2014.com,” and sure enough, there was a large photo of Sink and the trappings of a campaign site. Assuming he was at the correct destination and without reading the text, Bellamy clicked on a button at the bottom of the page, sending $250 to Sink’s campaign, or so he thought. But the button was under the words, “Make a contribution today to help defeat Alex Sink and candidates like her,” which Bellamy also didn’t read. He felt he had been tricked. He had. Continue reading

The Curse of Michael Steele Lives On

Past-DueDuring the deplorable reign of Michael Steele as chair of the Republican National Committee, the RNC set new lows for deceptive fundraising practices, bordering on mail fraud. Replacing Steele with the superficially less ridiculous Reince Priebus has failed to dispel Steele’s lingering curse, and here is the latest example.

Yesterday, a brown envelope arrived at Chez Marshall with a block red message “Past Due” on it. We get a number of such envelopes—fewer now than a while back—but they are always a cause for alarm. This one, however, was a fake. Back in 2012 when, if you remember, there was a campaign going on, my wife, for the first time in her life, sent a small contribution to the Romney camp. As a result of that wasted gesture, we have received an average of ten phone calls a week from the RNC seeking funds, prompting my wife to tell every caller, futilely, of course, that any party that could not defeat Barack Obama wasn’t worthy for her money or anyone else’s, and to stop with the calls already. Naturally, this has had no effect, leading me to remind her, as when she imprudently ordered some kind of miracle anti-aging cream from Madagascar over the internet, “I warned you!”

It turned out that this urgent letter was also from the RNC, using the “Past Due” stamp to fool us into opening it rather than sending it directly into the trash. Nothing was past due, of course, though the enclosed donor card was falsely labelled a “statement,” and we were asked to “renew” a “membership” we never agreed to, and had no benefits, other than the pleasure of being harassed for money. Continue reading

The Curse of Michael Steele: The Republican National Committee’s Shameful, Outrageous Supreme Court Lie

Michael Steele, when he was its Chair, brought Republican National Committee operations to a new ethical low that might have been favored by Michael Corleone. He never did anything this despicable, however, perhaps because he was replaced just as he was getting warmed up. Or maybe, just maybe, it was because even Steele knew that some political tactics were just too despicable to engage in.

In a web ad circulated this week designed to attack the health care reform law, the Republican National Committee excerpts the opening seconds of the March 27 presentation to the Supreme Court by Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, defending the law’s constitutionality. In the ad, he is heard struggling for words and twice stopping to drink water. “Obamacare,” the ad concludes, in words shown against a photograph of the high court. “It’s a tough sell.”

The transcript and recordings, however, give a different impression. Verrilli took a sip of water just once, paused for a much briefer period and completed his thought — rather than stuttering and trailing off as heard in the ad. In short, the tape was edited by the RNC to misrepresent what occurred inside the halls of the U.S. Supreme Court.

It is a lie, and a particularly heinous one, even by political ad standards, which are a cut below Shamwow and the Fishin’ Magician. Even by Michael Steele standards—he who twice approved fundraising appeals disguised to look like U.S. Census documents. Continue reading

Proof That Republicans Are Led By “The Bad Man”

If there is a Republican out there who does not want to hang his or her head in shame after reading this story, 1) I want to know why, and 2) don’t vote for this individual, no matter whom they are running against., or for what.

For this is the mark of the constitutionally unethical, the same warped comprehension of right and wrong that allows Goldman Sachs executives testify before the Senate, under oath, that they see “nothing wrong with” and have “”no regrets” about selling products to clients that they knew were terrible investments. It represents the credo of  Oliver Wendell Holmes’ famous “Bad Man,” whom he described in his speech, “The Path of the Law,” a citizen whose only interest in obeying the law is avoiding penalties, and who can be counted on to lie, cheat and do others harm whenever gaps in the laws permit. And, of course, it typifies the political style of Michael Steele, who, by definition, could never lead an ethical organization, because any organization that will tolerate someone like him must not care about ethics.

Get this: Continue reading

How We Will Know When the GOP Can Be Trusted

The Democrats swept into power in the wake of an unpopular war,  economic collapse, and perhaps most of all, indisputable proof that too many Republican lawmakers were venal, corrupt, arrogant, and unworthy of power. It has taken only a year from the promises of ethical reform made by Speaker Pelosi and President Obama to seem insincere, and Republican’s believe that this time public distrust will work to their favor, returning them to the power they abused. They may be right. Still, the public is not stupid. If Republicans intend to campaign as the party of fiscal responsibility and honest government, they must demonstrate that the commitment is more than a masquerade. Time and credibility, however, are in short supply. Continue reading