Monday, March 22, 2010

Weaselly Language

Ta-Nehisi Coates, as part of a a post on ACORN, offers this excerpt from an independent review:
The serious management challenges detailed in our report are the fault of ACORN's founder and a cadre of leaders who, in their drive for growth, failed to commit the organization to the basic, appropriate standards of governance and accountability. As a result, ACORN not only fell short of living its principles but also left itself vulnerable to public embarrassment. This hidden camera controversy is an apt example.

While some of the advice and counsel given by ACORN employees and volunteers was clearly inappropriate and unprofessional, we did not find a pattern of intentional, illegal conduct by ACORN staff; in fact, there is no evidence that action, illegal or otherwise, was taken by any ACORN employee on behalf of the videographers. Instead, the videos represent the byproduct of ACORN's longstanding management weaknesses, including a lack of training, a lack of procedures, and a lack of on-site supervision.

I'm fine with the first paragraph, but that second one is weaselly. Let's look at in more detail.

While some of the advice and counsel given by ACORN employees and volunteers was clearly inappropriate and unprofessional,

Agreed.

...we did not find a pattern of intentional, illegal conduct by ACORN staff

Right, no illegal conduct intentionally. They just gave advice on how to engage in illegal activities without knowing whether or not said advice was illegal.

in fact, there is no evidence that action, illegal or otherwise, was taken by any ACORN employee on behalf of the videographers.

Right. So, the defense is that ACORN employees didn't actually do anything to help the videographers setup a brothel and smuggle in underage girls to work in it; they just gave advice? Charming.

Instead, the videos represent the byproduct of ACORN's longstanding management weaknesses, including a lack of training, a lack of procedures, and a lack of on-site supervision.

Okay. People walk in to your office and claim to want to setup a brothel with underage girls they are going to smuggle into the country illegally. What kind of idiot needs needs training, procedures, or supervision to tell them this ain't kosher?

The gist I get from the report, when you strip away the formality, is this: While the higher ups were focusing on growth (and embezzling money), they didn't realize that many of the lower, local-level employees are stupid and untrustworthy.

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