Acton Institute Powerblog

Learning To Tell The Truth

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Last week when the videos were aired showing ACORN employees in their Baltimore and Washington DC offices consulting “a couple” pretending to be a pimp and prostitute I watched with amazement. On Saturday my wife sat at the computer to see for herself. Busy in another room I could hear the rumbling of the adult’s conversation but what stood out was the unmistakable sound of little kids and the high pitched chatter and muffled squealing that characterizes children at play.

That’s right: while mom or auntie or grandma was unemotionally advising the two actors on matters of tax fraud, abuse of the federal guidelines for subsidized home ownership, and with stoic and neutral non-reaction listening to the “couple’s” plans to house up to 13 Central American girls — aged 13 or less — in the HUD financed brothel — little children were within earshot.

In the long history of the “heredity versus environment” argument, I’ve pretty consistently come down on the environment side. And there’s plenty of evidence to substantiate my leaning that way. But when the basic principles of Western Civilization are abrogated to the extent they are today, it’s hard to get kids on the straight and narrow, let alone keep them there. And groups like ACORN are decidedly not doing us any favors.

In a piece in The Wall Street Journal Scott Harrington, a professor at Wharton School of Business illuminates three statements President Obama made last week in his speech to Congress on health care. Each of Harrington’s “fact checks” clarifies what the president had asserted on air and show that Obama plays fast and loose with the facts. Professor Harrington’s most basic point is that applications for insurance contracts require our telling the truth and nothing but the truth and when it is determined that an applicant has lied the recourse for the insurance company is to cancel the liar. That cancellation protects all the rest of us who tell the truth.

Although ACORN now has the attention of federal bureaucracies that will hopefully work toward disassociating themselves from a system of “spoils” that has fed ACORN millions if not billions of taxpayer’s dollars, we need to make sure that Congress acts swiftly and without compassion to get any advanced funds that are still in bank accounts returned, and begin sober investigations of ACORN executives.

It will not go without notice that only a few years ago, Barack Obama was one of those executives in ACORN’s Chicago office. Stanley Kurtz told the story long before last fall’s election here; and here.

ACORN’s immediate reaction was to cry out that Fox News was racist because they showed the videos. Hmmmm.

So as to connect some dots and clarify my purpose in writing this essay, let’s finish up by noting a column that originally appeared in The St Louis Post Dispatch in August titled “The Britney Spears Syndrome“. Focusing on Gigi Durham’s 2008 book The Lolita Effect Colleen Campbell outlines the ways in which the popular culture has regarded any “breaking of sexual taboos as a form of progress.” No wonder the ACORN folks didn’t blink at the plan to hustle 13 girls into prostitution. My gosh, do you suppose ACORN’s defense attorney will plead their case as victims of the culture as some with law degrees are prone to do? Ms Campbell writes:

Durham worries that today we are “reverting to a time when childhood was indistinct from adulthood, when the concept of ‘child abuse’ was unknown.” That reversion has helped fuel the growth of the multi-billion dollar child porn and child sex-trafficking industries, as well as alarming rates of eating disorders and sexually transmitted diseases among girls and the rise of such trends as “sexting,” in which girls send out nude photos of themselves via cell phone or Internet to attract the male sexual attention they have learned to seek at all costs.

It may be instructive to note that the young female reporter who took part in the videos is named Hannah. For Jews the Biblical namesake is one of the prophetesses whose prayer is remembered at Rosh Hashanah [coming soon] and the mother of Samuel. You may recall that Samuel had problems with his succession choices. They weren’t sufficiently obedient to God’s instruction in handling the errant, sinful tribes. Of course, that wasn’t Hannah’s fault. She did what God asked and was rewarded.

But Washington, and the bureaucracy: How will they do?

Ken Larson Ken Larson is a businessman and writer who with his wife recently moved from their native state California to a semi-rural part of Virginia, near the Chesapeake Bay. A graduate of California State University with a major in English, his eclectic career includes editing the first "reloading manual" for Sierra Bullets [something that earns him major league credibility when picking crabs with new friends on Sunday afternoons] and authoring a novel about a family's school choice decisions titled ReEnchantment, A Schoolboy's Adventure. His web site is For ten years, Ken was the only Protestant on The Consultative School Board for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange near Los Angeles and chaired their inaugural Catholic Conference on Business and Ethics in support of needy parish schools in the diocese. He continues to be active in his new community and mindful of America's civic education malaise.


  • Kayla

    I’m just waiting for someone to make the connection between this obviously out-of-line ACORN employee in Baltimore to Obama and his legal work in Chicago years ago. Opponents are just grasping onto nonsense that will incriminate Obama. What those employees did was wrong, but Obama and the government had nothing to do with it.

  • Scott

    Interesting thoughts.

    I liked the Hannah reference…I hadn’t thought about that.

    I do tend to see the ACORN story as a sadly predictable chapter in the unfolding culture war saga that has gripped our nation, as posted in “Create a Godless Nation? YES! WE! CAN!” at

    I hope that all is well in your neck o’ the woods. Keep the faith and hang in there!

  • Before Truth, the Politically Correct.

    Obama went into the people’s house of congress and lied, yet when Obama was called on it, Joe Wilson was punished. If someone came into our house and lied, wouldn’t most of us call for the truth? That the entire House and Senate reacted so poorly reminds us of the condemnation of Truth Seekers throughout history. ACORN (no pun intended) is the fruits of a corrupt tree.

    Dennis Prager in one of his columns asked, “Is there a right to childhood innocence?” Does a Constitutionally unstated right to innocence trump the stated right to freedom of speech? Can we expect the legal system to protect innocence without outlawing most children’s literature and Biblical stores? Is this an issue superior to the purview of government? Jesus is definite and harsh in his condemnation of those who corrupt children.

    The beginning of recovery and wisdom is a general admission that government is powerless over evil and our society has become unmanageable.

  • It’s sad when readers like Kayla miss a point. Or is it: choose to miss a point. She writes, “What those employees did was wrong, but Obama and the government had nothing to do with it.” And that ignores the entire thesis of heredity v environment or as some phrase it, “you are what you eat.”

    I suggest to her that she plow through Stanley Kurtz’s longer piece on the subject if she’s at all interested in The Truth. It’s here.

    Within his summary Mr. Kurtz writes:
    “Important as these questions of funding and partisanship are, the larger point is that Obama’s ties to Acorn — arguably the most politically radical large-scale activist group in the country — are wide, deep, and longstanding. If Acorn is adept at creating a non-partisan, inside-game veneer for what is in fact an intensely radical, leftist, and politically partisan reality, so is Obama himself. This is hardly a coincidence: Obama helped train Acorn’s leaders in how to play this game. For the most part, Obama seems to have favored the political-insider strategy, yet it’s clear that he knew how to play the in-your-face “direct action” game as well. And surely during his many years of close association with Acorn, Obama had to know what the group was all about.”

    With recent revelations and records of investigations and indictments of ACORN throughout the USA — I wouldn’t be characterizing all this as “nonsense,”

  • Tracy

    Ken I see your point, but still regardless of Obama’s “direct action”, Americans are able to abuse the system similar to the political legislatures embezzling government money for their own gain. The Government with large amounts of money gave Groups like ACORN and Fanny Mae that able to accept risky unethical people applying for loans that eventually the money would run out. It may be the governments fault for allowing such a wide number of loans processed without realy investigation the applicants but the bottom line people are greedy and lie to get what they want or acheive a personal gain.