Category Archives: Family

“Say It Ain’t So, Jim!”: Jim Webb’s Unethical Family Stipends

Webb and staff. Well, wife. Well, never mind.

Webb and staff. Well, wife. Well, never mind.

Oh, great. I have personal experience with the character of one national political figure who impresses me with his honesty, courage and integrity; I support his political career and come to his defense when he is unfairly maligned, and now this. 

Time to put an ad in Craig’s List seeking a new hero.

According to a report in the Business Insider, Webb, a potential challenger to Hillary Clinton’s claim on the 2016 Democratic Presidential nomination as well as a former U.S. Senator, head of he Veterans Administration, best-selling novelist and decorated Vietnam veteran, has been playing the old, unethical Washington game of shoveling campaign contributions to his family. Let me give you some of the depressing highlights:

  • Webb’s  Born Fighting PAC is dedicated to supporting “candidates and entities” who support economic fairness, “reorienting our national security posture,” and developing greater accountability in government.
  • Federal Election Commission reports show that the committee, which received nearly $1 million in donations, gave a relatively small portion of that money to political candidates and groups. At the same time, nearly 10% of the contributions received by the PAC went to Webb’s family.
  • Records show that Webb’s  Born Fighting PAC has received $961,515.34 in contributions from individuals, politicians, progressive groups, businesses, unions, and Democratic Party organizations since it launched at the end of 2006. Of this money, $91,999.91 went to Webb’s daughter, Amy Webb Hogan, and wife, Hong Le Webb.
  • Since Webb declared his interest in the 2016 race, he has been identified as one of the main potential rivals for Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton. Webb, who entered the Senate in 2006, announced he wouldn’t run for reelection at the beginning of 2011.
  • The Born Fighting PAC continued to contribute to Webb’s family long after it had stopped giving to funds to candidates and the groups it was established to support. Campaign finance reports show the committee has not given any money to political candidates or groups since the end of 2010.
  • The PAC has continued to take donations. Over $100,000 from the final balance in Webb’s Senate campaign account, now closed, was transferred to the committee after he left office at the start of last year.
  • Most of the money Webb’s wife and daughter received from the committee came after it had stopped giving money to politicians and political groups.
  • Webb Hogan began receiving money from her father’s PAC in 2009, when she earned $2,000 for “website consulting services.” In each year from 2010 through 2012 she received $12,000 for the same purpose. Last year, Webb Hogan was paid $14,500 from the committee. Of the money Webb Hogan was paid last year, the reports said $13,500 was for “administrative consulting services” and $1,000 was for “website services reimbursement.”
  • Based on archived versions of the Born Fighting PAC site, it was not updated at all during this period apart from a two-sentence note thanking donors for their “past support.”
  • Hong Le Webb was first paid by the Born Fighting PAC in 2008 when she received $253.37 for travel expenses. She did not receive any money from the committee again until this year, when, as of last month, she received $14,834.34. Most of the money that the committee paid to Hong Le Webb in 2014 — $13,800 — was listed in the reports as compensation for “website services.”
  • Along with the members of Webb’s family, the committee has hired professional web designers to work on the site. This includes work on the site done in the same period Webb’s PAC paid his family members for their “website services.”
  • Archived versions of the Born Fighting PAC website indicate it was updated just once this year. Hong Le Webb nevertheless received $13,800 for “website services” in addition to the money that was paid to L.A. Design Studio.
  • The latest Federal Election Commission report, which covers the period up to Nov. 24, shows the Born Fighting PAC has only $69,391.84 of the nearly $1 million it received left on hand. The committee spent about $900,000 from 2006 through last month. Of this, the records show that, over the years, just $200,027.04 of the money donated to the PAC went to political candidates and groups.In other words, Webb’s committee used only about 20% of the money it spent to support its stated mission.
  • One Democratic operative who spoke to Business Insider said leadership PACs “generally contribute 40% to 60% of the money they receive” to other candidates and groups. Born Fighting PAC seems to have had relatively high overhead even though the records show the committee did not have office space and barely employed paid staffers apart from Webb’s wife and daughter.

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Family, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership

Hard Lesson Of The Walmart Tragedy: Bad Ethics Kills

5-year-old-with-a-gun

A two-year old sitting in a shopping cart shot his mother dead at point blank range in a Walmart, after finding a loaded pistol in the mother’s open purse. It is such a horrible story that journalists are reluctant to call attention to its obvious lessons. Veronica Jean Rutledge engaged in grossly irresponsible conduct as a mother, a citizen and a gun owner. If her actions, which constituted child endangerment of all four of the children in her charge, as well as a public menace to unsuspecting shoppers in a public store, were to result in anyone’s death or injury, she was the best possible victim. This was all her fault.

The analogy might be a parent who leaves an infant locked in over-heated car, but this is far, far worse. Carrying a loaded gun in public without observing gun safety principles—safety off, for example— posed a threat to everyone around Rutledge. (UPDATE: It is apparently illegal in Idaho to carry a concealed, loaded gun.) Leaving any gun accessible to children is criminal negligence. She was lucky—yes, lucky—that her toddler didn’t shoot one or more of the three girls, all under 11, participating in the shopping trip, or himself. Now the boy will live with the trauma of knowing that he killed his own mother. He will be lucky not to be psychologically scarred for life.

Who knows how many times Rutledge had left her firearm, safety off, within reach of children? I find it hard to believe this was the first time. I find it difficult to believe that she didn’t regularly leave her child in peril, if she would do this even once. Allowing a child access to a loaded gun ready to fire is the equivalent of leaving an open bottle of rat poison within reach of an infant, allowing a child to share a home with a pet wolf, leaving a child alone without supervision while the mother partied and got stoned, or perhaps letting a toddler run free in a home meth lab. If any of these resulted in the death of the child,  public outrage against the parent would be merciless and deafening. It should not be any less intense in this case, simply because moral luck took a relatively merciful turn.

Veronica Jean Rutledge was an unforgivably unethical gun owner, citizen, caretaker and mother, and it killed her.

If there had to be a victim, she was the right one.

UPDATE: From the Washington Post 12/31:

Rutledge isn’t just sad — he’s angry. Not at his grandson. Nor at his dead daughter-in-law, “who didn’t have a malicious fiber in her body,” he said. He’s angry at the observers already using the accident as an excuse to grandstand on gun rights.

“They are painting Veronica as irresponsible, and that is not the case,” he said.

  • That link from Post reporter Terrence McCoy comes right back to this post. I’d like to know where “gun rights” are mentioned or even implied above, much less used to “grandstand.” I can’t even figure out what gun rights point McCoy thinks I’m trying to make (I’m for them, by the way.)
  • VERONICA WAS NOT IRRESPONSIBLE????? This is res ipsa loquitur: if you get shot by a toddler because you left your loaded pistol, safety off,  where he could get it while you are in a public place with 4 kids under your care, you ARE irresponsible: negligent, incompetent, reckless, ignorant of gun iand safety obligations, careless. The facts speak for themselves; no further proof is necessary.

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Filed under Childhood and children, Ethics Dunces, Family

Reminder: It’s A Wonderful Ethics Movie!

It's_a_Wonderful_Life

I’m watching “It’s A Wonderful Life,” Frank Capra’s ultimate ethics movie. Don’t forget to review its ethics dilemmas, conflicts and conundrums with the handy

Ethics Alarms Complete “It’s A Wonderful Life” Ethics Guide.

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Family, Love, Philanthropy, Popular Culture, Public Service, Romance and Relationships, Workplace

Criminal Charges For Web-Shaming? Sure.

Gee, I wonder why that kid is a bully?

Gee, I wonder why that kid is a bully?

Police in Winter Garden, Florida have arrested and charged Christle Prado and her, ah, “roommate” for forcing her 10-year-old son to wear a dress, and then posting photos on Facebook to humiliate him. Discipline, you see; he had wet his bed.

The model mom and Keith Driscoll were charged with cruelty toward children and infliction of mental injury on a child.

Good.

I’ve written about web-shaming children before, and characterized it as child abuse, which it is. A maxim here is that when ethics fail, the law must take over. It is a poor second option, but for this couple and those like them, including the parents of the boy in the photo to the left, it is a necessary and an ethical one.

Police learned about the abuse after one of the boy’s relative saw posted photos of the boy dressed as a girl and wearing makeup. He was crying. I wonder how many of Prado’s friends “liked” those photos on Facebook? Prado told police that Driscoll came up with the idea to dress her son like a girl as a way to discipline him, went along with it because she “did not want to cause problems with her living situation.”  Oh, well, that’s all right then, ma’am—you can go now. Driscoll, you see, is her sleep-in landlord.

Yechhh. I wonder what else she’ll do to her son to keep that cozy relationship peaceful? Cigarette burns? Whipping? Water-boarding?

The child cruelty charge is a second-degree felony. I’m all in favor of expanding such charges to apply to the parents who post photos of children holding signs that read “I pooped on the floor” and other self-incriminating screeds compsed by mom and dad, even those who aren’t doing it to interfere with their sex-for-rent arrangements. In fact, I’d expand it to include those Jimmy Kimmel fans who make YouTube videos of their children crying because their Christmas gift appeared to be old sweat socks or broccoli, in the hopes that Jimmy will make their exploitation of their own kids go viral. (An excellent discussion of everything that is wrong with child-shaming on the web can be found here.)

Using the web to humiliate your powerless children—forever, remember—is wrong, but if parents are so stupid, cruel and ethically inert that they can’t fathom this basic Golden Rule principle, it should be illegal too.

___________________________

Pointer: Fark

Facts: WFTV

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Filed under Childhood and children, Family, Gender and Sex, Law & Law Enforcement, The Internet

Vice President Biden May Be A Boob, A Hypocrite And An Ethics Dunce, But He Understands The American Culture Better Than Most Of His Party

I’m late to the blog today, because I spent it giving a special program for the Smithsonian Associates called  “From Stagecoach to Django Unchained: The Hollywood Western and Its Influence on American Values, Aspirations and Culture.” It consisted of me talking, a terrific Powerpoint presentation by the gifted Grace Marshall, and almost three hours of clips from classic Westerns—the whole session was five hours. My primary message is that anyone who is not literate  regarding the Hollywood Western really doesn’t understand the myths and archetypes that powerfully influence U.S. culture to this day. Within that “anyone” are the majority of pundits and journalists, a large percentage of citizens under 50, and the vast majority of women and minorities. This is a problem.

For example, no one can consider the vast influence of the Western genre on American culture and be the least bit surprised that gun control has an uphill battle with the American public. No other culture has as its primary source of heroes, legends and lore figures and events so dependent on firearms as a means to right wrongs, protect the innocent, and punish evil. Frankly, if a pundit doesn’t understand why John Wayne (who died in 1979) just set a Harris poll record by being included in its annual list of top ten most popular movie actors for twenty consecutive years, from 1994 to 2014, I don’t think they can comprehend the nation sufficiently to opine on it.

Joe Biden, however, understands. I have been critical of Joe, as he is frequently an embarrassment, and there was a lot wrong with his comments today as he was honored with the “Voice of Solidarity” award by Vital Voices, a women’s rights charity, at their event celebrating “men who combat violence against women.” Still, Biden proved that whether he knows it or not, he is more atuned to U.S. culture than most of his colleagues. He deserves credit for that, if nothing else.

You see, Biden told a fascinating personal anecdote from his childhood. He related:

“I remember coming back from Mass on Sunday Always the big treat was, we’d stop at the donut shop…We’d get donuts, and my dad would wait in the car. As I was coming out, my sister tugged on me and said, ‘That’s the boy who kicked me off my bicycle.’ So I went home—we only lived about a quarter mile away—and I got on my bicycle and rode back, and he was in the donut shop.”

Biden said the the boy was in a physically vulnerable position,“leaning down on one of those slanted counters,” so he took immediate advantage:

“I walked up behind him and smashed his head next to the counter.His father grabbed me, and I looked at his son and said, ‘If you ever touch my sister again, I’ll come back here again and I’ll kill your son.’ Now, that was a euphemism. I thought I was really, really in trouble… My father never once raised his hand to any one of his children—never once—and I thought I was in trouble. He pulled me aside and said, ‘Joey, you shouldn’t do that, but I’m proud of you, son.’”

The lesson, Biden said, was that one should to “speak up and speak out” to correct wrongdoings. Like much of what come out of Biden’s mouth, this was nonsense in the context of his own story, and was not what the lesson was at all. The lesson was that force, punishment, violence and intimidation is sometimes necessary to stop bullying, discourage misconduct, protect the innocent and vulnerable,  set standards, and give more than lip service to core values. Little Joey Biden didn’t “speak up”: he bashed a bully’s head and threatened to kill him. Apparently it worked, too. America, Americans, the culture and our history—as well as the Duke–have long believed that sometimes violence is necessary to stop violence, and send important messages, and can therefore be virtuous and ethical.  Biden understood that when he was ten, and somewhere deep in that mess of mush he calls a mind, he understands that now. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Childhood and children, Family, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Popular Culture, U.S. Society, War and the Military

For You, Dad.

Jack Marshall Sr Army portraitI lost my dad, Jack Marshall, Sr., five years ago today, and for some reason the loss feels especially sharp right now. This has been another miserable birthday, but not so miserable as that one, and I found myself once again revisiting my father’s favorite poem, which was a personnel credo for him and which has often served me well in hard times too. It is linked in the “Inspiration” section on the  Ethics Alarms home page, as well as quoted in my post here on the day my father was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Nonetheless, I am going to post Rudyard Kipling’s “If” once again. My father’s favorite line was…

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;   
That was Dad to the core. He never looked back, never cursed his luck, never thought too highly of himself (or anyone else), always believed in tomorrow, and that no victory was final, and no defeat was forever. And I know he was right, though it doesn’t often feel like it. So this is for you, Dad. Thanks for everything.

“If”

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs, and blaming it on you,

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait, and not be tired by waiting,

Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

And yet, don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;

If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two imposters just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

Twisted by knaves, to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

And stoop, and build ‘em up, with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn, long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And—which is more—

You’ll be a Man, my son!

 

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Filed under Character, Family, Literature, Love

Ethics Dunce and Unethical Facebook Post of the Month: Elizabeth Lauten, Spokeswoman for Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Tennessee)

Elizabeth Lauten, communications director for Republican Congressman Stephen Fincher, decided that she is authorized to give parental advice to First Offspring Sasha (13) and Malia (16) Obama. She was deeply troubled by the young ladies looking bored in photographs she saw online, so she posted this jaw-dropper on Facebook:

Facebook lecture

Wow. What a Thanksgiving feast of unethical features! Let’s see: Continue reading

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Filed under Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Etiquette and manners, Family, Government & Politics, Literature, Professions, The Internet, Unethical Blog Post