Observations On The George W. Bush Speaking Fee Controversy

Paying George to speak is a little like paying Hillary to tell the truth...

Paying George to speak is a little like paying Hillary to tell the truth…

Former President George W. Bush was paid a speakers fee of $100,000 to address a charity fundraiser for U.S. military veterans severely wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. The  Texas-based Helping a Hero charity also confirmed  that W. was also provided with a private jet to travel to Houston at a cost of $20,000.

Observations:

  • Neither the former President, nor anyone, is obligated to donate his time and effort any time a charity whistles, regardless of its worthy mission. He is also within his rights to charge whatever he chooses: nobody has to pay it.Would it be an ethical act to donate that fee back to the charity, or waive it entirely? Sure. Is it unethical not to do so? Of course not.
  • Why is this story suddenly all over the news and internet? Why, to protect Hillary Clinton, of course. This is another res ipsa loquitur example of the news media acting like Democratic Party operatives. They are trying an “everybody does it” excuse for Hillary’s greed; in turn, the former President’s defnders counter with #22, “It’s not the worst thing.”
  • “For him to be paid to raise money for veterans that were wounded in combat under his orders, I don’t think that’s right,” former Marine Eddie Wright, who lost both hands in a rocket attack in Iraq in 2004, complained to ABC News “You sent me to war. I was doing what you told me to do, gladly for you and our country and I have no regrets. But it’s kind of a slap in the face.” I’m sympathetic, but the argument is absurd. Wright was soldier, and had his duty; Bush was Commander-in-Chief, and had his. Wright wasn’t doing Bush a favor, and Bush owes him no more and no less than any other American. Wright’s argument would obligate Bush to appear, on demand, free of charge to every military and veterans group, or be accused, variously, of playing favorites, not properly respecting non-wounded veterans, and dozens of other equally unavoidable complaints.
  • Is $100,000 an unreasonable speaker’s fee for a former President? Well, if his presence on the dais raises a lot more than that, and the charity seems to think it does, then from a strictly economic standpoint, it is not unreasonable, nor unethical for him to charge it, nor unethical for a charity to pay it.

Continue reading

“You Know I Can’t Hear You With All Those Ethics Alarms Ringing”: Hillary Clinton’s CNN Interview

Hillary_Clinton_2016

The frightening thing—it should frighten Democrats more than anyone, but if they have let Hillary get this far, they may be beyond frightening—is that Hillary Clinton had a long time to prep for this interview—her first substantive one since announcing her candidacy, about five or six scandals ago—had a hand-picked, friendly interviewer, was not pressed to clarify any of her non-answers, obfuscations or incomprehensible blather, and she still came off looking defensive, evasive, and basically like Tommy Flanagan in drag.

Ethics Alarms were ringing so loudly that the interview was almost inaudible. My observations in bold….

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Secretary Clinton, thank you so much for talking to us today.  You’re here in Iowa for a couple of events.  You’re the front-runner in this state but we’re also seeing Bernie Sanders attract a lot of attention.  He has had big crowds here, 10,000 people in Wisconsin last week, 7,500 people in Maine last night. Why is it, do you think, that someone who is a self-described Democratic socialist is really attracting this organic interest that your campaign seems to be struggling a little bit with?

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE:  Well, first of all, I always thought this would be a competitive race.  So I am happy to have a chance to get out and run my campaign as I see fit and let other candidates do exactly the same.

Non-responsive. Also a lie: Clinton has always assumed she could get the nomination by just showing up.

I feel very good about where we are in Iowa.  We are signing up thousands of volunteers, people committed to caucus for us.  We have a committed supporter in every one of the 1,600 precincts.  And one of the things that I learned last time is it’s organize, organize, organize.  And you’ve got to get people committed.  And then they will follow through and then you bring more people.

Non-responsive.

So I feel very good about where my campaign is.  It’ll be three months and a few days that we’ve been at this.  I think I’ve learned a lot from listening to people in Iowa.  And it’s actually affected what I say and what I talk about on the campaign trail.

Non-responsive.

So I couldn’t be happier about my campaign.

Non-responsive. Pretending to open yourself to a candid question and answer session and then refusing to answer the very first question while pretending you did: Dishonest. Disrespectful.

KEILAR:  Senator Sanders  has talked about how, if he’s president, he would raise taxes.  In fact, he said to CNN’s Jake Tapper, he would raise them substantially higher than they are today, on big corporations, on wealthy Americans. Would you?

CLINTON:  I will be laying out my own economic policies.  Again, everybody has to run his or her own campaign.  And I’m going to be telling the American people what propose and how I think it will work and then we’ll let voters make up their minds.

“I refuse to answer on the grounds that I might incriminate myself actually let voters know what I stand for. After all, I’m a vagina. That’s what really matters.”

KEILAR:  Is raising taxes on the table?

CLINTON:  I’m going to put out my policies and I’ll other people speak to their policies because I think we have to both grow the economy faster and fairer so we have to do what will actually work in the short term, the medium term and the long term.  I will be making a speech about my economic proposals on Monday.  And then I look forward to the debate about them.

If Clinton made a speech Monday (July 7) about specific economic proposals, she did it in her closet, because all anyone actually heard was this.

KEILAR:  I’m wondering if you can address a vulnerability that we’ve seen you dealing with recently.  We see in our recent poll that nearly six in 10 Americans say they don’t believe that you’re honest and trustworthy. Do you understand why they feel that way?

CLINTON:  Well, I think when you are subjected to the kind of constant barrage of attacks that are largely fomented by and coming from the Right and –

The vast right wing conspiracy again! Ironic, because one very good reason people shouldn’t, and  many sane people actually do not, trust Hillary is when she made teh same accusation on the Today Show to Matt Lauer, claiming that the Monica Lewinsky scandal had been “largely fomented by and coming from the Right,” when in fact she knew otherwise and was lying for her husband.

KEILAR:  But do you bear any responsibility for that?

CLINTON:  – well, I – you know, I can only tell you that I was elected twice in New York against the same kind of onslaught.

“I got away with it before, didn’t I?” Continue reading

“Hillary Clinton’s Honesty Called Into Question In New Poll”…Wait, Why Is There Any “Question”?

 According to a recent AP-GFK poll, 61 percent of those surveyed—that’s only 61%—said “honest” describes Hillary Clinton only slightly well or not at all. Nearly four in 10 Democrats, and more than six in 10 independents agreed that “honest” was not the best word for her.

Gee, really?

This raises several important questions, such as..

1. What the heck is the matter with the 39% that would ever use “honest” in the same sentence as “Clinton”?

2. How much  is necessary to convince the nearly 70% of Democrats that unequivocal proof of habitual lying, violating signed pledges and dodging rules is indisputable indicia that one of their darlings is untrustworthy?

3. Why aren’t those Democrats embarrassed for their Party?

4. Why do they have so little respect for the nation?

5. How stupid does the  Democratic Party think voters are?

Last week, while the poll was being prepared for release, Vox, a reliable progressive mouthpiece that still has a greater capacity for integrity than 70% of their editors’ favorite political party, revealed that least 181 companies, individuals, and foreign governments gave to the Clinton Foundation and also lobbied the State Department while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State.

After a staggering chart of all the cash that nobody can prove was part of a quid pro quo understanding but which almost certainly was, Vox concludes, “That’s not illegal, but it is scandalous.”

Of course it is scandalous.

It also violates federal law. Continue reading

The Clinton Foundation’s OTHER Ethics Problem—And An Ethics Trainwreck Update

clinton_foundationEven if it weren’t being used for what looks like influence peddling…even if the foreign contributions to it didn’t create a textbook “appearance of impropriety,” which is prohibited for a Secretary of State…even if Hillary Clinton’s unilateral destruction of thousands of e-mails makes her surrogates’ (and imagine: one of those surrogates is an ABC new show host, and the network sees nothing wrong with that) argument that there’s no “smoking gun” evidence of wrongdoing a shining example of gall for the ages…there is another ethics problem with the Clinton Foundation, one that is beyond reasonable debate, and one that even the most shameless Clinton acolytes won’t be able to deflect by attacking the messenger.

It’s an unethical foundation, by well-established non-profit standards, and that has nothing to do with politics. Continue reading

Robert Reich—Charity Bigot, Culture Dunce

"Charity? Why yes, I send my usual check to Harvard, of course...have to make sure young Ethan gets accepted despite his vehicular manslaughter conviction..."

“Charity? Why yes, I send my usual check to Harvard, of course…have to make sure young Ethan gets accepted despite his vehicular manslaughter conviction…”

Robert Reich, Bill Clinton’s former Secretary of Labor, is out with an opinion piece declaring that giving to his favored charitable causes—charities directly assisting the poor– is real charity, while giving to other non-profits, in the arts, humanities and education, is just a self-serving, classist tax game.

“…A  large portion of the charitable deductions now claimed by America’s wealthy are for donations to culture palaces – operas, art museums, symphonies, and theaters – where they spend their leisure time hobnobbing with other wealthy benefactors,” he writes. “I’m all in favor of supporting fancy museums and elite schools, but face it: These aren’t really charities as most people understand the term. They’re often investments in the life-styles the wealthy already enjoy and want their children to have as well. Increasingly, being rich in America means not having to come across anyone who’s not.” 

Reich is an intelligent man, and I have a difficult time, reading this nonsense, believing that he is doing anything but gratuitous class-bashing here. Does he really believe that poor people don’t need and appreciate the arts, don’t go to see theater productions, never listen to music and wouldn’t be caught dead in a museum? Does he really believe everyone in an opera audience looks like the Monopoly Man, and goes there, not to listen to beautiful music, but to “hobnob” with old prep school buddies? Reich’s essay is an ugly example of class bias, and little more. How does he explain generous philanthropists who are childless? What’s their “angle”? Heaven knows,the wealthy never do anything out of compassion or generosity! Reich is engaging in biases on all sides: the poor are mundane, intellectually bereft philistines, and the wealthy are insular snobs. Continue reading

Our Sports Superstars and Their Non-Profit Scams

Hey, don't be cynical! Yes, this is the A-Rod family, and that's the Font of Human Kindness behind them!

Hey, don’t be cynical! Yes, this is the A-Rod family, and that’s the Font of Human Kindness behind them!

Pro athletes who receive insanely high salaries for their unique talents and awe-inspiring achievements often deflect the public jealousy, envy, resentment and criticism their riches inspire by launching charitable foundations aimed at providing assistance and comfort to poor children, disaster victims, orphans, kids with dread diseases, puppies, and anything else that will produce a collective, “Awww! He’s really a good guy!” Some of these athletes really are good guys, like former tennis star Andre Agassi, a true philanthropist, whose Foundation raised and handed out millions while he was playing and continues to do so. Agassi also frequently led all pro athletes in money donated to charity, and he had no scandals that he was trying to make people forget. He’s third on the list now. The first two: Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong.

Other stars, however, are a different story. Continue reading

University Trustee Investment Conflicts: When the Stumps Start Showing

University boards are great for mutual back-scratching

Deep water hides all stumps, as the saying goes, and while the endowments of rich universities were piling up cash during the investment-friendly period before 2008, nobody questioned the universities’ choices of which companies and funds to invest in. Then came the meltdown, and endowments of over a billion dollars lost an average of 20% or more. That kind of hit has consequences, and among them were that a lot of programs got cut and a lot pf people lost their jobs.

That, in turn, provokes scrutiny: the deep water had receded, and the stumps were out to see in all their ugliness. As an article in Inside Higher Ed explains, among the stumps on display was the fact that many prominent universities invested their funds in places where their trustees had financial interests: Continue reading

The Unethical Consequences of Ethical Coffee

"Mmmmmmm! Smells ethical!"

When ethical conduct becomes too complicated, confusing, or controversial, the vast majority of people will shrug and give up, leaving the conduct to be embraced by fanatics who can be relied upon to argue among themselves about who is really being ethical.   Welcome to the world of so-called ethical coffee, where adherents must choose between a dizzying number of certifications and categories to ensure that their coffee purchases support ethical practices and objectives.

“Shouldn’t the dollars you spend support the values you believe in?,” chirps the home page of EthicalCoffee.com. “Fortunately, when it comes to the morning cup of coffee so many of us love, it’s easier to put your money where your conscience is than with any other commodity. (Just try to find a gas station that can certify that the gasoline you’re putting in your tank isn’t linked to environmental disasters or labor abuses halfway around the world.) With coffee, you can pay a little more and know the grower is getting a minimum price or be sure you’re helping preserve winter habitat for some of the same songbirds that will show up next summer in your back yard.”

Hey, sounds great! Love those song birds! Then comes the “but’… Continue reading