Second Chances? Barack Obama to Michael Vick – Have We become a Compassionless Country?

December 30, 2010

Well, for a guy who believes in Second Chances (hence the title of my new book – Second Chances) I was shocked and saddened at the media storm or fire related to Barack Obama’s comments praising giving folks – namely Michael Vick – a “Second Chance.”  As a nation have we become so full of hate and intolerance that we no longer can tolerate the idea that “Second Chances” are worth aspiring toward?

So this past Monday the following was reported by the Washington Post – quoted here:

On Monday, the buzz was about how the president had weighed in on the redemption of Michael Vick. Obama phoned the owner of the Philadelphia Eagles to praise the team for giving a second chance to the quarterback, who is again a National Football League star 19 months after leaving prison for his role in a horrific dogfighting ring that killed pit bulls by electrocution, hanging and drowning.

The president has not spoken publicly about the call, though aides acknowledged that it took place. But Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie told Peter King of Sports Illustrated and NBC Sports that during their conversation Obama was passionate about Vick’s comeback.

“He said, ‘So many people who serve time never get a fair second chance,’ ” said Lurie, who did not indicate when the call occurred. “He said, ‘It’s never a level playing field for prisoners when they get out of jail.’ And he was happy that we did something on such a national stage that showed our faith in giving someone a second chance after such a major downfall.”

While I may not agree with a great deal of what the President says – in this case he’s right!  Rarely do those who serve time get a “fair second chance!”  But AND THIS IS IMPORTANT – “Second Chances” are not just about those who have committed crimes and done their time.  Obama’s comment that “we did something on such a national state that showed our faith in giving someone a second chance after such a major downfall” is really at the heart of the matter.

But, with such compassion stated by our President – the firestorm begins.

So what’s the fallout of suggesting that it is good to give folks a “Second Chance” – enter FOX News broadcaster Tucker Carlson, who said: “Michael Vick killed dogs in a heartless and cruel way. I think, firstly, he should have been executed for that. The idea the president of the United States would be getting behind someone who murdered dogs is beyond the pale.”

WOW – TALKING ABOUT FROM LEFT FIELD (oops I should have said “Right” field for FOX)

Stop!  Media extremism is in play here.  Let’s get the ratings and buzz huh Tucker?  Dumbass statement that Vick should be executed is nothing more than an UNETHICAL PLOY to sensationalize a true heart-felt comment by Obama.  Have we come to be so angry and so hard-hearted that we will take the opposite opinion of anyone who does not share our ideological belief.  Wonder if Obama had said that he felt Vick should be banished to a desert island never to return to the US – would Tucker have then found it in his heart to give Vick a “Second Chance”?  Is it about coverage and opposites – winning or losing – black or white?  Have we fallen that low as a country?

What about “Second Chances” in other areas – love, being a father, recovery from cancer – Is the concept of getting a “Second Chance” becoming foreign to Americans?  Or is it the media that finds that NO SECOND CHANCES make for better ratings?  If it were his child that needed a “Second Chance” I think Tucker’s words would ring hypocritical this week!  Tucker what about it?  Care to comment?

BUT TUCKER’S NOT THE ONLY ONE…!

Reported in the LA Times –

But Bill Smith, the founder of Main Line Animal Rescue in the Philadelphia area, bristled at Obama’s characterization that the Eagles’ signing of Vick was motivated by wanting to give a convicted felon a second chance.

“If he couldn’t throw a football, he wouldn’t have had a second chance,” said Smith, who organized a campaign last season to collect food for animal shelters every time Vick was sacked on the field. “This isn’t about giving anyone a second chance; it’s about who can make the Eagles organization more money.”

Now I’m an animal lover, but the jaded view that it is only about money just doesn’t hold water.  Obama’s point was that Vick is a national figure and that showing compassion and providing a “Second Chance” is something worthwhile.  Vick isn’t the only one who’s been giving a “Second Chance” in life, but he is public.  I wonder if Bill Smith’s grandson (just an example) had been imprisoned for selling drugs and released, would he be in favor of him receiving a “Second Chance”?  Seems to me that for Bill it’s about his passion for animals that his view is so jaded?  Maybe I’m wrong.  Perhaps Bill will comment!

By the way, Bill did a great job making Obama’s point.  “If he couldn’t throw a football, he wouldn’t have had a second chance,” is exactly the point, we need someone as a model of what a “Second Chance” could mean and from personal experience, there are far too few people who will stand up and offer a “Second Chance”.  That’s sad!

WHERE FROM HERE?

First, I’ve been to prison for crimes I committed.  I am not proud of that, but it is a very real fact of my life.  It has been nearly 15 years since my release and yes, I have been given a “SECOND CHANCE”!  For that I am deeply grateful each day of my life.  Here’s an excerpt from my new book “Second Chances” that describes the night it became clear that my crimes were discovered and I had to face the truth that I was (at that time) nothing more than a liar and a thief.  It was the darkest night of my soul…

That night was the darkest night of my soul. That call that I shared didn’t make it better. It didn’t eliminate the consequences. It didn’t remove the pain. Rather, it gave me hope, hope that if I could make poor choices that would, most certainly, bring painful consequences, I also possessed the power to make positive choices with positive results.  His comment to me still resounds in my heart today. He said, “You have made a terrible mistake, but YOU are not a mistake! The choices you make moving forward will define your life forever and provide the foundation for your children’s lives. Think carefully as you make this choice!” 

When he said to me, “YOU are not a mistake,” it hit me─while the past cannot be changed, the life we are given and the choices we make moving forward are the only things that count. I felt a burden lifted. I could not change the past; all I could do was face the consequences. It was within my power to make good choices, now and in the future, that would produce a fruitful outcome. That was my destiny!

Do I believe in “SECOND CHANCES” – absolutely otherwise I would not be here and I AM here for a reason!  Perhaps that is the message that Tucker Carlson and others need to get!  We all, at some point in time, need a “Second Chance”!
YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME!
Advertisements

We’ll call it a Family Affair – Richard Alan Cohen pleads guilty to Ponzi scheme fraud!

May 9, 2010

Bernie Madoff – West Coast Style!  What’s different – this father and son team are both facing serious time in prison.  Bernie got 150 years.  Seems the Cohen’s are looking at over 300 years.  Choices and consequences – but why the proliferation of Ponzi schemes?

Richard Alan Cohen, 61, a Sherman Oaks man pleaded guilty today to 26 felony counts related to a long-running scam that offered investments in, among other things, caffeinated mints and took approximately $39 million from 1,000 victims across the United States.

Richard Cohen’s son, Daniel Cohen, 34, of Calabasas, pleaded guilty on April 22 to 20 felony counts related to the scheme that utilized a number of sham companies, including one called Euromints.

Both Cohens face hundreds of years in federal prison when they are sentenced in the fall.

In the mid-1990s, the Cohens formed several companies – including Eurobrand, LLC, doing business as Euromints; Samuel & Cohen Media, LLC; Mintech International, Inc.; and Rig Leasing, Inc. – that they used to solicit investors with claims that the businesses were successful and generated large profits. Potential investors were solicited in several ways, including by a team of salespeople who worked in a “boiler room” in Calabasas. In addition to making claims that the businesses were viable and successful, salespeople often told potential investors that the companies were on the verge of “going public” or were going to be taken over by larger companies. Salespeople commonly told potential investors that they could buy company stock from a widowed investor who was willing to sell her investment at a discounted price.

In reality, the Cohen companies were not successful, the stock certificates issued by the companies were worthless, and a substantial portion of the money received from victim-investors was skimmed by the Cohens to fund their lavish lifestyles, which included luxury automobiles and Daniel Cohen’s “palatial” home in Calabasas.

As part of the scheme, the Cohens were involved in related fraudulent activity, which included Richard Cohen’s efforts to avoid paying restitution to victims who lost money when his commodities investment company, Madison Financial, was shut down by the Commodities Futures Trading Commission. Richard Cohen withheld information from the CFTC through a number of ways, including having his son pay rent on his $8,500-a-month Bel Air residence and using an American Express Black card in his son’s name to conceal hundreds of thousands of dollars in income that had been misappropriated from investors.

Both Richard and Daniel Cohen pleaded guilty to conspiracy, 11 counts of mail fraud, two counts of causing victims to travel in relation to a fraud, and conspiracy to evade tax laws. Richard Cohen additionally pleaded guilty to two counts of money laundering, three counts of making false statements to the CFTC, two counts of filing false tax returns and three counts of tax evasion. Additionally, Daniel Cohen pleaded guilty to five counts of money laundering.

Richard Cohen is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Wu on October 7, at which time he faces a statutory maximum sentence of 306 years in federal prison. Richard Cohen today agreed to surrender to begin serving his sentence on May 28.

Daniel Cohen is scheduled to be sentenced on September 23, at which time he faces a statutory maximum sentence of 290 years in prison. Daniel Cohen has been in custody since July 2009.

A third defendant involved in the Cohens’ scheme – Joshua Hoffman, 40, of Malibu – was sentenced in March to 5½ years in prison after pleading guilty in this case, as well as pleading guilty in another fraud case that defrauded various companies and organizations that thought they were purchasing advertising in magazines (see: http://www.justice.gov/usao/cac/pressroom/pr2010/049.html).

If you were a victim of these men…I’d like to know through your comments – how did you get connected with this long running expansive fraud.

YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME!


Ethics and Political Leadership can they co-exist? – An Open Letter to President Obama

January 30, 2010

President Obama,

As I pen this letter, I do so with all but a faint amount of hope that perhaps some truth can be found in its contents and you could, through your actions, demonstrate what many thought might happen when they voted for you.  Then again, the word ‘politics’ seems to be out of place with the other words – ‘ethics’ and ‘leadership’.

You campaigned on ‘change.’  In your State of the Union address you stated,

I campaigned on the promise of change, change we can believe in, the slogan went. And right now, I know there are many Americans who aren’t sure if they still believe we can change, or that I can deliver it.

Now, Mr. President is the time for that change to be seen and not heard from you as our leader.  Your actions will show that your campaign promises were not just rhetoric to get you elected, but true heart felt feelings of what America could be.  You further stated,

But what frustrates the American people is a Washington where every day is Election Day. We can’t wage a perpetual campaign where the only goal is to see who can get the most embarrassing headlines about the other side, a belief that if you lose, I win.

You are 100% right about that statement.  American people are becoming so disillusioned about politicians and Washington insiders that they are becoming angry and believe that none of you can be trusted.  You are more concerned with being elected than you are with helping Americans.  That is not why you were sent and therefore, lacks integrity.

You addressed both parties in your State of the Union address and rightly you should have because few of those elected to public office in Washington have demonstrated by their actions that they care more about those who elected them than they care about their re-election.

ETHICS are defined as actions motivated based on ideas of right and wrong.  Mr. President, the next question I ask will surely define you and your potential Presidency.  Do you believe it is ethical to act on ideas that are right for the people even if they are wrong for your re-election?

If your answer is YES…then read on, if not…we’re wasting our time.

A LEADER is a person who rules or guides or inspires others.  You have, through your election, certainly inspired a demographic of voters to become engaged and active – to elect you on the promise of change.  Therefore Mr. President may I challenge you step up and show your LEADERSHIP.

Mr. President – ETHICAL LEADERSHIP now calls for dramatic unprecedented action.  It requires something that has not been done before and that will show more than just words, but true meaning behind your beliefs.

Mr. President – make the following commitment to the American people and I think you can guarantee your place in history – you will show something that has never been seen before.  You will show that the promise and idea of change is more powerful than just campaign words.  Mr. President do the following…

OVER THE COURSE OF 2010 – DO NOT CAMPAIGN FOR ANY CANDIDATE FOR ELECTED OFFICE IN WASHINGTON OR ANY STATE.  Show that you are more interested in results than campaigns.  Separate yourself from politics and become the ‘change leader’ that many Americans expected you to be. That means you should remain politically neutral.  Who cares what the party is if you’re getting the job done! Require both Democrats and Republicans to sit with each other in order to craft legislation that benefits the needs of Americans and publically call out any Senator or Representative who elects to bicker in partisan politics rather than work to represent those for whom they serve.  Do what you promised, make the process transparent and then Americans will gain what is so lacking in Washington – TRUST. Forget party and focus on how you can lead.

The American people do not need you to be the ‘same ole – same ole’ that they have seen for years.  Rather, it’s time to change how we do what we do and that change starts with you. If you want less partisanship then be less partisan.

I was told as a boy and then later in life – “A fish rots from the head down.”   As a kid I didn’t know what that meant…but I do now.  You’re the fish, Mr. President so, perhaps put better, “The buck stops with you.”  Guess the tone of Washington firmly rests with your decisions.  The choice is yours and, as I say speaking to groups on Ethics – EVERY CHOICE HAS A CONSEQUENCE.

Sincerely


Chuck Gallagher – American, Small Business Owner, Ethics Speaker and Author

Read the rest of this entry »


Charles E. Phillips – What you do in the dark will be brought to the light – the billboard campaign outing…

January 23, 2010

As a kid I’ll never forget my mother buying an Elvis Presley gospel record with an upbeat song entitled “Run On.”  Elvis seemed to sing it so fast that I recall not being able to completely understand all the words.  But, one line I understood clearly went as follows, “As sure as God made the day and the night
What you do in the dark will be brought to the light.”

Now, I admit, I didn’t completely understand the implication of those words…not until my hidden activities came into the bright light of the media.  In my case, that fact that I was a liar and a thief was splashed all across the front pages of my hometown newspaper.  Were the headlines true?  Unfortunately yes!

Now it seems, according to a CNN report, another man named Charles – Charles E. Phillips – is finding out the implications of those words as his ex-mistress has elected to operate a “fatal attraction” splash of her own on billboards in major cities.  Charles was outed.  And, my heart goes out to him.

The CNN story reports in part (the whole story is here).

Phillips, 50, the co-president of Oracle Corp., admitted the affair with Wilkins, 42, in a statement released by his spokeswoman Friday.

Often talked of as a potential successor to Oracle founder and CEO Larry Ellison, Phillips is one of the software company’s most senior and highly paid excecutives. On top of an $800,000 salary for 2009, he took home stock options and other compensation valued by Oracle at more than $18 million.

“”I had an 8½-year serious relationship with YaVaughnie Wilkins,” the statement said. “My divorce proceedings began in 2008. The relationship with Ms. Wilkins has since ended and we both wish each other well.”

Phillips is reportedly still married to his wife, Karen, and the two have a son together.

It seems that Charles Phillips did indeed have an affair that apparently is ending his marriage – as divorce proceedings are in the works.  But, obviously, the former mistress wanted the last word by posting a series of giant billboards in New York, San Francisco and Atlanta.

New Yorkers passing through midtown Manhattan this week saw the smiling faces of “Charles and YaVaughnie” beaming down upon them from one of two billboards in the city with the caption reading, “You are my soulmate forever! – cep.”

SO WHAT’S THE POINT?

As a business ethics speaker, I often speak to executive groups in major corporations and since I share my journey from Tax Partner in a CPA firm to federal prisoner, I, more times than not, see participants cop an attitude that they would never do something that would bring such dramatic consequences to themselves.  I imagine that Phillips felt the same way.  In fact, I would suspect that he would have felt that his private life had no effect on his business and that the first time he would be featured on CNN is when he took over the leadership of Oracle.

Instead the actions of his, obviously upset and less than ethical ex-mistress, is a perfect example of choices and consequences.  In fact, the first words that I speak to a group are – EVERY CHOICE HAS A CONSEQUENCE.

Consequences come in a variety of forms and in ways that we often don’t expect.  Appointed last year to President Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board, Phillips is finding himself dealing more than much needed economic recovery ideas.

Choices and consequences…sorry Mr. Phillips, but for those who read…this is just another example how ethical choices (or unethical as the case may be) has implications that are unavoidable.

YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME!


Reid’s Negro comment and the Ethical message we are sending…

January 12, 2010

Frankly I don’t care whether Harry Reid keeps his political position or not.  It’s obvious that he’s stuck his foot in his mouth based on the political firestorm that seems to have erupted.  Rather, as an ethics speaker, I would like to raise the discussion about what message we are sending to our young people when it comes to truth and free speech.

Harry Reid spoke the truth.  Nothing he said had not been said by rank and file Americans as the election process proceeded.  Anyone who paid attention to the election from the primaries forward, at first, would have doubted that an inexperienced Senator (who happened to be Black or African-American – which is politically correct seems to be determined on who you speak with) could win his parties nomination.  Most would have felt that American’s were not ready for a non-white President.  Who knew…?

But, as Barack Obama put himself before the public it became clear that his articulation and young new face was just what the country wanted.  Reid said – he was a light skinned black man who did not have a “negro dialect” (unless he wanted to have one).  And, that combination made Obama electable.  Now…please tell me – was Reid inaccurate in his comment.

As a professional speaker I firmly believe that President Obama skills at oration (like those of John Kennedy) captured the imagination of the American people and dramatically contributed to his crossover appeal to the large American population instead of finding himself a divided racial wonder.

ETHICAL ISSUE:  For days now Harry Reid finds himself embroiled in this controversy.  But, he spoke the truth.  So, what message are we sending to our youth?

1.  Speak the TRUTH and find that it’s (the truth) not politically correct and lose your job?

2.  POLITICALLY CORRECT comments are more valuable than the truth?

3.  Political Correctness is the TRUTH?

For the life of me, I just don’t get what all the fuss is about.  Wouldn’t it be better to honor the truth and dismiss POLITICALLY CORRECTNESS – isn’t that the ethical high road.

It seems that we are more concerned with not offending than we are with allowing TRUTH to be spoken.

HOW DO YOU SEE THIS?


Guest Blog: It Depends On What You Mean By “Transparency”

January 8, 2010

As a business ethics speaker, I, from time to time, am pleased to have guest blogs featured on my site.  Ethics, by definition, are actions whose motivation is based on ideas of right and wrong.  In politics we hear, when someone is seeking election, a litany of ideas who have a fundamental ethics base.  Yet, when push comes to shove, it seems that ethics flies out the window and the politician is face with reality of accomplishing their agenda or operating ethically.  Guest blogger – Rick Krug – shares this in his piece entitled:  IT DEPENDS ON WHAT YOU MEAN BY “TRANSPARENCY” featured below:

As the Obama Administration continues to “duck and cover” over the attempted Christmas Day Boxer Bomber, it now finds itself searching for that Cloak of Invisibility regarding the health care debate. Having successfully locked out any Republican opposition by sheer numbers alone, the White House and both chambers of Congress have decided to have “informal” discussions on just how to craft the final health care overhaul. Now, when you read “informal”; this word is roughly translated “secret.”

For months before the 2008 election, candidate Obama was demanding the entire health care debate would be broadcast over C-Span, the cable station dedicated to all things US Government. By now, we have all seen the 8-10 video clips of Obama making this same promise to various rallies across America. When Nancy Pelosi was chosen as Speaker of the House in 2006, she stated, “This will be the most open and transparent government in history.”

Today, on CNN, John Cafferty essentially called Obama and the Democratic leadership liars as he pointed out the American public would not get to see the final outcome of the health care takeover until the secret meetings were over. In case you missed it, read the first sentence of this paragraph again: I said CNN made that charge – I know, you were thinking I said Fox News, right?

In fact, what was supposed to be the crowning glory for Obama and certain to place his face on Mount Rushmore, is now becoming the unmasking of what seems to be nothing more than a Chicago-style thug politician. Seriously, when Obama said the whole heath care debate would be on C-Span, I thought to myself, “wow, how would MCCain ever top that!” For starters, he might have simply kept his word. Is it just me, or does anyone else think the White House and Congress simply don’t care what Americans think….about anything?

So, just what am I missing about the word “Transparency?” I swear I thought it had something to do with being able to witness things in real time. Silly me.

I suppose I should have been suspicious when the 500 page starter yeast of the health care bill bloomed into a 1000 page bill, which, it seems, all those who were to vote on this thing admitted they had not even read. There probably should have been a couple of alarms going off in my head when the Senate version of this takeover sterioded out to over 2000 pages and nearly a trillion dollars. But it took this latest failure of truth to really get my attention. To be sure, there will be enough pork in the final healthcare package to make even Oscar Meyer jealous. But I can guarantee that there will be no Senator nor House member who will have ever read the final version.

We all know that health care is the main focus to the Obama agenda, while, it seems, national security is a minor annoyance, but come on, what in the world does the Pelosi, Reid, Obama product have to hide? Look, when you have a network who, second only to NBC, was as much as throwing palm branches down while the Messiah rode in on the back of Biden, begin questioning the integrity of the man’s promises, now you have a news story. To be fair, CNN could use a boost in the ratings, but Cafferty was no happy camper. Nor should he be, nor should any American be.

We all know campaign promises are usually only hopeful suggestions – “Read my lips, no new taxes” – but this outright lie is in fact an outright lie. One legitimately wonders if Obama ever planned on telecasting anything on C-Span. Then Pelosi said, “This is the most open process ever…” with a straight face. So I ask again, do these folks care even a little about what the American people think? Are we that stupid to them? This issue has carried elitism even farther than Hollywood could imagine.

I suspect the real reason the final debate on the health care plan remains secret is summed up in one word: truth. The Obama administration, the leader of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House simply do not want America to know the truth. They want it secret and they do not care.

All the while, Democrat after Democrat is running for the tall grass – shifting their registration to an ‘R”, or somehow coming to the conclusion it is time to retire. I believe this is the first time I have seen the rats leave the ship before the ship even left the harbor.

YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME! Or to comment directly you can find Rick Krug on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/RickKrug


AIG Bonuses – Ethical or Insane? Business Ethics Speaker Chuck Gallagher Comments…

March 16, 2009

I want to make this clear – I am pro business!  I think that free enterprise is the life blood of our economic system and I fully support people making lots of aigmoney.  But, I have to question whether the payment of upwards of $165 million in bonuses to AIG employees is ethical or just insane?

QUESTION ONE:

The arguement in favor of AIG paying the bonuses is that the contracts that generated the bonuses were established before the economic meltdown and before AIG accepted government bailout money.  Employees who work(ed) for AIG therefore should be entitled to payment under the terms of their contract for services performed.

  • Do you agree?
  • Does the company have an ethical or moral obligation to pay regardless of circumstances?

QUESTION TWO:

AIG has accepted, according to published reports, upwards of $170 BILLION of government bailout money.  Sorry for the editoral content, but that is quite amazing by any standard that I could consider.  Nothing like that has happened in my lifetime and I’m over a half century in years.  So – here are some questions to consider:

  • Should AIG be forced to void pre-existing employment and bonus contracts if they accept government bailout money?
  • Should bonuses be paid?
  • What basis or grounds for payment or nonpayment make sense for AIG?

QUESTION THREE:

If a homebuilder constructs a home and finds that he/she cannot sell it for the asking price and, in fact, finds that the market for his product is below the construction loan – what happens?  Most of the time, the bank will foreclose and the sub-contractors, who have mechanic leins against the property, lose their time and receivable.  In other words, they lose because circumstances have changed.

  • Is AIG in the same circumstance?
  • Should the employment compensation contracts be treated similar to a mechanics lien – void through forclosure?
  • Is the government’s bailout of AIG in effect a forclosure to avoid bankrupcy?
  • Is there any reason that AIG should be treated differently than other small businesses that are unable to honor their commitments today?

FINAL THOUGHTS:

The definition of business ethics is, in business situations, the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with a moral duty and obligation.  The question for AIG is – what is the ethical thing to do?  As a business ethics speaker, there is no right or wrong answer to most situations, it rather is a function of doing the right thing considering all the facts and circumstances.  My opinion – the moral duty and obligation in this situation is to void the employment bonus contracts and accept that were it not for the taxpayers, AIG would not be in business!

Now is the time for AIG and any organization that accpets bailout money to make the tough decisions that honor the trust that the federal government and taxpayers have given them.  Look to Lee Iacocca’s example – when the government bailed out Chrysler, he took $1 as his compensation.  Perhaps the folks at AIG should take note.  One thing is for sure they are not winning friends and influencing people – at least not positively.

YOUR COMMENTS WELCOME!