Saturday, December 29, 2007


So, a little girl wrote a false essay in order to win Hannah Montana tickets. (Hannah Montana is all the rage with girls of a certain age--Morgan is blissfully unaware.)

The winning essay's first line was: "My daddy died this year in Iraq." Only, it's not true. She and her mom made it up. Actually, I blame the mother, since the girl is only 6 years old. I have a difficult time believing that a 6 year old, however astute for her age, would zero in on the obvious heart-tugging edge-giving spin that a dead soldier father would provide in such a contest. Also, this is the moral example her mother is setting for her:

The mother had told company officials that the girl's father died April 17 in a roadside bombing in Iraq, company spokeswoman Robyn Caulfield said.

"We did the essay and that's what we did to win," Priscilla Ceballos, the mother, said in an interview with Dallas TV station KDFW. "We did whatever we could do to win."

Nice, huh?

[The company spokesman] said the company is reviewing the matter, and is considering taking away the girl's tickets.

Considering? How is this not a clear-cut issue? Sometimes, I'm so disgusted with people that I can barely see straight. (Fortunately, I'm able to blog my worries away.)

UPDATE: The company is giving the tickets to another child. Yay.


Texas Truth said...

This woman is a piece of trash that should face criminal charges for fraud, mail fraud, and have her children taken away from her. If you Google her name, you will see pictures of her. I leave you to find the photos with a smart-a** smirk on her face.

I have posted to my blog on this situation. Please feel free to visit and leave a comment.

COD said...

The news reported last night that they disqualified this mother of the year candidate and awarded the tickets to somebody else.

Texas Truth said...

I am glad they did. It has been reported that she has "lawyered up."

Charlie said...

The woman should "have her children taken away from her"? Are you nuts?

Of course the woman is setting a terrible example for her kid, but last time I checked, we were still sorta living in a free country. At least theoretically, she should be free to be as dumb as she wants.

She lied to a private party about something to win free tickets. Sure, she sucks, but wishing her jail time and the loss of her kid is so far out of bounds it's hard to even describe. The private company who awarded the tickets should disqualify them, and that's the only just response.

Texas Truth, I suggest, if you're really interested in the way a free society should work, that you read a number of other posts on this blog. Since you're a teacher, I highly recommend the entries about the National Teacher's Union. Maybe you'll learn something.

Jenn, it looks like you have some trollers perusing your blog. Though I guess that's a good sign. Is this your right of passage into blogger super-stardom? You could always moderate your blog comments like other do...

Crimson Wife said...

I'm with Texas Truth in thinking this woman should be charged with attempted fraud. She lied for her own financial gain and she ought to face criminal penalties for it. Now, I would not take away her children or send her to jail for it. I would personally give her a hefty fine, community service, and probation. That ought to be enough to teach her a lesson about lying.

Rational Jenn said...

I'm with you, Charlie. The mom here is clearly immoral and has definitely put herself out of the running for Mom of the Year. There is a difference, though, between setting a poor moral example for your kids and child abuse.

I think fraud is the most anyone could legally sue her for, but since she's "lawyered up" I imagine she's going to go after the company for taking away the prize she "rightfully" won. Pitiful.

Really, the whole thing is disgusting.

strugatsky said...

How about if we stop the bashing for a moment and think about this logically? Was the goal of the contest to give a prize to the most unfortunate family? Shouldn't it have been simply awarded to a most disfigured or hurt individual in some hospital? Or was the goal to give it to the most "needy"? Would the poorest person fit the bill? And what happens when the poorest person actually has lesser needs then someone who works for a living and makes some income, but has higher needs? (Does that raise some interesting questions that most people wouldn't want to even think about?)

If the contest was for a best essay, does it have to truthful? Anyone answering this in the affirmative should burn Kipling's books (or certainly not let them get anywhere near a child) since, truthfully, the elephant did not acquire his long nose on the account of a crocodile.

How about some intellectual honesty on the part of the organizers of the contest as well as the public at large - if you're looking for a sob story, then say so. If you're looking for "the best essay," then judge the essay on the basis of how interesting it is to read, it's grammar, and other relevant factors. Seems that intellectual honesty is the hardest to find.
Alexander Strugatsky
King George, VA

Rational Jenn said...

I can't seem to find the rules, but I believe it's safe to conclude that it was NOT a fiction-writing contest, given that everyone was so shocked about the lie and that her prize has been revoked.

It is morally repugnant to magick up a dead soldier father, complete with fictitious name and date of death, for the purposes of winning a non-fictional essay contest, especially in a time of war. Again--I don't hold the child responsible--her mother made it clear that she knew what she was doing.

I don't know if she could/should be found guilty of fraud, not knowing the rules of the contest, but I stand behind what I wrote before: that the most anyone could sue her for would be fraud. Her innocence/guilt would be determined by the legal process. I'm not even saying that the company should sue her for fraud.

I hope the company was bright enough to have wording in the rules about reserving the right to revoke the prize. If not, I suppose they won't be running such a contest again any time soon. They did the right thing--even if there was no legal violation of the contest, it's clear that they believe the spirit of the contest was violated and have awarded the prize to someone else. Given the facts I have at this time, I believe they are fully within their rights to do so.

I still think that mother is a scumbag.

Jeric23 said...

"We want to hear how you're going to ROCK someone else's holiday. Maybe it's Mom, your best friend, or maybe it's someone you don't even know! It's easy: just write (no more than 5 sentences) and send it to us. Maybe you are donating a coat (sorry sis) or maybe you are making breakfast in bed for your Mom (maybe next year Dad!); whatever it is tell us all about it."

Here is the legal language: "No purchase necessary to win. You must be between the ages of 6 and 13 by 11/22/07. Club Libby Lu cannot accept any entries from individuals under the age of 18 without consent from parent or legal guardian. You must be able to attend the concert on 1/9/08 to be eligible. Grand prize consists of four round-trip coach class air travel on airline of CLL's choice from major airport nearest winner's residence to Albany, NY, on 1/9/08 and returning 1/10/08; 2 days, 1 night hotel accommodations. Winner and at least one parent/legal guardian of winner must attend a Public Relations event scheduled during the trip in NY. Winner and guest must travel together. All travelers must execute a Release of Liability and a Publicity Release prior to ticketing. Travel arrangements and accommodations are at the discretion of the Sponsor. Trip value may vary depending on point of departure and airfare fluctuations. Approximate retail value of Grand Prize is $3,000. Other great prizes will be awarded. Winners are solely responsible for paying all applicable federal, state, local taxes and all other expenses with the acceptance and/or use of prizes. For complete details including entry information and judging criteria, send a self addressed stamped envelope to Club Libby Lu Attn: Hannah Montana Official Rules, 2700 West Grand Avenue, Chicago, IL 60612."


I think when the rules make the comment Maybe you are donating a coat (sorry sis), it is implying some kind of dishonesty. Allbeit just an example, shouldn't an example imply good will towards others. How would you like someone to take your coat and give it to someone else without your permission?

strugatsky said...

I am new to this site and blog. What impressed me at first were references to Ayn Rand, Objectivism, and rationality. Yet here's a comment by Rational Jenn (following my earlier post) making, what I believe, and with all due respect, irrational assumptions and conclusions. Just because everyone (or at least some that are vocal about it) have been "shocked" does not justify these assumptions. There is nothing, to the best of my knowledge, that makes an essay "non-fictional" by definition. Reading the rules (that were kindly posted by Jeric23), I admit that one can think so, but given some creativity and imagination, someone else can go further. That's how fiction is born, and I'm glad for it. What makes good fiction is when it relates well to real life. That is in no way a negative.

I doubt it very much that in the legal system this would be considered fraud. Morally, I find the apparent intention of the contest to be repugnant - to create a sob story, and to cap it with a handout, as shown well by Jeric23:

"I think when the rules make the comment 'Maybe you are donating a coat (sorry sis),' it is implying some kind of dishonesty. Albeit just an example, shouldn't an example imply good will towards others. How would you like someone to take your coat and give it to someone else without your permission?"

Alexander S.

Rational Jenn said...

Jeric23--thanks for posting the rules. I'm not sure that comment "implies dishonesty"--it doesn't make much sense to me really. The making breakfast in bed example is clearer, I think. Dishonesty? No....although I agree there's not much good will if someone's going to donate a coat that would have otherwise gone to Sister.

Strugatsky--I agree with you that the whole idea of having a whine contest to win some tickets is off-putting at best. And since we now have the rules, we can see that it isn't really clear about fiction vs non-fiction.

But I'm not sure the purpose was to create a "sob story." They wanted to know how someone was going to "ROCK" someone else's holiday--by donating a coat or making breakfast in bed. We don't know how the little girl in question was going to ROCK someone's holiday--all I've seen is the line about her dead daddy.

Still--this mother was content to let others believe it was true and granted, she admitted the truth when questioned, but still--she sent that essay in KNOWING that others would believe it, that it would tug on heartstrings and give them an edge in the contest. THAT is what I find disgusting. Morally.

Legally, which is a somewhat related but different matter, I don't know (or really care) what should happen to her. My disgust is on a moral level. I'm glad the company pulled her tickets.

I don't think my conclusions are irrational, particularly given the actions of the company. Also, my conclusions are not to be construed as anti-fiction-writing in general. I like me lots of fiction. I like it even better when it's not passed off as true in order to deceive me.

Rational Jenn said...

Yes, I'm commenting on my comments--it's what I do sometimes.

No....although I agree there's not much good will if someone's going to donate a coat that would have otherwise gone to Sister.

I have to qualify this with a--depends on Sister and depends on if it's your coat and you can do with it whatever you like. Depends on a lot of things--again...hated that example because it just doesn't make much sense.

jeric23 said...

Jenn--You are welcome. My point is that the woman was right in stating that no where do the rules state is has to be a true essay. The loose description was emphasized by the mother when she stated, "We did the essay and that's what we did to win...We did whatever we could do to win." My point in my original post was to display this kind of thinking. She did in fact originally lie to contest officials according to a Dallas News articleMs. Ceballos told company officials that the girl's father, Army Sgt. Jonathon Menjivar, had died in a roadside bombing April 17 in Iraq, Ms. Caulfield said. (12/28/07) At this point I would agree that she was being dishonest (Assuming the unquoted statement is true). In a statement to Fox News in Dallas, "When [contest organizer Robin Caulfield] asked me if this [essay] was true, I told her no," Ceballos said. "We never said this was a true story. We do essays all the time. My daughter does essays at school all the time. It never did say it had to be true, but [Robin] said, 'That's what we expected.'"

Ms Ceballos found logical loophole in the contest rules, and attempted to exploit it. Contest organizers had relied on the loose language of the contest to cover them. What I left out in my original post was commenting on the first line in the contest statement, We want to hear how you're going to ROCK someone else's holiday.

Contest organizers expected a true essay, but never explicitly said this was not acceptable. She would have gotten away with it if she stayed away from words like "Iraq". Maybe her dad's pseudo-death could have been something else. For example, "My daddy died this year from lukemia. I am going to give mommy the Angel pendant that daddy put on mommy when she was having me. I had it in my jewelry box since that day. I love my mommy." She just had to replace Iraq with something that wouldn't draw so much attention. Either way, I think the contest organizers would have taken the tickets away from her anyway once they learned he was still alive (sorry, lost the link to that article...). And if Ms Ceballos tries to sue, she will lose because of the above stated language used by contest organizers.

Basically, I agree with you, just not using the same words. I hope this makes my point a little more clear.

Rational Jenn said...


Thanks for your comments--I definitely think the contest organizers will use much more explicit language next time. I agree, the mother found a loophole and tried to work it and failed. Dumb and dumb and involved her child which is still dumber.

Thanks for your comments!

strugatsky said...

Jenn, for the record, let me state that I myself would not have written such an essay, nor would I have let my kid do that. And I agree with you that it does appear that the mother meant to mislead (there appear to be contradictory statements on that, from the mother, but, yes, it does appear that way).

What I find more repugnant, however, is this contest and the people that organized it. On the surface, the goal seems noble. But read a bit into it. The fact that the original prize was awarded to a sob story (yes, I am jumping to a conclusion here since I did not read the entire essay) speaks of the real intent of the organizers. Children's essays (and everyone else's) should be judged on merits other than the sob factor.

As to the coat donation, perhaps I'm misinterpreting, but it seems to me that the suggestion was to donate sis' coat, without sis' participation in the donation. That is a most repugnant act - altruism at someone else's expense.

Unfortunately, the hole in this call for altruism was punched accidentally (probably in a dishonest way). Too bad that it was not done by an intellectual who would have been willing to press the issue and expose it on moral grounds. Of course, that would not have quieted those that are calling for the State to take away the woman's kids, for these people have already surrendered their minds, themselves, and their kids to the State. But maybe there are still those that are holding out ...

Alexander S.