Monday, February 23, 2015

Cruising the Web

So are you waiting on the edge of your seats for Hillary 5.0? She has hired marketing image-makers who have quite happily blabbed to the Washington Post about their efforts to rebrand her in preparation for her presidential run.
Clinton and her image-makers are sketching ways to refresh the well-established brand for tomorrow’s marketplace. In their mission to present voters with a winning picture of the likely candidate, no detail is too big or too small — from her economic opportunity agenda to the design of the “H” in her future campaign logo.

“It’s exactly the same as selling an iPhone or a soft drink or a cereal,” said Peter Sealey, a longtime corporate marketing strategist. “She needs to use everything a brand has: a dominant color, a logo, a symbol. . . . The symbol of a Mercedes is a three-pointed star. The symbol of Coca-Cola is the contour bottle. The symbol of McDonald’s is the golden arches. What is Clinton’s symbol?”
Yes, having these marketers talk about her brands isn't going to make her seem any more authentic than she has seemed in the over 20 years she has been in the public eye.

As stories swirl around foreign countries donating to the Clinton foundation, let us not forget that this has been standard operating procedure for the Clintons since they appeared on the public stage.
Bill and Hillary Clinton faced more than 200 conflict of interest reviews of their speaking engagements and the former president's business relationships around the world that netted the couple an estimated $48 million during Hillary’s tenure as Secretary of State.

As scrutiny over a reported influx of foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation ramps up, the State Department ethics reviews — first reported last July in a joint investigation by the Washington Examiner and the nonprofit watchdog group Judicial Watch — add another layer to the growing controversy over the revenue stream of the powerful couple’s philanthropy machine.

The Clinton foundation has received more than $2 billion in contributions from wealthy individuals, political donors, corporations and countries around the world since its founding in 2001, according to a new report in the Washington Post. Included in the total is $262 million raised in 2013, the same year the State Department conflicts of interest reviews were conducted.

What’s more, nearly half of donors to the Ready For Hillary political advocacy group and her 2008 campaign bundlers have given at least $10,000 to the foundation, according to the Post.

Scrutiny of the Clintons and their charitable activities is growing more intense as Hillary Clinton prepares to make a second run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016. Campaign finance laws prevent foreign donors to the Clinton Foundation from also giving directly to U.S. political candidates.

The 215 ethics reviews from Hillary Clinton’s diplomatic term focused on whether former President Clinton’s compensation for speeches in China, Russia, Turkey and many other countries posed a conflict of interest to the secretary of state. All 215 reviews yielded rulings of “no objection” from the State Department.

But Bill Clinton delivered a number of the speaking appearances in contentious regions of the world at the behest of groups with foreign policy interests in the U.S., the Examiner reported in July.

The litany of ethics reviews raises questions about whether the Clinton Foundation helped the former president and first lady earn millions from entities that may have hoped to sway the secretary of state in their favor by cutting a check to her husband.

Documents obtained by Judicial Watch also detailed a short-lived consulting deal between the Clintons and a firm headed by an adviser to their foundation, Doug Band. The contract with Band’s company, Teneo Strategies, received a green light from the State Department but was ended after just eight months amid a firestorm of criticism over its ties to failed investment firm IMF Global.
And the Clinton Foundation has provided an opportunity for lobbyists to shovel money to the Clintons.
Multiple organizations that successfully lobbied to create or expand federal programs tailor-made to enrich them are among the latest multimillion-dollar donors to the Clinton Foundation.

TracFone, the primary beneficiary of the federal "Obamaphone" program that provides subsidized cellphones to recipients, contributed between $1 million and $5 million to the foundation in 2014.

TracFone was one of only seven first-time donors that gave seven-figure donations as Hillary Clinton's prospective 2016 presidential campaign was initially taking shape.

The cellphone maker successfully lobbied the Federal Communications Commission to expand the Obamaphone program to include free computers, and then lobbied for its high-end phones, with luxury data plans, to be included....

The U.S. Green Building Council, meanwhile, gave $2.3 million in 2009, and again in 2014. It successfully advocated for a law that requires all government buildings to be certified, which requires paying the organization.

The organization is structured as a nonprofit, though it is not a grant-making organization that would typically give to charities like the Clinton Foundation. It also charges customers hefty fees for its services and pays its executives lavishly, including $1.4 million for its CEO.

Like TracFone, the council spent millions of dollars on K Street lobbyists in recent years pushing for laws requiring that government buildings be certified as "green" before being used. The council is uniquely situated to provide that certification.

As a result, the General Services Administration, the federal government's landlord and housekeeper, now requires that all new federal buildings have the council's LEED Gold certification, a highly unusual case of government requiring a specific company to be paid any time an action is taken.

A Washington Examiner analysis last year found little difference in energy use among buildings certified under the LEED credentialing program and those that aren't.

While many companies profit on government contracts, it is rare that a law or policy is written so narrowly that it carves out a benefit for one organization exclusively, as in the case of USGBC, or at the direct behest of the primary beneficiary, in the case of TracFone. Critics call such government favoritism for a particular company "crony capitalism."
But I'm sure that their donations to the Clintons is out of the sincere generosity of their corporate souls. You know how much the Democrats believe in corporations having generous souls, don't you?

Republican politicians who are running for president need to learn how to answer gotcha questions. Scott Walker has been tripped up twice in recent weeks when asked about evolution and now asked if Obama is a Christian. Just answer "yes" and turn the conversation to what he really wants to talk about. There are no benefits in getting caught up in mini kerfuffles about evolution or Obama's religious beliefs.

Uh oh. It seems that Bill O'Reilly has his own Brian Williams problem. Who would be surprised that O'Reilly is guilty of self-inflation?

Well, this is certainly helpful.
Department of Homeland Security chief Jeh Johnson basically warned against going to the Mall of America today, after threats of a terror attack by al Shabaab. " I would say that, if anyone is planning to go to the Mall of America today, they have got to be particularly careful," said Johnson.
What does that even mean? How is one careful at the mall? I've always feared that terrorists would realize how they could paralyze American commerce by threatening soft targets such as malls and grocery stores. And now they're making threats against the Mall of America.

The WSJ has a question for Susan Rice.
So it should be no great shock that the Mall of America has now been specifically named as a target, along with other U.S. shopping centers, in a video by al Shabaab jihadists in Somalia. Al Shabaab is the outfit that attacked the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi in 2013, killing 67 innocents. Like Islamic State and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al Shabaab may not be able to attack the U.S. itself, but it is hoping its video will inspire an online American recruit to attack a mall with rifles and other weapons a la the recent assaults in France and Denmark.

Susan Rice , the White House National Security Adviser, recently said that Islamist terrorism doesn’t represent an “existential” threat. If she means the end of America in a nuclear blast, she may be right for now. But innocent families targeted on their routine shopping trips can be forgiven if they consider it a threat to the American way of life.

I see that Oklahoma's House has voted to ban the teaching of AP Us History. Sigh. I really dislike the new APUSH curriculum, not really for the curriculum changes that have outraged politicians and gotten so much publicity. It is the actual changes to the test format and how the essays are graded that have infuriated me. I could rant about that for hours. And believe me, I don't think that there is any APUSH teacher who likes the changes to the test format. The boards for APUSH teachers is full of substantive complaints about the new format.

But I understand the concerns of state politicians who think that the focus is unnecessarily negative towards American history. What they don't realize is that has been the underlying tone for quite a while. There has always been a focus on various social groups and how they have been treated badly throughout American history. On the other hand, that is a part of our nation's history and we can't ignore that. However, if there is some content that the legislature fears isn't getting taught in the APUSH curriculum, then why not pass a law mandating that that material gets taught in the state's American history classes. Then APUSH teachers would still have to teach that in addition to preparing for the AP test. And I don't think teachers would mind. We're interested in presenting a full picture of our country's history. Don't deny students the opportunity to take this course. Instead of cancelling out the course, make sure your state's teachers cover whatever it is that you're worried won't be covered.

The details of Scott Walker's proposed budget for the University of Wisconsin have provoked a lot more sturm und drang than they should.
UW is now a formal state agency, which operates under the same regulations that apply to the rest of the bureaucracy on worker compensation, bonding for building projects, procurement, contracting and much else. Mr. Walker would spin off UW as a quasi-public authority that is out of this government saddle. He would also convert state aid that is now filled with earmarks for specific programs into a clean, inflation-adjusted block grant that UW could spend at its discretion.

The UW system has sought such academic freedom from the state for a generation, though apparently Mr. Walker still isn’t sufficiently reverential. UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank and other administrators are lobbying the legislature to reject the block grant because it is about $300 million less than UW’s two-year budget base. They’re also organizing protests among faculty, students and other activists, some of whom showed up last week at Mr. Walker’s home.

The demonstrators even object to Mr. Walker’s suggestion that UW’s “Wisconsin idea” mission include a goal “to develop human resources to meet the state’s workforce needs.” This is supposedly anti-intellectual, though perhaps authority figures should tell the kids majoring in social justice to prepare for the jobs they’ll need in the real world.

Their real grievance is Mr. Walker’s belief that higher-ed spending shouldn’t climb year after year and get passed off to taxpayers and students with ever-higher debt. The entitled academics pretend that universities are chamber orchestras that can’t improve productivity. But you can tell a college administrator is dissembling when he claims there is no fat left to trim, especially in as large an organization as UW.

Mr. Walker’s $150 million one-year “cut” will be absorbed into a $6.098 billion system-wide operating budget for 2014-15. It amounts to a 12.7% reduction in state aid, but that is merely 2.5% of UW’s overall budget, most of which comes from other sources to support two full-service doctoral campuses, 11 four-year colleges, 13 two-year schools and an extension with offices in every county.

According to the Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau, UW also employs 15,100 full-time equivalent employees—42% of its workforce—who are called “academic staff.” The bureau defines them as “professional and administrative personnel other than faculty whose duties are primarily associated with higher education institutions or their administration,” and UW has one of them on payroll for every 10 enrolled student-equivalents. Some 59% work at the UW-Madison campus.

Mr. Walker is instead asking UW to set priorities, while providing the tools and flexibility to live within a budget. He wants to avoid what happened during the last state budget squeeze, under Democratic Governor Jim Doyle, when the state simply raised tuition by 18% on average in 2003-04, and again by 15% in 2004-05.

Thanks to the current tuition freeze for in-state undergraduates—the first in Wisconsin history—UW-Madison’s sticker price of $10,410 is below the Big Ten school average of $11,819. In an angry speech to the board of regents this month, Chancellor Blank seemed to view this lower cost as a problem.

She said that if the freeze continues UW will fall to last among its regional peers. “We’re going to have to get further up toward the median in part to fill some of these budget holes and in part to reflect our market quality. I shouldn’t be the cheapest school in the Big Ten,” she said. Attention, freshmen: She used to be an economic adviser to President Obama in the Commerce Department.
The protests about Walker's suggestion that the university system should be preparing students for jobs reveals a lot about the delusions of intellectual elites. How many parents would object to the idea that they're sending their children to college in order to better prepare them for careers?

So what's up with the Obamacare website denying parents trying to add newborn babies to their policies? Isn't that a rather basic function of an insurance company?

38 maps that explain Europe.