Still Smiley

When we were kids and played on the same Little League team, UJ was known to our teammates as “Smiley.”  He was the kid who always hit doubles and could run like a deer, as opposed to his tubby brother who was afraid that a pitch would hit him on the nose and break his glasses.

10511205_676359375752497_4658884759017098909_nI’m pleased to say that all evidence indicates that UJ remains “Smiley” at heart.  If you look at his Facebook page, it’s full of smiley photos.  UJ is never introspective or contemplative in these photos — he’s usually wearing a bathing suit in blazing sunshine, tanned and squinting and flashing his gleaming white choppers with a lady friend on each arm.  Our family dentist, Dr. King, no doubt thinks UJ is one of the greatest living advertisements for sound dental care and careful toothbrushing and flossing that ever walked the Earth.

It’s nice to know that some things haven’t changed since the Little League days.  Come to think of it, I’m probably still afraid of being hit on the bridge of the nose by a pitched ball.

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Waiting For The BOOM!

IMG_6243Tonight is Red, White, & BOOM! night in downtown Columbus, and when I left the office this afternoon — we knock off early, so people can beat the traffic — fireworks fans were already gathering by the riverfront and the food vendors were hawking their wares.  All of the ingredients of a traditional Fourth of July fireworks display were present:  bad traffic, junk food, t-shirts with bald eagles that are two sizes too small, blankets and lawn chairs, corn dogs, miniature American flags, coolers of ice-cold beer, cutoff jeans, soft-serve ice cream, and acres of exposed human flab.

Let the fireworks begin!

Hillary Clinton’s Speaking Fees And The Colleges That Are Paying Them

The Washington Post carried an interesting article yesterday about the enormous fees that colleges are paying for the privilege of hearing a speech from Hillary Clinton.

UCLA paid Mrs. Clinton $300,000 — $300,000 — for a speech in March.  (According to the Post, UCLA also paid Bill Clinton $250,000 for a speech in 2012.)  The University of Connecticut paid $251,250 for a speech from Mrs. Clinton in April, and the University of Nevada at Las Vegas is set to pay $225,000 for a speech in October.  Five other schools — the University at Buffalo, Colgate University, and Hamilton College in New York, Simmons College in Massachusetts, and the University of Miami in Florida — also have paid for speeches from Mrs. Clinton but have not disclosed the amounts of the payments.  The Post article helpfully notes, however, that her standard speaking fee is $200,000.

This is no surprise from the Clinton standpoint.  Hillary Clinton’s ill-advised “dead broke” comments were made in the context of attempting to explain why the Clintons needed to amass a considerable personal fortune, estimated to exceed $100 million, in the 14 years since President Clinton left office.  To the extent she is keeping some of the fees for herself — at least two of the big payments, from UCLA and UNLV, apparently are dedicated to the Clinton Foundation — Hillary Clinton may simply feel she needs to further add to that wealth.  Or, she may be gearing up for another presidential run and want to add to her personal campaign war chest.  Or, she may think she is a hugely important historical and cultural figure who reasonably should be paid outlandish fees to speak at college events.  Either way, if colleges are willing to throw hundreds of thousands of dollars her way for a speech, who is she to say no?

What about the colleges, though?  Seven of the eight said Mrs. Clinton’s fees were paid by a lecture series endowment or private donations and not through tuition, student fees or public dollars; at UNLV she will be headlining a glittering fundraising event at the Bellagio Casino where school trustees hope her “star power” will boost donations.  There’s no doubt that private underwriting is better than using endowment or tuition dollars to pay Mrs. Clinton’s high fees, but there’s still something unseemly about it all.  When we constantly hear about the problem of crushing student debt and annual tuition hikes, how can colleges be affiliated with events where any speaker is paid hundreds of thousands of dollars?  Has Hillary Clinton suddenly vaulted into the pantheon of compelling public speakers next to Lincoln and Churchill?  Or, is it possible that at least part of the decision to agree to pay such amounts to Hillary Clinton was motivated by a desire to curry favor with a person who many think is likely to be the next President of the United States?

The ability of political figures to take a break from public office and immediately be showered with money from colleges and public corporations alike is a deeply troubling reality in modern America.  The willingness of colleges to pay a current political figure like Hillary Clinton many multiples of the average annual income of Americans for a single speech, and her willingness to accept such amounts, is just another example.