Universities paid off to make their students learn Ayn Rand's "philosophy"
This story http://www.alternet.org/module/print...es/1168680/%22 about the Koch brothers buying teaching slots at public universities for conservative ideologues is shocking, but only [for the] crudeness [of the Kochs' approach]. The wealthy have endowed universities for years for their own purposes, although I doubt many of them had the nerve to totally flout the normal academic conventions by insisting that they get to appoint their own people. And universities normally would not have allowed such strings to be attached because they cared about their academic integrity.
But a subtler approach has been used for quite some time. I wrote about this one three years ago at Our Future:
Paul Krugman points to an article that should send chills down the backs of good progressives everywhere:
Ayn Rand's novels of headstrong entrepreneurs' battles against convention enjoy a devoted following in business circles. While academia has failed to embrace Rand, calling her philosophy simplistic, schools have agreed to teach her works in exchange for a donation.
The charitable arm of BB&T Corp., a banking company, pledged $1 million to the University of North Carolina Charlotte in 2005 and obtained an agreement that Rand's novel ``Atlas Shrugged" would become required reading for students. Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia, and Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina, say they also took grants and agreed to teach Rand.
I have written about the pernicious effect of Rand before, and noted that the Ayn Rand Institute provides nearly half a million free copies to American high schools to indoctrinate teen-agers into romantic selfishness (thus validating their natural adolescent tendencies as being acceptable adult behavior.) But this is truly beyond the pale.
Corporations, which have very good reasons to train young people into an ethos that extols the alleged virtues of heroic captains of industry and their lonely fight to retain freedom in the face of left wing collectivism, should not be buying academic curriculum of any kind. The very idea of academic freedom is that the academics decide what to teach, not the government or the community or especially some company that wants to promulgate a puerile political philosophy designed to make people believe that selfishness is a virtue. That it's in the form of a very bad romance novel makes it even worse. (To those romance novel aficionados out there, please note that I said "bad" romance novel. It's not a slam at the whole genre.)
The Ayn Rand Institute, ever creative, has come up with a new marketing scheme to promote the book. Sensing a change in the zeitgeist, and seeking to take advantage of what they perceive as this opening in academe, they are pushing the anti-religious side of objectivism.
Yaron Brook, the executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute, a nonprofit organization in Irvine, California, that promotes objectivism, said some professors are re-evaluating Rand.
``We're definitely seeing more of an interest in the academic world," Brook said. He said he senses a softening of opposition from academics and sees more conferences and articles about Rand.
``Ayn Rand has a kind of absolutist ethics," Brook said. ``She believes in right or wrong, good and evil, but based on secular principles, not religious principles, and I think there's an appeal for that now."
Very, very clever. As for its moral dimension, objectivism simply holds that it's moral to be completely selfish and rapacious. Indeed, it is immoral not to be. That would seem to be something of a difficult sell in an age of greedy sub-prime mortgage brokers and billionaire hedge fund operators, but you have to give them credit for perseverance in the face of abject philosophical failure. It's hard to believe that any academic worth his or her salt would take this line of argument seriously, but apparently the lure of big money is enough to make them consider it:
Allison's BB&T, based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, in March pledged $2 million to establish the first U.S. chair in the study of objectivism, at the University of Texas at Austin.
That school and 27 others have accepted an aggregate $30 million from the bank\'s foundation in the last decade.
``These gifts are really about the study of capitalism from a moral perspective and all we want is to make Rand part of the dialogue," said Bob Denham, a spokesman for BB&T, the parent of Branch Banking & Trust Co.
The BB&T Charitable Foundation made a five-year, $1 million commitment to the University of North Carolina Charlotte in January 2005 after a dinner meeting between Allison and Claude Lilly, then dean of UNC Charlotte's business school.
The grant agreement described ``Atlas Shrugged" as "required reading" in a course about the fundamentals of capitalism.
This is the real agenda. It's not about literature or about philosophy. The point of this is to indoctrinate young business majors into the Rand philosophy, which is a perverted and radical form of capitalism that bears no relationship to the way the world really works. (In fact, it's real agenda may be to indoctrinate young people into believing that overpaid executives actually deserve to make hundreds of times the average worker\'s pay while driving the company into the ground
So now that the plutocrats managed to make taxes the equivalent of the black plague and then produced an economy that only benefits themselves, the starving public beast has no choice but to do whatever they want if it wants to stay alive.
More attempted brainwashing from conservatives. Ryan, of screw people, let's privatize everything fame, adores Rand. Gives her books to his staff to read. Does the appearance of a baseless, cruel cult involved in our politics bother anyone?
The Koch Brothers and the End of State Universities
The real scandal around the endowment by the Koch brothers of two chairs at Florida State University http://www.salon.com/news/politics/w...ofessors_kochs is that state universities now have to seek such outside money and accept strings. The reason they have to do so is that many state legislatures have chosen not to have state universities any more. At many ‘state universities’ the state contribution to the general operating fund is less than 20 percent, falling toward 10 percent.
This abandonment of their responsibilities to higher education on the part of the states hurts students in the first instance. Institutions that used to be affordable to students from working and lower middle class backgrounds are now increasingly out of reach for them. State universities are becoming the new Ivies, a good bargain still for the upper middle class and the wealthy, but a distant dream for the daughter or son of a worker in a fast food restaurant.
This development is also scary because it promotes the corruption of academia. In fact, as Charles Ferguson showed in his film, “Inside Job,” some academic economists are already hopelessly corrupt. The barracuda capitalist system in contemporary America provides many incentives for economists to promote laissez-faire, anti-regulatory ideas of the sort that led to the 2008 collapse of our economy. Endowments with strings attached are just one more.
Starting in the 1980s, state legislatures began putting their money into other things. Some cut taxes for the rich. Some engaged in a vast expansion of the prison system impelled by the phony ‘war on drugs’ that led to a vast increase of inmates guilty of nothing more than toking a little weed. (Getting high off alcohol or prescription drugs is not punished by American society or we’d have tens of millions incarcerated instead of only 2.3 million– though even the two million make the US very peculiar in world terms. Some forty percent of these inmates are incarcerated on non-violent, drug-related offenses. Few other countries are so fixated on maintaining such an archipelago of Gulags. Portugal has decriminalized most drugs, and nothing bad happened as a result).
State universities were designed by far-sighted legislators who believed that it is the duty of a state to provide high-quality, low-cost education to children of working and middle class families. Thomas Jefferson thought that you cannot have a democracy if the “common man” is not educated, and though he is associated with ‘small government’ ideas in some spheres, he thought states should be funding universities.
But the Neoliberal and Neoconservative philosophies that have dominated both parties in the US in recent decades view such a commitment as undesirable. The United States is being refashioned as a plutocracy in which the wealthiest 1 million persons are a new aristocracy and governmental programs that inconvenience them by making them pay their taxes are dismantled.
Positions at state universities ought to be decided upon by the students, faculty, and deans in consultation. They shouldn’t be decided just because a wealthy crank wants us to study X. Along with Koch-funded positions in ‘unregulated capitalism’ of the sort that brought us the 2008 meltdown, we no doubt could have a raft of positions in Atlantis Studies and Post-War Ufology. Rich people are good at making money. They aren’t necessarily good at academic skills. In fact, many are downright hostile to academic knowledge that brings into question their shibboleths. The tenure system was created for academics precisely because one got fired, at the University of Pennsylvania, in the early 20th century, for objecting to child labor. Some of the regents made their money that way and took offense.
We don’t need more positions in economics departments in state universities for ‘free market economics’ of the sort the Koch brothers funded at FSU. Is that what the students there want and need? Is that what the faculty senate would have voted for? Maybe we need some positions in how bad it is for a society to have all its unions gutted or to have its gini coefficient (which measures economic inequality) skyrocket.
The president of FSU, who defended the Koch deal, did not mention that such outside endowments are skewing the curriculum at state universities in unfortunate ways.
But here is the objectionable thing, which he admits, about the way the search for the positions was conducted:
‘ These 50 applications were sent for input to an advisory board approved by the Koch Foundation. The advisory board, formed in 2008, consisted of two FSU faculty members, both Eminent Scholars in Economics, and a Ph.D. economist appointed by the Koch Foundation. (It is not unusual for a donor to have representation in an advisory capacity.) ‘
This allegation is simply untrue. It is not the case that academic institutions routinely insert an outside advisory board into the middle of the search process. In fact, this way of proceeding is absolutely outrageous, more particularly because one of the members of the advisory board was not even on the faculty! Moreover, it is invidious for the Kochs to give some FSU faculty more of a voice in hiring than others.
The only legitimate academic endowment is one with no strings attached. The money should go into the endowment up front. And then the university procedures should be followed in making hires. The endower is owed profuse and frequent thanks and can come hear the public lectures given by those hired with their money, but they absolutely should not have their thumbs on the till in the hiring.
But ideally state universities should be funded by state legislatures, and should have charters of academic and curricular independence from those legislatures. State universities should be for the people. We already have elite universities for the elite.
Our Congress has already largely been bought by the corporations it is supposed to be regulating and by a raft of special interests, from the National Rifle Association to the Israel lobbies. Now if our state universities are to be bought, even our academic knowledge will be corrupt.
And, it won’t be long before the BP Chair in How there is No Climate Change, and the Saudi Arabian Chair in the Necessity of Beheading Adulterers, and the Avigdor Lieberman Chair in Ethnic Cleansing Solutions, and the Communist Party of China Chair in Google Censorship crowd onto our campuses along with a host of other junky positions.
Are Americans doomed to have both their minds and their bodies enslaved by cranky rich people, and how can we hope to remain globally competitive if so?
Yep. Money can buy anything, anytime it wants. That's why its power has to be controlled, and in certain cases, stopped.
Our Government Is Corrupt Through and Through -- Where's the Outrage?
By Joshua Holland / AlterNet
When politicians get caught taking bribes, it's big news, but most people take the usual legal corruption for granted.
Last week, jurors in a federal bribery case got a taste of good, old-fashioned corruption as New Orleans' former chief technology officer, Greg Mefford, offered the prurient details of how one vendor, Mark St. Pierre, plied city officials with almost $900,000 in bribes and kickbacks that included luxurious travel, the use of a yacht and boozy, good-old-boy poker parties complete with the requisite hookers.
The story represents the kind of corruption that makes splashy headlines, and of course, rightly outrages people. But the impact of this kind of criminality on our governance pales beside that of the everyday, entirely legal kind of corruption most people seem to take more or less for granted.
Consider just a few items "ripped from the headlines" during the past few weeks.
On Monday, Politico reported that almost a third of the “blue dog” Democrats who left office or were defeated in last year's midterms are now working as corporate lobbyists. “The conservative Blue Dogs formed a key voting bloc for much of the last congressional session,” reporter Aaren Mehta noted, “drawing impressive fundraising from the energy, financial services and health care industries.” The blue dogs were instrumental in watering down or blocking key Democratic legislation in both the House and the Senate. With their mission accomplished on everything from health-care reform to financial regulation, Politico notes that “industry groups [then] abandoned the pro-business coalition in favor of its GOP opponents.”
An analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics found that “House members who defeated a measure to...end certain subsidies for oil companies received five times more in campaign contributions, on average, from the oil and gas industry in the 2010 election cycle than those who voted to proceed with the motion.”
House members who voted to continue the subsidies received, on average, five times more money in 2010 from oil and gas interests. Those voting to block debate received $36,066, on average, in campaign contributions from oil and gas interests. Those who voted to begin debate received, on average, $7,192 in campaign contributions from the industry.
Overall, members who voted to continue the subsidies received more than $8.7 million in campaign contributions from oil and gas interests in 2010 while those opposed raised just $1.2 million.
16 of the 18 U.S. House members who received over $100,000 in campaign contributions from the industry in 2010 voted to block debate. One voted to proceed and a second did not vote.
Last week, in a move that would prove eye-opening for even the most cynical good-government types, FCC Commissioner Meredith Atwell Baker announced that she would be leaving her position early to take a cushy lobbying job for Comcast just months after approving its controversial merger with NBC. As Free Press director Timothy Karr noted, she wasn't the first: “Many have found the FCC to be a particularly lucrative launching pad,” he wrote. “Former FCC Chairman Michael Powell now earns millions as the top lobbyist for the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, a trade group that lobbies for the industry he was tasked to regulate.”
Even those supposedly neutral arbiters in the courts aren't standing above the political fray when big money is concerned. American University legal scholar Herman Schwartz noted last week that Justice Sam Alito attended a series of pricey fundraisers held by the right-wing American Spectator, and Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia have both “allowed their names and office to be used for fundraising and other partisan activities.”
Each has attended big strategy and fundraising meetings held semiannually by brothers Charles and David Koch, among the wealthiest and most active of all Tea Party and right-wing financiers....
What seems beyond dispute is that all three justices engaged in conduct inconsistent with the Code of Conduct for United States judges, which requires that a judge “not personally participate in fundraising activities; or use or permit the use of the prestige of judicial office for that purpose … make speeches for a political organization or attend or purchase a ticket for a dinner or other event sponsored by … an entity whose principal purpose is to advocate for or against political candidates.”
This kind of ubiquitous, legal corruption raises occasional eyebrows, but it doesn't result in the kind of outrage it deserves. Most people simply take it for granted that moneyed interests get their way in a democracy, and indeed, a series of studies have found that politicians are far more sensitive to the interests of wealthy constituents than those of the poor, at both the federal and state levels.
But it's important to recognize that this kind of moneyed influence is not evident in all wealthy democracies, or at least not to the same degree it is in the U.S., with its world-leading level of economic inequality. Political scientists call it “state capture” -- private interests effectively gaining control of one or more organs of state and using the power vested in those institutions—publicly financed and ostensibly serving the greater good—to feather their own nests. Usually, the term is applied to banana republics, and the means of capture are nefarious: corruption, threats and even violence.
We do it differently. We have a private campaign finance system that requires members of Congress to start raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to get reelected the moment they take office; a government overrun with well-heeled lobbyists, many of whom are ex-staffers visiting offices in which they once worked to call on former bosses; and a well-oiled revolving door between regulatory agencies and the industries they’re supposed to be watching.
The result is that Corporate America does more than merely fend for itself on Capitol Hill. Its efforts amount to state capture, even if subtle in form, and that has a measurable impact.
In my book, I discuss what forensic economists—the CSIs of the dismal science, people who follow economic clues to unearth crimes—have to tell us about the relationship between corporate profits and the political fortunes of the politicians close to those companies.
In their book Corruption, Violence, and the Poverty of Nations, scholars Raymond Fishman and Edward Miguel noted that forensic economists look carefully at how ups and downs in the careers of government officials impact the stock prices of firms to which they’re connected. They consider it to be among the more methodologically sound ways of rooting out government corruption.
In an article for Foreign Policy magazine, Fishman and Miguel laid out the rationale behind the approach:
Whether through hefty campaign contributions or cushy jobs for former politicians, corporations are constantly accused of trying to profit through political ties. (Just think Halliburton or Russia’s Gazprom.) But what’s the real value of these companies’ connections? If you ask politicians or investors, you’re likely to hear a lot of denials. To get the truth, we could ask insiders to put some money where their mouths are, making them bet some of their own cash on whether particular companies are making back-alley deals with politicians to increase their profits. In this political betting pool, raw financial self-interest would lead bettors in the know to reveal their true beliefs about corruption.
That betting pool is, of course, the stock market. The scholars wrote, “If connections buy tax breaks, valuable licenses, and advantages in bidding for government contracts, then strengthening political ties should boost profits. These higher profits translate directly into higher stock prices, and conversely, removing those ties should send profits—and stock prices—tumbling.”
Purdue University economist Mara Faccio studied those ties in every country that had a functional stock market. Not surprisingly, Faccio found strong connections between business and government across the board, but she also noted that the value of those connections in terms of stock prices varied greatly. In the United Kingdom, for example, stock prices don’t move at all when a firm’s political ties wax or wane. When Rolls-Royce chairman John Moore was appointed to the House of Lords, Rolls-Royce’s stock price remained unchanged. But in Italy, the picture is quite different. When Fiat chief Giovanni Agnelli was appointed to the Italian Senate, the automaker’s stock soared by 3.4 percent, adding millions of dollars in value to the company in a single day.
We’re a lot closer to Italy’s infamous level of public corruption than we are to that of our British cousins. And, as Fishman and Miguel noted, that’s already been pretty well established in this country:
Numerous studies have found that the economic fortunes of well-connected U.S. companies mirror the political fortunes of their connections. When U.S. Sen. Jim Jeffords defected from the Republican Party and handed Senate Democrats a slim majority in 2001, Democratically connected companies benefited in the immediate aftermath. Similarly, the stock value of companies with former Republican lawmakers on their boards increased an average of 4 percent when the Supreme Court handed the 2000 election to George W. Bush, while companies with former Democratic politicians on their boards declined.
Turning the Camera: Why Are Cops Allowed to Film Citizens, But Citizens Not Allowed
to Film Police Brutality?
As more police officers use cameras to monitor our every move, they're discovering the power of video -- and they don't want it turned against them.
What's good for the police apparently isn't good for the people -- or so the law enforcement community would have us believe when it comes to surveillance.
That's a concise summary of a new trend noted by National Public Radio last week -- the trend whereby law enforcement officials have been trying to prevent civilians from using cellphone cameras in public places as a means of deterring police brutality.
Oddly, the effort -- which employs both forcible arrests of videographers and legal proceedings against them -- comes at a time when the American Civil Liberties Union reports that "an increasing number of American cities and towns are investing millions of taxpayer dollars in surveillance camera systems."
Then again, maybe it's not odd that the two trends are happening simultaneously. Maybe they go hand in hand. Perhaps as more police officers use cameras to monitor every move we make, they are discovering the true power of video to independently document events. And as they see that power, they don't want it turned against them.
But wait -- why not?
Though you'd expect that uncomfortable question to evoke dissembling, Fraternal Order of Police spokesman Jim Pasco was quite straightforward about it.
Police officers, he told NPR, "need to move quickly, in split seconds, without giving a lot of thought to what the adverse consequences for them might be." He added that law enforcement authorities believe "that anything that's going to have a chilling effect on an officer moving -- an apprehension that he's being videotaped and may be made to look bad -- could cost him or some citizen their life."
Obviously, nobody wants to stop officers from doing their much-needed job (well, nobody other than budget-cutting politicians who are slashing police forces). In fact, organizations such as the NAACP have urged citizens to videotape police precisely to make sure police are doing ALL of their job -- including protecting individuals' civil liberties.
This is not some academic or theoretical concern, and video recording is not a needless exercise in Bill of Rights zealotry. The assault on civil liberties in America is a very real problem and monitoring police is absolutely required in light of recent data.
As USA Today reported under the headline "Police brutality cases on rise since 9/11," situations "in which police, prison guards and other law enforcement authorities have used excessive force or other tactics to violate victims' civil rights increased 25 percent" between 2001 and 2007. Last year alone, more than 1,500 officers were involved in excessive force complaints, according to the National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project.
Considering this, Pasco has it exactly wrong. We should want more officers feeling "apprehension" about breaking civil liberties laws, we should hope more of them "give a lot of thought to what the adverse consequences" will be if they trample someone's rights and we should crave an immediate "chilling effect" on such violations.
That's what the practice of cellphone recording is supposed to do -- not mimic the national security state's Big Brother culture, but prevent that security state from trampling our freedoms.
Law enforcement officials, of course, don't like the cellphone cameras because they don't want any check on police power. So they've resorted to fearmongering allegations about lost lives. But the only police officers who are threatened by cellphone cameras are those who want to break civil liberties laws with impunity. The rest have nothing to worry about and everything to gain from a practice that simply asks them to remember the all-too-forgotten part of their "protect and serve" motto -- the part about protecting the public's civil rights.
David Sirota http://act.alternet.org/go/7480?akid...018.d7cyPb&t=9
For years, people peaceably protesting at political events (and others) have been arrested and harassed. We are very close to a police state already.
Dissent is no longer tolerated. Guess who likes it that way? The powerful. That's why they have to be fought - no matter who they are.
Eric Cantor Promises Oil Speculators That Republicans Will Block Financial Regulation
Lee Fang, ThinkProgress http://thinkprogress.org/2011/05/18/...l-speculators/
Yesterday morning, House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) visited the Chicago headquarters of the CME Group, “the world’slargest owner and operator” of private exchanges for derivatives products. CME Group specializes in a number of markets, including trading futures contracts for various blends of crude oil and food commodities. Cantor met with executives, and at one point, gave brief remarks before CME Group employees and various commodity speculators.
Cantor told the audience of speculators that his Republican caucus would “do our part” to block the implementation of financial reforms passed last year as part of the sweeping Dodd-Frank law. He even called out the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the regulators in charge of overseeing derivatives and energy speculation, and promised to stop regulations from going online:
CANTOR: And you’ve managed to be able to serve that function in the CME Group for so much of this country and the world, and you’ve also managed to position as a true world leader. We want that in every arena. We want to help you continue to lead for America, that means we gotta do our part when you see the implementation of Dodd-Frank coming at you like a barreling train. We want to help control that so that we can get some sensible, sensible follow up to that legislation. [...] Whether it’s the EPA, the FDA, the FCC, the SEC, the CFTC, you name it, there is an acronym for a federal agency causing harm right now. We’re trying to pull that in.
Currently, energy speculation is at an all time record high. In 2008, according to many analysts, oil speculation — which took place on unregulated private exchanges owned by the CME Group and a set of international exchanges — spiked gas prices to unprecedented levels. Now, excessive oil speculation is again driving the pain at the pump. While Goldman Sachs has claimed that at least $25 of the current price of crude oil is due to speculation, financial experts contacted by ThinkProgress say the Goldman Sachs number is probably very conservative.
Although the Dodd-Frank reforms passed last year included a new mandate for regulators to curb rampant oil speculation, these regulations have not yet been implemented. Republicans, under Cantor’s leadership, are working furiously to ensure that they never will be. For instance, Cantor’s caucus has proposed massive budget cuts to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission — the regulatory body charged with overseeing oil speculators at the CME Group. As the New York Times has reported, CFTC regulators literally do not have enough money even for staplers, and can barely enforce laws on the books before even getting to new Dodd-Frank rules. In addition, Republicans are also pushing a separate bill to delay Dodd-Frank derivatives reforms for at least eighteen months.
CANTOR: Now the grow piece, it comes back to what you do here. You provide the center, it’s almost like the center of the universe for liquidity. It is ultimately providing a service to investors and to small business owners at the end to control and predict their risk and try to minimize the cost of goods that they buy and ultimately to lower their costs of operating so that there can be a cheaper outcome whether it is good and capital or what have you. And you’ve managed to be able to serve that function in the CME Group for so much of this country and the world and you’ve also managed to position as a true world leader. We want that in every arena. We want to help you continue to lead for America, that means we gotta do our part when you see the implementation of Dodd-Frank coming at you like a barreling train. We want to help control that so that we can get some sensible, sensible follow up to that legislation. It’s very troubling. But we’ve got similar instances in much of, a lot of other areas. It’s not just financial services where federal bureaucracy has rum amok. So the Republicans and our growth agenda are very focused on stopping regulations that negatively impact people who want to create growth and value. Whether it’s the EPA, the FDA, the FCC, the SEC, the CFTC, you name it, there’s an acronym for a federal agency causing harm right now. We’re trying to pull that in.
Yep! That's who they work for. Money and power. F... everyone else.
We don't need any regulations for ANYTHING, apparently. You get sick, you die, you are defrauded, cheated in any way - YOU'RE ON YOUR OWN!
Be very afraid. This is who they are.
Jon Stewart Obliterates Ben Stein's DSK Defense:
"Economists Are the Rapiest Profession"
Ben Stein is a prominent conservative mouthpiece. Listen to this cretin's comments regarding an alleged sexual assault.