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Tag Archives: corruption

An interesting and disturbing article came out today from Nancy Folbre on Economix. It describes how grants are given to universities–with strings attached–to hire economics professors with views that are consistent with conservative foundations.

No problem with grants to help fund the services of good professors, but when the political views of professors become the condition of hire, academic integrity is lost.

Concerns about this trend are often framed in terms of academic freedom, putting the onus primarily on universities. After all, if they don’t like the strings attached to donations, they can turn them down.

An editorial in the St. Petersburg Times, which recently broke the story about the Koch Foundation’s support for two professorships at Florida State for which it has the power to screen appointments, musters some admirably old-fashioned outrage.

But, as that editorial points out, the issue reaches well beyond principles of academic freedom.

In the marketplace of ideas, people with a lot of money can buy whatever they want, and that’s fine. Unfortunately, they also have the power to influence other people’s ideas in ways that violate principles of justice, undermine democracy and distort the truth.

I am optimistic that the best US universities recognize the poor influence on their curriculums and refuse such grants. Still, there are plenty of colleges and universities hungry for money that I can see them accepting, and apparently that is happening.

What a shame.

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Another great article from Ted Rall, this one–focused on US involvement in the Libya revolution–is mostly another critical analysis of American political corruption.

Since the Middle East began blowing up we’ve heard a lot of talk about Obama’s dilemma: How do we reconcile American values with American strategic interests? In a good country—at least a non-hypocritical one—they are the same.

Obama is employing circular logic. “Why strike only Libya, when other regimes murder their citizens too?” asks Chris Good in The Atlantic Monthly. “Obama’s answer seems to be: because the UN Security Council turned its attention toward Libya, and not other places.” But the UN reacted in response to the U.S.

In other words: We’re agreeing to a request that we made ourselves.

Ideology and policy must be consistent to be credible. If we have a policy to depose dictators, then all dictators must be targeted. We can’t just take out those in countries with lots of oil. We ought to start with tyrants for which we bear responsibility: our allies and puppets. At this writing the U.S. supports or props up unpopular authoritarian regimes in Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Jordan, Yemen, and elsewhere.

The answer is that American politicians are focused on helping the people who paid to get them elected, the rich owners of large American corporations. Qadafi is not a puppet of those corporations, but maybe the rebels will be.

Continuing to check the stories out of Haiti, we came across Haitian Earthquake: Made in the USA. This another great story–and a disturbing story–from Ted Rall. Count on Mr. Rall to bring Americans back to reality, just when many are celebrating the generous aid coming out of the states and much of the world.

Of course he is not actually arguing that the earthquake was somehow created in the states, only the severe poverty that has contributed to the devastation.

Earthquakes are random events. How many people they kill is predetermined. In Haiti this week, don’t blame tectonic plates. Ninety-nine percent of the death toll is attributable to poverty.

So the question is relevant. How’d Haiti become so poor?

The story begins in 1910, when a U.S. State Department-National City Bank of New York (now called Citibank) consortium bought the Banque National d’Haïti–Haiti’s only commercial bank and its national treasury–in effect transferring Haiti’s debts to the Americans. Five years later, President Woodrow Wilson ordered troops to occupy the country in order to keep tabs on “our” investment.

The story continues with more embarassing accounts of CIA and US military control of Haitian politics and trade.

From 1915 to 1934, the U.S. Marines imposed harsh military occupation, murdered Haitians patriots and diverted 40 percent of Haiti’s gross domestic product to U.S. bankers. Haitians were banned from government jobs. Ambitious Haitians were shunted into the puppet military, setting the stage for a half-century of U.S.-backed military dictatorship.

The U.S. kept control of Haiti’s finances until 1947.

Still–why should Haitians complain? Sure, we stole 40 percent of Haiti’s national wealth for 32 years. But we let them keep 60 percent.

Whiners.

Rall’s sarcasm makes the story a strong criticism of US policy, but I wonder if others will take a more serious approach and really create an issue that may be overdue.

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