Archive for May, 2011

Assange on the Empire's war on freedom: interesting YouTube interview by Russia Today

May 12th, 2011 No comments

This wide-ranging 13-minute interview with Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, is well worth listening to:

Assange: Facebook, Google, Yahoo spying tools for US intelligence (Uploaded by  on May 2, 2011)

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"Obi-Wan Kenobi Is Dead, Vader Says" — Galactic Empire Times News Flash — Don't miss!

May 12th, 2011 No comments

I bring you a few key excerpts, and both beg you not to miss this news, and caution you not to get too caught up in the traitorous comments to it:

Obi-Wan Kenobi Is Dead, Vader Says, The Galactic Empire Times, May 11, 2001:

Obi-Wan Kenobi, the mastermind of some of the most devastating attacks on the Galactic Empire and the most hunted man in the galaxy, was killed in a firefight with Imperial forces near Alderaan, Darth Vader announced on Sunday.

In a late-night appearance in the East Room of the Imperial Palace, Lord Vader declared that “justice has been done” as he disclosed that agents of the Imperial Army and stormtroopers of the 501st Legion had finally cornered Kenobi, one of the leaders of the Jedi rebellion, who had eluded the Empire for nearly two decades. Imperial officials said Kenobi resisted and was cut down by Lord Vader’s own lightsaber. He was later dumped out of an airlock.

The news touched off an extraordinary outpouring of emotion as crowds gathered in the Senate District and outside the Imperial Palace, waving imperial flags, cheering, shouting, laughing and chanting, “Hail to the Emperor! Hail Lord Vader!” In the alien protection zone, crowds sang “The Ten Thousand Year Empire.” Throughout the Sah’c district, airspeeder drivers honked horns deep into the night.

“For over two decades, Kenobi has been the Jedi rebellion’s leader and symbol,” the Lord of the Sith said in a statement broadcast across the galaxy via HoloNet. “The death of Kenobi marks the most significant achievement to date in our empire’s effort to defeat the rebel alliance. But his death does not mark the end of our effort. There’s no doubt that the rebellion will continue to pursue attacks against us. We must and we will remain vigilant at home and abroad.”

Obi-Wan Kenobi ’s demise is a defining moment in the stormtrooper-led fight against terrorism, a symbolic stroke affirming the relentlessness of the pursuit of those who turned against the Empire at the end of the Clone Wars. What remains to be seen, however, is whether it galvanizes Kenobi’s followers by turning him into a martyr or serves as a turning of the page in the war against the Rebel Alliance and gives further impetus to Emperor Palpatine to step up Stormtrooper recruitment.

In an earlier statement issued to the press, Kenobi boasted that striking him down could make him “more powerful than you could possibly imagine.”

How much his death will affect the rebel alliance itself remains unclear. For years, as they failed to find him, Imperial leaders have said that he was more symbolically important than operationally significant because he was on the run and hindered in any meaningful leadership role.  …

The strike could deepen tensions within the Outer Rim, which has periodically bristled at Imperial counterterrorism efforts even as Kenobi evidently found safe refuge it its territories for nearly two decades. Since taking over as Supreme Commander of the Imperial Navy, Lord Vader has ordered significantly more strikes on suspected terrorist targets in the Outer Rim, stirring public anger there and leading to increased criminal activity. …

“No Stormtroopers were seriously harmed,” Lord Vader said. “They took care to avoid civilian casualties. After a firefight, I defeated my former master and took custody of his body.” Jedi tradition requires burial within 24 hours, but by doing it in deep space, Imperial authorities presumably were trying to avoid creating a shrine for his followers.

Lord Vader has denied requests to present photographs of the body, describing them as “too gruesome” for the general public.

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Bin Laden dead! Now, "If Only We Could Shoot Climate Change in the Face," too!

May 12th, 2011 No comments

Kate Sheppard’s pithy and wistful observation at Mother Jones on May 4, If Only We Could Shoot Climate Change in the Face, seems wryly correct:

Here are excerpts (emphasis added):

Might the death of Osama bin Laden give President Obama a chance to revive a climate and energy bill? That’s what former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson thinks. Via Politico:

“My hope is that from this success in the foreign policy arena two days ago, that he will be emboldened to take once again to the Congress legislation — not just to increase a renewable energy standard — but climate change legislation that this country and the world need,” Richardson said Tuesday at a Climate Leadership Gala hosted by the Earth Day Network in Washington.

It certainly is the case that the bin Laden’s death has put some wind in Obama’s sails. But I don’t think it’s enough wind to change the minds of a House majority that doesn’t even think that the climate is changing, let alone get them to support a bill to deal with it. Unfortunately, passing climate legislation isn’t an issue that American politicians are as unified on as they are about hunting down a terrorist mastermind.

Seems to me that Sheppard is on to something, but fails to really grasp it: citizens are rather easily stirred up by politicians for “defense” reasons to approve extremely costly and counter-productive policies, but not so easily stirred up for other reasons where the threat does not appear as tangible and where it is clear that someone’s ox will be “Gored” (pardon the pun; it fell into my lap here).

Further, the supposed hunt for OBL turned out to be a joyride into Iraq that a wide range of people believe was a failure, but to our defense industry (and  our connected political class) – which has received around a trillion dollars, with the meter still running – and to government itself, which greatly expanded its domestic reach, has been a smashing success.

Sheppard seems to concede that, for the sake of chasing OBL, this was somehow justifiable rather than a scam, and thus is unable to see the hypocrisy of those on the Right who supported the looting and expansion of government power while it benefitted the GOP and friends in the defense industry, but who moan about the “climate scam” because policies proposed will disadvantage their friends while benefitting firms that have politically supported the Left.

One hopes for more people and the left and right who can perceive the rent-seeking games inexorably involved with exercises of power by government. It is only by doing so that problems of collective action be productively and cooperatively addressed.

Leftie- and enviro-hater Alan Caruba is right about the "screwed generation" of college graduates

May 12th, 2011 No comments

I got an interesting blurb in my email inbox from “Tea Party Nation”, and thought I’d share excerpts from the linked article with you.

The article was by one Alan Caruba, PR specialist for the pesticides industry and, not surprisingly, a dedicated enemy of enviros. I don’t recall reading much by him on environmental issues and imagine I’d find him to be a partisan rather than a clear thinker, but I did like his piece at Tea Party Nation. Indeed, I think that Caruba pulled his punches, by failing to discuss the many ways that government itself is at the root of the bad economy and lowered possibilities that college grads now face.

Problems on the job front are suffciently bad that they are not confiened simply to new graduates. Ludwig von Mises Institute President Doug French has a great post om May 2, The Plight of the MBA Generation, that focusses on the difficulties of college-educated men ages 35 and older.

I’m not sure all of my readers will want to register over at Tea Party Nation, so here is a condensed version (emphasis added) of The Screwed Generation:

June is famous for weddings and graduations. Both are filled with great expectations and both are subject to great disappointments.

Today’s college graduates are thoroughly screwed. According to Matthew Segal, the president of a non-profit membership organization called Our Time, “With 85% of college graduates moving back home and an average debt of $22,900 per student, thousands are staring at a bleak economic future.” You think?

Aren’t these the eager, besotted youngsters who, at age 18, voted for Barack Hussein Obama as if he were the Second Coming? In the words of Herman Cain, a GOP presidential contender, how did that work out?

“New college graduates,” said Segal, “are entering an economy with an almost 17% unemployment rate for Americans under the age of 30.” Despite that and other horrible statistics, Segal insists “We know there is still a bright future out there…” Oh, yeah? High unemployment. Having to move back home. Graduating with a huge debt. That’s not my definition of a bright future. …

For those graduating from college at age seventeen or eighteen this year, it means they were born in 1990 or 91. They were ten or eleven years old on September 11, 2001; just old enough to know that something terrible had happened, killing thousands of Americans who probably thought they were not at war with militant Islam. Since then, this generation has not known a day of peace.

A subject of growing contention is the way the nation’s educational system has been “dumbed down” since the 1960s or the growth of “political correctness” that thwarts addressing issues involving ethnicity, ancestry, religious faith, and gender. Nor is there much discussion of the way colleges and universities have become sausage factories squeezing parents and working students for every dollar, pushing them through, and conferring degrees that, with the exception of the professions, often have dubious value.

This new generation is very “connected” in ways earlier ones could never imagine. Facebook, MySpace, and all manner of other Internet machinery have transformed how they perceive themselves and the world. It has not, however, significantly educated them in the traditional sense of the word.

They will doff their caps and gowns and go home to mom and dad. A friend of mine graduated from Georgetown University in 1982 after working his way through. He recently calculated that it cost $232,000 to graduate today. What teenager could ever take on such a burden [without federal guarantees] and why should their parents be expected to shell out the kind of money that could purchase a second home?

Today’s graduate is not likely to see any return on the money he or she pays into Social Security or Medicare. The dollars they earn will have diminished in value from those of my time or my friend’s. …

Welcome to the world of faltering economies from here to Greece and back again.

Welcome to outsourced jobs.

Welcome to rapacious bankers making money on housing loans they knew were bad for those in search of the American Dream.

Welcome to useless pat-downs every time you fly.

Welcome to “reality TV” and vulgar “entertainment”.

In these and so many other ways, this new generation is thoroughly screwed.

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Clear-sighted myopia: prominent libertarians quoting Ayn Rand miss that industry itself undermines Hayek's "market morals"

May 11th, 2011 No comments

Rob Bradley has up a post at the fossil-fuel cheering “free-market” Master Resource energy blog on April 25 that shows Ayn Rand’s familiarity with the mis-regulation of the energy industry. The post itself is fairly apt, except that while it paints the energy producers as victims of erratic government regulations it ignores those whose health and property were damaged by the energy industry and gives little play to the role of major firms in pushing for and benefitting from regulation.

But the chief point I wish to make is that Bradley’s post ends with a quote from Rand that is intended to criticize government but actually resonates because of the statism and poor decision-making of the major industry players themselves: (emphasis added)

There is no “natural” or geological crisis; there is an enormous political one. It is in the nature of a mixed economy that its policies are rationally inexplicable, that there are no identifiable causes, no accountable initiators, no ascertainable villains — and that you are losing your jobs, giving up your automobiles, catching pneumonia in unheated bedrooms, not because some giant evildoers are plotting your destruction, but because some seedy hack wanted an unearned salary, and some crummy professor wanted an undeserved prestige, and some measly shyster wanted a chance to fish in muddy laws, and none of them cared to or could watch the state of the country’s economy, and the sum of such termite aspirations has eaten through the pillars of the structure so that one kick from a sheik was sufficient to make it crumble.

Hundreds of thousands of people’s livelihoods and thousands of businesses have been disrupted along the Gulf Coast and nearby TEPCO’s Fukushima nuclear power plants, and millions of power consumers in and around Tokyo have been and will be affected for several years, not because of “giant evildoers”, but because major energy firms –  protected by government from full liability and with weak shareholder classes – are themselves highly bureaucratized with no clear locus of responsibility, with executives who look out for their own  interests but have no personal responsibility or liability for the damages resulting from lightly considered but materialized risks.

As I noted in March, F.A. Hayek (in an essay that Jeffrey Tucker has since kindly tracked down and made available generally) noted that:

Where previously perhaps only the aristocracy and its servants were strangers to the rules of the market, the growth of large organisations in business, commerce, finance, and ultimately in government, increased the number of people who grew up without being taught the morals of the market which had been developed in the course of the preceding 2,000 years.  …

We are now in the extraordinary situation that, while we live in a world with a large and growing population which can be kept alive thanks only to the prevalence of the market system, the vast majority of people (I do not exaggerate) no longer believes in the market.

It is a crucial question for the future preservation of civilisation and one which must be faced before the arguments of socialism return us to a primitive morality. We must again suppress those innate feelings which have welled up in us once we ceased to learn the taut discipline of the market, before they destroy our capacity to feed the population through the co-ordinating system of the market.

People are losing faith in the market because large energy firms themselves are partially insulated from the market and as a consequence are not fully subject to its “taut discipline” – and, as a result, are making decisions that are highly damaging.

One can rightly protest that such firms are creatures of government and have been cosseted by government, so that government is responsible for skewed decision-making. But pointing this does not address the problem posed by institutionalized moral hazard.

Only reforms that restore responsibility and market discipline will do that. Such reforms should include not simply increasing competition and ending government ownership of resources and oversight of corporate risk-managment, but finding ways to ensure that there are real principals who are incentivized to hold corporate agents accountable. Otherwise, pervasive moral hazard and risk-shifting will persist.

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Immodest thoughts: To fix capitalism, we must get govt out of corporate risk-management (rent-selling) business and get shareholders to stop playing ‘victim’ & start paying attention to risks

May 11th, 2011 2 comments

I am prompted by recent events to follow up on thoughts I emailed to Sheldon Richman a few months back:

I feel strongly that If we want to fix the country (and if libertarians don’t want to be dismissed as irrelevant/patsies for rent-seekers) we need to find ways to restore shareholder ownership of downside risk. This is the only way to back away from the destruction of communities and our natural and government commons by faceless elites through corporations – and the battle for control over Government micromanagement that so often is captured by corporations and serves as barriers to entry.

Insurers would step in to help shareholders and act as a check on management.

The states that create corporations retain power under the 14th Amendment to discriminate in favor of local, unlimited liability forms of corporation or corporations in which shares are not fully-paid up. There is nothing like a substantial risk tail to focus shareholders on managing management.


In addition, allow me to summarize thoughts that I have posted extensively elsewhereThe state has institutionalized moral hazard and exacerbated principal-agent problems via the grant of limited liability to corporate shareholders. This grant is at the core of why investors chose to us the corporate form (as opposed to traditional partnerships and older versions of corporations where shareholders retained substantial risk), and is something that cannot be obtained merely by voluntary transactions – as it involves future potential involuntary victims of acts by the new corporate legal entity (lenders and other parties can of course agree in advance to liability caps and recourse limits). 

This state intervention has set in motion and greatly fuelled the growth of government and battles with citizen groups over the wheel of government — battles in which insider elites, generally acting through long-lived and deep pocketed corporations that are armed with greater knowledge and cloaked with anonymity, have the overwhelming advantage. I earlier summarized these dynamics here: The Cliff Notes version of my stilted enviro-fascist view of corporations and government


As I have noted elsewhere: I am NOT arguing FOR a general rule that shareholders SHOULD be liable for corporate torts. Rather, I

(1) point out that limited liability itself has served to muddle the question of whom, exactly, should be responsible for the very real harms that corporations frequently cause (if, as some argue, the corporations and their shareholders themselves are the “victims” of the troubles they create, then whom, exactly, are the perpetrators?),

(2) note that the limited-liability corporate form has enabled risk-generation and -shifting on a massive scale, with innocent third parties frequently being stuck holding the bag (not solely when liabilities exceed assets, but more generally since the cycle of escalating government interventions to rein in corporations perversely ends up raising barriers to entry and giving corporations regulatory “rights to pollute” that curtail liability even when sufficient assets are available),

(3) argue that libertarians should reconsider the grant of limited liability for torts (as opposed to limited liability as to those who contract with the corporation on a voluntary basis) not simply because it is clearly non-libertarian to begin with, but because it has had profoundly perverse consequences (consequences at a serious enough level that state-loving libertarians in effect concede simply by troubling themselves to argue against curtailing limited liability),

(4) note that the most efficacious way to roll back the regulatory state lie in the direction of shifting ultimate responsibility for managing risks to enterprise owners (and ending the counter-productive regulatory risk-management experiment), and

(5) note that a curtailment of limited liability for torts could be hedged by shareholders via insurance, and could be achieved by state governments and the federal government offering more lenient regulation to busness enterprises that operate as partnerships, unlimited liability corporations, or in cases where shares are not fully paid up so that calls for significant additional capital could be made against shareholders if needed to pay claims.

All of this should be quite evident in the wake of the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, as well as in the nuclear crony-capitalism behind the decision-making that has now come back to bite Japanese individuals and firms that use TEPCO power or which are downwind of their tsunami-damaged nuclear plants (though both of these cases are compounded by even deeper governmental interventions). It should also be evident in the many cases at home and abroad where corporations act to exploit (and pay royalties to governments on) mineral and energy resources that governments purport to “own”, and where governments grant corporations “public utility” monopoly rights.

Any suggestion that one must “provide a theory of liability that coherently distinguishes shareholders from any other patron of the company” BEFORE one can examine any justifications FOR the state grant of limited liability or the consequences of such intervention would be both sadly non-libertarian and dangerously blind and shallow.

Can I interest any other libertarians in pursuing this avenue of rolling back the state?

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And now for some Fun with (Counter-)Propaganda, from an edgy young Australian Broadcast Co crew and Aussie climate scientists!

May 11th, 2011 No comments

Ran across a fun little 2-minute YouTube clip that is apparently going to run shortly on the ABC’s “Hungry Beast” program.

In this episode, the Hungry Beast crew, with the help of Aussie “climate scientists” and wannabees, have put together a rap video that is skeptical … of fossil fuel firms and of ‘skeptic’ pundits. 

(The “Hungry Beast” crew have done some other interesting work, which can be seen herehere, and here. Their March 3 piece on Google and their March 24 Is Public the New Private are certainly worth a look.)

Seems like just a bit of fun, similar to the soundtracks by climate scientists Roy Spencer, John Christy and their Christian “EcoFreako” rock band (looks lik the website is down, but I might have the files around somewher if anyones’s interested).

It’s interesting to see climate scientists taking part in this, but like their policy skeptics, they live in this world too, and certainly have a right to have and express their opinions on matters of concern to them.

Without further ado:



Here’s the script:

In the media landscape there are climate change deniers and believers, but rarely are those speaking about climate change actual climate scientists…

yo….we’re climate scientists.. and there’s no denying this Climate Change Is REEEEALL..

Who’s a climate scientist.. 
I’m a climate scientist.. 
Not a cleo finalist 
No a climate scientist

Droppin facts all over this wax 
While bitches be crying about a carbon tax 
Climate change is caused by people 
Earth Unlike Alien Has no sequel 
We gotta move fast or we’ll be forsaken, 
Cause we were too busy suckin dick Copenhagen: (Politician)

I said Burn! it’s hot in here.. 
32% more carbon in the atmosphere. 
Oh Eee Ohh Eee oh wee ice ice ice 
Raisin’ sea levels twice by twice 
We’re scientists, what we speak is True. 
Unlike Andrew Bolt our work is Peer Reviewed… ooohhh

Who’s a climate scientist.. 
I’m a climate scientist.. 
An Anglican revivalist 
No a climate scientist

Feedback is like climate change on crack 
The permafrosts subtracts: feedback 
Methane release wack : feedback.. 
Write a letter then burn it: feedback 
Denialists deny this in your dreams 
Coz climate change means greater extremes, 
Shit won’t be the norm 
Heatwaves bigger badder storms 
The Green house effect is just a theory sucker (Alan Jones) 
Yeah so is gravity float away muther f**cker

Who’s a climate scientist.. 
I’m a climate scientist.. 
I’m not a climate Scientist 
Who’s Climate Scientists 
A Penny Farthing Cyclist 
A Lebanese typist 
A Paleontologist 
A Sebaceous Cyst
No! a climate scientist! Yo! PREACH~!

Written and performed by Climate Scientists, Dan Ilic, Duncan Elms and production by Brendan Woithe at Colony NoFi.

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As we say, not as we do? Bloomberg has more on university endowments, with emphasis on Ayn Rand

May 11th, 2011 No comments

My reading on the kerfluffle about the Koch brothers’ funding of free market economics programs at FSU turned up an interesting report at Bloomberg.

The Bloomberg report makes discusses funding generally, with a focus on the efforts of John Allison, former chairman of bank holding company BB&T Corp. philanthropist’s efforts to get universities to teach Ayn Rand‘s Atas Shrugged, and makes no mention of the Kochs. FSU apparently has also accepted funds from BB&T.

While I agree that ideas must be fought for, I deplore that the various disputants appear to be ignoring that the very reason for the disputes over ‘private’ donations to universities is the very deep role that governments play in corporations and markets, and the resulting very deep role that corporations play in governments.

Would that ‘capitalists’ had a clearer understanding and more honest acknowledgement of their own unclean hands — then the libertarian message they purport to preach would be less like to be perceived as evil propaganda.

Here’s are excerpts of the report:

Schools Find Ayn Rand Can’t Be Shrugged as Donors Build Courses (Bloomberg Markets Magazine, May 5, 2011) (emphasis added)


John Allison, former chairman of bank holding company BB&T Corp. (BBT), admires author Ayn Rand so much that he devised a strategy to spread her laissez-faire principles on U.S. campuses. Allison, working through the BB&T Charitable Foundation, gives schools grants of as much as $2 million if they agree to create a course on capitalism and make Rand’s masterwork, “Atlas Shrugged,” required reading.

Allison’s crusade to counter what he considers the anti- capitalist orthodoxy at universities has produced results — and controversy. Some 60 schools, including at least four campuses of the University of North Carolina, began teaching Rand’s book after getting the foundation money. Faculty at several schools that have accepted Allison’s terms are protesting, saying donors shouldn’t have the power to set the curriculum to pursue their political agendas, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its June issue.

“We have sought out professors who wanted to teach these ideas,” says Allison, now a professor at Wake Forest University’s business school in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. “It’s really a battle of ideas. If the ideas that made America great aren’t heard, then their influence will be destroyed.”

Allison, 62, is one of a number of wealthy philanthropists who are making bold demands on schools as a condition of giving, says Jack Siegel, a lawyer whose Chicago-based Charity Governance Consulting LLC works with colleges and nonprofit groups.

Seeking to leave their imprint on everything from the direction of scientific research to the performance of sports teams, these benefactors are stirring conflicts when their causes don’t fit with the priorities of administrators and faculty.

Strings Attached

The strings attached to the gifts present university presidents with tough choices: While schools suffering from diminished endowments and government funding cuts following the recession need the money, administrators are sometimes forced to reject the offers to avoid a dust-up on campus.

“I have known some gifts in which the university just could not agree to the terms,” Ohio State University President E. Gordon Gee says. “If there are too many strings attached, you have done yourself a disservice. If someone gave me $100 million to start a school of massage at Ohio State University, I’d have to say, ‘Sorry, it’s just not in our strategic plan.’”

Donors as far back as John Harvard, the first benefactor of what was renamed Harvard College after his death in 1638, have gotten their names enshrined on buildings in a quest for immortality. “They’re building a tombstone,” Siegel says.



A C$35 million ($36 million) gift from the family foundation of billionaire Peter Munk has been met with as much scorn as appreciation at the University of Toronto. The money from Munk, chairman of Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corp. (ABX), was used to help create the Munk School of Global Affairs.

Paul Hamel, a professor of medicine, and John Valleau, an emeritus chemistry professor, attacked the university’s agreement to accept the donation in a 7,361-word essay published in February in an online campus magazine. Students also staged protests outside the university’s governing council meetings.

Barrick’s Mines

In the funding deal, the Munk foundation will release the final C$15 million at its own discretion and only if the university meets 23 requirements laid out in a 26-page memorandum of agreement. The professors claim that the structure of the agreement will make scholars at the Munk school reluctant to criticize Barrick, the world’s largest miner of precious metals.

Amnesty International and CorpWatch have alleged that Barrick’s operations have caused pollution and violated the human rights of workers in Papua New Guinea and Australia. In Tanzania, security guards at Barrick’s mines have allegedly shot and killed villagers who scavenge for small pieces of gold. Barrick has publicly denied that it’s responsible for these alleged violations.

“Anti-mining activists frequently make wide-ranging accusations against Barrick, often relying on information that is just plain wrong,” spokesman Andy Lloyd says. “The company is fully committed to responsible environmental stewardship and upholding human rights.”

Front Entrance

The essay also lashes out at the demands attached to Munk’s gift. Among the 23 requirements, the university must stage an opening celebration for the Munk school and hire a media tracking service to evaluate its branding strategy.

The professors were especially incensed at the rule that said lower-level staff will not be allowed to use the front entrance of the building, which they say violates the social norms of a public university.

“The main entrance of the school, remodeled at considerable public expense, is to be restricted to ‘senior staff’ (defined how?), while everyone else, including their assistants and students and even their less-senior faculty colleagues, are to walk around to a back door!” the professors wrote.

President David Naylor posted a spirited defense of the Munk agreement on the university’s website. “Personal attacks such as those we have seen on Peter Munk are a deplorable affront to the values of rational and respectful discourse that are supposed to characterize a university,” Naylor said.

The university also said that critics misinterpreted the requirement about the building’s front entrance, saying everyone was free to use it. Barrick declined to make Munk available for comment.

Exxon Donation

Benefactors rarely deviate from the university’s preferred projects, says Martin Shell, Stanford’s vice president for development. “We want to make sure we understand what the donor has agreed to and what we’ve agreed on, to make sure there’s a meeting of minds so there’s no confusion down the road,” Shell says.

Stanford’s tightly scripted fundraising program didn’t prevent a blowup with Hollywood producer Stephen Bing. After Bing pledged $2.5 million for an undisclosed purpose, he learned that Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) was running advertisements touting its earlier promise to donate up to $100 million to Stanford to support climate change and energy research.

Bing, who backs environmental causes, demanded that Stanford prevent Exxon from using the school’s good name in its marketing to promote itself as a green company. A group of alumni rallied to Bing’s cause and lobbied the school’s board of trustees to vote their shares in support of a 2007 Exxon shareholder resolution calling on the oil giant to reduce its contributions to global warming.

But that wasn’t enough for Bing, who rescinded his donation in 2007 because Stanford refused to end its relationship with Exxon. Bing declined to comment.

Ayn Rand

Allison, who promotes Ayn Rand’s writings, will likely generate more conflicts on campuses as he seeks to expand his foundation’s gifts to 200 schools nationwide. In 2006, Meredith College in Raleigh, North Carolina, gave up a seven-year, $420,000 grant from the BB&T foundation after some faculty bristled at the president’s decision to accept the money on the condition that the school teach “Atlas Shrugged.”

After Guilford College in Greensboro, North Carolina, accepted a 10-year, $500,000 grant from Allison’s foundation, Richard Zweigenhaft, a professor of psychology, protested the decision in an article for Academe, a magazine published by the American Association of University Professors. He said the appropriate faculty committees weren’t consulted before the school decided to take the money.

“This deal with BB&T was simply an egregious case of the college administration deciding to sell a chunk of the curriculum,” Zweigenhaft says.

As private donors gain more power on campuses, it’s just the kind of shift away from state control that Rand would applaud.

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[More beef added] Kochs’ determination to buy political influence raises fears about their funding of free-market econ chairs at FSU

May 10th, 2011 1 comment

As many a university has been started or funded by wealthy men, the whole situation is absurd – particularly because the real problem with education now is the massive perverse influence of government funding, mandates and subsidies.

Are people afraid of ideas? Are entrenched Keynesian and liberal profs afraid of competition? Is anything wrong with private money financing the availability of courses and ideas not presently being taught at a public university, as long as the student remains free to choose?

The protests seem incoherent to me – though it also seems that the Kochs have brought all of the scrutiny on themselves via their long hostility to addressing climate change concerns and by their recent prominent funding of Republicans.

More power to Bruce Benson, chairman of FSU’s economics department, but perhaps the Kochs will consider just starting their own university – one that doesn’t accept government largess of any kind?

I’ve quoted some parts of the following, to aid the otherwise disinclined reader:

1. See Billionaire’s role in hiring decisions at Florida State University raises questions  (, May 10, 2011)

A conservative billionaire who opposes government meddling in business has bought a rare commodity: the right to interfere in faculty hiring at a publicly funded university.

A foundation bankrolled by Libertarian businessman Charles G. Koch has pledged $1.5 million for positions in Florida State University’s economics department. In return, his representatives get to screen and sign off on any hires for a new program promoting “political economy and free enterprise.”

Traditionally, university donors have little official input into choosing the person who fills a chair they’ve funded. The power of university faculty and officials to choose professors without outside interference is considered a hallmark of academic freedom.

Under the agreement with the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, however, faculty only retain the illusion of control. The contract specifies that an advisory committee appointed by Koch decides which candidates should be considered. The foundation can also withdraw its funding if it’s not happy with the faculty’s choice or if the hires don’t meet “objectives” set by Koch during annual evaluations.

David W. Rasmussen, dean of the College of Social Sciences, defended the deal, initiated by an FSU graduate working for Koch. During the first round of hiring in 2009, Koch rejected nearly 60 percent of the faculty’s suggestions but ultimately agreed on two candidates. Although the deal was signed in 2008 with little public controversy, the issue revived last week when two FSU professors — one retired, one active — criticized the contract in the Tallahassee Democrat as an affront to academic freedom.

Rasmussen said hiring the two new assistant professors allows him to offer eight additional courses a year.  …

Most universities, including the University of Florida, have policies that strictly limit donors’ influence over the use of their gifts. Yale University once returned $20 million when the donor demanded veto power over appointments, saying such control was “unheard of.”

Jennifer Washburn, who has reviewed dozens of contracts between universities and donors, called the Koch agreement with FSU “truly shocking.”

Said Washburn, author of University Inc., a book on industry’s ties to academia: “This is an egregious example of a public university being willing to sell itself for next to nothing.” …

The Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, to which he has given as much as $80 million a year, has focused on “advancing social progress and well-being” through grants to about 150 universities. But in the past, most colleges, including Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, received just a few thousand dollars.

The big exception has been George Mason University, a public university in Virginia which has received more than $30 million from Koch over the past 20 years. At George Mason, Koch’s foundation has underwritten the Mercatus Center, whose faculty study “how institutions affect the freedom to prosper.”

When President George W. Bush identified 23 regulations he wanted to eliminate, 14 had been initially suggested by Mercatus scholars. In a New Yorker profile of the Koch brothers in August, Rob Stein, a Democratic strategist, called Mercatus “ground zero for deregulation policy in Washington.” …

Bruce Benson, chairman of FSU’s economics department, said that of his staff of 30, six, including himself, would fall into Koch’s free-market camp.

“The Kochs find, as I do, that a lot of regulation is actually detrimental and they’re convinced markets work relatively well when left alone,” he said.

Benson said his department had extensive discussion, but no vote, on the Koch agreement when it was signed in 2008.

He said the Koch grant has improved his department and guaranteed a diversity of opinion that’s beneficial to students.

“Students will ultimately choose,” he said. “If you believe strongly in something, you believe it can win the debate.”

Benson makes annual reports to Koch about the faculty’s publications, speeches and classes, which have included the economics of corruption. He said FSU has promised to retain the professors in tenure-track positions hired under the Koch grant if the foundation ever feels they aren’t complying with its objectives and withdraws support.

“So far, they’re fine with what’s going on,” Benson said. “But I agree with what they believe, whether they give us money or not.”

• • •

As originally drafted, the agreement called for the Koch foundation and FSU to raise up to $6.6 million for six faculty positions. That plan has been scaled back in the face of the recession, but FSU’s dean dismissed suggestions that he signed the deal with Koch because of financial strain.

“This would have been an opportunity to improve our economics department under any circumstances,” Rasmussen said.

In addition to funding two slots, Koch has also donated nearly $500,000 for graduate fellowships. 


3.  Florida State University sells faculty control for Koch money (The Reid Report, May 9, 2009.


2.  Think Progress: FSU Accepts Funds From Charles Koch In Return For Control Over Its Academic Freedom

Charles Koch, the billionaire libertarian who has fundedfront-groups and lobbying efforts to expand his anti-tax, anti-regulatory agenda under the guise of “free enterprise,” has now widened his reach into another key public policy area: academics. The Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation entered into an agreement with Florida State University in 2008 in which the foundation would provide millions of dollars in funds for the school’s economics department.

The funds were marked to add multiple faculty positions in the economics department. But the money came with multiple strings attached, including a demand that Koch have the ability to directly approve who ultimately filled the positions. As the St. Petersburg Times reports, the agreement is now raising questions across the board about academic freedom and integrity at public colleges and universities:

Under the agreement with the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, however, faculty only retain the illusion of control. The contract specifies that an advisory committee appointed by Koch decides which candidates should be considered. The foundation can also withdraw its funding if it’s not happy with the faculty’s choice or if the hires don’t meet “objectives” set by Koch during annual evaluations.

Koch wasted little time in asserting his influence. In 2009, he denied 60 percent of the faculty’s suggestions to fill the positions in the new programs, called the Study of Political Economy and Free Enterprise (SPEFE) and Excellence in Economics Education (EEE). The hires that were made were agreed upon by Koch and the department’s faculty.

But according to a memorandum about the agreement, obtained by the Tallahassee Democrat, the ability to pick and choose faculty members was hardly the only string attached. In addition, Koch wanted the ability to review work done by the economics faculty and much more:


The three senior professors must come in with tenure, and FSU must continue to fund them for at least four years past the project period.

The Advisory Board of SPSFC and EEE is allowed to review all publicly provided material submitted by applicants for the Professorship positions.

The Advisory Board will determine which candidates qualify to receive funding.

No funding for a professorship position or any other affiliated program or position will be released without the review and approval of the Advisory Board.

An undergraduate program will be devised and funded for $30,000 per year for three years. The committee responsible for the program will report to the Advisory Board.

Other strings spell out the right of the [Charles G. Koch] Foundation to annually review the work of funded professors, publications, publicity, etc., and to pick up their marbles and go home if not satisfied.

Because selling out its academic freedom to Koch apparently wasn’t enough, Florida State also entered into an agreement with BB&T [a bank that works with the Kochs], which provided funding for a course on ethics and economics and required that Ayn Rand’s novel, Atlas Shrugged, be a part of the course curriculum. Responding to criticism of that agreement, Rasmussen said, “If somebody says, ‘We’re willing to help support your students and faculty by giving you money, but we’d like you to read this book,’ that doesn’t strike me as a big sin. What is a big sin is saying that certain ideas cannot be discussed.”

In the world where billionaires and corporations take over education, the only “big sin” is apparently fighting back against their control of academic curriculum.


Now, rather than taking over entire academic departments, Koch is funding faculty who promote his agenda at universities where there are a variety of economic views. In addition to FSU, Koch has made similar arrangements at two other state schools, Clemson University in South Carolina and West Virginia University.

4.  DemocraticUnderground. discussion board post: With state universities facing budget cuts, the Charles G. Koch Foundation is ready to “help” (excerpts to original letter in Tallahassee Democrat by two FSU profs, and response by dean of the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy)

5.  FSU student newspaper: FSU professors spark debate over donor money

6. Facebook page: Get the Koch Bros. out of FSU


Great news! IPCC climate panel acknowledge in new report that it will be extremely difficult to find alternatives to fossil fuels in time to stabilize CO2 levels for many decades

May 10th, 2011 No comments

[Warning: obvious snark above]

1.  See this analysis by Roger Pielke, Jr.:

The IPCC has just issued a new summary for policy makers for a forthcoming special report on renewable energy that appears (indirectly and obliquely) to finally admit that we just do not have the technology necessary to achieve low targets for the stabilization of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (e.g., something like 450 ppm). 

2.  The FT discusses the report as well: has a

3.  Here’s the report itself.

4.  My own view is that our energy sector is massively skewed by government ownership of energy resources that it wants to see exploited (both to feed government and to satisfy insiders), and by a wide range of government policies, from the creation of limited liability corporate engines of moral hazard, risk-shifting and commons destruction, to a refusal to allow ordinsry citizens and resource users to protect private property and common resourcves, to the creation of utility monopolies.

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