What’s in a Name Change? Politics, Some at George Mason University Fear

 

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia at the 40th anniversary luncheon for the Legal Services Corporation in Washington in September 2014. 

 

Credit Chip Somodevilla

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia at the 40th anniversary luncheon for the Legal Services Corporation in Washington in September 2014. Credit Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — For years, students and faculty at George Mason University paid little attention as Charles G. Koch and other conservatives helped transform their once sleepy commuter school in the suburbs of the nation’s capital into a leading producer of free-market scholarship. The effort, after all, was focused on a few specific departments like economics and law and attracted little attention outside conservative circles.

But the announcement last month that George Mason would rename its law school in honor of Justice Antonin Scalia, the longtime voice of the Supreme Court’s conservative wing who died in February, abruptly ended that indifference.

The name change — and that it was tied to a $30 million combined gift from the Charles Koch Foundation and an anonymous conservative donor — focused attention for the first time in a serious way on whether the administration and trustees at George Mason had allowed Virginia’s largest public university to become an ideological outpost.

The university administration insists that the answer is no. But a drumbeat of public letters, social media posts and campus debates expressing concerns about the gift suggests a vocal group of faculty, students and state legislators are not convinced.

“Many of us have been watching this happening for a long time,” said Bethany Letiecq, a professor of human development and family science, “but this just renews interest in the bigger picture, which is the Kochs’ influence in higher education and the decreasing influence of the faculty over decision making.”

On Wednesday, the university’s faculty senate passed a resolution urging the board of visitors and administration to address concerns about the renaming. A more pointed resolution to delay the name change will be revisited next week, faculty members said.

University administrators say that naming the law school after Justice Scalia was meant to honor a highly influential figure in American public life and that the gift behind it will allow the school to expand. Suggestions otherwise, they say, including that the university has ceded academic control to a donor’s interests, amount to little more than politics.

Law School Renamed for Antonin Scalia, Again. Blame Acronym. APRIL 5, 2016
At Memorial, Scalia Remembered as Happy Combatant MARCH 1, 2016
Antonin Scalia, Justice on the Supreme Court, Dies at 79 FEB. 13, 2016

“You need to really cut to the chase and ask: Is the naming of the Scalia Law School a signal to students that you have to have a particular viewpoint to attend,” said David K. Rehr, the law school’s senior associate dean. “I think emphatically and overwhelmingly the answer is no.”

But the debate has raised questions about how, as the university’s growth has outpaced the state of Virginia’s support for it, conservative donors have become increasingly important.

“Public universities are just desperate for money. And if it’s not coming from the state, it has to come from some place,” said David A. Kravitz, a professor of management who sits on the faculty senate. “What’s left is people like the Koch brothers and others, and quite often they provide money that goes toward things that support their interests.”

Over the course of nearly three decades, Mr. Koch, the billionaire industrialist who has pumped millions into conservative causes, and foundations affiliated with him have put a distinct imprint on key segments of the university. Those foundations have given more than $50 million over the past decade, most of it funneled to pet initiatives affiliated with the university, like the Mercatus Center, an economic think tank that churns out libertarian policy research, and the Institute for Humane Studies, which promotes libertarian philosophy. Mr. Koch sits on the boards of both.

Mr. Koch’s foundation has also given generously to the Law and Economics Center, the law school’s flagship program, which emphasizes the economic impact of the law. The school’s dean, Henry N. Butler, used to run the center and has had close ties to the family for decades.

But until the March gift, longtime faculty members said, the conservative influence seemed to stop there. Now, they worry, the university has publicly linked itself to a justice whose views on affirmative action, reproductive rights and same-sex marriage are inappropriate for a university that educates more than 30,000 students from diverse backgrounds.

29scalia-web02-master675

Charles Koch in his office at Koch Industries in Wichita, Kan., in 2012. Credit Bo Rader/The Wichita Eagle, via Associated Press

“To name the school after Scalia is so egregious,” said Craig Willse, a cultural studies professor at George Mason who has helped lead the opposition to the change. “He was racist and homophobic. What does it mean for us to associate ourselves with a figure like that — especially when his views on education run counter to a public university?”

Even at the law school, where the faculty’s ideology and curriculum are widely known, some said the renaming had gone too far.

“I think it’s a really important distinction to make that having conservative faculty and learning about Antonin Scalia and his opinions is an important part of the education here,” said Rebecca Bucchieri, a 2015 graduate of the law school. “But branding the entire school and student body with his views is another thing.”

Ms. Bucchieri, who works for a reproductive rights nonprofit, helped organize a letter from more than 275 law students and alumni opposing the change.

Grant agreements released by the faculty senate show that in addition to the renaming and the creation of scholarships trumpeted by the university, the gift from the Koch Foundation is contingent upon the school hiring 12 new faculty members and creating two new centers that will expand on its Law and Economics focus.

The gift, which will be paid out over several years based on the university carrying out the agreement, also requires that the school “retain focus” on Law and Economics and stipulates that the foundation be notified immediately should Mr. Butler step down.

Those provisions have led to concerns from some faculty members that big donors like Mr. Koch are slowly encroaching on the university’s academic independence.

In their view, they have good reason to be wary. The Charles Koch Foundation usually insists on some say in how its money is used, going as far as asking for the right to have a committee it appointed sign off on hires to a new economics program it funded in 2011 at Florida State University.

David L. Kuebrich, an English professor who is preparing a faculty senate task force report on private donor influence on campus, said there is no need for that kind of explicit direction at George Mason.

“Both the funders and the faculty and staff at these centers share the same libertarian outlook and goals, so they work together well,” said Mr. Kuebrich, who stressed he was not speaking for the task force. “Detailed agreements are likely unnecessary.

The foundation maintains that its gifts do not encroach on academic independence. John Hardin, the foundation’s director of university relations, said that it makes grants based on specific proposals from schools like George Mason. As long as the school is carrying out the agreed-upon vision, the foundation largely stands back, he said.

“We want to ensure that the school retains all authority in determining who the faculty are going to be, what questions they are pursuing, what conclusions they arrive at,” Mr. Hardin said.

With the university’s leadership unlikely to reverse course and Virginia’s governor, Terry McAuliffe, unwilling to intervene, according to a spokesman, opponents of the change have rested their hopes on the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, a board appointed by the governor that must approve the renaming.

The staff of the board, which has not blocked a name change of this sort in recent memory, is reviewing George Mason’s proposal.

 

New Book Rips Hillary Clinton – Stephen Lendman

hillary-clinton-my-turn-book-e1446511093415

 

Make no mistake. A Clinton presidency would be disastrous – the worst of all possible deplorable choices, none worthy of any public office, all aspirants beholden to wealth, power and privilege exclusively.

 

Politically, Doug Henwood would easily be defined as a true progressive, which makes his observations about Hillary all the more compelling.  Most progressives that support Hillary have no concept that she’s a warmonger and spear carrier for global empire and special interests.  But then, one need only watch Marc Dice’s man-on-the-street interviews (e.g., click here) to get a sense for how little thinking goes on in the minds of some Hillary supporters. — Eric Dubin, Managing Editor, The News Doctors

TND Guest Contributor:  Stephen Lendman

Make no mistake. A Clinton presidency would be disastrous – the worst of all possible deplorable choices, none worthy of any public office, all aspirants beholden to wealth, power and privilege exclusively.

Don’t let their duplicitous rhetoric fool you. They’re all cut out of the same cloth. Otherwise, they wouldn’t get public attention. Populist Green Party aspirant Jill Stein gets none.

A Clinton presidency would be nightmarish for the vast majority of Americans and world peace. It’ll combine the worst of George Bush and Obama, an agenda of endless wars of aggression, maybe targeting Russia, China, and/or Iran, corporate favoritism, destroying social justice, and full-blown tyranny against resisters.

Doug Henwood is editor and publisher of the Left Business Observer. It covers “economics and politics in the broadest sense,” discussing what everyone needs to know, suppressed in mainstream reporting.

In November 2014, his Harpers article headlined “Stop Hillary! Vote no to a Clinton dynasty.” It bears repeating. A second Clinton presidency is the worst of all deplorable choices.

Her qualifications “boil down to this,” says Henwood. “She has experience, she’s a woman, and it’s her turn. It’s hard to find any substantive political argument in her favor.”

As first lady, she pushed husband Bill to bomb Belgrade in 1999. The rape of Yugoslavia raged throughout the 1990s, culminating with 78 days of lawless US-led NATO aggression from March 24 – June 10, 1999.

She encouraged her husband to end welfare for needy households. Vital Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) ended. The so-called Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation (PRWORA) followed, changing eligibility rules.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) set a five-year time limit – leaving millions of needy households (many with single mothers) on their own when aid was most needed.

As New York senator and Secretary of State, she “bec(ame) increasingly hawkish on foreign policy,” Henwood explained.

“What Hillary will deliver (as president) is more of the same. And that shouldn’t surprise us…American politics has an amazing stability and continuity about it.”

No matter who’s elected president, business as usual always continues, hardening, not softening deplorably during Bill Clinton’s presidency, worse than ever post-9/11 under Bush II and Obama – certain to be worse than ever no matter who gets the top job next November, especially if it’s Hillary, a neocon, anti-populist war goddess.

Her self-proclaimed progressivism is pure fantasy. Her record as first lady and in public office exposes her real agenda, warranting condemnation, not praise.

She “has a long history of being economical with the truth,” said Henwood. As New York senator, “she voted for the Iraq war, and continued to defend it long after others had thrown in the towel.”

She echoed the Big Lies about Saddam’s nonexistent WMDs and ties to Al Qaeda. She cozied up to right-wing Republicans to ward off criticism. As Secretary of State, she was “less of a diplomat and more of a hawk,” Henwood explained.

She backed escalated war on Afghanistan, pushed for continued US military presence in Iraq, helped orchestrate lawless aggression on Libya, and urged Obama to bomb Syria without required Security Council authorization.

She was involved in developing “pivot to Asia” strategy. “Since leaving the State Department, (she) devoted herself to…Clinton, Inc…(a) fund-raising, favor-dispensing machine” together with husband Bill, said Henwood.

Their style is self-promotion, including “huge book advances and fat speaking fees… And with an eye to the presidency, (she) kept up her line of neocon patter, while carefully separating herself from Obama.”

She deplorably supports Netanyahu’s high crimes – from naked aggression on Gaza to current war throughout the Territories. Palestinian bloodshed and horrific suffering are of no consequence. Israeli imperial interests alone matter.

Henwood concluded his lengthy article, saying “Eight years of Hill? Four, even? To borrow her anti-McCain jab from the 2008 Democratic convention: No way, no how!”

His new book titled “My Turn: Hillary Clinton Targets the Presidency” covers in greater detail what his article discussed. The cover shows her hawkish image, pointing a gun with her arm outstretched.

Her agenda is pure evil, an anti-populist neocon war goddess corporate shill, pretending otherwise.

With Biden out as a potential candidate, she looks like a shoe-in Democrat nominee, despite all the exposed baggage about her. WW III looks increasingly likely with her in the White House.

###

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

Click here for information on his new book (editor and contributor) titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”  Mr. Lendman’s articles can be read at is blog:  sjlendman.blogspot.com.  He also hosts the “Progressive Radio News Hour” on the Progressive Radio Network.  His show featuring cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests and airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs.

Stephen Lendman was born in 1934 in Boston, MA. In 1956, he received a BA from Harvard University. Two years of US Army service followed, then an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in 1960. After working seven years as a marketing research analyst, he joined the Lendman Group family business in 1967. He remained there until retiring at year end 1999. Writing on major world and national issues began in summer 2005. In early 2007, radio hosting followed. Lendman now hosts the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network three times weekly. Distinguished guests are featured. Listen live or achived. Major world and national issues are discussed. Lendman is a 2008 Project Censored winner and 2011 Mexican Journalists Club international journalism award recipient.  His other books include, “Banker Occupation:  Waging Financial War On Humanity,” “How Wall Street Fleeces America:  Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War,” and “The Iraq Quagmire: The Price of Imperial Arrogance.

 

“Terrorist International” Takes Shape … Against Russia

Theme: US NATO War Agenda

russian-air-force-400x266On October 1, Turkey and six other countries of the US-led coalition published a joint declaration expressing concern over Russia Air Force strikes against the militants in Syria. The signatories include the United States of America (as expected), the monarchies of Persian Gulf (Saudi Arabia and Qatar that were also expected to join), as well as Great Britain, Germany and France.

The statement actually does not say anything extraordinary. Russia stole the initiative from the West. Instead of following the example of «anti-terrorist coalition» and delivering strikes against Syria’s government forces (which together with Kurds conduct combat actions against the militants of so-called Islamic State), Russia bombed the positions of the terrorists. It allowed the legitimate Syrian government to regroup forces, get a break and finally launch a ground offensive to clear the territory from the terrorist plague.

The expression of concern by the United States is logical and natural: Washington has spent great effort to train the «moderate» Syrian opposition (which mysteriously has turned into a source of weapons and manpower for «immoderate» groups). The start of the Russian operation may incur direct financial losses, let alone damage the image of the US.

There is nothing surprising in the fact that the monarchies of Persian Gulf – Saudi Arabia and Qatar – were eager to sign the statement. One may forget what country Osama bin Laden and the majority of terrorists, who seized the aircraft on September 11, 2001, came from. But it’s impossible to reject the fact that the Gulf monarchies (no matter all the real or imaginary contradictions and disagreements dividing them) are the main sponsors of major terrorist groups operating in the Greater Middle East – from Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and, especially, in Pakistan. In case of Saudi Arabia the overthrow of Bashar Assad is just the first step on the way to do away with Iran, its main opponent in the region.

It’s easy to explain why the declaration was initiated by Turkey. Ankara views the Islamic State as the only force able to nip in the bud the aspiration of Kurds, the divided people, for statehood. It makes pale such things of ‘little importance’ like cheap oil exported by militants from Iraq and Syria with Turkey being the main customer.

It’s worth to mention the position of Europe. The fact that London signed the declaration can be explained by the inability of the 51st US state to stop playing the role of American poodle on a leash. It obediently dances to the US tune. The participation of France and Germany seems to be a bit irrational.

So many things have happened in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Berlin and Paris could have realized that the events seemingly not interconnected meet the logic of US strategy aimed at creating an axis of instability. Its only goal is to preserve the unipolar world where West Europe plays the role of a passive satellite, not an independent actor.

The events in Ukraine occurred exactly when a Europe-Russia energy alliance started to loom and the US-led talks on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership got stalled. Just a coincidence, of course.

All these events let the United States to partially achieve the main goal – it has succeeded in driving a wedge between Europe and Russia, but the talks on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership did not make much progress. The United States had another ace up its sleeve. The civil war in Syria gave rise to the massive migrant flows threatening the very foundation of the European civilization and making European allies meekly ask the big brother overseas for help.

Russia’s resolute actions in Syria leave no chance for these plans. Supposedly, Europeans should breathe a sigh of relief. But it has not happened as yet.

What is the reason? Has the habit to snap to attention become so deeply enrooted? Have the Europeans left any thoughts about having a choice? Some analysts believe that the US National Security Agency has acquired serious compromising material to blackmail European leaders into agreement with Washington.

The hope is still looming that after some time Europe will realize where its real interests lie. The abovementioned declaration of the seven looks more like a creation of a new instrument of Washington. This time it has the form of an international alliance to support terrorists of the so-called Islamic State.

BREAKING: Over 1,000 ISIS and Al Nusra Militants Surrender To Syrian Army In Last 24 Hours

 

 

The development came after President Bashar al-Assad in a televised address in July pardoned all soldiers who have fled the army, saying that his words served as a general decree to relevant officials.

Hundreds of gunmen have been laying down their weapons and turning themselves in to authorities in areas across the country.

This number seems to be on the rise as the army has been making steady gains in the battlefield against the terrorist groups, recapturing an increasing number of regions, including strategic sites, which helped cut off many of the militants’ supply routes and forced them to surrender or run away.

Also in the past 24 hours, the Syrian air raids destroyed concentration centers of the ISIL, al-Nusra Front and other terrorist groups in Hama and Idlib.

The Syrian warplanes conducted airstrikes against positions of ISIL and the so-called Jeish al-Fath terrorists in the countryside of Hama and Idlib.

The airstrikes hit positions of the ISIL terrorists in al-Rahjan village, 50 km to the Northeast of Hama City, destroying a number of terrorists’ vehicles with all arms, ammunition and equipment on board.

The airstrikes also hit positions of al-Nusra Front and other terrorist groups in Aqrab village in the Southwestern countryside of Hama, killing scores of terrorists.

A number of vehicles belonging to Jeish al-Fath terrorists were also destroyed in airstrikes in Abdin village in the countryside of Ma’aret al-Nu’aman in Idlib countryside.

Meantime, the Syrian fighter jets pounded hideouts of the Takfiri militants in the countryside of Homs.

The Syrian air raids destroyed Takfiri terrorists’ hideouts and vehicles in al-Qaryatain, al-Sa’an, and in the vicinity of al-Sha’er field in Homs countryside.

The Russian air group in Syria is using Kh-29L air-to-surface missiles to conduct airstrikes against the ISIL militants, the Russian military said Sunday.

“A Kh-29L surface-to-air missile is equipped with a semi-active laser guidance system. When the launch is conducted, a pilot illuminates a target with a laser sight. At the same time an aircraft can continue the flight,” Aerospace Forces Spokesman Colonel Igor Klimov said.

Also, the Syrian army conducted military operations against the foreign-backed Takfiri militants in Aleppo province, leaving hundreds of them killed and injured.

Hundreds of terrorists were killed or wounded in Aleppo City and its countryside in the past 24 hours, a military source said.

Elsewhere, at least 28 militant fighters of the ISIL terrorist group were killed during clashes with the Kurdish forces in the Northeastern Syrian province of Hasaka.

“The YPG forces besieged the ISIL militants near Mount Abdulaziz and killed dozens of terrorists and destroyed several vehicles,” a spokesman for the YPG Media Center told ARA News.

Also, gunmen from the Jeish al-Fath coalition of extremist groups are pulling out their forces from Idlib and other towns in Northwestern Syria.

The radical group started moving towards the Turkish border on Saturday after having experienced “the efficiency of the Russian aerospace forces’ strikes,” the As-Safir Arabic-language daily reported.

The coalition is led by al-Nusra terrorist group, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, which is sponsored by Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar. The group seized the Idlib province this spring.

The report said field commanders fear at any moment the attack of Syrian forces supported by Russian warplanes on the key town of Jisr al-Shugour, on the Lattakia-Aleppo highway.

America is not a democracy: Until we fix the core problem, all other political promises are meaningless

BY Lawrence Lessig – NEW YORK DAILY NEWS – Monday, September 28, 2015, 5:00 AM

CC

There are some who insist that everything’s just fine with American democracy today.

They don’t see SuperPACs spending hundreds of millions of dollars to set candidates’ priorities and influence elections; they see “free speech.”

They don’t believe Congress is broken; they think those who say it is just don’t like what Congress is doing.

The apologists defend our democracy’s dysfunction through professed humility: “What do you expect?” they ask. “It’s just a democracy.”

Partisanship, in other words, just comes with the territory of trying to govern a large, diverse, and complex country. Gridlock is a feature, not a bug.

But here’s the dirty big secret: The government we have is not a democracy. It’s nowhere close. Instead, a corruption in the very idea of a representative democracy has rendered our nation almost ungovernable. We have entered the age of the “vetocracy,” as political theorist Francis Fukuyama puts it, where very small numbers in America can block almost any sensible change.

Gridlock happens not because Americans want it. Gridlock happens because it pays — for that tiny minority.

The reason is obvious once you know where to look. The core idea of a representative democracy is equality — not the equality of wealth, but the equality of citizens. Yet our “democracy” denies that equality in obvious and grotesque ways.

Four hundred families have given half the money to candidates and political committees in this election cycle so far, while members of Congress and candidates for Congress spend 30% to 70% of their time raising money from a tiny fraction of the 1%.

No one can believe that the people at the front of this line — the 400 families, or the 0.02% of Americans who have given the maximum to even one candidate — have a political power equal to the rest of us.

And that’s not the only inequality: Think about the absurd way we gerrymander districts, with politicians picking their voters, rather than voters picking the politicians. They work so hard to keep their seat safe for one political party or the other, they effectively leave 89 million Americans with no effective representation, since they’re political minorities in districts that will never change hands.

Or think about the ridiculous ways we make it hard for people to vote: More than 10 million Americans had to wait more than 30 minutes to vote in the last election. For families with nannies and iPhones, that’s not much of a problem. But for ordinary working parents, that’s a poll tax too many can’t afford.

This inequality is everywhere. But here’s the critical point that too many miss: If we could break this inequality, we could crack the corruption that has destroyed our government. If we could find a way to de-concentrate the incredibly concentrated power that renders America a vetocracy, we could give representative democracy a chance. If we fixed our democracy, we could end this vetocracy.

This isn’t some far-off dream. It’s actually within our power.

We need to mix the hope that the politicians peddle — of renewed economic growth for the middle class, of a health-care system that Americans can afford, of a banking system that keeps America secure, of a social security system that will survive, of college that kids can afford, of climate change legislation that can slow the destruction of this planet — with a recognition of the reality of this democratic pathology, and a plan to fix it.

We need politicians to speak this truth: That if we’re to do any of the things we know must be done, we must fix this democracy first.

Congress could do that with a single statute, tomorrow. Congress could change the way campaigns are funded, tomorrow. The Supreme Court has not blocked this reform, nor will it.

Congress could end gerrymandering, and achieve a representative democracy, tomorrow. And it could end the discriminatory burdens on the freedom to vote tomorrow.

Congress could make a giant leap towards a representative democracy, if we only had politicians willing to take the first critical step — of telling the people the truth, and showing them how reform is possible.

Enough of the fantasies. We need to tell the politicians: Show us the plan that will fix this democracy, and then we’ll listen to the promises about what you’d do with it.

Lessig, a professor at Harvard Law School, is a Democratic candidate for President.