Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Freedom is as Freedom Does

Reader DG writes to redirect my attention to this excellent piece of reporting from Tim Vanderpool of the Tucson Weekly. It tells of the cash tossed by Charles Koch towards the University of Arizona's "UA Freedom Center."

The Koch Brothers, of course, are famous for their devotion to freedom – freedom, that is, from regulations that would otherwise prevent them from poisoning the planet's atmosphere and heating up our grandchildren's climate systems.

The Freedom Center, as it turns out, tends to define freedom the same way:

It's the brainchild of David Schmidtz, a 15-year Philosophy Department veteran and a star among libertarian intellectuals. According to a Social and Behavioral Sciences publication called SBS Developments, the center grew out of classes Schmidtz has long taught on the "philosophy of freedom."
 Schmidtz also serves with Koch on the board of the Mercatus Center, another academic institution devoted to the study of "market-oriented ideas." No word on whether they plan to study how such ideas managed to crash the entire global economy late last decade.

Vanderpool sought quotes from UA officials regarding these matters, but received little in the way of helpful responses.

Just coincidentally, this morning also brought a report from the Mother Jones family of blogs on further Koch-funded philanthropy. As Andy Kroll reports, Charles Koch has funneled a million and a half bucks – chump change for him, of course – to help Florida State University hire new economics faculty. Florida taxpayers need all the help they can get these days, of course, but it seems that in exchange, Charlie wants to "handpick college professors that agree with his worldview." Kroll quotes the St. Petersberg Times:
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.
Meanwhile, over at Daily Kos yesterday, the redoubtable Teacherken drew news junkies' eyes towards yet another act of philanthropy. Rachel Tabachnick reports via AlterNet about the cuddly DeVos family's contributions to our nation's education debate:
Since the 2010 elections, voucher bills have popped up in legislatures around the nation. From Pennsylvania to Indiana to Florida, state governments across the country have introduced bills that would take money from public schools and use it to send students to private and religious institutions. 
Vouchers have always been a staple of the right-wing agenda. Like previous efforts, this most recent push for vouchers is led by a network of conservative think tanks, PACs, Religious Right groups and wealthy conservative donors. But "school choice," as they euphemistically paint vouchers, is merely a means to an end. Their ultimate goal is the total elimination of our public education system. 
The decades-long campaign to end public education is propelled by the super-wealthy, right-wing DeVos family. Betsy Prince DeVos is the sister of Erik Prince, founder of the notorious private military contractor Blackwater USA (now Xe), and wife of Dick DeVos, son of the co-founder of Amway, the multi-tiered home products business.
JGRTWT on that one, please, and pass it on to your friends.

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