UC prestige and opulence

“UC gets $8 million to study San Joaquin Valley's bad air...” (1) trumpets this morning’s Fresno Bee. Variously called “the most” or “one of the most” polluted air basins in the nation, depending on the month or the intent of the writer, San Joaquin Valley air is bad, Fresno’s childhood asthma rate is four times the national average, and things aren’t getting any better.

Badlands predicted several years ago that UC Merced would be picking up grants to study this public health issue, which is also becoming an agricultural productivity issue – because it was perfectly predictable.

But $8 million is a paltry sum compared to the millions of public funds UC spent on the entirely unproductive work of lobbying and propaganda to gain the Merced site for its new campus. This effort, stimulated a growth boom in Merced from which some UC regents directly benefited financially (along with some politicians). This boom has gone – and will go much farther – to pollute the air basin and increase the public health and safety problems of Valley air quality.

It is only absurd if one believes that UC is a rational institution, a prejudice the populace at large holds about UC and universities in general: university = reason. On a school exam one would be wise to mark “true” after this equation. But it is not true, particularly in the case of UC Merced, a sordid land deal masquerading as the educational hope of the Valley, leading it into the 21st century, a high-tech engine of growth. Unless this transparently greedy land speculation hides something highly patriotic, like a site for the most dangerous research and development in the world.

Admittedly, Merced residents have been subjected to a toxic dose of UC propaganda, at the cost of millions in public funds, which the majority of state citizens have probably been spared. Even that totally useless labor was largely wasted on us because the portion of the local population with college experience totally lost the use of what critical thinking ability they might have salvaged from their higher education at the mere sight of a UC official or even one of their many propagandists. Many of the rest of us turned our attention to the attractions of a possible NASCAR track in Atwater. Cars, engines, internal combustion in all their aspects are not, here in the Valley, esoteric higher learning. Many of us here tend to be more familiar with a carburetor than the nano-technology required to trigger a nuclear weapon. Carburetors are of no interest to UC Merced; but the nano-triggers are, because the most legitimate claim to research status UC Merced has is its memorandum of understanding with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a weapons-of-mass-destruction research and development facility managed by UC.

What strikes me as even more absurd is the widely held belief that UC is a rational leader in our society. Here, I admit that I fall down in a fit of nervous anxiety because I am an American and a college graduate, therefore I believe, absolutely uncritically, in the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake as well as for its immediate utility and I know many people in universities who know infinitely more than I do about everything. For me to say that UC isn’t a rational leader of anything in the equivalent of a graduate seminarian saying the Pope showed up at St. Peter’s this morning stark naked.

In short, it’s blasphemy and one has no doubt suffered unwitting excommunication from the ivy halls for having said that it is absurd that a university so at fault for having added air pollution to the already-critical Valley air basin should be given $8 million more of public funds to study the public health effects of Valley air pollution.

As I descend with Dante in Virgil into Purgatory my heresy deepens as, departing from smoggy Merced, I say: No more study is needed. We know enough now to know UC should not have come here in the first place and growth should stop for our own public health safety. What is desperately needed is the development of a body of thought that would make this clear.

I am saved from the full tour of Purgatory by the illumination that UC is not, actually, absurd. It is only a university competing like all of them in the mighty magnetic fields of prestige that animate higher learning here, there and everywhere.

UC’s particular claim to fame is the invention of weapons of mass destruction, the atomic bomb and its thermo-nuclear descendants. Therefore, it has been tied in particular ways, including management of both the national laboratories that make nuclear weapons, to American aggression (called defense), imperialism (called regime change or liberation-for-democracy), and the prevailing rightwing ideologies that promote the most warlike tendencies in the nation.

What was UC to do at the end of the Cold War? Teach Spanish? After decades on the frontlines developing weapons of doom to defeat communism, where was a bomb-building public research university supposed to go for more prestige? There is no academic prestige in teaching undergraduates business administration or comparative literature. Stanford had already started a little thing called Silicon Valley and the state Legislature had begun mesmerizing itself with the meaningless slogan -- “fiscally conservative and socially liberal" -- and acting accordingly.

Next month, in fact, UC will learn whether its bid, alongside Bechtel Corporation, will defeat the bid of University of Texas and Lockheed-Martin for control of UC’s other national laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico, where UC scientists invented the A-bomb. The bid is a can of worms any way you look at it: either Texas/Bush greed for money and prestige or UC managerial incompetence of Los Alamos. Nonetheless, nuclear weapons research goes on and the pace appears to be increasing.

UC’s destiny, forged by the A-bomb, rises with Nobel Prizes in nuclear physics, and falls on anything else. It is fundamentally tied to aggressive foreign policies and corporations involved in war contracts.

Nor does the state offer a more prestigious position than holding a chair on the UC Board of Regents. For these captains of industry and finance (and a few elements of diversity), UC is, first of all, a mirror of their entire, magnificent success in life. They can be counted on not to break or smudge that mirror in any way because it would reflect on their legacy. Although few of us can seriously imagine leaving any legacy, all UC regents can and do, and they want it to be glorious according to the highest standards of glory of their day in their civilization. It is generally considered true today that there is nothing more powerful – thus more glorious – than nuclear weapons, and – please – UC builds the best nuclear weapons in the world.

Studying the health effects of air pollution in the Valley disappears from view when compared to the academic prestige of producing the next generation of nuclear weapons. Particularly when any peckerwood that cared to think about it would notice UC’s contribution to the pollution. But, as I thought earlier, the vulgarity of the land deal and its pollution could be erased from memory by the noble call to patriotic weapons research.

I include, by way of a historical footnote to explain the incredible prestige of UC in America, the history of American warfare since Hiroshima and Nagasaki. (2) The length of the list also suggests that the Iraq War is probably not the final US military excursion.

Occupation and rebuilding of Japan 1945-1952 after World War II, drafting Japan's current democratic constitution.
1945, USSR occupies North Korea and U.S. occupies South Korea after the surrender of Imperial Japan in World War II. USSR denies elections in North Korea, establishing a Communist government, while the U.S. supports UN-supervised elections.
Occupation and rebuilding of West Germany after World War II. Merges U.S. occupation zone with the French and British zones to form the Federal Republic of Germany in 1949.
June 28, 1948: Flies supplies into Allied-occupied West Berlin over the Soviet blockade during 1948-1949, known as the Berlin Airlift
U.S. financial and military support of the Republic of China, that began during the Sino-Japanese War and through World War II, continued against the Communist People's Liberation Army led by Mao Zedong.

Korean War from 1950 until 1953: After Communist North Korean troops invade South Korea, the UN, with every nation voting "yea" with the exception of Yugoslavia (which abstained,) approves military support for South Korea, involving over a dozen countries including the US.
The CIA, collaborating with the British MI6, successfully orchestrates the removal of elected Iranian prime minister Mohammed Mossadegh through a royalist coup. (see Operation Ajax [1]
1954: CIA-orchestrated overthrow of elected president Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán in Guatemala (see Operation PBSUCCESS.)
U.S. sends military advisors to assist President Ngo Dinh Diem of South Vietnam from 1955 - 1963. [2]
Lebanon crisis of 1958: Supports President Camille Chamoun when Pan-Arabists supported by Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser attempt to overthrow his government.
After the 1956 Chinese bombing of ancient monasteries at Chatreng and Litang that kills thousands of civilians and violates the Plan for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet, the CIA aids Chushi Gangdruk and Tensung Dhanglang Magar's resistance movement.

1961: CIA involvement in the assassination of Rafael Leónidas Trujillo, their former ally in the Dominican Republic. [3] [4] [5]
1961: U.S.-backed abortive Bay of Pigs Invasion of Cuba, led by Cuban exiles.
1961-62: CIA and Department of Defense covert plans and operations, The Cuban Project and Operation Northwoods, which included blowing up a Cuban industrial facility, to "help Cuba overthrow the Communist regime".
1962: Overflights of Cuba, followed by naval blockade as part of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
1963-64: CIA involvement in riots and violence in Guyana in order to undermine the Marxist People's Progressive Party and its leader, Cheddi Jagan.
1965: Dominican Republic military officers revolted against the junta to try to restore Juan Bosch, whereupon U.S. President Lyndon Johnson sent 20,000 U.S. troops to defeat the revolt so to avoid "another Cuba."
1964-75: Vietnam War
CIA-organized military operation ends in capture and execution of Che Guevara by the Bolivian Army.
1968: Operation Commando Hunt implemented; the Ho Chi Minh trail, which runs through Laos and Cambodia, is bombed to disrupt logistical support given to the Viet Cong by the North Vietnamese Army.

1973: US supported Chilean coup of 1973 against Salvador Allende. This coup was never officially admited by US government, but Colin Powell referenced US intervention on it in an interview in 2003 [6].
Following overthrow of the dictator Anastasio Somoza Debayle in Nicaragua by the Sandinistas, the CIA supports the Contras from 1979 - 1989. resolution. [7]

1981: The Reagan administration sends military advisors and assistance to El Salvador and supports President José Napoleón Duarte during the country's civil war.
Invasion of Grenada, thwarting an attempted Marxist coup (Operation Urgent Fury) -
Operation Earnest Will: 1987-88 escort of reflagged Kuwaiti oil tankers in the Persian Gulf.
Operation Prime Chance: 1987-88 covert anti-Iranian operations in the Persian Gulf.
Operation Praying Mantis: 18 April 1988 strikes against Iranian naval and air forces.
Operation Just Cause: In late 1989, the US invaded Panama and arrested Manuel Noriega for drug trafficking after a U.S. Marine was killed and Noriega declared war against the US.

Intervention in Colombian civil war, 1990s
After Iraq invades Kuwait in 1990, King Fahd, fearing Saudi Arabia would be Saddam Hussein's next target, invites a UN sanctioned coalition led by the U.S. to use the country as a base in the Gulf War following Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, 1991
Operation Provide Relief, a 1992 US lead humanitarian relief for Somalia. After looting of the aid, it was reorganized as Operation Restore Hope, an American military operation with the support of the United Nations to deliver humanitarian aid and restore order to Somalia, that eventually lead to the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993.
U.S. removal of Raoul Cédras from office in Haiti and temporary occupation of the country, following the disintegration of civil order 1993.
NATO bombing of Bosnian Serbs, 1995.
U.S.-led bombing campaign, called Operation Desert Fox, against Iraq in enforcement of the UN designated No-Fly zones created to protect Kurds and Marsh Arabs, 1998.
Iraq Liberation Act, 1998.
Operation Infinite Reach: a US cruise missile strike on terrorist bases and targets in Afghanistan and Sudan, including the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory, after al Qaeda bombed two US embassies in 1998.
NATO's bombing of Serbia in the Kosovo Conflict. Officially aimed at preventing ethnic cleansing of Albanians, 1999.

U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, overthrow of Taliban when the government refuse to deliver Al-Qaida leaders located in the country after the September 11th attacks in 2001.
Coalition led by the US invasion of Iraq, overthrow of Saddam Hussein, 2003

It is in the context of UC’s privileged position in the American military arsenal, which requires that its officials maintain a standard of appearance somewhat comparable – even if only at public expense – to the standard of opulence enjoyed by delegations from the corporate world of military contractors, that it becomes clear why UC cries poor and raises student fees while continuing to pay salaries to its administrators comparable to private industry salaries. (3) There is only one private industry standard: wealth, and its appearance; and war is very good business in America.


(1) http://www.fresnobee.com/state_wire/v-printerfriendly/story/11479672p-12...

(2) en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_ of_U.S._foreign_interventions_since_1945 - 36k - Nov 13, 2005

(3) UC piling extra cash on top of pay...Tanya Schevitz, Tod Wallack
Despite UC's complaints that it has been squeezed by cuts in state funding and forced to raise student fees, many university faculty members and administrators get paid far more than is publicly reported. In addition to salaries and overtime, payroll records obtained by The Chronicle show that employees received a total of $871 million in bonuses, administrative stipends, relocation packages and other forms of cash compensation last fiscal year. That was more than enough to cover the 79 percent hike in student fees that UC has imposed over the past few years. The bulk of the last year's extra compensation, roughly $599 million, went to more than 8,500 employees who each got at least $20,000 over their regular salaries. And that doesn't include an impressive array of other perks for selected top administrators, ranging from free housing to concert tickets.
Bringing in the big bucks

Here are UC's highest-paid employees based ontotal compensation. Base salary is a small fraction of their total pay.
Overall payroll
Over the last few years there has been an increase in the UC's payroll...2002 - 2005
Other perks include parties, gifts, travel...Tanya Schevitz, Todd Wallack
In addition to their cash compensation, many senior UC employees receive significant fringe benefits. A partial list includes:
-- Housing: Some employees receive free or subsidized housing near campus, including spacious homes (and in some cases, mansions) reserved for chancellors. UC also issued thousands of low-interest mortgages to administrators and faculty...3 percent interest rate. -- Jobs: -- Entertainment: Gifts:-- Travel: Parties: Expensive parties are common.
Patrick Callan, president of the nonprofit National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education..."This is not a slush fund,'' Callan said. "Every dollar that the university gets is public. It is a public institution. It doesn't matter where it comes from."