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The Italianization of France, the Francization of Denmark, the Louisianization of Minnesota, the Baylorization of the University of Kansas.

There’s always a country or state or institution pretty nearby that looms as the embodiment of your fear that your proud local culture is just this far away from sinking into the depravity of that other place.

[M]any in Paris [anxiously note the] “Italianization” of French life — the descent into what might become an unseemly round of [Silvio] Berlusconian squalor…

As in – France got this close to electing President Dominique Strauss-Kahn. (Dom and Don would have been great friends.)

Leave aside the details of the [rape and pimping] allegations against Dominique Strauss Kahn, the head of the IMF (his lawyer indicates he will plead not guilty). Just note that the New York Times states that he was staying in a $3,000 a night suite and was taking a first class flight to Paris. This is the IMF, the body that imposes austerity on indebted countries and is funded by global taxpayers. And this was the likely leading socialist candidate for the French presidency.

Money and sex sleaze is all over, of course (hence widespread Italianization fears), but let’s consider this warning to the University of Kansas (a public university) in the specific context of global elites and public money/general sleaze.


First: The problem besetting Francois Fillon today is exactly DSK’s problem, minus the raping: Greed + Hypocrisy. Fillon is just as stern about austerity (for the common French; not for him and his family) as was DSK’s IMF. Now his decade-long extraction of roughly a million euros from the public purse – like DSK’s use of global taxpayer money for his hotel room and flight – has the French joking about le million de Fillon and referring to François Million.

Maybe the world should establish special austerity guidelines for elites: Spain’s Princess Cristina may soon be sent to prison for a few years – she’s accused of being her husband’s accomplice in taking six million public euros (he faces twenty years confinement)… Which really when you think about it makes Fillon’s takings seem very small indeed (one v. six million), and maybe they weren’t even illegal! DSK’s takings were even less (he wasn’t head of IMF long enough to raid it), and almost certainly they followed the letter of the law.

One reason to let most of the elites get away with it is that elite corruption that gets discovered begets much more corruption. Cristina’s father – the King of Spain when her story broke – apparently offered a two million euro bribe to some people to make her trial go away.

Having to deal with corruption is bad enough. Having to deal with corruption involving very rich and powerful people is a serious nuisance.


Which brings me to the kings of America: our football coaches. It is they who assemble and – er – stabilize a roster of university or professional players, they who – at universities – command the highest public employee salary in twenty-seven of our states. (In other states, it’s basketball coaches.) They’re making scads more than the terrified president of their university, and, like Art Briles, they really get free rein. Everyone moves out of their way or enables them – campus police, town police, alumni, trustees, administrators, professors, presidents, chancellors, legislators… hell, governors — not a peep out of them. As for female students who may get beaten or raped by some of the players the coach has expensively recruited … Baylor’s football coach, Briles, allegedly “questioned why a woman was with ‘bad dudes’ from his football team after [he was told about] a gang rape accusation.” What kind of a dummy comes to a school that represents itself in this way and doesn’t know to expect gang rapes from bad dudes? Don’t women applicants read our admissions information? Baylor University seeks out bad dudes and deifies them.

Okay, so that’s the way of life. Like most corruption, it tends to feature elements of sex, money, and cover-up. I’ve always found it pretty remarkable that it thrives at universities, of all places – that bad dudes and even worse coaches dominate life on many campuses. But as with the Spanish monarchy, it takes far more than one disgusting eruption to bury the crown. You dump your current regent (he gets another job right away, maybe again at a noisily self-righteous Christian campus), take down his statue, and install a new royal house.


So okay this article. This article is about what its author daintily refers to as “the situation in Lawrence.” He’s not very specific about it, but all of the links in this sentence begin to scratch the surface. He’s worried about Baylor-corruption contagion; he uses the fate of Baylor as a cautionary tale for Kansas.

Many universities have an alarming tendency of allowing sports-related problems to fester because they won’t deal with them head-on. Coaches become too powerful and too autonomous to challenge. Image protection overwhelms honesty and transparency. A toxic tolerance level for bad behavior and bad students builds up.

At Baylor, a basketball player murdered his teammate in 2003, and the coach at the time (Dave Bliss) maliciously smeared the dead man in order to cover up NCAA violations. Within the football program, the [last coach,] (Art Briles, may he never coach again) expended quite a bit of energy keeping accusations about his players from going public or reaching the school’s judicial affairs office, and in obtaining special treatment from the administration. Briles had allies above him in athletic director Ian McCaw and school president Kenneth Starr.

The writer urges Kansas – which, remarkably even by university athletics standards, boasts “six incidents involving Kansas basketball players, in some form or fashion, that have come to light within the past two weeks,” not to deepen its institutional corruption by acting like Baylor (he could have chosen Florida State etc. etc., but Baylor’s the most recent) and adding cover-up to corruption.

If the Kansas trustees are smart and conscientious and concerned about the university as a whole and not just as a basketball power, they’re pushing hard for all the facts – and, if warranted, for immediate and significant action. Public action.

Don’t spend more energy trying to hide problems than fix problems. Don’t, at any cost, follow the Baylor blueprint.

But of course it isn’t just the trustees, and anyway we have no reason to think that the same trustees who let KU turn into dreck will reverse course. (And look who’s running the place.)

And speaking of reversals – given the history, over the last decade or so, of the University of Kansas, I’m afraid the corruption-contagion arguably goes the other way: Kansas has stunk to high heaven for a long time.


Update, Fillon:

[I]nvestigators [are] now also probing whether Mr Fillon awarded the highest French state honour – the Grand Croix de la Légion d’Honneur – to the wealthy owner of a literary review in return for giving his wife a well-paid sinecure.

Margaret Soltan, February 4, 2017 6:51PM
Posted in: sport

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2 Responses to “The Italianization of France, the Francization of Denmark, the Louisianization of Minnesota, the Baylorization of the University of Kansas.”

  1. Mr Punch Says:

    Baylor’s the school in the news now, and more important, it’s in the same conference as Kansas. Direct competitors pose a particular threat.

  2. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Mr Punch: I’ve watched many football school news cycles – I begin to think, what with its deep and extensive wrongdoing (coupled with the irresistible Christly angle) – that Baylor’s cycle will be longer than most.

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