Splendor in the Grassley

Per the John Eastman disbarment trial, new, yummy details about the traitors’ January 6 plot and the grand historic role reserved for Iowa’s own hayseed, Chuck Grassley.

The Constitution requires the vice president — who also serves as the president of the Senate — to preside over the counting of electoral votes to certify the presidential election. Historically, however, this job has at times fallen to the “Senate president pro tempore,” typically the most senior senator in the majority. In 2021, Grassley held that position…

Eastman … hinted [in an email] that he thought [Sen. Chuck] Grassley might play a role on Jan. 6. In the message, Eastman told Epshteyn that he hoped members of Congress would avoid taking any actions that might “constrain Pence (or Grassley)” from asserting the power to block Biden’s election…

Grassley started a furor on Jan. 5, 2021, when he told reporters of Pence “we don’t expect him to be there, I will be presiding over the Senate.” His comments prompted an urgent rush by Pence’s staff to correct the record, eventually resulting in a statement from Grassley’s office indicating the senator had been “misinterpreted” and was merely saying he might fill in for Pence during some portions of the proceedings that day.

Yes, of course – misinterpreted.

Apparently plans were afoot to smother Pence in a hay silo in Pocahontas County, but his staff asked if it’d be okay if he were allowed to survive the proceedings and then take his chances with the crowd trying to hang him.

The Grassley Letter…

… is becoming a phrase to strike fear — or at least intense irritation — in the hearts of universities all over the United States. Whatever you think of his take on health care and other issues, Senator Charles Grassley is a fierce warden of public money, and he repeatedly goes after universities he suspects of wasting or in other ways misusing it. He writes them Grassley Letters asking them to account for what they’ve been doing with taxpayer money.

It’s usually when UD‘s talking about multiply-billioned Harvard, or football factories like the University of Alabama (which just cancelled a bunch of classes so everyone can go to a championship game), that she reminds readers of the remarkable tax breaks our campuses enjoy. They enjoy that non-profit status because they’re committed to the high ideals of educating citizens and generating important research. When it turns out that they’re just as committed to hoarding cash as they are to education, or when they ignore the whole education thing in favor of football, we should care. It’s our money they’re playing with.

America’s public universities of course don’t exhibit the structural corruption of, say, Greek and Italian universities. For the most part our schools are extremely cleanly run, it seems to UD; but Grassley and his staff have certainly uncovered questionable financial practices, and the ongoing story of the University of California San Francisco medical school is a good example. The San Francisco Chronicle reports:

The UC system has agreed to hire PricewaterhouseCoopers to conduct a financial review at UCSF, after a U.S. senator raised concerns about allegations of money mismanagement and university officials making misleading statements to state leaders.

The allegations came from Dr. David Kessler, who was fired from his job as dean of the UCSF School of Medicine in 2007. Kessler had repeatedly questioned what he said were “financial irregularities” in the dean’s office budget.

In a letter to UC President Mark Yudof on Monday, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, wrote that he’s pleased that UC has agreed to an outside audit at UCSF, but noted several “troubling matters” at the university. He said UCSF administrators appear to have provided “misleading” statements to the California Senate.

… [Kessler’s] allegation relates to the dean’s discretionary funding budget, which he has said was millions of dollars less than what he’d been promised when he was hired in 2003. He conducted his own financial analysis in December 2004 and said he found an $18 million annual discrepancy…

These are large sums of money, and if it’s true that they’re missing, it would be good to know where they went.

“People flouted the rules, didn’t disclose, and did it for years on end, repeatedly,” says Zerhouni. “That tells you the problem is not Grassley. The problem is our current system of managing conflicts,” he says.

The former head of the National Institutes of Health explains it nicely and concisely.

His comment appears in a long article (subscription) about UD‘s acquaintance, Paul Thacker, described as Charles Grassley’s “bulldog” in the fight against the dangerous corruption of academic science.

“Paul’s good,” said the senator, sitting across from Thacker. “If you’re going to be successful in these investigations, you gotta have people like Paul.”

The article notes that scientists grown accustomed, as Zerhouni says, to lying about the money they stand to make from their own research results don’t like Paul Thacker one bit. Too bad.

Grassley Now Naval Gazing.

UD thanks a reader for alerting her to the latest Grassley letter, this one sent to the Naval Medical Center, just a hop, skip, and a jump from UD‘s house.

Once again, Senator Grassley wants to know about any “failure to report outside income by a physician at your institution.”

How do you think he’ll do? He’s sent out dozens of these letters, and so far he’s batting a thousand. Let’s keep backing a winner.

You’re never too young to be a terrorist!

‘[Bruno] Cua planned his attack weeks in advance, brought weapons to the Capitol, tried to terrorize congressional staffers and was repeatedly aggressive toward police, prosecutors said… “Cua played a unique and prominent role on January 6, opening the Senate Chamber to the rioters, escalating confrontations, and leading other rioters into and through the Capitol.”

… Cua and his parents drove from their home in Milton, Georgia, to Washington D.C…

Cua was armed with pepper spray and a metal baton — weapons given to him by his father — when rioters breached police lines on the west side of the Capitol, according to prosecutors. After climbing scaffolding, Cua entered the building through the Upper West Terrace doors and and walked down a hallway toward the Senate.

“As Cua walked down the hallway, he tried to open every single office door he passed by pulling on doorknobs, pounding on the doors with his fist, and kicking the doors,” prosecutors wrote.

They said Cua intended to intimidate staffers who were behind the doors as he yelled, “Hey! Where are the swamp rats hiding?”

Cua went to the third floor, where he shoved a Capitol police officer who was trying to lock doors to the Senate gallery. After the officer retreated, Cua entered the gallery, shouting “This is our house! This is our country!” Jumping onto the Senate floor, he sat in the chair for then-Vice President Mike Pence, leaned back and propped his feet up on a desk.

Then he opened a door, allowing dozens of other rioters onto the Senate floor. Before leaving, Cua rifled through desks belonging to Senators Charles Grassley, John Thune and Dianne Feinstein.’

All that, and only eighteen years old. Off you go to prison, lad! Maw and Paw must be so proud.

This blog has had WHAT to say, over many years, about…

… Charles Grassley. Feast your eyes. Three pages of praise for his stewardship of our tax dollars. UD‘s a deep blue Democrat who deeply admires this conservative Republican for taking seriously his charge to disrupt the theft of federal funds wherever it occurs.

Grassley is a true throwback: a midwestern scold with just the sort of moral backbone a Senator needs to do the right thing in the Ukraine mess. UD‘s totally not surprised, therefore, that he has rebuked Trubu and his minions over their, er, unusual reading of the whistle blower laws. Good on you, Chuck, and may there be more where you come from.

‘They Started Taxing Her Today’

Sing it.

They’d said “You’re tax-free till you die.”
They’d said “Vast billions, all tax-free.”
And as the years went slowly by,
She went past Jordan’s GDP.

They kept a tally on their wall,
And went half-crazy now and then
She’d given thirty mill apiece
To her favorite money men.

She kept the main part for herself
Though Grassley said that wouldn’t do.
She read his thoughts on five percent,
And told him “Senator, fuck you.”

I went to see her just today,
And now the tears began to flow
Endowment’s pushing forty bill,
But some of that might have to go.

They started taxing her today
They placed a wreath upon her door
And soon they’ll carry her away
They started taxing her today

“A purely cynical atmosphere is bad for business.”

Whether authorizing the payment of a modest stipend to student-athletes in order to ensure their continued loyalty or penalizing academically noncompliant programs to remind fans that college sports are not simply a farm for professional sports, the NCAA will do whatever it can to preserve its extremely marketable illusions. Absent organizing myths that appeal to casual fans, public interest in a spectator sport will dwindle. A purely cynical atmosphere is bad for business… Revenue-generating college sports will endure as an ungainly appendage to American universities until the precise moment when its costs outweigh its benefits. That day may come sooner rather than later. A chain of unfavorable legal decisions, culminating with a massive judgment award in one or more of the 65 concussion-related lawsuits pending against the NCAA in state and federal courts, could accomplish what a long tradition of media outrage has not been able to: the effacement of a puzzling 100-year marriage between research universities and high-end athletics. Should the plaintiffs prevail in some of these cases, payouts to injured athletes could run into the millions or perhaps even billions of dollars, rendering athletic departments insolvent and unable to continue subsidizing athletic exhibitions of any sort.

While UD agrees with Oliver Bateman that absolutely nothing will change about university revenue sports (beyond these sports plantationizing [Don’t think it’s a word? Look it up. – And I use it because Taylor Branch calls the revenue sports-mad university a plantation.] our universities yet more than they’ve already been plantationized), she disagrees about the cynicism thing. What more purely cynical atmosphere can you think of in current American culture than professional revenue sports? Professional football, professional basketball, professional baseball… I mean, baseball — are you kidding me? UD barely follows baseball, and every year it’s a race to the bottom to see which component – players, owners, agents – can out-cynical the other. Cynicism is part of the American Master of the Universe mystique (watch the game players in this film) and a national hero like Nick Saban or Bob Knight or Johnny Manziel or Cam Newton is a hero because he’s cynical, not despite the fact that he’s cynical.

(Sports like cycling are definitely bringing up the rear in the matter of sports and cynicism in America. What brought down Lance Armstrong would never bring down a baseball player. Not a really good baseball player. Eventually we’ll come to revere cyclists for their cynicism in the same way we revere other sportsmen for their cynicism.)

There’s no reason to think the illusion of student athletes is what makes university revenue sports profitable. The most profitable university programs are the most professionalized, the most nakedly cynical. These programs will fail – if they fail – due to financially crushing personal injury lawsuits.

College fans only care about the same thing professional fans care about: winning. You’ll find a few rows of drunks freezing their asses off in the stadium waving their school colors, but everyone’s laughing at them.

Even the drunks aren’t in it for whatever the old school thing means. They’re in it to get disorderly.

It’s not the sports program which is an ungainly appendage to the university, but the university which is an ungainly appendage to the sports program, and the university is ungainly because by definition it cannot be purely cynical (it’s a non-profit, and people like Charles Grassley are watching). It can be very cynical indeed, as Gordon Gee made clear when he made the mistake of going public with the absolute cynicism he brings to the concept “university president.” (‘When asked in March 2011 whether the school had considered firing embattled coach Jim Tressel, a grinning Gee said: “No. Are you kidding? Let me just be very clear. I’m just hopeful the coach doesn’t dismiss me.“‘)

Many presidents of our present-day Penn States know they owe their job to the politezza of the coach. They are very very very cynical. But unlike Gee they keep it to themselves.

The Italianization of the Plains

During the Dominique Strauss-Kahn business, a writer for the New Yorker noted the anxiety with which “many in Paris” are witnessing “the ‘Italianization’ of French life — the descent into what might become an unseemly round of Berlusconian squalor…” Their country after all had not long ago produced (just like Italy) an accused rapist as a leading candidate for political office. Strauss-Kahn came close to being president; Silvio Berlusconi, convicted of tax fraud and sex with an under-age prostitute, was Italy’s longest-serving post-war prime minister.

UD has always been intrigued by the ways in which states fall into depravity, and the way they care about that (the French care, according to the New Yorker writer) and don’t care about that (the Italians don’t care). Italy is so depraved, and so indifferent to its depravity, that Italianization has become a globally portable noun, toted around to designate a national culture’s relaxed descent into moral turpitude.

Richard Rorty, in his philosophical essays about postmodernism, expressed anxiety about the Italianization of the United States. He routinely described us as “rich, fat, tired North Americans,” cynical about all of our institutions, and sinking back, in the absence of belief in the possibility of social improvement, into our comforting consumer goods (Don DeLillo’s novel, White Noise, is the best fictional evocation of this cultural mood).

But that was only our high culture, Rorty was quick to caution; our elites – financial, intellectual – are Italianizing, as in figures like Lawrence Summers, who despite his remarkable moral grubbiness, seems set to become our next federal reserve chair. (Hm. Not so fast, UD.)


One way to understand the Oklahoma State University story is to suggest that Italianization has now invaded our great plains states, the country’s symbolic center of rectitude.

Look at Iowa’s long-serving senatorial scold, Charles Grassley, and tell me whether, when you look at him, you can think of anything but rigidly upright stands of wheat. Then look at this dude. The expression on President Obama’s face says it all.

So traditionally America – especially America’s heartland – was the exception, the clean place, the corny, cock-eyed optimist of nations, with the corniest locale the plains of Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming. “Blondie and his frau out of the plain states came!” says cruel sophisticated George, mocking the newly arrived wholesome faculty couple in Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Now that the plains states are epicenters of football scandal (yes, given structural corruption, there are plenty of other football scandal locations), you see the beginnings of Paris-style anxiety about Italianization even on the plains.

From Penn State to the Miami scandal to Johnny Manziel’s autograph saga to alleged violations at top college football programs across the country, the NCAA has never faced more “culture” issues than it does today.

“Culture” here designates not merely the corruption itself (everyone knows college football is rancid), but indifference to it, everyone’s fine Italian hand waving away any embarrassment or shock over the fact that Nick Saban, recipient of $5.3 million a year from one of the poorest states in the union, routinely tells journalists to shut up when they ask about his dirty program. (“Nick Saban, the Alabama coach, stamped out of one news conference last week like a petulant child, all because reporters dared to do their jobs. He would talk about the football game, not the system of big-time college football, the system that made him rich and famous. Never that.”) Just like Joe Paterno, this guy’s got a fucking statue! These guys are our heroes!

UD’s pretty confident that Saban’s statue will meet the same fate as Paterno’s… But maybe not. Maybe by the time the massive Alabama scandal hits, the process of Italianization will have advanced to the point where no one gives a shit.


Anyway, my point is that the plains were our last bastion. Now it’s pomo meh. Meh. Rape at Montana, rape at Colorado, pimping at Oklahoma, drugs at Iowa, meh. The plain-spoken plains have spoken. They’re on board. Benvenuto!

UD Wonders: What will this unwelcome publicity do to NYU’s plans to attract and retain faculty…

…by offering them amazing loans not only for fantastic Manhattan apartments and vacation houses (as described in this article) but also for third homes in European capitals?

To be sure, NYU hasn’t yet extended its two-subsidized-luxury-residences policy to a third subsidized overseas residence; but UD is confident this will be its next move. You can’t expect to draw the best, most committed professors to your unattractive school in Greenwich Village without offering to subsidize a primary residence, a vacation residence, and a place in a foreign capital of the professor’s choosing.

I mean, let’s do what the real estate people call comps; let’s look at how important people in Manhattan tend to live. Take the Murdochs. They own six residences, one on the Upper East Side, and the others in “Beverly Hills, London, Beijing, Cavan in South Australia and Carmel in California.” So say you’re recruiting a new NYU law professor. The legal job market has collapsed, so few of the professor’s students will get good legal jobs, but put that aside. She must be given what the very best professors demand if they are to be successfully recruited: One course per year. Armies of teaching assistants. A huge salary. Time off like crazy. Summer travel and research money. Plenty of freedom (and, once again, time) to pursue all conceivable forms of outside compensation.

You simply cannot expect such a person to buy a house with her own salary. You will need to give her spectacular deals on Murdoch-worthy residences in New York City, in surrounding states, and in a foreign capital.

Charles Grassley, that sour old scold who seems to see his job as superintending the American tax dollar, gets all high and mighty about what NYU is doing:

“Universities are tax-exempt to educate students, not help their executives purchase vacation homes,” he said in a statement on Monday. “It’s hard to see how the student with a lifetime of debt benefits from his university leaders’ weekend homes in the Hamptons.”

Ha! Loser! As Greg Mankiw and Eric Cantor have noted, Grassley’s just envious because he has a shitty little Senator salary, and these people are so much richer.


UD thanks David.

Sail On, Oh Institute of Psychiatry!

The world’s poster child for academic conflict of interest will soon arrive on your shores to grant his blessing to your new research center! You went right to the very top – the US of A’s own Charles Nemeroff – for the inaugural lecture. Perennial object of United States Senate interest because of his fascinating use of taxpayer money, Nemeroff promises to bring to you Brits, as you set out on your own research programs, the same … fascinating ethos he has brought to his own… peripatetic career.

As an American, I can’t hide my pride in the way England, once our ruler, has now summoned one of us for inspiration and advice on how best to pursue scientific endeavors.

Naturally, given Nemeroff’s record, there are nay-sayers at your institute.

Derek Summerfield, honorary senior lecturer at the Institute, wrote in the BMJ, formerly called the British Medical Journal, last week that the Institute of Psychiatry’s lauding of Professor [Charles] Nemeroff as “one of the world’s leading experts” showed how psychiatric academe “sails blithely on as if such revelations beg no broader questions about its associations and supposed scientific independence.”

Yes, sail blithely on! You have much to learn from Charles Nemeroff about grantsmanship. Good show!

As you read this history, just keep repeating…

… “This is a university. This is a university.”

Again, as you read this update, repeat: This is a university. This is a university.


Emory at first did nothing about complaints directed at [Charles] Nemeroff, but in the aftermath of intense political pressure from the United States Senate, and from Senator Chuck Grassley in particular, he was subsequently stripped of his department chairmanship and forbidden from accepting more drug company largess. He soon left the university. Not to worry, though; he has since resurfaced as chair of psychiatry at the University of Miami.

This is a university.

This is a university.

Stomach-turning greed makes strange bedfellows.

Senator Charles Grassley echt-American right-wing nerd – and Andrew Ross – left Euro hipster – find common ground in their disgust at the big-money machine New York University has become. Both wonder why a non-profit uses its extensive tax breaks to bleed its students for tuition, underpay its faculty, and give millions of dollars to administrators.

The culture gap between faculty and administration is pretty staggering lately. We’re scrambling to offer unpaid MOOCs; they’re looking for more Helen Dragas and Steve Cohens to put on the university’s board of trustees.

And indeed herein lies the problem, if you ask UD. Ross asks:

“Faculty who don’t necessarily get concerned with governance issues or for whom academic governance is not something that turns them on, these revelations I think turned the stomachs of a lot of people,” Ross added. “Just the scale of the payouts, multimillion dollar loans, multimillion dollar homes that were purchased, and the salaries. They really add up to a package of questions that have led to requests for further investigations.”

Part of the answer to this package of questions involves that board of trustees. NYU’s – like most fancy schools’- is dominated by hedge fund managers and the like. This means that over the last couple of decades the people with whom administrators consort on a daily basis are multimillionaires and even (Steve) billionaires. Larry Summers, Ruth Simmons – their immediate world has been the world of Goldman Sachs, where earning less than twenty million dollars a year is a mark of shame.

It’s not merely that high-ranking administrators these days consort with hedgies; like presidents Summers and Simmons, they often are hedgies, or they sit on the boards of hedge funds.

Trustees have always been rich, of course; but when ascending to an administrative university position now means that your compensation standard rises from six figures to seven or, uh, ten (Steve), you are going to feel compelled to shake down the school for big bucks. Otherwise you won’t be able to live with yourself.


One practical recommendation for NYU from UD: Book a Greg Mankiw “politics of envy” talk and make faculty attendance mandatory.

Bureaucracies are funny things.

Look at the Pope over there in Vatican City taking a star turn in What the Butler Saw as his city state fails to “shed its reputation as a scandal plagued tax haven.”

Look at the big happy family of University of Texas scientists who just went ahead and gave the family a huge state grant, without bothering to check with the provost or anything.

And look at another huge bureaucracy, the place UD‘s father spent his entire scientific career: the National Institutes of Health. The NIH just went ahead and gave America’s own tête d’affiche pour conflit d’intérêts (Charles Nemeroff has been called poster boy for conflict of interest so many times, I thought I’d jazz it up by putting it in French) another big grant, since you want to encourage his sort of behavior… or whatever…

I mean, it’s about bureaucracies, isn’t it? In all three cases? You’ve got cronies and histories of you do me and I do you and all… Everybody’s in everybody else’s pocket…

But eventually, as in all three of these cases, things get so brazen that the media notices; and then, if the money involved comes from taxpayers, politicians get all het up about it. As in this what the fuck? letter from Senator Charles Grassley to NIH. Grassley sends a copy to the notorious Donna Shalala.


More coverage of the nettlesome Nemeroff.


The latest University of Miami scandal jumps to the Miami Herald. Shalala and Nemeroff are trying out the no comment option, but I don’t think it’s going to work.

Run away! Run away!

If you read this blog, you know that the University of Wisconsin’s Pain and Policy Studies group has always been a mite controversial, with its love of drug industry money and its intellectual enthusiasm for that industry’s pain pills. It’s just the sort of academic unit pharma craves in its never-ending quest for respectability (and respectability is quite the holy grail when every year you pay out billions of dollars in marketing violations). Here are all the smiling PPSG people who don’t want to talk to you anymore.

And why not? Because Charles Grassley doesn’t like the fact that much of America is addicted to, or on its way to being addicted to, painkillers, and he sent PPSG a letter because he really wants to talk to them about it.

The groups that were sent letters on Tuesday included the American Pain Foundation, a patient advocacy group, and the Pain and Policy Studies Group at the University of Wisconsin. (The foundation’s board last week voted to close because of “irreparable” financial problems.)

Among other activities, the study group, which at one time received large contributions from Purdue Pharma and other opioid producers, lobbied for changes in state laws making it easier to prescribe the drugs.

Well, they can shut the thing down… But when Congress calls…

UD wouldn’t mind knowing what the University of Wisconsin has been doing all these years while PPSG pill-popped its merry way through their halls. Has the university heard of conflict of interest?

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