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Yesterday evening, as I was on Pakistani TV’s “The Platform” with former Inter-Services Intelligence chief Gen. Asad Durrani and Colonel Michael Shuhmacher discussing private security contractors in Pakistan, Transparency International announced its new figures on corruption. Pakistan had slid to position 143 from 139 out of 178 countries assessed. It was bad news but not particularly surprising to commentators.
More surprising, to me: the United States dropped from 19 to 22. America is no longer seen as being in the top tier of least-corrupt countries, which includes western Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. Instead it belongs to the second tier, which includes Eastern and Southern Europe. The index has consistently shown the perception of corruption in the United States as steadily rising. My hunch is that this focuses on government contracting, but the notes released by TI point only to “widespread concern over a lack of government oversight.” Still more revealing: Iraq and Afghanistan rank 175th and 176th respectively, putting them among the five most corrupt countries on earth. Is being occupied by the United States or receiving massive U.S. government contracts somehow correlated to corruption?
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”