Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Speech of the Unknown Statesman

The political season will soon bring waves of political speeches. They will nearly all be fraudulent, disingenuous and overflowing with lies. Of all the national politicians, I can only say with confidence that I have full faith in two of them: Senators John McCain and Russ Feingold. That is disgusting.

How refreshing would it be if a candidate didn't treat voters as idiots to be duped into electing a Potemkin politician? Here is what I believe would be at the core of a speech from an honest and sincere politician. I beg for his future existence:

"The American Revolution is not complete. The War, the Declaration and the Constitution formally took back power from the elite and returned it to its rightful owner: you. But informally and covertly, that power has been maintained and centralized.

Every year politicians get up here and make the same drab, sterile partisan speeches. They tell you that they're from the middle class when their parents attended Harvard. They speak to you with rehearsed integrity and calculated honesty. They have the cold ability to stare into your eyes and lie to you. They tell you to trust them.

I tell you the opposite.

Do not trust me. Force me to earn your trust. Investigate, debate and dig into my life and my beliefs. I am going to stand on this stage for a long time and allow you to ask whatever questions you'd like, free from censorship. I know, I know, my political advisors are about to kill themselves right now. They warned me not to make this speech, they told me to abide by the conventional wisdom. But I don't want to just win this election; I want to change the entire political game.

During my campaign, even if my radical tactics result in a loss, I would like to reinvigorate the idea that politicians are supposed to serve. They are supposed to rise above the overwhelming and innate desires of greed. Can we not find in this country of 300 million just 100 honest and good people to fill the Senate? I meet good people everyday, so why are they not in the Senate? Precisely because they are good people and tend to be too honest to win elections. They lack pragmatism.

I am going to edit that rule of the game. I am going to make the pragmatic political step the one of integrity. I can only do this with your help, with your spirit. Along with me, I would like for you to all demand, not hope for, honesty and integrity from your officials. Then we will have accomplished the pragmatic task of aligning the interest of the candidate in getting elected with the interest of the voters in electing a genuine person.

Ironically, the Internet and blogs have made the completion of our distant Revolution possible. Jefferson, Hamilton, Madison, Paine, Henry and many others had visions of American freedom. Let's jointly reincarnate the spirit of the Revolution and enact their vision of genuine liberty."

Monday, August 07, 2006

New Location

Hello all. I have officially relocated my blogging business. I have decided to form a joint blog with fellow Daily Illini columnist and intellectual counterweight Brian Pierce. You can find us at

The current iteration of our blog's title is Urbanagora.

We hope to provide diverse content that is filled with facts and images. We will be posting next semester's Daily Illini columns at the new location. On occasion we will also be in shoot-outs on various issues, Posner-Becker style.

We hope to make this blog one of the focal points of the University of Illinois political community. To that end we hope that you read and post often. Posting is fundamental to the vitality and worth of our blog, so please don't be shy. Without you, it's just not worth it.

Same time, New channel.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Sorry you can't bomb them, you need to balance your equation first

The insistence that Israel's response to Hezbollah must be proportional is somewhat hilarious. If in all wars we insisted that each side's response be mathetically and precisely proportional then every war in history would be a stalemate - no one would ever be allowed to win. Asymmetric response is certainly not foreign to Islamists in the Middle East. Take this conversation for example:

Dane: "I'm going to draw cartoons about your religion."
Islamist: "I'm going to kill you and your entire family and any Jews you might have in your phone book."

To be sure, that Dane was an idiot. But death for cartoons, really?

Contrary to popular wishes, I am not Jewish, but I can speculate. At some point, when you've been messed with for thousands of years no matter where you decide to live, you’re going to get pissed. After all of those years Jews finally have the stronger hand and the strong Allies (namely, the U.S.). Taken out of historical and religious context Israel’s response would be inappropriate, but reality persists. To paraphrase a recent Elie Wiesel interview, the Jews are making certain that they are never again in a position to be forced into boxcars.

The U.S. and Israel do more to avert civilian casualties and to adhere to jus ad bellum than any other country, especially one that has been attacked, in human history.

How would you respond?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Minimum Cents

A recent op-ed in my beloved WSJ got me fired up about the minimum wage debate.

It is interesting to note that the majority of conclusions wrought by economists tend toward what is typically considered conservative policy. This is true while the majority of university economists, about a 3:1 ratio, are liberal.

Raising the minimum wage makes low-skilled workers, most of whom are minorities, less competitive. Less competitive you ask? Well who are they competing against? Answer: Machines (capital) and desperate, hungry, poor foreigners who are willing to slave in factories.

The reality and ease of outsourcing makes the minimum wage even more dangerous than in years past. Put your mind in long-run mode, put on your glasses, and lose your myopia. In the long-run, higher American labor costs mean fewer and fewer companies will plan or desire to operate domestically. It is true that American workers will usually be more productive because of the availability of capital and machines. Jobs here are more capital intensive such that an American worker will produce more bouncy balls than a Chinese worker because the American knows how to use machines better and actually has machines at his disposal. But if you think in terms of marginal costs and marginal production, then you can see that every time the minimum wage is increased another job will be exported. Higher labor costs mean that the U.S. worker has to be even more productive than he was previously to compensate for his greater cost.

The other threat are the machines (Be weary of I-Robot). The greater labor costs become, the more incentive owners have to make their production more capital intensive, which means people get fired. Again, think about marginal costs and production. For every penny more expensive a worker becomes, the ratio of his cost to his output decreases (productivity). At some point, after each incremental increase, it is going to become more profitable for the owner of production to substitute Marx’s prole with Asimov’s dreambot.

We need to avoid the five hour café break economics of Old Europe. The world’s economy is currently very strong. At the end of 2005 the world’s unemployment rate was 6.36%, while the U.S. rate was 5.11% (It is currently 4.6%). Meanwhile, the wonderfully progressive labor laws of Germany and France had their unemployment rates at 11.52% and 10.23%, respectively. Sure, workers in France enjoy comfy minimum wages and the job security to know that they have to stab their boss more that four times to get fired after they reach the age of ~26 (Not certain about the age). Remember all those young French people protesting their right to never be fired? Notice that the people in those protests were students, none of them were low-skilled, uneducated and unemployed French. The cost of giving those French college punks job security and a 35 hour work week is that 10% of Frenchies who are willing to work are unable to find a job. Very “progressive” and “caring,” eh? One of the best statements on welfare state labor laws and high taxation comes from the 2004 Nobel Economist, Edward Prescott.

But you know, it’s progressive to make sure people have enough money, right?

Monday, July 31, 2006

Fortune Telling is for Fools

It's stupid and arrogant to predict the future. Any attempt will inevitably embarrass and humiliate the soothsayer.

John McCain will be the next president.

If he loses the primary he will run as an independent with Rudy Giuliani and together they will lead the next great shift in American politics: The Moderate Revolution. McCain will pummel Hillary Clinton in the general election.

The Democrats will outperform Republicans in the 2006 midterm elections, but Republicans will maintain an advantage of 20 members in the House and six in the Senate. However, Democrats will gain a majority of governors. Joe Lieberman will win back his Senate seat as an independent candidate.

The Cubs will not win a World Series until fans learn to stop attending losing seasons, but the youthful optimism of Cubs fans may never allow that.

Pushed by voters from our age group, Social Security will be privatized.

Unlike the way we listen to classic rock, almost none of the music from our generation will be listened to by our children. On top of singers sounding like dying mountain goats and guitarists playing uninspired riffs, the music has no timeless element. Country music has a chance.

As another pretentious use of substantive due process, Roe v. Wade - just as Lochner v. New York before it - will be overturned by 2015.

Gay marriage will be legalized by the courts and will never be overturned.

This University, the country's most underrated, will eclipse Northwestern, the country's most overrated university, in terms of prestige.

Biology will become increasingly integrated with politics.

Iraq will be a stable democracy by 2020. Other Middle Eastern nations will follow. Just as democratization and capitalism safely redirected the violent proclivities of western Catholics and Protestants, so too will radical Islam evaporate. Democracies can take as long as 100 years to grow thick roots, but it's worth it.

Once the Middle East modernizes, Africa will become the new breeding ground for terrorism. Only then will the developed world genuinely focus its money and effort on the problems of Africa.

William Shatner will be remembered as the greatest lawyer, author, singer, songwriter, director and actor of all time.

The United States will never go to war with China because the same corporate influence on governments that is often derided will prevent major trading partners from ever warring.

Because of their ability to innovate and appreciation of free thought, India, not China, is the most likely candidate to overtake the U.S. as the world's most powerful country. The U.S. might not be the big dog, but the world will be forever cast in its image.

In 750 years, technology and capitalism will create such an absurd abundance of food and wealth that a Marxist organization of society will be feasible and desirable for the first time.

The world will continue to become increasingly wealthy, peaceful and happy.

Certainly optimism always has danger of naivete. But when that optimism is supported by the weight of facts it is not optimism at all - it is reality.

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Strangle of Online Texas Hold 'em

Can you imagine the amount of work I can get done in the time I waste playing poker?" asked Kevin Sukerski, a graduate student. "When I'm not playing, I research the electromagnetic effects on steel flow in a continuous casting mold."

Poker, specifically no-limit Texas hold 'em, has gripped the subconscious minds of thousands of college students. Some students have been forced to drop out of school, but more often the game can simply dominate life.

Sukerski has been playing online poker for more than a year. He lost about $600 the first few times he deposited money into Golden Palace Poker. Despite those losses he chose to keep playing.

"I know I'm better than the people I play against online. With the knowledge and the skill I have, I shouldn't lose," Sukerski said.

Finally he began winning. As he won more he increased his stakes. He began playing $.50/$1 blinds and eventually played $10/$20 blinds where each pot averages $300. At the height of his activity, which lasted for months, he would play at least four hours per day.

The loss of $3000 compelled Sukerski to withdraw the remainder of his winnings.

"I couldn't handle the swings," Sukerski said. "I would go from four grand to 800 dollars. They're too huge. I don't know. I just couldn't deal with it. When I lost money I felt like I had to get it back. That was the worst part. It's too much money when you don't have that much in the bank to replace it with."

He also recognized another type of loss.

"It has the feeling of wasted time. Even when you win sometimes it feels like a waste. You can spend four hours making $50. If it's $1000 then it's worth it. I think it's an easy way to make money, or it should be. But it's not," Sukerski said.

Sukerski, who had a 3.9 GPA as an undergraduate in Mechanical Engineering, described online poker as surreal because of its electronic format.

"You don't realize what you're playing with. It's more difficult to see money being taken away from you if it's in dollar form than if it's just a number on a screen," he said.

Violent emotional reactions, also known as "tilt," often accompany online poker, "When you lose you get angry and start punching your door and lose more money replacing your door. If I win I eat something and watch more poker on TV," Sukerski said.

Now a bill that would crack down on Internet gambling has passed the House with a 317-93 vote and awaits Senate approval. The bill raises the larger question of whether the government should extend its tentacles to prevent consenting adults from forming electronic gambling contracts in order to protect us from ourselves.

While online gambling is unquestionably addictive, it is unclear whether we should allow our government to raid yet another realm of personal activity.

Since withdrawing his net winnings of $5000, Sukerski has re-deposited small amounts of money, "Sometimes I play, but I don't know why," he said. "It's not for money, I just want to see cards. I don't know why I can't stop."

Monday, July 17, 2006

Alternatives to Sweatshops

Many come to the University wearing guilt from their comfortable middle-class lives. How does a liberal college student atone for this guilt? By joining a student organization that hates something they don't understand - sweatshops are a nice example.

Sweatshops have existed in the West since about 1830. It took many years, but gradually Western sweatshops disappeared. The developing world today is a snapshot of the West during the Industrial Revolution. Unfortunately, sweatshops and low wages are a necessity of going from an agrarian, undeveloped country to a modern economy. This is illustrated by the growth of the Asian Tigers economies - Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore - from sweatshops to semiconductors.

Many of our country's liberal public intellectuals have made compelling cases in favor of sweatshops, including New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. On June 6 Kristof wrote, "Well-meaning American university students regularly campaign against sweatshops. But instead, anyone who cares about fighting poverty should campaign in favor of sweatshops, demanding that companies set up factories in Africa. If Africa could establish a clothing export industry, that would fight poverty far more effectively than any foreign aid program."

The worst aspect of sweatshops is child labor. But according to a report by the United Nations Children's Fund, about 6,000 children resorted to prostitution when the U.S. nobly boycotted Nepal's carpet exports.

In 1992 Democratic Senator Tom Harkin introduced the Child Labor Deterrence Act. Sounds like a nice and progressive humanitarian bill, right? In response, garment employers in Bangladesh fired 50,000 children. The UNICEF report states, "The children may have been freed, but at the same time they were trapped in a harsh environment with no skills, little or no education, and precious few alternatives. Schools were either inaccessible, useless or costly." Follow-up research by UNICEF revealed that children were forced to turn to "stone-crushing, street hustling and prostitution - all of them more hazardous and exploitative than garment production."

Countries compete to attract multinational corporations. When "progressive" groups in the West compel poor countries to enforce modern minimum wage or union laws, it encourages these corporations to set up factories in other countries. The UNICEF report cites an example from South Africa, "Black women who worked in a Taiwanese-owned sweater factory asked for improved wages and the right to join a union. The company's response was to close down all seven of its South African factories, putting 1,000 people out of work."

Benjamin Powell, a professor of economics at San Jose State University, did a study on third-world sweatshops. He found, "In 9 of the 11 countries we surveyed, the average reported sweatshop wages equaled or exceeded average incomes and in some cases by a large margin."

Sweatshops are deplorable, productive dungeons, but they're easy to attack when you don't look at the alternatives. People are choosing to work in sweatshops as opposed to doing something else or nothing at all - obviously the alternatives are even worse. Should third-world people starve and die so that guilty Americans can uphold their neatly crafted, unbending principles?

Monday, July 10, 2006

A Traveller between Worlds

Though American men and women our age are in Iraq, they live on a different planet and in a different time.

One such man is 22 year old Jake Pepper. He claims to have joined for "purely selfish reasons."

"When most people reach 24 years old they will not have seen and experienced what I have," Pepper said.

Pepper is not who you would expect. He comes from an upper-class family, his father is the Vice President of a major corporation and he was already attending DePaul University when he decided to enlist.

Last year, between January and May 2005, Pepper lived in Fallujah as a Navy Medic traveling with the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines Corps - one of the most experienced and effective American units.

Pepper compares the anxiety he felt before leaving for Fallujah to "going from junior high to high school, only a lot more intense. It's the fear of the unknown." Pepper said that on leaving his family for Iraq it was "the first time I ever saw my dad cry."

Pepper said, "It is surreal when you first get there. But once you're there for a couple of weeks you begin to forget what people look like. That becomes your home. It is like how you feel when on vacation. It slowly becomes normal."

Pepper's unit found one of the largest weapons caches of the war - 20,000 pounds of armaments in a farm field. They also found a DVD inside a nearby house. Pepper understood the contents of the DVD as soon as it began to play. An insurgent in the video gave a long diatribe next to a guy kneeling down with a mask on and "then they kicked the guy over and sawed his head off. We possibly found the mask and pants that the guy wore."

When walking through city streets he sometimes heard mortars being fired, but said "you try not to think about it, because there's nowhere to go to be safe from them." One of Pepper's most vivid moments came when he saw four soldiers "messed up real bad" at the base's medical station, "I think one of them ended up dying."

At night Pepper's unit usually slept in a soda factory.

"We slept three to four hours a night. It's not hard to sleep when you're awake for 20 hours," he said. "You just have to trust the lookout guys."

Since being home Pepper has a phantom limb of sorts.

"I've had dreams that I'm back in Fallujah. The main reoccurring daydream is that I always try to reach down and find my pistol," Pepper said.

Pepper will be going to the Iraqi city of Al-Qa'im at nearly the same time we'll be starting next semester. As we walk between classmates on the cool, green Quad, he'll walk between people who want to kill him on the hot desert sand. While we sit comfortably, he stands.

War distills concerns to their raw core. As we worry about grades and money, Jake will worry about life and death.

Monday, July 03, 2006

The Summit Generation

We have been called "Millennials," "Gen Y" and "DotNets." We're the generation born after about 1978. We don't really know what we are yet. But, don't confuse us with the older Gen Xers, the "undesirables," as my mother would say. So what exactly are we? What do we think and what will we become?

About 18 percent of us are Latino, according to the Pew Research Center, twice as much as the Baby Boom generation. Approximately 38 percent of us are a racial minority compared to just 15 percent of the World War II generation.

Most of us think Jerry Falwell and Bob Jones are idiots. At 58 percent, we're twice as likely as the oldest generation to support additional gay rights, like adoption. When asked if interracial dating is acceptable, 91 percent of our generation "completely agrees" or "agrees," compared to just 74 percent for the rest of society.

In fact, we're generally more socially progressive, except in one surprising area: abortion. Teenage abortions have plummeted from Gen X rates of 100 per 1000 women to just 40 per 1000 women for our generation. We are less likely than any other generation to think that abortion should be generally available and the most likely to think it should never be permitted.

We're kind of prude, according to statistics from Planned Parenthood. About 54 percent of Gen X high school students reported having sexual intercourse, compared to less than 50 in our generation. We also have fewer sexual partners, but maybe we just have poorer memories or are better liars. In the early 90s, 42 percent of high school students reported having a drug free school - today 63 percent have that impression.

We hate Lou Dobbs. Just 34 percent of us think immigration is a big problem compared to 50 percent of the oldest generation. We're also less likely to see immigrants as a burden and more likely to think of immigrants as strengthening America. We're more likely to view Islam as a good and peaceful religion.

We walk Wall Street. We're significantly more likely than any other generation to have a favorable opinion of corporations and of private retirement accounts.

Fewer people in our generation have an accurate sense of the number of U.S. troop deaths in Iraq than older generations. This is disturbing given that we're the generation that has pals, lovers and family stationed in the area. We're also much less likely to display the American flag.

Our political identity seems to be forming as a fusion of progressive social values and free market appreciation. This is good news for my moderate third party that I am still predicting will rise up because of our generation's disdain for extremists and dolts on both sides.

I call us the Summit Generation. We have all the opportunities that previous generations hoped some future would. We've reached the top. Yes, I know, my nickname is just as stupid as the other ones, but it's fitting. We're pluralistic, tolerant, energetic, ambitious and smart. Most importantly, we're optimistic (well, at least 72 percent are about the future of our generation).

Monday, June 26, 2006

The Legacy of Bush's Big Ideas

It's fun and it's cool to hate Bush, plus it's easy to do. He invents words as often as liberals invent rights. When it comes to wars I sometimes think more sophisticated strategy and diplomacy goes into the Risk game I play with my friends.

But for all the idiocy, he still has the big picture right. In the long run that is what's remembered.

Kennedy, Reagan and Clinton were intensely hated by many people during their presidencies but since then have been viewed more favorably. Kennedy bungled, among other things, the Bay of Pigs invasion, but we remember him for his visionary and optimistic liberalism. The Reagan Administration survived the Iran-Contra Affair, multiple lobbying scandals and other controversies. Today he is remembered for his upbeat charm and aggressive conduct of the Cold War. Clinton's popularity ratings sunk into the mid 30's during the Lewinsky Affair; today they are in the high 50's as we recall the blissful prosperity of the 1990's.

Scandals and controversies inflame the nation as they happen, but time tends to melt the edges away to leave the raw core. We remember presidents for the big things they did and the big American ideas they announced.

Bush hasn't conformed to the popular or the conservative will. In his second term he has done things he feels are right, regardless of their popularity on either political side. Isn't this what we hope for from politicians?

Social Security and health care present major long-term solvency issues that most politicians would prefer to leave for the future. Bush has been one of the first bold enough to talk about them and to propose the adoption of free market measures, which will prove to be most efficient.

Lower taxes and commitment to free markets worldwide has rejuvenated the economy. The last two years have seen above average growth in gross domestic product. This year will likely be no different. The unemployment rate is a historically and internationally low 4.6 percent. Bush has taken leadership in immigration reform by proposing a reasonable compromise that has angered both liberals and conservatives, a sure sign that it is a good plan.

Now our favorite jack in the box - Iraq. Bush's entire legacy probably rests on this big idea. The Bush Doctrine states that the United States should spread liberty by force to free foreign people and as a means of self-defense. In 15 years Iraq will be secure and free and al-Qaeda will be nearly extinct. The Middle East will be held by the nascent but strong grip of democracy.

Rather than the actions he took in the war on terrorism, the inaction he took in Sudan should be remembered as his crimson sin.

Yes, I know it's not cool to defend the President. But history will remember the big Bush ideas and forget the smaller mistakes. Look at his big ideas through an honest, dispassionate and long-term lens. He will be remembered as an above average president who set a fundamental course for posterity.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Tim the Alternative

Tim Behrens initially objected to being the subject of a column. In a jokingly wise and stoic voice he said, "I have no hippie wisdom to bestow on others; I lead by example, not by words."

Tim graduated from the competitive, suburban Elk Grove High School and ranked 9th in his class with a 32 on the ACT. He took numerous AP classes and was involved with multiple extracurricular activities. He worked diligently - that's what adults expected of him.

Things changed when he got to the University. He stopped working hard. He grew out his hair and beard to the point that he claimed, with a laugh, to be able to blend in as a Green Street bum. Most began to wonder whether he stopped caring about his life. Some thought that he was refusing to grow up. They said this, of course, because they correlate the value of a life with wealth and status.

The irony is this - that was the time he began to care about his life, the precise opposite of what his critics claimed. Tim, a recent graduate in psychology, consciously chose to slack off and to enjoy his life. He went out on the town frequently, made a millionaire's wealth in friends and rolled around in his four years of freedom like a gleeful, guilt-free pig.

So what changed his mind?

In making this decision he reasoned, "Most people our age think that all you need is a job that makes a lot of money. If I had a choice between working an office job the rest of my life making $200,000 and doing something more active, like being a fireman, for $50,000, I would definitely choose the $50,000."

Adulthood is the murderer.

Those who society deems most successful are lawyers, investment bankers, engineers and others who end up slaving for 60-to-90 hours a week. They become trapped by the responsibilities and pace of adulthood.

It is shocking to slow yourself and to realize, even for a few fleeting seconds, that you are alive. We breathe, we think, we feel, we live. But the hurried tasks of modern life sweep those thoughts away, rarely allowing us the chance to think them. An infinite supply of sophisticated chores await the well educated.

Charles Foster Kane spent his life amassing wealth, status and art. His dying word was "Rosebud," the name of his boyhood sled. An artifact from the only pure and happy time of his life, something that others thought should be burned with the other "junk."

Ralph Waldo Emerson often discussed the simple, untainted wisdom of the child, "The sun illuminates only the eye of the man, but shines into the eye and the heart of the child."

Sometimes I wish that I knew as much now as when I was a kid. Tim still does. That is his secret. In the last few pristinely conscious moments before death, will we judge our lives based on how prominent and wealthy we became?

Slow and slow your step, recall that you are alive.

Monday, June 12, 2006

What is our generation?

When running through the pages of American history, we gain the vision of an optimistic democracy that motivated the sacrifices of previous generations. They died in wars, they starved in depressions and they blackened their lungs with industrialization. They toiled and they dreamed, not just for themselves, but also for us.

Today their dreams ride toward reality. Our generation sits on the cusp between what humanity was and what humanity will be. We are unique, not because we have no physical threats, but because we have no ideological threats.

We are the first generation that can look upon the world and see that our form of government and economics has triumphed. What legions and armadas did for past empires, democracy and capitalism are doing for us. Therein lies the difference - empires can rule the world through violence and subdue others for a time, but inevitably their bloody grip unfurls. Our success has been in conquering the realm of ideas. Mercantilism, fascism and communism have all died as legitimate alternatives to America. Terrorism remains a physical threat, but not a legitimate threat to the ideological current of humanity.

We are the transitional generation. We will determine how future Americans will act in this new era of ideological peace. This will define us. Our generation owes a debt to the struggles of our ancestors. We are charged with pushing on America's circle of empathy, so that its diameter covers the world.

This task is made practical because the beauty of our ideological empire is that democracy and capitalism forge a synergy between our national interest and the welfare of humanity. It was in the interest of our national security and of humanity for us to supplant Saddam with democracy. It was in our interest of regional stability and of humanity that we should have militarily intervened in Rwanda and Sudan. Even in instances where no national interest can be identified, we still have the moral duty to use our wealth and our power to combat the evils of the world. For the first time in history, the good guys are the ones with the power. For the first time in history a country has so much power and wealth that it can begin to look beyond its artificially drawn borders, which mystically proclaim that we should only care about people who live on this side of the map's line and not on that side.

While the diffusion of democracy upon all of humanity is inevitable, our generation must hasten its spread. We are imbued with the responsibility to throw the dreams of all humans who struggled before us into reality. Our predecessors don't ask of us even one-tenth of what was asked of them. Our generation must stand up and lead. We should release our wealth, empathy and humanity across the globe, not because we have to, but because we understand that it is the right thing to do.

Monday, May 08, 2006

The World's Best University

I laugh when U.S. News tells me that my University is ranked 42nd, because I know their formula cannot quantify our strengths. Our University and its people need the audacity to believe in our potential influence on the direction of the world. This campus is an oasis. Ideas grow. People grow. This is the place that divides our lives. We enter as children, and emerge unrecognizable to our past.

We should walk with confidence in our balance. At the University of Chicago you would be forced into a narrow framework of constant intellectual pursuit. At the University of Arizona you would be compelled into partying and socializing. These things are harmful when not balanced by the other. Here we are given the opportunity to cultivate both our intellectual and social skills. This University allows us to craft ourselves at any point along the spectrum and it encourages the balance that forms a holistic person.

Many kids at Harvard and Yale believe they are more naturally intelligent than public school students. The arrogance that inevitably consumes students at those schools lulls them into complacency and laziness. Why work hard when you already think you're the best? I work until fatigue because I know that there are thousands of more intelligent students.

Here we can develop an eternal and insatiable lust for knowledge. But beyond that, we learn the pragmatic applications of knowledge. We learn how to change the world by putting ideas into reality, rather than allowing them to rest idly in the realm of thoughts. The greatest thinker is nothing without the pragmatic skills to bring his ideas and creativity to the common man. Plato tells us this in his "Allegory of the Cave."

Here we can sharpen our social and emotional intelligences. Much success in the real world has to do with getting along with diverse people. Our unpretentious and easy-going nature allows us to fit into any social situation.

Here we have a sense of all corners of the world. People from all races, religions, geography and wealth converge upon us to enliven our understanding.

The intelligence of our peers can be intimidating. But they fear us too, and if they don't then they should, because we're coming. They fear our balance between the intellectual and the social. They fear our acute pragmatism and ability to implement ideas.

I don't care what we are told, we can compete with anybody. This University has given me the confidence to fear no opponent. We should invite the Ivy League challenge as the chance to prove ourselves. We must maintain our fighting faith even when confronted by challenges that appear insurmountable.

We suffer from a lack of confidence. Many of us who come here were rejected by Northwestern, University of Chicago or Yale. This admissions complex has reinforced the idea that we aren't quite as good. We must reclaim the spirit of "self-reliance" and trust Ralph Waldo Emerson when he wrote, "The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried."

Forget the admissions boards, because they don't know. But we will never know if we do not thrust ourselves upon the world with the belief that we have something to contribute to the procession of humanity. We must maintain confidence against continual assault that we alone decide our worth, not U.S. News and certainly not Harvard.

We should not be timid or arrogant - again a balance is called for. Lack of self-confidence is the only thing that prevents this University from permanently establishing itself as one of the greats. People tell us that we are second-rate and we have believed them. They are wrong. Run into the dark with confidence in the weapons you have forged here.

Billy Joe Mills is a graduating senior in LAS. He thanks his father, mother and friends for selfless help with his columns - farewell to the best friends a guy could hope for. He can be reached at

Monday, May 01, 2006

Martketplace of Monotony

~Published in the Daily Illini on May 1st, 2006

Editor's Note: This is the second of a two-part series by columnist Billy Joe Mills on accusations of liberal professor bias on campus.

Imagine for a moment that 90 percent of University professors are conservative. They donate regularly to the Republican Party, they praise Bush and the Iraq war often in class, they set up public "debates" among themselves to promote conservative views on issues such as abortion, and they direct their research towards matters they wish to influence. How pathetic and lacking of diversity would this place be? How boring would it be? How uncomfortable would you be?

There is a great danger within today's universities. Conservative ideas are not given the opportunity to participate in academic debate, rather they are dismissed prima facie as illogical and not worthy of consideration. Just as we do not trust Bush's cabinet to regulate itself, neither should we trust academia to close its ears to the siren song of groupthink.

A fundamental ingredient in higher education is the free marketplace of ideas. Therein, differing ideas collide and conflict to fuse into a higher and more comprehensive version of truth. Nothing is more anti-intellectual than a public servant devoted to education who believes that both sides of an argument are not necessary.

Ironically, the liberal domination of academia threatens to lessen, not heighten, the influence of liberal thought in society. Many professors complain that the policy world ignores their prescriptions. By including conservatives in the campus debate the credibility of academia would be enhanced, thus giving it greater influence over the policy-making worlds of Springfield and Washington. Additionally, the thoughts coming from academia would be sharpened and refined through real debate.

The overwhelming liberal presence challenges me to summon a better argument. This domination threatens the academic vitality of liberal students more than conservatives. The danger is that liberal students are not presented the opportunity to hone their thoughts and substantiate their beliefs. Incestuous breeding creates an inferior genetic product.

There are some academics fighting valiantly and tirelessly for the cause I lay out, "At the heart of the educational benefits of diversity is that synergy between social and intellectual diversity as a medium for fostering a vibrant exchange of people and ideas. Let us commit ourselves individually to the idea that diversity will never be a second thought, but always at the core of the University of Illinois." This was spoken in November 2003 by former Chancellor Nancy Cantor who strongly supports diversity, just not the kind that challenges her prejudices and makes her feel uncomfortable. It is inconsistent to promote ethnic diversity because it enhances education, while also believing that the faculty's intellectual monotony does no damage to the sharpness of my education.

Political neutrality should not be legislated. This University should endorse an initiative to aggressively encourage, welcome and recruit conservative intellectuals. An op-ed invitation in the New York Times would be a good start. I call upon the elite of this University to voluntarily proclaim a new beginning. I ask that you open new pathways to those different than yourselves. I ask that you expand the ideals of the "progressive" to include the other half of America.

We are intellectually segregated. Conservative intellectuals reside in think tanks and at small Christian colleges, while liberal intellectuals dominate major universities. I hope the University of Illinois has the introspective courage to rejuvenate itself and to reaffirm its purpose.

Often during the tenure of an institution its mission becomes lost, obscured, or forgotten. Great universities were built upon an intriguing and rebellious idea. Education ought to occur in a plural and diverse community - a community of friendship which thrives in a state of tireless debate. Education is best advanced when invaded by intrusive and alarming thoughts.

Logic must exist under constant peril. The thoughts of our neighbors force us to devise more clever arguments. Such are the fertile conditions for mental inquiry and prosperity. Without these challenges ideas grow soft and stale and without competition they are assumed thoroughly true by their possessors. If a university strays from its original mission it endangers the intellectual vitality of all in the community, not just those who are excluded.

Billy Joe Mills is a senior in LAS. His column appears on Mondays. He can be reached at

Monday, April 24, 2006

Intellectual Incest in Academia

~Published in the Daily Illini on April 24th, 2006.

Editor's Note: This is the first of a two-part series by columnist Billy Joe Mills on accusations of liberal professor bias on campus.

There is a danger to the vitality of intellectual life at American universities. It lies within the overwhelming domination of campus by liberal thought. This problem exists, although many believe it does not. Many professors at our University earnestly see the majority of their colleagues as conservative. Surprisingly, my solution rejects David Horowitz and others who wish to legislate political equality, which I will develop next week.

The donation ratio for University employees during the 2004 elections was 90.2 percent for Democratic coffers and eight percent for Republicans. Out of all employee groups in any sector of our economy, the University of California and Harvard were the top two donors to John Kerry, as published by

An academic study done by Professor Daniel Klein at Santa Clara University surveyed six major academic societies. The average of all six societies was a ratio of 15 Democrats to one Republican. The largest disparities exist in history, anthropology, sociology, and philosophy.

A recent study published by the Berkeley Press entitled "Politics and Professional Advancement Among College Faculty," (a quick and free registration is needed to view the article) found institutionalized discrimination that prevented certain groups from rising the academic ranks. Through regression analysis of large data sets, the researchers found that conservatives, Christians, and most notably, women, are less likely to be promoted and to work at higher quality universities.

The original charter set forth by the American Association of University Professors in its 1915 Declaration of Principles says, "The university teacher's … business is not to provide his students with ready-made conclusions, but to train them to think for themselves. The teacher ought also to be especially on his guard against taking unfair advantage of the student's immaturity by indoctrinating him with the teacher's own opinions."

And from the association's 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom, "Teachers … should be careful not to introduce into their teaching controversial matter which has no relation to their subject." Academics Stanley Fish and Benno Schmidt have recently echoed this view. These association documents are universally accepted and defended by professors as their foundation. Perhaps they have not read them.

Anecdotal testimony on our campus supports the data. I have personally been in a biological anthropology class where, in front of 500 students, the professor found it relevant to say, "Republicans are in general racist." Perhaps he meant that conservatives have a biological basis to be racist. Another professor called me a "racist" and a "bigot" simply for believing that affirmative action should be economically based.

Many of my conservative friends have dropped classes because they worried that the professor's political bias would consciously or subconsciously influence the way they graded essays with political subjects.

A 2004 survey commissioned by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, a group created by Sen. Joe Lieberman and other notables, investigated the effects of liberal academia upon students. It found that 49 percent of students say professors' state primarily liberal political opinions in class, even if they have nothing to do with the subject and 29 percent feel they have to concur with the professor's political opinions to earn a high grade.

Few speakers invited to campus are conservative. The Illini Union Board recently rejected a proposal from its own Lectures Committee to invite Bill O'Reilly to speak because apparently they felt he's not the kind of person we want to speak here. Their lineup consistently has people like Ralph Nader, Patch Adams and Spike Lee.

The University YMCA, Allen Hall, Gender and Women's Studies Department, and many other campus groups are dedicated to inviting exclusively liberal speakers. Panel debates purporting to present diverse opinions on issues like the Iraq war usually have a panel of professors with differing reasons why it is an evil war by evil men.

We should not legislate political equality, but we should not pretend the problem is benign. Intellect has never been served by fearing diversity and examining only half of an argument. The continued domination of thought on campus by liberal intellectual faculty is the most illiberal and anti-intellectual sentiment available.

Billy Joe Mills is a senior in LAS. His columns appear on Monday. He loves being challenged by liberal arguments and he wishes campus liberals had the same opportunity. He can be reached at

Monday, April 17, 2006

Remedy to self-segregation in Housing

~Published in the Daily Illini on April 17th, 2006.

Many people with diverse thoughts and cultures live on our campus, but rarely do we mix. We live in the same place, but we do not live together. Our instincts and our upbringing encourage us to self-segregate along racial, ethnic and religious lines.

We all quietly know the facts: Asians and Indians live at ISR, African-Americans and Latinos live at FAR-PAR, and the Six pack barely looks different than my white suburban high school.

"We have found through informal questionnaires that incoming freshmen research the residence halls," said Seema Kamath, multicultural advocate in Weston Hall. "Often their choice is influenced by an older sibling or friend already attending."

Kamath goes on to say, "I believe the residence halls definitely have different racial overtones and that people's reasons for applying to each residence hall are to a certain extent racially motivated."

Students try to self-segregate even before they arrive on campus. Incoming freshmen have a sense about the racial composition of the halls and they gravitate to places they will feel most comfortable.

Those who apply late for housing or who are admitted late usually get placed in FAR-PAR - its undesirable location means there are plenty of free spots. African-Americans and Latinos from poorer schools often do not have the benefit of college counselors encouraging them to apply early. They may also be admitted later in the admissions cycle for other reasons.

These factors, combined with the word-of-mouth effect, results in the unglamorous FAR-PAR housing a disproportionate number of minorities - a latent and unconscious form of institutionalized discrimination.

Housing claims to not consider race in their decisions. But many students believe that in randomly assigned rooms a suspiciously high percentage of minorities are placed together. Often, Six pack halls will have an all-white floor with the exceptions of two or three minorities "randomly" and "coincidentally" paired together. University Housing perpetuates an insidiously complicit promotion of self-segregation.

Our Student Senate, especially President Josh Rohrscheib, investigated the questionable and secretive nature of the Housing process. Last October they requested all data related to the racial makeup of the halls and the application process. After months of repeated excuses from Housing Director Jack Collins, some data was finally provided in February. Exact percentages on racial composition of the residence halls remains sealed. If Housing were concerned about issues of race they would have been equally eager to look into it.

I propose, along with Zenobia Ravji, chair of the Senate's Minority and Cultural Affairs Committee, a controversial and bold remedy. We should continue to allow freshmen to choose their roommates, but they should be randomly assigned to the halls they live in. It would apply only to freshman, but it would not apply to private, specialty or living-learning community halls.

We certainly cannot force diverse groups to interact, but we can have faith that when in close quarters they will discover common interests and explore diverse backgrounds. Such a policy would lead to a radically different campus. Can you imagine how much more exciting, intriguing and welcoming this place would become?

Many students rush fraternities and sororities with their dorm friends - this would potentially break down the extreme segregation within the Greek system. Students also choose their sophomore apartment roommates from among their dorm friends. They choose classes together. Diverse groups of friends would be introduced to each other and remain connected throughout life. Lunch tables would no longer be color-coded. Freshman housing would be fully integrated into the University's educational mission.

If the supposed educated elite of the country cannot break down the thick walls of self-segregation then we should not expect the rest of America to do so. We participate in a great experiment of whether disparate races can thrive together in a democracy. That experiment will be a success in the long run through the courage of individuals to breach racial walls. But we should do our best to hasten it. Challenge us and we will show you our generation's unique ability to learn from, tolerate and celebrate diversity.

Billy Joe Mills is a senior in LAS. It's scary, but true - he is a conservative who cares about issues of diversity and race in society. His columns appear on Monday. He can be reached at

Monday, April 10, 2006

Why They Fight

~Published in the Daily Illini on April 10th, 2006. This was published as a dual defense of the Iraq war - the first from me, a conservative, the second from Brian Pierce, a liberal. I have posted both, beginning with mine.

I am left wondering whether anything, even democracy for 30 million Iraqis, can be worth the 35,000 dead and the countless in pain. Is an enduring democracy worth this extreme suffering?

No one can earnestly deny or trivialize Bush's repeated mistakes. But we should not allow disappointment or hatred toward him to blind us while answering the distinct question of whether creating liberty in Iraq is worthy.

The United States was right to invade Iraq for three primary reasons. First, spreading democracy is the only long-term solution to dictators and violent Islamism. Second, the world has a moral obligation to intervene when human beings arbitrarily die by the hands of a dictator or mob. Third, just as our Founders believed, liberty is worth the pain.

We have always known freedom. Both of my grandfathers fought. They suspended their freedoms with the belief that evil exists among men, but that good can only lose if it remains passive and blinded by illusions of peace. I have been spoiled by their sacrifices. It is easy for me to forget how often the delicate life of human liberty has nearly been ended by kings, Nazis, or Communists. My grandfathers fought for human liberty - the instinct of every person to carve their unique paths to happiness. Let us use the hammer of liberty to remind evil that so long as America thrives, they never shall.

I honor those living and dead, Allied and Iraqi, who believe as our Founders did, that freedom among humans is not easily gained and that the blood of the brave is often necessary. Those brave understand that some things in our world are greater than their lives - that eternal freedom for millions is worth their sacrifice and they make that sacrifice daily. They believe a human life without liberty is not human at all.

Was it necessary for the 13 colonies to create a war with the world's greatest power for freedom? Was it necessary that thousands of our Founders died? They believed it was - why do we doubt them now? Iraq's founders believe it is - why do we doubt them now?

Democracy is not supposed to be easy or quick. It is much easier, as we know from the Cold War, to prop up dictatorships or to leave them in place. Things seem calmer and less messy. Sure, that's nice, our hands have no blood, at least none that we notice. We don't have to hear about the daily deaths. But the people still die, they still hear the midnight knocks from the government-licensed murderers upon their doors, they still live in fear.

It might be true that the U.S. is wrong about democracy. That it is not worth the necessary pains to establish it. But the majority of the world does not think so. If liberty is not worth our fight then nothing is.

Our greatest weapon against terrorists, just as it was against Communists, is the allure of freedom. Every man, every woman, has an instinct to be free. Someday democracy will warm the earth as the realization of humanity.

That day when freedom and prosperity cover all humans is not far. But it grows further with sentiments that run counter to the entire foundation of this country. When we in the free world sit back and relax, seeing that our fight is over, we then slow the final wave of democracy.

Is it necessary for people to die in the Middle East? It isn't necessary if we wish to leave them dangling in tyranny, but if we wish for them to join us in knowing the liberty and creativity of democracy then I say yes it is necessary, and it is worth it. The Iraqis agree. You go tell them that the lives of their family and our soldiers are not worth their lasting liberty - you go tell them.

Billy Joe Mills is a senior in LAS. He is an optimist. His column appears on Mondays. He can be reached at opinions@daily


On liberals and liberty

I am a liberal, and thus stand in staunch opposition to any number of things my fellow columnist, Billy Joe Mills, advocates. I am pro-choice, pro-affirmative action, pro-nationalization of health care, and anti-privatization of Social Security. I wept uncontrollably the night President Bush won the 2004 election.

I stress my bona fides as a blue stater to emphasize why I applaud Billy for his column last week defending the Iraq war and fully agree with his position. Intervention in Iraq is a liberal cause, and thus I have no shame in supporting it.

To a certain extent, I feel like the wool has been pulled over the eyes of the Republicans who have supported this war. They've been tricked by the fact that Bush is waging it, and thus believe it must be a war representative of the values of Bush voters.

It is actually more representative of the values of Woodrow Wilson voters. It was Wilson who once said, "No man can sit down and withhold his hands from the warfare against wrong and get peace from his acquiescence."

Yet today's liberals have sadly turned away from their noble roots. Democrats used to believe that America should have a strong presence internationally, and that sometimes that presence must take the form of military force. Now the long shadow of Vietnam looms over the left, and we have replaced our idealism with cynicism.

I acknowledge that our effort in Iraq could end in failure. This war has been waged recklessly. I write this column not to express my certainty that we will prevail - history will be the ultimate judge of whether this was the right war at the right time waged in the right way.

I write instead to the overwhelming majority of liberals on this campus who share my values and yet turn their backs on them. I ask you not necessarily to change your minds, but merely to open them.

Liberals should not blind themselves from a noble cause simply because they have distaste for the man engaging in it. Hostility toward President Bush is justified, but not toward the ideal of using America's influence confidently in freedom's cause.

It seems arbitrary to me to watch the slaughter of 400,000 Sudanese and summon moral outrage at the injustice of doing nothing, then cry out that America has no place imposing its way of life on Iraq, as if Saddam Hussein's brutal oppression is nothing more than a quirky cultural difference that must be tolerated in the interests of peace and national sovereignty.

Must we stifle our moral outrage in the face of unambiguous human rights violations unless those violations take the form of genocide? Has civilization evolved so little that the only thing we can collectively agree is crossing the line is the systematic slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocents?

We cannot go everywhere there is injustice, but our inability to go everywhere ought not preclude us from going anywhere. We cannot stand down in the face of evil under the pretense that there's too much evil to stand up against. We will stand up against as much as we can, and have faith that free states will serve, as they always have, as beacons to their neighbors. America's influence does not extend everywhere, but it is considerable enough that it can extend to both Iraq and Sudan, especially if the rest of the world can find the integrity to stand up with us in defense of the oppressed.

John Stuart Mill once wrote, "War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."

If history has taught us anything, it is that liberty is worth the fight, and we must be willing to defend it not just for ourselves, but for all those who are entitled to its blessings.

Brian Pierce is a junior in LAS. His column appears on Wednesdays. He can be reached at opinions@

Friday, April 07, 2006

Linkin' Logs I

A rip off of Eric Zorn's Land of Linkin' series, I will occasionally provide links to sites I find factual, interesting, or entertaining. I encourage people to post their sites they personally find unique or informative. So to honor one of my favorite childhood toys, this is the first Linkin' Log:

1) Some of the most interesting stuff out there comes from the opinion poll sites. Pew is one of the best. Check out the whole site, but I had fun with political categories. They have a political typology test that is more comprehensive and unique than others I have taken. Plus they have a related report which details where the country falls in this typology test, plus some interesting news about the Moderate Revolution, "During the 1990s, the typology groups in the center were not particularly partisan, but today they lean decidedly to the GOP."

2) I found this link via a story in the WSJ. It is an Iraqi blogger with some great stories and perspectives. He also links to many other Iraqi blogs. According to the article, his earlier writings were more optimistic, but they have gradually become more pessimistic.

3) One of regular blog contributor TC's favorite sites. Jim Dunnigan's Strategy Page provides a wealth of professional military information regarding US operations abroad. As far as I can tell he is fairly impartial and dedicated to facts. He does not hesitate to call the situation an "Iraqi civil war," but he also reports on much of the good news that gets ignored by the NY Times and CNN. There is a specific page dedicated to Iraq. Thanks TC.

4) Campaign finances are addictively interesting to track. Two great sources for that. Nationally, provides well organized details on who gives and who gets money in politics. Interesting to look at the numbers coming from academia, which show that Harvard and the University of California system were the top two contributors of all employee groups in the nation for Kerry in 2004. Harvard's donations, similar to most others, have 96% towards Kerry and 4% towards Bush...but ya know, overwhelming intellectual lopsidedness has no affect on students access to both sides of any debate...riiight.

Here is the less friendly Illinois version, which presents the raw data. I'm not sure whether there is a site that better organizes Illinois data.

5) The quickest, most reliable source for international facts is the CIA World Factbook. Of special note even to those familiar with it, is that they have recently added a section of the "World" itself, which is very interesting.

6) When looking for data from the Federal Gov't, the FedStats homepage can guide you to the most relevant helps you sort through the bureaucracy.

7) Northwestern's OYEZ page provides summaries of Supreme Court cases plus links to audio recording of arguments and full text of opinions.

8) RealClearPolitics conveniently links you to all of the nation's major opinions pieces for the day. They also have other goodies.

9) OnTheIssues details "every political leader on every issue." It is complete with voting records and public statements. But they do have some not quite "every issue."

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Telling Iraq's Whole Story

Published in the Daily Illini on April 4th, 2006.

Recent news has led Americans to believe that Iraq has collapsed into total failure. Our understanding of Iraq has been distorted by the mainstream media's slight liberal bias and its strong profit motivation to feed us violent stories. We should not trivialize the pain of some Iraqis or the poor tactics of Bush. But just as we should reject censorship from the Bush administration, we should also reject the censorship of incomplete stories from the media. The story you haven't been told is brighter than you think.

Establishing democracy among fresh people is often bloody and messy. The greatest country in the world began as a fledgling and loose alliance of states under the Articles of Confederation. The United States took 10 years after the Revolutionary War to forge a stable Constitution. If it took the world's greatest democracy 85 years to establish "domestic tranquility," and then only through a Civil War that killed 618,000 Americans, why do we presume Iraq should be able to create a pristine democracy within a few years? conducted a survey of 1,150 Iraqis in January 2006. Although Sunnis expressed negative views, they actively participated in the December elections.

The survey found that 68 percent of Iraqis believe the new government is legitimate. Furthermore, 64 percent feel that Iraq is "generally headed in the right direction." An overwhelming 97 percent said that their political leaders should reject terrorism and 99 percent feel that "all groups should participate in the political process."

The survey asked, "Thinking about any hardships you might have suffered since the U.S.-Britain invasion, do you personally think that ousting Saddam Hussein was worth it?" While 44 percent of Americans predicted that Iraqis would have felt it was worth it, a surprising 77 percent of Iraqis actually did believe so. What causes Iraqi optimism and American pessimism?

The Brookings Institute is a major independent, nonpartisan think tank. They publish data on recovery in their Iraq Index.

Even with continual insurgent attacks, free Iraqis have volunteered to protect their new democracy. Today, 272,566 Iraqis actively serve as "trained, effective and equipped" forces. They have read Patrick Henry.

Insurgent attacks are isolated in four of the 18 provinces, where 85 percent of attacks occur. Half of Iraqis "live in areas that experience six percent of all attacks."

Iraqi gross domestic product is 35 percent greater today than under Saddam. Oil production matches pre-war levels. Oil revenue since the war has been $50.7 billion - money that, along with U.S. aid, has gone into the rehabilitation of 3,000 Iraqi schools rather than into palaces for Saddam and Sons.

No independent media existed under Saddam. Today, the number of TV stations has blossomed to 44, radio stations to 72 and newspapers and magazines to 200.

The Economist Intelligence Unit recently ranked Iraq as the fourth freest country in the Middle East based on 15 measures of political and civil liberty.

Americans have about a 55 percent voter turnout rate in friendly neighborhoods. In the December elections, 77 percent of eligible Iraqi voters showed up under threat of death. I dare you to tell those voters that liberty is not worth their risk.

Unfortunately for war opponents, nothing has done more than reconstruction to promote the rights of Iraqi women. Under Saddam, women had limited political participation, but the new constitution guarantees women 25 percent of all assembly seats.

Some of the greatest liberals of last century, Woodrow Wilson, FDR, JFK and RFK, believed that America had a duty to spread democracy as the hammer against human tyranny and misery. Today, many still believe that the U.S. has a duty to intervene in Sudan and Rwanda - that there are definitive instances of evil among humans. Did evil not exist in Iraq? We don’t have the right to impose democracy on Iraqis, but Iraqis do have the right to be free and that is why we fight.

With all said, 35,000 Iraqis have died. But their family, friends and countrymen live at the apex of human achievement: freedom. Iraqis may now freely carve their own personal and political paths. Establishing democracy can be bloody and disturbing, but our ancestors believed that liberty was worth it - the unsung founders of the newly free Iraq agree.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Rebellion of the Nerds

This article was officially syndicated...uh, well kinda anyways. Does electronically count? Probably not.

Published in the Daily Illini on March 27, 2006

Every year, new students roll on to campus expressing their newfound freedoms and rights. They rebel against their origins: their parents, their church, their hometown.

They think they are rebelling by constantly drinking and coasting through their education. But is that rebellion?

No. Rather, drinking and ignorance are the norm - they are conformists. While declaring a rebellion from the hopes of their parents and their school, they are actually conforming to the dominant campus culture. The OC-MTV culture prefers expensive bar drinks to free library books.

Who, then, are the rebels among us?

The real rebels have the audacity, confidence and courage to reject the dominant culture. The real rebels chase knowledge and truth until fatigue.
The rebels are invisible at night reading Emerson for fun, deriving equations not assigned by their professor, publishing political thoughts to the world on their blog or debating the origins of the Universe with friends. They head your Student Organizations and get A's in your classes. Rather than drinking until comatose in the Caribbean, the rebels use their spring break to alleviate poverty around the world.

They carve unique intellectual paths of resistance, curiosity and progress, rather than the ease, comfort and mediocrity of conformity. They are the upcoming generation of Cool Hand Lukes, "natural-born world shakers." Whereas the conformist seeks to find the identity and the composition of the group, the rebel seeks to find the identity and the composition of himself.

Many look at the 1960s and 70s as the time when the Hippies rebelled from established culture. But they led an uneducated and misguided rebellion. The real rebels were people like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Stephen Wozniak. Their rebellion remodeled our world.

Most of my peers blindly follow and march in step with the dominant intellectually apathetic culture. Others have consciously chosen legitimate philosophies for why college should be four years of fun. They appear as conformists, but actually rebel in their own way.

But, I write for the mass of students who have been stolen by the dominant campus culture. I write for those who have a thirst for intellectualism but see no alternative to the pervasive conformist culture.

I do not know the best way to live - after all, I'm just a punk who was mistakenly given a column. I do not suggest a Puritan life.

The culture that I critique is exactly what makes Illinois students unique and more well-rounded than our supposedly superior Ivy League peers. Harvardvarks lack the social skills, easy-going personalities, and friendliness that Illinois cultivates.

Illinois allows students to develop both intellectual and social skills. U.S. News does not know how to quantify and rank that kind of balance.

The problem is that most students have abused the social liberties granted by the University's atmosphere. Instead of fusing social and intellectual pursuits, most choose to cultivate only their social skills. This majority has become the dominant culture and publicly represents our undergraduates by consistently ranking Illinois as a top 5 party school.

The conformists and the rebels both give us valuable lessons on how to spend our four years. The challenge to University policymakers and individual students is unleashing the rebel to push back the advances made by the conformists. I hope for a symbolically violent rebellion to restore the balance.

Somewhere we lost sight of our original goal. Why are we at a University with the world's greatest minds if not to feverishly learn from them?

We all have the choice. We have the opportunity to comfortably avoid challenges or to bravely face them. Our four years allow us to choose whether we will improve the world or leave it without a trace.

Our Founders believed strongly enough in the experimental idea of democracy to declare war on the world's greatest military power. Learned revolutionary spirits built America, not conformists.

The American Revolution continues today by the hands of the campus rebels in an ever-unfinished pursuit to make humanity better. Their rebellion lies in seizing the opportunities presented by the University to better humanity, rather than marching in line with the mass of conformists who change little.

Billy Joe Mills is a senior in LAS. His columns appear on Mondays. He will long remember writing alongside his rebellious friend, Josh Rohrscheib - farewell. He can be reached at

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Can Muslims be Democratic?

Good Pew data on whether Muslims in each country wish for "Western-style democracy"

Published in the Daily Illini on March 13, 2006.

Many arguments against spreading democracy in the Middle East rely on the assumption that Islam is inherently incompatible with democracy. Both conservatives and liberals argue that Islamic people are incapable of democratizing and joining the modern world. They are wrong.

There is a wealth of evidence in today’s countries, the Qur’an and Islamic history that supports the union of Islam and democracy.

Freedom House, a major international non-partisan organization, annually ranks freedom in every country. The Freedom House data shows that in 1995, 70 percent of majority-Muslim nations were not free, 28 percent were partly free, and two percent were free. But, in 2005, 50 percent were not free, 43 percent were partly free, and seven percent were free - a 50-50 tie between the past and the future.

More promising, in 2005, 610 million people lived in majority-Muslim free or partly free countries and 509 million people lived without freedom as ranked by Freedom House.

Indonesia is the world's largest Muslim country - 88 percent of its population, or 213 million people, is Muslim. Indonesia is a liberal democracy, as ranked by Freedom House. According to the CIA World Factbook, Indonesia has a republic, universal suffrage, legal structures based on Roman-Dutch law and freedom of religion.

India has the world's third largest Muslim population with 144 million. Freedom House ranks India as a liberal democracy and one of the freest countries.

Bangladesh has the world's fourth largest Muslim population - 88 percent of its population is Muslim. Freedom House ranks them as an electoral democracy, or partly free. Bangladesh has a parliamentary democracy, universal suffrage, a legal system based on English common law, and freedom of religion.

The most progressive and promising Muslim country is Turkey. It houses the world's sixth largest Muslim population with 99 percent of its people practicing Sunni Islam. Kemal Atatürk, Turkey's first president, aggressively secularized the country with the hope to "raise Turkey to the level of modern civilizations."

Turkey is the geographic and symbolic gateway between the Middle East and the West. Today they have a parliamentary democracy, universal suffrage, civil law based on European systems, freedom of religion and abolished caliphates, or Muslim leaders claiming to be representatives of God.

*(The next paragraph originally appeared in the Daily Illini listing countries with significant Muslim populations, but I neglected to list many majority-Muslim countries. The list of majority-Muslim countries that are ranked as partly free or free by Freedom House are: Afghanistan, Albania, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Comoros, Djibouti, Gambia, Indonesia, Jordan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Turkey, and Yemen. I feel that this is a better list and should have been the one printed, not the one below)*

Countries with significant Muslim populations that are ranked by Freedom House as either an electoral democracy or a liberal democracy include: Albania, Bangladesh, Benin, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Georgia, Ghana, Greek Cyprus, Guinea-Bissau, India, Indonesia, Israel, Kenya, Macedonia, Malawi, Mali, Mauritius, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Turkey and Zambia.

Progressive Muslims, including political scientist Ahmad Moussalli, argue that not only is the Qur'an anti-authoritarianism, but it is pro-democracy. Moussalli points to the concepts of "shura (consultation), ijma' (consensus), al-hurriyya (freedom) and al-huqquq al-shar'iyya (legitimate rights)."

Muhammad's life lends credence to democracy. In 622 A.D. he authored the Medina Constitution that granted equal rights to all Muslims and Jews; "To the Jew who follows us belong help and equality. He shall not be wronged nor shall his enemies be aided."

The problem lays with the Arab countries, which have histories and economies that tend towards fundamentalism and Sharia. The Arab world is a snapshot of how the West used to look, with religion dominating society.

The region, not the religion, has produced terrorists. The problem is not a matter of abstract religious interpretation. Rather, it is more concrete. The problem is caused by poverty, history and geography - things that we know we can overcome given time. Furthermore, Islamic democracy does not necessarily have to be Western-style, just as Japanese and Indonesian democracy looks different than ours.

Many claim it is Western hubris to believe democracy can be successful in the Muslim world. The opposite is true. It is Western-centric and arrogant to believe that Islamic people are condemned to theocracy, violence and poverty. It is myopic to think that Islam is the world's only faith that is incapable of democratic governance and social modernity.

Muslims are fully capable of entering the democratic world, in fact, most of them already have. The innate desire to be free spans cultures and faiths. Democracy is not a Western idea, it is a human idea.

Billy Joe Mills is a senior in LAS. His columns appear on Mondays. Rohrscheib believes he is God's chosen messiah of the University. He can be reached at

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Outsourcing Lies and Fear

Comprehensive analysis by Greg Mankiw himself, which unfortunately I did not discover until after writing my article.

This article was published in the Daily Illini on March 6, 2006.

Around the time of the last election, President Bush's Chief Economist, Gregory Mankiw, said outsourcing "is probably a plus for the economy in the long run." John Kerry indignantly responded the next day, "Unlike the Bush Administration, I want to repeal every tax break and loophole that rewards any Benedict Arnold CEO or corporation for shipping American jobs overseas."

Protectionist sentiments from the left and the right are the true threat to American prosperity and dominance, not globalization itself. Lou Dobbs, Pat Buchanan, many traditionalists and politicians use outsourcing as a scare tactic to sell books or win votes.

But, let us look at basic economics and the data behind outsourcing.

Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz wrote a best-selling book entitled, "Globalization and its Discontents." He describes the various groups of the world that are unhappy and bewildered in the globalization game.

But, in 2003, the Pew Research Center conducted a survey of 38,000 people in 44 major countries entitled, "Globalization with few Discontents?" Majorities averaging 80 percent in every country, and 78 percent of Americans, describe increased globalization as either "very" or "somewhat" good for their country. What explains these surprising findings?

The most widely cited statistics on outsourcing come from a 2002 Forrester Research study. It projected that a scary 3.3 million jobs would be outsourced from America between 2000 and 2015, averaging about 220,000 per year. That sounds like an insurmountable figure. Imagine 3.3 million decent and hard-working Americans bumming the streets due to the ruthlessness of evil corporate profit-seekers. The study also showed that one-sixth of those jobs would be white collar IT jobs.

We need a more complete picture and perspective of American labor economics to understand the impact of 3.3 million lost jobs. The entire U.S. economy employs 137 million people. One essential part of the labor markets is the constant cycle of creation and destruction. According to the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), it is startling to note that between 1993 and 2002 a total of 310 million jobs were destroyed. But do not fear, 327.7 million were also created for a net increase of 17.7 million.

Compared to the robust U.S. economy, 3.3 million lost jobs spread over 15 years is paltry. In fact, 3.3 million is just 1 percent of the total losses from 1993 to 2002. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has estimated that even with increased outsourcing the economy will still show a net creation of 22 million new jobs between 2000 and 2010. Current unemployment is at a historically low level of 4.7 percent.

The accounting of outsourcing shows a net benefit to America, "MGI estimates that as much as $1.46 in new economic value is created for every dollar spent by American companies offshore ... America, meanwhile, achieves a benefit of at least $1.13 for every dollar spent." Even so, MGI estimates that 90% of U.S. jobs are of a nature that they cannot be done elsewhere.

MGI estimates that U.S. firms save 58 cents for every dollar they spend offshore. Just 5 percent of the wealth created by outsourcing would be needed to re-tool displaced workers for new jobs.

Every U.S. consumer also benefits from lower prices and the ability of companies like Wal-Mart to thrive. When consumers save it gives them greater disposable income to foster demand of even more goods and services, which leads to U.S. firms hiring more workers.

It is logical to assume that globalization is leading to a diminished U.S. presence in the world. But in 1978 American gross domestic product was 25.6 percent of the world's total GDP. Today, American GDP is 30.7 percent of the world total. Every time a trade occurs it creates more wealth for both countries - it is a positive-sum, not a zero-sum game.

The ability of the common American worker to evolve, learn and compete is unmatched. When competition looms we should not fear it but embrace it with the confidence that American workers have always been world's best.

Billy Joe Mills is a senior in LAS. He ate U.S. grown SpongeBob baby carrots while writing this column. His columns appear on Mondays. He can be contacted at

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Affirmative action, self-segregation and reform

Here is some great data and research concerning this debate.

Thanks to Ariel Avila for sending me the link to this comprehensive and interesting data on UIUC's makeup.

Published in the Daily Illini on February 27, 2006.

For hundreds of years, this country tortured its own ideals. This country enslaved, segregated, and punished people of color. The acidic and lingering aftertaste of racism has made necessary efforts to wash it away.

The important question is not whether something should be done, but how it should be done.

Affirmative action has not only failed to bring the socio-economic status of the races to equality, but it has hindered the achievement of a secondary goal: the destruction of racial self-segregation.

Race-based affirmative action carries heavy psychological baggage.

First, when whites in suburban high schools are rejected from our University, their parents call to complain that their kid deserves the spot more than a minority they know nothing about. The effect on minorities could be some sense of self-doubt and curiosity whether they were admitted based on their merits.

Some white students question whether certain minorities deserve to be at the same university as them, simply because of their skin. Affirmative action announces and institutionalizes that there is a distinction between the races.

All of these negative psychological side-effects simply increase animosities between the races and reinforce social self-segregation. Let me be clear, these perceptions are mostly based on the ignorance of whites as to the true and noble motivations for affirmative action. But, in this game perceptions are law.

If we can create a system that preserves current levels of diversity, while at the same time enrolls minorities by race-blind means, we will cut the strings of psychological baggage.

An alternative solution is economic-based affirmative action.
A type of economic affirmative action is already covertly practiced in Florida, California, Washington, and most notably in Texas. It is commonly called “affirmative access.”

This plan draws the top 10 percent, or so, from every high school class and grants them automatic admission to public universities in their home-state. Even in situations where the Ten Percent Plan does not grant admission to a desired level of minorities, the system can be tweaked by considering factors such as the resources available to the student’s school district and the education level of their parents. It guarantees admission to the poorest white rural and black urban students.

Because it is blind and based off of merits, it undercuts the moral and legal arguments of reverse discrimination that come from the far right.

One concern about affirmative access is that minority enrollment will fall. But, at UT-Austin blacks were 4.1% and Latinos were 14.5% of the total student body under affirmative action.

Then, in 1996 the 5th Circuit Court ruled in Hopwood v. Texas that public universities must stop using race as an admissions factor. The year after this ruling black enrollment dropped to 2.7% and Latino enrollment slid to 12.6%. The Texas legislature then crafted the Ten Percent Plan, or affirmative access.

After this Plan black enrollment increased back to its original level of 4.1% and Latino enrollment was nearly at its original level with 13.9%.

A book written by former Ivy-league presidents William Bowen and Derek Bok, called The Shape of the River, exposes that 86% of African-American students are middle or upper-middle class at the 28 universities they studied. Affirmative action tends to favor minorities that have already escaped poverty; economic-based admissions would also remedy this.

Polls were conducted in 2003 around the time of Supreme Court cases challenging Michigan’s affirmative action policies. A Los Angeles Times poll showed that 59% of Americans supported economic affirmative action, while just 26% supported race-based affirmative action. Similarly, a Newsweek poll showed a 65% to 26% split in favor of economic affirmative action.

I think it is hard for us to see that affirmative action has failed. The way we measure diversity is by the statistics of how many minorities are enrolled, rather than the more difficult measurement of social integration. Instead of clutching to social policy with a mediocre track record, we need to begin honest and bold reform. Economic affirmative action in the long-run will dilute racial self-segregation on campus and in America.

Billy Joe Mills is a senior in LAS. His columns appear on Monday. He did his own laundry for the first time this last weekend. He can be reached at

Monday, February 20, 2006

Capitalism, Peace and the Middle East

This article was published in the Daily Illini on February 20th, 2006

What creates peace? What can override the historical human instinct to kill another person because their skin, religion or flag is different? A more powerful instinct: greed.

The annual Economic Freedom of the World study by Columbia professor Erik Gartzke and the Fraser Institute shows an overwhelming correlation between capitalism and peace (

Gartzke found that nations with a low level of economic freedom are 14 times more likely to be in a violent military conflict than nations with a high level.

There are many reasons why capitalism, and not self-righteous alternatives, can produce international peace.

When countries are economically interdependent upon each other via globalization it increases the cost of causing war. If China attacked the United States it would destroy trade not only with the U.S., but also with our allies. China is dependent on us to be a robust market for their exports and we are dependent on them to supply cheap imports. We are further bound by our financial markets, investments, currencies and debt.

It is ironic that many pacifists disdain corporate influence on government policy. It is that influence that would compel Chinese firms to stop its government from attacking the U.S. for fear of losing profits. Self-serving Chinese entrepreneurs will never allow a war with the U.S. Our interests coincide.

Wars used to begin over land. Land used to be the source of wealth for kings and empires. War has always been fought for wealth.

The difference today is that wealth is no longer created from farmland. Rather, abundance is created through the productivity and efficiency of intellectual, physical and financial capital. These things are not attained through war; in fact, they are destroyed.

Capitalism created new channels for human aggression, a new battlefield. War between international corporations has replaced war between countries. Wars of efficiency and CEOs have supplanted wars of bullets and generals. We cannot change the human instinct of greed, but we can change the incentives greed responds to. Capitalism is doing that. It is fundamentally redirecting the pursuits of greed to be non-violent.

The study further states that the top one-fifth of economically free nations have an average per-person income of $25,062, compared to $2,409 for the one-fifth least economically free. Similarly, unemployment is 5.2 percent compared to 13 percent, life expectancy is 77.7 years compared to 52.5 and children's participation in the labor force is 0.1 percent compared to 22.6 percent - all measures favoring free market countries.

Many Islamist attackers are poor and without access to education. Economically comfortable citizens are less likely to turn to violence as an outlet for their frustrations. Further, comfortable citizens are more likely to have access to education, also making them less likely to turn to violence.

The study attempts to tear down the theory that the spread of democracy creates international peace. "When measures of both economic freedom and democracy are included in a statistical study, economic freedom is about 50 times more effective than democracy in diminishing violent conflict."

He further shows that unstable democracies, such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan, are just as likely to engage in war as any other form of government.

The human desire to vote is forceful, but nothing is more powerful than the human need to gain. President Bush has naively focused resources on expanding democracy in the Middle East, but he should focus on spreading the instincts of the capitalist.

After World War II, learning from their prior blunders, the U.S. bombarded Japan and Germany with economic aid and entrepreneurial spirit. Today, the problems of the Middle East call for a modern Marshall Plan to lift the discouraged Islamic people into hope and capitalism.

The Great Peace will not come about because humans suddenly decide to become nice, as the far left wishes us to believe. Ironically, it will come from raw human greed and the unique ability of capitalism to safely channel that craving.

We will conquer the Middle East. But bombs barely penetrate a society's culture - fundamental change must come from capitalism.

Billy Joe Mills is a senior in LAS, and his mom still does his laundry and sends him frozen meals so he won't starve to death. His column appears on Mondays. He can be reached at

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Welcome to the agora

The following is a Point/Counterpoint that appeared in the Daily Illini on February 15, 2006.

Billy Joe Mills

Here is a great archive of historical depictions of Muhammad
POINT: Welcome to the agora

Last week the editor in chief of this paper decided to republish the controversial Danish cartoons that depicted the Prophet Muhammad in many insulting ways.

The cartoons are offensive to Muslims in a way greater than our normal conception of "offensive." They go beyond offensive; they are disgusting and blasphemous. Nearly all editors throughout the world who have printed the cartoons are white Christians who cannot possibly grasp the depth of Muslim sadness espoused by their decisions. This hateful speech is an attack upon a predominantly peaceful religion.

Even so the decision to reprint the articles was correct.

The Danish cartoons caused an asymmetrical response of violence to sweep through the Middle East, people were killed and buildings were burned down.

The cartoons pitted the West's faith in free speech against some of the Middle East's faith in radical Islam. This is exemplified by the Associated Press photo of a Muslim demonstrator carrying a banner reading, "Freedom of Expression is Western Terrorism."

Before being republished, many students on campus did not know the cartoons existed. The simple fact that we are discussing unnerving issues of free speech, censorship, Muhammad, Islam and the West sufficiently proves the newsworthiness of the cartoons. They are inspiring us to debate and to openly exchange controversial and disquieting ideas. Speech that attacks other races or religions should also be printed, so long as that speech can reasonably be said to have some political, intellectual, artistic or emotional value.

If we censor ourselves out of respect and fear of offending, we risk chilling future speech. We must err on the side of speech. If we do not, we allow politeness to domesticate the freedom to speak. If all valuable speech were inoffensive, there would be no need to protect it.

We must allow error and truth to collide, to wage war upon each other. If we are rational, then over time truth will prevail. We should not fear disgusting or offensive speech, because its logic is inherently weak and unable to defeat the logic of truth when honestly challenged by a community of free minds.

But, if we choose to ignore these cartoons then we leave them looming in purgatory, its arguments neither fully alive nor fully defeated. If we elect to censor we allow the erroneous influence of the Dane to remain.

Rather than fearing the speech of this cartoonist, let us confront and torture his ideas. Let us join, Christians, Muslims, Jews and all others, to make his arguments succumb to the better logic of mainstream human progress.

When we allow publication, we allow the Danish cartoonist to freely express himself as an idiot. Allowing the fool to speak is the greatest threat to his ideas.

The cartoons test the limits of our tolerance and commitment to free speech; it can be difficult to see the value of speech that makes good people sick. But, those who seek to censor must show that the harm or offense from publication will be so grave that no remedy can undo the harm, not even more speech.

Censoring speech temporarily silences the symptoms of Islamophobia, but allowing speech will cure the disease. So long as everyone has the opportunity to speak, the marketplace of ideas is self-correcting. Given time, the marketplace itself will censor rotten ideas by triumphing over them.


Brian Pierce

COUNTERPOINT: Rights and responsibilities

The actions of violent protesters of the Danish cartoons reprinted in the DI recently range from hypocritical to blasphemous to deranged. But while the wrongdoings of Islamist radicals outweigh the wrongdoings of this newspaper's editor in chief, Acton Gorton, they do not excuse them.

Those who would argue that Gorton's decision was a brave defense of free speech argue that an editor of a student newspaper who chooses not to reprint these cartoons is inhibiting future free speech. They argue that if the newspaper is afraid to reprint these cartoons, then the newspaper will also be afraid to engage in some other controversial form of speech in the future that might have value.

By this logic, any time controversial speech arises, an editor of a student newspaper should automatically publish it. There can be no considerations over respect or sensitivity, because such considerations run the risk of inhibiting free speech, a value too important to be compromised.

But this very line of reasoning inhibits free speech. If I were an editor and wanted to write a column about why these cartoons are despicable and ought never to be reprinted, I would be restricted from doing so by this principle of automatic publication. Free speech is not just the expression of an idea, it can also be the free choice not to express an idea deemed objectionable.

Some will argue that this situation is different because it involves allowing the newspaper's readership to decide for themselves what's objectionable and what's not. After all, Gorton himself called the cartoons in the accompanying editorial "bigoted and insensitive." He simply wanted to let his readers see the cartoons that had provoked such a furor around the world.

I will not question his motives, though I do believe they are suspect. Taking him at his word, I still call into question the journalistic value of publishing these cartoons. Nothing is lost by linking to the cartoons online and giving readers the choice to view them.

My friend and colleague, Billy Joe Mills, argues that the journalistic value lies in the fact that the reprinting of these cartoons has engaged a number of students and enhanced public debate on the issue. On its face, the argument seems a little silly to me. We should print controversial items so that we can debate whether or not we should print controversial items?

Apathy among much of the student population is considerable and disheartening, and we should always engage in efforts to spark participation and discussion. But we should never be so tempted to shake unengaged people from complacency that we slap an entire religion and community of believers in the face.

Still, some will argue that it is in the nature of a student newspaper to engage in more radical speech than other newspapers. While it is true that different standards apply, it is not in the nature of a student newspaper to reproduce hateful speech simply to spark a debate. And make no mistake, this is hateful speech. These cartoons break an Islamic prohibition against depicting Muhammad, then equate Islam itself with violence and subjugation.

Just as this newspaper has a legal right to publish these cartoons, it also has a moral responsibility not to insult an entire religious community. Both concepts should be vigorously defended.