The architect of the Lester H. Swanlund Administration Building- Unteed, Scaggs, Fritch, Nelson, Ltd- did an excellent job in creating a space that fits its occupants. Its Brutalist architecture and black tinted windows complement the behaviors of our institution’s elusive administrators.
An average UI undergraduate student sees the Chancellor twice in his college career: convocation and commencement. There is no meaningful interaction, only massmails that are used to maintain the University’s public relations image. As students with rising tuition and fees, however, we did pay his $350,000 base salary.
At the risk of inflaming the Rainbow Panther brigade, Brian Pierce should simmer down about Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, (”DADT”) at least for a little while. Even the most strident gay rights advocate should be able to see that the progressive cause is facing more pressing national priorities right now, like health care reform and the global economic crisis. Taking up DADT right now would be a distraction that would cost the Obama Administration too much political capital. Read more…
The Supreme Court today refused to hear a case challenging the Pentagon’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. There’s been an enormous amount of frustration in the gay community over the White House dragging its feet on this issue, and it certainly doesn’t help that the Obama administration was urging SCOTUS not to hear this case, arguing that DADT is “rationally related to the government’s legitimate interest in military discipline and cohesion.”
I share the growing fear that the Obama administration has decided to distance itself as much as possible from gay rights issues, and that it has no plans to act on behalf of the gay community unless it is absolutely forced to. It’s hurtful and disappointing and, for a president who has been fairly gutsy on national security and foreign policy, genuinely surprising to me. Read more…
The following essay is my submission for the 2009 Nick Kristof Win-a-Trip Contest. Every year Kristof takes a student with him to Africa on a reporting trip. Of course, I lost the contest. I did not expect to win, but I have delusions of hope in all aspects of my life. Enjoy…
I am a twenty-five year old boy from the suburbs of Chicago. I am a boy, because I have never left the United States. I am a law student at the University of Illinois, but I do not hope or plan to walk a predictable path. In recent months, my legs have grown a festering itch to travel. Aside from a few small gestures, I have done little to help anyone but myself. I now set out to change.
During my undergrad years I accomplished many things that allowed my parents to brag to their friends. I was a columnist for the Daily Illini; I started a blog that has blossomed to host many contributors; I participated in 13 public policy debates; I served on many committees and started a new student organization; I won multiple awards and I finished 3 majors. In law school I worked as former Illinois Governor Jim Edgar’s research assistant and have served on other committees. None of that matters. I used to boast of these things. Today, I do not. Who did I help? Where did I travel? No one and no where. I do not feel shame or guilt; I feel inspired and burning to change.
What makes my perspective unique and interesting? Nothing. But that is my value. There are many people in my generation who have humanitarian ambitions. However, many more people in my generation have chosen the safe life. Many of these people fit my description: white, middle-class and conservative. I grew up among that large swath of Americans who prefer to shop at the suburban Woodfield Mall for five hours rather than volunteer for an hour on Chicago’s South Side.
I see a battle between good and evil in the world, as well as large groups of apathetic gray. I have written a song that conveys this sentiment. I believe in the kind of righteous might that Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy have promoted. I believe in pragmatic idealism and in the humanitarian good of economic development. I went to law school to craft a sword. I have many passions and journalism has always been one. Nick Kristof’s brand of journalism is righteous might.
I recently co-founded a Chicago crime data blog that empirically investigates the ingredients of violent and property crime. Nothing turns me on more than browsing international development statistics. Many scholars have produced great research, but we need more soldiers of good. The brand of journalism that Kristof practices inspires new humanitarians in the developed world. Although praise will sound disingenuous in the context of this contest, I hope to be one of many who follow Kristof’s position in journalism. He travels to the poorest places in the world and puts his family at risk of violence in order to show the most privileged people in the world a naked glimpse of the covert cruelties that still flourish in the blood of developing societies. I hope to do the same this summer alongside Kristof and someday I will do the same even without the good fortune of his aid.
When people ask me how I am doing, I reply, “I’m always good.” I justify the improbability of my claim by explaining that I judge my condition against all human life, not just against my neighbor. I cannot think of a cogent argument for why any single human life should be more valuable than any other single human life. Trivial and artificial boundary lines prevent humanity from efficiently allocating its vast wealth. How much more good would a couple of $700 billion international aid packages do for humans than a couple of $700 billion stimulus packages? Humans are humans. Writers will convince us of this.
My generation dances on a historical fulcrum. Previous generations had substantial wealth, but my generation has enough wealth to create the luxury and the duty to help people outside of our families, our communities and our borders. My grandfather said to me that every one should leave something good for posterity. He left grandchildren and the opportunity for me to become a natural-born world saver. Watch out – I am coming. The soldiers of good are on the march.
Andrew Mwenda, a journalist in Uganda, has an aggressive and unique view of financial aid that flows into Africa. Mwenda created the Ugandan newspaper The Independent after growing frustrated by government censorship of the Ugandan newspaper he had previously written for. The Independent promises readers “Uncensored News, Views & Analysis.” Mwenda is bold and aggressive.
TED holds conferences around the world that invite innovative speakers to present their ideas on a diversity of subjects. Mwenda argues in his TED talk that aid hurts African economic development. Bono attended Mwenda’s talk and he (rudely, I think) interrupted Mwenda. I have not seen a video, but I have read that Bono spent his entire TED lecture rebutting Mwenda instead of reading from his planned lecture. Mwenda’s thesis, if accurate, undermines nearly everything that Bono has devoted himself to in Africa. Andrew Rugasira, Chairman of Good Africa Coffee, wrote an interesting op-ed response in the Financial Times to the confrontation. Rugasira writes, “[T]he Bonos of this world need to listen more and display greater humility to African perspectives on African problems.”
The economic slump got you down? With recent economic news, it’s awful hard to see how much worse things can get. Taxes are going up, spending is down, revenue is down, employment is down, unemployment is up. Is there any bright spot in all this? Yes indeedie doo there is!
Well, first off let’s get on the table that this won’t fix all of your problems, but it’s a start.
Sick of paying high property taxes? Taxes that pay to send her kids to school? His golf course that you never use? The library with the musty books? That black hole of a mass transit district?
The plan: Incorporate your own low-tax municipality! Within months you’ll see business flock to you and residents clamor for housing and you can sit back and bask in the fact that your property taxes are 20, 30 or 50% lower than that guy in that place. Just follow these easy steps! Read more…
Eric Freyfogle is a law professor at the Univ. of Illinois. He teaches environmental law and land use and a smattering of other subjects. I have the good fortune, along with Brandon Ruiz, of having him as a professor this semester. He recently circulated an address he made to the law school’s Board of Visitors. I have pasted it below. I have also pasted my email response to his fantastic essay. His essay concerns whether academics suffer from hyper-specialization and whether the generalist and the grand synthesizer have died. We both agree that rigid departmental distinctions should be destroyed.
Freyfogle’s title aptly alludes to R.W. Emerson’s famous graduation speech entitled, “The American Scholar.” You must read Emerson’s address, if you have not already. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., father of the great Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., described Emerson’s address as America’s “Intellectual Declaration of Independence” from European thought.
The American Legal Scholar
Eric T. Freyfogle
Remarks for Board of Visitors Meeting
University of Illinois College of Law
April 21, 2006
I want to offer today some scattered comments on the state of the legal academy as
I see it, with particular reference to the plight of the law professor as legal scholar.
The situation, overall, is a familiar one. It is the best of times and the worst of times.
Times are good because support for legal scholarship is at an all time high. The scholarly
laborers are many; they are exceptionally able; they are putting in more hours than ever; and
their productivity is prodigious. Read more…
Paul Krugman recently suggested that the root of current economic woes is a glut of investment cash with nothing real to invest in. This leaves us with a purely bubble-driven economy. Now, Thomas Friedman submits that this indicates a fundamental flaw in our entire economic model. I agree with this basic premise, but I think it is still too limited in scope. My theory is that, on a worldwide basis, humanity has just gotten too good at making things. This translates to ever lower demand for both capital and labor to make the same things.
Since I am linking to Thomas Friedman, it seems wrong not to tell a questionable anecdote of the international common man. I was in China in 2001 (which is when the current economic stagnation really started if you don’t count the intervening housing-bubble motivated artificial recovery). Through a series of bizarre events, I and two friends found ourselves as the lunch guests at a family farm in the shadow of the Great Wall. The family owned no tractor, one donkey, and one pig and lived in a concrete-floored three room house. Still, they had a nice-sized TV and DVD player. The farmer remarked that he pretty much had the same income as he’s always had, but that everything had gotten cheaper, especially electronics. Low cost manufactured goods from China have not only been flooding the United States, they have shown up in Chinese markets and markets all over the devloping world. Still, though, China is nowhere near operating at manufacturing capacity. There are still many more people available to work, to say nothing of people all over the world who have no jobs.
So here’s the problem. What do you do when you need only a fraction of the world’s available labor supply to take care of all the world’s needs? What happens when human technology outgrows the economy? Is this actually what’s happening? The symptoms are all there: Unprecedented levels of cheap goods, but with large swaths of the population still poor because they have no jobs such that they could buy even cheap goods. Too many investment dollars perpetually chasing too little actual investment. If this is actually what’s happening, how does it get fixed? I have no answer. The massive scope of the problem implies a solution equally massive in scope.
The economic crisis is pushing nations in two directions: first, inward toward protectionist or isolationist policies; second, toward developing an international system that can respond to and prevent these crises. How we handle these pressures will affect our economy, our security, and the way we think about the world. Read more…
In my previous post on Afghanistan I argued in support of lowering our expectations there and focusing our strategy on eliminating the safe haven for Al Qaeda on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, rather than turning Afghanistan into a prosperous democracy. I also suggested – and there seems to be a general consensus on this point – that the support of the Afghan people is central to winning this war.
It’s been widely reported that President Obama has ordered the sending 17,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. I support that decision, as long as it is made in the context of the strategy I just indicated (we’ll find out if that’s the case when we find out the results of the 60-day Af-Pak strategy review). It’s not at first glance clear how more troops are consistent with such a strategy – it might seem that more troops are necessary only if we’re pursuing a more ambitious strategy, and that a greater, more intrusive American presence is more likely to inflame Afghan popular opinion. That’s definitely the risk that comes with more troops, but this UN report is enough to persuade me that more troops is better than what we’re doing now.
The level of civilian deaths last year was at its highest since the war began. A small majority – 55% – of those deaths were caused by the Taliban, which is good news in the sense that it’s better than if we were causing the most civilian deaths there. But the trouble is that of the civilian deaths caused by us, 65% are a result of airstrikes. Airstrikes are an important tool, but if they’re going to result in large numbers of civilian deaths, they need to be avoided if possible. An increased ground presence will, presumably, at least partially alleviate the need for airstrikes. Our presence will be more pervasive, but the tradeoff is (hopefully) fewer civilian deaths, which is hugely beneficial to our goals there. It also, of course, puts American troops at greater risk, which is why if we’re going to fight this war at all, we need to have clear and realistic objectives so we’re not sending these troops into a quagmire. It’s not yet clear if that’s the case, but hopefully Obama or Gates gives us some indication sometime soon.