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The Sunday edition of the New Hampshire Union-Leader featured a front-page, above-the-fold story on the Free State Project after 10 years in New Hampshire. The story gives a good sense of the wide range of activities, interests, and views of FSP participants who’ve moved to the state. A taste:

“I honestly don’t ever advertise it,” Jody Underwood said. “Every Free Stater is completely different. The only thing you would know about me from it is I moved here to be near like-minded people,” she said. “You don’t know anything about me by knowing that. It seems like a weird label to have.”

Underwood, 54, moved from a Philadelphia suburb to a 210-acre Croydon farm in 2007 with her husband Ian Underwood and another liberty-minded couple, Emily and Neil Smith.

The Smiths wanted to live off the grid, and the Underwoods wanted an adventure.

“We feel that life should be lived with principles and not by letting other people telling people what to do,” Underwood said.

Underwood said she immediately knew she had found where she was meant to be.

“I always felt like a fish out of water” before she moved to New Hampshire “because I wasn’t politically-correct.”

Underwood works at home as a research scientist and software designer. She has also started the Bardo Project, a home and farm intern program for adults of all ages.

Bardo is a Tibetan word meaning “between lives,” but on Underwood’s farm it’s about giving people a break between chapters in their lives so they can find new paths.

She cares about education and now heads the town school board.

For much more, check out the full story.

On Friday the 17th of October I will be speaking at the annual conference of the Josep Irla Foundation in Barcelona, Catalonia. The theme of the conference is “Catalonia’s right to decide.” I will be in town Thursday and Friday and would enjoy meeting with any Pileus readers while I am there. Please contact me at jason.p.sorens AT dartmouth.edu. If you are interested in coming to the talk, here is a program in English, and here are the details:

When: Friday 17th October 2014

Where: Barcelona – The Mirador, Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona

Address: Montalegre, 5 – 08001 Barcelona

Interpretation: English

Since the Scottish independence referendum, the Scottish National Party has seen its membership treble and its poll ratings climb. This boost to pro-independence forces after their referendum failure departs from the script established in previous referendums on autonomy or independence. After the failed 1979 referendum on devolution (due to a turnout requirement – the measure got a majority of votes), the SNP fell back in the polls. After the successful 1997 referendum, the SNP gained in the polls, even though devolution was a Labour-implemented project. After the 1980 and 1995 failed referenda, the Parti Quebecois declined a bit in the polls.

So what’s going on? The biggest reason for the SNP’s gains may be that “Yes” and even some “No” voters in the referendum want to make sure that the Westminster parties follow through on their pledges for even greater devolution. Alex Salmond once said, “It’s only SNP votes that concentrate the minds of Labour.”

To a point, the logic makes sense. The British parties are contesting for power at the center, and party leaders are unlikely to devolve power away from themselves if they can at all help it. A credible secession threat is useful for eliciting concessions.

At the same time, though, there has to be some Continue Reading »

Ten days ago, the Washington Post published an op-ed of mine on whether the United States will ever see a strong secession movement like that in Scotland. I took the “yes” position and also took the opportunity to boost the Free State Project, while also making clear that it does not support secession. While it’s easy to think that current political equilibrium is stable, there are several considerations that make me think the U.S. will eventually (50 years from now, more or less) see a strong secession movement, most of which I mentioned in the piece but some of which I did not, for reasons of space: Continue Reading »

That is Aaron Blake’s advice for the White House (Washington Post): “For the first time since January, President Obama is polling a 50 percent approval rating on an issue: his handling of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.”

The newest WaPo-ABC poll shows 50 percent approve of Obama’s handling of the Islamic State, as compared to 44 percent who disapprove. That’s an improvement from August, when the question referenced only Iraq and not Syria, and 42 percent of Americans gave Obama a vote of confidence.

I might be alone in this, but I was more attracted to the “degrade ISIL to a manageable problem” version of Obama.

Let us grant that ISIL is comprised of some rather evil creatures and they have been quite proud to reveal their propensity to torture and kill innocent people, often in large numbers and on video. One still must make the argument that ISIL constitutes a genuine threat to our national interest that is so significant as to justify the recent (and ongoing escalation). I have yet to hear anyone make that argument to my satisfaction.

Political scientist Stephen Walt (PBS Newshour) seems to have it right:

we have to recognize this is not the Third Reich. This is not an incredibly powerful movement. It has maybe 20,000 fighters, no air force, no navy, basically lightly armed infantry that has been able to expand in stateless area, areas that are stateless in part because we destroyed the states that were governing there.

The advice:

There are lots of groups around the world who would like to be able to go after the United States. Most of them fail. And, in fact, the way to deal with it is primarily with intelligence and counterterrorism here at home.

Gary Brecher (War Nerd) arrives at a similar conclusion, albeit with a bit more swag, when he describes ISIL as “the most overrated, over-hyped bunch of hams this side of WWE… a mid-size Sunni militia with a knack for child-rape and no skills against anyone who doesn’t fall for their death-metal hype.”

If Walt is correct, why is ISIS/ISIL/Islamic State generating such a muscular response? Perhaps because

  1. It feeds into the “Obama’s failed foreign policy” meme. Remember, he is the guy who called them “JV,” before skipping out on his daily briefings to hit the links;
  2. It comes with some striking visuals that took the media by storm in the months usually reserved for shark attacks;
  3. It provides a window of opportunity for the neocons to return from exile and relitigate the Global War on Terror;
  4. Our elected officials are incapable of engaging in serious, sober, well-reasoned debates under normal circumstances, and never when an election is a few months away.

Now that our expanded attack on ISIS/ISIL/Islamic State is delivering the goods in the public opinion polls, one suspects that the current course will be sustained at least until November or the Champaign runs out and Americans rediscover that war produces casualties.

A Fond Farewell

Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. is on his way out the door, and the New York Times Editorial Board has a lengthy farewell. Please read it in its entirety, because you will need to work through ten paragraphs before you arrive at this:

Under Mr. Holder, the Justice Department approved the targeted killing of civilians, including Americans, without judicial review, and the Obama administration fought for years to keep the justifications for such efforts secret. In the zeal to stop leaks of government information, Mr. Holder brought more prosecutions under the Espionage Act than during all previous presidencies combined. In tracking the sources of leaks, prosecutors seized phone and email records of journalists who were doing their jobs.

Maybe it’s just me, but I think this should have been the opening paragraph. Of course, after that paragraph little else would have–or should have–mattered.

Number 7

Glenn Greenwald notes that the bombing targets in Syria marks something of a new record:

Syria becomes the 7th predominantly Muslim country bombed by the 2009 Nobel Peace Laureate – after Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and Iraq.

The utter lack of interest in what possible legal authority Obama has to bomb Syria is telling indeed: empires bomb who they want, when they want, for whatever reason (indeed, recall that Obama bombed Libya even after Congress explicitly voted against authorization to use force, and very few people seemed to mind that abject act of lawlessness; constitutional constraints are not for warriors and emperors).

President Obama gave a stirring speech when he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize. He proclaimed:

I believe that all nations—strong and weak alike—must adhere to standards that govern the use of force.  I—like any head of state—reserve the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend my nation.  Nevertheless, I am convinced that adhering to standards, international standards, strengthens those who do, and isolates and weakens those who don’t.

And

America—in fact, no nation—can insist that others follow the rules of the road if we refuse to follow them ourselves.  For when we don’t, our actions appear arbitrary and undercut the legitimacy of future interventions, no matter how justified.

For those who do not recall President Obama’s remarks at the acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize, you can read them in their entirety here.

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