Congress and Syria

So nice - in one sense* - to be talking about whether Congress should authorize the use of force and to think the outcome actually might matter.  But now that Congress is in the driver's seat, I encourage you to participate in the democratic process by contacting your representative and letting him/her know your opinion on … Continue reading Congress and Syria

Thoughts on President Obama’s Speech on Syria

In many ways, Presidents Obama's speech reflects well on him and his administration. Indeed, I think it was among his best since it wasn't just about relatively meaningless sentiment but a nice mix of political thought and policy detail.  Plus it is the right thing to do regardless of how we feel about the particular case at hand.  … Continue reading Thoughts on President Obama’s Speech on Syria

We Interrupt Our Syria Coverage to Again Talk Kitties

No, this isn't about Jason's righteous holy war against feral cats, here and here.*  But kittens do enter into the best paragraph I've read today.  The context for it is the New York City mayoral race.  Apparently the NYC subway was recently shut down for 90 minutes to protect two little kittens that were on the tracks.  The … Continue reading We Interrupt Our Syria Coverage to Again Talk Kitties

Even the MSM?

The Washington Post Editorial Board has offered some stern advice to President Obama. They note that even if the president could get away with  unilateral action, “the Constitution grants Congress the exclusive right to declare war.” While the President may claim authority to act, “the legal authorities his administration has informally cited are slender indeed … Continue reading Even the MSM?

Democrat Congressman Jerrold Nadler Nails It!

As reported in the Weekly Standard, Nadler announced this today: The Constitution requires that, barring an attack on the United States or an imminent threat to the U.S., any decision to use military force can only be made by Congress -- not by the President.  The decision to go to war -- and we should be clear, … Continue reading Democrat Congressman Jerrold Nadler Nails It!

John Fund on Obama, Congress, and War

Great piece by John Fund today highlighting a lot of themes we've discussed here in relation to the war in Libya and the potential for war in Syria.  This section and the point by Marsh just left me stunned: Oh my, how liberals have learned to love the imperial presidency they used to so scorn when … Continue reading John Fund on Obama, Congress, and War

Mr. President, Remember When You Said This About Military Strikes? (Time Does)

Time magazine reminds us that President Obama had this to say about the use of military force back in 2007 when he was candidate Obama: In 2007, Barack Obama was asked when Presidents have the authority to launch a military strike without congressional authorization. He had a precise answer at the ready. “The President does … Continue reading Mr. President, Remember When You Said This About Military Strikes? (Time Does)

The Least that Obama Should Do

I would oppose the use of military force by the U.S. against Syria no matter the process that the administration uses to justify/initiate any act of war.  It simply isn't in the national interest for the U.S. to get involved in a civil conflict such as this one.  But even if you think it is important for … Continue reading The Least that Obama Should Do

Can Congress Hear the Drums of War?

There seems to be little question that we are heading, once again, toward military intervention in the Middle East. Even if we assume that (1) chemical weapons were used on civilians in Syria, and (2) Assad is fully responsible for their deployment, is there a strong case for US intervention? Love or hate Patrick Buchanan … Continue reading Can Congress Hear the Drums of War?

Reagan Comparatively Defends the Shah – Not His Best Moment

I happened upon this video clip in the midst of some research on another subject.  Despite the Cold War and the box that was (is) the basic hegemonial worldview of American elites then (and now), it would have been nice if Reagan had chosen the option of unabashedly criticizing both the fundamentalist regime then in place and the Shah's brutal government.  Here it is (including the … Continue reading Reagan Comparatively Defends the Shah – Not His Best Moment

Privacy Rights in New Hampshire

New Hampshire has an abnormally strong regime for the protection of privacy rights. It extends from strong wiretapping laws to laws prohibiting the retention of personal information in government databases against the consent of the individual. While getting my driver's license in Claremont, N.H. yesterday, I snapped this photo, which got memed by the Free … Continue reading Privacy Rights in New Hampshire

College Ratings. More Bad News for Academics?

In the past, there have been a number of Pileus postings on graduate school and the state of higher education (here, here, here, here, here, and here). Today’s installment focuses on President Obama’s new proposal for a  rating system “to evaluate colleges on tuition, the percentage of low-income students, graduation rates and debt of graduates” … Continue reading College Ratings. More Bad News for Academics?

Sen, Nozick, and “Breaking Bad”

A moral dilemma from the popular TV show "Breaking Bad" illustrates a critique Amartya Sen made of Robert Nozick's Anarchy, State, and Utopia and the reason why the refutation fails. In On Ethics and Economics, Sen makes the following critique of Nozick's libertarian philosophy (heavily paraphrased because the book has yet to be unpacked, and … Continue reading Sen, Nozick, and “Breaking Bad”

“You’ve had your fun. Now we want the stuff back.”

As you likely know, David Miranda (the partner of Glenn Greenwald, the journalist for the Guardian at the center of the Snowden releases) was detained for nine hours (the maximum allowed under Schedule 7 of the UK’s Terrorism Act of 2000) and had personal items (e.g., laptop, thumb drives, DVDs, cellphone) confiscated. As the Washington … Continue reading “You’ve had your fun. Now we want the stuff back.”

Presidential Election 2012

For those like me who think macro-variables are most important to the outcome of national political campaigns, a new book by two political scientists will warm your hearts (even if you wish the election had turned out differently).  The book, by John Sides and Lynn Vavreck, is titled The Gamble: Choice and Chance in the 2012 … Continue reading Presidential Election 2012

More on New Zealand

Eric Crampton has responded to my commentary on New Zealand (as one of two places with better long-term prospects for liberty than the United States) on his blog, Offsetting Behaviour. In essence, he says he has changed New Zealand from a "buy" to a "hold," citing some recent policy developments of concern. These policy developments … Continue reading More on New Zealand

Breaking News: Otteson to Wake Forest University

[Cross-posted here.]Dear Friends, Students, and Colleagues:I have accepted a new position and will be leaving Yeshiva University. As of September 1, 2013, I will be the executive director of the BB&T Center for the Study of Capitalism at Wake Forest University.This is a tremendous opportunity for me. The Center is beginning its sixth year of existence, having been … Continue reading Breaking News: Otteson to Wake Forest University

Rhetoric, Policy, and the Current State of Affairs

In my policy classes, I begin with a simple question: “What is public policy?” I encourage my students to view policy as a pattern of purposive public action. Public policy is what government does and one must take care to separate these patterns of action from political rhetoric.  Of course, many students seem to resist … Continue reading Rhetoric, Policy, and the Current State of Affairs

Free State or Bust

On Saturday I moved with my family to Lebanon, New Hampshire. I am teaching for a year in the Government Department at Dartmouth College. Although my reasons for leaving my tenure-track job at Buffalo were several, I decided last year to apply almost exclusively to jobs in New England so that I could fulfill (early) … Continue reading Free State or Bust

Population paranoia

I just read an article in the NY Times about Germany's fight against population decline.  For a professional demographer, the article is old news and a bit funny because of all the countries that are facing this problem (which is the whole developed world and some of the developing world), Germany is sort of the … Continue reading Population paranoia

Zimmermania: naming something what it’s not

President Obama did an effective job a couple of weeks ago, I thought, of giving voice to why African-Americans tended to see the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman as a racial incident.  A lot of Americans had been waiting some time for him to say something similar. This past week, author Jesmyn Ward … Continue reading Zimmermania: naming something what it’s not

The War on Drugs and Sentencing Policy

The war on drugs (like most politically proclaimed wars) has been a disaster. Even if you do not consume illegal drugs (I prefer red wine or an occasional glass of Bookers), the cost of the war on drugs should be of great concern.  Incarceration rates have skyrocketed (as have the financial and human costs). With … Continue reading The War on Drugs and Sentencing Policy

Journalists R us

Chris Matthews of MSNBC was defending his network against the idea that they are in bed with the Obama Administration: Well, he agrees with us, and we agree with him sometimes. One might riff on that quote in any number of directions.  I think the most interesting word there is "us."  All people, including journalists, … Continue reading Journalists R us

Obama and Homeownership

President Obama visited Phoenix yesterday to give a speech on homeownership. The promotion of homeownership has been on the agendas of the past several presidents (e.g., George W. Bush and the “ownership society) and much of President Obama’s speech could have been written by HUD secretaries Jack Kemp or Henry Cisneros. While there is little … Continue reading Obama and Homeownership

Concord Police Chief Regrets FSP, ONH Language

Mother Jones has followed up on the story reported here about the controversy over the city of Concord's acquisition of a Bearcat armored truck. The Concord police chief has this to say about the language of the grant citing the Free State Project and Occupy New Hampshire as potential sources of domestic terrorism: While the … Continue reading Concord Police Chief Regrets FSP, ONH Language

Liberty’s Lost Decade

That is the title of the leader in the new edition of the Economist, which devotes quite a bit of space to the ways in which liberty has been sacrificed for security by the Bush and Obama administrations.  A quote: Every intelligence service will impinge on individual liberties—and America’s has succeeded in its main job: … Continue reading Liberty’s Lost Decade

What I’ve Been Reading

Fiction: Delphi Complete Works of Anton Chekhov - one of these massive collections of out-of-copyright works available on e-reader for pennies. Chekhov's short stories are often just sketches of a moment or a state of mind, illuminated in conversation or internal dialogue. But some have sweeping timelines, and their rapid denouements remind me of Maupassant. … Continue reading What I’ve Been Reading

Free State Project Seeks Apology from Concord PD

A few days ago, I mentioned the Concord, NH police department's request for a grant to purchase an armored truck due to the risk of "anti-government...domestic terrorism." The grant specifically named "Free Staters," as well as Occupy New Hampshire, as presenting "daily challenges." Now the Free State Project is demanding an apology from the Concord … Continue reading Free State Project Seeks Apology from Concord PD

A Story of Decline

Fellow Pileus blogger Jason Sorens (along with his collaborator William Ruger) have gained some attention with their “Freedom in the 50 States,” a project that ranks the states based on a number of indicators (see Jason's blog entry here). Although my state of residence, Connecticut, is number 40 in the rankings, there are some long-term … Continue reading A Story of Decline

Suspicious Stuff

The newest revelations regarding the NSA surveillance programs have focused on XKeyscore, described by the NSA as its “widest reaching” system for collecting intelligence from the internet. As Glenn Greenwald notes: “XKeyscore provides the technological capability, if not the legal authority, to target even US persons for extensive electronic surveillance without a warrant provided that … Continue reading Suspicious Stuff