Talking Treason

The U.S. Constitution defines “treason” as follows (Article III, Section 3):

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.

It’s not the only possible way of defining treason, but it’s the legally accepted definition of treason in the United States. Treason is a crime, and like all crimes, those accused of it enjoy a presumption of innocence until proven guilty in a court of law. Since it’s a capital crime, punishable in principle by death, the presumption of innocence matters even more than it ordinarily would, not that the presumption is any less applicable to non-capital crimes.* Continue reading

503+ Boots on the Ground and Counting

No comment on this item except to say “I told you so”:

More flexibility for American commanders appears to be coming. Representative Mac Thornberry, Republican of Texas Republican and the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, told reporters Wednesday that he expected the White House to remove “artificial troop caps” in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The current “force manning level” for Syria sets a limit on the number of American military personnel in Syria at 503. But the limit does not count temporary reinforcements, like the roughly 400 personnel who were deployed in Syria when the Marine artillery battery and Army Rangers were sent to the country.

There was another telling indication on Wednesday that American Special Operations would continue to play an important role. Col. Jonathan P. Braga, the chief of staff of the Joint Special Operations Command and the former deputy commander of Delta Force, has been named as the next senior operations officer for the American-led command that is leading the campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Surely you remember President Obama’s “no boots on the ground” promise (“promise”)? It took less than three years for the promise to evaporate and be forgotten. Continue reading

Reviewing Terrorism

Since Irfan and I have been discussing terrorism lately, I was intrigued by the recent review in Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews of Vicente Medina’s Terrorism Unjustified: the Use and Misuse of Political Violence (http://ndpr.nd.edu/news/terrorism-unjustified-the-use-and-misuse-of-political-violence/). The review strikes me as a bad review in a number of ways, but, probably unintentionally, illustrates what seems to me to be the relatively sterile character of debates about how to understand ‘terrorism.’

Continue reading

John Davenport: The Case for a Constitutional Convention

My grad school friend John Davenport (Philosophy, Fordham) has an interesting essay up at the GPS site, well worth working through, on the need for a constitutional convention to amend the U.S. Constitution. I don’t have the time to comment on it at the moment, so for now, I’ll just commend it to your attention. Feel free to comment either here or there.

“GPS,” incidentally, stands for Gotham Philosophical Society, a quasi-academic philosophical society based in New York, and founded and run by my friend and erstwhile Felician colleague Joe Biehl. I wonder whether Joe’s work for GPS might be fodder for Derek Bowman’s Free Range Philosophers project; in any case, it’s a valuable and much needed contribution to intellectual life in the NYC metro area.

Stephen Hicks on Islamic Terrorism: A Response

Stephen Hicks (Philosophy, Rockford University) has an article up at his website, also published elsewhere, on “How to Tame Religious Terrorists,” meaning, essentially how to tame Islamic terrorists. Below I’ve posted a long comment I wrote in response. I’ve added hyperlinks in the version below, and added a clause to one sentence to clarify its meaning (“as is typically done in the United States”).

It should go without saying that my point is not that all Islamic terrorism can be justified as a legitimate response to real grievances (it can’t), but simply that some Islamic terrorists (and would-be terrorists, or sympathizers with those terrorists) have real grievances. One way (though not the only way) of “taming” terrorism would be to reduce the number of real grievances they have, especially when we ourselves are the direct or indirect source of the grievance–as in the Israeli case, we are. Continue reading

Immigrants and Slaves

I have zero admiration for Ben Carson, but even Ben Carson deserves better than the criticisms that have been made of his first speech as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Ben Carson’s first full week as secretary of Housing and Urban Development got off to a rough start on Monday after he described African slaves as “immigrants” during his first speech to hundreds of assembled department employees. The remark, which came as part of a 40-minute address on the theme of America as “a land of dreams and opportunity,” was met with swift outrage online.

Mr. Carson turned his attention to slavery after describing photographs of poor immigrants displayed at the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration. These new arrivals worked long hours, six or seven days a week, with little pay, he said. And before them, there were slaves.

“That’s what America is about, a land of dreams and opportunity,’’ he said. “There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less. But they too had a dream that one day their sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, great-grandsons, great-granddaughters, might pursue prosperity and happiness in this land.”

Carson’s remarks elicited widespread “outrage” for his supposed failure to observe the fact that immigrants migrate by choice to a country of their choice, whereas slaves are seized by force, transported by force, and sold involuntarily into forced labor. The implication of the criticism would appear to be either that Carson was unaware of the distinction between voluntary migration and the forced nature of slavery, or that he was aware of it, but minimized the distinction so as to make slavery seem less bad than it really is. Unfortunately, both criticisms are absurd, as is the outrage itself. Continue reading

Reason Papers vol. 38:2 now available

I’m happy to report that Reason Papers vol. 38:2 (Winter 2016) has just come out online. The journal is published in a Free Open Access format, so the content in it can be accessed for free without a subscription or registration. If you want to access individual articles, use this link, which takes you to the journal’s Archive page (you may have to scroll down a few clicks). If you’d rather read the whole issue as a single PDF (131 pages), try this link.

The issue begins with a Symposium on Andrew Jason Cohen’s 2014 book, Toleration; the symposiasts are Emily M. Crookston (Philosophy, Coastal Carolina University) and David Kelley (Atlas Society). Danny Frederick has an Article on the nature and definition of “freedom”; Gary Jason (Philosophy, Cal State Fullerton) has the first of a multi-part series on the memorialization of genocide in film. The issue ends with three longish review essays: Richard Salsman (Political Science, Duke) reviews three books on the American founders; Kanan Makiya (Islamic and Middle East Studies, Brandeis) reviews a recent English translation of the late Sadik al Azm’s Self-Criticism After the Defeat, an analysis of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War; and Salim Rashid (Economics, Universiti Utari Malaysia) reviews Timur Kuran’s celebrated book, The Long Divergence: How Islamic Law Held Back the Middle East. Continue reading

D.F. Kripke on the Use of Sedative-Hypnotics: A Query

Here’s a question for any PoT readers who are physicians or who otherwise have experience prescribing sedative-hypnotics (aka, “sleeping pills”):

I’ve been working through D.F. Kripke’s paper “Mortality Risk of Hypnotics: Strengths and Limits of Evidence,” which claims that “hypnotics cause huge risks of” premature death in those who use them. In many ways, the paper strikes me as a methodological disaster area (here’s a cogent critique), but I’m curious what any physicians/prescribers out there think about two of the anecdotal claims Kripke makes about physicians who prescribe sedative-hypnotics. Continue reading