Author Archive: Kenneth Anderson

EXECUPUNDIT’S POLITICALLY INCORRECT AUTHOR LIST: Following up on my Great Books post featuring the very politically incorrect A.A. Gill.  Why don’t you go to Execupundit and add your own names to the list?


THE GREAT BOOKS ACCORDING TO ME: Starcrossed, by AA Gill.  I do understand that it won that year’s Bad Sex Writing Award, and no doubt deserved.  Imagine the movie Notting Hill – made a good deal more gritty, nasty, cruel, really dirty, and lots, lots funnier, while still preserving Antigone and a weird bittersweet, genuine romance, at the center.  For anyone who has actually read the novel, I know that you’re cringing.  Great book?  Well. A senior editor of the Times Literary Supplement, also a dear friend,  once told me: “Ken, you have such almost exquisite taste.”  “Oh?” I inquired, all coyness and demurity.  “Yes,” he said, “marred only by your fondness for AA Gill.”  And a barely perceptible pause.  “And Mark Steyn.  But you knew that.”

TICK-TOCK, TICK-TOCK: Lawfare’s Robert Chesney points out that the clock is rapidly running on the intersection — collision? — of the War Powers Resolution and the Libyan whatever-it-is.  Update, also from Bobby Chesney: What did Senator Kerry mean, “deferring to NATO”?  I was pretty sure, for nearly all intents and purposes, we are NATO, or at least, there is no NATO there if the US is not there.  And, if your “presence” is a drone, is that enough to trigger the WPR?

THE CAMPUS-CARRY MOVEMENT: Alex Hannaford’s Atlantic article is written much-too-much for the magazine’s bobo audience (i.e. people like me); I’m not wild about it.  It’s transparently condescending, for example, to express grave wonderment that anyone could think that Barack Obama is on the side of gun-controllers – look at all the gun-rights laws he’s passed!! – rather than looking at what he tells those to whom he unburdens his soul about bitter clingers, etc.  It strikes me as at least possible that Jerry Brown has actually changed his minds about guns, at least when it comes to him owning them; Barack Obama, naw.

As to campus-carry, however, I myself am torn.  Beloved Daughter is about to go off to college in Texas, as I mentioned, and she is interested in firearms training.  I am a strong supporter of gun rights – and also think that urban kids like my daughter, who has shot a gun once in her life at age 12 in God’s Own Country (that’s the Owens Valley to the rest of you) and does not come from gun culture, needs a lot of real, honest to goodness training in safety and shooting and how one behaves in situations of self-defence with guns.  That’s a lot more than some on-line gun course, and here’s your license.  I want her to be able to carry – but I want her knowledge and training to be real.

And that’s true for the rest of the campus community.  I understand fully the way in which permits and training requirements are manipulated to be a backdoor route to gun control; I also wouldn’t want my kid carrying a gun unless she had a whole lot of it, and updated on a regular basis.  I want her to come back from school not just owning a handgun as a toy, but competent to use it. (Thanks to reader DM for the recommendation on a training course in our area.)

BUDGET TRAVEL TOOLS for students going abroad for summer school: Budgeting is hard for students anyway, and more so when out of familiar currencies, prices, patterns of spending, and limits on how much money you have.  (Do you think of your kid as Mlle. Moral Hazard or Mr. Too-Beloved-To-Fail?)

INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON ROBOTICS AND AUTOMATION kicks off in Shanghai, and New Scientist is on the case with previews. “While the hot topic at ICRA will be the critical role that robots are currently playing the other side of the East China Sea – exploring and clearing the wrecked reactor buildings at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan – the convention will see details on a fascinating crop of robots revealed, from levitating medical camera bots to droids that can burrow underground on Mars.”

DO COMMON ANTI-ANXIETY DRUGS REDUCE REACTIONS TO UNFAIRNESS?: “In the present study, the subjects were either given the anti-anxiety tranquilliser Oxazepam or a sugar pill (placebo) while playing the Ultimate Game. The researchers found that those who had received the drug showed lower amygdala activity and a stronger tendency to accept an unfair distribution of the money – this despite the fact that when asked, they still considered the suggestion unfair.”

UK ADVOCACY GROUP PROPOSES TO SUE PREDATOR DRONE OPERATORS: Robert Chesney at Lawfare describes the UK group Reprieve’s plans to sue drone operators in a campaign of public advocacy.  As with most of these advocacy campaigns, the point is not to win cases, but to create a public narrative that says the practice is unsavory and illegitimate, and leverage that into personal legal uncertainty for officials, whether in office or once they leave government.  I sound like a broken record on this, but the US government has a remarkable record of allowing others to set the narratives and then discovering that even the US government can get trapped by them.  Drone strikes are the thin tactical tip of certain forms of conflict, particularly in intelligence-driven uses of force, and they will be President Obama’s signature contribution to the art of war.  They are vastly more discriminating than other technologies and sparing of civilians, and it would be a terrible thing if they were derailed because the CIA, DOD, DOS, and the rest of the US government failed to develop its own public narrative.

OSLO FREEDOM FORUM is being livestreamed:  This is what the human rights movement should look like, but doesn’t and never will.  Says the Economist: “A spectacular human-rights festival … on its way to becoming a human rights equivalent of the Davos Economic Forum.”  This whole venture is the brain child of Thor Halvorssen, the remarkable young man who, while still an undergraduate, brought us the most important new civil liberties organization in America in decades, FIRE.  Check out the Human Rights Foundation and consider contributing; it does more good on fewer resources than any organization I can think of.

THE GREAT BOOKS ACCORDING TO ME: The Autumn of the Patriarch, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. This novel in the form of a prose-poem is to my mind the greatest of Garcia’s novels, surpassing even One Hundred Years of Solitude.  The Spanish is magnificent, but as Garcia Marquez has said, so is Gregory Rabassa’s translation.

COASE BARGAINING OVER THE DEBT CEILING AND THE DEFICIT?:  According to Grover Norquist, the Republicans in Congress plan to bargain with the President on a sliding scale.  Writes Norquist at the Corner:  “Second, and this is sheer genius, Boehner has put a sliding-scale price on debt-ceiling increases. Hey, Obama, you want to buy a debt ceiling increase of, say, $2 trillion that would take you past the next election? Fine, the going price is two trillion dollars in real spending cuts. Cannot afford that and hold your spending coaliton in place? Fine, you can buy a month of debt-ceiling relief, worth about $125 billion, for the reduced price of $125 billion in spending cuts. The price of the debt-ceiling hike is the the same amount — or more — of real spending cuts.”

I haven’t quite decided whether this is clever or too-clever by half.  And I’m not quite sure if this bargaining is truly “Coase” bargaining in the fashion of the law and economics final exam my class took yesterday morning; in what sense is one side “paying” the other?  (Over at Volokh, I solicit comments on this last question; general view is that it is not because neither side is bribing the other.  I also ask what you would change in the story in order to turn it into a Coase situation.)

LONG WAR JOURNAL: Keeping track of US air strikes in Pakistan. There are limits on the robustness of the data, as LWJ explains at the site, since much of it can’t be corroborated by independent journalists, but Bill Roggio is a crucial source of information. (Actually, I haven’t put that strongly enough.  In this area, for those of us without inside government information, Bill Roggio is an indispensable source of information.)

TODD ZYWICKI:  “As an unaccountable bureaucracy with a single head, the [Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection] will be susceptible to bureaucracy’s worst pathologies: a tunnel-vision focus on the agency’s regulatory mission, undue risk aversion and agency overreach. While a more coherent consumer-protection regime is needed, consumer-protection goals often can conflict with other goals, such as promoting competition, lower prices and expanded choice for consumers; and ensuring safety and soundness.” Read the whole thing at the Washington Times.

SEALS IN THE STYLE SECTION: “For readers, Navy SEALs are superheroes without the spandex,” said Pamela White, a journalist and romance novelist whose pen name is Pamela Clare.”

THIS IS FOR ABBY LINDBERG:  Who plans to study engineering and build our new robotic overlords.

JONATHAN SWIFT’S ADVICE ON WHAT NOT TO DO WHEN YOU’RE OLD: By way of Execupundit.  This is very good advice, I think – I mean, not that I’m there or anything, and certainly I’m never peevish, suspicious, or morose.  I’ll check into this again in several decades and see what I think.

LEGAL THEORY LEXICON: What is legitimacy? (Link corrected now.)