Author Archive: Kenneth Anderson

The Great Books According to Me: The Loser, by George Konrad. The history of the 20th century, Nazis, Soviets, everything, through the eyes of a Hungarian Jew. The exhaustion of a Communist regime by the 1970s: the policeman says wearily, “Don’t be for us.  Don’t be against us.  Just be quiet.”

LAWRENCE WRIGHT ON PAKISTAN’S DOUBLE GAME: “The American romance with Pakistan was over, but the marriage was just about to begin.”

DEVELOPMENT BEFORE SECURITY?: Aidwatch on what happens when you decide to build a long highway as a development project in Afghanistan, before the area is secured.

DANGER ROOM: At the end of this week, I’m with Spencer Ackerman on this.

And while I’m at it, I’m sorry I didn’t go celebrate in front of the White House last Sunday night.  I have zero patience for the “every man’s deathe diminishes me” meme, au courant in some (and some surprising) quarters; it is untrue and a disservice to the concept of justice.  Unjust aggression, unjust war is a form of tyranny, as Michael Walzer wrote in Just and Unjust Wars.

The tyrant does not have to be sitting atop of one as the dictator in power; today the tyrant can be a terrorist who leverages a small bit of actual violence into a massively tyrannical effect, even from a far distance.  And when the tyrant is overthrown, even one at a far distance and in a far country (where he is sheltered and given safe haven by those who are also enemies of ours), we the people rejoice and celebrate in the streets and shout for joy at his downfall and, yes, his death.  Why should we not?

LIKE MANY IPHONE APPS, this one lets you cut down on pedestrians. I tend to think the biggest driving problem these days is the driver not actually looking in the direction the car is moving. Also, not to stand in the way of progress and all but … was it worth the $20 million San Francisco spent on it?

EASTERN SIERRA SUMMER SEASON about to get underway.  The town of Bishop, in the Owens Valley, and the surrounding mountains, both the Eastern Sierra on one side and the White-Inyo Mountains on the other side, are God’s own country; other places, not so much. This year, we will manage to get there for a family vacation before Beloved Daughter leaves for freshman year at Rice University.

IRWIN STELZER predicts a coming Euro-zone crackup: it’s a fine, short, and brisk analysis of the political economy of the EU.  The cold facts, says Stelzer, are these:

  • Greece, Ireland, and Portugal are now frozen out of credit markets. The yield on Greek two-year bonds is 24 percent and on both Irish and Portuguese bonds of similar maturity around 12 percent. No country can afford to borrow at those rates. Of interest to the White House and Congress might be the speed with which the markets move: Interest rates charged on Greek debt increased by 10 percentage points in the past month.
  • The debt burden on these countries is in excess of the 90 percent of GDP that scholars now agree stifles growth. Portugal’s debt is at 90 percent of its GDP and rising, Greece’s is approaching 150 percent, and “Ireland’s debt now appears to be bigger, in relation to its economy, than the reparations imposed on Germany after the First World War,” according to economist Anatole Kaletsky.
  • These economies cannot grow their way out of the problem. The Greek economy shrank at an annual rate of 4.5 percent last year and is forecast to decline this year at 3.2 percent. Portugal’s will shrink at an annual rate of 1.5 percent, guesses the International Monetary Fund. And Ireland, despite a robust export industry and a corporate tax rate of 12.5 percent that, at half the EU average, remains attractive to foreign investment, might eke out growth of 1 percent. No way these growth rates produce enough tax revenues to meet debt obligations.

One of the many problems of the risk models used in the run-up to the debt crisis was the assumption of smooth, continuous rises and falls in the price of debt.  But institutions, whether firms or sovereigns, tend to grow incrementally, financial instrument by financial instrument – and crash by institution.

JANE EYRE: So, okay, shoot me, I wasn’t looking forward to two hours of Jane Eyre in the movie theater on Mother’s Day, not even with Beloved Wife and Daughter.  Increasing skepticism as the theater filled with nearly all mothers and daughters.  But it was terrific.  I really enjoyed it.

(Even with pretty much the only other guy in the theater seated two seats away – this enormous guy came into the theatre with a cooler, and midway through the movie proceeded to pull out a family size bag of doritos and consume the entire crunchy, crunchy, far more crunchy than popcorn, bag while slurping from a big bucket sized thermos, followed by some kind of cookies. I was distracted from the Divine Waifiness of Mia Wasikowska on-screen because a part of my brain could not help but calculate the calorie intake of the human cookie monster next to me. There is a reason I hardly set foot inside a movie theater.)

DALE CARPENTER: Is there a rising tide of GOP opposition to a Minnesota state constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage?  Republicans won last fall “on promises to balance the budget, limit taxes and spending, and make the state more business-friendly. Social issues were almost totally absent from the campaign. Nevertheless, a constitutional amendment excluding gay couples and their families from marriage has been making its way quickly through the Minnesota legislature. If approved, it would go on the ballot in November 2012 in a popular referendum, where it would have to get a majority of all votes cast in a high turnout year. It had seemed the amendment would sail through the state legislature. But now it faces rising Republican opposition.”

SECRETARY CLINTON, CALL YOUR LAWYER: Positions the US government needs to defend in its legal defense of the OBL targeted kill. The questions that AG Holder needed to address, but didn’t, and that State Department spokesman Mark C. Toner thought should be discussed … somewhere other than the Department of State.

Assessing the regulation of systemic risk in the financial system: Duke University’s Steven L. Schwarcz (with whom I’m co-authoring a book on financial regulation reform) gives a clear, short statement of where we are today.  It is an address, rather than an article, not too long … and it makes sobering reading.

DAVID ZARING:  How’s the Implementation of Dodd-Frank Coming Along?  Not well, apparently.

SECRETARY CLINTON, CALL YOUR LAWYER:  John Bellinger, who was Harold Koh’s predecessor as Legal Adviser to the State Department, asks why the administration has not more clearly laid out its legal rationale for the OBL raid.  “Perhaps assuming that everyone will applaud the killing of Bin Laden, Administration officials have confined themselves to stating that the killing was justified in self-defense and to providing facts to support their argument (with which I agree fully) that Bin Laden posed a threat. But these general statements are not the same as detailed explanations as to why the Bin Laden killing was lawful under both domestic and international law.”

The Great Books According to Me: Arthur Rex, by Thomas Berger.  This witty and profound reflection on the virtues needs to reissued, including on Kindle.

LINDA CHAVEZ: Reward, Don’t Punish CIA Interrogators. So the administration takes a victory lap thanks to the CIA – while not ending the investigations?

THE CRUELTY OF HALF-MEASURES: The Chicago Tribune on the no-exit strategy in Libya.  The “war has settled into an inconclusive slog that could go on a long time.” That’s for sure.  The morally pure Europeans won’t admit to aiming at Gaddafi, but instead indulge the mendacious fiction that they merely targeted “things” in the mansion and not a person.  When they attack the “things,” they go for half-measures, miss the dictator and kill the kids instead. Gaddafi responds by shelling Misrata, creating pretty much exactly the slaughter of civilians that the intervention was supposed to prevent.

The Great Books According to Me:  The Red and the Black, by Stendhal. This is the only novel that really matters in all the history of the world, and I confess I have been in love with Mathilde de la Mole since I was fourteen; luckily I married her.  Happy Mother’s Day, Jean-Marie, and all other mothers.

Inevitability of Greek Default on Sovereign Debt: “The trading patterns of Greek bonds indicate that traders expect a restructuring, and they think it will be messy.” And note to International Business Transactions law students – choice of law and forum clauses matter.  “Greece’s negotiating position is improved by the fact that about 90 percent of its outstanding bonds specify that Greek law will determine any disputes — and of course Greece can change its laws if needed.”

China’s Neorealist Regret at OBL’s Demise: “When Washington shifted its focus toward terrorism and the Middle East after the September 11 attacks in 2001, Beijing experienced genuine relief. As China’s leaders and strategists came to believe, an America distracted by two wars and a weak economy presented a priceless window of opportunity for China to extend its influence in Asia and beyond. But Beijing realizes that Washington’s strategic attention will eventually turn eastwards, and the death of bin Laden is one small but significant step in hastening the arrival of that day.”

What Is the US Government’s Legal View of the Armed Conflict Against Terror Groups?: At Opinio Juris, a discussion trying to fairly describe the US government’s position.  From a legal standpoint, what are the extension, duration, and adversaries in the conflict with Al Qaeda and parties under the AUMF? The comments are illuminating, too.