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Archive for May, 2015

Our Kind Has Had it Relatively Easy

[ 10 ] May 31, 2015 |
Marcus Aurelius Denarius2.jpg

“Marcus Aurelius Denarius2” by Rasiel Suarez – Tantalus Coins, uploaded by Rasiel Suarez. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikipedia

If you’ve managed to accumulate a few quatloos as the result of a successful gambling/drinking binge, you might want to toss a small portion of your ill-gotten gains at long-term-ally-of-the-blog Lance Mannion.


Beau Biden

[ 20 ] May 31, 2015 |


As many of you know, Beau Biden was one of the two children who survived the crash that killed his mother and one-year-old sister in 1972. Joe Biden’s attitude, in light of what he’s been through, is quite remarkable. It’s terrible that he has to go through losing another child.


[ 51 ] May 31, 2015 |
Armata MBT

“4mayrehearsal 05” by Vitaly V. Kuzmin – Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

I spend my days thinking about tanks, when I’m not thinking about T-ball:

Russia has a new tank… maybe.  Several National Interest articles have followed the development of the Armata family of armored vehicles, a system that breaks with long-term Russian tradition in construction, design, and (probably) means of employment.

How much should the United States worry about the Armata, and where should that concern lie?  The impressive nature of the tank notwithstanding, the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps are unlikely to encounter it directly on the battlefield.  The bigger questions involve how the Armata might change the global market for armored vehicles, and how the tank might become part of the arsenals of Russian proxies.

Travels with Erik (II)

[ 57 ] May 30, 2015 |

So I’m at the Fighting Inequality conference in DC, which is mostly a labor history conference. I see a paper by a young scholar you many know named Steven Attewell and it’s really good. I give a paper saying the IWW free speech fights were a disaster and it goes over well with the right people, even if those who romanticize radicalism don’t care for it. Great. And then I start walking around. Now I’m going to have a post about my visit to the Smithsonian later, so I’ll save that. But later this evening, I’m back at my hotel in Arlington (conference is at Georgetown so I can walk). And I’m looking for a bar. And while searching for it. I see a historical marker. What does it say?


Oh. Well then.

Here’s the garage.


I was going to wander around the garage and pretend to be, well not Felt or Woodward because gross but someone else, but then I thought I’d be seen as some sort of creepy parking garage stalker guy like in an episode of Hunter or Simon & Simon. So I didn’t. But I would like to say that randomly stumbling on this while searching for a bar justifies an entire lifetime of drinking. And good on Virginia for recognizing this with a marker.

Our Moral Betters, In Context

[ 232 ] May 30, 2015 |

Orin Kerr:

If I understand the history correctly, in the late 1990s, the President was impeached for lying about a sexual affair by a House of Representatives led by a man who was also then hiding a sexual affair, who was supposed to be replaced by another Congressman who stepped down when forced to reveal that he too was having a sexual affair, which led to the election of a new Speaker of the House who now has been indicted for lying about payments covering up his sexual contact with a boy.

And let us not forget the youthful indiscretions of Henry Hyde, Dan Burton, and Helen Chenoweth.

My opinion has always been that being a good spouse and being a good public official have pretty much nothing to do with one another. But if you’re going to make lies about sexual infidelity an impeachable offense…

Dennis Hastert was forced to stand in line at the bank at least 106 times to withdraw hush money in cash

[ 202 ] May 30, 2015 |


The SPECIAL FEBRUARY 2014 GRAND JURY further charges:

The allegations contained in paragraphs 1(a)-1(l) of Count One of
this Indictment are realleged and incorporated herein.

Beginning no later than July 2012, and continuing until on or around December 6, 2014, in the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, and elsewhere, JOHN DENNIS HASTERT, defendant herein, did knowingly and for the purpose of evading the reporting requirements of Title 31, United States Code, Section 5313(a) and regulations prescribed thereunder, structure and assist in structuring transactions at Old Second Bank, People’s State Bank, Castle Bank and Chase Bank by withdrawing and causing the withdrawal of $952,000 in United States currency in amounts under $10,000 in separate transactions on at least 106 occasions; In violation of Title 31, United States Code, Section 5324(a)(3).

Who is the real victim here?

Seriously now:

I realize Hastert isn’t a lawyer, but how does a guy who was at the top of DC food chain not realize that this isn’t going to work?

What happened is that Hastert started withdrawing $50K in cash at a time to pay off his extorter. Protip: if you’re going to cover up malfeasance via cash transactions, bone up on your banking laws first. Banks have to report cash transactions of $10K or more. So after Hastert took out more than that on several separate occasions, bank officials had a chat with him (He had the legal right to make such withdrawals, but part of the banks’ reporting obligations is to try to figure out why the nice old man down the street keeps coming in every second Thursday with a suitcase and asking the teller to fill it with $50,000 in unmarked bills).

After it’s explained to him that the bank has an obligation to report these transactions to the IRS, Hastert gets the bright idea that he’ll just go to the bank a lot more often, and take out slightly less than $10,000 each time. They’ll never catch him now! Except the federal government also has a rule that structuring transactions with malice aforethought to avoid the reporting requirements is illegal.

On top of all that, lying to the feds about why you keep taking out suitcases full of cash from your many different bank accounts is also a crime all by itself.

Again, how does someone like Hastert not know this already? In particular, how does he let himself be interviewed by the FBI without his lawyers there?

I guess there’s a pretty obvious answer, under the circumstances, to the second question.

I’ll Crawl Home to Her

[ 58 ] May 29, 2015 |

It’s rare that a song grabs me by my throat and doesn’t let go. It’s a choke I welcome.

What’s the last song that grabbed you and didn’t let you go?

Our Moral Betters

[ 135 ] May 29, 2015 |


The unassailable moral greatness of the people who wanted Bill Clinton impeached over a blowjob remains striking:

Indicted former House Speaker Dennis Hastert was paying an individual from his past to conceal sexual misconduct, two federal law enforcement officials said Friday.

One of the officials, who would not speak publicly about the federal charges in Chicago, said “Individual A,” as the person is described in Thursday’s federal indictment, was a man and that the alleged misconduct was unrelated to Hastert’s tenure in Congress. The actions date to Hastert’s time as a Yorkville, Ill., high school wrestling coach and teacher, the official said.

“It goes back a long way, back to then,” the source said. “It has nothing to do with public corruption or a corruption scandal. Or to his time in office.” Thursday’s indictment described the misconduct “against Individual A” as having “occurred years earlier.”

Asked why Hastert was making the payments, the official said it was to conceal Hastert’s past relationship with the male. “It was sex,’’ the source said. The other official confirmed that the misconduct involved sexual abuse.

Kentucky and the APAC

[ 1 ] May 29, 2015 |
Toyota carlogo.svg

“Toyota carlogo” by Unknown – Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

The first in a series of posts looking at the relationship between the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the Asia Pacific is up at the Diplomat:

TMMK came to Kentucky during a period of stress between Japan and the United States, with Washington making near-constant complaints about Japanese trade practices. The wounds of World War II were fresher in the 1980s than they are today. The Kentucky state government pushed hard against this tide, making clear that Toyota was welcome in the area. Indeed, many argued that it pushed too hard; the inducement package produced protests, and became a key issue in the 1987 Kentucky gubernatorial campaign.

How to Make the TPP Work for Workers

[ 13 ] May 29, 2015 |


David Dayen talked to me about Out of Sight and how to create a global system of workers rights. An excerpt:

Loomis, who also writes for the liberal blog Lawyers, Guns and Money, masses an impressive amount of examples of the current appetite among multinational corporations for a race to the bottom, from Haitian wage theft to factory disasters in Thailand to the destruction of subsistence agriculture in Mexico to forced labor on shrimp boats to “sacrifice zones” where corporations deposit their toxic waste around the world. In each case, Loomis challenges the conventional wisdom that workers abroad benefit from making clothes or electronics for multinational corporations by raising their living standards, however meekly. In reality, this is outweighed by the massive environmental and health burdens ravaging their communities, and the awful conditions under which they toil.

His solution has resonance amid the TPP debate. “Workers should have the right to sue their employers or the companies contracting with their employers,” Loomis writes, “regardless of where the site is located.” Without this key feature, corporations will simply gravitate to the lowest-cost site for their factories and continue to abuse workers for profit.

This is a clever spin on what we see now with modern trade deals. They almost universally feature investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), where companies can appeal to extra-judicial tribunals, presided over by corporate lawyers who may have worked for that corporation at one point, and sue for “expected future profits,” lost when countries change regulations and violate the terms of international trade agreements. Trade negotiators claim this is critical to protect foreign investments from discrimination by host governments.

Workers don’t have the same privilege. They can’t appeal to some international body when they experience abuse, even if it violates trade deals. Unions and non-governmental organizations must appeal to a government to make claims against other countries, and that process simply hasn’t worked. Loomis’s idea would initiate a worker-state dispute settlement, or WSDS, giving workers direct access to sanctioning unlawful activities, rather than routing them through a third party. “This is not about turning our back on international agreements,” Loomis said. “It’s about making them serve us instead of serving corporate interests.”

How did baseball’s milestone marks get created?

[ 209 ] May 29, 2015 |


Specifically, why is a player’s 3000th hit such a big deal, and when did it become one?

Over the next couple of weeks, Alex Rodriguez will provide an excellent example of the arbitrariness of the career milestones that occasion different levels of media attention.

Rodriguez is about to drive in his 2000th run. He will be only the third player, after Aaron and Ruth, to do so (if you don’t count Cap Anson’s years in the National Association as major league stats, which I don’t because he was a bad guy).

Meanwhile, he’s also about to become the 29th player to get 3,000 hits. The latter achievement is going to get a lot more media attention, because somewhere in the distant past (apparently shortly after Sam Rice retired while 13 hits short) 3,000 hits became The Official Mark of Baseball Greatness. How and when did this happen?

A similar thing happened (quite a bit later I’m guessing, since only two three players had reached the mark prior to 1960) with 500 home runs. In the pre-internet days, when we had to walk five miles to school through six-foot snowdrifts, and baseball statistics were primitive and hard to come by, those were the two milestones that counted. (For pitchers it was and remains 300 wins, probably because 300 is 3000 divided by ten).

Relatedly, I was a fanatical baseball fan and something of a baseball stats geek as a teenager in the 1970s, and I literally don’t remember hearing anything about Aaron passing Ruth to become the all-time RBI leader, which according to the record books happened sometime early in the 1975 season (Of course Aaron’s 715th home run the year before was one of the biggest sports stories ever).

A side issue in all this is the extent to which the steriod era has or is going to destroy the magic of 3000/500 in the mind of the members of the BBWA, who control the politics of glory, in re the Hall of Fame.

. . . in comments, several people argue that RBI are context-dependent in a way that hits aren’t, and that therefore the career hits leaderboard is a better measure of greatness than the list of career RBI men. Except:

Top ten RBI leaders who aren’t in the 3000 hit club:

Al Simmons
Frank Robinson

Top ten hits leaders who aren’t in the top 29 in career RBI (equivalent to career 3000 hit list):

Eddie Collins

Obviously the second group is made up of great players, but just as obviously career RBI is a better proxy for all-time greatness than career hits.

Foreign Entanglements: Indonesia’s Burning Boats

[ 0 ] May 28, 2015 |

On the latest episode of Foreign Entanglements, I speak with Natalie Sambhi about Indonesian politics and foreign relations:

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