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He was always thinking of the children

[ 136 ] April 23, 2016 |

I’m not sure Dennis Hastert’s supporters are doing him any favors.

Federal prosecutors portray former House Speaker Dennis Hastert as a serial child molester who agreed to pay millions to cover up his shameful secrets — but former Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay describes him as a man of “strong faith” and “great integrity.

The notorious crook says you’re A-OK? You’re free to go.

“We all have our flaws, but Dennis Hastert has very few,” DeLay wrote to Hastert’s sentencing judge.

And such small portions! Or something.

“He is a good man that loves the Lord. He gets his integrity and values from Him. He doesn’t deserve what he is going through.”

And after the Lord drove out the moneylenders, he did pocket all of the shekels he could grab, for some of the younger disciples were threatening to tell.

Apparently Hastert’s one-man crusade against Title IX is also a good thing?

Leo Kocher, the head wrestling coach at the University of Chicago and an associate professor there, wrote that Hastert helped when the U.S. Department of Education created a strong incentive to eliminate intercollegiate athletic opportunities through Title IX.

“He never said no when it came to his being able to help in any way to stem the senseless devastation of non-scholarship sports opportunities,” Kocher wrote, adding Hastert “was driven in this by pure concern for, and loyalty to, the youth — boys and girls — whose development was at stake.”

Yeah, probably don’t want to mention his concern for the youth.

And from Mrs. Hastert.

“If one of his students or wrestlers ever needed anything of him, he would be there for them, and he was never happier than when he could watch someone he helped succeed,” Jean Hastert wrote.

OK, she’s just trying to get him killed.


The new math

[ 47 ] April 23, 2016 |


For a couple of years now I’ve been engaged in an occasional correspondence with a Well Known Professor at a Well Known Law School. WKP, who has a background in finance, made the mistake of starting to inquire into WKLS’s balance sheet. Aware of my interest in the general subject, he passed on various numbers to me, as part of his attempt to get a handle on what was going on.

What was going on was that applications to WKLS had fallen sharply over the past few years, which in turn had led to significantly lower enrollment combined with significantly lower effective tuition (Effective tuition = sticker tuition minus discounts. WKLS raises its sticker tuition every year, as is commanded by Deuteronomy 28, but it has also massively increased its discounting, so actual per capita tuition is now quite a bit lower than it was).

After running the numbers through a Cray supercomputer, WKP concluded that getting less money per student while having fewer students added up to a lot less money overall. He then enriched his analysis by taking into account that WKLS had gone on a hiring spree over this same time, and thus its full-time faculty was now about 15% larger, while the school’s administrative staff had increased by an even greater percentage. He also analyzed changes in the school’s other source of significant income, gift income (expendable endowment income plus annual giving).

He observed that teaching loads at the school had declined dramatically, as the faculty-student ratio decreased, and lots of faculty members started operating “centers” for this and that, which required course relief (and also lots of new administrators, to help administrate the centers).

WKP: Doesn’t this all mean that we must be losing a lot of money?

Me: Yeah.

WKP: How much would you say, roughly?

Me: Approximately a metric fuckton.

WKP: How long will the central administration let us keep doing this?

Me: Your guess is better than mine.

In the midst of these pleasantries, WKLS hired a new dean. The new dean came in promising to undertake various transformative changes, which would help transform WKLS from its perpetual Semi-Prestigious Status to a new Very Prestigious Status. Such changes included, principally, hiring even more faculty and opening even more centers.

Then one fine day, a year or so into his transformative regime, the dean discovered that the school was going broke. He informed the faculty of this, while at the same time expressing considerable pique that nobody had informed him before he took the job that the law school’s finances were in such bad shape. (This guy’s professional background is in — wait for it — corporate finance).

Me: Didn’t he ask to look at the books before he took the job?

WKP: No.

Me: How about before he promised the faculty that he was going spend a whole lot more money to effectuate synergistic institutional transformations?

WKP: No.

So now the faculty have the sads, and they’re also very mad at the dean for not telling them that if you bring in a lot less money but spend a lot more something bad could happen some day.

This is far from a unique tale. In fact one of legal academia’s charms is that it’s completely routine to put somebody who knows literally nothing about law school finances in charge of a law school’s finances. This in turn is based on the theory that Smart People don’t actually have to anything about something before being put in charge of it, because really how complicated could it be? (And a lot of central university administrators now get chosen in a similar way. As well as the CEOs of lots of big companies of course).

This is all going to end badly.

Everything Is Going According to Plan

[ 154 ] April 22, 2016 |



Vermont’s Senator will win the Democratic nomination, primarily because his competitor can’t even type an email without scandal. It will be interesting to see the nationwide media frenzy once this story hits.

Meanwhile, for those who appreciate the Karl Rove hack classics, we can turn to Seth Abramson, the marginally more highbrow version of HA!:

Experts also noted the impressive performance by Tuesday’s winner on the county level, where she carried 12 of her home state’s 62 counties, with her opponent carrying only 50.

Nothing says “leftier than thou, and thou, and definitely thou” than invoking the “but he won the counties where a minority of REAL AMERICANS live” routine that was popular on Fox News in November 2008.

Reasonable moderate John Kasich has a reasonable, moderate view on whether Washington DC residents should have any political representation in the nation’s government

[ 115 ] April 22, 2016 |


His reasonable moderate view is that no, they shouldn’t, because that would give too many votes to black people Democrats.

When asked his position on D.C. voting rights, Republican presidential contender John Kasich didn’t pretend to draw on any constitutional clause or existing law to explain his stance against it.

Instead, the Ohio governor stated the political reason that many already perceive as the biggest obstacle standing between D.C. and congressional voting representation: Giving D.C. voting representatives in Congress would mean more Democrats in Congress.

“What it really gets down to if you want to be honest is because they know that’s just more votes in the Democratic Party,” Kasich said Wednesday during an interview with The Washington Post editorial board.

Under the circumstances, maybe Kasich ought to consider a little dishonesty. I mean these guys aren’t even trying any more.

I half-expect Zombie David Broder to claw his way out of his unquiet grave to praise Kasich as the moderate choice that America is tragically overlooking.

The Great One

[ 119 ] April 22, 2016 |

Let’s sample some of the better writing the death of one of the greatest American popular musicians ever has inspired. Annie Zaleski:

This penchant for reinvention explains why every concert or tour he announced was such an event, and a must-see one at that. Fans never quite knew what exactly would happen or what form his songs would take on a given night. And because he was against filming his shows, the concerts took on a once-in-a-lifetime feel: Prince’s unexpected covers or tributes (mostly) didn’t go viral or become fodder for online news posts. They felt like a secret, part of his lore passed from fan-to-fan via reviews, message boards and social media. And when he did do high-profile performances—such as 2008 Coachella, where he turned Radiohead’s “Creep” into a wrenching soul-blues number, or the Super Bowl XLI Halftime Show, which occurred in the pouring rain—he just did his thing, nonchalantly and with no desire for external validation.

Yet if there was a David Bowie era for everyone, there was also a Prince for every occasion. He was the life of the party (take your pick—”Let’s Go Crazy,” “1999,” “Raspberry Beret”) and the voice for the entire seduction continuum, from hesitant flirtation on through bedroom boots-knocking (“Do Me, Baby,” “Scandalous,” “Darling Nikki”). At times, he encouraged people to loosen their inhibitions (“Kiss,” “If I Was Your Girlfriend,” “Erotic City”), but he never lost sight of how vulnerability is a gift (“Purple Rain”) and that being unconventional was perfectly acceptable. And, as has been noted many times, Prince was also a prolific songwriter, as influential as fellow Minnesotan Bob Dylan. In fact, the Purple One was the pen behind Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U,” The Bangles’ “Manic Monday,” Sheila E.’s “The Glamorous Life,” Chaka Khan’s “I Feel For You” and Sheena Easton’s “Sugar Walls,” to name a few.

In other words, he not only shaped ’80s music with his own productions—he lent his stamp to the overall sound and feel of the decade, bringing playfulness, soul and seduction to MTV and the radio. And few artists have evolved their sound so seamlessly, and were able to write songs that so flawlessly crossed streams. A quick scan of recent concerts playlists reveals he incorporated snippets of songs by Bill Withers, Isley Brothers, Edgar Winter Group, Ray Charles, Muddy Waters, Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan and Bob Marley in with his own work. Funk, soul, R&B, rock, pop, blues—Prince conquered them all, and in the process created his own borderless genre. Prince’s music always sounded, well, like Prince, a claim that few artists can make.

Definitely read the whole etc. on that one. And this one, from Ann Powers:

“I’m gonna listen to my body tonight” is the key line in the song “1999,” and Prince gave us a new way into our bodies that was brainy, full of feeling and commitedly defiant of categories. In 1981, just before I got up the courage to fully explore Prince’s bikini-clad persona, the New York Times pop critic Robert Palmer heralded his “genuinely biracial musical approach and outlook,” while noting that some rock fans didn’t seem ready for it: Opening for The Rolling Stones that year, Prince was pelted with fruit and bottles, “the suggestions of androgyny in his fluid body movements and flamboyantly minimal stage costume” proving too much for the band’s white fans, despite Prince’s obvious kinship with Mick Jagger himself. As his star rose, Prince continued to frighten the guardians of boundaries. He was number one on the list of artists censured by the moralistic Parents Music Resource Center in 1985, allegedly frightened his record label with the deeply funky and sometimes troubling Black Album in 1987, and was still reveling in libidinal jams like “When She Comes” in 2015.

Prince overcame such prejudices, first and foremost, by crafting a sound that unceasingly moved among sources, interconnecting funk rhythms with glam guitar, Smokey Robinson-esque vocal flexibility with Kraftwerk-kissed robotics, Cab Calloway’s stylish humor with Eddie Van Halen’s peacock flash. Thirty seconds into a song like “When You Were Mine,” “Kiss” or “Erotic City,” a listener’s affective loyalties begin to fall away. At house parties like the one where I did the twist with Pete and on dance floors where his early hits mingled with those of his occasional lover and collaborator Madonna, punks threw off their leather to play with disco dollies and even the classic rockers in the crowd found themselves reaching for falsetto notes.


I will say that he was always reliably fresh in a way that even the most talented non-genius musicians aren’t — after I stopped paying close attention to him in the glyph era, every so often a new AFKAP/Prince tune would pop up and suddenly all would be funky and right. I’m listening to HITNRUN Phase Two now, and with its rock-solid pop values — not just in the way it’s written but in the way it sounds, the way the stings and squeals are placed, the reverb on the flute, the twist of the stomp-box dials — he could have written it 30 years ago. Who knows, maybe he did. But it has no smell of the basement or the retro vault; it’s as new as today. And so is everything he did from I Wanna Be Your Lover onward. Even the cheesy 80s synthesizer and drum pad sounds on the old stuff don’t chain his music to the past. That’s because of his gift, but also because he was always down in it — though he was a great guitarist his real instrument was the recording studio, and he played its variations obsessively and revealed them to be limitless. That’s good to remember at those moments when you get sick of pop music or feel too old to participate and start to believe that what the withered scolds of the past hundred years say is true, that it’s just cheap crap for children; Prince always proves them wrong. We didn’t get tired of him because he never got tired of music. He believed in jazz, rhythm and blues, and this thing called soul; he believed in rock ‘n’ roll.


Every Prince fan has a song that sums up his genius, and for me it’s “The Ballad of Dorothy Parker,” one of the tormented strange-relationship soul laments from his 1987 masterpiece Sign O’ the Times. There aren’t any other songs like this one. Prince is fighting with his girlfriend, so he stomps out and goes to a restaurant to sit by himself and sulk. (“Yeah, lemme get a fruit cocktail, I ain’t too hungry.”) The hipster boho waitress working the night shift picks him up. “You’re kinda cute — wanna take a bath?” For a girl in a Prince song, this is the subtle approach.

They decide to spend the night together but not have sex, so he keeps his pants on in the bubble bath while listening to Joni Mitchell. They trust each other, which is a new and scary experience for him. Hanging out with Dorothy teaches Prince how to be a friend to his girlfriend, so he goes back to her and takes another bath with his pants on. All the fighting stops. Next time it happens, he’ll know what to do.

This song fucked me up in 1987, fucks me up now, never will stop fucking me up. No other male songwriter of his or any other generation wrote songs about women like this. In an alternate universe, Prince retires in 1987 the day after he writes “The Ballad of Dorothy Parker” and he’s still the coolest man who walked the earth.

Prince spent nearly 40 amazing years on the frontlines, as the most maddenly brilliant and unpredictable artist in the game. He built his own pop gospel out of his sexual and spiritual concerns, yet with a voice that was full of intimate affection, pushing farther emotionally than anyone else. When he sang, he came on like kinda sorta your best friend. He made the Eighties’ best single, “Little Red Corvette,” and the decade’s two best albums, 1999 and Sign O’ the Times. He changed how music felt and sounded. The news of his death today, at just 57, is truly heartbreaking because he seemed built to thrive into his golden years, an artist we all expected to remain prolific and independent and stubborn and gloriously himself for years to come. We all deserved a chance to hear Old Man Prince. This is what it sounds like when doves cry.

The sheer breadth of his talents is central to virtually every memorial about him, and for good reason — he was a master of funk grooves, his voice impossibly flexible and soulful, a great songwriter, a remarkable producer, and a guitar virtuoso so hooky whether he was showing off or not was beside the point. His best material combines all of these points — I don’t know how many hundreds or thousands of times I’ve listened to Sign O’ The Times, but moments like the unfathomably ecstatic solo that culminates “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man” will never stop seizing my attention and giving me intense pleasure.

If you’re unlucky enough not to own his stuff and don’t subscribe to Tidal, you can acquire anything between Dirty Mind and Diamonds and Pearls with the exception of the Batman thing and get something excellent-to-great; I guess Times is my very favorite but the whole period is a treasure trove. The Hits/The B-Sides is a pretty well-selected introduction. R.I.P.

Worthwhile Richmond Initiatives

[ 166 ] April 22, 2016 |



Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia will use his executive power on Friday to restore voting rights to more than 200,000 convicted felons, circumventing his Republican-run legislature. The action will overturn a Civil War-era provision in the state’s Constitution aimed, he said, at disenfranchising African-Americans.

The sweeping order, in a swing state that could play a role in deciding the November presidential election, will enable all felons who have served their prison time and finished parole to register to vote. Most are African-Americans, a core constituency of Democrats, Mr. McAuliffe’s political party.

“There’s no question that we’ve had a horrible history in voting rights as relates to African-Americans — we should remedy it,” Mr. McAuliffe said Thursday, previewing the announcement he will make on the steps of Virginia’s Capitol, just yards from where President Abraham Lincoln once addressed freed slaves. “We should do it as soon as we possibly can.”

I’m so old that I remember extensive debates on various social media about whether or not McAuliffe was inspiring enough to be worth supporting…against Ken Cuccinelli. The lesson, as always, is that this way of thinking about elections is really dumb.

The IP Expansion

[ 11 ] April 22, 2016 |
B-2 radar reflection.jpg

By Nova13 – Based on: File:An F-18 Hornet, B-2 Spiri, and two F-16 Fighting Falcons.jpg, Public Domain.


I have an article up at World Politics Review on US diplomatic strategy for intellectual property protection:

Intellectual property: It sounds boring, but its protection has become one of the cornerstones of U.S. economic policy. And now, it may have an impact on how the Pentagon thinks about the future of technology.

In recent years, the big push for international intellectual property protection came about through the concerted action of a group of powerful, well-connected American corporations. These corporations had determined that they could make a great deal of money—or at least stop the loss of a great deal of money—by putting crucial intellectual property protections into international law. Washington has embraced this idea, making intellectual property a central part of every major trade agreement of the past decade.

Bowling Green

[ 9 ] April 22, 2016 |

I’ll be in Bowling Green tomorrow morning for the Southern Kentucky Book Fest. Anyone in or near town is strongly encouraged to swing by; the lineup is always interesting, and I’ll be on an 11am panel titled “History: Battles and Bravery.” It is my understanding that battles and battleships are the only things worthy of historical study, a position that I will attempt to convey with utmost conviction.

The Natural

[ 201 ] April 21, 2016 |

Ted Crud’s latest attack on Trump proves there’s always a bigger bucket of scum.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and GOP front-runner Donald Trump sparred Thursday over North Carolina’s law requiring transgender individuals to use public restrooms that correspond with the sex listed on their birth certificates.

No guesses why!

Trump isn’t transphobic enough for the Creature from Calgary. See, Trump thinks people should use the toilet they want to use and he absolutely failed to paint people who are regularly the victims of assault as perverts who want to rape little girls, and Cruz thinks this is awful.

It should be very hard to be a bigger asshole than Donald T-Rump. But Cruz makes it look easy.

Richard Lyons, RIP

[ 34 ] April 21, 2016 |

Prince isn’t the only great musician to die today. Richard Lyons of the legendary cult band Negativland, RIP.

Regulating Fishing

[ 25 ] April 21, 2016 |


The regulating of international fishing is utterly disastrous, both in terms of sustainability and in terms of labor rights. With the rise of documented cases of slavery in the fishing industry around the world, some are worried that calls to monitor for labor conditions will undermine the already tenuous monitoring for sustainability, claiming that this is an example of the perfect being the enemy of the good. I reject that argument because I don’t think you can have sustainability to the natural world in a society where exploitation within the human species is rampant. Those who are happy to enslave workers are also going to be happy to cheat fishing limits. I think you have to consider them both together. What I found interesting about the linked article is that it is trying to think through some of these problems, but completely ignores what would actually move us toward accountability in both areas, which is holding people higher on the food chain legally accountable for their suppliers. Third-party monitoring and certification are not inherently evil, but they are inherently limited, dealing with a symptom rather that the disease. If you want to stop exploitation of labor and of nature, you have to go higher up the supply chain. It’s only when we start holding the buyers and the stores who buy from them accountable that you see the downward pressure that will actually clean up these practices.


[ 105 ] April 21, 2016 |


For those of you who didn’t get to see him in concert.


A guitar solo from a George Harrison tribute:

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