4th of July Forum

James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    The governor of Arkansas, Asa Hutchinson, has said he intends to commute the sentence of a man serving life in prison for robbing a taco shop in 1981 with a water pistol.

    Hutchinson announced he intended to make Rolf Kaestel immediately eligible for parole. There is a 30-day waiting period to receive public feedback before the governor’s decision can become final.

    Kaestel, 70, was convicted of aggravated robbery and sentenced to life in prison after he robbed a Fort Smith taco shop of $264. He was armed only with a water pistol.

    This was Kaestel’s fifth request for clemency. In his latest application, he wrote that he “may yet have a few reasonably energetic and productive years remaining to me in which I may still make a truly substantive contribution to society”.

    Ida know, maybe he should marinated a little longer.

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:
  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Miami condo collapse: reports reveal board’s long debate over repairs

    “The building is falling apart,” wrote Marcelo Pena, a former board member, according to the New York Times. “Somebody can seriously be injured or killed with the state of the concrete.”

    “We work for months to go in one direction and at the very last minute objections are raised that should have been discussed and resolved right in the beginning,” Goldstein wrote in the letter, obtained by the Washington Post.

    “This pattern has repeated itself over and over, ego battles, undermining the roles of fellow board members, circulation of gossip and mistruths.”

    I will never buy a condo.

  4. Sleeping Dog says:

    The Libs did it.

    Mostly, I agree with Drum about this. The comments are what you might expect.

  5. sam says:
  6. CSK says:

    This is a pretty good follow-up piece about the incident that took place yesterday on Route 95 in Massachusetts:


  7. Sleeping Dog says:


    What is farcical about this is, if these idiots had filled their gas tanks before leaving RI, they quite likely would have arrived at their destination in Maine w/o stopping to refuel. Hell, Newport to Portland is only ~180 miles and all the way to Ft Kent is about 500 miles.

    But obviously, despite the armed cosplay, these guys weren’t looking to start a firefight.

  8. Tyrell says:

    Happy Fourth of July. Have a safe, nice day.
    “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy,
    A Yankee Doodle do or die;
    A real live nephew of my Uncle Sam’s.
    Born on the Fourth of July.
    I’ve got a Yankee Doodle sweetheart,
    She’s my Yankee Doodle joy.
    Yankee Doodle came to London,
    Just to ride the ponies,
    I’m a Yankee Doodle boy.” (George M. Cohan)
    James Cagney’s performance is one of the best in history

  9. OzarkHillbilly says:

    A long, and nightmarish read:

    ‘They said I don’t exist. But I am here’ – one woman’s battle to prove she isn’t dead

    The trouble began in 2016. When Jeanne Pouchain’s passport application was declined, she was annoyed – but assumed she must have forgotten an important piece of paperwork.

    Several weeks later, at a doctor’s appointment in her town of Saint-Joseph, outside Lyon in south-east France, both Pouchain, then 53, and her GP were perplexed when his computer spat out her carte vitale, the green card that gives access to the French public health system. Pouchain put it down to a technical blip. She assumed that was also the reason her pharmacy suggested she would have to pay in full for her diabetes drugs.

    It seemed like a series of annoying coincidences; the kind of red tape many in France find themselves tangled up in at one time or another in a country notorious for bureaucracy. It was irritating but would, she assumed, eventually be resolved.
    Then on 12 November 2017, two bailiffs turned up at Pouchain’s home with a recorded delivery letter addressed to Pierre-Jean. She had no idea that she was signing for a document announcing her own death.

    The letter informed her that a lawyer in a court case relating to her cleaning business had told the court that she had died, aged 53, in February 2016. Somehow, this unverified claim – there was no official death certificate, how could there be? – was allowed to go unchecked and unchallenged.

    Pouchain was shaken. “I thought I was going to collapse. How could I be dead? Someone said I was dead – did the judge just believe them, with no death certificate?” she asks. “I felt like I’d been punched in the face. But we thought it would be quickly resolved. I went to my doctor, who gave me a certificate to say I was still alive, then we went to the administrative offices at Saint-Étienne and reported there had been an irregularity. But all they said was that nobody can be declared dead who isn’t dead and it wasn’t within their competence to deal with it.”

    Since then, Pouchain has spent more than three and a half years engaged in an existential battle to prove to the French authorities what remains obvious to all – her family, friends, neighbours, the local mayor, and even visiting strangers like me: that she is very much alive.
    A week after we meet, she calls to thank me for listening to her story. It sounds as if she is crying; she is distraught because she can only have a Covid vaccination if she joins the waiting list as a homeless person.

    “My life will never be the same after this – even if I am resurrected. For 20 years, I have been harassed over this case, and finally they have nailed the coffin shut by declaring my death. I will keep fighting because I have to, but I have to find a way to rebuild myself.”

    When we speak again in late June, there is some good news. She tells me she has finally been able to get her first Covid vaccination, although she had to pay €150 for it, and will do again for her second in July. She has even managed to find a black humour in her situation: “I wouldn’t want to die of Covid before I’ve had the chance to be brought back to life.”


  10. CSK says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    Someone posited the other day that the business of pulling to the side of the highway and refilling the tanks from the gas cans they were carting along with them might have been part of the “training” ritual.

  11. Sleeping Dog says:


    Then they should have done it in NH or ME to take advantage of the looser gun laws. It’s still a farce.

  12. Paine says:

    I’m greatly enjoying Kill Switch: The Rise of the Modern Senate and the Crippling of American Democracy by Adam Jentleson (which was mentioned here a few weeks ago). The author does a great job looking back on our founding fathers’ views on majority rule and how the Senate is supposed to function.

  13. CSK says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    Well, as I believe you pointed out, the really smart thing to have done would have been to fill ‘er up back in Rhode Island, ideally before the cars were loaded up with guns and ammo.

  14. Zachriel says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: “I wouldn’t want to die of Covid before I’ve had the chance to be brought back to life.” Kafkaesque.

    She just needs to visit the Circumlocution Office, which is (as everybody knows without being told) the most important Department under Government.

  15. Teve says:

    “They got a guy because he got a corporate car and didn’t declare it on his tax return.”

    -Donald Trump Jr.

    When I say that Eric is, in fact, the stupid one, I’m telling you he’s borderline mentally disabled.

  16. CSK says:

    Saturday night Trump was bitching about how impossible it is to figure out the tax laws. George Conway quotes this very relevant Trump tweet from 2016:

    “I know our complex tax laws better than anyone who has ever run for president and am the only one who can fix them.

  17. Michael Cain says:

    Talk is cheap, and even at the end Trump didn’t seem to realize that many of the things he promised ran through Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, who had zero interest in them.

  18. CSK says:

    @Michael Cain:
    I think Trump says whatever comes into his head at any given time, or whatever he thinks it would be advantageous for him to say at any given moment, and then promptly forgets it.

    As does his audience, except for incantations such as “lock her up” or “build the wall,” which are, I suppose, fun to chant in unison at rallies.

    With respect to McConnell and Ryan, I’m sure they shared Tillerson’s, Kelly’s, McMaster’s, and Mattis’s opinions that Trump was “a fucking moron,” “an idiot,” and a “sixth-grader.”

  19. Teve says:
  20. Teve says:


  21. Barry says:

    @Michael Cain: “Talk is cheap, and even at the end Trump didn’t seem to realize that many of the things he promised ran through Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, who had zero interest in them.”

    Nor care. Trump’s entire way of life is to rattle off lie after lie until the marks are fooled.

  22. CSK says:

    They’re all stored here:


  23. CSK says:

    I loved that movie when I was a kid. I used to watch it on tv with my grandfather. I agree–James Cagney was superb.

  24. Han says:

    @Sleeping Dog: So by Drum’s standards, it really was the War of Northern Aggression!

  25. sam says:


    The first time I saw the movie, I thought his dancing was strange. And it has just occurred to me, literally 10 minutes ago, that much of what he was doing was Irish Step Dancing.

  26. CSK says:

    I just rewatched the part where he dances down the steps in the White House. Apparently he improvised that on the spot. Incredible.

    One of his colleagues, Gene Nelson, said: “He loved dancing…By nature he was an eccentric dancer, that is, he was a hoofer who invented funny little bits of business for himself.”

  27. Teve says:

    If you haven’t seen Ted Lasso, DO.

  28. grumpy realist says:

    @CSK: The other Cagney performance which is magnificent is the hoofing he does in Footlight Parade’s “Shanghai Lil”. Bravo!

  29. Gustopher says:

    @Teve: I saw two episodes. Does it get better, or am I just not getting it?

    It seems like a fish out of water comedy, mostly warm. Fine, but nothing special.

  30. Mister Bluster says:

    The Winners are In!
    Nathan’s 4th of July Hot Dog Eating Contest
    Joey Chestnut 76 Dogs and Michelle Lesco 30.75 Dogs

  31. gVOR08 says:

    A thoughtful, thorough piece, James. I tend to see it as largely a matter of culture evolving, liberals adapting, and conservatives resisting. But then I tend to see a lot of culture issues as not really political issues. Gays didn’t get to marry because Dems pandered to their gay constituency, made it a plank in their platform, and push through bills. It happened because gays pushed and eventually the culture accepted it. However, people do vote on the basis of some culturally defined tribal affiliation, so I can’t get away with wanting these things to be apolitical. But saying liberals are responsible for the the culture war because we support abortion rights is akin to saying we started WWII by building Pearl Harbor. We have a culture war because Republicans want a culture war.

    Here’s an excellent piece on messaging from Tom Sullivan at Digby’s place.

  32. gVOR08 says:

    @gVOR08: Whoops, thought I was still in the culture war thread.

  33. Mu Yixiao says:

    I just rewatched Contact for the umpteenth time (it’s a go-to favorite), and I noticed two things that I never have before*

    1) There’s a pattern that repeats (at least) three times. It’s a semi-circle of points. The first time is the popcorn that Ellie’s dad spills when he dies (it’s the first thing you see at the bottom of the stairs before you see the broken bowl), it appears in the middle somewhere (I can’t remember where), and it’s the obvious “sparkles” in the dirt in Ellie’s hand at the very end.

    I know I noticed it in the dirt, but I can’t say that I ever connected it to the popcorn during the death scene.

    2) After the mission, Ellie is brought before the congressional(?) committee to explain why she “believes” that something happened in the fraction of a second that passed on Earth. I don’t think I’ve ever realized this before, but I found myself screaming at Secretary Asshole: THE FUCKING CHAIR!!

    When Ellie was dropped, she was locked into a chair–that wasn’t in the specs and which she didn’t want. During her trip she unlocked herself from the chair and it got crumpled up into scrap metal.

    The proper response to Secretary Asshole should be: I was locked in a chair when you dropped me, and there was no chair when you caught me. Please explain what happened in that “fraction of a second” to make the chair disappear and leave me alive. Have you, Secretary Asshole, heard of Occam’s Razor….?

    Off topic: I’m on vacation this week and have a massive list of projects–of which I hope to complete at least 10%. So… Enjoy yourselves. I’ll see you in a week (unless I win the lottery, die, or start a serious relationship with a beautiful woman).

    So… See you next week. {sigh}

    * I may have noticed the first, but if I did, I forgot it.

  34. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    One difference between the book and the movie: the book aliens tell her to look into the number Pi, and the book ends with Elsie finding a second message hidden in the digits of Pi, proving (to her) that the trip was real, but also implying the aliens are so advanced they have some sort of control over the basic fabric of reality.

  35. DrDaveT says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    the book aliens tell her to look into the number Pi, and the book ends with Elsie finding a second message hidden in the digits of Pi, proving (to her) that the trip was real, but also implying the aliens are so advanced they have some sort of control over the basic fabric of reality.

    As a sort-of mathematician, this makes me so crazy that I can’t enjoy the book.

    First, the constant pi has literally nothing to do with the “basic fabric of reality”. The curvature of space, for example, does not affect the value of pi — it only affects whether or not the ratio of circumference to diameter is a constant for all circles. If it is, that ratio happens to equal pi. If it isn’t, that doesn’t do anything to pi, which is still an important constant. e^(pi*i)=1 is true regardless of the physics of the universe.

    Second, and more directly relevant, pi is almost certainly a normal number, like almost all real numbers. In which case its decimal expansion contains (literally) all possible messages infinitely many times. The idea of “encoding a message in pi” is the sort of stupid that leaves a bad taste in my brain that I can’t ever get rid of.

  36. DrDaveT says:

    @DrDaveT: Argh, no edit button. e^(pi*i) = -1, of course. Or if you prefer, e^(pi*i)+1=0, Euler’s proof of the existence of God…

  37. Teve says:


    Sunday, 4 July 2021 at 16:19
    @Teve: I saw two episodes. Does it get better, or am I just not getting it?

    It seems like a fish out of water comedy, mostly warm. Fine, but nothing special.

    It takes a bit. At a certain point, you’ll say, “dang”.

  38. Gustopher says:

    @DrDaveT: Perhaps they were trolling her, and expected her to find something like “bite me, human scum.”

  39. Teve says:

    “You have no idea of the power of rhyming in this goddam country.”