Friday’s 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. Kathy says:

    Happy Friday!

    Sometimes it really can’t get here fast enough.

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Thousands evacuated after US fertilizer plant fire sparked fears of explosion

    About 6,500 people are under evacuation orders four days since a fire broke out at a North Carolina fertilizer plant, which officials said at one point risked becoming one of the biggest explosions to ever occur in the US.

    The plant contains roughly 600 tons of ammonium nitrate, a highly volatile chemical compound that is used to make both fertilizers and explosives.

    The fire erupted in the northern part of the city of 250,000 on Monday, though the cause remains unknown. Roughly 2,500 homes, several schools and churches, a correctional facility and other commercial and government buildings are within a one-mile radius of the facility. Wake Forest University, which sits just outside the evacuation zone, cancelled classes, urging students in dorms to stay indoors and close their windows.

    Due to its unpredictable nature, firefighters still can’t get within 300ft of the blaze, according to official statements.
    The fertilizer plant did not have sprinklers nor an alarm, according to officials. Though inspected yearly, it adhered to building codes from 1939 – the year it was built.

    Somebody dropped the ball here. Probably several somebodies.

  3. Sleeping Dog says:


    No dropped balls, just executing the fix put in for the owners. After all, it would have been the workers and neighbors who would have died.

  4. Stormy Dragon says:

    What’s everyone’s thoughts on the Olympics? I kinda feel like watching is just rewarding the Chinese state for all sorts of recent tyranny, but on the other hand, I wonder if that’s fair to the athletes who don’t have control over that

  5. Kathy says:


    The plant contains roughly 600 tons of ammonium nitrate,

    Hopefully it’s not all concentrated in one single area. that’s the thing that leveled the Beirut waterfront in 2020.

    The fertilizer plant did not have sprinklers nor an alarm, according to officials. Though inspected yearly, it adhered to building codes from 1939 – the year it was built.

    But no real capitalist would risk their capital investment by not having adequate safety measures in place. All the libertarians say so.

  6. Kathy says:

    So, episodes 5 and 6 of The Book of Boba Fett were some of the best in The Mandalorian.

    Seriously, ep 5 showed a Ringworld, complete with shadow squares. That was effing cool.

  7. CSK says:

    @Stormy Dragon:
    James Joyner has just put up a post about this matter.

  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Sleeping Dog: In my 35+ years as a carpenter, I observed a number of instances where building divisions/inspectors slapped the piss out of bigwigs who didn’t think the rules applied to them, but depending upon where one is, different rules may well apply.

    In this instance, I find it exceedingly hard to believe that there was not a single regulatory agency, be it local, state, or federal that had the wherewithal to force this company to install the minimum fire controls, no matter any grandfathering of the original building permits. Even if the GF was so stringent that the local building department could not force the owners to refit the building with fire suppression, the responsible regulatory state agency should have been able to deny them a permit to operate without a sprinkler system.

    I can’t speak to the EPA’s capabilities. The article states that,

    To prevent chemical disasters, the Environmental Protection Agency is required to regulate industrial facilities containing hazardous materials like hydrogen fluoride and chlorine under the Clean Air Act Risk Management Plan. Ammonium nitrate is not subject to these federal regulations.

    It might well be written into the law creating them what classes of hazardous materials they can regulate, tho the Depts of Energy and/or Agriculture may have been able to step in. There might be others too.

  9. CSK says:

    The evacuation zone has been reduced from a mile to 1/8 of a mile. I guess that’s encouraging news.

  10. OzarkHillbilly says:

    California county on track to be run by militia-aligned group

    I can’t read it all, it’s too infuriating.

  11. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @CSK: Yeah, I left this out of what I quoted because I was focused on the lack of fire suppression equipment:

    “At the beginning of this incident, there was enough ammonium nitrate on hand for this to be one of the worst explosions in US history,” the city fire chief, William “Trey” Mayo, said at a Wednesday press conference. Firefighters later ascertained that the risk had “greatly diminished”.

  12. Sleeping Dog says:


    This will work out as well for Shasta Cty as the Free Town movement worked for Grafton, NH. Watch for plummeting property values.

  13. CSK says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    I really enjoyed this quote from the article:

    “Carlos Zapata, a local militia member who helped organize the recall effort, in 2020 told the board that there could be blood in the streets if the supervisors didn’t reject state health rules such as mask requirements.”

    Blood in the streets. Over a damn mask. Swell.

  14. Sleeping Dog says:


    Zapata, fine name for a militia member.

  15. Sleeping Dog says:

    The jobs numbers are in and the Biden recovery marches on.

  16. CSK says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    I know! I wonder if he’s a descendant of Emiliano.

  17. Kathy says:


    Does this not explain why lobbyists write the laws and regulations?

    I wonder why the insurance companies don’t require fire suppression at chemical plants as a condition for insurance.

  18. Sleeping Dog says:

    The making of a modern Republican

    Who had the power:

    The U.S. Chamber of Commerce
    The NRA
    The Koch network
    Heritage Action
    The Drudge Report
    National Review
    Conservative movement groups such as Tea Party Express, FreedomWorks, and the Senate Conservatives Fund.

    Who has power now:

    Donald Trump
    Tucker Carlson
    Family and former aides to Trump
    Fox News
    Club for Growth
    Daily Wire
    Breitbart News
    Online influencers including Candace Owens, Ben Shapiro, Dan Bongino, Joe Rogan, Jack Posobiec, Charlie Kirk and Marjorie Taylor-Greene.
    Steve Bannon
    Susan B. Anthony List

    Looking at this through a Cow Hampshire lens, if what Axios says is happening nationally, is happening here, it isn’t evident. Both in 2018 and 2020, the R candidates for state wide and congressional offices were mainstream, if in some cases on the conservative edge of mainstream. The trumpiest primary candidates lost.

    An early indication that this could be true here, is if the right finds a creditable challenger to oppose Sununu in the primary and that challenger polls well. But I still contend that the traditional R power centers here, still have the power to anoint their favorite candidates.

  19. Han says:
  20. CSK says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    I don’t foresee the Trump Wing taking over anywhere in the northeast. Geoff Diehl, for example, has absolutely no chance of becoming the next governor of Massachusetts.

  21. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kathy: I wonder why the insurance companies don’t require fire suppression at chemical plants as a condition for insurance.

    Good point, enough to make me wonder if they had any insurance, or if they did if they were in violation of the terms and conditions.

  22. Crusty Dem says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    Saw this and was wondering when James would post about “another disappointing jobs report”.

  23. gVOR08 says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: The only surprise in this chemical fire story is that it isn’t in Texas.

  24. Kathy says:

    An meantime in Bizarro World Olds.

  25. just nutha says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: On a different level altogether, where is the plant’s insurer? Why isn’t the insurance company concerned about the payout just for the building damage and Kathy’s loss of capital/materials concern?

  26. Kathy says:

    Interesting factoid of the day: The software in the Apollo computers had to be manufactured by hand.

    First it was written, or encoded in punch cards (this was the 1960s) and run and tested in machines the people of the time called computers. But then it had to be encoded in core rope memory, made up of wires and magnet rings (seriously not making this up; see the photo in the link).

    Why such a laborious process? Because at the time this offered the highest memory density. Higher density meant less space and less weight, and this had to travel all the way to the Moon.

    Looking back on it, I wonder they even dared launch missions to the Moon.

  27. just nutha says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: The nature of the Social Contract includes the right of the “consenting governed” to choose foolish, corrupt, oppressive, biased systems. I think that it was Locke who noted that the existence of a social contract is not automatically a guarantee of good government. (We’re seeing this phenomenon on a national level as I write.)

  28. gVOR08 says:

    I’ve sometimes wondered in these threads about just what, exactly, is wrong with NYT, and the rest of the media. Via Digby, James Fallows takes a good shot at part of it. He talks about framing, with four examples:

    – FOX “News” makes every story “They’re out to get you.

    It could be “the caravan” that is trying to get you. It could be “the Squad.” It could be Antifa …. It could be crime in general — which has been going down in the U.S. for decades, while prevailing fear of crime has been going up. (Thanks, in significant degree, to emphasis by local TV news and by Fox.)
    It could be anything. But it’s them. And they’re cheating and scheming against you. And against people like us.

    – The MSM thinks everything is about politics. The online version of NYT improved a title to ” A Surge at Sea: Migrants Seek Entry to the U. S. Aboard Flimsy Boats”, but the print story had ” Rise in Migrants at Sea Poses a Worry for Biden”. How TF is this mostly about Biden?

    – Again the MSM, grading the GOPs on a curve. Fallows lists examples, which abound. He contrasts the single column front page story “Trump Sought Ways to Seize Vote Machines” with the nearly whole front page devoted to HER EMAILZZZZ!!! ten days before the 2016 election. (At the risk of repeating myself, FTFNYT did more to elect Trump than anyone else.)

    – Everybody is guilty of what works is boring. Again, several examples with a lot of discussion of the Webb telescope, and the thin coverage of it.

    Fallows concludes,

    As a reminder, rather than talking about “bias,” please look for framing:
    * That is largely intended to make people feel angry or victimized;
    * That reduces everything to its party-politics ramifications;
    * That normalizes abnormal behavior; and
    * That gives a disproportionate view of what works, and doesn’t.
    And, subscribe to your local paper! That is it for now.

  29. just nutha says:

    @CSK: It keeps coming back to democracy being no match for stupidity. The Constitution isn’t a suicide pact, but it can become one to the extent that citizens choose it to be.

  30. gVOR08 says:

    @Kathy: Thanks. My first programming course involved keypunch machines and cards, but I had never heard of the core rope memory, or at the link “Little Old Lady” memory. I happened to mention the Webb telescope above. What a contrast.

  31. Stormy Dragon says:


    And, subscribe to your local paper! That is it for now.

    What if your “local paper” doesn’t actually have any local reporters and is really just a website trying to generate clicks using the four things above while pretending to be the local paper?

  32. Kingdaddy says:

    The Republican Party says that the January 6th attacks on the Capitol were “legitimate political discourse.”

  33. CSK says:

    Building a gallows and yelling “Hang Mike Pence” is legitimate political discourse. Gotcha.

  34. dazedandconfused says:


    Every fire fighter on that scene should never ever have to pay for a beer in that berg again.

  35. just nutha says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Fallows seems to be assuming that people who will follow his advice will be able to discern the difference between a local paper and what you describe. Which brings up the question: are you a “not interested in Fallow’s advice,” a “lacking in discernment,” or a “contrarian just looking to start a fight?”

  36. just nutha says:

    @CSK: How long are you lefties going to keep yammering about that purely symbolic gallows and the words of a few overexcited tourists? 😉

  37. Kylopod says:

    Most important news item of the day, maybe the century:

    President Avenatti Found Guilty

  38. CSK says:

    Well, as the saying goes: He who hires himself as a lawyer has a fool for a client.

  39. CSK says:

    @just nutha:
    I’ve heard that that mob yelling “hang Mike Pence” was made up of only FBI provocateurs.

    I’ll never believe it.

  40. Pete S says:

    So hanging Republican elected officials is legitimate political discourse? Not my thing but good to know

  41. Kathy says:

    Nothing in history, no historical event, was inevitable. Many, though, became so after certain lines were crossed. Right now, I can’t help but think that a political party that condones violent insurrection is one such line.

  42. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @gVOR08: Heh, too damned true.

  43. CSK says:

    I think they’re pretending that there was no insurrection. The Trumpkins who invaded the Capitol were merely tourists. At worst, they were peacefully protesting the blatant theft of a presidential election. Otherwise they were just strolling through the place, welcomed by the Capitol police.

    All the violence and mayhem was caused by Antifa/BLM/the FBI. All of it.

  44. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kylopod: Well no wonder. He had a fool for an attorney.

  45. CSK says:

    As I pointed out before you. 😀

  46. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @CSK: Yeah, I saw you beat me to it after I posted my comment tho I have to say I had a slightly different take than you did. You said he had a fool for a client, I said he had a fool for an attorney.

    In this case, I think it entirely likely that we are both correct.

  47. CSK says:

    Yes. We are.

  48. Scott F. says:

    @Kingdaddy: You keep thinking there’s a bottom to the depths the GOP has sunk, but there is no bottom.

  49. Stormy Dragon says:

    @just nutha:

    More just wanting to point out that in some cases supporting the “local paper” may actually make journalism worse rather than better. A lot of places supporting your local NPR station might be a better option.

  50. CSK says:

    The only thing that makes me unhappy about the Avenatti verdict is that it will make Donald Trump happy.

  51. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Scott F.: I’m pretty sure there is a bottom, also sure that if/when we reach it the GOP will just dig right through it.

  52. CSK says:

    Well, better late than never. Mike Pence said today that Trump had “no right” to ask him to overturn the election:

  53. just nutha says:

    @CSK: Exactly my point. As long as people like you are never willing to ever give anybody the benefit of the doubt, our long national nightmare of partisanship and recrimination is doomed to continue. There are lots of God fearing, true, red-white-and-blue Merkans out in the REAL Murka who are willing to let bygones be bygones if only you people will let us.

    (I think I slipped a little too much into character on this one. 🙁 My bad.)

  54. CSK says:

    @just nutha:
    Well, excuuuuuuse me.

  55. Stormy Dragon says:

    @just nutha:

    Fallows seems to be assuming that people who will follow his advice will be able to discern the difference between a local paper and what you describe.

    It’s also not always as obvious as you seem to thing, since a lot of the times the sham paper is using the name of a legit paper and trading on residual good will. It’s not like they’re going to advertise they just laid off all their reporters and are now getting stories from distant contractors.

  56. Michael Reynolds says:

    Just had my first real Hollywood writing assignment. A producer I know had a two word concept and wanted me to turn it into a treatment. A treatment (I learned by Googling) is a sort of linear storytelling stripped down to the bones, with all nuance removed, and geared for a reader with the attention span of a five year-old and the imagination of a nonagenarian. First time I’ve ever worked with a development person, an editor in effect, whose job was to train me in the liturgy.

    I snark, but it was fun. Might have been nice to have more than five days for three drafts, but hey, Adderall. The development person (I never retain titles) was actually smart and helpful. And I learned some things in my favorite way to learn things: by doing them in a panic.

  57. Mimai says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    Congratulations! And thanks for sharing some of the details — I enjoy hearing about what folks are doing in their respective sandboxes. And it’s also nice to hear about people who are “smart and helpful” and other good things. Please keep us posted as you are able.

  58. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Stormy Dragon: I may be arrogant on the issue, but I’m assuming that I can recognize right-wing nut job media content at least most of the time. If you can’t, then you will, indeed, need to find other ways to roll. Still, I think you’re mostly staying for the chance to argue. Oh well…

  59. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Yeah, recognizing right-wing nut job media content is easy.

    Recognizing low-effort hedge fund media that’s trying to suck money out of the community without attracting attention is often much harder, especially if there’s no alternate in the area to point out all the stuff happening that they’re missing because it can’t be copy-pasted out of local government meeting minutes or area press releases.

  60. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    As an example in my neck of the woods, the “papers” in Pottstown, Norristown, Lansdale, and Phoenixville (Pennsylvania) are all being run out of the same four person office (none of the four being a reporter) in Exton (which you’ll note is neither Pottstown, Norristown, Lansdale, or Phoenixville) by a hedge fund based in Denver, CO.

    The idea they’re providing any coverage of any of those cities, much less all of them, that amounts to anything other than stenography is laughable. And there’s no obvious agenda in the papers (other than being super cheap to produce), but if your goal is good local journalism, your better off giving money to WHYY, which is hiring more area reporters, rather than helping the hedge fund buyout of additional area papers (I’m sure the newly purchased Reading Eagle will be running out of that same Exton office in 5-10 years)

  61. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    I may be arrogant on the issue, but I’m assuming that I can recognize right-wing nut job media content at least most of the time.

    Also, may I point to your comments in November being surprised to found out that Newsweek and IBT are run by a right wing Christian group:

    Maybe you’re tricked by right-wing media more often than you realize? =)