Open Forum

Where you can't be off topic because there IS no topic.

The floor is yours.

Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Sleeping Dog says:

    For Her Head Cold, Insurer Coughed Up $25,865

    Good argument here for treatment should follow ‘best practices’ standards and 3rd party price setting that all providers who agree to take insurance should follow. Not to mention the physician/clinic should lose their license.

    My Semester With the Snowflakes

    While I suspect most regular contributors here are somewhat indulgent to the ‘snowflakes,’ we, at times find them frustrating. This is an interesting counter point.

    With U.S. Help No Longer Assured, Saudis Try a New Strategy: Talks

    Better late than never and a good example of how US security guarantees for rogue states are lousy foreign policy.

  2. CSK says:

    Jerry Herman, composer of Hello, Dolly! and Mame, among others, has died, aged 88.

  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Dr Dave Jain, who worked for 29 years as an internist at Twin Rivers and now runs his own clinic in Kennett, is asking the same question. “We’re having probably three to five more deaths a month without having the hospital here,” he said. “I had a 35-year-old patient who started having chest pain. He needed to get to an emergency room but died on the way to the hospital. There are multiple deaths due to not having emergency services, mostly from heart attacks and accidents. There’s nowhere to stabilise them. If they’re having a heart attack, they’re dying before they get to the hospital. Plus the infant mortality rate has increased since the hospital closed.”


    ‘It breaks my heart that they put money over people’

    Kennett is not alone in losing its medical care. More than 160 rural hospitals and clinics have closed across the US since 2005 mostly under financial pressure. Hundreds more are at risk, including 14 in Missouri considered essential to the communities they serve.

    But Twin Rivers did not go under because it was losing money. Terry Berry, chair of its board of trustees, told the Guardian that the hospital continued to be profitable up until its closure. Dr Jain and other physicians who worked at Twin Rivers said it made about $5m in 2017. Anderson said the same. “I know that it was profitable because I worked in the business office at one point. I know that they made money off of it. It breaks my heart that they put money over people. I know that they have to make money … but they were making money,” she said.

    CHS said it shut Twin Rivers because medical innovation has reduced demand for overnight stays. The company said that 95% of people treated at the hospital were outpatients who would be better served by the “larger resources” at the newer hospital in Poplar Bluff. It claimed that what it called the consolidation was “the most sustainable plan for the future”, implying that Twin Rivers was not financially viable because of falling revenues. But a senior company executive told a Wall Street conference that CHS was getting out of markets that did not have the potential for significant growth.

    Doctors who worked at the hospital said the number of overnight stays fell in part because CHS sharply raised its prices in order to make more from the publicly funded Medicaid programme for low-income Americans. That drove away people with private insurance in need of non-emergency operations. Dr Chancellor Wayne, a chiropractor who was elected Kennett’s mayor earlier this year, said Twin Rivers was charging $5,000 for an MRI so he sent patients to a hospital in Arkansas when they could get it for $800. Wayne accused CHS of closing Kennett’s hospital “out of greed”.

    CHS did not respond to requests for comment.

    As private business faded, so the number of specialists employed at the hospital dropped. Even then, it remained profitable. “This hospital was closed mostly by the greed of the corporation,” said Dr Jain. “This hospital was making money and the hospital in Poplar Bluff owned by the same corporation wasn’t. But they had built a brand new hospital in Poplar Bluff that they couldn’t close and they thought if they closed the hospital in Kennett everybody would flood there.”

    We live 15-20 minutes away from a small local hospital with a fully staffed and equipped ER. After shoulder surgery in STL a couple years ago I ended up with annihilation pneumonia which did not present itself until I arrived home. It is not a stretch to say that if we lived just 5 minutes further away, I would not be here today.

  4. Kit says:

    @Sleeping Dog: Re: My Semester With the Snowflakes

    That was a good read. Most of the article was “bright guy in the new stimulating environment.” And frankly, I found his excitement contagious, easily imagining how this 52-year-old former Navy Seal could take to a classical education in exciting ways. But then, towards the end, we learn this:

    Particularly when it came to national security issues, I felt that if you hadn’t taken a gun into combat, I didn’t give a damn what your opinion was.

    I find it incredible that a middle-age guy (or gal) can start to walk down a new intellectual path, and doubly so when carrying the weight of such powerful (if limited) life experience. I’m that guy’s age, and in all likelihood only decline and death will significantly color my views between here and the boneyard.

  5. Liberal Capitalist says:

    Ok… for those who travel, you know what a mileage run is.

    Today is the start of a three day trip to nowhere: DEN-PHX-SFO-LHR-DBX-LHR-ORD-MIA-DEN

    In all this, not leaving the airports, just so I can keep my airline status.

    Looking forward to the upper deck of a 747 w/ BA on three of the flights.

  6. OzarkHillbilly says:


    Particularly when it came to national security issues, I felt that if you hadn’t taken a gun into combat, I didn’t give a damn what your opinion was.

    I once had a Navy vet express something very similar to me in regards to wars and whether we should enter them or not (this was in reference to Iraq). I said something along the lines of “Fvck you, I pay taxes to pay for this shit and I have 2 sons who could end up in the middle of that stupidity.”

    He admitted I had a point.

  7. Kit says:

    Each person secretly thinks that the franchise shouldn’t fully extend to his neighbors, and that the country would be better off with more reasonable people calling the shots. And somehow he just happens to meet the definition of a reasonable person.

  8. Kathy says:


    It may be veterans kind of misstate their position. For instance, it would be wholly appropriate for them to say only people who’ve been in combat can have a valid opinion on how to fight a war. This is, after all, the area of expertise of soldiers. And it’s too easy for someone safe at home to back tactics that endanger combat troops

  9. Kathy says:

    On the lighter side of things, Starbucks in Mexico has changed their loyalty program.

    At first I told a coworker “they’ve devalued the program.” But it’s more complicated than that.

    Old system: every purchase earned one star. 15 stars get you a free drink or food item.
    New system: every ten pesos spent get you one star. 100 stars get you a free drink or food item.

    For me, it’s a devaluation. consider I buy a triple latte for 52 pesos once or twice a week, and each was 1/15th of a free drink. Now the same purchase will get me five stars, which are 1/20th of a free drink.

    But suppose you habitually buy a drink and a sandwich for yourself and your spouse. That’s 200 pesos (give or take), and 20 stars, fully 1/5th of a free item, rather than 1/15th.

    It makes sense to give a bigger reward for spending more money. The goal of such programs(*) is to get people to spend money.

    I expect I’ll cope. So long as I can keep the gold level and not pay extra for the extra shot of espresso, I’m good.

    (*) Starbucks’ loyalty program involves depositing money in a card, and using that to pay. Some regard this as an interest-free loan, or the equivalent of one. Surely some money never gets spent, as tends to happen to gift cards also.

  10. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kathy: Well, this guy was very clearly stating that only vets should have a say on whether we should enter a war or not. Besides, he’d never been any closer to combat than you or I. He spent his hitch on a nuclear sub. Kudos to him for doing it, but his knowledge of combat was purely theoretical.

  11. KM says:

    @Sleeping Dog :

    What she meant by “safe space” was that she was happy to be in an environment where difficult subjects can be discussed openly, without the risk of disrespect or harsh judgement.

    This quote really stood out from the Snowflake article. It just goes to show how a simple term – one that has therapeutic origins – has been so misconstrued by the Right into a slur that it’s amazing to the author to discover it’s actual meaning. A safe space isn’t an artificial zone where you baby someone to not hurt their delicate fee-fees from the “real world”. It’s a space where you are to respect the people around you by not being an obvious asshat to them. It doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to feel or think what you will about something – it means don’t be a dick to someone regarding that thing and they won’t be a dick to you. Yes, it might mean restraining some impulses and watching your language but that is because those things are the source of the dickishness. “Safe space” means you won’t be attacked, not that you won’t be challenged. Life is difficult enough without someone jumping over all over you needlessly. People are far more productive, creative and open when they think they won’t get mistreated.

    Mocking safe spaces is a sure sign the person in question doesn’t really understand what they are, only the caricature the Right has come up with. It’s really nice to see someone shift their opinion when confronted with facts and get that it’s a useful idea for fostering effective communication.

  12. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @Kathy: Executing a tactical operation and developing a strategy in which operations are executed are mutually exclusive skillsets.

    War is an extension of politics so the why, when, and what of a fight are often beyond the apprehension of those who spent their years mastering the how of war. And although you want many of these people next to you in a gunfight, you dont want the majority of them developing the strategy with end states and termination conditions. It involves a particular approach to thinking that is 180 deg apart from the mindset needed to dominate an adversary on a battlefield.

  13. Kathy says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    Who was it that said “War is too important to leave to the generals”?

  14. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Jim Brown 32:
    I’m sure Generals Marshall and Eisenhower would have done fine in a firefight, but they were much more useful serving as they did. At the platoon level it’s all about staying alive. Meanwhile generals and Chiefs of Staff are the guys putting those other guys in the line of fire. Rather different objectives. Stay alive at all costs vs. we’re gonna accept some casualties in service to the larger objective.

  15. Slugger says:

    What reason is there to think that military people know anything? I came of age during the Vietnam era. I didn’t see much in the way of smarts from our generals. More recently the invasion of Iraq and subsequently Syria have not been confidence building. The people that were lower level enlisted guys didn’t strike me as above average either. Catch-22 was based on real experiences.
    I think that a lot of our frequently fulsome displays about veterans is purposed to distract us from the failures of our leaders, civilian and military, in getting us into wars that accomplish very little.

  16. gVOR08 says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    War is an extension of politics

    When Clausewitz (IIRC) said that he meant international politics. In the modern era war seems more driven by domestic politics.

  17. Kathy says:


    As with most things in history, it comes and goes.

    in the first century BCE, Rome had to deal with a threat from Mithridates to the East. This was a real threat on the edge of Rome’s empire at the time. First Sulla was designated to command the legions that would deal with him, but then Marius got the Senate to rescind Sulla’s command and give it to him.

    Now, both men were capable military commanders, and both had a good chance to win against Mithridates. as far as the national security of the Republic went, it made no difference who led the war. Think of Eisenhower vs Patton to command the allied forces in Europe.

    Nevertheless, Sulla got his troops’ enthusiastic support to march on Rome and get that command back. They did this, being the first army to conquer the city of Rome in the process. Marius died of natural causes in the meantime. Then Sulla took his legions East, and dealt with Mithridates.


    Because the East was far richer than the West, and Sulla, and his legions, were being robbed of the opportunity to plunder and pillage that rich, fat target. Also Marius was Sulla’s great rival. This at a time when military command went hand in hand with political power.

    So while there were legitimate national security reasons to fight Mithridates, domestic political considerations drove who conducted that war.

  18. gVOR08 says:

    @Kathy: Good example. I would, however, opine that Patton was an excellent corp and army commander. He would have been a poor theater commander. Eisenhower was able to deal with Churchill and Montgomery. Patton might have opened a second front against the Russians and a third against Montgomery.

  19. Sleeping Dog says:


    Yes, he still has some growing to do.


    Hillbilly you are spot on, though Kathy has the best response. Less confrontational and more apt lead to a longer discussion. I guess this is why women should run the world.


    KM that quote jumped out at me as well. My recollection is discussion of ‘safe spaces’ also came about in the same period as demand for ‘trigger warnings’ and the term, safe space was adopted by some of the same people who advocated for trigger warnings and protection from images, ideas and writings that might be disturbing.

  20. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    One of my several acrimonious debates with the kidlit ‘community’ was over trigger warnings. My position was that they were completely impracticable and had no real therapeutic value while forcing writers to post spoilers of their own books. Now you don’t see trigger warnings on books (because they’re completely impracticable, duh) and a meta study on the topic reached the conclusion that there was no positive benefit and possibly some slightly negative impact (again, duh).

    I can’t speak for Yale students but in kidlit the snowflakes were a blizzard, for a while. It’s taken them three years to figure out that we had bigger issues to deal with than cringing at the prospect that a writer might make a reader feel something, or God forbid, think.

  21. Kathy says:


    No fourth against Roosevelt? 😉

  22. KM says:

    @Sleeping Dog :
    Correct – the original therapeutic meanings of “space space” and “trigger warning” were interrelated because in order to feel more comfortable discussing trauma and abuse, one needed others to be aware of what might prompt incidents and avoid starting them. Really hard to discuss PTSD when your therapist keeps giving you flashbacks, amirite? There’s an eminently practical reason for both concepts and it all boils down to respecting another by not actively being a dick.

    Considering how troll culture has overtaken conservative thought and its high emphasis on triggering people for the evulz, it’s not a surprise such a basic notion is a source of mockery for them. It’s not even that old or unusual – consider the age-old manner in which we teach children not to point and stare at others. How about that classic line from Bambi – “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all”. What’s the stigma on not swearing in the media if not creating a safe space for those bothered by it? It’s used to be common courtesy to not deliberately upset people; it didn’t matter if you thought it was no big deal, it used to be considered a faux pas to antagonize another in a way they’ve asked you not to. Effective or not, safe spaces and trigger warnings are logical conclusions to existing social mores and manners. It was only when someone figured out that they can’t get their inner trolling asshole on in public unless they break these conventions that the current disdain was born.

  23. KM says:

    @Michael Reynolds :
    Question for you as a written content creator. TV shows and movies have long had to contend with trigger warnings in the form of the ratings system and censorship of things like swearing. Granted it’s really generic and subjective but it’s been a core mechanic of that type of writing for a really long time now. How does that creative process compare to something like kidlit now that they’re starting to dabble in what can be argued is the newest iteration of ratings / tagging? I’d imagine it would require a different mindset but how do you feel it’s affected your ability to, well, create?

  24. Gustopher says:


    It was only when someone figured out that they can’t get their inner trolling asshole on in public unless they break these conventions that the current disdain was born.

    I think the “safe spaces” stuff in public started as a reaction to the growing prevalence of troll culture. When I was young, we didn’t have “safe spaces” because we didn’t tolerate people being assholes.

    To some extent, I can see the genuine, earnest conservatives now being unable to speak, because any time they do they get shut down because they are making the same arguments as the conservative troll culture, and people assume they are also just being assholes to be assholes.

  25. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @gVOR08: Exactly. I had the chance to talk to David Eisenhower (Ike’s grandson) a few months ago and I brought up the issue of Ike’s relationship with Monty. He said that preserving the strong ties with Churchill and the British chiefs of staff was worth the aggravation Montgomery caused him.

  26. inhumans99 says:

    If some of the posts on this site have you feeling down (It’s Putin’s world, we are just living in it, and the GOP packing the courts) than I recommend that if you subscribe to Disney+ (or are friends with someone who does) you immediately catch up on The Mandalorian. The final episode hit today and it was phenomenal. Such a wonderful series and Jon Favreau confirmed Season 2 will be here in Fall 2020, yay!

  27. Michael Reynolds says:

    I’ve profited from it in some cases, to be honest. When GONE came out in the UK it had warnings about violence. Helped sell the book. But overall, ratings and warnings have negative effects. We got movie ratings but only after the Hays Commission and its sequels had faded away. So it represented greater freedom, not less. But it still annihilated adult movies of the non-porn but explicit type because theaters wouldn’t run X-rated movies. It helped to infantilize cinema.

    You know when TV started getting really good? When they got away from network standards and practices with streaming and premium cable. Now the only network shows worth watching are those written/created by Mike Schur – Brooklyn 99 and The Good Place. Network TV barely exists at the Emmy’s now.

    I’ve authored or co-authored ~150 books and I’ve kept the language PG because I need to sell into school libraries and that means dealing with idiot parents pressuring librarians. I avoided putting librarians on the spot because I don’t want to endanger someone’s job. So no fucks were written. And that’s stupid and it helps us all lose ground when it comes to books. It’s fucking moronic to write a trilogy like FRONT LINES that centers so much on race and misogyny and not be able to use era-appropriate language for fear of some idiot parent freaking out. So, yes, FRONT LINES is not as good as it could have been. Still good, but not as good. As a piece of art it was harmed by political correctness.

    Books are not in competition just with other books. Books are in competition with TV, movies and video games. If a 14 year-old can watch Fleabag and hear realistic dialog, and see realistic violence in games, but be forced to deal with bowdlerized language and themes in books, it sends a message to kids that books are a lesser form, a sanitized, unreal world. Books should be challenging, not pre-digested pap. It’s hard enough to get a teenager to read at all, let alone something that looks like mommy went through it first with a blue pencil.

    It used to be we only had to worry about bible-thumpers. Today we worry more about the leftie snowflakes that supposedly don’t exist. At one point actual grown-ups, some of them authors, were proposing that white writers not write POC characters. They were pushing for segregating kidlit in the name of diversity, rather overlooking the fact that it was a racist idea and would cause a sudden, massive disappearance of POC characters. (Because: math.)

    Don’t risk offending, don’t surprise anyone, be tame, be dumbed-down, be safe, be ‘good for you.’ Read this book: it’s a lecture! Read this book: it’s anodyne and won’t upset you! Read this book: your mom will love it! In recent years it’s become suffocating. It’s why I walked away. In practical terms I can tell you what that decision meant: my advances on YA books ran from 300k to 500k. My advance on my first adult book? $5k. That’s the pay cut I took just to be able to write what I felt like writing.

    I have two fandoms, ANIMORPHS and GONE, and you know why 20 years later the ANIMORPHS fans are still obsessing? Because we didn’t dumb it down, we didn’t make it safe, we made it honest and too smart for its covers. Ditto GONE. Kids don’t need to be protected from books, they need to be protected from the cretins who think they need to be protected from books.

  28. Mister Bluster says:

    The Times They Are a-Changin’
    Fairfax Co. schools will soon guarantee students day off to protest
    Some students in Fairfax County, Virginia, will soon be guaranteed a day off school to participate in protests, a spokeswoman for Fairfax County Public Schools confirmed Thursday evening.
    Beginning Jan. 27, 2020 students in seventh through 12th grades will be permitted one excused absence each school year to engage in “civic engagement activities,” according to Lucy Caldwell, school spokeswoman for Fairfax County Public Schools.

    Fifty years ago when I was in college my Alma Mater, Southern Illinois University, had in place a policy called in loco parentis. What this meant was a) all the on campus housing was sexually segregated. Mens dorms and women dorms. And b) that all female students who lived in the on campus dorms were locked up at night at 11 pm and you could not get out until 7am. The weekend “women’s hours” were a little later, maybe midnight or 1 am. If you were late you were not let in till morning and there was hell to pay.
    If dormies were not going to spend the night in their “pvssy prison” as many of the female students called it, they had to sign out stating where they were going, leave a contact phone number, who lived there (It couldn’t be your boyfriend’s house in town) and when they would return.
    At the time all incoming freshmen, male and female, 17 18 and 19 had to live in on campus housing. The only exceptions that I recall were if the student was married or living in town at their parents address. While adult women students were locked up every night male students of any age living in on campus dorms could come and go as they pleased. You can only imagine how that went down.
    By the time the spring of 1969 came around there had already been marches and demonstrations on and off campus protesting against the Vietnam War, the Draft and for Civil Rights. And against women’s hours.
    The women students were fed up. “Fuck this, we ain’t doing it any more!” Women marched around the the dorms with placards chanting “Hell no! We won’t go!” After a squad car was overturned and set on fire one night the campus police tear gased them and arrested as many as they could catch. It was a full blown riot. One night I watched as hundreds of residents of one of the women’s dorms lined up at the front door and refused to enter the building until one minute after 11 pm. The campus authorities had set up tables at the door, took down all their names and suspended them the next day. The turmoil lasted till the end of the spring quarter.
    I don’t recall exactly how long it took but the University eventually abandoned the women’s hours policy.
    When I meet women students today who live on campus and tell them that female students were literal prisoners of the school locked in their dorms they can’t believe it. They have never heard of women’s hours. I ask them if they would put up with such crap. They all say no!
    I tell them to thank their grandmothers for their freedom.

  29. Matt says:

    @Sleeping Dog: Dammit I was going to post the link to the snowflakes 😛

    @Michael Reynolds: Well you’re dealing with parents and they tend to be irrational when their kids are involved ugh..

  30. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @Slugger: I would say that’s a tad bit unfair. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the Theater Commander are more like the Head Coach and Associate Head Coach who report to a General Manager (SecDef) and Owner (Potus). Coaches rarely get a blank check to build their own empire. They work within the confines set by the GM and Owner who are the ones that assign resources for the Head Coaches to work with. You dont like what happened with Nam, Iraq, Afghanistan? That’s what the politicians and the politics allowed for. The real issue is that politicians use the military for roles its ill-suited for and underresource other instruments of national power that would would take longer but work better.

    There is no such thing as surgical “hearts and minds” nation building. This is what politicians want (mostly because they dont understand culture, psychology, and war) but is realistic as wanting white unicorns to $hit skittles from the sky. The only successful nation-building model is the Roman one…which is politically untenable and immoral for elective wars of choice. Japan and Germany were successful models of nation building because most of the Military aged males were eliminated leaving the elderly, widows, and teenagers. We followed that with US direct administration for years before turning their country back over to them.

    We weren’t going to do that in Vietnam, Iraq, or Afghanistan, its politically impossible and cost prohibitive without a large existential threat to the US. Anytime a US president says we are going to rebuild a nation without committing the resources to be the Army, Police Force, Judicial and Legislative systems…you are being sold bull pucky. Iraq and Afghanistan would have needed 500K soldiers and probably another 100k Department of State Civil Affairs experts on the ground for 10 years to have had a chance for anything resembling a modern culture to emerge. And for what return? We should have maintained counter terrorism bases in these countries and reserved the right to swack anyone planning or facilitating external operations in the US or Europe. Outside of that…fix your own damn country.

  31. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @gVOR08: Absolutely, which is why the past several, minus Desert Storm, have grossly underachieved their stated intents. Domestic politics is not a conducive environment for complex subjects that have nuance and grey areas. What we’ve been doing in most of these adventures is mostly theater.

  32. MarkedMan says:

    Wasn’t there an OP here (briefly) who was all about defending Gallagher? I wonder what he thinks of this?

  33. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @Gustopher: Funny how the threat of getting punched in the face for being an arsehole to someone made people alot more cordial back in the day….

  34. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: Also gone, but much less lamented I would expect, Don Imus, of “nappy-headed hoes” fame (IIRC), also passed away today.

  35. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Mister Bluster: Interesting about Fairfax County. In Washington State, such an absence gets excused simply because parents say so. In fact, a note from a parent asking “please excuse my child’s absence on x/y/zzzz” is all that it takes with no reason offered at all. Still, I commend Fairfax for being so woke.

    In loco parentis was not limited to your alma mater BTW. It’s a long standing principle that became obsolete at colleges and universities when the age of majority was lowered. At my alma mater, foreign students had little trouble finding people to share rent with them. The foreign students had visas that permitted them to sign leases whereas most landlords were a little charry about renting to someone under 21. Especially if that person under 21 was a resident of another state.

  36. Gustopher says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    Outside of that…fix your own damn country.

    Nation building didn’t even work in the South after the War of Northern Aggression.

    I think it can work, when the people of the area want it to work, but there are a few corrupt warlords in the way. Trading one occupier for a less worse occupier is tenable.

    You would need immediate quick wins though. Like food. If people aren’t able to eat, and then they are able to eat, you’ve got their loyalty until they can no longer remember being hungry. People will trade freedom for security.

    We did not do a good job of it in Somalia, though, as we really didn’t manage to establish order, as we were treating it like a humanitarian mission. There was potential, though.

    Iraq went to shit because things were actually worse for most people than under Saddam Hussein. I’m not saying we could have made it work otherwise, but it was doomed because of that.

  37. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Sleeping Dog: Well, truth is I was ready to get in a fist punching fight from the night Bush said the bombing on Iraq had begun. It was stupid from the git go and I was ready and willing to go toe to toe with anybody who argued otherwise, whether they could kick my ass or not. As far as I was concerned, my son’s lives were at stake.

    And for the record? I’m still there.

  38. Kathy says:

    Rule of thumb: A war with front lines and clear objectives will usually last a number of years and eventually end. A war without front lines and open-ended objectives can last decades and peter out rather than end.

    “End” does not mean a decisive end. The Entente thought they’d won WWI Decisively. Germany had different thoughts. WWII was rather clear cut, but then the objectives included “unconditional surrender.”

    Gulf War I had a clear objective, drive Saddam out of Kuwait. The big blunder by Bush the elder was calling for an uprising against Saddam. He meant for the remnants of the army to stage a coup, not for civilians to rise up. We know how that ended.

    Gulf War II was a complete mess. Afghanistan presented no good options, short of a massive occupation the US had no appetite for, and which her allies would not have helped in carrying out anyway.

  39. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    25 years ago, a close friend was the founder of a NFP charter school, neighborhood based and parent controlled. One of the conditions they operated under was that they needed to take any kid who lived in the school district, regardless of neighborhood. Soon they were inundated with the kids who were failing at other schools but still had responsible, concerned parents. Many of the kids were reading 3-5 levels below their grade and hated reading. Improving reading scores, particularly for 8th-9th graders became job one. The tactic adopted was to start the kids on soft. soft core porn and then move them to other unexpurgated books, both classics and contemporary. The kid were probably reading with one hand clasped to their crotches, but they were reading and test scores went up.

  40. moosebreath says:


    “being the first army to conquer the city of Rome in the process”

    If you don’t count the Gauls under Brennus about 300 years before. I agree with your larger point, though.

  41. Kathy says:


    As I recall, the Gauls sacked Rome and extorted a princely sum in order to leave. They did not conquer the city or occupy it.

    Of course, accounts differ. And we may quibble over definitions.

  42. Teve says:

    @KM: how many times have I heard “viewer discretion is advised”? What is that besides a trigger warning?

  43. Slugger says:

    @Jim Brown 32: I think that you have raised some wise and relevant points. I was objecting to the idea that our military is composed of some specially wise judges of the use of military means to influence world events. The biggest victory achieved by American arms in recent history was Gulf War One which was a big win for Saudi Arabia paid for with American blood. America’s generals need to resist rather than facilitate our politicians’ love of marching, cool weapons, and flag waving at funerals.

  44. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    I can’t tell you how many emails and Tweets I’ve gotten from parents and teachers saying their (usually) son or student hated reading. Then read 3000 pages of Gone in two days. That’s not unique to my work, most of us get those kinds of emails. I suspect fewer students come to love reading via Billy Budd, respects to Melville.

  45. Teve says:

    For people who aren’t on Twitter, Dinesh D’sousa just compared his jail time to MLK’s.

  46. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @Slugger: Not likely to happen as Congress controls General Officer appointments and Service appropriations. Almost every 1 star wants a shot at 4 stars one day. They’ll push back some…but you cant name a 4star in recent history that fell on his sword in protest of how a conflict was waged. Civilian control of the military is a real thing. Our military will attempt to carry out the policy set out by the President and Congress even if its ill-conceived or unrealistic. In those cases, the goal is to minimize risk to the troops…which is what happened in Iraq and Afghanistan. A strategy that minimized US causalities was undertaken that also achieved a semblance of security in the vicinity of our bases.

  47. Mister Bluster says:

    Dinesh D’sousa just compared his jail time to MLK’s.

    Next thing you know he will claim he was tear gassed trying to cross a bridge somewhere in Alabama.

  48. An Interested Party says:

    These people aren’t deplorable…rather, they’re simply deluded

    In this part of New York — older, whiter, poorer than other parts of the country — voters chose Donald Trump in decisive percentages during the 2016 presidential race, the Lees among them. Like many farmers, they think their taxes are too high, their creeks and streams are over-regulated and that Trump still has their best interests at heart.

    “We’ve had unfair trade for years and years. Somebody had to fix it, and he’s trying to fix it,” Anne said.

    “I know a lot of people don’t like it but, you know, this was going to have to happen in order to make U.S. products become more competitive,” said Andy. “It’s going to hurt for a while.”

    If people who have actually been hurt by Trump’s trade policies still support him, it’s no wonder they are thought of as being part of a cult…

  49. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    That was my experience. At the end of 3rd grade, I was still reading at an 1st grade level, mostly due to dyslexia and ADD. A teacher suggested to my mother that I be introduced to the Tom Swift series. Over the next couple of years I read the whole series and the prior series that was set in the 30’s with the protagonist being Tom Sr. From then on I probably was reading a book a week, usually kid lit that some viewed a waste of time.

    Alas today, when I sit down and read, even the newspaper, I fall asleep in my chair.

    @Mister Bluster:

    Not a bridge in Alabama, but a bridge in Brooklyn or Cambridge.

  50. Mikey says:

    And in what’s probably the least surprising news of the day:

    Fed study: Trump tariffs backfired, caused job losses and higher prices

    President Trump’s tariffs on imports — meant to boost the economy — ultimately led to job losses and higher prices, a new study from the Federal Reserve has found.

    “We find that tariff increases enacted in 2018 are associated with relative reductions in manufacturing employment and relative increases in producer prices,” the report by Fed economists Aaron Flaaen and Justin Pierce reads.

    So you mean a policy imposed by a President who has a kindergarten level of economic understanding is failing? Who could have known?

  51. gVOR08 says:

    In an earlier thread we were treated to a link to Walt Kelly’s lassic Deck the Halls with Boston Charlie. I was just wandering around WIKI and stumbled across a real Boston Charley. A Modoc indian who was a party to Captain Jack’s murder of U. S. Army General Edward Canby.

    Canby is an interesting bit of trivia, being the victor in the 1862 Battle of Glorieta Pass, during the Civil War New Mexico campaign. How many people know there were Civil War battles in the Southwest?

  52. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    Tom Swift. I loved Tom Swift. It led to Arthur C. Clarke and Heinlein and Bradbury. When I was nine I was in France (military dad) attending local schools. I was reading Hardy Boys and Tom Swift in English and Ivanhoe in French. So, as I like to think of it, a mix of classic literature and also Ivanhoe.

    Too many educators, librarians and parents think books should be good for you. Good for you not in the sense of enjoyment, but in the way that fish oil is good for you. When it comes to my career, and to my ongoing interest in learning, I owe a great deal more to Tom Swift, Frank and Joe Hardy, even the Bobbsey Twins, than I do to Walter Scott or Charles Dickens.

    Let kids enjoy reading and you have a chance of holding onto them. It’s hard enough competing with all things electrical.

  53. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Sleeping Dog: The research–since 1960 something at least–shows the same thing over and over again: more reading is better than less reading. Readability score, cloze test results, genre, illustrations or lack thereof are all window dressing and don’t seem to change the basic formula. More is better, less isn’t. Quantity over quality.

  54. Gustopher says:

    @Sleeping Dog: What was the reading list?

  55. Sleeping Dog says:


    I hope that’s a rhetorical question, what’s reading list.

    Trashy detective books, westerns, adventure stories and science fiction. Stuff with lots of 4 letter words and romance novel equivalent sex. Stuff you’d be embarrassed to be seen reading on the bus to work.

  56. Teve says:

    I have no idea what Bret Stephens did up to now, but based on his NYT pieces I’m going to assume he benefited from Fancy Rich White Man affirmative action. His granddad must have been a senator, or he went to Dalton or Andover or something.

  57. Gustopher says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    I suspect fewer students come to love reading via Billy Budd, respects to Melville.

    I have no memory of Billy Budd other than how much I hated it. It’s possible that I was just forced to read it too soon (Steinbeck is better as an older reader).

    Part of the issue, though, is that literature classes are where we teach critical thinking and empathy. As much as giving 8th Graders a copy of Penthouse Letters might get them to read more, per Sleeping Dog’s suggestions, it doesn’t help with anything other than the actual reading.

    In theory they could do some of that in history classes*, but there is far too much effort at getting things “right” (the War of Northern Aggression was about trade policy differences, you know) rather than looking at the events from different cultural perspectives. You might read a letter or something by a former slave, but the language is too dated, and too —um— ebonics, to draw someone in.

    That’s something fiction can do better, and it means the literature classes have to do some heavy lifting.

    None of this excuses Billy Budd though. All it engendered in me is a dislike for the names Billy, Budd and Buddy.

    *: My 6th grade history class taught the trail of tears by having us walk across the football field, while the teacher shouted “you! Keel over and die of dysentery on the 15 yard line. You, mourn him!” As the few survivors gazed back at the corpses, we got some sense of the scale of death. Best history class ever.

    Most history classes are not that good.

  58. Gustopher says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    It’s fucking moronic to write a trilogy like FRONT LINES that centers so much on race and misogyny and not be able to use era-appropriate language for fear of some idiot parent freaking out.

    Is there a market for two editions?

    Just to play the devil’s advocate, I think teaching Huck Finn to a mixed class of three black kids and 25 white ones with 2 genuine racists and 5 kids who like to troll.

    Someone put out an edition that replaced the n-word with “robot,” and I think that might be the way to go. Along with a discussion of why the change is there. And why “robot”.

    (Robot is the Czech word for “worker”, and was popularized as a less than human machine in Karel Capek’s “RUR” — Rossum’s Universal Robots)

    (On the other hand, it might be easier to send the racist crackers to detention for calling the black kids by the n-word than for calling them robots…)

  59. Kathy says:


    My very first book assignment was a biography of Napoleon for history class in junior high school. It was so dry and uninteresting, I couldn’t finish it. I wound up writing the report based on encyclopedia articles.

    The same teacher eventually assigned three other books. the next two were good, though they dealt with terrible subjects. “All’s Quiet on the Western Front” by Erich Maria Remarque, about a German soldier at the Western Front in WWI. Then “Mila 18” by Leon Uris, about Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto during WWII.

    The last was “Is Paris Burning?” about the liberation of Paris in WWII. That one I couldn’t get through, either. Not just the book, but the additional work near the end of the school year in all other subjects(*). I got very lucky, as the movie based on the book ran on TV a week before the report was due. I based it on that, plus excerpts from the last parts of the book (it also was my lowest grade of all four, about a C, if memory serves).

    (*) I liked that history teacher a lot, but she had the same flaw many teachers tend to get: the conviction that you only take their class.

  60. Teve says:


    Just to play the devil’s advocate, I think teaching Huck Finn to a mixed class of three black kids and 25 white ones with 2 genuine racists and 5 kids who like to troll.


  61. DrDaveT says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Tom Swift. I loved Tom Swift. It led to Arthur C. Clarke and Heinlein and Bradbury.

    My gateway drugs were “Tom Corbett, Space Cadet” and John Christopher’s juveniles (The Tripods trilogy, The Lotus Caves, the Sword of the Spirit fantasy trilogy). Those led to Heinlein juveniles and Clarke. My parents were already big Bradbury and Sturgeon fans, so I read those too, and never looked back.

  62. gVOR08 says:

    @Teve: Good guess. WIKI says of Bret Steven’s parents,

    They moved to Mexico City with their newborn son Bret to help run the chemical company inherited from their father.

    Said grandfather had changed the Jewish family name to Stevens. I keep telling NYT that if they can’t find decent conservative writers they should just say so and give it up as a bad job. But they don’t listen.

  63. Gustopher says:

    @Teve: Huh indeed. I left out part of that sentence. I think I was wandering between:

    “I think teaching … would be difficult”
    “I think it would be difficult to teach …”

    And then just left out the part that can move.

    An n-word on every page is going to present problems that you wouldn’t have with other books. So, I can see cutting period-correct language and even modifying a book to make it more accessible.

    It’s a solution. Not necessarily the best solution (No idea), but a better solution than not teaching Huck Finn at all, and a defensible solution.

    Which then goes back to Michael Reynolds having to avoid some “more authentic“ language in his book.

  64. Gustopher says:

    @Gustopher: I fall into the camp of “when in doubt, white folks shouldn’t use the n-word, and in half the cases where they think there is no doubt that it’s appropriate, they still shouldn’t.”

    It usually creates more offense than intended, and overshadows whatever you’re trying to say.

    Unless you’re quoting Lee Atwater to show what a bigot he was… I think we can all agree that is fine.

  65. Gustopher says:

    @gVOR08: Did the chemical company make pesticides for bedbugs? I’m betting not.

  66. gVOR08 says:
  67. Michael Reynolds says:

    History is what it is, or at least is what we think we know. If I’m writing the Holocaust I want it to hurt. I want the reader to feel pain. If it doesn’t leave a mark they haven’t even come close to understanding the reality. I wish I could have been that direct on race during WW2. Tulsa 1921 was one of the main character’s backstory, and I’d have liked to burn that deeper. I see the work Damon Lindelof is doing with Watchman, and frankly I’m jealous. He’s got more artistic freedom writing for HBO with a million rabid fanboys on his ass than I do writing for the kind of smart, curious teen-ager who’d read my book. That teen-ager can see Watchmen, but can’t read an equivalent scene. Makes perfect sense. If what you want is to stop kids reading.

    Stuff I’d have liked to write one way had to be written a different way, generally an inferior way. I managed, but my work-arounds pull you right out of the story, like a bleeped Eminem lyric. If it’s not some sweaty, bible-thumping yahoo it’s some humorless, half-smart neo-Victorian.

  68. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @Gustopher Or… We can embrace equality of the n-word. My grandfather called everyone regardless of color n1&&3rs. He said it meant someone hard-heard who didn’t want to learn.

    I’m not old and cantankerous enough to call white people n1&&3rs out loud like he did. But I will think it or mutter it under my breath…. particularly when listening to a Trump supporter or driving by one of their Trailers with those ginormous Trump 2020 flags

  69. gVOR08 says:

    @Jim Brown 32: My private insult is “hillbilly”, which I define as ignorant, and deliberately so, regardless of ethnicity, education, or socioeconomic class. Of course I never say it out loud. And I don’t include Ozark, who is hardly ignorant.