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

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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. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Kim Gardner is pissing off a lot of STL cops by insisting they not be demonstrably open racists. US law enforcement communities everywhere find this to be an impossibly high standard to meet.

    St Louis prosecutor refuses to accept cases from police officers accused of racism .

  2. MarkedMan says:

    From the, “Truth is stranger than fiction. Much stranger”, department: a worm the size of a hot dog that eats rocks and poops sand. I’ve long thought that the things biologists have discovered are as bizarre as anything in an alien invaders movie.

  3. grumpy realist says:

    Next round of the Tory election soap opera has occurred; Savik has been kicked out. By the end of today we’ll know who goes up against Johnson.

    ….at this point, this is just all Tory kabuki malarkey. Johnson is arrogant and lazy enough to believe he can bluff his way through everything after entering No. 10. I wonder how many of the votes for him are from people who think the only way for the Tories to come to their senses is to give Johnson exactly what he wants and watch him crash and burn out as his inadequacies meet reality.

    The man really is a plonker. There’s a very good reason Richard North calls him The Oaf.

  4. Kathy says:

    Watching “The Good Place” has me thinking about different ideas about the afterlife. In particular the Christian version of it. In this tradition there is a Hell to punish people for all eternity (what happens when the universe ends??), a purgatory to let those not good enough expiate their “sins” (not for all eternity), and a heaven to reward people for all eternity.

    I’m going to quote Asimov through one of his characters in “The Gods Themselves”: The number two is ridiculous and cannot exist.

    This means that if one supposes one life only and then nothing, this makes a sort of internal sense. But if there is a second life, an afterlife, and that’s it and it goes on forever, then there’s no internal logic or sense to it. Why only two? What’s magical about that number? Wouldn’t an infinity of other lives make more sense?

    Besides, isn’t eternal punishment or reward incredibly disproportionate in exchange for a few decades of life? This is a bit like predestination: what would keep those in heaven from turning into little, nasty Trumps? They’re in for eternity.

    In Niven and Pournelle’s “Inferno” and “Escape From Hell,” they propose that the souls in Hell can earn redemption through good works. This makes more sense, but it implies those in heaven could earn damnation through bad works, right? alas, the duo confine the setting of their afterlife (based on Dante’s Inferno) to Hell only; they say is the only interesting part of the afterlife.

    BTW, while in “The Good Place” Michael claims religions are each perhaps 5% right about the afterlife, and while religion plays no real part in the show, the parts we’ve seen conform to the Christian notion of one earthly life that serves as a standard for either reward or punishment for all eternity.

  5. MarkedMan says:

    There seems to be a meme evolving in real time that is smearing Biden with words he didn’t say. Unlike what happened with Al Gore, this is coming from the Dems, but like the Gore case, the main stream media is mindlessly repeating it and opining ad nauseum. It’s that Joe Biden bragged that he was friends with racist Senators. Here’s what he actually said:

    Biden also cited the late Sen. Herman Talmadge (D-GA), another segregationist who he called “one of the meanest guys I ever knew,” but added that “at least there was some civility. We got things done. We didn’t agree on much of anything. We got things done.”

  6. MarkedMan says:


    the Christian notion of one earthly life that serves as a standard for either reward or punishment for all eternity.

    Ah, but does it? I guess we will find out since this is the last season coming up…

  7. Teve says:

    The Christian God is a space monster and I’m rather glad he doesn’t exist.

  8. Jax says:

    Talked to a friend who has spiraled down into Q-anon territory. Apparently they are certain Ebola has reached the United States, carried by African migrants, but it’s under a media blackout. (Insert eye roll here)

  9. Kathy says:


    I guess so. But that has remained constant through two seasons. also, I’m trying not to post spoilers. And I’m only two eps into season 3.

  10. grumpy realist says:

    Canada’s getting around Trump’s tariff temper-tantrums.

    Trump’s antics are about as stupid, economically, as the belly-flop the Brits are gearing up for called “no-deal Brexit.” By the time all the dust has settled, we’ll discover that all our previous international customers have found other trade partners to supply them with soybeans etc. and nobody wants to play with us any more, trade-wise. Especially not in light of our demonstrated inability to stick to our promises and unilateral destruction of trade treaties.

  11. DrDaveT says:


    I’m going to quote Asimov through one of his characters in The Gods Themselves: The number two is ridiculous and cannot exist.

    That was always my favorite Asimov novel. He was much better at short stories, where his weaknesses at character development and non-sexism aren’t as glaring.

    TGT was published in 1972, which was a few years into the period when Bryce DeWitt was popularizing Hugh Everett’s “many worlds” interpretation of quantum mechanics. This may have influenced Asimov in his formulation. Ironically, it fits nicely into modern cosmology theories that involve bubble universes, expansion, and a “selection bias” use of the anthropic principle, none of which had yet been postulated in 1972.

  12. Kathy says:


    That was always my favorite Asimov novel. He was much better at short stories, where his weaknesses at character development and non-sexism aren’t as glaring.

    Beginning with the launch of Sputnik, Asimov grew more interested in popularizing science. This led to ever more non-fiction works to the neglect of his fiction efforts. TGT is the only SF novel he published in the 70s.

    I don’t regard his writing as particularly sexist, even taking the times into account. For one thing, he has a female protagonist in the first Mule story in Foundation (and she saves the Second Foundation). For another, all the way back in the 40s he had a woman as a high executive in a cutting edge tech company in the robot stories.

  13. EddieInCA says:

    Fascinating read….

    A snippet, and our current Trump supporters won’t like it.

    Apparently, education and intelligence do matter.

    The changing demographics of the Republican party are interesting and perhaps explanatory of some voter behavior, especially in regard to the nature of die-hard Trump supporters. Generalizing, of course (because there are always exceptions), today’s Republican party is older, whiter, and less educated than it has been in the past — and compared to the demographic makeup of the opposition party.

    The education level is especially telling. According to a Public Opinion Strategies report (based on NBC/Wall St. Journal data), in 2012, 40% of Republicans were college educated whites. In 2018, that demographic in the Trump-dominated Republican party slipped to just 29%. It is evident that the Republican party is losing college-educated voters and, perhaps, attracting more voters who are less educated.

    The appeal of Donald Trump to the less educated among us was hammered home last week by a caller to Chris Cuomo’s Let’s Get After Itshow on SiriusXM’s POTUS channel. A woman, a self-professed Trump supporter had called in. Cuomo asked why she supported Trump, and the woman said it was because he was just like her and her friends. Cuomo challenged this, saying that Trump wasn’t at all like the woman, unless she had her own private jet and gold-plated bathroom. The woman then amended her comment to say that Trump talkedlike she and her friends did, especially when compared to the CNN commentators who used fancy language and sounded like they were better than her.

    This is the AHA! moment. Trump may be a billionaire and a certified member of the .001%, but he talks just like common folk. More precisely, he talks like uneducated folk. He doesn’t use big words, he doesn’t use complex sentences, he uses language (like calling someone “dummy”) that more educated and aware people shy away from. In other words, some people like Trump because he doesn’t seem that smart. He is joyfully anti-intellectual, which appeals to much of our population who are not themselves intellectuals, and who may, in fact, resent and dislike intellectuals.

  14. grumpy realist says:
  15. Kathy says:


    The worst part of it is, these days it’s very easy and very cheap to get a decent education in a few years.

    Take me. 8 years ago I knew little about history. That’s when I ran across Mike Duncan’s The History of Rome podcast. as luck would have it, I had a crappy MP3 player I used to listen to a science podcast. So I started learning part of the foundational history of Western civilization while working out, cooking, traveling, and driving (I drove a lot more back then).

    Duncan, and philosophy podcast I also listened to, advertised Audible a great deal. I wan’t quite sure what it was, but I looked it up. it seemed a good deal to pay $15 a month for an audiobook, which would complement the time between new podcast eps, too. Again, as luck would have it my employer issued Blackberry phones (remember them?) shortly before that, and there was an Audible app available.

    So between then and now, and between podcasts, audiobooks, websites, and a few ebooks, I know a lot more about history (mostly western), than I did.

    I’ve grown a bit tired of history lately, so I’m listening to more fiction. But I also thought of expanding my scope to economics and politics.

    Take notice one day of how many people you see daily wearing earphones of some kind, or listening to music or the radio in their cars, and ask yourself how profitably they use that time.

    The great thing about audiobooks, and podcasts, is that you can listen to them while you’re doing something else, or while you’re wasting time idly, as in driving, or travelling. or even waiting in line.

  16. DrDaveT says:


    Take notice one day of how many people you see daily wearing earphones of some kind, or listening to music or the radio in their cars, and ask yourself how profitably they use that time.

    While I agree with you about the availability of educational resources, I bristle at the suggestion that listening to music is not a profitable or productive use of my time. For me, music is a large fraction of what makes life worth living.

    ETA: Of course, if they’re listening to disco they are certainly wasting their time…

  17. Kathy says:


    While I agree with you about the availability of educational resources, I bristle at the suggestion that listening to music is not a profitable or productive use of my time.

    I appreciate entertainment and appreciation of the arts. I don’t disagree. And if your career or passion involves music, then you should listen to it (and, BTW, I did not mean “profitably” in the monetary sense). I don’t know your situation, so I won’t comment.

    Until 2011, I spent the time in the car listening to either news or music. I miss them not at all. If I think about it, as I’m doing now, I regret no having known about audibooks sooner (though that’s more complicated, as books on tape are not exactly new).

    BTW, while Scribd has tons of books for a low monthly price, Audible offers a lot of The Great Courses lecture series. Most of my history reading involved them.

  18. Mister Bluster says:

    Independence Hall Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    Monday June 18, 1787

    I. “The Supreme Legislative power of the United States of America to be vested in two different bodies of men; the one to be called the Assembly, the other the Senate who together shall form the Legislature of the United States with power to pass all laws whatsoever subject to the Negative hereafter mentioned.
    II. The Assembly to consist of persons elected by the people to serve for three years.
    III. The Senate to consist of persons elected to serve during good behaviour; their election to be made by electors chosen for that purpose by the people: in order to this the States to be divided into election districts. On the death, removal or resignation of any Senator his place to be filled out of the district from which he came.
    IV. The supreme Executive authority of the United States to be vested in a Governour to be elected to serve during good behaviour-the election to be made by Electors chosen by the people in the Election Districts aforesaid-The authorities & functions of the Executive to be as follows: to have a negative on all laws about to be passed, and the execution of all laws passed, to have the direction of war when authorized or begun; to have with the advice and approbation of the Senate the power of making all treaties; to have the sole appointment of the heads or chief officers of the departments of Finance, War and Foreign Affairs; to have the nomination of all other officers (Ambassadors to foreign Nations included) subject to the approbation or rejection of the Senate; to have the power of pardoning all offences except Treason; which he shall not pardon without the approbation of the Senate.
    V. On the death, resignation or removal of the Governour his authorities to be exercised by the President of the Senate till a Successor be appointed.
    VI. The Senate to have the sole power of declaring war, the power of advising and approving all Treaties, the power of approving or rejecting all appointments of officers except the heads or chiefs of the departments of Finance War and foreign affairs.
    VII. The supreme Judicial authority to be vested in Judges to hold their offices during good behaviour with adequate and permanent salaries. This Court to have original jurisdiction in all causes of capture, and an appellative jurisdiction in all causes in which the revenues of the general Government or the Citizens of foreign Nations are concerned.
    VIII. The Legislature of the United States to have power to institute Courts in each State for the determination of all matters of general concern.
    IX. The Governour Senators and all officers of the United States to be liable to impeachment for mal- and corrupt conduct; and upon conviction to be removed from office, & disqualified for holding any place of trust or profit-All impeachments to be tried by a Court to consist of the Chief or Judge of the superior Court of Law of each State, provided such Judge shall hold his place during good behavior, and have a permanent salary.
    X. All laws of the particular States contrary to the Constitution or laws of the United States to be utterly void; and the better to prevent such laws being passed, the Governour or president of each State shall be appointed by the General Government and shall have a negative upon the laws about to be passed in the State of which he is Governour or President.
    XI. No State to have any forces land or Naval; and the Militia of all the States to be under the sole and exclusive direction of the United States, the officers of which to be appointed and commissioned by them.

    Tuesday June 19, 1787

    1. Resolved that it is the opinion of this Committee that a national government ought to be established consisting of a Supreme Legislative, Judiciary, and Executive.
    2. Resolved. that the national Legislature ought to consist of Two Branches.
    3 Resolved that the members of the first branch of the national Legislature ought to be elected by the People of the several States for the term of Three years. to receive fixed stipends, by which they may be compensated for the devotion of their time to public service to be paid out of the National- Treasury. to be ineligible to any Office established by a particular State or under the authority of the United-States (except those peculiarly belonging to the functions of the first branch) during the term of service, and under the national government for the space of one year after it’s expiration.
    4 Resolved. that the members of the second Branch of the national Legislature ought to be chosen by the individual Legislatures. to be of the age of thirty years at least. to hold their offices for a term sufficient to ensure their independency, namely seven years. to receive fixed stipends, by which they may be compensated for the devotion of their time to public service-to be paid out of the National Treasury to be ineligible to any office established by a particular State, or under the authority of the United States (except those peculiarly belonging to the functions of the second branch) during the term of service, and under the national government, for the space of one year after it’s expiration.
    5. Resolved that each branch ought to possess the right of originating acts.
    6. Resolved. that the national Legislature ought to be empowered to enjoy the legislative rights vested in Congress by the confederation-and moreover to legislate in all cases to which the separate States are incompetent: or in which the harmony of the United States may be interrupted by the exercise of individual legislation. to negative all laws passed by the several States contravening, in the opinion of the national Legislature, the articles of union, or any treaties subsisting under the authority of the union.
    7. Resolved. that the right of suffrage in the first branch of the national Legislature ought not to be according to the rule established in the articles of confederation: but according to some equitable ratio of representation- namely, in proportion to the whole number of white and other free citizens and inhabitants of every age, sex, and condition including those bound to servitude for a term of years, and three fifths of all other persons not comprehended in the foregoing description, except Indians, not paying taxes in each State.
    8 Resolved. that the right of suffrage in the second branch of the national Legislature ought to be according to the rule established for the first.
    9 Resolved. that a national Executive be instituted to consist of a single person. to be chosen by the National Legislature. for the term of seven years. with power to carry into execution the national Laws, to appoint to Offices in cases not otherwise provided for to be ineligible a second time, and to be removable on impeachment and conviction of mal practice or neglect of duty. to receive a fixed stipend, by which he may be compensated for the devotion of his time to public service to be paid out of the national Treasury.
    10 Resolved. that the national executive shall have a right to negative any legislative act: which shall not be afterwards passed unless by two third parts of each branch of the national Legislature.
    11 Resolved. that a national Judiciary be established to consist of One Supreme Tribunal. The Judges of which to be appointed by the second Branch of the National Legislature. to hold their offices during good behaviour to receive, punctually, at stated times, a fixed compensation for their services: in which no encrease or diminution shall be made so as to affect the persons actually in office at the time of such encrease or diminution
    12 Resolved. That the national Legislature be empowered to appoint inferior Tribunals.
    13 Resolved. that the jurisdiction of the national Judiciary shall extend to cases which respect the collection of the national revenue: impeachments of any national officers: and questions which involve the national peace and harmony.
    14. Resolved. that provision ought to be made for the admission of States, lawfully arising within the limits of the United States, whether from a voluntary junction of government and territory, or otherwise, with the consent of a number of voices in the national Legislature less than the whole.
    15. Resolved. that provision ought to be made for the continuance of Congress and their authorities until a given day after the reform of the articles of Union shall be adopted; and for the completion of all their engagements.
    16. Resolved that a republican constitution, and its existing laws, ought to be guaranteed to each State by the United States.
    17. Resolved. that provision ought to be made for the amendment of the articles of Union, whensoever it shall seem necessary.
    18 Resolved. that the Legislative, Executive, and Judiciary powers within the several States ought to be bound by oath to support the articles of Union.
    19 Resolved. that the amendments which shall be offered to the confederation by the Convention, ought at a proper time or times, after the approbation of Congress to be submitted to an assembly or assemblies of representatives, recommended by the several Legislatures, to be expressly chosen by the People to consider and decide thereon.

  19. wr says:

    @EddieInCA: Wow, it’s only taken Smerconish to figure out what everyone else knew two years ago. Which, to be fair, is pretty fast for Smerconish.

  20. Eddie says:


    True Dat! He’s one of the few radio/TV personalities at whom I want to scream: “NO. There isn’t TWO SIDES to this. Stop it.” Chuck Todd is another.

  21. EddieInCA says:

    Can my comment be removed from moderation, please?

  22. Mister Bluster says:

    Independence Hall Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    Wednesday June 20, 1787
    Mr. William Blount from N. Carolina took his seat.

    Mr. LANSING, observed that the true question here was, whether the Convention would adhere to or depart from the foundation of the present Confederacy; and moved instead of the 2d. Resolution, “that the powers of Legislation be vested in the U. States in Congress.”
    It could not be expected that those possessing Sovereignty could ever voluntarily part with it. It was not to be expected from any one State, much less from thirteen. He proceeded to make some observations on the plan itself and the argumts. urged in support of it. The point of Representation could receive no elucidation from the case of England. The corruption of the boroughs did not proceed from their comparative smallness: but from the actual fewness of the inhabitants, some of them not having more than one or two. A great inequality existed in the Counties of England. Yet the like complaint of peculiar corruption in the small ones had not been made. It had been said that Congress represent the State prejudices: will not any other body whether chosen by the Legislatures or people of the States, also represent their prejudices? It had been asserted by his colleague [Col. Hamilton] that there was no coincidence of interests among the large States that ought to excite fears of oppression in the smaller. If it were true that such a uniformity of interests existed among the States, there was equal safety for all of them, whether the representation remained as heretofore, or were proportioned as now proposed. It is proposed that the Genl. Legislature shall have a negative on the laws of the States. Is it conceivable that there will be leisure for such a task? there will on the most moderate calculation, be as many Acts sent up from the States as there are days in the year. Will the members of the general Legislature be competent Judges? Will a gentleman from Georgia be a Judge of the expediency of a law which is to operate in N. Hamshire. Such a Negative would be more injurious than that of Great Britain heretofore was. It is said that the National Govt. must have the influence arising from the grant of offices and honors. In order to render such a Government effectual be believed such an influence to be necessary. But if the States will not agree to it, it is in vain, worse than in vain to make the proposition. If this influence is to be attained, the States must be entirely abolished. Will any one say this would ever be agreed to? He doubted whether any Genl. Government equally beneficial to all can be attained. That now under consideration he is sure, must be utterly unattainable. He had another objection. The system was too novel & complex. No man could foresee what its operation will be either with respect to the Genl. Govt. or the State Govts. One or other it has been surmised must absorb the whole.

  23. wr says:

    @Eddie: I only see him when I’m at the gym early Saturday morning. The last two times he had a lawyer explaining how it was good for Freedom that Robert Kraft’s case be thrown out and one of the cops who arrested the Central Park Five explaining that even though they were exculpated, they really were vicious animals and the police and prosecutors acted like sainted angels the whole time.

    In Smerconish land, white guys are always the victim and rich white guys are super-victims.

  24. Mister Bluster says:


    You likely figured this out by now.
    A point of information for other unfortunate posters sent to the dungeon.
    It looks like you were sent to moderation hell because you did not use your complete handle in the name field.
    I know it has happened to me a few times.
    Miser Bluster…Mister Buster…Mister Blister just don’ work.
    Also if the eMail address is incorrect “go directly to jail. do not pass go. do not collect $200.”
    Sometimes if I am quick enough when I get the message of doom I can hit the escape key and go back and fix the error. This doesn’t always work.
    The system is very unforgiving.
    Of course I am assuming that “Eddie” and “Eddie in California” are the same commenter.
    Eddie…Eddie is that you? How’s your father?

  25. Kathy says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    FYI and FWIW, lately Chrome stopped filling in my personal email and instead suggests the work email. I failed to notice a few times, and the work address got in. The posts appeared right away, except without my usual avatar. I edited the ones I caught in time.

    In my, admittedly short, time here, I’ve had only one comment go to moderation. It was one with several links to Wikipedia referencing airplane models.

  26. Teve says:

    There’s an ars technica story about how the public doesn’t really give a shit about going to the moon or mars, which I think is the correct opinion. But this stood out:

    So what is going on here? It has long—and correctly, we believe—been said the American support for space exploration is a mile wide and an inch deep. So Americans like the idea of a space program, and they appreciate robotic probes landing on Mars. But they don’t want to dig too deeply into their pockets to pay for it. (The public isn’t very well-informed about this, however, as most Americans seem to think NASA claims about one-quarter of the US budget. It is, in fact, less than one-half of one percent).

    The US public thinks NASA gets 25% of the federal budget? Jesus Christ.

  27. wr says:

    @Teve: “The US public thinks NASA gets 25% of the federal budget? Jesus Christ.”

    They also think that about 50% goes to foreign aid…

  28. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Mister Bluster: I don’t think you’re right about this because when I’m away from home on a computer I don’t usually use, I chime in as “just nutha” and my comments go through just fine. That nym may have been stopped the first time, I don’t recall. But it always works. Same with other totally non-thematic one’s I’ve signed on as, such as “Grammar Police.”

  29. Kathy says:


    The US public thinks NASA gets 25% of the federal budget? Jesus Christ.

    That would be, according to some hasty research, about $1 trillion, that’s Trillion with a T.

    It seems the highest NASA’s budget has been as a percentage of the total budget was just under 6%. That’s a great, big trainload of money, but hardly 25%.

    With a trillion dollars a year, NASA would have built Moon bases by now. Or, were Dennison directing them, have launched solid gold satellites and diamond-encrusted probes to Mars 😉

  30. Mister Bluster says:

    50% goes to foreign aid (Pud’s Russian dominatrixes) 25% goes to NASA (his personal toy store) and the rest goes to the Kenucky Transportation Cabinet.

  31. Mister Bluster says:

    I have to enter name and eMail every time I post.
    Before the OTB upgrade (several years ago now?) those fields were always saved.
    I guess I could blame my trips to the Q on my Safari browser.
    I don’t know enough about these things to understand how or why Safari would be directing comments to OTB moderation.

  32. Teve says:

    The new allegation against Trump by E. Jean Carroll is straight up rape.