Open Forum

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

The floor is yours.

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. Teve says:

    1 Vote for adding a Recent Comments feature.

  2. Teve says:

    U.S. to pay farmers up to $16 billion for trade war losses, South to benefit But I’m sure the MAGAs will be too Rugged Individualist to accept these socialist Big Gumment payments. 😛

  3. Jax says:

    It blows me away that this is public knowledge, and Republicans in the Senate are still blocking any attempt to make our elections more secure.

  4. Teve says:

    @Jax: without a subscription I can only read the first paragraph but it’s bad enough:

    Suspected nation-state hackers from Russia, Iran and elsewhere have launched nearly 800 cyberattacks against political organizations over the past year that have been detected by Microsoft Corp., with the vast majority of the attempts targeting groups based in the U.S.

  5. Kit says:

    From a Wood Mackenzie report:Deep decarbonisation: the multi-trillion-dollar question

    We estimate the cost of full decarbonisation of the US power grid at US$4.5 trillion, given the current state of technology. That’s nearly as much as what the country has spent, since 2001, on the war on terror. From a budgetary perspective, the cost is staggering at US$35,000 per household – nearly US$2,000 per year if assuming a 20-year plan.

  6. Jax says:

    @Teve: I didn’t realize it was paywalled, I just had to click out of the ad and could read it. Must not have hit my monthly free limit yet!

    “Think tanks and nongovernmental groups that work with candidates or political parties—or on issues important to their campaigns—have suffered most of the attacks. The assaults could be a precursor to direct attacks on campaigns and election systems, a trend in recent election cycles in the U.S. and Europe, Microsoft said Wednesday.

    The findings are the latest indication that foreign governments are laying the groundwork ahead of the 2020 presidential election to potentially disrupt American politics, as senior U.S. intelligence officials have repeatedly warned.

    Federal agencies have dedicated more resources to election security since 2016, but cash-strapped campaigns remain broadly vulnerable, and the Republican-controlled Senate isn’t expected to consider legislation tackling the issue before the election.

    Microsoft said it had delivered 781 notifications of suspected nation-state attacks to customers globally who are enrolled in its AccountGuard service, a free security tool offered to federal, state and local political candidates, party committees, election-oriented technology vendors and select nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations that use Microsoft Office 365. Microsoft wouldn’t identify the customers.

    Microsoft said it had notified almost 10,000 customers overall that they had either been targeted or compromised by nation-state attacks in the past year, with about 84% of those attacks targeting business customers and the rest launched against personal email accounts.

    The majority of nation-state activity spotted by Microsoft originated from Iran, North Korea and Russia, Microsoft said. It includes attacks from a group known as Fancy Bear believed to have ties to Russia’s military intelligence and linked to the hack of Democratic emails in 2016.

    The company in its findings didn’t mention China—a country usually included with the other three when Western intelligence agencies or security experts discuss state-sponsored cyberattacks. Asked about the omission, Microsoft said China was also an active threat but that its attacks against political groups weren’t as voluminous.

    AccountGuard, which rolled out last August, is offered in more than two dozen countries, but 95% of the attacks have targeted U.S.-based organizations, a proportion that couldn’t be explained by its rate of American customers, Microsoft said.

    “Democracy-focused organizations in the United States should be particularly concerned,” said Tom Burt, Microsoft’s senior vice president of customer security and trust, in a blog post.

    “By nature, these organizations are critical to society but have fewer resources to protect against cyberattacks than large enterprises,” Mr. Burt said, adding that “the problem is real and unabated.”

    Microsoft previously said it s threat-intelligence team had tracked hacking attempts to the Kremlin targeting U.S. think tanks, academics, and nongovernmental groups that appear close to American politics or specific 2020 campaigns. Wednesday was the first time it had provided statistics for the phenomenon.

    The announcement coincides with the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado, where Microsoft will demonstrate a new software kit intended to let third parties verify election results. The kit, known as ElectionGuard, gives voters a digital tracking code that allows them to follow an encrypted version of theirballot and check on a website that it was counted correctly. The system, which can be layered onto existing voting equipment, would keep actual votes private, but be able to detect whether a vote had been altered, according to Microsoft. U.S. officials have repeatedly said there is no evidence any votes were changed by hackers in 2016.

    Microsoft is one of several tech companies that have sought to build or expand election-security offerings since 2016, when Russia interfered in the presidential election to boost then-candidate Donald Trump, according to former special counsel Robert Mueller and the U.S. intelligence community. Russia has denied the allegations.

    The tech firms’ effort haven’t always gone smoothly. Facebook and Twitter have been criticized for acting too slowly or inconsistently in efforts to take down foreign disinformation on their platforms. And Google’s archive of political ads, set up last year in response to calls for greater transparency as part of the fallout of Russian interference in 2016, is riddled with errors and delays, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

    Some federal offices have also adapted to the new threat. The Department of Homeland Security, Federal Bureau of Investigation and other agencies have formed new teams and marshaled staff to focus on election security.

    Despite the efforts, a Wall Street Journal/NBC survey in May found that 73% of American adults said they had just some or no confidence at all in the federal government’s ability to prevent foreign countries from interfering in U.S. elections, and 45% said they were fairly worried or very worried about foreign interference.

    At a gathering of state election directors this week in Austin, officials voiced frustration over public attitudes that little is being done to safeguard elections.

    “The idea that this is not being taken seriously is just a lie,” said Bob Kolasky, who leads the DHS’s National Risk Management Center, during a briefing to the election directors.

    During the same briefing, one state official said President Trump, who last month said he might accept information from foreign governments that was damaging to his rivals, had been an obstacle.

    “He is the one who is overseeing your agencies and directing your work, in theory,” said Will Senning, Vermont’s director of elections, to Mr. Kolasky and other DHS officials in the room. “And you get him with a sarcastic finger wag to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin…that is playing the biggest role right now in the public perception that nothing is being done.”

    The DHS officials didn’t respond to Mr. Senning’s remark. Asked about the exchange, Judd Deere, a White House spokesman, said the Trump administration was taking election security seriously and working collaboratively with state and local partners.”

    Write to Dustin Volz at du*********@ws*.com

  7. Teve says:

    @Jax: Thanks bunches!

  8. grumpy realist says:

    Looks like BoJo is trying to convince the EU that “no, we really really really mean No Deal this time.”

    (The fact that no one has done any work on getting the requisite new truck bays and investigation areas into Dover puts the lie to this. Sorta hard to convince people you in fact do have a space program when all your actions so far have been simply sitting in a room making brm-brm noises.)

  9. Teve says:

    according to an IT friend of mine some of these voting systems produce results in an unencrypted .xls file that is then thumb-drived from place to place.

    A 2020 presidential election where we legitimately have no idea who won and by how much could be Mitch McTurtle’s final legacy.

    Godspeed to our 46th President, Marianne Williamson.

  10. Kathy says:

    I listened again to a Freakonomics podcast on fixing politics. One trope they brought up over and over was that there is a large demand for an alternative to both parties, or perhaps for a centrist party.

    This seems self-evident, as most people are not invested in politics. But I wonder.

    In commercial aviation there is a large demand for better seats, with more legroom, and for better service. Yet when the odd airline offers such things, their efforts generate little additional sales or revenue, as most travelers simply opt for the cheapest fares.

    What air travelers want is not better seats and services, but better seats and services at a lower price. And this simply is not possible (although Southwest does very well with a minimum of ancillary fees).

    Is there, then, a real demand for centrist policies, or rather for some impossible ideal?

    The Freakonomics podcast made much of how the two major parties are a duopoly focused on excluding new entrants, though the host, Stephen Dubner, made a very good point that various people have managed to break into the parties, like Dennison did, even if not to break the duopoly as such.

  11. Jax says:

    The big problem with leaving election security to the states is that some states are barely getting into the digital age. Wyoming, for instance. There are a lot of government things you can’t do here, that you can do in other states with better digital infrastructure. The stuff that you can do online, the web pages tend to be badly designed and buggy as hell. I would much prefer a clear, federal program in regards to elections, rather than leave it to a hodgepodge of states to figure it out as best they can.

  12. Paine says:

    @Teve: I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that those benefits do *not* require any sort of mandatory drug-testing…

  13. Teve says:

    Trump to Restart Use of Death Penalty

    Campaign ads will be great next year.

    This is Tyrone Jackson…In 2006 he raped and murdered this little white girl. Liz Warren wants to give him a hug and make you pay him reparations. But President Trump will Put Him To Death!

  14. Tyrell says:

    Newest neat tech gadgets:

    LG Signature OLED TV R9: a 65” tv that rolls up into a smallbox

    Harley-Davidson LiveWire Motorcycle : an all electric cycle that has no gears to change. Get it for around $30,000. Peter Fonda?

    Smartech Motiv ring fitness tracker: a ring that tracks steps and other activities

    Dab radio: this hypnotizes you to sleep with a pulsating light

    ROKiT IO Pro: this is a smart phone that has 3D built in: no need for the big glasses.

    Twist it USB LED light: flexible light for reading and close up work

    Smart air quality monitor: wall plug in; monitors CO2, humidity, temperature, chemicals.

    “Stranger things” Polaroid camera

    Golf swing analyzer: worn as glove, links to smart phone (Zepp)

    Sonic boom alarm clock: 113 db sound, flashing lights, shakes bed ($30)

  15. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Looks like we are going to see revisions downward for the GDP.
    Seems the tax cut was a complete waste, and the trade wars are not productive.
    Good thing we hired such a genius businessman to run things. Maybe we can hire Drew next…I mean, if we are hiring make-believe business people.

  16. Teve says:

    Dean Baker

    on the plus side, China has as much installed solar and wind capacity as the rest of the world combined and will sell more electric cars this year than the rest of the world. The Green New Deal is happening in China

  17. SenyorDave says:

    Kellyanne Conway is definitely not going to hell, because no way that Satan would take her. Even Satan has standards. Here’s a quote from her on the Hugh Hewitt show:
    “I feel like Bob Mueller may well have been used by the people around him to imbue this fake and ill-conceived investigation with credibility and legitimacy it wouldn’t have otherwise,” she said. “And I am first and foremost who I will always be, which is a daughter, a mother, and, of course, I feel great empathy and compassion for folks who, as some of these headlines suggest, may be feeble or not understanding some of the questions — asking them to be repeated, clearly not conversant with the facts and with his own report.”
    She obviously has great empathy and compassion – why else would she call him feeble.
    I’m embarrassed to be a member of the same species as that thing*

    * I have too much respect for women to call KAC a woman

  18. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Worth noting that minutes after Conway spewed this nonsense about Mueller, her boss invented the word, “Infantroopen”

  19. michael reynolds says:

    Announcing that on this day, July 26, I made the leap (or shuffle) from middle age to old age. I am 65 and somehow, to the astonishment of everyone who has ever known me, I’m still alive.

    Vices: sugar, fat, cigars, pot, whiskey.
    Default position: prone.
    Major form of exercise: driving.
    Lifetime consumption of green vegetables: gonna say maybe 5 pounds.
    Lifetime consumption of bacon: gonna say a lot more than 5 pounds.
    Serious illnesses: 0. Surgeries: 0.

    20 pounds overweight but 20 years ago it was 60, pre-diabetic since forever, pre-hypertensive ditto. Yet still, somehow, pre-dead.

    I don’t believe in eternal life and would give it a pass if it were real. But I know what’s coming. I know the Reaper is waiting for me, but you can’t over-worry the inevitable. At some point I’ll be in a walker taking ten minutes to get through a door. At some point I’ll be pissing in a diaper. At some point I’ll be asking for just a scosh more morphine. All that is coming.

    But right now I’m showered, shaved and caffeinated, the woman I have loved for 40 years is just a few feet away trying to get her idiot dog to take a dump, I’m looking out over Silver Lake to the Griffith and the Hollywood sign and I wished I believed in God so I’d have someone to thank properly.

    Jesus Christ in a chicken basket, I’m still alive. Huh.

  20. Kathy says:


    She’s the trumpista version of Talleyrand. Not as competent, witty or effective, but she hangs on while the parade of firings and resignations passes by.

  21. Jax says:

    @michael reynolds: Happy Birthday, Michael!!

  22. Jax says:
  23. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Jax: What interest do Republicans have in making elections more secure? Any current election insecurity is more likely to benefit the GOP than the Democratic Party. Plus they’re distracted by the need to police the voting records to purge the 3 million undocumenteds who voted in 2016 and 2018–The Phantom Menace!

  24. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Tyrell: “Harley-Davidson LiveWire Motorcycle : an all electric cycle that has no gears to change. Get it for around $30,000. Peter Fonda?”
    Two questions: 1) What would be the point of a silent running motorcycle? Doesn’t the small visibility footprint make them dangerous enough?

    2) What self-respecting motorcycle gang member is gonna ride an electric hog?

    (Bonus question: How much is the charging station and do you need to run a separate line to your home as I am told you need to do with cars [the chargers don’t run on household current])?

  25. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: As pathetic and malicious as Drew would be (it wouldn’t surprise me to see total tax forgiveness for people named “Drew” for example [well, at least ONE person so named]), even he would be better than Trump, if only because of a higher work ethic. Crap, most teddy bears that children have would run the economy better than Trump.

    Only the best people.

  26. CSK says:

    @michael reynolds: True about the walker. On the other hand, you may expire peacefully in bed at age 95, having just made love to your wife.

    Happy birthday.

  27. Teve says:


    by ten points

    On Thursday, Donald Trump went on a Fox News promotional spree, peppering his Twitter feed with praise for the network, its anchors, and its polling prowess. Yet, less than 24 hours later, the president’s attitude has undergone one of its famously instantaneous shifts. On Friday, after Fox released a poll showing Trump trailing current 2020 Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden by ten points, he lamented in a pair of tweets that Fox is no longer home to “Proud Warriors” who always have his back, but part of the “Lamestream Media” that has him losing to “the Sleepy One.” “[Fox News] is at it again,” he wrote. “So different from what they used to be during the 2016 Primaries, & before.”

    The poll in question, published Thursday, shows the former vice president with a commanding lead over the rest of the Democratic field, despite his flat first debate performance. But what set off Trump was the poll’s suggestion that voters preferred Biden to him, 49% to 39%. The hosts of Fox & Friends mostly downplayed the unfavorable results, which also have the president losing to Bernie Sanders: “Early, barely buy it, doesn’t matter,” Pete Hegseth corrected after Brian Kilmeade called the survey “noteworthy” in a Friday morning segment. But that wasn’t enough to comfort Trump, who rage-tweeted at the network about an hour later. “There can be NO WAY, with the greatest Economy in U.S. history, that I can be losing to the Sleepy One,” Trump wrote, referring to the former veep.

  28. Guarneri says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Happy Birthday. May you have many more.

  29. Gustopher says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    What would be the point of a silent running motorcycle? Doesn’t the small visibility footprint make them dangerous enough?


  30. Teve says:

    Brad DeLong Retweeted

    Alex Cole
    Jul 23
    Reagan took the deficit from 70 billion to 175 billion.
    Bush 41 took it to 300 billion.
    Clinton got it to zero.
    Bush 43 took it from 0 to 1.2 trillion.
    Obama halved it to 600 billion.
    Trump’s got it back to a trillion.

    Morons: “Democrats cause deficits.”

  31. Gustopher says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Vices: sugar, fat, cigars, pot, whiskey.

    That seems like such a small list. Well, now that you’re 65, you might have more time to take up vices. At least sloth.

    Or maybe get a pet sloth. And a pet biologist to take care of it, as they actually make terrible pets.

    Be the crazy eccentric millionaire the rest of us want to be, so we can live vicariously through you!

  32. Kylopod says:

    @Kathy: One problem I have with the notion of the silent centrist majority is that it’s largely a media construct. I don’t mean that the public isn’t in some sense centrist. But what most media elites have in mind when they talk about centrism—usually fiscal conservatism married to cultural liberalism—is in fact far less popular than they imagine. It reflects their own biases, as typically college-educated and secular. Things they consider to be plain common sense, they impose on the populace at large as an imagined public consensus which in reality doesn’t exist. Indeed, it is the opposite combination (cultural conservatism plus economic populism) that is far more widespread.

    Also, centrism can refer to two different things. It could refer to a tendency to take the middle ground on specific issues—say, expanding Obamacare rather than pursuing Medicare for all, or supporting abortion rights but opposing federal funding for it. On the other hand, it could mean adopting extreme positions, but mixing “liberal” positions together with “conservative” ones. The bottom line is that it means so many different things that invoking centrism becomes an excuse for people to imagine more people agree with them than is actually the case.

  33. Kathy says:


    But what most media elites have in mind when they talk about centrism—usually fiscal conservatism married to cultural liberalism—is in fact far less popular than they imagine.

    That’s a good point. If we extend from the airline analogy, then, for example, “fiscal conservatism” might mean “lower deficits and debt but with lower taxes.” This would explain why tax cuts are usually popular, and why people believe they will “pay” for themselves. Or it may mean “fewer/no regulations, but the same level of confidence and safety in all things.”

  34. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @michael reynolds:
    Happy birthday, sir.
    They say the secret to a long life is to have plenty of birthdays.
    Keep it up.

  35. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    DIA analysts are saying NoKo has likely produced 12 nukes since the first Trump-Kim summit.
    Maybe putting Foreign Policy in the hands of a two-bit con-man from Queens wasn’t really such a good idea after all?

  36. grumpy realist says:


    (which, as everyone knows, means “a very Happy Birthday with love from Pooh.”)

  37. Moosebreath says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Happy birthday, and many more! And in the famed words of Groucho Marx, you’re only as old as the women you feel.

  38. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @michael reynolds: As one who sees the Big 7-0 barreling down the track at him, I can truthfully say if I had to take the last 5 years of my life to live over, versus almost any other 5-year period, I’d gladly choose this one. May you have the same good fortune!

  39. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kathy: “Lower deficits and debt but with lower taxes” is really hard, though. When confronted with the question of what we should spend less on, the suggestions normally gravitate toward cuts that we lower the deficit and, eventually, curb the debt only if we can find a billion or so such cuts. They want tax cuts because “the system” is rife with “waste, fraud, and abuse” (catchy phrase, wonder where it came from?) and they imagine that the cuts will eventually purge the system.

    Real underpants gnomes stuff. Much easier to simply complain about runway spending when the other side is in charge.

  40. Jax says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: Can you imagine that “board meeting” amongst the GOP elite? “Well, boys, polling shows we’re not going to win on our ideas, so we’re gonna have to find ways to cheat!” Mitch McConnell slowly raises his hand “I know some people in Russia, but you’re not gonna like it…..the nominee they have in mind is a real douche.”

  41. Kathy says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Happy birthday!

    And, who knows. Advances in medical science may mean only half your life is over.

  42. gVOR08 says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: A couple of anecdotes:

    Years ago I went to a training seminar by a company whose sound measurement equipment I was using. They did the usual go around the room, who are you, what are you here for. Like most others I said I was looking for ways to reduce noise on our equipment. There were a handful of guys from Harley. ‘You looking for ways to reduce noise on the bikes?’ ‘Gawd no. We want to quantify the sound of our bikes and make sure they always sound like that.’

    Saw a story that some Taiwanese, Japanese, whatever pizza chain started using electric scooters to deliver pizza. They realized the absence of noise could be a safety issue. So they put a speaker on it and played artificial noise that sounded sort of like exhaust but going, ‘Rumm, rumm, pizza, rum, yummy, rumm, rumm, yummy pizza, rumm.’

    Yeah, I can’t picture an electric Harley either. But then I don’t understand Harley marketing. It all depends on the outlaw image, even though the owners are packs of Hell’s Orthodontists.

  43. gVOR08 says:

    @michael reynolds: I’m well ahead of you, age wise. Good on you. And (almost) no matter what, getting older beats the alternative.

  44. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @gVOR08: Lot of bikers in Cowlitz County (lot of crank here to, unsurprisingly) most guys here run straight pipes with no muffler to speak of (or at all) because they believe that hearing them coming from a mile away is a safety feature–for them. They may be right.

    “…the owners are packs of Hell’s Orthodontists.” 🙂

  45. Jax says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: I laughed pretty hard at Hell’s Orthodontists, too. 😉

  46. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Jax: True story from my time in Korea. At the far end of Itaewon, across from the Samsung Blue Theater, there is a motorcycle shop. The cheapest bike in the shop was a Harley that was selling for roughly 65 million won (roughly a thousand won to $1 US). An Indian bike was 119 million and there was another custom manufacture bike for a just under a quarter million US. At those prices, not even orthodontists can afford them. I don’t know who buys them but there is a motorcycle culture in Korea.