Open Forum

It's that time again.

Sunday morning’s alright for writing (about things that would be off-topic in other threads).


*The joke was slightly funnier before I switched to morning by popular request.

James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Tony W says:

    I’m standing by my claim that Assange was arrested this week because he threatened release of the Mueller report, and somehow demonstrated his ability to do it.

    The timing is just too convenient.

  2. Teve says:

    random Sunday morning stuff:

    Pete Booty-judge released a design toolkit for supporters who want to make campaign stuff.

    Study in the Lancet says exercise makes you feel better than money.

    More people use the Duolingo app to study English than any other language. On that app it’s the most popular language in a hundred countries.

  3. Teve says:

    I’ve always been curious about whether you could learn a language from an app. My three years of college Spanish didn’t take at all.

  4. Lynn says:

    @Teve: I’ve always been curious about whether you could learn a language from an app.

    My guess is tht you can learn to order a meal, get a hotel room, and so forth but not much more.

    I’ve been working on Spanish for years, including some 12 weeks in various immersion schools, university courses, and language exchange partners, and it’s pretty good but far from perfect.

  5. Teve says:

    Conversation piece:

    David Roberts
    18 hours ago, 16 tweets, 3 min read Read on Twitter

    1. All right, one more angry Saturday rant & then I’m gonna go outside & have a life. Let’s talk about 9/11, shall we? There’s a kind of national mythology that’s built up around it: that moment when tragedy brought us together & reminded us of what we all shared. Right?
    2. It’s one of the most fiercely defended & expansively buttressed national myths we have, almost sacrosanct. But let’s be real: that’s not what happened. That’s not how “we” responded. Even then, the national American “we” was already dead & gone.
    3. Sure, in the immediate aftermath, for a day or two, when it was about tending to the affected, finding bodies, arranging basic care, there was a sense of unity. But it was fleeting & ephemeral. Within 48 hours, the right was using it to stoke reactionary backlash.
    4. You see, when most people on the center & left envisioned a moment of unity, they envisioned a *cosmopolitan* moment — i.e., a moment when we realize that even with our diverse cultures & commitments, we share a common devotion to the American ideal. An *ideal* unites us.
    5. What the right envisioned (& immediately set out to enforce) was a *tribal* moment of unity. In their eyes, the attacks should have reminded us of our white patriarchal Christian core & renewed our commitment to it. Our blood&soil identity *as a people* unites us.
    6. That was the right’s take, immediately & ever since: see? The world is bloody & violent & we have to take care of our own, put up walls, crack down on the Other. Enough frivolous talk about diversity & peace & compassion, they are just weakness. Now is a time for strength!
    7. In practice, that meant racism, warmongering, & increasing tolerance for lies & corruption as long as they were lies & corruption in service of the right tribe. It meant renewed attacks on the left, not just as mistaken, but as treasonous & unAmerican, in league w/ the Enemy.
    8. If you didn’t live through the aftermath, you really can’t appreciate the endless macho fantasizing of “war bloggers” & the relentless attempts to silence political opposition. Every fearful, angry reactionary impulse was unleashed & celebrated, including by the MSM.
    9. Consequently, the US utterly botched its response to 9/11. Utterly. On every level. We took unified global sympathy & turned it to anger & contempt. We invaded the wrong f’ing country, at a cost of trillions. We ratcheted up the surveillance/police state & security theater.
    10. Congress utterly surrendered authority over warmaking. “The troops” became a talisman to justify unlimited military & police-state spending. On & on & on. By any reasonable metric, the US comprehensively fucked up its response, exposing to the world how hollow it had become.
    11. And why? Because the GOP was in charge. And the GOP — its media, its base — had already been taken over by resentful white ethnonationalists. The fight we’re having today, out in the open? We were already having it then, we just never wanted to admit it.
    12. So no, 9/11 was not a monument to national unity. Rather, it was the event that brutally exposed our fundamental division. It showed that there are 2 Americas: a blood&soil, reactionary, white-patriarchal-Christian America, & a multiethnic, democratic, rule-of-law America.
    13. Reactionary America sensed opportunity on 9/11 & immediately used to to push & enforce its worldview. As usual, then & now, the other America was disengaged, disinclined to fight, endlessly naive & credulous about its opponents, & attached to a bunch of moldy myths.
    14. So this fight we’re having today, over Omar? It’s the same fight we’ve been having since 9/11. The same fight that was gathering well before that. It’s white enthnonationalism, enforced by the state, or its multi-ethnic, cosmopolitan democracy.
    15. The right gets this. The left has hidden from it, comforted by masturbatory West Wing-style fantasies about our Deeper Unity. It’s time for the left to acknowledge that Obama was wrong. We’re not one America. We’re two. And if one doesn’t triumph, the other will.
    16. There’s no avoiding the fight. So let’s fucking fight it.

  6. Mr. Prosser says:

    @Lynn: When learning any language once the student is past the basic present, future and past tenses and into the subtlety and nuance things get hard. Immersion helps but wears off fast.

  7. Teve says:
  8. gVOR08 says:

    @Teve: All true, and well stated. Republicans, ironically the “Party of Lincoln”, have largely succeeded in making politics us v them, w/ them being any minority. People vote based on tribal alliance. Let’s try to redefine the tribes as cosmopolitan v parochial. We might be able to get the country club conservatives to go with cosmopolitan. If Rs want to be the rural side in urban v rural, let them. What’s the rural population? 15%?

  9. Kathy says:


    from my experience learning English, I can say the following:

    1) It’s not that hard to learn the basics of a new language.

    2) It’s very hard to go from 1) to fluency in a new language.

    3) The best way to gain fluency is to constantly practice, and I mean constantly. Every day is ideal, if possible. You do this by a) reading in the new language, b) watching TV or listening to the radio in the new language. Therefore I recommend picking one with literature, TV, and cinema you find interesting. I favor science fiction, and most of that is written in English, ditto for most movies and TV shows.

    Side note. after a few months practice, ditch the bilingual dictionary and get one in the language your’e learning.

    I started taking English classes when I was around 11, but they mostly didn’t take until I had a really good teacher who told me to practice every day. By 16 I was fluent.

    Books, newspapers, and movies and TV are helpful in another way, namely you get to learn the language as used by contemporary people, rather than the “correct” way prescriptivism thinks it’s right. So when you go to a country where the language is spoken you will 1) understand what’s being said and 2) resist the urge to correct native speakers in the use of their own language.

  10. Teve says:

    resist the urge to correct native speakers in the use of their own language.

    a lot of American Trumpers could use a bit more Prescription. 😀

  11. Teve says:
  12. Kit says:


    You [gain fluency] by a) reading in the new language, b) watching TV or listening to the radio in the new language.

    The basic skills are: reading, writing, listening and speaking. Making steady progress on each front can be difficult without being immersed in the environment. Then again, technology offers so many more possibilities than it did twenty years ago.

    I’m curious, Kathy, if you don’t mind my asking: given that your writing would never betray you as a non-native English speaker, how’s your accent?

  13. EddieInCA says:


    Teve says:
    Sunday, April 14, 2019 at 10:17

    I’ve always been curious about whether you could learn a language from an app. My three years of college Spanish didn’t take at all.

    I’ve been learning French via an app called “Duolingo” on my iPhone and iPad. It’s been great. I’m conversational now, but not fluent. Getting there though. My problem where can I practice. I’ve been watching some French news to help me learn nuance.

  14. Michael Reynolds says:

    Pretty much where I went yesterday:

    Or fuck it, and let’s just have it out 1860 style. That was the last time part of the country wanted to move forward while the other part insisted on heading the other direction. Sooner or later, by persuasion, by the passage of time, or by open conflict, this needs to be settled, and there isn’t room for much compromise: they have to surrender. They are doing evil, and they have to stop. Just like in 1860, the moral right is weighted heavily in our favor.

    In California we had these Republican social and governmental vandals dragging us down, then we got rid of them – peacefully, but thoroughly – and suddenly things got much better.

    They are a dead weight.

  15. Teve says:

    @EddieInCA: did you have any training before you started using Duolingo? How much time have you spent on that app? Did you do all the skills to level 5 in order, or did you do them in cycles?

  16. Teve says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I’ve never lived in California but my impression is that the state had several intractable problems, until the Republicans lost power, and then California got much better very quickly.

  17. Kit says:


    I’ve been watching some French news to help me learn nuance.

    While every language must be like this to some extent, the spoken French of real life is just crazy different from the sort of proper French you hear on the news. By now, you are no doubt comfortable enough with elision, where the end of words can jump over to the beginning of the next word. But it can go in the other direction too. And there’s a certain minimum of verlan that you probably need to know as well. On the other hand, the French really treat you nicer when you make an effort.

  18. dennis says:

    @Tony W: @Tony W:

    I’m standing by my claim that Assange was arrested this week because he threatened release of the Mueller report, and somehow demonstrated his ability to do it.

    You’re basing that on what, exactly?

  19. Kathy says:


    I’m curious, Kathy, if you don’t mind my asking: given that your writing would never betray you as a non-native English speaker, how’s your accent?

    I truly don’t know. No one can judge their own accent, as the accent you’re used to sounds like no accent at all. I can tell you when I visit the US people rarely ask me about it, including friends.

  20. SenyorDave says:

    A story that didn’t even register this week: Trump’s sister quietly retired in February, and it’s actually a really big deal.


    The gist of the story is that someone filed an ethics complaint against Maryanne Trump Barry relating to the Trump family’s potential tax avoidance. From the story it sounds like the Statute of Limitations may have passed, but someone who is much smarter than I am realized that the SOL doesn’t matter when it comes to an ethics complaint against a federal judge. Unfortunately the investigation dies with her retirement. It sounds like she retired because they were getting close and eventually they might release the findings (which I’m guessing would show that she was a part of a scheme to avoid paying many millions of dollars of inheritance taxes). I sometimes wonder whether the DNC should just spend $10 or $20 million dollars to hire a teamfull of forensic accountants to figure out just how many financial crimes Trump and his family have committed over the years. Sure it would be nice to think we will find out the results of the 20 separate ongoing investigations of Trump, but with Barr running the DOJ I wouldn’t be surprised if it all disappears. Barr seems to have decided to go the John MItchell route; hopefully he ends up like Mitchell did.
    BTW, Trump’s sister will get her full pension in retirement, somewhere in the $80k range annually. Maybe I’m nasty, but it wouldn’t bother me in the least if she kicks the bucket soon, especially since I’m paying part of her pension.

  21. Teve says:

    This Week
    The White House has been briefed on the Mueller report and “there is significant concern on the president’s team about what will be in this report,” and “what worries them most is what Don McGahn told the special counsel,”
    reports (link: #ThisWeek

  22. Kylopod says:

    @Kathy: The general rule is that most people who acquire a language as an adult retain a foreign accent, whereas most people who learn it as a child do not. But for people who learn it as a teen, it depends. Yehuda Avner’s book The Prime Ministers relates a story of meeting a guy who came from the same Bavarian town as Henry Kissinger and came to the US at about the same time (mid-teens) and attended the same school–yet he had no discernible accent whereas Kissinger retained a very thick German accent. This was his explanation:

    Because as a kid Heinz [Kissinger’s German name] was shy and a bit withdrawn, and any speech therapist will tell you that shyness inhibits the ability to mimic, and you have to be a mimic like me to acquire accent-free fluency.

    My brother’s mother-in-law is originally from Egypt, grew up in a French-speaking Jewish household, and reportedly learned English while in her early 20s. Yet if you listen to her, you might not immediately guess she isn’t a native-born American. Or you might take her accent as sounding sort of vaguely European without being quite able to place it. I don’t think I’ve ever met another native French or Arabic speaker whose accent is so faint. Of course her grammar is flawless, too, but so was that of my Polish grandmother, who still had a noticeable foreign accent.

  23. Gustopher says:

    Years ago, I was taking a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course to try to control my anxiety problems — it’s a mix of secular Buddhism, meditation, yoga, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy theory, and hippy-dippy nonsense. The whole program has been demonstrated to be effective with anxiety, depression and PTSD, but they’re haven’t been enough studies that drop parts, so no one really knows which are the important parts.

    One of the exercises is to take a raisin, and slowly experience it — feel the texture, the way it squishes in your hand, any sounds as you mush it, any smells, slowly put it in your mouth, pay attention to the way it crushes under your teeth, etc. Focus intently upon the stupid raisin. It puts you in the current moment, helps train your mind for a different thought pattern than a spiral of anxiety, and is really close to meditating.

    It’s also almost the exact same process as a scotch tasting. The steps are different, but the focus is there.

    And so now, I will often be found on my little meditation bench, sitting quietly in front of the window, enjoying my morning scotch, using it to pull my focus back as it wanders. Apparently, I handle my stress by drinking.

    This morning was a single cask BenRiach, aged 17 years.

  24. The abyss that is the soul of cracker says:

    @Teve: Unless you and Mr. Roberts are talking about a fight in the context of *we will hunt them down and kill them all,* there isn’t really any more “fight” available here than there was in the “war on terrah [in my best West Texas accent].” In *war[s] for the hearts and minds* the hearts and minds go where they will and don’t care what others think about it.

    From that standpoint, there were two Americas with two concepts of national unity from the very beginning. We’ve always been schizophrenic, it’s just that we may be in the late stages of the disease now.

  25. CSK says:

    @Kylopod: I always thought Kissinger deliberately retained his accent in order to a) stand out in the crowd at the Harvard Faculty Club, and b) sound more professorial. The Ph.D. degree was a German invention, was it not?

  26. CSK says:

    @Gustopher: Yeah; I’d opt for the booze, too. Raisins hurt my teeth.

  27. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kathy: As a teacher, both of English and English as a foreign/second language, I agree on point 2 except that I don’t use ‘hard’ as a term, choosing ‘labor intensive’ instead because of point 3. The hardest thing is getting enough practice with the language if you don’t live among speakers (which is why the sorts of pseudo immersion that language classes exist by are identified by Mr. Prosser as wearing off fast). Of course, the danger of relocating so that you can live among speakers is that your birth language will extinguish depending on your age and it’s permanence. After 8 years in Korea, when I am in a classroom taking roll and I hear the student but can’t locate him/her (deaf in one ear) I’m more likely to ask “oedieh?” than “where are you?”; I assume it’s because I normally didn’t ask as much when I was teaching stateside earlier.

    My favorite story related to roll taking is that a while back I had asked oedieh and the girl raised her hand and responded yeogi (“over here” in Korean). Turned out, she had lived in Korea for a few years while one of her parents was working there and spoke Korean fairly well. She explained in much better Korean then I actually understood when we had a short conversation that she doesn’t actually live “in” Kelso but only in the school district boundaries.

  28. Gustopher says:

    @Teve: People who post 16 tweet threads are doing it wrong. Or I am old.

    I find it impenetrable. I can focus on a random entry, but not the whole. It’s like using PowerPoint to compose a love letter.

  29. gVOR08 says:

    @CSK: I may be the only one here old enough to remember Lawrence Welk. He was a band leader, had a popular weekly show on TV. After living in LA for decades he had a thicker Norwegian accent than his contemporaries who stayed in ND. Like Kissinger, the only explanation seemed to be constant practice.

  30. The abyss that is the soul of cracker says:

    Breaking News (!!!): Kim Jong-un has now presented the Trump Administration with an ultimatum. So much for the great friendship and shared understanding. Cue up the return to brinksmanship! link

  31. Teve says:

    @Gustopher: well that’s why I posted the threadripper consolidation instead of a link to the tweets.

    after realizing that cable news and the Sunday shows were complete garbage 20 years ago I started getting all of my political analysis from blogs, and I still mostly read blogs, so a few years ago when people started posting article-length missives broken up in two dozen Twitter posts it was extremely annoying. It still is, but I decided to change with the times. it may be annoying that the world changes as you get older, but the alternative is to be that guy complaining that everybody is using “begs the question” wrong.

  32. CSK says:

    @The abyss that is the soul of cracker: Just a lovers’ quarrel.

  33. CSK says:

    @gVOR08: Part of his schtick.

  34. al Ameda says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Or fuck it, and let’s just have it out 1860 style. That was the last time part of the country wanted to move forward while the other part insisted on heading the other direction.

    Right now, I generally favor a “Rexit,” – a Republican Exit.

    The last time we had a Civil War, the South waited us out and won – it pre-empted a burgeoning Reconstruction and imposed a system of Jim Crow, segregation, and apartheid in their states, and delayed a second civil rights battle for nearly 80 years. We’re still paying that price.

  35. Gustopher says:

    @Teve: Twit-threads end up with a weird rhythm even when ripped — there’s a point every twit-length, rather than a more natural variation. It gets monotonous. Normal writing takes longer to make and support the most important arguments.

    it may be annoying that the world changes as you get older, but the alternative is to be that guy complaining that everybody is using “begs the question”

    This begs the question of why people use it wrong, and where the phrase comes from. It was originally “begats the question”, but was shortened, and then fell into the old trope of vagrants and hobos coming to town, impregnating all the women, and then moving on. In alt-right, MRA and intel circles, the phrase is often “cucks the question”, which has a nice alliterative pattern and is often shorted further to “cucks the quest”, as in “It behooves me to point out that this cucks the quest of whether Beckys are becoming interested in Chicos as well as Chads, and whether the newly involuntary celibate Chads will become our natural allies in building a Wall to protect us all from the Chicos, m’lady.”

  36. steve says:

    “I may be the only one here old enough to remember Lawrence Welk. ”

    Nope. One of the few TV shows to appreciate the accordion.


  37. restless says:

    “I may be the only one here old enough to remember Lawrence Welk. ”

    Ah, childhood memories. I grew up in the San Fernando Valley, next door to Dick Dale – singer/saxaphonist on the show. We were invited to the filming of a few of the Christmas shows. I should go track down his album…

  38. EddieInCA says:


    This morning was a single cask BenRiach, aged 17 years.

    Good choice.

    Recently, I’ve become a fan of two different bourbons:

    1. Willet
    2. Weller

    Both are my two new favorites. Try them if you can find them.

  39. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @steve: Somewhere out on YouTube there’s a clip of Guy and Ralna (?) singing “One Toke Over the Line” with Lawrence thanking them for singing “that beautiful gospel number” at the end.

  40. Kathy says:


    I wish I could help you, but I really can’t say.

    I can tell you my accent is not the typical accent you hear from most Mexicans who speak English, and I judge that by the fact that I perceive it as an accent. That is, if it were the way I talked, it would sound to me like no accent at all.

  41. Kathy says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    The hardest thing is getting enough practice with the language if you don’t live among speakers

    I was lucky in that regard. At the time, cable TV in Mexico consisted of three channels showing US networks, ESPN, and several movie channels showing older movies with subtitles. So I had a lot to choose from. My parents traveled to the US once a year at least, and I got them to bring me books. Lastly, US magazines were easy to get locally (today, too). So there was plenty.

  42. Michael Reynolds says:

    At age 7 I was dropped into French school – not some French-language prep school, actual French schools in actual France. (Shout out to Lyceé Peletain in Royan, and Ecole Emile Zola in Rochefort. Go fighting. . . Cognac barrels?) Anyway my mother repeated a few of her French lessons to me and off I went, short shorts and tablier. How long ago? So long ago that we calculated on small hand-held slates and wrote with fountain pens in narrow-lined cahiers.

    I was fluent almost immediately and was accused by mes copains of only pretending to be American. But the 7 year-old brain is an amazing thing, rather quicker on the uptake than the 50+ brain I took with me for six months living in Italy during which time I learned to order gelato and pretty much nothing else.

  43. CSK says:

    At 3:29 this morning Trump tweeted his ideas for fixing the Boeing 737 Max. Great advice from the guy who managed to put the Trump Shuttle out of business in 3 years.

  44. Teve says:

    @CSK: His genius business suggestion was fix the plane, then make it better, then rebrand it. Word from Seattle is the Boeing executives are weeping with joy, their problems solved!

    No, really, everybody, that was his advice.

    Donald J. Trump
    What do I know about branding, maybe nothing (but I did become President!), but if I were Boeing, I would FIX the Boeing 737 MAX, add some additional great features, & REBRAND the plane with a new name.
    No product has suffered like this one. But again, what the hell do I know?

  45. Kathy says:

    Branding isn’t much of an issue for most airline passengers, even when some particular types are objectively better than others. Most people find out what plane they’re flying only if they deign to look at the safety card and notice the plane model printed there.

    Right now common people are aware the 737 MAX is grounded due to two accidents, due to a faulty control design. But I’m confident they’ll go back to not caring what plane they fly, or to be able to tell an A380 from a Boeing 767, in no time.

    The real issue is 1) finding out the nature of the problem, as well as related problems, 2) finding out other problems with the overall design, and then 3) how to fix them or change them so the planes will be safe.

    If the FAA goes the lazy route or the hurried one, and that’s very likely given Trump and the overall GOP hostility to regulations, and merely agree to a quick fix to the software, then they’d best pray really hard that no MAX crashes again for years, specifically due to another design flaw or, worse, the same one.

    Then Boeing won’t need rebranding, it will need a time machine to change their decision to develop the MAX.

  46. grumpy realist says:

    @Teve: Haven’t used an app that much (except for Korean.) I think success would depend considerably on how close the app language is to one you already know and, of course, how many hours a day you use it. Probably also depends on whether you learn better by listening or by reading.

    Poking around on Youtube I’ve found some wonderful documentaries in Japanese which are great examples of the more formal Japanese used in presentations. (I used to tape the talks given by one of my colleagues because he was such a good role model to follow.) Also if you want an explanation of verlan, I ran across at least one on Youtube in French.

    Don’t forget reading stuff like Agatha Christie translated into whatever language you’re trying to get the hang of. You can do the same with Asterix et Obelix BD, but watch out for the puns!

  47. Gustopher says:

    Mayor Pete Boot-Edge-Edge did a pretty good job with his announcement speech.

    We need to see his birth certificate to make sure he’s not actually Canadian though. He’s just too nice.

  48. Michael Reynolds says:

    I heard his speech live and I’m all-in for Pete. I agreed with everything he said, and were I much more mature and kind I could have written it. Beautiful speech.

  49. Teve says:

    Booty-Judge is my fave, but the odds are he won’t get the nomination, and I’m not going to be depressed when one of the other excellent candidates gets it. If Pete gets it, great, if not, he needs to be appointed UN ambassador or something similar. Let’s show the world our best and brightest, instead of our grimiest and crimiest.