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. OzarkHillbilly says:

    President Trump is considering issuing a $15 billion line of credit to Iran to help them weather the financial chaos created by the sanctions we placed on them after Trump tore up the Iran nuclear deal, according to a new report from the DailyBeast. We would be doing this to get them to come back into compliance with the deal that Obama negotiated and which was working and being complied with until Trump abrogated the deal. That led to sanctions and to Iran eventually ‘violating’ the deal.
    Whether or not it’s US money though is really besides the point. We’re now considering giving Iran a bailout to get them through the damage caused by our sanctions which we put on them after we tore up a deal the US had agreed to and all to get the Iranians to come back into the deal.

    So a huge, colossal screw up for no purpose at all.

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    More than 1,000 US polling sites closed since supreme court ruling, report finds

    Jurisdictions once monitored by the justice department for racially discriminatory voting practices have collectively closed more than 1,000 polling places since a watershed 2013 US supreme court ruling released the jurisdictions from oversight, according to a new watchdog report. In 757 counties and county equivalents that formerly had to pre-clear voting practice changes with Washington, 1,173 polling places disappeared between 2014 and 2018, a study by the Leadership Conference Education Fund, part of the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights coalition, found.

    The closures could disproportionately disenfranchise voters of color, especially when combined with restrictive voter ID laws, gerrymandering and aggressive voter roll purges, the report warned. Last month, a separate study found that US election jurisdictions with histories of egregious voter discrimination have been purging voter rolls at a rate 40% beyond the national average.

    The top three states for polling site closures were Texas (–750), Arizona (–320), and Georgia (–214), which all have Republican leadership.

    The trend has also accelerated with 69% of the recorded closures occurring after the 2014 midterm elections. Thirty-nine per cent of the jurisdictions in the study had seen an overall reduction in the number of polling places between 2012 and 2018.
    Elections officials mostly did not reply to requests for information about polling closures, the report said.

    “Many either did not respond to requests for comment; responded but did not provide meaningful information; or responded with false information,” it said. “By far, the most common justification for closing polling places was no justification at all.”

    Officials have defended polling closures by saying the rise of mail-in voting and other changes means fewer polling sites are needed. But the watchdog group warned mail-in voting was not in wide use and no study had been undertaken to evaluate the impact of voting practice changes on minority groups.

    “Closing polling places has a cascading effect, leading to long lines at other polling places, transportation hurdles, denial of language assistance and other forms of in-person help, and mass confusion about where eligible voters may cast their ballot,” the report said. “For many people, and particularly for voters of color, older voters, rural voters and voters with disabilities, these burdens make it harder – and sometimes impossible – to vote.”
    In some places, officials advanced claims for polling site closures that were highly controversial, blaming laws requiring wheelchair access and citing concerns about school safety in an age of mass shootings, the report said.

    Because the only thing that will stop an old black woman in a wheelchair with a gun is steps.

  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Trump administration officials said on Wednesday that they would ban the sale of most flavored e-cigarettes, at a time when hundreds of people have been sickened by mysterious lung illnesses and teenage vaping continues to rise.

    Somebody should tell trump about the thousands upon thousands upon thousands of Americans who are killed and injured every year by firearm addiction.

  4. Teve says:

    Uber just said they’re not going to comply with California’s new law.

    Uber is a scam propped up by investors who have no idea what they’re doing, it’s just impossible to guess how long it’s going to take to crash. How can you predict how long irrational people are going to continue acting irrational?

  5. Teve says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Best guess right now is that the lung problems were caused by contaminants in street weed oil. Vaping nicotine is probably about a hundred times less toxic than smoking.

  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Teve: As an ex smoker, I have no idea, but I suspect you are right.

  7. Teve says:
  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Teve: Stories like this make me reconsider my opposition to capitol punishment.

  9. 95 South says:


    In any case, it doesn’t seem like it’s actually US money. Or it may not be. It looks like it’s being put together by France or perhaps a group of European countries and Japan. It would be secured with Iranian oil. But the key is that the French want Trump to sign off on the approach and support it.

  10. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @95 South:

    Whether or not it’s US money though is really besides the point. We’re now considering giving Iran a bailout to get them through the damage caused by our sanctions which we put on them after we tore up a deal the US had agreed to and all to get the Iranians to come back into the deal.

    So a huge, colossal screw up for no purpose at all.

    Reading is fundamental.

  11. Teve says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: for years the Trumpers kept pretending that Obama gave them a hundred and fifty billion dollars when everybody knows it was Iran’s money in the first place. now Trump wants to give them 15 billion dollars to make up for his fuck up and their defense is that it’s not really our money? Where do they find these tards. 😀

  12. MarkedMan says:


    Vaping nicotine is probably about a hundred times less toxic than smoking.

    You could be right. Or you could be wrong. No one knows because these devices are not required to undergo medical safety testing before being marketed. What are the particle sizes? How deeply do they penetrate lung tissue? What, of all the different chemicals and flavorants, are absorbed into the blood stream and what is the effect? What remains as a deposit on lung tissue and what is the effect on that tissue’s ability to absorb oxygen and transfer out carbon dioxide? And sure, this time the deaths and lung damage might be due to a street additive but we don’t know the exact mechanism or characteristics that cause injury. How do know that the next time some Juul marketer gets an idea for Supreme Butterscotch Surprise the flavorant doesn’t have the same characteristics?

    The vape companies and the vapers are conducting a giant free form experiment to answer these questions out in the wild, with no controls or even a plan.

  13. Teve says:

    @MarkedMan: your basic vape juice is vegetable glycerin, propylene glycol, and nicotine. vegetable glycerin and propylene glycol are in the GRAS category. And nicotine is not a carcinogen.

    when you set fire to complex organic matter like tobacco you create thousands of chemicals, several dozen of which are carcinogens and mutagens.

    I was never a chemist so I’m making an educated guess, and my educated guess is that vaping is probably two orders of magnitude safer than smoking.

  14. Teve says:
  15. KM says:

    The issue isn’t the potential safety concerns of vaping. It’s the rank hypocrisy of trying to shut down vaping as “unsafe” while allowing traditional cigarettes to be legal. I’m all for installing health and safety regulations on things that go into your body (inhale, ingest, inject, whatev) but this is a complete overreaction to something that most likely has a specific 3rd-party cause. You don’t stop selling specific types of cars because of after-market modifications cause crashes and you don’t blame “tainted food” when people decide to add arsenic and make themselves sick

    This reeks of Big Tobbaco trying to kill off competition and Trump happily accepting the “logic” so he can look like he’s doing something. All it’s going to do is piss off smoker and vapers alike, as well as upset the 18-24 demographic. Take away vape but let death sticks run rampant? Yeah, that’s not go over well at all…..

  16. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    The latest reporting says that on President Donald Trump’s orders, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to strong-arm the NOAA into supporting President Donald Trump’s lie that Alabama was in danger from Hurricane Dorian. Ross then threatened NOAA employees jobs if they didn’t get in line.
    What a weak pathetic man Trump is…and what colossal idiots his supporters are.

  17. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:


    It’s the rank hypocrisy of trying to shut down vaping as “unsafe” while allowing traditional cigarettes to be legal.

    More people have died in Trumps concentration camps, than have of vaping.

  18. Stormy Dragon says:


    The coverage of the vaping thing is bizarre. The illness appears to be entirely tied to people using black market pods to vape marijuana oil that turn out to be full of harmful chemicals, yet this fact is routinely either buried deep in the article or left out entirely.

    I don’t know if the reporters are deliberately trying to be misleading or are just incompetent, but this seems to follow an increasing pattern where the media is focused more on sensationalism than actually being informative, and I’m disturbed how little the profession seems to care about it.

  19. Tyrell says:

    Tomorrow is 9 – 13. Friday
    Here are some suggestions:
    1- Stay at home. Do not go anywhere, even outside unless you have to.
    2- Do not use the oven or stove. A fire or burn may occur.
    3- Do not get on a ladder, step stool, or stand on a chair.
    4- Make sure your cell phones, radio, two way radio, or CB are charged up in case the power goes off.
    5- Do not answer the phone unless you know who it is. It could be a scam (Microsoft, IRS scams)
    6- It might be wise to stay off the internet. Major viruses have been sent out on Friday 13.
    7- Do not use power machinery such as skill saws, drills, or sanders.
    8- Avoid strenuous exercise such as weight lifting, treadmills, or doing back flips.
    9- Make sure that any foods you eat are in the date range.
    10- If you are taking medications, double check the dosage and type.
    Everyone have a safe Friday 13.

  20. wr says:

    @Teve: “I was never a chemist so I’m making an educated guess, and my educated guess is that vaping is probably two orders of magnitude safer than smoking.”

    One thing I’ve discovered as I’ve gone through life is that making an educated guess — which is just another form of “common sense” — on a highly technical subject rarely turns out well. I completely understand the reasoning you present, but this is a medical/scientific question and shouldn’t be resolved by amateur “guessing.”

    And yeah, I know it’s just a comment on a blog and you’re not issuing health rules — although I’m sure you would be better at it than anyone in the current administration — but even so, this just isn’t a common sense issue…

  21. KM says:

    @Stormy Dragon:
    It’s the former. See, they can’t really start screaming about Reefer Madness anymore and pointing out the oil was likely contaminated because we can’t effectively demand product testing on a federally-banned substance isn’t going to fly. God forbid we have regs on things like pesticides, fungal contamination and toxic chems used on a drug that’s regularly inhaled / eaten by a large number of our populace daily just because Nixon wanted hippies off the WH lawn. CBD is becoming a money-maker and legalization is the wave of the future that isn’t here just yet. So nope to pinning it on vaping possibly-illegal tainted MJ – too many toes with big bank accounts to step on.

    But vaping in general? It’s seen as a youth thing and that’s always good to pin things on (see video games, rock and roll, etc). “Save the children” is the eternal rallying cry of people who want to oppress something and can’t think of a real reason why. Kids vaping due to “flavors”? BAN!! Young people using the herb in convenient pen form instead of opioids? BAN!! Feel free to study and apply any necessary safety regs but for god sake this is not a crisis and the feds are majorly overreaching on the flimsiest of excuses.

  22. Stormy Dragon says:


    How exactly would federal product testing regulations help with black-market marijuana pods?

  23. Teve says:

    When I lived in Washington state the people at the weed stores warned me away from buying the THC wax concentrates. they said it was hell on the lungs. Now I’m wondering if it was the THC or residual butane or some other weird shit that was in that stuff.

  24. Slugger says:

    Re vaping…lung cancer and COPD do not happen immediately after your first cigarette. It takes a couple of decades of exposure. A population that has used cigarettes for ten years has a rate of lung cancer and COPD not discernibly different than a nonsmoking baseline population. There is one exception in people with the genetic variation of alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency. If we imagine that cigarettes were a new thing, around for ten years or so, then pro cigarette people would be able to say that despite the presence of known toxic chemicals in smoke there is no increase in lung cancer and lung damage only in genetically abnormal humans.
    I am not saying vaping is more dangerous than lots of things we accept, but it is too soon to know, and the few cases of trouble may reflect the tip of the iceberg like the alpha-1-antitrypsin deficient in our midst.

  25. 95 South says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: You’re quoting the opinion portion. You left out the part of the article that proved the headline is wrong.

  26. Kylopod says:


    Going Anti-Trump Would Cost Bolton His Access to the World of Rightwing Grift

    Remember after Bannon was dumped how there was speculation he’d use the pages of Breitbart to wage war against Trump? Instead, Breitbart axed him. Not that it mattered one way or the other, as he’s continued to act as a Trump sycophant anyway.

    To be sure there have been a few firees who have turned against the president–Omarosa, the Mooch–but not the ones with any impulse control.

  27. MarkedMan says:

    @Teve: All due respect, but there really is not enough information to make an educated guess. “Natural” combustion such as what occurs burning tobacco creates particles 10 microns and above. Man made processes such as the aerosolization techniques used in vaping can create particles 2.5 microns and below. I’m not saying I know that vapers create particles in this range but for a variety of technical reasons I suspect they do. Particles in this size penetrate more deeply into the lung tissue and we do not have a clear understanding of how or if they are eventually expelled. And we certainly have almost zero experience on the effects of inhaling huge clouds of these particles many times per day over the course of decades.

    While these devices are regulated with respect to their electrical safety and their use of lithium ion batteries, they are completely unregulated when it comes for their intended use. They were not and are not required to demonstrate the health safety of their devices, nor to be inspected to insure the way they manufacture, package, and transport ensures the devices continue to function as designed.

    I design medical devices for a living and the level of evidence needed to market one of these devices to deliver a life saving drug would be intimidating, and for very good reason. Everyone who has been involved in medical devices or drugs can tell stories of products and techniques that common sense said should be safe and that turned out to have fatal consequences. I would never risk a patients life on my common sense or gut instinct and I would certainly not trust an unregulated company whose business plan is literally to addict children to ensure a lifelong market.

  28. MarkedMan says:

    @KM: At this point all the FDA is doing is subjecting the vaping companies to exactly the same marketing constraints as big tobacco.

  29. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @95 South: And you are ignoring the facts of the situation all together so that you don’t have to admit that trump is a complete fuck up. If he wanted Iran to adhere to the JCPOA, maybe he shouldn’t have withdrawn us from it? Maybe he shouldn’t have reimposed all the sanctions we relaxed because Iran signed it and adhered to the conditions?

    But no, trump wanted to pretend he was a big tough guy and that whatever Obama could do, he could do better. Except he can’t, because he’s an idiot.

  30. Teve says:

    @MarkedMan: I’m not a pulmonologist testifying to the FDA. I’m a former smoker who used vaping off and on while quitting smoking . And I don’t think vaping is harmless, PEG is probably turning into some aldehydes in at least some equipment. (Don’t quote me on that, I lost my O Chem textbook in 2006. I don’t miss it.) But we all rely on our educated guesses all the time and if I ever felt an overwhelming compulsion toward Camels again I’d first buy some e-cigarettes because I’m guessing they’re significantly safer.

  31. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: @95 South: So I take it that there will be no “pallet load of cash” recriminations this time? Or will they just be blamed on Obama again? Maybe Warren or Biden?

  32. Mikey says:

    @Teve: I’ve read that some of the lower-priced vape “pens” can have the heated vapor flowing over an exposed circuit board, which introduces plenty of undesirable metal stuff into the vapor.

  33. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Had an interesting conversation with a MAGAot at rehab yesterday. He was telling me that he had purchased a Poll Tax token at some antique store (he collects coins) and went on to note that the poll tax seemed really discriminatory to him. When I pointed out that poll tax was in fact discriminatory but that the situation was that, just like now, making sure that only the right people voted, he admitted that he could see the purpose. It was interesting to me that once he perceived that he wasn’t the target of the discrimination, he was okay with it.

  34. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @95 South: Yeah, but it’s still a “crap deal” to use the phrase from Trump’s book about them. In fact, it’s the worst kind of crap deal of all in that the guy who isn’t you comes out with everything. Pay attention to that factor, if Trump had done nothing this deal(???) wouldn’t be necessary at all.

    All-time crap deal from the (supposed) author of Art of the Deal.

    So. Much. Winning. [mike drop goes here]

    (I promise I will not feed the troll again this thread.)

  35. Teve says:

    @Mikey: that wouldn’t surprise me. there’s a local fair ground where they sell lots of cheap vaping equipment of questionable provenance. Probly made in a shack in Guangdong from the finest cadmium and asbestos. 😛 My gizmo of choice was the flowermate 5.0. Ceramic heating chamber, Pyrex mouthpiece, two 18650 battery cells. Can handle liquids And solids, if you catch my drift. 😀

  36. Teve says:
  37. Monala says:

    @Teve: I was listening to a story about this on NPR this morning, and as much as I think Uber’s treatment of their drivers is problematic, I think they have a point. (A quote from a spokesman in the article said that they have limited supervision over their drivers). As far as I know, drivers can choose their own hours and which rides they accept. That’s in line with the definition of independent contractor, not employee.

    If the state of CA wants to ensure better working conditions for drivers, they need to craft a better law than forcing the ride share companies to designate as employees, people who by the standard definitions are contractors.

    This is not to say that there aren’t actual situations in which companies are treating employees (who work set hours at set locations and complete designated tasks they have no choice to accept or not) as contractors. I’ve known of several cases where I live, and for people in that situation, this law is a good thing.

  38. Teve says:

    @Monala: the interaction between this law and Uber is weird and I don’t understand it, and I haven’t really taken any time to understand it. Uber’s lawyers are somehow trying to argue that Uber isn’t paying them to drive, the driving is somehow not fundamental to Uber’s business.

    I just generally follow Uber and now WeWork out of morbid curiosity because it’s a multi-billion-dollar scam which I’m going to get to watch collapse in real time.

  39. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: Yup. These are the same people who talk about how those people are breaking the law but think it’s OK if they just bend it a little.

  40. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Monala: The laws on who’s an employee and who’s a subcontractor have long been abused in order to avoid tax withholding, unemployment insurance, workers comp, etc etc. and Uber is just the latest scam to avoid them.

  41. Tyrell says:

    @Slugger: Maybe you can tell me the difference between marijuana and hemp. Some people have told me there really is none. How can hemp stores be legal?
    New research has warned of cognitive damage to people who use marijuana and are under the age of 25.
    It just seems to be that any sort of inhalation of smoke from tobacco, hemp, marijuana, mushrooms, or even rabbit tobacco is like using one’s lungs as a blast furnace. I am thankful that I never got into those habits. At my age I am thankful that I can still ride a bike and climb stairs without blowing out a lung or having a stroke. Some of the newer roller coasters might do me in: 95mph, 4 g’s, 8 inversions.

  42. Bill says:

    Florida headline of the day-

    Florida Businessman Philip Esformes Gets 20 Years in $1B Medicare Fraud

    Which leaves the question- Why isn’t Florida Senator Rick Scott serving time too?

  43. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Teve: Damn! You Dems just don’t want anybody to have anything do you? 😉

  44. Teve says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: we evil dems are hiding the cancer cure to make everybody sign up for Obamacare, so we can Death Panel them!

  45. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Tyrell: Hemp is a different plant in the same family. It is used to make fiber cord, rope, and fabric among other things. While hemp has THC, from what I understand, the concentration is very low. I recall a story about a hemp farmer posting his farm with a request that people stop pilfering his crop (apparently some people can’t distinguish the two plants) with a notice that it would take a joint the size of a telephone pole to get a decent buzz.

  46. Matt says:


    The vape companies and the vapers are conducting a giant free form experiment to answer these questions out in the wild, with no controls or even a plan.

    People have been vaping in Europe and Asia for far longer than here and they don’t have the problems we’re experiencing. I’m about 90% sure it’s crappy juice that has been cut or uses vitamin E. So far a large percentage of weed juice has tested positive for vit E while only a small portion of nicotine juice has tested positive. Europe and India doesn’t have nearly as much wide spread usage of THC oil as found in the USA….

  47. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Teve: Good plan! My mistake, carry on!

  48. charon says:


    There is a piece up on just that topic at LGM:

  49. An Interested Party says:

    We’re now considering giving Iran a bailout to get them through the damage caused by our sanctions which we put on them after we tore up a deal the US had agreed to and all to get the Iranians to come back into the deal.

    Oh, you mean like subsidizing farmers because of putting stupid tariffs in place that make the Chinese look elsewhere for their soybeans…another genius move by this administration…

  50. 95 South says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: How sad when TPM quoting the Daily Beast isn’t partisan enough for you, so you have to cut out the part you don’t like.

  51. MarkedMan says:

    @Teve: Fair enough. I’m a former smoker myself and if I was trying to quit and the patches weren’t cutting it I would probably make the same calculation as you did. But Juul knows people like you are me are a shrinking market, hence their rush to get teens addicted.

  52. Teve says:

    @MarkedMan: the only middle school/high schoolers I’ve seen vaping in person were using juuls. Whatever those scumbags did to appeal to kids worked like crazy. It’s reprehensibly impressive.

  53. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @95 South: You’ll have to enlighten me on this. I don’t normally read either TPM or The Daily Beast and haven’t in about a month or so–not since the last time someone posted a link to either one would be my guess. My thoughts were my own and as a consequence of that I am open to the possibility that I may have missed some important detail that you can use to pwn me. Here’s your chance. Have at it.

    (I’m sorry that I broke my promise. It doesn’t happen often, and I’ll try to do better next time.)

  54. 95 South says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: That should have been to OzarkHillbilly. He cut out the part about this not being Trump’s deal to make Trump sound worse. But you’re commenting as if it’s Trump’s deal too. Why are you commenting if you didn’t read the Daily Beast article? Did you only read OzarkHillbilly’s edited version of TPM’s opinion piece?

  55. Kit says:

    Nice article in The Guardian explaining how some group has developed a digital “tool” to help British students decide where their vote can do the most good.

  56. Teve says:

    One of the Pod save America guys the other day (paraphrased):

    if Barack Obama had invited the Taliban to meet with him at Camp David in secret on the anniversary of 9/11, Fox News would have had to start a second entire channel just to contain all the outrage.

  57. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @95 South: My personal take is that since everything going on is due to Trump’s actions and will be calling for a Trump sign off, it’s Trump’s deal. In the spirit of full disclosure, I will acknowledge that I have believed that Trump was not competent to be President since he announced his exploratory intentions in 2012 (ETA: or whenever it was, my memory of the date may be faulty) and also that Trump is simply a symptom of a larger character flaw of the Republican Party. YMMV.

  58. MarkedMan says:

    I just finished the first episode of “Chernobyl” on HBO. Gripping. Incredible acting. Amazing writing and direction. We see tough, hard men, men who had risen to the top in their fields through tenacity and ruthlessness, who were confronted with a reality that flew in the face of everything they officially believed and everything their careers and positions depended on, and they react with anger and vitriol and shout down anyone who brings reality into their faith built world. They send others to their death and march to their own death rather than displease the powerful who control their faiths. In other words, modern day Republicans.