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:

    Recession Already Grips Corners of U.S., Menacing Trump’s 2020 Bid

    The moment usually comes during Greg Petras’s commute through the rolling hills and cornfields of southern Wisconsin. Somewhere between his home near Madison and the factory he runs on the edge of the small town of Brodhead, the news will turn to the trade wars and Donald Trump will again claim that China is bearing the cost of his tariffs. That’s when Petras loses it.

    “It’s just an outright lie, and he knows it,” says Petras, president of Kuhn North America, which employs some 600 people at its farm-equipment factory in Wisconsin. For Kuhn, Trump’s trade war has produced a toxic mix of rising costs and falling revenues. “You’re slamming your fist on the steering wheel and saying ‘Why would you tell people this?’”

    About 250 Kuhn employees spent the Labor Day holiday caught in a two-week furlough, and they’re facing another in early October. A shrinking order book means Kuhn is cutting costs and slashing production as Petras and his managers peer out at a U.S. economy that looks far bleaker from the swing-state heartland than it does in either the White House or on Wall Street.

    The company’s circus-themed summer picnic survived but weekend shifts are gone. A plant that just four years ago was humming along to a record $400 million in sales together with a sister plant in Kansas is running at 50% capacity. The five-year-old, $11 million paint shop that coats the company’s manure spreaders and livestock feeders in a distinctive “Kuhn Red” is at 39% capacity. Plans for a new $4 million research and development building are on hold. “We’ll do it someday,” Petras says. “We just need things to be going in a better direction.”

    And there’s the rub. For all the debate on whether the U.S. is headed for a recession there’s plenty of evidence that corners of the economy—such as the one Petras and his employees inhabit—may already have tumbled into one.

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Johnson’s ‘bonkers’ plan for £15bn bridge derided by engineers

    Engineering experts have poured cold water over Boris Johnson’s “bonkers” plan to build a bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland for £15bn. The prime minister – who first touted the idea of the 20-mile-plus bridge last year – put a price on his proposal for the first time last week, saying it would “only” cost the multibillion pound sum.

    But experts have said that, while it might technically be possible to construct the bridge connecting Scotland’s mainland with the outskirts of Belfast, it is potentially fraught with problems and the costs could spiral. One eminent engineer, who was behind London’s Millennium bridge, told the Guardian it was “bonkers” to put a price on the plan before a proper design was in place. Another engineering academic labelled the proposal “dubious economics”.
    David Barwell, the UK and Ireland CEO of AECOM – one of the world’s biggest engineering firms – said: “Engineers, we can come up with any which way you want to get something like this done. You can do it … there would be an engineering solution. I think the next piece, the other piece which people are asking is, ‘OK, well there’s an engineering solution, but at what cost?’”

    More than once during my years of construction I was asked, “Can you build….?” To which I always answered, “I can build you anything. Can you pay?”

  3. grumpy realist says:

    Looks like we’re coming down to a no-deal Brexit. Boris Johnson just returned from his meeting making all sorts of happy noises, while the EU side basically said he was full of it. (The EU doesn’t want to officially say “you lunatics are off your head and we’re throwing you out of the party” but that’s what’s going on.)

    The tendency of the Brits to use bluffing as their one and only one strategy has never failed to awe me. You’d think that a habit which had such a lousy historical record would at some point die out but it’s now turned into a knee-jerk reaction: (Brit hears something he doesn’t like to hear, “you’re bluffing!”)

    P.S. detailed planning is A Good Idea as well. Too bad the Brits have gotten out of the habit.

  4. Mr. Prosser says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Walls, bridges, projects that run in the lunatic family.
    @grumpy realist: They’re playing Liar’s Poker against themselves.

  5. Michael Cain says:


    More than once during my years of construction I was asked, “Can you build….?” To which I always answered, “I can build you anything. Can you pay?”

    Yeah, I used to do one-off test and measurement stuff for communications networks. One of my stock answers to insane requests was, “Doesn’t require new physics, so maybe. What’s your budget?”

  6. Guarneri says:

    News Item

    The New York Times doing moonwalk away from Kavenaugh story as fast as they can. (The notion that it would stand up only occurred to those afflicted with TDS.). Outside the Beltway once again disgraces itself with anything Orange Man Bad float of NYT story. (“A new look at the allegations against Justice Brett Kavanaugh uncovers some new evidence.” My Arse. )

    In other news, angry old man and frequent OTB commenter Michael Reynolds continues to conduct novel experiment. Does bald head look better with tin foil hat??

  7. 95 South says:

    @Guarneri: Did Russian Oligarchs Co-Sign Kavanaugh Loans?

  8. Guarneri says:

    From Yahoo News:

    Exclusive: Russia Carried Out A “Stunning” Breach Of FBI Communications System

    “American officials discovered that the Russians had dramatically improved their ability to decrypt certain types of secure communications and had successfully tracked devices used by elite FBI surveillance teams. Officials also feared that the Russians may have devised other ways to monitor U.S. intelligence communications, including hacking into computers not connected to the internet. Senior FBI and CIA officials briefed congressional leaders on these issues as part of a wide-ranging examination on Capitol Hill of U.S. counterintelligence vulnerabilities.”

    Noted Trump critic and intelligence expert Michael Reynolds noted “this is proof Donald Trump is a traitor and Putin’s puppet. He needs to be held accountable for this intelligence failure.”

    However, the Yahoo piece notes:

    “These compromises, the full gravity of which became clear to U.S. officials in 2012, gave Russian spies in American cities including Washington, New York and San Francisco key insights into the location of undercover FBI surveillance teams, and likely the actual substance of FBI communications, according to former officials.”

    Undeterred, Mr Reynolds noted “uh, 2012? Well, the treasonous Mr Trump needs to be held accountable for not preventing these failures of Glorious Pres Obama and Virtuous Secy Clinton.”

  9. gVOR08 says:

    I knew an arch-typical country club Republican. I used to poke him a bit trying to understand how a reasonably well educated person could believe what he believed. One of his attitudes was that you couldn’t predict anything. He once got outraged because Ohio made a modest change to a tax rate and estimated the change in revenue. ‘They can’t know that until they collect the taxes!!’ Ties in nicely with George Lakoff’s opinion that conservatives don’t do complex causation. Not that they aren’t able to, but that they default to simple morality.

    I was reminded of this by a story in POLITICO Magazine, The Nasty Political Fight Over the First Weather Forecasts. Admiral Robert FitzRoy, who had earlier invited Darwin to accompany him on HMS Beagle to the Galapagos, had advocated for collecting weather data from land stations and ships at sea so that they could, in a term he created, “forecast” the weather. But he had run into

    FitzRoy was right about the science of forecasting. But the politics were beyond rational prediction. In Victorian times, the idea of forecasting struck many nonscientists as ludicrous—a con, or even an affront to God. In his book The Weather Experiment, the British historian Peter Moore recounts a telling House of Commons debate. When a science-minded member of Parliament suggested in 1854 that amassing weather observations from sea and land could someday mean “we might know in this metropolis the condition of the weather 24 hours beforehand,” laughter broke out raucously enough to stop the proceeding.

    In 1859 a gale drove the Royal Charter onto a rocky shore, killing most of the 500 souls on board. FitzRoy produced a report showing how the gale could have been forecast and the ship warned. The Meteorological Office, under FitzRoy started collecting data the next year and first predicted a gale in 1861. This made FitzRoy a hero to many,

    To others, he was still a pariah. FitzRoy and other public meteorologists were ridiculed as the “government Zadkiel,” the pseudonym of the most famous British astrologer in Victorian times. Darker motives were also at work. The late Malcolm Walker, a long-time historian of the Meteorological Office, found that in the early 1860s, ship-salvaging and other disaster profiteers lobbied members of Parliament to complain that storm warnings were “having a damaging effect” on their livelihood.

    In 1864, one member of the House of Commons, Augustus Smith, wrote that he did not think the government should “undertake the functions of Aeolus,” the Greek god of wind. Smith also had financial interests in the Isles of Scilly, off the Cornish coast. In his public response, FitzRoy noted that ever since the introduction of forecasting, the Scilly harbors had far fewer visits from vessels in distress.

    Similar efforts in the U. S. were interrupted by the Civil War, but in 1870 Grant created the National Weather Service. One of the original offices was the Alabama office that got in trouble with Trump.

    Most of us can see that Trump is driving the economy onto the rocks, but our conservative friends won’t believe it til they see it.

  10. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    I see Guarneri is still suffering from Reynolds Derangement Syndrome. I hope a cure is in sight. Is there somewhere that we can donate money in search of a cure for victims like Guarneri?

    (Does Guarneri look sort of like a puppy or childhood leukemia victim? If so we could start a Go Fund Me page.)

  11. 95 South says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: Jealous? You’re like the child who wanted to be a playground bully, but the other children didn’t take you seriously, am I right? So you jump in the five on one fights, right? Never on the one side.

  12. MarkedMan says:

    @gVOR08: For some reason your post reminded me of what has been discovered about Rapu Nui, also known as Easter Island and home to the famous statues of giant heads. When Europeans landed on the island they found a people barely above Stone Age technology, barely surviving and obviously not capable of carving such statues much less transporting the huge blocks across the treeless island from where they were quarried. It is only recently that archeologists have determined that a fairly advanced culture existed there when the island was covered with trees. The evidence shows the trees were cut down to provide rollers to move the blocks, causing the loss of a source of food from their fruit, the building materials they provided, the benefits they provided in sheltering birds (another food source) and anchoring soil. At some point I’m sure there were people calling out for the destruction to stop and to shift to a sustainable production, but obviously their equivalent to the modern Republican Party won out, serving as either a life lesson or a road map depending on your perspective.

  13. Teve says:


    The Trump administration is expected on Wednesday to formally revoke California’s legal authority to set tailpipe pollution rules that are stricter than federal rules, in a move designed by the White House to strike twin blows against both the liberal-leaning state that President Trump has long antagonized and the environmental legacy of President Barack Obama. The announcement that the White House will revoke one of California’s signature environmental policies will come while Mr. Trump is traveling in the state, where he is scheduled to attend fund-raisers in Los Angeles and Silicon Valley. The formal revocation of California’s authority to set its own rules on tailpipe pollution — the United States’ largest source of greenhouse emissions — will be announced Wednesday afternoon at a private event at the Washington headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency, according to two people familiar with the matter.

    The move has been widely expected since last summer, when the Trump administration unveiled its draft plan to roll back the strict federal fuel economy standards put in place by the Obama administration. That draft Trump rule also included a plan to revoke a legal waiver, granted to the state of California under the 1970 Clean Air Act, allowing it to set tougher state-level standards than those put forth by the federal government. The revocation of the waiver would also affect 13 other states that follow California’s clean air rules. In recent months, the administration’s broader weakening of nationwide auto-emissions standards has become plagued with delays as staff members struggled to prepare adequate legal, technical or scientific justifications for the move. As a result, the White House decided to proceed with just one piece of its overall plan — the move to strip California of its legal authority to set tougher standards — while delaying the release of its broader rollback, according to these people.

  14. Tyrell says:

    This Friday, September 20, there will be a unique gathering in Nevada. People will be heading to the Federal government Area 51 base. How many will actually come is guesswork. The officials there are wary. This started off as some sort of gag, but then mushroomed. Hopefully cool heads will take charge and no one will try to get over the fences. Also, it would be great if some of the Air Force people would talk to these people about some of the operations at Area 51. It would be a good time to release long classified documents concerning the Roswell crash, Project Blue Book, the Kecksburg incident, the fly saucers over Washington, D.C. in the 1950’s, Hanger 18 research at Wright-Patterson AFB, and the Montauk, NY project.
    Recently there has been an encouraging slow release of secret documents and information from government agencies including NASA and the military. One is the “Tic Tac” incident involving US Navy pilots. More military personnel are coming forward and talking about their experiences. It is time for disclosure and honesty with the American people.

  15. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Teve: “We’ve taken all this poor world can give, and we ain’t put back nothin’.” As I keep noting, what if our role in the ecosystem is that we’re parasites?

  16. gVOR08 says:

    @MarkedMan: As a footnote to the Easter Island story, this was the subject of Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon Tiki. Heyerdahl built a raft in Peru and sailed it to Easter Island to support his theory that the Islanders descended from ancient Peruvians. (IIRC linguistic analysis shows they were Polynesian.) Heyerdahl decided they must have used log rollers to move the statues.

    A later anthropologist, using modern approaches, spent an extended period living on the island and getting accepted by the natives. Supposedly at one point he mentioned Heyerdahl and got a laugh from the older natives. He asked why and was told Heyerdahl had spent a lot of time running around the island looking at stuff, but had never bothered to talk to anyone. Their oral tradition had the answer – canoe rails. These were apparently common in Polynesia for moving large dugout canoes. They laid long logs in two parallel lines tied together with cross logs. Looked like a railroad, tracks over ties. Then they greased the rails, lowered the statue down on them, and slid them to the beach. Said they’d have been happy to explain it to Heyerdahl, but he saw them as ignorant savages and never asked.

  17. MarkedMan says:

    Worth repeating:
    In the 40’s and 50’s when people had only occasional access to cameras capable of photographing a fast moving object, all we got in the UFO photography department was fuzzy and grainy images that, with some imagination, could be alien spaceships.

    In the 60’s and 70’s when people started carrying instamatics and similar small and portable cameras, all we got in the UFO photography department was… fuzzy and grainy images.

    In the 80’s and 90’s when hobbyist 35mm photography became a thing, to the point where the stereotype of the Japanese tourist had one or more fast acting high resolution film cameras around their necks, all we got in the UFO photography department was… fuzzy and grainy images.

    In the 00’s and 10’s when high resolution digital photography became the norm and it reached a point where literally billions of people carried cameras capable of snapping an astoundingly accurate image in mere seconds, all we got in the UFO photography department was… fuzzy and grainy images.

    Anyone notice a trend?

  18. Gustopher says:

    @MarkedMan: UFOs are actually swarms of tiny nanobots flying in formation, so they always look like fuzzy blobs?

  19. Tyrell says:

    @MarkedMan: That could be the anti-gravity generator causing distortions in the images.