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. Bill says:

    Florida Headline of the day-

    ‘Now I have a record’: South Florida man oversleeps for jury duty, goes to jail for 10 days

    That is certainly going to encourage people to serve jury duty.

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Bill: 61 y/o and I’ve only been called for jury duty once. Never had to show up for it because as I told the court clerk, I had just changed my county of residence.

  3. DrDaveT says:

    Bipartisan Report Says Trump’s Abuse Has Pushed Federal Science to a ‘Crisis’

    [T]he report reserved special condemnation for the actions of the Trump administration, which has disbanded independent scientific review boards, altered reports that contradict the administration’s political views and relocated researchers whose conclusions were politically uncomfortable. For instance, the Agriculture Department decided in May to move some of its economists out of Washington after they presented research indicating that the agricultural benefits of Mr. Trump’s $1.5 trillion tax cut would flow largely to the nation’s richest farmers.

  4. MarkedMan says:

    An economy has a certain capacity for production, which can only be utilized when people want to obtain what is produced and have the means to do so, i.e. there is demand for that capacity. In the modern world capacity and demand growing smoothly in tandem is considered ideal. There are various ways to align these two things. The most logical and straightforward is Communism wherein the goods and services produced are divided proportionally among those who produce them, but this is incompatible with human nature and all attempts to implement this on the small scale (communes) have inevitably fallen apart while attempts to implement on large scales (USSR, Maoist China, Cambodia) have almost always resulted in self inflicted human death and misery on epic scales. The other extreme is absolute monarchy, wherein ever fewer individuals obtain control over more and more means of production until one person owns literally everything and makes all the rules (see “death and misery on epic scales”). Our system is more like a constitutional monarchy where an individual can obtain control over some production but is not free to make all the rules and has obligations and constraints with society as a whole. In particular, these owner-controllers (who typically don’t actually produce anything themselves) must make accommodations with those who actually produce the goods and services, primarily in the form of currency which the workers use to obtain the goods and services they need and want.

    However, some feel that the system of regulated capitalism that has brought so much benefit to the living standards of so many is nearing the end of its useful life. That is because it takes fewer and fewer workers to produce almost anything. This isn’t theoretical. If the typical worker today got paid the same value for a unit of production as their 1947 counterparts they would be paid at a rate 40 times higher. (Note that in 1947 the average CEO salary was only 20 times the lowest wage worker.) And for a couple of decades workers salaries did increase proportional to their productivity but since the advent of the microprocessor in the 1970’s the owners have had a choice. If workers demand wage increases they can automate those workers out of a job. This has two effects: automation is a capital expense rather than an operating expense and can be better planned and managed, and it creates a psychological effect leading to a reluctance to demand a share of the productivity benefits. And that automation cannot be rolled back. Today an iPhone has almost no labor costs in it and could no more be assembled by hand than gene splicing be done with a pair of pliers.

    Up until now in the US we have seen wages stagnate or go down slightly but not collapse. But we may be at a turning point. For years I’ve been visiting factory floors with ever fewer workers and ever more automation. There has been a shift to services but these jobs are relatively poor paying and don’t require much training Rendering the workers easily replaced. We may already be at the point where we have plenty of capacity but the system doesn’t put the means to obtain the products into enough hands to use the capacity. For more than ten years now manufacturers have had access to capital at rates so low as to be unimaginable to the Fords and Watsons of yore, yet have not used it to increase capacity in any meaningful way, instead focusing on stock buybacks and ever increasing management payouts.

    Will we stay with our existing wealth distribution system and simply reduce capacity as more and more people fall out of the employment market? Or will we change it in some fundamental way?

  5. gVOR08 says:

    @MarkedMan: Years ago it became obvious that modern communications and transportation would mean outsourcing a lot of manufacturing to low wage countries, leading to downward pressure on US wages. It seemed to me it would be a major political issue, whether we would to some extend dampen and mitigate the process, or just let it happen, devil take the hindmost. I eventually realized it was a stupid question, answered by asking, “Who will lobby for the average worker?”

    Also Piketty, who makes a pretty good argument that concentration of wealth is the norm, interrupted only by the massive dislocations of two World Wars and the Depression. I’m a leading edge Boomer. I grew up believing, because I could see it, that life would get better, not just for me but for pretty much everyone. I no longer believe that.

  6. Michael Cain says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I also have only been called once. I could truthfully answer, “I’m sorry, I’ll be in San Diego that week delivering a paper at a technical conference.” 30 years of no calls later, I can only assume that there’s an entry on my record somewhere that tells the clerk not to bother, because one side or the other will reject someone who presents at technical conferences. My father was called several times but never sat on a jury. He said that as soon as he told them he worked for an insurance company, one side or the other would reject him.

  7. CSK says:

    According to several news sources, Rick Perry is going to bail in November.

  8. Kathy says:


    Don’t leave the “gig economy” out. It’s a way, in some areas, to transfer much of the risk from the company to the employees, which are not even given the benefits employees usually receive.

  9. gVOR08 says:

    I’ve been called twice, once after I’d moved out of state. The other turned out to be a capital murder trial. Being an engineer, I had no difficulty getting out.

    The first summons, from Texas, was entertaining. It had a list of occupations exempt on the grounds they were vital to the community, frozen in amber in the 1880s or so: feed and seed dealers, pastors, faith healers, agents at one man railroad stations, and so on.

  10. grumpy realist says:

    Hilarious sketch over at The Guardian by Marina Hyde on Jennifer Arcuri, the “IT technology entrepreneur” involved with the ever-priapic Boris Johnson. I especially liked the following:

    I now hope against hope that she didn’t actually have sex with the prime minister. The image of Boris Johnson turning up in the expectation of it, and having to listen to Silicon Valley blather while not actually getting any is my new idealised version of this story.

  11. grumpy realist says:

    P.S. on jury duty calls: have been called four times (I think.) first time told them I was going to be out of the country. One time when I called to confirm they said they didn’t need me. The other two times I showed up and sat around for the entire day doing law school stuff. Everyone settled both days and we were let out early, having been paid the munificent fee of $18.56 for our time.

  12. Moosebreath says:


    “Rick Perry is going to bail in November.”

    Wouldn’t he be a flight risk?

  13. DrDaveT says:

    @MarkedMan: I quibble with some of the details, but agree on the big picture.

    Kurt Vonnegut wrote a clairvoyant novel about this problem back in 1952.

  14. DrDaveT says:


    Also Piketty, who makes a pretty good argument that concentration of wealth is the norm, interrupted only by the massive dislocations of two World Wars and the Depression.

    This. The natural consequence of capitalism is to concentrate wealth and power. Even Adam Smith knew that an important function of government was to regulate commerce enough to offset that tendency.

    Historically, the greatest boom in affluence and productivity in Britain was the aftermath of the Black Death, when huge amounts of land and wealth that had been held by a relative few suddenly got abandoned and shared among the survivors. Think about that for a moment.

  15. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I’ve been called 3 times. The most recent time, my pool was never asked to come to court, but the other two times, I was excused in the first round of voir dire. Our county used something called “The Donahue Method,” after the talk show host. The prosecution and defense would present their take on the case. Finding something to say that would cause either side to toss you was fairly easy.

    So easy in fact that in the second jury pool, I was tossed out after the prosecutor asked what I taught. When I answered “I teach students to write research-based arguments,” the defense guy never asked me anything and I left 10 minutes later.

  16. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: I wondered what you meant, so I asked Cortana and shortly realized that I’d forgotten that Rick Perry had a job these days. I can’t imagine the reason to leave the administration now. It’s too late to start a run for office, and he’s not excluded from cashing in on his knowledge of how and in what sectors Trump is going to crash the economy.

    From what I can tell, he’s not so busy that he couldn’t be in the administration and run a hedge fund at the same time. I can’t imagine Trump or the GOP objecting.

  17. Teve says:

    media matters quote a fox news show:

    COREY LEWANDOWSKI: Don’t forget, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, they’re avowed socialists. They want to redistribute your wealth, anybody who has made something successful, they want to take it away from you.

    They want to have illegal aliens come across this border and kill Americans, and they think that that’s what America stands for? I don’t agree at all.


    How stupid do you have to be, to be a Republican today?

  18. grumpy realist says:

    Diahanne Carroll just died. Jesseye Norman died a few days ago.

    We’re losing more and more of the great singers.

  19. wr says:

    @grumpy realist: Diahanne Carroll was a singer? I only knew her as an actress….

  20. CSK says:

    @wr: Carroll had a long singing career. She starred wit Richard Kiley in the musical “No Strings.”

  21. CSK says:

    @Moosebreath: @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Perry’s departure has been planned (by him) for a while, apparently.

  22. Jen says:

    Elizabeth Warren raised $24.6 million in Q3, which puts her right behind Sanders and well ahead of Buttigieg. I’m actually comforted by this, as the numbers Biden posted were weak for a “front runner.” I was getting increasingly concerned about the fundraising dynamic of front runners raising less than those in 3rd and 4th in polling.

  23. Matt says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I made almost to my 40s before I got my first jury summons. Well I was told about it as the people living in my old residence 1200 miles from here got a notice for me. I tried to get it straightened out that I had moved 6 or 7 years earlier and couldn’t show. I still don’t know how that ended up as it devolved into me faxing stuff over and over and calling till I gave up.

    After that summon I started to be summoned here every year. One year it was the city then every year after it’s been the county… it’s gotten silly.

  24. Michael Cain says:

    Let me challenge Doug’s “you can’t be off topic” subheading.

    There’s been so much talk about a red/blue “civil war” in the last few weeks, I got curious about how the geography of that would look. I pulled out my cartogram software and the county-level election results from 2016, and produced this:

    In the upper map, counties in the 48 contiguous states are color-coded blue for Clinton getting more votes, red for Trump, and no indication of how close the counts might have been. Yellow outlines show states.

    In the lower map, the size of the counties have been scaled to reflect the total number of votes cast in each. The state outlines are so distorted as to be practically useless. I am struck, though, by how consistently the Republicans have been squeezed out of the urban and dense suburban areas.

  25. Tyrell says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: How do you do that? Does it require a notary?
    I had a relative who was sent a jury duty notice. He called them and told them where they could put their jury duty notice and that he was not serving. He never heard another word from them.
    Now, if I had tried that . . .. .

  26. Monala says:

    @grumpy realist: On our trip to Europe this summer, my daughter spotted a sticker someone had posted on the London tube with a photo of Boris Johnson and the words, “Racist, sexist homophobe,” written underneath. Her eyes grew big while she said to me, “Wow, they really know about Trump here!” I had to explain to her that the UK had their own version. 😉

  27. Jax says:

    @Michael Cain: That’s a whole new perspective. Thanks!

  28. DrDaveT says:

    @Michael Cain:

    I am struck, though, by how consistently the Republicans have been squeezed out of the urban and dense suburban areas.

    Not squeezed out; they just aren’t the majority anywhere else. It is a quirk of our electoral system (which Dr. Taylor could expound upon in great detail) that Trump was elected, to a large extent, by empty scrubland.

  29. Jen says:

    How many wheels can come off of a bus before it is considered beyond repair?

    2nd Official Is Weighing Whether to Blow the Whistle on Trump’s Ukraine Dealings

  30. Teve says:


    Also, from WaPo:

    Jack Goldstone
    On Trump’s phone call with UK leader Theresa May, he spent 10 minutes defending Russia, saying he thought they were NOT involved in poisoning Russian defectors in Britain, despite overwhelming evidence.“

  31. Teve says:
  32. Tyrell says:

    @Jen:Maybe she can take some of that money and help some people pay off their 26% interest credit cards. She says she is against the great big banks. Now she can put her money where her mouth is.

  33. grumpy realist says:

    @Monala: Boris Johnson is Trump’s Mini-Me. He’s smarter, but I think he’s lazier.

    Both of them are pretty obviously acute narcissists.

  34. Matt says:

    @Tyrell: None of what you said makes sense. Why should she have to pay for the mistakes of others just because she’s trying to keep people from getting screwed over by big business? She’s not against “big banks” she’s against big banks using their power to screw over the consumers. You seem to have some sort of caricature in your head that you’re mistaking for Warren…

  35. Jen says:


    1) That would be a serious abuse of campaign funds.
    2) I sympathize with people who struggle to make ends meet, and find 26% usurious; don’t you?
    3) Opposing policies that prey on people is something that most people would agree with–or are you okay with banks pressuring employees to open ghost accounts for customers in an effort to keep their numbers up to keep their stock rising? How about making print on disclosures so small and obscurely written that it takes two tax attorneys and an accountant to make sense of them? How about targeting groups of people with little education to sell complex–and risky–financial products to? Next-generation redlining, based on data analysis? You’re okay with all of that?

    Just stop. She’s one of the few people who actually has policies that would help ordinary people regain their footing in an increasingly complex financial picture.

  36. Teve says:

    In the Land of Self-Defeat

    What a fight over the local library in my hometown in rural Arkansas taught me about my neighbors’ go-it-alone mythology — and Donald Trump’s unbeatable appeal.


    The Derp in that article reaches toxic exposure levels.

  37. Tyrell says:

    @Jen: What is she going to do for the working people out here who pay the taxes to keep the country going? Besides raising taxes to pay for socialist give away programs? Free this, free that. Is she going to pay me back for my college tuition? Can I keep my health insurance plan that I like?
    The credit card rates are indeed usurious, especially since I have not been late or skipped out on payments. When I get one last card paid off, that’s it.
    I have looked at some of her proposals and I did not see anything that would help me.
    I don’t own guns, but if I did I would not ever surrender something that I purchased legally and the state gave me a permit to own. And I will still eat an occasional hamburger. That’s the type of stuff they are talking about now instead of a tax cut. And all the spurious investigations.
    See – Convention of States; an effort to return to sensible, Constitutional government.

  38. Teve says:

    The Guardian:

    But according to Steve Bannon, Trump’s former 2016 campaign chair and White House strategist, a prime mover in the formation and propagation of the Deep State conspiracy theory, it should not be taken seriously.
    Bannon states his opinion in a new book, Deep State: Trump, the FBI and the Rule of Law by James B Stewart, which will be published on 8 October. The Guardian obtained a copy.

    The “deep state conspiracy theory is for nut cases”, Bannon is quoted as saying, because “America isn’t Turkey or Egypt”…

    Bannon has reportedly asserted the Deep State is false before. In Wolff’s follow-up book, Siege: Trump Under Fire, Bannon describes advice he gave to a ghost writer working on Trump’s Enemies: How the Deep State is Undermining the Presidency, a book by Trump allies Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie.

    According to Wolff, Bannon said: “You do realise that none of this is true.”

  39. Gustopher says:

    @Tyrell: Your Medicare will not be touched, you will keep your doctors and your plan.

    (I assume the Tyrell character is well into his 70s.)

  40. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Tyrell: You’re ranting, Tyrell. Take a deep breath and calm down.