Open Forum

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

The hall is ready. The mic is open. And 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:

    A Utah Woman Is Facing Criminal Charges for Going Topless in Her Own Home

    I guess I should curtail my naked gardening lest I traumatize the UPS man.

  2. Scott says:

    I finally am getting around to watching Ken Burn’s documentary on Vietnam. Totally depressing to see how so little has changed in the 50 years since that debacle. The same arguments, the same duplicity, the same blundering world power stomping around not knowing what it is doing and leaving death and destruction in its wake.

    Everybody is freaking out because we are betraying the Kurds. Which is true. Just as we left the Vietnam War with the phony Vietnamization of the war that we knew would lead to a North Vietnam victory. Just as we are doing in Afghanistan which will inevitably lead to a Taliban (Pashtun) victory.

    Isn’t it time to admit that we don’t know what we are doing? And get out of the Middle East altogether. We are going the way of the British Empire and it may be too late to stop that momentum.

  3. MarkedMan says:

    Another data point for the “Is Vaping Safe?” debate. Basically it showed that mice exposed to vaping fumes had a much higher rate of cancer than those exposed to fumes that merely contained the solvents present in vapes. Now, this is one study and it is mice, and mice that are very susceptible to cancer at that, although they have been good indicators in a canary-in-a-coal-mine type of way in the past.

    This study may not be replicated or even if it is vaping may turn out to be significantly safer than cigarettes. My point in bringing this up is that vaping is completely untested. There are no regulations involving human health and safety that the vaping companies have to follow and as far as I know they didn’t voluntarily do any pre-market safety testing. Given how often they bring out vapes containing new flavors it seems very unlikely. Vaping is an entirely unregulated experiment that is being performed on tens of millions of teenagers and a much smaller number of people who want to quit smoking. And every time a new flavorant is added to the mix it changes the experiment on the fly.

  4. Scott says:

    Had an idle thought on the way to work today with respect to impeachment. The impeachment process will give Mitch McConnell even more power in the Senate and the Government as a whole. Why? Because he will gather the 20 or more Senators required to convict and basically tell Trump to dance to his tune or he will convict and remove him from office.

  5. Jen says:

    @Scott: I’ve had roughly the same thought. However, if McConnell thinks he can truly manipulate Trump, I think he’s out of his mind.

    Faced with that scenario, Trump would agree, McConnell would save his backside, and then Trump would do what Trump does–forget, lie, and flail about. If McConnell’s got any sense at all, he’ll realize that a subservient and predictable Mike Pence is more use to him that the b@tsh!t crazy we’ve got right now.

  6. Kathy says:


    Idle thought: Can the Senate rewrite their rules so anonymous votes are allowed? Asking for an enemy.

  7. CSK says:

    @Jen: Right. Trump can only be manipulated in the short term.

  8. DrDaveT says:

    170 years ago yesterday, Edgar A. Poe died at the age of 40, having during his short and bizarre life invented the mystery story, the science fiction story, the puzzle story, and the psychological horror story. In that last category, he has had few equals, though many imitators.

    R. I. P., Edgar.

  9. CSK says:

    @DrDaveT: Is the unknown party still putting a bottle of cognac on Poe’s grave each year?

  10. DrDaveT says:

    @CSK: According to Wikipedia, not really:

    In 2010 there was no visit by the Toaster,[2] nor has he appeared any year since, signaling an end to the 75-year tradition.[3][4] In 2016, the Maryland Historical Society selected a new “Toaster” to revive the tradition in a less mysterious—but still anonymous—form.

  11. DrDaveT says:

    On a related note, around the world as we speak thousands of people are engaged in the month-long ritual of re-re-re-reading Roger Zelazny’s classic novel A Night in the Lonesome October. The novel is in the form of journal entries (by an unlikely narrator), one per day for the month. The tradition is to read each day’s entry on that day of October. Some are very short; one is practically a complete Lovecraftian short story by itself.

  12. Kathy says:

    So Dennison is showing the world he has nothing to hide, by not allowing anyone in his so-called administration say one word to the Congressional committee.

    Ok. It’s one thing for a defendant not to testify at their own criminal trial, as this leaves them open to questions from the prosecution regarding their past, character, etc. But that doesn’t apply in an impeachment inquiry, where El Cheeto won’t ever testify in the first place.

    Right now he just looks as someone so deep in corruption and malfeasance, that he can’t afford any of his lackeys to testify at all.

    Good job!

  13. DrDaveT says:


    So Dennison is showing the world he has nothing to hide, by not allowing anyone in his so-called administration say one word to the Congressional committee.

    No no, you are missing the unmatched wisdom of his 7-dimensional chess! He is outmaneuvering the traitorous Deep State by refusing to let them have a stage for their Fake News witch hunt.

    Countdown until that’s the story on FNC: 10, 9, …

  14. Scott says:

    @DrDaveT: I have never read that Zelazny. His Lord of Light is one of my go to re-read books when I just want to read for pure pleasure. Re read that last Christmas. Never fails to make me laugh.

  15. CSK says:

    Trump wants all his aides to take polygraphs to weed out the leaker(s) in their midst.

  16. Kathy says:

    I’ve a question for frequent travelers, or those interested in travel:

    Is it worth paying for business or first class tickets?

    I’m fully aware of the types of seats available both for domestic (US/Canada/Mexico and broadly speaking Europe/Asia) and international travel, and more or less of the variety offered by US and other airlines. and also of the ancillary amenities and benefits included in first/business tickets, like luggage, the use of lounges, better/any food, etc.

    I’ve never traveled in anything other than coach, but I can see how most first/business seats and services make for a far more pleasant experience. But the price differential is amazing. So i wonder: who pays for that and why?

    To be sure, there are those miles and points fanatics who write the travel blogs where I read their trip reviews. And I know frequent flier programs may offer complimentary upgrades for their members who accumulate many thousands of miles. But these same blogs insist airlines make a bundle out of their premium services (though this may include selling miles/points to credit card companies, and keeping their frequentest travelers in the fold).

    Some businesses allow employees to expense first/business fares, especially on the longest trips. I can see how someone heading to an important meeting to Korea or Japan with little time to spare, may need a flat bed and a decent sleep during travel.

    Past that, ti seems like an extravagant expense for avoiding a few hours of mild discomfort.

  17. Kathy says:


    This is a good opportunity for the TV industry. Polygraph questions are asked in a yes/no fashion. a good quality audio recorder that’s activated by the question “Is Mr. Trump possessed of great and unmatched wisdom?” will collect enough exemplars of genuine laughter to make for the best ever laugh-track.

  18. Gustopher says:

    @Kathy: I’m 6’6”, with a 36” inseam. If I am crammed into coach, I am limping for the next few days.

    Also, do you know what happens if the overhead bins are tight in first class and there isn’t room for your banjo? It fits nicely in the overhead compartment in coach, which is still empty.

    Your specifics may differ.

  19. Jen says:

    @Kathy: We typically fly internationally at least once a year, sometimes twice+. We always check what the business class rates are, because we have found some amazing deals in the past (example, I was able to get a RT, first-class ticket from Boston to San Diego that was only $50 more each way than the coach ticket price). We also found RT business class BOS to LHR for I think something like $200 more than coach fare–for both of us. Some routes have slow times and they want butts in those seats rather than flying empty chairs.

    If business class is insanely priced (it can be), we almost always opt for the “economy plus” tickets now. I’m short but my husband isn’t, and even the modest increase in space in the “plus” seats is welcome. Yes, it costs more, but we just build it in to what we expect to pay for tickets.

  20. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Gustopher: Where are you flying to that the overhead bins in coach are empty?

  21. Guarneri says:

    Joe Biden is losing it. I told you so.

    Maybe he can take lessons from his brilliant son, and start a PE firm focused on energy. J&J’s Most Excellent Energy Partners I. Special Limited Partners – Cha Ching and Ivan Yermoney.

  22. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kathy: My flights are to Korea or other similarly out of the way places, so I haven’t been able to find good prices for business class (usually a little under double) or first class (top out of sight expensive). I would love to take the Korean Air “Morning Calm” flight into Incheon some time, but so far, I haven’t been able to convince myself to pull the trigger on the $3000 extra charge.

  23. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Guarneri: And Trump is more lucid? Really?

  24. Jen says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: I think his point is, the overhead bins in coach are empty…when they are seating those in first/business class. 😉

  25. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Jen: I don’t think it’s very nice of you to say that Gustopher would steal the overhead storage of a coach passenger simply because he’s seated earlier (which I’ve never paid any attention to), but after seeing a first class passenger permitted to bring his golf bag into the passenger compartment, I have no such illusions about first class passengers in general. 😛

  26. DrDaveT says:


    Is it worth paying for business or first class tickets? […] it seems like an extravagant expense for avoiding a few hours of mild discomfort.

    This is a question about opportunity costs. “Is it worth it?” involves comparing three things: the difference in how (un)pleasant the trip is in coach versus business/first, the difference in how much money you have left to spend on other things, and the psychological factor of feeling like you’re getting ripped off.

    The difference in comfort is real, and has been growing over time. Flying coach sucks. I’m a relatively small person and I’m badly cramped in a typical coach seat; I can’t imagine what it must be like for the tall and/or wide among us. If you happen to be someone who needs a trip to the bathroom relatively frequently, it’s even worse.

    The marginal utility of the marginal price depends strongly on how wealthy you are. For most Americans, spending a few thousand dollars just to have more legroom, a less-busy restroom, less-bad food, and free snacks and booze would be crazy. For the wealthy, the marginal value of the saved cash is literally zero — there is nothing they can only afford if they fly coach instead of business/first. At that point, why would you fly coach?

    As for the annoyance of knowing you are overpaying, I liken it to drinking wine at a restaurant. I know that the bottle would cost somewhere between 1/2 and 1/5 the price at a retail wine shop, but I am there for entertainment and willing to pay extra to have a nicer experience (and to encourage the restaurant to stock nice wines). Within reason. Where I draw the line depends on my mood.

    One way to think about this is to pretend that business/first class tickets were the only kind, and ask yourself how much they would have to pay you to accept the new ‘coach’ alternative. Is it more than the price difference in tickets today, or less?

  27. MarkedMan says:

    @Jen: Kathy, Jen is spot on. Some years ago my family lived in China and every year me, my wife and my two children could take a business class ticket from Pudong to Newark, the most expensive Business Class ticket imaginable. I’m not kidding. Once, for a last minute flight, I spent over $14K on a ticket. But… the family flight was for that round trip business class ticket or a round trip flight that cost no more than that. And my wife would stitch together these incredible flights with the longest legs being business class. Shanghai to Hawaii to San Francisco to Chicago to Newark to Shanghai or something equally insane. More than once the business class segments was cheaper than the coach class by a few dollars because the flights were mobbed by low budget vacationers who never even thought to check business class fares and so they risked flying with empty seats.

    And coach plus is almost always worth it. I once had to take an unexpected last minute flight from New Zealand to (eventually) Chicago and for an extra $100 got a coach plus upgrade. It was legitimately better than most US domestic first class seats.

  28. gVOR08 says:

    @CSK: I haven’t reread Lord of Light in a long time. It contained a concept I find useful in thinking about politics. As I recall, Sam needed to recruit the Buddhist monks in his world to his revolution. But they believed the world is illusion. How do you motivate them to rebel against an illusion? He argues the dream can be beautiful, or the dream can be ugly, and gets them to fight for a beautiful illusion.

    A day or two ago there was a discussion of deontological ends being as valid as teleological goals. Your goal of low taxes is as valid as my goal of more infrastructure investment. Which is true. When you get down to it, if I say I want more infrastructure investment to improve GDP, greater GDP is a deontological goal.

    In the end, is not what we want largely a matter of aesthetics? One person may find having what he earns taxed away an ugly dream. Another may feel a world with huge wealth disparity is an ugly dream. One may see women’s equality as a beautiful world, another may see beauty in respecting a natural order.

    Enough philosophizing. I need another bourbon.

  29. DrDaveT says:


    Enough philosophizing. I need another bourbon.

    I find that the optimal number of bourbons for doing math is 1, while the optimal number for philosophizing is “is this 3 or 4?”.

  30. Gustopher says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: You really don’t want to check a musical instrument (or a banjo). Rough treatment and temperature changes are not an instrument’s friends.

    And it only ends up in coach if the first class coat closet is full, so it’s hardly stealing space from coach.

    I can’t be expected to travel without a ridiculous affectation, can I?

  31. de stijl says:

    To my eternal embarrassment, I once offered up “Have a happy Yom Kippur” to a friend.

    She flat out laughed in my face. Said “It’s not that kind of holiday.”

    I was embarrassed then and there, but so much more so when I learned what it was about and what it signified. She pity forgave me immediately.

    I’m still abashed.

  32. de stijl says:

    @de stijl:

    Which reminds me of when I asked someone “What is time?” rather than “What time is it?

    Que es el tiempo?

    rather than

    Que hora es?

    I’d had 4 years of Spanish. Inexcuseable!

  33. de stijl says:


    Totally depends on your budget.

    If you can afford it, it is more comfortable / less annoying.

    My take is to spend as little money as possible getting there, so I get to have as much fun and cool experiences when I get there.

    As a life lesson, “It’s the journey, not the destination” is fantastic advice. For actual travel, it’s the destination.

    Coach is why God invented headphones.

  34. MarkedMan says:

    So now Lindsey Graham is “supporting” Trump by calling Rudy Giuliani to testify. I’m officially 100% in on my theory that Graham is deliberately sabotaging Trump while pretending to be his most vocal supporter.

  35. Teve says:

    David Ignatius
    · 12h
    …I’m also told that Turkish attack appears coordinated with the Russians. Russian-backed forces are mobilizing to invade the Kurdish area from the south — towards Tabqa and other spots. Meanwhile, ISIS is mobilizing sleeper cells in Raqqa and attacks have taken place tonight.

  36. gVOR08 says:

    @de stijl: Did he reply, “The fourth axis.”

  37. Jen says:

    Has anyone been following the story of the American in the UK who was driving on the wrong side of the road, struck and killed a teenager on a motorcycle, and then fled to the US claiming diplomatic immunity?

    Thoughts on this? Diplomatic immunity is actually a pretty important concept, it helps to protect our diplomats from winding up in overseas jails on trumped up charges. As such, I feel like it should only be used in those types of cases, even though it’s routinely abused here in the US to get out of parking tickets in New York (UN) and such. This feels like a diplomatic mess in the making.

  38. Jax says:
  39. Kathy says:

    My apologies for starting a discussion and then leaving it. work got busy all of a sudden yesterday.

    I’ve seen business fares just a little higher than coach, and once even lower than coach (possibly a mistake), but never when checking my own flights, alas.

    But that’s far different from the usual pricing, when business or first are anywhere from 4 to 6 times as much as coach, or even higher.

    My take is this:

    Yes, travelling a 10-12 hour flight on a flat bed, with a better screen, better food, other amenities, etc. is preferable than an upright seat (recline in coach is a bad joke anyway) with mediocre food and service(*).

    But paying as much as the cost of a used car, or even a small new car in certain routes, for 10-12 hours of comfort is just something I can’t wrap my head around, no matter how much money one has.

    I’ll admit I usually pick a premium theater when going to the movies, which costs about three to four times as much as a regular theater. Yes, the seat is wide, it reclines a great deal, it’s very comfortable, you get seat-side service, there’s a small swing tray, a deep cup holder, a side light, lots of personal space, etc. But my main reason is that people who pay more for a movie are more likely to be quiet during the show (they also almost never bring children along, who are most likely to be disruptive during a movie).

    Them too, I see maybe five movies per year in theaters. And if I miss the time they are in the premium theaters, I’ll go to the regular one. I also skip the concessions stand and the seat-side service entirely. it’s not hard, partly because of how big the markup is. Also because without intermissions these days, it’s distracting to have a bursting bladder halfway through the movie.

    (*) even in airlines with excellent service standards, and even with a stellar crew, coach can’t get the service business class or first class get, if only due to the larger ration of passengers per cabin crew.

  40. Kathy says:


    I saw that on The Guardian. I knew it wasn’t The Onion, because satire has to have a patina of plausibility.

    Few countries not directly in the war zones, or not directly attacked, got involved in any major way in WWII. The exceptions were British colonies, like India , which were involved by the British. I fail to see, then, why the Kurds would have gotten involved in Europe, even if they’d had a state during that time (they did not).

    But what has that got to do with the price of beer? The Kurds in Syria did the bulk of the fighting, and the dying, against the Islamic State. And now they’ve been abandoned by their “ally.”

  41. Teve says:

    Weird that there’s no Turkey Syria Kurds thread yet but I’ll just put this here

    Jennifer Griffin
    I just spoke to a distraught US Special Forces soldier who is among the 1000 or so US troops in Syria tonight who is serving alongside the SDF Kurdish forces. It was one of the hardest phone calls I have ever taken.

    “I am ashamed for the first time in my career.”

  42. Jax says:

    @Kathy: I bet I say “This fucking guy….” at least 5 times out loud every day, and even more in my head.

  43. DrDaveT says:


    Has anyone been following the story of the American in the UK who was driving on the wrong side of the road, struck and killed a teenager on a motorcycle, and then fled to the US claiming diplomatic immunity?

    I hadn’t heard this, but my immediate reactions are:
    1. Diplomatic immunity is only for diplomats. We have extradition treaties with the UK that should apply here.
    2. Even if we have a legal fig leaf to hide behind, we shouldn’t.

  44. Jax says:

    @DrDaveT: My understanding is that she is the wife of a diplomat.

  45. Teve says:

    Nick Hanauer
    I believe the word you are groping for is “deplorable”.

    Rick Wilson

    There’s a certain segment of the Trump right that’s almost gleeful about the coming slaughter of the Kurds.

    These are people that cannot be redeemed.

  46. Jen says:

    @Jax: That’s sort of a not-really-answered question yet. Diplomatic immunity typically applies only to those stationed in London, but about a decade ago it was extended to this particular base too. A diplomat wouldn’t be deployed to a base–I don’t think.

    My personal opinion is that this feels like a bit of an abuse of the immunity, for which there are legitimate reasons to have.

    Diplomatic immunity does extend to the wife and kids, for the same reason I noted above.

  47. Jax says:

    @Jen: I tend to agree with you, but I am not familiar enough with diplomatic rules or how any kind of immunity applies to the family of diplomats to make any kind of “considered judgment”.

    I did, however, imagine Trump and Boris in a WWE match when you said “diplomatic mess”. 😉

  48. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Jax: Don’t care. Send her back.

  49. Jax says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: If she did the crime, she definitely needs to do the time. But like I said, I am not familiar enough with how the rules work to say how that would work out.

  50. Jen says:

    My recollection of diplomatic immunity is somewhat fuzzy–I know that when my family lived abroad, we weren’t covered by blanket immunity. Those individuals and their families were issued special passports with a black cover. What we had was functional immunity, which related directly to my father’s work.

    Good explanation of the issues on this incident from the WaPo editorial board.