Saturday’s Forum

James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Pandemic sidelines more than 1,000 incarcerated wildfire fighters in California

    It’s the usual abuse of people who have little in the way of choices:

    “Every fire season it’s the same,” said Romarilyn Ralston, who leads Project Rebound, a California State University program that supports formerly incarcerated students. “The pay is so little, the work is so dangerous. Now we add Covid-19 to the story, and it gets even worse.”

    The crews are both crucial and heavily exploited, said Ralston, who worked at a fire camp while incarcerated. In exchange for extremely dangerous work, prisoners earn time off their sentences and are paid between $2 and $5 a day, plus $1 per hour when they are on a fire. Because incarcerated firefighters are paid so little, the program saves the state of California $90m to $100m a year.

    “It’s a super imbalanced system; it’s much like the system of slavery,” said Deirdre Wilson, a master’s student of social work at the University of Southern California and a member of the California Coalition of Women Prisoners. “There’s a reliance on this population, on this cheap labor.”

    People choose to participate because the training camps in the California wildlands are a chance to “get out of the oppressive environment of the correctional facilities”, Ralston said. For many women, the program is an opportunity to see their children more often and outside the harsh backdrop of a prison, she added.

    I know that if it were me I’d be among the first to volunteer even with the sword of Damocles hanging over my head,

    But incarcerated fire crews are among the most vulnerable first responders. Crew members and trainees who are injured on the job or fail to keep up have to rejoin the general prison population. “So there’s a lot of pressure on folks just tough it out at these fire camps when they’re sick, injured, when they’re depressed,” Ralston noted.

    But then they add insult to injury,

    Meanwhile, options for incarcerated firefighters to finish training and become full-time firefighters after they have served their sentences are extremely limited. Most fire departments require full-time firefighters to gain EMT certification, but the state categorically bans anyone with a felony conviction from earning EMT certification for 10 years after they are released from prison, and it bars people with two or more felony convictions from the EMT program forever.

    “The government would rather do what looks tough than what’s right and fair,” said Andrew Ward, an attorney with the non-profit Institute for Justice who is legally challenging the policy blocking two-time felons from obtaining emergency medical training.

    Researchers at the Public Policy Institute of California urged officials this week to employ larger crews to clear fire-fueling vegetation and manage the state’s fragile mountain forests. Thousands of formerly incarcerated Californians who served on inmate crews are among most qualified and experienced candidates for these jobs, Ward and other advocates have pointed out.

    “We can protect the environment and give people opportunities to just live, if we stop stigmatizing oppressed people,” Wilson said.

    “It doesn’t make sense that these people have risked their lives to save Californians, they’ve already been doing the job, and yet they’re barred from these jobs after release,” added Ralston. “When there’s a fire burning, when your life is in danger and you can’t breathe – you’re not going to do a criminal background check before you let someone save you.”

    The stupid, it hurts.

  2. Sleeping Dog says:

    Roger Cohen in this AM’s Times, takes a similar definition of Fascism that Kingdaddy made the other day and applies it to Tiny.

  3. Bill says:
  4. Mikey says:

    The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has a long and well-researched piece on Mark and Patricia McCloskey, and I am sure it will surprise nobody to learn they have a long history of being entitled and confrontational.

    It really defies excerpting, you have to read the whole thing to get the full picture of just how terrible they are. But here’s just one small example:

    In 2013, he destroyed bee hives placed just outside of the mansion’s northern wall by the neighboring Jewish Central Reform Congregation and left a note saying he did it, and if the mess wasn’t cleaned up quickly he would seek a restraining order and attorneys fees. The congregation had planned to harvest the honey and pick apples from trees on its property for Rosh Hashanah.

    “The children were crying in school,” Rabbi Susan Talve said. “It was part of our curriculum.”

  5. CSK says:

    They sound delightful, don’t they?
    I’m not sure why McCloskey was allowed to get away with destroying the hives, since as far as I can tell they were outside his property.

  6. Liberal Capitalist says:

    I look forward to the Roger Stone commentary today.

    Sadly, the events come down to this:

    1) President breaks the law
    2) Roger Stone testifies and lies
    3) Roger Stone convicted, in a jury trial, on 7 counts, sentenced to approx 3 years
    4) Roger Stone says that he’ll spill the beans if he ever sees a day in jail.
    5) Trump pardons Roger Stone.

    The circle of conspiracy is complete… Who could have seen that coming. Unpossible!

  7. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Well yes. But it’s so important for poor people–especially felonious-type ones–to pull themselves up by their boot straps as an enhancement to their rehabilitation and self-esteem.

    The problem of them not having boots to begin with and/or not being able to acquire said boots at any price is merely an unfortunate gap that society simply can’t fix.

  8. de stijl says:

    @Liberal Capitalist:

    It is fitting his name is Don because he is acting like one.

    Apparently, Cohen does not have enough dirt so just ignore that guy.

    I realize that Presidents have pardon and commutation powers. Perhaps we need to revisit how powerful it is. I am cool with sentence reductions that result in release a la crack vs. powder because that is justice.

    I am totally not cool with bad guy gets no time because I said so and because he didn’t snitch on me.

    One of these things is not like the other. (Thank you, Sesame Street!)

    We should address that.

  9. Mr. Prosser says:

    Kevin Drum has an interesting post on why Stone’s sentence was commuted rather than trump giving him a pardon. Has to do with the 5th Amendment.

  10. CSK says:

    @Mr. Prosser:
    Thanks. Drum’s explanation makes sense.

  11. CSK says:

    Well, this is amusing, and confirms what a number of us–particularly Jen and Sleeping Dog–suspected: NBC says that although the weather was a convenient excuse, Trump campaign staff feared that very few people would show up for the Portsmouth rally, and canceled it suspecting there would be a very low turn out. They were disturbed by the fact that there were no crowds massing at the airport days beforehand.

    Too bad, in a way. Another major flopperoo like Tulsa probably would have sent Trump over the edge into full court press gibbering idiocy.

  12. Sleeping Dog says:


    Weather here is very pleasant. Light breeze, lots of sun and big ole cumulus clouds.

  13. de stijl says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    I lived in Burlington briefly and did a few day trips to NH.

    It seems like a pleasant place.

  14. CSK says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    Yep; the weather here in northeastern Mass. is lovely, too. I’m wondering if that Portsmouth rally will be conveniently forgotten.

    @de stijl:
    The White Mountains and the Kankamagus Highway are spectacular.

  15. Sleeping Dog says:

    New England in general can be nice, the northern tier, Maine, NH, VT, are populated with folks who generally mind their own business, but are there when needed. Being considered a local means you have been here a long time. We revere our autumns because they are gorgeous and the summer people have gone back to where they came from. We get our beaches and woods back, plus a table is available at the local cafe.

    We do have our snooty communities where the population would drown if they went out in the rain without an umbrella. Plus nimbyism can be irritating. Generally we’re well governed but don’t expect much governmental assistance.

  16. Sleeping Dog says:


    I expect that the rally will never be heard from again. Even better the Jacksonville convention is on life support.

  17. Bill says:

    The Florida headline of the day-

    Disney World reopens as coronavirus cases surge in Florida

    This is what happens when you have Goofy for Governor

  18. CSK says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    This is going to cause Trump untold anguish. What good is being president if you can’t stand in front of an adoring mob?

    Windsor Mann had a funny article about that at The thesis of it was that while most politicians hold campaign rallies so they can get elected, Trump got elected so he could hold rallies.

  19. Jen says:


    They were disturbed by the fact that there were no crowds massing at the airport days beforehand.

    Seriously? They are even dumber than I thought. In this day and age, who TF would allow crowds to gather at a mixed civilian and military-use airport? Doesn’t homeland security/TSA generally frown upon that sort of thing?

    Sunny day here in the 603, big white puffy clouds. The humidity is a touch high for my liking, but other than that…lovely.

  20. de stijl says:


    I like a nice place to get my nature on.

    Vermont has the Green Mountains. Champy.

    Does NH have mythical lake monsters? Rest my case.

  21. CSK says:

    @de stijl:
    Why, yes, NH does have lake monsters. See The Dublin Lake Monster. Annnnd…NH has wood devils. And, as I said, the White Mountains.

  22. Sleeping Dog says:

    @de stijl:

    We don’t need no stinkin’ lake monster, we had Meldrim Thompson (sorry Jen) a real live monster for a governor. But we outgrew that phase.

  23. Sleeping Dog says:


    Oh yeah, Tiny is going to suffer major depression. The days of his big rallies are finished, but he doesn’t know that yet. Plus no repug running for reelection wants to be seen with him, which is another thing he doesn’t realize.

    Just came back from a walk on the beach and talked to a life guard who told me that so far today she only has needed to pull one potential drownee out. The tide is coming in and the rip has mellowed a bit.

  24. CSK says:

    I think they simply expect to see large crowds massing days beforehand, because pre-Covid-19, they did see them. It probably never occurred to them that the TSA, among others, would discourage crowds from forming.

    Apparently Trump had planned to deliver his rant with Air Force One looming majestically in the background (I suspect he also dreamed of the plane dropping down out of the sky and zooming down the runway before a worshipful mob, and then descending from the plane to shrieks of adoration). For some reason, this strikes me as hilarious.

  25. CSK says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    But you do have a stinkin’ lake monster in Dublin Pond. I guess we could call it Dubby.

  26. de stijl says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    Man, I so just got totally schooled!

    I know we are goofing, but I do love the insular local prejudices and rivalries. I lived In Vt for a summer and and an autumn.

    It was a really nice place. The relationship that brought me there was less so. But I got to live in a new town and experience it which I truly enjoyed.

    Does your lake monster have a line of plushies? Huh, punk?

  27. de stijl says:



  28. EddieInCA says:

    A young person’s last words before dying of Covid-19 were “I think I made a mistake, I thought this was a hoax, but it’s not.”

    He caught it at a “Covid Party”, which people keep telling me aren’t happening.

  29. Gustopher says:

    I was going to post this in the covid thread, but it seems like it would be veering off topic there…

    @ EddieInCA:

    All the businesses, every single one, have a sign “You must wear a face covering to enter”. Yet it’s ignored by a significant number of people.

    At this point, it’s not about not knowing. It’s willful, obstinate, and, in some cases, trolling.

    At what point is it justified to start spraying people who don’t wear masks in the face with mace?

    Genuine question, to some extent. I’ve been pondering the breakdown of justice in the US from the top to the bottom — the President uses his pardon powers to commit obstruction of justice, police attack protestors with impunity, police kill black folks with impunity, armed right wing protestors storm state capitals with impunity — and wonder why we keep up the fiction?

    If the far right were wearing goggles and masks to protect themselves from pepper spray, they would be wearing masks. That would be good. On the other hand, vigilante justice and assault are bad. But exposing people to a greater likelihood of disease is also assault.

    In my neighborhood, everyone wears masks. It’s nice. It means I don’t have to think about it as anything other than a thought exercise.

    But I would love if the next video of some angry man or woman refusing to wear a mask and yelling about socialism ended with them lying on the ground crying. Not permanently harmed, just briefly incapacitated.

    If the Seattle police can tear gas an entire neighborhood, can’t we get a couple individuals?

  30. Mister Bluster says:

    Police search St. Louis mansion of couple who pointed guns at protesters
    The police arrived on Friday evening with a search warrant and seized a semi-automatic .223 caliber rifle, police said, apparently the same weapon wielded by Mark McCloskey during the June 28 incident.

  31. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Gustopher: I have heard of people trying to take masks off of others, so I got my wife and myself some pepper sprays because while I certainly could shoot them and might even be able to get away with it, this being Misery and all, it’s the last thing I would ever want to do. BUT….

    As of this point neither I nor my wife have been harassed in any way shape or form, even if we are among the 20% who wear them.

  32. Sleeping Dog says:
  33. de stijl says:


    The safest by far technique is to back away and say nothing.

    Confrontation and reaction is avoidable drama generally. It’s fine to prepare for the worst, but don’t court it.

  34. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @de stijl: I lived in some really horrible neighborhoods back in the day. I saw people get shot. I had a friend who got knifed, another who took an ax (blunt end first) to the chest and a 3rd who got his head bashed in with a brick. Each time it was over stupid shit. I mean really stupid shit. The kind of shit I was always smart enough to stay out of. Once caught a guy trying to “steal” my truck. (in quotes because to this day I don’t know if he was drunk and climbed into the wrong one or just a really good actor) I tried to help him out of my truck when he yanked his arm out of my hand and said, “Nobody’s throwing me out of my truck!” and I thought, “Fuck. It’s too damned late for this shit. I’m bare foot and tired and…” then he added, “Yep, I got my gun and I’m ready to go!” and I thought, “Maybe I won’t drag his ass out of my truck and beat his ass in the street after all. Maybe I’ll just wait for the cops to show up.” BUT, all that being said,

    If somebody grabs my wife’s mask and I am there? I am ripping their head off and shitting down the hole.

    ETA: just wanted to add that I own guns. I refuse to carry one for the plain and simple reason that IT IS STUPID. Even if it is perfectly legal in this idiot state I live in.

  35. de stijl says:


    The likelihood someone will grab your wife’s mask is tiny. Infinitesimal.

    Be kind and be pleasant and be nice and people will respond. Come in wary and people will be wary. Come in confrontational and you will get confronted back.

    And if someone does it, is not a shoot you dead offense.

    I own guns. Two – a .22 target pistol that cost too much but she hits where I aim her and a cheapy semi auto 12 gauge I used to use on duck or pheasant trips.

    I vowed after the first time I shot a deer never again. I hit mid torso behind the heart and barely knicked his lung. He bellowed out his last breaths in a pink mist while I watched him die and I was so ashamed I made that happen. Never again.

    I didn’t need the meat. It was just something that people did so I signed up too like an idiot. Fucking moron.

    For a few years in my 20s I differentiated between that and ducks geese pheasants grouse and went on buddy trips. Then I realized it was the exact same thing so I stopped.

    Haven’t touched it except to move it from house to new house in nearly 30 years.

    I realize I am kinda telling you how to lead your life which in uncool, but if you come in cool people will treat you cool. If things go to shit a mask is not a thing you shoot someone for.

  36. Sleeping Dog says:

    Gorgeous evening here in the Portsmouth area. A wonderful night for a political rally.

  37. DeD says:

    I have to say, I am beyond livid that the GOP has allowed this fatuous nitwit to blow up relations with our allies, embolden CHI & RUS, and push Iran into security & trade agreements w/ CHI. This foolish child has weakened the U.S. global position & ability to act.

    Even our allies will not stand with us. It’s too late to return to the negotiating table with Iran, which is now backed by CHI & RUS. The only thing left is to vote in Biden & New Dem senators, recoup our alliances, and build up our military might.

    So long to infrastructure renewal, healthcare expansion, education improvements. Never mind recovering from COVID19. We’re right back to Realist politics in the raw. I’m frakn pissed.

  38. CSK says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

  39. de stijl says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    What is the news on antifa riots and rampant flag burning?

    Is downtown burning?

  40. Kurtz says: