Saturday’s Forum

It's that time again.

James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor 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. Teve says:


    My hospital bill went from $4,000 to $950 all because I asked them for a receipt and list of everything I was being charged for SMFH they lowered my bill by 76%
    Our health care system is a SCAM.

    And why aren’t there just basic anti-predator laws like a doctor can’t work on your case if they’re out of your insurance network, without your explicit consent? The US doesn’t have a health maximizing system, it has a profit maximizing system.

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Virus Researchers Cast Doubt On Theory Of Coronavirus Lab Accident

    Virus researchers say there is virtually no chance that the new coronavirus was released as result of a laboratory accident in China or anywhere else. The assessment, made by more than half-a-dozen scientists familiar with lab accidents and how research on coronaviruses is conducted, casts doubt on recent claims that a mistake may have unleashed the coronavirus on the world.

    The accident theory has been advanced by the Trump administration in recent weeks. Earlier this month, a set of State Department cables leaked to The Washington Post pointed to U.S. safety concerns at labs in Wuhan, the city where the virus emerged. Intelligence agencies are currently assessing the possibility of an accident, and last Wednesday, President Trump promised “a very thorough examination” of events.

    “I will tell you, more and more, we’re hearing the story,” Trump said on April 15 of the theory that the virus came from labs in Wuhan.

    But after corresponding with 10 leading scientists who collect samples of viruses from animals in the wild, study virus genomes and understand how lab accidents can happen, NPR found that an accidental release would have required a remarkable series of coincidences and deviations from well-established experimental protocols.

    “All of the evidence points to this not being a laboratory accident,” says Jonna Mazet, a professor of epidemiology at the University of California, Davis and director of a global project to watch for emerging viruses called PREDICT.

    Rather, the experts interviewed by NPR all believe that the virus was transmitted between animals and humans in nature, as has happened in previous outbreaks — from Ebola to the Marburg virus — and with other known coronaviruses such as SARS and MERS.

    “The real risk is in the wild in the way people interact with wildlife around the world,” says Peter Daszak, president of EcoHealth Alliance in New York City, a group that researches the origins of pandemics. “That’s where we need to be focused if we want to really do something about preventing the next pandemic.”

  3. Bill says:

    The OMG Time travel headline of the day-

    Man Just Buying One Of Every Cleaning Product In Case Trump Announces It’s Coronavirus Cure

    Thank you Ann Althouse

    I have written a few things in my stories that were in set in the past and accidentally fell into line with real-life events but this is ridiculous. When life imitates the Onion. Another sure sign of the apocalypse.

  4. OzarkHillbilly says:


    The leader of the most prominent group in the US peddling potentially lethal industrial bleach as a “miracle cure” for coronavirus wrote to Donald Trump at the White House this week.

    In his letter, Mark Grenon told Trump that chlorine dioxide – a powerful bleach used in industrial processes such as textile manufacturing that can have fatal side-effects when drunk – is “a wonderful detox that can kill 99% of the pathogens in the body”. He added that it “can rid the body of Covid-19”.

    A few days after Grenon dispatched his letter, Trump went on national TV at his daily coronavirus briefing at the White House on Thursday and promoted the idea that disinfectant could be used as a treatment for the virus. To the astonishment of medical experts, the US president said that disinfectant “knocks it out in a minute. One minute!”

    He went on to say: “Is there a way we can do something, by an injection inside or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it’d be interesting to check that.”

    Trump did not specify where the idea of using disinfectant as a possible remedy for Covid-19 came from, and the source for his notion remains obscure. But the Guardian has learned that peddlers of chlorine dioxide – industrial bleach – have been making direct approaches to the White House in recent days.

    On the one hand, it would explain a lot, fit’s his MO to a tee, and the timing is dead on.

    On the other hand it would mean that he actually read something more than the captions to dirty pictures.

    I’m just not sure. Maybe if it was written in sharpie?

  5. Teve says:
  6. Teve says:

    You know what this place could use? A Recent Comments feature!

  7. de stijl says:

    Yesterday I found toilet paper in my store! Actual God damned toilet paper.

    It is prison grade one ply, but it was there.

    It was lonely. My grocery store has chosen, wisely IMO, to not Potemkin up their empty shelves.

    A few dozen 4 packs. Limited to one per paying customer. A sharp rebuke to extant supply chain management principles.

    Disinfecting wipes (off brand quasi generics) and hand sanitizer were available in small stock and also limited to one per paying customer.

    Still, this is an inflection point.

    That which was not available is making it on to the shelves.

    Maybe I am being too hasty. I went in the morning. By late afternoon, likely all would be gone.

    Still, better than none.

  8. de stijl says:

    What was truly scary was the empty shelves in the meat department.

  9. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @de stijl:

    Still, this is an inflection point.

    That which was not available is making it on to the shelves.

    I think you just got lucky.

    What was truly scary was the empty shelves in the meat department.

    Panic buying in response to the dire reports that we are all gonna run out of meat by July 1st, and then more rational buying in response to the round of panic buying.

  10. Teve says:

    If you like thoughtful longreads:

    The Equality Conundrum

    “We can share an objection to inequality without sharing a conception of equality.”

  11. de stijl says:

    I do not agree with it. Decidedly imprudent, but if you were to re-open now why would you choose hair salons and tattoo parlors as first wave?

    It’s a really stupid idea, but of all the choices the bowling alley thing is doable. You can bowl and be six feet apart, the venues have experience in spritzing disinfectant on shoes so it is a translatable skill. Of businesses to open, bowling venues was a decent call even though it is way too soon.

    But hair salons and tattoo parlors are bafflingly bad choices. By process and design you must be hands on another person to do the service. It’s nuts. These are the exact types of businesses to re-open in the last wave, not the first.

    Crazy and infuriating.

    Georgia voters, please remember this moment next election.

    Kemp is stupider than Trump, and Trump is wicked crazy stupid.

  12. Teve says:

    Here’s what a thin skin Trump has, he has wussed out of every White House Correspondents Dinner of his presidency.

  13. Mikey says:


    Panic buying in response to the dire reports that we are all gonna run out of meat by July 1st

    I don’t know if we’ll run out, but:

    One of our very best friends works at a butcher shop (one of the few true traditional butchers around). The other day she called and told my wife “if you want meat, get it now. Our suppliers are starting to tell us they can’t fill our orders.”

  14. DrDaveT says:


    The US doesn’t have a health maximizing system, it has a profit maximizing system.

    I think I told this story here last year, but I’ll repeat it. Not that long ago, I had a minor medical procedure that involved several doctors, including an anesthesiologist. It turned out that the anesthesiologist was “out of network”, even though the procedure was scheduled and performed by an in-network doctor at his offices. The gap between what my insurance covered and what the office was billing me was (let’s say) $1000.

    That part of the scam was familiar, but what happened next is what reveals how corrupt the system is. The billing firm told me that I would have to pay the difference out of pocket, but that I might want to try contacting my insurance company and asking them to cover the $1000. That sounded weird to me — they had already said they would not — but I had my employer’s HR office write them a letter. To my surprise, they paid the difference. They did not pay it to the doctor, though — they sent me a check. So I had to then contact the medical billing company to arrange for payment (and a receipt). In the course of the conversation, I mentioned that it would have been a real jolt to have to pay $1000 out of pocket. The person I was speaking with said “Oh, don’t worry — we would only have billed you $250 if the insurance company hadn’t covered it.”

    Think about that for a moment. Now multiply it times 150 million surgeries per year, and who knows how many minor procedures…

  15. Teve says:

    @DrDaveT: it’s not going to pass right now, but hopefully by the time i qualify for Medicare we’ll have this criminal system behind us.

    Future generations are not going to believe we ever did this shit. “Wait, are you telling me that you gave all of your healthcare money to a company, who then paid people to stop you from getting healthcare? Was everyone in America mentally disabled?”

  16. Teve says:

    “No, son, just 46%, but that was bad enough.”

  17. OzarkHillbilly says:


    “if you want meat, get it now. Our suppliers are starting to tell us they can’t fill our orders.”

    No knowing the context it is hard to know the full meaning behind that statement. If one makes an order for say 100 sides of beef but they only have 50 they can sell, they are incapable of filling that order.

    Processing plants are being shut down and that has had an effect on supply (iirc the Sioux City plant closing alone reduced the US supply of pork by 7%) however it does not mean we are going to “run out”. It does mean we won’t be able to eat as much meat as we want whenever we want however we want. This is what I expect to happen in the months ahead. Time will tell.

    I will say this. I raise my own meat birds and I buy half a pig every year from a friend but I fully expect to have to make some adjustments. There is no telling how easy it will be to acquire feed in August if milling plants have to close down. Might take more than the standard 7-8 weeks to get them up to slaughter weight. My birds will hopefully be ready for processing the 1st week of Oct but if the guy I use has a problem with staffing his operation (Mennonites supposedly have no objection to modern medicine but…) I’ll have to slaughter them myself.

    I won’t like that. It’s a dirty nasty job for which I am not set up for and to get set up for will cost me a bunch of money I’d rather spend on other needs.

  18. 95 South says:

    A pork shortage is one thing, a meat shortage is something different but also survivable. There are no predictions of a protein or a calorie shortage.

  19. de stijl says:


    Funny you mentioned criminals.

    Prisoners get better health care than most poor Americans.

    Certainly better dental. Dental isn’t covered.

  20. de stijl says:

    @95 South:

    Is pork not meat?

    Are you ascribing “meat” to beef only?

    That was a weird comment.

    “There are no predictions…”

    Of course there are. Why else is there a run?

    You are gaslighting. We have all seen the reports.

  21. 95 South says:

    @de stijl: Pork is a type of meat. We can have a pork shortage without having a meat shortage. Meat is a form of protein. We can have a meat shortage without having a protein shortage. Protein is one of the body’s sources of calories. We can have a protein shortage without having a shortage of calories. Think of a Venn diagram. The largest circle is “food” and an absence of it kills people. There’s another circle within it called “protein” and a lack of it causes long-term health problems. No one is saying that the US is likely to face a shortage of either. Within “protein” you have meat, fish, beans, dairy, etc. People can live well without any one of those as long as they have a steady diet including protein. There are a lot bigger problems in the world than what kind of protein you get. Is that clear enough?

  22. Monala says:

    @de stijl: every time I visit the grocery store I am able to buy toilet paper. You know why? Because I buy the recycled brands. For some reason people, despite the shelves being wiped clean of ordinary tp, are leaving the recycled brands alone. Maybe they don’t realize that recycled toilet paper these days is two-ply, fairly soft, and only slightly more expensive than regular tp. Oh well, other people’s loss, my gain.

  23. de stijl says:


    You misunderstand.

    There was no TP of any type. Bone empty shelf. 80 feet. 80 empty feet. Nothing goddamned there. For 7 weeks.

    No paper products usable as substitutes for sale at all. Paper towels – no. Napkins – none. Not for five weeks.

    Thought I was clever in identifying napkins as a crude substitute back then.

    I had no choice because there was naught to buy. I wasn’t refusing to buy your niche (later on that) product.

  24. Erik says:


    we would only have billed you $250 if the insurance company hadn’t covered it

    You could look at it as a scam or you could look at it as the physician having compassion, recognizing that $1000 would be impossible for many people, and not wanting to hurt them.

  25. de stijl says:


    I am not sure if you’re straight or joshing.

    Recycled toilet paper seems like a joke, but you are not presenting as such. Likely, I might be misreading you.

    I assume you mean TP made from recycled paper rather than recycled TP.

    I would be totally cool with that. I would have bought that in a second had it been available.

    Literally had not seen any TP of any sort in my last 7 trips to my grocery store. So basically two months. Nor any paper towels in my last 5 trips.

    If you are straight up, we live in different markets where your TP is not as scarce as is in mine.

    Seeing any toilet paper for sale on a shelf was astonishing.

    If you are fooling, you fooled me. Recycled TP is a decent gag.

  26. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @de stijl: I assume you mean TP made from recycled paper rather than recycled TP.

    Yes, that is what she means. Here, I have only seen shelves empty of TP once and that was in the early days. A couple times after it was reduced to 2 or 3 packages of cheap stuff. I haven’t been in quite some time (my wife braves Wally World) and my wife has been ordering it online. Not sure about the lag time on delivery, 2-3 weeks I think

  27. de stijl says:


    You all are blessed on the TP front then.

    I have been bereft of any choice at all for ~ 2 months. None. Nada. Bupkis.

    It boggles my mind that others have tp freely available. And have had through out.

    One would think that the regional markets would be roughly equivalent.

    Psyched though. I was getting short on the Bounty as alt tp, which should not be flushed so you have to manage that.

  28. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @de stijl: Yes we are, but if my wife can get it online I’m pretty certain you can too.

    I’ll be honest and say that I poo-poohed her doing it at the time, she ordered alcohol so she could make hand sanitizer too), saying we might get this stuff by June 1st (a little sarcasm was invoked) but she just stuck her tongue out at me and said, “Well then, at least we’ll have some in June.” Another 4 pack showed up today and a 2nd half gal of alcohol. We’re good on both fronts for a while.

    I was getting short on the Bounty as alt tp, which should not be flushed so you have to manage that.

    By and large the plumbing in Mexico (well, back in the 80s and 90s anyway) can’t handle tp. One got used to the box of used tp by the toilet pretty quick. Or not, in which case one did not go back. 😉

  29. EddieInCA says:


    Bill says:
    Saturday, April 25, 2020 at 08:00

    The OMG Time travel headline of the day-

    Man Just Buying One Of Every Cleaning Product In Case Trump Announces It’s Coronavirus Cure

    Thank you Ann Althouse

    You want to see what tossing out your credibility looks like, read this Althouse post:

    She’s a piece of shite for defending this crap.

  30. Monala says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Yes, that’s what I mean, although it now makes me wonder whether other shoppers presume that recycled TP means it was made from old TP (how would that even work?!), not just recycled paper, and that’s why they’re avoiding it.

  31. Kathy says:

    It may be too late for this idea.

    What if we were to explain viral infections as “the virus needs to have sex with your cells in order to reproduce”? Would conservatives then be more likely to back extreme measures to contain the pandemic?

  32. de stijl says:


    1. You said pooh pooh. About poo.

    I am incredibly juvenile at times. Poop is still funny at my ungodly age.

    2. Toilet paper became a thing roughly 1910.

    Did the Mexican plumbing precede tp or did the plumbers ignore modernity?

    3. What did people use as tp before 1910?

    I should know this and will Google it later, but I really don’t know.

    People I knew when I was kid grew up before tp was a thing. My gammelfarfar grew up when there wasn’t any such thing.

    He adapted to modernity quite well and loved televised wrestling. He rooted for the heels, which is fucking awesome. And had a highly paganistic interpretation of Lutheranism. Lutheran by birth but comingled with old lore too. I think he thought they were all on the same side. Lutheran Christianity +.

    The only time I saw him in a church was at his funeral.

  33. Jax says:

    @de stijl: There’s a turd in Saturday, you know. 😉

    I know, right?! Mind. Blown. Not sure how I got to 44 years old without noticing that, given the prevalence of poop jokes around my kids.

  34. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @de stijl:

    Poop is still funny at my ungodly age.

    As somebody who once fell into a slop of pig shit while trying to send a boar off to slaughter, I can tell you it never stops being funny. 🙂 I still laugh.

  35. CSK says:

    There’s a sixth grader lurking inside if all of us. Whenever I’m desperate to entertain a little kid, I drag out the booger and hiney jokes.

  36. gVOR08 says:

    @de stijl: I have no idea. But I do remember reading many years ago in The Arms of Krupp that they employed officials in their factories, Kloset Papier Inspector or something like that, would have been around 1910, whose job it was to inspect toilet paper, apparently including used, to ensure no one was using it to spread communist propaganda. Sticks in one’s mind as it sounds like a pretty … nah, not going there. Too juvenile even for me.

  37. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Teve: I just got a bill from the doctor yesterday. On the charges for the echocardiogram that I get yearly, it read:

    93306 (1) TTE W/Doppler complete–$480.71
    Payment Insurance Check [51.84] (Payment code) AARP Medicare C/AARP Medicare C (Claim number) Deductible: $0.00; Co-Pay: $160.00–this is my share of the bill
    Adjustment Contractural; AARP Medicare C/AARP Medicare C (office billing code): Sequestration- Reduction in federal payment ($268.87)

    If I understand arithmetic correctly–and it’s been a while–56% of the charge was written off, I paid 33%, and Medicare–through the management systems of AARP/United Health–paid 11%. Now, I’m not complaining; I’d merely pass on this procedure if it wasn’t for Medicare because it’s only to monitor the progression of effects on my heart from atrial fibrillation–which effects no one has any control over. But I find myself wondering on behalf of the people who end up paying the whole nut–either because of their fee-for-service policies or because they have no coverage–who are they subsidizing, me or the insurer? Both? If everybody paid the same “market price,” what would an echocardiogram cost? (Go ahead and allow for fluctuations in market price; I’m confident that the don’t cover a 60% spread.)

    (In the statement for a recent biopsy, the charge was $38,000 and change of which roughly 32k was “sequestered.”)

  38. de stijl says:


    That made my Sa*turd*ay.

    I am seriously too old to laugh at poop jokes. (Not really.)

  39. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @de stijl: Can’t speak for your situation, but at the store I most often shop at, products marketed as being made from “organic” and “recycled” materials are sold on a separate shelf from regular inventory. Both for grocery and non-food items. (There are also “organic/recycled stock” items on in the general sections, but there is are two specific sections that feature such–one in groceries and one in non-foods.)


    It boggles my mind that others have tp freely available. And have had through out.

    Some chains have better/more locally controlled purchasing departments. Who does the buying and how good they are makes all the difference.

  40. de stijl says:

    As to history of toilet paper check the Wikipedia page.

    I was way off: the Chinese had a tp equivalent in 6th century AD, bastards invented everything.

    Outside of China, things were very low tech.

    Corncobs. I may need a memory wipe, this was more I had bargained for.

    Check it. Sociologically interesting.

    I never had to go there, but I was eyeballing my stash of plastic grocery bags if push came to shove.

  41. Jax says:

    @de stijl: I really can send you some. No problemo. I went ahead and ordered the bulk case from the liquor store, more out of curiosity than anything, I mean… much will there be?! If wealth is soon-to-be-decided by toilet paper on hand, I’m shitting on a golden toilet. 😉

    And it ain’t the one-ply shit, either….also slightly cheaper than equivalent amounts from Sam’s Club, if I felt like driving to Idaho.

  42. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @de stijl:

    I gotta ask: Where the hell do you live?

    I went to the Costco in Arvada (Denver western suburb)… It was business as usual. The only thing that I didn’t find was canned peas & corn. The rest was as always.

    As to T.P. they had a big stack. And Costco TP…. the packages are HUGE: 30 rolls. WAY plenty of paper towels as well.

    Yes, there were some items that were marked “limit 1” but that was for the massive bags or rice and flour. (which I did buy, 1 each)

    And the very positive item was that there were social distance spacing signs and Plexiglass for cashiers, and installed in restrooms as well.

  43. DrDaveT says:


    You could look at it as a scam or you could look at it as the physician having compassion, recognizing that $1000 would be impossible for many people, and not wanting to hurt them.

    I thought of that, but it doesn’t fit the facts. It might apply if I were uninsured, or if my insurance were not network-based.

    If the anesthesiologist had been in-network, he would only have gotten the negotiated amount, which might have been even lower than the $250. And he’s generally OK with that — it’s what he gets most of the time. The gaming of in/out-of-network allowed him to maybe squeeze an extra $750+ from the insurance company, and if that didn’t work then he could still squeeze me for some extra on top of what my insurer will pay out-of-network, and probably still come out ahead of where he would have been if he had been in-network.

    And, of course, the bill said $1000. I might have just paid it without question, once my insurer declined. There was no “if you can’t afford this, check this box” on the bill.

  44. de stijl says:


    Thanks. Thanks again for the offer.

    You are a menschette.

    Seriously a cool and
    a responsible and a generous person.

    I am set. I have a 4 pack of prison grade one ply made by … checks the package under the sink … Scott.

    I am too cool for school. Got the #2 sitch covered like she was Amish.

  45. de stijl says:

    @Liberal Capitalist:

    It really freaks me out that other people have had toilet paper on the shelves at their store for weeks.

    I live in Des Moines. Beaverdale. Single family detached residential neighborhood.

    Middle class to UMC, a few fancy pants houses. Whiter than any neighborhood I have ever lived in.

    I live a quarter mile from my grocery store. I go roughly once a week.

    I seriously thought this was a nationwide thing. That people did not have toilet paper available to purchase. Until Friday, I had not seen a roll since late February.

    I texted a few friends about the score cuz I thought it was bad ass, and now I learn all y’all have it and have had it for weeks. That is quite disconcerting.