Sunday Open Forum

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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:

    Kathy bait: Dark Towers review: Deutsche Bank, Donald Trump and a must-read mystery

    Steve Bannon, the brains behind Donald Trump’s upset election victory, saw the danger posed by the cash cravings of the First Family. In Fire and Fury, Michael Wolff chronicled Bannon drawing a direct line between purported dark doings at Deutsche Bank and Jared Kushner’s brushes with the Mueller investigation: “This is all about money laundering … It goes through Deutsche Bank and all the Kushner shit.”

    But that’s only half the story. Late last year, a federal appeals court sustained subpoenas issued by congressional committees to the German bank for Trump’s financial records. Come June, the supreme court will probably rule on the enforceability of those demands together with other cases concerning Trump’s tax returns – just in time for political convention season. In other words, Deutsche remains relevant to the 2020 elections.

    In Dark Towers: Deutsche Bank, Donald Trump, and an Epic Trail of Destruction, David Enrich delivers a master class in financial sleuthing. The New York Times’ financial editor follows the money, plows through paper and talks to dozens of people in the bank’s ecosystem. There are names, places and computer files. This is a first-rate read.

    Dark Towers traces the bank’s arc from founding through the second world war to the present, excavates and analyzes Trump’s relationship with his lender of last resort, and lays out the ties that bind Justin Kennedy, son of retired supreme court justice Anthony Kennedy, to the Trump family. In case anyone forgot, Brett Kavanaugh clerked for Kennedy père, who interceded with Trump on Kavanaugh’s behalf.
    Deutsche and its subsidiaries have faced an array of criminal and civil charges in the US and UK. Money laundering, Russia and rate-fixing played outsized roles. After the Guardian reported on Dark Towers, Deutsche issued a semi-oblique confession: “While elements of the narrative seem to be exaggerated to fit into a storyline, we have long acknowledged and sought to learn from our historical shortcomings.”

    “Everything he says is true but we’re not bad people! We just did bad things. Some of us are even good people!”

  2. Teve says:

    Ran into the Samsung rep two days ago and he let me play around with the S20+. Available to consumers March 6.

    The iPhone 11 Pro was the best cell phone on the market. When these things release, it no longer will be. By a long shot.

  3. Teve says:

    Just started The Subtle Knife. Heckin good.

  4. Kylopod says:

    Michael Avenatti has just been convicted on all counts, and it got me thinking about something. A while back, when Avenatti was mulling a possible presidential bid, I encountered many online Dems who seemed to like the idea, including a couple of people here. Michael Bloomberg may not be total scum like Avenatti, but I’m getting similar vibes from those who support him–the way they hand-wave away his all-too-obvious flaws, because they’re so enamored by his tough-guy shtick as he goes after Trump.

    For the record, I think Bloomberg’s attack ads against Trump have been excellent, and I hope he continues making them even if he doesn’t get the nomination. But this attempt to base one’s entire support for him on his ability to go after Trump like this, and to ignore practically anything of substance about what kind of president he would be, raises some disturbing questions. I think many people have developed a superficial–and rather cartoonish–understanding of what drove Trump’s electoral success in the first place, as well as the proper way to deal with him.

    It relates to another phenomenon I’ve noticed, which is people who claim Hillary’s main mistake was being overly nice toward Trump–a claim that is not remotely accurate and requires selective amnesia of the highest order. In any case, seeing a Dem troll Trump effectively may be emotionally satisfying, but is it the sort of thing that wins elections? I’m not arguing we should sit back and be all kumbaya–not by a light year. Indeed, one of my main objections to Biden all along has been that I believed he’d be weak and ineffectual in the face of the GOP slime machine. But some Dems seem to have gotten the idea in their head that the only way (or the best way) to take on Trump is to (in effect) sink to his level of pro-wrestling, adolescent-bully antics, which I think is a grave error.

  5. Kylopod says:


    Just started The Subtle Knife. Heckin good.

    Have you been watching the recent HBO series?

  6. Teve says:

    @Kylopod: NOPE. I want to get through books 2 and three without spoilers. I read the first one in college, but reread it last year. Book two is starting off even better than book one. 😀

  7. OzarkHillbilly says:


    A while back, when Avenatti was mulling a possible presidential bid, I encountered many online Dems who seemed to like the idea,

    You too, eh? A lot of people, and political leanings have nothing to do with it, fall for the loudmouthed tough guy act. Personally, I never thought much of him as a lawyer much less a presidential candidate. A lawyer’s job is to represent their client, not draw as much attention to themself as possible.

  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    In climate change news:

    ‘The only uncertainty is how long we’ll last’: a worst case scenario for the climate in 2050

    It is 2050. Beyond the emissions reductions registered in 2015, no further efforts were made to control emissions. We are heading for a world that will be more than 3C warmer by 2100

    The first thing that hits you is the air. In many places around the world, the air is hot, heavy and, depending on the day, clogged with particulate pollution. Your eyes often water. Your cough never seems to disappear. You think about some countries in Asia, where, out of consideration, sick people used to wear white masks to protect others from airborne infection. Now you often wear a mask to protect yourself from air pollution. You can no longer simply walk out your front door and breathe fresh air: there might not be any. Instead, before opening doors or windows in the morning, you check your phone to see what the air quality will be.

    Fewer people work outdoors and even indoors the air can taste slightly acidic, sometimes making you feel nauseated. The last coal furnaces closed 10 years ago, but that hasn’t made much difference in air quality around the world because you are still breathing dangerous exhaust fumes from millions of cars and buses everywhere. Our world is getting hotter.


    As Sea Levels Rise, Scientists Offer a Bold Idea: Dam the North Sea (NYT for those who are counting)

    LONDON — One dam would stretch some 300 miles from the coast of Scotland to Norway. The other, roughly 100 miles, would rise in the waters between northern France and Southeastern England.

    Together, the mammoth structures proposed by scientists would completely enclose the North Sea and offer protection for tens of millions of Europeans threatened by rising sea levels caused by climate change.

    The scientists behind the proposal, outlined in a paper published on Thursday in the American Journal of Meteorology, said that the scale of the project — which exists only in the broadest outlines at this point — reflected the urgency of the crisis.

    “See this as a warning,” said one of the authors, Sjoerd Groeskamp of the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research. “What we’re saying is: Here’s a plan, a plan we don’t want. But if we end up needing it, then it’s technically and financially feasible.”

    The project would be one of the largest engineering feats ever attempted on the planet and would cost anywhere from $250 billion to $550 billion, according to the proposal — a cost the authors suggest could be covered by more than a dozen Northern European countries that would be protected by the barrier.

    Some experts expressed doubt that damming the North Sea was the best solution for dealing with rising sea levels.

    “My initial reaction is skepticism,” said Craig Goff, who has been a dam safety engineer in Britain for about 20 years. “I suspect that it would be cheaper and quicker to build defenses along the coastline of Europe than to build dam structures across the North Sea.”

    Even the scientists behind the proposal acknowledge that attempting to dam the entire North Sea is not an ideal solution.

    Much better, they said, would be for the proposal to serve as an alarm, vividly illustrating the kind of drastic action that might become necessary if global leaders cannot find a way to address climate change.

  9. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Russians Pressure U.S. Forces in Northeast Syria

    WASHINGTON — Russia is intensifying a pressure campaign on U.S. military forces in northeastern Syria following the American withdrawal from much of that area ahead of a Turkish cross-border offensive last fall, American military and diplomatic officials say.

    Russian military personnel have increasingly had run-ins with U.S. troops on highways in the region, breaking agreements between the two countries to steer clear of each other. Russian helicopters are flying closer to American troops. And on Wednesday, a U.S.-led convoy returned fire after it came under attack near a checkpoint manned by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, who are backed by Russia.

    American officials say these actions by Russian personnel and their Syrian allies are devised to present a constant set of challenges, probes and encroachments to slowly create new facts on the ground and make the U.S. military presence there more tenuous. About 500 American troops remain deployed in Syria with a mission to protect oil fields and help fight remnants of the Islamic State.

    “These are not daily occurrences but they have been increasing in number, and thus is troubling,” James F. Jeffrey, the top American diplomat overseeing Syria issues, told reporters last week.

    The confrontations risk escalating to a significant hostile encounter between Washington and Moscow in the country’s northeast, even as Russian-backed Syrian government troops have stepped up an offensive against rebel enclaves in Idlib in Syria’s northwest.
    On Wednesday, a convoy led by U.S. Army soldiers was stopped at a Syrian army checkpoint east of the city of Qamishli. Photographs and video from the scene circulating on social media, and later confirmed by the Pentagon, showed armored vehicles with U.S., Russian and Syrian flags next to one another. Some residents pelted the American vehicles with stones. Another resident dumped a bucket of dirt on the back of one vehicle. Another tried to light some of the vehicles on fire, according to a Defense Department official.

    A brief firefight broke out, with one Syrian man killed. No Americans were killed, but one was slightly injured after receiving hand lacerations in the ensuing chaos, the official said.

    “After coalition troops issued a series of warnings and de-escalation attempts, the patrol came under small-arms fire from unknown individuals,” said Col. Myles Caggins, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition in Baghdad that oversees operation in northeastern Syria. “In self-defense, coalition troops returned fire.”

    A Russian defense ministry official said the arrival of Russian troops at the scene made it “possible to prevent further escalation of the conflict,” according to the Tass news agency, a claim that American officials later dismissed.

    Not to worry, trump will roll over and expose his soft underbelly so that Papa Putin continues to intercede on our behalf.

  10. Teve says:

    The same Republicans who said deficits hinder economic growth now believe deficits can help fuel economic growth. Imagine that.

    on the deficit, vp pence gives away the game

  11. Kathy says:


    I put it on my wishlist on the hope that it won’t be clickbait; that is, it will have substance and evidence and not inferences.

  12. Kylopod says:

    @Teve: My main spoiler-free observation about the show is that it’s a heckuva lot better than the 2007 film. Not that I was surprised. I’ve talked about the 2007 film here before, how it was always for me the ultimate example of the problems of adapting fantasy to the big screen. Strong source material, top-rate cast, high production values, great special effects (actually, the effects weren’t all that great–they consisted of cartoony CGI–though they somehow managed to win the film an Oscar), and the end product stunk to high heaven. They’d planned to do sequels, but the film bombed so badly the project was just abandoned, so it’s not surprising it took 12 years before anyone made another attempt at the series.

    Part of the problem was that the filmmakers (or perhaps the studio) lost their nerve for pursuing material that might offend Catholics, which led them to shortchange the whole business with the Magisterium, making them seem less like the Church and more like generic Evil Empire types. (I read recently that Pullman had to coax Nicole Kidman into taking the role of Coulter, since as a devout Catholic herself she was rather offended by the material.) Like the recent Hallmark controversy, they wound up pleasing nobody (Bill Donahue still whined about the movie’s alleged anti-Catholic content).

    But the real problem with the film speaks to the larger difficulties in fantasy adaptations. Fantasy tends to be so dense when it comes to world-building that it’s hard to pack it satisfactorily into a 2-hour frame, even with a novel that isn’t particularly long. Even relatively successful examples like Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings or the Harry Potter films weren’t perfect on this front, and those films were pretty long anyway. I gave the 2007 film a re-watch recently, just after the first season of the show ended. The movie begins strongly, and there’s some inspired casting (such as Sam Elliott as Lee Scoresby; on the show he’s played by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who’s great as always, but it’s a fundamentally different interpretation of the character from how he’s pictured in the books), but it quickly becomes muddled; I remember the first time I saw it how confused I was by the plot. Events seem to fly by almost at random, and events that had power in the book come off trite and forgettable.

    It’s why I’ve long felt a lot of these fantasy novels would work better as TV series than movies. The thing is, it’s only in relatively recent times that this has even become possible. When I was growing up in the ’80s and ’90s, the typical budget for TV productions did not make such adaptations very feasible. This is still an issue today–including in the His Dark Materials show, which sometimes suffers from avoiding showing elaborate special effects (though I really appreciated the fact that they turned to puppetry instead of CGI to create the daemons). But it greatly benefits from the longer time needed to get through the story, and it isn’t overly long, either–just eight episodes in the first season, covering not only the events of the first book, but some elements of the others. (The 2007 film ends before the first book’s climax, apparently because the studio found it too dark an ending.) Ruth Wilson’s Coulter is not only closer than Nicole Kidman to how the character is physically described in the books, she’s also a far more compelling character than in the 2007 film, where she was depicted more or less as a one-dimensional, over-the-top Cruella de Vil type.

  13. Teve says:

    Regarding Rush Limbaugh talking smack about Pete buttigieg, a friend of mine observed, “Republicans have a deeply held set of moral values that are exclusively applied to liberals”.

  14. CSK says:

    Cult45 is in ecstasies over the fact that their “blue collar billionaire” president will be showing up at Nascar today to circle the track in his limo and give the starting command.

    I suppose they’ll never understand just how contemptuous Trump is of them. No one hates the common folk more than a failed social climber.

  15. CSK says:

    I seem to recall that, back in 2006, Limbaugh was detained at Palm Beach Int’l. Airport with a bottle of Viagra prescribed for someone else, having just concluded some sort of sex frolic with the possibly underaged in the Dominican Republic.

  16. Mister Bluster says:

    Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.
    Muhammad Ali

    February is Black History Month

  17. An Interested Party says:

    As the Democrats dither, the Trump campaign is doing this…is it any wonder that many people are looking at a real billionaire to stop Trump? We are so screwed…

  18. Gustopher says:


    Cult45 is in ecstasies over the fact that their “blue collar billionaire” president will be showing up at Nascar today to circle the track in his limo and give the starting command.

    He’ll be riding around the track in his limo, right?

    I don’t understand what is so exciting or impressive or manly or whatever about that.

    Ok, it’s a little impressive that he has found a sport where he can do the very least amount of work or preparation. Race car drivers train, know strategy, etc. Trump is just dead weight. That’s kind of amazing, actually.

  19. Mister Bluster says:

    Just saw a clip during the NBA All-Star Game halftime of Tommie Smith and John Carlos giving the Black Power Salute during the playing of the National Anthem as they stood on the podium after receiving their Olympic Medals in 1968.
    “…they were ordered out of the Olympic Village and suspended by the US Olympic committee.”

    I remember seeing the pictures in the sports section of the Chicago Sun-Times when they did that.
    I was impressed by their courage. I still am today.

  20. Mister Bluster says:

    I almost forgot:

    Olympic protestors stripped of their medals
    Even after the athletes had been disciplined, the backlash continued. Newspapers compared the men to Nazis—Brett Musburger, a sportscaster for ABC, called them “black-skinned storm troopers.” Time called their act “nasty” and “ugly.” His “un-American activities” got Smith discharged from the Army, and someone threw a rock through a plate-glass window at his baby’s crib. The two men received death threats for years.

  21. An Interested Party says:

    @Mister Bluster: It’s the same as with Kaepernick…amazing how we have a criminal in the White House who is actually thought of as a patriotic American by the usual idiots but athletes who happen to be black are trashed for exercising their constitutional right of free speech…

  22. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kathy: That is always a danger. I am far more interested in the culture of criminality that apparently prevailed there than I am in the side story of trump machinations.

  23. James Joyner says:

    @Mister Bluster: The men faced harassment for years. But I can find no evidence that Smith was ever in the Army, much less discharged in punishment for his stance. Indeed, the only thing I can find is a statement from Smith that he was forced to take ROTC in college but did poorly because he had no intention of risking his life in Vietnam for a country that didn’t treat him as an equal.

  24. Mister Bluster says:

    @James Joyner:..But I can find no evidence that Smith was ever in the Army, much less discharged in punishment for his stance.

    I stand corrected.

    In the future I will try to get at least two sources for facts. One of them will not be the website.

  25. James Joyner says:

    @Mister Bluster: Ha. Yeah. I would have thought they were better myself. I was just curious to get more info on that aspect, as I’d never heard it mentioned before.