Thursday’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. Bill Jempty says:

    What is it with billing?

    1 I need a new office chair and I have a Office Depot credit card which I don’t use often and I don’t owe any $$$ to.

    So I try ordering a new chair online. It’s declined. I try a second or third time. Still get a decline. My account was in good standing ($2000) available credit. I call up the company who handles the card. They say my account is good but they will issue me a new card. Fine.

    In the meantime the order for the chair goes through. I am even given a UPS tracking number for it.

    Then I get an email saying my card was still being declined and my order was on hold.

    Guess what? UPS delivers the chair Tuesday night.

    Guess what again? I get an email this morning saying my order was cancelled.

    Guess what again again? A check online of my account shows nothing in regards to my chair purchase. Did I just get a free chair?

    2- The billing people for my dermatologist keeps saying I have a balance even though I pay when in the office every time. You can’t get out of the office without paying.

    The screwy thing is their bills say I owe $40 for a February appointment where I only paid $10 but over the phone they are saying I paid $60 when in there in June. Nope I paid them 50. I have a cancelled check online. Unfortunately for February I probably paid with a credit card* but I got to figure out which one. They want to me to check but its obvious to anyone they have made some screw up.

    *- All are paid off but between the wife and I we have 10 (2 Capital One for both of us or my business, BJ’s and Walmart cards via Capital One, Tires Plus, a Amazon card for each of us plus a Shell card) We make sure to use them periodically so to not have the card cancelled. I need cards for when I go in the hospital and I’m asked to pay some big amount before admission. JFK probably has us flagged after over $30000 owed them was wiped out by my bankruptcy filing.

  2. ptfe says:

    A note on the passing of Peter Schickele:

  3. de stijl says:

    I watched Local Hero last night. A favorite movie I watch once a year or so. Saw it in the theater back in (googles release date) 1983. I’d already seen Gregory’s Girl.

    When I first saw it I was quite taken by it. It’s whimsical, a bit meandering, it’s a place movie (northern coastal Scotland) as well as a character movie. Blown away by the ending where Mac ends up back in Houston on his balcony gazing wistfully towards downtown.

    Twenty years later I was essentially Mac. Get a far flung gig, go there, do what you’re paid for for the duration of the project. Go home after. Collect money. Rinse, repeat.

    I would go home once a month or so, mostly to collect mail and pay bills. It was like as if you are playing Skyrim and needed to go “home” to dump inventory to clear out carry weight. For me it was pick up: mail, and bills, mail checks. Setting up autopay on recurring bills like for utilities back then was a major pain in the butt. So many hoops.

    Once you do it long enough “home” no longer feels like home. It’s basically a mailbox and a free bed. Away from home is your life and livelihood. Home becomes almost alien and weird. Rootless comes to mind.

    San Antonio was probably the sweetest gig (maybe Reykjavik). In SA, my job was directly on the Riverwalk. My hotel was on the Riverwalk. My commute was a four minute walk. It wasn’t a death march 18 hour a day, seven days a week impending disaster; it was a 10-12 hour a day slowly approaching disaster, and fairly well managed, overall.

    I loved it. I got to know a lot of the shopkeepers, vendors, workers by sight or by name just because I would happen by or stop in two or three times a day. I found a tucked away bar that was not too terribly touristy. I met and befriended locals. Those new friends squired me around town.

    If you are open and curious, you can make new friends wherever you go. Ask a lot of questions. Local friends are essential. People love showing off the cool shit in their town. Buying a round or two always helps, especially if it’s unexpected.

    If I’m away from home, I’m gonna explore. I’m more likely than not going to stay over on the weekend and poke around the new town rather than fly home – airports and airtravel in general is just a huge pain in the butt. The flight is two hours and change but the whole door-to-door is like 7 hours. Yeah, no. Maybe next weekend.

    Local Hero has Mac kinda, sorta succeed and is sent back home to Houston. The end of the movie is him him gazing wistfully into the distance at downtown Houston from his condo balcony.

    I thought I felt that ending when I was 19 or 20. I didn’t truly understand it until I was 42. That longing to be back there, away from home.

    Transience, as a lifestyle, has both highs and lows. The lows hit pretty hard if you’ve emotionally invested in that place you will likely never see again once the job is done.

    I have had that same exact condo balcony wistfullness.

  4. Moosebreath says:



    I dunno. With that wit, I think he was pretty sharp.

  5. Kathy says:

    Aw, f*ck, the streak broke two months shy of four years. I caught a cold.

    It’s hard to say when it happened. I suspect a family gathering on Saturday, but it may have been any of a dozen and a half people at the office as well. It began Tuesday. Going by past experience, I should have a miserable night or two beginning either today or tomorrow, and the thing ought to be gone by next week.

  6. de stijl says:


    I have a pretty good streak going, myself. I haven’t vomited since 2003. And that was the first time in probably eight years then.

    Not vomiting is a good thing.

  7. MarkedMan says:

    @Kathy: FWIW, I used to get a cold or similar 4-6 times a year, probably more when I traveled extensively. Sitting all day in meeting rooms with all kinds of people can have that effect. But I haven’t masked regularly for well over a year (two years?) and have only had one cold since then. I think there are a number of reasons. I’ve noticed that people tend to give each other more room in lines. Many of my meetings are virtual now even when everyone is here. I mask on airplanes. My coworkers mask or work from home if they even suspect they will get sick.

    It’s been wonderful.

  8. Kathy says:

    @de stijl:

    I think my last was around 2004.

  9. de stijl says:


    When I was a kid I had a tender tummy and vomited like a volcano. Aged out of that. When I was a young adult I mostly vomited because I drank too much beer too fast. I aged out of that, too (and learned moderation).

    One time, I was a sophomore at university suffering from some GI bug and as I was waddling and clenching my sorry self down the hall towards the men’s room I realized this was a two-ender deal and I had no control over the situation. My bowels were going to explode within the next 20 seconds no doubt. I was also going to vomit up whatever was in my gullet at the time which was thankfully mostly water.

    I waddled on. I calculated odds and scenarios and potential outcomes in my head quickly. Banged open the men’s room door and the toilet stall door in seconds, in quick succession.

    I yanked down my jammie bottoms and sat. I exploded down south. I spread my thighs as wide as possible and aimed my mouth between the vee as I vomited. It mostly sort of worked. I voided myself from both ends simultaneously fairly successfully. It could have been much worse.

    Yeah, there was vomitus on my thighs and on my genitals, but it was 90% water, some bile and gunk. No chunks. And the shower stall was like 10 feet away. Whisk it away down the drain.

    All things considered, I got away pretty clean.

  10. reid says:

    @MarkedMan: My workplace also took the extra precaution a few years ago to install a bunch of standalone air purifiers in the building. That was for covid, of course, but anything intended to address covid should help with other things, I figure.

    Having said that, last winter was awful for me. A long series of illnesses. So far this year, one cold that has lingered for well over a month. Tiresome, but not quite as bad.

  11. Joe says:

    I think I am going to walk away from this thread.

  12. de stijl says:


    Sorry! I went too explicit.

  13. CSK says:

    @de stijl:

    You were a bit…graphic.

  14. de stijl says:


    I toned it down considerably. IRL, the telling of the tale has more detailed descriptions.

  15. Kathy says:


    Before masking for the trump pandemic, I found using hand sanitizer reduced my incidence of colds to less than two every year. I’d hoped masking would reduce it to zero.

    I should have known better. It helps to mask, but it helps much more for everyone to wear masks. The latter was hardly the case during even the worst of the pandemic, never mind now.

  16. CSK says:

    @de stijl:

    I think you can spare us those.

  17. Beth says:

    @de stijl:

    I thought it was great, but my take on this sort of thing is untrustworthy and I’m nuts.

  18. Scott says:

    A microcosm of the country:

    “The most hated people in Gunter”: How the government of this North Texas town broke apart

    In December, all five members of the city council quit. A fight over a railroad development spiraled into political mudslinging, broken trust and conspiracy.

  19. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    From now on I will greet such script with the same awe and reverence that I hold for the cave paintings in Chauvet France or the more recent Egyptian hieroglyphs.

    Speaking of hieroglyphs:

    This is the angzarr: ⍼ (U+237C)

    It is a character from the Unicode miscellaneous technical symbols block.

    No one knows what it is supposed to be a symbol for.

    It was added into unicode in a big batch from several ISO/IEC standards from the early 90s, who in turn got it from the International Glyph Register, which means someone paid $5 to register it sometime between 1988 and 1990, but no one knows who or for what intended purpose.

  20. de stijl says:

    One thing I want to know is if folks in New Hampshire and South Carolina are getting the amount and type of spam campaign texts I got in Iowa. Haley, DeSantis, Ramaswamy, other folks.

    I was getting about 13 to 16 a day in the run up to the caucuses. 15 a day plus in the last month. Almost all of them were addressed to Irvin or Almo. The pretense it that is a mis-sent text. The sender intended it to be sent to another person and they fat fingered the number.

    The pretense holds up if you do it once, four times a day pitching a meet-up with Casey DeSantis at the Ankeny city hall is a hard tell. From different phone numbers. The senders are wallowing in utter bullshit. That pisses me off pretty hard.

    Why do they fake the happenstance? No one is that stupid. It’s Nigerian Prince level of dumb. It’s insulting.

    Do NH (I think Jen is from New Hampshire) or SC folks also get the Almo and Irvin “misdirected” texts?

    I can verify. In my spam folder I received 21 spam political texts on Monday alone. 13 were addressed to either Almo or Irvin.

    Does this happen elsewhere?

  21. Michael Cain says:

    Many years ago my wife and I were part of a group of young people who had all had babies recently. At a dinner party, one person remarked, “I never thought my life would include a period and people for whom baby poop was considered a normal conversation during dinner.”

  22. Kathy says:


    Somewhat related, the GQP’s obsession with electoral fraud and unwarranted suspicion of early and mail voting, are beginning to pay off.

    For the Democrats.

    Never interrupt the enemy when he’s making a mistake.

  23. Jen says:

    @de stijl: I am indeed in NH. I am receiving massive amounts of direct mail, but no text messages. That’s probably because I have been extremely picky about giving out my cell number. As a result of a discounted bundle from our cable provider, we are the odd folks who still have a landline. For the handful of things that require a phone number, we use that one, knowing that it likely gets plugged into a database to send texts to, even though it’s not a cell number. We have Nomorobo for that line, closing the loop. 😀

    Your issue might have been caused by someone intentionally putting a wrong number on a form, which then got plugged into a party database, which then gets sold. It perpetuates the error, and since it’s an internal selling, no one matches it back to a list for corrections.

  24. de stijl says:


    I find what my body does outside of my conscious control to be kinda fascinating. I have zero conscience control over that. That is interesting. I’m going to note that and file it away. I will def remember it.

    I tend to view it as not out of bounds. In fact, my first take to “Eww!” response is that it might be a bit performative squeamishness.

    Everybody poops. There is a book titled exactly that. For kids. Explicitly for tiny kids who can barely read.

    Everybody pukes.

    If it isn’t something I can consciously control, it’s fair game as far as graphic anecdotes go.

    My take is that a lot of folks are way too squeamish about natural bodily functions. It happens to everybody.

  25. de stijl says:


    I have lived in Iowa for about 20 years now. I been a registered Independent or Democratic the entire time. I have never voted once for a Republican as an Iowan in any election. I vote in every election no matter how minor. Dogcatcher? Sure, why not? Yeah, I’ll hump myself down to the library on Forest Ave again.

    These are clearly not targeted texts to likely voters, but spam texts to everybody in the database. They can’t even get my name right and fake like it’s fat fingered. Fuck them!

  26. Jen says:

    @de stijl: At some point a few years ago, I started getting texts from the Trump campaign. Not many, so the list they purchased must have been a long-shot list they were trying out. I replied STOP to several of them, and one day in total frustration I responded with a “F%^K OFF”.

    I have not received a text from them since.

  27. DrDaveT says:

    @Michael Cain:

    “I never thought my life would include a period and people for whom baby poop was considered a normal conversation during dinner.”

    My wife and sisters-in-law have often commented that they know they’re at the correct family meal when the conversation turns to neurotoxins…

  28. al Ameda says:

    @de stijl:

    I thought I felt that ending when I was 19 or 20. I didn’t truly understand it until I was 42. That longing to be back there, away from home.

    Transience, as a lifestyle, has both highs and lows. The lows hit pretty hard if you’ve emotionally invested in that place you will likely never see again once the job is done.

    This – you capture the feeling well.
    53 years ago when I was 19 I traveled to Europe (mostly Paris and London with side trips) for the first time, and I’ll never forget late afternoons in Paris when, after a day of seemingly endless walking and exploring, I would rest in the Jardin du Luxembourg and read or people watch. I remember feeling that I was alone, 7,000 miles from home, and I loved it. About a decade later I traveled for many months, mostly alone, through Japan – Tokyo, Kyoto, Kobe, Nagasaki, Kagoshima, Kanazawa – and I loved the feeling of travel on my terms, exploring.

    When I come back I always want to go back. Maybe because I’m somewhat introverted I seem to travel solo pretty well.

  29. MarkedMan says:

    @DrDaveT: Years ago when I was a volunteer in Ghana I observed that only Peace Corps volunteers and parents of newborns are so obsessed with the color and texture of poop.

  30. de stijl says:

    I know somebody who has an autoimmune disorder that is like Irritable Bowel Syndrome, but substantially worse. Gosh, can’t remember the name of his affliction.

    Had to look it up: Crohn’s disease. From what I know, think IBS on steroids. He’s 5’10 and weighs about 120 lbs on a good day. He is extremely skinny. He cannot be more than about 30 seconds away from a toilet. He is basically home-bound at this point.

    He’s a strong-willed person, but it’s wearing him down.

  31. MarkedMan says:

    Years ago we added a daily open thread to this blog and I think most would agree it’s been a net plus (although today’s poop et. al. discussion may have me reconsidering 😉

    [sarcasm]Can I propose another addition? Whenever a trumper weighs in on what is otherwise a productive thread, can we immediately spin that off into it’s own thread, along with any replies or mentions? I understand that it gives people a great deal of delight to tee up against an easy target and so we need to keep it going, but it does tend to derail the original thread. [\sarcasm]

  32. Kathy says:

    Does anyone remember part of the federal government funding expires tomorrow?

  33. de stijl says:


    I got about a thousand spam texts over the course of four months all from a thousand different phone numbers.

    If I blocked every phone number, I’d just get 15 more the next day from 15 different phone numbers. It’s like whack-a-mole only there’s no mole. I block and report every one. Thankfully, 99% get sorted into the spam folder.

    I’m not stupid. If there was an opt-out I would have chosen that in September.

  34. Mister Bluster says:

    Senate passes funding patch as Johnson bats down last-minute conservative demands
    House lawmakers are expected to clear the bill for President Joe Biden’s signature Thursday evening, after Speaker Mike Johnson batted down last-minute demands from members of the House Freedom Caucus. Lawmakers have sailed through the passage process this week pretty quickly, with two motivating factors in mind: Avoiding the travel complications of a snowstorm forecast to hit Washington, D.C. on Friday and heading off a partial government shutdown set to hit just after midnight that night.

    I’ll believe it when I see it.

  35. Kathy says:

    Remember Peregrine, the lunar lander payload on the debut of the Vulcan Centaur ULA rocket? It’s going to be incinerated in Earth’s atmosphere shortly.

    Meantime, a Moon lander from Japan’s space agency, JAXA, will attempt to land sometime tomorrow.

  36. Jen says:

    @de stijl: Ah. If they are coming from different numbers, here’s what likely has happened: your number was included in a batch from some kind of list. What the campaigns are doing is farming those numbers out to volunteers, who instead of knocking on doors are sending text messages. It’s possible these are real people who have volunteered on a campaign and this is what they’ve been tasked with doing.

    Super annoying.

  37. de stijl says:


    Yeah, definitely not local volunteers trying to bootstrap. This is professionally produced spam on an industrial level. It’s formatted and bullet-pointed and the meet-up with Casey DeSantis at the West Des Moines Jethro’s BBQ is pre-formatted from their PR shop. It is PR approved, pre-formatted bulk spam. Some op-shop in Belarus or wherever is scooping up phone numbers to blast spam the same text to every phone number in the databases they have available. That someone sold to them.

    This isn’t some local kid volunteer gone nutzoid shenanigans. It’s industrial grade paid-for spam texting from a shop that does this for profit. Haley and DeSantis pay some middleman x hundred thousand dollars to spam every known phone number with their message of the moment. It’s a contract that gets out-sourced to a text spam shop that does it for profit.

    It’s not local or organic, it’s industrial grade text spam and out-sourced to the cheapest provider that can hijack unused US phone numbers that look local and can blast it out to n phones before that number gets blocked by every carrier in about two seconds. All they need is the message template, an unused telephone number they can spoof for a few seconds, and a set of phone numbers to push the text to.

    You could set up shop basically anywhere with good telephony infrastructure. A big brain or two and some up-front money and you could rent and build out an operational shop in a week or so in Jakarta or wherever. Place is not important.

  38. de stijl says:


    The punk boy in me is coming out. Performative nonsense about civility. Yeah, whatever.

    You all are idiots pretending you don’t poop or puke. Fuck off! Utter bullshit you tell yourself. You poop. You puke. You make funny noises when you do so. Everyone knows. Crikey! Don’t front as if you don’t.

    The Victorian Age died with Victoria. There is no need to clutch your pearls so tightly anymore.

  39. CSK says:

    @de stijl:

    I don’t think not liking graphic discussions of defecation and regurgitation is prudish. It’s simply distasteful to many people. Would you talk about such matters at a dinner party?

  40. de stijl says:


    This isn’t a dinner party.

  41. de stijl says:


    Any other thing I shouldn’t bring up?

  42. CSK says:

    @de stijl: @de stijl:

    Nope. Have I ever commented adversely on anything else you’ve said? As I pointed out, some people, perhaps many, find graphic discussions of defecation and regurgitation distasteful. That’s all. But I defer to the wishes of the majority. If you like to describe your shitting and puking experiences in detail, and you have an audience, please feel free to do so.

  43. de stijl says:


    Fair enough. I have no problem with you, in fact, I strongly believe you to be a good and honest person as you present yourself here. You add good value and incisive comments. I think you seem to be good and interesting person.

  44. de stijl says:


    You have to admit your last sentence there was really passive-aggressive.

    The guy I talked about earlier with Crohn’s, that is currently incurable. He takes a boat load of NSAIDS, vitamins, and steroids. His GI tract is basically a slip and slide where no nutrients take hold. They tried a fecal implant to introduce new gut flora into his GI tract, but that failed.

    He will die from this. He will die as a skinny, malnourished man. Probably from heart failure. His name is Mark.

  45. MarkedMan says:

    @de stijl: What the hell are you talking about? Why are you dragging me into this?

  46. de stijl says:


    Umm, your first sentence in the comment I replied to…. Where you referred to my notorious poop comment.

    Thought that was fairly obvious.

    No hard feelings, btw. Sorry, didn’t mean to rile you.

  47. gVOR10 says:

    Unbeknownst to most commenters a second Thursday Forum briefly appeared here at OTB this evening. I got in one snarky comment, but it all seems to have disappeared. I mention it now only because it may be something going around. Atrios normally signs off from his Eschaton blog with an Xday Night post linking a music video. Tonight he has two Thursday Night posts. One his usual rock, the other Peter Schickele.