Cinco de Mayo Forum
Steven L. Taylor
Friday, May 5, 2023
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective.
He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog).
Follow Steven on Twitter
Wide awake at 4:15 am…
I think I heard a loud noise at 3:30, then again at 3:50 or so, and couldn’t fall asleep after the second. No idea what it was.
Today marks two years since I got my first shot of Pfizer/BioNTech.
Sometimes if I’m having a political discussion with someone, I’ll ask a “bounds” question. For example, if someone is saying that politician X is motivated by not wanting to get crosswise with their voters and I think that they are motivated by their sponsors, I will sometimes put forth a hypothetical and ask if it was a bridge too far. For example, I might propose a case that gave a specific tax break that only benefited the owners of powerful corporations, created no jobs and put an increased tax burden on the average voter. If the person still can’t see that is due mostly to acting in the interests of their sponsors then I usually just drop the discussion, as we have no common ground.
A year ago if I was in a discussion with someone about what constitutes corruption on the Supreme Court and I said, “Okay, but what if a Supreme accepted luxury vacations on private yachts and jets, with personal chefs cooking every meal, and that involved traveling together with wealthy and powerful people for weeks at a time, people with interests before the court?” I think most people would have said, “Yeah, sure, but that’s ridiculous. That’s not what we are talking about.” And if I threw in “And they bought the Supreme’s mother’s house, made major upgrades and bought and knocked down adjacent property that had fallen into disrepair, and their mother was still living there for free?”, most people would have said, “C’mon”, don’t be ridiculous!” And if I then added… well you get the idea.
But if one starts from the position that liberals have long been unfair to Clarence Thomas, it is amazing just how easy it is to shift the Overton Window and find justifications for each of these things, post hoc.
This is something MR posted yesterday on the open forum that I thought I’d move over here to answer so that it wouldn’t just be lost in the dust of history…
“I have a general concern about writing (or even authoring) which you’ll probably dismiss, but it feels that despite some stunning work of undeniable originality (Severance, Succession, EEAAO) professional word people are suffering from a similarity of background and an experiential basis that is increasingly screen-delivered. Second-hand. I wonder how many members of WGA (or whatever our authorly equivalent is) have very similar life experience. Same middle class backgrounds, same majors at the same colleges, etc… How many have been genuinely poor, or in trouble, abused or misused, or are stuck into work that confronts them with the world beyond manufactured experiences. Diversity in terms of gender and race is great, but I wonder if what we really have is nearly identical cars with different paint jobs.
You’re out there dealing with the youths, what’s your feel about the student body?”
To which I will now respond:
I certainly won’t argue that there are a lot of writers out there whose main inspiration is other writing, not lived experience. (To be fair, I’m definitely in the group with the same middle class background and all the rest.) I don’t think this makes it impossible to become a great writer, but I do agree that there’s a kind of writing that’s all about the writing and not about anything substantive. I get that feeling from what I’ve seen of Severance and, say, Mrs. Davis. To me, EEAAO is in that style but is actually about something much deeper than gimmicks, and that’s the way the protagonist has pushed away everyone who loves her and has to learn to embrace family.
(I don’t get why you’d put Succession in this league, but maybe I’m missing something.)
It’s funny that you bring this up now, because (as I think I mentioned) I’ve been watching Miami Vice, Crime Story and Wiseguy recently, and the EPs of all these shows — Michael Mann and Steve Cannell — made writers out of non-writers with real lives: Mann hired a Chicago police detective and a former investment banker to create Crime Story, while Cannell, who always loved the bad boys, brought in former truck driver Frank Lupo and his ski instructor Patrick Hasburgh as writers who then became his top two lieutenants, with Lupo creating The A-Team, Hunter and Wiseguy and Hasburgh creating (among others) 21 Jump Street. And all their best, all these shows had a certain kind of knowledge about people and the world.
(I think I’ll continue in the next message since this is getting ridiculously long..)
Serbia is following in the US’s footsteps: Serbia: man arrested after eight die in second mass shooting in days
It’s a pretty good start but only time will tell if they have what it takes to keep it up for the long haul.
@wr: But you were asking about students today. Part of that depends on which students. I’ve been teaching one course per term at Montclair State University in New Jersey, and most of the kids there — and they really are kids — are basically just reheating whatever they saw on TV last week.
But when I was at Long Island University in Brooklyn, we had a much more diverse group of students and a lot of them had lived real (and hard) lives. (Of course, this was a graduate program, so of course everyone’s a little older.) Had a woman in her 30s who worked as a TSA guard at Newark Airport, for example. And another one who had worked as a circus performer and a dominatrix. (She’s in LA now, and she’s on track to become a big star…)
And it turned out that in a lot of these cases, it became my job to get people to write things that were actually informed by what they had learned from their real lives. Because the first instinct was almost always to write what they’d seen, to base their characters on other characters and their stories on other stories. And I’d spent months with them trying to strip away this shell of bullshit that was preventing them from expressing who they really were on the page.
Which didn’t mean, by the way, writing little stories about the real life struggles they’d live. If they wanted to write that, fine. But my goal was for them to be able to write any story — even super heroes, if that’s what they loved — but to bring to it the emotional reality that only they could bring. To me, that’s the difference between, say, EEAAO and Severance…
California town mourns beloved ‘Compassion Guy’ killed in stabbing
253K jobs added in April.
These abortion clinics no longer provide abortions – but are still hanging on
Looks like there’s a bit of a “lover’s spat” between Putin and the Wagner Group.
Yevgeny Prigozhin: Wagner Group boss says he will pull troops out of Bakhmut
Another day, another report of SCOTUS corruption.
And not a damn thing can be done about it.
This piece in http://www.thebulwark.com, by Will Saletan, says it all:
What? You don’t speak trumpish?
Loyalty means blind allegiance and obsequiousness to El Cheeto Benito, who has no reciprocal obligation because what’s in it for him?
Well, I don’t get how his worshipful followers rationalize this. I think Saletan is 100% accurate in his prediction, though. Why worry about 2024? Whoever the Democratic candidate is will win.
I’ve been wondering since 2015 what Benito’s supporters use for brains.
@Kathy: I’ve worked for that guy. While I was a teacher, no less. More than once.
I don’t think the majority of them are over-equipped with brains and education. Trump’s appeal to them is visceral; he’s the expression for their inchoate rage. He’s their “blue-collar billionaire.”
I hope I don’t spend the weekend wrestling with the Chromecast.
I’ve been using the first model Google issued for years. Lately, it’s acting up. First when streaming from Paramount+ from the PC (long story), the show would stop midway, and then skip to the next ep. I switched to streaming from the phone instead*, and it seemed ok.
Yesterday I tried to stream Star+ (aka Fox) from the PC, and it simply wouldn’t. I tried it from the phone, and it didn’t work (so much for the new season of Air Crash Investigation).
I’ll try rebooting everything today. If that doesn’t work, it may be time to replace the Chromecast.
*There’s something about using phrases that literally would have made no sense just a few years ago.
From an amusing USA Today opinion piece;
@daryl and his brother darryl:
Speaking of Thomas: Christ, what an asshole.
The man definitely isn’t above doing a dirty on his own fucking family,
@drj: LGM rings in with a speech Thomas made
He hasn’t quit, so I guess he’s continued to find it worth doing, for the principle. And the interest on that principle.
@drj: Considering how deeply he’s been on the take from Mr. Crow, Justice Thomas might just want to sit out any discussions disparaging welfare. Yeesh.
@Jen: It’s not welfare when the rich and powerful are receiving largesse, taxpayer assistance, and/or free money. It’s only welfare/socialism/unfair/wrong when the help is going to poor negroes, struggling students, powerless migrants and the like. This is a central tenant of post-Reagan conservatism.
Remember when Justice Corrupta whined about court critics refusing to accept results they don’t like, while his wife worked overtime to overturn an election Trump lost by millions of votes? It’s okay when they do it.
See how Justice Alito (R-Fox News) is whining about being an alleged assassination target and observe how the system rushed to protect them from protest, even though the court made abortion doctors and staffers assassination targets by letting forced birth extremists protest anywhere, anytime? The justices’ supposed constitutional principles go out the door when it comes to their own lives.
Modern Republicans do not believe the rules they force onto the rest of us apply to Republicans — certainly not to wealthy, well-connected Republicans.
@daryl and his brother darryl:
What a douche.
The least he could do is get his buddy to pay for her house, or something.
Thanks for that excellent and thoughtful response, and sorry to be slow responding. My wife is on book tour, came down with a bad hip, so I’m now traipsing along with her, my primary function being to put on one sock and one shoe. I am currently sitting in a tiny chair in an elementary school in Wichita. Kansas. (One of the big, flat rectangles out in the big rectangle part of the country.) And it’s costing us $4,500 in airfare for me. Next, a 150 mile limo ride to an airport hotel in Kansas City. And in the morning a 4 AM wake-up call because the (insert profanity here) publicist thought that’d be fun.
Does my irritation come through on the page at all?
Very interesting about showrunners bringing in outside voices and you training them up. (Rockford and Miami Vice, damned good shows. I really wanted a trailer on the beach. Still do.) I’m not getting at ‘write what you know,’ which would pretty much put a stop to most writing, but sometimes you get the flavor of a writer’s real life experience in the work. And lack thereof as well. (I’ve had one (1) hour of sleep and there are screaming children around me, so I’m not entirely coherent. Then again, am I ever entirely coherent?) I keep searching for a word that describes what I’m getting at. Sort of like epistemic closure but also like homogenization. Derivative would be another word, writing about what you’ve read or watched rather than a broader world view. Writers writing about what they’ve read/watched, which in turn came from writers writing about what they read/watched from other writers, who…
I don’t know if what I’m sensing is a kind of reductive downward spiral, or if there’s just so much content that we’ve had to use less talented writers to manage the fire hose of content. Or maybe (maybe?) I’m getting cranky and critical (surely not) and not seeing as clearly as I should. It’s an unformed notion, not an opinion so much as a vague unease. I’m in the not-at-all-sure I’m seeing what I think I’m seeing phase. Are a lot of writers throwing up their hands and deciding, fuck it, I’ll just trope and cliché my way through? Or worse, thinking that’s how it should be? Or am I just not curating what I consume as well as I should?
And FFS, why didn’t my wife shorten her signature? I reduced mine to a jagged M and an unrecognizable G and can burn through books at a rate of one every two to three seconds. I really want to get this drive to KC going because I’m pretty sure there’s a bar at the other end.
BTW, how great is the timing that has streamers boasting of billions in profit as writers show off their three cent residual checks?
I hope you can at least get some BBQ whilst in KC.
You folks may or may not be interested in election news from the UK (actually just England, because local elections… complicated)
Labour up 527 seats, LibDems up 415 seats, Greens up 240 seats.
Conservatives down 1,058 seats!
Ouch. Also, LOL.
National vote prediction has Tories on 26%.
And the big thing are signs of massive anti-Conservative tactical voting, with votes flowing to the best local alternative.
A combined opposition vote of 55% in England that’s voting tactically, and indications of a swing back to Lib and LibDen from Scottish National Party in Scotland (but no local elections there to confirm, just opinion polling), and Sir Keir looks like a pretty sure bet to win at the next General.
Yowza. Is that the biggest loss the conservatives have ever suffered?
@DK: I recall in the back of my mind a comment where Justice Thomas commented on having gone to school on a scholarship reserved out to be given to a minority student to the effect that such carve outs are completely different and that he was only getting what he deserved. In some ways, I see his point, but even so, the Christianity I was raised with would have hoped that his experience would made him more… generous of spirit.
And I’m a cracker and willing to own it. 🙁
I think it may be.
But: only local elections, mind, and not even covering all of England, due to our insane electoral cycle. So it’s hard to rank on any absolute scale.
But not good for the Cons at all. Oh no.
Going to crunch some numbers tomorrow.
Short version at first glance and guess: it looks likely even worse when you begin to dig into the detail of local voting patterns and their implications.
Some innumerate Conservatives are bigging up “Labour didn’t win everywhere”, ignoring that the LibDem surge in southern prosperous areas is potentially the most lethal thing of all for them.
I caught a bit of it on the BBC News chyron this morning, but the news was showing King Not Arthur and his elder son shaking hands with some commoners in a park for some reason.
On other things, I’m making chicken medallions with chorizo and cheese. These are round pieces of chicken breast pounded flat. When you add breading, cheese, and chorizo mixed with a little tomato sauce, they come out of the oven looking like tiny pizzas.
A variation could be a kind of open-faced Cordon Bleue, but the slice of ham or turkey might dry up in the oven.
On the side I’m making a stew of beans, barley, rice, and lentils, with bell pepper, onions, sliced hot dogs, celery, cilantro, along with some tomato sauce, garlic, one minced serrano pepper, and mustard, plus some spices.
Interesting recipe. I have a fondness for chicken schnitzel myself.
Healthily fried, of course. 🙂
Well, not necessarily commoners.
They might have been peers in mufti. 🙂
“If only the Cons would have been truly dedicated to the principles of Brexit….”
Nigel Farage, probably.
I’ve had fried milanesas and baked ones. There are minor differences, but overall they taste much the same.
One difference is a baked milanesa doesn’t fry itself more when you reheat it. Fried ones retain enough oil for that.
Actually, some members of the peerage could be mistaken for homeless people.
You read their tiny little minds:
blah blah blah
(Former UKIP MEP John Longworth)
Rest of us: yes, please keep up the culture war b.s and the brexit purity tests. See how that works out for you.
“War breaks out between old Conservative Thatcherite austerity right wing and new Conservative ex-UKIP populist right wing. Conservative HQ secret plan to snatch tactical win by getting Keir Starmer to die laughing”
As Sam Freeman puts it:
Yep. The old gentry are are often notoriously unbothered about displaying wealth in clothes or cars or blingery. Rather vulgar, don’cha know?
Indeed. I’ve met better-dressed scarecrows. Actually, that’s a characteristic of some blueblooded New Englanders, too.
Just out of curiosity. There are a few documented cases of people being frightened to death (really). Does anyone know any of people laughing to death?
@Kathy: Chrysippus, an ancient Greek philosopher did to one of his own jokes, even.
@Kathy: And, apparently a 5th century BCE Greek painter named Zeuxis. Must be an ancient Greek thing.
Thanks. That was interesting.