Friday’s Forum

Steven L. Taylor
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


  1. MarkedMan says:

    A few disjointed thoughts after watching the hearings last night:
    – This hearing was about presenting what happened, and did not follow the usual format of giving politicians by turn a chance to grandstand in public. The chair, Thompson, does not come across on camera as highly polished or media savvy, but rather as someone who is just competently chairing a vitally important committee. This is exactly what we need. Given how compelling and well put together the presentation was last night, though, and the fact that he is the chair, he must have more of that media savvy than it appears, or was smart and humble enough to find someone else to construct the narrative and then ensure everyone stuck with it.
    – Officer Edwards testimony was compelling and she held up and responded with professionalism even while disturbing video of the attacks on her was playing. She is truly a national hero.
    – I couldn’t disagree more with Liz Cheney’s politics and that only increases my admiration for her leadership in this. (Which just shows once again that real life is infinitely more complicated than slogan life)
    – By the time it concluded if I had walked out my door and come across MD’s one lone Republican Rep, Andy Harris, who is as despicable a trumper as you could imagine, I don’t think I could have kept myself from spitting in his face.
    – The major reason this is so compelling is that the Republicans decided not to participate, and when two members stepped forward anyway they essentially cast them out of the party. So there are no traitors, cowards or quislings trying to throw wrenches in the gears.

  2. CSK says:

    How can one defend the indefensible?

  3. Jon says:


    How can one defend the indefensible?


  4. Kathy says:

    I did miss the hearings last evening. First, I left work later than normal. Second, there was heavier traffic than normal. Third, I went straight to the season (series?) finale of Young Justice (not bad), even before I made dinner. Fourth, by the time I was done making dinner, the hearings were over.

  5. Mu Yixiao says:

    I’ve seen the documentaries. There’s no way this turns out good.

    Scientists have covered a robot finger in living human skin.

  6. Kathy says:

    I took a break from The Dawn of Everything (hoping it will become less repetitive soon) to catch up with Michael Lewis’ podcast Against the Rules.

    The last season ep is about the trump pandemic. The salient revelation is that the US had a plan for how to deal with a pandemic, but did not actually follow it. The countries that did best initially and for much of the first two years, actually followed something very similar.

    Comments by one of the doctors who worked on the plan, all the way back in 2006!, show something that makes pandemic prevention and mitigation much harder*: you have to implement measures before there’s community transmission.

    This is obvious. You evacuate a building when a fire breaks out, not floor by floor as the fire spreads and reaches each one.

    The fire analogy is useful here. One means of fire prevention is a sprinkler system. the problem is water can damage office and home interiors, maybe in some ways as much as fire does. It will ruin carpets, wood floors, electronics, papers, furniture, etc. But sprinklers ruining a floor can save the lives of people by preventing a fire. yet all many will see is there was a small fire, and the sprinklers ruined the ground floor of your house.

    In a disease outbreak, measures that might contain it** like closing schools, wearing masks, washing your hands, closing bars and churches, capacity restrictions, etc., are massively inconvenient. If they work and you stop the spread, or at least manage to keep it low while vaccines or treatments are developed, people won’t see the lives that were not taken prematurely, but they will see the massive inconvenience they had to put up with.

    In other words: keep masks and hand sanitizer handy, because the next pandemic will be as bad as this one or worse.

    *Not to toot my own horn, but I did see this early enough. Some of the first communications about COVID down here, stated we were in a stage where cases were imported from abroad (that was the terminology used), and no special measures were needed until we advanced to the community transmission stage. That’s then a ground floor fire has spread to the upper floors and you find evacuating the building is now impossible. Yes, we should wait until then to take it seriously.

    ** The trump virus is so contagious and has so many reservoirs that it can’t be contained. But even slowing it down would have saved literally hundreds of thousands of people worldwide, if not more, by giving medical professionals time to come up with effective supportive treatments. the mortality rate has come down, even with more virulent variants, because doctors have learned what works better. In the early months, no one had a clue.

  7. DK says:

    Putin just compared himself to 18th Century Russian tyrant Peter I (as I have done many times, with a nod also to Ivan the Terrible).

    Glenn Greenwald, Matt Taibbi, Michael Tracey, and the other Kremlin apologists will soon blame NATO for Peter I’s nonstop invasions of Imperial Russia’s neighbors. Because Russia’s 500 year culture of militaristic warmongering must be somebody else’s fault.

  8. Jon says:


    I took a break from The Dawn of Everything (hoping it will become less repetitive soon)

    It does not. Still interesting, overall, but eventually I started skimming chunks of it that I’d clearly already read 20 or more pages before.

  9. Kathy says:


    Didn’t old Pyotr seek out war with Finland and Sweden to keep them from joining NATO? I mean, why else would a Russian potentate be concerned with such Nordic countries otherwise?

  10. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    It sounds impressive, but if you practice hard enough it’s actually pretty easy to cover anything in human skin.

  11. Kathy says:

    The other thing to keep in mind for the next pandemic, is that it will be caused by a new pathogen, one not previously well known. This is so even if the next is another coronavirus, a flu virus, or a variant of known bacteria or parasites.

    Whys is this important? Because no one knows for sure how to treat a new pathogen, or sometimes even how to contain it or mitigate its spread.

    There are general guidelines which will work next time. A pathogen that spreads from person to person, like COVID, can have its spread slowed by the use of masks, distancing, capacity limits, etc. If it transmits by either droplets or aerosols, masks will be effective. If it persists long on surfaces (some cold viruses do), hand sanitizer would be useful.

    We may also get lucky and find an existing drug works against it, or against the damage it does. Hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin were red herrings, but in the 2009 swine flu pandemic Tamiflu proved effective.

    But above all, the guidance on prevention, mitigation, and treatment will change in time. We need to keep this in mind and not demand immediate answers when there are none, nor dismiss latter advice because it conflicts with the earlier one.

    We’ve learned, too, that even vaccines may be of limited utility, but always worth taking. We’ve learned the early numbers for effectiveness can wane in time, and may not be as effective against latter variants, but they may still protect against severe disease and death, and that’s the main point.

  12. inhumans99 says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    I believe we have both seen the same documentary, titled The Terminator, and you are right that no good seems to come from living tissue over a metal exoskeleton.

    In fact, I suspect this documentary was quite popular and quite a few folks have also seen it.

  13. Sleeping Dog says:

    There once and maybe still is a syndicated headline service called News of the Weird, this would qualify.

    Can’t say that I understand the court’s logic.

  14. Mu Yixiao says:

    The sixth episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (SNW) dropped last night (no spoilers). If you’re a fan of “old” Trek and haven’t seen SNW, I highly recommend it*.

    While the previous 5 episodes have been light-hearted and fun (while dealing with some serious topics, and having a full emotional range from the actors), ep 6 got dark. But it did so without going “grim-dark”.

    By this, I mean it wasn’t all “doom and gloom” like the first couple seasons of Discovery. It still had its light moments–the chemistry between the characters is great–but there was a nagging feeling building throughout the episode until the “oh shit!” moment in the climax. It followed that with asking some serious questions about the nature of “science, service, and sacrifice” (a motto of the alien species the Enterprise encounters).

    * When Discovery (and even Picard) came out and people complained that it “wasn’t Trek” or “didn’t follow the Trek ethos”, a lot of the blowback took the form of “Oh, what do you want? Plywood sets and bad makeup?” No. We wanted this. SNW takes the stylistic heart of TOS and upgrades it to modern materials and sensibilities. It looks shiny and futuristic, but still retains the DNA of TOS.

    It also has the heart of TOS. The characters have depth and breadth. They interact with each other in ways that are both professional and personal. There are in-jokes (all through this ep, Uhura is training with La’an (security), and everyone has comments like “Oh… have you gotten to Lesson Four yet?”) and on-going relationships. There’s sincere friendship and playful teasing. And there’s a sense of both history and new discoveries in their relationships.

    And most of all, there’s a sense of optimism that feels wonderfully refreshing, and desperately needed.

  15. Gustopher says:

    @Mu Yixiao: I want the plywood sets. During the cameo of the Enterprise in Discovery, the sets and the uniforms were great — a perfect updating of TOS and looking wildly out of place and anachronistic compared to the Discovery.

    They’ve changed all of that. The sets are so shiny, and the uniforms look sloppy (but more comfortable). And Number One no longer wears her hair down.

    I’m not going to let the sets get in the way of enjoying a great stories, but I would enjoy it more with more TOS inspired sets.

    (there has not been a dud episode yet, and with a 10 episode season, I think they could have the rest just be different cast members eating pudding and staring directly into the camera and it would still be the best opening season of a Star Trek show…)

  16. dazedandconfused says:

    Putin’s reference was about this:

    Peter The Great reclaiming land from the Swedish Empire and restoring Russia’s access to the Baltic is precisely how the Russians like to view the current mess, so as an indicator of their thinking it’s apt.

  17. Gustopher says:


    Third, I went straight to the season (series?) finale of Young Justice (not bad), even before I made dinner.

    I was a little disappointed that Superboy had healed at the end. Sure, half-Kryptonian and all that, but since they gave Beast Boy a long arc about depression when Superboy was believed to be dead, it might have been interesting to leave some very visible consequences on Superboy going forward.

    Overall, the episode did what it needed to do, and didn’t do any of it badly.

  18. MarkedMan says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    It sounds impressive, but if you practice hard enough it’s actually pretty easy to cover anything in human skin.

    (Tiptoes quietly out of Neil’s house when his back is turned…)

  19. Mu Yixiao says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    It sounds impressive, but if you practice hard enough it’s actually pretty easy to cover anything in human skin.

    That’s what Ed Gein said.

  20. Kathy says:


    Well, at least Garfield didn’t suddenly become ok when he found Conner was still alive.

    As to the rest, they might have done better with a two-part episode.

    And as to Trek, I liked both Discovery and Picard. They are a different kind of Trek. But I especially like the story arc throughout a season. Discovery, let it be said, erred in not focusing more on the secondary characters in seasons one and two. especially as Discovery has longer seasons than the current ten ep mode.

  21. Kathy says:


    That’s much harder to do on an audiobook while driving…

    I’m catching up today to Mike Duncan’s 100th ep of the Russian revolution. It was fun to hear him complain he began the Revolutions podcast nine years go thinking it would only take three years max, no more than 15 eps per revolution. He’d wanted to avoid what had happened in his previous podcast, The History of Rome.

    I can’t wait to see what he comes with next.

  22. JohnSF says:


    Peter The Great reclaiming land from the Swedish Empire

    “Reclaiming” is arguable.
    Muscovy/Russia had held the area around what is now St Petersburg; after subjugating the Republic of Novgorod.
    Regarding which the Muscovite/Russian tradition asserts: “We are entitled to conquer and rule Novgorod! We are Russia!”
    Neighbours, eh, whatcha gonna do?

    And then cheerfully proceeded to annex the Baltic Provinces and Karelia, occupy Finland etc.

    It is indeed an apt comparison.

  23. Kathy says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    I saw the ep in question yesterday. I have a bit more to say about it, but first I need to read an old short story.