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. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Emperor Charles V’s secret code cracked after five centuries

    A team of researchers have cracked a five century-old code that reveals a rumoured French plot to kill Charles V.

    Charles – the Holy Roman emperor and king of Spain – was one of the most powerful men of the 16th century, presiding over a vast empire that took in much of western Europe and the Americas during a reign of more than 40 years.

    It took the team from the Loria research lab in eastern France six months to decipher the letter, written in 1547 by the emperor to his ambassador in France. The tumultuous period saw a succession of wars and tensions between Spain and France, ruled at that time by Francis I, the Renaissance ruler who brought Leonardo da Vinci from Italy.

    The letter from Charles V to Jean de Saint-Mauris had languished forgotten for centuries in the collections of the Stanislas library in Nancy. Cécile Pierrot, a cryptographer from Loria laboratory, first heard of its existence at a dinner in 2019, and after much searching she was able to set eyes on it in 2021.

    Bearing the signature of Charles V, it was at once mysterious and utterly incomprehensible, she told reporters on Wednesday.
    Desenclos said it was “rare as a historian to manage to read a letter that no one had managed to read for five centuries”. It “confirms the somewhat degraded state” in 1547 of relations between Francis I and Charles V, who had signed a peace treaty three years earlier, she said.
    The researchers now hope to identify other letters between the emperor and his ambassador, “to have a snapshot of Charles V’s strategy in Europe”.

    “It is likely that we will make many more discoveries in the coming years,” added Desenclos.

    Pretty cool.

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    San Francisco police propose using robots capable of ‘deadly force’

    Read the article for the details if you want. Strictly speaking, I don’t have a problem with this as it is not autonomous but remote controlled. Still, this at the very end gives me pause:

    The SFPD did not immediately respond to questions from the Guardian. A department spokesperson told the Verge that it did not currently have “any sort of specific plan in place” regarding the robots’ use of deadly force as they deem a circumstance that would require such force to be “rare and exceptional”.

    Circumstances requiring a robots use will be rare and exceptional, but they can’t say what they think those will be. Give a man a new tool and he soon finds ways to use it it was never meant for.

  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    ‘A small victory against erasure’: the three minutes that bring an exterminated Jewish past to life

    The original three-minute film was shot with barely a thought, by an American man on vacation in Europe decades ago, but this new documentary invites us to stare with rare intensity at the people who happened to find themselves in front of his lens.

    We do so because of when and where it was shot. For the man with the camera was a New Yorker visiting Poland in August 1938 and he took the film in Nasielsk, a small town about 30 miles north of Warsaw. The people he photographed were Nasielsk’s Jews, who made up nearly half the town’s population, and who, like the rest of Europe’s Jews, would soon be sentenced to death by the Nazis. It means that almost every face you look at – every bearded old man, every mother in a scarf, every daughter in plaits, every woman in a housecoat, and every boy grinning and waving at the camera – is someone who, in the following year, would be shipped out of Nasielsk and confined to a ghetto and then, three years after that, taken from the ghetto to the death camp of Treblinka, where they would be gassed.
    Perhaps the key element is the discovery of one of the people behind those faces. A young woman in the US had found the film online and was scanning the crowd of young boys, when one struck her instantly: “It’s Grandpa!”

    The woman had never seen any photographs of the young Maurice Chandler – no pictures had survived – but his face, even as a young teenager, was unmistakable. Eventually, Stigter and Kurtz would travel to Detroit to interview Chandler, one of perhaps a handful of the 3,000 Jews of pre-war Nasielsk to survive, and we hear his voice, his reminiscences, throughout the new film.

    It’s through Chandler that we learn of the different styles of boys’ caps, those worn by the poorer lads, those that marked out students at the religious academy. We learn that there was a button factory nearby, subsequently seized by the Nazis from its Jewish owners, and that a childhood prank was for kids to lop off the buttons from the adults’ coats. We hear all this from Chandler but, save for a still photograph among the final credits, we don’t see him. Stigter imposed a rule on herself: the only images we would see throughout the hour would be from the original footage. Stretched, slowed, magnified perhaps, but those images alone.
    Why does it matter so much? No one would obsess over three minutes of footage taken in, say, pre-war Leicester. So why do we, why does Stigter, care so much about Nasielsk?

    The film itself offers an answer towards the close. Glenn Kurtz explains that what makes these pictures exceptional is, “The imminence of the danger that these people faced, and the fact that the world they lived in would be destroyed so quickly and so soon, and by violence rather than gradually and just by time.” That, says Stigter, prompts conflicting emotions in us as we watch it. “You have that feeling of closeness, especially because of these children. But at the same time, there’s this tension – that we know what is going to happen and they don’t know. So that gives incredible tension to these images – images that, in a way, are very ordinary, just, you know, nice people on the street. But because of the history that happened afterwards, they become extraordinary.”

    Gonna have to watch this one.

  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Twitter has disbanded its entire Brussels office, according to media reports, raising questions about the social media company’s compliance with new EU laws to control big tech.

    Julia Mozer and Dario La Nasa, who were in charge of Twitter’s digital policy in Europe, left the company last week, the Financial Times reported. The pair had survived an initial cull when Elon Musk laid off thousands of employees following his takeover last month. It is unclear whether Mozer and La Nasa were made redundant or chose to leave in response to Musk’s ultimatum to commit to working long “extremely hardcore” hours or quit.

    Neither was it clear whether Twitter was closing its office in the European capital, one of the world’s largest centres of tech regulation.

    Questions to Twitter’s press office went unanswered, while Moser and La Nasa did not immediately respond to messages.
    The collapse of the small Brussels team has raised questions about the company’s ability to enforce new rules intended to rein in the power of big tech and restrict hate speech. EU officials are said to have many contacts based in Dublin, where Twitter has its European headquarters, although that office has also faced 50% cuts. “I can confirm that we have active and ongoing contacts with Twitter (and other platforms) on different topics,” a European Commission spokesperson said.

    Time will tell.

  5. Liberal Capitalist says:


    Time will tell.

    I have been on the leading edge of tech all my life, and I have never before seen such a self-inflicted bonfire of capital.

    It is absolutely stunning.

  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Liberal Capitalist: They will be telling this tale for hundreds of years. The only joy I can derive from it is that at least I can point and laugh.

  7. OzarkHillbilly says:

    A universal flu vaccine that protects against all strains of the virus could be available in the next two years, according to a leading scientist.

    An experimental vaccine based on the same mRNA technology used in the highly successful Covid jabs was found to protect mice and ferrets against severe influenza, paving the way for clinical trials in humans.

    Prof John Oxford, a virologist at Queen Mary University in London, who was not involved in the work, said the vaccine developed at the University of Pennsylvania could be ready for use the winter after next.

    “I cannot emphasise enough what a breakthrough this paper is,” Oxford told the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme. “The potential is huge, and I think sometimes we underestimate these big respiratory viruses.”
    While the results from the animal tests are promising, clinical trials are needed to see whether the vaccine protects humans in the same way without causing problematic side-effects. The vaccine raises questions for regulators around whether to approve a shot that could protect against viruses with pandemic potential, but which have not yet actually emerged.

    This would be huge. I wonder what kind of network coverage I can get. Too bad it won’t work for Republicans. I’m not sure there is a cure for what ails them.

  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Michael Bethke @Be*****@ms***.ca

    I made Thanksgiving dinner and now the kids are crying and I’m not allowed to help anymore

    Check out the pic and you’ll see why I’m still laughing.

  9. CSK says:


    Surf ‘n’ turf is always good.

  10. Kathy says:

    Spoilers follow for the last two eps of Andor season 1, and incidental spoilers for other eps.

    Let me begin by saying this was the most SF iteration of Star Wars thus far. No magic Jedi tricks at all. not one. No mystical artefacts, either. Just normal people using normals skills and futuristic technology during extraordinary times.

    Above that, there was a god plot, decent characterization, and even good dialogue (not a given in Star Wars ever). It even avoided the pitfall of having poor Cassian in protracted life or death situations, when we know this is a prequel and Cassian will be around some indefinite time from now saving the galaxy with Felicity Jones and a droid.

    Having said all that, I found two bits in the last two eps uproariously funny.

    1) (spoiler) Marva dies, and different people find out about it in scene after scene. The scary ISB agent Mero, the cursed sargeant, the would-be scary flunky Syril, Luthen, and at long, long last, Cassian himself. I wondered he didn’t hear it from some random passer-by, given how far the news had spread.

    2) As a consequence of 1), three sets of people gather at Ferrix to catch Cassian for varying reasons. Syril and his ill-fated sergeant, Mero, and Luthen and co. For some reason this struck me as funny, even before Cassian disappointed each one by not showing up at the funeral. I think it reminded me of the last chase scene in the original Blues Brothers film, where an even more diverse bunch of people go chasing after Aykroyd and Belushi, climaxing in a big action sequence with lots of mayhem and destruction.

    The funeral march, though, and the oration by the deceased, were awesome.

  11. gVOR08 says:

    Tom Sullivan at Digby’s has an OK post on our post truth world. He includes a quote from E. O. Wilson that rings true as an explanation of where we’re at.

    The real problem of humanity is the following: We have Paleolithic emotions, medieval institutions, and godlike technology. And it is terrifically dangerous, and it is now approaching a point of crisis overall.

  12. Kathy says:

    Either the common cold or the common flu is sweeping through the office. Two not down so far. That is, they have symptoms, they look miserable, but they keep coming to work. The curious thing is none have taken COVID tests, so it might be the latest Omicron, too.

    Me, I’ve still two doses of Pfizer, two more of AZ, and one shot of tetravalent flu vaccine just four weeks ago, plus a KF94 mask. I’m as healthy as my age, general condition, habits, diet, etc. allow.

    If I get to late March without cold, flu, or COVID, I’m going to gloat a lot then 🙂

  13. CSK says:

    Slick move, Donny. Break bread with a white nationalist-supremacist, Jew-Hating, misogynist creep.

  14. EddieInCA says:

    I spent the last 45 mins deleting all my original Twitter tweets going back to 2008. Does anyone know how to delete, if possible, retweets?

    I’m not going to shut down the account, because I actually have my name as the handle, but I won’t be visiting or tweeting much any more. I never did use the platform that much to begin with, obviously, given that it only took 41 minutes to delete 14 years worth of tweets.

  15. EddieInCA says:


    And then this morning claim you had/have no idea who he is.

  16. Kathy says:


    You may skip on the opportunity to pay tribute and offerings to the God Emperor of Mars. But keep in mind the satellites in His realm are named Fear and Dread. 😀

    Or maybe it’s Panic and Terror. Interpretations vary.

  17. CSK says:


    I have the feeling fewer and fewer people are going to buy that excuse.

  18. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: The Koreans I know would certainly have eaten kkok-geh, and nak-ji–crab and octopus–before they’d eat turkey. Koreans used to tell me that they don’t care for turkey because it doesn’t taste like anything. (They may have a point.)

  19. CSK says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Well, I like crab and squid (never had octopus), but I also like turkey. To me, the taste is distinctive, and very agreeable.

  20. JohnSF says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    Depends on the turkey in my experience.
    Outdoor reared Norfolk blacks (esp) and bronzes are really good; the big indoor types, less so.
    OTOH the first types are way more expensive.
    Also, need to be hung for about a week.
    Too large for a smaller dinner usually; even if you like turkey cold.
    Which I do. My favourite Christmas feeding always used to be a cold turkey leg on Boxing Day.
    But after three days it palls a bit.
    Same applies to goose, which is even better IMO, if not quite so much as the big bird.

    So for a smaller dinner if poultry inclined, I’d opt for duck or a really first rate chicken.
    Or guinea fowl.

  21. CSK says:

    Jonathan Swan of Axios is reporting that over dinner, Nick Fuentes told Trump that he could “crush” any other candidate for the presidency. Whereupon Trump exclaimed: “I like this guy. He gets me!”

  22. inhumans99 says:


    They need to watch the cult classic horror film Chopping Mall before they decide to deploy potential murder bots on the civilian populace of San Francisco, lol!!

  23. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: In Korea, dishes with octopus are much spicier than ones with squid, but as to flavor, I couldn’t tell much of a difference. Maybe because the extra gochujang overwhelmed my taste buds, but I still couldn’t tell the difference.

  24. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: @JohnSF: I was only reporting what Koreans told me, but to my taste, turkey is pretty neutral and works well as a feature of recipes where other elements will set the flavor profile. (Thus, my parenthetical.)

  25. Kathy says:

    I feel justified in saying: Good News, everyone!

    Twitter has lost 50 of its top 100 advertisers since Elon Musk took over

    So.Much. Winning! (oops! wrong right wingnut)

    This may wind up being a temporary thing, of course. Even if many alternatives to Twitter are springing up, or gaining new users, ods are most people won’t just leave the platform. It may fail for good if it becomes a cesspool of wingnut invective, but then again maybe not. Bigots money spends as well as everyone else’s.

  26. dazedandconfused says:


    Octopus can be very tasty. I forever will lament the passing of one of my very favorites, canned smoked baby octopus legs in mustard sauce, which I discovered on Okinawa. A specialty product from Japan that disappeared due to the very bad idea of harvesting baby octopuses (octopi?). They were delicious, and had the benefit of how people reacted to the sight of a sandwich which featured little octopus legs dangling all around the edges.

    So it goes….

  27. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: Just gotta say, I don’t like turkey because it tastes like… turkey. Chicken is my fowl of choice.

  28. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @CSK: Octopus is good. Sometimes a little chewy but very tasty.

  29. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    And what? He’s surprised?

    “Trump started basically screaming at me at the table, telling me I was gonna lose. I mean, has that ever worked for anyone in history? I am like, ‘Trump, you’re talking to Ye,'” he stated.

    Who would have expected that? 🙁

  30. Kathy says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Step 1: Form a Russian-sounding data broker firm, and tell a Benito toady you’ve got dirt on the former Mr. Kardashian for sale.