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. DK says:

    Fox News Chryon: “Radical Left Uses Wildfire Smoke As Climate Cudgel”

    How dare the “radical” left (and center) want people to breathe clean air, not air from worsening climate change events. Working lungs are woke. Or something.

  2. Kylopod says:

    I watched part of Tucker’s Twitter video the other day. Here are some of the takeaways. You may think I am joking or exaggerating, and I assure you I am not.

    (1) Ukraine caused the dam collapse, which was Russian territory because it was created under the Soviet Union.

    (2) Zelenskyy is “rat-faced” and “shifty” and “persecutes Christians.”

    (3) The existence of aliens has been proven, and the only reason this isn’t the #1 story is because the US is a dictatorship that quashes dissent.

    I guess this had to be the trajectory he would take after leaving Fox.

  3. OzarkHillbilly says:


    Brandon: Can you answer the question, “What is a woman?”

    Gayyvana: A woman is a person who covers her drink when you walk into a bar.

  4. OzarkHillbilly says:
  5. Kingdaddy says:

    The stupidity and cruelty of the latest craze for book bans, in action:

  6. CSK says:


    At this point, is Carlson just trying to see what he can get away with, the more outrageous, the better?

  7. Kylopod says:


    At this point, is Carlson just trying to see what he can get away with, the more outrageous, the better?

    To some extent, that’s what he’s been doing all along. He always dips his toes in the water and never quite plunges in. He’s nothing if not calculating. But he’s growing bolder. I don’t think he’ll ever go full Nick Fuentes. For one thing, he doesn’t need to. They hear him loud and clear. And meanwhile, he can keep that chunk of his audience that don’t like to think of themselves that way. But, obviously, he feels less restrained than when he was on Fox.

  8. inhumans99 says:

    Since this is an open thread and I can bring up whatever, I just want to point out that I no longer have to open an incognito window to be able to hang out on OTB throughout the day. I used to get an odd error message after I opened OTB and clicked on on an article on a regular Chrome page. It was the darndest thing.

    Never did figure out the issue (clearing cache did not work), but after the magic that James did to fix some OTB issues (such as getting the edit button to now always(?) pop up) I no longer have to act like I am opening a NSFW page (lol) when I want to check out OTB, or comment on a post.


    Happy Friday folks!

  9. Jen says:

    @Kingdaddy: It’s crazy-inducing, what is happening with books. I’ve become increasingly concerned that I’m going to get pulled into some vortex on this topic, as a library trustee.

  10. MarkedMan says:

    TheHill is the lastest to jump on the UFO bandwagon, with a semi-hysterical opinion piece by a true believer. He makes much of reporting (??) by an outfit called “The Debrief”, who features headlines like “ChatGPT Just Helped Build a Food Harvester to Save Humanity”, and ” Odd Structures Detected Near the Heart of the Milky Way Left This Team of Astrophysicists Stunned”. Project Blue Book reverberated for at least a decade before people realized the “stunning revelations we should be getting any day now” never quite materialized. I expect this will last about as long.

  11. Kathy says:


    Here’s what I find most astonishing:

    Somewhere there’s a species, or a group of species, capable of building ships that can travel the mind-boggling distance between stars, only to crash when they try something as simple as to fly in Earth’s atmosphere.

  12. JohnSF says:

    And then wander over to the nearest trailer park to say hello/insert probe (Delete as appropriate)

  13. CSK says:

    This is very weird. Today’s “Trump’s Been Indicted” thread has suddenly cut me off right after I reply “I know!” to Daryl. This hasn’t happened yet on any other thread. I have Chrome.

  14. JohnSF says:

    In entirely unsurprising development, in the New York Times:

    “U.S. Official Says Spy Satellites Detected Explosion Just Before Dam Collapse”.

    “Satellites equipped with infrared sensors detected a heat signature consistent with a major explosion just before the dam collapsed, unleashing massive floodwaters.”

    Note: one big explosion, which is consistent with local reports, magnetometer, and seismic data, means that its NOT a slow collapse. This was a planned demolition; albeit not certain that it was planned to take out the entire central section rather than part of it.
    And another data point in my “Ukraine generally tells the truth, Russia routinely lies” heuristic.

    But also:

    “agencies still do not have any solid evidence to determine who caused the destruction, the senior administration official said.”

    What is expected, a signed confession from General Gerasimov, with Prighozhin as witness?
    It was at the end of the dam under Russian control.
    And why the delay in stating an explosion was detected when statements by alliance officials including UK Foreign Secretary Cleverley and NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg make it obvious this was known from the outset?
    And that they made it clear that Russia was regarded as responsible.
    Is someone in the NSC playing games again?

  15. OzarkHillbilly says:


    Heavy cruiser and destroyer screen emerge from the mist dead ahead.
    Sound General Quarters

    Fred List

    The Naval Battle of Waddlecanal

    Too f’n funny.

  16. de stijl says:


    Hey, that’s how The Thing got here. Then it made it through the atmosphere without breaking apart and burning up. Landed intact in Antarctica and froze solid in a glacier without its cells bursting.

    I frigging love that movie so much.

  17. Mr. Prosser says:

    @Kathy: I am convinced that Douglas Adams’s “Teasers” in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy are real. Rich alien kids with nothing to do land by some poor, unsuspecting soul no one is ever going to believe and strut up and down in front of them making Beep Beep noises. They probably throw their trash out at the same time.

  18. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @de stijl: The soundtrack is perfect.

  19. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Mr. Prosser:

    There’s a fun sci-fi-ish series of two novels (“Waiting for the Galactic Bus” and “The Snake Oil Wars”) which features the omnipotent alien equivalent of two rich college students getting blackout drunk and crashing their roadster into earth, and while goofing around waiting for rescue turn a bunch of local apes sentient, eventually getting sentenced to having to be God and Satan as community service.

  20. Kathy says:

    I have absolutely nothing good to say about Facebook or Zuckerberg, but setting up a Twitter clone might hurt St Elon’s privately held “social” media company financially, by taking away users. That might be a good thing.

    On actual good news, I received the kasha on time. I’ll be trying it tomorrow with meatballs in mild chipotle sauce.

    I’ve never cooked it before, but it seems simple enough. I’m unsure how much moisture it absorbs after being cooked (rice still absorbs a lot after cooking). So on this first attempt I’ll cook it separately from the meatballs and sauce and see how it goes.

    the directions say to add just water and salt. I’m thinking adding a dab of butter would be fitting.

  21. de stijl says:

    @Mr. Prosser:
    @Stormy Dragon:

    I had an idea for a story once. The galactic community was opening up a new interstate equivalent and our planet was a handy rest stop, but we were inconveniently here.

    Couldn’t stick it, though. Had a nice entry point, but the follow on eluded me.

    The whole genre of alien invasion movies bugs me. Why would a civilization capable of FTL travel need to land troops on the ground to take us out? Just nuke us from orbit. We’re the equivalent of an ant colony.

  22. dazedandconfused says:

    @Mr. Prosser:

    I suspect Earth would be an exceptional find for space explorers. It is more likely than not the earth is more typical than it is exceptional, as oxy/nitro planets go, and for nearly all of its existence there has only been primitive life forms. It is therefore likely one could go through a million such planets before finding one not only with a technological civilization but with one just starting. Sharing the planet with members of their own species living in a stone-age condition, still grunting and hooting about the flatness of their planet.

    If there is a community word would spread and every egg (or whatever) head would demand a study tour. Each riding the edge between being close enough but not TOO close, lest they disturb a precious, oh so preciously rare discovery…

  23. JohnSF says:

    Johnson resigns as MP! with immediate effect

    I’ve been forced out over Partygate report

    *happy dance*
    Now bog off, “Boris”, and please do let the door slam into your fat behind on the way out.

    Maybe the Eris, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster, do heed the prayers of their devotees?
    Open the wine, lads, time for a libation.

  24. Kathy says:


    We have one data point, and no idea how common or uncommon it is. The point is it took Earth 4.5 billion years or so to produce a sentient species with technological capabilities. Maybe that’s too long for the average planet, maybe it’s faster than The Flash on a good day, maybe it’s somewhere in between.

    The other point we lack is how long we’ll exist at all, or as a sentient species with technological capabilities. We might last billions of years, or we could go extinct within a century.

    So, sure, we may be at a rare, maybe unique, point in development. Or we may be one of millions.

  25. Kathy says:


    Bad day for fair haired man children in the anglosphere.


  26. dazedandconfused says:

    What I mean by TOO close…

  27. Mister Bluster says:


    The same thing happened to me on my iPhone SE-iOS 16.1 (20B82) about an hour ago (it is 4:21pm CDT here as I type this). After several page reloads and as I was thinking (just thinking) about getting my hammer out of the trunk of my car the thread fixed itself and has behaved properly since then.

  28. dazedandconfused says:

    @Kathy: The odds of being typical are higher than the odds of being exceptional, nonetheless.

  29. JohnSF says:

    A lot of evolutionary biologists insist evolution has no direction impulse. There is no imperative towards sapience as such, so far as we can tell from ecological/evolutionary models and simulations. And from Earth bio-history.
    Even after the evolution of large terrestrial animals, non-sapience seems fine for hundreds of millions of years. Including the post-dinosaur mammals.
    Even once you get humans, we mostly jog along perfectly happily in paleolithic mode for all but a hundredth of our species existence to date.
    Even once you get post-paleolithic, stable agrarian cultures are the norm.
    Insofar as you can draw any conclusions from a sample of one, it’s that there’s no drive to technological civilisation at all.
    What modelling has been done of the process seems to indicate the same; human-like (tool+language) species are a bit of a chance outcome. Technically adept cultures even more so.

  30. Kathy says:

    I’m about to finish “The Big Myth: How American Business Taught Us to Loathe Government and Love the Free Market” by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway.

    I highly recommend it.

    The subtitle gives you the gist of the book. It’s more or less a chronological narrative on how business used propaganda and misinformation to influence policy to their benefit. It goes back to the XIX century and reaches to this day.

  31. just nutha says:

    @de stijl: What would be the point of aliens capable of FTL travel nuking the planet? If they’re coming here, isn’t it more logical to think in terms of a crusade for lebensraum, which would entail leaving the planet habitable? Or, is your theory that aliens are no more likely to be foresightful than humans are?

  32. Kathy says:

    @de stijl:
    @just nutha:

    The earliest stories, like War of the Worlds, were written before weapons as destructive as nukes were conceivable. In latter stories, the purpose seems to be alien invasion pure and simple.

    There’s an atypical one by Harry Turtledove. I forget the title. The gist is that two technologies, contragravity and hyperspace travel, are so ridiculously easy to implement (the story never says how), that a medieval civilization with muzzle-loading guns and iron armor, can conquer planets thousands of light years away.

    In Footfall by Niven and Pournelle, the invading aliens crash a captured asteroid into the Earth to cause massive death and destruction, the easier to effect their invasion.

    Depending on the patience and lifespan of the hypothetical aliens, and assuming scientific advancement across the board, they could engineer a virus with a crazy high R0 factor and a huge mortality rate. Add a few nukes to take out large force concentrations and the local nukes, and they can take over at leisure from the few survivors.

    But in the first place, you’d think a highly advanced, FTL capable species, should be able to find any resources they need, including living space, among the very large amount of uninhabited planets, comets, asteroids, stars, etc.

    Imagine an alien fleet showed up, and they started carting off chunks of Saturn’s rings for their water, or the larger asteroids for their minerals, or even megatons of Moon rocks for some reason.

  33. JohnSF says:

    @de stijl:
    @just nutha:
    If you are a starfaring civ, you’re going to have time horizons in the century to millennia range.
    Lots of options for taking down a planetary culture and allowing ecosystem recovery over that timescale.
    My objection would be that assuming no-FTL, it’s unlikely they’d have much use for planets anyway. If they’ve adapted to space habitation, the outer asteroids/moons/comets have everything they’d need.
    In fact, the safest course for such would be to flit (for an arbitrary value of “flit”) between obviously abiotic systems, which have all the resources they’d need, and no chance of pesky locals with nukes. M-class stars for the win.
    Anyone turning up here would probably be the equivalent of a university field expedition.

    Then one night the grad students get drunk, the prof is off looking at the living blimps of Jupiter:
    “C’mon guys, lets go anal probe a trailer park for the lulz! Nobody will ever notice!”

  34. Kathy says:


    A lot of evolutionary biologists insist evolution has no direction impulse.

    Just reproduction.

    That’s part of the problem in speculating about alien intelligence: how common is the development of high intelligence?

    Add one more: how common is the development of high intelligence and the ability to manipulate objects with some degree of dexterity in an oxygen atmosphere?

    Imagine all dolphins are smarter than Einstein. they still couldn’t do much about making tools, much less developing metallurgy or other necessary basis for a technological civilization.

  35. dazedandconfused says:


    IMO highly questionable. Smarts and tools are survival wunderwaffes. Just a matter of time.

  36. JohnSF says:

    Footfall is interesting.
    Niven and Pournelle actually worked the problem of a starfaring species with near-modern tech and a desire for terrestrial real estate.
    Their Fithp are actually inheritors of an advanced alien civ that wiped itself out.
    Implied, IIRC, that they were descendants of genetically engineered pets.
    And, crucially, not very intelligent.
    Socially constrained by herd-animal ancestry, and a cultural pattern of almost absolute dependence on inherited knowledge from the “Predecessors”.
    IIRC Niven said at some point it was a highly improbable scenario that was the only one they could come up with for a “near peer” invader.

  37. JohnSF says:

    Well, if it’s just a matter of time, 300 million years since the emergence of large-ish terrestrial animals indicates that it’s not that much of a driver.
    And again, human history indicates sapience does not equate to a driver for inevitable development. IMO we are biased due to our particular position.
    We regard high-tech human cultures as the norm, which is not the case.
    Of all human beings who ever lived, even after our ENORMOUS recent population growth, the majority were in the paleolithic era. (Estimates total human beings ever c. 100 billion.)

  38. Mr. Prosser says:

    @Stormy Dragon: I’ll check those out, might be an ABE Books search.@Kathy: I remember that short story, I read it in one of the pulp sci-fi mags, Analog or some such.

  39. Kathy says:


    I recall little about it. I read it over 15 years ago, and just after reading Lucifer’s Hammer, also by Niven and Pournelle. there’s just so much devastation and mass death I can take.

    @Mr. Prosser:

    I know I have it in a book at home.

  40. JohnSF says:

    On the Khakhoka Dam destruction and its aftermath.
    I linked yesterday to some reports of Russian shelling of evacuation operations.
    Here is NYT reporting of multiple events indicating this.
    The Russian military really do seem intent on staging a Nazi re-enactment event.
    They need to re-read the final chapters of the sory.

  41. JohnSF says:

    Yep. Footfall struck me as a bit “Lucifer’s Hammer! Now with aliens!”
    But still, the (thick) Fithp are one of the few near-peer “alien invasion” scenarios that makes some sort of sense.
    At least they tried.

  42. Kathy says:


    There’s the Worldwar series by Turtledove. The (non-FTL) aliens are plodding conservative imperialists, and assume everyone else is, too. While they have large interstellar fleets, their weapons are more like late 80s tanks, planes, and choppers.

    That’s ok, as they expect the natives, whom they discovered by automated probe only a few thousand years ago, to be early bronze age savages. Everyone advances but slowly and methodically, after all.

    Unfortunately they arrive in 1942, and the natives are busy indulging in the delights of industrialized warfare for the second time. They prove too much and too many.

  43. JohnSF says:

    If your read both Hammer and Footfall, they actually recycle some of the characters: the biker guy for instance.
    But I’ve also read somewhere, years ago, that that was one of their in-jokes.
    A lot of Niven’s stories apparently ref to people in their LA social circle: “J.B. Corbell” and his various iterations.

  44. JohnSF says:

    Read a bit of it.
    Stuck me as dubious, from a evo-hist POV.
    Turtledove needed a stasis civ for his plot, but the backstory doesn’t really make sense.
    You can’t go interstellar and be planet focused unless under very unusual circumstances.
    Footfall actually made a go of working that out (much as I dislike Pournelle’s militarist aristocratic default, and Niven’s naive liberalism) by having the tech base as as gift of the Predecessors.
    If a culture evolved, IMO its going to get to the point where conquest is a silly strategy very quickly. So much mass and energy available where you don’t need to worry about collateral damage.

  45. Kathy says:


    What I found hard to swallow was The Race don’t form families, hardly have a notion of whom they’re related to, and yet they have a hereditary monarchy.