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:

    More good news on the green energy front:

    Solar power cells have raced past the key milestone of 30% energy efficiency, after innovations by multiple research groups around the world. The feat makes this a “revolutionary” year, according to one expert, and could accelerate the rollout of solar power.

    Today’s solar panels use silicon-based cells but are rapidly approaching their maximum conversion of sunlight to electricity of 29%. At the same time, the installation rate of solar power needs to increase tenfold in order to tackle the climate crisis, according to scientists.

    The breakthrough is adding a layer of perovskite, another semiconductor, on top of the silicon layer. This captures blue light from the visible spectrum, while the silicon captures red light, boosting the total light captured overall. With more energy absorbed per cell, the cost of solar electricity is even cheaper, and deployment can proceed faster to help keep global heating under control.

    The perovskite-silicon “tandem” cells have been under research for about a decade, but recent technical improvements have now pushed them past the 30% milestone. Experts said that if the scaling-up of production of the tandem cells proceeds smoothly, they could be commercially available within five years, about the same time silicon-only cells reach their maximum efficiency.

    Two groups published the details of their efficiency breakthroughs in the journal Science on Thursday, and at least two others are known to have pushed well beyond 30%.

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Police are investigating a burglary at a southern California wine shop, where a thief stole over $500,000 worth of high-end wine and liquor.

    The burglary happened during the early hours of 30 June at Lincoln Fine Wines in Venice, according to a police report. A man – wearing a mask, hoodie and baseball cap – arrived to the store in a white pickup truck with no license plate, the Los Angeles Times reported. The thief then broke into the store by cutting a five-by-three hole into the roof and lowering himself into the store with a rope.

    During the four-hour robbery, the burglar took more than 600 bottles of wine and liquor, the Times reported. The thief mostly targeted the store’s most expensive wines and liquors, some costing thousands of dollars and many that are irreplaceable, CNN reported. Among the stolen items was a bottle of Chateau Petrus 2016 valued at $4,500, CNN reported. The Last Drop, a rare Scottish whisky with an estimated value of $6,000, was also stolen.

    “It is very hard for me to digest. All my hard work snatched within a couple hours,” said the store’s owner, Nazmul Haque, to CNN.

    This cloud tho, comes with a silver lining:

    Since the burglary, Haque and Martinelle say they have received an outpouring of support from the community. On Sunday, nearly 200 customers visited the store, twice as many as normal, the Times reported. A hundred and fifty customers came on Monday to show support after the theft.

    “They’re here to support me. That’s a very strong message to me,” Haque told the network. “That helped me a lot to recover from the emotional stress.”

  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    A Canadian judge has ruled that the “thumbs-up” emoji is just as valid as a signature, arguing that courts need to adapt to the “new reality” of how people communicate as he ordered a farmer to pay C$82,000 ($61,442) for an unfulfilled contract.

    In a recent case the Court of King’s Bench in the province of Saskatchewan heard that a grain buyer with South West Terminal sent a mass text message to clients in March 2021, advertising that the company was looking to buy 86 tonnes of flax at a price of C$17 ($12.73) per bushel.

    The buyer, Kent Mickleborough, spoke with farmer Chris Achter on the phone and texted a picture of a contract to deliver the flax in November, asking the farmer to “please confirm flax contract” in the message.

    Achter, who lives in the community of Swift Current, responded with a thumbs-up emoji. But Achter did not deliver the flax in November – and by that time, prices for the crop had increased.

    I don’t speak emoji. I could be in trouble.

    Justice Timothy Keene, who at one point used a definition of the symbol, lamented that the case “led the parties to a far flung search for the equivalent of the Rosetta Stone in cases from Israel, New York State and some tribunals in Canada, etc. to unearth what a emoji means”.

    “This court readily acknowledges that a emoji is a non-traditional means to ‘sign’ a document but nevertheless under these circumstances this was a valid way to convey the two purposes of a ‘signature’,” he wrote.

    Keene also dismissed defence concerns that allowing the thumbs up emoji to signify acceptance “would open up the flood gates” to new interpretations of other emojis, including the ‘fist bump’ and ‘hand shake’. In finding that the thumbs-up can be used to enter into contracts, Keene said the court “cannot (nor should it) attempt to stem the tide of technology and common usage” of emojis.

    “This appears to be the new reality in Canadian society and courts will have to be ready to meet the new challenges that may arise from the use of emojis and the like.”

    I wonder how long it will take to sort this out.

  4. MarkedMan says:

    For some reason The Hill keeps publishing the enthusiastic gushings of one Marik von Rennenkampff, a UFO true believer. I suppose it’s just for the clicks? But she’s (he?) an absolute encapsulation of the stereotypical alien conspiracy nut. “There are important people who say there are aliens!” or rather “Important people who say there are secret investigations into aliens!” OK, let’s hear what these people have to say. “Well, we can’t because they are secret whistleblowers! They are anonymous!” Okay, so if you don’t know who they are and what positions they hold, how do you know they are important and credible? “Marco Rubio told us!”


  5. Scott says:

    Court ruling could overturn federal control of the National Guard

    Who owns the National Guard? It’s complicated.

    A recent court ruling in Texas could complicate matters further. The stage is set for a fight over control of the Guard — and this time, the states have the upper hand.

    For more than a century, the federal government’s authority over the National Guard has steadily increased, as has its usage overseas.

    States, who once held near-total control over their militias, sacrificed autonomy on the altar of a federal financial firehose, which gave the Defense Department leverage to shape the Guard in the image of its full-time counterparts. In return, governors now have highly trained forces at their disposal for missions at home, and they’re using them more often than ever.

    Both sides have benefitted from this deal since 1990, when the Supreme Court unanimously decided the last major legal battle in favor of the DoD.

    In court filings, the governors claimed that “only the state, through its governor, possesses legal authority to govern state National Guard personnel” when not mobilized under federal control, regardless of who is cutting the drill checks.

    Responding to the governors, the federal government contended it has the authority to set readiness requirements and enforce them. They contended that in order to receive federal pay and federal benefits — even when in a state-controlled, federally-funded Title 32 status — members of the Guard needed to comply with federal readiness requirements.

    The June 12 opinion, written by U.S. Circuit Judge Andrew Oldham and signed onto in part by U.S. Circuit Judge Don Willett, left little to the imagination.

    “The President of the United States asserts the power to punish members of the Texas National Guard who have not been called into national service,” Oldham said. “The Constitution and laws of the United States, however, deny him that power.”

    Bottom line: This undermines national readiness standards for the National Guard and leaves an important component of our defense establishment at the whims of state governors.

  6. Sleeping Dog says:
  7. MarkedMan says:

    @Scott: This is just kooky. The national government pays their salary but can’t have a say in who serves or their readiness?

  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Scott: OK. No more money for you.

    @MarkedMan: Yeah, I see this getting overturned soon.

  9. gVOR10 says:

    @Scott: Ron DeUseless went to a lot of trouble and expense to reactivate the old Florida Guard so he’d have a paramilitary independent of the Feds. If Abbott makes this National Guard thing work that’ll sure put him one up on DeSantis.

  10. gVOR10 says:

    Kevin Drum had some fun with a survey saying inflation expectations are low. It said the average American thinks a year from now inflation will be down to 4%. Drum thinks that’s a pretty safe assumption as the current year-to-year number is 4.1. Over at Balloon Juice Anne Laurie notes the success of Bidenomics and quotes Matt Yglesias accusing Biden of lying. Biden says inflation’s down to 4. Yglesias cites a private analyst saying 2.11. (I assume that’s current while the 4.1 number is the usually cited, and misleading, year-over-year.)

  11. Kathy says:

    On aviation news, some weeks ago a judge declared the American Airlines and JetBlue Northeastern Alliance to be illegal, and ordered it dissolved.

    Airline alliances are complex things. The gist here is if a customer in, say, Denver, were looking for a flight to Madrid, they could book it on JetBlue on a single ticket. The actual flight would be Denver to JFK on a JetBlue plane, and then to Madrid on an AA plane.

    Of course, the same customer could do the same with Delta, flying first to atlanta on Delta, and then to Madrid on Delta. or with United through Newark. AA needed an alliance, because they don’t have many domestic flights to JFK to feed their overseas flights (they have tons of flights to LaGuardia, though, but that’s not as useful in connecting at another airport).

    In any case, the alliance is off and being wound down.

    The thing is AA is appealing the decision, even without a stay of the dissolution order pending appeal. But JetBlue isn’t joining it.

    Why? Because they’re more interested in acquiring Spirit, and they’re already fighting with the DOJ over that one. It seems reasonable to limit their involvement in antitrust lawsuits.

    Both the AA appeal and the JetBlue fights will take a while. If AA wins, they may find JetBlue no longer interested (unlikely), but they could form an alliance with a different airline (though by my count this leaves them just Southwest and Frontier).

  12. DK says:

    Since the unhinged and unpopular Trump is trailing Biden in the polls, and the charisma-free DeSantis is trailing Trump in the polls, when does coverage of Drama Queen Donnie and Ron DeFascist start to focus daily on their shrillness and lack of likeability?

    Or do we reserve the constant “likeability” think pieces for women candidates only?

  13. CSK says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    Well, I suppose one could commission one’s spouse or partner to do the rubbing. Might be fun.

  14. Bill Jempty says:
  15. Gustopher says:


    I don’t speak emoji. I could be in trouble.

    When in doubt you cannot go wrong with the non-committal sequence of eggplant, droplets, peach. Suitable for all occasions, from the most casual to the most formal.

  16. The Q says:

    Just wanted to put this on record so I can rub the noses of those who ridiculously want Manchin gone. Which is a total certainty since Jim Judge (ex Dem) is way ahead in the polls and if he tips the Senate to Republican you idiots will be on call to swallow your bschite.

    You’re friggin morons as Mr. Reynolds has pointed out numerous times in forgetting without power (i.e. holding office) we can’t pass legislation.

    You think Manchin is bad DK for giving out goodies to billionaires? Just wait till Jim Judge replaces him. And as another wisely opined, goodbye SCOTUS Jackson, IRA, Infrastructure investment with GOP Senate.

    This blog is full of erudite, sometimes brilliant commentary. An educated, literate crowd who I immensely enjoy reading. Which means we can sometimes be detached from the reality that 90% (or more) of Americans lack this sophistication and well informed punditry.

    But many of them do VOTE and it seems a blind spot with many here is we don’t see things they way they do, hence demonization of Manchin for voting against what HIS constituents would quite rightly perceive as a far left choice for the court.

    If any of you think electing Republican Jim Judge is preferable to a Democrat you find odious, well everyone is entitled to one f*uck up

  17. MarkedMan says:

    @The Q: In fairness, “Manchin is a right tool and he disgusts me” is not the same thing as “I hope Manchin loses” which is not the same thing as “Manchin sold his soul and prevented us from getting a bunch of good stuff and the dumb bastard still isn’t going to win his reelection”. Only the middle one qualifies as a stupid thing. The other two are just plain observation.

  18. JohnSF says:

    Latest in an ongoing series!
    UK opinion poll, YouGov Westminster voting intention (5-6 July)
    Con: 22% (-2 from 27-28 Jun)
    Lab: 47% (+1)
    Lib Dem: 9% (-1)
    Reform UK: 9% (+1)
    Green: 7% (=)
    SNP: 3% (=)


    If this is even close to the actual voting next year, the Conservative Party are going to get hammered into the ground like tent-pegs. 🙂

    There’s a nice little sequence of by-elections coming up in late July as well.
    Fun for all the family; as long as none of said family are Tories.

  19. Kathy says:

    I know attorneys are obligated to proffer a “zealous defense” of their client, but this is beyond BS:

    Giuliani’s attorneys had argued to the committee that he had a reasonable basis to believe the claims in litigation were true and that he was relying on what others working with the Trump campaign told him about the fraud allegations.

    I also know in a lawsuit, the plaintiff carries the burden of proof. That means it was necessary for Rudy to appear in court with enough evidence to make his case. Either he knew there was no evidence, and therefore was acting fraudulently at court, or he went to court, and billed his client*, knowing full well he’s going to lose, which also strikes me as fraudulent and unethical.

    Seriously, imagine a lawyer whose whole case is “my client assures me this is so.”

    *Yes, I know this particular client would never pay him, but that’s not the point.

  20. Stormy Dragon says:

    Bit of good news for Friday: the US has finished destroying the last of its chemical weapons stockpile

    The world is officially ‘free’ of chemical weapons. Here’s what that means

    The United States has officially destroyed its stockpile of chemical weapons.

    In doing so, it is the last of eight countries to destroy its declared stocks of chemical weapons under the Chemical Weapons Convention – an international treaty signed by nearly 200 nations that bans the possession, production and use of the weapons on the battlefield.

    The milestone was reached on Friday at the Bluegrass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant in Kentucky. A final rocket was drained of sarin nerve agent, and that agent was then chemically deactivated and destroyed.

    The destruction of that single rocket means that “one hundred percent of the world’s declared chemical weapons have now been destroyed,” says Kingston Reif, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Threat Reduction and Arms Control, who oversaw the process.

  21. DK says:

    @The Q:

    You think Manchin is bad DK for giving out goodies to billionaires? Just wait till Jim Judge replaces him.

    You think Manchin is a good guy for giving out goodies to billionaires, The Q? You think Jim Judge being terrible automatically makes Manchin not a bad guy?

    I’m not following your logic. Two people can both be bad. People can want bad guys to win for strategic reasons.

    Just wanted to put this on record so I can rub the noses of those who ridiculously want Manchin gone…Which means we can sometimes be detached from the reality that 90% (or more) of Americans lack this sophistication and well informed punditry.

    The OTB commentariat has a 0% effect on whether or not West Virginia voters will re-elect Joe Manchin next year. If complaints about Joe Manchin’s corruption had an effect on West Virginia voters, he would have lost a long time ago.

    If every Democratic voter in the country wanted Joe Manchin to win, he probably would still lose. If every Democratic voter in the country wanted Joe Mansion to lose, he would probably still lose and it still wouldn’t have anything to do with them.

  22. wr says:

    @The Q: Hands up — how many commenters here actually vote in West Virginia?

    Let’s see… I count… zero.

    So unless you’ve decided that the commentariat on this little blog have tremendous power over the voting habits of West Virgnina’s citizenry, all you’re doing is screaming about how much smarter you are than everyone else over a matter of complete inconsequence.

    Have you ever wondered why people cross the street when they see you coming?

  23. wr says:

    Huh. My delightfully pithy response to the Q showed up twice, and since I can’t actually delete one, I’m replacing it here with this explanation…