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. de stijl says:

    Yesterday I saw a woman in brand spanking new Carhartt jacket. That yellowy orange brown Carhartt color. She looked so bad-ass.

    I had seen that exact color on the face of the moon during the eclipse a week ago. It shifted pretty radically through colors fairly quickly, but when I saw that jacket I was immediately transported back to that instant.

    For a few beats the eclipsed moon was Carhartt “orange”. Took me a week and a random encounter to put a name to that transient color.

  2. CSK says:

    Hope all of you had a good Thanksgiving. I had to get up at 5 a.m. yesterday to catch one plane and then hang around for three hours to make another connecting flight. Dinner was good, I think. I was practically comatose during it.

  3. de stijl says:

    A year ago today I took an epic walk.

    I finally felt decent and whole and perky after 3 weeks of feeling like a weak kitten that got run over by a truck. Covid sucked.

    I had not opened my front door in weeks except to get my mail. Occasionally a friend would drop off supplies. Totally physically isolated and self-quarantined for 3+ weeks.

    Going out into the world again that day was astonishingly meaningful and precious. I felt so alive. It was the definition of catharsis.

    I’m gonna take a walk today. The route is not important. I remember the destination. I remember what I was listening to (already got that queue’d up – Joe Henry’s Short Man’s Room).

    I might make this a yearly ritual.

  4. Kathy says:

    Dune finally premiered in HBO Max in Mexico. allegedly it’s in 4K. We’ll see. We’re in pre-Hell Week now, so I’ll likely wait to watch it until tomorrow.

    Frankly, I’m more impatient for the rest of the Young Justice season 4. they seem to be building up to something, as the backstories and characterizations get darker.

  5. Mu Yixiao says:

    Because I know y’all will appreciate it:

    The Alabama Paradox
    Historical electoral math (with cookies!).

    It’s a bit of a long watch (40 minutes), but really interesting.

  6. sam says:

    For all you Star Wars geeks: A real, honest-to-goodness light saber. Alas, batteries not included.

  7. de stijl says:


    I like that you liked Loki. I am not a fully invested MCU person. I enjoy some of the movies – they are usually very well crafted.

    Movies are two hours more or less. And with multiple characters and storylines deep character development is hinted at.

    Movies are like short stories or novellas. And always with the three act set-up (not always but mostly mostly). Restrictive.

    With a tv show you can explore. Throttle down a bit. Poke at the corners.

    Loki exceeded expectations for me. WandaVision too. These are complex, thorny stories told well. Intelligently. Sometimes subtly. Depicting overwhelming grief in a not obvious manner.

    In 2021 I am quite impressed by Marvel. Five years ago or so I would not have said so. (But Guardians Of The Galaxy rocked pretty hard.)

    I like their ephemera way more than the tentpole movies. (And their big, splashy movies have gotten better too, I must admit.)

  8. sam says:

    Speaking of light sabers, I was reminded of this hilarious bit from the Blake Edwards movie Skin Deep, starring the late John Ritter. My understanding is Industrial Light and Magic actually did the work on the scene.

  9. Kathy says:

    @de stijl:

    I am not a fully invested MCU person.

    Neither am I. As superheroes go, I like the DC bunch better*. Loki, though, was more like a Big Idea Science Fiction novel than a superhero story. Still what I call comicbooky (a little puerile with too many fantastic and impractical elements), but rather good for its sort.

    Wandavision, now, was ok, but it did’t grab me. And the big plot hole: who was broadcasting the sitcoms and why?

    * While DC movies have been mostly market failures, there’s a huge animated DC universe of TV shows and direct-to-video movies. They’re mostly well done, but not connected. One I recommend, available for now on HBO Max is The Flashpoint Paradox, even if it misuses the word paradox.

  10. OzarkHillbilly says:

    The Minnesota Democrat Ilhan Omar called the Colorado Republican Lauren Boebert a buffoon, a bigot and a liar, for claiming to have joked about terrorism when sharing an elevator in Congress.

    “Fact,” Omar wrote on Twitter on Thursday. “This buffoon looks down when she sees me at the Capitol, this whole story is made up. Sad she thinks bigotry gets her clout. “Anti-Muslim bigotry isn’t funny and shouldn’t be normalised. Congress can’t be a place where hateful and dangerous Muslims tropes get no condemnation.”
    Boebert is a first-term far-right Trump ally who consistently seeks controversy. Her connections to the deadly attack on the Capitol on 6 January remain under investigation. She made the comments about Omar in her home district over the Thanksgiving break……………

    “So I was getting into an elevator with one of my staffers. You know, we’re leaving the Capitol and we’re going back to my office and we get an elevator and I see a Capitol police officer running to the elevator. I see fret all over his face, and he’s reaching, and the door’s shutting, like I can’t open it, like what’s happening. I look to my left, and there she is. Ilhan Omar.

    “And I said, ‘Well, she doesn’t have a backpack, we should be fine.’

    I know which I find more believable.

  11. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Michigan is now leading the country in new Covid cases and hospitalizations, accounting for about one in 10 new cases in the US, even though the state represents only 3% of the country’s population. Cases across the US have risen by 18% in the past week, but some states have seen much more dramatic increases. In Michigan, new cases have gone up by 67% and new hospitalizations by 46% in the past two weeks.

    “It’s gobsmacking,” Aron Sousa, interim dean of the College of Human Medicine at Michigan State University, told the Guardian.

    A week or so ago, cases in the state were fairly steady, at about 5,000. Then they shot up to about 8,000 in just a few days. “It was astonishing, the rapid increase,” Sousa said. Now hospitals are full and patients are being treated in hallways and recovery lounges, while deaths are going up. “It’s actually as bad as or worse than it was during our last big peak in April or the peak that we saw the November-December before that,” Sousa said.

    And what’s happening in Michigan is a sign of what’s likely to come in other parts of the US, particularly in states with low vaccination rates. “I don’t think there’s anything unique about Michigan,” Adam Lauring, an ​​associate professor of infectious disease and microbiology at the University of Michigan Medical School, told the Guardian.

  12. Kathy says:

    “Third parties are like bees: once they have stung, they die.”

    ― Richard Hofstadter

  13. Mikey says:

    Former Biden White House Sr Advisor for COVID Response and past head of Medicare/Medicaid for Obama Andy Slavitt has this Tweet thread today about the COVID variant coming out of southern Africa.

    COVID Update: A new variant in southern Africa has emerged & is grabbing global concern.

    What do we know about it? Should we be worried? 1/
    In situations like this, it is useful to separate into what is known with good certainty, what is unknown, and what is being speculated.

    Then I will address the “what if…” question. 2/

    B.1.1.529 (it will be given a Greek alphabet name today) originated in South Africa and Botswana and cases have been recorded among travelers in Belgium, Hong Kong, and Israel. 3/
    What we know so far doesn’t paint a full picture.

    The variant has a lot of mutations— over 50. The ACE2 receptor, which allows the virus to bind to our cells, has over 10 mutations according to scientists in S Africa. 4/
    There is a lot more that we don’t know. While there are still a limited number of cases that mutation profile has scientists concerned that possibly neither prior immunity nor a vaccine will be effective— or as effective— at preventing spread & infection. 5/
    Some of the characteristics of the variant are reminiscent of Beta and Lambda, two variants that became concerning, but ultimately haven’t been able to compete with Delta. 6/
    It will take 2 weeks or so to test in a lab whether the mRNA vaccines are effective and if so, how effective they are. In the meantime, there will be speculation from limited reporting. 7/
    It is reported that many of the cases were among younger people in South Africa, who are largely unvaccinated. Does that mean something? Maybe. 8/
    South Africa has one of the most sophisticated detection systems & many scientists have pointed to lower vaccination levels@in Africa & an abundance of immunocompromised people as a breeding ground for new variants. 9/
    This leads to speculation that there is more spread than discovered. Currency, stock, bond & oil traders began the day in near panic— airline stocks are down, Netflix is up.

    People who get paid to speculate will speculate. For the rest of us, there’s no sport in it. 10/
    The unanswered questions are important ones. Even if a variant creates more difficulty for the immune system, it’s rate of spread is important. If it doesn’t outcompete Delta, it will likely be more limited in its reach as long as Delta continues to spread. 11/
    We’ve all gotten nervous enough that it’s worth answering the question, “but what if it does evade prior immunity and outcompetes Delta?” 12/
    It’s foolhardy to predict the future but smart to prepare. And we have been preparing.

    The mRNA vaccines are built on a platform which allow for very rapid development of new vaccines to tackle emerging variants should they be of major concern. 13/
    Both Pfizer & Moderna estimate 100 days to develop a vaccine for a new variant.

    Manufacturing, approvals & distribution take time but we are getting more efficient at all. If we start in early December, new vaccines could be available by summer in much of the world. 14/
    This explains Europe, already dealing with waves & worries over variants, decided to shut down travel from S Africa until more is learned.

    Holding the variant at bay while keeping hospitals open is now a learned impulse. But is it a good one? 15/
    Banning travel hasn’t seemed to be anything close to a panacea. And it punishes countries and their economies who make and report discoveries.

    There’s an ugly irony as well. 16/
    We (the G20) couldn’t vaccinate Africa fast enough despite abundant vaccines & so now we will increase the costs to them of our failure. 17/
    The WHO today, in concert with scientists in the region, will determine whether this is officially a variant of concern. 18/
    Part of all of us go into hyperdrive when we see certain words— new variant, evade immunity, travel ban. These are learned responses.

    But there have also been many false alarms, assumptions made, panic, and over-reactions. 19/
    So much less is known than will be speculated. What seems clear is that vaccinating the globe & pockets of the US that are still unvaccinated remain the priority.

    And masks, portable air filters, staying outdoors, and other tools remain our friends should cases rise. 20/
    We have the tools to minimize the effects of even a new problematic variant.

    They, as with the rest of the pandemic, rely on some amount of collective action. Probably why the markets are down. /end

  14. Kathy says:


    It’s a sad but necessary observation: humans are the one living being capable of mitigating an epidemic and even ending it sooner than it would naturally, but we refuse to take the steps necessary to do so.

    It’s one of those “in theory but in practice” things, like political economic ideologies.

    Partly, I think, it has to do with our need to know RIGHT NOW and to predict the future with certainty. One oft asked question since March 2020 is “When will the pandemic end?” The answer is very simple: we can’t know.

    We will now when it’s over, but we can’t know when that will happen. It’s like when the fire department faces a large fire at a factory. They know it will take hours to put it out, but there may be unexpected flareups that will make it drag on longer. Say if the fire extends to a large cache of flammable materials, which maybe it did because firefighters were focused on preventing it from reaching fuel storage tanks. But it will be plain that the fire’s out once it’s out.

  15. Jen says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I don’t know where NH stands nationally, but we are currently at record-high hospitalizations and cases.

    The new variant doesn’t look good either.

  16. de stijl says:


    It won’t ever be “over”. It, hopefully, will fade into the background noise. Like cancer and heart disease. Shit people succumb to.

    At this point it is endemic.

    At this point I know that my yearly flu shot is going to try to cover both. Two jabs or one. Either way, it will happen.

    At this point I know that everytime I walk into a store or workplace or enclosed public space I am going to instinctively mask up.

    This is the new now. I have to deal with it. I will.

    The right is good at politicizing viruses – they did it with HIV too.

  17. CSK says:


    if it won’t depress you too much, you can go here:

  18. Kathy says:

    @de stijl:

    It won’t ever be “over”.

    The pandemic phase will. That is, we won’t see anywhere from hundreds to tens of thousands of new cases every day, nor overwhelmed hospitals or even critical care facilities.

    At this point I know that my yearly flu shot is going to try to cover both.

    Yes, but for different reasons. The flu changes and new variants aren’t quite covered by prior shots. SARS-CoV-2 also changes, but more important we need circulating antibodies to keep it away. Ergo, boosters every year.

    The right is good at politicizing viruses – they did it with HIV too.

    It’s not the right. It’s the authoritarian mindset that’s good at it.

  19. Kathy says:

    I’ve a technical question:

    Take a computer monitor, not a TV, with an HDMI port. If I hook up the HDMI feed from the cable box or the DVD player, will it display the cable or DVD video feed?

    I ask out of mere curiosity and not for any need to implement something. I mean, PC monitors have always been similar to TVs, but had a different input mode and lacked a tuner. I suppose they still lack a tuner, but input now is with HDMI ports.

    On other things, the TV I bought is now $50 more at Walmart 🙂 We can conclude it was discounted for real at least that much.

  20. charon says:


    73/100K daily new cases, 3rd highest behind Michigan and Minnesota.

    New cases 49% increase in last 14 days (rolling average).

    (Not sure if COVID stuff is still not behind the paywall).

  21. Sleeping Dog says:
  22. CSK says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    I read that he enjoyed Thanksgiving yesterday with friends…and that he was working on a new show. At 91. What an amazing life and career, active and productive till the very end.

    They’ll be dimming the lights on Broadway tonight.

  23. Kathy says:

    The latest worrisome COVID variant has been dubbed Omicron, and there’s real reason for concern. Apparently it beat or is competing with Delta for dominance in Pretoria. Delta was bad, this may be worse.

    There’s reason to suspect it may evade existing antibodies, either from vaccination or natural infection, or that these antibodies might be less effective at neutralizing Omicron. As usual, though, there’s little said about T cells, the other BIG part of the immune response.

    One of the new antiviral COVID pills works by disrupting RNA replication, because it mimics and RNA base. No mutation can impart resistance against that*. So if the FDA gives emergency use authorization and the manufacturers get going, we should at least be able to treat it.

    the best thing to do, still, is to get vaccinated, get a booster, wear a mask, avoid crowded spaces, avoid indoor spaces where people don’t wear masks (like theaters, bars, restaurants, etc.), keep your distance from others, and so on. You know, what we’ve been doing for the past 20 months.

    the other best thing to do is to rush vaccines to low income countries, so they won’t incubate variants like Omicron. This is not the exclusive domain of these countries, the Alpha variant arose in Britain, but lack of vaccines raises the odds.

    *Well, the odds of an RNA virus becoming a DNA virus are slim. Also, viruses don’t ingest nutrients, so they can’t acquire resistance by developing different surface receptors, or by learning to put these molecules in vacuoles.