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. Scott says:

    Idle comments:

    Watched the Episode 1 of the final season of The Expanse last night on Amazon. Inaros and the belters are still pounding Earth with meteors. Fighting has moved to the bitter, slogging stage. Looking forward to this season.

    Been engaged in a personal experiment the last couple of weeks. Took a hiatus for about a week from Twitter (I usually use it to harass Ted Cruz and Chip Roy and their inane, constant Twitter commentary.). Then went back on. Found myself becoming irritable and a bit obsessed not wanting to miss a Tweet and comment on it in a timely fashion. Conclusion: Twitter is not healthy to my mental health as well as a waste of time.

    Finally, great investigation from San Antonio Express-News and Houston Chronicle:

    Some Texas religious leaders live in lavish, tax-free estates thanks to obscure law

    This fall, county officials mailed out property tax bills to the owners of a 10-bedroom, 10.5-bath Houston-area mansion, an 8,000-square-foot residence in a historic San Antonio neighborhood, an elegant Highland Park estate in Dallas and a house on more than an acre overlooking Corpus Christi Bay. The homes are worth millions of dollars. In each case, their 2021 tax bill was identical:


    Most people know that religious organizations pay no property taxes on their houses of worship. Lesser known is that many also get a valuable break on residences for their clergy as well.

    The word “parsonage,” as these residences are called, conjures images of humble, spartan rooms attached to drafty churches. A few still are.

    Yet in many places across Texas, parsonages are extravagant estates nestled in the state’s most exclusive enclaves. Like their wealthy neighbors, the clergy occupants enjoy spacious and well-appointed homes, immaculate grounds, tennis courts, swimming pools, decorative fountains and serene grottos.

    Unlike their neighbors, the parsonage owners pay nothing in taxes, leaving other Texans to backfill the uncollected revenue to cover the cost of schools, police and firefighters.

    If you want to attack political power you don’t like, start going after the wealth and privilege of the far-right megachurches.

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    ‘I thought I was going to die’: otters attack British man in Singapore park

    “Given that it was early morning, it may have been dark and confusing for the otters and (Spencer) may have just been a victim of circumstance,” he told the Straits Times.

    I am put in mind of the man who was killed by a box turtle.

  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Starbucks workers’ efforts to unionize finds success in Buffalo, New York

    Starbucks workers have voted to unionize at a store in Buffalo, New York, over the company’s objections, pointing the way to a new labor model for the 50-year-old coffee giant. The National Labor Relations Board said Thursday that workers voted 19-8 in favor of a union. The board is still counting votes for two other stores. If the labor board certifies the vote – a process expected to take about a week – it would be the first Starbucks-owned store in the US to unionize.

    Starbucks has actively fought unionization at its stores for decades, saying its stores function best when the company works directly with employees, whom it calls “partners”.

    Ah yes, “partners”. That’s as empty of meaning as “we’re all family here.”

  4. CSK says:

    I’d love to read about the luxury parsonages, but the article seems to be subscriber only.

    The otters hang around in hospital lobbies? Hospital lobbies? Assuming “lobby” means the same thing in Singapore as it does here, why can’t they be kept out?

  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @CSK: Those are no ordinary otters! They have sharp pointy teeth. Nnngghh nnggh. The BONES! LOOK AT THE BONES!!!!

  6. Scott says:
  7. CSK says:

    We had some otters living in a pond down the street, and all they ever did was cavort around in the water whenever they had a human audience. It never once occurred to anyone that they could be…attack otters.

  8. CSK says:

    Nope. But thank you for trying.

  9. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @CSK: Every otter I’ve ever run into always seemed more interested in performing for their audience than they were with attacking. Well, that and eating.

  10. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Scott: @CSK:

    Works for me.

  11. Jen says:
  12. Kathy says:


    Wasn’t Jimmy Carter attacked by a rabbit once?

    Small wild animals are deadly dangerous. even if they cant kill you or cause severe injury, they can transmit rabies and other diseases.

  13. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Scott: Blech:

    “Keeping families together, serving the disadvantaged, caring for seniors and children, providing a beacon of faith in these challenging times – our work is more important than ever,” said Sarah Good, executive director of Highland Park Presbyterian Church.


    “Church organizations get more benefits than any other exempt entities in the tax code,” said John Brusniak, a Dallas attorney considered one of the state’s foremost authorities on Texas property tax law who has represented churches.

    “The churches get three square meals,” added Nueces County Chief Appraiser Ramiro “Ronnie” Canales. “Plus dessert.”

  14. Scott says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Right. I go to church, I’ve been on church boards. My experience is that 90% of revenue goes to staff salaries, buildings, etc. Basically club dues for the parishioners. Not only are they getting a tax break, they are getting free city services such as fire and police.

    Then add in the double tax break of all the parishioners deducting charitable donations off their income tax.

    If I were king, I would limit property tax exemption to something like $250K. I would limit charitable deductions to actual charity work not church staff salaries, air conditioning, paid choirs, etc.

  15. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kathy: Wasn’t Jimmy Carter attacked by a rabbit once?

    It tried to climb into his canoe/boat. Which tells me that it was running out of steam and just wanted out of the water.

    Small wild animals are deadly dangerous. even if they cant kill you or cause severe injury, they can transmit rabies and other diseases.

    Please, don’t. I’ve been around wild animals all my life. I’ve had squirrels jump up on the toes of my boots. Caught a chipmunk in one of my bookcases with my bare hand and released it outside. Freed a yearling deer from a tangle of fencing and a loon from a fishing net. I can’t count the number of venomous snakes I’ve caught and released over the years. Live trapped dozens of raccoons and once even had a very sick raccoon try to steal my dinner off the grill on a float trip. Never mind the predators I have confronted in my chicken coop. I’ve never felt… Afraid?

    Can shit happen? Sure. My old man was bitten on his rather prodigious nose by a rat while sleeping on his B-29 during WWII.

    It all comes down to treating them with respect. Be aware, don’t corner them, step around them when possible, be careful when it’s not, etc etc etc. but don’t be fearful. They’re already scared half to death and that’s enough for both of you.

  16. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Scott: When I was reading that article, all I could see was Joel Osteen’s smirking face as he locked refugees out of his church during Hurricane Harvey. If they weren’t getting in his church he sure as sht wasn’t going to let them in his “house.”

  17. CSK says:

    According to Carter, he was fishing when a rabbit being chased by hounds swam toward his boat. He splashed water on it with a paddle, and it swam away and clambered out the other side of the pond.

    Somehow this became a story about a crazed killer bunny.

  18. Sleeping Dog says:


    We’re going to need to rely a lot on state Constitutions in stemming the subversion of Democracy. But in this TX case, the TX SC will uphold the law on appeal.

  19. CSK says:

    Donald Trump is very, very, very upset that Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated Joe Biden on winning the 2020 election. “I like loyalty,” Trump said. “Fuck him.”

  20. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Just a few steps away from the horse-drawn carriages that whisk tourists through New York’s Central Park and the opulence of the Plaza Hotel is an unassuming building on a quiet block in midtown Manhattan.

    The building is marked by an awning that reads “Park Savoy Hotel”. Nestled in between a 24-hour parking structure and an apartment building on a predominantly residential street, the Park Savoy blends in with the other hotels in the neighborhood.

    A sign on the front window of the building that says “Welcome to the Park Savoy rapid re-housing program” is the only marker that indicates it is a homeless shelter, built in one of the most pricey neighborhoods in New York. One that rich locals fought for years, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars campaigning against the crime and “irreparable injuries” they said it would bring – fears that appear to have been unfounded.

    It’s only been a month so there’s still plenty of time for an uptick in littering.

  21. Mikey says:

    @CSK: Of course none of the international relations factors, or even any benefit to America from Netanyahu’s acknowledgement, matters to Trump. He does not care about America. He only cares about what benefits him, who kisses his voluminous orange ass.

    Trump was really our first truly anti-American President.

  22. Jen says:

    @CSK: The fact that he can’t wrap the few functioning brain cells he has around WHY Netanyahu would congratulate Biden is all the proof I need that Trump is without a doubt the dumbest man we’ve ever had as president.

    This isn’t hard, and it has nothing to do with loyalty, it has to do with self-interest…something that Trump should be super-familiar with.

  23. OzarkHillbilly says:

    A German court has ruled that a man who slipped while walking a few metres from his bed to his home office can claim on workplace accident insurance as he was technically commuting.

    The man was working from home and on his way to his desk one floor below his bedroom, the federal social court, which oversees social security issues, said in its decision.

    While walking on the spiral staircase connecting the rooms, the unnamed man slipped and broke his back.

    The court noted that the employee usually started working in his home office “immediately without having breakfast beforehand”, but did not explain why that was relevant to the case. However, later it said that statutory accident insurance was only afforded to the “first” journey to work, suggesting that a trip on the way to get breakfast after already being in the home office could be rejected.

    The employer’s insurance refused to cover the claim. While two lower courts disagreed on whether the short trip was a commute, the higher federal social court said it had found that “the first morning journey from bed to the home office [was] an insured work route”.

  24. CSK says:

    @Mikey: @Jen:
    Nothing, absolutely nothing, supersedes loyalty to Trump, in Trump’s mind. Not even the time-honored formality of calling a president-elect to congratulate him or her on the win.

    The fact that Trump would see Netanyahu’s call as a betrayal of Trump rather than the tradition it is speaks volumes about Trump’s pathology as well as his utter ignorance of even the most basic protocols.

  25. Sleeping Dog says:


    In Boston, there is a transitional housing program operating out of a building across the street from the Ritz. Since the residents aren’t required to leave the place, and take their stuff, during the day, you don’t see the lines of shopping carts that are typical of many shelters. Pretty much the residents come and go and it is only if you notice that the people coming out of the building appear hardened and weather worn that you would wonder about the place. Most such residences in the city are similarly invisible.

  26. CSK says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    The old Ritz-Carlton on Arlington or the new one on Avery?

  27. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: As is my want, I read articles in bits and pieces as my morning progresses, and what do I read in that article?

    Well-off religious organizations that clearly have the means to afford their taxes don’t have to seek the exemption. Lakewood Church did not ask the Harris County appraiser for a tax break on the 15,000-square-foot residence of the state’s most famous prosperity gospel preacher, Joel Osteen. His annual tax bill comes to $218,000 a year, according to county tax records.

    Osteen, who hasn’t taken a salary since 2004, believes it’s important for donors to know all their money goes to the church, said his brother-in-law, Don Illof.

    “He could take the parsonage break,” Illof said. “But he pays his property taxes, just like he’s supposed to.”

    My apologies Joel, you’re a slimy pos but I guess you do have limits.

  28. Sleeping Dog says:
  29. Sleeping Dog says:


    The Ritz on Avery St. When we go into the Opera House, we typically park in the Garden garage and walk past the Ritz from Tremont. I began noticing that the folks coming in and out of that building didn’t look like your typical theater patron and determined that it was a program.

  30. CSK says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    Thanks. I should have realized that. Across the street from the old Ritz is the Public Garden.

    The old Ritz became the Taj and is now the Newbury, I think.

  31. Sleeping Dog says:


    It is the Newbury. I do miss when it was the old Ritz. In grad school we’d go over there now and again to upset the regulars. Used to see George V. Higgins and Robert B. Parker in there once in a while, alas never together. As I recall, a jacket and tie was required for the bar, which often meant a trip to a thrift store hoping to find an uglier tie than what they kept in house for miscreants such as us louts.

    Never made it to Locke-Ober. I could summon up money for a drink at the Ritz, but not enough for lunch or dinner. After moving back here, I kept promising myself we’d go and then it closed.

  32. CSK says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    Oh, yes. Those were the days. Sometimes my friends and I would gather in the Ritz bar for martinis. Locke-Ober I recall going to once. And the Union Oyster House a few times.

    Bob Parker was a friend of mine. Higgins I spoke to on a few occasions, but I never really knew him.

    Good times.

  33. Mu Yixiao says:
  34. CSK says:

    Was Trump not invited to Bob Dole’s funeral, or did he just not bother to show up?

  35. gVOR08 says:

    @CSK: Of course they tell you normies they don’t really believe it.

  36. gVOR08 says:

    @gVOR08: Dang, meant @Mu Yixiao: and no Edit.

  37. gVOR08 says:

    Jamelle Bouie weighed in today on how the lefties are ruining it for the Democratic Party with their CRT and defund the police.

    Perhaps the problem, then, lies less with the rhetoric (or existence) of progressive Democrats and more with any number of transformations in the material circumstances of American life and the response — or lack thereof — from the Democrats with the power to do something. What was the Democratic Party’s response to a generation of neoliberal economic restructuring? What was its response to the near-total collapse of private-sector unions? What was its response to the declining fortunes of American workers and the upward redistribution of American wealth?

    The answer, for most of the last 30 years, is that the moderate Democrats who led the party have either acquiesced in these trends or, as in the case of the Clinton administration, actively pushed them along. And to the extent that these Democrats offered policies targeted to working Americans, they very often failed to deliver on their promises.

    The result, as David Dayen of The American Prospect notes in “The Case for Deliverism,” is that “cynicism finds a breeding ground. People tune out the Democratic message as pretty words in a speech. Eventually, Democratic support gets ground down to a nub, surfacing only in major metropolitan areas that have a cultural affinity for liberalism.” These Democrats, in their failure to deliver, lend credence to the view that Washington is more a hindrance than a help. We can see this right now, as moderate and conservative Democratic resistance to the most ambitious parts of Biden’s agenda has bogged down the entire party and hurt its overall standing.

    If and when Democrats lose one or both chambers of Congress — and when we all face the consequences of their failure — I am confident that we’ll hear, once again, how it’s everyone’s fault but their own.

    It ain’t The Squad that’s holding up Biden’s agenda.

    On a related note Erik Loomis links an NBER paper on the effects of NAFTA. The abstract,

    Why have white, less educated voters left the Democratic Party over the past few decades? Scholars have proposed ethnocentrism, social issues and deindustrialization as potential answers. We highlight the role played by the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). In event-study analysis, we demonstrate that counties whose 1990 employment depended on industries vulnerable to NAFTA suffered large and persistent employment losses relative to other counties. These losses begin in the mid-1990s and are only modestly offset by transfer programs. While exposed counties historically voted Democratic, in the mid-1990s they turn away from the party of the president (Bill Clinton) who ushered in the agreement and by 2000 vote majority Republican in House elections. Employing a variety of micro-data sources, including 1992-1994 respondent-level panel data, we show that protectionist views predict movement toward the GOP in the years that NAFTA is debated and implemented. This shift among protectionist respondents is larger for whites (especially men and those without a college degree) and those with conservative social views, suggesting an interactive effect whereby racial identity and social-issue positions mediate reactions to economic policies. The abstract,

    Maybe, just maybe, if the moderates who run the party would actually stand for something, the electorate would take them seriously. Maybe they can’t win easily in this term. The GOPs fought Roe v Wade for 40 years.

  38. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Michael Nesmith has taken The Last Train to Clarksville, where everyday is a Pleasant Valley Sunday.

  39. EddieInCA says:
  40. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: Does it matter? Would anyone really care if FG had shunned the invitation? Wouldn’t it be sad if it were important for FG to be there?

  41. Kathy says:


    I didn’t say shoot them, beat them to death, or light them on fire. Only that they are dangerous because they can carry disease. That’s a factual statement, not a judgment.

    Wild almonds are poisonous. That’s a factual statement, not an entreaty to chop down wild almond groves.

  42. CSK says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    Doesn’t matter to me at all. I was just curious. I think all the other presidents who were able attended.

  43. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @gVOR08: The moderates who run the party DO stand for something, just as the moderates we wished ran the GQP stand for something. In fact, both groups stand for the SAME thing–maintenance of the status quo. IOW, keeping the KKKLAANNNGGGs (and any other poor, immigrant, whatever folks) in their place and out of the neighborhoods of those who run the political parties.

  44. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    Just want to note that Nesmith isn’t involved with “Last Train to Clarksville” at all; he didn’t write it, didn’t sing in it, and it was recorded with session musicians in the period before the group started playing their own instruments in the recordings.

  45. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kathy: You said, and I quote:

    Small wild animals are deadly dangerous. even if they cant kill you or cause severe injury, they can transmit rabies and other diseases.


  46. Kathy says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    Not as real as paywalls.

    I can’t decide which is more outrageous. The birds don’t exist, the Earth is flat, or the phantom time.

  47. Jen says:

    Small wild animals, such as bats, carry diseases that can make the leap to humans and cause global pandemics.

    While I’m not going to cower in fear of the squirrels and chipmunks in my yard, Kathy isn’t wrong.

  48. Kathy says:


    A mouse is a timid scavenger. My biggest fear on seeing one is that I might step on it inadvertently. Rats are another matter. even cats don’t mess with them one on one, and who are we to question the gods?


    Thank you.

  49. Jax says:

    @Kathy: I used to have a cat that would regularly bring home weasels. She was a pretty badass huntress.

  50. Kathy says:


    I wonder why there are no “wildlife” videos of domestic cats attacking and killing prey.

  51. Jax says:

    @Kathy: I’ve got some slow-mo videos of my cats jumping for hummingbirds, but that’s cuz the hummingbirds always win. 😛 Cats are really just killing machines. I wish I could teach them to leave the pretty birds alone!!!

  52. Jax says:

    Here ya go. Dumbest thing I’ve seen today. Luckily, I don’t believe he has any shot at a national presence, but it’s bad enough he serves in our state legislature.

  53. Kathy says:


    The one very real risk from vaccines, is that the weakened or killed pathogen used to elicit an immune response, doesn’t get weakened or killed all the way in the manufacturing process.

    This was rare in Pasteur’s day, and he couldn’t even see viruses. But it did happen now and then that the vaccine gave the people the disease it was meant to prevent.

    The three vaccines available in the US, plus AstraZeneca, have no weakened or dead virus. The mRNA vaccines plain have no virus at all. J&J and AZ have a live common cold adenovirus, modified so it won’t reproduce, which only delivers the genetic information for the cells’ ribosomes to make spike proteins.

    The one real danger here is that mistakes in manufacturing might make the virus ineffective at its vector task, and thus not work to confer immunity. I suppose similar pitfalls might make mRNA not carry the right info.

    That’s it. the incidence of blood clots an myocarditis, and other serios side effects, has been no worse, as far as I know, from that of other vaccines.

    As for people missing work a day or two due to side effects like fatigue, fever, body aches, etc. we were told to expect them.

    It’s the dumbest thing I’ve read all day, too.

  54. Jax says:

    @Kathy: There are times when I see stupid crap like this and I want to go meet them in person to see if they’re ACTUALLY that dumb. I mean, it’s Wyoming, I probably wouldn’t have to work very hard at it, you can’t throw a rock without turning up a cousin or two.

    But he looks germy. 😛 😛

  55. MarkedMan says:


    I wonder why there are no “wildlife” videos of domestic cats attacking and killing prey.

    FWIW, our cat was a rescue from the woods, and he spent at least some months living off the land, and has the scars to prove it. As such he has always been an indoor/outdoor cat and during the summer months he would take a bite of his food in the morning, just to make sure it was still there, then head out for the day. In twelve years I’ve never seen him kill and eat anything more than a bug. But I know he was going through a lot of small critters, because there was some kind of tiny greenish organ he wouldn’t eat and he would carefully deposit it in the center of a flagstone on a path we had in the garden. Organ from critter #2 went on flagstone #2 and so forth. At least once there was a five flagstone day. I’m sure the mice and moles still talk about it.

  56. Jax says:

    @MarkedMan: I can tell which of my cats did the murdering by what parts they leave behind. One only eats the head, another likes the butt, and another has this magical way of just leaving the guts, right where I’ll step on them. He came by his 25 pounds honestly. 🙂

  57. Kathy says:


    My cat was adopted temporarily by the crew constructing a house. The house’s owner gave her to us when they were finished, as no one wanted to take her home. I know they fed her, but not what else she did.

    She spent most of her time upstairs, rarely venturing to the ground floor, much less outside. Except, she’d go out on the roof (houses here have flat roofs), and, again, we never knew where she went. One time she went missing for a couple of days, then showed up right outside the front gate waiting to be let in.

    To my knowledge, she never brought any “gifts” home. I saw her try to pounce on a bird once, but mostly she hunted her toys and pieces of string when I played with her.

  58. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kathy: A mouse is a timid scavenger. My biggest fear on seeing one is that I might step on it inadvertently. Rats are another matter. even cats don’t mess with them one on one, and who are we to question the gods?

    I live in the country. Dealing with rats is the mean of living out here. You keep on keeping on with your hyperbole.

    I’m still gonna call bullshit.

  59. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kathy: FTR, my in house cat killed a copperhead in our bedroom.

    Maybe the reason there are no videos is because people have better things to do with their time.

  60. Gustopher says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Why did you have… no, no, never mind. I’m just going to say that your dating life and social choices suck if you’re trying to bed venomous snakes.

    Also, it’s rude of your cat to kill your date.