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:

    Wow. Didn’t expect this to happen so quick.

    Filed my income tax return Feb 7th. Received refund Feb 16th.

    Granted it was nothing complicated. Standard deduction, some Sch D action, all online. All through TurboTax. But that’s it.

    It makes me happy when everything works correctly.

  2. Tony W says:

    @Scott: Ronald Reagan made it fashionable to declare that the government doesn’t do anything well, then proceeded to make his prediction come true (to the best of his abilities).

    The truth is that the government does some things amazingly well, and managing hundreds of millions of taxpayer returns, quickly and with very little error, is one of those things.

  3. Mu Yixiao says:


    I did the same thing. I used Turbo Tax with all default settings (half my stuff imports directly from ADP, so I didn’t even have to type), and had money in my account (both state and fed) within a week. All for about $40 (rather than the $150 the local CPA wants–or the $350 the big name guys were asking last year before they closed down and left).

  4. CSK says:

    Jenna Ryan, the Texas realtor/Capitol Hill rioter who said she wouldn’t go to prison because she’s white and blonde, has just been released from prison.

    Apparently she learned nothing from the sentence she served, because she’s back on Twitter tweeting up a storm about Alex Jones’a latest fulminations and other conspiracies beloved of the Trumpkins.

  5. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    I’m the type of guy who will never pay someone to do something he can do himself, even if doing it himself takes 10 times as long and involves a few trips to the hospital. I’ve never paid a mechanic for something less complicated than dropping in a new transmission, I’ve completed two top-to-bottom house renovations, only paying to have done the stuff that could easily kill me or cause me a big headache with inspectors. My wife only semi-jokingly made me promise I wouldn’t fight over having a doctor deliver our kids.

    Last year, after TWO extensions and misreporting an income stream that held up my return, hiring a CPA became the very first “screw it, my time is more valuable” service I’ve ever contracted.

    I emailed him my documents at noon and he had my return ready by 1. Why hadn’t I done this 5 years ago?

  6. grumpy realist says:

    For those who have been morbidly following the train wreck known as Prince Andrew, he’s settled with his accuser.

    For once I would wish that Mummy the Queen would have NOT bailed him out. As she has done financially, over and over.

    Luckily, his reputation is totally toast.

  7. Jen says:

    We hired an accountant to do our taxes when I started two very different businesses. One (the home baking business) involved a bunch of equipment depreciation schedules and the other (my writing work) involved home office deductions and similar. My husband and I decided that our risk of screwing up our taxes was increasing as the complexity of said taxes increased. The $200 a year we spend is well worth it, IMHO.

  8. Kathy says:

    IMO, Benito’s lawyers should have argued he can’t answer questions under oath because he’s a pathological liar, thus it would be unfair for a person with his disability.

    It might even be true.

  9. Kylopod says:
  10. CSK says:

    @Kathy: @Kylopod:
    Isn’t that why his lawyers have always been desperate to keep him from being deposed or from testifying? They know he’ll lie.

  11. Mu Yixiao says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    I learned long ago not to do my own taxes. Just not worth it.

    This was highlighted when I was working as a stagehand. While I was a union hand, I was working through the union, but working for the venue, or the promoter, or possibly someone else.

    I remember getting my taxes done at an H&R Block once. The guy says “Okay… let’s see your W-2–Do you have more than one?” And then going bug-eyed when I pulled out a stack of about 20 of them, along with several 10-99s, and a bundle of receipts.

    Now I’m down to two W-2s (and only that because of pandemic furloughs, and picking up part time to fill it) and my mortgage/property tax statement. But it’s still easier to pay the $40 and make sure that everything is done right and fast.

  12. grumpy realist says:

    @Mu Yixiao: I kept driving my tax person nuts because I would present her with situations she discovered there were no obvious regulations for. (e.g. whether my post-doc from the Japanese gov’t was to be considered a fellowship or not.) Then there was the fact that all the paperwork I would send her from my side of the Pacific was completely in Japanese (I would scribble in translations in the margin). Good times.

  13. Joe says:

    @Mu Yixiao: I have a call set with my LA production assistant son to help him do his taxes. I will be curious how many W2s/1099s he has, but sent him a spreadsheet to keep track of them.

  14. wr says:

    @Neil Hudelson: “Why hadn’t I done this 5 years ago?”

    I certainly get the “but I can do it my myself” attitude, but there has always been an easy cost/benefit analysis that could talk me out of it. For instance, I felt really weird hiring a dog walker when we moved to New York. I mean, I liked walking the dog, and did it multiple times per day (and sometimes in the middle of the night, when he thought something exciting might be going down in Koreatown). But the mid-afternoon walk was killing me because I’d not only lose the hour I was walking him, but probably another half hour before and after. The dog-sitter charged 25 bucks an hour. I get paid multiple times that. So I was throwing money away by not hiring her.

    And the dog agreed — her liked her way more than us!

  15. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    I’m the type of guy who will never pay someone to do something he can do himself, even if doing it himself takes 10 times as long and involves a few trips to the hospital.

    I am your diametric opposite. I won’t do anything if I can get someone else to do it.

  16. Mister Bluster says:

    Jurors in Sarah Palin’s defamation lawsuit against The New York Times say they got notifications on their phones that the case had been dismissed before reaching a verdict

    I deliver the Murphysboro Times to the Jackson County (IL) Courthouse once a week there is a HUGE sign at the entrance: NO CELLPHONES ALLOWED IN COURTHOUSE. Exceptions for attorneys and Courthouse employees.
    I have read this story several times and do not see that it is stated that jurors had their phones while they were deliberating however I can only assume that they did.
    It’s been several years since I was called for jury duty. I know I left my cellphone in the car. I am surprised that the jurors in this case were allowed to have their cellphone with them if that was the case.

  17. just nutha says:

    @Scott: I haven’t received my refund from last year yet. But it was only a month or two ago that the final disposition on my 2020 1040X was finished. My taxes are a mess these days. I think I’ll hire an accountant this year.

  18. CSK says:

    @Mister Bluster:
    It seems they had their cell phones with them in the jury room. But since they were sequestered, they’d have found out late Monday afternoon when they left the courtroom.

    The judge told them to avoid reading news accounts. That’s a lot easier said than done.

  19. Jay L Gischer says:

    @CSK: Yes, there is a good chance he will lie. There is a good chance he will lie badly. There is a good chance he will lie obviously. There is also a chance, I think, that he will take an opportunity to boast about his wrongdoing. I mean, we’ve seen that in the past few months, right?

  20. just nutha says:

    @just nutha: My taxes didn’t get hard until I retired and started have different rates of taxation on different types of income. I’ve had an audit/a correction from the IRS or a revised return (one–because I misplaced an income statement) every year for 5 or 6 years running.

  21. Kathy says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    Unless someone physically collects cell phones at the entrance, it’s a bit like banning underwear or shoes. It just won’t work.

  22. HarvardLaw92 says:

    Just in: GOP Rep. Jim Hagedorn, of Minnesota, has died at 59.

  23. CSK says:

    I meant to say “were not sequestered.”

  24. Kathy says:


    Is there anything in the law against a perjury trap? I’d dare Benito to lie. I’d imply he’s not smart enough, nor rich enough to get away with it. No way he lets it go.

  25. Mister Bluster says:

    @Kathy:..Unless someone physically collects cell phones at the entrance,..

    That’s what is done here. There are cell phone lockers in the vestibule for those who enter and forget to leave their phones in the car or anyone in town who walks to the Courthouse with their phone. The other sign at the entrance cites that masks are mandated in the buildng. Then before you can enter the main hall of the Courthouse there are at least two Deputies stationed at a walk through metal detector checking for metal objects. I have been delivering to the Courthouse on a regular basis since well before covid. By now they know why I am there. I don’t even slow down as I approach the metal detector. I just say hello as they wave me through. The machine beeps. Belt buckle, change, keys? Don’t know. My phone is in the car. Place papers on the rack. Gather any returns and it’s “See you later” as they reply “Have a day”.
    These Deputies are too young to know anything about my radical past or they would strip search me every time.
    Main Street, Sleepytown. 1970. When it wasn’t so sleepy.

  26. Kylopod says:

    @Kathy: According to Wikipedia, the concept of a perjury trap is controversial and has never been successfully used against a party (or in defense of someone accused of perjury) in court.

    I did in fact first hear the term from Dershowitz, but during the Lewinsky scandal in the ’90s. In that case, I think his point was that Clinton walked into a perjury trap by having to testify about his sex life (I suppose because it was an area where he was very likely to lie due to the public embarrassment factor).

  27. Kylopod says:

    @Kathy: Also, while this seems like an obvious point, a lot of of people are surprisingly unaware of it: lying under oath isn’t considered perjury unless it’s material to the case–that is, it could conceivably affect the outcome. If Trump said under oath he had the biggest inauguration, it probably wouldn’t be perjury according to the legal definition.

  28. EddieInCA says:

    Kim Potter killed Daunte Wright on accident, yet will only serve 16 months in prison. I know people who have served more time for having a fvcking dime bag. This is why those of us of color think the system is effed up.

    This is outrageous. 16 months???? Seriously?? WTF?

  29. Mike in Arlington says:

    @Kathy: I don’t think there’s anything necessarily illegal about a perjury trap. That said, if I were a prosecutor, I wouldn’t want to try prosecuting a former president on the charge of perjury because it would be a giant political minefield. Add into that minefield the chance that there are enough sympathetic jurors that would think of him as a martyr and vote to acquit.

    It’s better to trash his credibility in a court by showing him lying and giving the jury/judge a “truth sandwich” to really hammer home that he’s lying. Of course, you get one Trump partisan on that jury, and they’ll deadlock.

    When a judge realizes that one side is completely without credibility, the “benefit of the doubt” goes out the window.

  30. Mike in Arlington says:

    @Kylopod: I remember hearing that one of the suspected reasons that Clinton settled with Paula Jones was to end the case before the judge could rule that his testimony about Lewinsky was material to the Jones case, making it material and thus perjury.

  31. HarvardLaw92 says:


    The law specifically? No. SCOTUS was been clear in United States v. Mandujano, 425 U.S. 564 (1976) that there is no duty to warn witnesses of the consequences of committing perjury. That said, DOJ requirements (the JM) require federal prosecutors to give warnings to subjects or targets of grand jury investigations and to advise putative defendants of their status as such. For the individual states, it varies.

    Perjury trap, in itself, is a (rarely successful) form of entrapment defense (i.e. the government illegally procured the perjurious response[s]) , but the burden of proof lies with the defendant asserting it. The warnings given by federal prosecutors are specifically designed / intended to proactively nullify that defense. However, they are not required by law (just DOJ policy), so the failure to give them doesn’t constitute grounds for dismissal of an indictment. United States v. Washington, 431 U.S. 181 (1977)

  32. Kathy says:

    @Mike in Arlington:

    The trap isn’t so much to get him criminally on perjury, but just to add to his legal troubles. At what point does respect for the office he didn’t respect stop and prosecution can go forward?

    IMO, people are too frightened of setting precedents. Plenty of other countries, including many “first world” ones, have prosecuted former heads of state (real ones, not figureheads), without causing any problems later.

  33. HarvardLaw92 says:


    Correct, although the definition of material in that sense, as defined by SCOTUS, is pretty broad. According to the court:

    A false statement is material if it has “a natural tendency to influence, or is capable of influencing, the decision of the decision-making body to which it was addressed.” Kungys v. United States, 485 U.S. 759 (1988)

    The testimony need not have actually influenced, misled or impeded the proceeding. The mere potential that it could have done so is generally sufficient to satisfy the materiality element of perjury. In the wake of United States v. Gaudin, 515 U.S. 506 (1995), materiality at the federal level (as a required element of perjury) is now overwhelmingly a matter decided by juries.

  34. Kylopod says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Thank you for the background. I then should ask: If Trump were deposed in the New York fraud case and said under oath that he had the greatest inauguration crowd size in all of human history, would that constitute perjury?

  35. HarvardLaw92 says:


    In that context, no. With respect to depositions, the false statement must tend to affect the outcome of the underlying civil suit for which the deposition was taken. That determination of “tend to affect” tends to be construed pretty broadly, but I can’t imagine a scenario where that statement would ever fit the bill.

  36. Jen says:

    Melania Trump is fussing that she’s being “cancelled” after a donation to an Oklahoma school to fund scholarships fell through.

    After reading the article, it sounds to me more like this is garden-variety having things go to cr@p when you fail to do your homework. Also, the NYT piece seems to contain random bits of information that may or may not be relevant to why this all fell apart.

    She has selected helping foster children as a charity–fine. How does the computer science school fit into this? It just sounds like someone, somewhere had an idea and didn’t bother researching the applicable laws, then, when she gets caught out on it, she starts whining. Just like her husband.

    These people are so accustomed to getting their way no matter how much they fv*k things up that when something falls through it’s immediately a conspiracy.

  37. HarvardLaw92 says:


    The trap isn’t so much to get him criminally on perjury, but just to add to his legal troubles

    That’s getting pretty close to the textbook definitions of frivolous and vexatious. Just saying.

  38. Kathy says:


    Oh, that was unintentional.

    It was supposed to go well past the textbook definitions.

  39. Mike in Arlington says:

    @Kathy: The story I heard about the Microsoft anti-trust trial was that when they played Bill Gates’ testimony in front of the jury, and it was obvious that he being less than forthcoming*, it caused massive problems in their case because their credibility went into the toilet.

    I suspect any perjury traps for trump will be used in a similar way. They do have to be careful because he does have some charisma that works really well on some people, so they have to do their level best to counter that (which is why I suggested a “truth sandwich” like was done on the recent NPR interview).

    *If he wasn’t lying, he came right up to the line. And when he wasn’t outright lying, he was clearly being evasive.

  40. Kylopod says:

    @Mike in Arlington: We shouldn’t lose sight of what Kathy and I said earlier: there’s this assumption that putting Trump on the stand is inherently a “perjury trap,” since he can’t help lying. That is not the traditional meaning of a perjury trap–whether you consider it a valid legal concept or not. People are almost treating Trump’s habitual lying like he’s got Tourette’s, where we’re supposed to discount what comes out of his mouth because he simply can’t help himself.

  41. Kathy says:


    That’s where the doublethink really works overtime. If he can’t help lying, how can he be honest, and how can anyone believe anything he says? Yet many in his base, and others, pretty much bet their life COVID was just the flu.

  42. Kathy says:

    I think Vlad is signaling pretty obviously he will invade Ukraine the minute the Olympic flame is extinguished in Beijing.

  43. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I have an accountant do my very simple taxes every year due to the severe anxiety attacks I suffer that have their source in my first marriage, the separation years and divorce from a pathological liar, drug addict, and thief.

    I don’t even know how much I pay. Whatever it is, it is worth the relief I feel at signing the paperwork without any worries about the IRS or my ex’s BS (whom I haven’t really had to worry about since she went to prison the 1st time).

  44. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kylopod: My ex couldn’t help herself. The few times she uttered an unadulterated truth it was in service to a much larger lie. Which is why she avoided the witness stand like the plague.

  45. Kylopod says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: My point is that, for people like that, it’s on them. It should be treated as a character defect they should be the ones to pay the price for, not a disability we should learn to tolerate.

  46. HarvardLaw92 says:

    Just noticed: NARA definitively acknowledged today that the boxes of record recovered from Trump in Florida contained classified information (marked as classified, there is no mistaking that), and it is discussing them with the Department of Defense. Doo doo – deep.

  47. Stormy Dragon says:


    Granted it was nothing complicated. Standard deduction, some Sch D action, all online. All through TurboTax. But that’s it.

    For the vast majority of people, the IRS could just calculate their tax return for them because it already has all the documents, and just let them either approve it or submit their own if they disagree.

    They’re prevented from doing so because the Tax Preparer lobby is surprisingly powerful and makes sure the IRS is prevented from doing this so that they can charge people money for the service.

  48. Mikey says:

    @HarvardLaw92: LOCK HIM UP! LOCK HIM UP!

    Just another among a million data points indicating when it comes to Trump, every accusation is a confession.

  49. Dude Kembro says:

    Can some of the great legal minds here weigh in on Fox News’s Durham brouhaha?

    It seems Fox News pretty clearly and directly lied, reporting on Feb 12 Durham was alleging Hillary “infiltrated” and spied on Trump White House internet traffic. Among the most glaring errors in this is that the internet traffic in question was from 2016. Apparently, Fox is too stupid to remember Obama was president in 2016, not Trump.

    But Fox News’s reporting set off a weeklong firestorm in the Republican outrage machine, one widely ignored by the legacy media except to debunk the lies.

    By yesterday, Durham appeared to be distancing his investigation from the right’s sloppy conspiracy in a Feb 18 filing that included this: “If third parties or members of the media have overstated, understated or otherwise misinterpreted facts contained in the government’s motion, that does not in any way undermine the valid reasons for the government’s inclusion of this information.”

    At the same time, Hillary threatened Fox with a defamation lawsuit, telling the New York Dem Convention the reports were approaching “actual malice.”

    By that evening, Trump impeachment defender Alan Dershowitz was telling Newsmax Durham had not found a Hillary connection. And conservative radio host Howard Kurtz went on Fox News itself to say the spying reports were overblown (after Kurtz spent the week blasting the MSM for ignoring this latest round of Hillary Derangement Syndrome).

    By this morning, Feb 19, Fox seems to have toned down its coverage.

    What is going on? Is it likely the Fox News legal dept intervened, because the network was falling into hot water here? It’s typically hard for public figures to prove defamation, but not impossible. Sarah Palin just lost her NY Times libel suit, while last month Cardi B won a defamation case against a blogger.

  50. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kylopod: Oh I got your point, and I agree wholeheartedly. I really don’t know how she stayed out of prison as long as she did other than cute little redheads evoke sympathy to such an extent prosecutors were loath to charge her. Her 2nd round with the system, she must have really pissed off the prosecutor because he was like a pit bull, Once he got his teeth into her he wasn’t letting go.

    She got 7 years and did 6 1/2. I figured she be out in 3 max.

  51. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Who says crime doesn’t pay? Diamond thief must pay back £244 after record £4.2m heist

    You read that right, and it’s not a typo.

  52. DK says:

    Of course, the icing on cake is that it appears Trump really did destroy, steal, and otherwise mishandle classified records. Not good, especially top of the Trump orbit’s other increasing legal woes — ones that reduced Eric Trump to tears on TV this week. Explains why Republicans are so desperate to change the subject to Hillary. I’m hoping Fox News stepped on a libel landmine while doing so.


  53. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Dude Kembro:

    The other day, Andrew McCarthy had an article up basically saying that the entire Durham, Hillary spygate kerfuffle has been made up from whole cloth. And when the RW press loses Andrew…

  54. Sleeping Dog says:


    The problem that DoJ will have with this, is showing that the docs in question were removed at TFG’s request/instruction.

  55. Kathy says:


    The trumpy base will declare his innocence from the rooftops, if he appeared on a live stream raping Ivanka, while roasting a baby, and eating Eric’s liver. They’ll say it’s fake news, even after Benito releases a cookbook with 101 recipes for roasted human baby.

    The GOP will claim that’s nothing compared to Hillary’s email server, and didn’t Obama once wear a tan suit?

  56. OzarkHillbilly says:
  57. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I had meant add Perseverance’s NASA page. My bad.

  58. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    Really doesn’t matter. Simply having them in his possession violates federal law, much less having them in his possession in an unauthorized location. Trump’s authority with respect to access to classified material (presidents do not have security clearances, their access stems from the office itself) ended the second that Joe Biden was sworn in. From that moment on, he’s Joe Private Citizen, without a shred of access unless it was formally granted to him (which is highly unlikely).

    Fairly clear cut violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1924(a) (and yes, I’m aware of the operation of knowingly in the statute).

  59. Mikey says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Former Presidents can be granted access to classified information at the discretion of the current President. Even if this was done by Biden for Trump, it’s certainly very unlikely it would extend to squirreling away boxes of classified documents in whatever facility Mar-a-Lago has.

    I would be interested in knowing whether there was any SCIF space built out at Mar-a-Lago–Trump spent a lot of time there and it would have made sense (assuming he was actually doing his job). But even then, would there have been any need to maintain accreditation after he left office? A SCIF without accreditation is just a well-built room.

  60. HarvardLaw92 says:


    Right, hence “without a shred of access unless it was formally granted to him”. I have serious doubts that Biden would authorize him to be cleared, and without a formal BI and adjudication that’s the only way he could still have access – direct presidential action authorizing it.

    It’s possible there was a SCIF, but I have my doubts that anybody unconcerned with possessing unauthorized materials would be that concerned with where they were kept. Best I can tell they were intermingled with other documents in boxes.

  61. Kathy says:


    (and yes, I’m aware of the operation of knowingly in the statute).

    That can be problematic, as Benito has proved beyond doubt he doesn’t even know he knows nothing.

  62. Sleeping Dog says:


    IIRC, ex pres have received intelligence briefings, those have been denied to TFG.

    HL92, thanks for the clarification on absconding with classified info.

  63. DK says:


    Who says crime doesn’t pay? Diamond thief must pay back £244 after record £4.2m heist

    Lol wut? Whither the diamonds? Did she throw them into the ocean at the end of thd movie or…?