Monday’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. JohnMcC says:
  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Known for its coastlines, mountains and the state that was “first in flight”, North Carolina has also developed a more dubious reputation as a regional destination for adults who want to marry children.

    State lawmakers are nearing passage of a bill that could finally dampen the state’s appeal as the go-to place to bring child brides – but would still leave it short of a national push to increase the age to 18. The proposed legislation would raise the minimum marriage age from 14 to 16 and limit the age difference between a 16-year-old and their spouse to four years.
    Two-thirds of the marriage applications in Buncombe county last year were filed by nonresidents seeking to marry an underage person, Reisinger said.

    The state is currently one of 13 that allow children under 16 to wed, according to Unchained at Last, a nonprofit organization that advocates ending child and forced marriages in the US. Nine of those states have no set minimum age, the group says, relying instead on case law or a judge’s ruling.

    Actually, it’s a whole lot more common than one might expect:

    U.S. States
    Main article: Marriage age in the United States

    Every state except New York, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Minnesota, and New Jersey allows underage marriage in exceptional circumstances if one or more of the following circumstances apply:

    consent of a court clerk or judge (sometimes the consent of a superior court judge, rather than a local judge, is required)
    consent of the parents or legal guardians of the minor
    if one of the parties is pregnant
    if the minor has given birth to a child
    if the minor is emancipated.

    In both Massachusetts and California, for instance, the general marriage age is 18, but children may be married with parental consent and judicial approval with no minimum age limit.[40][41]

    So, as of June 2020, in the 40 states that have set a marriage age by statute, the lower minimum marriage age when all exceptions are taken into account, are:

    2 states have a minimum age of 14: Alaska and North Carolina
    3 states have a minimum age of 15.
    21 states have a minimum age of 16.
    10 states have a minimum age of 17.
    6 states have a minimum age of 18.

    From 2017[42][43] to 2020,[44][45][46][47][48][49][50][51] [52][53][54] several states changed their law to set a minimum age, to raise their minimum age, or to make more stringent the conditions under which an underage marriage may occur. In the absence of any statutory minimum age, some conclude that the minimum common law marriageable age of 12 for girls and 14 for boys may still apply.[55][56]

    That last is from wikipedia. My google research shows things are all over the place and a bit confusing but the wiki page is a decent compilation, tho it may be inaccurate here or there. Hard to say w/o devoting hours looking into the particulars.

  3. Scott says:

    Today is the first day of school here in San Antonio. My wife, a school counselor, is kind of dreading it. With the rapid rise of COVID in the county, there is a shortage of teachers and you can’t get subs. Basic public health measures are now totally politicized. Courts are saying yes, then no to any public health mandates, agreeing or disagreeing with the Governor over who has authority.

    The Texas Supreme Court agreed last night with the Governor’s position. They are all elected Republicans.

    So the political science question of the day is: Elected judges, good or bad? Discuss!

  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Tyler Gilbert makes first MLB start at age of 27 … and throws no-hitter

    Tyler Gilbert, an aspiring electrician, delivered a shocker for the history books on Saturday night as he threw a no-hitter on his first big league start.

    Gilbert struck out Trent Grisham and Ha-Seong Kim in the ninth inning before Tommy Pham lined out to center fielder Ketel Marte to clinch a 7-0 victory for the Arizona Diamondbacks over the San Diego Padres.
    Among those celebrating the first Diamondbacks no-hitter at home was Gilbert’s family. They were also on hand for his debut in relief earlier this month. Gilbert didn’t play baseball in 2020 after the minor league season was wiped out by the pandemic. He spent the summer learning to be an electrician from his dad, making some extra money while occasionally crawling around attics and in between walls.

    “I’d rather be doing this than pulling wires,” Gilbert said with a grin. “No offense, Dad.”
    The last pitcher to accomplish the feat before Gilbert was Bobo Holloman of the St Louis Browns in 1953. Bumpus Jones also did it in his major league debut with the Cincinnati Reds in 1892, and Theodore Breitenstein threw one in his first start for the Browns in 1891.

    I’d say, “It’s all down hill from here.” but maybe not. Pitching a World Series clincher might beat it. Here’s looking at you Tyler. May you have a long and prosperous career.

  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Scott: Elected judges, good or bad?

    No. Just no.

  6. Sleeping Dog says:


    The election of judges is a horrible idea, particularly state supreme court justices. It simply becomes another place for the wealthy and special interests, to buy influence through campaign contributions.

  7. Sleeping Dog says:

    Specifically regarding TX, the fact they are elected and are all R’s is immaterial, given that R’s have dominated TX government for 20 years. Even if the appointment process was similar to the Feds, they would be R’s.

  8. de stijl says:


    Theodore Breitenstein is one bad-ass name.

  9. de stijl says:

    Electing judges is a bad idea.

    Justice should not be majoritorian.

  10. charon says:

    Elected judges can produce a bias towards harsh sentences in criminal trials if judges are trying for a reputation for toughness, This can depend on the type of case, too.

    In TX, judges write thank you letters to everyone at the voir dire after the trial, I have seen letters that were really something.

  11. Kylopod says:

    I remember this local story in the 1990s:

    Judge Thomas Bollinger, S2, of Baltimore County Circuit Court, granted mere probation to a 44-year-old man who was found guilty of raping his 18-year-old employee after she got drunk and passed out on his bed. At the sentencing last April, Judge Bollinger said the victim had “facilitated” the crime by getting drunk, and he worried that criminalizing intercourse with a sleeping woman might make many husbands, in the eyes of the law, rapists. When the victim’s lawyer described the scenario of a woman left vulnerable on a bed as the defendant’s “dream come true,” Judge Bollinger remarked it was “the dream of a lot of males, quite honestly.” After angry demonstrations by women’s groups, Judge Bollinger said he was misinterpreted; he was sorry he hadn’t added “unfortunately” to his “dream of a lot of males” remark. Nevertheless, he was fined $500 and agreed, grudgingly, to take a rape-sensitivity course.

  12. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Sleeping Dog: Even if the appointment process was similar to the Feds, they would be R’s.

    Yes but just as our conservative USSC justices have strayed from the one true faith on occasion, TX SC judges might do the same if they didn’t have to worry about donors and voters.

  13. @Scott:

    So the political science question of the day is: Elected judges, good or bad? Discuss!

    Definitely bad. The wrong incentives are in play.

  14. Kylopod says:

    The other day under a Youtube vid about an anti-vax rant by Tom Hanks’ 30-year-old son, I left a brief comment about covidiots, and naturally I received a swarm of anti-vax responses that accused me of drinking the kool-aid. I have a general policy of not engaging with crazies on Youtube, but others in the thread took up the mantle. Here is one exchange during the conversation:

    [Commenter 1] “Can’t take anyone seriously who says ‘99% survival rate’. Healthy people have contracted CV and died, healthy people have contracted CV and had extensive damage done to their major organs, others become long-haulers. Some have thought they were recovering from covid and ‘rallying’ against the virus, only to suffer the cytokine storm. You’re another plug that does not understand what research is credible, and are deeply privileged and take advantage of the hard work of others. If people like you had your way, that 99% survival rate could be lowered to 96% survivable. But covid isn’t a deadly virus because it kills, it is successful and fearsome because it spreads and it does not grant immunity to its survivors. And it has reconstructed the definition for what constitutes a survivor to a disease.”

    [Commenter 2] “Can’t take anyone seriously who takes CV seriously when everyone I’ve knew who’s gotten it haven’t died or gone to the hospital from it, take your brainwashed idiocy out of here.”

  15. de stijl says:

    Anti-vax is pernicious.

    I fear for our future. Buncha idiots potentially controlling the levers of power.

    Idiocracy in real time.

  16. charon says:
  17. CSK says:

    Well, Trump says “it’s time for Joe Biden to resign in disgrace.”

  18. de stijl says:

    I am into Jeff Tweedy today. Wilco and Golden Smog. Some old school Uncle Tupelo too.

    I respect that man highly. Routinely beset by cluster headaches and he copes. I see him as hero.

    I get cluster headaches. Also known as suicide headaches. Twice a year, maybe three times, for 4 to 8 weeks I get intensely painful headaches 2 to 5 times a day.

    The pain is very intense and precise. 2 inches behind my right eye. Imagine breaking a bone and feeling that burst of pain. Only that instant lasts for an hour. And it is in your head. A pinkie knuckle sized chunk of molten metal.

    When the headache breaks and it fades you feel so pumped. Behind the scenes your brain is dumping out endorphins and feel-good chemicals as a reaction. When the pain melts away you are seriously jacked to shit because you finally feel the brain chemicals kick in.

    It is very intense and really painful. You know docs ask how painful something is on a scale of 1 to 10?

    Cluster headaches hit 10 pretty routinely. Maybe 11 or 12 sometimes. Off the chart pain. You bang your head against a wall just to feel a different less focused pain for a few seconds. Anything but this.

    2 or 3 or 4 times a day. Every day for a month or two. You wake up with one always during a cluster. That is a rock-solid guarantee. Makes going to sleep dicey and problematic. You dread tomorrow.

    Then it goes away for a few months of blissful peace. I would not wish it on my worst enemy.

    Jesus etc. Is one of my most favorite songs ever. Jeff Tweedy is one bad-ass man.

  19. gVOR08 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Do I recall correctly that in your book you note that in the rest of the world only one South American country elects judges, and only for a small number of positions?

  20. Kathy says:


    You know, for “a republic, not a democracy,” I can’t think of any other country with so many elected positions. The closest that comes to mind is the Roman Republic.

  21. de stijl says:


    The Romans eventually learned to set a frontier boundary. Garrison the borders.

    Learned that some campaigns were fruitless and foolish.

    Germania or the east.

    Learned that further campaigning caused more problems than it was worth.

  22. Kathy says:

    I streamed Gravity yesterday.

    You know movies that aren’t bad, but you’re glad you didn’t watch them in a theater? This is one of those.

    As I said, it’s not bad. But it’s sloooooooooooow. This is rather realistic, as in space simple things take longer to do than they do on Earth. I also wonder why Sandra Bullock’s character was given a tragic backstory, when nothing else but the desperate attempt to get home alive ever happens.

    On the plus side, a very nice, very convincing depiction of weightlessness, vacuum, and space overall.

  23. MarkedMan says:

    @Kathy: My take was 180 degrees from yours. Saw it in the theater and it was so all encompassing. You were IN there with her. Haven’t bothered watching it on a smaller screen.

  24. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Scott: Government is only as good as the majority of the stakeholders demand it to be?

    Corollary: Self-serving populations elect self-serving justice systems/judges. (??)

  25. de stijl says:


    With Marked Man here. Gravity on a IMax screen was epic. Not a great movie in any way. But pretty fucking good. Well done.

    Some things work well or perhaps better on a small screen seen alone.

    Gravity needs to be seen on the biggest screen possible to be understood correctly.

  26. de stijl says:

    @de stijl:

    There is some thing about Sandra Bullock that evokes empathy.

    She is certainly charismatic, no doubt. But not massively so. She is way above average, but not Clooney level.

    Bullock evokes empathy to a weirdly disproportionate level. We want her to succeed.

  27. Kathy says:

    @de stijl:

    I’m very skeptical of that, unless the theatrical version played in 35 minutes. Really, I can’t recall a movie I paused so many times in order to do something more entertaining.

  28. Jen says:

    @de stijl:

    Bullock evokes empathy to a weirdly disproportionate level. We want her to succeed.

    I agree completely with this statement. There is just something about her that has me rooting for her from the start. I have no idea why.

  29. Kylopod says:

    @de stijl: I think part of it that she’s good at projecting vulnerability. It’s something you see in her early roles where she typically did it in a comic way that reminded me somewhat of Mary Tyler Moore. But I’ve noticed she also tends to do thrillers very well, even though she only occasionally appears in them. Ironically, in her one Oscar-winning performance, in The Blind Side (which I despise for a variety of reasons), she tossed all that aside and played a stereotypical right-wing alpha-female type.

  30. @gVOR08: IIRC, some judges in Uruguay are (were?) elected.

    But we are definitively “exceptional” when it comes to this issue.

  31. Kathy says:

    It would be more accurate to think of big money contributors to parties and politicians as customers rather than donors.

  32. de stijl says:


    Mary Tyler Moore in Ordinary People was brutally chilling. A really good performance and it freaked me out quite a bit.

    Way against type. Alpha wife and mother. Cut throat. I wasn’t freaked out because of the actress, but because of the characterization and role of very carefully contained rage.

    Mtm was great. And she freaked me out a lot. I have a tainted experience of mothers.

  33. dazedandconfused says:

    @de stijl:
    Damsel-In-Distress-Who-Ain’t-Totally-Helpless…can’t help but root for one of those. Can’t think of anyone who does that better than Bullock.

  34. dazedandconfused says:

    Not enough fuel in Lebanon to even keep the hospital emergency generators running?

    Yet another humanitarian crisis looms.

  35. flat earth luddite says:


    It would be more accurate to think of big money contributors to parties and politicians as owners rather than donors.

    Fixed that for you, Kathy

  36. EddieInCA says:

    I got banned from from posting on Rod Dreher’s site at “The American Conservative”.

    My offense?

    Pointing out to Dreher himself that he fully supported the war in 2002, and called people like me “un-American” and worse.