Saturday’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:

    I bought some bongo drums. From a local store. Walking distance and small enough to tote home.

    I have always sucked at percussion. One, I cannot keep a beat to save my life and always speed up. Two, getting my left hand to do a different thing is than the right is hard for me.

    I am barely capable of pretty simple syncopation. A little off beat riffing is all. Above that my brain gets tangled up and just stops functioning.

    I can play guitar but the left hand and right are coordinating to make a sound – it’s a different beast. A beast my brain gets. There is no left or right – it is a undifferentiated united effort.

    Advanced percussion is a thing my brain is not capable of.

    But. I wanted to mess around. Put some good music on and see what my hands / brain could become capable of. An experiment in plasticity.

    An interesting way to waste time.

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    More than half of US police killings are mislabelled or not reported, study finds

    More than half of all police-involved killings in the US go unreported with the majority of victims being Black, according to a new study published in the Lancet, a peer reviewed journal.

    Research at the University of Washington School of Medicine’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation found that in the US between 1980 and 2018, more than 55% of deaths, over 17,000 in total, from police violence were either misclassified or went unreported.

    The study also discovered that Black Americans are more likely than any other group to die from police violence and are 3.5 times more likely to be killed by police than white Americans.

    “Recent high-profile police killings of Black people have drawn worldwide attention to this urgent public health crisis, but the magnitude of this problem can’t be fully understood without reliable data,” said Fablina Sharara, a researcher at the University of Washington School of Medicine and co-lead author of the study.
    “Open-sourced data is a more reliable and comprehensive resource to help inform policies that can prevent police violence and save lives,” said Sharara.

    In total, the NVSS database misclassified nearly 60% of all fatal police encounters involving Black Americans. NVSS also missed approximately 50% of all police-involved deaths of Hispanic people, 56% of all police-involved deaths of non-Hispanic white people, and 33% of deaths involving non-Hispanic people across other races.

    “Inaccurately reporting or misclassifying these deaths further obscures the larger issue of systemic racism that is embedded in many US institutions, including law enforcement,” Sharara said.

  3. Sleeping Dog says:

    @de stijl:

    If nothing else, they’ll look good on a shelf and every now and then a friend will put them to good use.

    It is difficult to get your mind around rhythm and the more sophisticated the harder it is. The other night I watched an old documentary on Joni Mitchell, at one point in her career, she struggled to find a bass player who, as she described it, played bass lines that were “a picket fence” through her music, then she was introduced to Jaco Pastorius.

  4. CSK says:

    The Daily Beast has two amusing articles today on Sidney “The Kraken) Powell and the execrable Corey Lewandowski. Sidney is apparently no longer welcome at any of Trump’s resorts. Matt Lewis provides a good rundown of Corey’s history of molesting unwilling women. Apparently he likes to brag about the size if his genitalia.

  5. CSK says:

    Yesterday Trump asked a federal judge in Miami to force Twitter to reopen his account on the grounds that his political opponents had him silenced.

  6. de stijl says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    I can get my mind around the rhythm, but I cannot get my brain to do it. My hands. Specifically the left. The right is fairly adequate.

    I am trying with super early Talking Heads – songs off 1977.

    I am loving this. It is super nerdy. I feel like a dumb ass kid again. Like I was 15. Man, I suck hard.

    Maybe tomorrow I will suck less.

  7. de stijl says:

    I have big appreciation for people like Dave Grohl. From drums to guitar.

  8. de stijl says:

    People who are barely decent at this can let their right hand keep the beat and let the left wank about.

    If I pay attention on my right and keep the beat my left hand is essentially lockstep.

    But if I let my left full rein my right hand just splutters along off beat and disintegrates.

    This is going to sound extremely uppity but I was way smarter than our drummer. He was a nice enough jackass. Did his job.

    Why is this so hard? Fucking Tommy could do it and he could barely bathe himself and feed himself without prompting.

    I think I’m missing a gene.

  9. Mimai says:

    @de stijl:

    Kudos! I definitely feel you on this. Guitar and banjo are my jam. Trombone too for a period of time. Percussion is my kryptonite. More specifically, drum sets. I can keep tempo rather well. Fills etc? Nope.

    Bongos is a good on-ramp. I found the cajon to be perfect for me. Allows me to step in when someone needs to keep tempo. And/or when I’m playing with especially gifted guitar handlers and thus need to step aside.

    Some days (maybe tomorrow) you will suck less. Some days more. That’s the mystery and the fun. Keep it fun. It’s music. Good on you!

  10. Mister Bluster says:

    Just wondering when you are going to report your largesse to Mu Yixiao for his approval. Please respond to his inquiry on OTB Open Forum so we can all review your good works to see if they meet community standards.
    On second thought let’s see your tax returns too.

    Mu Yixiao says:
    Friday, 1 October 2021 at 20:07
    Just a question before I go to sleep:
    In the last year, how much money and how many hours have you, personally, donated to help those in your community who need it?

  11. Gustopher says:

    @Mister Bluster: I replied in that that thread.

    I am particularly proud of the year I deliberately got myself fired, and donated the severance to local food banks. I think that year I donated $30-40,000.

    (Advice to bosses: if someone is about to quit, and you tell them that if they are about to be put on a performance improvement plan, you may be incentivizing unexpected behavior, such as taking all your “coaching” as a checklist of things to deliberately fail.)

  12. Gustopher says:

    @Mimai: What style of banjo? A lot of the old time banjo is effectively percussion, or at least rhythm.

    I’ve been trying to learn “Danville Girl” in the insane style of Dock Boggs. It is wacky.

  13. Mister Bluster says:

    my last comment just vanished when I attempted to post

  14. JohnSF says:

    @Mister Bluster:
    Similar happened to me the other day.
    Posted, tried to edit, got a message “this comment can no longer be edited”, then the whole comment just disappeared.
    Tried to repost from the text still in the edit box.
    “poof” Whole lot vanishes again. No links in it at all, no words you might reasonably think liable to summon the guardian demons.
    Just… gone.

  15. Mimai says:

    @Gustopher: Hot damn! Dock Boggs styling is indeed wacky. All that uppicking. I play a 17 fret tenor.

  16. Gustopher says:

    @Mimai: I play clawhammer and two-finger thumb-lead, so a little Dock Boggs would be a nice addition. He also tuned his banjo oddly.

    I play badly, but it’s a huge step up from my previous trying-to-play.

    I also have too many banjos for someone who plays badly, all left-handed and lots of novelty banjos (folding banjo for planes, banjola with a mandolin body, a cello banjo, fretted, fretless, one with an extra bass string…)

  17. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @de stijl: Write out your strokes–lrllrlrrlrllrlrr or whatever–and say them to yourself as you practice the patterns. Depending on how much your coordination is independent in each hand–mine isn’t at all (I can barely touch type)–and how many rapid fire neurons you have, it might help you build that kind of coordination. If you can play guitar chords (and I, again, can’t, only melody and crossing strings is a challenge (even after several attempts at private lessons), you should be able to do this.

  18. Mister Bluster says:

    @JohnSF:..Similar happened to me the other day.
    It has been a while, two or three months maybe, since the last time that happened to one of my posts. After that I would compose and save my posts to the TextEdit function on my MacBook Air before posting. Of course that didn’t last long as I would forget.
    I don’t really expect the technology of the day to be perfect at all times.
    I just wish that my not so smart phone would quit eating batteries.

  19. de stijl says:


    I learned how to throat sing by just messing about fairly recently.

    Heilung and The Hu (hat tip to @Michael Reynolds) were in my daily rotation. Both are really good when you are cooking.

    The main part of my attention was focused on not burning things and coordinated timing. But one part of my brain was focused on that really interesting sound and monkeying around trying out bass vocal tricks to emulate as I was trying to make a nice breakfast. I would sing along.

    6 months or so later one day I could throat sing. I have zero idea how I got there. Yesterday was no go. Today I can. Initially it would take me ten seconds and two or three tries to get it right at first. Now, it is falling off a log easy. I just can.

    You need to relax your throat in an odd way is my best advice. Which is lamest advice ever. Monkey around and try. You’ll never figure it unless you try. Try until you can.

    Kai from Heilung is my spirit animal even though he is fully human. He is primal incarnate. 10,000 years ago given my inclinations I would have been the clan’s shaman or her/his apprentice. That thought freaks me out quite a bit. That’s a lot of pressure.

  20. de stijl says:

    One of things that turned me off Star Wars mythos was Yoda saying – as a lesson:

    Do or do not do. There is no try.

    In my mind that is truly fucking horrible advice / life lesson. It is deeply repugnant to me. A core values clash. That is an extraordinarily shitty thing to say.

    Trying is perhaps the most important thing.

    Yoda can suck my bleep. Fucker is 100% wrong.

  21. JohnSF says:

    @de stijl:
    You might like to search for David Brin’s essay on Yoda

    “I consider Yoda to be just about the most evil character that I’ve ever seen in the history of literature,”


  22. JohnSF says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    I just wish that my not so smart phone would quit eating batteries

    Ah, I have solved that problem.
    I have a smartphone these day, but keep it turned off.
    Wants me? Call my landline. Send an email.
    And get off my lawn, damn kids!

  23. CSK says:

    @de stijl:
    It’s depressing to note that Jedism (and Yoda was the Grand Master Jedi, or some such bullshit) has become an actual religion, or quasi-religion.

    It’s even more depressing to note that many people seem to take a comic book movie so seriously. I don’t mean you personally, of course, but taking life advice from a damn movie is just ridiculous.

  24. Gustopher says:

    @de stijl: The line hits me different when I watch the movie. Sometimes I hear “Do or do not, there is no try” as “listen, you impatient whining shit, you keep using ‘but I tried’ as an excuse for failing. Stop giving yourself permission to fail.”

    Other times, and more appropriate to music, is “you need to get yourself past the point where you are focusing on how to do it — stop trying, and just do it or fail to do it, and that will be closer than trying.”

    In which case lifting an x-wing from a swamp would be like playing a complicated song. Get the basics down so you’re not trying or every pull-off is going to sound like shit and you will throw off the rhythm every time you get to the drop thumb because you’re concentrating too hard.

    Trying leads to impatience, impatience leads to frustration, frustration leads to anger and and anger leads to chopping up the younglins into little pieces, at least if Luke’s father is an example.

    Obviously there is effort in using the force — Luke dies from the effort of projecting a force image across the galaxy. So there is some kind of trying. Yoda’s little puppet hand wobbles when he’s lifting the x-wing.

    Also, Yoda dies of exasperation from having to deal with Luke. “Shit, you’re back? Fuck it, I’m done, peace out, bitches”

  25. Gustopher says:

    @CSK: The comics came after the movie!

  26. CSK says:

    Yes, I know. But the movie itself was a filmed comic book. That was my point.

  27. de stijl says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Eventually. Hopefully.

    The thought of a full set where I have to incorporate my feet too is daunting.

    I am just trying to get my hands to operate independently at the same time and not fuck up too badly.

    Baby steps. Try.

  28. Mimai says:


    I also have too many banjos for someone who plays badly, all left-handed and lots of novelty banjos (folding banjo for planes, banjola with a mandolin body, a cello banjo, fretted, fretless, one with an extra bass string…)

    Oh wow! This is a dangerous addiction. Requires decisive action. I suggest a steady taper.

    Each month you will reduce your stash by one. By which I mean that I will assume responsibility of said instrument….for safe storage, natch.

    Let’s start with the banjola, given that it’s been adulterated and, thus, most hazardous.

  29. Gustopher says:

    @Mimai: The banjola is my favorite. But, if you’re a lefty and in the Seattle area, there are a couple of fine unloved banjos that have nothing wrong with them other than being not my favorite. They’re really just taking up space.

    Banjolas have a beautiful sound.

  30. dazedandconfused says:


    It’s unsurprising, Lucas consulted with Joseph Campbell to add depth to his myths. He also ripped off Castaneda for some juicy bits. “Luminous beings are we…” and that Last Jedi ending was Castaneda’s dreaming double to a T. A lot of people fell for his BS, it touches something deep.

  31. de stijl says:


    The only way to do is to try.

    Try and fail. Learn. Try. Fail again. Learn more.

    A teacher that puts an unsolvable problem in front of a student is an asshole and a sadist.

    The only way to be able to eventually do hard things is by trying to do simpler things before and often fail. Then try again.

    For an adept nearing mastery Yoda’s feedback wasn’t unthinkably awful (it was still really quite bad), but for a noob is was flat-out shit guidance.

    Nuke it from orbit. Only way to make sure.

  32. Mimai says:

    @Gustopher: Yeah, I figured you’d fight to retain the banjola. Typical behavior of the afflicted.

    Funny enough, I am in Seattle on the (semi)regular. Though I’m not a lefty.

  33. CSK says:

    Here’s something interesting. When I had my first college teaching job, one of my male colleagues was doing a study of the influence Star Wars had on people’s lives, and to further that end he passed out a survey asking a series of questions about how much we thought about SW, how seeing it had changed our lives, how we had altered our perception of the world, and blah blah blah. Every single woman who received it looked at it, laughed, and tossed it in the wastebasket. The men seemed to take it far more seriously.

    I mean, it was just a fucking movie, for Crissake. Moderately entertaining, sure, but not a road map to life.

  34. de stijl says:

    @Mimai: @Gustopher:

    I like mandolins.

    Any spares would be welcome and would find a good home.

  35. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @de stijl: The closest I’ve ever gotten to “incorporating my feet” is that I tapped my toe to keep time. My oboe teacher told me to stop–that it was unprofessional (principal oboist with the symphony orchestra in the city I grew up in)– so I moved it inside the shoe so he couldn’t see. Eventually I learned all manner of physical movements that people use to connect their bodies to the music they’re playing. They’re very small, so mostly the audience doesn’t see them.

  36. de stijl says:


    College age women are at least two times smarter than the same cohort of men.

    Not smarter in biology or economics or philosophy 101, but just smarter at life.

    They were back in my day. I was such a fool.

  37. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @de stijl: Not always. Sometimes a teacher that puts an “unsolvable” problem in front of a student is acknowledging finiteness in his or her own experience, looking for a larger, more expansive understanding than he or she has.

    But yeah, I didn’t ask my students questions that they didn’t/shouldn’t know the answers to. I already knew I could ask people questions they don’t know the answers to. No challenge to it anymore.

  38. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: The most interesting thing in my early adulthood was watching evangelicals and fundies doing the same thing you’re describing with Star Wars. There was a whole “Ezekiel seeing the wheel” sub theology that connected to Close Encounters, too. WA!!

  39. CSK says:

    @de stijl:
    I’m talking about the faculty, which was made up mostly of men old enough to be my father. And they were, ffs, obsessing about this movie as if it held all the secrets of the universe.

  40. CSK says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    Suckers will be suckers, won’t they? I think Star Wars cultism might have been a sort of evangelism for those who were disaffected from whatever religion in which they were raised.

    I’ve mentioned before that I wasn’t raised in any religion, so I find it difficult to understand the impulses of those who were.

  41. Gustopher says:

    @CSK: but, you have to acknowledge that the AT-AT was cool. Can’t turn, of course, but it’s the weapon of choice for when you know exactly where your enemy is, and that they won’t be moving, and you have nothing but contempt for their abilities to defend themselves.

    The first three movies were basically a folk tale put into a science fiction backdrop. The stories of the Brothers Grimm have resonated for centuries, and Star Wars was basically that, stripping away a lot of the uncool antiquated background bits and replacing it with lasers and space ships and Wampas and ice worlds.

    The prequels and the clone wars series were their own things, and not as successful.

    The sequel duology was great, if a little too meta — using one movie to show that it’s a repeating cycle, and the next to show that the cycle must be broken. (Rumors have it that there was a third movie, but i don’t see how the ending of TLJ leaves room for a third movie — it told the story, and was complete)

    The first trilogy was probably the best movies released in my lifetime. Other movies may have done each individual part better, but Star Wars managed to hit in a way that we haven’t seen in ages. It’s like Casablanca — the whole is far greater than the sum of its parts.

  42. de stijl says:


    Sorry I misread.

    The point still kinda stands. Women college teachers are twice as smart as their men peers. They have to be just to be there.

    Yeah, I went there.

  43. de stijl says:

    I used to live in the same building as Robert Bly. Would see him in the elevator and politely acknowledge his presence. Nod. Face front. Pretend I was alone.

    Dude was the godfather of the men’s movement a part of which broke bad.

    Also in the same building: ex-governor of Minnesota, and quite oddly, the father of a high school friend. His post-divorce landing spot.

    I got to be quite good buddies with Mr. C, the dad of my friend. We would hang out and sip dark liquor and watch old movies. He was a pretty good dude.

    Elevator etiquette is truly weird. (I would have sworn etiquette had two ts up front.)

  44. CSK says:

    @de stijl:
    It’s no longer nearly as true as it was decades ago, but your point still stands. Women faculty in the bad old days had to be better than their male counterparts to get college teaching jobs, never mind keep them.

  45. CSK says:

    I may have a more jaundiced view of movies than the average person, given that my father was involved for a while in distributing them. But I would say that the two greatest movies released my lifetime were The Godfather and The Godfather II, which made me understand viscerally as well as intellectually that movies could be art.

  46. de stijl says:


    No offence meant to anyone, but Star Wars feels cold and awkward to me. Not my jam.

    I am old enough to have seen the first in a theater.

    I walked away thinking it looked cool. I liked Leia. I liked Han. But I was kinda unimpressed. By the story mostly. It wasn’t old-school serial Flash Gordon bad, but it was adjacent.

    Way better on every turn of movie making, but a bit silly and uninteresting.

    The greater public did not share my view.

    Decades later, I think Daisy Ridley is fucking awesome and deserves a better role. Driver did well with what he had.

    It’s just not still my jam.

  47. CSK says:

    @de stijl:
    You’re not offending me in the least.

  48. Mimai says:

    @de stijl: If you’re aiming for offence, I suggest you express similar sentiments about Dr. Who.

  49. de stijl says:


    Peter Capaldi is best Doctor ever.

    Also, the first ten years were utter schlocky crap. Grouped by Doctor, 1 to 3 inclusive sucked donkey balls. Baker in particular.

    Mostly trash bad sci-fi on an elementary school play budget.

    Feisty enough for you?

  50. Jen says:

    @de stijl:

    I have always, always had an issue with this Yoda-ism.

  51. CSK says:

    I rest my case. 🙂

  52. de stijl says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    That image of you tapping your toe inside your shoe in defiance of your teacher…

    Major respect.

    Many teachers suck.

  53. de stijl says:

    In my state it is now illegal to teach about race in America in a way that might offend Republicans.

    And they call us snowflakes!

    I have thought about funding an extra-curricular activity that taught that just so. Factual and historically informed. Unvarnished truth.

    My governor and her lege lackeys need a big “fuck you” on this.

    Fucking snowflakes.

  54. Gustopher says:

    @de stijl:

    Also, the first ten years were utter schlocky crap. Grouped by Doctor, 1 to 3 inclusive sucked donkey balls. Baker in particular.

    Mostly trash bad sci-fi on an elementary school play budget.

    Feisty enough for you?

    Baker was 4. Or 6, if you meant Colin rather than Tom. Or not there at all if you started counting from the revived series.

    I walked away thinking it looked cool. I liked Leia. I liked Han. But I was kinda unimpressed. By the story mostly. It wasn’t old-school serial Flash Gordon bad, but it was adjacent.

    Way better on every turn of movie making, but a bit silly and uninteresting.

    The greater public did not share my view.

    I think that if you try to look at it as science fiction, it completely falls apart because the core of it isn’t science fiction, it’s medieval sorcery and magic and King Arthur and Grimm’s fairy tales.


    I may have a more jaundiced view of movies than the average person, given that my father was involved for a while in distributing them. But I would say that the two greatest movies released my lifetime were The Godfather and The Godfather II, which made me understand viscerally as well as intellectually that movies could be art.

    But, have The Godfather movies really entered the American consciousness in the same way, or transformed film making in the same way?

    We’re quibbling over a definition of best/greatest, but I think the point of a movie is to tell a story to an audience, and have that story stick. And on that metric, the first Star Wars trilogy succeeds in a way that nothing else has in the past 50 years.

    The Godfather movies are fantastic works of art that are approachable and enjoyable and where every scene is brilliantly done. But it hasn’t really impacted the culture the same way.

    Is Star Wars about geekery and needing out over idiotic details like how the Kessel Run is measured in distance and economics involved in small cargo ships that seem to transport less stuff than a UPS truck across that galaxy? Well, yes, but it’s also a set of stories shared by a generation. It’s one of the common bonds of our culture.

  55. CSK says:

    If you’re speaking solely about cultural impact, then I agree with you.

  56. dazedandconfused says:


    It’s not the what of it, but the how.

    Why do such myths keep reoccurring in nearly all human cultures, nobody really knows, but their power says something.

  57. Just Another Ex-Republican says:

    Intellectually, I side with Brin and Star Trek. Emotionally…it’s no contest.* The whole saga and it’s hold on a generation or 3 of (male) Americans is pretty good proof that Campbell was at least partly right.

    *At least for New Hope through Return (with Return the weakest by quite a bit–I think that’s where it all started to go wrong). Personally I can’t stand the prequels or sequels. And I would add that I think Rogue One is arguably the best movie of the entire universe. Not coincidentally, it’s the one where the heroes are the least Jedi-like and least mystically powerful, and where the force is basically an aspirational religion for one side, and a tool of terrifying power when wielded against people helpless to resist.

  58. Just Another Ex-Republican says:

    I would also add, as Jim Wright (Stonekettle) noted a couple years ago, that if you look at the growing and feckless uselessness of Congress, and a demagogue seizing power by formenting fear, you could argue we owe George Lucas an apology for not taking the prequels seriously as prescient warnings. Not that I think Lucas was actually trying to warn us that way, but damn…as an example of a late republican (lower case) political system failing because it’s legislative branch had become useless, riven by factions, and unable to competently administer basic functions of government, desperate to dodge responsibility and willing to give away their power to someone who promised miracles…