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. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Headline at the Guardian: Senate Republicans sow disinformation after $480bn US debt ceiling deal

    Wait a minute, somethings not quite right here. No worries, I can get my both sides story over at Politico.

  2. de stijl says:

    I have a dilemma. I kind of want a new tattoo.

    It would have to be text. 3 lines.

    I thought I’d aged out of text tattoos. “Those people” get text tattoos. That part of my judgey brain deems them as dilettantes. Tourists.

    I get grayscale art now like a proper adult. Maybe a hint of color to make it pop. Subtle, please! Nothing townie or tribal.

    Fuck it. I’m gonna do it. Purists be damned and that judgey part of my brain can fuck off too, he’s kinda an asshole. Fuck it, I’m doing it.

    I want it.

  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Why Do We See Ghosts?

    Thanks to campfire tales and multimillion-dollar horror flicks, spooky notions can infiltrate our subconscious even without any real-life supernatural encounters. Nearly half of Americans think ghosts are real, according to market research company YouGov (bloodsucking vampires scored a measly 13 percent). That preconception primes our minds to run wild whenever we hear a creaky floorboard or feel a sudden chill.

    “Believers are a lot more likely to report anomalous sensations, and they’re also more likely to conclude that those sensations indicate a ghostly presence,” says Chris French, head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit at Goldsmiths, University of London as well as a self-described “wet blanket” skeptic.

    We have such a tendency because the human mind is highly suggestible, French says. We’ve evolved to take cues from the outside world to escape threats like an animal chasing us, so a well-placed hint can make us see things that aren’t there. In the 1990s, psychologists at the University of Illinois at Springfield gave the same tour of the century-old and long-closed Lincoln Square Theater to two groups of people, telling only one cohort that they were investigating a haunting; sure enough, the visitors who were informed of the excursion’s specifics were far more likely to report intense emotions and strange occurrences. This mental quirk is so powerful that it can deceive us even in real time: In another study, conducted by Goldsmiths’ French, participants were much more likely to report witnessing a key bending of its own accord if someone standing next to them mentioned they had seen the eerie incident happen too.

    As a fellow “wet blanket skeptic” I’ve never seen a ghost. I have friends who have, and I have expressed a desire for them to introduce me, but for one reason or another the proposed meetings are always put off till next week. I suspect their desire to believe is not quite strong enough to stand up to my obvious skepticism. Better to avoid my questions all together.


    It’s easy to disregard the notion of paranormal activity in broad daylight, but everything changes when you head into a dark basement. Unfamiliar and threatening environments kick our survival instincts up a notch.

    “If you’re walking in the woods and you see movement, you can make two errors,” says Michiel van Elk, a professor of social psychology at Leiden University. “You can either think it’s nothing, and it could be a potential predator, or you can think there’s a predator, and there’s nothing.” Psychologists suspect humans evolved a cognitive bias toward the latter mistake for good reason: Our ancestors had to keep a constant lookout for stealthy hazards like leopards and snakes, and folks with a “better safe than sorry” attitude were more likely to survive and reproduce. But, van Elk says, this propensity can cause us to sense the presence of another even when we’re alone. That’s why a snapping twig can activate the fight-or-flight reflexes that make us scream.

    Ghost tours capitalize on this hereditary paranoia by forcing the mind to wrestle with ambiguity. A good haunted mansion doesn’t shove a spirit right in your face, but encourages you to wonder if you might have just seen one out of the corner of your eye. The uncertainty itself drives up the fear factor.

    I remember being terrified of the dark as a child until I read somewhere that, “There is nothing in the dark that isn’t there when it’s light.” For some reason that simple phrase drove away the monsters, and I have ever since been quite comfortable with the shadows.

    More at the link

  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @de stijl: So what 3 lines will it be?

  5. CSK says:

    I’ve never seen a ghost, either. My cousin claimed my father appeared to her a few weeks after he died. She was quite an intelligent, rational woman, hospitalized at the time. He told her it wasn’t her time yet. And it wasn’t.

  6. CSK says:

    Trump claims that Election Day 2020 is “often referred to as the Crime of the Century.”

    Really? By whom?

  7. BugManDan says:


    In U.S. history, previous periods of gridlock and partisanship eventually gave way to bursts of constitutional amendments.

  8. Joe says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I lost my fear of the dark when my children grew out of legos.

  9. Mimai says:

    @de stijl:
    Perhaps a meta tattoo?

    Fuck it.
    I’m doing it.
    I want it.

  10. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Joe: Ha! I bet you still have an innate fear of stepping on Legos.

  11. gVOR08 says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Many years ago I hung around the fringe of a group of Scientologists (boring story). A couple of young women and I did a picnic lunch, broad daylight, in a public park. Just for shits I picked a tree at random and said I vaguely felt like there was something there. Within ten minutes, with no further nudging from me, they’d convinced each other it was not only a ghost, but they knew his name and how he had died. It was amazing to watch.

  12. CSK says:

    Believing in ghosts would seem to be more reasonable than believing what Scientologists believe.

  13. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Could the global Covid death toll be millions higher than thought?

    For the past 18 months, hunkered down in his Tel Aviv apartment, Ariel Karlinsky has scoured the web for data that could help him calculate the true death toll of Covid-19. The 31-year-old economics student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem had never worked on health matters before, but he was troubled by rumours early in the pandemic that Israel was not experiencing a rise above expected death rates, and therefore Covid was not serious.

    “This was, of course, not true,” he said. “Excess mortality was definitely there and it was definitely very visible.” He pulled up the numbers to prove it, which was easy enough to do in Israel with its sophisticated vital registration system.
    It became a challenge to gather that data for as many countries and in as close to real time as possible.

    Through Twitter he encountered another researcher, the data scientist Dmitry Kobak of the University of Tübingen in Germany, who was attempting the same thing, and they agreed to collaborate. While Karlinsky searched for the numbers, Kobak took on the analysis.

    The result is the World Mortality Dataset, which forms the basis of estimates of Covid mortality as published by the Economist, the Financial Times and others, and which gives the lie to the official global death toll of 4.8 million. The Economist, for example, puts the real number closer to 16 million.

    Those who measure the impact of public health disasters have applauded Karlinsky and Kobak’s effort. “This is a data revolution that parallels that seen in vaccine development and pathogen sequencing,” the epidemiologists Lone Simonsen, of Roskilde University in Denmark, and Cécile Viboud, of the US National Institutes of Health, wrote.
    In fact, he said, excess mortality could open a revealing sidelight on government transparency. If official Covid deaths were lower than excess deaths but followed roughly the same trajectory, it was likely the country simply lacked testing or vital registration capacity.

    But if there is no relation between the two, that points to official obfuscation. Russia is a case in point.

    Last February, in Significance, a magazine published by the UK’s Royal Statistical Society, Kobak explained that Russia’s excess mortality was 6.5 times higher than its reported Covid deaths, making its official death toll one of the least reliable in the world. The under-reporting varied regionally and was most dramatic in Chechnya, Tatarstan and Bashkortostan. “It may not be a coincidence that [these] are among the regions for which there is also statistical evidence of data manipulation in election results,” he wrote.

    Solstad thinks excess mortality should be tracked continuously in future, because it would provide better insights into all kinds of crises, including wars and famines. “It’s a pretty objective measure of things going wrong,” he said. Karlinsky agrees. When a heatwave struck Egypt in 2015, for example, state media reported 61 deaths; his estimate was closer to 20,000.

    More at the link.

  14. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @gVOR08: @CSK: I suspect most (all?) religious people believe in ghosts, even if they don’t call them that.

  15. CSK says:

    I once read a novel about ancient Rome in which one of the characters was described as not believing in the gods, but fearing them.

  16. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @CSK: I’ve heard/read that line a few times. It’s kinda funny being an atheist with a lot of atheist friends, I sometimes feel the need to give god the finger and dare him to strike me dead. People of all stripes start sidling away.

  17. CSK says:

    I suppose that atavistic fear can never be completely shaken even by the irreligious.

  18. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @CSK: No it can’t. Even after having done it a thousand one+ times, I find myself ducking just a little bit.

  19. gVOR08 says:

    NYT has two related columns today and NYT has an ostensibly unrelated news story at WAPO. At NYT yesterday Ezra Klein quotes analysis by David Schor. Schor is an election analyst who provided very accurate analysis to Obama’s reelection campaign. He was actually cancelled for tweeting

    “Post-MLK-assassination race riots reduced Democratic vote share in surrounding counties by 2 percent, which was enough to tip the 1968 election to Nixon.” Nonviolent protests, he noted, tended to help Democrats electorally.

    He argues Democrats have lost touch with the working class and that coupled with the small state bias of the Senate and EC 2020 may be the high water mark for Ds. Today Jamelle Bouie largely agrees, but points out the difficulties of acting on Schor’s analysis.

    Now, for all of these proscriptions, Shor does not say much about what this would actually look like and how it is distinct from current practice. When he does, he usually cites two examples, one positive, one negative. The positive example is Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign for re-election, in which Obama downplayed issues of race and immigration and focused on economic growth and the record of his opponent, Mitt Romney, who had made his fortune in private equity. The negative example is the 2016 presidential election, when Hillary Clinton tried to counter Donald Trump’s racist messaging with her own rhetoric of inclusion, a move that kept race and immigration salient and pushed non-college whites further into the Republican column.

    The unrelated story at WAPO is that Dems are looking at dumping the Iowa caucuses as their first primary vote. The caucuses are unrepresentative and something of a joke, but all things considered, especially Schor’s advice, I kind of like the idea of Ds trying out their act on the road with an unsympathetic audience.

  20. de stijl says:


    No more shame
    No more fear
    No more dread

  21. de stijl says:


    I love it!

    Now I want that too.

  22. MarkedMan says:


    I kind of like the idea of Ds trying out their act on the road with an unsympathetic audience.

    While I agree with the sentiment, Iowa just isn’t the place for it. Given the nature of primaries, the candidates are campaigning for their own party members, not to the state as a whole. Further, it is the most committed party members who typically vote in primaries. And given the nature of caucuses, this effect is amplified, because you have to be super committed to cast a “vote” that takes hours and hours.

  23. de stijl says:


    What was interesting (to me, at least) was in writing out that comment my head went from “I’m really on the fence about this” to “this is def gonna happen” by the act of writing it out.

    It’s almost as if journaling has a purpose and the therapist was not entirely wrong.

    A friend of mine has a Jackson Pollock style splatter painting tattoo on his back.

    One day we were just bullshitting in a bar and I mused aloud that a Pollock tattoo would be pretty fucking badass.

    He did it. He ran with that. It’s red and yellow and black and just a splash or two of blue. Love it. It’s very fucking cool.

  24. Sleeping Dog says:


    Schor is the flavor of the day. Politico has a piece on him:

    I do think Schor’s criticism is sound, but his way forward is unsatisfying. The counter argument to Schor, that the problem isn’t that the Dem party foot soldiers are too young and too liberal, but they’re too white is closer to the truth. The fact that the party completely misread what is important to Latino voters and that the mainstream black voter is far more moderate, even conservative than the typical white Dem voter is evidence.

  25. MarkedMan says:

    Content warning: yet another post about China, although not as much about submarines.

    Judging whether the US diplomatic relationship with France is getting better or worse is pretty easy. But judging whether hurt French feelings are worth advancing our nascent coalition in the Pacific is not so clear. But here are a few developments.

    Taiwan is an ally, and a strategic one at that. It could be argued that it’s electronic fabrication industry is as important to the US nowadays as is Mideast oil. Like Australia, 10-15 years ago Taiwan’s Major party was increasingly accomodationist towards China. There were even incredibly naive politicians who were talking about the possibility of de facto reunification, one country, two systems. (China, with what it did in Hong Kong, has removed any question about what it means by “reunification”.) Starting in the Bush administration the US has had their strategic cards on the table: China is a dangerous aggressor and an unreliable partner. The only solution is for a regional coalition that acts in concert.

    Almost unnoticed in the American and European press, Biden had two Asian summits, one with Korea and the other with Japan. In both of them Taiwan was explicitly mentioned for the first time in over a half century.

    Look, I know that “sophisticated” people, like a NYTimes critic, are only supposed to find fault and never praise. But if you accept that Asia is strategically important to the US and the rest of the world, at least on par with our European interests, then I don’t see how you can come to any conclusion other than that the US constructed a strategy twenty years ago and has patiently but relentlessly pursued it across four different administrations, and has had real (but slow) success in coalition building in a region with no history of coalitions.

    Of course, the fact that China basically did every aggressive thing the United States outlined probably had more to do with our success than anything else, but as any football fan can tell you, it’s not enough for your opponent to make mistakes, you have to have the team and training in place to take advantage of those errors in an instant.

    France’s interests are more limited and view a Franco-Indo-Australian coalition as sufficient to protect “their” parts of the Pacific. But they went about their coalition building in such a way that they explicitly set themselves against the US strategy. They didn’t have to do this. Countries can be part of more than one coalition. But for various reasons they chose the way they did and, ten years ago, were having real success with it. However, the US pulling Australia over to our side put a huge dent in that.

    This is an extremely difficult area to deal with and the US coalition building may yet fail or, even if successful, be insufficient to stop China’s sovietizing the region. The analyst Raymond Kuo has an interesting take on how China sees their current position. When asked about China’s very aggressive military flyover campaign against Taiwan earlier this month, he had this to say:

    Certainly something that’s quite important is whether or not China is developing the capabilities that it thinks it can take over Taiwan without a fight, versus the United States and its allies and Taiwan working together to present a credible deterrent force against that invasion scenario.

    It’s really hard to determine what the Chinese see regarding how fast is the window of opportunity closing. Hal Brands and Michael Beckley have made the case for thinking about China as a declining power, not a rising one. In those sorts of cases, when you’re on the decline, you sense closing windows of opportunity and you tend to lash out. If you sense time is on your side, then you’ll just be patient. These incursions tend to suggest that China does view this as kind of a closing window of opportunity, which is kind of interesting. I don’t know if that’s true. And the only person who would know would be Xi Jinping. If I could get access to him, I’d be paid a lot more.

  26. Sleeping Dog says:


    Good article on China and Taiwan this AM in the Times:

    China’s military might has, for the first time, made a conquest of Taiwan conceivable, perhaps even tempting. The United States wants to thwart any invasion but has watched its military dominance in Asia steadily erode. Taiwan’s own military preparedness has withered, even as its people become increasingly resistant to unification.

    Wars start in one of two ways, intentionally or the parties stumble into them unintentionally. Chinese nationalism is on a path that has Taiwan’s continued independence intolerable. Like Bush into Iraq, Xi is making a similar mistake.

  27. MarkedMan says:

    @Sleeping Dog: Thanks, an interesting article and much more thorough and deep. It doesn’t go into the “why we would defend Taiwan” at all, which I think is an important omission. The western media tends to downplay the strategic interest of Taiwan. A China takeover would leave them controlling the bulk of IC a production in the world and them being able to turn it on and off at a whim is no small thing. And if the US fails to protect Taiwan our role in the region will be incredibly marginalized.

  28. Mu Yixiao says:


    I don’t see how you can come to any conclusion other than that the US constructed a strategy twenty years ago and has patiently but relentlessly pursued it across four different administrations, and has had real (but slow) success in coalition building in a region with no history of coalitions.

    This. So very much.

    Anyone who hasn’t spent significant time in SE Asia can’t really understand how deep the animosity goes–and has been going for hundreds of years. That the US can get Korea, Japan, and Taiwan to agree on even small things is a huge accomplishment.

    That it’s being done through a fear of China rather than an actual “moving to the middle” in their attitudes is unfortunate, but acceptable.

    I don’t know how it can be accomplished politically, but at some point the US needs to stop playing the games and formally recognize Taiwan as a sovereign nation. And then bring in the UK, EU, SA, and OZ

  29. Mu Yixiao says:


    And if the US fails to protect Taiwan our role in the region will be incredibly marginalized.

    It will also, almost assuredly, break our relationships with the lesser countries in the region, and strain those with Japan and Korea severely.

  30. Mimai says:

    @de stijl: Oh man, you tempt me with this! I have so much to say on this matter. But it’s a beautiful day over my sandbox, so I’ll settle for this brief note.

    The things we say/write express our thoughts and also shape them. This is one of the things that I find particularly frustrating and demoralizing these days.

    We are impoverishing ourselves by the discourse we engage in on the regular. And for the most part, we aren’t even aware of it.

    Keep us posted on your tattoo(s). If you’re so inclined.

  31. Mimai says:

    @Mimai: And a song for the sentiment. Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real. Great band. Have seen them a few times, most recently backing Neil Young. Highly recommend.

  32. Mu Yixiao says:

    @de stijl:

    I’m extensively tattooed (sorry, almost all of it is “tribal”–but gotten before it became so popular). Every bit of ink is of my own design, and has a meaning specific to me.

    I have a design for my left leg that’s been sitting on paper for 15 years–because I don’t know if it’s right, even though I hate being asymetrical (my right leg is done).

    However… I know what my next (possibly last) tattoo is going to be. 8 Chinese characters. And a joke.

    Mu Yi Xiao (Shi) Ma Ma Hu Hu

    Transliterated (translated literally as individual characters) it means “The revered conflagration of the tiger’s voice (exists) as two horses and two tigers”. (Wooooah… deep, dude!)

    Translated properly it means “Mu Yixiao (is) just so-so”. 😀

    All my other tats actually have significant meanings. I really need a joke to highlight my twisted sense of humor.

  33. Jay L Gischer says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I’m not trying to change you, and I like that story.

    AND, I do wonder why you, or anyone else, would think that God would obey your commands regardless of what they were? I mean “strike me dead” probably falls on God in much the same way as “make me a millionaire”.

  34. Michael Reynolds says:

    We can inflict serious casualties on the Chinese if they go after Taiwan, but we’d get a very bloody nose in the process. They would almost certainly have air superiority backed by a hell of a lot of SAMs and anti-ship missiles.

    OTOH, we could apply major pressure by shutting down Chinese exports and oil imports, and we could do it almost effortlessly. China would take Taiwan, but they’d risk all-out war with the US and our allies, and if it came to that, they would lose. It would be a very stupid move on China’s part. But so was Hong Kong. So are these hyper-aggressive territorial water claims. It looks to me like China is making enemies while we solidify and strengthen their opposition. For what? Not for security. Not for their economy.

  35. de stijl says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    I hear you.

    Be you. Do what you need to to keep that. Go for it.

  36. dazedandconfused says:


    It’s actually fairly typical for people to “see” things which are not reality. It’s a pitfall which pilot training is designed to remedy. Such misimpressions are frequent in the area of the glance. If, during a checklist, for 1000 times one has checked the fuel pump switch (for instance) and it has always been at that point on the “ON” position, then it’s entirely possible for the pilot to quickly glance at the switch and, whether or not it is on or off, see it as on. Swear on a bible he saw it that way, because he did.

    We like to think our eyes are giving us reality (and they are) but vision is actually a construct we make in our minds, probably because having to fully assess all the input is time consuming. When confronted with completely new images for the first time it takes quite awhile to work some sort of system into it. It’s a vast amount of data to process. So instead our brain tends strongly towards sorting things out automatically. It takes impressions and fills in a lot of details all by itself, unless deliberate care is taken. Pilot training is all about slowing down and taking that deliberate care, and double checking.

    Ghosts? Could be anything that affected our senses, even imagined, and we will swear (accurately) we saw them, even heard them. Hearing is subject to the same processing. So many accounts is someone seening something real as a heart attack but lost on the double-take. Evaporated into thin air! Only a ghost could do that!

    Simple to this point, yes, but then again there are things most people encounter at some point in life that which is undeniably “more things in heaven and earth than we imagine, Horatio”. Our minds may make constructs out of those alien things, for lack of an ability to shape them into what they really are…

    Happy Halloween.

  37. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    No the article doesn’t delve into the arguments for why or why not defend Taiwan, that is a question that was beyond the scope of the article, which focuses on the current situation. In truth, no president has tried to make the argument as to why we should defend Taiwan. The whole Taiwan policy is to keep it draped in the unknown, so that China has to deal with that ambiguity. Arguably that policy of ambiguity is reaching an end to its utility. China does have the capability to capture Taiwan, though not so overwhelmingly that it wouldn’t be bloody and China’s domestic politics is moving toward capture. Add to that if Xi has adopted the belief that capturing Taiwan will place him in the pantheon of great Chinese leaders, it doesn’t look good for a peaceful future.

    Mu, recognizing Taiwan, would likely trigger an invasion, speeding up the inevitable, if you will. But it does make the argument of why the US and allies should intervene easier to make. Nixon switched US recognition of the rightful government of China from Taipei to Beijing, inpart, as a cold war gambit to split China from the USSR. At the time, it was one of the few levers that the US could use and it worked out.

    Today, we would be recognizing, not who is the rightful government of China, but Taiwan as an independent nation. There is a long history of countries recognizing rebellious colonies and provinces as independent nation, so there would be no precedent setting in that. As opposed to the 1970’s China is fully integrated into the world, so they need to carefully consider the risks. Recognizing Taiwan as independent would surely change the game.

  38. de stijl says:


    Back at ya.

    Little Red Boy by AJJ. The genesis for those 3 lines of text tattoo btw. My favorite song ever.

  39. Mu Yixiao says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    I didn’t read the article. I was speaking strictly from personal observation–and I in no way claim to be an expert.

    The whole Taiwan policy is to keep it draped in the unknown, so that China has to deal with that ambiguity. Arguably that policy of ambiguity is reaching an end to its utility. China does have the capability to capture Taiwan, though not so overwhelmingly that it wouldn’t be bloody and China’s domestic politics is moving toward capture. Add to that if Xi has adopted the belief that capturing Taiwan will place him in the pantheon of great Chinese leaders, it doesn’t look good for a peaceful future.

    Without the protection of US/NATO, China would rip through Taiwan’s defenses like a rhino through wet toilet paper. Taiwan’s total population is 23M people–that’s Shanghai on a Saturday when everyone’s gone out to the countryside for a picnic. They may have US aircraft and munitions, but their army is tiny.

    It would not be bloody at all–not for the Mainland. If Beijing can get troops on the ground in Taiwan, it’s over. PRC losses wouldn’t even qualify as a rounding error.

    Mu, recognizing Taiwan, would likely trigger an invasion, speeding up the inevitable, if you will.

    Highly likely, but not certain. But I agree with the premise.

    But it does make the argument of why the US and allies should intervene easier to make.

    The argument isn’t in question. We absolutely should. It’s the politics that’s in question. And I hate that I agree with the necessity of those politics at present.

    Today, we would be recognizing, not who is the rightful government of China, but Taiwan as an independent nation.


    Other than a few hardliners in the ROC, I don’t think anyone is actually proposing that anyone recognize Taipei as the rightful government of the Chinese mainland.

    Recognizing Taiwan as independent would surely change the game.

    Only because Beijing would be butt-hurt.

    Taiwan has operated as an sovereign nation for 70 years. It’s time we admit it. And if that means we need to park a couple battle fleets next door to Taipei, so be it.

    And, yep… that’s going to hurt us economically. A lot.

    It’s a Kobiashi Maru scenario, and I don’t know how to hack the servers.

  40. MarkedMan says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I’m curious as to what allies you think we have that would go to war with China over Taiwan? I don’t know enough about European strategic interests to know if they would risk war with a nuclear power.

  41. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: It’s a young century. Give it some time. There will be greater outrages (unfortunately).

  42. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: After I found out that L. Ron Hubbard had been a prolific pulp fiction writer, Scientology made more sense to me. Including the derivation of the name.

  43. Michael Reynolds says:

    I was thinking more of our ‘allies’ in the region. (Not technically allies in all cases.) Japan, South Korea, Taiwan itself, quite possibly Vietnam and India, and maybe some basing and supply help from the Philippines or Malaysia. But closing the Malacca straits and the strait of Hormuz to Chinese ships isn’t something we’d need help doing – we still own the oceans.

    China is militarily impressive, but they aren’t ready to fight us. They have thousands of miles of troublesome border to defend – we don’t. They have zero practical experience fighting a war – we have a great deal of experience. They are surrounded by choke points while we have unfettered access to all the oceans. Their best shot would be conspiring with the Russians, get them to move on the Baltic countries. That would have little effect in the short-term because it’d be all about assets in place or close at hand, and neither China nor Russia wants to get into a long drawn-out conflict with us.

  44. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Mu Yixiao:
    Parking a fleet between China and Taiwan would be a mistake. The Chinese have an awful lot of ground-based missiles, not to mention fighters. We could not by any means be sure of air superiority and we don’t send ships where we can’t maintain air superiority.

  45. dazedandconfused says:

    @Mu Yixiao:
    I see no reason why the US needs to officially recognize Taiwan. The status quo has stood for half a century and provides the advantage of not what would essentially be challenging the Chinese to a duel.

    The recent exercises of the Chinese military may be no different from all the pointless exercises NATO and the USSR did around the Fulda Gap during the Cold War. Militaries are compelled to practice for things which they have no reason to want to do, even assuming the ridiculous, that there could be a major conventional war between two nations armed to the teeth with nukes.

    Were we China we would be doing the same thing, pretending that someday the US might use Taiwan as an unsinkable aircraft carrier just 100 miles off shore and prepare to pound the living crap out of it.

  46. MarkedMan says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Makes sense. China is claiming they are only taking what is rightfully there’s. But Japan and Korea must know that such sentiment could easily apply to justifying revenge for old atrocities against the Chinese The thing is, there really is no tradition of alliances in the region. Japan’s alliance with Hitler was really more about convenience. They only actually cooperated incidentally and waged war in two different spheres.

  47. MarkedMan says:

    I think the biggest advantage we have is that China has 1.4B people and only enough resources for probably a third of that. All the rest has to be made up by maintaining a steady outflow of trade goods. Blocking Chinese ports, even for a month, could result in massive unrest.

  48. JohnSF says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    Xi: “Hi, Vlad, pls invade Baltics nxt Tues, kthxbye. Yrs, Jinny.”

    Obvious question from Moscow: What the f@ck is in it for us?
    Putin might like to recover all the upstart republics who dared to desert Mother Russia.
    But he knows that gets him in shooting war with NATO.

    And even if he won that war, a Europe (read: Germany) that will be driven by sheer terror to militarise and to develop a strategic directorate.

    Even now the EU countries vastly outspend and outnumber the Russian in military terms.
    Their problem is duplication and lack of coordination.

    I suspect Putin, or at least some in his circles, realise that Russia is historically fortunate in not having a predatory Power to the west.
    Squeezing and scaring the Germans may yield goodies; a revived Grosser Generalstab is probably not such a good idea.

  49. JohnSF says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    There is a long history of countries recognizing rebellious colonies and provinces as independent nation, so there would be no precedent setting in that.

    The problem is there a lot of counties who believe that a horrid rotten European (and Japanese!) imperialists recognising colonial independence or national self-rule is one thing.

    But that the virtuous and put upon anti-imperialist nations are fully entitled to inherit whatever territories are, or once were, part of their imperial heritage.
    Because reasons.
    And you Tibetans just SHUT UP, if you know what’s good for you.

    (See also Russia & Ukraine; for that matter there are also parallels with Germany in the 1930’s: the same “poor us, we are so persecuted and hard done by” mindset)

  50. JohnSF says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    Xi is not, by most accounts, a fool.
    He has to know China is desperately vulnerable to naval blockade.

    Just as Germany from 1880’s to 1940’s could always see the Royal Navy’s knife at their throat; but even more so for China.

    Eventually Germany miscalculated, twice, thinking it could win quickly and secure resources &/or peace deal after.
    Let’s hope that Beijing is less reckless than Berlin.

    It would be interesting to know what percentage of China’s domestic energy output is required for fertiliser production.
    Because that is one part of the absolute baseline for energy needs.

    Anyway, being aware of this, IMO Beijing is playing a different game.
    Trying a “strategy of tension” to shake the peripheral Powers in the area away from aligning with the US; in particular India and Indonesia.
    The problem for China is they are so diplomatically clumsy; they just keep stamping on their own dicks all the time.

    They want, they need, to peel off ASEAN and India, but they just can’t stop it with the “nine Dash Line” BS and antagonising India over a worthless barren patch of Himalayan plateau.

  51. gVOR08 says:

    @MarkedMan: And Japan pretty much doomed Hitler. Had they attacked Russia, Stalin could not have pulled reinforcements from Siberia to save Moscow. Instead the Japanese dragged us into the war. IIRC comparing GDP Germany, Italy, and Japan were roughly equal to Russia and the Commonwealth. When we entered it was 2:1 against.

  52. Jax says:

    Do we have any butternut squash soup aficionado’s on the Forum today? I’ve never tried it, and I’ve looked at 50 different recipes and I can’t decide what’s the best way to go!

  53. Gustopher says:

    @de stijl: I like it.

    If you want a little bit of graphics, there is the “no fear” duckling from Scientific Diagrams That Look Like Shitposts, but the plain three lines seems more your thing.

  54. Mimai says:

    @Jax: Yes. But it depends. What are you deliberating?

  55. CSK says:

    Try cutting it in half lengthwise, scooping out the seeds, trimming the top and bottom, brushing the interior with olive oil, and roasting it at 400 degrees for 45 minutes.

    Start with this basic recipe if you’ve never had it before.

  56. Mimai says:

    @CSK: Yes, this is my preferred way too. Often with some spice (curry and cumin work well, but cayenne too) for balance. But a soup can (!) be delightful, especially on a cold/windy evening.

  57. Jax says:

    @Mimai: Well, I’ve got a nice ham steak I’d like to add, and some red potatoes, but my kids absolutely will not eat anything that’s ALL pureed together. I was thinking roast the squash lengthwise with some garlic/onion/herbs, and blend THAT, then add it to the ham/potatoes/celery carrots cooking in chicken broth.

  58. Mimai says:

    @Jax: I think that could work. One potential concern is the sweetness, especially if you include carrots. Some balancing spice should be able to take care of that, but it’s something to taste for along the way.

    The other consideration is texture. Thicker vs. thinner. Pulpy vs. smooth. The potatoes will add starch and thus thickening, so you might be better to err on the thinner side when making the soup base. I think also shoot for smoother, especially given what you say about your kids’ preferences.

  59. JohnMcC says:

    @Michael Reynolds: “Neither China nor Russia want to get into a long drawn-out conflict with us.” Which is sort of the basis for avoiding that war to begin with. If such a conflict broke out and became the losing quagmire for the China/Russia enemy that you predict then they have much less reason to avoid nukes.

    Being several such steps away from the apocalypse seems important. The more steps the better.

  60. Jax says:

    @Mimai: Some of the recipes I’ve found call for nutmeg and ginger and cinnamon, others for cumin and curry or rosemary and stuff like that….I guess since I’m going for more of a savory flavor with the meat, I should season that way?

  61. JohnSF says:

    The Japanese attack made it even more of a race against time for Hitler than it already was.
    The gamble, since the invasion of Russia, that Germany could defeat Russia and utilize its resources, and/or cripple the British by submarine warfare, before the UK “strangle and bomb” strategy broke Germany.

    Which is why Germany jumped at declaring war on the US: it hoped to win the blockade contest before the US could bring power to bear effectively.

    OTOH, the Japanese attack badly damaged the British strategy.
    The resources of South East Asia/Australasia/India, instead of being available to combat Germany, were locked into fighting Japan.

    It would have been really nasty if Japan had been smart, left the US alone and just attacked Singapore, Burma and the East Indies.

    Doubly so if Hitler had been smart enough earlier to delay Barbarossa and secure North Africa, including naval bases in Morocco.
    Game over for UK
    (This was a prospect that really worried Imperial General Staff: fortunately Hitler was too obsessed with Russia to see the opportunity)

  62. Jax says:

    @Mimai: I found one with goat cheese, chives, and bacon, too, which I happen to have on hand! And the oldest child loves them, despite hating squash, so maaaaybeeee I can sneak it past her with the right toppings….and the youngest will like the ham and potato chunks, but NOT the toppings for the other child, she has a cheese phobia in ALLLLL of it’s forms. 😛

  63. Mimai says:

    @Jax: Definitely go with the savory spice! Bacon and chives as accoutrements would work great with the ham, potato, etc. Not sure about the goat cheese. But if that’s your kiddo’s thing, I won’t yuck their yum.

  64. JohnSF says:

    @de stijl:
    No ragrets?
    Just teasing.
    I’m thinking of a girl I used to know who was into sigils and such, and IIRC there was one for “impeturbable” or similar (the name was Latin) something like a flowery pentagon containing, erm, something or other. You were supposed to create the inner image using “unconcious writing” combined with a recognised symbol of some sort.
    Memory fades.

    Personally, have some inclination to get one symbolising: “I am a gardener who is persecuted by slugs”.

  65. JohnSF says:


    If such a conflict …became the losing quagmire for the … enemy … they have much less reason to avoid nukes.
    …The more steps the better.

    Hence the importance of preemptive surrender, so that an aggressor can be certain they will never lose.

    After the development of atomic weapons, the “pacifist” philosopher Bertrand Russell advocated enforcing disarmament upon the Soviet Union by use of pre-emptive nuclear war if necessary.

    But after the USSR obtained nuclear weapons, he, entirely logically, propounded “better Red than dead” and unilateral nuclear disarmament.

    Vulcan military strategy, LOL.

  66. JohnSF says:

    BTW this isn’t intended as being a knock on you, or sarcasm at your expense.
    It’s just that military game theory can very quickly get totally nuts, one way or another.

    I just hope Chinese command isn’t indulging in the sort pseudo-logical wishful thinking that has afflicted so many countries decision making processes throughout history.

  67. Jax says:

    @Mimai: And a nice, crusty cottage bread, yes? With my new mixer?

    I’ve got a gal who’s gonna give me some sourdough starter that’s been going since 1948!! I bought a special sourdough jar and everything, now I just need to find the time to get it from her when I’m not on a horse or flying a drone. 😛

  68. de stijl says:


    It needs to go on the inner side of my right forearm (my left is full up). So I can see it. I need reminders – stay on task, idiot.

    My left inner forearm screams at me in big bold letters


    and I often ignore my forearm’s advice to my detriment.

    I wish I could go back in time and tell past me to right-justify the Be Here Now stack instead of centering it. It would be cooler.

    Right justification tricks your brain into paying more attention. That’s opposite of how English works. We are accustomed to left to right reading and left justified text.

  69. de stijl says:


    Just go for it!

    If your attempt crashes and burns you’ve learned to not do that again. Lesson learned.

    One day I invented chili brats because I decided to fuck around. Chili brats are fucking awesome btw. Next time I make a batch of curry I am going to try curry brats -like currywurst only way better (I hope, we’ll see).

    Every traditional, treasured recipe was once an experiment by a dedicated fool.

    “This might work. Maybe. I’m going for it. Fuck it!” And now we have bucatini all’Amatriciania because some wise fool thought it up and decided to go for it.

    Try. You will hate yourself later if you don’t.

    Squash and sausage? Why not.

  70. Jax says:

    @de stijl: Ohhh, I’m doing it. First stage is now, I’ve got the squash roasting, all stuffed with garlic and onions and herbs. Tomorrow, after we get done testing heifers, I’ll continue with the rest.

    We got almost FIVE INCHES of rain the last 72 hours!

  71. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Jax: I like winter squashes as the are with only salt, pepper and a little butter. But the best butternut squash soup that I ever had was seasoned with nutmeg. It had been made in a cream soup (probably with chicken broth) base, but I’ve made good soups with ham or pork trotter broth (and not a bean to be found in them).

  72. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Jax: Nutmeg will work with the ham also. It’s a little counterintuitive, but so is glazing ham with orange marmalade, and that works.

  73. DrDaveT says:


    Do we have any butternut squash soup aficionado’s on the Forum today? I’ve never tried it, and I’ve looked at 50 different recipes and I can’t decide what’s the best way to go!

    That would be “yes”!

    My personal preference is this one:
    1. Peel and seed the squash. My preference is to buy peeled and seeded already but not diced squash, sealed in plastic. It’s the sweet spot between effort and quality. The diced ones are too dry already when you buy them; the whole ones are too much work to peel and seed.
    2. Cube the squash and toss it in a mix of olive oil, salt, pepper, cumin, ground coriander, and smoked paprika — just enough to coat. Roast at 400 degrees F for 40 minutes.
    3. Mash the roasted squash and mix with chicken stock until it’s the consistency you prefer for soup. I use an immersion (stick) blender, and Kitchen Essentials unsalted chicken stock.

  74. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @de stijl: Who told you no to squash and sausage? Stuffing squashes with sausage was the first recipe I ever did with winter squash and the second with summer ones. I happen to like breakfast sausage in my ratatouille and zucchini goulash, but I usually eat those on vegetarian binges, so I refrain.

  75. de stijl says:


    A couple of years back I realized that frankly acknowledging my anxiety issues was actually less harmful than the pretzels my brain would invent to try to explain it away – to make it go away.

    You can pretend it doesn’t exist for a really long time. But it’s always there. You hide it. From others. From yourself. You hide it very carefully over decades. It would be shameful if others knew. But it is always there. Never let anyone know.

    Unresolved. Lurking. Active. Constantly fucking with you.

    I hid that. Obsessively. I am fine I told myself. I am fine I presented to others. Never let anyone know. Never share that part of yourself. People will point at you and laugh.

    Fuck that! That construct fell apart one day suddenly and all at once.

    Why not deal with the core issue? I’ve tried maladaptive for decades, why not try facing up? What’s the worst that could happen? Try!

    At that time I was acutely agoraphobic. So afraid to be seen I never emptied my mailbox for weeks.

    I was profoundly fucked up. I’d boxed myself in. There was no way out now except an overdue reckoning with the truth.

    I never, ever want to experience that again. It’s really fucking horrible.

    I decided to just be honest.

    No more shame
    No more fear
    No more dread

  76. MarkedMan says:


    Anyway, being aware of this, IMO Beijing is playing a different game.
    Trying a “strategy of tension” to shake the peripheral Powers in the area away from aligning with the US; in particular India and Indonesia.
    The problem for China is they are so diplomatically clumsy; they just keep stamping on their own dicks all the time.

    Honest to god, there is more insight and curiosity in the Asia discussion in this comment section than in 99%+ of the main stream media.

  77. de stijl says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    I never knew that was a thing.

    I was just totally spit-balling the squash + sausage combo. It made sense in my head at the time.

    It’s really cool that it exists in real life.

  78. EddieInCA says:


    We got almost FIVE INCHES of rain the last 72 hours!

    It rained for four hours in Los Angeles Friday morning. It rained a total of 0.03 of an inch.

    In the last 20 years, Los Angeles has had 4 years (20%) where the YEARLY rainfall wasn’t 5 inches.

  79. de stijl says:

    @de stijl:

    Someone thought up the wheel. Someone thought up the concept of an axle and two wheels working together concurrently. Maybe put a travois on top of that?

    Our forebears were fucking geniuses. We are standing on their shoulders.

    Someone thought up spaghetti Bolognese. Some idiot invented meatballs.

    I am continually impressed by how smart our forebears were.

  80. JohnMcC says:

    @JohnSF: I’m very far from a pacifist as I think you know. But when the issue is avoiding the situation that would make the use of nukes more acceptable to authoritarian gov’ts, yes or no. What would you answer?

    I think it’s important to remember how horrible those damn things are. So make remarks like the above.

    Which little though it was, seemed to quite stimulate you, by the way.

  81. de stijl says:


    When I was very young I was living in a cheap basement apartment. My windows were basically wells cut into the ground.

    We got an end of times rainstorm that dumped 13 inches of rain in 6 hours. It was intense.

    My window wells filled up. I had a window with a hole in it. Probably a BB hole. Maybe a .22 bullet. This was a pretty sketchy neighborhood. You get what you can afford. I was very poor.

    It reached the point that the water level in the window well hit that penetrating hole I’d always ignored.

    It gushed forth like a cherub in an Italian fountain. Pfwoosh! Pinpoint delivery piss stream directly into my living space.

    I grabbed a sauce pan went outside and bailed out my window wells. Seven or eight times over the course of the next few hours.

  82. Jax says:

    @EddieInCA: It’s rained more in the last 3 days than it has for the last year, with snow and rain combined. It rained enough we finally got rid of the west coast wildfire smoke, and our own forest service decided to start controlled burns! 🙁

  83. Jax says:

    @de stijl: My late husband’s Dad’s house had giant window wells like that in Arizona. Come monsoon season, they filled up and it was a constant seep of water, with the images beyond the glass of floating insects and lizards and whatever unfortunate mammal (or it’s skeleton) that had fallen into the window well and become trapped. Best thing I ever did was make sure he hired a guy to come in and screen those off, with a little roof over each one that diverted the water away from the well itself.

    And then we went and got ourselves a nice, 2nd floor apartment. 😛

  84. de stijl says:


    It does feel nice when you move up in the world.

    Basement hovel to studio. Studio to a one bedroom.

    When I was mid twenties I had enough scratch and a solid income stream and rented a high-rise place. 20th floor. The balcony view sold it. I must.

    Man, I thought I had hit the bigs then. It was a big step up for me. I thought I was big-time. I thought was the cock of the walk in my head, but I was living hand to mouth basically and spending 60% of my income on rent. That’s a bad ratio.

    I ended up spending most of my adult life in downtown high rises.

  85. Gustopher says:

    @de stijl:

    No more shame
    No more fear
    No more dread

    When I read it this time, I wanted it to end with a “Just _____” so it’s not just a bunch of nos.

    Not sure what. And then the first thing that popped into my mind was:
    No More Shame
    No More Fear
    Just Dread

    And that’s obviously entirely wrong. It has the fun twist where you’re expecting something earnest and upbeat and then it doesn’t have it, so it makes me laugh (I amuse myself if no one else).

    But what about a slightly corny, earnest and upbeat “Just compassion”? because sometimes we need a reminder to be compassionate, especially to ourselves. Just my random 2 cents — I might want something positive rather than just a denial of negative (but I’m not you). “Compassion” might be too long a word.

    I might need that very explicit reminder to do or to feel something constructive more than you do, as when I get into my funk I am very, very stupid and all to often just don’t do anything.

  86. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @EddieInCA: That’s not rain even by PNW drizzle standards. Are the NWS rain gauges in places where they collect condensed fog or something?

    Also at 0.03 inches over 4 hours, how did you even know it was raining?

  87. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @de stijl: No, meatballs were obvious after ground meat became a thing. The guy who figured out putting grated cheese, minced onion and peppers, bread crumbs and egg in them was the genius.

  88. de stijl says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    We stand on her shoulders.

  89. de stijl says:


    My take is totally stolen from Sean Bonnette (AJJ dude) who I absolutely fucking love and adore.

    He, or his narrators, say things we are incapable of saying out loud. Especially if someone might hear.

    The frank and brutal nature of his songwriting style really appeals to me. Dude goes with it til the end. It ‘s very rare.

    The first time I heard AJJ I was taken aback. You can’t say that out loud, dude. Too real.

    Yet, yes you can. Why not? And if you do it unlocks things. Hidden things. Secrets you want to hide from the world. I feel utterly inadequate and lost and I have always felt that as the truth. I could never say that. People don’t say that.

    Bonnette is a brisk reminder. Smack! Slap! Pay attention! He puts it out there. In the true light of day, our fears seem kind of paltry and banal. Less of a big deal than before.

    He’s really honest. What does that feel like? What would life be like if I were that honest too? Honest to myself? That honest to others?

    One day I flipped. I need to be honest now. I cannot not be. My life is stunted. This needs to stop. I need to try.

    That set of 3 “no” things make sense to me now. I have felt and lived the opposite for too long. No longer.

    No more.

  90. JohnSF says:

    Nuclear use triggers really worry me as well.

    At one time I did a thesis project on the foreign policy ramifications of the development and use of the atomic bomb, and “nuclear diplomacy” and the failure of post-war arms control proposals with the Soviet Union (and the UK).
    Which is where I came across the surprising advocacy of pre-emption by Russell.
    It was quite a shock, actually, as I recalled his campaigning for disarmamemnt with CND.

    During that, I read a good deal about the effects of nuclear weapons use at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
    They are truly horrible things.
    The description that sticks in my mind was one of the British scientists at Los Alamos (IIRC):
    “Ordinary weapons allow for some chance of survival. This device is a mechanism of absolute and inescapable death.”

    The problem is how to minimise the chances of use while also avoiding capitulating to threats.
    Difficult; and I’m damned if I have the answers.

    Incidentally, the area that worries me most for possible use of nuclear weapons due to miscalculation is India/Pakistan.