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. charon says:

    Anti-vaxxer has party with vaccine and testing recommendations at his own home because he’s kind of a fraud

  2. charon says:
  3. MarkedMan says:

    My wife and talked about whether we should go through with our planned trip to the theater this morning for the annual screening of “It’s a Wonderful Life”, given Omicron. We decided to go. We are vaxxed and boosted and the theater has a vax and mask mandate. But omicron is significantly more contagious than delta which was significantly more contagious than the original. Eventually we will get it. We will put that off with reasonable measures (masks, no shoulder to shoulder crowds, etc) but feel that the odds are good that our cases will be mild at this point.

    Just a data point, FWIW

  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Some apparent good Omicron news:

    Michael Lin, PhD-MD

    Finally, what we’ve been waiting for: age-controlled data on Omicron severity, courtesy SA health ministry.Across all ages, deaths among hospitalized pts are 2/3 lower in Omicron wave. If more mild cases are admitted, this # goes down, but doesn’t seem likely that’s the reason
    Since most hospitalizations are unvaccinated, then the relative risk of death for vaccinated is already several times lower than for unvaccinated but maybe previously infected. Overall both groups have an average fatality rate of ~1/3 of previous waves.

    So worst case:
    • Unvaxxed infected IFR ~0.3% (assuming 1% for unvaxxed uninfected in previous waves, and similar hospitalization rate for Omicron)
    • Vaxxed IFR several times lower (depends on ratio of unvaxxed to vaxxed in the hospitalized group)

    Best-case scenario: Most hospitalized patients were immune-naive because those who got hospitalized tended to be those without prior immunity, in which case the lower death rate means Omicron is inherently less deadly as well.

    A thread.

  5. CSK says:

    Are the theater seats fairly widely spaced? Seating is usually shoulder-to-shoulder. In any case, enjoy.

    We can all use some good news.

  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Uh oh:

    This week, ice scientists meeting in New Orleans warned that something even more alarming was brewing on the West Antarctic ice sheet – a vast basin of ice on the Antarctic peninsula. Years of research by teams of British and American researchers showed that great cracks and fissures had opened up both on top of and underneath the Thwaites glacier, one of the biggest in the world, and it was feared that parts of it, too, may fracture and collapse possibly within five years or less.

    Thwaites makes Larsen B look like an icicle. It is roughly 100 times larger, about the size of Britain, and contains enough water on its own to raise sea levels worldwide by more than half a metre. It contributes about 4% of annual global sea level rise and has been called the most important glacier in the world, even the “doomsday” glacier. Satellite studies show it is melting far faster than it did in the 1990s.

    Thwaites is worrisome, but there are many other great glaciers in Antarctica also retreating, thinning and melting as the Southern Ocean warms. Many are being held back because Thwaites acts like a cork, blocking their exit to the sea. Should Thwaites fall apart, scientists believe the others would speed up, leading to the collapse of the whole ice sheet and catastrophic global sea level rises of several metres.

    Whether and how quickly they may collapse are some of the most important questions of the age. Sea levels are rising fast: the annual rate of increase more than doubling from 1.4mm to 3.6mm between 2006 and 2015, and accelerating. A few millimetres a year does not sound much but the loss of even a small part of Thwaites would not just help to speed this up further but would likely increase the severity of storm surges.

    Houston, we have a problem.

  7. OzarkHillbilly says:

    In October 2005, Bob Innes bought the website domain name “” It was the dotcom era and he was a business school student in North Carolina trying to advertise website traffic analysis services: the “hit” was a nod to clicks coming in on a client’s website.

    “It was simply a play on words,” he says now, when contacted via email for an interview.

    Little did he know that come 2021, he would be involved in hundreds of legal cases, handing people to the police for trying to solicit assassin services. This week, one woman was found guilty, after trying to have her husband killed through Innes’ website.

    But in 2005, with business far from booming, Innes moved on from his plans for a network analysis business with a catchy name. He graduated; his friends who collaborated with him on the site found full-time jobs. But Innes held on to the domain name in the hopes that someone might buy it one day.

    No one bought the site, and it continued to exist in the background of Innes’ life. Then, in 2010, he returned to its inbox out of curiosity and was stunned to find a client – just not the type he had been looking for.

    Innes had received a message from a woman named Helen. She was stranded in Canada, had lost her passport, and wanted three family members in the UK murdered for screwing her out of her father’s inheritance. He didn’t respond. But she persisted: sending a second email, which included names, addresses and other corroborating information. Innes felt compelled to act. So he responded, feigning to have the capability to do what was being asked of him.

    “Do you still require our assistance? We can place you in contact with a Field Operative,” he replied, stepping into character.

    Within hours, Innes was in possession of the legal name, location, and phone number of a woman he thought was capable of serious harm. “I truly felt that three people’s lives were in jeopardy,” he says. Innes turned her in, and soon found out from detectives that ‘Helen’ was wanted in the UK on extraditable warrants for “more serious charges”.

    It was at this point Innes realized his $9.20 website provided a little more value than he’d initially bargained for: he had just saved the lives of three people.

    He figures he’s up to about 150 lives saved. Talk about unexpected consequences.

  8. CSK says:

    Great story, but had he never heard the term “hitman” before? Maybe he could have called it “”

  9. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @CSK: It made sense to me. I remember when people were referring to “hits” on a website. He just wanted something catchy that would stick in people’s minds.

  10. OzarkHillbilly says:

    California’s ‘smash and grab’ robberies – what’s really going on behind the headlines?

    Amid fraught discussions over the future of policing in major American cities, a series of mass thefts at high-end stores across California have made headlines nationwide. The incidents have drawn widespread coverage linking them to “organized crime” and spotlighting concerns from retailers about a theft crisis. They also reinvigorated a political debate over crime rates in California, prompting pledges from local and state leaders to charge those involved and increase police presence in affected areas. Meanwhile, conservatives and some local leaders have pointed to the incidents as evidence that criminal justice reform and progressive policies are encouraging crime and making California more dangerous.

    But despite their high profile nature, experts say there is little evidence to suggest the robberies point to a wider retail theft crisis, and that some law enforcement and industry groups are overstating the problem.

    Here’s what we know so far.

    Long story short, a lot of smoke, very little fire.

  11. CSK says:

    Oh, it makes sense. No argument there. But obviously a fair number of people–idiots–thought he was advertising his assassin services: rent a hitman.

  12. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @CSK: Turning in homicidal morons is one of life’s little pleasures.

  13. OzarkHillbilly says:

    British rock icon Rod Stewart and his son have pleaded guilty to battery in an assault case stemming from a New Year’s Eve 2019 altercation with a security guard at an exclusive Florida hotel. Court records released on Friday show that the singer and his son, Sean Stewart, 41, entered guilty pleas to misdemeanor charges of simple battery.

    “No one was injured in the incident and a jury did not find Sir Rod Stewart guilty of the accusation,” his attorney Guy Fronstin said in a statement. “Instead, Sir Rod Stewart decided to enter a plea to avoid the inconvenience and unnecessary burden on the court and the public that a high profile proceeding would cause.”

    Well thank you Rod, for alleviating me of the burden of reading court transcripts had you gone to trial.

  14. gVOR08 says:


    Long story (about smash-and-grab and other robberies) short, a lot of smoke, very little fire.

    The story mentioned that these sorts of things have occurred in the past, but are now major news stories because there’s video. Sort of the flip side of people realizing there are bad cops because we now have video.

  15. Mikey says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: About 15 years ago, a co-worker and I were doing a job in the Los Angeles area and one of the local guys was buddies with someone who worked on the Tonight Show (with Jay Leno at the time). Said buddy got us “on the list” so we could watch the taping. Rod Stewart was the musical guest which I thought was really cool given I had never seen him live. He was really good, too.

    One of the other guests was the late Michael Clarke Duncan, who was really quite funny.

  16. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @gVOR08: The article notes that certain right wing actors are hyping every incident to the max so they can blame criminal justice reform. Never mind that all the trend lines* are continuing downward or holding steady.

    *the 2020 homicide spike appears to be very much covid related, as does the 2020 drop in property crime,

    @Mikey: I’m a bit ambivalent about Rod’s music. His more popular stuff always ends up grating on my nerves, probably because of overexposure. But most of his less played tunes I find enjoyable. I’ve never seen him perform but have heard he does put on a good show.

  17. Sleeping Dog says:


    Nationally crime is continuing the downward trend, but in some cities there is a pronounced spike. Chicago, Minneapolis, San Francisco and LA are prominent both due to the problems they are experiencing and for having local government promising reform. We want them to be successful, but there is an expectation on the part of the citizenry that a cities leaders provide a safe environment. If they can’t do so, they won’t be in office long enough to enact the reforms.

  18. de stijl says:

    About a week ago I asked a question about Keurig machines.

    I got a K-Cup ad on Youtube today. Never before now ever. It was directed at me on an entirely different platform on purpose because of a random thing I typed here.

    About a month ago I quasi-ranted about how Google and data miners in general plumb all user generated content and endeavor to associate that to one profile. That shit is gold.

    Today I got a K-cup ad with a Youtube vid. Took ’em a week. Served me an ad I never encountered before ever. Why would they?

    You might think you are anonymous here. What with the clever pseudonyms. You are not.

    All is associated to an email address. Which are easily and pretty reliably associated to a person / profile.

    I use an email address here I have not used in decades. On Google, I use my current gmail addy. Some smart son of a bitch found the link yeats ago.

    Based on my handle I used to get ads in Dutch. Before they plumbed the depths.

    People/programs are flagging words in comments here (as an example) and using your words to craft a tighter profile about you. To market to you.

    Guaranteed if you created a new pseudonym and commented only in Suomi (Finnsh) for ten distributed comments here in a week or two you would get ads in Suomi for Finnish products / services on an entirely disparate service. Google would offer up ads what it thinks your profile would be interested in.

    Shared this story before, I like a song called Autoclave. Searched for it.

    Youtube offered me ads about actual physical autoclaves for sale thereafter for a while. Capital A Autoclave by The Mountain Goats is an entirely different search than lower case a autoclave physical object. It’s a song title. It’s a metaphor.

    Contextualization is pretty easy for a human brain. Contextualization for a program is extraordinarily hard, so they rely on flagged words capture and the people who program them then make assumptions and sell advertisements to vendors thusly.

    It is insidious. Also, kinda fascinating. Easily possibly dystopian.

  19. CSK says:

    @de stijl:
    Do you have a Youtube subscription?

  20. JohnSF says:

    A short comment on the UK by-election in North Shropshire, lost by the Conservatives:

    1) Why Johnson is not the political genius some have thought:
    His win in 2019 was conditioned above all by fighting Labour led by Corbyn, who provoked some of the most visceral loathing of a politician I can ever recall.
    Secondly, Brexit: a lot of working class leave voters were prepared to vote Tory to “get Brexit done”
    If you look at the numbers 2019 vs 2017: Conservatives won on a swing of just 1.2% !
    13,966,451 compared to 13,636,684
    329,767 votes!
    There is a lot more I could say on this topic. (He threatened)

    2) Why this constituency was not as safe as a lot of commentary makes out:
    Look at the figures here.
    Cons. got 62.7% in 2019, and indeed 60.5% in 2017.
    But look further back, and Conservative win but on only 50% or less!
    They won primarily because of the deep animosity of their opponents, with Liberasl and Labour taking about a quarter each.
    If the anti-Tory vote could be combined, which this time it was, it’s a marginal.
    There are a lot of seats like this in England, which is why this result really worries a lot of Conservative MPs

    3) Why the Conservatives have serious issues going forward:
    Johnson has led the Conservatives into a thicket of contradictions: populist vs neoliberals vs traditionalist. And he is running out of the room to manoeuvre he needs, due to their incompatibility and to collision with reality (economics and the EU especially).

  21. Jax says:

    @de stijl: The teenager made the comment a couple months ago that she needed to take a shower because her butt stinks, and Facebook promptly served me up some ads for some weird “lady parts” deodorant. 😛 “They” are definitely listening.

  22. Sleeping Dog says:

    @de stijl:

    Did you do a keurig search on either google or youtube? That would start the adds going.

  23. Stormy Dragon says:

    @de stijl:

    In OTB’s case, it’s probably not Google per se tracking the comments, but rather Automattic (who owns Gravatar) and who gets pinged each time a comment is loaded here.

    Automattic is likely selling that information to Google, Facebook, etc.

  24. gVOR08 says:

    @de stijl:

    Capital A Autoclave by The Mountain Goats is an entirely different search than lower case a autoclave physical object.

    Different issue, but a few years ago I had earwax buildup. Tried to Google for information. Turned out there was a band called Earwax and it was a huge pain to construct a query in which the band wasn’t the first hundred hits.

    It may not be a good thing, but the targeted ads are more sophisticated. Ten years ago if I mentioned my uncle Fred, I’d get ads offering to sell me my uncle Fred.

  25. Slugger says:

    I was thinking today that I might be a Trump guy and not know it. I was saying F Netanyahu long ago!

  26. JohnSF says:

    @de stijl:
    The only reason I’m pseudo-anonymous is ’cause in an another JohnSF ID I’ve said some sorta disobliging things about the sanity (and ancestry) of some of our managerial heirarchs.
    Were I really trying to be anon I’d actually try.
    Any way – Innocence Mission Surreal
    Ach, the memories, I could drown in them!

  27. JohnSF says:

    That said, if the the All Seeing Eye stares hard enough in your direction, doesn’t matter what sort of cloaks you wear, they’ll blow away like dust in the breeze.
    Don’t matter how Tor or crypto or whatever tech-bro nonsensery you go, if a non-Power, you’re naked if they choose to look.
    Anyone who doesn’t know this is a fool.
    Or a libertarian.
    But I repeat myself.

  28. de stijl says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    It’s not OTB selling at all, it’s multiple companies scanning comments here and comments everywhere because they can.

    Things, identifying markers, stuff you purposefully post or upload to x via y rather than to w via z is all absorbed into a mass that gets mined even when you are trying vigorously to separate them. Our efforts at anonymizing ourselves are basically ridiculous.

    I used to work closely with data vendors. If it was legal to take personal data, they would. Always. Their bread and butter. It was the product they sold.

    One of them recruited me hard. I had skillz. (with a zee (or zed depending)). Skills they wanted. The whole concept just creeped me out too much. And the presented package was not that super great.

    I was making great money then and did want or need to take a sketchy gig in the exurbs. I prefer actual cities. The exurbs of SF are fairly cool as exurbs go, but I prefer true urban. I prefer going to sleep knowing I was not working for Skynet tomorrow.

    I had already compromised myself at least twice. Both were unknowing. I didn’t walk in knowing they were evil. Had I known, I woundt’ve.

    Twice was enough for me. Alternate reality me is working for a division of LexisNexis in a random NorCal exurb. Alt reality me is a functional alcoholic and is really bad at dealing with stress. I am very angry. I have not started dealing with shit. I am isolated. Nope.

    I’m fine with actual me. Zero regrets.

  29. JohnMcC says:

    @de stijl: In being driven around Atlanta by my Sis and BinL, got somewhat acquainted with “WAZE” or perhaps “WAYS”. It’s an actual hive mind directing the worker bees hither and thither; I found it strangely spooky. If an adversary wanted to play a really nasty trick to show their mastery of infrastructure, they could screw with WAZE and tie up the nation’s largest cities for days.

  30. de stijl says:

    I did this hype last night really late so no one saw it:

    Violent Femmes
    Kiss Off

    Another thing I am super into today is Kate Bush. Running Up That Hill has really personal connections, but This Woman’s Work is kicking my head today hard.

    Both are great. (All three actually)

  31. JohnMcC says:

    @de stijl: Many years ago — before cell phones — shared breakfast table at B&B with couple of whom the gentleman was an enthusiastic engineer of the retail benefits of RFID. He described walking down the sidewalk in front of a dep’t store or through a mall. The store recognizes you. You get a sign at the door as you walk by: John! Sales in Camping Gear. I get a coupon on my phone. As I go in I’m escorted by darkening and lightening aisles toward the target they have for me. He thought that was just the greatest thing ever.

  32. de stijl says:


    I need a Fred. Got one for sale perchance? I’ll pay market plus 10%.

  33. JohnSF says:

    What about WAIS?
    Now there’s a name to wake the sleeping heroes of the internet from their slumbers in Avalon!

  34. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @gVOR08: “It may not be a good thing, but the targeted ads are more sophisticated. Ten years ago if I mentioned my uncle Fred, I’d get ads offering to sell me my uncle Fred.”

    I must not have a big enough interwebs presence (or is that “presents?”). I still mostly get ads offering to sell me Uncle Fred. (And I don’t even have an Uncle Fred.)

  35. JohnSF says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    Hah! Should have got in the market earlier!
    I now have a stockpile of Uncle Freds in the attic; just waiting for the inevitable upswing in Fred futures to corner the market and cash in!

  36. de stijl says:


    Some people are happy about the new now and want it to be more ‘inclusive’.

    It is way too late. We have to adapt. We can’t even do a Fight Club-esque burn it all down scenario any longer. It’s all in the cloud now.


    One cool thing about new gigs is that if we need more memory or storage we just buy it.

    We used to have to have to spec it out, get delivery and install it and create infrastructure to maintain it.

    (Pro tip – if you are over-heated, go to a server room. It’s gonna be 58F with state of the art circulation.)

    Nowadays, it’s a commodity. Send a request and remittance – done by EOD. It’s effing magic.

    My calling card and bones my skillz used to be analyzing canned and ad hoc queries as a set, anticipating them, and designing a structure / structures to store relevant answers as close as possible to the requester. Make it as fast and painless as possible for 90 +n% of queries to provide the correct result in less than two seconds.

    The true jam was the switching mechanism, frankly. Lots of programmers busted their heads on that conundrum. You had to parse a SQL request and point it at the fastest answer. Not easy.

  37. de stijl says:


    Monetizing the Fred market is easy-peesy. Some people have spare Freds; some people need Freds.

    Align and skim off the transaction as a market fee.

  38. de stijl says:

    @de stijl:

    Anti-Kate Bush is Kate Nash.


    Maybe the snottiest snarkiest song ever about relationships. Extraordinarily English in tone. The patronization displayed is fetishized perfection.

    I fucking love it.

  39. de stijl says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    Never searched for Keurig or K-cups on any search engine ever.

    Somebody scanned the comment, found a flagged word, sold the data.

  40. de stijl says:

    One salient thing I did not mention: the big dudes in data aggregation also type you as a consumer. 6 or 8 types. Then the subtypes. Not boolean – fuzzy association to a type – percentage association based on available data about you. You are Utility. You are Whimsy. Whatever. You are typed and subtyped nevertheless.

    If you sign up for their super-duper service you get access to pretty banal marketing advice any 3rd year marketing or psychology major could provide.

    It is not the secret sauce. All of them tout this service hard though. Were they really excel is at on-line message delivery.

    It is really creepy on so many levels. Totally legal. Encouraged and rewarded. Expanding exponentially.

  41. Jax says:

    Maybe I feel like I’m discovering something new that’s been known all along, but….every time I make a “savory” recipe, something with meat/potatoes/carrots/onions and some herbs and spices, it always feels like there’s still something missing. I’ve been messing around with different stuff in my mom’s old recipes, and….

    It’s vinegar. I prefer white wine or rice vinegar, but in a pinch any ol’ vinegar will work, I’m guessing.

    It also works in her bread recipes. The bread has just a little more “pop”.

    Does anybody else around here add vinegar?

  42. Gustopher says:

    @Jax: My mother had a sour meatball recipe with vinegar, but it wasn’t a regular thing.

  43. Gustopher says:

    @de stijl: unless you are basically going to have a burner phone that has a whole separe identity, and keep it off your common networks (and keep your real stuff off of its) your accounts will be identified and combined in ad profiles.

    Simply way too many tracking methods at this point.

  44. CSK says:

    It’s nine a.m. Where’s the Sunday forum?

  45. James Joyner says:

    @CSK: Steven didn’t pre-post it and I foolishly agreed to let my laptop install a Windows update at 6am and am only 30% in.

    No—just bumped to 48!

    Anyway, I texted him since I can’t go it via the phone.

  46. CSK says:

    @James Joyner:
    Thanks. I’m sure it will show up soon.