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. CSK says:

    Well, someone has to start somewhere:

    When everyone else was cooing over Vance, I nailed him and a phony and an opportunist. I was right.

  2. CSK says:

    Should be “as a phony and an opportunist.” Insufficient coffee intake.

  3. OzarkHillbilly says:
  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Johnathan Hernandez, a Santa Ana city councilman, is later seen in the video, asking the police officers, “Guys, what’s going on with the music here?”

    An unnamed officer told Hernandez that he was playing the music from his phone and on the cruiser’s PA system in an attempt to prevent a resident, who was recording him, from continuing to do so. The officer explained that it had to do with “copyright infringement.”

    Hernandez went on to ask the officer if he knew who he was, to which he replied, “You’re a city councilperson.”

    “Absolutely … and this is my district. You’re not going to conduct yourself like that in front of my neighbors,” Hernandez can be heard saying.

    The officer then apologized repeatedly to Hernandez and to the individual filming the incident.

    “My people live here, brother. Please treat them with respect … There’s kids that need to go to school. There’s people that are working. You chose to use our taxpayer dollars to disrespect a man with your music. That’s childish, sir,” Hernandez told the officer.

    In the push to reform the police, maybe we should start by hiring adults.

  5. Mimai says:

    The OTB community seems to be over-represented by writers — professional, semi-professional, connoisseurs, etc.

    So, I’m seeking your considered opinions on writing tics [or whatever you prefer to call those involuntary habitual “things” that frequent your writing].

    What are your own? Do they bother you (ie, do you attempt to catch and eliminate them)?

    Do the tics of others bother you? Delight you? Which ones?

    Are your writing tics similar to or divorced from your verbal tics? Your thinking tics?

  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    “I feel like the hamster that powers his brain is getting tired right now.”

    -Jimmy Kimmel on DJT

  7. Slugger says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Are there any specific examples of the offending material in the math books? It says that the books are K through grade 5. I went to school a long time ago, and the books were almost 100% drills like 47 times 16. We didn’t have story problems until the higher grades. If I can kill seven whiteys without reloading my AK-47, how many can I kill by reloading eight times?

  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    An elected Miserian I can be proud of. Who’da thunk it?

    Well, me, but damn dawg, they are few and far between.

  9. CSK says:

    I’ve looked for examples and can’t find any. The Miami and Orlando papers are subscription-only, so I can’t check them.

  10. Michael Reynolds says:

    Whatever writing tics I have I simply redefine as technique. For example, I overuse m-dashes, but that’s because I have an informal, conversational style. It’s all perfectly logical. In my head.

  11. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Slugger: Are there any specific examples of the offending material in the math books?

    No. Folks are speculating that that is because there is no there, there. It’s just another ginned up outrage to keep the lemmings riled up.

    My theory is they have pictures of little white kids sharing their apples with little black kids and asking how many apples are left, the implication being white kids are greedy little fucks who want to keep as much as they can for themselves forcing the little black kids onto welfare and food stamps and to get free lunches at school and that makes the little white kids feel bad.

  12. CSK says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    In one sense, an author’s writing style is defined by her or his tics.

  13. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I’ve been reading Eichenwald’s Conspiracy of Fools: A True Story

    It’s f’n horrifying. The out of control hubris and greed that underlies every criminal act but also every stupidity of waste, glad handing, back stabbing, willful blindness, and simple cowardice. All in one corporation, it just boggles the mind, and to find willing accomplices at Arthur Anderson…

  14. Sleeping Dog says:

    This morning NYT has a guest essay by David Hume Kennerly, a Pulitzer winning photographer, Photographing Hell that discusses the influence of photographs from war zones on public opinion. He uses examples from Ukraine, Viet Nam and WWII.

    He finishes with this paragraph:

    I’m getting tired of those endless disclaimers — like the one at the top of this essay — that say, “Warning: Graphic Material.” The best photographs of war might make us want to look away. It’s imperative that we do not.

    Of course the NYT would provide a trigger warning.

  15. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    Objecting to trigger warnings was one of the several reasons I got canceled. I said they were therapeutically nonsensical, counterproductive and hampered story telling. Later, someone did actual research. Turns out trigger warnings do no therapeutic good and may do some small amount of harm.

    Most of the flurry of studies that followed found that trigger warnings had no meaningful effect, but two of them found that individuals who received trigger warnings experienced more distress than those who did not. Yet another study suggested that trigger warnings may prolong the distress of negative memories.

    A large study by Jones, Bellet, and McNally found that trigger warnings reinforced the belief on the part of trauma survivors that trauma was central (rather than incidental or peripheral) to their identity. The reason that effect may be concerning is that trauma researchers have previously established that a belief that trauma is central to one’s identity predicts more severe P.T.S.D.; Bellet called this “one of the most well documented relationships in traumatology.” The perverse consequence of trigger warnings, then, may be to harm the people they are intended to protect.

    The research doesn’t yet exist to prove I’m right about storytelling as well.

  16. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Michael Reynolds: You are right about story telling. Anything that interrupts the flow of the story, harms it. It’s a hiccup.

  17. Mimai says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Your redefining approach resonates. I fancy the em dash too. And the parenthetical. And the brackets within the parenthetical. Here’s my self-serving redefining: this reflects my complexity-loving brain and how I think in caveats, layers, etc…behold my profundity!

    I’m also keen to hear about turns of phrases (and the like) that are habitual. And how folks think about those. They might be a bit tougher to redefine.

  18. CSK says:

    According to Axios, the top selling Easter candy is…Peeps.
    Was there ever a viler confection to be had?

  19. Gustopher says:

    @Slugger: 200 years ago, Annabelle’s ancestors owned a slave. The slave has 418 living descendants now, with an average income of $28,000. The are 217 living descendants of the slave owner, with an average income of $38,000.

    Annabelle has an income of $34,000. What percentage of her income would need to be transferred from her to the descendants of the slave to assuage her white guilt and offset the structural racism that she benefits from?

  20. Gustopher says:

    @Gustopher: I meant that as a joke, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that there really is a good question at the core. Addressing the structural racism and the compounded affects of a lack of economic opportunity is going to take money.

    Cash transfers just for being descended from slaves might not be the best solution, of course, but directing funds to improve education opportunities, create banking infrastructure in underserved communities, steer people away from jail into actually rehabilitative processes…

  21. Gustopher says:

    Ukrainian officials have run more than 8,600 facial recognition searches on dead or captured Russian soldiers in the 50 days since Moscow’s invasion began, using the scans to identify bodies and contact hundreds of their families in what may be one of the most gruesome applications of the technology to date.

    The country’s IT Army, a volunteer force of hackers and activists that takes its direction from the Ukrainian government, says it has used those identifications to inform the families of the deaths of 582 Russians, including by sending them photos of the abandoned corpses.

    Wow. That’s pretty —um— something. I’m half horrified and half really impressed. Well done, Ukraine.

  22. @CSK: I am betting they sell well because they are cute and can be used as decorations.

    I wonder how many actually get eaten?

    (Because yes, vile).

  23. CSK says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    Each Easter, people purchase more than 700 million Peeps. So a fair proportion of those, I’m guessing, get eaten.

    There’s an abomination called “Peepza.” Yes. It’s a tomato sauce and mozzarella pizza adorned with Peeps.

  24. Michael Reynolds says:

    Indeed. Although it sometimes takes work to convince editors of that. They’re reading analytically, but I don’t want the reader analyzing, I want them experiencing. Most people when reading sort of ‘hear’ it in their heads as if it were spoken aloud. So I try to use punctuation, sentence length, paragraph length to manipulate the pace at which the readers hear it in their heads. They may read at a constant pace of X words per minute, but they’ll ‘hear’ it as fast or slow and that will be the more emotional connection.


    You want to go fast, so I slow you down, hoping to make you feel frustrated. Then, switch to some long unpunctuated action sequence where you want to take a breath, but I don’t want you to. Then the reader Tweets ‘I couldn’t even breathe!’ I know: I was choking you.

    It’s non-sexual breath play.

  25. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: Of course, the fact that the “tics” are associated with the writer’s style makes them not “tics” (to the extent that a “tic” implies an undesirable or dysfunctional behavior). As I thought about Mimai’s question, my initial reaction was that I don’t have any tics. Things in what little writing that I do anymore that are dysfunctional or undesirable have to do with a profound lack of work ethic and or an inclination to self-criticism that would impede progress. But I’ve known for a long time that I didn’t want to have me for a boss. It’s why I stayed away from self-employment. What’s more interesting to me is that I’ve avoided bringing those kinds of traits into my teaching experience because I dislike that about me so much.

  26. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: A few years back, a school district I teach at was testing the popularity of sour watermelon flavored raisins for elementary school lunches. From what I was able to gather, the raisins were coated in either a sweet-sour watermelon flavored dusting sugar or candy coating (I never got a clear answer of which). It seems to me that these MIGHT be worse than Peeps.

    One of the students who got some commented. “Come on! They’re RAISINS! You don’t have to do ANYTHING to them. Just put ’em in a box and pass them out.”

    (And I happen to like an occasional Peep, but I don’t buy them because there are too many in a box and I don’t like waste in a world where others suffer want. Then again, I also eat pizza, sauteed duck, and savory rice dishes with pineapple in them. Truly, there’s no accounting for taste.)

  27. Mimai says:

    Re writing tics, I’ve noticed that our primary hosts (Steven and James) share the same one. I’ve even started playing a little game with myself where I say “drink!” each time I happen across it.

    [Please know that I mention this with absolute affection for our hosts (to the extent that I have such feelings for two people I’ve never met). And with appreciation for their ongoing hosting of this site — their generosity and patience are remarkable.]

  28. Flat Earth Luddite says:


    He may be on to something. CNN reports that the Orange One is endorsing Sarah Palin.

  29. CSK says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    I wouldn’t call the distinctive characteristics of an individual’s writing style tics, either, given the pejorative connotations of the word. Hemingway’s “tic” was terseness; Joan Didion’s was repetition of detail. Both worked for them.

  30. Mimai says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    My wording was suboptimal. And my attempt to acknowledge this (in the parenthetical) apparently fell flat. Mea culpa.

    I did not intend to attach a pejorative flavor to these idiosyncrasies by calling them tics.

    And I also didn’t mean to focus on the stylistic. Hemingway and Didion were both intentional in their writing style.

    See again my apparently poor parenthetical referring to “involuntary habitual.”

    I was mostly interested in turns of phrases, specific words, etc that seem to “appear” in one’s writing. And that the writer might want to guard against — assuming, of course, they don’t like the t#%.

  31. Jen says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I have watched this clip several times now, and each time it makes me smile. That was amazing.

  32. OzarkHillbilly says:

    He is something else. I wish I could vote for him.

  33. DrDaveT says:


    I was mostly interested in turns of phrases, specific words, etc that seem to “appear” in one’s writing.

    William F. Buckley is the only writer I know of who used the word “orotund”. He used it frequently. Is that the sort of thing you meant?

    The (popular, successful) science fiction writer David Weber cannot resist:
    (1) Long, loving descriptions of technology. Page after page.
    (2) Characters in the distant future with an unexplained and overriding passion for 20th century media and art forms.
    (3) Interminable scenes in which the Bad Guys sit around and twirl their moustaches at each other while explaining what Evil Things they will do next.

    He has always had these tendencies, but they have metastasized in recent years and taken over his writing. I want to finish the series I’ve been following for decades now, but I’ve learned how to skim from one bit of dialog to the next, skipping any scene that only has Bad Guys. (That doesn’t save me from his dire notions of “clever repartee” among the Good Guys, but I can deal with that.)

  34. Scott O says:

    @Gustopher: “ I meant that as a joke”
    So if Rod Dreher were to quote your comment as an example of what the left thinks he should add a disclaimer such as “He later said that he didn’t mean what he said”?

  35. Jax says:

    I’ve since lost the link to an old OTB post that tells me, but….when was the last time Nightcrawler posted?

  36. CSK says:

    I don’t recall, but her Twitter account was active 2 days ago.

  37. Mimai says:

    Yes, that is the sort of thing I was gesturing at. Thanks to the applied mathematician!

    Brings to mind that anonymous op-ed in the NYT that took Trump to task. A lot of people were convinced that Pence had written it because of the word “lodestar.”

    In addition to these habitual words — which are often obscure* but not always (eg, “frankly” and “look”) — I was also thinking of phrases. Hackneyed ones include “at the end of the day” and “the upshot is.” But there are others that are more idiosyncratic, even though the words themselves are rather common.

    Most of my writing consists of grant proposals and scientific manuscripts. And there are certain phrases and word strings that somehow appear on the page with unsettling frequency. I was just curious of others’ experience/opinion of such a thing.

    *habitually obscure?