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:

    Coronavirus: Italy and Spain record highest single-day death tolls

    As Europe’s governments ramp up already draconian restrictions to curb the coronavirus, authorities in Rome on Friday announced 5,986 new cases and a record 627 new deaths, raising the totals to 47,021 infections and 4,032 fatalities.

    In Spain, the death toll rose to 1,002, a highest-ever increase of 235 in 24 hours. The latest statistics showed 19,980 confirmed cases across the country, more than a third in Madrid. Army specialists are to help disinfect care homes after the virus claimed more than 50 lives at elderly care facilities across the region.

    The army, already deployed in northern Italy to help move bodies as funeral services are overwhelmed, will also be used to help police the lockdown in Lombardy, regional president Attilio Fontana said. “The request to use the army is accepted and 114 soldiers will be on the ground,” Fontana said. “It is not enough, but it’s positive.”

    Helge Braun, Angela Merkel’s chief of staff, warned that a near-total lockdown – as in force in Italy, Spain and France – could soon be necessary in Germany. “We will look at the behaviour of the people this weekend,” Braun told Spiegel magazine.

  2. Mikey says:

    U.S. intelligence reports from January and February warned about a likely pandemic

    U.S. intelligence agencies were issuing ominous, classified warnings in January and February about the global danger posed by the coronavirus while President Trump and lawmakers played down the threat and failed to take action that might have slowed the spread of the pathogen, according to U.S. officials familiar with spy agency reporting…

    …“Donald Trump may not have been expecting this, but a lot of other people in the government were — they just couldn’t get him to do anything about it,” this official said. “The system was blinking red.”

  3. JohnMcC says:

    Headline in Politico: Cannabis Sales Explode as Californians Become Homebound

    My thought: Michael Reynolds, they’re on to you!

  4. Kingdaddy says:

    Anyone else concerned about Russia? Repressive, defensive regime founded on lies, large population…Makes me have doubts about their reported cases of COVID-19.

  5. Mike says:

    Glad to see our esteemed Congressional parasites getting their insider trader done between sessions of incompetence and self dealing. Assured me we will go back to the status quo again one day.

  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kingdaddy: I read yesterday that they have had an inexplicably large spike in pneumonia cases St Petersburg. They have no idea why that is.

  7. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Germans sing from rooftops in solidarity with Italy during coronavirus lockdown – video

    People in the Bavarian town of Bamberg stood on their rooftops and opened their windows to sing Bella Ciao, an Italian resistance song, in solidarity with Italy where the death toll from the Covid-19 outbreak continues to rise

  8. DrDaveT says:


    Italy and Spain record highest single-day death tolls

    As a math guy, this reporting makes me crazy. Of course Italy and Spain recorded their highest single-day death tolls. Every bleeping country on earth except China and South Korea will be recording a new highest death toll almost every day for the next month. That’s the story here. If I hear the phrase “death tolls [or confirmed cases] are spiking” one more time, I’m going to start throwing things at the TV. This is the opposite of “spiking” — this is sustained exponential growth. In a week, these daily numbers will look tiny. Does nobody get that yet?

    As I noted yesterday, there is a very short list of countries where active confirmed cases are not growing at least exponentially. Japan, China, South Korea. Iran, if you believe the numbers. Italy and Switzerland have lower exponents that everyone else, but still exponential. The exciting news will be when some other country besides China or Korea shows an actual decrease in active cases over a span of more than a day.

  9. Kit says:

    Hat tip to @gVOR08 for recommending the film Rush a few weeks back. Another two years of being shut in and I might just get to the bottom of my various lists (apart from books, that is).

  10. Bob@Youngstown says:

    As a public service,
    Daily tracking of COVID-19 testing, state by state.

    I’ve yet to find a Federal source for the same data.

  11. @Kingdaddy: I had the same thought.

  12. DrDaveT says:

    @Bob@Youngstown: Thanks for that link. NY showing 25% positive tests is terrifying, partly because it says they’ve only been testing the most obviously ill.

    Among states that have done the most testing, Texas has the lowest positive rate at 3.7%. That suggests they are testing more aggressively. If the true underlying prevalence in the population were even 1%, that would be 300,000 current infections, essentially all of them unrecognized…

  13. Slugger says:

    @DrDaveT: I was always taught that biological growth follows Gompertzian kinetics. Basically a rapid growth phase that is followed by a slowing and a plateau as prey becomes scarce in a predator-prey curve. Eventually the growth phase of this epidemic will stop; every fire burns itself out sooner or later. The “spike” headlines tell us that we are not at the inflection point.

  14. Kingdaddy says:

    This was true before COVID-19. Of course, it would require Trump to be something other than a narcissistic psychopath whose only concerns are approval and submission.

    “ Above all, at a moment like this, people desperately want to rally around the man — and it’s no coincidence that it’s always been a man — who is not only the head of the government, but the symbolic embodiment of the nation itself. They’ll excuse practically anything, out of a profound longing for at least the appearance of competence and compassion.

    “But again, never fear: Expecting Donald Trump to hurdle the two-inch high wall of matchboxes that he’s been asked to leap over at this historical moment is akin to expecting him to broad jump the Grand Canyon.”

  15. James Knauer says:

    @Kingdaddy: Ditto, China. Their numbers are ludicrous.

  16. DrDaveT says:


    I was always taught that biological growth follows Gompertzian kinetics.

    That’s correct.

    Eventually the growth phase of this epidemic will stop; every fire burns itself out sooner or later.

    Right. The fact that we’re still in the “looks like pure exponential” phase in almost every country tells us that we’re nowhere near that turnover point. We’re not even seeing slowing of growth, much less turnover.

    The “spike” headlines tell us that we are not at the inflection point.

    For most people, “spiking” implies a sudden temporary increase. Nobody knowledgable about climate change would say that global temperatures are “spiking”. Nobody would say that global population is “spiking”. Spiking implies that the decrease is coming soon, at least as I’ve always heard the term used. The OED defines it (in this context) as “presenting the appearance of spikes; suddenly rising and falling.”

  17. DrDaveT says:

    @James Knauer:

    Ditto, China. Their numbers are ludicrous.

    You’d better hope China’s numbers are reasonably accurate. If they aren’t our worst case just got a whole lot worse.

    What is it that you find ludicrous about the numbers from China?

  18. Bill says:


    What is it that you find ludicrous about the numbers from China?

    Maybe this?

  19. Kingdaddy says:

    It’s a beautiful day here in Colorado, but I’m still plagued by dark thoughts.

    I hope that no one is hoping that Trump will sober up, get serious, or in some other way look at the COVID-19 pandemic and say, “Gosh, my whole worldview is completely messed up. I need to radically change how I think, talk, and act.” Under stress, people revert to their most cherished habits. For Trump, that means beating up on reporters, making grandiose claims about how everything will be wonderful, attacking people in his own circle who are even mildly critical of him, and making the federal government function as well as a 3rd grade production of West Side Story.

    Things will get worse. While we’re in the middle of an unprecedented, dangerous national crisis, he’s still letting Jared get in the way of the people who know things, and know how to get things done. He’s letting his new DNI further cripple the intelligence community. (By no small coincidence, a story appeared today in the Washington Post detailing how intelligence professionals warned their political masters in January and February that COVID-19 was going to be a lethal pandemic.) I fully expect him to have an eruption over the GIF that was circulating yesterday, showing Fauci barely restraining laughter at a press conference with Trump. He continues to surround himself with toadies like the obsequious Seema Verma, who has been inexplicably a regular fixture at the disastrous press conferences. He is, in short, stuck in the same toxic rut in which he has wallowed for decades.

    Which means, when hundreds are dying each day, and hundreds of thousands are sick, and millions are terrified, we will reach a point where there may be serious discussion of his removal, if he continues to make an historic crisis worse because he can’t provide real leadership, and he can’t just shut his mouth and get out of the way.

    The mechanisms for attempted removal may be unprecedented, and possibly extra-constitutional. We’ve already seen the unthinkable in response to this crisis.

    The real problem, as always, is the cadre of Republican elected officials who are responsible for sustaining this nightmare. The Kentucky legislature’s last act, before adjourning in the face of the coronavirus threat, was to pass a voter ID law. That was the state Republicans legislators priority, making it harder for people to vote, while the rest of the country is struggling to keep democracy functioning. The damage that Trump has done to the COVID-19 response is already undeniable. And yet, still, not a whisper of criticism.

    And, of course, there are the committed Trump voters, who continue to work hard at maintaining their cognitive dissonance. A Trump-supporting friend posted on Facebook something passed along to her, praising Trump for his leadership in this crisis. The post focused on how Trump has stepped aside and let Pence, along with other subordinates, do their jobs. Seriously.

    People are working together during this crisis. Many are being careful, generous, thoughtful, and caring. However, the noise from the White House makes everything worse. It impedes the response. It continues to divide and terrify. It makes the rest of the world, with whom we also need to be working in solidarity right now, look at us in horror.

    So that’s my fear right now. We’re safe at home, with enough food to last for days before we have to venture out again. We’re not sick. But I am afraid that something sacred to me, our Constitutional order, may be at threat soon, because a monstrous human being will make people think there is no other choice about what they must do. I dearly hope that I am wrong, and I just woke up on the wrong side of the existential bed this morning.

  20. DrDaveT says:


    Maybe this?

    Could you be more specific? Other than “I don’t trust China”, is there something about this reporting that strikes you as improbable, or inconsistent?

    The China outbreak has been running for 3 months now — significantly longer than any other country. They took draconian containment measures. Either they did in fact contain it, or this is an elaborate disinformation campaign aimed at… what?

  21. Bob@Youngstown says:

    My home state Ohio has a 55% positive rate.
    Suggests that testing is being confined to those who are actually symptomatic. (I’m assuming that the testing reported are actually all testing for COVID-19 — rather than the number of unique patients. Some being tested are those who are looking for sequential negatives to clear them out of quarantine )

  22. Bob@Youngstown says:


    Texas has the lowest positive rate at 3.7%. That suggests they are testing more aggressively.

    Actually (IMO) it suggests that they are testing more randomly.

  23. DrDaveT says:


    Actually (IMO) it suggests that they are testing more randomly.

    Random testing is the gold standard, but it requires very large numbers of tests and testers, which we don’t have. Stratified testing is next best — some percent each from distinguishable subpopulations (people with pneumonia, people with symptoms, people exposed to known cases, random people). Testing only people with symptoms or exposure is the most efficient use of the tests for treatment purposes, but useless epidemiologically.

  24. Jax says:

    @DrDaveT: I think that there is reason to believe that China fudged their numbers from the beginning. I don’t know how we’ll ever know now. Tencent posted wildly different numbers on February 5th for a limited amount of time before the numbers were scrubbed to reflect the official party line.

  25. gVOR08 says:

    @DrDaveT: I’m so easily offended it makes, well, used to make, me crazy to hear the Dow reached a new record high. Of course it reached a new high. Don’t people notice they hear that every month or so, once we get above the peak before the last collapse? Record highs are the norm, not some miracle of Trumpskyite economics.

  26. Kathy says:

    People just don’t get social distancing.

    At the office, finally everyone’s gotten it to stop shaking hands, or greeting with a kiss on the cheek, but many persist in standing or sitting very close to others when talking, or when working together.

    BTW, Mexico City’s mayor is urging people to stay home, and to work from home where possible, but she has yet to order restaurants, theaters, etc. shut down, or even to order her government to stop procurement procedures.

    Ok. The government needs to operate, and things like food need to be procured for social programs, hospitals, prisons, etc. But procurement involves lots of in person activities like meetings, delivery of samples, and lots of people working in offices putting large paper proposals together. the mayor can call a pause or halt to this, and allow the various agencies to extend current contracts as long as the crisis lasts.

    It will come to that. I can’t comprehend why not do it now rather than later. Especially given the examples of China, South Korea, Spain, Italy, Iran, and the US, among others.

  27. Bill says:


    Could you be more specific? Other than “I don’t trust China”, is there something about this reporting that strikes you as improbable, or inconsistent?

    I have lost count how many times I have read about a problem the Soviet Union had. It was their bureaucracy fudging their numbers because they didn’t want to pass on bad news. The country’s leadership rarely knew the true picture.

    Why couldn’t that be happening in China now? A country where in your own words, draconian steps are taken. Bureaucrats may well not want to report bad news.

    China may have gotten things under control but no new cases seems a little hard to believe for a long list of reasons.

  28. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @DrDaveT:Yep, I didn’t mean to suggest that it was a designed random test. I sense that the strata that is being tested is more like “If you wanna test …come on down” as contrasted with “you really need to fulfill the preconditions of symptoms & high risk & etc.

    I’d love to see a true random design for testing, as I think we could learn a lot from that and (if warranted) dampen the panic. But as Fauci points out, in the dynamic situation we find ourselves, a true random evaluation may only have implications for a small window of time.

  29. DrDaveT says:


    But as Fauci points out, in the dynamic situation we find ourselves, a true random evaluation may only have implications for a small window of time.

    Agreed. The main reason to test randomly is to estimate the asymptomatic contagious period, and (even more important) to convince people that even the seemingly perfectly healthy need to self-isolate. In places where people are already self-isolating, by choice or by mandate, it’s not as much of an issue. In places that are still in denial*, it could be important.

    *We’re looking at you, Florida.

  30. DrDaveT says:

    CNN and others are reporting that the FDA has approved a new SARS-CoV-2 test with a turnaround time of ~45 minutes. This is fantastic news, but (1) it will be weeks before the test exists in the volume we really need, and (2) it may be too late for this to really play a significant role in flattening the curve.

  31. de stijl says:


    Rest and recuperate you idiot!

    Dazzle us with your insight after you have recovered.

    Actually, I get it. You are stupendously bored. Still, take a goddamned nap.

    Be well. Get better soon.

  32. Bob@Youngstown says:

    Wife and I are in FL right now. Sarasota beaches were (my our observation) much less densely packed as contrasted with Clearwater and Fort Myers beaches. This past week we could see that Siesta Key beach goers were clearly making an effort to spread out. Regardless, on the way to the beach this morning we greeted with “County Beaches Closed”. So with the restaurants and bars closed, beach closed, libraries closed, etc… we are packing up and heading (by car, thank goodness) home to the north country.

  33. Bill says:

    @de stijl:

    Rest and recuperate you idiot!

    When people can only resort to name calling, that says they have no counter argument to make.

  34. Kari Q says:

    The DOJ is looking for emergency powers that would allow judges to hold someone indefinitely, with no recourse, until the emergency is declared over.

  35. Gustopher says:

    Stopped off at the lab to get my routine blood check yesterday, making quiet small talk, I mention that the pandemic is really not doing wonders for my anxiety, and the phlebotomist said “this too shall pass.”

    I replied with a jovial but quiet laugh and “well, yes, but I may pass with it.”

    Good times had by all.

    (And while the pandemic is not doing wonders for my anxiety, I’m much more experienced with coping with constant fear and stress than most people, so… my “net worse” is lower?)

  36. DrDaveT says:


    When people can only resort to name calling, that says they have no counter argument to make.

    What counter-argument is possible against “I have no evidence but I don’t trust them”?

  37. de stijl says:


    I wasn’t clear.

    Not criticizing your opinion at all.

    The intent was to good naturedly (that apparently failed entirely) remind you to take care of yourself physically given the edema.

    I aplogize. What I intended and what you heard are opposite and that is my fault.

  38. de stijl says:


    I feel really bad about this. You saw an attack when I meant an entirely different thing.

    Truly sorry.