Sunday’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:

    ‘Insanely cheap energy’: how solar power continues to shock the world

    In the year 2000, the International Energy Agency (IEA) made a prediction that would come back to haunt it: by 2020, the world would have installed a grand total of 18 gigawatts of photovoltaic solar capacity. Seven years later, the forecast would be proven spectacularly wrong when roughly 18 gigawatts of solar capacity were installed in a single year alone.

    Ever since the agency was founded in 1974 to measure the world’s energy systems and anticipate changes, the yearly World Energy Outlook has been a must-read document for policymakers the world over.

    Over the last two decades, however, the IEA has consistently failed to see the massive growth in renewable energy coming. Not only has the organisation underestimated the take-up of solar and wind, but it has massively overstated the demand for coal and oil.

    Jenny Chase, head of solar analysis at BloombergNEF, says that, in fairness to the IEA, it wasn’t alone.

    “When I got this job in 2005, I thought maybe one day solar will supply 1% of the world’s electricity. Now it’s 3%. Our official forecast is that it will be 23% by 2050, but that’s completely underestimated,” Chase says. “I see it as the limits of modelling. Most energy system models are, or were, set up to model minor changes to an energy system that is run on fossil fuel or nuclear. Every time you double producing capacity, you reduce the cost of PV solar by 28%. We’ve got to the point where solar is the cheapest source of energy in the world in most places. This means we’ve been trying to model a situation where the grid looks totally different today.”

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Law firm takes up case of nurse fined £10,000 for 1% pay protest

    One of the UK’s biggest police forces is refusing to back down after being accused of wrongly issuing a £10,000 fine to a nurse who was protesting over the government’s 1% pay rise for NHS workers, reigniting concern over new powers to inhibit protest.

    Karen Reissmann, 61, who has worked as a frontline nurse throughout the pandemic, was handed the fine in March despite offering a risk assessment of her protest to Greater Manchester police (GMP) and ensuring it was Covid-safe. On 1 April, London law firm Bindmans, acting on Reissmann’s behalf, wrote to GMP saying that the way the force had interpreted the law was wrong, that the protest should have been allowed to proceed, and that it should also withdraw the fine.
    “I just really don’t understand why they are pursuing me after all that has happened. Why are they doing this? It’s very odd for the police not to have realised their position.”

    The force’s determination to prosecute comes against the backdrop of the government’s police, crime, sentencing and courts bill, which will leave police to use their own discretion, and potentially criminalise protests.

    Legal documents show that Reissmann, who has seen her caseload surge because of anxiety induced by the pandemic, was the first among her colleagues to suggest the “necessity for the wearing of face masks by staff and patients when they had not yet been made compulsory”.

    Reissmann organised the protest on 7 March after the government’s decision to recommend a 1% pay rise – a move Labour predicted could help to make new nurses £300 worse off. About 40 people attended her rally in St Peter’s Square, Manchester, after she requested a limit of protesters to guarantee social distancing.

    Reissmann believes the force’s desire to prosecute was meant to intimidate other nurses from organising protests.

    “It’s so punitive, clearly designed to stop others. I know people who stepped back from protesting because they were afraid of the £10,000 fine,” she said.

  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Fifteen people have emerged from a cave in south-west France after 40 days underground in an experiment to see how the absence of clocks, daylight and external communications would affect their sense of time.

    With big smiles on their pale faces, they left their voluntary isolation in the Lombrives cave to a round of applause and basked in the light while wearing special glasses to protect their eyes after so long in the dark.

    “It was like pressing pause,” said Marina Lançon, one of seven women to take part in the experiment. She did not feel any rush to do anything and wished she could have stayed in the cave a few days longer, she said, but that she was happy to feel the wind and hear birdsong again.

    She did not plan to look at her smartphone for a few more days, hoping to avoid “too brutal” a return to real life, Lançon said.

    I know the feeling.

    The team members followed their biological clocks to know when to wake up, go to sleep and eat. They counted their days not in hours but in sleep cycles.

    “It’s really interesting to observe how this group synchronises themselves,” Clot said earlier in a recording from inside the cave. Working together on projects and organising tasks without being able to set a time to meet was particularly challenging, he said.

    I know I slept a lot less at “night” underground. I always brought a book with so I’d have something to read while I waited for the others to wake up. I did a lot of power napping during the “day” to make up for it. 8 days was the longest stretch I ever spent underground and it was nowhere near long enough to synch up with my teammates.

  4. Michael Cain says:


    The IEA (and the US EIA as well) have always been notoriously bad about forecasting transitions. Granted that’s the hardest part of any forecasting job. At least at one point, though, both had supply/demand models that guaranteed they would miss transitions. They also systematically applied the conventional wisdom about electric grids, which said that Texas couldn’t possibly incorporate as much wind power as they have, or California as much solar — the grids would collapse in the face of that much uncertainty in individual plant output.

  5. Jen says:

    A short while ago, there was a discussion in one of the open threads about how much effort should be invested into trying to convince Trump Republicans to get vaccinated.

    Yesterday’s episode of This American Life was very interesting, as it looked into two aspects of covid-19: one, the insane lengths to which people are harassing public health representatives–this segment was depressing and will have implications for years to come. Because of the harassment, hundreds have quit their jobs; many communities now have no public health official at all.

    But the second segment, “The Elephant in the Zoom,” was fascinating. I must have missed it when it happened but apparently Frank Luntz had a stroke a little over a year ago. He has been dismayed at Republican reluctance to get the vaccine (while ignoring his role in conditioning even more people to distrust government, of course). The show details a Zoom focus group run by Luntz that examined how to convince an audience of Trump supporters to get vaccinated. One of participants, who said she would not get vaccinated, had a husband who spent *three weeks* in intensive care with covid.

    In the end, a fair number of them were swayed, but the lengths to which Luntz and the organization that sponsored the focus group were insane (and not replicable at scale, which was the point I made in the earlier thread).

    It’s worth listening to.

  6. Montana’s Republican Governor signs bill barring state and local law enforcement from enforcing Federal gun laws.

    The only thing that this bill does is say that local and state law enforcement won’t help enforce Federal gun laws. However the Supreme Court has already ruled that the states cannot be forced to enforce Federal laws. This is why so called “sanctuary cities” can’t be punished by the Feferal Government.

  7. Mimai says:


    Great link. I’ve never spent an abnormally long time underground or in a cave, but I have done a lot of long-range backpacking. A similar thing happens wrt synching with the natural rhythms of, well, nature.

    It usually takes me about 2 days to find the rhythm (or vice versa), but once I do, it is one of the best experiences I’ve known. That “brutal return” is indeed real. Unsettling. The oppressive noisiness of modern life is particularly difficult to re-acclimate to. I suspect it’s similar (worse?) after returning from the netherworld.

  8. Another example of how the Trump Cult formerly known as the Republican Party has increasingly become a Nativist (a/k/a White Supremacist) parry.

  9. Andrew Yang continues to lead the polls for the Democratic nominee for Mayor of New York City. With the primary less than two months away he could become the prohibitive favorite, and if he wins the nomination he will most likely win the General Election in November.

    Since the field is si crowded, though, its likely that he won’t get above 50% of the vote which means that New York’s new Ranked Choice Voting law will be used and it’s unclear what impact that will never on the race.

  10. Biden looking pretty good as we approach his 100th day in office.

    His overall approval number is in the low 50s but that is mostly because of intense partisanship. 87% of Republicans disapprove, for example. However he has plurality support from Independents and of course overwhelming approval from Democrats.

    There is higher support for Biden’s handling of the pandemic with 65% approval on that issue.

    By contrast the Former Guy’s approval after his first 100 days in office was ~40%. He left office with about a 40% approval rating thanks mostly to his extremely high level of support among Residents. During his Presidency his job approval never got above 44-45% in credible polls (i.e. not Rassmusen or Zogby). This makes him the only President to never get above 50% on job approval.

    Speaking for myself I would say I approve of both President Biden’s performance in office so far and his handling of the pandemic.

  11. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    My suspicion is that there will be many ballots that only choose one candidate.

  12. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Mimai: The quiet underground is different than the quiet above ground, it’s more all encompassing. Sound seems to get swallowed by the darkness as surely as the light from one’s headlamp. Either way, whether one is coming from 2,000′ feet below the surface or 1,000′ above timberline, the cacophony of humanity is deafening.

  13. @Sleeping Dog:

    They can do that but it basically means that unless they voted for or of the top candidates their ballot will become irrelevant to the outcome

  14. Another 100 days poll, this one from NBChows, shows Biden with job approval at 53%. The vast majority of Democrats and 2/3 of Independents approve of Biden’s job performance while just 9% of Republicans do.

    As with the CBS poll there Is higher approval regarding Biden’s handling of the pandemic.

    The Former Guy never had numbers like this

  15. Mimai says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I wonder what ranked choice voting will look like in (what I perceive to be) our expressive voting world. Might be some clues in the NY data.

  16. Mimai says:


    It seems to me that underground, one is more likely to synch with the natural rhythms of one’s body, whereas above ground one is more likely to synch with the natural rhythms of the external environment. Of course, there are other things (and people) at play, but it seems like that inverse synching would apply. Do you have a sense of this?

  17. CSK says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    At one point, The Former Guy bragged that his approval rating of 36% was “not that bad!” He also opined that it was “close to 40%.”

    No. It’s not.

  18. Yet another 100 days poll, this one from Fox News, has results similar to those from ABC and NBC with Biden’s approval at 54%. There are also similar numbers on approval of his handling of the Covid-19 crisis.

  19. The BBC has a report about a potential Malaria vsccine.

    A malaria vaccine would be a huge breakthrough.

    More than 1,000,000 people die every year from malaria, mostly in poor Third World countries and tropical regions around the world

  20. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @CSK: 36% is closer to 40% than it is to 27%.

    @Doug Mataconis: More proof that FOX is just another arm of the lieberal media and that we all need to watch only OAN from now on.

  21. CSK says:

    Well, yes, it is. But that wasn’t the comparison Trump was making. I seem to recall that his approval descended to 27%. Am I right?

  22. CSK says:

    Answering my own question: The Former Guy’s approval rating dropped to 29% in the aftermath of the insurrection, according to Pew.

  23. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @CSK: I wasn’t being serious, just trying to work the 27% crazification factor into a snarky comment about trump.

  24. CBS News puts Biden job approval at 58%

  25. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Mimai: I hesitate to draw any kind of conclusions from my experiences. It would seem logical that one would be “more likely to synch with the natural rhythms of one’s body,” after extended periods underground, but the truth is I have never been alone underground for more than a few hours. My 7 and 8 day stretches were on expeditions and I was part of exploration and survey teams. I don’t remember anybody ever bringing a watch or caring enough to check it if they did. After the prescribed number of sleep/wake cycles passed, we came out. I remember a couple times being surprised by the daylight or the darkness when I exited because it was earlier or later than I expected it to be. As I said before, getting in synch with the others never quite happened but I still had to be influenced by them and our 12-14 (?) hr work days.

    Another funny thing I noticed on my first expedition. On the 2nd or 3rd night underground I was laying in my sleeping bag staring up into the blackness unable to sleep. At one point I put my hand up a foot or 2 in front of my face and I could see it. I could see it as I turned it over and flexed my fingers, etc etc. Understand that this was in the complete absence of light and it was physically impossible for me to see my hand. But there it was, a lighter shade of blackness for sure but there none the less. I could only conclude that my mind hates a vacuum and in the absence of sight it was filling in the blanks. Later on I began seeing patterns on the ceilings, concentric circles, hashmarks, Xs and Os, etc etc.

    The mind does weird things when it has nothing to work with.

    On later nights I began to see

  26. OzarkHillbilly says:

    My kingdom for an edit function. Ignore the On later nights I began to see. Copy/paste fail.

  27. CSK says:

    Speaking of the number 27 and Trump:

    Only 27% of voters think Trump is religious (2 out of 5 fundamentalists do).
    Some Florida state legislator wants to rename U.S. Route 27 the Donald J. Trump Highway
    Nate Silver of 538 gave Trump a 27% chance of winning the 2020 election
    Just 27 of 249 members of Congress were willing to say Trump lost in 2020

    Twenty-seven must be his magic number. Or something.

  28. Mimai says:


    This is great, thanks for sharing. Your experience “seeing” your hand is interesting. And your interpretation of the mind doing weird things is spot-on.

    As you may know, there’s fascinating research on this, both for pure scientific understanding and also for clinical applications. The rubber hand illusion is one example. It’s been used successfully to treat phantom limb pain and complex regional pain syndrome. And these improvements are correlated with specific cortical reorganization!

    The explosion of virtual and augmented reality has only accelerated this work. Coupled with an increased acceptance of Bayesian models of perception, this makes for super exciting times.

    If you don’t mind, what were you surveying? (forgive me if you’ve said before)

  29. Jax says:

    wr says:
    Sunday, 25 April 2021 at 0651
    @Jax: ” Literally don’t care who produces or directs it”

    Interesting. When you’re choosing a book, do you also not care who wrote it?

    Back when I was reading voraciously from the public library, no, I didn’t care who wrote it. Same parameters as my tv watching, now….I wanted them in multiple series of books, and I wanted them to include magic/dragons/special powers, etc. How else do we find the new ones? 😉

    The only “feeling” I have for whether I should like or dislike a producer/director/actor is what I hear from you and Eddie and at times Michael.

  30. flat earth luddite says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    I’m actually relieved and happy to see these proposals for two important reasons. First, as our hosts note, is that it is important to avoid disenfranchisement, and encourage all citizens in their civic duty. Secondly, these released felons have completed their punishment, and have returned to society. Their sentence is served, they deserve to be reinstated to society in all meaningful ways.

    OTOH, having personally lived with this issue for the past 4 decades, I’ve long since quit looking for the unicorn in this stable I’m shoveling out. Doesn’t mean I’ve quit shoveling, just that I’m not looking for the unicorn, or the pony.

  31. mattbernius says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Democrats moving to expand voting rights formrt felons

    This is excellent news. Felony disenfranchisement is yet another way that the US is sadly unique in its punitive approach and so much of its adoption is deeply intertwined with racism. Most importantly it serves as a reminder for folks living with a felony conviction that many communities don’t really want them to reintegrate (which doesn’t help with recidivism).