Thursday’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. drj says:

    Clarence Thomas Had a Child in Private School. Harlan Crow Paid the Tuition.

    After all, what’s 150k (or thereabouts) between friends?


    Harlan Crow and his family’s average yearly political contributions went up 862% after Citizens United was decided in 2010.

    Who provided a deciding vote for that case?

    Justice Clarence Thomas, a “family friend” they showered with luxury travel and gifts for 20+ years.

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    When life gives you lemons
    Raise “$1,500 for a local nonprofit that addresses housing instability.”

    Pretty cool story with a mystery at it’s core. I mean, why? They don’t answer that question.

  3. ptfe says:

    @drj: What’s the big deal? Who doesn’t have several friends who offer them private jet access and a few years of school for their kid? You’d probably find at least one quality benefactor in your social circle if you just asked, and Clarence Thomas – well, he’s known for asking!

    All joking aside, it’s incredible to me that there seems to be no consequence for CT clearly leveraging his station to gain wealth, nor any for Harlan Crow buying a Supreme. In his prior article, James Joyner hemmed and hawed about whether this is corrupt, but while Crow might not be leaving text messages that say “Deposited $20k to your account so you’ll vote the way I told you to”, he’s certainly got enough skin in the Thomas game to be a participant in every SCOTUS discussion, whether seemingly consequential to him or not. No Thomas decision can be considered independent.

    That’s real American-style corruption.

  4. Jen says:

    @ptfe: I do wonder if this latest revelation will cause Dr. Joyner to reconsider his stance on this “friendship.” It is bizarre to the Nth degree to have a wealthy donor *pay for a kid’s private school tuition,* close friend or not.

    It is well beyond a shadow of doubt that this is a corrosive and corrupt situation, not a friendship.

  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    ‘Malice or ineptitude’: probe into cop killing of eco-activist frustrates family

    Calling it frustrating is the understatement of the year:

    The upsetting sequence of events reflects the broader experience of Paez Terán’s family, their attorneys and, by extension, the public in the high-profile case: the city, county and state agencies that are involved have continually delayed, obfuscated about or denied releasing information about the events of 18 January, when, for the first time in US history, police killed an environmental activist while they were protesting.

    Yeah, they screwed up and uncritically accepted the cops’ story and put it out before the investigation was anywhere near complete and now they are trying to engineer the evidence in an attempt to obfuscate what really happened. Which is that when you surround a hundred or so peaceful protestors with armed trigger happy thugs and say “Round up those *terrorists*,” yeah, they’re just vermin.

    **The search for information about what happened on 18 January began soon after agents from the Atlanta and Dekalb county police, the Georgia state patrol and the GBU raided the forest, killing Paez Terán and arresting seven others, charging them under a state domestic terrorism law – also a historic first.

  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @drj: @ptfe: @Jen: Hey, they’re friends. They know just what to give to each other for their birthdays, Xmas, Easter, Memorial Day, Labor Day, MLK Day, President’s Day, Columbus Day, April Fools Day, Cinco de Mayo, St Patty’s Day, Valentine’s Day, 4th of July, Halloween, All Saint’s Day, Thanksgiving…

    Oh yes, especially Thanksgiving, Harlan has so many thanks to give a friend who knows just what he wants for Decision Days. See? No quid pro quo, none at all, just an exchange of presents between like minded friends.

  7. drj says:


    Although I don’t necessarily want to ascribe this to James, I found that it’s a trait common among conservatives to want to find excuses for the powerful.

  8. CSK says:

    Donald Trump says he’s cutting short his trip to Ireland to return to NY and “confront E. Jean Carroll.”

    I have no idea what that means.

  9. Sleeping Dog says:


    It is doubtful that it means that he will testify under oath. 🙁

  10. CSK says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    AFAIK, closing arguments are set for Monday, and tomorrow the jury has the day off, so there is very little opportunity for him to do anything.

  11. daryl and his brother darryl says:

    I’ve been following the live tweets of the trial pretty closely, and I do not believe the judge in this case is going to allow Trump to come strolling in and make it into a circus.
    In addition Trumps lawyer stated in court that they are NOT going to present a case, so I’m not sure about the mechanism of walking that back.
    All that said, if Trump does testify it will inevitably lead to perjury charges against him.

  12. CSK says:

    @daryl and his brother darryl:
    Didn’t Tacopina tell the judge just yesterday that Trump would not be testifying???

  13. Kathy says:


    It’s like this:

    Did you ever see a dog fixate on some common object and bark at it for no discernible reason?

  14. gVOR08 says:

    I have a legal question. Pending conviction the media refer to a perp as the “alleged” criminal even if we have the crime and arrest on video. We can call Trump an “alleged” rapist now, even “credibly alleged”. This is a civil trial, but there is apparently a lot of quirkiness in NY law. Assuming Trump loses, can the press call him a “rapist” or is it still “alleged rapist”? Can they go so far as “had no defense against a rape charge”?

    Whatever constraints apply to media don’t apply to bumper stickers. RAPIST-HALEY 2024.

  15. CSK says:


    All the time, Kathy, all the time. My sister has a miniature dachshund.

  16. Joe says:

    @gVOR08: Because this is a civil, not a criminal case, he is not “accused of rape,” but “alleged to have assaulted” and it is not an accusation, but an allegation so he may be found liable for assault but not convicted of rape.

  17. Sleeping Dog says:


    He can come to NY, stand in the lobby of Trump Tower and dissemble.

  18. CSK says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    I don’t think he’s capable of dissembling in these circumstances. Foaming at the mouth with rage is more likely.

  19. MarkedMan says:

    @Sleeping Dog: I suspect it would be very costly for him to do this before damages and punitive costs are assessed.

  20. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @CSK: @Sleeping Dog:

    The Guardian says they played video of his deposition. That’s as close to confronting his accuser as he’ll ever get.

  21. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Scientists have used a new method for extracting ancient DNA to identify the owner of a 20,000-year-old pendant fashioned from an elk’s canine tooth.

    The method can isolate DNA that was present in skin cells, sweat or other body fluids and was absorbed by certain types of porous material including bones, teeth and tusks when handled by someone thousands of years ago.

    Objects used as tools or for personal adornment – pendants, necklaces, bracelets, rings and the like – can offer insight into past behaviour and culture, though our understanding has been limited by an inability to tie a particular object to a particular person.
    The researchers who found the pendant, which was determined to be 19,000-25,000 years old, used gloves and face masks when excavating and handling it, avoiding contamination with modern DNA.

    It became the first prehistoric artefact linked by genetic sleuthing to a specific person: a stone age woman closely related to a population of hunter-gatherers known to have lived in a part of Siberia east of the cave site in the foothills of the Altai mountains in Russia.

    Her name was Athlescaylayoo. Or something like that, the inscription is really hard to read.

    just ftr, I made that last bit up.

  22. Kathy says:
  23. Kathy says:


    just ftr, I made that last bit up.

    That last bit would have been an astonishing find. Writing is thought to have come much later than the period cited in the piece.

  24. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kathy: Yeah I know, I was just having a little fun at the way it was written. When I read the headline my mind went straight to the likes of “the police have identified a perp,” and immediately jackknifed because I knew there was no way that was possible. The mind is a wondrous thing.

  25. Kylopod says:


    Donald Trump says he’s cutting short his trip to Ireland to return to NY and “confront E. Jean Carroll.”

    I have no idea what that means.

    He is calling on his supporters to kill E. Jean Carroll. I’m being dead serious.

  26. OzarkHillbilly says:


    The seditious conspiracy charge carries a prison sentence of up to 20 years.

    Not that they will get that much, but they will be doing hard time.

  27. steve says:

    The billionaire paying for private school for Thomas reminds me of my early days in practice. A bunch of us indendenot docs had formed a corporation so we could function better as a group. We hired an office/business manager as most of us at that time weren’t especially good business people. A couple years later we found out that the billing company she strongly suggested we use was paying for part of her kid’s private school tuition. It got ugly but we fired her and got rid of the billing company also. The billing company rep claimed he was just being helpful, ie a friend.


  28. CSK says:

    It could well be that. Or he’s calling for a mob a la Jan. 6 to assemble outside the courthouse on Monday and riot.

    I can envision him showing up at the courthouse and egging on the mob.

    Does he know what confront means? Does he plan to burst into the courtroom and demnd to be heard?

  29. daryl and his brother darryl says:


  30. daryl and his brother darryl says:

    Huge win for the DOJ.
    Tarrio is the first J6er convicted who was NOT on Capitol Grounds.
    So this is a dangerous verdict for the likes of Eastman, Rudy, and others…like Trump.

  31. MarkedMan says:

    Re: the Clarence Thomas bribery thing. You have to wonder: what is yet to come out, about Thomas or any of the other Supremes? Remember, all nine Justices signed on to the letter saying everything was just fine. And a majority literally ruled that nothing could be considered corrupt or a bribe unless there was a record of an explicit quid pro quo. Roberts legacy won’t be abortion, it will be corruption.

  32. Kylopod says:


    Does he know what confront means? Does he plan to burst into the courtroom and demnd to be heard?

    I would never claim that Trump is a master of the nuances of the English language. But he does have a pretty good understanding of how to make a veiled threat, and that includes being able to use words that can be interpreted in both an innocent and violent way.

  33. CSK says:


    Typical mob boss trick.

  34. Joe says:

    @OzarkHillbilly and @Kathy: But they did find her credit card numbers.

  35. CSK says:

    Trump said of his encounter with Carroll: “She actually loved it. She loved it, okay?”

    Wait. I thought he said he didn’t touch her.

  36. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Joe: Cool! Amazon better watch out tho.

  37. Kathy says:

    Isn’t it Star Wars Day today?

  38. Mu Yixiao says:


    As the geeks around the factory keep reminding us (and there are a LOT of geeks in this factory)… Yes. It is.

    May the 4th be with you. 😛

  39. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Sleeping Dog: Assuming that his current lawyer believes the same things about him that Trump’s Mueller Report lawyers believed, his lawyer can’t put him on the stand. It’s against the code of legal ethics (and statutory law too, if I recall correctly, but IANAL) to put a person likely to commit perjury on the stand.

  40. Kathy says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    So shouldn’t one of the many awaited SW TV shows premiere today? I’ve heard of none.

  41. OzarkHillbilly says:


    Ut oh.

    Now we’re entering into the probation violation phase of the never-ending accountability for Jan6ers. (pic)

  42. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: That’s what I have read.

  43. Mu Yixiao says:


    I don’t follow SW, so I have no clue.

    On the other hand, I’m anxiously awaiting the start of Season 2 of ST: Strange New Worlds. 🙂

    And… on the topic of shows: I’ve been watching Mrs. Davis which is… really weird and manages to pull it off. It’s part Big Brother, part religious drama, part action flick, and just enough parody and sarcasm to pull it together and keep it interesting. The opening of ep.1 has its (very unexpected) payoff in ep. 5. A definitely fun WTF?? moment. Hopefully they can maintain it for the entire season.

    It’s not going to be everybody’s cup of tea, but if anyone’s looking for something to watch, I’d give it 2 or 3 episodes.

  44. wr says:

    @Mu Yixiao: “And… on the topic of shows: I’ve been watching Mrs. Davis which is…”

    I watched the first episode and all I could think was a hat on a hat… on another hat…. on another hat… Kept looking for any kind of grounding anywhere and couldn’t find it.

    Been meaning to check out episode two, to see it if grows on me. (Because it’s exactly the kind of thing I usually like…) But I’ve had to watch episodes of Miami Vice, Wise Guy and Crime Story for a class I’m teaching, and they’ve felt like a better use of my time.

  45. Mu Yixiao says:


    It definitely takes a while to get to something more solid. Though… I’m not sure it ever gets “grounded”. 🙂

  46. Mu Yixiao says:


    Adding on: When Severance came out, everyone raved about how good it was. I got maybe 5 episodes in and gave up. Like your experience with Mrs. Davis, I kept asking “Where is this going? What is it all about?” Keeping the mystery up for then entire show was just too much.

    With Mrs. Davis, it’s been filling in some of the blanks while still keeping the primary mystery (Who is Mrs. Davis?) going. And I think it’s major redemption is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. The Excalibur/Sword in the Stone episode was the tipping point of “Oh yeah. I’m going to watch all of this” for me.

  47. Michael Reynolds says:


    a hat on a hat… on another hat

    I have a general concern about writing (or even authoring) which you’ll probably dismiss, but it feels that despite some stunning work of undeniable originality (Severance, Succession, EEAAO) professional word people are suffering from a similarity of background and an experiential basis that is increasingly screen-delivered. Second-hand. I wonder how many members of WGA (or whatever our authorly equivalent is) have very similar life experience. Same middle class backgrounds, same majors at the same colleges, etc… How many have been genuinely poor, or in trouble, abused or misused, or are stuck into work that confronts them with the world beyond manufactured experiences. Diversity in terms of gender and race is great, but I wonder if what we really have is nearly identical cars with different paint jobs.

    You’re out there dealing with the youths, what’s your feel about the student body?

  48. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Mu Yixiao:
    When Severance came out, everyone raved about how good it was. I got maybe 5 episodes in and gave up.

    Too many episodes. It’s not a nine episode story, it’s about a 5 or 6 episode story. They stretch things out to meet arbitrary numbers. Stories have a natural length, a size they ‘want’ to be. I’ll cop to the same instinct – greed. Could you cut one of the six books of my GONE series? Yes. Shoulda been five books, I knew it should have been five books, but: money.

  49. Gustopher says:

    @drj: They got Capone on tax evasion, why not Thomas? There should be a special prosecutor.

  50. daryl and his brother darryl says:

    @daryl and his brother darryl:

    Huge win for the DOJ.

    DOJ has gotten at least partial convictions in 100% of its J6er trials.
    You read that right – 100%. Every single case.

  51. dazedandconfused says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    The accused has a constitutional right to testify in their defense. Lawyer can’t stop it.

  52. Stormy Dragon says:


    Unfortunately, gift taxes are owed by the giver, not the recipient.

  53. Kathy says:


    Does it hold for civil proceedings?

    What I wonder is if Benito says something to undermine his case, as @CSK implies above, whether the plaintiff could then call him to testify about that.

    I know witness lists and such are determined before trial, but this would be new evidence given freely in public, and might be relevant to the case.

    I do know in a civil trial, the defendant can be compelled to testify as a hostile witness.

  54. CSK says:


    Practically no defense atty is happy when his or her client wants to take the stand.

  55. Gustopher says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I don’t mind a padded story if the padding is good. Sure, it screws with the pacing, but if it gives insight into characters and the world building, that can be a perfectly fine trade off. Toss in a subplot or a stray episode, and if I like the characters and setting, I’ll be happy with more.

    The most recent season of The Mandalorian had two episodes that were clearly padding — one that takes place on Corusant and explores the way former Imperial officers are integrated back into society and rehabilitated (spoiler: not well, and completely lacking in humanity), and another with Lizzo and Jack Black and a few interesting scenes about droids.

    That Corusant episode was the best episode of the season. Contributed nothing to the season’s story, and didn’t even feature characters used in the rest of the season, but was a nice, tight, well-written and acted story that filled in some background details. If anything, it felt like a thematic coda to the first season of Andor (not as well done as Andor, but shorter, so there wasn’t as much space to do that)

    The Lizzo episode was a fun little romp. People hate it, and I have no idea why. Maybe I wasn’t invested in the main storyline of the season that much. It was a pleasant digression, and let Din Djarin and Bo Katan have an adventure together with nothing else going on but the interplay between the very different characters.

    Counter example: Picard Season 2 was all padding, and some very bad. (I think Season 3 would have benefited from some padding — relax the timescale, and toss in a few loosely connected episodes that have space to make Jack and the Geordi kids more like characters, and less like plot elements and accessories)

    I haven’t watched Severance because… eh, the concept doesn’t grab me and sounds like Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse but with paperwork rather than sex and violence.

  56. daryl and his brother darryl says:

    Judge Kaplan, in the E. Jean Carroll v Trump case, has left open the possibility of Trump testifying before closing statements on Monday. (the trial is off tomorrow, I believe because a juror has a previous commitment.)
    That gives Carroll’s attorneys, who are very good, three days to prepare.
    My bet – Trump doesn’t have the balls to show his face.

  57. CSK says:

    @daryl and his brother darryl:

    No, but as I said earlier, he may show up outside the courthouse to incite a mob of his supporters.

  58. Kathy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Didn’t you want to know WTF is going on?

    For instance, though Mark does what seems inofensive, boring office work, Lumon lies to his outer self about what he even does.


    The droid storyline was connected loosley to Bo-Katan recruiting a Mandalorian faction.

    The former imperials on Coruscant later were brought up again in connection with Gideon’s cultural appropriation plans.

    Not to say the episodes are not filler. They are. But they do advance or illustrate the story line. And they were pretty good.

  59. BugManDan says:

    @Gustopher: I liked the Corusant episode and admit to not liking the Lizzo/Black episode very well. They seemed be trying to do the usual Jack Black overacting, and hoping it would be funny without it actually being funny material.

  60. dazedandconfused says:

    @Kathy: The defendant can be compelled to testify in civil proceedings so there is certainly no bar issue there. The defendant is an exception to the rule against a lawyer placing someone on the stand they know presents a clear and present fire hazard to the chair….as they can not legally prevent it from happening if the fool demands it.

  61. Michael Reynolds says:

    Suspense is, in large part, about timing. Drag it out too long and it’s boring. At some point the viewer/reader will just decide they DGAF. An AI can fill in the blanks in unoriginal, derivative ways. What it cannot do can be summarized in four words: I am your father.

    Can AI think of making a white whale into a metaphor? Can it decide that yes, Thanos can and will annihilate half of all sentient beings? Can it say, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn?” Can it insist that Indy rescue his fedora from the falling trap door? Can it think up a murderous super-fan smashing her favorite author with a sledgehammer? Can it decide that a shark should suddenly leap up and eat Morgan Freeman halfway through the movie? Will AI think of creating a world where individual virtue is as important as superpowers? (That one’s mine.)

    I agree that padding that’s basically, ‘let’s have some fun with this fictional universe,’ can be entertaining. But if you kill momentum you, well, kill momentum. As mentioned above, suspense comes with a tick-tock. Done right you have SEVEN. Dragged out too long you have HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER. Odds that ChatGPT has that instinct for timing? Eh, doubtful.

    Dear ChatGPT, write me a funny parody of the song Gangster Paradise. Um…

    What’s funny about these conversations is how much it’s about people not understanding how writing works. If you give the computer the core idea all you’ve done is start a process that involves finding another thousand or so ideas. It’s not so much about ‘the’ big idea, as it is about the sequelae. What AI can do is take a big idea provided by a human and then apply cliché and tropes and worn-out ideas. Granted a lot of human writers do much the same, but they aren’t usually the ones hitting bestseller lists.

  62. Scott says:

    @Kathy: The Coruscant episode has some of the connective tissue that will appear in Season 4 of the Mandalorian. Read that Jon Favreau has already written Season 4. I remember thinking that the Mandalorian season closer seemed to add a lot of little plot points and that the Star Wars universe is being reversed engineered and more Marvel like.