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. Scott says:

    Headlines that seem to be deja vu all over again. And a return to a depressing pattern that we are in charge of the world.

    Blame game begins as Afghanistan situation worsens

    The U.S. and NATO military withdrawal may still be in its early phases, but the finger-pointing over who will be to blame for losing Afghanistan has already begun.

    Lose to whom? Passive voice BS. Of course, the Taliban (or ethnic Pashtuns) will take over. If we are the only ones holding them back, then that is a losing proposition.

    Israel-Hamas fighting poses test for Biden and exposes rifts among Democrats

    The worst violence in years between the Israeli military and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip poses the first major foreign policy challenge for President Biden, while exposing a growing divide among Democrats over criticism of Israel and giving Republicans an opening to criticize the president’s approach.

    Why are we responsible for responding to every issue in the Middle East? Why would Biden actually respond? To do what? Has it occurred to anybody that we are part of the problem?

    Perhaps a clear statement that says: “I think it’s time for the US to stay out and let them work it out” would be in order.

  2. The Colonial Pipeline is back online. This will be good news for the East Coast generally and the Southeast specifically. It will take a few days for the supply chain to get back to normal but this will go a long way toward getting the gas stations having reliable supplies of gas.

  3. CSK says:

    Caslen delivered a commencement speech that he plagiarized from one given by Admiral William McRaven.

  4. MarkedMan says:


    “I think it’s time for the US to stay out and let them work it out

    Would that mean no longer providing billions of dollars in aid to Israel and cooperating with their Intelligence agencies?

  5. @CSK:

    Plagiarism is wrong and in the age of the Internet it’s kind of stupid to even try.

  6. CSK says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    I can’t imagine how Caslen thought he could get away with this, particularly since the speech by McRaven is fairly well-known.

    During his commencement speech, Caslen also referred to the graduates of the University of California instead of the University of South Carolina, over which he presided till his resignation.

  7. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Scott: We’re AMERICA! We… can’t… be
    part of the…

    …problem… We just CAN’T…

  8. Big vaccine newa.

    The Pfizer vaccine is now available for people 12 years old and up.

    Get your kids vaccinated!

  9. Kathy says:

    Today’s counterfactual:

    What if the COVID pandemic had hit in 1986?

    Factors to consider:

    The height of the Iran-Contra scandal
    The early stages of the AIDS pandemic, much mishandled by the Reagan administration.
    The Cold War
    The general state of technology

    As to the latter:

    Ventilators did exist. N95 respirators date to the 70s, but those with the electrostatic materials that keep viruses and bacteria away were developed until the early 90s (to protect healthcare workers from antibiotic-resistant TB).

    There were some computer networks, but largely limited to business, universities, the military, and government. Few people could access them from home. Those who did would have been technically inclined to begin with, and had to settle for rather primitive acoustic modems with very slow data transmission rates. This means no widespread ability to work from home, nor Zoom meetings. Schooling at home might work, if provided via television (not that easy either).

    Above all, there’d have been no mRNA nor virus vector vaccines. Those technologies were decades into the future (they are very new now), as serious knowledge of genetics was far less advanced, and genetic engineering still consisted of people in the dark looking for a black cat that might or might not be there.

    Vaccines would have had to rely on older methods: inactive or dead viruses, or viral fragments. Now, one current COVID vaccine in use in our 2021, Coronavac made in China, does use an inactive virus. It’s also of uncertain efficacy, with reports varying between 50.1 and 63.5%. I don’t know if it could have been made in the mid 80s as fast as it was done last year.

    PCR did exist back then. It was invented in 1983. I assume today’s PCR machines are cheaper, smaller, more efficient, and easier to use (I may be wrong), therefore testing back then might have been harder and/or slower. Unless other means for testing could be developed with the day’s technology. There were tests for AIDS, so I assume it’s possible.

    So, we can see lower protection available, less effective vaccines, less ability to lock down or perhaps even close schools, a tense international situation, primitive biotech, etc.

    Regardless of Reagan’s inept and, frankly, malicious handling of AIDS, a COVID pandemic in his time would provide him an opportunity to draw attention away from Iran-Contra, as well as an opportunity to offer to cooperate with Gorbachev in the USSR. He was good at politics.

    Bottom line: many more infections and many more deaths in absolute terms, and a tragedy in relative terms given the smaller population at the time (I guesstimate 230 million in the US and 4.5-5 billion globally).

  10. Stormy Dragon says:

    The past few days of watching people pumping gasoline into Tupperware containers and plastic bags has caused me to reconsider my opposition to New Jersey’s ban on people pumping their own gasoline.

    It turns out that New Jersey is correct that we are collectively too stupid to be trusted with that responsibility.

  11. wr says:

    Interesting that with all this chaos finally breaking out in Israel, no one is suggesting sending in the man who single-handedly brought peace to the entire region. Where’s Jared?

  12. @Kathy;

    The further back in time you go the worse it gets

  13. CSK says:

    Settling into his new offices in Milton Tower in Sunny Isles Beach, Florida.

  14. JohnSF says:


    If we are the only ones holding them back

    You are not.
    But the opposing coalition of forces (Kabulis and other urban centred Afghan groups, Tajiks, Uzbeks, Kirgiz, Hazara, Eastern Shura Pustuns etc) is less determined and ruthless than the Taliban.
    And the Taliban supporters in the Pakistan security apparat.
    Without the firepower provided by the US/NATO which hampers large scale operations and control by the Taliban, their opponents will lose a keystone of their position.

    It is a mistake to suppose that if the majority are not in favour of a Taliban egime it can not come to pass. Fanatics accustomed to killing generally have an edge in willpower to impose their rule by violence over a population that simply want to get on with life and, above all, go on living.

    The Taliban is prepared to slaughter their way to power and impose their will upon the rest of the population.
    The main hope of the non-Taliban elements is that Pakistan will be sufficiently reluctant to see a bloodbath in the cities as to pressure those elements of the Taliban that are clients of the ISI to accept a limited compromise in the regime imposed.

    It may be the optimal course for the US and NATO; but have no illusions about the likely costs and consequences.

  15. Stormy Dragon says:


    One thing that may help with the pullout: since Afghanistan is land locked, one of the big problems from the start of the occupation is that we needed Pakistan’s support so that we could transport things to Afghanistan, but we can’t really deal with the Taliban without dealing with Pakistan.

    Once our on the ground military involvement has ended, we no longer have to keep playing nice with Pakistan. Applying economic pressure to Pakistan may be more effective than applying military pressure to Afghanistan directly.

  16. KM says:


    The early stages of the AIDS pandemic, much mishandled by the Reagan administration.

    Hmm, I feel like this would be a factor and it wouldn’t.

    It would because there were be two mysterious diseases suddenly manifesting with differing symptoms that would initial confuse doctors. The fact that COVID’s mainly striking as a respiratory disease (even if it isn’t) and pneumonia was a major killer for those affected by AIDS would conflate unrelated symptoms until they get enough data points to separate it out. It wasn’t until a rare specific cancer started showing up everywhere that HIV / AIDS really started being isolated and identified; they knew something was killing people but not what. COVID’s weird grab-bag of inconsistent symptoms would definitely have muddied the waters and made HIV harder to pick out as a separate problem to address, possibly allowing it to spread farther and faster since unaware bored people in lockdown in the 80’s would likely be doing things like sharing needles and unprotected sex to pass the time.

    It wouldn’t because a lot of the Reagan misinformation and neglect regarding AIDS specifically came from the afflicted population. As soon as it got tagged as the “gay disease”, that was it for many in terms of giving a damn. The way it spread meant only “sinners” or “bad people” could get it and if you avoided certain behaviors, you were fine (paranoia of toilet seats aside). COVID can’t be tagged as a minority disease or something only wrong people catch; you get it from simply breathing in the air and can’t pinpoint any particular “sin” to avoid. Trump and Co tried to start the blame game by associating with Asians and by neglecting to address higher-than-average infection rates in specific minorities groups but over all it failed. All the lies and COVID misinformation hasn’t changed the average person’s perception of it being something anyone can catch so everyone needs to take proper precautions….. “proper” being where the argument comes in.

  17. JohnSF says:

    @Stormy Dragon:
    Yes, this is the main local upside to disengagement.
    The question is, how amenable to economic pressures are the military/security brass?
    They have shown in the past that when it come to the economic interests of the Pakistani people versus power, they choose power.

    An option to align with India might be more likely to influence their mindset; but unfortunately the Modi /BJP govt. may make a problematic ally.

  18. Gustopher says:

    @Doug Mataconis: The further back you go, the less travel there is, so the more likely these outbreaks are be mostly naturally contained. So, there’s some balance.

  19. Gustopher says:

    From the galaxy sized brain of my brother:

    So, here’s the thing,
    Auditors: “What’s the admin password?”
    Maricopa: “ We don’t have the admin password.”
    Auditors: “How did you do your audit?”
    Maricopa: “ …(silence.)…”
    Auditors: “ If you don’t have admin access, who deleted these files?”
    Maricopa: “ umm… welll…wasn’t us…”
    Auditors: “Now we really need to see the routers. Somehow, an unauthorized entity made deletions, since you didn’t have the admin rights. This is now a National Security Issue.”

    Meanwhile, they are saying the servers ran on windows and hadn’t been updated in several years. One of the “Fun” things about NT based windows is/was “Elevation of Privelege”.
    If you are curious, review “Deja Blue” vulnerability patched August 2019. Fun stuff.

    Arizona uses paper ballots

    I am thankful for whatever quirk of fate prevented me from becoming like him.

  20. Mu Yixiao says:


    The further back you go, the less travel there is, so the more likely these outbreaks are be mostly naturally contained. So, there’s some balance.

    1918 pandemic. 50M deaths in a world population of 1.8B. No air travel, and reduced general mobility because of both the war and the political aftermath.

    Not much of a balance.

  21. KM says:

    @Gustopher :
    I love that these people are cool with randos demanding the admin password for the police and other county servers and databases over “voting”. At best, they’d get guest level view-only privileges, NEVER admin-level since they’re not admins. Why would you give someone the master key to everything when they theoretically only need to drop something off on your porch or use your bathroom?

    They’re the unauthorized entity trying to sneak in and get that sweet, sweet data to sell…. or worse. Hope people in AZ are ready for some massive identify theft rings to start picking them off.

  22. Kathy says:


    I picked 1986, because that was when there was a president besieged by scandal, and a shot at being impeached.

    But by then AIDS was known to be caused by HIV. People with pneumonia without risk factors associated with AIDS and testing negative for HIV, would not be classified as having AIDS, at least not by doctors.


    I thought of that, but plain fact is slower, lower volume travel is no guarantee. The Black Death is thought to have arrived in Italy on a ships coming in from the Black Sea. We’ve really no idea what many plagues in Rome and Byzantium really were or where they originated, but it bears noting both cities had many visitors from many places, and both oversaw empires which traded widely across the Mediterranean. The spread was slower.

    Isolation is a different matter. An outbreak from, say, wild game, in a small village that hardly anyone visited or passed near, would likely play out in that village alone. But we can also see how many diseases were common across Europe, Africa, and Asia, but not in the Americas. The latter were quite effectively isolated from the others.

  23. Joe Manchin is being a thorn in the side of the Democratic Party with his objections to certain parts of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.

  24. Kylopod says:

    @KM: I would say AIDS was easier politically to ignore, and not just because it was the “gay disease” or the “disease of sinners,” though that was certainly part of it. Its limited modes of transmission made it less deadly on the overall populace, even if it was far deadlier than Covid for those infected with it, and therefore it had a less devastating impact on the health-care system and economy. The Covid pandemic was a crisis the Trump Admin desperately wanted to ignore but was unable to in practical terms.

    This is why, unlike with AIDS, the right never settled on a unified message about Covid. Their commentary has been from the beginning an incoherent mishmash of conflicting claims. Sometimes it’s a hoax that affects virtually nobody, sometimes it’s no worse than flu, sometimes it’s a serious crisis inflicted on us by the Chinese, sometimes you should wear your masks and sometimes you shouldn’t, sometimes the vaccine is great and why Trump deserves a Noble Prize, sometimes it’s a conspiracy to insert microchips. This is not just a matter of different people saying things, you find a lot of individual right-wing commentators shifting their positions on an almost day-to-day–sometimes sentence to sentence–basis. And it’s especially striking coming from a crowd that claims to hate mealy-mouthed politicians. They’re all over the map because the nature of the situation has given them conflicting incentives in their attempts to downplay something this profoundly visible.

  25. Gustopher says:

    @Doug Mataconis: It’s really amazing that Kirstyn Sinema does not have the same profile that Joe Manchin does. And it’s not for lack of trying — does she have to curtsy and thumbs down everything to be recognized as a complete pain in the ass?

  26. Gustopher says:

    @Kathy: Slower is no guarantee, and this virus’s long incubation period makes it more suited for a slow travel environment, but to that I say — just keep going back in time. Are dinosaurs affected by covid?

    More practically, it is easier to quarantine a city with an outbreak when there isn’t a massive amount of travel, and where supplies aren’t being delivered in a just-in-time manner.

  27. Scott says:

    @Gustopher: @Mu Yixiao: I remember reading about the 1918 flu pandemic. Spread was traced by time and it became clear that the flu spread along the rail lines as passengers moved around the country. There was a lot of military movement around the country at that time.

    As an anecdote, my grandmother’s first husband died of the flu in 1919 at Great Lakes Naval Training Station. He was 23,

  28. CSK says:


    Sometimes it just boils down to not doing whatever the libs are doing.

  29. Just Another Ex-Republican says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Joe Manchin is being a thorn in the side of the Democratic Party

    …the rest of your sentence wasn’t really necessary 🙂

  30. Kathy says:


    Are dinosaurs affected by covid?

    This thing has proven so insidious, I wouldn’t be surprised if it could make fossils sick.

    Seriously, no idea what diseases dinosaurs were susceptible to. I know their bird descendants can be infected by flu, and that viruses manage to find cells to infect across every kind of lifeform (except other viruses).

    Viruses affect different species differently for various reasons. In the wild, there are many different species in varying concentrations. In the modern world, there is one human species spread all over the world, usually in high density concentrations. We make things too easy for pathogens in that sense.

  31. Kylopod says:

    @Kathy: Nowadays, I frequently run across the term “nonavian dinosaur.” (It’s sort of like the term “nonhuman animal.”) While the idea that birds are the descendants of dinosaurs goes back at least to Darwin’s time (Archaeopteryx was first discovered in 1861), it’s only in recent years that I’ve started to hear scientists refer to birds as actual dinosaurs.

  32. Northerner says:


    Presumably it’d mean not giving any aid to anyone in the region, or cooperating with their various security forces. It’d be interesting to see the fallout from that — might be a good thing, but there’d be a lot of changes.

  33. Jay L Gischer says:

    @Gustopher: And now I’m (cynically, yes) wondering if the auditors aren’t just trolling for some conflict with the county government so they can provide political cover of the “WHAT ARE THEY HIDING?!!?” sort. Because they certainly haven’t found anything else, but that’s not an acceptable answer.

    So, you ask for something you know they aren’t going to give you, even though you don’t actually need it, because it makes good narrative.

  34. Kathy says:


    I think there’s much controversy there. But, honestly, I simply don’t care enough about the subject of how to classify a branch killed off by Homer Simpson 🙂

  35. Gustopher says:

    @Jay L Gischer: Oh, it’s definitely working. My brothers may be “special”, but it turns out a lot of Americans are “special”.

  36. Kathy says:

    Good news from Axios. New infections of COVID in all US states are either going down or holding steady.

    Now America is rounding the corner on the trump virus.

    I wonder, though, how many vaccinations were given to vaccine tourists.

    I know personally about 10 people who traveled to the US for a vaccine, at various states including Florida, Texas, California, and Nevada. I’ve heard about others, and I’ve read two accounts about such trips in the papers.

    I’ve read about outfits in Asia and Europe offering vaccination trips to the US, including options for 3-week stays to get both shots on one round trip flight.

    When vaccines are scarce, even for the wealthy, in many countries, people will travel to places where these are abundant.

  37. Stormy Dragon says:


    They have shown in the past that when it come to the economic interests of the Pakistani people versus power, they choose power.

    Yes, but what happens when it comes to their own economic interests? If their foreign bank accounts suddenly start getting frozen, what will they do?

  38. Kurtz says:


    As an anecdote, my grandmother’s first husband died of the flu in 1919 at Great Lakes Naval Training Station. He was 23,

    So you’re saying you owe your life to the Spanish Flu…

  39. Kurtz says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    Of course that’s what it is. All the voter fraud people have is narrative. Investigations come up with nothing beyond isolated cases. Press conference announcing a huge investigation into voter fraud. The media covers it. After some time, the investigation folds without a press conference. Meanwhile, the narrative continues.

    The Heritage database, if you could call it that, is deficient in ways Steven has identified multiple times. The Heritage people think enough of Steven to seek a meeting with him, but aren’t intellectually honest enough to take the criticism seriously. WHAT ARE THEY HIDING??!!!111

    In December, Heritage published commentary based on the proven fraud cases topping 1300… Since 2000. Let’s be generous–all those cases happened since 2000 (most did, but some didn’t), that all the cases could be addressed by the laws favored by Republicans (they couldn’t), and that the database is the result of a rigorous process (it most definitely is not).

    Since 2000, there have been over 1,000,000,000, votes (ballots cast) for President. That’s a pretty large denominator for 1300. And it doesn’t even include midterms.

    It would be much better for the world if those people became cryptozoologists if they’re so intent on proving the reality of a myth.

  40. JohnSF says:

    @Stormy Dragon:
    They put the next round on the account at the mess.
    You are dealing mainly military people here; who probably mostly regard themselves as patriots.
    Material wealth is not necessarily their main concern.
    And in any case, when in such positions the state itself can provide all their needs and then some.
    The civilian politicians and landowning elite are another matter; but Pakistan tends to defer to the authority of the ISI/Army senior officers.
    Because they have the guns, and the will to use them.

    Economic leverage might not gt you as far as some might expect, IMHO.

    (As a rough parallel: how well would threatening to cut off Vo Nguyen Giap’s bank account have worked?)

  41. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Gustopher: I take it you haven’t heard about the discovery of Covid-1 in DNA from dinosaur fossils? 😉

  42. Stormy Dragon says:


    You are dealing mainly military people here; who probably mostly regard themselves as patriots.

    I can tell people I regard myself the King of France; that doesn’t make it true.

    Material wealth is not necessarily their main concern.

    That’s not even true about senior flag officers in the US, much less a country where the military controls the civilian government.

  43. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kathy: “I wonder, though, how many vaccinations were given to vaccine tourists.

    Don’t care, we’re (in theory anyway) the richest nation in the history of civilization. We can absorb the cost if we have to. Or even better add it to the chip licensing that we charged Bill Gates.

  44. CSK says:
  45. CSK says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    As long as we’re only sterilizing non-whites with those vaccines.

  46. Kathy says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    I don’t object. We need to vaccinate the entire world somehow. If some countries can get a head start this way, why not?

    I am curious, however. Thousands, a hundred thousand, a million?

  47. Gustopher says:

    @Kathy: It is vaccinating the wealthiest people first, which is pretty shitty.

  48. Gustopher says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: Didn’t Jesus raise the dinosaurs who got Covid-1 from the dead?

  49. JohnSF says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    I can tell people I regard myself the King of France; that doesn’t make it true.

    Question is, though, do they believe they are the King of France?

    The dominance of the military elite has been bad for Pakistan; but said elite don’t look at it that way.
    What I think they believe is that they are a soldiery elite who are pursuing the fundamental interests of Pakistan, in the context of a religion based state which has fought three major and one minor wars with India since 1947, and whose strategic interests, they think, require the domination of Afghanistan, regardless of the interests or wishes of the Afghans.

    As for personal wealth, comparing them to an American senior officer is apples and oranges.
    The state itself is their personal piggy-bank, if they wish it.
    And the entire social background is radically variant to an American officer’s: generally of a landowning elite, with generations of expectation of command and privilege, an aristocratic/nationalist/religious military ethos, and a contempt for civilian politicians and businessmen.
    You might say some American military are similar; but it’s a matter of degree. The most died in the wool American military line is pretty civilian compared to old European military/aristocratic traditions, let alone those of the rajput.

    A better comparison might be a Prussian junker or a high ranking Soviet or an Ottoman military pasha: they can effectivelycommandeer what they want in material goods.
    Power is the coinage, not money.

  50. Kathy says:


    I thought the dinosaurs died in the Flood.

  51. Gustopher says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    I can tell people I regard myself the King of France; that doesn’t make it true.

    I regard myself as conservative.

    I want to;
    – maximize individual freedom
    – defer to private enterprise where it works
    – use the government only where private enterprise doesn’t work
    – restore the Reagan Era top marginal tax rate

    That definitely sounds very conservative. It ends up being pro-lgbt, pro-single-payer-healthcare, tax-the-rich, but a very conservative version of that.

    We should also go back to the abortion restrictions of the late Nixon years, if memory serves.

  52. @Gusttpher:

    Sinema has not been in the Senare very long
    Basically just 2 2 years and a little over four months

  53. flat earth luddite says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    Uh… right. Uh-huh. Sure. Not us, never.

    Both the Afghan and Israel/Hamas issues have me thinking back to a conversation we had with an unbeliever once (actually twice, separately), referencing the idea that both the Glowing Glass Plains (fka the Hindu Kush) and the Middle Eastern Glowing in the Dark Zone (Arabian Peninsula/Eastern Med generally) were inevitable, given various tribal and religious issues that the rest of the world don’t have the collective wisdom to solve.

    I mean, I can see solutions, but I’m also the first to acknowledge that we can’t consider the ones I envision. Nor would I want to live in a world where those solutions occur.

  54. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: That’s a different part, but we can raise the licensing on that, too, if we need to recover some of the costs of vaccine tourism.

  55. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Gustopher: That part has been shitty for millennia, so the impact is much smaller. Eventually, it’ll reach critical mass again. I hope you’re gone by the time it does.

  56. CSK says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    Thank you.

    Meanwhile…The CDC has just lifted indoor and outdoor mask requirements for the fully vaccinated.

  57. MarkedMan says:

    Oh, fer chrissakes. Ezra Klein either has the most blatant clickbait up or he’s a gullible ass. I won’t link to it but it’s basically a “What are they hiding?” column about the US government covering up evidence of extraterrestrials. Yes, we are currently in yet another cycle of, “but we must take this seriously, because there are QUESTIONS!”, but this is the third cycle of this just in my lifetime. If you think there might be something to this Lund of nonsense, this is really all you need to know:

    1) Pilots, including military pilots, have seen lights and radar images behave in ways they couldn’t explain. If the first thing you think of is that is proof positive that little green men are flying around in physics defying flying saucers, well, you be you.

    2) The military has debris from crashes that they don’t want to make public. If in your mind that means it must be the saucers of little green men, then bless your heart.

    3) Since the history of flying saucers began, there have been fuzzy photos of things that just might be alien flying machines that defy physics. As cameras became better to the point where literally billions of people have a high resolution camera on them at virtually all hours of the day or night, the photos… have remained distant and fuzzy and inconclusive. If you believe the aliens are adapting their flight patterns based on how good the cameras of potential witnesses might be, well, good for you.

    4) And if you believe the US government has all this secret proof of extraterrestrials but that no president, not a single one, even including Donald J. Trump, wanted to be the person who stood in front of the world and announced such an amazing thing, well, then I have no hope for you.

  58. JohnSF says:

    @flat earth luddite:
    Nobody’s likely to waste nukes on the Hindu Kush.
    And absent external drivers, Afghanistan could probably revert to some sort of unpleasant-but-tolerable stasis: the Taliban/Pushtun coalition rule most of the south-central/south-eastern countryside; the “moderate” coalition get Kabul and the north.
    Similar to the old royal/tribal divisions.

    The region most liable to luminescence is the Indo-Gangetic plains.
    The home of some 400 million people.

    There are two fully nuclear powers facing off there.
    Whereas there’s only one in the Middle East; and that one appears to have has every intention and incentive, and means, to remain the local nuclear monopolist.

  59. Stormy Dragon says:
  60. JohnSF says:

    When I say “Afghansistan could…” that would IMO entail:
    1) Pakistan being somehow being coerced to back off (see above for I why I think this may not be an easy ask).
    2) US/NATO being prepared to commit to being an external balancer vs. the current military superiority of the Taliban via air power at minimum; and persuading both Talibs and Islamabad that they’ll be sticking their arm in a meat-grinder if they attempt an all out assault on Kabul and/or the non-Pustun provinces.

    Otherwise a bloodbath it will be.

  61. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: I haven’t read the article yet. Am I supposed to bring my card with me when I go places unmasked, and how do we know that only the people who are fully vaccinated are the only ones doing it (or is this another “if they won’t protect themselves then fwk ’em” thing)?

  62. Kathy says:


    5) “Even if the licence plate reads ALPHA CENTAURI, If it doesn’t stop and land, what use is it?” Arthur C. Clarke.

    6) “If there have been aliens on Earth for decades, and all they’ve done is pose their spaceships for fuzzy photographs and staged some rather underwhelming light shows, they’re not something I’d waste the tenth part of a neuron on.” Kathy.

    Many years ago, during a beach vacation, I read a couple of books on UFOs by a Spanish “journalist” named J. J. Benitez. I forget about 90% of it*, but I wouldn’t mind revisiting a portion of it just to see how and where he engages in journalistic malpractice.

    Around that time, I also read a tome by Velikovsky. Something to the effect that Venus was/is a comet (no, really). I recall a bit more from that one, including what was the beginning of learning that a good narrative presented authoritatively along with “evidence” that is neither corroborated nor rigorous, can make one want to believe the nonsense being peddled.

    *One thing recall is he described Carl Sagan as “The so-called astronomer in a Pentagon uniform.” Even then, I did not regard character assassination as a valid point.

  63. Kathy says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    I’d just as soon let America do that experiment first.

    I do trust Biden, and his cabinet, but IMO, this is the carrot to get some vaccine hesitant covidiots to get vaccinated. If they do, they can ditch the hated mask that presents such a minor inconvenience for such a major gain.

    I also predict a surge in infections in under-vaccinated states/counties, as people ditch masks, if they haven’t already, and distancing, and embrace crowded indoor places, for some reason vaguely related to today’s announcement. Probably thinking that it’s safe because most people there are vaccinated or something.

    Me, I’ll keep to my standard: until cases drop to New Zealand, Taiwan, or Vietnam levels.

  64. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @MarkedMan:When ever this subject arises, I’m reminded of a conversation that I had with my acoustics professor in university about if he (also and astronomer who had been the recipient of several NSF grants for astronomy) had ever seen UFOs.

    With the preface of the number of grants he’d received over the recent years (something on the order of 4 or 5 IIRC) and that the NSF doesn’t give grants to people who publicize having seen UFOs, he answered my question with “no, but I have seen several things that I can’t explain.”

    (He also had a degree in theology of some level or another–don’t remember any more–and he said he was more interested in how the unexplained things might informe his theology, but we never had time to delve into that area. That would have been interesting, but we weren’t particularly close, so I didn’t intrude.)

  65. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Darwin Award nominee?

  66. senyordave says:

    @Scott: Why are we responsible for responding to every issue in the Middle East? Why would Biden actually respond? To do what? Has it occurred to anybody that we are part of the problem?

    When it concerns Israel, I can think of about three billion reasons reasons why the US should care. The US gives Israel about $3,3 billion in aid. For no explicable reason, we basically pay for the settlements .

  67. CSK says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    Beats me. The guidance remains pretty confusing. You still have to wear masks on planes, buses, and trains and in hospitals, prisons, and homeless shelters, and the mayor of Boston has asked residents to keep on masking regardless of the CDC recommendation.

    The Shaw’s and Stop ‘n’ Shop grocery chains in Mass. are removing their one-way aisle markers.

    Biden called this a great day for America. Rochelle Wolensky said: “Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities large or small without wearing a mask or socially distancing.”

  68. Joe says:


    But we can also see how many diseases were common across Europe, Africa, and Asia, but not in the Americas. The latter were quite effectively isolated from the others.

    The book 1491 posits in part that the Americas were much more heavily populated at the time of the 1492 contact, but the combination of having a mostly homogeneous gene pool and first exposure to pathogens that the Europeans had amassed from Eurasia/Africa for millenia ran rampant through and decimated the population of the Americas leaving the impression that Europeans were encountering societies in decline when they were actually dealing with recent waives of horrendous disease.

  69. Kathy says:


    Estimates vary wildly. One is that around 90% of the total population of the Americas was killed by European diseases.

  70. Mimai says:


    Without going into all the details, let’s just say that I am familiar with the UFO community – the people who comprise it, not the “aliens” themselves (at least not that I know of). I’ve been to many “UFO lookout” meetings and have people in my life who are long-time committed members of that community……eg, they go to the conferences, read all the books, etc.

    Needless to say, it’s an, er, interesting group of people. More diverse than one might expect, but not many “Ezra Kleins” to count among their ranks. Funny that he took this up in a column. Maybe he was trying (too hard as per usual) to be unconventional. And/or he was trying to affiliate with Cowen and Hanson who have been writing about UFOs recently (another #onbrand tactic of Klein’s).

    I think it would be super cool if aliens did exist…and visit….and allow us to know about it. I’d also hate it because my UFO community people would be insufferable in their gloating and believe that their scientifically questionable (to be polite) thinking style was vindicated at last.

  71. Northerner says:


    The United States gives a lot of middle eastern countries a lot of aid money. Israel is number three behind Afghanistan and Iraq (funny how its expensive to start and maintain unnecessary ones), but there are three other mid-East countries that get over a billion (Jordan, Egypt and Ethiopia), and several that get close to that. Be a lot cheaper to completely pull out of the region all right, though as I said before, it’d mean a lot of changes in the region.

  72. Northerner says:


    Actually I’ve seen an excellent documentary on UFO’s that’s turned me into a believer:

  73. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @CSK: I love Adm McRaven. I used to have an office a little down the hallway from his. He loved to wander around and meet people. One day he just sauntered in for a break from all the Flag Officer BS and spent 30 minutes in the office shooting the shit. Regular water cooler talk. He also liked to use the regular staff urinal so he could shoot the shit with staffers while taking a whiz. Once you told him your name–he’d never forget it.

    I’d charge a machine gun emplacement if he ordered me too. Really wish he’d have jumped into politics. But I understand why he didn’t. Its very hard to go from not having to suffer fools–to having to suffer them because they vote.

  74. MarkedMan says:

    @Mimai: I hear you. Intelligent life as we would recognize it almost certainly exists in he universe, and the fact that it hasn’t completely occupied the habitable planets is… disturbing. But the fact that we, one day, may encounter real aliens doesn’t make the loons any more relevant.

    As an example: probably since the dawn of time people have declared they could fly and jumped off a cliff to their deaths. The Wright Brothers did not suddenly make visionaries out of crazy people.

  75. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @Scott: My grandfather, father, and brother all went to there for naval basic training.

  76. CSK says:

    @Jim Brown 32:
    McRaven said of Caslen’s plagiarism that there was nothing to forgive, and added that Caslen was one of the finest and most honorable officers with whom he’d ever served.

  77. Mimai says:


    The Wright Brothers did not suddenly make visionaries out of crazy people.

    Love this!

  78. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @senyordave: US policy has been about securing the stability of markets for us and our Allies. Because of the amount of energy the West used to get out of the middle east–it was in our interests to keep the area from spiraling out of the control. Now that both the US and our Allies have reduced reliance on the Energy from there–you can see the slow change in “so what?” about the area

    What we did in Afghanistan was in keeping with the USG’s underlying philosophy of Democratic Peace Theory. TL/DR of this is basically means more Democracies = more global market stability and peace. It would have been great to start a functioning democracy in the Russians back yard–but alas–the country simply doesn’t have the cultural values that make democracy possible.

    Most of the population is illiterate and they have no national identity. Its a tribal Agrarian society and the handful of elites they produce leave and go contribute to other countries’ societies. It was a huge gamble because we were trying to make this country something it never was. Really, the only play to have success here was morally repugnant and infeasible. We would have had to eliminate most of the military aged males and leave the country full of kids and the elderly in order to wipe out the warlord culture that is directly antagonistic to democratic principles. There was no reason to do that–as Afghanistan is mostly a danger to itself. We can do the CT mission there from some other country when we need to.

  79. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: We’re still masking here, too. The county I live in hasn’t decided to move out of Phase 2 from the last misstep uptick in cases a month or so ago. The schools have decided to try to go to full attendance for the rest of the year, though.

  80. Jax says:

    Our school district just sent out a sign-up sheet to all parents via email, they will GET the Pfizer vaccine here for all who are interested. I mean, I was planning on running my youngest kid down to the next county over, anyways, but maybe I’ll wait til they get the vaccine bus here….

    And then me and mine will be fully vaccinated. With the exception of my Trumpie dad, who hasn’t done vaccines since they made him in Vietnam.

  81. Joe says:

    I want to read more and think more, and I expect a thread on this tomorrow, but if the upshot is that vaccinated people are reasonably, statistically safe around unvaccinated people, maybe the answer to ID cards is “I don’t care. You unvaccinated are all on your own.” That answer seems to straightforward. But it would save me a lot of brain cells.

  82. Gustopher says:

    The CDC is apparently part of Biden’s plan to suppress the vote in rural areas.

  83. gVOR08 says:

    @Kathy: Clarke, in one of his non-fiction books, said that if you look at the sky, you will see unidentified things. IIRC his example of one he did sort out was two dots stationary in the sky. After walking around a bit he found a gentleman in a park sitting on a bench with a winch. The guy had maybe a quarter mile of line out with a big box kite.

    Following his advice, for a few months I looked at the sky frequently. Saw half a dozen unidentified something. Generally came up with credible explanation. Weather balloons really do look weird. Best one was early one dark evening, a bright, white intermittent flashing light low over the horizon and moving erratically. My best guess was a photoflash or some sort of strobe light with atmospheric refraction. I suppose it could have been little green men, but I suspect not.

    Try it. Just look up at the sky now and again. You’ll see stuff for which there’s no immediately obvious explanation. As Clarke said, unexplained is not the same as inexplicable.