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. OzarkHillbilly says:
  2. CSK says:

    My comment didn’t post.

    For the second time:

  3. Mu Yixiao says:

    The gift that keeps on giving.

    New research this week finds that people who are hospitalized with severe covid-19 but survive often pay a heavy price afterward. The study concluded that these survivors were more than twice as likely to die in the subsequent 12 months compared to people who had tested negative for the virus. This relatively increased risk of death was even higher for people under the age 65.

    [emphasis added]

  4. Sleeping Dog says:

    America is Running on Fumes
    In film, science, and the economy, the U.S. has fallen out of love with the hard work of invention.

    He goes on to provide examples and finishes with some reasons.

    1. The big marketplace of attention

    Almost every smart cultural producer eventually learns the same lesson: Audiences don’t really like brand-new things. They prefer “familiar surprises”—sneakily novel twists on well-known fare.

    As the biggest movie studios got more strategic about thriving in a competitive global market, they doubled down on established franchises. As the music industry learned more about audience preferences, radio airplay became more repetitive and the Billboard Hot 100 became more static. Across entertainment, industries now naturally gravitate toward familiar surprises rather than zany originality.

    Science is also a transparent marketplace of attention, and it is following the same trajectory as film and music. Scientists know what journals are publishing and what the NIH is funding. The citation revolution pushes scientists to write papers that are likely to appeal to an audience of fellow researchers, who tend to prefer insights that jibe with their background. An analysis of research applications found that the NIH and the National Science Foundation have a demonstrated bias against papers that are highly original, preferring “low levels of novelty.” Scientists are thus encouraged to focus on subjects that they already understand to be popular, which means avoiding work that seems too radical to focus on projects that are just the right blend of familiar and surprising.

    The world is one big panopticon, and we don’t fully understand the implications of building a planetary marketplace of attention in which everything we do has an audience. Our work, our opinions, our milestones, and our subtle preferences are routinely submitted for public approval online. Maybe this makes culture more imitative. If you want to produce popular things, and you can easily tell from the internet what’s already popular, you’re simply more likely to produce more of that thing. This mimetic pressure is part of human nature. But perhaps the internet supercharges this trait and, in the process, makes people more hesitant about sharing ideas that aren’t already demonstrably pre-approved, which reduces novelty across many domains.

    2. The creep of gerontocracy

    We are living in an age of creeping gerontocracy.

    Joe Biden is the oldest president in U.S. history. (If he had lost, Donald Trump would have been the oldest president in U.S. history.) The average age in Congress has hovered near its all-time high for the past decade. The Democrats’ House speaker and House majority leader are over 80. The Senate majority leader and minority leader are over 70. The fears and anxieties that dominate politics represent older Americans’ fears and fixations.

    Across business, science, and finance, power is similarly concentrated among the elderly. The average age of Nobel Prize laureates has steadily increased in almost every discipline, and so has the average age of NIH grant recipients. Among S&P 500 companies, the average age of incoming CEOs has increased by more than a decade in the past 20 years. As I’ve written, Americans 55 and older account for less than one-third of the population, but they own two-thirds of the nation’s wealth—the highest level of wealth concentration on record.

    Why does it matter that young people have a voice in tech and culture? Because young people are our most dependable source of new ideas in culture and science. They have the least to lose from cultural change and the most to gain from overthrowing legacies and incumbents.

    The philosopher Thomas Kuhn famously pointed out that paradigm shifts in science and technology have often come from young people who revolutionized various subjects precisely because they were not so deeply indoctrinated in their established theories. One of the revolutionaries he mentioned, the physicist Max Planck, quipped that science proceeds “one funeral at a time” because new scientific truths thrive only when their opponents die and a new generation grows up with them. When this theory was rather literally put to the test in the 2016 paper “Does Science Advance One Funeral at a Time?,” researchers found that, in fact, when elite scientists die, younger and lesser-known scientists are more likely to introduce novel ideas that push the field forward. Planck was right.

    Older people tend to have deeper expertise in any given domain, and their contributions are not to be cast aside. But innovation requires something orthogonal to expertise—a kind of useful naïveté—that is more common among the young. America’s creeping gerontocracy across politics, business, and science might be constricting the emergence of new paradigms.

    3. The rise of “vetocracy”

    In his “Build” essay, Andreessen blasted America’s inability to construct not only wondrous machines such as supersonic aircraft and flying cars but also sufficient houses, infrastructure, and megaprojects. In a compelling response, Ezra Klein wrote that “the institutions through which Americans build have become biased against action rather than toward it.” He continued:

    They’ve become, in political scientist Francis Fukuyama’s term, “vetocracies,” in which too many actors have veto rights over what gets built. That’s true in the federal government. It’s true in state and local governments. It’s even true in the private sector.

    Last year, fewer bills were passed than in any year on record. From 1917 to 1970, the Senate took 49 votes to break filibusters, or less than one per year. Since 2010, it has had an average of 80 such votes annually. The Senate was once known as the “cooling saucer of democracy,” where populist notions went to chill out a bit. Now it’s the icebox of democracy, where legislation dies of hypothermia.

    Vetocracy blocks new construction too, especially through endless environmental and safety-impact analyses that stop new projects before they can begin. “Since the 1970s, even as progressives have championed Big Government, they’ve worked tirelessly to put new checks on its power,” the historian Marc Dunkelman wrote. “The new protections [have] condemned new generations to live in civic infrastructure that is frozen in time.”

    He goes on to point out that the best argument against his position is the internet and specifically the software industry, but counters that with:

    Undeniably, the communications revolution has been the most significant fount of new ideas in the past half century. But the vitality of the tech industry in comparison with other industries points up that the U.S. innovation system has devolved from variety to specialization in the past 40 years or so. The U.S. used to produce a broad diversity of patents across many industries—chemistry, biology, and so forth—whereas patents today are more concentrated in a single industry, the software industry, than at any other time on record. We’ve funneled treasure and talent into the world of bits, as the world of flesh and steel has decayed around it. In the past 50 years, climate change has worsened, nuclear power has practically disappeared, construction productivity has slowed down, and the cost of developing new drugs has soared.

    Worth the read.

  5. Jen says:

    @CSK: The more I think about this, the madder I get.

    I know it’s a pipe dream, but I’d really like to hear from the Secret Service on this one. Given how close they are (physical proximity) to the President, it’s highly likely that they knew he had tested positive. This means that at least one of their agents presumably knew that the President was putting someone else under the Secret Service’s protection (Biden) at risk. So, the Secret Service was aware that a person–albeit the President–was putting a candidate for the presidency in harm’s way.

    There’s something not remotely right about this.

  6. Mike in Arlington says:

    @Sleeping Dog: I was just thinking about this a day or two ago. I wonder how much of this was affected by the extension of the length of time a work could be covered by copyright. Because of that, the ability to rework and use older works was seriously curtailed.

  7. CSK says:

    I’ve always assumed that the Secret Service was empowered to override the president’s wishes when he wanted to do something that would endanger himself. Dick Cheney, although VP, got carried out of his office on 9/11 when he refused to leave voluntarily.

    SS agents are supposed to give their lives to protect the president, which is why they had to accompany him in a closed car on his joyride around the grounds of Walter Reed while he had Covid.

    I have no doubt that Trump was hoping to kill Biden. As for any other deaths that might occur…so what?

  8. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Mike in Arlington:

    The whole copyright issues is likely a result of and a cause. An unvirtuous circle if you will. For corporations, keeping control of a franchise is far more profitable than the risk of finding something new.

    The patent/copyright process is a mess that only serves the interests of a narrow section of the economy. The reality is that you can patent/copyright almost anything and it is left up to the courts to determine whether the patent/copyright was for original work conducted by the holder.

  9. Mister Bluster says:

    @Sleeping Dog:..go take a shower
    My reaction when the Atlantic informed me that I have only one free article left this month.

  10. Jen says:


    I have no doubt that Trump was hoping to kill Biden.

    That or make him ill or incapacitate him, yes. My point being, if a random general member of the public knowingly exposed someone under Secret Service protection to a deadly pathogen, what would happen to that individual? Presumably there would be some ramifications due to the intent to harm. So, why would Trump be exempt?

    It sounds like the plot of page-turner genre fiction, I know, but the bottom line is that someone under the Secret Service’s protection knowingly exposed someone else under the Secret Service’s protection to a pathogen. It feels to me like Trump did something here that would result in serious ramifications had it been a member of the public and I want to know WHY the Secret Service isn’t being asked about it.

  11. CSK says:

    I’d like to know, too. You’d think the Secret Service would like to know as well, since over 900 of them have been infected by Covid.

    Obviously the SS knew about Trump’s diagnosis after he was carted off to Walter Reed, but possibly they didn’t know about the positive test prior to the debate. Alyssa Farah Griffin, Trump’s comms director, said she didn’t know. And she was very angry about it.

  12. CSK says:

    Well, Trump is bitching that he didn’t get credit for the size of the crowd that showed up for his Jan. 6 “rally.”

  13. CSK says:
  14. senyordave says:

    This might be my favorite headline of 2021:
    UFC boss Dana White, family positive for COVID-19, relying on Joe Rogan recovery methods

    This is like someone who is on trial for a crime relying on Lionel Hutz for legal advice*
    * This might be an insult to Lionel Hutz, who although he is a cartoon character, seems to be much more qualified to give legal advice than Joe Rogan is qualified to give medical advice. Maybe White should turn to Dr. Hibbard for his medical advice.

  15. Gustopher says:

    @CSK: from the article:

    Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said she also was “considering charges against both parents.”

    “Owning a gun means securing it properly and locking it and keeping the ammunition separate,” she said.

    I praise the prosecutor for considering charges, but castigate them for not just charging. There’s bound to be something on negligent child welfare blah blah blah relying upon the harm done to their own kid, even if the prosecutor cannot find something that ties the parents directly to the deaths of the other kids.

  16. CSK says:

    When they lived in Florida, both parents accumulated misdemeanor records for DUI, driving on suspended licenses, and writing bad checks. None of these things would prevent them from passing a background check in Michigan for a gun purchase.

  17. Gustopher says:

    @CSK: I’m not sure why the parents’ background matters — scumbag or upstanding citizens. Once they have a gun in a house with a kid, they have a responsibility to keep the gun away from the kid, at least when the kid is unsupervised.

    If the kid gets access to the gun so he can hurt hurt himself or others, that’s negligence just from a child welfare standpoint. It’s like filling your home with bear traps.

  18. CSK says:

    I don’t think scumbags would bother to keep a gun under lock and key, so it matters from that standpoint, I suppose.

    Given Mama Crumbley’s obsession with her Second Amendment rights, I’m not surprised the kid had easy access to the gun.

    She ended her letter to Trump with the words “I’d rather get grabbed by the pussy than fucked in the ass.” A lady to her fingertips.

  19. CSK says:

    I was speaking from memory. Here is how Ms. Crumbley actually describes herself:

    “A Hardworking Middle Class Law Abiding Citizen who is sick of getting fucked in the ass and would rather be grabbed by the pussy.”

  20. HarvardLaw92 says:



  21. JohnSF says:
  22. Jen says:

    Second omicron variant case in the US–a Minnesota man who was fully vaccinated and boosted in November.

    The variant was discovered in an adult male resident who had recently visited New York for the Anime NYC convention, the Minnesota Health Department said in a news release. He is fully vaccinated and received a booster shot in November.

    The man developed mild symptoms on Nov. 22, one day after the conclusion of the convention held at the Javits Center from Nov. 19 to 21. He was tested Nov. 24 and advised to isolate himself from others; his symptoms have since resolved.

    Via WaPo.

  23. Kathy says:


    This is why I see the vaccine as a layer of protection against the trump disease, and not absolute protection by itself. This virus is too dangerous and changes too fast (given the fertile ground we’ve given it).

    BTW, I’m deep in work for Hell Week 1, and more is coming. Hopefully we’ll be finished by the end of December with the work, rather than being finished by the work.

  24. dazedandconfused says:


    Yes and no. The chaos of real violence can not be anticipated in strict set of regulations and personal protection details accept that. Common sense and a willingness to not only catch a bullet but face the legal music if disobeying a direct order are needed.

    Illustrative may be Pence’s reported actions on 1/6, in which I’ve read his PSD and their 20 car detachment demanded Pence get in an armored car while they were in the garage. Pence refused, saying that he knew that if he got in one he and his entire detachment would leave.

    There Pence acknowledges his limit of control, but at the same time knows they won’t physically pick him up and toss him in a car.

    I give Pence credit for something here. With 20 cars, he had at least 20 heavily armed and highly trained men. By instead placing himself in the same room with Nancy, he placed her and the other congress critters within the cordon of his formidable PSD.

  25. Kathy says:

    Semi-good news, buzz is building up about a booster shot for everyone 18 and up in Mexico. I may not have to brave a trip to San Diego.

  26. Jen says:

    @Kathy: Agreed. If anything, the fact that the individual’s symptoms were mild and resolved quickly should be reassuring that getting a booster is a good idea. It also doesn’t indicate when he received the booster–getting boosted 2 weeks before the convention is different than 2 days before the convention.

    I am both vaccinated and boosted and am watching this mostly because it interests me.

  27. CSK says:

    Yes. This, to me, demonstrates the efficacy of the booster.

  28. Kathy says:


    I don’t see Benito, Giuliani, Meadows, Wood, or Powell the Kraken lawyer in that picture.

  29. Kathy says:


    Two days might be better for a booster. We know the first two doses take about 2 weeks to get an adaptive immune response, but the booster might get one faster. All it has to do is wake up the memory B cells from the previous two doses.

    I wish I knew for sure.

  30. CSK says:

    I’ve read that with the booster, your immune system begins to “rebound” within days (no specific number provided), but peak protection will take 2-4 weeks.

  31. Kathy says:


    Taking a page from the long hunt for the Higgs boson, I’ve taken to calling the immune system “the goddamned adaptation.”

  32. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kathy: And you won’t either. The people in the picture are the ones who will get arrested. Back during my childhood when John Silber was president of Boston University, he once told a group of assembled students that if they didn’t want to get arrested at protests, they should watch their professors and leave at the same time.

  33. Matt says:

    @CSK: What really stuck out to me is how her rant were about things that the left are trying to address but are being blocked by the GOP and establishment. Such as how her husband suffered a stroke and a broke back which strained the family financially. Universal healthcare would of lessened the hardship greatly but it appears that such thoughts never connected in her head. Instead she begs Trump to solve everything despite it being GOP policy to not help with any of her complaints.. Then runs off and buys a $400-$800 handgun instead of paying for car insurance or whatever….

    How do you reach people so delusional they expect left wing policies to be enacted by conservative republicans??

  34. CSK says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    That was Howard Zinn’s trick, according to a friend of mine: He’d urge the students to revolt, then vanish a minute before the cops appeared.

  35. CSK says:

    Trump is her savior, she believes.

  36. Kathy says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    I know.

    But the handful of fanatics Meadows correctly blames are him, his boss, and his boss’ lawyers and boosters, no?

    Didn’t see Lindell in the photo, either.

  37. Gustopher says:


    How do you reach people so delusional they expect left wing policies to be enacted by conservative republicans??

    Loony Lady also wrote about children of illegal immigrants getting an education, so I think it’s pretty clear how you reach her.

    Her kid won the “shitty parents setting you up for trouble” lottery. Even with the best parents, he might have been genetically predisposed to be an asshole, or doomed to a lower-class job, or whatever, but he wouldn’t be taking his parents’ unsecured gun to school to kill his classmates. Barring actual mental illness, he probably wouldn’t have thrown his future away at 15, and wouldn’t have taken anyone else with him even if he did.

  38. Kathy says:


    Aye. They probably don’t believe the GQP has to enact anything. Benito can just wave his magic wand, or whatever Jesús did, and make things all better.

    Hell, he ran as though someone else had been sitting behind the Resolute desk for his whole term, and got many millions to vote for him.

    Which reminds me: the Republicans allegedly disgusted with trump and happy to see him gone, are those who’ve already quit, like Corker, or are the two serving in the House Select Committee on the putsch. Maybe Romney on a good day, and ditto Collins and Murkowski. Everyone else either backs El Pito Pequeño, or acts as though they do.

    Sure, for a short while between January 6th and 7th, Mitch and others looked ready to toss him under the bus. But then that odd feeling of decency passed.

  39. Gustopher says:

    @CSK: There are a number of people who met with Trump in the days after his positive test, who then got Covid. Some of them were Republican operatives who likely think that getting Trump’s Covid was an honor, or that want to have a future in Republican politics. But, I’m thinking of the reporter who was talking with him in Airforce One.

    I want that reporter to sue for reckless endangerment, or something similar that is actually grounds to sue. Not for the damages, but for the discovery.

  40. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kathy: PictureS.

    There are 3 links to different pictures in that post. One for “handful”, one for “of”, one for “fanatics”. For the record, neither “Benito, Giuliani, Meadows, Wood, or Powell the Kraken” are in any of the pics. Just a “handful of fanatics” or 1700.

  41. de stijl says:

    The Sex Pistols had it right.

    No future. No future. No future. No future for you.

    What with the Supreme Court primed to gut Roe v. Wade, and the D’s are gonna get totally slaughtered in the midterms, and the Rs are gonna press advantage what with continual gerrymandering. We are fucked.

    We are headed towards disaster. The bad guys are winning. Fear is beating hope.

    I am in no way confident the American Experiment will last this era. Frightened, actually.

    I am truly scared. I think we might be fucked. I am petrified.

    No Future for you.