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. JohnSF says:

    Repost from tail end of yesterday Ukraine post comments:
    Breaking: Putin has not escalated gradually after all.

    Full invasion appears underway.
    Reports of multiple cruise and ballistic missile strikes; target include locations in Kyiv, Kharkov, Mariupol, Odessa, Dnipro, Kherson, Ivano-Frankivsk etc etc.

    Ukraine reports multiple armoured columns driving south from Belarus, north from Crimea, and into the east from Russia.
    Being supported by massive artillery bombardments.
    Amphibious assault reported at Mariupol.
    (This now reported as incorrect; possibly just naval bombardment)
    Airborne forces reported assaulting Kyiv airport.

    My expectation of continued incremental rise to attempt force diplomatic capitulation WAY off.
    Step change to full military option instead; appears military operation with near maximal war aims.

    V. worrying; this is NOT a rational course for Russia.
    Raises the question, is Putin still fully rational?

  2. CSK says:
  3. Jen says:


    V. worrying; this is NOT a rational course for Russia.
    Raises the question, is Putin still fully rational?

    Something does indeed feel very “off” here. He’s either nuts or something is going on in Russia that the general public isn’t aware of/picking up on.

  4. HarvardLaw92 says:


    Raises the question, is Putin still fully rational?

    Considering what’s already happening to Russia’s economy even before real sanctions are imposed, it’s doubtful. The RTS has already lost about half of its value in the space of a week, with 35% of that in one trading day (today). Individual investors in Russia are basically wiped out. He’s hellbent on bringing back the old Soviet Union at any cost, and as usual in Russia, it’s the people who’ll bear the cost of their leaders’ folly.

  5. drj says:


    Raises the question, is Putin still fully rational?

    My (or actually some of the people on Twitter who appear to know what they are talking about) guess is that Putin has become increasingly isolated, in the sense that he doesn’t get to hear opposing viewpoints anymore.

    I.e., more a case of “garbage in, garbage out” than “his mind is gone.”

    Happened to GWB, too, prior to the invasion of Iraq.

  6. drj says:

    By the way, some worthwhile analysis (I think) on why Putin’s latest gambit appears destined to fail in the long run here:

    When the Soviet Union was created, the ethnic Russian core was overwhelmingly dominant in terms of numbers; but by 1991, the non-Russian nations within that country formed almost exactly half. And because of development, the peoples of that empire were no longer prepared to accept the dominance of one nation, especially one headed to minority status. […]

    Were Putin to be foolish enough or lucky enough to occupy all of Ukraine, he would change the demographic balance inside “the Russian Federation” in fundamental ways. And if he brings in Belarus as well, he would create a country that he would celebrate as Russia rising from its knees but one that would more or less instantaneously begin to fall apart.

    More than half of the people of that new empire would be non-Russians. They might not have the stated right to have republics with the right to secede, but they would be ungovernable except at a level of repression that it seems unlikely any Moscow regime could maintain for long – and that empire, like the tsarist and even more like the Soviet, would begin to fall apart.

    Not that this is much comfort to Ukrainians right now.

  7. MarkedMan says:

    We may never know what is happening behind the scenes, but to me Putin is giving off “desparate man” vibes, although I have no idea what is driving him to desperation.

    FWIW, Putin never seemed like the kind of guy who would be allowed to retire gracefully, and that may have something to do with it. And he seems to be doing what military and religious leaders want rather than the oligarchs, so there may be some clues there.

  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @MarkedMan: He is desperate, desperate to distract Russians from how much their lives suck.

  9. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Officials are preparing for yet another critical water year in California as the state – along with most of the American west – remains mired in drought.

    The federal government said Wednesday that it won’t deliver water to farmers in California’s agricultural belt, which produces roughly a quarter of the nation’s food, due to the extreme water shortages that are expected to deepen if the direly dry conditions continue through March.

    “It’s devastating to the agricultural economy and to those people that rely on it,” said Ernest Conant, regional director for the US Bureau of Reclamation, adding that this year may turn out to be worse than 2021, when drought conditions forced farmers to fallow hundreds of thousands of acres of land. “But unfortunately we can’t make it rain.”

    The federal government operates the Central Valley Project in California, a complex system of dams, reservoirs and canals. It’s one of two major water systems the state relies on for agriculture, drinking water, and the environment. The other system is run by the state government. This is the fourth time in the last decade that farmers south of the San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta have gotten no water from the federal government.

    Welcome to the new normal.

  10. Sleeping Dog says:


    It’s all a Dem plot! Those reservoirs are full. I tell you! Those pictures of ‘bathtub rings’, doctored! They just want to steal our land and give it to immigrants and men who want to be women!

    Be assured that this delusion is coursing through the interwebs at the moment.

  11. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Sleeping Dog: This will not end well for us.

  12. CSK says:

    Since multiple links in one comment don’t seem to go through the system here, I’ll note that has some good pieces today:

    William Saletan, “Father Carlson.” This compare Tucker Carlson to Father Coughlin.

    “Putin’s Most Useful Idiot,” by Charles Sykes. This is about–you guessed it–Trump.

    “‘Pain, Blood, Mud, and Death’: Putin Attacks Ukraine,” by Jim Swift.

    Enjoy, if that’s the word I want.

  13. @JohnSF:

    Raises the question, is Putin still fully rational?

    Irrational as in crazy?

    Or, more likely, is he rational, but making mistakes in his cost/benefit assessment?

    (Plus, he is winning in the short term, the issue if the longer-term calculation, yes?)

  14. Kathy says:

    A reminder about COVID breakthrough infections:

    Both Delta and Omicron (and Neo Omicron or Omicron BA.2) are impeded less by the immune system protections created by the vaccines, even with boosters. This mean a lot of people with two or three vaccine doses have contracted COVID. It does not mean all vaccinated persons exposed to COVID will get it, though.

    Number are all over the place, and we’re still learning the effects of boosters, and new variants will crop up. But we should not assume we’ll all get COVID, or that the vaccines only protect against severe disease (as though that were nothing)

  15. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    The commentary on Putin has long been that he is a fine tactician, but a lousy strategist. We’re finding that out at Ukraine’s expense.

  16. inhumans99 says:


    I forget the name of the reservoir, but it is the one I drive past on the way down to visit my parents in Los Angeles, on the route that Google routes me through Gilroy enroute to the boring stretch of I5 that is one of the fastest routes to get from Northern Ca, to Southern Ca, and the last time I drove by this reservoir it was surreal, because it was near empty. Not empty because of a dredging project but just due to a lack of water to replenish the reservoir.

    Even during the ongoing 10+ year drought, just a few years back I have seen the water fairly close to the edges of the freeway (I exaggerate, but it was super easy to turn your neck a slight bit and see lots of water in the reservoir). So this time, I was like woah, I have never in the 30+ years of having driven past this reservoir (usually at least one or twice a year) seen it so empty. Even Pyramid lake closer to Southern CA was starting to look noticeably emptier than usual.

    A few days back my Mom was lamenting the lack of rain and how dry it is in Southern CA (she lives in the San Fernando Valley), and I said yes Mom, believe it or not, except for a small handful of days in which we got some rain, we are also going weeks without rain events. As nice as the weather looks outside my apt balcony in the East Bay, it is February and I would be thrilled if we went through a stretch of the weather being all gray and gloomy due to a series of rain events hitting Northern, CA, but nope…it looks more like Spring/early summer outside vs Winter or a Spring season that also delivers gloomy weather due to rain.

    I really hope Mother Nature decides to give us at least some temporary relief from the mega-drought with some decent rain events in a month or two, and a less dry rain season when we hit the final quarter of 2022. We have problems in CA, but I am aware other states are also suffering from no rain big time.

  17. JohnSF says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    He is definitely off in cost/benefit terms.
    If he wanted a NATO disengagement form Central Europe, he has achieved the opposite.
    If he wanted a Ukraine with good relations with Russia he has achieved the opposite.
    He has also likely burned out all his political capital in Europe: even Zeman and Orban have jumped ship. Just the loons, left and right, now
    Not to mention the massive economic impact; he may calculate that will pass.
    I would bet it won’t.
    We shall see.

    He will have a short term military success.
    But to hold down Ukraine (and also Belarus, which he has also de facto annexed, if more quietly)
    longer term.
    That will cost, and cost dearly, in coin and blood.

    In the still longer term, the probability is very high IMO that Putin may achieve the replacement of an over-the-horizon trans-Atlantic superpower and a legalistic trading association next door, with a European more able and inclined to leverage economics into “Hard Power”.
    Against such, Russia can choose partnership (anathema to the Great Russia ideologues and to the interests of the kleptocracy), subordination, or to become the “mini-Me of Xi”.

    Now as to actually crazy; maybe.
    His affect in recent pronouncements strikes me as more tha a little off, but I’m not a habitual Putin-watcher, so maybe he’s always been like that.
    And his rambling denunciations of the historical illegitimacy of Ukraine are pretty weird.
    But otherwise rational people can believe some strange thing, especially if it suits their interests.

    Either way, it scares the hell out of me.

  18. Kathy says:

    Is there any way to convince people on the unhinged right that it’s BLM protesters and not Russian troops going into Ukraine?

  19. Mister Bluster says:

    @Kathy:..Is there any way to convince people on the unhinged right that it’s BLM protesters and not Russian troops going into Ukraine?

    Black humor?

  20. dazedandconfused says:


    On the topic of unhinged…

    Trump falsely blames Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on ‘rigged election’ in the US before Fox News cut him off

    Shark, jumped.

  21. Monala says:

    Fred Clark who blogs at the Slacktivist has frequently said, “When they finish coming for abortion, they’re coming after birth control.” Indeed:

    There are three Republican candidates running for Michigan Attorney General and, at a candidate forum on Friday, all three said that Griswold v. Connecticut, the 1965 Supreme Court case that found a right to privacy allowing married couples to use birth control, was wrongly decided and tramples on states’ rights—just like Roe v. Wade, in their opinion. …

    The precedent set in Griswold underpins so many other fundamental privacies, like birth control for non-married couples (1972), abortion (1973), sex in same-sex relationships (2003), and marriage equality (2015). If the Supreme Court were to overturn Griswold, those rights would be left vulnerable.


  22. Mister Bluster says:

    As I sat in MickeyD’s this morning slugging 88¢ senior coffee and using the free wifi internet connection I would often glance up to see the gas price at Huck’s next door and Circle K across the street, $3.799/gal. at both when I got there. No change from yesterday at those two locations. I got up to check the plumbing and sure enough when I came back out to the dining room $3.999/gal. at those two places.
    I beat it over to the Kroger (about 4 miles) as fast as I could, dodging the potholes on the sleet slickened streets. Regular unleaded still $3.699/gal. like it was yesterday. Decisions, decisions. What should I do? Go inside the grocery store and spend the $4.00 I need to get my gas points up to 100 and the 10¢/gal. discount only to exit the store to find the new Mad Vlad price flirting with $4.009/gal. or take the 3¢/gal. discount that I always get off the Kroger pump price and use the higher discount later.
    Went with the here and now. I’ll use the higher discount later when gas is $4.499/gal.
    I’m at the Panera now. The inside dining has been back open for a few weeks. The $10.05/month Coffee Club (about 33¢/day tax included) for all the mud you can drink is still the go to deal and the wifi internet service works all the time.
    May have to drive by Mickey D’s soon. At 88¢/cup thats about 41/2 cups of mud to a gallon of gas.

  23. Monala says:

    We could all use a little humor today: If Covid Posted on LinkedIn

  24. CSK says:

    He also thought that U.S. amphibious forces had invaded Ukraine before Laura Ingraham corrected him. He “recouped” by saying that that would happen soon. I guess he wants credit for being prescient.

  25. dazedandconfused says:


    IMO, Putin resolved to have the Donbas civil war ended, the water turned back on in Crimea, give pause to the neo-cons such as Nuland, who thought nothing of supporting revolutions on his borders, and was willing to do it even if it creates economic troubles in his country for the rest of his reign, which, at 70, will not be for very much longer.

    He probably hoped the threat would bring Zelensky to the table, but that didn’t happen. Instead Zelensky dug in, and started bringing in weapons.

    Reminds of the mistake MacArthur made in the Philippines, when he brought in B17s thinking it would deter the Japanese. Instead it changed the thinking of the Japanese on the subject of whether the Philippines was a threat.

  26. Jay L Gischer says:

    @inhumans99: That’s the San Luis Reservoir. I’ve also driven by it many times on the way to LA, etc. The last time was, in fact, a road trip to Houston, TX and back.

  27. JohnSF says:


    Putin resolved to have the Donbas civil war ended

    The civil war Putin started, supplied, funded, supported, and a reinforced with Russian armas and special forces? That civil war?
    He could have stopped that any time he wanted.

    And as for the water supply for the Crimea, if that was so important to him, he could have brought it up in negotiations and offered a deal in exchange.

    Or are you still maintaining he couldn’t mention it because he wanted to give Ukraine space for a deal, so as to avert war.
    But Zelensky wouldn’t make that deal, so he had to go to war without mentioning it?
    Do you honestly think that makes any sense?

    Especially when it was Russia that was repeatedly refusing to negotiate with Ukraine, and trying to maneuver the US (or Europeans) into agreeing Russian terms over the heads of Ukraine?
    Russian terms that never mentioned the damned water supplies.

    Have you stopped to consider that it was perhaps not just a matter of Zelensky being personally and perversely stubborn, but Ukrainians in general refusing to surrender sovereignty on the basis of “might makes right”?

    That is a theme familiar to a lot of Europeans.

    The ground rules of the post-War order are this: NO country is entitled to unilaterally adjust borders by force.
    None. And regardless of any purported historic or ethnic claims.

    Germany had no right to do so in the 1930’s.
    Russia has no right to do so now.

  28. Sleeping Dog says:


    When TFG loses Faux News…

    I won’t put much money down as a wager, but this is the kind of thing that may break the spell of a good junk of the cult. It would be one thing for him to cheer lead Putin, but to blame being cheated out of the election in the same breath is a sure sign that dementia has set in. Strawberries…

  29. CSK says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    Perhaps. But remember that the Trumpkins love Putin not just because Trump does, but because Putin is a “Christian” strongman who hates gay people. What could be better?

    And…remember all those idiots who showed up at Trump rallies wearing t-shirts that read: I’D RATHER BE RUSSIAN THAN A DEMOCRAT.

  30. Kathy says:


    I kind of expected an apology for having left Trump alive.

  31. Mister Bluster says:

    Three Ex-Cops on Scene for George Floyd’s Murder Found Guilty in Federal Trial
    …a federal jury found Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng, and Thomas Lane guilty of violating Floyd’s civil rights.

  32. CSK says:

    I’ll never forget Trump, after he was diagnosed with Covid, asking if he would be one of the “di-ers.” Not “will I die?” or “am I going to die.”

    The man has the fucking weirdest locutions I’ve ever heard.

  33. dazedandconfused says:

    You’re confusing explanation with advocacy.

    You’ve slurred my position on the matter of negotiations also, which I carefully described previously, including an explanation of the matters which sometimes are not dealt with publicly, citing the example of the missile bases in Turkey in the Cuban Missile Crisis.

  34. dazedandconfused says:


    Also, might does not make right, it just wins. When over matched…

  35. Kathy says:

    I’ve been thinking about the denouement of The Good Place.

    Spoiler alert for a series that ended 2 years ago and has been available to stream.

    You’ve been warned.

    After convincing The Judge that the afterlife system is unfair given the conditions of life on Earth, she decides to reboot the Earth. This means wiping off humanity and starting over. Of course, our intrepid heroes, and Jason, prevent this.

    Given the state of the world right now, and the course it has been on since the twin disasters of the Brexit referendum and the 2016 US general election, I think rebooting the world sounds better all the time.

  36. JohnSF says:

    I know you made the comparison with the missiles in Turkey and the Cuban crisis.
    What I am contending is that that analogy makes no sense in this context.

    It could, perhaps, have been valid at an early stage in the crisis.
    But to initiate an invasion just to avoid the embarrassment of talking about it?

    It seems to me not that you are advocating the Russian position, but that you are trying to shoehorn their actions into a framework of rational calculation.

    When they are, in goals if not tactics, fundamentally non-rational.

    Mirror imaging: that is, projecting your perception of a required reasonable goal and calibrated means onto a Kremlin elite that is operating on an entirely different conceptual basis.

    As for “might … just wins”.
    It is true that, at least in the short term, the case can be “the strong do what they will; the weak suffer what they must”.
    This has frequently been the case in Europe, as any historian of almost any period before the present century knows.
    The post-War and post-Cold War architectures of the NATO and EU were seen as an escape from the rule of blood, terror and Power.

    If Russia want to return to the world of that past, that is a choice.
    The response of the rest of the Continent to that choice may not be what they might desire.
    It is a game more than one player can take up.

    As for being like water: maybe. It’s one choice.

    But I quite like this Ukrainian woman being like fire:

    “Put these seeds in your pockets.
    So that sunflowers will grow where you die on our lands.
    You will lie down here with the seeds.
    You are occupiers; you are enemies.
    And from this moment you are accursed.”

    The sunflower being a national symbol of Ukraine.

    Or the other current Ukrainian comment:
    “Perhaps Our Lady of the Javelins will pay a visit to St. Basil’s”

  37. CSK says:

    Sally Kellerman has died. She was 84. RIP, Hotlips.

  38. dazedandconfused says:


    It was not a comparison, it was an example.

    IMO setting the civil wars and getting the water turned back on to Crimea are more rational than Putin just up and doing this for hurt fee-fees, or that he has suddenly become Hitler.

  39. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @inhumans99: There’s a reason that they’ve moved from calling it “global warming” (the phenomenon) to “climate change” (the effect). You may be looking at Mother Nature’s revised plan for the region. But rest easy, rich people (so significant portions of most developed nations) will not run out of food, electricity to run their ACs, or need to drive smaller cars anytime in the foreseeable future. (And will still derive the most tax benefits from buying electric cars in the bargain.)

  40. Gustopher says:

    If Florida passes their “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which prohibits classroom discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity, will enterprising people begin throwing a wrench into everything by objecting to the constant depictions of heterosexuality and cisgender in assigned literature?

    People have the right to sue the school districts — that’s the enforcement mechanism. Just like the no history of race bills.

    I’m willing to help fund the lawsuits that create the bizarre, agender, asexual curriculum that can never mention a man or woman’s traditional role in society. I look forward to the day when there is a special edition of every commonly taught book that removes all pronouns and references to sexual orientation or identity or race. Because we should still teach the classics.

    Genderless Hemingway. The Taming Of The Shrew, somehow removing the woman not acting womanly. Othello without race. Would anything be left of anything by Jane Austen?

    Ironically, A Separate Peace will remain mostly unaffected, as its queer subtext is just subtext. (If that book is not about closet case Gene pushing down his unspeakable desires for Phineus until he finally can’t take it and knocks Phineus out of a tree, then I have no idea what it is about…)

  41. Just nutha ignint cracker says:


    If Florida passes their “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which prohibits classroom discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity, will enterprising people begin throwing a wrench into everything by objecting to the constant depictions of heterosexuality and cisgender in assigned literature?

    GREAT IDEA!!!!
    How can we implement it?