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. CSK says:

    Thursday’s forum? That’s a little premature. It’s 10:24 p.m. on Wednesday.

  2. CSK says:
  3. Mu Yixiao says:

    I’m offline for the rest of the day, then holiday tomorrow (we get Good Friday off), weekend, and vacation day on Monday. Lots of projects for the weekend, a couple shows to binge, Easter lunch with Mom (I’m cooking up something simple), and time to just do nothing.

    See y’all on Tuesday when I’m using OTB to avoid work again. 😀

    Happy Easter

  4. OzarkHillbilly says:


    Dustin Thompson, a Trump supporter from Ohio, told jurors he was hoping to gain the “respect” and “approval” of the former president when he charged into the Capitol.


    That is beyond pathetic.

  5. CSK says:

    I can’t decide what’s worse: If it’s actually true that Thompson feels that way, or if he was willing to abase himself to that degree by making such a defense.

    Of course you have to wonder how dense someone would be to believe that Donald Trump would respect anyone except perhaps Vladimir Putin.

  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    In early 2017, Peter McIndoe, now 23, was studying psychology at the University of Arkansas, and visiting friends in Memphis, Tennessee. He tells me this over Zoom from the US west coast, and has the most arresting face – wide-eyed, curious and intense, like the lead singer of an indie band, or a young monk. “This was right after the Donald Trump election, and things were really tense. I remember people walking around saying they felt as if they were in a movie. Things felt so unstable.”

    It was the weekend of simultaneous Women’s Marches across the US (indeed, the world), and McIndoe looked out of the window and noticed “counterprotesters, who were older, bigger white men. They were clear aggravators. They were encroaching on something that was not their event, they had no business being there.” Added to that, “it felt like chaos, because the world felt like chaos”.

    McIndoe made a placard, and went out to join the march. “It’s not like I sat down and thought I’m going to make a satire. I just thought: ‘I should write a sign that has nothing to do with what is going on.’ An absurdist statement to bring to the equation.”

    That statement was “birds aren’t real”. As he stood with the counterprotesters, and they asked what his sign meant, he improvised. He said he was part of a movement that had been around for 50 years, and was originally started to save American birds, but had failed. The “deep state” had destroyed them all, and replaced them with surveillance drones. Every bird you see is actually a tiny feathered robot watching you.

    Someone was filming him and put it on Facebook; it went viral, and Memphis is still the centre of the Birds Aren’t Real movement. Or is it a movement? You could call it a situationist spectacle, a piece of rolling performance art or a collective satire. MSNBC called it a “mass coping mechanism” for generation Z, and as it has hundreds of thousands of followers on social media, “mass”, at least, is on the money.

    It’s the most perfect, playful distillation of where we are in relation to the media landscape we’ve built but can’t control, and which only half of us can find our way around. It’s a made-up conspiracy theory that is just realistic enough, as conspiracies go, to convince QAnon supporters that birds aren’t real, but has just enough satirical flags that generation Z recognises immediately what is going on. It’s a conspiracy-within-a-conspiracy, a little aneurysm of reality and mockery in the bloodstream of the mad pizzagate-style theories that animate the “alt-right”.

    At least now we know who to blame.

  7. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @CSK: I loved the prosecutor asking him if he dresses himself in the morning.

  8. CSK says:

    Yes! I was waiting for “can you wipe yourself?”

  9. CSK says:

    A depressing piece by Sarah Longwell:

    It would be nice if she were wrong. I fear she’s not.

  10. Kathy says:


    It’s still a shame the judge didn’t allow Benito and his accomplices to be brought in to testify for the defense. That’s a huge missed opportunity for the Little Putin to incriminate or perjure himself in open court.

  11. Kathy says:

    I’m going to start bugging you all with my latest passing obsession, Severance. But I will not use any spoilers. Rather I want to explore the series premise as presented, assuming it were real.

    So, the gist is employees get their work lives and personal lives separated (severed). This leads to two personalities. The work one is the innie (I’m using the series’ terms), the one outside of work is the outie.

    As the innie has no memory of their time outside the office, it seems to them they exist entirely inside work. I wonder at the effects of this. Their bodies get a rest, but do their minds? I often work long hours. There are days when I leave work at 2 am and have to be back at the office by 7:30. I get home at 2:20, say, and instead of going straight to bed, I pick up a book or the phone and turn on the TV for a few minutes. Why? Losing even ten minutes of sleep does matter at this point. But I feel that if I do nothing but work, eat, and sleep, I feel even more exhausted. The innies don’t get this, even if they work only 8 hours per day.

    The outies, for their part, don’t recall work. They’re not aware of it. They get up, commute, and next thing they know it’s 5 pm and they’re going home. How does the feeling of being tired after a full workday manifest?

    I’ve a faint notion of this. When I had surgery last year, I found general anesthesia is like blacking out. One moment I’m settling on the operating table, the very next I’m awake on a bed in the recovery room, with no feeling that any time had passed in between. Unlike sleep, where you may not recall any dreams at all sometimos, or not even recall having dreamt at all, but there’s a feeling that time has passed.

    More later.

  12. CSK says:

    If they’d subpoenaed Trump to be a witness, because he’d never have agreed to testify, he’d have filed a motion to quash the subpoena, and the proceedings would have gone on and on and on…

  13. Kathy says:


    Well, yes, but seeing he wasn’t the one on trial, it’s possible he’d sit and testify eventually.

    On related news, any thoughts on Musk’s offer to 1) buy Twitter and 2) take it private? My thoughts are that both ideas suck.

  14. CSK says:

    According to Marjorie Taylor Greene, those thoughts make you a Communist.

  15. Kathy says:


    By now the use of the term “communist” on their side means an ethical, empathetic person who opposes right-wing white supremacist authoritarianism.

    I can see they needed a shorter term for such compliments.

  16. CSK says:

    Well, according to Marge, Musk is promoting free speech, and Commies don’t believe in free speech.

  17. Scott says:

    It’s the Daily Mail but if true…

    Putin’s defence minister Sergei Shoigu has had a ‘massive heart attack not from natural causes’ and TWENTY generals ‘have been arrested’ over bungled invasion

    A Russian-Israeli businessman has claimed Russia’s defence minister Sergei Shoigu has suffered a heart attack, which he suspects was caused by foul play.

    Shoigu, who has been Putin’s right hand man and leader of the Russian army for a decade, was a mainstay in the early weeks of the war in Ukraine but recently disappeared from regular Kremlin briefings.

    But Shoigu, 66, is now thought to be in intensive care after suffering ‘a massive heart attack’ which ‘could not have occurred due to natural causes’, according to Leonid Nevzlin, suggesting Putin’s longtime ally may have been the subject of an assassination attempt ordered by his boss.

    He went on to say that 20 Russian generals have been arrested in Russia and charged with embezzling up to 10 billion dollars allocated to the war effort in Ukraine.

  18. CSK says:

    For what it’s worth, the Mirror confirms this.

  19. JohnSF says:

    Good work, Vladdy.
    Give all the guys with guns reasons to believe they may be next for the chop.
    Really clever, do keep going, you little master strategist you.

  20. Jay L Gischer says:

    @Kathy: I’m not a Twitter guy. I don’t really use it. So…

    But my thoughts on Musk and Twitter are that, well, he can’t really make it worse. He probably has some idea that me, another engineer, will like, but won’t work when it hits, um, other people.

  21. CSK says:

    I wonder if our co-host, Steven L. Taylor, is re-thinking his assessment of Putin’s rationality.

  22. gVOR08 says:

    I’ve whined in these threads before that the idea the sitting prez is immune from prosecution is based not on the Constitution, nor even on law, but on an Office of Legal Counsel opinion. So I enjoyed seeing an article in Lawfare saying,

    The Justice Department’s decision isn’t easy. And, bluntly, a key issue is whether to adhere to an unfortunate line of decisions by the department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) or instead follow the law.

    This was in regard to DoJ’s apparent hesitation to charge Mark Meadows (noted voting fraudster) for failing to appear in response to a congressional subpoena. Meadow’s lawyers cited no law or court decision to justify his non-appearance, but did cite OLC opinions.

    IANAL and my very limited acquaintance with legal opinions is in patent matters, where an opinion might give you some protection against punitive damages for willful infringement. So lawyers asked for an opinion were very mindful of who was paying them. I recall reading that the OLC lawyer tasked with writing the opinion that a prez is immune asked the then AG which way he wanted the opinion to fall. And now we’re stuck with it. But only because DoJ wants us stuck.

    The article further notes that,

    Allowing Meadows to disregard a subpoena wouldn’t advance any public interest, and only one thing keeps his claim from flunking the laugh test: OLC precedents support it.

    The article explores the conflict inherent in DoJ investigating and prosecuting an administration of which it is a part. GOPs have threatened to prosecute everyone associated with Biden, so the article allows there is some justification to maintaining precedent against a future GOP congress and GOP AG. If Meadows is held in contempt, GOPs would use it as an excuse to harass and persecute Dem officials. But GOPs are gonna do whatever they’re gonna do with or without an excuse.

  23. Kathy says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    But my thoughts on Musk and Twitter are that, well, he can’t really make it worse.

    Of course he can: by letting Little Benito back on.

    I’m pretty much off all social media now.

  24. Kathy says:


    One can just hear Mollari telling Vlad, “Ah, arrogance and stupidity all in the same package. How efficient of you!”

  25. gVOR08 says:

    @CSK: Putin believes, or at least purports to believe, self serving nonsense. I’m in the middle of reading Masha Gessens’s The Future is History which is a long essay on how the whole country believes the same nonsense. If believing self-serving nonsense was the standard for irrationality, at least three quarters of us would qualify.

  26. gVOR08 says:

    @JohnSF: Marcy Wheeler has a longish post on this,

    Either way End Game 1 is for Putin to declare failure in Ukraine, blame it on military and intelligence officers he wants to get rid of, dispose of them, and move on from there.

    Which brings us to End Game 2.

    Russian military and intelligence officers are no doubt much more acutely aware of and worried about End Game 1 than I am. End Game 2 is that the generals take matters into their own hands, hoping for a more successful result than Operation Valkyrie had on July 20, 1944.

    Of course, Putin is aware of the possibility of End Game 2, which may make him more anxious to work toward End Game 1. But the generals know that Putin is aware of this, which may make them more anxious to work toward End Game 2. But Putin is aware that the generals are aware . . .

  27. CSK says:

    That looks like a very interesting book. Thanks for the link.

    I agree about the self-serving nonsense, but Putin, as JohnSF points out, seems to be actively encouraging his own assassination by having his lackeys bumped off one by one. If he doesn’t know or doesn’t care that he’s courting his own demise, is that entirely rational? Or am I just too western in my thinking?

  28. gVOR08 says:

    @CSK: The book started out a bit of a slog, but it’s turning out to be fascinating. In the intro, Gessen has a list of characters. She warns that Russian naming conventions can make it hard to follow who’s who. I ended up putting a bookmark on the list and going back to it frequently. There are a Dugin and a Nemtsov who start out as minor characters, but they are that Dugin and that Nemtsov.

    My take is Putin felt he needed to end the stalemate in Donbas and really did expect a walkover in Ukraine, which would have linked Crimea to Russia, countered NATO, and made him a hero in Russia. He’s found himself riding the tiger, but that wasn’t his expectation.

  29. Jay L Gischer says:

    I assign high likelihood to the existence of widespread corruption in the RA. I assign medium probability to the premise that generals are now being punished for it. I assign a very low probability to the notion that Sergei Shoigu has been assassinated by a “heart attack”.

    For one thing, it’s something I enjoy hearing, and that alerts another part of my brain for “being told what you want to hear”. For another, if Putin is looking to blame someone, he will do so very, very publicly. He needs to have traitors in his midst that explain the failures.

    That’s my take. I’ve been wrong before, could be again. That’s why I do probabilities.

  30. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    I assign high likelihood to the existence of widespread corruption in the RA

    Russia being a kleptocracy, it is almost guaranteed that there is a ‘I want my piece of the action,’ through the military and the government in general. Phony subcontractors hired to perform maintenance that was never done, testing of systems, that was never done, and on and on. The Russian Mafia isn’t just fodder for TV shows.

  31. Kathy says:


    This suggests Russian intelligence isn’t very good.

    Just the thing that would really humiliate president for life and former KGB agent Mad Vlad.

  32. Jen says:

    @Sleeping Dog: Add to that the fact that no one wants to get on Putin’s bad side and receive an invite to come over and have a cup of polonium tea, so no harm in filing overly optimistic assessments every few months, right?

    I get the strong sense that Putin’s personality and the tendency for those who disappoint him ending up dead probably doesn’t lead to the accuracy one might desire in any kind of reporting.

  33. gVOR08 says:

    @gVOR08: Since this is Dr. T’s Forum I’ll note that Gessen talks about intellectual life in the Soviet Union. She used a Russian word that translates as “airless”, but specifically the air in a Russian house that’s been sealed up all winter. The hard sciences got a lot of support because they were needed for industry and weapons. The soft sciences barely existed and were starved for air. They had no access to Western sources and their own work was severely constrained. One guy who’s a major character in the book and a few students were trying to basically reinvent Political Science. He saw the citizens as what he called Homo Sovieticus”. Uninterested in anything political, ignorant, feeling no sense of agency, just keeping his head down and living day to day. He thought this would change as the Soviet Union and Communist Party collapsed. He was shocked a couple decades later to find it hadn’t changed.

    In Gessen’s telling Gorbachev and Yeltsin really were trying to open up Russian society, but they had essentially no Constitutional law experts, no economists, and no political scientists to advise them. They were flying blind.

  34. Kathy says:


    Ok, now I’m getting it. I’ve read several books about the USSR. One thing lacking in just about all of them, and this is typical of history books overall, is a lack of detail on ordinary lives.

  35. JohnMcC says:

    @Kathy: My quick reaction is that you have rediscovered the ‘alienation’ argument that Marx developed related to early capitalism. Basically he concluded that separating a human from the product of his/her labor leads to a life only partially human.

    I found some quick links but you can probably do better at that than this old fellow.

  36. JohnSF says:


    …Masha Gessens’s The Future is History…

    Oh, that’s interesting! Thanks for that; adding to my (overlong!) to purchase list.

  37. JohnSF says:

    Yes, Russia had a massive problem that historical sociology and legal studies etc had become stale areas of pseudo-academic activity due to the constrictions of “Party disciplined” Marxism-Leninism.
    Drove some western leftist scholars up the wall in the 90’s (as I have reason to know, LOL)

  38. dazedandconfused says:

    The ordinary-Russian book is Hedrick Smith’s “The Russians”

    It’s from the 70’s but cultures do not change much quickly. Takes several generations.
    Most of his career was as the NYT’s Moscow correspondent. For whatever reason the Soviets trusted him and gave him remarkable freedom to go just about anywhere he felt like going and talk to anyone he felt like talking to. The book is the story of hundreds of insightful interactions with ordinary and extraordinary Russians (including Solzhenitsyn) and captures the culture.

  39. dazedandconfused says:

    @gVOR08: End game 3: He steps down to a designated “successor”, as he did with Medvedev once before.

  40. Kathy says:


    Thanks! I’ll add it to the pile.

  41. CSK says:

    Attention: 398 members of the House of Representatives have been sanctioned by Russia, including Nancy Pelosi and…Marjorie Taylor Greene.

  42. dazedandconfused says:

    Something else you might be interested in: For Boeing the hits just keep on coming..

    The war scratched a whopping 141 jets to be built for Russia off their scant backlog. I wonder how long it will be before they ask for a government bail-out.

  43. Kathy says:


    Yeah, Boeing is having a bad few years one after the other.

    Airbus got hurt, too, but at least they didn’t have their best-seller grounded for two years.

  44. Gustopher says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    But my thoughts on Musk and Twitter are that, well, he can’t really make it worse.

    Twitter has been not bad of late. The Russian troll farms are not getting out into the open as much, and the Nazis are frequently sent away when they don’t hold public office.

    This, of course, is chilling free speech to the Elongated Muskrat.