Tuesday’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. Bill says:

    Anyone feel free to post the headline of the day. It is slim pickings today.

    I have a bunch of personal matters to see this morning.

  2. Scott says:

    I’ve read a lot of Civil War history but didn’t know this story.

    Graphic novel series highlights first and only woman to ever receive the Medal of Honor

    The seventh installment in an illustrated series dedicated to soldiers whose actions earned them the nation’s highest award for military valor is now available online.

    The newest issue of “Medal of Honor,” a graphic series produced by the Association of the U.S. Army, spotlights the Civil War heroics of Mary Walker, the first woman in the U.S. to earn a medical degree and the only woman to ever receive the Medal of Honor.

    Born in Oswego, New York, to abolitionist parents, Walker attended Syracuse Medical College prior to the outbreak of the Civil War, when she saw an opportunity to serve as a surgeon in the U.S. Army.

    But the arrangement wasn’t a seamless one. In 1861, Walker attempted to join the ranks of U.S. Army surgeons but was denied for being a woman. Like many obstacles she encountered prior to 1861, Walker refused to allow the hiccup to derail her.

    Years as an unpaid surgeon’s assistant finally paid off when, at the height of the war, Walker was issued a contract as a credentialed War Department surgeon at the recommendation of Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman and Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas.

    In service to the Union, Walker became well known among troops on both sides as one who would routinely risk crossing enemy lines to tend to wounded or sick civilians. Walker was captured by Confederate troops in 1864 during one such daring venture, and was subsequently sent to the infamous Castle Thunder Prison Camp in Richmond, Virginia.

    There’s more to read and it’s good.

  3. Bill says:
  4. MarkedMan says:

    This, ladies and gentlemen, is the top communications official at the Department of Health and Human Services, umbrella organization for the CDC, NIH, National Health Information Service, and so on:

    During his rant posted Sunday, Caputo said his ‘mental health has definitely failed.’

    ‘I don’t like being alone in Washington,’ he continued. He said there were ‘shadows on the ceiling in my apartment, there alone, shadows are so long.’

    Appointed by Republican President Donald Trump with no objection or oversight from the Republican Leadership.

    This is the modern Republican Party in a nutshell.

  5. OzarkHillbilly says:
  6. Sleeping Dog says:

    In his Sunday column, Ross Douthat coined, what I consider a useful term, folk-libertarian. He doesn’t define it, except to juxtapose it with academic-libertarian. Since he doesn’t define it, I will.

    Folk-libertarian is comprised of the “Muh Freedom, but not I’m not responsible” contingent of the R party and conservatism in general.

    And with that, I’ll bid you boys and girls adieu, as my motorcycle beckons.

  7. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Sleeping Dog: Folk-libertarian is comprised of the “Muh Freedom, but not I’m not responsible” contingent of the R party and conservatism in general.

    Isn’t that what all libertarians believe?

  8. CSK says:

    @Sleeping Dog: @OzarkHillbilly:
    Perhaps “yokel libertarian” might be more accurate.

  9. Moosebreath says:

    Last night, I watched The Social Dilemma on Netflix. It is largely a documentary with several former executives of social media companies discussing how social media exploits its users, interspersed with dramatization scenes. One review noted, “while most people are aware that they’re being mined for data while on these sites, few realize how deep the probe goes […] if you think the trade-off is merely getting targeted ads for your favorite sneakers, you are in for a big shock”. Highly recommended.

  10. Teve says:

    My friend August on Facebook

    Breaking News: President Trump directs attorney general William Barr not to establish an extradition treaty with the newly discovered life on Venus.

    In other news, Trump calls for an acceleration of the development of his Space Force.

  11. Teve says:

    @Sleeping Dog: 2009 was the last time i read a Douthat column. At the time I was in the habit of getting a paper copy every day and reading the opinion page, and in 2009, Douthat appeared. I read a column of his and I thought it was terrible, about a week later I read another column of his and it was terrible too, and a week later a third terrible column. I decided that he was just the conservative diversity hire and crossed him off my list.

  12. Kathy says:

    Going off on my comment on American Provincialism, I was reminded of “the year of revolutions,” 1848.

    Back then, the US was a power, but far from a major player taken seriously. And yet, that year also marked a major victory of America’s soft power.

    1848 is often termed a historical turning point that didn’t turn. This is partly so, as in that most regimes in place stayed in place, and there were no major revolutionary changes in the long term.

    But there was one: the notion of limits on government power, specifically by means of a written constitution.

    Limits on power were not new then (they can be found in the early democracies of Rome and Greece), and neither were constitutions, be they written or not*. But the US was the only power of any importance to have both. They were copied in this first by the French revolutionaries, then by the other newly independent states in the Americas**. And then over most of Europe.

    But then, America is also dismissive of soft power, though it wields a great deal of it.

    * I don’t understand unwritten constitutions, but the UK operates under that principle.

    ** Most Latin american countries adopted presidential systems with bicameral legislatures and a constitution. Canada is the major exception in our hemisphere, along with some small Caribbean countries.

  13. Teve says:
  14. Kathy says:

    I’ve been giving some thought to political systems as envisioned in science fiction, either involving aliens, humans, or humans and aliens. There’s not much out there, not that I’ve run across.

    One notable idea, is in a Trek book called “Spock’s World” (worth reading, BTW), by Diane Duane. The one part I recall about Vulcan’s government, is a legislative chamber, termed the expunging group, which is tasked only with repealing laws.

    Where it gets interesting, is they can do so with a minority vote, and a rather small one as I recall.

    Spock explains the logic* of this more or less as “It should be easy to remove a harmful law.”

    It sounds really good, but it makes the assumption that legislators in this chamber will be conscientious and place the good of their country (or world) above partisan concerns (the book is form 1989, when partisanship wasn’t what it is today). Imagine such a chamber today. You wouldn’t even need to dominate it.

    *Of course he does. Half the book is about a vote in Vulcan to secede from the Federation. The other half is made up of vignettes of Vulcan’s history. The halves are interspersed.

  15. Kathy says:

    Someone tell Trump he’s been slighted.

    There’s s signing ceremony today at the White House, for the formalizing of normalization between Israel, the UAE, and Bahrain. Israel is represented by their PM, while the two tiny Gulf kingdoms sent foreign ministers. Ia other words, the latter two don’t care as much to kiss orange ass as Netanyahu.

    Overall the normalization of relation is a positive step, but not a very significant one. not like the peace treaty with Egypt, or the establishment of relations with Jordan.

    IMO the most important part is Saudi Arabia, who is not party to any of this. there are reports that it will open, or has opened, its airspace to flights to and from Israel. This is a major benefit for Israeli airlines for expansion eastward, as any flight to Asia now takes 2-3 hours less if the flight path doesn’t have to go around Saudi Arabian airspace.

    There’s also a shift in the relative importance the majority Arab states in the region place on external threats. Now they all fear Iran more than restive Palestinians. Israel is a major regional power, capable of producing advanced weapons systems, and with much experience punching above its weight.

  16. Bill says:
  17. Gustopher says:


    Isn’t that what all libertarians believe?

    There are a principled few who believe that everyone acting with enlightened self-interest will lead to a wonderful era of human freedom.

    It reminds me of science jokes that have the punchline “First, we assume we have a spherical cow…”, but these folks are quite sincere in their belief in spherical cows and people acting rationally and having perfect information. I mean, if you never met a person, it might not be a bad theory…

    “No company would sell tainted meat, since their brand name would suffer,” etc., ignoring the long history of companies selling tainted meat.

    Please enjoy some Gun’s N Roses

    (Autocorrect decided it wanted an apostrophe, because it loves the Teves Apostrophe)

  18. steve says:

    Listened to an interview with Larry Brilliant. He pointed out what a bad idea it is fo run to pull out of WHO. It gets even worse when you realize that we now know that Trump already knew everything he claimed China was holding back. Pulling gout of WHO is a purely political move to make him look better, at a potential cost of reduced response to infectious diseases everywhere, including here.


  19. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Gustopher: Yep, principled and deluded.

  20. Kathy says:

    It’s too bad Europeans can’t vote in the US election.

    In the Pew poll linked above, Xi and Putin score higher than Trump in trust.

  21. James Joyner says:

    @Scott: She has an impressive history, indeed, and it’s reasonably well known in military circles. It’s worth noting, though, that the Civil War-era Medal of Honor isn’t the same medal as the one from World War I and forward. Not only has the design changed but, more importantly, the award criteria became radically more stringent. Until just before WWI, it was literally the only US award for valor (the Distinguished Service Cross and the Silver Star would be created for that war). It was routinely awarded even in peacetime for acts of bravery, particularly life-saving acts, that would get the Soldiers’ Medal (or other service equivalent) today.

  22. MarkedMan says:

    In other news, a Republican that may have been telling the truth. If the story that Jason Ravnsborg is telling checks out, it seems he acted as reasonably as could be expected. From USA Today:

    “I didn’t see what I hit and stopped my vehicle immediately to investigate,” the release states. Ravnsborg was driving alone and was uninjured.
    After calling 911, the Hyde County Sheriff arrived on scene to assess the damage to Ravnsborg’s vehicle and look for the suspected deer in the area. Neither the sheriff nor Ravnsborg saw Boever’s body in the ditch, even though Ravnsborg said he used his cell phone flashlight to search the area, Ravnsborg said. “At no time did either of us suspect that I had been involved in an accident with a person,” he said.

    Ravnsborg borrowed the sheriff’s personal vehicle to drive back to Pierre, he said. He then returned to the scene of the crash the following morning on his way to return the sheriff’s vehicle. He and his chief of staff stopped to look for the injured animal again, finding Boever’s body in the grass.

    “My chief of staff and I checked and it was apparent that Mr. Boever was deceased,” Ravnsborg said. “I immediately drove to Sheriff Volek’s home to report the discovery and he accompanied me back to the scene. Once there, the sheriff instructed me that he would handle the investigation, and asked me to return to Pierre.”

    I don’t 100% believe this, but 911 call logs should go a long way towards proving it. And the victim was walking along a pitch black highway in the middle of the night. I suspect the AG was texting or similarly distracted, but if he didn’t see anything until he had already hit the victim I can believe he didn’t think (or want to think) it was a human being.

  23. Just Another Ex-Republican says:


    One notable idea, is in a Trek book called “Spock’s World” (worth reading, BTW), by Diane Duane. The one part I recall about Vulcan’s government, is a legislative chamber, termed the expunging group, which is tasked only with repealing laws.

    That idea appeared earlier in the Robert Heinlein novel The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress (1966, according to the Interwebs). Only briefly, as one of the characters threw out a half dozen ideas about how government might function differently than what we were all “used to”. One of the more enjoyable Heinlein novels, I’ve always thought. Though sadly, pretty much all the alternate ideas founder on the partisan problem, as you noted.

    To sum up the summary of the summary, people are a problem.

  24. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @MarkedMan: One point that I don’t understand. Does the Hyde County Sheriff’s Office not issue its officers flashlights? How about that spotlight thingie that is not removed from SO vehicles sold at surplus auctions? That missing, too?

  25. Kathy says:

    @Just Another Ex-Republican:

    I kind of prefer Heinlein’s work earlier and later than the 60s, when he wrote in English 🙂

    To sum up the summary of the summary, people are a problem.

    “Hell is other people,” I forget who said this. But it’s largely true. And now other people are a source of COVID-19 as well.

  26. MarkedMan says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: I took his comment as meaning that he looked around with his cell phone light before the deputy showed up. But you could be right and it could have been him or a patron calling in a favor from a law enforcement friend to help him cover up. But if the 911 call checks out, I’m going to assume the best of the guy. I may not feel favorable towards Republicans nowadays, but I wouldn’t wish this situation on any human being, friend or foe.

  27. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @MarkedMan: My point was only to the issue of how good a cellphone “flashlight” is. My cellphone light will shine enough light to light up the 2-feet-away deadbolt key cylinder. I don’t think I would trust it to light up the forest enough to see a body. 🙁

  28. CSK says:

    Even if you’re paying full attention to your driving, if you ‘re on a rural stretch, at night, and you round a curve, and there’s something in the road, it can be almost impossible to avoid it, even if you hit the brakes. Anyone who’s driven regularly at night in upstate NY or New England has probably had a scary encounter with a deer, moose, or coyote. My sister once had a moose emerge from the woods and run along side her car, and this was in the daytime.

    On the other hand, Ravnsborg does have a documented history of speeding, so that could be a factor.

    And last, I’m puzzled why Boever would decide to walk back to his wrecked truck in the dead of night. If there was something in it he needed to retrieve, he could have done that while waiting for his cousin to pick him up. And, since he didn’t appear to be carrying a flashlight himself, what could he see?

  29. JohnSF says:

    Maybe it depends on how far you view the political systems element as being central to the story, as opposed to being just a background.
    But I’d argue for political systems being important to Asimov’s Foundation.
    Then there’s Frank Herbert –
    God-Emperor of Dune: “so, we’re considering the political economy of having a giant immortal WORM as sovereign over a society of drug addicts?” LOL
    Whipping Star and Dosadi Experiment and the Bureau of Sabotage as means of ameliorating over-efficient government.
    James Hogan’s Voyage From Yesteryear which manages, remarkably, to make a communist/libertarian utopia seem plausible (until you think about it a bit more).
    Ian M. Banks’ Culture novels as a “benevolent despotism” of AI ‘s.
    Neil Asher’s Polity where the despotism is, perhaps, rather less benevolent.
    Ursula le Guin’s The Dispossessed.
    Aldous Huxley’s Brave new World
    Several books by Ken MacLeod esp Fall Revolution series.
    Maybe Alastair Reynolds?

  30. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @MarkedMan: In all my years of hitting deer, pigs, and various other wildlife on rural roads, I have never called 911 for it. I have never met a person who did so. The only reason I can think of for calling 911 after hitting a deer is because somebody was injured in the accident. If the vehicle was trashed beyond driving you call a tow truck.

    I don’t know, maybe he was just a Cidiot on the back roads of S Dakota and didn’t know what to do, but it don’t smell right to me.

    @CSK: And yes, he does have a rather extensive record of getting tickets. That last one? The “bad muffler/exhaust system”? Here in Misery it’s called “excessive noise” and it’s the result of a plea deal to keep points off one’s license. I should know, I’ve paid a number of lawyers to plead me guilty of that rather than what I got a ticket for.

  31. DrDaveT says:

    @Just Another Ex-Republican:

    That idea appeared earlier in the Robert Heinlein novel The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress (1966, according to the Interwebs). Only briefly, as one of the characters threw out a half dozen ideas about how government might function differently than what we were all “used to”. One of the more enjoyable Heinlein novels, I’ve always thought. Though sadly, pretty much all the alternate ideas founder on the partisan problem, as you noted.

    You beat me to that reference. Keep in mind, too, that Professor de la Paz was offering those suggestions partly out of a malicious desire to keep the constitutional convention chasing its own tail for long enough for Our Heroes to surreptitiously take control of the process.

    @JohnSF: The other Heinlein novel that has a major political science aspect is Starship Troopers, in which (for example) only veterans have the franchise. No votes if you haven’t served, and no votes while serving. I vaguely remember that long scenes in the book were set in a classroom for a course called something like History and Moral Philosophy, where this and other issues were discussed.

    Other SF with interesting politics… Graydon Saunders’s Commonweal series, set in a fantasy dystopia where the Good Guys live in a polity featuring magically-enforced egalitarian communism, created in desperation as an alternative to a succession of god-tyrant sorcerors.

  32. steve says:

    ” I have never called 911 for it. I have never met a person who did so.”

    Count me in with you. All of my cars come with a free built in deer magnet. I have had deer jump over guard rails just so they could dive in front of my car. Never called 911 and dont know anyone who has ever called, unless they were hurt. Never went back and searched the area either. Agree that his sounds fishy. ( I live out in the sticks and there are tons of deer around here.)


  33. JohnSF says:

    I thought of Heinlein after finishing the post.
    Besides Moon is a Harsh Mistress and Starship Troopers there’s Beyond This Horizon, The Roads Must Roll and others in the Future History series; the politics in thses is again not central but a important part of the background as different to the “then-contemporary”.

    Also James Blish Cities in Flight (again not explicit, but a very important part of the structure) and A Torrent of Faces

    T.J. Bass Half Past Human and The Godwhale; maybe?

    There’s got to be a fair scad of miscellaneous short stories too, but I’ve forgotten the details of most.

    Commonweal sounds interesting. On for the “to read” list. Thanks.

  34. CSK says:


    “Hell is other people.” — Jean-Paul Sartre.

  35. JohnSF says:

    Partisanship can be a problem; but perhaps not the worst one to have.
    It’s generally forgotten that the (Italian) fascist “corporate state” was touted as a solution to the problems of partisanship (and “institutional capture”).

    Not to mention the clownery of some contemporary commentators touting monarchies or aristocracies as somehow “non-political” resolutions to the problems of liberal democracy.
    See all British pre-20th century history for a short (LOL) but crushing counter argument.

  36. DrDaveT says:


    Commonweal sounds interesting. On for the “to read” list. Thanks.

    It is by no means to everyone’s taste, and challenges the reader (in a good way!), but those of us who love it really love it. In a world where magic is in everything and some people are both incredibly powerful and incredibly evil, how do you establish civil society (and keep it)?

    The books so far are:
    The March North
    A Succession of Bad Days
    Safely You Deliver
    Under One Banner
    A Mist of Grit and Splinters