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. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Jerry Avenaim

    Name this band.

    Malevolent Bottom Feeders

  2. Mister Bluster says:

    Today in History: October 26, 1955
    President Ngo Dinh Diem declares himself as the President, as South Vietnam becomes a republic.

    A republic. Not a democracy.

  3. JohnMcC says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: In the little sub-division to the right of the picture, where the photographer, Mr Avenaim, introduces himself it says he is a “mental health advocate”. Maybe he’s advocating for these obviously ill individuals?

  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Hiker lost on US mountain ignored calls from rescuers because he didn’t recognise the number

    My first thought was, “Who goes hiking with their cell phone?” Isn’t getting away from it all the whole idea? WTF, imagine communing with nature on the side of a mountain and the ex calls to bitch about something, or the boss calls wanting you to come in on your day off, or the doctor calls to tell you you have cancer, or…

  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @JohnMcC: If he is, he’s wasting his time.

  6. Mikey says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I wouldn’t hike alone without it. It would be off most of the time, but having a way to avoid the potential of having to cut my own arm off would be worth having my phone with me.

  7. OzarkHillbilly says:

    This is no way to run a company in America:

    The chief executive and founder of the shapewear company Spanx has surprised employees with two first-class plane tickets and $10,000 each.

    Speaking at a party last Thursday to mark the company’s new $1.2bn valuation, after the investment giant Blackstone purchased a majority stake, Sara Blakely expressed her gratitude for 21 years of success.

    Will no one think of the poor shareholder?

  8. Neil J Hudelson says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    A republic. Not a democracy.

    Vodka. Not alcohol.

  9. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Mikey: Maybe I’m just weird. “Get thee behind me SATAN!!!”

    I hate the damn things.

    I especially hate the mentality of 99% of the populace that they should be able to get in touch with someone any time, any where, no matter what. I live in a cell hole. You can not call me on my cell phone when I am at home. You just can’t. One can however leave a message. We have a home phone, but guess what? I am outside at least 50% of my waking hours so your ability to get me that way is hit or miss as well. I tell people this and they just can’t wrap their heads around the concept of not being “connected” 24/7.

    As far as “avoiding the potential of having to cut my own arm off,” I’ve been running around the hills and hollers, up and down 14,000′ mountains, thousands of feet under ground, chopped jungle in Mexico, etc etc. for 63 years. I found myself in some situations where shit was getting a little weak and never once would a phone have made any kind of difference.

  10. wr says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: “My first thought was, “Who goes hiking with their cell phone?””

    If I were going hiking in an unfamiliar location, I have to say a device with a map that would give me instructions on how to get home would make me feel a lot freer to explore…

  11. Kathy says:


    My “phone” has saved me from boredom a number of times.

    Now, if I could get it to not receive email, messages, or calls, it would be perfect.

  12. CSK says:

    The Malevolent Churls

  13. Neil J Hudelson says:



  14. Jen says:

    We always, always have cell phones with us when we hike. At the trail head, we take a picture of the map, just in case we need to reference it.

    My husband has taken some amazing pictures on our hikes using his iPhone.

    Cell service is sketchy so we don’t depend on having a signal, but they would be useful for the flashlight function if it gets dark, etc.

    My father is 84 and still hikes regularly, alone. He always has a cell phone with him. Now, if my mom could only get him to turn the damn thing ON…

  15. CSK says:

    At his website, Donald Trump Junior is selling t-shirts that say: GUNS DON’T KILL PEOPLE, ALEC BALDWIN KILLS PEOPLE.

  16. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @wr: Topo maps and compass.

    Really tho, I’m not saying, “You people and your damned smart phones!!!” (Ok, well maybe I am just a little bit. 😉 ) My wife is addicted to her smart phone, and tbh she is the only reason I have a cell phone at all (when this flip phone dies there is gonna be a battle over my getting a new phone). We went out to the Black Hills this past spring to watch my eldest climb Devil’s Tower (I had once sworn I would do it but it never quite happened, had to see the boy do it) and she had her nose buried in that phone for 95% of the drive time to and back.

    I get it, there are tons of things one can do with a smart phone, games to camera/video to GPS to ad nauseum. I do get it, what I don’t get is the why.

  17. Michael Reynolds says:

    Saw Dune on my home TV. Meh.

    The TV in question is 65 inch, and sure the gorgeous visuals would have been even more gorgeous in IMAX. But beautiful set design and costuming weren’t the problem. The problem was a lack of rooting interest. I’ve read DUNE, liked the first book, wandered away as the sequels became more tedious, but generally admired Herbert’s first-rate world-building. And IMO the film was faithful to the book, but Paul in the books was already hard to GAF about. As embodied by the latest Hollywood pretty boy, in what amounts to a two and a half hour intro to some later movie that hasn’t even been greenlit yet, I just didn’t care.

    I’d criticize but I’ve done the same damn thing myself, gone all-in on cool ideas and forgotten to write a character anyone can care about. Science fiction tempts writers and I guess directors to forget that at the core of any story there has to be some person we invest in.

  18. Kathy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    How do you get the reader invested in a character?

  19. CSK says:

    By creating a fully dimensional one. The best fiction is character-driven.

  20. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @Kathy: I can’t speak for Michael, but writing instructors have told me there are two sure-fire ways to get the reader invested in a character: One is to give the character a strong desire that he/she can’t fulfill without a struggle. The other is to give the character a conflict that he/she has to resolve to move the plot forward.

  21. Kylopod says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Science fiction tempts writers and I guess directors to forget that at the core of any story there has to be some person we invest in.

    Unfortunately, there are quite a few examples of highly venerated sci-fi which very much ignores this principle.

  22. Michael Reynolds says:


    How do you get the reader invested in a character?

    By making the character real. You need a sense that the character existed before the story. They need to have real strengths and weaknesses, to have ideas and hopes independent of the story. A well done character is one you the writer cannot entirely control because they’ve become real enough in your mind that you have to treat them as actual human beings. It sounds strange, but a good character does things not because you the writer want them to do things, but because the character would do them. And if you’re any kind of a writer, when character gets in the way of story, you change the story and preserve the character.

    When I do it right – and I’d say I’ve got maybe a 60% success rate on this – my character lives, as we all do, in a sort of shifting matrix of DNA, experience, free will and random chance. At a more tactical level, if character A cares about character B, and we already like A, then we’ll care about B.

    I tell people my characters are my employees, not my friends or my relatives, they work for me. I employ them to carry out certain jobs, but the thing with employees is that they don’t always do what you want them to do. They have agency independent of me.

    The problem I have with caring about Paul Atreides is that he’s fulfilling a destiny, not forging a path. He’s too much allegory, not enough human.

  23. Mimai says:


    Good luck this weekend. A tune for the occasion.

  24. Mikey says:

    @Mimai: Oh, man, thanks–but I’m not running this weekend, they made it “virtual” again and I just can’t with that two years in a row. Since I’m in the MCM runners club I can skip the entry lottery and just register for next year, so it wasn’t a big deal to just turn this year’s registration back in.

    I’m running a cool local “turkey trot” 5K on Thanksgiving instead, just for the fun of it.

  25. Mimai says:

    @Mikey: I feel you on this. Virtual events, especially marathons, are all suffering and no exuberance. A turkey trot is a lovely inversion. Enjoy!

  26. CSK says:

    A year or so ago, I recommended this article to the late, much-missed Teve. He enjoyed it:

  27. Jen says:

    @CSK: That’s a great article.

    It is fascinating the yardstick by which writers assess other writers. I have a writing acquaintance who has had a number of nonfiction books published–he moderated a writer’s group at a local library and he was and is solely focused on publication (under one’s own byline) as a metric of success for writers. In short, as a freelancer who writes for others, I am (apparently) NOT a writer, but he is. It’s a strange yardstick by which to be assessed.

  28. CSK says:

    Of course you’re a writer. Your work gets published and you get paid for it.

    My sister is a successful ghostwriter–work I’d never want to do.

    It may be snobbish, but I find self-published writers who brag about their “publications” extremely annoying, particularly when I’m in a bad mood. 🙂

  29. Michael Reynolds says:


    It’s understandable that very successful writers would see writing as a meritocracy.

    That’s from the linked article. It’s not just writers who insist on seeing themselves as deserving, the fans don’t much like honest answers, either. I always freely admit that DNA played a huge role in my ability to succeed. I have a talent for language. I didn’t make that happen, it was just there, and despite studiously ignoring that talent while I pursued other interests (chasing women, stealing money) it was there to be tapped when I got around to it. But fans, and Americans in general, hate the idea of innate talent. It seems undemocratic, an unequal system that rewards an accident of birth. Which is exactly what it is. It’s not fair.

    For most Americans everything has to be hard work and perseverance. But everyone in every job works hard, and they don’t all reap big rewards. Hard work is necessary but not sufficient for success. Others need to feel it’s all about education, and education can certainly be useful, but you can educate the fuck out of someone who lacks talent and at least in terms of fiction the best they’ll ever be is a competent mimic.

  30. CSK says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    I think Berlatsky’s point was that you can have mountains of talent and still not succeed. There was an article in Publishers Weekly once in which an anonymous editor claimed that success as a writer depended on “fashion, luck, and hype.”

    My all-time favorite rejection from an editor may illuminate this: “What makes you think that anyone is interested in what you have to say?”

  31. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @CSK: “What makes you think that anyone is interested in what you have to say?”

    Funny, I gave up the idea of writing when I asked myself that question and could only answer, “Nothing.”

  32. Kathy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    So, kind of a backstory and other background that won’t (necessarily?) make it into the story?

  33. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: You sound like my brother. He’s pretty much exactly the same way. On the other hand, I’ll give him that he’s never complained that I don’t call him and that he’s the one always reaching out to me.

  34. CSK says:

    Most of us have probably asked ourselves that, or something similar to it, if we have any degree of modesty or self-awareness. It’s another thing for someone else to say it.

    I don’t condone what this editor did, but I understand it. Editors today are in the position of having to cater to moronic celebrities–like Donald Trump–who demand to have their asses kissed. It’s grueling, and they have to let off steam. Better than kicking your dog.

  35. Kathy says:


    If we followed that practice, the comment section at OTB would be empty and not worth reading. We wouldn’t even have open fora.

  36. CSK says:

    It’s not a practice I follow.

  37. dazedandconfused says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I feel your pain, still remember sitting at the old fire look out hut atop Green Mountain with Glacier Peak across the valley…and two tweeners came up with their dad and sat down on the platform next to me and immediately started to furiously text away…to somebody…god knows who, completely oblivious by all appearances. It was as if the 3 hours to get up there had been the limit of their endurance to be off social media. Had I not been overwhelmed with pity, might have nudged them off….

    However phones make finding the body so much easier, really should carry one. Just turn it off. It’s a light weight camera. Think of it that way.

  38. wr says:

    Woo-hoo! Dune 2 is a go.

  39. Kathy says:


    I usually don’t do slippery-slope. And yet here we are 🙂

  40. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @dazedandconfused: It’s a light weight camera.

    Nah, I have a real camera. (mind you i-phone cameras are pretty damned good, but I’ll never own one)

    makes finding the body so much easier

    I’d just as soon my body never be found.

    the old fire look out hut atop Green Mountain

    Damn. To be young and not quite so decrepit again. That is beautiful.

  41. Mu Yixiao says:

    Just got back from the bone doc appointment to find out if I’m going to be a cyborg. And the result is…

    “Wow. I’ve… that’s really interesting. I’ve never seen anything like that before. It’s totally unique. I’m going to send you to a more specialized specialist, because this is just… wow.”

    {sigh} Another CT scan, another doctor, another couple weeks before I know what’s going to happen. 😛

  42. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @dazedandconfused: Question from the guy flat earth luddite wishes he were: if the phone is turned off, how does it help people find you?

  43. senyordave says:

    Remember Kyle Rittenhouse, the Wisconsin teen who decided it would be a good idea to show up in Kenosha amid the turmoil after the shooting of Jacob Blake. He ended up killing two men and his trial is beginning. The judge in the trail just made a few significant rulings:
    Kyle Rittenhouse’s lawyers can refer to the men he shot as “rioters” and “looters,” but prosecutors still may not call them “victims” at any time during the teen’s upcoming murder trial, a judge ruled Monday.
    Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder cautioned the defense team against using pejorative terms during opening statements, but he said they could use them in their closing arguments if the evidence suggested the men engaged in criminal acts.
    “He can demonize them if he wants, if he thinks it will win points with the jury,” Schroeder said.
    Schroeder also rejected the prosecution’s request to block any evidence that local law enforcement provided water to vigilantes the night of the shooting and thanked them for their presence. In video taken before Rittenhouse fired his gun, officers in an armored vehicle tossed bottles of water to him and other armed civilians who were clearly violating the city’s 8 p.m. curfew.
    One officer can be heard on the recording expressing his gratitude to the group.
    “We appreciate you guys,” the officer said. “We really do.”

    Short of allowing the defense to call the men who were killed child molesters, this seems like the best the defense team could have wished for.

  44. Kathy says:

    The Pfizer/BioNTech COVID vaccine trialed in children 5-11 showed 90.7% efficacy in preventing symptomatic illness.

    Now, this may be due to the lower dose used, but my money is that the difference in efficacy vs the adult vaccine trialed earlier is all about the variants. The trial last year contended mostly with the original strain of SARS-CoV-2, plus the Alpha and Gamma variants. The kid’s version trialed this year has to contend with Delta.

    So, BIG ton-sized grain of salt, efficacy vs Delta should be about what the children’s vaccine shows, so round 90%, rather than the 95% against the earlier variants last year.

    This and waning immunity would explain why Delta has produced breakthrough infections. But 90% efficacy is still damned good. if more people were to be vaccinated and mitigation measures had not been relaxed, the virus would still be in retreat, as it appeared to be early last summer.

    I’m sure by now if there are civilizations elsewhere in the galaxy, they have or will put a warning around the Solar System, reading something like “HIGH STUPIDITY ZONE Proceed at your own risk.”

  45. Kathy says:


    I think in legal terms, he would allow the jury to find this thug not guilty for reason of being white.

  46. flat earth luddite says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    Well, I only wish I were you because you’re a snappier dresser and a way better singer than I am, was, or ever will be. Plus I enjoy your taste in cigars and “B” movies. Team America!

  47. JohnMcC says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: If I may speak up in this cell phone/hiking business. Have been up close & personal this issue; I’m backpacker, AT hiker (did *200* miles from Springer to Franklin a few years ago). Also a confirmed anti-phone person.

    Had to call 911 couple of years ago from the Florida Trail in the frigging middle of Ocala NF. Had picked up a GI bug and (to put a delicate touch on it) shit like crazy most of the night. Was so dehydrated/electrolyte depleted that I had to rise from the ground to standing I had to ‘climb’ a nearby tree slowly, with hands & arms to keep from passing out from low Blood Pressure. They found me on my signal. 2 to 2 1/2 hours and the deputies on 4wheelers show up, I’m hauled to the waiting ambulance with full crew and fire truck standing by. 4 Liters of IV fluid before I could pee.

    So I do carry one of the damn things, yes.

    Also (already too long a comment so what the hell) there are social media sites that cater to specific trails. Example: Guthooks is a site that seems to blanket all hiker information about the Appalachian Trail. The guide book says a spring is ‘seasonal’… check Guthooks… yesterday it was flowing and someone found a hidden campsite just past…

    It’s become indispensable. And you will lie in your tent and see faintly on the fabric of your next-tent neighbor the lights from their phone as the watch a movie. Yes, that too.

  48. JohnMcC says:

    Huh! What I really dropped by for is to let folks here know Mort Sahl has died. 94 years old. One of those, ‘gosh, I didn’t know he was still alive’ situations.

    Quite the ground breaker. I remember as a teen-ager having political eyes opened partly by an interview he gave Playboy. After I looked, of course.

  49. Jax says:

    Today on “My Grand-dog is cuter than your grand-dog”….

    Daughter was eating a bowl of buttered noodles in the living room. Puppy knows better than to beg, so she paces around a few minutes, definitely not making eye contact, then goes into the kitchen, we hear rustling around and I’m about to go see what the hell she’s getting into, when she comes prancing out with a small tupperware bowl in her mouth (our “Tupperware” cupboard is on the bottom). She sets it ever-so-gently on the couch, then very carefully does not make eye contact while giving her very best “Such a good puppy!” smile. Totally NOT begging, but you know….since she brought her bowl and we eat food in bowls around here like civilized animals….

    Puppy got some buttered noodles, and daughter and I almost died laughing. 😛 😛 😛

  50. Gustopher says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    The problem I have with caring about Paul Atreides is that he’s fulfilling a destiny, not forging a path. He’s too much allegory, not enough human.

    I think most teen-aged boys would be entirely and utterly stoic and cooperative when someone holds a poisoned needle to their throat and makes them stick their hand into a box that feels like fire, and would be basically untraumatized by the incident.

    Kid should have thrown a fit, told his mother he hated her, and gone storming off to his room and slammed the door behind him.

    Instead he just bottles it up until he after his father is dead and he’s in a tent with his mother in the middle of the desert.

    I really don’t understand Paul’s motivations at all.

    If he’s wooden and overcontrolled because he is the product of a creepy breeding experiment, then show that. If he takes so many drugs for his anxiety or something that he no longer has human emotions, than mention it. If he’s just dulled to the entire process because he’s been poked and prodded and threatened with death by his mother’s coworkers for so long that it doesn’t phase him anymore, then give us a montage.

    “Your coworkers told everyone on the planet that you and I are the answer to their messianic prophesy? Why are you always talking about me? Do you know what Maud’dib means? It means ‘mousey mama’s boy!’ Why can’t I go somewhere and just meet people like a normal kid? I hate you!”

    I don’t recall the David Lynch movie being so wooden, but maybe that’s because it had enough other problems that I just didn’t notice.

    At least Anakin Skywalker hated sand…

  51. Kathy says:


    That’s like a PhD level pup.

    I wonder what chip they’re putting in rabies vaccines these days.

  52. de stijl says:

    I have a new mouse friend in my house.

    He / she (I am gonna go with friend) is bold as brass. Friend scampers in under my door and catches my peripheral vision hard-wired to notice unexpected motion. You jump.

    Friend gallivants about the edges of the room. Scamper, scamper, stop. Look around. Check it out. Pretty chill, actually. Curious.

    But then I found little friend mouse poops in my kitchen. On a plate I’d left in the sink to wash in the morning. Uncool! You crossed a line, friend!

    Last house I had a similar friend who line stepped. I bought some enclosed traps. I set one up in a scamper lane I knew friend was fond of in the room I used as my media room. Again, bold as brass. Baited it with peanut butter. One night friend saw a new thing. (At that point I had quelled my jump instinct and just watched.) I watched friend approach cautiously. So intriguing. It smells so yummy. Friend walked forwards.

    Ten seconds later I witnessed a very cool and quite disturbing thing. SNAP! I could only see the back fifth of the body. Friend’s tail went to two o’clock rigidly fixed, quavered for a second or two, then gravity took over. Light’s out, friend. It was a fascinating experience. Fatal spinal cord injury played out in real time time is a little disturbing for a mammal with a tail.

    I laughed like a loon. Hooted. It was pretty epic. I enjoyed the observation of that immensely.

    Seriously, my new mouse friend, we could have been cool, but you pooped on my dishes and my countertop and behind my sink hardware. That was uncool. You gotta go.

    Going to Ace tomorrow. Mouse traps are on the list. I also need a new furnace filter too. Two for one.

    SNAP will be the last thing you hear, new mouse friend. I am sorry, you are very cute.

  53. Jax says:

    @Kathy: She’s definitely a smart little shit. Daughter named her Shenzi because she barks like the lead hyena on Lion King when she see’s something she doesn’t like or looks dangerous. Things that look dangerous right now include strange people, cats, the wind, other dogs, cows, horses, pigs, and chickens.

    The wind blew like 40 mph today and watching Shenzi trying to pee while keeping her ears down so the wind didn’t blow them inside out was freakin hilarious. 😛

  54. Jax says:

    @de stijl: My Dad likes to use the “baited-with-peanut-butter on a spinny rod” over a bucket of water. When it gets really cold, you don’t even need the peanut butter, they fall in trying to get a drink. It’s how we deal with skunks, too, Dad’s kind of a ninja on picking up a live trap full of living skunk and dunking it into water without being sprayed. As soon as I pick it up, they spray, but they don’t even notice it with him.

  55. de stijl says:


    We had wind 20 – 35 mph for a couple of days.

    Gusty. Chilly.

    I like to walk at dawn. It helps my head. I find it quite calming. It’s my thing. If I sleep too late I walk at dusk.

    Yesterday dawn I was underdressed. I got damn chilly out and about. Thankfully, walking upped my core temp.

    I underestimated 40F + 25 mph wind. I was wearing fall clothes. Totally underdressed.

    Man, since moving to Iowa I have so become such a wimp over time. Minnesota winter is much more bracing and severe. 250 miles north to south and a totally different winter experience.

    Past me would have mocked future me.

    Winter is coming. I love, love, love autumn – best time, awesomest time – but, I know what follows.

  56. de stijl says:


    I once woke up groggy, needing to pee, stumbled into the bathroom, normal morning and …


    Wow! Shut the lid asap. What the fuck was that?

    That was totally unexpected.

    Lil dude wanted water. And then could not get out again. Pretty sad, actually.

    I peed in the kitchen sink because it was my best option at the time. (One of the best privileges of being male is that you can basically pee anywhere while standing up.) Ran some hot water.

    I had to deal with this now. I really needed to poop soon. You cannot have a starving chipmunk in your toilet bowl. What would the neighbors think?

    I poured some bleach in to the bowl. Zonked him. Used the top end of a broom to smush him against the side of the toilet bowl. Then used the flashlight to crack his / her noggin like an acorn.

    It was intense. That was brutal. Quite gross.

    One does expect to find a chipmunk chilling in their toilet bowl. Can happen, believe me. Used an inside out garbage bag to pluck lil dead dude out. That was pretty disgusting.

    It was kinda freaky. Lil dude just wanted a drink of water, then found himself unable to extricate himself.

    The grossest bit was that the bleach I poured over him turned his eyes entirely white. That was really disconcerting. Lil fella was blind, scared, and alone. Bathed in bleach.

    I wish there was a gentler way, but I really needed him gone. I needed to poop in the very near future. Mr. Chipmunk was in the way.

    Needs must.

  57. dazedandconfused says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: It won’t. However it’s more typical that people know they are in trouble before they die than not, and there’s no choice, as leaving it on would result in the damn thing ringing, chirping, or beeping.