Veteran’s Day 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. Richard Gardner says:

    Iceland not quite eruption. There is lots of volcanic activity in Iceland, in the Southwest near the Blue Lagoon (tourist trap, sorry, and I’ve been there at least 20 times before the price went crazy) and the International Airport KEF. Just over 20 years ago I lived 15 kms away. The town of Grindavik (~4000) was evacuated Friday evening as a magma chamber was identified under the coastal town. This will be a fissure eruption, not a blast like Ejyaflallajokull that disrupted most Trans-Atlantic air travel over a decade ago (and zero online translation then, I was using the MFA Trade Dept’s online dictionary (zero geology terms) to augment my paper dictionary vasaordabok). The frequent earthquakes (up to 4.8) have shifted to the southwest and some off the coast. Sunrise 9:40, Sunset 16:45 GMT, sun maybe 20 degrees above the horizon so not very bright and long shadows. Reykjavik Grapevnie probably has the best English (Ensk) info, and the Iceland Monitor of the leading newspaper Morgenblaðið
    My reading proficiency is way down (forget speaking with declined nouns and crazy slang, but my accent isn’t too bad as I still can do the odd sounds that just don’t exist in English (aspirations (hissing) and clicks – except the umlaut O, never mastered that, throwing up sound). I’m using Google Translate on Icelandic sources, sometimes crazy but I can figure it out – not Mercury, should be Magma (lots of homonyms not translated correctly)- and earth kitchen is (the) volcano. I’m amazed Google Translate removes most of the extra definite articles (the) that just aren’t used in English when I look at the original (look up Skaldic poetry, easy to rhyme when most nouns end with a form of “The” (3 versions by gender, sort of)). I worked with Icelandic Civil Defence often (Allmannavarnir… now under the Police – staff of under 10 (was 5 in my day). The important information is being provided in English and Polish, huge Polish community in Iceland – OK, only in comparison to Iceland’s population of under 400K, maybe 15K Poles mostly doing scutt work like gutting fish. Blessaður. (Be blessed, Icelandic closing)

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    The rural Michigan town fighting against rightwing conspiracy theories

    “The [election] next year will be really bad,” said Adams Township clerk Suzy Roberts, who is tasked with running the town’s elections.

    I have a suggestion for all the people who think our elections are rigged: Don’t bother voting, just stay home.

    And more election news: Letters containing fentanyl sent to several US states’ election offices

    “This isn’t anything new – this is just a different tactic,” David Becker, an election administration expert at the Center for Election Innovation & Research, told the Washington Post. “It just represents the difficulty election officials have.”

  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Peter Thiel won’t fund any 2024 races after backing Trump in 2016: ‘It was crazier than I thought’

    In an interview with the Atlantic, Thiel said voting for Trump “was like a not very articulate scream for help” and that things had not turned out the way he had hoped when he donated $1.25m to Trump and Trump-affiliated political funds eight years ago.

    Waaah… Somebody put him in time out.

    “There are a lot of things I got wrong,” he said. “It was crazier than I thought. It was more dangerous than I thought. They couldn’t get the most basic pieces of the government to work. So that was – I think that part was maybe worse than even my low expectations.”

    What a f’n idiot. Millions of people could have told him that.

    “If you’re too optimistic, it just shows you’re out of touch,” he said. “‘Make America great again’ was the most pessimistic slogan of any candidate in 100 years, because you were saying that we are no longer a great country. And that was a shocking slogan for a major presidential candidate.”

    If he was really interested in making America better, he’d leave.

    Thiel also sounded off on diversity initiatives – calling them “very evil and it’s very silly” –

    Ah yes, hiring a qualified black woman is obviously the most evil thing in the world because it would make him uncomfortable every time she corrected him.

    and his interest in life-extension, a common theme among tech billionaires. “I should be investing way more money into this stuff,” he said.

    I have this wonderful elixir that cures everything and shaves years off his age. He could have this 2 oz. bottle for the one time low price of $999,999.99.

  4. Jen says:

    @Richard Gardner: We were just there recently (October) and the earthquake swarms had just started. I have an intense interest in geology, and really loved Iceland. My husband tried (hard!) to get at least a few phrases in Icelandic under his belt and realized he finally succeeded in saying ‘good day’ (or something similar) when the person responded in a stream of Icelandic, rather than smiling at him and responding in English. 😉

  5. MarkedMan says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: This whole thing with fentanyl is part of a non-crazy but totally inaccurate conspiracy theory. People who come in contact with fentanyl panic because of a prevalent online meme that airborne fentanyl can be fatal, and merely opening an envelope containing it can kill you. There is no truth in that. What is true is that aerosolized fentanyl can kill you, but it is an extremely hard thing to do. Of course, I’ve never done that, but in my current job we aerosolize all kinds of things, mostly oils, but sometimes powders, with Arizona Road Dust being the most common. (Don’t know why, but ARD is the standard background used in most biohazard aerosol detection.) Aerosolizing any powder is difficult and it is comforting to know that any amateur experimenting with the process will almost certainly kill themselves.

    The unfortunate reason we know aerosolized fentanyl is incredibly fatal is because of what appears to have been an experiment by Russian police some years ago. Some terrorists took hostages in a crowded movie theater. There was a belief that aerosolized fentanyl would act like the magic gas that exists only in movies, you know, the one where you feed a tube through a vent, turn the valve on a gas cylinder and a few seconds later everyone in the room is uniformly and safely unconscious. In the real world many (most? All? I’m not going to look it up because I’m probably already triggering various government agencies by mentioning it here) of the people died, terrorists and movie goers alike. Ever since then, people have been mixing up “airborne” with “aerosolized” and going into a panic whenever they are in the presence of powdered fentanyl.

  6. de stijl says:

    @Richard Gardner:

    I lived and worked in Reykjavik as a contract IT consultant for a bank that doesn’t exist anymore. For the length of the project. 10, 11 months. My job was the front end dashboard. To my knowledge no one actually ever used that work product outside of the demonstration sessions. It was all for naught.

    I had a basic grab of Swedish so Icelandic was semi-understandable. I was very, very far from conversationally fluent. I could be understood. I spoke pretty basic Swedish. Besides everybody and their brother used me as a means to practice their conversational English. I wanted immersion and ended up as an unpaid ESL teacher 90% of the time. My Icelandic was really basic. Mostly nouns and basic verbs I mostly fucked up unwittingly. Seriously! I wanted to learn and immerse and everyone just spoke English to me. It was maddening.

    I spent every week night on studying and practice. I watched locally produced TV.

    I was trying. Hardly no one was buying. “Oh, you’re American so let’s practice English.”

    Hey, it made my life easier.

    I did four years of Spanish in high school. Two and half years of French at university. I never made it to conversational fluency. Pretty close with Spanish for a brief period

    In Iceland almost no one actually spoke Icelandic to me after the initial exchange. My only reliable source was TV shows and news. It was way too fast to comprehend fully. I got about 20-30%.

    There were two English fellas and a woman from Ireland. We sort of ganged up and hung out together as a defensive measure.

    I absorbed and practiced several hundreds of hours on the Icelandic language and barely ever actually used it. It was maddening.

    The bank I was working for no longer exists and its demise nearly crashed the global economic system. I was an unwitting part of one of the biggest banking scams in a hundred years.

    It was for Landsbanki. Which no no longer exists, technically. Now it’s known as Nyi Landsbanki so the NDA no longer applies.

  7. Flat Earth Luddite says:

    I’m not very articulate about it, but thanks to all here who’ve served to defend and protect the rest of us on this 11th day of November.

  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @MarkedMan: They say in the article that nobody was harmed and (from the reporting) it appears they only shut down one facility. The only reason I posted that up was to show some of what election workers are being subjected to in our current electoral climate.

    Arizona Road Dust being the most common. (Don’t know why, but ARD is the standard background used in most biohazard aerosol detection.

    Heh, I love that. Maybe it’s because ARD is everywhere in AZ, even on pavement and they are trying to get rid of some of it?

  9. de stijl says:


    The best way to aerosolize fentanyl is to lay out several pounds of it on the side of a highway and drive a big-ass semi truck and trailer directly next to that at 75 miles per hour.

  10. MarkedMan says:

    @de stijl: Heh! Not that easy, fortunately

  11. Flat Earth Luddite says:


    Poor poor baby. That’s always been the problem with buying amateur politicians… They just don’t stay bought, you never get your $$ worth, and you can’t get a refund.

  12. Michael Reynolds says:

    One of the reasons I enjoy this site is that sometimes I learn about charmingly obscure things like Arizona Road Dust.

  13. gVOR10 says:


    If he (Thiel) was really interested in making America better, he’d leave.

    And take J. D. Vance with him.

  14. Becca says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Thiel’s fascination with elves in LOTR was, uh, interesting. He really, really wants to live forever. I doubt he wants that for all humanity, just he and Elmo and maybe Bezos and MBS. They would be gods to us mere mortals.

  15. de stijl says:


    Are you disregarding the whole fwoosh effect from a big rig truck travelling at highway speed?


    One day I was driving south on I-35 to get to work in Des Moines and a big gust of straight line winds had toppled over big semi trucks the night before down where it is dead flat near Mason City.

    The first two freaked me out: imagine being the driver! After that I sort of laughed at the absurdity of it all.

    You drive that stretch of road on a Sunday afternoon or on a Friday afternoon back north and the traffic is 80% big rig trucks hauling shit thither and yon.

    I nearly died once in Owatonna when a big truck merged onto the highway from the right going about 10 mph and immediately decided he should scoot over into the left lane which I currently occupied. I left a several hundred yard trail of rubber after jamming on the breaks to frantically avoid him. He came extremely close to shunting me into a multi flip roll-over.

    I then knew what road rage feels like. Fucker nearly killed me because of his own dumb-assery.

    Biggest adrenaline dump of my life. At the time I would have probably beat that driver to death. My heart was doing a billion beats per minute and I was a sweaty mess in late October after that near miss. I came inches away from dying traveling at 77 mph. Had I been slightly distracted I would have died that day.

    I stopped off at the Faribault rest stop, got out, sat on a bench, looked at the sky, breathed deep, and inhaled a cigarette. I was still trembling from the post adrenaline dump crash. I stopped off at the Happy Chef outside of Mason City to sit, eat, and decompress. I was still wound up tight and freaked out.

    No fooling. I sort of get road rage incidents now. Don’t condone it, but understand it.

  16. Kathy says:

    I donated blood earlier today.

    The upside is this hospital takes donations not designated for the use of a particular patient. So, I’m thinking about making regular donations. It can be done every sixty days, which averages around six times per year.

    The other upside is my blood pressure reads as normal. usually it’s “on the high end of normal.” Not this time.

  17. de stijl says:


    The Dobrovka theater incident in 2002 was Chechnyan terrorists who took over a theater in Moscow and made hostage of all the attendees. IIRC, it was a classical music concert, not a movie theater. Although that might be an assumption I picked up from the movie Tenet.

    Crap, I need to read the Wikipedia article now.


    I normally respond fairly well to Christopher Nolan movies, but I actively hated Tenet. I couldn’t understand what the fuck was going on who, how, or why was happening and couldn’t understand 90% of the dialog due to the chosen sound design. Memento is one of my favorite movies and it was the first movie I bought on DVD. I don’t mind and actively adore some weird-ass, obscure, non-linear, mind boggling movies. Not a problem for me. As a rule, I prefer weird shit over normal movies.

    I can and do absolutely love ambiguous Lynchian type movies, but Tenet just pissed me off. I actively hated it after about 45 minutes. Tried it again a few years later and went in with an open, accepting mind-set. I lasted an hour in and fucking hated it.

    If some of you like that movie, that’s totally cool, but I despise it. I’ve not actually seen it. I made it to about an hour in twice then bailed.

  18. Slugger says:

    I got some lab work done at an approved facility. They charged $204.75. My insurance paid $194.75. They sent me a bill for the ten buck difference. Is generating a bill for $10 cost effective? Getting a document to me via USPS must cost $2 at least for printing, handling, and postage. Some percent of their clients are not as deadline compulsive as I am requiring multiple iterations of the bill. I wonder if there isn’t some number where it’s not profitable to bother billing?

  19. DrDaveT says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    One of the reasons I enjoy this site is that sometimes I learn about charmingly obscure things like Arizona Road Dust.

    For some reason this is reminding me of the extremely specific mud that major league baseballs are rubbed with…

  20. JohnSF says:


    Thiel’s fascination with elves in LOTR was, uh, interesting.

    Unsurprising, perhaps, give the Palantir thing.
    But what’s a little amusing is that for a guy who claimes to have read LOTR repeatedly, he manages to miss Tolkien’s main point about the elves and immortality, which derives from his (somewhat eccentric?) Christianity.
    That the Numenoreans were ruined by their desire to escape death; but the Eldar were ruined by their desire to escape the weariness of immortality, both the melancholy of Middle Earth, and the cloying stasis of the Undying Lands.
    Trust a tech-bro to only see what he wants to see.

  21. Mimai says:

    I’m glad Peter Thiel won’t be funding candidates this cycle. I hope he doesn’t change his mind.

    I also appreciate that he said this: “There are a lot of things I got wrong”

    Was it only yesterday that people were bemoaning the fact that pundits and the like rarely do a mea culpa?

  22. steve says:

    Marked Man- Not to be pedantic but I am pretty sure that the Russians used carfentail, an even more potent narcotic. It’s made it into the US a few times and it’s especially deadly as it is very difficult to reverse with Narcan. (One of the guys who helped develop and test it gave a lecture at my med school.) Long time ago so I may be misremembering but pretty sure.


  23. MarkedMan says:

    @steve: I don’t know very much about the Russian incident but without being too specific I can state with certainty that amongst people who are concerned with stopping bad things being deliberately released, aerosolized fentanyl is a nightmare scenario.

    Edit: now that I think more about it, that’s how it’s called amongst people like me who have no security clearance. The actual testers use codes for all the live agent testing and I have no idea which is which or what is included.

  24. Flat Earth Luddite says:


    What do you mean would be? I’m convinced he already believes in his godhood. The rest of us are mere ants to his magnifying glass.

  25. Kathy says:


    Trust a tech-bro to only see what he wants to see.

    One might be taken with an idea and disagree with the author’s interpretation of it.

    Take the Spacers in Asimov’s Robot Novels. They live long lives, about 300 years, and have robots that take care of all manual labor and function as household servants as well*. Asimov claims this lovely situation leads to apathy, lethargy, and ultimately decay. the theme is even pursued in novels by other authors licensed to use the Asimovian universe.

    Ok. That’s his take on it. It’s interesting, it leads to three murder mysteries and a bridge to the Empire Novels (not as good, but part of the unified Asimov universe, and sequel novels as noted above (which I enjoyed).

    But partly it’s cliche with long lives, as the trope of “machines doing all the work leads to decay,” is really old. You can find it in several of John Campbell Jr’s short fiction, in The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster, in Clarke’s debut novel The City and The Stars, and I’m sure many more.

    Does it have to be that way? Could giving machines all manual labor make our lives better? Automation, which is for now the nearest thing, has led to problems, but has also eliminated many dangers in the workplace, and made other industries, like commercial aviation, safer.

    *Given the intellect and self-awareness shown by two robot protagonists in the last two novels, using robots as slave labor is as unethical as using humans that way.

    And a that’s a whole different trope.

  26. JohnSF says:

    All true.
    But the main point is, Peter Thiel is an amoral philistine who couldn’t locate an aesthetic argument if it was tattooed on his arse, and he was given a mirror, a map, a compass, and a torch.
    My personal inclination is that e-mortality/non-mortality could work out reasonably enough, for arbitrary values.
    But nitwits like Thiel citing Tolkien in support of their puerile tech-bro maunderings annoys me.

  27. Kathy says:


    But the main point is, Peter Thiel is an amoral philistine who couldn’t locate an aesthetic argument if it was tattooed on his arse, and he was given a mirror, a map, a compass, and a torch.

    Oh, that’s absolutely true.

    Just not for his misinterpretation of some books I’ve never read and can’t comment on.

    I mean, there’s so much more evidence for your position.