Wednesday’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:

    ‘Mad and offensive’ texts shed light on the role played by minstrels in medieval society

    Throughout the middle ages, minstrels travelled between fairs, taverns and baronial halls to entertain people with songs and stories. Although fictional minstrels are common in medieval literature, references to real-life performers are rare, and the Heege Manuscript is among the first evidence of the life and work of a real minstrel.

    Wade, from Cambridge’s English faculty and Girton College, said that most “medieval poetry, song and storytelling has been lost”.

    “Manuscripts often preserve relics of high art,” he continued. “This is something else. It’s mad and offensive, but just as valuable. Standup comedy has always involved taking risks and these texts are risky! They poke fun at everyone, high and low.”

    The texts consist of a tail-rhyme burlesque romance entitled The Hunting of the Hare, a mock sermon in prose and an alliterative nonsense verse The Battle of Brackonwet. They were copied circa 1480 by Richard Heege, a household cleric and tutor to a Derbyshire family called the Sherbrookes, from a now lost memory-aid written by an unknown minstrel performing near the Derbyshire-Nottinghamshire border.

    Wade believes the minstrel wrote part of his act down because its many nonsense sequences would have been extremely difficult to recall. “He didn’t give himself the kind of repetition or story trajectory which would have made things simpler to remember,” Wade said. “Here we have a self-made entertainer with very little education creating really original, ironic material. To get an insight into someone like that from this period is incredibly rare and exciting.”

    I hope they publish it, I’d definitely buy a copy.

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I didn’t have this one on my headline bingo card: Firefighting goats could be furloughed due to California employment law

  3. CSK says:


    A Hundred Merry Tales, the first English joke book, is also worth a look.


    A pay raise from $3730 a month to $14,000 a month is quite a boost.

  4. Scott says:

    Schadenfreude alert!

    Twitter Is Now Worth Just 33% of Elon Musk’s Purchase Price, Fidelity Says

    Twitter is now worth just one-third of what Elon Musk paid for the social-media platform, according to Fidelity, which recently marked down the value of its equity stake in the company.

    Musk has acknowledged he overpaid for Twitter, which he bought for $44 billion, including $33.5 billion in equity. More recently, he said Twitter is worth less than half what he paid for it.

  5. Kathy says:

    I watched Shazam Fury of the Gods over the weekend.

    I see a trend where the first movie, complete with origin story, of a DC superhero is rather good, then the sequel is rather bad. First with Wonder Woman, now with Shazam.

    What’s wrong with it? That would take too long and require spoilers.

    Maybe Aquaman will break the jinx.

    Oh, well. In any case, the DC universe is supposed to get a reboot.

  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @CSK: I just like the headline. “The goats are being let go because their employment is unlawful?”

  7. Neil Hudelson says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: @Kathy:

    Kinda sorta related to both of your posts (bards and contemporary movies), I watched the Dungeons and Dragons movie last night, and was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. I enjoy DnD occasionally, enough that I was primed to enjoy the material but not nit-pick it. There were some genuinely thrilling action scenes, but it was the humor that really got me.

    So many fantasy books and films are just bereft of humor, yet when you read texts from the era that inspired this genre–Canterbury Tales and the like–they are chock full of jokes. I don’t know of anyone who plays DnD or another RPG because they want a verisimilitude portrayal of a “real” fantasy realm. They want to laugh with their friends. The movie really nails that vibe.

  8. CSK says:


    Oh, I know. It stumped me, too. How were the goats violating employment law?

  9. Michael Cain says:


    How were the goats violating employment law?

    It’s not the goats, it’s the goatherders’ overtime pay.

  10. CSK says:

    @Michael Cain:

    I know, but you have to read the article to clarify that.

  11. Kathy says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    All I know about D&D is what appeared on Futurama and The Big Bang Theory. A lot of it was humor.

  12. CSK says:

    If he is re-elected, Donald Trump plans to revoke the Fourteenth Amendment on “day one.” Does he know he can’t do that? Does he care? Do the MAGAs believe he has the power to do this?

    I recall a lot of promises TFG planned to fulfill on Day One, like repealing and replacing Obama care.

  13. Stormy Dragon says:


    Does he know he can’t do that?

    Who’s going to stop him?

  14. Kylopod says:

    @CSK: I was thinking of his promise to lock up Hillary. With Obamacare repeal, at least he made some effort in that direction, and at least it was a goal that fell somewhere in the vicinity of normal governance. If he had succeeded in repealing Obamacare (which was never realistically going to happen in full, but he did have a real chance of significantly undermining the law), it would have been a terrible and cruel policy, but it wouldn’t have been an assault on the constitutional order.

  15. Kathy says:


    He’s leaned nothing and forgotten nothing, and reminds us of it every day.

  16. DK says:


    Firefighting goats could be furloughed due to California employment law

    Hahahahaha. Poor goats. And apologies to whatever human being is losing real money on this. But this headline…. Hahaha.

  17. CSK says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    He can’t override the Constitution. Yeah, yeah, I know. I think he’s tried this particular stunt a few times and it failed.

  18. CSK says:


    Well, this is an assault on the Constitution. I sometimes wonder if he knew there was no reason to lock Hillary up, but chanting it was a big hit with the MAGA mobs at his rallies.


    Talleyrand’s quote describes Trump perfectly.

  19. Kathy says:


    I recall one time he claimed it could be done with a simple executive order, which he never issued.

  20. Stormy Dragon says:


    He’s not supposed to be able to override the constitution, but unless there’s some other party that is going to step up and say “no, you can’t do that” and then make him stop, he still can override the constitution.

  21. CSK says:


    Somebody close to him with half a functioning brain and some basic knowledge must have repeatedly intervened, and did so firmly enough to discourage him. Speaking of which, in the event he’s reelected (I devoutly hope not), who will serve as his advisors and cabinet members? He’s already alienated everyone even remotely qualified. Michael Flynn for Secretary of Defense? Roger Stone for Secretary of State? Sreve Bannon as…anything?

  22. Mu Yixiao says:

    So…. this will certainly turn out well:

    India cuts periodic table and evolution from school textbooks — experts are baffled

    In India, children under 16 returning to school this month at the start of the school year will no longer be taught about evolution, the periodic table of elements, or sources of energy.

    The news that evolution would be cut from the curriculum for students aged 15–16 was widely reported last month, when thousands of people signed a petition in protest. But official guidance has revealed that a chapter on the periodic table will be cut, too, along with other foundational topics such as sources of energy and environmental sustainability. Younger learners will no longer be taught certain pollution- and climate-related topics, and there are cuts to biology, chemistry, geography, mathematics and physics subjects for older school students.

  23. Kathy says:


    I should launch a presidential campaign, and promise to resolve the climate crisis, the energy crisis, and lots of other things, by changing the laws of thermodynamics so that energy can be created and transformed but not destroyed.

    Infinite energy. No need for batteries. No need for power plants. Zero carbon emissions.

    I know it’s impossible, but at least there’s no insurmountable legal impediment.

  24. CSK says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    “…certain pollution and climate-related topics…”

    Isn’t India one of the three biggest offenders in terms of pollution? No wonder they don’t want to talk about it.

  25. daryl and his brother darryl says:

    The United States Government has assets of roughly $129T, including property, outstanding loans owed, mineral rights, oil and gas resources, etc. That is balanced by a ~$32T debt. Obviously our assets far outstrip our liabilities.
    Yesterday DeSantis said we are careening towards bankruptcy, even after the Debt Ceiling Agreement.
    Again…the US has assets that amount to about 4 times it’s debts.
    I’m not arguing for more debt…just saying that maybe let’s be reasonable (don’t lie) about the discussion.

  26. Kylopod says:

    I did not know any of this until I looked it up just now.

    According to Hindu creationists all species on earth including humans have “devolved” or come down from a high state of pure consciousness (Brahman). Hindu creationists claim that species of plants and animals are material forms adopted by pure consciousness which live an endless cycle of births and rebirths.[12] Historian of science Ronald Numbers has commented that “Hindu Creationists have insisted on the antiquity of humans, who they believe appeared fully formed as long, perhaps, as trillions of years ago.”[13] The views of Hindu creationism are based on the Vedas, which depict an extreme antiquity of the universe and history of the earth.[14][15]

    The emergence of modern Vedic creationism has been linked to Dayananda Saraswati, the founder of Arya Samaj.[16] In his Satyarth Prakash, Saraswati promoted anti-evolutionary views and took a literal reading of the Vedas. He argued that God designed the physical bodies of all species 1.96 billions years ago on earth and on other planets at the beginning of the present cosmic cycle.[16] He stated that God conjoined the bodies with pre-existing souls and that different species were created and distributed to souls in accord to their karma from the previous cosmic cycle. Saraswati in a public lecture condemned Darwinian evolution but misunderstood common descent by questioning why monkeys no longer evolve into men.[16]

  27. CSK says:

    Well, Kayleigh McEnany won’t be returning as Trump’s press secretary. She’s Kayleigh “Milktoast” as far as he’s concerned, because he claims she got his poll numbers wrong on Fox–that he has a 34 point lead over DeSantis rather than a 25 point lead as she said. “The RINOs & Globalists can have her. Fox News should use only REAL stars!!!”

    As I said, who’s going to work for him?

  28. MarkedMan says:

    @Mu Yixiao: Whoa. Indian religious zealots may have bitten off too much this time. I don’t think you want to start messing with the Indian school system. Education is valued very, very highly in India and parents don’t mess around.

  29. Mu Yixiao says:


    From what I can tell in the article, many of these changes have been in place for 2 years as part of emergency COVID rules (to simplify online learning during school closings). So… it’s like the hardliners are using this as an excuse to “sneak” the changes in.

    Now we’ll get to see which the Indian population values most: Religious dominance or educational dominance. Either way, it’s not going to be pretty.

  30. Kathy says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    Why the periodic table?

  31. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Yes, the amount of chaos that you can get from enacting/enforcing laws is amazing, n’est pas?

  32. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: Or you could just assume that the violation had something to do with how goatherds are employed, but you wouldn’t be a very good composition teacher if you went around assuming you knew what the writers meant. I know I warned my students that I was likely to deliberately misread anything they wrote every chance I got.

  33. CSK says:


    Apparently because it’s one of the Western things that threaten Hindu culture.

  34. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: Well yes, but why? Is it because

    The validity of the public debt of the United States… shall not be questioned.


    No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.


    But when the right to vote at any election… is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State…or in any way abridged… representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion…


    No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who… shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.

    ? Or is it some combination? Voters need to know.

  35. CSK says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Birthright citizenship.

  36. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Neil Hudelson: Cool, the reviews I read intrigued me, said they didn’t take themselves to serious. I only played DnD once, and to be honest I got bored with it after the 2nd or 3rd round. The other game players eventually killed off my character because I was becoming to powerful. 🙁

  37. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @CSK: It was a sort of “GUFFAW!” moment for me. I’m sure it was no accident.

  38. Jay L Gischer says:

    Fun fact: National governments cannot go bankrupt. Because bankruptcy is a civil, court proceeding where the entity involved is dismantled and its assets sold off. Of course, he’s speaking figuratively, so I get it. States can’t go bankrupt either. Both states and national governments can default on loans, though.

    Of course, if the National government were to default on a loan because of the debt limit, whose fault would that be?

    I recall maybe 10 years back, during the Great Recession, California finances were not looking great, and some chest thumper asserted that CA would be bankrupt within 5 years. This was very dumb, because it can’t be bankrupt. The suggestion was made by David Brin that a bet was in order, but one might ask what’s the operationally defined event that determines the bet? A loan being declared in default? Failure to make one payment?

    The guy making the claim disappeared, and I wouldn’t have trusted him to pay up.

    But a bet is a great way to focus someone you actually know. As long as you can agree on terms.

  39. Kathy says:


    Apparently it’s one of John Eastman’s ideas. According to a piece in Axios from 2018:

    He says the line “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” refers to people with full, political allegiance to the U.S. — such as green card holders and citizens.

    The relevant clause in the Constitution is: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

    Now, subject to the jurisdiction of the US, means that the laws and regulations of the country apply to you, and nothing else. This is as close to a universal legal principle as there exists. And this applies to all people who enter a country, regardless of how they entered it. The one exception are diplomats and whoever gets granted diplomatic immunity*.

    A legal ruling stating that illegal immigrants, legal immigrants, and people who enter the country on a valid visa of any kind, are not under the jurisdiction of the United States, would have results so fascinating to watch, that global popcorn reserves would be exhausted.

    *Usually children and spouses of diplomats, plus support embassy/consulate staff not hired locally. Also visiting government officials, particularly heads of state, and their staff.

  40. Jay L Gischer says:

    I agree that the tone of Honor Among Thieves was well suited to the hobby of tabletop roleplaying. I enjoyed it. I think my favorite bit was all the portal tricks. Some badass combat, too.

    If you want to know more of what the hobby is about, I recommend a very, very indy film called The Gamers: Dorkness Rising

    This film switches between action in the play world, and action in the normal world, and looks at how these thing interact and play out. It is a reasonable take on how the hobby actually works. It can be pretty inside baseball with some of the jokes, but I think one can mostly follow what’s going on.

  41. Kathy says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    Can a national or state/province government go broke? That is, get to a state where they have no money, or at least no money anyone else would accept as money.

    History points to a clue.

    Diocletian faced ruinous inflation in Rome just past the crisis of the 3rd century. The coinage was so devalued by lack of silver content, that nobody wanted it (or close to no one). Being emperor in a difficult time requires a strong army. Roman armies that don’t get paid tend to behead the emperor. So Diocletian paid his troops, and many others, in kind. Cloth, shoes, food, wine, salt, etc. He could also send the army to requisition such things.

    It would be really hard, then, for a state to go broke. At least as long as the army or police hold together long enough to take goods from the populace in extreme cases.

  42. CSK says:

    Trump plans to issue an executive order banning birthright citizenship.

  43. Jay L Gischer says:

    @Kathy: Agreed. I think.

  44. Gustopher says:

    @Kathy: Making illegal aliens not subject to the laws of the US, and allowing them to go on unchecked killing sprees is bad policy. I guess they would be extralegal aliens at that point, existing outside of the law.

    Eastman isn’t just bad at lawyering, but thinking through the implications of his own proposals. One of the problems with Trumpworld is just how bad at their jobs everyone in it is.

    A better approach might be to cede/lease/lend the territory that the undocumented immigrant is taking up to their home country while they are occupying it, and pass laws criminalizing various normally criminal actions that reach across the border (those laws may exist already, I have no idea what happens if a Canadian shoots a gun in Canada and kills an American in America).

    I expect there will be all sorts of jurisdictional disputes, and people would need to test whether local law enforcement can seize someone on this temporarily foreign territory, but with a narrow enough definition, we could say that they aren’t putting handcuffs on someone in foreign territory, but rather that they are putting handcuffs around foreign territory.

    Now when an undocumented immigrant gives birth, the baby never leaves foreign territory and thus never sets foot in America, so is not a citizen. And it allows legal judgments that are so complicated and obtuse that they can be decided on bizarre technical grounds involving land use and border disputes to maintain the fiction of constitutionality.

    I think it would get at least 4 votes on the Supreme Court, but potentially the 5 needed.

  45. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I’m just gonna drop this here and then go back to work.

    Deb @DontCallMeDebby
    This may not be the sweetest thing you’ll see today but, it’s up there.

  46. CSK says:


    That’s a real spirit-lifter.

  47. grumpy realist says:

    more info about the whole “I used GPT to write my legal papers”

    Speaking as a lawyer, I…just…can’t….

    I suspect that this is a case that will be used for many years in CLE classes.

  48. Michael Cain says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    I recall maybe 10 years back, during the Great Recession, California finances were not looking great, and some chest thumper asserted that CA would be bankrupt within 5 years.

    The same people were asserting that CA state bonds would be in default. Clearly, they had not read the state constitution. Unlike the US federal government, where there’s no written guidance about who gets paid first, the CA constitution is clear: first is the state’s obligation to K-12 education, then to bond holders, and everything else comes after that. Paychecks may have stopped. Contractors might not get paid. But the bonds weren’t at risk at all. IIRC, the state controller had to threaten to sue to get the talking heads to shut up.

  49. Kathy says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Maybe ChatGPT is data-mining parallel universes? 😉

    On a more serious, but also more ironic, question: can the plaintiff sue his lawyers for malpractice?

  50. Kathy says:


    Eastman isn’t just bad at lawyering, but thinking through the implications of his own proposals.

    The consequences of Eastman’s proposal are so vast, I can’t even begin to contemplate them all.

    One of the problems with Trumpworld is just how bad at their jobs everyone in it is.

    That’s because narcissists don’t care to employ people smarter or more competent than they are. This might not be a big issue for a genius narcissist, but it’s definitely one for the Orange Moron.

  51. Gustopher says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    I recall maybe 10 years back, during the Great Recession, California finances were not looking great, and some chest thumper asserted that CA would be bankrupt within 5 years. This was very dumb, because it can’t be bankrupt.

    I think that was before the California Republicans were irrelevant. California is now able to actually set tax rates to be sustainable with spending.

    There are lots of problems that California has, but revenue and Republicans are pretty low on the list.

    (And a lot of the problems California does have are national problems. Show me a significant city that doesn’t have a housing affordability crisis. A lot of rural areas have a similar crisis but it’s just spread out geographically enough that you don’t see a gathering of homeless people in any one area)

  52. Just nutha ignint cracker says:


    I sometimes wonder if he knew there was no reason to lock Hillary up, but chanting it was a big hit with the MAGA mobs at his rallies.

    This looks to me like another “why?” situation. I mean, why wonder about that ever? Whether he understood or not, the motivation for chanting it is the same.

  53. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Mu Yixiao: This is really bad. How are people going to blame Evangelicals for this? 🙁

  54. dazedandconfused says:

    Tara Reade moves to Russia and applies for citizenship.

    I would guess she felt her cover was blown or teetering on the brink.

  55. Mister Bluster says:

    CNN is reporting that the House has passed the bill to suspend debt limit.

  56. Kathy says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    Mitch is spinning the vote as a victory for the GQP, because they forced Biden to negotiate.

    Yeah, Kevin totally pummeled Biden’s fists with his eye.

  57. Jax says:

    @Kathy: I’m so confused….they all say Biden has dementia, but now they’re complaining because he outsmarted them? 😛 😛

  58. Kathy says:


    They’re trying very very hard to pretend he didn’t.

    BTW, apparently Benito the Cheeto was caught on tape on the matter of the classified documents he stole from the White House.

  59. Mister Bluster says:


    Mitch and his Republican Rangers can say what they want. They will never get my vote.
    If for some reason this falls through and my Social Security deposit is not in my bank account on the second Wednesday in June I’ll just tell the electric company and the water utility that the Republican Congress doesn’t have to pay the country’s bills so I should not have to pay mine.
    Do you think that they will go for it?

  60. grumpy realist says:

    @Kathy: I would jolly hope that the client sues them for legal malpractice!

    The two lawyers involved couldn’t even take the time to check Lexis-Nexis or Westlaw to see if the cases quoted were extant and legit. Heck, they couldn’t even be bothered to try a Google search!