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. MarkedMan says:

    Yesterday after Emmers withdrew I commented here that the moderates would inevitably cave. And then in a friends chat group I said that I said I would give odds that they wouldn’t last the night. Two and a half hours later the Repubs chose a rabid conservative blessed by Gaetz. I wish someone would have taken my bet!

    Of course, there were 22 absences for the roll call vote that unanimously approved the pick, so there is some chance “moderates” will grow a spine.

    I kid! I kid! There is no chance a “moderate” Republican will grow a spine!

  2. Tony W says:

    I predict that at the close of business today, the House will still not have a speaker.

    You heard it here first.

  3. wr says:

    Sad to see that Richard Roundtree died. Had a very nice lunch with him decades ago when I was courting him to star as Blade in a script my partner and I had written for New World Pictures. He was funny, personable, and eager to play the role. Alas, 1987 market crash pretty much wiped New World out, and the film never went forward…

  4. MarkedMan says:

    @Tony W: Just to be clear, you are saying the Republican moderates will grow a spine? Care to bet a (virtual) beer on that?

  5. drj says:

    Israel wants to “teach the UN a lesson.”

    Israel says it is banning United Nations representatives from visiting the country “to teach them a lesson” after the UN secretary general, António Guterres, said the 7 October attacks by Hamas had to be seen in the context of decades of occupation of the Palestinian people.

    Guterres’ remarks:

    I have condemned unequivocally the horrifying and unprecedented 7 October acts of terror by Hamas in Israel.

    Nothing can justify the deliberate killing, injuring and kidnapping of civilians – or the launching of rockets against civilian targets.

    All hostages must be treated humanely and released immediately and without conditions. I respectfully note the presence among us of members of their families.

    It is important to also recognize the attacks by Hamas did not happen in a vacuum.

    The Palestinian people have been subjected to 56 years of suffocating occupation.

    They have seen their land steadily devoured by settlements and plagued by violence; their economy stifled; their people displaced and their homes demolished. Their hopes for a political solution to their plight have been vanishing.

    Israel’s UN ambassador said these remarks amounted to blood libel.

  6. Scott says:

    @drj: What is astounding is that either side thinks any statement is helpful.

  7. MarkedMan says:

    @Scott: This is literally the role of the UN. Saying “This is not the time to bring up legitimate Palestinian grievances” is the equivalent is “This is not the time to talk about gun legislation” after a school shooting.

  8. Tony W says:

    @MarkedMan: Nah, I’m just saying that there will be 5 or more holdouts for varying reasons.

    We do need a pool on who’s up next for humiliation

  9. MarkedMan says:

    @Tony W: Gates is claiming total victory and that all the turmoil was worth it in order to get the peerless Johnson. So it sounds like the loons have gotten what they wanted. The five holdouts would have to come from outside, and I just don’t believe more than a couple have any cahones at all, much less enough to stand up against Trump and the entire Republican Party. The most, the very most I would expect to go against him is 3.

    I would celebrate being wrong about this.

  10. MarkedMan says:

    Looks like the Mark Meadows has flipped news was a bit overblown. It turns out that back in March he was given limited immunity for Grand Jury testimony, which prevented him from taking the fifth. He didn’t testify willingly. It explains why he didn’t get the same immunity in the Georgia case, which has long puzzled pundits.

  11. Jay L Gischer says:

    If Matt Gaetz is declaring victory, I simply don’t believe him. Remember how Jordan was a done deal?

  12. Kathy says:

    I’m reading How to Invent Everything, by Ryan North. Essentially he briefly details how to invent all sorts of techniques and technologies to develop a civilization (the book is supposed to be a guide for stranded time travelers). It’s a humorous but informative book, a bit along the lines of Randall Munroe’s work.

    One thing North keeps harping about is how obvious some developments are, how the know-how and materials were on hand, and how embarrassing it is that humans took so long to get to them.

    Delving into all that for every development would take a very long book as well. But one thing I’ve often wondered is why the printing press took so long to come around.

    Item, coinage goes back to around the 600s BCE. That long ago people knew to make a reverse image, a negative if you will, of text and pictures that could be struck on metal. That’s the basic principle of print. Ink existed, as did several writing materials like parchment and papyrus. The means to make paper also existed, though no one thought to do so.

    I’ve read some speculation about why the printing press didn’t come about in Greece or Rome or Egypt. Some are cultural, some are technological, some are a mix. I don’t think it’s possible to determine why something that might have happened didn’t. I just sometimes marvel in frustration that this one thing took a long time to come about.

  13. Slugger says:

    @Kathy: Perhaps the (perceived) absence of demand led to the limit of supply. When the majority of people were illiterate, there seemed to be little reason to develop a mass of low priced books. Books were a luxury item catering to a small elite that could afford illuminated scrolls. For many of the buyers of handwritten books on vellum, they were Veblen goods that showed the patrons wealth and position. I suspect that some rich prince in late medieval Europe didn’t actually spend much time reading the books that he owned. For correspondence and contracts, a few pages produced by scribes were sufficient. Ordinary people didn’t get letters from far away.

  14. gVOR10 says:

    @Kathy: The WIKI article on the Gutenberg press mentions loans and problems with lenders. One factor in delaying invention likely was that labor was cheap and capital was scarce. I sometimes feel the field of Economics has yet to adapt to our modern world of abundant and relatively cheap capital. Chart. Capital was the choke point for so long.

    @Slugger: mentions demand. Gutenberg’s big project was his Bible. There would have been little demand for a Bible before the Reformation opened up a lay market.

  15. MarkedMan says:

    @Kathy: I wonder how much of that had to do with how few people read? And of the ones who did, was it primarily bookkeepers and other record keepers, i.e. people creating and reading one-off documents? The success of the printing press implies a market for many copies of the same work.

  16. MarkedMan says:


    There would have been little demand for a Bible before the Reformation opened up a lay market

    I’m sure the monk scribes were generating bibles that were of real use, but my impression was that they served larger purposes. First, a very important part of their production was high end, one of a kind, illuminated bibles for the prestige market. I believe I read somewhere that these were not sold, as such, but rather produced on demand and the recipient would sponsor the monastery to do so. Which brings up the other important purpose: as a way to accumulate power (“I am a bishop/cardinal/pope with this many monks under me”) and prestige (“I am so wealthy I sponsor 50 monks at St. Bernards to create bibles”)

  17. DK says:


    Just to be clear, you are saying the Republican moderates will grow a spine?

    Ah, I see, it’s a trick question. Republican moderates don’t actually exist anymore.

    Good one.

  18. Mister Bluster says:

    @wr:..Richard Roundtree

    An alumnus of my alma mater. Southern Illinois University.

  19. just nutha says:

    @MarkedMan: @Jay L Gischer: As I noted at the other post, Johnson only got 124 or so votes in the caucus vote. Draw your favorite conclusion.

  20. just nutha says:

    @Kathy: Who wanted/needed mass quantities of books? Or even multiple copies? Scribes were efficient enough, and comparative advantage production as an idea was even later than printing.

    ETA: Late again, I see.

  21. Kathy says:


    All of that gets brought up under cultural reasons why not.

    But I wonder about the demand for written material that was not books, as well as the literacy or semi-literacy rates.

    Specifically in cities, a lot of people engaged in commerce and manufacturing kept accounts. Many must have used scribes, but knowing how to read their own accounts would be to their benefit. so I propose many such people could read, or at least enough to track where their money came from and where it went.

    As to demand, it’s less obvious. In addition to books, one can print notices and short tracts on sheets and post them all over a city. Handbills and posters like these were the mainstay of the early printing industry, not books.

    No one seems to have thought of it sooner.

  22. gVOR10 says:

    I see the “moderate” Republicans have caved and unanimously elected MAGA Johnson Speaker. And speaking of feckless Republicans, Political Wire links to a David Corn piece on Mitt Romney. Corn originally broke the 47% recording so he was curious to see what was said about it in Romney’s new kiss-and-tell book.

    He could barely eat during the day and struggled to sleep at night, even after popping a Lunesta. He couldn’t even bring himself to listen to music in his hotel room—“just too sick at heart,” he wrote. When he tried to concentrate on briefing materials, his mind would drift toward the self-inflicted damage he had done to his campaign, and to all the people he had failed. To take his mind off it, he rode the elliptical at a punishing pace.

    Night after night, Romney castigated himself in his private diary. “Stupid, stupid, stupid,” he wrote.

    “Awful, shameful, sorrowful,” he wrote.

    “How I will have let so many down,” he wrote. “I can’t dwell on it—it is overwhelmingly depressing, even agonizing. I am so, so very sorry.”

    I’ll take the idea he was disappointed that he’d hurt anyone but himself with a grain of salt, but I’ll accept he felt bad for himself. He was really depressed it happened, that he got caught saying what he said. He was sad it hurt his chances. But at no point in the excerpts Corn quotes does Romney seem to have any clue why everybody was so pissed about it. I still love the irony that in the end he got 47% of the vote.

  23. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @gVOR10: I think it’s possible that there are 2 47% cohorts in America. And to paraphrase Warren Buffet: My 47% is kicking your 47%’s ass.

    Or should that be: THEIR 47% is kicking OUR 47%’s ass? Or even THEIR/YOUR? (Pronouns and referents matter.)

    I’ve got it! HIS 47% is kicking THE OTHER 47%’s ass. (Although that way isn’t really a paraphrase I don’t think. Maybe CSK will clarify that question.)

  24. Kathy says:

    Benito lied in court today and got away with a $10,000 fine.

    I hope the judge follows through and throws his ass in jail next time.

  25. JohnSF says:

    It’s a historical oddity that in late antiquity Bible translations into various vernaculars were pretty commonplace.
    Not to mention the original version of the Bible was in koine Greek in the first place, which continued to be the vernacular language of the urban population across much of south-east Europe and the Middle East for a long time.
    It was only the adoption of confluence of western Catholicism with a Latin tradition the western Church that gradually rendered the Latin Bible first the default, then the official, then the only permitted after the Council of Trent.
    Arguably it was the advent of Protestantism plus printing that led to the Catholic Church becoming committed to “Latin only” Bibles, on the basis of “The opposition wants that? Therefore we insist on the opposite!

  26. JohnSF says:

    If memory serves, paper is much more suited to printing than papyrus.
    And paper ownly became dominant due to the shift of the “European” cultural centre of gravity away from the European Mediterranean/ME-NA, where papyrus was the main writing material to central and northern Europe, where papyrus was hopeless as it rotted.
    So paper rapidly developed.
    Also, cheap paper (far cheaper than papyrus ever was) made vernacular literacy more useful.
    In late Medieval times literacy meant literacy in Latin.
    It seems quite likely a much large number, among the urban population, could scribble and read short bits of vernacular. And there was a sizable economic driver for vernacular literacy in urban areas in the utility of book-keeping, merchant records etc etc.

  27. Kathy says:

    @just nutha:

    I think in part I can’t shake an image from a cartoon I saw when I was 8 or 9. It shows Gutenberg carved a girl’s name on a tree, then removed the bark to show her. He wrapped the piece of bark in a cloth, and the sap from the bark left a reverse impression on the cloth.

    I don’t know whether that even happened, but the cartoon claimed this incident gave him the idea for printing. If that were all it took, this had been known for millennia. That’s why I brought up coinage as one use.

  28. Kathy says:

    Heavy elements detected in the debris of two colliding neutron stars.

    This isn’t so much interesting as relevant. conventional wisdom, in astrophysics, is that elements heavier than iron are forged in supernova explosions. Recently, though, some doubts have arisen about that. That is, supernovae do make heavier elements, just not all of them. A hypothesis holds neutron star collisions would forge the rest.

    This observation shows this is a possibility.

  29. DrDaveT says:


    conventional wisdom, in astrophysics, is that elements heavier than iron are forged in supernova explosions

    I thought we discussed this in a forum a few weeks ago, when Randall Munroe referred to this in an xkcd comic. The new conventional wisdom is that many heavy elements (including gold) can only be formed by R-process nucleogenesis, which only happens to a noticeable degree in the collisions of neutron starts. I thought that was pretty much agreed even before the most recent neutron star collision observations.

  30. Kathy says:


    It does ring a bell.

    However, it’s nice to have empirical confirmation. imagine if we saw neutron stars colliding and they produced no heavier elements? Also, rather recent science popularizations still drag the supernova explanation for everything above iron.

  31. dazedandconfused says:


    How the Plague led to cheap paper, which in turn led to the printing press.

  32. Not the IT Dept. says:

    Slaughter in Maine, possibly 2 active shooters, and up to 16 dead and up to 60 wounded. Guess what you’ll be reading about over breakfast, folks.

  33. JohnSF says:

    Woodcut printing, usually on paper, had been known in Europe since the mid-1200’s IIRC.
    Used a lot for making playing cards, apparently.