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. Jen says:

    I feel the need to draw attention to a piece @StormyDragon posted in yesterday’s open thread.

    This is absolutely bonkers:

    Oklahoma congressman threatened embassy staff as he tried to enter Afghanistan, U.S. officials say

    […] Mullin told the embassy that he planned to fly from Tblisi, Georgia, into Tajikistan’s capital, Dushanbe, in the next few hours and needed the top diplomat’s help, according to the two U.S. officials familiar with the incident, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose private conversations about a sensitive matter.

    The answer was no. Embassy officials told Mullin they could not assist him in skirting Tajikistan’s laws on cash limits on his way to visiting one of the most dangerous places on earth.

    This was his second attempt at this.

  2. Scott says:

    A creeping, pernicious individualism permeating our most self-sacrificing institutions.

    Marine Corporal Discharged over Refusal to Wear a Mask

    Marine Cpl. Whitney McHaffie refused to comply with a mask mandate and doesn’t want to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

    A month after the Defense Department’s mask mandate for unvaccinated troops went into effect, she was booted from the military, possibly making her the first service member to be forced out of the service for violating COVID-related rules.

    McHaffie, who served at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, went viral on social media after appearing in a video with Josh Mandel, a former Ohio state treasurer who is currently in his second run for the Senate. The video, in which she tells her story of being swiftly booted from the Corps for disobeying the mask mandate, had more than 400,000 views as of Tuesday morning.

    Vaccines are now mandatory for troops, but were not at the time of McHaffie’s discharge. Despite that, the amateur MMA fighter and fifth-grade teacher in Ohio sought a religious exemption for the COVID-19 vaccine that had not been resolved by the time of her discharge.

    Aided and abetted by a Senate candidate. Seeks bogus religious exemption. Elementary school teacher. So much wrong.

    And this is just bizarre:

    A Resignation and Mental Health Screening: The Unfolding Saga of the Marine Who Called Out Leadership on Afghanistan

    The story of Lt. Col. Stu Scheller, the Marine officer who posted a viral video demanding accountability from military leaders for the failures in Afghanistan, took a strange turn this week after he posted a new video Sunday in which he resigns his commission “effective immediately” and threatens to “bring the whole f—ing system down.”

    Instead of sitting in an office setting in uniform, Scheller is dressed in civilian clothes and seated in “an abandoned school bus in eastern North Carolina” with a chessboard set up in the foreground. The video also has a darker tone, with Scheller less focused on calls for accountability and instead making declarations, often shouting, about his career and Marine leadership.

    Scheller claims that, in exchange for his silence, he could have spent three years at another posting until he was eligible for retirement.

    It may be just mental illness but then again, our whole country seems to be undergoing mass psychosis.

  3. Sleeping Dog says:

    Reality with consequences is beginning to encroach on vax deniers.

    The hot rumor in NE is that Belichick cut Newton and possibly others who weren’t vaxxed to avoid disruption during the season, while in Jacksonville, Urban Meyer acknowledged that vax status did play a role in his decisions. It’s doubtful that Bill the sphinx will ever say that vax status played a role in his decisions, as he generally will say nothing.

    Meanwhile over in the Fens, the Red Sox have a quarter of the team on the Covid restricted list, which will destroy whatever playoff hopes they have. The Sox have the lowest vax rate among all the teams and have been dodging this bullet all season. Peter Abraham a Globe columnist and baseball beat writer opined;

    You can’t blame Bloom. Vaccines weren’t yet available when the Red Sox put together their roster before spring training. It wasn’t until March when players became eligible.

    But that won’t be the case in 2022. Talent is useless without reliability and executives will have to decide whether it makes sense to sign or trade for a player who won’t get vaccinated.
    But teams also have choices and at some point, unvaccinated players shouldn’t expect their roster spot will be waiting. Ask the Red Sox how that worked out.

    It would be reasonable to assume that Abraham, tried that thought out on a baseball executive or two.

  4. Scott says:

    Tales from the Pandemic.

    My son works as a lab technician in a drug clinical trials firm. Subjects get paid money to ingest new drugs in various phases of drug testing. Several won’t get vaccinated because vaccines are experimental.

    Connally Junior High to close after second teacher dies of COVID-19

    Connally Independent School District is mourning the second Connally Junior High death from COVID-19 in one week and is closing the campus for the rest of the week starting Tuesday.

    Natalia Chansler, a sixth-grade social studies teacher who had joined the district in the 2020-21 school year, died on Saturday, said Jill Bottelberghe, assistant superintendent of human resources.

    Odd that the article did not mention vaccination status.

    New COVID cases in our school district (60K students). School started 16 Aug. Week ending:

    29 Aug 409
    22 Aug 291
    15 Aug 122
    8 Aug 30

  5. HarvardLaw92 says:


    Having willingly abandoned his pension, and seemingly denied himself any sort of lump sum separation payment by virtue of having refused to serve in the ready reserve post separation as well, pretty much the only conclusion I can come to about his behavior now is that he has decided to identify right wing media orgs as his hopeful new employer. Short version: he’s trashed his military career, but that’s ok. He wants to work for Fox now.

  6. Kathy says:

    Rebecca Watson on Ivermectin, and why one fake study is not a good enough reason to remain unvaccinated.

    Even if ivermectin were a cure for COVID, vaccines would still be preferable. Why treat something you can prevent?

  7. MarkedMan says:

    I’ve been AFK for the past ten days or so, and still am, writing this from the deck of a cabin overlooking a lake in the Adirondacks. But the vagaries of WiFi up at the big house on the top of the hill seem to have given me one bar of signal this morning and I’ll take advantage before it goes away.

    In the debate over intelligence in rural vs. urban areas I found myself initially agreeing with Michael but more and more moving to Andy’s point of view. I think a couple of things cloud the issue. First, ambition seemed to be elided with intelligence but I don’t think those are the same things at all. I don’t think they even have much of an overlap. And, yes, ambitious people are more likely to move from a rural area to an urban area to pursue opportunity, but that’s because a) ambitious people in general are more likely to move for an opportunity regardless of where they were raised, and b) opportunities are more likely to be found in the bigger urban areas. The net effect is fewer people in rural areas motivated primarily by ambition, and not automatically reflective of intelligence.

    As to the disparity in educational attainment, I think it is entirely possible it could also be a reflection of opportunity. I’m currently in a rural area. The nearest university is more than an hour and a half away through winding mountain roads and, while it is a good state school, you’ve probably never heard from it. I think there is a community college within the park, but that is one in 4 million acres. Where I grew up on the South Side of Chicago there was a University within walking distance and dozens within an hours commute by public transportation, all of which had night courses for those earning a degree while working. When I think about my high school classmates I really have to wonder how many would have got their Associates or Bachelors if they had to drive an hour or more in snowstorms to attend class…

  8. KM says:

    It’s not mass psychosis but rather the understanding that yes, they are asshats deep inside. Most people like to think of themselves as “good people” and have a protagonist-centered morality as their norm (“it’s OK if I do it because….”). What the last few years has revealed is so many of these people fail to live up to standard morality scales and basic social norms, making them the “bad guys”. Their choices are actively making the world a worse place and killing people. There’s something wrong with them deep inside that needs to be addressed but you know what, reflection is hard and self-awareness isn’t most people’s strength. They can’t handle being the “bad guy” to the world at large and it’s having a negative impact on their psyche. The truth hurts and so they pick the lie.

    One aspect of psychology that anti-vaxxers are bumping up against is the death of a family member from a preventable disease. How do you mentally reconcile that a loved one is gone forever because they didn’t do one simple thing? How can you live with the guilt of knowing they’d still be alive if you’d worn a mask or gotten the shot? The mind shies away from such things and thus present alternate scenario where it’s not your fault they are dead. Now multiple that by tens of thousands and they’d rather stick with the lie that kills them then live in a world where they are willing and cheerful murderers of fellow citizens, including their beloved.

    The Marines in question bought the lie and it cost them dearly. How do you reconcile putting in all those years only to burn it to the ground at the very end? They go on right-wing media hoping for someone to back them or a groundswell to get them reinstated but it’s not gonna happen. They picked the wrong foxhole and now they’re exposed – the consequences of their actions are pressing down so they have to lash out rather than accept they ruined their lives over nothing.

  9. Jax says:

    We had a blessed 4 four hours on Sunday morning where the smoke cleared from our mountains. Luckily, I was up there with the drone! As you can see to the East, they only cleared off one range, not the larger mountain range hiding behind the smoke in that direction. The smoke rolled back in by noon, and we haven’t seen the mountains on either side since then. 😐

  10. keef says:
  11. Monala says:

    @KM: there’s a recent story about an unvaccinated nurse who caught Covid and brought it home to her elderly unvaccinated parents. The parents died. In the article, the nurse kept saying, “People keep trying to make me feel guilty and say this is my fault.”

  12. Kathy says:

    Imagine the following:

    One fine day while mapping the galaxy in our faster than light (FTL) ship, about the size of an Aegis cruiser, you run across a binary star system (a yellow star and an orange one) where you spot three ships in a stable orbit around the yellow star.

    The ships are huge, hollowed out asteroids that look like cylinders with tapered ends (like a lozenge). On one end they have a cluster of effing huge engines (your ship could comfortably fit in a nozzle). The ships rotate to provide internal artificial gravity. Analysis suggests the ships traveled sub-light for thousands of years, and may have been in the binary system for thousands more.

    You enter one and find thousands of villas among gardens meticulously maintained by armies of robots. There are trees, shrubs, streams, ponds, fountains, paths, and many copies of the same statue. Inside the villas you find them to be alien versions of comfortable homes of wealthy people. There are many furnished rooms, libraries, pools, bathrooms, kitchens, clothes, appliances, etc. In what would be bedrooms, though, you find dead aliens preserved inside glass coffins filled with some clear fluid. Some bedrooms have couples, others just one dead alien.

    The second ship is more of the same. The third, though, is different. There is only one villa at the opposite end of the ship’s entrance airlock. One garden surrounds it. the rest are very tall buildings, each with thousands of rooms per floor as big as a gym locker. Inside each there is a plastic bag with ashes, and some clothes and jewelry. There are literally billions of these lockers.

    Does this sound interesting?

  13. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Dude, if you are reading that garbage you linked to, it’s no wonder you are so fuq’d in the head.
    What’s the IT saying? Garbage in, garbage out?

  14. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    I seriously do not understand why the Supreme Court allowing Texas to effectively overturn Roe, is not getting more attention.
    To me, and all-out assault on women’s rights is much more important than anything else happening today.
    Texas has enacted a law, restricting women’s reproductive rights, far stricter than any anti-terrorism law on the books.
    Let’s call it the Susan Collins Reproductive Rights Repeal Act.

  15. reid says:

    @Kathy: Becuz there’s no cure for the vaccine!!!2!!

    I don’t know.

  16. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    Well, the overturning of Roe has been an fait accompli since Garland’s rejection, those who care have likely moved on to preparing defenses of the right to choose at the state level.

  17. Kathy says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    I don’t see how the lawsuit provision can stand, given the plaintiffs would have no intrinsic standing to bring suit. How is my neighbor harmed by a Ob-Gyn if I get an abortion?

  18. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:
    If I were a woman living in Texas, I would refuse to fuq until this travesty is repealed.

  19. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:
    No exceptions for rape or incest.
    If an Uber driver takes a woman to a clinic, they can be charged.

  20. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:
    A fetus at 6 weeks is the size of a lentil.

  21. Flat Earth Luddite says:

    Kathy, Kathy, Kathy, don’t you know that in their minds, “your neighbor” is horrendously and permanently scarred because you have ruined forever their ability to control your life, and prohibited them from looking down on the child they’d ignore and/or despise once born.

  22. a country lawyer says:

    @Kathy: The statute grants standing. The issue is whether standing can be created in this fashion. The Court may have justified refusing to step in under the theory that until a complaint under the statute is filed there is no case or controversy. That, in my opinion, is pretty thin reasoning. This Court is looking for a reason to overturn Roe and this was a simple and cowardly way to do it.

  23. Beth says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    Oh, don’t worry, this is just the first hellish step. Up next is Griswold and then stuff gets real wild. As soon as they are confident Roe falls the next step is to criminalize birth control. After that, nothing like a little making Trans people illegal.

    Also, I’m waiting on the right-wing religious exemptions for all anti-discrimination laws.

  24. Jen says:

    @a country lawyer: This is my guess as well.

    I’m not surprised.

    I’m sure Sen. Collins is Very Concerned.

  25. gVOR08 says:

    @Beth: First they’ll try to ban abortion nationwide, Their commitment to states rights is transactional.

  26. Gustopher says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: There’s a very simple workaround for women in Texas who wish to have a healthy sex life, but are unable or unwilling to risk becoming a parent in the event of contraceptive failure: lesbianism.

    I know, some people don’t think they’re wired that way, but they should give it a try to make sure. (This might be a spot where my more fluid sexuality makes me less understanding)

    Vasectomy passports could also be a thing.

    I really have never understood why any woman who wants the option of having an abortion would sleep with a Republican — they’re actively working against your interests and your autonomy.

  27. Kathy says:

    As expensive as college has gotten, it still seems poor compensation for athletes who find they must focus on their sport rather than studies.

    High time to pay them a regular salary in addition. Also, if sport takes so much time and dedication, let them pursue a degree under scholarship after their athletic career is done, if they so desire.

    Else, well, if amateurism is so good and noble, then coaches shouldn’t be paid, either, and income from tickets, concessions, merchandising, and TV should only cover the minimal expenses the schools incur in to make football and basketball available.

  28. Kathy says:

    @a country lawyer:

    I just don’t see how you can have standing to sue without direct harm. Morally the world should be able to sue the Sacklers for the harm they’ve inflicted. legally, not so much.

    BTW, this would be a good time for Mexican states along the border, Tamaulipas, Coahuila, and Chihuahua, to legalize abortion and set up clinics near the crossing points.

  29. Mu Yixiao says:


    High time to pay them a regular salary in addition


    In college, I got really pissed off seeing athletes get a free ride–while having a 3rd-grade reading level. There are plenty of deserving students who could have used those scholarships and actually gotten an education–or even just that seat in the classroom.

    Separate sports from education. Pay the athletes to play in a minor league.

    I have zero issue with athletes getting paid. I have a lot of issues with that meaning students who actually want to learn losing out.

    Traditionally, football and basketball are the biggest earners. Even so, in 2019, just 68 of 351 Division I men’s basketball programs generated more revenue than expenses. And in 2016, the most recent year the NCAA published figures for football, 73 of 252 Division I teams earned more than they spent.

  30. Mister Bluster says:

    @keef:..Must be why I made so much money in NYork doing NYorky things.

    Let’s see your tax returns.

  31. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kathy: What’s the old saying? “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

  32. wr says:

    @Mu Yixiao: “I have zero issue with athletes getting paid. I have a lot of issues with that meaning students who actually want to learn losing out.”

    It’s not like the real students are actually seeing the money football brings in — it goes back to football. You thing tuition covers multiple ten million dollar coaching salaries?

    Pay the student athletes out of the money their work brings in, just like professional athletes.

  33. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @KM: They can’t handle being the “bad guy” to the world at large and it’s having a negative impact on their psyche. The truth hurts and so they pick the lie.

    This is where religious belief comes in handy. “God has a plan” is the one size fits all blame deflector.

  34. Jen says:

    The Just the News site keef is referencing is a product of John Solomon, someone with such unreliable sourcing that Fox News parted ways with him. He’s a conspiracy theory loon.

  35. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Mister Bluster: They’re under audit.

  36. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Jen: He’s a conspiracy theory loon.

    In other words, a perfect fit for keef.

  37. Mu Yixiao says:


    Pay the student athletes out of the money their work brings in, just like professional athletes.

    Except most of them are already operating at a loss–paid for out of University funds.

  38. Mister Bluster says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:..They’re under audit.

    Gotta’ wonder if NYorky things include beating contractors out of their compensation.

  39. Kathy says:


    I’d expect the military to get pandemic precautions and mitigation measures, as they train to use weapons safely and to deal with threats.

    An unvaccinated, unmasked person is akin to a soldier walking around carelessly waving a loaded gun without the safety engaged and your finger on the trigger. Maybe no one will get hit when the weapon inevitably fires in no particular direction, maybe there will be mass murder. It’s not something you expect soldiers or marines to do.

    Besides, part of the job is to follow orders even when they carry a high risk of death or injury. Apparently this doesn’t hold when the purpose of orders is to increase ones personal safety against disease?

    I’d get military personnel declining to be exposed to COVID without PPE, just as they may object to go into battle without body armor and a helmet. But not the reverse.

  40. Mu Yixiao says:
  41. Jen says:

    @Mu Yixiao: That 5G chip would fit perfectly in a horse deworming pill.

    Just sayin’.

  42. mattbernius says:


    John Solomon, someone with such unreliable sourcing that Fox News parted ways with him.

    Not to mention The Hill as well-which did an entire investigation into his “journalism” and found that his sourcing was intentionally dissembling:

    He’s long since become a political and partisan hack. Which makes him the prefect type of “reporter” for Captain Confirmation Bias.

  43. Mu Yixiao says:


    If I started a conspiracy theory that swallowing a cow magnet would disable the 5G chip and make them invisible to satellite tracking*… Any bets on how many would try it?

    * I’d need a couple days to set up my cow magnet store online, first. (For you city folk who’ve never seen a cow magnet)

  44. Mu Yixiao says:

    Top FDA regulators resign over booster plan.

    Two top vaccine regulators have resigned from the Food and Drug Administration, revealing anger, frustration, and turmoil at the federal agency as it faces intensifying pressure to authorize COVID-19 vaccine booster shots and doses for children under the age of 12.

    The two regulators leaving are Marion Gruber, director of the FDA’s Office of Vaccines Research and Review (OVRR), and OVRR Deputy Director Phil Krause. Gruber has been with the FDA for more than 30 years, and Krause has been at the agency for more than a decade.

  45. Kathy says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    Hardware Disease sounds more like something that would befall one’s laptop.

  46. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @Kathy: Yes, it does sound fascinating. If I had any talent for writing science fiction, I’d be tempted to give it a go.

  47. dazedandconfused says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    I wouldn’t trust that. A couple people left but the cite for the reason why was hearsay.

    A former senior FDA leader told Endpoints that they’re departing because they’re frustrated that CDC and their ACIP committee are involved in decisions that they think should be up to the FDA. The former FDAer also said he’s heard they’re upset with CBER director Peter Marks for not insisting that those decisions should be kept inside FDA. What finally did it for them was the White House getting ahead of FDA on booster shots.

    Somebody didn’t want their name associated with that opinion of why they left. A lot of Trump’s appointees are now “former officials”. Let’s see what the two people who left say.

  48. Jen says:

    @Mu Yixiao: If the reporting is accurate, the headline is a tiny bit off.

    Per the article:

    Their resignations, first reported by pharmaceutical trade publication BioCentury, were apparently sparked by frustration that the Biden administration had overstepped the FDA in announcing plans to offer COVID-19 booster shots beginning on September 20.

    So, did they resign over the booster plan itself (per the headline), or because the Biden Administration overstepped by making the announcement?

    Boosters have been demonstrated to be efficacious and are recommended for the most vulnerable already (my medically fragile MIL has already received hers). While I understand that we need to get the totally unvaccinated vaccinated to get past this pandemic should be the priority, I don’t think that it’s something worth resigning over.

    As a number of comments note, how do you suffer through the previous administration’s nuttiness and then decide this is the line in the sand?

  49. Kathy says:


    If I ever manage to get it done, I’ll let you know.

  50. Michael Cain says:

    @Jen: I assume they’re pissed off the obvious has happened — as soon as the FDA approved the Pfizer vaccine, off-label comes into play and everyone is going to recommend their most vulnerable patients get a second/third dose under off-label, bypassing the FDA. That they would prefer to have Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna file data and an application for either full approval or at least an EUA on boosters. I don’t know that it’s normal for the CDC to recommend off-label uses.

  51. EddieInCA says:

    The market is going to see to it that people get vaxxed… or suffer the consequences.

    Data point one: New England Patriots cut Cam Newton yesterday, who, two weeks ago, was going to be their starting quarterback for the season. Cam refused to get vaccinated, despite getting Covid previously. Bill Bellichick decided he didn’t want the distraction. I expect many more unvaxxed NFL players to be cut, and not get picked up by other teams.

    Data point two: Warner Media has given television series they produce the option of mandating vaccinations for their cast. Several shows have done so. Several actors are refusing, and the studio is in the midst of recasting their roles.

    Data point three: MLB has banned John Smoltz and Al Leiter, both former MLB pitchers, from the their offices and studio due to being unvaxxed. They’ll be able to work remotely, but my guess is that when those contracts come up for renewal, it’s going to be buh-bye.

    Data point four: Look at this list of companies mandating vaccines now:

    Companies are tired of the BS. Without healthy employees, they can’t sell widgets. Widgets need to be sold.

  52. Kathy says:

    @Michael Cain:

    The rules are, and should be, different in emergencies. The trump pandemic is most definitely an emergency, especially now with the delta variant.

    So, there are a number of breakthrough infections in those fully vaccinated. We know antibodies peak at some point after the second shot, and then begin to diminish (this is perfectly normal). It makes sense to recommend a booster if it does indeed increase antibody levels. It does seem to do just that.

    This is a gross oversimplification, and I’m sure I’m leaving out a bunch of facts and details. But that is the gist of the current problem.

    In addition there are two other major issues:

    One is that large numbers of people are not yet vaccinated (excluding children under 12 not yet elegible for the shots), and won’t take full precautions or cooperate in mitigation measures. It’s possible the number of new cases, not just breakthrough ones, would be far lower if more people were vaccinated and took all known protective measures. Two countries with higher rates of vaccination, the UK and Israel, are also seeing surges in case numbers, though it bears saying they’ve dropped some measures like keeping schools closed, capacity restrictions, etc. Both countries are also authorizing a third dose of Pfizer.

    The other problem is that many countries lag well behind even the US in vaccinations, largely for a lack of vaccine doses. It may be true that 100 million extra shots wouldn’t help much when billions are required, but it certainly won’t hurt the situation. It’s also true many rural areas in low income countries may not be capable of handling the low temperatures required by the mRNA vaccines, but the urban areas are more than capable even in the poorest countries.

    Posterity better pay attention. We’re giving a master class in how not to handle a pandemic and mass vaccinations.

  53. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Mu Yixiao: Maybe when they develop the oral vaccine?

  54. Michael Reynolds says:

    It’s a good premise. Strong premise. Some practical, unsolicited advice:

    Science fiction has one over-arching problem: exposition. There are basically two approaches. You can leap in with absolute minimum exposition, inserting it in small bites, and hope the reader catches on. Or you can dump. You can try to disguise the dump, but it’ll still be a dump.

    It’s the need for world-building exposition that tends to crowd out character. You don’t want that to happen because a reader might enjoy your book for the ideas alone, but if you want them back again for sequels, you need to attach reader to character. Reader attachment is almost never to the author, it’s the characters they love. Think Spock, Picard, Vader.

    YMMV but I generally start by writing something that functions both as a clarifying tool for me, and as a sales tool when approaching an agent or publisher: a bible.

    My bibles start with an elevator pitch, a short cogent summary of WTF you think the point of the story is. I also include ideas as to likely audience, who’s going to read this thing.

    My bibles include maps, photos (if available) and even house layouts, anything that will help establish location. I like to know where the story takes place.

    I find photos online that help to evoke a character. The photo again is self-discipline: this is the person, this is the feel of the person. Then I come up with details. What does the character look like, talk like, move, etc… What’s on the character’s bedroom walls? What music do they like.

    Remember that characters need an interlocutor, otherwise you got no dialog, and you want dialog for all the usual reasons but also to physically create ‘white space’ on the page. A page of dense blocks of text puts people off. A page with some dialog is more open and inviting.

    So, if I have Hero I need Hero’s companion. I probably also need Hero’s nemesis and whatever you do, don’t skimp on the villain. The villain is either the most or second most important character. Of course the villain also needs dialog, so he’ll need a minion at the least.

    Hero is likely to be a bit dull, it’s almost inevitable, because that’s your Reader ID character. You want readers to attach, so you keep Hero if not likable, then at least attachable. You can have more fun with secondary characters.

    With location and characters sketched, look at person. First is the easiest for readers to engage with, but it limits your breadth, it makes your story a monofilament, 1,2,3 etc…, thing following thing. You can play with time sequences and jump back and forth, go non-linear, but that can be hard to pull off, even in First.

    Third gives you the widest range of action – you can cherry pick, bouncing gaily from high point to high point. But for most people it’s a harder write. Harder to attach to characters.

    You can try Second but everyone will hate you.

    Now, tense. Past? That’s the go-to. I wrote a trilogy in Third person present tense but it can be clunky prose-wise. And think about tone. Serious and solemn, droll and bouncy, whatever you think works.

    The plot? Well, I improvise. I have my bible semi-complete then just start writing and figure the story out as I go along. Most writers plan a bit more. The thing to remember about story is that as the author you love conflict. You don’t want easy resolutions, you want push and pull.

    All this goes in your bible which, again, helps you discipline yourself.

    The Biggest No No: never let a character act out of character. Readers will gloss over a plot hole much more easily than they will a character issue. Remember: they’ll like your ideas, they’ll like your plot, they’ll love your characters.

  55. Mister Bluster says:

    Dateline September 1, 2021
    Trump Still not the President USA

    If the pillow guy keeps selling his airplanes he just might have to hitchhike to Chump’s next inauguration.
    Mike Lindell’s meltdown begins: He recently sold a MyPillow plane to fund Dominion lawsuit
    With Dominion’s $1.3 billion lawsuit hanging over his head, records indicate that Lindell is making major personal concessions in preparation for a significant legal battle.

    I am quoting salon

  56. Kathy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Thanks for all the advice.

    I’ve all the plot figured out, start to finish. The characters, too. There are three main characters. Caroline, the ship’s cook and history enthusiast. Martin, the ship’s navigator and astrophysicist. And one other (it would be a spoiler to say anything about them). Two secondary characters. The ship’s captain, and the ship’s AI (Iris, in honor of the lesser known Greek messenger of the gods).

    Three’s no villain. It’s an exploration story (in part, more would be a spoiler). Unless time and fatigue are villains. The ship’s not equipped to explore the alien tomb ships, and it all falls on the shoulders of the cook and the navigator.

    I’ve been earned multiple times against exposition. In essence the characters will find things out at the same time the reader does, except when Caroline figures things out and blurts them out excitedly.

  57. inhumans99 says:

    Here I am reading Mike R’s interesting post on how an author might create a Bible for them to turn to in their future endeavors, and then Mister B comes along to remind me that oh yeah, Trump is supposed to be sworn in on live TV right about now, which made me chuckle.

    Someone needs to perform an intervention (which Lindell may appreciate, being an ex-drug addict, but he may also be a bit hardened against an intervention so the interventioneers will have to work hard than usual to get through to Lindell) before the guy is destitute and has to put up a go fund me page to keep a roof over his head.

    It actually makes me a bit profoundly sad that Lindell has fallen so head over heels for Trump that he is just completely oblivious to how this relationship is impacting his life. The guy did build a business from the ground up (I presume) and that is impressive, it is such a waste to go down in flames at this stage in his life.

  58. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Mister Bluster: That’s what lawyers are for.

  59. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @inhumans99: it is such a waste to go down in flames at this stage in his life.

    Than again, trump.

  60. Kathy says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    A plane as nice as a Dassault Falcon 50 deserves a better owner.

  61. Sleeping Dog says:


    The late folksinger, Jim Ringer, had a song with a chorus, “He used to take acid, but now he loves God and he still has that look in his eyes.” Lindell, has simply found a new drug of choice and like coke before, it blinds him to what he is doing to himself.

  62. mattbernius says:

    For the “something to celebrate” file, today Code for America, the organization I’m part of, in collaboration with the IRS and the Whitehouse launched a free tool to help families claim the Child Tax Credit. It’s available in both Spanish and English:

    This is the result of a lot of hard work by a small team* of dedicated individuals. We are incredibly excited about the impact it will have for families in need across the US.

    (* – I’m not on this specific team.)

  63. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Monala: Well sure but only because IT IS YOUR FAULT!!

  64. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @a country lawyer: Not a challenge, just curious, but can anyone point to a case where the Supremes ruled an act of legislation unconstitutional in the absence of a legal challenge of the act?

  65. Michael Reynolds says:


    Three’s no villain.

    Sounds like either man vs. nature in which case nature’s the villain. Or man vs. himself, in which case he’s his own enemy. Or both. Keep in mind the bigger the obstacle, the greater the jeopardy, the greater the victory.

  66. Stormy Dragon says:


    Companies are tired of the BS. Without healthy employees, they can’t sell widgets. Widgets need to be sold.

    “You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr. Beale, and I WON’T HAVE IT!”

  67. Kylopod says:


    It actually makes me a bit profoundly sad that Lindell has fallen so head over heels for Trump that he is just completely oblivious to how this relationship is impacting his life. The guy did build a business from the ground up (I presume) and that is impressive, it is such a waste to go down in flames at this stage in his life.

    This is one of those instances where I’m having trouble sussing out the tone of a comment: are you being genuinely empathic, or just snarky? Lindell is a snake-oil salesman. Always has been, always will be. The pillow company years ago was the subject of several lawsuits, including ones concerning its making unsupported claims about the pillows literally curing various ailments. And everyone seems to have forgotten his promoting oleander as a cure for Covid last year. He managed the not inconsiderable feat of making the promotion of hydroxy. and ivermectin seem sane by comparison. He’s Yakov from The Inspector General in the flesh.

  68. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Mu Yixiao: Why does anybody want to magnetize a cow?

  69. JohnSF says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    So it can get the needles out of haystacks.

  70. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    If any metal pieces end up in the pasture and the cow eats them, it sticks to the magnet, reducing the risk of them puncturing their intestines.

  71. wr says:

    @Kathy: “Three’s no villain. It’s an exploration story (in part, more would be a spoiler). Unless time and fatigue are villains. The ship’s not equipped to explore the alien tomb ships, and it all falls on the shoulders of the cook and the navigator.”

    If I may be so bold as to add on to Michael’s excellent reference:

    The single most important thing about your characters is their need. A story is a character overcoming obstacles in pursuit of a goal — if they don’t have a strong, crucial, personal goal, then you don’t have a character and you don’t have a story.

    And the need has to come before the start of the story. Your cook’s need can’t be to explore the ship, because then she is just an expository tool. She needs to need something, and the exploration of the ship either has to be her way of getting it or has to be the thing that stands in the way of her getting it. (Or that she thinks stands in the way, but is really the way itself…)

    Now go start writing!

  72. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kathy: The location seems interesting enough. I puzzled by who the people visiting the ships are and why they’ll stay around to do something. But I’m also the guy who can go to the museum once and be out in an hour, too. I’d have been just as happy taking math if they hadn’t been so relentless about me mastering each topic. I’d have studied more math that way, too. As to whether I’d have been able to do any computations… meh, it’s not a priority.

  73. Kathy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    If there is a model for this story, it would be “Omnilingual” by H. Beam Piper. It’s about a group of scientist exploring a city of an extinct Martian civilization*. The hero, Martha, is trying to decipher the Martian language, in the face of objections from her colleagues that such a thing is impossible. There’s no villain.

    * I think by 1957 the notion of any kind of civilization on Mars, extinct or not, would have been very unlikely**. Still, I aid my suspension of disbelief by assuming they’re on a planet in another star system.

    ** Then again, in the 70s when the Viking probes landed on Mars, there was serious talk about whether or not they’d be exploring the canals. This was not possible because 1) the Vikings couldn’t move around, so they explored only whatever was in reach of their sensors where they landed, and 2) there are no canals on Mars, and this was known before the Vikings were launched.

  74. HarvardLaw92 says:


    We also play bridge, enjoy the occasional good cigar, and every so often engage in ballroom dancing (usually at the direction of our wives).

  75. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @EddieInCA: Both of my school districts have requested that I send a picture of my vaccination card as a condition of employment after mid-October.

  76. Kathy says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Well, the ship, which I haven’t named yet, is out mapping the galaxy and doing whatever cursory scientific observations the crew can do quickly. It’s not a research vessel, of which there aren’t as many yet as colonization ships and freighters.

    Then they come upon the first evidence of alien intelligence ever, and it’s massive. So, yeah, they’ll stick around a while for the glory.

    The first issue is the captain places Caroline in charge of the study of the tomb ships, because she’s the only person aboard with any knowledge of history and archaeology, but she’s neither historian nor archaeologist. So she’s rather anxious about the whole thing.

    BTW, if Caroline sounds a lot like me it’s only because that was intentional.

  77. a country lawyer says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: I’m unaware of one but Harvard Law might have an answer for you. I’m a criminal lawyer so if the issue doesn’t involve a dead body or a kg of cocaine I’m probably not the one to ask.

  78. Michael Cain says:


    Well, the ship, which I haven’t named yet, is out mapping the galaxy…

    I’d ask that it be mapping some tiny local part of the galaxy. Current estimate is that the Milky Way contains between 100 billion and 400 billion stars. With a non-zero chance that for Earth, for the next 100,000 years, it’s much more important to map things like gas/dust density between local stars.

  79. inhumans99 says:


    Lets back up several years (as in more years than when Trump became our now ex-President), prior to his snake oilman days he was for the most part a hustler (who I did not know got smacked down for getting over his skis in claiming his pillows can clear certain ailments up), just another informercial guy pimping his product like so many other folks continue to do to this day, so yeah…I feel a bit of genuine sympathy/empathy for the guy that as Sleeping Dog notes, has basically traded one drug for another with just as destructive if not even worse results than when his drug of choice was coke, not Donald J Trump.

    All that crap that spewed out of his mouth last year is (mostly) due to his being hooked on Trump. I wonder if he realizes that in many ways he is trapped in a room in Hell that is tormenting him by not letting his mind tell him to dissolve his blind and total allegiance to all things Trump.

  80. Kathy says:


    Interesting the trump addiction has proven far more self-destructive for the pillow guy.

  81. Jim Brown 32 says:

    Okay–Reynolds and wr got to show of their command of their craft…..

    Is anyone designing a small, in person assault with light air support (Drone strikes are a plus)?

    Ill settle for a small recon op to gather intel though. Will provide honest feedback and maximize your chances of success.

    Anyone? Bueller?

  82. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Well, I would hope so!

  83. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kathy: BTW, if Caroline sounds a lot like me it’s only because that was intentional.

    One thumbs up, only because that’s all I get.

  84. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @a country lawyer: I’m a criminal lawyer so if the issue doesn’t involve a dead body or a kg of cocaine I’m probably not the one to ask.

    Hmmmm… We should talk. I have a friend who has a friend who’s uncle’s 2nd cousin twice removed….

  85. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Jim Brown 32: Well now that you mention it… There’s this meth lab just down the road from me, deep in the boonie woods and back in the swamps with AK-47 armed hillbillies who are known to fly drones…

  86. Teve says:

    @Mu Yixiao: the Moderna vaxx used a stupidly small needle. I didn’t even know it was happening and looked over and thought, “oh. There’s an inch-long needle in my shoulder. Huh!” Nothing like those godawful harpoons they attack me with in the blood donation camps (buses).

  87. Kathy says:

    So, the deplorables are planning a rally at the capitol for Sept. 18th.

    From the link:

    As a result, U.S. Capitol Police have been discussing in recent weeks whether the large perimeter fence that was erected outside the Capitol after January’s riot will need to be put back up, the people said.

    IMO, I’d opt for a massive show of force. All the Capitol Police in full riot regalia, plus reinforcements from the DC Police and National Guard.

    BTW, the deplorables say the rally is to “[..] demand “justice” for the hundreds of people who have been charged in connection with January’s insurrection”

    They keep using that word, justice. I don’t think it means what they think it means. naturally, the people arrested for the January 6th Putsch should get the full measure of justice, but their supporters won’t like it if they do.

  88. Monala says:

    @mattbernius: congratulations! I worked with some of your folks as part of the VITA program, so this is good news.

  89. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kathy: BTW, the deplorables say the rally is to “[..] demand “justice” for the hundreds of people who have been charged in connection with January’s insurrection”

    Something tells me they’d be a little disappointed if those folks actually got justice.

  90. Jax says:

    @Jim Brown 32: I’m so down. My Dad and I were just talking about how I was born 20 years too late to get in on the “Flying a military drone as a job” action. 😛

  91. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Hmmm…the Meth Lab offers the opportunity for secondary explosions….

    I like the way you pick targets! Follow on explosions always earn extra credit 😉

  92. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @a country lawyer:
    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    I’m not entirely sure what the question means given how it’s phrased. Anything that comes before the court is (obviously) the result of a legal challenge to something, but I think what he’s asking here is whether the court has moved to overturn a statute sua sponte within the proceeding of a case which didn’t in itself challenge it. I’m sure some sort of example of that has a decent chance of existing, probably in something esoteric like IP / patent if I had to guess, but I’m unaware of any exact examples. I’ll ask my guys to look into it (you all have me curious about it now as well lol).

  93. Michael Reynolds says:

    What @wr said. Character starts before the first paragraph. Backstory is gold. The more you know who your character was the week before the story starts, the more we’ll buy the character, even if the reader never sees most of that backstory.

    It’s like salt, you may not see it, but you’ll taste its absence.

    Ooh, that might be an aphorism.

  94. DrDaveT says:


    Data point three: MLB has banned John Smoltz and Al Leiter, both former MLB pitchers, from the their offices and studio due to being unvaxxed.

    Well, fvq. I had thought Smoltz at least was borderline sentient. Wrong again…

  95. DrDaveT says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Science fiction has one over-arching problem: exposition. There are basically two approaches. You can leap in with absolute minimum exposition, inserting it in small bites, and hope the reader catches on. Or you can dump.

    The extremes of this spectrum are Graydon Saunders and David Weber. Saunders drops you into the middle of a situation that you might think you sort of understand, but you’re wrong and he’s not going to help you figure it out. Weber spends chapter after chapter with sympathetic characters giving “As you know, Bob…” speeches to each other and villains twirling their moustaches and bragging about their villainy. Since I’m invested in seeing how Weber’s series play out, I’ve taken to skipping any page with no dialog on it and any page with no sympathetic characters on it. Saunders will never find a mass audience, but damn I love his stuff.

  96. Michael Reynolds says:

    As you know, DrDave, here in 2021 we have many technological advances. Let’s start with the dishwasher. . .

    One of the reasons my kid and I created an approach to ebooks that would include outlinks to maps, music, etc… was that I could use the same tech to hide exposition out of view of the main text. We were a bit ahead of the ebook technology, but it’s something I’m playing with again.

  97. mattbernius says:

    Thanks for being involved with the VITA program! Ya’ll do such amazing and meaningful work!