Category Archive: Quotations

May 18

Nobody Knows A Big Bang Theory Fan They Actually Like

The Big Bang TheoryThey say “fricking” instead of actually swearing. They probably have ketchup with every meal. Two Big Bang Theory fans I know genuinely own shoes which fasten with velcro. The word “basic” is a bit of a cruel insult to throw around willy-nilly — we can’t all listen to Mac DeMarco while munching gourmet scotch eggs — but they do tend to be united by a complete lack of imagination and cultural adventurousness.

It’s not just the fact that liking Big Bang Theory indicates a total lack of taste, it’s the vague sense that they feel that liking it is a big shiny gold badge of honor which indicates that they’re intellectually superior to fans of other sitcoms. As we’ve already established, The Big Bang Theory is not a clever program. It’s that middle of the road that if you swapped their references to Star Wars and astrophysics for references to forests and body hair you could be watching Harry & the Hendersons.

If you want intellectual jokes, go and watch Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead or something. You’ll not find them on Big Bang Theory, so drop the cleverer-than-thou attitude guys.

–Tom Nicholson
11 Reasons The Big Bang Theory Is the Worst Thing on TV

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/05/18/big-bang-theory/

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May 17

Bizarre Conservative Silence About Comey’s Memo

Jonathan Chait - GOP Reasons for Healthcare Bill Make No SenseIn the modern media era, there may be no surer sign of presidential dysfunction than an absence of talking points on the leading story of the moment. The White House had warning in the middle of Tuesday afternoon that The New York Times would publish its blockbuster report on James Comey’s memo, and yet by that evening it had formulated no defense whatsoever. Last night’s Fox News lineup was a comical procession of unrelated jibber-jabber. Sean Hannity ranted generally about the left-wing media and other Trump enemies, referring only tangentially to the devastating news — “unprecedented leaks, including to The New York Times tonight” — that he neither rebutted nor even described. Tucker Carlson ran segments lambasting the Clinton Foundation and a New York City Council member’s inattentiveness to restroom conditions in Penn Station. The closest thing to a relevant defense witness he could summon was left-wing professor Stephen F Cohen, who reiterated his long-standing and increasingly absurd theory that questions about Trump’s Russia connections amount to “neo-McCarthyism.” Other party organs were likewise silent. The Wall Street Journal editorial page, which had faithfully repeated the administration’s initial claims that Trump was merely following the urging of the deputy attorney general in firing Comey, went to press without any editorial addressing the news.

But then, this morning, a line of defense had begun to fitfully emerge: maybe President Trump did utter English words that, taken literally, amounted to a request that James Comey stop investigating Michael Flynn. But those words did not convey an actual instruction or any intent to influence Comey’s behavior.

–Jonathan Chait
Republicans: Trump Was Just Joking About Obstructing Justice

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/05/17/comeys-memo/

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May 14

Grade Inflation Is a Very Old Myth

Alfie Kohn - Grade InflationComplaints about grade inflation have been around for a very long time. Every so often a fresh flurry of publicity pushes the issue to the foreground again, one example being a series of articles in The Boston Globe that disclosed — in a tone normally reserved for the discovery of entrenched corruption in state government — that a lot of students at Harvard were receiving As and being graduated with honors.

The fact that people were offering the same complaints more than a century ago puts the latest bout of harrumphing in perspective, not unlike those quotations about the disgraceful values of the younger generation that turn out to be hundreds of years old. The long history of indignation also pretty well derails any attempts to place the blame for higher grades on a residue of bleeding-heart liberal professors hired in the ’60s. (Unless, of course, there was a similar countercultural phenomenon in the 1860s.)

Yet on campuses across America today, academe’s usual requirements for supporting data and reasoned analysis have been suspended for some reason where this issue is concerned. It is largely accepted on faith that grade inflation — an upward shift in students’ grade-point averages without a similar rise in achievement — exists, and that it is a bad thing. Meanwhile, the truly substantive issues surrounding grades and motivation have been obscured or ignored.

The fact is that it is hard to substantiate even the simple claim that grades have been rising. Depending on the time period we’re talking about, that claim may well be false. In their book When Hope and Fear Collide, Arthur Levine and Jeanette Cureton told us that more undergraduates in 1993 reported receiving As (and fewer reported receiving grades of C or below) compared with their counterparts in 1969 and 1976 surveys. Unfortunately, self-reports are notoriously unreliable, and the numbers become even more dubious when only a self-selected, and possibly unrepresentative, segment bothers to return the questionnaires. (One out of three failed to do so in 1993; no information is offered about the return rates in the earlier surveys.)

To get a more accurate picture of whether grades have changed over the years, one needs to look at official student transcripts. Clifford Adelman, a senior research analyst with the US Department of Education, did just that, reviewing transcripts from more than 3,000 institutions and reporting his results in 1995. His finding: “Contrary to the widespread lamentations, grades actually declined slightly in the last two decades.” Moreover, a report released just this year by the National Center for Education Statistics revealed that fully 33.5 percent of American undergraduates had a grade-point average of C or below in 1999-2000, a number that ought to quiet “all the furor over grade inflation,” according to a spokesperson for the Association of American Colleges and Universities. (A review of other research suggests a comparable lack of support for claims of grade inflation at the high-school level.)

–Alfie Kohn
The Dangerous Myth of Grade Inflation

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/05/14/grade-inflation/

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May 11

American Checks and Balances Are Out of Whack

Mehdi Hasan - American Checks and Balances Are Out of Whack“You’re fired!” That’s what Donald Trump would bark from his boardroom chair at the end of each episode of “The Apprentice.” For years, millions of Americans would smile, laugh, and even cheer in front of their television sets as the property tycoon performed his signature move.

There is little to laugh about this week. The firing of FBI Director James Comey by President Trump will be remembered as a dark and depressing day in the downward spiral of American democracy. It’s difficult to disagree with the scathing assessment of CNN’s senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, who described the sacking as a “grotesque” abuse of power. “This is the kind of thing that goes on in non-democracies,” he told host Wolf Blitzer in a clip that has since, deservedly, gone viral. “They fire the people who are in charge of the investigation.” Toobin continued: “This is something that is not within the American political tradition. … This is not normal, this is not politics as usual.” …

American checks and balances are out of whack. The firing of the FBI director is only the beginning. There will be more sackings; more political corruption; more abuses of power. And, again, we can’t say we weren’t warned. Tinpot Trump, cautioned John Dean back in January, “is going to test our democracy as it has never been tested.” Whether American democracy is up to that test is another matter.

–Mehdi Hasan
After James Comey’s Firing, Who Will Stop Trump’s Tinpot Dictatorship?

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/05/11/checks-and-balances/

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May 09

Why GOP Thinks It Can Get Away With Trumpcare

Paul Krugman - CarrierWhy are they doing this, and why do they think they can get away with it?

Part of the answer to the first question is, presumably, simple greed. Tens of millions would lose access to health coverage, but — according to independent estimates of an earlier version of Trumpcare — people with incomes over $1 million would save an average of more than $50,000 a year.

And there is a powerful faction within the GOP for whom cutting taxes on the rich is more or less the only thing that matters.

And on a more subjective note, don’t you get the impression that Donald Trump gets some positive pleasure out of taking people who make the mistake of trusting him for a ride?

As for why they think they can get away with it: well, isn’t recent history on their side? The general shape of what the GOP would do to health care, for the white working class in particular, has long been obvious, yet many people who were sure to lose, bigly, voted Trump anyway.

Why shouldn’t Republicans believe they can convince those same voters that the terrible things that will happen if Trumpcare becomes law are somehow liberals’ fault?

And for that matter, how confident are you that mainstream media will resist the temptation of both-sides-ism, the urge to produce “balanced” reporting that blurs the awful reality of what Trumpcare will do if enacted?

In any case, let’s be clear: what just happened on health care shouldn’t be treated as just another case of cynical political deal making. This was a Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength moment. And it may be the shape of things to come.

–Frank Moraes
Republicans Party Like It’s 1984

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/05/09/krugman-trump/

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May 06

Why So Many People Hated Hillary Clinton

Thomas Frank - Why So Many People Hated Hillary ClintonYou want to know the biggest lesson I learned touring Trumpland? People hated Hillary Clinton — to a degree that even I, with my cynicism, did not understand.

I did not hate Hillary Clinton. I voted for her, and I agreed with Obama that she was very qualified. She deserved to be president. I didn’t think she’d be a great president, but I thought she’d be OK — certainly better than Donald Trump.

I knew how to hate Donald Trump. That’s easy. He boasts about groping women. He says these evil things about Mexicans, and mocks the handicapped. It’s unbelievable the stuff this guy did and said. Hating him was easy. What I did not understand was the degree to which people really hated Hillary Clinton. And that’s ultimately what this election was about: which one do you hate more? …



What Is It About Her?

She doesn’t say rude things. She tries so hard to not offend people. I think it’s the very things that you and I like about Hillary that were the problem: she is so professional, she is so polished, and she’s such a wonderful lawyer. She went to Yale law school, and was so brilliant, and was the best in her class. People hate this.

They hate what she represents, this kind of scolding liberalism that’s better than you. In Listen, Liberal, I talked about her goodness and her righteousness. I kind of made fun of her for it. But people hate that stuff. Hate it. And people running the Democratic campaign had no idea.

–Thomas Frank
 On the Road in Trump Country

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May 04

Senate Republicans Will Not Even Start With House Obamacare Replacement

Paul Ryan - Tax RedistributionSenate Republicans on Thursday said that they will come up with their own version of legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare rather than vote on the bill that House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and colleagues in the lower body of Congress have spent weeks hammering into passable shape.

Twelve lawmakers are working on a Senate proposal that may incorporate elements of the bill passed Thursday by the House, The Washington Examiner reported, but it will not be based on the current measure. …

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) told The Examiner that the group of lawmakers has already been meeting for weeks, as House leadership frantically tried to whip enough votes to pass their own bill.

“It was kind of a moot issue if the House wasn’t going to be able to pass a bill and now they have and I’m proud of them for doing it,” Cornyn said, as quoted in the report. “Now it’s up to us to pass a bill 51 senators can agree to.”

–Esme Cribb
Sorry, Ryan: Senate Republicans to Scrap House Repeal Bill, Start From Scratch

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May 02

How the US “Protects” Us From International Terrorism

How the US 'Protects' Us From International TerrorismThe US government segregates terrorism cases into two categories — domestic and international. This database contains cases classified as international terrorism, though many of the people charged never left the United States or communicated with anyone outside the country.

Since the 9/11 attacks, most of the 796 terrorism defendants prosecuted by the US Department of Justice have been charged with material support for terrorism, criminal conspiracy, immigration violations, or making false statements — vague, nonviolent offenses that give prosecutors wide latitude for scoring quick convictions or plea bargains. 523 defendants have pleaded guilty to charges, while the courts found 175 guilty at trial. Just 2 have been acquitted and 3 have seen their charges dropped or dismissed, giving the Justice Department a near-perfect record of conviction in terrorism cases.

Today, 345 people charged with terrorism-related offenses are in custody in the United States, including 58 defendants who are awaiting trial and remain innocent until proven guilty.

Very few terrorism defendants had the means or opportunity to commit an act of violence. The majority had no direct connection to terrorist organizations. Many were caught up in FBI stings, in which an informant or undercover agent posed as a member of a terrorist organization. The US government nevertheless defines such cases as international terrorism.

415 terrorism defendants have been released from custody, often with no provision for supervision or ongoing surveillance, suggesting that the government does not regard them as imminent threats to the homeland.

A large proportion of the defendants who did have direct connections to terrorist groups were recruited as informants or cooperating witnesses and served little or no time in prison. At present, there have been 32 such cooperators. By contrast, many of the 296 defendants caught up in FBI stings have received decades in prison because they had no information or testimony to trade. They simply didn’t know any terrorists.

The Intercept
Trial and Terror

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Apr 28

Poor Pay More Taxes Than Rich

Poor Pay More Taxes Than RichWhen all forms of taxes and income are considered, poor Americans pay higher tax rates than the richest 1%.

The analysis starts with state and local taxes, which are often ignored by apologists for big-income tax cuts. According to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, the state and local tax rate for the poorest 20 percent of individuals is double that of the top 1 percent (10.9 percent vs. 5.4 percent). New data from Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman allows us to go further: When unrealized capital gains are included in the wealth-building of the richest 1%, the overall tax rates plunge for the super-rich, causing the poorest Americans to pay the highest rates.

What is the justification for adding unrealized capital gains to one’s income? The 16th Amendment gives Congress the power “to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived.” Thus, under an original definition of income developed by the American economists Robert M. Haig and Henry C. Simons in the 1920s and still utilized by financial economists, an increase in the value of a stock or other asset would be subject to taxation even if it’s not sold.

With this more accurate guide to income measurement, the real tax rates paid by the 1% can be calculated. The bottom line is that poor Americans pay about 25 percent in total taxes, while the 1% pays anywhere from 18 to 23 percent.

–Paul Buchheit
The Rich Pay Fewer Taxes Than the Poor, and Get More Services

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Apr 27

We’ve Lived Long in a Post-Truth World

Richard SeymourWe live, supposedly, in an age of “fake news” and “post-truth politics.” This is a misunderstanding. “Pre-post-truth politics” includes the era of the “war on terror” and its deceptions, and the orthodoxies and falsehoods which led to the elite debacle of the credit crunch. It is technique, not truth, which has been found wanting. That is, the idea of a “fact” as an objective measurement of reality, is losing ground in the post-credit crunch era.

“Post-truth politics” is what, until now, we have been living under: technocracy, in a word. The “monstrous worship of facts,” as Wilde called it, is nothing other than an avoidance of the question of truth. The category of “fake news” describes a fusion of infotainment, propaganda, public relations and churnalism which has been long in the making, now accelerated by online advertising revenues. The moral panic which blames “fake news” for the rise of fascism and right-wing populism misses the point that these degraded ecologies of information have triumphed in the vacuum of political possibilities produced by the post-Cold War consensus.

What the moral panic also obscures, by displacing it, is the fact that “fake news” is just one symptom of the breakdown of the near ideological monopoly previously enjoyed by large commercial and state media outlets.

–Richard Seymour
After the Catastrophe: Resistance and the Post-Truth Era

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Apr 26

Corporate Tax Cut Would Destroy Government

George CallasI want to pick up on… the constraints of reconciliation rules as well as [the possibility that] the White House might come out with a plan that has no offsets. It is a very, very important point here. A plan of business tax cuts that has no offsets… is not a thing. It’s not a real thing and people can come up with whatever plans they want. Not only can that not pass Congress, it cannot even begin to move through Congress day one.

There are political reasons for that. Number one, members wouldn’t vote for it. But there are also statutory procedural legal reasons why that can’t happen… There is this magic unicorn running around, and I think one of the biggest threats to the timeline on tax reform is the continued survival of magic unicorns — people saying “Why don’t we do this instead?” when this is actually something that cannot be done. And as long as that exists, it’s hard to move forward by getting people to go through what the Speaker refers to as the stages of grief for tax reform where you have to come to the realization that there are tough choices that have to be made. And you cannot escape those tough choices.

[The reconciliation rules] don’t say that tax cuts have to sunset in 10 years. They say that you cannot have the deficit increase beyond the 10 year window… If your permanent tax reform that is fully offset with the base broadening forever, you are fine. You don’t have to make anything sunset under the reconciliation rules. You can have permanent tax cuts that are paid for in the out years. You have legislation that has no offsets, no base broadening, so it’s just tax cuts. You either have to get Democrats to support it, which they will not. Or you have to do it through reconciliation so you can do it on a partisan basis with only Republican votes.

Again, reconciliation says you cannot increase the deficit after 10 years… Here is a data point for folks. A corporate rate cut that is sunset after three years will increase the deficit in the second decade. We know this. Not 10 years. Three years. You could not do a straight-up offset three-year corporate rate cut in reconciliation. The rules prohibit it.

You might be able to do two years. A two year corporate rate cut would have virtually no growth effect. It would not alter business decisions. It would not cause anyone to build a factory. It would not stop any inversions or acquisitions of US companies by foreign companies. It would not cause anyone to restructure their supply chain. It would just be dropping cash out of helicopters on corporate headquarters for a couple of years.

–George Callas
Institute of International Finance Policy Summit, Tax Policy

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Apr 24

Trump’s Big Week

Brian Beutler - Trump's Big WeekIt’s hard to imagine a better metaphor for Donald Trump’s presidency than if, backed by a Republican-controlled Congress, he celebrates his 100th day in office by shutting down his own government. This outcome is by no means inevitable, but the odds of it are astonishingly high: Government funding runs out on Friday, and Trump hits the 100-day mark on Saturday.

It is unprecedented in the modern era for an appropriations fight to end in a government shutdown when one party has full control — or really under any configuration other than when the president is a Democrat and Republicans control at least one chamber in Congress. The current partisan alignment should effectively preclude a shutdown, but Trump’s particular mix of incompetence, narcissism, and poor judgment is potent enough to confound basic game theory. As in so many realms of public affairs, Trump’s mere presence creates massive amounts of uncertainty.

To see how Trump changes the normal calculation, consider what the appropriations process would look like in a more generic case, where Republicans enjoyed identical congressional majorities but under a president who behaved rationally.

In that case, we would expect the president and GOP leaders to work backwards from a desire to avoid a shutdown, toward an optimal outcome in which appropriations did not lapse and Congress funded as many of their priorities as possible. The hard fact that funding the government almost always requires a measure of bipartisanship places a fairly firm limit on what’s possible in that context. The minority party has a disproportionate amount of power over annual appropriations, but you go to the spending fight with the army you have, not the army you might want, or wish to have at a later time. If Democrats were horribly recalcitrant, they could reject every single Republican bid, leaving Republicans a choice between simply extending existing funds or shutting down the government — in which case a rational party would harrumph and agree to extend the funds.

–Brian Beutler
Trump Will Provoke a Crisis or Be Humiliated This Week

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