Category Archive: Quotations

Jun 21

Democrats Lose When They Talk About Nothing

Jon OssoffOssoff, like so many losing Democratic candidates over the years, was brought down fundamentally by arguments grounded in identity politics.

Karen Handel didn’t argue that the Republican Party’s healthcare bill is a good idea (it’s very unpopular) or that tax cuts for millionaires should be the country’s top economic priority (another policy that polls dismally). Instead, her campaign and its allies buried Ossoff under a pile of what basically amounts to nonsense — stuff about Kathy Griffin, stuff about Samuel L Jackson, stuff about his home being just over the district line, stuff about him having raised money from out of state — lumped together under the broad heading that he’s an “outsider.”

Much of this was unfair or ridiculous. And the stuff that wasn’t unfair — like the location of his home — is honestly pretty silly. None of this has anything to do with the lives of actual people living in the suburbs of Atlanta or anywhere else.

Ossoff’s team was aware, of course, that the district is not accustomed to voting for Democrats and that he was vulnerable to this kind of attack. They attempted to counter this move by positioning Ossoff as blandly as possible — just a kind of nice guy who doesn’t like Donald Trump — and dissociating him from any hard-edged ideas or themes. It’s a strategy that makes a certain amount of sense, but it also makes it hard to mobilize potential supporters. And by lowering the concrete stakes in the election, it also makes it easier for trivial and pseudo-issues to end up dominating in the end…

Ossoff’s effort to stay bland and inoffensive let hazy personal and culture war issues dominate the campaign — and even in a relatively weak Trump district, that was still a winning formula for Republicans…

If your opponents are unpopular enough, it’s certainly possible to win elections this way. But especially for the party that has a more difficult time inspiring its supporters to turn out to vote, that’s an ominous sign. Right now on healthcare and many other issues, Democrats suffer from a cacophony of white papers and a paucity of unity around any kind of vision or story they want to paint of what is wrong with America today and what is the better country they want to build for the future. And until they do, they’re going to struggle to mobilize supporters in the way they need to win tough races.

–Matt Yglesias
Jon Ossoff’s Georgia Special Election Loss Shows Democrats Could Use a Substantive Agenda

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/06/21/ossoff-loss/

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Jun 13

It Looks Like the GOP Really Will Kill Obamacare

Paul Waldman - It Looks Like the GOP Really Will Kill ObamacareThe fate of the American health care system now rests with a group of allegedly “moderate” senators, who are getting ready to approve a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, a repeal bill so monumental in its cruelty that they feel they have no choice but to draft it in secret, not let the public know what it does, hold not a single hearing or committee markup, slip it in a brown paper package to the Congressional Budget Office, then push it through to a vote before the July 4th recess before the inevitable backlash gets too loud.

“We aren’t stupid,” one GOP Senate aide told Caitlin Owens — they know what would happen if they made their bill public. Even Republican senators who aren’t part of the 13-member working group crafting the bill haven’t been told exactly what’s in it.

Today, we learned that in a break with longstanding precedent, “Senate officials are cracking down on media access, informing reporters on Tuesday that they will no longer be allowed to film or record audio of interviews in the Senate side hallways of the Capitol without special permission.” Everyone assumes that it’s so those senators can avoid having to appear on camera being asked uncomfortable questions about a bill that is as likely to be as popular as Ebola. As Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News tweeted about the secrecy with which this bill is being advanced, “I have covered every major health bill in Congress since 1986. Have NEVER seen anything like this.”

–Paul Waldman
How the Republican Coward Caucus Is About to Sell out Its Own Constituents — in Secret

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/06/13/paul-waldman/

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Jun 11

All the Republican Excuses for Trump

Brian Beutler - All the Republican Excuses for TrumpIn the midst of the most devastating testimony delivered about a sitting president in the living memory of nearly everyone serving in Congress today, the Republican speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, shuffled before microphones to say that Donald Trump—in trying to interfere with FBI investigations—probably just made an innocent mistake: “The president’s new at this. He’s new to government and so he probably wasn’t steeped in the long-running protocols that establish the relationships between DOJ, FBI and White Houses. He’s just new to this.”

Ryan wants us to imagine Trump sitting alone in the White House with only his intellect and his muscle memory as his guides. He asks us implicitly to forget that Trump has a White House counsel, a vice president with years of governing experience, and an attorney general who campaigned with him for a year, all at his behest to instruct him. He asks us, again implicitly, to forget that Trump pierced the veil meant to separate the White House and FBI, to corrupt the rule of law, and that he then fired FBI Director James Comey, lied about why, and confessed—to NBC’s Lester Holt, and to senior Russian officials in the Oval Office—that he did it to remove “the cloud” of Comey’s investigation of his campaign.

It is an article of faith in Washington that no revelation about Trump’s conduct, no matter how severe, could convince Ryan and members of his conference to launch an impeachment inquiry. As dispassionate political analysis, this may well be true. It would certainly be foolish to believe the opposite—that Trump’s impeachment is a certainty.

But for everything we know about Trump’s conduct already, all this means is that the ethical and strategic conduct of Republicans in Congress should now be as heavily scrutinized as Trump’s. Republicans may not know what they’re covering up, but covering up they are; and they may believe they’re acting in their own political self-interest, but they almost certainly are not.

–Brian Beutler
Comey’s Trump Testimony Will Haunt Republicans

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/06/11/trump-excuses/

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Jun 07

Jonathan L Rudd on the FBI and Loyalty

Jonathan L RuddIt is significant that we take an oath to support and defend the Constitution and not an individual leader, ruler, office, or entity. This is true for the simple reason that the Constitution is based on lasting principles of sound government that provide balance, stability, and consistency through time. A government based on individuals — who are inconsistent, fallible, and often prone to error — too easily leads to tyranny on the one extreme or anarchy on the other. The founding fathers sought to avoid these extremes and create a balanced government based on constitutional principles.

The American colonists were all too familiar with the harmful effects of unbalanced government and oaths to individual rulers. For example, the English were required to swear loyalty to the crown, and many of the early colonial documents commanded oaths of allegiance to the king. The founding fathers saw that such a system was detrimental to the continued liberties of a free people. A study of both ancient and modern history illustrates this point. One fairly recent example can be seen in the oaths of Nazi Germany. On August 19, 1934, 90 percent of Germany voted for Hitler to assume complete power. The very next day, Hitler’s cabinet decreed the Law On the Allegiance of Civil Servants and Soldiers of the Armed Forces. This law abolished all former oaths and required that all soldiers and public servants declare an oath of unquestioned obedience to “Adolf Hitler, Fuhrer of the German Reich and people.” Although many of the officers in Hitler’s regime came to realize the error of his plans, they were reluctant to stop him because of the oath of loyalty they had taken to the Fuhrer.

–Jonathan L Rudd
Our Oath of Office: A Solemn Promise

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/06/07/loyalty/

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May 30

How to Keep Drug Prices Down

Dean Baker How to Keep Drug Prices DownThe New York Times ran a piece discussing the efforts by various industry groups to ensure that they are not hurt by measures that reduce prescription drug prices. At one point, it listed some of these measures, noting a bill co-sponsored by Senator Bernie Sanders, which would allow drugs to be imported from Canada.

It is worth noting that this bill, which is co-sponsored by sixteen other senators including Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown, and Kirsten Gillibrand, also includes mechanisms that would reduce the cost of drugs by not granting them patent monopolies that make their price high in the first place. One proposal would create a prize fund, which would allow for the patents on important new drugs to be purchased by the government and placed in the public domain. They could then be sold as generics as soon as they are put on the market.

The other provision would have the government finance some clinical trials of drugs after securing all patent rights. In this case, also the new drugs would be sold as generics. By paying for the trials (which would be conducted by private companies under contract), the government would be able to require that all test results were in the public domain.

This would allow doctors and other researchers to be able to determine if a particular drug was better for men than women, or appeared to cause bad reactions when mixed with other drugs. As it stands now, drug companies only have an incentive to publicly disclose information that they think will help them market their drugs. If the government paid for some number of clinical trials, it could help to set a new standard of disclosure with its practices, in addition to making new drugs available at generic prices.

–Dean Baker
The Best Way To Bring Down Drug Prices, Don’t Grant Patent Monopolies

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May 24

Republican Euphemisms for Their Vile Policy

Brian Beutler - Republican Euphemisms for Their Vile PolicyThe political durability of conservative economic doctrine owes a great deal to euphemisms. As the main exponents of that doctrine, Republicans seek to distribute income from the poor to the wealthy by gutting social programs and returning the savings to high-income earners through tax cuts. Euphemisms obscure the brutality of that underlying moral vision. The affluent, in the language of the right, are “job creators,” the poor are “dependents,” the central goal (reducing top marginal tax rates) is a “simplification,” the programs losing funding are being “reformed” or “saved,” and the purpose of this reordering, stripped of ideological valence, is “growth.”

This familiar jargon survived the wreckage of George W Bush’s presidency, and remains bog standard Republican spin when tax cutting season rolls around. It is, to state the obvious, highly tendentious. But it is at least decodable.

It took a swindler of Donald Trump’s shamelessness, and the unexpected consolidation of power in Republican hands, to expose the limits of this spin. The breaking of Trump’s campaign promises, and the substitution of the old Republican agenda in the place of those promises, has forced Republicans to supplement spin with outright lies. Those lies were critical to the passage of the American Health Care Act, and to the advancement of other Republican priorities. This week — through the unveiling of Trump’s budget, and the coming Congressional Budget Office analysis of the AHCA — the lies are encountering reality for the first time.

–Brian Beutler
Will Republican Lies Catch Up to Them Before or After They Ruin People’s Lives?

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/05/24/gop-euphemisms/

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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

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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

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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

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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?

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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

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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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