Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Quotes of the day

The best longer-term solution to the inequality problem is to reduce the fraction of Americans who dropout of high school, a theme I have continued to emphasize in various postings on our blog. This drop out fraction has been stagnant for the past several decades at about 30% for males, and a somewhat lower but still high percent for females. This is almost surely the highest fraction of high school dropouts among rich countries, and is heavily concentrated among children from African-Americans and Hispanic families. In large cities, often less than half of all the children enrolled in public schools end up graduating. ... Probably the most fundamental cause of the continuing high drop out rates has been the large deterioration in family stability during the past 50 years. This has led, among other things, to the growth of low-income single parent families that contain about ¼ of all young children, and to the absence of the influence of fathers on the discipline and motivation of children in these households. Family stability is difficult to improve, particularly in the shorter run (although see my blog post of April 4). However, schools can be improved relatively quickly by holding teachers and administrators up to higher standards. President Bush took important steps in this direction, and President Obama has been adding to and improving these changes by requiring even better school performance. In addition, studies have shown that charter schools, vouchers, and other ways to raise competition among schools that cater to children from poorer families contribute in important ways to better achievement scores of these children. That is why the caps placed by many states and localities on the number of charter schools-mainly under pressure from teachers unions- should be removed, as some cities are doing.--Gary Becker

The peasants must get rich, and some will get richer than others.--Deng Xiaoping

There are a few prerequisites to inventing.... You have to be willing to fail. You have to be willing to think long term. You have to be willing to be misunderstood for long periods of time. If you can't do those three things, you need to limit yourself to sustaining innovation.... You typically don't get misunderstood for sustaining innovation.--Jeff Bezos

Get market share, and when you get far ahead it is hard to catch up. [Amazon's Jeff] Bezos’s game, like [Apple's Steve] Jobs’s before him, is to get the device and get eighty-to-ninety-per-cent distribution on the device, and you own the game.--Books publisher

Sorry, Bean Counters. Numbers do lie. Sometimes pathologically so…--Hugh MacLeod

What do you get when you cross a Godfather with an investment banker? Someone who makes you an offer you can’t understand.--Paul Krugman

Wall Street has gotten a lot of mileage out of the accusation that the political system simply doesn't understand how Wall Street works. And that's, well, correct. The problem is that Wall Street also doesn't understand how Wall Street works.--Ezra Klein

So, was Paulson's involvement material? Was it really different than your not knowing who is selling stocks to you on a daily basis (again, Warren Buffett may be on the other side of those trades, he may think you're stupid, and he may be right).--Henry Blodget

ACA used proprietary models and methods of analysis to develop its own independent view of the relative riskiness of each security. To that point, ACA rejected more than half of the securities suggested by Paulson [for the Abacus vehicle].--Greg Palm, Goldman general counsel

Goldman, the SEC alleges, disclosed neither its nor Paulson's role in shorting the same bonds its was selling. Was that lack of disclosure material? I don't know. But, if some Goldman trader called me and in the process of pitching these bonds to me let it drop that one of Goldman's most important institutional investors was shorting the same bonds that they were trying to sell me and that Goldman had arranged the short, I probably wouldn't invest. But, hey, that's just me.--Brian JM Quinn

Goldman’s attempts to justify what occurred, rather than dispute the facts or apologize, could be the firm’s death warrant. The brilliant can be so blind.--Steve Randy Waldman

The question of how to study baseball has been settled, although no one has tried to replace scouts with robots—every team now evaluates players with a combination of statistical analysis and firsthand observation. But there is still much to be determined. Can statistical analysis and video breakdown of throwing form help figure out which flamethrowing college pitchers are less likely to get injured after they’re drafted? Can it tell you exactly which players on your team should hit and run in the seventh inning of a one-run game? What proportion of its budget should a mid-market team spend on minor-league coaching relative to high-school scouting in order to maximize profits? There are a million questions to choose from, but right now the most cutting-edge research is in the mysterious, ethereal, and, most maddeningly, subjective world of defense. And that quest to objectify the subjective has opened a new front in the battle between the Yankees and their eternal enemies, the Red Sox.--Will Leitch

... the search for a replacement for the retiring Justice John Paul Stevens is centered on finding a justice who will not just replicate his liberal votes but also bring intellectual heft and powers of persuasion to the court to win the swing vote of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, according to people close to the search who insisted on anonymity to discuss it. While activists on the left often say they want a liberal Antonin Scalia, the fiery conservative justice, Mr. Obama is looking for a liberal John Roberts, who can forge a five-vote majority rather than write satisfying but ultimately meaningless dissents. ... Conflict between the executive and judicial branches, of course, traces its roots to the early days of the republic. Thomas Jefferson and John Marshall wrestled over states’ rights versus federal power. Abraham Lincoln and Roger B. Taney struggled over the extent of the president’s wartime power. Theodore Roosevelt, angry at the position taken by his own appointee, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., snapped that “I could carve out of a banana a judge with more backbone than that.” And then, of course, there was Franklin D. Roosevelt’s open war with the Supreme Court in the 1930s. After it invalidated much of his New Deal program, Roosevelt mounted a frontal assault by proposing to expand the court with new justices — all appointed by him, of course — only to have the so-called court-packing scheme backfire amid bipartisan opposition. Still, Roosevelt argued that he had lost the battle but won the war, as turnover and evolving positions led to a court more disposed to his measures. --Peter Baker

There is no general-purpose answer to this question: it is always a matter of what it means to be Jewish for me—something quite distinct from what it means for my fellow Jews. To outsiders, such concerns are mysterious. A Protestant who does not believe in the Scriptures, a Catholic who abjures the authority of the Pope in Rome, or a Muslim for whom Muhammad is not the Prophet: these are incoherent categories. But a Jew who rejects the authority of the rabbis is still Jewish (even if only by the rabbis’ own matrilineal definition): who is to tell him otherwise? ... Jews in America are more successful, integrated, respected, and influential than at any place or time in the history of the community. Why then is contemporary Jewish identity in the US so obsessively attached to the recollection—and anticipation—of its own disappearance? ... American Jews are instinctively correct to indulge their Holocaust obsession: it provides reference, liturgy, example, and moral instruction—as well as historical proximity. And yet they are making a terrible mistake: they have confused a means of remembering with a reason to do so. Are we really Jews for no better reason than that Hitler sought to exterminate our grandparents? If we fail to rise above this consideration, our grandchildren will have little cause to identify with us. ... It is not enough to stand at a tangent to other peoples’ conventions; we should also be the most unforgiving critics of our own. I feel a debt of responsibility to this past. It is why I am Jewish. Toni Avegael was transported to Auschwitz in 1942 and gassed to death there as a Jew. I am named after her. --Tony Judt

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