Friday, August 26, 2011

Quotes of the day

I will never figure out two things about Bernard's career: Why the NBA left him off "50 at 50," and why he didn't win a "Best Supporting Actor" Oscar in 1979.--Bill Simmons

If you were Rondo, wouldn't that have been the picture-perfect time to point to one of Obama's advisors and say, "Hey, why don't one of you teach this guy how to run the country?--Sam, Cambridge

I am digging this Sam.--Cav (backstory here).

Economic disparities remain, but in 1960 nine in 10 blacks were poor, whereas today three of four blacks are not. Tracing the remaining disparities to racism becomes trickier by the year. The 'institutional racism' many trace these statistics to is something black people of King's time would have considered a much more workable adversary than open bigotry and segregation. Some holdouts remain bigots, but not enough to keep Barack Obama out of the White House, and overall, racism is considered as socially embarrassing as pedophilia. King could never have predicted that this would happen so quickly. Is America 'post-racial'? Afraid not. But is the treatment of black people in America still so transparently and grievously unjust as to make a mockery of our democratic ideals and require redress with all deliberate speed? Afraid not, again, and Dr. King would rejoice, as we should with him.--John McWhorter

The theory of the firm in neoclassical theory focuses on how much the firm should produce and optimal capacity. Game theory looks at strategic issues arising under various payoffs. Neither approach captures the nature of innovation, the trial and error risk-taking of the visionary entrepreneur or the power of creative destruction to enrich our lives. These ideas are at the heart of the Austrian approach to the firm, an approach that has made even less headway in mainstream academic circles than Austrian business cycle theory.--Russ Roberts

How do the Angels continue to defy the odds? This is a problem we haven't totally solved yet. But I do have two theories. One possibility is that team defense has a cascading effect that raw numbers can't quite detect. A great defense does more than help a pitcher's batting average on balls in play and his ability to prevent runs. It shortens innings. That lets a starting pitcher go deeper into games with less stress on his arm. More innings for starters takes pressure off a bullpen. A fresher pen then enables a manager to use his best arms in high-leverage situations, instead of relying on lesser relievers to put out fires because his more talented teammates are spent. Less stress on pitchers' arms can also decrease the risk of injury, thus preventing a team from having to call up Triple-A pi├▒atas or spend valuable dollars on replacements. A second possibility is Mike Scioscia. When a team fares better than expected every year for eight seasons, it might be that the manager is executing strategies that give his team an edge that others lack. Studies have been murky in isolating the effects that managers have on their team. We can look at tactical moves, which can reveal managers who know when to use one-run strategies (such as bunting or stealing bases) and when to play for the big inning. But the best managers might make a bigger impact in other areas, such as motivating his players to succeed, or simply putting the best nine guys on the field at any given time.--Jonah Keri

Union affiliates in some states are heavily involved in spending members' money on social causes that are sometimes contrary to members' own political leanings. For example, California unions donated more than $2 million—including $1 million from the California Teachers Association—to a campaign in 2008 to defeat Proposition 8, the successful state initiative that defined marriage as between a man and a woman. A CNN exit poll found that 56% of voters in union households supported the initiative despite the opposition of the union leadership. "The California Teachers Association does not poll its members on how it spends its political money," Larry Sand, a union critic and 28-year veteran of the state's school system, observes. Instead, union leaders vigorously oppose efforts to allow their members more control over how their dues are spent. In California, for example, labor groups and their allies expended an astounding $54 million in 2005 to defeat Proposition 75, which would have required that unions seek the permission of members to spend dues money on political contributions. Among the biggest nonunion contributors to the campaign to defeat Prop 75 was the Democratic Party, which kicked in $3.275 million. In Washington state, meanwhile, a judge ruled in 2000 that the Washington Education Association violated a state law barring the use of union dues for political purposes without employees' permission. The union fought the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court before losing in 2007 and agreeing to pay nearly $1 million in fines and rebates to teachers. The NEA's leadership has not been enthusiastic about President Obama because his education secretary, Arne Duncan, touts policies like merit pay for teachers and the expansion of charter schools, which the union opposes. Grumble as they do, the NEA's leadership has nowhere else to go. Sadly, neither do the 40% or so of union workers who may not vote for the president but will see a large portion of their dues spent on his re-election.--Steven Malanga

Dr. Kim couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen a bowl of pure white rice. What was a bowl of rice doing there, just sitting out on the ground? She figured it out just before she heard the dog’s bark. Up until that moment, a part of her had hoped that China would be just as poor as North Korea. She still wanted to believe that her country was the best place in the world. The beliefs she had cherished for a lifetime would be vindicated. But now she couldn’t deny what was staring her plain in the face; dogs in China ate better than doctors in North Korea.--Barbara Demick

Perplexities of Consciousness is composed mostly of detailed case studies of aspects of the stream of experience about which people seem to err, grossly and persistently, even in circumstances that might seem favorable to reflection. We aren’t just fallible in hard cases, I argue; we err systematically and pervasively about even the most basic facts of the stream of experience, and even when we set our minds to it carefully and conscientiously.--Eric Schwitzgebel
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