Friday, October 02, 2009

Quotes of the day

We will never achieve perfect knowledge of that one truth, but we advance toward it step by step. That advance always involves enriching our present perspectives by referring to those of others. The work of attaining knowledge, therefore, is always communal.--John Frame

During Barack Obama's September 9 speech on healthcare, he proclaimed, "But thanks to the bold and decisive action we have taken since January, I can stand here with confidence and say that we have pulled this economy back from the brink." Will this be his "mission accomplished" moment?--Jay Yarow

Like many of the big banks, the ratings agencies have been deemed too big or important to the system to fail.--Michael Hirsch

We need a virgin to throw into the volcano. It's not possible to reform Moody's. It's like saying 'I'm a reformed Nazi.'--Sylvain Raynes

... S&P, Moody's, and Fitch are insulated from competition, but then, you can't just have anyone rate debt, because then you get Tom, Dick, and Harry's Ratings Agency Shop putting AAAs on everything. ... You create a pool of 10 companies licensed to rate debt. When an issuer wants to bring a security of some sort to market, they tell some central body, and a rater is selected at random from the 10. There's no changing it once a name is selected. Thus the debt issuer can't go ratings-agency shopping if they're worried about what kind of ratings they can get. If a debt issuer isn't happy with who they got, then, well, too bad. Over time, you'd give companies that showed a good track record a heavier weight in the pool, so that they're selected more often. Their only goal would be to increase market share by being accurate. Pandering to either buyers or sellers would be 100% impossible. ... Nothing's going to change the fact that incumbents grow dumb and slow -- but at least they'd have an incentive to avoid that, whereas currently they don't (have the top raters lost any market share? No.)--Joe Weisenthal

To the new inhabitants of these villages, the vanished Saxons represent an alien culture. But their ghosts flit round buildings that in most cases are unaltered since being converted from wood to stone in the 17th century. They are like the hill-station residences of British India, holding its genius loci in absentia.Ghosts linger too in the countryside round about, ironically preserved by Ceausescu's order forbidding development beyond the confines of existing settlement. This yielded one of the most effective green policies in Europe, protecting miles of meadow and forest, now vulnerable to exploitation. The roads are already littered with loggers carting away loads of walnut, beech and oak. ... The Transylvanian Saxons ranked with the Mennonite Amish, the Patagonia Welsh and the Volga Germans among the dislocated tribes of Europe. They lasted a phenomenal eight centuries, leaving intact monuments of a culture distinct and yet integral to European history. If modern European union cannot guard such relics of its diversity it is not worth the name.--Simon Jenkins

Western admirers praise the [Chinese] government for lifting 300 – or 400, or even 500 – million people out of poverty, as though the leadership has carried out a superhuman exercise in benevolence. But as the scholar and writer Perry Link has observed, it is more accurate to say that the people lifted the Communist party out of poverty – once it had the sense to get out of the people's way.--Isabel Hilton

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