Monday, February 22, 2010

Quotes of the day

That was the beauty of that [Miracle on Ice] game. You didn’t have to understand to understand.--Al Michaels

The issue isn’t derivatives; it’s all financial transactions whose objective is to deceive or to weaken financial transparency.--Roger Ehrenberg

The crisis of government in America is that it does too many things badly instead of doing a few things well.--Russ Roberts

[Federal officials] ordered the poisoning of industrial alcohols manufactured in the United States, products regularly stolen by bootleggers and resold as drinkable spirits. The idea was to scare people into giving up illicit drinking. Instead, by the time Prohibition ended in 1933, the federal poisoning program, by some estimates, had killed at least 10,000 people.--Deborah Blum

Well, you know, to me I find it interesting that you have a lot of the Republicans running around and pushing back on the stimulus money and saying this doesn't create any new jobs. Then, they go out and they do the photo ops and they are posing with the big check and they say, 'Isn't this great?'--Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger

While even in an era of purple prose, such language may seem deepest violet.--Judge Jed Rakoff, on Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's legal writing

Why do you think this blog is pseudonymous?--Epicurean Dealmaker

The search for the next Greece is finding its way to an unlikely place: Japan.--William Pesek

I have attended meetings at which high-ranking officials from both the Soviet Union and the Carter administration have clearly stated that Carter's support for human rights was seen from the Soviet side as a repudiation of détente and a return to Cold War hostility -- and that, especially in the beginning, Carter did not fully grasp the tension between his two goals of détente with the Soviets and the promotion of human rights. Obama faces, potentially, a similar tradeoff between the promotion of human rights and the development of stable relations with countries such as China and Iran; he is likely to find it as difficult to manage the tension between those goals as Carter once did. --Walter Mead

China’s reserves are often thought of as if they were a treasure trove available for spending. They are not. They are simply the asset side of the mismatched balance sheet. If the PBoC wanted to “spend” $100, say for example to recapitalize a bank, it could do so, but this would automatically create a $100 dollar hole in its balance sheet. – it would still owe the RMB that it borrowed originally to purchase the $100. To put it another way, the reserves are not a savings account, free for the PBoC to spend as it likes. Reserves are effectively borrowed money.--Michael Pettis

... the $100 saved by an American consumer purchasing artificially cheap Chinese tires, might spend that extra $100 taking his or her family out to dinner more often at local restaurants, helping to save or create jobs in the local restaurant industry. That is, some Americans working in the restaurant industry can thank the manipulative Chinese for their jobs.--Mark Perry

Now consider two worlds - in one world the price of a typical Picasso is $50,000; in the other, it's $5 million. Which world would you guess has a higher standard of living? --Alex Tabarrok

The share of American GDP devoted to exports has about doubled during the past 50 years without having any noticeable impact on either the employment or unemployment rates. Part of the reason for this little impact is that imports increased even more rapidly than exports did, but the main answer is that some workers and capital shifted from producing for domestic uses to producing for foreign uses.--Gary Becker

I am not a climate scientist. But I know something about multiple regression analyses with complex phenomena. It is my impression that like macro models, these models do not perform well with out-of-sample predictions. That is, they are fitted to the past and then used to make predictions about the future. When the future does not turn out to be like the past predicted, the models are tweaked (improved!). The problem with this methodology is that the tweakers of the models are prone to confirmation bias.--Russ Roberts

There is little agreement about what causes depression and no consensus about what cures it. Virtually no scientist subscribes to the man-in-the-waiting-room theory, which is that depression is caused by a lack of serotonin, but many people report that they feel better when they take drugs that affect serotonin and other brain chemicals. There is suspicion that the pharmaceutical industry is cooking the studies that prove that antidepressant drugs are safe and effective, and that the industry’s direct-to-consumer advertising is encouraging people to demand pills to cure conditions that are not diseases (like shyness) or to get through ordinary life problems (like being laid off). ... Science, particularly medical science, is not a skyscraper made of Lucite. It is a field strewn with black boxes. There have been many medical treatments that worked even though, for a long time, we didn’t know why they worked—aspirin, for example. And drugs have often been used to carve out diseases. Malaria was “discovered” when it was learned that it responded to quinine. Someone was listening to quinine. As Nicholas Christakis, a medical sociologist, has pointed out, many commonly used remedies, such as Viagra, work less than half the time, and there are conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, that respond to placebos for which we would never contemplate not using medication, even though it proves only marginally more effective in trials. Some patients with Parkinson’s respond to sham surgery. The ostensibly shaky track record of antidepressants does not place them outside the pharmacological pale.--Louis Menand

New York Stock Exchange volume fell to about 1 million shares, the lowest level of the day at the time, in the minute Woods began a televised speech from Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, headquarters of the U.S. PGA Tour. Trading shot to about 6 million when the speech ended, the highest for any period except just after exchanges opened, data compiled by Bloomberg show.--Michael Patterson and Eric Martin

It amazes me that Tiger learned little to nothing from the past two months. The control freak whose life slipped out of control dipped right back into control-freak mode, reading a prepared speech in front of a hand-selected audience of people, taking no questions, talking in clichés and only occasionally seeming human. Everything about it seemed staged. Everything. When the main camera broke down at the nine-minute mark and Tiger had to be shown from the side, I half-expected to see that he was plugged in to the wall. ... Like so many other mega-celebrities who became famous too early, it's as though they never properly develop the part of their brain that controls this question: "How can I win over the person I'm talking to right now?" When you become famous too early, you don't have to win over anyone. You just have to exist. You become constantly wary. You start watching what you say around people you don't know. You measure any potential friend or business partner by one question: "What do they want from me?"--Bill Simmons

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