Friday, February 26, 2010

Quotes of the day

Celebrity is what a democratic society has instead of aristocrats.--John Leonard

I knew there were only two choices available for preacher’s daughters: the ingenue or the femme fatale. Extreme ends of the spectrum to be sure, but in my experience, when it comes to stereotypes, Christians don’t do halfway.--Janna Barber

First, you decide what you want specifically; and second, you decide if you're willing to pay the price to make it happen, and then pay that price.--Nelson Bunker Hunt

[My father] worked because he came from nothing and took pride in the Something he’d built, and to this day when he gets behind the wheel of one of his enormous trucks and drives it hither, drives it yon, it all surely goes back to being a 14-year-old kid who was sent to a farm miles away to work for the summer for no money, just food and a cot, to take the pressure off the rest of the family.--James Lileks

Ineffective sanctions, effective job destruction. An unaccountable branch of the US government hurts poor people far away who have no voice in US politics. Deeply saddened…we don’t know what more to say.--William Easterly and Laura Freschi

The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.--Winston Churchill

Truthfully, my career aspiration is to prove that a drug with more than a billion dollars in annual sales is actually killing Americans and citizens across the globe, that in the clinical trials the dangers of this drug were revealed, and that the executives knew about the dangers and went ahead and marketed it anyway.--Harry Markopolos

... he has some amount of Asperger's, which means he has trouble seeing things from other's perspectives. Thus, everyone who disagrees with him is 1) an idiot or 2) evil. He can't imagine it otherwise.--Eric Falkenstein

It's very strange to hear gold standard advocates criticize President Hoover for imposing steep tax increases in 1932, the Depression's worst year. Yet the gold standard they champion was the reason for the tax increases they deplore. ... The punch line to one of my favorite anecdotes goes, "Son, your answers are so old, I have forgotten the questions." Has the Depression receded so far into history that the answers that once plunged the nation into misery can possibly look credible again?--David Frum

I think those people who say they believe in a gold standard are fundamentally being very anti-libertarian because what they mean by a gold standard is a governmentally fixed price for gold.--Milton Friedman

"Fixing the system" in reality means acknowledging with distaste the durability of this culture and insulating its systemic impact. The casino is not going away and the Volcker rule tacitly acknowledges this: prop trading and other supposedly nefarious activities are not to be castrated, just rehoused. The Goldmans of the world may be broken up but their vampire calamari offspring will still suck your face off somehow if you are inclined to engage them. Your call. As long as there is a strong enough narrow banking system, let the casino keep its doors open. Caveat emptor. --Andrew Clavell

It's worth adding that government policies like community rating and mandated benefits exacerbate adverse selection, and government-provided care and insurance exacerbate moral hazard. We should also cast a skeptical eye on the Samaritan's Dilemma -- that is, the willingness of the citizenry to provide care for people who can't or won't provide for themselves, which encourages free-riding. While this is a real issue (as are the other three cited inefficiencies), what is its magnitude? The Report says uncompensated care for the uninsured was $56 billion in 2008. That sounds like a lot. But the Report also says (elsewhere) total expenditures on healthcare in 2009 were $2.5 trillion. Assuming the 2008 and 2009 numbers are relatively close, we can do the math and conclude that uncompensated care for the uninsured is less than 3% of all health expenditures.--Glen Whitman

Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), who made his substantial fortune by suing military contractors and later lambasted them as a lawmmaker, was indeed evacuated from Niger by personnel working for Xe Services (the private security empire formerly known as Blackwater), his spokesman confirms.--David Schulman

Sartre, perhaps the most omnivorous and omnipresent of the 20th-century philosophers, is the subject of Roudinesco’s second chapter, ‘Psychoanalysis on the Shadowy Banks of the Danube’, which details Sartre’s foray into film-making: his abortive collaboration with John Huston on a screenplay about Freud. Roudinesco begins by situating Huston’s choice of Sartre as screenwriter within the context of America’s hygienisation, medicalisation and corruption of psychoanalysis. Apparently, the one oasis in America where ‘emigrants from old Europe’ sustained the ‘high tradition’ of Freudian analysis was Hollywood, which Roudinesco represents as a European-operated machine for ‘criticising the ideals of the American way of life’. Huston, although an American – or ‘American born’, as Roudinesco charitably puts it – decided to make a movie about this Freud: the European, anti-American one. Another way of looking at it would be to say that Huston, following the great American biopic tradition, wanted to make a movie about how Freud became Freud. But in either case Sartre, the pre-eminent and ultra-European philosopher of becoming, was an ideal choice. He completed a 95-page screen treatment in 1958. The protagonist of Sartre’s script was Freud the young neurologist, who had reached a ‘desperate impasse’ in his treatment of Anna O. and in his theory of the sexual etiology of hysterical neurosis. For the part of Anna O., incidentally, Sartre had his eye on Marilyn Monroe, who was discouraged from taking the role by Anna Freud and by Monroe’s own psychoanalyst, Marianne Kris, whose father had been Freud’s tarot partner.--Elif Batuman

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II is perhaps the most financially successful package of entertainment ever. Developed by Infinity Ward, the game did $310 million worth of sales in its very first day. By comparison, the current movie blockbuster Avatar did a measly $27 million on day one. But another comparison might be even more appropriate illustration of the phenomenon of militainment and how the American public’s interface with war is changing. Roughly 70,000 young Americans chose to join the U.S. Army in 2009. By contrast, 4.7 million chose to spend Nov. 11, 2009, playing this video game version of war at home, most of them not even realizing it was Veteran’s Day. --P.W. Singer

It’s hard to argue that George Bush looking up your library records is more of an infringement on personal rights than the Obama administration having full access to your cell phone records.--Dennis Shiraev

The Economist is surprised that Barack Obama’s administration has gotten so little done in its first year. It has no major achievements — not one. I am not surprised at all. That is what I expected to happen. In the past the American public have had the wisdom to not elect serving members of congress. Kennedy was the only other serving member of Congress elected to the Presidency in the 20th century. The US public has always valued experience in executive roles. They usually elect vice presidents (Bush, Johnson, Trueman, Coolidge, Theodore Roosevelt, etc.) or Governors (Bush, Clinton, Carter, Nixon, Franklin Roosevelt, Wilson, McKinley, etc.) or military leaders (Eisenhower, Grant, Taylor, Jackson, Washington, etc.). This is important because vice-presidents, governors and five star generals have an established leadership team. They arrive in Washington ready to rule. They have the team and they have the experience in wielding executive power needed to put their agenda into action. Barack Obama arrived in Washington with his campaign team. He had no executive experience (none) and no leadership team. All he had was his campaign. That explains why he has never stopped campaigning and fully focused on ruling. That explains why he handed over key legislation to Congressional Democrats; in particular the health reform and the stimulus package, instead of proposing and championing his own plans.--Sam Wylie

Barack Obama may not realize it, but I may have just helped save his presidency. How? By winning a drawn-out fight to protect his powers as commander in chief to wage war and keep Americans safe. He sure didn't make it easy. When Mr. Obama took office a year ago, receiving help from one of the lawyers involved in the development of George W. Bush's counterterrorism policies was the furthest thing from his mind. Having won a great electoral victory, the new president promised a quick about-face. ... Why bother fighting off an administration hell-bent on finding scapegoats for its policy disagreements with the last president? I could have easily decided to hide out, as others have. Instead, I wrote numerous articles (several published in this newspaper) and three books explaining and defending presidential control of national security policy. I gave dozens of speeches and media appearances, where I confronted critics of the administration's terrorism policies. And, most importantly, I was lucky to receive the outstanding legal counsel of Miguel Estrada, one of the nation's finest defense attorneys, to attack head-on and without reservation, each and every one of OPR's mistakes, misdeeds and acts of malfeasance. I did not do this to win any popularity contests, least of all those held in the faculty lounge. I did it to help our president—President Obama, not Bush. Mr. Obama is fighting three wars simultaneously in Iraq, Afghanistan, and against al Qaeda. He will call upon the men and women serving under his command to make choices as hard as the ones we faced. They cannot meet those challenges with clear minds if they believe that a bevy of prosecutors, congressional committees and media critics await them when they return from the battlefield. This is no idle worry. In 2005, a Navy Seal team dropped into Afghanistan encountered goat herders who clearly intended to inform the Taliban of their whereabouts. The team leader ordered them released, against his better military judgment, because of his worries about the media and political attacks that would follow. In less than an hour, more than 80 Taliban fighters attacked and killed all but one member of the Seal team and 16 Americans on a helicopter rescue mission. If a president cannot, or will not, protect the men and women who fight our nation's wars, they will follow the same risk-averse attitudes that invited the 9/11 attacks in the first place. Without a vigorous commander-in-chief power at his disposal, Mr. Obama will struggle to win any of these victories. But that is where OPR, playing a junior varsity CIA, wanted to lead us. Ending the Justice Department's ethics witch hunt not only brought an unjust persecution to an end, but it protects the president's constitutional ability to fight the enemies that threaten our nation today.--John Yoo

You should never spend that kind of money on car repairs for a 10 year old car. Just dump it and buy a new one or a newer one. It's a sunk cost. You own the Eddy Curry of cars right now.--Bill Simmons

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