Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Quotes of the day

Team trust is not determined by an average of the members, it's at the level of the least trusted member.--Eric Barker

But I say let’s remain fulling involved and fully vested in the Middle East. Yeah, it’s a big, deadly business that facilitates them hating us. That’s part of what you have to put up with when you’re a superpower, the global grownup, maintaining a dad-like my-house-my-rules regime in the world. Energy-based neo-isolationism and disengagement just means that next thing you know, China and Russia will be calling the shots regarding the world’s greatest energy reserves, it’ll be a their-house-their-rules world. And I don’t think we want that.--Jules Crittenden

I think of myself as being West Berlin during the Cold War, a shining beacon of capitalism and democracy surrounded by a sea of Marxism.--John Yoo, about being in Berkeley, CA

A study released on Monday by researchers at George Mason University and the University of Texas at Austin found that only about half of the 571 television weathercasters surveyed believed that global warming was occurring and fewer than a third believed that climate change was “caused mostly by human activities.” More than a quarter of the weathercasters in the survey agreed with the statement “Global warming is a scam,” the researchers found. The split between climate scientists and meteorologists is gaining attention in political and academic circles because polls show that public skepticism about global warming is increasing, and weather forecasters — especially those on television — dominate communications channels to the public.--Leslie Kaufman

If the abuse in the ’50s (and earlier) followed roughly the same pattern as the abuse in the ’70s, and just remains more underreported today, you would expect the ratios of different types of abuse — long-term versus short-term, male versus female, pedophilic versus ephebophilic — to remain relatively constant across the decades. But they don’t: Instead, the post-1960 period shows a dramatic increase in reports of long-term sexual misconduct with teenage boys, and a substantially smaller increase in other types of abuse. This data informs the conservative Catholic argument that the post-Vatican II exodus of straight men from religious life and the spread of a sexually-active gay subculture within the priesthood is the abuse scandal’s “elephant in the sacristy.” Liberal Catholics might counter that the priesthood has always been disproportionately homosexual, and that the sexual revolution probably just encouraged psychologically healthy gay priests to give up on the church entirely, leaving behind a clerical population tilted toward repression, self-loathing and the dysfunctions of the closet. Whichever narrative you prefer, though, it’s hard to deny that something changed in the 1960s, and not for the better.--Ross Douthat

The earthquake scared me. Voodoo has been in my family but the government isn't helping us. The only people giving aid are the Christian churches.--Veronique Malot, a 24-year-old Port-au-Prince resident

Now, it has occurred to me that we can retell the Passover story in modern times, with new casting. Some of the roles seem fairly obvious: Obama is God, Ben Bernanke is Moses, and the banks are the Israelites. Pharaoh is Nassim Taleb. The plagues are the Government's interventions: TARP, TLGP, TALF, ZIRP, Quantitative Easing, Ban on Short Selling, Cash for Clunkers, Homebuyer Tax Credit, Extended Unemployment Benefits, and the final coup de grace: subsidizing mortgage principal writedowns. ... The banks desperately tried to recapitalize their balance sheets, but Taleb returned and declared that they were still insolvent and had many more writedowns yet to be realized. As the banks frantically tried to escape from the wrath of the Black Swan of home mortgage defaults, Obama provided a crucial escape route, parting the seas of mark-to-market accounting and allowing the banks to liberally value the assets on their books with discretion. Taleb and the other bank bears were crushed by the lack of real asset value markings, and puked out of their short positions, disappearing back into the shadows where they were never heard from again.--Kid Dynamite

... when a company experiences what accountants call "a material adverse impact" on its expected future earnings, and those changes affect an item that is already on the balance sheet, the company is required to record the negative impact--"to take the charge against earnings"--as soon as it knows that the change is reasonably likely to occur. This makes good accounting sense. The asset on the balance sheet is now less valuable, so you should record a charge. Otherwise, you'd be misleading investors. The Democrats, however, seem to believe that Generally Accepted Accounting Principles are some sort of conspiracy against Obamacare, and all that is good and right in America. ... What they did is required by GAAP. And I've watched congressional hearings. There's no chance that four CEO's are going to explain the accounting code to the fine folks in Congress; explaining how to boil water would challenge the format. ... Obviously, Waxman is incensed because this seems to put the lie to the promise that if you like your current plan, nothing will change. But this was never true. Medicare Advantage beneficiaries are basically going to see their generous benefits slashed, retiree drug benefits suddenly cost more and may now be discontinued, and ultimately, more than a few employers will almost certainly find it cheaper to shut down their plans. If Congress didn't want those things to happen, it should have passed a different law.--Megan McArdle

The fact that education has mattered so much during this recession only reminds us that America’s future depends on its human capital.--Ed Glaeser

We need institutions that enable people to carry out their management roles. For example, if there’s conflict, you need an open, fair court system at a higher level than the people’s resource management unit. You also need institutions that provide accurate knowledge. The United States Geological Survey is one that I point to repeatedly. They don’t come in and try to make proposals as to what you should do. They just do a really good job of providing accurate scientific knowledge, particularly for groundwater basins such as where I did my Ph.D. research years ago. I’m not against government. I’m just against the idea that it’s got to be some bureaucracy that figures everything out for people.--Elinor Ostrom

It wasn’t Shia LeBeouf who made ‘Transformers’ a hit, but the FX. It obviously wasn’t Matt Damon who made the “Bourne” movies popular (or the magic would have carried over to “Green Zone”), but the story and action. Did anyone buy a ticket for “Up” because they yearned to hear Ed Asner’s voice characterization … or was it the touching story and superb animation? The ways deals are being structured for actors lately seems to indicate that the studios and producers are starting to wake up to this new reality.--Brian John Murphy

In terms of the cost of processing speed (real dollars per MHz), the 2009 Apple iMac is 1,947 times cheaper [than the 1984 Macintosh], and in terms of memory cost (real dollars per KB), the 2009 Apple iMac is 162,000 cheaper.--Mark Perry

The only downside of the film is that the producers couldn’t afford to hire good-looking people to play me and Levitt, so we had to play ourselves.--Stephen Dubner

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