Thursday, May 06, 2010

Quotes of the day

To a world that denies the God-sparked soul, however, man must remain inscrutable, and so therefore must the world be to man, and God to man, and man to himself. This is the great alienation, not man from his labor, or man from Nature, or man from his mother. But newspapers can’t speak this way, nor can professors or philosophers, and increasingly neither can preachers, which presents to us a future in which we all know something is desperately wrong, but where we no longer have words to name it.--Tony Woodlief

But does all this sexual imagery in the air mean that sex has been liberated—or is it the case that the relationship between the multi-billion-dollar porn industry, compulsiveness, and sexual appetite has become like the relationship between agribusiness, processed foods, supersize portions, and obesity? If your appetite is stimulated and fed by poor-quality material, it takes more junk to fill you up. People are not closer because of porn but further apart; people are not more turned on in their daily lives but less so. ...I will never forget a visit I made to Ilana, an old friend who had become an Orthodox Jew in Jerusalem. When I saw her again, she had abandoned her jeans and T-shirts for long skirts and a head scarf. I could not get over it. Ilana has waist-length, wild and curly golden-blonde hair. “Can’t I even see your hair?” I asked, trying to find my old friend in there. “No,” she demurred quietly. “Only my husband,” she said with a calm sexual confidence, “ever gets to see my hair.” ... She must feel, I thought, so hot.--Naomi Wolf

... pediatricians who had not raised kids themselves were somewhat more likely to subscribe to old wives' tales.--The Canadian Press

... nearly all of the tax-exempt bonds that 251 colleges and universities issued in 2003 would be classified as earning profits from tax arbitrage. --Douglas Elmendorf

We are on the same fiscal path as Greece, but we have more time.--Mohamed El-Erian

Can a Greek bailout work? If by work, we mean prevent the country from defaulting when it's time to roll over its debt this month, then yes, it can and will work. But over the long run? I don't see how it can, barring some sort of miraculous global boom in olives and Greek cruises. As others have pointed out, Greece has a primary deficit of over 8%. Which is to say that even if you make the debt payments go away, the country is only taking in enough tax revenue to cover 91% of its spending. Given how poor Greek tax compliance is, this means that austerity plans will literally have to be on the table no matter what happens: if they default, they won't be able to borrow any more money, and will have to run at least neutral; and if they don't default, they will have to cut deeply in order to make their debt payments. And the Greek population is, to put it mildly, not down with that.--Megan McArdle

It is entertaining that [European Union’s financial services commissioner Michael] Barnier is annoyed at the ratings agencies for being too negative, given all the criticism they have received over the past few years for being too positive on sub-prime debt and related assets.--Jeffrey Miron

Financial salaries, and salaries that are arguably linked to the growth of the financial sector (such as stock options), are one of the most noticeable drivers of rising inequality over the last thirty years. (Although I should note that this doesn't mean they are the largest driver; I went looking for evidence of this thesis back when I was writing about financial sector pay, and couldn't find any. Salaries at the top of almost every profession, from consulting to professional sports, have also been inflating wildly). I am in broad sympathy with this hand-wringing. The large part of investment banking that essentially performs regulatory and tax arbitrage seems to me to be an enormous waste of social resources--though my solution to this problem would mostly be simpler taxes and less regulation. ... Don't worry about poor America, having to struggle along without its Ivy League talent. Worry about what that Ivy League talent just did to our banking system.--Megan McArdle

Any proposal to impose new fiduciary duties on investment banking firms, and
particularly one for criminal penalties for breach of any such duties, is very likely to be ill advised, and should be adopted only after extensive study that takes into account the significant potential costs and risks discussed above. Such new duties and penalties almost certainly will have little or no effect in decreasing the level of fraud in the investment banking industry or reducing systemic risk in securities markets. On the contrary, these penalties may even increase risk and fraud by deterring efficient practices in the securities industry and reducing effective discipline of fraudulent behavior. Clearly in light of these potential dangers, new fiduciary duties and penalties require the most careful and extensive deliberation.--Larry Ribstein

Apparently the man who tried to blow up Times Square is a Pakistani immigrant, rather than one of those violent Tea Party activists as so many of us initially suspected. Who could have known?--Jonathan

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