Thursday, June 17, 2010

Quotes of the day

There are two main reasons for thinking this spill something of a godsend for Obama. One is that it happened under the watch of a company as big and solvent as BP, rather than one of the smaller independents operating in the Gulf. Otherwise it would be the US taxpayer that would be providing the $20bn compensation fund just announced, and you can bet your bottom dollar the Federal authorities would be a good sight more stingy with the handouts if forced to provide them from taxpayer dollars than they are likely to be with BP’s cash flow. But the main reason is that it plays straight into the President’s clean energy agenda.--Jeremy Warner

You know things are bad when a $20 billion price tag looks small.--Michael Corkery

Unfortunately, in earthquake-devastated Haiti as in troubled central Africa, the promise of starting from scratch is an illusion. It has always been true that no matter where you go, you take yourself with you—culture, history, habits, attachments and animosities come along like a skin you can’t shed. But these days there are fewer and fewer territories on our taxed and shrinking planet beyond the reach of someone’s determined claim. These ideas share an overly-optimistic belief in a neutral, benevolent international community and its power to peacefully oversee imposed changes. All are tone-deaf to the very real degree of nationalism that does exist in basically all countries by now, regardless of whether they were misbegotten colonial creations or not. They also violate sovereignty as conventionally defined, which may be good or bad but is sure to provoke a nationalist reaction. Early development economists working at the hopeful dawn of colonial independence believed that they really were starting from scratch. The last fifty years have shown us that they weren’t, and this has been—and remains—one of development’s biggest blind spots.--Laura Freschi

[My worst quality is] having such a capacious intellect and formidable market savvy that it can make it difficult to relate to the plebeians on Wall Street I chronicle such as Lloyd Blankfein and George Soros.--Bess Levin

If men are innately better at certain subjects than women, then why should society struggle so hard - and so expensively - to try to engineer a perfect balance between the sexes? By all means, take steps to ensure that boys and girls get the same opportunities in education, but let's also accept that those same opportunities will not produce the same outcomes. Men will always outnumber women in certain fields and vice versa. My argument isn't based on crude chauvinist doctrine (although I'm quite sure my opponents will disagree) but on decades of research, relatively simple statistics and an understanding of the law of averages. Of course, just because men, on average, are more intelligent then women, doesn't mean there are no individually brilliant women around. If I'm right, it doesn't mean there will be no female professors of physics; it just means we should accept that there will be fewer of them. Nor does it mean that a woman will never win the Fields Medal for mathematics; it just means that we live in a world where such an event is very, very unlikely. I realise my views are unfashionable, just as I realise the juggernaut of sexual equality and political correctness will take an awful lot of stopping. But I say to the social engineers who dream up ever-more-ingenious ways of getting more women into top positions; don't be surprised if you find your nobly motivated ambitions foundering on the immovable rock of human nature.--Richard Lynn

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