Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Quotes of the day

We were very, very much in the minority. If I said a thousand-to-one, we were the one. Even friends of ours thought we were so wrong, they felt sorry for us. ... When I purchased my home, it was very strict underwriting standards. I had to provide two pay stubs, two years tax returns, three months of bank statements, all sorts of credit card information. All of a sudden I saw this lowest quality mortgages with basically no underwriting standards at all.--John Paulson

... a professor is almost twice as likely to support the Democratic party as a member of the general population, and about 80% less likely to support the GOP. By contrast, a military officer is about 40% more likely to identify as a Republican as someone in the general population, and about as likely to identify as a Democrat. In fact, the only profession I could find that skews 80% towards Republicans is Southern Baptist ministers. I suspect both professors and ministers would resent the comparison.--Megan McArdle

So my post on the liberal slant in academia has garnered what I believe to be a record number of comments, many, even most of them, pretty angry. And as I predicted, the positions are very much reversed from the normal take on such things. Conservatives are explaining how bias can be subtle and yet insidious; and liberal, many of them academics are saying that you can't simply infer bias from statistical underrepresentation, and sarcastically demanding to know whether I really think that people are asking candidates for physics professorships who they voted for in the last election. They're all right, of course: you can't simply infer bias from statistical underrepresentation, and yet bias can be subtle and yet insidious. ... Blacks are slightly more likely than Republicans to attend church weekly, and black churches are about as likely as white evangelical churches to be creationist. Yet if someone told you that the reason there are too few black professors is that creationists don't make good professors, you'd think they were bonkers. ... Professors are overwhelmingly pro-choice, pro-gay-marriage, anti-military, and in favor of redistribution and regulation programs. These aren't a matter of logic and scientific evidence; they're value judgments. Moreover, they cluster in a way that suggests something other than rational analysis driving the decision--why should your views on military operations in Iraq, or climate change, be correlated with your views on abortion? ... We are never the best interrogators of our ideas. It requires motivated critics to lay bare our hidden assumptions, our misreading of the data, our factual inaccuracies. No matter how scrupulously honest you try to be, you are no substitute for an irritated opponent thinking, "That can't possibly be right!"--Megan McArdle

Unlike the U.S., the pecking order of those colleges is clearly determined, with one school indisputably at the top – Seoul University in Korea, Tokyo University in Japan. I studied Asian languages in college and spent a few years in Asia, seeing this first hand. Just before I spent time in Korea, the country had eliminated the grueling examination program for entrance into the middle schools, and the result was an almost immediate increase of an inch in the average height of twelve and thirteen year-olds.--Rick Brookstaber

I will maintain to my deathbed, that we made every effort to save Lehman, but we were just unable to do so because of a lack of legal authority.--Ben Bernanke

One moral is to be careful of what you wish for, given the legislative process. In that regard, perhaps the stimulus bill turned out to be more reminiscent of Smoot-Hawley than the New Deal. And as the Administration tees up housing finance reform, I worry that however well-intentioned the reformers may be, there are few industries in which the rent-seeking drive is more powerful.--Arnold Kling

... the cupboard is bare. They don't have any better revenue mechanisms left--everything that anyone even thought was plausible went into ObamaCare. And yet, they can't simply cut doctor's reimbursements by one fifth. So they scrambled for anything at all--and the only way they could come up with the necessary revenue was to stretch the cuts out over ten years, while covering the spending for only two years.--Megan McArdle

The NYSE is in no sense the cradle of anything. A cradle is a safe place for the young to develop until they grow up and become more self-sufficient. Y Combinator is a cradle. The NYSE is place for algorithms and speculators to make bets on financial assets. It last funneled real amounts of money into the broader economy during the dot-com boom, leaving behind a lot of Aeron chairs and little else.--Felix Salmon

... the tech bubble was not all that bad. To be sure, there were some spectacular failures – Pets.com comes to mind. But when you scrape away the detritus, you find the building blocks of all the technology that is increasingly integrated in our everyday life. The bubble-driven intensity of activity in information technology almost certainly accelerated its development and adaptation. Many news ideas were explored; some failed, some succeeded. The successes, however, outweighed the failures, leaving productivity much higher as a result (that this productivity has not translated into higher real wages, however, remains a disappointment). Also note that much of the spending during that period was dedicated to capital that depreciated very quickly. Consequently, the impact on future consumption/production was limited. The excess computer produced in 1999 was nearly worthless just a few years later. Time for a replacement, bubble or not. Housing, obviously, is very different – the capital is long lived, locking resources into place for decades.--Tim Duy

I've been reading up on the history of Communism for over two decades. But even now, I find it hard to wrap my mind around its absurdity. If the first-generation Communists had grown up in a culture where people had worshiped steel and cotton cloth for centuries, I could chalk their crusades up to intellectual laziness. What staggers the imagination is that these pseudo-intellectuals actually originated their own nonsense.--Bryan Caplan

Pujols and the Cardinals could break up. More and more it looks like they WILL break up. The reason is obvious and a story almost as old as love. The reason is money. See, in the Jeter situation there was never any doubt that Jeter was worth a lot more to the Yankees than anyone else. ... To Albert, I do believe, money equals respect. And that’s where the difference comes between Pujols-Cardinals and Jeter-Yankees. Because, at the end of the day, Jeter had no other viable options. No other team was going to offer him even half of what he wanted. But Pujols … yeah, there will be plenty of action on free agent Albert Pujols. Maybe nobody will offer a soon to be 32-year-old man the 10-year deal he wants … but never bet against the uncontrolled impulses of rich men searching for a place to spend their money. Someone paid $151.8 million for this Jackson Pollock painting: ... So don’t tell me that no one will pay $300 million for perhaps the greatest hitter who ever lived.--Joe Posnanski

I do think Jeter is the strangest FIVE-TIME Gold Glove winner, because several advanced defensive stats suggest that he is mailbox-immobile and that ground balls hit two steps to his left or right will always look like line drives in the box scores.--Joe Posnanski

I am struck in the debates over abortion by how firmly each side is convinced that the other side is somehow deluding themselves. The accusations are so similar--the one side claims that we are sanitizing birth in our imaginations, the other retorts that we are doing the same to abortion. Both sides seem convinced that if they could just rip away the veil of illusion with sufficiently gruesome pictures of dismembered fetuses, or botched back-room abortions, whatever well-meaning fools remain on the other side would finally see, and the debate would end. Yet decades of this sort of consciousness raising have only hardened the battle lines. And yet maybe they're right that seeing is believing. I suspect that if we ever do resolve the debate, it will be sonograms and social change, and not slogans, that mark the decisive turn.--Megan McArdle

[The Atlas Shrugged movie] should not have 2011 cars and Dagny Taggart should not look like a mousy actress imitating Nicole Kidman playing a local news reporter.--Tyler Cowen

Nowhere has [Michelle Obama] been greeted with more enthusiasm and respect than in the fashion world. The industry elevated her to the status of icon. She wears a cardigan, and it sells out. She wears a gown by a non-American designer, and debate rages for weeks. Given a bit of time, designers may find themselves inspired by her in the same way they’re energized by Jackie Kennedy, Babe Paley, or Countess So-and-So und So-and-So. The only problem is that while they’re busy celebrating this singular woman, they’re not too keen on understanding what it’s like to be the only black person in a room filled with white folks. ... Mrs. Obama may be the patron saint of the fashion industry (and, arguably, Annie Leibovitz images of Michelle Obama channeling Camelot served as a political balm for a public adjusting to the idea of a black First Lady), but anyone who enters the blogosphere knows that the Obamas’ presence in the White House has not eradicated racism. In some ways, it is more vitriolic than ever. Other creative fields—visual arts, music, film, literature—seem to understand this. They wrestle with the complicated nature of race all the time, even as they also stumble. But the fashion community tends to play dumb or be disingenuous. It treats race like “a paint chip,” even while benefiting from the undercurrent of racial tensions that permeate our society.--Robin Givhan

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