Monday, May 16, 2011

Quotes of the day

When I watched the party and celebration in the streets of London [for the royal wedding], my very first thought was “David would be in his underwear.” That’s admittedly a weird thought, but that’s where I went. I immediately imagined David stripping down to his under armor and doing the robot in the streets after his victory. Just standing there saying, “Hands go up, and they stay there! All I do is win!”--Jon Acuff

In 1997, Julie Preuitt sounded the alarms that the Texas financier R. Allen Stanford was operating a huge Ponzi scheme. The Securities and Exchange Commission official hammered away at the case for years, until the agency finally brought action against Mr. Stanford in 2009. ... Ms. Preuitt brought the concerns to her bosses and later complained to officials in the agency’s Washington headquarters. In turn, Ms. Preuitt received a letter of reprimand. The agency later transferred her to a nonsupervisory position, which in essence was a demotion.--BEN PROTESS

When President Barack Obama took office, in 2009, he championed the cause of government transparency, and spoke admiringly of whistle-blowers, whom he described as “often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government.” But the Obama Administration has pursued leak prosecutions with a surprising relentlessness.--Jane Mayer

... power is incredibly destructive. It’s a weird, pathological thing. I also think the intelligence community coöpted Obama, because he’s rather naïve about national security. He’s accepted the fear and secrecy. We’re in a scary space in this country.--Thomas Drake

We are witnessing the bipartisan normalization and legitimization of a national-surveillance state.--Jack Balkin, a liberal law professor at Yale

The program he talked to the Baltimore Sun about was a failure and wasted billions of dollars. It’s embarrassing to the N.S.A., but it’s not giving aid and comfort to the enemy.--Thomas Tamm, a Justice Department lawyer, revealed that he was one of the people who leaked to the Times

I think it’s outrageous. The Bush people have been let off. The telecom companies got immunity. The only people Obama has prosecuted are the whistle-blowers.--Mark Klein, the former A.T. & T. employee who exposed the telecom-company wiretaps

Democracy is the recurrent suspicion that more than half of the people are right more than half the time.--E.B. White

Suffrage coincided with immediate increases in state government
expenditures and revenue and more liberal voting patterns
for federal representatives, and these effects continued growing
over time as more women took advantage of the franchise. Contrary
to many recent suggestions, the gender gap is not something
that has arisen since the 1970s, and it helps explain why American
government started growing when it did.--John Lott and Lawrence Kenny

Kesselschlact means ‘caldron battle’ in German. That’s what the Nazis called battles of total annihilation, and that’s how I felt. Like a survivor of Kesselschlact.--Jim Cramer

Taken from the top, these sentiments [of "Why isn't Wall Street in jail?"] imply that the financial crisis was caused by fraud; that people who take big risks should be subject to a criminal investigation; that executives of large financial firms should be criminal suspects after a crash; that public revulsion indicates likely culpability; that it is inconceivable (to Madoff, anyway) that people could lose so much money absent a conspiracy; and that Wall Street bears collective guilt for which a large part of it should be incarcerated. These assumptions do violence to our system of justice and hinder our understanding of the crisis. The claim that it was "caused by financial fraud" is debatable, but the weight of the evidence is strongly against it. The financial crisis was accompanied by fraud, on the part of mortgage applicants as well as banks. It was caused, more nearly, by a speculative bubble in mortgages, in which bankers, applicants, investors, and regulators were all blind to risk. More broadly, the crash was the result of a tendency in our financial culture, especially after a period of buoyancy, to push leverage and risk-taking to the extreme. ... The mortgage crisis was a societal breakdown—a massive failure of the private market, Wall Street in particular. It wasn't, fundamentally, rooted in fraud. Enron was fraud. The bankers convicted in the savings and loan scandal who dealt sweetheart loans to friends were fraudulent. These people had their hands, willfully, in the till—and knew it. ... I wasn't a fan of Goldman's slickness in letting a short-seller design a collateralized debt obligation that Goldman marketed to clients, for which it was sanctioned by the Securities and Exchange Commission. However, its unsavory dealmaking should not obscure that in betting, correctly, against the housing market, it helped mitigate the crash. Had more firms done as Goldman and shorted mortgages, fewer unsound loans would have been issued. ... imprisonment is a punishment for criminality—not a sociological remedy for unfairness, incompetence, or outsize losses.--Roger Lowenstein

But we didn’t know what [our dad, Warren Buffett] did. In fact, when my sister filled out a form, I think in fourth or fifth grade, about what our parents did, she put “security analysis,” and it was assumed that what he did was check alarm systems. So to a kid it was like “what do all the numbers on the page mean? And what exactly is the New York Stock Exchange and buying and selling and all that?” So we really didn’t know.--Peter Buffett

The U.S. achieved 9% annual growth between 1800 and 1900, with 15 recessions, 4 depressions, and a civil war at halftime.--Bill Smead, contrasting the growth of China on CNBC.  More here.

... maybe there remains one last shiny, fat apple hanging right in front of our faces, one last endeavor that would bring us fast, costless, and easy growth. It is immigration reform. The United States can grow faster by stealing the rest of the world's smart people.--Annie Lowrey
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