Friday, June 17, 2011

Quotes of the day

I had always believed in the analytic self; I was rational, calculating, and tried to make smart decisions. Of course real people don’t use math, but I figured that we’re still weighing costs and benefits just as our models say. Or at least that was my understanding of the world. Today, I’m not so sure. ... My feelings toward my daughter Matilda aren’t easily expressed in analytic terms. I struggle to express it, just as I struggle to understand it. I think about my daughter, and I smile. Her laugh is the greatest joy, and it thrills me that she shares it with me. ...There’s something new and strange about all this. Today, I feel the powerful force of biology. It’s visceral; it’s real; it’s hormonal, and it’s not in our economic models. I’m helpless in the face of feelings that overwhelm me.--Justin Wolfers

When my mother showed the cops her plastic bag full of crack vials that we picked up off the sidewalks around Washington Square, the cops looked at the residue and deduced that it couldn’t be cocaine. Addicts would never leave that much behind. Thwarted in their efforts to get police attention, my mother and a neighbor, Diane Whelton, did what came naturally to children of the ’60s: they organized. My mother became the head of Mothers and Children of Washington Square [Park]. ... By the end of 1987, the crack dealers had been driven from the park. The neighborhood got so nice that eventually we were driven out, too. I’m in Brooklyn, and my mom and dad moved to Westchester. That park, however, will always feel like ours.--John Carney

Praying is hard sometimes but it’s nowhere near as difficult as flossing regularly.--Sammy Adebiyi

There's a lot of (justifiable) chest beating over Android at Google these days -- a corporate development VP has called the Android acquisition Google's "best deal ever" -- but in hindsight the overwhelming success of Android is kind of a miracle. Big tech companies screw up many if not most of their acquisitions, letting them wither from corporate neglect or driving out founders and other talent with their inflexible cultures and protocols. (Skype buyer Microsoft (MSFT), are you listening?) Even Google can be guilty of this too (dMarc, Dodgeball), but its management of Android is a textbook example of a deal gone terribly right: Rubin and his team thrived in Google's engineering-driven culture, which encouraged innovation by letting Android release less-than-perfect versions that it would continually upgrade. Google also embraced Rubin's vision of giving the operating system away -- a gambit, enabled by Google's broader ad-based business model, that stoked adoption of the platform. But Android ultimately triumphed thanks in large part to its corporate benefactors: Google co-founders Page and Brin saw the broader potential of Android almost from the outset. For the young entrepreneurs Android was more than just another software acquisition. It was the centerpiece of their grand vision to transform the telecommunications industry and make it more open and accessible -- in short, more like the Internet.--Beth Kowitt

You can still see the contrast between American idealism about companionate marriage and French “sophistication.” In France, we now know thanks to Dominique Strauss-Kahn, men were not only allowed to stray, they earned praise for doing so. As DSK’s wife Anne Sinclair once said, “It’s important to seduce, for a politician.” Male attraction to women, particularly younger women, has been considered both natural and virile, and no one seemed especially troubled by the possible suffering of the cast aside and frequently aging wife. What did Mme. Mitterrand, wife of Francois, think of la Presidente’s mistress and child? No one asked and no one cared. That is not the case in the United States. The public humiliation of Anthony Weiner, like that of his predecessors in sexual malfeasance—John Edwards, Chris Lee, Eliot Spitzer, Mark Sanford, and so many others—has the effect of a moral crusade against those who violate both the companionate ideal and his wife’s dignity. We subject him to weeks of derision, we debate his uncertain future, we pick apart the poor man’s psyche, we insist on public penitence, otherwise known as the press conference, and we may, as in the recent case of Chris Lee and now Anthony Weiner, take away the powerful position that he used to lure women.--Kay Hymowitz

We're all trying to appeal to totally different (sometimes conflicting) demographics simultaneously, which is why Katy Perry and Rihanna wear vinyl nurse outfits for audiences of 12-year-old girls.--Molly Lambert

Should we replace machines that produce light bulbs with human glass blowers, to bring back those jobs? Should we replace machines that produce cigarettes with human cigarette rollers to bring back those jobs? Should we go back to the manufacturing processes of the 1950s in steel, automobiles, and durable goods in order to bring back those jobs? I would gladly support a tax-financed program to subsidize manufacturing jobs provided that those jobs were filled by every politician who calls for a return of manufacturing jobs.--Arnold Kling

Under Basel II in December 2009, Greek government bonds, rated A-/A2, had the same 20 percent risk weight as AA/AAA asset-backed securities in the United States. It seemed like easy money, and banks levered it up. As usual, regulations did not alleviate the problem, rather, they encouraged it.--Eric Falkenstein

The oddest aspect of Green Lantern—and I wonder if the filmmakers were even aware of it—is its frankly fascist sci-fi philosophy. The green rings and lanterns are charged with the Power of Will, the various counterpoised yellow thingies with the Power of Fear. At one point, Sinestro (who would trust a guy with a name like that?) says, “Fear is the enemy of Will. Fear is what stops you and makes you weak.” At which point I wondered what kind of movie Leni Riefenstahl might have made from this material. Possibly a more interesting one.--Kurt Loder

Three years ago, Iceland forced its over-leveraged financial sector into a painful debt restructuring instead of bailing out its banks. The government had no other choice: Icelandic banks' assets totalled roughly 1,000% of GDP, and in the world's smallest currency area, no less. The central bank could not take on the role of lender of last resort without igniting a currency crisis. Critics dubbed this response disastrous, and Iceland served as the cautionary tale of an "Icarus economy" whose banks had grown too big to save. Today, though Iceland's banking system defaulted, its government remains solvent, with debt levels close to the European average of between 80% and 90% of GDP. Iceland's luck was that it did not qualify for a bailout. ... There may be no better contrast between restructuring versus bailouts than to compare Iceland to Ireland. Dublin faced the same predicament as Reykjavik in 2008, but it responded with a blanket guarantee that turned Irish taxpayers' money into collateral for Irish bank debts. Rating agencies and so-called experts hailed the move at the time, in part because Dublin had the euro and the mighty German state vouching for its credibility. But Iceland's experience of botched government takeovers and private-capital flight has also played out in Ireland—only much more slowly and, arguably, more painfully. The crucial difference between Iceland and Ireland is that Icelandic taxpayers relinquished responsibility for their banks' bondholders, while their Irish counterparts are on the hook for their banks' crushing debts. Even worse, we may not have seen the full scale of the Irish banking system's losses, given that it remains on government life support. It is becoming clearer by the day that too many of Europe's banking crises were initially misdiagnosed as liquidity, rather than solvency, problems. For some countries, most notably Ireland, the policies prescribed for that misdiagnosis have transformed banking crises into sovereign-debt crises. --ÁSGEIR JóNSSON
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