Thursday, June 30, 2011

Quotes of the day

I told Lloyd [Blankfein], ‘You’ve been kicked around more than anyone!' And here I thought I was No. 1.--David Patterson

The truth is, Toronto, the city, is the fourth largest in the majors, after only New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. More than five million people live in the surrounding area. The ownership — Rogers, an enormous multibillion-dollar communications and media company — has virtually limitless resources, as well as a national sports TV network, a string of radio stations, and a soon-to-be-launched national sports magazine. Rogers Centre — which the company bought for the bargain price of $25 million in 2004 — isn't a beautiful ballpark, but it's clean and safe and accessible. Even the Canadian dollar, which was once the ready excuse for every struggling sports franchise up here, has eclipsed its American cousin. The Jays can knock off three percent from every contract, right off the top. But there they were last night against the Pirates, playing in a stadium not even one-third full, 23rd in payroll, and still struggling to reach the .500 mark, let alone thinking about making a run at the post-season.--Chris Jones

... on Opening Night against the Celtics last October, the Cavaliers embraced their LeBron-less plight. Their video ended with Mo Williams screaming incoherently and turning into a fireball. The subtext? This is our best player. It's Mo Williams. We just wanted to prepare you guys now.1 In Hollywood, that Mo Williams dilemma hangs over everything. They make too many movies and don't have nearly enough stars. That's a problem. Their solution is to "create" stars, leading to a bigger problem: They're effectively forcing actors like Chris Evans and Ryan Reynolds down our throats like big clumps of broccoli. Why not worry about finding quality scripts and making quality movies instead? That would require real work and real ingenuity. It's much easier to make superhero movies, sequels, anything with aliens, anything with the world about to blow up, and anything that could carry "3D" in the title. That's how we arrived to a point in which the following two facts are indisputable.

Fact: People believe Will Smith is the world's biggest movie star (even though he doesn't make great movies).
Fact: People believe Ryan Reynolds is a movie star (even though he isn't).

That's all you need to know about Hollywood right now.--Bill Simmons

If stimulus were to sharply boost aggregate demand it is quite likely that Congress would return the UI limit to 26 weeks, as it has during previous recoveries. For similar reasons, the real minimum wage would decline with more rapid growth in demand. Aggregate supply and demand are hopelessly entangled, a problem that many economists haven’t fully recognized. Economists aren’t even close to being able to identify the level of structural unemployment in real time. And even if we could, the Lucas Critique suggests that it is not a policy-invariant parameter. If we learned anything from the experience of the 1970s, it is that we should not base monetary policy on estimates of the level of structural and cyclical unemployment. Instead, policymakers should focus on a nominal target, such as the price level. In my view nominal GDP targeting would be better than a pure inflation target, as it would better accommodate supply shocks, and more closely correspond to the “dual mandate” of monetary policymakers in countries such as the US. By that criterion, monetary policy in the US, Europe, and Japan has been far too contractionary since late 2008.--Scott Sumner

[President Obama] is arguing we should spend to reduce our debt because of effects on future growth rates. This is all from the magic of the multiplier, where investments that would be wasteful in the private sector have a positive NPV in the public sector. This makes sense to most modern macroeconomists and they provide the intellectual cover for those who don't understand it but want it to be true. Economists have changed Adam Smith's dictum 'what is prudence in the conduct of every private family, can scarce be folly in that of a great kingdom' to 'what is foolish for a family is wise for our government.' I regret wasting time learning the formal casuistry that rationalizes the pedestrian and perennial desire to increase redistribution and federal power under the pretext of increasing growth. I know it's a defensible statement, not logically impossible just contingent on some heroic assumptions, but when you look at how our money is actually spent, empirically absurd: defense spending, K-12 education, ethanol, light rail, Medicare, all boondoggles that have made things worse via their top down direction. Meanwhile, Japan cleans up its disasters much more efficiently than the US would have (see Katrina), and where in 1931 the US could build the Empire State Building in 400 days, the World Trade Center is at 10 years and counting. At this rate we are declining much faster than when Egypt built the monumental pyramids at Giza around 2600 BC, then the pathetic Unas 300 years later (my grandkids will probably think the Hoover dam was made by alien astronauts).--Eric Falkenstein

Ah, beer. The cause of and the solution to all of life's problems.--Homer Simpson

When I’m writing on a whiteboard, if I find myself stuck in the middle of a word I can’t spell, I just abbreviate the word wherever I am.--Jon Acuff

It's easier to get published now but harder to get read.--Jon Acuff

... while Too Big to Fail rounds off some corners, the movie gets the basic story right: the crisis resulted from serious mistakes made by many people, especially on Wall Street and in government. But these people are not portrayed as evil; they just made mistakes. Even Lehman CEO Richard Fuld, who comes off poorly in the movie for scaring away potential investors, is shown making mistakes because he so badly wants to save his firm. He did the wrong thing for the right reasons. In contrast, Inside Job is all about assigning blame. The documentary makes a moralistic case that the crisis was all the fault of Wall Street villains and their helpers. To be sure, mistakes can cross over into villainy - some creators of toxic securities must have known that they were not doing God's work. But Inside Job takes this to a populist extreme, assuming malevolent motivations and spattering blame through ambush interviews of hapless crisis participants who agreed to speak on camera (I took a pass when the filmmakers called me in the spring of 2009). The portrayal of Eliot Spitzer is especially ironic, with the former New York Governor shown as a saint commenting on all the sinners. In truth, the striking feature of the crisis was how many different people committed mistakes: banks and other firms made bad loans and packaged them into subprime securities; rating agencies rubber stamped them as AAA; pension funds bought the junk assets; government officials missed the mounting problems; and so on. But surely also at fault are the multitude of individual homebuyers who turned into mini-speculators during the housing bubble. These folks are off the hook in Inside Job.--Phillip Swagel

The Obama Administration is now demanding that [James] Risen reveal his source for a 2006 scoop about CIA missteps in Iran. If he refuses to cooperate, which is his plan, he faces the possibility of jail time. Somewhere, Dick Cheney is smiling.--Conor Friedersdorf

What Obama should do is the exact opposite of this sensible advice: he should make preparations to shut down the machines that write Social Security checks and army paychecks, lamenting that he has no choice because the US is contractually obligated to pay its other bills. The GOP is betting that Democrats will take the blame for this. I think that is a very bad bet. This is why schools and other government agencies facing budget cuts tend to immediately slash something high-profile and politically popular. That's how you get them to reverse the budget cuts. I'm sure most of us in the private sector can recount situations where this has worked in corporations as well.--Megan McArdle

It has been the greatest honor of my life to serve and to lead you for the past four and a half years. All of that time we have been engaged in two wars and countless other operations. It has been a difficult time for you and for your families, from long and repeated deployments for those in all four services -- and the associated long separations from loved ones -- to the anguish of those of you who have lost friends and family in combat or those of you who have suffered visible and invisible wounds of war yourselves. But your dedication, courage and skill have kept America safe even while bringing the war in Iraq to a successful conclusion and, I believe, at last turning the tide in Afghanistan. Your countrymen owe you their freedom and their security. They sleep safely at night and pursue their dreams during the day because you stand the watch and protect them. For four and a half years, I have signed the orders deploying you, all too often into harm's way. This has weighed on me every day. I have known about and felt your hardship, your difficulties, your sacrifice more than you can possibly imagine. I have felt personally responsible for each of you, and so I have tried to do all I could to provide whatever was needed so you could complete your missions successfully and come home safely -- and, if hurt, get the fastest and best care in the world. You are the best that America has to offer. My admiration and affection for you is without limit, and I will think about you and your families and pray for you every day for the rest of my life. God bless you.--Robert Gates
Photo links here, here, here, here, here and here.

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