Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Quotes of the day

Private equity firms do create value, albeit with a heavy assist from financial engineering. Mr. Lee himself marveled on his blog at the ultimately successful restructuring Silver Lake undertook at Skype.  The perception is otherwise. Imagine if Lawrence H. Summers had joined Blackstone or Carlyle instead of recently becoming an adviser to the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. He would be called a sellout akin to Peter Orszag, who left government service to become a vice chairman at Citigroup.  This brings us back to l’affaire Skype. Mr. Lee can be blamed, but instead it is Silver Lake that is vilified. The reason is that Silver Lake is not playing by venture capital rules.  Yet the private equity firm is being blamed for doing exactly what private equity firms do and what is expected of them. In this light, Silver Lake is not “evil. “ Silver Lake is not even acting illegally or immorally. If Mr. Lee had hired a lawyer for an hour, he would have learned of his dilemma.  Name-calling aside, this is all about all about what people think of the industries and venture capital’s innate fear of private equity methods. V.C. and P.E. just may not be right for each other.--Steven Davidoff

It can be cathartic to witness somebody powerful throw a big tantrum, but it's also deeply embarrassing. It becomes even more embarrassing when that person is no longer powerful.--Molly Lambert

You should go work for a real bank.--Jamie Dimon, to a Citigroup banker at the World Economic Forum in Davos

In a post-industrial economy, drug dealing is not the only occupation where wages disproportionally skew towards the top 1%. The odds are stacked against Millenials, whether they strive to be football players or lawyers. Admittance into a top-14 law school, like a scholarship from a top-10 college football program, is the culmination of a lifetime of striving. Of the over 100,000 high school seniors who play football, fewer than 3,000 sign Division I letters of intent. Similarly, the top 25% in Harvard Law’s 2009 class had an average GPA of 3.95 and a LSAT score of 175, which puts them in the 99th percentile of the over 100,000 test takers each year. Yet, despite overcoming nearly impossible odds, each group still has the toughest test of their lives ahead of them — each other. NFL teams rarely draft players not at the top of the depth chart, even at powerhouses like Texas or Oklahoma. And even at Harvard or Columbia Law, “Big Law” firms — those with the coveted $160,000 starting salaries — don’t reach too far below the median class rank when selecting first-year associate. As you go down the ranks, the odds only decrease. NFL players from non-BCS conferences were usually top-tier starters in college, while top-50 law schools typically send only 10-25% of each class to “Big Law”. And just as there are always a few DII and DIII players in the draft each year, students from tier 2 and tier 3 law schools occasionally beat out graduates of elite schools for jobs. But “small school” success stories are the best of the best — collegiate All-Americans, the top 1% of their class in law review.--Jonathan Tjarks

There are almost no Americans left who have either the painfully developed musculature or the painstakingly acquired knowledge to rapidly harvest a field without damaging the crop. To my mind, that's a good thing: Americans don't have these skills because they have better alternatives. But really, it doesn't matter whether it's good or not. The people who blithely assert that we could always get Americans to do this job by paying a higher way are wildly underestimating what's involved in becoming a skilled picker. It is not something you learn to do of an afternoon. If we shut out the immigrants, we will see a lot more ruined crops.--Megan McArdle

Andrew Gelman, a statistics professor at Columbia and an amateur name-ologist, argues that many parents want their boys to seem mature and so pick classic names. William, David, Joseph and James, all longtime stalwarts, remain in the Top 20. With girls, Gelman says, parents are attracted to names that convey youth even into adulthood and choose names that seem to be on the upswing.--DAVID LEONHARDT

... [Chris Mooney] spun the survey to focus on the fact that the disagreement polarized the hierarchical-individualists and communitarian-egalitarians alone, and concludes that 'a little knowledge is a dangerous thing'. Yes, Mr. tendentious English major without an understanding of standard errors, it is.--Eric Falkenstein

Across Atlanta Public Schools, staff worked feverishly in secret to transform testing failures into successes. Teachers and principals erased and corrected mistakes on students’ answer sheets. Area superintendents silenced whistle-blowers and rewarded subordinates who met academic goals by any means possible. Superintendent Beverly Hall and her top aides ignored, buried, destroyed or altered complaints about misconduct, claimed ignorance of wrongdoing and accused naysayers of failing to believe in poor children’s ability to learn. For years — as long as a decade — this was how the Atlanta school district produced gains on state curriculum tests. The scores soared so dramatically they brought national acclaim to Hall and the district, according to an investigative report released Tuesday by Gov. Nathan Deal.--Heather Vogell

The story of the person who kills for love is almost always more compelling than the person who kills for money. I didn't write about the Mafioso in [Popular Crime: Reflections on the Celebration of Violence] because that's a different phenomenon. Those are people who entered a lifestyle where killing people is just a necessary part of what they do. ... "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth" is very, very interesting. It's false, and extremely arrogant, and very dangerous. That's not a real way to think about the world. This concept of eliminating the impossible — we could never do that. The whole idea of Sherlock Holmes is dangerous because it encourages people to think that — if they're intelligent enough — they could put all the pieces together in absolute terms. But the human mind is not sophisticated enough to do that. People are not that smart. It's not that Sherlock Holmes would need to be twice as smart as the average person; he'd have to be a billion times as smart as the average person. ... We continually become less tolerant of actions that lead to death. The human race has been in a long struggle to eliminate murder. And we will succeed. ... There will always be occasional exceptions, but we're involved in a long struggle against murder, war, famine, disease — and we move forward more than we move back. And you can only understand this if you look over the sweep of centuries.--Bill James

President Lyndon Johnson and the “best and the brightest” who staffed his administration led this country into three quagmires. By far the most famous, but perhaps not the most expensive and dangerous resulted from LBJ’s escalation of the Vietnam War. More than 50,000 Americans and many more Vietnamese died as a result of that policy; our country was bitterly divided in ways that still weaken us today, and the economic cost of the war was immense. It contributed to the wave of inflation that shook the country in the 1970s and in addition to the interest on the debt from this ill-starred venture we are still paying (as we certainly should) pensions and medical costs for the vets and their spouses. The Second Great Johnson Quagmire now destroying the nation is the Medicare/Medicaid complex. These entitlement programs are the biggest single financial problem we face. They dwarf all the Bush-Obama wars; they make TARP look like small change. They not only cost money we don’t have — and are scheduled to cost inexorably more until they literally ruin the nation — they have distorted our entire health system into the world’s most bloated and expensive monstrosity. Thanks to these programs, we have a health system that marries the greed of the private sector to the ineptitude of government, and unless we can somehow tame these beasts America and everything it stands for could be lost. (Note, please, that by comparison Social Security can be relatively easily reformed to be solvent for the next 75 years. The New Deal, whatever its shortcomings, was almost infinitely more realistic and sustainable than the Great Society.)--Walter Russell Mead

This NFL lockout is so much fun!--Bryan Allain

The way I see it, if the fans vote for Charlie Sheen to start in the outfield, Michele Bachmann at short and Rupaul at first base, then baseball should do its best to make that happen. I think the game is for the fans, completely and entirely, and I wish they would have fans vote DURING THE GAME on who to pinch-hit, who to bring in from the pen, when to hit and run and so on. The complaint I've heard that the fans should have voted Jhonny Peralta over Derek Jeter at shortstop because he had a much better first half feels to me like arguing that a kid should serve broccoli at a birthday party instead of cake because broccoli is s better for you. Jhonny Peralta has been a mostly dreadful player for three years. It's wonderful he had a great 76 games this year. But why does that obligate me to vote him into the All-Star game? Arguing that fans were somehow misguided for choosing the most popular player of the generation to start at shortstop over Jhonny Peralta seems to me like an anti-argument, like arguing that the All-Star Game should not be fun at all. ... Andrew McCutchen isn't in the All-Star Game and I can't even say why. Michael says it best: It feels like a clerical error or something. Clerical errors are no fun at all ... which gets us back to the All-Star Game problem in the first place.--Joe Posnanski
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