Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Quotes of the day

If you don’t hate your trainer or workout partner sometimes, then they’re not helping you really get in shape--Jon Acuff

For a man wearing the standard uniform of the office suit, it’s hard to go wrong. For a woman, the office style is always trickier. Never be flamboyant; be modest. Always cover your shoulders.  Short skirts and open cleavage are strictly forbidden. High heels and colours are a go.--XENIA TCHOUMITCHEVA

Unfortunately for Yahoo’s shareholders, the board is simply weak, unable to assert itself in important areas. This feebleness is about to leave Yahoo to the wolves. The Yahoo directors appear to have no vision or patience. This self-created vacuum has left the board and Yahoo directionless, allowing outside players to push these directors in inopportune directions. The problems of the Yahoo board are endemic in corporate America. Shareholders put their faith in and entrust their money to directors to manage the company and counter a chief executive if need be. But when things get tough, boards become captive of executives or bankers or they simply leave. The recent case of Dynegy illustrates this. Rather than stay to fix the mess the directors created, the entire Dynegy board resigned when shareholders rejected its efforts to sell the company. The reasons are interrelated. Too often directors don’t have enough skin in the game to push the company in a strong direction. Directors’ pay averages less than a $100,000 a year, typically far less than what they earn in their full-time jobs. They do not own substantial stock in their companies and face no risk if things go wrong. Even if directors are given incentives to take strong action, the corporate board is not set up for this type of decision-making. Directors work part time to manage the company. It’s tough getting any group to agree on anything, let alone to challenge chief executives. Boards thus naturally tend to rely on the top executives and advisers. Board collegiality and friendships among directors and with the chief executive often also mean that no director takes a disruptive stance. All these factors work to prevent directors from taking charge of a company or forging their own vision, a sobering thought for those who advocate greater board power.--Steven Davidoff

... for all his brave rhetoric about shared sacrifice and grand bargains and hard choices, when it comes to make actual, specific, detailed policy proposals, President Obama has always shied away from putting his name on anything that 1) acknowledges the actual scale of our deficit problem and 2) takes on his party’s interest groups in any meaningful way. So why should we expect his election-year proposals to be any different? In either case, it looks like we have our campaign theme for Obama 2012: “Tax the rich, and Medicare forever.” Which means that if Rick Perry wins the Republican nomination, we’ll be set up for the starkest ideological collision in a presidential election since 1964. No doubt cable news executives are salivating at the prospect.--Ross Douthat

The focus on jobs irrespective of whether they pass a cost-benefit test, highlights the worldview of Keynesians, where spending on anything when unemployment is high, is a good thing via the magic of the multiplier. Further, spending $100k per job is good because it's a million jobs. One wonders if there's a price at which it would not be attractive.--Eric Falkenstein

The [Fed's] dual mandate language [for maximizing employment AND price stability] is based on an outmoded concept of a tradeoff between inflation and unemployment. Moreover, too many goals blur responsibility and accountability. The dual goal enables politicians to lean on the Fed, and people often cite it as an excuse for unconventional policies. Indeed, one of the reasons for the growing interest in removing the dual mandate is the extraordinary discretionary actions the Fed has taken in the past few years -- including large-scale purchases of mortgage-backed securities and longer-term Treasuries, a strategy commonly called "quantitative easing." The Fed has explicitly used the dual mandate to justify these unusual interventions.--John Taylor

... what the Harvard Crimson dubs the “freshman kindness pledge” remains in place. The vast majority of freshmen, and the college itself, have formally declared that “the exercise of kindness” is “on par with intellectual attainment.” Both parts of that equation are odd, and they are odd in ways that suggest something has gone awry at Harvard.--Virginia Postrel

The pursuit of niceness and the worship of success can complement one another as easily as they can contradict. But the kind of culture that’s created when they combine — friendly and deferential on the surface, boiling with resume-driven competitiveness underneath — isn’t one that a great university should aspire to cultivate.--Ross Douthat

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