Monday, September 26, 2011

Quotes of the day

... it’s likely [Sean Parker's] greatest contribution to Facebook was his creation of a corporate structure—based on his Plaxo experience—that gave Zuckerberg complete and permanent control of the company he founded.--Steven Bertoni

After eight years, I’ve performed more than two thousand operations. Three-quarters have involved my specialty, endocrine surgery—surgery for endocrine organs such as the thyroid, the parathyroid, and the adrenal glands. The rest have involved everything from simple biopsies to colon cancer. For my specialized cases, I’ve come to know most of the serious difficulties that could arise, and have worked out solutions. For the others, I’ve gained confidence in my ability to handle a wide range of situations, and to improvise when necessary. As I went along, I compared my results against national data, and I began beating the averages. My rates of complications moved steadily lower and lower. And then, a couple of years ago, they didn’t. It started to seem that the only direction things could go from here was the wrong one. Maybe this is what happens when you turn forty-five. Surgery is, at least, a relatively late-peaking career. It’s not like mathematics or baseball or pop music, where your best work is often behind you by the time you’re thirty. Jobs that involve the complexities of people or nature seem to take the longest to master: the average age at which S. & P. 500 chief executive officers are hired is fifty-two, and the age of maximum productivity for geologists, one study estimated, is around fifty-four. Surgeons apparently fall somewhere between the extremes, requiring both physical stamina and the judgment that comes with experience. Apparently, I’d arrived at that middle point. ... I watched Rafael Nadal play a tournament match on the Tennis Channel. The camera flashed to his coach, and the obvious struck me as interesting: even Rafael Nadal has a coach. Nearly every élite tennis player in the world does. Professional athletes use coaches to make sure they are as good as they can be. But doctors don’t. I’d paid to have a kid just out of college look at my serve. So why did I find it inconceivable to pay someone to come into my operating room and coach me on my surgical technique?--Atul Gawande

... when you see a fabricated, unverified quote attributed to you in a book that claims to be a historical description of an important policy meeting with the President, it sticks with you. Mr. [Ron] Suskind’s earlier book about the Bush Administration was an inaccurate and unfair depiction of the President and the advisors for whom I worked, and of the White House in which I worked. It was clearly fed by a disgruntled former Presidential advisor [Paul O'Neill] promoting himself and pushing his own agenda. I will assume the same about his latest. Amazon should move it to the Fiction category.--Keith Hennessey

The [Obama] administration was supposed to have the economic dream team. Couldn't they have spared a moment to sit down with the folks at [the Department of Energy] and explain the concept of sunk costs?--Megan McArdle

How does the surgeon with broken hands fix his own hands? If congress is able and willing to vote to circumvent itself, then it is not really in need of circumvention. If it can't circumvent itself, but circumvention really is necessary, then what? Perhaps Mr Orszag imagines CIA director David Petraeus setting up a number of independent panels and commissions after mounting a successful military coup? I would suggest a constitutional convention. Anyway, in the absence of a plan for implementation, Mr Orszag's article is a bit like telling a kid failing at basketball to get taller.--W.W.

Yale? Seriously? Yale?--Greg Mankiw

Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese ... Iceberg, Roseberg, Steinberg ... Harvard, Yale, Princeton, it's all the same to me.--a punchline + a Cav addendum

But surely if, say, President Jimmy Carter was as smart and as full of correct foresight as he would have had to be in order for sensible people to take seriously his late-1970s pronouncements on the future of America’s energy economy, he could have made a personal fortune, starting at 12:01pm on 20 January 1981, launching and running an energy company (or, more precisely, a synthetic-energy company). Yet he didn’t even try. He selfishly denied to Americans – indeed, to the world – the blessings of synfuels. Sure, he did other things. Built houses for poor people. Visited foreign leaders. But does the value that Mr. Carter supplied to the world through these deeds come close to the value that Mr. Carter would have supplied had he actually founded and successfully run a company producing ‘alternative’ energy? Doubtful. And what of Pres. Obama? Even if he wins a second term in the White House, he’ll be only 55 years old when he leaves office. Will he found and run a health-insurance company? How about a ‘green’ energy firm? Or will he, perhaps, found and run a firm specializing in offering middle- and low-income Americans better and more fully disclosed access to consumer credit? Will he create a successful automobile firm? I’ll bet (seriously) a good deal of money that he’ll do none of these things. He’ll not even try. And for good reason: not only does he know nothing about these matters, he knows nothing about finding investors willing to stake their own funds, or about finding skilled workers and managers willing to cooperate together in such upstart enterprises, so that such enterprises become realities with real prospects for success. He knows no more about the economic matters upon which he pronounces than does a soap-opera actor portraying a physician know about cardiology or obstetrics.--Don Boudreaux

Predicting toxic drug effects in humans - now, that's something we could use more of. Plenty of otherwise viable clinical candidates go down because of unexpected tox, sometimes in terribly expensive and time-wasting ways. But predictive toxicology has proven extremely hard to realize, and it's not hard to see why: there must be a million things that can go wrong, and how many of them have we even heard of? And of the ones we have some clue about, how many of them do we have tests for?--Derek Lowe

Had we lived, I should have had a tale to tell of the hardihood, endurance and courage of my companions which would have stirred the heart of every Englishman. These rough notes and our dead bodies must tell the tale.--Captain Robert Falcon Scott, journaling his failed expedition to the South Pole

Maybe that is what a recession is. Not a macroeconomic accident in which all of us suddenly decided to spend less and consequently have been unemployed more. But a period in which the up escalators are less crowded and the down escalators have more people than usual.--Arnold Kling

I suspect the biggest source of inflation fears has been Chinese investors. The regime there has been on a treadmill to Hell, needing to create millions of jobs each year to avoid having its populace revolt. To create those jobs it has to keep its exports cheap, which requires it keep its currency artificially low. It does this by printing money, quite literally. Anyone holding lots of Chinese currency would understandably want to hedge against inflation. But China has been putting the brakes on inflation. It is allowing its manufacturing sector to slow down — we've now had three consecutive months of contraction in Chinese manufacturing. The government is quite audibly fighting inflation. So perhaps the demand for gold from Chinese investors is retreating now that the economy appears to be slowing.--John Carney

Bloomberg published a nice piece earlier this week which supports my long-held belief that the term “investment banking management”—like “military intelligence” or “legal ethics”—is, in the trenchant phrase of Raymond Chandler,1 “an expression which contains an interior fallacy.” In other words, an oxymoron.--ED

Basel III involves complex risk weighting that is easily open to manipulation and regulatory arbitrage. Covered bonds, a structured finance arrangement popular in Europe, get a much lower risk weighting than other debt securities — which means banks that already own them (the Europeans) will have an advantage over those that don’t (the Americans).--John Carney

... overpaid and underperforming government employees are a drag on productivity, and especially on fiscal outlooks when economies are weaker. This helps explain why many state and local governments of the US, and governments in countries like Greece, are encountering serious obstacles to improving their fiscal houses as they respond to the Great Recession.--Gary Becker

[My plan to raise taxes on higher incomes] is not class warfare. It's math.--President Obama

Class warfare isn't leadership.--John Boehner

The President’s goal of raising taxes undermines his goal of increasing investment and growth.--Keith Hennessey

You know those Christian versions of mints, with bible verses on them? They're called Testamints. Well, someone's gone and created some popsicles with Christian messages on them. The name of the product? Test-icles.--James Williams

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