Jun 28, 2009

Kevin Duffy on legislating morality

It is impossible to legislate morality. In fact, any attempt requires an immoral act: coercion, thus achieving the exact opposite.

~ Kevin Duffy

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Jun 25, 2009

Matt Taibbi on Goldman Sachs gaming the housing bubble

The effects of the housing bubble are well known - it led more or less directly to the collapse of Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers and AIG, whose toxic portfolio of credit swaps was in significant part composed of the insurance that banks like Goldman bought againsts their own housing portfolios. In fact, at least $13 billion of the taxpayer money given to AIG in the bailout ultimately went to Goldman, meaning that the bank made out on the housing bubble twice: It fucked the investors who bought their horseshit CDOs by betting against its own crappy product, then it turned around and fucked the taxpayer by making him pay off those same bets.

~ Matt Taibbi, "The Great American Bubble Machine," Rolling Stone, July 9-23, 2009

Jun 21, 2009

Ben Bernanke on bailing out AIG

If there's a single episode in this entire 18 months that has made me more angry, I can't think of one, than AIG.

~ Fed chairman Ben Bernanke, March 3, 2009 in Senate testimony

Pericles on politics

Just because you didn't take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you.

~ Pericles, 430 BC

Dave McCann on exploring new cultures

I've found that my interest in material things has been almost entirely replaced by my interest in exploring new cultures and making new friends. I have experienced the hospitality of cultures vastly different from my own and forged friendships in almost every corner of the globe.

Spending several months in a sleepy little town with no fast food shops, no night clubs, no Wal-Mart, no sports teams, no TV and not much of anything familiar from our culture could be torture for some people. But being in such a place makes you special in the eyes of the local people. I usually find that they are just as curious about me and American people as I am about them and their customs. It's kind of fun being the object of an entire village's curiosity.

When I show up in such a place, there are often people who have never seen a foreigner. Children are especially curious and sometimes I feel like the Pied Piper with a flock of children following me around. Sharing a meal with a family in a small farming or fishing village, comparing customs and traditions, and laughing with each other as we stumble through the language barriers; these are the moments I enjoy most.

I enjoy spending a day with one of the locals while he does his normal daily activities, like joining a fisherman as he nets fish from his rowboat on the Nile River. I've seen a farmer irrigate his crops using two buckets suspended from a pole across his shoulders and plow his rice paddy with a wooden plow pulled by a pair of water buffalo. I've watched a printer set up his hand-and-foot-operated printing press to print business cards in Arabic.

I have had time to really get to know some people who live a hard but simple life with little or no income and little hope of that ever changing. People adapt. If you cannot afford a car or a TV or a refrigerator or shoes; if you live in a house with a dirt floor and a thatched roof and no running water; if you have to work stooped over in the fields from dawn until dusk from the time you are a child until you are old and feeble; it builds character and teaches you how to relish things that are simple and free, like compassion and humor. I have learned a lot from these people, and I am a better person because of it.

~ Dave McCann, ME '79 from University of Missouri-Rolla, senior field engineer for GE Energy Services, Missouri S&T Magazine, Summer 2009

Jun 19, 2009

Paul Krugman on the impact of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac on the financial crisis

And now we’ve reached the next stage of our seemingly never-ending financial crisis. This time Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are in the headlines, with dire warnings of imminent collapse. How worried should we be?

Well, I’m going to take a contrarian position: the storm over these particular lenders is overblown. Fannie and Freddie probably will need a government rescue. But since it’s already clear that that rescue will take place, their problems won’t take down the economy.

~ Paul Krugman, "Fannie, Freddie and You," The New York Times, July 14, 2008

Paul Krugman on regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

So whatever bad incentives the implicit federal guarantee creates have been offset by the fact that Fannie and Freddie were and are tightly regulated with regard to the risks they can take. You could say that the Fannie-Freddie experience shows that regulation works.

~ Paul Krugman, "Fannie, Freddie and You," The New York Times, July 14, 2008

Jun 18, 2009

Timothy Geithner on his plans for sweeping financial regulations and expanded power for the Fed

Every financial crisis of the last generation has sparked some effort at reform, but past efforts have begun too late, after the will to act has subsided. We cannot let that happen this time.

~ Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, "Geithner Defends Plan to Give Fed Stepped-Up Powers," June 18, 2009, Bloomberg.com

Jun 16, 2009

Paul Krugman and Paul McCulley on the cure for the 2001 recession

The basic point is that the recession of 2001 wasn't a typical postwar slump, brought on when an inflation-fighting Fed raises interest rates and easily ended by a snapback in housing and consumer spending when the Fed brings rates back down again. This was a prewar-style recession, a morning after brought on by irrational exuberance. To fight this recession the Fed needs more than a snapback; it needs soaring household spending to offset moribund business investment. And to do that, as Paul McCulley of Pimco put it, Alan Greenspan needs to create a housing bubble to replace the Nasdaq bubble.

~ Paul Krugman, "Dubya's Double Dip?," The New York Times, August 2, 2002

Jun 11, 2009

Malcom X on the death of capitalism (1962)

It is impossible for capitalism to survive, primarily because the system of capitalism needs some blood to suck. Capitalism used to be like an eagle, but now it’s more like a vulture…It’s only a matter of time in my opinion before it will collapse completely.

Malcolm X, racial activist, 1962

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Michael Moore on the death of capitalism

And I think, really, what we’re seeing now, we’re seeing the end of capitalism. The end of capitalism as we know it and I say good riddance. It hasn’t helped the people or the planet.

~ Michael Moore, filmmaker, as appeared on the Larry King Show on CNN shortly after the presidential election of 2008

Jun 10, 2009

Aldous Huxley on travel

To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.

~ Aldous Huxley

Jun 5, 2009

Horace Mann on public education

We who are engaged in the sacred cause of education are entitled to look upon all parents as having given hostages to our cause.

~ Horace Mann

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Jun 3, 2009

Bill Fleckenstein on gold being underowned in investment portfolios

According to a story in Commodity Online, gold comprised just 5% of world financial assets in 2008; whereas in 1982 gold comprised 22% of world financial assets. As I've noted before, when I first got into the investment business 30 years ago, it was considered prudent to have at least 5-10% of one's assets in gold. Of course, that asset allocation doesn't take into consideration the general disdain that central banks now have for the purchasing power of any of their currencies, which ought to exacerbate today's demand for gold.

Looked at differently, according to the World Gold Council (and John Hathaway), if global pension funds decided to increase their exposure by about 1.2%, it would require more than 44,000 metric tons, or roughly 27% of all the gold that's ever been mined.

As I noted when the FT changed its tune about gold (May 09: "As Good As Gold"), I think the big story is going to be the establishment-types who -- to potentially hew to the fashionable status of allotting 5-10% of one's financial assets in gold-- ultimately chase the price much higher as they build their positions. And, if the Chinese central bank decides to do that, they have a long ways to go from their base of just under 2%.

~ Bill Fleckenstein

Jun 2, 2009

Otto von Bismarck on the U.S.

God looks after drunks, fools and the United States of America.

~ Otto von Bismarck, 19th century Prussian leader

Kevin Duffy on Townhall.com's boast that "A Republican wave is building -- let's be ready to ride it to victory!"

You can’t be serious. Under Bush II you spent like drunken sailors, doubled the public debt, bailed out reckless speculators with undue government influence (Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, BofA, et al.), and invaded and bombed a country who never invaded us (or had anything to do with 911) into oblivion, tarnishing the American brand of liberty and neutrality. Further, you paved the way for Obama and his radical socialist and authoritarian agenda. This is the vaunted Republican platform of limited government and free enterprise??? On top of that, the only true limited government, freedom loving Republican – Ron Paul – you treated like a pariah. Quite frankly, you and your party disgust me.

~ Kevin Duffy, Bearing Asset Management, May 28, 2009