Posted by on December 25, 2014

Every year, my buddy Jay sends me a link to David Collum’s Year in Review.  Now I am doing the same for all of you.  Here it is.

For those of you who are not familiar with David, his day job is as a Professor of Chemistry at Cornell University, focussing on how “aggregation and solvation dictate the reactivity and selectivity of organolithium compounds commonly used by synthetic chemists in both academia and the pharmaceutical industry”.  This is clearly a very easy subject because it leaves him plenty of time for investing  (where he claims returns since January 2000 slightly better than the Sage of Omaha) and acting as an economics and political commentator (including in the WSJ, The Guardian, and a bunch of pod casts and blogs — although Matt Taibbi left him at the altar for Rolling Stone).  He brings scientific rigor and a very inquisitive mind to all of these subjects, along with a great deal of wit and general intelligence.  He also brings the results of voluminous and very eclectic reading and viewing: this year’s Review contains over 500 citations, spanning everything from the usual suspects (Bloomberg, NYT, WSJ, etc.) to The Onion and Father Guido Sarducci.

For those of you who have the time, I recommend reading the entire thing.  For those of you who don’t, I have extracted some of the better moments, usually in the form of quotations (which he claims to love, and I believe him).  I have added notes and explanations where appropriate.  Enjoy.

“I found myself doing extraordinary things that aren’t in the textbooks. Then the IMF asked the U.S. to please print money. The whole world is now practicing what they have been saying I should not. I decided that God had been on my side and had come to vindicate me.”

Gideon Gono, former governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, a country that is the modern day benchmark for hyperinflation, with an estimated peak of 79.6 billion percent in November 2008.  In 2009, Zimbabwe abandoned the Zimbabwe Dollar and it still has no official currency.

“…when it changes it does so quickly, and the impossible becomes the inevitable without ever having been probable.”

Bill Fleckenstein, the head of Fleckenstein Capital and an active blogger, with a message to all of those who think it is safe to play in bubbles.

“There are no limits to our policy tools . . . to completely overcome the chronic disease of deflation, you need to take all your medicine. Half-baked medical treatment will only worsen the symptoms.”

Haruhiko Kuroda, governor of the Bank of Japan commenting on the massive monetary expansion under Abenomics and citing the usual Keynesian response to the evident failures of earlier stimulus: We need more!

“Negotiating with Obama is like playing chess with a pigeon. The pigeon knocks over all the pieces, shits on the board, and then struts around like it won the game.”

Vladimir Putin, a man who needs no introduction.

“I was curious if I could care about money on some fundamental level, and I couldn’t.”

Chelsea Clinton, commenting on her $600,000 salary for part-time work at NBC and her $75,000 fee for speaking engagements, before heading to the $10 million apartment bought by her hedge fund husband, who is the son of a former US Congressmen who ultimately did 5 years in federal prison after conviction on 31 counts of fraud.  And, no, none of this is made up.

“Under no circumstance is there ever a justification for the pre-emptive deployment of Hillary Clinton anywhere by any country.”

A quote from The Onion.

“We get up early to beat the crowds.”

A T-shirt worn by a policeman in a crowd control squad.

“Why don’t we use the American Constitution? It was written by really smart guys, it has worked for over 200 years, and they’re not using it anymore.”

A quote from a newspaper in Kiev discussing constitutional reform in Ukraine.

A great rant by John Oliver on civil forfeiture, a Kafkaesque aspect of the US legal system, the explanation for which is contained in the immediately preceding quote.

Roger Barris, London

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