In their own words

And take the rap if they didn’t?

“The question they want answered is whether we can build automated weapons that would conform to the laws of war.” — British robotics expert Colin Allen, who has been hired by the US Navy to advise on the programming of military robots.

Forward to the past

“Everyone had thought long, deep recessions were a thing of the past. There was a lot of talk of the new economy.” — Professor Jeffrey Frankel of Harvard University, a member of the US National Bureau of Economic Research committee that decided the US has been in recession since December 2007.

Old new economy

“If you were alive, they would give you a loan. Actually, I think if you were dead, they would still give you a loan.” — An observer from the financial services industry on the practices of Washington Mutual, a US bank that went broke in September holding US$11.5 billion in bad loans. (Other bad loans had been on-sold.)

If only we could remember them

“There are, of course, important differences between fraud and standard financial practice.” — A New York Times columnist writing on the $50 billion fraud carried out by Bernard Madoff and similar schemes, December 26.

Level playing field

“If Japan was doing this, we’d be threatening billions of dollars in retaliation.” — Professor Jeffrey Garten of the Yale School of Management, on the US government’s handouts to US automobile companies.

Bad teacher or slow learners?

“Do we really understand too little about the economy? I’m afraid the answer may be ‘yes’, and that is why policy makers are going to Davos.” — Victor Halberstadt, professor of economics at Leiden University, on the Davos World Economic Forum, which “policy makers” have been attending for 38 years.

Stop press

“Universities are not controlled by left-wing academics hell-bent on brainwashing students, a Senate inquiry has found.” — Sydney Morning Herald, December 5.

Cringer

“Concessions, I used to cringe at that word. But now, why hide it? That’s what we did.” — US United Auto Workers union president Ron Gettelfinger, on his willingness to sacrifice union members’ interests if it would help General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get a multi-billion-dollar handout from the government.

Bushwacked

“Working on the White House staff is an honour and will always look good on a resume. It just doesn’t look that good right now.” — A departing employee of the President George Bush’s administration.

Intolerant

“Neither the army nor the armed forces tolerates inappropriate behaviour in any shape or form.” — Britain’s Ministry of Defence, January 10, after a newspaper published video footage of Prince Harry (a lieutenant in the Household Cavalry’s Blues and Royals) using racist terms.

We’re in control

“It is simply the largest effort by any legislative body on the planet to try to take government action to prevent economic catastrophe, and even that may be insufficient.” — US Democratic Congress member David Obey on his party’s US$825 billion economic “stimulus” package.

It’s an ill wind ...

“When the economy slackens and unemployment rises and jobs become more scarce in civilian society, recruiting is less challenging.” — Curtis Gilroy, a US Department of Defense official, explaining why recruiting to the military has picked up.

We never make mistakes

“Mr. Bismullah was lawfully detained as an enemy combatant based on the information that was available at the time.” — A Pentagon spokesperson, on an Afghan held by the US at the Guantanamo Bay prison for nearly six years after he was denounced as a collaborator by Taliban collaborators who wanted his position as a provincial official.