Monday, November 30, 2009

Don Monroe on The Honest Broker

Don Monroe alerts me to his very well written review of The Honest Broker. He writes:
Pielke's short, readable book provides a helpful guide for what we can hope for in policy debates involving science, and how scientists can most productively contribute. What we can't hope for is a single, science-endorsed answer to complex issues that trade off competing interests and conflicting values. For that, we have politics.
More on THB here and here.

Ricky's New Movie is a Laugh and That's No Lie

The Invention of Lying is a must see movie.

It was written and directed and by Ricky Gervais also.

Basically it's set in a world where only one man has the
ability to lie.

It's a sweet romantic comedy with a heartfelt message, who's
funniest scene is actually near the start of the movie.

I don't want to spoil anything, but one of the other highlights
of the movie, is a short cameo by two actors who fans of Ricky
Gervais's work will recognize.

Some religious folks might be offended by the shot taken at Religion,
but the message in the movie is certainly something religious people
can take to heart.

Eight out of Ten!!!

Australia's Climate Policy

I've been waiting a few months to finish up an analysis of the implications of the proposed Australian ETS for the decarbonization of Australia's economy (along the lines of my UK and Japan case studies) so I can that submit it for publication. The analysis is pretty much done, but it would be nice to have at least some stability in the politics before putting it out. It is as if the Australian government has no concern about the needs of my academic publication schedule.

Anyway, there are huge goings on down under today (here and here). The opposition Liberal Party has seen a revolt and a new leader voted in in circumstances of high drama -- by just one vote, apparently a "donkey vote" at that (FYI, that is Tony Abbott, new Liberal leader in the photo above, just after the vote). This leadership election was immediately followed by a vote on the ETS, which the Liberal Party voted convincingly to oppose the legislation. What this means for Australian climate policy is unclear, at least to me, as it appears to imply either a deferral in the ETS vote until February or it being voted down in the near term. If the latter then Prime Minister Rudd would be empowered to call a rare double dissolution election, which opinion polls suggest Labor would win convincingly. I haven't yet considered the broader implications for cap and trade in the US or Copenhagen/Mexico City.

All of this is to say, that my paper analyzing Australian decarbonization policy won't be finished up for a few more weeks yet, at the very least. Anyone wanting a draft copy can email me at I'd welcome the commentary from our Aussie readers in the comments, especially expert perspectives.

More Amicus Briefs in American Needle v. NFL

Last Tuesday was the deadline for amicus curiae briefs supporting the NFL in American Needle v. NFL. A number of supporting briefs were filed with the Supreme Court, and are now available for download:
  • A brief by the National Hockey League, available here.
  • A brief by the National Basketball Association and NBA Properties, available here.
  • A brief by the NCAA, available here.
  • A brief by the ATP Tour, WTA Tour, Major League Soccer, and NASCAR, available here.
  • A brief by various economists in support of the NFL, available here.
  • A brief by Visa and Mastercard, available here.
  • A brief by Electronics Arts, Inc., available here.
  • A brief by VF Imagewear, Inc., available here.

Unfortunately, a copy of the NFL's brief has still not been made publicly available for downloading, as far as I have been able to discern. However, the brief is now available on LexisNexis, for those with access to its Supreme Court briefs database.

SportsLeader Team in Oregon State Championship

Remember that team I told you about that raised $10,000 to build a house for a family in Peru? Click on the link for more info

They started off the season 0-3 but now they're 9-4. This coming Saturday they will be playing for the Oregon 2A State Championship.

In the playoffs they have won the rematches with 2 of the 4 teams they lost to in the regular season. In the Championship they will face a third.

Kennedy wins rematch with Knappa, faces Scio for title
Trojans earn a second shot at Tri-River rival

HILLSBORO — Kennedy coach Randy Traeger has talked all season about the importance of the journey.

With a 21-14 victory Saturday at Liberty High against Knappa, the Trojans' journey has carried them to the OSAA Class 2A state championship game and a rematch against Tri-River Conference rival Scio.

"I think it's awesome for the players to have this joy," Traeger said. "It's not just the game, but everything that goes along with it. Those are the extras that they get to put into the memory basket."

Scio beat Lost River 46-3 in the other Class 2A semifinal game Saturday.

Kennedy will face Scio at 2:15 p.m. Dec. 5 at Hillsboro Stadium. Scio won the Tri-River championship, and Kennedy finished second. Scio beat the Trojans 14-7 on Oct. 16 at Kennedy.

"We feel pretty good about it," Kennedy's Nick Theimer said about the championship game. "But both teams are very good."

For the second week in a row, Kennedy beat a team it lost to during the regular season. The Trojans lost 56-18 to Knappa in the second week. Last week, Kennedy beat Heppner 7-0 after losing 30-23 in the season opener.

"We take pride in playing nonconference teams that are very good," Traeger said. "We are a defensive-oriented team because we play teams that run the wing. If you can defend the wing, you can be successful."

Trojans senior Derek Barth had 169 yards rushing and scored two touchdowns.

Barth caught a 22-yard touchdown pass from junior Derek Traeger on a third-and-17 to give the Trojans a 6-0 lead midway through the second quarter. The extra-point attempt was no good, and Kennedy took a 6-0 lead into halftime.

With 7:27 left in the third quarter, Knappa took a 7-6 lead after Cody Strickland connected with Trevor Oja for a 17-yard touchdown pass.

On the first play of the fourth quarter, Kennedy answered with a 2-yard touchdown run by Barth. Franky Rodriguez then converted the two-point conversion to give Kennedy a 14-7 lead.

The Trojans increased their lead to 21-7 when Rodriguez scored on a 3-yard touchdown run with 3:03 left.

Knappa answered with a 34-second, 65-yard drive, capped by Bryan Sablan's 17-yard touchdown reception, to cut Kennedy's lead to 21-14.

The Trojans recovered the ensuing onside-kick attempt, then ran out the clock.

"It feels really good," Barth said. "Our confidence is the highest it's ever been."

With the victory, Kennedy improves to 9-4. The Trojans have won nine of their past 10 games. The only loss during that stretch was to Scio, which is 13-0.

In the state playoffs, Scio has outscored its opponents 154-22. Scio's closest game this season overall was the 14-7 victory against Kennedy.

Traeger said the team will stay level-headed.

"We're definitely confident," Traeger said. "But the crown of victory is humility. We know that Scio is a really good team."

All the Leaves Are Brown

Looks like the foliage season is officially over.

All the leaves are brown (yes, and the sky is grey la-la-la). And while I would not go so far as to say this makes me dream of moving to California, I do find myself curious - for the first time in my life - about what it would be to like to live in that year-round cycling paradise where the Rivendells roam free with the carefree riders upon them wearing nothing but the thinnest layer of soft merino. But these are just idle thoughts really; I need seasons and I love the winter. It's just that this bleh season between the beautiful leaves and the arrival of snow can be a little dreary.

As you can see, Eustacia Vye is doing well, and the gray weather does not bother her too much. She is especially proud of having perfected the act of carrying my satchel in her basket. We have figured out a way to shove it in sideways and diagonally, so that only a corner sticks out. I am hoping that my next laptop (the current one is slowly but surely dying) will be the smaller MacBook Air, which will solve my transportation difficulties altogether.

One thing I keep forgetting to comment on, is cycling in a long coat. All of my cold-season coats are long - with the hem ending either just at the knees or below. I was nervous about cycling in them, but I am glad to report that it's been just fine. My Pashley and vintage Raleigh have skirt-guards, but the Globe I rode in Vienna did not, and even that was problem-free. I think that wool coats are too stiff to fly into the spokes, but I am curious whether other people have had this happen? Also, I find that the heavy wool texture of my coats has excellent non-slip properties, so that I can wear even the silkiest skirts underneath and not worry about sliding on the saddle. So really, give it a try - winter outerwear is great!

Evaluation of RMS Hurricane Damage Forecast 2006-2010

In the spring of 2006 (and annually since), a company called Risk Management Solutions (RMS) issued a five year forecast of hurricane activity (for 2006-2010). RMS predicted that U.S. insured hurricane losses would be 40% higher than average the historical average. RMS is the global leader in so-called "catastrophe modeling." Their loss models are used by insurance companies to set rates charged to homeowners, by reinsurance companies to set rates they charge to insurers, by ratings agencies for evaluating risks, and others.

In 2007 I produced an initial verification of the RMS forecast based on comparing actual losses over two hurricane seasons with the prediction, and suggested that the forecast was already off track. Wih the end of the 2009 North Atlantic hurricane season today, we now have 2 more years of data (for a totoal of 4 years) to use in evaluating the 5-year 2006 RMS forecast. The figure below shows the RMS forecast in the context of the historical average (insured) losses and the actual losses, all expressed on an annual basis. All data comes from the ICAT Damage Estimator and insured losses are calculated as 50% of total losses. (Note that 2009 had essentially no losses.) The figure at the top of this post shows the same data on a cumulative basis.

For the first four years the RMS 2006 forecast has obviously performed poorly, when compared to the historical average. If the forecast is to be evaluated on an annual basis -- which is how I interpret the intent of RMS -- then the forecast is a bust regardless of what happens in 2010, as the historical record has already proved superior in 3 of the five years 2006-2010. If the forecast is to be viewed cumulatively over five years (which I understand is not the intent of RMS) the forecast can still be interpreted as a success if 2010 sees $23 billion or more in insured losses, or a $46 billion season. There are 7 of 110 years in our dataset that saw this much or more damage, giving about a 6% chance of such an event based on climatology.

For further reading:

I participated in the 2008 RMS expert elicitation and provided a critique of it here and the expert elicitor responded (not on behalf of RMS though) here. I argue why it is that 5-year predictions are a poor substitute for the historical record in this peer-reviewed paper:
Pielke, Jr., R.A., 2009. United States hurricane landfalls and damages: Can one-to five-year predictions beat climatology?, Environmental Hazards, Vol. 8, pp. 187-200.

Tiger Woods Brings to Light the Privacy Rights of Public Figures

Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune wrote an interesting post titled, Up in Tiger's Business: Is it Our Right to Know? Zorn writes that many of us may want to know what precipitated the weird, low-speed crash outside Tiger Woods' home very early Saturday. But he raises the question whether we have the informal right to know. Zorn makes an excellent point:
The implicit bargain of modern celebrity is that it's a battle between the image makers and the image wreckers -- the celebrity is no longer able to draw lines between public and private that the public will respect.

With athletes this is less true than with, say, actors. Tiger Woods' ability to earn millions of dollars in tournament prize money every year is not dependent on what you or anyone else thinks of him. For the most part he has avoided making his private life public and kept the journalistic focus on matters related to golf. His endorsement deals trade on his enormous talent and legendary focus on the links, not on whether or not he's a jolly paterfamilias.
Zorn is articulating in layman's terms the legal test that I propose (in my article Tort Law and Journalism Ethics) for public disclosure of private facts claims involving public figures, which I discussed in my post last week.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

No Ice Water for You

Rajendra Pachauri, head of the "policy neutral" IPCC (does anyone take this seriously?), suggests that responding to climate change means dramatically changing our unsustainable lifestyles:

Hotel guests should have their electricity monitored; hefty aviation taxes should be introduced to deter people from flying; and iced water in restaurants should be curtailed, the world's leading climate scientist has told the Observer.

Rajendra Pachauri, the chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), warned that western society must undergo a radical value shift if the worst effects of climate change were to be avoided. A new value system of "sustainable consumption" was now urgently required, he said.

"Today we have reached the point where consumption and people's desire to consume has grown out of proportion," said Pachauri. "The reality is that our lifestyles are unsustainable."

With the head of the IPCC saying that you can't have ice water in restaurants, the opponents to action on climate change can probably go on vacation. They just can't buy advocacy of this quality.

If the climate science community is going to reverse the perception that it is a highly politicized clique, then it will at some point be necessary to reign in the IPCC leadership from being overt political advocates.

Assistant Eastern Illinois football coach dies in car crash


This is a reminder of how short life is. We know not the hour ... May we live every day serving God and others with all our heart.

God bless, Lou

Assistant Eastern Illinois football coach dies in car crash
The Associated Press
Updated: 11/30/2009 06:42:22 AM MST

Effingham, Ill. » Eastern Illinois assistant football coach Jeff Hoover was killed in a car crash as he returned home from a playoff game against Southern Illinois. He was 41.

Hoover and his family were riding with strength coach Eric Cash and his family late Saturday when their Chevrolet Suburban swerved to miss a deer and rolled over just south of Effingham, athletic department spokesman Rich Moser said Sunday.

Two children also in the vehicle have been released from the hospital, while a third child is being held for observation, Moser said. Cash, wife Sherri and Hoover's wife, Penny, are in stable condition at Carle Hospital in Champaign, he said. Effingham is about 30 miles south of Eastern Illinois' campus in Charleston.

Hoover joined Eastern Illinois in 2007 after serving as the offensive coordinator at Portland State. He also worked at Henderson State, Utah State, Claremont-McKenna College and his alma mater, UC Davis, and briefly coached the Arena Football League's Sacramento Attack.

"We are very saddened by the loss of Jeff Hoover," Eastern Illinois athletic director Barbara Burke said. "He was a valuable member of our football staff and was looked up to by the young men in our football program. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife Penny and their two children along with Eric Cash and his family in this difficult time."

Chris Vaccaro, an EIU offensive lineman, said Hoover always asked for the best from his players.

"Football coaches around the country turn into a second father for most of us players and for some of us our only father figure. Coach Hoover was that person to many of us," Vaccaro said. "He was a great man and a great coach."

The tragedy marks the second death this month for the athletic department. Assistant women's basketball coach Jackie Moore died Nov. 4 after collapsing as she started a workout. Doctors said the 28-year-old's heart "just stopped."

A memorial service for Hoover is planned, but no details were immediately available.

CRU on Global Temperature Data

The Times had an article yesterday reporting the old news that CRU did not have in its possession the original station data from some locations that comprise its global temperature index. I am quoted in the Times article as follows:
“The CRU is basically saying, ‘Trust us’. So much for settling questions and resolving debates with science,” he said.
The quote comes from a blog post I put up last August when CRU announced that it did not have some of the original station data. Here is the full context of my quote:
CRU has in response to requests for its data put up a new webpage [NOTE: Apparently this page is no longer up on the CRU emergency server] with the following remarkable admission (emphasis added):
We are not in a position to supply data for a particular country not covered by the example agreements referred to earlier, as we have never had sufficient resources to keep track of the exact source of each individual monthly value. Since the 1980s, we have merged the data we have received into existing series or begun new ones, so it is impossible to say if all stations within a particular country or if all of an individual record should be freely available. Data storage availability in the 1980s meant that we were not able to keep the multiple sources for some sites, only the station series after adjustment for homogeneity issues. We, therefore, do not hold the original raw data but only the value-added (i.e. quality controlled and homogenized) data.
Say what?! CRU has lost track of the original data that it uses to create its global temperature record!? Can this be serious? So not only is it now impossible to replicate or reevaluate homogeneity adjustments made in the past -- which might be important to do as new information is learned about the spatial representativeness of siting, land use effects, and so on -- but it is now also impossible to create a new temperature index from scratch. CRU is basically saying, "trust us." So much for settling questions and resolving debates with empirical information (i.e., science).
Today I received an email from a climate scientist of CRU-email fame complaining about my quote in the Times. He says that the national meteorological services have the original data, suggesting that I was misrepresenting the situation. I replied to him as follows:
I would suspect that there are some very profound disciplinary differences in the handling of data here between the community I am from and yours. If, for instance, an economic research unit were releasing analyses of global economic activity in support of policy claimed to not hold the original country data -- instead saying, well the countries have it -- that would be highly problematic.

My advice to you and your colleagues is that the defense that you present in your email to me is not a very good one. Rather, I suggest instead being open and simply saying that in the 1980s and even 1990s no one could have known that maintaining this data in its original form would have been necessary. Since it was not done, then efforts should be made to collect it and make it available (which I see CRU is doing). Ultimately, that will probably mean an open-source global temperature record will be created. If you believe -- and I see no reason to suspect otherwise -- that such an open-source analysis will confirm the work of Jones et al., then you should be welcoming it with open arms.
Obviously, CRU should have taken these steps long before the present circumstances, but regardless, they are now moving towards greater responsiveness and transparency. When the data is available in its original form those skeptical of climate science can then do the temperature math themselves out in the open where everyone can see their work. If the global numbers come out as CRU has presented over the years, then it will strike a blow to skepticism about global temperature trend records produced by CRU and restorse a good deal of credibility to this area of climate science. At that point, the fellow who emailed me and his colleagues can rightly boast of their integrity and say "told ya so." Until then, a defensive, circle-the-wagons approach is probably not the best course of action. But old habits die hard.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Eduardo Zorita on Climategate

Eduardo Zorita, a climate scientist at the GKSS Resaerch Center near Hamburg , Germany, has posted these comments up on his website:
Why I think that Michael Mann, Phil Jones and Stefan Rahmstorf should be barred from the IPCC process
Eduardo Zorita, November 2009

Short answer: because the scientific assessments in which they may take part are not credible anymore.

A longer answer: My voice is not very important. I belong to the climate-research infantry, publishing a few papers per year, reviewing a few manuscript per year and participating in a few research projects. I do not form part of important committees, nor I pursue a public awareness of my activities. My very minor task in the public arena was to participate as a contributing author in the Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC.

By writing these lines I will just probably achieve that a few of my future studies will, again, not see the light of publication. My area of research happens to be the climate of the past millennia, where I think I am appreciated by other climate-research 'soldiers'. And it happens that some of my mail exchange with Keith Briffa and Timothy Osborn can be found in the CRU-files made public recently on the internet.

To the question of legality or ethicalness of reading those files I will write a couple of words later.

I may confirm what has been written in other places: research in some areas of climate science has been and is full of machination, conspiracies, and collusion, as any reader can interpret from the CRU-files. They depict a realistic, I would say even harmless, picture of what the real research in the area of the climate of the past millennium has been in the last years. The scientific debate has been in many instances hijacked to advance other agendas.

These words do not mean that I think anthropogenic climate change is a hoax. On the contrary, it is a question which we have to be very well aware of. But I am also aware that in this thick atmosphere -and I am not speaking of greenhouse gases now- editors, reviewers and authors of alternative studies, analysis, interpretations,even based on the same data we have at our disposal, have been bullied and subtly blackmailed. In this atmosphere, Ph D students are often tempted to tweak their data so as to fit the 'politically correct picture'. Some, or many issues, about climate change are still not well known. Policy makers should be aware of the attempts to hide these uncertainties under a unified picture. I had the 'pleasure' to experience all this in my area of research.

I thank explicitely Keith Briffa and Tim Osborn for their work in the formulation of one Chapter of the IPCC report. As it destills from these emails, they withstood the evident pressure of other IPCC authors, not experts in this area of research, to convey a distorted picture of our knowledge of the hockey-stick graph.

Is legal or ethical to read the CRU files? I am not a layer. It seems that if the files had been hacked this would constitute an illegal act. If they have been leaked it could be a whistle blower action protected by law. I think it is not unethical to read them. Once published, I feel myself entitled to read how some researchers tried to influence reviewers to scupper the publication of our work on the 'hockey stick graph' or to read how some IPCC authors tried to exclude this work from the IPCC Report on very dubious reasons. Also, these mails do not contain any personal information at all. They are an account of many dull daily activities of typical climatologists, together with a realistic account of very troubling professional behavior.

Mike Hulme on Climategate

These comments by Mike Hulme of UEA (location of CRU) were originally posted at DotEarth:

The key lesson to be learned is that not only must scientific knowledge about climate change be publicly owned — the I.P.C.C. does a fairly good job of this according to its own terms — but the very practices of scientific enquiry must also be publicly owned, in the sense of being open and trusted. From outside, and even to the neutral, the attitudes revealed in the emails do not look good. To those with bigger axes to grind it is just what they wanted to find.

This will blow its course soon in the conventional media without making too much difference to Copenhagen — after all, COP15 is about raw politics, not about the politics of science. But in the Internet worlds of deliberation and in the ‘mood’ of public debate about the trustworthiness of climate science, the reverberations of this episode will live on long beyond COP15. Climate scientists will have to work harder to earn the warranted trust of the public - and maybe that is no bad thing.

But this episode might signify something more in the unfolding story of climate change. This event might signal a crack that allows for processes of re-structuring scientific knowledge about climate change. It is possible that some areas of climate science has become sclerotic. It is possible that climate science has become too partisan, too centralized. The tribalism that some of the leaked emails display is something more usually associated with social organization within primitive cultures; it is not attractive when we find it at work inside science.

It is also possible that the institutional innovation that has been the I.P.C.C. has run its course. Yes, there will be an AR5 but for what purpose? The I.P.C.C. itself, through its structural tendency to politicize climate change science, has perhaps helped to foster a more authoritarian and exclusive form of knowledge production - just at a time when a globalizing and wired cosmopolitan culture is demanding of science something much more open and inclusive.

Blue Collar Ambition

I have been experiencing a lot of frustration when it comes to the issue of careers. I have had so many thoughts swirling in my head, and I am not alone. These same issues have been on other forums and blogs that I read. I will see if I can break them down.

Generalization vs. Specialization

Wise Bread had an interesting article here on the subject of being a jack-of-all-trades or a master of one. I am in the generalist camp. I think specialization will make you a huge roll of cash if your specialty is in high demand, but you will pay it all back when the market for your skill reverts to the mean and craters. This happened with the computer sci people who made it big during the 90's building the internet, and then found themselves downsized as that same internet enabled companies to hire people in India to work for half the salary of their American counterparts.

The specialization route demands ever more specialization as people train and acquire more education in ever narrowing directions in a vain attempt to maintain their place in their niche. This is why we have so many people in graduate school learning shit applicable to only narrow fields. The result is a glut of higher degrees and mounting student loan debt. This can't go on forever. If you factor in costs of education and the job market volatility, I don't see these specialists being better off than generalists though they make huge dollars in the fat years. They pay it all back in the lean years, and the lean years always come.

I recommend generalization. The result will be lower pay but more consistent employment.

Blue Collar vs. White Collar

I am someone in the unique position of having a foot in both the blue collar and white collar worlds. I work a job that does not require a degree, but I find it more lucrative and personally rewarding than the jobs I could get with my degree. Granted, your typical middle manager will make more than I ever will, but as Taleb pointed out, middle managers are merely lucky coin flippers paid for taking credit for things they did not achieve and fired for taking blame for disasters they did not cause. I am also mystified by the entry level managers who work for less pay than their own employees. The reason for this disparity is simple. Entry level managers take a paycut in the hope of gaining entry into the casino. They take one step backward to take two steps forward. What they don't realize is that a step forward could find themselves stepping on a landmine.

Middle management is not skilled labor. Middle managers produce nothing of value. They make no decisions of any great importance because they are mitigated and ignored as they go down the chain or get overruled by someone up the chain. These people can be fired and not replaced resulting in a positive to the company's bottom line as the company saves money on not paying their bloated salaries. (I worked for a company where a multi-million dollar operation was saved by the brains and balls of a maintenance tech who got written up by a middle manager for not following company policy. Basically, he used a paperclip to fix a relay instead of waiting the week or so it would take for the replacement part to ship. Insanity like this only exists in large companies where office politics and the CYA principle matter more than satisfying customer demands and making profit for owners and shareholders. FWIW, that manager got fired later while the tech accepted an offer for more pay from another outfit.)

I see the white collar world as a world of bullshit. This is a world where an exec spends a bunch of time crafting the perfect PowerPoint presentation for the next big meeting that will amount to nothing. Some part of him yearns to make something of value. But satisfaction eludes him. Meanwhile, a metal fabricator puts a perfect weld on a tank that will hold solution for a factory somewhere. No one will care about that weld unless it breaks, but he cares. It is because his work matters.

People look down on blue collar people or anyone else who has dirty hands at the end of the workday. They place a premium on status which is why we have the bullshit of the white collar world. I can appreciate an accountant, a computer programmer, or an engineer. But these people have more in common with electricians and plumbers than they do with the pointy haired boss in Dilbert. There is a division between the labor and the corporate political class, and you are either on one side or the other. You will either take your plays from Machiavelli or Adam Smith.

Middle managers are useless parasites. This realization quells one's ambition. My own ambition is simply to work hard and be skilled across a variety of fields. I care less about high pay than I do about consistent pay that comes from being able to get a job no matter what economic turmoil may ensue.

The Education Bubble

A college education is free. All you need is a library card. This realization has done a great deal for the expansion of my mind. I am smarter than the average person, and this includes those with advanced degrees. This is because I read. That's it. College education amounts to charging people for reading books. Only dumb people pay to read.

A degree merely confers status on the one holding the degree. It is supposed to signify accomplishment in a field of study, but grade inflation has made this dubious. In addition, a Harvard grad with a C average will make more than a State U. grad with a 4.0 for knowing the same information. It's like owning a Lexus which is a Toyota with better marketing.

In technical fields and the blue collar world, this bullshit does not exist. If you don't know what the fuck you're doing, you can't fake it in these fields. In addition, these worlds often have accomplished workers with no sheepskin whatsoever. The only thing that matters is skill which is the way it should be.

The greatest value in education today is technical training. The tuition is surprisingly cheap, and the return on investment is much higher than having an MBA. This training almost always comes with a guaranteed job. Learning electronics at your local voc ed school will be a better investment than a mathematics Ph.D.

To tie this in with my earlier thoughts on generalization, I envisioned what I call the "Blue Collar Ph.D." Essentially, this is the combination of skills and technical knowledge resulting in a whole greater than the sum of its parts. For instance, imagine an industrial maintenance tech who is also a certified welder and a diesel mechanic and knows carpentry, plumbing, electrical wiring, etc. This may seem like an impossible task and a lot of stuff to know, but I don't see it that way. Blue collar types are supposed to be stupid, but we know better. But the time and money committed to the blue collar Ph.D. is considerably less than you would spend on a real Ph.D. or an MD, or a law degree. Plus, you become more employable the more you learn.

Entrepreneurship is for Suckers

I would love to run my own business, but as Virginia Postrel points out, entrepreneurship is the province of lucky fools. These people are not brilliant or brave so much as lucky and stupid. They have more in common with the lottery players who finance many government expenditures with their ignorance of simple odds.

Taleb made the same points when he said you were better off being a venture capitalist than being an entrepreneur. This stings for me because I see entrepreneurship as being the best way for an average guy like me to make it rich. But Taleb is rich and is not an entrepreneur unless you count starting a hedge fund as a business. I don't.

The best place to put capital is not in a startup but in a diversified portfolio of investments. Whether or not it is Taleb's treasury bond/options strategy or index funds like I prefer, you want to spread your bets and stop envying lucky fools.

The Work Ethic

I read a lot of blogs and books about business, economics, and personal development. Except for Larry Winget, none of them talk about the work ethic. Here's a handy formula for you:


There is a lot of conjecture about why the USA has become the wealthiest nation on the planet. We talk about freedom, innovation, and the like, and I agree that free societies are better than unfree societies. But why? This is because they are more productive. It begins and ends with production. You achieve more by doing more. Unfree societies decline because they steal this motivation through taxation and regulation.

The great dream of people is wealth without production. Everyone wants to live at the expense of everyone else. This isn't just a political thing but a social thing as well. I haven't read in any of the literature that the surest route to success is to spend more time working. But it is.

The mentality is that work is for suckers, and people that work hard are pathological and clinically insane. But I notice these people don't make much money, or they think the way to make money is to "get over." In other words, if you want to be rich, don't be the sucker. Be the fucker who sticks it to the sucker. Sad shit.

Simple living is also condemned. People have leisure time which necessitates leisure activities requiring expensive toys. These would be boats, ATVs, RVs, motorcycles, jet skis, etc. Blue collar people are especially susceptible to this as I see most of these items for sale on the lawns of houses in working class neighborhoods.

When I have free time, I like to spend it with a low cost book. I might splurge on renting a DVD from Blockbuster, but my leisure activities are cheap. My rule is to do nothing that requires purchasing expensive equipment.


The bright red vein running through all these topics and insights I've discussed here is status. People want status, so they spend money and labor on getting advanced degrees, promotions to meaningless jobs with titles, starting businesses that are ovewhelmingly doomed to failure, and living large to impress their friends and families. People crave status and pay a premium to get it. My insight is that we should consider not paying this premium anymore. Work hard instead. Acquire job skills that are marketable and produce something of real value. And live simply. The result of these choices should lead to less stress, greater satisfaction, and financial stability in your life.


The weather here has been awful since I've returned from Vienna. So while I've used my bicycle to get where I need to go, the long "welcome home" ride I fantasized about does not seem to be in the cards. Stretches like this remind me to take advantage of good weather whenever possible, and so I offer these photos from one of the nicer cycling days we had at the beginning of the month.

These photos were taken in front of the Metropolitan Storage Warehouse in Cambridge, Mass., which is a local landmark of sorts and has been functioning since 1917.

We do not usually have a good reason to visit this area, but I was intrigued by the Vassar Street bike path controversy that I had read about on Chic Cyclist and I wanted to show it to the Co-Habitant. To summarise, the Vassar Street path is criticised because it is "European style" - running mostly on the sidewalk and therefore conflicting with both pedestrian traffic and with the cars that frequently pull in and out of the various parking lots that cross the path. Compared to what I had been expecting, the path is actually not so bad in person. In fact, it is set up like a typical bike path in Vienna. The main issue is that cyclists must keep to a fairly low speed in order to ride on the path safely during peak traffic times - and Americans are simply not used to cycling at such low speeds and continue to ride at a brisk pace.

I am not certain what my stance is on the Vassar Street critique; it is a complicated issue. But I do enjoy cycling through the MIT/ Cambridgeport neighborhood during non-traffic hours. When these streets are empty, I feel that the personalities of all the warehouses and industrial sites and contemporary constructions really come out, and the abandoned urban landscape becomes "communicative". Is it all in my head? Maybe so. But that does not make the experience any less interesting.

GRL and James Saiers

Having seen his name mentioned in the CRU emails as a possible "skeptic" needing to be removed from the editorial board of GRL, I contacted James Saiers, Professor of Hydrology at Yale University, to see what he had to say about all this. He emailed me the following response which I post with his permission:
I haven’t looked for, and don’t intend to look for, my name in the CRU emails, but one of my colleagues did alert me to an email written by Wigley in which he suggested that, if I were a climate skeptic, then steps should be taken to get me “ousted.” Wigley’s suggestion stems, I believe, from the publication of a GRL paper (by McIntyre and McKitrick) that criticized certain elements of Michael Mann’s Hockey Stick paper. This paper caused a bit of a stir and because I oversaw the peer review of this paper, I assume that Wigley inferred (incorrectly) that I was a climate-change skeptic. I stepped down as GRL editor at the end of my three-year term, long after the excitement over the McIntyre and McKitrick paper had passed. My departure had nothing to do with attempts by Wigley or anyone else to have me sacked.

Random Thoughts on Various Subjects


Tiger was cheating on his wife, and she beat his ass with a golf club. That's my take. Will have to see how the story unfolds.


If Spurrier doesn't win, that fucker should be fired.

The Give Blog

University of Illinois Law Professor Suja Thomas, who teaches sports law, and her husband Scott have created the Give Blog, where up until December 24th they will match donations of up to $100 from new donors to five charities (The Hunger Project, The Grameen Foundation, Safe Passage, Catcholic Charities USA, and Eastern Illinois Foodbank). If you're interested in contributing to any of these five charities during this holiday season, please consider doing so through the Give Blog, as Suja and Scott will match the amount if you are a new donor. For more information, click here.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The "Born Again" Moment

Some of you were surprised when I mentioned in a recent post that I only began cycling again in Spring 2009 - so I thought it would be fun to share my "born again" moment. The Co-Habitant and I developed a huge batch of film for one of our art projects earlier this week, and it turned out that one roll contained these pictures from 8 months ago - pictures of my first real bicycle ride after not having cycled in 12 years.

After testing a coupe of bicycles on the premises of local bike shops, we finally took the plunge and rented a his and hers KHS Green, to see how feasible it would be for us to travel by bike round Boston. These shots were taken along the Charles River trail.

It was an unseasonably warm day, and within the first half hour of the ride my jacket was folded up and tucked under the spring on the rear rack. Also within the first half hour of the ride, I knew that this was "it". How could I have lived without a bicycle thus far? And what would I do when the time came to return the rental?

The day after these photos were taken, my search for a new bicycle began in earnest, and that is how this weblog was born: It was initially meant to be a collection of reviews and photos of beautiful, functional bicycles for people with similar skill levels to mine and with the same beginner anxieties. I guess my viewpoint has progressed a bit since then, and I have gotten much more into "cycling culture" than I had anticipated. But still, the whole point of this website is that I am not an expert and do not have a great deal of cycling experience - which hopefully makes me unintimidating and approachable to new readers curious about bicycles.

The Co-Habitant and I had been toying with the idea of bikes on and off for years. But what finally made me start cycling had nothing to do with the practical considerations this involved. It was a result of a very personal, visceral sense of pure joy - which apparently has been captured on film quite nicely! Seeing these shots was a nice surprise; we had forgotten that we took them. And it was especially timely before Thanksgiving, as I am most grateful for the role bicycles have played in my life this year.

Enjoy your week-end, and make sure to feed your bicycles some turkey. They don't like to feel left out!

China's Carbon Intensity Pledge

China has put some numbers on its carbon intensity pledge -- that is, its aim to reduce carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP. China has promised to reduced its carbon intensity of GDP by 40-45% by 2020. While a few folks have been fooled (or are trying to fool you) into thinking that it is meaningful, others including the Obama Administration are not fooled. The reality is a bit more subtle and complex than either of these perspectives.

The head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change , Yvo de Boer spun the announcement as a breakthrough:
"The US commitment to specific, mid-term emission cut targets and China's commitment to specific action on energy efficiency can unlock two of the last doors to a comprehensive agreement. Let there be no doubt that we need continued strong ambition and leadership,"
In The New York Times, the Obama Administration was a bit less enthusiastic:
A senior Obama administration official said that the United States had pressed hard for a public commitment from China and was relieved that it had delivered. But the official, who spoke anonymously because of the delicacy of the matter, called the carbon intensity figure “disappointing,” and said that the administration hoped it represented a gambit that would be negotiated upward at Copenhagen or in subsequent talks.
Understanding the various receptions of the proposed target from China requires understanding a bit of the geopolitical context. Europeans simply want the US and China to come to the table talking about numbers, so any proposal is a step forward. Meantime, the US wants to avoid being cast as the international climate bad guy so will do whatever it can to portray its own proposed 17% cut from 2005 levels as more ambitious that China's intensity target.

But what do the numbers actually mean?

A 40-45% cut in carbon intensity in China is essentially business-as-usual as projected by the IEA. According to the IEA World Energy Outlook 2009 (p. 350), here are China's GDP and CO2 projections under its BAU "reference scenario" (with GDP in 2008 PPP dollars):

2007 -- 6.1 GtC and $7.6T
2020 -- 9.6 GtC and $18.8T

These numbers result in a decrease in carbon intensity of GDP of 40% by 2020 (from 2007 values, China's pledge is off a 2005 baseline, so right in the middle of the 40-45% range).

Other analysts have seen the proposal as little more than a promise to achieve business as usual, from the NYT:

Michael A. Levi, director of the climate change program at the Council on Foreign Relations, called the target announcement disappointing because it did not move the country much faster along the path it was already on.

“The Department of Energy estimates that existing Chinese policies will already cut carbon intensity by 45 to 46 percent,” Mr. Levi said. “The United States has put an ambitious path for emissions cuts through 2050 on the table. China needs to raise its level of ambition if it is going to match that.” Some environmental advocates have also said that the substance of Mr. Obama’s announcement on Wednesday was weak as well.

President Bush also used a carbon intensity target with goals based on achieving business as usual, and his administration was skewered (and rightly so) for trying to couch business as usual 9BAU) as some sort of meaningful emissions reduction policy. The difference between the Bush Administration's carbon intensity goals and those promised by China are that the Bush Administration based its targets on historical BAU whereas China has its based on BAU inclusive of a set of very aggressive energy efficiency goals. I recently had a correspondence in Nature questioning China's BAU trajectory (more details here and here and here). While the IEA numbers suggest a less aggressive version of BAU than do China's domestic numbers, they still imply an annual average rate of decarbonization of China's economy of about 3.7% per year.

A focus on carbon intensity of economic activity is a step in the right direction. At the same time, policy makers and analysts should not be distracted by the details of China's promises in the context of various BAU reference scenarios. What matters is the actual annual rate of decarbonization in coming years, and to discern this will require good data on both emissions and economic activity. If China can sustain a rate of decarbonization of 3.7% per year or more that would be a very impressive achievement. However, if China is going to continue to grow its economy at 9% per year, it is obvious that much more would need to be done to address ever growing emissions.

Bottom line? China's decarbonization target is indeed very similar to some versions of BAU, suggesting a lack of ambition. At the same time these versions of BAU already have rapid rates of decarbonization built in, so much so that I am skeptical about their realism. Even so, discussions about climate these days are more focused on politics than policy, so the exact details of China's emissions policy probably matter less than how its promises are perceived and spun in the negotiating process.

DVD-Star Trek

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is the greatest Star Trek movie ever made. Everything else in the Star Trek canon is a colossal joke, and this includes JJ Abrams' reboot Star Trek.

Star Trek is indebted to Khan and uses it as source material to begin the tale of Capt. Kirk and the gang. The first problem with the movie is the colossal bad acting. You quickly realize you don't give a fuck about any of these people. They act as people who know they are going to loom large in the future. It's like a bad sci fi version of Behind the Music.

The plot is also stolen from Khan with Eric Bana playing a bad guy who destroys Vulcan and does his best to piss off Spock in the process. Khan was an epic. This movie is more like a special effects soaked roller coast ride along the lines of Transformers.

Star Trek is bad acting and eye candy and nothing more. It will appeal to younger viewers who are stupid, but it did nothing for me. This flick will be an excuse to continue the series with the original characters, but this franchise is doomed. It is time to let Trek rest in peace.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Final Fantasy

I think I have decided on Maude and Reilly's baby's name. Maude's registered name is 'Fantasy' and this foal is Reilly's last so it seems 'Final Fantasy' pretty much fits the bill. I think I have decided on Enya as a paddock name. Enya is Celtic for 'Little Fire' and she's a raging redhead so it seems to fit too.

She's doing brilliantly and Maude is being the protective mother as per usual, racing her around the paddock if I so much as look at them sideways. I have managed to have a few cuddles tho and found all her lovely scratchy places.

Reilly demonstrated his superb temperament again this morning when I caught him with his mane and led him to the hosepipe and cooled and cleaned his wounds. He just stood quietly and let me do what I had to do - pretty sure he knew it was for his own good. He's such a lovely horse and I am so incredibly lucky to have him.

Below photos taken when Enya was aged around 15 hours.

'Ello thar
Break fast
Nom nom
Mum taught me how to go fassssst!

Why People Can't Get in Shape

Getting in shape is easy. Eat right. Exercise. There is no mystery to it. There is also no lack of external motivation. Society and the media urge us to lose the flab. Finally, getting in shape makes you feel better and feel better about yourself. So, why can't people get in shape?

The conventional wisdom points to a lack of will power. People are just lazy. But this just isn't true. The USA is the fattest nation on the planet, but it is also the hardest working. Americans work more than anyone else. They put in the hours and get shit done.

Some will argue that we just have bad habits of spending our leisure time on the couch eating potato chips. There may be some truth to that. But you can't watch much TV without getting the guilt trip about being out of shape.

I will tell you the reason why people can't get in shape--OTHER PEOPLE. That's right. Other people are holding you back.

Announce to all your friends and family that you are going to get off your ass and eat right and exercise. These people will be nothing short of enthusiastic and supportive of your new lifestyle direction. This support will end the moment you actually start doing it. Then, these same people will hamstring you at every step.

The reason for this is that a fitness lifestyle is an antisocial endeavor. It divides you from the herd. It is an individualistic pursuit, and it will cause all kinds of friction.

You will notice this when you start eating healthy. Your loving girlfriend or wife will make you a fat filled meat loaf, and you will have to tell her as nicely as you can that you can't eat that bullshit. She will cry, pout, or do whatever. Your friends will invite you over for beer and burgers, and you will either decline, go and not eat, or bring your own food. All three options will not make you a popular guest. Or they will all want to eat at some restaurant that has nothing but lard and gravy on the menu. If you get the idea that healthy eating means eating alone, you would be correct.

The same thing happens with exercise. Hitting the gym, riding a bike, or going for a run all involve being alone for some bit of time during the day. Naturally, in our constantly connected world, being AWOL for an hour per day is unacceptable. Your wife or girlfriend is mad because you are late for the fatty dinner you can't eat. Your friends can't understand why you have to cut out early to get some sleep for tomorrow's century ride. Where are you?

These same people who were so supportive of you getting into shape could really give a rat's ass. Their habits are your habits. To change those habits is to cut across the social grain.

If you look at people who are in shape, you will notice two things. They either do it for a living (pro athletes, models, personal trainers, etc.,) or they are self-centered types who are either introverts or narcissists. If you don't get fit for a living, then you have to be selfish.

I don't have an answer to this problem. The reality is that bad habits are social habits (smoking, drinking, eating bad food, etc.) while good habits are solitary (eating right, exercising, studying, working, etc.) Very little is said about this social dimension, and the impact it has on your life. I think it helps to have friends in the lifestyle you choose to have. But in the end, doing something remarkable is a subversive act. Don't expect people to like you or applaud your efforts in these things. Nothing good comes without some sacrifice.

The Case for Working with Your Hands

How was it that I, once a proudly self-employed electrician, had ended up among these walking wounded, a “knowledge worker” at a salary of $23,000? I had a master’s degree, and it needed to be used. The escalating demand for academic credentials in the job market gives the impression of an ever-more-knowledgeable society, whose members perform cognitive feats their unschooled parents could scarcely conceive of. On paper, my abstracting job, multiplied a millionfold, is precisely what puts the futurologist in a rapture: we are getting to be so smart! Yet my M.A. obscures a more real stupidification of the work I secured with that credential, and a wage to match. When I first got the degree, I felt as if I had been inducted to a certain order of society. But despite the beautiful ties I wore, it turned out to be a more proletarian existence than I had known as an electrician. In that job I had made quite a bit more money. I also felt free and active, rather than confined and stultified.

This is an outstanding article.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

They came back and they were magnificent

Well the Seinfeld reunion that isn't a reunion is over.

They came back and they were magnificent. The first few episodes
involving the Seinfeld cast, didn't quite do it for me,
mainly because they played their real lifeselves.

But the last two were pure Seinfeld, last week episode
the cast did a read through that also had Kenny Bania,
Newman and George's mum.

All slipped back into their Seinfeld roles.

This week showed Larry David watching scenes from
the fictitious Seinfeld Reunion, and Seinfeld and
the cast as their real life selves in rehearsal.

The Seinfeld show part lasted around 6 minutes, but it was classic,
it could of been from any season. Basically George had come up
with an idea of a Iphone application that lets you know the location
of a bathroom anywhere in the world, invested his money and he had
lost it all by investing with Bernie Madoff.

IMHO all the actors slipped back into their roles with ease, with
Jason Alexander putting in a supreme performance, the acting ability
of this man is beyond belief, I often thought he was the star of
Seinfeld, and tonight showed why.

It was great to see them all in action and it was great to get a
ending to a great show even though it was on someone else's show.

Soup for everybody!!!!!!!

Redefining Peer Review

In 2005 Gavin Schmidt and Michael Mann, of Real Climate and CRU email fame, carefully explained that the process of peer review is a messy, incremental way to advance knowledge in fits and starts:
The current thinking of scientists on climate change is based on thousands of studies (Google Scholar gives 19,000 scientific articles for the full search phrase “global climate change”). Any new study will be one small grain of evidence that adds to this big pile, and it will shift the thinking of scientists slightly. Science proceeds like this in a slow, incremental way. It is extremely unlikely that any new study will immediately overthrow all the past knowledge.
They explained that even when results are published that do not stand the test of time, the process of peer review can successfully winnow out those arguments with the greatest merit:
. . . even when it initially breaks down, the process of peer-review does usually work in the end. But sometimes it can take a while.
With this perspective as background, one of the most damning aspects of the CRU emails was the behind-the-scenes efforts of the activist scientists to -- in their own words -- "redefine what the peer reviewed literature is."

Peer review as related to scientific publishing is a process in which experts are asked to judge the appropriateness of a paper for publication in a scientific journal. It is often cursory and focused on the merits of an argument, rather than a detailed replication or decomposition of the data or methods. Peer review does not mean that a result is right or will stand the test of time, but that it has met some minimal standards of acceptability for publication. The scientific community is replete with vignettes about papers that were rejected for publication in one venue only to be published elsewhere and which later turned out to be seminal. Similarly, every so often even Science and Nature find themselves in trouble with a paper that is badly wrong or even fraudulent. But despite these shortcomings in the process, peer review is widely viewed much as Winston Churchill viewed democracy: the worst possible system except for all the others.

Peer review works because over the long-term good ideas win out, and this process happens organically and through a decentralized process. Peer review takes place through many independent journals, with editing and reviewing conducted by many independent scholars from a diversity of disciplinary and experiential backgrounds, and with their own idiosyncratic biases and views. No one group or perspective owns the peer review process, and that diversity is part of its core strength. Truth -- meaning a convergence to agreement on scientific questions -- thus is a product of the peer review process over time. Of course the path to truth can be convoluted and indirect. For instance, it used to be true that there were 9 planets in our solar system. Now that is less true.

Some issues relevant to decisions are characterized by uncertainties and contested certainties making the distribution of scientific views not readily apparent simply by looking at the sprawling literature. In such situations a formal assessment can provide a useful perspective on the degree of consensus or disagreement among relevant experts on various claims. Such assessments are nothing more than a snapshot in time, as science is continuously evolving. When done well, an assessment will reflect the full range of views held by relevant experts, including minority views (see PDF), as well as the connections of scientific understandings to alternative possible courses of action.

Now back to the CRU emails. The emails show a consistent pattern of behavior among the activist scientists to redefine peer review in accordance with their own views of climate science. In doing so, they sought to turn the entire notion of peer review on its head.

The emails show a group of scientists frustrated with the peer review process, seeking to change how it is practiced. How so? The emails indicate concerted efforts to reshape the peer review process by managing and coordinating reviews of individual papers, by putting pressure on journal editors and editorial boards, by seeking to stack editorial boards with like-minded colleagues, by arranging boycotts of journals and other actions involving highly questionable ethics. But we might wonder why these scientists would take such steps to change peer review if, as Schmidt and Mann explained at Real Climate -- "peer review usually does work in the end." Why depart from a process that works? The answer is obvious: the short-term politics of climate change.

The activist scientists decided that the peer review process would work better in service of their political agenda if it used "truth" to determine whose views would be allowed to be published in the literature and reflected in assessments. In this case "truth" simply means the views deemed acceptable among the activist scientists and their close clique of colleagues. In an interview with NPR Real Climate's Gavin Schmidt defended this very backwards view of peer review:

Journals are supposed to be impartial filters that let good ideas rise to the top and bad ideas sink to the bottom. But the stolen emails show that a group of scientists has decided that's not working well enough. So they have resorted to strong tactics — including possible boycotts — to keep any paper they think is dubious from reaching the pages of a journal.

"In any other field (a bad paper) would just be ignored," says Gavin Schmidt at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York. "The problem is in the climate field has become extremely politicized, and every time some nonsense paper gets into a proper journal, it gets blown out of all proportion."

Most of the papers Schmidt and his colleagues object to challenge the mainstream view of climate science. Schmidt says they may be wrong or even deceptive, but they are still picked up by politicians, pundits and businesses who are skeptical of climate change.

So Schmidt suggests that in order to short circuit the ability of their political opponents to cherry pick and blow out of proportion studies that the activists scientists did not agree with, they saw a convenient short cut: Simply reshape the peer review system such that those papers don't ever appear or go unmentioned in scientific assessments.

The problem with this strategy, of course, is that many climate scientists (and presumably others inside and outside of the scientific establishment) are unwilling to cede ownership of the "truth" to a small clique of scientists. In fact, peer review exists in the first place because there are no short cuts to the truth, and any such short cut will inevitably fail. Consider that the efforts revealed in the CRU emails to manage the peer reviewed literature went well beyond efforts to prevent so-called "skeptical" papers from being published, but included a focus on papers that fully accepted a human influence on climate, but which offered views that differed in some degree (e.g., here) from those preferred by the activist scientists. The emails reveal activist scientists busy extolling the virtues of peer review to journalists and the public, while at the same time they were busy behind the scenes working to corrupt the peer review process in a way that favored their views on the science and politics of climate change. Here we have a case study in the politicization of climate science by climate scientists.

The clique of activist scientists sees absolutely nothing wrong in what they are doing -- they are after all justifying their actions in terms of "truth" in support of the greater good. And the issue is made even more complex because those who share the political agenda of the activist scientists are ready to join their peer review coup whereas those opposed to that political agenda are happy to try to exploit for political gain the scientists' ethical lapses and failure to appreciate their role in politicizing climate science. So much of the discussion gets wrapped up in these distractions, rather than the issue of the integrity of climate science.

The sustainability of climate science depends upon our ability to distinguish the health of the scientific enterprise from the politics of climate change. The need to respond to climate change (which I support) does not justify sacrificing standards of scientific integrity for political ends. In fact, as the events of the past week show, when standards of scientific integrity are compromised, the political consequences can be double edged.

Reilly's Swansong

Yesterday was a big day here at Talisman Farm. The final stage of 'the great bedroom makeover' was completed (will dedicate a separate blog entry to that), Hooty was inseminated with Coalman's Touch semen and I had my beautiful young stallion, TF Life O'Reilly gelded.

Reilly's gelding was pretty tough for me but after much soul searching I made the decision based on my desire for him to have the best life possible and I know that he will have a fantastic life as a gelding. He has sired four beautiful foals and, as two of his foals are daughters, the bloodline may very well continue through them so, it's all good really. He was the consumate gentleman for the vet, even with Maude over the fence talking to him. Stood stock still for his injections and dropped with an incredible amount of dignity which was very sweet. Had a moment three quarters of the way through where he suddenly upped and rolled over, startling us all and prompting me to dissolve into tears, but it was just a wee blip and the vet was able to finish without further incident. I was a bit shaky tho!

And, quite fittingly, this morning at 2.45am Reilly's last foal, full sister to Aine, was born. She was shouting at us as she came out and trying to get up even before her back legs were out. She is a big, strong, feisty girl. Maude had a great delivery, foaled with no assistance and passed the placenta just after 3am. This morning at 7am baby was drinking, pooping and running (albeit spider wobbly) around her paddock. Now she just needs to tell me her name.

Can U C me?
Wibble Wobble
Mum 'n Babe

Case Keenum - University of Houston QB - Great Quote

Case Keenum - University of Houston QB

"I found out real quickly when I got out on my own that I can't do it on my own," Keenum said. "I can't deal with all the stresses of being a college football player and an athlete and a student, a Christian, a role model and all this stuff on my own. I need somebody else in control. Because if I think I've got it under control, he definitely reminds me that I don't.

"If I start stressing and worrying about stuff, it's kind of slapping God in the face and saying, I don't think You have it under control.' He has a plan, and his plan is better than anything I can even imagine."

God bless, Lou

Wisteria Lane

It is good to be back in Boston, just in time for Thanksgiving. We are off to visit family - but first, I wanted to share this:

I spotted this unseasonably floral bicycle in scenic Somerville. It is a Batavus Old Dutch, in "head-to-toe" lilac. The pannier-basket is decorated with garlands of faux wisteria.

When it comes to pastel purple, the owner obviously follows the "more is more" principle - which I, for one, very much appreciate on dreary November days like today. (I wonder whether colourful bicycles could be used to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder, just like "light therapy"?)

Hooray for lovely bicycles and have a good Thanksgiving!

The Curious Case of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

Trying KSM in NYC is a mistake. The reality is that this terrorist will be treated with greater legal rights than our own uniformed soldiers get when accused of crimes.

I've given it a lot of thought, and I have come to a middle path between those who believe that terrorists like KSM should be locked up with no due process and those who demand they be tried with the same rights as US citizens. Neither path makes sense to me. What does make sense is a military tribunal and a firing squad.

The tragedy of a place like Gitmo isn't the guilty who rot there, but the innocent who have done nothing and have no recourse. For their sake, due process is necessary. But this doesn't mean a civilian court. Try them as war criminals and let them have their say. This is fair both to them and to America.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

2010 AALS Sports and the Law Section Meeting and Panel

For those of you attending the Association of American Law Schools' 2010 annual meeting in New Orleans in January, Villanova Law Professor David Caudill, the Chair of the AALS Section on Sports and the Law, invites you to attend this year's section meeting and panel, which will be held from 1:30 to 3:15 p.m in the Elmwood Room (3rd Floor) of the Hilton New Orleans Riverside.

Below are details on the section's events:

* * *


OVERVIEW: When the NFL opted out of the current collective bargaining agreement with the NFLPA, the stage was set for contentious negotiations during the 2009 season and potentially beyond. A labor-related stoppage or lockout could result from a failure to come to terms. The topic for this year’s sports law panel will be the present state of labor negotiations within the NFL. The NFL owners will likely predict an economic crisis if the players make unreasonable demands in terms of percentage of revenue, salary cap, bonus provisions, and the rookie wage scale, while the players’ union will likely claim that the owners never had it so good. Perhaps the real Super Bowl for sports lawyers will take place around the bargaining table this year.

PROGRAM: To open the program, Professor Robert H. Topel, the Isidore Brown and Gladys J. Brown Professor in Urban and Labor Economics at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, will discuss his controversial study (co-authored with Chicago colleague Professor Kevin Murphy), on behalf of the NFLPA, of the economics of the NFL. What was the NFL’s response to the study? Has the recession altered any of the conclusions of that study?

Next, three law professors will address various aspects of the NFL/NFLPA labor controversy:

Professor Emeritus Bob Berry (Boston College): “Show Me the Money Revisited: The Current NFL Labor Conundrums”.

In the past, dating from the 1960s to the 1990s, NFL labor confrontations often concentrated on player mobility issues. The draft, free agency and free agent compensation were contentious issues, resulting in work stoppages on more than one occasion. This year is different, or seems to be. Pure economic issues appear to be largely the basis of the current negotiations. The question is, however, whether anything has really changed. Has it always been about the money? An even more basic issue is why at this time there is already talk of a lockout and a possible attempt at union decertification. While all these are brewing, we might as well revisit possible antitrust issues under the labor exemption.

Professor Matt Mitten (Marquette): “Drug testing and Sports Medicine Issues in NFL Collective Bargaining: A Proposed Quid Pro Quo.”

Specific issues to be discussed: (1) NFL clubs’ characterization of team physicians as “employees” in effort to bar players’ medical malpractice claims by the worker’s compensation co-employee doctrine; and (2) the 8th Circuit’s recent Williams v NFL decision, which permits the NFL’s collectively bargained drug testing policy to be challenged on the ground it violates Minnesota state law.

Professor Jeff Standen (Willamette): “American Needle and the Threat of Union Decertification”

This paper argues that the American Needle case currently pending before the U.S. Supreme Court will impact heavily on the upcoming labor negotiations. If the NFL prevails in its argument that the league constitutes a "single entity" for all or certain legal purposes, then a chief NFLPA bargaining tactic, the threat of union decertification, would be unavailable. Decertifying the players union arguably strips the NFL's bargaining agent of its non-statutory labor exemption and exposes the league to antitrust liability. If the NFL, however, is characterized by the Supreme Court as a single entity, then the league would be effectively immune from antitrust claims. The paper suggests that the Court should adopt a nuanced perspective on the single entity theory in order to preserve the ability of the union to resort to judicial redress.

* * *

It should be a great event and I look forward to attending.