Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Challenge for Joe Romm

[UPDATE #2: Did I say wow? ljohnson ups the ante in the comments, copying a message posted at Romm's:
Lets up the ante Joe.

I will match every dollar you put up, to 10,000 USD, to the winner's charity of choice. If you win, you don't pay and I do, to your charity.

If you lose, we both pay to Medecin san Frontiers. The winner is determined by an audience, which, as you choose the time and venue, is really chosen by you.
Let me say that I'll split the match with Joe, meaning that we can raise as much as $20,000 to a worthwhile charity just for participating in a debate.

Maybe others might pitch in and we can make some good of this.

Thanks ljohnson!]

[UPDATE: Wow. In the comments ljohnson writes of my debate challenge:
I will donate 2000 USD to the winner's charity of choice, with the winner as determined by audience voting after the debate.
Thanks ljohnson! My charity is listed to the left. Now we can surely do some good with a debate.]

Joe Romm has broken his own world record for the longest blog post complaining about me with a new post coming in at a staggering 4,016 words. I encourage everyone to have a look, keeping in mind that Joe Romm is the leading voice for action on climate change at the Center for American Progress. I suppose Joe and CAP think that their tactics are somehow effective. The image to the right is, ironically enough, included in Romm's magnum screed.

In an effort to turn this episode into something constructive and educational, I'd like to formally challenge Joe Romm to a public debate on climate policy to be held in Fall, 2010 in his home town at a date convenient for him, so that he does not have to travel and the timing can be made to fit his schedule. I'm willing to give Joe a chance to back up his bluster with a serious public debate. He wouldn't turn down such an opportunity, would he?

Since he doesn't allow me to post at his site, I'd appreciate it if and readers who might pass a link along to this challenge in the comments to his site, and then lets see how he responds. Meantime, please keep the comments here substantive and respectful.

2010 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference

I look forward to being a speaker at the 2010 MIT Sloan Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, which will be held this Saturday, March 6. It will be an all day event. Other speakers include:

* Daryl Morey, Houston Rockets GM (and MIT grad)

* Mark Cuban, Owner of the Dallas Mavericks

* Steve Pagliuca, Managing Partner of the Boston Celtics

* Sunil Gulati, President, United States Soccer Federation & Kraft Soccer

* Michael Lewis, author of Money Ball

* Jonathan Kraft, President of the Kraft Group and executive at the New England Patriots

I'll be on the panel titled, "Performance Enhancement: Will Future Athletes be Formula One or NASCAR?". Here are some details on it:

Athletes have progressively gotten bigger, faster, and stronger since the beginning of professional sports. This panel will delve into the science and technology that is producing better athletes. Is there a limit to athletic performance? What constitutes a "level" playing field and when is the line crossed? How are sports changing to deal with today's athletes?


Michael McCann, Legal Analyst, Sports Illustrated


Gary Belsky, Editor in Chief, ESPN The Magazine

For more information click here.

I won a blogging Award!

Firstly a big thank you to Sue, of Living the Good Life who gave me a Beautiful Blogger award:

The rules for accepting this award:

  1. Thank the person that gave you the award
  2. Pass this award on to 15 bloggers (I have chosen 13) you've recently discovered and whom you think are fantastic!
  3. Contact the Bloggers you pick to let them know they've won
  4. State 7 Things about yourself!
1. Thank you Sue xxooxxoo

2. I give the award to:

3. Pending!!

4. Seven things about me:

  • I have been married to Nick for 11 years & we have a six year old daughter
  • We met in England and were both members of 'The Sealed Knot'
  • I love blogging & photography
  • I am living my dream
  • I breed horses & LOVE it!
  • We also have cows, chickens, ducks, goats and one sheep
  • I live 1km down the road from the in-laws and think it's great!

Lady's Bicycle? Colour vs Form

Still obsessively browsing the new NAHBS 2010 pictures, I am seeing some bicycles in pastel colour schemes that suggest they are meant for women.

[image by Geekhouse Bikes via flickr]

Here is one from Geekhouse that I must say is spectacular. Personally, I consider this colour scheme "feminine", in the sense that the colours are traditionally seen on women's clothing and accessories. However, it is a diamond frame.

[image by sleepyneko via flickr]

On the other hand, here is a mixte by Velo Orange. The frame is typically viewed as a "women's frame" (at least in the US), yet the colour scheme is traditionally "masculine": a solid, conservative blue.

In a controlled study, I wonder which bicycle would be more appealing to women. (Research grant?)

Tack sheds and Ponies ...

Well my instant tack shed (shipping container) is starting to take shape. I still need hooks and shelves and cover racks etc. sorted out but at least 75% of my gear is now out of the bedroom/laundry/kitchen/living room/old shed/garage/car and in the container!

While I was taking photos of the new tack shed, I wandered over to Brennan and took some of him too so, here's the pin up boy from yesterday:

Now we wait for our planning permission to come through and then it will be all systems go on the shed build - woo hoo!!!

Direct or Indirect? Two Views on Engaging Climate Change

Across the page from each other in todays NYT, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Al Gore express polar opposite views on how to enagage climate change. Gore recommends a direct approach focused on using science a a political sledgehammer against the "deniers":
What is important is that the overwhelming consensus on global warming remains unchanged. It is also worth noting that the panel’s scientists — acting in good faith on the best information then available to them — probably underestimated the range of sea-level rise in this century, the speed with which the Arctic ice cap is disappearing and the speed with which some of the large glacial flows in Antarctica and Greenland are melting and racing to the sea.

Because these and other effects of global warming are distributed globally, they are difficult to identify and interpret in any particular location. For example, January was seen as unusually cold in much of the United States. Yet from a global perspective, it was the second-hottest January since surface temperatures were first measured 130 years ago.

Similarly, even though climate deniers have speciously argued for several years that there has been no warming in the last decade, scientists confirmed last month that the last 10 years were the hottest decade since modern records have been kept.. .

Some analysts attribute the failure [of the Senate to act] to an inherent flaw in the design of the chosen solution — arguing that a cap-and-trade approach is too unwieldy and difficult to put in place. Moreover, these critics add, the financial crisis that began in 2008 shook the world’s confidence in the use of any market-based solution.

But there are two big problems with this critique: First, there is no readily apparent alternative that would be any easier politically. It is difficult to imagine a globally harmonized carbon tax or a coordinated multilateral regulatory effort. The flexibility of a global market-based policy — supplemented by regulation and revenue-neutral tax policies — is the option that has by far the best chance of success. The fact that it is extremely difficult does not mean that we should simply give up.

Graham, profiled in a column by Thomas Friedman, proposes an indirect approach, one that sidesteps the science and focuses on areas of common interests:

“I have been to enough college campuses to know if you are 30 or younger this climate issue is not a debate. It’s a value. These young people grew up with recycling and a sensitivity to the environment — and the world will be better off for it. They are not brainwashed. ... From a Republican point of view, we should buy into it and embrace it and not belittle them. You can have a genuine debate about the science of climate change, but when you say that those who believe it are buying a hoax and are wacky people you are putting at risk your party’s future with younger people. You can have a legitimate dispute about how to solve immigration, but when you start focusing on the last names of people the demographics will pass you by.”

So Graham’s approach to bringing around his conservative state has been simple: avoid talking about “climate change,” which many on the right don’t believe. Instead, frame our energy challenge as a need to “clean up carbon pollution,” to “become energy independent” and to “create more good jobs and new industries for South Carolinians.” He proposes “putting a price on carbon,” starting with a very focused carbon tax, as opposed to an economywide cap-and-trade system, so as to spur both consumers and industries to invest in and buy new clean energy products. He includes nuclear energy, and insists on permitting more offshore drilling for oil and gas to give us more domestic sources, as we bridge to a new clean energy economy.

“Cap-and-trade as we know it is dead, but the issue of cleaning up the air and energy independence should not die — and you will never have energy independence without pricing carbon,” Graham argues. “The technology doesn’t make sense until you price carbon. Nuclear power is a bet on cleaner air. Wind and solar is a bet on cleaner air. You make those bets assuming that cleaning the air will become more profitable than leaving the air dirty, and the only way it will be so is if the government puts some sticks on the table — not just carrots. The future economy of America and the jobs of the future are going to be tied to cleaning up the air, and in the process of cleaning up the air this country becomes energy independent and our national security is greatly enhanced.”

Remember, he adds: “We are more dependent on foreign oil today than after 9/11. That is political malpractice, and every member of Congress is responsible.”

Clearly, Gore is going to appeal -- in both positive and negative fashion -- much more to people who are monomaniacal about the climate issue and fervent partisans in the debate. This includes many in the blogosphere who are singularly focused on climate change. Gore's approach is the classic "political wedge" that forces people to take sides and demands a winner and a loser. Gore ends his piece by demanding that voters address this issue politically, by voting out people who do not share his views.

Graham's approach is far more pragmatic and realistic, with far greater potential to appeal to the masses on terms that they care about. Graham focuses on areas where people already have expressed strong interests, like jobs and the economy, and suggests that climate policy be addressed indirectly by capitalizing on what people already value. Graham's proposal is much less focused on political winners and losers than is Gore's approach. Graham's policy recommendations, he would argue, make sense regardless who is in office.

Both Gore and Graham offer their predictions for U.S. climate policy in the near-term, Gore:
The pathway to success is still open, though it tracks the outer boundary of what we are capable of doing. It begins with a choice by the United States to pass a law establishing a cost for global warming pollution. The House of Representatives has already passed legislation, with some Republican support, to take the first halting steps for pricing greenhouse gas emissions. Later this week, Senators John Kerry, Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman are expected to present for consideration similar cap-and-trade legislation.

Cap-and-trade as we know it is dead, but the issue of cleaning up the air and energy independence should not die . . . The future economy of America and the jobs of the future are going to be tied to cleaning up the air, and in the process of cleaning up the air this country becomes energy independent and our national security is greatly enhanced
I suspect that Graham is right in his short-term prognostications about the fate of cap-and-trade. But more importantly, he is right about the longer-term politics of engaging the climate issue. Action to accelerate the decarbonization of the global economy will remain in gridlock so long as climate is approached as a wedge issue. Bloggers and partisans like wedge issues, but as we have learned good public policy rearely results from framing issues in such terms.

Two IPCC SREX Authors Discuss Inclusiveness

Last week Andy Revkin documented the fact that the IPCC decided to leave me off its committee on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX). That I was left off is less troubling that there is no way to discern why I was left off, as the IPCC functions as a black box.

Perhaps there is some insight to be gained from one of the committee's members? One of the report's lead authors, Sabrina McCormick, responds to Revkin and justifies the IPCC's empanelment decisions on her blog as follows:
The IPCC is not meant to be a reflection of the work and perceptions of the same scientists year after year. It is a living, breathing entity whose strength is partially derived from the new talent that is represented across disciplines and generations of researchers. One essential piece of that is drawing from a pool of researchers who are not all old white men or from particular disciplines. So, if certain stalwart scientists are passed up because there are new views on critical subjects, so be it. I respect their work and the many years they have devoted to this subject. Such contributions are not to be denied. However, neither are the bright, new ideas of scientists not traditionally involved in the IPCC, like sociologists such as myself. Maybe we have the answers to solve the most pressing problem of our time.
Richard J. T. Klein, who is also on the SREX committee and an experienced IPCC author, shows up in the comments with this corrective:
Sabrina, in principle you're right. Except that Roger Pielke Jr., the person Andrew Revkin writes about, isn't old stalwart blood. He's never been an IPCC author before either, so his inclusion in the author team would have been just as innovative.
The black box remains unopened.

Quotable Quotes

You can't just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they'll want something new.

Concentrated power is not rendered harmless by the good intentions of those who create it.

Liberals tend to hold the bribe-giver as somehow more reprehensible, as in some way 'corrupting' the taker. In that way they deny the free will and the responsibility of each individual for his own actions.

Happiness comes when we test our skills towards some meaningful purpose.

The root of all evil isn`t money; rather, it`s not having enough money.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Star Caps Saga Continues

More than a year after the NFL attempted to suspend Pat and Kevin Williams of the Minnesota Vikings for violating the NFL Policy on Anabolic Steroids and Related Substances (the “NFL Policy”), litigation involving the case continues. The case took another turn last week when Judge Gary Larson, a Minnesota state court judge, handed down a 44 page opinion in response to the parties’ motions for summary judgment.

Here are some questions raised by the fairly dense opinion, with some answers.

1. What was the ruling? Judge Larson spent most of the opinion rejecting the arguments of the NFL and the Williamses. He rejected the NFL’s arguments that the league’s drug policy should trump state law, and rejected most of the Williamses’ arguments that the suspensions violated Minnesota state law.

2. Did the NFL Win? Yes and no. I’ll start here with what they lost. The NFL was looking for a sweeping victory in this case. The league wants a court—or Congress—to make a determination that the NFL’s drug policies trump state law, so that players cannot resort to state laws to challenge drug suspensions. The NFL did not get that sweeping pronouncement from the federal courts, Congress, or Judge Larson.

Instead, Judge Larson held that the Minnesota Drug and Alcohol Testing in the Workplace Act (DATWA) and the Minnesota Consumable Products Act (CPA) apply to professional sports leagues. Why? Well, most simply, because the statutes do not provide any explicit exception for the sports leagues. Although the legislative history of the statutes make it fairly clear that those laws were not created to govern the performance-enhancing drug testing of professional sports, Judge Larson was not willing to ignore the plain meaning of the statute to read in an exception for the NFL. In other words, if the NFL wants an exclusion from DATWA and CPA, it will have to obtain one from the Minnesota state legislature, not from Judge Larson.

Also, using the same rationale as the federal courts, Judge Larson rejected the NFL’s argument that the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement preempts DATWA and CPA.

3. Lost and 24 are having disappointing seasons. What can they do to improve? One word: crossover. Who wouldn’t want to watch Jack Bauer shouting and torturing his way across the island? “The following takes place between, well, I have no idea when this is taking place.”

4. Did the NFL Violate Minnesota State Law? Judge Larson rejected most of the Williamses’ arguments under DATWA (and all of the CPA claims), but held that the NFL violated DATWA by failing to inform the Williamses of their positive test results within three days of the test. Judge Larson also held that the NFL may have violated DATWA’s confidentiality provision. The press allegedly found out about the positive test results before the players, but it’s unclear if the results of the tests were disclosed by the NFL. That issue will have to be determined at trial.

5. If State Laws Apply to the NFL’s Drug Testing Policies, How Can the NFL Maintain a Uniform Policy?
Since the beginning of this dispute, the NFL has argued that application of state laws to the NFL’s drug policies will destroy the ability of the NFL to maintain an effective, uniform drug policy. Judge Larson, however, was unconvinced by the NFL’s argument for two primary reasons. First, Judge Larson was not persuaded that the NFL had a special need to maintain a uniform policy. He wrote: “Despite varying state laws, corporations that participate in employee drug testing conduct business across state lines everyday in this country. Defendants fail to demonstrate why it would be more onerous for the NFL to comply with state laws, than for any other business engaged in interstate commerce.”

Second, even if the NFL did have a special need for uniformity, Judge Larson held that this need is outweighed by Minnesota’s interest in protecting the health and safety of its employees.

Why the lack of deference given to the NFL? In part, it could simply be that Judge Larson does not believe that the NFL should be treated any differently than other interstate businesses and should not be able to bargain around state law. But, Judge Larson also made it clear that he did not see why application of DATWA would prevent the NFL from enforcing its drug policy. According to Judge Larson, DATWA only provides a floor, or minimum protections, for drug testing, and the NFL is free to provide more protection. Judge Larson did not see how notifying the players of their positive tests within three days and not (potentially) leaking the results of the test to the media (which would also violate the confidentiality provision of the NFL’s own policy) would hurt the ability of the NFL to enforce its policy. The NFL, of course, is making a broader argument—they are concerned that a state would enact a law that is too lenient and would prevent the league from disciplining its players in a uniform manner. According to Judge Larson, however, DATWA does not present those concerns, so he did not need to respond to the NFL’s broader argument.

6. Can the NFL Still Win this Case? Yes. It’s not all bad news for the league. DATWA only governs “employers” of Minnesota employees, so the NFL can win the case if it can prove at trial that the Vikings, and not the league, are the employer of the Williamses. A ruling that the NFL is not the employer of the players would be a sweeping victory—it would immunize the league from Minnesota state employment law (and potentially from other similar state statutes). But, here’s where it gets interesting. As Judge Larson explained, the Willamses can argue that the NFL is their employer under the “single employer doctrine,” which “looks at whether the commonality of the employers’ operations, management, labor relations, and ownership or financial control, is sufficient to indicate that they should be treated as one whole.” In other words, if the court determines that the league and its teams should be treated as “one whole,” then the NFL is the employer of the Williamses and in violation of DATWA. So, for purposes of this case, it is in the best interests of the NFL to argue that the league and the teams should not be treated as a single entity.

Yet, earlier this year, the NFL argued before the Supreme Court in American Needle that NFL teams have no value without the league and thus the league and its teams should be considered one entity. Granted, the single employer doctrine in the Star Caps case and the single entity antitrust doctrine in the American Needle case are different legal theories that serve very different functions. So, it would not be entirely inconsistent for the NFL to argue that each of the individual teams employs their individual players for purposes of employment law, and that each of these teams and the league act as one entity for purposes of antitrust law. But, there is some overlap in the two doctrines, and the NFL might be walking a fine line here. At a minimum, the NFL’s position in the Star Caps case (that there is a distinction between the teams and the league for employment purposes) lends additional weight to the conclusion of nearly every court that sports leagues and their teams constitute multiple entities for antitrust purposes when acting in the labor market. Of course, this conclusion is not inconsistent with the Seventh Circuit’s decision in American Needle, where the Seventh Circuit recognized that the NFL might be a single entity in some markets (e.g., licensing of intellectual property) and multiple entities in others (e.g., signing players).

7. What’s next?
A settlement conference is scheduled for March 1st, and the trial is set for March 8th. If the NFL loses the case and subsequent appeals, look for them to ask the Minnesota state legislature to exclude professional sports leagues (or at least those with collectively bargained drug policies) from DATWA. If that fails, we might see the NFL go back to Congress asking for help…

Robbie made it!

Very quick blog to let everyone know that Robbie made it to his new home and family in one piece. His timing is pretty good as one of Sheree's mares came into season today - Pretty sure he knows it too!

I think he smells a girl!
New family
Mmm food
Face still in bucket - that's my boy!

2010's first run and some jerks

Short run: 20 min (?), 70-85% HR

Oa jerks 16kg & 20kg: 5/5
Jerk 2x20kg: 5

Jerk 2x24kg: 5, 20, 20

Oa jerks 28kg: 5/5
Jerk 2x28kg: 3

I realized it was probably good weather for a jog. I wanted a slow run at max 80% of HR. It was tricky as I easily got up to 85%. Might be that I am unused to running hence heart rate gets up even when your visual impression tells you that you are running slowly.

The jerks after running were a lot tougher on legs and cardio.
Hope I am not crippled tomorrow :-).

NAHBS Goes Floral

I had been looking forward to the 2010 North American Handmade Bicycle Show (NAHBS) and now the images are finally beginning to show up on flickr and various cycling websites. Lots of beautiful bicycles, with Randonneur and Porteur aesthetics looming large. Another theme I've noticed is the prevalence of floral designs, especially in accessories. Have a look:

[image by sleepyneko via flickr]

This handmade rack with a leaf motif is from Banjo Cycles and part of a matching front and rear rack set. These must have taken a long time to make!

[image by sleepyneko via flickr]

Front rack with wooden inlays, on a Yipsan Cycles mixte.

[image by sleepyneko via flickr]

Some custom "tree" headbadges by Poka Cycle Accessories. Love the look of enamel paint on these.

[image by sleepyneko via flickr]

Also Lilly of the Valley headbadges.

[image by sleepyneko via flickr]

And check out this beautiful chainguard, also by Poka. I would love one of these!

[image by sleepyneko via flickr]

Brooks saddle, carved by Kara Ginther for Banjo Bicycles.

[image by sleepyneko via flickr]

Fleur de Lis
lug/sleeve on an A.N.T Scorcher.

[image by thebicycleescape via flickr]

Bamboo frame with floral motif. This is a Bamboosero bicycle made by Bikeys in New Zealand, the floral artwork done by a Maori artist.

[image by Velo Colour]

And these magnificent floral details are by Velocolour (check out additional details here).

Looking at the popularity of floral designs at NAHBS this year, I wonder whether it reflects a growing female customer base for bicycle builders. Or perhaps these are just as popular with men. What do you think?

Random Thoughts on Various Subjects


This is a viral video that has become immensely popular because some gnarly old white dude beats the shit out of a black guy. The reason for its popularity is obvious. People enjoy seeing a black guy getting the shit beat out of him by a gnarly old white dude. Naturally, this has brought with it a lot of commentary and analysis from various quarters on race, politics, and "old man strength." I don't think a fight has been so popular or so much discussed since Ali-Frazier. As for me, I just found it entertaining especially the part where the peanut gallery urges the black guy to "kick his white ass." Talk about irony.


A killer whale kills a trainer at SeaWorld. So far, nothing similar has happened at Gatorland. Personally, I think playing with dangerous animals is really stupid.


Ron Paul won the straw poll at CPAC, and I think he will run again for president. Can he win the nomination? I doubt it. OTOH, what are our alternatives? Palin? Give her a talk show already. Romney? He should endorse some hair care products. Then, there is Gary Johnson who I really like. He is a guy who I think could forge an alliance between libertarians and conservatives. He doesn't carry the baggage Paul would have, and he has executive experience being the former governor of New Mexico. Will have to wait and see on this one.


Mark and Jenny are split. Does anyone give a shit? I'd respect Jenny Sanford a lot more if she hadn't ran off and wrote a book about the whole thing. That was the act of a media whore. The question remains. Will Sanford make any more trips to Argentina now that he is a free man?


It is a a given that no Democrat will be governor. Vincent Sheheen is wasting his time. Unfortunately, I suspect Nikki Haley may be wasting her time, too. This is because the dipshits of SC will vote for either McMaster or Bauer, two worthless motherfuckers I utterly despise. All I can say is that anyone who doesn't cast a vote for Nikki Haley is an idiot.


I watched the 60 Minutes piece on what could be a revolution in energy. I am cautiously optimistic about what this fuel cell could mean for the country. If this is the real thing, I see it in electric cars, and natural gas would be the way to go. Meanwhile, Washington explores clean coal because that is what the lobbyists paid them to do. This is why our energy future is with the capitalists not the politicians.


ClimateGate roars on as the nation is buried in snow. Where is Al Gore? Where is our Messiah of Climate Salvation when we need him?

I remember not too long ago people were lumping me and my ilk in with Holocaust deniers and flat earthers because we did not share Al Gore's hysteria over global warming. Now, as those dire predictions are looking more ridiculous by the day, where is this Nobel Peace Prize Winner? Why won't he answer questions? WHY IS HE HIDING?

I am saddened that Michael Crichton did not live long enough to see himself vindicated. Crichton was right.


I am convinced now more than ever that a bubble in higher education exists and will pop in a big way over the next decade. Despite what politicians may claim, we have no shortage of educated workers or education. The problem is all that student loan debt that can't be repaid with tips from Starbucks.


Andrew Koening, an actor on Growing Pains, kills himself.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Pinky Pony

Brennan's first girlfriend arrived last week. She's a very sweet little cremello (albino) mare. He thinks she looks wonderful, she on the other hand is rather nonplussed by him. Poor Brennan.

The Container is in situ and now has a fair amount of my tack in it but is sorely in need of shelving so that is the task for the coming days. I have some shelves in the old shed but they are built in so will require Nick to 'attend' to them.

Robbie is still on the road but should reach his destination tomorrow morning around 10am so I am waiting to hear from Sheree that he has made it in one piece. Poor boy had a very long trip on Wednesday when he went to Bulls, via Wellington. I believe he was on the truck for something like 10 hours!

I have decided to pull Enya off the market once her ad runs out. With Rory's unexpected sale, I am in the wonderful position of being able to keep her. I just don't know when or if Maude will produce me another filly (and, at 21, she is no spring chicken!) and of course Reilly is now gelded so keeping her allows me to keep both bloodlines alive and as both Maude and Reilly are very special horses to me, it seems right that Enya stays on here at Talisman Farm. And, she is absolutely stunning and I would probably never be able to afford to buy myself a mare as nice in the future!! I do hope to get her under saddle and out under a deserving young rider in the coming years.

The Pinky Pony

New Column on NFL Teams Cutting Players with Post Concussion Symptoms

In the wake of the Eagles cutting Brian Westbrook, I have a new column on the legal, ethical, and political implications of NFL teams cutting players who suffer from concussions. Here's an excerpt:

* * *

The NFL's collective bargaining agreement does not distinguish concussions from other injuries for purposes of cutting a player. But should it?

After all, there is an arguable disconnect between the NFL's stated commitment to addressing the concussion problem and the ability of teams to cut players who were injured by concussions. In his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee last October, commissioner Roger Goodell said of the link between head injuries and brain ailments, "I can think of no issue to which I've devoted more time and attention than the health and well-being of our players, and particularly retired players."

If that is true, shouldn't players who suffer concussions receive heightened employment protections? In fact, if a player can be cut because of postconcussion symptoms, he may have an incentive to not reveal his injury, a decision that could undermine his health, particularly his long term neurological health.

* * *

NFL teams, for their part, could argue that their decision to cut players who suffer from postconcussion symptoms is neither heartless nor at odds with league efforts to curb concussions; rather, it is a necessity of a salary cap that ties teams' hands. Teams might also insist that it's not their fault if a player suffers concussions -- it's the sport's fault or an unfortunate materialization of risk that every NFL player assumes every down he plays.

Still, the NFL may want to think carefully about teams cutting players with postconcussion symptoms. Congress would seem poised to revisit the concussion topic if there were a pattern of players cut after suffering concussions. Congress has leverage over the NFL, including the threat that it can repeal the Sports Broadcasting Act, which provides antitrust immunity to the NFL and other leagues for their national TV deals. Congress might also re-evaluate the NFL's status as a 501(c)(6) nonprofit organization, which furnishes the league with favorable tax treatment.

* * *

Hope you have a chance to read the rest of the column. I'll be on ESPN Radio's John Clayton Show at 6 p.m. Saturday to discuss the column.

An Update on MLB Properties v. Upper Deck

As discussed here earlier in the month, MLB Properties - MLB's trademark licensing and enforcement entity - recently filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against trading card manufacturer Upper Deck, alleging that Upper Deck was producing unauthorized sets of baseball cards featuring MLB uniforms and logos. On February 16th, Judge Sweet granted a motion by MLB Properties seeking to condense the hearing for a preliminary injunction along with an expedited trial on the merits, with a trial date now set for April 19th.

The Beckett Blog is closely following the litigation in a series of posts, including a recent interview with trademark attorney Miguel Danielson about the case. Meanwhile, most of the court papers are publicly available here.

IPCC to be Independently Reviewed

Has the UN turned a corner on its oversight of the IPCC? An article in today's Telegraph suggests maybe so:

Environment and Climate ministers meeting in closed session in Bali last night insisted that an independent review should be carried out following the publicising of mistakes in its last report, and a row surrounding Dr Pachauri's robust response to his critics. If his management is found to be at fault his position could become untenable.

Participants in the unprecedented meeting – held at the annual assembly of the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme's (UNEP) Governing Council in Bali – were sworn to secrecy over the decision and it is only expected to be announced after its detaled scope and composition have been worked out by UNEP and the World Meteorological Organisation, the two UN agencies that oversee the IPCC's work.

The ministers – led by Hillary Benn, the Environment Secretary,and his counterparts from Germany,. Norway, Algeria and Antigua and Barbuda – refused to allow Dr Pachauri to decide who would carry out the review, insisting it must be completely and demonstrably independent of the IPCC.
That last paragraph sure is interesting.


DVD-The Hurt Locker

It is not often that you see a great movie. The Hurt Locker is a great movie.

The story is about a group of soldiers tasked with disarming IEDs in Iraq. For a war movie, it is quiet. There isn't a lot of action. But you will be on the edge of your seat watching this one. It is intense because the movie lays out at the beginning what is at stake when it comes to dealing with these bombs. They will flat out kill you. Once the stakes are established Katherine Bigelow simply turns the screws, and the tension in each scene becomes overwhelming. You never know when these guys are just going to eat it. This is the stress soldiers live under constantly.

War is a drug. That line is what makes this movie special. Jeremy Renner plays SSG William James who is addicted to the drug of war. This becomes apparent to his fellow soldiers who cannot abide his wild antics. The guy lives to defuse bombs. He is monomaniacal. The scene that spells this out most clearly involves not a bomb but cereal on a store aisle. Bombs give meaning. Everything else is just a distraction.

This movie is superbly directed and acted. It deserves the Oscar for Best Picture and Bigelow deserves Best Director. I will be surprised and disappointed if she doesn't carry home both trophies. Without a doubt, The Hurt Locker is the Best Film to come out of 2009.

The last question is the obvious one. What is a hurt locker? The movie does not answer this. Various answers have been given, but it is supposed to be slang for getting fucked up in an explosion and being sent to the "hurt locker." But the ambiguity of the title is much like the larger ambiguity of the film. You provide your own answers.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

What about curling?

As the Olympics wind down, I found myself thinking about the "What's a Sport?" question as applied to one of the darlings of these Games--curling. Curling seems to have been discovered in Vancouver, as the public has learned of the game's rhythms (somewhat comparable to baseball), its shot-making and strategy (comparable to golf, with collision physics thrown in), and the attractiveness of many of the female curlers (several European curlers even posed nude for a fund-raising calendar). And curling was a staple of NBC's afternoon live cable coverage during the first week (because the stuff people initially wanted to see was being held for tape-delay), so it was easy to find.

So, is it a sport? Looking at our narrow definition (borrowed from anthropologist John Jackson), no. Jackson requires: 1) a ball or ball-like object as the center of attention; 2) a sense of physical urgency when the ball is in play; and 3) the opponent taking steps to thwart one player's efforts as to the ball.

Curling is OK as to # 1 and # 3--the stone qualifies as a "ball-like object" and the purpose of the game is get your stone closest to the center, often by deliberately knocking the other team's stone away. But it runs into a problem on # 2--sense of physical urgency while the ball is in play. There are no periods of running after the ball--much like golf, which Jackson expressly excludes from his definition. Perhaps we could argue there is physical urgency for the sweepers who must follow the stone and often have to move (and sweep) quickly to get the stone where they want it. The physical movement in curling is arguably greater and more urgent than in golf. In golf, the ball is hit and everyone stands and waits to see where it lands; in curling, the stone is launched and there is some rapid movement to control its progress. So perhaps # 2 is satisfied; it's a close call.

What about the broader definition: 1) Large motor skills; 2) simple machines only; 3) objective scoring; and 4) competition.

Curling passes. The brooms qualify as simple machines and large motor skills in upper and lower body, as well as great balance, are necessary for both the person who launches the stone and the sweepers (putting aside whether sweeping should be part of any sport). Scoring is objective and immediately determined. There you go.

Defining Skepticism Down

[UPDATE: The editors at Foreign Policy have added this text at the bottom of the page describing my views:
*Editor's note: Pielke has informed the editors of FP that he strongly objects to being included on a list titled "Climate Skeptics." The aim of the list was, as the introduction states, to separate "the noise from the serious concerns" with regards to those offering critiques of either climate science or institutions charged with presenting climate science to the public or policy-makers; the article was explicitly not intended to equate the viewpoints of all people contained on the list. Pielke has been quoted in the mainstream media voicing concerns about the IPCC, as in today's Wall Street Journal, as well as questioning sloppy logic on the part of some environmentalists, for instance objecting to overstatements about hurricanes being linked to global warming. That is not the same as doubting the reality or significance of climate change. Pielke has not raised objections to the text or any factual details in the article, but he feels that inclusion in a list that carries a politically loaded name -- "climate skeptics" -- is potentially misleading; a reader who scans only the title and the list of names could draw the wrong assumptions about the nuances of his views.
I appreciate their responsiveness.]

Somehow I made the Foreign Policy "Guide to Climate Skeptics." Here is how they quote me:
"Climate change is a huge problem, and it's a problem linked to human activity. Greenhouse gases are an important part of that, but it's not only greenhouse gases. And we need to respond accordingly."
Am I the only one who finds this a bit incongruous? But up-is-down has always been a part of the climate debate.

[UPDATE #2: It has been pointed out that the profile of John Christy includes this quote from me:
"I respect him," Pielke says. "I disagree with him, but I respect him."
I do not recall saying this to the FP nor does provide and context to suggest what they are implying that I disagree with.]

Hey Martin, the Reasons I wont Support the RWC

Pictured above is Martin Snedden, he is the CEO of the RWC.

He recently wrote a piece for Fairfax, saying how he would
love all New Zealanders to support the Rugby World Cup in

He went on to say, that a lot of New Zealanders despise
rugby, but he still wants to invite those people to enjoy
the RWC because it will capture the nation.

I put it to you Martin Snedden, that you have it wrong, you
have it reversed, it's not the fact that people despise rugby
in this country, it's the fact that Rugby people despise any other

This is the reason why I won't follow the RWC.

Growing up at school, it was always the Rugby Kid that made
fun of any other sport, it was always the Rugby Kid that
would get angry if someone talked about another sport, it
was always the Rugby Kid that was insecure and thinned
skinned, and it was always the Rugby Kid that would lash out.

I never once had a Field Hockey fan call me an offensive
term for liking soccer, I never once had a League fan
call me a loser for liking Basketball. I never once
had a cricket fan call me a wimp for liking American

But guess what, I have had plenty of rugby fans do this.

One guy I did a Chef course with, spent the whole time
ripping into anyone, who didn't think Rugby was the
greatest sport of them all, the Martial Arts guy we
had in our class, he would scoff at, the girl that did
Badminton he would make fun of, and I made the mistake of
bringing up the fact That I like Basketball, well he didnt
let up that day.

So you see Martin, there's a pattern of rugby fans dishing
out pure hatred to anyone who is a non rugby fan.

I remember an old school teacher, he had a class
favorite, this rather large ten year old, who
got away with murder for about six months, he
did any5thing he liked, then one day our teacher
asked him if he would try out for the school
rugby team, this kid said he couldn't because
he plays soccer for his club.

This teacher screamed at him, gave him detention,
and told him since he wants to play a girls sport,
he has to wear a dress to school the next day.

For the rest of the year this kids name was mud.

There are plenty of cases of kids being told they
are not allowed to played League or Basketball by the
schools and they have to play Rugby, these kids have
also been a victim of corporal punishment because of
the sport they choose to play.

There are plenty of other reason too, why I wont be
part of this RWC.

One of them is the Lies that you yourself have spouted,
about huge this tournament is going to be.

You give out over inflated figures on the viewing
audience. We are constantly told it's the third largest
sporting event in the world, the media does your bidding
with this, apart form a few bloggers, they repeat the
lies handed out by the NZRFU.

Other trick is to press statements on the eve of another
sports big event, to try and take away from that sport.
This practice has been happening for decades.

The RWC is NOT the Third Biggest Sport Event in the World.

So let me correct you on a few things, before I go on.

Four Billion people wont watch this tournament.

The Final in 2007 had 23 million viewers, which made it
the four watched sport event that WEEK.

98% of all viewers come from just six countries.

South Africa, England, New Zealand, Australia, Wales
and Ireland.

The HUGE PROMO RUGBY BALL you sent around Europe to
promote the RWC had to close down because it had no

Apparently you say the All Blacks are a global brand,not
according to their traffic on the web though where they are
listed in their web ranked as 132,620, while your average
professional sports team make the top 5000.

Football, Baseball, Basketball, Handball, Volleyball,
Cricket, xgames, Ice Hockey garner higher TV ratings,
more sales in Merchandise, more Press, than the RWC
could ever dream.

A study conducted by TGI Europe in 2006,
shows that in just four European Countries,
The UK, Spain, France and Germany, shows
there are 33 Million Basketball fans.

A global study, conducted by Roper Starch
Worldwide in 1997, shows that 11 percent of
the world's population plays Basketball,
and its the fastest growing sport in the Asia region.

Television ratings of International games
and the European League are second only to
Soccer thruout Europe.

AN NBA Franchise could cost you up to a
Billion Dollars.

Tv rights for the the NBA measure in
the tens of Billions in the USA alone.

The European Basketball league rights are worth
in the Hundreds of Millions Sky Sport Italy
recently payed $5.3 Million a season for the
Israeli Basketball league alone.

Also look at the sport of Handball, their world cup final
had over ten million viewers in Germany ALONE.
There are 19 million handball players

There are 166 member countries of the (IHF)

In France only Soccer and Basketball gets higher TV Ratings.

There are 795 thousand handball teams in the world

There are 19 Million players

Take a look at the coverage the Ice Hockey is getting at the
Olympics, the world is watching.

Ice Hockey is the National Sport of Norway, Sweden, Finland,
Canada and Russia, Czech Republic, Austria and Solvakia(IIHL)

The world baseball classic had the highest TV ratings for
any programme in Japaneses history, it also broke records
in several central American countries.

Baseball is the number one sport in Korea,
America, Japan, Cuban, Putero Rico and Venezuela, Tawain.

Baseball is the fastest growing sport in the West Indies.

It's players are the highest payed sportspeople
on earth. (Forbes Magazine)

MLB has the biggest representation of countries
than any other sports competition including football. (ESPN)

Fox recently played Billions for the rights
to air the world series upuntil 2013, plus
regular weekly matches.(Forbes)

The average salarly of new York yannkee is 6.6
Million a year, while their payroll is over
200 Million a season. (Forbes)

Have you ever wonder why BMX riders get paid more than
NewZealand rugby players?

This blog post is getting too long, but I could go on and
on about tens of dozens of sports that have comps much larger
than the RWC.

So it's the hyper inflating of Rugby by the NZRFU,
the media it's fans which is why I also wont get involved.

I may be able to forgive all that, but unfortunately there
is the negatively and lies towards other sport that is
spouted daily by our media.

Sports such as Basketball, Baseball are brushed off and
just called American Sports, whereas the truth is they
are far more global than Rugby could ever dream to be.

The media also treats these sports with poorly, reporting
inaccurately, the stories are never done in a positive light.
This is done purposely to try and make Rugby look better.

Any sport that is deemed to be in competition with Rugby
gets smashed by the Rugby Loving media.

Rugby games are now scheduled to go head to head with
other sports, all for the purpose so other sports can
die a slow death, the cricket season (a summer sport)
now has to compete with the rugby season, believe me
this was thought out by the NZRFU, they want to kill
off any other sport in this country.

Its so sad to see what Rugby Bosses and the media have
done to other sports in NewZealand. A sport that
is deemed to be in competition with Union, eg: Basketball
and League they are automatically ripped into. Take a look
at our once thriving NBL, it now lacks any media coverage at
all, the Kiwi League team can win a world cup and not
even get a Halberg Nod.

This has always happen and will continue to do so, I
wouldn't be surprised if they pass a law saying your
not allowed to wear a shirt of another code during the
duration of RWC.

This RWC is the worst thing that could happen to sport
in this country. The new laws that are being passed by
Parliament that is allowing the RWC security officers
to have unprecedented rights to private property is
shocking to say the least.

So Mr Snedden, I wont be taking part in this event,
I won't be telling friends and family overseas to
come to this event.

It's not because of the reasons that you gave, but
Like I said at the start of this blog post, just reverse
what you said.

It's the fact that Rugby people are so insecure about
their sport that they have to make up numbers and
verbally and physically abuse anyone or any sport
that rugby fan.

I would have to say that the NewZealand rugby fan, have
to be the most naive, ignorant sports fan on the face of
the planet, but they think others are that way, and that
they themselves are the most knowledgeable.

So I wish you all the best Martin with this little event
that will mean so much to rugby fans here, it may make
a lot of kiwis happy, I for one though are never happy with
lies and corruption.

Its too bad some CEO's are.

Seton Hall Symposium Postponed

Due to weather, the Seton Hall sports symposium originally scheduled for tomorrow will be postponed. I'll update when a date gets set.

Red Meat

James Inhofe (R-OK) is an irresistible attraction to many in the climate debate. A commenter has pointed out that the Senator has released a report -- his latest of many -- in which he indicates that his staff will be looking at whether climate scientists have broken any laws, based on the CRU emails. In my view this sort of announcement is what you do when you don't think that the law has in fact been broken. If he had any evidence of law breaking he'd be acting not via announcement. So I think that it is just a bit of clown-like bluffing, serving up red meat for the partisans, but little else.

Senator Inhofe is not alone in serving up red meat for his partisan followers. Over at ClimateScienceWatch, Rick Piltz focuses on the Inhofe report to also use these scientists for his own partisan purposes. In his comments he adds a good deal of intensity to the issue, writing about "trials" and "possible referral to the U.S. Department of Justice for prosecution." This is just as over-the-top as the Senator's report, and just as unhelpful -- if Piltz's concern is to improve the role of climate science in policy and politics (I assume that such improvement is not high on Senator Inhofe's agenda).

Talking about the prosecution of scientists is a good way to get a debate going, and this thread will meet that demand (keep it respectful, please). However, it should be realized that the actions of Senator Inhofe and those who take his bait miss what matters most here, and that is not individual scientists and their personalities or characters, but rather, the integrity of the institutions in which they reside. Those who wish to discuss issues of science policy as related to climate science, please use the comments in the post on my debate with Bob Watson. Those wanting more of a food fight can use this post. I know where I'll be paying most attention.

Watson vs. Pielke on IPCC at Yale e360

In parallel with Robert T. Watson, former chair of the IPCC, I have a piece over at Yale e360 on the IPCC. Watson argues that the IPCC needs some minor tinkering but is otherwise sound. I call for more comprehensive reforms.

Please visit there, read both essays and then feel free to return here and ask questions or discuss. Here are a few short excerpts:
Watson: So does the IPCC process need to be significantly revised? I would argue no, that the IPCC is more than capable of conducting rigorous and reliable assessments in an open, transparent, and inclusive manner. But the IPCC needs to regain its full and deserved credibility. The procedures for the selection of authors and review editors and the peer-review process and approval of reports are all sound. What is needed is to tighten up the implementation of these procedures, coupled with training of authors and review editors. The selected authors need to represent the full range of credible views, including those of the skeptics, and must ensure that all statements are based on sound science and that the citations used contain convincing evidence.
Pielke: Standing up for climate science means openly supporting reform of the IPCC while underscoring its institutional importance. The climate science community has failed to meet its own high standards. If the IPCC continues to pretend that things will soon get back to normal or that it need only castigate its critics as deniers and skeptics, it will find that its credibility will continue to sink to new lows. It is time to reform the IPCC.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Trenberth, Christy and Pielke on IPCC Reform

The Council on Foreign Relations asked Kevin Trenberth, John Christy and me for capsule summaries of our views on reform of the IPCC. Here are snippets from the responses:
Trenberth: The IPCC review and oversight process is very rigorous. Clearly there can be and have been some lapses, but they appear to be fairly few. I do not think the system is broken and needs further change; it simply needs more attention to adhering to the process already in place.
Christy: [IPCC] lead authors are given powerful control by being vested with final review authority and thus are able to fashion a report that supports their own opinions while marginalizing countervailing views. This is not how the real uncertainties and difficulties of climate science may be established and communicated to policymakers.
Pielke: Unless the IPCC brings its institutional policies and procedures into the twenty-first century through a wholesale institutional reform, it will continue to come out on the losing end of challenges to its legitimacy and credibility.

Seeing What We Want to See

To a large extent, we all shape our own experiences of reality: We see the things we want to see and block out the things that do not fit our world view.

Walking home yesterday afternoon, I was amused to notice how much I tend to do this even when it comes to bicycles.

Both Vienna and Boston are full of generic modern unremarkable bikes, yet the ones I pay attention to are the classic and vintage bikes.

And since I notice these more, in my subsequent memories they are the ones that play a starring role in the city's "velo life".

In a similar fashion, I tend to pay lots of attention to architecture I like and ignore all the "ugly" stuff right next to it. As a result, a city or a neighborhood might consist entirely of beautiful architecture in my memories.

There are countless examples of this of course, and unless we point and shoot in a random direction we cannot take a picture without revealing our subjective biases. Our pictures reflect how we want to see and remember things rather than how they actually are. For example, several readers have pointed out to me that my "street scenes" tend to be miraculously free of cars, and indeed I seem to frame photos so as to avoid them. There is just something about modern cars that is not photogenic: they detract from the feel of the city landscape.

Bicycles, on the other hand, seem to enrich it - especially when the bicycles are nice and the cyclists are well dressed. Yes, that is a Hassidic Jew cycling through Vienna - who clearly has no problem cycling in a suit.

And here is a couple, cycling into the sunset idyllically. While of course I did not stage these scenes, you could say that I chose to notice them out of the many alternative scenes I could have noticed instead.

So, what is my point? Only that life can be filled with golden sunsets and lovely bicycles if we want it to - even on those days when it's not.