Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Farewell to a Difficult Season

Today is the last day of March - and hopefully the last day of what has been a prolonged, difficult winter season. I don't think I am the only one to feel this way: Many bicycle blogs have slowed down this month - with fewer posts and fewer comments, and lots of people have mentioned feeling dispirited.

Funny that March should be the month to almost do us in, rather than January or February. But the key word is almost. My unexpected relationship with Jacqueline gave me just enough of a spiritual boost to deal with the alarming situation that greeted me upon my return to New England: days of non-stop downpours and flooding! Well, I won't let it get me down. April is just a day away and so is the warmth and colour of spring.

In the meantime, I send my regards to all the excellent blogs that have bravely hung on through the entire winter, continuing to give us wonderful posts to brighten the dreary days: EcoVelo, Let's Go Ride a Bike, Riding Pretty, Cycling is Good for You, Portlandize, Suburban Bike Mama, and Biking in Heels, just to name a few.

NASCAR Continues to Go its own Way

Just as the NHL and the other big 3 professional sports leagues continue to crack down on athlete misconduct on and off the field, NASCAR seems to be headed in the opposite direction. The NHL now forbids blindside hits to the head, and the NFL forbids almost any hit to the quarterback, but NASCAR has decided that it is permissible for one driver to intentionally crash his car into another driver during a race. I have a new column up on the Huffington Post that compares NASCAR's new (or reborn) "have it and have a good time" policy with the safety/image-first policies of the big 4 pro sports leagues.

Here's an excerpt:

Of course, not everything is off limits. While it may soon be a fineable offense to cough on or near a quarterback in the NFL (we don't want Tom Brady getting a cold, do we?) the NHL still tolerates (if not embraces) fighting. We can quibble with the NHL's decision to allow the fights, but we can understood why they made it--hockey fans love to see fights, and it's not so bad if the players beat on each other every now and then....But, it is a little hard to understand the latest ruling by NASCAR.

You can find the full column here. You can also follow me on twitter here.

That simple but profound joy in life and sports

To: The Sportsleader Family
From: Steve Frommeyer, Principal and Head Football Coach Eminence High School - Eminence, KY
First, I would like to thank Lou Judd for giving me the opportunity to share some thoughts with the Sportsleader Family on a regular basis. SportsLeader and Lou have both been a tremendous asset to our program, myself personally, and most importantly to our players.
As Spring (really Winter) practice finished this past week, it gave me time to reflect again on our priorities. Being a very small school with many of our players in baseball or other activities, we only had 12 players at practice each day. As a competitive coach, my first instinct is to get frustrated with all the things we were not able to get done. However, I remembered a story about (basketball game) Jim Valvano’s father. He would ask his sons after every practice or game two simple questions: 1) Did you learn anything? and 2) Did you have fun? It was his yardstick for success.
Using that measure, we had a very successful Spring practice. With small numbers, our players were able to get individual attention and thus learned a lot of football and also got to deepen their personal relationships with the coaches and each other. Moreover, they had fun. We had some beautiful days and we tried hard to make the drills helpful but also fun to do. The reality is most boys love to compete, and we tried to build off that fact with our practice routines.
Finally, I had to remind myself that God says we cannot enter the Kingdom of God unless we again become child-like in our trust of him and our unconditional love for his people. The sheer joy of “playing” and sharing with each other and trusting that God will use our efforts for his glory is at the core of what sports and life are all about!
I hope none of you ever lose that simple but profound joy in life and sports!

House of Commons CRU Email Report

The UK House of Commons has released its report (PDF) on the issues associated with the release of emails and other materials from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia last November. The report keeps a tight focus on CRU and Phil Jones. It provides a nice summary of issues, complaints and responses but adds very little new substance, which is probably to be expected as the report is based on a single day of testimony and has been prepared in just a few weeks. It punts some of the more challenging issues to other ongoing investigations.

Defenders of CRU will no doubt paint the report -- particularly the ambiguity of the rather trivial issues involving language, such as "trick" and "hide the decline" -- as a complete vindication of their arguments and those who have been critical will also focus on these phrases and call the report incomplete or a whitewash. These issues have always been a sideshow. The matters of greater importance are not about the behavior or language used by certain individuals, but rather what the released emails say about the culture and norms of institutions of climate science. On this subject the report offers a nuanced message. On the one hand, it largely explains the discussions and associated actions revealed in the emails as fairly normal for the profession. At the same time, the report offers of a fairly harsh rebuke of the profession for allowing such behaviors to become the norm.

Here are a few comments of some of the more interesting parts of the report:
We recognise that some of the e-mails suggest a blunt refusal to share data, even unrestricted data, with others. We acknowledge that Professor Jones must have found it frustrating to handle requests for data that he knew—or perceived—were motivated by a desire simply to seek to undermine his work. But Professor Jones’s failure to handle helpfully requests for data in a field as important and controversial as climate science was bound to be viewed with suspicion. He was obviously frustrated by other workers in the field trying to “undermine” his work, but his actions were inevitably counterproductive. Professor Jones told us that the published e-mails represented only “one tenth of 1%” of his output, which amounts to one million e-mails, and that we were only seeing the end of a protracted series of e-mail exchanges. We consider that further suspicion could have been allayed by releasing all the e-mails. In addition, we consider that had the available raw data been available online from an early stage, these kinds of unfortunate e-mail exchanges would not have occurred. In our view, CRU should have been more open with its raw data and followed the more open approach of NASA to making data available. . .

. . . a culture of withholding information—from those perceived by CRU to be hostile to global warming—appears to have pervaded CRU’s approach to FOIA requests from the outset. We consider this to be unacceptable.
Is the Committee really suggesting that Phil Jones should release a million emails (presumably he still can)? I seriously doubt that the information in a million more private emails among climate scientists would allay suspicion. This is just a bad idea.

The Committee concurs with the ICO that there is evidence that CRU scientists broke UK law in their efforts to circumvent FOI laws. However, the Committee would like to see this issue investigated to closure, rather than abandoned at a preliminary stage due to the fact that no prosecutions would be forthcoming in any case due to the a statute of limitations:
There is prima facie evidence that CRU has breached the Freedom of Information Act 2000. It would, however, be premature, without a thorough investigation affording each party the opportunity to make representations, to conclude that UEA was in breach of the Act. In our view, it is unsatisfactory to leave the matter unresolved simply because of the operation of the six-month time limit on the initiation of prosecutions. Much of the reputation of CRU hangs on the issue. We conclude that the matter needs to be resolved conclusively—either by the Independent Climate Change Email Review or by the Information Commissioner.
Like the advice to release a million emails, it is hard to see how this advice would allay suspicion. Given that there is consensus on what the prima facie evidence says, it would seem more likely than not that CRU and UEA would be found to have broken the law. A conclusive determination of this would probably intensify suspicions and even further damage the reputation of CRU, so much so that it would likely have to undergo some sort of serious institutional reform. A better strategy, in my view, would be to skip right to the institutional reform, rather than engaging in polarizing and damaging legal process with little formal significance.

The Committee suggests a broad indictment of climate science:
Reputation does not, however, rest solely on the quality of work as it should. It also depends on perception. It is self-evident that the disclosure of the CRU e-mails has damaged the reputation of UK climate science and, as views on global warming have become polarised, any deviation from the highest scientific standards will be pounced on. As we explained in chapter 2, the practices and methods of climate science are a key issue. If the practices of CRU are found to be in line with the rest of climate science, the question would arise whether climate science methods of operation need to change. In this event we would recommend that the scientific community should consider changing those practices to ensure greater transparency. . .

. . . A great responsibility rests on the shoulders of climate science: to provide the planet’s decision makers with the knowledge they need to secure our future. The challenge that this poses is extensive and some of these decisions risk our standard of living. When the prices to pay are so large, the knowledge on which these kinds of decisions are taken had better be right. The science must be irreproachable.

Climate Science and Sea Level Rise: A Report from the Real World

A Guest Post by Skip Stiles

Skip Stiles is the Executive Director of Wetlands Watch a nonprofit based in Norfolk, Virginia focused on the protection and conservation of Virginia's wetlands. In this guest post he describes his view from the front lines of adaptation policy -- trying to deal with both climate science and sea level rise.
I read with interest and conflict, the proposal to spend $50 million to develop more precise models of climate change impacts.

I have been in and around climate change policy for most of the last 30 years. I was hired in 1977 as a legislative assistant to the late Congressman George E. Brown, Jr., as he was drafting legislation to set up the first federal climate change research program. It became law in 1978 and for the next 22 years that I worked for Brown, as his chief of staff and as legislative director for the House Science Committee, climate change was the talk around the coffee pot in the office.

In time, the federal research program began to bear fruit, revealing a great irony: as the research got “better,” the policy response became more confused.

Along the research dimension, as we understood more, we plumbed the depth of our lack of understanding. Simple projections exploded into fractals of real world complexity.

Along the policy dimension, the inability of the public policy and political process to deal with uncertainty was again demonstrated. Politicians at all levels want a “green” or “red” light, or some quantification of the problem before they react. When scientific complexity raises the issue of uncertainly, politicians avoid acting.

The policy process seeks more certainty and more complete understanding. The science community agrees with this policy angst, trained to believe that a range of results will produce a single number if only they continue to sift. So additional research is funded and policy responses are delayed in a benign conspiracy of values, beliefs, and self-interest.

I was fine with that during my time in Congress because I did not see the urgency for action then. Later, during my service on the Virginia Commission on Climate Change in 2008, I still wanted better model results.

The Commission was faced with trying to understand impacts of climate change on Virginia. Unfortunately, the models produced impact maps showing the entire state composed of two pixels, too coarse to compel action. Storm intensity, temperature, and a host of other potential climate problems were poorly quantified. In the midst of our deliberations we sought better information, and would have endorsed something like the new Decadal and Regional Climate Prediction Using Earth System Models (EaSM) program, with a price tag of “only” $50 million.

However, this train of thinking endangers the work I do now with Wetlands Watch on climate change adaptation in coastal Virginia. We are working with local and state government officials to put community adaptation plans in place to address sea level rise in tidal Virginia. Here on the ground in the real world, this conspiracy to achieve predictive perfection is the enemy of preventive action and threatens millions of Virginians.

Where I live, in Norfolk, Virginia, we have seen 1.5 feet of sea level rise over the last 100 years and, with southeastern Virginia being as flat as a billiard table and with settlements in place here for 300+ years, our communities are getting flooding that has grown measurably worse over time. We have old buildings that once were safe that now flood regularly. We have streets that were safe and dry when they were first paved out in 1920 that now flood twice a month on spring tides.

We don’t need sophisticated models in southeastern Virginia, the most at-risk region from sea level rise outside of New Orleans. We get it and clearly see the cost of delay – yet what is the local political response?


We continue to allow buildings along the shoreline. We pretend somehow the seas will recede before we have to pay the bills. We don't make the hard choices politically on land use or other economic investments. Instead, we still ask for better data before we decide.

We do not have to wait for better models to get better data on climate change impacts here. We had a nor’easter in November producing a storm surge of 5 feet above Mean Higher High Water (above the average spring tide line). That gives us a snapshot of where the water will come with 5 feet of sea level rise – no modeling needed.

Here the policy process already has enough information to act: where the pavement got wet, you should stop allowing development and withhold public investments in redevelopment.

In our region, waiting for the EaSM results will mean we get another 6-12 cm of sea level rise and the promise of even more. Worse, in the interim we will have allowed more houses, hotels, and strip malls along the coast, raising the eventual expense of this problem – either in having to buy back these structures we have permitted or in higher insurance premiums as the buildings are flooded by future storms.

Waiting for EaSM model runs also distracts the local and state policy process from the “low hanging fruit:” all the reasonable "no brainer" approaches that make sense today and make even more sense with climate change. There are simple things we can be doing - don't build on the shoreline or on moving shore features like barrier islands, add at least a couple of feet of elevation to new infrastructure before it is built, etc.

So today I spend much of my time trying to undo the past 30 years of my work seeking perfection in forecasts. I ask local government officials to make decisions in advance of perfect knowledge because we know enough and to wait is to invite disastrous results.

I spend my days trying to change the world one IHOP Kiwanis Club meeting at a time, proselytizing on sea level rise. I don’t need to wait for these model runs and I certainly don’t need the distraction from my work they will cause.

If this new federal modeling effort, if other initiatives like the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration Climate Service lull the policy process into some dream state that promises them finer data, they will dither and delay. This delay will allow more houses on the shoreline, more port facilities built without considering sea level rise, etc.

If I had control of that $50 million, I’d take $2 million to gather real-world anecdotes of the changes that are happening: flowers blooming earlier, fire ants moving north, storm surges getting higher, robins staying longer in the fall, thawing permafrost catching fire. Then I’d take all this real-world evidence of the climate change that is already taking place and I’d spend $48 million working every Rotary Club, neighborhood association, and Scout Troop with this information until the nodding heads moved policymakers to action before it is too late.

WKC Classics LCCJ 27/3

I was away at the WKC's (World Kettlebell Club) long cycle competition in New York this weekend. I just had to go to a competition. Since Ventspils in August there has been some good opportunities, but I was always hindered from going. I just felt I had to compete or risk losing motivation and getting sloppy with working the details (a few "no-counts" are great cure for that :-).
Setting up

The WKC classic comp was a great event that took place at the Reebok Gym in Manhattan.
Someone said that there was 50 competitors and ca 100 spectators. In addition, there were lots of cheap and/or economic people looked at us through the windows into the basketball court where the event was held. My namesake Alexander - who works at the gym - had made a great job getting GS into the Reebok. I mean, he did not carry the bells and all that, that was done by WKC members working hard during the preceeding night.

It was nice to see familiar faces from Ventspils... Cate, Maya, Lopa..., as well as some I know from the net, like Boris. And N.N. and so-and-so (ah, I'm terrible with names, though I will remember looks and conversations for years). And, some new people, like the Ohio Michaels.

Warming up behind the stage

In these ages of individualism, I start with myself. I competed in classic lc (two bells) and lifted in the -85kg category with 24kg bells. Ladies competed in one arm lc/ one switch.

There was also oa lc free hand switches during 20 minutes (open for both genders). But I would have died if I did that as well.

I did 40 reps (plus some well deserved no-counts). Did 10 minutes - might be the first 10min ever in lc with 24s for me.

I had two main goals: (1) participate in an official lccj-comp, and (2) reach 45 reps (rank 3 in Russian table is 44).

First ambition went down fine. Actually, that was the most important one.
Second goal did not work out. But seriously, I am happy nonetheless. I have never done 45 reps in training and it might have been a bit unrealistic to count on doing that with new bells and jet-lagged.

I have dim memories of the lifting. Might be nervousness, or that there was so much impressions during that day... people, places, and conversations. One strange thing was that I felt weak in lower back in lockouts - never an issue with 24kgs normally. I think the WKC bells have a slightly thinner handle than my ´kettlebellathletics´(the Ventspils -09 bell) and that my grip did not get as tired as usual. I'm not positive though.
The WKC bells behaved different in clean, like they turned over quicker. Also, felt like they were higher up in rack - if that is possible. Not in a bad way though, I liked the WKC-spheres a lot.

Next to me, Canadian athlete Boris (LINK), was lifting. I tried to hook up on his tempo. I think it worked up to rep 27, or so. Then, he sprinted ahead. Naw... I lagged behind. I remember thinking something about being too old for this stuff :-).

My judge was no less that Catherine Imes, which felt like an honour.

Will report more from this - and the complete results when they come.

Valery Federenko, left.
Now, I will have a long break from any systematic lc-training and focus on biathlon and especially snatch.

Selective Ignorance--Practical Tips for Developing a Low Information Diet

Tim Ferriss advocates the practice of selective ignorance. Selective ignorance is where you edit out information in your life that is useless and irrelevant to your projects in order to free up more time. A low information diet is great advice until you try to implement it. Then, you have to make decisions, and that sucks. So, I will help you out with these practical tips.

A person's media consumption is person relative. What is valuable to one person may not be valuable to another. For instance, information on weight training is valuable to someone who is into bodybuilding but not so valuable to a marathoner. A history professor will subscribe to blogs on history but not blogs on astronomy. For the most part, people have no problem selecting and keeping the info that is really important to them. It is the clutter that becomes an issue. Here is a list of the most obvious garbage that most people can live without:


Entertainment news is great. This helps you discover movies and music you might like. Celebrity gossip is just trash. Besides, most of the really juicy stuff makes it to the mainstream media anyway. But, for the most part, you will live perfectly fine not knowing what so-so is doing with so-so under the influence of their drug of choice.


Sports is not much different from gossip except the celebrities in question are in shape. Otherwise, it is the same drama. Hard core sports geeks get into stats and the minutiae of the west coast offense. But unless you make your living in this area, this is a waste of life. You can live without sports. Play some sports instead.


This is one of my favorite areas of news, but it really is a waste of life. I believe in passive investing and using index funds, so you don't need to keep up with CNBC or watch tickers all day. Just invest your money in index funds and forget about it. This benign neglect will give you a good return while freeing up your time to do the things you really love.


It doesn't matter if you read Daily Kos or Red State. They are both pretty damn useless. This is because these outlets and others like them only do two things. They distort the facts by putting spin on them, and they are no different than people rooting for opposing teams in the same sport. For the most part, both sides want big government except they want it to be the big government of their respective party. The best way to ignore this nonsense is to wise up and become a libertarian. Libertarians don't believe in a side. They believe in freedom.

On a sidenote, I think being up to date with news and current events is worthwhile. They affect your life, and you should at least know what the hell is going on with people who wield so much influence over the conduct of your life.


I love science and technology but reading about it makes no sense. The major stuff hits the major news while the minor stuff can safely be ignored. Tech news is a big part of what is on the internet, but that is because we have so many nerds on the internet. Unless you work in these industries, you can ignore this area.

That's it for my list of information to ignore. These recommendations may not fit everyone, but they certainly fit me.

I hate having my photo taken ...

but today I relented and let Nick take a few of me with Brennan. All I will say is it is lucky Brennan is so handsome and photogenic!!!!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Is Kane the answer?

Is this the man who is the answer to the New Zealand cricket
teams problem.

A man who can bat long innings, a bat who can score at a decent
rate and score big centuries.

Surly this series was an eye opener, he may be young, but start
him young so he learn, when you want to be the best, you have
to play against the best.

Here's hoping that Kane Williamson will be the name on the
selectors lips for years to come, we need him, we need him

Time will tell.

New Sports Law Scholarship

Recently published scholarship includes:
Douglas E. Abrams, Sports in the courts: the role of sports references in judicial opinions, 17 VILLANOVA SPORTS & ENTERTAINMENT LAW JOURNAL 1 (2010)

Roger I. Abrams, Sports arbitration and enforcing promises: Brian Shaw and labor arbitration, 20 MARQUETTE SPORTS LAW REVIEW 223 (2009)

Timothy S. Bolen, Note, Singled out: application and defense of antitrust law and single entity status to non-team sports, 15 SUFFOLK JOURNAL OF TRIAL & APPELLATE ADVOCACY 80 (2010)

Christopher B. Carbot, Comment, The odd couple: stadium naming rights mitigating the public-private stadium finance debate, 4 FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW 515 (2009)

Walter T. Champion, Jr., “Mixed metaphors,” revisionist history and post-hypnotic suggestions on the interpretation of sports antitrust exemptions: the Second Circuit’s use in Clarett of a Piazza-like “innovative reinterpretation of Supreme Court dogma,” 20 MARQUETTE SPORTS LAW REVIEW 55 (2009)

Josh Chetwynd, Play ball? An analysis of final-offer arbitration, its use in Major League Baseball and its potential applicability to European football wage and transfer disputes, 20 MARQUETTE SPORTS LAW REVIEW 109 (2009)

John D. Colombo, The NCAA, tax exemption, and college athletics, 2010 UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS LAW REVIEW 109

Ed Edmonds, A most interesting part of baseball’s monetary structure - salary arbitration in its thirty-fifth year, 20 MARQUETTE SPORTS LAW REVIEW 1 (2009)

Stacey B. Evans, Sports agents: ethical representatives or overly aggressive adversaries?, 17 VILLANOVA SPORTS & ENTERTAINMENT LAW JOURNAL 91 (2010)

Mathieu Fournier & Dominic Roux, Labor relations in the National Hockey League: a model of transnational collective bargaining?, 20 MARQUETTE SPORTS LAW REVIEW 147 (2009)

Lloyd Freeburn, European football’s home-grown players rules and nationality discrimination under the European Community Treaty, 20 MARQUETTE SPORTS LAW REVIEW 177 (2009)

James Halt, Comment, Where is the privacy in WADA’s “whereabouts” rule?, 20 MARQUETTE SPORTS LAW REVIEW 267 (2009)

Ron S. Hochbaum, Comment, “And it only took them 307 years”: ruminations on legal and non-legal approaches to diversifying head coaching in college football, 17 VILLANOVA SPORTS & ENTERTAINMENT LAW JOURNAL 161 (2010)

Kristen E. Knauf, Sports law in law reviews and journals (index), 20 MARQUETTE SPORTS LAW REVIEW 299 (2009)

Erick S. Lee, A perception of impropriety: the use of package deals in college basketball recruiting, 17 VILLANOVA SPORTS & ENTERTAINMENT LAW JOURNAL59 (2010)

Michael A. McCann, American Needle v. NFL: an opportunity to reshape sports law, 119 YALE LAW JOURNAL 726 (2010)

Alex B. Porteshawver, Comment, Green sports facilities: why adopting new green-building policies will improve the environment and the community, 20 MARQUETTE SPORTS LAW REVIEW 241 (2009)

Michael J. Redding & Daniel R. Peterson, Third and long: the issues facing the NFL collective bargaining agreement negotiations and the effects of an uncapped year, 20 MARQUETTE SPORTS LAW REVIEW 95 (2009)

Nicholas J. Rieder, Book note, reviewing Don Wollett, Getting on Base: Unionism in Baseball, 20 MARQUETTE SPORTS LAW REVIEW 291 (2009)

David L. Snyder, Automatic outs: salary arbitration in Nippon Professional Baseball, 20 MARQUETTE SPORTS LAW REVIEW. 79 (2009)

Jonathan Stensvaag, Note, English-only rules: Title VII, Title II, and the Ladies Professional Golf Association’s proposed English-only rule, 13 JOURNAL OF GENDER, RACE & JUSTICE 241 (2009)

Maureen A. Weston, Simply a dress rehearsal? U.S. Olympic sports arbitration and de novo review at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, 38 GEORGIA JOURNAL OF

The Scope of MLB's Antitrust Exemption

With Major League Baseball's Opening Day less than a week away, I thought now would be an appropriate time to mention my new article considering the scope of MLB's antitrust exemption, Defining the 'Business of Baseball': A Proposed Framework for Determining the Scope of Professional Baseball's Antitrust Exemption, slated for publication later this year in the U.C. Davis Law Review.

While baseball's exemption from antitrust law is generally well established, lower courts have struggled to define the boundaries of the exemption following the Supreme Court's 1972 decision in Flood v. Kuhn. As detailed in my article, the majority of courts considering the exemption's scope post-Flood have simply held that the "business of baseball" is exempt from antitrust law without providing any further guidance regarding which specific activities are within the exempted business. In contrast, some courts -- most notably the court in Piazza v. Major League Baseball, 831 F. Supp. 420, 436 (E.D. Pa. 1993) -- have adopted an extremely narrow view of the exemption, limiting it simply to MLB's historic reserve clause, the only restraint at issue in Flood. Finally, two courts -- Postema v. National League of Professional Baseball Clubs, 799 F.Supp. 1475 (S.D.N.Y.1992) and Henderson Broadcasting Corp. v. Houston Sports Assoc., Inc., 541 F.Supp. 263 (S.D.Tex. 1982) -- have taken a different approach by limiting the baseball exemption to only the sport's "unique characteristic and needs," based on a passage in the Flood majority opinion.

In my article, I set aside the general policy arguments supporting or (more commonly) opposing the baseball exemption, and instead examine the scope of the exemption from a purely doctrinal perspective. My article rejects all three of the existing judicial demarcations as being either too broad and vague (in the case of the majority rule), or inconsistent with the Supreme Court's precedent (in the case of the two minority approaches). Instead, I argue that the often overlooked focus of the Supreme Court's majority opinions in Federal Baseball Club of Baltimore and Toolson -- namely the specific business of providing baseball entertainment to the public -- provides a more appropriate standard for future courts to apply. My article concludes by applying this proposed standard to a variety of baseball-related commercial activities, differentiating between those activities which are and are not properly exempt from antitrust law under my interpretation of the baseball exemption.

The article is available here. Any comments or suggestions would be appreciated.

Coaches Wedding Renewal

Over the weekend my wife and I had the opportunity to attend one of the most inspiring SportsLeader events ever - The Coaches Marriage Renewal. It was beautiful to be able to attend something with my wife. 

We were 7 couples, 1 Priest and 1 young man who is giving a year as a volunteer. 5 couples were from the Covington (KY) Catholic High School football program, 1 from Cincinnati Winton Woods Wrestling and us.

I cannot encourage you all to organize something like this for you and your program strongly enough. You NEED to do this!

We had out event at The Montgomery Inn - which is a famous Cincinnati restaurant known for ribs ... Our schedule was as follows:

6:00 Social
6:25 Order food and sit
Father Matthew give talk about beauty of marriage and how much we should appreciate our wives
Eat dinner
Each coach stands to affirm his wife, tell her how much he appreciates her, that he loves her and give her a rose
Renewal of vows/ Exchange of rings
Wedding Cake

One wife's email sums it all up:
THANK YOU for getting these pictures out and for organizing the entire evening.  It was simply beautiful!  I am very grateful and have a renewed sense of thanksgiving for the awesome man God made just for me - thanks again!

If you need help with this just let me know. We have the renewal format and everything ready for you.

If you would like to listen to most of Father Matthew's awesome talk, it is here. Maybe you and your wife can listen to this together.

Thoughts on Consumerism, Vanity, and Enrichment

To enjoy life, you don't need fancy nonsense, but you do need to control your time and realize that most things just aren't as serious as you make them out to be.

As anyone who knows me will tell you, I am a cheapskate. What this means is that I don't buy a lot of consumer items on credit. The reality is that if I won the lottery tomorrow (which I never play) my lifestyle would not change at all except in the most marginal sense. Basically, I would upgrade the things I already enjoy now. I would not buy a Ferrari or quit my job.

I have definite ideas about the concept of enrichment. I am influenced by the voluntary simplicity and minimalist movements but also by the writings of economists like Tyler Cowen and philosophers like Alain de Botton. I minimize the material aspects of my life, but I maximize the immaterial with no regard to status.

We buy things for the sake of other people. This is how the Subaru becomes the Hummer and the simple house becomes the McMansion. Maintaining this higher lifestyle requires additional work and added stress which actually impoverishes your life in the immaterial sense. You don't have time to read a book or go for a run or what have you. There is a reason evolution eliminates the nonessential like legs on a snake. If you don't need it, it makes sense to get rid of it. The caloric expenditure of having useless body parts is too much. So, nature edits them out. Similarly, if you don't need a Ferarri, you should edit that out. Considering the speed limits we have, a Ferrari is a waste of horsepower and your money.

I believe in frugality but not austerity. Live in a decent home. Drive a decent car. But leave it at that. When I read that Warren Buffett drives a Cadillac DTS that has some miles on it and lives in a stucco home he bought in the 50's, this tells me that there is a limit to the amount of happiness money can buy. Money is very overrated.

For me, a rich life is one that is culturally and intellectually and experientially rich. Anyone familiar with Tim Ferriss will learn that this can be had for very little dough. In fact, it costs less to travel abroad than to live at home. The irony of today's world is that to enrich your life in any meaningful way requires that you get rid of things you don't need.

People are vain. But I find people are way more impressed by you knowing a foreign language or your pictures from hiking in Yosemite than they are by what you drive and where you live. The people I envy are the ones who have knowledge and skills and live simple lives in the pursuit of more of the same. Owning more or flashier stuff is no substitute. The treadmill of acquisition yields diminishing returns. If getting more money doesn't bring you greater freedom in your life to do the things that are truly enriching, then you are wasting your time.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Freeing Energy Policy From Climate Science

Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger have a new essay over at Yale e360. It is right on target. They argue that justifications for action on energy policy need to be decoupled from climate science -- for the good of both. Here is how they start off:
The 20-year effort by environmentalists to establish climate science as the primary basis for far-reaching action to decarbonize the global energy economy today lies in ruins. Backlash in reaction to “Climategate” and recent controversies involving the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s 2007 assessment report are but the latest evidence that such efforts have evidently failed.

While the urge to blame fossil-fuel-funded skeptics for this recent bad turn of events has proven irresistible for most environmental leaders and pundits, forward-looking greens wishing to ascertain what might be salvaged from the wreckage would be well advised to look closer to home. Climate science, even at its most uncontroversial, could never motivate the remaking of the entire global energy economy. Efforts to use climate science to threaten an apocalyptic future should we fail to embrace green proposals, and to characterize present-day natural disasters as terrifying previews of an impending day of reckoning, have only served to undermine the credibility of both climate science and progressive energy policy.
It only gets better from there.

The essay develops themes that have long been present in their work. In Break Through, they write:
The questions before us are centrally about how we will survive, who will survive, and how we will live. These are questions that climatologists and other scientists can inform but not decide. For their important work, scientists deserve our gratitude, not special political authority. What's needed today is a politics that seeks authority not from Nature or Science but from a compelling vision of the future that is appropriate for the world we live in and the crises we face.
Please read the whole thing, and feel free to comment at Yale e360 or come back and discuss here.

Note: I am happy to be a senior fellow of The Breakthrough Institute, founded by Michael and Ted.

Taxing professional athletes

The state of Tennessee last year enacted a Professional Privilege Tax on Professional Athletes, taxing home and visiting NBA and NHL players $ 2500 per game, up to three games. (H/T: Deadspin, via FIU student Wes Plympton). Detroit Red Wings Captain Brian Rafalski has objected to the tax, noting that seventeen teammates who make in the $ 500,000 range (minimum NHL salary) end up losing money on the days they play in Tennessee. Proceeds from the tax apparently go to the municipality to fund various public parks/recreation projects. Interestingly, the NFL is exempted from the tax because the league had an existing rule that would penalize any state that attempted to impose such a tax. Minor league players are exempted as well (the original proposal covered only players making $ 50,000 or more).

It is easy to criticize this, as one commentator does, as a money grab targeting a vulnerable group. After all, no one is going to have sympathy for the group Rafalski is trying to protect--players making half-a-million dollars and having to pay $ 7500.

But dig deeper. The tax is expected to raise more than $ 1.1 million a year for municipal programs. The players are potentially playing in a publicly financed arena on which the state and local governments will not recoup their financial investments, so it is hard to blame the city for trying to get something.

I do wonder whether there is an Equal Protection problem here--not in singling out professional athletes, but in exempting the NFL. Is there a rational basis for taxing two leagues and not the third? Is avoiding a penalty from the NFL a rational basis?

Coaches Wedding Renewal Father Matthew Talk

Speak it into Existence

By Randy Traeger
Head Football Coach Oregon

Speak it into Existence
I had been coaching about 10 years and our teams had had moderate success.  We were average, ever looking for the secret formula that would propel our program to the next level. 

A state contender.

Then one day, it dawned on us. While we all were harboring secret thoughts of playing for a state championship, we never ever expressed that verbally. We never “spoke the words”.  So the next day, we started “speaking the words”.  We said, “Let’s win a state championship”.  The coaches said it, the players said it, and managers said it. Pretty soon, the teachers, parents, and even our fans starting talking about winning a state championship.  Nothing was really different other than the fact that we starting talking about winning a state championship. Two years later, we played for the state championship. We literally had spoken it into existence.

What had happened reinforced the school of thought that some things can be “spoken into existence”.  For instance, if you tell a player that they are fast, you help them become fast.  If you tell them they are intelligent, you help them get better grades.  

Speak “virtuous behavior” into existence on your team. Say the words. 

Tell your players all the things you want them to be: courageous, loyal, faithful, perseverant, honest, strong, noble, compassionate, intelligent, kind.  Tell them to be men of virtue.  Tell them what virtue is.  You would be surprised at how many of your players are simply unfamiliar with many virtuous concepts.  Our society has filled their heads with facts, but failed to fill their hearts with virtue. Teach them about virtue. If you constantly remind them of virtuous qualities, you help instill virtue in their hearts.  When your players exhibit virtuous behaviors, be sure to publicly praise them. Make a big deal out of even the smallest act of virtue.  

Young men have a way of becoming what we encourage them to be. 

Looking for a good place to start coaching virtue in your program? 

“Speak it into existence”.
God Bless

A Response to Stavins

[FURTHER UPDATE 3/30: Professor Stavins has just now emailed me to explain that he does not delete comments, and perhaps my comments went into the spam bin. I am happy to hear this and appreciate the opportunity to engage in an open exchange of views.]

Harvard economist Robert Stavins, a long-time advocate for cap-and-trade policies as a means to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, has written a blog post explaining why he thinks it is that cap-and-trade has died. His post reflects many of the flawed assumptions and erroneous history that led to cap-and-trade becoming a favored policy in the first place. Here are a few reactions:

First, Stavins hedges his bets a bit by explaining that cap-and-trade may not really be dead:
this approach to reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions is by no means “dead.” . . . The competitor proposal from Senators Cantwell and Collinsthe CLEAR Act — has been labeled by those Senators as a “cap-and-dividend” approach, but it is nothing more nor less than a cap-and-trade system with a particular allocation mechanism (100% auction) and a particular use of revenues (75% directly rebated to households) — and, it should be mentioned, some unfortunate and unnecessary restrictions on allowance trading. And we should not forget that cap-and-trade continues to emerge as the preferred policy instrument to address climate change emissions throughout the industrialized world — in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan.
He is right that there are vestiges of cap-and-trade still kicking around Congress. The prospects for passage in legislation still looks fairly dismal.

On that last point, Europe has indeed focused on cap-and-trade, but was remarkably not even at the table when the final Copenhagen Accord was put together -- not really a signal of Europe's leadership position. On Japan and Australia, the suggestion that cap-and-trade is emerging as a preferred policy instrument is to ignore the political realities in each of the countries. Momentum on cap-and-trade is moving in the other direction in both instances, just like in the US.

Stavins argues that the political hostility to action on climate change was the main reason for the failure of cap-and-trade:
In general, any climate policy approach — if it was meaningful in its objectives and had any chance of being enacted — would have become the prime target of political skepticism and scorn. This has been the fate of cap-and-trade over the past nine months.
This argument is wrong in at least two dimensions. First, since the 2008 elections the US has large Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate (including a Senate "supermajority" for much of 2009) and a Democratic President. This fact alone renders Stavins argument flawed. The problem was not a lack of political support, but failed policy design despite the strong political support.

In terms of public opinion, Stavins is wrong as well. For more than a decade public support for action on climate change has been strong, despite various ups and downs on views of climate science. Again, the problem was failed policy design in the face of strong public support, which supports action but does not hold climate change to be a top priority -- it never has, and arguably, never will.

Stavins interpretation of polls is in error when he writes:
For one thing, U.S. public support on this issue has decreased significantly, as has been validated by a number of reliable polls, including from the Gallup Organization. Indeed, in January of this year, a Pew Research Center poll found that “dealing with global warming” was ranked 21st among 21 possible priorities for the President and Congress. This drop in public support is itself at least partly due to the state of the national economy, as public enthusiasm about environmental action has — for many decades — been found to be inversely correlated with various measures of national economic well-being.
Global warming has never been viewed as anything close to a top priority by the American public. The same poll that he cites by Pew had global warming 20th out of 20 possible priorities in both 2007 and 2008. There simply has been no significant drop in public support for action.

Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus have provided a more accurate reading of the polls:
Public opinion about global warming, it turns out, has been remarkably stable for the better part of two decades, despite the recent decline in expressed public confidence in climate science. Roughly two-thirds of Americans have consistently told pollsters that global warming is occurring. By about the same majority, most Americans agree that global warming is at least in part human-caused, with this majority roughly equally divided between those believing that warming is entirely caused by humans and those who believe it to be a combination of human and natural causes. And about the same two-thirds majority has consistently supported government action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions since 1989.
As I detail in The Climate Fix public opinion in support of action is plenty strong for action to occur.

Stavins falls into the trap of thinking that an apocalyptic moment is needed for climate policy to be enacted:
Unlike the environmental threats addressed successfully in past legislation, climate change is essentially unobservable. You and I observe the weather, not the climate. Until there is an obvious and sudden event — such as a loss of part of the Antarctic ice sheet leading to a disastrous sea-level rise — it’s unlikely that public opinion in the United States will provide the bottom-up demand for action that has inspired previous Congressional action on the environment over the past forty years.
Well, if action in climate policy requires Antarctica falling into the sea, then I think that we can forget about action. Stavins dismal view is probably just the result of sour grapes from a cap-and-trade advocate, seeing his preferred policy fail in the political process. It is hard to admit a flawed policy design when you can blame the ignorant public instead.

Stavins also gets his history wrong when he writes:
Nearly all of our major environmental laws have been passed in the wake of highly-publicized environmental events or “disasters,” ranging from Love Canal to the Cuyahoga River.

But the day after Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River caught on fire in 1969, no article in The Cleveland Plain Dealer commented that “the cause was uncertain, because rivers periodically catch on fire from natural causes.” On the contrary, it was immediately apparent that the cause was waste dumped into the river by adjacent industries. A direct consequence of the “disaster” was, of course, the Clean Water Act of 1972.

In their book Break Through, Shellenberger and Nordhaus take a close look at the Cuyahoga River myth and find that reality does not match with legend:
On June 22, 1969, oil and debris on the surface of the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, Ohio, burst into flames and burned for twenty-five minutes. The burning river quickly became national news. Time magazine published an article headlined “The Price of Optimism,” complete with a spectacular photo of the river aflame. Randy Newman wrote a song about the famous fire. And decades later, environmental leaders remembered the fire as an emblematic cause of the burgeoning environmental movement. “I will never forget a photograph of flames, fire, shooting right out of the water in downtown Cleveland,” President Clinton’s EPA administrator Carol Browner said years later. “It was the summer of 1969 and the Cuyahoga River was burning.”

But the famous photograph that appeared in Time was not of the Cuyahoga River fire of 1969. It was of a far more serious fire in 1952 that burned for three days and caused $1.5 million in damage. In fact, the Cuyahoga had caught fire on at least a dozen occasions since 1868. Most of those earlier fires were much more devastating than the 1969 blaze: A fire on the Cuyahoga in 1912 killed five people. A fire in 1936 burned for five days. The 1969 fire, by contrast, lasted just under thirty minutes, caused only $50,000 in damage, and injured no one. The reason Time had to use the photograph of the 1952 fire is that the 1969 fire was out before anyone could snap a picture of it.

For at least a hundred years before 1969, industrial river fires were a normal part of American life.
Action took place on environmental polices of the 1970s not because of some new and unprecedented disasters -- the equivalent of Antarctica falling into the sea -- but because policies had been designed to match the political views of the day. The public, as Mike Hulme has said, have minds of their own. They should be respected.

The lesson that we should take from the failure of cap-and-trade is that public opinion must be a factor in thinking about policy design, not as something simply to be shaped by messaging or advocacy in the direction that experts prefer, but as a real factor that both limits and enables political possibilities. The reality is that there is strong public support for action on climate change -- but not for just any action. Understanding what the public will and will not support and designing those constraints into climate policies is a prerequisite to effective action on climate change. Until this lesson is appreciated, climate policy will continue to founder on unrealistic expectations about changing public opinion in light of massive climate disasters. This is nothing more than a recipe for over-hyping climate science in public debate.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Frank Rich on the Racist Sexist Xenophobic Homophobic Tea Party

The Rage Is Not About Health Care

If Obama’s first legislative priority had been immigration or financial reform or climate change, we would have seen the same trajectory. The conjunction of a black president and a female speaker of the House — topped off by a wise Latina on the Supreme Court and a powerful gay Congressional committee chairman — would sow fears of disenfranchisement among a dwindling and threatened minority in the country no matter what policies were in play. It’s not happenstance that Frank, Lewis and Cleaver — none of them major Democratic players in the health care push — received a major share of last weekend’s abuse. When you hear demonstrators chant the slogan “Take our country back!,” these are the people they want to take the country back from.


Gee, I thought this whole time the reason I was against Obamacare is because I oppose big government, big deficits, and value freedom. Instead, I am told that I oppose Obama because I hate on black people, Mexicans, women, and gays. How did Frank know?

The fact is that Frank Rich doesn't know. As a libertarian, I support human rights for gay people. I believe in immigration especially for Mexican immigrants wanting a better life. I'd like to see an end to "don't ask, don't tell." I am antiwar. But Frank Rich is right. These aren't principled stands. I'm just hating on Obama because he's black.

This ad hominem type thinking is why leftards like Frank Rich don't get it. I listen to Tea Party people, and they are monomaniacal about one thing--government spending. That's it. And this is why they aren't too pleased with a lot of Republicans either who pursued big government policies. The error that Rich makes is because Republicans supported a lot of Obamacare proposals before they were Obamacare proposals that tea party people were in favor of big government programs so long as they served the interests of whitey. But I can tell you from talking with Tea Party people that they despised what Bush did. They despised what Newt did back in the nineties. And like me, they give praise to Bill Clinton for abandoning the big government agenda.

What changed things is the candidacy of one man--Ron Paul. Ron Paul woke people up to a lot of issues. He challenged Republicans, and then those Republicans watched as Bush then Obama brought out bailouts and stimulus packages. The Tea Party crowd is a diverse lot and includes conspiracy cranks, closet racists, homophobes, Bible beaters, and the rest. But this is why you deal with the issues instead of the people. The issue is a government that is eating away at prosperity and diminishing our lives with tomfuckery. Why is this considered crazy?

Frank Rich epitomizes what is to be the standard leftard response to the Tea Party:

-You went along with this big government shit before.

-You are no longer going along with it because Obama is black.

It's not much different than pro-Israeli people condemning critics as being anti-semitic. It is a neat trick, but the reality is they are wrong. They are simply trying to change the subject. It won't work.

Institutional symbolic counter-speech

Sport represents the only occasion in which adults regularly participate in patriotic symbolic rituals and ceremonies, such as the singing of the national anthem. I have written a great deal about the free-speech liberty to engage in patriotic symbolic counter-speech--declining to participate or engage with the symbol or its associated rituals or otherwise using (or not using) the ritual to protest the symbol and its message.

An interesting twist on symbolic speech and counter-speech is playing out at the institutional level at Goshen College, an Anabaptist-Mennonite liberal arts college that plays in NAIA. For years, Goshen has not played the national anthem before home sporting events, believing that the song conflicts with the Mennonite traditions of pacifism and anti-militarism (the lyrics celebrate a war and a military battle) and objections to excessive nationalism or pledging allegiance to anything other than God.

But the school has spent more than two years rethinking and debating that policy, ultimately which has drawn criticism from some visitors to the school. The school finally decided to play an instrumental version before home games, beginning with a baseball and softball game played last week. The decision continues to provoke discussion, disagreement, and debate among college administration, alumni, and faculty.

This is an interesting resolution--in part because no one is quite happy. It seems to address the pacifism concerns, excluding the militaristic lyrics, but not necessarily the nationalism concerns, which would seem to reject any song honoring country, regardless of lyrics. I presume this is why playing an alternative song--America, the Beautiful (Ray Charles version)would be my preference--never has been an option and was not the chosen option now.

By agreeing to play the song at sporting events that it sponsors and hosts, Goshen as an institution is engaging in symbolic speech--promoting the symbol and its meaning through the pre-game ceremony. Goshen's message is slightly altered by using only the instrumental version and not associating itself with the lyrics. Now we see what (if any) symbolic counter-speech follows in response. Interestingly, in this case, it could come from both directions. Those who disagree with the new policy may refuse to participate in the symbolic ritual by refusing to stand during the song or by turning away from the flag. Those who believe the new policy does not go far enough may take it on themselves to sing the lyrics as a way of both giving a fuller endorsement to the complete patriotic message (whatever additional meaning comes from the lyrics) and of protesting Goshen's decision not to go farther with the anthem.

A Day in the Life of Jacqueline

When I initially borrowed Jacqueline, I was not sure whether I would actually use the bicycle for transportation, or just ride a bit in my spare time. But after half a day, I decided not to renew my weekly public transport card for the duration of my stay in Vienna. It is very easy to get around the city by bicycle - not just through the central touristy parts, but through Vienna proper. To demonstrate, Jacqueline will show you one of her daily routines.

At 7:00 am, we are off to the office via the Danube Canal Path - which functions like a cross-town bicycle highway through Vienna. It just so happens that both my flat and my office are close to the canal, so our route to work is pretty straightforward. Pictured above is the nearest entrance onto the path.

The Danube Canal is an offshoot of the Danube River. Both the canal and the river proper have bicycle paths running alongside, but the advantage of he canal path is that it cuts through the center.

One thing I like about it, is how green the water looks - especially in the morning. No idea whether this is due to reflection from trees or chemical pollution, but it looks nice and so I choose to believe the former.

There are some cobblestone stretches along the path, and the 28" Schwalbe Delta Cruisers on Jacqueline are just fine with them. But I have seen other cyclists get off their bikes and walk here.

Some parts of the canal path are woodsy and surreal-looking.

Jacqueline enjoys this sort of scenery the most.

Other stretches are more urban and take you closer to the main road.

That's okay too, but cycling here during rush hour will give you a nice helping of auto exhaust fumes. Have others noticed this problem in large cities? I have been told that automobile emissions in Europe (not counting former Eastern-bloc countries) are supposed to be less toxic than in the US, but my lungs seem to disagree. If anybody has more info about this, please share.

Heading toward the Southern edge of town, the scenery on the Danube Canal Path grows distinctly less picturesque. We are now cycling alongside the highway. And yes, that is a highway sign for Budapest and Bratislava. Bratislava (capital of Slovakia) is only a 45 minute drive away from this point. But instead of going there, Jacqueline heads to the office.

The landscape around my place of work is somewhat post-apocalyptic, but over time I have grown fond of it. Lots of interesting research facilities there, and I work with nice people. The total time it takes Jacqueline to cycle to the office from our flat is 20 minutes - the exact time it takes to commute using public transport.

I rarely stay at the office all day, but typically have meetings all over the city. On this day I had an afternoon meeting in a Cafe at the end of the Prater - the largest park in Vienna.

Lusthaus Cafe. Before you misunderstand what I do for a living - it's not what is sounds like in English. The name means "funhouse". This was about a 10 minute ride from the office for Jacqueline. After the meeting, we briefly returned to work, leaving in the late afternoon to run some errands.

First stop: the bank, in the city center, a 25 minute ride away. To get here, Jacqueline rode back via the Danube Canal path, and then along the Ring Road - which is another "bicycle highway" that loops around the city center.

Jacqueline then proceeded to the photo store in an adjacent district - a 15 minute ride away - to buy some film. She rode there mostly on the road, via a combination of bicycle lanes, "sharrow"-marked side streets, and unmarked side streets. The thing about "sharrows" in Vienna, is that they are mostly painted on 1-way streets against the flow of traffic. Yes, against. The speed limit on these streets is usually 30 km/h. This design goes against everything I have come to believe over the past year as a cyclist in Boston. What do you think of it? And could anybody comment whether Copenhagen and Amsterdam are the same in this respect?

After the photo store, Jacqueline was locked up on a main shopping street and waited a bit while I met a friend for coffee. Then we went to the grocery store Billa.

Jacqueline was proud that she could fit 1/2 week's worth of groceries and my laptop bag into a single pannier. (She is lazy and did not want to open the second one.)

As dusk approached, we cycled home - once again via a combination of roads, then the Ring Path via the route described here. All in all, I would estimate that Jacqueline did a couple of hours of back and forth cycling, and this was typical of how much I travel through the city on an average day in Vienna. Normally all of these trips would have been done using public transport. The travel time by bike is about the same.

I rode Jacqueline for transportation for the last week of my stay in Vienna. It was wonderful and made up for my bad luck earlier this month. I now feel like an idiot that I didn't just buy a bicycle when I lived here for longer stretches in previous years. Cycling in the countryside on my days off was nice, but I have to say that commuting by bike in Vienna is even nicer. And regardless of what the local shops might tell you, a 3-speed is sufficient to tackle "hilly Vienna". I am by no means in the best shape and had no trouble. Of course, the vintage magic of Jacqueline might play a role in that as well. But in any case - if you are in Vienna, get a bicycle and enjoy the city, whether you are a leisurely visitor or work at a fast-paced job!