Friday, April 30, 2010

Natural Habitat

English Roadsters were designed for long country rides, and there is nothing quite like experiencing them in this setting. My Raleigh DL-1 in particular seems to thrive on long distances and can pick up speed to an amazing degree if you just give it an open road.

The Co-Habitant is a strong cyclist and he likes to go fast. When we are on equivalent bicycles (for example, both on our Pashleys or both on our Motobecane roadbikes), I have a hard time keeping up with him unless he intentionally controls his speed for my sake. However, when he is on his Pashley and I am on my vintage Raleigh, I can keep up with him perfectly. The Raleigh DL-1 is a powerful and well-designed machine despite its sweet "old timer" appearance.

And the vintage Sturmey Archer AW 3-speed hub is downright magical. First gear is excellent for uphill cycling in mildly hilly areas. Second is my versatile go-to gear for flat terrain when I want to go at a conservative speed. And third gear allows me to pedal downhill, as well to increase speed after maxing out second gear on flat terrain. I have honestly never felt the need for more gears on this bicycle, and don't understand why none of the modern 3, 5, 7, or 8-speed hubs I have tried have the same great feeling.

If my devious plan to install a coaster brake on this bicycle works out, it will be so perfect that I am almost afraid to think about it lest I jinx it. For now, we dream as we watch the sunset.

Carrey is not crazy

Carrey is not crazy, he may want people to think he is slightly
crazy, but he also wants to lash out at people who think he is crazy.

He has basically been writing trash on social networks and then
when the media bites he can lash out and explain himself.

This is not the work of a crazy man, this is the work of man
who's career is not quite where he wants it to be, and has
long past it's peak.

You see if he was really crazy, he wouldn't have signed up for a
Twitter account like Justin Beiber and Britney Spears, he wouldn't
have released press statements, he would just be, well crazy.

So Jim, it's a nice try, but if you want to be on high
again, it will take a string of some pretty decent movies,
and not just thought up rantings by your writers.

Nice try at viral marketing though.

After Game 7 loss, Capitals' Laich fixes tire for stranded family,237745

After Game 7 loss, Capitals' Laich fixes tire for stranded family
By Greg Wyshynski

Two weeks ago, Mary Ann Wangemann ordered a Washington Capitals jersey for her hockey-crazed 14-year-old daughter Lorraine: Forward Brooks Laich, No. 21, whose blue-collar approach to the game has made him a fan favorite.

The same Brooks Laich who was emotionally devastated on Wednesday night, after the Capitals were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs in a Game 7 loss at home to the Montreal Canadiens. Washington was the NHL's best regular-season team, and failed to advance after blowing a 3-1 series lead. It's been called the worst series defeat in franchise history.

Laich, so often the team's unofficial locker room spokesman, didn't speak to reporters after the game.

The same Brooks Laich who, on the night his season ended prematurely, stopped when he saw Wangemann and her daughter stranded alone on Washington D.C.'s Roosevelt Bridge and then fixed a flat tire on their 2008 Acura while cars sped past him.

"You know how some athletes can strike you as real jerks? I think [the Capitals] are genuinely good people. He could have driven by like everyone else did, and he didn't," said Wangemann, who was headed home to Ashburn, Va. after watching the Capitals fall in Game 7.

"I was so touched by what he did. I was praying. I was that worried [about our safety]. The fact that he came up out of nowhere ... he was like an angel that night."

It was a scene reminiscent of when New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi stopped to help a motorist who crashed her car into a wall on the Cross Country Parkway in suburban Westchester County -- hours after the Yankees has won the World Series in Oct. 2009.

As first reported by Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post, Wangemann and her daughter were driving back from the game when their car hit a pot hole and the tire went flat:

So Mary Ann pulled over to the side of the bridge, and called Triple A. They said they had a heavy volume of calls, and that they weren't sure how long it would take to send help. Mary Ann and Lorraine, still wearing their Caps gear, got out of the car and watched the traffic whiz by.

"We were getting a little spooked," she told me. "You feel pretty vulnerable right there."

Finally, an SUV slowed down ahead of them and pulled over. And then Brooks Laich got out and asked if he could help.

Wangemann was eager to share her story about Laich after Game 7's undeniable depression.

"I felt like there was such negative news about the Caps that I just wanted people to know what the real players were like. It was such a nice thing for him to do," she said. "Here's a player that wasn't having the best of days. He could have driven by like everyone else did, and he didn't."

Laich emerged from his car wearing an expensive-looking suit and walked over to the mother and daughter, both having donned Capitals sweatshirts on a chilly evening. Lorraine had become a Caps fan two-and-a-half years ago; her mother began following the team last year, the first time she had ever taken an interest in sports fandom.

They both recognized Laich. "The first words out of his mouth were, 'I'm sorry we lost.' And he stayed with us for an hour," said Wangemann.
Wangemann simply wanted him to stay with them until help arrived, but Laich asked if they had a spare tire. He got down on the ground and began working on the car.

The bridge carries I-66 and U.S. Highway 50 over the Potomac River to D.C. Wangemann said changing the flat there was "putting his life at risk."
He kept calling the ground "the ice," she said; as in, "We have to get this tire off the ice." Her car also had a special widget on the tire that made removing it difficult. She said Laich exclaimed at one point, "'Wow, it really protects your tire here but it's a pain in the neck to get off.'" At another point, the car fell off the jack, and Laich placed it back on.

After about 40 minutes, the tire was changed and Laich offered some parting advice to take it slow and stop to call AAA if anything rattled.
Wangemann's last words to Laich: "Can I hug you?"

The NHL player hugged Wangemann, and then hugged her daughter, who immediately updated her Facebook status with "he hugged me."
They expect they'll see Laich again at one of the many fan functions the Capitals hold during the season and into the offseason. Wangemann is considering asking for a specific autograph.

"Next time I'll bring the tire. He'll know who we are."

Climate Science and the Financial Markets

Over at FT Energy Source Kate Mackenzie has a really interesting post about a report by Nick Robins of HSBC on the possible effects of recent public issues involving climate science (specifically, CRU and IPCC) on the HSBC Climate Change Index (CCI, details on the invest-able version here in PDF).

There are several really interesting things here. First, since 2007 the CCI consistently outperformed the MSCI World Index. When the release of the CRU emails occurred, there was no noticeable negative effect on the market index as compared to the global benchmark. However, following the issues associated with the IPCC, the CCI has underperformed with respect to the global benchmark. This is suggestive only, as I would have expected that the dismal outcome from Copenhagen to be much more important all along. So while we can conclude that the CRU leak has been irrelevant to the markets, it is not possible to conclude the same with respect to the IPCC.

And this brings us to another very interesting point and that is the perceived (and perhaps real) connection between what the IPCC says and the movement of markets. Reuters says of the HSBC report:

"We believe that any market impacts over climate science may be nearing its floor, with the results of the three independent reviews confirming the integrity of the climate science," the report said.

For the rest of this year, HSBC identified four factors that should catalyze a revival in public concern and market confidence.

A review on the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will be finalized at the end of August and governments will meet in October to take any remedial measures.

"We believe that practical steps to strengthen the IPCC's procedures would represent a positive outcome from this saga. The IPCC also has the opportunity to regain momentum with its special report on renewables later in the year," Robins said.

Because the IPCC is perceived to move markets, as least the sliver of the market associated with climate change, and thus management of actual or perceived conflicts of interest are more than a matter of speculation, but very tangible.

And in case you are curious, the largest company in the HSBC CCI is Veolia Environment (PDF), a French Company. IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri sits on two of their committees and his home institution has received funding from Veolia Environment.

At FT Energy Source Mackenzie writes of the HSBC report:
They say three independent reviews into climate science - the key one being the Inter Academy Council review of the IPCC reports, due by August, will assuage doubts about climate science — adding that the IPCC’s general meeting in October and its reports, due out some time in H2, on renewable energy and managing the risks of extreme events will also provide opportunities for a confidence boost.
No kidding? Smart money says you'd better line up your investments in the HSBC CCI while the getting is good!

Will You Walk Into My Parlor?

I see that in a few weeks the Marshall Institute is holding a Washington, DC briefing titled: Understand Climate Science Before Making Climate Policy. The briefing announcement explains:
Legislation and regulation aimed at controlling greenhouse gas emissions are predicated on the belief that science definitively shows that man’s greenhouse gas emissions are causing the Earth’s temperature to rise, with serious deleterious effects. What if the cause-and-effect relationships between GHGs and temperature are greatly overstated? What if the data used to measure temperature change and its effects are of poor quality? What if we don’t adequately understand important climatic systems (such as clouds or oceans) to simulate them accurately in the computer models used to predict climatic change? What if the stated positions of key scientific societies are under assault by the member rank and file? What if the state of empirical knowledge points to only a small human effect on climate?

The answers to these questions directly impact the legislative and regulatory debates underway in the Congress and the Obama Administration.

I reject the premise of the briefing. Legislation and regulation aimed at controlling greenhouse gas emissions are not in fact need not be predicated on the belief that science definitively shows that man’s greenhouse gas emissions are causing the Earth’s temperature to rise, with serious deleterious effects. I recognize that there are some people who make this argument, and they are wrong also.

My rejection of the premise has nothing to do with the state of climate science or what the Marshall Institute or their opponents belief about it. A compelling case can be made that decarbonizing the global economy makes good sense independent of uncertainties in climate science. Reactions to an earlier post along these lines from self-described climate skeptics suggest that some people will strongly resist efforts to move beyond engaging the political debate through science. This is understandable of course, because once the political debate is engaged in terms of science, it confers a distinct advantage to those opposing action. Of course, at the same time I expect that many of those calling for action will face similar difficulties in giving up on science as a political battleground. The irony of course is that both sides agree on where the battle should be waged, but only one side seems to appreciate who is the spider and who is the fly.

DVD-Ninja Assassin

Ninja Assassin is a B movie. It doesn't pretend to be anything than an action flick with lots of sword play, guns, martial arts, and BLOOD--lots and lots of blood. You haven't seen geysers like this since Kill Bill. But for a B movie, it is pretty damn good. That is because it has a story.

Here's the gist of the plot. Orphans are snatched away for brutal ninja training. They are trained to become awesome killing machines. They are taught to extinguish their humanity and devote themselves mindlessly and heartlessly to the greater good of the clan. But they end up with two human beings in their midst that go rogue. The clan kills one and attempts to kill the other. You will have to watch the movie to see if they succeed or fail.

Ninja Assassin is an enjoyable film, and I recommend it.

The Race… Finish Strong!

As Mother Nature works her magic once again this spring, the flowers bloom, the birds sing, and the warm weather returns.  The change of seasons and the impending finish of the school year will bring many of us to visions of a warm beach, days at the pool, or a morning to sleep in.  The joy that summer will soon bring is met with great anticipation, and in many cases, rightfully so.  
Adults look forward to a change of pace as do our student-athletes.  As a history teacher and football coach it is difficult not to recognize the shifting attitudes many young people have at this time of the year.  My grave concern is that many of our kids are wishing their lives away. 
With age comes wisdom.  The older we grow, the more we come to appreciate the life we have been given and the precious few opportunities it affords.  Many of us are familiar with the following quote… “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, so live in the present.”  
Some have come to call each new day the “Precious Present” because it truly is a gift.  As coaches we have a responsibility to model great behavior and share the Good News.  Our days are not given to be wasted, but rather as a gift to be lived to the fullest! 
If we spend our days consistently asking questions like… Is it the end of the year yet?  When will Friday get here?  How much longer do I have to deal with this?  What message will our athletes receive?  
The following is a familiar and appropriate scripture passage that addresses this concern… “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.” (1Corinthians 9:24)  
So are you running to win?  Are you running at all?  Are you even in the race?  An attitude of determination, gratitude, and enthusiasm will have a positive impact on those around you.  
Take time this day to send the message that the lethargy and lack of self-discipline this world promotes is not one that will help your athletes reach their earthly goals, much less their eternal ones. May each of us take advantage of our blessings by giving our very best this day!  
Today presents an outstanding opportunity to improve yourself as well as your student-athletes.   Don’t look now, but summer will soon be here, and each of us should be better men for it.
God Bless,
Todd Naumann
History Teacher – Moeller High School
Associate Head Football Coach/Defensive Coordinator – Covington Catholic High School

Sports Lawyers Association Annual Conference

The Sports Lawyers Association 36th Annual Conference will be held in Phoenix, Arizona on May 20-22. The three day annual conference is designed for attorneys, agents, representatives of professional athletes, professional sports teams and leagues, players associations, stadium and arena authorities, and companies tangentially involved with amateur sports; students and professors of sports law; educators; and all others generally interested in the field. The conference is also a great networking opportunity for those seeking to enter the field. The conference brochure contains the schedule of events and registration information, which can be accessed from the SLA's website.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Pope John Paul II and Sports

By Rebecca Dussault
Professional Skier
One of the greatest symbols of sport is beheld within the Catholic Church itself and it’s the late, (Great!) Holy Father John Paul II.  Through the many years of his episcopate and papacy he made a lasting impression on the minds and hearts of athletes and sports enthusiasts everywhere as to what is the proper place and function of sports for humankind.  
Himself a very devoted athlete, he is able to speak from the side of truth and integrate it so wondrously with the practice of being an athlete.  We find in his writings a great testament to the fusion of both faithfulness and fitness.
The Pope himself loved athletics like they were his breath.  He was know to frequently summit mountains, alpine ski, bike, swim, play soccer or volleyball and he even found time to enter an international kayaking competition in 1955 just five years before being ordained a bishop!  He was known since the beginning of his papacy as the “athlete Pope.”  
His words are of great encouragement to those who desire to combine the discipline and motivation of athletics with the spiritual practices of prayer and meditation.  The whole purpose of athletics is in fact to aid the mind in the search and communication of Truth.
The pope had this to say in 2004, “St. Paul the Apostle proposed the image of the athlete to the Christians of Corinth in order to illustrate Christian life and as an example of effort and constancy (1 Cor. 9:24-25).  Indeed the correct practice of sport must be accompanied by moderation and training in self-discipline.  The Christian can find sports helpful for developing the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance in the race for the wreath that is “imperishable,” as St. Paul writes.”
He encouraged a sporting mindset and culture that will promote “doing sport” which will help people rediscover the full truth about the human person.  He put for the notion that sports played within a Christian outlook will become a generative principle of profound human  relations and the building of a more serene and supportive world.  
Do not be fooled by the commercialization of sport which can stifle its real value, but instead see it as a language understood by all, which expresses man’s physical abilities and spiritual capacity.
Let us remember Our Holy Father’s great example of sanctifying sport and practice it in a way which brings us closer to Christ.   
“If you are what you are meant to be then you will set the world on fire.” St. Catherine of Siena

Pope Celebrates Mass for Athletes
Pope John Paul II arrives at Rome's Olympic stadium October 29, 2000 to celebrate a mass for the athletes'' Jubilee. The pope held a mass at the stadium to celebrate the athletes'' Jubilee for the Holy Year and later watched a friendly soccer match between the Italian national team and a selection of foreign players in Italy.
Photo: Marco Rosi
Oct 29, 2000
Lou Judd - I was blessed to be able to attend this Mass with the Pope. It was a great soccer game.

Training Biathlon

Oa swing + snatch 16kg: 10/10

Snatch 20kg: 5/5, 61/61, 5/5
Snatch 24kg: 10/10 (hands too raw)

Oa jerk 24kg: 5/5

With timer, 1min on/1min rest
Round 1-5: jerk 2x24kg: 8 rpm
6-10: jerk 2x24kg: 7rpm

Ok session. Still, too tired compared to how I normally feel when doing this kind of training. There's also some sneezing... maybe its pollen allergy? Will try with a pill before going bed to night.

Safety in the Workplace

Mike Rowe has written two articles on workplace safety recently:

What’s Riskier – Working Without a Net or Without Personal Responsibility?

A One Size Safety Approach Doesn’t Fit All or Make You Safer

The gist of Rowe's argument is that the responsibility for workplace safety falls on the worker not the company. This is a controversial opinion, but it is one that I agree with. Under the current rules, the company is responsible for any and every workplace incident even if the worker who got hurt was being utterly stupid and got themselves hurt. I don't even have to go on about the people who fake injuries just to get a check. But it makes the workplace suck royally.

I have never worked in a single workplace that has not endeavored to keep workers safe. Maybe I am lucky in that regard, but I have yet to see a business that thought it was a good practice to let their people get hurt on the job. This is because workplace injuries cost money. People will argue that this is a result of OSHA regs and litigiousness, but dangerous workplaces have a hard time recruiting and retaining good employees. They end up having to pay more money to get them to work there and pay more on their insurance.

As a working guy, I believe that my safety is my responsibility. If I do something stupid and get hurt, it is my fault. I remember taking a coworker from one of my jobs to the clinic to get his hand stitched up after he stuck it in a moving machine. He was cool about it, and the boss man paid for the stitches. The coworker didn't sue or anything. Why? Because he was a dipshit for sticking his hand in a moving machine. He knew it. I knew it. The boss knew it.

The problem with the workplace today is that many workers don't think safety is their responsibility. They think everything should be done for them. They should never encounter harm. And if they do, they will sue the living shit out of everybody. The result is that workplaces are toxic places to work. You have endless rules, and workplaces call their lawyers before they call you a doctor.

Some of my blue collar peers will take me to task over this position, but the irony I find is that the people who scream the loudest over worker's comp are the ones who ride their motorcycles with no helmet, smoke unfiltered Camels, drive fast cars, and drink and get into barfights. I remember a story of one guy who had wrecked his motorcycle and fucked himself up really bad. He couldn't afford the doctor bill, so he sneaked into work and tried to claim he was hurt on the job. His trick did not work, and he was fired.

The reality is that we live with risk on a daily basis. The workplace is often safer than the places we go to outside of work. The drive to work is filled with risk. People often contaminate themselves with food made at home in their filthy kitchens. Then, there are all those nutty weekend warrior activities they do involving boats, four wheelers, and guns.

When I work, I am always aware of what I am doing. I drive safe, and I keep my eyes open. I have found the greatest threat to my safety doesn't come from the company I work for nor from my own activities. The greatest threat comes from idiot coworkers who have no trace of common sense in their skulls. They don't give a fuck about anyone and certainly not themselves. My remedy for this is to take these people aside and threaten them with a severe ass beating. That seems to work.

I think workplaces should do what they can to make things safe such as having fire extinguishers handy, providing safety glasses and hard hats, and whatnot. But beyond that, people are responsible for their own safety. If they don't like this, they can always quit. Hey, safety is more important than money, right? But we all know that we take these risks in order to put food on the table and to pay the rent.

The sad fact is that a lot of workers game the system because they don't want to work. They want to get a check for doing nothing. This would be the guy who begged me to cut his grass for him because he didn't want to get caught doing it himself because he was collecting a worker's comp check for his "injury." I told him to go to hell. It is people like him that make companies not want to hire people in the first place. They never know if the guy will turn out to be a litigious dirtbag.

I am with Mike Rowe. Safety is your responsibility. Keep your eyes open. Use your brain. And work safe.

David Byrne and 'Urban Revolutions' at MIT

Last night I was at the Urban Revolutions panel at MIT with velo-friend Biking in Heels. This was not something I planned to attend, but she had an extra ticket and I was free - so I came along. The event featured talks by musician David Byrne, director of Boston Bikes Nicole Freedman, director of the LivableStreets Alliance Jacqueline Douglas, and associate director of SENSEable City Lab (inventors of the "Copenhagen Wheel") Assaf Biderman.

In case some might not know, David Byrne was the lead singer of the Talking Heads and has since been involved in a number of artistic and musical projects. Most recently, he has become known for his cycling advocacy and for his book on the subject, Bicycle Diaries. Over the past year Byrne has been on tour giving talks throughout North America on the topic he describes as "Cities, Bicycles, and the Future of Getting Around". Cambridge, MA was his latest stop.

David Byrne came across as thoughtful, knowledgeable and funny. His talk was neither gimmicky nor too heavy on the advocacy; I would put it more into the category of Urban Planning. He summarised the history of how our un-neighborhoodly neighborhoods came to be the way they are and discussed potential solutions, with urban planning initiatives and the return of "everyday cycling" being the primary points of focus.

Jacqueline Douglas and Nicole Freedman (pictured above next to Byrne) discussed similar ideas, but applied them specifically to Boston - stressing activism and grassroot movements as catalysts of change. They noted that Boston's cycling infrastructure has basically been created from scratch over the past 2-3 years, and that the number of cyclists in the Boston area has increased dramatically over this period of time. Douglas and Freedman plan to continue this trend, with a particular emphasis on infrastructure in the form of traffic-segregated bike paths.

The large MIT lecture hall was full for the duration of the event, with the audience listening intently and enthusiastically.

Somewhat to my surprise, the Q&A panel following the individual talks did not result in much debate. Namely, I expected vehicular cyclists to comment on the segregated paths issue, but this did not happen. Perhaps there were not any in the audience? Or else the speakers so clearly allied themselves with the Amsterdam/Copenhagen model, that the vehicular cyclists decided not to bother stirring the pot.

Biking in Heels (the lady in red) got in the queue to ask a question - but alas they stopped right before it would have been her turn.

After the event was over, the most popular panelist was Assaf Biderman of the SENSEable City Lab - demonstrating the "Copenhagen Wheel" to those who wanted to try it.

The Copenhagen Wheel turns any existing bike into an electric bike and "differs from other electric bikes in that all components are elegantly packaged into one hub". The energy spent while pedaling and braking is used to power the motor, and tons of additional features (including route planning and pollution levels detection) are bundled inside the hub.

The Copenhagen Wheel is meant to be a versatile option that will allow more of the population to cycle - including those who are elderly, have trouble handling hills, or do not feel fit enough to ride a bike. While I have no interest in electric bikes myself, I think that this option makes perfect sense for those who need it.

What does not make as much sense to me, is the decision that the prototype bike housing the Copenhagen Wheel should be a sleek, fixie-looking, diamond frame bike with aggressive geometry, narrow tires and "bullhorn" handlebars. It just doesn't seem to fit the population for whom the Copenhagen Wheel was designed. My suggestion to the SENSEable City Lab, is to put the wheel into a bike that is more accessible to the general public.

Also popular after the event was this nice woman from the LivableStreets Alliance, asking people to fill out requests for improvements they would like to see done to the Charles River bridges. Given that I almost get run over by cars 75% of the time I try to cross an intersection at the end of one of these bridges, I gladly filled out a form with my requests.

All in all, Urban Revolutions was an interesting event to attend. If I seem detached in my descriptions, it is because to a large extent I felt that the panel was "preaching to the choir". I suspect that most of the audience had heard and internalised all that was brought up by the speakers long before coming to this event. Furthermore, for all the talk of "equity" and "equal access" that went on, the audience was almost entirely White, and dressed in a way that suggested a very narrow demographic. What exactly, then, was this event meant to achieve? Perhaps a sense of community among existing cyclists and supporters of "livable streets" ideas. At that it was a success. Despite my aversion to "activism", I am genuinely glad that cycling is becoming more commonplace and safer in Boston. And I am thankful to all who play a role in making this happen.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Carbon Price Paradox

Yesterday's column in the NYT by Thomas Friedman illustrates why efforts to put a price on carbon are not going to do much at all to stimulate energy technology innovation. Friedman writes:
After months of heroic negotiations, Senators John Kerry, Lindsey Graham and Joseph Lieberman had forged a bipartisan climate/energy/jobs bill that, while far from perfect, would have, for the first time, put a long-term fixed price on carbon — precisely the kind of price signal U.S. industry and consumers need to start really shifting the economy to clean-power innovations. . .

Without that price signal, you will never get sustained consumer demand for, or sustained private investment in, clean-power technologies. All you will get are hobbies. . .

I’d love to see the president come out, guns blazing with this message: “Yes, if we pass this energy legislation, a small price on carbon will likely show up on your gasoline or electricity bill. I’m not going to lie. But it is an investment that will pay off in so many ways. It will spur innovation in energy efficiency that will actually lower the total amount you pay for driving, heating or cooling. It will reduce carbon pollution in the air we breathe and make us healthier as a country. It will reduce the money we are sending to nations that crush democracy and promote intolerance. It will strengthen the dollar. It will make us more energy secure, environmentally secure and strategically secure. . . "
It is not clear what that "price on carbon" is in the legislation or how widely it would be applied, but for the purposes of discussion, let's just say that it starts at $15 per metric ton of carbon dioxide and is applied economy-wide.

That level of tax equates to about a $0.12 increase to the cost of gasoline (from Table 2 here). It is hard to see how a $15 carbon tax -- or even a $150 carbon tax -- is going to do much at all to change oil economics or stimulate transformational innovation. It will just make the costs of transportation more expensive.

What about electricity? A price on carbon would have its biggest effects on coal, to be sure, because of its high carbon intensity. The most common form of coal would see its price increase by about 30%. The most immediate effect would likely be to hasten a shift already underway from coal to natural gas. A $15 per ton carbon dioxide price would increase the price of natural gas by about 7%. Over the past year natural gas prices have fluctuated by more than 100%. Wind is already close to cost competitive with fossil electricity in many places. However, a 2009 report from European Wind Energy Association indicates that a 25 Euro carbon tax does not increase the costs of coal or gas above wind (Figure 0.7, here in PDF). And FYI, 25 Euro is about $33, which is a higher price than the "ceiling" in House Legislation. In any case, wind energy is already being expanded dramatically based on mandates, subsidies and through conventional energy economics.

Bottom line -- it is hard to see a carbon price leading to transformational innovation in the electricity sector. It will lead to some marginal changes and make energy a bit more expensive.

Paul Krugman understands the inevitable weakness of a low price on carbon:
For the most part, the message from these economists is a sort of climate version of St. Augustine’s famous prayer, “Give me chastity and continence, but not just now.” Thus Nordhaus’s DICE model says that the price of carbon emissions should eventually rise to more than $200 a ton, effectively more than quadrupling the cost of coal, but that most of that increase should come late this century, with a much more modest initial fee of around $30 a ton. Nordhaus calls this recommendation for a policy that builds gradually over a long period the “climate-policy ramp.”

On the other side are some more recent entrants to the field, who work with similar models but come to different conclusions. Most famously, Nicholas Stern, an economist at the London School of Economics, argued in 2006 for quick, aggressive action to limit emissions, which would most likely imply much higher carbon prices. This alternative position doesn’t appear to have a standard name, so let me call it the “climate-policy big bang.”. . .

Personally, I lean toward the big-bang view.
To put this in perspective, the "central case" of the Stern Review indicates a carbon price of $310 per ton (p. 6 in Dasgupta PDF)-- this is the "big bang" view. It is at a level more than 3 times the ceiling that has been discussed in recent legislation ($310/tonne C = $85/tonne CO2 ~ 3 times $27/tonne CO2, thanks JJ). It is not in the cards. Krugman doesn't explicitly discuss the carbon price implied by Stern.

The carbon price paradox is that any politically conceivable price on carbon can do little more than have a marginal effect on the modern energy economy. A price that would be high enough to induce transformational change is just not in the cards. Thus, carbon pricing alone cannot lead to a transformation of the energy economy.

So where does this leave the debate?

An increasing number of scholars have been coming to the view that a carbon tax coupled with direct investments in energy innovation offers a way past the carbon price paradox. For instance, a Brussel's based think tank intelligently laid out the essential argument late last year (PDF):
How can governments tackle climate change while maintaining reasonable growth, even in the short term? How can they turn on the green innovation machine? We find that 1. both public intervention and private initiative are indispensable: governments must initially redirect market forces towards cleaner energy before market forces can take over; 2. climate change policy should combine a carbon price with high initial clean-innovation R&D subsidies: the carbon price would need to be much higher if used alone; 3. policymakers must act now: delaying clean innovation policies results in
much higher costs; 4. developed countries must act as technological leaders in implementing new environmental policies and should smooth access to new clean technologies for less-developed countries.
Thomas Friedman seems to get this when he finishes up his hypothetical "guns blazing" speech by the president:
". . . It will make us more energy secure, environmentally secure and strategically secure. Sure, our opponents will scream ‘carbon tax!’ Well, what do you think you’re paying now to OPEC? The only difference between me and my opponents is that I want to keep any revenue we generate here to build American schools, American highways, American high-speed rail, American research labs and American economic strength. It’s just a little tick I have: I like to see our spending build our country. They don’t care. They are perfectly happy to see all the money you spend to fill your tank or heat your home go overseas, so we end up funding both sides in the war on terrorism — our military and their extremists."
The ironic thing about Friedman's impassioned speech is how little money in US climate legislation has been targeted towards energy innovation. While the Senate bill hasn't been released, I would be surprised if it had more than a small amount of investment in innovation in parallel with putting a price on carbon. (How much investment is needed to transform the energy economy? Think about US investments in innovation in health or the mititary, perhaps $30-$100 billion annually for decades.)

Many environmentalists are so desperate for action, any action, that they'll support anything that is proposed. However, the proposals that we've seen so far would do more to sustain the general form of the modern energy economy than transform it. Seeing leading environmental groups and otehrs calling for action on climate change put their energies behind such counter-productive policies may be the real carbon prcing paradox.

Philip Ryan - Miracles

It is amazing the wonderful people I come into contact with almost on a daily basis. Philip Ryan is another example. An outstanding soccer player, a great student ... a phenomenal young man from a great family.

He loves to share his story of how God did something pretty special in his life. About 10 years ago some doctors told him he had an  ... "inoperable, infiltrative, malignant brain tumor" ...

He was not supposed to go back to school, to ever play sports again ... etc. Here he is - inspiring thousands.


German Climate Policy Up in the Air?

The German government has others things on its agenda these days. However, an article from Der Spiegel contains some interesting and suggestive insights into the evolution of Germany's climate policies:
. . . starting this weekend, the German government will attempt to rekindle international efforts to save the Earth's climate as it hosts a conference at the Petersberg Hotel near Bonn. But, at the same time, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has now decided to change the course of her climate policy.

As recently as last December she said: "If we don't succeed in limiting global warming to 2 degrees, then the costs of the resulting damages will be many times higher than what we now, with a change in our lifestyle, can achieve."

Now it's a different story: Merkel will no longer endeavor to contractually implement the 2-degree target -- in other words, to reach a legally binding agreement with specific reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. She doesn't want to be snubbed again because she has realized that important countries won't lend their support the next time around either. This was confirmed two weeks ago at the nuclear summit in Washington by Chinese President Hu Jintao and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The Limits of Germany's Influence

Germany now has to acknowledge the limits of its influence. The country's climate policy was an attempt to play a leadership role on the grand stage. But the others didn't follow suit. On paper they praise the objective, but they are not prepared to do more than make vague promises. The only way forward, it seems, is by taking side roads. But even there the Chinese and the Indians won't simply trot along behind the Germans.

On the domestic front, this threatens to bring down the great symbol of Germany's efforts to remodel society in line with a climate-friendly lifestyle and mode of production. If Merkel is no longer fighting on the international stage to achieve the 2-degree target, how does she intend to convince her fellow Germans that they have to change anything? A domestic temperature target would be absurd.

What is to emerge is not made clear in the article, but there are some interesting suggestions about what might:
After having dreamt of achieving the great objective, now it's time for realpolitik. Merkel and Röttgen had to admit that countries like China and India will not submit to a mandatory target that others have contrived. They are continuing to pursue their climate policies, but are focusing strictly on domestic issues -- and neither is willing to relinquish any of their sovereignty. Germany is adapting to this and now plans to launch concrete climate protection projects with individual partner countries. Röttgen speaks of a new approach: "In Bonn we want to create a new level that will allow us not only to point towards CO2 targets from above, but also to launch projects from below that produce measurable successes." This includes forest protection and more concrete cooperation in the transfer of environmentally friendly technologies. . .

Röttgen is already trying to move forward by emphasizing additional arguments beyond the 2-degree target -- primarily based on economic reasoning. "We can live well and cheaply now at our children's expense over the next 20 years or invest in long-term opportunities," he says. German environmental technologies are an export hit, "one of the leading sources of prosperity that we have," and crude oil and other natural resources are becoming increasingly scarce, he adds. But he still hasn't made any significant headway in convincing the ministers in his coalition government -- which is comprised of Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats and the business-friendly Free Democratic Party -- that climate protection is not a hopeless issue plagued by sacrifice, but rather a "win-win-win opportunity" for industry, the environment and future generations. Here, too, he is fighting an uphill battle.
A technology-centered approach focused on "win-win-win" rather than sacrifice makes good sense, but it will probably take a while to take hold in Germany, and the EU more generally. But it will, eventually.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Shitty Deals--A Few Thoughts on Goldman Sachs

The past 24 hours have been interesting as Goldman Sachs and Fabulous Fab testified before Congress. Then, there is that "shitty deal" business that had me rolling.

I think the SEC case against Goldman is without merit. This is because everything Goldman did was legal. The implication was that Goldman sold products it didn't believe in. Unfortunately, that is most of the financial sector. The fact that Goldman lost money on the deal insulates them from criticism on this.

What people are shocked about is the nature of the business itself. The fact is that most of the financial world is about finding suckers and fleecing them of their cash. They provide value in much the same way a parasite benefits its host by making sure it never gets fat. In the case of suckers, the banksters make sure the suckers never get rich.

People ask me why I don't work in this sector when I know so much about it and could make so much money. The answer is obvious. I have integrity. It doesn't matter if the firm is Goldman Sachs or a local branch of Morgan Stanley. The goal is the shitty deal. Find a sucker and take his money. The Goldman defense is that their suckers are smart enough to know better. But if they knew better, why do they agree to these shitty deals?

This world is a world of bullshit, and you would have to be a total nihilist to go live in this world. You have to believe in absolutely nothing. I'm not quite there yet. I may not believe in deities, but I do believe in principles.

On a sidenote, Warren Buffett is the biggest hypocrite in Nebraska. He portrays himself as folksy and honest, but this is horseshit. He just lets Goldman do all the shitty deals for him. Then, he lobbies Congress to give him a pass on his own derivatives contracts which he likened to "financial weapons of mass destruction." He is just another Keynesian bullshitter.

Velo Purgatory

People who have lots of unfinished bike projects lying around must be used to this - but to me there is something sad and anxiety-provoking about having a bike at home that's missing parts, or a frame that has not had a chance to become a bicycle yet. It's as if the non-functional bicycles are in a state of velo-purgatory - crying out to be completed and ridden.

My beautiful Royal H. mixte frame came home today, and it looks like I will be building it up much later than I thought - possibly in the end of the summer, or whenever I manage to save the money. And my attempt to tackle the Sam Hillborne frame on my own over the winter did not end well. In the end I brought the frame back to Harris with the metaphorical tail between my legs, and it is only now being built up - in the very midst of the spring customer rush. Naturally, having a bicycle built at a shop is more expensive than doing it oneself, and so my plans for the Royal H. mixte are on hold until some serious financial recovery time after the Hillborne. In the meantime, I better wrap it in bubble-wrap and put it away. I don't think it's healthy to sit on the bed next to a bicycle frame and stare at it for this long.

My Mercier mixte is now also a "purgatory bike", albeit very temporarily. The large chainring is off getting "de-toothed" by a fine gentleman who is a reader of this blog, as part of my scheme to convert this bicycle to a 5-speed. The chainring will be back soon, and till then I respond to the Mercier's questioning glances by gently stroking its handlebars and assuring it that it is not being disassembled for parts but is being improved.

Ah the joys of obsessiveness, anthropomorphic tendencies and an overly vivid imagination!

The Poverty of Climate Science Litmus Tests

Mike Hulme, of the University of East Anglia, has some smart things to say about politicized debates over climate science:
. . . arguments about climate change are invested with powerful ideological instincts and interests. Solutions to climate change vary from market-based mechanisms and technology-driven innovation to justice-focused initiatives and low-consumption localism as a form of lifestyle, each carrying ideological commitments. It is despairingly naive to reduce such intense (and legitimate) arguments to the polarities of ‘belief’ or ‘scepticism’ about science.

Belief in what, exactly? Is it the belief that humans are contributing significantly to climate change? Yes, science can speak authoritatively on this question. Or a belief that the possible consequences of future change warrant an emergency policy programme? Scientific evidence here offers only one strand of the necessary reasoning. Or a belief that such an emergency policy programme must be secured through an international, legally binding targets-and-timetables approach, such as Kyoto? On this, science has very little to say.

On the other hand, what exactly is it that the so-called sceptics are charged with? Scepticism that environmental scientists, businesses and central government are in collusion to fabricate evidence? This is barely plausible. Or scepticism that claims about the future that are based on scientific knowledge are sometimes overstretched and underplay uncertainties? The latter is a warning that all would do well to heed.

The problem here is the tendency to reduce all these complexities into a simple litmus test of whether or not someone believes orthodox scientific claims about the causes and consequences of climate change. This is dividing the world into goodies and baddies, believers and deniers. Climate change demands of us something much more sophisticated than this.

Mike's thoughtful views came to mind as I read Joe Romm's predictable reaction to Judy Curry's efforts to focus attention on the integrity of climate science and to engage in a respectful discussion of related issues (links added):
She has joined the WUWT and McIntyre tribe.
Curry is unfazed, and keeps her sense of humor:
Now that I have apparently been unambiguously tossed out the “warmist blogger” tribe by Joe Romm who is the arbiter of political correctness with regards to global warming alarmism, what is a poor tribeless person like me to do?
But she also realizes that tribalism is here to stay, but she does not like its consequences:

So I guess all my discussion about tribalism and the harm it can do didn’t sink in. My whole point is that we need to have a respectful and reasoned dialogue with a broad range of people. And I have to say that it is easier for me, a “moderate warmist,” to have a respectful and reasoned dialogue at climateaudit than it is at climateprogress. A sad state of affairs, and one that damages the credibility of the warmists.

The definition of tribalism that i have been using is this:

Tribalism is defined here as a strong identity that separates one’s group from members of another group, characterized by strong in-group loyalty and regarding other groups differing from the tribe’s defining characteristics as inferior.

Tribalism is antithetical to science, it is far worse than groupthink.
Like Hulme, Curry rejects such naive and simplistic ways to view the climate debate. Yet if the most ardent of antagonists in the climate debate, on either side, believe that we all have to be members of tribes, please note my request to be in the non-tribe tribe with Hulme and Curry ;-)

The Blue Collar Experience

I have worked on both sides of the collar divide. I have done the white collar thing and the blue collar thing. I can tell you that the blue collar thing is way better. Without a doubt, working inside a climate controlled environment and drinking cocktails for lunch can be pleasant. But it isn't worth it to me. I don't belong in a suit and a tie.

People will think I am crazy for being like this, but I don't think they understand or appreciate the blue collar experience. Without a doubt, the job can be physically demanding. You work in extremes of hot and cold sometimes. You get rained on and dirty. Then, there is the danger that comes with the job. But it is worth it. There is an unbelievable rush that comes from doing real work. Here is a breakdown of the elements of the blue collar experience:


Blue collar people don't always get along. Sometimes, there are fights. I've had a few. But these flare ups are short and over with. The reality is that there is a great deal of camaraderie among working people. This is because they work together as a team. There can be friendly rivalry, but it comes from wanting to do a good job. Blue collar people rib each other but in the good natured way of friends.

White collar people are not friends. This is because the white collar world is political. There is no camaraderie. There is only backstabbing and stealing of credit. You don't stab a working man in the back because he will take out a front row of teeth. White collar people are cowards who connive and scheme. There is no teamwork. There is only plotting and revenge.


Blue collar people take pride in their work. Sure, there are some slackers, but they are reviled by the group for being slackers. The simple fact is that there is an immense feeling of accomplishment when you get something done. You go home each night feeling like a winner. Even on the rough days, you know you will laugh about it later.

There is no pride in white collar work. This is because you don't actually do anything. You tell people what to do which they ignore. You are degraded by your superiors and co-workers. You feel like a total loser. Then, you go home, drink a lot of whiskey, and punch the pillow until you are exhausted and fall asleep. You grind your teeth in your dreams. You dread the next day. Weekends are all there is until they tell you that you have to work then as well. It is all futility and frustration.


Working hard feels good. If you push yourself, you get an endorphin rush. Of course, some blue collar jobs are not as demanding such as driving trucks or operating equipment. But, for the most part, sitting in an office destroys your fitness, and the antidote is to hit the gym or go for a run. Working a blue collar job is a lot like playing a sport. And, when you get off, everything tastes better and feels better--water, Mountain Dew, a beer, a warm shower, sex, sleep. The only thing you get from being behind a desk is that winded feeling when you climb the stairs.


White collar people create problems. Blue collar people solve problems. The world could live without the ties but not the hard hats. The hard hats are what make the world go round. And you ask any blue collar man what his number one bitch is, it will be the myriad stupid rules and policies dreamed up by the bosses that make the job more difficult to do. But strip away the bullshit, and you have the problem which needs to be solved. It might be replacing a transmission on a truck, unclogging a toilet, moving furniture, or what have you. But you have the problem, and you provide the solution. This goes back to the pride thing. Despite the conventional wisdom, blue collar work involves your brain as much as your body. The work is not mindless. You lose yourself in a state of flow, but you are also attuned to your surroundings especially in a dangerous environment.

There are no solutions in white collar work. There is only the gamble. Will it work? Or will I get fired when it fails? White collar people deal with a lot of worry, anxiety, and depression. The blue collar person has stress on the job, but it is the good stress that ends when the clock is punched. The white collar person has the bad stress that never ends.


Blue collar work beats white collar work. It is real work that you can enjoy and be proud of doing. White collar work often pays more, but it also costs more, too. It costs you your health, your sanity, your liver, and your life. Some people work in office environments as data entry, customer service reps, or computer programmers and engineers. Those jobs are more like blue collar jobs than white collar jobs. With machinery, a lot of blue collar jobs are as cushy as any white collar job. But overall, the blue collar experience is superior to the white collar experience. At least I think so. I don't mind getting dirty and sweaty.

The people I meet, by and large, appear happier, more balanced, and better adjusted than most of my friends with white-collar jobs. They genuinely seem to love what they do. Most of them seem to be in on some sort of joke that your typical professional doesn’t get.
MIKE ROWE, Dirty Jobs

Coach Of Uncommon Strength and His Inspiring Principal

The SportsLeader Coach Of Uncommon Strength award is a national award given once annually to a coach who goes well beyond the call of duty in mentoring and serving his players. We chose this award because it symbolizes one of the most extraordinary, uncommon and STRONG acts of all time: Jesus washing the feet of his apostles ... Jesus serving his apostles ... in humility, charity, courage and pretty much every other virtue you can think of.

Randy Traeger's high school Principal contacted me a few weeks back ... he wanted to personally fly to OH from Oregon (the state) to witness his head football coach receiving this award. He wanted to present to tell his coach, "I love you and We're proud of you."

I cannot express how moved I was. So many Principals do not give you the time of day ... this man, Troy Stoops, crosses the country. Troy, I cannot thank you enough.

This filled me with such HOPE. There are administrators out there with a backbone, with a fire and a dedication to truly transform their young people.

Here below is a note Randy sent to what I believe were all the teachers and other personnel at his high school.

We (Coach Rylan Traeger and I ) got back in about 1:00 AM this morning from Cincinnati, Ohio where we attended the SportsLeader Clinic and accepted the SportsLeader Coach of the Year " Coach of Uncommon Strength" award.  I accept the award for every player, coach, parent, teacher, administrator, and supporter of our program. Its not mine....its yours.  Right now, I am a little tired but more humbled than anything else. I am humbled that God and the Holy Sprit would use me as an instrument to do his work. What work? If you dont see how the spirit is at work in our are blind to the truth. I am humbled by the ways that so many of you have been inspired in your own way to support our mission of coaching virtue to the young men in our schools. 

Those of you who know me well, know that I am not easily shaken by suprise events. I guess the years I spent responding to emergencies in the Fire Department
taught me not to get rattled. I tell you what...I was shaken to my core on Saturday morning when sitting at the clinic in Ohio (thousands of miles from Mt. Angel),
someone put their hand on my shoulder from behind, I turned and standing there was Troy Stoops, our highschool principal. 

I was speechless. I still cant believe what he did. Without my knowledge, he catches a red eye friday night, then a cab, and arrives at the SportLeader clinic to introduce and thank me prior to the award
presentation, grabs another cab, then hops back on a plane and flies back to Oregon. 

Living heroically?  I'm telling you,  what other principal in the country would do this for a football coach? Troy's actions speak so loudly I cant hear his words.

Like Mother Teresas prayer.."by the catching force, the sympathetic influence if what we do... Troy has shown his love for me and our program.

I am humbled by this act of love. I am inspired by this act of love. Fired up ?  I'll tell you, if Troy asked me to join him on a full frontal assault on the gates of hell, I would be right beside him.

I hope this act inspires the other players, coaches, parents, teachers, adminstrators, and supporters in our entire community, as much as it has inspired me.

Whats next?  As far as I am concerned, our work has only begun. There is so much more that we can do. Other sports in our school, girls athletics, community collaboration, other schools, other programs, but always with one thing in mind, never forgetting that one player, that one student whom I need to help right now, to serve right now, I pray I always have the time to stop and give him that small amount of time that means so much.

Thanks and God Bless all of you.
 Coach Traeger

We're Idiots

Meet the biggest idiots in sport.

No bunch of sports fans are more stupid than the storm, not even the
Wellington Saints.

What type of fan, would take the moral highground, and make
out their team lying as victims and hero's.

They aren't real fans, a real fan, wouldn't stand there and
scream out that they will support their team until the
die they die.

A real fan wouldnt start singing his team songs and give
their players a standing ovation after what this club did.

The Storm players, the Storm Coaches, The management, screwed
the fans, screwed their sport, they lied, they cheated, they
committed fraud, and worst of all they tried to play the
part of the good guy, and they insulted every human being,
when they played dumb.

You cannot tell me, that you thought all these luxury items
that showed up at your house were above board, for cripes sake
the players were giving free boats!!!!

Here is what a real fan would of done, they would of shown up, and
not clapped, they wouldn't made any noise in protest.

The banners real fans would of taken, would of told the players
of the hurt and disgust they feel for them.

That is what real fans would of done, Melbourne doesnt have feel fans

Shame on this club, they deserve no sympathy.

Lets hope the guilty parties will be found guilty.

Time will tell.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Australia Shelves Emissions Trading Plan Until 2013

In what is the final act of a prolonged death spiral, the Rudd government has put off its proposed emissions trading scheme until at least 2013. From ABC News:

It was once a centrepiece of the Federal Government's election strategy, but now the emissions trading scheme (ETS) has been relegated to the shelf until at least 2013.

Delaying the scheme means the Government could save $2.5 billion from its budget over the next three years, because it would not be paying compensation to households and industries.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd recently said climate change remained a fundamental economic, environmental and moral challenge, whether it was popular or not.

But Government sources say it was decided last week to remove the scheme from next month's budget, bowing to the political reality that the Senate is unlikely to pass the ETS any time soon.

The Upper House has already blocked the ETS legislation twice.

The bills are before the Parliament again but the Senate has delayed the debate while it examines the deal that Mr Rudd struck with former Opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull.

The bottom line is that neither the Opposition, now led by Tony Abbott, nor the Greens like the amended legislation, so it remains in limbo.

The targets set forth in the legislation could not have been met in any case, as I show in this paper (it has since been updated and is just about to be submitted), so perhaps the reprieve will enable a rethink. The Rudd government recently admitted that the bulk of the emissions reductions would have had to come from offsets. In any case a lot will happen between now and 2013, in Australian politics, but also with respect to other national climate policies and international negotiations.

I had an op-ed at ABC News on the ETS just last month in which I wrote:
Emissions reductions targets are offered up with little understanding of the implications for energy supply or the economy. Complex legislation is proposed that obscures the simple math of decarbonisation.

When push comes to shove no politician wants to impose economic discomfort on his or her constituents, so they look desperately for magical solutions. Emissions trading has provided that illusion up to now.

Australia, the United States and Japan, in particular are at a crossroads in climate policy. The decisions that they make at this juncture will shape climate policy around the world, leading up to the summit in Mexico at the end of the year and beyond.

Will they continue in pursuit of magical solutions? Or will they start fresh, with an approach grounded in the realities of the simple math of decarbonisation?

The success or failure of emissions reductions efforts depends on their answers.
Does Australia's step-back from the ETS represent a fresh start? Time will tell.