Wednesday, June 30, 2010

June Cycling Totals

34.5 hours
599 miles (not bad given that it was the rainiest June in history)
Year to date: 2520 miles

BP Execs are School Kids Compared to These Slimy Oil Guys

According to this story in The Guardian, executives of a UK oil company, formerly known as Octel, are about to be extradited to the US to face bribery charges. Octel manufactured a lead-based fuel additive that was banned decades ago in most of the developed world. The company continued to produce it, however, because developing countries were slow to mandate unleaded gasoline. Today, only one country in the world - Iraq - continues to put lead in its gasoline, using Octel's product. The Octel executives are charged with bribing Iraqi officials not to regulate lead. The bribes amounted to multi-millions of dollars. Simply put, the Octel executives, and US hedge fund managers who invested heavily in Octel, made millions of dollars by bribing Iraqi officials (and goodness knows who else) to ignore the huge health risks especially to children from exposure to highly toxic airborne lead.

My only question is this: What's the difference between an illegal bribe of a government official and a lawful corporate campaign contribution under the US Supreme Court's recent ruling in Citizens United? As a law prof I probably should know the answer (even though this is not my field), but the legal distinction has gotten  a bit blurry since the Court essentially equated campaign contributions with speech.

Happy 25th Birthday Michael Phelps

Probably the most gifted athlete - and the most well-suited to his sport - I have ever met (or seen).
















Here he is chatting with my kids after an event in Indianapolis.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Arsenal Agree Terms with Lorient for Central Defender Koscielny

Numerous UK papers are confirming that Arsene Wenger has come to terms with Lorient to bring in 25-year-old central-defender Laurent Koscielny. He will replace William Gallas in the Arsenal line-up, adding much needed stability alongside Wenger's best signing from last year, Thomas Vermaelen. Koscielny is Arsenal's  second big signing of the off-season after striker Maroune Chamakh, who is set to compete with Nikolas Bendtner to partner Robin van Persie up front. Next on Wenger's shopping list is a goal-keeper, as Almunia and Fabianski have both fallen out of favor. Word is that Wenger is targeting current Fulham keeper Mark Schwarzer.

Wenger may yet sign another central-defender, as a back-up, should Sol Campbell decide to move north to Scotland. There have also been rumors that Wenger is interested in the services of German World Cup stand-out Mesut Ozil, who currently plays for Werder Bremen. That interest would likely intensify should Barcelona make a sufficient bid for current Gunner talisman Cesc Fabregas. Barca have also signified an interest in Ozil, but that may be just as an alternative, should Fabregas not join the Blau i Grana.

So far, at least, Arsenal's activity in the transfer market gives me hope of  a stronger squad for the upcoming season. But the Gunners still have work to do to add depth to their strength. And, of course, the potential loss of Fabregas still hangs like a guillotin over the club.

Reaction to the First Two Days of Kagan Confirmation Hearings

















On a more serious note, some members of the Judiciary Committee apparently believe that (a) "the law" is always a sum certain such that (b) judges never have to exercise independent judgment on contestable interpretations of constitutional or legislative language. Those members are ignoramuses.

Jens is Ready

Jens Voigt discusses his final preparations for the Tour de France, which begins Saturday, in this article over at Bicycling.com. Here are a couple of the highlights:

It's like I am on a spring that is ready to get sprung. It's like the spring has been squeezed together as hard as possible for so long and it just wants to go BOWMMMM!!!
              

* * *

Let me tell you, the first three days of this year's Tour are just going to be hell. First you have that really dangerous day racing on the windy roads of Holland. Then you've got a really hard stage with climbs from Liege-Bastogne-Liege and then the cobblesones of Paris-Roubaix ! Heck by the time we get through those three first stages it is going to feel like you got the Tour half way over.if, that is you are still in one piece. If you've crashed and got a lot of road rash, however, boy this is going to be one long Tour.

Happy 37th Birthday Big George Hincapie

Rode with US Postal and Discovery for all 7 of  Lance Armstrong's Tour de France victories.

Monday, June 28, 2010

MacDonald v. Chicago and CLS v. University of California, Hastings College of Law

MacDonald v. Chicago

Today, the Supreme Court, in a highly fractured set of long opinions (here), decided 5-4 that the Second Amendment "right to bear arms" applies directly to the states. Four members of the majority concluded that it applies to the states by incorporation under the 14th Amendment; Justice Thomas wrote separately to argue that it applies to the states (somehow) under the Privileges and Immunities Clause.

As so often in recent years, members of the Court seem to have completely forgotten their pedagogical function, in drafting a set of opinions that run to more than 200 pages, which I predict will not be read by anyone other than a few law professors who teach 2d Amendment law, plus a few lower court judges and gun-control litigants. Even those readers are likely to learn little from this case, if initial news reports are to be believed (see, e.g., here). According to those reports, the court's jumble of opinions does not even provide much guidance to the lower courts on how to determine what gun control laws, if any, are allowable. This virtually guarantees that more gun control cases will be coming before the Court in future sessions.

One final note: Today was Justice Stevens's final day as a member of the Court. He wrote a dissent in MacDonald that reaffirms a liberal approach to incorporation. Never one for sentiment, Justice Scalia wrote a separate dissent repudiating Stevens's approach in no uncertain terms.

Christian Legal Society v. Unversity of California, Hastings College of Law


In another 5-4 ruling, the Court today upheld the policy of Hastings College of Law which provides official status as "Registered Student Organization" (including use of the school logo, funding, use of facilities, etc.) to all and only those student organizations that sign the school's nondiscrimination policy, which among other things prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. The Christian Legal Society, which unabashedly  discriminates against gays and lesbians in its membership policy, challenged the school's requirements for RSO status, arguing that they infringe on its rights of free speech and religion. Justice Kennedy joined the four more liberal members of the Court on this occasion. The majority opinion was authored by Justice Ginsburg. The total length of opinions in this case amounts to only 85 pages, which is still far longer than any reasonable person, except those who teach First Amendment law or clerk for a lower federal court, is likely to read.

I continue to support a constitutional amendment that would limit Supreme Court majority opinions to not longer than 20 pages and concurring and dissenting opinions to not longer than 10 pages.

Happy Birthday Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)

The great and prolific Dutch Baroque painter.









Self-portrait.







The Adoration of the Magi (1634). At King's College Chapel, Cambridge

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The World Cup (So Far)

I've very much enjoyed watching many of the matches, which have gone pretty much as expected - the US and England were both fortunate to get through the group stage and it was not surprising that they went out in the round of sixteen. Argentina, Brazil, Germany, and the Netherlands look like the class of the tournament. So what else is new?

The only real story so far in the World Cup is the consistently appalling quality of the officiating. Referees and linesmen, especially but not exclusively those from non-European countries, have simply not been up to the task at hand. Goals have been allowed that should have been disallowed, and vice versa. Some of bad calls have plainly affected the outcome of matches, though none so far (to my knowledge) has led to a team advancing or failing to advance unjustly. After this World Cup, FIFA must at a minimum embrace goal-line technology for international matches. In addition, FIFA should probably add linesmen behind each goal to help assess fouls in the box (among other things).

A Better Ride

I actually managed to start and finish a ride with the group today, despite high heat and humidity and some weak moments early on in the ride. I was determined to stick with it today, and felt stronger later in the ride, even during the customary flurry of attacks from Karl, David, Bob, et al. We rode pretty darn hard for most of the 50 miles (not including the 6 miles to and from home). Average speed was about 19.5 mph.

Happy Birthday Krzysztof Kieslowski (1941-1996)

His film Bleu, one of the Tricolor trilogy, is among my favorite films.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Adding Injury to Environmental Insult

A story in today's Guardian (here) reports that BP is willfully killing endangered sea turtles and other marine mammals in areas of the gulf where it is burning oil, in contravention of protocols to protect wildlife.
Endangered sea turtles and other marine creatures are being corralled into 500 square-mile "burn fields" and burnt alive in operations intended to contain oil from BP's ruptured well in the Gulf of Mexico, the Obama administration confirmed today.... The Obama administration, confirming the kills, said BP was under orders to avoid the turtles. "My understanding is that protocols include looking for wildlife prior to igniting of oil," a spokeswoman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) said. "We take these things very seriously."
The test of whether the federal government is indeed taking this "very seriously" will be whether BP executives are criminally  prosecuted under the Endangered Species Act. Is there no end to BP's environmental callousness?

Ebbs and Flows

I'm definitely at low ebb in my cycling form. How much is mental and how much is physical, I don't know. I can't even hang with my friends. Hope it improves soon.

Happy Birthday George Grosz (1893-1959)



















Friday, June 25, 2010

Happy Birthday Willard Van Orman Quine (1908-2000)

Very influential 20th century analytical philosopher and logician. Gavagai!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Judge Throws Out Moratorium on Deepwater Drilling

Yesterday, Judge Martin Feldman of the US District Court of the Eastern District of Louisiana issued an order overturning the US government's six-month moratorium on deepwater oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, which it issued in the wake of the Deepwater Horizons oil spill - arguably, the single largest environmental disaster in US history. His ruling concludes that the government's moratorium violates the Administrative Procedures Act (APA), which requires that federal agency rules and regulations not be "arbitrary and capricious." In other words, rules and regulations must be supported by substantial evidence in the record. In Judge Feldman's view, such evidence was absent in this case. In particular, he cited the government's failure to explain why the moratorium applied to oil rigs drilling at depths between 500 and 1,000 feet.

Judge Feldman's brief opinion, which is available here, is hardly a model of careful legal analysis. If the government's moratorium is, as he concludes, cursory and devoid of real analysis, so too is the judge's treatment of the circuit split (5th v. DC) on jurisdiction under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, 12 USC sec. 1349(a). Moreover, contrary to the judge's assertion (p. 20), the government moratorium was not based on a presumption that "all Gulf deepwater drilling activities put us all in a universal threat of irreparable harm." Rather, it was based on a reasonable presumption that any one or more of the other existing rigs in the Gulf might have similar structural problems as Deepwater Horizon, and all needed to be shut down temporarily to create an opportunity for inspection to ensure risks of spills were well managed. While stressing the economic costs of the moratorium, Judge Feldman failed to consider either the costs of Deepwater Horizon spill or a similar spill from other rigs in the Gulf.

That said, it is not obvious that Judge Feldman's legal conclusion under the APA was incorrect. Indeed, the Obama Administration  virtually conceded the case today in announcing that it would issue a new, replacement moratorium that would include greater evidentiary support (see here). If the Administration were more confident in the lawfulness of its existing moratorium, it presumably would just appeal Judge Feldman's ruling, rather than issue a replacement moratorium.

Finally, one troubling feature of Judge Feldman's ruling is the appearance of a conflict of interest. Numerous sources have reported that Judge Feldman has recently held (and may still hold) investments in numerous energy companies, including Transocean, the owner of Deepwater Horizon, and Haliburton, which did maintenance work on Deepwater Horizon (see, e.g., here and here). This does not necessarily mean he was biased in favor of the plaintiffs in the case, but it certainly creates that possibility. Apparently, the issue of recusal was not raised in court (see here). However, the judge could have, and probably should have, recused himself voluntarily to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. Other judges were available to hear the case who did not hold energy-company stocks (see here).

The problem of potential judicial conflicts of interest arising from investment portfolios has been increasing of late, and there is no easy solution to that problem. However, some judges are more sensitive to appearances of potential bias than others. Most recently, Justice Stevens recused himself voluntarily from a case before the Supreme Court on beach renourishment in Florida simply because he owns property there on a beach that might be a candidate for renourishment in the future. Compare his decision with Justice Scalia's refusal to recuse himself from a 2004 case in which then-Vice President Cheney, a personal friend of Scalia's, was directly involved. Apparently, Judge Feldman (like Scalia, a Reagan appointee), is a member of the recusal-refusal school.

Happy Birthday Alan Turing (1912-1954)

A mathematical genius who laid the foundations for modern computing, and a war hero who helped to break German codes, Turing was persecuted and prosecuted for his homosexuality by an ungrateful English government. His early death was a tragedy.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Climate Change and Scientific Credibility

An interesting study published in yesterday's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (here) finds that the much larger group of scientists who believe in anthropogenic climate change possess much better credentials than the far smaller group of scientists who deny anthropogenic climate change. Here is the paper's abstract:
Although preliminary estimates from published literature and expert surveys suggest striking agreement among climate scientists on the tenets of anthropogenic climate change (ACC), the American public expresses substantial doubt about both the anthropogenic cause and the level of scientific agreement underpinning ACC. A broad analysis of the climate scientist community itself, the distribution of credibility of dissenting researchers relative to agreeing researchers, and the level of agreement among top climate experts has not been conducted and would inform future ACC discussions. Here, we use an extensive dataset of 1,372 climate researchers, and their publication and citation data to show that (i) 97-98% of the climate researchers most actively publishing in the field support the tenets of ACC outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and (ii) the relative climate expertise and scientific prominence of the researchers unconvinced of ACC are substantially below that of the convinced researchers.
Of course, consensus is no guarantor of scientific truth. Copernicus and Galileo were both right about heliocentrism despite strong contemporary religio-scientific consensus to the contrary. Appropriately, the authors of the study in yesterday's PNAS caution that "[u]ltimately ... scientific confidence is earned by the winnowing process of peer review and replication of studies over time." As that process continues, it is clear that, at present, the weight of the scientific evidence and expertise strongly supports theories of anthropogenic climate change.

Why, then, doesn't the public believe it? Is it just a messaging problem? Certainly, the media's misguided sense that being "fair and balanced" means presenting both sides of every issue, no matter how one-sided are the merits, does not help. In the context of climate science, "fair and balanced" would mean that the media would present dissenting views three times out of every 100 or so stories on climate change. Imagine if CNN felt the need to include dissent from an Aristotelian geocentrist every time it presented a scientific story on the earth's rotation around the sun. (Fox News may already do that.)

The larger impediment to public acceptation of anthropogenic climate change as a scientific fact, in my view, is the lack of any catalytic event that can definitively associated with it. Members of the public are not scientists and cannot be expected to respond to scientific studies until they begin to perceive real problems for themselves or things they care about. My guess is that it will take something like the extinction of polar beers in their natural range to galvanize public opinion and generate public support for serious climate mitigation measures.

Happy 62d Birthday Todd Rundgren

Muti-talented singer, songwriter, and producer.A true rock legend.



Monday, June 21, 2010

Think Riding a Bike Is Easy? Think Again.

An article in today's Daily Telegraph (here) notes how recent scientific studies have demonstrated the complexity of the seemingly simple act of riding a bicycle. In a 2007 paper (here), J.P. Meijaard and co-authors set out the linearized dynamic equations for stable bicycle riding. Here is the abstract from their paper:
We present canonical linearized equations of motion for the Whipple bicycle model consisting of four rigid laterally-symmetric ideally-hinged parts: two wheels, a frame and a front assembly. The wheels are also axisymmetric and make ideal ideal knife-edge rolling point-contact with the level ground. The mass distribution and geometry are otherwise arbitrary. This conservative non-holonomic system has a 7-dimensional accessible configuration space and three velocity degrees of freedom parameterized by rates of frame lean, steer angle and rear-wheel rotation. We construct the terms in the governing equations methodically for easy implementation. The equations are suitable for e.g. the study of bicycle self-stability. We derived these equations by hand in two ways and also checked them against two non-linear dynamics simulations. In the century-old literature several sets of equations fully agree with those here and several do not. Two benchmarks provide test cases for checking alternative formulations of the equations of motion or alternative numerical solutions. Further, the results here can also served as a check for general-purpose dynamics programs. For the benchmark bicycles we accurately calculate the eigenvalues (the roots of the characteristic equation) and the speeds at which bicycle lean and steer are self-stable, confirming the century-old result that this conservative system can have asymptotic stability

The Cost of SSRN

So far this morning (that is, since I shut down the computer Sunday night), I have received several dozen new announcements of working papers from the Social Science Research Network (SSRN). Each announcement includes information about 8-10 new papers on average. So far this morning I've leafed through at least the titles and at most the abstracts of approximately 360-400 working papers. Even without reading the actual papers, takes up a sizable chunk of my time. At some point, I begin to wonder whether it is worth it.

To some extent, the time commitment is self-imposed; I could choose to receive fewer announcements by restricting my subscriptions to certain subject areas. However, because I occasionally find important (for my work) papers in virtually all subject areas, I hesitate to do that.

As a contributor of working papers to the SSRN database, the sheer volume of papers troubles me because I understand only too well the temptation to simply press the delete button when confronted by so many SSRN announcements. Ironically, as the volume of SSRN working papers has grown, the rate at which I carefully read abstracts or actually download papers has fallen dramatically; and I assume the same may be true for other users. I wonder what the average download rate is for a paper (across all authors and subject areas). It must be very, very low, and I suspect fallen as the volume of papers increases.

The most frustrating aspect of this problem (if I am right to consider it a problem) is that I can see no real solution. Would I rather have less easy (or no) access to much of the information I obtain from SSRN? Of course not. The problem of too many working papers is simply symptomatic of the larger problem of information overload, facilitated by technological innovations in scholarly communication. On balance, the easier access to information must be considered a very good thing, but it is certainly not cost-free.

Happy 66th Birthday Ray Davies

He has written thousands of songs, and they're all good!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Mandatory Equipment for Team Treachery and Deceit?

The Wisecracker headset spacer/beer bottle opener:

New Wheels

I got a pair of HED Bastogne wheels to go along with my Jet C2s. Since the two wheel sets use pretty much the same rim structure and hubs, I should be able to swap them out without having to readjust brakes and (in theory at least) derailleurs. Also, on the advice of Dr. Wilkes, I've had the Batognes converted to tubeless and put a pair of Hutchinson Fusion 3 Tubeless road tires on them. That should eliminate the possibility of pinch-flats and  provide a smooth, cushy ride, especially given the Bastogne's 23mm rims, which allow for running the tires at lower air pressure.

A Ride that Grew and Grew

Went out this morning for a supposed "recovery ride" (after yesterday's hill-climbing in Southern Indiana) with Dr. Wilkes, Dr. Raynor et al. The plan was to ride at a moderate pace for about 2.5 hours, first heading south of Pittsboro, then north to Lebanon, and finally back to Trader's Point from there. But as anyone who has experience a Wilkes/Raynor knows only too well, initial plans often go out the window. When we got to the first SAG in Pittsboro, we decided to go "a little farther West" before heading north to Lebanon. Then, when we got to Lebanon, instead of turning for home, there was a vote (with me as the lone dissenter) to go to Whitestown first. It just goes to show how stupid democracy can be. Long story short: instead of 2.5 hours, we rode 3.5 hours and 65 miles.

The ride was mostly moderate. By "mostly" I mean that there were lots of the regular attacks and counter-attacks by the children (you know who you are), all of which I ignored. Occasionally, the pace of the whole group picked up above moderate levels - usually when Dr. Wilkes was on the front. When the pace grew too high (over about 23 mph), I would throw out the anchor to make everyone slow down.

All in all, 111 miles this weekend, including a lot of climbing. Time for a nap.

ADDENDUM: We are all just pretenders compared to the real hard man of Team Treachery and Deceit, Dr. Stevens, who after riding the entire St. Meinrad's Ride yesterday, most of it off the front, including 5,200 feet of total climbing, rode another 100.5 miles today. Jens Voight probably wishes he were more like Larry.

Happy Birthday Magdalena Abakanowicz and Izabela Kowalewska-Cole

Two great Polish ceramicists, born on the same day.


















Magdalena Abakanowicz


Izabela Kowalewska-Cole

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Philoprogenitiveness

I came across an unfamiliar term while reading the fourth and final volume of Winston Churchill's A History of the English-Speaking Peoples (Barnes & Nobel 2005), p. 125. The term is "philoprogenitiveness," and Churchill uses it to describe the Mormon colonization of Utah: "Within three years a flourishing community of eleven thousand souls, combining religious fervour, philoprogenitiveness, and shrewd economic sense, had been established by careful planning in the Salt Lake country, and in 1850 the territory received recognition by the Federal Government under the name of Utah."

The Merriam-Webster on-line dictionary (here) defines "philoprogenitiveness" as a love of offspring or prolific production of offspring. I probably should have been able to figure that out merely from taking the word apart. Nevertheless, I find it surprising that Churchill would have used such a complex term to describe something so simple in what is supposed to be a popular history book. Or, perhaps, most people know the meaning of "philoprogenitiveness" on sight, and I'm just unusually ignorant.

St. Meinrad's Ride

Thanks to Bill Bahret for organizing St. Meinrad's Ride today, a very hilly 75-mile loop in Southern Indiana that begins and ends at St. Meinrad's Archabbey, west of the Hoosier National Forest. Here is the ride map:



A group of about 20 riders took part. Most of us spent last night at the abbey, preparing for an early start today. The abbey, pictured below, is a very interesting, comfortable, and quiet place, in a truly remote location; it's a great place for a retreat.













This morning's start was delayed about an hour, however, because of passing storms. Unfortunately, that meant Dr. Wilkes, Dr. Raynor and I had to truncate our ride because two of us had to be home by late this afternoon. So, we only managed to ride about 46 very hilly miles, which was more than enough for me, especially with temperatures climbing into the low-90s this afternoon. Climbs ranged in distance up to about a mile, with gradients that ranged up to 20 percent. For those who did the full 75-miles, the total elevation gain amounted to 5,200 feet. Some compared the last 20 miles or so to the Bataan Death March. Another reason to be glad I didn't have time for the full ride.

Happy Birthday Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)

French philosopher and mathematician. Pascal usefully invented a mechanical calculator, but remains most (in)famous for "Pascal's wager," according to which the "cost" of believing incorrectly in God is less than the cost of not believing, and being sent to hell, should God exist. Unfortunately, the wager is based on the unwarranted  presumption of a binary choice between no God and a vengeful, Christian God.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Supreme Court Begins to Take Public Property Seriously

Many of the Supreme Court's most important 5th Amendment Takings decisions of the past several decades have arisen where land meets water (Nollan, Dolan, Lucas, Palazzolo, Sierra-Tahoe, &tc.). In those cases, the Court has focused almost exclusively on private property rights at issue, ignoring existing public property rights in the beds and banks of navigable water bodies. This myopia was most glaring in the Palazzolo case, in which Justice Scalia pronounced the State of Rhode Island a "thief" for taking lands, virtually all of which belonged to it in the first place under well-settled rules of ownership of marshlands subject to tidal flows.

Today, the Supreme Court decided another Takings case where land meets water, and for the first time it paid as much attention to existing public property rights as private property rights. In Stop the Beach Nourishment, Inc. v. Florida Department of Environmental Protection et al. (slip opinion available here),  the Court, in a unanimous opinion authored by Justice Scalia (8-0 because Justice Stevens recused himself, presumably because he owns a beach-front condo in Florida), ruled the State of Florida did not take private property when it replenished sand beaches previously eroded by storms, and claimed ownership of more of the replenished beach pursuant to a fixed "erosion-control line," as opposed to the previous mean-high tide line. The effect of the change in designation of the line of ownership was to increase the amount of beach owned by the public, as opposed to private beach-front landowners.

The Court held that the private owners did not have any claim to the replenished sand beach because, under preexisting Florida law (presumably meeting the "background principles of state law" requirement of Lucas), new lands created by a sudden avulsion (as opposed to a gradual accretion) are owned by the State, and the state law made no distinction when the state caused the avulsion itself. As the unanimous verdict indicates, the taking issue was pretty straightforward and simple in this case. In a real sense, it wasn't even a taking at all because the beach renourishment program had left the landowners with more beach than they had previously. Indeed, from a legal realist perspective, we might understand the Court's decision as slapping the hands of greedy landowners, who wanted the State to basically give them a new beach free of charge. As Justice Scalia expressed it in oral arguments (as quoted by Dahlia Lithwick here at Slate.com):
"Did any of these beachfront owners think this was a good deal, that the state has prevented further erosion of their land and, you know, the price they pay for this is that they have this 60-foot stretch that the public can use, and that may wash away in six years anyway, and if they're lucky the state won't have enough money to put it back?" Scalia concludes that he's "not sure it's a bad deal" for the property owners. It may be better to have the erosion-controlled beach: Without it, "all of your property might be underwater, right? That wouldn't be very good."
In addition for being noteworthy for taking public property rights seriously, the Court's decision in Stop the Beach Nourishment is interesting for the Court's treatment of an issue the Court has never resolved: whether courts, like legislatures and administrative agencies, can be liable to compensate private landowners for takings when they change the rules of property law. The issue arose in this case because the Florida Supreme Court, in ruling that the Florida Beach and Shore Preservation Act did not take private property requiring just compensation, held that the plaintiffs did not in fact own the property alleged to have been taken. For that reason, the case was brought as a so-called "judicial taking." Four Justices - Scalia, Roberts, Alito and Thomas - were willing to accept the doctrine of "judicial takings" in this case, but four others - Kennedy, Sotomayor, Breyer, and Ginsburg - were of the opinion that the Court did not need to reach that issue to decide the outcome of this case, which technically is correct. Thus, the "judicial taking" issue remains unresolved.

Just to correct one flaw in some early commentary on the Court's decision in Stop the Beach Renourishment: it is not true that no federal court has ever found a judicial taking. In Robinson v. Ariyoshi, 753 F2d 1468 (9th Cir. 1985) (see here), the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled that substantial changes in Hawaiian water law made by the Hawaii Supreme Court constituted a compensable taking of the plaintiffs' irrigation water rights. It is true, however, that the US Supreme Court, to date, has not found a judicial taking in any case (although Justice Potter Stewart many years ago averred in a dissent that a court, just as easily as a legislature, be guilty of a compensable taking).

Happy 65th Birthday to the "Cannibal," Eddy Merckx

I normally don't go in for rankings, but in this case it is simply beyond dispute that Eddy Merckx is the greatest cyclist ever to throw a leg over a bike. He won each of the sport's three big grand tours: the Tour de France 5 times, the Tour of Italy 5 times, and the Tour of Spain once (the only time he entered it). His total of 11 grand tour victories has never been matched. Merckx also won 28  "classics" races, including every single "classics" event except Paris-Tours. Of those "classics" wins, 7 came at Milan-San Remo and 3 at Paris-Roubaix.

Merckx also dominated on the track. He set the hour track record and won three European track championships. A full tally of Merckx's accomplishments can be viewed here.

In 1971, Merckx won an astonishing 45 percent of the races he entered, including wins in the Tour de France, the World Championship, Milan-San Remo, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Paris-Nice, and the Dauphine Libere. Other riders used to joke (not very ironically) that if Merckx showed up for a race, everyone else was racing for second place. Arguably, no sport has ever been so dominated by a single individual as Merckx dominated cycling.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Happy 33d Birthday Kerry Wood

Gave the Cubs a few exciting years before injuries started to take their toll.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Big Crash in Tour of Switzerland

The crash took place at the very front of the field in the last 100 meters of the sprint, causing a huge domino effect, as riders going 40-50 mph could not stop. Cavendish, Haussler, Boonen, and Ciolek all went down at the front, and countless other riders piled up. Oh, the humanity! I hope everyone's okay. Congrats to "Ale-jet" Petacchi, who avoided the mess and took the win.

No More Links to Amazon.com from this Blog

In the past, when I have posted book reviews, etc., I have included links to Amazon.com. Recently, Amazon created a program - Amazon Associates - which supposedly made it easier to directly incorporate a link and photo of a book into a blog post. I have tried to use this feature a few times. It works fine right up until I hit the "publish post" button, at which point the photo and link disappear completely. I have asked Amazon.com for, but have not received, assistance with this problem. So, I will no longer attempt to use their linking system; nor will I manually (that is, using Blogger's link feature) link to Amazon.com. Instead, I will link to book publishers.

Akerlof and Shiller on "Animal Spirits" - A Brief Review

George A. Akerlof and Robert J. Schiller, Animal Spirits: How Human Psychology Drives the Economy, and Why It Matters for Global Capitalism (Princeton University Press 2009).

I probably should have read this book when it was hot off the presses and everyone was still trying figure out the cause of the domestic and global economic downturn. In hindsight, a substantial part of the book's focus seems a bit obvious. The book remains valuable, however, for its decimation of the conventional economic wisdom, at least since Milton Friedman, that so-called "money illusion" is never a problem on the rational actor model. According to Friedman's view, there is no trade-off between price changes and the rate of unemployment. Individuals bargaining for wages are presumed to account for expected inflation in making wage demands. This view became a critical assumption of macroeconomic theories that led to deregulation of the financial markets, which preceded the real estate bubble and financial collapse.

Nobel-laureate George Akerlof and Yale economist Robert Schiller convincingly argue that money illusion exists because the rationality assumption of mainstream economics is faulty; human psychology and flaws in human psychology play important role in daily economic decision-making. Akerlof and Schiller refer to those flaws in human psychology, quoting John Maynard Keynes, as "animal spirits," which often prevent individual market participants, including those in wage markets, from accounting for expected future inflation or changes in prices. As a consequence, they confront "money illusion." The implication for Akerlof and Schiller is that government regulation of financial and other markets is necessary to prevent bubbles from arising as a consequence of money illusion. Markets require "the steady hand of government" to control the "animal spirits" that lead market participants astray.

While I agree with their conclusion, I must say that I am not convinced by Akerlof and Schiller's arguments for a couple of reasons. First, while they make a convincing enough case for market failure, they ignore the likelihood of government failure. Indeed, in the context of financial market regulation, there is evidence that government policies compounded the problem of animal spirits by promoting easy lending. Because government fails too, there is no reason ex ante to prefer regulated markets to deregulated markets. What is required is what Ronald Coase called a comparative institutional analysis of alternative institutional (regulatory and deregulatory) arrangements to determine which works best in the circumstances.

Second, in the last chapter, Akerlof and Schiller purport to have offered "a theory of animal spirits," according to which government intervention is necessary (and presumably sufficient) to improve market efficiency, or at least to reduce the amplitude of market upswings and downswings. The problem is that I don't really find any such "theory" in the book. I find references to human psychology and animal spirits, and I find anecdotes about how individual market participants make decisions, but the book does not present any real alternative or even amendment to the rational actor model. They do not even reference Herbert Simon's work on bounded rationality or the larger behavioral economics literature, which itself suffers to some extent from the same problem: lots of data but not much of a theoretical framework with which to replace the standard rationality assumption of economics.

Despite those major problems, I still agree with Akerlof and Schiller's conclusion that well-regulated markets (well-regulated is an important presumption) are likely to function better over time, with fewer and less extreme downturns, than unregulated markets. I am, like them, a Keynesian. But as Richard Nixon is reputed to have said in the early 1970s, "we are all Keynsians now."

Happy Birthday Herbert Simon (1916-2001)

One of the most important thinkers of the 20th century.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Alpe d'Huez

GREAT stage up to the Alpe d'Huez in the Criterium du Dauphine today. Contador won it, but the real winner was Team Radioshack's Jani Brajkovic, who never left Contador's wheel despite 7 attacks by the Spaniard. Also outstanding performances by Sylwester Szmyd and Jurgen van den  Broeck. It was one attack after another on the Alpe. Very exciting stuff.

Congratulations to Brajkovic, who surely did enough today to secure overall victory in the Dauphine. And kudos to Chris Horner, who picked up young American rider Teejay van Garderen, who started the day in second place, but got shelled off the back on the Alpe 'Huez. Even though they are on different teams, Horner slowed to let van Garderen take his wheel, and pulled him to the finish.

Happy 31st Birthday Dallas Clark

Friday, June 11, 2010

RAAM

In case you hadn't noticed, the Race Across America (RAAM) is underway. As the name implies, it is quite literally a bike race to see who can get from the West Coast to the East Coast of the US the fastest. There are several different categories of riders. Currently, four-time RAAM men's champion Jure Robic is leading the Solo Male (Under 50) section, having pedaled the first 858 miles at an amazing average speed of 18.39 miles per hour. Barbara Buatois is leading the Solo Female (under 50) category, having completed the same distance as Robic at an average speed of 12.6 mph.

You can follow the race here.

Hat tip: Max Huffman

Effort to Derail Carbon Regulation Fails in Senate

Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Big Oil, err, Alaska, sponsored legislation that would have stripped EPA of its power to regulate greenhouse gases (GHGs) under the Clean Air Act (CAA). This morning her legislation was defeated by a vote of 53-47. What does this vote portend for the Kerry-Lieberman climate bill currently working its way towards the Senate floor?

Senator Murkowski's ostensible reason for stripping EPA of its regulatory authority was that the CAA is an inferior vehicle for regulating GHGs. In this, she is entirely correct. Special legislation regulating GHG emission would be vastly preferable to EPA regulation under the CAA, which is not well-designed to deal with the special problems posed by GHGs (witness the various, possibly illegal, machinations in EPA's final proposed GHG rule to bend the CAA to fit GHGs). However, beyond Senator Murkowski's ostensible reason for removing EPA authority to regulate GHGs lies another, more devious purpose, which is to prevent any regulation of GHGs. If her proposed legislation had passed, prospects for the Kerry-Lieberman bill would have been greatly reduced. Without the overhanging threat of EPA regulation, it is doubtful that any substantive climate bill could obtain the 60 votes necessary for cloture in the Senate. Thus, defeat of the Murkowski bill was a critical prerequisite for passage of Kerry-Lieberman.

But what does the 53-47 vote tell us about the likelihood of passage for a real climate bill? Ezra Klein, writing here in the Washington Post, thinks that the vote cannot be good news for climate legislation. After all, 6 Democrats, including Blanche Lincoln, defected, voting to support Murkowski's bill. However, I am at least somewhat less pessimistic. For one thing, it appears that proponents only need 6 more votes for cloture - it seems highly unlikely that anyone who voted against Murkowski's bill would vote against Kerry-Lieberman. Meanwhile, it is at least possible that some who voted in favor of the Murkowski bill might now favor Kerry-Lieberman to avoid presumably more onerous and costly EPA regulation under the CAA. Indeed, some who voted for the Murkowski bill might have done so not because they support it but for political cover, knowing that the bill was going to fail. Now, they can tell their constituents that they must support Kerry-Lieberman to avoid the prospect of  regulation by the dreaded EPA.

Happy Birthday Shelly Manne (1920-1984)

A great and highly versatile jazz drummer.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Wednesday "Fun and Fitness" Ride

Woz joined me and my son, Stefan, for the Nebo Ridge "fun and fitness" ride this evening, but we added on an extra 7.5 miles to the normal 17. Stefan is getting stronger week by week. He'll be leaving his dear old dad in the dust before long.

Rate this ride: *****

Happy 25th Birthday Andy Schleck

One of the few riders with a realistic chance of challenging Alberto Contador in this year's Tour de France.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Congratulations Chicago Blackhawks

Winners of the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1961.

Wednesday Evening Intervals

I met up with Dr. Wozniak at The Preserve for 4 hill repeats before heading over to Fishback Academy to connect with a larger group of Nebo Ridge teammates for some intervals led by Aaron Bobinsky. We rode easy for about a half hour before arriving at a 4-mile Time Trial course that ABob had set up. After a reconnaissance lap around the course, we did two TTs at Lactate Threshold, with about a mile of easy spinning in between. It was quite challenging. Each lap took me about 11.5 minutes. The good news was that I maintained a similar average speed of about 21 mph for each lap. However, I'm not very happy with my average power output, which was only 221 watts for the first lap, and about 210 watts for the second. Nevertheless, normalized power for the entire 43 miles of riding this evening, which included a lot of soft-pedaling between hill repeats and TTs, was 217 watts.

Rate this ride: *** (intervals are hard)

Tomorrow, a nice recovery ride with my son at Nebo Ridge.

Another Very Good Article on the Israeli Flotilla Fiasco

Here, in The New Republic.

It's Hilarious When Losers Claim Victory

The labor unions and other "progressive" Democratic groups that threw gobs of money into the Arkansas primaries to defeat incumbent Senator Blanche Lincoln are claiming victory today, even though she beat their preferred candidate Bill Halter. Labor unions alone spent $10 million on the campaign, which they intended as a reminder to the entire Democratic Party of their power to make or break candidates. The problem, of course, is that Lincoln won.

Instead of limping away with tails between their legs, the Progressives are putting a brave face on what can only be described as a devastating defeat. In today's Washington Post (here), labor organizer Steve Rosenthal is quoted as saying that forcing Senator Lincoln into such a close primary contest was "'a phenomenal victory.'" He'd probably have said the same thing about Gordon Brown's performance in last month's UK elections. Yes, by all means, let it a lesson to all Democratic incumbents: in a year when anti-incumbent sentiment is at its highest, a candidate targeted for defeat by the Progressives won anyway (albeit by just a few percentage points).

Just to set the record straight, I am not a supporter of Blanche Lincoln, who I expect will be trounced in the November general election by her Republican opponent John Boozman. Moreover, I am in substantial agreement with at least some of the Progressive agenda. But I find it irresistibly  hilarious when people who expect to win and then lose claim victory anyway.

"Working Together": A Brief Review

Amy Poteete, Marco Janssen and Elinor Ostrom have produced a book that every social scientist and anyone in research on management of common pool resources - should find extremely useful. Working Together: Collective Action, the Commons, and Multiple Methods in Practice (Princeton University Press 2010) is first and foremost a discourse on method (hat tip: Rene Descartes), assessing the utility and limitations of various approaches to empirical social-science research, including small-n case studies, larger-n comparative field research, various types of meta-analysis, field and laboratory experiments, and agent-based modeling. Not surprisingly, given the authors' association with the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at Indiana University (an organization with which I too am affiliated, for the sake of full disclosure), the various methods are all described and analyzed in the context of collective-action problems relating to common-pool resources. Consequently (and beneficially) the book provides a thorough literature review of those problems.

Based on their review of the various research methods, the authors recommend a collaborative, mutli-method research approach that exploits the advantages of the various specific methods. And they outline a revised theory of collective action focused on individual decision making affected by micro-situational conditions and broader social-ecological contexts.

In addition, the authors provide a very useful discussion of an important practical issue for social scientists, who might incline to the kind of collaborative, multi-method approach the authors recommend.  As the authors explain in the Prologue:
It is often difficult to acquire data relevant for the study of collective action, and the costs of field research are significant. Scholars are also constrained by the costs of mastering multiple methods. Collaboration facilitates both comparative research and the incorporation of multiple methods, but presents its own challenges. We are particularly troubled by professional norms and career incentives that discourage collaboration and multimethod research and fail to acknowledge the practical challenges that affect methodological practices.
Simply put, academic collaboration itself is a collective-action problem, which is exacerbated by the "fragmentation" of academic disciplines, distrust between academic departments, and tenure and promotion processes that struggle to evaluate and reward collaborative, inter-disciplinary work.

Bottom line: This is quite probably the most important and useful book about social-science methodologies to be published in several decades.

Happy Birthday Cole Porter (1891-1964)

His lyrics were even more ingenious than his music.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Excellent Monday Evening Recovery Ride

A fairly big group for this evening's 25-mile recovery ride, including my son Stefan, who did a great job riding with the group. My only concern is that Dr. Wilkes might be teaching him how to trash-talk.

Rate this ride: *****

Christopher Hitchens on the Virtues of Alcohol

From this article in Slate:
Alcohol makes other people less tedious.
I was wondering why all of my friends drink so much when I'm talking.

You Never Know Who You're Going to Run Into During an Early Morning Bike Ride

Dr. Wilkes and I were spinning around the park early this morning when we ran into (not literally) Colts' head coach Jim Caldwell. We stopped to say hi, and to let him know we are already into two-a-day training sessions, with another ride scheduled for this evening.

Happy 58th Birthday Orhan Pamuk

The great Turkish Nobel laureate in literature.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Happy 54th Birthday Bjorn Borg

Won an amazing 41 percent of the Grand Slam singles tournaments he entered!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Happy 48th Birthday Coach Bob

The fastest 48-year-old on two wheels (without an external motor).

"Mechanical Doping" Redux

Today's New York Times has a story on the controversy (here), as well as this graphic of how such a motor can be hidden with the bike tubing to be virtually invisible:





















However, two seemingly unrelated points made in the story have convinced me that this form of doping is highly unlikely to have been used by the pros. First, the story notes that because of battery-life limitations, the motor is likely to be used only for short bursts of extra power over the course of a long race. Second, the motor adds approximately 4 pounds to the weight of the bicycle. That is a hell of a lot of extra weight for any rider, let alone a pro, to drag around on a bicycle. It strikes me as highly unlikely that any rider in the pro peloton would willingly add 4 pounds of extra weight to his bike to obtain the advantage of short bursts of extra power, especially in a mountain stage. The extra weight would likely more than counteract the short-term power advantages offered by the motor. What purpose would it serve to activate the motor when the rider is already a mile or more behind the peloton because he has been dragging around an extra 4 pounds for the past 75 miles?

Moreover, the excess weight should make motors easy to detect by race referees, who often weigh bikes to ensure that they are within UCI weight limitations (i.e., that they do not weigh too little). After weighing a bunch of bikes that come in between 15 and 16 pounds, a bike weighing around 20 pounds surely would  stand out as much as a rider with a beer belly.

We might predict that improvements in battery technology will lead to lighter motors in the future. When those innovations occur, there surely will be a threat of motorize riders in the pro peloton. But it seems far fetched to suppose that any pro would use the current, heavy technology (unless they can find a way to shave pounds off their bikes in other ways).

Will Polar Bears Survive in Their Natural Habitat to 2050?


















The rate of spring sea-ice decline seems to be increasing. This is good news for international shipping, but very bad news for polar bears.

Reminder: my prediction for policy is that countries will not start taking climate change, and the need for stringent climate policies, seriously until the occurrence of some "catalytic event," such as the disappearance of polar bears from substantial segments of their natural range, which the National Snow and Ice Center at the University of Colorado has predicted will occur by the middle of this century (under a business-as usual scenario) (see here).

Hat tip: Brad DeLong.

Congratulations Marysia Cole

My daughter is graduating from high school today, and I am of course very proud. In the fall, she will be attending IU-Bloomington.

Big Double Birthday Salute: Adam Smith (1723-1790) and John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946)

Two of the most influential economists of all time, both born on June 5th. A very impressive day indeed.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Happy Birthday Francois Quesnay (1694-1774)

Quesnay was a key member of the French Physiocrats who believed that a nation's economic development and wealth was based on the value of land and productive labor. In this they challenged the dominant theory of  mercantilism, according to which national wealth depended on gold reserves and the balance of trade. The Physiocrats were among the first to develop a truly analytical economics, and they influenced the subsequent development of classical economics, most notably Adam Smith and David Ricardo.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Honey Bs

I had a fun ride with the "Honey Bs" at Nebo Ridge this evening. I hadn't ridden with that group for a long time. Lately, I've been mostly riding "fun and fitness" group rides on Thursdays with my son, but he couldn't make it this evening. When he's not around, I mostly ride with the "Killer Bs." But tonight I didn't want to ride with a bunch of maniacs, so I rode with the "Honey Bs," who are usually led out by Tim Casady (owner of Nebo Ridge Bike Shop), but for some reason he wasn't there this evening. The pace of the ride was just right  - not so easy that I felt like I wasn't getting a workout, but not too hard for everyone who is planning to race this weekend. There were even a few sprints towards the end.

Rate this ride: *****

Xtranormal Cycling Videos Are Hilarious (At Least for Cyclists)





Hat tip: Linda Hampsten

EPA Announces Tougher Air Quality Standard for Sulfur Dioxide

Today, the EPA announced a new final rule, setting a one-hour air quality standard of 75 parts per billion of sulfur dioxide (SO2) to protect the health of sensitive segments of the population, including children, the elderly, and asthmatics and others suffering from respiratory ailments. EPA's news release is here. The full final rule is here.

It's the first time in 40 years that EPA has touched the SO2 standard. According to the agency's cost-benefit analysis (using alternative discount rates of 3% and 7%), which it is legally required to prepare but legally barred from considering in setting air quality standards, the new rule will provide health benefits of between $13 billion and $33 billion at an estimated cost in 2020 of $1.5 billion. The full Regulatory Impact Analysis for the rule is here.

Happy 71st Birthday Ian Hunter

Bespectacled front man of Mott the Hoople. Here he is singing "All the Young Dudes," supported by an all-star band featuring (among others) David Bowie, Brian May and Mike Ronson.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Return of a Wed Evening Ritual

Last year, on alternate Wednesdays Coach Steve, Woz and I often did training rides (usually, hill repeats) together. This evening, we regrouped for the first time this year with one addition: the new Mrs. Coach Steve (Shelley). Coach Steve is just getting over some health issues, and it was good to have him back on the bike.

Rate this ride: *****

David Grossman on Israel, Gaza, and the Flotilla Attack

David Grossman is my favorite Israeli novelist. His book See Under: Love (Picador 2002) is among the best books I have ever read. In today's Guardian he has an excellent op-ed (here) with which I am in complete agreement. Here's a sample paragraph:
How insecure, confused and panicky a country must be, to act as Israel acted! With a combination of excessive military force, and a fatal failure to anticipate the intensity of the reaction of those aboard the ship, it killed and wounded civilians, and did so – as if it were a band of pirates – outside its territorial waters. This assessment does not imply agreement with the motives, overt or hidden, and often malicious, of some participants in the Gaza flotilla. Not all its people are peace-loving humanitarians, and the declarations of some of them regarding the destruction of the state of Israel are criminal. But these facts are simply not relevant at the moment: such opinions do not deserve the death penalty.

Happy Birthday Edward Elgar (1857-1934)

One of England's finest composers. Of course, I couldn't resist showing him with a bicycle.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Mechanical Doping?

Here's a new one: allegations of "mechanical doping in pro cycling. Apparently, a motor can easily be hidden in a racing bike. Here's the video:



Who knows if the allegations are true, but I'd sure like the motorized bike for some hilly rides in Southern Indiana and Kentucky. Kind of makes Shimano's electronic Dura Ace seem like kids' stuff.

Hat tip: Coach Steve

On the Road Again

Early flight to Denver this morning for a meeting with co-authors, as we prepare to revise our Natural Resources Law (West) casebook for a new edition. Back home tomorrow afternoon.

Happy Birthday Justice John Marshall Harlan (1833-1911)

We could have used this great champion of civil rights on the court during the Bush Administration.