Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Arsenal Busy on Transfer Deadline Day

Already two new defenders, Santos and Mertesacker, in the squad, as expected. Looks like the Gunners will be adding two midfielders this evening, Mikel Arteta from Everton and Youssi Benayoun from Chelsea. No, they cannot replace Fabregas and Nasri in midfield, but they are two good players who will help temporarily to fix Arsenal's immediate problem. Now, if they could just prise Eden Hazard from Lille...

UPDATE: The transfer deadline has passed. No late surprises (unless Arsenal have another Arshavin surprise to announce the day after the transfer deadline). All in all, a good day's work I think. At least, the new signings should help the Gunners remain competitive for a Champion's League spot next season. I rate Arteta more highly than other Gunners' fans I've heard from; he certainly knows how to run an offense, and he's a terrific passer. Surrounded by better talent than he had at Everton, he will shine at the Emirates. Likewise, some Gooners seem less than thrilled by the signing of Mertesacker. True, he's not a conventional Wenger signing - he's big and not the fastest guy around. But neither were Tony Adams or Martin Keown, and how many Arsenal fans wouldn't want to see them back on the pitch. I'll stand by what I said earlier: assuming Mertesacker and Vermaelen both stay healthy, they will be one of the best defensive tandems, if not the best, in the league.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Poll Question

Asked with all seriousness: At the end of this upcoming NFL season, should the Colts be willing to trade Peyton Manning for the right to draft Andrew Luck?

Arsenal's Last-Minute Transfer Targets

The Gunners are in talks to bring Werder Bremen's German international defender Per Mertesacker to the Emirates. He would bring much needed height, experience, strength, and leadership to the back line. He and Vermaelen together, if both could stay healthy, would probably create the strongest defensive tandem in England.

Meanwhile, Arsenal have virtually completed the signing from Monaco of Korean international striker Park Chu-Young (who reportedly has an IQ of 150 to go along with his goal-scoring prowess).

Another likely signing is Fenerbahce left-back and Brazilian international Andres Santos. His insertion into the squad would allow Bacary Sagna to move back to his more accustomed and comfortable location on the right side of defense.

I expect all three of those players to be at the Emirates by tomorrow night. But Arsenal could still use some depth in midfield. They have reportedly targeted 19-year-old Borrusia Dortmund playmaker Mario Gotze. But Gotze's agent insists the player will be staying in Germany, at least for the time being.

UPDATE ON SOME ADDITION BY SUBTRACTION: Woeful defender Armand Traore, who reportedly was joking around after the 8-2 drubbing at Old Trafford, is on his way out of Arsenal to Queen's Park Rangers.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Posner on Size of Government vs. Amount of Government Spending

Over at the Becker-Posner Blog, Richard Posner observes an important distinction, which other analysts have missed: the size of the government and the level of government spending are two different issues.
The federal government is not too large in the sense of having too many employees or even too many functions. We need a large military, and we need regulatory agencies that are well staffed—regulatory laxity was a major contributing factor to the financial crisis of 2008 and the broader economic crisis that it triggered. What we can’t afford is not federal employees (including soldiers) but careening entitlements. But the administration of vast entitlement programs is not particularly costly. A small government can transfer immense amounts of wealth among its citizens. The problem is the entitlements themselves, not wasteful expenditures on administering them—indeed the Medicare program would probably be more efficient, and, specifically, less susceptible to fraudulent and other overbilling and approval of unnecessary or marginal medical treatments, if the Medicare administration had more staff. 

Coming This November...

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hopeless: Man U - Arsenal

I can't even bare to watch. This game was effectively over when Arsenal took the field without Thomas Vermaelen in the center of defense. Once again, Arsenal's defense looks like the kind of make-shift unit Wenger used to employ in nearly meaningless Carling Cup ties. But this is a Premier League match against the Champions. Meanwhile, Arsenal would be lucky to have any player on Man U's bench starting today. As for Arsenal's bench, sides in lower league divisions have players with more quality and experience.

Through injury and attrition, this is by far the weakest Arsenal side since long before Wenger took the helm. He can bemoan the injuries, the long foreseeable losses of Fabregas and Nasri, and the inflated prices that other teams are paying for top quality players on the transfer market. The present situation may be a worst-case scenario, but it's one that could have been avoided with more pro-active management.

I hasten to add, this is not an argument to get rid of Wenger. He is a great coach and team manager. But it is past time for him to give up his quixotic quest to compete against better manned teams based on an obsolete conception that football should be subject to some kind of moral economy. Arsenal can either pay the prevailing wages and be competitive or become a permanent fixture in the middle of the table, alongside clubs like Bolton and Everton.

UPDATE: Final Score: Man U 8 - Arsenal 2. My understanding is that the final score flattered the Gunners. Hopefully, this beat down will finally lift the scales from some eyes at the Emirates Stadium.

Adjusting to Cycling in Bloomington

I confess I'm having a hard time cycling both days of the weekend in hilly Bloomington. Even though I took it pretty easy riding with my son yesterday, I'm a bit sore this morning and finding it difficult to muster the energy to tackle the climbs two days in a row. The problem is, there aren't  many options around here for rides over 20 miles that do not involve one or more tough climbs. Consequently, I'm not spending as much time on the bike, or racking up as many miles, as I want/need to. If I were still in Indy, I'd be riding 150-180 miles per week. Here, I've yet to ride more than 60 or 70 miles in any one week. The only saving grace is that here, unlike in Indy, I'm able to commute to work on my bike; it's only a 20-minute ride each way (with about 260 feet of climbing), but it's nice being able to leave the car at home most days.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Best Ride in Bloomington So Far

Not because it was the fastest (it wasn't). Not because it was the hardest (it wasn't). It was the best ride so far because the weather was fabulous and, more importantly, my son was riding with me. We rode from our rental house across the east side of campus and north past Griffey Lake up (a nice 16-degree grade) to the house we are in the process of buying. Then, we checked his potential bike commute from that house to his school (Bloomington North), which also involved a nice little climb up Club House Dr. From the high school, we headed downtown to the farmer's market, before riding back to our rental house at Sare and Rogers.

We took it pretty easy for most of the 21-mile ride, but we still got in almost 1700 feet of climbing and my training stress score was 121 for 95 minutes of pedaling.

Tomorrow, I hope to get up to Indy to ride with the Wilkes/Raynor group.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Compensation Does Not Necessarily Turn a Kaldor-Hicks Improvement into a Pareto Improvement

I was just reading a paper that made the surprisingly common mistake of arguing that the purpose or effect of compensation (e.g., for governmental takings of property) is to turn an alleged Kaldor-Hicks improvement into a Pareto improvement. The argument is as erroneous as it is common. At best, compensation can turn an alleged Kaldor-Hicks (or "potential Pareto") into a more likely Pareto improvement.

Compensation, by itself, cannot achieve the strict Pareto requirements because, except in voluntary market transactions (a small subset of all transactions), the level of compensation is not based on losers' subjective valuations of their losses. In many cases, compensation is determined by policy-makers or judges, reflecting their own subjective sense of supposedly objective losses. Absent the ability to make interpersonal utility comparisons, non-market compensation cannot turn a Kaldor-Hicks improvement into a Pareto improvement, except accidentally.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Team Liquigas Takes No Prisoners at the Vuelta

A sensational performance by the Italian team in today's stage of the Vuelta de Espana. After chasing down a four-man breakaway on the descent following the last climb of the day, four Liquigas riders, including stage winner Peter Sagan and G.C.-contender Vincenzo Nibali, created a break of their own (along with one rider from Movistar). They never getting more than a 10-second advantage over the hard-chasing peloton, but as the road flattened out in the last few kilometers, a crosswind prevented the peloton from closing the gap. Sagan took the stage win. Defending-champion Nibali moved up to third in the general classification.

I cannot remember the last time I saw a team execute a late break so brilliantly. Heck, I can't remember ever seeing a breakaway (let alone one that survived to win the stage) with four of five riders from a single team. Really brilliant stuff.

Update on Cole and Grossman, Principles of Law and Economics (2d Ed.)

A 200-page Teacher's Manual and a disk containing PowerPoint slides for each chapter are now available for professors adopting the new edition of the book, published by Kluwer/Aspen.

Climate Cycles and Civil War

Interesting piece today at NatureNews (here) reporting on a study by Princeton economist Solomon Hsiang and colleagues, who examined the link between El Niño events and civil conflicts.
The team found that the risk of annual civil conflict doubles, from 3% to 6%, in countries of the ENSO-affected, or 'teleconnected', group during El Niño years relative to La Niña years. In many cases, conflicts that might have broken out anyway may have occurred earlier owing to the effects of El Niño, Hsiang suggests.
Of course correlation is not causation, but the high level of correlation (reflected in the doubling of the risk of civil conflict) is quite impressive.

This map accompanies the Nature article:

Hsiang et al. NatureCountries where the majority of the population lives in areas that become much warmer in El Niño years (red) are more likely to experience wars than those where temperatures are less affacted (blue).

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Vuelta and the US Pro Cycling Championship

As it's my first week teaching in Bloomington, I'm finding it difficult to keep up with the two big bike races going on right now, the Vuelta a Espana and the US Pro Cycling Championships in Colorado. I've seen a bit of the racing, but not enough. I saw Levi win a stage of the USPCC yesterday; and it was great to see "Big (and old) George" win today's stage into Aspen. Young Teejay van Garderen, who took the leader's jersey today, looks like the real deal. I wonder which team is going to sign him next year, after HTC closes up shop.

I'm not sure what happened in Spain today. Maybe I'll spy a bit of the replay later this evening.

Udinese 1 - Arsenal 2

Arsenal showed their stuff today, qualifying for the Champion's League away at Udinese 2-1 (3-1 on aggregate). The Gunners were dominant in the second half, scoring two very good goals. The first, a simple tap in by Van Persie, was created by the scintillating Gervinho. The second came from nice combination play between Walcott and Sagna. The later laid a perfect through ball at Walcott's feet, which sent the later clear on goal. Walcott took his chance calmly, slotting the ball past the exposed Udinese goalkeeper.

In between the two Arsenal goals, a dubious penalty was given against Thomas Vermaelen, but Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny made a fine save on DiNatali's shot, tipping it up and over the crossbar.

All in all, a fine display from an under-pressure Arsenal side, who showed that they remain a talented side to be contended with even after the departure of two of their best players. Today's qualifying match was immensely important to the entire Gunners organization, which would have lost as much money as they received from Man City for Nasri, had they failed to advance to the group stage of the Champion's League.

Next up: Man U in the League.

Dawkins on Perry and the Dangers of Scientific Illiteracy in Politics

Richard Dawkins has a wonderful column in today's Washington Post (here). I especially like his suggestion that the strength of a scientific theory can be measured as a ratio of the number of facts about the world it explains divided by the number (and, I would add, size and scope*) of assumptions required to explain those facts. "A theory that assumes most of what it is trying to explain is a bad theory." Notable examples of such "bad theories" are creationism and intelligent design.

By the way, Dawkins' definition of "bad theory" should also have application in the social sciences. For example, the "findings" of economic studies, especially those based on formal models, too often depend entirely on initial assumptions.

The entire column is both instructive and entertaining.

*Merely assessing the ratio of number of assumptions per number of facts explained would actually seem to favor the God hypothesis. After all, it requires only a single assumption: a self-motivating, omnipotent God. And it can explain (if only poorly) every fact in existence. Dawkins makes clear in his op-ed, however, that it is not just the number of assumptions that matters, but their size, scope and plausibility, given facts we already know.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Was Arsene Right?

Quoted at (here):
"Imagine the worst situation - we lose Fabregas and Nasri. You cannot convince people you are ambitious after that," he told reporters on the club's Malaysian tour.

"You cannot pretend you are a big club. A big club holds onto its big players and gives a message out to all the other big clubs that they just cannot come in and take [players] away from you. We worked very hard with these players for years to develop them and now it's time for us to keep them together."
That was a month or so ago. Nasri and Fabregas are now gone. Is Arsenal still a "big" and "ambitious" club?

Arsenal Complete Sale of Nasri to Man City

The Guardian is reporting (here) that the sale has been made for more than 22 million pounds (a good piece of business for Arsenal, who bought Nasri a few years ago for under 16 million. The move has long been expected, despite recent reports that negotiations had stalled. Nasri, who played well in Arsenal's 2-0 loss at home to Liverpool this past weekend, will now travel to Man City shortly for a physical and to negotiate personal terms.

Although expected, Nasri's move is yet another blow to an Arsenal side that is already undermanned and under-experienced. A loss at Udinese this week could see Arsenal fail to qualify, for the first time, for the Champion's League, resulting in a huge loss of revenue. Regardless of what happens in Italy, it's important for Arsenal fans to support the team and Arsene Wenger (even as we call for him to loosen the purse strings). This year's squad is not, and will not be, championship quality. Arsenal are once again, although unintentionally this time (due to the departures of Fabregas and Nasri), in a rebuilding phase, as when Fabregas first took up the mantle after the "Invincibles" team was disbanded. A top-four finish in the Premiership would be a great achievement.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

An Appreciation of Jon Huntsman

Instead of taking the path of least resistance to the GOP presidential nomination and pandering to the worst fears and prejudices of the Republican base, Jon Hunstman is acting like a scientifically literate grown-up, who understands that the federal government is not inherently evil, just sometimes overreaching, and who treats opposition politicians, including his former boss President Obama, with respect.

Such an approach virtually ensures that Huntsman  will not win the Republican nomination. But given his scant name recognition and (relatively) limited resources, that was unlikely in any case (at least this time around). Nevertheless, the fact-based and principled (non-hypocritical) nature of his campaign - features that distinguish his campaign from those of all the other Republican nominees, including Mitt Romney - should give at least a thread of hope to moderates who believe that the GOP has been hijacked by radical fringe groups and anti-libertarian social-conservatives.

I find it shocking that Huntsman stands out from his Republican colleagues in acknowledging basic scientific understandings of evolution and how the climate system functions, not because he is in fact accepting of science but because acceptance of science should not be an especially noteworthy or outstanding attribute of any educated person in the 21st century. And yet, in a Republican field filled with "wingnuts" (Bachmann, Gingrich, Santorum, Cain, Paul, Perry) and hypocrits (Romney and Pawlenty), there is something undeniably contrarian, even brave, in Huntsman's respectful, moderate, pro-science positions.    

Ironically, the more Huntsman distances himself from his presidential rivals, the most alienated fringes of the Republican electorate, and hence from the Republican nomination, the more I could see myself voting for the man, including in a contest against the "Great Conciliator" Barak Obama. But then, I have a strong preference  for the rare politicians who buck the party line, valuing truth and principle above electoral success. Naively, I used to believe Obama was like that. Now, perhaps naively, I sense that Jon Huntsman is like that. At least relative to the other Republican presidential candidates, he is.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

From Bad to Worse At the Emirates

Arsenal's starting line-up today at the Emirates for the match against Liverpool resembled the kind of second-best 11 Wenger would usually pick for a Carling Cup match, such is the shortage, through sales, loans, and injuries, of available bodies. Add to that an early injury to central defender Laurent Koscielny (exposing even more the lack of depth in Wenger's squad), and Arsenal's line-up today included at least four names that many neutral fans would never have heard before, including Frimpong, Jenkinson, Miquel, and Lansbury. The youngsters did their level best. Frimpong in particular made a few impressive plays and runs, but he was a bit too energetic, diving in on a couple of bad tackles to earn the red card he received in the middle of the second half.

Liverpool won for the first time ever at the Emirates, 2-0. The first goal was a fluke, as Miquel's attempted clearance struck Ramsey and bounded over the goalkeeper into the net. That goal should not have counted anyway, as the Liverpool player, who was the target of the pass Miquel attempted to clear was plainly in an offside position. Liverpool's second goal was, however, well earned, and exposed the frailty of the Arsenal back-line.

Gunners fans cannot have too many complaints about the way the youngsters performed today (Frimpong's injudicious tackles aside). And Thomas Vermaelen was outstanding leading the defense - he really does deserve the captain's armband as much or more than Van Persie. What we can and should complain about, however, are poor performances from more experienced Arsenal players, including most notably Walcott and Arshavin. Walcott plainly is not improving, and Arshavin has past his sell-by date. The only true offensive threat from Arsenal today came from Samir Nasri, who quite likely was playing his last game in an Arsenal uniform.

I hate to keep beating a dying horse, but unless Wenger signs some more talent before the transfer window  closes at the end of this month, Arsenal will struggle to keep a place in the top four to qualify for the Champion's League. The good news (or at least, a break from the bad news) is that Wilshire's return to the starting line-up is imminent.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Is A "Post-Partisan" President Doomed to Fail?

Preface: This post represents a first, very rough approach to modeling "post-partisanship" as a governing strategy (as opposed to a campaign strategy, where it apparently can be effective, at least once). I presume the following definition of "post-partisanship:" consistent, good-faith efforts to effectuate superior public policies regardless of the political distribution of the gains and losses. I also presume (without any systematic evidence) that post-partisanship is possible. These presumptions may not hold in the real world, where "post-partisanship" tends to be ill-defined (if it is defined at all) and, depending on how it is defined, it may not even be possible. The model does not presume that President Obama (or anyone else) really is "post-partisan," however defined. Moreover, the model excludes a third important player, which is the president's own party in Congress. Including that third player would greatly complicate the model because the interests of presidential-party senators and representatives are not identical to those of the president. However, their existence explains why a president can sometimes accomplish his or her policy goals despite the opposition party's equilibrium strategy of total noncooperation.

A simple game-theoretic model suggests that post-partisanship cannot succeed as a governing (as opposed to campaign) strategy. As soon as a new president pledges to bridge the partisan divide, the strategy of the opposition becomes obvious: do not cooperate, at all. That opposition strategy effectively places the president in a no-win situation, in which he can really only minimize political costs. If the president maintains a post-partisan attitude, the opposition stands to gain extra concessions while the president appears weak and conciliatory. If the president, instead, deviates from his post-partisan stance, e.g., by playing tit-for-tat, his campaign promise is broken and he appears as a liar and a partisan. The only way a "post-partisan" president can succeed is if the opposition cooperates, which would (with rare exceptions*) be a strategic mistake. The payoff matrix for the game would look something like this:

The payoffs reflect expected political benefits or costs stemming from the combined behaviors of both players. In the top, left-hand quadrant, the president gains more than the opposition when both sides cooperate because  it supports the president's claim of post-partisanship and shows it can be effective. The opposition stands to gain much more than the president, however, from non-cooperating, as indicated in the upper, right-hand quadrant, where the president's (presumed) efforts at post-partisanship result in greater concessions to the opposition, which creates the impression that the president is weak and overly conciliatory. If the president, instead, governs from a less compromising, uncooperative position, then his or her campaign promise of post-partisanship is exposed as a lie. In that case, even if the opposition cooperates, according to both bottom quadrants, the president suffers net political costs as an exposed partisan liar. To avoid those costs, the dominant strategy for the president is to cooperate. More importantly, the payoff matrix indicates that the president's precommitment to "post-partisanship" reduces his strategic options for negotiating. But for his or her precommitment to rise above the partisan fray, the president would have more strategic options for negotiating with the opposition, options that could, at least potentially, increase the total payoffs to cooperation relative to the payoffs for noncooperation.

If this model is basically correct, why would a president ever embrace post-partisanship as a governing strategy in the first place? Working backwards from the foreseeable payoffs, no president should adopt such an approach. This, however, is where the distinction, and the relationship, between post-partisanship as a governing strategy and post-partisanship as a campaign strategy becomes important. A candidate might  understand very well that a governing strategy of post-partisanship is doomed to fail, and yet commit herself to post-partisanship as a campaign strategy, knowing that it can be effective (at least the first time around). Presidential candidates might be willing to accept the governing bind created by adopting the mantel of post-partisanship for the perceived boost in prospects for her initial election. After all, the campaign game is not the same as the governing game. Nevertheless, the analysis here suggests that the way the campaign game is played can affect the way the governing game is structured.

*One plausible exception to the opposition's general strategy of noncooperation would be in the unlikely event that the president embraced one of its own fundamental policy preferences (e.g., if Obama embraced tax cuts). In that case (and perhaps only that case), the net gains from cooperation might exceed the net gains from noncooperation.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

"Small Government" Made the Tragedy at the Indiana State Fair More Likely

An article in today's Indianapolis Star (here) observes that, in contrast to many other states and cities, neither the State of Indiana nor the City of Indianapolis regulates or inspects concert stages in any way because they are not considered "structures," no matter how large and heavy they are.

In other cities like Chicago, whoever constructs a concert stage must provide the city with detailed calculations, including calculations relating to potential stresses from wind gusts of up to 90 mph, before the stage is constructed. In more libertarian Indiana, we have been (at least to now) willing to put up with an admittedly small risk of numerous deaths and injuries, rather than raise the costs of entertainment on the supposition (similar to former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan's supposition that the financial markets would regulate themselves) that providers of concert facilities would take adequate precautions against what in fact happened in Indianapolis this past week. Of course, concert stage providers are subject to post hoc lawsuits; if a court determines that they failed to take "reasonable" precautions, they may be financially liable to those who were killed or injured - small comfort for those who lost loved ones in the tragedy, but a potentially valuable corrective for future concert-goers.

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, who responded emotionally to the tragedy, is a libertarian, who tends to think that more government inevitably is worse government. I wonder how he'll respond to legislative efforts that will surely be forthcoming to create a regulatory and inspection regime for concert venues in Indiana. Such regimes inevitably restrict market freedom, raise costs of doing business, and don't always lead to better outcomes. On the other hand, had such a regime been in place, it is significantly less likely (although the probability always remains above zero) that five people would have been killed and dozens more injured. What's the aggregate value of those lost lives and injuries, compared to the "regulatory burden" imposed on industry? That's not a question a dedicated libertarian would even ask. However, I'm a social-welfare consequentialist (which is hardly inconsistent with a large amount of liberty), rather than a strict libertarian.

What about Mitch Daniels? Well, he's certainly more of a libertarian than am I, but there seem to be limits to his libertarianism. Witness another headline in today's Indianapolis Star (here), with the title, "Governor sees hope for state smoking ban."

Monday, August 15, 2011

How Brilliant Is Sergio Aguero?

It's just one game and against newly promoted Swansea, but in just a half hour on the pitch, Manchester City's new striker scored twice - one a poacher's goal, the other a brilliant strike from distance - and added a superb assist in Man City's 4-0 victory. Already in possession of a deep and power-packed squad, I don't know why Roberto Mancini is so determined to coax Arsenal's Samir Nasri to City, unless it is the old Chelsea ploy of signing players just to weaken your opponents.

Fabregas Era Officially Over at Arsenal

The long-expected transfer to Barcelona is complete. Fabregas, who joined Arsenal at age 16, grew to become one of the world's best offensive midfielders. Unable, despite his best efforts, to lead the Gunners to any trophies during the last 6 years, Fabregas has now returned to a club whose only problem with silverware is finding enough cabinet space for all their trophies. The challenge for Fabregas now is to break into Pep Guardiola's top 11, which already features two of the world's best offensive midfielders in Xavi and Iniesta. Fab would not take much satisfaction in winning championships as a 35-miillion Euro bench-warmer.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Arsenal Are Becoming a "Feeder" Club

Today, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is expressing his concern (here) that the Gunners have become a "feeder" club for richer sides, as he is about to lose Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, two players who are entering their footballing prime, to Barcelona and Manchester City, respectively.

Wenger should appreciate that this is what happens when you don't win trophies for five years running. When they were winning, everyone wanted to play for the Gunners. But, as a general rule of all team sports, talent flees less successful clubs for more successful clubs. Another rule is that talent goes to the highest bidder; and Arsenal have not been willing to compete with other teams on salary structure. We can applaud Wenger's resistance to paying the kind of inflated salaries that have put other clubs deep into debt, but the best players who can earn millions more at Man City or Chelsea are not likely to come to Arsenal just because they admire Wenger's financial responsibility.

If I were Arsene Wenger, I'd be less concerned about the symptom of losing players to richer clubs and more concerned about the root cause of that symptom: failure to win trophies.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Newcastle 0 - Arsenal 0

In last year's fixture on Tyneside, Arsenal jumped out to a commanding lead, only to give it all back in a match that ended 4-4. No such goal explosions today, as the Gunners failed to find a cutting edge in the final third of the field. The game ended 0-0. The good news, of course, is that Arsenal's much maligned defense did not concede a goal. Arsenal's new starlet Gervinho started the match but was sent off for a second bookable offense after diving in the penalty area - a less than auspicious Premier League debut. Fabregas and Nasri, both of whom are likely to move in the next few days (Fabregas to Barca and Nasri to Man City), did not travel to Newcastle for the match. U

All and all, a humdrum start to a season of low expectations for the Gunners. Unless some steel is added to the side before the transfer-window closes, Arsenal fans will not be griping about the lack of trophies this season; they will be concerned with falling out of the top four (and Champion's League qualification) to the middle of the table.

Saturday Ride

I left Bloomington at 6:30 am to get to an 8 am ride in Indy with the Wilkes/Raynor group (sans Raynor, who apparently is in Iceland, really). It was great to see the guys after the layoff with the bad knee and the move to B'ton. It was an absolutely gorgeous day for a ride: bright sunshine, moderate temperature, low humidity, and almost no wind (at least for the first half of the ride). And at 54 miles it was more than double the length of my longest ride during the last two months. Although, to be fair, the 20-22-mile rides I've been doing in the Bloomington hills during the last couple of weeks probably equal a 30-35-mile ride on the flatter roads around Indy. On the other hand, I haven't been averaging 20 mph on rides around Bloomington.

Special thanks are in order to Mark Dewart, who pulled me along through much of the ride, and came back to get me on a few occasions when I dropped off the pace, and to Bill Bahret, who mapped a great route for us out to Jamestown and back.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Fallacious Republican Attacks on the EPA

Dan Farber has an excellent post at Legal Planet (here) explaining (a) why the current House of Representatives is the most anti-environmental-protection ever and (b) how the anti-EPA views of many House Republicans are faith-based, rather than fact-based. The fact of the matter is that environmental regulation in general has very little impact either on overall levels of economic growth or jobs. The only saving grace is that none of the House bills Dan mentions seems likely to become law any time soon.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Business as Usual at Arsenal

Arsenal completed its second major signing of the off-season yesterday, just one week before the new season begins, and, surprise, surprise, it's another offensive player: young Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is moving to the Gunners from Southampton for the highest fee ever paid to a Championship side (and a price Man.U. considered too high). He is being touted as potentially another Theo Walcott, which I believe means that he is very fast and has the potential to become potentially great, as Theo has yet to fulfill his own potential. Oxlade-Chamberlein's arrival should have little bearing on the upcoming Premiership season; he is a signing for the future.

Still gaping with less than three weeks to go before the transfer window closes is the hole in Arsenal's defense, which has appeared every bit as fragile and porous during this pre-season as it was during Arsenal's collapse last season. Rumors persist about the addition of Gary Cahill or Christopher Samba to partner with Thomas Vermaelen in the center of defense. More interestingly, the press has latched on to a possible move for Werder Bremen's German international Per Mertesacker. Signing Mertesacker would alter my evaluation of this transfer season from mediocre to exceptional.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Obama Folds with a Strong Hand

So, the deal is another temporary fix to the debt ceiling problem with spending cuts and no commitment by Republicans on the revenue side. I give the president credit for averting the crisis, which he insisted all along (in what was probably a strategic error) was his top priority. His commitment to that goal allowed Republicans to drive a very hard bargain. They understood - rightly, as it turned out - that Obama would not allow his desire for a long-term deal involving both spending cuts and tax increases to stand in the way of virtually any deal that would avert immediate default. He blinked before they did, as he has on virtually every occasion in the past. His nickname should be "The Capitulator."

To be fair, averting default was absolutely critical, but the president proved himself, once again, a poor match for the Republicans, whose ideological zeal (whether real or faux) and apparent willingness to go to the brink - "These Tea Party guys are crazy. They'll really do it!" - proved a far more effective strategy than Obama's approach of pragmatic conciliation.