Thursday, March 31, 2011

March Cycling Totals

Nothing to write home about: 253.5 miles on just 14 rides. I must start picking up the pace.

Year to date: 775.2 miles.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

My First Nebo Ridge Training Ride of 2011

Last year, I stopped riding/racing at Nebo Ridge on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I felt that the rides had gotten too crowded, too fast, and too squirrely. I heard something similar about the first week of Nebo rides last week, when unseasonably good weather brought out upwards of 80 riders. Today was colder (with temps in the mid-40s), but dry, and my buddies talked me into coming out. The first six or eight miles heading out were fast but well-mannered.

As usual, the fireworks started after we crossed Hwy. 32. Riders were all over the road, trying to gain position in order to avoid "stretching the elastic" on the first set of 90 degree turns. I was keeping up pretty well, until a car came up from behind with horn blaring, while another car seemed to be approaching in the opposite lane. That was my signal to drop out of the group, and start my own ride back. Fortunately, I connected with a couple friends, Roger and Scott, and we rode in most of the way together. All in all, I enjoyed the ride and got a good workout, but I got a bit chilly on the way in.

I doubt I'll do a lot of Nebo rides this year, but it was fun seeing a lot of friends I hadn't seen in several months. Although I'm no longer a member of the Nebo Ridge team or club, its a great group of people.

Tomorrow, hill repeats are on the menu, if I can get home from a social function at school in time.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Economists on the Budget Deficit

Recently, a group of 10 former Chairs of the President's Council of Economic Advisers (from both parties) signed an open letter (here) calling on President Obama and Congress to give "prompt consideration" to recommendations (here) the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (NCFRR), chaired by Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles. Eleven of the 18 Commissioners voted in favor of the recommendations, but they have received almost no attention from either the White House or Congress. The former CEA Chairs do not necessarily agree with each and every recommendation by the NCFRR, but they are promoting them out of concern over the "unsustainable long-run budget outlook" that "is a growing threat to our well-being."

Today, another former Chair of the CEA, Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, explained in no uncertain terms why he did not sign on to the group letter (here). In his view, the Commission's recommendations, if adopted, would constitute a "near suicide-pact" for the US economy. They would slow still sluggish economic growth and diminish tax revenues, while improving the deficit picture hardly at all.

What would Stiglitz do instead? He would increase jot-stimulating spending, especially on much-needed infrastructure improvements, raise marginal tax rates for the highest earners, who are the only taxpayers to have prospered during the past two decades, eliminate defense projects that the Defense Department does not need or want, and cut "corporate welfare" (the only form of welfare the Republican majority in Congress seems intent on maintaining).

My guess is that most Keynsians (like me) will stand with Stiglitz. Anti-Keynsians will likely side with the other former CEA Chairs, including those from the Bush Administration who are partly responsible for exploding the budget deficit and turning a blind eye to malfeasance in the financial sector.

Krugman on the Cronon Affair

In today's New York Times (here)Paul Krugman addresses the despicable Republican witch hunt against University of Wisconsin Professor William Cronon, about which I previously blogged (here). More than anything else, I was pleased to find that Professor Krugman shares my extremely high opinion of Professor Cronon's book, Nature's Metropolis.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Boonen Takes Field Sprint in Gent-Wevelgem

Tom Boonen showed that he has reattained top form by holding off Danieli Bennati and Tyler Farrar to take the field sprint in today's Gent-Wevelgem race. No doubt, Boonen is looking forward to Paris-Roubaix in a couple weeks' time. He may the one guy capable of sticking to Fabian Cancellara's wheel on the pave of Arenberg. You can see the video replay of his sprint from earlier today here (with Flemish commentary).

When Spartacus Attacks...

no one can hold his wheel. Here's the attack on video from yesterday's E3 Prijs Vlaanderen. What the video does not show is that the other riders did not see Cancellara again until the podium. It's also worth noting that before Cancellara buried the peloton, he suffered two punctured tires and another mechanical that forced a bike change. Each time, he had to expend energy to chase back up to the group.



In the wake of Cancellara's dominating victory, Team Garmin-Cervelo manager Jonathan Vaughters explains (here) the need for his team, which is built for the Spring classics, to change tactics for next week's Tour of Flanders: they will have to focus their entire race on marking a single rider, which is perhaps the ultimate compliment to Cancellara.

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Few Interesting Papers I Read Today

It was a hectic first week back from Spring Break, but I had time to read a few of the several interesting articles that have been stacking up on my desk as of late.

R.E. Kenward et al., "Identifying governance strategies that effectively support ecosystem services, resources sustainability, and biodiversity," PNAS Early Edition (2011).
Conservation scientists, national governments, and international conservation groups seek to devise, and implement, governance strategies that mitigate human impact on the environment. However, few studies to date have systematically investigated the performance of different systems of governance in achieving successful conservation outcomes. Here, we use a newly-developed analytic framework to conduct analyses of a suite of case studies, linking different governance strategies to standardized scores for delivering ecosystem services, achieving sustainable use of natural resources, and conserving biodiversity, at both local and international levels. Our results: (i) confirm the benefits of adaptive management; and (ii) reveal strong associations for the role of leadership. Our work provides a critical step toward implementing empirically justified governance strategies that are capable of improving the management of human-altered environments, with benefits for both biodiversity and people.
Most interestingly, neither private ownership nor state ownership showed significant associations in any of the models.

Scott E. Masten and Jens Prufer, "On the Evolution of Collective Enforcement Institutions: Communities and Courts," TILEC Discussion Paper, DP 2011-017 (March 2011).
Impersonal exchange has been a major driver of economic development. But transactors with no stake in maintaining an ongoing relationship have little incentive to honor deals. Therefore, all economies have developed institutions to support honest trade and realize the gains of impersonal exchange. We analyze the relative capacities of communities (or social networks) and courts to secure cooperation among heterogeneous, impersonal transactors. Our main finding is that communities and courts are complements: They support cooperation in different types of transactions. We apply our results to the rise and fall of a medieval enforcement institution, the Law Merchant, concluding that progressive reductions in the risks and costs of transportation over long distances, driven in part by improvements in shipbuilding methods, increased first the value and then the composition of long-distance trade in ways that initially favored and later undermined this institution.
Among other interesting tidbits I learned from this paper was that states, including England, initially were reluctant to take over the task of contract enforcement as trading expanded beyond the market towns where the  (highly variable) Law Merchant applied.

John E. Parsons and Luca Taschini, "Stocks and Shocks: A Clarification in the Debate Over Price vs. Quantity Controls for Greenhouse Gases," CEEPR, 11-002 (Mar. 2011).
We construct two simple examples that help to clarify the role of a key assumption in the analysis of price or quantity controls of greenhouse gases in the presence of uncertain costs. Traditionally much has been made of the fact that greenhouse gases are a stock pollutant, and that therefore the marginal benefit curve must be relatively flat. This fact is said to establish the preference of a price control over a quantity control. The stock pollutant argument is considered dispositive, so that the preference for price controls is categorical. We show that this argument can only be true if the uncertainty about cost is a special form: all shocks are transitory. We show that in the case of permanent shocks, the traditional comparison of marginal benefits vs. marginal costs is mis-measured. The choice between quantity and price controls becomes ambiguous again and depends upon a more difficult measurement of marginal costs and benefits. The simplicity of the examples and the solutions is a major element of the contribution here. The examples are readily accessible and the comparison of results under the alternative assumptions of transitory and permanent shocks is stark.
Simply put, those who prefer carbon taxes over cap-and-trade simply based on the fact the climate change is a "stock" problem are jumping the gun.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Zakaria on US and International Intervention in Libya

Fareed Zakaria has a very interesting and, I think, insightful take (here) on the challenges and strategic implications of the US role in the Libyan civil war. I agree with him that the Obama Administration's multilateral approach, especially the support of the Arab League, is a very important development. I also share his concern that the limited goal of the military intervention - humanitarian protection of Libya's citizens against their own brutal dictator - does not necessarily imply the regime change that President Obama says that he wants. The big question is whether the military intervention in Libya will ultimately be accomplish either aim.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

William Cronon on Wisconsin's Progressive History and Reactionary Governor

William Cronon is a great environmental historian and writer (and a professor at the University of Wisconsin). In fact, he is among my very favorite non-fiction writers regardless of field. In today's New York Times (here), he has a wonderful op-ed about Wisconsin's history of progressive government, the shift in party domination from Republicans to Democrats in the wake of Senator Joseph McCarthy's lunacy, and what current Governor Scott Walker has in common with Senator McCarthy.

For those who enjoy reading history, I recommend most highly two of Cronon's wonderful books: Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England (Hill and Wang 2003) and Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West (W.W. Norton 1992).

UPDATE: Apparently, Cronon has now become a target of Republican leaders in the State of Wisconsin, who have filed a claim to obtain all of his e-mails referencing various political issues since the start of this year under Wisconsin's open records law (see here). Not only is this a deplorable act and an abuse of the state's open records law, it is a McCarthy-style tactic that confirms the associations Cronon drew in his New York Times op-ed.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Ignorance is Not Bliss. It is Shameful and Dangerous.

Thomas Jefferson believed that an educated electorate was the key to successful democratic government. He wrote:
"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." On the other hand, "whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government; that, whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them right." (quoted in Saul K. Padover, Thomas Jefferson on Democracy. New York: Appleton-Century Co., 1939, pp. 88-9).
According to this article in Newsweek, Jefferson would despair for the state of our democracy. Unfortunately, ignorance seems to have developed its own political interest group, thanks to what we might call "ignorance entrepreneurs," who seek power by denigrating education and enlightenment.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sunday Ride

Just what I needed after another difficult week: a 2-hour Wilkes/Raynor group ride down to Pittsboro and back. Thanks to David, Karl, Jonas, Brian R., and Ken. Based on my computer data, PerfPro tells me that "more aerobic work may be needed," which is undeniably true. It's time to start ramping up the miles and the intervals.

The Market for Philosophy

Over at Crooked Timber (here), Ingryd Robbins has an interesting post on efforts to close down Philosophy departments at various universities in the UK. This is part of a disturbing trend I have posted about previously (see here). Here is one very good paragraph from Robbins' post:
I think the tendencies are clear. If you are teaching/doing research in a field/discipline that can not easily show (quantitatively, please!) to policy makers & bureaucrats that you will make a significant positive contribute to economic growth, your very existence is at stake. Never mind that you’re opening up minds, teaching logic or the arts, passing on history to the next generations. Either someone on the market should be willing to pay for what you’re doing, or else you are at mercy of the benevolence of your government. The University as a public good? That’s an old fashioned idea from premodern times, obviously.

West Brom 2 - Arsenal 2

Yet another match I was unable to view live, but Arsenal again stumbled in their quest to catch Man U at the top of the Premier League table. They played more like a team trying to avoid the drop, than one contending for a title, especially on defense. And this time, they had no referee's decision to blame for anything. Instead, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger blamed the pitch (see here). Sounds like he's beginning to run low in the excuse department. Next thing you know, he'll be blaming my friend Andy, who became an Arsenal fan just after they won their last piece of silverware (I believe he also became a Chicago Cubs fan in 1909).

Arsenal are now 5 points adrift of Man U in the title hunt, albeit with a game in hand. My sense is that Man U's lead is pretty safe.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

What I'm Reading Now

Ken Binmore, Rational Decisions (Princeton 2008). A wide-ranging exploration of standard theories of choice and belief under risk and uncertainty. Binmore argues, in a way accessible to readers who are not mathematically inclined, that the standard Bayesian approach to knowledge is inadequate; and he offers an extension to that theory based on what he calls "muddled strategies" in strategic interactions. Fascinating stuff.





Saul Bellow, Herzog (Viking 1964). I am re-reading this epistolary novel, one of the great achievements in 20th-century American literature. That I am re-reading Bellow, rather than reading something new, should not be taken as a commentary on the state of American literature today. I just had a hankering for Bellow. Enough said.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

EPA Publishes Proposed Rule on Mercury Emissions from Coal-Fired Power Plants

EPA has finally gotten around to seriously regulating toxic mercury emissions (as well as other toxins) from coal-fired power plants. The announcement is here. A fact sheet on the proposed rule is here. The full proposed rule is here.

Mercury is of special concern because exposure (mainly through consumption of contaminated fish) can cause damage to nervous system development in fetuses, infants, and young children. Other toxins to be regulated under the rule include arsenic, nickel and chromium, all of which are known carcinogens. The rule will impose emissions standards (under section 112 of the Clean Air Act), which will effect 1,350  power plants nationwide. It aims to reduce their mercury emissions by 91%.

The rule, which will take effect (unless withdrawn or amended) after a 60-day public-comment period, is expected to avoid (by 2016) between 6,800 and 17,000 premature deaths, 4,500 cases of chronic bronchitis, 11,000 nonfatal heart attacks, 12,200 hospital visits, 11,000 cases of acute bronchitis, 850,000 missed work days, and 120,000 cases of aggravated asthma.

Industry is already complaining about the gross costs of the rule, which could amount to $10 billion per year (see here). But, according to the proposed rule's Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) (here), it will yield annualized net benefits (in 2007 dollars) ranging from $42 billion to $120 billion (using a 7% discount rate), or $48 billion to $130 billion (using a 3% discount rate), not including several difficult-to-quantify benefits. The benefits of the rule outweigh the costs, according to EPA's estimates, by a factor of 13-to-1 (using a 3% discount rate) or 5-to-1 (using the 7% discount rate).

If the RIA is anywhere close to accurate, this rule is a no-brainer. Of course, that won't stop the anti-brainers in Congress from trying to stop it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ezra Klein Eviscerates the ex-Republicrat from Indiana, Evan Bayh

Here. Bayh's only real knack as a politician was his ability to gain election (admittedly a very important quality in a politician). Unlike his vastly more imaginative and commendable father, he never showed any aptitude either as a policy maker or a political leader.

House Energy Committee Votes Against Climate Science

Today, the House Energy Committee voted 31-3 to send H.R. 910 to the House floor for a vote. The bill would repeal the Environmental Protection Agency's finding that climate change endangers public health and the environment under the Clean Air Act, thereby preventing the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and other major sources. All Republicans on the committee and three Democrats voted in favor of the legislation. Nearly all of the Republicans on the Committee are on the record as "climate deniers" and have publicly attacked climate scientists.

It is, of course, a vanishingly small possibility that climate deniers are correct about anthropogenic climate change. Ironically, the bill they voted for today has about the same chance of ever becoming law. To do so, it must be enacted by the Republican-controlled House (which is probable), the Democrat-controlled Senate (which is highly unlikely), and then either signed into law by the President (which is virtually inconceivable, although with President Obama's recent record on climate change, one begins to wonder) or enacted over his veto by a 2/3 majority of Congress (which is also inconceivable).

However, even if everyone believes the bill is going nowhere, we should beware of drawing facile conclusions about the actual beliefs and intent of House Republicans concerning climate science and policy. Legislators may simply be pandering to their base. Even if that's true, however, their willful anti-scientism and ignorance of facts is both appalling and deplorable.

Monday, March 14, 2011

James Surowiecki Explains that NFL Owners Are Just Plain Greedy

Of course, so are the players. But in this case, Surowiecki explains, justice is entirely on the players' side. The  excellent article is ((here) in the current issue of The New Yorker.

Hat tip: The  Browser.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sunday Ride

It was great to be back on the bike, after the travails of this past week. My plane from Phoenix touched down just before 1 am last night. About 10 hours later, I was riding up Lafayette Road to meet the group at Fishback Academy. It was cold (mid-30s), and I didn't know what the group had in mind for the ride. Fortunately, nearly all of the seven hearty souls who showed up had ridden hard the day before, and were in the mood for a conversational ride up to our training grounds at the Anson industrial park. Once there, everyone did a few laps. Those who wanted more work, rode hard intervals. Those who wanted to take it easy (like I always do), rode at tempo pace (with a few harder efforts thrown in for good measure). Then, as a group, we rode at tempo pace (19-23 mph, depending on who was on the front) out to Whitestown, then back via Zionsville. All in all, a really good 40-mile ride that helped my mind to relax and my blood to flow again. Thanks to Bob, David, John, Anthony, Jonas, Brian R., and Lance (yes, I know, but it really shouldn't be a surprise to learn that more than one guy named Lance rides a bike)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Delta Has More Heart than US Airways

After my sister flew to Arizona this week to take care of my mother, who had suffered an ultimately fatal stroke, she was forced to delay her return home to New Orleans. I arrived in Arizona a couple of days after my sister (but before my mother died), and I had to return home a few days earlier than scheduled, so that I could get my family to Chicago in time for the burial there. I had purchased flight insurance for just that eventuality. However, I still had to pay US Airways (via Travelocity.com) upfront a change fee of $351. The travel insurances policy  eventually should compensate me for that charge, within a few months, after I send in all the correct documents. My sister, who was flying Delta, called and explained the situation to them, and they waived their flight change fee because of the circumstances.

Kudos to Delta for their sensitive approach to this situation, which I believe is also probably the best business practice in the long run. I, for one, will prefer Delta over US Airways, whenever I have a choice between them in the future.

Manchester United 2 - Arsenal 0

Arsenal have crashed out of the FA Cup. Just to update those who may not have been paying attention for the past couple of weeks. A fortnight ago, Arsenal were in the hunt for championships in four competitions. As of today, they are done to one. The message is pretty clear: this Arsenal squad are not a championship side.

I'm still traveling and saw only a few minutes of today's match, but I have not read of any major reffing errors or other controversies in today's match. In fact, from what I understand, Arsenal had a lot of the possession, and mounted several scoring threats without being able to break through, as has been their pattern in matches against top clubs. Manchester United fielded a largely defensive team, and hit Arsenal hard - twice, successfully - on the counter attack.

Now, Arsenal only have the Premier League championship to contest. On today's evidence, there is little reason to expect them to overtake a less-than-superlative Man U side in the title race. It is high time  Professor Wenger woke up and smelled the coffee: he needs not just one or two but several new players, who have not only speed and quality but durability as well.

Meanwhile, it is time to admit defeat on several experiments including Denilson, Arshavin, Rosicky, Abu Diaby, Squillace, Almunia, and Bendtner. As one observer accurately explained about the last named player: supreme self-confidence is not enough; it's goals that count, and Bendtner simply does not score enough of them when it really counts to merit a place in the squad. Fabregas, who all Arsenal fans would like to see stay,  may well leave on his own accord this summer for Barca, which is fine. Wilshire appears ready and able to fill his shoes, and Wenger could use the cash from selling Fabregas to sign two, three, even four young starlets.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Ezra Klein on Common Mistakes by Economists

The always smart Ezra Klein has an excellent column (here) in today's Washington Post, which points out that policy proposals based simply on (presumably sound) economic theory are not necessarily worth very much, if they do not account for real-world political, ideological, cultural, and policy-implementation issues. Nothing in the column is particularly novel or surprising, but it is a nice, concise exposition of some basic problems.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

RIP: Joan Towne (1935-2011)

She will be sorely missed by her children, grandchildren, extended family and many friends in many places. She was not ordinary in any respect, but always and in every way extraordinary.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

CEQ Issues Instructions on Federal Agency Climate Change Adaptation Planning

On March 4th, Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality issued instructions to implement recommendations of the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force. The instructions (available here) require all executive branch agencies to (a) establish, in accordance with criteria and a timetable set out in the instructions, climate change adaptation policies, (b) increase agency understanding of climatic changes, (c) apply understanding of climate change to their missions and operations, (d) develop, prioritize, and implement actions designed to improve agency capacity to assess and build resilience to climate-based risks, and (e) evaluate and share lessons with other agencies. These instructions are directly enforceable under the terms of Executive Order 13,514 on Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance (see here).

This is a legitimate step forward, albeit a small one, toward a national climate policy. This move, along with the establishment of a social cost of carbon (see here), and the president's (unenacted and, therefore, unenforceable) commitment to reduce US greenhouse gas emissions 17% by 2020 (see here) do not make up for the failure to enact substantive climate legislation. But they are, at least, steps in the right direction.

Barcelona 3(4) - Arsenal 1 (3)

As most neutrals would have expected, Barcelona defeated Arsenal at home to move on to the next stage of the Champion's League. Less than two weeks ago, Arsenal were in the hunt for silverware in four competitions; they are now down to two.

I was unable to watch the match (sometimes classes are so inconvenient), but based on what I have read about it, the Gunners were completely outclassed. Much is being made of the referee's silly decision to send off Robin van Persie, but whether that effected the outcome of the game is at least questionable. Arsenal had only 31% of possession and not a single shot on goal for the entire match - their goal was an own-goal scored by Barca defender Sergio Busquets.

If this defeat has a silver lining it is that Arsenal will have fewer games to play between now and the end of the season, and can focus their attention on the two remaining competitions - the Premier League and the FA Cup - neither of which involves a team anywhere near the caliber of Barcelona. Manchester United, Arsenal's only real obstacle in both competitions, is eminently beatable. It only remains to be seen if this Arsenal side - which on paper and on the field seem little more than a shadow of the "Invicible" team. Who, from the present team, would have competed for a starting spot in that 11? Fabregas is one. Nasri and Wilshire are plausible. But that's about it.

As much as I hate to say it, if Arsenal do not win at least one of the two remaining competitions, it may be time for Wenger to start rebuilding the team (presumably around Jack Wilshire and Samir Nasri).

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

New EC Roadmap to Low Carbon Economy by 2050

The European Union - in particular, the European Commission - continues to exercise global leadership on climate policy. Here is it's new roadmap for achieving a competitive, low-carbon economy by 2050:

EC climate roadmap

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Paris-Nice, Stage 1

The "race to the sun" is officially underway. Congratulations to Vacansoleil's Thomas De Gendt, who won a very exciting first stage, after he, Jeremy Roy and 39-year-old Jens Voigt broke away for the last 40+ kilometers of the race. Their lead never exceeded 30 seconds, but in De Gendt's words, they "rode like hell," and the peloton was unable to catch them before the line. In commenting on the race, Bob Roll explained how the breakaway survived (I'm paraphrasing here): When you're in a breakaway with Jens Voigt, you know two things. You are going to suffer and you're going to have a chance of winning.

In other cycling news, we had a tough training session this morning in the good doctor's garage. I had a hard time keeping up, but since we were all stuck on trainers (or, in the doctor's case, rollers), I didn't lose any ground. That will change soon enough as we get this horrible winter behind us, and the group gets me behind them on the road.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

George Will Winnows the Republican Field

I used to read George Will's columns on a regular basis. Even though I did not often agree with him, I found his arguments always intelligent and usually sensible. In recent years, however, I have become much less interested in what he has had to say. My sense is that he has become more polemical, angry, and reactionary, all characteristics I shy away from as a reader.

Nevertheless, Will's column in today's Washington Post (here) reminded me of the good old days of intelligence and good sense, even if he overreaches in declaring who are, and who are not, "plausible" GOP contenders. From his perspective the winnowing process  already is "far advanced," and the five serious contenders for the nomination are Mitch Daniels, Haley Barbour, Jon Huntsman, Mitt Romney, and Tim Pawlenty. He then proceeds to warn the GOP of the potential political danger of treating seriously the pretenders, candidates like Mike Hukabee and Newt Gingrich. Specifically, Will warns that the eventual Republican nominee:
may emerge much diminished by involvement in a process cluttered with careless, delusional, egomaniacal, spotlight-chasing candidates to whom the sensible American majority would never entrust a lemonade stand, much less nuclear weapons.
That's a terrific line, a damning criticism, and a sensible warning all in one. What I find most interesting about Will's analysis, however, is that his distinction of plausible v. implausible GOP candidates tracks perfectly another distinction between candidates who work for Fox News (implausible) and those who do not (plausible). Somewhat less perfectly, because of Will's inclusion of Haley Barbour among plausible Republican candidates, it tracks another distinction between Neocons (like Will and, therefore, plausible) and Paleocons (sounds almost like "Palincons," who are implausible).

If the Republican Party decides not to follow Will's sage advice, and nominates a "non-plausible" candidate such as Huckabee or Gingrich, I wonder if he will throw his support behind Obama's reelection or merely retire. Or will he reconsider his earlier assessment of the Republican nominee and find him (or her) suddenly plausible?

Arsenal 0 - Sunderland 0

This was a game the Gunners really needed to win in order to put pressure on Man U, who meet Liverpool tomorrow. In the first half, Arsenal looked asleep. Abu Diaby and Denilson, especially, looked like they had better things to do than be playing a competitive football match. In the second half, the Gunners woke up and were desperately unlucky not to carry away a victory, denied by a combination of dogged defending by Sunderland and their fine-looking young Belgian goalie, Simon Mignolet, two terrible calls by the refs, and in one instance, the goal post. Andrei Arshavin will feel especially hard done by the referee, as he was denied a clear penalty after taking a push in the back in the penalty area just as he was preparing to shoot. A few minutes later, he was sent clear against the goal-keeper, but the linesman flag went up. Replays confirmed he was definitely not offside. Arsenal goalie Wojciech Szczesny deserves credit for making a couple of very fine saves towards the end of the match to keep Arsenal's disappointment from turning to despair. He and central defender Laurent Koscielny still seem to be having communication problems. Let's hope they get those sorted out before the next match.

Earlier in the day, Birmingham fell tamely at home to West Brom 1-3, raising again the question of how the Gunners could possibly have lost to the Blues in the Carling Cup final last weekend. I'm still scratching my head at that one.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

It's Official, I'm Moving Sixty Miles South

At the end of the current school year, I will be leaving the Indiana University School of Law - Indianapolis to take up a joint appointment in Bloomington at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law, the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, and the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis. Needless to say, I'm very excited about the new challenges and opportunities, though I'm also a bit sad to leave friends and colleagues with whom I've worked, in some cases, for two full decades.

It remains to be seen whether we will move house to Bloomington immediately; much depends on the real estate market. The commute, if necessary, is doable. Overall, this is a minimally disruptive move, which is about as much disruption as I am able to tolerate.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Arsenal 5 - Leyton Orient 0

The Gunners strolled into the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, where they will face Manchester United, by defeating Leyton Orient at home 5-0. The Gunners, whose line-up featured a couple of youngsters - Conor Henderson (in midfield) and Miguel (in defense) - threatened from the opening whistle to the closing whistle. Nicklas Bendtner scored a hat-trick, and Maraoune Chamakh and Gail Clichy also tallied. It was just the game Arsenal needed to at least start recovering from the terribly dispiriting collapse in the Carling Cup final last Sunday. They can take another big step on Saturday, when they host Sunderland. A win would move the Gunners to within one point of  Premier League front-runners Manchester United, who lost to Chelsea yesterday. With van Persie, Walcott, and Fabregas all out injured, other players are going to have to step up big. In that context, it's worth noting that Tomas Rosicky and Abu Diaby both played well in today's match, albeit against weaker opposition.

Stephen Colbert Explores US Income Gap

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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

How to Raise Government Revenues without Raising Taxes

The federal government should take a page out of England's play book and start selling titles:

How much would captains of industry, who already believe they are entitled, be willing to pay to have it made official?

Here's a rudimentary schedule of prices:

Lordship: $100 million
Dukedom: $50 million
Knighthood: $25 million

What would they be getting for their money? Only what many citizens of Commonwealth countries already enjoy: the privilege of being called Lord, Lady, Duke, Duchess, Sir, or Dame.