Saturday, March 31, 2012

Shock Defeat: QPR 2 - Arsenal 1

This always looked a dangerous match for the Gunners, away to Queen's Park Rangers, a relegation-bound team that beat Liverpool at home last week. Arsenal came into the game having won seven Premier League matches in a row, creating a real risk that they would underestimate a lowly opponent. They did, and it cost them. The Gunners failed to match QPR's aggression and commitment. Throughout the match, the Gunners lacked the quick, incisive passing that has been a hallmark of their recent run of good form. Even more unusually, it was two defensive lapses by the usually reliable Thomas Vermaelen, which led directly to both QPR goals. The loan Arsenal goal, which tied the game in the first half, came from good combination play by van Persie and Theo Walcott. Walcott's first shot rebounded right back to him off the post, and with the keeper out of position he had a wide-open net in which to guide his second effort. It was to be the only highlight of the match for a Gunners side that had loads of possession but few truly threatening attacks on the QPR goal.

Even if a let-down like this was foreseeable, it was still a shocking loss. Arsenal simply can't afford any more efforts of this poor quality, if they are to finish in Champion's League position, let alone third place in the league.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Lots to Blog About, But Too Little Time

I did not get to listen to the oral arguments before the Supreme Court in the Affordable Health Care Act case, but I've read several commentaries on them. My personal view is that folks may be reading too much into questions Justices ask in oral arguments, which often are not an accurate guide to case outcomes. Anyway, I hope to get some time this weekend to share some thoughts on the case from both a legal-constitutional and political-economic perspective.

I also want to explain the new power plant regulations EPA proposed earlier this week, which are part of its larger package of regulations for dealing with greenhouse gases. However, I have to find time to read the regs and the Regulatory Impact Statement first. Among other things, I have to clarify in my own mind just how the new regs, which establish New Source Performance Standards for power plants, relate to the "Tailoring Rule," which establishes regulations for major sources, presumably including power plants, under the Prevention of Significant Deterioration regulatory program. Once I get all that worked out, I'll try to post an explanation of what precisely the new proposed regs would do and how they would relate to the various other greenhouse gas regulations EPA already has proposed, and which are currently undergoing judicial review.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sunday Ride

Many thanks to Larry and Woz for making the trip down from Indy to ride with me and Jim around B-town today. It was a beautiful day for a 40-mile jaunt. We rode up Earl Young Hill, down Shiloh Road, and up Beanblossom hill into Morgan-Monroe State Forest. We took the Forest Road out to Old 37, and headed up into Hindustan, where we turned right at the Orchards. After crossing 37, we headed down the Bottom Road, which eventually took us  back across 37. We rode into downtown B-town and up Kirkwood onto the IU campus. Finally, we took Fee Road back across the Bypass and past Griffy Lake before heading up the hill home. 3075 total feet of climbing, and I of course was last up every hill. Amazing just watching how Tim and Larry go up hill.

We topped off the ride by driving over to the Scenic View restaurant on 446 for a good dinner overlooking Lake Monroe and Brown County.

I always appreciate good days with great friends, but never more than now.

Boonen's Back

It wasn't the most exciting edition of Gent-Wewelgem. Just about the entire peloton marked Fabian Cancellara to prevent him from stealing away. Once again, Mark Cavendish missed the break that split the peloton. And the resurgent Tom Boonen took his third race victory of 2012 (having won the Tour of Qatar and E3 Harelbeke, not to mention stage victories in Paris-Nice, the Tour de St. Luis, and 2d place in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad).

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Arsenal 3 - Aston Villa 0

The Gunners really never needed to get out of second gear in this match. First half goals from Kieran Gibbs and the truly excellent Theo Walcott, and a brilliant free kick from 25 or 30 yards out by Mikel Arteta in extra time sealed Arsenal's comprehensive victory over a Villa side that showed little offensive threat (aside from one or two ineffectual counterattacks in the first half).

The victory was Arsenal's seventh on the trot in the Premier League, further securing the Gunner's hold on third place. They sit three points ahead of Tottenham, who drew away to Chelsea today. That was an ideal result for the Gunners, who now hold an 8 point advantage over Chelsea. Making matters even better, Liverpool lost at home to Wigan, and now trail the Gunners in the standings by 16 points. To put that point differential in context, Arsenal only trail league leaders Man U by 12 points (although Man U have a game in hand).

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Bike Radar Reviews Bianchi Oltre

Nice review of my new bike, here.

Supreme Court Rightly Smacks Down EPA's Strong-arm Tactics

The conversion of wetlands to agricultural or residential use is a legitimate and long-standing problem, which the EPA has authority to control under sec. 404 of the Clean Water Act. Today, the US Supreme Court took an unfortunately necessary step to prevent EPA from abusing its authority under that statute. In Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency. In this case, EPA claimed that the Sacketts had illegally filled a federally protected wetland in developing their property, and issued a compliance order requiring the landowners to completely restore the wetland or face fines amounting to $75,000 per day. However, to enforce those penalties, EPA would have to obtain a court order, which could take a substantial amount of time. If a reviewing court upheld the fines, they would be assessed from the date the compliance order was issued.

The Sackett's contended that they had not filled any legally protected wetlands, and tried  to sue EPA to overturn its compliance order against them on grounds that it was arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). EPA claimed, and lower courts held, that the Sacketts had no right to seek judicial review of the agency's compliance order before a court order actually imposed the penalties. The Supreme Court, in an increasingly rare unanimous opinion, rightly concluded that a compliance order constitutes a final agency action given rise to an immediate right to judicial review under both the APA and the CWA. As the unanimity of the Court suggests, this was an easy case. As a political matter, EPA surely did itself no favors in acting in such a heavy-handed way.  

This does not mean that EPA was wrong on the merits and should not have issued the compliance order. I don't know enough about the facts to draw a legal conclusion, and the case has been remanded back to the district court to determine whether or not EPA's compliance order was lawful. If it was, then the Sacketts can and should be required to restore the wetlands or face stiff civil penalties.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Republican Presidents Spend More than Democrats, Including Obama

That's the lesson from this handy-dandy chart below, created by Mark Thoma at The Economist's View (here), detailing per capita spending increases under various  presidents.

I have mixed feelings about what this chart shows: On the one hand, it appears to belie claims that President Obama is a big-spending "socialist." On the other hand, there's no question that Obama would have spent more but for Republican control of the House since 2010. On the third hand, I wish Obama had been able to spend more to simulate the economy in the face of continuing sluggish aggregate demand. In any case, the comparisons with Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II are instructive.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Barnes on the Affordable Care Act in the Supreme Court

Washington Post reporter Robert Barnes offers (here) a trenchant assessment of prospects for the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare") before the Supreme Court, which refreshingly focuses on the inevitably political, rather than legal, basis of the Court's decision.

The simple fact of the matter is that the ambiguous language of the constitution does not provide a clear answer to the question of whether Congress can require individuals to purchase health insurance. The Court's interpretation(s) of constitutional language will be neither objectively right nor objectively wrong but inevitably will be hotly and legitimately disputed.  

Saturday, March 17, 2012

My Saturday Ride

29 miles in 1 hour, 49 minutes. 4 hills (Earl Young, Beanblossom, up Old 37 from State Forest entrance to Hindustan, and Firehouse), and 2230 total feet of climbing. I didn't ride too hard; TSS was 125 and normalized power was 223. Most importantly, my back didn't complain (much). A couple more rides like this under my belt, and I'll be ready to start training harder.

Congrats to Simon Gerrans and Green Edge

Today's Milan-San Remo was a fabulous race. Cavendish did not have the legs to get over the climbs. Anyway, it did not come down to a bunch sprint. Gilbert, who looked as good as he has all season so far, had his BMC team doing a lot of work at the front, but he went down in a crash before the final climb. The attacks started on the penultimate climb up the Cipressa, when Johnny Hoogerland went (as expected). He was reined in, but then Cancellara went on the Poggio, joined by Simon Gerrans and Vicenzo Nibali, who were both content to let Cancellara drag them to the line just seconds ahead of the chasing group. Just before the finish line, Gerrans came out of Cancellara's slipstream to pip the big Swiss rider. A bit unfair to Fabian, who did almost all the work and finished second for the second year running, but that's bike racing. Once again, the basic strategy for the Spring Classics - mark Cancellara - paid off. At least Gerrans took one pull at the front in the last couple kilometers. Nibali just sat at the back having what Gerrans called "a free ride." But he still finished third, indicating that he was in no position to help push the break even if he had wanted to.

What I'm Reading Now

Steven Pinker's much heralded new book, The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (Viking 2012), has drawn a fair amount of criticism (see, e.g., here) for its optimistic portrayal of human moral growth through secular institutional development. However, I find Pinker's analysis both brilliant and compelling. In fact, the only thing that bothers me about this book - which is among the more impressive non-fiction works I have read in a very long time - is Pinker's virtually unmatched combination of scholarly acumen (combining big ideas with careful, detailed research), creative analytical insight, and virtuosity as a writer. Simply put, I'm jealous of his scholarly and literary chops.

Agnar Sandmo, Economics Evolving: A History of Economic Thought (Princeton 2010). A clear and  accessible history of economic thought, focusing on the major (and mid-major) thinkers and their contributions. Sandmo celebrates the increasing formalization of economic models as the most valuable source of progress in the discipline, while discounting the extent to which that formalization has separated theoretical economic analysis from the real world and real humans. And his history concludes without any discussion of the behavioralist or new institutional challenges to neoclassical economic theory. One would search in vain to find the names Herbert Simon, Ronald Coase, or Douglass North in the text or bibliography. Such neglect is inexplicable given Sandmo's discussion of several of their contemporaries, including James Buchanan's public choice theory. In this respect, at least, Sandmo's history is seriously incomplete. That said, it is quite useful for anyone who wants to get a basic picture of the rise of classical economics, the marginal revolution, and the growth of neoclassical theory.

Milan-San Remo

It's the world's longest one-day bike race, nearly 300 kilometers (about 7 hours in the saddle) from Milano in North Central Italy to San Remo on the Mediterranean coast near Monaco. It's a hard race for tough cyclists. Who will win? If it doesn't come down to a sprint, I'd put my money on Fabian Cancellara, who looks to have recovered his early form of two years ago. Tom Boonen has also shown better form this Spring and could be in the running. Or, how about an aggressive younger rider, like Johnny Hoogerland? If it comes down to a bunch sprint, look for Mark Cavendish and Ale Jet to duke it out. Here's the route map and the profile:

Friday, March 16, 2012

Jens on Breaking Away in Paris-Nice

From his column at (here):
I finally got permission to get into a breakaway if I felt like it. “If I felt like it!” Does a bear shit in the woods? Of course I feel like getting into a breakaway! I always feel like getting into a break.

Craiutu's "'Decalogue' of Moderation"

Last night, I finished reading Aurelian Craiutu's A Virtue for Courageous Minds: Moderation in French Political Thought, 1748-1830 (Princeton 2012). Among other things I learned, Jacques Necker had hidden depth (hidden, at least, from me) as a political thinker. I also learned a lot about the work of his amazing daughter Madame de Stael, and her contemporary Benjamin Constant. However, the book is worth buying for the Prologue, Introduction, and Epilogue alone, where Aurelian makes his most important points about why his history of moderate thought in France, before, during, and after the Revolution, matters. His arguments are compelling.

I especially enjoyed the "Decalogue" - 10 commandments - he provides in the Epilogue for approaching the question of what political moderation is and what roles moderate political thinkers play in society. Here is the list, without his accompanying explanations, which every social scientist might benefit from reading:

  1. Do not assume that moderation has only one face.
  2. Try to understand why some people are temperamentally inclined to moderation why others are not.
  3. Pay special attention to the constitutional elements of moderation.
  4. Examine the concrete ways in which moderate agendas promote pluralism and the balance of powers, values, and interests while also fighting for the preservation of individual rights.
  5. Remember that moderates do not lack political vision.
  6. Honor those who try to keep the ship of state on an even keel.
  7. Pay due attention to the eclecticism of moderation.
  8. Do not assume that moderation is in its essence only a conservative virtue.
  9. Do not forget that moderates can sometimes promote radical ideas and that moderation is not a synonym for apathy, complacency, or indecisiveness.
  10. Remember that moderation is not a virtue for everyone or for all seasons.
I can hardly wait for the sequel to this book, dealing with the next generation of French moderate thinkers, including Guizot, Tocqueville, and Cousin (among others). I believe Aurelian is also planning a volume on moderate thought (Burke, Hume, et al.) in the British enlightenment.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Constitutional Dissonance

On the way into my office this morning, I was listening to an NPR report on the Republican candidates campaigning in the South. One voter, following a joint town-hall meeting with Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, commented about the need to get some closure on the nomination so that the party could focus on the more important problem of defeating Obama in 2012. Such an attitude strikes me as entirely rational, even if I disagree with the goal. But then the same voter (at least I think it was the same voter) explained his belief that the current president is not even qualified for the office, citing a non-existent constitutional requirement that for a president must the child of two natural born US citizens.

The reporter pointed out that the constitution requires no such thing, but the episode raises an interesting question: Where does such a patently false understanding of the constitution come from, and why is it so persistent, despite the ease of falsification? I don't suppose that most people walk around with a copy of the constitution in their shirt-pockets (in contrast to many law profs I know). Indeed, I would assume that most voters aren't familiar even with a handful of constitutional provisions; but then, most voters probably wouldn't claim to know what the constitution actually says.

Still, patently false constitutional beliefs must come from somewhere. Who is fostering such beliefs and for what purpose(s)? Even more difficult to understand is why it seems so hard to correct mistaken constitutional beliefs despite relatively easy access to the document itself (in any public library or on the internet)?

Legitimate disagreements exist, of course, about the meanings of various constitutional provisions (despite what every Supreme Court nominee seems required to attest in Senate confirmation hearings). But I'm not talking about those kinds of legitimate disagreements here. I'm talking about an uncontroversial, plainly stated constitutional qualification for the presidency:
 No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty five years, and been fourteen Years a resident within the United States.
So far as I am aware, the meaning of this clause from Article II is undisputed among constitutional scholars. Nor is there any basis in the text of original understanding of that text to impute a requirement that the president be the offspring of two natural born citizens. And yet...

Perhaps we need a theory of "constitutional dissonance" (akin to the psychological theory of "cognitive dissonance") to explain it. Constitutional provisions that run counter to one's ideology or strongly held political preferences must be ignored or treated as saying something very different from what they say.

A theory of constitutional dissonance might explain a couple of recent state laws, enacted I believe in Oklahoma and Utah, purporting to require the United States to dispose of federally owned lands within their respective boundaries. Those laws are plausibly constitutional if and only if Article IV, Sec. III is read of the constitution. Here's the language of that provision:
The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States.
Unless the word "Power" in that clause is defined as its virtual opposite - as legal responsibility (or duty) to dispose - the state laws do not have a constitutional leg to stand on; and, in contrast to the median voter, we might have reason to suppose that our legislators have at least a passing acquaintance with our founding document. Assuming they understand the constitution does not permit to do what they have in fact done, it appears to be an even clearer case of constitutional dissonance.

A Couple of Inchoate Thoughts on Climate Policy

1. Each day my Google Reader account accumulates all kinds of news and opinion pieces about climate change and policy, and I have the impression that, in recent months, an increasing percentage of the coverage concerns what I would define as "doomsday" scenarios (discussions of potential climate catastrophes without specification of their relative (im)probabilities). Is this a strategy for increasing public attention to and support of climate mitigation policies? If so, I'm not so sure it's a good idea. Bombarding policy makers and the public with forecasts of doom and gloom does not seem to spur action, but merely make folks throw up their hands in despair. Moreover, when those doom and gloom stories are exposed as highly unlikely, the motivation to take serious action to tackle climate change is likely to be undercut. This is not to say that climate catastrophes are not lurking; they are and should be dealt with directly by efforts to minimize their probability of occurrence. Again, I'm not convinced that focusing on doom and gloom stories, which are too often based on analyses that are goal-driven rather than data-driven, helps move us in the right direction.

2. Some, if not all, of my fellow legal scholars working on climate change issues seem to me overly optimistic about the ability of law and legal reform to resolve those issues. I am happy to stipulate that law will be an important component of any social scheme that, however (in)effectively, will mitigate climate change or facilitate climate adaptation. But I'm much less optimistic that law can or will play a leading role in climate policy. At best, it will be an important device (and not the only one) through which inherently political policies will be implemented, and economic incentives created. Reliance on the courts strikes me as an especially dubious (even pathetic) strategy, given the relatively conservative role they have always played in environmental policy. Even on the few occasions when the courts have supported climate policy, as with the Supreme Court's 2007 decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, the presumed importance of the outcome is belied by the political reality that EPA's regulations of greenhouse gases are not likely to accomplish much, even assuming that Cass Sunstein, the head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the President's Office of Management and Budget, ever signs off on them. And only faith-based lawyers and legal scholars could believe that the tort system is somehow capable of dealing effectively with the problem. While climate change certainly presents legal challenges, and climate solutions necessarily will have legal components, the presumption that law is somehow at the center of this problem strikes me as naive, and reflects an all too common insularity of legal thinking.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Arsenal 2 - Newcastle 1

Vermaelen scored nearly 5 minutes into stoppage time to give the Gunners the victory at the death. Newcastle had taken the lead in the first half, against the run of play. It took van Persie only 53 seconds to restore the balance, with a tricky touch in the box that sent the Newcastle defender the wrong way. RvP had almost played himself out of a shot but managed to slot the ball past the keeper into the goal.

The second half was much like the first. Arsenal dominated possession, and Newcastle defended well, looking for opportunities on the break. As the half wore on, and into extra time, the temperature rose. Van Persie and his international colleague Krul got into a shouting and shoving match. The game seemed destined to end in an ill-tempered tie. Instead, it ended in an ill-tempered Arsenal victory as the Gunners hit Newcastle hard on a break; Vermaelen sprinted the length of the field to arrive in exactly the right place at precisely the right time to pounce on a cross played into the box by Theo Walcott. In the aftermatch, van Persie and Krul both received the yellow cards both players richly deserved.

The game shouldn't really have been close at the end; the Gunners squandered at least three chances, where missing seemed harder than scoring. Nevertheless, it was an excellent team performance. For once, it's hard to pick out any Arsenal player who did not play hard and well.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

TT&D Ride

I drove up to Indy today to ride with Team Treachery & Deceit (the new team name for the Wilkes/Raynor group now that they have actual team kits). It was great to see the guys, many of whom I had not seen in months. Most of all, I was glad to see Karl  back on the bike again looking as strong as ever. Ride-leader Jim did a great job picking a 41-mile route that took us out, into the wind, down to Avon, and then back home with the wind. He even managed to work a couple of decent climbs into the route. It was a no-drop ride, and the group rode at a reasonable pace and with due attention for any riders who fell off the back (for once, I was not among them). As so often happens in early-season group rides, one of our number went down after touching wheels late in the ride, when a bit of fatigue was setting in; but he seemed no worse for wear, and was able to ride all the way in with the group.

It was my second ride on the new Bianchi Oltre and my first group ride with the new bike. I think I need to bring the handlebars up 1 cm, but other than that, I loved it. The power transfer is so superior to my old (and still adored) Merlin Cyrene. As I noted after my shake-down ride, the ride is not as cushy as the Merlin, but overall the comfort level was quite high.

The only downside of today's ride is that my back started complaining in the last 10 miles or so (which is why I'm contemplating making a handlebar adjustment). I'm hopeful that I can stretch out my back well enough tonight that it won't stiffen up and cause me problems tomorrow.

Excellent Paper on the Global Economic Crisis and the Battle Over Macroeconomic Theory

By Henry Farrell and John Quiggin, here.

Friday, March 9, 2012

So Close!

Great stage today at Paris-Nice. It came down to two survivors of an early breakaway, Luis Leon Sanchez against 40-year-old Jens Voigt. Sanchez just pipped Jensy at the line. It was like the good old days when Jensy would attack, attack, and attack again. He didn't always win, but as he likes to say, if he doesn't attack, he has no chance to win. Awesome ride by both men.

The Queen Stage of Paris-Nice

Vancansoleil-DCM's Lieuwe Westre won yesterday's stage to Mende attacking on the last kilometer of the final  climb to the finish. He was riding a Bianchi Oltre, which happens to be he same bike I am now riding. It just goes to show that, as Lance Armstrong puts it, "it's not about the bike." It's all about who's riding it.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

EPA Punts on Step 3 of "Tailoring Rule"

EPA's "tailoring rule" is currently under judicial review in the D.C. Circuit, which I expect to overturn the rule for taking too many liberties with the Clean Air Act. In fact, the whole purpose of the "tailoring rule" is to amend the Clean Air Act in order to better suit it for dealing with carbon dioxide emissions. Without the rule, the statute would require EPA to regulate many tens of thousands of sources at great cost (both in compliance and administration). To avoid such an undesirable outcome, and to focus the regulation on only the biggest sources of carbon dioxide emissions, the "tailoring rule" raises the threshold for regulation, that is, it increases the numerical emission limits (from those specified in the statute) that would qualify a source for regulation.

The "tailoring rule" takes effect in three steps. In Step 1 (Jan. 2, 2011 to June 30, 2011), the rule applies only to sources that already are subject to certain (prevention of significant deterioration) rules under the Act (for emissions other than carbon dioxide), and imposes Best Available Control Technology (BACT) requirements only on those sources that would emit 75 thousand tons per year (tpy) or more of carbon dioxide. In Step 2 (July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2013), the BACT requirements apply to all new facilities emitting at least 100 tpy of carbon dioxide. Step 2 is expected to add approximately 900 new sources a year to those subject to regulation  under the "tailoring rule." Finally, just today the EPA has published its proposed Step 3 regulation, which would take effect July 1, 2013. Anyone (like me) who was expecting Step 3 to toughen regulatory standards beyond Step 2 levels will be disappointed.

The newly proposed Step 3 standards would leave Step 2 limitations unchanged, but would reduce some regulatory burdens on emitters by allowing plants to meet requirements on a plant-wide basis, rather than at each discrete source of carbon emissions within a plant. This "streamlining" procedure is probably quite sensible, but the failure of EPA to expand the applicability of the carbon emissions controls, for instance by bringing in sources emitting at least 50 tpy of carbon dioxide, starting in mid-2013 is disappointing.

I confess I don't know the reasoning behind EPA's decision not to expand the reach of carbon emission controls in Step 3. I hope to see a regulatory impact statement (RIA) on the proposed regulation before too long. In the meantime, you can see the proposed rule here.

The Summer Signing Season Already Has Begun at Arsenal

Reports out of Germany are that German-international striker Lukas Podolski will join the Gunners this summer for a fee of around 13 million Euros (see here). If true, this is the first signing of what should be a very busy summer for Arsenal. Of course, the most important signing of the summer by far should be Robin van Persie, who is out of contract in 2013. The Gunners desperately need to secure his services with a new long-term contract. Podolski should replace the ineffective Marouane Chamakh.

Other hoped for Arsenal signings this summer include Belgium-international Eden Hazard to strengthen the midfield. His addition, along with the expected return from injury of Jack Wilshire, should give Gunners fans great confidence, especially if Tomas Rosicky remains in North London, stays healthy, and maintains his great recent form. With Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Aaron Ramsey, Mikel Arteta, and Alex Song, plus improving youngsters like Emmanuel Frimpong and Fracis Coquelin, Arsenal should have plenty of midfield strength in depth, although defensive midfield, behind Song, requires some back-up (unless Ramsey or Frimpong or the oft-injured Abu Diaby can slot into that role).

I did not mention Theo Walcott as an Arsenal midfielder in part because he seems to play more like a striker than a midfielder. Anyway, if I were Arsene Wenger, I'd be looking at this point to cash in on a player who, while still reasonably young, has never really fulfilled his potential and seems unlikely to at this point. The average quality of his game has improved, but not enough. He remains highly inconsistent, his passing is erratic, and he simply doesn't score as many goals as he should. Oxlade-Chamberlain has all of Walcott's speed but also greater strength, vision, and footballing nous. Next season, he should take Walcott's place in Arsenal's starting 11, with Podolski on the other wing.

Arsenal have a few solid central defenders, but injuries have plagued them all season. Rumor has it that the Gunners are aiming at 24-year-old Belgium-international defender Jan Vertonghen, who currently plies his trade at Ajax. He could line up next to his compatriot Thomas Vermalen in the center of defense (minimizing any communication problems). Vertonghen could also slot into defensive midfield, which as noted above is another Arsenal need. Vertonghen's arrival would push Per Mertesacker to the bench, giving the Gunners more strength in depth at that position. And it would allow the Gunners to dispose of both Johann Djourou and Sebastian Squillace, who have always been weak links in the back line. What it would mean for the much improved Laurent Kosckielny is more difficult to say. Koscielny has excellent speed, so perhaps could be pushed out to a fullback position, where the Gunners also need some help. In any case, having four quality central defenders would be a great problem to have.

The fullback position remains problematic, aside from the generally excellent Bacary Sagna (who is sometimes caught out of position but has the speed to make it up). Of the current squad of Kieran Gibbs, Andre Santos, and Carl Jenkinson, Santos seems to have the most promise (at least moving up on the attack), while Gibbs and Jenkinson have the makings of solid defenders. But all have been out injured for much of this season. Arsenal must not be caught shorthanded in that position again next season.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

An Easy Cure for the "Irritation" of Twitter

The American novelist Jonathan Franzen (whose work I believe to be overrated) reportedly has declared that Twitter is "unspeakably irritating" (see here). How could that possibly be true, when it is so easy to  ignore Twitter's existence (as I do everyday).

Perhaps Franzen is irritated by the simple fact that the word Twitter comes up so often in conversation. But reading his comments in context, his issue does not seem to be with the word itself but with the notion of trying to make fact-based arguments in 140 characters or less. But since no one's forcing him (or anyone else) to do that, why does it irritate him so much? He can always blog instead, or write another grandiose book.

A Very Sad Day for Colts Fans

I was wrong. I thought Irsay and Manning would find a way to keep #18 in Indy, at least for one more year (see here). But it didn't happen. Today, the Colts officially released Manning (see here), who, if he can complete his recovery from several neck surgeries, will finish his career with another team. That seems wrong. But it is hardly unusual (think Unitas playing for the Chargers, Montana for the Chiefs, Favre for the Vikings, etc.). It's just a fact of life in the NFL, which is after all a business.

If Manning comes back healthy, he may be better off on a team other than the Colts, which have a lot weaknesses; even the owner admits that it will take them a few years to become competitive again. If Andrew Luck works out for the Colts as virtually everyone (myself include) believes he will, then this is probably as good a time as any for them to part company from Manning. A lot of ifs. But life's like that.

At the joint news conference announcing Manning's release, Manning said what was most important for all Colts fans to hear: "I will always be a Colt."

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Schmidt Tries to Teach Lindzen about Climate Science

Over (here), Gavin Schmidt a climate modeler at NASA's Goddard Institute, explains why the latest attack on climate science by MIT meteorologist and climate skeptic Richard Lindzen is based on a confusion of data sources and does not reflect a misrepresentation by climate scientists of the historical record. Schmidt and his blogging colleagues perform a great public service by exposing the unrelenting mistakes and misrepresentations of climate skeptics and deniers. It is unfortunate that they have to spend so much of their time doing so.

Shake-down Ride

Finally, nearly a month (possibly longer) since my new bike was built up and ready to roll, I got to ride it ... outside. I've been suffering with lower back problems for several weeks, and just started soft pedaling on the trainer a few days ago. So, my plan for today was simply to get my bike, and my body, out of doors for short, easy ride to make sure both (bike and body) are working properly. The news is good on both fronts.

After a half-hour circuit down Old 37 and up Old Meyers Hill, I rode back to the house to adjust saddle height and setback. Then, I went back out for just another 15 minutes down to Griffy Lake and back up again. It'll take at least one longer ride to determined whether my bike setup is completely dialed in (I may need to adjust handlebar height a smidge), but I'm in no hurry. In the meantime, my back seems to have responded well to the climbs (we'll see how it feels in the morning).

So, how does the Bianchi Oltre ride? Initial impressions are favorable (which is a damn good thing given the bike's $6K+ price-tag). Because it's quite light (right around 16 lbs with pedals) and stiff it climbs better than any other bike I've ridden. At the same time, it seems stronger and more stable than I had anticipated such a light bike could be. Winds around B-town today were gusting to over 30 mph and the bike felt completely solid under me. It's also reasonably comfortable (especially after I got the saddle in the right position). It's not as cushy as my beloved Merlin Cyrene, but then what bike is?

Arsenal 3 - Milan 0 (Milan Wins 4-3 on aggregate)

Arsenal showed great team spirit and gave a massive effort, but it just wasn't enough in the end. They had given themselves too big a mountain to climb, trailing Milan 4-0 after the first match at the San Siro. The only real surprise, in the end, is how disappointed all Arsenal fans must be feeling. At the start of the match, they would have hoped, but not expected, to move on to the next round in the Champion's League. They could only be disappointed because Arsenal worked so hard, and played so well in the first half, scoring three goals to create the belief that the Gunners could do the improbable. And they might have, but for a rare van Persie miscue on a rebound he should easily have put away. By the same token, Milan really should have scored later in the second half, when instead of tapping the ball into a gaping net, Antonio Nocierino, tapped it straight to Wojciech Szczesny. As the second half wore on, the Gunners plainly ran out of steam, and injuries to Oxlade-Chamberlain and Walcott certainly did not help.

If this was a failure, it was a glorious failure that can only give the Arsenal team greater confidence that they can finish the Premier League season strong and take their accustomed place in the Champion's League again next season.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Fridman on "Contador, Cows and Strict Liability"

Saul Fridman of the University of Sydney Law Faculty has just posted a working paper on SSRN (here), which falls into the sweet spot of this blog, a legal analysis of the doping regime for professional cycling. Here is the abstract:
The World Anti Doping Code imposes a regime of strict liability for athletes whose sample return a positive result to a Prohibited Substance Since 2007 The Code has contained provisions that mitigate the seeming harshness of this regime in circumstances where an athlete is able to provide an explanation for the positive test result and can establish either no or no significant fault or negligence on his or her part. There have been a number of cases in the Court of Arbitration for Sport where athletes have attempted to rely on this "defence." The recent Contador decison is the latest in this line and contains a clear and exhaustive review of a selection of seemingly plausible explanations for the presence of traces of a banned anabolic agent in a cyclist's system. This article canvasses the case law, culminating in the Contador decision and looks at the question of the burden of proof faced by an athlete offering alternative explanations for the test result in the attempt to demonstrate lack of culpability. Given the high stakes involved for the athlete, whose test results were revealed following his victory in the 2010 Tour de France, this is the most thorough treatment of the applicable standards of proof and evidence required of the athlete in such cases.

Invited Post at RegBlog on Cost-Benefit Analysis and the Precautionary Principle

The good folks at RegBlog recently invited me to submit a post on a topic of my choice. Affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania Program on Regulation, RegBlog presents news, analysis, and opinion about regulations and regulatory agencies. It's a very useful blog, which I read regularly.

My contribution was posted this morning (here). In it, I argue that Cost-Benefit Analysis and the Precautionary Principle, which often are presented as alternative and mutually exclusive decision tools can, in fact, be reconciled via two elements of the "Ramsey equation," some form of which is often used to determined the social discount rate (under the pure-rate-of-time-preference approach to discounting). Specifically, slight adjustments to the product of the coefficient of relative risk aversion and expected growth rate of consumption can build a reasonable level of precaution into the CBA without undermining the chief virtues of that formal process, which are transparency and replicability.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

La Course Au Soleil

The 70th edition of Paris-Nice  - the "race to the sun" - kicked off today with an individual time-trial, which was won by Gustav Erik Larsson (riding a Bianchi for Team Vaconsoleil-DMC Pro Racing). He finished just ahead of Team Sky's Bradley Wiggins, with two Americans, Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Teejay Van Garderen (BMC Racing Team) in third and fourth, respectively, just 4 seconds off Larsson's pace. The 40-year-old wunderkind, Jens Voigt (RadioShack-Nissan), finished in 12th place, just 17 seconds off the pace. NBC Sports Network is showing the stages in tape-delay (at least if today's stage is any indication). Check Steephill.TV for other live and tape-delayed outlets on-line.

David Frum Reports from the Front Line of the Republican Civil War

Former Bush speech writer David Frum, writing at the Daily Beast (here), tries to save the Republicans from their own worst excesses (namely Rush Limbaugh). Smart guy that he is, Frum must realize his effort is futile. Most likely, it will only stoke the flames of an internecine war - between neo-cons v. paleo-cons; thinkers v. prayers; nose-breathers v. mouth-breathers; libertarians v. theocrats; true (Burkean) conservatives v. radical culture warriors posing as conservatives - that has been simmering for decades.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Liverpool 1 - Arsenal 2

Arsenal seem to enjoy going down early before the really start to play. That was the case last week, when they trailed Tottenham 2-0 before storming back for a 5-2 victory. In today's match at Anfield, Liverpool were overrunning the Gunners, who didn't appear to be up to the pace or the challenge. Arsenal's defense, especially Kieran Gibbs on the left side, seemed to be out of position on every Liverpool attack. If not for some great defense by Bacary Sagna and excellent goal-keeping by Wojciech Szczesny, Liverpool might have run off to a 3-goal lead within the first half hour. Liverpool did manage to take a 1-0 lead, but only due to a truly horrific own-goal by Laurent Koscielny. With his back to goal and at an acute angle, under no pressure from any Liverpool player, Koscielny nevertheless contrived to skew the ball into his own net. 

Arsenal's offensive reply was not long in coming. Almost out of nowhere, Sagna curled in a beautiful cross over the top of the Liverpool defense. Van Persie beat his marker Jamie Carragher and quite simply headed the ball past Pepe Reina. It was an elegantly simple goal that put the game back in balance. Well, not quite in balance. Arsenal's midfield were as poor in the first half of today's match as they were brilliant in the second half of last week's match. Mikel Arteta, in particular, could not hit the side of a barn door with a pass. The match announcers reported that Youssi Benayoun was playing in the match, but I never actually saw him. No wonder Liverpool dominated possession.  

After Arsenal leveled the match, Liverpool continued to press, and Szczesny continued to deny them. If not for his brilliant goal-keeping, Arsenal would never have stayed in the match after tying it. Even with his brilliance, Liverpool were twice denied by the post. The Gunners were fortunate to get to halftime with the 1-1 score intact. To be fair, it looked as if Liverpool were intent on kicking Arsenal off the pitch, with several  bad challenges going unpunished. The Ref must have known it too because when van Persie retaliated with a petulant kick on a Liverpool player, Mark Halsey kept his yellow card in his pocket.

From the start of the second half, Arsenal played a bit better, but Liverpool still had more possession and created more and better chances. After one Liverpool foray about 10 minutes into the second half, Jordan Henderson caught Mike Arteta with an elbow to the chin, which knocked the Arsenal midfielder out completely. The game was stopped for more than 5 minutes before Arteta  finally was stretchered off the field with an oxygen mask strapped to his face. The match announcers seemed to think the contact was accidental. Based on the video replay, I'm not so sure. 

After Liverpool missed one gilt-edged chance, Arsenal nearly took an improbable lead. Reina made a nice save to deny Theo Walcott. After Liverpool then missed a second gilt-edged chance, the game seemed destined to end in a 1-1 draw, which would have satisfied most Arsenal supporters

Wenger attemped to alter that destiny by replacing the ineffective Benayoun with Gervinho, and later brought on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to replace Abu Diaby (who had only come on 15 or so minutes earlier replace the injured Mikel Arteta - not a good sign for Diaby who has only just recovered from an injury of his own). But it was Liverpool that continued to apply most of the pressure. Consistent with their home form this season, they were unable to put the ball in the back of the net to take all three points. Going into today's match, Liverpool had won only 4 of their 12 home matches, drawing the other 8. 

Finally, Arsenal turned a seemingly inevitable draw into an improbable victory. In stoppage time, it was Robin van Persie again who did the job, after a beautiful pass from Alex Song. Arsenal players and fans must consider this as big a result as last week's comeback win against Tottenham. Not only were they on the road at Anfield, where Liverpool had not been beaten all season, but they were thoroughly outplayed for most of the match, with many players showing  travel weariness after mid-week international ties. 

This outcome effectively eliminates Liverpool from Champion's League contention. They now trail the Gunners by 10 points for the fourth and final qualifying spot. Had the game ended in a draw, Liverpool players would have had reason to feel unfortunate not to have taken all 3 points. As it is, they get nothing at all, while Arsenal get a tremendous boost. It says a lot about this match that Wojciech Szczesny was Arsenal's man of the match even though van Persie scored both of  Arsenal's two goals - one to tie the match, the other to win it.

UPDATE: Value was added to Arsenal's improbable win at Anfield thanks to losses by Chelsea and Tottenham and a draw by Newcastle. Arsenal now sit in the fourth and final Champion's League Position with a slim three-point cushion on the Blues (plus a two-goal advantage in goal difference), and they trail Spurs for third place by just four points. Newcastle's draw leaves them five points behind the Gunners in sixth place.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Property Law and Property Institutions

I am teaching a graduate seminar this semester in Property Theory, a course I have taught only a couple of times before. In the past, I have taught it only to law students. This time, I am teaching it to PhD students along with some visiting scholars in  the Workshop and a few fellow professors.

More than ever, I am struck by the parochial insularity of many (but by no means all) law professors who write about property theory based solely on ancient and modern legal texts, almost exclusively from Rome and Western Europe. This is especially true of the formalists (and what we might call neo-formalists) who insist that property has an irreducible, essential core, distinguishing it fundamentally from other kinds of rights-and duty-systems, such as human rights or rights under contract. They invoke and reify Latinisms such as the in rem-in personam distinction and the numerus clausus, as if such concepts, by themselves, have the power to delimit the potential scope of interpersonal relations concerning things. Like Platonists and the medieval scholastics, they have little tolerance for messier, non-legal facts about the world, disregarding the wealth of anthropological and other social scientific research attesting to the existence of a rich variety of property systems their crabbed conceptual systems cannot fathom.

Property theorists needs to get out of their libraries and into the field. At the very least, they should start paying attention to social scientists who are in the field.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Climate Science on Trial

A coalition of industry and conservative plaintiffs have sued in the D.C. Circuit US Court of Appeals to overturn EPA's "endangerment finding" that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases endanger public health and the environment for purposes of regulating motor vehicle emissions of those pollutants under the Clean Air Act. The oral arguments began yesterday and were scheduled to conclude today. From various news reports (e.g., here and here), the outcome sounds like a foregone conclusion, as it should be under conventional standards of judicial deference to decisions dedicated to agency discretion. The plaintiffs, it seems, wanted to put on trial climate science, arguing that too much uncertainty remains to permit EPA to determine that emissions of greenhouse gases pose any real danger to public health and the environment. But the only way the DC Circuit would overturn EPA's determination of endangerment is on a finding that EPA acted arbitrarily or capriciously. The evidentiary record supporting EPA's endangernment finding is much too strong for any court to conclude that EPA's decision was arbitrary or capricious.

Other, related EPA greenhouse gas rules are also being reviewed in this consolidated case. It is possible that the DC Circuit will uphold all of them. I think it pretty likely, however, that the court will overturn one (and only one) of the rules: EPA's "tailoring rule," which represents the agency's best (and truly well-meaning) effort to fit the square peg of carbon dioxide into the round hole of the Clean Air Act's regulatory scheme for major new stationary sources. Applying the literal terms of the statute to greenhouse gases would simply bring too many sources, including very minor ones, within the regulatory ambit, leading to enormous compliance and administrative costs. The "tailoring rule" is designed to avoid that outcome by limiting the number of sources subject to regulation. However, EPA's laudable effort requires deviation from the precise terms of the statute, which the reviewing court might not appreciate (and for good reason).

Nordhaus Says Climate Skeptics are Wrong

Here in the New York Review of Books (NYRB), economist William Nordhaus smacks down climate skeptics who have misrepresented his analyses of climate change to argue that the most reasonable policy response is to do nothing.

Nordhaus has been working on the climate change problem since the mid-1970s, longer than any other economist (excepting Tom Schelling). His views on climate policy are tremendously influential, so it is understandable that climate skeptics would want to draft his work in support of their claims. The problem is that Nordhaus himself has long maintained that his analysis supports limited immediate action to mitigate climate change, with a slow ramp up of efforts over time as necessary to minimize the social/global costs of climate change (thereby maximizing net social/global welfare). However, the climate skeptics, who are quite accustomed to ignoring inconvenient facts, have misrepresented Nordhaus's findings from his own models and data.

A group of skeptics recently published a controversial op-ed in the Wall Street Journal (which I have discussed here) citing Nordhaus's work in support of their argument that climate change is no big deal, and that we could basically ignore it at least for the next half century. Nordhaus objected to their use of his work (here). I've been told about, but have not seen, a response to Nordhaus by the authors of the WSJ op-ed, claiming that, whatever Nordhaus might believe, his economic analysis actually supports their argument. Nordhaus's new rebuttal in the NYRB should put an end to that nonsense.

Aside from the satisfying put down of the climate skeptics, Nordhaus's article is well worth reading for those who are relatively uninformed about climate science and economics. He presents a concise overview in clear, nontechnical language.

In the ongoing (marginal) debates among economists on what to do about climate change, I'm closer to the Marty Weitzman camp (paying more attention to reducing the "bad fat tails" in which potential climate catastrophes lie) than the Nordhaus camp (focusing predominantly on the mean expected damages in deriving policy prescriptions). But I have the utmost respect for Nordhaus and his work, and have often defended his approach at conferences where policy advocates complain that his prescriptions are too conservative.