Friday, August 31, 2012

Getting Out Ahead of the Rain

The weekend looks like a wash-out (at least for riding outdoors), thanks to the remnants of Hurricane Isaac. We're expecting up to 7" of rain here in South-Central Indiana. For that reason, I wanted to make sure to get some kind of ride in this morning, but I didn't have time for a long one, so I just did a series of hill repeats - three times up each side of Griffy Lake. Only about an hour total riding, but at least I got out before the deluge.

Potential Locales of Large-Scale Military Conflict in the 21st Century

Irvin Studin, in an article in this morning's Financial Times, argues that two places on earth are the likely loci of conflict: (1) the South China Sea and (2) the Arctic. I'm not so sure about the first; we already have some kind of equilibrium in the South China Sea; the only question is how stable it is during the coming century. Global diplomats are basically starting from square one in trying to establish some kind of regime to avoid armed conflict in the Arctic, the rich resources of which are only just becoming accessible for the first time because of global climate change (see, e.g., here).



The Arctic historically has been treated as res nullius (unowned lands) because of their lack of accessibility. But as Studin points out, as the ice melts and they become accessible, a number of countries, including Russia, Canada, the US, Norway, and Denmark (of which Greenland is a semi-autonomous region), have overlapping and therefore potentially conflicting claims to mineral-rich arctic lands and waters. Thus, res nullius may soon be converted to res publicae (public property, under assertion of sovereignty). One goal of international negotiations is to either prevent that by converting the Arctic instead into res communes (common property), similar to Antarctica or by controlling assertions of sovereignty (res publicae) to avoid potential conflicts.

National security issues are among the most significant secondary effects of climate change. And they have not been lost on the US Department of Defense (DOD), which, next to the EPA, is taking the threats from climate change more seriously than another other agency in the US government (see, e.g., here and here).

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Judge Posner Eviscerates Justice Scalia's Claims of a Consistent, Ideologically Neutral "Textualism"

Here, at the New Republic. It might be the most pointed, damning, rigorous, and thorough intellectual take-down of a US Supreme Court justice by a federal appellate court judge (and professor) in American history. Here's a representative excerpt:
It is a singular embarrassment for textual originalists that the most esteemed judicial opinion in American history, Brown v. Board of Education, is nonoriginalist. In 1868, when the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified, the provision that states not deny to any person the “equal protection of the laws” meant that states—the former states of the Confederacy being the particular concern, of course—must not deny legal protection to the newly freed slaves (and to blacks more generally). In particular, states could not, without facing legal consequences, turn a blind eye to the Ku Klux Klan’s campaign of intimidation of blacks and carpetbaggers. Had the provision been thought, in 1868, to forbid racial segregation of public schools, it would not have been ratified. Yet Scalia and Garner claim that “recent research persuasively establishes that [the ruling in Brown that separate but equal is not equal] was the original understanding of the post-Civil War Amendments,” citing for this proposition a single law review article published seventeen years ago. They do not mention the powerful criticism of that article by Michael Klarman, a leading legal historian—which the author of the article they cite, Michael McConnell, is not, although he is a distinguished constitutional law professor and a former federal judge. And, ironically, McConnell based his analysis on the legislative history of the Fourteenth Amendment, which should be anathema to Scalia.

USADA's Next Chore: Cleaning Up the Film Industry

Having successfully erased Lance Armstrong from the collective memory by declaring him never to have existed, the moral standard bearers at USADA must have been surprised this morning to discover their work was not yet done, when they read this banner headline in the Telegraph: "Fred Astair used cannabis, claims Petula Clark" (see here). That's right, according to the famous sixties singer, legendary film star and dancer Fred Astair was a "secret cannabis smoker."

The USADA is required by natural moral law to launch an investigation and ultimately strip Astair of his Academy Award (for lifetime achievement - as a doper), three Golden Globes, and three Emmys. According to an unnamed (and non-existent) spokesman for the anti-doping agency, "Only when all drugs are eliminated from all competitive markets and all walks of life will we have a truly level-playing field in which individual merit alone will determine who succeeds and who fails. Until that time, we at the USADA (much like the Spanish Inquisition on which our organization was patterned) will have to decide who succeeds and who fails."

When asked about the importance of due process, the make-believe spokesman for USADA responded, "The truly innocent would never try to hide behind mere constitutional technicalities. An assertion of constitutional rights is, in our eyes, a virtual admission of guilt."

I will try to post more on the emerging Astair doping scandal as it works its way through the process. His lawyers may engage in forum shopping, trying to move the case to Spain, where it is understood the anti-doping authorities are more lenient (at least for Spaniards).

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Pack Your Bags, Theo

According to news reports (e.g., here), perennial Arsenal under-performer Theo Walcott has rejected the team's latest contract extension offer 75,000 pounds per week. Walcott is out of contract in 12-months' time; so Arsenal will have to sell him, hopefully before the transfer window closes this Friday. Word on the street is that both Man City and Liverpool are interested. If Wenger can get 15 million for him, it would be a great piece of business, and good riddance.

I'm not sure why Arsenal were even trying to retain Walcott at the Emirates in the first place, except perhaps as a back-up for the emerging Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who possesses all of Walcott's pace with better ball-handling skills, greater consistency, superior footballing vision and instincts, and a willingness to track back and help on defense. Walcott is surplus to requirements.

Useful Scientific Information on Fracking

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is not a new technology for obtaining natural gas, but it's increasing use, along with horror stories of methane contamination of water supplies (including videos of flaming water pouring from a faucet), earthquakes and other environmental consequences, have made the technique controversial. Much of the coverage of fracking, of late, has been hyperbolic: either it's environmentally devastating and must be stopped (see, e.g., here), or its economically necessary to extract plentiful supplies of inexpensive natural gas trapped in rock formations (see, e.g., here).

Now comes Rachel Ehrenberg of ScienceNews (here), exploring "The Facts Behind the Frack" from a relatively neutral scientific perspective. Ehrenberg usefully focuses on the question of whether the environmental risks of fracking can be minimized to socially acceptable levels. That question is not answered in the piece, but the article contains a great deal of extremely valuable material to better inform the debate.

Information and Electricity Usage

An interesting new working paper by Katrina Jessoe and David Rapson at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) finds experimental evidence that power consumers who receive high-frequency information regarding their usage as well as price increases, reduce consumption significantly more than consumers who only receive information about price increases. Here is the abstract:
This paper presents experimental evidence that information feedback dramatically increases the price elasticity of demand in a setting where signals about quantity consumed are traditionally coarse and infrequent. In a randomized controlled trial, residential electricity customers are exposed to price increases, with some households also receiving displays that transmit high-frequency information about usage and prices. This substantially lowers information acquisition costs and allows us to identify the marginal information effect. Households only experiencing price increases reduce demand by 0 to 7 percent whereas those also exposed to information feedback exhibit a usage reduction of 8 to 22 percent, depending on the amount of advance notice. The differential response across treatments is significant and robust to the awareness of price changes. Conservation extends beyond the treatment window, providing evidence of habit formation, spillovers, and greenhouse gas abatement. Results suggest that information about the quantity consumed facilitates learning, which likely drives the treatment differential.
Among other interesting aspects, this paper serves as yet another reminder that consumer behavior is more complex that rational expectations theorists suppose. Even if prices do contain all relevant information about a product's scarcity, qualities, etc., which is a dubious proposition to be sure, consumers actually respond (rationally, I might add) to information from combinations of sources.

From the "Why Bother" Department

Several news sources are reporting this morning that a song by the cleverly-named Will.i.am will be played on Mars today at 1 pm PST (see, e.g., here). Good publicity for the rapper? Sure. Headlines for NASA? Apparently. But, really, what's the point? To show that the Mars Rover has a good audio system?

They can blast all the music they want on Mars, but it's only going to be heard here on earth.

Who Knew David Brooks Could Be So Snarky?

Here. A humorous account of Mitt Romney's privileged upbringing and life. Not laugh-out-loud funny perhaps it's tough to parody a guy who really does have an elevator for his cars in one of his houses. And, lets face it, Romney's not as easy to ridicule as Donald Trump.

What's next for David Brooks? An appearance on a Comedy Central celebrity roast?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Interesting Reading

A few interesting tidbits showed up on Google Reader this morning all collected by The Browser, which is probably the best site on the web for finding scholarly journalism (or journalism of interest to scholars) across many disciplines:

1. Phillip Ball, "Physicists Suggest Selfishness Can Pay," Nature (23 August 2012).

2. JP, "The Tree of Knowledge," Economist (25 August 2012).

3. Nicholas Chrsitakis, "A New Kind Of Social Science For The 21st Century," Edge (21 August 2012).

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sunday Training

A 45-minute spin on the trainer (during the second half of the Arsenal match), followed by 55 minutes of hill repeats, 3 times up each side of Griffy Lake. Each side is about 1 mile long, starting at about 16% before flattening out some, but with 10-12% grades along the way to the top.

Stoke 0 - Arsenal 0

First, the good news: Arsenal are undefeated after two games, and have yet to give up a goal. Santi Cazorla continues to exhibit more speed and flair than most his teammates combined; Lukas Podolski also has showed that he has the pace, confidence, and ability of a top-flight Premier League player; and Per Mertesacker looks more solid in the center of defense than he did last season.

Now for the bad news: Arsenal have yet to win a game, score a goal, or even create more than a handful of legitimate scoring chances, despite huge advantages in possession in each of the two games they've played so far. Olivier Giroud failed once again to impose himself on the game, despite working hard as the target man (and taking one brilliant long-range effort that nearly missed toward the end of the match); he just doesn't seem comfortable yet with his teammates. Meanwhile, Gervinho, from whom so much more is expected in this, his second season with the club, seemed to move almost aimlessly about the pitch. Arteta looked good in patches, but seems less aggressive than at the end of last season, perhaps taking a back seat to Cazorla. I also think the jury is still out on Abu Diaby. He's got the size, speed, and technical ability to fill Alex Song's boots, but his passing is still less than sharp, and he seems to get caught on the ball too often.

Having said all that, Stoke City is a difficult ground on which to grab an away win. The Potters defend en masse and look for chances on the counter. Using that strategy today, they created nearly as many decent goal-scoring chances as the Gunners. But the Gunners, whether playing at home or away, really need to start creating more chances in the final third of the pitch. It's clear that they have players who can score goals a plenty; they just need to do a better job  creating openings and linking passes between midfielders and the forwards.

It's far too early to panic about the lack of goals. And starting the season with two clean sheets is a good sign of the team's overall defensive improvement. Nevertheless, until Arsenal do start scoring regularly, the large shadow of Robin van Persie is going to hover over Giroud, Podolski, and the rest of the Gunners.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Whatever His Faults, RvP Is Still a Great Goal Scorer (and Scorer of Great Goals)

My fellow Arsenal fans might hate Robin van Persie for bolting to Man United, but he scored a typically wonderful goal today that I can only applaud:


Well, Look Who's King of the Moutains

40-year-old Jens Voigt.

Having been in the breakaway for three of the first five stages of the US Pro Cycling Challenge, and after winning Stage 4 on a 90+ mile solo attack through the wind and rain, Jens was at it again today, animating and controlling the 14-man break and then attacking at the base of Flagstaff Mountain. He couldn't hold his lead - Rory Sutherland won the stage - but Jens finished third, and in doing so became the surprise winner of the King of the Mountains (KOM) competition for the challenge, which finishes tomorrow with a 9-mile time trial in Denver. No KOM points are available, but don't bet against Jens winning the stage. He rode a couple of really strong ones in the Tour de France earlier this summer.

Kudos also go out to Levi Leipheimer, who has played his cards closed to his vest throughout the race, but finally played a trump on today's climb up Flagstaff Mountain. Finishing third, Levi went from third to first in the general classification, which puts him in a great position to win the final yellow jersey tomorrow. But it won't be easy. Levi's an excellent time-trialist, but he'll have his hands full with young Tejay van Garderen. Going into tomorrow's race, Levi has a 21-second advantage over his young compatriot. I expect it to be a close finish between the two for the overall win.

Saturday Ride

Orchard ride with  Jim. Not too much climbing (a little over 1100 feet) on this route, including up Old 37 into Hindustan, up Kinser Pike coming back towards 37 from Bottom Rd, and up Old 37 to Bethel. What really gets me more than those real hills are the long slow slogs, like the one up Kinser Pike from 37 to Bloomington North High School.

We went out pretty hard today, averaging 18.5 mph for the first 15 miles. I felt I was crawling by the time I got back home, averaging just under 17 mph for the whole ride. Of course, when we started the temperature was 82 degrees and by the time I got home the thermostat read 88. Maybe that had something to do with it (ya think?).

Friday, August 24, 2012

Armstrong, Doping, and Cycling

The USADA has finally caught the witch it has been hunting, and it is stripping Lance Armstrong of all his results going back to 1998, including his seven Tour de France titles based on eyewitness testimony and zero physical evidence. Meanwhile, some of the eyewitnesses, who have admitted to doping themselves, have not had charges filed against them. Were they given immunity so they could go after "the big cheese"? Why was Armstrong the lone target? Because he actually won races?

I long been confident that Lance Armstrong doped (as did virtually every other member of the professional peloton in those days, creating the "level playing field" the USADA says it wants to achieve through anti-doping regulations). But the lack of due process in USADA procedures bothers me, and frankly I do not understand why the federal courts claim to lack jurisdiction to review those procedures, which have substantial material consequences for those affected by USADA decisions.

Doping has always been a part of professional cycling (which is not to excuse or justify it). In the early days of the Tour de France, participants were told that they would have to supply their own dope, e.g., cocaine. In 1949, Il Campionissimo Fausto Coppi admitted that he used amphetamines throughout his career, which included two Tour de France wins and five victories in the Giro d'Italia. In 1967, five-time  Tour de France winner Jacque Anquetil said, after refusing to take a doping test, "everybody takes dope." If that statement was not true at the time Anquetil said it, it certainly became true by the late 1980s and early 1990s, when Armstrong turned pro. Nearly all of Armstrong's top competitors in the Tour de France throughout his reign actually tested positive for one banned substance or another. Indeed, it's difficult to imagine to whom Armstrong's stripped championships might be awarded. Perhaps no one won the Tour de France between 1999 and 2005.

The USADA's decision will be viewed by many, especially those who dislike Armstrong personally (which apparently is an easy thing to do), as a belated victory for truth and fair-play over doping and cheating. Others will continue to protest his innocence, as Armstrong himself has. I'm in a different camp of those who believe that Armstrong doped, but that official investigations and consequent punishments should have ceased upon his retirement from  professional cycling. At this point, the purpose seems more personal and punitive than productive. The vendetta of those with blood-lust for Armstrong's scalp will feel vindicated. To many of us, however, their victory seems pretty hollow, or just plain sad.

Perhaps after a period of quiet repose (or maybe when Armstrong finally admits he doped, satisfying some quasi-religious requirement that sin be confessed), he will be reinstated as the champion he truly was, winning seven consecutive Tours de France while he and all his competitors took performance enhancing drugs, just like Jacques Anquetil, Fausto Coppi, and others before them, whose titles never were stripped.

A few years ago, Bjarne Riis, owner of the Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank professional cycling team, admitted to having doped the year he won the Tour de France in 1996. The group that runs the Tour immediately revoked his championship, required him to return his yellow jersey, and banned him from participating as team manager in that year's race. Within two years, Riis had been reinstated as 1996 champion. If you go to the official Tour website, and search the year 1996, you will find him listed as the winner of the general classification. I suspect the same thing will happen to Lance Armstrong. What is more, I suspect that as time passes he will once again be celebrated as one of America's greatest ever athletes, despite the doping, as well as one of the greatest warriors in the ongoing fight against cancer.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Jensy!!

After busting a gut in breakaways throughout in the Tour de France (finishing 3d on one stage and 6th on another) and in the ongoing US Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado (where he was in the break on the first two stages), Jens went off the front from virtually the start of today's stage, and the peloton never saw him again. Up and down mountains and through a cold rain shower the 40 (soon to be 41) -year-old rode 90 miles and the better part of 4 hours on his own, showing once again what a tough, aggressive, and classy cyclist he is. Every knowledgeable cycling fan, and many of Jens' fellow pros, will be celebrating this great victory.

A Good Start

Both of my classes are off to a good start. Only PhD students are in the Ostrom seminar, so I've had no concern about their quality or commitment. But my other course is Law & Economics, which I'm teaching to both grad students and undergrads at SPEA. So far, at least, the undergrads seem as eager and engaged as the grad students in the class. I hope that continues.

I also hope to continue another trend. My car has not left the garage yet this week, as I've commuted to school by bike each day. In fact, I've been on the bike each of the last 8 days for anywhere from 40 minutes (the length of my commute) to two hours.

With no classes on the schedule today, I got out for a 30-mile ride this morning up to Morgan-Monroe State Forest and back. Plans for the rest of the day include refereeing a paper for a political science journal, finishing Part VII of Adam Smith's A Theory of Moral Sentiments, and prepping classes for next week.

Which Side Are You On?

Terrific column by A. Barton Hinkle (if that is his real name) at Reason.com, about why the "other side" is evil and cannot be permitted to win the election. I wonder which side he's on?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Best Cycling News of the Month

Jens Voigt has renewed his contract with Radio Shack. The story is here.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

First Day of Classes

The 2012-13 school year begins tomorrow at IU. It's going to be a busy year. I'm teaching four courses instead of the usual three. In the Fall, I'm teaching Law & Economics and the Seminar in Institutional Analysis and Development, the second of which I've never taught before. In the Spring, I've got Climate Law & Policy and first-year Property, the second of which I haven't taught in several years. So, class preps are going to keep me plenty busy. In my spare time, I've got committee assignments in the law school, SPEA, and the Workshop, plus new papers to write for a few of the six conferences to which I've committed.

Time on the bike will be tough to come by (aside from commuting to school), but desperately needed for mental, as well as physical, health.

Good Luck

It wasn't surprising that Andrew Luck threw a pick-6 against Pittsburgh in the first half of tonight's game; he'll throw a few more of those before his rookie season is over. More importantly, right after he threw that interception, he drove the Colts 80 yards for a touchdown. That says a good deal about his mental toughness.

Sunday Solo Ride

A beautiful morning for a ride around B-town. 30 miles in 104 minutes, at a moderate average pace of 17 mph, featuring over 1800 feet of climbing, incluidng Lentz Hill, Beanblossom, Old 37 up to Hindustan, and Firehouse Hill. Are there any roads in Indiana more fun to ride than Shilo Rd (the easy way) and Forest Rd?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Saturday Hill Repeats

After spinning on the trainer for the entire second half of the Arsenal-Sunderland match, I got rid of my frustration over the scoreless draw by jumping on my Bianchi Oltre for a set of hill repeats, three times up each side of Griffy Lake. That's over 1100 feet of climbing in about 15 miles and just under 55 minutes of riding.

Tomorrow, I hope to get out for a longer and more leisurely ride.

The Vuelta has Begun

A big day in sports. Not only has the EPL started but so too has the Vuelta a Espana bike race, which is one of the big three grand tours. The favorites for the overall seem to be Alberto Contador (fresh off his ridiculous, back-dated 2-year ban, which seemed more like a 3-month ban) and Chris Froome, who served as Brad Wiggins' chief lieutenant in the Tour de France. It's hard for me to imagine Froome maintaining the great form he displayed throughout the Tour and into the Olympics for another three-week marathon around Spain, especially with all the climbing in this year's edition. Advantage Contador, I say.

The race began today with a 16 km  team time trial. Somewhat surprisingly, Movistar, the team of last year's champion Juan Jose Cobo, dominated the stage, taking a 10-second advantage over second place Rabobank. I had expected Team Sky - the dominant team throughout this season - to win the TTT. Shows what I know.

Here's the route map for this year's Vuelta, which focuses on the mountainous north of the country:

Mapa_crop_exact

Another Gunner Moves to Barca

Arsenal Manager Arsene Wenger has confirmed the sale of holding midfielder Alex Song to Barcelona for $24 million. So, it's official, for two years running Arsenal have lost two players who, arguably, were the two best performers of the preceding season.

As I've noted before, I think the loss of Song creates a bigger problem for the Gunners than the loss of RvP, mainly because Song's combination of size, strength, ability to read the game, and passing ability. In today's draw, Abu Diaby, who shares Song's size and strength, left a number of passes short. Whether he'll stay in that position or Wenger dips into the transfer market to find a more adequate replacement - M'Vila is still available - remains to be seen. Or perhaps Aaron Ramsey might fit into the holding midfielder role.

While Arsenal are certainly in better shape as a team for the start of this season as compared with a year ago, they are still starting it unsettled, with a lot of work to do to build a cohesive group that can play well together on the pitch. It's another bit challenge for the manager.

Arsenal 0 - Sunderland 0

A new-look Arsenal squad took the field against Sunderland in the first match of the new EPL season. No Robin van Persie; Alex Song on the bench, pending his likely move to Barcelona. Carl Jenkinson starting at left back is a reminder that Wenger only has two weeks left to sign another fullback. Somewhat surprisingly, new boy Giroud also started on the bench, leaving the other new boy Lucas Podolski up front with Gervinho (from whom much more is expected this season) and Walcott (who usually flatters to deceive).

In the first half, Arsenal had the look of a team that hasn't had time to gel yet. A lot of passes missed their mark, as players didn't quite read the movement of their teammates. Diaby, in particular, left a few passes short, inviting tackles on his teammates.

Nevertheless, the Gunners' offense threatened the Sunderland goal on several occasions, with Santi Cazorla looking particularly dangerous. Diaby also showed up in the offensive third, as is his want. The only problem is that as Song's replacement as holding midfielder, he needs to make sure that he's back where he's needed to support the four defenders. Indeed, the defense looked shaky on a couple of occasions during the first half. They were pretty easily cut open by Sunderland counterattacks, and Szczesny had to to make a couple of good saves to prevent the Gunners from going down a goal.

In the 42d movement, Arsenal finally showed the sweet passing flow that Gunners' fans have come to expect. Arteta and Cazorla played a nice one-two to beat the defense. Carzorla's subsequent pass to Walcott split open the defense, and Walcott's cut back pass nearly found Podolsky at the near post for the game's first goal. Only a sliding block by a Sunderland defender prevented the ball from reaching Podolski's right foot.

While the first half ended without a goal, Arsenal fans had reason to believe that their side was growing more cohesive and gaining self-belief as the game progressed. They had more and more of the possession, and Sunderland hardly threatened after their two early counterattacks. It seemed like Arsenal just needed that first goal to jump start their season.

In the second half, Arsenal's dominance of possession continued, but to little effect. Sunderland were playing with 10 men behind the ball, and their defense was quite solid. They must have blocked a dozen Arsenal shots and passes into the box. They never really even tried to threaten the Arsenal goal. It was an excellent strategy, especially against a team that are just learning how to play together. The Gunners' lack of familiarity with one another's movement really showed, as they were unable to create many clear-cut chances in the second half. One exception came after Olivier Giroud replaced Podolski in front. Cazorla, who was Arsenal's best player throughout the game, found him in the box with a beautiful pass. Giroud really should have scored, but contrived to scuff his shot wide of the goal. We can only hope that miss doesn't play on his mind and cause a drop in confidence.

Arsenal fans will justifiably feel that, had RvP not been sold to Man U this week, he would have pulled the team's bacon out of the fire at the end, as he did so many times last season. But that's water under the bridge. Arsenal are going to have to rely on others, mainly Podolski and Giroud, to get the job done. They didn't do it today, but it's way too early to draw any conclusions. Both showed good movement, and strong desire when they were in the game. And as the weeks go by, and the team become more familiar with one another, the pace, spacing, and sharpness of passing should improve. Then, they'll have a better chance of breaking down teams that are hell bent on defending their own goal.

On the day, Sunderland (and boss Martin O'Neill) deserved the point for successfully executing their defensive game-plan.

Finally, The 2012 EPL Season is Beginning

And anything is possible.... Well, not really. Man U are prohibitive favorites to win the League and smash the team goal-scoring record (assuming van Persie stays healthy). But who will come second? Man City? Chelsea? Possibly Arsenal, if they get off to a good start, if Podolski and Giroud can take up the scoring slack, and the defense improves. Too many ifs there for my liking. But as we saw law year, it's a long season.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Economists for Romney

Approximately 400 economists, including 5 Nobel laureates, have endorsed Mitt Romney for President (see here). (At least one name on the list is not an economist but a legal scholar, like me, but of a more libertarian economic sensibility.) What will be the chief political impact of this 400-economist endorsement?

I predict the chief effect will be a competing endorsement of President Obama by an equally large number of economists, including several other Nobel laureates.

To my mind, such endorsements tell us more about the partisan political and ideological commitments of the subscribers than about the economic wisdom of a candidate's (presumed) policies. In my experience, no president supports only economically sensible policies; and it has always seemed to me unwise for academics to even potentially sacrifice their scholarly integrity by actively supporting parties or specific politicians, rather than focusing their analytical skills and judgement on policies and proposals.

If one is asked to serve in an administration, that is another matter - for that period of time, one suspends one's work as an academic and becomes part of government. But to write, as an academic, in support of a party or candidate almost invites questions about whether one's scholarship may be tainted by a political agenda. And, of course, that is as true for Democratic shills, such as Paul Krugman and Brad DeLong (with whom I more often agree on policy issues), as it is for Republican shills such as Greg Mankiw and John Cochrane.


Preventing Voter Fraud or Defrauding Voters?

Republican-controlled legislatures in swing states have been enacting sweeping laws ostensibly designed to prevent voter fraud in the name of preserving the integrity of the system. But serious questions have been raised about the factual predicate for those laws and about possible ulterior motivations of the legislators. Specifically, is vote fraud an actual problem and, if not, are Republican state legislators really just trying to suppress poor, minority, elderly, and student voters, who are overwhelmingly likely to be affected  by the new legal requirements and also happen to vote predominantly for Democratic candidates? In other words, is the effort to control voter fraud merely an effort to defraud the voters?

As usual, the best summary of this all-too-serious issue comes from John Stewart and The Daily Show:

The Daily Show with Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Daily Show: Democalypse 2012 - Cockblock the Vote
www.thedailyshow.com

In response, I have not seen any Republican state legislator present evidence indicating that these new laws are actually needed and will not disenfranchise potentially large numbers of eligible voters. More troubling still, courts have so far upheld every one of these new laws despite (a) the complete lack of evidence that the "problem" they are ostensibly designed to control  is real, and (b) substantial evidence that eligible voters are being disenfranchised. 

At least the Republican legislator from Pennsylvania, in the Daily Show clip, was being honest about what these efforts are really all about: securing the election of Republicans by undermining the democratic process. Perhaps the effect will only be marginal, but in a close election even a marginal effect may be enough to swing a swing state.

How to Avoid Buyer's Remorse (Soccer Jersey Edition)

Will Dean, writing in today's The Independent (here), recommends that "When you spend £50 on a sports shirt, maybe don't get your favourite player's name on it. (Especially if you're an Arsenal fan.)"

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Y673 Seminar in Institutional Analysis and Development

With a great deal of help from Armando Razo (IU Political Science), Lin Ostrom's personal assistant Nicole Todd, and several other Workshoppers, the revised topic list and syllabus for Lin's seminar are now just about complete (although we're still awaiting reading assignments from a few visiting lecturers).

The topic list is substantially revised from when Lin last taught it in Fall 2011, but it still remains essentially her course.

Week 1: Introduction to the Seminar (The Workshop and the "Bloomington School")
Week 2: Institutions
Week 3: Organizations
Week 4: Frameworks: Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) and Social-Ecological Systems(SES)
Week 5: Models and Methods
Week 6: Policymaking: Law and Social Norms
Week 7: Property
Week 8: Development and Social Capital
Week 9: Contributions of Vincent Ostrom to Institutional Analysis
Week 10: Polycentric Approaches to Policy
Week 11: Bureaucratic Forms of Organization and their Potential Control
Week 12: Ongoing Projects on Social-Ecological Systems
Week 13: Application of the IAD and SES Frameworks to Your Puzzles
Week 14: Puzzles and Challenges of Development

Readings will average 100-200 pages per week. I will be (co-)leading the seminar for six of the weeks; Armando will be (co-)leading it for four of the weeks. Other scheduled (co-)leaders include Jimmy Walker, Mike McGinnis, Graham Epstein, Barbara Allen, Bill Bianco, Michael Cox, and Sergio Villamayor. As always, the seminar will conclude with a one (or two) day "mini-conference," at which student papers will be presented and discussed by Workshoppers from various IU departments.

For the Second Year Running, Arsenal Lose Their Best Player Just Before the Season Begins

Pending agreement of personal terms, Robin van Persie is heading northeast to the beautiful city of Manchester, where he reportedly will earn roughly twice his already princely Arsenal salary. (Who among us would not be tempted by such a financial improvement, let alone the increased likelihood of winning titles?) Man United are among the teams (Man City and Chelsea being the others in the EPL) that spend like drunken sailors. Arsenal are like the sober and disgruntled uncle, chiding them but envying their success.

A front line of RvP and Wayne Rooney is a formidable prospect (especially when compared to a presumptive Arsenal front line of Podolski and Giroud). If van Persie can give the Red Devils even an approximation of what he gave the Gunners last year, he'll be worth every penny and probably help Man U win the title. But the if is huge. Now aged 29, van Persie has managed only one complete season without missing several games  because of  injury - though what a season it was! - in eight at the Emirates. United, however, are deep enough to give him more games off, which might help him remain healthy. In short, it's difficult to see how this is not a great coup for Alex Ferguson & Co., and a real blow to Arsene Wenger and the rest of the Gunners.  It is yet more evidence that Arsenal have been relegated to the position of a feeder club for the financially elite clubs, which include both Manchester Clubs, Real Madrid, Barcelona, and apparently now Paris-St. Germain.

For the second year in a row, Arsenal have lost their team leader and best overall player just before the start of the season. And the fact that van Persie's going to a rival Premier League contender, Manchester United (at least it's not City!), makes it all the harder to swallow for Gunners' fans. At least this year Wenger planned ahead and brought in a proven goal-scorer in Lucas Podolski, a  rising young striker in Olivier Giroud, and a gifted winger in Santi Cazorla, who can also get his goals. Consequently, Arsenal start this season (on Saturday) in much better shape than last season. This time around, they shouldn't find themselves in a deep hole before the end of August, needing to add emergency reinforcements just before the signing deadline. It's entirely possible, however, that Arsene Wenger will look to sign one more player - but only the right player - with the funds received from the van Persie transfer.

We can only hope Alex Song doesn't add to the list of emigrants from the Emirates, by following the media rumors to Barcelona. He's one player for whom Wenger has no replacement at present. More generally, Arsenal need to adjust their salary structure to the realities of the modern game, however distasteful to Mr. Wenger. If they don't, they will become a perennial also-ran, whose main function is to train-up great prospects for the benefit of other, bigger-spending clubs.

Finally, I wonder whether van Persie asked Dennis Bergkamp what he would have done in the circumstances. I can't help but think that Bergkamp, whose boots RvP still can only dream of filling, would have made a different decision.

Monday, August 13, 2012

"The Campaign"

Shortly after arriving home from Canada yesterday, we took the kids to see "The Campaign." It was even funnier than we had expected, but also more disgusting. The politicians, henchmen, and money men are slimy as can be; but I came away with the impression that its really We the Electorate - the mass of intolerant, gullible, mean, and proudly ignorant voters - who come off looking worst of all in the film. Intended or not, that may well be an accurate interpretation of the biggest problem in American politics.

Where in the World Have I Been?

It's been a week since my last blog post, in part because I haven't found much worth blogging about (signifying more about my state of mind, perhaps, than any lack of potentially interesting topics). But I also managed to escape the heat and humidity of South-Central Indiana for a few days to the very different climate and culture of Quebec City, where it was rainy, breezy, and relatively cool, as well as scenic, interesting, delicious, and tourist-ridden.

If you'd like to get to Europe, but don't have time, Quebec City's a good option. From Indiana, it's about 4 hours and one connecting flight away. Mrs. Cyclingprof and I stayed, and ate a lot of delicious food, and the immense, imposing, and elegant Hotel Chateau Frontenac, pictured below. We did a lot of walking, took a boat cruise on the St. Lawrence River, visited a fine exhibit of North American feminist surrealists at the Museum of Fine Arts, and generally chilled out for a few days. It was probably my longest stretch of doing absolutely no work in several years.

The Chateau Frontenac













The view from our room

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Sen on the Eurozone Crisis

At The New Republic (here). As usual, his analysis is masterful, though austerity hawks (and anti-Keynesians generally) won't like what he has to say. I found particularly interesting the contrast Sen draws between Keynes and Pigou, in which the later, often portrayed as a conservative, emerges as a relative champion of social justice.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Saturday Ride

My first outdoor ride in over a week, after over-heating on my last training ride. Dr. Jim and I rode the Orchard route today for a total of about 27 miles. It was plenty humid and the temperature rose from 75-80 during the ride. In this kind of weather, I've learned (the hard way) it's best not to go out overly hard in this kind of weather. A moderate effort when the heat index is high equals a hard effort when temps are cool and humidity is low, especially when there are hills to climb. Today's route was not too hilly - only about 1100 feet of total climbing - but I had no problem getting my heart rate into the mid-170s without pushing myself.

Tomorrow, we're planning a family day-trip to French Lick, but I hope to get in a one hour solo-ride early, weather permitting (and I actually hope the weather does not permit it because we desperately need the rain).

Friday, August 3, 2012

IU Memorial Celebrating the Lives of Elinor and Vincent Ostrom

3 pm, October 15, 2012 at the IU Memorial Auditorium. The following morning, the Ostrom Workshop is sponsoring a less formal and more conversational get-together for Workshoppers at the IMU, State Room (East and West). For more information, see the Workshop website, here.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Wiggins Adds Olympic Gold to TdF Yellow

Not a bad summer's work! He had to be the favorite to win today's time trial, in his home country, especially after Fabian Cancellara suffered a probably understated injury in the road race a few days ago. Had Sparticus not crashed, he could very well have done the double in the Olympics; as it was, he didn't podium in either event.

Congrats are also in order for American Kristin Armstrong, who unlike Cancellara, recovered from a somewhat less serious crash in the women's road race to win gold in the time trial.

Obama: The Conservative Choice for President?

Andrew Sullivan makes the argument, here. I agree with some of it, but it over-taxes the imagination to believe that Obama's health care reform is a conservative move (although I think it's the right move). Indeed, what Sullivan seems to be promoting is not so much conservatism as a pragmatic economism for which the normative goal is to maximize a social welfare function. It's a view in which I concur, but I know many "Conservatives" who would not.