Monday, December 31, 2007

Climate Change's Impact on U.S Agriculture: An Academic Debate

Recently, environmental economists have debated how costly will climate change be for U.S agriculture. The new "conventional wisdom" was published this year in the American Economic Review. Deschenes and Greenstone use county level data and employ county level fixed effects to present empirical evidence. Their punchline is that climate change's effects on U.S agriculture will be small.

At this Columbia University webpage, Climate Change and Agriculture: A Reassessment of the Reassessment --- you can download the debate that this paper has generated.

In this new working paper,

the authors challenge a number of points in the Deschenes and Greenstone study and present their own estimates. This debate is interesting on at least 4 different levels;

1. The policy issue is of 1st order importance so it is important to get the empirical facts straight
2. By sharing data and computer code, each set of authors can show how they generated their results and the other set of authors can study the robustness of the previous results to changes in assumptions and data coding.
3. Future graduate students can build on these studies by taking the data posted here and making their contribution.
4. This is good gossip. Debates between excellent economists help to focus attention on an issue and create the right incentives for researchers to be careful and honest in their empirical work.

I don't know who is right here but at least this feels like a real scientific discussion where assumptions and researcher choices are made clear.

NYC's Superstars Compete to Become our New President

Having lived in downtown New York City for 10 years of my life, I wouldn't have guessed that it could produce so many "viable" Presidential Candidates. People like Woody Allen and Mick Jagger and Don Trump just didn't strike me to be Presidential Timber. But, I've been wrong before and Iron Mike Bloomberg might be a good President. I like his height and I respect his wallet. He is a neighbor of my parents and they seem to like him.

I will not run for office in 2008. Like Nixon, I'm tanned, rested and ready but I will return to UCLA next sunday and will teach my courses and write my papers. I've written out a "wish list" for 2008 and there are over 15 papers that I'd like to write. I realize that this is an ambitious list but it is important to stay hungry. Here is the New York Times.

December 31, 2007
Bloomberg Moves Closer to Running for President

Buoyed by the still unsettled field, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is growing increasingly enchanted with the idea of an independent presidential bid, and his aides are aggressively laying the groundwork for him to run.

On Sunday, the mayor will join Democratic and Republican elder statesmen at the University of Oklahoma in what the conveners are billing as an effort to pressure the major party candidates to renounce partisan gridlock.

Former Senator David L. Boren of Oklahoma, who organized the session with former Senator Sam Nunn, a Democrat of Georgia, suggested in an interview that if the prospective major party nominees failed within two months to formally embrace bipartisanship and address the fundamental challenges facing the nation, “I would be among those who would urge Mr. Bloomberg to very seriously consider running for president as an independent.”

Next week’s meeting, reported on Sunday in The Washington Post, comes as the mayor’s advisers have been quietly canvassing potential campaign consultants about their availability in the coming months.

And Mr. Bloomberg himself has become more candid in conversations with friends and associates about his interest in running, according to participants in those talks. Despite public denials, the mayor has privately suggested scenarios in which he might be a viable candidate: for instance, if the opposing major party candidates are poles apart, like Mike Huckabee, a Republican, versus Barack Obama or John Edwards as the Democratic nominee.

A final decision by Mr. Bloomberg about whether to run is unlikely before February. Still, he and his closest advisers are positioning themselves so that if the mayor declares his candidacy, a turnkey campaign infrastructure will virtually be in place.

Bloomberg aides have studied the process for starting independent campaigns, which formally begins March 5, when third-party candidates can begin circulating nominating petitions in Texas. If Democrats and Republicans have settled on their presumptive nominees at that point, Mr. Bloomberg will have to decide whether he believes those candidates are vulnerable to a challenge from a pragmatic, progressive centrist, which is how he would promote himself.

The filing deadline for the petitions, which must be signed by approximately 74,000 Texas voters who did not participate in the state’s Democratic or Republican primaries, is May 12.

Among the other participants invited to the session next Sunday and Monday is Senator Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska Republican, who has said he would consider being Mr. Bloomberg’s running mate on an independent ticket.

Mr. Boren declined to say which candidate would be strongest, but suggested “some kind of combination of those three: Bloomberg-Hagel, Bloomberg-Nunn.” He said Mr. Bloomberg would “not have to spend a lot of time raising money and he would not have to make deals with special interest groups to raise money.”

“Normally I don’t think an independent candidacy would have a chance” said Mr. Boren, who is the University of Oklahoma’s president. “I don’t think these are normal times.”

Mr. Bloomberg, who has tried to seize a national platform on gun control, the environment and other issues, has been regularly briefed in recent months on foreign policy by, among others, Henry A. Kissinger, his friend and the former secretary of state, and Nancy Soderberg, an ambassador to the United Nations in the Clinton administration.

Advisers have said Mr. Bloomberg, a billionaire many times over, might invest as much as $1 billion of his own fortune (he spent about $160 million on his two mayoral races) on a presidential campaign.

But they warned that while they were confident of getting on the ballot in every state, the process was complicated and fraught with legal challenges, and that Mr. Bloomberg would begin with an organizational disadvantage, competing against rivals who have been campaigning full time for years.

Still, the mayor said this month at a news conference, “Last I looked — and I’m not a candidate — but last time I checked reading about the Constitution, the Electoral College has nothing to do with parties, has absolutely nothing to do with parties. It’s most states are winners take all. The popular vote assigns electoral votes to the candidate, and I don’t think it says in there that you have to be a member of one party or another.”

The key players — virtually the only players — in Mr. Bloomberg’s embryonic campaign are three of his deputy mayors, Kevin Sheekey, Edward Skyler and Patricia E. Harris. Another aide, Patrick Brennan, who was the political director of Mr. Bloomberg’s 2005 re-election campaign, resigned as commissioner of the city’s Community Assistance Unit earlier this year to spend more time exploring the mayor’s possible national campaign.

One concern among Mr. Bloomberg’s inner circle is whether a loss would label him a spoiler — “a rich Ralph Nader” — who cost a more viable candidate the presidency in a watershed political year. One person close to the mayor, who spoke on condition of anonymity so as not to be seen discussing internal strategy, stressed that Mr. Bloomberg would run only if he believed he could win.

“He’s not going to do it to influence the debate,” the person said.

The mayor was asked last week at a news conference whether a Bloomberg campaign would cost the Democratic or Republican nominee more votes.

“You know,” he replied, “if it’s a three-way race, the public has more choice than if it’s a two-way race, and has more choice in a two-way race than a one-way race. Why shouldn’t you have lots of people running, and what’s magical about people who happen to be a member of a party?”

Sam Waterston, the actor whose former co-star on “Law and Order,” Fred D. Thompson, is a Republican presidential candidate, is a founder of Unity08. That group also hopes to advance a nonpartisan ticket, and Mr. Waterston says the mayor is often mentioned on the group’s Web site as a prospective nominee.

“If he formally embraced Unity08’s principal goals of a bipartisan, nonpartisan, postpartisan ticket — which he’s almost in a position to do all by himself, having been a Democrat, a Republican, and now an independent — and of an administration dedicated to ending partisanship within itself and in Washington, then it’s hard to think of anyone better placed to win Unity08’s support if he sought it,” Mr. Waterston said. “And, of course, there’s nothing that says Unity08 couldn’t draft him.”

Some associates said that after six years as mayor, Mr. Bloomberg was itching for a new challenge — much like he was in 2000 when, as chief executive of Bloomberg L.P., he was flirting with running for mayor.

But Mr. Bloomberg will also have to weigh several intangibles: Can he run for president and serve as mayor of a combustible metropolis simultaneously for eight months? (He believes he can, and would not resign as mayor to run.) Does he want to be president badly enough to sacrifice his zealously guarded personal privacy? (He’s not completely convinced.)

Meanwhile, he thoroughly enjoys the attention, and despite the public denials, suggests that he is poised to run if the political stars align themselves for a long-shot, but credible, independent campaign. During a private reception this month, Mr. Bloomberg playfully presided over a personal variation of bingo, in which guests could win by correctly guessing the significance of the numbers on a printed card.

“Two hundred seventy-one?” Mr. Bloomberg asked.

One guest guessed correctly: It was George W. Bush’s bare electoral-vote majority in 2000.

Diane Cardwell and Raymond Hernandez contributed reporting.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Can You Learn About Your Parents from the Internet?

I wanted to see what the Internet had to say about my father. Apparently, he is a pretty good heart doctor at NYU but you can judge for yourself about
Martin L. Kahn . I don't know who wrote this book but it does describe the guy who I know and who I owe big time! But please don't google my mom.

James Bond is Shaken and Stirred in a NYC Lawsuit

What would Goldfinger think of this one? Jaws would know how to handle Burton Sultan here. Where is the Coase Theorem when you need it? You will not see me at the 2008 ASSA meetings in New Orleans. I will make my comeback in 2009 in San Fran. Have a happy new years!

New York Times
December 29, 2007
Actor and Neighbor Told to Stop Suing Each Other

As James Bond, the actor Sean Connery fought off villains and spies. But now, a Manhattan judge is calling the shots.

In a decision made public this week, Justice Marcy Friedman of State Supreme Court told Mr. Connery and a neighbor, Burton Sultan, to stop their bickering over renovations at the Upper East Side town house they share.

“Regrettably, both parties to this dispute have engaged in a slash-and-burn litigation strategy that has at times been duplicative and exceedingly burdensome to their adversaries and the courts,” she said.

To rein them in, she imposed administrative oversight over any further litigation by both parties, which means that they must get the court’s permission before suing each other again.

The decision, dated Dec. 7, was the latest twist in the legal tussling involving Dr. Sultan, 72, a Manhattan eye doctor, and Mr. Connery, 77.

The Sultan and Connery families have clashed in a series of lawsuits and complaints, some dating back to 2001, over renovations to an 1869 town house at 173-175 East 71st Street that has been declared a landmark; it was converted into two condominiums in 1986.

Dr. Sultan, who owns the condominium on the lower floors of the building, claimed that renovations and roof repairs on the Connery unit, on the upper floors, had damaged his home and injured family members, including a daughter, Marla Sultan, and a grandson. The Sultans said that the renovations had caused foul odors, water damage and cracks, and that the work was carried out in a way meant to drive the family out of the building. They are seeking financial compensation for their damages.

The Connery unit is owned by Stephane and Tania Connery, Mr. Connery’s son and daughter-in-law, and occupied by Mr. Connery and his wife, Micheline. They have countered with claims that the Sultans have interfered with necessary repair work.

Mr. Connery’s lawyer could not be reached on Friday for comment on the judge’s decision, and his publicist did not return a call. Dr. Sultan’s lawyer did not respond to a message left on an answering machine.

In her decision, Justice Friedman said that most of the claims by the Sultans had been dismissed. One, alleging that the Connerys were neglecting to pay common charges, is being handled by a receiver, the judge’s decision said.

Justice Friedman said some of the damage claims had been handled by an arbitrator. “The Sultans’ continuing opposition to the repairs which were ordered by the arbitrator has unquestionably necessitated litigation by the Connerys,” she said.

On the other hand, the Connerys filed six lawsuits against the Sultans and “continually forced them to litigate,” she wrote.

Finally, she urged them to seek mediation.

“The court cannot imagine that it is not the goal of both the Sultans and the Connerys to restore normalcy to this regrettable situation in which the two neighbors have wholly lost the ability to cooperate in the management of the building in which they or their family reside,” she said.

“Unfortunately, the litigation, as it has been conducted, is interfering with, not advancing, that goal.”

Monday, December 24, 2007

Green Homes: A Short Debate on Life-Cycle Analysis

Letters to the editor always interest me. I don't know how the editor chooses which letters to accept for publication (what is the editor's goal here? to maximize debate? to find people who reaffirm his priors? To make the newspaper look "fair and balanced") but the competitive process leads to some pretty interesting stuff being published.

I must admit that I hadn't thought through all of the issues raised in the first letter. This short letter raises a host of empirical questions that are worth quantification. The second letter isn't very PC and its author is a pinch cynical but still it is worth reading and thinking through. The second letter raises an interesting "experiment" hinting that if Greens played the lottery and won the jackpot that they would give up their core pro-environment ideology and become happy Hummer driving hunters. This sounds like a version of Marx that our economic reality is the root source of our political ideology. If one's "reality" shifts, do preferences shift?

San Francisco Chronicle Sunday Section

Letters on letters

The houses in your Winter Home Design issue (Nov. 4) are beautiful. The conspicuous consumption letters (Nov. 25) are not. Where is it written that a green-built house must be small? A home's carbon footprint is determined by its energy bills, not its size. In fact, a 10,000-square-foot house with zero energy bills is far greener than a 1,500-square-foot energy hog.

I would argue that a large home built with no wood, using concrete, steel and polystyrene (a petrochemical product) is far greener than a smaller home built with wood (sustainably grown, recycled, reclaimed or salvaged). This is because the concrete house can last for 300 years with no maintenance, while the "earth-friendly" wood house is subject to mold, mildew, rot, termite and fire damage. The periodic replacement of an inferior building material, such as wood, is far more wasteful to our natural resources than a larger house built to last.

These letter writers need to be reminded that green building encompasses five elements: durability, energy efficiency, water efficiency, indoor air quality and the environment. Not just the environment alone.



It's amazing the gall of letter writers in the Nov. 25 Magazine who claim that owners of extra-large designer homes "don't need" such, or as many, houses. Who are they to say what someone else needs or doesn't need? Beyond being conned by the Big Green Lie's "carbon footprint" nonsense, their rant is symptomatic of the envy and jealousy of those who can't stand the fact others have more than they do - and whose beliefs would evaporate the moment they came into real money.



Sunday, December 23, 2007

EBAY and the Deadweight Loss from Christmas

A simple empirical project --- Does use of EBAY increase after Christmas? I'm sure it does as people try to unload "bad" christmas gifts but I've never seen the volume dynamics data. I've always argued that EBAY is an example of how capitalism solves problems --- the problem (as pointed out by Joel Waldfogel) is the inefficiency of gift giving in a world where we should just give each other cash! Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Do you Read the Berkeley Daily Planet?

If the slow pace of the holiday season has you seeking intellectual excitement, then perhaps this site will help -- Berkeley Daily Planet

Somehow, the New York Post and this newspaper disagree over what is the "news of the day".

I bought two books today. Both are autobiographies but their subjects may be negatively correlated;

1. Ron Woods --- the guitarist of the Rolling Stones
2. Arthur Schlesinger Jr. 1000 page diary --- the witty intellectual "kitchen cabinet" member of the Kennedy clan

I've also been watching my wife get ready for the AEA meetings in New Orleans. I won't be going because I must watch our son. I've always been amazed by economists who bring their children to these meetings. I'm a pinch sad about not attending because I do like to see my old friends and there are loads of interesting people to talk to at the meetings. But, I'm not a fan of a New Orleans (this was true both pre and post-Katrina) and it is a big production to fly there from Berkeley (there are not direct flights! so this is the market test that most people agree with me that they don't want to go to New Orleans).

My wife will be there because she is leading UCLA's efforts to hire more excellent junior faculty. The junior economics market is a strange market as demanders with relatively little information (a job market paper, some senior economists' reference letters, and a 1 day site visit by the candidate) try to figure out whether somebody is worth a 5 to 8 year open ended contract.

What do I want from a junior colleague? Ideally, I want a lively person who can teach me some economics --- teach me about their subfield and help me think in new ways about research problems that interest me. Many of UCLA's new junior faculty fit this mould -- creative, and with broad interests --- versitle. Narrow guys don't interest me. Most of the recent breakthroughs in economics have involved cross-field synergies and the "new blood" have to be lively and extroverts to score points with me. Something impressive about UCLA is that there are a number of faculty members over the age of 60 who are still hard at work on real research. That wasn't true at the Ivy league school where I started my research career. The junior guys keep everyone young. I wouldn't call myself a vampire but I need the young's ideas and questions, ambition and enthusiasm.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Do Greens Drive Hummers?

In Los Angeles, one is always looking to make more money so one can afford a nice house. I'm thinking of auctioning my recent JEEM paper titled "Do Greens Drive Hummers or Hybrids?" to Hollywood. Bruce Willis could play an environmentalist cop who is forced by bad guys to drive a Hummer in his green community and this results in his green neighbors mocking and ostracizing him. This is a slight twist on a Die-Hard movie plot's start but I doubt that fans would notice.

If you would like to see some fun discussion and debate about my paper (which I meant to be both fun and serious) take a look here;
Salon's Discussion of my Prius Paper

The letters to the editor are worth reading.
If you'd like to actually read the paper; go to and
go to my "research papers" link and click on "hybrids".

I continue to work on this subject. My core question is simply selection versus treatment. Do Greens live a "simpler" smaller ecological footprint life than the average person? If so, is this due to where they live within cities? (near rail transit stops and where they can walk?) or is it treatment --- that in day to day life they economize on actions that damage the environment?

The challenge here is to identify environmentalists, to determine which parts of a city are "green" (i.e near rail transit stops) and to measure environmental choices (i.e buying a Prius or a Hummer).

Monday, December 17, 2007

Revitalizing Downtown Berkeley

The City of Berkeley is home of 7% of Alameda's total population but 40% of the county's homeless live in Berkeley. Does such tolerance have unintended consequences? The stores in downtown Berkeley think so. This article says that merchants blame "rowdy behavior" for the ghost town effect that the educated, liberal community of Berkeley is voting with their feet and are not shopping in downtown Berkeley.

The proposed solution to this challenge? "Public Commons for Everyone Initiative, a wide-ranging crackdown on rowdy street behavior intended to channel unruly homeless people into shelters and rehabilitation centers." This sounds like a make work act for ACLU lawyers but I certainly agree that it is a good idea.

Note that economists are punched at the end of the article. Our attempts to engage in "program evaluation" are not welcome here. This raises an interesting issue; how do people define the words "good policy" if they don't allow the economists to do a serious quantitative study and make policy decisions before they receive such inputs? If a "good policy" is one that makes every heterogeneous person better off and nobody worse off, then government might not enact many laws each year. Call in Ken Arrow (at Stanford) to explain this point to you!

An urban economist here would advocate the separation theorems. Allocate downtown Berkeley's land to the highest bidders while trying to internalize synergies between land parces. Take the revenue collected from land auctions and property taxes and then the liberal city government can write checks to the favored few who it feels deserves government transfers. This approach beats market distortions that lead to misallocation of scarce resources.

I love this quote from Will Travis (see below) that adjacent Emeryville has been the big winner from Berkeley's "experiment". This point about cross-elasticities bears more academic research.

Berkeley hopes to restore its downtown to life
Carolyn Jones, Chronicle Staff Writer

Monday, December 17, 2007

Berkeley is one of the most affluent, lively cities in the Bay Area, but its downtown looks more like Tombstone, Ariz., on a slow day.

Shuttered businesses dot the streets like tumbleweeds in a ghost town: Barnes and Noble. Gateway Computers. UC Theater. Soon to join their grim ranks: Ross Dress for Less and Shoe Pavilion.

"Berkeley's downtown plan has resulted in a wonderful, vibrant, mixed-use community. It's called Emeryville," said Will Travis, chairman of the city committee charged with revitalizing the beleaguered commercial district around Shattuck and University avenues.

In a few years, downtown Berkeley could look a bit more like downtown San Francisco under a makeover plan to be considered Tuesday by the City Council - a bustling urban center thick with hotels, office high-rises, theaters and museums, but low on parking and sunlight.

The plan was created by the 20-member Downtown Area Planning Advisory Committee, which met more than 100 times in the past two years and looked at everything from sustainability to historic preservation. After a hearing before the council, the blueprint will undergo a lengthy review by the Planning Commission before going back to the council for a final vote in May 2009.

The committee came up with a set of goals to remake downtown into a regional cultural center that would accommodate UC Berkeley's ambitious expansion plans - including a Toyo Ito-designed art museum and a 19-story hotel and conference center - as well as the needs of residents, students, office workers and visitors.

"In 10 years, downtown will be a better version of what it is now," said Berkeley's economic development director, Michael Caplan. "It'll have more cultural venues, hopefully more retail, it'll be cleaner and more attractive and have more green buildings. But it'll still have that lively, urban college town feel."

The committee has proposed raising the building height limit from five stories to seven stories, but allowing a handful of exceptions: two 19-story hotels, four 10-story buildings and four 8-story buildings, all required to have the highest green construction rating.

It also suggests several pedestrian improvements, such as closing Center Street between Shattuck Avenue and Oxford Street and possibly uncovering Strawberry Creek, widening the sidewalks, adding public art and lighting and creating a series of small parks.

A more elaborate entrance to the University of California is also part of the proposal.

Coupled with the new downtown plan is Berkeley's recently approved Public Commons for Everyone Initiative, a wide-ranging crackdown on rowdy street behavior intended to channel unruly homeless people into shelters and rehabilitation centers.

Merchants, city staff and residents have blamed the decline of downtown Berkeley in part to the proliferation of homeless people. Forty percent of Alameda County's homeless population lives in Berkeley, which has just 7 percent of the county's population.

The plan also coincides with huge private investment downtown, totaling tens of millions of dollars over the past few years. Berkeley City College, Berkeley Repertory Theater, Freight and Salvage nightclub and the Shattuck Hotel are a few downtown businesses that have recently undergone extensive expansions and refurbishing.

The downtown committee was far from unanimous in its support for the proposal. Many members think downtown could use a good cleaning but otherwise is fine as is. High-rise buildings would overwhelm the historic character, bring unwanted crowds and cloak the whole district in shade, they say.

"Some of us voted for increasing the height limits because of the wonderful sustainability elements we added," said Patty Dacey, a planning commissioner who served on the committee. "But it's a compromise. It's like a beautiful sweater - if you pull one thread, the whole sweater falls apart."

The committee voted 11-1, with eight abstentions, to increase height limits to 85 feet, and the fight is expected to continue at the Planning Commission.

Another potential problem with the plan is that no one knows if it's economically feasible. Developers might not be able to make a profit with the proposed height limits and green construction requirements, ultimately leaving downtown in the long-term slump it's in now.

"We're very much concerned. We want to see some real economic measurement," said Deborah Badhia, executive director of the Downtown Berkeley Association, which represents business owners. "There's a lot we agree with, but we very much want to see the business sector remain healthy."

The committee didn't look at economic factors it ran out of time, and "the majority (of members) felt they couldn't trust economists," Travis said. "We felt it was our job to come up with a Christmas wish list for the city. It's up to the parents to decide what we actually get."

Get involved
The Berkeley City Council will discuss the Downtown Area Plan from 5-7 p.m. Tuesday in the council chambers, 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way. Read the plan at

E-mail Carolyn Jones at

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Vacation in Berkeley

Even professors need time off. It is true that our job is not as stressful as other jobs such as being a surgeon or a fireman. There is a lot of stuff going on at UCLA (98% of which is good!) and so I'm tired at the end of this quarter. To refresh and get ready for the winter quarter, we are heading to Berkeley, CA. Berkeley has a positive treatment effect on my family. Our son's grandparents live there and we have a whole routine that we return to that involves hanging out outside and going to downtown San Fran. Is Berkeley a better place to live than Los Angeles? I may return to this important topic in a future blog entry.

While on vacation, I will write a book review for the Journal of Economic History. I'm grateful that Bill Collins trusts me to do a good job on such an assignment.
I also have to deal with a tricky revise and resubmit at a journal where the editor has told me that to make his special issue's due date that he must make a decision by April 1st so to give the reviewers another chance to beat up my paper --- they must get the revision back by February 1st 2008. I must admit that I'm not used to such sharp deadlines. I'm used to a more leisurely academic schedule so such discipline is actually good for me. The reviewers made a number of very good points and some not so good points. We will be polite in responding to these.

At my stage of my career, I don't understand why I still send papers to journals. I could just post them here and let the "editor" (i.e you) decide whether the ideas presented here are interesting.

I hope to see you at Chez Panisse (or at least the Starbucks across the street)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Shifting Racial and Ethnic Demographics at Los Angeles Public High Schools from 1980 to 2006: Implications for Sports Teams and the Median Consumer

Demographic trends appear to matter in determining what products we see supplied in markets. The Los Angeles Times sports section yesterday had an interesting article about the "median voter" at Los Angeles high schools and how these public schools' demographics have shifted from 1980 and 2006 and the implications of this trend for which schools are sports powerhouses versus who are duds. Look for more soccer and less football at many of these schools.

The article could have talked a little bit about "expensive" sports such as tennis and squash. Are any of these schools offering such sports?,1,4833526.column?ctrack=1&cset=true

From the Los Angeles Times

It's an entirely new ballgame for the City Section's schools
Demographics have shifted dramatically in Los Angeles Unified School District schools over the last 20 years, and sports teams are proof of the changes.
Eric Sondheimer

December 11, 2007

Change is coming to high school sports in the City Section, and it's reflected in the demographic transformation taking place in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Thirty years ago, Canoga Park didn't have a soccer team and its student body was 65% Caucasian.

Last year, the soccer-playing sons of immigrants from El Salvador, Mexico, Guatemala and Colombia helped Canoga Park finish 24-0-1 and earn recognition as the nation's No. 1 boys' soccer team.

"They grow up with a ball at their feet," Coach Jake Gwin said of his Latino players, who are now part of a 79% majority at the school.

In 1975, when San Fernando won the City 4-A football championship, the Tigers featured the African American backfield of Kenney Moore, Charles White, Kevin Williams and Ray Williams. In the 2006-07 school year, the number of African American students had fallen to 28 in a student body of 3,756, with a 98% Latino representation.

These demographic changes are leading to a shift in sports preference and emphasis at many LAUSD schools.

LAUSD demographic statistics compiled in 1980, when there were only 49 comprehensive high schools, are dramatically different from those of 2006-07, when there were nearly twice as many schools.

Fremont's student population, which was 96% African American in 1980, is now 90% Latino. Jefferson, once 68% African American, is 91% Latino. Jordan, 94% African American in 1980, is down to 20% African American students but is 79% Latino.

Even high schools in the once predominantly white enclaves of the San Fernando Valley are changing. Chatsworth, with a 77% Caucasian population in 1980, is 47% Latino. Lake Balboa Birmingham, 73% Caucasian in 1980, is 69% Latino. Reseda Cleveland, once 64% Caucasian, is 58% Latino.

The lone school in LAUSD currently with a Caucasian population of more than 50% is Woodland Hills El Camino Real, which has still fallen from 74% Caucasian in 1980 to 53% and has seen its Asian population grow from 84 students in 1980 to 393, or 11% of its student body.

Latinos and Asians are expected to make up 80% of the population in Los Angeles County by 2050, according to state population projections issued in July, with Latinos growing to 8.4 million, or 65% of the total population. The African American population is expected to decline from 910,000, or 9% of the population, in 2000 to 583,000, or 4% of the population, in 2050.

One sport, above all, appears positioned to benefit most from these demographic trends -- soccer.

It's already the most popular sport, in terms of participation, among high school girls in California, with 40,895 players. Track and field is second among girls, with 38,817 participants. And boys' soccer has gained more than 5,000 players since 2005, a 13% increase -- the greatest among all sports in the state -- that has increased the number of players to 44,730.

Every weekend, whether at MacArthur Park near downtown Los Angeles or at Valley Plaza in North Hollywood, soccer is being played from dawn until dusk, with entire families involved in the sport.

In the City Section, the boys' soccer playoffs feature the only single-elimination 32-team bracket among the 12 team sports offered, and that's because of competitive equity -- no need to have a second-tier Invitational bracket. The toughest playoff game last season for top-seeded Canoga Park was a 1-0 victory over 32nd-seeded Hollywood.

At Canoga Park, where nearly 90 students tried out for the boys' soccer team, there are dozens who play the sport at lunchtime, and others who show up to school wearing jerseys of professional soccer players.

At Jefferson, more than 100 students tried out for boys' soccer, and football Coach Doi Johnson has begun to wonder whether soccer will continue to rise in popularity.

"I don't think it will ever overtake football, because it's America's game," Johnson said. "It might overtake basketball. If you said that in the '80s, that thought wouldn't be fathomable."

Among the 708,461 students enrolled in kindergarten through high school in the LAUSD last year, 73% were Latino, and it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that the sons and daughters of parents from Latin America are embracing soccer as their No. 1 sport.

"It's every child's dream to be a soccer player in Mexico," said Omar De La Piedra, a senior soccer player at Canoga Park who was born in the U.S. but has lived in Mexico.

"It's a family tradition," added senior Oscar De La Cruz, whose father played soccer in Guatemala.

Jeff Davis, Chatsworth's former principal, said, "When I was coaching up to 1993, everybody had soccer teams, but it wasn't any big deal. Now it's huge. All you have to do is go to a soccer match and see the emotion and passion not only in players but also in their parents. Every neighborhood I go to, I see people playing soccer."

Despite the soccer boom, no one is predicting the demise of high school football as the most popular sport in terms of participation and fan interest. At least not yet. Football remains the No. 1 activity in uniting students from all ethnicities in a social setting on Friday nights.

"I think 'Friday Night Lights' is ingrained in the psyche of the American public," Canoga Park's Gwin said. "There could be a time, place and gradual interest to develop something like that for soccer."

Night soccer matches could take place in the future, competing with winter basketball games for crowds and exposure. But in California, soccer is a winter sport, unlike the rest of the country, where it's mostly a fall sport. And it can still get pretty cold outside on a winter night in the Southland.

"In 20 or 30 years, hopefully what we'll see is greater technical ability of the younger [soccer] athletes as some of them grow up and become coaches themselves and reach the urban community," Gwin said. "You're going to see growth not just from Hispanics but growth in the Anglo community. When we can keep kids involved in soccer from 13 on instead of going to football, I think you'll see a multicultural face of soccer."

There are other changes in the works. The number of high schools participating in sports in the City Section has grown to 94, including charter and magnet schools, and that figure could double over the next 25 years, according to Barbara Fiege, City Section commissioner. It has led to the creation of a City small-schools playoff division.

Schools once strong in specific sports are having to regroup and come up with new ideas to stay competitive. At Fremont, a one-time football powerhouse, Coach John Washington has begun playing schools in East Los Angeles, such as Garfield, in the hope of encouraging more of the Panthers' large Latino student body to come out for football.

Charter schools, established to improve academic performance through smaller class sizes, are taking aim at luring away athletes from traditional schools by offering a balance between academic and athletic opportunities.

One of the early success stories is View Park Prep, a charter school in South Los Angeles with a 97% African American population that made it to the state Division V championship game in boys' basketball last season in its second year as a varsity program.

Private and Catholic schools, aided by wealthy donors, dedicated alumni and strong parental participation, continue to make inroads in attracting many students, mostly Caucasian, away from neighborhood public schools.

Among the 1,600 students in grades 7-12 who attend North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake, 64% are Caucasian. Encino Crespi, an all-boys school of 600, has a student body that is 65% Caucasian. At Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, which has a student body that is 56% Caucasian, there were 800 applications for 350 openings this year.

Fueling demographic change is a migration of families coming to and leaving Southern California because of job opportunities and housing costs, according to Eugene Turner, a geography professor at Cal State Northridge who has been charting local population trends since 1980.

Turner believes the dispersal of African American families from such areas as South Los Angeles, Pacoima and Monrovia will continue, with Palmdale, Moreno Valley and San Bernardino gaining as destination points.

Fundraising, already a mandatory requirement for sports teams, will surely widen the gap between the haves and have-nots in regard to state-of-the-art amenities.

At Newhall Hart, a Southern Section school, the football program has a budget of more than $100,000, with a majority coming from its booster club, while at Sun Valley Poly, the football budget this year is $17,000, of which $5,000 was raised by a booster club. At Brea Olinda, the boys' basketball budget is more than $50,000, while at Hollywood, it's $3,000.

"Fundraising here is like pulling teeth," Hollywood Coach Craig Laurent said. "The kids can't see the benefits that their parents will be paying less."

Notre Dame recently installed a synthetic football field, all-weather track, aluminum bleachers and a new weight room. Five of the seven private schools that compete against the Knights in the Mission League have synthetic turf fields that cost close to $1 million each, and the two schools that don't, Crespi and Mission Hills Alemany, have plans to add them within two years.

Additional money allows a team to take advantage of the continuing technological breakthroughs that can improve athletic performance and provide greater exposure to its student-athletes.

Digital cameras linked to school Internet sites are enabling teams to broadcast games live via webcasts. Software used by college and professional teams to edit and break down video is being used by high school coaches who can produce DVDs with highlights of games for players, fans and college recruiters.

Schools that were once football powers are having to decide whether that's where they should continue to put their resources.

Tom Hernandez was an All-City offensive lineman for San Fernando in 1974, when the Tigers won the first of consecutive City titles. There were more than 500 African Americans attending the school then. More than 30 years later, that number has dropped to fewer than 30, and Hernandez, now the school's football coach, has been working hard to reverse that trend.

"What we had to stop was the perception that this wasn't a safe school for African Americans," he said. "The perception now in the community is, it's a good place, it's safe, it's academically sound and you can do what you want athletically."

Rashaad Reynolds, a three-sport standout, is doing his part to help his school regain its luster in the African American community. He plays football as the Tigers' quarterback, plays basketball and is a two-time City wrestling champion.

He gave serious consideration to choosing another high school before enrolling at San Fernando.

"I felt real uncomfortable at first," he said. "You could tell every black in school. We ate and hung around each other."

But Reynolds, a junior, said he has come to feel comfortable at his school, which is nearly 100% Latino, and is motivated trying to lift its sports programs back to prominence.

He led the Tigers to the Valley Mission League football championship this season and is a reminder of a different era when San Fernando relied on such multiple-sport African American athletes as Anthony Davis and Heisman Trophy winner Charles White to pump up its athletic program.

In this changing environment, members of high school sports teams can serve as campus unifiers in the face of racial tension within the student body.

When there was a dispute between African American and Latino students at Jefferson in 2004, it was members of the football team who helped calm fears.

"That's why teams on every campus can be an example of unity," Jefferson's Johnson said. "We made sure we wore our jerseys. We ate lunch together. We talked how we could promote unity. By being visible and through word of mouth, we helped defuse the tension."

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Harvard as a Brand Name: Would JFK Support this Change?

Product differentiation is a key aspect of modern capitalism. How does a Prius differ from a conventional Honda Civic? How does Coke differ from Pepsi? To my surprise, somehow Harvard thinks that it has a marketing problem. This article from the Harvard Crimson highlights a key decision that will shape the future course of this great institution (I'm kidding). What is interesting here is why this change needed to be made? If the KSG is great, and it is pretty great, why do names matter?
Note that the KSG is dropping the word "Government" from its title? Is it anti-government? Is it morphing into a business school? If it isn't a school of government and public policy, then what is it? What would JFK think? So in this "re-branding", I see that Harvard is upweighted in the title and "Government" is downweighted? Given that the Government types don't raise much endowment $, it would interest me if their faculty debate on this topic was really a debate?


KSG Dean Unveils New Name, Slogan

Published On 12/11/2007 12:57:10 AM


Contributing Writer

Joining the ranks of Cingular and the CUE Guide, the John F. Kennedy School of Government will rebrand itself as the Harvard Kennedy School starting next semester, the school’s dean has announced.

The exercise will also include a revamped Web site, a standardized logo, and a new slogan: “Ask what you can do.”

In an e-mail to students, faculty and alumni announcing the change on Friday, Dean David T. Ellwood ’75 wrote that the lack of a consistent shorthand means that students, academics, and the media give the school a multiplicity of confusing nicknames.

He added that many sources had advised coming up with a definitive shorthand name.

The school’s associate dean for communication and public affairs, Melodie L. Jackson, said her department conducted a series of one-on-one interviews with faculty, students, alumni, and prospective employers last year.

“One of our key findings was that we were not leveraging our affiliation with Harvard as effectively as we could be,” she said, adding that the school shares the Kennedy name with more than 900,000 other institutions around the world.

Jackson said the rebranding is a response to poor name recognition of the school beyond Harvard.

“There’s a lot of confusion out there as to who we even are,” she said.

Stephen C. Chan, a second-year joint degree student at the Kennedy School and the Business School said, “I think it’s strange that the school is focusing on something superficial.”

Chan also expressed surprise at the removal of the term “government” from the school’s new name as it falls in line with Harvard’s other professional schools.

“But I can understand why they think this is necessary,” he added.

Executive Dean John A. Haigh said that the emphasis on Kennedy’s name—as well as the famous speech recalled in the slogan—was a reminder of the school’s commitment to public service.

“We are very proud of our heritage, of our linkage to the Kennedy name,” Haigh said. “And we also want to maintain the connection to the Harvard name so people will know who we are, where we are, and what we do.”

Jackson said that the official name of the school will remain the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Since the changes will mostly affect the Web site rather than buildings or plaques, they will not come at particularly high costs, she added.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Surviving POW Camps

Dora Costa and I have written about survival in tough settings (see but this sounds like a real challenge.

Man freed after 100 hours trapped in a lavatory 1 hour, 18 minutes ago

A retired Scottish school teacher was recovering on Monday after spending nearly four days trapped inside a men's toilet with no food or mobile phone.

David Leggat was locked inside the bathroom at a lawn bowling club near the Scottish city of Aberdeen after the door jammed and the handle on the outside fell off.

The 55-year-old kept warm by dipping his feet in hot water but only managed to get about three hours' sleep a night in the freezing temperatures, the local Evening Express newspaper reported.

He was rescued when the cleaner at the club, which is little used in winter, turned up to collect her cleaning equipment.

Leggat said a survival course he had once done had helped him endure his captivity. The cleaning lady said he looked shaken and grey when he emerged. Leggat was stoical.

"At least there was a toilet to use," he said. "The only thing I regret is not getting trapped behind the bar."

(Reporting by Luke Baker; Editing by Elizabeth Piper)

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Greenhouse Gases Versus Nuclear Power Risk in Suburban NYC: Pick Your Poison

This is a subtle article. Maybe Peter Applebome should be our next President? I like that he sees two sides to a debate. I like that he is honest about tradeoffs and the importance of making costly decisions without declaring that a "free lunch" lurks. Andrew Cuomo must be a righteous dude. Starting in the Winter quarter, Michael Dukakis is my next door neighbor at the UCLA Public Policy department. I must remeber to ask the Gov. about Dr. Cuomo's acumen.

December 9, 2007
Our Towns
The Power Grid Game: Choose a Catastrophe

The megawattage was higher than normal, but the politics sounded familiar when Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo, with Democratic politicians and antinuclear activists in tow, dropped a rhetorical bomb on the Indian Point nuclear power plant on Monday.

Not only should the Nuclear Regulatory Commission deny an application to renew its license, Mr. Cuomo said, but “Indian Point should be closed, and it should be closed now.” For those who missed the urgency, he added, “Indian Point is, in my opinion, a catastrophe waiting to happen.”

Well, an ambitious Democratic politician in these parts can never go wrong railing against Indian Point — the more apocalyptic the language, the better. But even in the kingdom where the word “no” forever reigns supreme, closing Indian Point raises its share of vexing questions.

For starters: Is New York prepared to increase carbon emissions and perhaps flunk its goals under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to close Indian Point? In whose neighborhoods in Westchester or Rockland Counties is it prepared to build the power plants that would replace it? Is the possibility of more expensive and less reliable electricity an acceptable trade-off for not having to worry about Indian Point? If Indian Point poses an unacceptable risk, shouldn’t the dozens of nuclear plants in metropolitan areas around the country and the world close as well? And we’re comfortable with those carbon trade-offs too?

In the end, they come down to this: Do the forever-green, antinuke politics of the 1970s hold up in the global warming era of 2007? Think before you answer.

NUCLEAR power isn’t the most lovable of alternatives, and if you live in Westchester County, as I do, the specter of Indian Point is one of the constants of local discourse, like college admissions hysteria, real estate anxiety and Bill and Hillary sightings.

Indian Point’s critics say its safety record over the years has been too flawed, the population around it too large, the evacuation plans too inadequate to keep it open. You think, if they can’t get the sirens to operate, maybe there are bigger worries.

(Of course, it was New York State that sold this alleged catastrophe in the making to its current owners just six years ago, but we’ll let that pass.)

There’s plenty of hyperbole on both sides, and Entergy Nuclear, the plant’s owner, seems able to spend money like a drunken sailor to get its message out. Nuclear power’s most effective spokesman may be Patrick Moore, a founder and former member of the environmental group Greenpeace, who has been hired by the nuclear industry to promote the technology.

He says the resurgence of nuclear energy around the world — even in ultragreen countries like Finland — reflects the simple fact that nuclear power has more potential to replace and reduce carbon emissions than anything else, and that, leaving out the Model T technology of Chernobyl, its worldwide safety record remains almost impeccable.

“What drives me nuts,” he said, “ is that the environmental movement itself has become the primary obstacle to reducing fossil fuel emissions. Energy and climate are two sides of the same coin, and they’ve got it completely backward. Either you quit worrying about climate change and go on burning fossil fuels or you accept nuclear energy and get off fossil fuels. They’re stuck between a rock and a hard place of their own making.”

Of course, if you factor in conservation and alternative energy, there should be other options. And maybe the biggest obstacle to nuclear power has been cost, not pesky enviros. But for now, all the painless green alternatives like massive conservation, smart building, solar power, wind power, ocean waves and the rest that are supposed to allow us to do without nuclear power are still minor parts of the equation.

Unless Mr. Cuomo succeeds in closing Indian Point tomorrow, we might hope for two things as its relicensing process plods on.

One, says Alex Matthiessen, president of Riverkeeper in Westchester, is a far more thorough hearing than the Nuclear Regulatory Commission seems to have in mind — one that looks at issues like evacuation plans, vulnerability to terrorist attacks, potential leaks from spent fuel pools and other issues. A 20-year renewal for a nuclear plant in the most populous part of the country shouldn’t be a rubber stamp.

The second is some kind of urgency about all the painless alternatives that are supposed to let us do without Indian Point and plants like it. As it is, we don’t want windmills off Long Island, and we don’t want the proposed Broadwater floating natural gas plant in Long Island Sound. We almost certainly don’t want a tunnel under the Sound. We don’t want Indian Point, and we sure as heck wouldn’t want a substantial plant to replace it. We want our bloated S.U.V.s and Hummers and the energy-hogging McMansions that the banks haven’t taken back. yet.

Maybe Santa is out there 365 days a year, and maybe we can turn all of Wyoming into a windmill farm that will solve everyone’s problems. Or maybe getting to a sane energy future is a lot more complicated than scaring people to death about Indian Point.


Saturday, December 08, 2007

Opponents of L.A Road Pricing Speak Up

Economists talk, blog, lecture and write but we don't always succeed in conveying the case for efficiency. Below, I report 3 letters published in today's Los Angeles Times by intelligent people. The last two might not have gotten an A on my final exam.

Road pricing advocates haven't spoken clearly about what they would with the revenue that would be collected. Could the LA government commit to devote the revenue to "pro-poor" policies? In the case of London's congestion charge, what has that City done with the extra revenue that was collected?,0,7134613.story?coll=la-news-comment-letters
From the Los Angeles Times
Letters to the editor

December 8, 2007

Freeways should be kept free

Re "It's time to go with toll-lane flow," column, Dec. 2

All toll lanes will do is squeeze the same number of commuters into fewer freeway lanes, or, worse, push commuters onto surface streets while making life easier for those who can afford the toll.

If a pricing plan is going to be used to manage traffic, viable and practical options to get from point A to point B must be integral to the effort.

Why not simply take over all carpool lanes, partition them off and put trains in them? Because Caltrans already has the right of way, we could lay down the track and build the necessary infrastructure over the next five years to move many more people than just about any other option available.

Once people have viable options, one of the other lanes could be redesigned as a three- or four-person carpool lane or as a toll lane.

It's all about capacity, options and incentives.

Robert Kahn

Los Angeles

I find Steve Lopez's vision of toll lanes on Los Angeles-area freeways an elitist's dream. For many reasons -- some logistical, others ethical -- this is the wrong thing to do.

The most obvious logistical reason is that we are a city of working commuters from home to job, not one of primarily airport to civic center travel.

Among the ethical reasons is the fact that we have already paid for the freeways through state and exorbitant gasoline taxes.

An $8 surcharge to use a "freeway" will crowd the poor onto the remaining lanes no matter how many occupants they have in their vehicles and create a taxpayer-built express lane for the affluent.

Steven Johnson

Redondo Beach

Let's thwart the foul smell of manipulation and smother this effort, no matter the lofty promises.

Turning carpool lanes -- many of which are busting at their seams with vehicles already -- into toll lanes will provide no tangible benefit to the average commuter and certainly won't relieve congestion.

The ploy behind this effort, as always, is to create a source of revenue.

Once the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has planted this money tree of the evergreen variety, it will be nurtured to grow large and healthy so that it may provide fertile ground to the singular goal of yielding ever more cash at the expense of all of us.

Michael E. White


Friday, December 07, 2007

The End of Greenhouse Gas "Free-Riding"?

Is there a puzzle here? In the absence of current greenhouse gas emissions regulation, a leading Asian electric utility plans to sharply reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. Why? Is this regulatory pre-emption? Did its CEO suddenly feel the urge to be a "good global citizen"? The article highlights (at the end)that this action will be costly.

What interests me here is "subjective expectations" and the heterogeneity of these expectations. To speak English, in behavioral economics recently there has been a literature on "over-optimistic" CEOs. For example, see

In a similar spirit, how do CEOs of firms that produce significant amounts of greenhouse gases form expectations of future greenhouse gas regulatory regimes? If firms base investment decisions on expected regulatory burdens then those that anticipate the most stringent regulatory regimes will invest the most today to "green" themselves.

If more executives convince themselves that stringent CO2 regulation is coming and take ex-ante actions to reduce the impact of such regulation, then a political economy model would predict that we will see more CO2 regulation because the business interests that tend to oppose such regulation will suffer less from such regulation (because they have prepared for it).

December 7, 2007
A Leading Asian Utility to Cut Carbon Emissions
HONG KONG, Dec. 6 — CLP, one of Asia’s largest power utilities, plans to commit itself on Friday to sharply reducing its emissions of carbon dioxide.

The company plans to cut the amount of carbon dioxide it emits with each kilowatt-hour of electricity generated by 4.8 percent over the next three years, and 76 percent by 2050. To do so, it will step up its investments in nuclear power, natural gas, renewable energy and so-called clean coal technologies.

Timed to coincide with climate change negotiations currently under way in Bali, CLP’s announcement is the latest step by the power industry in addressing emissions of global-warming gases, especially carbon dioxide, the leading greenhouse gas.

CLP’s decision is especially noteworthy, energy experts said, because power companies active in developing countries rarely undertake such initiatives. CLP, of Hong Kong, has large investments in mainland China, Thailand, Taiwan, India and Australia.

Developing countries are not subject to the emissions limits set under the Kyoto Protocol, but the United States and the European Union are pressing them, at the Bali talks, to at least agree to discuss binding limits for developing countries as well.

“We believe that if everyone takes an approach like this, the magnitude of global warming may be limited to approximately 2 degrees Celsius to 3 degrees Celsius so that the most catastrophic effects of climate change may be off,” said Andrew Brandler, the chief executive of CLP Holdings, according to an advance copy of his statement. Two to three degrees Celsius is equal to 3.6 to 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit.

A United Nations panel warned last month that an increase of even this magnitude could cause a rapid rise in sea levels, as ice sheets melted, and the extinction of many species.

The company’s plan is less ambitious than those of some utilities in Japan and France, which have set much lower emissions targets and already rely heavily on nuclear energy, which produces practically no global-warming gases.

Setting its limit only in terms of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour of electricity also means that CLP is not committing itself to reducing its total carbon output, or limiting the amount of electricity it generates.

“If you generate more power, then absolute emissions of carbon dioxide will increase,” said Frances Yeung, an energy campaigner for Greenpeace.

On Thursday, Greenpeace protesters scaled a fly ash silo at one of CLP’s coal-fired power plants and hung a banner reading, “Climate Change Starts Here.”

A CLP spokesman, Carl N. Kitchen, said the company was not limiting its overall emissions because it operates in rapidly growing electricity markets and does not want to limit its options.

As if to underline that, Credit Suisse predicted in a research report Thursday that mainland China’s power consumption would continue growing by 11 to 14 percent a year for the next three to five years. China’s rapid expansion of mostly coal-fired electricity generation is the main reason it has overtaken the United States as the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, according to the International Energy Agency in Paris.

Jeremy Carl, a research fellow specializing in Asian energy issues at Stanford, said it might be better for the environment if CLP did build more power plants, rather than letting other companies meet Asia’s growing needs.

“Certainly they are going to be a lot more efficient than the big mainland power companies” in China, or the electric utilities in India, Mr. Carl said.

CLP estimates that its operations now emit 1.85 pounds of carbon dioxide for each kilowatt-hour of electricity generated. The company’s plan calls for cutting emissions to 1.76 pounds in 2010, 1.54 pounds in 2020, 0.99 pound in 2035 and 0.44 pound in 2050.

By comparison, China’s utilities emit 2.23 pounds a kilowatt-hour, those in the United States, 1.40 pounds and Japan’s, just 0.78 pound, according to data from Carbon Monitoring for Action in Washington, which gathers such data with the goal of drawing attention to climate change.

One reason for the difference is that Japanese utilities rely heavily on nuclear power and natural gas, while most of CLP’s operations are in nations where coal is cheap and abundant, like China, India and Australia, as it is in the United States.

Reaching CLP’s goals could be difficult, as many clean coal technologies either produce only modest reductions in carbon dioxide emissions, are very expensive or are simply not yet technologically feasible. For example, the company’s plan to meet its later targets assumes that it will become possible to capture and sequester the carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants. But the technology to do so is still under development and could prove costly even if perfected.

The company also plans to use more natural gas, which produces less soot and carbon dioxide than coal. It has sought government permission in Hong Kong to build a liquefied natural gas terminal in a marine conservation area with fairly deep water, situated close to power plants.

Monday, December 03, 2007

New Yorkers Defend Pigeons at City Hall

Pigeons do not contribute to Green Cities. They should be diapered or exported to the moon. This Columbia University article highlights the challenge that urban diversity poses in determining what is "good public policy". I declare that the winners "win" more than the losers lose from cracking down on the pigeons.

New Yorkers Defend Pigeons at City Hall
By Betsy Morais

Created 12/03/2007 - 1:53am
Concerned citizens decried Councilman Simcha Felder’s proposed pigeon legislation on the steps of City Hall Friday afternoon.

Felder, D-Brooklyn, has called for a $1,000 fine for feeding the birds and set forth additional recommendations—such as support for the creation of a city “Pigeon Czar.” But critics are determined stop Felder’s legislation from passing.

“Felder’s pigeon bill is poop!” one protester’s sign read. About 40 people from organizations such as People for Pigeons, the Greenwich Village Pigeon Club, and the New York City Wildlife Alliance rallied together in an hour-long demonstration to lambast Felder’s legislation and express their pigeon appreciation.

According to the New York Bird Club, “The proposed plan is senseless and cruel, and the people respectfully ask that it not be permitted to pass into our law.”

Demonstrators denied a pigeon problem in the city, saying that the birds pose no credible health hazards, and scolded Felder’s misunderstanding of the species.

“Felder’s report is filled with mistakes and inaccurate information,” Wildlife Alliance’s Cathryn Swan said, with her organization’s 14-page rebuttal to the bill in hand. “He seems to be basing his proposal on the fears of his six-year-old daughter,” who the Councilman has said is peeved by pigeons.

Although Felder has suggested that pigeons can move to New Jersey if they don’t like his law, Johanna Clearfield of the Urban Wildlife Coalition explained that because pigeons are homing birds, it is against their nature to leave the immediate area in which they were born.

Friday’s protesters pointed out that pigeons are war heroes who should be revered as such. During World War I, they said, the birds crossed enemy lines to do their part in combating the Central Powers. One pigeon named Cher Ami was even credited for saving “The Lost Battalion” and honored with the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Today, pigeons are subjected to illegal trafficking across state lines. “New Yorkers would be shocked to know that pigeons are netted by the thousands,” Casey Pheiffer of the Humane Society explained. The birds are captured in the city and smuggled to Pennsylvania, where they are shot for money and prizes.

Frequent pigeon feeder Irene Cook is not part of any pro-pigeon organizations, but joined the protest to oppose Felder’s legislation, which she finds discriminatory. “I don’t want my daughter to think it’s okay to kill a living thing just because it poops in places that are inconvenient. I’m sure if God gave them toilets, they’d use them,” she said.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals released a statement in support of Felder’s proposed bill. “New York has become the home to an astronomical number of these creatures,” the press release said. The ASPCA added that Felder’s plan would promote a healthy city environment, and the organization hopes to work with the councilman to ensure maintenance of pigeon dignity.

Betsy Morais can be reached at


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This morning I woke up in New York City at 330am eastern time to catch a 630am flight to Los Angeles. All went smoothly and I just had a nice lunch with my wife at the UCLA faculty club but I'm a pinch tired.

Since last thursday (when I slept 4 hours on a red-eye to Raleigh), I've been to Raleigh, Boston, New York City and New Jersey and now I'm back in the sun and warmth.
Here is some data for Los Angeles.

MONDAY: High: 72°
Tuesday: Low: 52° High: 79°
Wednesday: Low: 56° High: 73°
Thursday Low: 55° High: 65°
Friday Low: 54° High: 57°

On Sunday, I saw snow and slush in New York City and was reminded why I needed to leave that town. On Saturday at NBER, I saw sunny skies but a brisk cold wind that reminded me why I needed to leave that town.

I did have the opportunity to talk to many economists and I greatly enjoyed the intellectual comradiere over the weekend and my wife now tells me that even my son started to miss me after 5 days away.

My only moment of discomfort on my trip was when a leading cambridge economist gently told me that my blog doesn't "reveal the real kahn". I know that I've been shading my views on this and that and have been hesistant to really speak my mind. I always liked that John Lennon song "Just give me some truth, all I want is the truth" on the Imagine album but I guess I'm more like Ringo than Lennon.

So, how to proceed? Should I start telling you what I really think of you?

Should I declare that starting tomorrow, I will act like a real chicago economist and tear into all that moves? Or will I continue to slink around and make nice?