Saturday, August 16, 2014

Notre Dame Conducts Academic Fraud Investigation

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly expressed his disappointment Saturday about the school's academic misconduct investigation involving four of his players, saying that he was shocked and disappointed when athletic director Jack Swarbrick called him into his office Thursday to inform him of the news.
"I will be on the outside looking in as it relates to this ongoing process," Kelly said.
Speaking publicly for the first time since news broke Friday that DaVaris DanielsKeiVarae RussellIshaq Williams and Kendall Moore would be withheld from practicing with the Fighting Irish because of potential academic misconduct, Kelly acknowledged the personnel hits his program has taken in recent years because of the school's academic demands, while also saying that he took the Notre Dame job five years ago because he wanted to be associated at a place with such high standards.
Friday's news was the latest academic-related hit Notre Dame's prominent athletic teams have taken in the last 15 months, as the school suspended Golson, the football team's starting quarterback, last fall semester following what Golson called "poor academic judgment" the previous spring. Golson was re-instated last winter.
Daniels, Notre Dame's top wide receiver, and Jerian Grant, the basketball team's leading scorer, were in similar situations as Golson, being suspended for the spring semester this year before being reinstated in June. (Daniels had cited poor grades for his suspension, while Grant cited poor judgment.)
Now Daniels is among a group of football players -- including three starters -- that is being investigated internally for academic misconduct.
Kelly said he has not talked to the four players being investigated, clarifying that they cannot practice or play with the team but are welcome in the football building for meals and other activities. He said he will withhold them from team and position meetings for now, and he said that he has not been told of any other players on his current team who are being investigated.
Kelly said that he has not been interviewed or investigated himself.
Daniels, Russell, Williams and Moore were a part of Notre Dame's 2012 team that went 12-1 and lost in the BCS national championship game to Alabama. The Rev. John Jenkins, the school's president, said Friday that the school would vacate victories if it determines players have been ineligible during past competition.
Kelly said a potential vacating of the Irish's 2012 wins would not alter his view of that season's accomplishments.
Vacating wins is the stupidest activity known to mankind.  When it comes down to it, college football records are a joke, because all of any successful team's wins could be vacated at any time.  Look at USC during the Reggie Bush era, Ohio State at the end of Tressel's reign, or Penn State for the 13 years after they found out Jerry Sandusky liked fucking boys.  Why we have an unpaid minor league football and basketball feeder system tied to institutions of higher learning is something I just don't understand.  Why should these guys pretend to be college students just to play sports?  Couldn't they go into a pro minor league system and be guaranteed a college scholarship if the sports thing doesn't work out?  It's a lot more transparent and a lot less exploitative and hypocritical than the system we currently have, but there is a ton of money going to the Ohio States, Notre Dames, Michigans, Alabamas and such in the world for the current slave system to go away.

Mid-August Weekend Links

Here are a few stories for your weekend entertainment:

Decline of the Curve: What happened to the art of an overhand curveball? - Sports on Earth

Congratulations, Commissioner Manfred, and welcome to Hell - SBNation

How Rye Came Back: The unexpected source of a craft-whiskey boom - The Atlantic. "What few people know, however, is that an awful lot of the craft whiskey found in these different bottles traces back to a single distillery in Lawrenceburg, Indiana—and it wasn’t originally intended to be bottled as rye at all."

The Front Lines of Ferguson - Rembert Browne.  See also, Cigars, But Not Close - Mark Steyn.  No shit, Mark Steyn.  Never thought I'd be linking to one of his posts and calling it a must-read, but I am.

Which General Was Better?  Ulysses S. Grant or Robert E. Lee? - Smithsonian.  I'd go with Grant, hands down.  Not only did he dominate wherever he was in the field, but Lee's successes were all against much lesser generals.  Lee prevailed by being recklessly bold against cautious generals who should have crushed his army numerous times.  His luck finally ran out at Gettysburg, and it was a long, slow grind to defeat from there on out.

Photos of a Baby With Confederate Flags and Guns Couldn't Persuade a Court to Prevent a Kidnapping - Broward-Palm Beach New Times.  Crazy, crazy Florida.

Drillers Illegally Using Diesel Fuel to Frack - Scientific American

Why Perdue Going Organic Could Mean Cleaner Water - Modern Farmer

At Photo-Op with Soldiers, Rick Perry Offers Few Details on Border Deployment - Texas Observer.  See also, Rick Perry gets gross: New right-wing lurch invokes terrorists and immigrants - Salon.  I am so dreading the 2016 Republican primary battle (and the potential Hillary coronation on the Democratic side).

The Supply-Side Case for Government Redistribution - Alan Blinder

How rural poverty is changing: Your fate is increasingly tied to your town - Washington Post.  With a few exceptions (generally German Catholic areas), in rural western Ohio, your fate seems to be tied to how closely you are located to I-75.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Way Too Smart For Me

Here is a summary of the work of mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani, the first woman, and the first Iranian, to win the Fields Medal, which is considered the Nobel Prize of mathematics:
Maryam Mirzakhani has made stunning advances in the theory of Riemann surfaces and their moduli spaces, and led the way to new frontiers in this area. Her insights have integrated methods from diverse fields, such as algebraic geometry, topology and probability theory.
In hyperbolic geometry, Mirzakhani established asymptotic formulas and statistics for the number of simple closed geodesics on a Riemann surface of genus g. She next used these results to give a new and completely unexpected proof of Witten's conjecture, a formula for characteristic classes for the moduli spaces of Riemann surfaces with marked points.
In dynamics, she found a remarkable new construction that bridges the holomorphic and symplectic aspects of moduli space, and used it to show that Thurston's earthquake flow is ergodic and mixing.
Most recently, in the complex realm, Mirzakhani and her coworkers produced the long sought-after proof of the conjecture that - while the closure of a real geodesic in moduli space can be a fractal cobweb, defying classification - the closure of a complex geodesic is always an algebraic subvariety.
Ok, I feel stupid.

So Stupid It Hurts

From The New Republic:

About half the states have not expanded Medicaid, which means they didn’t make it available to all low-income people as the Affordable Care Act’s architects originally intended. And the human cost of these decisions has been obvious for some while. People who desperately need insurance aren’t getting it. They’re more likely to experience financial hardship and, if the latest research is correct, they’re more likely to die.
Conservative state officials and their supporters frequently justify the decisions by arguing that they are simply looking after their states’ finances. Even with the federal government picking up most of the cost, they say, states must put up some money of their own—and the states don’t have the money to spare.
A new report from researchers at the Urban Institute, and supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, shows just how shortsighted that decision is. Yes, states have to spend money to expand Medicaid. But they get much, more back from the federal government. That money ends up flowing to medical professionals, hospitals, and other parts of the health care sector.
The Urban Institute researchers have made projections for just how much money each state is implicitly giving up by refusing to expand Medicaid. Georgia is a good example. According to the Urban report, Georgia would have to spend an additional $2.5 billion over the course of a decade in order to finance its share of the Medicaid expansion. But the state is giving up more than ten times that—$33.5 billion—in federal funds.
The right-wing idiots get what they deserve. At least with this program, money is going from the Republican states to the Democratic states.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Bumper Crop

USDA is predicting record corn and soybean crops:
Corn Production Up 1 Percent from 2013
Soybean Production Up 16 Percent from 2013
Cotton Production Up 36 Percent from 2013
Winter Wheat Production Up 2 percent from July Forecast
Corn production is forecast at 14.0 billion bushels, up 1 percent from 2013. Based on conditions as of August 1, yields are expected to average 167.4 bushels per acre, up 8.6 bushels from 2013. If realized, this will be the highest yield and production on record for the United States. Area harvested for grain is forecast at 83.8 million acres, unchanged from the June forecast but down 4 percent from 2013.
Soybean production is forecast at a record 3.82 billion bushels, up 16 percent from last year. Based on August 1 conditions, yields are expected to average a record high 45.4 bushels per acre, up 2.1 bushels from last year. Area for harvest in the United States is forecast at a record 84.1 million acres, unchanged from June but up 11 percent from last year.
All cotton production is forecast at 17.5 million 480-pound bales, up 36 percent from last year. Yield is expected to average 820 pounds per harvested acre, down slightly from last year. Upland cotton production is forecast at 16.9 million 480-pound bales, up 38 percent from 2013. Pima cotton production, forecast at 556,000 bales, is down 12 percent from last year. Producers expect to harvest 10.2 million acres of all cotton, up 36 percent from 2013. This harvest total includes 10.1 million acres of Upland cotton and 175,900 acres of Pima cotton.
All wheat production, at 2.03 billion bushels, is up 2 percent from the July forecast but down 5 percent from 2013. Based on August 1 conditions, the United States yield is forecast at 43.9 bushels per acre, up 0.8 bushel from last month but down 3.3 bushels from last year. Winter wheat production is forecast at 1.40 billion bushels, up 2 percent from the July 1 forecast but down 9 percent from 2013. Based on August 1 conditions, the United States yield is forecast at 43.1 bushels per acre, up 0.9 bushel from last month but down 4.3 bushels from last year. The area expected to be harvested for grain or seed totals 32.4 million acres, unchanged from last month but up slightly from last year.
Hard Red Winter production, at 729 million bushels, is up 4 percent from last month. Soft Red Winter, at 466 million bushels, is up 2 percent from the July forecast. White Winter, at 202 million bushels, is down 2 percent from last month. Of the White Winter production, 11.3 million bushels are Hard White and 190 million bushels are Soft White.
I've talked to a few guys at the fair who just don't believe the crop is out there.  I should be making some bets with them.  I don't think the actual harvest will be significantly lower than predicted.

Oil In the News

A few interesting tidbits from the last few days:

First, from Saturday's links, Making Sense of the US Oil Story:

If we believe the stories, the US is now the largest producer of oil liquids in the world. In fact, it has been the largest producer since the fourth quarter of 2012.
One of the issues is that a few years ago, the US created a new oil-related grouping, combining valuable products with much less valuable (lower energy content, less dense) products. Using this new grouping, the US was able to show much improved growth in total “oil” supply. The US EIA now calls the grouping “Total Oil Supply.” I refer to it as “Total Liquids,” a name I find more descriptive. Besides “crude and condensate,” the mixture includes “other liquids,” “natural gas plant liquids,” and “refinery expansion.”
“Crude and condensate” is the original grouping. Often, it is just referred to as “crude oil.”
“Other liquids” is primarily ethanol from corn. If we produced coal-to-liquids, it would be in this category as well.
Natural gas plant liquids (NGPL) are the liquids that condense out of natural gas when they are chilled and compressed in the natural gas processing plant.

Refinery expansion occurs when a refinery breaks long chain hydrocarbons into shorter ones. The resulting products take up more volume, but don’t really have more energy content. In some ways, the process is like making whipped cream out of whipping cream–more volume, but not really more product. The new products tend to be more valuable–say, diesel and lubricating oil made from something close to asphalt.
The process of breaking (cracking) long hydrocarbon chains is a valuable service to those producing heavy oils, because it makes valuable products from crude that otherwise would not have been useful for most purposes. The cracking process uses natural gas. Because natural gas in the US is inexpensive relative to its price in most other countries, the US can perform this process more cheaply than other countries. Because of this, it makes financial sense for the US to import heavy crude oil and process it in this way, whether or not US citizens can afford to buy the finished products. (Cracking is not useful on very light oil, such as Bakken oil, since it has primarily short chains to begin with.) If US citizens can’t afford the finished products, they are exported to others.
Whether or not the US should be credited with this expansion of volume is somewhat “iffy,” since the process doesn’t add energy content. Quite a bit of the oil processed in this way uses imported oil, such as oil from the Canadian oil sands.
If we look at the base figure reported by the US Energy Administration, that is, “Crude and Condensate”(Figure 2), the US does not come out as well in original comparison (Figure 1).

The latest data shows that “tight oil” production has jumped to 3.7m barrels a day (b/d) from half a million in 2009. The Bakken field in North Dakota alone pumped 1m b/d in May, equivalent to Libya’s historic levels of supply. Shale gas output has risen from three billion cubic feet to 35 billion in just seven years. The EIA said America will increase its lead as the world’s largest producer of oil and gas combined this year, far ahead of Russia or Saudi Arabia.
However, the administration warned in May that “continued declines in cash flow, particularly in the face of rising debt levels, could challenge future exploration and development”. It said that upstream costs of exploring and drilling have been surging, causing companies to raise long-term debt by 9pc in 2012, and 11pc last year.
Upstream costs rose by 12pc a year from 2000 to 2012 due to rising rig rates, deeper water depths, and the costs of seismic technology. This was disguised as China burst onto the world scene and powered crude prices to record highs. Major disruptions in Libya, Iraq, and parts of Africa have since prevented oil from falling much below $100, even though other commodities have been in the doldrums. But even flat prices for three years have exposed how vulnerable the whole oil and gas edifice is becoming.
The major companies are struggling to find viable reserves, forcing them take on ever more leverage to explore in marginal basins, often gambling that much higher prices in the future will come to the rescue. Global output of conventional oil peaked in 2005 despite huge investment.
Steven Kopits from Douglas-Westwood said the productivity of new capital spending has fallen by a factor of five since 2000. “The vast majority of public oil and gas companies require oil prices of over $100 to achieve positive free cash flow under current capex and dividend programmes. Nearly half of the industry needs more than $120,” he said.
Third, from Bloomberg, Oil Rigs Hit Record as Drillers Move Outside Big Basins:
Rigs targeting oil in the U.S. surged to a record as drillers ventured outside the nation’s biggest basins to search for crude in developing plays such as the South-Central Oklahoma Oil Province, known as SCOOP.
Oil rigs jumped by 15 to 1,588 this week, even as the counts in some of the most established basins, including the Permian of Texas and New Mexico, were either unchanged or down, data posted on Baker Hughes Inc. (BHI:US)’s website show. It was the most since Baker Hughes separated the oil and gas rig counts in 1987. Rigs targeting crude outside the major plays jumped by 19 to a record 399, the Houston-based field services company said. The count in Oklahoma rose to the highest level in almost six years.
Drillers are seeking new oil plays as hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling help them pull energy deposits out of shale formations across the U.S. The total U.S. rig count has gained by 151 this year as exploration has boomed, raising domestic crude production last month to the highest level in more than a quarter-century.
People are looking for new oil in other areas,” James Williams, president of energy consulting firm WTRG Economics in London, Arkansas, said by telephone today. “The potential of return is good because the price of oil is still high and the cost of leasing outside of the major basins is low. If you can discover oil there and have a fairly large leasehold, the potential returns on your investment are high....”
U.S. oil production climbed 10,000 barrels a day, or 0.1 percent, in the week ended Aug. 1 to 8.45 million, Energy Information Administration data show. Output rose last month to the highest level since 1986.
Oil and gas rigs in Oklahoma gained by two to 211, the highest since Sept. 19, 2008, Baker Hughes data show. The strongest production growth that oil driller Continental Resources Inc. saw in the first quarter came out of SCOOP, Harold Hamm, the Oklahoma City-based company’s chief executive officer, said in a call with analysts Aug. 6.
Finally, at the New Yorker, Oil and Why America is Dropping Bombs to Defend Erbil:
Erbil is the capital of the oil-endowed Kurdish Regional Government, in northern Iraq. There the United States built political alliances and equipped Kurdish peshmerga militias long before the Bush Administration’s invasion of Iraq, in 2003. Since 2003, it has been the most stable place in an unstable country. But last week, well-armed guerrillas loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, threatened Erbil’s outskirts, forcing Obama’s momentous choice. (The President also ordered air operations to deliver humanitarian aid to tens of thousands of Yazidis and other non-Muslim minorities stranded on remote Mount Sinjar. A secure Kurdistan could provide sanctuary for those survivors.)
“The Kurdish region is functional in the way we would like to see,” Obama explained during a fascinating interview with Thomas Friedman published on Friday. “It is tolerant of other sects and other religions in a way that we would like to see elsewhere. So we do think it is important to make sure that that space is protected.”
All true and convincing, as far as it goes. Kurdistan is indeed one of a handful of reliable allies of the United States in the Middle East these days. Its economy has boomed in recent years, attracting investors from all over and yielding a shiny new international airport and other glistening facilities. Of course, in comparison to, say, Jordan or the United Arab Emirates, Kurdistan has one notable deficit as a staunch American ally: it is not a state. Nor is it a contented partner in the construction of Iraqi national unity, which remains the principal project of the Obama Administration in Iraq. In that light, Obama’s explanation of his casus belli seemed a little incomplete.
Obama’s advisers explained to reporters that Erbil holds an American consulate, and that “thousands” of Americans live there. The city has to be defended, they continued, lest ISIS overrun it and threaten American lives. Fair enough, but why are thousands of Americans in Erbil these days? It is not to take in clean mountain air.
ExxonMobil and Chevron are among the many oil and gas firms large and small drilling in Kurdistan under contracts that compensate the companies for their political risk-taking with unusually favorable terms. (Chevron said last week that it is pulling some expatriates out of Kurdistan; ExxonMobil declined to comment.) With those oil giants have come the usual contractors, the oilfield service companies, the accountants, the construction firms, the trucking firms, and, at the bottom of the economic chain, diverse entrepreneurs digging for a score
Taken separately, the stories each provide an interesting perspective on the oil and gas market.  First, while U.S. production is spiking, a large percentage of it is in non-conventional oil equivalents, like ethanol, natural gas liquids, and refinery gains from imported heavy, sour oil.  Second, the easy and cheap oil is no longer available, and oil companies are spending much more to maintain and slightly increase production.  Third, drillers are utilizing more rigs, and are moving away from the best shale oil basins in search of the next big (albeit, most likely smaller) thing.  Finally, foreign policy pays a lot of attention to oil resources and oil companies' interests in those resources.

Putting all of these stories together, it is hard to accept the oil optimists' claims that technological advances will protect our oil-intensive lifestyle indefinitely. It appears more likely that after the production in the major shale plays peak, we're going to see sharply higher oil prices.  Thus, the squeeze on the middle class in the United States will continue to tighten.  Massive changes in the U.S. economy can be traced back to the peak in U.S. conventional crude oil production in 1971.  I anticipate that developing world demand increases, combined with higher production costs and diminishing production gains will continue to strain our economy.  I agree with the peak oil crowd that our energy-intensive lifestyle is unsustainable, and anticipate years of economic stagnation as we deal with the painful changes that will be required of us to live in the post-cheap energy era.