The Nonprofit Football League

Sep 22 2014 @ 11:57am

Philip Klein calls the NFL’s tax-exempt status “bad policy that exemplifies the problems with the nation’s disastrous tax code”:

The NFL’s nonprofit status was enshrined into law in a 1966 act meant to protect the league from antitrust issues surrounding its merger with the rival AFL (which was considered a lesser league until my Jets pulled off the greatest upset in football history in the 1969 Super Bowl). The same law added, “professional football leagues” to the part of the tax code listing entities granted nonprofit status.

Though the league distributes lucrative television and licensing revenue among the 32 teams, which do pay taxes on their earnings, the teams also send dues to the NFL league office. The office does not pay taxes on those dues, and the fees could be deducted from the teams’ taxes.

The NFL reported total revenue of $326 million for the 2012 tax year, according to its most recent publicly available filing with the Internal Revenue Service. During that year alone, the NFL paid $44.2 million in compensation to commissioner Roger Goodell. Goodell earned $105 million over the course of the five-year period from 2008 through 2012, according to a CNN report – more than any player.

Well, it might fall under the religious exemption, no? At this point, it requires blind faith to believe in its future. But Jordan Weissmann notes that revoking the NFL’s tax-exempt status “wouldn’t drastically change its finances”:

Read On

“It’s On Us”

Sep 22 2014 @ 11:42am

Katie Zavadski flags a new White House campaign to raise awareness about sexual violence on college campuses:

Officials are hoping the new ads will be screened on youth-oriented television networks and shown at sporting events. In order to appeal to the collegiate demographic, the White House recruited celebrities like Questlove, Jon Hamm, Rose Byrne, and Cleveland Cavaliers center Kevin Love to film spots.

Elizabeth Nolan Brown, who has addressed campus rape in the past, has some doubts:

Reading [Jeffrey] Zients’ post, I was reminded of author and professor Joel Best speaking on the hallmarks of how media hype (and the attendent bogus statistics) get promulgated: First there is a high-profile tragic event, then the need to define the event as part of an identifiable Problem (“the heroin epidemic”), and then a desire to quantify the problem so as to place it in a larger context. I put “campus rape crisis” in quotes not to diminish the seriousness of sexual assault but because I think the phrase is a prime example of the phenomenon Best describes. Rape is a problem wherever it happens, which is sometimes on campus and more frequently not. The “campus rape crisis” is a thing perpetuated by people interested in profiting from the fear in various ways.

Read On

Ted Cruz’s Brand Of Foreign Policy

Sep 22 2014 @ 11:18am

Beinart fears it:

[W]hile Cruz resembles McCain and Graham in hyping threats and dropping bombs, he morphs into Rand Paul when the subject turns to political engagement overseas. McCain and Graham want to train and arm the Free Syrian Army so that when America bombs ISIS, non-jihadist rebels seize their territory and eventually pressure Bashar al-Assad into a political settlement. Cruz doesn’t. When it comes to Syria’s “moderate” opposition, he’sdoubtful that the United States “can tell the good guys from the bad guys.”

That may be true. But most commentators who share Cruz’s skepticism about arming the rebels are skeptical of a bombing campaign too, arguing that it won’t do much good on the ground. Cruz doesn’t care. He wants to pulverize Syria from the air without any effort at political change on the ground. America’s strategy against ISIS, he insists, should not be “laden with impractical contingencies, such as resolving the Syrian civil war.”

The World’s Biggest Climate March

Sep 22 2014 @ 10:59am

Over 300,000 turned out in NYC yesterday:

Bill McKibben isn’t holding his breath for an international climate deal:

The collapse of the Copenhagen climate conference in 2009 was a signal event in diplomatic history, calling into question the ability of our societies to act cooperatively in the face of clear scientific warnings. There is no prospect of anything much happening next week at the climate summit, either. As Mark Bittman memorably put it in the New York Times: “The summit is a little like a professional wrestling match: There appears to be action but it’s fake, and the winner is predetermined. The loser will be anyone who expects serious government movement dictating industry reductions in emissions.”

Which is why McKibben helped organize Sunday’s climate march. His reasons for marching:

As individuals, there’s not much we can do. We can change our light bulbs—and we should—but doing so won’t change global warming. It’s a structural, systemic problem that needs to be addressed structurally and systemically. The most important rule for an individual in this fight is to figure out how not to remain an individual, how to join a movement big enough to change the politics. There’s no guarantee that we’re going to win, because it’s a timed test. In this case, if we don’t win pretty soon, it’s going to be a moot point.

Amy Davidson asks, “Whom did the march change?” She figures this is possibly “a more enduring question than what it changed, which, on an immediate policy level, might not be so much”:

Read On

Scotland Stays, Ctd

Sep 22 2014 @ 10:34am

Clive Crook contends that last week’s vote “settles nothing”:

Here’s the problem. If the nationalists had won, they’d have started a risky, costly transition, but the final destination would have been clear. The unionists’ victory avoids that short-term pain but prolongs the constitutional uncertainty indefinitely. Cameron might wish things were “settled,” but they aren’t. The demand for independence isn’t going away. When you consider the apocalyptic predictions of the No campaign, the Yes campaign’s transparent dishonesty (on taxes and spending) and incoherence (on the currency), the threats of Scottish businesses to move south, and the rock-solid consensus outside Scotland that leaving the union would be a tragic error, 45 percent support for independence suggests a certain resilience.

Larison agrees that the conflict is not yet over:

As we have already seen, instead of settling anything the referendum has produced new promises of devolution for Scotland and increased demands in England for significant changes to the current system. The former probably can’t or won’t be honored, since they were made on the fly without the consent of the rest of the U.K., and that will eventually mean another referendum. In that case, unionists won’t be able to make credible offers of greater devolution, and that would make it more difficult to avert independence later on.

But Keating begs to differ:

Read On

The Climate Change No Shows

Sep 22 2014 @ 10:01am

On Tuesday, world leaders will meet to discuss climate change. A while back, Michael Bechtel and Kenneth Scheve did a survey “to find out what features of an agreement were important to the public.” The results:

But it’s hard to reach such a deal when some big names aren’t attending this week’s climate summit:

Notably, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi are skipping the event. In empirical terms, it’s hard to think of two more important leaders in the world right now: Together they lead more than 2.5 billion people, more than a third of the world’s population.

And the two countries are not only the first and second most populous countries on Earth; research shows they also were the first- and third-biggest producers of carbon dioxide emissions (the United States holds the No. 2 spot). That figure can only partly be explained away by their huge populations: One study showed that per capita emissions from China recently surpassed that of the European Union, and India is predicted to follow suit in five years.

Alden Meyer downplays the absences:

Read On

Applying Science To Style

Sep 22 2014 @ 9:31am

Gary Stephen Ross deems Steven Pinker’s new book The Sense of Style as “a manual worthy of a place on a shelf just below Fowler’s Modern English Usage and Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style.” He appreciates Pinker’s book for its “painstaking dissection of the many ways in which language both serves and fails us”:

It’s fascinating to learn the science that underlies the stylistic techniques good writers seem to intuit—for example, a list is most easily grasped if the bulkiest item comes at the end (life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness ; or The Wild, The Innocent, and The E Street Shuffle; or Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!). “Light-before-heavy is one of the oldest principles in linguistics,” Pinker writes, “having been discovered in the fourth century BCE by the Sanskrit grammarian Pānini.” Why? Because the mind must hold the early items in suspension before incorporating the final one, and it’s easier to retain simple things than more complex elements.

John Preston is less taken with Pinker’s analysis, scoffing, “it becomes increasingly clear that Pinker doesn’t have anything new to say, and that anyone who follows his example is far more likely to end up writing waffle and bilge than War and Peace“:

Read On

Carrion Comfort

Sep 22 2014 @ 9:04am

dish_carrionbeetle

The ancestors of flesh-eating carrion beetles like the one above offer, according to new research, the “earliest evidence of parental care,” dating back to 125 million years ago. The beetles were not only “exceptional parents, but they also represent the oldest known example of active parenting on the planet”:

Finding traces of exceptional parenting in the fossil record is exceedingly difficult. In this case, the team managed it by studying fossils from China and Myanmar. The fossils showed that ancient beetles from the Early Cretaceous possessed special bodily structures close to those modern beetles possess that allow them to communicate with their young. Additionally, an amber fossil they uncovered caught the beetle parents in action, showing “elaborate biparental care and defense of small vertebrate carcasses for their larvae.”

The researchers also note that several types of modern carrion beetles are endangered:

The American burying beetle, for example, is down to fewer than 1,000 individuals that live east of the Mississippi River. Even the most experienced parents in the world can’t shield their babies from the ill-effects of human-driven habitat fragmentation, it seems.

(Photo of hairy burying beetle by Laszlo Ilyes)

Left Cold By Coffee?

Sep 22 2014 @ 8:34am

A new study suggests heavy coffee-drinkers “find it more difficult to identify and describe their own emotions”:

Alexithymia” – Greek for “no words for feelings” – is the psychological terminology for an inability to put ones emotions into words. [Researcher Michael] Lyvers et al did a survey study of 106 university students and found that alexithymia was correlated with the amount of caffeine consumed per day…. Lyvers et al say that

Alexithymics reported consuming nearly twice as much caffeine per day on average compared to non-alexithymic controls or those with borderline alexithymia.

As to why this is the case, the authors speculate that

Perhaps those with alexithymia consume caffeine more heavily than non-alexithymics in an attempt to optimize inherently low arousal levels.

Reviewing the results, Neuroskeptic stays true to his nom de plume:

My concern here is that because this is a self-report questionnaire, the [Toronto Alexithymia Scale] is measuring worries over alexithymia as opposed to alexithymia per se. Moreover, I notice that in Lyver’s dataset, the TAS was quite strongly correlated with self-reported anxiety, apathy, dis-inhibition and executive dysfunction. So I’d say that it’s plausible that all of these self-report scores are reflecting some basic ‘tendency to give negative answers on questionnaires’ which might reflect neuroticism, low self-esteem or (if you prefer) just realism.

Chaos In Motion

Sep 22 2014 @ 8:06am

Synchronized drivers steer clear of accidents in Rush Hour, an impeccably edited short film from Fernando Livschitz: