Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Brutes

I'd say Tyler gets it about right. But he misses the obvious solution.

OKC

Playing a beautiful muscular game at both ends of the court and embarrassing the mighty Warriors. It would be nice to see the Dubs give them just a little competition.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Your Love Made My Head Hurt

Not to mention your music. But it was the good kind of headache.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Fungible

One important implication of the standard consumer choice model in economics is that in-kind transfers should have the same effect on spending as giving cash, at least if the transfer is small enough relative to the overall budget.

The logic is simple: If I give you $200 per month in food stamps, and you were already spending at least $200 in cash on food, you can use the food stamps to free up the $200 in cash that you were spending on food, and spend it on what-you-will. I may as well have given you the cash. In particular, there is no guarantee that your spending on food will increase by a single penny, although most likely it will go up by at least the portion of an additional $200 in cash that you would have devoted to buying more food.*

This logic applies to targeted grants from the federal government to local jurisdictions as well, and the case of federal funding for schools is an interesting and rather sad example. Best of luck, Secretary King, getting those federal tax dollars to the poor schools and deserving students that really need the help. Shame on the lobbyists, and shame on the school districts for diverting the grants to the rich kids. Still, as an economist, what else could I expect?

* I don't deny here the finding of behavioral economics that people don't always treat cash and in-kind transfers as completely fungible. The basic principle is still important.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Running for Faculty Senate President

That would be me. It seems natural, and almost obligatory, that I would, after many years of involvement in University and faculty politics and affairs, and after many years of declining past nominations. Time to step up. I think I can do a good job.

I last ran for president in 1974, when I was defeated for high school student council president by Pete Fitzsimmons. Pete was a track star and a really smart kid (went to Harvard), and a good guy. As I recall I received about 40% of the vote. Did I have a platform? An ideology? What were the pressing issues at E.O. Smith High? All I really remember is that I had been a born-and-raised "liberal Republican" in the Lowell Weicker mold, but by the end of high school I was drifting leftward, soon to be promising raw material for the Marxist economists and Frankfurt School philosophers I would gravitate toward at UMass.

Is my current run merely a search for redemption, affirmation? Are you reading this, Fitz? And what do I stand for now? I can answer that. The teaching-scholar model. The university as open institution, run transparently and democratically. Fairness and participation. Mom and apple pie, I suppose. Welcome to Washington, Mr. Smith.

Friday, May 13, 2016

The gardener

It's hardly surprising to learn that Emily Dickinson was a master gardener. And oh, to take a stroll through her garden! But I have to believe that ED would have created revolutionary poetry in teeming Manhattan or ashy London or bohemian San Francisco or even on a remote lonely outpost on Mars. All she required was her brilliant mind, her discerning eye, her musical ear, and the glorious medium of the English language.

Monday, May 9, 2016

This is how it will go...

The Donald will make some token gestures of reconciliation toward the GOP establishment, and most of the pissed-off Republicans will find a way to make their peace with The Donald, and all of them will line up against Hill. Class interest trumps principle any day (no pun intended). I know, I know, Clinton is a tool of the bourgeois elite, Bernie revolution!, etc., etc. When it comes down to it, I'll take the enlightened bourgeoisie over the proto-fascist bourgeoisie any day of the week. I wager the GOP establishment prefers a deal with the devil.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

SFMOMA reopening

The considerably expanded SF Museum of Modern Art reopened to members this weekend after three years shuttered. The new wing, in scalloped white, rises up incongruously behind the original brick building. I'm not sure I like the look, but I guess they needed more gallery space, and they definitely got that. The highlight of the new building right now is the Fisher collection of German art since 1960, along with some postwar American galleries that give their excellent collection of Ellsworth Kelly paintings plenty of elbow room.

The German exhibition is dominated by some fine Richter paintings, spanning the wide spectrum of his styles, and some simply gargantuan wall-size works by Anselm Kiefer. The Kiefer paintings, which took up an entire 747 to ship from Europe, grapple with difficult themes of German national identity and historical accountability, and are almost literally overwhelming. I expect I will spend a lot more time looking at them in future visits.

The revelation of this visit for me was a room devoted to the photos of Bernd and Hilla Becher, who traveled the world taking pictures of utilitarian structures like water towers and mine tipples. I've posted an example (cooling towers) below. Sometimes these structures--especially the older ones--were clearly designed with some aesthetic goals in mind, but for the most part form strictly follows function. Yet when placed in grids of photos, their accidental beauty emerges.

Kelly's enormous, brightly saturated color field paintings are also worth a trip. They are given plenty of wall space, allowing the intensity of the light and disarmingly simple shapes to burn right into your brain. I can't articulate what makes them so good, but they are extraordinary. Kelly gave his paintings informative titles: below I pose with aptly named Blue Red.

The museum expansion provided Kelly plenty of space, but the same cannot be said of Richard Serra's enormous and fantastic Sequence, which is caged-up in a ground-floor lobby (see below). Apparently it is here only temporarily, which is good, because the piece deserves an outdoor setting where its canyon-like curves can be appreciated both from a distance and up close and personal in the full range of natural light.