Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Civil (?!) forfeiture

Well, isn't that special?

Offspring's cool blog

Apparently Aidan has been spending a lot of his spare time in alleys, culverts, underpasses, vacant lots, and tunnels to bring you the best of San Jose graffiti and street art. Impressive!

Monday, June 29, 2015

You do want more Kate Tempest, don't you?

I sure do...

I go round in circles
Not graceful, not like dancers
Not neatly, not like compass and pencil
More like a dog on a lead, going mental.

Can Music Be Perfect? Vol. 60

Poetry? Spoken word? Rap? Yes, rap. By a poet. What's certain is that hip-hop has changed the way we hear words... if we care to listen. Not the best song from her amazing story album, but what a performance...

Sunday, June 28, 2015

SF Pride

I was marching-standing with the contingent from California College of the Arts (CCA), where Laura works. The parade is a gargantuan thing and moves slowly... agonizingly slowly. Still, needless to say, it was a festive day. Our group was just ahead of the small but enthusiastic contingent from SWANABAQ (Southwest Asian and North African Bay Area Queers). They were carrying a fantastic rainbow quilt of flags from their home countries.

Despite the revealing leather chaps, leashes and tethers, and nipple rings, the overall atmosphere is inclusive and mainstream— at least, mainstream by San Francisco standards. The rainbow dress-up and rave aspects seem to appeal to teenage girls, who were out in numbers, as were the corporate-sponsored floats. The large Yahoo! group was just ahead of a consortium of leather bondage organizations, in their Sunday best. The A-Sexuals were marching just behind the City of Fremont employees. The humanists were appropriately squeezed between the atheists and the Buddhists. The older couples lining the parade route could not have looked happier. This was their day.

[Update 6/29/2015: Photo of our group added... can you identify the blogger?]

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Myra Melford Residency, Part 2

Spindrift for Leroy Jenkins, with Nicole Mitchell on flutes and Tyshawn Sorey on drums. Channeling that AACM spirit.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Well played, Justice Kennedy...

... but don't think for a moment that we are unaware of your fiendish plot to save the GOP from its own self-destructive tendencies. With the Obamacare and marriage equality rulings, you remove these awkward issues from the immediate policy table and take all the right-wing heat on yourself. Meanwhile, the Republican presidential candidates are freed to focus their attention on the positions that will really help them build a broad base of support—such as tax cuts for the super-rich, invading Iran, keeping out the Mexicans, cutting food stamps, and restricting voting rights.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Mr. Robot

Oh yes, I am abundantly aware that I am being marketed to... that they have optimized a TV show for my ilk... paranoid thriller? check... nerdy edgy hacker hero? check... Edward Snowden cyber-Big Brother sensibility? check... quasi-liberal anti-mega-corporate message? check... dissing Josh Groban and Maroon Five? check...

Still, I fell for it hook line and sinker. See you next week.

Monday, June 22, 2015


A year before I was born Mulligan and Monk released this all-time classic Monk tune. Gerry Mulligan had red hair and beard that faded white well before my own, but red or white he was a musical giant, with one of those peculiar personal histories that only seem possible in these here twisted United States. Was it really his African-American nanny Lily Rose who set him down the path to jazz greatness? If so, thank you Lily!

TNC delivers a lesson...

... about that flag. Many primary sources are cited.

Keep Hamilton, ditch Jackson

I'm with BB on this one.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

BandoneĆ³n— with baritone

Very nice indeed.

Can Wikipedia survive?

An interesting and somewhat alarming article. If mobile technology causes the slow death of Wikipedia, it will be a classic and highly unfortunate example of technological advances making things worse.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Myra Melford Residency, Part 1

Arms, hands, and fingers... elbows, fists, and sticks...
With the very simpatico Allison Miller.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Take it down now

One is reluctant to exploit the Charleston tragedy for "political" purpose. But in the case of the confederate flag, the purpose is moral, not political. As usual, Ta-Nehisi Coates gets it almost exactly right. Just almost, because TNC wants to wedge this tragedy into his overarching narrative of plunder:
The Confederate flag’s defenders often claim it represents “heritage not hate.” I agree—the heritage of White Supremacy was not so much birthed by hate as by the impulse toward plunder. Dylann Roof plundered nine different bodies last night, plundered nine different families of an original member, plundered nine different communities of a singular member. 
But that's all rhetorical flourish, TNC. No plunder for Roof... just hate. Stephen Singleton, former pastor of Emanuel AME Church, had a better take on it, on NPR:
This isn't run-of-the-mill racism. This was closer to evil.
Also, let's get rid of the damn guns.

The Pope on Cap-and-Trade

At my school, people care a lot about what the Pope thinks, and it appears that the Pope does not think much of cap-and-trade policies for reducing carbon emissions. From his encyclical:
171. The strategy of buying and selling “carbon credits” can lead to a new form of speculation which would not help reduce the emission of polluting gases worldwide. This system seems to provide a quick and easy solution under the guise of a certain commitment to the environment, but in no way does it allow for the radical change which present circumstances require. Rather, it may simply become a ploy which permits maintaining the excessive consumption of some countries and sectors.
Perhaps by "carbon credits" he means carbon offsets, which indeed have been misused... but this is a question of implementation, not principle. But it seems by "carbon credits" he may intend "cap-and-trade." If so: Bad call, Frank... Cap-and-trade is not a panacea, but it is a powerful policy tool. You should have an audience with Bob Stavins... he cares a lot about this stuff, and he knows a lot more about policy than you do...
“I respect what the pope says about the need for action, but this is out of step with the thinking and the work of informed policy analysts around the world, who recognize that we can do more, faster, and better with the use of market-based policy instruments — carbon taxes and/or cap-and-trade systems,” Robert N. Stavins, the director of the environmental economics program at Harvard, said in an email.

Guide to R for Econ Students

I have published a new online version of our Guide to R for SCU Economics Students. The Guide consists of hands-on tutorials, using examples from the first half of Stock and Watson's excellent Introduction to Econometrics (Pearson). I used R Markdown and published the chapters to RStudio's free RPubs platform.

Help yourself!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Which famous woman on $10 bill?

Washington Post:
The Obama administration has proposed putting a woman on the $10 bill. While it has not announced candidates for the honor, a number of names have come up in recent discussions over whether a woman would appear on U.S. paper currency. Who would you vote for?
The two who immediately sprang to my mind were not even on the ballot: Emily Dickinson and Billie Holiday. Oh well, Rosa Parks will do quite nicely.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

To help poor people, give them money

From John Quiggin. Seems kinda obvious, but often not to policy makers.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

I don't follow basketball closely...

,,, but my impression is that each player of the Warriors' starting five is better than any of Cleveland's starting players, save one. Which is to say, it's LeBron against the best team in basketball. Close to a fair contest, it turns out. I hope he wins, but I don't think he will, partly because Steph Curry has ice flowing in his veins, and hunger to match LeBron's. A pleasure to watch.

Myra Melford Retrospective on video!

During late March this year, this unique musician, bandleader, and composer performed a 12-show retrospective at The Stone in NYC. Now you can subscribe to the video recordings. Her working groups include many of the top improvisers around, and her music is always beautiful and fascinating. A small person physically, she has a very big sound, and expansive musical ideas. Listen up!

Wikipedia is the best

Andrew Gelman is spot-on, with a perfect example.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Lichens in poetry, part 2

It turns out that Elizabeth Bishop was not the only great mid-century American poet to employ lichen imagery. Here's James Merrill in "The Doodler":
Most recent in the long race that descends
From me, welcome! and least askew of icons
That grow on a new page like rapid lichens
Among the telephone numbers of new friends.
Typical of Merrill to rhyme icons with lichens... rapid lichens, no less!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Queena Kim

I love The California Report, and I do miss Scott Shafer's steady intelligence as morning host. But dare I say, I am kind of in love with Queena Kim? Her articulate rounded diction, the slightly breathless delivery, exuding enthusiasm and wonder without the fake gee-wiz of those Morning Edition clowns, Steve Inskeep and David Green? Don't you agree?

I wonder what their high school jazz band sounded like...

... or the pep band, for that matter...
[Coleman] attended I.M. Terrell High School, a veritable seedbed of modern American jazz. Three... of his future bandmates — the saxophonist Dewey Redman and the drummers Charles Moffett and Ronald Shannon Jackson — were graduates, as were the saxophonists King Curtis, Prince Lasha and Julius Hemphill; the clarinetist John Carter; and Red Connor, a bebop tenor saxophonist who, Mr. Coleman said, influenced him by playing jazz as “an idea” rather than as a series of patterns. 

Ornette Coleman, RIP

What can you say? He was a giant. I suppose he could be blamed for hastening the declining popularity of jazz in the 1960s, as free jazz came to be thought of as cerebral at best and unlistenable at worst. But as Ratliff's obit points out, much of his music was folksy and approachable. In the 80s and beyond he blended his "harmolodic" method with funk and hip-hop.

Equality of outcomes without apology

This short piece by Kanbur and Wagstaff says nothing new, but the point bears repeating. To put it somewhat differently from the way the authors do:

The "American creed" favors equality of opportunity over equality of outcomes as the proper criterion for economic justice. A good example of this philosophy applied to policy recommendations can be found in this recent plan for poverty reduction in California. Achieving truly meaningful, deep-down equal opportunity of the kind that Rawls referred to as fair equality of opportunity requires equalizing or compensating for differences in circumstances that are arbitrary from a moral point of view. And this in turn will often be nearly indistinguishable from equalizing outcomes, for example to the extent that a child's socio-economic circumstances growing up are a major determinant of her opportunity.

Furthermore, "leveling the playing field" in a significant way may require extraordinary redistribution of circumstances, and be very expensive. Imagine trying to eliminate differences in life chances due to family and socioeconomic background through compensating educational interventions. Because schooling is expensive, equalizing large differences in opportunity using schooling alone would be enormously costly, as Betts and Roemer have shown. This rather technical paper includes some of their estimates. Overcoming differences due to parental education would require educational spending on disadvantaged students at something like five times the per-pupil spending for the most advantaged. Not to mention that eliminating differences in opportunity due to race would require race-conscious policies.

Improving opportunity in sensible ways is achievable. But when it comes to justice as fairness, equal opportunity will never be an adequate substitute for redistributive policies.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Panorama Trail

Our little Econ Department group struck out on the Half Dome lottery, so we resorted to Plan B: a 13-mile round trip trudging up the Four Mile Trail to Glacier Point and returning on the aptly named Panorama Trail past Illilouette, Nevada, and Vernal Falls. The descent from Glacier Point to Illilouette– through a burnt-over section colonized by buckbrush in full bloom and black oak all aglow, with an iconic Yosemite backdrop– makes it to my top ten hikes. Follow that with a scary and rollicking thunderstorm and a stinging bombardment with mushy hail– returning to the trailhead exhausted, soaked, sore, restored– and you have a perfect day in the Sierras. Oh, did I mention wrapping it all up with ibuprofen and the craft brews on tap at the Bug?

Is it wrong...

... that I, a self-described egalitarian, am rooting for LeBron against my home town boys, and that I smile every time Serena kicks ass again, and again? The greatest athletes of their generation?