Saturday, October 27, 2018

Dexter Gordon

Because we need some beauty when the world gets ugly.

Friday, October 26, 2018

CA Prop 10

A YES vote removes some state restrictions on local rent control ordinances. I like letting local governments set these kinds of policies, even when they make mistakes. So I might vote for it. But I believe rent control is at best a distraction from good solutions to our housing affordability problem. Over time, it may well make matters worse. So I might vote NO... Still mulling it over.

Cities! Education!

"Our instrumental variables estimate is that on average, an extra year of schooling [city average] is associated with 22.0% higher hourly wages across cities." (Glaeser and Lu) Their methodology, if valid, implies that this is a causal effect of human capital spillovers, not just productive cities building more schools or attracting better-educated migrants.

A human capital spillover of this magnitude seems enormous to me, given that the typical estimate of the individual-level return to a year of schooling might be on the order of 10%. It's as if a city gets a 200% bonus on the return to schooling because smarter people get to interact with other smarter people.

The authors note that although huge, their estimate doesn't come close to explaining the bulk of China's growth in per capita income over the past three decades. Still, it's pretty good news for education- and city-boosters... like me!

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Tokyo Story

Some say that this 1953 Ozu masterpiece is the greatest film ever made. Finally having seen it, I can't say I disagree. Trigger warning: I'm still wiping my eyes. Exquisite.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Funk Box

Now on a Spotify player near you. From Aretha to Bootsy to CHIC all the way to Zapp, even the cheese (think George Benson) will worm its way into your pleasure center.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Nomination: Miguel Zenon's successor in SFJAZZ Collective

Big shoes to fill. Why not Jon Irabagon, perhaps the greatest saxophonist of his generation. He'd shake things up a little. But Jon, maybe lose that bow-tie.

Monday, October 8, 2018

SFJAZZ Collective, 2018-19

We caught their season opener in San Jose (of all places!) last night, featuring arrangements of Jobim. As usual, the musicianship was jaw-dropping, the compositions were clever and complex, and the fan could only wish they would cut loose a lot more than they do. This being their first performance of these compositions, some tentativeness was to be expected. For me, Miguel Zenon's crazy arrangement of "One Note Samba" was the highlight of the evening... he will be missed after this, his final season with the group. Warren Wolf was, as expected, un-humanly virtuosic on vibes. Etienne Charles on trumpet is a welcome addition. The show was too short, because all the tunes were "radio-length." Will the solos lengthen and become woolier as the season progresses? I sure hope so.

Climate change economics

Climate change economics is back in the news, because of both the release of a new and dire IPCC report and the awarding of a Nobel in economics to William Nordhaus, perhaps the best known of economists studying climate change.

Nordhaus's work on the costs of climate change is based on integrated assessment models (IAMs), which integrate climate modeling with economics. IAMs provide a veneer of scientific objectivity to the study of optimal climate policy, but some healthy skepticism is in order. A recent article by Robert Pindyck does a good job laying out the limitations of IAMs as guidance for policy. In particular, the policy implications can be enormously sensitive to assumptions about key parameters that are simply unknown, controversial, or reflective of value judgements rather than objective measurement. A great example is the choice of discount rate, the "interest rate" at which future damages are weighed off against present costs. Whether a model implies drastic action against climate change, or rather complacency, hinges on the discount rate more than anything else. Pindyck:
Put simply, it is much too easy to use a model to generate, and thus seemingly validate, the results one wants. Take any one of the three IAMs that were used by the U.S. Interagency Working Group (2010, 2013) to estimate the SCC. With a judicious choice of parameter values (varying the discount rate is probably sufficient), these models will yield an SCC estimate as low as a few dollars per ton, as high as several hundred dollars per ton, or anything in between. Thus a modeler whose prior beliefs are that a stringent abatement policy is (or is not) needed, can choose a low (or high) discount rate or choose other inputs that will yield the desired results. If there were a clear consensus on the correct values of key parameters, this would not be much of a problem. But (putting it mildly) there is no such consensus.
The Interagency Working Group did not try to determine the “correct” values for the discount rate. Instead, it used middle-of-the-road assumptions about the discount rate (setting it at 3 percent) as well as other parameters and arrived at an estimate of around 33 dollars per ton for the SCC (recently updated to 39 dollars per ton). But other well-known studies have not used these middle-of-the-road assumptions and have arrived at very different estimates of the SCC. For example, using a version of his DICE model (one of the three models used by the Interagency Working Group), Nordhaus (2011) obtained an estimate for the SCC of 11 dollars per ton. On the other hand, using the PAGE model, Stern (2007) found an extremely stringent abatement to be optimal, a result that is consistent with an SCC of more than 200 dollars per ton. Although the models differed in a variety of ways (e.g., the degree of disaggregation and the choice of damage function), the main reason for their wildly different SCC estimates is that Nordhaus used a relatively high discount rate, while Stern used a relatively low discount rate.

Women: Rock that vote!

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Hamiet Bluiett, RIP

On the baritone sax:  “It’s like being in the water. The baritone is not a catfish [or any of those] small fish. It’s more like a dolphin or a whale. And it needs to travel in a whole lot of water. We can’t work in no swimming pools.” .... “The other horns will get a chance to join us. They’ve just got to change where they’re coming from and genuflect to us—instead of us to them.”

Here's the WSQ in its original and best configuration with Bluiett, Julius Hemphill, Oliver Lake, and David Murray. Starting around 43:20 you get a full dose of Mr. B. deconstructing "Sophisticated Lady"... a sound so fat you could slice it.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Not Russian meddling, not Kavanaugh...

... but the steady gutting of federal government capacity by way of corruption, disinterest, incompetence, and ideological hostility... perhaps in that order, from what I heard of Michael Lewis's interview on Fresh Air. The scariest and most dangerous thing happening under the Trump regime.