Saturday, May 21, 2011

Data on population and race has been available for a few months now. I saw an interesting 3-d depiction of this here and thought it would be interesting to play with 3d mapping for San Francisco as well. Common for all maps is that they show census block population 2010 for the inner Bay Area at the census block level. The shading is the proportion of a particular race or ethnicity. The overall story is that San Francisco is becoming slightly less black and more Asian.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Per the data from the American Community Survey, the Census Bureau's new "long form" program", San Francisco is still characterized by a dearth of children, in particular school age ones, even as there has been a slight increase during the past decade of toddlers. All the same, it appears folks pack up and move elsewhere by the time parents start looking for kindergarten opportunities. Is it all a matter of school options, or as much about density and housing stock? Do families necessarily prefer more space, or is it about cost? What are the main drivers of the family exodus from San Francisco (which is not a new thing, but all the same remarkable). I also added to the chart some black diamonds denoting the Bay Area wide distribution. The San Francisco pyramid is, in effect, only possible because it fits in a wider regional context where folks do have kids. Conversely, notice young adults relative to the Bay Area proportion. San Francisco appears to be the playground for young adults, strollers and female octogenarians.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Many Fox News commenters are up in arms over the pending first judicial nomination of the new president after he stated he wanted someone with empathy. As it happens, it is always the opposition in minority of the sitting president who charges the president with judicial activism. In my view, of course we have a wonderful constitution, but the very REASON we have a court is to figure out what a very general document might mean, written some 200 years ago when the vocabulary--and the issues faced--were dramatically different. This is difficult work which is why the scrutiny is so high. But let us not pretend that there exists a direct route into the minds of the writers of the constitution by which we can today infer what a Jefferson might have thought about segregation, gay marriage, what constitutes "indecent language" on television today, or even whether a technology company might be in the wrong on a patent dispute. Therefore it is not JUST about finding an impeccable jurist. It is also about finding someone, regardless of the sitting administration, to find someone who appreciates not just the past, but the context in which the law is given its meaning. That is not a contradiction, but an essential part of judicial work. This should not be a "nuance" but a fundamental understanding of what the judicial branch represents. If being a judge were merely about applying the law as it was written, then we could just have computers do it. For most issues--and cases, the constitution will not have readily packed language to just pull out and apply. This is why we, when resolving judicial issues, employ judges, showing JUDGMENT, not Google.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Heard in our door step

Scene: A dad walks with his 14-month old boy past our house, and stops as the toddler eyes the seasonally-appropriate pumpkin on our door step.
Toddler: Pump-kin!
My wife (watering plants): Should I water the pumpkin?
Toddler: Pump-kin!
Toddler's dad (to boy): My, do you see that Obama sign in the window?

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Politiken, i "Danskerne blandt Vestens mest forgældede", skriver:

Regeringen har været med til at presse boligpriserne op til et ekstremt højt niveau. 

»Man har introduceret afdragsfri lån under den antagelse, at det ikke ville puste til boligpriserne. Det viste sig at være forkert. Samtidig har mange brugt løs af friværdien i deres boliger til at købe biler, ferieboliger og så videre. I bagklogskabens lys har det været for optimistisk,« siger Helge Pedersen.

Det var imidertid ikke alle der stillede fornuften ved indgangen ved indførelsen af afdragsfrie lån (Lov 177 2003). Enhedslisten var ude i tide og advare mod makroøkonomiske konsekvenser:

Enhedslisten finder, at regeringens forslag om indførelse af disse lån vil føre til højere huspriser. Det betyder, at den frihed for huskøberne, som regeringen taler så meget om i lovforslaget, i løbet af få år vil medføre en tvang for huskøbere, specielt selvfølgelig unge førstegangskøbere, til at be- nytte sig af denne finansieringsform. Det vil simpelt hen være nødvendigt for overhovedet at få råd til at købe en bolig. (...) Forslaget vil for de enkelte huskøbere give mere fleksibilitet, men generelt set vil konsekvensen blive højere huspriser og meget dyrere lån. Det vil give realkreditinstitutterne en større indtjening, og de ældre boligejere, som i de kommende år skal sælge deres boliger, vil få øgede salgspriser på de førstegangskøbendes bekostning.

Forbrugerrådet var ude med en lignende betragtning:

Muligheden for at udsætte afdragene de første 10 år viI reducere den månedlige ydelse. Da boligmarkedet tilpasser sig ydelsesniveauet, viI det med stor sandsynlighed medføre stigende ejendomspriser. Nar boligmarkedet har tilpasset sig det nye niveau, viI kommende huskøbere i vid udstrækning være tvunget til at vælge realkrediån med den 10-årige afdragsfri periode, hvis de skal ind pa boligmarkedet. De 10-årige afdragsfri Ian bliver derfor ikke længere en valgmulighed men en forudsretning ved erhvervelse af fast ejendom.

At Folketinget ikke lytter til Enhedslisten kan være forståeligt nok, men at de alligevel vedtog loven mod Forbrugerrådets utvetydige advarsler skulle være et wake-up call til alle som i øvrigt synes at boligbobler er noget utilregneligt skidt. Folketinget er ansvarligt.

Lov 177, Forslag til lov om realkreditlån og realkreditobligationer m.v. kan studeres nærmere her.

Monday, September 15, 2008

In Search for Nuance
In the wake of the Lehman collapse, why do so many commentators insist on simple caricature versions of reality? Obama called for changes to the regulatory framework but many observers see this as strictly Marxist. To them, it is either free market vs regulation, freedom versus marxism or tyranny. 
Well, for starters, governments regulate as a foundational practice; that is a political first principle, not an economic one. Government, i.e. the people's representatives, set STANDARDS in a number of arenas, like air quality, pollution, occupational safety, and yes, markets. Why? Because if they didn't we would need someone else to make sure the players pay attention to not just their own bottom line, but of the system as a whole. To conflate that with Marxism, which is an ownership model (which is entirely different from regulatory STANDARDS affecting everyone), is ignorant, but sure is a great way to stop the conversation. Given Lehman today, I say let's keep talking, and get beyond the caricature.
Said Josheph Stiglitz some years back, "If there is a single accident on a road, one is likely to look for a cause in the driver, his car, or the weather. But if there are hundreds of accidents at the same bend of the road, then questions need to be raised concerning the construction of the road itself."

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Palin Manufacturing the myth

The Republicans must have been relieved by the quagmire of having to put on a convention that until last week appeared to be able to attract only marginal attention, certainly not aided by Gustav, the hurricane that was threatening to do much more than shortening the Republican Convention in St. Paul, MN. In choosing Ms Palin, John McCain completely threw out the old deck of cards, threw out the discursive axis of inexperience vs experience and judgment that had previously so mired Hillary Clinton's campaign during the primaries. The new suit was all about change. Change to Washington elitism, politics, and bringing back accountability. Sarah Palin, being a fresh and unknown face on the national scene, was perfect for the job.

Welcome to the program, republicans are welcome. This should spell good news for governing if, of course, it doesn't actually result in the McCain/Palin ticket actually winning in November. With the economy tanking, the Greenback on the run, real wages stagnating or dropping, and presidential approval ratings this year hovering in the 20s and 30s, don't take my word for it. Americans do seem poised for a change in leadership. However, as the Republicans often point out in the context of Obama, change is often in the eye in the beholder, and it is to their credit that they have now managed to make the race competitive against all odds. Voters might just send the republicans back in office for a third term. So much for believing in the reflexive voter.

And so how did the Republicans make the race competitive again?
  1. By shamelessly but skillfully accepting the Democratic narrative of change, casting themselves outside the "Washington Elite" not accountable to "the people".
  2. By enlisting Palin. At first view, she appears to be a lightning rod of issues for the ticket, ranging from ethics investigations over abuse of power, library censorship, the not-so-tough stance on the "Bridge to Nowhere", and the very personal story about her pending grandmotherhood. While pundits have mostly focused on her from the perspective that her pick seems to invalidate McCain's chief criticism of Obama, really goes the other way. While the Republicans have had their turn in questioning Obama's readiness, it is really the Democrats losing their turn. She is immune to any charges from Obama on the experience side. After the convention in St Paul, it was clear that Palin was casted to be the attack dog, while McCain was to play more of a statesman role not getting his hands too dirty.
  3. Perhaps most importantly, the spin machine. While the Republican side has been outraged by the "liberal media" in covering Palin, The McCain/Palin camp has so far been effective in casting their narrative defining themselves, and, chiefly, their opponent. The casting is the construction of the myth. Much like Obama has showed how a compelling personal narrative, connecting biography with current challenges, so is McCain's campaign working overtime to manufacture the brand identity of Palin to be just the right fit for the ticket. She is a maverick, a straight-talking, speaking-truth-to-power persona who allegedly shook up the Alaska establishment during her whirlwind tour of its political institutions. 
Dwelling on the narrative, the only problem, of course, is that just like any narrative, it has its blind spots as well as willful distortions. reports how she when running for governor actively campaigned for Gravina Island Bridge, also known as the "Bridge to Nowhere", and once it was clear that there was no more federal money to support what had been a nationally ridiculed project, did Sarah turn .

"Despite the work of our congressional delegation, we are about $329 million short of full funding for the bridge project, and it's clear that Congress has little interest in spending any more money on a bridge between Ketchikan and Gravina Island."

As an astute commenter on Washington Post noted, that wasn't an anti-pork stance, it was a not-enough-pork stance. To aggravate the distance between the narrative and reality, the federal monies were actually kept by Alaska for other discretionary infrastructure projects.

As mayor of Wasilla, Ms Palin was gifted in courting federal dollars, not just by her charms, but by design and resolve, and hiring lobbying firm Robertson, Monagle & Eastaugh. In total, she managed to collect 27 million dollars from US taxpayers to a town which by the 2000 Census had 5,469 residents. That may prove her an effective politician, but hardly the anti-pork straight talker put forward by the campaign.

To the Republicans, the important corollary of Branding Ms Palin is branding Obama, and to be sure, that has been going on, chiefly be the Democrats themselves, for the past 18 months. It appears that all pretense of dealing with Obama's actual program has been jettisoned, and we are now getting boilerplate Republican rebuttals.
  1. "Government is too big; he wants to grow it. Congress spends too much money; he promises more. Taxes are too high, and he wants to raise them."
  2. "Al Qaida terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America, and he's worried that someone won't read them their rights."
  3. "America needs more energy; our opponent is against producing it."
As for the first, never mind the Republican growing the deficit over the past two terms. As for taxes , Obama would indeed raise taxes--but on the top 19% of income earners. That is another way of saying lowering them on 81%.

As for the second, it appears to be a reference to Obama's penchant for the habeas corpus and the ability for those under captivity to be able to challenge their case in federal court. The Republicans disagreement with and caricature of this position speaks for itself.

As for the third, Obama is on record with supporting both off-shore drilling, nuclear power and coal as a part of a comprehensive energy program, the hallmark of which is a $150B investment in green energy and an estimated 5 million jobs.

Never mind the details, as long as your line is catchy, just as Mike Huckabee's ode to Palin was it: 

"She got more votes running for mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, than Joe Biden got running for president of the United States."

A cursory check, as did, shows, of course, that on balance, that, too was a statement with modifications. 

The tally: Biden, 79,754, despite withdrawing from the race after the Iowa caucuses. Palin, 909 in her 1999 race, 651 in 1996.

When you are the designated pitbull, details don't matter. Only the size of the bite.