Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Global War on Common Sense

Right wing political correctness. Ignorance. How about a little of both with your morning coffee.

Dunkin' Donuts announced this morning that it was pulling an ad that featured Rachel Ray holding a cup of its iced coffee while wearing a fringed scarf.

Why pull the ad? Well, Michelle Malkin and other conservatives complained that the scarf in question was a keffiyeh, a traditional arabic headdress, and that it "symbolize(d) murderous Palestinian jihad."

Of course, this is the same Michelle Malkin that thinks that internment was and is a good idea, so her cultural observations must be spot on.

It turns out that Ray's scarf was, well, just a scarf with paisleys no less. But no matter, Dunkin' Donuts yanked the ad anyway.

You be the judge. Was Ray hawking coffee or global jihad?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Prices matter

One of the first things that economics professors teach their students is that people's behavior responds to incentives. The run-up in energy prices is giving us a textbook example of exactly that. Last Friday, the U.S. Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) reported that people drove 11 billion fewer miles in March 2008 than in March 2007, a 4.3 percent drop in driving. The decline was the largest ever measured by the FHWA and continues a trend that began in November.

The federal government has been criticized for its inaction in the energy arena. Much of this criticism is warranted. However, one important and valuable type of inaction has been the government's resistance to cap fuel prices. Americans are responding by cutting their driving miles.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Howard Coble opposes Mother's Day

What does Rep. Howard Coble have against mothers and Mother's Day? On Wednesday, the House considered H.Res. 1113, "celebrating the role of mothers in the United States and supporting the goals and ideals of Mother's Day."

The resolution expresses a straightforward and uncontroversial sentiment. It also seems like the type of matter that the House could address quickly. The House does after all have many other important issues to consider, including two wars, an oil shortage, a ballooning deficit, a foreclosure crisis, and a faltering economy. In fact, just a week earlier, President Bush had criticized Congress for not acting on economic and energy legislation, complaining that Americans are "looking to their elected leaders in Congress for action. Unfortunately, on many of these issues all they're getting is delay."

On Wednesday, things were initially looking good for mothers, as the House passed the resolution unanimously. However, Rep. Todd Tiahrt (Rep. Kansas), who had earlier insisted that the first vote be recorded, quickly moved that the vote be reconsidered. On a subsequent motion to table Rep. Tiahrt's request, Rep. Coble and 177 of his Republican colleagues voted "no." That is, they voted to reconsider their support of mothers and Mother's Day.

Rep. Coble now has some 'splaining to do to the mothers in his North Carolina district. His vote indicates that he has some qualms about celebrating mothers. He should explain those qualms. In particular, is it all American mothers that he's against or just some of them? The earlier vote also indicates some, if you'll excuse the pun, irresolution on his part--Rep. Coble was for mothers before he was against them.

More to the point, Rep. Coble also owes his constituents and the country an apology. Clearly, his and the Republicans' procedural gamesmanship was intended to drag out the House's business and to slow its work to a crawl.

Mothers and other voters will have an opportunity in November to reconsider their support for Rep. Coble and his games. In the meantime, maybe we should all send him a Mother's Day card.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Another view on elasticity

Substitute "statistics" for "language," and you've got a pretty good idea of how I conduct my office hours.