One blogger’s personal bridge to nowhere

Sin tax to salvation?

I’m all in favor of legalizing marijuana (and taxing it would be okay, too), but I think it’s an exaggerration to say it could “save California.”


July 1, 2009 Posted by | Economics, U.S. politics | , | Leave a comment

Topless lawmaking

Will Starbucks go nude next?

Will Starbucks go nude next?

Apprised of the existence of a “topless coffee shop” in Maine by Tyler Cowen, Matt Yglesias comments on how “the lack of regulatory barriers to topless non-alcoholic venues could have important implications for the business model.” Yes, and the implications extend beyond  things like creating other topless coffee shops. I see Yglesias’ point and all (which extends to bars, strip clubs, and other seedy establishments), but it seems like there are more fundamental logical-legislative issues at play here. Namely, Cowen’s confusion at how Mainers came to have to vote in a town meeting whether or not to explicitly prohibit topless coffee shops:

Wait a minute. Topless coffee shops are allowed? Unless otherwise specified?

I ask because a topless coffee shop opened in Vassalboro, Maine, and the only way to prevent copycat businesses — say, a topless auto shop or a topless supermarket — is to pass an ordinance to ban nudity at town businesses. Is this true in all municipalities? Nudity allowed until specified otherwise? Who knew?

The implications seem rather straightforward to me.  Rather than, say, go through each business, or practice, or policy one by one to determine what is or is not acceptable/legal, it would behoove lawmakers to draw bright lines (which the courts can subsequently shift). For example, no offensive and demeaning public policies that objectify women in order to sell a product.

(image from flickr user d’n’c under a Creative Commons license)

March 16, 2009 Posted by | Economics, Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Hotel haters

marriottThe Washington Post published an op-ed extolling the benefits of business travel — particularly that of business travelers staying in hotels.  Particularly that of business travelers staying in Marriott hotels.  Why would someone write such a piece? Because his name is J.W. freaking Marriott Jr., that’s why.

I have no idea what J.W. freaking Marriott Jr. is referring to when he indignantly decries the “attacks on business travel,” the “vilification of business events and travel,” and the “scapegoat[ing of] business travel” that is apparently putting a dent in his good fortunes, but I can only assume he is referring to something like the public outcry over highly-paid corporate executives (such as, I don’t know, J.W. freaking Marriott Jr.) taking swanky vacations and staying in swanky Marriotts hotels. And if that is killing his business, then so be it.

More seriously, I find very disturbing Marriott’s conclusion:

A healthy travel industry is a powerful stimulus and is pivotal to economic activity and growth. Continuing to scapegoat business travel will only hinder recovery. Meetings mean business. Meetings create jobs. If critics want America to lose another million jobs, they should keep talking.

Not that I don’t believe that the travel industry (yes, and even meetings, though I can think of little that is ungodlier in this world) is an important plank in the American economy. But Marriott’s injunction against “talking” about the problems of business travel is like shooting a bystander. Why invade free speech and legitimate criticism when there’s evidently such a vehement and concentrated anti-hotel lobby out to get you?

(image from flickr user LA Wad under a Creative Commons license)

March 12, 2009 Posted by | Economics | , , | 2 Comments

A bailout for…cheese

In keeping with the theme of the day, Hanna Lundqvist of Democracy Arsenal highlights this cheesy very serious WSJ article:


It's not easy sellin' cheese these days.

The world is bailing out banks and car companies. Italy is coming to the rescue of parmigiano cheese. In an effort to help producers of the cheese commonly grated over spaghetti, fettuccine and other pastas, the Italian government is buying 100,000 wheels of Parmigiano Reggiano and donating them to charity. Though demand for parmigiano is strong in Italy and abroad, producers have been struggling for years to make money, putting the future of Italy’s favorite cheese at risk…

…Now that the government has stepped in to help parmigiano makers, however, others are making a stink. “We’ve never received a single dime in state aid,” complains Vincenzo Oliviero, who heads the association of buffalo mozzarella producers. Mr. Oliviero says makers of the juicy white cheese eaten alone or on pizza have been suffering since Naples faced a trash crisis last year.

Perhaps mozzarella-makers should look across the ocean, where cheese bars are apparently the hottest new thing in American cities.

(image from flickr user y foéÖþoooey under a Creative Commons license)

December 11, 2008 Posted by | Economics, Humor | , | Leave a comment

Elevator music goes protectionist

On hold waiting for a customer service representative at an insurance company, I was greeted with, among other messages and the compulsory background music, this little tidbit of holiday shopping advice.

madeinchinaAlso consider where the toy was mad.  China hasn’t had the best safety record of late, so consider buying toys from countries with better safety records, like the U.S.

Who knew that insurance companies and American toy manufacturers were in cahoots?

(image from flickr user poritsky under a Creative Commons license)

December 9, 2008 Posted by | Economics, Humor, Uncategorized | | 2 Comments

What Would Huckabee Have Done

Jeopardize the future U.S. economy for a cheap, transparent, and assuredly ineffective political stunt, that’s what.

McCain, Huckabee said, “had a tough current to swim against,” but he might have saved his campaign by opposing the bailout for populist reasons: “Had he gone back to Washington and put a stake in the ground and said, ‘By gosh, I’m not voting for this—I’ll stand against it and fight it with everything in me,’ I think he might have turned the election.”

Presumably, this fight also would have required “suspending” the campaign — again”for populist reasons,” but…um…for real this time.

December 6, 2008 Posted by | Economics, U.S. politics | , | Leave a comment

Ben Bernanke is hilarious

Economists’ idea of a joke (read to the end to get the full punchline!):

In June, 2005, Bernanke was sworn in at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. One of his first tasks was to deliver a monthly economics briefing to the President and the Vice-President. After he and Hubbard sat down in the Oval Office, President Bush noticed that Bernanke was wearing light-tan socks under his dark suit. “Where did you get those socks, Ben?” he asked. “They don’t match.” Bernanke didn’t falter. “I bought them at the Gap—three pairs for seven dollars,” he replied. During the briefing, which lasted about forty-five minutes, the President mentioned the socks several times.

tansocksThe following month, Hubbard’s deputy, Keith Hennessey, suggested that the entire economics team wear tan socks to the briefing. Hubbard agreed to call Vice-President Cheney and ask him to wear tan socks, too. “So, a little later, we all go into the Oval Office, and we all show up in tan socks,” Hubbard recalled. “The President looks at us and sees we are all wearing tan socks, and he says in a cool voice, ‘Oh, very, very funny.’ He turns to the Vice-President and says, ‘Mr. Vice-President, what do you think of these guys in their tan socks?’ Then the Vice-President shows him that he’s wearing them, too. The President broke up.”

Get it?  They were all wearing tan socks!  The only thing funnier (besides, well, anything) is that “the President mentioned the socks several times” in a forty-five minute talk, and that he asked Cheney’s opinion of the socks — proving, once and for all, who really wears the socks pants in their relationship.

(image from flickr user noricum under a Creative Commons license)

December 2, 2008 Posted by | Economics, Humor | , , | 1 Comment