It's unlikely the world of private aviation is going to get people too worked up about an obvious change in the government detaining of citizens -- most people don't fly airplanes -- but The Atlantic's James Fallows has been following an increasing number of cases in the U.S. where pilots who have done nothing wrong are being detained and searched without explanation. There was a time when that would be considered illegal in the country.
To say it again: I am not contending that the aviation world is being inordinately picked-upon. Overall it is a privileged part of society -- and demographically it skews toward older white males who are politically conservative, have money, and often have military experience. Ie, these are people who are not generally the object of police profiling for terrorist or other criminal tendencies. So if the security state is leaning heavily on them, you can extrapolate to other groups.
Since Fallows wrote an original piece on his blog about one incident, he's gotten details about others.
It's an extremely good read.
Great Britain is in the midst of a measles outbreak, NPR's Shots blog reports. Why? Apparently because of the disproven theory on the evils of vaccines:
Childhood vaccination rates plummeted in Great Britain after a 1998 paper by Dr. Andrew Wakefield claimed that the vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella had caused autism in a dozen children. That study has since been proven fraudulent, but it fueled fears about vaccine safety in Great Britain and the United States.
"This is the legacy of the Wakefield scare," Dr. David Elliman, spokesman for the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health, told The Associated Press.
Most of the measles cases have been in children and teenagers between the ages of 10 and 18, according to British health officials. In that age group, vaccination rates dropped below 50 percent in some parts of England after the Wakefield paper was published.
It's hard to stand one more story about dead children, but when Stillwater student Zach Sobieski lost his battle with cancer this week, he left a hopeful story behind, along with the music he loved.
His song has hit #1.
"He wanted to be able to find a cure for osteosarcoma, but also, knowing he was going to be leaving the world, he wanted to be able to take care of the people he loved," Scott Herold, the founder of Sobieski's record label tells WCCO. "It's hard that Zach's gone, but man this is really awesome. It's beautiful."
Sobiech's funeral is being held today in Stillwater.
Related: When University of Minnesota men's pitching coach Todd Oakes went to the mound to talk to his pitcher yesterday during the game against Illinois, he was wearing a surgical mask. He's battling leukemia and had a bone marrow transplant and doesn't want to risk infection. But he does want to keep coaching.
"Never give up. Never give in," he said in an interview last month.
Sportsmen and other outdoor enthusiasts are pressuring Gov. Mark Dayton to veto the spending bill for the state's Legacy fund, an issue that took a backseat to other high-profile issues at the Capitol this year.
Legacy money comes from a portion of the state sales tax, a provision voters approved several years ago for arts and outdoors. The battle is over the the question: What is "outdoors?" Is it habitat and wildlife -- mostly in more rural parts of the state? Or is it parks, open space, and water in the cities?
And it's shaping up as a battle of former big names for the Minnesota Vikings. Legendary coach Bud Grant wrote a letter on Tuesday to the governor urging him to veto the bill. Today, the Pioneer Press reports that former player Paul Krause is urging Dayton to sign the legislation, which comes from the legislative group in charge of determining how the money will be spent.
He singles out two of the projects contained in the metro parks initiatives: restoration of Trout Brook in Dakota County and prairie restoration adjacent to state lands purchased with Legacy funds. "Just because wildlife habitat is owned by a county park system -- rather than the DNR -- should not make valuable wildlife land ineligible for habitat restoration funds."
Krause is hardly alone. A host of metro park districts, from Minneapolis to Scott County, have been drafting letters to Dayton urging him not to veto anything, according to e-mails obtained by the Pioneer Press.
Many of those calling for a veto point to a statement, recorded on video, that then-candidate Dayton made at Game Fair in Anoka County: "I will veto any legislative attempts to usurp the authority of the Lessard-Sams council."
Moorhead residents are pushing back against the city's announcement this week that it might stop providing sandbags to residents of the city who live near the Red River.
The city says residents should "pony up" for more of the cost of holding the flood back. Fargo Forum reports the residents say they already have plenty of money invested.
Schramm, who has lived on Rivershore Drive since 2007 in a home her father built in the mid-1970s, said the fact that she and her husband have put roughly $20,000 into their private dike is proof they have "ponied up" to protect the city.
"I grew up in the town, and this town is very important," Schramm said. "And I don't think the people should say we don't care about them because we always have."
Zimmerman said "in most cases" residents along the river do not have private levees.
"For those people that have built a dike like that, they don't need sandbags so there really isn't an issue for them" if the city stops delivering bags, he said.
Politically, it's a near risk-free stance for the city. Only 87 homes are left standing along the Red River in Moorhead.
Related: In Cross Hairs of Tornadoes, a Town's Residents Stay Put (NY Times)
Bonus I: Read the divorce papers closely. In Texas, the Associated Press reports, a woman has ruled a a North Texas lesbian couple can't live together because of a morality clause in one of the women's divorce papers.
Bonus II : What does Google Glass say to people? "Don't come near me."
WHAT WE'RE DOING
Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) - First hour: How communities recover from a disaster.
Second hour: The healing power of holding a grudge.
Third hour: Do voters and candidates really understand what policies truly affect small business owners?
MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): A special from the America Abroad series, hosted by Ray Suarez: "Immigration and the Global Talent Search."
Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) - TBA
All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - Jarrett Krosaczka is the author of 20 childrens books. They include the Lunch Lady series -- an award-winning, kids favorite -- starring the school cafeteria superhero. NPR interviews Jarrett Krosaczka on its Backseat Book Club.(2 Comments)
It's getting harder and harder to expect journalists to cover disasters without it leading to a storyline about miracles and divine intervention. Theological discussions by journalists, who are in the business of asking questions, should be more complicated than that.
Rev. Wolf Blitzer takes top honors in the "awkward" category for this viral interview of a woman who wasn't about to conform to the notion that surviving a tornado requires the intervention of the divine.
On a more intelligent level, the Washington Post's "On Faith" blog today asks the question that few seem to want to ask. "Where was God?" However, it approaches the question in response to an intellectual question: If one prays for divine intervention in the aftermath of a tornado, doesn't that suggest divine intervention was possible in the mere existence of the tornado?
When atheists use natural disasters as a time to rebuke individuals of faith, there may be some indication that their argument against God is more of an emotional objection, rather an intellectual problem. However, with some atheists, it seems to be a genuine intellectual objection that dates back to the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus and later, David Hume.
Some atheists, following Hume, who are watching natural disasters or experiencing true evil, will often hold that the two statements: "An all-powerful and all-good God exists" and "Evil exists" are logically inconsistent. But other logicians will note that there is not an explicit contradiction in these statements. The atheist is often assuming that if God is all good, then He would prefer to create a world without evil than to create a world in which evil exists.
Tom Cabral, writing on his Faith & Fall River blog raises more questions than answers:
The God of the bible has what are called incommunicable attributes. Those he does not share with us. The bible declares God both omniscient (all knowing) and omnipotent (all powerful). Everything in his universe happens under his rule and reign. He knows the number of hairs on our heads, the days until we die, and the places you will live and whom you'll live with.
Some claim that God has a multitude of plans and if one doesn't work out he goes to plan B. That's not what the scriptures declare. They declare that even the most powerful man's existence is under the control of an all-powerful God "The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will" (Pro 21:1). Either he is fully sovereign or he is NOT sovereign at all. We cannot put God in a box. The first thing we cannot do is say God cannot stop evil.
If that's true, than we're back to the beginning of the discussion: why a tornado?
The question cannot be answered, Cabral says, because "we must not become the voice of God and answer."
The Associated Press is the latest news organization to compare an event to one of the most gruesome days in the history of civilization, with its science story today claiming the energy in the tornado in Oklahoma City this week "dwarfed" the atomic blast in Hiroshima.
Several meteorologists contacted by The Associated Press used real time measurements, some made by Schumacher, to calculate the energy released during the storm's 40-minute life span. Their estimates ranged from 8 times to more than 600 times the power of the Hiroshima bomb, with more experts at the high end. Their calculations were based on energy measured in the air and then multiplied over the size and duration of the storm.
We heard the same sort of comparison a few months ago when a meteor exploded over Siberia. In those stories, we were told the meteor was more powerful than 30 atomic bombs.
While scientifically correct, perhaps, it's a weak comparison for the purposes of journalism. Rather than add important context, it removes it. For one thing, it's comparing energy released but not the impact of the energy released. And, clearly, comparing something to the atomic bomb is meant to create the impression that the tornado was a bigger force in total than the atomic bomb.
The calculations cited include the duration of the tornado's 40-minute lifespan. The explosion over Hiroshima was over in a matter of seconds.
At last check, twenty-four people died in this week's tornado, a tragic number by any comparison. But is it really honest to suggest any comparison to a weapon that may have killed an estimated 90,000 to 130,000 people -- 75,000 immediately and perhaps as many over the following years?
Such a comparison dishonors and diminishes the suffering of people like Michihiko Hachiya, whose 1955 Hiroshima diary was nothing we've ever witnessed before or since on such a scale.
In time I came to an open space where the houses had been removed to make a fire lane. Through the dim light I could make out ahead of me the hazy outlines of the Communications Bureau's big concrete building, and beyond it the hospital. My spirits rose because I knew that now someone would find me; and if I should die, at least my body would be found. I paused to rest. Gradually things around me came into focus. There were the shadowy forms of people, some of whom looked like walking ghosts. Others moved as though in pain, like scarecrows, their arms held out from their bodies with forearms and hands dangling. These people puzzled me until I suddenly realized that they had been burned and were holding their arms out to prevent the painful friction of raw surfaces rubbing together. A naked woman carrying a naked baby came into view. I averted my gaze. Perhaps they had been in the bath. But then I saw a naked man, and it occurred to me that, like myself, some strange thing had deprived them of their clothes. An old woman lay near me with an expression of suffering on her face; but she made no sound. Indeed, one thing was common to everyone I saw - complete silence.
Whatever problems facing Oklahoma City, an increase in leukemia because of the tornado isn't one of them. Neither is a significant impact on the mental development of children not yet born.
What happened in Oklahoma City was real and tragic and on a scale that takes your breath away. But no component of the tragedy in any fashion dwarfs what happened in Hiroshima.(6 Comments)
The Minnesota Supreme Court today rejected the argument that if an employer's sexually explicit behavior is extended to both women and men in the workplace, it's not sexual harassment under the Minnesota Human Rights Act. But the ruling split the court because it did not specifically declare the employer's actions to be sexual harassment.
The court ruled in the case of three women, who were employed at Lou's Fish House in Two Harbors. They testified in district court that owner Brian Zapolski asked them about their sexual preferences and sex lives, made sexually suggestive comments to them, showed them pornography, asked them to find friends who would have sex with him, and touched them.
But a district court judge said that's not sexual harassment because they didn't lose salary or their jobs, didn't seek counseling, were not specifically sexually propositioned and Zapolski's sexual comments were "not merely directed at females."
Today the Supreme Court struck that decision down, agreeing with a Court of Appeals ruling. But the Court of Appeals had ruled the women were entitled to a judgment under the human rights law. The Supreme Court today, however, sent the case back to the district court for a decision on the women's claims.
Justice Lori Gildea said in her ruling that the sexual harassment claims do not require the three women to prove discrimination. "The fact that Zapolski directed inappropriate, sexual comments at both male and female employees... cannot support the district court's determination that the conduct was not sufficiently severe..."
But Justice Wilhelmina M. Wright, while agreeing with Gildea's overall ruling, said today's opinion doesn't answer an important question raised in the case: what standards apply when reviewing a hostile work environment claim under the Minnesota Human Rights Act? She said there's no need to send the case back to the original judge for a decision.
If the conduct at issue in this case does not unmistakably violate the MHRA, I shudder to consider both the degrading conduct that any employee must endure in a Minnesota workplace and the unreasonably burdensome actions she must take to prove that her workplace was hostile so as to vindicate her legal right to be free from a hostile work environment. On the record before us, applying the appropriate legal standard, we need not delay or deny the Employees a just resolution of their hostile work environment claims.
Justice Wright said she refused to take part in "playing 'kick the can down the road' with a question of law that affects the legal protections of every worker -- male and female -- in Minnesota."
In other words: if the Supreme Court can't rule that the three women's rights were violated in this case, what would it take to so rule?
In finding that Zapolski's conduct did not create an objectively hostile work environment, the district court relied in part on its finding that the Employees were never explicitly sexually propositioned. This underlying finding of fact is clearly erroneous and contradicted by the district court's earlier finding that Zapolski asked Reinhold "if she would kiss him when he came to work," to which Reinhold replied "no." Notwithstanding Reinhold's refusal, Zapolski's request is a sexual proposition. Although Moyer was not personally propositioned, the district court found that during Zapolski's sexual discussions with her, Zapolski "attempt[ed] to have Moyer solicit other young women to have sex with him."
Justice Paul Anderson called the refusal to rule "extraordinary."
I believe something more needs to be said about the message the majority delivers to Minnesota's citizens, whether those citizens are male or female, young or old, rich or poor. The unfortunate consequence of the majority's opinion may well be that offensive and repulsive sexual misconduct in the workplace, like Zapolski's verbal and physical misconduct, will be much more difficult to curtail in Minnesota and that many victims of similar misconduct will be left without a remedy under the law.
In his strongly worded dissent, Justice Anderson said the court majority made an "almost heroic effort to ignore the district court's erroneous findings," calling Zapolski's behavior "classical sexually motivated misconduct in the workplace."
Anderson, who is retiring, said when he became a justice, he thought the state was well on its way to not tolerating sexual harassment in the workplace. "As my service as an appelate judge draws to a close," he wrote, "I am concerned that the opinion the majority renders today signifies a step backwards on what I once believed was a one-way path toward ending sexual harassment in the workplace."1 Comments)
Minneapolis and police department transparency, the people who go to work when a tornado hits, Timberwolves math, the new voice of NPR, and coffins the old-fashioned way.
The searching ends in Oklahoma, the politicians spin in Minnesota.
Here's today's news conversation with Mary Lucia on The Current.(0 Comments)
The National Weather Service says the tornado that hit Moore, Okla., was a top-of-the-scale EF-5 twister with winds of at least 200 mph, the Associated Press reports this afternoon.
The weather service says the tornado's path was 17 miles long and 1.3 miles wide.
What kind of damage area would that be if it were the Twin Cities?
No Super Bowl for you anytime soon, Minnesota, unless your team plays its way in.
The National Football League today gave Super Bowl L in 2016 to San Francisco, part punishment for Miami for not approving public financing of its stadium, and part reward for San Francisco (actually, Santa Clara) for practically paying for the entire stadium. The stadium authority in San Francisco borrowed $850 million from Goldman Sachs and US Bank to pay for the new stadium, construction on which started last year.
The league further smacked Miami when it awarded the 2017 game today to Houston. That's a fairly old stadium as the stadium business goes these days -- 11 years. Seventy-three percent of it was paid for with occupancy and car rental taxes, a ticket tax, and a parking tax. But it had also already hosted a Super Bowl -- 2004.
Next year's Super Bowl is being played in New Jersey, which is the league's newest stadium, but wasn't built directly with public funds. The 2015 game is in Arizona, which built a stadium for the Cardinals the same year as Indianapolis -- site of the 2012 game -- did.
If future Super Bowls are awarded to city's where taxpayers foot the bill, Minneapolis may have a longer wait. Dallas, with the second-newest stadium, hosted the game in 2011, but is said to be competing hard for the 2018 game. The NFL, however, may not want to put the game in the same state two years in a row.
That puts Minneapolis in line -- maybe -- for 2018, although other cold-weather cities with a bigger profile -- Chicago and, perhaps, Denver, might provide competition.
"The day's events send a clear message to cities and teams: If your stadium is out of date, you aren't going to get Super Bowls," the NFL's Around the League column said today.(7 Comments)
Bob Moffitt of the local American Lung Association called my attention today to an old NewsCut post which connected the rate of a cigarette tax increase to the number of people who stop smoking because of it.
Contained therein, was a CNBC interview featuring the late, great Mark Haines questioning the logic of using a tax to close a funding gap in state finances while intending it to also encourage people to give up buying cigarettes. If people quit smoking, the state loses revenue. It can't, the theory goes, afford people kicking the habit.
"The increase per pack way offsets the decline in smoking, " the advocate of higher cigarette taxes responded. "Every state that has increased its cigarette tax significantly, has seen dramatic increases in revenue, even while tobacco consumption declines."
Is that true in Minnesota? Decidedly so.
In 2005, Minnesota raised cigarette taxes by charging a fee to wholesalers -- 75 cents a pack -- which was passed along to the customers. Tobacco tax revenue went from $174 million to $446 million in just one year.
Maybe a lot of people quit smoking during that initial jump, but the revenue figures do not suggest tobacco taxes were ever imperiled by people quitting.
According to the Tax Policy Center, Minnesota tobacco tax revenues totaled $448 million in 2007 (an increase, two years after the tax increase), dropping to $419 million in 2008, before increasing to $423 million in 2009 and $428 million in 2010.
So, tobacco tax revenue dropped only 4% since the "health impact fee" was imposed on smokers.
The new Minnesota tax increase of $1.60 will raise another $434 million, showing almost no financial impact from people quitting.
There may be a point at which it's financially illogical to raise the price of cigarettes. But the data -- so far -- indicate we're nowhere near it.(2 Comments)
This image, from the National Weather Service, is getting a lot of attention. It shows the route of yesterday's tornado near Oklahoma City and compares it to the route of the previous worst-tornado-in-history that hit the town.
Alan Boyle and John Roache at NBC pick apart the tracks of tornadoes in a quite outstanding article today.
The tracks weren't all that similar, however: Monday's tornado took a more southerly route as it moved east. And there's nothing unique about the area's geography to make it a magnet for super-powerful twisters, according to Bob Henson, a tornado expert with the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo.
"If there were geographic features, that would tend to cause multiple tornadoes every few years," the meteorologist and writer told NBC News. "Well, why has this been happening only since 1999?"
The similarity in the tracks of these devastating storms is "a good example for how weather events can be clustered in ways that are striking yet ultimately coincidental," Henson said.
They also point out another truism: It's been a quiet tornado season so far, mostly because the cold air from the north pushed deeper into the south.
That would suggest that the spring we missed out on, and the snow and nonsense of April and early May in Minnesota, was part of a season that may have spared others a tragedy like yesterday's.
Suddenly, missing out on April around here doesn't seem like such a bad thing.(0 Comments)
This is astounding time-lapse video of yesterday's tornado near Oklahoma City.
What's it like to be on the ground? This is from Newcastle, OK., just before it hit Moore.
What would your first reaction be when coming up out of the ground?
We love to make fun of TV meteorologists -- did they really have to interrupt the Stanley Cup playoffs for a run-of-the mill thunderstorm here on Sunday? -- but anyone watching the live stream of the local stations in Oklahoma no doubt understand the number of lives their coverage probably saved with the heads-up warning.
That's based on science -- the science of forecasting tornadoes. And they've gotten quite good at it.
It'll be two years tomorrow since a tornado ripped Joplin apart, and one hit north Minneapolis. The reporters are gone and attention has moved on. Whatever happened in those communities?
"Blue tarps continue to dot the landscape, covering roofs that have gone unrepaired. Vacant homes with boarded-up doors and windows stand as testament that many displaced residents have yet to return," Camden News says via Twin Cities Daily Planet. "And streets once shaded by a canopy of overhead leaves are now exposed to sunlight, their decades-old trees destroyed during the storm."
Most people who wanted to stay have been connected with insurance and help. A liquor store is being rebuilt, about 150 new "green" homes are being constructed, and hundreds of trees have been planted in the area that was stripped bare.
In Joplin, USA Today reporters had a look yesterday:
Streets are clear. Debris is gone. Road signs ripped away by 200-plus-mph winds are back in place and motorists can find their way.
Block after block, new homes have risen, many on the bare foundations left behind after the May 22, 2011, storm. New roofs -- not twisted debris -- mark the path of the storm through the heart of the city. A recent tour of the tornado's path revealed only a handful of structures with torn roofs or damaged walls.
Which is as astounding an image as the video above, because an understandable reaction when you see communities wiped out is, "why even bother? Where do you even begin?"
DFL. Republican. It almost never matters, the Minnesota Legislature is going to wait until the last possible minute and then pass a lot of bills after the sun goes down.
It happened again this year, again a far cry from the usual first-day-of-session proclamations of good governing.
Over the next few days, Minnesota will process what's been done.
In its editorial today, the Star Tribune gives the lawmakers mixed marks:
History did not repeat itself. The Legislature raised taxes rather than fundamentally reforming them. It failed to make the transportation investments that future prosperity requires. It could not muster enough bipartisan support to upgrade inadequate higher-ed facilities and infrastructure. It did nothing to control gun violence or crack down on school bullying.
But as this edition went to press, the basics were nearly done and given how often that could not have been said in the past decade, the Class of 2013 can take a modest bow. The new budget is forecast to stay in balance through mid-2016 without the deficit-perpetuating fiscal trickery often seen before.
If there's a problem here, the Star Tribune suggested, it's that the legislators are too much like the rest of us:
To the extent legislators stayed in their comfort zones, pandered to interest groups and failed to forge bipartisan alliances, they reflected a Minnesota electorate that's more divided than it was a generation ago.
Moorhead homeowners may be on their own the next time the Red River floods. The Fargo Forum reports today the city is thinking of getting out of the sandbag business. The consideration comes after this year's prediction of a record flood failed to come true.
"We didn't have to make sandbags, and we didn't have to buy sandbags, and it still cost us almost a half a million dollars," Mayor Max Voxland said. "The 87 folks that are left along the river really are at a point where they have to pony up something and be responsible citizens themselves for having property along the river."
Major League Baseball is going to outfit its players in camouflage-themed uniforms for Memorial Day. Paul Lukas at Uni Watch is not impressed with the militarization of sports:
It's been said many times before, but it bears repeating: Memorial Day is not a day for celebrating the military. It's a day for honoring the military dead. A more appropriate gesture would be an MLB-wide black armband. An even better gesture would be a pregame moment of silence, without anything on the uniform. But as is so often the case nowadays, merchandising and pandering trump common sense.
Meanwhile, yesterday morning -- before I knew about the G.I. Joe jerseys -- I received an email from a publicist, reminding me about the caps. I asked the publicist why the caps are called "Stars & Stripes" caps when they have neither stars nor stripes. His response: "They are part of the 'Stars & Stripes' program. These caps [for Memorial Day] are the first in a series of three, with the others coming out around July 4th and September 11th. Both of those caps will contain stars and stripes." And based on what we're seeing for Memorial Day, it's reasonable to assume that these flag-desecration caps will be joined by flag-desecration jerseys. Grreeeaaaaaat.
Bonus: McDonald's, one of America's most ubiquitous, mundane institutions, might not seem like the best place to make compelling pictures. Nolan Conway thinks otherwise. (Wired.com)
In addition to legalizing same-sex marriage, lawmakers raised taxes by $2 billion and passed a bill that will let some child and home care workers to vote to unionize. Today's Question: How did the Minnesota Legislature do this session?
WHAT WE'RE DOING
Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) - First hour: Millennials and politics.
Second hour: Jal Mehta, author of 'The Allure of Order: High Hopes, Dashed Expectations, and the Troubled Quest to Remake American Schooling.'
Third hour: Fitzgerald Theater conversation with Temple Grandin.
MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): David Plotz, Slate magaine editor, speaking with MPR's Eric Ringham at the MPR Broadcast Journalist Series event held last week at the University of St. Thomas.
Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) - TBA
All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - NPR will have the latest from Oklahoma.
The Minnesota Legislature passed a status-quo transportation funding bill, with no gas tax increase and no sales tax increase for transit, as transportation advocates and the business community were calling for. What happens to the backlog of transportation projects? What does this mean for the future of Southwest LRT? MPR's Jess Mador has a look.
Oklahoma City, facing a huge recovery after today's devastating tornado in the southern part of the city, is like no other major American city, it would seem. The city of 170,000 has never gone more than a little more than five years without being struck by a tornado.
Consider this National Weather Service graphic plotting the route of tornadoes through the city and its suburbs.
Oklahoma City has been struck by more than one tornado in a single day 25 times.
Up until today -- it's too early to know how bad today's strike is -- the worst day in the city's tornado history was May 3,1999, when 36 people were killed.0 Comments)
Gas prices are heading down in the Twin Cities after last week's record high, but this chart shows a pattern we've heard about before. They don't seem to be going down as fast as they went up.
What's going on here? Slate looked at this question some years ago and found that the problem is you: When prices start to fall, you don't shop around much as when they're increasing.
A busy gas retailer will take delivery on a daily basis, so there's some pressure to pass along price hikes without too much delay. The stations can't raise prices too much, though, because consumers tend to be extra-vigilant about shopping for bargains when oil prices are on the rise. When the newspapers start reporting upwardly mobile barrel prices, drivers tend to comparison shop down to the penny. This keeps gas prices from rocketing even further.
The asymmetry that economists cite comes into play as soon as oil prices start to deflate. Freed from the constant reminders about rising fuel costs, drivers become less invested in looking for a bargain--and retailers don't have to worry as much about the competition. As a result, station owners can keep drivers happy by knocking just a few cents off the "old" price.
The theory came from Matt Lewis, an economist at Ohio State University.
A key element of his theory is something economists call a "reference price." Your local car salesman might know it as "framing." Once consumers get a number in their head -- $10,000 for that car, $3.70 for that gallon of gas -- all subsequent choices are impacted by a new price's relation to that reference price. When the car dealer says, "OK, $9,500," you think you have a good deal. When the nearest gas station drops the price to $3.63, the average consumer impulsively stops searching.
"If prices are falling, you pull into a station and think 'I have a good deal,'" Lewis said.
Daily Finance adds, however, that there's another factor: There's money to be made if you run a gas station. (h/t: Ken Paulman)
Here's a simplified version of what happens (excluding taxes and the cost of environmental regulations that also affect gas prices): Say you're a gas station owner who buys 10,000 gallons of regular unleaded gasoline -- a month's worth -- at Wednesday's wholesale price of $2.85 per gallon. Your bill comes to $28,500.
Imagine that you sell 9,000 gallons over the next three weeks, but then the price of oil drops, bringing the wholesale price for gas down 10 cents to $2.75 per gallon. You'll be able to buy your next 10,000 gallons at the lower price and cut your pump price by 10 cents per gallon as a result, but if you reduce your prices right away, you wouldn't cover the cost of the remaining 1,000 gallons of gasoline that you already bought at the higher price. Most likely, you'd wait until you'd sold those 1,000 gallons before cutting your price.
Even given all of their historic hyperbole, what we're hearing from the meteorologists in Oklahoma City this afternoon suggests an unusually huge threat from a tornado.0 Comments)
Attention, Minnesota employers: You can't fire an employee because his/her spouse takes a job with your competition.
The Minnesota Court of Appeals today ruled a Mower County social services company violated the state's Human Rights Act, when it fired a woman because her husband joined an advisory board of another company with whom the Austin-based nonprofit competes for federal funds.
April Aase worked for Wapiti Meadows Community Technology and Services, which provides mental-health and employment counseling for low-income clients. So does another provider, Workforce Development, Inc. Relations between the two companies are "strained," according to testimony in the case.
When Aase's husband agreed to join the board of directors of the competition, the executive director of her company -- himself a former employee of the competition -- told her, "Mark resigns from the position, or you're fired tomorrow morning."
He didn't and she was fired the next day for having a conflict of interest.
A Mower County district court judge ruled the company "had articulated a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for termination," but today the Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed the ruling.
Here's the key provision of the state's Human Rights Act:
Except when based on a bona fide occupational qualification, it is an unfair employment practice for an employer, because of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, status with regard to public assistance, membership or activity in a local commission, disability, sexual orientation, or age to:
(1) refuse to hire or to maintain a system of employment which unreasonably excludes a person seeking employment; or
(2) discharge an employee; or
(3) discriminate against a person with respect to hiring, tenure, compensation, terms, upgrading, conditions, facilities, or privileges of employment.
The court said that Ms. Aase's refusal to provide information about her husband's job with the competition was a legitimate reason for her firing, but Judge Jill Flaskamp Halbrooks wrote in her opinion that since the termination letter didn't mention a refusal to cooperate, Aase's marital status was the true reason for her firing, sending the case back to the district court.