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A Carolina Hurricanes status update

Aside from dumping Alexander Smmin’s contract, the team has been inactive in the off season. Ticket sales are expected to be up this coming season, after falling for the past six years as the team struggled on the ice. And the Canes remain for sale, with the strange condition that existing owner Peter Karmanos wants to stay in control for a couple of years (!). Luke Decock of the Raleigh News & Observer observes:

Even though the NHL has been steadfastly against franchise relocation, and it seems short-sighted and self-defeating to allow a team to move in the middle of an expansion process that could generate $1 billion for the owners, Karmanos included, there’s a worst-case scenario for Hurricanes fans.

That would involve the league giving an expansion team only to Las Vegas, allowing Quebec to purchase and relocate an Eastern Conference team and going with 31 teams until Seattle or another western city gets its act together, thereby avoiding the conference imbalance adding an expansion team in Quebec would create, with 14 teams in the Western Conference and 16 in the East currently.

The Hurricanes aren’t the only candidate to move, but they’re the only team with a for-sale sign in the yard at the moment, and Quebec would likely pay a premium for the franchise. While it’s unlikely, it’s not impossible as long as the team remains unsold.

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United Airlines upgrading CLT in a big way

United Airlines is one of the country’s three big surviving legacy airlines, but as we’ve documented here repeatedly, the airline’s service level to Charlotte is rather weak. In particular, a high percentage of the airline’s flights to Charlotte in recent years have been on 50-seat regional jets, which are uncomfortable, lack a first-class section, so the airline can’t reward its frequent fliers with an upgrade when flying to from CLT, and have high cost per available seat mile.

That’s all going to change in the next two months though, with United upgrading all of its weekday flights on 50-seaters (Embrear 145s (ERJ)) from Charlotte to large regional jets — Embrear 175s (E75), Embrear E170s (E70), or Bombardier CRJ700s (CR7)— with a first class sections. The airline’s seat’s available from CLT are increasing by 44 percent from their mid-August level — our baseline date for 2015 — by the end of October. Highlights:

August 13:

Chicago: 1 737-700, 1 E75, 1 CR7, 3 ERJ
Houston: 4 ERJ
Newark: 1 E70, 6 ERJ
Washington Dulles: 1 E75, 2 CR7, 1 ERJ

Total: 21 flights, 1 mainline, 6 large regional jet with first class, 14 5-seat regional jet, 1,238 total seats

October 1:
Chicago: 2 737-700, 3 CR7
Denver: 2 E75
Houston: 2 E75, 2 E70, 2 ERJ
Newark: 1 E75, 1 E70, 5 ERJ
Washington Dulles: 1 E75, 3 CR7

Total: 23 flights, 2 mainline, 14 large regional jets with first class, 7 50-seat regional gets, 1,578 seats

October 29:

Chicago: 2 A319, 2 E75, 1 CR7
Denver: 2 E75
Houston: 2 E75, 3 E70
Newark: 1 E75, 6 E70
Washington Dulles: 2 E75, 2 CR7

Total: 23 flights, 2 mainline, 21 large regional jets with first class, 1,782 seats

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Buddy Baker and the NASCAR HOF?

Well-known NASCAR driver and commentator Buddy Baker died earlier this month at the age of 74. Here’s a quick analysis on whether Baker should be in the NASCAR Hall of Fame and, more importantly whether he’ll be elected. In both cases, it comes down to a single number.

The case against: The number five, as in fifth. Baker won 19 NASCAR races but never won a NASCAR-top division (current Sprint Cup) championship. In fact, the best he ever finished was fifth. And he finished in the top 10 in points only five times in his career. Baker was one of the last of NASCAR’s most-time drivers, someone that typically drove in about 2/3rds of the races each year. The modern NASCAR era began in 1972, when the series cut the number of races down to 28 to 31 a season (it’s since grown to 36). Baker was 31 years old during the 1972 season; he would race in all of a season’s races only three times (1976, 1977, 1985). Is a Hall of Fame driver really someone who never finished better than fifth in a season, particularly during NASCAR’s modern era?

The case for — and why Baker gets in the NASCAR HOF next year: The number three. Every year, five people get in the hall. The voters like top division drivers, with, on average, three a year being elected. Baker is the driver with the third most top-series wins that’s on the ballot. His resume just isn’t anywhere near as strong as that of Mark Martin (40 wins, finished second in points five times) or Benny Parsons (21 wins, 1973 champion) but is comparable or better than any driver that might get added to the ballot next year except for perhaps Ricky Rudd. So, yes, it’s likely that Baker gets elected in May.

Update:
Fixed a typo in the post headline. I’ll let you guess what it was.

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Millennials and home buying

The Associated Press has an interesting article out on millennials and to what degree they are buying houses. They want too, especially after they have kids, but finding the money is often a problem, A sample quote:

A striking 46 percent of renters ages 25 to 34 — the core of the millennial population — spend more than 30 percent of their incomes on rent, up from 40 percent a decade earlier, according to a report by Harvard University’s Joint Center of Housing Studies. (The housing industry generally regards a figure above 30 percent as financially burdensome.)

Some of the cost burden stems from a shift toward people who envision themselves renting for several years and therefore seeking the kinds of amenities more commonly associated with home ownership. Based on searches for rentals on RadPad in June and July, for example, apartments with stainless steel appliances and swimming pools were disproportionately popular in cities with lower homeownership rates such as Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington.

Nearly a fifth of Washington-area searches sought apartments with stainless steel appliances, compared with 5 percent nationwide. More than a third of Chicagoans wanted an apartment with a pool, versus 18 percent nationally.

Fascinating.

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BB&T expands because of regulation

In Pennsylvania, by buying National Penn Bancshares of Allentown. The Philadelphia Inquirer explains why the deal is going down as it is:

Why sell now? National Penn (chartered in 1874) is almost large enough to pass the $10 billion legal threshold, making its loans and other assets subject to additional federal banking compliance rules and limits on customer fees, the bank’s CEO, Scott Fainor, said in an interview. “Those things are expensive,” he added. “We found the right partner in BB&T.”

National Penn’s recent weak performance forced it to cut a deal, said Jason O’Donnell, chief investment officer at Bluestone Financial Institutions Fund in Bryn Mawr, which invests in financial companies.

So a business decision motivated in large part by regulation. That’s something that’s never a win for the economy.

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American Airlines drops Philadelphia-Tel Aviv

This is actually a US Airways route, daily year-round service on a 254-seat Airbus A330-200. According to the company story, the Philadelphia (PHL) – Tel Aviv (TLV) flight, which started in 2009, never made money with US Airways/American Airlines losing $20 million on the route last year. The last flight will be Jan. 4.

Why this matters to us in Charlotte that aren’t flying to Israel:
US Airways brought 24 A330s to the merger, a type that American didn’t operate. So far, those 24 aircraft have been used exclusively to fly routes from the (soon to be former) US Airways hubs in Philly and Charlotte. It takes two planes to operate PHL-TLV daily. So American can now do one of two things:

a). Keep the A330s flying just out of CLT and PHL and find two European routes to add next summer.

Or:

b). The airline can start flying those A330s out of pre-merger American Airlines hubs like Miami, Chicago, Dallas, or New York City. Of course, once they start doing that, pretty much all bets are off regarding European service from Charlotte, as once you commit yourself to shifting planes, there’s no reason to limit yourself to just two…

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Dems Prioritize Governor’s Race

JLF Chairman John Hood offers up this analysis of next year’s U.S. Senate race:

I think it would be foolish for [Richard} Burr not to take the 2016 campaign seriously. I also think [Deborah] Ross, in particular, has the potential to excite some of the state party’s donors and activists. But I still think it’s striking that no higher-profile Democrats have opted to run. North Carolina is a closely divided state. The seat is important to Democrats hoping to recapture the U.S. Senate next year.

So what’s going on? My opinion is that most North Carolina Democrats, and even many Democrats across the country, are far more interested in defeating Gov. Pat McCrory than they are in defeating Burr. They believe Attorney General Roy Cooper is the candidate most likely to accomplish that task. They are already planning to pour most of their resources into helping him. Knowing that, Democrats who might otherwise have run for Senate have concluded that it will be difficult to gain the attention and raise the funds necessary to win in 2016.

It’s not hard to explain why North Carolina Democrats are so focused on beating McCrory. They strongly disagree with the policy choices Republicans have been making over the past several years. Given the district maps and other institutional disadvantages, they hold out little hope of retaking either chamber of the General Assembly in 2016. Their only chance to combat GOP initiatives on taxes, spending, education, and other issues is to elect Cooper and hope he can get his vetoes sustained by a combination of unified Democrats and dissident Republicans.

There’s also the matter of patronage. Governors build organizations and parties in ways that senators can’t. Governors hire hundreds of people for political or high-level policy jobs. They appoint thousands of people to boards and commissions. Their administrations award contracts and make policy decisions that benefit some interest groups and harm others. Democrats have been in charge of this massive machine for most of the state’s history. They desperately want it back, particularly if they are politicos, lobbyists, high-level attorneys, or executives in industries whose prospects are significantly influenced by state action. By comparison, U.S. senators have fewer favors to offer (although some of them can be immensely valuable to particular individuals or businesses).

You can read the rest of John column here.

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Kelvin Benjamin tears his ACL

Ouch. And whatever your expectations were for the Carolina Panthers, it’s best to lower them a notch. Cam Newton is an above average quarterback, but his supporting cast leaves something to be desired.

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US Airways landing accident at CLT

So, per the National Transportation Safety Board, this happened over the weekend:

On August 15, 2015, at about 6:34 pm eastern daylight time, an Airbus A321, operated by [US Airways] as Flight 1851 inbound from Atlanta, reportedly encountered wind shear on final approach to the Charlotte Douglas International Airport. The airplane impacted runway approach lights followed by an airplane tail to runway impact. The flight crew then performed a go-around maneuver and completed the landing. No injuries were reported; however, the airplane was substantially damaged.

The NTSB has opened an investigation.

The Aviation Herald reports provides some additional details, including that “the crew reported during the climb that they had encountered a loss of 20 knots at 10 feet above the runway.”

All very scary stuff — this could easily have turned out much, much worse.

Update: The Dallas Morning News has a photo showing the damage to the aircraft.

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Why Is stolen art so hard to find?

Justin Peters of Slate offers up a fascinating look at art thefts and policy attempts to recover stolen masterpieces. The results aren’t encouraging. Sample quotes:

Twenty-five years ago, two thieves dressed as police officers bluffed their way into Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and made away with $500 million of artwork by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Degas, and others. The thieves didn’t cover their faces, and they apparently didn’t know much about what they were stealing: They roughly cut the paintings from their frames and left more valuable works hanging on the walls. Despite the thieves’ apparent inexpertise and the ensuing media attention, no suspects were ever arrested and the art was never recovered. Authorities believe the robbers were regional gangsters, but nobody really knows where the art has been stashed, or if it’s even still intact. The Gardner robbery is the biggest and most frustrating art heist in American history—and it’s as cold as cold cases come.

Such cases going cold happens quite frequently though. Why? You obviously can’t display stoten art in public, thieves often don’t know how to get in contact with people that might want to buy stolen paintings, and it’s difficult even to ransom art without being caught. So thieves have items they can’t really do anything with, so they’re forced to sit on them.

Police ineptitude plays a role too:

That’s one reason why these cases are hard to solve. Another is that most law enforcement agencies simply aren’t up to the task of solving them. In his essay “Who Is Stealing All Those Paintings?” [criminologist A.J.G.] Tijhuis reveals that his titular question is difficult to answer due to “the rather limited interest of most police services in the theft of works of art. … [I]n most countries, no special art theft units exist within the local or national police services. Furthermore, data on art thefts are usually not registered in national or international databases—indeed, no complete databases exist worldwide.” If an artwork stolen in Denmark makes its way to France, the Gendarmerie might not know to look for it.

You can read the rest of the story here.

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