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Archive for January, 2012

BofA cuts more

Finds an additional $1 billion to $3 billion in annual savings on top the previously promised $5 billion. According to Bloomberg:

The lender, which already targeted $5 billion in expense cuts from retail and back-office operations, may reach total savings of $6 billion to $8 billion a year, Moynihan said during a Jan. 19 employee meeting. The latest phase of his effort examines investment and commercial banking, trading, and wealth-management units and is scheduled to be completed in April.

Not good news for the Charlotte economy.

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Watch Demetrius Montgomery Walk Despite Killing Two Cops

It’s a long shot, but it could happen if the wrong judge gets a hold of this case.

At a minimum, some sort of action resulting in a new trial for convicted cop killer Demetrius Montgomery wouldn’t be the least bit surprising.

Demetrius Montgomery

The  handling of District Attorney Peter Gilchrist’s office’s last big case will now be tested in Montgomery’s appeal of his life sentence for killing two cops. So will the competency of our local court system.

Judge Forrest Bridges did a masterful job trying to appeal-proof the problems with the case the best he could, but several things could cause real problems down the line:

Attorney Andrew Desimone, who is working Montgomery’s appeal, points to 16 proposed issues. Several of the issues surround Montgomery’s mental status – the defense tried on several occasions to declare him incompetent to stand trial but the judge denied that motion – and other issues surround the difficulty of defending a suspect who won’t speak to his attorneys.

Montgomery is also appealing his conviction based on certain testimony during the trial. The record lists several witnesses, including the officers’ widows, Jennifer Shelton and Sherry Clark.

Montgomery also tried to fire his attorneys on several occasions, but wasn’t allowed to, another complicating factor ripe for appeal. Whatever the case, it will be interesting to see if the way the trial was handled holds up under scrutiny — and not very surprising if it doesn’t.

 

 

 

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US Airways said to develop American Airlines merger plan

So says Bloomberg. Note if US Airways decides to proceed, the formal bid may not come until late this year.

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Southwest Airlines proper coming to Charlotte

Less than a day after saying “no decision yet”, Southwest Airlines today put out a press release announcing the fate of the stations it acquired in its acquisition of AirTran Airways:

The 22 AirTran airports that will continue to operate and will eventually join the Southwest route map include: Flint, Mich. (FNT); Rochester, N.Y. (ROC); Pensacola, Fla. (PNS); Charlotte, N.C. (CLT); Dayton, Ohio (DAY); Richmond, Va. (RIC); Key West, Fla. (EYW); Washington, D.C. (DCA); Memphis, Tenn. (MEM); Akron-Canton, Ohio (CAK); Wichita, Kan. (ICT); Des Moines, Iowa (DSM); Branson, Mo. (BKG); Portland, Maine (PWM); Grand Rapids, Mich. (GRR); Punta Cana, Dominican Republic (PUJ); Cancun, Mexico (CUN); Montego Bay, Jamaica (MBJ); Aruba (AUA); San Juan, Puerto Rico (SJU); Bermuda (BDA); and Nassau, Bahamas (NAS). AirTran service and Employees at these airports are planned to convert to Southwest gradually over the course of AirTran’s integration into Southwest.

Getting cut, effective Aug. 12 are: Allentown, Pa. (ABE); Lexington, Ky. (LEX); Harrisburg, Pa. (MDT); Sarasota, Fla. (SRQ); Huntsville, Ala. (HSV); and White Plains, N.Y. (HPN).

So, we’re in. Yet to answered is the question of when and, more importantly, how much. Will have an analysis of that up soon.

Bonus observation: Extremely odd that they would put the press release announcing this out at 1:15pm on a Friday. Their earning conference was yesterday, so presumably they wanted to avoid answering questions about it then. But still, why not wait until Tuesday, as most of these places won’t get Southwest proper until next year at the earliest.

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Southwest Airlines: CLT still in limbo

Just got through listening to Southwest Airlines 4Q2011 earnings conference call. The question of what the airline was planning to do in Charlotte actually came up as a question. Southwest does not currently serve the CLT per se. It does own AirTran Airways though, which flies from Charlotte to Atlanta, Baltimore, and Orlando. Airline management hopes to have Southwest and AirTran on a single certificate (be one for legal and regulatory purposes) in about two months. After that, the transfer of aircraft and markets from the AirTran brand to the Southwest brand will begin.

Except that a number of current AirTran markets will be dropped rather getting Southwest service. Indeed, of the 33 domestic airports that AirTran flew to that Southwest did not serve when the merger was announced in fall 2010, 11 alrady are known to be out and only in one case (Atlanta, to no great surprise) has Southwest announced when they will begin service. The remaining 22 cities, including Charlotte, are in a holding pattern, waiting for a decision one way or the other. In response to the question, Southwest management provided no indication of whether Charlotte was a keeper or would be cut.

That said, most people (myself included) that follow the industry expect Southwest to keep CLT. The question is just when flights transition to Southwest and with what level of service.

Southwest management did provide some general guidance: They expect to have seven fewer planes at the end of the year than they do currently and relatively few aircraft (13) will be switched over from AirTran to Southwest this year. Those are both discouraging developments. I’d be surprised if Southwest comes to town before 2013 — and it could easily be 2014. And fewer planes makes it more difficult to increase flights and destinations from here beyond the total of seven per day to three places AirTran will soon be up to — though flights to Chicago Midway are pretty much a given if/when Southwest proper comes to town.

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Embarrassing Turnout Plagues Romney’s SC Events: If the GOP Doesn’t Like Him, How Can They Expect the Rest of the Country To?

It happened again.

Mitt and Ann Romney planned a grand entrance to what was supposed to be a large post-debate rally at the Florence, SC, civic center on Tuesday. The campaign had rented a ballroom for the rally with capacity for at least 1,000, but quickly roped the room off across the middle when few people showed up.

Mitt and his wife Ann were going to drive the campaign bus into the building at 8:30 am and disembark in grand fashion. But the crowd was so thin that they waited until 9 am and then aborted the plan. Here’s the AP’s description:

For half an hour, they delayed, but the crowd didn’t get bigger.

Just over 100 people turned up for an 8:30 a.m. rally here for Mitt Romney, a decision that may have influenced the campaign’s decision to abort a grand entrance for the candidate and his wife, Ann, that involved driving the campaign bus into the building.

Taking the stage, Romney eyed the smaller than usual crowd, which had already been documented by the dozens of reporters on the scene with photos posted to their Twitter feeds, and seemed to offer an explanation for the news media.

“What time is it here? 9:00 a.m. in the morning?” Romney said, eying his watch. “Gosh, this is a work day right?”

How embarrassing. With a solid lead in the national polls and a solid debate performance the night before, he should have been able to turn out more people. Here’s another description from NPR:

Aides had curtained off half the Civic Center ballroom, but the reduced space still seemed too large for the crowd that showed up. Unfazed, Romney stuck to his usual script, looking past the primary to the November race against President Obama. He paints that race in the starkest of terms, calling it a battle for the soul of America.

As I’ve noted before, Michelle Bachmann’s rallies in South Carolina, and her book signing in December, when she was in single digits in the polls, typically attracted 200 to 300 people.

Yes, the GOP will get behind Romney if he is the nominee and odds are he probably will be. But he is going to need more enthusiasm among the rank and file on the ground to beat Obama’s ground game. As I’ve said before, just counting on people’s disdain for Obama isn’t enough to win the presidency. People have to actually like you.

You’ve got to have followers who love you enough to take a day off work to drive the little old ladies to the polls. They have to love you enough to go door-to-door and spend their evenings stuffing your fliers. They have to push you on facebook. OR YOU LOSE.

Obama may be down in public approval, but he has that kind of love from followers on the ground. It’s what you call ground game and it is what Obama excels at. If people in Romney’s own party won’t do more than vote for him, if they don’t like him enough to show up to see the guy who could be the next leader of the free world, he’s in big trouble, no matter what the polls say. How on earth do you sell this man to independents?

And the snippy handling of reporters doesn’t help either. Yes, I know they are seriously biased and completely annoying. But you can’t talk to these people as if they are corporate underlings, because eventually they are going to put you on camera doing it.

Testiness like this on Romney’s part is a recipe for disaster:

As staffers again tried to usher him on his bus, Romney paused to offer a testy response to an NBC reporter’s question about how he came up with a figure he often touts about the number of jobs created by companies he invested in while head of Bain Capital. At Monday night’s debate, he said 120,000 jobs generated by companies Bain backed.

Asked about the figure by NBC’s Peter Alexander as he walked to his bus, Romney stopped dead in his tracks.

“Let’s get the math, alright?” he declared. “Four companies created 120,000 jobs. It’s very simple. Four companies created 120,000: Staples, Bright Horizons, Steel Dynamics, and, uhhh, which one am I missing? Sports Authority …  If you look up their 10ks today, you’ll find that they have 120,000 jobs.

When a reporter interrupted to say that total did not include jobs lost during that period—a figure the Romney campaign has downplayed—the candidate got a bit snippy, responding, “Gotta listen to the very end, alright?”

“Those four created about 120,000 jobs. And then all of those businesses that had been well-documented by various people over the years, when I ran in ’94, when I ran last time, when I ran for governor, those that have lost jobs, they end up being a little less than 10,000, those that were losers,” he explained. “So if you took the ones that were losers, and compare with the ones that were — those four, at least — why you end up with something over 100,000.”

It looked as though Romney wanted to continue talking, but his body man interrupted.

“Governor, we’ve gotta go,” he told the candidate.

 

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5-0 NO. Awesome.

And done with class.

The Iredell County Commission voted unanimously against the $452 million Red Line Regional Rail project, which would have put their voters tens of millions of dollars in the hock.

Iredell commissioners cited national studies showing how cities often underestimate the cost of new rail lines and consequently have to scale down their plans. In the Red Line’s case, they said, Iredell County could end up paying for a line that ends far south of the county line. “I will not subject the citizens of the county to insanity like this,” commissioners Chairman Steve Johnson said.

What rocked about this was that the commissioners didn’t to this out of some irrational or ideological fear of rail, but because state and regional officials couldn’t answer simple questions about where Iredell County would get the money to pay for the line when the bill came due.

The official line is that the money is supposed to come from as-yet-unknown developers who will supposedly show up to develop land along the line once it is built. Taxes on that development are supposed to pay Iredell’s bill for it. Where are these developers, the commissioners wanted to know. Who are they? Why haven’t they met them?

It’s a question that Mecklenburg elites can’t even answer about their own South Boulevard line, which has seen a near complete stagnation in development that has left about two-thirds of the nine-mile line worse off development wise than it was before rail.

Even with incentives and $2 million in tax dollars thrown in, Charlotte has been unable to develop rail stations as close in as Scaleybark on South Boulevard. How the heck is anyone going to get developers to sink money into an Iredell line that far outside the center city if we can’t even get Scaleybark going a couple of miles from uptown? Who exactly would ride the line?

State consultants will work to address concerns over the next three months, including Iredell’s, Thunberg told the Charlotte Observer.

Uh-huh. What that means is that they’ll be putting the screws to the commissioners politically. They didn’t have the answers to the commissioners’ questions three months ago and they won’t have them three months from now because there are no answers. The days when developers could get financing for mixed use developments along rail lines are over, and they aren’t coming back for a long time.

No amount of hand-holding by state consultants will change that.

 

 

 

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Wow. Panthers Booted So Obama Can Sell Luxury Suites at BofA Stadium.

Wow.

Time to get out the Greek columns. I hope they saved them.

So the Carolina Panthers will play their first regular season game away so that Bank of America stadium can be used by the Democratic National Convention. The official explanation for this is that the stadium was chosen “to give more people a chance to be part of the convention festivities,” which is a bunch of bunk. The truth, as reported by Bloomberg, is that the move has actually been made “to sell more skyboxes to wealthy donors, according to three Democrats involved in the fundraising.”

Now that’s how you spread the wealth. Just hand over the BofA stadium for a day so the Dems can use it to raise money to pay for the convention. They are calling this an in-kind donation, but that’s a stretch, given that they intend to take the donated sky boxes and sell them for the day. And all of this is going down in a stadium named for the ultimate bastion of corporate evil, Bank of America. The media would freak out if the GOP tried something like this.

I wonder if the wealthy donors ensconced in the stadium seats will be Wall Street evil types paying extra for climate controlled seats to enjoy the bashing by Obama that will no doubt be aimed straight at them. How ironic that evil capitalists will be funding all of this as Obama makes bid for one more run at destroying what remains of capitalism in this country.

And what of Carolina Panthers and stadium owner Jerry Richardson? I wonder what all of this is setting him back in terms of lost revenue — and how they plan to make it up to him.

Update: Some of you have wondered if Jerry Richardson plans to charge the DNC rent for the stadium. The answer appears to be no.

This is from Lexis-Nexis/The Charlotte Observer:

Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, who watched the news conference, told reporters later that the team is not charging rent for the stadium.

 

 

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Do They Have the Guts? Iredell Commission Could Do Region a Favor, Kill Uptown Rail Line Tonight

Build it and they will come, the uptown crowd is promising Iredell County commissioners. “They” being the unnamed developers who are somehow miraculously going to get the financing for development along a commuter rail line to Iredell the uptowners want to build.

The Iredell County Commission could stop the waste of hundreds of millions of dollars by laying down on the tracks tonight.

Iredell county commissioners meanwhile want to know who the heck these developers are and where they will come from. It’s an important question, because much of the funding for the line is supposed to come from taxes on this expected development.

The Iredell County Commission could kill the entire $452 million light rail project to Charlotte with a vote tonight, leaving six other governments along the line out of luck — and protected from the same kind of blight the South Boulevard line has wrought along much of South Boulevard, blight I’ve argued has actually done more damage than good to the area and its businesses.

Much to the outrage of the Charlotte Observer and all the right politicians, the Iredell county commissioners are asking difficult questions about building a light rail line to their county for which the former have no answers. Asking legitimate logistical questions is frowned upon by the uptown crowd, and thus the commissioners are feeling the full blast of the uptown crowd’s public disapproval.

But the questions still have no answers.

The Red Line Regional Rail project would upgrade 25 miles of Norfolk Southern rail line from a mile south of the Lowe’s headquarters in Mount Mourne to the planned Charlotte Gateway Station uptown. The line could eventually extend north to Interstate 40 in Statesville. Supporters say the line would spur development along the busy Interstate 77 corridor in the Lake Norman area and southern Iredell County.

Uh, how? Development of what by which developers? Development largely froze along the South Boulevard line and hasn’t resumed since the recession started.

Iredell County Commissioners Chairman Steve Johnson wants to know.

Red Line Regional Rail officials say the corridor could create 23,000 jobs over the life of the project, but Johnson questions who the potential developers and freight customers are for the line. Attracting development would require incentives, so any economic returns for the towns and counties would take years, he said.

Outside of a couple stations along the rail line along the first few stops as you leave uptown, the vast majority of the stops along the existing line have never been developed. Worse yet, rail construction chased off existing struggling businesses, leaving behind a corridor of blight and empty buildings worse than what Charlotte started with.

Even with incentives and $2 million in tax dollars thrown in, the city has been unable to develop rail stations as close in as Scaleybark on South Boulevard. How the heck is anyone going to get developers to sink money into an Iredell line that far outside the center city if we can’t even get Scaleybark going?

Commissioner Renee Griffith wants answers she is never going to get.

“There are a lot of unknowns,” she said. “Where are the customers? In the business model, they’re saying all these customers will come. Where are the commercial customers who will use this line? Why aren’t we partnering with them? Why aren’t we doing a private-public partnership? I would absolutely entertain listening, if all the concerns were addressed and there was a sustainable business model.”

People at least ride the existing line — for now. But that line was built to support bank jobs and jobs that bank jobs support uptown. All of that is now in question as Bank of America struggles for survival so … why not shelve the whole thing for at least a decade and see where we are then? Has development resumed? Are developers coming forward with hopes of building along the rail line?

Iredell commissioners would do the whole region a favor by pulling this monstrosity off the table tonight. Bet they don’t have the courage to do it.

 

 

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Anatomy of A Charlotte Observer Hit Piece: 5 Simple Steps the Paper Used to Flim-Flam its Readers



Note: I spent my Sunday afternoon breaking down the way the Observer misled its readers in the political hit piece it ran today not to prove to you that the paper is incredibly biased to the left, which you already knew, but to expose the simple methods reporters are using this political season to flim-flam their readers, and for the other bloggers who read MeckDeck, so that you can learn from them.

It’s campaign season, and the Charlotte Observer is in full campaign mode with this piece.

The reporter’s mission was clearly not objectivity, but to find data — any data — he could use to paint Mitt Romney as Wall Street’s candidate, a wholly owned subsidiary of those who caused our current financial calamity. It’s easy to do when you leave out half the facts and most of the context, then quote left wing organizations with no opportunity for those on the other side to respond.

The paper is joining the rest of the media in reporting off the very public Democrat Party template for destroying Romney that the Obama folks have very openly sworn to use.

Phase 1, eerily described here back in August at Politico.com, is being implemented now at the Observer and across the country:

The second aspect of the campaign to define Romney is his record as CEO of Bain Capital, a venture capital firm that was responsible for both creating and eliminating jobs. Obama officials intend to frame Romney as the very picture of greed in the great recession — a sort of political Gordon Gekko.

This Washington Post chart documents actual Wall Street giving, As you can see, so far, Romney and the GOP are way behind.

Here are five simple tactics the Observer used to mislead its readers in today’s piece: 

1. The Observer made it look to the casual reader like — and essentially concluded that – Romney is the candidate of the banks, and ultimately Wall Street, by only analyzing contributions from employees and bank PACs of top banks.

When you look at total giving from Wall Street and the banking industry, which the Washington Post has exhaustively done, you get a totally different tale than what the Observer presented today:

Despite frosty relations with the titans of Wall Street, President Obama has still managed to raise far more money this year from the financial and banking sector than Mitt Romney or any other Republican presidential candidate, according to new fundraising data.

Obama’s key advantage over the GOP field is the ability to collect bigger checks because he raises money for both his own campaign committee and for the Democratic National Committee, which will aid in his reelection effort.

As a result, Obama has brought in more money from employees of banks, hedge funds and other financial service companies than all of the GOP candidates combined, according to a Washington Post analysis of contribution data. The numbers show that Obama retains a persistent reservoir of support among Democratic financiers who have backed him since he was an underdog presidential candidate four years ago.

When combined totals of what Obama raised for the DNC, which will spend heavily on his campaign, and his actual campaign are analyzed, Obama pulverizes the whole GOP field combined.

To see who is really raking it in, you’ve got to look at the whole enchilada, not a million or so dollars, or even $10 million dollars, as the Observer has. Contributions by individual bank employees and bank employee PACS are a poor indicator of who the industry supports because they raise such a tiny amount of money and most of those giving aren’t power players or fundraisers, just regular bank employees.

It’s who bank executives fund raise and bundle for that counts, especially at the party level. The Observer conveniently ignores that to avoid having to conclude that while Romney is holding his own, it is Obama who is currently owned by Wall Street donors (see helpful Washington Post chart).

2. Hide the truth by leaving out or ignoring crucial details, like that right now, most financial sector money from the banks and Wall Street is coming in via the DNC, not the little employee PACs and donations the Observer analyzed, as the Washington Post explains:

Unlike the Republican candidates, Obama can raise money for both his own campaign account, which can take donations up to $5,000 for the 2012 cycle, and for his party’s national committee, which can accept $30,800 per individual each calendar year. The same donors will be able to give another $30,800 to the DNC next year.

The result is more money from fewer donors in the finance business.

 Romney has raised less than half of what Obama has, the Post’s analysis shows.

3. In today’s hit piece, the Observer quotes a liberal talking head from Public Campaign who assures readers that ”Romney really is the candidate of Wall Street.” The paper identifies Public Campaign as “an organization that pushes for campaign reform,” and doesn’t tell you that it is a left-leaning group dedicated almost solely to attacking the finances of GOP candidates. The writer also neglects to mention that it is funded by a host of liberal donors, including the liberal Streisand Foundation and Rockefeller Brothers fund, or that its board is full of union and liberal activists.

The paper also quotes Consumer Watchdog without informing you that even Wikipedia describes it as a “progressive” organization that grew out of Ralph Naders movement.

“We’ve seen a massive shift from Obama to the Republican candidates on the part of the financial industry,” said Carmen Balber of Consumer Watchdog, a California nonprofit that advocates for taxpayers and consumers. “Obviously, part of that has to do with a competitive primary. But we’ve definitely seen the financial services industry publicly chastise the president for going after financial reform.”

Uh, no. Again, as the Washington Post chart above makes clear, Obama doubled what Romney and the rest of the GOP combined raised from Wall Street and bank donors this year.

No chance for rebuttal is given in the article to Romney’s camp or another group who might disagree, or to a nonprofit group that leans right as radically as Public Campaign leans left, probably because the premise of the article would quickly fall apart if that were allowed.

4. The paper splashed  a story about the evils of Bain Capital, the private equity firm co-founded by GOP primary candidate Mitt Romney, all over the front page Saturday. In today’s piece, the paper reports this about Romney and Bain:

It’s not just his policy on regulation that draws bankers to (Romney), observers say. As the former head of Bain Capital, another top financial industry political donor, he comes from their world. Romney says his business acumen is one reason he’s best suited to lead the country.

Missing from both stories was the fact that Barack Obama raised more from Bain this year than Romney did.

5.  The Observer headline reads, “Observer analysis: Banks overwhelmingly support Romney.” You’ve got to read on to find out that they actually only looked at the top five banks by assets, not the financial sector, or Wall Street generally, as quotes within the article imply. It’s a flim-flam the paper’s repoters probably learned from the New York Times, which did it first. Here’s how you can scam your readers into believing that Mitt Romney has actually outraised Obama on Wall Street.

Start with a headline like the one the NYT ran on Oct. 15, “Romney Beating Obama in a Fight for Wall St. Cash.”

Then you only analyze, in the reporters own words, “the firms that have been among Wall Street’s top sources of donations for the two candidates.”

But at least the NYT had the class to bury the truth about Wall Street giving deep down in the article for astute readers:

Those figures do not account for all Wall Street giving, nor for the full force of each candidate’s robust network of Wall Street “bundlers,” wealthy individuals who raise money from friends, family members and business associates. And Mr. Obama continues to dominate Mr. Romney — and the rest of the Republican field — in overall fund-raising. He has raised close to $100 million so far this year for his campaign, three times more than Mr. Romney, as well as $65 million for the Democratic National Committee.

Look for more attempts by the media using these methods to confuse readers into believing that Romney is the one raking in the dough from Wall Street.

Personally, I really hope that whoever gets the GOP nomination is eventually able to surpass Obama in Wall Street and financial sector fundraising. They’ll need it. But for now, that’s just not happening.

 

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