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Archive for October, 2012

Very stupid quote of the moment

From someone that really should know better, talking about the presidential race in North Carolina:

“We’ve seen so much volatility in this race, so you can move from a deadlocked race to a 5 percentage point race over a matter of days,” said David McLennan, a political science professor at William Peace University in Raleigh./blockquote>

Wrong. A poll is but a small sample of the (voting) population. As Wikipedia explains:

A 3% margin of error means that if the same procedure is used a large number of times, 95% of the time the true population average will be within the 95% confidence interval of the sample estimate plus or minus 3%. The margin of error can be reduced by using a larger sample, however if a pollster wishes to reduce the margin of error to 1% they would need a sample of around 10,000 people. In practice, pollsters need to balance the cost of a large sample against the reduction in sampling error and a sample size of around 500–1,000 is a typical compromise for political polls. (Note that to get complete responses it may be necessary to include thousands of additional participators.)

The WRAL poll which prompted McLennan’s comments had a 3.8 percent margin of error. The underlying voter preferences may or may not be changing over time — different samples (polls) of the same population can and will give different figures even if no one has changed their mind. So “so much volatility” may not be volatility at all.

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North Carolina needs more competition

So writes JLF head John Hood in a column that ran recently in the Charlotte Observer. The specific industry John was writing about: bail bond training, in which the General Assembly past legislation this year creating a monopoly.

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Police camera policy

Charlotte has a lot of police cameras — over 500 in fact — mounted across the city. And as the UPoR reported over the weekend, how and when they will deployed in the future is a bit unclear. This worries the ACLU:

The N.C. chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is worried that decisions about how to use the cameras will be made solely behind the walls of the police department, without public oversight or input.

“Operating 500 cameras and monitoring 500 cameras is not something that’s going to be inexpensive. And we don’t know exactly how beneficial those cameras are in regards to crime prevention, and whether the benefit is equal to the cost, both financially but also in regards to the loss of privacy,” said Chris Brook, the group’s legal director.

Certainly some valid concerns there. Doubt Charlotte City Council gets involved though. Real oversight like that takes a fair amount of effort, especially when staff aren’t forthcoming or are trying to spin the process. And it certainly includes a willingness to ask tough questions. That, sadly, is just not how Charlotte works.

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More alcohol regulation randonness

So CATS can put alcohol ads on its trains and buses but not its 45 neighborhood shuttle, because those run through neighborhoods. I’m attempting to understand the logic behind this distinction but it’s escaping me…

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Latest poll results

From Public Policy Polling: Pat McCrory 50%, Walter Dalton 37%, Barbara Howe 5%, Undecided 8%. Remember PPP leads Democratic.

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Why the Panthers really can’t trade DeAngelo Williams

Cap space issues. Simple as that. Unlike other major sports, trades are uncommon in the NFL. The reason for that is simple: the league’s salary cap system makes is very difficult to trade players until they’re near the end of their contracts.

NFL contracts generally aren’t guaranteed. Instead players sign for a number of years and get a signing bonus. For salary cap purposes, the signing bonus is pro-rated over the life of the contract. DeAmgelo Williams signed a five-year, $43 million deal last season, including a $16 million signing bonus. Williams carries a $8.45 million cap figure this season — $5.25 in salary plus a $3.2 million portion (one-fifth) of the signing bonus. Trading a player is treated the same as cutting a player for salary cap purposes: All the remaining signing bonus money ($9.6 million in Williams’ case) comes forward as an immediate or nearly-immediate cap hit. That’s $7 million currently. Williams’ cap figure for next season is $7.95 million or a $9.6 million cap hit to release him or trade him. Those are huge numbers for a team with limited salary cap space.

Bonus observation
: The same problem exists with all those big contracts Marty Hurney handed out recently. Cutting Jon Beason, for example, during the off season would net out to a $4.75 million cap hit ($8.6 million cap value if he’s on the roster, $13.3 million cap figure if he’s cut).

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The real news from US Airways’ quarterly earnings call

Yes, they made good money last quarter, but that doesn’t come as a big surprise. Much more interesting is the airline’s fleet plan for 2013. US Airways is getting five Airbus A330-200 and 16 A321s next year. They are also retiring 18 Boeing 737-400 and three early A320s. The A330-200s is a widebody while the other types are narrowbodies, with the A321 being larger than A320s and 737-400s. The question had been when US Airways’ old 767-200s go away and this provides the answer.

US Airways will use two of the five new A330-200s to start Charlotte – Sao Paulo, Brazil service, provided they can get all the required Brazilian approvals. Another of the A332s will be used to add a new route to Europe, which hasn’t been announced yet. This could be either from Philadelphia or Charlotte — if it’s from Charlotte, only Manchester, England would be a reasonable. The last two A332s will be used as upgrades on existing routes, which in turn frees up a pair of 767-200 to replace 757s, with the 757s being used domestically again.

The airline also is due to take three A330-200 in 2014. Since it doesn’t appear that any 767s will be going away, that means that new European or South American service could also be possible then. The next widybody deliveries after that aren’t until 2017 through 2019, when 22 A350s are scheduled to arrive. Obviously, 10 of those planes will serve as 767 replacements.

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Fungal meningitis

You’ve probably heard about hundreds of people who developed meningitis after receiving steroid shots from a tainted production match. As the Associated Press reports, what’s complicated diagnosis and treatment is that the resulting infection is something completely new:

Most of the positively identified cases are caused by Exserohilum rostratum (ex-sir-oh-HY-lum ross-TRAH-tum). The fungus is commonly found in the environment, but it has never before been observed as a cause of meningitis.

Because of that, [Dr. David Reagan, medical officer for Tennessee] said, officials have been unable to firmly establish the incubation period and give those who received the tainted injections a date for when they will no longer need to worry about developing meningitis.

“We’re saying at least six weeks, or 42 days, but we probably will extend that,” he said. “This is new territory. There’s no literature to tell us how long.”

Reagan notes that treatment is very effective if given early, but not that effective if given later.

Update: Another AP story here.

The main culprit in this outbreak is a black mold called Exserohilum rostratum , common in dirt and grasses. Only 33 human infections previously had been reported, mostly eye or skin infections in people with weak immune systems.

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Marty Hurney fired!

Jerry Richardson canned longtime Carolina Panthers General Manager Marty Hurney today. Does this come as a surprise? Not really. The Panthers are a complete mess at the moment, and a lot of that falls back on the player personnel decisions this team has made in recent years. And player personnel decisions are ultimately a GM’s main responsibility. Consider:

• The 2009, 2010, and 2011 drafts were just horrible. The team had 12 picks in total in the 2nd through 4h round of those drafts. One of those 12 guys is currently a starter: Brandon LaFell. Sherrod Martin use to start at safety but now is a second stringer. Five have been cut (Everette Brown, Corvey Irvin, Tony Fiammetta, Eric Norwood, Terrell McClain.) Three guys are on the roster but don’t play much and/or aren’t making much of an impression (Jimmy Clausen, Armanti Edwards, Sione Fua). Mike Goodson, who would undoubtedly have been cut, was traded for a guy that isn’t playing much. One was drafted while hurt and is hurt again (Brandon Hogan).

• The Panthers gave out a lot of big contracts after the lockout ended, creating salary cap issues, but still aren’t very good. And a lot of those deals are just questionable (see especially: William, D.; Stewart, J.; and Tolbert, M.), especially given how the Panthers are no longer a run-first team.

Whoever the Panthers’ next GM is will have a big task ahead of them turning the team around. Spending a lot of money in a salary-capped league while still losing a lot is just a nasty combination.

Bonus observation: Being in free fall is generally not the best time to hit people up for more money. Unless it’s the City of Charlotte, of course, which has already surrendered to the team’s demands, whatever they may turn out to be, for stadium upgrade funding.

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A Carolina crisis of leadership

That’s the subject of John Hood’s column today. A highlight:

North Carolina has no shortage of challenges. I’ve come to believe that the most serious one is a leadership crisis. Too few leaders today set a good example, not just in ethical conduct but in civility and thoughtfulness. Former Republican Gov. Jim Martin, currently leading an investigation into the UNC athletics mess, was one such leader. Bill Friday, a liberal Democrat, was another.

Memo to the next generation of leaders: No need to be creative here. Just copy them.

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October 2012
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