The (Raleigh) News & Observer’s Rob Christensen has a column out on Republicans and immigration reform. In the last three sentences, he offers up what he sees is the political calculus of the issue:
But the issue is a difficult one for Republican House members. While GOP lawmakers understand both the practical issues (businesses’ need for workers) and the politics (the need for Republicans to reach out to the nation’s largest minority), it doesn’t look that way in their own districts.
Because of redistricting, most Republican House members represent districts that have few Hispanic voters. But they do have to worry about their right flank in GOP primaries.
That’s why if there is any movement on the immigration issue in the House, it is likely to come after next spring’s primaries. And it is more likely to come in piecemeal changes in the law, rather than in any overall comprehensive reform legislation.
That’s an accurate description of the political thinking as of a year or six months ago. Recently though, there’s been considerable push back on the Right against the idea of reaching out to Hispanics (or blacks, or younger voters). The argument being advanced by Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review, and William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard (among many others) is that immigration reform is ultimately irrelevant to the Republican’s chances. Why? Because it’s argued implicitly or explicitly that Republicans can win the White House in the future simply by getting enough white votes.
Yup. You read that right. The fact that American is becoming less white doesn’t matter because the GOP can win without getting many minority votes. To do so requires the GOP regularly win as large a percentage of the white vote as it did during the 1984 Reagan 49-state landslide. Not a problem.
Except that it is a problem. The National Journal offers up a very nice 5,000 word (!) analysis explaining exactly why the Republicans’ Great White Hope won’t work. The short version: Minorities will continue to vote at high rates, the GOP can’t consistently get white votes at the rates they need, and younger voters won’t automatically start voting Republican as they get older.
Change is difficult. There are many on the Right who’d like to believe that the political strategies and policy positions that they’ve helped craft in the past remain correct. Immigration reform is unlikely until many on the Right get over their denial of reality and accept the world as it is and not as they’d like it to be.
Bonus thought: Have I mentioned that you really should read that National Journal article?
Or, really, the next step in both both our splintered popular culture and the the great (sports) cable/satellite television bubble. As Sports Business reports:
TruTV will carry the semifinals of the NCAA Final Four in April. So will TNT. TBS, too.
In an unprecedented move, Turner Sports and CBS will produce three different telecasts for each of the two national semifinal games, each with its own set of announcers. The traditional national telecast will run on TBS, while TNT and truTV will carry the same games at the same time with announcers and camera angles customized to each specific team.
Is this a surprising development? Not really.
So reports the Associated Press, which says that “‘significant changes’ to the Hall of Fame selection process and eligibility rules” are coming for the May 2014 vote. What these new procedures will be won’t be announced until next month, though NASCAR did say today that the reigning Sprint Cup champion will have a vote on who gets into the hall. (That brings the number of voters to 56.)
Here at the Meck Deck we’ve long expected that NASCAR would have to make significant changes in the selection process. NASCAR racing is a rather concentrated sport, with a relatively small number of individuals having won a large percentage of races. At the rate at which the HOF has been electing top-series drivers, enshrinement would soon not be that much of an honor. Voters have also so far been uninterested in selecting people of the business side of NASCAR (series officials, race owners, promoters) for the hall.
From today’s Raleigh News & Observer:
Raleigh’s economic developer, James Sauls, explained how he sells the city to companies looking to relocate. His competition for new jobs often isn’t within the state, he said.
“We do not compete with Charlotte very often; we’re two different economies,” he said.
When companies name top contenders for a move or expansion, Sauls says six cities are typically on the list with Raleigh: Atlanta, New York, Austin, Texas; San Jose, Calif.; Boston and Washington.
But one factor didn’t influence Ipreo’s move [from New York]: the Triangle’s plans to eventually add light rail and other expanded transit options. [Executive Vice President O’Hara] Macken says his employees live all over the Triangle, and those who have experienced rush hour in the Northeast think driving to work here is easy.
“I think (transit) would have been more critical to us if we were going somewhere where there was traffic congestion,” he said, adding that his workers would still like a rail line to Chapel Hill, Durham and the airport.
Yesterday, I wrote that “[The U.S. Department of Justice] had better get some significant asset divestitures besides a few Washington Reagan National slots or they will look incredibly silly.” The details are now in and the DOJ effectively threw up the white flag in its antitrust case against the US Airways/American Airlines merger. Which is to say the Obama Justice Department looks very, very, very silly at the moment.
In August, the DOJ sued, contending that the proposed merger was broadly anticompetitive. The third paragraph of the complaint the DOJ filed states:
This merger will leave three very similar legacy airlines — Delta, United, and the new American — that past experience shows increasingly prefer tacit coordination over full-throated competition. By further reducing the number of legacy airlines and aligning the economic incentives of those that remain, the merger of US Airways and American would make it easier for the remaining airlines to cooperate, rather than compete, on price and service. That enhanced cooperation is unlikely to be significantly disrupted by Southwest and JetBlue, which, while offering important competition on the routes they fly, have less extensive domestic and international route networks than the legacy airlines.
The Justice Department also highlighted the particular problem of the combined carriers’ landing and takeoff large slot holdings at capacity-constrained Washington Reagan National Airport (DCA).
Fast forward three months, and here’s what US Airways and American Airlines are actually giving up and agreeing to do and not to do:
• Southwest Airlines and JetBlue get to buy the slots at market rates at Washington Reagan National and LaGuardia (LGA) that they are currently leasing from American.
• The combined carrier has to give up (sell off) another 44 sets of slots at DCA and 12 sets of slots at LGA. There are also some technical restrictions on how the combined carrier can use its remaining 250ish Reagan National slot sets, including a requirement that the combined airline must continue serving all existing smaller communities.
• Give up two gates each at Boston Logan International, Chicago O’Hare International, Dallas Love Field, Los Angeles International, and Miami International airports.
• Agreed to not eliminate service to any destination in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia that the airlines currently serve for five years. (Those were the six states that joined the DOJ in the lawsuit.)
• Agree to not eliminate any hubs for three years.
That’s it. 10 gates and 12 slots apparently are enough to address the DOJ’s concern that this deal hurts competition anywhere in the country besides Washington Reagan National. The amount of slots given up at DCA could be higher than what most analysts would have predicted going a few months ago. (I’ll discuss the implications of the DCA provisions in a different post.) Still, the DOJ could almost certainly have gotten this same deal back in August without suing.
Incredibly, the DOJ is spinning this major retreat as a huge advance for competition generally. From the DOJ’s press release:
“The extensive slot and gate divestitures at these key airports are groundbreaking and they will dramatically enhance the ability of LCCs to compete system-wide,” said Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. “This settlement will disrupt the cozy relationships among the incumbent legacy carriers, increase access to key congested airports and provide consumers with more choices and more competitive airfares on flights all across the country.”
What a joke. Neither American nor US Airways currently flies to Love Field. It seems that the main impact there seems to be to drive Delta from the airport (!). Neither Southwest nor JetBlue currently flies to Miami, which isn’t exactly short of gates anyway. Boston hasn’t been a key airport for American or US Airways several years now. LAX is among the most competitive airports in the country, with an intense battle between Delta, United, American, and Southwest in which Southwest is dominate in many western markets.
You’ll also note that Charlotte isn’t on the list of airports where US Airways and/or American Airlines has to give up a token number of gates. US Airways is already very dominate at Charlotte Douglas International Airport and the merger will just make the soon-to-be-combined carrier’s position even stronger. And the DOJ is apparently quite OK with that. As the Charlotte Observer reports:
Consumer advocates said the Justice Department’s settlement doesn’t go far enough. Diana Moss, vice president of the American Antitrust Institute – which strongly opposes the merger – said the deal’s heavy focus on Washington Reagan National Airport and minimal changes elsewhere in the country mean cities such as Charlotte are likely to see higher fares.
“The remedy is loaded up on Washington National,” Moss said. “To hell with the rest of the U.S.”
“(The settlement) just completely obscures the harms that would impact other parts of the country, including Charlotte,” she said. “Having Charlotte not make the short list of remedied airports is glaring.”
It’s not as if there aren’t many additional small things the DOJ could have insisted on if they really wanted to try to promote competition. An obvious example is the gate situation here at CLT. American has two gates of the 12 gates on Concourse A. Those are a bit of a haul to any of 85 gates US Airways uses on the airport’s other four concourses. Concourse A also houses United, Delta, Air Canada, and Southwest. It’s pretty heavily used, with the resident airlines wanting more gates. Given the confusion over who actually runs the airport, when any sort of future expansion happens is a bit iffy at the moment. Requiring American to give up its two gates would provide more space for everyone besides US+AA to grow at CLT. (The effective gain could be reduced to one gate if JetBlue were to move A — it currently uses a gate on the Concourse D.) Even if the airlines on A didn’t immediately add flights, an additional gate or two would help them operate more efficiently here, which isn’t a bad thing when fighting an 800-pound gorilla.
I’m so not impressed quote of the moment: Also from the Charlotte Observer article:
At Charlotte Douglas, US Airways senior vice president of marketing and planning Andrew Nocella said he hopes to see growth.
“I’m bullish about Charlotte,” Nocella told the Observer. “I think I’d like to see the hub at 700” daily flights.
US Airways and American Airlines combined for 676 flights a day from CLT this past summer.
Bonus silly quote: Also from the UPoR:
“We fully intend to keep the hub and spoke structure we have forever,” said [US Airways CEO Doug] Parker. “Of course things can change so you can’t agree to that forever.”
Right. Sure. Which is exactly what every airline executive says as they are trying to get a merger approved. Ask the good citizens of Memphis or Cincinnati how things have worked out for them since Delta and Northwest merged. The requirement to keep hubs intact for three years comes in response, presumably to placate Arizona, which sued, fearing US Airways Phoenix hub might go away.
The five-year guarantee for current cities served in states that sued is the same sort of thing. And no, there’s no real chance that the combined airlines is going to completely drop places Tampa, Tuscon, or Richmond. However, it could have some value for some of the smaller markets. Of the destinations served from Charlotte in the states that joined the lawsuit, Melbourne, FL and Daytona Beach, FL come to mind.
As reported by the Associated Press in the Charlotte Observer and many other media outlets. One of many highlights:
But the ethanol era has proven far more damaging to the environment than politicians promised and much worse than the government admits today.
As farmers rushed to find new places to plant corn, they wiped out millions of acres of conservation land, destroyed habitat and contaminated water supplies, an Associated Press investigation found.
Five million acres of land set aside for conservation — more than Yellowstone, Everglades and Yosemite National Parks combined — have been converted on Obama’s watch.
With the government’s predictions so far off from reality, scientists say it’s hard to argue for ethanol as global warming policy.
“I’d have to think really hard to come up with a scenario where it’s a net positive,” said Silvia Secchi, a Southern Illinois University agriculture economist.
She paused, then added: “I’m stumped.”
So why again do we as a country continue to go down the ethanol road?
JLF head John Hood’s column today is on the limits of transit. As he writes, most people prefer to go by car. A sample:
As Charlotte tries to figure out how to pay for additional passenger rail service, Raleigh decides whether to join with Durham and Chapel Hill to create passenger rail service, and Triad communities decide whether to decide to create passenger rail service, those who pay close attention to actual commuter behavior will be yawning.
You see, the vast majority of North Carolinians — and Americans — will never use rail or bus transit on a regular basis. Indeed, most of them have and will never set foot in a city bus or regional rail car. Mass transit is irrelevant to their lives, except as an expense on their tax bill or a distraction from building or expanding the roads they use to get to work, school, shopping, or other destinations.
That’s not to say that transit is useless, or that localities ought not to fund transit service. The point is that transit is primarily a program of public assistance, a means of providing mobility to people who either can’t afford personal vehicles or can’t operate them for some medical reason. Transit has some convenience users and even a few ideologically motivated users, but not many.
And there’s no way to spin this as anything other than a major retreat by the Obama Justice Department. Three months ago, the DOJ sued, claiming the deal was systematically anticompetitive. It’s hard to imagine a way to settle antitrust lawsuit when you’re contending that a merger will increase fares for many flyers throughout much of the United States. Yet DOJ has somehow managed to do just that. They had better get some significant asset divestitures besides a few Washington Reagan National slots or they will look incredibly silly.
More later when we see what US Airways and American have actually agreed to give up to get DOJ’s blessing for the deal.
The Bobcat’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who has no shooting range. Or as the Charlotte Observer’s Rick Bonnell put it, while writing on yesterday night’s Bobcats’ collapse:
I thought Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was headed for a huge night when he scored 16 in the first half. Five of his six first-half field goals were layups or dunks, which is the only way he’ll be an offensive threat in the near future.
Then in the second half, zilch. In 17 second-half minutes MKG went scoreless and missed his only shot from the field. Asked what became of MKG after halftime, [Bobcats coach Steve] Clifford said, “His energy dropped. Our team’s energy dropped.”
Having no shot might be OK in the NBA if you’re a center. MKG is a small forward. For him — and probably the Bobcats in general — to succeed, he must develop a 15-foot jump shot. Simple as that.
Sometimes the airline biz is just weird. Case in point: Delta Air Lines is cutting more flights at Memphis (MEM), where until recently it had a hub. Delta looks to be down to about 43 flights a day from Memphis by early next year. Among the casualties: Delta is ending flights from Memphis to Boston and Washington Reagan National Airport, and cutting flights to LaGuardia to one a day. Yet somehow the airline will continue to operate two CLT-MEM flights a day (down from the current three a day). The latest federal data shows CLT-MEM as about an 85 passenger-a-day-each-way market (US Airways also flies the route six times a day), with Delta having just over a 30 percent market share. Hard to see how those flights are anything but a money suck for Delta. Also hard to imagine how those remaining two flights sticking around much longer.