Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

Archive for August 13th, 2008

Good move, a bit overdue

Posted by sanityinjection on August 13, 2008

Kimberly Hefling of the Associated Press reports that Democratic officials are giving a featured prime time speaker slot at the Democratic Convention in Denver to Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey. This is significant because Casey, like his father, the former governor of Pennsylvania, is pro-life, in contrast to the Democrats’ party platform.

The elder Casey was famously denied a speaking role at the 1992 Democratic Convention because of his views on abortion. While this decision did not come back to haunt the Democrats in November, it was widely criticized as narrow-minded, in contrast to the Republicans who routinely allowed pro-choice Republicans to speak. The true reason behind the decision was that the Democrat brass were afraid that the party’s left-wing zealots, already irritated by candidate Bill Clinton’s move toward the political center, might actually boo Casey on national television, making them look like the wing nuts they were.  

Of course, those wing nuts are much happier these days now that their Messiah, Senator Obama is the presumptive nominee. So they can afford to be more magnanimous toward a pro-life convention speaker, as he will do nothing to dampen enthusiasm for their candidate.  In fact, Casey is being rewarded for his support of Obama during the primaries, and he has some influence in his home state of Pennsylvania, which is not solidly in the Obama camp just yet.

While the nod to Casey does not make up for the wrong done to his father 16 years earlier, it does send a long overdue message that there is room for more than one opinion on an issue within the Democratic Party. Now all the Democrats have to do is let Hillary Clinton place her name in nomination and show that there is room for more than one candidate as well. It should be obvious by now that the best way to defuse the anger of Clinton’s supporters is to let them have their roll call vote, but have Clinton persuade most of her less die-hard delegates to vote for Obama on the first ballot. That way, the true believers get the catharsis of casting their vote for Hillary, Obama still wraps up the nomination easily on the first ballot, and the party stands united against McCain in the fall. Of course, the Democrats’ demonstrated ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory strongly argues they will fail to follow this common sense approach. But the Casey move suggests that even the Democratic dog occasionally is capable of learning a new trick.


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Why the airline industry has failed and how to fix it

Posted by sanityinjection on August 13, 2008

I thought readers might be interested in my recent e-mail to a BusinessWeek contributor regarding the problems facing the airline industry:

Twenty-five years ago, the airline industry made a decision to cater everything to the business traveler. That decision made sense because business travelers were making up a greater and greater percentage of fliers. Thus, we were introduced to the NYC shuttles, cattle car seating, “no-frills” airlines, and the disastrous investment in seat-back “AirPhones”.

The problem is that the industry has stubbornly stuck to this model even as the demographics of air travel have changed. The advent of the Internet has destroyed business travel as the basis of a successful airline. No company wants to pay to send its employees anywhere if the same results can be achieved through cheap videoconferencing and remote PC support. The oil price hikes of the last seven years have disguised this trend by creating an aritfical dip in leisure travel, but the trend is inescapable.

Any first-year B-school student can tell you that if your business model is based on customer behavior “A”, but customers are actually behaving like “B”, your business will fail. And that’s what’s happening to most airlines.

Instead, the airlines need to re-engineer their whole approach to focus on vacation travel. Americans today, despite the current economic slowdown, have more disposable income and more leisure time than any people in history. The Internet has acted in opposite fashion for personal travel – by bringing the sights of the world to their PCs, it has whetted their appetite to see them in person.

A good example of an airline that has grasped this is JetBlue. Wider seats and personal TVs in coach are amenities that appeal to leisure travelers as well as business travelers. In addition to these changes, the next step for JetBlue’s competitors is to adjust their routes to meet demand. Instead of running 100 flights from New York to DC every day, an increased focus on vacation destinations will pay dividends in the long run. USAirways’ vacations division and focus on destinations like Las Vegas and the Caribbean has been a key factor in that airline’s ability to keep its head above water.

Even more fundamentally, though, new technology is needed to change the economics of operating a commercial airline flight. Even today’s newest commercial planes are essentially based on 1960s technology with a bit of window dressing. Somebody’s got to start investing in radically different airplane engines and designs that will cost less to operate. To take one small example, airplanes expend a great deal of energy to takeoff compared to what they use in-flight. If someone can figure out a way to boost planes into the air more efficiently, it will have a ripple effect on the entire industry. Any cost savings that are achieved through technology will allow airlines to make money without having to cram more and more seats on each plane. The result will be a more pleasant flying experience that will encourage more leisure air travel.

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Will crossover voters decide the 2008 election?

Posted by sanityinjection on August 13, 2008

In a nice piece for Newsweek, Andrew Romano shows that neither “Obamacans” or “McCainocrats” will be a significant factor in the 2008 Presidential election:

In fact, registered Democrats and Republicans who cross over to support a candidate from the other party never matter. There will always be some, and they usually cancel each other out. When they don’t it’s usually just an indicator of a broader landslide. It’s always the independent voters that decide the election.

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Letters to Vladimir

Posted by sanityinjection on August 13, 2008

The best political humor strikes against both sides of the political divide. With that in mind, Kathleen Parker imagines three letters to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin regarding the war in Georgia – from President Bush, Senator Obama, and Senator McCain:

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