Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Running off

Kentucky holds its Gubernatorial primary election today. Despite approval ratings which rival the President's, incumbent Governor Ernie Fletcher is expected to win the Republican nomination easily.

The Democratic nomination is a different story. It seems to be a relatively even four-way race among Steve Beshear, Steve Henry, Bruce Lunsford, and Jody Richards. In the most recent polls, Beshear has held a modest lead, followed by Lunsford, Henry, and then Richards; however, the four have traded the lead throughout the campaign, and none have even come close to achieving majority support. If no candidate reaches 40% of the vote, a runoff will occur, forcing the candidates to spend money that could otherwise be banked for the general election.

This creates a peculiar dynamic, in which front-runners try to steal votes, not from each other, but from the other candidates. Imagine Bush and Gore attacking Pat Buchanan and Ralph Nader, respectively, rather than debating each other. (OK, so Gore did attack Nader, that's exactly the point!)

The problem is that, too often, political candidates argue that we should vote for them because they are likely to win, rather than because they are the best candidate.

The much bigger problem is that, all too often, this tactic succeeds.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The new twist in delayed flights

I haven't flown in several years, and I have never been a frequent flyer. It seems like airlines are doing everything they can to keep it that way.

John Travolta decides "IT" "beats dealing with the airline companies".From long lines to check in, to delays and cancellations, to lost luggage, flying has never struck me as an attractive way to travel. If it didn't have the virtue of being far faster than any alternative, would anyone ever fly?

Things have apparently gotten much worse. Not only are flights being delayed, seemingly in record numbers, but there is apparently a new trend of people being forced to wait on the plane for hours. Consider this story of 180 people trapped on a 757 for 10 hours.
Passengers on the flight say they will always remember the pizza. After about five hours, a flight attendant announced that “an American executive” had ordered pizzas to be delivered from the airport. Five boxes arrived.

Flight attendants, who, according to one passenger, had been “missing in action most of the time,” cut the slices into tiny pieces — 70 in all. Flight attendants said that only those who “really needed it” should take one, a passenger said.

Via This Is Broken

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Biased financial reporting

Most financial reporting is absolutely terrible, not worth the electricity it takes to transmit it. There are many, many problems with financial reporting, but for this morning I want to pick out a subtle bias.

This is an image of Google Finance before US markets open in the morning.

Here's a close up.

By showing marks descending only to -0.25% but rising to +0.5%, it is implied that market declines will be less (and less likely) than increases. While this is true on a long term (multi-year) basis, for a single day it is false.

If even such a basic (and presumably objective) tool as a chart is so badly biased, what does this say about the state of financial reporting?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

I'm back!

After a hiatus of more than a year, I am back and ready to blog!

I am setting a goal for myself of at least one blog post every week through the end of 2007.