Davis Futures

As good as things look for Dean in the "futures" markets, they are pummeling the heck out of Gray Davis while favoring Arnold. The "Gray Davis will be Governor in December" contracts are selling for a miserable 2 bucks, though that's looking up. They've been as low as $1.50 and as high as $8.80. I guess folks think he won't resign, though. His "in September" contracts are at $9.00, yet they have been as low as $5.00.

Meanwhile, "Arnold to win" stands at $5.70, down from his all-time high of $6.60. It's been a bumpy ride, almost like a chase scene from one of his films. His all-time low is $4.60 and he's only been trading since Agust 11.

"Gary Coleman to win" is selling for 10 cents -- a bargain by any standard.

Poor Arianna isn't doing much better -- she rings in at 10 cents, too, but at least her asking price is 50 cents! Proud Gary owners are asking a diminutive 20 cents for the lovable television personality.


Dean Futures

Today, I've had a particularly amusing back-n-forth e-mail exchange with a Freeper. Usually I ignore them, but this time I'm glad I didn't. In one of the e-mails he/she stated "I was in Vegas last weekend, and odds at Harrah's for Dean to win the Iowa caucus are 25-1." And I was like, heck, where can get $1,000 bucks quick? So, I started Googling, and I found a site called Tradesports.com that trades in candidate futures. I guess there was a story about the Ireland-based site in The New York Times in July that's no longer available online, but surprisingly, I was unable to find any significant blog activity on this story (though I heard about the NY Times story from a comment at the O-blog and a couple of gaming journals) so hey, I'm gonna call it a Points West Scooplet. At the site, click "Politics" from the left column and then choose "Democratic Presidential Nominee" from the list. It's pretty cool, well worth checking out.

From Harold's O-blog comments on the July 13 Times article by Matthew Ericson:
Candidates trade from 0 - 100 with each point costing $0.10. For example, John Kerry is currently (Friday) in number one spot trading at 32 points and would cost $3.20. If Kerry wins the democratic nomination the contract pays out $10, resulting in a profit of $6.80. If he loses, the trader loses the $3.20.

While Kerry, out of over 8 choices is currently leading at 32, he is way down from his former high of 54. Dean is at 19, in second place, and seems to be steadily rising. Everyone else, it appears, is going down, down, down.

"How accurate is the market? Justin Wolfers, an assistant professor of economics at Stanford Business School, says that with real money at stake, betting markets can do a better job than opinion polls in predicting election results."
Well, what a difference a month makes. While Kerry has slipped a little to 31, he's been in essentially the same position for a month, and is much closer to his all-time low of 25 than his all-time high of 54. Lieberman's high of 33 has tanked, and like Kerry, he's much closer to his all-time low of 9 and currently stands at 13. Edwards is at 5, an all-time low, down from his previous low of 6. Gephardt is at 7, very very close to his all-time low of 6.

But what about Dean? Well, you just gotta see this chart. He was at 19 in July, but now stands at 29, in a virtual tie with Kerry. In fact "buy" prices for their contracts are currently tied at 29. Dean's all-time high is 32, so he is far closer to that figure than his all-time low of 8 and is the only one of the candidates with upward momentum.

I know little about how much credence to give such things, but it's an encouraging sign. Still, your best bet on Dean is to give to the campaign, not trade in futures. At the very least, I found this quite entertaining, and of course I sent the link back in an e-mail to my pet Freeper!



"Good Day, Young Lady" "Good Day, Mr. Wolf!"

This op-ed from today's LA Times:
The Pentagon has a long history of propaganda efforts. Indeed, the Pentagon is hard at work participating in a number of movies that will deliver its message on the legitimacy of the war and its own conduct in Iraq.

Some of these efforts are already the subject of controversy. For example, military and intelligence sources framed an account of Pfc. Jessica Lynch that was almost entirely manufactured for public appeal.

With a headline proclaiming that Lynch was "fighting to the death," the Washington Post cited military sources to give a breathless account of how the supply clerk fought Rambo-style in close combat until she was wounded and captured. The tale of her rescue was equally breathless and equally false — based on an edited Pentagon video showing Special Forces giving the appearance they were under fire as they whisked away the heroine.

It now appears that Lynch may not have engaged the enemy at all; she was not shot and stabbed; and there was no hostile fire (or any hostile forces) at the hospital. Even so, a "Saving Private Lynch" TV movie project is slated, with the account supported by the Pentagon. Other projects are also in the works.

Most Americans are unaware that the U.S. military routinely reviews scripts that might require Defense Department cooperation and that the Pentagon compels changes for television and movies to convey the government's message. [...]

This work thrives in the shadow of the 1st Amendment. Though the Constitution generally bars the government from preventing or punishing free speech, it is less clear about the degree to which the government may assist speech that it favors. To that end, the military uses access to military units, bases and even stock military footage and open areas such as the Presidio to force prepublication review and script changes. This access is vital for many films on military subjects, so producers yield to the demands.

Phil Strub, the head of the Pentagon's liaison office, recently revealed this criterion for getting approval for a film as "accurate": "Any film that portrays the military as negative is not realistic to us."
"Any film that portrays the military as negative is not realistic to us?" Did I just read that? Should I be shocked? Are you? And the thing is, with Bush/Cheney in charge, who do you even complain to? Your Congressman? Your Senator? And with the Republicans in power, what are they going to do about it? Cripes. No wonder even President Eisenhower, a former General, complained of the dangers of the "millitary industrial complex." Oh, but read the entire commentary -- it gets worse.



California: Not This

But can this message make it through the clutter? It's unfortunate that Davis is so personally reviled. A more personable politician (Bush?) could make the case that things are gonna be A-okay. Hell, the country is in the crapper (Bush) and Davis gets the blame. Lead editorial from today's LA Times:

Bad Spell, Not Apocalypse

Recall proponents and candidates who want Gov. Gray Davis' job are portraying California in apocalyptic terms — as a former utopia now plagued by high taxes and onerous regulations, with businesses fleeing to other states and the state suffering catastrophic unemployment. All this is fueling the effort to eject the Democratic chief executive from office, as if that alone would right the foundering ship. Candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger, for one — picking up the steady line of the California Chamber of Commerce — claims that more businesses are leaving California than ever before.

The fact is that the state of the state is not nearly as grim as the doomsayers claim it is. In unemployment, California is no worse off than the rest of the country, says Stephen Levy, director of the Center for the Continuing Study of the California Economy.

Most of the job losses occurred in Silicon Valley with the collapse of the high-tech boom, which also was a major factor in creating a massive state budget deficit. But the jobs didn't move elsewhere, Levy said. They just disappeared. Texas lost more high-tech jobs than California.

At the end of July, state unemployment was 6.6%, down slightly from June. Much of the joblessness continued to be in Santa Clara County, the heart of Silicon Valley. The jobless rate in Orange County was only 4%, San Diego County 4.5%, Ventura 5.5% and Los Angeles County 6.8%. The big loser in jobs in July was the government sector, which must be good news for those who believe the bureaucracy is bloated.

How bad has it been in comparison with the early 1990s, when the state faced its last recession and big budget crisis? More than 293,000 jobs have been lost since the peak employment of March 2001. But more than 500,000 jobs evaporated during the corresponding period of the earlier recession.

As for businesses leaving the state, there were some highly publicized moves, both in the 1990s and now, sometimes triggered by mergers and acquisitions. But a study after the 1990s recession found no widespread business flight. And in 2000, the latest year for which statistics are available, the number of businesses increased. And that was in the midst of the energy crisis.

Taxes? State tax rates are lower now than they were 10 years ago or even 20 years ago. Schwarzenegger's new economics advisor, billionaire Warren Buffett, suggested in Friday's Wall Street Journal that California property taxes were too low. He noted that he paid only $2,264 in property tax on his $4-million Laguna Beach home compared with $14,401 on his $500,000 Omaha residence.

Buffett, in a quote that made only some editions of the paper, also said, "California has a vibrant economy."

There is no doubt that soaring workers' compensation insurance costs are a drag on business and that the state unemployment compensation fund faces insolvency. The Legislature must deal with both issues soon. The structural causes of the budget debacle also must be fixed. But shrill exaggeration or downright misinformation will not help California solve the real problems it faces.

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