Arbitraging the Intrade political markets

As you know, I’m a fan of checking things out on Intrade, so I had noticed this fact that Yglesias points out:


Here’s a fun Intrade price anomaly that showed up this morning. The markets indicate that there’s more than a 3 percent chance that neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney will win the presidential election. That’s clearly way too high. But the Intrade betting market lacks the amount of liquidity and derivatives instruments that would be necessary to make it simple and worthwhile for an arbitrageur to spot this and take advantage of it. Austin Goolsbee saw it, tweeted about it, then I decided to write a blog post about it. If something like that happened on a really deep and liquid market, some trading algorithm would have long since made the moves that eliminate the anomaly but it doesn’t work on Intrade.\

It’s not worth it with the amounts of money I would have to spend, but if you could put serious money on this you could make a very easy profit.

Gender, shaving, and ambivalence

Enjoyed this essay in the Guardian about women and the shaving of body hair:

As this annual onslaught on a woman’s right to hide her shameful, sub-beautiful physicality marches nearer, many of you will be wondering: what will I do with my body hair? How will I achieve environmentally devastating deforestation of my legs? How best to kill my underarm kittens? How to convince the curlies partying on my inner thighs to get back in my knickers and stay there?

I have an answer to all your epilatory woes. Stop shaving. Granted, this method of dealing with body hair is new and unorthodox – likely you are worried about undesirable side-effects. But fear not: I have conducted an 18-month experiment in body hair on your behalf and will now answer the questions people most commonly proffer when confronted with my prodigious manes of untamed womanhood.

It’s mostly in the form of a fun Q&A, to wit:

Don’t small children run when they see you, fearing you will lure them to your gingerbread house?

A scene from my life:

Small child: Why do you have hair under your arms?

Me: Because when girls and boys grow up into women and men they grow hair under their arms.

Small child: My mum doesn’t have hair under her arms.

Me: She shaves it off.

Small child: She doesn’t.

Me: She does. Ask her.

Small child: Mum, do you?

Mother of small child: Yes.

Small child: Why?

Exactly, small child. Exactly…

Remember that you are doing the necessary and important work of challenging stupid, arbitrary, gendered bullshit. And when you get to feminist heaven, Judith Butler and Simone de Beauvoir will be waiting with bubbly wine, a corn-fed organic roast chicken, Bikini Kill and the entire cast of Monty Python. Do you want to miss that party?

The ambivalence in the title?  The feminist in me: you go girl!  The American born and raised male who has been thoroughly socialized to prefer women without leg and underarm air: ewww.  Then again, I’d be quite fine with everybody shaving underarm hair– it’s just a bacteria trap.

Voter fraud (or not) in VA

Mike in Chapel Hill sent me this excellent link a while back and I’ve been remiss in not sharing it.  Short version:  report on voter fraud in Virginia finds… no in person voter fraud, i.e., the kind the mandatory photo ID is supposed to present.  That virtually never actually happens anyway:

As Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) prepares to decide the fate of a proposed voter ID bill in the Old Dominion state, the Richmond Times-Dispatchreported on voter fraud prosecutions stemming out of the 2008 election that “may signal a more significant voter fraud issue than some state lawmakers realized.”

One problem: the type of voter fraud that allegedly took place — namely, felons voting when they shouldn’t have been — wouldn’t have been prevented by the proposed voter ID law.

The Times-Dispatch reports that officials have prosecuted 39 cases of voter fraud out of the approximately 3.7 million votes cast in the 2008 election. The newspaper said that a majority of the 39 cases resulted in convictions and an additional 26 cases were still being investigated…

The newspaper reports that a majority of the cases that they reviewed that resulted in arrests in central Virginia “involved felons who either illegally registered to vote or who illegally voted in the general election, or both.” Virginia bans felons from voting unless their rights are restored by the Governor.

None of the cases, the newspaper said, “appeared to involve someone who misrepresented his or her identity at the polls to vote.” [emphasis mine]

The “integrity of our elections” is threatened not by this type of fictional voter fraud, but my Republicans trying to prevent legitimate voters from exercising their rights (and for what it’s worth, I think it’s an outrage that once you have served your time for a crime you are still denied the right to vote).

The evidence is quite simply overwhelming that Republicans have no great interest in the “integrity of our election system” but simply making it harder to vote for classes of people (i.e., minorities, transient, young people) who are more likely to vote Democratic.  Anything else is just hot air.  I’d almost prefer some honesty from Republicans on this point.

Photo of the day

Truly awesome set of historical photos of NYC via Alan Taylor (I’m really not much of  NYC buff at all, but I love these).  One of my many favorites:

War criminal

This week’s 60 minutes interview with obvious war criminal and moral reprobate (and, head of the CIA “interrogation” i.e., torture program) Jose Rodriguez was disturbing as hell, but fascinating to see how this pathetic little man justified his heinous actions to himself.   The fact that this guy is running around free as if he’s not guilty of blatant and obvious war crimes really bugs me.  Anyway, nice response from Amy Davidson:

Rodriguez did not forthrightly argue that torture—the contained drowning of waterboarding, slapping and stress positions, keeping detainees in a “cramped confinement box with an insect,” keeping them naked and awake for days on end by any means necessary, holding electric drills to their heads and telling them that their female family members would be raped in Middle Eastern prisons—was an awful necessity when there was no other option. Instead, he underplayed what he and his operatives had done (making suspects “uncomfortable”) and bragged about its use in proving the manhood of the torturer (“We needed to get everybody in government to put their big boy pants on and provide the authorities that we needed”; “The objective is to let him know there’s a new sheriff in town.”). He talked as if torture were an expression of strength, rather than momentary domination masking the most abject moral and practical weakness…

Lesley Stahl says, “Other people call it torture. This was—this wasn’t benign in any—any sense of the word.” Rodriguez responds,

I’m not trying to say that they were benign. But the problem is here is that people don’t understand that this program was not about hurting anybody. This program was about instilling a sense of hopelessness and despair on the terrorist, on the detainee, so that he would conclude on his own that he was better off cooperating with us.

I think that bit right there really suggest something about the mindset of this guy.  That he could say it wasn’t about “hurting” anybody and in the very next sentence say “instilling a sense of hopelessness and despair.”  Ummm, wow.  And, how was it they were instilling hopelessness and despair?  By repeatedly hurting (i.e., torturing) people.   The rest of Davidson’s commentary points out the evidence that the FBI’s non-torture interrogatiosn were actually more effective.

I get why Obama let this all go, but I honestly feel like Obama’s own moral weakness in not calling these torturers (and a complicit American public) to task is the great moral failing of his presidency.

Tax Stephen King more!

Nice essay from Stephen King on taxes and the absurd conservative comeback to Warren Buffet (and King) that if they think the rich should be taxed more heavily, they should just write the government a check.  Highlights:

Cut a check and shut up, they said.

If you want to pay more, pay more, they said.

Tired of hearing about it, they said.

Tough shit for you guys, because I’m not tired of talking about it. I’ve known rich people, and why not, since I’m one of them? The majority would rather douse their dicks with lighter fluid, strike a match, and dance around singing “Disco Inferno” than pay one more cent in taxes to Uncle Sugar. It’s true that some rich folks put at least some of their tax savings into charitable contributions. My wife and I give away roughly $4 million a year to libraries, local fire departments that need updated lifesaving equipment (Jaws of Life tools are always a popular request), schools, and a scattering of organizations that underwrite the arts.Warren Buffett does the same; so does Bill Gates; so does Steven Spielberg; so do the Koch brothers; so did the late Steve Jobs. All fine as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go far enough.

What charitable 1 percenters can’t do is assume responsibility—America’s national responsibilities: the care of its sick and its poor, the education of its young, the repair of its failing infrastructure, the repayment of its staggering war debts. Charity from the rich can’t fix global warming or lower the price of gasoline by one single red penny. That kind of salvation does not come from Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Ballmer saying, “OK, I’ll write a $2 million bonus check to the IRS.” That annoying responsibility stuff comes from three words that are anathema to the Tea Partiers: United American citizenry.  [emphasis mine]

You go, Stephen King!!  And let’s just call out the Koch brothers more specifically, as I see their efforts all the time via their funding of excellent PBS programming:

The Koch brothers are right-wing creepazoids, but they’re giving right-wing creepazoids. Here’s an example: 68 million fine American dollars to Deerfield Academy. Which is great for Deerfield Academy. But it won’t do squat for cleaning up the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, where food fish are now showing up with black lesions. It won’t pay for stronger regulations to keep BP (or some other bunch of dipshit oil drillers) from doing it again. It won’t repair the levees surrounding New Orleans. It won’t improve education in Mississippi or Alabama. But what the hell—them li’l crackers ain’t never going to go to Deerfield Academy anyway. F*ck ’em if they can’t take a joke.

Never actually been much of a fan of King’s fiction, but this is my kind of non-fiction.  Great stuff.

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