The Pokery Prediction (com) Petition - The Snow In The Summer or So-So

9 August 2008
News from the Future

Mystic Mug writes: Now that entries have closed for Mr. Pokery's three-stage prediction contest, we can put out our thoughts on the matters arising. The contest: which of these will happen between 1 August and 31 January 2009. We're presenting our thoughts at the end of June, when the contest was first mooted; in mid-July, when a second round of voting took place; and at the start of August, when a final round took place.

* Oil to trade at USD200/barrel or higher.

Really, this is as much a measure of the weakness of the USD against other world currencies as it is a measure of the demand for oil. Expressed in a stable currency, oil has risen from €64.32 at the end of 2007 to about €90. Expressed in terms of gold bullion, oil has been remarkably stable - one ounce of gold costs about 6½ barrels of oil, and has only varied in a narrow range (roughly 5.8 - 6.8 barrels to the ounce) since 2004.

In June, we thought this unlikely, but not outside the realms of possibility, particularly if the USD is torpedoed by the prospect of a red-party figurehead, or there's a shock against oil supply.

By the third week in July, oil was beginning to fall. Our thought is that a sharp dip in the price of oil will help shares to stabilise at whatever level they've reached, a rise in oil will help drive shares down, and static oil will reduce shares, but only slightly.

By August, that fall has continued, and we believe it is set fair to remain low unless there is a further interruption (or threat of interruption) to supply.

* BBC Global 30 stock market index to drop below 4750.

There is some significant downside to markets, but recent corrections have pulled the index to more rational levels. We still expect further negative movements, and it's a difficult call as to whether there will be a 10% decline in the next seven months. This felt towards 50-50 in June. The subsequent decrease in the price of oil has helped shares to stabilise, and we reckon these two are strongly correlated to each other, and to:

* USA and/or Israel to execute an overt air strike against Iran.

In the greater geopolitical stakes, this was unlikely in June, but cannot be ruled out. It is clear that any such military attack would be deeply unpopular, probably a strategic error, and almost certainly outwith international law. The only way we can see this happening is as the result of deliberately planted false evidence, and the military regime currently occupying the Potomac Basin swamps has a reputation for telling blatant porkies to advantage Israeli interests.

There is a weak correlation between the above and:

* John McCain to win at least 336 Electoral College seats in the 2008 US Presidential election. ([Candidate X] won 286 Electoral College seats in the 2004 US election.)

The supporting statement is highly contentious, for reasons we explored in great detail at the time, and shall not reprise here. The substantive prediction appears highly unlikely, not least because it's likely that the votes of one or more provinces, territories, possessions, purchases and/or occupations will not meet any sane criterion of freedom or fairness.

* Gordon Brown to stop being Prime Minister of the UK, Labour Party leader or both.

We said in January that none of the three main parties will change their leader during 2008. In June, we stood by that prediction; for Labour to change leader now would be a sign of utter panic. Put this as very unlikely to happen.

The July round of voting took place in the days immediately before the Glasgow East by-election.

There has been no new evidence on the remaining events, and our original comments stand.

* The USA to win at least one more gold medal than any other single country at the Beijing Olympics.

We do not recognise the event Mr. Pokery describes. Much as we would like to see Ole Einar Bjoerndalen push hard in the summer, so that he's not overlooked (again!) by the BBC Overseas Sports Personality voters, the next time the World Biathlon (And Other Associated Events) Championships takes place will be in February 2010. The 29th Olympiad of the IOC era will not be marked by a free and fair celebration of athletic achievement.

* The New England [Terrorists] to win Super Bowl XLIII.

We can expect the Terrorists to blow up their own chances, as usual.

* Microsoft to make a takeover bid for (or merger bid with) Yahoo that Yahoo's board of directors accept or recommend acceptance.

The time has passed for Microsoft and Yahoo to merge, and the downturn in the general fiscal market will not help such a combination. We're putting this as unlikely; by July, Yahoo had reached its peace with Carl Ichan of TWA.

* Firefox usage to reach 33% or higher.

Firefox is currently running at about 18%, and its progress appears to be incremental: less than 1% per month. In order to make further significant gains, it needs to gain traction in offices and other corporate environments, and this is a very slow process. We doubt that Firefox will reach 25% for January 2009, never mind 33%. Not until Firefox comes bundled with Windows will it take great strides.

* The Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince movie to gross at least USD285,000,000 at the US box office by (and including) the weekend concluding Sunday February 1st, 2009.

More likely than not; this is ten weeks into the film's release, and the previous three works have all passed that mark by some distance. It will be out for the December slump, when people trade their warm houses for a warm cinema. (Well, not if they've any sense, but you get the drift...)

* One or more of Prince William, Prince Harry, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie to marry publicly.

We are not aware that the children of Andrew Battenburg are dating. Their cousins are in more settled relationships, and while there is an expectation of either or both to propose marriage in the near future, the possibility of a wedding before the end of January next year is very small. It's subsequently emerged that the children of Charles Batteburg will be playing at soldiers until the end of the year.

* There will be no more than two major hurricanes (category 3+) in the 2008 Atlantic Hurricane season.

There is a significant La Nina effect in the south Pacific, and that's correlated with stronger than usual hurricane activity in the North Atlantic. On the other hand, the Sahel's had average to above-average rainfall, which tends to inhibit the hot air required for the formation of hurricanes. The long-term average is 2½ major storms, and a La Nina year tends to add a full major storm to that figure. There's a possibility that a major storm might form and dissipate in July, but the chance of this affecting the score is remote.

Our initial entry was for 2 of the listed events to take place. Most likely: G30, Oil, Potter, Iran. Least likely: Endale, Firefox, Royals, Hurricane.

Part III

Part three invited us to predict if certain events would happen, and score if these proved correct.

53 points if "USA to win most gold medals in Beijing" happens, instead of 47 points if it doesn't.

We quite frankly couldn't give a toss. For the bigger payout, we'll say This Will Happen.

55 points if "HP 6 to gross at least $285 million at the US box office" happens, instead of 45 points if it doesn't.

Box office inflation makes this a plausible even-money bet. This Will Happen.

57 points if "BBC Global 30 stock market index to drop below 4750" happens, instead of 43 points if it doesn't.
59 points if "Oil to trade at $200/barrel or higher" happens, instead of 41 points if it doesn't.

These will not.

65 points if "Microsoft to takeover Yahoo" happens, instead of 35 points if it doesn't.

This will not.

68 points if "USA and/or Israel to execute an overt air strike against Iran" happens, instead of 32 points if it doesn't.
71 points if "Gordon Brown to stop being Prime Minister, Labour leader or both" happens, instead of 29 points if it doesn't.

We reckon that getting both of these right will win the contest for someone. An air strike against Iran is, we think, becoming less likely; we can certainly rule it out while Ehud Olmert is a lame duck prime minister, his replacement should be known in September. We can't rule out the military junta springing an October surprise to back its preferred candidate in the sham elections in November; the rhetoric Mr. de Bouwer has already delivered may be enough to quiet the microscopically small but disproportionately vocal More Wars for the Zionists faction. It's at times like these that we need Paddy O'Connell to inhale some more helium and host another edition of TERRORDAQ.

In the last two weeks, the British prime ministership got in a bit of a pickle. Alan Watkins argued last weekend that Mr. the Soup Dragon's position will be decided by the cabal of trade unionists in their smoke pomposity-filled rooms. The MPs don't want a new leader, but do the union barons? The commercial betting at the time of writing is about 6/4. We reckon that's a tad too strong, but the 5/2 that Pokery's Oddsmakers are offering is tempting. Indeed, tempting enough to bite. For the purposes of the contest, This Will Happen, even though we don't actually think it will.

73 points if "Firefox usage to reach 33% or higher" happens, instead of 27 points if it doesn't.
75 points if "Named British Prince or Princess to marry publicly" happens, instead of 25 points if it doesn't.
78 points if "No more than 2 major hurricanes in 2008 Atlantic Hurricane season" happens, instead of 22 points if it doesn't.

None of these will happen.

79 points if "New England Patriots to win Super Bowl XLIII" happens, instead of 21 points if it doesn't.

4/1 to know the winner of the Off-White Cup before a single pre-season game's been played? Truly, the football gods chortled, and got in some pre-season smiting practice by ensuring Rangers don't have any end-of-season fixture congestion.

82 points if "John McCain to win at least 336 Electoral College seats" happens, instead of 18 points if it doesn't.

9/2 on Mr. Endale beating Mr. de Bouwer by a landslide? Stranger things have happened at sea, and recent evidence suggests that this will not be a free or fair election, but we think that it's contingent on the strike against Iran. Mr. de Bouwer may choke on his hubris, but Mr. Endale may choke on a bar snack. Not happening.

In summary, our entry is

To Happen:
Two events (10; 1 away for each 1 away.)

Most likely: G30, Oil, Potter, Iran (+3 for each happening)
Least likely: Endale, Yahoo, Royals, Hurricane (-2 each)

FARCE to top official medals table at Pékin JO (53)
Potter 6 to take squillions (55)
Soup Dragon cooked (71)

Not Happening:
Stock market fall (43)
Oil rise (41)
MS/Yahoo (35)
Iran attack (32)
Firefox (27)
Royal wedding (25)
Hurricanes (22)
Off-White Cup (21)
Endale landslide (18)

Maximum score: 463

This is, of course, slightly incompatible with our original prediction that two of them would happen; the difference is that we're betting on Mr. the Soup Dragon falling out of favour with the trade union leaders.

We'll come back to this competition in February.

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