Can we stop paying attention to Intrade now?

Obviously this is not the blog for analysis of the U.S. Supreme Court's healthcare decision today, but as we get further into election season, I thought it might be worth noting that it's not a good day for frequently-cited prediction market InTrade, which as of two days ago was giving the individual mandate a 77 percent chance of being struck down.

Financial blogger Barry Ritholtz rounds up some more past examples of Intrade being spectacularly wrong on political predictions noting, "Futures markets are really a focus group unto themselves: When the group is something less representative of the target market, they get it wrong with alarming frequency. Indeed, the further the traders are as a group to the target decision makers/voters, the worse their track record." Given that the decision makers in this case were nine people deliberating in secret, it should have been a tip-off.

But even in the case of elections, the usefulness of Intrade is pretty questionable. As Slate's Daniel Gross noted in 2008 after Intrade's not-so-impressive performance in the Clinton-Obama primary, "The price movement tends to respond to conventional wisdom and polling data; it doesn't lead them."

Most of the people making bets on Intrade don't have access to better information than anyone else. It's not surprising that the betting market on Obama's re-election  tracks pretty closely with his polling averages over the last year -- falling to a low point last fall, rising steadily over the summer, falling again in May. One could read some significance into the fact that InTrade gives Enrique Pena Nieto an 87.5 percent chance of winning this weekend's Mexican presidential election, or you could just take a look at the polls giving him a 17.4 percent lead

The wisdom of the crowds -- or at least the wisdom of the crowds as filtered through Irish bookies -- may not be all that wise.


Lukashenko names a successor?

Autocratic Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko is bringing a special guest with him as he visits Latin American leaders in Cuba, Ecuador, and Venezuela -- his 7-year-old son, Kolya. While Lukashenko has two adult-aged sons, it is his youngest son that is most frequently in the public eye, accompanying his father for official visits -- including a recent meeting with the Pope -- and casting his father's voting ballot.

At a recent meeting with Hugo Chavez in Caracas, Lukashenko seemed to reveal his plans for Belarus's future leadership, as reported by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty:

"You're correct in pointing out that my kid is here alongside us. This shows that we have seriously and lastingly established the foundation for our cooperation, and that in 20 to 25 years there will be someone to take over the reins of this cooperation."

Father and son were also recently seen in matching military outfits; Kolya was sporting his infamous golden pistol

Leaders are usually a bit more coy about designating future heirs -- especially at Kolya's age -- but subtlety isn't really Lukashenko's style.