Sometimes, the best way to get a handle on the unpredictable is to label it with a completely random numerical value. Oddsmaking is a combination of magical thinking, intuition and sheer chance. With that in mind, here are the odds that Vegas bookmakers might want to give to the following world events:
1. North Korea starts a war with South Korea: 10% My biggest fear is that the West believes that North Korea does not actually feel threatened and is simply posturing. But that assumption has almost never, ever held water for any conflicts. It's been a huge blind spot; us assuming that our sense of rationality applies in a world governed by semi-rational statecraft principles. Still, Kim Jong Un is not entirely cosseted by peoples unaware of world norms.
2. Immigration reform passes: 40% chance. There is significant progress in both the Senate and the House, and the rumblings of a revolt from conservatives remains rhetorical at the moment. Still, the spirit of cooperation that now exists might be the high point.
3. A grand bargain is reached on the budget: 30% chance. With both Democrats and Republicans having "won" a victory, and with President Obama attempting genuine outreach, even as his aides talk behind his back, the environment for a deal becomes more favorable. The apeture closes by this winter, however, as the midterm election mindset will crowd out any other consideration.
4. Odds that the following smartphones will do the most for their respective company's long-term growth.
(A) the Apple 5S - 20% -- If there's an NFC chip and biometric recognition software and the battery improves, the stage will be set for something entirely wowrific with the iphone 6. Expectations for the 5S seem unusually low, probably because no one is able to think of things they want their phone to be able to do. Phones already do them.
(B) The Samsung Galaxy s4 - 20% -- I may replace my iPhone with this model, but that's only because of basic issues like storage, battery and the ability to handle multuiple social media apps at once. None of the cool features strike me as particularly cool.
(C) Facebook Home - 60% -- a huge boost to HTC, which gets to make the Facebook interface. And Facebook has the data to turn the smartphone into something requiring a neologism.
The toy I'd most want to play with: a bendable, flexible screen. That's a year off at least.
5. Odds that Sarah Palin runs for president: 50/50. She won't be able to play the role she wants to play in the national conversation without formally re-affiliating with the Republican Party, and my guess is she tests the waters, at the very least.