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(Before I start, I would like to follow up on my 12/17 story of the potential disastrous consequences of the Fed cutting interest rates to 0% earlier this month. Nothing I write here would be as good an analysis of the current meltdown on Wall Street as Joseph Stiglitz’s “Capital Fools” story in this month’s Vanity Fair. Stiglitz lays out five key mistakes made by the Bush Administration that lead to the current economic crisis. I highly encourage everyone to read it. Truly fascinating reading.)

It may be one of the most self-indulgent things any writer does all year: making predictions based upon a possibly misplaced belief that they have an insight superior to those of mortal men. In the 1977 movie, “Oh, God!”, God himself said, “Sure I know the future! The moment it becomes the past.” Even God it appears can not foresee what the future holds, so what makes me think I can?

Every December here on “Mugsy’s Rap Sheet”, I dust off the old crystal ball and offer my own predictions for the year ahead. 2007 was my first attempt at “prognostication”. But I overreached and went a paltry 2 for 10 (Arguably, I was 3-for-10 as Hillary did indeed lose Iowa, but came back to win New Hampshire, and her campaign did not “crumble” as a result of losing Iowa).

Learning from past mistakes, last year I went 7 for 12 (and with “partial credit”, arguably 9 for 12). Compared to some psychics, I should be in their Hall of Fame:

o “Psychic” Barbara Garcia went 1 for 10 predicting a Democratic win that wasn’t Hillary, but predicted the U.S. to become a leader in the fight against global warming, and the troubled U.S. economy to stabilize in 2008.

o I tried watching Elizabeth Baron, who claims to channel the Spirit of Saint Catherine of Siena each year in a big-budget production that includes a Pay-per-View Conference and slick website, make her predictions for 2008. Actually, Baron offers “advice” more than predictions, but after predicting Earthquakes and Terrorist attacks for 2008, I didn’t need to watch the entire 37-minute video to know “St. Catherine” was talking out an orifice other than Baron’s mouth. (I couldn’t help but notice that the Italian-born “St. Catherine of *Siena*” kept using the pronoun “we” to describe what the U.S. was doing around the world. Huh.)

o One radio show hosts “The Merlin Project” each year. For 2008, among all their failed predictions, they predicted Karl Rove, Harriet Meyers, and Tony Snow to “jump ship” from the Bush Administration. Of the three, only Snow “left” by his death last July, and I don’t think that’s deserving of even partial credit.

Many psychics predicted the economic bad news late in 2007 to continue in 2008. You didn’t need a crystal ball to see that one coming.

On the political side, Right Wing rag The National Review is a fascinating case study, making arguably many accurate predictions of Democratic gains and Republican declines, only to then explain in detail why all those predictions would turn out to be dead wrong.

After a half hour or so of Googling, I failed to find a single person… psychic or otherwise… predict John McCain to win the GOP nomination. Most “foresaw” either Romney or Giuliani defeating Hillary in November. Rare among them was famed “psychic” Sylvia Browne who did predict on the Montel Williams talkshow in 2007 that Barack Obama would win both the nomination and the White House in 2008. She really didn’t go out on a limb on any of her other predictions, but even I didn’t pick Obama to win the Presidency before January, so kudos to her for that.

Columnist for U.S. News and World Report James Pethokoukis was 1 for 8 in his predictions for the coming year (and the one he did get… both candidates touting an “Apollo Program” for energy Independence… wasn’t exactly a stretch).

Some interesting predictions for 2008: It appears many Conservatives predicted Hillary to win the Democratic nomination only to lose the General Election. For 2007, editor of The Weekly Standard and Fox Newz putz Bill Kristol notably said:

“If [Hillary Clinton] gets [into] a race against John Edwards and Barack Obama, she’s going to be the nominee. Gore is the only threat to her, then. … Barack Obama is not going to beat Hillary Clinton in a single Democratic primary. I’ll predict that right now.” – William Kristol, Fox News Sunday, Dec. 17, 2006

Fox News made some fascinating predictions for 2008. While mostly wrong (natch), the fact so many of their predictions were critical of the Bush Administration makes for interesting reading.

If anyone deserves a gold star for predictions, it’s hard to top the November, 1968 issue of “Modern Mechanics” predicting “Life 40 Years in the Future”. With some generous interpretation, arguably, they predicted GPS systems in cars, collision avoidance systems (not in use yet, but being developed for 2009), cars that park themselves, ionizing air cleaners, cleaning robots (see famed: Kitten riding a Roomba video here), home computers, The Internet and all the things you can do on it from banking to making reservations.

Okay, that’s enough schadenfreude for one year. Here are my predictions for 2009:

  1. Criticism of the GOP as becoming “the Party of racist” will grow in 2009 as Republicans… both elected and non… continue to make conspicuously racist comments about President Obama with increasing frequency. By years end, the GOP will hold “an emergency meeting” to discuss its “identity crisis”, but being fundamentally clueless as to what constitutes acceptable behavior and what doesn’t, even their “solutions” (talk of appointing more African-Americans like Michael Steele of Ohio to lead the GOP) based more upon skin color than their qualifications, will be criticized as “Conservative Affirmative Action”. Talk of increased support for Republican Governor Bobby Jindal, a dark-skinned Conservative of Indian descent, will grow. Yes, the GOP will make racist appointments/endorsements to try and counter accusations of being “racist”.
  2. President Obama will be criticized for not being “different enough” from George Bush despite signing the Kyoto Treaty, beefing up regulation of Wall Street and the banking industry, and actually removing most troops from Iraq.
  3. Osama bin Laden will NOT be caught by the end of 2009. Nor will he release another video. Questions of whether he is even still alive will grow to help facilitate the call for withdrawal from Afghanistan. (side note: questions as to whether OBL is even still alive emerged within days of the assassination of Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto late in 2007, when she seemed to let slip the fact one of her bodyguards may have already killed him.)
  4. Once U.S. troops start pulling out of Iraq, a surprising lack of disastrous consequences predicted by the Bushies means withdrawal at a pace faster than anyone predicted. With England expected to have no more than 400 troops in Iraq by June and a full withdrawal by years end, it will become harder and harder for Republicans to justify American troops remaining alone in Iraq in any great number for an additional year. The Iraqi government, which already wants a full withdrawal by mid-2010, will also start pushing for a late 2009 deadline.
  5. The number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan will outnumber the number of U.S. troops in Iraq by October, not so much because the number of troops in Iraq has declined as much as the number of troops in Afghanistan will grow.
  6. By years end, the number of U.S. troops in Iraq will still be just over 30,000. (I am torn on this prediction because if things go as I expect, I can also foresee ALL troops out of Iraq by years end as it becomes more and more obvious they can be withdrawn without grave consequences. But Republican obstructionism is likely to slow any withdrawal as they stir up “concern” over what “too quick” a withdrawal might have on the stability of the country. Addressing those concerns will result in a slower redeployment than is possible and part of why Obama will be accused of “not being different enough from Bush” [see #3].)
  7. Republicans will continue to obstruct moves towards a National Health care program even as support for heath care reform grows.
  8. Obama will frustrate many of his supporters by continuing to kowtow to Republicans, wasting time trying to win over people that would never support him no matter what he does. As a side-prediction, Republican obstructionism will hit new heights as they oppose even reasonable proposals by the Obama Administration in a desperate attempt to appear “relevant” in an era where fewer and fewer people start identifying themselves as “Republican”.
  9. I predict only one narrow, low-key investigation into the “intelligence failures” (ie: the Bush Administrations’ misuse of intelligence, but they won’t call it that) leading up to the Iraq War. It’s findings will be dramatic, but largely ignored by the Press.
  10. Bush will NOT pardon “Scooter” Libby before leaving office. As far as they are concerned, he did nothing wrong and therefore needs no pardon. (Ditto for Cheney, Rove, and Alberto Gonzales.) Whether the Obama Administration will pursue them, I can’t say. But odds are 5:1 against it.
  11. Current events in Israel with rocket attacks into Gaza pushing the death toll towards 400 people will result in Global concern that if something is not done quickly to address the violence, it will explode and spread into neighboring countries. This increased International concern will lead to some of the first substantial steps towards peace inside Israel since Carter brokered peace between Egypt and Israel in 1978.
  12. Questions regarding the wisdom of selecting Hillary Clinton to be Secretary of State will arise after She publicly contradicts President Obama on several issues. (I also predict this to be one of the predictions I’m likely to get wrong.)
  13. The Big Three automakers will indeed come back for a second round of bailouts, but concern for a real solution (coupled with unanimous Republican opposition) rather than continuing to subsidize a failing industry will prevent them from receiving as much as they ask. (a secondary prediction: the White House will instead propose lightening their burden by doing something like taking over the health care of their employees. The success of the program will lead to a greater interest in National Single-Payer Health care as a 2010 mid-term election issue.)
  14. Just as it did in 2001, the movement of troops into Afghanistan will distract Pakistan from its current attention on India and Kashmire. U.S. interest in Pakistan (specifically Waziristan) as where al Qaeda is hiding, will grow as the Obama Administration mulls the very real possibility of entering the region to go after them, triggering fears of “another Iraq” war. Note, despite this, the U.S. will NOT send troops into Pakistan (though surgical strikes are not out of the question).
  15. The economy will continue to struggle in 2009, but increased government spending on infrastructure will stop the economic slide. Continued borrowing to pay for these programs will push the National Debt past the $12T mark.

Whew! 15 predictions, and I could of done far more (not covered: the U.S. and Iran working together in Iraq, falling unemployment, a moderate continuation of the mortgage crisis, growing support for environmental issues, stabilizing oil & gas prices, improved relations with Cuba, a farce of a Blagojevich trial, etc). But I think that covers the highlights. We’ll see how I do twelve months from now. I hope I can maintain my high rating, but then again, I won’t mind at all if some of my more dreary predictions don’t come to past.
 


 

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