Thursday, December 30, 2004
Does anyone else think this list of predictions for 2005 is a little thin and timid?
- No one dared to predict where the markets (bond or stock, domestic or international) are going. My bet: stocks up in the 1st quarter, then down the rest of the year; bonds flat the first quarter, then strongly down as short rates hike higher and higher in response to continued dollar weakness.
- No one called a scientific or technological breakthrough of any kind. Here's a prediction: if scientists attempting tissue regeneration in monkeys using embryoinic monkey stem-cells show any results whatsoever, they'll get major media play. I don't know the state of that research, though, so I don't know if 2005 is the year it'll happen. But surely something interesting will happen in 2005 in nanotech, or genetics, or psychopharmacology, or artificial intelligence, or nuclear fusion, or fundamental physics, or something. Won't it? No one wants to predict what?
- No one predicted anything significant with respect to arts or culture, and only one writer (Derbyshire) dared make an Oscar prediction (The Passion, Best Director, and it ain't gonna happen - though the film will probably be nominated for one or more of the big categories, I don't think it'll win anything big). So: Best Picture nominees: The Passion, Sideways, The Incredibles, Kinsey and Vera Drake. Winner: Sideways. The movie got perfect press and people are ready to honor Payne. Best Director usually tracks Best Picture pretty closely, but I bet Richard Linklater gets a nomination for Before Sunset because he's so sweet. He won't win the Oscar, though. Maybe they give the Oscar to Gibson for directing The Passion, but I bet not. Best Actor: I don't know who gets nominated. Could be Johnny Depp for Finding Neverland, Don Cheadle for Hotel Rwanda, Paul Giamatti for Sideways, Liev Schrieber for The Manchurian Candidate, or Liam Neeson for Kinsey, but it won't be all of them because the winner will be Jamie Fox wins for Ray. Best Actress: again, nominees could be Julie Delpy for Before Sunset, Kate Winslet for Eternal Sunshine, Hillary Swank for Million Dollar Baby, Imelda Staunton for Vera Drake, or Catalina Moreno for Maria Full of Grace, but I'd bet Laura Linney for Kinsey. Best Documentary of course goes to Fahrenheit 9/11; the interesting question is whether it gets nominated for Best Picture. I think it has a real shot. Best Foreign Film: I bet Maria Full of Grace beats House of Flying Daggers, Motorcycle Diaries and A Very Long Engagement. But why are you listening to me? To the first approximation, I've seen NONE of these movies. In other news: 2005 is an odd number so the Nobel Prize for Literature goes to someone reasonable this year, probably Philip Roth or Salman Rushdie.
- Every prediction with respect to legislation is negative: laws either won't be passed or will fail in their intended objective. No tax reform, no social security reform, no action on illegal immigration, and intelligence reform will fail. That's the consensus. The only success Bush is predicted to have in Congress is in confirmation of at least one Supreme Court justice. The Bush Administration has been extraordinarily eager to pass laws, and passed almost the entirety of their legislative program (in one form or another) for the 1st term; the only things that failed entirely were Social Security reform and the energy bill. Will he really get nothing he campaigned on legislatively this time around? Even after gaining seats in the House and Senate?
- Only one writer predicted who will be Chief Justice (K. J. Lopez voting for Ted Olson), but several assumed two nominations. Who's the other guy? And who's he (or she) replacing? My bets: Thomas for Chief Justice, to replace Rehnquist as Chief; Michael McConnell (this is wishful thinking on my part, probably), to fill the empty spot on the Court; and Emilio Garza to replace the next Justice to retire - and I'm betting that Justice is O'Connor, who is getting tired and is probably only sticking around to see if she gets to be Chief. Bush won't have a big fight on his hands until a hands-down liberal like Stevens either dies or retires, because that would actually shift the balance of the Court.
- Everyone is willing to predict what will happen in Iraq; some are willing to predict what will happen in Israel and the Palestinian territories (though no one is willing to say: Sharon will withdraw from Gaza, which I predict he will, no matter what the Palestinians are doing); Derbyshire and Stuttaford are willing to predict that Iran will get the bomb (no one contradicts them); and everyone seems to think they have a basis for predicting whether or not Osama bin Laden will be captured. That's it for foreign policy (Derb does say that "something" will happen "somewhere" else). Will Taiwan declare independence? (I predict: no.) Will Musharraf live another year? (I predict: yes.) Will there be the big news from Latin America in 2005? (I predict: a kind of alliance between Brazil and Venezuela that further isolates pro-American countries like Colombia and should - but won't - serve as a wake-up call to Americans to start paying attention to the region again.) Will there be serious unrest in Saudi Arabia? (I predict: no, just the same occasional bombings we've seen so far. But give it another couple of years.) Will there be civil war in Ukraine? (I predict: either there will be civil war in Ukraine or we will see a significant rise in ultra-nationalist sentiment in Russia as the new Ukrainian government pulls hard away from Russia in favor of the West. Most probably the latter.)
- No one is willing to predict the unpredictable. I don't mean something truly unpredictable, like the tsunami or 9-11. I mean the event that was in retrospect predictable but in detail unpredictable. For example: the Massachusetts Supreme Court turned a simmering question into a dominating one by ruling that marriage in Massachusetts needed to be redefined in a unisex manner to square with the state's constitution. What will the equivalent event be in 2005? What could be the potential shockers of 2005? Here are some possibilities: (1) A European party explicitly calling for the repatriation of immigrant non-citizens wins a plurality in the Parliament of a major state, causing an EU-wide crisis; (2) Muslims and "fundamentalist" Mormons join forces to bring suit in Canada for the recognition of polygamous marriages on the grounds of freedom of religion; (3) Tony Blair announces the next step in his reform of the British Constitution is the disestablishment of the Church of England, igniting fierce debate about whether this would in fact be good or bad for said church; (4) Sharon orders the withdrawal of all settlements from Gaza, and a handful from Judea and Samaria, triggering multiple, coordinated acts of serious Jewish terrorism against the Israeli government, and major right-wing Jewish organizations abroad, like the Zionist Organization of America, split over how to respond to these events.
There. The gauntlet is thrown down.