Monday, January 02, 2006
Predictions for 2006? Well, if we're going to do that, it behooves us to see how we did last year.
1. Major breakthrough in stem-cell research - using adult monkey stem-cells to treat monkeys. WRONG. The big science news of the year was, in my opinion, the new evidence of human evolution since the dawn of agriculture (likely caused by same). Greg Cochran is right: this is a big deal. And it suggests additional big deal results are coming.
2. Stocks up in Q1 then flat for the rest of the year; bonds flat for the first half of the year then down as short rates keep rising. WRONG, but I'm going to give myself a partial victory for the broader view that stocks would be unexciting (they went virtually nowhere). The bond prediction was just wrong; the yield curve is now inverted, which is weird considering there is still ample evidence of rising inflation. Weird is probably not good.
3. Oscars: I won't run down them all, but mostly WRONG. Jamie Foxx got Best Actor but I completely missed the Million Dollar Baby tsunami.
4. Philip Roth or Salman Rushdie to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. WRONG. But I'll be right some day.
5. Clarence Thomas nominated to replace Rehnquist for Chief Justice, Michael McConnell to take open seat, and Emilio Garza to replace O'Connor. WRONG, WRONG and WRONG.
6. Ariel Sharon to withdraw comprehensively from Gaza. RIGHT! I GOT ONE RIGHT!
7. Taiwan will not declare independence. RIGHT AGAIN! But this one is a negative prediction - something that won't happen - and those are too likely to be right to give much in the way of bragging rights.
8. Musharraf will survive the year. RIGHT AGAIN! But another negative prediction.
9. Brazil and Venezuela will form an anti-American alliance. WRONG! And yet, somehow, America hasn't seen fit to notice that Brazil is behaving so much better than I expected they would.
10. Saudi Arabia will not experience major unrest. RIGHT! But again, a negative prediction, the only kind I seem to get right.
11. There will either be a civil war in the Ukraine or, more likely, Russian ultra-nationalism will grow in strength partly in reaction to Ukraine pulling away from Russia and towards the West. RIGHT! At least, the latter, more likely part is right. And there's still time for a civil war to get going.
12. An anti-immigrant party will win a plurality of a major EU country's parliament, causing a major crisis in the EU. WRONG, so far as I know.
13. Muslims and/or "fundamentalist" Mormons will sue for official recognition of their polygamous unions in Canadian courts. NOT YET, but we're close enough on this one that I probably deserve part credit.
14. Tony Blair disestablishes the Church of England. WRONG. This probably won't happen until the reign of King Charles III, Defender of Faith (no "the").
15. There will be significant Jewish terrorism in an attempt to prevent the Gaza withdrawal. Thank-God this one was WRONG.
Well, now that I've established my comprehensively lousy track record, I'll make some predictions for 2006.
1. Senator John McCain will stage a significant Mountain-Muhammad confab with a major leader of the religious Right (e.g., Dobson, Colson - not Robertson, obviously) who will bless him in his quest for the GOP nomination. His GOP numbers will immediately improve and his general election numbers and image with the media will immediately drop as all concerned discover that he is a Republican. Giuliani will not run for President. The remaining GOP candidates will compete all year to position themselves as the anti-McCains. Tom Tancredo will declare that if McCain is the nominee, he will run for President as an independent. Whether or not to seize immigration as the issue on which to run against McCain becomes a major point of debate in the conservative blogosphere, but not in the actual campaign.
2. Kadima (Sharon's new party) will win a resounding victory in the Israeli parliamentary elections, but Sharon will still have difficulty cobbling together a coalition because (a) the parties to his right do better than expected, but they are committed to refuse to join a coalition unless further unilateral withdrawals are ruled out; (b) Labor and Meretz refuse, at least initially, to form a government with Sharon; and (c) Shinui (whose representation drops in half, but is still a factor) refuses to sit in a government with the ultra-Orthodox parties. Sharon uses his difficulties as the springboard to propose major changes to Israel's constitution making the Prime Minister more independent of the parliament. Outside of Israel, the least-noticed story about the Israeli elections is that the percentage of Labor votes coming from Arab voters hits an all-time high. Meanwhile, terrorist attacks planned in Gaza will prompt Israel to send the IDF back into the territory in a small-scale repeat of Operation Defensive Shield. Sharon will not die.
3. Canada will finally elect a Conservative government - barely. Italy, on the other hand, will elect Romano Prodi.
4. Hosni Mubarak will be hospitalized for a period of days, during which speculation about the stability of Egypt will spiral out of control. Then he'll come out of the hospital to rule for several more years.
5. Lopez Obrador will win the Mexican Presidency by a decisive margin. This will not be the end of the world, and in particular will not mean major changes in Mexican fiscal or monetary policy. But it will be the end of the period of remarkably friendly relations between Mexico and the U.S. that obtained under the last two presidencies, and a return to something resembling the historic norm - not adversarial relations, but not exactly friendly. Lopez Obrador will ostentatiously embrace Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales and will court the EU, China and Brazil as a way of "restraining" American imperialism, but this will mostly amount to rhetoric. Mexico, Bolivia and Venezuela will, however, declare that they are opposed to American attempts to combat the drug trade by military means, and cooperation in this area will be significantly affected.
6. Brokeback Mountain will win Best Picture. Other nominees: Walk the Line, Good Night and Good Luck, Munich, and I'm not sure what else. Ang Lee will win Best Director. Kiss Philip Seymour Hoffmann will win Best Actor for Capote. Other nominees: Heath Ledger for Brokeback Mountain, David Strathairn for Good Night and Good Luck, Joaquin Phoenix for Walk the Line, and Jeff Daniels for The Squid and the Whale. Reese Witherspoon will win Best Actress for Walk the Line. Laura Linney will also be nominated, for The Squid and the Whale, as will Judi Dench for Mrs. Henderson Presents, but I'm not sure who else. The Capote Oscar will be the second data point that will allow journalists to extrapolate a "trend" from Brokeback Mountain and 2005 will be known as the year of the "gay film breakout" in Hollywood. Someone somewhere will also notice that everyone nominated for everything this year is white. Maybe Morgan Freeman will be nominated for Best Voice for March of the Penguins so everyone can breathe easier. I should note that, of the films mentioned above, Penguins is the only one I've seen, though I really wanted to see Capote (and I suppose I will rent it).
7. Neither North Korea nor Iran will test a nuclear weapon. And neither country will be attacked by either the U.S. or any other country. Nor will either country experience regime change.
8. A major terrorist incident will occur in Russia, bigger than even the spectacular events that have already occurred. The last vestiges of democratic governance and the rule of law will be eliminated in response. Nonetheless, the West will conclude, collectively, that we had better continue betting on Putin because the alternatives - chess-playing dissenters notwithstanding - are worse.
9. Stocks will have a surprisingly strong year, led by business equipment, technology and telecom. The housing market will continue to soften and the dollar will weaken. Gains to stocks will be driven by: an upswing in business investment; an increase in corporate leverage, increasing returns to shareholders at the expense of bondholders; and utter legislative paralysis in Washington. There will be no Bernanke-panic-induced market tumble, but not because inflation is tame; inflation will be higher than anticipated by year-end.
10. Tom Delay will lose his House seat. Rick Santorum will lose his Senate seat. Harold Ford will win the open Senate seat in Tennessee. Nonetheless, the GOP will hold both houses of Congress, albeit by reduced margins. This will fool Republicans into thinking they are more popular than they are.
11. Donald Rumsfeld will resign. He will not be replaced by John McCain or James Webb. So will John Snow. He will not be replaced by Larry Kudlow or James Cramer.
12. America will not substantially withdraw from Iraq; any troop drawdowns will be largely PR stunts. The news will continue to be a wearying mix of good and bad, with no signs of an end but no sufficiently dramatic negative news to change the political dynamic in America. Iraq will remain a unitary state, but not indefinitely; Kurdistan will eventually break off, but not this year.
13. General Motors will fire its CEO. The new CEO will be widely expected to take the company into Chapter 11 in 2007. A Chinese company will publicly speculate about purchasing some or all of GM's brands. Pat Buchanan will cite this as evidence of the imminent end of the Republic. He will be wrong.
14. John Derbyshire will actually read the first novel in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series, and discover that he likes it very much. He will speculate aloud in The Corner about whether he is unconsciously trying to get himself fired. Fortunately for his wife and children, he'll decide he doesn't like the third book in the series, and is kept on.
15. Al Gore will form an exploratory committee pursuant to a Presidential campaign. So will John Kerry. The Gore announcement will be news. No one will notice what John Kerry does. (Yes, I am stealing this prediction outright from Mickey Kaus. Sue me.)
16. I will try my first bottle of wine from the Gobi Desert.
17. One "crisis" country in the news will be The Philippines. Some combination of terrorism, corruption, domestic instability, economic crisis - the country will be in the news, because bad things will be happening. However America responds, China will emerge the more influential in that country.
18. A referendum will be held to break up at least one of the following countries: Belgium, Canada, Italy, Bosnia, Iraq, Spain.
19. The German Party of Democratic Socialism will take a sharp nationalist turn. An utterly politically incorrect statement by a party leader - about deporting foreigners, or retaking Konigsberg, or something similary inflammatory - will give the party a noticeable boost to third place in the polls (very far behind the CDU/CSU and Social Democrats, but meaningfully ahead of the Free Democrats and Greens). As with Le Pen in France, the rise of the Unacceptable Right in Germany will prompt general hand-wringing and urgent calls to redouble efforts towards political union in Europe.
20. Japan's economic recovery will accelerate. It's nascent pro-natal policy initiatives will also begin to bear fruit, surprisingly quickly, albeit modestly. Japanese nationalism will also be on the rise, with increasing questions whether the country should change its constitution to permit a more robust forward defense, what naval and missile capabilities are necessary to deter a rising China, and whether Japan should even become a declared nuclear power in its own right. The rising sun will be a year-long news story in 2006.
21. Sam Alito will be confirmed with at least 65 and fewer than 75 votes. No other Supreme Court Justices will retire or die in 2006. Roe v. Wade will not be overturned.
22. Eliot Spitzer will be elected Governor of New York, as punishment for Pataki's sins. Steve Westly will be elected Governor of California, after upsetting Phil Angelides in the primary. Ted Strickland will be elected Governor of Ohio. By the end of 2006, Democrats will have elected a substantial number of Senators and Governors with White House potential - the GOP "bench strength" advantage will have evaporated. This won't matter for 2008 much, but it will in 2012, 2016 and 2020.
23. Carbs will be good for you again; the new health bugaboo will be caffeine.
24. Bruce Ratner will get whatever he wants development-wise. Larry Silverstein will not.
25. I will finally write a book.