Gideon's Blog

In direct contravention of my wife's explicit instructions, herewith I inaugurate my first blog. Long may it prosper.

For some reason, I think I have something to say to you. You think you have something to say to me? Email me at: gideonsblogger -at- yahoo -dot- com

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Thursday, December 28, 2006
Let's see how I did on last year's predictions before going on to this year.

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.

WRONG. Early, anyway. None of this has happened yet. At least some of it will happen in 2007. Specifically, I predict that Senator Sam Brownback will endorse John McCain for President, causing K-Lo's head to explode. As for Guiliani: he'll run if he thinks he has a shot, not if he thinks McCain has it all sewn up. He's going to announce, one way or the other, relatively late - mid-2007. The immigration-related political predictions I stand by for 2007 - if McCain is the nominee, Tancredo's head will explode, and you will see a 3rd-party challenge (Lou Dobbs?). Whether the bid gets any traction - i.e., more than 2% of the final vote total - is another story; I'd guess not. But it'll get a lot of press on the way there.

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.

WRONG on virtually all counts.

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.

WRONG, although for all I know this happened and I just missed it.

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.

WRONG, though I sometimes wonder whether an AMLO victory wouldn't have been better than the split decision that actually transpired (though, of course, I think a clear PAN victory would have been better than either).

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. 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.

WRONG, RIGHT, RIGHT and RIGHT - [NOTE: I originally gave myself full credit on this one, since the Nork test was probably a dud, but that's cheating: they sure tested something, presumably a nuke, so only 75% credit on this one.]

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.

I'M GOING TO GIVE MYSELF ALMOST FULL CREDIT FOR THIS ONE; trend lines in Russia are all pointing the way I said, and, for that matter, so is the Western response, but there was no spectacular trigger.

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.

BASICALLY RIGHT. Stocks up, but not led by tech. Housing market weaker. Dollar down against Euro but flat against Yen. Inflation signals ambiguous at year-end. There was no Bernanke panic because Bernanke was tough on inflation!

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.

RIGHT, RIGHT, WRONG, WRONG and WRONG. Not too bad in the scheme of political predictions.

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.

RIGHT, although I think it's fairer to say that the news from Iraq has gone from "mixed to bad" to "definitely bad" and the political dynamic has indeed changed. But I'm still giving myself full credit for now.

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.

WRONG, but my heart was in the right place.

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.

WRONG, but my heart was *definitely* in the right place.

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.)

WRONG, but just early: I'll predict this happens in 2007.

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.

WRONG, though I will give myself part credit for the hoax broadcast *claiming* Belgium had broken up! 6% of the Belgian public still believes the hoax, even after the same station that aired it owned up!

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.

WRONG, so far as I know. I think I don't know enough about the complexion of German political parties to make sensible predictions.

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.

RIGHT, more or less. The recovery is accelerating, and nationalism is very plainly on the rise, complete with discussion about amending the constitution and possible nuclearization. It's too soon to know whether the pro-natal policies are having any effect at all, though, and Japan wasn't in the paper nearly as much as I thought it should have been.

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.

RIGHT on the outcome, WRONG on the vote total.

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.

RIGHT except for the California prediction - though note that I was savvy enough to know that Angelides didn't have a prayer in the general, and hence based my Dem pickup prediction on the prediction that he would lose the primary.

23. Carbs will be good for you again; the new health bugaboo will be caffeine.

WRONG, I bet, though I haven't followed the health news at all.

24. Bruce Ratner will get whatever he wants development-wise. Larry Silverstein will not.

RIGHT. Atlantic Yards has been approved. And Ground Zero is still at least somewhat up for grabs.

25. I will finally write a book.


Tuesday, December 19, 2006
I wrote this post before leaving for vacation, but somehow didn't manage to post it. Now I'm back, and it's a bit stale, but I'm going to post it anyway.

The Telegraph has inaugurated an splendid new game: the Game of Never. Charles Moore explains the rules and plays a round, with some eyebrow-raising results. John Derbyshire enters the lists as well. This is, self-evidently, the best game of this sort of the year.

My own entry follows. I am embarrassed to admit that, looking at the list, I appear barely to have lived at all.

I have never

- owned a car

- owned a television set

- owned a house (I do own my apartment or, more accurately, shares in a coop)

- owned a gun

- owned a dog

(and yet, in spite of all the above, I am a registered Republican - go figure)

- studied economics, business, finance or statistics

(and yet, I make my living on Wall Street - happy face here)

- fired an employee

- quit a proper full-time job

- placed an advertisement (not even for a roommate)

- sued or been sued by anyone (my mother once sued the city on my behalf for an injury sustained on school grounds, when I was a child, but that doesn't count)

- crashed a car (I said *crashed*, not *barely bumped fenders*)

- filed for a patent (well, I'm not too surprised about this one, but I am embarrassed)

- had a negative net-worth (no, not even in college, and no, I'm not independently wealthy)

- installed an operating system (I actually have one in a box at home, which I am afraid to open)

- grown a vegetable (not sure I've successfully grown anything, but certainly not a vegetable)

- joined a proper club (i.e., the kind you have to be *accepted* into to join - again, unless you count my coop, or college, which I don't)

- been elected to anything (no, not even in high school)

- volunteered for hazardous duty of any kind

- completed the writing of a novel or non-fiction book

- memorized a soliloquy from Shakespeare

- studied Talmud (I've read bits of Talmud here and there, but never properly *studied*)

- competed in an eating contest (quite a surprise, given how long I've worked on Wall Street)

- eaten fugu (I love Japanese food, and had a colleague who frequented a joint that served the deadly fish; don't know how I missed accompanying him)

- asked out on a proper date any girl with whom I had not already established some degree of romantic or sexual entanglement (this may simply be a generational divide, but it's acutely embarrassing to me and, as a married man, it's too late to change this one)

- been responsible for the conception of a child

On the other hand, I have also never

- struck a woman

- refused to forgive someone who had wronged me and sincerely apologized

So not all "nevers" warrant only regret or perverse pride.