Checking your predictions for 2015

Merry New Year’s Eve!  It has long been the custom at this blog to make predictions for the coming year (we’ll do that tomorrow, on New Year’s Day) and then to check them on the last day of that year.  The one who makes the best prediction–that is, the most precise and unexpected prognostication–will be heaped with accolades.  This year we will also heap the winner with World Table ratings.

We have a clear winner, someone who made a prediction out of the blue that few would have believed at the time of its makings, but that came true.

We also had some pretty good runners up.  And only one dramatic loser, which, however, is amazing for reasons of its own.  I will discuss them and make the presentation after the jump. [Read more…]

My New Year’s Eve ritual

Every New Year’s Eve, I look back on the events of the past year.  I do so by reading Dave Barry’s Year in Review.  The month by month retrospective has the virtue of being very funny, which makes the survey of the year’s madness much easier to take.

Start it and follow the link after the jump. [Read more…]

Top Lutheran stories of 2015

So what were the biggest stories or most important developments in confessional Lutheranism for 2015?  I have come up with 6, which I give after the jump.  We really need 10.  Can we come up with 4  more? [Read more…]

The Year that Nothing Worked

It’s been a rough year.  Bloomberg’s Lu Wang, referring specifically to economics and investing, has called 2015 The Year Nothing Worked.

Terrorism is back in force, with ISIS giving us nearly daily examples of unsettling, disillusioning cruelty.  That’s hard for humanists, optimists, and progressives to take, day in and day out.   The Taliban is resurgent in Afghanistan, making us feel that all of the sacrifice of our military men and women for the high goal of democracy in the Middle East may have been in vain.

Meanwhile, our government seems increasingly incompetent, and many of the candidates for the future seem to promise either more of the same, or to be even be worse.

Gideon Rachman of the London Financial Times says “the whole world is on edge.” He says that usually some country is optimistic and doing well.  But last year not only the United States but the new powerhouse China have been in the doldrums.  He blames not only economic uncertainty but a large scale reaction against governments and elites of every kind.  (His article is excerpted and linked after the jump.)

It is surely healthy for people to wake up to the incompetence of their big governments.  It’s even more healthy for people to wake up to the decadence of their cultural elites.  Higher education, with a few notable exceptions,  has largely turned into a self-parody, with childish political radicalism turning universities into centers of anti-intellectualism and Orwellian thought police.  The art world establishment seems paralyzed with angst and theorizing.  Even the popular arts are stagnant, repeating formulas and looking for something new without being able to find anything.  Our movies, for example, keep churning out sequels, rummaging through thrift shop comic book bins, and remaking films from more creative eras.

But now people as a whole are getting sick of all of this. That’s a good sign.  It really is darkest before the dawn.  When bad things in a culture are evident, a reaction sets in.  There will be no utopia, just different problems, but let’s pray that 2016 will be the beginning of a “dawn.” [Read more…]

This last week of the year

The last week of the year is a time to look back upon the previous year and forward to the year ahead.  We’ll be doing some of that here, culminating in New Year’s Eve, for our looks back, followed by New Year’s Day when we will make our predictions for 2016.

On December 31, we will look at the predictions we made on this blog on New Year’s Day 2015 to see who was the most prescient.  I can say that a cursory look at last year’s comments includes a remarkable and highly specific prediction that actually came true.  Now we can reward our winners with something a little more tangible.  I will announce the winner, and if he reports in to claim his prize and tell us how he did it, I am asking EVERYONE to give him the highest World Table rating!

On New Year’s Day, we will make our predictions for the coming year.  2016 is an election year, after all, so it is bound to be consequential and ripe for prognostication.  So be thinking about what you think will happen.  And with that huge incentive of World Table points, you will want to make a lot of predictions.  (IF World Table is still around next year, of course, which is a matter of prediction.)

Still praying for the souls of the Fuggers

There were the Robber Barons, the 1%, and those the Democrats demonize as “the rich.”  But they are Salvation Army bell ringers compared to Jakob Fugger, the 16th century money man who was one of the founders of the banking system and a prime mover in many of the royal schemes, shady investments, and bribery conspiracies in the late-Middle Ages and early Renaissance.

It was the Fuggers who lent the money used by the Archbishop of Mainz to bribe the Pope into appointing him to various church offices, with the three-way agreement that the loan would be paid back through the sale of indulgences in Germany.  A venture that led a certain monk to post 95 theses.

The Fugger fortune is long gone, but Jakob set up an endowment to provide housing for poor people, on the condition that they would pray each day for his soul’s release from Purgatory.  This is still going on!  The cost of the rent has not gone up for 500 years and comes to just $1.23 per month.  And the beneficiaries are still praying for him, which suggests that he must still be in Purgatory after 500 years. [Read more…]