The winners of the Cranach basketball pool. . .

. . .are NOBODY.   No one in our contest predicted that the University of Connecticut would win the NCAA championship.  (UConn also just won the NCAA women’s championship!)  No one predicted the Final Four.  That’s too bad because I worked out a special deal with Warren Buffett that the winner of our little pool would win one BILLION dollars.  I will give honorable mention credit, which unfortunately receives no monetary reward, to those who predicted ONE of the Final Four:  Saddler, Edward Kettner, and Sam P. said that Florida would be in it, and Pete said that Wisconsin would be.   Since Florida was ranked #1 in the final postseason poll while Wisconsin wasn’t even in the top 10 (#15 in the USA Today poll; #12 in the AP), I declare the best guesser to be Pete!  (Oh, and a belated April Fool’s about that billion dollar bit.)

Will Pope Francis be the last pope?

In checking out the predictions for last year, I came across a post I wrote with this lede:

More doomsday predictions, this time from the Roman Catholic side! According to writings attributed to St. Malachy in 1139, pope #112 will be the last one, and then Jesus will return. That would be the successor to Pope Benedict XVI, who is #111.

And now we have #112, the Person of the Year who has made Catholicism cool again, Pope Francis.  But will he be the last of the line?  After the jump, the story I quoted back in February, 2013. [Read more...]

Your predictions for 2014

Happy New Year’s!  It’s time to look ahead on the year to come and to make our annual predictions about what we expect to happen in the new year.  We will then review those predictions on December 31, as we did yesterday, heaping honors upon the best prognosticators.  So predict away!  After the jump, some reflections on predictions. [Read more...]

A society controlled by inflicting pleasure

Aldous Huxley, who died on this date 50 years ago along with C. S. Lewis and John F. Kennedy, was the author of Brave New World.  The other great dystopian novel 1984 by George Orwell offers many lessons about totalitarianism and state tyranny.  But the year 1984 came and went, and though we worry about “Big Brother” and rewriting history, most of Orwell’s predictions did not come to pass, at least not yet, and at least not in America.

But back in 1931, Huxley predicted the severance of sex and procreation.  Children are conceived and engineered in laboratories and brought up in state-run nurseries, eliminating the family.   The population doesn’t worry about its all-controlling government because everyone is blissed out with drugs (“soma”) and constantly entertained with “feelies,” which offer total immersion into what we would call virtual realities, including those of a pornographic nature.  Though romance is forbidden, casual sex is encouraged.  And at the age of 60, everyone is cheerfully euthanized.  Any of that sound familiar?

Huxley himself seems to have missed the message of his own novel, becoming an early adopter of LSD and other soma-like drugs and embracing the ideology of the brave new world that was the ’60s.  But his book was more prescient than he was.  After the jump, a comment from the late media critic Neil Postman about Huxley’s novel that will leave you reeling. [Read more...]

Predicting the election

Now that Florida has FINALLY counted its ballots (why can 49 states conduct an efficient election but Florida can’t?), we know the final tally.  The Sunshine State went for Obama, giving him a total of 332 electoral votes.  Here are the results:

Candidate Popular vote Percentage Electoral votes (270 to win)
Barack Obama 61713086 51% 332
Mitt Romney 58510150 48% 206

This enables us to assess how we did at our pre-election post Your predictions.

The winner?  MY BROTHER Jimmy Veith.  He nailed it EXACTLY.  Here is what he said at comment 22:

My brother is good at predictions. I am a little better.

Obama: 332
Romney: 206

Popular vote: Obama: 51%, Romney: 48%, Others: 1%

Congratulations, Jimmy!  You have proven yourself to be this blog’s  top prognosticator.  And thanks for keeping it in the family.  (Imagine what I am going to have to put up with at Christmas!)

I predicted Obama would get 291, coming short by 41.  The Veith boys, Jason, Todd, Klasie, Darren, & ADB were the only ones who correctly predicted an Obama victory.

I appreciate SKPeterson’s comment in a post-election thread:

It would appear that the Republican Party would be better served if it followed the commentary on Cranach and quit listening to the Limbaugh’s, the Rove’s and the WSJ hack commentariat (as much as I enjoy reading the WSJ too, natch).

He links to this article:  How Conservative Media Lost to the MSM and Failed the Rank and File.  According to the author, Conor Friedersdorf , the conservative media and punditocracy were nearly unanimous in predicting a Romney victory.  They didn’t predict a McCain victory in the last presidential election, but this time wishful thinking trumped reality across the board.

Perhaps my brother Jimmy will explain how he reached his completely accurate conclusion.  (I wouldn’t be surprised if wishful thinking had some influence, Obama fan that he is.  I myself wished for the opposite of what I predicted, which I daresay is even rarer.)  But here is my reasoning, first, in regards to the election results; and second, in regards to the arguably more impressive feat of predicting Obama’s election in 2008 before he won any primaries, Romney’s nomination before the Republican primaries, and Obama’s re-election at the lowest point of his popularity.

For the election, I ignored the popular vote, which has little to do with electing a president.  The electoral vote is everything, so the state-by-state results are everything.   In general, unlike most conservatives, I trusted the poll results.  Survey research has gotten extremely sophisticated.  Journalists might be biased, but it does no good for professional pollsters to be biased, since their livelihoods depend on accuracy.  One can question their sampling techniques, but these guys usually know what they are doing.  That is to say, it’s a matter of vocation.  It’s true that poll results will vary, so I paid most attention to the poll aggregators at RealClearPolitics, which posts the average of all polls.  Most of the states were strongly for one candidate or the other, with neither scoring the necessary 270 total.  So everything hinged on eight too-close-to-call “battleground states.”   For Romney to win, he would have to win virtually all of them.  I thought that was unlikely.  Obama only needed a few.   The day before the election, the polls showed him leading slightly in most of them.  As my brother somehow knew would happen, he won all but two.

So much for my quantitative analysis.  For my qualitative analysis that predicted the outcomes before the races even started, I picked Romney as the best of an exceedingly weak field.  And by “best” I do not mean the most conservative or the one who would be the most effective chief executive.  I mean the one who presented himself the best and seemed least likely to pull something embarrassing.  (Republicans have GOT to field better candidates.)  Americans like their presidents, for better or for worse, to be inspiring and have a compelling story, to have a mythical quality about them, to be larger than life.  Not all presidents are that way.  George W. Bush wasn’t,  but then again neither was Al Gore or John Kerry.  Nor do such figures necessarily make good presidents.  But Barack Obama had the “it” factor, so I thought he would go far.

Predicting the future by projecting the present

That post about the Post Office contained an intriguing concept.  It accuses the USPS of acting like Kodak, which hung onto its chemical film business even after the digital camera was invented.  The syndrome is ”looking at the future as a variant of the present.”

This is how most predictions of the future are made.  Take a current fact or trend and project it into the future and extrapolate it into infinity.  I think of the “Tomorrowland” features on the old Walt Disney show that I used to watch as a kid, predicting what life would be like in the year 2000.  Air transportation really had taken off in the early 1960′s, so we would have individual jet packs to fly around with by the year 2000.  Food technology–nutritional analysis, manufacturing, packaging–was exciting at the time, so by the year 2000 we could get our nutrition from pills and squeeze tubes.

None of these came true, of course.  The predictions ignored what is unchanging in human nature (our desire for safety and security; our love of eating) and they basically just were commentaries on their own, now dated, times.  Disney, of course, could not have predicted what computers would actually be used for (not housekeeping or as personal butlers, in that age when people were impressed with new housekeeping technology such as toasters and vaccuum cleaners), much less the invention of the internet.

I see this projection of the present into the future in political analysis, demographic studies, public policies , and cultural studies (such as those that predict where the church will be in the next decades).  Can you give examples?