December 31, 2018

It’s New Year’s Eve, the last day of the year, when the ball drops in Times Square and the Cranach blog reviews readers’ predictions for the year just past.  This exercise culminates in awarding the virtual, nonexistent traveling trophy for the best prediction of them all.

The predictions for 2018–you can see them here–were thoughtful and, though most were wrong, were not too far wrong.  A number dealt with the Mueller investigation, which is still dragging on, so we don’t yet know who is right and who is wrong about what will come of it.

Several dealt with North Korea, including some predictions of armed conflict between the United States and Kim Jong Un.  This time last year, President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un were engaged in an escalating war of words and insults.  Wh0 could have guessed that since then, these two heads of state would have held a summit meeting, leading President Trump to say “we fell in love”?  Who could have predicted that these two would “cozy up”?  SKJAM, that’s who, although he made that prediction for 2017, for which we gave him the prize for worst prediction!

I thought he was wildly wrong, but he was just wildly prescient.  His foresight was such that he was seeing not just one year ahead but two years ahead!  Sorry, SKJAM!  This just goes to show that even bad predictions can come true eventually, that losers can actually be winners, and it isn’t over even when it’s over, all of which should be an encouragement to us all.

The sports predictions were pretty much all wrong.  So were most of the political predictions. Foreign affairs predictions were all over the place, with some right, some wrong, and some to be determined.

There were some predictions that were right in principle, though wrong in detail.  tODD said Brexit would be officially halted due to issues with Ireland.  It’s not “officially” halted, just paused in confusion, due in part to issues with Ireland.  Reg said that the DOW would drop 2,000 points in a single day.  The DOW dropped over 5,000 points–in 800, 500, 400 daily increments, not 2,000–over the last couple of months, but reg was right to forecast a big drop in the stock market.

There were some predictions that were definitely on target:  TimLaCroix predicted that the 2018 economy would strengthen until Trump would start a trade war with China and things would slow down. (I don’t think the trade war is the main factor in the stock market woes, but Tim was insightful in predicting it.)  JDB said that several more states would legalize marijuana.  (I don’t know if he would have predicted that Utah would be among them, at least for medical purposes.)  SAL foresaw more socialist candidates among the Democrats, following in Bernie Sanders’ wake.  (That happened.)  RevAggie98 predicted the Supreme Court would rule in favor of the Christian baker in Masterpiece Cakes v. Colorado.  (That happened.)

The Supreme Court figured in some good predictions.  Darren Jones predicted that Justices Kennedy and Ginsberg would both leave the Supreme Court, one by death and one by resigning.  Justice Kennedy did resign; Justice Ginsburg did not die, though she had surgery for lung cancer.  Jeremiah Oehlerich predicted that a justice will step down, followed by a big fight over his replacement, who would change the balance of the court for a long time.  That certainly happened, with the tumultuous conflict over Judge Kavanaugh!

Those might have been in the running, except that we have a clear, undoubtable winner.  The envelopes, please. . . .

The LOSER, for worst prediction:  Me.  I predicted that the #MeToo movement would lead to a reaction against the pornography industry.  That has not happened.  Far from it.

RUNNER UP:  Saelma predicted that the price of gasoline would fall below $2.00.  That did not seem likely this time last year.  But I just paid $1.66 in Ponca City, Oklahoma, a few days ago.  Saelma also predicted that the leaders of Cambodia would purge opponents and move towards a dictatorship.  That also happened.

The WINNER:  Kerner, for three highly specific quantifiable predictions of uncanny accuracy.  Here is what he said:

Economic growth for the year will average no less than 2.9%  [Actual growth rate:  2.9%]

At some point during the year unemployment will dip below 4%. [Actual unemployment rate:  3.7%]

As a result of the midterm elections, Republicans will have at least 53 senate seats going into 2019. [Actual number: 53]

Congratulations, Kerner!  How did you know this?  If any of you have any money, I would suggest that you let Kerner manage it for you.

Last year’s winner, stefanstackhouse, who won for his prediction of China militarizing the islands of the South China Sea, will pass on his imaginary crown to Kerner, whom we will all honor for an entire year.

Tomorrow, New Year’s Day:  Make your predictions for 2019!

 

Illustration by Mark Weaver, “Why Do We Need Predictions?” via Flickr, Creative Commons License

December 28, 2018

Lots of people make predictions, but few check them for accuracy.  We here at the Cranach Institute do!  Be here on Monday for our review of the 2018 predictions made at this blog, at which time we will also virtually crown the winner of the best prediction.  And be here Tuesday to make your predictions for 2019, in hopes of winning the competition on the next New Year’s Eve.

In the meantime, Zack Stanton and Derek Robertson at Politico have also been checking people’s predictions.  They have compiled a list of the worst political predictions of 2018.  We’ll do the same on Monday, as we also have the custom of awarding virtual booby prizes to the most humorously inaccurate of the predictions.

Below are the 20  predictions that Stanton and Robertson considered to have earned the distinction of being the “worst.”  They are ranked in reverse order.  Go to the article link to read about each one.  The Politico writers also give the name of the person who was wrong along with a useful link to the prediction.  Read these, and then I will show some predictions that were much worse than these.

From Zack Stanton and Derek Robertson,  The Worst Political Predictions of 2018:

20. In 2018, Trump will resign as president, Netanyahu will resign as Israel’s prime minister and Trump will not move the U.S. Embassy in Israel.
Made by: David Rothkopf

19. [Democrat] Joe Crowley will be the next speaker of the House.
Made by: Matt Fuller

18. Impeachment proceedings will begin against Trump.
Made by: Edward Luce, Financial Times

17. John Kelly will root out and “publicly humiliate” the author of the anonymous New York Times op-ed [about staff members controlling Trump] within days of its release.
Made by: Sebastian Gorka

16. “Trump will be denied another Supreme Court nomination.”
Made by: Andrew Klausner, Forbes

15. Mueller will end his probe before the midterm elections and declare Trump “innocent.”
Made by: Bill Mitchell

14. The Mueller investigation will “be put to rest” and “no significant charges will be leveled against anyone.”
Made by: Glenn Beck

13. Mueller’s investigation will end by September.
Made by: Rudy Giuliani

12. The New York Times would be proven wrong in reporting that Trump tried to fire Mueller.
Made by: Sean Hannity

11. “Trump will not pardon anyone, unless it’s a family member.”
Made by: Steve Deace

10. Trump will “ramp up construction” of the wall and reauthorize DACA.
Made by: Siraj Hashmi, Washington Examiner

9. Republicans lose the House and Senate, leading to the impeachment of … President Paul Ryan.
Made by: Scott Dworkin

8. A “RED WAVE!” would crash over the 2018 elections.
Made by: Donald Trump

7. “The great political surprise of 2018 will be the size of the Republican victory.”
Made by: Newt Gingrich, Fox News

6. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski will kill Brett Kavanaugh’s court nomination.
Made by: Ben Shapiro

5. Trump will end the year with a 25 percent approval rating.
Made by: Frida Ghitis, CNN

4. Dianne Feinstein will be vulnerable to a challenge from her left.
Made by: Sean McElwee and Jon Green

3. More black Americans will be “on the Trump Train” at the end of 2018.
Made by: Diamond & Silk

2.“Our economic news is only going to get brighter in 2018.”
Made by: Laura Ingraham, Fox News

1. Amazon will place HQ2 in Boston.
Made by: Wells Fargo AI  [A computer tasked with predicting where the new headquarters will be located.]

Yes, this list reads like crowing over some over-optimistic comments by Trump supporters.  So here are some others I found.

Vikram Mansharamani of PBS made some predictions for “2018 and Beyond.”  Some of them were pretty good, having to do with economics and international affairs.  There was the obligatory global warming apocalypse prediction of melting ice-caps forcing coastal cities to start moving their populations.  He was right that there was a major earthquake in the Pacific Northwest–in Alaska–but it didn’t displace millions.  And he was quite wrong about some countries tying their currencies to Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency whose value has plummeted this year.

But the worst prediction, which beats any of Politico’s top 20 in my opinion, is that consumption of edible insects “surges.”    I know there have been efforts to encourage the general public to move to this abundant protein source, but I haven’t noticed a great “surge” in demand.  Has that happened where you live?

A particularly interesting set of predictions came in 1968 when 1,000 guests were invited to a conference to hear a dozen experts predict what things will be like 50 years later in 2018.  Amidst the obligatory environmental apocalypse and the extrapolations of 1960s peace and free love, the experts did foresee the expansion of computers and predicted their interconnection in something like the internet.

But then there were some that were off the mark.  We have not, for example, suppressed lightning (which was to have happened by the 1980s).  And we have not, to my knowledge, perfected the anti-gravity belt.

The predictions were published in a book entitled Toward the Year 2018, which is still available.

Paul Collins tells the tale in the New Yorker.  Read his account of the gathering, including the controversy it provoked from 60s radicals and its failure, by today’s standards,  to invite any women to participate.  He quotes the blurb on the book, which will give you a flavor of not only the predictions but the excited optimism of the time:

“More amazing than science fiction,” proclaims the cover, with jacket copy envisioning how “on a summer day in the year 2018, the three-dimensional television screen in your living room” flashes news of “anti-gravity belts,” “a man-made hurricane, launched at an enemy fleet, [that] devastates a neutral country,” and a “citizen’s pocket computer” that averts an air crash. “Will our children in 2018 still be wrestling,” it asks, “with racial problems, economic depressions, other Vietnams?”

We do have pocket computers in 2018!  We are also still wrestling with racial problems, economic depressions, and other Vietnams.   Such facets of the human condition do not change.

 

January 1, 2018

New Years 2018

Happy New Year! A time to look ahead! A time to make your predictions for 2018!

The custom on this blog on New Years Day is for readers to predict what they think will happen over the course of the year ahead. Then, once the year is over, on or around the next New Year’s Eve, we will revisit those predictions and see who made the best one. (See this for what I’m talking about.)

Certainly 2018 opens with lots of questions looming. Will the new tax cuts be a catalyst for economic growth, or will they bankrupt the country? In the midterm elections in November, will Republicans hold on to the House and Senate, or will Democrats take over? Will the Robert Mueller investigations prove fruitless, or will they find grounds to impeach the president? Will we have a war with North Korea?

Can the Golden State Warriors be knocked out of the NBA championship? Are the New York Yankees back? Can Hollywood think of a new idea or are they going to keep ransacking their old comic book collection and remaking the movies they have already made? Will artificial intelligence attain the singularity? Will the #me too movement lead to a backlash against sexual permissiveness? Will there be a Christian revival in 2018 or overt persecution?

The predictions can be weighty or light, serious or whimsical. Winning predictions will likely be highly specific. They tend to seem highly unlikely at the time they are made, but then, to our surprise, they happen anyway. The winning prediction makes us think, “How could anyone possibly know THAT was going to happen?”

I’ll go first:

I predict that the sexual counter-revolution will continue. In 2018, hackers will break into a porn site, as they did with that adultery site Ashley Madison in 2015, posting the names of all of the users. This public shaming will wreak havoc, but it will spark an anti-pornography backlash. Internet providers, now that they don’t have to worry about net neutrality, will start filtering porn sites in earnest. Laws will be passed against pornography, getting around free speech considerations by defining it in terms of abusing women. In response to social and legal pressure, pornography will retreat to the dark net.

I predict that as Hollywood keeps looking for new movie ideas in old comic books, they will finally get around to some of my favorites:

Turok, Son of Stone (Native Americans + dinosaurs. A sure hit!)

Uncle Scrooge McDuck (Donald’s rich uncle, who lives in a money-bin with a fountain of dimes and mountains of cash. Genuinely funny stories, or at least they seemed so at the time.)

The Atom. (A superhero who can shrink to the subatomic level. Hollywood tried the Ant-Man, but the Atom can go smaller. Plus they could do things with quantum paradoxes that the comic books didn’t know anything about at the time.)

The Silver Surfer. (Existential angst from a being who rides a surfboard through outer space.)

So what do YOU think will happen in 2018?

 

Illustration, 2017 Jumping Happy New Year 2018,  from MaxPixel, CC0, Creative Commons

 

January 1, 2019

Happy New Year!  It is now the Year of the Lord 2019!  What do you think will happen this year?  Today, New Year’s Day, in addition to watching the Rose Bowl Parade, recovering from the previous night’s revelry, and eating your regional good-luck food (black-eyed peas here in Oklahoma), we celebrate by making predictions.

Our annual contest begins.  Here are my explanations from last year:

The custom on this blog on New Years Day is for readers to predict what they think will happen over the course of the year ahead. Then, once the year is over, on or around the next New Year’s Eve, we will revisit those predictions and see who made the best one. . . .

The predictions can be weighty or light, serious or whimsical. Winning predictions will likely be highly specific. They tend to seem highly unlikely at the time they are made, but then, to our surprise, they happen anyway. The winning prediction makes us think, “How could anyone possibly know THAT was going to happen?”

Read yesterday’s post “The Winning Predictions for 2018” to see the kind of thing we are looking for and how we will be judging your predictions on the next Near Year’s Eve.

The next year should be pretty momentous.  We should finally get the results of the Mueller probe.  Candidates for president will be announcing and jockeying for position in the primaries that will begin early in 2020.  Will the Democrats choose moderation, or will they launch a Great Proletarian Socialist Cultural Revolution?  Will a Republican run against President Trump, and will he or she have a chance?  Will President Trump battle through all of the investigations and obstacles being thrown up by his enemies to fulfill his agenda?

Will the economy get worse or better?  Will the culture get worse or better?  What do you think will happen among Christians?  Which pendulums will start swinging in the opposite direction?

You tell me in the comments.

I’ll go first:

President Trump will get tired of being president, fed up with all of the grief he is getting and frustrated by the constant investigations.  (The Mueller probe will come up with only minor violations, but the Democratically-controlled House and the state of New York will launch new investigations into his business transactions that he will find troublesome.)  If it was up to him, he might not run for a second term, but he knows that the minute he is no longer president, his enemies will put him in serious legal jeopardy.  So, I predict that he will resign from the presidency, invoking the Gerald Ford precedent by having the new President Pence issuing him “a full and unconditional pardon for any crimes he might have committed.”

Now it’s your turn.

 

Illustration by mohamed_hassan via Pixabay, CC0, Creative Commons

December 26, 2018

Merry second-day-of-Christmas, a.k.a. Boxing Day, a.k.a. Two Turtle Doves Day!  The week between Christmas and New Years’ is a good time to look back on the year that has gone before and to look forward to whatever might be next.

We’ll do that on the Cranach blog, building up to one of the great contests of the blogosphere:  Our readers’ annual predictions for the New Year and our virtual prize to whoever had the best prediction for the Old Year.

On New Year’s Eve, the last day of the year (next Monday, December 31), we will post a review of readers’ predictions for 2018.  We will then proclaim the winner for best prognosticator, who will win no prize, just our acclaim and bragging rights for the year ahead.

The next day, on New Year’s Day, you will be able to post, as comments, your predictions for 2019.  They can be about current events, political developments, sports phenomena, scientific discoveries, cultural changes, or you name it.  The winning entries will be predictions that are specific, unlikely, and surprising.  General truths (“the world will continue turning”) will not score as highly as detailed, out-of-the-blue prophecies (“the world will turn upside down”).

And, don’t worry, the Deuteronomy 18 rule will not be in effect.  These predictions should be historical projections, with no claims to supernatural revelation.

So be thinking about what you think will happen.  And tell your friends to join in.

We’ll let Scott Adams, the Dilbert cartoonist, have the first prediction:  “Scientists will eventually stop flailing around with solar power and focus their efforts on harnessing the only truly unlimited source of energy on the planet: stupidity. I predict that in the future, scientists will learn how to convert stupidity into clean fuel.”

Illustration:  Janus [the Roman god of transitions, with one face that looks to the past and one face that looks to the future], Vatican Museum, photo by Loudon dodd [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

 

December 29, 2017

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Last year at this time, Donald Trump was on the verge of taking office, the state of the economy was uncertain, and no one knew what would happen.  That didn’t keep us from making predictions!  The Year of Our Lord 2017 was tumultuous and full of surprises.  But last year’s post Make your predictions for 2017 brought forth some thoughtful predictions, which were often interesting even when they were wrong.  But one of them was startlingly spot-on.

My predictions were all wrong.  Queen Elizabeth II did not die, and Charles III did not abdicate in favor of the popular William and Kate.  The British monarchy did enjoy a surge of popularity again, but that was due to the excellent Netflix TV series The Crown.  Nor have ties gone the way of spats and derby hats.  We’ll know that time has come when news anchors and politicians stop wearing them.  Nor did Hillary Clinton divorce Bill.  So I lose.

Some of the predictions were too easy.  Sin will continue to mess things up and the Holy Spirit will continue to bring souls to Christ.  Plow Jockey’s New England will win the Super Bowl.  Setapart predicted a major earthquake, and indeed there were terrible ones in Mexico, Iran, Italy, and China.  But, as tODD commented, what year is there not a major earthquake?  Pete predicted that Mexico would not pay for the wall, but predicting what will not happen is easier than predicting what will happen!

The first prize, the consolation prize, that we will give out is for the worst prediction.  Coming close to this honor was SKJAM! who predicted that President Trump would cozy up to dictators including North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, maybe even inviting him to the White House.  Actually, the two got into a name-calling exchange and President Trump is on the verge of bombing the “Rocket Man.”

Another contender was Joe, who predicted that France would vote to leave the European Union.  Instead, France elected a new president who campaigned on supporting the European Union.  Joe was also wrong about the Pope observing the 500th anniversary of the Reformation by starting a “Lutheran ordinate,” which I believe would mean allowing Lutheran pastors to become Catholic priests without giving up their wives.  That didn’t happen.  Instead, conservative Catholics accused the Pope of being a Lutheran heretic!  (If anybody predicted that, they would not only win our contest, but I would retire the trophy.)

But the winner of the Worst Prediction prize–we won’t use the word “loser”–is Saelma, who predicted that Apple stock would crash to near 70 and the price of corn would double.  Actually, Apple now trades at $171.18 per share.  And the price of corn, which was $3.65 a bushel this time last year, has dropped to $3.50.

Quite a few of your predictions were close or partially right.  SAL thought the “Syrian civil war will end as ISIS is defeated.”  ISIS was defeated, but the Syrian civil war continues.  SAL made some other close predictions: “ESPN nearly goes bankrupt as its viewers turn it off.”  ESPN viewership has indeed plummeted, though I’m not sure it is close to bankruptcy.  “Obamacare is amended but not repealed.”  Indeed, Obamacare was not repealed–that’s actually an impressive prediction, since who would have guessed the Republican legislature couldn’t pull that off–and it was sort of amended when the Tax Bill removed the penalty for not having health insurance.

Other close predictions:  Sven2547 said that 2017 would be the hottest year on record.  Actually, Weather.com said the year is shaping up to be the second hottest.  tODD said that a region would secede from a European country.  Catalonia has come close, but hasn’t quite done so, thanks to Spain crushing the secession movement.  Carl Vehse said that within three months after taking office, Democrats would be trying to impeach President Trump or invoke the 25th Amendment (which provides for removal of a president for illness or mental incapacity).  He added, “If this does not happen, then I predict that ‘Drain-the-Swamp’ promoters, ‘Lock-her-up’ advocates, and ‘Build the wall’ backers will be demanding Trump’s impeachment.”   While the first part of the prediction happened, the swamp isn’t drained, she was not locked up, and the wall hasn’t been built; nevertheless, those advocates still seem to support Trump.

Paul Mason made a series of predictions that President Trump would not be able to do many of the things that he promised:

1. America will NOT be “great again” in 2017. Street crime will continue, 2m Mexicans will not be deported, import tariffs from China will not be 35%, NAFTA will not be torn up, the Iran nuclear deal will not be torn up.
2. TPP will not go ahead, but non-US members will conclude their own multi-lateral trade deal, and may include China.
3. Trump’s cabinet of elitist lobbyists, Goldman Sachs bankers and retired Senators and Pentagon Washington insiders will improve market conditions for Trump Corp
3. ISIS will NOT be smashed this year.

These predictions mostly came to pass–except that ISIS pretty much was smashed this year–though some of them fall into the category of predicting what did NOT happen.

Though SKJAM! was a contender for worst prediction, he was also a contender for best prediction, though he ended up being only “close.”  He predicted that at least one Trump advisor would resign due to a “horrific scandal.”  And that a “family values” conservative would be brought down in a sex scandal.  Actually, LOTS of Trump advisors have had to resign, though how “horrific” the scandal is remains to be seen, as the investigation into the Russia connections continues.  And LOTS of “family values” conservatives have been brought down by sex scandals.  Though the number of prominent cultural progressives being brought down by sex scandals appears to be even greater.  (If anyone had predicted THAT, I would have not only retired the trophy but renamed it in their honor.)

So who made the best prediction of them all?

In second place is Kerner, who said, “Economic growth for the third or fourth quarter of 2017 will hit or exceed 3.5 per cent.”  Actually, it was 3.2 per cent.  That’s really close.

But the winner of the virtual, imaginary trophy, with bragging rights, for best prediction for 2017 is stefanstackhouse.

Now in the course of a long, thoughtful discussion of American foreign relations, stefanstackhouse made lots of predictions, some of whose accuracy is yet to be determined.  Painfully ironic was the one about how Putin will welcome Trump’s presidency and how Russia and the new administration will work well together.  (Maybe I should give a prize for the funniest-in-retrospect prediction.)

But what gave stefanstackhouse the victory is his remarkably detailed and prescient forecast of China seizing and fortifying the disputed islands in the South China Sea.  Here is his prediction:

Unlike the case with Russia, a clash of strategic interests between the US and China is inevitable. Just as the US grand strategy requires that we acquire strategic depth by extending naval force across the Pacific to what the Chinese are calling “the first island chain” (from the semi-island of Korea through Japan, Taiwan, Philippines, and Indonesia), China likewise needs strategic depth out from its coastline by extending naval power at least to – and preferably beyond – this first island chain. This is where our interests clash, and if there is indeed a “Thucydides Trap” between the status quo power of the US and the rising power of China, then it is along this first island chain that the trap will be sprung. I do not see this actually happening, and a major Sino-American war beginning, in 2017. Nevertheless, I do see a high likelihood of several things happening that will bring us closer to that dire contingency.

As to the South China Sea, the Chinese are likely to continue with their aggressive moves to turn it into a Chinese lake. Only the Vietnamese are likely to seriously resist, and a small clash in the Paracel Islands in 2017 is quite probable; China is likely to assure than any such clash goes their way. The US Navy will probably try to do a few Freedom of Navigation Operations, but these are going to become increasingly tense activities, and very likely there will quietly be an adjustment to sail at a further distance from the artificial installations that the Chinese are arming in the Spratly Islands.

To be sure, the dispute between China and the other countries that claim these islands (Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan) has been going on for years.  But in 2017, China has taken this to a new level.  China has not only been occupying these islands but militarizing them.  China is also going so far as to  build new artificial islands, complete with floating nuclear plants, to serve as military bases and so to project its power in the South China Sea.

As for stefanstackhouse’s specific points, there has been a clash with Vietnam (though not a military one) and the United States Navy has launched Freedom of Navigation operations by sailing in the vicinity of those islands.  Three of them, in fact, and they have been tense.

And, as if these predictions were not enough, stefanstackhouse puts a cherry on the top of his entry by making an unrelated prediction that also proved to be exactly right:

One final note, not so US-centric: There will be elections in a number of different countries next year, but the only one I can write about with any degree of knowledge is France. Here, expect Marine LePen to not only make it into the finalist second round of voting, but also to do much better than expected – it may end up being a real squeaker, and she might even win.

The anti-immigrant candidate did make it into the finalist second round and she did do much better than expected, though she didn’t win.

So, please join me in extending congratulations to this year’s winner, stefanstackhouse!

Thanks for playing!  Come back Monday, New Year’s Day, to make your predictions for 2018!

 

Illustration by Tumisu, via Pixabay, CC0, Creative Commons

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