In the spirit of making this an annual exercise in humility, here are my 9 predictions for 2016:
- 2016 comes in at the second hottest year on record, just behind 2015.
- Clinton / O'Malley handily defeats Trump / Rubio in the presidential election, despite months of breathless concern trolling on the part of the punditocracy.
- Obama ushers out his presidency with an unprecedented number of blanket pardons for non-violent drug offenders.
- A cultural panic ensues when a US community outlaws the playing of football for youths under the age of 18. The state legislature quickly repeals the law.
- As Iranian oil comes to market OPEC finally ratchets down production to keep oil in the $30-50 range for most of the year.
- Domestic terrorism - especially against Blacks, Muslims and liberals - will claim more American lives than Daesh, Al-Quaida and their ilk combined.
- Vladimir Putin will survive an assassination attempt.
- Internet advertising will be exposed as utterly ineffective, and the business model for internet content suppliers begins to collapse in earnest.
Then of course, it is easier to predict the many things that could change, but probably won't. So folded into prediction #9:
- Because representational democracy has gone off the rails at the federal level there are a number of things that won't change:
- Americans won't take back their democracy from the wealthy interests that have hijacked it; and corporations will continue to write regulations to suit themselves.
- Assault weapons will remain legal despite more mass shootings.
- Militarization of police forces, systematic use of homicide and excessive force, as well as officers' de facto immunity from prosecution will continue unabated despite the mounting financial and social costs.
- We will not develop a constructive or effective plan for dealing with Islamic fundamentalism.
And now is when I note that all of my predictions seem awfully gloomy or pessimistic. When it comes to optimistic predictions that could be concrete enough to be judged right or wrong a year from now, it's hard to see important trends that are looking positive.
I asked Nico, who just turned 14, what progress he saw being made in 2015. What were the things that showed us humans moving forward? For him, the acceptance of gay marriage, improvements in prosthetics and the successes in robotic space exploration (Mars, Pluto, Asteroids) were the main ones that came to mind. And maybe something would come out of the Paris accords on climate change. Not exactly a landslide of positivity.
For 2016, it seems likely that Black Lives Matter will successfully bend the trend away from ever more lethal policing against minorities. It's possible that the Republican party's current experiment with extremism, will scare it back toward sanity and toward an engagement in governance once again. I hold out hope that young people will increasingly seek creative ways out of the consumerist cul de sac they've been led into.
But for the most part, I foresee another year in which we muddle along and fail to solve the problems which are rumbling beneath us like methane bubbles in a melting permafrost.