Jay Reding.com

Crystal Ball Watch 2010

Every year I make a bunch of predictions for the coming year, and each subsequent year I note just how far off I was. And this year is no exception.

Last year’s predictions ranged from politics to technology and everywhere in between. It’s hard to believe that last year at this time the iPad was just a rumor, Democrats were crowing about the popularity of their health care plans, and 3D movies weren’t yet an overused gimmick.

Let’s see how my prognostications actually matched the reality of the past
year:

Politics

Prediction: President Obama’s popularity will remain mired below 50% throughout most of the year.

Verdict: Correct. The health care debate and the BP oil spill sapped Obama’s popularity, and he never really recovered from either. Obama’s approval rating went underwater right along with the Deepwater Horizon oil platform, and his low popularity contributed to the GOP gains in November.

Prediction:The Democrats will lose more the 40 seats, putting the GOP in control of the House.

Verdict: Correct. The GOP gained over 60 seats in November, which was more than they gained in the 1994 cycle. The GOP’s gains in the House were substantial, and bigger than I would have predicted.

Prediction: In the Senate, Democrats will not fare much better. Majority Leader Reid will lose his seat, following in the footsteps of Tom Daschle. Chris Dodd also loses his seat to a GOP upstart. Same with Blanche Lincoln.

Verdict: Not quite. Harry Reid kept his seat, thanks to Sharron Angle being an even worse alternative in the eyes of Nevada voters. Chris Dodd resigned before his inevitable loss, and once again the Tea Party nominated a candidate that was simply not electable. On the other hand, Blanche Lincoln lost handily, along with several other Democratic incumbents. But the GOP didn’t take the Senate, even in a year that gave them a clear opportunity to do so. You can have a fire breathing conservative candidate who can win—see Rand Paul. But being a fire-breathing Tea Party candidate is not in itself enough, and it certainly doesn’t make up for being a complete and utter basket case—see Christine O’Donnell.

Prediction: The health care bill will be signed into law, and will be a major albatross around the necks of Democrats.

Verdict: Absolutely correct.

Prediction: The Democrats, rather than moving towards the center, will lurch left as the “netroots” convinces many in the party that the reason for the 2010 defeat was because the party was insufficiently “progressive.” The Democrats will end up in the same position the Republicans were in a year ago.

Verdict: Partially correct. The Democrats wisely divorced themselves from their own positions of the past 10 months and tried to run as centrists. But many “progressives” wanted them to run to the far left—convinced that the reason why health care was so unpopular was because it was insufficiently socialist instead of too much so. Now even Barack Obama’s positions are becoming indistinguishable from his predecessor, and the “netroots” are not happy with it.

Prediction: But Republicans should be wary as well. They will have won not on their own laurels, but because of disgust with the current Congress.

Verdict: Again correct. The GOP had better not get cocky in 2011.

Prediction: Cap and trade will be DOA as Congress gets increasingly worried about the political backlash.

Verdict: Again, correct. Cap and trade was even more politically poisonous than health care, and for good reason.

International

Prediction: The protests in Iran continue in fits and starts, weakening the foundations of the regime. The Iranian government continues to brutalize its own people, while the West does little of consequence to stop them.

Verdict: Iran has been much quieter than I would have expected: the regime has brutalized the opposition to the point where widespread protests aren’t gaining traction. Every year I predict that the regime in Iran will be weakened to near collapse—and every year it is less a prediction than a hope for something better for the Iranian people.

Prediction: President Obama launches further military action in Yemen to try to remove al-Qaeda.

Verdict: Covertly, this may be happening. But the conflict in Afghanistan is continuing to be the major flashpoint in the world.

Prediction: A major economic collapse in the EU shakes the foundation of the Euro.

Verdict: The Greek fiscal crisis fits the bill, and the contagion continues to spread across the Eurozone. The once unthinkable idea of a collapse of the Euro remains a distant possibility, but it gets closer as more and more countries in the Eurozone continue to see their economies decline.

Prediction: Gordon Brown faces a vote of no-confidence in Parliament, causing the him to call new elections in the UK.

Verdict: Indeed, Gordon Brown was defeated by the charismatic Conservative David Cameron in May. But the Tories fell short of a majority, leading to the first hung Parliament since 1974 and eventually to a coalition government.

Prediction: The situation in Afghanistan remains unsettled, but the addition of U.S. troops helps calm some of the tensions.

Verdict: This year has been the bloodiest year in Afghanistan for US and coalition troops and the country remains unstable. The addition of more troops does not seem to have substantially calmed the country, and it’s uncertain whether the Obama Administration will have the political will to continue to try and stabilize the country over the long term.

Prediction: Iran will come closer to testing a nuclear weapon, and will likely have the capability of doing so by the end of 2010.

Verdict: Had it not been for the Stuxnet worm—which was almost certainly the product of Israeil or Western sabotage—Iran might have been much closer to a working nuclear weapon. But Stuxnet actually appears to have worked in slowing down Tehran’s progress. It sounds like the plot of a bad thriller novel, but Stuxnet was probably one of the most ingenuous covert weapons ever used. Whoever came up with it deserves a medal.

Economics

Prediction: Unemployment will remain high throughout the year as discouraged workers reenter the workforce. This will be a huge political problem for the Democrats in the 2010 cycle.

Verdict: Indeed, this was true. Unemployment continues to flirt with double-digit levels, and may not go down that much in 2011. Not only was this a political problem for the Democrats in 2010, but the human cost of this kind of endemic unemployment is far too high.

Prediction: The price of gold and other hard assets will continue to skyrocket on inflation fears, leading to a mini-bubble in asset prices.

Verdict: I keep hearing all those advertisements telling people to buy gold: consider me a skeptic. Perhaps gold and other asset prices will continue to climb at a steady rates, but the risk of a bubble is still very real.

Prediction: The government will continue with bailouts of major companies, despite President Obama’s focus on debt reduction.

Verdict: The bailout culture didn’t reach the fever pitch of 2009, but it was still alive and well in 2010.

Prediction: The national deficit will continue to skyrocket as Congress is unable to restrain spending.

Verdict: Predicting this was as obvious as predicting that the sun would rise in the east…

Society/Culture/Technology

Prediction: Apple will announce their tablet in early 2010, with a 10-inch touch screen and optional 3G wireless through Verizon rather than AT&T. The tablet (probably not called the iSlate) will have a major effect on the e-reader market, although Amazon will counter by making Kindle content available on the new device. Critics will complain that the price point is too high, but the device will sell like hotcakes anyway.

Verdict: Of course, Apple announced the iPad in early 2010, with a 9.7 inch screen and 3G wireless through AT&T. But Verizon is already selling the iPad, and it’s likely that a version with built-in Verizon 3G will be coming in 2011. And Amazon has been selling Kindles like hotcakes, along with selling books on their Kindle app for the iPad. The iPad is the hit device of the year, and for good reason—Apple priced it very competitively and helped to define the market.

Prediction: E-Books will begin to outsell physical book copies.

Verdict: Not quite true yet, but within a few years this could be a real possibility.

Prediction: The reality TV show craze will finally, mercifully die off as people get sick of the them.

Verdict: If only…

Prediction: Web series will continue to take off from being largely low-budget affairs to being more like regular TV shows. Shows akin to Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog will receive much critical acclaim and will begin to supplant conventional TV.

Verdict: Not quite yet, although there are web series like SyFy’s Sanctuary that crossed over from web series to cable TV. But there isn’t an online show that’s been a true widespread hit… at least not in 2010.

Prediction: “Steampunk” will go from a small subculture to the next major popular phenomenon. Things like home canning, writing letters on fine stationery, and Victorian styles will become increasingly popular.

Verdict: No, not even close. The “steampunk” subculture remains just that.

Prediction: The death of the newspaper industry will not stop, even though many papers start
reconciling themselves with the digital world.

Verdict: Newspapers continue to struggle with the digital world, and traditional newsprint is still in deep trouble.

The Final Word

Once again, there were some hits and some misses in my predictions last year, Many of my predictions were fairly obvious even back in December: the Democrats’ political misfortunes were widely predicted even a year ago. The rumors of an Apple tablet were rampant. And my usual predictions on Iran were once again not quite as prescient as I would have hoped.

But all in all, not a bad set of predictions, even if there were some stinkers there. Shortly I’ll be posting some predictions for 2011, and a year from now we’ll see if my crystal ball remains clear or is stuffed with crap…

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