Crystal Ball Watch 2009

Each year I make some predictions about the coming new year, and at the end of the year I take a (frequently humorous) look at how I did. At the end of 2008 I made some predictions about what 2009 would bring, and now it is time to see how I did:


  • President Barack Obama’s popularity with the left will bleed away as he moves to governing as a centrist.

    Correct: Late in the year, liberal dissatisfaction started growing, as the President chose to double down on Afghanistan and failed to back the public option in healthcare. While liberals still tend to support the President, Obama has not given them everything they want, and that has not made the liberals very happy.

  • Card check legislation will be narrowly defeated in Congress, preserving the rights of the American worker to a secret ballot.

    Not Quite: Card check has been pushed off until next year, where it may well be defeated, but it hasn’t yet gone away as a political issue.

  • The Republican Party will continue to spend a year in the wilderness, while the seeds of political renewal will come from outside the party structure.

    Correct: The GOP remains mired, but the real energy lies in the Tea Party movement. The media paints the Tea Partiers as a radical fringe, and some of them undoubtedly are. However, they have energy and motivation, and that can make all the difference. Whether the GOP likes it or not, they will have to ingratiate themselves with the Tea Party movement and capture that energy in a constructive way. Doing so without alienating the vital center will be difficult, but it’s not impossible.

  • Vice President Biden will say something incredibly stupid, creating a great deal of tension between him and President Obama.

    Duh: Predicting a Joe Biden gaffe is like predicting that the sun will come up in the east.

  • Congress will continue to be unpopular as the economy continues to backslide and more and more scandals mount. By the end of the year, faith in American government will be at a new low.

    Again, Duh: Congress continues to be wildly unpopular with the American electorate, and sweetheart deals, political payoffs, and rampant corruption are to blame. People regard Congress with the same level of distaste they do with plague rats and filthy diapers—and who can blame them?


  • Iraq will be a bright spot as its nascent democracy continues to develop. Rather than terrorism, its main problem will be corruption and governmental issues. Iraq will start looking less like Lebanon and more like Jordan in terms of its development. The media will basically ignore Iraq, even though there will be no major U.S. troop drawdowns until mid-year at the earliest. President Obama’s Iraq strategy will be a continuation of the existing strategy, not a clean break from the Bush years.

    Correct, More or Less: Iraq has not been in the news much this year. Partially because it is no longer politically expedient, and partially because what’s going on there doesn’t make good news. Parliamentary maneuvering isn’t as sexy as blood in the streets. It is very interesting to note that 57% now say the war in Iraq has been a success, a marked reversal from last year. Yes, it is true that Iraq has a long way to go before it’s as developed as Jordan, but there are many positive signs. There will still be bombings and attacks, but the biggest problem Iraq now faces has less to do with terrorism and more to do with politics. In many ways, beating corruption and political paralysis is harder than beating back al-Qaeda, but Iraq is unquestionably better off now than it was under Saddam’s brutal reign.

  • Israel will again stop short of destroying their enemies, slowly backing down after token military actions on the ground in Gaza. Seeing another Lebanon, the Israeli people will reject Kadima and elect Netanyahu as Prime Minister.

    Correct: Operation Cast Lead beat back Hamas, but Gaza remains a problem for Israel. As a result of Kadima’s perceived weakness, Binyamin Netanyahu has able to lead a coalition of right-wing parties as Prime Minister.

  • India and Pakistan will be at the brink of war throughout the year, but neither side will pull the trigger. This issue will dominate Secretary of State Clinton’s efforts throughout the year.

    Incorrect: Pakistan is more concerned with the Afghan border than with Kashmir. While it is true that Pakistan has been a major issue for Secretary of State Clinton, so far the India-Pakistan tensions aren’t the most pressing issue.

  • Iran will test a nuclear weapon, leading Israel to formally announce that they possess nuclear weapons and that they will use them if necessary. Israel will work to expand ts fleet of ballistic missile submarines.

    Incorrect: Iran is almost certainly much further ahead on weapons development than the West thinks, but so far they have not tested a weapon. Sadly, it appears that this prediction could come true next year. The West does not have enough leverage to prevent Iran from going nuclear.

  • Russa’s Gazprom state-owned oil company will collapse, causing massive unrest in the country. Vladimir Putin and his puppet Dmitri Medvedev will use the unrest to further restrict freedoms and consolidate their own power.

    Incorrect: Gazprom remains a powerful tool of the Putin regime, and thanks to its control over much of Europe’s natural gas will likely remain so for the near future.

  • Due to oil prices plummeting, Hugo Chavez will be deposed in a bloodless coup.

    Sadly, Incorrect: Chavez will only be removed by a coup, but that seems far-fetched at this point. Chavez seems set to be the 21st Century version of Fidel Castro, much to the detriment of the Venezuelan people.


  • The recession will not go away in 2009.

    Correct: This one was probably a given.

  • Obama’s $1 trillion stimulus bill will narrowly pass on a party-line vote. It will not stimulate the economy, but will cause further job losses as small businesses prepare for the worst.

    Correct: Instead of saving jobs, the unemployment rate reached double digits. The “stimulus” has failed on its own terms, failing to create new jobs and leading to yet another “stimulus” bill. The massive increase in national deficit—$1.4 trillion this year alone—will have negative economic effects that far outweigh any benefits of all the spending. The fact remains that the Keynesian multiplier is a myth, and $1 of government spending will not produce even $1 of growth.

  • The Dow will sink below 8,000 and not stay above that level for most of the year.

    Incorrect: The Dow has rebounded to above 10,000, although how much of that growth is sustainable over the long term is an open question.

  • By the end of 2009, the U.S. will face double-digit unemployment, economic recession, and massive deflation as the credit markets remain frozen.

    Partially Correct: We’ve hit the double-digit unemployment figure and are still in recession. However, it looks like inflation rather than deflation is going to be a problem. By opening the spigots, the Fed has helped ease the credit crunch. The problem is that they have nowhere else to go. With the national debt continuing to rise, running the printing presses is not a sustainable option.

  • Congress will pass a protectionist trade measure that will have massive ripple effects throughout the world economy. The European Union will push for the WTO to punish the U.S. for their actions. Rather than improve our relations worldwide, America will be disliked ever more intensely across the globe.

    Not Yet: I’m somewhat surprised that the U.S. hasn’t pushed a major protectionist trade measure quite yet. But, much to his credit, Obama has not been a full-fledged protectionist. As politically expedient as it is to bash China and trade in general, the U.S. economy is too dependent on trade for Congress to start re-enacting Smoot-Hawley.

  • The one bright spot will be that consumers begin shedding their debts and living more fiscally responsible lifestyles.

    Correct: Consumer debt continues to fall, as people continue to try and pay down their debts.


  • The last MacWorld will announce the iPhone Nano, a new Mac Mini, and a quad-core iMac. It will be revealed that Steve Jobs is in fact unwell, which will cause Apple shares to slide. However, the corporate culture that Jobs has created will keep Apple innovative.

  • Partially Correct: Steve Jobs was in fact unwell, having received a liver transplant last year. The iPhone Nano is probably not going to happen, and is probably a bad idea. Better Mac Minis and quad-core iMacs did appear, but later in the year. Instead, new unibody MacBooks were the big announcement at MacWorld 2009.

  • Microsoft will release Windows 7 by years-end. It will be better than Vista, but still not sell well due to the decline of the industry.

    Partially Correct: Word is that Windows 7 is selling very well compared to Vista, but Vista did not have good reviews. Windows 7 is much better than Vista, but that’s not saying much. With Apple continuing to do very well, Microsoft’s OS dominance means less and less. The future is mobile, where Microsoft is an also-ran compared to BlackBerry, Google’s Android, and the iPhone and iPod touch.

  • The economic downturn will cause a widespread cultural re-examination. Church attendance will climb as people look for stability in their lives.

    Uncertain: In general, church attendance does increase in bad economic times, but there isn’t much evidence that this is holding true now. I’m somewhat surprised that there’s not more definitive evidence on how this recession is affecting church attendance.

  • The New York Times will file for bankruptcy protection. Liberal investors will save it from falling, but circulation will continue to drop.

    Partially Correct: It was only a bailout by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim that kept the Times alive, but even then the paper teeters on the edge of bankruptcy. The economics of the newspaper business will not get better any time soon—if ever—and it remains to be seen how the Times will survive in the coming years.

  • Star Trek will be a major hit as the public rejects the gloomy outlook of other summer films. Chris Pine will become a breakout star from his role as James T. Kirk.

    Correct: J.J. Abrams reboot of the franchise was a hit, the highest-grossing Trek film ever. Chris Pine’s Kirk was a star turn (as well as Zoë Saldana’s role as Uhura). Star Trek breathed new life into the franchise, and while it wasn’t the deepest Trek film, it was a hell of a great ride, and it was one of the best films of the year.

  • A major network will announce a new series to be aired entirely on the web rather than through traditional channels. It will be a major hit and the start of a new trend away from traditional media towards online distribution.

    Incorrect: I’m waiting for this to happen. Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog was a pioneer for online distribution, but so far the major networks haven’t yet embraced the idea of an online-only series. The time is right to do this, but the networks remain stuck on the idea that legacy media has to be the star. There are plenty of web series (like Felicia Day’s wonderful series The Guild) that prove that web distribution can work. The question is when the major networks will “get it.”

Predictions 2008

As is my yearly tradition, I offer a few predictions for the new year, to be revisited (and frequently mocked) a year later. So, without further ado, this year’s predictions:


  • Hillary Clinton defeats Obama for the Democratic Nomination. She picks Mark Warner as her running mate.
  • She then narrowly loses to the Republican candidate (who is not Mike Huckabee).
  • Sensing a weak field, Michael Bloomberg runs for the Presidency on a third-party ticket, picking CNN anchor Lou Dobbs Chuck Hagel as his running mate. He barely registers in the polls, despite pouring millions of his own money into the race.
  • The Democrats retain control of Congress, but not be margins large enough to threaten vetos. Pelosi and Reid remain in control of their respective chambers, but end up being just as ineffectual as they have been over the last major year. Congress still does almost nothing throughout the year, and this Congress leaves with no major legislative achievements to its name.


  • Violence in Iraq remains sporadic, as US forces slowly withdraw. Iraq becomes less and less of a domestic political issue. Al-Qaeda attempts a Tet Offensive, but it is quickly crushed thanks to solid intelligence provided by Iraqi civilians.
  • The center-right remains triumphant as Nicolas Sarkozy, Angela Merkel, Kevin Rudd, and Stephen Harper all work towards free market reforms in their respective countries to great popular acclaim.
  • The situation in Pakistan remains deeply unsettled, with Musharraf having only a tenuous hold on power.
  • Iran continues to rattle sabers, and continues to enrich uranium, while the Bush Administration tries to ratchet up diplomatic pressure—to no avail.
  • The Annapolis Peace Conference accomplishes nothing as once again Israel offers concessions and the Palestinians end up being too divided to offer anything in return.
  • China improves its image with the Beijing Olympics.


  • While the media continues to paint their picture of economic despair, the real story continues to be the “Goldilocks economy” of low unemployment, high economic growth, and steady wage growth.
  • The sub-prime mortgage issue fades as the impact becomes more fully known. As the uncertainty fades, it becomes clear that the fears of recession were baseless.
  • Oil prices stabilize around $100/barrel.


  • At MacWorld, Apple announces iTunes movie rentals – in HD, with a new Apple TV to match. They also announce an enhanced iPhone, an ultraportable MacBook with a flash-based hard drive and long battery life. Apple stock continues to climb.
  • However, Amazon’s DRM-free MP3 download store starts stealing some marketshare from iTunes. More studios embrace selling their music unencumbered by DRM, leading iTunes to abandon their FairPlay DRM on music by the end of the year.
  • Despite blockbusters like Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Star Trek, box office receipts decline both in number of tickets and dollars grossed as the price of high-def movie equipment declines. While movie ticket sales decline, sales of HDTVs, home theater setups, and HD-DVD and Blu-Ray players soar. HD-DVD players hit the $100 mark by the end of the year, meaning that HD-DVD adoption pulls away from Blu-Ray.

We’ll see how well these predictions turn out next year…

UPDATE 12/31/07: One minor change. Despite both being cranks, Bloomberg and Dobbs apparently don’t agree on much. However, Bloomberg and Sen. Chuck Hagel have met before, making them more likely political bedfellows.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: One more prediction: No Country for Old Men will win Best Picture at the Oscars. It deserves to. If you’ve not yet seen it, it’s an amazing movie because of the way it’s almost entirely built on subtext. But don’t let that dissuade you: it’s not preachy, it’s not pretentious, and it isn’t an “art house” movie. It’s just a damned good film.