The problem with making predictions for 2009 is that it’s apparently the first year to follow 2008. Back in my hometown of Cornell, Illinois (population: 505) we have a word for years like 2008. Let's keep things family friendly and not print it. [HINT: The first two syllables are "Cluster-" and the last syllable is a Tony Montana refrain.]
I used to sit down on or about this day and list off about 30-50 predictions for the coming year. It got to where I even had a little Web 1.0 following. I did badly, barely topping 50% accuracy from one year to the next. But, as one of my old college professors once told me: "If you make enough outlandish guesses about the future, you'll sound like a genius sooner or later." He was right. As it turned out, that was all I was doing (even if I didn't know it at the time). I just needed the one hit to look good, and I usually got it. For instance, number 54 was a particular source of pride a couple years ago (NOTE: I read a lot of media analysis as a function of my occasional part time job. The, uhhhh, 'topic' came up . . . and it made sense . . . so I made the prediction. Enough written).
2009 is about getting real, so I'll restart the tradition I've let slip for a couple years with one newly applied rule: No BS. Here's a list of forecasts that would make my former professor proud. Put another way, here's a list of guesses that are heartfelt as opposed to being a bunch of random attempts to (sooner or later) sound like a genius. I push it on a couple, especially the second Bernie Madoff one, but I stand by them all. If they were to happen at given points or over a phase of time during the coming year, I wouldn’t be able to look you in the eye and say I was surprised. On the contrary, I’d find each and every one of the items below to be the stuff of predictability (which is why I’m on going record in suggesting that they are actually going to happen).
With absolutely no organizational system applied to either order or importance, here are my predictions for 2009. (WARNING: Again, just to be clear, that's 2009. What you're about to read won't always be uplifting. Sorry.)
1—The record number of home foreclosures attained in 2008 will be broken in 2009. As it turns out, subprime is just the beginning. There are a host of other silly, irresponsible mortgage instruments out there that haven’t even come to the front of the line yet. We’ve just been too swamped by the really silly and irresponsible ones to notice that this isn’t a detached runaway traincar. It is, in fact, an entire train. My guess is that 2010 will be even worse, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself. I swear I’m really NOT trying to sound like a genius here. Do a little research. Talk to a few industry people who aren’t in denial (They tend to be the ones who’ve gotten out of the industry which makes them former industry people, I guess.) The whole thing actually is going to get worse before it gets better. Turns out this wasn’t just a cliché being dropped by all those experts you saw on CNBC.
2—The Dow will not go above 10,250. This is what it means to be in a recession. Granted, corporate America is sort of on sale right now. Really, there are some kick ass buys out there. You can recognize this without trying to give the appearance of being a genius. While we wallow in all the horrible-ness of the worst recession in (at least) two generations, the market tends to be an awesome predictor of what will be as opposed to what is. That’s why it won’t leave the mid-8000’s. Compared to where we were, the mid-8000’s is terrible, and terrible is where we deserve to be for an extended period of time. Later rather than sooner (let’s say around August or September) there’ll be enough boredom with the notion of spectating at the fire sale, and demand will start to outstrip the cautionary discipline that’s keeping things so low. Everyone will actually start to act on what they already know, namely that stocks are cheap and they should be bought while they’re cheap because one day they’ll be worth more. Even if capital gains start to be figured as regular income (a 2010 prediction if ever there was one, right?) money is still money so you might as well make it even if you’ll ultimately have to pay non-Bush taxes on it when you make it. I don’t think there’s a single thing here that makes me sound like a know-it-all. At the end of the day it's all about buying low and selling higher than low.
3---More bank failures will occur in 2009 as compared to the number of bank failures that occurred in 2008. Remember the general theme of what was discussed in #1 above? Take that and inject it with steroids. Again, we’ve been distracted by how bad things are now to pay any real attention to what’s coming (which is worse). If you thought Hank Paulson was suffering from a God complex with his “ye shall live and ye shall die” approach to concerns like AIG and Lehman Brothers, ye ain’t seen nothing yet. OK, that reads a little ‘know-it-all-ish’ but I swear it’s not. We’re really only a few months into this. It’s the same theme: We’ve been too awestruck by the badness of the now to properly pay attention to the badness that’s coming . . . and a lot of banks bet stupidly.
4—Unemployment will go over 8.8%. These things happen during major economic downturns. We shouldn't be surprised when they do. If I worry about anything, it’s that this number is way low. If I were trying to sound like a genius, I’d add a percentage point to it.
5—Rod Blagojevich will be removed from office via the impeachment process. He will not plead guilty to any criminal charges. He will not be convicted in a criminal trial. Look, from a criminal standpoint, it’s over. Fitzgerald did what he had to do in order to preserve the integrity of the Senate and give the incoming Administration and Congress a fighting chance at dealing with the worst economic crisis in 75 years, but he sacrificed his case in order to pave this road (I’m beginning to think he’s a Democrat which makes the whole thing just that much more ironic.) When an attorney of Fitzgerald’s ability level actually makes a public announcement during a press conference asking people “to come forward” if they know anything, that’s a pretty good bet he jumped the gun (which, again, was what he had to do). But Illinois' state government is paralyzed and will remain that way so long as Blago is in power. Impeachment isn’t a criminal mechanism; thus, it can be used to take someone out of office for being an asshole. There isn’t a person on the planet who thinks that Rod Blagojevich is innocent of being an asshole.
6—General Motors will declare bankruptcy. Ever take a real good look at what kind of shape this company is actually in? The situation is terminal. The Bush and Obama people know this. The union contracts have to be torn up. Mitch McConnell's motives may be south of pure in the grand old right-to-work state of Kentucky (the land of my birth and early upbringing) but that doesn't mean he was wrong. Finding sustainable solvency will be a lot more complicated than just undermining the UAW, but it starts there. Chapter 11 is the only way to take such a step. It’s like having a sore tooth that you know will require the dentist to fire up the drill. You can go about your days, hoping it’ll just go away. But, deep down, you know you’re going to have to make the appointment, fire up the nitrous oxide, take the needle in the mouth, and read (while legally stoned) the inspirational poster on the ceiling. GM’s share of the 17.4 billion dollars is like that gum numbing spray you can buy over the counter. We really are delaying the inevitable here. [Disclaimer: I get credit for this one if GM merges with a foreign owned company or if the Obama Administration bribes them with incentives to file for bankruptcy.]
7—Oil will stay under $50 a barrel in spite of OPEC production cuts designed to drive it to $75 a barrel. We’ll determine the accuracy of this one on December 31, 2009. I’m not saying it won’t peak up over 50 every now and then, but supply and demand is an incredibly simple concept that’s central to how this market works no matter what experts declare. For all the reasons given and a few of the ones yet to be given, demand will drop in a way that trumps production cuts. So I get credit for this one if it’s at $49.99 or less on 12/31/09. [Disclaimer: If India and Pakistan start a shooting war with one another then I get to adjust this to 80 dollars a barrel]
8— [WRONG] The Indianapolis Colts will win the Super Bowl. It’s Peyton’s turn, and they’re playing kick ass football at the right time. Watch out for the Ravens, though.
9—The Detroit Red Wings will win a second straight Stanley Cup. This will be the only good thing to happen in the entire city of Detroit for all of 2009. Also, I'm hoping to see my beloved Blackhawks finally end their years of wandering in the wilderness and have a nice little playoff run themselves.
10—The Chicago Cubs will not make the post season. We’ve lost nine straight playoff games, prospective new owner Mark Cuban is the subject of an SEC probe, the Tribune Company is bankrupt, and we’re even poised to become ancillary to the list of topics central to Blago-gate. The glass slipper has gone pumpkin. Check back in 2010 or 2011. What’s the half life of the most virulent chemical found in goat shit?
11—The New York Yankees will not make the World Series. Making the World Series is the only standard of success for a team that’s spent like a bunch of good old boys at an AIG (post bailout) corporate retreat. Small ball is here to stay. I don’t think you can buy mega-talent as a means of getting to the Fall Classic any longer. Like the real world, (baseball) things are changing. [NOTE: It's impossible to write about baseball without sounding like a know-it-all, but the prediction is based in sound analysis of America's passtime. NOTE II: I don't believe in hate, but if I did, the Yankees would be at the front of the recipient line].
12—Barack Obama’s approval rating will not go below 53%. He’s just too popular and the degree to which people comprehend how bad things are will extend his honeymoon late on into the year. Forget 100 days. Try 300, at least. So even if he begins to hemorrhage some popularity, he’s well buffered. This one hit me in the wake of the Blagojevich scandal. The stuff that used to stick doesn't stick to Barack Obama. That's a good thing because we're in need of rationality (which is rarely supported from an intellectual standpoint by a 24 hour news cycle's appetite for content). Hopefully, the whole thing won't go to their heads (but if it does, then you'll see some stuff start to stick).
13—A record number of car dealerships will go out of business in 2009. Talk to ANYONE in the business. This prediction is pretty much like me suggesting the N.Y. Giants will beat the 5th place finishers in the Chester, Pennsylvania Pop Warner football league. It’s going to happen, and that’s about all there is to it. If I wanted to go all 'know-it-all' on you I'd say (for even money) that it'll happen by September 15th, but I'm not. I'll play it safe and just take the whole year to see it come true. I should be ashamed of this one because of its amazing no brainer status.
14—An act (or coordinated series of acts) of “soft target terrorism” will occur on U.S. soil resulting in the loss of at least fifty lives. Don’t feel superior to Mumbai. Don’t comfort yourself by believing something like that couldn’t happen here. If nineteen people can take down 4 commercial airplanes on the same day then forty guys with explosives under their coats can walk into the stands of forty high school football games on a Friday night and detonate at an agreed upon time. Soft target terrorism is the new frontier. Airports are too much trouble and the nation can be crippled just as easily by going this route. When Joe Biden suggested there was a likelihood of a major terrorist attack on U.S. soil in the first year of an Obama presidency, everyone reacted to the comment in the context of how it affected the campaign, but no one actually took the time to discuss what he said. That's a shame. It's a conversation we should be having. Bill Clinton gave an interview shortly after 9/11 where he summed up Al Qaeda in a way we should all strive to keep near the surface of our thoughts. In his typically eloquent yet accessible style he pointed out that Bin Laden's soldiers were most skilled at recognizing the seams in our security and exploiting them for maximum damage. One doesn't have to spend any time in a Waziri training camp to find soft target seams. One only needs the will to exploit them. We've been living on borrowed time for nearly eight years. Our number is up.
15—More U.S. Soldiers will die in Iraq in 2009 as compared to 2008. As the draw down begins, so too will the resurgence of killing. It’s the way of war: 1943, the Vietnamization phase, etc. What’s left of the insurgency, be it in its dying days or in the midst of a Taliban-like reconstitution (NOTE: It's too soon to tell), the recipe will be the same: Make sure that they (the U.S.) exit in a way that makes them look like they’re weak (even if they’re not) no matter what the cost. I don't honestly know if the insurgency will be successful in its effort, but I do know its members are willing to die trying (and, by extension, kill more of our people than they did this year).
16—Talk radio ratings will increase in 2009 as compared to 2008 while, at the same time, independent polling will demonstrate an increased degree of disconnect between what’s advocated on talk radio and actual voter behavior. In other words, talk radio will become more profitable and more a traditional form of entertainment media (and less a traditional form of news media) . . . simultaneously. In a way this is already happening. Conservative talk radio is stylistically copied by liberal talk radio. The format is based on the Clinton-impeachment-grounded method of identity politics and formulaic partisan denunciation (and while the right is still predominant from a frequency-leasing standpoint, the left is growing its listenership by stealing the right's methodology). It’s entertaining stuff, principally because it creates an emotional connection to the product without requiring the consumer to do a great deal of thinking. Rush Limbaugh deserves every penny of his new $400,000,000 contract. The format is more profitable than ever, but it no longer matters in the way it once did. Might I recommend you Google “2008 economic crisis” as well as “2008 election results” if you think I’m wrong. Shows that tend to focus on studied analyses of complex events will be the emergent winners in the news media game. This is a good thing. Nothing quite like an economic crisis when it comes to people wanting to be smarter than they've allowed themselves to be.
17—Bernard Madoff will not spend a single night in a state of incarceration. It takes too long to prepare for a trial like the one he’s going to have and he’s already posted bail. Also . . .
18— . . . Bernard Madoff will commit suicide. Let’s just leave this one right at the edge of my effort to not try and get lucky and sound like a genius. I’ve got a feeling. That’s all I’ll say. I get one, don't I? Awww hell, I admit it, I have no willpower.
19—Independent polling will reveal that over 50% of Americans believe that George W. Bush was the worst President in their lifetimes. And don't be surprised if that number for those who identify themselves as Republicans is over 35%. We'll see. I'm planning a future post on the new divide in the GOP. I'm not talking so much about the growing rift between the social conservative wing and the fiscal conservative wing as much as the gaping chasm that's already formed between suburban Republicans and rural Republicans (SNEAK PEAK: The rural Republicans appear to be the ones who are staying true to the party's core principles . . . but that's for another post)
20—U.S. Supreme Court Justices Souter and Stevens will either retire or announce their retirements. They’ve both wanted out for a while, and now the coast is clear.
21—Barack Obama will not be successful in any effort he undertakes to quit smoking. Most people who’ve smoked for as long and as much as he has fail when they try to quit. Mr. Obama is no different. Recovering alcoholics and drug addicts are often encouraged to smoke. It helps to take the edge off of the reality that’s pummeling your soul into the ground. Anyone who would willingly allow himself to be sworn in as President of the United States in 2009 should be afforded all the edge-removing behaviors of a recovering alcoholic and/or drug addict. Just don't do it in front of the girls, the puppy, or the general public.
22—Chris McCormack will win the Ironman World Championship. Back to non-smokers. This guy’s the most formidable iron-distance athlete in the world. He had a mechanical failure on his bike this past year. The odds of that happening again are next to zero. I saw him break 8 hours in Frankfurt this past July. He's a freak of nature.
23—Lance Armstrong will win an 8th Tour de France. Does anyone doubt he can do it? Most hard core cycling geeks agree that he left the sport with two or three additional titles still in his legs. Surely he’s good for one more. The guy falls into that rarest of categories, the one where conventional wisdom, as it applies to limitations, should be thrown out the door. Also, even though I love the French (and, more importantly, France) if there's any truth to the stereotype about them not liking him . . . well . . . it would be freaking sweet to stick it to them (on this one).
24--Iranian President President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will not be re-elected in the summer. His popularity is dropping like George W. Bush in the final summer of a second term (aka, He's not popular and getting less so by the day). Why? He can't deliver the perks he once used to opium-ize the masses when oil was $100 a barrel. Also, he's an asshole like Rod Blagojevich [and his incredibly young nation is waking up to said fact]. Hopefully I'll get credit for this one as a result of the electoral process (which is set to take place in June) and not because of some 30th anniversary redux.
The last two are for me. Sorry if this comes off as self aggrandizing.
25—This one’s personal. If you ask, I may discuss it in a face to face setting, but I won’t discuss it here. It’s business. The prediction is this: I will successfully repackage the first product and make a concerted effort to sell it. I will produce a second product as well as a third product and undertake independent efforts to sell them both. I have all the external affirmation I need to move into this chapter and undertake the challenge. The success I've experienced in life has always derived from a combination of knowing I was talented enough to do what I felt I could do (along with knowing that far less talented people were already doing it), throwing caution to the wind by diving into the endeavor, and hard work. I'm ready to throw those ingredients into the blender and press the button.
26—I’m hemming and hawing about including this last one, but it would be nice to have something to reference with the click of a mouse. So, assuming reasonable conditions (temperature between 66 and 72 degrees, winds of no more than 12 miles per hour, no rain), on September 13, 2009, at the 8th annual Ironman Wisconsin, I think I can . . . .
. . . . come out of the water in under 70 minutes
. . . . get through transition 1 one in under 8 minutes
. . . . get through the bike course in under 5 hours and 50 minutes (just over 19.2 miles per hour)
. . . . get through transition 2 in under 4 minutes
. . . . get through the run course in under 3 hours and 48 minutes (just over 8:41 pace)
. . . . which will put me at just under 11 hours for the day. [NOTE: I get credit for an accurate prediction, regardless of the accuracy of the breakdown goals, if this last one holds up.]
OK, that about does it. Please drop me an email when you see one of these come up, irrespective of my accuracy. I need oversight. Other than #18, I think I've lived up to the no BS standard. Obviously, I'm hoping to be wrong on a number of them . . . but I genuinely fear that I won't be. On the other hand, I'm really hoping to be right on several of them (especially the last two along with, admittedly, #23).
I wish you all a most pleasant 2009.~JDJ