2009 01 20
Predictions: Looking back edition

Posted by in: Predictions

This prediction is pretty vague, but I think it’s safe to say it was wrong:

The Bush team behaves in a deeply unprofessional way during the transition. The media’s response is disappointingly tepid.

I’m sure we’ll find out later about some of the crap that Bush has pulled, but he appears at this point to have avoided anything like the orgy of badness I was anticipating. He also avoided a Mark Rich-style debacle. And, much to my surprise, I was wrong in predicting that Bush would pardon Pollard.

Do I ever get anything right? Well, I think reality has been much kinder to my 2006 Iran/US predictions, which also come due today.

Howls of outrage (7)

2008 11 03

My fellow prisoners, the end is near. Here are a few predictions.

Let’s start easy: Obama wins the presidency.

Of the close states, Obama wins Pennsylvania, Ohio, Colorado, Florida (by a whisker), but not North Carolina or Indiana.

Democrats get 57 seats in the Senate (not counting Lieberman, of course).

Obama doesn’t get assassinated any time in the next four years. (Attempts and woundings don’t count.)

McCain doesn’t run again. His health declines precipitously sometime within the next four years, provoking a collective shudder in the US (and the rest of the world), and setting forward a few years the age considered acceptable for a presidential candidate.

Sarah Palin does not become the Republican nominee for President in 2012. Neither does Guilliani.

North Korea attempts to back out of its non-proliferation agreement with the US within a few months. Result: Big fuss. Widely considered Obama’s first big test.

Some time in the next four years, North Korea suddenly collapses. Handling the fallout becomes a much more significant foreign policy priority for the Obama presidency than almost anyone expected.

US troop presence in Iraq is reduced quickly, but there are still at least 5,000 US troops in Iraq in 2012.

The Republican party bounces back surprisingly quickly.

The Obama Presidency becomes the best thing that has ever happened to Fox News. Fox News plays its role as Unofficial Opposition with great gusto and makes a ton of money doing so.

Here’s an easy one: The Bush team behaves in a deeply unprofessional way during the transition. The media’s response is disappointingly tepid.

Politics becomes interesting again. For eight long years, the country has been run by hateful, blinkered people. During this time, and especially over the last four years, politics has only been interesting because it involves issues vital to our lives and often to the fate of humanity. What’s been largely missing is a sense that an intelligent contribution to political discourse could ever have a meaningful impact on the people who actually make decisions. For all the disagreements among Obama supporters, I think that there’s going to be a real, and extremely refreshing sense, that political debate is an area in which intelligent, well-argued, evidence-backed contributions might conceivably sway reasonable people in positions in power. A lot of very smart people all over the country are going to find that wildly exhilarating. There’s an incredible amount of pent up energy, enthusiasm and ideas out there. May it make a difference.

It’s been a long, annoying ride, my friends, and right now we all just want it to be over. Looking back, I think this little clip sums up the entire campaign. It’s the contrast between someone who is, for all his imperfections, an adult talking to other adults in an adult fashion, and a glib, uninformed college kid struggling very unsuccessfully to fake her teaching assistant into thinking that she’s done the readings.

Good luck, Mr. Obama. You’re going to need it.

Howls of outrage (26)

2008 08 30
Prediction: The televised Biden-Palin Debate

Palin will “win” (in the sense of coming out of the debate with more people on her side) the televised debates with Biden. This is because nothing Biden’s advisers do beforehand is going to be able to stop him from highhandedly and condescendingly lecturing her throughout the debate. He simply won’t be able to resist, and when he gives in to the sweet temptations of condescension he’ll inevitably hand the other side a real gift. It’s a good thing it doesn’t count for too much.

Howls of outrage (38)

2007 11 22
Getting ready to pressure Iran or getting ready to bomb it?

Commenter Spaz sends me this today, which certainly looks ominous.

Massive, devastating air strikes, a full dose of “shock and awe” with hundreds of bunker-busting bombs slicing through concrete at more than a dozen nuclear sites across Iran is no longer just the idle musing of military planners and uber-hawks.

Although air strikes don’t seem imminent as the U.S.-Iranian drama unfolds, planning for a bombing campaign and preparing for the geopolitical blowback has preoccupied military and political councils for months.

No one is predicting a full-blown ground war with Iran. The likeliest scenario, a blistering air war that could last as little as one night or as long as two weeks, would be designed to avoid the quagmire of invasion and regime change that now characterizes Iraq. But skepticism remains about whether any amount of bombing can substantially delay Iran’s entry into the nuclear-weapons club.

Well, I certainly hope not, since among other awful consequences, it would make me look bad: I’ve staked the reputation of this august blog on the U.S. not bombing Iran any time during Bush’s second term.

I think I’ll stick with my original predictions, though with slightly furrowed brows. I think it’s good evidence that the U.S. wants to try to pressure Iran and U.S. allies into making some sort of progress in talks, not that the U.S. is actually going to bomb Iran. I think there’s a lot of resistance to that course of action in the military, and more resistance to it among America’s political class than you might guess on first encountering the perverse incentives in American political culture to err on the side of bellicose rhetoric. Also, this is nonsense:

Attacked and humiliated, Iran might be tempted, as Mr. Ahmadinejad has suggested, to strike back, although Iran has limited military options.

Not just nonsense, but, even more important, widely understood to be nonsense. Iran has the ability to make the U.S. much more miserable in Iraq than it currently is, and probably has the ability to hit U.S. targets all over the world if it really comes down to it. Indeed, I think I would be somewhat less safe personally in New York if Bush ever did get it into his fool head to do something as rash as order a bombing campaign of Iran.

Howls of outrage (3)

2007 09 18

I wonder how the Iraqi government’s move to kick Blackwater security contractors out of the country is going to play out. My (rather hazy) impression is that while Blackwater contractors in Iraq only number about a 1,000 (nobody seems to know for sure, but that’s the number I’ve seen floating around), they do stuff that the U.S. considers pretty important. It therefore seems a bit much to believe that they’re currently packing up and preparing to go home, whatever the Iraqi government thinks it can order them to do.

My guess: The U.S. leans hard on the Iraqi government over the next little bit and a (secret, of course) “compromise” is reached according to which Blackwater will lease the very same contractors to another outfit, or will set up a dummy company employing the same contractors. This way everyone can claim that “Blackwater” no longer has contractors in the country, when in fact it does.

UPDATE: Wrong! I’m surprised at how quickly and publicly the Iraqi government capitulated. Wow.

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2007 06 10

A while back I predicted in the comments section of another blog that Rudy Giuliani would only embarrass himself by running for president. I said it was a complete mystery to me why he was bothering, since a lackluster performance that only drew attention to his many faults wouldn’t even put him in a good position to get picked by someone else for the VP slot. In the meantime, of course, I have been proven utterly wrong. He may well not win – indeed, for what it’s worth, which isn’t much apparently, I still think he won’t win – but his showing has been perfectly respectable. Perfectly respectable, I mean, in the sense that some polls even put him out in first place. His actual views, of course, strike me as mostly either or both idiotic or alarming, depending on what he’s talking about.

All of this shows, yet again, that I can’t make political predictions for shit. Every time I think that people just couldn’t be stupid enough to fall for something they do.

Howls of outrage (3)

2007 04 04
Iran predictions, again

If true, this would provide some nice support for 1 on my list of Iran predictions from almost exactly a year ago.

Revisiting the list, I think recent moves by Russia and China provide some possible evidence against 2, but not nearly enough for me to take it back. 3 is looking a bit rough in light of the last resolution the U.S. managed to get through the security council. I didn’t really regard that resolution as terribly meaningful, but I wouldn’t begrudge someone if they felt that I was stretching it a bit here. 4 through 7 are holding up just fine.

Howls of outrage (6)

2007 01 18
Prediction: The fate of Iraq’s new oil law

I should make more predictions: they’re good at forcing me to think through an issue, and they’re nice and testable, which gives me a chance to look back later on and weep or cheer, as the case may be. On the soon-to-come second incarnation of this blog, I will have a wildly expanded list of categories, including one for predictions, which will make it that much easier for my friends and foes to weep or cheer, as the case may be.

Anyway, let me make a prediction about Iraq’s newly drafted oil law. The proposed law might make it through Iraq’s political process to become the law of the land, but it hardly matters: Renationalizing the Iraqi oil industry will become a test of will and credibility for Iraqi politicians for as long as it takes to renationalize the oil industry. If I was an oil exec, I would be very reluctant to bet on this law. It doesn’t have a chance.

A single voice crying in the wilderness (1)

2006 08 31
MS Vista

I’ve been watching the news about Microsoft’s new operating system, Vista, off and on since (I think) the first word of it a few years ago, back when it was called Longhorn. At first it sounded like it had a lot of bells and whistles, not all of which were obviously desirable. Then, for a long time, most of the news was about the gradual discarding of many of those bells and whistles. The consistent element in the emerging story has always been a bloated operating system, with absolutely gargantuan needs in terms of hardware needed to run it.

The conventional wisdom seems to be that MS is heading for a disaster. Frankly, I’ve been struggling for a while to see any other plausible way of reading the evidence. Read this, for example, and tell me that people, that companies, are actually going to put up with this bullshit. I mean, path dependence counts for an awful lot, but holy kershmoley, will people really be willing to pay so much money to upgrade computer systems for such crappy reasons? The line seems to be that, ok, so you’ll need to buy very fancy hardware to run this operating system, but there may even be a net gain when you take into account increased productivity, fewer support calls, etc. etc. etc. But all of this is an obvious lie, especially when you consider that even a very smooth transition to a new operating system is bound to encounter some real bumps.

Anyway, the official Chris of Explananda line, for all of you keeping track at home, is that Vista will be a disaster for Microsoft. I’d dump that stock now. And, hey, I recently installed Ubuntu on an old hand-me-down laptop that came my way. More on that some other time, if I get a chance.

Howls of outrage (2)

2006 04 13
Iran Predictions

OK, how about some predictions? That way, if there’s a nuclear strike, at least you’ll be able to look back and have a laugh at my bad pseudo-punditry. Here goes:

1. The Bush administration will step up all kinds of covert silliness in Iran. This will include sabotage, along with support for various disaffected minority groups within Iran in the attempt to instigate a crackdown by the regime. In hindsight, this strategy will end up looking even stupider than it does now – and boy does it ever look stupid now.

2. The Bush administration will try, unsuccessfully, to get other countries signed on to its Iran Vilification Program. However freaked out these countries are by the thought of a nuclear Iran, they’ll be more freaked out by what the U.S. might do.

3. The Bush administration will never get anything meaningful through the Security Council regarding Iran. Note, however, that it is in Russia’s and China’s bests respective interests to pursue this route as long as possible because it increases Russian and Chinese bargaining power in their own respective bilateral dealings with Iran.

4. The U.S. will not be able to reach a deal with Iran that stops it from developing nuclear weapons. At best, there will be a face-saving deal, but it will be transparently ineffective. [Update: Of course, Iran is probably 5 to 10 years away from success on this front. So I don’t mean that Iran will develop nuclear weapons while the Bush admin is still around.]

5. The U.S. will NOT attempt to destroy Iranian nuclear sites with air strikes.

6. Israel will NOT attempt to destroy Iranian nuclear sites with air strikes.

7. The U.S. will most certainly NOT use (tactical, bunker-busting) nuclear weapons against Iran.

Alright, take it away, Reality! Show me I’m a perfect ass. And I’m sure readers will remind me as each of these predictions is overturned by events.

Howls of outrage (9)

2006 03 28
A strike on Iran?

Joseph Cirincione thinks that the Bush administration is actually serious about a strike against Iran:

Nothing is clear, yet. For months, I have told interviewers that no senior political or military official was seriously considering a military attack on Iran. In the last few weeks, I have changed my view. In part, this shift was triggered by colleagues with close ties to the Pentagon and the executive branch who have convinced me that some senior officials have already made up their minds: They want to hit Iran.

If Joseph Cirincione were just some yahoo with a blog I would scoff like this: “ha ha ha.” But Joseph Cirincione is not just some yahoo with a blog. He knows an awful lot about proliferation and related issues, and he talks to a lot of the right people.

Still, I’m not convinced. I’m willing to believe that the Cheney crowd wants to hit Iran, and perhaps is even laying plans for that, but the Bush administration surely has its hands full now, and I think we can expect the situation in Iraq to continue to deteriorate. Hitting Iran very hard and then invading is completely impossible. Hitting Iran less than very hard would only invite painful retaliation in Iraq. The manly men in the Cheney clique might want to ignore that, but I doubt anyone else will.

All the same, I wouldn’t be surprised if some idiots were working right now on covert stuff in Iran that eventually backfires and seriously embarrasses everyone.

Howls of outrage (2)

2005 11 01
A “no pardon” pledge

Oooohhhhh, this is gooooooood. Bob Casey suggests that Dems ought to try to force Bush to issue a no-pardons pledge over the Plame case. I’ve argued repeatedly that the fact that Bush will inevitably pardon Libby come what may completely screws up the dynamics of the investigation. A no-pardon pledge would completely alter those dynamics.

Two points: First, of course Bush won’t bite. But he can still be forced to pay a political price for it. Second, doncha kinda wish that the Dems were in a better position to be getting red in the face about inappropriate pardons? Thanks, Bill, for those final integrity-filled weeks!

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2005 10 28

Well, I told you so. Or at least, I’ve got the most important part right so far. My guess was always “Libby with an assist from Rove.” But here’s the problem: As I’ve argued before, Libby has absolutely no reason to make a deal. That’s because Libby is surely confident that George W. Bush will pardon him on any convictions. He will. He just will. And everyone knows it. So if Fitzgerald needs Libby to bring down Rove, he’s not going to be able to do it. Hell, I practically wet myself if a traffic cop looks at me sideways and I wouldn’t be nervous in Libby’s shoes.

Still hoping for more Fitzmas presents though. Perhaps the case against Rove won’t depend on getting anything out of Libby. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.

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2005 10 25
Libby/Cheney speculation

Swopa, who knows far, far more about the minutiae of the Plame case than I ever will, guesses that Libby handed over the notes incriminating Cheney as part of some sort of plea bargain. I agree that it does appear as if the notes were just handed over, and that it’s difficult to see any other motivation for it. Still, if I were Libby I would never go for it. Think: Bush is very likely to pardon anyone convicted in this mess. If you stay loyal to the team, keep your trap shut, and be a good boy, everything will work out for you. Hell, just look at what happened to the Iran-Contra goons. On the other hand, if you break and make a deal, you lose everything: social network, business network, everything.

Why would Libby break down and sell out Cheney now, when he has so many reasons to stay loyal to the team? There has to be a better explanation.

Howls of outrage (2)

2005 10 24
Chips down

In anticipation of Fitzmas, I’d like to post a quick reminder that I laid my bets a long time ago. One night, a long time ago, Hope had a quick, drunken fling with Intuition. The result of that fleeting union was a bastard named Hunch, who told me: It was Scooter Libby, with a candlestick, in the den, with a bit of help from Karl Rove. OK, OK, I just made up the bit about the candlestick. But the rest is true. Witness:
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Howls of outrage (3)