Thursday, December 31, 2015

Grading my 2015 predictions

Hey, look, another trip around the sun. It's December 31st again. As I have done (almost) every year since 2008, I will now look back at all the dumb ass predictions I made at the beginning of the year to see how my eerie predictive abilities have held up. My predictions were originally made here, but I have cut and pasted them below to make it easy for you to follow along.

1. Obama's approval rating will be higher at the end of 2015 than it is today. To measure this, I will use the Gallup Daily: Obama Job approval number (which is really a three day average), which currently stands at 48%.

Wrong. The December 31 number (an average of December 28-30) is 44%.

2. There will be a federal government shut down in 2015.

Happy to be wrong on this one.

3. Obama will block construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Congress will pass legislation to overrule that decision, which the President will veto. Congress will override the veto. [Note: this is a reversal of my longstanding belief that Obama would ultimately approve the pipeline. What can I say, I have changed my mind about the President. I used to think he secretly had no objection to the pipeline but was delaying his approval for electoral reasons. After watching his behavior since the 2014 midterms, I now think he is privately against it and being a lame duck, there is no reason for him to approve it.]

Half right. The Obama administration rejected the pipeline, but Congress did not pass any legislation to overturn that decision. I think plummeting oil prices lessened the will of the oil industry to use their fully paid subsidiaries in Congress to try to overturn the decision.

4. All five of the current leaders of the five Central Asian former Soviet Republics will still be in power at the end of 2015. [yes, this is a reversal of prediction #8 from 2014, which itself was a reversal of prediction #12 from 2013. Maybe I will just swing back and forth each year on this one.]

Right. Nazarbayev, Karimov, Atambayev, Rahmon, and Berdimuhamedow are all still breathing and in power, just as they were at the beginning of the year.

5. Although the Palestinian Authority just joined the International Criminal Court, no charges will be prosecuted by that body against Israel or any Israeli officials. The process will be held up somehow, or dismissed on a technicality (most likely due to pressure from the U.S., but that won't be the official reason given).

I'm counting this as right, even though the only reason that no charges have been prosecuted is because the Palestinian Authority has not pressed for any to be brought.

6. Gay marriage will not be legal in every U.S. state by the end of 2015, but it will be legal in more than 45 states (the current number is 36 + D.C.).

Wrong. I can't believe I didn't expect the Obergefell ruling to come out like it did.

7. By the end of 2015, there will be a declared democratic candidate for President who is not Hillary Clinton and who the media treats as a serious candidate, albeit a long shot.

Right. I felt the Bern on that one!

8. Benjamin Netanyahu will not be Prime Minister of Israel at the end of 2015.

Wrong. Sigh. Wishful thinking, I guess.

9. There will be no new war in Gaza in 2015 (by "war" I mean a full-scale military campaign, like in Operation Cast LeadOperation Pillar of Defense, and Operation Protective Edge. Smaller scale exchange of fire, such as occasional missile launches from Gaza to Israel, and periodic Israeli strikes in Gaza do not count).

Right, but they usually skip a year or two between conflicts.

10. The Islamic State (or ISIS, or ISIL, or Daesh, or whatever it is calling itself by the end of 2015) will control less territory in Syria and Iraq than it does at the end of 2014.

Right, they gained Palmyra, but lost territory all along the Kurdish northern tier of Syria, extending into northwestern Iraq, in Central Iraq (around Ramadi), and north of Baghdad, around Tikrit. The Kurds also pushed ISIS back a bit from Kirkuk. That's a net loss of 14% of their territory since January, and that was before they lost Ramadi.

11. While the U.S. will have diplomatic relations with Cuba at the end of 2015, no ambassador will be confirmed by Congress and the embargo will not be lifted by Congress.

Right on all counts.

12. Lynne Abraham will be mayor of Philadelphia at the end of 2015. (This is an almost total guess. I do not understand Philly politics as well as I should).

Wrong, but right that I don't understand Philly politics.

13. Iran and the U.S./international community will not reach a final deal on the Iranian nuclear program.

Wrong. Wow, that was a big miss.

14. At the end of 2015, Ukraine will remain divided between the Russian sponsored separatist in the East and the area ruled by the Kiev-based government in the West.

Right. And that conflict has not moved much at all during the course of the year.

15. The cost of oil will be higher than it is at the end of 2014 (currently, it is at $55.91/barrel), but still less than $80/barrel.

Wrong. As of yesterday, the price for crude is $36.60/barrel. Although it is easy to guess wrong about commodity prices, in terms of impact, this was my worse miss of the year. Consistently low oil prices have had a huge effect on almost everything in the world, from the world economy, to the wars in Ukraine, Syria, and Yemen, to the civil war in South Sudan, to whoknowswhatelse.

16. The Supreme Court will rule that subsidies are not available to individuals who purchase coverage in the federal exchanges in King v. Burwell. In other words, the majority will insist that the card says "moops" and that will raise serious questions about the viability of the Affordable Care Act.

Wrong. I really thought that case would go the other way (but I am pleasantly surprised that it did not)

17. The number of detainees at the Guantanamo Bay facility will fall below 100 in 2015, although it will still be open at the end of the year. [With yesterday's releases, the current number is 127]

Wrong. Currently the number is 107, although if all of the planned transfers go through the number would fall below 100. But because they transfers didn't happen in 2015, this one counts as wrong.

18. The Dow Jones Industrial Average will be higher at the end of 2015 than it is at the end of 2014. For reference, the Dow closed at 17,823.07. When the NYSE closes on December 31, 2015, it will be higher than that.

Wrong. It was really close, but the market closed at 4:00 pm today at 17,425.03. As late as last night, I thought it might still make it over last year's number. But today the Dow fell 179 points, and when I first peeked in late afternoon, it was already looking pretty unlikely it would make up all that ground before closing. Apparently, this is the first time the Dow has had an annual loss since 2008. I didn't know that when I made this prediction, but it means that this one was a fairly safe bet. I still got it wrong though. 

19. Vladimir Putin's popularity in Russia will slip substantially in 2015 as the Russian economy continues to decline. But his approval rating will still be in the 50s (i.e. between 50% and 59.999999999%).

Wrong. Putin's current approval rating is not terribly clear. He doesn't get polled as often as Western leaders and the polls are not considered to be all that reliable. In October (just after he announced Russia' intervention in Syria) he polled at 90%. This discussion suggests his real number might be in the 80s. But there's no way he is as low as the 50s. And what I was really predicting was a clear fall in Putin's popularity in Russia did not happen.

20. Crimea will still be controlled by Russia, which will continue to be an economic liability for Russia. (That is, Russia will have to pour money into the peninsula and will spend much more than it gets back in terms of taxes or the benefits of tourism).


21. ISIS will no longer be the baddest bad boy of violent Islamic fundamentalist groups in the world. That is, either the group will get eclipsed by some other group, or ISIS's image as a danger to the world will collapse.

This one is hard to measure objectively, but I still think I was clearly wrong. As I have said repeatedly over the past year, ISIS has some serious problems and that both as a viable movement and as a state that controls territory on the ground its days are numbered. But no other group has emerged to eclipse ISIS and ISIS is still the baddest Islamic fundamentalist group out there.

22. The unemployment rate in the U.S. will continue to fall. That is, the rate at the end of 2015 will be lower than 5.8% (the November 2014 number, the most recent available right now), but it will not be below 5%.

Right. The November 2015 number (the most recent available number) is 5.0%, so the rate was almost too low. But I still managed to just barely get it right.

23. They still will not have found the wreckage of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 at the end of 2015.

Right. One piece of the wing washing up thousands of miles from wherever the crash site is doesn't count.

24. Mitt Romney will be running for President again by the end of 2015.

Wrong. If he had, I doubt he would be much better than anyone else against Trump.

25. While some Republicans in Congress may talk about using the debt ceiling to wrest concessions from the President, the party's leadership will not get on board with that strategy and there will not be another brinkmanship over the issue whether the U.S. default on its debt. That strategy hasn't worked yet and the GOP leadership will not be so dumb as to do any more than give lip service to the idea.



Adding them all up, I got 11.5 right and 13.5 wrong, a 46% success rate, otherwise known as a 54% failure rate. This is the first time I got more wrong than right. This is much worse than I have ever done before. Actually, while my success rate has not gone down every year since I started, there is clearly a downward trend in my percentages. Check out these stats:

2008: 20 right to 4 wrong (83.333%)
2009: 14.5 right to 7.5 wrong. (65.909%)
2010: (none because Kazakhstan)
2011: 15.5 right to 6.5 wrong (70.455%)
2012: 15.5 right to 6.5 wrong again (70.455% again)
2013: 15.5 right to 9.5 wrong (62.000%)
2014: 17 right to 9 wrong (65.385%)

I'm not sure if my ability to see into the future is fading because I am getting less savvy as I age, if I'm making harder predictions than I used to, or if this year is just an outlier. (If you drop the high and low years--this year and 2008--then my scores actually seem to fall into a fairly consistent range)

Tune in tomorrow for my predictions for the upcoming year. Then tune in again at the end of December 2016 to see just how badly I did for the upcoming year!