Saturday, December 31, 2016

Grading my 2016 Predictions

Before I dig up my predictions from the beginning of the year to grade them, I can already predict this will be brutal.

Here is what I predicted on 1/1/16 (or as the Yurpians say, 1/1/16):

1. Obama will end the year with a higher approval rating than he has right now. Like last year's prediction #1, I will measure this using the Gallup Daily: Obama Job Approval number, which is really a three day average. Currently that number is at 44%. Yes, this is just like last year's prediction, except this time I will be right!

Right. Obama's approval is currently 55%.

2. Bernie Sanders will win the New Hampshire primary.

Right! See, I wasn't totally wrong about the presidential election race.

3. Sanders will drop out of the race without winning any other primary or caucuses.

Wrong. Really wrong.

4. Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic Party's candidate for president in the 2016 general election.

Right. This one seemed obvious, but obvious was wrong about a lot of other things in 2016.

5. Donald Trump will not win any more than five of the primaries or caucuses. For states that don't use a winner-take-all system, by "win" I mean get the most delegates. A plurality of delegates still counts as a win.

Wrong. Once again, really really wrong.

6. Marco Rubio will be the Republican candidate for president in the general election.

Wrong. In retrospect, it is embarrassing that I got caught up in the Rubmentum thing.

7. Donald Trump will not run as a third party candidate.

This one was based on an incorrect premise, but it still was right.

8. The Republican vice presidential candidate will not be anyone currently running for president.

Right again!

9. The Democratic vice presidential candidate will be someone named Castro.

Wrong. Man, I really was Mr. Prevailing Wisdom one year ago.

10. Hillary Clinton will win the general election.

Wrong. Wait, if I meant the popular vote, I would have been fucking right!!!! But I didn't mean the popular vote.

11. No new Justices will join the Supreme Court in 2016.

Even though I never foresaw the Merrick Garland debacle, I was still right.

12. There will be fewer than 90 detainees in the Guantanamo Bay by the end of 2016. (There are currently 107)

Right. There are currently 59. Luckily my prediction was for the end of 2016. Who knows how packed that place will be at the end of 2017?

13. There will be no government shutdown in 2016.


14. The Supreme Court will rule against the union in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, effectively making the whole country a "right to work" state for public employees.

So happy to be wrong about this one.

15. Russia will still be bombing in Syria and propping up the Assad government (and Assad will still be there to prop up).
16. At least one of the current leaders of the five former soviet stans will not be in power at the end of 2016. (Yes, I'm flopping back on my annual flip-flop prediction. This year I'm giving the opposite prediction of prediction #12 from 2013 and prediction #4 from 2015, but the same as prediction #8 of 2014. I guess it's an even-year/odd-year thing.)

Hey, this one finally paid off, I am fucking right!!!!!

17. Although the U.S. will continue to intervene in Iraq and maybe will start doing so in Syria with relatively small number of special forces, there will be no large deployment of land troops in either country in 2016. By "large deployment", I mean at least 1,000 soldiers.

Wrong, "nearly 5,000" in Iraq to assist in the re-taking of Mosul.

18. ISIS will end 2016 in control of less territory in Iraq and Syria than it holds at the beginning of 2016. (This is basically a repeat of prediction #10 from last year. But that prediction actually panned out! And I'm still convinced that the Islamic State is not a sustainable enterprise, no matter what the U.S. does about them)

Right. The lost 16% of its territory in Syria/Iraq in the first nine months of 2016. While the losses seem to have stabilized and they did win back Palmyra, I think it is pretty clear it was a net loss.

19. A member of ISIS will be brought before a court in 2016 for crimes against humanity.

Wrong. This looks even less likely as one big development in 2016 is that the International Criminal Court is slowly coming apart.

20. Iran and the P5+1 will still be abiding by the terms of the Iran nuclear deal reached in 2015, but there will be no major improvement in relations between Iran and the U.S. in 2016.

I'm going to count this as right.

21. United Russia (Putin's political party) will increase its share of seats in the Russian Duma in the 2016 legislative elections. (It currently holds 238 seats)

Right. United Russia now has 343 seats out of 450.

22. The Democrats will retake the U.S. Senate in the November elections, and will gain a small number of seats in the House, that that chamber will remain in GOP control.

I'm going to count this half-right. The Democrats did not retake the senate, but they did gain a small number of seats in the House (6 total) and the House stayed under GOP control.

23. Russia will not intervene militarily in any other country, other than continuing with its already-existing intervention in Ukraine and Syria , in 2016. By "intervene militarily" I mean any ground forces operation (whether acknowledged or not, what Russia did in Eastern Ukraine would count). A pin-prick type strike would not count.

Right. Russia is still involved in Syria and Ukraine, but they have not sent ground forces anywhere else.

24. No other country will agree to join the Eurasian Economic Union in 2016 (that is, no more countries will agree to join beyond the current 5 members: Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Armenia, and Kyrgyzstan.

Right. No other country has joined since 2015. Now that Uzbekistan is (at least nominally) under new management, there is a chance that country might be interested in joining at some point in the future. But Karimov died too late in 2016 to make that happen this year.

25. The Tenge will end 2016 less valuable (compared to the U.S. Dollar) than it is now. Put another way, currently, $1USD equals 341.588 KZT. The amount of Tenge one can buy for a dollar at year's end will be higher than 341.588.

26. Congress will not confirm any ambassador to Cuba in 2016.

Right. Obama appointed an ambassador and Senate Republicans immediately announced that they would make zero effort to get him confirmed.

27. More States will adopt the Medicaid expansion under the ACA by the end of 2016 than have currently adopted it. (By my count, 30 states + D.C. have expanded Medicaid and 20 states have not expanded. Both "Not Adopting the Medicaid Expansion at this Time" and "Adoption of the Medicaid Expansion under Discussion" from this list count as states that have not expanded.)

Right, but just barely. Using that same list I cited at the beginning of the year, 31 states, + D.C. have expanded and 19 states have not.


I got 17.5 right and 9.5 wrong, not nearly as horrible as I expected when I started writing this post.  Also, that is 64.8 15% correct, which is better than I did last year. In fact, it is pretty comparable to how I have done in a bunch of other years (like 2009, 2013, and 2014). Check out these past scores:

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%)
2015: 11.5 right to 13.5 wrong (46.000%)

So 2016 turned out to be a fairly normal year in terms of my success rate. The real outlier was last year. I do feel like I was worse at predicting stuff this year than usual. But I guess I should focus on Russian Dumas and dead Central Asian leaders to get more of a perspective.


Commentator Joseph Spiezer's predictions are graded as follows:

1. Chicago will be celebrating it first pennant since 1945, but the Phillies and Eagles will exceed Vegas predictions.

Holy shit, he got that Chicago prediction right. (I don't know anything about sportsball, but I did live in Chicago for 4-7 years (depending how you measure it) so I was aware that the Cubs winning is a harbinger of the apocalypse).

2 Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee and will take federal funding for his campaign (he has less money than he wants you to think)

Half-right. Trump was the nominee but (I believe) he did not take federal funding.

3 Hillary will crush Trump in the general election


4. The stock market will begin to recover later in the year, unless I am wrong about the election and Trump wins in which case the stock market will completely tank.

This one can be interpreted different ways. The market did recover, but Trump won the election and, despite the immediate post election wobbling, the market did not "completely tank." I guess I have to call this half right.

5. By August, Russia will realize it cannot defeat ISIS unless it sends in ground troops or removes Assad. Assad will go.


6. Uncharacteristic weather will play havoc with the commodities markets.

I think this is also wrong, but I am happy to see if anyone wants to show me a counter-example.

7. Something completely unforeseen will occur.

Right, because of course it was going to be right. But still, this was a year for unforeseen shit!

That's three right (actually 2 right + two half-right) and four wrong (3 wrong + the 2 half-wrong halves of the half-rights), or 42.857% That's worse than I did in 2016, but he made a lot fewer predictions, so one wrong guess adds a lot to the percentage.