"History can predict nothing except that great changes in human relationships will never come about in the form in which they have been anticipated," warned Dutch historian Johan Huizinga. Despite such sensible advice, I nevertheless tried my hand last year at crystal ball gazing. So how did I do?
In politics, I predicted that President George Bush would not reform social security, overhaul federal taxes, or lower the federal budget. I correctly foresaw that President Bush and Congress would ignore any proposed amendment to the constitution to ban gay marriage. I also accurately prognosticated that President Bush would give fewer press conferences in 2005 (8) than 2004 (10) and foresaw that Congress would not ban therapeutic and reproductive cloning.
In science, I predicted that the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine would not award any grants for stem cell research in 2005 and that the space shuttle would not take off as scheduled on June 3, 2005. As prophesied, no asteroid struck the earth.
Regarding the environment, I foresaw that climate computer models would project that climate change is worse and more certain than ever. I also predicted that evidence for this would remain scarce and as I anticipated no further commitments to reduce carbon dioxide emissions under the Kyoto Protocol were made at the United Nations' climate change conference in Montreal.
On crime, the violent crime rate continued to fall and the total number of people incarcerated in the United States grew 1.9 percent in 2004 to 2,267,787 people, up from 2,166,260 in the previous year. As predicted, these numbers were swelled by the useless and still losing Drug War. As I foresaw, federal convict Martha Stewart's star rose after a stay in federal prison for silly insider trading stock charges. She had her own Apprentice television program and her company's stock rose from a low of around $11 at her sentencing to $17 at the end of 2005. And I was right in predicting that the Red Sox would not win the World Series.
DUSTY CRYSTAL BALL
So where did my far-sightedness fall short? Alas, I was wrong that Congress would let sections of the USA PATRIOT Act relating to foreign intelligence and law enforcement surveillance authority expire on December 31, 2005. Instead, the Bush Administration almost succeeded in getting many of the most intrusive provisions made permanent. No baby monkey clones using somatic cell nuclear transfer were created in 2005. Last year, the U.S. Department of Energy issued a report suggesting that well-designed, peer-reviewed cold fusion experiments might be considered for federal research funding. Evidently no such experiments have yet been submitted. Furthermore, no biotech lab or company has asked the FDA for permission to begin clinical trials of treatments using human embryonic stem cells. And Michael Moore's new movie, Sicko, on the pharmaceutical industry hasn't been relegated to art house cinemas because it hasn't come out yet.
Fortunately, my prediction that world hunger would increase was wrong, but unfortunately not by much. To my surprise, the World Trade Organization managed to squeeze out some modest proposals at its Hong Kong ministerial meeting last month to reduce rich country farm subsidies by 2013. Check out the February issue of Reason for an insightful article on the immorality and waste of U.S. agricultural subsidies.
So what do I foresee for '06?
A rising tide of voter disgust with corruption will toss the Republicans out of the U.S. House of Representatives in November elections and a new blessed era of gridlocked government will begin.
As he did last year, President George Bush will renege on his promises to reform social security, overhaul federal taxes, and lower the Federal budget deficit.
Congress will not pass a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
Due to the scandal over President Bush's orders to the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on U.S. citizens without warrants, some provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act will be amended to protect the civil liberties of Americans.
Because of the Korean stem cell scandal, the United States Senate will not pass legislation loosening President Bush's restrictions on human embryonic stem cell research.
The proposed legislation to build a wall across the U.S./Mexican border will not pass. See a brilliant article on immigration in February's Reason.
No cloned human babies will be produced in 2006. I'm still standing by my prediction that it will happen by 2010.
No asteroid will strike the earth in 2006, but look out for 2036.
The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, bankrolled by $3 billion in voter sanctioned bonds, will issue its first stem cell research grants in 2006.
The Space Shuttle Discovery will not be launched in May 2006.
Another stem cell lab will announce that its researchers have successfully derived stem cell colonies from cloned human embryos.
The FDA will approve the first clinical trial using human embryonic stem cells to repair crushed spinal cords.
No further commitments to reduce greenhouse gases under the Kyoto Protocol will be reached at the 12th United Nations' climate change conference next December.
The number of undernourished people in the world will decline further.
Peak oil fears will subside and oil prices will decline to below $50 per barrel.
The number of U.S. troops in Iraq will drop below 100,000 by the end of the year.
Saddam Hussein will be convicted of committing crimes against humanity.
The trend toward political liberalization in China will speed up and strengthen.
The authoritarian trend in Russia will intensify.
The U.S. violent crime rate will tick up slightly in 2006, but will get nowhere near the levels it reached in the early 1990s.
The number of people incarcerated in U.S. prisons and jails will continue to grow.
The Drug War will continue uselessly on while the price of illegal recreational drugs remains low.
Famous misanthrope Ambrose Bierce once ironically defined the future as "that period of time in which our affairs prosper, our friends are true and our happiness is assured." In all sincerity I hope that my glummer predictions for the coming year fail and that we all have a prosperous, amicable and happy 2006. Happy New Year!