Saturday, December 28, 2002

Everybody seems to be doing this, so I'll make a few predictions, too, for the year 2003:

There will be war in Iraq in the first three months of the year, which will be won by the Allies in a walkover, of course. Once ground combats begin, Saddam's regime will fold up and so will his army within the week. Do not rule out a Delta Force snatch operation to grab Saddam somewhere he thinks he's safe. No one will strongly object to a US-Allied attack, though France and Germany will grumble. China doesn't care and Russia will receive a free hand with the Chechens, who will be dealt with very harshly and will fight to the death. Neither gas nor germs will be used against Allied forces; those officers responsible will defy Saddam's orders to use them. Saddam will be captured alive and will receive the treatment that Ceausescu received at the hands of his military. There will be reprisals taken by the Iraqi people against those they consider sympathizers of Saddam, which Allied forces will not be able to control for at least a couple of days. America will be blamed by leftists everywhere for the "Tikrit Massacre", severely clouding world opinion toward the Allies. Meanwhile, news of horrible atrocities within Saddam's Iraq will be denied by Noam Chomsky and Susan Sontag.

Iran's government will not collapse. Iran will become, over the next few years as there is an evolution toward a more liberal society, at least economically, rather like China, not really a friend but not really an enemy, either. North Korea's government, however, will fall. The most likely scenario is that the government will run out of food and will be unable to feed even the army. Starving North Korean troops along the DMZ will lay down their arms and cross the parallel, followed by millions of North Korean civilians. Many of these refugees will be beyond help and will die soon,and film will be broadcast that will shock people like the films of Belsen did. Noam Chomsky and Susan Sontag will charge that it's a CIA frameup. There is the chance that the completely unbalanced North Korean leadership will go nuts and launch either conventional missiles into Seoul and Tokyo causing many deaths and much damage, or a nuclear warhead--I would be very surprised if they have one that works--causing a holocaust wherever it blows up, most likely on the launching pad but possibly in Seoul or Tokyo. America, Britain, Canada, and Australia, as well as Japan and South Korea and even China, will rush to send as much aid as possible. Sean Penn and Ed Asner (or am I thinking of Abe Begoda? One of those self-righteous guys from Seventies TV, anyway) will criticize these countries for not sending enough food fast enough.

India and Pakistan will not go to war; tensions will release after Saddam goes down. Somebody, either Assad, Mubarak, or King Abdullah--maybe even Musharraf--will be assassinated. Qaddaffi will somehow hang onto power in Libya. So will Castro in Cuba. Hugo Chávez will be overthrown by the Venezuelan military, and several hundred people will be killed in the fighting. There will be very little violence in Northern Ireland. The Chechens will commit several nasty atrocities in Moscow. The intifada will continue.

No dreadful terrorist actions will occur, at least not of the Islamic fundamentalist kind. Osama Bin Laden's body will be found, or whatever's left of it, in a Tora Bora cave. The Saudis will not stop supporting Islamic fundamentalism. Al Qaeda will be effectively exterminated mostly through police work, but other nutso organizations will try to take their place. Afghanistan will not stabilize.

Richard Simmons will not come out of the closet. At least one major sports figure will admit to being at least bisexual, though, possibly Magic Johnson; Dennis Rodman is another possibility. A famous ´60s British rock star--Charlie Watts? Ringo? Pete Townshend? but not Keith Richards--will die of something quite normal, a heart attack. Maybe Joe Cocker. Whitney Houston will be arrested for something and then very publicly go into rehab. Paparazzi will catch Bill Clinton with another woman, maybe Demi Moore, in compromising circumstances, a Gary Hart thing. Hillary will file for divorce, but will not challenge Bush until '08. The Dems will dig up some financial dirt on someone in the Bush family, perhaps having to do with the sale of the Texas Rangers. America won't go all hysterical, but there will be tough going for Bush despite the success of the Iraq war. If North Korea gets ugly, the political future is good for the Administration, since it will be very scary.

The economy will putt-putt along, pretty slowly with not much growth, but there won't be a severe recession. An easy win in Iraq will push the Dow Jones up. Dot com companies will continue to crash left and right; Amazon and ebay won't be among them but Yahoo will. Time Warner will try to get rid of AOL. There may even be a decline in consumer spending, mostly because people pretty much already have what they want.

Wild-ass prediction for the 2004 election: Bush and Rice defeat independent candidacy of McCain and Lieberman; Dem ticket of Nader and McKinney wins 3% of vote. Somebody tries to run on a black separatist platform, maybe Farrakhan, and gets stomped.

In the Catalan regional parliamentary elections, which will take place as scheduled, Socialist Pasqual Maragall, in coalition with what's left of the Communists, will thoroughly defeat Convergence and Union candidate Artur Mas. Both the People's Party and the Republican Left will make big gains as Convergencia's more conservative voters will move to the PP and its more nationalist voters will move toward the Republican Left. Sometime during the summer or fall Aznar's successor will be chosen, probably handpicked by him; I expect it will be Rodrigo Rato, though Jaime Mayor Oreja (but they need him to head up the ticket in the Basque Country) and Mariano Rajoy (but he really didn't look good during the oil spill mess) are also candidates. Everyone else is out of the question except maybe for Eduardo Zaplana, recently nominated a Cabinet minister and the Valencia party boss.

FC Barcelona will finish fifth in the Spanish league this season and will not be classified for the Champions' League next year. They will make it to the quarterfinals of this season's Champions' League and be knocked out by another Spanish team. Louis Van Gaal will be fired as coach and replaced by either Pichi Alonso or José Ramón Alexanco to finish out the season. Ronald Koeman will be signed from Ajax and will be next season's coach. There will not be enough money for any big signings, though several defensemen will be added--I like Curro Torres and García Calvo. Players who will not be with the team next season: Cocu, De Boer, Reiziger, Mendieta, Dani. Shocker: Xavi will be sold and replaced by Andrés Iniesta. They'll want to get rid of Overmars but will find no takers, and nobody will want to pay anything like the price the Barça paid for Rochemback and Geovanni. Valencia will win the League this season. Longshot: Arsenal will win the Champions' League this season.

The Chiefs will miss the playoffs this year but will be in strong position to put together a good team next season. Their offense is set. They need to draft all defense and pick up a half-decent cornerback or two from the free agents available. The Royals will suck again, as usual. Mike Sweeney and Carlos Beltrán will leave the team after the '03 season when the Royals lose 110 games. Serious talk about moving the team will start. This year's Super Bowl? How about the Packers? The '03 World Series will be won by a team with a payroll of $75 million or more.

Pee Wee Herman will get arrested again, Mike Tyson will hit somebody and go back to jail for assault and battery, neither Arnold nor Sly nor Bruce will appear in a hit movie, and everybody will forget all about Winona Ryder.

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