Did we just witness the dawn of America’s four party system?

One the most fascinating parts of being clairvoyant, I think, would be having a sense of when times are changing. Of course, they are always changing, but I mean the really significant stuff. You might not know it, but World War II doesn’t happen, at least not like it did, if the heir to the Austrian throne doesn’t get assassinated twenty-five years earlier in 1914. You probably don’t have your cell phone, at least not as good a one, if Russia fails to shock us with their successful launch of Sputnik 1 in 1957. And so on.

I suspect that you and I have have lived through times that changed the world in large ways, but it takes years to see the effects, especially in an age with cable news shouting about the significance of everything every minute of every day. But someone like my character Ariel would know right away, finding herself overcome with dizziness as the probabilities shifted heavily one way or another.

I don’t have any of my characters superpowers, but today, I’m going to pretend I do. I’ve got a feeling that at the end of last week we witnessed the birth of the U.S. having in essence a four party- system.

How do we get four parties? Well, the Tea Party, embodied in the Freedom Caucus in the House of Representatives, has been around since 2009 and has a clearly articulated platform that is often but not always at odds with mainstream Republicans. It’s connected loosely to the already-established Libertarian party, but differs with many Libertarians on social issues. At it’s worst, this group wants almost no government, except for that needed to enforce it’s socially conservative legislation. The group is not known for it’s tolerance or its compassion. At it’s best, the tea party calls for fiscal responsibility and fights for everyone’s right to privacy and self-reliance. The Tea Party has shown that is can work with moderate Republicans when it has to, and with Populists when it must. In truth, though, this group would rather not work with anybody, and it truly dislikes the progressive agenda.

Moderates used to come in two flavors, Republican and Democrat. Today both are feeling endangered, and I’m going predict that they eventually join forces. This group best represents the establishment, as they are not in favor of anybody’s extremes. As such, at their worst they support adding more wealth to the wealthy, and keeping power right where it is. At their best, they support stability, cooperation and a stable economy, at least for many, and they do have a core belief in tolerance of others. This group can find common ground with the Tea Party, and with Progressives, but is just put off by the populist movement.

Progressives have long been around as the left wing of the Democrats; they became more visible with the growth Green Party in 2000 and gained a strong voice with Bernie Sanders in 2016. At their worst they are painted as radicals and socialists, representing too much government spending and control. At their best, they are the party most willing to help the average person, which gives them overlap with the populist movement. They are the most tolerant of all the groups, giving them common ground with moderates, and they are the most anxious for positive change, making them the most popular with our youngest voters. They hold a deep dislike of the Tea Party.

Finally,  there are the Populists. This group was largely disregarded until Donald Trump gave them a voice in 2016, but I do not think they are force that will go away anytime soon. They tend towards being socially conservative, and are not known for their tolerance of anyone outside of their own group, giving them some common ground with the Tea Party on social issues. However, many of them favor a strong social safety net and policies that will benefit the working class over the rich, giving them some room to work with progressives on financial policies. The group they really dislike is the moderates of the status quo.

What do you think? How am doing at predicting the near future of politics?  It’s been a fun exercise, and I’m already speculating about what sort of legislation might get passed by different coalitions. Time will tell if I’m anywhere near correct.

Solitaire and Nuclear War

10371641_sMy new goal is to be a butterfly. Not in the I’ve just metamorphosed from a caterpillar sense, although I think that’s a nice idea, too, but more in the a-butterfly-flaps-its-wings-in-North-Carolina-and-then-the-world-changes for the better kind of way.

Yes, one reason is that I do feel small and powerless these days, like I’m no match for the storms around me. And part of it is that I am more concerned about man-made catastrophes than I’ve ever been in my adult life. But much of it, really, is that I’ve been playing a lot of solitaire lately.

3I had no idea that is was such a fascinating game. My favorite part of it is how one little decision, like whether to put this king at the top of the stack instead of that one, can make all the difference as to whether you win or lose even though both moves were equally logical based on what you knew at the time. But, thanks to the fact that I play on a computer with an unlimited “Undo Move” feature, I’ve played many of my games two, four, or even eight different ways. I’m fascinated by how one series of more or less reasonable decisions yields a totally different outcome than another. And the problem is that while you are making the choices, you have no idea that you are locking in victory or disaster.

And  then there’s what happens if you make a couple of stupid decisions, or outright mistakes, mixed in with a fair number of those okay choices.

I’m thinking about how wars start and how peace is made, how markets crash or don’t, how criminal activity succeeds or is uncovered, and how alliances are forged or broken. How many if-that-little-thing-hadn’t-happened components are there to any major world event? I’m thinking there are a lot of them, most of which we never know.

5We are all basically playing solitaire, aren’t we? We get up every day and do the best we can trying not to make a mistake while hoping that our random choices don’t paint us into some corner where we find ourselves saying if only …..

Because we all know that life doesn’t have an “Undo Move” button, and it probably should.

(For more thoughts on Solitaire and life, see Mindless entertainment?)

 

Should I hope for calm or cheer on the storm?

djiThe words “The Dow hit 20,000” may not mean much to you, but if you are lucky enough to have some savings invested somewhere, you probably do know that it is worth more on paper today than it was last October. And you are probably happy about that.

But does this high-rising Dow really mean that our country is on the right track? That could be a possible explanation, if it weren’t for the fact that the stock market is far too moody to behave so simply.

In my opinion, the health of stocks as a whole is a sort of aggregate thermometer of how calm the wealthiest parts of America feel. Money, big money and big institutions, appear to care little about politics and a lot about predictability. The stock market fumbled and finally did it’s housing-bubble fizzle on George Bush’s invasion-laden watch. Then it rose steadily in the midst of Obama’s alleged socialism. I think that those with a lot of money understood that life was stable then, and that there was no real socialism to be found.  Stocks floundered in the late stages of the election, hating the whole mess right along with the rest of us. They likely would have risen in relief at the election of either candidate.

moneyI don’t think Mr. Dow (actually short for an index of large companies known as the Dow Jones Industrial Average) got overly excited until Mr. Trump began to put forth his cabinet nominees. As their wealth and ties to institutionalized money became apparent, major investors began to consider that the next four years could be exceptionally good for big business.

But will they be?

I wrote a book about prescience, the ability to see into the future and understand the true likelihood that an event will or won’t occur. Constructing the plot of d4 forced me to spend quite a bit of time considering how such an ability could work.  What’s more, several of my characters were attempting to use their prescient skills to make money in the stock market, so I ended up learning quite a bit more about Mr. Dow Jones and all his friends, too.

crystal-ballI think the market will get very nervous if our new president’s ill-considered interactions with foreign governments raise the possibility of an international crisis of some sort. I think the market will become unhappy if the 2016 election results are tied more firmly to Russian influence, and a rocky period will follow until the matter is resolved, possibly with the president’s removal.  I think the market will level out and become bumpy if internal protests and unrest continue to grow, or if the 2018 election proves that the majority of the American people truly do want a regime change.

How likely are these events? Well, my talented and courageous character Ariel could answer that question if she were real, but alas, she is not. As her creator, I have no ability to foresee the future. My confidence that the 2016 election could not possibly turn out the way it did certifies that I should not be trusted to make predictions.

But I do have investments. Thanks to a 401K and several years with one company, I have a little account, some financial security and a personal interest in seeing the stock market happy.

And, I have a passion for social justice. I want to see my nation at peace, behaving with compassion and inclusion within our borders and outside of them. I want to see the current administration hamstrung as much as possible regarding its horrible agenda and I want to see it exit as quickly as it can.

cropped-lightening-2These two aren’t compatible interests. I could hang on to my little investments for four more years, hoping that politics goes smoothly and that I will make more money. Or I could sell everything now while the Dow is happy and then hope for the worst for our current regime. Or hedge my bets and do some of both. Oh, if I only knew how this all was going to go.

That’s why the stock market is a gamble. I don’t know what the next four years will bring and neither does anyone else. But I do know that I have to go with my principles instead of my pocketbook. I’m going sell investments and move funds to safety, and then sit back and cheer on any storm that returns America to the compassionate values that I hold dear.

Sneaky Weather Forecasters

iceI almost cancelled everything I had planned for today, thanks to the dire weather forecasts that began to appear yesterday. Freezing rain, freezing drizzle, wintry mix, snow turned to ice — you get the idea No matter what you call the stuff it wasn’t going to be good to drive on. And everything I needed and wanted to do today involved driving.

But I woke this morning to cloudy skies and no precipitation and thought “Those weather people have done it again. I should know better.” A quick peek at the revised hourly forecast showed that all my favorite climate prognosticators had snuck back onto the internet and revised their predictions overnight. The morning was to be no worse than cloudy, and I now had more like a fifty percent chance of either rain or freezing rain by mid afternoon.

end-is-nearTo me, this seemed a little like the prophets who predict the end of the world and then revise the date of the apocalypse when it fails to materialize on time.  The second time around It just isn’t as scary. So I grabbed my stuff and an extra jacket just in case and headed out to do the things that needed doing.

The morning went well and I was pretty proud of myself for not being intimidated, but by noon it began to change.  I charged ahead even though it was in the mid thirties and raining. By mid afternoon we had dropped into the twenties and whatever you chose to call the gunk falling from the sky, there was no question that it was starting to coat the road in a most unfortunate way.

zig ziggler 1I cursed the entire weather forecasting profession and my reaction to it and canned my last two errands and headed for home. I slid into the ditch as I turned into my subdivision and then I took a minute to reflect on the wisdom of ignoring  a well informed forecast.

In my novels, even people who have super powers that enable them to see the future do not see absolute certainties. Why should I expect the real-life non-prescient dweebs who extrapolate current climate conditions to be infallible? They give an educated guess, no more. The closer the event gets, the more educated the guess is. And the more it should be considered.

So next time I’ll listen to that updated forecast. At least, that’s what I promised myself as I barely caught the rail as I slid onto my front porch.

The Oddest Predictions for 2016

This is a blog about seeing the future, and all of the lovely, messy ramifications of anyone being able to do so. Therefore, it only makes sense to take a good look at some of the more interesting predictions for 2016.

Who makes these forecasts? Everyone from self-proclaimed psychics to extrapolating news analysts have weighed in on what 2016 is likely to bring. The following prognosticators were selected based on their popularity, using a simple test. I typed “predictions 2016” into my favorite search engine and looked at everything that showed up in the first two pages that wasn’t about predicting entertainment awards or sports team successes. (Surely we can agree that both of those are another whole subcategory of seeing the future.)

spirit science 2Then I picked the prediction or two from each that I found to be the most interesting. A surprising number of everyone’s predictions were just sort of what you’d expect. Things like “global unrest will continue” or “men’s suits will remain cut close to the body” abound. So, just for fun, let’s look at the predictions that were, well, less predictable.

Dr. Carmen Harra, a best-selling author and clinical psychologist, goes out on a limb predicting that North and South Korea will join forces soon and that a global event in 2016 “will ask people to step out of their homes and march through the streets” resulting in an unprecedented protest.

Fortune magazine mostly focuses on stock market and other business predictions but steps out of their comfort zone to suggest that 2016 will be a great year for advocates of legalized marijuana, and for scientific advances in addressing Alzheimer’s disease. They also predict further rises in the price of almonds, of avocados and chocolate. (I’m okay with the almonds but nooooooo, not avocados and chocolate.)

Balkan prophetess Baba Vanga has predicted that next year we will see the end of Europe as we know it. According to Vanga,  Europe will cease to exist in 2016 and the continent will lose almost all of its population.

Writers at Forbes took a step away from their usual focus on money matters to make a series of predictions in the world of physics. Many were esoteric, but readers of science fiction will appreciate the prophecy that 2016 will bring the first direct detection of gravitational waves. Note that this is one of the last unverified predictions of Einstein’s theory of relativity, and it could lead eventually to successful human attempts to manipulate this most poorly understood force. So, if you’ve been waiting for the real hover boards that use anti-gravity to float in the air, if Forbes is correct, there is hope.

Business Insider took a stab at predicting men’s fashions, declaring that in 2016 men’s hair will start to get longer, the man-bun trend will die the slow death it deserves, and most guys will have something they wear on their wrists every day in 2016.

The Atlantic predicted that the renewable-energy sector will grow rapidly in the year ahead and the fact that we can now instantly access all of humanity’s collective intelligence with a small device pulled from our pockets will finally start making society more productive in 2016.

Psychic Jeanne Mayell and her students predict refugee riots in Europe, the U.S. military going into Syria, and the Pope becoming ill and possibly (but hopefully not) dying.

cosmic conduitThe Washington Post focuses on U.S. politics and at least one writer there predicted that at some point this year, we’ll see President Obama truly lose his cool, and we will see conservatives turn on Paul Ryan. Furthermore, the Post carried a prediction that Donald Trump will become a news analyst after his bid for the presidency fails.

A UK psychic blog predicts a massive earthquake in Himalayas, a Japanese island sinking beneath the sea, and a comet/asteroid that is missed by most astronomical observatories and comes close to Earth.

Chris Cillizza, writer of “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post, predicts that fusion will emerge as a viable long-term alternative energy source in 2016, and R&D biotech company Calico will become the world’s hottest company. He goes on to forecast that the markets for drones, driverless vehicles and industrial robots will boom. Ominously, he also predicts that Ted Koppel’s “Lights Out,” which makes the case that a major cyber attack on America’s power grid is likely, will prove prophetic.

The sources of all of these forecasts are quick to point out how difficult it is to get predictions right. Chris Cillizza wrote “it’s worth recalling the prescient words of economist and diplomat John Kenneth Galbraith: There are two types of forecasters: those who don’t know and those who don’t know they don’t know.” He added “I’ll let you decide which I am.”

The author of the UK psychic blog demurred that “I am fallible – and our skeptical friends will quickly highlight anything I get wrong – so do not be fearful of the future or see these predictions as inevitable. I get a lot right but some wrong too.”

My favorite, however, was the writer for the Washington Post who concluded with “I’m extrapolating outward from what I know now, and I predict that this prediction is wrong.”

For more year end fun consider whether it really is an honor to be person of the year, read about my best New Year’s resolution yet,  take a look at the top women of 2016 and catch 2016 plans for world peace.