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The Texas Blue
Advancing Progressive Ideas

2008: The Texas Blue Crystal Ball

Last week's TDQLI was precisely calculated using a painstakingly determined statistical model able to map the projected value of political events over the past year. Pretty impressive, no? Well, wait 'til you get a load of this: The Texas Blue Projected Events Indicator — TBPEI, or as we like to call it, the TB Crystal Ball.

Of course, here at the Blue we wouldn't really leave such an important determination of next year's key events to random chance. The Crystal Ball is actually an impressive feat of miniaturization, able to process its ambient political surroundings and extrapolate the outcome of future events based on mathematical models so complex, we don't even understand them. But the Ball does, and that's all that matters.

Eager to get the the Crystal Ball's results? Well, wait no more.

Foreign Policy

We first set the Ball to analyze what is arguably the biggest issue in America today — our involvement in the Iraq war, and when that would potentially end. The ball came up with disappointing, but unsurprising, news: we'll still be there when 2008 ends.

But hey — at least we won't be anywhere else! The Ball thinks even Bush isn't, er, politically un-savvy enough to go into an unpopular war in an election year. Especially when the American public is once bitten, twice shy. And as they'll be under significant pressure from the U.S., Israel is unlikely to be invading anyone as well. Looks like Ahmadinejad gets to keep his country for a little while.


Boy, the Ball doesn't really buy into a cheery Congressional session in 2008. It thinks the current deadlock is absolutely going to continue. I even threw in the "election year" criteria I mentioned above, thinking that perhaps taking that into account would mean that Bush would budge on something and quit stonewalling every proposal Congress puts forth.

But the Crystal Ball was insistent — the deadlock continues. Nothing gets done on immigration, Social Security, health care, education, or any of the other major issues facing government. One or two bills that Bush opposes will get through, either by enough Republicans getting sick of Bush where they're willing to vote for a veto override, or by Bush realizing that a veto override is imminent and signing a bill he'd otherwise lose on. But it will be a comparatively minor issue that will be nice in the short term, but won't do anything to move the really big issues in the long term. We'll have to wait for a Democratic president, apparently.

The Economy

Trying to get an answer from the Ball on a possible recession in '08 was an interesting exercise in careful wording — either that, or it was just trying to mess with me. Asking if "we would enter into a recession in 2008" got back a fairly quick "no;" then again, asking if "we would find ourselves in a recession in 2008" got an equally rapid "yes." I wonder what it meant by that...

It also seems to think the Fed will ignore the fact that it is in a pretty tough spot, and will modestly lower interest rates to "encourage the economy," which will not be enough to encourage the economy and will be too much to rein in inflation — I know, Greenspan has already said that the we have the potential to be seeing stagflation rear its ugly head again, but now the Ball's saying it, so you can take it to the bank.

And apparently you should be investing in gold. Outside of a couple of hiccups, the dollar's just going to keep dropping, possibly beyond the point where we can adequately control its fall, and the dollar cost of gold will hit four digits per ounce. Hey, don't ask me. Ask the Crystal Ball. It knows commodities markets far better than I do.

Oh, yeah — and housing prices will drop further. (Sorry, Josh.)

The 2008 Elections

I tried and tried, but no set of inputs seemed to result in the Crystal Ball returning that we'd be winning enough seats in the U.S. Senate to get a filibuster-proof majority of 60. A seven-seat swing was the most I could cajole out of it, and it didn't even seem particularly convinced of that, thinking four or five seats was far more likely. It mentioned that with a Democratic president, filibusters from Republicans would see a brief spike but would become less prevalent as some Senate Republicans, no longer having support from the White House, accepted the fact that they'd have to cross the aisle to get anything done.

There was an interesting side note to the Ball's talk about filibusters: depending on how long the "brief spike" lasts, the Ball thinks that the Senate may consider the proposal that Senate Republicans had nearly passed while they were in power of killing off the filibuster privilege in the Senate. The Senate would be unlikely to actually go through with that, but the threat would serve the same purpose as it did for Republicans of convincing the minority to play ball more often.

Of course, I had to jump on the Ball's comment that all this would come about with a Democratic president. The natural next question was, "who will win the presidential election?" The Ball answered: "The Democrat." Clearly it was playing coy, I thought to myself. No point in asking who that would be, as it would probably outsmart me again with an answer like "the one that gets the most votes." (That's what I get for buying crystal balls from shady street vendors. Next time, I'm going brand-name.)

So I thought I'd try another tack. I asked it how the Iowa caucuses would go. It was pretty confident that Mitt Romney would be taking the V on the Republican side, but a funny thing happened when I tried to get the Democratic results: while the other questions returned fairly prompt answers, asking about the Democratic winner in Iowa resulted in the Crystal Ball dimming for a few seconds. That was followed by a whirring noise, then a grinding, and then the ball went black, displaying only "ERROR: GURU MEDITATION" in blinking text. What that means is beyond me.

I'll say one thing about the Crystal Ball's attempt to figure out the Democratic Iowa caucus results: just before seeing that error, some other text briefly seemed to flash for a split second on the Ball. It must have been a trick of the eyes, because I could have sworn it said, "Obama, Edwards, Clinton." Which clearly couldn't have been the case, as that's pretty much against most of the conventional wisdom out there. Perhaps the Ball was trying to get one last prank in before it locked up. Or perhaps it was, indeed, just my imagination. Who knows?

Either way, I have no more predictions for you — that will have to do for the Texas Blue 2008 forecast. We'll see how these predictions panned out in a year, as well as give you a whole new set for 2009. Hopefully. (On that note, if anyone knows how to reboot a Crystal Ball, feel free to enlighten us in the comments.)

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