New Year Predictions

January 1, 1999
by: Timothy W. Shire B.Ed.Graduate Diploma Guidance and Counselling
A year ago tonight we were considering the prospects of the coming year, yet here we are again looking forward to what to expect in this last of the nineteens. I had assured myself that I would make last New Year predictions my last year to indulge in crystal ball gazing and end a long run of New Years predictions, perhaps I should make that one of my New Years resolutions, to not make any more predictions about the coming years when the year begins in the number two.

So sports fans, what is there that we know or suspect will happen in this coming year, 1999, the year before the big twenty-first century.

Provincial Election In June
Our premier has let us all know that 1999 is the year of the Saskatchewan provincial election and yesterday we heard him fire up a preelection speech by proclaiming that the Saskatchewan party is just conservatives in Saskatchewan clothing. That seems pretty accurate, the majority of voters in the last election held in this country saw Saskatchewan voters cast most of their ballots for Reform candidates and avert their eyes if you mentioned the name of Brian Mulroney. So, without a provincial Reform party and the shaky nature of the Progressive Conservatives, it is fair to say that those former supporters will need to find a home and the Saskatchewan party is waiting there to do the job.

The real issue in this year’s provincial election will be if any candidate will be able or willing to take up the needs of the voter. The colossal free spending of Grant Devine’s government has left us all pretty tight for money at the provincial level and Romanow’s government has treated the province shabbily with continued high taxes while drastically reducing services, destroying the rural portions of the province and when ever possible acting on the side that opposes the people of the province. Workers Compensation and Medicare lead the shame category but this government’s reputation with labour relations and human rights make it the most right wing government since Anderson. (The man at the helm when the province entered the dirty thirties.)

The odds favour us going to the poles in June and when we do, Romanow may find himself with only city seats and those in limited quantities. Without the backing of the solid support of Saskatchewan labour to do the driving and campaigning, he and his troops are on their own, just as they have abandoned their supporters, so will their supporters leave them to their own devices and the senior citizens who have put him in power in the past will not be there to cast their votes at all. With a low turn out at the poles, the votes will go to the Saskatchewan Party and the remnants of the Liberal party. Romanow will attack the Liberals with more vigour then the Saskatchewan Party because their meagre votes will do his candidates the most harm, but are easy targets because this election will be more Romanow versus Ottawa then any other opponent. When they count the ballots, Premier Romanow will likely still be the leader of the largest number of sitting members but it will be close. The alternative to the so-called “NDP” (so-called because it is as far away from the principles of the NDP as lemon juice tastes like milk) is not an alternative at all, but the voters are not a cheerful bunch. A balanced budget is no excuse any more and the provincial income this year is likely to drop by one half, so the voter will be looking for someone to punish and Roy Romanow is a deserving recipient.

The Clinton Scandal
As if enough has not already been said about the American President, yet it is the burning question. So far the Whitehouse and its devoted supporters have gone one bad step after another. President Clinton followed his lawyers advice to fight the Paula Jones case when he could have settled and the story would have ended because Ken Starr’s inquiry into land deals in Arkansas had hit a dead end, instead he was forced to give testimony under oath and of course the man does not tell the truth. They (his advisors) told him it would never pass committee, that the moderate Republicans would swing his way, then they went before the committee for two days and said that lying is no big deal, then it went to the house and they told him to have no fear, that it wouldn’t pass, but since none of them deny that he committed perjury, only that it didn’t matter, two articles were sent to the senate, now they are telling him to be a statesman and things will all work out and the Senate will not have sixty-seven people who will hear the evidence and vote for removal from office. Albert Gore will make a good president.

Boris Yeltsin
For the past few years we have seen the signs of an impending Russian civil war in the making and the only thing appearing to hold things together has been Boris “have a Wodka” Yeltsin. The man’s health is not good and his power now has been shared enough that he no longer is really in charge. Things in Russia are the way they have been many times in history, the power is now in the hands of a central committee and 1999 is going to be a much better year for that turbulent country. Boris will still be the head of state this time next year and there will be no civil war this year because civilian rule has failed and the power in the country is being shared with the military. Certainly, there will be poverty and perhaps even famine, but a semi-solid state of coherent dysfunction has been reached and it is unlikely that things will further deteriorate. The sabre rattling in the Middle East and in the Baltic have given positive encouragement for the Russian military and they are now sharing in the power of the country, dreaming of the good old days. You can build a country on dreams.

The Middle East
Britain and United States acted incorrectly against Iraq setting a course that reminds us of the same period in history one hundred years ago in the time of “Gun Boat Diplomacy”. They could have enforced and used military power to search for weapons of mass destruction, but bombing away and claiming to have been successful fooled no one. The danger to the world by the various factions within the Arab world is not going to be resolved in 1999 or 2098 for that matter, cycles of trouble and crisis will continue with boring regularity and will spill into the rest of the civilised world. Israel needs to be assisted by the United Nations, or neutral countries, to see that it is in its interests to create a peaceful settlement with the Palestinians and they in turn need the freedom and security that will not see them used by the various wild men of the Arab world for their own purposes.

The Asian Flu and Economic Aftermath
The economic crisis that destabilised the economic system constructed by the United States and its allies, the so-called “free market economy”, was created by the shear size and economic significance of Japan’s largest banks, the world’s largest banks. In its simplest, form these massive institutions are broke and are now being supported by the government of Japan. Similar situations have developed in the rest of Asia, or are affected by the problems in Japan, so that even economically sound Korea and Singapore were upset as foreign investors pulled out their cash and flung it into US currency, driving its value upward, thus in effect, driving all other currencies downward. In a few days time Europe’s new Eurodollar begins to exist and a lot of that money will look for a new home in it, as the American dollar begins a gentle slide toward the spring. Look for things to change moderately but steadily. If you noticed, the DOW was doing very nicely today ending the year well above 9,000 points. This tells us the fickle investor is confident in the US economy and it is unlikely to be anxious trading. As the dollar gently descends, it will be of remarkable benefit to the United States, who is now on the short end of trading balances and with a lower dollar its products will once more improve in their market share. The Canadian dollar should edge upward, also gradually, but look for late spring values in the middle to high seven cent range. The increased US trade should result in increased demand for metals and we should see gold and silver values move upward as well. Oil on the other hand is destine to remain at its present level just as cereal grains will not see improvement until 2001. It will take that long for the Asian economies to get themselves back to the pre-1998 levels. Oil is just simply in over supply just as happened with coal in about 1956 with demand declining and reserves increasing steadily.

Federal Politics
The back room Liberals are busily making deals and here is the way it goes, “we know you have said you will lead the party into the next election, but hell Jean, that’s not going to fly, so here’s the deal. You get to see the turn of the century then call a leadership convention and you and Aline can fade happily into the sunset.” In the leadership convention of 2000 Paul Martin will experience the same sort of “just about” run as his father and will stick around as the also ran. To find out who gets the job, tune in next year. (oh yeah , I said I was going to quit this stuff, well we will have to see this night a year from now)

The turbulence and wild weather patterns of this past two years are now beginning to taper off but you can not expect to see the world climate return to normal after the warmest year in recorded history. A new normal has been established and though some are expecting a delayed late spring, the world water temperatures are just a little to high to let things cool off very rapidly, so look for spring just a tad early and expect to see lots of precipitation, but the number of hurricanes in 1999 will be one third less then in 1998. The wet spring will delay planting, but warm early summer temperatures will bring along a good crop in 1999. However, predicting the weather is a traitorous thing and the same weather pattern that creates plenty of moisture for us can also produce a very intense early summer dry spell killing off a good crop. Though it seems like I am hedging a bit here I am not really, the warm wet spring can be followed by a good hot spell that can just become very intense turning to a short killer drought. It is a fine line between desert and moderate temperate climate. This weather pattern will be far more critical to the Savannas of Africa where the same whimsical pattern will occur. A nasty volcano anywhere at the mid latitudes will destroy this prediction.

1999 marks the year of the savage rejection of major league sports. Higher and higher ticket prices, higher demands by owners for higher profits, higher demands by rivalling teams to push up player salaries and the quashed NBA season will combine to produce a shallow year in pro-sport interest. Winnipeg’s Pan Am games will go big time on summer television, but the city might even lose money on the project. 1999 is a good year for people to get out and do sports themselves as the trend toward individual, personal and family activities gains considerably support.

Technological Trends
Microsoft's war with Washington litigates through the whole year unresolved, but the changes the conflict produces will be to the benefit of all computer users as software and hardware producers recognise the writing on the wall and practices change.

If you thought the Internet was big in 1995 guess again, the steady progression of this pervasive system is growing exponentially and in the fall of 1998 the trend that surprised everyone began to be clearly defined. Economic activity on the Internet was a losing proposition and more myth then reality up until this past fall, now with the movement to Internet commerce during the buying season that ended 1998, we now know that 1999 will see mass marketing at every level on the web. There is no point in even attempting to predict what direction this thing will take, because it is completely self generating and all we know for certain, your life is being changed by it and it doesn’t matter if you participate or not, a thing like this simple becomes what ever it can because its existence is the driving factor. But 1999 will see dramatic increases in computer hardware technology that will produce even lower costing appliances and a year from now, the changes will be over half a year old and new exciting things no longer on the distant horizon. Several new operating systems are gaining rapid acceptance, Apple’s new OS X arrives in the coming summer and Linux threatens UNIX and Windows NT. Netscape’s online OS will not appear in 99 but the popularity and acceptance of WebTV suggests that a full time online connection is a growing force and terminals using “thin” systems will emerge subtly.

Two major changes are coming to a snack near you. Fake sugar has been around for some time and is in a lot of our food today but new versions and products sugar based, are about to move from chemical lab to store shelve, thus proliferating even more sugar reduced foods. The fake fat now already in use in the United States should become available in Canada showing up first in snack foods, but moving along to a whole variety of products.

The big drug story of 1998 was Viagra selling for over a dollar a pill, wouldn’t you know that during the Clinton sex scandal the major drug break through for the public is a drug to increase male potency. This drug will become legal in Canada during 1999.

Off the Wall
The computer bug that has prompted writers to warn of the coming of the year 2000 actually starts to kick in well before that date because on September 9, 1999 the computer date will be 9999 which is the “COBAL” end of file marker. Systems like that used by SaskPower for electrical transmission control are written in “COBAL” and on that date they will have more then a few problems unless some serious code writing gets done between now and then.

The “Swing Era” is back, well this is hardly a prediction but it is a trend that will strengthen during 1999. Big band music and contact dancing is now in, just as the clothes that went with the era of my father and mother. How this shows up in our world will depend a lot on movies, television and radio, so brush up on your jive skills, there are kids who will need some lessons.

Happy New Year everyone.


........................................................................................................................................Timothy W. Shire