Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Year In Review

OK, so it's the penultimate day of 2008.
I wait all year to use that word, "penultimate". It reminds me of the Parker ballpoint I got for graduating from junior high school.
Careful readers of my blog might recall that, back on January 4, I ran a special "Nobody Asked Me, But..." in which I predicted the top ten stories of 2008.
Let's look at those predictions again:
1) Sub-Saharan Africa - What can be said about what I picked as the most important story of 2008 except that I hate being right. Cholera and ebola outbreaks in Zimbabwe and the Congo, a stolen election in Zimbabwe that's threatening to overrun South Africa, tribal warfare in Nigeria, Somalia in chaos again...did I mention the pirates?
2) Global Warming - Well, what can I say? Two devastating wildfires in Santa Barbara, tornadoes at Christmas (!?), Hurrican Ike and five other storms touching down in the US as well as Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar (which killed 85,000 people, tho you never read about it), and 87 tornadoes on Super Tuesday. Apparently, God didn't like His choices much.
3) Oil - Crude futures averaged $100 a barrel this year, and that's with the high of $147 a barrel in June. This likely caused #7 below.
4) 2008 Elections - I'd say I was right about this being an important story. I'm tempted to say this should have been swapped with number 2 for importance. The Congressional races were, as I pointed out, the real story of the general election. Even now, the entire story has not been written, as Minnesota is taking its time announcing a new Senator.
5) Biotechnology - Believe it or not, this was a big year for biotech. For example, despite the cool Spring temperatures and June floods, the corn crop was the second largest ever produced in America, thanks to biotech. Soy had it's fourth largest crop. And who can forget the Gardasil battle? The genes for lung cancer were identified. And the crowning achievement: the transplant of a patient's windpipe grown from her own stem cells.
6) Beijing Olympics - Pictorial proof:
7) Economic disaster - Your 401(k) lost 40% of its value in 2008 alone, 50% since October 2007. The Bush administration, yet again, proved its inability to respond to any crisis that didn't involve sending troops in.
8) Nationalism - I put this forward as an economic issue, never imagining that when the US sneezed, the world might catch its flu. No one really stepped up to absorb weakened US companies. We saw Saudis invest heavily in Citigroup, but they already had sizable investments there. Nomura Holdings did buy Lehman Brothers, but any chance of GM or Ford being bought is in abeyance as the bailout program is rolled out. I'd take this one off the list.
9) Indonesia - Again, I focused on natural disaster in Indonesia. This was a bit of a gamble, to be frank. altho I couched it in terms of "near term". Java did suffer some landslides, and many other parts of the island chain had fires, floods and landslides as the year closed. Estimates are that some 500-1,000 people died as the result of these events. The prediction I made was for a catastrophic event to occur. These were mostly do to deforestation and bad land management practices.
10) Avian flu - Fewer human deaths this year than last, however the disease remains as virulent in the avian population as ever and is spreading farther afield now. However, this is pretty disturbing news.
I'll have my predictions for 2009 up on Friday. Tomorrow, I look back on the year passed with a bit more reflectivity.
That's right, I'll put on my tin foil hat!