|The Crystal Ball 2009|
|Written by ABDULLAH Imad|
|Thursday, 10 September 2009 15:30|
The Crystal Ball 2009 is the 10th annual greetings, whimsical and satirical, with featherweight and some weight, reflections and projections on the past, present, and the future.
By: Imad F. Abdullah, December 2008, Houston, Texas
2008 has been a perplexed year, with Olympic Games, Elections and Hurricanes, and Grand Meltdowns. Casino life and the Las Vegas fame were no match for the wonder and excitement of the New York startling money game.
On the wondrous side, last year The Crystal Ball attempted to place a perspective on our Universe, where some scientists estimate that there might be 125 billion galaxies. As light travels 6 trillion of our land miles per year, they pegged the Universe at approximately 14 Billion Light Years across, some 84,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 miles give or take, and still expanding in search of its ultimate fate.
Backtracking on the time line, we can’t seem to be too sure about the exact time of the famed Big Bang, possibly in the vicinity of 10 to 15 billion years ago. In creating matter, scientists have “Temperature” all figured out: about the first 10 to the -43 fraction of that Big Bang second (10 + 43 zeroes), the Temperature was 100 million trillion degrees, and Gravity was born. In the next few fractions of that second, and as the Fahrenheit was dropping to one billion billionth degree, matter emerged in the form of electrons and quarks and the electromagnetic force appeared. By the time we’re down to the one Trillion degrees, protons and photons came spinning, and a minute later at the one billion degrees, Helium, Lithium and Hydrogen.
Following our ancestors through time, Earth assembled itself around 5 billion years ago, bio-life near 3.4 billion years, and about 700 million years multi-cellular plants and animals came about. Our humanoid ancestor appeared 15 million years hence, and we’ve finally arrived to Homo sapiens the last 100,000 years, a very recent past tense. A century and a half ago life expectancy was 37 years, as Evolution was not concerned with our longevity but only in re-production to maintain our species, as grandparents past 37 would then compete with their siblings for food supplies. Our physical make up was not of concern to evolution and perfection thereafter evaded us, let alone being granted a biological warranty. In perspective, an economic recession may be good for our health as it creates stress, which may force evolution to continue our mutative advancement to a better physical specimen.
Visionaries tell us that the rate of technical progress is doubling every decade, and the rate of change is accelerating. At today’s rate, the 100 years of progress of the 20th century would equal 20 years, and the next 20 years will be achieved in only 14 years, then in 7. At this rate of exponential growth, the 21st century could move us forward 20,000 years of progress, a phenomenal reason to stick around.
Now back to 2009 and what’s on everyone’s mind, many are squeezed financially in a tight wedge, teetering anxiously as Wall Street fell off the edge. Where did all the money go and is it only a paper loss? Was it all before a paper gain, or was there a greenback to be had between the multifold layers of derivatives and swaps, or are we in a big swamp? Wall Street was pumped up in Olympic form, records shattered in split-second time, stocks behaving like spent athletes cascading on chart lines all the way to ever lows with no “finish line”. Cut to single digit size, the “Big 3” US auto makers are on the brink, battered and bruised and pleading for a handout, Unions on one side strapped on the bumpy ride and bankruptcy is looming across the divide, the precipice too steep and the gap still very wide.
With retirement plans reduced to sledge, Blue Chips lost their edge, as they tumbled with such a magnitude that even Hedge Funds couldn’t hedge. How to recapture some of the luster lost in the panic and get an uptick bounce, pull up the nest egg back to the highs of the chart line, get to the retirement deadline and enjoy the worry free pastime? Let’s take it all in stride, ups and downs are the norm and we might as well stay for the ride.
Interest rates have been on sale all year, few takers with the economy in low gear. No more clogging along as a rinky-dink lightweight, the National Debt is rejoicing well for now it has become a real heavyweight, the “Billion here and a Billion there” now moved up to “a Trillion here and a Trillion there”, pretty soon almost Monopoly money. Trillions are now household word, Uncle Sam treating his siblings with such largesse that everyone is claiming to be a close and deserving relative.
"Guaranteed by the Full Faith and Credit of the United States Government" was at stake: the Uncle rolled over Wall Street to shore up its namesake and reassure bond holders in far away World States. Whether Republicans or Democrats, they cannot mess with either Credit or Faith: at a cost of only 30 Billion in annual interest, they voted 700 Billion Dollars in handouts, one heck of a congressional leveraged buyout. Hold on to your notes, no reason to go to cash and get out of town, there is nowhere to hide if it’s a "world financial meltdown".
With so many new Trillions the Dollar keeps looking for a moneyed date, but hard assets and stocks are bound to compensate. Though real estate foreclosures are bountiful so far, flagship fire sales are slow to come by, and good selections ought to be grabbed right now. Gold has not yet soared, inflation fears still not high on the mind when there is no money to fuel the demand. The Crystal Ball foresees the financial markets bottom to have already been at hand, though testing it again soon is not far- fetched as it is only a line in the sand. Nine months from now we could look back if we missed these opportune times, curse the market to go down at least one more time for us to load on stocks big time.
For the US as a whole, the cost of buying international influence is beginning to exceed the means. As the US economy searches for a crutch, the world is in turmoil and the clash of civilizations remains simmering under the wings of religion and capitalism. Can Democracy survive without the ability to print money, and will developing countries importing it go belly-up or get lucky?
Never known to be gentle or kind, nor predictable or benevolent in rough times, Oil gave us the ride of a lifetime. Hopes for Nuclear energy and Wind Power are diminishing as alternative energies, and “Green” is puzzled where to go from here to get more synergy. As the Earth a few mills back changed course from the circular rotation around the Sun to the 25,000 years elliptical mode cycle, polar ice was bound to increase as it did for millenniums of years, but CO2 warming the atmosphere was counterbalancing the mean ice age Ellipse. Recession has become CO2’s enemy as Gas demand dropped and fewer fumes pollute the air, but in retrospect, it allows more years for fossil fuels to crank the engines between the sporadic bouts of fresh air.
Enough on the money talk, and moving sideways to the 24 hour talkative shows, Presidential debates gave us good entertainment and slapstick, America riding high on the newest imaging and sarcasm: Lipstick. Governor Palin stole the show while she lasted, blowing like a hurricane on the plain campaign of the battered McCain. President elect Obama’s campaign spending appears to have been sustaining the economy quite well, and once his victory loomed clear and the ratings bode him well, markets collapsed and bid their depositors farewell.
Obama qualified himself for the job through organizational skills and winning debates, proving that the president in the US is not the smartest or the most educated, but the most electable among willing candidates. As he surrounds himself with brains to carry his policy, he’s keeping the competition near to
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to watch closely. After pulling former President Clinton heavyweights, it is time to screen future White House interns before the welcome hello, after one then famous sideshow turned fatal and almost ended Clinton’s show. Hillary got the Secretary of State prize, uncertain whether it’s a happy end or a new beginning for future presidential drives. As if to show its indifference, Wall Street dropped nearly 700 points on the day of the announcement. With so many claiming to be Obama’s agents of change who tipped his scale, The Crystal ball expects a future clash among the multitude of constituencies over entitlement and the spoils of power, a serious scenario to counter come the 2012 election hour.
The legacy of President Bush straddles the pundits acclaims, the remaining time too short to retrieve the tribulations of his two term reign. Too much to undo, too little time, but maybe the Presidential Library will ease up the judgment of history, given enough time. Unfortunately for President Bush, there was so much Term left at the end of the money, and he could no longer count on prosperity to buy out a legacy.
As the sun sets temporarily on her career, and as she sails into a yet uncharted horizon, Condi is riding into the sunset seemingly still no clear direction on policy. As politicians patiently serve their terms and eagerly await a generous book deal, doubtless an offer is on her table to sign and seal. Doing it the easy way, Governor Palin went through a short and sassy cycle, cut through the mustard and got a sweetheart deal for her upcoming blockbuster title.
CNN and the like continuously piped political entertainment to the masses through television, the media becoming the perfect channel to provide tunnel vision. Media Control went to the extreme with national coordination in the last weeks and days, as sensitive issues disappeared from the debates. Soap opera took a political meaning as an extended series throughout the primaries and elections, now CNN is busy analyzing “how it analyzed” these events and the conventions.
Back in the limelight every now and then, perennial Barbara Walters can steal the show whenever and when. Her “Ten Most” comes now at the end of the year when everything is crystal clear and only the spin remains, a bit too late and somewhat in arrears. Much has been said about Bill Ayers, the professor of questionable fame, nothing yet said about how the University of Illinois Board of Regents granted the appointment to such a resume behind his name.
On the world stage, France’s President Sarcozy is having the time of his life, roaming the world with his new Model Wife. Cuba’s Fidel is passing the torch, while Venezuela’s Chavez wants more tenure to preach from the presidential porch. India and Pakistan are locked into a balance of power enforced by the existence of Nuclear Power, an uneasy pact as governments have to contend with pressure from foreign powers. They are practically tied at the hip, not many ways to escape the Mumbai zealots on their hellish trip.
China took the Olympics to different heights, adding several notches for future host cities and raising the bar as games in the Bird’s Nest were elevated way far by athlete stars. The challenge is crystal clear as future competition is in economic might and who gets to feast, as performance requires countries to think Olympian to go head-to-head with the Far-East. In China and Russia, former bastions of Communism, fortunes are experiencing the gyrations of Capitalism. From the highs above or maybe the deeps below, Stalin and Lenin are pounding, See I told you so.
Iraq is almost a haunted house, trials and debates a daily grind, and the early 08 surge a reminder of the surge by President Nixon in Vietnam, to force negotiations on Hanoi’s strong man. Qatar may be the answer to the much touted exit strategy, where the military can reside peacefully and have long term
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cheap energy. Iran is on the sidelines, wondering when it will become again headlines, and for the Nuclear everyone is up in arms, a good reason to showcase the threat and build more arms.
Lebanon has a new president, the Military once again the backbone of that Democracy, supplying the “General” to head the uneasy truce, all aware how much at stake to lose. Throughout 09 the clock will be anxiously ticking in the land of the Cedar, as peace needs absolute support of the new leader. Next door, a sinister tool was used to bump out the former Prime Minister, “Skeletons in the closet” a good weapon to effect a change of policy, as Israel is on a new try with Prime Minister Livni.
The War on poverty has always been a misnomer, as only prosperity stops discontent and embraces factions, and channels frustration to productive action. Otherwise, political might is the only ticket to financial health, and everyone needs a political party to grab at the wealth. “Worldwide” needs more Middle Class to preserve peace in lieu of conflict and confrontation, and to stop unproductive condemnations.
Space is not the only domain of zeroes upon zeroes. The Journey this year takes us into seldom charted territory where, in the world of Nanotechnology, space and time are being narrowed to infinitesimal limits, giving hope that we may finally invade the inner workings of our systems for the ultimate frontiers. Technology at the leading edge is exploring what it takes to start “Reverse Engineering the Brain”, possibly “Uploading the Mind” onto some advanced future techno machine.
Which leads us to our Human brain after 3 billion years of evolution: we’re told it combines digital and analog methods of computations, done through 100 trillion inter-neural connections that each can conceivably be processing information simultaneously. The smallest neurons, the Granule Cells in the Cerebellum, are packed about 6 million per square millimeter, and a single cubic millimeter of Cerebral Cortex may contain on the order of 5 billion synapses of different shapes and sizes. In 2020, we could be sending billions of nanobots into the brain to collect the info and maybe start the upload. Time is on our side, at least for those who will be around to witness the miracles of time.
Our family travels took us to Barcelona and Seoul this year, enchanting places though operating on totally different gears, the old world charm and easy style in contrast to a new world with a fast lane lifestyle. Back home and on Saturday September 13, Houston landed in the eye of the tiger, hurricane Ike laser focused on the Texas coast from the Atlantic several days out, the eye passing barely to the east of town. Awaiting doomsday is an eerie feeling, believing the weather experts hard to do when the predictions are off the charts. Right they were, and going through it was a survival experience for many. Texas is still in the aftermath, many steadily carrying the load of rebuilding shattered lives.
As we continue our quest for self actualization and getting ourselves up to par, the big challenge is how to understand and maximize what we are. Meanwhile and in line with the US Government pledge for better times ahead, please accept a Trillion New Year Wishes as a Prosperity Package instead. Onto the good times with a simple coin flipside, use it as a token down payment for the future upside.
One last time back to Wall Street, and maybe some cheers for an astute event of some 100 years: History buffs may recall one famed financier, Henry Clews and his book in 1908 “Fifty Years on Wall Street”, where he investigated the American stock panics of 1812, 1823, 1825, 1837, and 1857. Recapping the financial credit crisis of 1907 and the panic which ensued: “too much credit for the redeemable cash and too much speculation and reckless expansion”. Many railways and industrial companies were forced to liquidate their holdings, and insolvent firms and institutions were wound up. The cure he argued: “More Lending”.
Happy New Year
|Last Updated on Sunday, 12 June 2011 17:27|