FOR many people, 2017 will be remembered as an extraordinarily bad year, and it will be a tremendous disappointment to wake up on New Year’s Day 2018 and realize that no, it wasn’t a bad dream: An openly racist, misogynist, pathological liar is still the president of the United States, terrorists are still running amok in every corner of the globe, the world economy is still based on IOUs and imaginary fairy tokens, and basic facts are still being scorned in favor of willfully ignorant opinion.
By the time 2018 is over, however, we may all very likely be looking back on the year of Trump, Bitcoin, fake news, self-identifying as a gender/ethnic group/inanimate object of one’s choice, and discussing whether or not the Earth is flat like it’s even a debatable topic with a certain nostalgia. As the old saying goes, it’s always darkest just before it goes completely black. With that in mind, here are some predictions for a year we’re going to regret we had to live through, if the human species even survives it:
1. The Bitcoin Implosion
When Bitcoin first appeared, it was a novel concept, if a bit rough in that first-draft sort of way most eventually world-changing ideas seem to be when they are introduced. The distributed ledger technology – the blockchain – could have countless applications (and despite what Bitcoin zealots will tell you, it absolutely can exist without the imaginary fairy tokens), and even the idea of decentralized, digital currency had some appeal. All that went out the window in 2017, however, when Bitcoin turned into the world’s biggest Ponzi scheme. For no apparent reason – certainly not because it’s any good as a currency – it has become a hugely overvalued, sentiment-driven, speculative commodity, one that is not the diffused, crowdsourced store of wealth everyone hoped it would be, but controlled by a relatively small group of major investors and “mining” consortiums able to afford the enormous equipment and energy costs to operate the blockchain network.
That the bubble will burst sooner or later is a foregone conclusion, even among Bitcoin disciples; the most telling sign of that is the shift in tone in recent weeks of discussion in the mainstream and social media (remember, this is an asset whose value is driven by sentiment). Up until a few weeks ago, criticism of Bitcoin could elicit counterarguments with some basis in economics; granted, the arguments weren’t very good, because the idea, at least as long as its proponents were still trying to describe Bitcoin as a form of currency, has a few fundamental flaws. Now, however, all pretense of seriousness has been discarded; the only argument for “investing” in Bitcoin is its insane rise in value – a modern version of “X number of people can’t be wrong.” Since the Bitcoin market is sentiment-driven and purely speculative, its collapse is inevitable: At some point, investors will sense that it is no longer a worthwhile gamble to buy at a high price in the hope of selling at a higher price, and the rush for the exits will begin. What the trigger will be is anyone’s guess, but there will be a trigger; most likely it will come in the form of one or more big holders of Bitcoin dumping their stakes when the price passes a nice round-number threshold, $25,000, $50,000, maybe $100,000 if the insanity lasts that long.
As big as the Bitcoin market is, that catastrophic collapse would not have very serious implications if it was just confined to the strange world of cryptocurrency, but now, thanks to the world having more money than sense at this point, there is a real danger of contagion from Bitcoin’s demise having a serious impact on the real economy. Within the last two weeks, trade in Bitcoin futures and ETFs has been introduced, which puts the imaginary fairy tokens into real markets where people invest in real things, and are not going to be able to if a large part of their capital burns up in the Bitcoin conflagration. Perhaps even more alarming is the amount of venture capital that has been created through ICOs, which owe their existence to the success of Bitcoin. Once Bitcoin goes down, all those alt-coins that have value only because Bitcoin happens to be currently credible also vanish, which will de-fund a large number of startups, primarily tech firms. Thus we can look forward to witnessing both a market crash and the second coming of the dot-com bubble all at once. Good times!
When this will all happen is impossible to tell; it will be sudden when it does. The sooner the better, however, because the longer the Bitcoin bubble keeps inflating, the worse the damage will be.
2. Tesla Goes Bankrupt
Elon Musk is a visionary, multi-talented man, and something of a darling of the New Age. Unfortunately, one talent he seems to lack is the ability to run a business, as this well-researched and painstakingly detailed article published last month explains. About two months before that article came out, I did my own research into Tesla’s state in connection with my real job, and while I approached the assessment from the automotive industry perspective I’m familiar with as opposed to the market investor view of the author of the Seeking Alpha analysis, the conclusions were virtually identical, because numbers don’t lie: Not only is Tesla not working as a going concern, there is no possible way it could work without being radically restructured. The company won’t make it past midyear without that process starting in a painful way.
When it happens, it will pose a dilemma for the US government. Although Tesla is not a major part of the auto industry, it anchors a complex web of technology businesses that will feel the shock; it is an ecosystem that the US quite appropriately wants to see developed, which is why Tesla has been the beneficiary of a great deal of direct and indirect support. Given that it has a sound, or at least potentially sound, underlying product, Tesla probably could pare down its distracting, unprofitable sidelines, tighten up its management, pull its reach back to match its grasp in terms of production targets, and come out of the process a reasonably healthy company. But Tesla will hit the skids at just about the same time Bitcoin is imploding – in fact, the latter event may even trigger Tesla’s collapse, although that is not at all the source of the company’s problems – and that is going to make things very interesting indeed.
3. Terror with a capital T
The chances that those of us who have never been personally impacted in any way by Islamist terrorism will be sometime in the coming year just grew alarmingly, thanks to the completely unnecessary, stubborn, ill-conceived, and intentionally antagonistic decision of the bloated orange freak currently occupying the White House to unilaterally declare the contested city of Jerusalem the capital of Israel. Up to that point, we could legitimately look at terrorism practiced by the likes of ISIS, al-Quaeda, Boko Haram, the Abu Sayyaf, LET, al-Shabaab – geez, there’s a lot of these fuckers, aren’t there? – as being a bastardization of proper Islam (although that might be somewhat debatable), but Trump’s call, which as far as anyone knows, absolutely no one asked him to make, just gave the entire Muslim world, the just and unjust alike, a unifying cause.
I realized just how much about two days after Trump’s decision was announced, when I listened to the noontime sermon at the local mosque (it’s a hundred yards or so from my house, and evidently has a good sound system), angrily denouncing Trump and Israel, and exhorting the congregation to protest the decision. This is a small, unimportant provincial town north of Manila, with a small, peacefully innocuous Muslim population; Jerusalem has no more practical importance to these people than Mars does. And yet Donald Trump has managed to piss them off. I would be surprised if anyone of my fervent neighbors would actually go beyond expressing their anger in harsh words, but if they are any indication of how deeply the offense has penetrated the Muslim world, there are undoubtedly thousands – tens or hundreds of thousands, more likely – who will not feel so constrained.
4. The US midterm elections will be a disappointment
On Tuesday, a little-known Democrat named Doug Jones narrowly defeated his Republican rival Judge Roy Moore in a special election to fill one of the state of Alabama’s Senate seats, left vacant by the promotion of former Sen. Jeff Sessions to US Attorney General. The win was immediately hailed as a blow to Trump and the Republican party, who had campaigned heavily for Moore in spite of his notoriety as a pedophile, his public exclamations that the US was better off when slavery was still a thing, that homosexuality should be treated as a criminal offense, and that all the amendments to the Constitution after the 10 that make up the Bill of Rights ought to be dropped, and despite his general demeanor as a complete piece of shit and total embarrassment to the human race.
The outcome of the election, which Moore has refused to concede and says he intends to challenge, narrows the Republicans’ majority in the US Senate to 51-49, and is being viewed as a preview of even bigger losses for the GOP in November’s midterm elections.
Except it probably isn’t. Roy Moore’s defeat, presuming he and his Republican backers don’t contrive a way to reverse it, is probably a blessing in disguise for the Trump regime. Although he is a comically grotesque, horrible, evil little man who should not even be allowed to walk around in public let alone run for the US Senate, Moore lost by less than 20,000 votes, out of about 1.3 million. Granted, that might not have happened anywhere else but in Alabama – never the brightest bulb in the American chandelier, this is the state that gave us George Wallace, after all – but it nevertheless hardly amounts to a stinging rebuke of the reign of the Pussy Grabber. On the contrary, it plays right into the hands of an administration that has been surprisingly adept at deflecting trouble.
Roy Moore’s questionable use of his penis threw Trump’s own manifold acts of sexual aggression into the spotlight, but that now goes away with Moore’s loss. Having already probably fatally derailed the special prosecutor’s investigation into his Russian connections by politicizing it in the most ludicrous way possible, inexplicably discredited most unfavorable press by shrugging it off as “fake news,” and generally gotten away with daily behavior so offensive it would get a normal person beaten to death by an angry mob, Trump has just been handed the golden prize of a political martyr in Roy Moore with whom to whip up his still evidently sizable power base. Just a few more votes, just a little bit more campaign money, and poor ol’ Judge Moore wouldn’t have been beaten by the scheming liberal elite and the biased, fake-news media, by God. You’d better believe the Trump machine will milk that for all it’s worth going into November.
And it will work, too, because by that time, the terrorist threat (that Trump provoked) will be nipping at every American’s heels; people everywhere tend to rally ‘round the flag at times like that, and conveniently forget whose fault it is they have to in the first place. By that time, the Bitcoin-inspired economic crisis ought to be at full steam as well; the message that “greedy Wall Street speculators” are ruining things for ordinary hard-working Americans has always worked no matter who’s tried it, and of course, the irony that it is usually members of that very avaricious caste shucking that particular line of jive never fails to escape the masses.
The Republicans might lose a few seats, but not enough to really matter, and certainly not enough to put Donny Trump’s crazy train off the tracks. Because Americans are, when it comes right down to it, the biggest collection of spoiled cretins in the world – a big dumb country with a lot of guns and serious self-esteem issues, who are going to wreck the entire planet with their deep stupidity.
Send the damn meteor already.