By Zach Hagadone
The year 2000 has always felt like more of a product than an age: Reality 2000, the Next Generation, or something like that. Maybe it was the onslaught of the internet or reality TV-ization of culture (which on the page looks appropriately close to trivialization of culture).
Whatever the case, truth be told, the 21st century as a whole hasn’t felt exactly “real,” insofar as looking back at the 20th century and its constituent decades affords some sense of coherence. Even in the ’80s and ’90s it was clear we were living in distinct phases of an overall temporal continuum. The Reagan and Bush Years, followed by the Clinton Era somehow felt defined. I suppose we had a mass culture then, which made us all feel like we were living in the same country and sharing the same procession of events at roughly the same time.
That has certainly not been the case since the turn of the century — and maybe especially since Sept. 11, 2001. While we can all remember where we were when the events of that day transpired, you’ll find precious little consensus on where we’ve been and why since. Rather, it’s been a painful lurch from one crisis and cultural head-scratcher to another. In 2005, we had a conversation in the Reader newsroom on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks: “Doesn’t it feel like this has been one exceptionally long, shitty year?”
We dubbed 2005 “The Year of the Jackal” because it felt like history was laughing at us. Now, looking back on what the tastemakers are calling “the twenty-tens,” it’s a similar feeling — even more so for the half-decade chunk from 2015 to present. Donald Trump, climate change, income inequality, war (trade or otherwise), partisan gridlock, the unrelenting fracturing of social media, it all slumps together in a noxious mush that feels increasingly like mire.
All that aside, moving into the second decade of this iCentury does actually feel a bit different. No matter what, big things will happen in the coming 12 months that will dictate radical course changes across the political, economic and cultural landscape in the United States, if not the world. Call that Prediction No. 1.
While predictions are by nature dangerous — especially for people in the business of “now” — we spent a snowy Monday afternoon in the waning days of the 2010s to think about and research some things we think we might see on the horizon. Some are meant to be taken more seriously than others; others are less discernible than some. This roundup is by no means comprehensive. Take this for what it is: fuel for rumination, reflection, maybe even discussion. Regardless, Happy New Year, Reader readers.
For many centuries, the wisest among us took the opportunity to search the heavens for clues as to what might lay in the future. Though the practice has fallen in favor of more testable methodologies, it’s hard to argue with modern-day astrologers who seem to be in agreement: 2019 was a year of conflict and chaos.
According to astrologer Tatiana Borsch, writing Dec. 30, 2019 for swaay.com, the unsettled nature of the past year owed in large part to Jupiter and Neptune being at odds in the solar system. This will all change with the first new moon of 2020, which falls on Jan. 25 and will usher out the Eastern astrological sign of the Yellow Earth Pig to be replaced by the White Metal Rat. This precedes an historic conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn on Dec. 21, 2020, which will officially end the Piscean Age and mark the beginning of the Age of Aquarius — an era that will last for 2,160 years — at least, according to the cycles of the solar system that determine Earth’s axial transition from one sign of the zodiac to another.
We’re by no means astrologers, nor necessarily believers in the ancient practice, but as Borsch writes: “The year 2020 will be a defining year for humanity. It is a year that represents the summing up of the past and the establishment of a new order.” Again: Hard to argue with that augury.
Sports and popular culture
We’re going to go out on a limb here and predict that Netflix will be bought by Disney — if only so the people get all the Star Wars spin offs all the time.
Bloomberg tells us it’ll be the Astros and Braves in the World Series, with the Astros triumphant. CNN begs to differ, predicting the Yankees will win, but the Astros have a shot. The Ravens will win Super Bowl LIV.
Fortune holds that cultural marketing will try to make us think we’re living in a reiteration of the Roaring ’20s, with “Great Gatsby-inspired ad campaigns, parties and playlists.” We see some truth in this, as the 20th-century interaction of the decade was marked by widespread political disenfranchisement, insane wealth inequality and a stock market that was too good to be true. The prevalence of Crocs and sweatpants — and people’s apparent comfort in wearing them outside their homes — would seem to belie this notion, at least as far as smart dress is concerned. Ours will be the Roaring ’20s of White Claws and “athleisure,” not champagne, flapper skirts and high collars.
CNN sees Ariana Grande’s Thank U, Next winning the Album of the Year Grammy and The Irishman by Martin Scorsece making “an offer the Academy cannot refuse.” Not so, says Fortune, with Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood winning Best Picture and, possibly, Best Director. We think wise money might be placed on Tom Hanks for his turn in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. It just may be that the Academy is as traumatized by 2019 as we are, and looking for some solace.
The Cut predicts Betty White will pass away (let’s hope not), and the flappers will return.
Per CNN: the U.S. will win the most medals in the Tokyo Summer Olympics and Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg will win the Nobel Peace Prize. No argument here.
Don’t hold your breath for flying or self-driving cars — though the latter have made big strides over the past decade (Elon Musk accidentally bashing out a window on one of his Tesla self-driving semis notwithstanding). Most predictions we’ve seen center less on the physical manifestations of technology and more on tech that messes with our heads and pervades the minutiae of our everyday lives.
According to Bloomberg, in its Dec. 28, 2019 set of predictions, almost every outdoor space in nearly all cities in the world will be subject to video monitoring by the end of 2020, while “significant inroads will have been made in suburbs and towns.”
Meanwhile, according business website Inc.com, consumers will increasingly push back against this trend toward total data tracking, demanding more privacy — most likely via cloud-based solutions, rather than relying on mega-corporations like Google to store and control their digital information.
Yet, also according to Inc., we’ll be doing more “thinking to computers,” rather than talking to them, using neural interfaces that translate brain and nervous system processes into controls for various types of “smart” devices.
Finally, the fabric of reality will be challenged by so-called “Deepfakes,” which are pieces of digital media created from millions of pieces of data to represent a fabricated person, event, location, piece of speech or all of the above.
The 2020 election (more on that later) will feature “the first large-scale, malicious use of Deepfakes aimed to influence the presidential election,” with Peter Rojas of Deepfake anti-virus firm Betaworks Ventures telling Inc., that, “at least one Deepfake attack will cause a good deal of outrage.” The rest will fail because people are more aware of them and publishers and social media platforms will put in place detection tools. (Which, of course, he sells.)
Finance and real estate
Bloomberg, the Motley Fool and Fortune all agree that the U.S. stock market will remain strong through the first half of the year, undergoing disruptions as the 2020 election conventions get under way, followed by a significant drop corresponding with the November election itself.
Motley Fool, writing on Dec. 29, 2019, was more sanguine. While its analysts do not foresee a recession as profound as the one that rocked global markets in 2008, they do predict at least one decline of 10% or more, noting that the overall expansion begun in 2009 “is getting long in the tooth.”
Both Bloomberg and Motley Fool tell investors that whatever happens around the election, the market will rebound swiftly.
Fortune predicts a barrel of oil will cost $60 by end of the year. There will be lots of black gold produced from Texas to Norway, but we won’t need it as much amid more and more large energy consumers switching to renewables.
Notably, in 2017, the U.S. military embarked on a program to substantially cut its 100 million-barrel-per-year oil habit with energy sources like solar. According to sustainability targets, the Army and Air Force will be powered by 25% renewable sources by 2025, and the Navy will hit 50% in 2020.
Closer to home — literally — CoreLogic predictions and data from Keller Williams Realty-Sandpoint predict home prices in 2020 will appreciate by 5.4% year over year, compared to “normal home price appreciation” of 3.6%. Meanwhile, home sales will meet or exceed those in 2019.
Elsewhere in the region, Coeur d’Alene is forecast by Santa Ana, Calif.-based analyst firm Veros Real Estate Solutions to represent the second-highest market appreciation in the nation in 2020, with a 9.5% increase in value. Idaho Falls, with 9.4%, is expected to rank third followed by Boise at 9.1%. Pocatello is expected to come in as the ninth hottest market in the U.S., with 7.2% appreciation in 2020.
Overall, eight of the top 10 markets will be located in Idaho and Washington, according to Veros. The other two will be in Texas: Odessa, in first place with 9.7% appreciation and Midland in fifth with 8%.
National politics (including impeachment and the 2020 election)
Bloomberg thinks Congress will pass a near-ban on vaping products sometime in 2020, which President Donald Trump will sign into law.
Fortune says to expect “another Arab Spring” in the coming year, as popular uprisings against authoritarian governments in the Middle East and North Africa spread from Egypt, Lebanon and Iraq to places like Morocco and Jordan.
CNN asked a stable of prognosticators to gaze into their crystal balls and foretell the outcome of the elephant in the room: the 2020 presidential election. Predictably, they broke along party lines with half putting their best bets on Trump’s reelection.
That also seems to be the mood among a coterie of folks interviewed in quick succession by The Cut — the majority, even among those who oppose the president’s administration, seemed resigned to the idea that incumbency, entrenched partisanship and paralyzed national instruments of governance such as the courts will keep the 45th chief executive in the Oval Office at least through 2020.
As for impeachment, no one thinks Trump will be indicted on the articles of impeachment adopted by the House of Representatives in December. Once more, the partisan chasm is too deep and wide to expect any meaningful movement on the matter in the U.S. Senate.
That said, Bloomberg had a much more nuanced read on the election. To summarize:
Democrats will flip Arizona, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, but the Republicans will flip New Hampshire, resulting in a tie in the electoral college. The House will then be left to decide the winner on a one-state, one-vote basis. The 26 states with “red”-majority delegations (including Idaho) will vote Republican, while the 22 “blue”-majority delegation states will vote Democrat, leaving the two states with divided partisan delegations abstaining — which will mean another tie.
With two ties, the courts will be asked to intervene. A call will go up that Trump appointees are biased and should recuse, while others will argue this is “‘another’ attempted coup d’etat.” The major parties will intercede, agreeing to hold another election in February 2021, but that will please no one — including Trump. Lawsuits will explode like dandelions gone to seed and, well, no one knows the future.
Here’s where our predictions become increasingly dangerous. If we’re wrong, folks won’t shrug, they’ll write angry letters to the editor. Nonetheless, here we go.
War Memorial Field work will be completed if not exactly on its prescribed timeline, then in time for the Festival at Sandpoint’s annual concert series, which will return for a 2020 season despite its chaotic 2019. People will complain about the turf, as little pieces of cork infill stick to their blankets and get in their wine. Somehow, however, everyone will survive.
We will again be arguing about what to do about Canada geese at City Beach — especially as the city’s master planning efforts turn to that area in the late-winter and throughout the spring. This discussion will be somewhat subsumed when dirt is turned on the new hotel/motel that will replace the Edgewater. We’re not brave enough to predict what brand will (maybe?) replace Best Western there.
Preceding that, the city will negotiate a land swap with Sand-Ida.
The lawsuit between Bonner County and the city of Sandpoint over the Festival’s no-weapons policy will end with the dismissal of the county’s call for a declaratory action — that is, if the judge balks at ruling lease holders on public property are unable to determine their own weapons policies when it becomes clear such a decision would require alteration of those policies for perhaps dozens of other entities, including health care providers like Bonner General Health, which lease at least a portion of their property from municipalities. If the judge wants to be the one to kick off a legal debate, potentially making its way to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, well, that’ll be a different story. We’ll all still have to pay the lawyers.
Downtown street construction will be completed by Lost in the ’50s, and everyone will complain about the expanded bulb outs and parking alignment as it affects the parade and car show. Yet, somehow, the event will come off as it always has. By the winter of 2020, we’ll all be used it.
That said, we will start to hear talk about a downtown parking garage at the city-owned parking lot — probably in the mid- to late-summer.
The Newport smelter will be in the dustbin of history. We won’t see much movement on wilderness declaration for the Scotchmans and (hopefully) another little kid will catch Old Man Sparkles the monster fish.
Finally, skry as we may and skry as we might, we have a hard time seeing whether or not Reader Publisher Ben Olson will be on a boat somewhere exotic in winter 2020-’21. We hope he comes back.
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