2003 seemed to me, as if it was a very long year, considering everything that has happened.
1) The Stock Markets virtually died and were resurrected. Banks lowered interest rates to just above zero. The US Dollar fell to the value of the Euro. The Canadian Dollar made substantial gains compared to the US Dollar.
2) Some of the mighty financial icons fell like wisps, opposed to oak trees.
3) Bush finally looked vulnerable, then came the dramatic capture of Saddam.
4) Howard Dean will lead the Democrats – Go figure!
5) Chretien’s gone – Finally!
6) Charest in Quebec has reneged on his fundamental Montreal demerger campaign promise. But so has Robert Libman – Big surprise!
7) Guy Bertrand is a born-again Separatist – Another big surprise!
8) Paul Martin finally gets the brass ring.
9) The Palestinians are still trying to kill Jews.
10) Israel is finally fighting back.
Here are my prognostications based upon the above:
1) People have not learned their lessons vis a vis the Stock Market, and are once again in full buying mode, using their money to bet on the Stock Market Casino.
The Markets in 2004 will continue to grow fuelled by the hucksters and promoters; from investment banks, to conventional banks, to insurance companies, to day-trading on-line. We never learn.
Interest rates will remain low, since the recovery has not produced more jobs, and an increased cost in borrowing will only harm employment.
This is also a US Presidential election year, and the Federal Reserve is not going to do anything to tip the scales one way or another.
The US Dollar will make a significant comeback against the Euro, as people realize that Europe is far more of a financial basket-case than the Europeans will have us believe.
The Canadian Dollar will continue to remain strong, and increase in value to it’s American cousin. Canada’s stability and the government of Paul Martin will give the world financial markets continued confidence in our dollar.
2) We watched CEO’s taken-in with their hands cuffed behind their backs, and eagerly await the trial of Martha Stewart. But other than the “few” embarrassed Captains of Industry we saw paraded before the cameras, business in the boardrooms will continue as usual.
And Martha Stewart, will at the worst get her wrists slapped, and at the best, she’ll come out of this mess with even more Star Celebrity Status.
I’m betting more on the Star Celebrity Status. If I played the market, which I don’t, I would invest in Martha: “the survivor par excellence”.
3) George W Bush was starting to look a little thin. The Democrats with their worldwide liberal allies, and the legions of enemies to Bush were making gains in their mantra and battle cry: Where’s the WMD’s?
Haliburton: Vice President Dick Cheney’s former company got caught screwing the American people in un-bid contracts for Iraqi development, including the supply of fuel to the American military, which they over-charged by an obscene amount.
Then along came Saddam. Picturing Saddam being picked over for lice like a street person made a lot of people forget about Bush’s short-comings and Haliburton. At least temporarily.
I believe that 2004 is going to be a hard year for Bush.
4) Lacking something cataclysmic, Howard Dean will win the Democratic nomination and polarize the American people like never before.
A lot of people are already discounting any chance Dean will have to unseat a sitting President, especially during a time of war. But I’m not.
I mostly support what Bush is doing. But I don’t feel comfortable with him. And I’m a moderate in this feeling.
The Democrats, they hate him. They hate him so much, that they will vote for anyone but Bush. And more than that, their absolute disdain for Bush will turn out Democratic voters in significant numbers.
Those who support Bush are in two camps. Some love him, and will turn out to vote for him. And there are those who don’t mind him, but won’t necessarily have the passion to visit the polling stations to vote for him.
We can’t forget several things in the last election. Bush didn’t win. Had Ralph Nader not run as an independent, the Democrats would have won a million plus more votes.
And this time around, what’s Bush’s message going to be? More of the same might not be enough to generate sufficient excitement to turn out the Republican voters.
On the other side, Dean’s message is SUBSTANTIAL!
I can not remember any serious US candidate who has delivered a totally unique, determined and clear social message that resonates throughout the land.
He is absolutely out of the box. And as much an outsider as I have ever seen who has a real kick at the Presidential can.
Many pundits and establishment Democrats criticize Dean for being intransigent. He won’t buckle under pressure to and move from his Leftist position to safer and more politically correct middle-ground.
In fact, he is as stubborn about his positions, as the Donkey that denotes the Democratic Party. And that in itself is a great part of his allure to voters who want real change.
If Dean stays-the-course, Bush and the Republicans might have far more to worry about than simply finding Weapons Of Mass Destruction.
5) Chretien’s gone, and his presence in Ottawa will be nothing more than a footnote, best remembered as the Prime Minister who almost lost Canada to Quebec’s Separatists.
In all the years (nearly 40) Chretien walked the halls of Parliament, either as a Minister or Prime Minister, he never had a vision of the country which would earn him a reason to be remembered. Although he did make many of his friends and supporters rich.
6) Jean Charest lied to Montrealers when he pretended to be in their court against the forced merger of their Suburbs into one city. And he promised not to touch one comma in Quebec’s racist language law, Bill 101. This promise he will keep.
Charest promised to lower taxes, knowing full well that Quebec’s economy was in the tank. And he promised to recreate Quebec’s economy.
Charest will not lower taxes. Instead, he will find creative ways to keep them where they are, or even raise them through surcharges.
Charest will also not change the way Quebec does business, and will eventually buckle-under to the Unions.
And most of all: Charest will find a way to open the door a crack to constitutional change, in his never ending quest to win “Distinct Society” status for Quebec within Canada.
All in all, Charest will come across as a weak leader who will be fighting for his political life, years before the next Quebec provincial election.
7) Guy Bertrand seems to have stunned many in the English speaking community with his announcement that he has had yet another Quebecois epiphany.
Bertrand’s first vision was to become a Separatist, as cofounder of the Parti Quebecois with Rene Levesque.
The second calling was when he decided to become a born again federalist, just before Quebec’s 1995 referendum on separation.
And here he is again; resurrected as a Quebecois nationalist, sworn to win “sovereignty” for the French people of Quebec.
Bertrand will have no effect, good or bad on the politics of Quebec. His only real claim to fame, was that he fleeced the Anglo and federalist communities Canada-wide for hundreds of thousands of dollars. And in the process had the English language media wrapped around his little finger.
8) Paul Martin will change the way politics is done on Parliament Hill. He will open up the process, and give lapsed Liberals a reason to come back to the Party.
He will also significantly change Canada’s foreign affairs policies, and Canada’s military.
Two of the many things I am looking forward to from Paul Martin; is an improvement in Healthcare, which means more money for the system, and a better rapprochement with the provinces in this regard.
I am also looking for Paul Martin to reign-in, if not end the useless spending on projects no one asked for, and no one needs. And for him to accelerate the repayment of the debt.
The one weak spot which worries me to no end with Paul Martin, is his proclivity to suck-up to Quebec nationalists. If he stays away from Jean Charest’s pet project, Martin can very well become a great Canadian Prime Minister.
9) Nothing will change with the Palestinians, even if Arafat totally disappears from the scene.
The Palestinians have squandered billions of dollars in para militaries, extravagance for their leaders, on international travel and PR, teaching their children how to hate Jews, instead of how to compete with them, and in outright theft of international funds earmarked for the Palestinian people.
The damage caused to the Palestinian psyche is nearly impossible to change or heal.
Because of Arafat and the sycophant jerks like Said Erekat and Hannan Ashwari who surround him while helping to present a civilized face to a barbaric regime, the Palestinian people will be cursed to live in a nightmare for a very, very long time.
10) Israel has finally got the message.
Nothing Israel will do, or can do, short of committing national suicide will satisfy the ant-Semites in Europe and elsewhere.
Israel also knows that no deal will be enough for the Arabs, including and especially the Palestinians, that leaves an intact Jewish State in the Middle East.
The Israeli Security Wall is the first initiative Israel has taken to defend itself since 1967, when Israel didn’t wait for the Arabs to overrun them in an attempt to create Holocaust II.
The “Wall” is Israel’s answer to suicide murderers, hit and run attacks against Jewish civilians and guard posts, and the Palestinian’s decision not to end TERRORISM against the Jewish State.
The “Wall” will become the defacto border between Israel and the Palestinians, and as much as the outside world cries foul, nothing will ever force the Palestinian leadership to understand better, that their gig is up.
All in all: I think 2004 is going to be a raucous year full of political and social trepidation.
We haven’t heard the last of Al Qaeda, or whichever other Arab/Moslem group wanting to do the West and modernity harm. We will suffer more attacks, and we will learn to live under siege as if it’s a normal thing.
But like always, most of us will persevere, survive 2004, and look forward to 2005.
My personal resolutions are simple:
1) I want to keep writing.
2) I want to continue building on our property. Wherever it might be.
3) I want to do whatever I can, in my own small way, to make a positive difference.
4) I want more personal financial security; just like everyone else.
5) I want nothing less than absolute joy for my wife, family ( including our four legged family) and friends.
I wish all of my readers in Canada, the USA and everywhere else, a very HAPPY NEW YEAR.