Friday, September 08, 2023

 The September edition of the ICBW podcast is now available for download or streaming.  Part 1 discusses the recent RICO indictment against Trump and his alleged co-conspirators, with digressions into the January 6th convictions, the Hunter Biden case, Elon Musk's management of Twitter/X, and other topics.  Part 2 covers recent statements by environmentalists and speculates on their motives, before veering off into yet another round of discussion of how academia went so terribly wrong.  Finally, part 3 delves into the cultural phenomena of "Try That in a Small Town" and "Rich Men North of Richmond", two songs that have achieved recent notoriety via ostensible right-wing populism.  As always, listeners are invited to participate in the discussion via comments on this post.

Monday, August 07, 2023

 The August edition of the ICBW podcast is now available for download or streaming.  In part 1, we discuss the latest revelations regarding the Biden family's alleged corrupt activities, and in part 2, we consider rumors of room-temperature superconductivity.  As always, listeners are invited to participate in the discussion via comments on this post.

Thursday, July 06, 2023

 The July edition of the ICBW podcast is now available for download or streaming.  In part 1, we discuss the allegations of corruption against the Biden family, and the general issue of elected officials earning money "on the side".  In part 2, we speculate on the origins of the current riots in France, and in part 3, we critique leading AI researcher Geoffrey Hinton's recent remarks on the threats posed by advances in AI technology.  As always, listeners are invited to participate in the discussion via comments on this post.

Friday, June 09, 2023

 The June edition of the ICBW podcast is now available for download or streaming.  Part 1 reviews the documentary film, "What Is a Woman?", a critical look at the transgender movement, while part 2 explores the question, "What should English classes teach?".  As always, listeners are invited to participate in the discussion via comments on this post.

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

 The May edition of the ICBW podcast is now available for download or streaming.  In part 1, we discuss Tucker Carlson, Fox News, George Soros and anti-Semitism.  (They're all connected, although admittedly somewhat loosely.)  In part 2, we delve into the current state of illegal immigration into the US, given the imminent lifting of the Title 42 restrictions.  And in part 3, we briefly review a few recent examples of "gaslighting" (defined broadly) exhibited by major public figures such as retired public health official Anthony Fauci, teachers' union leader Randi Weingarten, and White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre.

As always, listeners are invited to participate in the discussion by posting comments below--we'll try to respond to them promptly.

Sunday, April 09, 2023

 The April edition of the ICBW podcast is now available for download or streaming.  In part 1, we discuss Donald Trump's indictment and the politicization of prosecutorial decisions in general, as well as recent transgender activism.  In part 2, we revisit AI from a political perspective--specifically, "AI bias" and its various interpretations--and continue our previous discussion of Internet "misinformation".  As always, listeners are invited to contribute to the conation via comments on this post.

Monday, March 06, 2023

 The March edition of the ICBW podcast is now available for download or streaming.  In part 1, we discuss the recent train derailment in Ohio, and the Biden administration's response; part 2 covers the Bowdlerization of Roald Dahl's books for children; part 3 explores the alleged Chinese "interference" in the last Canadian election; and part 4 delves into ChatGPT and its AI siblings, and their implications for the future.  As always, listeners are encouraged to participate in the discussion by posting comments to this blog.

Wednesday, February 08, 2023

 The February edition of the ICBW podcast is now available for download or streaming.  Part 1 briefly addresses the "spy balloon" story, part 2 considers "foreign interference" in the context of the mammoth Jeffrey Gerth report on media coverage of "Russiagate" in the Columbia Journalism Review, and part 3 reviews the "anti-woke" education policies implemented recently in Florida.  As always, listeners interested in participating in our discussion are invited to do so by leaving comments on this post.

Monday, January 16, 2023

 The January "predictions" edition of the ICBW podcast is now available for download or streaming.  In part 1, we discuss the recently released "Twitter files", and the future of the platform and its CEO, as well as the new Congress, including the battle for speakership and a new member who was found to have lied flagrantly about his past.  In part 2, we review our predictions for 2023.  As always, listeners are invited to participate in the discussion via comments on this post.

Tuesday, January 03, 2023

 In these difficult, chaotic times, it's reassuring to know that some things can still be depended upon...Like the annual ICBW predictions post.  First--as always--a review of our predictions for 2022:

  • The omicron stage of the COVID-19 pandemic will turn out to have a low casualty rate, and will peter out over a couple of months, but the spike in cases will cause a temporary tightening of COVID-related rules in COVID-hawkish states and locales--mask mandates, school and travel restrictions, and the like--that will only relax slowly over the course of 2022.  By the end of the year, however, the entire country will be more or less back to pre-COVID rules and conventions.
Pretty spot-on, I'd say...
  • A weaker economy (very slow growth, though not a recession) and tightening by the Federal Reserve will slow US inflation in 2022, but it will remain uncomfortably elevated.  Asset markets--stocks, real estate, oil and cryptocurrency--will decline significantly in real terms, but not to bubble-bursting levels.  (That will require much stronger action by the Fed than the Biden administration will allow.)
This one is about 50-50 (depending on how one feels about the Biden administration's insistence that the two consecutive quarters of negative growth did not in fact constitute a recession).  Oil prices are actually flat year-on-year, and the Case-Shiller real estate index is up slightly from January as of October (it's calculated with a lag, and will probably be roughly flat once the December numbers are calculated).  Stocks and cryptocurrencies, however, behaved as predicted.
  • The "Build Back Better" bill currently being pushed by Democrats in Congress will not pass--not even in massively scaled-back form--nor will any other of the Democratic Congress' proposed "reform" initiatives, such as loosening voting rules, strengthening organized labor, ending the filibuster, expanding the Supreme Court and adding states.  On the other hand, despite some tough-on-crime noises by local Black leaders and backtracking on open borders from the Biden administration, law and border enforcement will remain lax. (Both have far too much momentum among Democrats to be easily reversed just because of their disastrous implications for the party.)  Hence crime will continue to rise significantly, and illegal immigration, while dropping from its 2021 peak due to economic weakness, will remain far above Trump-era levels. 
This one was off in two details:  the "Inflation Reduction Act" included a few green initiatives from the original BBB bill, and illegal immigration in fact increased from 2021 levels, despite the economic slowdown.  Otherwise, the prediction was on-target.
  • The GOP will handily win back control of the House and Senate in the 2022 midterm elections, gaining a significant-but-not-spectacular number of seats in both houses--mostly because their current near-equal holdings offer less room for huge gains.
This one was off in an interesting way:  the 2022 vote swung sharply towards the GOP, but that did not translate into a big swing in seats.  In the House, the shift in the GOP electorate to a broader working-class coalition reduced the party's previous distribution advantage--most of the gains were in majority-Democrat districts--while in the Senate, a few highly controversial GOP candidates ran well behind their ticket-mates, alienating enough voters to cost them their seats.
  • The US Supreme Court will issue a muddled ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson (a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a Mississippi law forbidding abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy) that will allow the abortion restriction to stand, while retaining some weakened version of the Constitutional right to abortion introduced in the Roe v. Wade decision.
This was a clear miss--I underestimated the ability of the Court's conservative majority to resist Chief Justice Roberts' trademark cajoling in favor of modest, incremental rulings.  I assumed he'd be able to pull at least one justice over to his position, but the remaining five conservatives ended up holding firm.
  • Russia will launch a major military action in Eastern Ukraine, seizing territory and demanding extreme concessions in return for withdrawal.  Western nations will heavily sanction the Putin regime in response, but will otherwise do little to counter the Russian incursion.
The basic prediction was correct--many people forget that as late as January, it was widely assumed (including by a reader in our comments section, in fact) that Putin's military buildup was a bluff.  As I discussed on the podcast, several events immediately following the invasion led (and were necessary precursors) to the Biden administration adopting an uncharacteristically tough, active stance with respect to Ukraine:  first, the invasion was in effect a full-scale attempt at complete conquest of Ukraine, rather than a mere land-grab.  Second, the Ukrainians, far from collapsing, actually held their own in the initial stages of the war, preventing Russia from achieving some of its key early aims.  And third, European countries--primarily the former Soviet satrapies of Eastern Europe, plus, significantly, Great Britain--reacted to the scale of the attack and the success of the resistance to it by placing themselves squarely, loudly and actively on Ukraine's side.  As with Obama in Libya, Biden found supporting a primarily European initiative far more politically palatable than driving one himself, and the administration hence signed on wholeheartedly.
  • China will continue its aggressive posture towards neighbors and the West in general, but will not launch any large-scale military actions, including against Taiwan.  It will settle for continued skirmishes similar to its actions on the Indian border last year, as well as general expansion of its global military presence and tightening of its partnerships with Russia and Iran.  Iran will also make announce a major milestone in the progress of its nuclear weapons program--possibly even a nuclear weapons test, although more likely something short of that, such as a vague claim of having constructed a nuclear weapon.  Hence there will be no renewed US nuclear agreement with Iran, although the Biden administration will continue to repeatedly grant unilateral concessions such as sanctions relief in the absurdly feckless hope of moderating Iranian behavior.
This was correct about China but only mostly correct about Iran, in that only minor nuclear milestones were announced.   (The recent popular unrest in both countries also went unpredicted, of course.)  We'll have more to say about these countries in our predictions for 2023.
  • The Supreme Court will hear the appeal of Students for Fair Admissions v. President and Fellows of Harvard College, in which an Asian-American student group is accusing Harvard of racial discrimination against Asians.  And as in the Dobbs case, the court will issue a muddled ruling that devises some new, complicated compromise between precedent and principle--in this case, a criterion for Constitutional racial discrimination that allows "affirmative action" in general to continue while forbidding some form of it that includes the anti-Asian discrimination being practiced by Harvard.  Prestigious universities will react to (or anticipate) this ruling by further diminishing the role of academic criteria such as standardized test scores in their admissions processes, allowing them to continue their discrimination largely unhindered, at the cost of gutting their own academic standards and the value of the credentials they award.
This prediction didn't even get the timing of the ruling right--it's due some time in 2023.  (We'll revisit this one, as well, in this year's predictions.)
  • In the wake of COVID-related disruptions to the professional sports leagues and a controversy-marred winter Olympic games in Beijing, e-sports will make a significant leap into mainstream culture--perhaps a deal with a broadcasting network or streaming service, or an e-sports competition or competitor receiving major (non-scandalous) news coverage.
Interestingly, professional sports appear to be among the few cultural institutions to have already recovered more or less completely from the pandemic.  The rise of e-sports is still likely, but may take longer than we anticipated.

And now for our predictions for 2023:
  • The US economy will dip into recession--a full-fledged one, this time--in 2023, and all major asset markets will again be down sharply by the end of the year (apart from bonds, which will benefit from a recession-related decline in inflation).  If a recovery begins at all before 2024, it will be anemic.  The collapse of cryptocurrencies will continue.
  • The war in Ukraine will take one of two paths:  if Putin survives the year, then the war will drag on, World War I-style, at increasing cost to both sides, with Ukraine making incremental gains but both sides hampered from major offensive actions by lack of equipment and ammunition.  On the other hand, if Putin dies this year, then the new leader, seeking a domestic PR victory, will begin negotiations for ending the war.
  • The unrest in China will dissipate, but a spooked government, distracted by COVID and a 1990s-Japan-style economic implosion, will hold off on major internal crackdowns--let alone an invasion of Taiwan.  The unrest in Iran, on the other hand, will continue and even grow, with the opposition coalescing around some consensus leader--possibly the heir to the last Shah.  If Khamenei survives through 2023, then so will his regime, but it will end the year looking increasingly shaky.  If, on the other hand, Khamenei dies, then so will the regime--even if a candidate manages to seize the role of successor immediately, without a protracted struggle, he will nevertheless be too weak to be able to rally the regime to fully suppress the uprising.
  • Joe Biden's domestic approval rating will hover around 40% for much of the year, weighed down by the poor economy and general discontent with the results of Democratic policies on energy (high fossil fuel prices), crime (skyrocketing due to lack of law enforcement) and immigration (an unabated massive wave of illegals).  As a result, at least one Democratic primary challenger will emerge before the end of the year.  Meanwhile, on the GOP side, Trump's dominance of the candidate field will continue to slide, and by the end of the year there will be several announced primary candidates, with one of the alternatives to Trump--possibly, though not certainly, DeSantis--leading in the polls.  The GOP-led House, in addition to blocking all but the most bipartisan legislative initiatives, will launch numerous investigations into Biden administration malfeasance, which will generate plenty of breathless headlines in pro-GOP partisan media but be largely ignored or ridiculed by the pro-Democrat mainstream outlets.
  • The Supreme Court's rulings on the anti-Asian discrimination cases will rule 6-3 that the two universities' practices are indeed illegally discriminatory, with the three Democratic-appointed justices dissenting but Roberts this time aligning fully with the GOP-appointed majority.
  • Elon Musk will appoint a new CEO for Twitter, who will (per his instructions) focus on improving the user experience and increasing profitability, rather than policing user-generated content.  As a result, Twitter's user base and net income will increase substantially, and the company will end the year financially much healthier that it appeared to be at the beginning--much to the chagrin of censorship supporters.
As always, readers are welcome to join the discussion by commenting on these predictions--or proposing their own--in the comments section.

Sunday, December 04, 2022

 The December ICBW podcast is now available for download or streaming.  Part 1 expands on our October discussion of anti-government protests in Iran, extending it to include China; part 2 continues our November discussion of changes at Twitter, focusing on recent changes to their censorship policies; part 3 delves into Florida's recent "Stop WOKE" act, and its implications for free speech and academic freedom; and part 4 covers the recent fall (and apparent financial misdeeds) of cryptocurrency tycoon Sam Bankman-Fried.  As always, listeners are invited to participate via comments on this post.

Saturday, November 12, 2022

 The November (pre-election) edition of the ICBW podcast is now available for download or streaming.  Part 1 examines the question of what, exactly, voters expect from a candidate, using the Pennsylvania Senate candidates as an example.  Part 2 covers the recent upheavals at Twitter, including changes to the "blue check" identity model.  And Part 3 discusses ideological capture of major institutions such as medical schools.  As always, listeners are invited to participate in the discussion via comments on this post.

Thursday, October 06, 2022

 The jam-packed October edition of the ICBW podcast is now available for download or streaming.  After a brief introductory part 1 in which we discuss recent developments in the fight against malaria, part 2 covers the current conflict in Russia, with a digression on unrest in Iran.  Part 3 addresses the Biden administration's proposal to forgive student loans, and part 4 considers the rise in support for medical interventions to support gender "transition" in minors.  As always, listeners are encouraged to participate in our debates via comments on this blog post.

Monday, August 08, 2022

 The August edition of the ICBW podcast is now available for download or streaming.  Part 1 covers current economic conditions and the terms--inflation, recession--associated with them; part 2 delves into climate change, ESG and large corporations; and part 3 continues that theme with a discussion of why and how important research and regulatory institutions, such as those in the field of medicine, get politicized.  

As always, listeners are invited to participate in the conversation by leaving comments on this blog post.