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Opinion

Stranger things (to come)

SoVaNow.com / January 04, 2018
Truth really was stranger than fiction in 2017, a year you couldn’t have made up if you tried.

And lordy, did I try. One year ago, in fact. And in the spirit of “try, try again,” we hereby offer up our annual Fearless Forecast of the Future — a New Year’s week editorial page staple in the News & Record for the past couple of decades. Though I am loath to admit: after low-balling the insanity of the past year, the thought occurs to me that maybe in carrying out this annual exercise, I got nuthin’.

Well, almost nuthin’.

Local news hasn’t gone completely bonkers (and thank goodness for that). But as for the wider world, well ….

Before we get into our Fearless Forecasts for 2018, let’s look back at how we fared with our guesses of what strange things would happen in 2017. We ventured a dozen predictions, plus a bonus round that we’ll get to in a minute. The results, in order, were:

(1) nope, (2) nope, (3) nope, (4) nope, (5) nope, (6) nope, (7) vaguely accurate if you don’t look too carefully, (8) nope, (9) nope, (10) again, close in the sense that Pluto is close to the sun, (11) nope and (12) nope.

Let’s set aside the flat-out misses and explain Answers #7 and #10 in some detail. In the first instance, I predicted that Ralph Northam would be lifted to the governor’s office by a right-wing challenger who would cripple the Republican favorite in the party primary. In fact, GOP nominee Ed Gillespie had trouble fending off Confederate Army wannabe Corey Stewart in the June ballot for the Republican nod. But Northam walloped Gillespie in the November general election for a much different reason, having to do entirely with a different Republican provocateur in the White House.

As for my second near-miss: I predicted the Trump Administration would launch an antitrust probe of Google, which was wrong, obviously, but the instinct was somewhat correct. Actually, the Trump administration is threatening to hold up a merger involving AT&T and Time Warner, owners of CNN, on antitrust grounds, even though everyone knows this is nothing more than a revenge move by the CNN-hating Trumpies. Also, Trump has it out for Amazon, not Google, because Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post and The Post prints ugly albeit true facts about the Trump administration. Think “payback” with this bunch and you’ll anticipate their next move every time.

Oh, about that bonus question: I predicted that among the Seven Deadly Sins, “greed” would predominate in 2017, so I guess I got that one right. That’s probably only because “collusion” and “obstruction of justice” aren’t referenced anywhere in the Bible.

If payback is the guiding principle of our times (and it is), accurately forecasting the future shouldn’t be all that hard. So let’s see how we fare with our predictions for 2018:



(1) 2017 was a mostly quiet year in the ranks of Halifax County local government, which makes you think this can’t last. Who among local officialdom has the roughest year ahead?

(a) County Administrator Jim Halasz

(b) Superintendent of Schools Mark Lineburg

(c) South Boston Town Manager Tom Raab

(d) Board of Supervisors Chairman Dennis Witt

(e) Animal Warden Todd Moser



(2) The natives are restless and the Courthouse Renovation Project is ...

(a) over budget.

(b) running behind schedule.

(c) unexpectedly delayed.

(d) going full steam ahead whether you like it or not.



(3) A bomb cyclone is forecast somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean this week. In our more than half a century walking the planet, your humble prognosticator has never heard the term “bomb cyclone” before. Is this anything like Sharknado? And what bizarro natural occurrence lies in wait for Halifax County in the coming year?

(a) Sharknado

(b) Wildfire

(c) Hurricane

(d) Sinkhole

(e) Popsicle



(4) Solar energy, a big topic in Halifax County for the past year, takes an unexpected turn and …

(a) fizzles out.

(b) moves ahead faster than anticipated.

(c) runs into implacable opposition from the Halifax County Board of Supervisors.

(d) is undercut by Trump Administration trade sanctions on the importation of Chinese-made solar panels.

(e) is directly responsible for the closure of the Duke Energy power station just over the state line on U.S. 501 in Person County.



(5) Politics makes for strange bedfellows. So who’s sleeping with whom this year? (Editor’s note: The preceding line is offered tongue in check, so please, no letters or especially lawsuits.)

(a) Joe Gasperini and Freddie Edmonds, who arrange to take over as chair and vice-chair of the School Board.

(b) Sheriff Fred Clark and South Boston Police Chief Jim Binner, who present a united front after local law enforcement is drawn into a national controversy.

(c) Halifax Town Manager Carl Espy and Commonwealth’s Attorney Tracy Martin, who team up to compel a complete re-do of the Courthouse project, this time with the old Texaco gas station two doors down from the courthouse figuring into the revised design.

(d) County supervisors William Bryant Claiborne and Stanley Brandon, who reignite efforts to clean house in the county administrative office.

(e) Del. James Edmunds and state Sen. Bill Stanley, who offer a compromise bill in the General Assembly to impose relatively light penalties against hunters whose dogs are caught roaming over homeowners’ property.



(6) The Virginia General Assembly is nearly set to open for business without anyone knowing for sure which party will control the House of Delegates. Two races are unresolved: in Fredericksburg-area House District 28, where Democrats allege ballot irregularities in a race determined by only 82 votes; and in Newport News House District 94, where the Democratic and Republican candidates are tied, with 11,606 votes apiece, following a recount. A drawing is scheduled today to determine the winner. If the Republican incumbent loses, the House will be evenly divided between the two parties, 50-50. If the Democratic candidate wins the tiebreaker, and the party prevails with its legal challenge to the disputed outcome in Fredericksburg, Democrats could potentially take control of the House. Going into November, the GOP held a 66-34 majority in the lower chamber. So what happens?

(a) Nearly the full session goes by without either the Republican or the Democrat seated in HD-94, so the GOP maintains control — until the very end of the session, when a resolution comes.

(b) Aiming to avoid a months-long headache, Republican and Democratic leaders negotiate a power-sharing agreement that holds up regardless of how the disputed races are ultimately settled.

(c) Democrats win an early decision in their favor with the Newport News seat, and force a new election in Fredericksburg, putting that seat in limbo, and as a result seize control of the chamber.

(d) One of the parties recruits a member from across the aisle, upsetting the old dynamic.

(e) Republicans beat back all challenges and henceforth rule.



(7) Ralph Northam is able to do what Terry McAuliffe could not and ….

(a) enacts expansion of Virginia’s Medicaid system.

(b) lures a major auto maker to Virginia.

(c) gets along well with Republicans in the General Assembly.

(d) uses the Virginia Democratic Party’s newfound political muscle to swing control of both chambers of the General Assembly left.

(e) stays away from the microphones.



(8) The next member of the Trump White House to be indicted is:

(a) President Trump

(b) President Trump’s son

(c) President Trump’s son-in-law

(d) President Trump’s rogue brain a.k.a. Steve Bannon

(e) The presidential seal



(9) Okay, here goes: the worst thing (gulp) that will happen in 2018 is:

(a) war with North Korea

(b) war with Iran

(c) a financial market meltdown

(d) a constitutional crisis

(e) a prolonged federal government shutdown

(e) Twitter

(f) Eric Trump gets a prime nighttime gig on Fox News.



(10) The winner of this year’s Academy Award for Best Picture is:

(a) “Darkest Hour”

(b) “Dunkirk”

(c) “Get Out”

(d) “Lady Bird”

(e) “Wonder Woman”

(f) “I, Tonya”



(11) And finally, an early test of how this forecast will hold up in 2018 — this year’s Super Bowl champion will be the:

(a) Minnesota Vikings

(b) Pittsburgh Steelers

(c) Philadelphia Eagles

(d) New England Patriots

(e) Carolina Panthers

(f) New Orleans Saints

Our answers: (1) e, (2), d, (3), b, (4) d, (5) e, (6) c, (7), a, (8) c, (9) d, (10), c, (11) d.

Let’s see how we do!





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