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Has any election year ever opened with a month of comparable surprises? Five trillion dollars of lost value in global stock collapses, led by the sudden realization of false value of China's currency. Concurrent with the collapse of decades of artificially high oil prices — and well before Iran's long-embargoed crude could hit the marketplace. Of course, the fat cats don't feel the pain. Your pension fund does. If you're among the diminishing number of Americans with a pension.

Al Jazeera America

7 Political Guaranteed Predictions for 2016—Larry Wines

Unpredictable things are dropping in like swarms of arrows. It's as if legions of bowmen sneaked in to outflank us on both sides — while we were staring, hour upon hour, at campaign antics in the daily contest of MSNBC, CNN, and Faux News to see who can keep the longest marathon of dumb fixations in the issue-free zone.

It gets worse. Word arrived suddenly that Al Jazeera America is shutting-down by the end of April, a victim of the collapse of the petroleum hegemony — its owners in Dubai fear they can't afford to carry it anymore in hopes of building it into a profitable enterprise.

We can't overstate the loss in this election year, when everybody else with a tv camera behaves like a heroin addict chasing their pusher, who, invariably, is a bloviating politician, delivering only the illusion of their opiate, doing a phoner.

We can't overstate the loss in this election year, when everybody else with a tv camera behaves like a heroin addict chasing their pusher, who, invariably, is a bloviating politician, delivering only the illusion of their opiate, doing a phoner.

Only one visual media outlet has been better, and better beyond comparison: Al Jazeera America is this nation's only comprehensive cable tv window on world affairs. That's true by any objective measure. They've won more journalism awards in their short three years than everybody else combined.

Okay, so bringing their globally established Arabic name here with that flame-formed Arabic script logo were really, really bad ideas. Far too few Americans got past the image to learn that AJ is all about top-quality journalistic substance.

Even now, when morale must be down on both sides of their cameras, watching AJ for an hour or two is an epiphany. That short a time is enough to understand why European visitors — those who trust you enough to venture truth — will consistently tell you how insular and fixated and unaware Americans are.

AJ achieves what CNN promised before it got lost looking for missing airliners that went down with all of CNN's other news in their luggage compartments. It's hardly worth mentioning Fox News, aka the Pinnochio network. And sorry, MSNBC, but you were always a cliché, spending your weekends airing crap about how gritty it is inside the prisons, throwing away valuable airtime on dangerous, threatening dimwits.

All that operates in the face of the cable news industry paradigm: the multi-day singular obsessive fixation, oblivious to everything else, and election politics increasingly built on exploiting outrageously inflammatory assertions devoid of facts. Al Jazeera America never bought into any of that. So, losing AJ is a devastating development that will bring unquantifiable but real consequences, and the 2016 election is just one that's obvious.

For all of us who hoped cable news would get better because AJ set the bar so much higher? Forgetaboudit. Predictions dependent on the role of media in this election year — and that means all predictions — must go back to the drawing board because the AJ factors of quality, inclusive perspective, and a model for doing it properly are all leaving the equation.

That's some of what's serious. There are also the dimensions of comedy — intentional and unintentional — and parody, and 2008 and 2012 proved the importance of both the serious and the laughable. To wit: both Bill Moyers and Jon Stewart, important players then, are now missing.

So let's leapfrog to that end of the spectrum, where America laughs at politicians, with or without the assistance of comedians. Could anyone predict preachers being embraced by campaigns in return for endorsing candidates — before anybody checked the web for the preachers' pesky, hate-filled, jihadi-style, painfully ignorant, emphatically judgmental pontifications? That's in addition to the pandering that's largely missed, like Ted Cruz trying to out-Huckabee Ben Carson by giving all credit to the prayers of his campaign supporters for the release of Americans held by Iran. And Duck Dynasty dimwits citing God and guns as they divide endorsements in commercials that look like Saturday Night Live parodies, but aren't.

And in retrospect, it couldn't have been complete without last week's unscheduled arrival of Sarah Palin's crazy train, crashing through the wall like the climactic scene in "Silver Streak." Of course, that warranted a Tina Fey return to SNL which, deja vú all over again, built a sketch this weekend from Palin's own buffet of word salads, including her freshly-arrested offspring, named-for-transmission-parts.

How do you predict a continuous line of dumptrucks, all without the hooting backup horns? Does sanity dictate taking days off and missing something, or do we just cry uncle and take a very long walk? Like maybe the whole Pacific Crest Trail?

It keeps getting more unpredictable. Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, a data-driven guy, is talking about jumping in as an independent presidential candidate. From a certain perspective, it makes sense. Some voters in both parties will freak out if non-establishment candidates win both party's nominations. It sorta seems like there could be an opening, despite the "Jeb!" crash-and-burn scenario.

After all, unlike fellow NYC billionaire Donald Trump, Bloomberg has a record in government. And, unlike New York's former U.S. senator and fellow millionaire Hillary Clinton, Hizzoner has a record taking on special interests. Unlike Bernie Sanders, he doesn't scare the hell out of Wall Street's entitled-to-eat-cake, guaranteed-to-be-bailed-out oligarchs. Unlike the Crubio wackos, he understands the purpose of government ("Crubio"-? Why not. There are distinctions without differences, and if the Democrats aren't going to use it, feel free Mr. Mayor.) As the owner of a major media consortium, Michael Bloomberg would be the only candidate who knows how to play the soundbyte image characterization game, indeed the whole news-cycle-dominance game, better than reality-tv-enfant-terriblè Trump. And Mike has more of his own money to spend than Trump.

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If Bloomberg does get in, assessing his chances requires reaching beyond his own characteristics: is his perceived constituency real? Is he anything more than a spoiler? And in a three-way contest, who prevails with a plurality, elected with what Electoral College mosaic, based on less than 50% of the popular vote? Make enough sense of that for a prediction? Seriously?

We could go on. It's been a nutty four weeks. There is no reason to believe a sudden fairy tale of happily-ever-after will arrive with returns from Iowa and New Hampshire.

All that — and much more — must be kept in mind (if you're obsessive) or dismissed altogether (if you prefer being happily oblivious).

So, with all that said, we're ready to make seven guaranteed predictions. Here goes:

  • No one's comprehensive list of 2016 predictions has the slightest, most remote chance of being true. No one's. And damn few singular predictions will come true. (These excepted.)
  • By election day, you'll want to strangle anyone who has said, "This election is really going to be fun!" because the pain index will be higher — much higher — than any of us now foresee.
  • Surprises, twists and turns, and things falling from the sky (overhyped Chicken Littles included) will be far more strange than anything the pundits, the prognosticators, or anyone else, have already imagined, or yet can imagine.
  • Big corporate and billionaire-controlled media will determine the headlines and the singularities of news cycles to the exclusion of countless newsworthy factors that would otherwise influence public opinion, make the world a better place if people knew about them — or change voter behavior.
  • Everyone who agrees with you about candidates and issues will be deemed intelligent, prescient, and in possession of a clear understanding of the best thing for America. Everyone who disagrees with you about candidates and issues will be the embodiment of all that's wrong with America.
  • Ultimately, the 2016 election will come down to three sets of interests each seeking support to protect their firewalls, versus characterizations of "dangerous" and "destablizing" insurgents that would destroy the comfort zones of the status quo. With or without a third-party Bloomberg, the three sets of interests are:

a. mainstream "corporate-friendly" Democrats afraid of erosion of civil rights, abortion rights, and other "settled" issues, and focused on Supreme Court appointments more than issues of economic inequality;

b. old-time "establishment Republicans" who don't want to pay taxes and are chiefly afraid of reinstated regulatory authority and Democratic socialism unseen since the New Deal;

c. sheep-dipped "social conservative" / teabag Republicans afraid of establishment Republicans who might abandon the firewall of intransigent obstructionism and "make deals" with Democrats.

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  • A few criminal acts — attacks — by individuals, duos, and small groups, each in the realm of glorified drive-by shootings or IED pipe bombs in shopping mall trash cans, will assume paramount importance and replace all well-reasoned agendas and the full kaleidoscope of election issues, because they are labeled terrorism. Individually and collectively, these heinous acts by a miniscule number of psychopathic or sociopathic individuals will be disproportionately regarded, solely as the result of being over-reported. The news media, through its penchant for fixation, claustrophobic "perspective," cutaways to "terrorism experts," and exclusion of everything else in the world, will foment fear, fuel campaign hype by the most reprehensible exploiters, and redirect far too much of the focus — and outcome — of the election.

Granted, some parts of this are snarky. Like "guaranteeing" seven predictions will come true in 2016. Sadly, that guarantee is an honest assessment. Even though we hope things come out differently — much differently — especially with regard to the attacks we foresee by neo-terrorists, and how their importance will be all-consuming.

It's bound to be wacky in what gets repirted and what gets shortchanged or ignored. Being an Olympic year assures we'll hear the athlete's motto, "Higher. Farther. Faster." Even with the Russian team's persistent doping scandals and dangerous "new" disease-ridden mosquitoes in host country Brazil.

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We'll offer a more appropriate motto for 2016 here in America: Brace yourself. For both predictions and outcomes. Reality will transcend anything you expect.

Larry Wines