A time for stuffing stockings…and taking stock

As the end of 2017 fast approaches, it’s a natural time to look back, but it’s also a time to look ahead. Optimists are inclined always to look ahead. Pessimists are just the opposite. History is replete with wars and natural disasters and wrong turns.
Optimists tend to dislike and dismiss pessimists as dour and depressing. Expect the worst and it will happen. See the best in people and good things will happen.
Pessimists believe optimists are naïve and “in denial” about everything from human nature and social justice to the prospects for peace on earth and the seesawing price of gas at the pump.
Where you sit on the pessimism-optimism scale at any given time likely reflects where you stand on the political spectrum. Thus, the overwhelming majority of President Trump’s supporters are giddy optimists. And why not? The stock market is hitting historic highs!
Mr. Trump’s detractors, by contrast, are a bunch of grumpy pessimists these days. He colluded with the Russians, didn’t he? He stole the election, right? He’s goading “rocket man” into starting a nuclear war! The end times are at hand!!
Hamilton Nolan is a pessimist. Writing in “Splinter” (11/30/17) he sounds like Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”:
In 2018, something will give. Maybe it will be a fight with North Korea. Maybe it will be a major terrorist attack in the US. Maybe it will be war in the Middle East. Maybe it will be a political scandal so devastating that it undermines public faith in our system. But it will be something. It is stupid to wager that another entire year of Donald Trump…will not result in a catastrophe…. It’s a bad bet. The stage is set for disaster…. I can feel it in my bones... This will be the year when we don’t just bounce back. “Worse than this year??” you ask. Yes.
In stark contrast, legendary hedge fund manager, Michael Novogratz, is “uber-bullish” on the prospects for Bitcoin holders in the coming year, predicting that the value of this cryptocurrency will rise 300 percent or more! Novogratz “is fairly confident this is only the beginning of another massive bull run for Bitcoin in 2018. If his prediction is correct, one Bitcoin will be worth over US$40,000…a very ambitious goal, to say the very least, but one which is not entirely impossible either. After all, we have seen a 1,000 percent increase this year, which means a 400 percent gain should be pretty easy to achieve.” Pretty easy?
On the day I’m writing these words, U.S. stocks were up again. They have been at all-time historic highs for months. Notwithstanding, anybody who predicts another “massive bull run” after a 1,000 percent surge in the value of any speculative investment is either (a) a wild-eyed optimist, (b) drunk or (c) selling snake oil. You decide.
Fortunately, there’s a lot of middle ground between Dr. Pangloss and Dr. Doomsday.  Realism is the best antidote to either extreme—to the kind of optimism that is often blinding or the kind of pessimism that can be paralyzing.  
Question: Who decides what is real?  Answer: Nobody. Reality just is. The important thing is not to pretend it doesn’t exist. There really ARE facts. There really IS fake news. If we train our eyes and ears to see and hear the truth, we will know the difference. We don’t have to depend on anyone to tell us; in fact, it’s best if we don’t. Why?
Because, Virginia, not everybody tells the truth all the time. Lies don’t come with a truth-in-packaging label or an expiration date. The same day I read about the guy with the bullhorn hawking Bitcoins, General Electric announced it will cut 12,000 jobs—18 percent of its work force. If you happen to work for GE, 2018 is not looking like a good year for you or the other 11,999 employees who will be getting “pink slips” about the same time the boss is getting a fat bonus.
The very next day, however, the Labor Department released the official numbers indicating a robust economy added 228,000 jobs in November. And unemployment is the lowest since 2000 (4.1 percent).
My predictions? Trump will not be impeached in 2018. The GOP will retain control of Congress in the midterm elections. North Korea will not back down, the Middle East will not find peace, the worst will not happen, but bad things will. And through it all, there will be good people, kind deeds and, if the gods are not too angry at the human race, a realistic chance at a happy new year—for America and the world.


Tom Magstadt writes and cooks in the log cabin of his dreams. He lives on a mountain in Ouray County and fre- quents Colorado Boy almost enough to qualify as a regular. Visit Tom’s blog at http://open.salon.com/blog/dakotakid