Fri, Dec 31, 2004 - Page 9 News List

Looking into the crystal ball on prospects for the new year

By William Safire  /  NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE

In this, the granddaddy of all year-end fearless forecasts, you are invited to weigh intriguing possibilities in a dozen fields. For each, pick one, all or none, and don't play it safe; one correct wild guess gives you bragging rights forever.

1. The Oscar for Best Picture goes to: (a) Robert Zemeckis' The Polar Express; (b) Michael Mann's Collateral; (c) David Mamet's Spartan; (d) Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby (to win this choice, a trifecta is needed with Best Director and Best Actor as well); (e) Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 (from Academy members seeking vengeance).

2. Political scandals will include: (a) Senator Pat Roberts's cover-up of Senate Intelligence ineptitude in its suppressed USS Cole report; (b) association of a Kofi Annan family member with the selection of a UN oil-for-food official; (c) FBI Director Robert Mueller's two-year campaign of entrapment and harassment of the leading US pro-Israel group; (d) pan-Arabist leaders' conspiracy of silence in the genocide of African Muslims in Darfur.

3. The national intelligence director will be: (a) the Pentagon's Paul Wolfowitz; (b) CIA chief Porter Goss; (c) retired General Tommy Franks; (d) 9/11 interrogator Richard "Is it not a fact" Ben-Veniste; (e) ex-Democratic Senator Chuck Robb.

4. Iraqis will see the: (a) election of Ayad Allawi and progress on the bumpy road to democracy; (b) comeback of Ahmad Chalabi dreaded by the CIA; (c) insurgency's sudden collapse with the capture of bin Laden and killing of Zarqawi; (d) beginning of the US troop drawdown; (e) judgment of not guilty in Saddam's trial; (f) bloody Shiite-Sunni civil war and Kurdish independence.

5. The sleeper nonfiction best seller will be: (a) The Tender Bar by J.P. Moehringer; (b) Becoming Justice Blackmun by Linda Greenhouse; (c) Robert O'Harrow Jr.'s No Place to Hide; (d) Arch Puddington's biography of Lane Kirkland, Champion of American Labor; (e) The Ethical Brain by Michael Gazzaniga; (f) Speaking Freely by the press defender Floyd Abrams; (g) Smashed by Koren Zailckas.

6. The novel surprise will be: (a) Nick Arvin's Articles of War; (b) Elizabeth Gaffney's Metropolis; (c) Bret Easton Ellis's Lunar Park; (d) Julie Baumgold's The Diamond (dictated by Napoleon).

7. Senate Democrats will: (a) not dig in their heels over elevating Antonin Scalia to chief justice if Bush appoints a centrist as a new associate justice; (b) by filibustering all strongly conservative nominees, bring on the GOP "nuclear option" of changing Senate rules to require only a simple majority for confirmation; (c) drop the abortion litmus test but otherwise fight all right-wing judges.

8. The Scalia court will decide: (a) to strike down federal sentencing guidelines, producing tumult in criminal justice; (b) to uphold governmental Ten Commandments displays as harmless "ceremonial deism;" (c) to strike a blow for the free flow of booze by ruling that states cannot prevent the shipment of wines produced in one state to consumers in another state.

9. Republicans in Congress will remind President Bush of his lame-duckiness by defeating his proposal for: (a) personal retirement accounts within Social Security; (b) registering illegal immigrants; (c) making his tax cuts permanent; (d) a ticket to Mars.

10. Democrats will reverse their electoral fortunes by: (a) moving right by insisting on budget reduction; (b) moving left by advocating more social spending and higher taxes; (c) staying centered globally as muscular alliance-builders; (d) moving upward by getting religion; (e) moving down South and out Midwest for national candidates.

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