One of the most persistent of human follies is the presumption that we can somehow predict the future. In case you hadn’t noticed, we can’t.

I don’t just mean you and I can’t; no one can. Stars, tea leaves, tarot cards, crystal balls, Ouija boards, Magic Eight Balls – all bunk. But that doesn’t keep seers, prophets and pundits from trying.

So here goes nothing.

I predict that in 2011 the United States will suffer some sort of disaster that no one saw coming. Oh, there will be some obscure crackpot somewhere who’ll be hauled out to claim to have foreseen the total collapse of this-that-or-the-other, but no one paid any attention to him because, after all, the guy’s a crackpot. When the unforeseen does occur, however, just remember who predicted it – moi.

On the international scene, there will be tragic earthquakes, floods and hurricanes, airline crashes, terrorist bombings, and endless wars. North Korea will threaten South Korea. Iran will threaten everyone. China will continue to underwrite U.S. debt. And the European economy will continue to flounder.

Nationally, Sarah Palin will emerge as the Republican presidential front-runner. I know, I know, it sounds far-fetched and unbelievable, but you heard it here first. Every candidate for political office will warn against our dependency on foreign oil. Gas prices will once again reach $4 a gallon before mysteriously subsiding. Oil companies will post record profits. And the Republican Revolution of 2010 will turn out to be a bigger bust than the Republican Revolution of 1994 after American voters discover just how much pain the GOP is willing to inflict on them.

Here in Maine, Gov. Paul LePage will make national news when he says something amazingly stupid and then threatens to punch out whoever reported his stupid remark. (Oh, that already happened? I guess I am clairvoyant. It’ll probably happen again though.) Several of LePage’s cabinet appointments will have a tough time getting confirmed. A mill will close. Tolls on the Maine Turnpike will increase. There will be widespread power outages. And organized opposition to off-shore wind turbines will surface that is far more intense than the current widespread opposition to mountaintop wind turbines.

The city of Portland will continue to not be able to do anything right. Peaks Island will once again threaten secession. The Portland Public Art Committee will spark a controversy when the benches it commissions for the Bayside Trail turn out to be hideous and uncomfortable. A minor league sports franchise will threaten to leave town. Parking Garage Magazine will name Portland one of the most parkable cities in the country. South Portland will finally start long-overdue work on its ancient high school building, but school critics will lobby to have the team name changed, arguing that Red Riots sounds Communist to them.

Finally, it doesn’t take a crystal ball to foresee that a lot of gullible, superstitious people will invest a lot of nervous energy in 2011 preparing for the 2012 end of the world predicted by the 5th century Mayan calendar. Since the Mayans did not foresee the decline and fall of their own civilization, I wouldn’t put a whole lot of faith in their ability to foresee the end of ours.

To be perfectly honest, I have never made a New Year’s Resolution before, but I was thinking of making one this year. I was going to resolve to stop sparring online with conservatives who comment on my overly liberal columns. Replying only encourages them and insisting on having the last word is my one character flaw. (That and thinking that I have no character flaws.)

But, hey, I enjoy a good argument. So what the heck: my resolution for 2011 is not to make a resolution.

Happy New Year!

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Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Yarmouth. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.

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