NEW YEAR's again already. This time on the Chinese lunar calendar. The year 4693. Another shot at celebration, resolutions and, of course, predictions. So let's stir the old qing cha (green tea) leaves and see what the future has in store as the Year of the Pig replaces the Year of the Dog tomorrow.
Being able to see the future comes in handy sometimes, especially when it concerns your own future. Consider the U.S. Postal Service. It has issued the third in a series of Chinese New Year stamps in honor of the looming occasion. But, owing to a remarkable lack of foresight, the stamp comes in the 29-cent demonination, meaning you can't use it now to grace a letter unless you add a clashing second stamp of the three-cent persuasion.
Maybe our qing cha leaves can do better. Let's see what's ahead in the Year of the Pig.
The Simpson Case: Defense lawyers will confound the prosecutors by saying the DNA testimony is irrelevant because O.J. doesn't have any DNA. There is a dispute in the defense team, though, between one group of lawyers who want to say O.J. never did have any DNA (a tragic birth defect) and a second group that says he once had some but it was inadvertently removed during an operation to repair a football injury.
China: Now that President Clinton has delinked human rights and trade, China will thumb its nose at Washington by declaring Guangdong a "dissident province" and detaining everyone in it. In Washington, the State Department asks for patience and says the new U.S. policy will work, given time.
Washington: Congressional Republicans, jubilant over how well their tactic of picking on Bill Clinton worked to cut down both him and the Democrats, will keep up the pressure by calling for a special prosecutor to investigate reports that Bill Clinton cheated on getting his Eagle Scout badge. Hearings are expected to last well into 1996.
Troop deployment: Not all the compromises will be by President Clinton. Republicans will object to sending U.S. troops to the Balkans or Somalia to help evacuate U.N. peacekeepers. But, since they feel guilty about always wanting to give the military money and never wanting to give it any assignments, they will come up with a compromise and authorize an invasion of Maryland. The Eastern Shore is picked so that all branches can participate. It is unclear what the troops will do once they take Maryland, especially with Ocean City in its winter mode.
Term limits: Term limits become the law of the land in jurisdictions at every level. This happens after the cause gets a huge influx of money from the lobbyists' lobby after it realizes its members will be the only ones left with enough longevity to have institutional memory and power if term limits are enacted.
Tax breaks: In an escalating effort to appeal to the voters without having to actually do anything, more and more plans for middle-class tax cuts are announced. Republicans, who have the deciding hand, define middle-class as between $100,000 and $2 million a year. Unfortunately, they add, tax cuts for the lower class are not foreseen at this time.
lTC Television: Network television makes its last-gasp effort to keep the audience from going to cable with each network launching a new series based on the Bible. The ABC version will star Richard Gere as Jesus and Sharon Stone as Brigitte. NBC will have Wesley Snipes as Jesus and Michelle Pfeiffer as Raquel the Merciless. CBS will cast River Phoenix as Jesus and Madonna as Madonna. A CBS spokesman said the fact that River Phoenix is '' dead is "a problem we are actively trying to overcome."
Holidays: President Clinton, saying he cannot decide between those who say Columbus discovered America on Oct. 12 and those who say Leif Ericson did on Jan. 25, splits the difference and declares June 4 America Discovery Day. But he says the holiday will be celebrated the first weekend in August because that month doesn't have a major holiday.
Jurisprudence: In an effort to clear up the backlog in the criminal court system, the Supreme Court declares no crimes involving less than $100,000 or three lives can be brought to trial.
Business: Consolidation, takeovers, buyouts and the idea that anything goes on Wall Street accelerates, if possible. Microsoft Corp. has to issue a statement denying it plans to acquire the Roman Catholic Church.
Government: Seizing the opportunity to show that government indeed can be reduced to nothingness, Orange County, Calif., takes advantage of its bankruptcy by privatizing government and selling off the entire operation. After hefty bidding, Walt Disney loses out to McDonald's in the contest to take control of the county.
Lifestyle: For those truly important people who can't afford to be out of touch even for a few seconds, a waterproof fax machine is marketed so they will be able to send and receive while in the shower. Unfortunately, the faxes themselves quickly turn to paper mache.
There may be more but the tea leaves are getting too soggy to read clearly. In fact, it seems one of these predictions is too late: it already has come to pass.
Myron Beckenstein works on the foreign desk of The Sun.