Predictions for '98

December 29, 1997|By Myron Beckenstein

WHAT'S Laurel without Hardy, Mercedes without Benz, Alka without Seltzer, New Year's without predictions? In the interest of avoiding a glaring gap in the scheme of things, here is an unexpurgated, call the tea leaves as they fall look at some of what 1998 holds in store for mankind.

1. Realizing he has stumbled onto a good thing, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein will effectively end the United Nations inspection program by declaring all of Iraq an inspection-free ''presidential site.'' France and Russia will block U.N. action against the move by saying, ''Let's talk about it.'' The United States will ponder a military strike, but won't do anything effective since it doesn't want to appear to be the world's bully. Saddam Hussein then will try to declare all of Kuwait and Iraq a ''presidential site.''

Scandals abound

2. Republican operatives will uncover 48 new White House scandals (they are on vacation the other four weeks) and demand 48 new special prosecutors. The Democratic response will be ineffective, as usual. But only 24 new prosecutors will be set up, leading to Republican charges of cover-up, prosecutorial incest and media bias. By the end of the year, 97 percent of all Justice Department lawyers will be investigating the administration. This will lead to a lack of enforcement in other areas, providing Republicans with a campaign issue: The Clinton administration is soft on crime.

3. The stock market will hit record or near record one-day gains, pushing the ever-popular Dow Jones to a record high. It also will hit record or near record one-day drops. Each day there will be an explanation of that day's movement, some of which might make sense or even, occasionally, be related to what future historians will anoint as the oh-so-obvious truth.

4. A study commissioned by the tobacco industry will report that tobacco smoke is extremely beneficial because it helps slow down global warming. Another study will show that heads of major corporations are not as susceptible to the effects of air pollution and global warming as the rest of us.

5. In one last effort to get Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to say that the Palestinians are doing enough to fight terrorism, and therefore get the Mideast peace process moving again, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat will jail himself. Under intense U.S. pressure (''meddling''), Mr. Netanyahu grudgingly will admit that this is a ''step in the right direction, but only a step'' and limit construction in the occupied territories to 300,000 new units a month, for defensive purposes only.

6. In its strongest message yet that affirmative action is a no-no, the Supreme Court will nullify the appointment of Clarence Thomas as a justice on the court since ''clearly quotas played a factor.'' Mr. Thomas will vote with the majority, but later file suit against the court for discrimination.

7. Congress will pass the most sweeping law yet on campaign spending, totally banning all hard-money contributions. However, a little-noticed amendment stuck into the bill during conference committee, by people untraceable, reclassifies all campaign contributions as soft money.

8. A professional athlete (name deleted) will break the $100 million-a-year barrier with his new contract. He then will turn around and buy the now nearly bankrupt franchise that just had purchased him. His first action as owner will be to fire himself as not worth the money paid him. As a player, he immediately will file a suit for breach of contract. The union supports him as a player, the owners as an owner, and, with each side proclaiming unmovable solidarity until the issue is resolved in its favor, the league season will be canceled.

A new craze

9. Reacting quickly to the newest craze in popular music, sponsors of the Grammy Awards will establish a category for Rhythmic Telephone Book Reading. A leading contender for the first Grammy in this field is a presentation of the Baltimore phone book by 235. But the award will go to the San Antonio book, offered by 43/5.

10. After Albania fails to get an International Monetary Fund bailout, it will be sold at auction and become a wholly owned subsidiary of Comcast. Cable rates immediately will be raised to pay for the merger and the executive bonuses that went with it. Chad fails to be sold after 93 percent of all high school graduates don't even realize it is a country or know what continent it is on.

11. The Chicago Bears will determine what good or promising players they still have, and trade them. Attendance at the season's last three home games will dip to two -- two people who, unknown to each other, are competing for the record of most consecutive games attended, not because they like seeing the Bears play anymore but because they want to offer an interesting angle for obituary writers.

12. A terrorism campaign, causing fear and mayhem worldwide, will be traced to the previously unknown group, The Columbia Liberation Front, seeking incorporation of their Howard County city. ''We have our rights and will do what it takes to be heard,'' will say a spokesman for the group, Owen Brown, a well-known loner. Militia groups around the country pledge their support ''in this battle against big government and the Waco complex.''

Myron Beckenstein is an editor on The Sun's Foreign Desk.

Pub Date: 12/29/97

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