3 days in, so I guess I'm cheating. I'll give 10 predictions:
1. The biggest story in the United States--oil prices. Just today:
Oil prices rose to a 26-month high Monday on the prospect of higher energy prices in the months ahead. Benchmark oil for February delivery added 17 cents to settle at $91.55 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange after hitting $92.66 a barrel earlier in the day.
That's right--oil prices rising on the prospect of oil prices rising. Speculator-driven commodity prices was a big deal a few years ago, but with the decline of commodity prices in the face of the recession, this issue went on the backburner. Still, we've seen several times over the past 3 years, oil speculators pushing the prices higher, ready for another rise on the slightest good economic news. Now, without the slightest bit of good economic news, we are heading for prices not seen since 2007.
How will Americans react to the return of $4 gas? I have little doubt that it's going to be a huge deal, but what specific response will develop? Will Obama attempt to rein in the speculators? We know Republicans won't. Will this be a key political issue going into the 2012 elections and will Democrats take advantage?
2. The biggest issue around the world--rising food prices and resulting riots.
Closely related to rising oil prices, nothing means more to the world's people than food prices. How many governments will fall in 2011 due to skyrocketing food prices? I'd put the over/under at 3.
3. Best Picture--The Social Network
No surprise here. But I'll make a follow-up prediction--within 2 years, the film will be another forgotten Oscar winner. I believe The Social Network is relying on a lot of projection from people who want to watch a film about Facebook rather than it actually being a transcendent film.
4. Labor strife in professional sports:
I believe both the NFL and NBA will have labor stoppages in 2011, but I also believe both will be short. I don't think players are really ready for a long-term stoppage. Too many guys living paycheck to paycheck. This is especially true in the NBA, where I believe the union will be severely weakened. The NFL has richer owners and a union in a better position (despite its historical weakness) so a longer lockout is possible, but I think both sides will be motivated by the massive amount of money on the table to get a deal done by late summer. Further prediction--the NFL will go to 18 games with a roster expanded by 5 players and a rookie salary cap.
The AL Wildcard will not come out of the East. Boston wins the AL East going away. Toronto and Tampa both win 80-85 games. New York wins 90 but can't break into the Wild Card. With a roster essentially the same as last year but likely without Andy Petitte, an aging lineup and shaky staff leads to some slippage. Minnesota slips into the Wild Card, with Detroit winning the Central. Texas holds on to win the West.
The NL, well, I don't really care. Philadelphia won't be as good as everyone thinks (shaky offense). Atlanta will be strong and might take the East. Milwaukee and Cincinnati will battle it out in the Central. I just don't see St. Louis as addressing the problems with their extremely top-heavy team. The West is something more of a crapshoot, but I'll take the Giants again. Wildcard will be the Atlanta/Philadelphia loser.
6. Republican Overreach
While John Boehner is a pretty savvy politician, his caucus is going to demand the crazy. The House will severely overreach in crazy investigations and possibly attempts to impeach Obama. By June, the nation has turned against them. This will happen sooner with a government shutdown, which I believe is likely.
7. Republican Presidential Candidate Failure
By January 1, 2012, the Republican presidential campaigning will be in full force. And it'll be a disastrous as it looks now. Romney, Huckabee, Pawlenty, all the usual suspects choose to run. Chris Christie may run while Beltway pundits salivate, but will be a complete failure as the nation gets to know him. Palin and Gingrich do not run. There's a real possibility that a complete lunatic comes out of nowhere to win the nomination. And that person gets absolutely crushed in 2012. Even if Romney or Jeb Bush wins the nomination, a similar crushing takes place.
8. Season 5 of Mad Men will continue to amaze.
9. The Senate filibuster reforms prove somewhat effective. Secret holds are eliminated, but that does little to eliminate the open holds that may replace it. Tom Coburn and Jim DeMint and some newbies like Toomey and Paul decide to hold on everything, a stance that hurts none of them on the national or state stages. Total number of senators to filibuster reduced to 55, a real victory. Plan to force senators to actually show up to filibuster does not pass, as senators on both sides are too busy fundraising to want to show up.
10. Another summer of record breaking heat does absolutely nothing to convince Americans to do anything about climate change. Instead, House Republicans lead a full-throated charge on climate science.
And a bonus 11th prediction
2011 College Football National Championship--Oregon 35, Auburn 27. Go Ducks! Oregon then goes on to the win the new Pac-12 in the fall, defeating a resurgent Arizona St. in the conference championship game.