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'05 forecast: I'm a) wrong or b) really, very wrong

There are two kinds of forecasters: those who don't know, and those who don't know they don't know.

_ John Kenneth Galbraith

Happy New Year! Just for funsies, it is time to make certain predictions about the coming months for us here in the Tampa Bay area.

My own track record in this field is decidedly mixed. Last year's batch of 11 such predictions resulted in only five correct calls, the most important being the re-election of George W. Bush. Hey, it was either A or B.

I also guessed the precise number of victories of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays (at least, I said "70 or more" and they won 70). Thanks, Lou. Please stick around.

Otherwise, I was fantastically wrong. Betty Castor is not our new U.S. senator. It turns out the gambling ship did manage to show up in St. Petersburg. There was no surge of crocodile attacks in the state (yes, that was one of the predictions).

Most of all, it wasn't just two hurricanes that hit Florida.

And yet, as the Enron guys used to say, past performance is no guarantee of future results. Come, let us plunge ahead!

1. Katherine Harris, Florida's best-known U.S. House member, will (a) get a presidential appointment of some kind to keep her from running for U.S. Senate (b) reject the White House's bribe and run anyway (c) be attacked by a crocodile (d) retire from public life.

2. The number of hurricanes to make landfall in Florida during 2005 will be: (a) none (b) one (c) two (d) three or more.

3. The Dow Jones average will finish the year (a) over 12,000, jazzed by President Bush's plan to hijack Social Security and pump up the stock market (b) over 11,000, reassured by stable economic indicators (c) over 10,000 after a somewhat mixed year (d) under 8,000, when all of a sudden everybody realizes we've been faking everything with borrowed money and credit cards.

4. The Florida Legislature will (a) graciously decide to let citizens petition for new laws, not just constitutional amendments (b) crack down on citizens being able to petition at all (c) set out a big block of cheese in the Capitol courtyard for visitors (d) be indicted en masse.

5. The number of games the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will win in the 2005 season will be: (a) 0-4 (b) 5-8 (c) 9-12 (d) 12-16.

6. The number of games the Tampa Bay Devil Rays will win in the 2005 season will be: (a) 40-50, a stunning step backwards (b) 51-60, sliding backward with a mediocre payroll (c) 61-70, about the same as last year (d) more than 70, with rising hope for the future.

7. By the end of 2005, the leading candidate to be the next governor of Florida will be (a) Attorney General Charlie Crist (b) Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher (c) me (d) Betty Castor.

8. After aw-shucksing and golly-geeing for another few months, U.S. Rep. Jim Davis, D-Tampa, will (a) launch an impassioned campaign for governor that blows away all competition with its fiery intensity (b) form an exploratory committee and then bow out (c) switch parties (d) end up with a think-tanky or academic kind of gig.

9. After having not exactly blown the roof off the building so far, the most improved member of the Hillsborough County Commission in 2005 will be (a) Ken Hagan (b) Kathy Castor (c) Tom Scott (d) Ronda Storms.

10. With the eventual retirement of U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, R-St. Petersburg, speculation on his most likely successor will center on: (a) state Rep. Frank Farkas, R-St. Petersburg, (b) St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, (c) surprise entry and ex-Bucs quarterback Brad Johnson (d) Deborah Lafave.

11. The most irritating shortage of 2005 will be: (a) mosquito repellent (b) gasoline (c) pain relievers (d) not enough people yelling at each other on cable TV.

12. As always, astute newspaper readers will recognize that the format of this column is stolen, with no shame whatsoever, from my columning idol (a) Maureen Dowd (b) William Safire (c) Ann Coulter (d) Charles Krauthammer.

My answers: 1. (b), 2. (b), 3. (b), 4. (b), 5. (b), 6. (b), 7. (a, just for variety), 8. (b), 9. (b), 10. (b), 11. (b), 12. (b).