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Some observations that just might come true

By GREG HAMILTON
Published January 1, 2006


As Nostradamus, the famous 16th century seer, discovered, predicting the future can be fun and exciting. Toss out enough guesses and a few of them are bound to be right.

Some prophesies are fairly easy to utter, such as: The sun will rise more often than not this year. Others require a longer leap of faith and may be more wishful thinking, like: Americans, fed up with being slaves to foreign oil producers, will insist that our nation's technological pioneers truly focus on developing efficient and cheap alternative fuels.

Given the stranglehold that Big Oil has on both the White House and Congress, this is more of a pipe dream than a viable prediction. Still, hope springs eternal.

As we welcome a brand-spanking new year, here are a few shots in the dark that just might hit the mark in 2006.

In Citrus County, the year will start off with the imposition of a new 6-cents-a-gallon gasoline tax to raise funds for needed road projects. A number of people will raise a fuss and threaten political retaliation against the commissioners who approved the increase. Within a few weeks, the tax hike and the protests will be forgotten as the always volatile price of gasoline rises and falls like a Busch Gardens roller coaster.

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Since 2006 is an election year, we can expect a tsunami of overheated rhetoric and forked-tongue promises from candidates of all political stripes, followed by equal measures of half-truths, innuendoes, cheap shots, outright falsehoods and the ever-popular demonizing of anyone who holds a differing opinion.

Virtually no intelligent discussion of the truly important issues facing our community, state and nation will take place. And we will wonder how we got into this mess.

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At some point, outlandish television commentators Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity will actually say something that is not only factually correct but useful to society, thereby confirming the adage that even a blind squirrel finds an acorn in the woods now and then.

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Citrus County will continue its remarkable record of avoiding direct hits from hurricanes, even as the number of named storms increases at an alarming pace. Citrus will also avoid being struck by an asteroid or being swarmed by locusts. Boils, frogs or any of the other 10 biblical plagues remain fair game to occur, however.

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When they least expect it, the Citrus County School Board and the superintendent will be blindsided by some headline-grabbing minor issue, such as a teacher dress code or a debate over prayer before meetings. Fueled by an enabling press, this issue will steal valuable time, energy and attention from the district's leaders and distract them from what should be their sole mission: educating the next generation.

* * *

The big bosses at Progress Energy will decide to build a second nuclear reactor at the company's Crystal River complex, and local government and business leaders will fall over themselves cheering the news. No one will ask the troubling question, What about all of the spent, radioactive fuel that already is piling up at the site, not to mention the stuff that a new plant will produce? A suggestion to ship it all to Dixie County will receive unanimous support.

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The gap between the haves and the have nots in the United States will continue to expand at an appalling rate.

As columnist Mark Shields recently reported, for five straight years, Americans' median household income has dropped. Adjusted for inflation, American workers are now bringing home $1,740 less than they did in 1999. By contrast, the income of the highest quintile of the population has increased by 52 percent.

Pointing out this gross inequity is not class warfare, just a recognition of a destructive trend that is quietly crippling America's middle class. In a place like Citrus County, so heavily dependent on low-wage service industry jobs and fixed-income retirees, the economic impacts are truly frightening.

The prediction? Those seeking your votes in the upcoming elections, particularly on the national level, will steer far away from this looming national disaster. Instead, the debates will focus on gun control, patriotism, abortion rights and the other handful of perennial issues that both parties use to stir up their bases and raise tons of campaign cash.

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Not wishing to begin a new year on such a negative note, I will predict that at various times during 2006, some of our neighbors will be struck by random tragedies only to be buoyed by the amazing generosity and indomitable spirit that Citrus County residents always show in times of trouble. These acts will restore our tattered faith in mankind and allow healing to begin.

See? Some predictions really are safer and easier than others.

Greg Hamilton can be reached at 860-7301 or e-mail at hamilton@sptimes.com