Welcome to the future. 2012 is the year that the United States elects a new president, that the last of the surge troops sent to Afghanistan come home and that Buffalo gets a new school superintendent.
We expect those things to happen; other events we aren't so sure about. For example, this is also the year the world ends -- but that was supposed to happen last year, too. Twice. So, in addition to predicting that the world keeps on turning, here are some headlines we might see this year -- although they are hardly predictions:
JANUARY: Bills win big
The new year opens on a pleasing note as the Buffalo Bills defeat -- no, make that cream -- the New England Patriots in their final game of the season. On to September.
FEBRUARY: Poloncarz makes strong start
One month into office, Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz moves on multiple fronts to undo some of his predecessor's unwise decisions -- cutting funding for libraries and culturals and, worst of all, for the comptroller's office -- but signals that he will hold the line on spending overall.
MARCH: State completes conservative budget
Facing continued economic weakness, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the Legislature build on last year's record by adopting a budget that holds the line on spending, relieving schools and local governments of many unfunded mandates and restraining the long-term problems of Medicaid and government pensions. And it does so several days before the April 1 deadline. In an unrelated but also unlikely development, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos form a tap-dancing team and take their new show on the road.
APRIL: New York Republicans have their say
Injecting some needed maturity in the Republican presidential primaries, party members in New York reject far-right candidates and give overwhelming support to a candidate who can work with Democrats while representing conservative voters.
MAY: Congress commits to tax reform
Only weeks after Americans rushed to complete their 2011 income tax returns, Congress acknowledges that the process is too difficult and expensive. In a rare show of bipartisanship, members of both parties agree to hand the task of reforming the tax code to a special panel, thereby relieving themselves of a difficult task and kicking the can down the road until after the November elections.
JUNE: A perfect day
The year's longest day arrives as it should: ideally. Temperature in the low 80s; cloudless blue sky. No crime is reported and Congress joins in a chorus of "Kumbaya." No one laughs.
Plus, the Buffalo Sabres win the Stanley Cup.
JULY: Albany fixes "conservative" budget
Admitting that they overestimated revenues to make their budget numbers work, state politicians gather in Albany to fix the problem, promise it will never happen again and sing a chorus of "Kumbaya." Everyone laughs.
AUGUST: Republicans pick compromise candidate
At the Republican National Convention in Tampa, delegates startle the nation by choosing Newtrick Paul Trumpney-Sanitorium as the party's presidential nominee. It is believed to be the first time in U.S. history that a major party nominates an amalgamation candidate. Political analysts are surprised by the bold move, while George McGovern and Walter Mondale wish that they had thought of it.
SEPTEMBER: Troops come home
On schedule, the last of the surge troops leave Afghanistan. Although many American servicemen and women remain in the country, Americans sense that the nation's longest war is finally heading toward a conclusion.
OCTOBER: The campaign continues
As presidential campaigning hits high gear, Newtrick Paul Trumpney-Sanitorium insists that his name makes him no less electable than Barack Hussein Obama's. The president responds that he got Osama bin Laden dead. Meanwhile, Congress raises the debt limit again.
NOVEMBER: A new president
Fed up with squabbling politicians, Americans elect Barack Trumperry Gingatorium-Obachmann III as president. No one knows what the new president believes or what he/she will do, but voters figure they're no worse off than before and, besides, Bruce Springsteen is back on tour. Life is good.
DECEMBER: The world doesn't end (again)
Dec. 21, the alleged day of reckoning, arrives and passes without incident, unless you count delinquent Christmas shoppers elbowing each other for the best bargains. As the month ends, editorial writers scramble to make sense of it all, largely failing.
But Happy New Year anyway. Here's hoping it will all make sense.