In hindsight, there were a bunch of stories this year that were surprises. A few, genuinely so, but many should have been predictable.
An example, in the same story no less, of both is the Fukushima reactor crisis. If you recall, an earthquake all but shattered Japan last January. By definition, earthquakes are surprises.
What should NOT have been a surprise was the fragility of the Fukushima reactor's power systems to a tsunami. Indeed, it was not a surprise as the power plant had reinforced its outer walls against tsunamis and taken other precautions.
It was unimaginable the size of the tsunami, and there's where the predictability comes in: the size of the tsunami was unimaginable only in the context of the budget the plant was willing to expend to prevent a catastrophe.
The budget wasn't big enough.
Another story that held both surprises and inevitability is the Occupy Wall Street story.
It was just a year earlier that a quarter million Americans showed up on the Washington Mall to protest the incivility of the nation, as sponsored by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. It should not have come as a surprise that a year later, Occupy Wall Street would employ some of the same tools-- nonpartisanship, civility, non-violence-- to the purpose of raising awareness of the issue of income inequality.
What did come as a surprise was two things: one, this movement did not begin in the US, but in one of the most repressive radically conservative regimes in Africa, Tunisia. Two, the Occupy movement did not peter out as so many analysts predicted it would (I hedged, I admit, and I was wrong to do so.) Indeed, this Sunday, Christmas day, was the 100th day of the protest and indeed, they were out in force, however small it might have been for, you know, the single largest Christian holiday on the calendar.
The new year, 2012, holds a lot of OWS in store for us, I think. I don't expect it will go quietly, and I do expect they'll raise some eyebrows at the two national political conventions next summer. Indeed, the party that deals with them the most honestly will be the one which sweeps the elections. Politicians and pundits have woefully misunderestimated the effect this movement is having on independent voters, frustrated and angry, but mistrusting the Teabaggers as vicious anti-Americans.
In 2009, I had predicted that the top story of the year would be Africa. I was a tad premature on that but not wrong. I'm going to stick my neck out again now.
First, I think sometime in the Spring, either April or May, we will see a wholly made-up story dominate the news, and my suspicion is it will be a "terrorist attack" somehow tenuously linked to Iran. I think this will happen as the Republican party flounders about looking for a bona fide candidate to run against Barack Obama (who will win a surprisingly easy re-election bid-- prediction two.)
This story will be discredited in short order, but not before inflaming the Presidential campaign.
China will be forced to deal with its own "Occupy" movement this year. It won't be another Tianeman Square, but it won't be Zuccotti Park, either. Blood will spill as poor farmers and families wonder why they aren't sharing in the bounty of China.
Oceania, Australia and New Zealand, already reeling from a 2011 of devastation unheard of in recent human history for any one nation, let alone two, will be inundated once more by Mother Earth. Indeed, I don't see an easy 2012 for South and Southeast Asia at all.
And America will have one last stab at greatness in the coming year and will fall flat thanks to an obstructionist Congress.
For me personally, 2011 was a roller-coaster ride. I lost much but nothing I was neither prepared to lose or miss much. I had my bouts of notoriety, but gained more for them than was subtracted from me.
I expect 2012 will be a bountiful year for me.
But I've been known to be wrong...