I suppose I could stand above it all and proclaim with the voice of God and the eye of History (or the other way around, if you prefer) my absolute, ontologically certain, 100 percent definitive list of the most important stories of 2004. But that's impossible to know. The present changes the past. New events have a way of changing the relevance of old events. For example, after September 11 the Bolshevik Revolution - once the most important event of the 20th century - now seems quaint, while the rise of the House of Saud seems suddenly central to the world we live in.
Similarly, this year's launch of the first privately owned space capsule - though it met with little fanfare - may prove to have been an epoch-shattering adventure in space travel, bringing "Star Trek" nerds that much closer to their dream of bedding really hot green women (or men - let's not be judgmental).
So instead, I'm going to stick closer to home and highlight my favorite stories of the year. That means no prison-abuse scandals, no tsunamis or friendly-fire incidents. Nor does my list include the far, far, far more trivial calamities like the cancellation of the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" spin-off "Angel" or the news that Bernie Kerik's confirmation battle for Department of Homeland Security chief was cancelled before we could find out he knows where Jimmy Hoffa's body is buried.
The past year was not kind to the Mainstream Media, nor to the liberals who want to fight the right by creating their own "alternative" media. In 2003 Air America started to much fanfare as the answer to Rush Limbaugh but spent much the year explaining that it could in fact afford to pay Al Franken.
The New York Times continued to slip ever deeper into self-parody. For the umpteenth time it expressed shock that crime drops as prisoners go to jail with the nearly perennial headline: "Despite Drop in Crime, an Increase in Inmates." It leapt to the aid of John Kerry by running the missing ammo story in the last week of the presidential campaign, only to provide context for the allegation after Kerry squeezed all the political advantage he could out of the talking point (which turned out to be not much).
And, of course, there was the headline "New York City Evacuated For Nuclear Bomb Scare; Thousands of Gay Marriages Postponed." Oh wait, that's an item from my 2005 predictions column.