Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Last Day of The Last Year of the First Decade

Here we are on December 31, 2009. A Thursday night, and from all indications tonight is going to slink away quietly, tail tucked between its legs, as if it were somehow sorry or embarrassed for what had gone on before on its watch.

Yes, we did end the year with a Christmas Day terrorist scare. A Nigerian man got on a Northwest Airlines plane in Schipol Airport, Amsterdam, with explosives in his underwear. I suppose that was only a natural progression from the rectum bomb that nearly took out a Saudi Arabian prince earlier this year, but just how delusional to you have to be to place dangerous chemicals next to your naughty bits? I don't think that this whole suicide bomber thing was properly explained to that dimwit. I mean, if you do blow your junk off, exactly what are you going to do with the 70 virgins that are supposedly waiting for you on the other side? Luckily for everyone, the bomb did not ignite, and amazingly this Al Qaeda group somewhere claimed credit for the failed bombing and even made some boastful comment about building the "sophisticated detonator." Well I guess it was too "sophisticated" to actually "work," better check that out a little more next time.

And there will be a next time, unfortunately. What this failed attempt did show is that the much-ballyhooed post-911 air travel security system has more than a few gaping holes. That Nigerian man should never had had a visa or been allowed to board, there were plenty of indications of his intent. Information was not shared, conclusions were not drawn and preemptive actions were not taken. Next time, we might not be so lucky.

This hasn't been the best of years; so many depressing, disappointing things happened. Sarah Palin refuses to go away, just like the worst case of irritable bowel syndrome you could imagine. So many people who should know better just continue to say and do the most outrageously stupid, destructive and embarrassing things possible. Dick Cheney continues to be one of the scariest and most evil people who used to be alive. Like they say, the good die young but evil is forever. If Cheney had his way the nuclear bombs would be falling from the sky like raindrops in Seattle and he would be King of Necrotopia forever.

Did anything good at all happen this year? I suppose we can say the fact that we made it through this year and are still around to gripe and moan about it is something good. But this has been a very difficult year to get through for a lot of people, including me. The job situation is still horrendously bad, with unemployment at 10%. Property values are still in the toilet, foreclosures still raging. The U.S. economy is showing some meager signs of recovery but is still very, very sick, and can relapse at any time. Greed and avarice continue unabated. There have been a number of news stories indicating that year-end bonuses on Wall Street are going to be as outrageous as ever, almost as if the financial meltdown earlier this year was just an unpleasant fever dream, the kind you get from eating tainted lobster or bad caviar or something.

This year more than ever, stupidity reigned in this country. Whether it was the "balloon boy" supposedly drifting across the Colorado landscape in a silver spaceship, or former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich doing and saying the dumbest things he could possibly think of, or Kanye West creating a cultural firestorm by stomping all over Taylor Swift's first American Music Award, or boring Barbie doll Carrie Prejean posing as some conservative Christian pillar of morality passing judgment on the marital arrangements of others while sitting on a homemade sex tape, it does seem like the idiots are really taking over this country. But there were little touches of welcome relief, such as Susan Boyle's stunning debut on a British talent show, when a studio audience (and later the world) morphed from cynical derision to enraptured adoration in the time it took her to sing the words, "I dreamed a dream of times gone by...." or the surprising success of Lady Gaga, who is a fairly good singer and musician once you get past all the junior-college-art-class costumes and posturing. She seems like what would happen if Icelandic pop star Bjork dyed her hair platinum blonde and got a hold of some bad drugs.

I may or may not be awake when the clock strikes midnight tonight. If I am I'm sure I'll be serenaded by the sound of automatic weapons fire coming from the cheap apartment complexes to the south of me. Just another indication that in spite of all my deepest, most sincere wishes and prayers, we will still have to deal with stupid people next year. Is there any hope for 2010 to be any better than 2009? It's so hard to judge at this point. I remember on January 1, 2009, no one was holding out any hope that the year would be any good. And it certainly lived down to our expectations. Maybe we should try the opposite approach, and start thinking good thoughts about 2010. Perhaps if we do things will work out and the year will return prosperity, security and hope to everyone. I wish that does happen, but just in case, I'm going to start working on Plan B tomorrow.

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