This past year has been one of the most eventful years I can remember in the recent past. Continuing a now 3-year tradition, this is the first of three posts that comprise “2008 Year in Review - The Good, the Bad, and the Ridiculous.” I post them in reverse order, so that they make sense when reading them in the archives.
So, let’s look at that the things that went beyond bad (AKA ridiculous) this past year…
Sarah Palin’s Treatment
In August, John McCain announced his running mate - a virtually unknown Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin. However, she was not unknown to those of us in conservative circles (even if we thought her name was pronounced PAL-inn instead of PAY-lin). In fact, I still credit Cassy Fiano with being prescient on this - she posted about her way back on June 23rd. We knew her story, her accomplishments, and her attitude. Although this was her first national campaign, she already had a nearly 20-year career in governmental leadership. With the opposing party running someone with 120-some-odd days in a legislative office, one would think that she would be dealt with on her merits.
But, as we all know, that’s not how it went down. From day 1, she was called inexperienced. Remember this press release from the Obama campaign, released the day her selection was announced?
Today, John McCain put the former mayor of a town of 9,000 with zero foreign policy experience a heartbeat away from the presidency. Governor Palin shares John McCain’s commitment to overturning Roe v. Wade, the agenda of Big Oil and continuing George Bush’s failed economic policies - that’s not the change we need, it’s just more of the same.
And, it didn’t stop there. The women who get attention from the media, AKA radical feminists, piled on, calling her everything but a woman. I’m not lumping the Saturday Night Live satires in with this; they spoof everyone, and they invited both McCain and Palin to be on the show (and they both did a great job). Her experience was ridiculed, her wardrobe maligned, her children jeered - and the list at this point is charitable. Rumors swirled that Gov. Palin’s special-needs child was actually borne by one of her daughters, fathered by her husband; and the rumor of her daughter Bristol’s pregnancy, while proved true, was played to make her look like a backwards hillbilly redneck. It was all truly despicable, which is why it leads this year’s list.
Don’t Taze Bail Me Out, Bro!
Government interference in the private sector came to a head this year in a bad, bad way. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, entities that helped provide “sub-prime” mortgages (a euphemism for “loans people can’t really afford”), were providing these loans the same way they were in the late 1990’s, at the crest of the Internet wave. I remember a scare after 9/11, when the housing market really went south - but, we didn’t learn from that. Banks continued making loans they had no business making, to people who had no business seeking out such loans to begin with, for real estate that, contrary to the view of some in this country, is not an entitlement.
The bubble burst! (surprise, surprise) With the downturn in the economy (which even Bill Clinton understood - “It’s a crisis of confidence”), banks were having to foreclose on these loans to get their money, and people were being evicted from their homes (technically “the bank’s houses” at that point). I’m not completely heartless - losing a home stinks; but, the true heartlessness was letting them get it in the first place. Politicians demagogued the issue - how many times did you hear “Owning a home is the American dream!” - and people bought it, literally. With lots of foreclosures and slow sales, this snowballed from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to Lehman Brothers and AIG, and soon we heard about impending financial collapse.
Fast-forward to November - the “big three” auto makers say “Hey, we need a bail-out too!” The CEO for GM actually apologized for their making crappy cars (in a manner of speaking). The cause in this case is related in mind-set to the mortgage problem - an entitlement mentality. The United Auto Workers union had strong-armed these companies into providing compensation packages for their employees that, given their sales and profits, were unsustainable. The UAW refused to match packages that are successful for Toyota, Hyundai, and other manufacturers outside of Detroit, and Congress refused to give them money (quite possibly the best thing this current Congress has done). The Bush Administration has opened up money design for financial loans for these companies - we’ll have to see how that pans out into 2009; GM and Chrysler took it, Ford did not.
The biggest problem with all this is something I’ve been saying for years, which was only confirmed when I took my Microeconomics class last year. Government interference in free markets only causes problems. Oppressive regulations suppress innovation, and incentives create bubbles that cannot be sustained. So, in my opinion, the best way out of this is to let the bubble burst, clean up the mess, learn these important lessons, and move on. These packages, whether you call them “stimulus” packages or “bail-outs,” what they really are is rewarding irresponsible behavior, by taking money from those who have been more responsible.
The 2008 Olympics
No, I’m not talking about Michael Phelps’ ridiculous diplay of athleticism. :) This is more for China and its show. The opening ceremony was certainly impressive, to the point of being creepy. Fake fireworks? Isn’t this the land known for it’s fireworks? Just because communist countries get Olympic games doesn’t mean that I have to like it - I remember the USSR games in 1980. But, to watch the coverage of these games, you wouldn’t know about China…
…except for their women’s gymnastics team. Although the IOC eventually determined that all of their team members were 16 years old, I’m not buying it. However, I’m glad they tried it - it brought their “reality is what we say it is” style of heavy-handed government to the attention of many, many people.
Burma Refuses Aid after Cyclone
In the spring, a horrible cyclone hit Burma (AKA Myanmar), a nation in southwest Asia. Aid workers and aid began to pour in from all over the world, only to be rebuffed by the militaristic governmental dictatorship. Visas were held up or denied for many aid workers, and the government refused to allow aid to go directly to the people; rather, it mandated that all aid be given directly to the government, for it to distribute.
This is absolutely ridiculous. Even when nearly half a million (yes, that’s 500,000) of its citizens have lost their lives, the government continues to keep a stranglehold on this country. By not allowing aid into the country, the after-effects of disease brought on by contaminated water only added to the death toll. Even today, the country is still stiff-arming offers for aid, insisting that things are back to normal. I’d rather live through 100 Obama presidencies than live one day under a government like that!
What did you think was ridiculous in 2008? (Just a note - I’ll have the 2008 election in the “bad” entry…)
Continuing the tradition started last year, I’m writing a three-part series “2007 Year in Review: The Good, the Bad, and the Ridiculous.” And, as I did last year, I’ll post them in reverse order so they’re in the right order when they’re done. Without further ado…
Global Glow-Bull Warming
During 2007, the global warming movement was exposed for the political, not scientific, issue that it is. As with any movement which sees its power diminished, its adherents ramped up their rhetoric; and, in many ways, the movement has become a parody of itself. In April, Sheryl Crow suggested limiting how much toilet paper we use at each sitting, and suggested we wear “dining sleeves” - devices on which we can wipe our mouths, then remove them and replace them with a clean one. (I’m not sure if the extra water for that laundry offsets the lack of a paper napkin - and wouldn’t cloth napkins do the same thing?)
Carbon offsets were also shown to be next to useless. Carbon offsets, for the uninitiated, are fees one pays to a company which claims to do something “environmentally friendly” to offset one’s carbon emissions. (If that sounds familiar, it should - I believe this technique was pioneered by the Roman Catholic church under the name “indulgences.” Can’t stop sinning? Just get forgiveness beforehand!) A group of three environmentally-conscious people (not right-wing fanatics) created a site called CheatNeutral. It aspires to create a network of fidelity to offset those who cheat on their significant others. It illustrates the point beautifully - ten faithful people mean nothing if you’re the one being cheated on.
In October, Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on global warming, including his film An Inconvenient Truth. Inconveniently, though, many of the claims made in his film have been debunked. Also, a site called Surface Stations shows some of these temperature monitoring stations - these are the stations whose readings have been used to claim that temperatures are increasing. However, many stations are by air conditioning exhausts and other heat-producing structures. Finally, in December, at a UN conference in Bali on global warming, the man leading the negotiations broke down and cried. It must be rough to see all that power slipping away.
Never-Ending Political Cycle
I won’t talk much about this, because I’m pretty much tired of it just when it becomes time for it to actually happen. Do we really need a 2-year period of time to pick our next President?
This could probably be a ridiculous item every year, but this year seemed especially ridiculous. Earlier in the year, after Anna Nicole Smith passed away, a circus erupted over the paternity of her young daughter. I don’t even know where to start - if every one who claimed that they were the father had a relationship with her that would result in a child in the timeframe where it would be believable… Sheesh.
Train wrecks all over - Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears… Even Britney’s sister got into the fray. The biggest problem I have with all this is the amount of press they get, distracting people from other important issues. But, I don’t know whether to be more exasperated with the media for putting out the information, or the people who give it such good ratings that they keep pumping it out.
That’s enough ridiculousness for one year - up next, the bad…
Here is part 3 of the series “2006 Year in Review: The Good, the Bad, and the Ridiculous”. The bad things and the ridiculous things are what they are, but there was still some good in 2006.
I completed my first deployment this year. It was a tough time, but I was in a safe place and was able to participate in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. I wrote a lot about how this deployment affected the way I view things in my posts “Appreciate What You Have” and “Do Not Bend”. The Lord protected me over there, and my family at home. My oldest son stepped up and helped a lot while I was gone, and my wife kept everything going at home, in spite of how difficult it was at times.
Saddam Hussein’s execution was an important development in the War on Terror. Although he had been out of power for years, seeing him brought to justice after a trial is a great symbol of the power of democracy. Some people are upset that he was not tried for even more crimes; but, considering the 100 or so deaths he was on trial for was enough to get him the death penalty, what more could they want? You can’t kill the guy twice! (Some folks over at the Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler (language warning in effect) have some ideas - as well as the video of the actual execution.)
As the war in Iraq and Afghanistan continues, more and more of these high-level leaders are being either captured or killed. If they’re captured, the justice system will do its job; and, if they’re killed, well… that just saves time. And, as the people of the Middle East begin to see democracy and a rule of law take hold, they’ll be drawn to it.
In college football and NASCAR, my folks made a resurgence after a disappointing 2005. The Tennessee Vols followed up their first losing season since Phil Fulmer had become head coach with a 9-3 finish, losing only to #2 Florida, #4 LSU, and #13 Arkansas. Throughout the year, quarterback Erik Ainge matured greatly, and became more willing to hand off the ball to a running back, which lead to more big passes opening up for him. Freshman running back LaMarcus Coker had an outstanding year, and looks to be one of the best running backs Tennessee has had in a while - and that’s saying something. Congratulations to the Vols on a great year.
Jeff Gordon became the Nextel Cup Champion! Well, OK, Jimmie Johnson was top driver, but since Jeff owns Jimmie’s cars, he is the owner’s points champion. He did finish the season in 6th as a driver. The comes after a season when he did not make the Chase for the Nextel Cup (although he did finish at the “top of the losers” 11th spot). Consistency was the name of the game this year for Gordon, crew chief Steve Letarte, and the rest of his crew; he finished in the top 10 in half of the 36 races, and won 2 of them. Were it not for two mechanical problems and a wreck back-to-back-to-back, he would have given his protoge a run for his money. On top of that, he got married in 2006, and he and his wife are now expecting their first child. Congratulations x 3 for you, Jeff, and here’s to a great 2007!
Those are the best things to come out of 2006, in my humble opinion. If you’ve read all three parts, you’ll realize that in the big picture, these don’t quite balance out - Tennessee’s winning season doesn’t offset North Korea’s nuclear tests, for example. But, what this does illustrate is that even when bad things of enormous import are happening, it is still possible to be personally happy and satisfied.
Here’s part 2 of the 3-part series “2006 Year in Review: The Good, the Bad, and the Ridiculous.” While part 1 dealt with items that are bad on a ridiculous level, there is nothing humorous about these happenings during 2006.
I covered this in depth with my post “Why the Republicans Lost” earlier in the year. Now, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are going to be in control of the legislative branch. While our nation can survive, this does signal the end of many meaningful reforms. Immigration enforcement, strict-constructionist judicial nominees, and meaningful energy reforms are all distant memories. In their place we’ll get amnesty for illegal aliens, judicial activists, and economy-crushing minimum wage increases.
The majority of Americans don’t seem to understand that the latter is a ploy by union workers, who want raises but are contractually tied to a level above minimum wage. When it goes up, their pay goes up. However, businesses only have money as they collect it from their customers - increased payroll expense will only drive prices higher, at which point the buying power of the new minimum wage is about the same as the buying power of the old. Higher minimum wage levels also reduce the number of entry-level jobs held by students and retirees - I’m really surprised that the same party who panders to seniors and says that everything they want to do is “for the children” is in favor of such a move.
The Supreme Court decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld established that military tribunals could not be used to try detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. This ruling, in effect, gave unlawful combatants official status, and required that they be given access to our justice system. President Bush asked Congress to clarify rules for detainee treatment, leading to what some have dubbed the “Terrorist Bill of Rights.” During debate on this and other bills throughout the year, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and others were adamant about adding “no torture” language into bills. Techniques such as water-boarding (where a person feels like they’re drowning, but they really aren’t), which had been used to extract intelligence that prevented attacks, were now no longer allowed.
This is a trend that I hope and pray does not continue into 2007. We Americans are gracious to our enemies, sometimes to a fault. But, there comes a point when we need to realize that they are our enemies. When they take up arms against us, when they align themselves with organizations that have, as their stated goals, the destruction of our nation - if we capture you, expect to be made to talk.
Eight Marines have been charged with murder and other charges relating to an incident in the Iraqi town of Haditha. These men were part of a patrol in this city, when their patrol was attacked with an IED (improvised explosive device). After the IED went off, they were also receiving hostile fire from both sides of the street. As their training taught them, they laid down suppressive fire to remove the casualties that they had taken, then launched a counter-offensive to kill the insurgents that had inflicted this attack on them.
Once the shooting had stopped, some of the Iraqis in that town began complaining about the counter-offensive, saying that the people who had been killed were innocent civilians who had nothing to do with the attack. These stories were often contradictory, but that didn’t matter to the folks here who never miss a chance to broadcast bad news. The link above is very lengthy (and the other information it links are also lengthy), but it is a detailed analysis as to what happened that day, and how it is being prosecuted. Even an embedded CNN reporter does not believe these allegations.
This is disgraceful, and I hope that the court-martial comes out in favor of these dedicated Marines. “War is hell” isn’t just a quip - it’s reality.
With current concerns over terrorism, and nukes that Russia can’t find, two nations hostile to the United States declared their nuclear capabilities this year. North Korea has been testing missiles (although these tests were, by all accounts, an abject failure) and nuclear warheads. Iran claims that their nuclear capability is only to be used for power. Why do I not trust Iran? Let me count the ways… They are the primary supplier of personnel and weapons for the insurgency in Iraq. They teamed up with Syria to support Hezbollah in their attacks on Israel earlier this year. They hosted a holocaust denial conference. And that was all this year!
All nations have a right to defend themselves. However, when these nations have proved themselves hostile to us and friendly to our enemies, we must demand that they pursue their defense using conventional weapons.
That is certainly not all of the bad things that happened this year, but I believe they are some that will have the most enduring impression on our world and our nation. Next up - the good!
I’m going to be writing a 3-part series of posts entitled “2006 Year in Review: The Good, the Bad, and the Ridiculous”. I’m posting them in reverse order, though, so that once all three are out, you can read from top to bottom and it will read correctly. Plus, that saves the best for last. So, without further ado, here are my picks for the most ridiculous things of 2006.
On May 1st, the issue of illegal immigration became the subject of a massive rally. Across the nation, legal and illegal immigrants did not show up for work, but rather took to the streets to march for “immigrant rights.” It infuriates me greatly how much this issue is misrepresented. First of all, no one (generally speaking - there are bigots everywhere) doesn’t want legal immigrants here. From Germany to Japan to Mexico to Brazil, from Poland to South Africa to France, any legal immigrant is welcome, as well they should. What the proponents of illegal immigration are doing is equating illegal aliens with legal immigrants. It is true, we are a nation of immigrants - but with the current situation in the world, forcing foreign nationals to abide by our immigration procedures seems to me to be a simple security no-brainer.
Thankfully, this day did not achieve what it set out to achieve. Many groups of people made a point of purchasing lots of goods, and patronizing businesses that were open on that day. In fact, as one pundit points out, the main point of the protests (that America’s economy needs illegals working in it) was proved false. And, in the last month, raids at Swift meatpacking plants have proved this again, as hundreds of legal Americans are applying for the jobs that are now open. (Note that in that last story, they still use the term “undocumented workers” - grrrr!)
Back in March, allegations were made by a stripper who performed at a party for the Duke University lacrosse team that she had been raped by three people at the party. There were many, many overreactions to this charge, as there always seem to be when sexual allegations occur - the accused become guilty until proven innocent. The season was canceled, and the coach resigned. As news began to leak about the case, allegations were made that the accuser was less than honest, and had actually had consensual sex later in the evening - hardly what a rape victim would do. There was also news that DNA collected did not match any of the accused lacrosse players.
This month, the stripper has had a child - a child whose DNA does not match any of the accused. District Attorney Mike Nifong has now dropped the charges. At the time, he had been accused of filing these charges as an election-year stunt; and now that some have been dropped, those who made those accusations have been at least partially proved right. However, none of this gives the team back what was taken from them; and, these baseless accusations of rape only serve to weaken the charge against the next alleged perp - a perp who might actually have done something illegal.
(Links: None - this is a family website!)
It was a banner year for the paparazzi, who managed to not only continue their tradition of invasive photographs of celebrities, but also photograph the nether regions of Paris Hilton, Lindsey Lohan, and Britney Spears. While none of these women have been role models for many, many years, I guess they are now serving as role models - of what not to do. I don’t follow pop culture all that closely (although I have been known to catch an episode or two of Best Week Ever) - much of it seems to bring one question to my mind, over and over again, that being “who cares?” But for those of us with children, who want them raised apart from this, we have to care a little.
That’s not really all the things I found ridiculous about 2006 - but, those are the biggest ones that came to mind. Here’s hoping the list is smaller in 2007.