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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Will it be a Happy New Year?

“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism who should labor to subvert these great Pillars of human happiness.” — George Washington, Farewell Address, 1796

Well we finally said goodbye to 2012 and the world did not come to an end as predicted by the promoters of the Mayan Calendar and we did, according to Vice President Joe Biden go off the fiscal cliff with the Senate passing the so-called compromise tax plan. Passage by the House will be an issue for 2013, so in reality nothing has changed so far.

2012 was not a great year for the world or the United States. There were no great medical or scientific breakthroughs. No one walked on the moon, in fact the United States relinquished its leadership in space to the Russians and we did not find a cure to the common cold. We did not introduce an automobile that would get 100 miles to the gallon and we could not figure out how to make airline travel more comfortable and less expensive.

In retrospect let’s take a few minutes to look back at some of the more reported and monumental events of the past year.

2012 began on January 13 when the Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia ranconcordia aground off the Tuscan island of Giglio, Italy, killing 32 people. The captain of the ship, unlike the captain of the Titanic, bailed out on his passengers claiming he was distracted causing the ship to run a ground and capsize.

On Feb. 11, 2012: Whitney Houston, who reigned as pop music's queen until her majestic voice and regal image were ravaged by drug use, died at 48. Houston, while having a great career and millions of fans, just could not avoid the use of drugs to make her feel good about herself.

Just Houston’s death was news was growing cold on Feb. 16, 2012 George Zimmerman fatally shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager who he described to 911 dispatchers as "suspicious." The case gained national attention and activists demanded Zimmerman be charged. He has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder. His case is still pending and much criticism has been leveled against the Florida State Prosecutor for charging Zimmerman at all as Florida has a “Stand Your Ground Law.”

On March 15, 2012 Chongqing Party secretary Bo Xilai was removed from China's leadership in one of the biggest government shakeups since 1989. Bo is implicated in a corruption scandal that threatens to derail China's once-a-decade leadership transition.

In April 2012 as many as 11 Secret Service agents and 10 military service members allegedly brought prostitutes back to their hotel in Cartagena, Colombia, while setting up advance security before President Obama’s arrival for a three-day trade summit with Latin American leaders. This was one of the biggest black eyes for the Secret Service since the Kennedy assassination

On May 9, 2012 President Obama endorsed same-sex marriages, becoming the first sitting U.S. president to take that position. He reversed his previous position on the issue as he was campaigning for the LGBT vote.

On May 18, 2012 Facebook founder, Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, after years of anticipation, led to Facebook's initial public offering of stock in 2012, the hottest Internet IPO since Google's in 2004. On the eve of its first trading day, Facebook's market value was $105 billion, yet the IPO bombed. Zuckerberg and his investors made millions while those who bought in have yet to see any ROI.

In May 2012 the unemployment rate hit 8.2 percent in the United. In some states, like California and Nevada the rate remained as high as 12%.

In May/June 2012 Egypt held what the country touted as its first 'free-and-fair' presidential election. Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi was declared the winner and the world wondered what had happened to the “Arab Spring.”

On June 6, 2012: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch won their recall election. Organized labor, blind-sided by a new law weakening union rights in Michigan, point to Walker, who raised more than $30 million to beat his Democratic opponent, as a prime target in the 2014 elections. But the people of Wisconsin agreed with Walker by 53-46.

On June 25, 2012 the U.S. Supreme Court struck down much of Arizona's controversial immigration law, but upheld for now a key provision that requires police officers to check the immigration status of those they suspect may be in the country illegally. The provision on mandatory checks during routine stops will now kick back to a lower court for review and still could still be subject to challenge. The rest of the ruling, though, definitively strikes down three other provisions in the Arizona law. What a shame Arizona cannot protect its citizens from the drugs, crime, and harm to their economy illegal immigration brings.

On June 28, 2012 The Supreme Court upheld President Obama's health care overhaul. The court ruled as constitutional, by calling it a tax, the so-called individual mandate requiring most Americans to obtain health insurance starting in 2014. The ruling was a victory for the president, ensuring for now that his signature domestic policy achievement remains intact. This was one of the most controversial decisions from SCOUS since Dread Scott with years of unintended consequences lying ahead.

On July 20, 2012 the whack job James Holmes is accused of going on a July 20 shooting rampage at a midnight showing of the latest Batman movie in Aurora, killing 12 people and injuring 58 others.

On August 2, 2012 U.S. gymnast Gabrielle Douglas performs on the balance beam during the women's individual all-around gymnastics competition at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. She is the first African-American gymnast in Olympic history to become the individual all-around champion, and the first American gymnast to win gold in both the individual all-around and team competitions at the same Olympics.

On September 11, 2012: A terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, information specialist Sean Smith and former Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods. At first the Obama administration sent their U.N. ambassador, Susan Rice, around the Sunday talk shows to blame the attack on an anti-Muslim video, but as time went by Rice’s explanation was debunked and she lost all credibility with the press and American people causing her to withdraw herself from nomination as Secretary of State.

On September.24, 2012 a replacement official signaled a touchdown byReplacementRefereesYE Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate, obscured, on the last play of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers in Seattle. The Seahawks won 14-12. The NFL locked out the officials in June after their contract expired. Unable to reach a new collective bargaining agreement, the league opened the season with replacements, most with experience only in lower levels of college football. This controversial call caused the NFL owners and the officials union to come to an agreement.

On October 9, 2012 former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, is sentenced in Bellefonte, Pa. Sandusky was sentenced to at least 30 years in prison, effectively a life sentence, in the child sexual abuse scandal that brought shame to Penn State and led to Hall of Fame college football coach Joe Paterno's downfall disgrace. This scandal rocked the world of college athletics and brought sanctions against Penn State.

On October 14, 2012 Felix Baumgartner barreled toward the New Mexico desert from 24 miles above the Earth, shattering the sound barrier to become the world’s first supersonic skydiver. Baumgartner, a 43-year-old Austrian, hit Mach 1.24, or 833.9 mph, according to preliminary data, and became the first person to go faster than the speed of sound without traveling in a jet or a spacecraft. The capsule he jumped from had reached an altitude of 128,100 feet above Earth, carried by a 55-story ultra-thin helium balloon. Try that one with you kids party balloons.

On October 29 2012 Super Storm Sandy slammed into the East Coast in late October, killing at least 120 people, hurling a record-breaking 13-foot surge of seawater at New York City and knocking out power to more than 7.5 million across the East Coast. Some people still have not recovered from this storm an and once again FEMA and government was slow to respond even though President Obama made a campaign stop in the disaster area promising quick action.

On November 6, 2012 President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe BidenObamaWinsReelectionYE defeated Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan in the 2012 election with 51% of the popular vote and 332 Electoral Votes. It was one of the most divisive elections since the Civil War and the nation has yet to see the full ramifications of Obama’s slim victory.

On November 21, 2012 Israel and Palestinian militants engaged in talks in Egypt aimed at forging a new era of relations between the bitter enemies following a November cease-fire that ended the heaviest fighting in nearly four years.

The cease-fire came following eight days of airstrikes targeting militant groups in the Palestinian territory and rocket attacks that reached deep into Israel.

Israel launched some 1,500 airstrikes in a bid to end rocket attacks out of Gaza, while the Hamas and the Islamic Jihad militant groups fired a similar number of rockets at Israeli cities. More than 160 Palestinians, including dozens of civilians were killed. Palestinian attacks killed Six Israelis, including four civilians and two soldiers. This was just the latest in the 64 year conflict between the Israelis and their Arab neighbors.

On November 9, 2012 CIA Director David Petraeus resigned after admitting toPetraeusScandalYE (1) an extramarital affair — an affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, that was revealed over the course of an FBI investigation spurned by a series of e-mails between Broadwell and her rival Jill Kelley.

December 3, 2012 Britain's Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, announce that they were expecting their first child. Kate was hospitalized with severe morning sickness. An Australian radio show prank called the hospital pretending to be the Queen looking for information. The woman who connected the call committed suicide three days after being duped. Some prank.

On December 11, 2012 North Korea said it successfully launched a rocket, a feat which the U.S. and other nations have labeled as "provocative." The launch defied an international warning and took a major step forward in its quest to develop a nuclear missile. While the stated purpose was to put a weather satellite into orbit, the three-stage rocket's deployment also demonstrates the nation's ability to send a nuclear warhead as far as California, and raises the stakes in the international standoff over North Korea's expanding atomic arsenal.

On December 14, 2012 Adam Lanza, 20, shot his mother in the head four times in their Newtown, Conn., home and then drove to the Sandy Hook elementary school in her car with four guns, including a shotgun that was left in the back of the vehicle, and shot up two classrooms. Lanza killed 20 students and six adults before killing himself. It is one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history. It was the second greatest loss of life at a school since the 1927 bombing of an elementary school in Michigan.

In 2012 activists said more than 40,000 people have been killed in the 21-month Syrian civil war. Despite outcry from more than 100 nations, President Bashar Assad's regime continues to crack down on the Syrian people. The Assad regime has long rejected Western involvement in the civil war and has called for talks with opposition. Most rebel groups refuse to meet with Assad, demanding his removal. More than 100 nations, including the U.S., recognized the new Syrian opposition council as the legitimate representative of the country, a boost for the opposition forces that have been bombing regime targets in and around Damascus, once an impregnable stronghold of the Assad regime.

That is just a few of the events capturing the 24/7 news cycle during 2012. Each event in its own right was memorable or notorious, but were tossed into the dust bin of history as we moved through our daily cycle of news and entertainment.

As bad and tumultuous as events were here in 2012, things were worse in Europe. Fat sow unions in Europe and politicians who herald the umpteenth iteration of a Marxist panacea make nearly all the economic news from Europe bad, and the looming default on sovereign debt by Greece, Spain, Cyprus, and other Eurozone nations means that not just governments, but banks with sovereign debt instruments as significant parts of investment portfolios will lose solvency and confidence.

But the cliff we face and the cliff that Europe faces are less economic than moral. Two decades ago, we won the Cold War. The Iron Curtain fell. America, and to a lesser degree our NATO allies, all were able to safely and substantially cut defense spending. The "Peace Dividend" ought to have allowed Europe and America to keep taxes low, run regular surpluses, and not disrupt the social welfare basket at all.

What we have lost is not our money, but our souls. Consider Obama. He has power, but how is he using that power? Like Big Brother in Orwell's 1984, Obama never stops campaigning, never stops stirring up fear, never stops blaming those who came before him. Obama and his minions seem incapable of honesty, honor, or humility. Are Republicans in Washington much better? Since Reagan, who gave us the "Peace Dividend" and proved Supply-Side Economics, have conservatives ever found anyone in Washington who is not tainted with power-lust?

If Washington is bad, Brussels is worse. The dream of "United States of Europe" has become, instead, a nightmare. Flemings and Walloons, the two nationalities in Belgium in the very nation whose capital is the headquarters of the European Union, took 535 days after its last general election to form a government — longer than any parliamentary government in history (shades of Weimar Germany!). Self-destructive and angry Greeks dredged up Nazism when Angela Merkel visited their country to see what help Germany could provide. Separatism is on the rise in Europe, as Scottish and Catalan and Flemish and other peoples seem to think that a new and smaller nation will solve their problems, but there is no reason to think this will improve European life.

Old Europe itself is dying, as conservative authors have been telling us for years.  The cynical, agnostic, socialist European is reproducing at far too slow a rate to keep his native population from surviving and the young, militant jihadists who are taking over the streets of many European cities are no more tolerant or productive than the young, militant jihadists who are forming the new, scary democracies of the Arab world.

We have no talisman against these jihadists who will, inevitably, gain nuclear weapons through Pakistan (with hideous implications for India) or Iran (with hideous implications for Israel) or, through legitimate democratic means with implications for real nuclear powers like France and Britain (with hideous implications for us).

The problem which our civilized world is facing cannot be about money: Americans and Europeans were affluent and, with only modest restraints, would still be comfortable and secure. The problem we face cannot come from some wicked military enemy: Desert Storm proved that our armed forces are incomparably more powerful than any rival, and our troops each day in Afghanistan are winning battles easily, although they are dying from attacks from their “allies.”

The world today is deluged with things. Even the so-called poor in the United States and Europe have big flat screen TVs, cars, smart phones, expensive sport shoes, and computers. We are the richest poor people in the world.

The scary cliffs we see today — and our world is full of cliffs — is that too many people blessed to be born into the wealth and protection of the Western World have stopped believing that they are blessed at all; they have stopped believing in a loving God or in ordered liberty or even in such simple moral rules as "don't eat your children's seed corn." Our only hope, if we have any hope in the world today, is to forget about goodies and to embrace first goodness.

So as we embark on a new year what events will transpire in the next 365 days to be considered a memorable? Will our economy tank? Will the Arab world erupt in flames? Will the progressives advance their agenda of more government intrusion into lives? Who knows?

All I can do is wish you a happy and prosperous New Year and hope 2013 is better than 2012.

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