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2011-12 reflections and predictions

Can you believe it -- 2011 is almost over already. Time does fly -- the paint just dried on 2010. So now it's time to reflect on the events of the past year and fearlessly forecast what we can look for in 2012.

GOOD NEWS: Let's start with good news. We're out of Iraq -- after nine years, over $700 billion spent, the loss of 4,500 Americans killed and another 32,000 wounded and the loss of 104,000 Iraqi lives. The last of our troops pulled out just a week ago, after having 170,000 there in 2007. Glory, hallelujah. Iraq is a tough neighborhood, so now we hope the Iraqis can keep the lid on the pot.

MORE GOOD NEWS: Osama Bid Laden is in the bottom of the Arabian Sea, thanks to our brave SEALS and their gutty Commander in Chief. I predicted this would happen in 2010. As usual, I was ahead of my time.

HEROES OF THE YEAR: For the ninth year in a row (nine years too many) the heroes of the year are the brave young American men and women serving our country in the Armed Forces in Afghanistan, Iraq (until last week) and other outposts around the world. To date, 1,731 Americans have died in Afghanistan and another 15,090 have been wounded. What a price to pay. We can't have a truly Happy New Year until they're all safely back at home.

PERSON OF THE YEAR: Mohammed Bouazizi is that young pushcart street vendor in Tunisia who got tired of being bullied by his government and set himself on fire as a suicide protest. The protest caught on and Arab Spring became a freedom movement that resulted in outlaw leaders and dictators being thrown out of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, with strong protests in Syria and Yemen. The dust hasn't settled yet.

ZACH IS BACK: A big story in Western Minnesota was the cardiac arrest and collapse on a basketball court of 17-year-old Zach Gabbard, a Perham star basketball player. He came within a heartbeat of dying, had three heart surgeries and spent months in hospitals. But with the support of family, friends, school and community, Zach has now recovered to the point where he can be on his team again, a team that won the state title without him. But he has a long way to go. The details are in my new book, One Town, One Team.

TURNING THE CORNER: Retail sales are up, we're selling 14 percent more U.S. cars than last year, unemployment is creeping slightly lower and there is reason for cautious optimism. Those who think America is in decline need to know we are just coming out of another down cycle.

MONEY IS EVERYTHING: Last year at this time I saluted major league pitcher Cliff Lee, for "settling" for a five year, $120 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies when the Yankees had offered him $148 million on a seven year contract. Why? Because he and his wife would rather live in Philadelphia than New York. This year, after winning the World Series, St. Louis Cardinals star, Albert Pujols, was offered $22 million a year for 10 years to stay in St. Louis, where he is loved, but he chose to accept an offer of $25 million a year from the Los Angeles Angels. Does this make sense? What can he buy for $25 million that he can't afford with $22 million? Pujols is disloyal and greedy; I hope he has a long slump.

WINNERS AND LOSERS IN MINNESOTA: The Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Vikings and University of Minnesota football team all had horrible, disaster seasons in 2011. How can our teams be such losers when the folks who live in Minnesota are such winners?

WINNERS AND LOSERS IN NORTH DAKOTA: North Dakota is one of only three states with a budget surplus. Anybody who is willing to work and can find a place to sleep can make money in the oil fields around Williston. But senior citizens out there are getting caught in the traffic, the dust, exposure to crime and rising prices.

BOOK OF THE YEAR: Unbroken was actually written in 2010, by Laura Hillenbrand, but most of us didn't get to read it until 2011. It's a true story about an American Olympic athlete shot down during World War II who spent 47 days adrift in the Pacific, and spent years in a Japanese prison camp to somehow come out of it alive, but damaged. If you haven't read it already, you must, and when you do you will thank me for giving you the heads up.

OCCUPY WALL STREET: The "99 percent" are speaking out. Keep your eye on them -- pepper spray will not discourage them.

JERK/JOKE OF THE YEAR: Donald Trump. No explanation necessary.

DON'T FORGET BERNIE: Here's an update on Bernie Madoff, imprisoned for his Ponzi scheme two years ago, having chiseled his clients out of $64.8 million: he has only 153 years left on his sentence. Being the humanitarian I am, I think his sentence should be reduced to 100 years.

REVIEW OF PREDICTIONS OF 2011: I predicted that Larry King's suspenders would be sold for $150,000 on e-bay. Not yet, but as usual, I'm just ahead of my time. I predicted Kim Jong-un, son of President Kim Jong il, President of North Korea would start a new career as a door to door aluminum siding salesman. How right could I be? Just this past week, his old man died, now Jr. is the new president. He's the third president in a row from the same family, and each one is worse than the one before. The only increases in North Korea in recent years have been an increase in atomic weapons, belligerence and starving citizens. I predicted the economy would turn the corner in 2011, and I was right. But it hasn't been a U-turn. I predicted correctly that Mama Grizzly, Sarah Palin, would not run for president in 2011 and 2012, but I thought she would string us along more months before she ducked out. But don't forget Sarah Palin -- she's not going to disappear.

Now, for my predictions for 2012:

MORE WINS: The Minnesota Twins, Vikings and Gophers will all double their wins in 2012, but none will have a winning season (more wins than losses).

NOMINATIONS AND ELECTIONS: Mitt Romney will survive the rough and tumble primaries and will be the Republican nominee for president. The presidential race will also be rough and tumble -- also close, but Obama will be re-elected. I predicted the president in the last three elections, so don't blow this one off.

BROWN WINTER: The entire winter of 2011-12 will be brown and warm. Global warming, you know.

PALIN REALITY TV: Sarah Palin is promoting a reality show for her husband, Todd. The show will actually start and will last as long as my prediction for the Brown Winter of 2011-12. Someday (but not in 2012) folks will look back at reality TV and we won't believe anybody every watched it. The Kardashion Era will be likened to the hula hoop craze.

INVENTIONS: 2012 will be a big year for inventions. There will be a six pack of brilliant inventions by six geniuses -- all will be of gadgets/machines/devices/gimmicks that nobody needs. (I feel like the late Andy Rooney when I write something like this.)

YOU, THE READERS: Thank you for your comments and letters. I predict your I.Q. will go up 10 points this year if you keep reading. Bless you and Happy New Year to all.