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Reflections on 2009, predictions for 2010

It was the best of years, (more about that later) it was the worst of years. We are closing the books on 2009 and it's time to reflect on the events of the year and forecast what you can expect to see in 2010.

The Worst of Years: Unemployment is over 10 percent, foreclosures are at record heights, the economy is in serious recession, we're sending 30,000 more troops into Afghanistan, Congress would rather fight than talk, churches are in turmoil and kids are "sexting" naked pictures to one another. 2009 has been a dream year for pessimists.

The Best of Years: 2009 has been one of the best of years for former president George W. Bush who has elected to maintain a low profile. He has kept his mouth shut and seems to be enjoying his retirement from the heavy pressures of public life. May the years be filled with rest and relaxation for Bush.

Heroes of the Year: For the seventh year in succession (seven too many) the heroes of the year are the young American men and women serving our country in Armed Services in Iraq, Afghanistan and other outposts around the world. Since the beginning of our invasions, 4,280 have died and 30,182 have been wounded in Iraq and 864 have died in 4,682 have been wounded in Afghanistan. How can we have a truly happy new year until they're all safely back at home?

Area Hero of the Year: Josie Green is an 18-year-old freshman at Minnesota State University Moorhead. Late in November, she was jogging along the Red River in Moorhead when she saw a man drowning in the icy water. Josie, with average swimming skills and no water-rescue training jumped into the river, swam 15 to 20 feet from the shore and pulled the man out. She said she was surprised how cold the water was. The 25-year-old man died several days later in the hospital, but Green was no less the hero on that account.

Person of the Year: Time Magazine has named Ben Bernanke, Federal Reserve Chairman its person of the year because, as they say, the economy would be much worse if it weren't for this scholar of the Great Depression. But they missed the mark. The person of the year for 2009 was Sarah Palin. Last year I gave Sarah the "Fresh New Face" award and said she would be heard from again for a long long time. This year she has written "Going Rogue: An American Life." Palin will never be president or vice president, but she has an enthusiastic following and knows how to stir things up. She's not going away.

Most Influential Person: The most influential person of the year 2009 was Charles Ponzi and he's not even living. Charles Ponzi (1882-1949) perfected a scheme in 1920 where the operator pays investors unusually high returns from their own money or money paid by subsequent investors rather than from actual profits. It's robbing Peter to pay Paul. The most notable modern day disciple of Ponzi was Bernie Madoff, now in prison for 155 years, who pulled off the largest financial fraud in history generating loses of $64.8 billion. Minnesota had its own high-living Ponzi -- Tom Petters, convicted in November of swindling investors out of $3.65 billion. The scheme is so tempting that 55 others were convicted in 2009.

Fresh New Face For 2009: Susan Boyle, the middle-aged British woman was suddenly discovered to have the most sensational singing voice of a generation. Now she's had a major makeover and her career is making up for lost time. Three cheers for Susan Boyle.

Jock of the Year: Our own Minnesota Twin Joe Mauer, American League batting champ (.365 average) and Most Valuable Player makes us proud. How can the Twins afford to keep him when his contract runs out next year? (See prediction below.)

Phonies of the Year: Michaele and Tareq Salahi got all dressed up and crashed an "invitation only" party at the White House. About a month earlier, Richard Heene and his wife set up a fake scheme claiming their six-year-old son, Falcon, was missing and presumably drifted off in a hot air balloon. These arrogant and phony publicity seekers are the result of a sick entertainment gimmick -- reality TV.

Stupidity Award: Shared this year by Mark Sanford, Governor of South Carolina and Tiger Woods for wandering off the Appalachian Trail and the fairway respectively. Elliot Spitzer, former Governor of New York, was last year's winner (loser).

Disappointing Retirement of the Year: Anne Murray, the Canadian songbird, was named in this end-of-the-year column as the singer of the year for eight straight years. I know some of you remember. I just read that Murray has retired from singing. That's a heartbreak for me, one of her most ardent fans.

In the prediction department, a quick summary. Last year was not a good year for predictions. I predicted President Bush would pardon Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska who had just been convicted of concealing over $250,000 in home renovations and gifts. Bush did not pardon him, but the Justice Department dismissed all charges because of irregularities in prosecution. I said Bush would become Commissioner of Baseball -- he didn't. I predicted a new cell phone invention that would take your blood pressure. Not yet, but it's coming. I predicted Russia would commit at least one more outrage in 2009. They didn't but they have one on the drawing boards. I predicted Fox's Bill O'Reilly and MSNBC's Keith Olbermann would fight a duel without casualties and would both end up claiming victory and continuing to smirk and sneer. How wrong was that? I predicted that the Minnesota Senate race between Senator Norm Coleman and Al Franken would end in a dead heat (almost) and former Governor Jesse Ventura would end up getting the job because of a coin flip that landed on edge. Wrong fortunately --Ventura is off barking up some other tree.

Now for the predictions for 2010 you've been waiting for:

Bin Laden: Osama bin Laden will finally be captured and vaporized making our added troops in Afghanistan and pressure on Pakistan all worthwhile.

Joe Mauer: The Minnesota Twins will be able to sign superstar Joe Mauer to a new long-term contract starting in 2011 by giving him a mountain of cash and deeding him the State Capitol Building, The Mall of America and the Minnesota State Fairgrounds.

Four Horsemen: Notre Dame had the legendary Four Horsemen backfield (Miller, Layden, Crowley and Stuhldreher) between 1922 and 1924. In 2010, four broadcasters, known for partisanship and hot air from the extreme left and extreme right will be named the Four Horses A@*es. They are Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Eddie Schultz and Keith Olbermann.

Fidel Castro: The old dictator will finally die and the Cuban administration, lead by his brother, Raul Castro, will have Fidel's body stuffed and put on display in Castro Square in Havana. The Cuban Army and the pigeons will love it.

2010 Stupidity Award: Many will be called but only one or two will be chosen. One will be another prominent politician.

Nobel Peace Award: The Nobel Peace Prize for 2010 will be awarded to Iran's President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for pulling the plug on that country's nuclear development program.

You The Readers: You the readers of this column, if you don't miss a week, will find your I.Q.s rising by ten points and your good looks improving by 15 percent. But don't miss a week. Bless you and Happy New Year to all.