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2010-2011: Reflections and predictions

Yes indeed, another year is coming to an early ending. They roll around faster and faster. It's time now to reflect on the events of 2010 and forecast the events and trends for 2011.

SPREADING PESSIMISM: With unemployment still over 9 percent (but it was over 10 percent a year ago), mortgage foreclosures continuing, economic woes marching on, the war in Afghanistan continuing (but Iraq is mostly history now), state and federal deficits and debt in the headlines, a congress that would rather posture than solve problems and church people shifting from one allegiance to another, there is a lot of pessimism out there.

HEROES OF THE YEAR: For the eighth year in succession (eight too many) the heroes of the year are the young American men and women serving our country in the Armed Services in Afghanistan, Iraq and other outposts around the world. They won't be home for the holidays, but we need to remember them and honor them. To date, 4,683 Americans have died in Iraq and Afghanistan, 28 percent between the ages of 18 and 21 and 24 percent between the ages of 22 and 25 while the total wounded was 32,799. What a price to pay. How can we have a truly happy New Year until they're all safely back at home?

PERSON OF THE YEAR: TIME magazine has named Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook as its person of the year. Wrong. More about Zuckerberg later. The person of the year, for the second straight year is the beautiful, ambitious, mysterious momma grizzly, Sarah Palin, the champion of the Tea Party. She has written another book, "America by Heart," she's on a book tour, she's giving political speeches from coast to coast, she's a political commentator with FOX news, she's making $14 million a year, her daughter Bristol has danced on Dancing With the Stars and Sarah has hinted she may run for president. Like her or not, Sarah knows how to stir the pot and stay in the spotlight.

WOUNDED WARRIOR: President Barak Obama is under attack from all sides. The Republicans criticize him for not putting out the fires he inherited and the Democrats now criticize him for moving toward the middle of the road by reaching a truce with Republicans on tax cuts for the wealthy. What a miserable job. But the good news for Obama, a closet cigarette smoker, is that he has accomplished one victory: He has gone nine months without sneaking a puff.

JERK OF THE YEAR: Alastair McCaulay, dance critic for the New York Times is the jerk of the year for writing that Jennifer Ringer, a ballerina in the New York Ballet production of the Nutcracker Suite, cast in the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy, must have eaten "one sugar plum too many." I watched the slender and graceful but hurt dancer being interviewed. She said, "I'm not overweight, but I do have I guess a more womanly figure than the stereotypical ballerina."

GENTLEMAN OF THE YEAR: Former president George W. Bush, much abused when he was in office, now author of a new presidential memoir, "Decision Point," has managed to maintain a low profile, non-critical approach to his successor's administration and is enjoying his own retirement without bitterness or controversy. President Bush is Gentlemen of the Year.

NARROW ESCAPE: Probably the most dramatic and heartwarming story of the year was the miraculous rescue of 33 miners who had been trapped in a cave for over two months a half mile below the surface of the earth in Chile. The miners were pulled out one by one through a 24 inch tube inserted into a hole drilled into place under the advice from experienced experts in Peru, Canada, the U.S. and Australia. What a great engineering feat.

MONEY ISN'T EVERYTHING: The latest news in the world of sport is that the Philadelphia Phillies baseball team has signed Cliff Lee, hottest pitcher in baseball, to a five year contract for $120 million. The New York Yankees would have paid him $148 million on a seven year contract. But money isn't everything. Lee's wife was harassed by New York fans during the playoffs last fall and the Lees would rather live in Philadelphia. But here is my question: What can a normal human being do with $148 million than he can't do with $120 million?

PHILANTHROPISTS OF THE YEAR: Facebook's inventor and CEO, 26 year old Mark Zuckerberg (worth over $10 billion) has joined a group of wealthy donors committed to giving the majority of their wealth to charity by signing on to a project started by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. Hats off to the entire group, but I wish they were paying more in taxes.

TOTAL COLLAPSE: The Minnesota Vikings, after being one play away from the Super Bowl last year have been a bust this season. Quarterback Brett Favre has been a disaster and now he's injured. Second string quarterback Tarvaris Jackson is also injured with a "turf toe." Coach Brad Childress has been fired, Randy Moss came back, did nothing but talk, then was released and finally the Metrodome collapsed under 20 inches of snow and the next "home" game had to be played (and lost) in Detroit. What more could possibly go wrong? Stayed tuned, the season isn't over.

ONE DAY AT A TIME: The good news for Bernie Madoff, imprisoned for a Ponzi scheme a year ago, having chiseled his trusting clients out of $64.8 billion, is that he has only 154 years left on his sentence.

REVIEW OF PREDICTIONS FOR 2010: A quick summary of my predictions for the year 2010 would suggest I had a poor year. But I did get some right. I did predict that Twins baseball star Joe Mauer would be given a long term contract with a mountain of cash, the State Capitol Building, the Mall of America and the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. I was right -- Mauer signed an eight year contract that will pay him $184 million and he has been granted unlimited use of the State Capitol Building, Mall of America and Minnesota Fairgrounds whenever he wishes. I predicted another famous person would qualify for the stupidity award (last year is was Tiger Woods and South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford). This year the winner is Brett Favre, veteran Viking quarterback who sent obscene and suggestive e-mails to a female locker-room reporter. Also I predicted that hot air commentators from the left and right would be four horses a#@es. Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Eddie Schultz and Keith Olbermann proved me right. I predicted that anyone who read this column for all 52 weeks of 2010 would be rewarded by having his IQ raised by 15 points and his or her good looks improve by 10 percent. It turns out this was absolutely true. However, only one person qualified and she has indicated that she wishes to remain anonymous. I'm sorry I cannot disclose her name. But in the loss column, I predicted Osama bin Laden would be caught and vaporized. Wrong. I predicted Fidel Castro would die and his body would be stuffed and displayed in Havana. Wrong. I predicted that Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would receive a Nobel Peace Prize for discontinuing Iran's nuclear program. Wrong again, but Ahmadinejad will be sorry.

Now, predictions for 2011

LARRY KING'S SUSPENDERS: Larry King has just retired after 25 years of Larry King Live. Some fan, with more money than brains, will buy King's suspenders for $150,000 on eBay.

POT BELLY: President Obama will not smoke one cigarette in 2011, but his determination will cause him to gain 20 lbs. resulting in a presidential pot belly.

HEAT IN THE KITCHEN: Kim Jong-un, youngest son of the President of North Korea, Kim Jong il was designated in September to take over as President (dictator) of the country. However, Junior will decide it's too hot in the kitchen, will resign and plunge into a new career as a door to door aluminum siding salesman.

TURNING THE CORNER: The signs are visible -- unemployment claims are down, retail sales are up, export sales are up -- little things are happening. The economy will turn the corner in 2011, but unfortunately it won't be a u-turn.

TURNCOAT: Senator Lindsay Graham, Republican from South Carolina, will be labeled a turncoat by former supporters because of the sin of supporting President Obama on the president's proposal to save money by eliminating George W. Bush's plan for a NASA mission to the moon.

MAMMA GRIZZLY: Sarah Palin will not announce in 2011 that she's running for president. She'll wait until the last minute in 2012. She makes huge money by teasing us about her plans. When she does announce, she will say she's waiting to see about 2016 to continue the tease. She is nervous about running because Barbara Bush has said she'd like Palin to go back to Alaska. But Alaska remembers that Palin walked out on her last elected job and running for president would require her to do some serious homework.

YOU THE READERS: The readers of this column will be smarter and better looking week by week if you keep reading. Bless you and Happy New Year to all.