December 31, 2009

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Dave Barry is back with his end of the year review.

… land a US Airways flight safely in the Hudson River after it loses power shortly after takeoff from LaGuardia. Incredibly, all 155 people on board survive, although they are immediately taken hostage by Somali pirates. …

… The Academy Awards are a triumph for Slumdog Millionaire, which wins eight Oscars, only to have them stolen by Somali pirates.

… This will stimulate the economy by creating millions of jobs, according to estimates provided by the Congressional Estimating Office’s Magical Estimating 8-Ball. …

… In foreign affairs, former president Bill Clinton goes to North Korea to secure the release of two detained American journalists who purely by coincidence happen to be women. …

… But the big story in October, the story that grips the nation the way a dog grips a rancid squirrel, is the mesmerizing drama of a silver balloon racing through the blue skies above central Colorado, desperately pursued by police, aviation and rescue personnel who have been led to believe that the balloon contains O.J. Simpson.

No, that would have been great, but the authorities in fact have been led to believe that the balloon contains 6-year-old Falcon Heene, the son of exactly the kind of parents you would expect to name a child “Falcon.” …

… In sports, the New York Yankees, after an eight-year drought, purchase the World Series. But the month’s big sports story involves Tiger Woods, who, plagued by tabloid reports that he has been hiking the Appalachian trail with a nightclub hostess, is injured in a bizarre late-night incident near his Florida home when his SUV is attacked by golf-club-wielding Somali pirates. …

… The International Space Station is taken over by Somali pirates. …

Pickerhead had meant to keep today to David Barry and a cartoon review from Slate. But, events intrude. However, we will have nothing to do with any commentators who criticize the president for his vacation. The way he thinks, we’d be happy if he vacationed 50 weeks a year. Congress too.

We’ll have three serious items. Toby Harnden of the Daily Telegraph, UK, gives Obama an F for protecting Americans.

There is no more solemn duty for an American commander-in-chief than the marshalling of  “every element of our national power” – the phrase Obama himself used on Monday – to protect the people of the United States. In that key respect, Obama failed on Christmas Day, just as President George W. Bush failed on September 11th (though he succeeded in the seven years after that).

Yes, the buck stops in the Oval Office. Obama may have rather smugly given himself a “B+” for his 2009 performance but he gets an F for the events that led to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab boarding a Detroit-bound plane in Amsterdam with a PETN bomb sewn into his underpants.  He said today that a “systemic failure has occurred”. Well, he’s in charge of that system.

The picture we’re getting is more and more alarming by the hour. Here are some key elements to consider: …

And Dianne Ravitch in Politico takes the administration to task.

… In short, the Obama administration has woven a web of confusion, rhetoric, and illogic that will entangle it for years to come, as it attempts to defuse, de-escalate and minimize the terrorist threat. The reason this strategy is politically foolish is that the terrorist threat is real. It can’t be assuaged by words or dissipated by turning the other cheek. No matter what the president says, no matter how many civilian trials he promotes, the terrorists are not going away. Sooner or later, they will get lucky, they will bring down a jetliner or blow up a rail terminal, and the American people will be very angry. They will see the strategy of de-escalation not as wise but as dangerous. Appeasement didn’t work in the 1930s. It won’t work now.

Another column for us from Maureen Dowd? Did she let her brother write another? Nope! She is on the subject of Obama’s reactions to the Christmas Day bombing attempt. She closes with, “Heck of a job, Barry.”

… W.’s favorite word was “resolute,” but despite gazillions spent and Cheney’s bluster, our efforts to shield ourselves seemed flaccid.

President Obama’s favorite word is “unprecedented,” as Carol Lee of Politico pointed out. Yet he often seems mired in the past as well, letting his hallmark legislation get loaded up with old-school bribes and pork; surrounding himself with Clintonites; continuing the Bushies’ penchant for secrecy and expansive executive privilege; doubling down in Afghanistan while acting as though he’s getting out; and failing to capitalize on snazzy new technology while agencies thumb through printouts and continue their old turf battles.

Even before a Nigerian with Al Qaeda links tried to blow up a Northwest Airlines jet headed to Detroit, travelers could see we had made no progress toward a technologically wondrous Philip K. Dick universe.

We seemed to still be behind the curve and reactive, patting down grannies and 5-year-olds, confiscating snow globes and lip glosses.

Instead of modernity, we have airports where security is so retro that taking away pillows and blankies and bathroom breaks counts as a great leap forward. …

Slate picked 65 cartoons as their favorites for the year. We culled out 34.

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