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Happy New Year and Decade

OK, I know that decades technically begin in years ending with ones, not zeroes. But the convention is so widely accepted now that decades start in years ending zero that we’ll just have to accept it.

I didn’t do any year-end or decade-end listing, but I wrote my final Baltimore Sun column of the decade–The Naughties is my preferred term–about what we learned (if anything) this past decade, to which I wish good riddance.

A small sample:

We learned that American interventionism in the Muslim world in order to eradicate Islamic fundamentalism is going to be a lot more difficult and painful than our 20th century adventures in Latin America and in trying to combat communism. We haven’t been attacked on our own soil since, but there have been plenty of terrorist acts elsewhere in the free world – and more bloodshed and human suffering for our troops and natives of Iraq and Afghanistan than we’d care to admit…

On the domestic front, we learned that bubbles inevitably burst – and when they do, a lot of people end up with naught. We discovered that Enron and WorldCom were cooking their books, and that accounting giant Arthur Andersen turned out to be a big fat zero in terms of oversight. In the aftermath, the pensions employees for some of these companies were counting on turned out to be worth nothing…

Our incomes have stagnated – a whole decade’s work for naught. Well, that’s not entirely correct. Employee compensation actually increased during the Naughties: The problem is that potential wage gains were gobbled up by skyrocketing insurance premiums. This is the decade we finally owned up to the fact that the health of the nation is undermining the health of our individual and national economies…

Reality television was not born this decade, but it became more pervasive and popular. The better shows – like “Project Runway” or “So You Think You Can Dance?” at least require talent of some sort. But the worst shows demand only a talent for naughtiness: gossiping, backstabbing, tantrum-throwing, phoniness, voyeurism and a willingness to shed one’s integrity or clothing. Nothing good came of such junk…

As far as I’m concerned, bring on 2010 and the Teens to follow. Hopefully, the coming decade will cause us to become a more humble, more thoughtful and more long-range-thinking nation.

Now, I don’t share this to be downer, but rather to encourage a sense of optimism as the next decade opens. Let’s hope the next ten are better than the previous ten.

And a Happy New Year to 538 readers. (One very good thing that happened to me this past year/decade is that I started writing for this site.) Anyway, be safe and have fun tonight.