Thursday, January 2, 2014

2013 in Retrospect

Now that 2013 is in the books, I can't help but reflect back on the year and what has happened.  America has certainly taken a few more steps toward the abyss.  The biggest irony concerning the rapidly expanding Obamacare fiasco arises from the Supreme Court's having upheld the "individual mandate" provisions of the law.  Most conservatives derided Chief Justice John Roberts for having sided with the Court's liberal wing in deciding that the fines imposed for not complying with the mandate were permissible as a "tax," as opposed to the penalty the Democrats always intended them to be.  However, as things have turned out, absolutely the best thing the Court could have done from a conservative standpoint was to allow the law to take effect in all its dysfunctional glory.  If the Court had struck it down, the Dems could have howled and made healthcare a huge campaign issue for the 2014 elections; instead, Obamacare, together with all the untruths the Dems had to propagate about it in order to pass it, has turned into one of the best campaign issues imaginable for Republicans.  I've learned not to underestimate the liberal media's ability to obfuscate the ill effects of Democrat policies -- American "journalists" have learned well Joseph Goebbels' dictum about repeatedly telling the Big Lie (together with his statement that the truth is the greatest enemy of the State...and how!) -- but 2014 is a Democrat catastrophe in the making.

Twenty-thirteen will also mark the point in time when objections to same-sex marriage more or less disappeared.  Between Supreme Court (and other lower-court) decisions, the general rejection of DOMA, laws enacted by certain state legislatures, and the opprobrium heaped on anyone who still dared to object to the notion, same-sex marriage hit a critical mass in 2013.  The reason is simple -- once it was successfully framed as a civil-rights matter, which automatically made anyone objecting to it a "bigot," it was all over but some minor shouting.  It will be interesting to see if succeeding generations regard their elders as troglodytes for ever having opposed same-sex marriage -- in the same way those of my generation couldn't understand why some of our parents had racial biases, though they were good and decent people in every other sense.  (The deed to our home, which was built in 1967, still contains a completely odious -- and absolutely unenforceable -- "covenant" that no one in the ownership chain would sell the property to a member of the "African" or "Asian" races.)

Events in 2013 in Syria, Egypt, Iran, Libya, and North Korea have demonstrated a high degree of fecklessness in the Obama Administration's foreign policy.  I guess that Russia's brokering the Syrian regime's supposedly giving up its chemical-weapons arsenal (after first using some of it on its own people), together with a multi-nation agreement with the Iranian regime about scaling back its nuclear program, are "successes" from a certain viewpoint.  However, as many others have noted, when your allies no longer trust you, and your enemies no longer fear you, it's difficult to say your diplomatic policies haven't failed on a grander scale.

Gun control was supposed to be a hot-button issue in 2013, especially after the Newtown massacre (of small children at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut) in December 2012; however, an attempt to pass a ban on semiautomatic "assault weapons" didn't go anywhere in Congress.  Somehow, the notion of disarming the general public, inasmuch as there are psychotic nuts out there with access to firearms, doesn't appeal to a majority of Americans -- go figure.  By the end of the year, President Obama was left issuing executive orders to try to give effect, in piecemeal fashion, to his gun-control policies.  All of this, of course, is a tremendous boon to manufacturers and re-sellers of guns and ammunition, as the public stockpiles against the advent of an outright ban on private firearm ownership.

It's almost comical how new domestic sources of petroleum and natural gas are being exploited despite this administration's doing everything it can to inhibit development.  The energy sector could be the source of the jobs that would finally pull the U.S. economy out of the doldrums, but President Obama's quasi-religious adherence to liberal dogma regarding fossil fuels and nuclear energy is so complete that the only things that seem to occur to him are to grossly inflate the minimum wage and to extend unemployment benefits, both of which make it even less likely that people will find work.

Colorado will, in 2014, become the first state to abandon the pretense of "medical" marijuana and legalize it for recreational use.  I can't say I'm a fan of pot (or of potheads), but I've long had pretty libertarian views on the full legalization of marijuana (but not harder drugs that take a larger toll on society).  The country's experience in trying to enforce Prohibition (of alcohol) in the 1920s should have provided a clue concerning the consequences of outlawing something that a sizeable percentage of citizens use regularly.  We criminalized wide swaths of the population, wasted billions upon billions of dollars on enforcement, locked up way too many people for mundane possession offenses, created a natural entrepreneurial opportunity for ultra-violent gangs and drug dealers, and lost out on the tax revenues that regulation of a legal pot industry would have generated.  And for what?  (There are still federal laws against cultivating, distributing, and possessing marijuana, and the feds could trump Colorado's new law if they wanted to -- but, of course, they don't; however, people with federal-government security clearances will still get bounced, even in Colorado, for THC-positive drug tests.)  Notwithstanding, I think it's ironic that we've fully stigmatized smoking tobacco at the same time we've sought to normalize smoking marijuana.  Can the latter really be any "healthier" than the former?