THE VIEW FROM MY PLACE: ...And a Happy New Year
2013 turned out to be quite a year. As this year ends and another begins it's a good time to reflect on what it was that made 2013 so special. Here are a few things that I found to be significant. They are not in any sort of chronological order.
2013 started off with the arrival of our second grandchild, first grandson. It ended with the departure of my old hip, traded in for a new one.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford may have squeaked out our Speaker of the House, John Boehner, for the most emotionally disturbed politician of the year. Unlike Boehner, however, Mayor Ford did seem to be more honest and forthright when talking about his failing. He admitted that he smoked crack, drank to excess, and made unwanted sexual advances towards his female staff. Boehner has yet to take any responsibility over the least productive Congress in history.
This year we got to see a new ambassador at work in North Korea. Vice-driven personality Dennis Rodman thought he might try his hand at global relations. In what might be described as this year's best "Birds of a Feather" photo op, Rodman was pictured with the psychopathic Kim Jong il. One might think this young man's last name should be spelled "Ill."
The Kardashian sisters and Miley Cyrus had quite a year, but no one cares.
The economy still sucks for just about everyone with the exception of the 1 percent. For the nation's wealthiest folks you'll be happy to know that the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up a whopping 26 percent this year. Congress took no action on minimum wage increase.
One of the most serious issues facing our nation today is immigration reform. Congress took no action on this issue, either.
There was much fanfare and discussion about how important it was for our nation's farmers to have a "Farm Bill" passed this year. Didn't happen. Congress was busy.
And speaking of a busy Congress, you'll be thrilled to learn that this year alone the House of Representatives voted no fewer than 46 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act. An illustrious group of Republican politicians were successful in shutting down our government; costing us a cool $25 million that we could have used for just about anything else.
Speaking of "anything else" as this piece is being written 1.3 million people will be losing their unemployment benefits, because Congress has failed to pass a meaningful jobs bill. The $25 million we wasted shutting down our government for a week or so would have covered about 10 percent of this need.
We witnessed a resurgence of Vermont's somewhat stagnant Republican Party. Vermont's GOP has been in the doldrums since the departure of their leader, former Gov. Jim Douglas. To add some bucks to their coffers and energy to their base they brought in New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie -- the man who constantly seeks publicity but shut reporters out of his appearance in Vermont. The timing was unfortunate. While he was here in Vermont the story broke about the closing of three lanes of traffic on the George Washington Bridge; the busiest bridge in the nation. It's becoming more obvious every day that this action was taken in retaliation for the mayor of Fort Lee not endorsing him. Just what the country needs; a thin-skinned, petty president.
In the "No Good Deed Goes Unpunished" category we witnessed the most botched real estate deal in history of real estate. Gov. Peter Shumlin attempted to help a neighbor who approached him with a tale of woe. The neighbor was about to lose his home to a tax sale. Gov. Shumlin tried to help. In the end the governor's willingness to help his neighbor cost him a bundle of cash and some bad press.
Speaking of bad press we've seen a lot of stories about the bumbled launching of Vermont's Health Connect. Recently we learned that most, if not all of the bad press stories were orchestrated by Republican operatives, Darci Johnston, Brady Toensing and former (and possibly future) gubernatorial candidate Randy Brock. They said that their work was not political. They are the only three people in Vermont who believe that to be true.
Gov. Shumlin bagged one big, sweet buck on opening day.
In Vermont we witnessed the release of one of the best movies ever: "Freedom and Unity -- The Vermont Movie." Well, it's not one movie, but six movies about Vermont, starting with Champlain finding his way down from Canada and culminating with debates over wind and nuclear power. These folks did a fine job and it's worth watching all six films.
It seemed like every day in the paper there was a story about break-ins and heroin use. Heroin use is on the rise, because it's so cheap. But in the long run it's costing us a fortune. Hats off to our legislature for passing H.522 and tackling the issue of opiate use.
Maybe our friends in Washington will see how things work in Vermont. We work together to get things done. What a concept.
Many thanks to you faithful readers of this column.
Happy New Year.
Bob Stannard is a Banner columnist.
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