Sunday, January 01, 2012

Hopes for a New Year

I've got a lot of them, even limiting myself to those I'd choose to post on this blog. I may post some follow-ups later.

First, of course, my Reds: Though I'm not crazy about either of the pitcher swaps they made in the offseason (with Cubs and Padres), I think they are going into the 2012 season with both a decent pitching staff and a good everyday lineup. With the Brewers, Cardinals, and Cubs all weakened, I think they could win the division this year. I don't see them as World Series material, but once in the playoffs, there's always a chance (just see the example of the Cardinals last year).

Chelsea has basically blown its chances in the Premier League--last weekend's embarrassing 3-1 loss at home to Aston Villa being just the latest evidence--but, it is the leading surviving team in the Champions League. They should de-emphasize the League matches and focus upon the Champions League--their next matchup will be against Napoli, and that will require all their ability. The Blues have plenty of offense, but have been subject to sudden lapses on defense, way too often.

In college basketball, I have very high hopes for my regular teams: Kentucky, Louisville, Syracuse, and on behalf of my parents' alma mater, Indiana (I'm OK with them since Bobby Knight left). In the next poll, I think SU and UK will be 1-2, with U of L and IU in the top 10. So, I'm not just thinking rooting interest in the Final Four, but a possible title. The Tar Heels and Buckeyes appear to be the chief rivals, and I will enjoy seeing them fall.

NBA-wise, I'm very optimistic about the upcoming season. The players and coaches don't like the heavy, short regular season necessitated by two months' loss of play, but I do.

US Politics
I know I shouldn't get my hopes up about the behavior of this nation's electorate, but I feel that there's a decent chance the Republicans could get a well-deserved repudiation this year. I stand by the viewpoint that they had forfeited their privilege of governing by 2008 and have not done anything to change that since then.

Really the only reason for my optimism is the weak field they are putting out for the Presidential nomination this year. Where President Obama should be in a nearly-desperate situation given the domestic economy (unfair, but it's reality), I see him winning easily against any candidate except Romney, and I see his chances as better than 50-50 even against him.

The bad news is that the campaign up until now could not have gone better for Mitt, and if things don't change soon (by South Carolina), he will have the nomination practically won by Feb. 1. And in the Palmetto State (a/k/a the Hardcore Confederate State), it appears that the right-wingers (Santorum, Perry, Gingrich, and Paul) will split their votes, giving Romney a chance for a win he clearly should not expect. If he can somehow win there, Florida's primary will wrap it up for him.

Romney will present a challenge in critical Mideastern and Upper Midwestern states (PA, OH, MI, IA, maybe WI) that Obama would badly need for a safe Electoral College victory, and it appears that there will be nearly unlimited funds from Super PAC's to buy an advantage. If Obama loses a couple of those, he might have to pick up VA, AZ or FL (beyond states like CO, NM, NV).

And, the general election campaign could go very badly for Romney, opening the way for a decisive victory on the order of the one Obama produced in 2008 in spite of everything. If that happens, the Democrats could regain the House and hold onto the Senate. I actually think there's a chance for the Democrats to retain a Senate majority even in a close Presidential race.

I kept a stone wall against campaign contributions in 2011 (with one minor exception for Emily's List), but I will be loosening the wallet a bit this year. This is not because I can suddenly afford it, and I hate--absolutely hate--the fact that the Obama Administration has not made a move to challenge the current campaign finance regime (or lack thereof). I'm only going to do it because it's necessary, and I will try to be tactically astute and strategically sound. The fact that Ben Nelson has decided not to run again in Nebraska helps--now I can give to the DSCC without fear that it will be wasted on DINO's. Frankly, I felt that all those appeals to give before some arbitrary deadlines in 2011 were phony and unconvincing.

My hope is that after the totally expected orgy of negative ads and obscene levels of spending in 2012, both parties will turn, exhausted and bleeding, to legislation that will somehow limit the ugliness in future elections. It will be my #1 political priority, and I hope it will enter Obama's list as well--after, of course, he makes the most of the current monstrous system this year.

Finally, on a local level, I'm waiting to see how the Congressional districting turns out in my section of the northwestern Chicago suburbs before I decide whether I will retain my New Mexico voter registration (I certainly could do so), or switch to the area where I'm working and spending most of my time. If I get a chance to vote against Joe Walsh, or against Bobby Schilling (see my 2010 election post for the significance of the latter), that would be interesting. Otherwise, the Senate race in NM will be a close and a critical one.

Economic and International Politics
My hopes are more for GDP growth than reduction in unemployment or a big stock market rally. The key thing is to avoid a new recession, and I think that should be possible.

As far as the Euro is concerned, I will think there may be some triage, with Greece being reluctantly jettisoned (as I've suggested, that could be a big opportunity for Turkey), and with Italy and Spain salvaged. The nations (excepting Britain) are reluctantly going to allow stronger regional control over national budgets, and that is a formula that will ultimately solve the problem. Britain may decide to seek something like an associate membership, along with Sweden, Turkey, Greece, and a couple of others: trying to get the benefits of trade without the political mess.

I'm going to continue along this rather outlandish tangent of predictions and suggest a couple unexpected countries where the spirit of rebellion against unjust authority will rise: Russia (it's started, but I think/hope it will go much further) and Israel. I hope (but don't expect so much) there will be some sort of progress in the talks to make peace in Afghanistan, with participation of some Taliban elements, Pakistan, India, and Iran.

Personally, I want to wish the best for all friends and family--health, wealth, and happiness!

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