Monday, January 17, 2011

Thoughts on the last year and decade, and where we'll go from here

Before I get used to writing the date out as 2011 and my memory gets too fuzzy, I wanted to take a look back at what the rest of the world was doing in 2010.  A fair share of unfortunate events such as the BP oil spill and the Haitian earthquake, but in general I was fairly happy with the year.

Some good things came out of the 111th Congress, and though certainly not as perfect or clean as I'd have hoped, it was good to see some of the things I had hoped for in 2008 actually happen.  Health care, financial reform, direct student loans, DADT repeal, food safety, child nutrition and the new START treaty were among the top things that went in the right direction, if hobbled as much as most things that come out of Congress.  On top of that we've got the EPA now about to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, which I'm quite happy about as cap and trade or a carbon tax seem to be dead issues at the moment.

On the more disappointing side, health care and financial reform did not go nearly as far as I'd like, the extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy is sickening, and I'm sad Obama hasn't closed Guantanamo, prosecuted torturers in the American government, repealed the Patriot act, done more to improve transparency and protect whistle-blowers such as WikiLeaks.  Fortunately, at least WikiLeaks will be hard or impossible to stop.  I look forward to seeing what happens in North Africa after the Jasmine Revolution, or with the Bank of America leaks and this new Swiss banking information, those all give me some hope.

I could also say I'm disappointed about the lack of instant run-off voting, more non-partisan redistricting, restrictions of corporate power, and insufficiently progressive taxation, but I've made most of those points before.  At least California is doing non-partisan redistricting now with the most recent ballot initiatives, even if the state still desperately needs a new constitution and/or to be broken into several smaller states.  And hey, California is doing its own cap and trade, I'll be thankful for that.

With the economy in the last year in America; we've continued to rack up debt, and seen the gap between the rich and poor continue to grow.  We're going to have to deal with that at some point.  With the new Republican House though, we won't close to raising any taxes, and I'm not sure what services will get cut.  Personally, I'd love to cut agricultural subsidies, corn-ethanol subsidies, fossil-fuel subsidies, the military budget, the drug war, etc, etc.  Maybe in the next year we'll get a little of that, but on the whole, about as likely as us raising taxes on the rich.

In the rest of the world, developing countries such as China and India are growing and pulling more out of poverty.  We've also seen a lot of rising oil and food prices in the world over the last year, and it looks like those will be here to stay for awhile.  Definitely part of the reason North Africa is seeing some of the turbulence it has been the last week.  I'll be quite curious as to how China's economy deals with the next year.  In addition to their inflation with the rising food and oil prices, we've got people like Jim Chanos warning China is going to have a massive property market crash.  Sadly, I'm not enough of an economist to give a fair valuation to this, and I fear my own views might just be nationalistic competitiveness, but I am getting the feeling China is heading towards something of a crash.

With tech and science in the last year, Moore's Law has marched on and computers, the net, and cellphones have gotten a lot better.  Some of the news with Google's self-driving cars, IBM's Watson, and various translating services has certainly impressed me with the progress that software might make in the future.  We're also seeing increasing research that can be done by analyzing the large amounts of social data out there and turning the social sciences into something for measurable and direct, such Google's book analysis.  Outside of software, this last year had graphene, arsenic utilizing life, the first completely artificial organism and... well, I'm finding it hard to find good summary.  I'll edit this tomorrow.

Well, I'm crashing, I'll revise in the morning, and just push to the web now.  Then, with any posts I write for the next while, I'll stick to more specific topics.

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