A New Year’s Miscellany, 2024 A.D.

A New Year’s Miscellany, 2024 A.D. January 1, 2024

A year in which the worst didn’t happen (but might in 2024); the lessons of 2023; and the year in review.  Plus some Christmas Leftovers.

A Year in Which the Worst Didn’t Happen (but Might in 2024)

CNN’s Nick Paton Walsh says 2023 was the “Year of the Brink.”  Many bad situations emerged, but somehow the worst didn’t happen, though they are teetering on the brink, so that the worst might happen in 2024.

He cites the war between Hamas and Israel.  The fear was that it would precipitate an even bigger war throughout the Middle East.  That hasn’t happened.  Yet.  (Actually, Israel is already fighting on seven fronts:  Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank, Iraq, Yemen and Iran.)

In the war between Russia and Ukraine, the Ukrainians weren’t able to recapture their occupied land from Russia (which would have been the worst outcome for Russia).  Then again, Putin didn’t resort to nuclear weapons.  Right now, both sides are locked in the stalemate of trench warfare.  But Ukraine is stretched thin and outnumbered.  Both sides are on the brink of either victory or defeat, and the winter of 2024 will be crucial.

Walsh also mentioned China building up its military threat, but not attacking Taiwan.  Yet.

We could apply his analysis to the U.S. domestic and political scene.  The economy seemed to be in the doldrums with lots of problems, but the worst didn’t happen:  inflation slowed, the stock market came back, employment is up, and the Fed may have achieved the elusive “soft landing”–stopping inflation without a recession–that may economists assumed was impossible.  But great challenges, including an unfathomable federal debt, are ahead and may show themselves in 2024.

Donald Trump had what would seem to be a bad year, with numerous criminal indictments, but his popularity is higher than ever.  Joe Biden’s popularity plunged to its lowest point, but the improved economy has Democrats feeling optimistic.  Again, 2024 will sort it all out.

The Lessons of 2023

Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro has drawn five lessons that we can learn from 2023:

No. 1: Lots of people do not think like we do.  [“When Hamas slaughters infants in their cribs, rapes women in front of their husbands and takes them captive back to Gaza, and tortures and murders civilians, that isn’t because of some outsized grievance. It’s because they do not have the same values as Westerners. Pretending that members of Hamas are simply freedom-loving people who seek material prosperity, quiet family lives and tolerance for those who think differently isn’t just wrong; it’s catastrophically wrong. . . .]

No. 2: The next generation is in serious moral peril. [Shapiro cites the statistics that 79% of young Americans (18-24) believe that white people are oppressors, with two-thirds believing that Jews “should be treated as oppressors.”]

No. 3: Weakness breeds aggression.  [He blames the perception of Western–specifically, American–weakness for Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and Hamas’s aggression in Israel.]

No. 4: What goes around comes around.  [Democrats have been weaponizing the rules of Congress, executive orders, and the justice department against Trump and Republicans.  They can only expect the same treatment once Republicans come into power.]

 No. 5: Incompetence has consequences. [“Eventually, the people tire of the incompetence of their leaders — and when they tire of the incompetence of leaders from all sides, they seek radical change to the systems themselves. Often, such changes are more perilous than the incompetence they seek to rectify.”]

Can you think of other lessons?

The Year in Review

One of my New Year’s rituals is to review the events of the preceding year, recalling them month-by-month in my memory and thinking about what has just happened.  That can be a somber task, so I do with a shot of hilarious satire by reading Dave Barry’s Year in Review.  (Behind the Miami Herald‘s paywall, but if you answer a question, they’ll let you read an article for free.)

The Associated Press used to poll newsroom editors to compile a list of the top stories of the year.  I couldn’t find that this year.  Maybe there aren’t enough newsroom editors, thanks to all of the newspaper cutbacks.  Instead, they break down the top stories by categories.  Here is the site for The AP Year in Review.

Here, AP condenses a year into 42 seconds of their photography:



TOMORROW:  Make your predictions for 2024.


Illustration by Marco Verch,  via Flickr, CC by 2.0

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