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2008 Sucked
Hopefully, robots will, too

by Bryan Zepp Jamieson
December 31, 2008

I'll let you in on a little secret.

2008 sucked.

Oh, you already heard about that?

OK, I won't belabor the point.

People are out partying tonight. They're partying like it was 1933.

There's stuff to celebrate. We're getting rid of a vicious, stupid, heartless toad of a President, and his puppet, George W. Bush. Forbes Magazine thinks venture capitalism, with its propensity for tearing apart productive businesses, sucking all the money out of the best parts or shipping them overseas, and leaving the rest as a debt-ridden husk, is dead. Unbridled capitalism is dead. For a couple of generations at least, until the country recovers, and another batch of stupid, greedy morons from the upper class declare that business is good for America and that we should all just let them take care of ethics and self-restraint, rather than having the people do it.

The United States staggered out of 2008 battered and bleeding, but not completely dead. If Obama has the guts to stand his ground against the far right – who still have their echo chamber, the VRWC, even if its power and prestige are greatly reduced – then America will turn a corner and start back up in 2009.

It's early evening on Dec 31st in California as I write this, and from my perspective, 2009 already started some 15 hours ago in New Zealand. It didn't get off to a very good start. There was a disco fire in Thailand that killed 50 some people, Israel is still bombing the fuck out of the Palestinians while loudly beating their breasts and declaring themselves the innocent victims in all that.

In England, the New Year started about 4 this afternoon, and even though an El Niño threatens to send average global temperatures soaring this year, it is sorely missed right now. The Guardian complained that England was colder than Iceland, and Scotland colder than Moscow. In Moscow, it finally snowed on December 23rd, about an inch. They were starting to wonder where that legendary Russian winter had gotten off to. Russia celebrated the New Year by cutting off oil to the Ukraine. That's become something of an annual event, and the Ukrainians have learned to stock up, and not interfere with oil flowing through their pipelines to Western Europe, so Vlad and Dmitri are probably feeling a little truculent right now. Hopefully they won't get mad and lob nukes at someone.

The International Space Station spent the past day darting back and forth between 2008 and 2009, a situation unique to the three astronauts on board. They did send a clip giving their congratulations to earth on having made it out of 2008, but it wasn't clear which year they sent it. No matter. They would be in the OTHER year in another 80 minutes or so anyway. Something about that reminded me of the old Superman comics when I was a kid, and Superman had to go back in time. He did so by flying around the earth very fast. The notion was that if time slowed as an object approached the speed of light, then it stood to reason that if an object exceeded the speed of light, then time would go backwards. The problem is that as an object approaches the speed of light, its mass increases, and at the speed of light, becomes infinite, and thus cannot accelerate any more. This would have a most unfortunate effect on the earth, which would be instantly sucked into Supes's gravitational field, and they both would become a very small black hole. Or rather, Supes would still be there, wearing the earth as a pinky ring. Everything else in the Universe would be knocked out of kilter, although at a few billion light years it would probably be barely noticeable. Fortunately, the people on the ISS don't need to worry about things like that. They just settle for flipping the calendar page back and forth and laughing at each other like mad bastards, because there really isn't much to do on the ISS.

The New York Times greeted the new year with an article opining that one resolution people would be making — and keeping — this year would be to spend less. The article's tone was half sympathetic, half irritated. Like many out of touch rich Americans, the Times, I suspect, secretly believes that the Depression is caused, not by a collapse of the business cycle, but is probably a plot by labor unionists to punish and weaken the rich and erect a socialist worker's paradise. People will be spending less on food and clothing and stuff their kids need, but in the eyes of the wealthy, they are just short-sighted, greedy bastards who don't understand how important it is for working people to support their bosses.

I don't think they'll get a whole lot of sympathy.

On the web, of course, the lunacy pays no heed to the calendar. On Free Republic, they are still raving about William Ayers and Reverend Wright, and howling that the controversy over "Obama the Magic Negro" is just a ploy by liberals to make the GOP look bad. I had no idea the GOP had so many liberals in it. Me, I just enjoy watching them learn nothing as they self-destruct. One of the big religious voices (or at least, one of the more gawd-struck schizophrenics) at Free Republic was howling that they were inventing robots that could have sex with humans, and this could mean the end of humanity. That's nonsense, of course. The robots would breed us, so they could continue to enjoy the type of intimacy a rotating cam shaft just can't provide.

I went to Matt Drudge's page, expecting a few laughs. Drudge is proof that you don't have to be smart to be a voice of the Right. In fact, it's a hurdle. But he actually raised a good point: should the government bail out newspapers? If we had an actual free press, my answer would be a loud and immediate "Hell, NO!" But government owned press can't be any worse than corporate-owned press, and if Britain and Canada are any examples, could be a significant improvement if the press is assured autonomy.

But the lunacy was there, too. Drudge had a link to investers.com, a site that still clings to all the dead shibboleths that fell this year, and it was earnestly explaining that the slow onset of the upswing of the solar sunspot cycle might be the start of a new sunspot "minimum", much like the Maunder minimum in the 17th and 18th century in which only 50 sunspots appeared over 30 years at one stretch during the 60 year "minimum." That was also called "the Little Ice Age." Good an excuse as any to keep pumping out the old CO2, eh?

Of course, we just passed the minimum of the eleven year cycle about 11 months ago, and the delay in the onset of a new cycle isn't unusual. Indeed, such a delay often precedes a particularly intense cycle, and heliologists have been warning that 2012-13 could see a larger than average solar maximum, resulting in lots of problems for satellites, and even some ground electronics. So maybe Investers.com hasn't gotten a solar /deus ex machina/ just yet.

But 2009 is almost here – it's already sitting on Newfoundland like a large, fat cat, and it represents the one time when Newfoundland can claim to be ahead of the rest of Canada. It will get here soon enough, and I probably won't even stay up to greet it.

But I have my hopes for 2009, that this will be the year that things bottom out, and start to improve.

Oh, and that maybe I can get one of those sex robots they're talking about over in loonyland.

Posted: January 12, 2009

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