2008–the Year in Review

Pessimism is in the air-and it is contagious too. A few weeks before, during a conversation on the global financial meltdown, I assured my friends that if we are to harken back to 2008 in three years’ time, we will definitely laugh at our Cassandra-like pessimism and anxieties mainly with. They were not convinced–neither was I.

This was indeed a terrible year for the establishment and the politicians who inhibit it, a year when gossip columns shifted from covering celebrity DUIs to Spitzer’s hypocrisy, baby Edwards and  Blagojevich’s caveat emptor. In America’s longest election season, Hilary Clinton did everything (3AM phone-calls, Rev. Wright); Rudi Giulani nothing. Both lost. So did that not-so-maverick-y senator, whose campaign only proved that he himself was not so above partisan mudslinging. McCain threw his experience card away by nominating a folksy, yet inexperienced, Alaskan Governor who has strange ideas for naming kids, and even stranger ones on foreign policy.

On her way to become a hobgoblin for liberal media, Sarah Palin stopped only to shop and wink, but even her spending couldn’t stop Wall Street-and McCain’s campaign-from crashing. The Feds looked the other way as the Lehman Brothers’ stocks plummeted to a point where its headquarters came to worth more than the entire company. On the other hand, it helped AIG, which celebrated the bailout by throwing a lavish staff party. Automakers flew to Washington to proclaim their confidence in American cars. In the first half of the year, the oil prices increased from 100$ to 150$ before dropping precipitous in the second half. Apple learnt its five billion dollars lesson on the dangers of depending on one person when a internet rumor sleazed Steve Jobs’ health.

Change is also in the air in New Zealand where longtime Prime Minister Helen Clark got replaced by a stockbroker-New Zealand is apparently where the stockbrokers thrive after getting fired from the Lehman Brothers. Meanwhile, Republican politician comes in a close second to stockbroker on the jobs being cut list. Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC), notorious as Senator No for his isolationist policies, died. His successor to the curmudgeon title, Ted Stevens (R-AK), whose accomplishment so far has been calling internet a series of tubes, narrowly lost a senate race which, had he won, would have made him the first felon (nay, the first felon who got caught) in the Senate. The democrats dreamt of a filibuster-proof senate, but Joe Lieberman nightmare still hovered over their heads.

China celebrated its big coming out Olympics with virtual fireworks, lip-synching and by taking child-labor to the next step. While the international media is trying to downplay China’s gold medal count with Michael Phelps’ eight golds, Russia rolled her tanks into Georgia. Nicholas Sarkozy, found time to negotiate Russo-Georgian ceasefire while also managing a supermodel wife and YSL’s funeral.

In Italy, Silvio Berlusconi is back along with his gaffes: he called Barack Obama ‘sun-tanned’. South Africa lost its AIDS conspiracy theories and its President, his seat. Meanwhile, Mbeki’s failed power-sharing talks kept Robert Mugabe in power in neighboring Zimbabwe.

Like Giuliani with early primaries and Mugabe with cholera, Burma’s junta blithely ignored a cyclone that devastated the nation’s agribusinesses. In neighboring Thailand, one prime minister got kicked out for appearing in a cooking channel and prime ministers changed faster than the sentries in the royal palace. Mortgage crisis hits Nepal as its king got evicted.

Putin stepped down in Russia but the rest of the world crowned him the new “Tsar”. Ahmedinajed visited Venezuela to pledge millions for an “anti-imperialistic” funds while Iran is witnessing its greatest economic crisis. The “Dear Leader” of North Korea disappeared while doctored photographs replaced him.

Pervez Musharraf resigned in Pakistan. Zardari Khan (or as the rest of the world calls him, Mr. Bhutto) succeeded him. So far, his only accomplishment has been getting a fatwa (because he called Sarah Palin ‘gorgeous’).  The U.S. Has increased its forays into Pakistan to hunt terrorists who were meanwhile creating havoc and mayhem in Delhi.

However, it would be unjust to label 2008 as the year when optimism ended. The change is in the air, from New Zealand to Pakistan to France, where Greenpeace put Sarkozy’s pictures on the famous Obama poster which was originally created by an underground artist. Yes, change and hope-the very campaign slogans of Barack Obama-are in the air. These words which carried him to the White House to become the first African American President of the United States were proof positives that the overrated tradition of optimism is still alive and kicking. Unfortunately, Americans felt equally enthusiastic and optimistic the same eight years ago when another prolonged election season ended at the Supreme Court. Once again, history has been a harsher judge.

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