- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 27, 2009

Lurching to 2010

Well, nobody said the 2000s were easy. The most oft-cited word to describe the decade was “downhill.” This is according to almost 800 respondents in a year-end Pew Research Center poll who were asked to freely volunteer their descriptions, rather than picking from a multiple-choice list. The 10-year period - referred to as the “noughties” by a few wags - did not get a sterling review.

“Change” was the second most-cited description - followed by good, poor, decline, disappointing, turbulent, chaotic, bad, fair, disaster, greed, roller coaster, scary, depressing, tumultuous and worsening.

Well, OK. The decade was crummy, defined by the Sept. 11 attacks, the financial meltdown, the Iraq war and Hurricane Katrina. Just over a quarter of the respondents - 27 percent - rated the 2000s as positive. But some perspective is in order, even as talk of “Bush nostalgia” begins to percolate among weary citizens.

Let us now recall the 1960s, the giddy decade full of freedom, good music and plenty - when hippies and astronauts ruled the earth. Well, only 34 percent of the respondents rated that decade as “positive” in the Pew research. Forty percent said the same of the 1970s, while just over half said the 1980s and 1990s were good times. Americans are very hard to please, perhaps. But they are not quitters, either.

On an upbeat note, as we slip the surly bonds of the 2000s and venture toward the unknown rim of 2010, six out of 10 Americans agree that “things will be better,” the survey said.

And that is not a bad beginning.

Who’s winning

There were businesses that did very well in 2009, their shops somehow landing on the exact financial, cultural and political coordinates to yield considerable fortune and success. Though they have nothing in common, these businesses offer some insight into the nation’s direction, at least at this nanosecond in time. Curious? Here are the top industries of the entire decade, plus the rate of their accumulated revenue growth, according to IBISWorld, an industrial market researcher:

Voice over Internet Protocol providers: increased by 179,036 percent.

Internet search engines: +1,655 percent.

E-commerce and online auctions: +469 percent.

Online dating and matchmaking: +249 percent.

Tank and armored vehicle manufacturing: +245 percent.

Petrochemical manufacturing: +221 percent.

Mining support: +188 percent.

Wireless telecommunication carriers: +184 percent.

Biotechnology: +182 percent.

Warehouse clubs and supercenters: +147 percent.

Days of yore

British naturalist Charles Darwin set out on a voyage to the Pacific on this day 178 years ago aboard the HMS Beagle, with evolution on his mind.

Happy 66th birthday today to Cokie Roberts, longtime NPR and ABC News analyst, born Mary Martha Corinne Morrison Claiborne Boggs in New Orleans to Democratic congresswoman Lindy Boggs and Hale Boggs, one-time majority leader of the House of Representatives.

With no justification whatsoever, we urge all good baby boomers to make some noise today, the 62nd anniversary of the debut of “Howdy Doody,” starring Buffalo Bob Smith, freckled marionette Howdy Doody and a cast of thousands. America’s first nationally broadcast kiddie TV show stayed on the air until 1960.

And on to another cast of thousands: The Soviet Union sent 75,000 troops to Afghanistan on this day exactly 30 years ago, hoping to stabilize the political situations and enforce the installation of Babrak Karmal as the new leader of the nation. The Soviets stayed for a decade before calling it quits.

Last but not least, North Korea ordered U.N. nuclear inspectors to leave the country on this day seven years ago, vowing to restart a laboratory capable of producing plutonium for nuclear weapons.

Poll du jour

59 percent of Americans are optimistic about the next decade and welcome the 2010s.

32 percent say it will be a worse decade than the 2000s.

42 percent of Republicans, 20 percent of Democrats and 34 percent of independents agree.

69 percent of Americans overall say the Internet has been a “change for the better.”

65 percent say e-mail has been a positive development.

61 percent say that more racial diversity has been a positive change.

38 percent say more acceptance of gays and lesbians is positive.

Source: Pew Research Center survey of 1,504 adults conducted Dec. 9-13.

Quotes of note

“I don’t need a Nobel Prize to have common sense and see what is happening around here.” - Rush Limbaugh.

“I have two words for President Obama regarding his challenge to identify the ‘gap’ between what he campaigned on last year and what Congress is on the verge of passing: I accept.” - Sen.John Cornyn, Texas Republican.

“I am tired of the Congress thumbing their nose and flipping a bird to the American people.” - Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele.

c Happy new year, folks. Thanks for reading. Follow Jennifer Harper at twitter.com/ harperbulletin.

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