Christmas 2010

The American economy over the past year was a bit like General Motors – fragile at the start of the year but slowly gaining strength.

By the end of the year we were all pleased at the signs of recovery, but couldn't quite be sure it was for real.

I feel the same about 2011.

Keep your fingers crossed for GM and Uncle Sam.

The dark cloud on the horizon is our Deficit.

Hopefully, the good recent work of the President's Bipartisan Deficit Commission will lead to Washington making necessary and painful choices to bring the Deficit under control.

Perhaps we should not hold our breath.

Let's check in again next year on this one.

The mid-term elections of 2010 have brought a lot more red to the electoral map.

It is hard to remember that it was only two years ago that many of us thought we were ushering in a new era of political collaboration with the election of Barack Obama.

Obama appealed to us with his "yes we can" approach.

What happened?

Lots happened, of course, the worst recession in thirty years chief among them.

In defense of President Obama, he has done many good things:

championing a stimulus policy that saved the economy (and was validated by none other than Warren Buffett), extending healthcare to most Americans, addressing financial reform, and standing conventional wisdom in K-12 education on its head.

One would have to go back to FDR to find anything as bold.

Unfortunately each of these massive initiatives has sufficient flaws to make moderates uneasy and conservatives crazy.

Republicans have been able to portray the President and the Democrats as overreaching – part of a massive Federal power grab that is stifling the lifeblood of America's entrepreneurial spirit.

While such rhetoric is overblown, it has been devastatingly effective.

More power sharing in Washington may not be a bad thing.

Obama did overreach. Call me naïve, but I am hopeful that we may see more collaboration in 2011.

But enough again, 2010 was not all politics.

It was the year of the World Cup, wonderfully staged in South Africa.

We all learned the distinctive and sometimes grating sound of the vevuzela and the beauty of Africa's most attractive country.

Fittingly the cup was won by Spain, the team of the deft pass and brilliant short game.

As a long-time fan of the other colorful finalists, "L'Oranje" from Holland, it was disappointing to see the clumsy tackling that marked the final but, in the end, the Spanish artistry prevailed.

Thanks to my new Kindle I have read more books this year, though I still miss the feel of page turning.

My two best reads were The Healing of America by TR Reid and Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes.

Reid, a Washington Post and NPR reporter, wrote of his global search for the perfect system of health care.

His book is a powerful indictment of America's approach as well as a crisp summary of how other "rich" countries manage to cover everyone at less cost and often with better results.

Matterhorn is a novel about Vietnam written from the perspective of a young Marine lieutenant – paralleling Marlantes' real-life experience.

It is a dark book that captures the feel of combat like nothing that has come before.

In the end, almost in spite of itself, it is redemptive.

Oh, if you are grousing about the recent finance reform, read The Big Short by Michael Lewis.

The real mystery isn't the new legislation, it is why more bankers aren't in jail.

The biggest news of the season is, of course, the Red Sox signing of Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford.

The Sox needed an injection of power, speed, and excitement.

They have gotten it.

Now if Texas is just able to resign Cliff Lee and thus keep him out of Gotham, this could be (again) the year of the Sox.

May your holiday season be full of good company, good cheer, and much love.