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Five for fighting -- the 2011 edition

Seems like I was just doing this for 2010, but here we go again with Attytood's five most memorable (although maybe not best, kinda like that time Hitler was Time's Man of the Year) blog posts of the last year. One regret -- for what it's worth -- is that I wish I'd veered away from the political more often this year; in the past there were posts that had a lot of significance about the true meaning of the Phillies or my lame-o "Generation Jones," but in 2011 it was all politics all the time. Hopefully this project will lighten things up a tad in 2012.

Anyway, here's five for (hockey should ban) fighting at the end of 2011:

5. "They were...Penn State! It's time to break up the university"; Nov. 10, 2011.

A "fan favorite," as regular readers know from the running comments that continue to this day. Do I have any regrets about suggesting that the culture at Penn State was so warped that Pennsylvania would be better served by taking the main campus down a number of pegs and re-wiring the Penn State system through its regional campuses? Only that after writing my initial online screed -- fueled by the emotion of watching thousands of people rioting over the firing of a football coach -- I wish I would have taken more time to develop a less emotional, more reported version of this for the print paper. The piece notes that this idea could never happen in the real world -- but would you place a massive campus in the middle of nowhere (so far from population centers...and jobs) today if you were starting from scratch? A lot of you would, apparently. I wouldn't. Fire away. Is this relevant to the Bill Conlin scandal? If Daily News reporters overturn vans and throw rocks at other journalists to protest Conlin's departure, I'll get back to you. (In the meantime, all we can and should do is report Conlin's crimes aggressively and be as transparent as we can):

Excerpt: Could this happen? Of course not. While I think the statewide economic benefits would be a plus, it would be hard to manage the impact without hurting business in Centre County in the short run. But the real obstacles are political. The powerful lobby of Penn State alums and supporters would ensure that any leader who backed such an extreme plan would become (doing my best Michele Bachmann impersonation here) a one...term...governor.

But people need to realize that the problems in little Happy Valley are huge -- and the solution needs to be radical. With new vans overturned last night and photojournalists dodging rocks and riot police coming down the street. a chant echoed across the campus: "We are....Penn State!"

Never before has a problem been summed up so well in just four little words.

4. "How Corbett fracked Pa.'s middle class," March 8, 2011:

Wow, not a great year to be from Pennsylvania. Keystone Staters who thought back in November 2010 they'd been voting between TweedleDee  and TweedleDum were shocked to wake up a few months later and learn they were getting drilled by their unknown governor:

Excerpt: That would be the economically booming, mostly out-of-state natural gas companies and their multi-millionaire CEOs, who continue to rapidly expand their aggressive form of drilling known as hydrofracking, or simply "fracking," across large swaths of upstate Pennsylvania. The companies take in hundreds of millions of dollars without paying any dedicated Pennsylvania tax -- even as such levies are imposed in the other 14 of the top 15 gas-producing states, even in red-state bastions of free-market libertarianism like Dick Cheney's native Wyoming and George W. Bush's Texas.

In a remarkable coincidence, 2010 gubernatorial candidate Corbett received a whopping $835,720 from oil-and-natural gas interests, including his largest single contributor - Marcellus Shale driller Terry Pegula and his wife Kim, who gave $305,000 to the Republican's campaign at the same time Pegula was selling his exploration firm to Royal Dutch Shell and pocketing a $3 billion check. Indeed, Corbett's career in elective Pennsylvania politics was launched in 2004 when an Oklahoma gas driller - Aubrey McClendon of Chesapeake Energy - funneled most of the dollars for an eye-popping $480,000 donation that went to Corbett's attorney general campaign from an obscure GOP fund.

There's a saying in politics that a budget is really a political document, and that was never truer than yesterday, as Corbett made it clear he believes in a conservative, tea-party-flavored philosophy that sees middle-income public employees like teachers as feeding too well at the taxpayer trough and government's main role for big business is to get the heck out of the way, that - in the governor's own words on gas drilling- "[L]imited government means not mistaking someone else's property for your own." Longtime political scientist and pundit G. Terry Madonna of Franklin and Marshall College sees Corbett on the road to becoming the most radical Keystone State governor in our lifetime, and after yesterday it's hard to disagree.

3. "It may take 27 years to undo the damage Beck caused in 27 months," April 7, 2011.

When no one was paying attention, the Tea Party passed away in 2011, even as its zombie brain-dead ideas lived on in the corridors of Washington. And don't think the media comet known as Glenn Beck didn't have a lot to do with that problem, because he did:

Excerpt: But then, Beck has the GOP going off the rails on a crazy train, literally. In other industrialized capitals from Paris and Beijing, high-speed rail is seen as a futuristic way to grow the economy with the kind of a zeal that a very different America once held for its space program. But now the political tide has turned against high-speed rail, with talk radio leading the charge by characteriziung scheduled train service as a form of totalitarianized mind control. Earlier this year, Beck summed up the far-right mantra on trains earlier this year when he said: "The trains run on time and there's a schedule -- and you'll obey us and go where we want." It would be laughable -- except it came just as newly elected Tea-Party-darling governors Scott Walker in  Wisconsin, John Kasich in Ohio and Rick Scott in Florida killed high-speed rail projects that would have brought federal dollars, and more importantly jobs, to residents of their recession-battered states.

You could go on and on -- the talk-radio jihad against big government that has put gutless Democrats so on the defensive that they no longer fight to protect vital programs but only over whether to agree to "steep" spending cuts or "draconian" ones, or the fear-mongering on terrorism and Gitmo that made quivering congressmen afraid to house terror suspects in our maximum security prisons. Don't think that Beck's nightly burst of insanity didn't have a lot to do with these things, because they did.

2.  "Arizona, where the American Dream went to die." January 11, 2011.

You can call it unfair, and I would actually agree with you: The disturbed mind of Jared Lee Loughner had nothing to do with the Tea Party or any movement aligned with it. But -- fair or not -- the tragic shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and killing of five people at her event was also a turning point for America, that caused a lot of folks to take a deep breath and look at what folks were saying or doing. Yes, it may have been unfair, but within six months the presidential ambitions of Sarah Palin were over and Glenn Beck was no longer ready for prime time. So what was the Giffords shooting all about? These were my thoughts back in January.

Excerpt: The real factors behind this Arizona Nightmare -- venal banks, too much borrowing, too much outsourcing of jobs that, unlike home construction, would have been permanent and stable -- were too abstract, especially for the toxic soup of talk radio. It is tragic how a state that once prided itself on Barry Goldwater-style can-do self-reliant libertarianism devolved into blaming The Other the minute that things went south here. Virulent anti-immigrant nativism -- occasionally sprinkled with things like neo-Nazism -- grew into the desert, as did fear of Muslims, to the point where an architecturally unusual new Christian church in Phoenix had to declare in a giant banner that it was not Islamic. Political heroes were now those like Arpaio who didn't just pursue reactionary policies but actually heaped humiliation and degradation on The Other, in sweltering outdoor prison camps. Ditto with members of Congress suddenly out of step with the new zeitgeist -- moderate Democrats like Harry Mitchell and Gabrielle Giffords were not just to be disagreed with but to be physically threatened with vandalism or worse. Meanwhile, guns became a statewide obsession, as lawmakers competed to see just how lax an environment they could create, where it was legal to bring concealed firearms just about anywhere.

This was the world that surrounded and buffeted a disturbed young man in Tucson named Jared Lee Loughner. It is difficult to understand the gibberish of Loughner's Internet postings, and hard to understand where he fits into this disturbing picture. But whatever the uniqueness of Loughner's mental illness, there is too much that is familiar about his isolation in an Arizona subdivision -- his inability at age 22 to find a meaningful job or education, and a libertarian state's inability to do anything for someone the community had understood was in need of mental treatment and help. And when Loughner finally lashed out, his target was a politician. How could that surprise anyone -- when such anger against the world of politics is now baked into the dry, hot air over Arizona?

1. "There's something happening here: A day at Occupy Wall Street," Oct. 3, 2011.

A year that began in tragedy ended in hope -- hope that a vanguard of political street-fighters were a sign that America was finally waking up from a generation of runaway plutocracy and political corruption that has all but destroyed the middle class in this proud country. The Occupy Wall Street movement could be inspiring one day amd maddening the next, but 2012 will tell whether it sparked the brushfire that will finally renew the American Dream:

Excerpt: Why is this happening now, and why does it feel different than the sporadic and small left-wing outbursts against global trade or the Iraq War? The Tea Party, while potent, was largely fueled by anger that Obama won in 2008. The movement spawned by Occupy Wall Street, with more than 100 offshoots in Philadelphia and other cities, is instead fueled by Americans who largely had hope in an Obama presidency, only to see Wall Street more powerful than ever and the gulf between the rich and poor grow wider since January 2009.

They've given up on both parties and taken to the streets, just like the young protestors they watched triumph in Tahrir Square at the height of the Arab Spring. And increasingly the established voices on the left – union leaders, bloggers, and some politicians like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders – who initially scoffed at the young and unfocused protestors are now signing on. Many liberals now think Occupy Wall Street is the only game on town.

Yesterday afternoon, a passerby in an exquisitely tailored blue pinstriped suit turned to his well-attired acquaintance and muttered something about the protest winding down "in the winter when it starts getting cold." But the rest of his words were drowned out by the pounding beat of Zuccotti Park, a political drum solo with no end in sight for now.

In the unlikely event that you've made it this far, I hope that you and your family have a fantastic next few days -- whether that means celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Festivus, or just the happy returns of Jrue Holiday & Co. I'll be back for a couple of days late next week to officially say goodbye to a memorable year.