20 Questions to Ponder as 2007 Departs

by Randy Shaw on December 18, 2007

As business slows and people leave town for the holidays, the end of December provides a great opportunity to think and deliberate. There are a whole range of questions that I never got time to adequately discuss in Beyond Chron, and the good part of this assignment is that no answers need be provided. Hopefully, some of these questions will provide readers with grist for thought or discussion over the holiday season. My first question: after winning re-election with over 70% of the vote, why does San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom still appear less than happy in his job? Why has he been so testy with reporters, dissatisfied with his staff, and acting on the defensive when he just won an unprecedented political mandate? Here are 19 more.

San Francisco Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin has played an instrumental role in running the city, particularly in areas of planning, MUNI, and the city’s infrastructure needs. How can the city use his talents after he is forced by term limits to leave the Board at the end of 2008?

Are Barack Obama’s campaign managers brilliant for timing his momentum so closely to the Iowa primary, or are they incompetent for allowing Hillary Clinton’s nomination to ever be seen as inevitable?

Why do Hollywood liberals consistently make movies that condemn abortions, essentially becoming propaganda vehicles for the religious right? (e.g. Knocked Up, or the current Juno)

Why does global warming fail to become a top issue in political campaigns in the United States, even after Al Gore won an Oscar and the Nobel Peace Prize?

Why did Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez sacrifice his political career by alienating the labor unions that boosted him? Was he always an opportunist or did Sacramento transform him?

Why is the U.S. military budget of $690 billion, which does not even include billions of dollars more for wars and “intelligence,” not subject to public debate? Why is this obscene level of spending not even an issue in the Democratic primary?

Why do so few current novels try to make sense of the lives most people live, as opposed to “high concept” plots involving unusual family dysfunctions or other atypical scenarios?

And why are there virtually no movies whose lead character is a female professional pursuing a career-related challenge? Or a character who finds her identity through battling real world elements, rather than a sci-fi or horror movie adversary?

Was 2000 the high point of influence for the Green Party? And if so, does that not mean that Democrats must hold power for Greens to grow?

What percentage of African-American roles in movies or television shows involves playing a part in the criminal justice system? Even Denzel Washington seems to routinely play a cop or gangster.

With all of the publicly stated concern about gun violence in the United States, why is our popular culture more dominated by such images and story lines as ever before?

Why are men (and it is predominately men) so obsessed with professional sports? What spiritual or other void does it fill? And is sports the true opiate of the masses?

Is the pursuit of “Green” everything simply capitalism’s latest strategy to boost consumer spending? Rather than buying “green,” isn’t it better for people to avoid purchasing non-essential products?

Why are millions of people still fascinated with Britney Spears and Paris Hilton?

Why do cities require ground-floor retail uses under housing when there is a glut of vacant storefronts, and little evidence that there is a need for such additional businesses?

What does it say about the United States that it has two million of its residents behind bars?

Remember when computers were going to reduce traffic by allowing massive telecommuting? What happened?

If people are worried about global warming and high gasoline prices, why did SUV sales rise in the United States this year despite a slowing economy?

And finally: are you satisfied with how you are spending your life? If not, why not make changes?

Happy Holidays. And if you are still looking for a gift for your favorite activist, consider The Activist’s Handbook, which Howard Zinn describes as “enormously valuable for anyone interested in social change.” Send feedback to the author of that book and this article at rshaw@beyondchron.org

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