It's the season of giving, and in 2011, three stories kept giving, and giving and giving.
(Wait, what, three? Not five? Or 10? No. Good things come in threes.)
Even better, these three stories will undoubtedly be around in 2012 -– the ultimate in re-gifting, you might say:
California's budget woes. It seems like only yesterday that Gov. Jerry Brown was dealing with the state's budget mess. In fact, it was about yesterday -- Dec. 13, to be exact.
That's when Brown announced further painful cuts to state services to keep the state budget out of the red.
It didn't have to be this way. Heck, way back on Jan. 19, I wrote about using The Times' handy-dandy online budget balancing tool to balance the state's budget. It took about 15 minutes.
So, if a math-challenged journalist can do it, why can't the state's politicians? Because it's not about balancing the budget. It's about the philosophy of government. California's Republican lawmakers don't want a government at all, really. Californians may want compromise, but it's not easy to compromise with a bus driver whose goal is to drive the bus off the cliff.
Don't think so? Well, in Washington, Republicans in the House resisted keeping the payroll tax cut. In Sacramento, Republicans resisted the governor's attempt to let existing tax cuts expire, claiming that amounted to a tax hike. Sound logical? Then you need to get back on your medication.
Pro football in Los Angeles. Like those beautiful muses of Greek mythology, the sirens continue to sing their song of professional football in L.A., luring wealthy investors onto the financial rocks and leaving fans brokenhearted.
But this time, it's really, really going to happen. Really. We have a stadium; or, I mean, we have nice renderings of a stadium. We have a place to put the stadium. We have a rich company -– AEG -– behind the stadium, and the effort to get a franchise.
All we need now? A team. And it appears that the only way we'll get a team is to steal another city's. And lots of money will have to change hands. And rich guys in other towns, such as San Diego, may have to be paid.
And if we actually get a team, the average fan won't be able to afford to go (to see what will probably be a bad team). And we'll probably get fewer games on TV. And traffic will be worse. And no matter what anyone says, taxpayers will probably have to cough up some money.
So tell me again why we need a pro football team?
The Republican presidential race. And finally (with apologies to Newt Gingrich), we come to the little Tiffany bag under the tree. Nothing has been more entertaining than this year's crop of GOP candidates. The race has had more front-runners than a Kentucky Derby. And it's become the Little Engine That Could of the media industry. Enough trees have been cut down (bytes used?) in covering this campaign to re-forest Haiti.
Two truths have emerged in covering this Alice Through the Looking Glass affair: No one is really sure what's going to happen, and if you want to make enemies in a hurry, write something nasty about Ron Paul. (Or even something nice about Ron Paul -- his supporters will take offense regardless.)
To recap my personal highlights:
On May 12, I confidently predicted that Mitt Romney would be the Republican nominee, and that he would lose to President Obama.
Then, on June 10 -– sensing that the Republicans didn't share my enthusiasm for the Mittster -– I boldly entered the race myself. The heart of my platform? No taxes. (No, not lower taxes; no, not no tax hikes. Just no taxes.)
I thought it would be a winner. If Michele Bachmann could be taken seriously, why not me? Sadly, I was more a Tim Pawlenty than a Gingrich.
On Sept. 26, my crystal ball was at its clearest: I correctly predicted the demise of Rick Perry, writing that if you can't beat the pizza guy (Herman Cain), you aren't presidential timber.
So now I'm back to Romney. I believe what I wrote May 12. I'm sticking to it. Sort of.
But the new year is almost here. And I'm sure I'll be opening this gift again and again in 2012.
And I'm willing to bet that we'll have a GOP presidential nominee, and a balanced budget in California, before L.A. has a pro football team.
MORE YEAR IN REVIEW:
The most troubling immigration trends
Congress' 10 biggest enemies of the Earth
Photos: Ted Rall's 10 most popular cartoons of 2011
Photos: From left, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul. Photo credit: Associated Press