My 2013 Year in Review

By Martin Hackworth

Well, here we are. But for the ubiquitous reviews, the endless lists, and the abundance of nostalgia, 2013 is about done.

In the spirit of the season, I shall devote my last column of the year to my own “ten list” of, mostly, dubious individuals, groups and achievements. Yeah, yeah, I know, it’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness. But given the general state of affairs in the world, I see little reason for celebrating the mere passage of time without much in the way of accompanying merit. You show me a year where we make any real progress in making life better for any but the most fortunate and then I’ll show you how to be down with a party. But until then, every time I hear another rendition of Auld Lang Syne, without some liniment, ointment or salve, I am compelled to jab myself with a tire iron – and I don’t want to jab myself with a tire iron. So what follows is my potion for dealing with useless nostalgia. Feel free to share as you wish.

Worst Person In the World. This one was tough, due to an abundance of well-qualified candidates. My winner is Tamerlan Tsarnaev, Boston Marathon bomber. I don’t believe in Heaven or Hell, but people like him sure make me wish.

Best Person In the World. I can’t believe that I am doing this, but it’s Pope Francis. This guy has done more to improve the image of Christianity, and more generally, spirituality, than anyone in a few thousand years. One person does not a movement make, but Francis is surely a good start. I really like this guy.

Worst Organization in the World. This one is easy. If you are looking for an entity that is the scariest thing that bad dreams are capable of conjuring, look no further than the National Security Agency. These zealous fools have taken a noble concept, let’s keep America safe, and used it as an excuse to betray and usurp huge chunks of our founding principles, and tick off the rest of the world just for good measure. They have, through catastrophic dissembling, done more to destroy trust in government than almost anything else (more on that later). As the story of the NSA continues to unfold, I would not be at all surprised if, in the fullness of time, Edward Snowden did not end up being considered an American hero.

Best Organization in the World. This goes to CERN, the European particle physics consortium. On March 14, 2013, CERN researchers confirmed the existence of the Higgs Boson. What we may learn from this is mind-boggling. Do you suppose that the keys to the Universe might just be enough to get us to quit fighting with each other for a while? Yeah, I know, plumb silly, that. Windmills, anyone?

Worst Person in the World within 25 miles. District 25 Superintendent Mary Vagner wins, hands-down. The first runners up are all five members of the District 25 Board of Trustees, too feckless to do their jobs. Second runner up, patriot, defender of faith, raconteur, Ralph Lillig. Think anti-Pope Francis.

Best Person in the World within 25 miles. Angie Smoot, a genuine hero. Mine, anyway.

Biggest Loser. President Barack Obama. When your signature achievement is the Affordable Care Act, and you have two years to get it ready for public consumption, and you can’t, with all of the resources of the United States, create a website to sign people up that works, you are a complete bust out. Part II of how to destroy what little faith people have in American Government. The fact that no one lost their job over this is the Outrage of the Year.

The Aim Low award goes to the Tea Party, who surprised almost no one by living up to their mettle. I am reminded of a quote from the television show, M.A.S.H.

Frank Burns: “I won’t let you down, sir.”

Col. Potter: “There’s no way you can.”

Worst Cultural Bellwether. This goes to A&E Networks, it’s series, Duck Dynasty, and it’s star, Phil Robertson. Despite all of the wailing and moaning from people who swear up and down that they are steadfastly against the notion of victimization, Mr. Robertson is completely free to express any utterance that he can assemble with limited gigabytes. Most of us really don’t care what he says or what he thinks. That’s all between him and his employer, A&E, which seems interested in pimping Mr. Robertson’s thinly-veiled bigotry for ratings. Nice, that. Anyway, the issue isn’t the pontifications of this dingbat, it’s the fact that a lot more people know who he is and what he thinks than who John Holdren is or what he thinks.

Want me to celebrate the New Year? I’ll make it easy. Just turn that around.

All the best. Cheers!

Associated Press and Idaho Press Club Award-winning columnist Martin Hackworth of Pocatello is a physicist and the editor of