Saying goodbye has never been so sweet

Allow me to say goodbye to 2005, and good riddance.

Even allowing for a journalist's innate pessimism, it has been a year of almost unprecedented human tragedies and natural disasters. The tsunami struck the Indian Ocean countries a week before the New Year, but its effects lasted throughout the year. The death toll kept rising as more bodies were found. At last count, the toll was estimated at more than 200,000.

Hurricane Katrina brought disaster to our shores. The death toll to date? More than 1,300. Disaster was compounded by evidence of human failure, the disclosure of a race-and-class fault line running through New Orleans, and the early abdication of government at all levels in dealing with the crisis.

The Iraq war was a tragedy in danger of becoming a disaster, as the Bush administration pressed its efforts to assemble a parliament and a government and avert a civil war.

The devastating earthquake in Pakistan left 74,000 dead, and counting. The only consolation has been the great response of international governments and organizations, though their resources were almost overwhelmed.

Perhaps more tragic than what nature does to humans is what humans do to humans. In the Darfur region of Sudan, an estimated 180,000 with the "wrong" ethnic background were being slaughtered. And in Africa and elsewhere, 85 million human beings were going hungry.

In our well-fed democracy, there were other kinds of tragedies: the routine peddling of influence by members of Congress, the revolving door between Capitol Hill and the lobbyist hangout on K Street, and the unusual fact that the majority leaders of the Senate and the House were both in legal trouble.

It was also not a good year for civil liberties. We heard the disclosure of the wiretapping of Americans without seeking warrants and learned about the secret prisons abroad for terror suspects and the mistreatment of prisoners under interrogation.

And finally, it was not a very good year for journalism, as journalists were under increasing pressure to cooperate with the authorities and stop asking for special privilege.

I hope we all have a better go of it in 2006.

Daniel Schorr is a senior news analyst at National Public Radio.

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