Head Strong: Happy News Year

Here are six stories I hope to read in 2011:

Presidential Primary Process Reorganized

WASHINGTON - The two major political parties have announced the implementation of a regional primary system for presidential nominations. Instead of the traditional Iowa-New Hampshire-Super Tuesday trifecta, the 2012 cycle will be the first to use a rotating system among four regions: Northeast, Southeast, Northwest, and Southwest. The first region to hold primaries next year will be the Northeast, which will then go last in the 2016 cycle.

This plan is the culmination of efforts from disparate advocates, including the National Association of Secretaries of States and former Florida Gov. Bob Graham. The intention is to increase diverse participation by ensuring that all areas of the country get an early say in the nomination process, instead of entrusting the same few states to set the course of the party nominations.


Sells Beer!

HARRISBURG - Gov. Corbett today signed into law an overhaul of Pennsylvania's liquor monopoly. The net effect of the governor's action will be the privatization of all 620 State Stores, and a modernization of liquor sales that will now permit the purchase of beer at convenience stores. To oversee this historic process, Corbett has named Jonathan Newman, the former chairman of the Liquor Control Board, as his "privatization czar."

U.S. Special Forces

Enter Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - After receiving fire from militants on the Pakistan side of the border with Afghanistan near the mountainous Hindu Kush region, U.S. troops today pursued their attackers across that border and into the Federally Administered Tribal Area. The move comes nearly 10 years after the events of 9/11.

An exasperated President Obama today confirmed that U.S. Special Forces will continue to cross the Afghanistan border into Pakistan on the ground in search of Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and other al-Qaeda leaders.

"Predator drones can only accomplish so much," said the president, who noted that he will be appealing to Congress to curtail all future aid payments to Pakistan. "The outsourcing of our hunt for those responsible for the deaths of 3,000 innocents ends today."

The White House would not confirm that Vice President Biden was overheard telling the president that this was a "very big deal."

Lauer Reports That Economy Has Improved

NEW YORK - The Dow Jones industrial average surged past the 12,000 mark after Matt Lauer reported on NBC's Today show that the economy was "headed for recovery." Although several months ago a similar assessment was offered by the National Bureau of Economic Research's Business Cycle Dating Committee, economists explain that the American public needed the assurance of its most-watched morning personality before they would believe it.

Explaining the significance of Lauer's reportage, former White House chief economist Austan Goolsbee explained that "the economy always turns when people start speaking in positive terms - it's a self-fulfilling prophecy. Too much pessimism has had an all-too-negative impact on the economy."

Supreme Court Rules

Against Westboro Baptist

WASHINGTON - In a 6-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court today ruled in support of Al Snyder, the father of Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, who died in combat in Iraq on March 3, 2006, and whose funeral was the subject of protests initiated by the Westboro Baptist Church. Members of the Topeka, Kan.-based cult had carried signs reading "God Hates the USA," "Fag Troops," "You're Going to Hell," and "God Hates You" outside St. John's Catholic Church in Westminster, Md.

The nation's highest court reinstated Snyder's original $10.9 million award from the church that had been overturned by a lower court.

Writing for the majority, Justice Clarence Thomas said that while the First Amendment "enumerates perhaps the most basic of American rights - freedom of speech, as well as the freedom to freely practice religion and to peaceably assemble - the Amendment is not absolute. Today we begrudgingly add to those limited circumstances where speech may be curtailed, a list that includes defamation, obscenity, and fighting words, that instance where a grieving family loses its ability to exercise religious expression as a result of interlopers who seek to use their grieving as a soapbox."

Fred Phelps, the head of Westboro Baptist, was unavailable for comment.

Senate to Vote

On Simpson-Bowles

WASHINGTON - In a surprising move, a reconvened assemblage of the so-called Simpson-Bowles Commission achieved the requisite 14 votes for its final recommendations, forcing congressional action on a series of "shared sacrifice" proposals that include closing nearly one-third of overseas military bases, raising the Social Security retirement age to 69, and limiting the tax deduction for mortgage interest.

"When the lame-duck session of the 111th Congress continued the Bush tax cuts, extended unemployment benefits, and essentially tried to jump-start the economy by means which drove the country an additional $900 billion in debt, it provided the commission with incentive to do that which we had not previously been able to agree upon," explained former Sen. Alan Simpson.

Happy New Year!

Contact Michael Smerconish via www.smerconish.com.