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On Thanksgiving, the good news is ...

Looking back over the last year, there are plenty of things, serious and not, for which to be thankful.

November 26, 2009

More often than not, an editorial page is a cranky chronicle of political foibles and bad decisions by the powerful, with policy prescriptions thrown into the mix. But Thanksgiving isn't a day for finding fault. Today we celebrate what has gone right in the last year, and give thanks for the things that have brightened our lives, improved our world or just seemed especially cool.

Our troops and their families. For yet another year, members of the armed forces have served with distinction in the face of renewed instability in Afghanistan and psychological and physical injuries from combat.

AMC's "Mad Men," for being the best show on TV for three years running.

The decline of Twitter. Our attention spans are short enough already.

Protesters in Iran who courageously fought back against a repressive regime and in some cases paid with their lives.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, for wisely picking Charlie Beck as the new Los Angeles police chief.

While we're on the subject: Former Chief William J. Bratton, the Bostonian/New Yorker who scoffed at the notion that Los Angeles' police culture and practices were unreformable and irredeemable.

Pixar, for showing once again, with "Up," that filmmakers can create a movie that's just as richly rewarding for adults as it is for children.

Barack Obama. Yes, the Nobel Peace Prize was over the top, and his popularity has dropped as Americans have learned that most of his big ideas come with a big price tag. He has nonetheless greatly improved the United States' relations with the rest of the world, set groundbreaking regulatory standards to fight climate change, overseen a stimulus program that set the stage for today's nascent recovery and begun the process of closing the disgraceful Guantanamo Bay detention facility. By the end of the year, he might even have reinvented the nation's healthcare system.

Sarah Palin, for releasing her book, "Going Rogue," just in time to remind us about how right we were to elect Obama.

The Gold Line's Eastside extension, the latest piece in what will someday be a rail transit system covering the whole city, rather than a disjointed series of lines to nowhere.

Gustavo Dudamel, the L.A. Philharmonic's new music director, for the excitement he has generated by his arrival and for his commitment to the L.A. Phil's youth orchestra program.

Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, for reminding us of the uniqueness, preciousness and fragility of our national parks.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, for its rediscovered role as protector of the public health.

While we're at it: We like the new dedication to science and the environment at the Environmental Protection Agency too.

The Lakers, for bringing another championship trophy home.

Jon Stewart. We were disturbed when a Time magazine poll dubbed the comedian the most trusted newscaster in America, but we have to admit that his uproariousanalysis of political issues is usually smarter than anything else on TV.

Thelton Henderson, Lawrence Karlton and Stephen Reinhardt, the panel of federal judges overseeing California's prison system, who have steadfastly insisted on common-sense reductions in the inmate population in the face of stalling, dishonesty and outright cowardice by state lawmakers.

Yolie Flores Aguilar, vice president of the Los Angeles Unified School District board, for pushing forward the initiative to open perhaps 250 new and underperforming schools to outside operators in the next several years. The district badly needed a bold idea for quicker reform, and she provided it.

The legislatures of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, for legalizing same-sex marriage (even if the Maine legislation was overturned by popular vote this month).

Pilot Chesley Sullenberger III, who in January averted catastrophe in spectacular style by landing a US Airways jet with engine trouble on the Hudson River without a single fatality.

Netflix, Boxee, Netgear, Roku, Amazon, Sezmi and other high-tech firms and service providers that are trying to bring online video to TV screens as a free or low-cost alternative to cable.

Lou Dobbs, for migrating from CNN in search of a better life.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, for restoring the 40-year-old film screening series it had threatened to cut.

Pope Benedict XVI, for affirming that "animals, too, are God's creatures" and that cooping chickens close together or overfeeding geese contradicts "the relationship of mutuality that comes across in the Bible." We assume the pontiff will now forswear fur-lined vestments.

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, for refocusing our minds on the beauty and importance of the 2,175-mile Appalachian Trail along the Eastern Seaboard, even if he wasn't really there.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, for ruling that five victims of extraordinary rendition and torture deserved their day in court despite the U.S. government's claim that the case involved too many state secrets to go forward.

Labor peace in Hollywood, after more than 18 months of contract turmoil.

Beyonce's "Single Ladies" video, for prompting a spate of entertaining parodies and earnest imitations by trios of women (and some men) all over the world. And putting Justin Timberlake in high heels.

The sunshine, the sand and the San Gabriels -- three Southern California constants that pre-date and will outlast budget crises and unemployment spikes.

Our readers, who are the reason we do this.

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