We, in chorus with our sisters and brothers based locally at the Occupy Santa Cruz encampment, as well as with those who struggle nationally and abroad for economic emancipation, will no longer stand and watch our world be dictated by the whims of the super rich
~Occupy Wall Street representative
“This is our generation’s Sputnik moment. Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven’t seen since the height of the Space Race. In a few weeks, I will be sending a budget to Congress that helps us meet that goal. We’ll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology – an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people.”
~Excerpt from President Obama’s 2011 State of the Union Address
“Life can be a challenge, life can seem impossible, it’s never easy when there is so much on the line. But you and I can make a difference,”
~Herman Cain, for some reason we’ll never be able to explain, quoting the lyrics to the theme song for the Pokemon movie
“It’s like Honey I shrunk the Congress”
~Dennis Kucinich referring to the debt ceiling debate being decided by a small group of people
2011 was a roller-coaster year from start to finish. I’ve narrowed down to a top 8(yes, 8. sue me) list but I will also hit on other topics here and there. And,as always, if I don’t get into something you found interesting please do bring it up in the comments section. So let’s begin. And the list is in no particular order. Maybe slightly chronologically.
1.)The Attempted Assassination of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords
This is how the year began. On January 8 ,Rep. Giffords was speaking to constituents outside a local grocery store when Jared Lee Loughner, approached the crowd and opened fire. Using a legally modified semi-automatic pistol he unloaded a 33 bullet clip, injuring 19 people, 6 of whom died of their injuries.
- Christina-Taylor Green, 9, of Tucson. Green was accompanied to the meeting by neighbor Susan Hileman. Because her date of birth was September 11, 2001, she had appeared in the book Faces of Hope: Babies Born on 9/11 (page 41).She was the granddaughter of former Major League Baseball player and manager Dallas Green.
- Dorothy “Dot” Morris, 76, a retired secretary from Oro Valley; wife of George, who was wounded.
- John Roll, 63, chief judge of the U.S. District Court for Arizona, named to the federal bench by President George H. W. Bush in 1991.
- Phyllis Schneck, 79, homemaker from Tucson.
- Dorwan Stoddard, 76, retired construction worker, died from a gunshot wound to the head; his wife Mavy was wounded.
- Gabriel “Gabe” Zimmerman, 30, community outreach director for Giffords, and a member of Giffords’ staff since 2006. Mr. Zimmerman was the first Congressional staffer killed in the line of duty.
List provided by Wikipedia
Rep. Giffords was struck in the head and immediately lost consciousness. If not for the quick actions of a member of her staff, Daniel Hernandez Jr., who immediately administered CPR, she may not have survived til emergency help could arrive. Loughner never explained why he opened fire on the crowd, invoking his 5th amendment right to silence. . Evidence recovered from his home suggests Giffords was his main target. Laughner had apparently attended a similar even 4 years earlier and, according to friends, asked Giffords a question which he felt she gave an unsatisfactory answer to. The question, reportedly, was “How do you know words mean anything?”
A regular fucking philosopher. Rep. Giffords was transported to the medical center at the University of Tuscon. Doctors immediately began surgery to remove bone fragments and necrotic tissue from her skull. The bullet had passed clean through and narrowly missed the center line of her brain which would have made recovery extremely difficult. Part of her skull was left open to help reduce swelling around the effected area. Giffords’ recovery her after was nothing short of extraordinary. Within weeks of being shot and undergoing major brain surgery, Mrs. Giffords was ready to begin the long road back through physical therapy.
Meanwhile, Giffords’ attacker was making his way through the legal system. In an almost unprecedented even the entire federal judiciary of Arizona recused themselves of hearing the trial due to previous relationships with Mrs. Giffords and Judge John Roll. The trial will be presided over by a judge from San Diego. Several issues are still, at this moment in time, being hashed out to carry on with the proper trial. One issue has been Loughner’s combative relationship with his lawyers. Loughner believed he had successfully killed Giffords, and when his lawyers informed him otherwise he apparently became highly agitated. Loughner has been forced to take anti-psychotic drugs but is still prone to fits during court sessions. Loughner’s mental state is currently being discussed and whether or not he can go through with a standard trial. Insanity won’t keep him from punishment but many legal experts familiar with the case and Arizona laws believe he will be tried normally.
Giffords continued to make a remarkable recovery though out the year. By summer she was walking and speaking in short bursts. In April she had attended her husband Mark’s space shuttle launch in Florida. Mark had not left her side during those rough early days and was still iffy about going on his mission. On August 1, Mrs. Giffords made her first public appearance when she came back to work to vote on the debt ceiling deal in Congress. Aside from a few sad, miserable people on the Left and Right making ill timed politically fueled comments about her vote, she was welcomed back with open arms and unending praise. In November she conducted her first public interview since the shooting. She reaffirmed her commitment to run for Congress again once she makes a full recovery and even broke into son got punctuate her feelings on the future.
Speaking of the Left vs. Right dynamic that defines our politics. Shortly after the shooting in Tuscon the American political system reminded us what it really is. Fake, disingenuous, opportunistic, and, above all else, self serving. The immediate response from the Left? To try and blame this whole sad ordeal on their political opponents. None of whom fired that gun or ever spoke to Mr. Loughner. The immediate response from the Right? What else, more guns! Seriously. Oh and the NRA pretended they were the victims here instead of those people killed in Tuscon. All the talk about “toning down the rhetoric” and focusing on what was important lasted about a week. A nice photo op for the State of the Union then back to trying to gain as much power as possible at the other side’s expense.
2.)The Arab Revolution Takes Center Stage
Apparently the Middle East has grown tired of our constant fuck ups and have decided to take things into their own hands. On January 25, thousands of Egyptians took to the streets to protest the reign of “President” Hosni Mubarak. And they weren’t going anywhere until they got satisfaction. Mubarak was your typical dictator. A lot of talk about protecting the country and helping the people but really more harming the country and killing and imprisoning the people. Egypt’s economy has been a mess for decades. Though it showed signs of rebounding late last decade, rampant corruption in the government led to excess and waste that put many Egyptians in the unemployment line. Billions of dollars in aid from Europe and America was being held by Mubarak and others in power, and very little actually made its way into Egypt’s economy.
Mubarak was a false ruler in the eyes of many Egyptians. Egytp’s President was basically selected by the People’s Assembly on referendum. Mubarak, in an attempt to quiet dissenting voices, announced that the 2005 elections would be a multi candidate, voter approved election. This did little to sway the opinions of his opponents since Mubarak was currently President and in charge of all the infrastructure necessary to the election. The elections, held that September, were a sham. Vote rigging was reported all across Egypt’s provinces. Mubarak used government vehicles to transport supporters straight to voting booths. Mubarak controlled all the people working these elections and there is no reason to think he didn’t call in some favors. It’s how most say he has kept power. He owns the interior. Whether by force or hefty payoffs.
Ayman Nour, one of Mubarak’s opponents in the election, cried foul and demanded the elections be redone. Nour brought his complaint before the government and Mubarak had him imprisoned. The charge was that he committed forgery regarding the documents ratifying his political party, El-Ghad. Nour of course denied this and demanded the government provide proof. He sat in jail for 4 years and nothing to adequately prove his guilt was ever produced. Immediately after his imprisonment the U.S. released a letter chastising Egypt’s actions:
“The United States is deeply troubled by the conviction today of Egyptian politician Ayman Nour by an Egyptian court. The conviction of Dr. Nour, the runner-up in Egypt’s 2005 presidential elections, calls into question Egypt’s commitment to democracy, freedom and the rule of law. We are also disturbed by reports that Mr. Nour’s health has seriously declined due to the hunger strike on which he has embarked in protest of the conditions of his trial and detention. The United States calls upon the Egyptian government to act under the laws of Egypt in the spirit of its professed desire for increased political openness and dialogue within Egyptian society, and out of humanitarian concern, to release Mr. Nour from detention.”*
*provided by Wikipedia
Then we sent him 2 billion dollars for their sweet, sweet oil. But Egyptians only ever got one side of the story. Mubarak controlled the media and could have them say whatever he needed them to say. Not in the clever way the Bush White House conned the American media, but just flat out telling them what to report. He owned the police so very few dared to speak out against him. Especially after Nour’s imprisonment. But all that changed earlier this year.
The people got pissed. Super pissed. Unemployment was the highest it had ever been and inflation was only making things worse. Minimum wage was abhorrent, barely enough to feed one man let alone him and his family. And they knew one man was the reason for it all and that he didn’t intend on leaving anytime soon. So the streets filled with Egyptians and Mubarak immediately went on the defensive. He made promises everyone knew he wouldn’t keep, so the people stayed. Then he said he would step down but only if his son could run for President. This brought even more people into the streets.
Mubarak then found out he had lost his major leveraging chip, the Egyptian army. Whether they were in it for themselves or the protestors, the army was no longer with him and actually seemed ot be shielding the protestors from Mubarak’s
police forces goon squads. For a solid month anti Mubarak and pro Mubarak protestors clashed. Eventually the military ended the conflicts and began patrolling the protest grounds. On February 11, Mubarak finally stepped down and fled Cairo with is family. The protestors erupted in celebration. Butt he ordeal was hardly over. The post Mubarak era has not been completely smooth. Questions are beginning to arise about where the army’s loyalties actually lied and whether or not they will now give up power over the country, prompting a new round of protests. In August a crowd of a few hundred Egyptians gathered in Tehrir Square to pray. Afterwards they were attacked by military forces.
Despite having recently held elections many in Egypt worry the military will try to keep control of the country. The Suez Canal and the oil supply make power in Egypt very seductive. No matter who is in charge they can almost bank on getting billions of dollars from the West, no questions asked. And the sway you hold in regional politics is very appealing as well. Right now the military is assuring people they will step down from power when they are sure things are “running properly”. What that means is anyone’s guess. Egypt has already used peaceful means to claim their country. I believe they believe they can do it again. Military or not. Bu they can always count on Washington’s complete apathy.
3.)The Death of Osama Bin Laden
This was the story that had a little something for everyone. Pro war on terror? You got yours. Anti war on terror? You still got yours. Just in it for the jokes? You’re in luck too.
Ten years ago Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda hit us harder than anyone has hit us since Pearl Harbor. Over 3,000 dead in a string of horrific attacks on Washington and New York. For a decade we tracked this motherfucker. Well, kinda. After it became clear he was no longer in Afghanistan, the Bush White House basically gave up on him. President Bush himself saying he was no longer a big concern. The man who was responsible for thousands of deaths across the globe was no longer a”big concern”. But they only wanted to get into Iraq anyways. After that they seemed to lose interest in the “war”. Then it became about war profits. Of course this sentiment was almost unanimously echoed by Congress who approved one gigantic defense bill after another while ignoring any effort to seriously track Bin Laden.
It came as a huge surprise to many, many people inside and outside of government when Bin Laden was found in Pakistan. Allied forces were extremely cautious in our pursuit of Bin Laden. He had already gotten away once before. And no matter what theory you believe in as to how he escaped, he still escaped. He left the mountains, wound up in Pakistan, and it took us years to find this out. When the tip came in that Bin Laden may have been found, no immediate action was taken. This was August of 2010. It’s only one of many tips they had received. President Obama was informed of it and all sides urged caution. It wasn’t til February of this year, after months of spying and information gathering, that the Pentagon began to show serious interest in the compound he was eventually found in. They HAD to be sure. Going into Pakistan was tricky either way but, if it wasn’t him, things could get extremely complicated.
The next couple of months are full of secret meetings between the President and his security council. A hundred ideas are bounced around on how best to attack the compound. One military strategy after another is poured over til a decision is finally made in late April. On April 29, after one last “are we really fucking sure?” meeting with his security council, President Obama issues the order to attack the compound and capture/kill Bin Laden. My guess is emphasis was placed on kill. At around midnight,local time, on May 1, Seal Team 6 flies into Pakistan and raids Bin Laden’s compound.
The official story is that the team landed outside the compound, entered, and fought their way to the top where they executed Bin Laden. One helicopter was lost due to mechanical failure. A competing story has emerged from a former Seal who said he talked to some men involved int he raid. Of course this guy is trying to sell a book too, so take this with a grain of salt. He claims that the Seals actually landed on the roof and Bin Laden was killed almost right away, 90 seconds into the raid. There was no extended gunfight, no one shouting, “For God and Country!” before killing Bin Laden. Several former Seals have said it makes more sense for the team to have landed on the roof instead of open ground right next to the compound and who knows what resistance. But these former Seals also point out that they see no reason why officials would lie about such a trivial point in a successful mission.
But who cares, right? That shit stain got ganked, and that’s really all that matters. Spontaneous celebrations erupted across America when news of the Bin Laden’s death came in. Some people found it to be in poor taste to applaud and cheer what they felt was an assassination. These are people who refuse to see how the world actually works and take for granted a country that gives them the freedom and safety to have such a naive world view. President Obama got his legit defense cred and Republicans tried to convince us former President Bush had killed Bin Laden. It was one of President Obama’s best weekends politically by far. After giving the order to eliminate Bin Laden, President Obama attended the White House Press Correspondent’s Dinner where he bitch smacked pretend rival Donald Trump with perfectly delivered material, and listened to jokes about where Bin Laden might be. What a surreal fucking night that must have been.
4.) Japan is Rocked By a Devastating Earthquake and Tsunami
On March 11 a massive earthquake, registering 9 on the Richter scale, occurred off the coast of the Oshika Peninsula of Tōhoku.
It was the most powerful earthquake to ever hit Japan and one of the 5 largest ever recorded anywhere in the world. Japan sits on one of the most active earthquake zones on Earth and have faced big quakes before. But never one like this. The quake literally moved the Earth, shifting the entire island of Honshu 8 feet to the east. Billions of dollars in damage were done to infrastructure and thousands lost their lives. But the worst was yet to come.
The quake was centered underwater, about 70 miles offshore. Less than the distance from Florida to Cuba. It uprooted a huge chunk of seabed and set in motion one of the largest tsunamis ever to hit Japan. Waves crested in some spots at 133 feet as they crashed into Japan’s eastern shore, reaching 6 to 10 miles inland. The water swept up all the debris left from the earthquake and created a river of destruction, swallowing anything or anyone unlucky enough to be in its path. Compounding all these problems was a breach at the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant. All the plant’s power had been switched off and generators were keeping the fuel rods cool so emergency teams could check the damage. That was all put on hold when tsunami waves, more than twice the height the generators could withstand, crashed into the plant. The water overwhelmed the generators and they all switched off.
On top of a biblical earthquake and a near biblical flood, Japan now had the danger of nuclear meltdown hanging over their heads. It was a 1,2,3 combo that could have very well crippled the island for years, even decades to come. But this is Japan. They don’t quit. If you put up a wall they figure out a way to get around it. Foreign aid began to come in from all around the globe and , as social services deal with the human tragedy, Japanese nuclear teams began the hard work of preventing their nuclear plant from poisoning them all. They had already taken one of Mother Nature’s best shots and they’d be damned if they lost now do to human technology. The biggest problem was getting to the fuel rods to cool them off. Water alone won’t do it. Standing water will just evaporate away. It must be moving water, which is what the generators were doing before they were submerged.
The plant HAD to be reigned in. The possibility of nuclear meltdown in 3 of the 6 reactors was very high and they needed to be cooled soon. So, a unit of about 800 plant workers and volunteers agreed to brave the plant to help bring things under control. This would be a highly dangerous job. Maybe insane to most. The radiation levels in around the plant were already spiking and the deeper in yo go, the worst it gets. Even with the best bio-hazard suits, a few hours of exposure could be life threatening. Many of these workers would push far beyond that limit. Early on the danger level around the plant grew significantly and about 750 workers were shuttled away from the plant. The next day the international media caught on to what was happening and, seeing only 50 workers at the plant, dubbed them the “Fukushima 50”. Many of the volunteer workers didn’t really understand the danger they faced and many of them didn’t care. What they did they did for their family, friends, and their country. Hero is not a strong enough word for people who knowingly expose themselves to life threatening situations purely to protect others.
While these brave people were risking everything to save their island, discussions on the safety of nuclear plants began all around the world. Also, on a douche bag side note, many here in America were spreading unfounded fears that the radiation from Japan was heading to California and would result in many deaths. But that’s America. We can’t ever feel left out. Anyways, crews worked around the clock to restore power to generators. Finally, on march 17, power was restored to the first few generators. By march 20, they had things mostly under control. Reactor 1 had indeed suffered a meltdown but, thank GOD, there was no cascade effect resulting in a Chernobyl type incident.
Since August things have been progressing rather smoothly, all things considered. One Japanese politician even drank a glass of water from puddles underneath the reactor cores. Filtered I’m sure, but apparently clean of radiation. Which is huge considering where they were a few months earlier. Japan is taking a second look at all their infrastructure, with a keen eye on nuclear plants. They do not want a repeat of this. Over 25,000 casualties, including over 15,000 deaths. Billions in property damage. Now they know just how hard they can be hit, and being Japan, I’m sure they’ll be more than ready for it next time.
5.)Occupy Wall Street Looks to Change the Conversation
No story captured everything right and wrong about this country the way this one did. Hundreds, in some places thousands, of U.S. citizens took to the street to protest the widening income inequality in this country. The movement began on September 17 when a Canadian political group called AdBusters, led a march down wall Street toward Zuccotti Park in New York. Once reaching the park they basically set up shop. That’s right. A Canadian group started one of the largest protest movements in America since the heyday of the hippie movement.
The hacker group Anonymous also encouraged their members and followers to show up to support the Occupy movement. Like AdBusters they probably saw a chance for a “Tahrir Square moment”, referring to the earlier Egyptian protests and how Tahrir Square became the launch pad for all the protestors demands and a place to exchange ideas. Within a few days the online radio/tv site Democracy Now was running live feeds from the Occupy protests. Mainstream media coverage was minimal at best.
That is until officer Anthony Bolgona gave them a reason to be interested. The news media feeds off controversy and Bologna gave them one. Bologna was recorded pepper spraying protestors who seemed to be penned in and doing nothing to disturb anyone or anything. The next day it was all over the news and suddenly they wanted to know just who these people were. The protestors refer to themselves as the 99%. Referring to the statistic showing that 1% of the population owns a vast majority of the wealth leaving the other 99% to fight over table scraps.
This sudden interest by the national media was both a boon and a burden to the young movement. They finally had a national platform to voice their grievances, but they now had the attention that every douche bag in America wants. And they slowly started making their way to Zuccotti Park. By mid-October the movement had grown substantially and was spreading all across the globe as thousands poured out in New York, California, Berlin, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and more. As the crowds grew here at home, so did the reports of violence and criminal conduct. Reports of rampant drug dealing and vandalism led to several dozen arrests in late October. Still the movement would not let it slow them. Many groups began self policing and weeding out people who were not there for what they felt were the right reasons.
The police, possibly viewing the OWS movement as a pack of delinquents, began to up the force used to “disperse crowds”. In Oakland, California a disabled military veteran was injured by tear gas canisters launched into the crowd. Reports of police brutality were widespread and some even caught on tape. But this did little to earn sympathy from opponents of the OWS movement. They still point to the fact that reports of criminal activity in the OWS camp have not gone away. That, in some places, reports of sexual misconduct have grown so bad that women now camp in a separate area from the men. But this is a problem common to all movements of this size. Not everyone in the 60’s was there for peace and love. Still, leadership at AdBusters and Anonymous consistently encourage everyone to not lend credence to the stereotypes people have formed about them.
OWS saw another spike in recruitment when it entered the universities around the country. And again, on November 18, at the University of California-Davis, another officer was filmed pepper spraying protestors. This time seated students who appeared to be offering no resistance. The police are now being seen in some circles as tools of the status quo the 99% is trying to change. I know I certainly agree. And I’m not even a big fan of the OWS movement. But they had to know this was coming. Not to get too op-ed here but, you’re attempting to shift levers of power that have been in place for over a century. The people who control the message, control the spin. Have the best of everything and a never ending supply of it. Own the authority by virtue of their bank account to destroy you. Did you not think they would hit back?
Anyways, on November 15, the protestors were driven out of Zuccotti Park by police in full riot gear. A scene you would expect to play out in China but not here. Police informed protestors that the park had to be cleaned and they would be allowed back in afterward. Only they could not bring tents, sleeping bags, or generators. A judge had ruled that the First Amendment did not protect their right to fill the park with a ton of bullshit. I have to say I agree. A tough one though. The raid was heavily criticized. Police kept the media at a distance, even blocking helicopter traffic over the park, while they cleared out the protestors. The protestors vow to return with or without their tents but many urge them to hold off til winter is over.
And maybe they can because the movement has broken off into several submovements including Occupy marines and Occupy Our Homes. Occupy Our Homes is a group determined to draw more interest to the foreclosure crisis plaguing so many in this country. Occupy Our Homes use “Great Depression era” tactics such as sit ins on foreclosed property and attending auctions and other events in an attempt to disrupt the process. The movement has grown far past those humble beginning sin Zuccotti Park. Much like the way the Egyptian movement spread out of Tahrir Square and became about different things to different people.
Currently many politicians don’t know how to handle the movement. Republicans seem to uniformly despise the movement. referring to them as “unruly mobs”, “vandals”, and “anti-capatilist anarchists”. No surprise there. Some Democrats have embraced the movement whole-heartedly but many, including President Obama are a little less exuberant with their support. But, given the current political state of our country, this is understandable. Still, the movement shows no signs of going away. Besides the aforementioned “splinter groups”, many communities across the country have similar rallies planned all through out the winter. Eventually, if it keeps growing, Washingotn will have to listen.
6.)What’s A Debt Ceiling?
This is my vote for the most baffling, asinine political story of the year. A drawn out battle over a non-binding objective that was suddenly the key to our entire economic system. Let me explain.
The debt ceiling isn’t a real thing. It appears nowhere in the Constitution and Congress has no implicit duty to recognize it. The debt ceiling was created at the end of the 1930’s as a reaction to the clusterfuck that was the Great Depression. But no one ever intended for it to be a real thing that people actually fought over. It was just something to gauge our spending versus past performance and future predictions and is wholly separate from any process that actually goes into deciding the yearly budget. In the 1970’s Congress passed a rule to raise the debt ceiling automatically if the budget eclipsed it. That’s how little anyone cared about it. It was something for policy wonks to tread over and Congressional economists to amuse themselves with.
Then Newt Gingrich became Speaker of the House. Newt, a vile spawn of Satan himself(still editorializing), realized that this meaningless law tucked away in stacks of economic regulation could be used as a bomb to threaten the entire country with. When Congress signed the bill in the 70’s to automatically increase the debt ceiling they put in one provision. If the House got enough votes it could suspend the rule and force the entire Congress to address something that didn’t need to be addressed. In a move I’m sure no one had envisioned in the 50 plus years since the law had been created, Newt got the votes and attempted to force arguments on several pieces of legislation that he and his Party were not happy with(and also run through several bills that would have cost far more than anything he was against).
None of these people envisioned Newt. A man so full of hate and vindictiveness that he actually forced the entire government to shut down twice in 1995 just to get his way. Then he was charged with severe ethics violations and became the first and only Speaker of the House to basically be fired. But now a precedent was set. After the Newt revolt there were no more problems with the debt ceiling. When Republicans got a President into the White House in 2000, they raised the debt ceiling over 50 times in his 8 years and left us with more debt than any administration in the post Civil War era. So thanks for that.
It seemed that Republicans fear of debt was over. Even Dick Cheney himself said “Deficits don’t matter”. And to an extent, he’s right. Look at our economic history. A lot of red. But everyone knows we’re good for it. So when President Obama came into office and looked to spend a little money himself, Republicans freaked out. Why? If you have to ask that you need to pay more attention to our politics.
But wait, let me explain this first. The debt ceiling really does have NOTHING to do with our economy and may very well be unconstitutional. It has no authority over our ability to take on or pay off debts and no binding authority over debt already incurred. But, if played out to its ultimate conclusion, it would basically render all public debt invalid. The 14th Amendment states: “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law… shall not be questioned”. This law not only questions it, it drags it through the mud and calls it a whore. So after President Obama passed a few popular laws, the Republicans got fed up and invoked the debt ceiling in early spring of this year. Basically holding up all of Washington because they were “concerned about mounting debt”.
What followed was several weeks of rhetorical nonsense from both sides of the aisle. It was painful to watch. Republicans sprayed the walls with bullshit and Democrats did very little to cover it up. The government came close to another unnecessary shutdown until Democrats folded at the end of July. President Obama and Speaker John Boehner came to an agreement on July 31 to extend the debt ceiling which was signed into law on August 2. They basically agreed to give Boehner, in his words, “99% of everything I asked for”. No one was fired for wasting time and money we’ll never get back and no beneficial legislation was passed. But the Republicans won. Unlike 1995 there was no immediate backlash and they got everything they wanted. President Obama was roundly criticized for apparent weakness in the negotiations. I think some of the criticism is deserved. There is nothing to prevent the Republicans from doing this all over again when the next debt ceiling limit approaches.
This was a big victory in Boehner’s short time as Speaker and confirmation that their dirty tactics can work. President Obama and his team have since gone to work to temper some of the authority the Republicans won and make it more difficult for them to use the debt ceiling as leverage in the future. But I think many Democrats are hoping he learned a hard lesson about the underside of politics and that not even Lincoln could unite this political body.
7.)The Republican Primary Race or “Here Comes The Circus!”
25 years ago the race for the 2012 Republican Presidential nomination began. This year we finally go to find out who was actually running. The Republican field initially opened with more than 10 candidates in early February. The big issue at the time for many Republican politicians was “Sharia law”. They really didn’t know anything about what it was or even what it entailed, they just knew it sounded scary to bigots and the easily confused. Both groups making up most of their base. And that became the early “litmus test” for the Republican field. Of course everyone was opposed to this nebulous idea, practiced by a minority of the Arab/Muslim population, and effectively sealed off from any influence on the world stage, so it was all about how much you hated it and how much you were afraid of Muslims.
Men of faith, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum(Google it), jumped out of the gate early comparing Islam to the cult perpetuated by Nazi Germany. A strong opening bid. Muslims are Nazis. Scary stuff. Herman New candidate Herman Cain raised their “Muslims are evil” with a bid of “they’ll take over our government”. When asked in July if he would ever appoint a Muslim to his cabinet he gave an emphatic no and warned against sharia law “creeping” into our government to take us over. This was some good crazy. Another early theme in the process was the “Anyone but Romney” vibe the Republican voters were giving off. Romney seemed the favorite early on. When the field was trimmed down to 8 possible candidates at the end of May, he seemed the sure fire bet.
But enthusiasm for the Republican field rally began to sag in April and May. Donald Trump and Newt Gingrich made their campaigns official and much of April belonged to Trump. Then President Obama killed Bin Laden, punked Trump in public, to his face, ended the silly “birther debate”, and strutted out of the building while the theme from Shaft played. O.K. that last part didn’t happen but Trump was over. President Obama buried him and ended one potential rival before the party even really began. And then Herman Cain stepped into the void left by whatever that thing is on Trump’s head. Cain was so not Mitt Romney that Republican voters almost immediately fell in love with him. White southerners hadn’t embraced a black man this much since Hershel Walker won the Heisman.
He immediately shot to the front of many early polls in Florida and Illinois, and eventually won those straw polls in September and October respectively. Much to my displeasure Ron Paul was basically ignored all throughout the process despite consistently strong polling and debate performances. He received the biggest applause of the night at the first debate when he proposed legalizing drugs and prostitution. So don’t let anyone tell you Republicans don’t party. They ‘re just giant hypocrites about it. Anyways, Ron was bitchslapping Romney and Perry on question after question and so the new focus, of course, went to Michelle Bachmann who made a push in late summer. In August she narrowly edged out Ron Paul to win the Ames, Iowa straw poll. Her time in the spotlight was brief. Also in August, rick Perry made his nomination entry official. Perry was bascially “drafted” into the race after his campaign team received huge amounts of positive feedback and petitions from the internet and local grassroots organizations in many Republican districts. Mostly the Southwest, but still.
The other candidates, sensing the threat, immediately went after the new kid. Bachmann’s first debate performance post-Iowa wasn’t strong. She would not be discussed seriously again. Seriously. Ever. Then Rick Perry entertained the shit out of us for a few months with increasing levels of brain freeze so endearingly goofy that you’d just hug the guy if he wouldn’t execute you for “acting gay”. And STILL Romney could get no traction. Many republicans polled were voting for Chris Christie and he wasn’t even in the race. Most recently anthropomorphic pillow, Newt Gingrich, has shot to the top of the polls in the Republican field. You’ll remember him as the evil bridge troll from the debt ceiling story(I’m sorry, I just really hate that guy). Newt is a supposed intellectual who puts no thought into anything he says, and a supposed historian whose grasp on historical facts appears tenuous at best.
But he opened strong by calling the President a “colonialist marxist”, and a few other terms he made up, and suggesting we put poor, inner city kids to work instead of actually trying to help them. Newt’s early campaign was rough. In the spring Republican voters were openly insulting him in public. But then Herman Cain was busted fooling around with white women and Newt was just the next choice. I know I haven’t mentioned John huntsman but, let’s be serious, you weren’t thinking about him either til I mentioned his name. This was toward the end of November and right now Gingrich is the front runner. He’s projected to lose to Obama in a landslide and even Glenn Beck has warned people not to vote for him, but he’s the front runner. Merry Christmas President Obama. You get a second term.
8.)Libya and the End of Muammar Gaddafi
In February thousands of Libyan citizens took to the streets to protest the corruption of their government. This particular rebellion would be completely different from the one that swept through Egypt only weeks earlier. This time it would be rebel soldiers facing a dictator with full control of his military and no reservations about using it on his own people. It will probably be years before we ever really know who the people are that took to the streets in armed rebellion. What they wanted, what they intend to do. All we know for certain is that they hated the shit out of Gaddafi. And you can’t really blame them on that point.
Gaddafi had always been, “flamboyant” and a touch mental. He traveled with an all female security squad and a Ukranian nurse who went everywhere with him. He was very conscious of his appearance and liked to dress “flashy”. But he was a very troubled individual. Many in his personal guard claimed to have been frequently raped by Gaddafi, his sons, and members of his inner circle. Often they were forced to execute people simply labeled rebels, without ever knowing what they had done, or be executed themselves. Then there are the stories of him flying to Italy and paying a modeling agency to find 200 young Italian women that would attend a lecture urging them to convert to Islam. Many of the women say they enjoyed the lecture but all seemed to have declined the offer. Or showing up in New York and camping out in a tent for who knows the fuck why.
But he became more and more paranoid, and more and more violent over the years. Many people reached their breaking point. Gaddafi would have no negotiations, no reconciliations, and responded with force. Military forces began “breaking up” protest crowds and reports of gunfire were immediate. By the end of February chaos had erupted in Libya. Gaddafi’s forces lost a big chunk of the country to rebel factions. In early March Gaddafi returned from hiding and began to order the assaults on rebel forces. The rebels knew they were over matched so they appealed to the international community. They listened. France immediately asked the U.N. for a vote to impose a no fly zone over parts of Libya held by rebel forces. The resolution passed and, the next day, NATO planes were over Libya patrolling the no fly zone. This was an enormous help to the rebel forces.
Without some check on Gaddafi’s air supremacy, the rebellion wouldn’t last more than a few days. Gaddafi did not give two shits about killing innocents to get to them either. The no fly zone greatly reduced the amount of possible casualties this conflict would produce. Now the rebels just had to hold their ground against militia and artillery. NATO again lent a hand with the latter by bombing many Libyan tanks and heavy vehicles. Gaddafi still had a huge advantage in manpower but NATO’s measured assistance had given the rebels a fighting chance. The summer was full of clashes in the street by pro and anti Gaddafi forces. Multiple times UN officials asked Gaddafi to declared a ceasefire and hear his people’s grievances. Each time he refused and only escalated his efforts to crush the people he viewed as the ones in the wrong.
By the end of July the international community, including many countries in the region, officially denounced Gaddafi’s authority as leader of Libya. He was effectively on his own now. Not that he cared. He had already declared he would kill thousands. Why? Who knows. Maybe a bucket list thing. Anyways, he was now a target. Much of his inner circle had deserted him and powers were already working to remove him from leadership. Worst of all he was beginning to lose the loyalty of his army. In August rebel forces had pushed their front line to Tripoli. Gaddafi’s compound was in their sights. Resistance inside of Tripoli had grown significantly and it became obvious to everyone that eventually this unit wold link up with rebels outside the city, and it wold indeed fall to the rebels. Many in the government worked quickly to distance themselves from Gaddafi and ingratiate themselves to the rebels. Others just got the hell out of there. On August 25 Tripoli fell and Gaddafi fled the city. The rebels had won and Libya was no longer under the rule of a delusional thug.
But that was not the end. On October 20, a French airstrike took out a convoy believed to be carrying Gaddafi. In the confusion immediately after, Gaddafi’s body was apparently recovered by rebel forces trying to escape through a drainpipe. He was unceremoniously executed on the spot. All of it was caught on video. A grim sight. Most times I would say that no one deserves to die like that. This was not one of those times.
Like Egypt, Libya is now invested in their future. Currently the European union is working closely with Libyan leaders and, while no one believes it will be a smooth transition, there is a lot of hope for Libya’s future.
Well those were the big ones. At least the ones I think were big. A lot of crazy shit happened this year. What about the Charlie Sheen meltdown that had so many transfixed? WINNING!
Or one of the real low points in the Penn State scandal. A campus full of grown men who are suppose to be leaders, guides, and guardians. All making one poor choice after another for the sake of “the program”. Despicable.
The last space shuttle launched this year. Shuttle Atlantis in June. It’s not the end of our time in space. But to get where we want to go we have to upgrade. The shuttle was a good friend, but she can go no further.
Congressmen getting undressed and posting it online for some reason.
3-D movies took in their biggest yearly haul so far. So thanks for ruining movies for everyone else people.
Troy Davis was executed in Georgia after pleas to hear his case one more time in light of new evidence. It seems there was doubt. Hopefully this will start a new dialogue on capital punishment.
Rupert Murdoch may have been spying on people through their phones. I’m sure the Obama administration was taking notes.(Ah, I’m just fuckin’ with ya. take the joke)
And hundreds of other weird, scary, funny, hopeful stories all across the world. What are your thoughts on some of these stories and what did I miss that you’d like to talk about? To the comment section!
In the days just before Congress closed for the Christmas 2011 holidays, Republican congress members were gathered ’round discussing their favorite movie “Braveheard” and how they identified with the heroes of that movie. But I think the movie that the movie that is the best metaphor for this year’s Republican behavior is “Mars Attacks!” To quote the movie: “They blew up Congress!”
Ending the war in Iraq was huge to me. Having our soldiers home by the end of the year. I wish it had been Afghanistan as well, no telling how many more will die in the coming two and a half years left on that Status of Forces agreement so that poppy can be broken down and delivered to our streets to enslave people who deserve a better chance.
Good list and it was well thought out and written. The only other big thing for me was……..well I cannot think of anything.
Adonai, this was a great run-down. It’s obvious you put a lot of effort into it. Reading this I was struck how many momentous life/earth/society changing events occured this year.
Then I thought “Yeah, but I probably think that every year”. So I dug up an old copy of Time’s Year in Review from 2006. What were the big doins that year?
1. Middle Atlantic state flooding
2. Rousting settlers out of the West Bank
3. The Lebanese conflict between Isreal and Hezbollah
4. The Indonesia earthquake and tsunami (okay that was big)
5. A head-butt in the World Cup
6. Phil Mickleson blowing the US Open
7. The coal mine disaster
8. The Dems taking back Congress
Not bad, but all in all it can’t hold a candle to this year. Wow.
Pretty weak list after AD’s I must say. Though I think 7 and 8 were pretty big at least in the US.
Not all years are created equal it seems. I could use a year with a bit less excitement in 2012.
I have a theory about the Pokemon quotes. I simply think Herman is a Donna Summer fan. Someone found this song of hers with some uplifting lyrics and gave it to him.
She sings the closing credits song at the end of the Pokemon movie.
“May we live in interesting times”. Well, a little less interesting would suit me. Good to hear from you again Adonai.
I almost went to a top 10. I was gonna go more in depth on the Iraq pull out and the “financial crisis” in Europe.
But when I started writing about the Iraq pull out, I got bogged won in the semantics of it all. I mean, we’re not rally leaving Iraq. The days of an army leaving meaning the end of our commitment are over.
There’s a giant “embassy”(military base) in the middle of the country and thousands of contractors. All paid for by us. I don’t think our adventures in Iraq are anywhere near over. Never mind the fact that the President tried to get Iraq to agree to extend the deadline on troop withdrawal. We’re in too deep.
And the various “financial crises” seem like smoke but I think we’re looking in the wrong places for the fire. Again I was just getting too editorialized with it. I couldn’t talk about it without actually talking about it. I figured we could cover that in the comments section.
AD the attacks from the left on Iraq are getting pretty hollow. There’s allot of American contractors in Iraq working to build it back up. So to imply that the contractors are there as some kind of military force for a military mission is intellectually dishonest. Calling the embassy in Iraq a military base is even worse because it’s expressly illegal to operate an embassy as a military base.
I disagree. When i say contractors I don’t mean just ditch diggers and IT support.
I mean PMCs and private security. I mean the people who ran empty trucks up and down dangerous Iraqi roads day after day just to get the money for the gas used. The people who built schools that have since fallen apart. Houses with no electrical infrastructure. All to milk money from our government.
And it may be illegal to operate a military base as an embassy but everything since the day we entered Iraq has been illegal so who is gonna call them on it? Congress? The American people? That embassy is 4 times bigger than any embassy we’ve ever built anywhere.
It is crawling with PMC forces and ex-military whose only task is to guard it and its people by any means necessary. So no, I don’t think they are hollow complaints. They weren’t in Saudi Arabia and they aren’t there.
Iraq is still a dangerous place so duh Americans working there need security. But saying security personnel protecting Americans is like having a standing army in Iraq is simply hyperbole. By your definition we have military bases in about every insecure country in the world.
Saying the embassy is a military base is just a lie. Saying that Bush lied us into war so this is a lie too is a non sequitur that belies logic. The embassy is there legally otherwise the Iraqis would not let us have it there.
Sure you can have your opinion but I have the facts.
So do you think Obama should be impeached since you are saying he broke this law?
This is all I have to say on the matter.
We do have military bases all over the world. Stable or unstable.
But you aren’t seeing the big picture. The rise of PMCs and the privatization of war. This is merely the beginning. A perpetual war machine that feeds itself.
Calling it a military base is not hyperbole. Saying it wouldn’t be there if Iraqis didn’t want it is naive since the regular citizen has no say on the matter.
And last I checked I;m pretty sure the polls said they wanted us out of there. Not out of there but leave behind a huge private army.
And everything done since we entered Iraq has been illegal. regardless of who is in charge. If that’s all you have to say, fine. I;m just saying you’re wrong.
I’ll just say this.
Remember how after a close, contested election in 2010, it took eight whole months to settle on a power sharing agreement? (I do, it was in my top 10 of 2010)—
Well, just as our troops were leaving Shi‘a PM Al-Maliki arrested the Sunni Vice President Tariq Al-Hashimi on what appear to politically motivated charges. Iyad Allawi, a political ally of Al-Hashemi who himself ‘lost’ that last election (even though his party won two more seats), has protested saying Maliki is acting like Saddam.
Best case scenario, we’ve given them a “robust” and “rambunctious” democracy. In any case, it looks as if we really have cut our strings, and that they are now acting on their own, independent of what we say. I’d say that immediate power grab, in concert with the withdrawal, is more than symbolic. Hooray?
I hate to use this new reality as further evidence that we don’t have an military force in Iraq private or otherwise. It’s simply a ridiculous thing to say security contractors are anything akin to a US military presence. They don’t report to a central CIC or have any mission objects besides to be security guards on steroids.
Iraq is going to be a dangerous place and it was a pipe dream that they would have a Western style democracy at least at first. We are learning that in Egypt now as well. They are going to have Iraqi style democracy whatever that is or worse.
KQ, I simply don’t think that the word “out” will satisfy anyone. Its too fluid and means too many things to too many people. We have 565 some-odd permanent bases around the world. Contractors and official military are now so interbred and intertwined, I’m not sure if we can honestly say anything from WW2 up until today is “over” or that we are “out”.
Maybe the better term is we are no longer “occupying” Iraq?
The only war we were ever out of was the one we lost. You can’t even count the Gulf War because we went back. This is just a pretty small “in” when you compare wars like WWII and Korea, that’s all I’m saying.
I merely mean to say that considering the implied concerns over any residual forces, private or not, this reality makes those fears kinda irrelevant, or at least ancillary?
What I’ve demonstrated in part here is that Iraq has taken back control, for better or worse.
KQ, I’m not even saying you’re necessarily wrong. But we never “just” do something. There’s always more to it. Nothing is ever what it appears.
even though earlier I said, without qualification, you were wrong. That is the enigma that is ADONAI.
United States had the Marshall Plan after WWII to rebuild Europe. What is being done in Iraq is nothing new. Although I agree we should not have to do it and never should have been there in the first place. This price tag can be placed squarely on the previous administration.
Did you read the Bloomberg piece on the Fed? That will tell you where our money went. Remember Phillip over at HP always screaming about the 16 trillion gone? Turns out he was right. IMHO it was doled out around the world to hide the true extent of the financial crisis. I always knew it was way more than that 700 billion, the TARP was a “shock doctrine” ploy to get people to take their eyes off the real issue.
Sue, I did hear about that. something like 7 trillion dollars gone since the TARP agreement. That was an insane number.
And STILL it’s getting very little focus. As though we expected it(which I guess many did). I admit I didn’t even think about it when I was compiling this list or I would have definitely went into it.
All this money just gone! And I know there’s no way they tracked all of it. They couldn’t even keep up with the TARP money we all knew about from the beginning. Who knows what kind of messed up people got hold of that money. I’m sure some probably went to the banks and institutions they meant it to go to but that didn’t exactly help things over here either.
How many schools could we have built with that? Roads, bridges, mass transit, affordable housing that is actually housing and not a shack with faulty wiring. The numbers of people we could have fed, educated, put to work. Holy shit this is making me angry!
How did I forget about this?! 7 trillion dollars! Somehow we can afford to just give away 7 trillion fucking dollars and then cry poor when we need to help our own fucking people?!
I could not have said it better. Even the Bloomberg article got almost no coverage
100 lashes with a wet noodle for you and myself (since I forgot it at first too).
What about the fact that the Iraq War is finally OVER?
That’s a big story I would say even though it’s a bit anti-climatic.
Add to that the Murdoch phone hacking scandal and the revelation of its control over the British political system.
True part of that was in AD’s “wrap up” but internationally that was a huge story.
The European financial problems in Greece and Italy are huge stories, especially with that idiot Cameron isolating the UK from the EU, but you can’t mention everything I guess.
I echo AdLib’s statement, great review. I might quibble with the order a bit but that’s not a big deal.
I would add the utter catastrophe the GOPTEA House has been (probably just expand the debt ceiling story). Because the broader story of the year on Capital Hill has been they they have not passed on jobs bill yet. The GOPTEA House votes to repeal the ACA, pass the horrific Ryan budget that ends Medicare, they defund Planned Parenthood, the EPA, the Consumer Financial Protection Agency, etc…(really I can’t think of all the horrible things they did pass in the House the list was so long). GOPTEA’s utter intransigence in raising taxes on the rich and cutting tax loopholes for corporations simply shows they are not for the 99%. GOPTEA’s insistence to put their party’s ambitions before what’s good for the country is just tragic considering how many American lives they are hurting. Because of the GOPTEA House this is the worse congress in history and a record low 11% approval rating from Gallop shows that.
I would also add in your “Wrap Up” the recall elections in WI and the fact that Ohio voters killed anti-union SB5.
The most important part was you were spot on with your commentary about the events.
Great recap of the year, AD!!!
No doubt most folks will have their own order on the stories you covered.
As for scope, I think the Arab Spring (including the liberation of Libya and the death of Gadaffi) was the biggest global story with the most historic impact that will only grow each year.
Tied with that, I see the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear reactor breach in Japan as a massive tragedy that continues to this day.
Next would be another tie for me because they’re tied together, the Tea Party terrorism in The House and the rise of OWS.
I would place Gabby next, before the death of Bin Laden because the shock of the attack on her and her will to survive and come back is far more powerful to me than the death of a terrible man who had already become marginalized.
Lastly, the GOP race which has been less of a story than a Mad Magazine parody.
There have been so many big events this, some horrible and some remarkable. As the saying goes, “May you live in interesting times.” No question that we are.
Indeed the biggest tragedy world wide was the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Millions of lives have been changed for ever.
Of course the biggest tragedy in the US was all man made and called the GOPTEA House.
Thanks AL. And I think there is no right way to list big stories like this. Everyone has an opinion on what was THE big story. Hard to argue your view on it or just about anyone else’s.