What an eventful decade.
We began with the so-called millennium bug that was supposed to cause the end of the world as we knew it, but thanks to the work of software engineers around the world, it was a non-event. 2000 was also the beginning of a new millennium, except for the fact that the Gregorian calendar began with year one – not year zero. Of course, I doubt people were walking around saying “it’s year one” during the first year. Logic would retroactively make year zero the first year and the year 2000 the first year of the third millennium. But it was a good excuse to have two big celebrations.
The year 2000 also brought us the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which included Enron loophole that would allow speculators to run up the price of oil in a few years. The dot-com bubble peaked in January of 2000. The final Peanuts comic strip published following death of Charles Schultz in February. We baby-boomers grew up with Peanuts comics. Montgomery Ward went out of business after 128 years.
The crash of the Concord in Paris marked the end of supersonic passenger transportation. Windows released Windows ME in September of 2000, which was their worst OS since Windows 98. 250 million gallons of coal sludge spilled in Martin County, Kentucky, thanks to lack of regulation or enforcement of existing regulations. It was a worse environmental disaster than the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
In October of 2000, terrorists attacked the USS Cole, killing 17 Americans and wounding 39. Those responsible would later be tried, convicted, and escape from Yemeni jails because Bush didn’t aggressively pursue justice. As with bin-Laden, it was too close to our oil buddies in the Middle East.
And in December of 2000, the Supreme Court, in the biggest violation of our Constitution in U.S. History, stopped the Florida presidential recount, effectively handing the state and the Presidency to George W. Bush.
And the decade went downhill from there…
Wikipedia was launched in January of 2001, which simplified research for millions. If there’s any topic you want to get a basic understanding of, just look it up on Wikipedia. Students began to use it extensively, though, which may have made research just a little too easy.
This seemed to be a decade of severe natural disasters, beginning with an earthquake in India killing more than 12,000. There would be massive hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, and mudslides that would take the lives of 100s of thousands of people.
Bush took office in January of 2001, inheriting massive budget surpluses. In February, after being in office just over a month, Bush bombed Iraq in an effort to antagonize Saddam Hussein into war. Hussein didn’t fight back. During the summer of 2001, there were many warning signs of an impending attack by al-qaeda on the United States, but little action was taken. President Bush spent the entire month of August on vacation on his ranch in Texas.
In Italy, after buying up nearly all the media outlets, Silvio Berlusconi ran for president, and guess what? He won! He who controls the media, controls politics as we saw with the run up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Stories critical of the run up to war were buried in the papers.
The flood of manufacturing jobs to China probably began with when it was admitted into the WTO in 2001. After 15 years of negotiations, this authoritarian country that has been responsible for more civil rights abuses than almost any other, was granted permanent normal trade status with U.S. It’s hard to find anything not made in China any more.
And of course, there was the September 11th attack. When notified of the first plane crashing into one of the World Trade Centers, George W. Bush sat in a children’s classroom for seven minutes reading My Pet Goat. Right-wingers defend him saying that it was good he didn’t do anything immediately because that might have frightened the children. Of course, that’s assuming that he would have ran out of the classroom flailing his arms and screaming “WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!!! WE”RE ALL GONNA DIE!!!” A real leader would have gotten up immediately to inquire about the details of the attack and had an assistant inform the children of the President’s urgent business. Instead, those children will forever have the memory of our country’s commander-in-chief sitting there like a deer in the headlights.
After the attack, the world rallied in support of the U.S. Rather than use it for good, the Bush administration used it to further its political agenda. In October, our country invaded Afghanistan – the real front for the war on terrorism. In December, Osama bin-Laden was cornered in Tora Bora, but Rumsfeld decided not to go after him. Bin-Laden remains at large to this day.
In 2001, the USA PATRIOT Act was signed into law. Bush withdrew from 1972 anti-ballistic missile treaty. Enron filed for bankruptcy. And Timothy McVeigh was executed for the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
In January, Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act into law, which has been deemed a complete failure in improving our educational system. It resulted in studying for the test rather than actual learning. Many students were encouraged to drop out rather than cause the school system to lose money.
Enron collapsed in 2002. Enron traders were partially responsible for California’s energy crisis in 2000-2001, capitalizing on deregulation of commodities trading from a few years earlier, but their fraud was many years in the making. Telecommunications giant WorldCom filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, making it the largest such filing in United States history. The Dot-com bubble bear market reached its bottom in October when the Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped below 7,200.
The Beltway sniper attacks began with 5 shootings in Montgomery County, Maryland. Kidnapped Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was murdered in Pakistan. Terrorists detonated bombs in 2 nightclubs in Bali, killing 202 and injuring over 300.
The Department of Homeland Security was established in 2002 in the largest U.S. government reorganization since the creation of the Department of Defense in 1947. Bush illegally declared American Jose Padilla an enemy combatant. As the Supreme Court later ruled, presidents don’t have that power. That was just one in a long series of abuses of power that made the Watergate break-in and cover-up look like the work of boy scouts.
The Congress of the United States passed a joint resolution in 2002, which authorized President Bush to use the Armed Forces of the United States “as he determines to be necessary and appropriate” in order to “defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions regarding Iraq.”
The Bush administration would cherry pick intelligence and lie us into war with Iraq. In November, Iraq agreed to the terms of UN Security Council Resolution 1441. Also in November, the United Nations weapons inspectors led by Hans Blix arrived in Iraq. In December, as required by the recently passed U.N. resolution, Iraq filed a 12,000 page weapons declaration with the U.N. Security Council.
[This is the end of part one in our decade in review.]