Posts tagged ‘year in review’

December 29, 2009

Decade In Review – Part IV (Conclusion)

by Ben Hoffman

My wife and I went out to see the movie The Road yesterday afternoon, which takes place in a post-apocalyptic land where all civilization and almost all life is destroyed. Despite the fun premise, it was probably meant to be a warning that we need to do something to protect our country and planet from destruction.

This is the decade where global warming became a hot topic, due in part to Al Gore’s movie An Inconvenient Truth. Right-wingers deny global warming because, well, that’s what they’re told to do. But we saw extreme weather in the past ten years that resulted in the deaths of 100s of thousands of people. The unusually warm temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico fueled Hurricane Katrina and it escalated into a category five hurricane before making landfall, killing almost 2,000 people.

What was really scary was the political shift in our country and the polarization that resulted from the 9/11 attack with the us vs. them mentality. We saw our constitution trampled on, beginning with the 2000 election where the Supreme Court decided who would be our president. It exposed the problems with our election system, yet here we are over nine years later and very little has been done to fix the problems.

We saw President Bush use the 9/11 terrorist attack as a giant power grab. He decided that he alone could deem someone an enemy combatant. He used the NSA to illegally spy on Americans. We still don’t know the extent to which that was done or to what extent it was used for political purposes. We also saw our government torture prisoners in an attempt to help build the case to go to war with Iraq. We saw corporations writing regulations as we moved dangerously close to corporatism in our country. And we saw our country turn to socialism for the wealthy but capitalism for the rest of us.

The repeal of Glass-Steagall in 1999 would lead to the housing bubble a few years later and reckless derivatives trading which turned banks into high-stakes gamblers. Hundreds of billions of our tax dollars would later be used to bail them out because they were deemed “too big to fail.” Low mortgage rates, from the fed lowering interest rates to fuel our economy, would also help fuel the housing bubble. Bush pushed for his “ownership society” and there were practically no background checks to get approved for mortgages. These things also helped inflate the bubble. As we’ve seen, all bubbles eventually burst.

The commodities market deregulation in 2000 would lead to the run up of the price of oil and food, which would push us into our current deep recession. Bush’s massive tax cuts, along with increased spending for the two wars would double our national debt and triple the deficit. And we also saw the flood of our manufacturing jobs to China as a result, in part, to admitting China into the WTO in 2001.

Our democracy is based on valid elections, yet because of the money involved in campaigning, our elections are fraught with abuse and lousy choices. In 2004, the candidates were parodied in the South Park cartoon as a choice between a shit sandwich and a giant douche. Kerry was the douche. As bad as he was, though, John Kerry, a legitimate war hero was made out to look like a coward by the media, and Bush, who never saw any action and went AWOL, was made out to be a hero.

Our country was moving dangerously close to fascism with the giant power grab by the Bush administration, the infusion of corporatism, the aggressive foreign policies, the waging of wars, the alienation of everyone else in the world, and the appointment of incompetent people to government agencies such as Michael Brown to FEMA to render them useless. Our country was saved in the 2006 Congressional election where enough people finally saw the light and voted Republicans out of power.

In the 2008 election, John McCain showed himself to be a dishonorable, lying, SOB who would do anything to get elected. He chose an unknown nobody from Alaska to be his running mate, just because he thought it would win him a few votes. McCain then adapted the motto: “America First,” which, of course, was just another gimmick. One morning, McCain made the statement that the fundamentals of our economy were strong and that afternoon warned that our economy was in trouble. John McCain’s chief financial advisor was Phil Gramm: the same person who authored the Gramm Leach Bliley Act of 1999 that repealed the Glass Steagall Act and contributed to the collapse of our economy.

On a lighter note, in sports, the Denver Broncos saw John Elway retire in 1999 after winning the Super Bowl for the second year in a row. The Broncos were a bore after that until drafting Jay Cutler a few years ago. While he didn’t have many wins, he had potential, and he made the game fun to watch again. But alas, he was traded to the Chicago Bears. Anyone who watched the game last night saw what Cutler has: the potential to become a hall-of-famer.

We saw the Rockies somehow make it to the World Series in 2007, but get creamed by the Red Sox in the series. The Rockies then traded away some of their best players and returned to mediocrity.

I took up tennis this year so I’ll mention Roger Federer, who is considered by many to be the best who’s ever played the game. He’s held the number one position for 237 consecutive weeks and won 15 Grand Slam singles titles. Too bad tennis isn’t televised more. I’m too cheap to subscribe to the Tennis Channel.

There were some really good movies during the past decade such as Last King of Scotland, Pan’s Labyrinth, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Memento, Mulholland Drive, There Will Be Blood, The Pianist, The Departed, Gran Torino, Eastern Promises… O Brother, Where Art Thou got a lot of people into bluegrass music, which was kind of annoying.

In technology we got YouTube, Wikipedia, flat panel monitors, HDTV, social networking sites, blogs, wireless networks, the near extinction of landlines phones, and GPS devices, to name a few. We also saw the price of computers come way down and the popularity of laptops go up. There was satellite radio, tasers, the short lived mini-disk, and Blue-Ray disk winning out over HD-DVD. Technology is still driving our economy to a great extent.

And so, in less than three days, we will enter the next decade: the tens? This decade was the aughts, as some called it. Come 2013, we can call it the teens. It won’t be until 2020 (the 20s) that we’ll have a term that won’t be so awkward.

We enter the tens with over 12 trillion dollars in debt, thanks mainly to Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. Our country is still severely polarized, as we’ve seen with the tea-baggers protesting what they believe to be a move towards socialism/communism/fascism in our country. They blame Obama for the debt and deficits. They think that “health insurance reform” is the same thing as socialized health care. They claim Obama has raised our taxes when in fact, he’s cut them for most people. And of course, they believe Obama will take away their guns.

And so it goes.

December 28, 2009

Decade In Review – Part III (2007 – 2009)

by Ben Hoffman

2007

The sub-prime mortgage crisis that brought down our economy started some time in 2007. The current recession in U.S. officially began in December of 2007. Right-wingers around the country like to blame it on the Democrats taking power of congress early that year and some even blame it retroactively on Barack Obama. Right-wingers believe in the supernatural, so apparently they believe Democrats have the power to cause events to occur in the past.

Foot and mouth disease was found on a farm at in UK. All livestock was banned the following day. Foot IN mouth disease continued to affect George W. Bush’s speech patterns.

2007 marked an extreme escalation in violence in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Multiple suicide bombings in Northern Iraq kill 572. Suicide bomber kills more than 50 in Afghanistan including 6 member of the National Assembly.

An earthquake in Peru killed 512 and injured more than 1500.

2008

This decade was just one disaster after another. In January, the price of oil hit $100 a barrel for first time. The Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 led to oil to be traded by speculators who drove up the price of oil for profit. The high price of fuel caused inflation and hurt consumption. People were spending all their extra money on gas with little left over for luxury items or even essential items. This helped drag our country into the recession.

Worldwide stock markets crashed, resulting in billions of dollars in losses. Rising food and fuel prices triggered riots in 3rd world countries. Lehman Bros filed for Chap 11 bankruptcy in September. 700 billion dollars was given to Henry Paulson in the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act to purchase failing bank assets. Paulson changed his mind a few weeks after receiving the money and instead handed over hundreds of billions to his buddies in the banking industry. Tens of billions are unaccounted for since there was little accounting and no oversight as to how the money was spent.

Also in 2008, Fidel Castro resigned as President of Cuba and his brother Raul was elected to take his place. In June, Bill Gates steps down from Microsoft to concentrate on philanthropy. Perhaps that was to redeem himself for all the years of unethical and illegal business practices. Or maybe he just doesn’t need so many billions of dollars.

Over 130 thousand people were killed by Cyclone Nargis in Burma/Myanmar. Almost 70 thousand were killed in China by an earthquake. Shoddy building construction led to homes and schools collapsing on the occupants.

A suicide bomber hit the Indian embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, killing 58 and injuring over 150. More than 60 people were killed in other suicide bombings in Afghanistan.

Buddhist monks protested China’s occupation of Tibet and many were murdered or imprisoned by Chinese officials. China has been one of the world’s worst violators of human rights, yet they were awarded the 2008 Summer Olympics. Athletes were concerned about the severe pollution in Beijing, but it didn’t seem to be a problem.

Late in the year, a global financial crisis erupted and banks failed worldwide and in November,
Obama was elected first black president.

2009

Which brings us to this year. Obama took office on January 15 and was immediately blamed for the recession. Although Bush’s last fiscal year ended in October of this year and his deficit was triple his previous record from 2008, Obama was blamed for putting our country deep in debt from all his “spending.”

The swine flu from Mexico was deemed global pandemic. Many people around the country have become sick or even died from the flu. Right-winger Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was re-elected in fraud-ridden election in Iran. Protests followed and right-wingers complained that Obama hasn’t done anything. Many cite Reagan’s “tear down this wall speech.”

Natural disasters continued with Typhoon Morakot hitting Taiwan and killing 500.

We have three days left of this disaster of a decade. Let’s hope for those to be uneventful. We nearly had another deadly terrorist attack on Christmas day. The only thing that saved the people on the airliner was the stupidity of the terrorist.

December 27, 2009

Decade In Review – Part II (2003 – 2006)

by Ben Hoffman

2003

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell addressed the UN Security Council on Iraq in February of 2003 and on March 20, the U.S. invaded Iraq. This was the first time our country ever declared war on a sovereign nation that was of no threat to us. With the war came the alienation of many of our allies and the polarization of political parties that we haven’t seen before in our country. At least not in my lifetime.

Although the war in Iraq would cost our country over a trillion dollars, Bush decided it would be a good idea to cut taxes and was able to get the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003 passed using reconciliation, with Dick Cheney casting the deciding vote. He couldn’t even get a simple majority in the Senate because it was so obviously a bad idea.

On May 1st, George W. Bush landed on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, just off the coast of San Diego, where he gave a speech announcing the end of major combat in the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. A banner behind him declared “Mission Accomplished.” Bush had them turn the ship around so the photo-op would make him look like he was far out at sea. In December, Saddam Hussein was captured in Tikrit by the U.S. 4th Infantry Division.

In 2003, we had the Abu Ghraib scandal, which incited more hatred of the United States by Muslims. It made many of us here wonder what kind of perverts were running the military prisons.

July brought us the treasonous act of revealing the identity of a CIA agent. Washington Post columnist Robert Novak published the name of Valerie Plame in the Washington Post, blowing her cover as a CIA operative. It turned out, Karl Rove first revealed her identity, but others also were involved, and then lied about it. Scooter Libby was convicted of lying to a Grand Jury in obstructing justice, but he would serve no time in prison. Bush would commute his sentence.

A major severe weather outbreak spawns more tornadoes than any week in U.S. history; 393 tornadoes were reported in 19 states. A heat wave in Paris caused temperatures up to 112°F in August. An earthquake in Algeria killed 2,200. In December, a massive earthquake devastated southeastern Iran; over 40,000 people were reported killed.

Facing an investigation surrounding allegations of illegal drug use, American right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh publicly admited that he is addicted to prescription pain killers. Some believe his followers to be heavily sedated, also.

Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated over Texas during re-entry in February, killing all on board.

2004

2004 could be described as the year of terrorism around the world: suicide bombings killed 41 in Moscow, 66 in Baghdad, 116 in Philippines, 190 in Madrid, 89 in Chechnya, 10 in Moscow, 34 in Egypt, 22 in U.S. military base in Mosul.

Conservatives won a majority in Iranian parliamentary election, perhaps as a response to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Iraqis were afraid they were next.

Some other major events: the last Oldsmobile rolled off the assembly line in April, Nick Berg was shown decapitated on web video by Islamic extremists, the Ubuntu OS released, Bush was re-elected, Republicans gain control of the House and Senate, terrorists attack U.S. Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, killing several people.

One of the largest natural disasters in history resulted from an earthquake in Indian Ocean causing enormous tsunami that flooded many coastal areas killing over 186 thousand people. 40 thousand people are still missing. An earthquake in Kashmir killed 80 thousand people.

2005

Bush begins second reign of destruction. Iraqis, tired of the ineptitude, corruption, and violence, protest U.S. occupation of Iraq. Insurgent attacks increase. The terrorist attacks on London railroad killed 56 and injured over 700.

In August of 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Louisiana. At least 1836 were killed, making it one of the five deadliest hurricanes in U.S. history. While President Bush and Michael Brown were telling the public everything was under control, news footage showed otherwise. CNN showed New Orleans residents stranded without food or water. FEMA claimed they couldn’t get help to the stranded, but celebrities such as Sean Penn were able to get through.

Hurricane Katrina marked the beginning of the end for Bush. Only the die hard conservative sheep remained faithful after most others realized they were being lied to.

2006

Natural disasters continued in February of 2006 with a massive mudslide in Philippines that killed 1,126. A Typhoon in November triggered another massive mudslide killing over 720.

In 2006, there also was the Israel/Lebanon War, Pluto was demoted to status of dwarf planet, E. coli in spinach killed 2 and poisoned 100s, and Peugeot produced their last car.

Saddam Hussein found guilty of crimes against humanity in November and executed in December. A series of attacks in Sadr City, Baghdad kill more than 200 and injured 100s others.

December 27, 2009

Decade In Review – Part I (2000 – 2002)

by Ben Hoffman

What an eventful decade.

2000

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…

2001

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.

2002

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.]