Poor 2012. Time is ticking away for this year and it’s leaving with an extremely tarnished reputation.
The year began badly with Obama appointing former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray as the Consumer Financial Protection Agency Director in a disputed recess appointment. He followed up that piece of fiat rulership by denying the Keystone XL pipeline permit, which would have provided the United States with as much as 700,000 barrels of oil a day from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf Coast. Then there was the Fast and Furious gun-running scandal.
Tragedy struck in Arizona when Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot and others killed in a mass shooting by a devoted Trotskyite. Giffords survived but many others, including a child and a federal judge were killed. Meanwhile, Congress battled it out over the Stop Online Piracy Act (House) and the IP Act (PIPA), which would have given courts the power to block websites participating in online piracy.
Speaking of piracy and traveling on the high seas, January witnessed the capsizing of the cruise ship the Cost Concordia when it ran into a reef. Her captain, disobeying the law of the sea, was one of the first people off the ship and that he had steered the ship too close to shore to give his girlfriend a view. Most of the 4,200 passengers and crew survived, but 42 died.
In the Middle East, the Afghan Taliban opened a political office in Qatar, in the wake of misbehavior by four errant U.S. Marines. Iran, in the meanwhile, announced that it had produced its first nuclear fuel rod, providing fueling for a “civilian” nuclear facility in Tehran. As Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu noted, “What does Iran need nuclear power for? Their country is one big oil field.”
February was a busy month for the courts – and Obama. The infamous 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that California’s same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court ruled that law enforcement officials are not necessarily required to inform prisoners of their Miranda Rights when questioning them about crimes not related to their original sentence. Obama, declaring himself a judge of sorts, altered the Birth Control Insurance Mandate to force religious organizations that hired secular employees to pay for their birth control and abortions, even if these procedure were against the religious organization’s creed.
The taxpayers found a temporary friend in Congress, which extended the temporary 2 percent payroll tax cut set to expire on March 1, 2012 to the end of the year (it’s now the end of the year and that’s what all the fuss about a Fiscal Cliff is).
Overseas, U.S. Defense Secretary notified the Taliban that it would be safe to re-capture Afghanistan sometime in March 2013, the date of the withdrawal of U.S. troops in that area. Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that would have ended the 11-month conflict between Syrian “President” Bashar al-Assad and Syrian opposition groups. The resolution included a call for al-Assad to step down peacefully.
The European Union, much to the dismay of Germany, agreed to a second Greek bailout, approving a $172 billion loan to Greece to prevent a default. And lest you think massive tragedies only occur here in the U.S., 360 inmates died in Honduran prison fire and 55 civilians and government representatives were murdered in violence across Iraq. Among the targets was an elementary school and another at a restaurant.
As the year “March-ed” on, we were treated to the spectacle of the Trayvon Martin shooting, in which an Hispanic man – George Hernandez – acting as a voluntary citizen patrolman in the gated community of Sanford, Fla.,, shot and killed 17 year-old Trayvon Martin, who was visiting his father. There was a great outcry over the shooting. Hernandez claimed that he had shot Martin in self-defense, therefore was within his rights under Florida’s “Stand-Your-Ground” law. Later, it was determined through eyewitness accounts and Hernandez’ injuries that he was being beaten and shot in self-defense.
Maryland became the next state to legalize same-sex marriage. British Petroleum (BP) and victims of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill came to a legal settlement in a class-action lawsuit, replacing a $20 billion escrow fund set up by BP with a court-administered fund.
Vladimir Putin was elected to third presidential term in Russia. Afghan Pres. Hamid Karzai insisted NATO forces withdraw to their bases and allow Afghan security teams to patrol the countryside after an American soldier killed 16 Afghan civilians, including 9 children in Kandahar. The United Nations approved the Syrian Peace Plan, relieving some of Assad’s more repressive controls. French paratroopers killed a French Muslim terrorist, who had killed seven unarmed people, after a 30-hour standoff. Mali’s government fell in a military coup, ousting democratically-elected Pres. Amadou Tourmani Toure. Nomadic ethnic Tuaregs had created a rebellion against the Muslim majority country in order to create an independent state.
At the first Arab League Summit since 1990, Iraq took steps to reassert its position as a regional force. Iraq reportedly spent $500 million on the summit and mobilized a 100,000 security forces to clean up Baghdad of its bad elements in order to host the summit.
In Spring, a young Secret Service agent’s thoughts turn to lust. A dozen U.S. Secret Service agents in a prostitution scandal while preparing for Obama’s April visit to Cartagena, Colombia. The EPA issued more regulations hindering the practice of fracking, requiring energy companies to install expensive equipment to capture toxic gases released by the activity.
Business looked better as the House passed a $46 billion, one year business tax cut. The legislation would allow businesses employing fewer than 500 people to deduct 20 percent of business income from their taxes, although Democrats were upset that the bill did not also include a hiring (or at least non-firing) clause. The Republicans also defeated a bill that would have required a minimum tax of 30 percent on annual income over $1 million. They argued that the tax would only bring in enough funds to cover one percent of projected deficits over the next ten years.
In Afghanistan, Afghan forces, in a deal with U.S. authorities, took over night raids and other special operations missions. All such night raids would need approval from Afghan officials and a warrant from an Afghan court, which could be approved retroactively in instances requiring immediate action.
The former Chongqing Party was “red” in the face when former Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai was removed from his positions on China’s Central Committee and Politburo. His wife, Gu Kailai and a domestic servant were arrested for poisoning British businessman Neil Heywood in 2011. Over in Europe meanwhile, Spain and Italy were deeper in the red. Spain was obliged to pay nearly 6% on its ten-year bonds and Italy, 3.89% on its three-year bonds. Iraqi insurgent attacks continued.
May brought flowers and Obama’s support of same-sex marriage, which was a message to the Supreme and Federal courts on that issue. Facebook went public, raising $16 million but soon fell on its face. John Edwards was acquitted of campaign finance violations in Greensboro, N.C. over a $200,000 check from banking heiress Rachel Mellon during the 2008 presidential campaign. He was acquitted on one felony count and a mistrial was declared on the other six counts.
Speaking of banks, bailout beneficiary J.P. Morgan Chase revealed a $2 billion trading loss. The loss originated in the bank’s chief investment office in London, the result of a poor investment strategy. Financial institutions at the time were lobbying Congress to dispense with the Volkcer Rule and other restrictions on financial institutions. Perhaps if they invested more in business enterprises and less in political campaigns, they’d be on solid standing and would have to visit Congress with hats in hand.
Obama took time off from his vacations in May to sign the Strategic Partnership Agreement with Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai. The pact details the U.S. military’s role in Afghanistan after NATO withdraws in 2014. It designates Afghanistan as a major non-NATO ally and allows U.S. forces to remain in the country to train the Afghan army and conduct counter-terrorism operations. Hours after the agreement was signed, terrorists attacked a Kabul compound used by Western contractors.
France went Socialist in May, with the election of Francoise Hollande. Greeks voted against austerity measures. Despite a cease-fire, violence continued in Syria. The decapitated bodies of 43 Mexican men and 6 women were found in a region of Mexico known for cartel violence. Mexican authorities stated that in five years, 47,515 people have been murdered. Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng was luckier, making a daring escape after his house arrest to the U.S. Embassy. He was returned back to the Chinese but was eventually given asylum in the United States and is studying law in New York City.
At midyear, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker won a resounding victory against the unions in a recall election. Union thugs tore the state capitol building apart and Democrat state legislators fled the state in protest, but Walker prevailed. Meanwhile, Obama introduced a new immigration policy that allows immigrants who came to the U.S. before they were 16 the right to remain in the country as long as they meet certain educational criteria, had no criminal history, or were U.S. military veterans.
In addition, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Arizona’s right to patrol its borders for illegal immigrants and in a mighty blow to the U.S. Constitution, upheld most of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – Obamacare.
Attorney General Eric Holder was found in contempt over Congress on both civil and criminal grounds in regard to the Fast and Furious scandal. In Egypt, meanwhile, former Pres. Hosni Mubarak was convicted of being an accessory to murder during the Arab Spring and sentenced to life in prison. Syrian government forces fired on unarmed U.N. personnel, preventing them from monitoring the joint U.N.-Arab League-sponsored cease-fire agreement. Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo was removed from office for failing to prevent violence between police and homeless peasants.
It may have been 2012, but the financial ghosts of 2008 came back to haunt Barclay’s Bank of London. Barclays agreed to pay $450 million to settle charges by U.S. and British bank regulators that it supplied inaccurate information regarding interest rates in order to manipulate the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). The Libor interest rate is used as an international benchmark for other interest rates, including commercial loans and mortgages. From 2005 to 2009, Barclays was accused of manipulating rates in order to increase traders’ profits and g ive the bank the appearance of financial health during the 2008 financial crisis.
Shame was brought upon Penn State University in June when its former assistant football coach, Gerald Sandusky, was convicted of 45 charges of child sexual abuse.
July is known for fireworks, but the wrong kind of fireworks went off in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater when 24 year-old James Holmes, wearing body armor, killed 12 people and injured 56, during a showing of the Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises. Holmes survived and was charged with 12 counts of murder. He is eligible for the death penalty in Colorado.
By executive order, Obama exempted six more states (Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, Oregon, South Carolina, and the District of Columbia) from the No Child Left Behind education law passed in 2002, requiring all students to be proficient in reading and math by 2014. The total number of states now exempt from the mandate is 32 and Republicans criticized Obama for his inappropriate use of executive authority in issuing the waivers.
Pena Nieto, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), was elected president of Mexico, defeating his leftist and conservative opponents. Pakistan reopened NATO supply lines to Afghanistan. Libya held its first democratic elections since 1964, with supposed Moderates taking power. A suicide bomber killed six Israeli tourists in Bulgaria. India suffered its blackout in its history, leaving approximately 370 million people without power. The next day, two more grids failed, leaving about 670 million people without electricity.
Science got its place in history in July when scientists uncovered the “God” particle at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) near Geneva Switzerland. They had discovered preliminary evidence of the existence of the Higgs boson particle, which British physicist Peter Higgs theorized in 1964 gave matter mass.
More shootings heralded in the month of August, with a mass shooting at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisc., leaving six dead, including two temple leaders and the center’s president. Three more people were injured. The gun, Wade Page, shot himself in the head after being wounded in a police shoot-out.
U.S. Rep. Todd Akin (R, Mo.) put his foot in his mouth when he made a comment to a St. Louis television station that women who are raped will just naturally self-abort. Akin proved beyond a doubt that it’s possible for political candidates to self-abort. In the meantime, the Republican National Committee formally nominated former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney as its candidate for President of the United States, with Paul Ryan as his running mate.
In the tech world, Apple won a $1.5 billion settlement from Samsung for infringing on its patents for six smartphones and tablets. Overseas, the European Central Bank pledged to intervene in the Euro crisis without detailing exactly how it would solve the financial crisis of countries that had gone into debt supporting solar and wind energy. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was granted asylum in Ecuador. And NASA’s probe, Curiosity, landed on Mars in search of organic materials which would suggest microbial life.
Syrian government forces launched an assault on its second-largest city, Aleppo. Afghan police carried out two attacks in Helmand province against coalition forces, killing six NATO soldiers.
The XXX Summer Olympics were held in London, beginning with a bizarre opening ceremony paying tribute to Socialism’s role in English history.
September found the Democratic National Committee nominating Barack Obama again for President, amidst a hurricane that had missed the Republican Convention but drowned their own. That’s what you get for wishing someone else harm. In Chicago, teachers went on strike against stalled contract talks. The length of the school day, teacher evaluations, and potential job cuts were the main issues.
In an effort to stimulate the economy, the Federal Reserve began buying mortgage-backed securities at a rate of $40 billion per month and continue to do so until the job market improved unless inflation interrupted their plan. The Justice Department issued its final report on Operation Fast and Furious, blaming lower-level minions and allowing Attorney General Holder to escape accountability.
Speaking of “justice”, Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi was sentenced to death in absentia by the Central Criminal Court of Iraq for his alleged involvement of the murder of a lawyer and a security officer. Syrian Military Headquarters in Damascus was bombed. Due to insider attacks in Afghanistan, NATO forces curtailed their joint missions with Afghani security.
And in Benghazi, Libya, U.S. Ambassador Christoper Stevens and three others – Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, and Glen Doherty – were murdered in a fiery, mob-filled attack on the building in which they were hiding. One of the guards reported on a gamester website that they were in imminent danger of attack. Obama and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice initially blamed the attack on a crude, anti-Muslim video. Subsequent investigations indicated that the video had nothing to do with the attack, that it was only the claim of an anti-American policeman at the scene of the riot.
In October, Obama and Mitt Romney faced off in a series of debates. Obama appeared very poorly in the first debate, not much better in the second, and according to popular polling, won an indecisive third round, though he was given a good deal of help by the moderator. The moderator’s interference drew great criticism from political pundits.
Egyptian-born Islamic cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri pleaded not guilty to charges of 11 counts of terrorism for establishing an Islamic terrorist training camp in Oregon and kidnapping 16 people in Yemen. In other news, the Federal Appeals Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
In the Northeast, Hurricane Sandy took an unusual route up the Eastern Seaboard, making landfall in Atlantic City. The storm was bad luck not only for the entire state of New Jersey, but New York’s Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island, as well as Connecticut’s South Shore. Millions of people were without power for up to 12 days or more. The Seaside Heights resort pier, including its roller coaster was destroyed, along with hundreds of homes. Tunnels between Manhattan and New Jersey were flooded for over two months. Sandy was the second-largest Atlantic storm on record (after 2001’s Hurricane Olga).
Norway’s Nobel Committee awarded the European Union its Nobel Peace Prize. Greeks protest the visit of German Prime Minister Andrea Merkel, and Syria began shelling border towns in Turkey. Afghanistan announced that it would hold its next presidential election on April 5, 2014.
We all know what happened in November: Obama won the presidential election by a 53 to 47 percent margin. Most pundits were shocked, particularly after Obama’s poor debate performance and the shoddy shape of the economy. Romney, whose career has been spent recovering ailing companies, was expected to win, especially as people were clammering for jobs. However, one must never underestimate the public’s clammering for free entitlement programs.
December found America in shock over yet another mass shooting; this time, of 20 first-graders and six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. One of the victims was the shooter’s mother, who was a survivalist, a gun collector, and a former kindergarten aide at the elementary school. Investigations revealed that the shooter, Adam Lanza, suffered from a range of psychotic and emotional disorders. Allegedly, his mother was preparing to have him committed to a mental institution. Initially, he was mistake for his brother, Ryan, a Hoboken resident whose driver’s license his younger brother had stolen. The shooting led to renewed cries for bans on ill-defined assault weapons and even guns in general, as well as a review of mental health treatment in the United States.
In Egypt, Islamists succeeded in having its Koran-based Constitution approved. Dec. 21st saw the sun rise and set without an apocalyptic end of the world as based on certain interpretations of the Mayan Long Count calendar. The only thing that happened that day was that John Kerry was nominated Secretary of State, something of a disaster in and of itself.
And in the last hours of 2012, Congress and Obama are battling at the edge of what has become known as the “Fiscal Cliff” which will see the end of tax cuts and an increase in entitlement spending. The battle is over who will get the tax increases and what entitlement programs will survive the cuts. One item that is off the agenda is a limit on the U.S. debt ceiling. The Tea Party politicians and their Tea Partiers are hanging in there, though. Whether we have anymore time left remains to be seen. We’re pretty well down the road of Socialism. One might say we have not only arrived but have taken up residence.
That is the political year 2012 in review. Goodness only knows what we’ll face in 2013. May God be with us!