American Culture

2007 in Review, pt. 2: When in the course of current events…

Welcome back to day 2 of the S&R Year in Review. Today we tackle some of 2007’s big moments in news and current events.

The Invasion and Occupation of Iraq Surpasses the American Civil War in Duration: The United States’ involvement in World War I lasted only 19 months and World War II lasted 44 months for the United States, even though the war itself was nearly six years long. The occupation of Iraq (aka the Iraq War) outlasted World War II in November of 2006, making the duration of U.S. involvement in Iraq the third longest foreign occupation in U.S. history. The American Civil War lasted 48 months, and the Iraq occupation surpassed that duration on March 20, 2007. This makes the Iraq occupation the third longest running period of continuous conflict in U.S. history, behind only the Vietnam War and its sister conflict in post-Taliban Afghanistan.

The United States invaded Iraq on March 18, 2003. By the end of 2007, the United States will have been involved in Iraq for 4 years, 9 months, and 14 days. (Brian Angliss)

Al Gore Takes the Heck Over: The big deal here isn’t the movie, the Oscar, or even the Nobel. No, the real reason Al is one of the citizens of the year is because he, more than anyone, has pushed concern for the environment close to, and perhaps over, the tipping point from “librul treehugger” issue to common sense bipartisan issue. You may have noticed recently that a lot more people seem to have accepted that Green is Good. Gore doesn’t deserve all the credit, of course, but he merits a lot.

The question now is whether he’s done more good as non-President than he could have had he not lost the 2000 election 5-4.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Releases its Fourth Assessment Report (AR4): This year saw the release of the United Nations’ Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) of the state of the global climate since the inception of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988. Composed of the governments who make up the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and chartered “to provide the decision-makers and others interested in climate change with an objective source of information about climate change,” the IPCC has independently assessed the best available climate science for the fourth time and concluded that there is over a 90% chance that human-created greenhouse gas emissions are driving up global mean temperature.

Starting in February, the IPCC released three massive reports, Working Group I’s “The Physical Science Basis”, Working Group II’s “Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability”, and Working Group III’s “Mitigation of Climate Change” throughout the year. Two weeks before the start of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali, the IPCC released the AR4 Synthesis Report, the final AR4 document that distills all the detailed scientific an socio-economic conclusions and analyses to create a single document that is supposed to guide the entire world’s policy planning from now until the IPCC next addresses global heating.

The net result of the four reports was a softening of the U.S. position that global heating wasn’t occurring, although the Bush Administration continues to pursue a policy of voluntary reductions in CO2 emissions in opposition to the centralized government regulations favored by most of the rest of the U.N. In addition, the IPCC reports triggered a sudden explosion of interest by mainstream and alternative media in the United States, the world’s largest CO2 producer. As a result, the bulk of the U.S. Presidential candidates have detailed their positions on what the U.S. should do to combat global heating, many are on record supporting or co-sponsoring anti-global heating legislation of some form, and energy and global heating policies have been taken up by the U.S. federal government repeatedly, albeit without significant action. And in lieu of federal action on global heating, multiple states have formulated their own approaches to mitigating the effects of global heating.

The scientists and policymakers involved in crafting the various IPCC reports had their work validated with the award of the Nobel Peace Prize in December. (Brian Angliss)

A Bridge Over In Troubled Waters: Thank goodness America is committed to rebuilding infrastructure in Iraq. Tragedy, sure, but your politicians are on it.

The First Nuclear Power Plant Construction Permit Since 1978 is Requested: In the late 1970s, public outcry against nuclear power, plant safety concerns, and high construction costs combined to make new nuclear power plants cost ineffective when compared to other sources of electricity, especially coal and natural gas. These concerns were proven in the public mind by the accident at Three Mile Island and then later reinforced by the Chernobyl accident. As a result, there were no new requests to the U.S. Department of Energy for new nuclear power plants since 1978 until NRG Energy of Princeton, New Jersey requested one on September 25, 2007.

Significant changes in two factors in opposition to new nuclear plant construction since the late 1970s have enabled NRG Energy to take the risk of adding two new reactors at an existing Texas plant. The first is a president friendly to nuclear power and a nuclear-friendly Republican Congress for President Bush’s first term. This resulted in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which had significant government incentives designed to spur the development and construction of new nuclear power plants, mitigating much of the economic risk of constructing new nuclear reactors. The second is a rising number of scientists and environmentalists who have concluded that nuclear power is the lesser of evils when it comes to environmental damage vs. carbon dioxide-intensive fossil fuels like natural gas and coal. A third factor also plays a minor role in the timing of the new permit request – it’s been nearly 30 years since the last request and the public has lost some of its fear (for good or ill) of nuclear power and its risks. (Brian Angliss)

Tragedy at Virginia Tech: Horrible, unspeakable – there just aren’t words to describe it. Worst of all, I remain convinced that the toll could have been less than it was. Hopefully the tragedy got people on campuses across the country to thinking more concretely about what they can do if it happens where they work.

The iPhone: Don’t buy one until they make it available on all carrier platforms. That said, this is an innovation that’s eventually going to live up to and exceed all the hype.

The Minot to Barksdale Nuclear Express: At the end of August, the security blunder of this young century occurred when six nuclear warheads were flown from one US Air Force base in Minot, North Dakota to another in Barksdale, Louisiana. But Philip Coyle, a think tanker and former assistant secretary of defense, said, “This wasn’t just a mistake. I’ve counted, and at least 20 things had to have gone wrong for this to have occurred.”

Since Barksdale is an embarkation point for Middle East military operations, speculation inevitably arose that the nukes were intended for use in Iran. But a base commander lacks the authority to order the transport of nuclear weapons. Was the order issued by an alternate Cheney chain of command?

It’s been stated that the US military would never release data this sensitive to the public without authority from the White House. According to this line of thinking, the intent wasn’t to bomb, but, instead, to put the fear of God-Allah in Iran.

The disturbing nature of the story has only been compounded by a related Cheney chain of events. Immediately preceding and following the event, six personnel at the two bases died in apparent accidents or by suicide.

Especially unsettling was the unlikely death of a member of the Special Forces in the wild. (Dave Lindorff has been all over this.) Besides the ultimate destination of the nukes, one can’t help but wonder if the dead were whistleblowers.

Even though the US has become blanketed in secrecy, it’s still not PC to compare Bush & Co. to Nazi Germany. How about, with its all-pervasive Stasi, East Germany? (Russ Wellen)

The Jena 6: In July the NAACP buried “the N-word.” There was never racism in America again.

“Don’t tase me, bro!” High profile politician gives a public address. College students fill the building. Cast of Reno 911 hired to manage security. Hilarity ensues! It’s the feel-good hit of the summer! Starring Toby Maguire and John Kerry. (Dr. Sid Bonesparkle)

Sioux Sue for Sovereignty: In December, a Lakota (Sioux) delegation delivered a statement of “unilateral withdrawal” to the State Department. In other words, it plans to secede. Not all Lakota, just the delegation, which was led by Russell Means. He, of course, is famous for surviving the siege at Wounded Knee in 1973 and founding the American Indian Movement (AIM), as well as for his movie roles.

One can imagine the federal government’s response: “Go ahead, enjoy your little secession. Of course, we won’t be subsidizing your reservations anymore. Plus you have no chance whatsoever to change your mind about the $122 million in compensation the Supreme Court awarded you a couple of decades ago and which you refused.”

Means, however, also announced that his group planned to file liens on property in parts of South Dakota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming. “The Missouri River is ours, and so are the Black Hills,” he said.

But while Means taketh away with one hand, he giveth with the other. He invites one and all to live in the Lakota Nation, tax-free, as long as they renounce their U.S. citizenship. Don’t worry: It will issue drivers’ licenses and passports.

Once Americans get it through their heads that this isn’t a reprise of the Confederacy, many might find the idea of a nation free of taxes, as well as war, appealing. After all, like Ron Paul, Means is a libertarian, under which guise, he too has run for president.

Still, the first person with whom I shared the Lakotas’ plans for secession said, “Oh great, it’s bad enough we have to worry about the terrorists. Now, this too.”

Primal frontier fears resurface: Will the redskins return to their renegade roots and take revenge — not to mention scalps? Not likely.

But Bolivia’s president Evo Morales, as well as Venezuela are following events closely. Those Americans bent out of shape about the “NAFTA Superhighway” from Mexico to Canada may as well start worrying now about One Indigenous Continent for All. (Russ Wellen)

Arkansas Couple Welcomes Their 16th Child: “It’s a blessing from the Lord,” who apparently wants to bless the world with rampant overcrowding. It would be wrong to ask the Lord to bless these people with some counseling, wouldn’t it? (Dr. Sid Bonesparkle)

Scott McClellan on the Road to Damascus: “So I stood at the White house briefing room podium in front of the glare of the klieg lights for the better part of two weeks and publicly exonerated two of the senior-most aides in the White House: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby. There was one problem. It was not true. I had unknowingly passed along false information. And five of the highest ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the vice President, the President’s chief of staff, and the president himself.” Scotty, we’re looking forward to your book and we hope it helps put some richly deserving criminals where they belong. But there’s one little problem with your story. We knew you were lying. If you didn’t, you’re either a raging moron or a man of “tremendous faith.”

The Subprime Lending Crisis: For a few years now I’ve been watching the housing market and not fully understanding how you could have all that junk financing, spiraling housing prices, massive new construction and high used home inventory all at the same time. I mean, I’m no expert. But this year reality set in – in a big ugly way. And just when we thought we were going to be able to sell our house back in New York.

President Bush Commutes the Perjury Sentence for Scooter Libby: We learned in History of the World, Part 1 that it’s good to be da king. If you can’t be da king, we now know that next best thing is to be the guy who has evidence against da king.

Astronaut Lisa Nowak Allegedly Attacks Astronaut Colleen Shipman: Lisa, when your friends told you that you needed to “pamper” yourself, this isn’t what they meant. (Dr. Sid Bonesparkle)

Join us tomorrow for more of 2007 in review.

Credits: All items not attributed were written by Sam Smith.

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