Congratulation's, my friend. If you're reading this it can only mean that the Mayan prophesiers were wrong about the end times and we've made it to 2013. Then again, it's entirely possible that their portents of annihilation came true, we are in fact all dead and our collective consciousness' have reawakened inside an elaborate computer simulation where it only appears that reality continues uninterrupted.
We've toiled away to bring you stirring, if not deliberately blood-riling Op-eds and rants on various subjects. Hopefully you've had a chuckle or two and perhaps even picked up a factoid here and there to help you win an argument at the dinner table.
In any event, what a fine year we can look back on, this deposed 2012. A year of triumphs and tragedies, laughs and lamentations in which for a few moments it did seem like we were circling the drain. But we managed as with every year, to tighten our bootstraps and dig-in for the new year and what better way to celebrate than with a look back at the biggest headlines of the last solar cycle.
The Election and the Fiscal Cliff
After one of the nastiest, more bizarre campaigns in recent memory, we saw an incumbent president, getting into the meme game and whipping up ads about an attack on Big Bird while his opponent's campaign team proudly declared "We're not going to let FACTS dictate our campaign."
With nearly indistinguishable plans for dealing with the economic crises (both opted for varying degrees of stimulus, more hair of the dog that bit you) as voters, Americans were left to choose based on who would cause the least damage to whichever social issue one ascribes.
After a short honey moon, Obama got to work getting nowhere with the Republican controlled House right up until the New Year's Eve deadline to avert the "Fiscal Cliff," ultimately coming up with a clumsy compromise that promises to further kick the can down the road. Generations to come will exclaim that truly this was their finest hour, then get back to learning the international language of business in the future, Mandarin Chinese.
Mars Landing & The Shuttle's Final Flight
In an almost erotic display, the last space shuttle mission was celebrated with the Endeavor mounting a 747 in front of horrified children and buzzing the skyline of several American cities (flying a a large airliner low among the New York skyline was maybe not the best decision but whatever).
The retirement of NASA's Shuttle Program marks the end of an era as we shift to private-led space agencies like the one established by the guy who founded Paypal. Can't help feeling good about the fact that every ebay purchase helps, in part, send astronauts to the international space station.
Meanwhile on Mars, which is a start to a sentence I've never had the chance to use until now, the Curiosity Rover, a mobile science lab/dune buggy sent a pan and scan message to the party goers in Times Square for New Years. This was some time after having taken the most significant self-portrait in human History (and without ruining it with a duck-face).
Israel vs Palestine, UN Grants Observer Status, & Morsi Seizes Absolute Power
In an epic display of bad faith, after Israel and Hamas exchanged shrapnel and a semi-cease fire brokered by of all people Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, Palestine gained observer status at the UN and immediately, Netanyahu sent his fanatics back into Gaza to begin work on settlements. Now there's an ambivalent home lottery if ever there was one.
Meanwhile, fresh off his success as the arbiter of, if not peace, a pause in overt violence, Morsi turned to the citizens of Egypt and proclaimed himself a man of peace, then went straight for the jugular to seize absolute power and ratify a constitution that would make the Muslim Brotherhood proud-- apologies to all women and non-Muslims in the region but you'll soon no longer carry the burden of being people under the law, Happy New Year, sincerely, your new Pharaoh.
Assad Finally Let's Loose with Chemical Weapons
It's been interesting to watch the decay of the United Nations since 9/11 back into a League of Nations style, impotent bureaucracy. Since the UN will do absolutely anything to avoid raising a fist in anger (never used force against Saddam when he waged genocide in the 90's, then did nothing while the US usurped it as the unilateral purveyor of force in any global conflict) is it any surprise that there has been no action taken in Syria?
Assad did what every violent man in power does when faced with any diplomatic challenge to attacking his own citizens: He shook hands for the camera then smiled and nodded in agreement with the peace process while chuckling at their gullibility.
And now, almost a year after Kofi Annan declared the peace in our times with all the flare of Neville Chamberlain, close to 50,000 people have been killed as a brutal despot wages war against brutal rebel forces, including a poisonous gas attack this week. And we do nothing because of the giant Russian bear in the room.
Darwin the Monkey in Ikea Parking Lot
A woman, perhaps a tad under or over medicated decides to leave her dapper-dressed pet monkey in her car while she stops in at an Ikea in Toronto. The result, internet comedy gold. Darwin, the monkey in question, was picked up by animal control while a legal case now ensues (it's illegal to have a pet monkey in Toronto, I know, bunch of fascists) and his misadventure chronicled in internet memes on a scale that threatens to usurp dez lolz Kittyz everywhere.
One may find it endearing or unsettling, but that Dark Knight Rises, Bane jacket that Darwin was wearing that day, is only one of many, many articles of clothing his owner had piled in the closet for various occasions.
The Gang Rape and Murder in India
In New Delhi, demonstrations continue as the perpetrators of the rape and murder of a 23 year old woman await their day in court. Although she hung on for days and even gave a detailed statement, the woman whose name still has not been released, died from internal injuries she suffered after the final act committed against her body on the bus December 16th.
The ferocity of the attack, beginning with the a beating of the woman's male companion with a metal pipe that left him unconscious before the six men, including the driver, took turns raping and beating her over the course of am 8km bus ride.
If possible, charging the men with crimes against humanity would be more appropriate as murder is too small a word for the violence committed in this case.
While the discussion has moved to address the social ills in the country, India remains a staunchly divided class system with the value of human dignity and life tied to your place in that system.
(Think, the Titanic sinking and first class passengers getting away in lifeboats while third class passengers and crew remained locked in the bowels of the ship to drown with the rats).
Nurse Jacintha Saldanha Suicides over Kate Middleton Radio Prank
When I read the story at first I thought the suicide victim was the nurse who had actually divulged information to the Australian radio pranksters. The media was condemning them for pushing her to do it, but it turned out that Jacintha Saldanha who took her life after the incident, had only transferred the call. To me that suggests that well, there was way more going on in her life than the simplified headlines.
Also if pranking someone on the phone for the entertainment of radio listeners is a disgusting, potentially deadly act, then you have to explain why Howard Stern doesn't have hundreds of deaths on his conscious for the amount of, and vastly more vulgar pranks over the years.
And if, as many papers claimed, someone died of shame for having inadvertently betrayed the royal family, that to me suggests not that radio pranksters are immoral -- it instead makes me disturbed at the sinister implication that a monarchy in the 21st century, a bloodline of an English family that is the head of the church as well as several sovereign states in the role of benign classy dictator, can have that much influence over its subjects. If you hold the position that comedy at the Royal Family's expense should appropriately stir such shame within Jacintha Saldanha, then maybe you'd prefer to live in North Korea (hey, they can't even turn their radios off in NK!)
The Year of Gun Violence on the Front Page
It was almost once a month, that U.S. headlines contained a story of some fucking guy with either multiple guns, or a gun with an excessive ammo capacity, walking into a church, business, and worst of all, Sandy Hook Elementary and bringing about the end of the world for too many families.
In the emotionally charged debates now raging on the left and right of the American political spectrum, it's almost impossible to come to any consensus on what to do, or even what the actual problem is. Myself, I am yet to form an educated opinion beyond "shooting children is bad."
The U.S. is an anomaly compared to the rest of the world, for example with its violent drug prohibition that creates criminals out of regular citizens and ensures a prison population of one third of the nation. I hear talk of a living constitution and I think there is reason to be concerned about American constitutional issues because they should be a model to the rest of the world, hence why the country was founded in the first place to be free of an oppressive totalitarian Empire.
It's the only constitution that guarantees separation of religious fundamentalism from political machinations. Although you might not think it hearing Bush and Clinton during their presidencies go on about Jesus and the nut bags in the Tea Party, but that rule still stands.
They can bitch and moan about gay people getting married but they can't pass laws to have them burned at the stake, and since the ONLY objection to homosexual unions is based on scripture, certainly not any social studies findings from the last 30 years, Sarah Palin and Rick Santorum cannot pass a law based on what the bible says.
But I digress. Because I have no actual opinion yet on how to handle the obsession with guns except for the living constitution argument -- the 2nd amendment couldn't predict automatic weapons just as the 1st amendment couldn't predict the Internet. And if the NRA can muck with the 2nd one in the first place when it suits them, then well...yeah.
And, Oh Yeah, World Fails to End
The biggest story I think remains the world failing to end on December 21st. Personally, it's my hope that with the most publicized and legitimized doomsday theory in modern times having failed to materialize, people who held these theories will be moved to think more critically about the importance of evidence in shaping intelligent, informed opinions on any subject. We need your help to deal with issues like violence and inequality in the world, instead of lauding bad conspiracy theories about how and when it will end.
As for us here at Shock & AHH!! we too look forward to another year of the circus that is the human story as it provides no end of entertainment and things about which to rant. We have some marvelous surprises in store for you and thank you for your continued readership and hope to hear from you in the comments section as we need more fodder for our ad campaigns: