Connecting the Dots –
By Glynn Wilson –
What a year it has been. Whether you liked it and prospered or were horrified by some of the stories and events, it was a year to remember, even if many people would simply like to forget.
To write a year in review column, I was looking back through our archives this morning and discovered a piece written by syndicated columnist Eugene Robinson.
In 2016, what could possibly go wrong?
Uh, where to begin?
My fingers balk at typing the words “President-elect Trump” because I don’t think such a thing will actually happen. But at this point I’m wondering how to justify ruling anything out.
A year ago, was there anyone on earth who predicted that Donald Trump would utterly dominate the Republican presidential race? That the boastful billionaire would be setting the nation’s political agenda? That Jeb Bush, armed with more campaign money than he could possibly spend, would be drifting helplessly toward the single-digit wings of the crowded debate stage?
Nobody saw this coming, least of all the GOP establishment grandees who, as I wrote in August, are working their way through Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ five stages of grief. First there was denial (“What a weird dream; maybe it was something we ate”), then anger (“He’s a clown, he’s a jerk, he should be drawn and quartered”), then bargaining (“OK, OK, we give up on immigration reform”). Now party elders seem to be sinking into the fourth stage, depression.
I have no idea whether they’ll have to reach the final stage, acceptance. Trump’s legions turn out for his revivalist-style rallies, but will they actually vote? If they do — and if the establishment-approved candidates keep pulling one another down like crabs in a barrel — then Trump is the likely GOP nominee.
There you have it. You heard it right here first.
Also in January, we ran a piece on Ammon Bundy and his rancher buddies, who had occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Burns Oregon in an insurrection demanding that the government surrender public control of a habitat preserve to private ranchers and loggers.
In an interview with CNN, Bundy claims that the designation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge as a federally protected wildlife sanctuary has abridged the right of local people to use the land to secure their livelihood. He does not appear concerned with the ecological destruction that would inevitably follow if the park were opened to private use.
Of course later in the year Bundy and his cohorts were coaxed into abandoning their occupation, put on trial and then, amazingly, acquitted. But he remains in jail on federal charges in Nevada for a standoff at the Bundy ranch in 2014.
In another story that played out over the course of the year, the Obama administration filed a formal complaint against Volkswagen in federal court for blatant Clean Air Act violations.
Then in February, Michael Moore endorsed Bernie Sanders for president.
While everyone was paying attention to the presidential race, climate scientists issued a dramatic statement on what Earth will look like in 10,000 years with climate change due to global warming from the burning of fossil fuels for energy.
That seemed to have no impact on the conversation in the presidential race. Maybe some of those mainstream newspaper reporters in New York and Washington and their friends at the major broadcast news networks and cable channels should have asked more about this? It is a pretty important story that will now be ignored for at least another four years, with potentially catastrophic results.
In one of the many things President Obama asked Congress to do, which of course the Republican leadership totally ignored, he proposed a boost in funding for the National Parks on the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. It didn’t happen.
But there was some news from the Supreme Court, when conservative justice Antonin Scalia was found dead in a West Texas luxury resort.
Later, U.S. Senator Al Franken, the Minnesota Democrat, took to the Senate floor to blast U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Senate Republicans for trying to block the president’s appointment to replace him.
Not long after that, unforced errors and miscalculations ended Jeb Bush’s White House hopes. While Democrats all over the country are weeping and moaning about the election of Trump, at least we didn’t get another Bush in the White House.
In a harbinger of what was to come in the campaign for Democrat Hillary Clinton, the State Department released a report in February and a flood of the former Secretary of State’s emails and said at least 1,818 contained classified information, in contradiction to what she had been saying all along. This would not be the end of the email scandal.
By the end of the month, I saw the writing on the wall and wrote one of my columns predicting that Trump would be the next president of the United States.
Nobody believed me.
In March, the court battle between private concessionaire Delaware North and the National Park Service escalated in the battle over Yosemite trademark names. It is a battle that is still going on, along with the effort to commercialize and even privatize the national parks. We are still on this story.
We were already calling on Alabama Governor Robert Bentley to resign, but not for the alleged sex scandal. By refusing a billion dollars a year in federal funding for Medicaid, he was personally responsible for killing hundreds of innocent sick people. It took many more months of fighting before he and the legislature finally found the money to save those lives.
I took a camera crew to Montgomery and came away with a major story on the Medicaid crisis, along with a viral video showing a crass state Senator Tripp Pittman of Baldwin County saying, “We’ve all got to die sometime.” I followed that up with an open letter to Governor Bentley, which actually made it to his desk and probably made the difference in the case.
This is how watchdog journalism is done in the Age of the Internet and video cameras, folks, in the right hands of those who know how to use these tools.
In news about the law and the environment in April, the federal judge in New Orleans finally ruled on the BP settlement for the 2010 Gulf Oil Disaster. U.S. Judge Carl Barbier approved the final amount of $18.7 billion, to be paid in penalties to the U.S. government and five Gulf states.
In science news in May, NASA announced the finding of the largest collection of planets ever discovered.
In technology news, there was already a hint that something was awry at Facebook.
And I revealed this:
Again, nobody listened.
But there was Bernie Sanders, blasting The New York Times for its ‘horse race’ conflict coverage and ignoring the ‘real issues’.
They didn’t listen to him either.
It took a few more months for the mainstream media in New York and Washington to realize the damage they had wrought by giving Donald Trump so much free air time.
In June, FBI Director James Comey issued that now famous statement saying the agency would not recommend criminal charges against Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server when she was secretary of state. But he called Clinton and her staff “extremely careless” in handling sensitive information.
Not many people were paying attention, certainly not the Trump campaign, but
scientists were warning that global warming could be much greater than previously thought.
Then the police shootings and the Black Lives Matter incidents started up, leading me to write that the Second Amendment Debate Takes On New Meaning When Gun Holder is Black.
In August and September, people began to start paying attention to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline, and I wrote some of my first stories about it.
Also in September, after all the pressure from the Watchdog Press, all the hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth by every special interest group all over the state and their favorite legislators convened to get what they wanted — and maybe in the process help the sick and poor just a little bit — the state House and Senate finally got together on the final day of a special session called to pass a lottery bill, but did not pass a lottery bill. Instead, a compromise that seemed to please almost no one emerged from a joint House and Senate conference committee taking money from a billion dollar BP Gulf oil spill litigation settlement disaster relief fund to pay for some roads, pay off debt — and shore up the Medicaid health care budget from catastrophic collapse.
Then in the last week of September, we headed out on our Expedition of Rediscovery on the Way to Cannonball North Dakota.
We made it to Cannon Ball, and filed this story from the overflow protest camp.
In October, after a few days and nights there, we headed on out west to
Yellowstone National Park.
We made it back to Mobile by the end of the month, but not before visiting the
Grand Canyon and talking about this: The Problem of Over Commercialization and Privatization of the National Parks.
We also talked about the Lakota Perspective, saying the holocaust against Native Americans should end.
Once again, I tried to warn people that the US Presidential Election was too close to call in the final week before the election, but still people could not believe that Trump might win.
We also tried to get the people of Alabama to understand what was really at stake in the election and urged them to: Vote No on Amendment 2: Stop the Republicans from Privatizing Alabama’s State Parks.
But of course, they didn’t listen.
And of course you already know what happened in November.
The outcome that no one else seemed to see as utterly predictable resulted in a few weeks of crazy second guessing and the whole “fake news” craze.
Meanwhile even as winter was setting in up in North Dakota, local cops and private security forces overreached one Sunday night and created another bloody Sunday, this time on Blackwater Bridge.
The governor of North Dakota tried to end the protest by ordering an Emergency Evacuation of the Standing Rock camps.
But of course the Standing Rock pipeline protestors vowed to defy the eviction order.
Then Cuba’s Fidel Castro died, and the new U.S. president tried to turn back time.
In December, in a dramatic conclusion to the Standing Rock story, at least for now, the Obama administration announced that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decided to deny a request for an easement and prevent the Dakota Access Pipeline from being completed through the Missouri River.
You remember what happened next. Just last week, President-Elect Donald Trump ended his so-called ‘Thank You’ tour in Mobile, and then went on to win the Electoral College, even in the face of a massive revolt.
What a year, eh?
What do we have to look forward to in 2017?
Your guess is as good as mine. But one thing is for sure.
We are all going to wake up every day for the next four years to read headlines about Trump doing this, and Trump doing that. Just today, here is what topped the news wires: “Trump extracts pledge from Boeing on Air Force One costs. Trump picks ‘Death by China’ author for trade advisory role. Icahn tapped as Trump’s special adviser on regulatory issues. Trump hotels reach deal with unions, ending labor board cases.”
This is not going to be much fun. But maybe we can get the watchdog mad enough to find a way to catch up to Trump and bite him on the butt. Hey, it’s worth a try.
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© 2016, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.