Archive for the 'Economy' Category

Federal Government Needs Restraint

Editorial
Federal Government Needs Restraint

The Radionian
By Ashton Pittman, Opinions Editor
February 2010, Volume 86, No. 4

Right now, the state of Mississippi is struggling to deal with important issues like educational funding, state health care and the budget. Universities are raising tuition costs and consolidation of some is under consideration for cost efficiency.

Medicaid is presenting difficulties to the state as it takes up a greater percentage of the overall budget each year, and the national health care debate is not making things easier. Our state is approximately $400 million behind the year’s anticipated revenue and state lawmakers do not expect the situation to improve over the next year as the economic crisis continues onward.

State Senator Chris McDaniel (R-Ellisville) recently expressed his frustration at how the federal government’s excessive spending and its debate over health care have compounded the issues and impeded the ability of individual states, like Mississippi, to efficiently deal with our own issues (see story on front page).

The federal level chaos has created such a high degree of uncertainty for Mississippi that it is even harder to make tough choices in terms of budget cuts and tax increases. While McDazniel was clear that he will not support tax increases on Mississippi citizens, he pointed out that it would be almost impossible for Mississippi to tax its citizens who are already overtaxed by the federal government.

The election of Senator Scott Brown in Massachusetts in January was a clear referendum from a state that has not elected a Republican to the senate in more than half a century that is fed up with the federal government’s recklessness and seeming lack of concern for the plights of Massachusetts citizens. Maybe more states should begin demanding that the federal government cease and desist for a while so that states can do what is best for their own citizens.

It is clear that the unrestrained spending that began with the stimulus package last year is making it nearly impossible for state and local governments to effectively deal with their own issues. The federal government should step back, scale down, halt massive spending reform efforts like health care reform for now, and give state governments an opportunity to deal with their own citizens without having their hands tied by further reckless decisions at the federal level. Jackson, MS should be allowed to function without the great specter of Washington, D.C. looming over it.

More From My Interview With Joe Tegerdine

A few days ago, I posted an article I wrote for the May 2010 edition of The Radionian, which was based on interviews I conducted with U.S. Congressman Gene Taylor of Mississippi’s 4th district and his potential November opponent, Joe Tegerdine. Due to the constraints of an article, I was not able to include all of the information I garnered. Also, since it was strictly a news article and not an opinions article, I witheld my impressions and thoughts to preserve the integrity of the medium (besides, had I included my impressions, they would have been edited out anyway).

So, I’m going to post some more quotes and impressions from the interviews with the candidate and the Congressman. Here’s more from my conversation with Joe Tegerdine. Later, I will post more from my conversation with Congressman Taylor as well.

The Town Hall Meeting:

Joe Tegerdine went a little more in depth on the Town Hall meeting that spawned his candidacy. According to him, Taylor was dodging questions of other attendees and refusing to adequately answer one of his own, which was about The Give Act.

“I couldn’t believe how arrogant and condescending our congressman is. You know, you watch it on television and you just see these guys spin questions and never answer questions, and you expect it because it’s TV.”

“At the end I answered questions of people he had refused to answer, and then his comment to me was ‘This is my town hall meeting, not yours.'”

On the Political Establishment and His Candidacy:

“I called around our Republican leadership and talked to some of our elected leaders and nobody believed Gene Taylor could be beat.”

“I said ‘No, we can beat him. If we run the right campaign we can win.'”

“I think even some of the Democrats are starting to realize that they’ve put our country in a precarious situation economically.”

“If you have people in there who are making decisions based on re election and based on special interests–lobby money that they get through PACs–then the problems are not going to subside. We’ll continue on the same destructive path.”

“On our state level I’ve met a lot of are representatives. They’re pretty excited. They look at this as the future of politics of America. This is going to help us get back on track.”

“There’s always that negative element–the power structure, the powers that be–they don’t like to be challenged, and they don’t like someone like me who is an outsider to their politican network–coming and rattling the cages a bit.”

“I truly believe that if I wasn’t a viable candidate they would just ignore me. But based on the attacks I’m getting from both of my opponents, I’m pretty sure they both feel like ‘Okay, this guy is a challenger.’ And for Taylor, I’m a challenger. For Palazzo, I’m the guy he’s got to try to beat.”

“I’m not coming in ignorant. You know, just yelling and angry. I actually have some substance to what I believe and what I’m saying and what I think we need to do to get things back in order.”

On Education:

“I think that at some level you have to say, ‘Let’s stop treating the symptoms’– you know, all these different programs–Let’s put the responsibility back on the parents and say educate your kids.”

“There’s a lesson to be learned from winning and there’s a lesson to be learned from losing. I played on championship football teams and I played on teams that didn’t win a game the entire season and I learned valuable lessons from both. That’s life.”

“You’re going to probably fail more times that you’re going to succeed. So why are trying to insulate ourselves from that? Why are we trying to insulate our children from that lesson? It’s really absurd.”

On Welfare:

“I think the government has to slowly wean the states off of federal aid. It’s not Constitutional. I think you have to slowly wean them off. You can’t do it overnight or you’d have a humanitarian crisis.”

“We have to incentivize people to work. So if somebody can make $1000 a month working a job but the federal government gives them $1200 to do nothing, you have to remove that equation.”

On Term Limits:

Under Joe Tegerdine’s proposed Constitutional amendment, Senators would only be limited to only serving two terms (twelve years) and House Representatives would be limited to four terms (eight years). I asked him, however, why Senators should get twelve years when House Reps and even the President was limited to eight. He agreed that it would make sense to limit them to only eight years as well.

“I could see them having four years terms so that they would be like the President. I think that would be fine. I don’t think Senators have to be in there six years. I think it’s not as crucial for them to serve six.”

“I feel like we’ve been experimenting the for the last three-hundreds years with no term limits and I think it’s time we did a little experimenting with term limits.”

But how would we ever get Congressman and Senators to place limits on the offices that they themselves hold?

“Put in an exemption that this law only applies to new people coming into office,” he said.

On Faith

“As a candidate, I feel that it’s important that people know what my faith is.”

“I think people in our district expect to know where people stand on faith and religion. They want a leader who is going to be a strong Christian. I appreciate the other elected officials in our state who will mention their faith, their commitment to Christian principles.”

“When I think about the Establishment Clause, I think it’s definitely been misinterpreted. I don’t think that our founding fathers ever intended for the bill of rights to take religion out of government. If their intent was that there would be a state religion or a preference given to one denomination. I think for some reason we got way for off to where people think that Separation of Church and State means that there is no place for religion. There’s a reason why we traditionally have opened our sessions of Congress with a word of prayer. There’s a reason why at the inauguration there’s a prayer. It’s part of our culture, our heritage–our Christian faith. And to try to deny that or remove that from the public square is to take away from a necessary part of our culture.”

On Abortion:

“Ideally, Roe v. Wade would have never been put before the Supreme Court and it would have remained a state issue. But we know that some of the people in minority position will manipulate courts or push things through to get the court’s recognition and the approval that they desire.”

“I’ve considered before ‘What do you do with abortion?’ It’s really difficult because of that precedent that has been set with Roe v. Wade because they can’t legislate and say ban abortions. I think the only way to ban abortions would be a Constitutional Amendment that prohibits abortions. Otherwise I’m afraid it’s always going to be with us.”

“I would support anything that would help eliminate abortion.”

“Abortion affects our culture in ways that we sometimes don’t even realize. It permeates our thoughts about life and the sanctity of life and our relationship with others.”

Interviews With Joe Tegerdine and U.S. Representative Gene Taylor

Tegerdine and Taylor Discuss 2010 Elections, Issues

The Radionian
By Ashton Pittman, Opinions Editor
May 2010, Volume 86, No. 7

The 2010 midterm elections are shaping up to produce heated contests all across the nation that could drastically change the political landscape this November. One of those races may well take place in Mississippi’s 4th Congressional District, which includes Gulfport, Biloxi, Hattiesburg and Laurel.

Several candidates have stepped up to challenge incumbent Democrat U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor, who has occupied his seat for more than 20 years. One of those challengers is businessman Joe Tegerdine who resides with his family in Petal. Taylor and Tegerdine both took time to speak to “The Radionian” about the election, their positions on the issues, and their visions for America’s future.

Congressional Candidate Joe Tegerdine (R-Mississippi)

“There’s a lesson to be learned from winning and there’s a lesson to be learned from losing. I have learned valuable lessons from both. That’s life.” Photo by Ashton Pittman

One year ago, Joe Tegerdine was virtually unknown in South Mississippi. Today, most favor him to win the June 1st primary for the Republican nomination to the 4th District’s U.S. Representative Seat.

Tegerdine said that his campaign began last year after he involved himself with the local Tea Party group, with whom he attended an April 2009 Town Hall meeting held by Taylor. Tegerdine said that during the meeting, he and Taylor had a heated exchange.

“People were cheering after I spoke,” said Tegerdine. “Immediately, someone tapped me on my shoulder and said ‘Hey, have you thought about running for office?’”

At the time, Tegerdine had only considered getting involved in politics at an older age. However, over the following weeks, he made a decision after finding himself troubled by national events.

“It was the realization that if I didn’t do something today, then I would not have the country I grew up in to pass to my children,” he said.

Tegerdine entered the race with business experience, a bachelor’s degree in communications, and a juris doctorate, but he lacked political experience. He considers that a positive.

“I truly believe that if we are going to put our country back on the right track, average, everyday Americans have to take the country back from career politicians,” he said.

Tegerdine believes that one of the biggest problems in American politics is the propensity for career politicians to be continuously reelected with the aid of special interest groups. He plans to champion an amendment that would limit U.S. Senators to two terms and U.S. Representatives to four terms. He has pledged to serve no more than four terms if elected.

As a Congressman, he would also like to work to wean Americans off dependency on entitlement programs that he believes will eventually bankrupt our economy. He related his story of being raised with four siblings by a single mom and the struggles they faced.

“She justifiably needed some help,” he said, “but I firmly believe that kind of help needs to come from your family, your church, your charitable organizations, and the very last option would be your community.”

He disagrees with critics who have alleged that he seeks to cut the lifelines of the needy.

“I believe that if we take the federal government out of the equation, people will start being more charitable again and families will take responsibility for their ailing or disabled family members,” Tegerdine said. “I think it’s a fallacy and a lie to think that just because the federal government isn’t there with a handout that somehow we would lose our humanity and not take care of each other. I think that we are starting to lose our humanity because we have just allowed the government to take care of our loved ones.”

Tegerdine also takes a family-based approach to education.

“We’ve got to find a way in our country to reengage parents in their children’s education,” he said, adding that parents, not federal bureaucracy, are the key to our children’s education.

He disagrees with educational programs that insulate children from failure.

“There’s a lesson to be learned from winning and there’s a lesson to be learned from losing,” he said. “I have learned valuable lessons from both. That’s life.”

Congressman Gene Taylor (D-Mississippi)

Station Gulfport Ribbon Cutting

“I wish everyone had been as concerned about the national debt as I have been. You can’t spend more, collect less, and pretend it’s going to work.” Photo by uspcgpress of Flickr.

Congressman Gene Taylor has served as the Mississippi’s 4th district U.S. Representative since his initial election in 1989. While the anti-incumbent mood is causing concern for some incumbents, Taylor is not worried.

“People have been running against me for 20 years,” he laughed.

He disagrees with Joe Tegerdine’s idea on term limits.

“I oppose them,” he said. “We already have term limits—elections.”

He also dismissed criticism levied against him by opponents accusing him of supporting Nancy Pelosi.

“That’s an election that took place in San Francisco,” he said. Taylor believes that his record will show him to be on the side of the American people, not fellow politicians.

Some have suggested that his ability to hold this Seat for 20 years in one of the nation’s most Republican districts is remarkable. His success in the 4th District may be largely due to his willingness to embrace conservatism. He emphatically describes himself as a “very conservative Democrat.”

However, his party has moved to the left over the past year, with lavish stimulus packages and a liberal healthcare reform bill. Even so, Taylor does not place the blame solely on his party.

“I wish everyone had been as concerned about the national debt as I have been,” he said. “You can’t spend more, collect less, and pretend it’s going to work.”

Taylor said that he has been concerned about federal spending under both Democrat and Republican presidents.

When it comes to the recently passed health care reform bill, the only question for Taylor is whether it should be repealed or amended.

“I would prefer to repeal it,” he explained. “I guess it’s going to depend upon the makeup of the Congress in January.”

He does not believe, however, that the bill is entirely bad.

“Some provisions are worthwhile,” he said, pointing to the portion that bars insurance companies from discriminating against those who have pre-existing conditions.

Even so, he believes that bulk of the bill is bad policy that will only add to the national debt.

Taylor conceded that tackling the national debt crisis will not be easy.

“It’s going to be very difficult,” said Taylor.

He explained that the ongoing wars in the Middle East, programs like Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare and an aging population are all complicating the problem.

“This is why we don’t need to make any new promises,” Taylor said.

When it comes to paying off the debt, Taylor does not rule out the possibility of raising taxes.

“There will have to be some changes,” he said. “If we’re going to be at war, then we ought to be willing to pay for that war right now. Any program worth doing is worth paying for right now.”

Taylor offered advice for college students who may feel discouraged by the woes facing our country.

“Read history,” he said. “When you read history, you realize that every generation of Americans has had significant challenges.”

Whether it was the people who had to weather the Great Depression and World War II, or those who had to serve in Korea and Vietnam, Taylor said each generation of Americans has risen to meet its challenges.

“I intend to help us to face these challenges and to protect the freedoms and liberties we cherish so that we can leave a better place for our children and grandchildren,” Taylor said.

Philanthropy Promotes Small Government

Editorial
Philanthropy Promotes Small Government

The Radionian
By Ashton Pittman, Opinions Editor
May 2010, Volume 86, No. 7

Americans share an inherited desire for independence and small government. At the same time, several generations of transformative social welfare programs have caused us to adapt to an expanded view of the role of government in our lives. The clash of these two ideals evokes in us a curious contradiction; even as our classic American spirits resist the threat of emboldened bureaucracy, our acquired taste for public assistance begs for more.
This contradiction manifests itself in our daily lives. An American citizen will drive by a dilapidated building on a street peppered with potholes and ask himself, “Why hasn’t the government fixed this?” Moments later, he will come upon a traffic stop where a homeless man with a cardboard sign begs for food. “How can our government allow this to happen in America?” he will wonder, shaking his head, before continuing his drive to work. Later on, he will ask another question: “Why is the government taking so much of my hard-earned money in taxes?”
He, like most Americans, will fail to see the irony.
The tax question represents a growing concern among Americans. Rasmussen Reports shows that 66 percent of Americans believe themselves to be overtaxed. Meanwhile, Gallup polling reports that 63 percent of Americans expect a tax increase over the next 12 months. On April 15, hundreds of thousands across the nation demonstrated their concern at the Tax Day Tea Party protests.
However, as long as we cling to the notion that government alone is responsible for supplying all our basic needs, we should expect no different; low taxes and expanded government duty are two competing ideals that are wholly irreconcilable.
Instead of only complaining and protesting, perhaps we should also be consistent; if we choose to complain about high taxes, then we should also be willing to take up jobs that the government has not. We can do this by volunteering our time, effort, and if at all possible, money to community projects and restoration efforts. Instead of asking why the government has not taken care of needy families and individuals, we should offer compassion at our own initiative. Simple gestures of good will and assistance go a long way.
We can also aid in lessening the burden of social programs by supporting charities and volunteer groups that build homes, provide healthcare, feed the hungry, fund scholarships, aid in adoptions, and give children the opportunity to receive quality educations.
In America, we can argue over taxes and the role of government all day long. However, one thing we can all do to promote lower taxes is to prove to our government that we are not only self-sufficient, but also more than willing to help our fellow man. Where philanthropy exists, tax money and bureaucracy are not needed.

Interview With MS State Senator Chris McDaniel

McDaniel Discusses ‘Nathan’s Law,’ Economy

The Radionian
By Ashton Pittman, Opinions Editor
February 2010, Volume 86, No. 4

Recently, Mississippi State Senator Chris McDaniel (R-Ellisville) of the 42nd District, a JCJC alumni, spoke to The Radionian about issues that lawmakers in Jackson are currently dealing with. McDaniel offered insight into several of these issues and shared some of his thoughts.

One topic of particular interest to Jones County residents is Nathan’s Law, a school bus safety bill that McDaniel formally introduced in January.
“Nathan’s Law is pretty special to me because of the genesis of the act,” he said, referring to the death of North Jones Elementary kindergarten student Nathan Key, who was killed in December after a driver failed to yield to a stopped school bus. “It’s probably one of the most horrible things that’s happened here in a long time.”
The bill creates harsher penalties, enacts a curriculum to teach about school bus safety, and demands that drivers be tested. “There are school bus laws in other states, and we researched many of those laws in compiling Nathan’s Law,” said McDaniel, “but we believe this one is the most comprehensive.”
Turning to the state’s economy, McDaniel offered a somewhat grim assessment of the situation, citing a very difficult budget year. “The reality is that we are about $400 million behind our anticipated revenue for this year, and there’s absolutely no end in sight, no clear economic indicators that this recession is over. So we have to assume that it will be equally bad if not worse for next year. It’s the result of a worldwide recession that we did not cause and wish would end.”
He made it clear, however, that education reamins a priority despite the recession. “First and foremost, for [Jones Country Junior College], we’re trying to see that JCJC receives the funding it needs to operate without costing any jobs and to make sure it can do its job efficiently.”
When asked about comments made by some in the Obama administration that “everybody agrees that the recession is over” and we are now in a recovery, not a recession, McDaniel was blunt. “That’s just political posturing,” he said, “They’ve lied to us before and I think they’re lying to us again.”
He said that the Obama administration’s policies weren’t helping, either. “When people are uncertain about the future, they stop spending, and frankly Barack Obama and his administration, by pushing nationalized healthcare and pushing our spending to historic levels, is creating uncertainty and people aren’t spending.”
He said that while Mississippi lawmakers are working to find ways to ensure that that the most needy and vulnerable are covered “while getting the waste and abuse out of the system,” the cloud of chaos in Washington looms heavily over Jackson, making it very hard for Mississippi lawmakers to take action to improve our own health care and economic conditions.
“The debt and proposal of new taxes in the future weighs on our minds heavily. We know the federal government has gotten way too large and has taxed us way to much, which makes it almost impossible for Mississippi to tax its citizens. I am not going to support a tax increase, period. We’re taxed way too much and too often. Now is not the time to burden families and businesses; they need to operate.”

Blaming Bush No Longer an Acceptable Excuse

Blaming Bush No Longer an Acceptable Excuse

The Radionian
by Ashton Pittman, Opinions Editor
March 2010, Volume 86, No. 5

A year after Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States, he is still blaming everything on the 43rd president, George W. Bush. No matter what the topic, whether it is the economy, foreign policy, or international relations, Obama always pulls out the “blame it on Bush” card to deflect attention away from himself. Obama cannot seem to make it through a speech without referring to “the mistakes of the last eight years” at least once.
When Scott Brown won the special election in Massachusetts to become the first Republican Senator from Massachusetts in more than half a century, Obama and other Democrats were not willing to concede that, as the polls showed, the key to Scott Brown’s victory was voter anger at the policies and actions of Obama and his party.
No, President Obama knew better. He told ABC that “the same thing that swept Scott Brown into office swept me into office, people are angry and they are frustrated. Not just because of what’s happened in the last year or two years, but what’s happened over the last eight years.”
Translation? “Voters were still so angry at George W. Bush, a Republican President, that they elected a Republican to office in Massachusetts.” Right.
Aside from being to blame for Democrats losing elections, Bush is also apparently solely responsible for the 2009 budget that included a one-year deficit of more than $1 trillion. In his State of the Union Address, Obama lambasted the budget that was approved by Congress while Bush was still in office. Conveniently, he forgets to mention that he voted in favor of that same budget while he was still a senator. In fact, the 2009 budget was approved almost exclusively by Democrats in Congress with only two Republicans voting in its favor.
Still, in hindsight Obama seems to have decided that the budget he voted for was a bad idea, so he shifts the blame to Bush by saying that it happened “before I walked in the door.” It seems that Obama only takes credit for his decisions when they turn out well.
Obama also continues to blame Bush for the overall state of the economy. While this might sound acceptable, since Bush was the President for eight years, Obama misses one key fact: Bush, ridiculed by the media as “inept” and “stupid,” had been warning about the impending dangers of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, whose failure acted as a catalyst for the 2008 economic collapse, since 2001.
Every year of his Presidency since then, Bush urged Congress to pass reform that would regulate Fannie and Freddie. But Congress, of which the Democrats took complete control in 2006, refused to listen. So if Obama wants to blame anyone, he should blame Congress for not heeding the warnings and the efforts of the Bush administration to stop the impending disaster. But he won’t; he was a part of Congress from 2004-2008.
Bush has been silent since leaving office, refusing to openly criticize the President, saying that Obama “deserves my silence” and that he has enough critics. “I love my country a lot more than I love politics,” Bush said last year. “I think it is essential that he be helped in office.”
Unfortunately for Bush, Obama seems to relish politics. He built his 2008 campaign on blaming Bush, a strategy that worked at the time. He has constantly been in campaign mode since taking office, holding onto the notion that everything is Bush’s fault in order to attempt to sway the public, constantly referring to the “mess he inherited” and “the last eight years.”
Perhaps, Mr. President, after one year in office, you should consider that one of those past eight years, filled with an $800 billion dollar stimulus package, healthcare reform legislation, terrorist attacks, security failures, lost elections and diplomatic disasters now belongs to you. Muster the same kind of dignity and class that Bush has shown you and start taking responsibility for your own Presidency.

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A Decade in Review: The 25 Events and Moments That Defined the 2000s

The Years 2000-2009

The decade that began with fears of the end of the world and the great “Y2K scare” has drawn to a close after 10 of the most eventful years in modern history. Those who were alive in this time saw events that will be forever recorded in the history books. Here’s a look back at 25 of the most significant events of the years 2000-2009.

2000

1. October 12, 2000 – Attack on the U.S.S. Cole

In a foreshadowing of things to come, suicide bombers attacked the U.S.S. Cole, a U.S. Navy destroyer. The attack, carried out in the Yemeni port of Aden, killed 17 U.S. sailors, and injured at least 40.

Several lawmakers strongly condemned the attack, including Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona). “The United States has the ability to find out who perpetrated this outrage,” said McCain. “We will find those people. There will be a heavy price to pay. We cannot allow these acts of terror to take place.” Then-Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-South Dakota) echoed similar sentiments:  “Clearly this is a terrorist act and those who perpetrated it will be held responsible. We will find out who they are and we will not rest until we do.”

Even with these harsh condemnations of terrorism, our definition and understanding of terrorism at the time was quite different than it is today. We failed to see that the attack on the U.S.S. Cole was more than just a random act of terrorism; it signaled the start of an all out war against the United States and Western Society. But in less than a year after the Cole bombing, our understanding of terrorism would be changed forever.

2. November 7, 2000 – George W. Bush Elected 43rd President of the U.S.

When George W. Bush won the 2000 election against former Vice President Al Gore, he became the man who would lead the nation through eight of the most tumultuous and trying years in our history. The election of 2000 was one of the most bitterly contested elections ever, going on even beyond the November 7th election and into December, as Al Gore fought for a recount of the Florida vote. Even today, there are those who accus Bush of “stealing” the election.

Bush could not possibly have known that during the next eight years, he would face the greatest terrorist attack ever on American soil, the worst natural disaster, or that he would at one point have the highest approval rating of any President in history as well as one of the lowest.

Link: NPR Coverage of Election 2000

Video: NBC Declares Bush President on the Night of the Election

Video: December 14, 2000 – Bush Officially Declared President-Elect After Recount

2001

3. September 11, 2001 – 9/11 Terrorist Attacks

Not since the Pearl Harbor attack on December 7, 1941 — the “date which will live in infamy” — has any single date become so important to Americans as September 11, 2001. On this day, multiple commercial airliners were hijacked and crashed, two into the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon, and one–by a heroic group of civilians who were determined to stop the hijackers from reaching their target in D.C–into an empty field in Pennsylvania.

In all, 2,973 innocent livers were lost on this day, excluding, of course, the 19 hijackers who were carrying out their suicide mission. More than 6,000 others were also injured.

I was only a kid in Middle School at the time, but I remember this date so clearly. I was skipping school on this morning, and when I awoke, I went into the living room to find my grandmother watching television. At first, I saw what I thought was a building that had caught on fire. But as I continued watching, I began to see some of the magnitude of what was taking place, although I had not yet grasped how important the event I was witnessing truly was. I can still remember the crying reporters on their sets, the frantic reporters on the ground, the shaky cameras and running cameramen, and the images of American citizens jumping from the burning towers. The next day in school, there was no discussion of anything else, and my first assignment that morning was to write my thoughts on the attack on America. “Will there be a war?” I remember writing; most other students shared that same question.

September 11th was the date that defined the rest of the decade and the generation; a resurgence of patriotism erupted; the arts–films and music–all reflected a revival of American nationalism; our comfortable, isolated American world stood shattered and a renewed interest in religion followed, with some churches being filled for the first time in ages. Every major foreign policy decision that would take place thereafter would be rooted in the events of that day. Without September 11, the 2000s decade and the Presidency of George W. Bush would have been unrecognizable from what they became.

Link: The 9/11 Digital Archive

Video: Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?

4. September 14, 2001 – The Bullhorn Address at Ground Zero

President Bush’s “Bullhorn Address” at Ground Zero, in which he spoke to a crowd of firefighters, police officers, and volunteers through a bullhorn, quickly became one of the defining moments of the 9/11 aftermath and one of the most important Presidential addresses in history. If you listen carefully during the speech, you can hear one rescue worker shout out, “George, I can’t hear you!” President Bush immediately responds with a loud proclamation that signals the course of his Presidency from that day onward:

I can hear you! I can hear you! The rest of the world hears you! And the people–and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!

Thunderous applause and chants of “U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” followed as the President’s passionate determination inspired a nation to rally behind him as he set out on a quest for justice.

5. October 7, 2001 – War in Afghanistan Begins

On this day, the U.S., along with allies around the world, struck back at terrorism by making its first strikes in Afghanistan in a mission to displace the Taliban and destroy terrorist camps. President George W. Bush issued a resounding declaration that would later be criticized as hearkening back to a Texan “with us or against us” attitude:

“Today we focus on Afghanistan, but the battle is broader. Every nation has a choice to make. In this conflict, there is no neutral ground. If any government sponsors the outlaws and killers of innocents, they have become outlaws and murderers, themselves. And they will take that lonely path at their own peril.”

At the same time, Osama bin Laden released a video threatening that there would be no peace in the United States until there was peace in the Muslim world and the “infidels” were vanquished.

“As to America, I say to it and its people a few words: I swear to God that America will not live in peace before peace reigns in Palestine, and before all the army of infidels depart the land of Muhammad, peace be upon him.”

With these words, the war on terror, which would last throughout the rest of the decade and beyond, commenced.

NBC Nightly News: America Strikes Back (10/7/09)

Link: News Articles and Headlines

Link: Text of Bush and Osama Speeches

6. October 21, 2001 – Bush Signs the USA PATRIOT Act into law

After being passed by wide margins in Congress by both Republicans and Democrats, President Bush signed the Patriot Act into law on October 26, 2001. USA PATRIOT Act is an acronym which stands for “Uniting and StrengtheningAmerica by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001.” This controversial act, which many believe violates civil liberties and the right to privacy of American citizens, allows for ease of access to telephone, e-mail communications, medical, financial, and other such records of anyone suspected of terrorist activity by federal authorities without the necessity of a warrant. It also allows for the detainment of immigrants suspected of terrorism.

2002

7. January 29, 2002 – Bush Defines “Axis of Evil” in State of the Union Address

With approval ratings still hovering around 80%, President Bush delivered his first State of the Union address since the 9/11 attacks. While he did devote some time to addressing the 2001 economic recession and the Enron scandal, most of the speech was devoted to discussing the war on terror. In it, he defined the “Axis of Evil,” a term which he would continue to use throughout his Presidency to describe rogue nations and regimes around the world. He specifically pointed to Iraq, Iran, and North Korea:

“Our second goal is to prevent regimes that sponsor terror from threatening America or our friends and allies with weapons of mass destruction.  Some of these regimes have been pretty quiet since September the 11th.  But we know their true nature.  North Korea is a regime arming with missiles and weapons of mass destruction, while starving its citizens.

Iran aggressively pursues these weapons and exports terror, while an unelected few repress the Iranian people’s hope for freedom.

Iraq continues to flaunt its hostility toward America and to support terror.  The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax, and nerve gas, and nuclear weapons for over a decade.  This is a regime that has already used poison gas to murder thousands of its own citizens — leaving the bodies of mothers huddled over their dead children.  This is a regime that agreed to international inspections — then kicked out the inspectors. This is a regime that has something to hide from the civilized world.

States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world.  By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger.”

Bush received much criticism for his “Axis of Evil” designation, often being described as a war monger who was “declaring war on the world,” but he was without apology.

Link: Transcript of the 2002 State of the Union Address

2003

8. February 1, 2003 – Space Shuttle Columbia Disaster

Less than 20 years after the Space Shuttle Challenger was destroyed, the Space Shuttle Columbia became the second space shuttle in history to destruct. Sixteen minutes before it was to land at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the shuttle broke apart over Texas upon reentry. The seven astronauts onboard were killed. These were:  Commander Rick D. Husband, Pilot William C. McCool, Michael P. Anderson, David M. Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Laurel Clark, and Ilan Ramon. It was later revealed that the cause of the tragedy was a piece of styrofoam that had hit the left wing at launch.

Video: Space Shuttle Columbia Disintegration, Explosion

9. April 9, 2003 – Statue of Saddam Falls in Baghdad

The most iconic image of the Iraq war was that of the fall of the statue of Saddam Hussein in Firdos Square, Baghdad. The toppling signaled the end of Saddam’s brutal reign as U.S. forces began to seize control of the Iraqi capitol. No longer was Saddam the ruler of Iraq; Iraqi civilians, who at one point would have been killed for mocking the dictator, were now stomping on the image of his face, hurling insults and shouting jubilantly as they triumphantly celebrated the end of a rule of tyranny.

Video: Toppling of Saddam’s Statue Live On Sky News

2004

10. May 17, 2004 – Massachusetts Becomes First U.S. State to Legalize Same-Sex Marriage

When the Judicial Supreme Court of Massachusetts ruled in Goodridge v. Department of Public health that it was unconstitutional to deny same-sex couples the right to marry, Massachusetts only the sixth jurisdiction in the world and the first state in the U.S. to legally recognize same-sex marriages. Afterward, the issue of same-sex marriages turned into a cultural battle zone as religious groups went to war in order to “preserve the sanctity of marriage” (as they saw it). Over the next few years, several other states would legalize same-sex marriage, including New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Iowa, and the District of Columbia. Legalization in California lasted for only a short time before Proposition 8 overturned it in 2008.

11. June 5, 2004 – Former President Ronald Reagan dies

In the midst of the heated 2004 Presidential campaign between John Kerry and President George W. Bush, the world lost one of its greatest leaders when former President Ronald Reagan, who had been suffering with Alzheimer’s disease for ten years, passed away in his Los Angeles home at the age of 93. He was also known as “the Gipper” and “the Great Communicator.” Reagan’s death was significant because of the impact of his Presidency; he began the “Regan Revolution,” which emphasized the conservative principles of smaller government, personal responsibility, individualism, lower taxes, and self empowerment. He was also highly respected for helping to bring the Cold War to a decisive, non-violent end, and for his famous speech at the Berlin wall, in which he famously urged, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

Video: “Tear Down This Wall”

12. November 2, 2004 – Bush Wins Reelection Against Sen. John Kerry

The war in Iraq placed a serious strain on President Bush’s approval rating, as he came falling down from a high of 90% approval in the early months of the war in Afghanistan. Many, eager for a quick end to war, thought that Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) had a good chance at defeating him in the 2004 election. However, a blistering series of campaign ads against Sen. Kerry by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth that alleged he lied about their service in Vietnam seriously damaged his credibility and Bush was reelected to serve a second term, winning both the popular vote and the electoral vote by comfortable margins.

Link: CNN: America Votes 2004

13. December 26, 2004 – Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami Kills Over 230,000

On December 26th, an undersea megathrust earthquake occurred in the Indian Ocean. It had a magnitude between 9.1 and 9.3, making it the second largest earthquake ever recorded, and the biggest earthquake in the Indian Ocean in around 700 years. The earthquake then trigged a series of tsunamis that struck over a dozen countries, including Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, Somalia, Burma, Maldives, Malaysia, Tanzania, Seychelles, Bangladesh, South Africa, Yemen, Kenya, and Madagascar.

In all, approximately 230,000 people died, the third largest death toll ever resulting from an earthquake. It is only topped by the Tangshan earthquake of 1976, which killed 242,000, and the Shaanxi earthquake of 1556, which killed 830,000.

Link: Asian Tsunami Web Archive

Video: Another Up-Close Video of the Tsunami

2005

14. March 18, 2005 – Terri Schiavo Case Ignites Nationwide Right-to-Life Battle

Terri Schindler Schiavo had been in hospice care since 1990 at the age of 26, when an unexplained event caused her to go into cardiac arrest and a resulting lack of oxygen caused her to develop a severe neurological disorder that left her in a near vegetative state. Over the years, her parents and siblings, the Schindlers, fought her husband, Michael Schiavo, to keep her alive. Even as Michael moved in with another woman and raised kids with her, he refused to grant the Schindler family custody of Terri, who wanted to take care of her themselves. They insisted that she was not completely brain dead, citing the fact that she seemed to respond to them in small ways, even by smiling. Her husband, on the other hand, made several attempts to have her feeding tube removed and allow her to die of dehydration.

On March 18, 2005, he succeeded in having her feeding tube removed after a court order by Judge George W. Greer, and the battle over Terri’s right to live or die ignited a nationwide firestorm that brought protesters and supporters of the Schindler family from all across the country to stand in solidarity, praying for a reversal of the decision even as Terri lay dying. Many people were arrested as they symbolically attempted to enter the hospice with a cup of water. Everyone from Florida Governor Jeb Bush, to Congress, to President George W. Bush got involved. Congress passed a bill on a 203-58 vote that allowed a federal judge to review the case. Later, President Bush said that “In cases like this one, where there are serious questions and substantial doubts, our society, our laws and our courts should have a presumption in favor of life.”

The effort failed, however, and on March 31, after 13 days of dehydration and starvation, Terri died at the age of 41.

Link: The Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation

Video: President Bush Addresses the Schiavo Case Following Her Death

15. July 7, 2005 – Terrorist Attack on London

For the United Kingdom, 7/7 was the day terrorism became a tangible reality and not just a series of images from across the ocean. The bombings took place during the morning rush hour, carried out by four British Muslim men. Three bombs went off in three London Underground trains, with a fourth going off on a double decker bus. The blasts ended up killing 52 people, as well as the four bombers themselves. Approximately 700 were injured in the blasts. The bombings served as a reminder that Islamic radicals had no plans to relent in their war against Western society.

Link: BBC News Special Report: In Depth Coverage of the London Attacks

16. August 29, 2005 – Hurricane Katrina Ravages New Orleans, Mississippi

In one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history, Hurricane Katrina made landfall as a Category 4 storm. For years, the Louisiana and New Orleans governments had known that that the New Orleans levees were insufficient to withstand a Hurricane of such magnitude, but had failed to address the issue. On the morning of August 29, the levees were breached and New Orleans went underwater as over 30,000 evacuees headed for refuge at the Superdome.

Most people fail to realize, however, that while New Orleans suffered tremendously due to the breach of the levees, Mississippi–and especially the Mississippi Gulf Coast areas of Gulfport and Biloxi–was hit by the worst part of the storm. I myself, being about an hour and a half inland, witnessed much destruction first hand as the storm ripped through the Hattiesburg area.

A picture I took of the bike trail behind my backyard the day after Katrina hit the Pine Belt.

There were failures at all level of government, from the local New Orleans level with Mayor Ray Nagin, to the State level with Governor Kathleen Blanco, to the federal level with President George W. Bush. Even though more of the responsibility probably lies with the state and local governments, especially for their refusal to prepare long before the storm ever hit, most of the blame was placed on George W. Bush, and his Presidency never recovered while he was in office.

In all, at least 1800 lives were lost when Katrina hit, with hundreds missing and hundreds of later deaths resulting from the disaster.

Link: NOLA.com Hurricane Katrina Archive

Link: Pictures of the Damage in Biloxi and Gulfport

2006

17. December 30, 2006 – Former Iraqi Dictator Saddam Hussein Hung for Crimes Against Humanity

Once the fearsome dictator of an oppressed Iraq, Saddam Hussein was hung after being tried by the people he once oppressed. The crimes he committed during his reign were innumerable, and the body count is likely in the hundreds of thousands. But one single conviction–a conviction for crimes against humanity in the killing of 148 men and boys in the town of Dujail in 1982–was what earned him the death sentence. Those who were present at the hanging report that he was strangely submissive, and wore a look of fear upon his face. At 6:10 AM, Hussein died, and his hanging was aired hours later on Iraqi television. Iraqis and Iraqi-Americans celebrated in the streets, dancing, singing, and shouting. For many, a reign of terror was finally over, and there was no longer any reason to fear Saddam Hussein.

“Saddam Hussein’s execution comes at the end of a difficult year for the Iraqi people and for our troops,” President Bush said in a statement. “Bringing Saddam Hussein to justice will not end the violence in Iraq, but it is an important milestone on Iraq’s course to becoming a democracy that can govern, sustain and defend itself, and be an ally in the war on terror.”

2007

18. January 10, 2007 – Bush Announces Iraq Troop Surge

At a time when the war in Iraq had been going very badly, even after the execution of Saddam Hussein, many were doubtful that victory was possible. It was at this time that President Bush ordered a troop surge in Iraq. The surge extended the stay of some soldiers, and sent an additional 20,000 troops to Iraq to help stabilize the region. While the decision was widely criticized at the time and many doubted it would be successful, the surge is now widely seen as a success, and Iraq is in a much more stable condition than it was years ago, so much that it became possible to begin withdrawing troops at a significant pace this past year. President Obama would later take inspiration from the surge and announce his own surge in Afghanistan. Though he originally opposed the surge in 2007, claiming that the President should focus instead on diplomacy, and then going onto say months after the surge that it wasn’t working, he eventually admitted that the surge was a great success and modeled his own surge after it.

2008

19. August 29, 2008 – Sarah Palin Announced as John McCain’s Running Mate

New life was breathed into John McCain’s flagging campaign when he introduced then Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate in the 2008 election. Combined with a record of taking a strong stance against corruption, the Republican establishment in Alaska, and her conservatives credentials, she immediately became the rock star of the Republican party. Following on the heels of Hillary Clinton’s historic run for the Presidency, Palin became the second woman in history to run for the Vice Presidency, and the first in the Republican party to do so.

For the first time, the Obama campaigned was afraid. But the political landscape at the time meant that no Republican, not even one on a ticket that included someone as electrifying as Sarah Palin, stood a chance against Barack Obama. Still, Sarah Palin became one of the most important people in America soon after her ascendency as John McCain’s running mate.

Video: Sarah Palin Introduced as V.P. Nominee

20. September 14, 2008 – Lehman Bros. File for Bankruptcy

The ominous signs for the economy were clearly in place when the Lehman Bros. filed for bankruptcy in September of 2008. The events of this day would be followed up by numerous bailouts, massive stimulus spending, and an uncertain economic climate in which unemployment would soar to heights such as had not been seen since the recession that President Ronald Reagan inherited in the early 80s. It was this event, perhaps, which sealed the 2008 Presidential election for Barack Obama.

21. November 4, 2008 – Barack Obama Elected 44th President of the U.S.

Riding a wave of promises of “hope” and “change,” Senator Barack Obama of Illinois became the President Elect of the United States on November 4, 2008, comfortably beating his opponent, Sen. John McCain of Arizona. He made history in a profound way as he became the first man of African ethnicity to be elected to the highest office in the land. “If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer,” he said.

Video: Fox News Coverage of the Election Night at the Moment of Obama’s Win

2009

23. April 15, 2009 – Tax Day Tea Party Protests

Following President Obama’s economic stimulus package and bailouts of companies like GM and Chrysler, many Americans became angry at the out of control government spending and took to the streets.

Summoning the spirit of the American Revolution, these “tea parties” sought to emulate the Boston Tea Party, by sending the message to the government that “You work for us, not the other way around.” It became one of the largest grassroots movements in U.S. history, with a bipartisan coalition of Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Liberals, and Conservatives all joining the cause. The Tea Party movement first really took off on Tax Day 2009.

22. June 12, 2009 – Iran’s Presidential Election Sparks Outrage

Iran burst into chaos after the results of the 2009 Iranian election showed that incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, an avowed enemy of the United States who has threatened to “wipe Israel off the map,” had won re-election with 62% of the vote. However, many in the media and people across Iran who longed for new leadership had suspicions that the elections had been rigged. His opponent, Mousavi, immediately issued a statement, declaring “I’m warning that I won’t surrender to this charade!”

Angry, often violent protests ensued across Iran by citizens hungry for freedom from Ahmadinejad’s oppressive rule. These protests led to clashes with police, government censorship, and even deaths. One woman, Neda Soltani, became a symbol and a rallying cry in the Iranian fight for freedom when she was gunned down and killed by the police while peacefully protesting. She effectively became the “voice” of the rebellion, which is fitting; Neda, when translated, means “voice.” Neda’s family were barred by the government from holding a public funeral for her.

Link: CNN Coverage

Video: Neda (Graphic Content Warning)

24. November 5, 2009 – Fort Hood Attacked

The first Islamic terrorist act in the United States since 9/11 took place in Fort Hood, Texas on November 5, 2009. Major Nadil Malik Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, opened fire at the Fort, killing 12 and injuring 31.  Hasan was also shot and wounded, but survived.

While links to Al Qaeda and an extremist Mosque have been found, whether or not there was outside help or influence on Hasan has not yet been made clear. Maj. Hasan had displayed troubling signs many times, and especially in the days before the attack, after becoming upset upon learning that he was to be deployed overseas on November 28th.

The massacre was the worst mass shooting ever on a military base.

25. November 13, 2009 – Obama Administration Decides to Hold 9/11 Terrorist Trials in New York

As part of the Obama administration’s plans to close Guantanamo Bay prison, the President and the Attorney General made the decision to move five of the 9/11 masterminds to New York City to face a civilian court trial. Under the Bush administration, the terrorists had been used to extract information, and were in the process of facing military tribunals–which is the normal procedure used to try enemies of war.

Among the terrorists was 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, who is responsible for the 2002 beheading of American journalist Daniel Pearl.

Many 9/11 families, New York citizens, and military families–including Pearl’s father–were outraged at the decision.

Link: My December 2009 Newspaper Opinion Article on the Trials

 

 

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