January 4, 2017: A Look Back At 2016, The Good, The Bad, The WTF!

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A Brief History

On January 1, 2016 we started a new year with the same hopes and expectations we normally start every year.  Despite all the acrimonious politics, the Obama years had actually been slowly improving across the economy, for rich and poor alike.  Job numbers had grown for 81 consecutive months (a record) and Obamacare resulted in more Americans than ever having health insurance.  A Presidential election year had begun, and it was widely thought that this year would see the first ever woman nominated by a major political party (Hillary Clinton by the Democrats) and that she would be elected as our first female President.  It was not to be, as television personality and real estate flim-flam artist Donald Trump breezed to the Republican nomination for President and won the ticket to the White House.

Digging Deeper

Quite possibly the biggest news of 2016, Trump’s election victory came with a record setting popular vote deficit of almost 3 million votes.  Plus, Trump had never served in the military or in any government capacity whatever, something totally alien to American politics.  Paradoxically, the outgoing Democratic President Obama was enjoying his highest approval rating in years.  2016 surely marked the end of any sort of political career and presidential aspirations of Ms. Clinton.

Another bizarre twist concerning the 2016 Presidential race was the hacking and subsequent release of information from the Democratic National Committee that embarrassed the Clinton campaign and possibly cost her the election.  The bizarre part came when it was revealed that the hacking had been done by Russian hackers working for the Russian government of dictator Vladimir Putin, the first known case of a foreign country influencing an American Presidential election.  Before the year ended, President Obama initiated overt sanctions against Russia and hinted at cover sanctions.  President-elect Trump meanwhile praised Putin and suggested we “move on” to bigger and better things.  Then it was reported the Russians hacked a New Hampshire power company in an attempt to seize control of the US power grid!

Another driving force in American politics was the “Black Lives Matter” movement and a general bashing of police while making martyrs out of African American criminals that had been shot by police.  Certainly some of these shooting were either unjustified or ill considered, but overall nothing new and overwhelmingly justified.  Hillary Clinton’s adoption of the BLM platform alienated so many White voters that it may well have been the issue that cost her the election.  Middle America was alarmed by a huge increase in attacks on and murders of police officers, presumably as a result of pandering to BLM protesters.  Perhaps because of the “Ferguson Effect” police in some major cities where police have been under fire seem to have withdrawn, resulting in increased crime and violence, including 760 (as pf 31 December, final tally not known yet) people murdered in Chicago in 2016, only 1 off the all-time record and about %60 above last year.  (Despite deniers of this effect damping police enthusiasm resulting in more crime, the liberal New York Times and Washington Post both support the theory.)  The Wall Street Journal and National Review, as well as FBI head James Comey also believe in the Ferguson Effect.

International politics in 2016 also boiled over Islamic extremists, both in the Syrian Civil War complete with refugee throngs fleeing to Europe and involving US and Israel relations, strained by Prime Minister Netanyahu addressing Congress without the consent of President Obama and later bitterly denouncing a US abstention on a UN vote over Israeli settlements in occupied territories.  In 2016 followers of Islam were at war with each other, with the US, with Europe (who had taken in millions of Islamic refugees!), with Israel and Jews living in Islamic countries, and with Christians living in Islamic countries.  Non-Muslims were virtually eliminated from majority Islamist countries in 2016, while extremists destroyed every non-Islamic historic site they could get their hands on.  Russia continued its bid to take over chunks of the Ukraine, and US-Russian relations reached a post-Cold War low.  Radical Islamic terror reached into the US and Europe, causing widespread nationalistic reflex response against allowing Muslim immigration, causing immense political backlash in Britain, where a vote to leave the European Economic Community (Brexit) stunned the world and in the US where anti-Muslim mania may have greatly enhanced Donald Trump’s Presidential bid.  We have yet to see if this backlash against Islamic refugee acceptance will cost Angel Merkel of Germany her job as Chancellor.  Brazil’s first woman president was impeached for corruption.

In the sports world, Peyton Manning ended his career as Super Bowl Champion, while the Cleveland Cavaliers, led by superstar Lebron James, won their first ever NBA Championship in historic fashion, coming back from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Golden State Warriors who had turned in the winningest season in NBA history.  After that act, the encore was the Cleveland Indians going to the World Series and taking a commanding 3-1 lead over the seemingly hapless Chicago Cubs, with the Cubs making an historic comeback to win their first World Series Championship in 108 years.  Cleveland, Ohio stayed in the news in 2016 by hosting the Republican National Convention with no major disruptions and by native (suburban) son, Stipe Miocic, winning the UFC Heavyweight mixed martial arts championship.  Meanwhile, the Cleveland Browns lost their first 14 games of 2016, a new low for a once proud franchise.  MMA fighter former Champion Ronda Rousey suffered her second consecutive loss by getting pummeled on New Year’s Eve, this time in only 48 seconds.  The most celebrated female fighter ever may well be through.  The 2016 Olympics were dominated by the US, but Ryan Lochte led some embarrassing drunken events in Rio that brought shame to the Olympic team.

The entertainment world lost a remarkable amount of performers in 2016, including luminaries such as actors Carrie Fisher (aka Princess Leia), her real life mother, Debbie Reynolds, Alan Rickman, Abe Vigoda, Dan Haggarty, George Kennedy, Gary Shandling, Patty Duke, Anton Yelchin, David Huddleston, Kenny Baker (R2-D2),  Gene Wilder, Alexis Arquette (transgender member of the famous acting family), Robert Vaughn (Napoleon Solo), Florence Henderson, Alan Thicke, Zsa Zsa Gabor, and so many more actors, screenwriters, producers and directors space precludes a complete list.  The music world lost David Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen, Glen Frey, Paul Kantner, Maurice White, Vanity, Sonny James, keith Emerson, Greg Lake, Frank Sinatra, Jr., Merle Haggard, Papa Wemba, Billy Paul, Guy Clark, Nick Menza, Christina Grimmie, Ralph Stanley, Bernie Worrell, Scotty Moore, Pete Fountain, Matt Roberts, Leon Russell, Holly Dunn, George Michael, and again, so many more we cannot complete the list.  Broadcasting lost Gwen Ifil, Morely Safer and John McLaughlin.  For crying out loud, we lost Miss Cleo! (Did she see it coming?)  Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird died.

The sporting world lost Arnold Palmer, Dave Mirra, Chyna, Lee Reherman, Joe Garagiola, Muhammad Ali, Kimbo Slice, Gordie Howe, Buddy Ryan, Pat summit, Jose Fernandez, Jim Simpson, Craig Sager,  Rashaan Salaam, John Sunders, Dennis Green, Nate Thurmond, Ryan Jimmo, John Rooks, Milt Pappas, Bill Johnson, Luis Arroyo, Monte Irvin, and an incredible array of football players and ex-football players.  The professional football career of former Cleveland Brown Johnny Manziel also probably died when the Browns released him in March, with him facing domestic violence charges and later civil charges for wrecking a rental home.  He also wrecked an attorney’s car for good measure.  In December of 2016 Manziel was still at it, drinking up a storm to the tune of spending $35,000 on booze over one weekend!

The political world saw the loss of John Glenn (senator as well as astronaut), longtime dictator Fidel Castro, Shimon Peres, Janet Reno (1st female US Attorney General), crazy Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, Supreme Court Justice Anton Scalia, former head of the UN Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Nancy Reagan, Elie Wiesel (Holocaust witness), Phyllis Schlafly (conservative anti-women’s libber), and King Bhumibol Aduyadej of Thailand.  On top of these, we also lost one of our most famous female photography subjects when Greta Zimmer Friedman died, she of the famous Times Square photo of a sailor celebrating the end of World War II by kissing the young lady.

How bad was 2016?  No world war, no nukes dropped, Zika virus fell far short of the Black Plague, so the year was probably not as bizarre or as terrible as it may seem.  For many folks it was probably a great year.  After all, in 2016, John Carroll University’s Paranormal Research Group (the Boo Streaks) investigated such locations as Cleveland Agora Theatre and the Twin City Opera House.

What do you think about 2016?  Tell us what you think were the best and worst parts of this most interesting of years.

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About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.