A NEW YEAR is on its way, a fact I find both both disconcerting and comforting. Disconcerting, because by the time winter rolls around, the current year becomes a familiar figure, with clear high and low points: to leave it is to enter a vague sense of uncertainty. And the number looks weird. Two, zero, one two. It will take a few weeks to get used to writing it. But it is also comforting, because no matter what has happened in the last year, the new year promises a fresh outlook on the world. As 2012 approaches, I find myself and others around me reflecting on the past and considering what the future may hold.
Here is my final reflection for the year, a brief overview of what filled me with hope and despair in the last 365 days.
Ron Paul, the octogenarian congressman from Texas has been a fixture in the American political landscape since he first entered it in 1976(the bicentennial being a fitting year for a patriot to assume office). In the past several decades, Paul has fought an uphill battle to inspire Washington with his libertarian ideals. He has bucked the conventional wisdom on the Capitol, arguing for the elimination of the Federal Reserve and the deregulation of illicit drugs. Now it looks as if Congressman Paul’s efforts have paid off, with an Iowa poll indicating that he is almost tied with front runner Mitt Romney. Assuming Paul wins the Iowa caucus, he faces considerable challenges in New Hampshire, where Mitt Romney is favored by Granite State voters. But Paul’s success late in his career remains proof that if one sticks to their ideals for long enough, they may finally gain influence.
I’ve always thought that T-Mobile’s ads were spunkier than AT&T’s. But that is not the only reason I am glad that the planned merger between the two companies failed. Since the 1980s, media and telecommunications corporations have grown significantly larger. As a result, companies like Comcast — which has been accused of operating a monopoly in cities including Chicago, Boston and Philadelphia – have received low rankings for their customer service. AT&T claims that the nixing of its merger with T-Mobile presents a loss for customers. If anything, the I would assume that the opposite is true: cell phone users will now have one more company to choose from, for the foreseeable future.
Many internet users have already heard of the Stop Online Piracy Act (HR 3261). The stated aim of the bill, introduced by Texas Congressman Lamar Smith, is included in its title: to “promote prosperity, creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovation by combating the theft of US property…”. For years now, people online have been pirating movies, music, and a whole host of copyrighted media, activities supporters of the bill would like to end. But in doing so, the bill proposes the blacklisting of websites that aid copyright infringement, a move which some worry could affect websites like YouTube and Wikipedia (despite Congressman Smith’s statement that such sites will not be targeted). In turn, the legislation’s social impact could be far reaching. in 2011, more content was shared over social networks than ever before, particularly on mobile phones. The free-for-all sharing of copyrighted materials is a new reality for the youth. SOPA and its sponsor Lamar Smith, backed by Hollywood behemoths, threaten to usurp our ability to freely exchange information along with the royalties film studios and record labels feel they are owed. There’s only one problem: it’s 2012, not 1999.
War against terrorists is a messy business, but this does not mean that those civilians killed in the process deserve to be ignored. A popular way to attack terrorists has been through the use of airstrikes. But these attacks sometimes kill civilians or non-enemy targets, as a NATO airstrike on a Pakistani military base in November has proven. Last week a Turkish airstrike around its border with Iraq killed 35 Kurdish civilians. The airstrike, which was intended to attack Kurdish rebels – an explanation of which some are skeptical – only hurts the reputation of the Turkish government, which has been fighting the Kurdish separatist PKK since the 1980s. Nor is the US government exempt from criticism, with President Obama having increasingly depended on drones to fight the war on terrorism. Atlantic Monthly editor Ta-Nehisi Coates reflected about the killing of 16 year old Pakistani Tariq Aziz in a piece titled “Obama’s Robot Army“: “I wonder about that 16 year old’s younger siblings, about what they think of a country that excetures children a world away with a joystick.” Chilling thought, is it not?
Tune in next week for my first observations on 2012.