2020 – one month at a time – January

Earthquakes, volcanoes, plagues, fire, floods, wars and rumors of wars – and an impeachment

By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index

By any definition, 2019 was a wild year. 2020, being an election year, a census year and The Chinese Year of the Rat, is likely to be even crazier.

There’s an old saying that everyone goes a little crazy during election years. Since 2020 will be Donald Trump’s final election campaign (though it could be argued that he never left his campaign mode) and the range of potential Democratic challengers raise, define or evade a variety of issues, to put it mildly, the whole world is watching.

There is more than politics to 2020 of course. By any definition, it is obvious that 2020 will be a historic year.

Just in January, we saw massive brush fires across Australia – with major habitat destruction and the estimated one billion deaths of native animals – almost all of which are species limited to Australia.

Extraordinary heat and drought conditions have led to extreme reactions – including the killing of 10,000 camels (because they drink too much water). (1*)

For some, these extreme weather conditions are final proof of the intensity of climate change. Others, even in Australia, are not convinced.

Catastrophic weather in 2020 has not been limited to Australia, of course. Indonesia’s capital city, Jakarta had floods that killed around 60 and left many thousands homeless. (2*)

Natural catastrophes are not just limited to the weather. Puerto Rico, still recovering from Hurricane Maria, was struck by a 6.4 earthquake (and dozens of aftershocks) early in January.

In the geo-political sphere, President Trump ordered the drone missile strike that killed Major General Qasem Soleimani who was essentially Iran’s second-in-command.

Besides promoting Qasem Soleimani to instantaneous martyrdom, if not sainthood, among his people, this act unified Iran (and its allies) against the United States and embroiled an already unstable region into chaos that will most certainly impact the rest of the year, if not many years to come.

Ukrainian Airlines Flight PS 752 was “accidentally” shot down over Tehran. All 176 onboard were killed.

Meanwhile, at the Washington state Blaine border crossing, about 60 Iranians (many American citizens) were held at the border for close to twelve hours and extensively questioned about their religion and ethnicity.

“World War III” was a top trending hashtag.

Tacoma’s North End was the site of the city’s first murder.

Brexit (Britain’s departure from the European Union) will show its impact over the next several years. From shifting trade and immigration policies to internal relations (as in independence referendums in Scotland and Ireland) (3*) the repercussions of Brexit will echo for decades, if not generations.

Given all this, the impeachment of a sitting US president and, across the pond, Great Britain to be exact, Brexit, possibly the greatest economic upheaval in the history of the British Empire is due to take effect – and both barely register as minor side-bar news stories.

And this was just the first week of 2020.

From humble beginnings, cities and new years begin.
From humble beginnings, cities and new years begin.

Week two of 2020

To put it mildly, I thought the first week of January would be a tough act to follow. How, after all, would you match a raging inferno in Australia, dozens, if not hundreds of earthquakes in Puerto Rico and wars, even murmurings of World War III online and in everyday conversations?

I think we did it though – the second week featured a “royal crisis” in Great Britain with Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan thinking about making North America their home. Impeachment papers finally making their way to the Senate, Iran files formal war crimes charges in The Hague against President Trump for the assassination of Qasem Soleimani (President Trump’s multiple threats to destroy Iran’s cultural sites would also qualify as war crimes).

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who served as a placeholder president in 2008-2012 to allow Putin to “observe term limits” has, along with most of the members of the ruling Politburo, resigned, opening the way for Vladimir Putin to become, like Kim Jung Un of North Korea and President Xi of China, “President for life”.

On January 15th, the Virginia state legislature passed the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), becoming the 38th state to pass the resolution. (4*)

Meanwhile, Australia is still burning and Puerto Rico is still shaking.

All this at halfway through January.

Week three of 2020

The third week of 2020 literally began with Martin Luther King Day, the third anniversary of the inauguration of Donald J. Trump as President, Tornado warnings in Grays Harbor County, the first incidence of Coronavirus (5*) (related to MERS and SARS) in North America (in Snohomish County). And the opening of impeachment proceedings in the US Senate.

Week four of 2020

The final week of January 2020 opened with the unexpected death of NBA star Kobe Bryant (and several others) due to a helicopter crash near Los Angeles.

The Coronavirus expanded exponentially, necessitating the near quarantine of 50 million people across China. And the cancelling of virtually every tour and mode of travel to, from and within the country. All of this was over the biggest – and most family-centered – holiday of the year, Lunar New Year.

The Coronavirus is not staying in China. As of the end of January, more than twenty countries had confirmed cases.

It is not expected to peak until April or May of this year.

The US Senate, by two votes, declined to admit any evidence or witnesses in the impeachment proceedings against President Trump.

After a near total ban on land mines for decades, US restrictions on their production and use were rolled back.

The USA proposed a Middle-East peace plan with no input from Palestinians.

In Great Britain, Brexit took effect at the end of January. As The Economist put it “Britain sails into the unknown”.

Who knows what the long term effects will be, but as companies relocated or closed, “Britain’s productivity growth over the last decade is the worst since the start of the Industrial Revolution 250 years ago” –https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/feb/03/uk-productivity-slowdown-worst-since-industrial-revolution-study.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has a most unstatesman-like toddler-style, F-bomb laced tirade at an NPR reporter. It is all recorded of course. And denied.

WSDOT cameras caught what appears to be Sasquatch at Sherman pass and Snoqualmie Pass. (6*)

A 7.7 earthquake struck between Jamaica and Cuba. Tsunami evacuations as far away as Miami.

The last few days of January, as you might expect, ended with some surprise plot twists.

The wind blew down a portion of the border wall between the US and Mexico.

“I will build a great wall — and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me” said the Florida-based contractor responsible for the construction.

Final economic numbers for 2019 were released showing an annual growth of 2.3% with 2.1% for the fourth quarter.

And in political news, it was announced that a Trump related charity was holding events in majority black communities where they were giving away envelopes full of cash. (7*) Strictly “by the book” they said. It was not immediately clear which book they were referring to.

Summary of the first month of 2020

No, it wasn’t your imagination. It really did rain almost every day through the entire month of January in the Puget Sound region.

Our game show host – I mean chief executive officer – of our nation has lived for decades by the celebrity dictum “There’s no such thing as bad publicity”.

In other words, any scandal, disgrace or catastrophe, as long as it keeps your name (and picture) on the front pages is, above all, free publicity.

Nothing is worse, at least according to this guiding principle, than being ignored by the media. Publicity, positive or negative is the one universal “vital sign” of being alive. Lack of coverage is one’s professional death warrant.

If that is our operating principle, 2020 will be one for the history books.

I keep thinking that the news could not get any stranger, but I am sure February will not disappoint.

As one wag put it on social media; After my free 30 day trial, I have decided that I’d like to cancel my subscription to 2020.

(1*) https://english.manoramaonline.com/news/world/2020/01/08/australia-10000-camels-consuming-too-much-water.html

(2*) https://apnews.com/da17ba784cbcc271a694300cf2785212

(3*) In 2014, the people of Scotland had a referendum: Should Scotland be an independent country? 45% answered yes and 55% answered no. Thanks to Brexit, a referendum in 2020 might come to a different conclusion.

(4*) Yes, I mean the ERA literally from the 1970s declared DOA in 1982. Let the legal wrangling begin.

(5*) Originating in China, where at least 4,000 have been infected, this pneumonia-like virus is highly contagious and can be fatal. Most of us dismiss the threat of pandemic disease, but 10,000 Americans die each year from the flu. Infectious diseases have killed more than all wars, noninfectious diseases, and natural disasters put together.

(6*) https://www.thenewstribune.com/news/state/article239605373.html?

(7*) https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/01/trump-charity-group-cash-envelopes-giveaways-black-communities.html