Open Thread: Best and Worst of 2013

Rather than produce our own take on the high and low point of the year that is rapidly coming to a close, we thought readers would have fun identifying and debating their picks for the best and worst events of 2013.

Since I have my nose stuck in newsflow, I may be showing a lack of perspective in finding it hard to single out the most heinous misdeeds given that many of them are part of an overarching effort to put a new, ugly political and economic order being put into place (and suffering through the propaganda is almost as bad as the being on the losing side of this campaign). However, the worsening conditions at Fukushima and Chinese-Japanese-US brinksmanship are clearly candidates.

On the positive side, the Snowden revelations and Putin giving Obama a (barely) face-saving way to back out of escalating the Syrian conflict into what looked likely to become a full-blow regional war.

So readers, what do you flag as the standout events of 2013 and why?

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  1. David

    One stand out event on the positive side, is the unfreezing of relations between
    the US and Iran. This goes beyond the possible settlement of the nuclear issues
    and includes the dawning realization that supporting the Saudis is not a good thing.

  2. Wayne Reynolds

    On the positive side, the elevation of Jorge Mario Bergoglio to Pope Francis. The world is in serious need of a moral leader. So far, he is filling a huge void. It is difficult to imagine that this could be coming from the modern Catholic Church.

    1. Jackrabbit

      One of the Church’s traditional roles is to deflect discontent. Seems that the elites need that more than ever these days.

      Another Obama-like faux ‘community leader’ or the real deal? There is a little too much hype surrounding this new prelate for my liking but only time will tell.

    2. David Petraitis

      If he is the real deal, he will be murdered.
      The powers that be do not like the truth being spoken by even little people like Snowden, much less a privileged pulpit like the pope’s.

    3. readerOfTeaLeaves

      On the positive side, the elevation of Jorge Mario Bergoglio to Pope Francis. The world is in serious need of a moral leader. So far, he is filling a huge void.

      Hear! Hear!

  3. Paul Niemi

    I would vote the worst of 2013 to include the admittedly pointless government shutdown by the House, and its prelude, a meaningless filibuster in the Senate by Ted Cruz, a Republican Senator from Texas (who actually looks like the late Joe McCarthy). The whole thing disgusted me and everyone I know, and it led to a 60 percent majority (NBC/WSJ poll) of Americans saying every member of Congress should be fired. I agree. Out with them all; the next election can’t come soon enough.

  4. dSquib

    Best: NSA revelations, increasing backlash to secrecy and information hoarding in government, hopefully also backlash to secrecy in democratic decisions, “free trade” negotiations etc.

    Worst: Increasing, though not new, tendency of politics to be mere protracted crisis management sessions broken only by agreements to defer to next crisis management session defined by an arbitrary milestone and some hanging sword, possibly bogus, until… election season!

  5. Paul P

    400 ppm CO2 in the atmosphere and the ongoing race to 450 ppm.

    In “Hell and High Water”, Joe Romm predicted that, by 2020, everyone will acknowledge that climate change is happening and the denial industry will have been defeated by heat, floods, draughts, and storms.

    1. Blennylips

      The Clathrate gun has been fired.
      The best estimate of the time that methane eruption in the Arctic will produce a mean atmospheric temperature of 8°C leading to total global deglaciation and the major extinction of all life on Earth (IPCC, 2007) is 2050.6 +- 3.4 (N=8) with a total range from 2042.2 to 2052.8 (Figures 1 and 2, Tables 1a – 1d, Table 2).

  6. Steve H.

    “The seventy-five years and twenty million dollars expended on the Grant Study points … to a straightforward five-word conclusion: ‘Happiness is love. Full stop.’ ”

  7. timotheus

    One of the worst: ongoing slaughter in Iraq for which our entire nation feels zero responsibility (to the point where it barely registers as news), despite having created the conditions for it.

  8. AbyNormal

    worst…Regulators Discover a Hidden Viral Gene in Commercial GMO Crops
    What Podevin and du Jardin discovered is that of the 86 different transgenic events (unique insertions of foreign DNA) commercialized to-date in the United States 54 contain portions of Gene VI within them. They include any with a widely used gene regulatory sequence called the CaMV 35S promoter (from the cauliflower mosaic virus; CaMV). Among the affected transgenic events are some of the most widely grown GMOs, including Roundup Ready soybeans (40-3-2) and MON810 maize. They include the controversial NK603 maize recently reported as causing tumors in rats. (i’ve used particular foods for medicine…now it will kill me/us)

    best: NC’s growth (my favorite part of the worlds library) and the followers comments.
    (so sorry Yves…i know you despise @ss-kissin but i cannot tell a lie heheee)

    “We learn from failure, not from success!”
    Bram Stoker, Dracula

  9. kjboro

    Best: Every act of kindness that happened every day in 2013.
    Worst: Share of voice these acts of kindness received in all media.

  10. DakotabornKansan

    2013 at its worst:

    Matt Taibbi, RollingStone, “Outrageous HSBC Settlement Proves the Drug War is a Joke,”

    “[Assistant US Attorney General Lanny] Breuer this week signed off on a settlement deal with the British banking giant HSBC that is the ultimate insult to every ordinary person who’s ever had his life altered by a narcotics charge. Despite the fact that HSBC admitted to laundering billions of dollars for Colombian and Mexican drug cartels (among others) and violating a host of important banking laws (from the Bank Secrecy Act to the Trading With the Enemy Act), Breuer and his Justice Department elected not to pursue criminal prosecutions of the bank, opting instead for a “record” financial settlement of $1.9 billion, which as one analyst noted is about five weeks of income for the bank.

    David Simon, creator of “The Wire,” at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas, Sydney, Australia:

    “America is a country that is now utterly divided when it comes to its society, its economy, its politics … And so in my country you’re seeing a horror show … You’re seeing the underclass hunted through an alleged war on dangerous drugs that is in fact merely a war on the poor and has turned us into the most incarcerative state in the history of mankind, in terms of the sheer numbers of people we’ve put in American prisons and the percentage of Americans we put into prisons. No other country on the face of the Earth jails people at the number and rate that we are…

    The last job of capitalism – having won all the battles against labor, having acquired the ultimate authority, almost the ultimate moral authority over what’s a good idea or what’s not, or what’s valued and what’s not – the last journey for capital in my country has been to buy the electoral process, the one venue for reform that remained to Americans. Right now capital has effectively purchased the government … So I don’t know what we do if we can’t actually control the representative government that we claim will manifest the popular will.”
    2013 at its best:

    This new boss is definitely not the same as the old boss…

    “All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.” – St. Francis of Assisi

    Pope Francis was the first pope in history to take the name of the patron saint of the poor.

    The hopefulness that the good Pope Francis exudes can be likened to a candle of hope in an increasing dark and impersonal world:

    “The worship of the ancient golden calf has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings.”

    “The times talk to us of so much poverty in the world and this is a scandal. Poverty in the world is a scandal. In a world where there is so much wealth, so many resources to feed everyone, it is unfathomable that there are so many hungry children, that there are so many children without an education, so many poor persons. Poverty today is a cry.”

    “A way has to be found to enable everyone to benefit from the fruits of the earth, and not simply to close the gap between the affluent and those who must be satisfied with the crumbs falling from the table, but above all to satisfy the demands of justice, fairness and respect for every human being.”

    1. rob

      the pope is the head of the Vatican bank, and absolute despot over the Vatican state…..He could take their untold Billions?, and feed the poor, clothe them, and do more good than flowery speeches and platitudes. He could lay bare what the world is. But he doesn’t.

      1. YankeeFrank

        Ulysses is correct. Francis is reforming the Vatican bank in fundamental ways, putting true reformers in place and redirecting the money to where its needed: the poor, refugees, the sick, etc., all while divesting the Vatican bank of any unseemly or questionable investments. He has reformed the Curia and is basically retooling the Catholic church from the ground up as one massive relief organization (which is what large swathes of it already were, when you consider the many nuns’ orders, Catholic Relief Services, the Jesuits, Franciscans, etc., etc., etc.). But now the entire church’s wealth is being redirected to these vital needs.

        He hasn’t even been Pope for a year yet and he’s done more than the past two popes did in several decades to reform the church. Its not just words with Francis. And even the words are biting and true — you never heard John Paul or that horror show Benedict railing against the injustice of global capitalism. They were too busy pardoning pedophiles and putting Nazi sympathizers in positions of power (all of which Francis is now undoing). The “Bishop of Bling” is one popular example: a German bishop who used tens of millions of church dollars to renovate “his” church and add luxuries and baubles has been sacked and his church is now an orphanage/homeless shelter.

        I’m not Catholic, but I love Pope Francis. He is so vitally needed at this time of complete neoliberal domination, poverty and misery. We need a hundred more like him in leadership positions and hopefully the coming years will inspire more to turn politics away from its current corruption and start to serve the people again.

    2. Dirk77

      Au contraire. The HSBC settlement was official confirmation that either: 1) the banks own DC totally, or 2) the War on Terrorism AND the War on Drugs are both shams, or 3) both.

    3. Banger

      Just a note on this Pope’s naming himself “Francis.” We have to remember that the Church hierarchy felt deeply threatened by the Franciscan movement. A century later the Franciscan order became something quite different as friars were known more for simonism and a party-boy mentality than humility. Thus Pope Francis made a symbolic turning of the Church towards Francis and away from the focus on power and money that the Church has a tendency to drift towards.

      1. Edmondo

        Of course, the whole discussion is rather moot since the Pope has admitted that he named himself in honor of Francis Xavier (the founder of the Jesuit order, of which he is a member), not Francis of Assisi.

        1. Banger

          That’s not what it says on Wikipedia–perhaps they were mistaken. At any rate, that’s what I saw in the press and is generally reported–a quick perusal in Google shows me that commentators believed it “echoed” the name of Francis Xavier but that the new Pope is reported in many stories to have been inspired by St. Francis of Assissi.

        2. savedbyirony

          Not true. He did not “admit” anything. He explained that as he was being voted in he was reminded by another Cardinal not to forget the poor, that he wanted to try to lead the church in the service of the poor, and so he chose the name Francis after St. Francis of Assisi.

        3. savedbyirony

          a short piece on the name choice

          It was a significant choice. No one had chosen he name “Francis” before. Too iconic of a religious figure, too much to live up to, somehow even picking it almost suggests a lack of humility. But if the name helps to remind this fellow daily of the struggles of all humanity and the daily destruction of this world, instead of being caught up in church Politics and the trappings of wealth and power, then it was the right choice.

          1. Eleni

            He took the name of St. Francis of Assisi. And pointed out that the choice of this name also honours Francis Xavier.

    4. AndyLynn

      DOJ’s decision on HSBC is, um, my fav – so to speak.

      aware of the many/other, but from this – there is *no* recovery…
      (which is to say: Obama smashing puppies skulls with an axe in the Rose Garden
      would be a blessing/not-a–big-deal in comparison.)

  11. craazyman

    Best was Lorde’s Royals Youtube sensation
    Worst was all the Doom & Gloom macroeconomics articles that only made the reader lose money and waste their time utterly when they could have been surfing Youtube. it’s unusual that a topic receives the “Worst” award two years in a row but it does!

  12. Ulysses

    Best: Pope Francis turns out to actually have a conscience and the courage to speak.
    Worst: The Banksters and their minions in government continue to do whatever the hell they like, not even pretending to respect the property rights of ordinary folks (Cyprus being an egregious example) that are supposedly essential to the glorious “free market.”

    1. Murky

      Likewise, the theft of depositors’ money in Cyprus banks was also my choice for worst event of 2013. Sets a precedent for other banks across the planet to simply steal from depositors whenever they please.

  13. Will

    Worst: Continued flood of evidence for non-linear catastrophic environmental damage happening on multiple fronts – global warming, mass ecosystem loss/mass extinction, etc.

    Best: Attending the Age of Limits conference at Four Quarters Interfaith Sanctuary in May. It really turned me on to the systemic nature of our environmental and resource usage problems, but more importantly personally was being face-to-face with other people who weren’t afraid to consider these issues, and who are trying to respond constructively as each sees fit.

  14. Banger

    First, 2013 was an excellent year for a host of reasons at least culturally/politically in the U.S.

    1) The rejection of the use of force against Syria by the American people and Congress may have been a critical turning point in U.S. history. Generally, it is always easy to stampede the American public to go to war by creating or reacting to a single event through the waving of flags and exhortations by the government and media to meet our grand destiny and so on. The public rejected that BS!!!! Even without a close understanding of the situation! In this way, I believe the public has grown immune to the endless grabbing of tax receipts by the military-industrial-security complex. Perhaps they will move on to see that the security risks the media advertises is non-existent (my view at any rate) and that there are real security threats from the government and the Wall Street oligarchs that are far more critical than the odd mental defective who gets caught in an FBI scam. All this has led to a move towards a modus vivendi with Iran that looks to be permanent.

    2) Even more important than what I just mentioned, was the election of Pope Francis wherein the Church is skidding into a dramatic U-turn and resurrecting Jesus as the center of the Church where He tends to be obscured by most of the recent Popes other than Pope John the XXIII. Unless the guy is whacked (a possibility) his Papacy could signal a dramatic change in world culture (there are a lot of Catholics).

    3) The revelations of Edward Snowden have had and will continue to have a dramatic effect in world history. The huge structure of the American national security state and it’s colonies (notably in the UK) has shown itself to be vulnerable and full of leaks. Snowden, in my view, did not act alone but may have been aided by dissidents within the intel community (there are such people–Seymour Hersh often reports their concerns). I think all this has deeply shaken the pecking order in Washington and has caused tech companies like Google to re-assess their relationship with the national security state. I believe that this along with public skepticism will gradually weaken the national security state apparatus itself that has gone unchallenged since Truman created the CIA.

    4) Finally, the slow-motion rebellion against the federal government that is building steam on the right and may, God willing, begin to build on the left. I personally believe the federal government has passed the tipping point wherein it has become a net-negative as far as the public is concerned because people sense that the government seems to be, largely, a tool for the elites and views us as subjects rather than our servants. This is a critical idea that shows no sign of lessening. Obama has been able to keep the left in thrall (as he was engineered to do) but that shows signs of wearing thin. I know people here condemn me for saying this but I see a movement to bring together the anti-authoritarian right and elements of the left hostile to Obama and not obsessed with the culture wars.

    5) I see some evidence that some elements of the public may be drifting towards a more spiritual outlook. I see a focus and a hunger by many Evangelical Christians to focus on inner change rather than forcing others to conform to the dictates of the culture wars. As these Christians are confronted by more friends and relatives who are gay they begin to see them as human beings who share a common humanity and are capable of developing genuine relationships with people of their choosing who they love and are loved in return. Love has a strange way of being infectious–and when we see gay people love each other how can anyone with a heart object? I believe this fact and the revival of the notion that we ought to be looking at the log in our eye rather than the speck in the eye of our neighbor will have profound effects. Similarly, I think New Age ideas are maturing and becoming less of a fad as people discover begin to take the advice of the Dalai Lama to pursue their own traditions faithfully because all spiritual traditions contain the Truth we need. Again, the Pope’s attitudes may well encourage this movement in Catholics who may rediscover the deep spiritual traditions within Catholicism that was often suppressed by the Church.

    On the bad side:

    We see a continuation of the stranglehold that vested interests have on this society. People are still being seduced and weakened by dependence on entertainment, consumerism, radical materialism, status-needs and so on. I think in the next couple of years, however, we will see a drift towards a more meaningful life.

    1. MikeNY

      Fantastic list, Banger, and really well said.

      Yes, I’d add No. 6 to your positives: the amazing progress made on equality for gay people in the US in 2013.

    2. TimR

      Snowden may have been aided by dissidents within the intel community. Or, maybe by some ambitious faction within the global elite? I’ve seen more than several very savvy commentators question Snowden and who is behind him. Dave Emory at speculates that German intel (BND) (or factions within it) may be running Snowden as a psy-op of some kind. He claims that Snowden’s revelations don’t amount to much, and cites articles where the NYT among other major media basically exposed all long before Snowden, to much less fanfare. He and others point to Greenwald’s ties to various billionaires with shadowy agendas. And so on, it can be argued both ways, but for me it’s a big question mark who he is and what interests he might serve.

      1. Banger

        Theoretically, I agree–only players really play in the Machiavellian game of international power-politics. But here’s the thing–not all forces are malevolent and there are more than two sides. Do I think Snowden/Greenwald are playing a “limited hangout” game? Yes I do. Do we have any idea what faction is supporting them or what their goals are? Not really–we should be looking at the whole picture but, frankly, most of us are afraid to do so.

        1. Synopticist

          I doubt he’s sophisticated enough for that, frankly.
          He’s ended up in Russia after all, which surely wasn’t his plan, and will be putty in the hands of the FSB. Unless wikileaks has been co-opted by them, (which is a distinct possibility, given Assange’s weird psychology), I reckon he was just what he appears to be- a geeky libertarian super-nerd out of his depth.

  15. susan the other

    In our perverse world of lies and double-speak the obviously horrendously bad things are good because finally we can see just how bad they are and we can begin to change. Obamacare tops the list of the good things that happened this year for this very reason. And nothing tops the incompetence of TEPCO and the ongoing Fukushima disaster/fiasco, and nothing ever will.

    1. Gaianne

      “And nothing tops the incompetence of TEPCO and the ongoing Fukushima disaster/fiasco”– “and nothing ever will.”

      That is my hope too.


      1. Gaianne

        P.S. I am starting to relearn the old technology of black-and-white photography. Specifically in order to make autoradiographs of food. (You put the food–leaf or a slice, in darkness–directly on the film. The radioactive bits create exposure where they contact the film.) It turns out folks on the west coast of the US should have started doing this two years ago. But it is never too late to begin.

        There are other applications of black-and-white photography as well, and we are going to need them. Computers and CCDs have no reliability of tech support and won’t do.


        1. AbyNormal

          Gaianne, it wasn’t till 2009 that i began to appreciate black n white photography. painting with color is all i’ve ever studied…then someone tutored me in what was beginning to draw my attention. now my eye understands…black n white capitalizes the ‘T’ in Truth.

          Congratulations on your endeavor’)

          The camera can photograph thought. Dirk Bogarde

  16. Ken Simpson

    Best: We all pulled together and stopped Obama’s attempt a “regime change” that would have led to multilateral war in the Middle East.

    Worst: The beat goes on as innocents are crushed under the weight of Capital and its minions. Same old, same old.

  17. Michelle LaRowe

    One of the worst things I learned about this past year is the systematic attack on public schools and teachers across the country. Manipulative laws coming from ALEC are hitting public schools and their union school teachers hard. The general media isn’t doing much of a job reporting it, with the exception of occasional locally based articles.

    With the addition of Common Core, another Obama fiasco, schooling across the country is suffering. (Just add education to the long list of other Obama administration disasters).

    On a good note, the movement to support public schooling has a strong and well regarded leader in the form of Diane Ravitch. Her latest book Reign of Error, as well as her blog, does a fine job of educating about this subject.

    1. Waking Up

      Don’t forget the endless promotion of Charter schools by billionaires Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates.

  18. Dan Kervick

    One that was announced recently: On the strength of fracking, he US has surged ahead of global competitors to become world’s top producer of oil and natural gas.

    We’re moving backwards.

  19. Anon

    The quote of the year for me, hands down, is this:

    “Further, it’s important to bear in mind I’m being called a traitor by men like former Vice President Dick Cheney. This is a man who gave us the warrantless wiretapping scheme as a kind of atrocity warm-up on the way to deceitfully engineering a conflict that has killed over 4,400 and maimed nearly 32,000 Americans, as well as leaving over 100,000 Iraqis dead. Being called a traitor by Dick Cheney is the highest honor you can give an American, and the more panicked talk we hear from people like him, Feinstein, and King, the better off we all are. If they had taught a class on how to be the kind of citizen Dick Cheney worries about, I would have finished high school.”

  20. PQS

    Worst: Boston bombing….not merely for those who died or were injured, but also because it reignited the worst tendencies of the police state which were portrayed as perfectly fine responses by both the media and the public.
    Best: Edward snowden. Learning more about Mandela and his legacy. Lots of good new music this year.

  21. Paul Tioxon

    Best Thing:

    Anthony Bourdain does a tour of the city of Detroit. More is revealed by a cook and accidental media star in an hour than the 4th Estate has reported in years. But of course, the truth now requires oblique strategies, through a scanner darkly. “I see it all backwards, but who wants hope?”

    Worst Thing:

    Mayor Nutter of Philadelphia puts the municipal utility, founded in 1836, The PHiladelphia Gas Works, out for competitive bidding. Finalists are preparing to close the deal in the next 60 days. The gas utility, known as PGW, along with the The Water Department, are the backbone of the machine know as the City of Philadelphia. Suspected price of sale:$1.5- $2B. Just in time for the cheap Marcellus gas pipeline to come direct from the wells on the state owned forest, which produces from that government owned site alone, as much gas as the city uses on a daily basis. The untaxed fracking business and the newly minted privately owned PGW, perfect together! None Dare Call It Conspiracy, its just market forces at work optimizing efficiencies.


    “Cabot Oil & Gas Co., which claimed 15 of the 20 most-productive Marcellus Shale natural-gas wells during the first half of this year, reported more eye-popping numbers Monday for its Susquehanna County operations.

    The Houston energy producer said that 10 wells drilled from a single well pad in Auburn Township produced as much gas in 30 days as the entire city of Philadelphia uses in an average month.

    In technical terms, the wells had a combined average 30-day production rate of 168 million cubic feet per day, or five billion cubic feet for the month.

    “This 10-well pad represents the new standard for operational efficiencies and technological advancement in our Marcellus operations,” Dan O. Dinges, Cabot’s chief executive officer, said in a statement.


  22. lambert strether

    Worst: Continued impunity for elite criminals of all sorts; continued consolidation of a lawless executive branch, whether in national security or rewriting the PPACA on the fly through revised regulations; permanently high disemployment; PE buys up housing stock for rental; planet frying; Facebook jumps the shark; George Zimmerman beats the rap.

    Best: Edward Snowden NSA revelations; failure of TPP to pass via fast track; Obama’s early and virulent lame duck status; no war with Syria; Walmart actions and other signs of more aggressive union organizing; continued penetration of MMT ideas into the mainstream; the ObamaCare rollout debacle as a teaching opportunity and frame for the crappy plans to come; George Zimmerman revealed as world-class asshole.

  23. jfleni

    RE: “Finally, the slow-motion rebellion against the federal government that is building steam on the right and may, God willing, begin to build on the left”.

    This is not very surprising; moronic defenses of the indefensible by jumped-up Generalissimos, dreadful failures of ordinary competence in simple administration, and stubborn inability to see the need for very drastic changes, all lead to the conclusion that the system must be untangled, simplified and re-started.

    Anyone looking at satellite photos of the USA can see at a glance that the 20 or so states of the industrial Midwest, Northeast and New England are where the lights are all on, and things are at least functioning fairly well, if not perfectly. The friendly parts of the Plains, Northwest, and California are similar.

    Everthing else are just the “flyspecks” of the Empire, and are rocks in the middle of the river holding up progress for the essential core.

    Dump Dogpatch-DC and the attached “flyspecks”! Maybe then “The North Will Rise Again!”

  24. JEHR

    Best: recognition for Alice Munro’s body of work;
    Worst: scandal in the PMO’s office that reveals how our PM works his “magic.”

  25. diptherio

    That ACA roll-out gets my vote for worst of year. In fact, the ACA maybe one of the worst pieces of legislation ever. Here’s my personal data point:

    Demographic: mid-30s, male, mountain west
    Yearly income: ~$11,000
    Monthly premium (for a bronze plan): $200
    Yearly deductible: $6,000[!!!]
    subsidy available from ACA: $0
    Medicaid eligibility: none
    Verdict: you’ve got to be kidding me.

    1. JCC

      The numbers are really bad, but the fact that it is required by law to buy into this makes it far worse. Pure Fascism/Corporatism… at it’s finest.

      I’d be willing to bet there is more to come

  26. Eureka Springs

    Bad or good, you decide… but this tired old Pope/Hope Psychology, based on an authoritarian following model, built entirely upon house of mythical cards no matter the sales pitch is why we humans repeat our worst failures for thousands of years running, imo. How much looting of Americans via the catholics vast health profiteering complex in the US alone funds their so-called charity? If WE didn’t let them loot us to begin with in doGmas name health care for all would be that much closer and that much more affordable. The reduction in demand for charity would far surpass what they are capable of providing after they loot.

    Great? Snowden’s action. Terrible, the way it’s being censored, horrifically slowly released by the fourth estate gate keepers. That these gatekeepers are the best Snowden could find. That, like the Pope, these gate keepers are called heroic at times like this. We live in a world where we can hardly count the ways in which we are probed, yet we are supposed to believe this dangerous, deceptive, criminal organization needs to be treated with kid gloves when it comes to the slightest exposure/truth.

    Bad… Syria. The US-Saudi-Israeli led lies (particularly the whole chem weapons charade) in attempt to lead us from the ignored fact we were deep in a semi-covert war joined at the hip with the likes of al Qaeda for years… and still all big political organizations/players from all sides did their level best to lie/escalate us into yet another air war…. and nothing will be done about it. All those bloody lying war criminals run free in their same positions. In disagreement with Banger I would suggest it was the Russians who kept our war mongers at bay, not US public opinion. Once a few bombs dropped, aired on CNN and a few US Soldiers were reported killed by an enemy public opinion would have flipped in an instant.

    Great… Arkansas State legislature decriminalized my 80 year old neighbor who milks a couple cows, makes cheese and butter and few dollars providing it to her neighbors. Community, the best foods at the best prices as close to home as could be… for now it’s no longer a criminal act. I must point out this was thanks to the otherwise wacky AR Republicans.

    1. Waking Up

      I agree with you Eureka Springs that it was the “Russians who kept our war mongers at bay, not US public opinion.” However, I also believe that when the British Parliament (our ally) voted AGAINST military intervention in Syria, it was a wake-up call to Americans.

    2. dandelion

      Not to mention that while turning the Church’s attention to the poor, the new pope reiterated that women would never be allowed to become priests and that the Church would never change its stance on birth control and abortion.

      So the very things that contribute greatly to women’s poverty, i.e. unplanned pregnancies and second-class job status, are nonetheless central to this pope’s worldview. And with women greatly overrepresented in the ranks of the poor, I wonder how he supposes global economic inequality can be significantly reduced without changing that second-class status. Though perhaps I’m being unfair. Perhaps he plans to make men wealthier and then the women with second class jobs and unplanned pregnancies can make better, if sometimes forced, marriages (that they then cannot leave.)

      Regarding the advance of gay rights, I cheer that. But it is a conundrum to me that gay rights are advancing at the exact moment women’s rights are under attack and retreating, since I’ve long thought gay rights and women’s rights were two side of the same patriarchal coin. Maybe the further advance of gay rights will come with increased social liberalism that will ultimately slow the attack on women, but I’m not sure. It’ll be an interesting world, that’s for sure, when gay marriage is legal in every state and Planned Parenthood has been shut down in the majority of them.

      1. savedbyirony

        While i agree with much of what you say above, to be fair Francis did not say the institutional church would never change its stance on birth control. In the west, it is almost a non-issue as far as the family planning of catholics is concerned because the vast majority of catholics ignore the teachings against contraception and frankly many, many priests do not bring it up with parishners, though enterprising Bishops are certainly willing to use the issue of birth control for political reasons and their behavior especially negatively impacts the poor and less well off. (It can be seriously argued that such birth control practices by the majority of the church actually make the institutional church’s teaching null and void by the catholic catachism, but that is a debate for another day.) Also, i don’t think it’s accurate to equate denying the catholic Priesthood to women with keeping them from better jobs and better paying jobs, or roles in secular leadership, esp. since the catholic church and its schools have played such an important part in the education of girls and women for quite some time now. It does, however, keep them from power, prestige and service within their own faith communities and women have been leaving the catholic church in droves over this for quite some time, which is exactly what needs to happen, as well as a growing membership in the few catholic churches that do ordain women, for the male only priesthood to end. By-the-way, i am pro women in the catholic priesthood but don’t expect Francis to lead the way. (It’s a sure bet that they will let male priests marry before they will ordain women!) It doesn’t make sense to expect it from his background and formation, plus if he tried to do it quickly and top-down without first re-instating female Deacons it would cause a great schism. The laity and the priesthood need to be the forces in the church leading the way for such a positive change. However, i do seriously fault Francis for continuing the prosecution and hostile takeover attempt of the American Sisters leadership organization, the LCWR, and such groups as Network Lobby which have been targeted by members of the Vatican/CDF and especially the U.S. Bishops’ conference for the exact works and behaviors Fancis is at present being praised for! These women didn’t wait around for some Bishop of Rome to finally decide it’s ok to actually act on catholic social teachings. They have been doing it for years and years, often without support from the boys club and being outright attacked for it.

  27. Eleni

    To finish off a tumultuous year, Putin’s rescue offer to the Ukraine in mid-December saved that country from the maw of a spiteful, destructive Germany-led EU. The EU planned, first of all, to shut down all of Ukraine’s industry. This is no small thing since Ukraine was the industrial & technological heart of the old USSR – producing everything from cars to spaceships and planes – and twice to three times as large as Germany’s combined industry. Second of course was to fire 2/3 of the civil service, cut salaries in half, raise taxes, create VAT, and increase the cost of all utilities, especially heating gas. Since Russia would have punished Ukraine by cutting off gas anyway, their new Russia-Ukraine mutuality zone is only win-win for Ukraine. And a well deserved humiliation for Merkel / Scheuble and the EU.

  28. Ric Can

    Three of The Best :
    -Malala Yousafzai – Pakistani girl attacked by the Taliban, shot a number of times, including in the head, survives to become a leading voice on the international stage against violence and oppression. Taliban forces vow they’ll attack her again; Malala continues her campaign.

    -Edward Snowden – Thank you for confirming our worst fears and delivering us from ignorance. Honorable mention to Glenn Greenwald and Wiki-Leaks.

    -Jeremy Scahill’s book Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield. Released in April of this year (now a movie as well), Mr. Scahill’s book is basically a report from the front lines of wars we never hear about, the ongoing covert actions America continues around the globe in the “hunt for suspected militants.” It’s hard to read or watch this without coming to the conclusion that President Obama’s continuation of the Bush / Cheney doctrine is producing more enemies than any group like al Qaeda could hope to recruit. Drone strikes, secret prisons, night raids… then the denials from the Americans etc. – it’s all here and in horrifying detail. Even presuming Mr. Scahill is a partisan actor…well I hope you read the book and decide for yourself; for me it was deeply disturbing and enlightening.

    Three of The Worst:

    -Tazreen factory fire. Another deadly fire in a garment factory in a “3rd world” country. In Rana Plaza in Savar, Bangladesh many popular brands of clothes were produced. A fire and the resulting collapse of the building claimed the lives of more than 1200 people, mostly young women. 1200. Half a year later victims and their families are still waiting for compensation. A good number of international retailers have agreed to fund the efforts but the American companies have refused on the grounds that only “unauthorized suppliers” were working at the Tazreen factory when it collapsed. So Wal-Mart, Sears, The Children’s Place will not help financially, though all have committed to “improving worker safety,” whatever that means.

    -The TPP and Trade Promotion Authority (Fast Track status) – Watch Yves and Dean Baker, on Bill Moyers show a few months back. I hope they can do a follow-up now that Wiki-Leaks has released some of the draft text.

    -Trial and Sentencing of Bradley / Chelsea Manning – and by extension the unprecedented crackdown and persecution of whistle-blowers and investigative journalists, the record-setting number of deportations by President Obama’s administration and the continued existence of Guantanamo Prison … it’s getting harder than ever to see through all this wonderful transparency we were promised.

    Maybe I should’ve reversed the order and ended on a more optimistic tone but “The Best” is what I think of first when I look back on the year. Here’s hoping 2014 brings many more…
    – Happy New Year Everyone!

  29. Synopticist

    My best point was not bombing Syria, despite wall-to-wall MSM cheer leading. In a way that was the true coming of age of the internet, where people are no longer dependent on the corporate media for information and opinion. Consent could not be manufactored for another idiotic middle eastern adventure where no-one seemed to be thinking about the consequences.

    The worst is still no bankers in jail, nothing from the LIBOR investigations, just big fat fines which are tax deductable. The effect on people’s perception of justice and the law is toxic.

  30. Klassy

    I was going to name the spectacle in Boston as a low point, but I think I agree with the commenter above who named the ongoing immiseration and slaughter of the Iraqi people and how much of a non story it is.

    positive– welcome back, class. And, maybe it is becoming a little more mainstream to suggest that we cannot have endless growth?

  31. LillithMc

    The worst for me was a young relative sent to prison for drug use in Virginia that is one of 4 states that promises to keep their private prisons 85% occupied.

  32. David Petraitis

    My candidate for worst event is the overarching evil achievement of the Obama Presidency in the making war crimes the official policy of the US government.

    But George W. Bush used a terrorist attack to declare war on the entire world while Barack H. Obama has gone even further, institutionalizing an assassination doctrine and dramatically increasing the level of drone warfare. These are war crimes and they are being committed right out in the open.

    We’re the Good Guys – Philip Giraldi

  33. Emma

    Worst of 2013: The ‘selfie’ of man.

    Best of 2013: The ‘selfless’ of nature.

    This is consequently, the fallible essence of life itself on planet earth…

    1. AbyNormal

      +10k Emma.

      “One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other.”
      Jane Austen, Emma

  34. Washunate

    2013 seemed good to me; lots of little things chipping away at the establishment even as some major embarrassments occurred. Banger has a great list above. Greenwald’s ability to get under the skin of our Fearless Leaders has been fun to watch.

    I think ACA may end up being the single biggest harbinger. It is a concrete disaster where the can-kicking simply can’t go on longer. Unlike some other more abstract issues like the national security state and financial fraud and the drug war, it directly affects lots of educated liberal households. And it is one of the few areas where the GOP has decided to act at least rhetorically as an opposition party. It is like Colbert’s correspondence dinner appearance, except the satire is unintentional.

  35. dearieme

    Snowden => huge, uncontrolled power of the US government at quasi-military matters
    Obamacare => utter incompetence of the US government at civilian matters

    Your Constitution isn’t working, chaps.

    1. Washunate

      The US Constitution is basically the only thing between the secretive authoritarianism of our current era and open American military occupation of most of the globe. The requirement to at least pretend to go through the motions has prevented both the Bush and Obama administrations from more overt acts of war against Iran and more generally going drone and torture happy on everything that moves.

      The real problem we’re having is that our Canadian and European friends have decided to jump on board with the thieves rather than oppose the predation. This has provided a lot of critical cover to what would otherwise have been unacceptably embarrassing statements by American officials.

    1. PQS

      Bwahaha! The sight of the empty square with her funeral on a lonely jumbo tron was deeply satisfying. “If you don’t believe in community in the end there isn’t any”

  36. Fíréan

    The full revelation of the post-Constitutian (America) USA. The low point with regard to the USA this last year ; the maltreatment and prosecution of whistleblower Bradley Manning, who disclosed governmantal and military wrong doing, the fact of Snowden having to seek political asylum in Russia after similarly disclosing wrong doing in the USA, and the revelation that all others disclosing such irregularities will be treated likewise to a greater or lesser degree. Peter Van Buren expressed this better earlier this year.

    Quote from Peter Van Buren article :
    On July 30, 1778, the Continental Congress created the first whistleblower protection law, stating “that it is the duty of all persons in the service of the United States to give the earliest information to Congress or other proper authority of any misconduct, frauds, or misdemeanors committed by any officers or persons in the service of these states.”
    Full text at either
    ( please excuse my lack of html text use for the links.couldn’t get that to work)

  37. Hugh

    If pressed I would say the rollout of Obamacare deserves special recognition for documenting how compromised our ruling classes of the rich and elites have become that they are no longer capable of managing with even minimal competence the scams they use to loot us.

    The slow motion collapse of Europe and the ongoing train wreck of Fukushima show that devolution is not simply an American phenomenon. And this devolution in our ruling classes is not about their inability to do good things well. It is about their incapacity to do anything well, even bad things like their looting of us.

    The Snowden revelations were important in and of themselves but even more so in the responses they elicited from our political leaders. Like many here, I think the time of piecemeal release of the Snowden materials is over and we now need to see them in their entirety. But still the spectacle of our political classes scurrying around like cockroaches caught in the light and their subsequent defense of blatantly unconstitutional and illegal programs illustrated once again that our problem is not a few bad political apples but a bad political system and endlessly corrupt and predatory political classes. That is their are no good guys among our political elites, no saviors, no white hats. The spectrum of political discourse runs between those who support 90% of what the NSA does and those who back it 110%.

    The Snowden stories helped me realize that the term “surveillance state” that I had been using was a euphemism for “police state” as the comparisons of the NSA programs to the East German Stasi made clear. People can question why the powers that be are constructing a surveillance state and wonder against whom it is aimed. But with a police state there is no such ambiguity. A police state is always directed primarily against its own citizens.

    Wall Street did not provide us with any best or worst moments but rather a heavy, steady rain of politically sanctioned and abetted looting. Keynes spoke only half the truth when he wondered how long markets could stay irrational. What he left out was how much abuse and looting we, the ordinary people of this country, could take before we say enough is enough and act to take back what has been stolen from us.

  38. John Mc

    The Best of 2013
    * Shared stories and sacrifices for hidden, expensive truths to be told (Whistleblowers)

    The Worst of 2013
    * Indifference, individualism, collective forgetting and the orgies of distraction (Neoliberals)

  39. thickhead

    The worst thing about 2013 were the garglers surrounding President Obama.
    Listening to teh idiotic incredible arguments from Obama’s minions and media enablers as they tried to convince the Democratic Party tribalists that Obama’s lie about keeping your insurance was not a lie just made my brain hurt.

    The best thing about 2013 is laughing at the garglers surrounding President Obama.
    Their indefensible defense of Obama has descended into incoherent gibberish.

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