2001 — Gary Ridgway, the Green River Killer, is arrested

Gary Ridgway is one of the most prolific serial killers in American history. He was convicted of 48 separate counts of murder – but he has confessed to a total of 71, and some authorities believe that he may have murdered more than 90 people, almost all of them women. Favouring strangulation as his method of murder, Ridgway dumped the bodies in forested areas of King County, Washington state or in the Green River – it was the latter which led to him being dubbed the Green River Killer.

The murders took place over a span of about twenty years, beginning in 1982. Although no murders have been confirmed later than 1998, it is believed that Ridgway may have committed more murders between 19998 and his arrest in 2001. Ridgway’s arrest was as a result of DNA evidence gathered in 1987 – he had been a suspect for some of his killings since at least 1983.

Referenced in:
Deep Red Bells — Neko Case
Green River — Church of Misery
Skeletons in the River — Divine Pustulence
The Green River Murderer (He’s Still Out There) — Macabre

2002 — The Patriot Act takes effect in the USA

The PATRIOT Act (in full: the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001) doesn’t just mark the zenith of Congress’ love affair with torturous acronyms. It also marks the point where, in the name of protecting the freedoms of American citizens, Congress (with the enthusiastic collaboration of the executive branch) deemed in necessary to restrict, abrogate and even destroy those self-same freedoms.

Among other things, it introduced a sweeping new surveillance regime (including controversial provisions such as library record data mining and so-called “roving” wiretaps), increased the punishments for terrorism, provided for compensation for the families of people killed by terrorists, and beefed up both border security and the investigation of money laundering. In short, it was a mixed bag of things, some of which had a fairly tangential relationship to terrorism. Supporters of the Act (and it would cost a politician their career not to be one) said it was a reasonable and logical step to fight terrorism; opponents decried its attack on civil liberties and constitutional rights.

Referenced in:

Point of No Return — Immortal Technique

2003 – Valerie Plame is outed as a spy

In one of the more astonishing displays of the Bush Government’s belief that it was above the law, Valerie Plame Wilson was exposed as an agent of the CIA by journalist Robert Novak of the Washington Post. In the fine tradition of Woodward and Bernstein, Novak subjected secret information he had obtained to the utmost scrutiny before deciding to publish it in the national interest.

I’m kidding, of course. Novak was a stooge for Richard Armitage at the State Department, who leaked classified information to Novak for what appear to have been two purposes: one, to prejudice the trial of Scooter Libby, a Bush White House staffer whose criminal trial was a great embarassment to the administrationl and two, to demonstrate to Plame and her fellows at the CIA, who had placed reporting the truth about Iraqi weapons plans above the desires of the administration for a casus belli.

That’s right: the United States government deliberately exposed one of its own secret agents, ending her career and endangering the covers of other agents, pretty much from infantile pique that this woman had the unmitigated gall to do her job properly, instead of in ways that were politically convenient for it. Not since Job has loyalty and trust been so unjustly repaid.

Referenced in:

Valerie Plame — The Decembrists

2004 — Niyazov bans beards in Turkmenistan

Just in case there was any remaining doubt that he was a raving loony, Saparmurat Niyazov, President For Life of the Central Asian Republic of Turkmenistan after it won its independence from the Soviet Union, decided to ban the wearing of beards or long hair by men. (It is unclear whether or not women were still permitted to grow beards, but probably not.) Among other things, he also banned gold teeth, lip-synching during concerts and the wearing of make up by television newscasters.

Despite Niyazov’s death two years later of a heart attack, human rights in Turkmenistan remain very poor, with the nation running second only to North Korea in freedom of the press.

Referenced in:
Saparmurat Niyazov — Down I Go

2004 – Dimebag Darell is shot and killed

Darrell Lance Abbott – better known to fans as “Dimebag Darrell” – was born on August 20, 1966. He was not yet thirty years old when he was shot dead onstage at the Alarosa in Columbus, Ohio on December 8, 2004. At the time, he was playing with Damageplan, although he was best known for his work with Pantera (who had recently broken up).

The shooter was Nathan Gale. He shot Dimebag six times, killing him instantly. He then fired another nine shots, killing four other people and wounding seven more. Gale was shot dead by police at the scene.

Dimebag was buried in a Kiss Kasket donated by Gene Simmons, and buried with him was Eddie Van Halen’s guitar Bumblebee, also donated.

Referenced in:
Dimebag — Watcha
Aesthetics of Hate — Machine Head
Dimebag — Cross Canadian Ragweed
The Android of Notre Dame — Buckethead
Tribute to Dimebag — Michael Angelo Batio

2005 – Bunny Greenhouse testifies regarding Halliburton's corruption

Bunny Greenhouse was a rising star in the United States Army Corps of Engineers until the year 2000. Suddenly, under a new CO, her previously spotless performance appraisals were less so, something Greenhouse attributes to racism and sexism (claims which the US Army is yet to investigate).

In 2005, she testified before a public committee hearing of the Democratic Party regarding the Army’s deals with Halliburton, in particular with regard to waste, inefficiency, fraud, abuse of power and general corruption. Naturally, this led to the end of her military career, as the Bush White House apparently believed that free speech was something whistleblowers should be made to pay for.

Her actual words that day were an indictment of Halliburton, and by extension, the political, military and economic climate in which that company thrives: she described Halliburton’s dealings as “the most blatant and improper contract abuse I have witnessed during the course of my professional career.”

Referenced in:

Millenium Theater — Ani Di Franco

2005 – Hurricane Katrina destroys much of New Orleans

At 6:10AM on the morning of August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina made a landfall on the Louisiana coast near Buras-Triumph. After moving along the coast, it made another landfall near the border of Louisiana and Mississippi. Hurricane Katrina was the most destructive natural disaster to strike the United States in recorded history. The confirmed death toll was 1836 (in May 2006), however this is a conversative estimate, and does not include more than 700 people missing, nor indirect deaths.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the Federal Emergency Management Agency displayed a level of incompetence that was close to unbelievable. The level of it was such that corruption or deliberate malice seemed more likely explanation, just as this song suggests:

Referenced in:

George Bush Don’t Like Black People – The Legendary K.O.

2005 – Stanley ‘Tookie’ Williams executed

Tookie Williams wasn’t anyone’s idea of a nice guy. He was one of the leading members of the notorious Crips gang in Los Angeles throughout the Seventies, before he was arrested and convicted for numerous crimes, including four murders (although Williams claimed innocence in all four). While in prison, he spent a total of 6 1/2 years in solitary as punishment for various assaults on guards and other prisoners. There is no doubt that he was a violent and vicious criminal.

But he eventually reformed, and became a passionate opponent of gang violence. Williams published several books in support of this new belief, including some aimed at children. To all indications, he was an example of a rehabilitated criminal, and moreover, one who was still influential in the community he had come from. But despite all the good that he had done since his rehabilitation, and all that he might yet have done, without ever again leaving a prison, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger refused to grant clemency, and Stanley Williams was executed by lethal injection on December 13, 2005.

Referenced in:
This is Los Angeles — WC

2013 – The Guardian and The Washington Post report on PRISM surveillance

Edward Snowden became a household name when he leaked a series of explosive documents detailing the NSA’s PRISM program, which was allowed for warrantless surveillance of a vast amount of the internet. Email, chat, voip, social media, file transfers and other data usage – there are several companies providing this information, and the exact details of what data is available vary from company to company. The list of participating companies includes Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube and Apple – and all these companies are willingly cooperating the the US government (and certain of its allies) to provide this data.

The leaks were first reported in The Guardian and The Washington Post, but the world media was quick to pick up on the story, and further leaks were published by those two newspapers and others. Reaction was mixed: some saw Snowden as a hero, others as a traitor.

The PRISM program continues largely unchanged by the revelations, although it is claimed that some terrorists have changed their communication patterns in attempts to evade it.

Referenced in:
Party at the NSA — YACHT

January 16, 1920 — Prohibition officially begins in the USA

One of the most expensive and counter-productive intrusions of the government into the private sphere in human history, Prohibition was enabled by the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution. It banned the sale, production and consumption of alcohol throughout the United States. Naturally, it was immensely unpopular with the kind of people who like to drink alcohol, and these people, if they could not obtain their tipple legally, would do so illegally. The new law – which was also rather more heavily enforced on the poorer classes than than the richer, often by police known to drink themselves – lead to an incredible increase in the number and wealthiness of criminals, with a corresponding increase in violent crime.

Ultimately, Prohibition failed and was written out of law with another amendment to the Constitution, but the hand of organised crime had been strengthened in a way that, nearly a century later, law enforcement has still not brought back to pre-Prohibition levels.

March 25, 1990 — The Happy Land nightclub in New York is torched

Happy Land nightclub had been ordered closed for building code violations during November 1988, including the lack of fire exits, alarms or sprinkler system. These faults were never remedied, and fire exits were later found to have been deliberately blocked (to prevent people entering without paying).

The evening of the fire, Julio González had argued with his former girlfriend, Lydia Feliciano, a coat check girl at the club, urging her to quit. She told him to leave, and when he refused, she called the bouncer. González tried to fight back into the club but was ejected by the bouncer. He was heard to scream drunken threats in the process. Later that night, González returned to the establishment with a container of gasoline which he spread on the staircase that was the only access into the club.

In the resulting fire, 87 people lost their lives. González was convicted of 87 murders and 87 charges of arson, and sentenced to 25 years to life on every charge (a total of 4350 years), although he will be eligible for parole in March 2015 (the sentences for multiple murders are served concurrently under New York state law).