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.

2009 – Harry Patch, the last veteran of the Trenches of World War One, dies

At the time of Harry Patch’s death, he was aged 111 years and 38 days. The last surviving World War One veteran to have fought in the trenches of the Western Front, he was nicknamed “the Last Fighting Tommy.”. His great age made Patch the third-oldest man in the world, the oldest man in Europe and the 69th oldest man in history (at least, history since reliable records were kept).

In his later years, Harry Patch was deeply cynical about his experience of war, and the politicians who start but never fight in these wars. Patch was a passionate opponent of war for most of his life, and did not hate his former enemies; rather, he pitied enemy and ally alike. As he put it:
Irrespective of the uniforms we wore, we were all victims.

Referenced in:

Harry Patch (In Memory Of) — Radiohead

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.

January 20, 1977 — The end of the Ford administration temporarily returns Henry Kissinger to obscurity

Henry Kissinger once received the Nobel Peace Prize for failing to negotiate a peace treaty. Which tells you close to everything you need to know about the man: he is lauded out of all proportion to his actual achievements. Realistically, his single greatest achievement is avoiding prosecution in the downfall of the Nixon administration.

I’ll back up. Kissinger was Nixon’s Secretary of State and later his National Security Advisor. As such, he was a major architect of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War (and thus, of America’s defeat in the Vietnam War). A proponent of Realpolitik (which is basically the doctrine that morality comes second to winning in politics), Kissinger was not a bloodthirsty man, but a callous and indifferent one. If other people had to die for him to get what he wanted, so be it.

He remained in office throughout the Ford administration, while he largely disappeared during the Carter years, Reagan relied on him for advice, as have almost all his successors in the Oval Office. Kissinger is still seen as an authority on US foreign relations even today – in 2016, Clinton boasted that he was one of her advisors (and Sanders boasted that Kissinger was not, and would never be, one of his advisors).