By Zach Peace
2017 has been a very strange year indeed.
Rand Paul Assaulted
On Nov 6 of this year US Senator Rand Paul was assaulted in his home and suffered serious injuries. This came at a time when the US was still reeling from countless acts of political violence including an attack on the Congressional Republican baseball team which led to a near-death incident for House Majority Whip Steve Scalise.
However, the biggest twist in this story was that the Junior Senator of Kentucky was not attacked for political reasons. A dispute over landscaping led Paul’s neighbor to attack him in his home last November.
The national media immediately jumped on this story, hoping for another big scoop on the mounting political violence in the United States, but the revelations that it the incident wasn’t politically motivated created an awkward night for broadcasters who had begun to speculate on what had happened.
On May 25th of this year Greg Gianforte was elected to Montana’s at-large congressional district as the US Representative for the state. The Republican candidate was the favorite to replace Ryan Zinke after the latter’s appointment to the Trump Administration, but the campaign suffered heavy losses in its’ days.
Gianforte was involved in an incident with Guardian Reporter, Ben Jacobs. Some reporters were asking Gianforte, who was embroiled in the final days of a special election that captured the interest of much of the nation, namely the well-funded national arms of the Republican and Democratic parties, questions regarding the state of the election. After Jacobs asked his question, Gianforte grabbed him by the neck and body slammed him to the ground.
Gianforte pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault in the incident, but was elected to the House of Representatives even in the wake of this incident. His Democratic opponent in the race, Rob Quist, is a well-known folk singer among the people of Montana, although it was widely expected that Gianforte would win before the incident. It should be noted that many Montanans had voted by absentee ballot, which were submitted before the incident. Regardless, Gianforte is now the US Representative from Montana and has submitted to anger management classes as part of his plea deal.
Freedom Caucus on the Tax Bill
After an intense few weeks of political infighting among Senate Republicans, they finally passed a major piece of legislation. The Republican Tax plan very nearly died in the Senate, just as the Obamacare repeal did earlier in the year. Following the passage of the bill, a procedural vote was held by the House of Representatives to begin the process of reconciling the bills passed by the two organs of Congress; there are minor differences between the two that need to be resolved before it can be sent to President Trump’s desk. During a vote to appoint negotiators that would serve on behalf of the House, the Freedom Caucus, most well known for bucking the Republican leadership all the time and shutting down the government a couple of times, withheld their votes and nearly killed the legislation.
In the aftermath of the incident, House Speaker Paul Ryan agreed to concessions with House Freedom Caucus Leadership. A prominent member of the group was given Chairmanship over the powerful House Ways and Means Committee and he agreed to put off the budget negotiation until late December. This incident highlight the divisions within the Republican party’s majority in Congress, as well as the lack of control Ryan has over his own caucus. It is also surely a sign of more division within the Republican party as we move into next year.
Big Men Fall
2017 may be remembered as the start of a major change in American society. In the last 2 months of the year, countless women have come forward to accuse powerful men in every corner of American society of sexual assault and abuse. These accusations have led to high profile members of the political realm and the media being forced from their positions. In the wake of numerous of these scandals, Congress is working to make sexual harassment training mandatory for all of its members.
Men accused and ousted include Matt Lauer, long time host of NBC, Harvey Weinstein, US Senator Al Franken, numerous US House members, and the Republican candidate in the Alabama Senate Special Election, Judge Roy Moore, who was narrowly defeated in the Republican stronghold of Alabama on Dec 12.
Another odd, yet unreported, story of 2017 has been the violence on the campus of Berkeley. This California university has had an excess of political violence in the last year.
Slobodan Praljak’s Death
In the wake of the collapse of the USSR, the nation of Yugoslavia became embroiled in a Civil War. Slobodan Praljak, a general in the war, committed numerous atrocities in the fighting and has been wanted for genocide by the United Nations for many years. He was finally captured and brought before a war crimes tribunal at the Hague.
Immediately after being sentenced, Praljak announced that he was going to swallow poison and die. He proceeded to, while still before the tribunal, swallow liquid from a glass and promptly died. It is not clear how Praljak obtained the poison.
Homemade Rocket Scientist
This was also the year that a flat earther named Mike Hughes planned to fly into the Earth’s lower atmosphere in an attempt to take pictures to prove, once and for all, that the Earth is in fact flat. The part-time limo driver has already launched himself in a rocket he built once, and had planned to try again this November. However, officials heard of his plans and told him he could not use public land to do this.
The rocket is inside a modified mobile home that Hughes owns and he planned to use it to launch himself 1800 feet into the sky.