Tag Archives: 2012

Iowa Democrats exploring ways to expand caucus

Democrats in Iowa are devising ways to expand access to their state’s leadoff presidential caucuses, addressing concerns raised by Hillary Rodham Clinton following her disappointing finish in 2008.

Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Scott Brennan offered a series of recommendations on Aug. 1 to members of the Democratic National Committee, including legislation requiring employers to give non-essential workers time off to attend the caucuses, allowing out-of-state Iowans serving in the military to participate by teleconferencing and creating satellite caucus sites for shift workers and elderly who can’t easily attend.

“There is nothing that we take more serious politically than our role in the presidential selection process,” Brennan said. He told the committee’s Rules and Bylaws Committee that “if there is a way that we remove some of these barriers … then we should do it.”

The former secretary of state’s name was not mentioned during the morning discussion but the changes appeared aimed at addressing some of Clinton’s chief concerns following the 2008 caucuses, when she finished in third place behind Barack Obama and John Edwards. Clinton complained then that the Iowa rules prevented people who work at night from attending.

Clinton is the leading Democratic presidential contender in 2016 if she decides to run again. Democrats in Iowa hope that she campaigns actively in the state and an outside group called Ready for Hillary has drummed up support for her in the politically influential rural state.

The Democratic caucuses require participants to form groups of candidate supporters and gather in schools, church basements and homes throughout Iowa. Supporters of candidates who receive less than 15 percent support in an individual precinct disperse, giving other supporters the chance to argue for their support.

Critics have said the process is less accessible than primaries because the meetings require Iowans to devote several hours to participate. Iowa Democrats said some of the proposals were first floated internally in 2007. Iowa _ along with New Hampshire, which holds the first presidential primary — has been forced to defend its role as a starting point in presidential politics against detractors who say the mostly white, rural state is not representative of the nation’s electorate.

In 2008, nearly 240,000 Iowans participated in the precinct caucuses, smashing previous records. But Brennan said the party wants to continue to make the meetings accessible. One of his proposals includes hiring a party official who is tasked with ensuring that counties make their meetings more open _ from offering baby-sitting services to ensuring that it’s accessible for people with disabilities.

Jeff Kaufmann, chairman of the Iowa GOP, said in a statement that he and Brennan agreed that “there will be strong, bipartisan cooperation” to protect the state’s first in the nation caucuses but declined to offer specific comments on the Democrats’ proposals.

The committee did not take action on the broad proposals Friday but Brennan said the state party intended to include the upgrades in its voting plan early next spring.

Later in the day, the DNC panel adopted a plan for a base of 3,200 delegates at the 2016 convention, down from 3,700 in 2012. Party leaders and elected officials also serve as delegates and the DNC awards states bonus delegates based on when it holds its primary contests so the total number of delegates could be about 5,000, down slightly from more than 5,500 convention delegates in 2012.

The committee also adopted a measure requiring states to complete the selection of its convention delegates by June 25, 2016. Republicans are planning to hold their 2016 convention in Cleveland beginning either June 27 or July 18.

Democrats said it was still possible they could stage their convention in July but the delegate selection plan would require states to act quickly if party leaders choose a July date. The DNC is considering five cities for its 2016 convention: Birmingham, Alabama; Columbus, Ohio; New York; Philadelphia and Phoenix.

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Nun among 3 charged with illegal voting in Ohio

A nun in southwest Ohio who voted on behalf of another nun who died before the 2012 presidential election has been charged with illegal voting.

The Hamilton County prosecutor in Cincinnati said on March 11 that Sister Marguerite Kloos, 54, was among three people charged with voting illegally.

Defense attorney Ralph Kohnen said Kloos was trying to fulfill the wishes of a friend who died before absentee ballots were mailed. He says she’ll plead guilty.

If convicted she could face 18 months in prison, though such a sentence would be unlikely with a plea agreement.

Prosecutors say a 75-year-old man, Russell Glassop, faces the same count after he cast a ballot in November for his late wife. She had requested an absentee ballot but died before the ballot was mailed out.

Also, a 58-year-old poll worker, Melowese Richardson, has been charged with eight illegal-voting counts. Prosecutors say she’s charged with voting twice in November and voting for other people in various elections. She could be sentenced to as much as 12 years in prison.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters told the Cincinnati Enquirer: “Elections are a serious business and the foundation of our democracy. Individual votes may not seem important, but this could not be further from the truth.”

2016 politics on display as Congress ends term

Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP’s 2012 vice presidential candidate, voted for the “fiscal cliff” compromise that raised taxes on the wealthiest Americans. Republican Sens. Marco Rubio and Rand Paul voted against it. And Vice President Joe Biden helped broker the deal with GOP leaders in the Senate.

As Congress closed out its term this week, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie accused fellow Republicans of showing “callous indifference to the suffering of the people of my state” by not holding a vote on Superstorm Sandy aid. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo joined him in the rebuke.

And Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton drew headlines for a different reason after being hospitalized for a blood clot in her head, an illness that raised questions about the Democrat’s political future.

While the next presidential primary voting is still three years away, the political implications of the actions and whereabouts of the potential field of 2016 candidates hung over extraordinary year-end Washington drama.

The fiscal cliff vote forced those in Congress who are eyeing presidential runs to stake out early positions which signal how they may be aligning themselves – and which could come back to haunt them should they move forward.

The intense legislative debate also gave would-be candidates involved in them an opportunity to command the spotlight while rivals were on the sidelines. And the weeks of gridlock over the looming fiscal cliff of big tax increases and spending cuts provided governors weighing bids a chance to cast themselves as outsiders and, perhaps, start building a case for taming Washington paralysis.

For Republican White House hopefuls in Congress, the votes on the compromise that raised taxes on the wealthiest Americans could help frame future presidential primary debates over the debt ceiling, tax code reforms and how to fund government and entitlement programs. The party has rejected tax increases for more than two decades but now finds itself trying to regroup after President Barack Obama’s re-election and dealing with a struggle between Republicans who want to take a more pragmatic tax approach and tea party loyalists advocating a firm anti-tax position.

“The American people chose divided government. As elected officials, we have a duty to apply our principles to the realities of governing,” Ryan said after joining with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, in support of the bill, putting him in the minority of the GOP caucus and against the tea party.

Ryan may be spared some political fallout from the right, given that Republican activist Grover Norquist, who for years has pushed GOP lawmakers to pledge not to raise taxes, and several other conservative heavyweights supported the bill, including Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn and Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey, the former head of the anti-tax Club for Growth.

Two other potential 2016 presidential candidates drew praise from conservative opponents of the measure for voting to refuse tax increases.

Rubio, a prominent Hispanic lawmaker in a party trying to connect with Latino voters, called the legislation an impediment to “rapid economic growth and job creation.” The Florida senator also said it failed to control runaway debt. Paul, the son of GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul, opposed the bill because of the combination of spending and tax increases. The Kentucky senator said: “We’re going to raise taxes and we’re going to raise spending. Tell me what’s good about that?”

On the Democratic side, Biden played a major role in the deal-making, with his late-night talks with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell leading to the compromise plan. It was a reminder of the former Delaware senator’s legislative skills, which could either impress Democratic primary voters or anger liberals who may view the deal as too much of a compromise with Republicans.

As the vice president helped broker a deal, it was hard for Democrats to overlook where Clinton, the party’s formidable potential contender, was: She revealed she was being treated in a New York hospital for a blood clot in her head that formed after she suffered a concussion during a fainting spell in early December. She was released from the hospital Jan. 3 and doctors said they were confident she would make a full recovery. But the extended illness made it more likely that Clinton, 65, would face scrutiny over her health should she run.

Beyond Washington, two prominent Northeast governors weighed in on Congress’ year-end wrangling, and wasted little time assailing the House GOP leadership over hurricane relief.

Christie said his state had been betrayed by his fellow Republicans in the House, who refused to bring a Superstorm Sandy aid package to a vote, adding, “America deserves better than just another example of a government that has forgotten who they are there to serve and why.”

Cuomo, a Democrat long considered by party insiders to be a possible White House candidate, issued a joint statement with Christie condemning the “inaction and indifference” by the House. “The people of our states can no longer afford to wait while politicians in Washington play games,” they said. House Republicans said after Christie’s blistering news conference that they would hold a vote Friday for $9 billion for the national flood insurance program and another on Jan. 15 for a remaining $51 billion in the relief package.

It’s impossible to say whether this week’s votes and comments will become 2016 campaign fodder. But they certainly give hints about how possible candidates are testing the waters – and how their positions are faring with certain parts of the electorate.

“It strikes me that Ryan is thinking he wants to be the establishment candidate,” said Doug Gross, an Iowa Republican who chaired Mitt Romney’s 2008 campaign in the state. Conservatives may agree – and not look kindly on that. As Erick Erickson, a conservative commentator and the editor of RedState.com, put it on Twitter, “Thus ends the Paul Ryan 2016 Presidential Exploratory Committee.”

Still, some Republicans dismissed any fallout from their candidates’ votes.

“I don’t ultimately think this one vote will hurt any of them,” said Sara Taylor Fagen, a Republican strategist. “But to some degree it probably forecasts their voting patterns for the future.”

2012 styles that made our heads turn

Every year fashion offers up the good, the bad and the ugly. But what the industry is really built on – and consumers respond to – is buzz.

Here are the top moments of 2012 that made our heads turn:

• Angelina Jolie at the Oscars. The leg that peeked out of the high thigh-high slit of her Versace gown was the most exciting appearance on the red carpet. The gown fit perfectly into the sleek, simple, sexy mold that Jolie favors, but it was Jolie’s picture-perfect pose to expose just enough thigh that launched a thousand memes. Her companion Brad Pitt gets an honorable mention for his scruffy appearance in a Chanel fragrance ad that left many scratching their heads.

• Michelle Obama and Ann Romney’s matching hues. The wives of the presidential candidates turned out to the second debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in practically the same shade of hot pink. But they weren’t by the same designer: Romney’s was by Oscar de la Renta, and Obama’s by Michael Kors. A potential matching prom dress-style embarrassment was chalked up to timing: October’s breast cancer awareness month.

• Marc Jacobs’ Louis Vuitton show. Many of the designer runways seemed more of the same – stark stages, thumping music and audiences distracted by their electronic gadgets – but the Louis Vuitton fall catwalk in Paris commanded attention. Models dressed in their very best traveling clothes stepped off a reconstructed retro steam train. Valets carried the vintage-inspired hat boxes and vanity cases. The trip seemed refreshingly refined and modern.

• Two-tone Stella McCartney dresses. McCartney, no stranger to the red carpet, has created a style that celebrities can’t get enough of. Her ultra-flattering “silhouette” dress has become almost ubiquitous. It features one color on the bodice and back, and a graphic opposite on the sides and sleeves. Kate Winslet has worn several versions, and Brooklyn Decker, Kate Moss, Edie Falco and Liv Tyler have, too. The best turn might have been Jane Fonda at the Cannes Film Festival.

• Beyonce’s back-from-baby body. Some new mothers claim they feel sexier than ever. Beyonce was living proof at the Met Gala, the important industry event co-hosted by Vogue’s Anna Wintour. Beyonce’s skin-tight, largely sheer – save the bodice beading and feathered fish-tail train – gown by Givenchy announced that Ivy Blue Carter’s mom wasn’t going to hold back. An honorable mention goes to Jessica Simpson, who dieted her way to a Weight Watchers ad then wound up pregnant again.

• 007’s slim suits. Daniel Craig’s wardrobe in “Skyfall” is impeccably tailored – and quite tight. Unlike the James Bonds that came before him who all liked the traditional looser, longer cut of a Savile Row-style suit, Craig, whose wardrobe is created mostly by Tom Ford, takes his suits Euro style with tapered legs and shorter rises. There’s no question Craig’s super spy Bond will go down in history as one of the best, but it’s fair to ask if he could pull off those impressive chases in clothes that tight.

• Supermodel reunion at the London Olympics. Gold was the new black at the closing ceremony with a parade of supermodels wearing gilded gowns in a tribute to British fashion. Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell both had on Alexander McQueen, Georgia May Jagger’s was by Victoria Beckham, Karen Elson was in Burberry, and Stella Tennant donned a Christopher Kane Swarovski-crystal catsuit. The soundtrack – of course – was David Bowie’s “Fashion.”

• Another supermodel reunion at New York Fashion Week. Alexander Wang’s show has become must-see viewing, partly for influential hipster clothes, but also for the model line-up, a who’s who of top catwalkers. It was a coup even for him, however, to get the likes of Gisele Bundchen, Carmen Kass, Frankie Rayder and Shalom Harlow, who all very rarely do shows, to walk in February. Start the wish list now of who he’ll nab for his debut at Balenciaga next year.

• Miley Cyrus’ cropped cut. When Cyrus cut off the long hair her fans had become used to, she took some heat. She has said (and Tweeted) repeatedly, though, that she was pleased with the new punk-pixie look and was sticking with it. Short hair turned out to be a big trend, with Alicia Keys, Rihanna and Anne Hathaway all ending the year with much shorter locks than they started with.

• Julianne Moore at the Emmys. Moore’s neon-yellow Dior Haute Couture outfit (really a sweater and ball skirt) spawned a love-it-or-hate-it debate among armchair style critics. What was largely left out of that conversation, however, was that it was Raf Simons’ big celebrity debut for Dior, which he took creative control of after the John Galliano scandal. At least Simons can claim the better reviews when it came to his showdown of next-gen designers at historic French houses against Hedi Slimane at Saint Laurent Paris.

Top tunes in 2012

The best music in 2012? Critical favorites came from Taylor Swift, Frank Ocean, Killer Mike, Alabama Shakes, Jack White, Trampled by the Turtles.

Mesfin Fekadu’s picks:

1. Nas, “Life is Good”: “I am a graphic classic song composer,” Nas raps on the intro to his latest album. And he’s right. You may disagree, but Nas is the best rapper alive, and with “Life is Good,” he’s got the year’s top album, regardless of genre. On “Life,” he’s spitting rhymes about his ex-wife, Kelis – like the soulful “Bye Baby” – his daughter on “Daughters” and his childhood on “A Queens Story.” He’s a top-notch lyricist with a knack for storytelling, and it all makes for impeccable music. He knows life is good, and so is this album.

2. Of Monsters and Men, “My Head Is an Animal”: The Icelandic fivesome ­have melodies that are eerie, jamming, groovy and overall epic. The voices of the male and female lead singers blend so beautifully that it sounds like magic.

3. Elle Varner, “Perfectly Imperfect”: Her raspy and powerful voice, over crisp production, easily gives Elle Varner R&B’s best offering of 2012. The 12-track set has an amazing flow that will have you hitting the replay button again, again and again!

4. Lianne La Havas, “Is Your Love Big Enough?”: Lianne La Havas’ honesty pierces on the tracks on her debut album, and it makes the collection of songs both heavy and beautiful. She’s got an acoustic folk-rock-soul sound that is unique, and what’s best is that heavy voice of hers: This London singer sounds like she’s singing straight to your soul. Well, actually, she is.

5. Frank Ocean, “channel ORANGE”: Frank is fresh. Enough said.

6. Miguel, “Kaleidoscope Dream”: It’s a bit shocking – though more exciting – to see the Grammys acknowledge Miguel’s multi-talents with five nominations. They got it right – he’s helping change R&B without dismissing the genre’s more traditional sound from acts like Faith Evans and Tamia. From “Do You…” to “Candles In the Sun,” he hits all the right notes on his sophomore disc.

7. Emeli Sande, “Our Version of Events”: The debut album from this Scottish import commands your attention, thanks to Emeli Sande’s strong pipes jelled with R&B and pop sounds. Her voice helps her songs easily come to life – just check out “Suitcase” if you’re not convinced.

8. Kendrick Lamar, “good kid m.A.A.d city”: The major label debut from Dr. Dre’s protege is dope for its clever rhymes and soulful skits. He’s going places.

9. Mumford & Sons, “Babel”: Mumford & Sons continue to hark on love and life on “Babel,” and it sounds masterful with its rock harmonies that are both rugged and calming.

10. Shiny Toy Guns, “III”: The year’s best dance and electronic-based album isn’t on Top 40 radio. Shiny Toy Guns returned in 2012 with a third album and its lead singer, Carah Faye. The foursome sounds better than ever over beats that are addictive and vibes that are dreamy. Now dance.

Nekesa Mumbi Moody’s picks:

1. Emeli Sande, “Our Version of Events”: Sande’s forceful, soulful voice is enough of a lure, but coupled with the most poetic, beautiful lyrics and melodies of the year, Sande’s debut album was a brilliant work that was shamefully overlooked by the Recording Academy for Grammy contention in 2013. Don’t make the same mistake if you haven’t already listened – this one is a stunner.

2. Taylor Swift, “Red”: Last time, we had John Mayer to thank. This time around, Jake Gyllenhaal is most likely the reason for Swift’s ire in songs like the wickedly vengeful “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” as well as poignant, heartbreaking songs like “I Almost Do” or “All Too Well.” At 22, the former teen ingΘnue also flirts with sensuality on songs like “Treacherous” and “Everything Has Changed.” She may still have a cutesy image, but Swift has grown up, and continues to mature into a singer-songwriter with musical gravitas.

3. Frank Ocean, “Channel Orange”: Ocean’s grand statement about his sexuality seemed to overshadow the real reason why he was one of music’s most important figures – his impressive talent. “Thinkin’ Bout You” gave just a taste of Ocean’s allure: With the help of others, he crafted a collection of musically and lyrically daring songs that stand out starkly from the status quo of pop and R&B worlds.

4. Esperanza Spalding, “Radio Music Society”: The 2011 Best New Artist winner delivered her most accessible album to date, melding her jazz roots with R&B for an enchanting album.

5. Alabama Shakes, “Boys & Girls”: Brittany Howard’s vocals slay on every track – though her voice has been described as Joplin-esque, she’s quickly proving that she’s a force all her own. From hard-rocking guitar-based tracks to slower grooves, “Boys & Girls” simply smolders.

6. Various Artists, “The Hunger Games Soundtrack: Songs from District 12 and Beyond”: From Taylor Swift and the Civil Wars to Miranda Lambert’s Pistol Annies, this collection of songs made for the blockbuster film captured the bleakness of the novel better than the movie. In an album of highlight after highlight, the Secret Sisters’ simple and beautiful “Tomorrow Will Be Kinder” was at the apex.

7. Killer Mike, “R.A.P. Music”: Killer Mike has been under the radar in the rap world for years – and it’s too bad this great didn’t elevate his profile in the mainstream, because it’s better than 82.4 percent of what’s out there today (and yes, that’s my scientific survey). He mixes rap braggadocio with biting, thought-provoking social commentary.

8. Elle Varner, “Perfectly Imperfect”: Can we get a “Refill” of Varner for 2013? Besides her seductive hit, Varner’s album showed that she’s one of music’s bright new talents with songs that ranged sensuous bedroom workouts to dramatic love ballads.

9. The Robert Glasper Experiment, “Black Radio”: They say you can’t really criticize something if you don’t have a solution to fix it. Well, with “Black Radio,” the jazz pianist offered his take on how the often stagnant medium could be improved – and it was dreamy.

10. Nas, “Life Is Good”: Actually, Mesfin, it’s been a while since Nas released an album that lived up to his arguable title as rap’s greatest MC. But he delivered this year with an album that was a throwback to the beats that dominated hip-hop when New York was king of the rap game, and of course, Nas’ rhymes.

Chris Talbott’s picks:

1. Cloud Nothings, “Attack on Memory”: Blame most of the entries on this list on a conversation I had last year with Jeff Tweedy, who said one of the ways to stay in love with music was to seek out new, young acts. Ohio’s Cloud Nothings punched me in the solar plexus with this unrepentant blast of rock that tackles BIG THEMES while musically careening down a steep, car-lined street on an out-of-control skateboard.

2. Natural Child, “For The Love of The Game” and “Hard in Heaven”: Mining an era that seems to have been purposely forgotten by today’s young rockers, this bluesy rock trio from Nashville was on a groove so tight this year that it released two albums. It’s a tossup which one’s better, so we’re not choosing. Both show they could be Nashville’s next breakthrough band.

3. Kendrick Lamar, “good kid, m.A.A.d. city”: Displaying the limitless ambition of a young RZA or Kanye West, this much-anticipated, Dr. Dre-sanctified release is a cinematic concept album stuffed full of examples of the Los Angeles rapper’s versatility, creativity and willingness to take chances most other rappers would blanche at.

4. Jack White, “Blunderbuss”: We’ve been waiting a long time to hear what White would sound like without the filter of his many, many bandmates. “Blunderbuss,” a little bit whimsical, a little bit menacing, offered all the things we’d hoped we’d find, plus a few surprises.

5. Alabama Shakes, “Boys & Girls”: This debut album from the Alabama rock quartet heralds the arrival of a major talent in singer Brittany Howard, but she’s not the only star here. Her bandmates craft simple but compelling, soulful music that combines with Howard’s voice to make some of the most uplifting rock we’ve heard in years.

6. Frank Ocean, “channel ORANGE”: The Tweedy Effect really kicked in last year when I heard Ocean’s mix tape “nostalgia/ULTRA,” probably the best album of 2011. While “channel ORANGE” is disappointingly restrained musically, like “nostalgia/Ultra” it is a triumphant example as a social document that’s both fearless and insightful yet still entertaining enough to reach popular audiences.

7. Turbo Fruits, “Butter”: Sometimes you just want to bob your head along to mindless songs about parties and girls and fighting and motorcycles, and the third album from these rising rockers on Kings of Leon’s record label helps prove EDM hasn’t killed off rock ‘n’ roll. Far from it.

8. King Tuff, “King Tuff”: Twenty-five years after its start, Sub Pop is still unearthing bands you need to hear. This time it’s Vermont’s King Tuff, purveyors of weirdly irresistible sugar-coated psychedelic pop songs that refuse to leave your brain.

9. Japandroids, “Celebration Rock”: Beginning and ending with the sound of fireworks, this Vancouver, British Columbia, two-piece’s album is exactly what its title describes – grand, anthemic songs about the great moments in life.

10. Trampled By Turtles, “Stars and Satellites”: The awesomely named Minnesota string band has been on the rise for years and its gentle, introspective sixth album adds a layer of artistry and emotion only hinted at in previous work.

– from AP

Top words, phrases, names of 2012: Apocalypse, Gangnam Style, Newtown

The Global Language Monitor announced this week that “apocalypse” was the top word for 2012, “Gangnam Style” was the top phrase and “Newtown” and “Malala Yousafzai” were the top names in the 13th annual survey of the English language.

In the review of top words, the GLM said after “apocalypse” came “deficit,” “olympiad,” “Bak’tun,” “meme,” “MOOC,” “the Cloud,” “omnishambles,” “frankenstorm” and “obesogenic.”

GLM president Paul JJ Payack said, “Apocalypse – armageddon and similar terms – reflects a growing fascination with various ‘end-of-the-world’ scenarios, or at least the end of life as we know it. This year the Mayan Apocalypse was well noted, but some eight of the top words and phrases were directly related to a sense of impending doom.”

Payack noted the use of such hybrid words as “Obamageddon,” “Romneygeddon” and “Eurogeddon.”

A look at the other lists:

Top phrases

1. Gangnam Style.

2. Global warming/climate change.

3. Fiscal cliff.

4. The deficit.

5. God Particle.

6. Rogue nukes.

7. Near-Earth asteroid.

8. Binders full of women.

9. Arab Spring.

10. Solar max.

The top names of 2012

1. Newtown and Malala Yousafza. 

2. Xi Jinping.

3. Kate Middleton.

4. President Barack Obama.

5. Mitt Romney.

6. London Olympics.

7. Higgs Boson.

8. Europe.

9. Felix Baumgartner.

10. Senkaku Islands.

GLM develops its end-of-year lists based upon word usage in primarily English-speaking countries. To qualify for the lists, the words, names and phrases must be found globally, have a minimum of 25,000 citations. There must also be a depth and breadth of usage, which can be tracked in print and on the Web.

Recall, elections dominated Wisconsin headlines in 2012

Wisconsin’s governor survived a recall attempt and Janesville’s congressman had a shot at becoming vice president. There were five statewide elections in seven months, making it nearly impossible to escape robocalls and campaign ads. A white supremacist killed worshippers at a Sikh temple, a judge struck down a contentious collective-bargaining law and three Wisconsin soldiers were killed.

Some of the names and stories that defined the state in 2012:


• Scott Walker: He became the nation’s first governor to win a recall election when he turned back a Democratic effort to oust him for pushing to end collective-bargaining rights for most public workers. Walker beat Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett by 7 percentage points, in a rematch of the 2010 governor’s race. Walker’s lieutenant governor and three GOP state senators also survived recall attempts, but state Sen. Van Wanggaard of Racine was defeated.

• Paul Ryan: Ryan’s political career got a major boost when he was selected as Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s running mate. Although Romney lost, Ryan retained his House seat and will resume his role as Budget Committee chairman. Ryan has hinted at a presidential run in 2016.

• Candidate visits: As Wisconsin’s importance as a presidential battleground state grew more evident, politicians from both parties logged visits to Milwaukee, Madison and the Fox Valley areas. There were stops from Barack and Michelle Obama, Biden and former President Bill Clinton. Romney, Ryan and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie made appearances as well.

• We approve this message — again: The presidential race capped off a seemingly endless election cycle, with five statewide elections between April and November. All those campaigns, along with outside groups, spent millions of dollars on TV ads, glossy mail and robocalls. But in the end little changed: Obama carried Wisconsin again, Walker held on, all seven congressional incumbents won, the U.S. Senate seat remained in Democratic hands and Republicans maintained the Assembly and regained the state Senate.

• Tammy vs. Tommy: Sen. Herb Kohl’s pending retirement triggered the most expensive U.S. Senate fight in state history. Fellow Democrat and former U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin won, becoming Wisconsin’s first female senator and also the first openly gay candidate ever elected to the chamber. She defeated former Gov. Tommy Thompson, who had never before lost a statewide race.


• Collective bargaining: The issue that prompted the entire Walker recall got sidelined by Dane County Judge Juan Colas. The law limited collective bargaining for most public employees, but Colas ruled in September that it violated union members’ constitutional rights to free speech and equal representation. Republicans have said they’ll ask the state appeals court to place the ruling on hold.

• Voter ID: A new law favored by Republicans went into effect requiring voters to show photo identification at the ballot box. The law was in place for a February primary but two judges blocked the measure for any subsequent election in 2012. Republican state Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen pledged to continue fighting to have the law upheld.

• Health Exchanges: Staying true to his longtime opposition to Obama’s Affordable Care Act, Walker joined with other Republican governors in deciding to hand off creation of an online health exchange to the federal government.


• Sikh temple: For reasons that remain unknown, a white supremacist opened fire at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek in August. Wade Michael Page killed six people and injured four others, then took his own life. Michelle Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder were among the dignitaries who paid their respects.

• Spa shooting: About two months later, another gunman took innocent lives in southeastern Wisconsin. Radcliffe Franklin Haughton, who had terrorized his wife for years, killed her and two other women at the spa where she worked. Four other women were wounded before Haughton killed himself.

• John Doe: A secret investigation into six former Walker aides and associates appears to be wrapping up. Five of the six were convicted on charges ranging from theft to doing campaign work on county time. The John Doe investigation, which involved allegations against people close to Walker during his time as the Milwaukee County executive, began six months before Walker was elected governor. Walker has not been charged.

• Milwaukee Archdiocese bankruptcy: About 500 men and women filed sex-abuse claims against the Milwaukee Archdiocese by a February deadline, a step that came after the archdiocese filed for bankruptcy the previous year. The archdiocese said pending sex-abuse lawsuits could leave it deep in debt.


• Unemployment: Wisconsin’s unemployment rate continued to track better than the national level. The statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in October was 6.7 percent, compared to 7.7 percent in November for the U.S. However, according to PolitiFact, Wisconsin has created about 25,000 jobs on Walker’s watch, far from the 250,000 he promised as a candidate.


• Thirsty crops: A persistent drought took its toll across much of the nation. In Wisconsin, harvests of tart cherries and maple syrup were decimated. But the heat was good for consumers who like their peppers potent, because certain vegetables grown in overheated conditions produce more of the chemical that gives peppers their spicy kick.

• Heavy rains: A summer storm dumped as much as 6 inches of rain in parts of northern Wisconsin. The June storm caused more than $23 million in damage at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, where nearly every building sustained flooding damage.

• Snow-free Milwaukee: Milwaukee set a record by going 288 consecutive days without measurable snowfall.


• Night deer hunt: A federal judge in December blocked the state’s Chippewa bands’ attempt to allow tribal hunters to go after deer at night, a move that flew in the face of the state’s long-standing ban on the practice.

• Wolf hunt: Lawmakers created the state’s first organized wolf hunt. The goal was to harvest 116 wolves during this year’s inaugural hunt. Those goals will likely be reached before the official end of the season Feb. 28.

• Mining: The Legislature failed to pass a mining bill that would have jump-started an iron-ore mine in northwestern Wisconsin. The GOP-authored bill died in the state Senate after Republican Dale Schultz broke ranks. But Republicans’ majority grows to 18-15 next year and they plan to reintroduce the measure.

Top 10 theater moments of 2012

Al Pacino came back again and Jessica Chastain showed up for the first time. “Annie” returned and so did “Evita” and “Elf.” Katie Holmes made a second appearance and that old stalwart “The Lion King” celebrated its 15th anniversary. Yes, 2012 was a year of old and new, theatrically speaking.

It also was a year in which the theater community tried to keep the show going despite several disasters – a natural one in Superstorm Sandy and two man-made ones in misleading monologist Mike Daisey and the phantom investors of “Rebecca.” None of those, of course, made our Top 10 list of the best moments in 2012:

1. “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”: This masterpiece of a play by Edward Albee is now celebrating its 50th anniversary on Broadway with an astonishing production courtesy of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company. Starring Tracy Letts and Amy Morton, it is vicious and yet hysterically funny, crisp and loving and savage. Bring a date!

2. “Once”: Yes, many of the songs came from a movie. Yes, the plot also came from the movie. But the show at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre is still somehow fresh and poignant. It is an ode to heartbreak, making a lasting connection even if its two lead actors cannot.

3. “Clybourne Park”: If you missed it, shame on you. Bruce Norris’ Tony and Pulitzer winner had everything anyone would want in a play: smart, witty, provocative and wonderfully acted by a well-knit ensemble, particularly Jeremy Shamos. Squirming in your seat while overhearing racially insensitive jokes has never been funnier.

4. James Corden: The British actor was pure silly bliss in the delirious “One Man, Two Guvnors,” playing a down-at-his-heels manservant who overtaxed his limited mental capacity by simultaneously working for two demanding bosses. We should welcome Corden back as soon as possible.

5. Neil Patrick Harris: As the Tony Awards host, he’s always graceful, always funny and always delightfully tweaks Broadway’s pretensions. This year, his third time, Harris offered a rousing original number in which he wished real life was more like theater and also performed with “The Book of Mormon” cast. Is there any way to lock him in as host for the next decade?

6. Kevin Spacey as Richard III. With his aviator sunglasses and military jacket brimming with medals, Spacey’s Richard at the Brooklyn Academy of Music was overblown and cartoonish and yet impossible to stop watching, part Groucho Marx and part Moammar Gadhafi – a sarcastic, snarling tornado of resentment whose reign of terror somehow was funny.

7. “If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet”: Nick Payne’s clever, edgy domestic drama starring Jake Gyllenhaal is a delight. Making it even more special was the set design by Beowulf Boritt under the direction of Michael Longhurst: All the furniture was piled in the center of the stage and each piece was taken and then discarded after every scene (appropriate for a play that discusses trashing the planet). It culminated in major watery magic as the stage flooded. Can sets get a standing-O?

8. The sad death of Marvin Hamlisch in August brought together three divas who took turns honoring the composer at a moving service at The Juilliard School – Barbra Streisand, Aretha Franklin and Liza Minnelli. Minnelli sang “If You Really Knew Me,” Franklin gave a soulful rendition of “Nobody Does It Better” and Streisand brought the crowd to its feet when she finished “The Way We Were.” Wow.

9. “A Christmas Story, The Musical”: It dares to mess with one of the most popular Christmastime movies of all time and yet manages to not only do the film justice, but also top it. It is an auspicious Broadway debut from Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the songwriters we will all hear a lot from in the future. Plus, you will be amazed by 9-year-old tap dancing prodigy Luke Spring.

10. The welcome return of “Forbidden Broadway” after a three-year absence. The latest edition goofs on shows including “Annie,” “Newsies,” “Once,” “The Book of Mormon,” “Evita,” “Porgy and Bess,” “Anything Goes” and “Follies.” Bernadette Peters, Matthew Broderick, Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin get roasted. Among many others, of course.

‘Girls,’ ‘Homeland,’ ‘Smash’ among year’s best on TV

What was TV like in 2012? As with every year, it was a mix of the ridiculous and the sublime, the sacred and the profane.

A TV-centric political season provided many memorable moments – President Barack Obama’s missing-in-action debate performance; Clint Eastwood’s empty-chair duet. Excellence persevered with series such as HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” and “Treme,” AMC’s “Mad Men,” History’s surprisingly splendid “Hatfields & McCoys,” ABC’s promising new “Nashville,” CBS’ “The Good Wife” and, of course, AMC’s “The Walking Dead” with its icky charm.

Then there were stinkers like the best-forgotten ABC sitcom “Work It,” which, focusing on two guys who dress in traditional women’s attire to get jobs, was mercifully axed after just two airings. ABC’s “Good Morning America” finally managed to out-fluff NBC’s “Today” and stole the ratings crown. “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” wore on.

Bottom line: It’s not easy to narrow down a top anything for TV. Still, once this year’s thousands of hours are assessed, notable achievements emerge, for better or worse.

• “Breaking Bad” (AMC). It’s notable not only for how twisted, funny and shocking it is, but also for how it keeps on upping the ante. This summer’s satisfying miniseason ended in a most unlikely fashion, hinting that Walter White (series star Bryan Cranston) might actually break free from his life of spiraling disaster and resurrect his happy home. But then, in the last scene, Walter’s drug-enforcement-agent brother-in-law made the connection that had always eluded him: the drug lord he’s been chasing all this time is Walter! Once again, the series’ never-broken promise was upheld. Next summer’s final eight episodes aren’t going to be pretty!

• “Fox & Friends” (Fox News Channel). We could easily salute shows that keep us laughing like “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart,” “The Colbert Report,” “Saturday Night Live” and “Real Time with Bill Maher.” But maybe we could more appropriately single out one obvious wellspring for those shows’ humor. I’m referring, of course, to “Fox & Friends.” With their three-part harmony, co-hosts Steve Doocy, Gretchen Carlson and Brian Kilmeade offer up a unique brand of jovially partisan delivery. Theirs is a seamless, finish-one-another’s-sentence knack for issuing the network-designated messages as news. Contrary viewpoints are admissible only to be mocked. But mostly cheerful unity prevails, a tidy single-minded package of riffs as predictable as the tides – but as amusing as any deliberate caricature. Let’s give credit where it’s due: These Friends cry out to be spoofed.

• “Girls” (HBO). Lena Dunham this, Lena Dunham that. Blah, blah, blah. She, in her mid-20s, created, wrote, directed, produced and starred in a half-hour comedy series about 20-something adulthood, femininity and sexuality. She sparked adulation, conversation, arguments and green-eyed envy of her talent. “Girls” was a series that couldn’t be ignored – at least, by pop-culture cognoscenti. It will surely be welcomed back in January with even more attention, if possible (with always the threat of a backlash), as viewers resume arguing: Does the series measure up to all the hype? Nuff said. Up to now, indisputably, “Girls” has been monumental. And a gas.

• “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” (TLC) and “Killer Karaoke” (truTV). Two new reality shows blazed new trails of idiocy. One capitalized on redneck stereotypes and a 6-year-old beauty pageant veteran. The other invited contestants to sing their hearts out while being zapped with electricity or dunked in a vat of snakes. In a TV universe swamped with reality shows, these two stood apart as groundbreaking, inspired and dismaying – if for no other reason than they served as a reminder that each is merely a way station en route to the next extreme in outrageous crassness.

• “Homeland” (Showtime). In its second season, this series remained suspenseful, disturbing and riddled with surprises. It mined drama from possibly the most damaged pair of protagonists, opponents and star-crossed lovers in TV history. Marine Sgt. Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) was a prisoner of war in Afghanistan who had returned home a national hero and soon-to-be-elected U.S. Congressman – and, covertly, a terrorist turncoat. Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) was a former CIA agent suffering from a bipolar disorder as well as emotional ties to the man she was obsessed with bringing down. They could have titled this series “Homeland Insecurity.”

• “Key & Peele” (Comedy Central). The biracial status of comedy partners Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele (black fathers, white mothers) is notable only because it gives them unique insight sizing up the human condition. And they made the most of that insight on their sketch-and-standup half-hour series. In particular, they scored with Peele in an unsurpassed impersonation of Obama where the unflappable president is joined by Key as “anger translator” Luther, who demonstrates, comically unfiltered, what Obama really thinks. But whatever they did, the humor of Key and Peele proved fresh and smart. And without ever preaching, they illustrated how the issue of race (in their words) “always boomerangs back to culture” and ultimately “is an absurd thing.” Doggone funny, too.

• “Luck” (HBO). This drama set at a California racetrack boasted the rich density of David Milch’s writing and a king’s ransom of a cast: Dustin Hoffman, Nick Nolte, Dennis Farina, Jill Hennessy and Richard Kind for starters. It explored a strange and fascinating world while capturing the horse races with breathtaking footage. But three horses died during production of the series. That sad fact, and another – the show wasn’t exactly a ratings blockbuster – led to HBO canceling “Luck” after its first season, in a bow to bad publicity led by animal-rights activists. Amid the hubbub about the horses’ welfare, there was a question no one seemed inclined to ask: Assuming every reasonable precaution had been taken, was risking the lives of a few horses an excessive price to pay to keep an excellent drama series on the air?

• “Smash” (NBC). This NBC musical drama put a bright, sexy sheen on one of filmdom’s most timeless tropes: Hey, kids, let’s put on a show! Which “Smash” did, embedding songs and dance into the story of how a Broadway musical comes to life. Sure, “Smash” took knocks for unbelievable plotlines, cardboard characters and trite show tunes. It gave new life to the term “hate-watch” (that act of watching something solely to delight in its awfulness). So what? With a show-must-go-on defiance emblematic of Broadway, “Smash” never flagged in its unique charm and meticulous artistry. And if anything about it seemed over-the-top, its naysayers should consider the recent cockamamie real-life fraud that sank the Broadway musical “Rebecca.” As “Smash” knows and demonstrated proudly, nothing is too wacky for Broadway.

• “Sons of Anarchy” (FX). Tough guys on motorcycles selling guns and drugs. Tough women keeping them in line, or trying. Rival gangs, corrupt cops and a club membership in turmoil. Jax (Charlie Hunnam), his mother, Gemma (Katey Sagal), and her husband, Clay (Ron Perlman), were the core of a series that, in its fifth season, raged wilder than ever. A family drama set in a hard-hitting workplace, “Sons” was bloodthirsty and brilliant like nothing else on TV. Its audience knew what its characters found out: there was no escaping its excitement.

• Donald Trump (all over the place). Never before has this list bestowed a personal commendation. But then, The Donald is an exceptional TV presence. Whether a game-show host (NBC’s “The Apprentice”), a commentator-at-large (Fox News Channel and elsewhere), a beauty contest impresario (his Miss USA pageant, which is broadcast on NBC), a former almost-candidate for president, or a free-floating billionaire attention junkie, Trump leverages the media with enviable shrewdness. Exactly the nature of Trump’s TV appeal has yet to be identified. Equally unexplained is why he always gets a pass from his media gatekeepers, no matter what he says or does. But why sweat the vagaries of stardom? Trump rules. Or if he doesn’t, he will surely be the last to know it.

What was the big TV moment of 2012? Share on Twitter at @wigazette with #TV2012.


It was a year of storms, of raging winds and rising waters, but also broader turbulence that strained our moorings. Our atmosphere, our politics, our economy – rarely in memory have they seemed in such constant agitation.

Our emotions, too. In the year’s final weeks, amid a torrent of tears in a heartbroken Connecticut town, a rush of grief seemed to wash over all of us from the shooting deaths of 20 children and six adults in an elementary school, and of the shooter’s mother in her home. The senselessness and loss plumbed depths of sorrow and outrage we had not felt, together, for many years.

But if 2012 battered us with floods and tempests, and seemed especially dark in its final days, it was also perhaps more distinctively a year of mornings after, when clouds parted and dawn’s light fell upon altered landscapes.

Surveying the changes, we were sometimes sanguine, at other times distraught.

There were, of course, the storms themselves, taking not just ferocious but sometimes freakish forms. Americans saw an unusually warm winter, spring tornadoes, summer drought, and a band of concentrated, hurricane-scale thunderstorms that taught millions the word “derecho.”

Autumn brought Hurricane Sandy and a wintry nor’easter that disrupted millions of lives and killed hundreds, many swept from their homes in communities with safe-sounding names like New York’s Breezy Point and the Rockaways that unexpectedly entered the lexicon of global disaster zones.

When the waters did recede, they revealed a country perhaps one step readier to confront difficult questions: Is our planet changing, and are we responsible? Even more abruptly, the Connecticut killing spree seemed in one terrible day to bring the long-dormant issue of gun control to the political forefront.

Sandy may also have boosted President Barack Obama in the last days of a close-run re-election campaign that was nothing if not a storm itself – a seemingly endless $6 billion typhoon of negativity that simply exhausted Americans, particularly in a handful of swing states on whose airwaves it made landfall.

But it ended at last, and if the outcome seemed to affirm the status quo, it also laid bare a political topography reshaped by changing demographics.

Just over half the country, disproportionately the young and minority, celebrated Obama’s re-election, and three states became the first to approve gay marriage at the ballot box. Among those on the losing side, older and whiter as a group, some were genuinely shocked by the result, and expressed sadness in the conviction that an America that felt familiar to them was slipping away.

After nearly half a decade, rays of sunlight at last shone on the American economy. Unemployment, though still uncomfortably high, fell below 8 percent for the first time in more than three years. Housing began to rebound. Though political gridlock threatened to undermine it, recovery seemed at last at hand.

Yet the flickering revival also illuminated how much may have changed forever. Factories were hiring again, but often couldn’t find workers with the needed qualifications. A college degree was the increasingly unforgiving divider between the haves and have-nots, fueling anxiety over its rising price.

One 2012 study reached the remarkable conclusion that even during the depths of the worst recession in the lifetimes of most Americans, the number of jobs available to people with a bachelor’s degree never stopped increasing. And even when the economy picked up in 2012, the number of available jobs for those with only a high school diploma continued to decline. In other words, for those with a college degree, the Great Recession never happened. For those without one, it may never end.

Amid great sorrow, there was no shortage of wondrous human achievement in 2012.

Felix Baumgartner, a 42-year-old former car mechanic from Austria, rode a balloon-tugged capsule to the edge of space. Then, as millions watched breathlessly online, he opened the hatch, paused momentarily, and stepped into the void. He tumbled for nine minutes and 24 miles, breaking the sound barrier, before deploying a parachute and landing safely in the New Mexico desert.

No less thrillingly to some, scientists in Switzerland tied the final string of a knot that explains the most elementary workings of the universe: the “standard model” of physics. With the words, “I think we have it,” they announced with virtual certainty they had found the so-called Higgs boson “God particle.” It was an answer to one of the most basic but bedeviling questions imaginable: Where does mass come from?

At the London Olympics, Jamaican Usain Bolt proved himself the greatest sprinter of all-time, and Baltimore swimmer Michael Phelps became the most decorated Olympian. But for the Americans, victory in the medal table was driven by women -a reward, on the 40th anniversary of Title IX, for a broad-based culture of sports participation. The defining image: 16-year-old gymnast Gabby Douglas, suspended with seemingly impossible fluidity and grace at the apex of her jump from a balance beam, en route to the all-around gold medal.

British athletes also exceeded expectations, and after years of grumbling over costs and inconvenience, the hosts seemed actually to enjoy themselves. The opening ceremonies touched all the right notes, celebrating a multicultural nation sufficiently confident in its virtues of cleverness, artistry and humor to resist trying to outdo the Beijing extravaganza four years ago. From Mary Poppins to Monty Python, from a sky-diving queen to Mr. Bean, it was a palpable hit.

There were, as always, those who let us down. Lance Armstrong, the supposedly superhuman cyclist stripped of seven Tour de France titles, humiliated by a meticulous official report that painted him a cheat and a bully. Revered general and CIA director David Petraeus, taken down by an affair with a fawning biographer. Former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky, carted off to prison for 30-to-60 years for child sex abuse.

Internationally, there was no shortage of storms in 2012, though less in the way of resolution. Old enmities and grievances resurfaced in the Middle East, clouding the legacy of the 2011 Arab spring. The number of dead in the Syrian civil war passed 40,000. Israeli and Palestinian civilians suffered through another escalation of the conflict in Gaza.

In Libya, four Americans, including much-loved ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed in an attack on the Benghazi consulate that became yet another point of bitter political dispute in Washington.

The European Union accepted the Nobel Peace Prize, but its grand experiment with a single currency teetered. Greeks rioted against austerity, and anti-immigrant groups harking back to the continent’s fascist past drew energy from the despair. Spain, Portugal and Italy struggled to right themselves and offer a way forward to an emerging generation that has never tasted opportunity.

Beneath the biggest headlines there were stories where one might spot distant clouds on the horizon – clouds with the potential, at least, to gather into storms.

In February, Congress set in motion planning to open U.S. civilian airspace to unmanned aircraft by 2015. Will domestic drones make possible heretofore unimaginable conveniences, transform our economy and make us safer? Or, as some fear, will they usher in a “surveillance society” where prying eyes above compromise the privacy of every home and back yard?

In September, China unveiled its first aircraft carrier. Will it herald an arms race and future conflict? Or does it merely highlight the wide military gap between the United States and any rival? And will China’s slowing economy prove a manageable correction, or the first rumblings of an economic and political earthquake?

In November, in the magnificent but seemingly cursed Great Lakes region of East Africa, refugees again streamed past bodies of the dead, fleeing into the mountains. The city of Goma, Congo, fell to a few hundred rebels, allegedly supported by next-door Rwanda, as United Nations peacekeepers stood by. Would this prove merely another flare-up in a beautiful but crowded and long-suffering corner of the world? Or was it the re-ignition of a conflict that – unbeknownst to much of the world – was the deadliest on earth since World War II, claiming more than 5 million lives during the late 1990s and early 2000s?

Yes, some clouds did part in 2012. But there remained no dearth of the grieving and the suffering, on whom “the sky, it seems, would pour down stinking pitch” – in the words of Shakespeare’s famous take on tempests – and who anxiously awaited what the dawning light of 2013 would reveal.