2018 in brief: Pol­i­tics, sports, pop cul­ture

Centre Daily Times (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY DAVE BARRY [email protected]­amiHer­ald.com

We can sum­ma­rize 2018 in two words:

It boofed.

We’re not 100 per­cent sure what “boof­ing” is, de­spite the fact that this very is­sue was dis­cussed in a hear­ing of the United States Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee. All we know for cer­tain about boof­ing is that it is dis­taste­ful and stupid. As was 2018.

In spades.

What made this year so aw­ful? We could list many fac­tors, in­clud­ing nat­u­ral dis­as­ters, man­made atroc­i­ties, the ut­ter de­prav­ity of our na­tional po­lit­i­cal dis­course and the loss of Aretha Franklin. In­stead we’ll cite one event that, while mi­nor, epit­o­mizes 2018: the de­but of “Dr. Pim­ple Pop­per.” This is a cable-TV re­al­ity show fea­tur­ing high-def­i­ni­tion slo-mo closeup videos of a Cal­i­for­nia der­ma­tol­o­gist per­form­ing se­ri­ously dis­gust­ing pro­ce­dures on in­di­vid­u­als with zits the size of ma­ture can­taloupes. You might ask, “Who on Earth would vol­un­tar­ily watch that?” The an­swer, in 2018, was: MIL­LIONS OF

PEO­PLE. That is the state of our cul­ture. We can only imag­ine what new re­al­ity shows lie ahead. We would not rule out “Dr. Butt Wiper,” or “Peo­ple Blow Their Noses Di­rectly Onto The Cam­era Lens.”

Is there any­thing good we can say about 2018? Only this: It got us out of 2017. But even that didn’t work out as we hoped.

As you re­call, we, as a na­tion, spent all of 2017 ob­sess­ing over 2016: the elec­tion, the Rus­sians, the emails, the Mueller probe, the Rus­sians, the Rus­sians, the Rus­sians … . That was all we heard about, day af­ter soul-crush­ing day, for the en­tire year.

So when 2018 fi­nally dawned, we were des­per- ately hop­ing for change. It was a new year, a chance for the na­tion to break out of the end­less, point­less bar­rage of charges and coun­ter­charges, to move past the vi­cious, hate-filled hy­per­par­ti­san spew of name-call­ing and petty point-scor­ing, to end the 24/7 cy­cle of me­dia hys­te­ria, to look for­ward and be­gin to tackle the many crit­i­cal is­sues fac­ing the na­tion, the most im­por­tant of which turned out to be… …the 2016 elec­tion. Yes. We could not es­cape

We were like Bill Mur­ray in “Ground­hog Day,” ex­cept that when our clock­ra­dio went off, in­stead of Sonny and Cher singing “I Got You Babe,” we awoke to still MORE talk of Rus­sians and emails; MORE child­ish semilit­er­ate pres­i­den­tial tweets about FAKE NEWS and Crooked Hil­lary; MORE freak­outs by cable-TV pan­elists pre­dict­ing that — for­get about the pre­vi­ous 300 times they made the same pre­dic­tion — THIS time im­peach­ment was IM­MI­NENT, PEO­PLE. IM­MI­NENT!!

Meet the new year: same as the old year.

So at some point dur­ing 2018, nor­mal, non-Belt­way-dwelling Amer­i­cans sim­ply stopped pay­ing at­ten­tion to cur­rent events. Ev­ery now and then we’d tune in to a cable-TV news show see what kinds of is­sues our na­tion’s elite po­lit­i­cal/me­dia class was grap­pling with, and we’d see a head­line like PORN STAR STORMY DANIELS: TRUMP DIDN’T USE A CONDOM.

That was when “Dr. Pim­ple Pop­per” started to look pretty good.

So we’re very glad that 2018 is fi­nally over. Once again we’re on the cusp of a new year, an­other chance for change. And once again, we find our­selves feel­ing stir­rings of hope – hope that the com­ing year re­ally will be bet­ter. Why do we feel this way? Why, de­spite all our past dis­ap­point­ments, do we be­lieve things re­ally can im­prove? Be­cause we are mo­rons, ap­par­ently.

So let’s not get too ex­cited about 2019. Our emo­tional state, go­ing for­ward, should be hope­less­ness leav­ened with de­spair, as we can see when we look back at the grotesque boofa-palooza that was 2018, start­ing with...

JAN­UARY

… which sees world ten­sions rise when North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un states that he has a nu­clear-mis­sile launch but­ton on his desk. This leaves U.S. Com­man­der-in-Chief Don- ald Trump with no vi­able mil­i­tary op­tion but to fire up his Ran­dom Cap­i­tal­izer App and tweet “I too have a Nu­clear But­ton, but it is a much big­ger & more pow­er­ful one than his,” thereby leav­ing no doubt as to which leader is more se­cure re­gard­ing the size of his but­ton. In an ap­par­ent ef­fort to re­as­sure ev­ery­one on his men­tal state, the pres­i­dent also is­sues a Tweet in which he de­scribes him­self as “ge­nius .... and a very sta­ble ge­nius at that!” Which is EX­ACTLY HOW VERY STA­BLE GE­NIUSES TALK, OK??

The in­tel­lec­tual level of the na­tional dis­course soars even higher when it is re­ported that, dur­ing an Oval Of­fice meet­ing on im­mi­gra­tion re­form, the pres­i­dent re­ferred to some poorer na­tions as “sh*tholes.” This up­sets many peo­ple, es­pe­cially the frowny pan­elper­sons of CNN, who find the word “sh*thole” so deeply of­fen­sive that they re­peat it roughly 15 times per hour for a solid week. Wash­ing­ton is con­sumed by a heated de­bate over what, ex­actly, the pres­i­dent said; the tone and sub­stance of this de­bate are re­flected in this ac­tual sen­tence from a Wash­ing­ton Post story: “Three White House of­fi­cials said [Sen. David] Per­due and [Sen. Tom] Cot­ton told the White House that they heard ‘sh*thouse’ rather than ‘sh*thole,’ al­low­ing them to deny the pres­i­dent’s com­ments on tele­vi­sion over the week­end.” (This is known in le­gal cir­cles as the “sh*thouse de­fense.”)

Mean­while the Wall Street Jour­nal re­ports that shortly be­fore the 2016

elec­tion, Pres­i­dent Trump’s per­sonal lawyer, Michael Co­hen, ar­ranged a $130,000 pay­ment to porn star Stormy Daniels so she would keep quiet about an al­leged act of ex­ec­u­tive out­reach with Trump in 2006. Co­hen re­sponds that “Pres­i­dent Trump once again ve­he­mently de­nies any such oc­cur­rence, as has Ms. Daniels.” So that set­tles THAT.

A con­gres­sional squab­ble shuts down the fed­eral gov­ern­ment for three days, but what with the in­tense me­dia fo­cus on the sh*thole and porn star is­sues, hardly any­body no­tices.

In non-sh*thole news, the res­i­dents of Hawaii ex­pe­ri­ence an ex­cit­ing Satur­day morn­ing when they re­ceive the fol­low­ing mes­sage on their phones from the state’s Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency: “BAL­LIS­TIC MIS­SILE THREAT IN­BOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IM­ME­DI­ATE SHEL­TER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” Hawaii’s gov­er­nor, David Ige, is quickly in­formed that it’s a false alarm, but 17 ex­tremely tense min­utes go by be­fore he gets the word out on so­cial me­dia. Asked later about the de­lay, he says – we are not mak­ing this quote up -- “I have to con­fess that I don’t know my Twit­ter ac­count log-ons and the pass­words.” This state­ment arouses pow­er­ful feel­ings of long­ing among high-level Trump ad­vis­ers.

The fi­asco leads to the res­ig­na­tion of the head of the Hawaii Emer­gency Man­age­ment agency, who im­me­di­ately ac­cepts a po­si­tion as Di­rec­tor of Pet Trans­porta­tion for United Air­lines.

In youth fads, the Amer­i­can As­so­ci­a­tion of Poi­son Con­trol Cen­ters (AAPCC) con­tin­ues to re­ceive re­ports of young peo­ple suf­fer­ing ill ef­fects from eat­ing Tide de­ter­gent pods. Asked to ex­plain why young peo­ple would per­sist in eat­ing some­thing that tastes ter­ri­ble and makes them sick, an AAPCC spokesper­son says “As far as we can de­ter­mine, it’s be­cause they’re stupid.”

Speak­ing of stupid, in …

FE­BRU­ARY

… with yet an­other gov­ern­ment shut­down loom­ing, Congress, whose ir­re­spon­si­ble spend­ing prac­tices have put the na­tion on the road to fis­cal dis­as­ter, faces a choice. It can ei­ther:

1. Con­tinue to spend huge amounts of money that we don’t have, or 2. Not.

Af­ter much late-night drama, Congress agrees on a com­pro­mise deal un­der which it will con­tinue to spend huge amounts of money that we don’t have. This dis­play of lead­er­ship solves the bud­get prob­lem per­ma­nently un­til March, when Congress will once again tackle the com­plex prob­lem of gov­ern­ment spend­ing.

But the big story in Wash­ing­ton is the hotly de­bated re­lease by con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans of the so-called “Nunes memo,” which, de­pend­ing on which cable-news net­work you lis­ten to, ei­ther does or does not prove that the FBI, in its in­ves­ti­ga­tion of pos­si­ble Rus­sian in­flu­ence on the 2016 elec­tion, abused the FISA process when it used the so-called “Steele dossier” -- which was pre­pared by Fu­sion GPS, a re­search firm orig­i­nally hired by The Wash­ing­ton Free Bea­con, a con­ser­va­tive news out­let, to in­ves­ti­gate Trump, but dropped by that or­ga­ni­za­tion when Trump was nom­i­nated, then hired by an at­tor­ney for the Hil­lary Clin­ton cam­paign and the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee, af­ter which Fu­sion hired for­mer Bri­tish in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer Christo­pher Steele as an in­ves­ti­ga­tor – to ob­tain a war­rant to wire­tap Carter Page, a for­eign-pol­icy ad- vi­sor in the Trump cam­paign who al­legedly … Hey, wake up! This is im­por­tant! Also there’s a Demo­cratic counter-memo!

On the Stormy Daniels front, Michael Co­hen ac­knowl­edges that he did, in fact, pay $130,000 to the porn ac­tress, but he used his own money and the Trump cam­paign had noth­ing to do with it and it was all to­tally le­git. So that set­tles THAT.

In sports, the 2018 Win­ter Olympic games get un­der way in PyeongChang, South Korea, with a his­toric open­ing cer­e­mony high­lighted by the re­lease of 25 doves, which are im­me­di­ately shot down and con­sumed by the North Korean men’s biathlon team.

In do­mes­tic sports, the Ea­gles de­feat the Pa­tri­ots to win their first Su­per Bowl, and huge crowds of joy­ous Philadel­phia fans cel­e­brate by de­stroy­ing down­town Bos­ton.

No, that would ac­tu­ally make sense. In fact the Philadel­phia fans spend the night de­stroy­ing their own city, then head home for a hearty break­fast of Tide Pods.

Speak­ing of classy be­hav­ior, in …

MARCH

… Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son learns that Pres­i­dent Trump has fired him when, dur­ing an of­fi­cial visit to Africa, he is ejected from his State Depart­ment plane at 35,000 feet.

No, se­ri­ously, Tiller­son learns of his fir­ing via a pres­i­den­tial tweet, which says: “Mike Pom­peo, Di­rec­tor of the CIA, will be­come our new Sec­re­tary of State. He will do a fan­tas­tic job! Thank you to Rex Tiller­son for his ser­vice!”

So midair ejec­tion would ac­tu­ally have been more dig­ni­fied.

Speak­ing of air travel: United Air­lines, which re­ceived some un­for­tu­nate pub­lic­ity in 2017 when it “reac­com­mo­dated” a 69year-old man by drag­ging him, bleed­ing and scream­ing, off his flight, has an event­ful week in­volv­ing trav­el­ing dogs (these events ac­tu­ally hap­pened):

-- On Mon­day, a United at­ten­dant on a Hous­ton-to-New-York flight orders a pas­sen­ger to stow a bag con­tain­ing a French bull­dog puppy, Kok­ito, in the over­head bin. This does not turn out well for Kok­ito.

-- On Tues­day, a Ger­man shep­herd named Irgo, which United was sup­posed to fly to Kansas City, in­stead gets flown to … Ja­pan! Mean­while a Great Dane that United was sup­posed to fly to Ja­pan winds up in Kansas City. It is prob­a­bly a good thing that both of these breeds are too large for the over­head bin.

-- On Thurs­day, a United flight from Ne­wark to St. Louis is di­verted when United re­al­izes that a dog that was loaded onto the plane was sup­posed to go to Akron.

Re­spond­ing to pub­lic out­rage over these in­ci­dents, United Air­lines is­sues an apol­ogy but sends it to the wrong email ad­dress.

Speak­ing of in­com­pe­tence: Congress averts yet an­other gov­ern­ment shut­down by pass­ing, with Pres­i­dent Trump sign­ing, a bill un­der which the gov­ern­ment will — pre­pare to be shocked — spend a truly in­sane amount of money that it does not have. With the spend­ing prob­lem ad­dressed, Wash­ing­ton then turns to more press­ing mat­ters, specif­i­cally the Stormy Daniels cri­sis, which es­ca­lates when Ms. Daniels files a law­suit to in­val­i­date her nondis­clo­sure agree­ment on the grounds that Trump didn’t sign it. This is­sue dom­i­nates the news cy­cle, es­pe­cially on CNN, which puts Ms. Daniels’ ex­tremely out­go­ing lawyer, Michael Ave­natti, on Full Sh*thole Ro­ta­tion, which means he is fea­tured on ev­ery CNN news pro­gram and also han­dles weather and sports up­dates.

Abroad, the Rus­sian news agency TASS re­ports that Vladimir Putin, who cam­paigned on the theme “A Vote For Putin Is A Vote For Not Dy­ing Un­der Mys­te­ri­ous Cir­cum­stances,” has been de­clared the win­ner of the 2018 Rus­sian pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, as well as, in the in­ter­est of ef­fi­ciency, the 2024 and 2030 elec­tions.

In en­ter­tain­ment news, War­ren Beatty and Faye Du­n­away, seek­ing to atone for the 2017 en­ve­lope fi­asco, re­turn to the Acad­emy Awards stage and tri­umphantly an­nounce that the win­ner of the Os­car for Best Pic­ture is “Gone With the Wind.” For­tu­nately by then no­body is watch­ing.

The fi­as­cos con­tinue in...

APRIL

… when the aban­doned Chi­nese space sta­tion Tian­gong-1, which has been anx­iously watched by sci­en­tists as its or­bit de­cayed, plunges back to earth and, in a worst-case out­come, fails to land on at­tor­ney Michael Ave­natti, thus en­abling him to con­tinue ap­pear­ing on CNN more of­ten than the Ge­ico Gecko.

Mean­while Pres­i­dent Trump, faced with – among other prob­lems -- a con­tin­u­ing im­mi­gra­tion cri­sis, in­creased Rus­sian ag­gres­sion in Syria and a loom­ing trade war with China, launches a bar­rage of as­sault tweets at what is clearly the big­gest threat to the na­tion: Ama­zon. Trump is forced to back down when the re­tail gi­ant threat­ens to sus­pend the White House’s Ama­zon Prime mem­ber­ship and can­cel de­liv­ery of a large or­der placed by the De­fense Depart­ment, in­clud­ing six nu­clear sub­marines, two air­craft car­ri­ers and a mis­sile-de­fense sys­tem with a five-star av­er­age re­view rat­ing from other na­tions.

Re­spond­ing to al­leged Rus­sian in­fil­tra­tion of Face­book and mas­sive breaches of user data, the Se­nate Com­mit­tee of Ag­ing Sen­a­tors Who Can­not Op­er­ate Their Own Cell Phones With­out the As­sis­tance of Min­ions holds a hear­ing in­tended to an­swer such prob­ing ques­tions as:

-- What IS Face­book, any­way?

-- Where does it go when you turn off the com­puter?

-- Is there a print ver­sion?

-- Is Face­book the one with the video of a cat rid­ing on a dog?

-- How the heck do you get a cat to do that, any­way?

Pa­tiently at­tempt­ing to an­swer these ques­tions is Face­book CEO Mark Zucker­berg, who wears a suit and tie and does a solid job of im­per­son­at­ing a reg­u­lar hu­man, ex­cept for not blink­ing and at one point hav­ing a ten­ta­cle emerge briefly from his left ear.

Abroad, the big news is a his­toric sum­mit be­tween South Korean Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un. In what ob­servers see as a ma­jor break­through, Kim agrees to sign a let­ter of agree­ment ex­plic­itly ac­knowl­edg­ing, for the first time, that he has ex­actly the same hair­style as Bert, of Bert and Ernie.

In sports, Pa­trick Reed wins the Masters Tour­na­ment, prompt­ing ju­bi­lant Ea­gles fans to cel­e­brate by de­stroy­ing what lit­tle is left of Philadel­phia.

Speak­ing of cel­e­bra­tions, in ...

MAY

… the big­gest story by far is the wed­ding of Amer­i­can ex-ac­tress Meghan Markle to Prince Harry, Duke of Sus­sex, who is in the di­rect line of suc­ces­sion to the Bri­tish throne be­hind Prince Louis of Cam­bridge, who is be­hind Princess Char­lotte of Cam­bridge, who is be­hind Prince Ge­orge of Cam­bridge, who is be­hind Prince Wil­liam, Duke of Cam­bridge, who is be­hind Charles, Prince of Wales, who is 70 but any year now could get his shot at be­com­ing the anachro­nis­tic cer­e­mo­nial fig­ure­head of one of the world’s most sec­ond-rate pow­ers. With the stakes so high, the me­dia gid­di­ness level soars to De­f­con 1; the wed­ding cake alone gets more me­dia cov­er­age than Africa and global cli­mate change com­bined.

In other in­ter­na­tional de­vel­op­ments, hopes for a sum­mit meet­ing be­tween Kim Jong-un and Pres­i­dent Trump soar when North Korea re­leases three Amer­i­can pris­on­ers, only to be dashed when North Korea re­fuses to ac­cept, in ex­change, Stormy Daniels. Later in the month hopes soar again when North Korea an­nounces that, as a good-faith ges­ture, it has de­stroyed its Pung­gye-ri nu­clear test fa­cil­ity, only to be dashed again when satel­lite im­agery of the ex­plo­sion re­veals that what the rogue na­tion ac­tu­ally blew up was a 2006 Hyundai Sonata with what a U.S. in­tel­li­gence source de­scribes as “re­ally bald tires.”

Mean­while Trump an­nounces that the U.S. will with­draw from the 2015 multi-na­tion nu­clear deal with Iran on the grounds that (1) it is deeply flawed, and (2) he does not own any golf cour­ses there.

In en­ter­tain­ment news, Roseanne Barr sends out a taste­less, id­i­otic tweet and im­me­di­ately has her net­work show can­celed, thereby il­lus­trat­ing a key dif­fer­ence be­tween be­ing a sit­com star and be­ing pres­i­dent of the United States.

In sports, the wettest Ken­tucky Derby in his­tory is won by the fa­vorite horse, Jus­tify, af­ter the rest of the field is eaten by sharks.

Speak­ing of eat­ing, in ...

JUNE

… Pres­i­dent Trump flies to Que­bec to at­tend the G7 sum­mit. Hopes that the meet­ing will pro­duce a his­toric agree­ment on global cli­mate change, or at least a nice group photo, are dashed when, dur­ing din­ner, Trump be­comes em­broiled in a heated pol­icy dis­agree­ment with the lead­ers of Canada, France, Ger­many, Italy, Ja­pan and the United King­dom over the is­sue of ketchup.

From Canada the pres­i­dent flies to Sin­ga­pore for the on-again, off-again, now on-again his­toric sum­mit with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un. This meet­ing is more pro­duc­tive, end­ing with the two lead­ers sign­ing a let­ter of agree­ment in which North Korea promis- es to think se­ri­ously about de­nu­cle­ariz­ing, in ex­change for the for­mula for pump­kin spice latte.

On the do­mes­tic front, the pres­i­dent is forced to re­verse his ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pol­icy on sep­a­rat­ing im­mi­grant chil­dren from their par­ents in re­sponse to a wide­spread and pas­sion­ate in­ter­na­tional out­pour­ing of crit­i­cism from his wife, Me­la­nia. Trump in­sists, how­ever, that he re­mains “as com­mit­ted as ever to pro­tect­ing our borders by build­ing a purely imag­i­nary wall.”

In other do­mes­tic news, Sen. Chuck “The Hu­man Band­wagon” Schumer, cit­ing stud­ies show­ing that ev­ery liv­ing Amer­i­can adult ex­cept Mitt Rom­ney has tried pot, in­tro­duces a bill that would de­crim­i­nal­ize mar­i­juana at the fed­eral level and, quote, “cre­ate a mas­sive bu­reau­cracy tasked with wast­ing mil­lions of dol­lars on things like bong-safety reg­u­la­tions.” The leg­is­la­tion would also cre­ate a trust fund un­der which a per­cent­age of the fed­eral tax rev­enue raised from mar­i­juana sales would be set aside specif­i­cally to pur­chase Cheez-Its.

Mean­while, U.S. Supreme Court Jus­tice An­thony Kennedy an­nounces his de­ci­sion to re­tire, cre­at­ing an im­por­tant op­por­tu­nity for the na­tion’s po­lit­i­cal lead­ers to demon­strate that, al­though the pub­lic might have a low opin­ion of them as a group, it is nowhere near low enough.

In sports, the World Cup soc­cer tour­na­ment opens in Moscow with a beam­ing Vladimir Putin look­ing on as the host Rus­sian team coasts to a 5-0 vic­tory over a Saudi Ara­bian team whose play­ers ap­pear dis­tracted by the pres­ence di­rectly be­hind their bench of what the Rus­sians in­sist is a “strictly cer­e­mo­nial” tank.

Speak­ing of cer­e­mony, in …

JULY

... Pres­i­dent Trump con­tin­ues to have ex­cit­ing for­eign-pol­icy ad­ven­tures, start­ing with a trip to Brus­sels for a NATO sum­mit, which gets off to a rocky start but set­tles down once the pres­i­dent’s ad­vis­ers are able to com­mu­ni­cate to him, via fran­tic hand sig­nals, that NATO is ac­tu­ally our side. From there the pres­i­dent trav­els to Bri­tain, where he has tea with the Queen and makes what he later tells the press is “a very gen­er­ous of­fer, be­lieve me, VERY gen­er­ous” for the Crown Jewels.

Then it’s on to Fin­land for a sum­mit meet­ing with Vladimir Putin. At a press con­fer­ence af­ter­ward, the pres­i­dent tells re­porters that Putin — and if we can’t trust Vladimir Putin, who can we trust? — “strongly” de­nies in­ter­fer­ing in the 2016 U.S. elec­tion. Trump adds that he, per­son­ally, sees no rea­son why Rus­sia would in­ter­fere. This comes as a sur­prise to the U.S. in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity and pretty much ev­ery­body else with the IQ of cot­tage cheese or higher. Af­ter a firestorm of crit­i­cism, Trump clar­i­fies his re­marks, ex­plain­ing that he ac­tu­ally meant to say that he sees no rea­son why Rus­sia WOULDN’T in­ter­fere. Thus the pesky is­sue of the 2016 elec­tion is fi­nally laid to rest.

In do­mes­tic news, the pres­i­dent nom­i­nates Brett Ka­vanaugh to the Supreme Court. Ac­cept­ing the nom­i­na­tion, Ka­vanaugh says: “If con­firmed by the Se­nate, I pledge to give full and fair con­sid­er­a­tion to ev­ery case brought be­fore me. Also ev­ery keg.” For their part, Se­nate Democrats re­lease a state­ment promis­ing to “con­sider Judge Ka­vanaugh’s qual­i­fi­ca­tions in good faith and with open minds,” adding, “ob­vi­ously we are ly­ing.”

In state news, Colorado state leg­is­la­tors, fired up by the Chuck Schumer de­crim­i­nal­iza­tion bill, unan­i­mously vote to le­gal­ize mar­i­juana, only to be in­formed that mar­i­juana has been le­gal in Colorado since 2012. Af­ter en­joy­ing a hearty laugh, the leg­is­la­tors unan­i­mously vote to or­der 300 large piz­zas.

Mean­while Seat­tle be­comes the first ma­jor U.S. city to ban plas­tic straws and uten­sils in all restau­rants. San Francisco, sens­ing a threat to its sta­tus as front run­ner in the Pro­gres-sive­lympics, re­sponds by ban­ning food and bev­er­ages in all restau­rants.

In fi­nan­cial news, Face­book stock drops more than $100 bil­lion in a sin­gle day – the great­est loss in stock-mar­ket his­tory -af­ter the com­pany re­leases a quar­terly re­port re­veal­ing that many peo­ple have trou­ble dis­tin­guish­ing be­tween the “wow” emoji and the “sad” emoji. De­spite this set­back Face­book is still worth way more than Gen­eral Mo­tors and most other Amer­i­can com­pa­nies that make ac­tual things.

In sports, France de­feats Croa­tia to win the World Cup. Ju­bi­lant Ea­gles fans, with noth­ing left in Philadel­phia to de­stroy, lay waste to Delaware.

Speak­ing of de­feats, in …

AU­GUST

… a Vir­ginia jury finds for­mer Trump cam­paign chair­man Paul Manafort guilty of tax eva­sion, bank fraud and hav­ing a name that can be rear­ranged to spell “Fart Upon Lama.” Only min­utes later, Trump’s for­mer lawyer, Michael Co­hen, pleads guilty in New York to var­i­ous charges, in­clud­ing ar­rang­ing hush-money pay­ments in 2016 to Stormy Daniels and Play­boy model Karen McDou­gal “at the di­rec­tion of a can­di­date for fed­eral of­fice” who is not named but was ob­vi­ously Bernie San­ders.

No, se­ri­ously, the can­di­date was ob­vi­ously Trump. Some of the hush money was re­port­edly paid by the com­pany that owns the Na­tional En­quirer at the di­rec­tion of its CEO, whose name – we swear we are not mak­ing this up — is David Pecker (which can be rear­ranged to spell “David Pecker”).

The Manafort/Co­hen story gets mas­sive cov­er­age on CNN and MSNBC, with hordes of joy­ful pan­elists cel­e­brat­ing the now-in­evitable im­peach­ment of Trump by danc­ing around the stu­dio singing “Ding Dong, The Witch Is Dead.” For its part, Fox News presents a timely in­ves­tiga­tive se­ries on pre­vent­ing sala­man­der-trans­mit­ted dis­eases.

In a co­or­di­nated na­tion­wide re­sponse to Trump’s re­peated at­tacks on the press, sternly worded edi­to­ri­als re­buk­ing the pres­i­dent are pub­lished in more than 300 news­pa­pers, with a com­bined ed­i­to­rial-page read­er­ship es­ti­mated at nearly 14 peo­ple. For his part, CNN’s Jim Acosta coura­geously con­fronts White House Press Sec­re­tary Sarah San­ders over this is­sue, de­spite the very real risk that he will have to fea­ture him­self promi­nently in his re­port on this har­row­ing in­ci­dent.

In busi­ness news, Ap­ple be­comes the first pub­licly traded U.S. com­pany to be worth $1 tril­lion, thanks to its shrewd busi­ness model of con­stantly com­ing out with costly new prod­ucts that re­quire costly charg­ers that are com­pletely dif­fer­ent from all the costly Ap­ple charg­ers you al­ready have, and some­times spon­ta­neously mu­tate overnight in such a way as to re­quire even newer and costlier Ap­ple charg­ers.

Speak­ing of elec­tric­ity, in …

SEPTEM­BER

... Wash­ing­ton is a-tin­gle with a level of ex­cite­ment that can only re­sult from a clash of two high-volt­age per­son­al­i­ties: Chuck Grass­ley and Dianne Fe­in­stein, the chair­man and rank­ing mem­ber of the U.S. Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, both hav­ing served in the Se­nate since shortly be­fore the Big Bang. The com­mit­tee holds two hear­ings on the Supreme Court nom­i­na­tion of Brett Ka­vanaugh, the sec­ond de­voted to ex­plo­sive al­le­ga­tions con­tained in a let­ter that was de­liv­ered back in July to Sen. Fe­in­stein, who, what with one thing and an­other, failed to men­tion it un­til Septem­ber. The na­tion watches, riv­eted, for more than seven hours as Ka­vanaugh and his ac­cuser, Chris­tine Blasey Ford, de­liver emo­tional tes­ti­mony, at the end of which the na­tion has learned the fol­low­ing facts:

1. The sen­a­tors have no idea what, if any­thing, ac­tu­ally hap­pened.

2. Nor do they care.

3. The truth is ut­terly ir­rel­e­vant to them.

4. They all de­cided long ago how they were go­ing to vote, based en­tirely on po­lit­i­cal cal­cu­la­tions.

5. Given ex­actly the same tes­ti­mony but dif­fer­ent po­lit­i­cal cir­cum­stances, ev­ery sin­gle senator would pas­sion­ately es­pouse the po­si­tion di­a­met­ri­cally op­po­site the one he or she is pas­sion­ately es­pous­ing now.

6. Brett Ka­vanaugh re­ally likes beer.

In other po­lit­i­cal news, the New York Times pub­lishes an anonymous op-ed col­umn al­legedly writ­ten by a “se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tion

of­fi­cial” who is harshly crit­i­cal of Pres­i­dent Trump. De­spite in­tense pres­sure, the Times re­fuses to re­veal the au­thor’s iden­tity, al­though lin­guis­tics ex­perts see a pos­si­ble clue in the fact that the col­umn twice refers to Trump as “my hus­band.”

Mean­while the pres­i­dent ad­dresses the United Na­tions Gen­eral Assem­bly, declar­ing that his ad­min­is­tra­tion “has ac­com­plished more than al­most any ad­min­is­tra­tion in the his­tory of our coun­try.” The au­di­ence re­acts with laugh­ter, which the pres­i­dent’s ad­vi­sors as­sure him is how world lead­ers tra­di­tion­ally show re­spect. Fox News con­firms this.

In sports, Tiger Woods wins the PGA Tour Cham­pi­onship, his first tour win since 2013. The Mary­land Na­tional Guard is called out to de­fend Bal­ti­more from the ad­vanc­ing army of ju­bi­lant Ea­gles fans.

Speak­ing of wins, in ...

OC­TO­BER

... the Se­nate ap­proves the Ka­vanaugh nom­i­na­tion by a vote of 50-48, with Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski vot­ing “present” and Chuck Schumer vot­ing “ex­tra cheese.”

The New York Times, in a ma­jor in­ves­tiga­tive story, as­serts that Don­ald Trump amassed much of his for­tune through “du­bi­ous tax schemes,” in­clud­ing a $ 723 mil­lion de­duc­tion in 1993 for what was de­scribed in Trump’s fed­eral tax re­turn as “crois­sants.” Trump de­nounces the Times story as FAKE NEWS, as­sert­ing that the de­duc­tion “was ac­tu­ally for a range of pas­tries.” Fox News con­firms this.

In other ex­ec­u­tive ac­tion, the pres­i­dent hosts Kanye West in the Oval Of­fice, where the rap­per/pro­ducer/en­trepreneur en­gages in a free-wheel­ing, widerang­ing ex­change of views with him­self, then in­ad­ver­tently launches a nu­clear strike against Por­tu­gal be­fore re­turn­ing to his home di­men­sion. The pres­i­dent also finds time in his sched­ule to ini­ti­ate a Twit­ter beef with Stormy Daniels by re­fer­ring to her in a tweet as “Horse­face.” Ms. Daniels re­sponds with a tweet mock­ing the “tiny” size of the pres­i­dent’s legacy. This ex­change dom­i­nates sev­eral news cy­cles but, in­cred­i­bly, does not prove to be the low point of the month.

Ten­sion mounts when ex­plo­sive de­vices are mailed to high-pro­file Trump crit­ics, in­clud­ing Barack Obama and the Clin­tons. Af­ter an in­ten­sive na­tion­wide man­hunt, fed­eral au­thor­i­ties ar­rest a man who has been liv­ing and driv­ing around in a van plas­tered with im­ages clearly broad­cast­ing the mes­sage I AM A DAN­GER­OUSLY CRAZY PER­SON, but since he was do­ing this in South Florida no­body no­ticed.

An al­ready bad month gets ex­po­nen­tially worse when a gun­man shout­ing anti-Semitic ep­i­thets opens fire in a Pitts­burgh syn­a­gogue. It is an atroc­ity so hor­rific, and so shock­ing, that nearly three min­utes pass be­fore peo­ple start us­ing it as a club to blud­geon those with whom they dis­agree po­lit­i­cally.

In sports, the na­tion re­joices as, for the ninth con­sec­u­tive year, some team other than the New York Yan­kees wins the World Se­ries. At­lanta is evac­u­ated when troops are un­able to halt the re­lent­less ad­vance of ju­bi­lant Ea­gles fans. Speak­ing of loom­ing men­aces, in ...

NOVEM­BER

... the na­tion braces for what po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts agree will be the most im­por­tant midterm elec­tions since the dawn of time. Vot­ers pre­pare for the the big day by binge-watch­ing Net­flix, be­cause reg­u­lar TV has turned into a gush­ing sewer of po­lit­i­cal at­tack ads ap­par­ently cre­ated by and for dimwit­ted 4-yearolds.

Pres­i­dent Trump hits the cam­paign trail to warn vot­ers that if Democrats are elected there will be no­body to pro­tect the na­tion from a deadly car­a­van of al­leged Hon­durans mov­ing re­lent­lessly to­ward the U.S. bor­der at ap­prox­i­mately the speed of a se­nior golf four­some. This car­a­van, ac­cord­ing to the pres­i­dent, con­tains gang mem­bers, dis­eases, dis­eased gang mem­bers, Mid­dle Eastern­ers, spies and dis­eased Mid­dle-East­ern spy gang mem­bers car­ry­ing what Trump claims — and Fox News con­firms — is “a 200-foot-long atomic switch­blade.” To com­bat this threat, U.S. troops head for the bor­der, hav­ing been or­dered there by the pres­i­dent, but only af­ter he was in­formed by his mil­i­tary ad­vis­ers that the Rio Grande is too shal­low for air­craft car­ri­ers.

For their part, the Democrats ap­peal to vot­ers with a three-pronged mes­sage:

PRONG ONE: The Democrats are the party of fair­ness, diver­sity and in­clu­sion.

PRONG TWO: Any­body who dis­agrees with the Democrats about any­thing is Hitler.

PRONG THREE: But more racist.

The elec­tion goes smoothly, ex­cept of course in Florida, which should se­ri­ously con­sider out­sourc­ing all of its gov­ern­ment func­tions to a com­pe­tent or­ga­ni­za­tion, such as Mon­tana. As usual the most con­fused county in Florida is Broward — of­ten called “the Hawaii Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency of coun­ties” — which to this day is not 100 per­cent cer­tain how it voted in Dewey vs. Tru­man.

Na­tion­wide, how­ever, it is clear the vot­ers have given the Democrats con­trol of the House, while leav­ing the Repub­li­cans in con­trol of the Se­nate, thereby guar­an­tee­ing that for the next two years Congress will ac­com­plish noth­ing, which may well be what the vot­ers in­tended.

The day af­ter the elec­tion Jeff Ses­sions re­signs as at­tor­ney gen­eral upon learn­ing that his of­fice has been re­lo­cated, in what the White House de­scribes as a “se­cu­rity mea­sure,” to the men’s re­stroom of a Kwik Mart in Fred­er­ick, Md.

Mean­while the on­go­ing saga that is The Jim Acosta Story, Star­ring Jim Acosta As Jim Acosta, takes a thrilling turn when Jim gets into a dra­matic strug­gle with a White House in­tern over a mi­cro­phone. The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, al­ways look­ing for ways to make a stupid sit­u­a­tion even stu­pider, sus­pends Jim’s press pass and re­leases a video that some­body ap­par­ently doc­tored to make it ap­pear more vi­o­lent by splic­ing in the shower scene from “Psy­cho.”

Speak­ing of vi­o­lence: the pres­i­dent, ad­dress­ing the ques­tion of whether Saudi Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man had knowl­edge of the mur­der of Saudi jour­nal­ist Ja­mal Khashoggi in a Saudi con­sulate by agents of the Saudi gov­ern­ment, re­leases a state­ment, which he ap­par­ently typed with his own thumbs, stat­ing, quote, “maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” So that set­tles THAT.

Abroad, in­tel­li­gence satel­lite pho­to­graphs re­veal that 16 con­struc­tion projects in North Korea -which the North Korean gov­ern­ment claims are go­ing to be Chipo­tle restau­rants – in fact are mis­sile bases. North Korea in­sists that these will be used “only for de­liv­ery orders.”

In busi­ness news, Ama­zon, af­ter a much-pub­li­cized na­tion­wide search, an­nounces that it will lo­cate new head­quar­ters in Ar­ling­ton, Va., and New York City, in re­turn for tax breaks, in­fras­truc­ture im­prove­ments, four seats in the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives and re­place­ment of the Statue of Lib­erty with a 340-foot-tall statue of Jef­frey Be­zos naked.

As Thanks­giv­ing ap­proaches, two tur­keys – named Peas and Car­rots – are sum­moned to the White House, where the pres­i­dent, in keep­ing with a light­hearted Wash­ing­ton tra­di­tion, ap­points them to high-level posts in the Jus­tice Depart­ment. Two days later he fires Peas over what in­sid­ers de­scribe as “pol­icy dif­fer­ences.” Within min­utes Peas is hired as a po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst by MSNBC.

Mean­while the Amer­i­can peo­ple ob­serve the Thanks­giv­ing hol­i­day by re­flect­ing on their many bless­ings, then as­sault­ing each other over con­sumer elec­tronic de­vices that are im­per­cep­ti­bly bet­ter than the ones they al­ready have. While this is hap­pen­ing the fed­eral gov­ern­ment re­leases a re­port warn­ing that cli­mate change will have a cat­a­strophic im­pact on the na­tion’s fu­ture, but be­cause of all the sweet Black Fri­day deals no­body no­tices.

The month con­cludes on a pos­i­tive note as NASA’s $850 mil­lion In­Sight spaceprobe lan­der, af­ter a six­month in­ter­plan­e­tary jour­ney cov­er­ing 301 mil­lion miles, touches down on the sur­face of Mars. It was sup­posed to go to Venus, but NASA used nav­i­ga­tional data pro­vided by United Air­lines.

Speak­ing of mis­takes, in ...

DE­CEM­BER

... Pres­i­dent Trump heads to Ar­gentina for the G20 sum­mit, which con­sists of the G7 na­tions plus Rus­sia, China, In­dia, Ar­gentina, Aus­tralia, Saudi Ara­bia, Mex­ico, South Korea, South Africa, In­done­sia, Mi­crosoft, the Cor­leone Fam­ily, Gryffindor and LeBron James. Trump meets with Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping in an ef­fort to end the es­ca­lat­ing trade war, which is caused by China de­lib­er­ately mak­ing cheap prod­ucts that Amer­i­cans want to buy. The two lead­ers reach an agree­ment un­der which Trump will hold off on im­pos­ing $200 bil­lion in new tar­iffs on Chi­nese goods, in re­turn for which China will pur­chase a new Chevy Volt, nearly dou­bling that ve­hi­cle’s an­nual world­wide sales. In re­sponse, the Dow soars, only to plunge again when fi­nan­cial an­a­lysts learn that China de­clined the pre­mium-floor-mat op­tion.

On the ever-chang­ing per­son­nel front, Trump an­nounces that his nom­i­nee to re­place Jeff Ses­sions as at­tor­ney gen­eral is “an ex­cel­lent lawyer, I for­get his name at the mo­ment, but he’s ter­rific, be­lieve me.” Fox News con­firms this. To re­place Nikki Ha­ley as UN am­bas­sador the pres­i­dent chooses Heather Nauert, but only af­ter his ad­vi­sors are able to con­vince him that Kat­niss Everdeen is a fic­tional char­ac­ter. Re­plac­ing John Kelly as White House Chief of Staff is Wayne New­ton.

Mean­while in a dev­as­tat­ing blow to the U.S. hu­mor in­dus­try, Michael Ave­natti an­nounces that he will not run for pres­i­dent. His de­par­ture nar­rows the po­ten­tial Demo­cratic field down to pretty much ev­ery Demo­cratic politi­cian ever, in­clud­ing El­iz­a­beth War­ren, Ka­mala Har­ris, Cory Booker, Bernie San­ders, Joe Bi­den, some­body called “Beto” and the late Hu­bert Humphrey, all of whom be­lieve Trump will be vul­ner­a­ble in 2020, as con­fi­dently pre­dicted by the many ex­pert po­lit­i­cal ob­servers who also con­fi­dently pre­dicted Hil­lary Clin­ton’s pres­i­dency.

Fu­el­ing this con­fi­dence are re­li­able ru­mors swirling around Wash­ing­ton that spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller is about to do some ma­jor thing that, while not spec­i­fied in the ru­mors, will def­i­nitely mean the down­fall of Trump and THIS TIME IT IS RE­ALLY HAP­PEN­ING, PEO­PLE. In an­tic­i­pa­tion of this event, CNN un­veils a spe­cial pan­elist desk that is the length of a reg­u­la­tion basketball court, pro­vid­ing the ca­pa­bil­ity to have an un­prece­dented 170 pan­elists sit­ting side-by-side ex­press­ing out­rage si­mul­ta­ne­ously, and bring­ing CNN one step closer to the day when it has more pan­elists than ac­tual view­ers.

All this hap­pens as con­gres­sional Democrats pre­pare to take con­trol of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, where they plan to im­ple­ment an am­bi­tious agenda fo­cused on the No. 1 con- cern of the Amer­i­can peo­ple, which of course is... The 2016 elec­tions! Mean­while ten­sion con­tin­ues to build along the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der as Amer­i­can troops, orig­i­nally de­ployed to pro­tect the United States from the Hon­duran Death Car­a­van of Doom, are or­dered to turn around and at­tempt to stop the vast horde of ju­bi­lant Ea­gles fans surg­ing south­ward from what is left of San Diego.

In a dis­turb­ing dis­play of U.S. vul­ner­a­bil­ity to cy­ber­at­tacks, Rus­sian hack­ers briefly gain con­trol of NOEL666, the su­per­com­puter that churns out the hun­dreds of vir­tu­ally iden­ti­cal Hall­mark Chan­nel Christ­mas movies, and cause it to broad­cast a movie ti­tled “You Bet­ter Watch Out,” in which the male and fe­male lead ac­tors, in­stead of fall­ing in love and get­ting mar­ried, be­come psy­chotic from eat­ing tainted fruit­cake and sav­agely mur­der their en­tire vil­lage with sharp­ened candy canes.

In a more pos­i­tive story, NASA’s in­ter­plan­e­tary In­Sight lan­der proves to be a tech­no­log­i­cal suc­cess and an in­spi­ra­tion to all Amer­i­cans, dis­tract­ing us from our petty po­lit­i­cal squab­bles and unit­ing us in ad­mi­ra­tion of the stun­ning pic­tures it trans­mits back to Earth from the Mar­tian sur­face, in­clud­ing a re­mark­ably clear im­age of what a NASA spokesper­son says “ap­pears to be a large mound of un­counted bal­lots from Broward County, Florida.”

The month ends on a trou­bling note when one of North Korea’s newly con­structed Chipo­tle restau­rants launches a bal­lis­tic mis­sile car­ry­ing what mil­i­tary an­a­lysts say is a three­ton tac­ti­cal beef bur­rito, which trav­els 4,600 miles be­fore splash­ing into the Pa­cific just off the coast of Oahu, pro­duc­ing a ti­dal wave con­tain­ing po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous lev­els of tomatillo salsa. The Hawaii Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency at­tempts to broad­cast a text warn­ing, but be­cause of what an agency spokesper­son says is “hu­man er­ror,” the mes­sage ac­tu­ally sent to all of the state’s res­i­dents reads HAPPY NEW YEAR.

Here’s hop­ing that the wish ex­pressed by this er­ro­neous HEMA mes­sage comes true. We would truly love for 2019 to be a happy year. Or at least a bet­ter year than 2018 was. It has to be bet­ter, right? How could it pos­si­bly be worse?

Please, put down the Tide Pod.

Camden Courier-Post / AP file

Philadel­phia Ea­gles fans cel­e­brated the team’s Su­per Bowl vic­tory over the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots.

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