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Dave Barry riffs on 2022: from COVID to Will Smith to World Cup

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A banner plane flew over former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence in Palm Beach County on Aug. 11, 2022. with a mocking “Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha” message aimed partly at Trump supporters who had gathered on the grounds as well as at Trump.

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The best thing we can say about 2022 is: It could have been worse.

For example, we could have had nuclear Armageddon. This briefly appeared to be a possibility, at least according to the president, who broke the news in October at (Why not?) a Democratic Party fundraiser at the home of a wealthy donor in New York City. That must have been an exciting event! One moment everybody’s standing around chewing hors d’ oeuvres, and the next moment WHOA WHAT DID HE JUST SAY?

The next day, after the news media ran a bunch of scary headlines, the White House Office of Explaining What the President Actually Meant explained that the president wasn’t suggesting that we were facing Armageddon per se, but was merely, as is his wont, emitting words, one of which happened to be “Armageddon,” and everybody should just calm down.

So we dodged a bullet there.

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Good for you! Nobody cares. Michael Dwyer AP

And there were other positive developments in 2022:

Millions of Americans on social media realized — it took them a while, but they finally got there — that nobody wants to know how they did on “Wordle.”

For the 13th consecutive year, the New York Yankees failed to even get into the World Series.

Best of all, the looming apocalyptic threat of catastrophic global climate change was finally eliminated thanks to the breakthrough discovery that the solution — it has been staring us in the face all this time — was to throw food at art.

So 2022 had some positives. Which is not to say that it was good. In fact it was the opposite of good, specifically, bad. The economy continued to stagger around like the last stoner out of Burning Man. We lost Angela Lansbury, Sidney Poitier, Loretta Lynn, Gilbert Gottfried, Christine McVie and Meat Loaf. Democracy died at least three times.

Maybe Armageddon wouldn’t have been so bad.

Anyway, it’s over. But before we move on to 2023, it’s time to don surgical gloves, reach deep down inside the big bag of stupid that was 2022, and see what we pull out, starting with …

JANUARY

… which begins with the world entering the third or possibly eighth year — nobody remembers any more — of the pandemic. The American public is seriously divided: Everybody who is wearing a mask hates everybody who is not wearing a mask, and vice versa. Both sides are 100 percent supported by The Science.

Vaccines also continue to be a subject of heated disagreement, to the point where — you may vaguely recall this — Neil Young demands that his music be removed from Spotify. This is a sentence we never envisioned writing in connection with vaccines, but here we are.

America faces three major crises: spiking COVID cases, soaring inflation and an alarming surge in the number of people who think it’s OK to hold loud FaceTime conversations in public. The national mood is gloomy, and it’s taking a heavy political toll on President Joe Biden, as voters increasingly question whether he is up to the job of leading the nation, or for that matter finishing his sentences.

According to the polls, the two biggest concerns of the public, by far, are the pandemic and the economy. Consequently Congress is focused, laser-like, on: the Senate filibuster rule. This is a legislative tactic that is evil when the other side uses it, but good when your side uses it. At the moment the Democrats want to change the rule, so of course the Republicans, led by Sen. Mitch “I AM smiling, dammit” McConnell, are opposed to changing it, which means Washington is consumed by a bitter, vicious, nasty, name-calling battle pitting the Democrats against Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, who are also Democrats.

In the end, as is so often the case with these burning issues that consume the nation’s capital, nothing happens, which is the whole point of the constitutional system of checks and balances put into place by the Founding Fathers, all of whom — and this is a testament to their wisdom and foresight — are dead.

Meanwhile the national debt, for the first time ever, creeps over $30 trillion, which is more than the entire U.S. economy is worth. Fortunately this is nothing to worry about. Forget we even brought it up.

In other financial news, more and more people are buying “cryptocurrencies,” which appeal to investors because the cryptocurrency market is not controlled by the government. Instead it is controlled by 13-year-old Justin Weeblemonger of Teaneck, N.J., who runs the whole shebang out of his PlayStation 5. (Justin also controls airline fares.)

In sports, Georgia defeats Alabama in the AT&T Ram Trucks Allstate Capital One Disney Bob’s Burgers Dr. Pepper Gatorade Siri Taco Bell Bowl to become champions of professional college football.

Speaking of trucks, in …

FEBRUARY

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Tom Brady retires! Tom Brady unretires! Make up your mind, Tom Brady! Steve Luciano AP

… there is trouble in, of all places, Canada. The news up there is that the capitol city, Ottawa (from the Algonquin word “adawe,” meaning “Washington”) is besieged by a massive protest convoy of trucks, clogging the streets, honking horns, blocking traffic and making it impossible for anybody to get anywhere. Granted this is the situation pretty much every day in, for example, New York City, but apparently in Canada it is a big deal. As tensions mount, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in a controversial move, invokes emergency powers enabling the government to freeze the protestors’ access to beaver pelts.

Ha ha! We are poking some good-natured fun at Canada, which is actually a modern nation and an important trading partner that we depend on to supply us with many vital things. Celine Dion is only one example. In all seriousness, the Canadian trucker strike is a significant event that raises some important issues, which everyone immediately stops caring about because of the situation in Ukraine.

Ukraine is a foreign nation that, through poor planning, is located right next to Russia. This is unfortunate because Russian President Vladimir Putin, a man who relaxes by putting kittens into a food processor, has long wanted to establish closer ties with Ukraine, in the same sense that a grizzly bear wants to establish closer ties with a salmon.

On Feb. 24, the Russian army invades Ukraine. Everyone assumes the Russians will easily prevail, but the Ukrainians put up a surprisingly strong resistance (we are using the term “resistance” in the sense of “physically fighting back,” as opposed to “tweeting defiant hashtags”). Most of the world rallies around the underdog Ukrainians and their charismatic president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, a former comedian and actor who is basically the opposite of Vladimir Putin. (Although to be fair, if Putin did comedy, he would kill.)

On the medical front, many states and municipalities drop their mask mandates as elected officials become aware of new scientific data showing that there is a strong statistical correlation between enforcing mask mandates and not getting re-elected.

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The quaint picturesque ski resort of Beijing hosts the Winter Olympics. GEPA pictures/ Harald Steiner Sipa USA via AP

In sports, the Winter Olympics, held in the quaint and picturesque ski resort of Beijing, attract a U.S. viewing audience estimated to be Al Roker’s immediate family. In a massively huge pro-football development, Tom Brady announces his retirement, which means we can finally move on after many decades of hearing about the historic greatness of Tom Brady.

Speaking of stars, in …

MARCH

… Will Smith slaps Chris Rock during the Oscars and is arrested for assault.

No, that’s what would happen to a non-celebrity such as yourself. Will Smith, on the other hand, sits back down, and shortly thereafter receives an Oscar and a standing ovation. This incident results in a massive outpouring of media think pieces from media thinkers pondering the significance of The Slap. This story dominates the news for days, receiving far more coverage than the war in Ukraine, which is still going on but which, unfortunately from a public-relations standpoint, does not involve any American celebrities.

In economic news, inflation continues to strain the economy despite intensive efforts by the Biden administration to explain that it is caused by Vladimir Putin, corporate greed, COVID, supply-chain issues, global climate change, the filibuster rule, the murder hornets and various other factors totally unrelated to any policies of the Biden administration. For its part, the Republican National Committee issues a formal statement declaring that “rampant inflation places a terrible financial burden on American working families, and we totally hope it stays bad until the midterm elections no wait we didn’t mean to say that last part out loud.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee holds hearings on Biden’s Supreme Court nominee, Ketanji Brown Jackson. She is clearly qualified, so this is an excellent opportunity for Republican senators — who believe the Democrats behaved like scum in hearings for equally qualified Republican nominees — to show that they have more decency and class. But of course this is impossible under our current political system, under which the primary function of government is to gain revenge. So the Republicans get even by behaving scummily toward Jackson, thus reinforcing the growing public perception that both sides are scum.

In other legislative action, the Senate passes a bill that would make daylight saving time permanent, meaning Americans would no longer have to adjust to a time change twice a year for no apparent reason. The bill is referred to the House Languishing Committee, thereby guarding against the danger that Congress might actually accomplish something useful.

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Thanks to hologram technology, the Rolling Stones, who passed away years ago, keep right on rockin’. Ian West AP

In entertainment news, the venerable Rolling Stones announce that they will hit the road this summer for their “Drool on the Microphone” tour. This will be the Stones’ seventh tour since 2003, when their physical bodies finally disintegrated into small piles of dust and they were replaced by holograms. The good news is, ticket prices for the new tour will start as low as $150. The bad news is, the $150 seats are so far from the stage that the sound will not reach them until after the concert is over.

Speaking of aging superstars: Tom Brady, nearly six full weeks after stunning the sports world by announcing his historic retirement, once again stuns the sports world by announcing that he is coming out of retirement, thus triggering a long-overdue wave of stories about the historic greatness of Tom Brady.

In other sports news, the Major League Baseball lockout ends as owners and players approve a collective bargaining agreement, with some rules changes intended to make their product more attractive to modern fans, including starting games in the seventh inning, referring to runs as “touchdowns,” and at some random point in every game releasing a large venomous snake in the infield. Also, noncompetitive franchises such as the Minnesota Twins will be permitted to end their seasons in mid-August because, in the words of MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, “What’s the point?”

Speaking of fundamental American institutions in peril, in …

APRIL

… Elon Musk says he wants to buy Twitter for $44 billion, which works out to one dollar for every apocalyptic tweet emitted about the sale by alarmed verified Twitter users who are deeply concerned about the precedent of allowing billionaires to buy major media platforms, which have traditionally been small mom-and-pop operations like the Washington Post and Facebook. Another verified concern is that Musk favors “free speech,” which we are putting in quotation marks because although it SOUNDS good — Free speech! — if everyone is allowed to have it willy-nilly, the public could be exposed to misinformation that has not been verified by the verifiers, as opposed to the current situation, in which everything on Twitter is 100 percent accurate.

Meanwhile, for a few exciting hours, a trending topic on political Twitter, which we swear we are not making up, is “testicle tanning.” Don’t even ask.

In pandemic news, a federal judge rules that the CDC cannot require people to wear masks on airplanes and other public transportation. This leads to a calm and rational debate on the benefits of masks, with both sides citing scientific data to support their positions, and nobody accusing anybody of having bad motives. Then Dorothy wakes up and she’s back in Kansas.

On the economic front, inflation continues to get worse despite intensified efforts by the Biden administration to have the president read teleprompter statements about it between trips to Delaware.

In other leadership news, Florida’s combative Gov. Ron DeSantis, always looking for new things to combat, takes on an insidious threat to Florida’s families and the American way of life: Disney. The issue is that Disney expressed an opinion deemed unacceptable by the governor, leaving him with no choice but to sign a law that would:

1. Strip Disney of its special legal status (currently it is classified as a “Kingdom”);

2. Require Donald Duck to put on a pair of pants;

3. Require that future “Toy Story” movies use a different name for the cowboy doll (currently it is “Woody”);

4. Require Disney to, quote, “undo whatever it did to the governor’s official vehicle” (currently it is a pumpkin).

Speaking of insidious threats, in …

MAY

… Americans learn that there is a new medical danger for them to be nervous about: “monkeypox,” which gets its name from the fact that it is the disease that killed Tarzan. The CDC, in an official statement, notes that there are “very few confirmed cases” and urges the public to “remain calm,” adding that “we all have to die sometime.”

Meanwhile parents of newborns scramble desperately to find baby formula amid a shortage that has left U.S. store shelves bare, although there are plentiful supplies abroad. In an emergency effort reminiscent of the legendary Berlin airlift, the U.S. government provides temporary relief by using an Air Force transport plane to fly 35 tons of American babies to Germany. The operation is deemed a success, although, as an official noted, “afterward we had to burn the plane.”

The war in Ukraine continues but receives less and less coverage in the U.S. as Americans turn their attention to the historic Johnny Depp vs. Amber Heard defamation trial. At issue is Heard’s Washington Post op-ed alleging that Depp, once the embodiment of cool in the role of dashing pirate Captain Jack Sparrow, has developed a case of face bloat and currently looks, quote, “like the owner of a struggling waterbed store.”

The nation is shocked when an 18-year-old with a disturbing social-media history uses a semiautomatic rifle he obtained legally to commit a horrific mass murder. Ten days later, the nation is again shocked when another 18-year-old with a disturbing social-media history uses a semiautomatic rifle he obtained legally to commit a horrific mass murder. Clearly nothing could have been done to prevent these tragedies, so the nation has no choice but to wait until it is time to be shocked again.

On the inflation front, food and gasoline prices soar to record highs, but Americans are able to take comfort in the repeated reminders by President Biden that all of this is Vladimir Putin’s fault.

Speaking of fault, in …

JUNE

… Johnny Depp wins his historic defamation lawsuit, with the jury ordering Amber Heard to repay the 783 billion person-hours the American public wasted watching the trial. The verdict unleashes a wave of thoughtful media think pieces the likes of which the nation has not seen since Will Smith slapped Chris Rock.

In economic news, Americans grow increasingly alarmed as the price of a gallon of gasoline and the value of the average 401(k) plan rapidly converge from opposite directions. For its part, the White House is growing increasingly irritated by the way people keep whining about soaring inflation and the collapsing stock market and the possibility of a recession while ignoring all the positive economic accomplishments that the Biden administration has achieved despite the efforts of Vladimir Putin, who — WHY DO PEOPLE KEEP FORGETTING THIS — is the cause of everything bad.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in what legal experts view as evidence of a shift to the right, rules that all previous court decisions were wrong.

The House Select Committee To Investigate The Living Hell Out Of Jan. 6 hears testimony, much of it from former members of the Trump administration, that leaves objective observers with only two possible interpretations of Donald Trump’s actions on that day:

One: Trump is a pathological narcissist who, in his delusional effort to cling to power, ignored the sane adults on his staff and listened instead to Rudy Giuliani — which is like getting legal counsel from a Magic 8 Ball — and in the end showed an utter disregard for the sanctity of his office, the rule of law, the welfare of the nation and the physical safety of thousands of people.

Two: There is no Two.

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Would-be travelers show up at the airport naively expecting the airlines to actually fly them somewhere. Daniel A. Varela dvarela@miamiherald.com

As the busy summer travel season gets underway, commercial aviation is severely disrupted across the nation because — this is a recurring problem — large numbers of people who have purchased tickets from the airlines are showing up at airports expecting the airlines to actually transport them to their intended destinations. “They keep giving us their money,” states a baffled airline-industry executive, “and we frankly have no idea why.”

Speaking of traveling, in …

JULY

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Elon Musk buys Twitter because Springsteen tickets are too expensive. Hannibal Hanschke AP

… President Biden, on an official visit to the Middle East, is widely criticized for fist-bumping with Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, an alleged human-rights violator who is believed to have ordered the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Responding to the criticism, the White House press office explains that the president “thought it was a different Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman.”

In other foreign news, Boris Johnson announces that he is resigning as prime minister of Great Britain so he can spend more time on his hair.

On July 4, America’s Independence Day celebration is marred by a horrendous mass shooting allegedly committed by a young man who had an extremely disturbing social-media history but was still able to legally obtain a semiautomatic rifle. As you can imagine, everyone is shocked.

In financial news, Elon Musk announces that no longer wants to purchase Twitter and will instead use the $44 billion to buy two Springsteen tickets.

The House Jan. 6 Committee, concluding Phase One of its investigation, votes unanimously to reinstall Donald Trump in the presidency so he can be impeached a third time. The committee also announces plans for “January 6: The Musical.”

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The James Webb Space Telescope zeroes in on Plano, Texas. AP

The nation enjoys a welcome break from all the negative news when NASA releases images captured by the James Webb Space Telescope — the most powerful space telescope ever built — showing, in spectacular, never-before-seen detail, a dead squirrel on the roof of a Walmart in Plano, Texas. A NASA spokesperson promises that the images will be even more impressive “once we figure out how to point it toward space.”

In Moscow, a 7-year-old boy has his finger broken by a robot he is competing against in a chess tournament. We are not making this up. “The robot broke the child’s finger,” states Sergey Lazarev, President of the Moscow Chess Federation, adding, “This is, of course, bad.” The robot is immediately hired as Director of Customer Relations by the U.S. airline industry.

As the month comes to a close, the economy dominates the news with the Commerce Department reporting that the U.S. Gross Domestic Product shrank for the second consecutive quarter. Traditionally this has meant that we are in a recession, but President Biden reassures the nation that it actually is NOT a recession, for reasons clearly stated on the teleprompter. This triggers a heated debate in Washington between Democrats and Republicans about whether we are or are not in a recession. As always, the real winners are the American people.

Speaking of heated, in …

AUGUST

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These classified documents were found in Mar-a-Lago, along with several thousand misappropriated packets of White House ketchup. AP

… a political firestorm is ignited when FBI agents search Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump’s personal residence and rental party venue, and seize classified documents as well as what a Justice Department source describes as “several thousand misappropriated packets of White House ketchup.” Trump declares that this is part of the Fake News Deep State Witch Hunt; his opponents declare that Trump is finally — This time IT’S REALLY HAPPENING, PEOPLE — going to be arrested for something. And thus the Donald Trump Show, now in its 358th week, continues its seemingly interminable run on the center stage of American politics, like the “Phantom of the Opera,” except it never even gets to the intermission.

In other political news, Congress passes the Inflation Reduction Act, which will reduce inflation because it says so right in the title. The act will also lower prescription-drug prices, fix climate change, reform the tax system and provide every qualified American with a puppy. This is viewed as a much-needed win for the Biden administration and a boost for the Democrats heading into the midterm elections, where they could also benefit from the fact that in a number of key races the Republicans have decided, for tactical reasons, to nominate lunatics.

President Biden also announces a massive new program to forgive hundreds of billions of dollars in student-loan debt. Also everybody who failed college chemistry will get bumped up to a B-plus. As is so often the case with massive government programs, this is popular with the people who will benefit from it and unpopular with the people who will pay for it.

In international news, Nancy Pelosi lands in Taiwan, strips off her pink pantsuit to reveal a camo pantsuit underneath, swims across the Taiwan Strait and singlehandedly destroys a Chinese naval base. At least that’s you would think happened, based on the Chinese reaction to the Pelosi visit, which is to almost start World War III. God only knows what would have happened if we had sent, say, Cher.

A Texas jury awards nearly $50 million in damages to two Sandy Hook parents in their lawsuit against Alex Jones, who is usually described in the news media as “a conspiracy theorist” because it would be unprofessional to describe him as “a gigantic talking bowel movement.”

California environmental regulators, always in the forefront of efforts to save the planet, decree that by the year 2035 it will be illegal for any vehicle on the state’s highways to have wheels.

Speaking of states taking action, in …

SEPTEMBER

… Ron DeSantis, who we remind you is governor of Florida, uses Florida state funds to charter two planes in Texas, which is not part of Florida, and has them transport a group of migrants from Venezuela, which is also not part of Florida, to Martha’s Vineyard, yet another place that is not part of Florida. This would be a hilarious gubernatorial prank if not for the fact that these are actual human beings, as opposed to Muppets to be deployed in a cynical game of Migrant Whack-a-Mole.

Martha’s Vineyard responds to DeSantis’s stunt by welcoming the migrants with open arms and offering them a permanent home for nearly two full days before having National Guard troops ship them off to the mainland. For its part, the White House blasts DeSantis for undermining the administration’s program for dealing with the humanitarian crisis at the border, which is to pretend that there is no humanitarian crisis at the border.

As Russian forces suffer mounting losses in Ukraine, an increasingly desperate Vladimir Putin, in what observers say is a clear violation of international law, annexes Connecticut.

In a legal development that dampens the drawers of MSNBC panelists, New York State Attorney General Letitia James files a civil lawsuit accusing Donald Trump of falsifying business records, issuing false financial statements and failing to pay $327 million worth of parking tickets. Just for fun, Trump declares that he’s guilty, while the Democrats call the lawsuit a politically motivated witch hunt. Everyone enjoys a hearty laugh before order is restored.

On a sadder note, the world mourns the death of Queen Elizabeth II, the beloved monarch who reigned over Great Britain during its transition from the center of a vast global empire to a popular tourist destination roughly the size of a pickleball court. She is succeeded by her 143-year-old son, King Charles the Uncomfortable, who will be officially crowned next year in a traditional British ceremony-gasm featuring numerous horses.

In response to yet another viral TikTok “challenge” video, the Food and Drug Administration issues an urgent bulletin stating that people who eat chicken that has been marinated in NyQuil “probably deserve to die.”

NASA, culminating a $300 million planetary-defense project, successfully crashes a spacecraft into an asteroid 7 million miles away, only to discover that the impact has nudged the asteroid, which previously posed no threat, into a collision course with Earth. Red-faced NASA officials immediately make a “semi-urgent” request for another $300 million.

Speaking of money, in …

OCTOBER

… the national debt creeps up by yet another trillion and now exceeds $31 trillion, but again this is nothing to worry about, because it has absolutely no economic consequences. We don’t know why we even bother keeping track.

In other financial news, Elon Musk announces that he has decided to buy Twitter after all, because the only Springsteen tickets he could get for $44 billion were “way up in the balcony.”

But the big story in October is politics, as voters prepare to cast their ballots in what everybody on cable TV agrees will be the most important and historic midterm elections since the dawn of time. At issue is nothing less than the fate of the nation, with the voters choosing between two opposing philosophies of government, as clearly laid out to the American public in several billion dollars’ worth of paid political commercials: On one side is the party of far-right, election-denying, coup-supporting, anti-democracy, environment-destroying, racist sexist homophobic transphobic gun-worshipping pro-slavery Handmaid’s-Tale fascists who are literal Nazis; on the other side is the party of extreme radical leftist, anti-family, anti-border, pro-rioter, criminal-coddling, tax-raising, economy-wrecking, godless un-American Communist baby-killing groomer pedophile sex perverts. The choice is yours, voters!

The House Jan. 6 committee subpoenas Donald Trump in a historic action that Democrats blah blah blah while a defiant Trump blah blah blah etc.

In foreign political news, Great Britain Prime Minister Liz Truss resigns after a term lasting a little under 14 minutes. She is replaced by Rishi Sunak, whose name can be rearranged to spell “Is a hunk, sir.” Meanwhile Chinese president Xi Jinping wins an unprecedented third term when delegates to the Communist Party congress, after considering all their options, elect to not die.

Speaking of matters of life-or-death importance, in …

NOVEMBER

… as the historic midterm elections approach, with the fate of democracy hanging in the balance, verified blue-checkmark media personalities on Twitter focus with a ferocious intensity on the single most critical issue facing the nation, if not the world: the status of verified blue-checkmark media personalities on Twitter.

The problem is that Elon Musk intends to charge people $8 a month for a blue checkmark, which would mean any non-elite rando could get one, which would be a blatant violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Twitter Verification Clause. Some verified users go so far as to declare, on Twitter, that they are seriously considering leaving Twitter, although it is not immediately clear what they would do with the extra 14 hours per day.

The verified drama on Twitter is interrupted, briefly, by the midterm elections. For weeks the political experts, relying on Scientific Polling Data, have been predicting a Red Wave, with the Republicans taking control of the House and Senate as well as large swaths of Canada. The outlook is so dire that The New York Times tweets out a list of five “evidence-based strategies” for coping with election anxiety, including — we swear we are not making this up — “Plunge your face into a bowl with ice water for 15 to 30 seconds.”

But then the voters — who do not have access to Scientific Polling Data — go to the polls. It takes a while to get the final results, in part because Arizona has chosen to tabulate the vote on a malfunctioning Etch-a-Sketch. But in the end the Red Wave turns out to be more of a pinkish squirt, with most of the candidates belonging to the Republican Party’s Loon Wing losing.

It’s a good outcome for the Democrats, not counting the 14 New York Times readers who, tragically, drown in their ice-water bowls. It is an especially bad outcome for Donald Trump, who, after most of the candidates he backed lose to Democrats, lashes out at the obvious cause of the Republicans’ poor performance: Ron DeSantis. A few days later, Trump, having established what kind of a winner he is, announces that he is — Why not? — running for president again.

With the midterms out of the way, the focus of professional journalism returns to Twitter, and which professional journalists are leaving Twitter, and where they are going, and whether Twitter will survive. If you think we are exaggerating the amount of attention this topic receives from the journalism profession, then clearly you are not a professional journalist.

In finance, the big story is the catastrophic collapse of cryptocurrency giant FTX, which implodes as stunned investors discover that maybe it’s not such a great idea to trust your money to a company with a meaningless name and an incomprehensible business model headed by the fourth runner-up in a John Belushi lookalike contest.

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The World Cup kicks off with the spectacular ceremonial Awarding of the Bribes. Hasan Bratic Hasan Bratic/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

Meanwhile the World Cup gets underway in Qatar, a small desert nation with no soccer tradition that was chosen to host the world’s biggest tournament by officials of FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, as part of an effort to extend the reach of their sport into regions of the world capable of paying very large bribes.

Speaking of scandals: Entertainment-industry giant Ticketmaster comes under intense criticism when millions of disappointed Taylor Swift fans discover that all of the tickets to Swift’s upcoming concert tour have been purchased by Bruce Springsteen.

As the month draws to a close and the nation prepares to celebrate Thanksgiving, President Biden, in a beloved lighthearted White House tradition, pardons lucky turkeys named “Chocolate,” “Chip” and — this was a surprise last-minute addition — “Hunter.”

Speaking of surprises, in …

DECEMBER

… the World Cup, in a major upset, is won by the plucky underdog national team of Qatar, which did not, technically, win any games, but nevertheless is awarded the championship trophy thanks to what FIFA officials describe as “a huge amount of sportsmanship.”

In a historic milestone for the U.S. space program, the Artemis 1 spacecraft, after a 25 1/2-day voyage that took it past the Moon to a point 260,000 miles out in space, returns to Earth to pick up the crew. “From now on,” states a red-faced NASA spokesperson, “we’re going to make sure they’re on board before we launch.”

On the political front, there’s a refreshing new “vibe” in Washington as the two major parties, finally past the toxic nastiness of the midterm elections, look forward to the new year — an opportunity to end the cynical partisan gamesmanship and instead seek common ground in a sincere effort to solve the problems that the American people actually care about, such as the epidemic of illegal drugs that we apparently ingested before writing this sentence.

Because in reality there is no new vibe in Washington. Washington is “Groundhog Day” with Congress as Bill Murray. The only change is that the Republicans have narrowly regained control of the House of Representatives, which means they can spend the next two years seeking revenge on the Democrats. For example, they could form a House Select Committee to investigate the House Select Committee that investigated Jan. 6. Of course the Democrats still control the Senate, which means they could retaliate by forming a Senate Select Committee to investigate the House Select Committee investigating the House Select Committee that investigated Jan. 6. Thus the legislative branch of the federal government could spend the next two years probing itself, like some kind of deranged proctologist.

And if that isn’t enough political excitement, we can also look forward to two soul-sucking years of buildup to the 2024 presidential election, which could very well wind up being a contest between — speaking of “Groundhog Day” — Joe Biden and Donald Trump. That’s right: The voting public could face a choice between two men who are both, according to the polls, unpopular with more than half of the voting public, and who will both be older, in 2024, than the Adirondack mountains. But that’s the kind of quirky political scenario we sometimes wind up with in this country, thanks to the unique system of government created by our Founding Fathers, who are rotating in their graves like hot dogs on an airport food-vendor grill.

So at the moment the situation appears grim. And yet there are plenty of reasons to feel hopeful about the future. To name just a few: (NOTE TO EDITOR — Please insert some reasons to feel hopeful about the future, if you can think of any).

Thus it is with a feeling of guarded optimism that we, as a nation, reach the end of this disturbing year and, thankfully, enter the holiday season. The festivities are somewhat subdued this year, as inflation forces consumers to cut back; according to the U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of Conifer Statistics, the Median Household Christmas Tree Height (MHCTH), which last year was “LeBron James,” currently stands at “Danny DeVito.”

But it’s still the holidays, a time when we gather with loved ones from near and far, assuming the ones from far were able to sell enough blood plasma to afford the airfare. So let’s forget about the year we just went through. Let’s give our loved ones a big old holiday hug, and enjoy this moment.

And on New Year’s Eve, as we prepare, nervously, to face 2023, let’s be sure to have a big calming bowl of ice water handy when the clock reaches midnight, and we say:

Happy New (GLUB)

This story was originally published December 25, 2022 11:51 AM.



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Dave Barry riffs on 2022: from COVID to Will Smith to World Cup

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A banner plane flew over former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence in Palm Beach County on Aug. 11, 2022. with a mocking “Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha” message aimed partly at Trump supporters who had gathered on the grounds as well as at Trump.

Twitter

The best thing we can say about 2022 is: It could have been worse.

For example, we could have had nuclear Armageddon. This briefly appeared to be a possibility, at least according to the president, who broke the news in October at (Why not?) a Democratic Party fundraiser at the home of a wealthy donor in New York City. That must have been an exciting event! One moment everybody’s standing around chewing hors d’ oeuvres, and the next moment WHOA WHAT DID HE JUST SAY?

The next day, after the news media ran a bunch of scary headlines, the White House Office of Explaining What the President Actually Meant explained that the president wasn’t suggesting that we were facing Armageddon per se, but was merely, as is his wont, emitting words, one of which happened to be “Armageddon,” and everybody should just calm down.

So we dodged a bullet there.

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Good for you! Nobody cares. Michael Dwyer AP

And there were other positive developments in 2022:

Millions of Americans on social media realized — it took them a while, but they finally got there — that nobody wants to know how they did on “Wordle.”

For the 13th consecutive year, the New York Yankees failed to even get into the World Series.

Best of all, the looming apocalyptic threat of catastrophic global climate change was finally eliminated thanks to the breakthrough discovery that the solution — it has been staring us in the face all this time — was to throw food at art.

So 2022 had some positives. Which is not to say that it was good. In fact it was the opposite of good, specifically, bad. The economy continued to stagger around like the last stoner out of Burning Man. We lost Angela Lansbury, Sidney Poitier, Loretta Lynn, Gilbert Gottfried, Christine McVie and Meat Loaf. Democracy died at least three times.

Maybe Armageddon wouldn’t have been so bad.

Anyway, it’s over. But before we move on to 2023, it’s time to don surgical gloves, reach deep down inside the big bag of stupid that was 2022, and see what we pull out, starting with …

JANUARY

… which begins with the world entering the third or possibly eighth year — nobody remembers any more — of the pandemic. The American public is seriously divided: Everybody who is wearing a mask hates everybody who is not wearing a mask, and vice versa. Both sides are 100 percent supported by The Science.

Vaccines also continue to be a subject of heated disagreement, to the point where — you may vaguely recall this — Neil Young demands that his music be removed from Spotify. This is a sentence we never envisioned writing in connection with vaccines, but here we are.

America faces three major crises: spiking COVID cases, soaring inflation and an alarming surge in the number of people who think it’s OK to hold loud FaceTime conversations in public. The national mood is gloomy, and it’s taking a heavy political toll on President Joe Biden, as voters increasingly question whether he is up to the job of leading the nation, or for that matter finishing his sentences.

According to the polls, the two biggest concerns of the public, by far, are the pandemic and the economy. Consequently Congress is focused, laser-like, on: the Senate filibuster rule. This is a legislative tactic that is evil when the other side uses it, but good when your side uses it. At the moment the Democrats want to change the rule, so of course the Republicans, led by Sen. Mitch “I AM smiling, dammit” McConnell, are opposed to changing it, which means Washington is consumed by a bitter, vicious, nasty, name-calling battle pitting the Democrats against Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, who are also Democrats.

In the end, as is so often the case with these burning issues that consume the nation’s capital, nothing happens, which is the whole point of the constitutional system of checks and balances put into place by the Founding Fathers, all of whom — and this is a testament to their wisdom and foresight — are dead.

Meanwhile the national debt, for the first time ever, creeps over $30 trillion, which is more than the entire U.S. economy is worth. Fortunately this is nothing to worry about. Forget we even brought it up.

In other financial news, more and more people are buying “cryptocurrencies,” which appeal to investors because the cryptocurrency market is not controlled by the government. Instead it is controlled by 13-year-old Justin Weeblemonger of Teaneck, N.J., who runs the whole shebang out of his PlayStation 5. (Justin also controls airline fares.)

In sports, Georgia defeats Alabama in the AT&T Ram Trucks Allstate Capital One Disney Bob’s Burgers Dr. Pepper Gatorade Siri Taco Bell Bowl to become champions of professional college football.

Speaking of trucks, in …

FEBRUARY

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Tom Brady retires! Tom Brady unretires! Make up your mind, Tom Brady! Steve Luciano AP

… there is trouble in, of all places, Canada. The news up there is that the capitol city, Ottawa (from the Algonquin word “adawe,” meaning “Washington”) is besieged by a massive protest convoy of trucks, clogging the streets, honking horns, blocking traffic and making it impossible for anybody to get anywhere. Granted this is the situation pretty much every day in, for example, New York City, but apparently in Canada it is a big deal. As tensions mount, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in a controversial move, invokes emergency powers enabling the government to freeze the protestors’ access to beaver pelts.

Ha ha! We are poking some good-natured fun at Canada, which is actually a modern nation and an important trading partner that we depend on to supply us with many vital things. Celine Dion is only one example. In all seriousness, the Canadian trucker strike is a significant event that raises some important issues, which everyone immediately stops caring about because of the situation in Ukraine.

Ukraine is a foreign nation that, through poor planning, is located right next to Russia. This is unfortunate because Russian President Vladimir Putin, a man who relaxes by putting kittens into a food processor, has long wanted to establish closer ties with Ukraine, in the same sense that a grizzly bear wants to establish closer ties with a salmon.

On Feb. 24, the Russian army invades Ukraine. Everyone assumes the Russians will easily prevail, but the Ukrainians put up a surprisingly strong resistance (we are using the term “resistance” in the sense of “physically fighting back,” as opposed to “tweeting defiant hashtags”). Most of the world rallies around the underdog Ukrainians and their charismatic president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, a former comedian and actor who is basically the opposite of Vladimir Putin. (Although to be fair, if Putin did comedy, he would kill.)

On the medical front, many states and municipalities drop their mask mandates as elected officials become aware of new scientific data showing that there is a strong statistical correlation between enforcing mask mandates and not getting re-elected.

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The quaint picturesque ski resort of Beijing hosts the Winter Olympics. GEPA pictures/ Harald Steiner Sipa USA via AP

In sports, the Winter Olympics, held in the quaint and picturesque ski resort of Beijing, attract a U.S. viewing audience estimated to be Al Roker’s immediate family. In a massively huge pro-football development, Tom Brady announces his retirement, which means we can finally move on after many decades of hearing about the historic greatness of Tom Brady.

Speaking of stars, in …

MARCH

… Will Smith slaps Chris Rock during the Oscars and is arrested for assault.

No, that’s what would happen to a non-celebrity such as yourself. Will Smith, on the other hand, sits back down, and shortly thereafter receives an Oscar and a standing ovation. This incident results in a massive outpouring of media think pieces from media thinkers pondering the significance of The Slap. This story dominates the news for days, receiving far more coverage than the war in Ukraine, which is still going on but which, unfortunately from a public-relations standpoint, does not involve any American celebrities.

In economic news, inflation continues to strain the economy despite intensive efforts by the Biden administration to explain that it is caused by Vladimir Putin, corporate greed, COVID, supply-chain issues, global climate change, the filibuster rule, the murder hornets and various other factors totally unrelated to any policies of the Biden administration. For its part, the Republican National Committee issues a formal statement declaring that “rampant inflation places a terrible financial burden on American working families, and we totally hope it stays bad until the midterm elections no wait we didn’t mean to say that last part out loud.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee holds hearings on Biden’s Supreme Court nominee, Ketanji Brown Jackson. She is clearly qualified, so this is an excellent opportunity for Republican senators — who believe the Democrats behaved like scum in hearings for equally qualified Republican nominees — to show that they have more decency and class. But of course this is impossible under our current political system, under which the primary function of government is to gain revenge. So the Republicans get even by behaving scummily toward Jackson, thus reinforcing the growing public perception that both sides are scum.

In other legislative action, the Senate passes a bill that would make daylight saving time permanent, meaning Americans would no longer have to adjust to a time change twice a year for no apparent reason. The bill is referred to the House Languishing Committee, thereby guarding against the danger that Congress might actually accomplish something useful.

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Thanks to hologram technology, the Rolling Stones, who passed away years ago, keep right on rockin’. Ian West AP

In entertainment news, the venerable Rolling Stones announce that they will hit the road this summer for their “Drool on the Microphone” tour. This will be the Stones’ seventh tour since 2003, when their physical bodies finally disintegrated into small piles of dust and they were replaced by holograms. The good news is, ticket prices for the new tour will start as low as $150. The bad news is, the $150 seats are so far from the stage that the sound will not reach them until after the concert is over.

Speaking of aging superstars: Tom Brady, nearly six full weeks after stunning the sports world by announcing his historic retirement, once again stuns the sports world by announcing that he is coming out of retirement, thus triggering a long-overdue wave of stories about the historic greatness of Tom Brady.

In other sports news, the Major League Baseball lockout ends as owners and players approve a collective bargaining agreement, with some rules changes intended to make their product more attractive to modern fans, including starting games in the seventh inning, referring to runs as “touchdowns,” and at some random point in every game releasing a large venomous snake in the infield. Also, noncompetitive franchises such as the Minnesota Twins will be permitted to end their seasons in mid-August because, in the words of MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, “What’s the point?”

Speaking of fundamental American institutions in peril, in …

APRIL

… Elon Musk says he wants to buy Twitter for $44 billion, which works out to one dollar for every apocalyptic tweet emitted about the sale by alarmed verified Twitter users who are deeply concerned about the precedent of allowing billionaires to buy major media platforms, which have traditionally been small mom-and-pop operations like the Washington Post and Facebook. Another verified concern is that Musk favors “free speech,” which we are putting in quotation marks because although it SOUNDS good — Free speech! — if everyone is allowed to have it willy-nilly, the public could be exposed to misinformation that has not been verified by the verifiers, as opposed to the current situation, in which everything on Twitter is 100 percent accurate.

Meanwhile, for a few exciting hours, a trending topic on political Twitter, which we swear we are not making up, is “testicle tanning.” Don’t even ask.

In pandemic news, a federal judge rules that the CDC cannot require people to wear masks on airplanes and other public transportation. This leads to a calm and rational debate on the benefits of masks, with both sides citing scientific data to support their positions, and nobody accusing anybody of having bad motives. Then Dorothy wakes up and she’s back in Kansas.

On the economic front, inflation continues to get worse despite intensified efforts by the Biden administration to have the president read teleprompter statements about it between trips to Delaware.

In other leadership news, Florida’s combative Gov. Ron DeSantis, always looking for new things to combat, takes on an insidious threat to Florida’s families and the American way of life: Disney. The issue is that Disney expressed an opinion deemed unacceptable by the governor, leaving him with no choice but to sign a law that would:

1. Strip Disney of its special legal status (currently it is classified as a “Kingdom”);

2. Require Donald Duck to put on a pair of pants;

3. Require that future “Toy Story” movies use a different name for the cowboy doll (currently it is “Woody”);

4. Require Disney to, quote, “undo whatever it did to the governor’s official vehicle” (currently it is a pumpkin).

Speaking of insidious threats, in …

MAY

… Americans learn that there is a new medical danger for them to be nervous about: “monkeypox,” which gets its name from the fact that it is the disease that killed Tarzan. The CDC, in an official statement, notes that there are “very few confirmed cases” and urges the public to “remain calm,” adding that “we all have to die sometime.”

Meanwhile parents of newborns scramble desperately to find baby formula amid a shortage that has left U.S. store shelves bare, although there are plentiful supplies abroad. In an emergency effort reminiscent of the legendary Berlin airlift, the U.S. government provides temporary relief by using an Air Force transport plane to fly 35 tons of American babies to Germany. The operation is deemed a success, although, as an official noted, “afterward we had to burn the plane.”

The war in Ukraine continues but receives less and less coverage in the U.S. as Americans turn their attention to the historic Johnny Depp vs. Amber Heard defamation trial. At issue is Heard’s Washington Post op-ed alleging that Depp, once the embodiment of cool in the role of dashing pirate Captain Jack Sparrow, has developed a case of face bloat and currently looks, quote, “like the owner of a struggling waterbed store.”

The nation is shocked when an 18-year-old with a disturbing social-media history uses a semiautomatic rifle he obtained legally to commit a horrific mass murder. Ten days later, the nation is again shocked when another 18-year-old with a disturbing social-media history uses a semiautomatic rifle he obtained legally to commit a horrific mass murder. Clearly nothing could have been done to prevent these tragedies, so the nation has no choice but to wait until it is time to be shocked again.

On the inflation front, food and gasoline prices soar to record highs, but Americans are able to take comfort in the repeated reminders by President Biden that all of this is Vladimir Putin’s fault.

Speaking of fault, in …

JUNE

… Johnny Depp wins his historic defamation lawsuit, with the jury ordering Amber Heard to repay the 783 billion person-hours the American public wasted watching the trial. The verdict unleashes a wave of thoughtful media think pieces the likes of which the nation has not seen since Will Smith slapped Chris Rock.

In economic news, Americans grow increasingly alarmed as the price of a gallon of gasoline and the value of the average 401(k) plan rapidly converge from opposite directions. For its part, the White House is growing increasingly irritated by the way people keep whining about soaring inflation and the collapsing stock market and the possibility of a recession while ignoring all the positive economic accomplishments that the Biden administration has achieved despite the efforts of Vladimir Putin, who — WHY DO PEOPLE KEEP FORGETTING THIS — is the cause of everything bad.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in what legal experts view as evidence of a shift to the right, rules that all previous court decisions were wrong.

The House Select Committee To Investigate The Living Hell Out Of Jan. 6 hears testimony, much of it from former members of the Trump administration, that leaves objective observers with only two possible interpretations of Donald Trump’s actions on that day:

One: Trump is a pathological narcissist who, in his delusional effort to cling to power, ignored the sane adults on his staff and listened instead to Rudy Giuliani — which is like getting legal counsel from a Magic 8 Ball — and in the end showed an utter disregard for the sanctity of his office, the rule of law, the welfare of the nation and the physical safety of thousands of people.

Two: There is no Two.

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Would-be travelers show up at the airport naively expecting the airlines to actually fly them somewhere. Daniel A. Varela dvarela@miamiherald.com

As the busy summer travel season gets underway, commercial aviation is severely disrupted across the nation because — this is a recurring problem — large numbers of people who have purchased tickets from the airlines are showing up at airports expecting the airlines to actually transport them to their intended destinations. “They keep giving us their money,” states a baffled airline-industry executive, “and we frankly have no idea why.”

Speaking of traveling, in …

JULY

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Elon Musk buys Twitter because Springsteen tickets are too expensive. Hannibal Hanschke AP

… President Biden, on an official visit to the Middle East, is widely criticized for fist-bumping with Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, an alleged human-rights violator who is believed to have ordered the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Responding to the criticism, the White House press office explains that the president “thought it was a different Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman.”

In other foreign news, Boris Johnson announces that he is resigning as prime minister of Great Britain so he can spend more time on his hair.

On July 4, America’s Independence Day celebration is marred by a horrendous mass shooting allegedly committed by a young man who had an extremely disturbing social-media history but was still able to legally obtain a semiautomatic rifle. As you can imagine, everyone is shocked.

In financial news, Elon Musk announces that no longer wants to purchase Twitter and will instead use the $44 billion to buy two Springsteen tickets.

The House Jan. 6 Committee, concluding Phase One of its investigation, votes unanimously to reinstall Donald Trump in the presidency so he can be impeached a third time. The committee also announces plans for “January 6: The Musical.”

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The James Webb Space Telescope zeroes in on Plano, Texas. AP

The nation enjoys a welcome break from all the negative news when NASA releases images captured by the James Webb Space Telescope — the most powerful space telescope ever built — showing, in spectacular, never-before-seen detail, a dead squirrel on the roof of a Walmart in Plano, Texas. A NASA spokesperson promises that the images will be even more impressive “once we figure out how to point it toward space.”

In Moscow, a 7-year-old boy has his finger broken by a robot he is competing against in a chess tournament. We are not making this up. “The robot broke the child’s finger,” states Sergey Lazarev, President of the Moscow Chess Federation, adding, “This is, of course, bad.” The robot is immediately hired as Director of Customer Relations by the U.S. airline industry.

As the month comes to a close, the economy dominates the news with the Commerce Department reporting that the U.S. Gross Domestic Product shrank for the second consecutive quarter. Traditionally this has meant that we are in a recession, but President Biden reassures the nation that it actually is NOT a recession, for reasons clearly stated on the teleprompter. This triggers a heated debate in Washington between Democrats and Republicans about whether we are or are not in a recession. As always, the real winners are the American people.

Speaking of heated, in …

AUGUST

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These classified documents were found in Mar-a-Lago, along with several thousand misappropriated packets of White House ketchup. AP

… a political firestorm is ignited when FBI agents search Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump’s personal residence and rental party venue, and seize classified documents as well as what a Justice Department source describes as “several thousand misappropriated packets of White House ketchup.” Trump declares that this is part of the Fake News Deep State Witch Hunt; his opponents declare that Trump is finally — This time IT’S REALLY HAPPENING, PEOPLE — going to be arrested for something. And thus the Donald Trump Show, now in its 358th week, continues its seemingly interminable run on the center stage of American politics, like the “Phantom of the Opera,” except it never even gets to the intermission.

In other political news, Congress passes the Inflation Reduction Act, which will reduce inflation because it says so right in the title. The act will also lower prescription-drug prices, fix climate change, reform the tax system and provide every qualified American with a puppy. This is viewed as a much-needed win for the Biden administration and a boost for the Democrats heading into the midterm elections, where they could also benefit from the fact that in a number of key races the Republicans have decided, for tactical reasons, to nominate lunatics.

President Biden also announces a massive new program to forgive hundreds of billions of dollars in student-loan debt. Also everybody who failed college chemistry will get bumped up to a B-plus. As is so often the case with massive government programs, this is popular with the people who will benefit from it and unpopular with the people who will pay for it.

In international news, Nancy Pelosi lands in Taiwan, strips off her pink pantsuit to reveal a camo pantsuit underneath, swims across the Taiwan Strait and singlehandedly destroys a Chinese naval base. At least that’s you would think happened, based on the Chinese reaction to the Pelosi visit, which is to almost start World War III. God only knows what would have happened if we had sent, say, Cher.

A Texas jury awards nearly $50 million in damages to two Sandy Hook parents in their lawsuit against Alex Jones, who is usually described in the news media as “a conspiracy theorist” because it would be unprofessional to describe him as “a gigantic talking bowel movement.”

California environmental regulators, always in the forefront of efforts to save the planet, decree that by the year 2035 it will be illegal for any vehicle on the state’s highways to have wheels.

Speaking of states taking action, in …

SEPTEMBER

… Ron DeSantis, who we remind you is governor of Florida, uses Florida state funds to charter two planes in Texas, which is not part of Florida, and has them transport a group of migrants from Venezuela, which is also not part of Florida, to Martha’s Vineyard, yet another place that is not part of Florida. This would be a hilarious gubernatorial prank if not for the fact that these are actual human beings, as opposed to Muppets to be deployed in a cynical game of Migrant Whack-a-Mole.

Martha’s Vineyard responds to DeSantis’s stunt by welcoming the migrants with open arms and offering them a permanent home for nearly two full days before having National Guard troops ship them off to the mainland. For its part, the White House blasts DeSantis for undermining the administration’s program for dealing with the humanitarian crisis at the border, which is to pretend that there is no humanitarian crisis at the border.

As Russian forces suffer mounting losses in Ukraine, an increasingly desperate Vladimir Putin, in what observers say is a clear violation of international law, annexes Connecticut.

In a legal development that dampens the drawers of MSNBC panelists, New York State Attorney General Letitia James files a civil lawsuit accusing Donald Trump of falsifying business records, issuing false financial statements and failing to pay $327 million worth of parking tickets. Just for fun, Trump declares that he’s guilty, while the Democrats call the lawsuit a politically motivated witch hunt. Everyone enjoys a hearty laugh before order is restored.

On a sadder note, the world mourns the death of Queen Elizabeth II, the beloved monarch who reigned over Great Britain during its transition from the center of a vast global empire to a popular tourist destination roughly the size of a pickleball court. She is succeeded by her 143-year-old son, King Charles the Uncomfortable, who will be officially crowned next year in a traditional British ceremony-gasm featuring numerous horses.

In response to yet another viral TikTok “challenge” video, the Food and Drug Administration issues an urgent bulletin stating that people who eat chicken that has been marinated in NyQuil “probably deserve to die.”

NASA, culminating a $300 million planetary-defense project, successfully crashes a spacecraft into an asteroid 7 million miles away, only to discover that the impact has nudged the asteroid, which previously posed no threat, into a collision course with Earth. Red-faced NASA officials immediately make a “semi-urgent” request for another $300 million.

Speaking of money, in …

OCTOBER

… the national debt creeps up by yet another trillion and now exceeds $31 trillion, but again this is nothing to worry about, because it has absolutely no economic consequences. We don’t know why we even bother keeping track.

In other financial news, Elon Musk announces that he has decided to buy Twitter after all, because the only Springsteen tickets he could get for $44 billion were “way up in the balcony.”

But the big story in October is politics, as voters prepare to cast their ballots in what everybody on cable TV agrees will be the most important and historic midterm elections since the dawn of time. At issue is nothing less than the fate of the nation, with the voters choosing between two opposing philosophies of government, as clearly laid out to the American public in several billion dollars’ worth of paid political commercials: On one side is the party of far-right, election-denying, coup-supporting, anti-democracy, environment-destroying, racist sexist homophobic transphobic gun-worshipping pro-slavery Handmaid’s-Tale fascists who are literal Nazis; on the other side is the party of extreme radical leftist, anti-family, anti-border, pro-rioter, criminal-coddling, tax-raising, economy-wrecking, godless un-American Communist baby-killing groomer pedophile sex perverts. The choice is yours, voters!

The House Jan. 6 committee subpoenas Donald Trump in a historic action that Democrats blah blah blah while a defiant Trump blah blah blah etc.

In foreign political news, Great Britain Prime Minister Liz Truss resigns after a term lasting a little under 14 minutes. She is replaced by Rishi Sunak, whose name can be rearranged to spell “Is a hunk, sir.” Meanwhile Chinese president Xi Jinping wins an unprecedented third term when delegates to the Communist Party congress, after considering all their options, elect to not die.

Speaking of matters of life-or-death importance, in …

NOVEMBER

… as the historic midterm elections approach, with the fate of democracy hanging in the balance, verified blue-checkmark media personalities on Twitter focus with a ferocious intensity on the single most critical issue facing the nation, if not the world: the status of verified blue-checkmark media personalities on Twitter.

The problem is that Elon Musk intends to charge people $8 a month for a blue checkmark, which would mean any non-elite rando could get one, which would be a blatant violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Twitter Verification Clause. Some verified users go so far as to declare, on Twitter, that they are seriously considering leaving Twitter, although it is not immediately clear what they would do with the extra 14 hours per day.

The verified drama on Twitter is interrupted, briefly, by the midterm elections. For weeks the political experts, relying on Scientific Polling Data, have been predicting a Red Wave, with the Republicans taking control of the House and Senate as well as large swaths of Canada. The outlook is so dire that The New York Times tweets out a list of five “evidence-based strategies” for coping with election anxiety, including — we swear we are not making this up — “Plunge your face into a bowl with ice water for 15 to 30 seconds.”

But then the voters — who do not have access to Scientific Polling Data — go to the polls. It takes a while to get the final results, in part because Arizona has chosen to tabulate the vote on a malfunctioning Etch-a-Sketch. But in the end the Red Wave turns out to be more of a pinkish squirt, with most of the candidates belonging to the Republican Party’s Loon Wing losing.

It’s a good outcome for the Democrats, not counting the 14 New York Times readers who, tragically, drown in their ice-water bowls. It is an especially bad outcome for Donald Trump, who, after most of the candidates he backed lose to Democrats, lashes out at the obvious cause of the Republicans’ poor performance: Ron DeSantis. A few days later, Trump, having established what kind of a winner he is, announces that he is — Why not? — running for president again.

With the midterms out of the way, the focus of professional journalism returns to Twitter, and which professional journalists are leaving Twitter, and where they are going, and whether Twitter will survive. If you think we are exaggerating the amount of attention this topic receives from the journalism profession, then clearly you are not a professional journalist.

In finance, the big story is the catastrophic collapse of cryptocurrency giant FTX, which implodes as stunned investors discover that maybe it’s not such a great idea to trust your money to a company with a meaningless name and an incomprehensible business model headed by the fourth runner-up in a John Belushi lookalike contest.

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The World Cup kicks off with the spectacular ceremonial Awarding of the Bribes. Hasan Bratic Hasan Bratic/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

Meanwhile the World Cup gets underway in Qatar, a small desert nation with no soccer tradition that was chosen to host the world’s biggest tournament by officials of FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, as part of an effort to extend the reach of their sport into regions of the world capable of paying very large bribes.

Speaking of scandals: Entertainment-industry giant Ticketmaster comes under intense criticism when millions of disappointed Taylor Swift fans discover that all of the tickets to Swift’s upcoming concert tour have been purchased by Bruce Springsteen.

As the month draws to a close and the nation prepares to celebrate Thanksgiving, President Biden, in a beloved lighthearted White House tradition, pardons lucky turkeys named “Chocolate,” “Chip” and — this was a surprise last-minute addition — “Hunter.”

Speaking of surprises, in …

DECEMBER

… the World Cup, in a major upset, is won by the plucky underdog national team of Qatar, which did not, technically, win any games, but nevertheless is awarded the championship trophy thanks to what FIFA officials describe as “a huge amount of sportsmanship.”

In a historic milestone for the U.S. space program, the Artemis 1 spacecraft, after a 25 1/2-day voyage that took it past the Moon to a point 260,000 miles out in space, returns to Earth to pick up the crew. “From now on,” states a red-faced NASA spokesperson, “we’re going to make sure they’re on board before we launch.”

On the political front, there’s a refreshing new “vibe” in Washington as the two major parties, finally past the toxic nastiness of the midterm elections, look forward to the new year — an opportunity to end the cynical partisan gamesmanship and instead seek common ground in a sincere effort to solve the problems that the American people actually care about, such as the epidemic of illegal drugs that we apparently ingested before writing this sentence.

Because in reality there is no new vibe in Washington. Washington is “Groundhog Day” with Congress as Bill Murray. The only change is that the Republicans have narrowly regained control of the House of Representatives, which means they can spend the next two years seeking revenge on the Democrats. For example, they could form a House Select Committee to investigate the House Select Committee that investigated Jan. 6. Of course the Democrats still control the Senate, which means they could retaliate by forming a Senate Select Committee to investigate the House Select Committee investigating the House Select Committee that investigated Jan. 6. Thus the legislative branch of the federal government could spend the next two years probing itself, like some kind of deranged proctologist.

And if that isn’t enough political excitement, we can also look forward to two soul-sucking years of buildup to the 2024 presidential election, which could very well wind up being a contest between — speaking of “Groundhog Day” — Joe Biden and Donald Trump. That’s right: The voting public could face a choice between two men who are both, according to the polls, unpopular with more than half of the voting public, and who will both be older, in 2024, than the Adirondack mountains. But that’s the kind of quirky political scenario we sometimes wind up with in this country, thanks to the unique system of government created by our Founding Fathers, who are rotating in their graves like hot dogs on an airport food-vendor grill.

So at the moment the situation appears grim. And yet there are plenty of reasons to feel hopeful about the future. To name just a few: (NOTE TO EDITOR — Please insert some reasons to feel hopeful about the future, if you can think of any).

Thus it is with a feeling of guarded optimism that we, as a nation, reach the end of this disturbing year and, thankfully, enter the holiday season. The festivities are somewhat subdued this year, as inflation forces consumers to cut back; according to the U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of Conifer Statistics, the Median Household Christmas Tree Height (MHCTH), which last year was “LeBron James,” currently stands at “Danny DeVito.”

But it’s still the holidays, a time when we gather with loved ones from near and far, assuming the ones from far were able to sell enough blood plasma to afford the airfare. So let’s forget about the year we just went through. Let’s give our loved ones a big old holiday hug, and enjoy this moment.

And on New Year’s Eve, as we prepare, nervously, to face 2023, let’s be sure to have a big calming bowl of ice water handy when the clock reaches midnight, and we say:

Happy New (GLUB)

This story was originally published December 25, 2022 11:51 AM.



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