Dave Barry offers his annual insight into the year that was … 2018 |
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Dave Barry offers his annual insight into the year that was … 2018

Philadelphia police officers and joyous Eagles fans react at the end of the game, on Temple campus along Broad Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue, following the Eagles’ Super Bowl LII victory against the New England Patriots on Feb. 4.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson hosts French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Monday, Dec. 18, 2017 at the State Department in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)
President Donald Trump
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, listens as ranking member Dianne Feinstein, D-California, speaks during a contentious committee meeting on the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court on Sept. 28.

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, man-made 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.

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.

So when 2018 finally dawned, we were desperately 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 it. We were like Bill Murray in “Groundhog Day,” except that when our clock-radio went off, instead of Sonny and Cher singing “I Got You Babe,” we awoke to still MORE talk of Russians and emails; MORE childish semi-literate presidential tweets; MORE freakouts by cable-TV panelists predicting that 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. 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. And once again, we find ourselves feeling stirrings of hope ­­— hope that the coming year really will be better. 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 boof-a-palooza that was 2018, starting with …


… 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 Donald 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.

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 “s**tholes.” This upsets many people, especially the frowny panelpersons of CNN, who find the word “s**thole” so deeply offensive that they repeat it roughly 15 times per hour for a solid week.

In non-s**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.”

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 …


… 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.

On the Stormy Daniels front, Trump attorney 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.

Speaking of classy behavior, in …


… 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.

Congress averts yet another government shutdown by passing, with President Trump signing, a bill under which the government will 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.

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 …


… when 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 Cellphhones 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?

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 …


…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.

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 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 …


… 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 promises 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.”

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 …


… 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 “strongly” denies interfering in the 2016 U.S. election. Trump adds that he, personally, sees no reason why Russia would interfere. 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.”

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 Progressivelympics, 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. 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.

Speaking of defeats, in …


… 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 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 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.

Speaking of electricity, in…


… Washington is a-tingle as the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee holds two hearings on the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh. 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. Brett Kavanaugh really likes beer.

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 advisers 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.

Speaking of wins, in …


… 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, wide-ranging exchange of views with himself, then inadvertently launches a nuclear strike against Portugal before returning to his home dimension.

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 …


… 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-year-olds.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

The month concludes on a positive note as NASA’s $850 million InSight space-probe lander, after a six-month 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 …


… 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 U.N. ambassador, the president chooses Heather Nauert, but only after his advisers are able to convince him that Katniss Everdeen is a fictional character. Replacing John Kelly as White House Chief of Staff is Wayne Newton.

Reliable rumors swirl 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 number one concern of the American people, which of course is …

The 2016 elections!

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, Fla.”

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 three-ton 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 chili 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?

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