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A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year

The New Year is always greeted with great expectations and the belief that it cannot possibly be as bad as the past year. This belief is the triumph of hope over experience. A brief review of the year:

JANUARY
The unforeseen “fiscal cliff” looms. The Bush tax cuts of 2001 were to expire on December 31, 2012, and planned spending cuts under the Budget Control Act of 2011 were to come into play. (The latter had been enacted because the 111th Congress, in a fit of absent-mindedness, had forgotten to pass a federal budget.) None of the policy wonks in DC could possibly have foreseen it and they suppose it must be caused by the Tea Party or by talk radio. The crisis was averted by kicking the can down the road and everyone in government agreeing to continue spending way more money than they actually had.

A second crisis followed immediately with the second inauguration of B. H. Obama. Since he no longer faced re-election, he no longer had any reason to postpone implementation of Obamacare.

The Iranian Space Agency sends a monkey into space and brings it safely back. They promise, no foolin', that won't ever replace the monkey with, say, a nuclear warhead or anything like that.

FEBRUARY
Another crisis looms: the “sequester,” set to trigger automatically unless Congress can agree on a budget.  Since Congress cannot agree to whistle Yankee Doodle together in the same key, this is akin to having a dead man switch in a mortuary. It takes all the policy wonks by surprise and the media declare it is a plot by the Tea Party and talk radio to implement "draconian cuts."  "Cuts" is a word that means "increase government spending a little slower than previously planned."  Policy wonks panic and begin planning for the aftermath in which they will blame the Other Side.

Pope Benedict XVI resigns causing a media frenzy which is blamed on the Tea Party and talk radio. The Church shrugs and says, we had a pope resign before, only 600 years ago. To the Ents of Rome, this is like yesterday; and wouldn't you know it: they have procedures covering the contingency. To the mayflies of the Post Modern Age, this is like before the Big Bang.

MARCH
The sequester comes and goes and no one seems to notice much.   

The College of Cardinals, in its on-going effort to befuddle the main-stream media, elects the first Argentinian pope in, well, forever. The new pope is immediately hailed as just the man to reverse the Church's slide into orthodoxy and catholicism, and the media sit back and wait for him to start ordaining women and blessing homosexual unions, which they suppose will happen Real Soon Now.  A controversy immediately erupts over whether to call the new Pope Francis I or just plain Francis. When asked, the new pope says, "What the hey, call me Frankie."  This is immediately hailed as a signal of the Church's new dedication to informality and predictions are made that Good Friday will soon be replaced by Casual Friday.  Francis thus accomplishes the hitherto untoward feat of uniting the far left and the far right in a single set of beliefs.

APRIL
Hundreds of Christians are besieged inside Cairo’s St. Mark's Cathedral by security forces and local residents. At least one person was killed and 84 injured in a festive celebration of the Arab Spring. Policy wonks debate possible motives for the attacks on Christians in Egypt and suggest possible Tea Party involvement.

Two bombs at the Boston Marathon kill three people and maim and injure more than 200 others. Media suspects the Tea Party and/or talk radio. The suspects are identified later as Chechen brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, and the media racks its brain trying to come up with a possible motive.
Per Dave Barry: In Masters golf action, Tiger Woods, after hitting a ball into the water, drops a replacement ball two yards from where he should have; this turns out to be just about the most exciting thing that has ever happened in the history of golf.
Syriac Metropolitan Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim and Orthodox Metropolitan Boulous Yazigi are kidnapped in Syria while en route to a hostage negotiation involving an Armenian Catholic and a Greek Orthodox priest. The kidnappers are believed to be Chechens. But because they are rebels fighting the evil Assad regime and the victims are only Christians, nothing much gets said in the media, lest the public be confused about who the good guys are. The bishops have not been seen since. There is no word whether the original kidnappers of the priests are tworked with the latest kidnappers for snatching the bishops they were negotiating with.

MAY


The Internal Revenue Service admits it has been scrutinizing conservative political groups, like the Tea Party, which is believed to have had a role in engineering the fiscal cliff, the sequester, the resignation of Benedict XVI, and the Boston bombing. Everyone agrees this is all very suspicious.

President Obama did not know this was going on. The Justice Department admits that it secretly seized phone records from The Associated Press. Obama was shocked, shocked to learn this has happened, and immediately accepts the responsibility of George W. Bush.

JUNE
Much to Obama's surprise, the National Security Agency has been collecting massive amounts of data on the phone calls, emails and other electronic activities of millions of American citizens. The nation is gripped in fear that the federal government will actually be able to make sense of this mish-mash; especially after they learn that the analytical engine was designed by the same firm programming the Obamacare debut later in the year. Surely, for the president's signature accomplishment only the very best will be used.

The leaker is former CIA computer specialist Edward Snowden, who was evidently hired because he hacked the entrance exam and lied about his background, thus bypassing the iron-tight security curtain protecting employment at the Agency. Then Snowden was shocked, shocked to learn that the Tea Party had infiltrated the government and was spying on our friends in China, Russia, and elsewhere. He immediately fled to China, then Russia. He was celebrated world-wide for not releasing confidential documents implicating China, Russia, al-Qaeda, or other innocent third parties. 

JULY
The Egyptian military ousts President Mohammed Morsi, proving once again that the Middle East is the only spot on earth where a military coup is an agent of liberalism. Egyptians celebrate by burning Christian churches and killing Christians.  Unable to grasp the reason for this, the media decide not to mention it.

The White House delays for one year the Obamacare mandate requiring businesses to provide health insurance.  Earlier, they had forced a government shut-down rather than acquiesce to this delay.

Detroit, MI, once the fourth largest city in the US and the hub of the automotive industry and Motown Records, files for bankruptcy after spending a gazillion dollars that they did not have. Possible reasons include shrinking tax base caused by declining population, program costs for retiree health care and pension, borrowing to cover budget deficits, poor record keeping and antiquated computer systems, unpaid property taxes (47%), and government corruption. (Two city workers pension plans had for nearly 25 years been paying out 13 monthly checks per year.) However, the greatest suspicion lay on the Tea Party and talk radio.

The birth of His Royal Highness Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge in the UK proves the wisdom of keeping a monarchy around as a decorative accessory and high class reality show. The young lad demonstrates that the UK has no shortage of names and he will one day grow up to rule the country, assuming it still exists by then.  (See Scotland.)

AUGUST

Miley Cyrus demonstrates the complete collapse of Western Civilization as we know it by twerking all over everyone at the Video Music Awards and causing a burst of sentimental nostalgia for more dignified dances like the macarena. 
Per Dave Barry: Secretary of State John Kerry, making the case for a military strike, calls Syrian President Bashar Assad “a thug and a murderer” who killed nearly 1,500 people, including children, in a chemical attack. Citing the urgency of the situation, the administration prepares to launch an attack without congressional approval. But then, in a surprise move, the president announces that he has decided to take the matter to Congress after all, raising the distinct possibility that nothing will actually happen during anybody’s lifetime. 
SEPTEMBER
Kerry compares Assad to Hitler, then declares that any strike against Assad will be an "unbelievably small, limited kind of effort." just like that used against Hitler.  Just how unbelievably small is revealed when, asked if there is any other way out, Kerry scoffingly says, "Well, duh! Russia could make sure all the chemical weapons are put in a lock box." The next day, Putin announces that Russia will oversee putting all of Syria's chemical weapons in a lock box, taking Kerry (and Obama) by complete surprise. Tea Party efforts to embarrass the president are suspected; but when asked, Tea Party officials say, "Why bother? He's doing a good job on his own."

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, the first Hispanic, and the first minority to be elected U.S. Senator from Texas, launches a massive 21-hour personal filibuster against the immanent launch of Obamacare, thus successfully causing Americans to transfer their irritation from Obamacare to Sen. Cruz. In a turnaround of unprecedented scope, Tea Party involvement really is suspected.

Congress is unable once again to agree on a budget, thus demonstrating the learning ability of a Pet Rock.™

OCTOBER
The federal government partially shuts down and hundreds of government employees wait anxiously to learn if they are considered "essential employees" or not. This is the first time the federal government has shut down since the last time it shut down. The Department of Education SWAT team is mothballed, the bunny inspectors are furloughed, the Internal Revenue Service stops delivery of refund checks to identity thieves, the Federal Railroad Administration delays the ruling that all trains must be painted with an 'F' at the front, so we can tell which end is which, and the US Air Force announced it will spend no more money to install a fire pit for cadets professing made-up "earth religions." 

Haha. Of course, we jest. None of these vital federal programs were cut, thank goodness. Instead, the White House furloughed air traffic controllers and blockaded open-air federal monuments in an effort to make the shutdown as inconvenient as possible.  However, they make the mistake of barricading the Iwo Jima monument just before a busload of retired Marines arrives on vacation. The Marines mobilize and hit the beaches, seizing the monument on D+1.

The long awaited roll-out of Obamacare demonstrates the peril of employing campaign donors as software developers. Despite the administration's constant delays, amendments, and changes of specifications, things do not go smoothly. Obama is taken by surprise: how could a company that has botched so many other software packages botch this, his signature achievement?  Obama takes swift action, declaring that Obamacare will henceforth be called by the euphemism "Affordable Care Act," just in time for many voters to realize how unaffordable their new insurance will be. The media blames the Tea Party for the confusion.

NOVEMBER
Americans learn that they have lost their current insurance plans even though they liked them. This is because Tea Party operatives are sneaking into their houses and stealing their policies. Obama tells us that these policies are being canceled because they are substandard. Many policies, such as those for men and older women, do not include free contraception. The combined result of the cancellations and the increased costs of replacing old policies with policies guaranteed to cover people who don't buy policies until after they get sick may well be that more people will lack insurance than before. Obama is taken by surprise and learns that "insurance is complicated." Perhaps too complicated for policy wonks to redesign a nationwide system in toto.

DECEMBER
Amazon announces it is proposing to deliver parcels weighing up to 5 pounds via drones. Al-Qaeda announces its interest in delivering some of its own packages the same way. In an effort to control such rogue drones, the Strategic Air Command launches a pre-emptive strike against unscheduled flying objects that takes out Santa Claus, Mary Poppins, Tinkerbell, Peter Pan and the whole Darling family.

Obama declares that the "glitches" on the Obamacare Affordable Care Act website have been "significantly improved."  Users will now encounter a better class of glitches.  The hope is that no one will think to ask whether people who screwed up a web portal this badly can redesign the entire the insurance system.

Two Boko Haram gunmen open fire on a wedding party in the mainly Christian village of Tashan Alade, in Nigeria, killing twelve people. Boko Haram means "books are evil" and the organization is against Western schools and learning, which is liable to include girls. Policy wonks are puzzled as to the motivation of the attackers.  Igbos wonder if they gave up on Biafra too soon.

Chechens set off two bombs in Volgograd in order to protest Tea Party involvement in the Russian government.  It is unclear if they used kidnapped Syrian bishops for tinder. Policy wonks struggle to find the common denominator in all these acts. 

Read more here: http://www.star-telegram.com/2013/12/30/5445936/dave-barrys-2013-year-in-review.html#storylink=cpy

4 comments:

  1. I SO enjoy biting sarcasm! In this case, I think "devouring" sarcasm would be more appropriate! Thanks for taking the time!

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  2. 'Igbos wonder if they gave up on Biafra too soon.'

    And with ensuing explosion of laughter from this Igbo Diasporan, you destroyed my lurker tendencies. Happy New Year to you, good sir!

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    Replies
    1. Greetings and welcome. A number of years ago, a young Igbo woman worked in our office for a time, Nkieruke Okoye (Kiru), whose name I've used for a character in a novel. Her desire was to study classical music in Europe.

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