IT WAS THE YEAR OF THE ZOMBIES. Not in the sense of most of humanity dying from a horrible plague and then reanimating as mindless flesh-eating ghouls. No, it was much worse than that. Because as bad as a zombie apocalypse would be, at least it wouldn’t involve the resurrection of Anthony Weiner’s penis.
We thought that thing was out of our lives forever, but suddenly there it was again, all over the Internet, as Weiner came back from the political grave like the phoenix to run for mayor of New York and use the name “Carlos Danger” to text obscene photos of its privates to somebody named “Sydney Leathers.”
And then there was Miley Cyrus. We remembered her fondly as the cute and perky child star who played Hannah Montana, wholesome idol of millions of preteens. And then one night we turned on MTV’s Video Music Awards, and YIKES there was this horrifying, mutant, vaguely reptilian creature in Slut Barbie underwear twerking all over the stage.
This past year was so bad that twerking wasn’t even the stupidest dance craze. That would be the Harlem Shake, which is not so much a dance as a mass nervous-system disorder that makes the Gangnam Style dance we mocked in 2012 look like Swan Lake.
We miss 2012.
But getting back to the zombies: It wasn’t just people who came back alarmingly in 2013. The Cold War with Russia came back. Al Qaeda came back. Turmoil in the Middle East came back. The debt ceiling came back. The Major League Baseball drug scandal came back. Dennis Rodman came back and went on humanitarian missions to North Korea (or maybe we just hallucinated that). The Endlessly Looming Government Shutdown came back. And for approximately the 250th time, the Obama administration pivoted back to the economy, which has somehow been recovering for years now without actually getting any better. Unfortunately, before they could get the darned thing fixed, the administration had to pivot back to yet another zombie issue, health care, because it turned out that Obamacare had some “glitches” in the same sense that the universe has some “atoms.”
Did anything good happen in 2013? Yes! There was one shining ray of hope in the person of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, who admitted that while in office he smoked crack cocaine but noted, by way of explanation, that this happened “probably in one of my drunken stupors.” This was probably the most honest statement emitted by any elected official in 2013, and we can only hope that more of our leaders follow Ford’s lead in 2014. (We mean being honest, not smoking crack in a drunken stupor.) (Although really, how much worse would that be?)
But before we look ahead to this year, let’s take one last look back at the fiasco that was 2013, starting with . . .
. . . which begins with a crisis in Washington, D.C., a city that — despite having no industries and a workforce consisting almost entirely of former student council presidents — manages to produce 93 percent of the nation’s crises. This particular crisis is a “fiscal cliff” caused by the fact that for years the government has been spending spectacular quantities of money that it does not have, which has resulted in a mess that nobody could possibly have foreseen unless that person had a higher level of financial awareness than a cucumber.
In other Washington news, Barack Obama is sworn in for a second term at a quiet White House ceremony that, because of an e-mail glitch, Vice President Joe Biden does not find out about until several days later.
Abroad (this actually happened), Iran announces that it has sent a monkey into space and returned it safely to Earth. Intelligence experts fear the Iranians are developing a much larger, more powerful monkey that could be used to rampage around Tel Aviv, knocking down buildings.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration announces that the latest data sent back by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter appear to confirm data previously transmitted by the Mars Pathfinder, Mars Surveyor, Mars Wanderer, Mars Meanderer, Mars Stroller, Mars Lunger, and Mars Traipser, suggesting that Mars is pretty much covered with rocks.
In a shocking interview, Lance Armstrong, after years of denial, admits to Oprah Winfrey that he took illegal drugs in all seven of his Tour de France victories, as well as using a motorcycle for certain stages of the race and “occasionally” shooting opponents with poison-tipped darts. Also he played “a small role” in the JFK assassination.
Speaking of shocking developments that nobody could have seen coming, in . . .
. . . Washington, D.C., faces another crisis in the form of a “sequester” that will happen unless Congress can agree on a budget, which seems unlikely, inasmuch as Congress cannot agree on what planet this is.
In transportation news, American Airlines and US Airways announce plans to merge into one huge company that will be, according to the official announcement, “the most bankrupt airline in the world.”
Abroad, an increasingly belligerent North Korea gets drunk and detonates a small nuclear device. In the worsening European economic crisis, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, and Greece, facing massive debt, are forced to move in with Germany.
Speaking of crises, in . . .
. . . as the federal budget deadline passes without Congress reaching agreement, the devastating, draconian, historically catastrophic sequester goes into effect, causing a mild reduction in the rate of increase in government spending that for some inexplicable reason goes unnoticed by pretty much everybody outside the federal government.
President Obama departs on a planned four-day trip to the Middle East, although because of what administration officials describe as a technical scheduling “glitch,” he winds up spending two of the days in Albania. Meanwhile the UN Security Council, meeting in emergency session, votes to unfollow North Korea after the increasingly belligerent rogue nation posts an unmistakably threatening tweet about South Korea.
In what could be seen as a troubling omen, on March 10, millions of Americans are forced to turn their clocks ahead one hour despite repeated assurances from the Obama administration that “if you like the current time, you can keep the current time.”
Speaking of troubling, in . . .
. . . Iran announces that it is constructing a new uranium enrichment plant, which, according to a government spokesman, will be used for “youth sports.”
At home, the horrific Boston Marathon bombings demonstrate yet again the vital service provided by the powerful information-gathering resource that is the journalism/Twitter complex, which — faced with a wildly chaotic, confusing situation — is somehow able, within mere minutes, to get pretty much everything wrong. Leading the way is CNN, which is forced to retract a widely repeated report, attributed to “high-level police sources,” that the attack was carried out by a Belgian submarine.
In sports, basketball player Jason Collins becomes the first athlete in a major US professional sport to openly declare that he has participated in the Tour de France. Meanwhile in Masters golf action, Tiger Woods, after hitting a ball into the water, drops a replacement ball 2 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.
Speaking of excitement, in . . .
. . . Washington, D.C., exhausted from dealing with crises, turns its attention to the other thing it is really good at: scandals. The two main ones involve the Internal Revenue Service, which admits that it has been targeting conservative political groups for special scrutiny, and the Justice Department, which confesses that it secretly seized phone records from the Associated Press. A shocked and outraged and, of course, surprised Obama states that he knew nothing about these activities until he read about them in the newspapers.
In New York City, Weiner announces his intention to enter . . . No, let’s rephrase that. Weiner announces his intention to plunge into . . .
No, wait. Sorry. He announces that he plans to run for mayor using the campaign slogan “Weiner: You Know Where He Stands.”
In other urban news, the City of Detroit admits that for the past 15 years it has been stealing all of its electricity from Cleveland.
In sports, the Kentucky Derby is won by a Harley-Davidson ridden by Lance Armstrong.
Meanwhile, in Europe, the worsening unemployment crisis leaves millions of jobless workers with nothing to do except sit around in cafes all day drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes. This is also what they do when they are employed, but still. Elsewhere abroad, tensions on the Korean peninsula continue to mount when 17 million South Korean mailboxes are destroyed by what are believed to be North Korean firecrackers.
Speaking of worsening, in . . .
. . . Washington, D.C., is rocked by leaked documents showing that the National Security Agency has been secretly collecting massive amounts of data from the phone calls, e-mails, and other electronic activities of millions of American citizens. An NSA official insists that Americans “have absolutely no reason to fear that their privacy is being invaded or that there are tiny government video cameras concealed in every low-flow toilet in America.”
In legal affairs, the Supreme Court overturns the Defense of Marriage Act, eliciting high praise from many politicians who enacted the Defense of Marriage Act.
Abroad, UN observers express concern when Syria receives a large shipment of crates from North Korea marked “AQUARIUM SUPPLIES. OR FRUIT. DEFINITELY NOT CHEMICAL WEAPONS.”
Speaking of trouble in the Middle East, in . . .
. . . the Egyptian military ousts President Mohammed Morsi and, in a move that worries international observers, installs Richie Incognito as his replacement.
George Zimmerman is acquitted in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin and accepts a high-level post as a security adviser to North Korea.
In baseball, Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers is suspended for the season without pay after testing positive for trans fats.
In the month’s happiest story, Great Britain rejoices at the much-anticipated birth of a royal baby, who one day will, in accordance with hallowed tradition, become an old person waiting around for an even older person to kick the bucket.
And the good times continue to roll in . . .
. . . when Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos buys The Washington Post with his own personal money, thereby ensuring that one of the nation’s most important newspapers will continue producing in-depth, hard-hitting journalism, including an estimated 400 stories and columns in August alone about what a genuinely brilliant yet humanitarian genius Jeff Bezos is. Bezos says he does not plan to make any major changes, other than to deliver the paper in cardboard boxes and replace the stories with reader reviews of news events using a five-star rating system.
In sports, New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez is indicted for murder; if convicted, under strict new National Football League rules aimed at reducing violence, he will have to sit out at least two games.
But the big story brewing this month concerns the crisis in Syria, which becomes a huge issue when the White House accuses President Bashar Assad of using chemical weapons, thereby crossing the “red line” Obama announced in 2012 while distracted by an important putt. Secretary of State John Kerry, making the case for a military strike, calls 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.
The situation becomes even murkier in . . .
. . . when Kerry, continuing to stress the dire urgency of the situation, compares Assad to Hitler, only to declare a few days later — moments before his aides are able to fell him with a tranquilizer dart — that any strike against Assad will be an “unbelievably small, limited kind of effort.” Obama clarifies this by stating that “the US military doesn’t do pinpricks.”
Just when it seems as if there is no good way out of the Syria mess, help miraculously arrives in the form of our generous old friends the Russians, who, despite being longtime allies of Syria, are willing to lend us a helping hand without any thought of benefiting themselves. Under their plan, Assad must give up his chemical weapons and go back to killing people in a more humane, less Hitlerish way.
In other foreign affairs news, Dennis Rodman travels to North Korea for a loon-to-loon meeting with Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un, who presents the former basketball star with a commemorative set of 50 political prisoners.
In technology news, Apple introduces the iPhone 5, which features an improved camera, time travel, and the ability to text with the dead.
In entertainment, Breaking Bad airs its final episode, leaving us with basically no reason to go on living.
With Obamacare about to go into effect, Senator Ted Cruz stages a 21-hour filibuster on the Senate floor in an effort to drive home to the American people the inarguable fact that the letters in “Senator Ted Cruz” can be rearranged to spell “A Zero-Scent Turd.”
As the month draws to a close, Washington again lurches into crisis mode as Congress is unable to agree on a budget, which means that at midnight on the first day of . . .
. . . the federal government, in an unthinkable development that we cannot even think about, partially shuts down. The result is a catastrophe of near-sequester proportions. Within hours, wolves are roaming the streets of major US cities and bacteria the size of mature salmon are openly cavorting in the nation’s water supply. In the Midwest, thousands of cows, no longer supervised by the Department of Agriculture, spontaneously explode.
By Day 17, the situation has become so dire that Congress, resorting to desperate measures, decides to actually do something. It passes, and the president signs, a law raising the debt ceiling, thereby ensuring that the federal government can continue spending spectacular quantities of money that it does not have until the next major totally unforeseeable government financial crisis, scheduled for February 2014.
Things do not go nearly as smoothly with the rollout of Obamacare, which turns out to have a lot of problems despite being conceived of by supersmart people with extensive experience in the field of being former student council presidents. Healthcare.gov is riddled with glitches, resulting in people being unable to log in, people getting cut off, people being electrocuted by their keyboards, people having their sensitive financial information suddenly appear on millions of TV screens during Duck Dynasty, etc.
Fortunately, as the initial rush of applicants tapers off, the system starts to work a little better, and by the end of the second week, US Secretary of Blame Kathleen Sebelius is able to announce that the program has amassed a total enrollment, nationwide, of nearly two people, one of whom later turns out to be imaginary.
In an aviation landmark, a Delta Airlines flight from Atlanta to Los Angeles becomes the first plane to fly under new Federal Aviation Administration rules allowing expanded passenger use of electronic gadgets, landing safely and uneventfully in Moscow.
In sports, another Major League Baseball season draws to a satisfying close with a World Series victory by some team other than the Yankees.
In foreign affairs, the German government angrily accuses the United States of spying after Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone conversations are repeatedly interrupted by somebody with an American accent asking her to “please speak English.”
Speaking of angry, in . . .
. . . public dissatisfaction with Obamacare continues to grow as many Americans discover that their current insurance plans are being canceled. A frustrated and — it goes without saying — surprised Obama reveals to the nation that “insurance is complicated to buy” and clarifies that when he said “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan,” he was using “you” in the sense of “not necessarily you personally.”
As the president’s popularity slides, House Speaker John Boehner, sensing a tactical opening for the Republicans, calls a press conference to point out that he is exactly the same color as a Creamsicle.
In non-Obamacare news, Zimmerman, continuing a pattern of increasingly erratic behavior, invades Taiwan. But the big international story takes place in Geneva, where Iran, pressured by the United States and five other powers, accepts an arms-limitation agreement under which it may continue making enriched uranium but must promise it will be used only for science fairs.
As the month draws to a close, Americans pause to observe Thanksgiving by assaulting one another over discounted electronics. In what has become a tradition, Obama attempts to pardon two turkeys but fails to get enough votes in the House.
Speaking of failure, in . . .
. . . retailers report the Black Friday shopping weekend was weaker than expected, with a nationwide total of just six shoppers killed, 148 seriously injured, and 357 arrested — all numbers well below 2012’s totals.
In other retail news, Bezos reveals that Amazon is experimenting with a system that would deliver parcels weighing up to 5 pounds via drones; heavier packages would be delivered via surplus World War II howitzers. Some observers express concerns about this concept, but it gets a rare five-star rating from The Washington Post.
On the Obamacare front, the administration declares that the federal website has been significantly improved, although there are still occasional glitches, such as one that enables a Milwaukee woman seeking to compare dental plans to accidentally launch a tactical nuclear strike against Guatemala. But as Secretary of Blame Sebelius notes, “This kind of thing happens all the time with Orbitz.”
In other government news, the Federal Communications Commission meets to consider allowing airline passengers to talk on their mobile phones in flight, as it has been shown that this does not interfere with navigational equipment. Other activities that do not interfere with navigational equipment include blowing air horns, throwing knives, and beekeeping, so WHAT THE HELL, LET’S ALLOW THOSE ACTIVITIES ON PLANES, TOO.
In foreign news, Mayor Ford, in a move that raises eyebrows, officiates at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a meth lab.
As the year draws to a close, hopes for peace on the Korean peninsula soar when North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, in what is seen as a conciliatory gesture, sends a gift to South Korea’s president, Park Geun-hye. Unfortunately, the gift — a set of barbells weighing nearly a ton — is delivered via Amazon’s new Nowitzer! system and levels the presidential residence.
And with that, the hideous brain-dead zombie of a year finally staggers off into oblivion, making way for 2014, which surely will be better, because how could it possibly be worse?
Do NOT answer that.
Happy New Year.
Dave Barry writes for the Miami Herald, though he no longer has a weekly column. Send comments to email@example.com.