2005: Past Tense (Part 1)

December 9, 2005

"The term ‘Future Perfect’ has been abandoned since it was discovered not to be." –Douglas Adams

2005 was also a year that set a new high in lows. With the final countdown now in progress, here’s a review of some of the highest low points of the year that was:

January-The year began on a somber note with most of the world still reacting to the tsunami that rocked Southeast Asia.

In other news, as if journalists hadn’t done enough to destroy whatever reputations they had in 2004, it was revealed that the White House had been clandestinely paying reporters to say nice things about administration policies. Both reporters and foundations they worked for received large amounts of money–$240,000 in the case of columnist Armstrong Williams– in return for putting a positive spin on the news. Being real people gave the reporters at least one advantage over 2004’s "Karen Ryan", a fictitious journalist invented by the White House PR department to "interview" officials. It’s your tax dollars at work!

Also a survey of high school students found that 36% believe newspapers should get "government approval" of stories before publishing. The same percentage could not find Southeast Asia on a map and could not spell "tsunami", although 78% of high school students knew Angelina Jolie had traveled to areas affected by the tsunami, and 89% could name at least five of her movies.

February-In science news a researcher in New Brunswick, Canada, discovered that the paralytic chemical in shrew saliva may work as a painkiller, as well as a muscle relaxant that could be used like the cosmetic treatment Botox. The really good news is that most women who have Botox injections already produce shrew saliva.

Also in February, reporter Jeff Gannon was revealed by outside investigators to be neither a reporter nor Jeff Gannon. John Guckert occasionally wrote, or simply plagiarized press releases, for a fundraising web site under the pseudonym "Jeff Gannon", which is apparently all that’s needed to attend and ask questions at daily White House press briefings. Under the same nom de plume Guckert also worked as a male escort, although he offered his services in the White House press room free of charge.

March-The debate over Terri Schiavo gained the attention of Senator Bill Frist, who’s often mistaken for a doctor. Among other things Frist claimed that after watching "about an hour" of edited videotape his opinion was that Schiavo was fully conscious of her surroundings. Watching only a few minutes of unedited Senate floor speeches revealed that any ethics, integrity, or intelligence Frist might have once possessed had long since atrophied from lack of use.

April-Japanese scientists inserted a human gene into a new strain of rice. In addition to the new benefit of being able to break down pesticides and other toxic chemicals, the addition of human genetic material makes the rice taste just like chicken.

Also in April I took a shower.

May-Star Wars mania swept the world, resulting in the expected outbreaks of lunacy: people standing in line for days dressed as their favorite characters, Darth Vader robbing a movie theater in Illinois (no word on whether he used the Force, although he was unarmed), and, perhaps most notably, two people in Hertfordshire, England, were seriously injured after they tried to create their own light sabers by filling fluorescent light tubes with gasoline and lighting them. There’s no word yet on whether George Lucas will use digital technology to add a scene in which Yoda turns to the camera and says, "Try this at home do not" while constructing a light saber.

Also in May Berkeley scientists announced that the bony plates along the backs of stegosaurs were probably only for looks, as evidenced by the discovery of female stegosaurs who had received plate implants.

June-The USDA was forced to admit that a cow previously declared safe did, in fact, have Mad Cow Disease after it was revealed that the department had used wrong test. The admission explains why, after the USDA was supposed to have checked the cow for BSE, they instead hired it to head their news and information division.

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