2005: Past Tense (Part 2)

December 16, 2005

When not contemplating the depressing thought of my own mortality, it’s comforting to stop and contemplate the depressing news stories of the year that was, some of which include…

July-Scientists in the United Kingdom found that genes from genetically modified oilseed rape had transferred to native plants creating herbicide-resistant "superweeds". Such transference had originally been discounted as "virtually impossible" by scientists who received their grants from the industries that promote genetically modified plants, and are therefore the only scientists whose opinions matter – even if they’re wrong.

Also in July, the latest best hope for proof of Bigfoot, Sasquatch, the North American Yeti, or whatever you want to call it, was dashed when DNA tests revealed that a hair sample came from a bison and not the missing link. I know exactly how all hopeful Bigfoot hunters felt since, when I was eight years old, I thought I spotted Bigfoot in my neighborhood early one morning. Unfortunately it turned out to be my friend Phil’s dad who went out to pick up the paper in his underwear.

August-Televangelist Pat Robertson, who’s failed to make headlines for his friendship with former Liberian dictator Charles Taylor or for diverting money meant for Rwandan refugees to finance diamond-mining expeditions, made big news with his comments about Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. "If he thinks we’re trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it," Robertson said. In the furor that followed Robertson copped the Yogi Berra defense, claiming he hadn’t actually said what he said. Later he posted an apology on his web site, although he also blamed the firestorm over his comments on a slow news cycle, since Robertson believes his religion allows him to call for the assassination of anyone he doesn’t like.

Also in August Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, causing devastation and revealing government incompetence at almost every level from Mayor Nagin of New Orleans to FEMA Director Mike Brown. On the day the hurricane hit Brown sent an e-mail to his staff asking, "Can I quit now?" It’s not clear whether he received bad advice or whether he got good advice and ignored it, but he stayed on as director for some time afterward.

September-Scientists at the University of Aberdeen wrote an artificial intelligence program to use more accurate language when describing and forecasting the weather. Although it was done for the offshore oil industry, the new program could make weathermen obsolete, even though pretending weathermen actually know anything is already a form of artificial intelligence. In a deliberate effort to completely eliminate weathermen, scientists are also working on defining the exact temperatures which the programs will describe as "hot as a hen in a sack" or "cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey," and also teaching the program exactly when to say, "Now back to you, Jim."

Also in September I tried some of these new "nachos" all the kids are talking about. Mmmm.

October-Dick Cheney’s chief of staff Scooter Libby was indicted for perjury related to his role in outing undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame. Fortunately for Libby the day before the indictment Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson preemptively dismissed perjury as a "technicality", not to be confused with actual crimes. There’s no word yet on whether Hutchinson also considers treason and obstruction of justice "technicalities". Libby resigned, but Karl Rove, who also exposed Plame’s work at the CIA, continues working at the White House with his full security clearance. President Bush pointedly ignored questions from reporters about his promise to fire anyone responsible for leaking Plame’s undercover identity. He also wouldn’t say when or if he’s going to get around to fulfilling his original campaign promise to "restore honor and integrity to the White House".

November-Police in El Salvador’s capital El Salvador took credit for stopping a big robbery when a tunnel under the street collapsed and two naked men ran out. Police considered the pair criminal masterminds, even though they weren’t smart enough to keep their tunnel from collapsing, couldn’t figure out any way to keep cool in the heat other than going naked, and didn’t think to pass themselves off as nudist mole people.

December-Walt Disney rolled over in his cryogenic chamber when it was announced that the vast corporate empire he’d built, now run entirely by brain-eating molluscs in suits, had finally decided to remove the one character they felt had been holding back the Winnie The Pooh series: Christopher Robin. Yes, the small boy who inspired his father to tell stories about an amusing bear and his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood had become a burden, so with a flourish of the digital pen he was written out of the next installment in the series. True to its new mission in taking the child out of children’s entertainment, the Disney corporation announced that the next Winnie the Pooh movie will focus on an overweight bear who, after developing an allergy to bee stings, goes on a low carb diet consisting of hikers.

And finally, a few people have made up a lot of phony stories about a "war on Christmas", and declared the expression "Happy Holidays" offensive, since they resent having to acknowledge that the holidays Hanukkah, Solstice, Kwanzaa, and even New Year’s Eve also occur during the month of December. Regardless of the time of year intolerance is one thing none of us can afford to tolerate. Happy Holidays to everyone – and I mean everyone, whatever your holiday may be. I’ll be back in the new year.

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