Dave Barry’s 2018 Year in Review

It’s January, time to reflect on the year just passed. Dave Barry, as he does every year, gives us a trip down the memory hole of 2018, helping us to remember much that we tried to forget.

“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.”

Re-live the year just finished. Read Dave’s month-by-month report.

John Boehner: Still Smokin’

“I’m all in on marijuana.”

Republican John Boehner resigned from the House of Representatives in 2015 after nearly twenty-five years, the last five as Speaker. He has since found a life after politics.

“I’m all in on marijuana.”

“The business of business is people.”

“Your people come first, and if you treat them right, they’ll treat the customers right.”

Wild Turkey whiskey and Kool cigarettes finally caught up with Herb Kelleher. The co-founder and former CEO of Southwest Airlines has died at age eighty-seven. Southwest began flying in 1971, serving three Texas Cities: Dallas (Love Field, not DFW), San Antonio and Houston. Today, Southwest, with 58,000 employees, carries more domestic passengers than any other airline, serving ninety-nine U.S. cities and ten foreign countries. It is the most, actually the only consistently profitable airline, even without charging fees for checked baggage or itinerary changes and with a highly-unionized workforce.

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The Border, the President, the Wayback Machine

IOKIYAR (It’s OK if you are Republican)

The current occupant of the White House gave a speech to Americans about the urgency of U.S. taxpayers funding a border wall. (As with the deficit and Mexico paying for the wall, Republicans no longer mention the president’s TelePrompTer use.) The major television networks acquiesced and broadcast the scripted, sometimes coherent harangue. Never mind that in 2014 the same networks declined to give airtime to the President – that would be Barack Obama – addressing the nation about border security. The reason given? It was too political. Previously, the networks did air George W. Bush’s immigration speech.

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2018: Best Year Ever!

Nicholas Kristof, graduate of Yamhill-Carlton (Oregon) High School, has for the past two decades been reporting for the New York Times from what a certain U.S. leader has referred to as “shithole countries.” Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn in 1991 earned a Pulitzer Prize for their reporting on Tienanmen Square student protests. They became the first husband-wife team gain the honor. Kristof won the Pulitzer again in 2006 for his reporting from Darfur on the genocide there.

Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

Mr. Kristof’s dispatches focus on subjects such as poverty, famine, human trafficking and ethnic cleansing from outposts in Myanmar, Yemen, Bangladesh and other sites of human misery. He has also made known his contrarian views on the anti-sweatshop movement and the social structure of the U.S. military.

In contrast to his regular reporting and general public perception, Kristof in his year-end summing up makes the case that, overall, 2018 was the best year on record for general improvement of the human condition. Without disregarding all the bad news, he reports that fewer people live in poverty than ever before, that more people have access to clean drinking water and electricity, that literacy is at an all-time high and infant mortality is at its all-time low. (Unlike most other countries, life expectancy in the United States has gotten worse.)

In his book Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, Harvard professor Steven Pinker presents evidence in text and seventy-five graphs the betterment of the human condition over time.

We may be past the tipping point on climate change and over-population proceeds unchecked. Still Nicholas Kristof takes a break from his usual topics to give us some perspective.

But What About the Animals?

Is the Animal Kingdom sending its best?

As the government shutdown drags on and visitors to unpatrolled national parks deface the landscape with off-road vehicles and leave their shit – literal and metaphoric – behind, and unpaid TSA workers call in sick to major airports, and senior White House appointees – Mike Pence included – are a bout to receive $10,000 pay increases, let’s give some attention to the animals about to be affected by the border wall Mexico is paying for.

Because of the purported urgency of the U.S.-Mexico barrier, environmental laws have been waived. The portion of the wall built so far has already had consequences, including some animal species separated from their food and water sources, others cut off from millennia-old migration routes, and habitats destroyed. One example is a herd of wild bison that regularly – without passports – crosses the border. On the U.S. side is a patch of native grass the animals feed on. On the Mexico side is the only year-round water source in the area.

Wild animals have not accepted that climate change is a hoax promoted by liberals and scientists. Rising temperatures and worsening drought exacerbate the difficulty of finding food and water. Splitting up species, as the wall will do, lessens an animal’s chance of finding a viable mate, meaning, obviously, fewer offspring. Inevitable inbreeding leads to disease and less genetic diversity. Paul Ehrlich, president of the Center for Conservation Biology at Stanford University, put it succinctly, “Building an impermeable wall along the longest border in the Western hemisphere is a stupid idea — it’s senseless. It’s truly a moronic move by a truly moronic administration.”

Assuming Trump’s Folly will be built, Wyoming gives us an example of how to mitigate the consequences for wildlife. For the past six thousand years, Yellowstone pronghorn antelope have annually migrated along a 170-mile corridor between the upper Green River basin and Grand Teton National Park. U.S. Highway 191 imposed a barrier to the pronghorn’s travels. To promote migration and reduce the carnage from animals trying to cross the highway, the Wyoming Department of Transportation built eight overpasses. It took a couple years, but the pronghorn have adapted and the animal-automobile collisions have been reduced over seventy percent. One would think such crossings should be simple to monitor for people migration.