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.

Back to the Future – TV Chapter

That consumer hatred is turning to gold for Joe Bingochea, president of Channel Master.

Consumer Reports published an item about a lawsuit Comcast settled recently with the Massachusetts attorney general. The cable provider agreed to refund $700,000 in overcharges and cancel debts of 20,000 customers. It seems Comcast’s advertising neglected to disclose fees that typically increased the price of multi-year packages by 40%. Unhappy customers were required to pay as much as $240 to cancel or change a subscription.

An estimated 25 million subscribers broke free from their pay-tv service this year, a 33% increase over 2017.

Who doesn’t hate their cable or satellite television provider? The cable and satellite companies force customers to pay for unwanted channels to get the channels they do want. Because they sold only package deals. The television providers refused to remove their blinders; they thought they could resist a la carte pricing forever. Although they also provide Internet service – and lobby against net neutrality – they didn’t see the Internet would soon wreck their business model.

That consumer hatred is turning to gold for Joe Bingochea, president of Channel Master. The seventy-year-old company has doubled the size of its Arizona factory to meet surging demand. Its product? Television antennas.

Internet television allows viewers to subscribe to only channels they want. They don’t need to pay for ESPN2 to get HBO; they only pay for the HBO channel. And they’ve learned what mom and dad knew: the local stations, including major network affiliates and PBS, broadcast their programming for free. All one needs is an antenna to grab the signal from the atmosphere.

Which explains why Joe Bingochea is so happy. After years in the doldrums, his company’s products are in demand again. Channel Master also offers DVRs that work with antennas, because today’s viewers are accustomed to watching what they want when they want. For less than a hundred bucks, a person can become an ex-customer of the pay-TV companies.