Dave Barry's year in review

From iPhones to Anna Nicole to O.J., 2007 ends with humor

12/28/2007 3:01 AM

01/03/2008 1:54 PM

It was a year that strode boldly into the stall of human events and took a wide stance astride the porcelain bowl of history.

It was year in which roughly 17,000 leading presidential contenders, plus of course Dennis Kucinich, held roughly 63,000 debates, during which they spewed out roughly 153 trillion words; and yet the only truly memorable phrase emitted in any political context was ``Don't tase me, bro!''

It was a year filled with bizarre, insane, destructive behavior, an alarming amount of which involved astronauts.

In short, 2007 was a year of deep gloom, pierced occasionally by rays of even deeper gloom. Oh, sure, there were a few bright spots:

 Several courageous members of the U.S. Congress -- it could be as many as a dozen -- decided, incredibly, not to run for president.

 O.J. Simpson discovered that, although you might be able to avoid jail time for committing a double homicide, the justice system draws the line at attempted theft of sports memorabilia.

 Toward the end of the year, entire days went by when it was possible to not think about Paris Hilton.

 Apple released the iPhone, which, as we understand it, enables users to fly, cure cancer, read minds and travel through time.

 The plucky, lovable New York Yankees once again found a way, against all odds, to bring joy to the literally billions of people who do not root for them.

 Dick Cheney did not shoot anybody, as far as we know.

But other than that, 2007 was a disaster. American consumers came to fear products manufactured in China, which covers pretty much everything in the typical American home except the dirt. Global warming continued to worsen, despite the efforts of leading climate experts such as Madonna and Leonardo DiCaprio, who emerged briefly from their private jets to give the rest of us helpful tips on reducing our carbon footprints.

On the economic front, the dollar continued to lose value against all major foreign currencies and most brands of bathroom tissue. There was a major collapse in the credit market, caused by the fact that for most of this decade, every other radio commercial has been some guy selling mortgages to people who clearly should not have mortgages. (''No credit? No job? On death row? No problem!'') It got so bad that you couldn't let your dog run loose, because it would come home with a mortgage. The subprime-mortgage fiasco resulted in huge stock-market losses, and the executives responsible, under the harsh rules of Wall Street justice, were forced to accept lucrative retirement packages.

So they did OK. But for the rest of us, it was another bad year. And as is so often true of bad years, it began with . . .

JANUARY

. . . when Democrats, having won the November election, take control of both houses of Congress with surprisingly little loss of life. In the House of Representatives, incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi pledges ''a new era of bipartisan cooperation,'' then brings the gavel down on the head of outgoing Speaker Dennis Hastert.

Upon taking power, the Democrats, who campaigned vigorously against the war in Iraq, and who hailed their victory as a clear voter mandate to get the troops out of Iraq, immediately get down to the business of being careful to not do anything that might actually result in the removal of troops from Iraq, in case that might turn out to be a bad idea. This is fine with President Bush, who calls for a ''troop surge,'' based on his understanding of the comprehensive Iraq Study Group Report, as interpreted for him by aides equipped with 20,000 G.I. Joe action figures.

As the debate over Iraq intensifies, the eyes of a worried nation turn to another trouble spot: New York City, where Donald Trump and Rosie O'Donnell are locked in a bitter high-stakes battle to determine who is the bigger horse's ass. After meeting with both sides, a visibly shaken Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reports that Trump's hair ''is exactly the same color as a Cheez-It.'' While the White House ponders its options, congressional Democrats vow to strongly oppose whatever action the president decides to take, while at the same time voting to fund it.

On the homeland-security front, the U.S. government begins requiring people arriving in the U.S. by air from Mexico or Canada to present passports, fueling speculation that Canada is a foreign country. The government notes that the passport requirement ``does not apply to people sneaking in by land.''

The slump in home sales continues into the new year, with a total, nationwide, of one home sold in January. In many cities, gangs of real-estate agents -- sometimes wearing ''colors'' in the form of canary-yellow jackets -- roam the streets, surrounding their victims and extracting money from them in forcible ``closings.''

In sports, a Los Angeles team signs glamorous British soccer star David Beckham to a $250 million contract. This raises eyebrows, both because of the amount of money, and because the team is the Dodgers. But Beckham's glamorous presence quickly boosts ticket sales; within days the Lakers sign Angelina Jolie.

Sports remains in the news in . . .

FEBRUARY

. . . when South Florida hosts Super Bowl Roman Numeral. Because of concern over terrorism, security is extremely tight, particularly outside South Beach nightclubs, where large bouncers refuse to let any terrorists inside unless they are really hot. After what feels like three months of pregame festivities, an actual game is played, pitting the Chicago Bears against the Indianapolis Peyton Mannings. What begins as a close contest is broken wide open in the third quarter when the Bears defense is unable to stop a 1993 Buick LeSabre driven by 87-year-old North Miami Beach resident Winifred Bingleman, who took a wrong turn on her way to mah-jongg. She is immediately signed by the Miami Dolphins.

In other February action, Democrats in the House of Representatives, after a large amount of talking, pass a non-binding resolution sternly ordering President Bush to get out of Iraq, unless of course he chooses not to. Over in the Senate, Democrats try to pass a non-binding resolution that would have not bound the president to the same course of action that the House resolution did not bind him to. But that one fails, leaving the president, according to political observers, somewhat less non-bound than he might otherwise have been. Everyone agrees it has been a busy, busy time in Washington.

Abroad, the six-party talks in Beijing conclude on an optimistic note as North Korea's leader, Insane Lunatic Liar Il, announces that his country will dismantle its nuclear-weapons program just as soon as it receives the nuclear dismantler that it ordered on eBay. All six parties agree that this sounds reasonable; they resume partying. On a more ominous nuclear note, President Bush warns Iran that it is, quote, ''awfully close to Iraq, if you look at a map, which I have.'' In another increasingly tense international arena, the U.N. Security Council sends 1,000 peacekeeping troops to New York City in an effort to quell Rosie O'Donnell, who repels them by shouting.

But the big news in February is the death and subsequent wacky adventures of Anna Nicole Smith, whose body remains in a refrigerator in the Broward County medical examiner's office while her infant child is embroiled in a paternity dispute that eventually comes to involve pretty much every adult male resident of the United States except Richard Simmons. The news media cover this story with their usual taste and restraint, keeping the public informed of important developments via such journalistic innovations as the Refrigerator Cam; Greta Van Susteren jets to Aruba in case there is a Natalee Holloway link. The dramatic finale takes place in a Florida courtroom presided over by Judge Weeping Twit, who, in a display of Solomonic wisdom, rules that everyone involved will get a TV show.

Another important February story getting huge media coverage is Revenge of the Scary Astronaut Diaper Woman, which concerns astronaut Lisa Nowak, who, after allegedly driving nonstop from Houston to the Orlando airport, is arrested and charged with the attempted murder of a woman whom she viewed as a rival for a male astronaut who no doubt wishes he had just stayed up there in space. According to police, Nowak's car contained latex gloves, a black wig, a BB pistol, a knife, pepper spray and -- most disturbing of all -- a 55-gallon drum filled with Tang.

In other aviation news, JetBlue has a public-relations disaster when 10 of its flights are stranded on runways for so long that they are enveloped by glaciers. Fortunately, all the passengers manage to survive, in some cases by eating their carry-on luggage. This fiasco prompts the FAA to fine JetBlue for violating strict federal regulations against allowing passengers to have anything edible in coach class.

In the Academy Awards, Martin Scorsese finally breaks his long drought, winning a best-picture Oscar for his film Give Me an Oscar or This Time I Swear I Will Kill Myself.

Speaking of drama, in . . .

MARCH

. . . the riveting trial of Scooter ''Scooter'' Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, concludes with Scooter being convicted on federal charges of being guilty of something having to do with Nigeria and somebody named Valerie, but we are darned if we can remember what, although we certainly hope Scooter has learned his lesson.

In other scandal news, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales gets into hot water when congressional Democrats allege that his name can be rearranged to spell ''Re-Label Zoo Gnats'' and ''Gala Lobster Zone.'' President Bush calls Gonzales ''a person in which I have the utmost whaddyacallit'' and pledges to ``stand behind him 100 percent for the time being.''

Speaking of time: Americans attempt to adjust to a new Daylight Saving Time law, which Congress passed because it apparently felt that the old law was not annoying and confusing enough. The new law produces immediate economic benefits in the form of an estimated $175 billion paid by corporations and individuals to fix the computers, PDAs, phone systems, etc., that were screwed up by the time change. Of course none of this affects Congress, which has exempted itself from the new law and continues to operate by sundial.

On a somber note, Anna Nicole Smith is finally laid to rest in the Bahamas in an intimate funeral service attended only by family, close friends, acquaintances, total strangers, tourists and an estimated 750 cable-TV legal analysts, several of whom have to be forcibly removed from the casket as they attempt to commit one final act of legal analysis.

Speaking of bad taste, in . . .

APRIL

. . . the broadcasting industry is shocked, shocked, when radio personality Don Imus, who has spent several decades making and chuckling at crude racist statements, makes a crude racist statement about the Rutgers women's basketball team. The Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are deeply offended and immediately set about the difficult but necessary work of drawing still more attention to themselves. Before it is over, everybody involved will be wealthier, except of course, the members of the Rutgers women's basketball team.

In politics, the burgeoning Alberto Gonzales scandal -- rapidly becoming the most riveting scandal to rivet Washington since the ''Scooter'' Libby scandal -- burgeons still further when congressional Democrats charge that Gonzales' name can also be rearranged to spell ''A Stern Legal Bozo'' and ''Snot Blaze Galore.'' President Bush defends his beleaguered attorney general, accusing the Democrats of ''a new low in beleaguering'' and stating that he has ``no intention whatsoever of replacing Mr. Gonzales with anybody else, such as Michael Mukasey if he is available.''

Speaking of beleaguered: Rosie O'Donnell announces that she will leave the TV show The View to pursue a career making bizarre statements on the Internet. Although O'Donnell claims her departure is amicable, insiders say she tried to oust Barbara Walters as the show's producer, a move that Walters was able to repel by blasting the outspoken comedienne with 150,000 cubic feet of hairspray, which, for Barbara, is nearly a two-day supply.

In other show-business news, the surprise contestant on American Idol is llama-hairstyled Sanjaya Malakar, who, with the support of millions of viewers, all apparently deaf, manages to reach the late rounds of the competition before being eliminated by a blowgun dart from Simon Cowell. Upon being revived, Sanjaya is signed by the Miami Dolphins.

Another surprise hit in April -- in fact, the No. 1 recording, played relentlessly for days by every radio and TV station in the country -- is Alec Baldwin Talks to His 11-Year-Old Daughter the Way Tony Soprano Talks to Somebody Whose Legs He is About to Drive Over in His Chevrolet Suburban.

Speaking of strong action, in . . .

MAY

. . . Democrats in Congress -- continuing to implement their policy of being passionately against the war while avoiding doing anything that might get them blamed for stopping the war -- vote to continue funding the war, but boldly enter many snippy remarks about it into the congressional record. President Bush receives this devastating news stoically, then goes ahead and makes his putt.

Meanwhile the Senate, after months of secret negotiations, releases its comprehensive immigration reform plan, under which immigrants would earn points toward becoming a U.S. citizens by having basic citizenship skills such as being able to do the Electric Slide and place an order at Starbucks. To placate conservatives, the plan also calls for a 300-mile fence to be constructed around Rosie O'Donnell.

In presidential politics, Florida -- continuing its proud tradition of screwing up elections -- announces that it will move its primary up to Jan. 29. This infuriates Iowa and New Hampshire, which want to be first because otherwise no sane person would ever go to either state in the winter. So New Hampshire moves its primary to early January, and Iowa moves its caucus to even earlier in January. Soon the other states, not wanting to be left out, start moving up their elections; before the frenzy is over, Nebraska has officially declared that its 2008 primary election will take place in 1973. Of course normal American voters pay no attention to any of this, which is why they are always the last ones to find out who their presidential choices will be.

Abroad, the French presidential election, in what political analysts see as a break with recent trends, is won by John Kerry.

As May draws to a close and the Atlantic hurricane season looms, weather experts, having reviewed all their data and their sophisticated computer models, announce that they have absolutely no clue what is going to happen.

Ha ha! We are, of course, kidding. The experts confidently predict that we are going to have a worse-than-usual hurricane season. This is also what they confidently predicted last year, which, as you may recall, was an unusually quiet season. It is only a matter of time before these experts are hired by the Miami Dolphins.

In sports, the Indianapolis 500 is won by Britney Spears in a car equipped with two infants but no car seats.

Speaking of outstanding drivers, in . . .

JUNE

. . . the nation is riveted by the drama of Paris Hilton, who, after a string of motor-vehicle violations including driving with a suspended license, driving at excessive speed through a nightclub, driving over the young of an endangered species and driving with the brain functionality of a cabbage, is ordered to go to jail, then is released from jail, and then -- in what many observers see as an unfair punishment, based solely on resentment of her celebrity status -- is burned at the stake.

No, seriously: Paris is sent back to jail for several brutal weeks, during which she is repeatedly subjected to a harsh generic hair conditioner. Somehow she survives this ordeal and, upon leaving jail, adopts a low public profile, except for appearing with Larry King, who does a fine job once he realizes, about 40 minutes into the interview, that she is not Goldie Hawn.

In other June TV highlights:

 Cuban television broadcasts an interview of Fidel Castro, apparently intended to prove that the ailing dictator is still alive; cynics note, however, that the interview was conducted by Edward R. Murrow.

 The hit HBO series The Sopranos comes to an ambiguous end when, in mid-scene, the screen goes black. Many viewers at first think this is a technical problem; cable-TV companies log 3 million complaint calls, nearly 30 percent of them from the White House.

In other government action, the U.S. Senate discovers that its comprehensive immigration reform bill, despite having been painstakingly crafted behind closed doors by veteran bill-crafters, is unpopular with a segment of the U.S. population defined as ''the public.'' The Senate responds swiftly, dropping the immigration issue like a bag of rat sputum and returning to its traditional role of funding large unnecessary projects in West Virginia named after Robert Byrd.

In sports, the Anaheim Ducks defeat the Ottawa Senators in a Stanley Cup playoff series watched, worldwide, by most of the players' parents.

But the biggest story in June, as well as the history of the universe, is the release of the Apple iPhone, which, in addition to enabling you to make phone calls, has all kinds of brilliant and innovative features, including AutoFondle, an application that enables the iPhone to fondle itself during those times when you are unable to fondle it manually because you're sleeping or undergoing surgery from wounds you sustained when friends or co-workers finally lost it and beat you senseless to make you shut up about your freaking iPhone already.

Speaking of medical procedures, in . . .

JULY

. . . President Bush undergoes a colonoscopy; congressional Democrats immediately pass a resolution condemning the procedure, while maintaining that they ''fully support the colonoscope.'' Vice President Cheney serves as acting president for two and a half hours, during which he performs what his office describes as ''routine executive duties,'' including ''signing some routine papers'' and ''ordering some routine bomb strikes against Iran.'' France immediately surrenders.

In other executive action, President Bush, on the eve of July Fourth, commutes ''Scooter'' Libby's prison sentence, on the grounds that, quote, ''Hey, c'mon, it's Scooter.'' Congressional Democrats are outraged, but the public is more concerned with the issue of whether to go ahead and have that fifth beer.

Speaking of which: the troubled space program is dealt yet another blow when a special panel reveals that on at least two occasions, astronauts were cleared to fly while drunk. This is thought to explain some unusual research conducted by shuttle crews, including the ''weightless naked Twister experiment'' and ``wedgies in space.''

On the environmental front, the big story is Al Gore's ''Live Earth,'' a massive rock concert in which more than 150 music acts perform at 11 locations around the world to fight global warming, which is swiftly brought to its knees.

In the arts, July is dominated by the release of the seventh and last Harry Potter book, Harry Potter Spends Half the Book Camping, which enthralls the nation as nothing has enthralled it since the release of the iPhone. The book is generally well-received, although some fans are troubled by the ending, which culminates in the death of Harry's longtime nemesis, Tony Soprano.

In sports, suspicions of doping continue to plague the Tour de France when the grueling 2,200-mile race is won, in a stunning upset, by Barry Bonds. Pro basketball also suffers a blow following reports that NBA referee Tim Donaghy bet on games that he officiated, which could explain some of his questionable calls in critical situations, including fouls for ''bad posture'' and ``dribbling too loud.''

Speaking of image problems, in . . .

AUGUST

. . . Mattel, responding to new reports of hazardous materials in Chinese-made products, recalls millions of toys. A Mattel spokesperson insists that ''there is no cause for alarm,'' but suggests that consumers who have come into contact with the Barbie Magic Kitty Dream Castle should ''seek medical help'' and ``try not to breathe on anyone.''

In politics, the leading Democratic and Republican contenders for president, having failed to draw much of an audience for their previous debates, experiment with new formats. The Republicans hold a ''Charades Debate,'' during which Mike Huckabee injures his shoulder attempting to mime his plan for tax reform; the Democrats fare little better in their ''West Side Story Rumble Debate,'' which ends early when a switchblade-wielding John Edwards ''accidentally'' stabs Hillary Clinton in her pantsuit. Despite the excitement, both debates get lower TV ratings than a rerun of the Ducks-Senators Stanley Cup final.

But the big story in politics is Idaho Sen. Larry ''Wide Stance'' Craig, who pleads guilty in August after being arrested in June for allegedly attempting to engage in acts of explicit filibustering with an undercover detective in a Minneapolis airport bathroom stall. Sen. Craig explains that, even though he pleaded guilty, he is innocent, but he promises that he will resign, a pledge he later clarifies by explaining that he will not resign. The Senate, responding with unusual speed and firmness, funds a large unnecessary project in Alaska named after Ted Stevens.

In other scandal news, beleaguered attorney general Alberto Gonzales is finally forced to resign when Democrats leak documents showing that his name can also be rearranged to spell ''Large Ozone Blast'' and ''Glean Zebra Stool.'' President Bush attempts to commute Gonzales' sentence, only to be informed that there isn't one.

On the weather front, the nation is gripped by a heat wave. This has happened pretty much every August since the dawn of human civilization, but it totally stuns the news media.

In show business, Merv Griffin, entrepreneur, entertainer and host, passes away at age 82 and appears for two riveting hours on Larry King Live.

In sports, Barry Bonds, fresh off his Tour de France triumph, hits his record-breaking 756th home run in front of a crowd that does not include baseball commissioner Bud Selig, who had this other thing he had to do. In Cooperstown, N.Y., the Baseball Hall of Fame starts making plans for a special ''Barry Bonds Wing,'' to be located in Taiwan.

But the big sports story is Michael Vick, whose guilty plea in connection with a dogfighting operation effectively ends his football career, costing him a fortune and setting a standard for moronic, immoral and self-destructive professional-athlete behavior that will take O.J. Simpson nearly a month to surpass.

Speaking of troubled personalities, in . . .

SEPTEMBER

. . . Iranian President Mahmoud ''Scooter'' Ahmadinejad, speaking at Columbia University, defends his denial of the Holocaust and claims there are no gays in Iran. He and his entourage then head to Greenwich Village to shop for chaps.

In Washington, Congress once again tackles Iraq as Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker testify in Senate and House committee hearings totaling 16 hours, of which 11 hours are taken up by Joe Biden's welcoming remarks. Afterward, Democrats and Republicans agree that they have gained a better understanding of this extremely complex issue and will henceforth abandon crude partisanship and try to find common ground on the planet Floob, where this might actually happen. Here on Earth, both sides immediately resume declaring that the other side is scum.

President Bush nominates Michael B. Mukasey to be attorney general, despite published reports that his name can be rearranged to spell ''Lube Mama's Hickey'' and ''Mace His Leaky Bum.'' Senate leaders, in a rare display of bipartisanship, pledge to fund large unnecessary projects in both West Virginia and Alaska.

A talk by John Kerry at the University of Florida is interrupted by a struggle between police and a disruptive student, who shouts ''Don't tase me bro!'' at an officer, who then tasers him, possibly because she is not, in fact, a ''bro.'' The video of this incident -- showing the student shouting ''Help!'' and wrestling with police on the floor while Kerry's droning voice can be heard in the background saying ''it's a very important question'' -- becomes a huge YouTube hit. The consensus is that the student was obnoxious, although the ACLU objects to the tasering, arguing that, quote, ``you get better results with pepper spray.''

In other political developments:

 Fred Thompson, ending months of speculation, formally declares that he has a hot wife.

 Hillary Clinton's campaign returns $850,000 in contributions raised by fugitive Chinese-American businessman Norman Hsu following published reports that the money had a high lead content.

In Las Vegas, O.J. Simpson, an ordinary citizen minding his own business and exercising his basic constitutional right to retrieve sports memorabilia from somebody else's hotel room with the aid of armed thugs, somehow runs afoul of the law. He insists he is innocent, but winds up facing trial on robbery and kidnapping charges that could send him to jail for a life term, after which he will undoubtedly be signed by the Miami Dolphins.

Speaking of trouble, in . . .

OCTOBER

. . . uncontrolled fires sweep across large areas of California. President Bush, looking down from his helicopter, pronounces the scene ''devastating,'' only to be informed that the helicopter is flying over Camp David. Aides later explain that the president meant ''devastating in a good way.'' Congress, after intense debate, narrowly passes a non-binding resolution supporting the firefighters.

In politics, the race for the Democratic nomination heats up during a nationally televised debate when John Edwards and Barack Obama, in what political observers view as a thinly veiled attack on Hillary Clinton, repeatedly raise the issue of ankle size. On the Republican side, Sam Brownback announces that he is dropping out of the race; political observers view this as an indication that he thought he was in the race.

Al Gore is named co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to raise awareness of climate change. In an emotional statement, Gore says he is ''deeply humbled,'' stressing that he could not have won the honor without ``an extremely high IQ.''

On the economic front, the Federal Reserve Board cuts interest rates in an effort to counteract economic stagnation caused by the fact that Americans are now spending $743 billion a year -- nearly half their disposable income -- on Hannah Montana tickets.

In aviation news, the Airbus 380, the world's largest passenger plane, makes its maiden commercial flight from Singapore to Sydney. In full economy configuration, the giant plane carries 853 passengers, a crew of 20, and three packages of pretzels.

In sports, track star Marion Jones admits that she used banned substances. She is stripped of her five Olympic medals by the International Olympic Committee and hired as a designated hitter by the San Francisco Giants.

In entertainment news, author J.K. Rowling surprises fans of the Harry Potter series when she reveals that Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts School, was also, secretly, a United States senator from Idaho.

October ends with America shutting down for roughly a week to celebrate Halloween, a time when millions of adults get back in touch with their ''inner child'' by getting drunk dressed as pimps and hookers. For younger children there is also trick-or-treating, but because of safety concerns this is pretty much restricted to Kansas.

Speaking of pimps and hookers, in . . .

NOVEMBER

. . . the presidential contenders start to show signs of emotional wear during their debates, as exemplified by Mitt Romney's decision, following a heated exchange on trade policy, to whip out a Sharpie and write a bad word on Rudy Giuliani's forehead. The mood is equally testy on the Democratic side, where Bill Richardson, in the role of peacekeeper, has to physically restrain Hillary Clinton from repeatedly striking Barack Obama with Dennis Kucinich.

Meanwhile CNN faces allegations of allowing planted questions in its televised debates after a group of audience members billed as ''ordinary, undecided voters'' -- including a police officer, a construction worker, a soldier, a rancher and a native American -- turn out to be, in fact, the Village People.

As the political debates increase in frequency and intensity, the American public, realizing that the time to make a decision will soon be at hand, tunes in by the millions to the finale of Dancing With The Stars. The surprise winner is race-car driver Helio Castroneves, who is immediately signed by the Miami Dolphins.

In economic news, the Federal Reserve Board, responding to recession fears and the continued weakening of the dollar, votes unanimously to be paid in euros. And in what economists see as an indication of the worsening subprime-mortgage crisis, Russia forecloses on Alaska.

On the labor front, the Writers Guild -- representing film, television and radio writers -- goes on strike. In solidarity with them, I will not put a punchline here.

The big international story is the Middle East peace conference in Annapolis, Md., which is opened by President Bush, who declares that he is ''pleased to grant a pardon to this turkey'' before being hustled from the room for what aides describe as ''a very important meeting.'' Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice takes over, declaring that the goals of the conference are to ''achieve lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians'' and ''find a real unicorn.'' The rest of the conference goes smoothly until what participants describe as a ''frank exchange of views'' concerning the conference-room thermostat setting ends in gunfire.

Abroad, French transit workers attempt to end a strike, only to discover that they have forgotten how to operate the trains. Everybody enjoys a hearty laugh and returns to the café.

As the month draws to a close, Americans celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday much as the early Pilgrims did, lining up outside Best Buy at 3 a.m. to buy steeply discounted appliances.

Speaking of giving thanks, with the end of November comes the end of what has turned out to be another milder-than-usual hurricane season. Hurricane experts, plugging this updated data into their sophisticated computer models, announce that there is ''a high statistical probability that next month will be April.'' This leads us to . . .

DECEMBER

. . . in which the race for the presidency becomes even more riveting than it already was, if such a thing is possible. On the Democratic side, a major spate of snippiness erupts when Barack Obama suggests that Hillary Clinton is more ambitious than he is. In response, Clinton's campaign, showing the wacky sense of humor it is famous for, releases documents showing that Obama thought about running for president when he was in kindergarten. Obama's campaign retaliates by releasing a sonogram allegedly showing that Clinton was running for president in the womb. (I am making only some of this up.)

On the Republican side, Mitt Romney seeks to defuse the religion issue by making a major speech in which -- echoing the words of John F. Kennedy -- he declares that he is a Catholic. But the big story on the GOP side is former senator or governor of some state Mike (or possibly Bob) Huckabee, who surges ahead in the polls because (a) nobody knows anything about him, and (b) it's fun to say ''Huckabee.'' Huckabee Huckabee Huckabee.

In Washington, President Bush proposes to ease the subprime-mortgage crisis via a two-pronged program consisting of interest-rate freezes and waterboarding. Outraged congressional Democrats promise to pass a nonbinding resolution containing language so strong that nobody will be able to look directly at it without sunglasses.

In other economic news, retailers report strong holiday sales although shoppers remain wary of Chinese-manufactured toys after a Tennessee Wal-Mart is leveled by what an investigator describes as ``the worst Polly Pockets explosion I have ever seen.''

Abroad, U.S. intelligence experts release a report stating that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons. This appears to throw a monkey wrench into the Bush administration's Mideast policy, although the president, after aides brief him on a synopsis of the executive summary of the introduction to the report, points out that ``it could be referring to a different Iran.''

In a major Latin American story, Venezuelan voters reject sweeping constitutional changes pushed by President Hugo Chávez, including a law that would make it illegal for anybody to be taller than he is. A defiant Chávez concedes defeat, but notes that he is still polling ahead of both Joe Biden and John McCain in Iowa.

In sports, a wildly unpredictable season of college football, marked by a slew of upsets, ends with the Bowl Championship Series computer awarding the final No. 1 ranking to Bryn Mawr. The Owls will play the BCS computer's No. 2 ranked team, Vassar, for the 2007 national championship in the Sugar Bowl, scheduled to be played, because of TV-marketing requirements, next July.

Meanwhile, NASA suffers yet another black eye when the space shuttle Vagabond is launched into orbit carrying a crew of nine, four of whom are discovered, once they get into orbit, to be Hooters waitresses.

But the picture is not so rosy for those of us stuck here on Earth. As we stagger to the end of 2007, we have to face the fact that 2008, being a leap year, will have a whole extra day of alarming events. So as bad as this year was, we should not be in such a hurry to move on. Instead, we should pause for a moment to raise a glass and offer a toast to our friends and loved ones, wishing them health and happiness.

And then we should put the glass down, because it was probably made in China.

About Dave Barry

Dave Barry

@rayadverb

Dave Barry has been at the Herald since 1983. A Pulitzer Prize winner for commentary, he writes about everything from the international economy to exploding toilets.

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