BY DAVE BARRY
It was a year of Hope -- at first in the sense of ``I feel hopeful!'' and later in the sense of ``I hope this year ends soon!''
It was also a year of Change, especially in Washington, where the tired old hacks of yesteryear finally yielded the reins of power to a group of fresh, young, idealistic, new-idea outsiders such as Nancy Pelosi. As a result Washington, rejecting ``business as usual,'' finally stopped trying to solve every problem by throwing billions of taxpayer dollars at it and instead started trying to solve every problem by throwing trillionsof taxpayer dollars at it.
To be sure, it was a year that saw plenty of bad news. But in almost every instance, there was offsetting good news:
BAD NEWS: The economy remained critically weak, with rising unemployment, a severely depressed real-estate market, the near-collapse of the domestic automobile industry and the steep decline of the dollar.
GOOD NEWS: Windows 7 sucked less than Vista.
BAD NEWS: The downward spiral of the newspaper industry continued, resulting in the firings of thousands of experienced reporters and an apparently permanent deterioration in the quality of American journalism.
GOOD NEWS: A lot more people were tweeting.
BAD NEWS: Ominous problems loomed abroad as -- among other difficulties -- the Afghanistan war went sour, and Iran threatened to plunge the Middle East and beyond into nuclear war.
GOOD NEWS: They finally got Roman Polanski.
In short, it was a year that we will be happy to put behind us. But before we do, let's swallow our anti-nausea medication and take one last look back, starting with. . . .
. . . during which history is made in Washington, D.C., where a crowd estimated by the Congressional Estimating Office at 217 billion people gathers to watch Barack Obama be inaugurated as the first American president ever to come after George W. Bush. There is a minor glitch in the ceremony when Chief Justice John Roberts, attempting to administer the oath of office, becomes confused and instead reads the side-effect warnings for his decongestant pills, causing the new president to swear that he will consult his physician if he experiences a sudden loss of sensation in his feet. President Obama then delivers an upbeat inaugural address, ushering in a new era of cooperation, civility and bipartisanship in a galaxy far, far away. Here on Earth everything stays much the same.
The No. 1 item on the agenda is fixing the economy, so the new administration immediately sets about the daunting task of trying to nominate somebody -- anybody -- to a high-level government post who actually remembered to pay his or her taxes. Among those who forgot this pesky chore is Obama's nominee for Treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, who sheepishly admits that he failed to pay $35,000 in federal self-employment taxes. He says that the error was a result of his using TurboTax, which he also blames for his involvement in an eight-state spree of bank robberies. He is confirmed after the Obama administration explains that it inherited the U.S. Tax Code from the Bush administration.
Elsewhere in politics, a team of specially trained wildlife agents equipped with nets and tranquilizer darts manages, after a six-hour struggle, to remove Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich from office. He is transported to an undisclosed swamp, where he is released into the wild and quickly bonds with the native ferret population.