Abroad, Yasser Arafat collapses and is taken to a hospital, where his condition rapidly worsens and continues to worsen until nobody thinks it can get any worse, but somehow it does. "It's really bad," says a hospital spokesperson. "We've never seen anybody achieve this degree of worsening without kicking the actual bucket."
Osama bin Laden, who has not been seen or heard from in quite a while, releases a video in which he states that he is "willing to listen to offers from satellite radio."
(Illustration by Richard Thompson)
In other international news, Afghanistan's historic first democratic elections go off without a hitch, except for an unexplained 27,500 votes from residents of Palm Beach County, Fla.
Speaking of elections, in . . .
. . . the 2004 U.S. presidential election campaign, which has been going on since the early stages of the Cher Farewell Tour, finally staggers to the finish line. John Kerry easily sweeps to a 49-state landslide victory in the exit polls and has pretty much picked out his new Cabinet when word begins to leak out that the actual, physical voters have elected George W. Bush. Democrats struggle to understand how this could have happened, and, after undergoing a harsh and unsparing self-examination, conclude that red state residents are morons. Some Democrats threaten to move to Canada; Republicans, in a gracious gesture of reconciliation, offer to help them pack.
The post-election recriminations and name-calling continue for more than a week, until the public, realizing that there are still important issues that affect the entire nation, returns its attention to the Scott Peterson trial, which finally ends with the jury finding Peterson guilty of being just unbelievably irritating. The verdict means sudden unemployment for thousands of cable news legal analysts, who return to their caves to hang upside down by day and suck cows' blood by night until they are called for the next big TV trial.
Meanwhile there are big changes in the Bush Cabinet, the most notable involving Secretary of State Colin Powell, who announces his resignation after returning from a trip to find all his office furniture replaced by Condoleezza Rice's. Attorney General John Ashcroft also announces that he will leave the Cabinet to resume private life as a frozen haddock.
Dan Rather also resigns, on orders received via the secret radio in his teeth.
In other presidential news, thousands attend a festive dedication of the 70,000-square-foot William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, next door to the 90,000-square-foot William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Cafeteria.
As the nation enters the holiday season, the festive mood is dampened by the intrusion of grim reality, as 137 Americans die in vicious predawn aisle-to-aisle combat over deeply discounted post-Thanksgiving Christmas sale items. Congress vows to remain on recess.
Abroad, the big news is the presidential election in Ukraine, where the government, citing exit polls, declares that Viktor Yanukovych has defeated Viktor Yushchenko. Hundreds of thousands of outraged Ukrainians take to the streets, protesting the fact that they cannot remember which Viktor is which. Many threaten to move to Canada.
Meanwhile, the condition of Yasser Arafat, already worse than anybody believed possible, somehow worsens still more, until it becomes so bad that Arafat no longer responds to a medical procedure known technically as the Hatpin Test, at which point he is declared legally deceased. After a funeral service attended by a large and extremely enthusiastic crowd, he is buried in several locations.
In sports, a Pacers-Pistons NBA game in Detroit turns into a riot after Pacers star and rocket scientist Ron Artest, hit by a cup thrown by Fan A, retaliates by charging into the stands and attacking Fans B, C and D.
Explaining his actions later on the "Today" show, Artest says he thought he "saw weapons of mass destruction."
Speaking of sportsmanship, in . . .
. . . the pro baseball world is stunned by the unbelievably shocking and astounding and totally unexpected news that some players may have taken steroids. "Gosh," exclaims baseball commissioner Bud "Bud" Selig, "this could explain why so many players suddenly develop 200 additional pounds of pure muscle and, in some cases, a tail." Seeking to restore fan confidence in the sport, the players union and the team owners, in a rare display of cooperation, agree that it will be necessary to raise ticket prices.
In Washington, the Cabinet shuffle continues as John Hargrove resigns as secretary of interstate affairs upon being informed, after four years in Washington, that there is no such Cabinet position. "Under the circumstances," states President Bush, "he did a heckuva job."
On the military front, the president, in a move that sparks international outrage, announces that he is sending Ron Artest to Iraq.
Meanwhile, the dollar continues to decline abroad, largely because of what U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow describes as "French waiters."
In other international news, Iran continues to heatedly deny that it is developing nuclear weapons but is unable to offer a plausible explanation as to why it purchased 200 pounds of enriched uranium on eBay. The United Nations, reacting to this crisis with unusual swiftness, resolves to do nothing.
In Ukraine, weeks of massive street protests finally lead to a ruling by the Ukrainian Supreme Court that there must be a new election between the two Viktors, only this time, "they have to wear name tags." The protesters attempt to go back indoors, only to discover that their shoes are frozen to the streets.
Meanwhile, Yasser Arafat continues to worsen.
And he is not alone. As we look back on the events of 2004, we sometimes get the feeling that the whole world is worsening. It would be easy to become depressed about the future, and yet . . .
. . . we are not. As we approach the end of the year, we find ourselves feeling hope, optimism and a warm glow of happiness. Why? Because we've been hitting the eggnog. We recommend you do the same. But whatever you do: Have a happy new year.
Dave Barry's farewell column will appear in the next issue of the Magazine.