Readers of the 2022 Review may recall that its news bits were viewed with a jaundiced eye. And so again with this look at 2023: the woke inanities, the blow-out federal spending, the rampant crime. Local reaction to war between Hamas and Israel also cried out for observation, though in the interest of common decency the actual savagery, death, and devastation in the Middle East, to say nothing of events in Ukraine, is left to somber comment made elsewhere by many others. As for the prospects of the next presidential campaign, let’s only hint at what may come. 

We ask your tolerance of the juxtapositions below of the appalling with the farcical. In extenuation we can only say they reflect something of the world as it was in the year soon to expire. 

Catching POTUS awake

  • USA Today, examining a “higher-quality” video, concluded that President Joe Biden did not fall asleep while listening to a speech concerning the Hawaii wildfires.

Making herself perfectly clear

  • Regarding abortion, Vice President Kamala Harris soared into this rhetorical flight: “So I think it’s very important, as you have heard from so many incredible leaders for us at every moment in time and certainly this one, to seize the moment in time in which we exist and are present, and to be able to contextualize it, to understand where we exist in the history and in the moment as it relates not only to the past but the future.”

Orange Man unleashed

  • Donald Trump, noting reports of what he deemed inappropriate discussions that former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley had with China, vented thus: “This is an act so egregious that, in times gone by, the punishment would have been death.”

Not a parade of peaceniks

Those slaps were the sound of checkbooks closing

  • Mark Rowan, an investment manager and a board member at Penn’s Wharton School who had given $50 million to Wharton, protested what he called “the antisemitic rot in academia” and called on other alums to stop donating to Penn unless its president and chairman resigned. Others who had given Penn tens of millions also cut off their support. 

“Free Speech FAQs”

  • From the University of Pennsylvania website: “ … what our community members say in public spaces, including those spaces that are part of our campus, is only subject to discipline if the inflammatory speech intentionally and effectively provokes a crowd to immediately carry out violent and unlawful action.”

Getting to yes?

  • Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY): “I’m going to give you one more opportunity for the world to see your answer. Does calling for the genocide of Jews violate Penn’s code of conduct when it comes to bullying and harassment? Yes or no?
  • Penn President Liz Magill: “It can be harassment.”
  • Stefanik: “The answer is yes.”

“Over prepared and over lawyered …”

  • … given the hostile forum and high stakes, she provided a legalistic answer to a moral question, and that was wrong,” said Scott Bok, as he stepped down as the chair of Penn’s Board of Trustees immediately after the resignation of Magill. Further: “I hope that some fine university will be wise enough to give her a second chance, in a more supportive community, to lead.”

For the governor it wasn’t the Indy 500

  • After protestors outside Goldie, a Philadelphia restaurant owned by an American-Israeli chef, chanted “Goldie, Goldie, you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide,” Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro deplored the demonstration as “a blatant act of antisemitism” that was “reminiscent of a dark time in history”; a member of the Philly Palestine Coalition dismissed the scene as “a two-to-four-minute pit stop” among marches elsewhere in the city.

From the Rhone to the Atlantic?

  • In a survey commissioned by a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, 86 percent (215/250) of students said they “supported the slogan “from the river to the sea,” 33 percent of them “enthusiastically”; most of the enthusiasts were unable to name the river and the sea; 12 of them thought Yasser Arafat was Israel’s first prime minister.

Shopping in Philadelphia

  • A flash mob ransacked retailers in Center City, smashing windows and stuffing bags with stolen merchandise; the mayhem broke out in other neighborhoods as well, damaging small businesses; all state liquor stores in the city were closed to protect employees.

Don’t expect them to call Uber

  • Cars thefts in Philadelphia hit a record rate surpassing 60 a day through November; police noted the online Kia Boyz Challenge instructing viewers how to make off with Kia and Hyundai models that lack theft-prevention technology.

A suburban welcome for ex-city cops

  • “We’re seeing a mass exodus,” remarked the Bensalem Township director of Public Safety; sixteen of Bensalem’s officers had been hired out of Philadelphia over the past five years.

Perhaps we could just stop counting

$10 billion here, $10 billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money

  • For fiscal 2023, the federal government reported $236 billion in “improper payments,” including certain prior-year, Covid-related payments for which reporting had lagged; fewer than five percent of improper payments were underpayments.

Not a solution: Telling people to drop dead at 62 

  • The 2023 report of the Trustees of the Social Security and Medicare trust funds projected that reserves in the Social Security program for the elderly will be depleted by 2033 and that the program will then be able to pay only 77 percent of scheduled benefits. 

In that case, we’ll stop complaining  

  • The news website Vox ran this headline: “The problem isn’t inflation. It’s prices.”

Decisions, decisions

  • A New York Times columnist compared a decision by young people to undergo “gender transition” to her own decision not to try out for her middle school’s swim team: “To forestall, for as long as possible, throwing the switches that will determine your destination in life is tempting. But a life without choosing is not a human life.”

Primum non nocere

  • In a California medical-negligence case, a regretful teenager said that after being misdiagnosed as “transgender” she underwent a double-mastectomy at age thirteen. The lawsuit refers to her as a “vulnerable girl struggling with complex mental health co-morbidities” who was “exposed to online transgender influencers.”

The racist tongue of Fredrick Douglass, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, etc.

  • A white English-comp prof who had taught at Penn State’s majority-minority Abington campus said his supervisor issued a directive to the writing faculty explicitly telling them to ensure “that all students see that white supremacy manifests in language and in writing pedagogy”; a lawsuit since filed by the professor alleges, inter alia, that the message therefore was: “the English language itself is ‘racist.’”

A Gray Lady exclusive

We’d play hooky til somebody called a plumber

  • Delays in fixing broken bathrooms in Philadelphia schools ran for 50 days on average; “I’ve kind of adopted this habit of not breathing through my nose,” a student said.

Where is Child Protective Services?

  • With the approval of California public-health officials and the “electronic informed consent” of “participants or guardians,” canine handlers brought in dogs to sniff for Covid-virus antigens at the feet and ankles of K-12 students lined up at “volunteer schools.”

Caffeine jolts for Center City

  • To welcome commuters back to Center City offices vacated by Covid measures, a business-improvement group said it would offer free coffee to people as they exited commuter trains.

I work just fine from my hot tub

  • The National Labor Relations Board sued X (formerly Twitter) for firing an employee who encouraged others to defy a directive to work from the office.

Okay, but then we insist on papyri

  • The National Council of English Teachers issued a position statement holding that “(t)he time has come to decenter book reading and essay writing as the pinnacles of English language arts education.”

Saving the planet with glue

  • Predicting “climate collapse,” protestors glued themselves to the frame of a painting by Claude Monet at Sweden’s National Museum.

“Freeing Palestine” with glue

First the Love sculpture, then the Rocky statue, and now …

  • Rose Luardo, a self-described “peri-menopausal artist, shapeshifter, a creature of the world, dancer, warlock, and agent of joy” established a “Boob Garden” of breast plushies on an empty lot in South Philly; of the display, she said: “It puts a little hitch in your giddy-up, it puts a little snap in your peas.”

But common law is so dated 

  • Happy the elephant was denied release from “illegal custody” at the Bronx Zoo when an appeals court ruled against a “nonhuman-rights” group contending that Happy had protection under the common law writ of habeas corpus.

Would that mean one animal, one vote?

  • In a post published by Oxford University Press, a lawyer-philosopher proposed that society recognize a “right of political participation” for animals: “One way to do that would be to have human representatives cast votes on behalf of animals with respect to different legislative proposals … This proposal would elevate animals to the status of actual actors in the political process.”

No juice

  • Owing to a lack of charging stations at California truck depots, some EV truckers resorted to chargers powered by diesel; one wag suggested that “someone should invent a way to put it (diesel fuel) directly into truck engines.”

Maybe somebody should put more asterisks on home-run records 

Maybe not

  • A political scientist with an interest in the politics of climate science countered the Bulletin article with his own analysis finding no comparable jump in homers in NCAA D1 baseball—played on the same planet with the Bigs. 

Whatever you read in the New Year, may your personal news be peaceful and bright.

Richard Koenig is the author of the Kindle Single No Place to Go, an account of efforts to provide toilets during a cholera epidemic in Ghana.

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