January 2023 in review

The first month of an exceptional year

By Morf Morford, Tacoma Daily Index

Divided, we stand

January began with a political muddle. In the hours shortly after midnight, in the early morning hours of January 7, after fourteen non-stop rounds of votes, the GOP-controlled House finally came to an agreement on who should become the next Speaker of the House. With a one-vote margin, a new Speaker was chosen.

The last time this happened was 100 years ago in 1923.

One has to wonder how they will perform when they have actual legislation to consider – not just a routine leadership appointment.

Yes, it’s winter

Virtually every day so far in 2023 has given the USA record storms, power outages and blizzards.

California was hit with nine “atmospheric rivers,” also know as “bomb cyclones,” within less than two weeks.

Meanwhile, most of Europe was hit with heat waves – with record high temperatures in mid-winter.

Just another sunny day in January

Here in the Pacific Northwest, landslides and king tides have been on the local weather reports.

In January we had about as many sunny days as rainy ones. We even had several days approaching 60 degrees. In January.

The month ended with sunny and dry, but cold days. And far less precipitation than usual.

Artificial intelligence (AI)

If you are concerned that American young people cannot read – or write, you have no reason to worry. Machines can.

ChatGPT is available to write articles, poems and essays in any style you might like.

In the world of AI, research, literacy, college essays and even the concepts of plagiarism are so 20th Century.

AI generated “art” has roiled art markets. If art is an expression of our deepest longings, fantasies and fears, what is “art” that comes from algorithms and programs?

Who needs humans when we can have deep fakes?

Who needs literacy or art when we can have AI generated human images and portrayals that appear more “real” than actual human beings?

If you like to see where “deep-fake” technology is, or if you’d like to try your hand at it, take a look here.

Murder in America

As one commentator put it as the month came to an end, there have been more mass-murders in the USA than there have been days in January – almost two a day somewhere in America.

For better or worse, this seems to be who we are.

In Tacoma, some eager citizens are working day and night to ensure that we keep up with this trend. Tacoma saw at least one murder a week in January.

In related news, besides the now-routine senseless murders of our fellow citizens, a six-year old shot his teacher at an elementary school in Newport News, Virginia. The gun, the parents explained, had been “secured” and as a school official put it, the child “had little pockets” so even after four warnings, school officials did nothing.

Enter the JR-15

In the event that you want your child armed and prepared for life in armed America, you could get them a JR-15 (wee1tactical.com) “just like mom and dad’s”. Who wouldn’t want their child (or their neighbor’s child) to have a weapon with semi-automatic action?

Being gay is not a crime – Pope Francis

Pope Francis may have said it, but the reality is that, in many countries, being gay is in fact a crime. A capital crime, one punishable by execution, in some places.

Some US states are working to revoke the Marriage Equality Act and make being gay a crime (again) in their states.

One has to wonder why this one “sin” trumps all others when it comes to public obsession.

Adultery and perjury (lying under oath) have become acceptable, even in some cases a prerequisite apparently, for running for public office.

One has to wonder why private, individual behavior, one with us for all of human history, is so threatening to so many.

The year of the rabbit

The Lunar/Chinese calendar shifted in late January from the year of the tiger to the year of the rabbit (or cat in some cultures).

I don’t know about anyone else, but for me, the year that just ended was as tumultuous and menacing as a raging tiger could be. I’m ready for a more placid, prosperous year.