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Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor told a New York audience that “we’re likely to experience more restrictions on our personal freedom than has ever been the case in our country.” White House spokesman Ari Fleischer denounced television personality Bill Maher for saying that firing cruise missiles at targets 2,000 miles away was perhaps more cowardly that flying a plane into a tall building: “There are reminders to all Americans that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do, and this is not a time for remarks like that; there never is.” “Watch what they say,” which was captured on tape, was omitted from the official White House transcript. The White House retreated from its claim that a threat to Air Force One was received on September 11 after no record was found of such a call. A professor at the University of New Mexico was in big trouble for joking that “anyone who can blow up the Pentagon gets my vote“; university officials were calling for his resignation. Two small-town journalists were fired for criticizing the President. A consortium of newspapers including the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal decided not to announce the results of its recount and analysis of 200,000 disputed Florida ballots. It was revealed that in the days just after September 11 former president George Bush advised his son to tone down his bellicose rhetoric. Britain was planning to institute a national ID card, a scheme that has the support of 85 percent of the population. Lawmakers were concerned that antiterrorism legislation proposed by the Bush Administration contained language that would define common criminals as terrorists. Republicans were arguing that drilling for oil in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was now a matter of national security. The percentage of Americans who said they were “completely satisfied” with their lives went from 30 to 40 percent in the days after September 11. A new poll of New Yorkers found that one third favored putting “individuals who authorities identify as being sympathetic to terrorist causes” in concentration camps.
Prime Minister Berlusconi of Italy defended his remarks that Western civilization is superior to Islam and that it “is bound to occidentalize and conquer new people.” He said that criticism of his views was “artificial” and “based on nothing.” Benito Mussolini was enjoying a renaissance in Italy; portraits of Il Duce were showing up on wine bottles in Rome, as were pictures of Hitler. American troops were reportedly on the ground in or near Afghanistan. Thomas L. Friedman, the New York Times columnist, suggested hiring the Russian Mafia to assassinateOsama bin Laden. Another syndicated columnist called for the deportation of all Muslim aliens. Beef prices in Japan were dropping after a British lab confirmed a case of mad cow disease near Tokyo, by which time the diseased carcass had been lost. It was later discovered that the carcass had been recycled as bone meal; the government was attempting to recall the 145 tons of bone meal that might have been contaminated. Some people in India were using cow urine to cure indigestion and skin cancer. The British Potato Council was embarking on an advertising campaign to make potatoes sexy; the ad agency Naked Communication was retained to promote the potato’s qualities as an aphrodisiac. Yuppies in London will be offered free massages and salsa lessons. In an attempt to address an alarming 15-20 percent condom failure rate, India’s health officials announced a project to determine the true dimensions of the Indian penis. Scientists in Nashville, Tennessee, found that most women laugh using a voiced, songlike giggle whereas men are more likely to grunt or snort.
Germany’s minister for cultural affairs released an official definition of rock music: “an entity of all musical forms that are usually created with the help of electronic amplifiers and follows the broader taste in music, usually for dancing, that is spread through the media and live concerts.” Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder was overheard humming a tune by his favorite band, The Scorpions. People in Tijuana, Mexico, were upset about their new area code, 666, the Number of the Beast. Jeffrey Immelt, the new chairman of General Electric, told analysts in New York City that things were looking good for the company: “I was chairman for two days, and then I had jets with my engines hit a building I insured, which was covered by a network I owned, and we are still growing 2001 earnings by 11 percent.”Drug smuggling was down, as was the stock market. Weapons-industry stocks did rather well, however. Financial regulators said there was no evidence that terrorists had tried to profit from the September 11 attack by betting against airline and insurance stocks. American Airlines, which will receive about $808 million in bailout money from the federal government, announced that it will invoke an emergency clause in its contracts to avoid paying severance to the 200,000 workers it plans to lay off. Britishscientists revealed that Viagra makes men breathe easier at high altitudes. In Colorado, a man found a three-inch severed penis in his bottle of Ora Potency Fruit Punch. Rodney King was arrested in California for exposing himself. Police in New Zealandarrested a naked man pushing a baby carriage that contained a stolen shrub in a terra-cotta pot. Al Gore, still wearing a beard, declared that “George W. Bush is my commander in chief.” North Korea issued a statement of support for President Bush’s crusade against terrorism. The age of irony came to an end.
More from Roger D. Hodge:
Number of people who attended the World Grits Festival, held in St. George, South Carolina, last spring:
The brown bears of Greece continued chewing through telephone poles.
In Peru, a 51-year-old activist became the first former sex worker to run for the national legislature. “I’m going to put order,” she said, “in that big brothel which is Congress.”
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“Civilization masks us with a screen, from ourselves and from one another, with thin depth of unreality. We habitually live — do we not? — in a world self-created, half established, of false values arbitrarily upheld, largely inspired by misconception, misapprehension, wrong perspective, and defective proportion, misapplication.”