Weekly Review — October 2, 2001, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

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.

Share
Single Page

More from Roger D. Hodge:

From the October 2010 issue

Speak, Money

Get access to 169 years of
Harper’s for only $23.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

February 2020

Trumpism After Trump

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“My Gang Is Jesus”

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Cancer Chair

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Birds

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Skinning Tree

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Interpretation of Dreams

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Dearest Lizzie

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
Trumpism After Trump·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The city was not beautiful; no one made that claim for it. At the height of summer, people in suits, shellacked by the sun, moved like harassed insects to avoid the concentrated light. There was a civil war–like fracture in America—the president had said so—but little of it showed in the capital. Everyone was polite and smooth in their exchanges. The corridor between Dupont Circle and Georgetown was like the dream of Yugoslav planners: long blocks of uniform earth-toned buildings that made the classical edifices of the Hill seem the residue of ancestors straining for pedigree. Bunting, starched and perfectly ruffled in red-white-and-blue fans, hung everywhere—from air conditioners, from gutters, from statues of dead revolutionaries. Coming from Berlin, where the manual laborers are white, I felt as though I was entering the heart of a caste civilization. Untouchables in hard hats drilled into sidewalks, carried pylons, and ate lunch from metal boxes, while waiters in restaurants complimented old respectable bobbing heads on how well they were progressing with their rib eyes and iceberg wedges.

I had come to Washington to witness either the birth of an ideology or what may turn out to be the passing of a kidney stone through the Republican Party. There was a new movement afoot: National Conservatives, they called themselves, and they were gathering here, at the Ritz-Carlton, at 22nd Street and M. Disparate tribes had posted up for the potlatch: reformacons, blood-and-soilers, curious liberal nationalists, “Austrians,” repentant neocons, evangelical Christians, corporate raiders, cattle ranchers, Silicon Valley dissidents, Buckleyites, Straussians, Orthodox Jews, Catholics, Mormons, Tories, dark-web spiders, tradcons, Lone Conservatives, Fed-Socs, Young Republicans, Reaganites in amber. Most straddled more than one category.

Article
The Cancer Chair·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The second-worst thing about cancer chairs is that they are attached to televisions. Someone somewhere is always at war with silence. It’s impossible to read, so I answer email, or watch some cop drama on my computer, or, if it seems unavoidable, explore the lives of my nurses. A trip to Cozumel with old girlfriends, a costume party with political overtones, an advanced degree on the internet: they’re all the same, these lives, which is to say that the nurses tell me nothing, perhaps because amid the din and pain it’s impossible to say anything of substance, or perhaps because they know that nothing is precisely what we both expect. It’s the very currency of the place. Perhaps they are being excruciatingly candid.

There is a cancer camaraderie I’ve never felt. That I find inimical, in fact. Along with the official optimism that percolates out of pamphlets, the milestone celebrations that seem aimed at children, the lemonade people squeeze out of their tumors. My stoniness has not always served me well. Among the cancer staff, there is special affection for the jocular sufferer, the one who makes light of lousy bowel movements and extols the spiritual tonic of neuropathy. And why not? Spend your waking life in hell, and you too might cherish the soul who’d learned to praise the flames. I can’t do it. I’m not chipper by nature, and just hearing the word cancer makes me feel like I’m wearing a welder’s mask.

Article
“My Gang Is Jesus”·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

When Demétrio Martins was ready to preach, he pushed a joystick that angled the seat of his wheelchair forward, slowly lifting him to a standing position. Restraints held his body upright. His atrophied right arm lay on an armrest, and with his left hand, he put a microphone to his lips. “Proverbs, chapter fourteen, verse twelve,” he said. “ ‘There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is . . .’ ”

The congregation finished: “ ‘Death.’ ”

The Assembly of God True Grapevine was little more than a fluorescent-lit room wedged between a bar and an empty lot in Jacaré, a poor neighborhood on Rio de Janeiro’s north side. A few dozen people sat in the rows of plastic lawn chairs that served as pews, while shuddering wall fans circulated hot air. The congregation was largely female; of the few men in attendance, most wore collared shirts and old leather shoes. Now and then, Martins veered from Portuguese into celestial tongues. People rose from their seats, thrust their hands into the air, and shouted, “Hallelujah!”

Article
The Birds·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

On December 7, 2016, a drone departed from an Amazon warehouse in the United Kingdom, ascended to an altitude of four hundred feet, and flew to a nearby farm. There it glided down to the front lawn and released from its clutches a small box containing an Amazon streaming device and a bag of popcorn. This was the first successful flight of Prime Air, Amazon’s drone delivery program. If instituted as a regular service, it would slash the costs of “last-mile delivery,” the shortest and most expensive leg of a package’s journey from warehouse to doorstep. Drones don’t get into fender benders, don’t hit rush-hour traffic, and don’t need humans to accompany them, all of which, Amazon says, could enable it to offer thirty-minute delivery for up to 90 percent of domestic shipments while also reducing carbon emissions. After years of testing, Amazon wrote to the Federal Aviation Administration last summer to ask for permission to conduct limited commercial deliveries with its drones, attaching this diagram to show how the system would work. (Amazon insisted that we note that the diagram is not to scale.) Amazon is not the only company working toward such an automated future—­UPS, FedEx, Uber, and Google’s parent company, Alphabet, have similar programs—­but its plans offer the most detailed vision of what seems to be an impending reality, one in which parce­l-toting drones are a constant presence in the sky, doing much more than just delivering popcorn.

Article
The Skinning Tree·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Every year in Lusk, Wyoming, during the second week of July, locals gather to reenact a day in 1849 when members of a nearby band of Sioux are said to have skinned a white man alive. None of the actors are Native American. The white participants dress up like Indians and redden their skin with body paint made from iron ore.

The town prepares all year, and the performance, The Legend of Rawhide, has a cast and crew of hundreds, almost all local volunteers, including elementary school children. There are six generations of Rawhide actors in one family; three or four generations seems to be the average. The show is performed twice, on Friday and Saturday night.

The plot is based on an event that, as local legend has it, occurred fifteen miles south of Lusk, in Rawhide Buttes. It goes like this: Clyde Pickett is traveling with a wagon train to California. He tells the other Pioneers: “The only good Injun’s a dead Injun.” Clyde loves Kate Farley, and to impress her, he shoots the first Indian he sees, who happens to be an Indian Princess. The Indians approach the Pioneers and ask that the murderer give himself up. Clyde won’t admit he did it. The Indians attack the wagon train and, eventually, Clyde surrenders. The Indians tie Clyde to the Skinning Tree and flay him alive. Later, Kate retrieves her dead lover’s body and the wagon train continues west.

Cost of renting a giant panda from the Chinese government, per day:

$1,500

A recent earthquake in Chile was found to have shifted the city of Concepción ten feet to the west, shortened Earth’s days by 1.26 microseconds, and shifted the planet’s axis by nearly three inches.

In response to a major volcanic eruption, President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines vowed he would “eat that ashfall. I’m even going to pee on Taal, that goddamned volcano.”

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Jesus Plus Nothing

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

By

At Ivanwald, men learn to be leaders by loving their leaders. “They’re so busy loving us,” a brother once explained to me, “but who’s loving them?” We were. The brothers each paid $400 per month for room and board, but we were also the caretakers of The Cedars, cleaning its gutters, mowing its lawns, whacking weeds and blowing leaves and sanding. And we were called to serve on Tuesday mornings, when The Cedars hosted a regular prayer breakfast typically presided over by Ed Meese, the former attorney general. Each week the breakfast brought together a rotating group of ambassadors, businessmen, and American politicians. Three of Ivanwald’s brothers also attended, wearing crisp shirts starched just for the occasion; one would sit at the table while the other two poured coffee. 

Subscribe Today