How gruesome was 2006? the year's most consequential person was Iran's president, who says the Holocaust did not happen and vows to complete it. Regarding his nuclear aspirations, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose manias are leavened with realism, treated the United Nations as a figment of the imagination of a fiction--the "international community."
Democrats, given control of Congress because of Iraq, vowed to raise the minimum wage. Nimble and graceful Barack Obama became the Democrats' Fred Astaire, adored because of, well, perhaps the way he wears his hat, the way he sips his tea. And the way he isn't Hillary.
This year's civil-rights outrage was "soaring" and "record" gasoline prices, a violation of Americans' inalienable right to pay for a gallon no more than they paid 25 years ago. By December the price of a gallon, adjusted for inflation, was 83 cents lower than in 1981. Kansas voters removed some skeptics of evolution from the state's school board. A fossil 3.3 million years old revealed that a little girl from the human lineage had arms and shoulders suited to climbing and swinging through trees.
In order to show "tolerance of people's beliefs," government workers in England's West Midlands were told, after a Muslim complained, to remove from sight all pig-related items, such as a tissue box featuring Winnie the Pooh and Piglet. But tolerance was episodic in Europe in 2006: In Sweden, police said the soccer fan who wore on his clothes a Swedish flag, which features a cross, "provoked some emotions." Indeed. He was beaten nearly to death by Muslim immigrants. Inspector Clouseau, call your office: French police denied that anti-Semitism was involved in the kidnapping and murder of a Jewish man by Muslim immigrants who demanded a ransom from a synagogue. Angry about those Danish cartoons depicting the prophet, Iran's bakers renamed Danish pastries "Roses of the Prophet Muhammad pastries." Although no one had complained, the human-rights director for the provocatively named city of St. Paul, Minn., had a happy easter sign removed from city hall.
Two U.S. explorers went to the North Pole to study how global warming threatens polar bears. They had planned to go last year, but were forced to delay Project Thin Ice because of unusually heavy snow and ice. The "emerging hurricane problem," which, after Katrina, The New York Times identified as a consequence of global warming, did not emerge. The unusually tranquil Atlantic hurricane season was explained as a consequence of ... global warming affecting the Pacific. Two senators, Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia and Olympia Snowe of Maine, warned ExxonMobil that global warming is an undeniable fact, so the corporation should desist from its "dangerous" support of research by persons with doubts. The senators did not explain the danger involved in doubting the indubitable. There were dangers--disorder, sporadic violence--among those gathered outside stores in the predawn hours before the PlayStation 3 gaming console went on sale.
Great moments in government: The Florida woman who wounded with a shotgun the alligator that entered her house and attacked her golden retriever was given a warning citation for hunting without a permit. Compassionate social democracy: The Danish government continued to pay prostitutes to service the disabled.
Ancient Greece pioneered philosophy and democracy. Modern Greece this year gave the world a new wrinkle in creative accounting: It became 25 percent richer after its GDP was revised to account for such booming service industries as prostitution and money laundering. The intellectual fare served at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee included a course called the Social Construction of Obesity. (Fatness, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder to whom society's power structure, always eager to foment new forms of discrimination, has given false consciousness.) Elsewhere in higher education, at Bucknell's "celebration of whore culture," a woman stripped on a trapeze.
In Tacoma, Wash., a judge asked those in her courtroom to cheer "Go, Seahawks!" Then she sentenced a man convicted of manslaughter to 13i years. The chief executive of Eternal Image Inc., which announced caskets and urns with logos of all 30 Major League Baseball teams, called this "a way to make team loyalty a final statement." Red Auerbach, whose Celtics teams won seven championships without having a player among the NBA's top 10 scorers, died this year at 89. Romano Mussolini, who died this year at 79, son of Il Duce, had played jazz with Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington and Chet Baker.
Lillian Gertrude Asplund was 5 when her father smiled and said, "Go ahead, we will get into one of the other boats." He did not. Lillian never married, and retired early to take care of her mother, who never recovered from losing her husband. Lillian, the last American survivor of the Titanic, was 99.