The Florida peninsula, the last part of the continental United States to emerge from the ocean, has been called a geological afterthought. This year caused many Americans to curse geology and wish that the afterthought had gone unthought. A wit says that before Nov. 7 Al Gore argued that his opponent was a nitwit, and after Nov. 7 he argued that his voters were nitwits. George W. Bush warned people not to "misunderestimate" him, but the 36-day Election Day showed that Gore did. The baseball team Bush used to own a bit of gave shortstop Alex Rodriguez a 10-year contract worth a minimum of $252 million, enough to buy the Twins and the Expos and have about $72 million in change left.
When Chicago named a street Hugh Hefner Way, an incensed man got a street in his Chicago suburb temporarily named Alan Greenspan Way. Call the behavior police: a Washington gala celebrating the 35th anniversary of Medicare featured 102-year-old Mark Powell, who said he smokes five or six cigars a day. The government, toiling to make this a more perfect Union, decided to protect us from the menace of... Microsoft. But the government knows heroism when it sees it, and honored the 131 agents who in a predawn raid managed to subdue 6-year-old Elia n Gonzalez. Speaking of bravery, Hillary Clinton vowed that as senator she would not vote to confirm any Supreme Court nominee "who would vote to overturn Brown v. Board of Education."
In New Orleans, Al Davis withdrew his daughter from her public school and enrolled her in a private school. Davis is superintendent of New Orleans' public schools. In Canton, Ohio, a mother put her 6-year-old, who had a doctor's appointment, into the bath so he would not notice when the school bus stopped at his house. But when the bus came he ran naked to the window. His school ruled him guilty of sexual harassment of the children on the bus. Bowdoin College's catalog described a women's studies course that asks, "Is Beethoven's Ninth Symphony a marvel of abstract architecture, culminating in a gender-free hymn to human solidarity, or does it model the processes of rape?" The faculty at Ohio's Bowling Green State University vetoed a professor's planned course on political correctness. Kathleen Dixon, director of women's studies at the university, explained: "We forbid any course that says we restrict free speech."
At Camp David, Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered Yasir Arafat unprecedented concessions, and the result was (redundant) evidence for the axiom that no good deed goes unpunished. A referendum in mighty Denmark told the European Union's single-currency bullies to buzz off. Taiwan voters gave the U.S. State Department heartburn: they had the temerity to elect a president who thinks his nation actually is a nation and should be treated as what it actually is--independent. Saddam Hussein spent another year in what Secretary of State Madeleine Albright contentedly calls a "box." Trouble is, he is in there building weapons of mass destruction.
Feminists in several nations worked to ban male urinals because urinating standing up is an assertion of aggressive masculinity. The Serbian people replaced Slobodan Milosevic with a professor who translated into Serbian the world's best recipe for good government, The Federalist Papers. The United States tiptoed into the chaos of Colombia's interminable civil war, in the name of--really--fighting drugs. (America's biggest drug pusher is government, shoveling Ritalin into public-school pupils--especially boys, to cure their boyishness.) Americans are still at daggers drawn over the Confederate flag, but 310 years after the Battle of the Boyne, America's president had a bright idea, captured in this Los Angeles Times headline: CLINTON TELLS NORTHERN IRELAND TO RESOLVE ISSUES. Why didn't anyone think of that before?
Thirty-seven years after a bomb killed four little African-American girls in a Birmingham church, two men, 61 and 69, were arrested for the crime. There was carnage among the dot-coms, but it was a good year--these things are relative--for the Soprano family. It was a bad year for Firestone, and the end of the road for Oldsmobile. Professional wrestling's popularity, a television program about voting people off a deserted island and adults playing on little silver scooters were evidence of the infantilization of America. Torrid sales of the fourth novel about the boys and girls at Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry suggested that America's children are less childish than America's adults. O. J. Simpson got into a traffic altercation, probably while searching for the real killers.
It is said that not until about 1910 did the average visit to a doctor do more good than harm. Around that time, Oliver Wendell Holmes said, "I firmly believe that if the whole materia medica could be sunk to the bottom of the sea, it would be all the better for mankind and all the worse for the fishes." Medicine has advanced, but historians may say that the age of modern medicine dawned with the decoding of the human genome, which was nearly completed this year. In sub-Saharan Africa the AIDS pandemic raged.
Death came at 100 to Josef Felder, the last of the 94 members of the Reichstag who on March 23, 1933, voted against ceding the Parliament's powers to Hitler. Col. Thomas Ferebee, dead at 81, was a 26-year-old major on Aug. 6, 1945, when he pushed the lever that released a new kind of bomb from the B-29 Enola Gay. Clyde Sukeforth, Brooklyn Dodgers scout, coach and manager, died at 98. He introduced a promising infielder to club president Branch Rickey: "Mr. Rickey, here is Jack Roosevelt Robinson." In the bottom of the ninth inning of the 1951 Dodgers-Giants playoff game, Sukeforth answered the Polo Grounds bullpen phone and recommended that Ralph Branca rather than Carl Erskine pitch to Bobby Thomson. Oh, well.