2004—A Year For Witches
By George F. Will
In 2004 an IBM supercomputer set a world record with 36.01 trillion calculations per second. The U.S. electorate may have made its calculation the instant John Kerry, who is not a supercomputer, explained why Toy's restaurant in Canonsburg, Pa., "is my kind of place":
"You don't have to—you know, when they give you the menu, I'm always struggling: ah, what do you want?
He just gives you what he's got, right?... whatever he's cooked up that day. And I think that's the way it ought to work, for confused people like me who can't make up our minds."
This year some paleoanthropologists reported that our cousins the Neanderthals, who disappeared 30,000 years ago, had better minds than has been thought: on a plain in Spain there is a mass grave containing evidence of funeral ritual, which means that Neanderthals had a capacity for symbolism. This year Democrats stressed their superior brains. (Bumper stickers: SOME VILLAGE IN TEXAS IS MISSING THEIR [SIC] IDIOT; JOHN KERRY—BRINGING COMPLETE SENTENCES BACK TO THE WHITE HOUSE.) A campaign flier in Tennessee pictured George W. Bush's face superimposed over that of a runner in the Special Olympics, and proclaimed this message: "Voting for Bush is like running in the Special Olympics. Even if you win, you're still retarded."
From an Indonesian island came evidence that as recently as 18,000 years ago—only yesterday, as paleoanthropologists reckon—there was a race of Hobbit-size (about three feet tall) semi-people. Their small brains probably were incapable of idealism of James Kilgore's sort. In 2004 Kilgore, 56, was sentenced to six years in prison for his part in the murder of a mother of four during a 1975 California bank robbery that was supposed to help finance the Symbionese Liberation Army. Martha Stewart was sentenced to prison for lying about a crime she was not charged with. Scott Peterson was convicted of double murder—killing his wife, and killing his unborn child, a problematic idea given the current understanding of abortion rights. Before death tardily overtook another dispenser of death, Yasir Arafat, he received a letter from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals—well, of animals other than people—asking him to stop using donkeys in suicide bombings. It was said that the death of this winner of the Nobel Peace Prize might make peace possible. [more...]