New! Improved! Your Country At War! 

Cashing in on human tragedy is an American tradition.

It took slightly longer than usual. Slightly. But within a day or two after the Twin Towers fell, as the nation's eyes remained glued to CNN, a series of patriotic commercials began repeating on the all-news station. Woven into the parade of talking heads and earnest bureaucrats came regular pitches for a kit consisting of an American flag lapel pin and a bunch of Old Glory decals. Many a politician must have seen these ads and said, "Susan, why don'cha order us up a bunch of those for the office?" -- because nowadays our brave leaders and their aides are rarely seen in public without such adornments.

Some curmudgeons may whine that any attempt to cash in on human tragedy of dire proportions is the most crass form of commercialism. They've got it all wrong. These pessimists obviously don't know their own country very well. Cashing in on human tragedy is an American tradition. To do anything else would be downright un-American. Oh, sure, people felt a little more touchy than usual this time, but they'll get over it. Remember the Loma Prieta quake, where fifty people got sandwiched by the Cypress and the "I survived" T-shirts were being hawked on the street the very next day? Admit it: In times of trouble, America turns to retail therapy. It's the fabric of our nation. Recall how our fearless leaders, from Willie Brown to George Bush, stepped up in the weeks after the attack to say: America Must Shop. Indeed, if you haven't done so yet, well, this simple shopping guide is your chance to prove you love your country. All major credit cards are accepted. Personal debt, after all, is American too.

Bin Laden Bullet
So, you want to be macho and patriotic, but not so macho that you're willing to put your life on the line by enlisting in the armed forces and going after the terrorists in person. Well, here are your choices: Pay someone $500 to emblazon a huge red, white, and blue eagle on the hood of your GMC Yukon, or plop down a mere $19.95 for one of these little suckers. With "geniune" gold and silver plating, according to the seller's Web site, this bullet replica is engraved with the name of Public Enemy Number One. It won't fit in your Luger, of course, but there's always a chance it'll get you laid in Antioch. (www.edgereport.com/binladen)

Brass Balls
Speaking of macho, here's a little something for you. Owning any of these fine product pairs means, according to their purveyor, that you've got "what it takes to defeat terrorism, defend our homeland, show courage and determination in the face of adversity, and to have the moral fiber to do what is right." Actually, what it means is you have a valid credit card. But never fear, there are plenty of products to choose from. Besides T-shirts and mugs, you can spend from $39.99 to $89.99 on a necklace, pendant and earrings, lapel pin, stick pin, or tie-tack featuring the cast-metal cojones -- or, for the more genteel type, the scrotums are also available in sterling silver. If you really want to make a patriotic statement, however, you need the huge brass balls that are designed to hang off the tail of your long-haul rig. These aren't mere spheres, mind you: They appear to be a cast from the real deal -- after all, you'd be hard pressed to show off that "moral fiber" with a cheap mock-up. (www.americanbrassballs.com)

America's New War Posters
Imagine the Twin Towers, back in their places on the Big Apple skyline, each wrapped neatly in a giant American flag. Well, get out your wallet and imagine no longer, because this image could, by the grace of God and your friends at America's New War Store, be gracing your living-room wall. The poster comes in a dozen or so varieties with slogans of support for America's troops, police officers, or firefighters; texts of the Pledge or the National Anthem; or historical quotes, including the so-recently incanted "Bush Doctrine." Pinups vary in price from $9.11 to $20.01 for limited-edition versions. (Nice touch on the prices.) And don't forget your "I Support the War on Terrorism" bumper sticker, a throw-in at half a buck. (www.americasnewwarstore.com)

Bin Laden Piñata
A no-brainer for your kid's next birthday party and a surefire way to work out your post-9/11 angst without attacking a neighbor who wears a religious headdress. Plus, you might even get some candy out of it. There's nothing sweet, however, about the pitch. "Take your frustration and anger out by hitting this piñata of the most wanted criminal in our history," trumpets Osama-piñata maker Piñatas.com, which also sells whackables depicting cop cars, soldiers, airliners, the Big Apple, the state of Texas, and Britney Spears. "We'll get him and all his followers: In the meantime get this piñata and spit on it, burn it, kick it, or just beat the hell out of it." Only $30? We'll take a dozen. (www.osamabinladenpinatas.com)

Coins of Infamy
When the planes hit the World Trade Center, ex-cop and former Navy officer Jay Lee of Mason City, Iowa, envisioned ducats. So he quickly hooked up with a coin designer from Northwest Territorial Mint in Washington state to bring you three very special coins. One is a tribute to the rescuers. Another, a "memory coin," depicts, among other things, the twin towers with the Statue of Liberty, which, according to the J&J Enterprises Web site, "reminds the oppressed of the world that America's door is still open to all those who want to live in peace and defend America's freedoms." Interesting. The third, a so-called "infamy coin," features Pearl Harbor on one side and the 9/11 attacks on the other. "This coin reminds Americans that we must always remain vigilant," says Lee's site. Vigilant about our expenditures at least. Cast in MerlinGold alloy, these antiqued 50mm coins can be yours for a mere $39.95 a pop. (www.jandjenterprises.info)

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