. Well, it seems Gerhard Schroeder has won election in Germany.

Of course, Hitler did the same thing.

The first fall weekend - only the tips of some trees have turned, but the leaves have lost their enthusiasm. The green hue fades, the shadows of dusk stretch out like lazy cats, and the sun lights everything on fire just before it retreats. (Just like Saddam!) Saturday morning we went to a petting zoo in north Minneapolis. Cute bunnies, sweet dumb calves, impish piglets, rude brutish goats. Woe to anyone who put a quarter in the feed dispenser if there was a goat nearby; they’d make a straight line for the food and it mattered little who was in the way or underfoot. But getting knocked on your butt by a goat is part of the Rich Human Experience, and we’re all the better for it. We all have one goat-knocking in store, and it's good to get it out of the way.

Did I have fun? I think so; let me check the footage I shot, and I’ll get back to you. Like many modern parents, I view these outings as material for the family documentaries, something to be enjoyed in retrospect when edited and set to appropriate music. (Like the “Green Acres” theme.) I don’t try to make things happen for the camera - honey, stand right there in front of the goat and don’t move while mommy gets the goat food. No. But at one point I wandered off to get some wide shots of the entire event; when I returned my wife asked me where I’d gone to.

“I had to go get the master shot,” I said. “So all the close-ups would make sense.”

She gave me an eyebrow: yes, we wouldn’t want those close-ups of small docile farm animals in a pen at a school playground to leave us hopelessly confused about how we spent the afternoon.

Home. While Gnat napped I went to the studio to do some work; the computer was off. Hmm. Oh: right. We’d had a power failure that morning. No juice for half an hour, then a brief hopeful moment when everything clicked on - then no power again for another 20 minutes. I pushed the ON button.


Hmm again. I checked all the power strips; everything worked. Then the cold clammy hand passed over my heart: the surge had fried the motherboard. Oh no. No no. Sure, I backed everything up on Snowy, but this would be an annoyance and expense I don’t want. So I called Apple tech support just to see if I should bring it in for a repair or give it the last rites. Hold time: four minutes.

I explained the situation, and the fellow said “Okay, open up the case.” He waited ten seconds, then said “see the battery on the motherboard?” (Note that he didn’t wait three minutes while I got the case off; I’m not sure how it is with most folks’ PCs, but the Mac pops open like the hood of a car. I had one PC whose case was impossible to remove; it was like taking a starched shirt off a board-stiff corpse.) He pointed me to a tiny button that would reset the Power Management Unit. The momentary surge had “munged” it, he thought. He said I needed to depress it for 15 seconds, so I told the tiny button all about Apple’s market share and recent iMac sales. Restart: voila.

I mention this as part of my tiresome and relentless campaign to pass along the benefits of owning an Apple. Perhaps it’s possible that PC people can call tech support, say “I have a Dell; we lost power for a while and now it won’t turn on,” and the tech guy has your machine booting in 60 seconds. All I know is that I went from terror and despair to satisfaction and productivity in six minutes. Sweet.

Sunday night I watched the first episode of the Sopranos, and no, I don’t expect you to care. You might even have the reaction I’ve had for the last three years: shutup, please. I understand. For three years I saw neither bada nor bing of the show, but knew I’d want to watch it some day. So I had to avoid newspaper and magazine articles, talk-radio discussions - I turned the channel or hummed loudly lest I hear some plot detail that just BLEW EVERYONE AWAY in season 3. Well, enough! I bought a used set of the first season, and having seen a few I will buy seasons two and three as well: 42 hours of Sopranos await, doled out in nightly installments.

I still can’t shake my childhood concepts of TV as an evanescent thing - you watched it when it came on, because it wouldn’t wait. When it was done it was done; when a season ended it was filed in the vast mausoleum from which only a select few shows ever clawed their way out. The idea that you could buy an entire season, and watch them using your own personal home laser - then post personal reviews to a global information network using your home computer - that was pure science fiction.

And now here we are. It’s a wonderful world, and to make it even better, I’ll spare you the reviews.

That’s all for today - tepid Bleat, I know, but Flotsam Cove should take up the slack. It’s another preview of an upcoming Institute site; enjoy.
. http://www.lileks.com/bleats/archive/02/0902/090402.html#092302
Oh, I’d love to prattle on here in my usual way today, but in a few minutes my head is going to strike the keyboard: lights out.

The short version:

Child is crying. I get up, assuming it is morning, despite any evidence - the view from the windows is as black as the view from a porthole on the Titanic. Gnat is standing up, wide awake. Go downstair? Read buks, daddee? I pick her up, check the time: 4:15 AM. That’s not good. Given that I got hooked on the Sopranos the night before and watched several episodes, this is really, really not good. I ask my wife what I should do, and she says Gnat woke up at 3:15, had been put back to the crib a half an hour ago, and has been crying since. She should go back in the crib. So she did. The next interval is sketchy - lots of wailing, periods of silence, wailing, sleep, waking, wailing, sleep. All I know is that my wife asked me to do something, because she hasn’t had a good night sleep since 2000, and she has a hellacious trial coming up.

I open the door to Gnat’s room. She’s snuffling. I pick her up. “I boff,” she said, sad. “I sick.” Indeed: she boffed a little, but it was probably from the agitation of the previous hour. No temp, no sweats. I clean up the boff and we head downstairs. The clocks say 5:40, which is somehow a worse hour than 4:40; with the latter, there’s a chance you can climb on board the train of sleep once more and ride it to the end of the line, but at 5:40 you can feel the night start to pull into the station.
I do not turn on the lights. I’m on the sofa. Looking up. Despairing. Gnat gets a book and puts it on my stomach. Wide awake. Read buk, Daddee.

“A,” I say to the pitch-black room. “B.”

Gnat turns the page.

“C. D.” That’s the good thing about alphabet books; they’re easily memorized. I finish the entire book.

“Now I read book.” She climbs on the sofa and reads it in the dark. “A, B, C, D.”

When she’s done she snuggles next to me on the sofa, and goes to sleep. I wait a while - the sleep has to set, like cement - then take her upstairs to her crib. It’s 5:50. I sleep in the adjacent room. WAAAAAHHH: I’m up again. It’s 6:18. We go back downstairs. I read another book in the dark, this time a story about The Little Girl Who Refused to Sleep, Even Though It was Counterproductive to Everyone’s Overall Happiness. She falls asleep again. This time I take her to the guest room bed, and get in beside her. This lasts another 24 minutes. After that I hand her off to my wife . . . who took the morning off. She slept. Gnat slept. I slept.

If anyone had crept into the house and found us all asleep at 9:30, they might well have thought we’d been overcome by fumes.

All day I wondered how much sleep I actually got. As I laid in the dark downstairs at 5:50 AM I remembered how once I scoffed at sleep, regarded it as a bothersome imposition. Sleep was for the weak. Sleep was for incurious dullards. In a way I still feel this way; a friend once noted I’m the only person he knows who actually manages to live the way he did in college and still make a decent living. Staying up late still seems like the best perk of adulthood. I’ve always regarded the world as divided into two warring camps: the House of Night and the House of Morning. (I have tolerance for people who belong to the latter, of course. Mine is a religion of peaceful coexistance.) Now I live in both camps, and I buy only candles that have wicks fore and aft. I like it this way. I do. The small post-supper nap keeps me going; the mornings give me time with my daughter, and the evenings end with 90 minutes of TV that scour away all the drivel and contrusions of the day. So why am I writing now? Why aren’t I watching Episode 4 of the Sopranos?

Because it’s also a column night, and I’ve 400 words to go. Bad week for the Bleats, I know; apologies. I know that repeat business is earned on a daily basis, so don’t bail on me yet. Tomorrow is another day. I just pray it doesn’t start at 4:15 AM.
Current events today. Apologies to those who hate this stuff - but I am a man with a bonnet full of bees, and once a week they have to be let out.

On some blog comments page - can’t recall where - someone had noted that he was foursquare against Saddam, yessiree; he just didn’t think war was the best way to get rid of him. This poster had two surefire alternatives, both of which had been dismissed by the blood-maddened, war-engorged President: supporting internal opposition to Saddam, or takin’ him out with SpecOps, dubya-Oh-seven style.

As for internal opposition, we know there are several cells of anti-Saddam activity; unfortunately they are literally cells, complete with manacles and chairs custom-made to hold a car battery and the one-size-kills-all testicle clamps.

But. We really haven't given the internal opposition angle a chance, have we? I suppose we could drop a hundred thousand rifles in Baghdad and hope for the best. Day One: Operation Pangloss begins; American planes drop weapons, ammo, and helpful leaflets that have a picture of Saddam with the international sign for NO crossed over his face. Radio stations broadcast the message that America isn’t scared to take on Saddam, but we’re busy - you guys mind stepping up the plate here? We’re right behind you, in that located-on-the-other-side-of-the-globe sense. Here’s the number to call when you cack him: 1-800-DED-SADM. Operators are standing by!

As for the Special Forces option, it's a favorite of thsoe who seem to believe we have 10,000 grim buff shapeshifters in cryo storage who can be dropped anywhere and get the job done. It’s true that they are invaluable - I heard a discussion tonight how they’ll probably be used in the first few hours of the war to take out mobile SCUD launchers in the desert, where insertion is a little easier than in, say, METROPOLITAN BAGHDAD. But let’s say we go with the Special Forces option. Let’s say we even use our fearsome brigade of sitcom writers who specialize in tear-jerking episodes, aka the Very Special Forces. They’d have to hit all the palaces at the same time, just for starters. Ever seen a picture of the palaces? Especially the one with a moat the size of New Hampshire? They’d have to get in, find Saddam, find the lookalikes - Saddam apparently has that same machine Harcourt Fenton Mudd had in the Star Trek episode, and he whips up a batch of dupes every fortnight. AND they wouldn’t have the distraction of a war to help them out. It might be easier to kill Saddam while he’s distracted by the sound of nine thousand cans of Yankee whup-ass being opened overhead, but spec-ops option has them going in without an invasion.

But let’s say it works! What’s left? The Republican Guard, the SRG, the secret police, and the rest of the entrenched Tikrit mob. Meet the new Ba’aths; same as the old Ba’aths. And now the world community clamors for a return to inspections and international accords. Why, Saddam’s gone; wasn’t that what we wanted? We got our regime change. Tonight we’re going to party like it’s 1991.

Look, I’d love for these things to work. I don’t want war. I’d love to leave it all to James Bond or some grim nimble throat-slitters or Jim Phelps and the Mission: Impossible team. That would be wonderful. But it won’t work and it won’t happen. Which brings us to the Gore speech.

It’s been pulled apart by wolves all over blogland today, so I’ll leave it alone. Substance aside, the speech made me glad I don’t have to listen to this man very much; he manages to combine pretentiousness and contempt in a way that demands a new word - pretemptuous, perhaps. Or goratory. He’s a better extemporaneous speaker than Bush, but that’s not exactly a rare distinction. Bush often seems distracted, as if he has just realized there is a weasel in his pants and he’d best finish up and get out of here so he can tend to this here weasel. And when he gets wound up he’s often like a man with a wheelbarrow full of rocks going down a hill, trying to keep his balance and his cargo intact. I don’t care. He’s good with a prepared speech, because he has a secret weapon: he means it.

I don’t know what Gore means, or believes, or thinks, or wants. And I don’t really care. I’m much more interested in Tony Blair’s dossier, because Mr. Blair is in power; Mr. Blair is relevant. But while flitting around tonight, I ran across an excerpt of a post from the “Max Speaks” website:

The line from the Right, the better to detract from the impressive substance of his speech, is that Gore has flip-flopped. General Sullivan is reduced to yapping, liberal! liberal!

The word “liberal” appears nowhere in Sullivan’s remarks. Sullivan begins his remarks like this:

I wonder what Al Gore's champions in the 2000 race who belong to the Scoop Jackson wing of the Democratic party must think now. Gore unveiled himself in the 2000 campaign as a left-liberal on domestic matters - favoring race-baiting, corporation-bashing and pseudo-populism. But his neo-liberal supporters still supported him. They argued that he was still a foreign policy hawk, that he favored strong American action in the Balkans, that he backed the first Gulf War, that he was pro-Israel to the core. Now we know he was faking that as well. His comments on the war do not surprise me. They don't make Gore an isolationist, or a reluctant warrior on terror, or any other kind of ideologue. They just show that he is a pure opportunist, with no consistency in his political views on foreign or domestic policy.

That’s yapping liberal! liberal!, eh. The whole text is here; judge for yourself. Then return to Mr. Max’s response:

As evidence for a change of position, (Sullivan) links to a news article in 2000 reporting Gore's support for regime change in Iraq. Of course, one can be committed to regime change without launching a full-scale invasion of a country. There are few people in the U.S. who wouldn't welcome a regime change in North Korea, but few contemplate the use of force in that context.

I hate to resort to the old reducto ad Hitlerum, but in the 30s there were few people who wouldn’t welcome a regime change in Berlin - and there were few who contemplated the use of force in that context. So Gore is to be applauded for wishing the right thing and doing nothing to bring it about?

Last week I went back to the newspaper microfilm from Dec 1998, to see what everyone was saying about Operation Desert Fox. You remember that: Saddam’s Absolute Last Chance Because We’re Serious Now! raid, the beginning of the end. Gore is nowhere in the story, but Madeleine Albright is quoted thus:

“We would like to see a different regime. That is what we are going to be working towards by more active support of the opposition groups.”

That worked out well, didn’t it. Can’t imagine why it didn’t succeed, given the fearsome weapons we deployed: leaflets. From the same StarTribune Dec. 18 1998 story, this weeper: “”While US warplanes dropped leaflets onto Iraqi forces in southern Iraq suggesting they oppose Saddam, there was no evidence that any did.”

We would like. We are going to be working. We are suggesting. With resolve like this, it’s a wonder Saddam didn’t put a bullet in his brain.

The article ended with this quote:

“Charles Guthrie, chief of the British defense staff, told reporters that he believed Iraq’s capacity to deliver chemical or biological weapons by missiles or drone aircraft had been set back ‘by several years.’”

Well, it’s several years later today.

Boots on the ground or leaflets from the sky: reasonable people can disagree over which works best. Personally, I think we gave leaflets a good shot. The idea is sound. Next time we should back them up with coupons for free sour cream on your next visit to Taco Bell. That’s the missing step. That’ll work. Destroying the regime itself won't solve a thing. Better to like to work to hope to resolve to endeavor to suggest to wish to welcome that something else happens. Anything but war.

It's a new variety of rock-paper-scissors: crossed fingers always trump the fist.

Wanna play?

It’s raining tonight, a cold spitting drizzle. Turned on the boiler last night, half-expecting the thing to explode; I’m never comfortable with these devices, especially after they’ve sat dormant for many months. But it clicked five times, issued a great FOOMPH and lo, the house clanked and hissed and began to fill with warmth. I’d prefer to wait until October to turn on the heat, but it has an immediate compensation: coziness. A house with the heat on feels more like home than a house with the air conditioning on - it has an enveloping aroma that signals fall and all its pleasures - the reign of green giving way to the reds and browns, the coming holidays, the simplicity of snow . . .

Oh, the lies we tell ourselves to get through life in this part of the world. Hey, the heat’s on! All right! No more of that pesky sunshine in the evening or morning! Hello gas bills that resemble the catering bill for an Enron retreat! Good to see you, Mr. Hair-Squashing-Wooly Cap! Have a seat, Mr. Bone-rattling wind!

I do love it here, though. I used to prize summer above all, but that was when I sat out back sunning in the yard, walking the dog around the lake every day, free to spend every day as I liked. Now with a child summer is a movie playing at a drive-in, and I’m parked on the road outside - I see the picture but I don’t hear the dialogue. Which is my fault, of course, because drive-ins now broadcast the sound over the radio, and I ought to be able to pick it up from where I’m parked -

Let me try that again. Summer just isn’t as important as it was. Spring is precious, fall is full of sober glories, winter SUCKS after January but it’s marvel before that. This is one of the best times of the year - the world is still green; the sunlight reminds you of Mahler’s Ninth instead of Mahler’s First; and you can’t help but think of the autumns of childhood, of new pencil cases, stiff pants, new teachers, burning leaves in the air at dusk, and the promise of Halloween grinning in the distance.

And sometimes it thunders, too.

If only fall was three months long. There are years when winter just shoulders it aside and puts the hammer down before the trees are finished. Ideally, you have a warm Halloween - the last few years have been almost muggy - and then the great bleak expanse of November, when you sense the mainspring of the growing seasons winding down and falling still. Then a week of nothing. Then the wind. Then the storm.

It’s going to be a long winter. In many ways, it’s going to be a very long winter.

I’m having one of those uncomfortable computer-game morality moments again. I’ve been plinking my way through Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, a WW2 game that’s pretty much like Wolfenstein, without the zombies. This makes it more “realistic,” given the general lack of zombies in the European Theater. As with most games of this type, it redefines violence simply as attrition. If you have 100% health - usually achieved by drinking enough bottles of special Red Cross-labeled elixir - you can sustain about six direct gunshots to the skull before you keel over. Fritz is likewise made of stern stuff; a nice tight pattern of machine-gun fire in his upper chestal area will make him go down on one knee, collect himself, then get up and shoot you from across a warehouse with perfect aim. War is attrition, of course, but on a large scale. Seeing this applied to the individual soldiers is silly and ridiculous, but these concepts ungird most computer games. At least the noisier ones.

I’ve mentioned before that I won’t play any games in which I’m not the good guy - and by “good” I mean morally justified. This isn’t any high-handed holiness on my part. I just don’t want to enjoy being the bad guy. It’s not a good lesson to learn. There was a game called “Kingpin,” which I’ve mentioned before in this context - great visuals, rotten heart. I’ll watch Tony Soprano. Hell, I’ll root for him in an odd way. I don’t want to want to be him.

Which brings us to Normandy. The much-touted centerpiece of the Medal of Honor game is D-Day. You’re in a landing craft, shouldering through the waves as your fellow soldiers pray, clutch their weapons, get ready. (As I looked around the boat I saw one guy whose facial features were taken from one of the German soldiers, and I thought: what’s he doing here?) The craft stops, the gate slams down, the whistle blows, and you all charge into hell. And you die, very quickly. It’s quite an experience; it’s unique in all the games I’ve ever played over the years.

Then you try again.

And again.

And again. And the fourth or fifth time I went face down in the cold water, I thought: this feels wrong. After a few more times it felt almost like sacrilege. I was getting frustrated with the game because I kept getting killed at Normandy. The first time you’re face down in the water seconds after leaving the landing craft, you’re stunned. The fiftieth time you’re pissed because now you have to do it again. Man, I am SO sick of the Omaha Beach level.

I know this sounds strange, talking about a stupid game, but it’s not the sort of thing you should be allowed to redo 47 times until you get it right, because this really happened, and no one got a second chance. Some didn’t even get a first one.

Would it have been better to let the player reach the beach with greater ease? I think so. A realistic game would let you make the beach the first try, or end the game right there.

I think I’ll move along to something else; I’ve lost my enthusiasm for this one.

Oh, I can imagine the email I’ll get tomorrow: so your sickened by a video game but yet your gungho to go kill Iraqis. you chickenbloggers are truely amazing in you’re hypocrisy. Well, the computer-generated Nazis in this game are not a threat to anyone. The FBI has not arrested a crude arrangement of animated polygons at a local flight school. Second, I am not gungho to kill Iraqis. I am not gungho about any of what is to come. It fills me with dread. The alternatives, however, strike me as worse.

Right now the TV is playing a clip of Sen. Daschle, hollering about the politicization of the war. The New Republic blog praised him today for finally showing some passion, something different than his usual state of eerie calm. I’ve always found his persona highly annoying, because it seems like the result of focus-group studies on how best to appeal to soccer moms: be calm, speak like you would to an angry toddler, and use the word “concerned” a lot. Be a Nice Guy.

Look. Politicians of this rank come in two flavors: cutthroats and useful idiots. There are the Senators who know how to get things done, how to twist arms and pinch earlobes, and the Senators who float on a perfumed cloud of ideals. If a Senator is not one of the happy-gassy idealists I assume they are a flat bastard in the clutch, and I’m annoyed when they think I don’t know otherwise. (That’s one of the reasons Trent Lott annoys me too: stop smiling! The more you wear that idiot grin the less I like you, and I didn’t like you much to begin with.) I’d be more inclined to respect Daschle et al if they’d just oppose the war and tell me why, and make the case, and have the bloody debate already. Reasonable people can oppose the war for reasonable reasons, so, Mr. Reasonable, put up or shut up. If you don’t have the guts to act like the opposition party, then don’t be stunned when your obfuscation and tail-dragging comes off as petty political maneuvering to smell good now and smell better later.

It’s telling that Daschle finally showed “passion” when he felt the Senate was being attacked. That’s what really galled him. That’s what really made the mask slip. I think that the “attack” on the Senate is one of the least significant events of the last 54 weeks, but that’s what got him steamed. Listening to subsequent speeches from Sen. Boxer and the utterly senile Robert Byrd just confirmed the impression: some of the Senators seem to believe that criticism of the Senate is beyond the pale, because it is THE SENATE, after all.

It’s not a Dem-GOP thing; this sort of self-regarding fatuity affects most politicians when they suck in the first few rarified molecules of Senate air. Some are immune. There's Zell Miller, a Democrat for whom I’d gladly vote - he has a crusty by-God Suhthun coot quality I much prefer to the well-combed hologram we have running for Senate here in Minnesota. Zell made a speech as equally impassioned as Daschle, but the subject was the injuries of the nation, not the tender sensibilities of the Senate. I was walking Jasper when he ran down the litany of horrors that might make people look back and wonder why the Senate dragged its heels. “Will it take a smallpox outbreak that wipes out the twin cites of Minneapolis and St. Paul?” he asked.

For a moment I had a vision of queuing at the clinic, Gnat in my arms, waiting for the prick and the hiss, wondering if we’d be among the ones who reacted badly to the vaccine, wondering if the disease would spread to Mexico, and how many there would die, and how many more would pour north in search of a shot.

Two Democrats, two views. Senator Miller’s comments focussed my mind the nation, on a future I’d like to avoid.

Senator Daschle’s comments focussed my mind on Senator Daschle.
Notes from the future:

(Reuters) As President Ramirez spent the weekend on the holophone, continuing his efforts to assemble an international coalition to invade Germany and topple the regime of Gustav Hilter, word from Baghdad indicated that the Federated Provinces of Iraq might not participate in the war. The rift, which had developed during the recent Iraqi election, revealed surprising strains in a relationship thought to be among the closest in the Arab world. The Iraqi government had put distance between itself and the president in recent weeks, decrying “American cowperson behavior” towards Hilter’s Nuzi party, insisting that the League of Regions be allowed to use diplomacy and sanctions to punish Germany’s remilitarization.

Iraq is not the only nation to raise questions about the war; the Kingdom of Persia has cautioned against military action as well. The rest of the region, however, has issued muted support in recent days; the Syrian Republic, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt and Jordan have vowed to live up to their treaty obligations.

Hilter, whose Nuzi party came to power after exploiting a loophole in German laws that banned the use of the word Nazi, has been accused by the Ramirez administration of sponsoring the “terrorist” attack on the Statue of Liberty.

“He’d be lobbing missiles our way now if the French hadn’t surrendered the day he was elected,” said Rumsfeld Institute scholar Sun Li-Yung. “He has his hands full, and we should be grateful for that, but he won’t be busy for long.”

There was muted anger on the Hill, where some Congressmen remarked that the US should remove its presence from Iraq altogether, ending 50 years of a strong presence in the nation. “Who are we defending them from now?” said Rep. Borgum (D-ND) “Iraq is the wealthiest member of the Gulf Prosperity Consortium; they can defend themselves. If they want to be ungrateful, well, to Jehennah with ‘em.”

President Ramirez cautioned against rash action, noting that “the historic bond of friendship and cooperation between the United States of North America and the Iraqi people remains firm and unshakable, and we look forward to a long and fruitful relationship.” But his words were contradicted by the actions of Secretary of Defense Marcus Washington, who pointedly avoided a meeting with his Iraqi counterpart at a recent meeting to discuss the admission of Sudan into the GPC.

Long dang diddlily day, if I can summon my inner Flanders. Gnat was . . . spirited. A willful little imp. We passed the day in our usual fashion - and without going into boring details, let me just remind people why I am so bad at returning email: I rarely have 10 contiguous seconds in which I can concentrate on anything. And when I do have the time, I don’t want to look at a computer screen. I’ve been working on the next book - yes, this soon; I want to get these things out once a year instead of every other year - and that takes time as well. And I’m revamping the entire Institute, AND I have to redo all the summer home movie DVDs because I screwed up, fiercely, and have to re-edit two months.

But I did have time to look at the subject headers of some emails, and there were enough that said “chickenbloggers?” to make me realize I should have explained the term. Some bloggers who oppose removal of Saddam call those of us who advocate action against the Iraqi government “chickenbloggers,” because we’re not willing to go fight ourselves. It comes from the term “chickenhawk,” used to disparage those who didn’t serve in the military yet supported the use of military power. Whoever coined the term didn’t see the Warner Brothers cartoons about Henry the Chickenhawk - he was a mean little SOB, perfectly capable of carrying off a chicken 50 times his size, and able to drag Foghorn Leghorn great distances. But the term is not only toothless and tiresome, it’s just wrong. It means that Timothy McVeigh’s opinion on a military operation is more valid than, say, Bill Clinton’s. After all, McVeigh served in the military.

By this logic, I cannot have an opinion on abortion, gay unions, forest management (I don’t live in or near a forest, after all) vouchers (no kid in public school) or any number of subjects. And the poor have no right to vote against tax cuts if they’re not paying taxes. Et cetera. Sorry; doesn’t work that way - and it’s particularly inapt when applied to this war. It was possible to type bellicose words about Vietnam from the distance of Minnesota without considering that Charlie would empty a pillowcase of anthrax into the Mall of America ventilation fans. I’d say that’s unlikely to happen tomorrow . . . but all of a sudden, everything’s possible.

At Southdale today I was stunned to see the B. Dalton’s store had closed. Malls are fluid constructs, shifting and reshuffling to meet the whims of fashion and the market, but you assume that a few places will stay around forever. B. Dalton’s was a local invention, one of the big national book chains from the 70s. When they opened a store at West Acres in Fargo, it was like opening an American embassy in Lagos with a FREE VISAS! sign - people poured into the store, starved, feasting on the vast selection. Hundreds of books! Hundreds! But lately I’d come to regard them as a second-rate operation; they had no empathy for local authors, they crammed the front of the store with remainders, the aisles were narrow. Barnes and Noble whipped them blue and bloody.

And now the store is gone, boarded up. And then I saw the sign:


Ahhhhhhhhhh. Now I don’t have to drive 14 minutes to get pure Apple satisfaction. Now I only have to drive 8 minutes. America!

Finally, as for this, I can only say: I certainly hope not.


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