Noon today: Rumsfeld steps down, making a typical speech on the way out. “The question is, Do we know why I am leaving? Yes. Are we looking at the screen door,  which may or may not hit me on the way out? We are, but you can’t say the hinges are oiled until we know how dry the hinges were before.” (Crinkly smile.) Reporters later note that while the speed of the resignation was impressive, press aides failed to plan for the chaos that would follow in the Q & A period.

I’m sad to see him go, even though people whose opinion I respect called for his keister a while ago. I’ve heard things about his replacement that supposedly spell ill news for the Bush Doctrine, but if that was still in force Syria would have been confronted long ago, instead of treated an this odd stray dog that wanders into the room from time to time and pees on the carpet. There’s that dog again!  What’s his story? Check his tags.

But more on that later, if you care.  Warm day, good spirits. I worked all morning then shot off to the mall to have Gnat’s computer fixed. The optical drive ceased to work a few days ago, and while the Apple guys gave it a look I wandered over to Bath and Body Works. They had a new scent for the holidays. I staggered back, unbelieving: a new scent? For the holidays? What matter of dark arts have you employed, that such a thing can be conjured now? Some unnatural admixture of fir and sugar, or a cozening blend of stuffing and firewood? Speak, lest your stammering denials condemn you where you stand!

It was “Aspen Winter,” and they weren’t kidding: it actually is a new scent. “A festive blend of shimmering pine, crisp bay leaf, red cinnamon, and warm winter woods,” as one press release put it. You can practically smell it through the screen of your computer, can’t you? Unfortunately, none of that makes any sense; pines rarely shimmer, the crispness of a bay leaf denotes no particular olifactory advantage, “red cinnamon” sounds like something you’d hear in a roll call for rejected James Bond bad girls (CINNAMON, RED! “Present”), and winter woods are, by definition, fargin’ cold, not warm.

But I liked it, a lot. It avoids the clichéd pine-scent. So I bought some – along with some clichéd pine-scent infusers – and left content, knowing Jasperwood would smell nice once the holidays began. You can’t count on the tree to smell up the joint. Maybe the first day, but after that, it’s a big dry nullity; the only thing that smells piney is the tree-urine in the stand.

I passed a shoe store, and heard it: jingle bell jingle bell jingle bell rock

I quickened my pace. That was a warning, nothing more.

In retrospect, I failed to notice that the gigantic Christmas display was already up in the courtyard of the mall; I wasn’t alone. No one paid any attention to it. The temperature outside was 74 degrees. Some girls wore shorts. This is Minnesota; shorts and Christmas stand at exact opposite of the mental spectrum. The former blinds you to the manifestations of the latter.

I went back to the Apple store to see what the problem was.

“It’s Coke,” said Mike, the manager. “There’s sticky brown gunk inside the computer over the drive.”

That’s impossible, I thought. I don’t give her Coke. Then I remembered last summer: It was a Time of Much Root Beer, you could say.

“Maybe it was root beer?”


At least it didn’t affect the thinking components. Dang. I signed some papers and left, wondering when this had happened, and why Gnat hadn’t told me. After I picked her up from school I told her what the technicians found: root beer. She grimaced and hunched and drew her legs up to her sternum. Translation: she knew.

“Well I spilled a little,” she said.

“You need to tell me, hon.”

“I did, and you looked at it and said it was okay.”

Possibly so, because it had all seeped in. I believed her. I told her from now on, no drinks on the computer table, and she agreed. Relieved, she went to practice piano. All was well.

Spent the night starting a Diner, dashing off the Brazil update to the Money section, helping Gnat with a homework and a letter to a friend. Teaching her how to compose header and salutations and all the other formalities – a lost art in the age of text messages, but it can’t hurt.

Trolled around some radio and websites today, and noted something interesting: no rancor. Well, you say, this reflects the circles in which you choose to move, and I suppose it does, but the places I haunt were not brimming with outrage and fury and tales of Diebold deviltry or voter suppression. If anything, mixed among the rue and worry, there was something unexpected:


I’m serious: no one said as much, but I have the feeling that many on the right & center-right are relieved to have this Congress repudiated, as much as they dislike the potential effect of the alternative. Two more years of the same would have been two more years of tentative dithering, culminating in another appeal to hit the polls lest the Republic crumble. But we haven’t seen an innovation in policy or rhetoric since the last election. It is the adult thing to expect you will get half of what you want in politics, but this is not an excuse for making an lackluster attempt to get one-quarter and serving it up as one-hundred percent.

As everyone is fond of saying, we need two parties, and if this re-engages one and re-focuses the other, good. It doesn’t mean that Jesusland became Rosie O’Striesandland overnight, of course; there were all sorts of different messages, as you might expect in a gigantic nation of 300 million people. I was surprised to learn that the gay marriage amendment in Wisconsin included a ban on civil unions – that strikes me as overkill, to be polite. I understand the rationale – brick up the back door! – and it may seem like linguistic casuistry to insist that “marriage” means something separate when civil unions are permitted, but the word does have a certain power. As I’ve said before, my qualms about redefining marriage have nothing to do with anyone’s sexual preference; it strikes me as unwise to undo a long-standing institution NOW, PERIOD, and there’s the issue of child-raising and adoption and whether the state should favor one arrangement over another, or, inevitably, whether the state should permit a private institution to favor one arrangement over the other. Surely we are still able to say that a male-female dynamic, all other things being equal, have an advantage. I’ve had this argument with a few friends, and the look on mothers’ faces when you say “well, there’s nothing you bring to the table a man couldn’t provide” is priceless. They don’t believe it for a second, but they also cannot make the leap to admit that same-sex child-rearing situations lack certain inherent qualities, because that suggests a difference, and the difference implies a hierarchy, and we can’t have that. You inevitably get sidetracked on a discussion of bad hetero couples and great gay couples, which is interesting but irrelevant; we're talking about state policy here, and if you wish the law to regard the absence of a mother or father as irrelevant, tell me why that's a good thing.

Anyway. Point is, I think the majority of Americans wouldn’t balk at civil unions, and I think the same majority would accept laws that afford gay couples the right to have the same benefits as unmarried hetero couples via medical visitation, insurance plans, etc. Unlike 50 years ago, most people know someone who’s out. That tends to soften hearts. I know some thing that every evangelical thinks Sorry, sis, I love you, but your godless practices must keep you from being present at your life partner's funeral, but somehow I suspect that is not the norm. But when the matter of civil unions gets twinned with redefining marriage, it appears people will vote against the redefinition regardless of the secondary consequences.  Preserving the traditional definition trumps any vague sympathetic acquiescence  to some flavor of statutory equality. Twenty years from now, attitudes may change – but they’ll run up against constitutional amendments that arose in reaction to the decisions of a few judges.

And that’s one of the reasons I like judges who tap the brakes instead of flooring it through the red light.

He said, rambling, realizing it was late and he had earned some TV for the first time in three nights. Thanks for the visit – new Brazilian money, complete with crude incomplete history lessons! See you tomorrow.




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c. j lileks. email may be sent to first name at last name dot com.