Gnat wrote her first word today. She has decided that she’s going to be a writer; she got a notebook, a pen, and announced that she had to do homework. “I’m going to write a pome,” she said. “No, a direy. I need to write a story in my direy.” And this diary entry was an account of her day: going to the zoo with Livvy, seeing flamingos, riding the monorail, and being naughty when it was time to leave the sandbox. She ran her finger along the text as she read. The text of course was just scribbles. But: after a trip to the library tonight she said she had to write some more in her direy. “I want to write DOG,” she said. And so she did.

Her first word on paper: dog. English speakers are lucky; we have a supply of good sturdy simple words like DOG and CAT and HAT and SUN. What do French kids write? Chien. Chat. Chapeau. Soliel. They all seem like words that are evading the question. I mean, you look at the word DOG and you say the word DOG and that pretty much sums it up. Jasper is a DOG. “Chien” sounds like an insult; it has a dismissive sneer built right into it. Who could trust a chien? Who couldn’t admire the clear-eyed blunt caninity of a DOG?

Then she wrote CAT.

Then she wrote her name.

Highlight of my day. I should note that she wrote her name successfully on the previous page, but stalled halfway through this time, deciding to make the L a “box,” in which she drew "an ant, a heart, and a trumpet." I fear I have a surrealist on my hands.

I seem to have a relationship with my PC laptop, and it’s not one either of us likes. Towards my Apple laptop I feel increasing frustration, frankly – I’ve become accustomed to the speed of my G5, and its general your-wish-is-my-command spirit. Halo boots in ten seconds: sweet. The iBook is old and slow, and when my wife gets a job BANG! goes the Amex for something speedier. But the PC: oy. It’s 2003 vintage EVO from Compaq, a futt-bugly machine that’s running a Win95 interface. I just hate it, and it knows it. I feel like some sort of mean lean Ed Harris gym-teacher character dealing with a fat, uncoordinated son. The kid shouts “You’re ashamed of me!” and you can’t really say no, because frankly the kid nailed it.

Today I discover that it’s having issues with the network. The network is picking on it. The network has decided to bully my laptop – everytime it shows up the network shoves a thick rolled wad of security patches down its throat. Since we use Windows at work, the network delivers security patches every day. It’s like watching someone paint a window screen with watercolors. Nice try, and we’ll do it again tomorrow. Lately my machine refuses to accept the patches. No one knows why. Just click OK on the warning boxes. Three times. Salt the slugs.

Well. Today the laptop would have no more of it. After refusing to accept the updates, it just rebooted itself. Shut everything down and started anew. Repeat ad infinitum. Called the tech line; a repairman showed up in ten minutes, and after half an hour of troubleshooting he had the solution you often find when your company employs a brigade of smart guys with lots of resources: this machine is inscrutably screwed, and we’re going to give you a new one. The old EVO will be sent to the Chestnut Tree Café, and eventually paved & rehabbed. It’s easier that way.

And I get a new EVO.

O joy.

Back to the column now – it’s a cheery look at 1992, when my paper spent a fun week splashing rumors of Bush 41’s supposedly infidelity all over the A section. There was a syndicated op-ed on the story. There were at least two cartoons – one by the hometown cartoonist that showed Bush 41 mired in something called the “Infidelity Rumor Sleazepit,” with Bush saying “Excuse me, Bill, could you give me a hand? Seems I dropped my ‘Family Values’ campaign button.’” And of course Oliphant weighed in along the same lines. And of course the local columnist, Jim Klobuchar, had to write about it – seems he was in Europe, and that’s all the Europeans wanted to talk about: Bush’s sex life. "This may or may not be accurate but it does give you an idea of how seriously Europe looks at America today, now that we can't sell them any automobiles or nacho sauce. The old markets are dead. The only American product that sells in Europe today is gossip."

This is intended to reflect poorly on us.

Looking back from these Olympian heights, 1992 seems like a dream; so little was really at stake. The boom was yet to come. The war was on, but we could shrug it off. The Communists had somehow inexplicably imploded; wonder why? Whatever. But the pages of the paper are full of despair and portents. Haiti's instability threatens the region; British skinheads are a portent of nascent facism. But the editorial pages’ predictions of ruin and despair failed to materialize, as they usually do. The failure to nationalize medicine did not lead to millions dead in the emergency rooms. The Mall of America had just opened, and there were weepy op-eds about the rapacious maw of American consumerism eating the planet alive. Gorbachev was warning us about something or other; Somalia had suddenly emerged as a troubled nation we must all now regard with worried furrowed brows. And in the back of the A section, day after day: Iraq. Iraq. Iraq. Iraq blocks inspectors, Iraq admits inspectors, Iraq blasts food-for-oil program, Iraq fires on US planes, Iraq protests to Security Council, Iraq, Iraq. If anyone seriously thinks Iraq never had WMD, you need to go back to 1992 and read the stories about UN press releases concerning the newly constructed “mustard gas incincerators,” OKAY? There was even a story about Iraq promising to institute democratic reforms. It quoted Qusay. He was quite hopeful about giving the citizens a voice. (Of course, that voice said ARRRRGGHIIIIEEEE Turn it off I confess! ) There was a story about Kuwaiti citizens hoping Bush won, because they were, you know grateful. There were stories about Iraqgate, too. You remember that. US loan guarantees to Iraq might have been diverted to the Iraqi nuclear weapons program. The Democrats wanted a Congressional investigation.

You want to know why we invaded Iraq in 2003? Go back and read the papers in 1992. And you’ll find this quote:

“’If they’re such whizzes at foreign policy, why is Saddam Hussein thumbing his nose at the rest of the world?’”

Albert. Gore. Junior.

In the same paper: “Fundamentalist rebels attacked Kabul with rockets in an assault that killed at least 100 people and wounded hundreds more. As the shelling intensified, a United Nations agency said it was removing its staff from Kabul.”

Nice to know some things never change.
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