Obligatory happy moment of toddler zen: Gnat said that they studied “cornupias” in preschool. And she had a song for Thanksgiving; it involved a turkey who ran away because he feared he would be cooked. This fits with the Halloween song about a pumpkin who rolled away because he feared he would be made into a pie. All the songs they teach seem to involve seasonal icons unwilling to assume their traditional roles. I am curious to learn what they do with Easter.

The cold is slightly better – I wake in the early hours with a stuffed-up snargly nose. The thigh-aches are over. Really, a cold is no big thing; it’s not pleasant, but just imagine if the most common ailment included spasmodic fits and projectile diarrhea. We’re lucky we only have leaky noses and wheezy lungs.

Okay, one more toddler moment: we read a book this morning, and I gave it a theatrical reading worthy of Patrick Stewart. Gnat was impressed. “I love you, Daddee,” she said, and of course I said I loved her too.

“No. Call me dottor.”

“You’re my best daughter only and ever.”

Big hug. She looked at the TV, at the pictures of the wreckage in Turkey.

“I don wan news. I want Blues Clues.”

Roger that.

Harsh language and intemperate rhetoric follows. You’ve been warned.

You know what? Michael Moore is right. There are many Americans who are ignorant of the world around them. And they’re all TV news producers. Two big bombs in Istanbul, and what’s the big story of the day? Following around a pervy slab of albino Play-Doh as he turns himself into the police. I was stunned to discover last night that Nightline not only covered the Jackson case in detail, but bumped coverage of the Whitehall speech, which was the most important speech since the Iraq campaign began and arguably the most important speech of the war, period. Here’s the email Nightline sent if you signed up for daily alerts:

This is a day in which the Nightline staff is pretty evenly divided. We have a meeting each morning when we talk out what we are going to do each night. Usually the plan is pretty well set, but not always. Today's meeting was pretty interesting. Our plan is to look at the President's visit to England, and at the plan his administration is putting forward to try to speed up the political process in Iraq that would allow for the withdrawal of at least some American troops. The approaching presidential election is clearly making this more urgent. This is a broadcast we have been planning for a while, and correspondent Deborah Amos will report on the plan for Iraq, and the Iraqi reaction, and Richard Gizbert will report from London.

But what about Michael Jackson?

He’s serious. Yes, yes, Iraq, Britain, nice speech, hear-hear and all that, but what about Michael Jackson? That’s the problem in a nutshell: the war and Michael Jackson are items of equal weight. The only question is which will get better ratings. The email concludes:

So if he is arrested, should we cover that tonight on Nightline? The staff is about evenly split. Some think it's a big story that we would have to do, others don't want any part of it. So what will happen? I guess we'll have to wait and see.

The staff was split. Nightline, supposedly the Thinking Person’s Late Night Show, was split about whether a repudiation of 50 years of foreign policy was slightly more important than the arrest of a washed-up, crotch-grabbing yee-hee! squeaking nutball who was probably the horrid pedophile everyone already thought he was.

The question is whether this reflects the mood of the country, or whether it reflects the mood of our Olympian betters who hand down the news from their lofty aeries. I think it’s the latter. I hope it’s the latter. Of course Jackson is an item of interest, but it’s a below-the-fold story. It’s an artifact of the noisy empty 90s, the Jerry Springer era, the time when the networks sought out the people pasted to their sofas shoveling in Doritos and watching hapless fools throw folding chairs at their ex-lovers. Watching the nets fall over themselves covering Jackson makes you suspect that they yearn for those days, because they are profoundly ambivalent about the conflict in which we are engaged.

They fear Islamic terrorism, but it’s an abstract fear now. Their distaste of Bush is much more tangible and immediate; it’s part of the atmosphere in the newsroom. This is his war, not theirs. If it is a war at all.

It’s going to take another attack to convince the fence-sitters: I hear this all the time. I don’t think that’s the case. I think the next attack on American soil will jolt whose who’ve moved on, who’ve forgotten the aching, clammy dread we all felt after 9/11. But others will believe that we brought it on ourselves. You already read it around the web – the bombings in Turkey were a response to Britain’s assistance for toppling Saddam; what did we expect? In other words: if we fight back, we get what we deserve. If we do not fight back, and we are attacked again, you can blame it on the crimes for which we have not yet sufficiently atoned. The only proper posture for the West is supine. Curl up and let them kick until they’re spent. Give them Israel and New York and perhaps they’ll go away.

This is either going to end on their terms, or ours. Which would you prefer?

Oh, there you go again with the us vs. them, the good vs. evil, the with-us-or-with-the-terrorists. But these aren’t my definitions; these are the definitions of the enemy. (Eyes roll; “enemy.” How dramatic.) They certainly believe it’s a matter of us vs. them; they’ve been acting that way for years before we caught on. They certainly believe it’s a matter of good vs. evil, although they believe they are Good. No - correction. They believe they are righteous. They obviously believe that sides have been drawn, allegiances chosen; why else kill Turks, for heaven’s sake? Yes, the attacks in Turkey were aimed at Jews and Crusaders, but they obviously knew there would be massive numbers of wounded Turks, and they didn’t care. (The ones who are truly callous about the fate of other Muslims are the Muslim extremists. But, well, Muslims don’t kill Muslims, so the Mossad must have bombed the synagogues. QED.) I repeat: their terms or our terms.

I’m watching the news – RPGs hit the hotel where journalists are staying. The film looks like any big-city hotel – an atrium, subdued lighting, comfy modern chairs on the ground floor. The very existence of the Baghdad Sheraton is an example of the old order: who cares about the nature of your government, how many people groan in your jails, how many bodies are shoved into the desert graves? We can make money building a hotel. We can make money running it. We can all pretend that this city is a city like any other, like Paris or Des Moines or Singapore; same atrium, same muzak, same cigarette-smell in the rooms, same wrapped soaps and calcified showerheads, same portfolio of hotel services in the top drawer. (No Gideon Bible, obviously.) You could fly to Baghdad, stay at the Sheraton, have a meeting in the lobby bar, smoke cigars with an urbane minder in a nice suit, and leave with happy memories and a souvenir. It was like a visit to a parallel universe that looked like your own, but was founded on tribe and blood and death and fear. It's the opposite of the Hotel California - you can check out and you can leave, which is why no one ever cared whether the chambermaids had a girlfriend who vanished when her father said the wrong thing to a BBC reporter.

Re: the WTC memorial: I wanted statuary. A broad wall with the name of the dead. A monument with allegorical figures, thank you. Grief and Pain Comforted by Hope – sure, make it that obvious. As much as I like some of the designs, especially the Garden of Light, they seem too high-maintenance. You can already imagine the sign on the door: The Garden of Light is closed today for repairs. Statues tell the story when the power goes off; statues don’t need sheltering from the elements. Statues stand for a hundred years, and I cannot imagine any of these memorials lasting that long. There are memorials in Fargo for the First World War, and if they’d required electricity and gramophone cylinders they long ago would have fallen into disrepair. But the statue of the GAR soldier still stands in Island Park. He’s not going anywhere. Don’t even try.

Finally: the Guardian ran letters welcoming Bush to Britain. Everyone piled on stupid old Harry Pinter, but I didn’t see anyone note this contribution from blogosphere star Salam Pax:

I hate to wake you up from that dream you are having, the one in which you are a superhero bringing democracy and freedom to underdeveloped, oppressed countries. But you really need to check things out in one of the countries you have recently bombed to freedom. Georgie, I am kind of worried that things are going a bit bad in Iraq and you don't seem to care that much. You might want it to appear as if things are going well and sign Iraq off as a job well done, but I am afraid this is not the case.

Listen, habibi, it is not over yet. Let me explain this in simple terms. You have spilled a glass full of tomato juice on an already dirty carpet and now you have to clean up the whole room. Not all of the mess is your fault but you volunteered to clean it up. I bet if someone had explained it to you like that you would have been less hasty going on our Rambo-in-Baghdad trip.

To tell you the truth, I am glad that someone is doing the cleaning up, and thank you for getting rid of that scary guy with the hideous moustache that we had for president. But I have to say that the advertisements you were dropping from your B52s before the bombs fell promised a much more efficient and speedy service.

Hey, Salam? Fuck you. I know you’re the famous giggly blogger who gave us all a riveting view of the inner circle before the war, and thus know more about the situation than I do. Granted. But there’s a picture on the front page of my local paper today: third Minnesotan killed in Iraq. He died doing what you never had the stones to do: pick up a rifle and face the Ba’athists. You owe him.

Let me explain this in simple terms, habibi. You would have spent the rest of your life under Ba’athist rule. You might have gotten some nice architectural commissions to do a house for someone whose aroma was temporarily acceptable to the Tikriti mob. You might have worked your international connections, made it back to Vienna, lived a comfy exile’s life. What’s certain is that none of your pals would ever have gotten rid of that “scary guy without the hideous moustache” (as if his greatest sin was somehow a fashion faux pas) and the Saddam regime would have prospered into the next generation precisely because of people like you. People who would rather have lived their life in low-level fear than change your situation. I understand; I would have done the same. I’m not brave enough to start a revolution. I wouldn’t have grabbed a gun and charged a palace. I would lived like you. Head down, eyes wary. When the man’s too strong, the man’s too strong. But let me quote from a Guardian story on your life:

“Like all Iraqis, Salam was familiar with the dangers. At least four of his relatives had gone missing. In the past year, for no apparent reason, one of his friends was summarily executed, shot in the head as he sat in his car, and two others were arrested; one was later freed and another, a close friend, has never returned.”

The rug was soaked before we got there, friend. Cut the clever café pose; drop the sneer. That “Rambo” crap is old. Iraq needs grown-ups. Be one.

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