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Today: Shroud talk, and a return to miserable partisan bicker-festing. Tomorrow: I preview "The Office" Xmas special before anyone else! Let's begin.

Driving in the car to Nana's, Saturday afternoon. We're listening to the radio. Gnat says:

Did you know when people die they get put in sheets and that’s how you become a Mummy?

I have several possible responses, including “who told you that” and “true, but first they pull your brains out your nose with a sharp stick.” I decide to take the historical approach.

“The Egpytians did that, honey, but not any more.”


Because they’re gone. Well, there are still some Egyptians but they don’t make mummies.


They ran out of sheets. So, what do you think you’ll have for supper at Nana’s? Mouse eyeballs?


Turkey bones?

Turkeys don’t have bones.

Sure they do. If they didn’t have bones they’d just be a heap of turkey on the ground and they couldn’t move or stand up. Everyone has bones inside of them.

Except for skeletons.

Ah – true. You have a skeleton inside of you.

But not one that walks around like in the cartoon.

No, it’s firmly under your control. (As opposed to this conversation. )

She lets the matter drop, then returns to the Mysteries of Egypt.

Why did they run out of sheets?

It’s a long story, honey. It was a very long time ago. The Egyptians who lived long ago –

When? Ten years ago?

More than that. Thousands.

Ten twenty years?

And then some.

Before God?

No – first there was God, then dinosaurs, then the Egyptians, then us.” Give her the framework; we can flesh out the details later. Put the bones in the turkey, so to speak. “The Egyptians built big pyramids and lived in the desert, but because it was a long time ago they didn’t have the things we had. They didn’t have refrigerators or microwave ovens or TVs.

Or oranges?

Uh – sure. They had oranges. Or maybe just figs. But no toilets.

No toilets?

They used a hole in the ground. But they had beer. And bread. So it wasn’t that bad.

No milk?

They had milk, but they had to drink it right from the cow.

She was silent for a while, contemplating a life spent peeing into holes in the ground when you weren’t chased by mummies who wanted your oranges.

Just out of curiousity, I asked her what we learned about the last time we drove to Nana’s house. We’d had a disquition on the nature of fluids.

Liquids! She said. They’re wet and they slosh around and big trucks bring them to places or they go through pipes.

They remember, they do. You have to watch everything you say.

Uh oh. I just heard her say “I’m sad because I’m ugly.”

I’m getting out my tweezers. Whatever splinter is responsible for that has to be teased out with great care.

Or, I could just shout “You’ll be uglier if you don’t go to bed!” but that’s not my style. Touchy-feely, new-age guy that I am.

Lovely weekend. Warm. Half the trees have gone yellow or some variant, and unlike most falls where you get two days of brilliant color followed by a lethal wind that dumps the beauty in heaps on your lawn, the trees have been allowed to display their handiwork without interruption. No jackets; shorts – and at night, the smell of wood fires in the breeze. Here's the view around the corner down the street from Jasperwood.

One of the reasons I enjoyed the weekend: I thought little about politics. This helped. I have been reading “I Will Bear Witness,” a diary of the Nazi years by Victor Klemperer. (A relative of Col. Klink, believe it or not.) Not a happy journal. The author was a Jew living in Germany who saw it all, and he was not exactly a merry fellow to begin with; his pages are full of money worries and health concerns. (The latter are peculiarly old-school, with mentions of neuralgia and eye spasms and heart troubles.) A representative entry, from March 21st – “The most frightful pogrom threats (in the newspaper) together with gruesome medieval reviling of the Jews . . Fatigue and lethargy. Weariness of life and fear of death.”

So he wrote in 1933. He had 12 years to go. Some of the details are offhand and precise (“In a pharmacy toothpaste with the swastika”) and others are murky and random, such as the ways in which academic life is poisoned by an incessant stream of laws and decrees. (So many laws: the hallmark of a lawless state.) He worries about bills, his teeth, who will publish his work. And throughout 1933 he cannot quite part with the belief that this nonsense will collapse on its own, or that something will blow it away. You almost feel bad knowing he survived the war, because you can’t reassure him. It would be easier reading if he’d been shipped off in 1934, because you cannot imagine what the 1943 diaries will be like, what it must have felt like to look out the window and realize you have entered the 11th year of your nightmare.

Puts the old Bushitler meme in perspective.

Unless you were stupid enough to buy it in the first place, of course. And that’s the only word that applies. It applies to anyone who thinks 9/11 was the Reichstag fire. It applies to anyone who assures us he doesn’t think Bush is Hitler, heavens no, ridiculous idea, but, Jose Padilla, Patriot Act, worrisome trends.

In Klemperer’s book there’s an anecdote about a professor who is talking with some colleagues, telling jokes. Hitler goes to heaven. He talks to Moses, and says so, you can tell me. You set the bush on fire yourself, didn’t you?

He’s reported. He goes to prison for ten months.

And, as Klemperer notes, he was “an Aryan.”

Ah, but don’t we have the Big Lie? The WMD debacle? This is one of those things that makes me just turn off the radio or TV or hit the back button or whatever it takes to decamp. Let me run them down.

Alienated our allies. I tune right out. I have no interest in anything that follows. The speaker either doesn’t know what France was up to, or knows but thinks I don’t. Which makes them ignorant or a manipulating dissembler. Please, don’t give me the “We Are All Americans” headline. What that meant, I suspect, is that we are all guilty, and the sooner we realize it the sooner we can develop the requisite calluses on our knees that will make our obsequious posture more comfortable.

Lied about WMD. This also takes the form of “misled.” Again, I tune right out, because the speaker assumes I haven’t been paying attention, that I wasn’t around in the 90s, haven’t read any histories, and regarded Iraq as this amusingly benign country run by a comical rogue of diminished significance. Let’s roll tape: Hardball, Oct 15 2003. (Spats nod: LGF)

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about-Since you did support the resolution and you did support that ultimate solution to go into combat and to take over that government and occupy that country. Do you think that you, as a United States Senator, got the straight story from the Bush administration on this war? On the need for the war? Did you get the straight story?

EDWARDS: Well, the first thing I should say is I take responsibility for my vote. Period. And I did what I did based upon a belief, Chris, that Saddam Hussein’s potential for getting nuclear capability was what created the threat. That was always the focus of my concern. Still is the focus of my concern.

So did I get misled? No. I didn’t get misled.


MATTHEWS: If you knew last October when you had to cast an aye or nay vote for this war, that we would be unable to find weapons of mass destruction after all these months there, would you still have supported the war?

EDWARDS: It wouldn’t change my views. I said before, I think that the threat here was a unique threat. It was Saddam Hussein, the potential for Saddam getting nuclear weapons, given his history and the fact that he started the war before.

I’m not saying Edwards is right, or has some uncanny judgment that would make him a fabulous president. You can either read this as someone who has no convictions and says what he thinks the climate requires, or someone who correctly apprehended the facts as they were generally understood. If it’s the former, well, there you have it. Sen. Hairdo McWindvane, Esq. If it’s the latter, then please shut up about the whole “misleading” thing, because those of us who remember the 90s – the inspections, the Tomahawk strikes in the wag-the-dog phase, the standard assertions of incontrovertible links between Saddam and Al-Qaeda, and the rest – know that Edwards was saying what everyone was saying.

That’s why I flipped on Thursday when Peter Beinhart of the New Republic was on Hugh’s show; if I recall correctly, he countered Kerry’s outright fib about Shinseki by noting that Bush had lied about the war. Well. Now. He was a little worked up at the time, which is not unusual; Mr. Beinhart is a smart fellow, but for God’s sake he goes from zero to hysteria in six seconds. It’s one thing to inch towards the lifeboat when you overhear the crew talking about icebergs ahead; it’s another to run around shrieking like a little girl with a spider in her hair because you’re watching the movie “Titanic” and discover cubes of frozen water in your jumbo Coke. Doom and panic and fear and pessimism over and over and over again, coupled with historical revisionism, slavish devotion to French diplomats and castigation of Anglophone allies: not a parade I wish to join. If he was a bit worked up at the time and tossed the remark out for theatrical purposes, fine. We all toss grenades from time to time. But it's still shrieky nonsense. If Bush lied about WMD, then we are truly living in "1984" - but it's the writers and editors who are willingly stuffing old clips down the memory hole, and doing so of their own volition. If that's the case, who needs Big Brother when you can count on his many little cousins?

Finally, this from the NYT, ably dissected by the Volohkians:

When I asked Kerry what it would take for Americans to feel safe again, he displayed a much less apocalyptic worldview. "We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance," Kerry said. "As a former law-enforcement person, I know we're never going to end prostitution. We're never going to end illegal gambling. But we're going to reduce it, organized crime, to a level where it isn't on the rise. It isn't threatening people's lives every day, and fundamentally, it's something that you continue to fight, but it's not threatening the fabric of your life."

Tony Soprano doesn’t take over schools and shoot kids in the back. The doxies of the Bunny Ranch don’t train at flight schools to ram brothels into skyscrapers.

A nuisance?

A nuisance? I don’t want the definition of success of terrorism to be “it isn’t on the rise.” I want the definition of success to be “free democratic states in the Middle East and the cessation of support of those governments and fascist states we haven’t gotten around to kicking in the ass yet.” I want the definition of success to mean a free Lebanon and free Iran and a Saudi Arabia that realizes there’s no point in funding the fundies. An Egypt that stops pouring out the Jew-hatred as a form of political novacaine to keep the citizens from turning their ire on their own government. I want the definition of success to mean that Europe takes a stand against the Islamicist radicals in their midst before the Wahabbi poison is the only acceptable strain on the continent. Mosquito bites are a nuisance. Cable outages are a nuisance. Someone shooting up a school in Montana or California or Maine on behalf of the brave martyrs of Fallujah isn't a nuisance. It's war.

But that's not the key phrase. This matters: We have to get back to the place we were.

But when we were there we were blind. When we were there we losing. When we were there we died. We have to get back to the place we were. We have to get back to 9/10? We have to get back to the place we were. So we can go through it all again? We have to get back to the place we were. And forget all we’ve learned and done? We have to get back to the place we were. No. I don’t want to go back there. Planes into towers. That changed the terms. I am remarkably disinterested in returning to a place where such things are unimaginable. Where our nighmares are their dreams.

We have to get back to the place we were.

No. We have to go the place where they are.