Ask Caesar!

     At noon Wednesday these were the top stories on The Associated Press Web site.
     – U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates “expressed regrets” for U.S. air strikes that killed 90 civilians in Afghanistan, most of them women and children.
     – Three U.S. soldiers were charged with murdering three Iraqis last year by blindfolding and shooting them in the head after the U.S. 172nd Infantry Brigade took casualties.
     – A car bomb at the U.S. Embassy in Yemen killed 16 people.
     – The Dow-Jones average was down 300 points – on its way to a 449-point drop – after losing 504 points on Monday.
     – The federal government bailed out American International Group with $85 billion, socializing one of the world’s biggest insurance companies, to keep the $1 trillion firm from collapsing and dragging the world economy after it.
     In response to the federal bailouts of AIG, Bear-Stearns, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, John McCain told the AP that he wants to appoint “a commission” to see what caused all this. McCain’s spokesman said that McCain still favors less government regulation of corporations.
     Here are some stories the AP did not deem worthy of listing as Wednesday’s top stories.
     – President Bush wants his $5 trillion takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac kept “off the books” to keep from doubling the national debt, though the takeover of the corrupt and bankrupt public-private companies has done that. Bush wants that $5 trillion debt kept “off the books,” on the theory that … I’m not sure what that theory is.
     – Barack Obama’s campaign on Tuesday sued the Republican National Committee and the Republican Party of Michigan, for their plan to challenge anyone in Michigan whose home is in foreclosure who tries vote on Nov. 4. The Republicans’ theory is that if their home was foreclosed, then they can’t live there anymore, so their voting registration form is inaccurate, so they are committing voter fraud.
     – Five Republican legislators in Alaska sued the man the Legislature appointed to investigate whether Gov. Sarah Palin fired the state Safety Commissioner in a vendetta, because he refused to fire a state trooper who had divorced Palin’s sister. And the Alaska Attorney General, also Republican, announced that 10 state employees, and Palin’s husband, Todd, would refuse to comply with subpoenas in the “Troopergate” investigation. The five Republican plaintiff-legislators said that if the Legislature releases its report as planned, on Oct. 10, it will be a “McCarthyite” attempt to influence the election. The only fair way to do it, Attorney General Talis Colberg and the plaintiff-legislators said, is to delay the Troopergate report until after the Nov. 4 election.
     As I said, the AP did not deem those last three events – all of which happened Tuesday – to be among Wednesday’s top stories. Here is the Michigan story that The Associated Press did list as one of the top 10 stories of the day at Wednesday noon:
     – A teacher from Dearborn, Mich., won “Big Brother 10,” a “voyeuristic CBS reality TV show.”
     As Dave Barry used to say, I am not making this up.
     In an attempt to understand this presidential campaign, and this country, I read a book by two curators of an ancient history division at the British Museum. The book is called “Rebels, Pretenders and Impostors.”
     The book traces the history of pretenders and impostors from the days of Greece and Rome through the Byzantine Empire, the Middle Ages and England’s long glorious history, and ends in Europe today.
     The authors, Clive Cheesman and Jonathan Williams, point out that since the death of Caesar Augustus, all succeeding emperors, most of whom murdered their way to the throne, began their reign by making up a bogus genealogy for themselves, usually tracing their ancestors back to Augustus, or Julius, or, if possible, all the way back to a God.
     And the strange thing is, throughout history, even till today, people who knew better were willing to accept these impostors, for the chance to hang out with them and maybe get a little of what they’d got.
     The Roman emperors’ “programs,” if they had any at all, were to restore the greatness of the past. That’s what they promised. And the people ate it up with a spoon, or at the point of a spear.
     That’s pretty much the Republicans’ program today, with the pre-senile Ronald Reagan as God. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t see much of a program beyond that.
     John McCain is an impostor. If he needs a commission to tell him what went wrong on Wall Street, he’s also a moron.
     Sarah Palin is a pretender. Her sole claim to be worthy of the office she seeks is that she believes she has sprung, somehow, directly from the loins of Jesus Christ. Assuming the fellow had loins.
     Here is my question: How stupid are we? And how long will we be permitted to live, being as stupid as that?
     Let’s ask Caesar. Caesar will know.

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