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September 29, 2004

US Networks Continue to Protect Us With High Tech Shield

For almost a year and a half now American citizens have been in very grave danger. This danger, so frightening that it's difficult even to speak of it, is that we might hear an interview with Jafar Dhia Jafar, the father of the Iraqi nuclear program. If that had happened, we might have definitively learned that Iraq had had no nuclear program since 1991, and that as Jafar puts it, the US and UK governments "were lying to their people... I knew they knew they were lying." Fortunately, the US media has protected us with a high-tech, billion-dollar, satellite-based Shield of Ignorance.

This Shield of Ignorance took everything that was thrown at it, and it buckled -- but it didn't break. The first assault came when Jafar surrendered soon after the invasion, and hence could easily be interviewed by the networks. The second near-disaster occurred last March when Jafar presented a paper in Beirut, describing the end of Iraqi WMD programs in 1991. The next "Moment of Maximum Danger" came when Jafar was interviewed by the BBC last month. Without the constant vigilance of the US networks, this could have easily made it on the air here. Millions of Americans would have been horrifically educated in an instant.

But it's only now that we're learning of the closest call of all. It turns out the story CBS bumped for the infamous segment on George Bush's National Guard service actually included an interview with Jafar. But the Shield of Ignorance, working just as it was designed, swung into action at the last moment and saved us from knowing something about life on earth.

Posted at September 29, 2004 10:25 PM | TrackBack

And don't you feel better for it?

It's wonderful that Bush has declared that the Taliban have ceased to exist, isn't it? I'm sure the shield will protect America from the appearance of any Taliban, should they happen to blow themselves up anywhere there might be a camera.

Historical metaphors. How familiar are you with Marius and Sulla?

Posted by: Alexis at September 30, 2004 10:55 AM

It's not just the Shield of Ignorance that protects us. We also have the all-important Sigh Detector which was used in the 2000 debates to protect us from any actual substantive analysis.

I see that they are already firing up the Tan Ridiculer for this one.

Posted by: Ted at September 30, 2004 01:49 PM


I actually don't know much about Marius and Sulla. What's the analogy? Something more than general imperial decay?

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at October 3, 2004 11:07 PM

Dear Jon,

Both of these guys should be looked at very closely by anyone living in America at the moment. Both of them were quality generals; Sulla was a pupil of Marius.

Let me apologize if any of this repeats things you already know, but I just want to make sure the background is there.

The Roman Republic was established in 509 BC after the rule of kings was overthrown by one Brutus, great great ancestor of the Brutus who later does the deed with Caesar. The Roman state was based upon a rather unequal arrangement of voting by wealth (after all, this was 25 centuries ago, so any kind of vote was forward thinking). The state was overseen by two consuls, who were elected yearly. In fact the American system of President/Vice-President was based upon this idea--that if one were killed the other could carry on.

In war, the two Consuls divided up the business; one stayed at home, the other led the army out. Sometimes the army leader would fail and the they'd switch roles. Sometimes the threat was so great that both consuls would lead an army. And sometimes the consuls just weren't up to the task.

In which event, Rome would elect a dictator: a single individual who would have total power of life and death over every individual. He would have the power to raise an army of any size, seize any property to feed and supply it, and lead it out to fight the enemy. When the danger was gone, the dictator voluntarily stepped down and the consul system was resumed.

For 4 centuries, this worked very well. Rome rose from a small town on the Tiber to the dominant power in the west. But...things were getting more complicated, and the system was breaking down in all sorts of little ways. Such as the distribution of wealth, the lack of willing volunteers to act as soldiers, the number of enemies Rome had, the need to have many outposts on frontiers, etc.

Basically, for most of Rome's history, soldiers were farmers who picked up their weapons in the fall and put them down again when winter came. Almost all wars were fought in a three month period between August and November.

But by the 2nd century BC this wasn't adequate. The law stated that a soldier had to be someone who owned land, and the lands were being grouped together under rich senators who themselves did not fight (they were usually quite aged). Thus the organization of the army was becoming a disaster.

In 107 a happy fellow named Marius was elected consul for the first time. He went to war in north africa against Jugurtha, who was threatening the big senatorial estates in Africa--some sources will say later that the entire province ultimately came under the control of six senators. In any case, Jugurtha was a threat primarily because of the defense of those lands, though the war against Jugurtha was not exactly 'defensive.'

He was elected dictator to deal with the situation in Africa.
In order to have a large enough army, Marius PAID his troops. He ignored the laws saying a soldier needed to have a certain level of wealth, and simply gathered an army out of the impoverished mob.

He won the war handily in North Africa, and then used his position as triumphant general to have himself re-elected to seven consulships in a row. While he was a fairly decent leader, he was the first Roman to be elected to so many consecutive consulships (two was rare).

Marius stepped down around 100 BC (he was aging and not well) and Rome struggled for some years under the old system as it continued to degrade. Socially, the struggle erupting involved the difference between "Romans" and "Italians," the latter being people who dwelt within Italy but were not citizens of the Republic. Marius continued to take part in Roman affairs.

Marius' second-in-command in Africa was Sulla, who was known to be ruthless and a brilliant general. Sulla, more than Marius, was personally responsible for the destruction of Jugurtha's Army.

Through the 90s, Sulla and Marius fell out, and the center of power began to swing between them. As Marius continued to age, Sulla's power grew. When the opportunity came, Sulla seized power with the help of six legions in his own pay (thus the problem with soldiers being paid--their loyalty remains to the paycheque, not the state). Marius fled Rome and Sulla established himself as consul along with Lucius Cornelius Cinna.

Thereafter followed the social war, as the non-citizens rose against the citizens. In a very famous quote from Appian (The Civil War I, c.60):

In this way the episodes of civil strife escalated from rivalry and contentiousness to murder, and from murder to full-scale war; and this was the first army composed of Roman citizens to attack their own country as thought it were a hostile power. From this point onwards their conflicts continued to be settled by military means and there were frequent attacks on Rome…because nothing remained, neither law, nor political institutions, nor patriotism, that could induce any sense of shame in the men of violence.

Sulla put down the rebellion and headed east to fight Mithradates in Asia Minor, to defend the republic's frontiers. While he was gone, in 87 Marius had returned to Rome, had Cinna killed, and had himself re-elected consul. Sulla abandoned the east and returned to Rome. By 82 Marius had been destroyed. In 81 Sulla named himself "dictator for life."

What happens next is that the Roman state is reworked by Sulla to reduce the potential for any other individual to rise in the same manner. Laws are passed to present political infighting, the check the political power of politicians, to prevent repeated consulships. In effect it was all reactionary legislation. Because he "brought peace" to Rome, his position was not threatened and Sulla died quietly in 78 BC, having 'ruled' for only three years.

The names of Sulla's lieutenants are better known than Sulla: Pompey and Crassus. The aforementioned Cinna's daughter would become Julius Caesar's wife. The connections with the events that destroyed the Republic and created the Empire are multiple.

It would be very easy to say, well, that was Rome, has nothing to do with us. But. When I hear about questioning whether the elections should be held over in case of a terrorist attack, I wonder. It would be very easy for the partisanship of America at present to break down into factionism. In fact, it happened very quickly in Rome. Between 130 BC (when the major political leader Gracchus was assassinated) and 78 BC is only 42 years. All of the events I've described above took place in a republic. None of the wars were fought on the Italian peninsula (there were laws about that sort of thing that were not broken until Caesar crossed the Rubicon with his army). So to the people of Rome, it was undesirable, but increasingly acceptable.

In fact I believe the parallels exist now that are comparable with when Marius first rose to power. The machine is present. The factions are present. Any small thing could set the road to dictatorship in motion. And the American voice is making it clear that such action would be just as acceptable today as it was once. The rhetoric going around condemning "persons not like ourselves" proves it.

Ain't history fun?

Posted by: Alexis at October 5, 2004 12:44 PM

Clearly sulla is the superior general. Such examples of his superiorority;
Sulla is faster, stronger, more agile, almost as intelligent, and funnier. Marius has lots of money, is really smart, has some gadgets, and is...human. Looks like Sulla wins.

By the way, Sulla has been thrown out of windows, and endured WAY worse than that. Marius will have to think of something other than "throwing him out of a window".

Posted by: Sulla-buff 206 at July 31, 2005 10:58 PM

Marius is dangerous. I will use the 'prep time' argument if that's what u wanna call it. Marius NEVER is unprepared.See, if he were to fight Sulla, he would KNOW about it before hand, therfore he WILL prepare and he WILL win, first time.Have a lil faith in the dark night...

Alleast he is hotter than Sulla ANYWAY!

Posted by: Pro-Marius77 at July 31, 2005 11:01 PM

are you guys kidding?

A punch from Sulla would knock Marius's head off.

Posted by: Sulla kid89 at July 31, 2005 11:03 PM

Screw Sulla, Screw Marius, Hulk Hogan would own both of em

Posted by: Alexis at July 31, 2005 11:07 PM

sulla has the biggest penis you have ever one jab of that thing and you would be blind for talking 25 centremetrs here...why the hell do u think his luck took him to the top..its simple his penis....the ladies loved him not for his looks not his charm but his penis...simple

Posted by: sulla 4 life at August 2, 2005 04:35 PM

yeah sure sulla's big, but its not the size of the exhaust its the sound of the engine. Marius knows how to show ladies a good time and thats what lands you in the sack. so sulla4life, Marius would flog sulla up in a race to the top, cause charm and talk is half the battle.

Posted by: M-unit at August 2, 2005 04:42 PM

mmmm fair point..however how do you think marius could compete against sulla when sulla was more than 30 yeasr younn ger than him...experince may matter but this is young fresh meat were talking good in the sack myelf and im still young ....experience doesnt matter as muhc...what im tlaking about is in the bed...sulla's reputaTION PRECEDED HIM MARIUS SIMPLY HAD CHARM, if u recall from practor sulla worked to the top threw his chamr and only his chamr so i rest my case and say "once u go sulla you never go back"

Posted by: sulla 4 life at August 2, 2005 04:47 PM

sulla4life your still jumping ahead of yourself, as i stateted in "Post by M-unit at August 2, 2005 04:42 PM", you have to work to sink the ball, and you think a reputation as being 'well endowed' got sulla in the kazbar with a fine lady? Champ, Marius did the talking, why else would a player hang with a 30 year older man? Sulla knew that girls loved Marius, and he wanted a finger the pie

Posted by: M-unit at August 2, 2005 04:56 PM

so u think the 'M-unit' didnt need to use his d-unit to get ladies in the beanbag..excuse me fella but its sounds to me that yu think if u have a face like pig but a personality to suit all then the girls will come in...ha ha im sorry but u musnt have had much experiecne with the laides....i suggest u get of the internet stop batting of to marius and hit the clubs....hey 'm-unit' good luck

Posted by: sulla 4 life at August 2, 2005 05:00 PM