Democratic Underground

Damn the Torpedoes, Get Strangelove on the Horn
November 2, 2001
by Warren Pease

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Some years ago, author Tom Wolfe wrote a lengthy essay declaring that satire was dead - killed by the burgeoning, astonishing weirdness of everyday life. This after his novel "Bonfire of the Vanities" came under fire for too closely resembling the events of an actual New York City political scandal. That the book predated the scandal by more than a year seemingly disturbed none of his critics. Understandably, Wolfe concluded that real life had become so surpassingly bizarre that no satirist, no matter how imaginative, could possibly outdo reality.

And while the Bush administration provides compelling evidence of Wolfe's hypothesis each day, there are occasional examples of such transcendently majestic idiocy that they simply can't go unrecognized.

And so, today's Wolfe Awards for actions contributing to the death of satire go to the amazingly clueless Republican Congressman Steve Buyer of Indiana and to veteran Texas congressional nutball Ron Paul.

Now, the winning entries. . .

To the Stone Age. . . AND BEYOND

(October 19, 2001) - If it becomes clear that Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network is behind the recent wave of anthrax cases, and it is hiding chemical or biological weapons in Afghanistan caves, U.S. Rep. Steve Buyer said they've "upped the ante" and he would support the use of nuclear weapons to destroy them.

Buyer said he isn't advocating nuclear tactics. But if the Bush administration decides to go that route, it would have his backing. He planned to outline his thoughts in a letter to the administration.

Buyer said Thursday that it's too risky to send large numbers of ground troops into mountain hideouts. Instead, small special operation forces could fight their way into caves and bunkers and plant timer-detonated tactical nuclear devices powerful enough to bring down entire mountains.

"We shouldn't fear this discussion," Buyer said. "There's such a stigma attached to the word 'nuclear' that people don't even think rationally." (1)

Yeah, they really don't.

I remember interviewing a survivor of the Hiroshima bombing, a Japanese-American doctor from Watsonville, Calif. This was about 20 years ago when I was working as a reporter at KOMY, the very radio station that just dumped Peter Werbe for failing to promote administration orthodoxy enthusiastically enough. (Disclaimer: KOMY ownership has changed several times since I was there, and I don't know the Zwerlings at all.)

The doctor, Francis Tomosawa, told me that he was a boy of 15 on the morning of August 6, 1945. He had walked to his job at a warehouse and was waiting outside for his supervisor to arrive when he heard the roar of the bombers. He was shielded from the full force of the blast by the warehouse, and by a low mountain that stood between his place of work and the main city of Hiroshima, about two miles away. He saw the fireball, though, and the shock waves threw him backwards and knocked him unconscious for a short time. When he awoke, he saw the giant mushroom cloud rising.

All around the concrete warehouse are wooden structures that have been flattened. The injured and dead are everywhere. He tries to help, but eventually returns to his home to try to connect with his mother. He sees smoldering bodies everywhere amid the shattered buildings. He sees people shuffling or running, and a few who had been blinded by the fireball creeping ahead, arms outstretched, with wisps of singed skin hanging like a macabre fringe. A young woman, her clothes in tatters, carries a dead infant in her arms.

Immediately after the explosion, it's deathly quiet, as befits a mass grave. Later, when he and his mother make their way to a nearby hospital to volunteer, the quiet ends. The screams of the wounded and dying mingle with the softer weeping of those who have lost their families, their homes, all the touchstones of their lives. The Japanese military has taken most of the country's stocks of medicines, so there is little help for the wounded. Within hours, thousands have died from injuries or radiation exposure.

The next morning, he climbs to the roof of a tall building near his home from where he can look out over Hiroshima. Aside from a few concrete shells, there is simply nothing left.

And in the course of a longish interview during which I mainly let the tape run and uttered an occasional profanity - which made editing the story for the drive time newscast a bit more difficult than usual - Dr. Tomosawa made it abundantly clear that, yes, in his experience, people do in fact tend to act somewhat irrationally when confronted with the reality of nuclear weapons.

New Bounty Hunters of the Afghan Caves

(October 15, 2001) - Legislation that would allow President Bush to issue letters authorizing bounty hunters to bring in Osama bin Laden and his cronies "alive or dead" was introduced this week by U.S. Rep. Ron Paul.

Paul's bill would let the president determine the size of the bounty that would be placed on the heads of Bin Laden and any co-conspirator in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that killed some 5,000 people.

The bill, filed on Wednesday, would give Bush the authority to issue "letters of marque and reprisal" of the type authorized by Congress in the 18th century to combat piracy on the high seas.

"It worked back then," Paul said. "Wouldn't it be wonderful if it worked again?" (2)

Sure would, and to help make it so, Paul is set to introduce a companion bill that would give Congress the authority to exhume Captain John Paul Jones and Admiral David Farragut, two of this country's most celebrated naval war heroes.

"It's time we put aside our squeamishness about using dead people to fight our battles," the Congressman probably said last week. "After all, one dead Farragut is worth at least a dozen live Rumsfelds. Plus, the idea of Jones at the helm of the Bon Homme Richard, firing a withering broadside at bin Laden's ship of the desert. . . Isn't that what they call those goofy looking horse things with humps?

"Anyway, for the good of the country, we need these heroes back," Paul no doubt added. "My bill will make that a reality, and the rider that provides free dry cleaning of KKK robes for the life of the garment is necessary in the war against terrorism - plus which, I get all hot just thinking about putting on my snowy white sheet and weird pointy hat and lacy underthings and red pumps and lynching a few Arabs for the greater glory of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior."

He was dragged from the podium just before he had the chance to talk about how he and Tom DeLay and his first ex-wife's cousin, the sleepy-eyed little hairdresser dude from Midland, pulled an all-nighter a couple weeks back on fine pharmaceuticals and cheap wine and how Lott called around three in the morning and wanted to come over but there wasn't enough Ecstasy left so he just stayed home and moaned a lot while a couple of Senate pages dressed like gladiators gently flogged him with palm fronds.

To Our Wing Nuts: A Debt of Gratitude

Anthrax and Afghanistan, bin Laden and Bush, the Taliban and the Texans. Frankly, it's getting a little damn depressing out there and I think we need a break. Thankfully, there are still conservative Republicans in our midst willing and able to help out.

So, in recognition of epic imbecility above and beyond even the lofty standards of the 107th Congress, we single out these two fine examples of GOP lunacy for special attention. They remind us that humor is indeed the best medicine and that even loopy, grandstanding Republican wing nuts have a vital role to play in these abjectly somber times.

Today's quiz: How much evil would an evildoer do if an evildoer did do evil? Extra credit: Did Anne Thracks really kill Chandra? Some say it was Col. Mustard in the library with the candlestick, but we know better. Reply to and win great prizes, maybe.

(1) Excerpted in condensed form from the Friday, October 19 Journal and Courier of Greater Lafayette, Indiana.
(2) Excerpted verbatim from the Monday, October 15 edition of The Victoria Advocate, Victoria, Texas.

Copyright SRC, Inc. 2001. All rights reserved.