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wednesday, november 12, 2003

Dear Readers
 
My mother passed away this evening, and so I will be away for the next few days. I expect to be back and blogging in a week or so. In the meantime, please visit The League of Liberals blog and the League blog members for regular updates on whatever nefarious Bush plots and schemes are afoot.
 
See you soon, Maha
 

12:10 am | link

tuesday, november 11, 2003

Wilfred Owen
 
I wanted to write something brilliant about the shameful way the Bush Administration treats veterans, but (1) I'm not feeling up to it, and (2) a lot of other people are writing about this, anyway. So I'm turning the blog over to Wilfred Owen.
 
Wilfred Owen may have been one of the great English language poets of all time. I say "may have" because he left us only a few poems. However, his mastery of language and form combined with the brutal honesty of his work created poetry of undeniable power. He was remembered in the New York Times this week:

A revered figure in England, Owen found a large American following during the Vietnam War. He is often portrayed as antiwar, which he was not. What he stood for was seeing war clearly, which makes him especially relevant today. The Bush administration has been loudly attacking the news media for misreporting the Iraq conflict by leaving out good news. Owen would counter — in vivid, gripping images — that it is the White House, with its campaign to hide casualties from view, that is dangerously distorting reality. ["Wilfred Owen," The New York Times, November 9, 2003]

The Bush Administration rushed into a war, thinking war would benefit them politically. But War has a way of choosing its own side.
 
Wilfred Owen was a schoolteacher who joined the British Army in 1915, his head filled with notions of glory and brotherhood. War was his muse. In his best-known poem, he takes aim at the Latin phrase Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori -- "It is sweet and glorius to die for one's country."
 
Dulce Et Decorum Est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!-An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime...
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,-
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

~~~~~~~~~~

(On edit) Here's another one that speaks to us today --

Smile, Smile, Smile

Head to limp head, the sunk-eyed wounded scanned
Yesterday's Mail; the casualties (typed small)
And (large) Vast Booty from our Latest Haul.
Also, they read of Cheap Homes, not yet planned,
'For,' said the paper, 'when this war is done
The men's first instinct will be making homes.
Meanwhile their foremost need is aerodomes,
It being certain war has but begun.
Peace would do wrong to our undying dead,-
The sons we offered might regret they died
If we got nothing lasting in their stead.
We must be solidly indemnified.
Though all be worthy Victory which all bought,
We rulers sitting in this ancient spot
Would wrong our very selves if we forgot
The greatest glory will be theirs who fought,
Who kept this nation in integrity.'
Nation?-The half-limbed readers did not chafe
But smiled at one another curiously
Like secret men who know their secret safe.
(This is the thing they know and never speak,
That England one by one had fled to France,
Not many elsewhere now, save under France.)
Pictures of these broad smiles appear each week,
And people in whose voice real feeling rings
Say: How they smile! They're happy now, poor things.

~~~~~~~~~

You can read all of Wilfred Owens's poems here, including some fragments he did not finish. He was killed in France on November 4, 1918, while trying to cross a canal under heavy gunfire. He was 25 years old at the time of his death. His parents received news of his death on Armistice Day, November 11, 1918.

9:51 am | link

Hot Links, Armistice Day Edition 7:09 am | link

monday, november 10, 2003

Tomorrow Is Armistice Day, Dammit!
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So listen up. There's stuff you should know that you probably didn't learn in school, so I'm going to tell you. Pop quiz later this week.
 
The fellow over at the right is Wilfred Owen. Tomorrow will be Wilfred Owen Day on The Mahablog, in honor of Armistice Day. I won't flame you if you call it Veteran's Day, but on The Mahablog it is Armistice Day. Got that?
 
November 11 is the anniversary of the end of World War I, which is why it is Armistice Day. The official cease fire took place on November 11, 1918, at 11 a.m. That's easy to remember -- eleventh month, eleventh day, eleventh hour. I'm reasonably certain the phrase "eleventh hour," meaning the last possible time, stems from this.
 
The First World War was as nasty and brutal as wars come.

More than nine million soldiers, sailors and airmen were killed in the First World War. A further five million civilians are estimated to have perished under occupation, bombardment, hunger and disease. The mass murder of Armenians in 1915, and the influenza epidemic that began while the war was still being fought, were two of its destructive by products. The flight of Serbs from Serbia at the end of 1915 was another cruel episode in which civilians perished in large numbers; so too was the Allied naval blockade of Germany, as a result of which more than three-quarters of a million German civilians died. [Martin Gilbert, The First World War: A Complete History (Henry Holt, 1994), p. xv]

Historian Gilbert goes on to explain what happened in the First World War, and he needed 600 or so pages to do it. This is more detail than I want to go into on this blog. But be assured it was a great and terrible war. The causes of the war are complicated, but in short it amounted to a lot of clashing nationalisms and imperialisms. There's a nice, short paper on Causes of the Great War here.
 
Some pundits of the day really did believe that World War I would be The War to End All Wars. Four years of wholesale bloodletting didn't end war but did result in new maps. The maps of Europe and the Middle East were substantially redrawn. Also, colonies in Africa, Asia, and the South Pacific changed hands from losers to winners.  
 
Quit squirming or I'll smack you with a really big wooden ruler, the kind with a sharp metal edge. This is all stuff you should know.
 
Anyway, the new maps didn't settle much, and in our own time much of what the First World War created has fallen apart. Some of it is falling apart even as I keyboard, in fact. Recent turmoil in eastern Europe (e.g., Bosnia) and in the Middle East (e.g., Iraq; Israelis versus Palestinians) relate directly to the effects of the First World War.

 

In Europe, the borders of France, Italy, and Belgium shifted. Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania became independent of Russia. Poland, which had been carved up into pieces at the end of the 18th century, was reconstituted. Romania enlarged itself with bits of Hungary, Bulgaria, and Russia. Several Habsburg “crown lands” and some former Hungarian territories were glued together to create Czechoslovakia. The former independent kingdoms of Serbia and Montenegro, the former crown land of Croatia, the former Turkish provinces of Bosnia and the Herzegovina, and the Habsburg provinces of Slovenia and Dalmatia came together to become Yugoslavia.

 

The map of the Middle East changed also. The former Turkish territories of Syria and Lebanon were acquired by France. Britain took charge of Mesopotamia (Iraq) and Palestine, out of which the Brits planned to carve a Jewish National Home. Britain retained oversight of the rulers of Kuwait, an arrangement that dated from 1899. Afghanistan, on the other hand, declared its independence from Britain. By treaty, the Kurds were given autonomy from the Turks with a right to secede from Turkey. But the Kurds found no friends in the international community to help them, and by 1923 the Turks had retaken Kurdistan.

 

After World War I, Britain and France both had grandiose ideas about how they could make the Middle East (and its oil) friendly to western interests. In short -- they failed. It's all complicated, but for now just be aware that much of the political map of the Middle East today came about because of the various meddlings of Britain and France. And many people of the Middle East engaged in long and messy resistance to get rid of the European meddlers.

 

Long before "President" Bush decided to invade Iraq to make it safe for democracy, the people of the Middle East had had it up to here with non-Muslim imperialists trying to run their countries and take their oil.

 

Nine million soldiers and five million civilians dead, and almost 90 years later, and it's remarkable how much hasn't changed.

 

Tomorrow: Wilfred Owen

 

5:02 pm | link

Views from Left Blogistan
 
Prince Charles: The goat was NOT SPANISH.  Get the straight (goat) poop on whatever it was Prince Charles did on The 18-1/2 Minute Gap. While you're still giggling, head on over to Mad Kane and enjoy "St. Reagan's Song."
 
Imminent nonsense. Josh Marshall demolishes right-wing claims about Bush and imminent threats. But see Dubya's declining poll numbers at Eschaton.
 
World of War. See Musings of a Philosophical Scrivener for musings on the shabby way our soldiers are treated by our government. Read about Dick Cheney's War at Rush Limbaughtomy. Body and Soul comments on the Iraqi resistance.
 
Home of the Brave. See All Facts and Opinions for reflection on the quality of justice available to rich and poor. Find out from Estimated Prophet how the Bush tax cuts are bleeding us to death. No More Mister Nice Blog says the feds won't pay for extra security for the Statue of Liberty!
 
The old campaign trail. Whiskey Bar discusses the shakeup in John Kerry's campaign. For something not exactly related but brilliant, go to Crooked Timber for an essay on what September 11 was really all about.
 

10:01 am | link

Hot Links 6:35 am | link

sunday, november 9, 2003

Views from Left Blogistan
 
Scotland Forever. Congratulations to Musings of a Philosophical Scriviner for rating a mention in Scotland's Sunday Herald!  
 
Say It With Music. If you like musicals, you'll get a kick out of Dohiyi Mir's libretto for Howard Dean, Superstar! And in a show biz vein, Pen-Elayne on the Web found an organization dedicated to whining about actors it considers "anti-American." 
 
Outrageous Outrages. The Gunther Concept has more information on the case of the Planned Parenthood clinic whose builders want to back out because of threats. Body and Soul has the story of a Syrian-born Canadian who was deported to Syria, where he was tortured. Read about the upcoming Bush visit to London at A-Changing' Times (ACT). Read about Ann Coulter on trial at Treason Online.
 
Chemical Alterations. Rush Limbaughtomy wonders if an undrugged rush will be in touch with his inner feminazi.
 
What Makes Dick Tick? Calpundit ruminates on the mystery that is Cheney.

5:36 pm | link

Hot Links 12:41 pm | link

Land Launder?
 
The Texas Rangers are bidding vigorously for the honor of donating land for the eagerly anticipated George W. Bush Presidential Library. According to this article in the Fort Forth Star-Telegram, the Rangers and "Arlington leaders" are offering a choice of sites from more than 100 acres surrounding the Rangers ballpark in Arlington, Texas. 
 
This is thrilling, because it gives me an opportunity to re-tell the great old story about how George W. Bush made a fortune by stealing land from hard-working, honest Texans in the name of the Texas Rangers. 
 
For example, one site the President might consider for his library is a ten-acre spread purchased by hard-working, honest Texans in 1942 to raise thoroughbreds. In 1991, the city of Arlington seized the land from the purchasers' grandson, Bucky Fanning, and gave it to the Texas Rangers.
There were winners in the deal, he [Mr. Fanning] says - among them George W. Bush and his partners, and Tom Hicks, the wealthy real estate developer they sold the team to - and there were losers.

He was one of the losers.

"Anybody who was in their way, they just ran them over," says Fanning, a soft-spoken man whose anger rises as he talks about the ballpark. "I used to be a Rangers fan, but then they stole my property."

Fanning's grandparents bought the 10-acre spread in 1942 to raise Thoroughbreds. Now it is a little-used parking lot on the east side of the stadium. "Bush didn't need our land for a ballpark," Fanning says. "He wanted it for his own personal gain." ["Broken Promises Plague Parks," The New York Daily News, October 12, 2002]

But the story of Bucky Fanning and his lost ten-acre spread was only a small part of a big and sordid scheme that earned Mr. Bush $14.9 million on an investment of $600,000. (And most of that $600,000 was borrowed. He repaid the loan through sale of his Harken stock, a transaction that had the appearance of insider trading but for which the SEC gave Bush a pass, possibly because his father was President of the United States at the time.)
 
Here's the story: Once upon a time, before he got into politics, George W. Bush paid $600,000 for 1.8 percent of the Texas Rangers baseball team. Then, Bush and his team owner cronies persuaded the city of Arlington, Texas, to:
  • Pass a half cent sales tax to pay for 70 percent of the stadium;
  • Use the government’s powers of eminent domain to condemn land the Rangers couldn’t or didn’t want to buy on the open market;
  • Give the Rangers control over what happens in and around the stadium;
  • Allow the Rangers to buy the stadium (which cost $191 million to construct) for just $60 million. [Robert Bryce, "Stealing Home," The Texas Observer, May 9, 1997]

After 12 years of paying rent to the City of Arlington, the Rangers took title to the most expensive stadium ever built in Texas. In exchange, Arlington received only the $60 million worth of rent and upkeep the Rangers paid the city over the 12 years. Such a deal.

But it's the second point on the bulleted list above that concerns us today.

A sweetheart arrangement between the city of Arlington and the Arlington Sports Facilities Development Authority (ASFDA; i.e., in Molly Ivins's words, a "quasi government front" for the Texas Rangers) allowed ASFDA to condemn property (such as Bucky Fanning's ten-acre spread) and either seize it or acquire at bargain basement prices.

According to Eric Alterman ("The Scandal No One Cares About," MSNBC) several landowners --mostly homeowners and farmers -- refused to sell for what the Authority was offering. "The Authority condemned their land and expropriated it by force of law," wrote Alterman. "It did this with 270 acres of land, even though only about 17 acres were needed for the ballpark. The rest was used for commercial development that made Bush and his friends rich."

For example, ASFDA also desired three parcels that were part of trusts to benefit the heirs of television magnate Curtis Mathes. ASFDA offered to purchase the land, nearly 13 acres, for $817,220. This was far below what even the ASFDA's own appraisers said it was worth. The Mathes family refused to sell, and the ASFDA seized the land through eminent domain. A jury later awarded the Mathes heirs $4.98 million, plus accumulated interest, for the parcels.

ASFDA decided the city of Arlington should be responsible for the $4.98 million, even though by then the land was in private hands. Both the city and ASFDA refused to pay. (The City of Arlington appealed the verdict, but after much googling I have yet to discover how this issue was resolved, assuming it was resolved. If anyone knows, please email me.)

Bush said more than once that he was unaware of the details of ASFDA's little land grabs. However, Tom Schieffer, president of the Rangers, testified that he kept Bush abreast of the purchase of the parcels.

After Bush was elected governor of Texas in 1994, he put all of his assets into a blind trust except his general partnership interest in the Texas Rangers. Thus in 1998, while he was governor, he was able to sell his part of the Rangers ownership, and from this sale he earned the $14.9 million profit. Bush owes that nearly $15 million profit to the value of a stadium built by Texas taxpayers, and on land obtained by using government power to benefit private business interests. And don't get me started on the Harken thing.
 
But it's just too, too delicious that the eventual George W. Bush Presidential Library might one day be built on land stolen by the Texas Rangers and then donated back to Bush. It doesn't get any slicker than that.
 
Other Stuff. Maru at WTF Is It Now??? has some pithy comments on the Frist freeze of prewar Iraq intelligence. Savage Cruel Bigot has some pithy comments on Ronald Reagon's famous, um, detatchment. See Pen-Elayne on the Web for the best Nixon photo op, ever. Hammerdown notes that the dominoes are falling the wrong way. And see "Coalition of the Killing" at All Facts and Opinions.
 

8:38 am | link


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The Loyalties of George W. Bush

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"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." --Theodore Roosevelt, 1918

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The War Prayer

I come from the Throne -- bearing a message from Almighty God!... He has heard the prayer of His servant, your shepherd, & will grant it if such shall be your desire after I His messenger shall have explained to you its import -- that is to say its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of -- except he pause & think.

"God's servant & yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused & taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him who heareth all supplications, the spoken & the unspoken....

"You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it -- that part which the pastor -- and also you in your hearts -- fervently prayed, silently. And ignorantly & unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is completed into those pregnant words.

"Upon the listening spirit of God the Father fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe.

"O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended through wastes of their desolated land in rags & hunger & thirst, sport of the sun-flames of summer & the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave & denied it -- for our sakes, who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask of one who is the Spirit of love & who is the ever-faithful refuge & friend of all that are sore beset, & seek His aid with humble & contrite hearts. Grant our prayer, O Lord & Thine shall be the praise & honor & glory now & ever, Amen."

(After a pause.) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! -- the messenger of the Most High waits."

·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·

It was believed, afterward, that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

[Mark Twain, 1905]

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