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.
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."
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,
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 --
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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,
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;
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.
"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
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.