Saturday, 10 November 2018

Three of the BIG LIES of World War I

1It was called "the war to end all wars".  
Of course it didn't!  As I have written elsewhere, the first world war was simply the first act,  placed into intermission by the armistice in 1918, with the second act taken up in 1939.
"The War to End All Wars".  That's a bit like spreading tuberculosis to end tuberculosis.
2. To make the world safe for democracy.  (U.S. President Woodrow Wilson).
Democracy for who?  Certainly not for **Negroes (as they were then called) in the U.S.A.
They had fought with enormous skill and bravery on the western front.  They returned to an America with defacto racism in the north, and with dejure racism in the former confederate states ( "Jim Crow" laws, brutality and lynchings).
(Remember please that Woodrow Wilson was an ardent segregationist. When he became President he re-segregated the Federal Civil Service).
3. To make the United Kingdom "a land fit for heroes".
The British and Irish ( the territory which we now call the Republic of Ireland) men and women who served King and Country came back, not to a land fit for heroes but to poverty, unemployment, the great depression, and often to  destitution.  
They also came back to a land where the much vaunted and over rated Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill  treated them not as heroes but as dangerous subversives.  
In 1919, under Churchill, by now Secretary of State for Air and War;  tanks and an estimated 10,000 troops were deployed to Glasgow during a period of widespread strikes and civil unrest,  amid fear of a Bolshevist revolt. (BBC NEWS WEBSITE)
**  I use the word 'negro" in the historical sense as it was used right up to the time of the Revd. Dr, Martin Luther King, 

Friday, 9 November 2018

Blood Lust to the End

Canadian Great War Memorial, Vimy.

The Germans had requested peace negotiations five weeks before the Armistice.  Half a million causalities took place during those weeks.

The Armistice (in truth it was a German surrender - at the insistence of Marshall Foch) was signed at 5:00 a.m. to take effect at 11:00 a.m.   Word sped quickly down the lines. Some Commanders could not respect the spirit of the Armistice and insisted that the fight be carried on until the magical hour of 11:00 a.m.   There were more casualties in those five hours than for both sides than on D-Day.

Black members of the American 92nd Division were ordered to advance  at 10:30 a.m. The "official" toll recorded seventeen deaths and three hundred and two missing or wounded.

The blood lust of the politicians and the generals led to 

More than Nine Million men killed in action.

At least Twenty One Million wounded, many maimed beyond belief.

Countless civilian deaths including just short of half a million Germans who died of starvation and malnutrition as a result of the tight British Royal Navy blockade.

So many widows, so many orphans, so many grieving Mums and Dads.


A British boy child was born at exactly 11:00 a.m. on November 11th.  His parents named him Pax  (Peace).  He was killed at age 21 in the next war.

In truth the Great War  (World War One) never ended.  It was merely placed into an intermission until 1939 and World War Two.

Here we are on the cusp of the 100th anniversary of the Armistice.

THE BLOOD LUST CONTINUES:  Do not forget this on Armistice Day/Remembrance Day/Veterans Day commemorations at the 11th Hour of the 11th Day in the 11th Month one hundred years on.

And remember this: World War One was not a made for television docudrama shot in grainy back and white.

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Groomed for the Glory of War

This morning one of our local National Public Radio stations had one of those  "'experts' talk and listeners call in" programmes about The Great War  (a.k.a. World War One).

One caller spoke of his Scottish born great-uncle who had served in that blood bath.  The uncle served and survived the war, one of only three out of sixty three soldiers from his home town who returned home.

The uncle spoke to his great nephew about his being a Boy Scout (before 1914) and his experience of the semi-militaristic drills the boys were put through, even as they carried wooden rifles.  

"We were", said the old man" being groomed for the glory of war".

 "Beware" he said "of any culture which grooms its populace to believe that war is glory".

The glory of War?   Not in that 1914-1918 festival of blood.

And to hell with our current world leaders who lie, deceive,  and spend billions of our dollars/pounds/euros in the pursuit of vain glory;  even as precious human blood is sacrificed to the Altar of War all over this globe.

Many of them will gather in Europe this Sunday  11th November 2018 to "commemorate" the Armistice of 11th November 1918.

They will make pious speeches.  Their faces will be solemn. They will lament the blood of 1914-1918 even as their national economies depend on the artifacts of war.

They will keep the obligatory two minute silence at 11:00 a.m. The Last Post will be sounded, even as  children will be killed for the glory of war all over the world.  

If only these national and political leaders would spend sixty minutes on their knees, weeping in repentance for the horror and folly of war. 

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

It wasn't the sinking of the Lusitania

As the one hundredth anniversary of Armistice Day in Europe approaches...

There is a common misconception that it was the torpedoing and sinking of the S.S. Lusitania on May 7th 1915 led to the American intervention in the Great War.

'Twas no so.  The only U.S. response to that sinking was this:

On May 13, 1915, the U.S. government sent a note to Berlin expressing an indictment of the principles on which the submarine war was being fought, but this note and two following ones constituted the immediate limit of U.S. reaction to the Lusitania incident.  


"The U.S. was officially neutral until April 1917 when the United States declared war on Germany. Earlier in that year the German Ambassador  Bernstorff presented [...] Germany's response to (President)Wilson's recent 'peace without victory' plea [...]: his nation was about to launch an unrestricted submarine campaign, thereby declaring total maritime war against all neutrals. After February 1, the communique noted, German U-boats would sink without warning belligerent and neutral ships found in a designated zone comprising waters around Great Britain, France, and Italy, and in the eastern Mediterranean. The (German) Admiralty made one minor exception: it would permit one American steamer a week to sail between New York and Falmouth [...]. Initially Germany would grant a period of grace, during which its submarines would not harm neutral ships that either were en route to the war zone or had already arrived".  (via Prof. Justus Doeneke)


American maritime trade was thus formally at risk. The new German policy, together with a quite ghastly anti-German propaganda campaign in the U.S. precipitated Pres. Wilson's appeal to Congress,  and the American entry into the fray.

Wilson had strengthened the U.S. Navy but not the Army.  So it was not until the summer of 1918  that American soldiers began to appear on the Western Front, at the rate of 10,000 per day.


Serious readers of America's entry into the Great War should read this. It is a tour de force by Justus Doeneke a former New College, Sarasota professor. The peer reviews of this book are entirely positive!

Transparency.  I know Prof.  Doeneke and respect him greatly.

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Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Did I vote? (ask a stupid question!)

I became an American citizen in the Springfield, MA Courthouse in 1984.   The next day I went to City Hall in Pittsfield, MA and registered to vote.

I have voted in every election since then, save for one primary election when I was out of the country. 

I voted today in Sarasota County's  Precinct 125, not far from my home.

(There are 319,000 registered voters in Sarasota County. There are approx. 100 voting precincts which seems to be more than reasonable to me.  

40% of the County's registered voters had voted by mail or through early voting before our polls opened at 7:00 a.m.   Those, such as I, who choose to vote in person, were sure to find a precinct near to their homes.  No excuses!  If you will drive four miles to your favourite restaurant you can sure as eggs over easy drive to your assigned voting precinct.


I showed up at 7:45 a.m.  There were maybe eighteen voters ahead of me in the line, it's wonderful to have to stand in line to vote!

I showed my I.D soon after 8:00 a.m.  That was the easy part!  

Filling the optical reader ballot took another 10-15 minutes.

Sarasota County voters were faced with fifteen voting opportunities for elective offices:   from U.S. Senator, through U.S. House of Reps., State Governor and Lt. Governor etc. etc. down to Hospital Board.

There were five votes as to whether or not to keep five  Judges/Justices in Office. I skipped that part. I know nothing about the worthiness of the incumbents.

CRUCIALLY there were twelve questions which had to do with amending the Florida State Constitution.

Floridians have the opportunity to make such  constitutional changes every twenty years. (The procedure to get constitutional amendment on the ballot is more complicated  than I can explain here and now). Each has to be approved by 60% of those who vote.

I was not here twenty years ago, and I do not expect to be here twenty years hence.  So my vote today was a here and now experience.

In brief I voted against measures which might hobble the ability of future Florida Legislators to increase taxes (there are emergencies you know)

And in favour of measures which would:

restore the voting rights of those guilty of felonies and who have served their time.

ban greyhound  racing

prohibit off shore Oil and Gas Drilling  ( the same measure also prohibits indoor Vaping in enclosed  indoor workplaces.

If this were not enough there were also questions about a County Bond, some Sarasota County charter amendments, and a City of Sarasota charter amendment.


Voting today in Sarasota County (and much of Florida) was a marathon rather than a sprint.

KUDOS to Ron Turner our County  Supervisor of Elections who ran a damn good show in a complicated ballot.

Shocking words from an English Bishop

When the church gets in bed with the state,  the message of the christian gospel will always become subservient to the demands of the state.

Here for instance are the words of the C of E Bishop of London in the early days of the Great War.

The Bishop of London, Arthur Winnington-Ingram, emerged as the most vocal supporter of the war effort in 1914, speaking publicly in support of recruiting drives and the armaments industry. Later in the war he urged his younger clergy to consider enlisting as combatants rather than as chaplains. 

Winnington-Ingram saw the war as a “great crusade to defend 

the weak against the strong”. The language he used to describe

 Germans was intentionally xenophobic. In one sermon he said:

 “Kill Germans! Kill them!” ... not for the sake of killing, but to

 save the world… Kill the good as well as the bad… Kill the 

young men as well as the old… I look upon it as a war for 

purity. I look upon everybody who dies in it as a martyr.”

His words embarrassed and offended many in his native England

Herbert Asquith, the British Prime Minister at the outbreak of the

 war, described his public statements as ‘jingoism of the shallowest 



Sunday, 4 November 2018

My week of tears

It began as you will remember when I visited my neighbour Rabbi Michael Shefrin last Sunday morning to express my anger and grief at the terrorism at Pittsburgh's Tree of Life Synagague.

The Rabbi and I had few words.  We simply help on to each other and wept.

I chose not to attend Sarasota's public vigil last Monday evening.  However approx 2,200 people, Jews, Christians, Muslims, people of other faith and people of no faith were there.

Nor did I attend Friday Shabbat prayers at my local Temple Emman-uel.

Again, many non Jews were there - it was standing room only.

Instead I  chose to attend the Saturday morning prayer service.  That service  usually has an attendance of 12-14  - that attendance was quadrupled!

I dressed for the occasion, wearing a blazer, slacks and my clerical collar.  Rabbi Shefrin of course knows me, but I wanted the congregants to know that an easily identifiable Christian minister was there.

I sat with the Rabbi's mother  (herself a Rabbi). A kind person showed me the places in the prayerbook and I was able to sing along using the transliterated Hebrew.

Time came for the doors of the Ark to be opened.  Rabbi Shefrin invited me to do so alongside his mother.

The Ark at Temple Emman-uel

Torah Scrolls (these from Jewish Temple in Casablanca)

My eyes filled with tears again when we opened the Ark.  I  could imagine wicked and evil hands ripping Torah Scrolls from their place, desecrating them, and burning them in the streets.  

But I was with Jews who love Torah,

"Oh how I love Thy law" (Psalm 119).

Christians say and use these words, but we do not believe them. We hang onto verses such as "The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ", as if law and grace were opposites.   Surely grace and truth abound in the Torah.

I get extremely ancy when I hear Christian preachers spout such unhistorical nonsense as "the Jews of Jesus day were very legalistic".

Any statement which begins with the Jews, or the Muslims, or the Hindus, or the Evangelicals is to be deeply mistrusted.

(and who has not encountered a Christian, Catholic, Protestant,  Episcopalian,  Evangelical who is not legalistic about some aspects of his/her faith).


Tears and anger must continue in a week when the American President said And I noticed all that beautiful barbed wire going up today. Barbed wire, used properly, can be a beautiful sight.”

Here is a photo' for him.