What If Somebody Gave A War And Nobody Came?




Under no circumstances is a German legally permitted to criticize Israel!


by Paul J Balles



But Nobel Prize winning poet Günter Grass says:



Why do I stay silent, conceal for too long

What clearly is and has been

Practiced in war games, at the end of which we as survivors

Are at best footnotes.

Grass joining the Waffen SS as a youth, does not warrant shutting him up some 70 years later, but that’s exactly what guilt-ridden Germans and deceitful Israelis have been trying to do.

The poem is more political than poetic, and that bothers its critics. Bibi Netanyahu called it “shameful”.

“The shameful comparison that Günter Grass made between Israel and Iran, a regime which denies the Holocaust and calls for Israel’s destruction, says very little about Israel and a great deal about Mr Grass,” Netanyahu complained.

And then Bibi the bomber carried on with the same propaganda he’s been using to convince his self-righteous ego: “It is Iran, not Israel, which presents a threat to the world’s peace and security. It is Iran, not Israel which threatens the destruction of other states.”

Bomber Bibi surely must hope that those who hear him don’t follow the news. Israel has bombed and attacked Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Gaza and the Sinai.

In the same period Iran has attacked no one!

Often poets, whose creative talents can be ten times those of politicians, could have saved lives, governments or civilizations by moving an emotional public, Despite the fuss that Grass engendered, his prosaic poem lacks powerful emotive images.

Perhaps the most famous war poem is Wilfred Owen’s WWI, It evokes emotion with his moving poetic images.


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.

Wilfred Owen based his most famous poem on a quotation from the Latin poet Horace (Odes, iii ii 13), meaning ‘It is sweet and proper to die for one’s country’.

You don’t have to know what the Latin phrase means to be moved by those images. Grass knows how to do it. It’s sad that he didn’t.

Siegfried Sassoon, another WWI poet captured the politics of war. Not quite as moving or powerful as Owen, “Enemies” has the kind of images that make peace-loving people want to stop wars.


HE stood alone in some queer sunless place

Where Armageddon ends. Perhaps he longed

For days he might have lived; but his young face

Gazed forth untroubled: and suddenly there thronged

Round him the hulking Germans that I shot

When for his death my brooding rage was hot.

He stared at them, half-wondering; and then

They told him how I’d killed them for his sake—

Those patient, stupid, sullen ghosts of men;

And still there seemed no answer he could make.

At last he turned and smiled. One took his hand

Because his face could make them understand.

Unlike either Owen or Sassoon, Grass’ imagery belongs more to the philosopher or historian, even a mathematician, but not the visual artist.

Politics is a dangerous game to play with poetry, as Grass is discovering. American poet Ezra Pound got in trouble for politicizing his poetry and speeches in Italy during WWII recalling Owen and WWI.

These fought, in any case, some believing, pro domo, in any case. Some quick to arm, some for adventure, some from fear of weakness, some from fear of censure, some for love of slaughter in imagination, learning later . . .some in fear, learning love of slaughter; Died some “pro patria, non dulce non et decor” walked eye-deep in hell believing in old men’s lies, then unbelieving came home, home to a lie, home to many deceits, home to old lies and new infamy; usury age-old and age-thick and liars in public places. Daring as never before, wastage as never before. Young blood and high blood, Fair cheeks, and fine bodies; fortitude as never before, frankness as never before, disillusions as never told in the old days, hysterias, trench confessions, laughter out of dead bellies.

Pound was as much historian as poet, and his poetry lost because of it. He could have made readers think twice about past events, given war a visual perspective, but he never had Owen’s power to make people want to bring the warriors home today.

California poet Robinson Jeffers had his say during the Vietnam War.


Reason will not decide at last; the sword will decide.

The sword: an obsolete instrument of bronze or steel,

formerly used to kill men, but here

In the sense of a symbol. The sword: that is: the storms

and counter-storms of general destruction; killing

of men,

Destruction of all goods and materials; massacre, more or

less intentional, of children and women;

Destruction poured down from wings, the air made accomplice,

the innocent air

Perverted into assassin and poisoner.

The sword: that is:

treachery and cowardice, incredible

baseness, incredible courage, loyalties, insanities.

The sword: weeping and despair, mass-enslavement,

mass-torture, frustration of all hopes

That starred man’s forehead. Tyranny for freedom, horror for

happiness, famine for bread, carrion for children.

Reason will not decide at last, the sword will decide.

The words are strong, but they’re as cold as the stones he built his Carmel house with. They’re words that those of us who write about the politics of war can learn from.

Grass’ words had power to the Israelis who don’t want that story told. If they had Jeffers’ power, they might stop a war.

Pulitzer Prize winner Harold Pinter, dramatist and poet, offered this image of war, gruesome enough to worry a politician:


There are no more words to be said
All we have left are the bombs
Which burst out of our head
All that is left are the bombs
Which suck out the last of our blood
All we have left are the bombs
Which polish the skulls of the dead

Allen Ginsberg, also a Vietnam War poet had this to say:

“The only thing that can save the world is the reclaiming of the awareness of the world. That’s what poetry does,” howled Ginsberg.

Several hundred young men heard Ginsberg say what follows and left the US for Canada:

What if somebody gave a war and
Nobody came?
Life would ring the bells of Ecstasy and
Forever be itself again.

Investors piling in to surging Groupon

Chicago Sun-Times December 14, 2009 | Brad Spirrison For the first time since FeedBurner was sold to Google in June 2007, Chicago is the home to a game-changing Internet startup with major venture capital funding.

Groupon, a two-year-old company that harnesses the collective buying power of the Web to offer one local and heavily discounted deal per day, is forecasting $100 million in gross revenue next year. The company, headquartered in the former Montgomery Ward warehouse at 600 W. Chicago Ave., recently secured $30 million in funding in a deal led by the financial backer of Facebook, ComScore and Walmart.com. website groupon phoenix

The brainchild of 29-year-old Northwestern grad Andrew Mason, Groupon already has 135 employees in Chicago and is rapidly expanding nationwide. Formerly known as ThePoint.com, Groupon did not settle on a revenue model until a little more than a year ago.

”I made a lot of mistakes as a first-time entrepreneur,” said Mason, who dropped out of a grad program at the University of Chicago in the fall of 2007 to start the company. ”We waited too long to launch products and allowed things to get too complex.” While ThePoint.com generated acclaim and $5.5 million in startup capital, Mason’s vision of changing organizational behavior through the wisdom and actions of the crowds did not immediately find a business model. It was during a Chicago Architectural Tour cruise with his father in 2008 that Mason realized the commercial implications of his idea.

”After living here for 10 years, I was amazed that I had never taken the tour,” he said. ”I just wish I had given it a try. This became the model for Groupon.” In recent months, Groupon has collected up to 50 percent commissions from the likes of Millennium Garages, Bar Louie and the Chicago History Museum for bringing discount-seeking customers in the door. Groupon deals only take effect after a certain number of users commit to them.

After raising seed financing from serial entrepreneurs Eric Lefkofsky and Brad Keywell and later $4.5 million in a Series A round from D.C.-based venture firm New Enterprise Associates, Groupon, says Mason, fended off a bunch of suitors before raising money from Palo Alto-based Accel Partners.

Proceeds from the round will be invested in geographic expansion.

Gut instinct?

Groupon investors Lefkofsky and Keywell are on a pretty good run. They have had a hand in founding publicly traded companies InnerWorkings and Echo Global Logistics as well as privately held Groupon and MediaBank. The four companies — all backed by New Enterprise Associates and the firm’s Chicago native managing partner Peter Barris — employ more than 2,200 people (including 1,200 based at 600 W. Chicago). see here groupon phoenix

”We are very good at helping early-stage technology companies adapt to the right business model,” said Lefkofsky. ”Our model only works when we are intimately involved in the day-to-day business operations of our companies.” A decade ago, Lefkofsky and Keywell ran online promotional products distributor Starbelly, a high-profile casualty of the dot-comedy. Since that experience, the two have arguably emerged as the most successful and prolific Internet entrepreneurs/investors in Chicago.

With Web-based companies in the printing (InnerWorkings), transportation logistics (Echo), media (MediaBank) and retail (Groupon) industries, Lefkofsky said their next venture will be in the educational space.

”We hope to do one or two of these per year,” he said.

Brad Spirrison is a local technology reporter and managing editor with Appolicious Inc. Follow him at twitter.com/spirrison.

Brad Spirrison


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