Monday, May 25, 2009

The War Prayer

by Mark Twain

It was a time of great and exalting excitement. The country was up in arms, the war was on, in every breast burned the holy fire of patriotism; the drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy pistols popping, the bunched firecrackers hissing and spluttering; on every hand and far down the receding and fading spread of roofs and balconies a fluttering wilderness of flags flashed in the sun; daily the young volunteers marched down the wide avenue gay and fine in their new uniforms, the proud fathers and mothers and sisters and sweethearts cheering them with voices choked with happy emotion as they swung by; nightly the packed mass meetings listened, panting, to patriot oratory which stirred the deepest deeps of their hearts, and which they interrupted at briefest intervals with cyclones of applause, the tears running down their cheeks the while; in the churches the pastors preached devotion to flag and country, and invoked the God of Battles beseeching His aid in our good cause in outpourings of fervid eloquence which moved every listener. It was indeed a glad and gracious time, and the half dozen rash spirits that ventured to disapprove of the war and cast a doubt upon its righteousness straightway got such a stern and angry warning that for their personal safety's sake they quickly shrank out of sight and offended no more in that way.

Sunday morning came -- next day the battalions would leave for the front; the church was filled; the volunteers were there, their young faces alight with martial dreams -- visions of the stern advance, the gathering momentum, the rushing charge, the flashing sabers, the flight of the foe, the tumult, the enveloping smoke, the fierce pursuit, the surrender! Then home from the war, bronzed heroes, welcomed, adored, submerged in golden seas of glory! With the volunteers sat their dear ones, proud, happy, and envied by the neighbors and friends who had no sons and brothers to send forth to the field of honor, there to win for the flag, or, failing, die the noblest of noble deaths. The service proceeded; a war chapter from the Old Testament was read; the first prayer was said; it was followed by an organ burst that shook the building, and with one impulse the house rose, with glowing eyes and beating hearts, and poured out that tremendous invocation

*God the all-terrible! Thou who ordainest! Thunder thy clarion and lightning thy sword!*
Then came the "long" prayer. None could remember the like of it for passionate pleading and moving and beautiful language. The burden of its supplication was, that an ever-merciful and benignant Father of us all would watch over our noble young soldiers, and aid, comfort, and encourage them in their patriotic work; bless them, shield them in the day of battle and the hour of peril, bear them in His mighty hand, make them strong and confident, invincible in the bloody onset; help them to crush the foe, grant to them and to their flag and country imperishable honor and glory --

An aged stranger entered and moved with slow and noiseless step up the main aisle, his eyes fixed upon the minister, his long body clothed in a robe that reached to his feet, his head bare, his white hair descending in a frothy cataract to his shoulders, his seamy face unnaturally pale, pale even to ghastliness. With all eyes following him and wondering, he made his silent way; without pausing, he ascended to the preacher's side and stood there waiting. With shut lids the preacher, unconscious of his presence, continued with his moving prayer, and at last finished it with the words, uttered in fervent appeal, "Bless our arms, grant us the victory, O Lord our God, Father and Protector of our land and flag!"

The stranger touched his arm, motioned him to step aside -- which the startled minister did -- and took his place. During some moments he surveyed the spellbound audience with solemn eyes, in which burned an uncanny light; then in a deep voice he said:

"I come from the Throne -- bearing a message from Almighty God!" The words smote the house with a shock; if the stranger perceived it he gave no attention. "He has heard the prayer of His servant your shepherd, and 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 and think.

"God's servant and yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused and 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 and the unspoken. Ponder this -- keep it in mind. If you would beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke a curse upon a neighbor at the same time. If you pray for the blessing of rain upon your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse upon some neighbor's crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it.

"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 and 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 compact into those pregnant words. Elaborations were not necessary. When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory--*must* follow it, cannot help but follow it. Upon the listening spirit of God 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 shrieks of their 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 little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and 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 it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. 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.

The War Prayer was first written by Twain in 1905 following the Philippine-American war. However, when submitted to Harper's Bazaar for publication, it was rejected as "not quite suited for woman's magazine."

In a letter written eight days later to his friend, Daniel Carter Beard, Twain said, "I don't think the prayer will be published in my time. None but the dead are permitted to tell the truth." Twain's prophecy proved correct as The War Prayer was first published in an anthology of his works by his official biographer, Albert Bigelow Paine, in 1923, 12 years after Twain's death.

An animated version of The War Prayer can be found on YouTube.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

'Thought crimes' bill advances in Congress

by Nat Hentoff

Why is the press remaining mostly silent about the so-called "hate crimes law" that passed in the House on April 29? The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act passed in a 249-175 vote (17 Republicans joined with 231 Democrats).

These Democrats should have been tested on their knowledge of the First Amendment, equal protection of the laws (14th Amendment), and the prohibition of double jeopardy (no American can be prosecuted twice for the same crime or offense). If they had been, they would have known that this proposal, now headed for a Senate vote, violates all these constitutional provisions.

For more on this commentary, go to Also, to keep updated on the status of H.R. 1913, refer to the widget on the left galley of The Free Press.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Putnam man files suit over drag strip truck fire

A Putnam County man is alleging he was severely injured during a mishap that occurred at a highly touted racing event in Mason County.

In Mason Circuit Court, Frank Paul Wingo of Hurricane filed a lawsuit against both the owners of the World's Fastest Truck, and the Kanawha Valley Dragway Park. In his complaint filed on Jan. 30 with the assistance of Teays Valley attorney Wayne Van Bibber, the 54-year-old Wingo alleges all were responsible for burns he suffered when the truck caught fire during an appearance at KVDP in 2007.

For more on this story, go to The West Virginia Record. Also, to see actual footage of the fire, click here, and here.

Photo: In this undated promotional photo, Bob Motz fires up his 20,000-horsepower Jet Kenworth engine that powers "The World's Fastest Truck." A Putnam County man has filed a lawsuit against Motz and Kanawha Valley Dragway Park after he rescued Motz when the truck accidentially caught fire during a 2007 event.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Former firefighter, 911 dispatcher Blake indicted on arson charges

Nearly 18 months after she was first implicated, a former Mason volunteer firefighter, and daughter of Mason County’s emergency services director has been indicted for her alleged role in a series of Bend-area arsons.

Today, the Mason County Prosecutor’s Office released the names of those indicted by the grand jury for its May term. Among the 33 people indicted was Kimberly Sue Blake on two counts of first degree arson and one count conspiracy.

Blake, 25, a resident of Mason, was first accused of the crimes last year. According to court records, on Jan. 11, 2008, Blake, along with Jamar Juel Cuthbertson and Brent Donavan Kapp were charged by the state Fire Marshal’s Office of deliberately setting fires to several abandoned or unoccupied structures in late 2007.

In the criminal complaint he first filed in Mason Magistrate Court, Assistant Fire Marshal Jason Baltic alleged Cuthbertson, while a member of the New Haven Volunteer Fire Department, of setting fire to an outbuilding at 16698 Ohio River Rd. in West Columbia on Sept. 29, 2007. The Fire Marshal’s investigation also linked Kapp, who at the time was a member of the Mason Volunteer Fire Department, to the fire.

About two weeks later on October 15, Kapp was implicated in another arson. This time, records show he torched an abandoned trailer at 286 Front St. in Mason.

Assisting Kapp in setting the fire was Blake. According to court records, Blake and Kapp were seen pulling into the fire station in a Green Pontiac about 10-15 minutes before the blaze was reported to Mason 911.

At the time of the fire, Blake was a dispatcher for 911 where her father, Chuck, serves as director. Ironically, Blake’s brother, Chuck II, in addition to also being a 911 dispatcher, and chief of the Mason department, was convicted a decade ago for his role in setting fire to the Hogg and Zuspan lumber yard around the corner where she and Kapp set fire to the abandoned trailer.

Though Cuthbertson and Kapp were later indicted during the May 2008 term of the grand jury, the charges against Blake were dismissed on March 3. Mason County Prosecutor Damon Morgan made the motion following Baltic’s failure to appear at Blake’s preliminary hearing.

For reasons still unclear, despite one being issued, a subpoena was never served on Baltic to appear at Blake’s hearing.

Since then, Cuthbertson, 20, and Kapp, 21, have entered guilty pleas in there respective cases. In March, Kapp plead guilty to one count first degree arson and one count second degree arson.

He is scheduled to be sentenced on June 1.

After pleading to one count of second degree arson, Cuthbertson on December 2 was sentenced by Judge David W. Nibert to an indeterminate sentence of six months to two years at the Anthony Correctional Center in Greenbrier County.

According to the state Division of Correction’s Web site, Cuthbertson is scheduled to be released on June 29.

Subsequent to her arrest, Blake was placed on administrative leave with pay from the 911 center. When the Mason County Commission met on March 10 to reconsider reinstating Blake following the dismissal of the charges, she shocked everyone by announcing her resignation.

According to records provided by the commission, Blake’s salary was $23,952.

Following her resignation, commission President Rick Handley told The Point Pleasant Register that the commission would be conducting “a search of its records to see if Blake is due any back pay.” Though it is not immediately clear what if anything the commission has done in that regard, sources tell The Free Press that discrepancies in the 911 payroll prior to Blake’s arrest have resulted in multiple investigations of the Office of Emergency Services by several state agencies.

Also, sources say that Chuck Blake offered to tender his resignation if Kim was ever indicted. Blake was not immediately available for comment concerning either Kim's indictment or a possible resignation.
In West Virginia, a charge of first degree arson carries a prison sentence of 2-20 years.

Blake, along with the 32 other people indicted, have their first-appearance hearing scheduled for Monday, May 11 at 9:30 a.m. in Mason Circuit Court. Below, is a complete list of indictments returned by the Mason grand jury during the May term:

1. Anthony D. Black, 21, Point Pleasant - one count each, burglary and grand larceny.

2. Kimberly Sue Blake, 25, Mason - two counts first degree arson; one count conspiracy.

3. James Thomas Boles, 29, Point Pleasant - two counts identity theft; three counts access device fraud; one count conspiracy.

4. Heather Dawn Bryant, 28, Leon - 10 counts each, forgery and uttering.

5. Glen A. Childers, 34, Point Pleasant - three counts each, forgery and uttering.

6. Anthony James Double, 31, Southside - one count sexual assault in the first degree; two counts sexual abuse in the first degree.

7. Richard Eugene Ellis, 38, Gallipolis, Ohio - one count each, robbery in the first degree and conspiracy.

8. Nicole R. Hager, 24, Gallipolis, Ohio - one count each, burglary and petit larceny.

9. Jonathan Wayne Hanshaw, 31, Milton - one count each, possession of controlled substance with intent to deliver and conspiracy.

10. Jessica Ann Henderson, 26, Milton - one count each, possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver and conspiracy.

11. Christopher M. Henson, 20, Point Pleasant - one count each, kidnapping, robbery in the second degree and conspiracy.

12. Josh T. Hunter, 25, New Haven - two counts of cruelty to animals.

13. Travis Johnson, Point Pleasant - one count each, kidnapping, robbery in the second degree and conspiracy.

14. Jacque L. Lee, 54, New Haven - one count of delivery of a controlled substance.

15. Evelyn Sue Litchfield, 32, Henderson - one count each, robbery in the first degree and conspiracy.

16. Zachary John MacKnight, 28, Letart - one count each, grand larceny and conspiracy.

17. Arthur Vanburen Meadows, 29, Point Pleasant - one count each, burglary, domestic battery and destruction of property.

18. Theodore Ray Melrose, 69, Point Pleasant - one count of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver.

19. Danis Mensah, 25, Bronx, N.Y. - one count each, fraudulent scheme, identity theft and receiving stolen property in another state.

20. Gregory A. Messer, 47, Southside - one count each, wanton endangerment, domestic assault, prohibited person with a firearm; two counts domestic battery.

21. Dustin Ray Millhone, 28, Columbus, Ohio - five counts each of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver.

22. Chad Allen Norton, 25, Mason - one count each, breaking and entering and petit larceny.

23. Christopher Ryan Perdue, 29, Welston, Ohio - one count each, possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, conspiracy and carrying a concealed weapon.

24. Marco Joe Pickenpaugh, 26, Mason - two counts of delivery of a controlled substance.

25. Jeffrey Lee Rainey, 24, Point Pleasant - one count each, forgery and uttering.

26. Kristin June Roberts, 29, Point Pleasant - two counts identity theft; three counts access device fraud; one count conspiracy.

27. Shannon Lewis Rose, 28, Milton - one count each, breaking and entering and grand larceny.

28. Russell Dean Sargent, 30, Pomeroy, Ohio - one count of second offence petit larceny.

29. Joshua D. Stark, 25, Apple Grove - one count each, grand larceny, destruction of property and conspiracy.

30. Jonathan Mclure Stone, 32, Mason - one count each, grand larceny and conspiracy.

31. Charles Clay Sullivan, 41, West Columbia - two counts of possession of controlled substance with intent to deliver and one count of possession of controlled substance with intent to manufacture.

32. Chad VanMeter, 23, Mason - three counts burglary; two counts petit larceny; one count each, attempted burglary and grand larceny.

33. Joshua Calvin Wears, 26, Pliny - two counts of failure to provide notice of sex offender registry changes.

Photo: In a criminal complaint filed last year, the state Fire Marshal's Office alleges this abandoned trailer on Front Street in Mason was delibertately torched by then-Mason volunteer firefighters Brent Donavan Kapp and Kimberly Sue Blake in October 2007. Though both were charged with arson last year, Blake, a former 911 dispatcher, and daughter of Mason County Office of Emergency Service's Director Chuck Blake, was only indicted for her role in the blaze this week by the Mason grand jury. Kapp, who was indicted during last May's grand jury term, has since entered a guilty plea, and is awaiting sentencing.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Pleasant Valley adds doctor in wrongful death suit to staff

A Mason County hospital apparently has opened its doors to a South Charleston physician who's quality of care has been called into question multiple times in the last eight years.

Those allegations, records show, include not only being named twice in separate wrongful death suits in hospital emergency rooms, but also his privileges being revoked in 2001 from a state VA hospital.

For more on this story, go to The West Virginia Record

Monday, May 4, 2009

K-9 officer sues for overtime pay

HUNTINGTON - A Mason County sheriff's deputy and canine officer has filed suit against the Mason County Commission, alleging he was not paid overtime for hours he spent taking care of the dog with which he was assigned to work.

For more on this story, go to The West Virginia Record

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Living without health insurance

by Lila Rajiva

I stopped carrying health insurance over five years ago for many reasons that I won't get into here. It wasn't a big decision, because I'd done without it for a couple of years when I was between jobs.

In any case, when I had it, it was never much use. I was misdiagnosed on a couple of things and ended up having to treat myself. I got to resenting the way some doctors never really listened. I bridled at having my questions treated like the uninformed babble of a simpleton.

And since I had to pay most of the bill for "maintenance" items like vision and dentistry anyway, dropping insurance altogether seemed like the logical thing to do.

For more on this commentary, go to