Wednesday, November 30, 2005

235. Heaven Sent

God heard the embattled nations sing and shout
'Gott strafe England!' and 'God save the King!'
God this, God that, and God the other thing —
'Good God!' said God, 'I've got my work cut out!'

Does God endorse George Bush?

So, does God endorse our own George Bush?
Emmm ... says God ... George Who?

I'm more interested
in the poor
the downtrodden
the ill, the suffering,
the starving children,
the victims of injustice,
the suffering souls
whose hearts
are still open to divine love.
These are the inheritors
of the Kingdom of Heaven ...

and there's not much room
for the fat and the sassy.

We have adopted
a restricted entry program
for the French
and Americans
Democrats and Republicans alike
(same difference)
we are having
slightly increasing success
in keeping out the Irish
maintaining strict limits
on the English
and the Welsh
but we rather like the Geordies
who follow the Toon
and the Kilties
who support Celtic
Chelsea luvvies
immediately transported
The Other Establishment.

So there you are, says God.

OK, right ... here comes the article.

Does God endorse George Bush?
By Steven Waldman

(While) Bush's public comments about faith have been mostly within the mainstream tradition of presidential rhetoric, his supporters lately have gone in a less-familiar direction: conveying the idea that God is responsible for Bush being in the White House.

"He is one of those men God and fate somehow lead to the fore in times of challenge," said George Pataki in the high-profile introduction of Bush at the Republican National Convention, an introduction almost certainly scrubbed if not written by the White House.

"I thank God that on September 11th, we had a president who didn't wring his hands and wonder what America had done wrong to deserve this attack," he added. "I thank God we had a president who understood that America was attacked, not for what we had done wrong, but for what we did right."

If he'd said "thank God" just once we might have concluded this was simply colloquial usage—a dramatic way of saying, "it's a darn good thing." That the man introducing Bush thanked God three times makes it suspicious, even more so given these lines from Rudy Giuliani's speech two nights earlier: "Spontaneously, I grabbed the arm of then Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik and said to Bernie, 'Thank God, George Bush is our president.' " And, to reinforce the point, Giuliani added, "And I say it again tonight: Thank God, George Bush is our president."

This is not the first time it's been suggested that God deserves thanks for the 2000 election results. Several sympathetic books about Bush and his faith make a big deal of his deciding to run for president after hearing a Texas minister named Rev. Mark Craig preach about how Moses had been called to service by God. Bush's mother reportedly turned to her son after the sermon and said, "He was talking to you."

Stephen Mansfield, author of The Faith of George W. Bush, goes on to say: "Not long after, Bush called James Robison (a prominent minister) and told him, 'I've heard the call. I believe God wants me to run for President.' " Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention heard Bush say something similar: "Among the things he said to us was: I believe that God wants me to be president, but if that doesn't happen, it's OK.' "

After 9/11, the sense among his supporters that God had chosen him increased. "I think that God picked the right man at the right time for the right purpose," said popular Christian broadcaster Janet Parshall. Gen. William "Jerry" Boykin, who got in trouble for derogatory comments about Islam, argued that it must have been God who selected Bush, since a plurality of voters hadn't. "Why is this man in the White House? The majority of America did not vote for him. He's in the White House because God put him there for a time such as this." (Boykin still has his job.)

Time magazine reported, "Privately, Bush talked of being chosen by the grace of God to lead at that moment." World Magazine, a conservative Christian publication, quoted White House official Tim Goeglein as saying, "I think President Bush is God's man at this hour, and I say this with a great sense of humility."

Even former President George H.W. Bush speculated that perhaps he needed to be defeated so that his son could become president: "If I'd won that election in 1992, my oldest son would not be president of the United States of America," he said. "I think the Lord works in mysterious ways."

Are the White House and the Bush campaign actively encouraging the idea that Bush has been put there by God? Bush has been careful to never say anything close to that in public. And yet the combination of passages in carefully vetted speeches and quotes from close friends or supporters indicate that this is the understanding.

In one sense, it's not surprising that some people believe this. Many, if not most, Americans believe that God intervenes in the lives of humans. If that weren't the case, prayer might be considered superfluous, meaningless. If God intervenes in the affairs of ordinary humans who pray for recovery from illness or a better job, it only stands to reason that He would control something as consequential as an American presidency.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

234. Uncivil War

A Matthew Brady portrait of Union officers, ca.1862


Massa Robert was on a roll.
His army was invincible
and, yes, by God they knew it!
Time to cross the Potomac.

Lee's Union opponent, Hooker,
was badly confused,
at odds with the War Department
at odds with Honest Abe.

Time to cross the river.

Maryland, Pennsylvania,
untouched peaceful farms,
milk, butter, eggs and beef:
live off their land for a change

(but all paid for in Southern script).

down in Richmond
capital of the CSA
sits wild and beloved Johnny Mitchel.

Who is this man?

Mitchel was England's
worst nightmare, a revolutionary
in control of a Dublin newspaper,
calling for the end of English rule.

Get your fat British behinds
out of Ireland, today and
not tomorrow: this was
the tone and import of the "United Irishman"

The English, as is their wont,
passed a brand new law
ex post facto, a frequent occurrence,
to nail this firebrand nuisance.

................................................................. John Mitchel (1815-1875

So, for his sins, poor John
and Francy Meagher, his friend,
were sentenced to death for treason
but transported to Australia instead.

Out of sight, out of mind.

From Australia they both escaped
(conspiracy theories abound)
and both, separately, made their way
to the USA, safe among Irish friends.

John sailed back to France
(Ireland was unsafe, but France was free)
while Meagher took over the Irish in New York.
Then along came the Civil War.

Francy took command of the Fighting 69th
the best and the worst of the New York Irish
committed to the Union cause.
But Mitchel came out for the South.

Returned to Richmond (running the blockade)
his sons joined Confederate regiments
while Mitchel himself wrote intemperate articles
for the local newspapers.

.................................TF Meagher (seated, centre) with officers of the Fighting 69th

Now Lee crosses the Potomac.

Among the troops under his command
are the veteran First Virginians
with their standard bearer, young Willie,
17-year-old son of John Mitchel.

Hooker gets the push and in comes Meade
(Union generals never lasted long).
The armies march under the summer sun
and make contact in rural Pennsylvania.


Two days of deadly skirmishing:
marches, countermarches,
concentrated cannonades,
savage assaults, grim defences,
until both armies, Union and Confederate,
like bareknuckle boxers
bloodied and exhausted,
stagger, punch drunk, to the mark
and face the third and final day:

July 3, 1863.

Not only the battle
but the outcome of the War
hangs in the balance.

Intense fighting erupted on Culp's Hill at 4 AM on July 3 and by 11 AM Union troops had secured the hill, firmly anchoring the point of the Union 'fishhook' line. With the loss of his advantage at Culp's Hill, Lee decided to alter his strategy. Lee decided to strike what he thought to be a weakened Union center on Cemetery Ridge where he observed few troops and only a handful of artillery batteries. If this section of Meade's line collapsed, it would threaten the Union rear. Lee issued orders for a massive bombardment followed by an assault of 18,000 men, commanded by General James Longstreet. Longstreet's Assault, better known today as "Pickett's Charge" would be Lee's last gamble at Gettysburg.
http:// *

Waiting for orders --
then abruptly hauled into the line
along with so many others
come the First Virginians:
and among them Willie Mitchel.

Wait for it ...
Wait for it ...
Then the air splits with the sound
of high-pitched bugles:
now, boys, now,
now, now, now!
The screaming 'caoine' of the Rebel Yell:

The bullets come sizzling by
whizzing like demented hornets
zzzzzzzzz... then a dull flat 'pok'
when they hit with a puff of dust
and down goes the sergeant
down goes Billy Joe Parker
down goes the Preacher
then red-haired Randy Simmonds
Archie Drummond, poor little
Jimmy Preston, then that bald
old bastard what's-his-name,
then Johnny Belham, Andrew Holland,
"Daddy" Goulder, Snakepit Jones,
Paddy Miles, Dandy Kelleher,
'Arsey' Versey, Jimbo, Davy, Mack,
Pauly O'Brien ... Pascal ... all of them?
"Get your ass up here, Mitchel,
and take this goddam flag!!"
He stumbles, drop his rifle,
hears a sizzling past his ear
and grabs the blood-smeared
wooden pole, the flag little more
than a rag shot through
with holes and he runs
and he runs and he runs
and he ....

Down past Coliso Farm
in the grey morning dawn
come O'Rourke and Timothy Fallon
gaunt-visaged figures in Union blue
with Privates O'Donnell and McCarthy
and with the two corporals
Delaroche and McInteer
to recover the body
of John Mitchel's son.
They carry him away from the field
in a final act of honour
and respect for his patriot father;
the blood-sodden war, for the moment
forgotten, and the next war,
the long hard struggle for Ireland
very much in mind.
* -- for some obscure reason the National Park Service will not always accept a linked post and will flash a Security Violation message: if this happens to you simply copy/paste the URL into a new browser window: http://
First off, this piece says more about Ireland than the American Civil War. Sorry. But people fight in wars (even your own) for different reasons ....

John Mitchel was imprisoned after the Civil War for his unapologetic support of the Confederacy but he managed to make his way back to Ireland where he was elected to the British Parliament in 1874. He refused to take his seat (as elected Sinn Fein candidates in British-controlled Northern Ireland continue to do today) because he would not take an oath of loyalty to the British Crown. The British annulled the election on the grounds that Mitchel was a convicted felon but he won re-election with an even larger majority. Do not mess with the Irish. He died before the Brits could decide what to do next. In the aftermath of the Civil War many ex-soldiers (Confederate and Union alike) took part in the Fenian Rising of 1867 which was brutally suppressed by the British. Jail sentences for the survivors were savage. Out of these hellish prisons came Tom Clarke who helped to set up the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) in Dublin in the decades before the First World War. On the principle that England's misfortune was Ireland's opportunity the rebels struck during Easter Week of 1916. The rebellion was suppressed and the leaders (including Clarke) summarily executed. But after the Crucifixion came the Resurrection and the modern Irish republic was born out of the anger and disgust with Britain that became a national movement for independence after the events of 1916. Thank You and God Bless You, Michael Collins. I mean that. Without you I'd still be waltzing around the world with a British passport.


In-house Links:

history The Runup to Easter 1916

poem After the Rising

tongue-in-cheek history primer for beginners From the Normans to Michael Collins (1170-1922)

poem Across the Water

history (anger, regret) Armistice Day

Saturday, November 12, 2005

233. Totally Brilliant

You're going to need QuickTime 6+ for this and probably a broadband or LAN connection. The URLs will not work as links (you have to copy/paste into a new browser window) and they might take a minute or two to load ... but as the Guinness people are forever telling us, it's definitely worth the hassle and the wait!

speaking of which, My Goodness My Guinness

Hang the expense - go for a Stella!

Singin in the Rain -- with my Volkswagen.

so very very sad - a Heineken moment.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

232. Birthday Poem

I don't even want
to think
all the things
have happened;
nor think
all the things

I deal
most of the time
with the
surrounding world
in English
when I don't:
that's when
two other
come into play
and spatterings
of six or seven

creates an
of cultural calculus
in which
the fixed
(from which perspective
either reveals
itself, or becomes
doesn't stand still.

When you
feel 'at home'
in another language
you are
in a different house
far away
from home.
You are
but you are not
the same person.

One language
functional, it is
all we
we need.
It is not.
It is a restriction
a self-willed
a primary gap
of understanding
the world we understand
and the worlds
we don't.

231. breithlá shona duit ... go maire tú an lá!

"So, did you hear the news?"

"Bejasus, could have knocked me over with a feather!"

"Ah, but isn't it only natural?"

"Huh? Total shock ...!"

Oh, well, whatever ... here's to another one!!

Saturday, November 05, 2005

230. an observation

when things
start to fall apart
you can tell
in advance
by the physical
little buzz
the adrenalin
like a bad batch
of speed: the world
takes on
an unwelcome clarity
some new
to the images
your brain

and this
sometimes happens
in dreams:
a little warning
in the morning

the crossover
is too late --
the subconscious
is the harbinger
of your waking
real-life fate.

229. levels of education