Or they twist ..in the slow twist…of the wind

from Richard Mabey's God and Me

Hardy called it 'dimmity', the moment when the certain shapes of the world dissolve. In the emptiness of the Wessex marshlands, against the twilit mass of Glastonbury Tor, the air begins to quiver, to fill with dark scribblings. More than a million starlings are homing in on this ancestral swamp for their nightly communion. They stream in from every direction, joining, breaking ranks, floating free, like some black aurora. Suddenly, they become plasmic. They are one immense organism, pulsating like a single cell. They swing up to the sky and then skim the reeds in folds and falls of black. They fill out great parabolas and helixes, with a symmetry you do not expect from living things. Then, birds again, they fall into the reeds.

It is experiences like this that are supposed to fill us godless folk with intimations of the spiritual. A glimpse of the universal geometry that lies behind the chaos of life, of the workings of a group consciousness outside anything we can imagine—surely this must bring on feelings of immanence, a sense of some order beyond the surface of things. The trouble is, I know these birds away from their dusk rites. They are a long way from being aerial ectoplasm. They're urchins, opportunists, prodigious mimics.

Granta ran a series called God's Own Countries about politics and religion around the world. I was tempted to put up an excerpt from John McGahern, but while I have a certain romantic fascination for that peculiarly Irish mix of religion, bleakness, hope and the mystical it is not a common taste. Mabey's essay is a little more universal. Personal epiphanies occur looking out at a sunset, touching a lover's hand, recoqnizing a reflection in a shop window, gazing at a spring cloud from Austin to Tel Aviv. Some little bits and pieces of thoughts suddenly gather up into a sharp realization of a truth. Some to their great credit collect those truths over a lifetime so that when the mind may no longer be able to remember every dwarf or reindeer its judgements are tempered with wisdom. Or so we hope.

Bush Blunders Go Nuclear

A once swaggering President, who so convincingly wielded a bullhorn and modeled a flight suit, now has assumed the pretzel pose of a supplicant attempting to cajole our old enemy in Tehran into dropping its nuclear ambitions while simultaneously initiating talks with Iran aimed at bailing us out in Iraq. After the fiasco of using the blunt instrument of military force to "democratize" Iraq, Bush now resorts to mild talk of UN sanctions on Iran, the very weapon he had derided in relation to quarantining Hussein. Bush's nutty nuclear braggadocio on Tuesday–"all options are on the table"–was a sign of weakness, not strength, hobbled as he is by various self-created impediments.

One is that he has lost the trust of Americans, foreign leaders and even many Republicans by lying about Iraq–crying wolf, in essence–and then fumbling the occupation. Another invasion would be a tough sell, both here and abroad.

Two, Iran is, as Republican Senatir Richard Lugar put it subtly, "part of the energy picture." In other words, they export gobs of oil. US-Iran tension already has sent crude prices above $70 a barrel. "I believe, for the moment, we ought to cool this one," Lugar warned the White House. "We need to make more headway diplomatically to be effective."

Three, the United States is highly dependent upon Iran-trained Shiite religious factions in Iraq for what is left of the tattered welcome mat Bush & Co. told us to expect when we came to overthrew Hussein. Key Iraqi Shiite leaders have stated they would support Iran, in the event of a US attack.

Cozying up to the Shiite fundamentalists in Iraq is a bargain with the devil, born of weakness, the pattern for this President.

This presidency, and Congress for that matter is ripe for a science fiction plot where conservatives have managed to switch the electrodes on the reality machine, weakness is the new strength, losing is winning, a spinning bottle determines which despotic regimes they'll do business with and which one's they'll bomb, tax breaks that benefit mostly the wealthy are good for America, toxic air is good for children, values are like buying a used car they're negotiable.

Josh Marshall gets the quote of the day for his post on Tony Snow replacing little Scottie,

Fox is reporting that Fox's own Tony Snow may be Scott McClellan's replacement as White House press secretary.

Isn't that more like an interdepartmental transfer than a job change?

SMOKE of the fields in spring is one,
Smoke of the leaves in autumn another.
Smoke of a steel-mill roof or a battleship funnel,
They all go up in a line with a smokestack,
Or they twist … in the slow twist … of the wind.

If the north wind comes they run to the south.
If the west wind comes they run to the east.
By this sign
all smokes
know each other.
Smoke of the fields in spring and leaves in autumn,
Smoke of the finished steel, chilled and blue,
By the oath of work they swear: “I know you.”

from Smoke and Steel by Carl Sandburg