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From: 10K a day1/17/2007 11:20:12 PM
   of 20
Bush's white whale

As Ahab drove the Pequod and its crew into oblivion, so our maniacal president ignores sane advice and surges forward into chaos.

By Garrison Keillor

Jan. 17, 2007 | Captain Ahab assembled the crew of the Pequod and told them that they could not afford to fail in the quest to kill the great white whale and so he had come up with a plan. The Pequod lay becalmed on a glassy sea, the sails hung loose, the ship drifting with the current. The Captain had mulled over the recommendations of the Moby Dick Study Group and rejected them. "If we turn back to New Bedford now, as the Old Ones suggest, we risk the loss of the high seas." And so he had decided to put 10 oarsmen in a longboat and to row ahead, towing the ship, "surging" it forward.

In addition, a pair of his pants would be towed in the water behind the ship to lure the great whale within range of the harpoon gun. And finally, the heavier men would stamp their feet on the deck and thereby disorient the creature. It was a three-pronged plan.

Ahab stood on the poop deck, one hand in his vest Napoleon-like, his eyebrows arched, gazing horizonward, turning the wheel, as if the ship were moving and not becalmed, and he looked very commanderly except that he had no pants. The crew stood at formation below him, from which angle it was hard to ignore the captain's bare leg. (The white whale Moby Dick -- WWMD -- had chewed up the other leg some time ago.)

Lt. Rice stood behind him, her jaw high, and next to her, Lt. Cheney, his hooded eyes scanning the rank and file, a whip in hand, daring anyone to whisper.

"It's going to be hard, killing a white whale. We know that. This is a different kind of whale we're dealing with, not the old blubbery kind. It's an evil one, bent on our destruction. And I will hunt him down even if I must sail the ship and man the harpoon myself," the Captain said.

The men stood silent, looking straight ahead. The Captain was a lunatic, clearly, but then lunacy is common in the upper ranks. They had learned to accept it.

(In years to come, students would write term papers about this tragedy, though some would argue that tragedy demands a noble hero, one with pants. The Temple of Ahab at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, however, would not see him as tragic hero, but as a prophet. God told him to do what he did and that is all you need to know. Had he not hunted the whale in its own waters, something terrible would have happened to us at home. Either you believe this or you don't.)

And there, on the deck, sat two traitorous seamen, who had dared question God's will and whom Mr. Cheney had chained to a scupper and covered with gallons of tar.

"To give up now would mean that I have lost my leg for nothing!" the Captain cried. "Shall I allow creatures to chew on me without fear of retribution? Am I meant to be a lunch for leviathans? We cannot stop until the monster is dead." And yet, clearly, the ship was stopped. There was no wind. "We have no choice but to go forward!" he cried. "Onward! Surge with me, men!" Mr. Cheney snapped to attention -- "Once again, you have inspired us with your steadfastness, my captain! Blow, men! Blow!" And the crew raised their heads toward the limp sails and they blew with all their might. The smell of beer and onions was strong in the air.

Mr. Cheney said, "We shall not fail you, sir." And Ahab, a tear glittering on his cheek, seized Mr. Cheney's hand and shook it, only to find that it was covered with tar. Mr. Cheney had been smacking the traitors whenever they whimpered and his hand was quite black and now the Captain's hand was, too. He clutched at the wheel and his hand stuck to it.

Just then, loud shrieking sounds came from below as several whales rubbed their backs against the ship's beams and the Pequod shuddered. The Captain lost his balance and fell into Lt. Rice's arms. "The ship is surging, sir!" cried Mr. Cheney. The 10 oarsmen leaned to their oars and the crew kept blowing. They took turns, 10 at a time, huffing and puffing. There was no white whale to be seen but there was a sense of something happening, of a surge.

The Captain went below to clean his hands and to pray for further guidance.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

(Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion" can be heard Saturday nights on public radio stations across the country.)

-- By Garrison Keillor

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To: 10K a day who wrote (15)1/18/2007 12:05:15 AM
From: Nicholas Thompson
   of 20
I had not tried to post on the BUSH site for a long time , to be reminded when I tried that I was banned because I must have said something negative about Georgie; oh woe is me. thank you for reviving this site.

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From: 10K a day1/18/2007 1:39:01 PM
   of 20
We are all just meeting ourselves in some kind of strange Cosmic Projection. The Crazy Nutjob in the presidential box took out Saddam and then he Can't stand the process. Commissioner George Custard will make a last stand. Stay Tuned...

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From: 10K a day1/20/2007 1:38:14 AM
   of 20
I could speak in tongues of men and angels,
But if I have not love,
Then my voice is a clash of brass and clanging bells,
Just tongue-tied stammering.

I could predict the future, all truth possess,
But if I have not love,
Then my knowledge means little, my words mean less,
And my truth means not a thing.

I could give all I have to others.
I could give my body to be burned.
Without love all my sacrifice means nothing,
My gift is spurned.

Love is patient, and love is kind.
Love does not waver and it doesn't stray.
Love's not proud, love does not insist
On having it's own way.

Love is strong, it protects and it defends.
It turns from wrong, and rejoices in the right.
Love endures all things, love forgives all things.
Love is hope, and love is light.

Love never fails.

As for prophecies, they will all pass away.
Tongues will cease. And all knowledge will fade.
My worldly sight is dim.
True vision comes from Him.

When perfection comes to reign
All that's imperfect disappears.
But three things forever will remain:
Faith, hope, and love.
And the greatest of these is love.

adapted from Paul's first letter to the Corinthians,
chapter 13:

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To: 10K a day who wrote (18)1/20/2007 10:26:51 AM
From: Ron
   of 20
Gosh.. that sounds kinda CHRISTIAN, don't it?
Good thing its not Bush's brand. Would really slow him down.. :)

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From: 10K a day1/23/2007 7:15:26 AM
   of 20
Et Tu, George?
Maybe George W. Bush is the education president after all. Whatever one thinks of his No Child Left Behind initiative, he has made the classics powerfully resonant today.

So for those schoolchildren and university students out there struggling through “Moby-Dick” or the “Aeneid,” take heart! They’re not just about white whales or Trojan wanderers — they’re also about President Bush and Iraq.

Forget the Vietnam analogy that critics of the Iraq war usually toss out. A more trenchant analysis of Iraq-style adventures appears in the histories of Thucydides, written 2,400 years ago.

Great Athenian diplomats of the day, like Nicias, warned against military involvement in Sicily, calling it “a war that does not concern us,” according to Thucydides. But smooth-talking neocons of the day, like the brilliant Alcibiades, said in effect that the Sicilians would welcome the Athenians with flowers. He promised that they would be treated not as occupiers but as liberators.

“We shall have many barbarians ... join us,” Alcibiades declared, and he argued that the enemy would be easily defeated “rabble.” “Never were the Peloponnesians more hopeless against us,” he told the crowds.

So the Athenians rallied around the flag and dispatched a huge force. But as Thucydides notes, they had suffered a grievous intelligence failure: they did not get the support they had counted on, and the enemy was far larger and more organized than they had anticipated. The war went badly, and eventually Athens was forced to confront two options: withdraw or escalate.

The Athenians, deciding that defeat was not an option, went with the “surge.” They dispatched an additional 70-odd ships and 5,000 troops.

The result was a catastrophic defeat. Thousands of Athenians were killed far from home, and others were sold into slavery. The Athenian navy was destroyed, and the double-or-nothing gambit meant that other nonaligned states sided with the Athenians’ enemy, Sparta.

Within a few years, Athenian democracy had collapsed, and Athens, the great city-state of the ancient world, had been conquered by Sparta.

President Bush has lent a new thrill to readers of Virgil’s account of the adventures of Aeneas from Troy to Rome. A marvelous new translation of the “Aeneid,” by Robert Fagles, has just been published, and critics (and Professor Fagles himself) have noted its relevance: Virgil is suddenly newsy.

That’s because this is a tale of war and empire, and a constant subtext is how easy it is to be uncivilized when promoting civilization.

Aeneas is an exponent of reason who at the end of the book confronts an enemy who pleads with him to “go no further down the road of hatred.” Aeneas sees that the enemy is wearing the sword-belt of his slain friend, and reason dissolves into fury: “Blazing with wrath,” he plants his iron sword “hilt-deep in his enemy’s heart.” In war, moderation is the first casualty.

Yet the single best guide to Mr. Bush’s presidency may be “Moby-Dick.” Melville’s book is, of course, about much more than Captain Ahab’s pursuit of the white whale — a “nameless, inscrutable, unearthly” symbol of all that is dark and unknown in the world.

Rather, it is an allegory about the cost of obsession. Ahab has a reasonable goal, capturing a whale, yet he allows this quest to overwhelm him and erode his sense of perspective and balance. Ignoring warnings, refusing to admit error, Ahab abandons all rules and limits in his quest.

Ahab finally throws his pipe overboard; he will enjoy no pleasures until he gets that whale. The fanaticism becomes self-destructive, eventually destroying Ahab and his ship.

To me at least, Melville captures the trajectory of the Bush years. It begins with a president who started out after 9/11 with immense support at home and abroad and a genuine mandate to fight terrorism. But then Mr. Bush became obsessed by his responsibility to prevent another terror attack.

This was an eminently worthy goal, but Mr. Bush abandoned traditional rules and boundaries — like bans on torture and indefinite detentions — and eventually blundered into Iraq. And in a way that Melville could have foretold, the compulsive search for security ended up creating insecurity.

Melville’s lesson is that even a heroic quest can be destructive when we abandon all sense of limits. And at a time when we hear the siren calls of moral clarity, the classics almost invariably emphasize the importance of moral nuance, an appreciation for complexity, the need for humility.

So, students, study those classics. They are timeless — and in the days of the Iraq war and Guantánamo, they have never been more timely.

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