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January 02, 2005

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (What Is David Brooks Trying to Say? Department)

Usually, the Minute Man reads David Brooks so that I don't have to. But I think somebody needs to say that there is something deeply, profoundly wrong with Brooks. The worst of all is his closing line: "This is a moment to feel deeply bad, for the dead and for those of us who have no explanation [for why the tsunami happened]." No. This is not a moment to feel bad for those of us who have no explanation for the tsunami and so wallow in existential despair. This is not a moment for that at all.

Let's rewind:

Brooks believes that newspaper stories about how some were randomly saved from and others killed by the tsunami promote atheism and degrade the human spirit:

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: A Time to Mourn: If you listen to the discussion... you receive the clear impression that the meaning of this event is that there is no meaning. Humans are not the universe's main concern. We're just gnats.... The earth shrugs and 140,000 gnats die... the stories that were told and repeated this week were melodramas. One person freakishly survives while another perishes, and there is really no cause for one's good fortune or the other's bad.... There is no human agency in these stories, just nature's awful lottery...

It was better, he says, back in the old days, when we told ourselves that God's wrath was proper punishment meted out for our sins:

Human beings have always told stories to explain deluges.... God is meting out retribution, punishing those who have strayed from his path. The flood starts a new history, which will be on a higher plane than the old.... In those old flood myths, things happened because human beings behaved in certain ways; their morality was tied to their destiny. Stories of a wrathful God implied that at least there was an active God, who had some plan for the human race. At the end of the tribulations there would be salvation...

Well, he says, maybe not--maybe it wasn't better back in the old days. Or maybe it was:

It is repugnant to imply that the people who suffer from natural disasters somehow deserve their fate. And yet for all the callousness of those tales, they did at least put human beings at the center of history...

Moreover, he says, let's not forget to trash environmentalists, back to John Muir and Henry David Thoreau:

The nature we saw this week is different from the nature we tell ourselves about... at the organic grocery store.... This catastrophic, genocidal nature... a long way from the... circle of life in "The Lion King."... "Probably if our lives were more conformed to nature, we should not need to defend ourselves against her heats and colds, but find her our constant nurse and friend, as do plants and quadrupeds," Thoreau wrote...

And to sneer at those who refuse to gaze into the naked abyss but try to find some small pieces of hope and charity in the midst of disaster:

The world's generosity has indeed been amazing, but sometimes we use our compassion as a self-enveloping fog to obscure our view of the abyss. Somehow it's wrong to turn this event into a good-news story so we can all feel warm this holiday season...

And to sneer at those who think it matters whether the U.S. gives $350 million or $4 million in aid:

It's certainly wrong to turn this into yet another petty political spat, as many tried, disgustingly, to do...

And to sneer at those who are self-centered:

It's wrong to turn it into a story about us, who gave, rather than about them, whose lives were ruined. This is a moment to feel deeply bad, for the dead...

Except, of course, when the self-centered are named David Brooks, and are wallowing in existential despair:

This is a moment to feel deeply bad... for those of us who have no explanation [for why the tsunami happened].

Posted by DeLong at January 2, 2005 08:55 AM


Ha! Nice deconstruction. I think Brooks is waiting for Larry King to die so he can take that nonsensical show over. "Why say rooster when you can say cock? Now here's psychic Sylvia Browne with more inane rabble than I can muster..."

Posted by: loser at January 2, 2005 09:08 AM

He's caught George's disease, and his mind is growing ever more useless every hour. Does any of this make any sense at all?

Posted by: Ronjazz at January 2, 2005 09:09 AM

Shorter David Brooks:

Nature is evil. It must be eradicated.

I don't want to say those people deserved to die, but God doesn't allow random killing of innocent people, therefore they were bad people.

Posted by: Unstable Isotope at January 2, 2005 09:13 AM

Just read Brooks' column. He really is an ass. I agree with Brad's description of his tone through most of the piece as "sneering."

Finally, in the last line he says something that does more than just negate other peoples' experiences of nature and disaster, and that's when things really head south.

Does he feel bad because he grieves for the people harmed by the event or because he has no good explanation?

Posted by: 4516 at January 2, 2005 09:21 AM

A deal of insight comes when one thinks of Brooks steeling himself in front of a typewriter (I just have to see a typewriter), and muttering to himself: "OK. What am I? A writer. And what must a writer do? Write words. So.... OK. I know some words. Let's see where this goes...."

And off he goes, never looking back.

It's like a lot of people I know -- myself included. Who think, and polish, and re-frame our view of the world by talking and writing.

Except he doesn't do the thinking, the polishing, or the re-framing bit.

Posted by: Bill Tozier at January 2, 2005 09:24 AM

Brooks shoves everything into his own little reality bag. This bag is too small and has lots of holes. Now, everytime he shoves something in, something pops out. Soon, there'll be naught but asshole and elbow to see as he works his bag.

Posted by: Ken Melvin at January 2, 2005 09:30 AM

All answers are simply "ansers." A bigshot rabbi in Israel claimed it was god's anger at our bad behavior; some anti-American writers noted we (Americans) had fucked up the 4environment and caused this. Then there are the folks who claim that there should have been a warning mechanism in place. The there are the god folks who say it is all beyond us and in His hands. Then the evolutionary thinkers who imply Shit Happens and so it goes...and then the smarty pants writers who run on and on about what other say about things. Like me and the post aboive.

Posted by: freddie at January 2, 2005 09:44 AM

Yes, but he caught all of the Christian Right's talking points, and that's the important thing -- first, that it happened mostly to brown Muslim people so they likely did something to deserve it like having evil thoughts about the US, second that it is petty and partisan to criticise US aid amounts which are just great particularly when you add in all the private donations, and third that science couldn't predict it so it just shows how no one can believe anything science says particularly about global warming or evolution. So no wonder the column is an incoherent mess.

Posted by: CathiefromCanada at January 2, 2005 09:44 AM

OK, I give up. Brooks is a bigger knucklehead than I thought. For most of my life, and all of my adult life, I have found nothing stunning about the existence of catastrophe. Way back in Catholic school, I was taught that it was not only incorrect but morally wrong to attribute disaster to God's punishment (Brooks's Bible must not include Job if he thinks that there is always an easy explanation). Since then I've learned a more practical understanding of risk--how to reduce it, how to mitigate it, but also about the futility of trying to eliminate it.

Before it sounds like I'm taking a fatalistic view, or am insensitive to suffering, I should add that I think there are plenty of lessons to learn. One is how to come up with a better warning system and save more lives the next time around, granting that we will not save all of them. The other is how to develop a more systematic approach to insuring against global catastrophe so that we have the right amount of aid available in the aftermath and send it to the right places, rather than leaving it to the caprice of charity and political maneuvering.

If this is a moment to "feel" anything, one is praise for those too busy responding to the catastrophe to feel anything. Maybe another good one is solidarity with the victims, not pity. Not all catastrophes are dramatic acts of nature, and for instance the richest man in the richest nation can be stricken at any moment with an inoperable cancers. Admittedly, a risk like cancer is spread out and does not throw entire nations into chaos even when it takes as many lives, so from that perspective we're a lot better off and ought to be thankful.

Brooks's "analysis" fails both on having any practical value and on understanding the way such catastrophe is viewed from a mature religious perspective. If Brooks honestly ever thought "nature" was his gentle friend or that his own life is supposed to be safe from disaster, then heaven help him if he ever has to face the kind of personal tragedy faced by almost anyone at some time in their lives.

Posted by: Paul Callahan at January 2, 2005 09:59 AM

"Why did you tell me to come this way, Grizelda? You know I hate nature! Look at those disgusting trees, stealing my oxygen. Oh, I can't stand this scenery another minute. All natural forests should be turned into housing developments! I want cement covering every blade of grass in this nation. Don't we taxpayers have a voice anymore???"

"Its been a terrible thing...for me!!!"
- Sandra Bernhard, I'M STILL HERE DAMNIT!!!

Posted by: n69n at January 2, 2005 10:08 AM

David Brooks is a fool. How pathetic to see his little mind grasping about for meaning within the confines of such a myopic and delusional viewpoint. We should all take a moment to give thanks that we do not live in such spiritual poverty as David Brooks.

Posted by: VP Admin at January 2, 2005 10:10 AM

Notice Brooks' doubtless unintended reference to Dubya:

"Thoreau goes on to celebrate the savage wildness of nature, he sounds, this week, like a boy who has seen a war movie and thinks he has experienced the glory of combat. "

Posted by: P O'Neill at January 2, 2005 10:17 AM

The following is a letter from Richard Dawkins to The Guardian newspaper:

"The Bishop of Lincoln (Letters, December 29) asks to be preserved from religious people who try to explain the tsunami disaster. As well he might. Religious explanations for such tragedies range from loopy (it's payback for original sin) through vicious (disasters are sent to try our faith) to violent (after the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, heretics were hanged for provoking God's wrath). But I'd rather be preserved from religious people who give up on trying to explain, yet remain religious.

In the same batch of letters, Dan Rickman says "science provides an explanation of the mechanism of the tsunami but it cannot say why this occurred any more than religion can". There, in one sentence, we have the religious mind displayed before us in all its absurdity. In what sense of the word "why", does plate tectonics not provide the answer?

Not only does science know why the tsunami happened, it can give precious hours of warning. If a small fraction of the tax breaks handed out to churches, mosques and synagogues had been diverted into an early warning system, tens of thousands of people, now dead, would have been moved to safety.

Let's get up off our knees, stop cringing before bogeymen and virtual fathers, face reality, and help science to do something constructive about human suffering."

Summary: if there is no God, then there is no evil. It is just you and me, so let's do something positive about the situation.

Posted by: Rtoes at January 2, 2005 10:27 AM

Dear David:

Gaaah. These poor bastards are screwed. Stop dicking around about whether God, SUVs or Darwin screwed them and start making sandwiches, will you? Drawing a deep breath and moralizing for twenty minutes is a privilege you can indulge in AFTER all the corpses get raked up off the beach, okay?


Posted by: Rob at January 2, 2005 11:14 AM

For Brooks, it's all about Brooks. One of his favorite anecdotes is how as a young college graduate he began to turn conservative after losing a televised debate against Milton Friedman. What's telling to me is implication that he thought he was smart enough to debate economics against a Nobel laureate and not get trounced.

Brooks is fairly amusing writer when he's handling light topics like "Bobos in Paradise" and when you don't stop for a second to examine his claims critically (Start with the title page: if the "Bobos" are half bourgeois, then why in his subtitle does Brooks call them the new *upper* class? And has the behavior of the well off really changed so much? I haven't noticed any mass closures of country clubs.)

It's probably unfair to poke fun at Bobos, since Brooks had the misfortune to write it before "9/11 changed everything." But I see it as a mistake to consider him a serious analyst.

Posted by: Paul Callahan at January 2, 2005 11:18 AM

I think what bugs me most about this piece is that his writing didn't rise to the occasion. He's trying to be profound and thoughtful, and failing there, too, but at least he could have done something better with the sentences and structure.

I admit I expected less from Brooks than a lot of people seemed to, but he has managed to consistently disappoint me, nevertheless.

Posted by: Avedon at January 2, 2005 11:30 AM

“Brooks believes that newspaper stories about how some were randomly saved from and others killed by the tsunami promote atheism and degrade the human spirit”

Most people do not believe in a purely materialistic conception of the universe. Virtually every culture in the history of mankind has had to create some kind of spiritual system to cope with human mortality and the seeming meaningless of great catastrophes. Obviously these systems give people comfort, that’s why they exist. If you tell people they are nothing more than complex machines, and things happen to them for no reason, then they become uncomfortable. Perhaps they shouldn’t but they do. After all didn’t Einstein say, “God does not play dice with the universe?” Obviously he was uncomfortable with a universe that was random at its core. He hoped some hidden variable would come to the rescue. But alas Bell’s theorem put an end to that hope. My guess is Einstein would not have been happy with Bell’s theorem.

“It was better, he says, back in the old days, when we told ourselves that God's wrath was proper punishment meted out for our sins:”

People experience survivor guilt. Perhaps religious conviction helps then overcome this.

“Moreover, he says, let's not forget to trash environmentalists, back to John Muir and Henry David Thoreau:”

I don’t read it this way at all. All he is saying is that “natural” doesn’t mean necessarily benign or good or healthy in all cases. We might very well want to build a dam to prevent flooding.

“And to sneer at those who think it matters whether the U.S. gives $350 million or $4 million in aid:”

As we know now those criticisms were a rush to judgment. People who just can’t resist any opportunity to engage in petty partisan bickering should be sneered at.

Posted by: A. Zarkov at January 2, 2005 11:46 AM

> After all didn’t Einstein say, “God does not play dice with the universe?”

He did, but most of his contemporaries didn't have such hangups. If anything, I would say that Einstein was boxed into an aesthetic or spiritual worldview that made it hard for him to continue contributing to physics when some of the most important discoveries were being made. Just because Einstein had difficulty coping with chance does not mean that this is the only perspective possible for an intelligent person.

Posted by: Paul Callahan at January 2, 2005 11:53 AM

There is a reason these events are called "Acts
of God" Brooks needs to come to terms with
his god. If Elie Wiesel can do it, so can Bobo.

Posted by: Self-Negotiator at January 2, 2005 12:06 PM

>People who just can’t resist any opportunity to engage in petty partisan bickering should be sneered at.

From NewsMax: Reacting to complaints that Bush was missing in action in the wake of the disaster, White House spokesman Trent Duffy told reporters Tuesday, "The president wanted to be fully briefed on our efforts [before speaking out]. He didn't want to make a symbolic statement about 'We feel your pain.'"

Posted by: melior at January 2, 2005 12:10 PM

David Brooks could have saved himself (and his readers) a lot of trouble by suggesting that everyone read Thornton Wilder's The Bridge of San Luis Rey. We can all join Brother Juniper in trying to analyze why five particular people were on the bridge at the fatal moment. Surely this exercise in futility would be less strenuous than working out a similar analysis for 150,000 random victims of the Sumatran tsunami. How tragic for Brooks that he discovered his inability to explain it all for us.

Posted by: TonyB at January 2, 2005 12:12 PM

The chance Einstein was talking about was very different than the chance of the tsunmai - earthquakes and tidal waves, after all, follow deterministic laws even if human beings aren't able to predict anything useful about them yet.

Posted by: Andrew Boucher at January 2, 2005 12:17 PM

"From time to time Pangloss would say to Candide:
'There is a chain of events in this best of all possible worlds; for if you had not been turned out of a beautiful mansion at the point of a jackboot for the love of Lady Cundegonde, and if you had not been involved in the Inquisition, and had not wandered over America on foot, and had not struck the Baron with your sword, and lost all those sheep you brought from Eldorado, you would not be here eating candied fruit and pistachio nuts.'
'That's true enough,' said Candide: 'but we must go ahead and work in the garden.'"

Some of us immerse themselves in metaphysical and/or religious mumbo-jumbo in the face of disasters. Some of us don't.

Posted by: Angry Blue Planet at January 2, 2005 12:20 PM

"If you tell people they are nothing more than complex machines, and things happen to them for no reason, then they become uncomfortable. Perhaps they shouldn’t but they do."

It's called living.

Posted by: Steve at January 2, 2005 12:21 PM

> earthquakes and tidal waves, after all, follow deterministic laws even if human beings aren't able to predict anything useful about them yet

Absolutely. I agree that Einstein's qualms have little to do with this discussion. It's also true that complex systems are unpredictable in a rigorous sense: any imprecision in the initial conditions makes a longterm prediction worthless. It follows that the only rational way to consider these events is statistically. We should build safeguards that protect us from frequent occurrences, and establish a safety net to distribute the loss of infrequent ones (i.e., some kind of insurance system). Does David Brooks also believe that purchasing fire insurance is a step towards atheism since fire should be thought of as part of God's plan?

Posted by: Paul Callahan at January 2, 2005 12:30 PM

When I read Brooks, I often wonder if the man has any education at all. Although he fancies himself an armchair sociologist, he has no quantitative reasoning skills at all, always willing to take one irrelevant study as proof positive of one of his theses. He doesn't seem well read---he surely doesn't know any philosophy. I'll be polite and not mention his "theology". He doesn't understand politics at all: his analysis is idiosyncratic, based on bizarre notions of character and motivation. He does have a facile, empty way of writing, and he's always willing to carry water for the right wing. He really is an ass. He's worse than Safire, because Safire on occasion uses facts in his columns, when he's not busy lying.

Posted by: marky at January 2, 2005 12:57 PM

After his first three columns, when my blood pressure shot through the roof, my wife demanded that I stop reading Brooks.

Since I have become Brooks-free, I have achieved a level of satori rarely attained even by Zen masters. I suggest you go thou and do likewise.

Posted by: tristero at January 2, 2005 01:15 PM

If Brooks is really looking for a reason why the "planet Shrugged" and killed thousands, perhaps he should look into the Sound Guns which are being fired at the Ocean floor in that area of the world every few minuites at a power of 203 to 230 Decibels, in search of oil (what else?). I don't know if that has anything to do with it or not. Perhaps Brooks should check it out.

It seesm to me that people like Brooks, and the other patriarchical believers, just hate anything they cannot predict or control.

Posted by: Dot at January 2, 2005 01:55 PM

"When I read Brooks, I often wonder if the man has any education at all."

i contend that Brooks is "Brainy Smurf"


"how do you know he's brainy?
"coz he wears GLASSES!!!"

i honestly think that Brooks is playing a role, that he was chosen by the neo-cons as the vehicle for "kinder & gentler" version of PNAC, because he "LOOKS" like he knows what he's talking about.


Posted by: n69n at January 2, 2005 01:55 PM

n69n: ..he "LOOKS" like he knows what he's talking about.

Good observation, but have to say he failed on NPR on Friday when he was spinning faster than a top on GWB's first offer for the tsunami relief fund. Friends watching with me said, "What the hell is he saying? Is he insane or what?"

Posted by: Marie at January 2, 2005 02:13 PM

"From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

The 1755 Lisbon earthquake took place on November 1, 1755 at 9:20 in the morning. It was one of the most destructive and deadly earthquakes in history, killing over 100,000 people. The quake was followed by a tsunami and fire, resulting in the near total destruction of Lisbon. The earthquake had a strong impact on 18th century society, including accelerating a political conflict in Portugal and being the subject of the first scientific study of an earthquake's effect over a large area. Modern geologists estimate that the Lisbon earthquake approached magnitude 9 on the..."
It too brought about open questioning of the idea of a loving and omnipresent god and added impetus to the developing enlightenment rationalism taking hold in european and colonial american educated classes,,,

Posted by: p.a. at January 2, 2005 03:02 PM

Shit happens.

Posted by: Oh Oh! at January 2, 2005 03:04 PM

In 1914 [?] many people in this God blessed country died of the Flu. Bad things happen to good people. Is it the numbers that makes D.B. crazy? Why no angst about the tens who die each day in Iraq? [cause they're terists?]

Posted by: bobbywally at January 2, 2005 04:20 PM

A. Zarkov wrote: "As we know now those criticisms were a rush to judgment."

Actually, we know nothing of the kind. The criticisms were dead on and what has happened since then has, if anything, confirmed those criticisms. Bush was a day late and a dollar short and he blew a golden opportunity that was handed to him.

"People who just can’t resist any opportunity to engage in petty partisan bickering should be sneered at."

People who have legitimate criticisms, as we did and do, are ignored at your peril.

Posted by: PaulB at January 2, 2005 04:25 PM

Some 'religious' churchgoers had reason to praise the tsunami.

Posted by: Dubya at January 2, 2005 05:02 PM

Just read Mr. Brooks' column, and like many of you, there is no story here, there is no point to it, and no reason for being.

If it were coherent, if he'd been able to congeal one solid idea, I'd know what he was talking about. The tsunami? Yes... but what about it?

Coverage? Yes...but what are you trying to say about it?

Get a job writing for Jack Handy's deep thoughts.

Posted by: bob o at January 2, 2005 06:45 PM

As the LA Times pointed out ( http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/editorials/la-ed-tsunami2jan02,1,239487.story?coll=la-news-comment-editorials ), until two days ago the US was proposing to pay only half as much tsunami aid as Spain -- and Bush couldn't be troubled to pause from "clearing brush" on his ranch (to quote his press office) long enough to step up to the microphones at Crawford and deliver any comment whatsoever on the subject until Wednesday. (They're going to have to start planting some more brush there pretty soon. But I digress.) Even now we're paying only 70% as much as Japan, with its smaller GDP.

Objecting to this behavior on Bush's part, to quote Brooks, is "disgusting". Thank God (as one of Andrew Sullivan's guest bloggers said a few days ago) that the Times finally has a genuine intellectual like Brooks on its Op-Ed page!

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at January 2, 2005 07:17 PM

Why do angry people always view God as angry?
In 1999, two earthquakes hit Turkey. Mullahs that survived said sinners being punished. (But many mullahs in Turkey's mosques dead in quakes).
9/11/2001: Two American mullahs, Falwell and Robertson, say sinners in America being punished, indicating people killed in WTC collapse, Pentagon and on airplanes all were sinners.
"Left Behind" book series. Writers indicate all sinners will be hunted down after Armageddon by a vengeful god and vanquished to hell.

Conclusion: Hate-filled, faith-based, religious nuts are all insane and haven't a clue what Jesus Christ really was teaching.

Posted by: Paul Sorrells at January 2, 2005 08:21 PM

You completely misread Brooks's column (an understandable mistake, given who Brooks is). Although I rarely agree with Brooks on poliical matters, I can still insist that he be read correctly:
He is NOT saying that he wishes the disaster had more meaning, or that it would be better if it placed human beings at the center. he is simply reflecting on another awful property of the Tsunami, besides the loss of life -- namely, it reminds us that we (people) do not matter to the universe. He is actually attacking religion here (!!!), but because you are so quick to think of him as a defender of fundmanetalists, you somehow missed this. Re-read it, and revise/retract your critique.

[That's not so clear: Brooks seems to me to be simply confused...]

Posted by: JeffS at January 2, 2005 08:45 PM

Incidentally, if you want a real hoot, take a look at Matt Yglesias' thread on the disaster ( http://yglesias.typepad.com/matthew/2004/12/no_libertarians.html#comments ), in which I'm currently entangled in a surrealistic debate with two Ayn Randians who insist that NO aid from any government should go to the victims. Their grounds are that (according to one, as far as I can tell) the disaster was their own fault, and that (according to the other) anyone who doesn't give away every single possession they have to charities is a loathsome hypocrite for saying that anyone else should be forced to give up even a tiny degree of comfort to save someone else's life. To quote Walter Cronkite: until I started surfing the Net, I had no idea there were so many idiots in this country.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at January 2, 2005 09:19 PM

“To quote Walter Cronkite: until I started surfing the Net, I had no idea there were so many idiots in this country.”

I know exactly how he feels. After I heard him tell Larry King that he thinks Karl Rove arranged for Ben Laden to send out that pre-election video, I had always regarded Cronkite as a sane and intelligent man. Let’s hope he was joking, although he seemed serious.

Posted by: A. Zarkov at January 3, 2005 06:07 AM

This is a great post.

The one thing that no one seems to have addressed is Brooks' feelings on the Hurricanes that slammed into the South. If we take into consideration his argument that people felt more centered when God's wrath was labeled as the cause of natural troubles, then how have the folks in The South strayed from God's good will?

Mr. Brooks?

Posted by: Greg Turner at January 3, 2005 06:23 AM

Brooks apparently thinks that people who meditate on how Nature operates are under the impression it is relentlessly kind and cuddly. Neither Muir nor Thoreau ever made that mistake. The "circle of life" includes the idea of death -- that's what makes it a circle, y'know.

DB's column says nothing whatsoever. It concludes nothing, and it asks nothing meaningful of the reader. It entreats us only to Feel Deeply Bad. Thanks Dave.

Posted by: Ebie at January 3, 2005 07:53 AM

Believe me, Mr. Zarkov, after you read those two Randian birds on Matt's thread, Cronkite's Bin Laden theory looks a lot saner by comparison.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at January 3, 2005 08:16 AM

Has Brooks ever written anything that is not completely idiotic? If he has, I missed it.

Posted by: enfant terrible at January 3, 2005 08:52 AM

Actually, the 1755 Lisbon earthquake was seized upon by many religious types who'd faced half a century of Newton's non-interventionist God. To them, earthquakes were the sole remaining acts of divine intervention, which was a pretty bleak way to challenge Deism.

Posted by: nick at January 3, 2005 09:17 AM

Moomaw: I did read those Randian posts, and I completely agree with you. I’ve always regarded the Rand groupies as bizarre. The difference is Cronkite was once sane and intelligent, whereas the Randians were always neither.

Posted by: A. Zarkov at January 3, 2005 11:55 AM

>Brooks apparently thinks that people who meditate on
>how Nature operates are under the impression it is
>relentlessly kind and cuddly. Neither Muir nor Thoreau
>ever made that mistake

Brooks' assumption here is rather odd; I can only assume that he doesn't watch nature specials - or at least, only the ones about baby animals (awwww!), not the ones showing Slaughter on the Serengeti, etc.

From what I've read, though, while Muir certainly understood that death was a natural thing, he did struggle with the existence of suffering in nature, at times attempting to ignore or downplay it, a reaction he shared with some of his contemporaries (my source is Lisa Mighetto's Wild Animals and American Environmental Ethics). Of course, Brooks' attempt to paint modern enironmentalism with a century-old transcendentalist-ish brush is just odd and irrelevent - but it's Brooks, so what does one expect, right?

Posted by: Dan S. at January 3, 2005 03:57 PM

"As we know now those criticisms were a rush to judgment." Posted by: A. Zarkov


Not exactly, Dr. Zarkov (and by the way, what HAVE you been doing since Ming the Merciless paid you off?) Those criticisms were the only reason, as far as I can tell, that the Chimperor & his crew upped their pitiful, paltry, stingy contribution of $15million to something more closely approaching the U.S.'s wallet size. You've got it backwards: it isn't "petty partisan bickering" to criticize a political decision made in the name of the American people.

Posted by: Sherman's Gal at January 3, 2005 06:19 PM