Saturday, October 16, 2010

Another Blow to Mr. Obama's Image

It's being reported that New York Times columnist David Brooks has acknowledged that he was told a year ago by the President, off-record, that he, the President, knew that the idea of shovel-ready projects was a crock. In other words, even though Mr. Obama knew there were no such jobs he still pushed the $800 billion stimulus bill, a bill that has caused our debt to skyrocket, on the grounds that we needed to fund these projects in order to get America back to work.

Some commentators are wondering why Brooks is just revealing this now. If he knew all along that Obama didn't really believe what he was telling the American people why didn't he tell us back when it mattered? Since the President revealed this to him off the record, however, Brooks probably felt that he had no right to report it. In any event, Brooks isn't the issue here. What's at issue is President Obama's integrity, and that seems to be hovering around "minimal" on the honesty meter.

A Parable of a Distant Sun

David Hart's fine essay on atheism and morality at First Things moves me to relate a parable:
Once a race of men, men like us, dwelt on a beautiful planet which orbited a distant star. The star bathed the planet in heat and light sustaining lush forests, beautiful lakes and oceans, and crystal blue skies. Agriculture flourished and food was abundant.
One day, though, the planet's intellectuals gathered together to complain amongst themselves about their sun. It was too hot and oppressive, they bemoaned. There were sometimes droughts in which people died of thirst and the crops withered. People exposed to the sun suffered from cancers of the skin and other maladies that were cited as evidence of the sun's capricious cruelty.
Resentments grew. Then, at a time oddly enough called the age of enlightenment, the intellectuals sought ways to kill the sun. They didn't need it, they cried. It was a burden on their existence. They wanted to liberate themselves from the tyranny it imposed. There was enough energy stored in the wood, coal and oil to drive their civilization for thousands of years.
In their feeble attempts to slay the sun they threw stones at it. They shot arrows at it. Meanwhile, the common folk just shook their heads at this foolishness and conformed their lives to the sun's nature and courses, but the intellectuals were resolved to succeed in their quest to snuff the sun out.
Then, one day, the sun began to gutter. It's light suddenly dimmed to a reddish glow, and the planet was shrouded in darkness. "We have killed it," the intellectuals exulted. "It is a marvelous thing we have done. Now we are free to show what human ingenuity and reason can accomplish as we use our wits to build a glorious civilization without having to sweat under the scorching fires of a sun.
At first everyone put their shoulders to the work of collecting firewood and coal, but soon it became clear that something was terribly wrong. The planet was growing colder, the oceans were freezing, the vegetation was dying. The beauty of the planet was disappearing and the globe was turning into a rocky, barren, frozen wasteland.
Civilization was driven underground. Food became scarce. There was not enough light to grow crops in the subterranean greenhouses. Children shivered in the cold. The intellectuals insisted that everyone was better off that men could create their own light if only they tried harder. They demanded that the people redouble their efforts to mine the stored energy, but it was plain that it was running out. The sun had all but abandoned them and with every day it became clearer that the people could not long survive on what energy was left.
Then the people began to cry out, "Who told us we could kill the sun and be liberated from it's oppressive heat?" "Who told us we no longer needed the sun to live as men?" The intellectuals, so haughty and arrogant before, now hid in their underground caves in fear of the people's wrath. Their own fires were flickering and sputtering and would soon burn out. The once gorgeous planet and the glorious civilization it sustained would soon be a dead, lifeless, frozen husk.
The moral of the parable: Modern man is like the men living on a planet whose sun has gone out. He has "slain" the source of the energy which gave rise to his rich civilization. He has slain the source of his moral light and vitality, and he's trying to survive on the leftover capital bestowed by that once mighty star. Someday, though, all of that will be used up as well. Then his civilization will die of spiritual inanition.

Re: The Chilean Miners

In a recent post we lamented the fact that the real heroes in the rescue of the Chilean miners were being largely ignored while the miners themselves were being celebrated and smothered with gifts, endorsements and other emoluments.

Micah writes to let us know of a couple of stories that do, in fact, give some credit where credit is due.

They can be found here and here. They're pretty interesting, and I hope you'll take the time to check them out.

It seems to me that in this incident we've gotten things exactly backward. If we want our talented young people to aspire to careers like engineering in which they use their minds to make life better for all of us then we should be directing our gifts and praise toward the wonderful thing those professionals have accomplished in this rescue. If we're going to be showering rewards on people let it be primarily upon those responsible for the rescue and only secondarily on the men whose main achievement, though certainly not insignificant, was to endure patiently until they were rescued.