That would be the mild-mannered, sweet-tempered legal and moral theorist Robert George of Princeton. (See his books here.) He is the subject of a lengthy profile by David Kirkpatrick, formerly the NY Times resident anthropologist of conservatives. The key to being "this country's most influential conservative Christian thinker" lies in his advocacy of natural law, though a natural law rooted in analytic philosophy, not Thomism or Aristotle. Thus, Kantian practical reason (not Scriptural interpretation) becomes the basis for the defense of life against abortion, for decency against pornography, and for chastity against promiscuity. Kirkpatrick's focus on sexuality distorts George's approach--one of the most touching of George's essays concerns the gratitude immigrants owe this country.
In this regard, George's Kantianism resembles that of Hadley Arkes, who is however an overt follower of Leo Strauss. It might be contrasted with the Thomism of James V. Schall, of Advent Conversations fame. But all of these conservatives wind up politically in the same place.
It is unavoidable to note a certain a-political quality of the George approach, one that makes it alluring to Princeton undergraduates and acceptable to his colleagues. (He co-teaches a class with Cornel West.) Contrast George with Harry V. Jaffa, doubtless the profoundest thinker of American conservatism and also one tough brawler--still writing, now on Leo Strauss, at age 91: William F. Buckley, Jr., once remarked that as hard as it is to disagree with Harry Jaffa, it's even harder to agree with him.
H/T WheatandWeeds "Pass the Biscuits."
In lighter news, the Queen of England has embarked upon an everyday commuter train in order to reach her northern Christmas destination.
While I appreciate the nod to thrift, I wonder if I am alone in mourning the degradation of regality and ... well, nobility which ought to accompany a royal head-of-state. "Nobility is a graceful ornament to the civil order," observed Edmund Burke. "It is the Corinthian capital of polished society." I believe Tocqueville noted that democracy, while unlikely to fall into such depths of depravity as might be detected in a decadent aristocracy, likewise was not hopeful of attaining such heights of beauty as exemplified in a virtuous aristocracy.
Surely the royals have at times failed to provide a dignified and elite model for the masses to adore - but has even the queen abrogated the duty to provide an earthly example of the extraordinary and exquisite? If it would be nearly unthinkable - even absent security considerations - for an American president to travel on public transport, is it not a clear denigration of the honor due to royal station to be accorded less decorum and circumstance than a mere tenured president?
At least Her Majesty sat in first class.
The Climategate scandal is (if you'll forgive the pun) snowballing. Following revelations of climate data manipulation in hacked e-mails from the UK's Climatic Research Unit, the British Meteorological Office has now also been exposed as having corrupted data.
Apparently, the British office's study of Russian meteorological data cherry-picked data from a mere 25% of all stations - and that 25% predominantly included stations which 1) were located or re-located in urban centers which had experienced population growth (causing artificial warming) and 2) provided incomplete data which could be easily manipulated. Unsurprisingly, the 75% of stations in static locations with complete data, which were not included in the study, record no significant warming trend.
Having been forced to disclose portions of it's highly concealed raw data (rather than the "adjusted" conclusions which are disseminated for popular consumption), the Meteorological Office has been exposed for egregious exaggerations and manipulation in a wide array of data. See, for example:
The blue line is raw data. The black line is adjustments applied to that data. The red line is the result following the adjustments.
Charlie Martin concludes: "We now have substantial evidence, from several independent sources, that the data used as the basis for the IPCC report [the UN study on global warming] has been adjusted in undocumented ways, and those adjustments account for nearly all the warming we are told has been caused by humans."
The linked stories include several other instances of newly exposed deceptions by the global warming / climate change community, in case there are any fence-straddlers out there. However, it is important to remember that there are three essential questions involved in the global warming debate.
1) Is the Earth getting significantly warmer?
2) If so, are humans causing it?
3) Would a bit of warming be bad?
It seems more likely by the day that the answers to all three questions is "no."
In the beginning, it appeared that the global warming community was simply stubbornly resistant to embracing evidence that their doomsday predictions were incorrect. At worst, they were zealous ideologues, clinging fanatically to their opinions.
Now, it may be necessary to conclude that many alarmists were, in fact, intentionally fabricating the entire crisis of global warming for completely unrelated, socio-economic ulterior-motives. At best, this would constitute an attempted global coup - built upon scientific deception, apocalyptic fear-mongering and the domination of international agencies - which would prove unprecedented, in scale and scope, in the entire course of human history.
Paul Samuelson, the first American to win the Nobel Prize in Economics, died at the age of 94 a few day ago. Samuelson was a disciple of the liberal principles of Keynesian economics, a foil to Milton Friedman's conservative, monetarist perspective. He was instrumental to both neo-Keynesian and neoclassical economic development. My lovely lady, an economist of European persuasion, informs me that his 1948 textbook, Economics, is essential reading for any serious student in the field (it is apparently the most widely read economics textbook in the world).
As President Obama and PM Gordon Brown are charged with adhering to Keynesian economics, Samuelson's influence as a Keynesian apostle continues to be profound. Keynes continues to dominate European thinking on economics, though his sympathies for communist-styled big-government and failure to recognize its inherent de-humanizing elements (of which free-market thinkers such as Friedman were keenly aware) have moderated his influence in the U.S.
Perhaps the greatest contribution of Obama's tenure will be to further disillusion Americans with the social-control, deficit-spending policies of Samuelson's idol. It would be ironic, indeed, if following a conservative Republican who advocated Friedman's economics but often acted in opposition to its principles (No Child Left Behind, Sarbane's-Oxley), a liberal Democrat forced a resurgence of support for Friedman through the extreme (and detrimental) application of Keynesian policies.
Rarely do I find myself in a position to be thankful toward China. And yet, it seems that the communist state may be responsible for realizing my hopes that the Copenhagen climate talks will fail to produce any significant policies (read: significant damage to our economy). Among other obstacles at the summit, China [which the article cites as a "superpower," alluding to a conventional knowledge of which I was unaware] has refused to allow independent international verification of its compliance with carbon-emission cuts. In response, the U.S. has refused to cut emissions until China repudiates.
Note the honesty which accompanies Senator Kerry's defense of U.S. hesitancy:
"To pass a bill, we must be able to assure a senator from Ohio that steel workers in his state won't lose their jobs to India and China because those countries are not participating in a way that is measurable, reportable and verifiable."
Nations adopting the measures proposed in Copenhagen would so hinder their domestic economies as to become non-competitive in a global market populated by countries refusing to inflict such harm upon themselves. The hope, then, of these environmentalists is to reduce all economies equally - a sort of self-imposed recession, in case the one from which we're just now pulling free wasn't sufficient for everyone.
It seems Copenhagen may be scrapped and a planned Mexico City summit will be held next summer (several months ahead of schedule). World leaders are about to arrive in Copenhagen without the benefit of an agreement of any sort. The likelihood of assembling a deal at the eleventh hour is looking ever-more elusive. Climate change alarmists seem to have been defeated.
Of course, the summit has provided great insights into the nature of the climate change community (beyond those offered by the climate-gate e-mails). Al Gore admitted to lying about the science of global warming, Hugo Chaves received "deafening applause" for denouncing free-market capitalism and favoring global socialism, and massive police forces, originally assembled to repel skeptics of climate change (with their long history of violence), were instead forced to repel rioting supporters of climat change policies (professional demonstrators, no doubt - it's all process for these folks, not substance).
Further, criticism of Copenhagen is becoming more pronounced. Like the health-care bill currently languishing in the U.S. Senate, it seems that the more people are informed about climate change policies, the less supportive they become. Anne Applebaum, sympathetic to the climate change cause, calls the current climate of environmentalist's rhetoric to be "anti-human," Ed Miliband, Britain's climate secretary, warned that the summit was in danger of becoming a "farce," and Britain's Daily Express has published "100 reasons why climate change is natural and not man-made." Also see this clip on ice core studies in Greenland and Antarctica.
Like many conservatives, my hope on the great initiatives of the moment (from climate change to health care to spending) is that they simply stall, without inflicting too great a harm upon private enterprise or public institutions, until more sober minds are again at the helm.
UPDATE: Let's hope that Secretary Clinton's pledge of $100 billion to help poor contries adapt to climate change will be swallowed up by the condition of "transparency" in China.
To Peter's post below, see James V. Schall, SJ, who was so shocked by the President's "remarkably sane address" in Oslo that he even speculated whether he would change his abortion stance. David Brooks heard it as a reflection of Obama's roots in the Christian realism of Reinhold Niebuhr, who is a kind of intellectual great-uncle to today's neo-conservatives. "The Oslo speech was the most profound of his presidency, and maybe his life." Brooks explains: "Other Democrats talk tough in a secular way, but Obama's speeches [at West Point and Oslo] were thoroughly theological. He talked about the 'core struggle of human nature' between love and evil."
As I argued in numerous posts during the 2008 campaign, Obama's autobiographies reveal no deep-seated love for this country. This nihilism has encouraged him to use American principles (as expressed in Lincoln and the Declaration of Independence) to castigate America and even to undermine our own self-interest.
UPDATE: In similar fashion, Damon Linker uses Niebuhr against the neo-cons: Niebuhr abhorred American exceptionalism, he argues.
But I agree with Professor Schall that the speech raises a question (though not on abortion; did Reinhold Niebuhr ever write anything about the subject?): One great American theme concerns the education of the arrogant rookie, the brash youth who learns to respect the veterans' wisdom and uses their virtues to enhance his own talent. It is not too late for Obama to follow that path. That would be a more noble ending than the one he appears careening toward. In the meantime, conservatives need to continue his education.
Another domino has fallen in the cascade of evidence demonstrating the absurdity of Iran's denial that it is seeking nuclear weaponry. Leaked Iranian technical documents reveal that the country was attempting to test a triggering devise for nuclear weapons in 2007.
There are several take-aways from this discovery.
1. The international community continues to be alarmingly inept at policing nuclear research. The consensus among intelligence agencies was that Iran had abandoned nuclear weapon ambitions in 2003. The revelation of progress in 2007 exposes global inspections as impotent and suggests that Iran's current proximity to nuclear status is a matter of extreme uncertainty.
2. Obama's efforts to dialogue with Ahmadinejad - employing the power-of-persuasion charisma which differentiates him from his predecessor - have been proved a farce. Bush was comfortable branding Iran as an "evil" state actor and found the most useful dialogue to be toppling a neighboring regime for alleged weapons' research. Not subtle, perhaps, but at least cognizant of the nature of our enemy. Obama's judgement has been severely wanting in foreign affairs, time and again confusing the treatment due to allies and adversaries.
3. Iran is unfazed by Western accusations - or even discoveries - of continued nuclear progress. In fact, by responding to the discovery of a hidden nuclear plant with an announcement that they intend to build an additional 10-15 reactors, Iran has shown itself to be liberated and emboldened when caught in violation of international standards. Certainly, it's far easier to conduct research when one no longer needs hide it from the world.
4. Israel continues to emerge as the only country in the world prepared to take serious action to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. Obama's reaction to the surging evidence and escalating urgency of a looming confrontation with Iran has been to intensify behind-the-scenes calls for further sanctions. Today's WaPO carries Danielle Pletka's counsel that such a strategy is fool-hardy. In the absence of a reformulated approach to Iran, U.S. policy will continue to be "subcontracting American national security to Israel."
While Obama continues to focus on the domestic economy (a worthwhile endeavor), he must be aware that to ignore Iran is simply not an option. Should Iran successfully test a nuclear weapon or claim a functional stockpile, all other priorities will be relegated to second-tier as the world refocuses all of its attention on a triumphant and unleashed New Persia.
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