Nous Sommes Etonees

Guest: Charles Lipson
“Je suis Charlie” and “je suis juif” provide the model for the title above which, though lacking the required accents aigus, means that we are astonished. The “we” is me and my guest, Charles Lipson, member of our old A Team and one of the country’s five leading political scientists (by Rosenberg Ranking). Astonished by what? By the man who wasn’t there. Where? In Paris, of course.Yet other things about the recent performance of our old colleague from the University of Chicago continue to astonish, among them his inability to call Islamic terrorism what it is. As usual with Charles the conversation wanders in many correlated directions including:  the talent level of the President’s foreign policy advisors, the appalling consequences that followed from the stance announced way back in the Cairo speech and, probably essential for the rest of the century, the required policy for playing through the struggle with recidivist and homicidal Jihadism.Returning to the francophilic mode…Ca va? Your opinions and reactions would be most welcome.

The Genre of Conservative Fiction

Guest: Adam Bellow

Of the making of books there is no end. So says the Book of Ecclesiastes. . But according to Adam Bellow, son of Saul, the strong liberal or “progressive” tilt of modern fiction is not counter-balanced by conservative or “traditionalist” fiction. As a leading publisher of conservative writers such as Charles Murray and Dinesh deSousa and, as influenced by his father and his father’s close associate, Alan Bloom, Bellow has undertaken to stimulate, encourage and “print” fiction that reflects conservative and traditionalist values.

In this podcast we discuss with him: how he transited from “Zabar’s liberal” to neoconservative; how his Liberty Island web site presents and stimulates short stories and essays in the conservative mode; and, most newsworthy, the new conservative genre novels he is about to launch.

Also emergent in this conversation is a good deal of engaging representation of the lives and relationship of Saul the father and Adam the son.


Dershowitz on Israel-Gaza and Reactive and Lasting Antisemitism

Guest:  Alan Dershowitz
The question about Alan Dershowitz persists or grows stronger: Is he a conservative liberal or vice-versa? His two-sidedness is as evident in this recent conversation as it has been in his many years of public commentary and advocacy. The man is hard to classify but always a delight to talk with and (when it comes to his sheer mastery of relevant detail) as persuasive as one of the best lawyers in the world. In fact that is just what he has been, pleading before courts in the Soviet Union, Russia, the U.K. as well as before our Supreme Court where at least one of his former Harvard Law students now sits in judgment. We had the pleasure, just about ten days ago, of getting together again to discuss his latest book though, inevitably, this led to other matters, including our shared memories of the adjoining neighborhoods of Brooklyn in which we both grew up.
The new book, “Terror Tunnels,” is a fact-laden and energetic exercise in denunciation. This time the linked targets are Hamas, American academics and  the ever-growing BDS campaign. Notable in its understatement is any serious critique of recent (Obama administration) American policy or action in the middle east. This is evidence that he really means it when he asserts. as he does in this discussion, that he still classifies himself as “a loyal Democrat” but acknowledges that it is sometimes an effortful challenge to do so. Particularly, that must be difficult for a loyal defender and personal friend of Benyamin Netanyahu and a strong supporter of present Israeli national and military initiatives.
Good-willed, always engagingly and expressively opinionated while remaining quick and certain of mind, Dershowitz remains a litigator around the world, a Jewish activist and an always interesting, while sometimes confounding, public presence. Thus a good–if not fully consensual–time was had by both host and guest. Your reactions to what you will hear are, of course, solicited and most welcome.

Touring the Muddled, Troubled, Domestic and International Horizons

Guests: Joe Morris, Mary Hartigan, and Richard Baehr 

The travelers on this excursion are a former U.S. Assistant Attorney General (Joe Morris), a lawyer and broadcaster focused on “strategic” issues (Mary Hartigan) and the co-founder and Political Editor of The American Thinker (Richard Baehr).

Liberal versus Conservative is the way you classify this sort of discussion but it never—well, hardly ever—describes or predicts the way the discourse will go. In this recently recorded hour these three excellent and gracefully articulate discussants take on such problems as: the emergence and deep threat of ISIS, white cops and black victims,  the legalization of the illegal, the loss of American international “credibility,” the uses of soft and hard power, the future of Obamacare, how the presence of a black President has affected the rage and despair of “ghetto” youth.

Seven or so other additional issues arise in this  discussion which, unlike many found on various other politically-focused podcasts, is not intended to offer amusement as a way of lightening the burdens of political attentiveness.  In other words: read it (actually, of course, hear it} and don’t weep but, if it comes naturally, worry at least a little.


Miseducation: How “Reward” Punishes

Guests: Herbert Walberg and Joseph Bast

The scandal in our public education is most obvious in the schools
of the “inner city,” but also, though in different form, bedevils most of the rest of the schools of comparatively affluent America.

Why and how? Through the injurious effects of “niceness” and “educational egalitarianism.” Not only is no child to be left behind, he or she is to be given no honest evaluation of performance, attainment and progress. Instead, all are “rewarded” promiscuously for whatever the teacher can find to praise, be it some “alternative”intelligence, “empathic relatedness,” or just being there. By no means must the child ever be allowed to recognize that he or she has performed poorly on any  task and/or has not given enough effort or attention.

Thus, according to our guests, Herbert Walberg and Joseph Bast, have the Teacher’s Colleges and the two major teacher’s unions kept this country (which spends more on education than any other) at the mere middle of the educational attainment distribution, exceeded by virtually all western European nations plus, of course, China and Japan.

The answer is not to give up the uses of reward in education but to connect it to actual merit, to eschew false flattery for simple realism and honest evaluation. (Strengthening the curriculum and raising standards would  also be –to say the least–helpful.,) All of this is well argued and elaborated in a new book by Walberg and Bast and in this podcast recently recorded at our WGN studio.


Liberalism, Conservatism and Kindness

Guest: William Voegeli

That title is prompted by a great quotation that I only recently encountered: “Liberalism is the politics of kindness.” The source is Garrison Keiller, the sage of Lake Woebegone, and I found it in William Voegeli’s new book, “The Pity Party” by which he means to convey his summary judgement of the Democrats.

His argument, most colorfully and baldly stated in the book, is that the modern Democrats have been running a sort of extended con-game in which both their rhetoric and some of their vaunted legislation promise to relieve the disappointment, deprivation, suffering and humiliation of the “disadvantaged.” But, as he argues, in reality, things often and/or usually get worse for those who are supposedly benefited. Still, their counter-argument runs that conservatives don’t care about the burdens placed on working class people (that being the operative meaning of “middle class” these days) or on minorities and the truly indigent. Conservatives, whether of the established party, Tea party or Libertarian party, are rather cold-hearted, lacking in empathy and blindly loyal to the near-religion of the free market.

This is one side of the politics of mutual defamation. Another book could be focused on some of the simple-minded epithets hurled by liberals against conservatives. At any rate Voegeli has done half of the job and done it very well. Here he is in a conversation in which the proprietor of the podcast required himself to take the role of the defender of the works and ways of liberalism.

Does Voegeli, a senior editor at the Claremont Review of Books, in fact hit the mark? I will be sending this one (the conversation, not the book) to some of my liberal friends. Perhaps you might want to do the same. Or can you easily anticipate how and with what counter-rhetoric they would fend it off?


Can Common Core Rescue American Education?

Anyone who teaches in an American college or university and is over fifty knows—but may not admit or confess–that the average freshman, just arrived from secondary school, is below–often far below–what was average even as recently as twenty years ago. The deficiencies are in math skills, history, knowledge of science and, of course, in the ability to write or comprehend real English. Nor are theses deficiencies necessarily corrected by the time the freshman has become a senior.

The “Common Core” movement is the latest panacea and is financially backed by the federal government. It is in operation in some states and debated, with increasing anger, in all of them. Here, drawing from the recent book in which they debated whether the common core should be implemented or discarded, are two leading conservative observers of the educational scene. On the pro-side is Sol Stern of the Manhattan Institute. On the con-side is Peter Wood, President of the National Scholars Association. The disagreement is intense and the stakes are very high for a country that spends more than any other on education and yet is exceeded in educational attainment (and, perhaps even in the essential skills of literacy) by half of the rest of the world.