Liberalism, Conservatism and Kindness

With 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?


The Press and the President

With Bernard Goldberg

Here’s Bernard Goldberg, formerly of CBS television, and the author of various indignant (but funny) book-length screeds  We talked in 2009 at which time he had “nothing against Barack Obama,” but much against the press’s love=affair with him. Apart from Goldberg’s contempt for his former colleagues, he conveys strong admiration (verging on secular apotheosis) for Obama at the very beginning of his presidency.  Between his fascination with Obama and his contempt for his erstwhile colleagues in the press (particularly “electronic”). But that was in 2008. From his grudging admiration for Obama shortly after the election and his continuing contempt for much of the print and electronic press,  he went on from this broadcast occasion, to became one of the most critical of the Fox News commentators. He now is a mainstay of Fox News which leads in clearly conservative commentary and advocacy.


Courtroom Strategies and Poker

With Steve Lubet, Sean Berkowitz and Chris Lynd

Steve Lubet, one of the guests on this program from 2006, had just written a book titled “Lawyer’s Poker.” He and two other experienced trial attorneys tell vivid tales from the courtroom and they do tend to verify the saying that “a trial does not determine who is right but who had the best lawyer.”


The Children of Divorce

With Alan Carlson and Elizabeth Marquardt

There is much lore (story after story after story) about the injury that divorce delivers to the children of the now dissolved marriage. Is this discussion from 2006 we examine the actual research on the “dysfunctional” consequences for the children. Our two guests are among the most salient researchers. Alan Carlson is Director of the Howard Center for Religion and Society; Elizabeth Marquardt had just completed a major study on children of divorced parents. We start with the startling assertion that, since it’s inception, ”No Fault Divorce” has quite significantly increased the divorce rate.


Origins 0f Language and Languages

With Frederic Schwink and Jason Merchant

When did language in its “modern” form (that is, with grammar, syntax and extended vocabulary) actually come from…in both space and time? How do languages (such as French, Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian and Romansch} differentiate from a common source (Latin)? Why do children acquire second or third languages much more easily than adults?  Our guests are both leading linguistic scholars: Fred Schwink of the University of Illinois and Jason Merchant of the University of Chicago who joined in this discussion in 2005.  Incidentally, we try out some great tongue-twisters and try to identify some languages offered by callers.


Sherlock Holmes Lives!!!

With Thomas Joyce, Susan Diamond and Eli Liebow

The thousands of Holmesians in the world live by that precept. They know that Holmes, who retired eighty years ago, now lives in Sussex where he is a devoted beekeeper but still takes on occasional crime cases. Three of those students of the past and continuing career of Holmes joined us in this discussion. Though it occurred way back in 1994, the astonishing revelations presented that night still resonate in the proprietor’s reveries.


Can the Universe be Comprehended?

With Joel Primack and Nancy Abrams

Among the major figures who have tried to understand it “all” is Joel Primack, physicist at the University of California, who helped to discover the “dark matter” of which twenty-five percent of the  universe is  composed. He and his wife, Nancy Abrams, joined us in conversation in 2006 to discuss their book, “The View from the Center of the Universe.” Among the less-than-trivial questions addressed are: how did the universe begin? how is it structured? what purpose, if any, does it reveal? what does it suggest about a transcendent power or powers? does it have any neighbor universes? Once again we find that the best way to stretch and/or strengthen the mind is through cosmology.


A conversation with Jack Welch

With Jack Welch

Before the heirarchs of the Digital World became the heroes of business students and MBA professors the most admired “captain of industry” was Jack Welch, the long term  head of General Electric. Shortly after he retired in 2001 we chatted with him and found him delightfully (and surprisingly) bright, candid, unaffected and probably not really ready for retirement—-as this conversation and his continuing public presence reveal.


A Startling Midrash on Genesis

With Leon Kass

Midrash is the Hebrew word for commentary, particularly commentary on the Hebrew Bible. Many secular intellectuals have been drawn toward that very challenge, among them Leon Kass, physician, philosopher and teacher of the humanities, now  a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
At the time in 2003 when this conversation occurred he was a professor at the University of Chicago, on leave in Washington where he chaired the President’s Commission on Bioethics.

The insights and meanings he finds in Genesis, as presented here, are focused not only on Creation but also on the possible realities behind the account of Abraham and his descendants and then upon the formation of the Jewish religion and its persisting “people.” This conversation of eleven years ago still resonates in the mind of  Kass’s interlocutor.


Genius: Young Iconoclasts and Old Masters

With David Galenson and Joshua Kotin

To define genius madness is (or may be) but our guests, a nascent professor of English and, of all things, an economist, take on the challenge. The guiding theme is that the burning brilliance of the young genius and the steadiness of the Old Master are virtually non-overlapping. The argument in this conversation from 2006, is illustrated by quotations from great poets and novelists and  audio from some  films by genius-level movie directors.