The Cuyahoga River on fire. But not when you think.

This Saturday, June 22, marks the 50th anniversary of one of the iconic moments of the modern environmental history—the infamous Cuyahoga River fire in Cleveland. Things were so bad, the legend goes, that rivers were catching fire! But most of what you think you know about that story is incomplete or inaccurate, argues Jonathan H. Adler, the Johan Verheij Professor of Law at Case Western Reserve University School of Law. In a now-famous article, “Fables of the Cuyahoga,” Adler explains “the rest of the story,” to borrow an old saying. Part of that story is about why subsequent national legislation wasn’t always the best or only remedy for environmental problems.

Like most law professors, Jon is an ardent Supreme Court watcher, so we also talk about jurisprudence, the all-important “Chevron Doctrine” that is now subject of many second thoughts and potential revisions, and how a number of common perceptions of the Supreme Court are inaccurate. And since Jon specializes in environmental law, we also spend a few minutes on what else—climate change.

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This week’s special guest is Col. Austin Bay, author of a lively new book on foreign affairs and grand strategy, Cocktails From Hell: Five Complex Wars Shaping the 21st Century. Austin Bay has an extraordinary biography, including earning a Bronze Star for his service in the Iraq War. But that is only the beginning. Austin is the author or co-author of more than a dozen books (including a novel or two), a widely syndicated columnist on military and foreign affairs for Creators Syndicate, associate editor at StrategyPage, a frequent guest on TV and radio, and a fellow blogger for our friends at Instapundit. Did I also mention he plays jazz piano and has a Ph.D in English literature from Columbia?

Our leisurely conversation covers a lot of ground, including China, Iran, North Korea and the Congo (yes—the Congo), as well as some detours into the legacy of Andy Marshall, the great strategic thinker who passed away recently. (Marshall had the nickname “Yoda” around the Pentagon.) And since the book title refers to cocktails, we get Austin’s favorite recipe as a bonus.

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This week’s two-part episode features Power Line’s own Scott Johnson reporting on the verdict today in the Mohammed Noor case—the Minneapolis police officer who was convicted last month for murder in the shooting of Justine Damond. Then we shift focus dramatically, talking with Prof. Joshua Dunn of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and Matthew Peterson, vice president for educational programs at the Claremont Institute, about the latest bitter internecine fight on the right about “David Frenchism.” I didn’t know this was even a thing, but the very impressive Sohrab Ahmari thinks there is, and has stirred up a ferocious debate.

But the conversation quickly turns to one of the underlying issues behind the recurring debate on the right—namely, what kind of country are we? Are we a classical civic republic depending on and dedicated to promoting a virtuous citizenry deliberately, or are we a classical liberal republic closer to Rand Paul’s ideal world? This is not a new debate, but it has fresh salience at the moment.

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This week my guest is the person who deserves to be known as the Robert Caro of energy history—Robert L. Bradley Jr. Rob is the founder of the Institute for Energy Research, one of the best go-to sources for information and analysis about energy (and especially debunking the nonsense energy romanticism of the left), but most important for our purposes is the author of several astounding histories of the energy industry in America. His latest book is Enron Ascending: The Forgotten Years, 1984-1996. Rob had a front row seat to the meteoric rise and ultimate collapse of Enron as director of public policy analysis and senior adviser to Enron’s CEO, Ken Lay.

Enron Ascending is the third volume of a four-volume series (the final volume will be about the last years and ultimate collapse of Enron in 2001) that has an important common theme—political capitalism, which might be thought of as something like “crony capitalism,” though Rob is more precise than that. Far from being a market failure of capitalism, the Enron story is what Rob calls “contra capitalism,” and warns that we have more Enrons in our future if we attempt the “Green New Deal.”

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I’ve decided that “populism” is when the wrong person or party wins a democratic election. Certainly the way the media and liberal elites have reacted to the Liberal Party’s upset win in Australia bears this out (keep in mind that the Liberal Party in Australia is the conservative party, but what do you expect from a country in the southern hemisphere). The media horror over Australia has been short-lived however, because the populists look set for major gains in the European Parliament elections currently under way. The wipe out of the Brexit-fumbling Tory Party in Britain has at last cost Theresa May her job, and the prospect of Boris Johnson becoming the next prime minister is Freddy Kruger territory for the media, who are also upset that India’s voters decided to return the retrograde pro-American Prime Minister Modi to office by a landslide. What’s a liberal elitist to do?

Well, one thing a liberal elitist ought to do (but probably won’t) is listen in to Henry Olson as he explains what’s going on. No one knows the data better than Henry, and I got him to give us his expectations and predictions for what’s next, including why Jeremy Corbyn will never make it, but why Joe Biden just might. Plus there’s a little baseball and soccer banter at the end, to send us off into our Memorial Day weekend.

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Lo and behold, I opened up this morning’s Wall Street Journal to see a weekend interview with this week’s guest, historian Wilfred M. McClay of the University of Oklahoma, about his brand new book Land of Hope: An Invitation to the Great American Story. In the course of our conversation, we cover not only what’s wrong (but also partly right) about Howard Zinn, but how Bill got the audacious idea to write such an ambitious book, why most American history textbooks are so bad, some of our favorite historians past and present, including Kenneth Lynn, Richard Hofstadter, and John Lukacs, and many others.

Toward the end, we pivot to talking about Bill’s experience teaching the legendary “W.H. Auden Syllabus,” which is the great books course Auden taught at the University of Michigan in 1941. The ambitious reading list—nearly 6,000 pages in one semester!—was wrapped under the course title “Fate and the Individual in European Literature,” and this replication of the Auden course, which can be compared with drinking from a fire hose, has been a hit with students, notwithstanding the fact that the course is advertised as “the hardest course you’ll ever take.” Proof that good students like a challenge, and respond to classic literature when taught in a serious was, as Bill explains here.

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This week Steve Hayward talks with economic historian Phillip Magness, co-author (along with Jason Brennan) of a brilliant new book, Cracks in the Ivory Tower: The Moral Mess of Higher Education. This splendidly written and fast-paced book vindicates Stan Evans’s first rule of insufficient paranoia—no matter how bad you think things are, when you look closer, you find out it’s even worse than you thought.

Crack in the Ivory Tower explains how colleges and universities are guilty of the same kind of false advertising that would draw a consumer protection crackdown on any other large industry, how the humanities are continuing to grow despite declining student interest or demand, why administrative bloat is out of control, and how faculties continue to trend far to the left.

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This week Steve Hayward talks with Charles Lipson, the Peter Ritzma Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Chicago, about how to talk and argue about matters amidst the increasingly bitter polarization of our time. But along the way we revisit his idiosyncratic intellectual odyssey that brought him from rural Mississippi to the Ivy leagues. In addition to his academic work on international relations, you can read Charles’s popular writing on current events at RealClearPolitics, where his most recent article explores how the spying on the Trump campaign in 2016 may come back to haunt Joe Biden’s candidacy.

The main takeaway from our discussion is “no ad hominem arguments.” If we all strove to live by this rule, this would be a better world. But you’re going to want to stick around to the very end of the conversation, where Charles indulges us with his spot-on Henry Kissinger impersonation.

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Justine Damond

Scott Johnson has been covering the trial of Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor, who was charged in the fatal 2017 shooting of Justine Damond. This afternoon the jury returned a guilty verdict on the counts of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. This trial has been closely watched because of the suspicion that officer Noor was accredited as a police officer for political reasons—a potential aspect of the story that did not come out in the criminal trial, but may yet emerge in the civil suit Damond’s family has pending against the city of Minneapolis.

In this special midweek edition of the Power Line Show, Scott joined Steve Hayward moments after arriving home from the courthouse after the verdict and offers his reflections not only on the trial itself but on the wider issues that this story has involved from the outset.

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I’ll bet you didn’t know you need a federal disaster management plan for your pet rabbit if you use your pet rabbit as part of a magic act for birthday parties. Well, you did, until the U.S. Department of Agriculture got embarrassed by the adverse publicity for this abject stupidity, but it is of a piece with the proposed European Union regulation on the proper length and curvature of bananas offered up by European grocers, because of course consumers are incompetent to judge bananas for themselves in the produce section. No wonder Britain voted for Brexit.

In this episode Steve Hayward offers up another of his lectures from his ongoing series for the William F. Buckley Jr. Program at Yale, and explains that what is deplored as populism is partly a healthy reaction to the overweening governance of the modern administrative state. This lecture makes a grand tour from Max Weber through the American Progressives and culminates with the late Christopher Lasch, who foresaw our current populist moment in many ways.

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Gene Dattel is Steven Hayward’s extraordinary guest on this week’s show. Gene is the author of a book that deserves to be much better known—Reckoning With Race: America’s Failure (Encounter Books). This remarkably compact book is brimming with details about and revisions to the standard narratives of race relations in America from the colonial era right down to the present. Gene’s complete command of this subject—stemming partly from growing up in the Mississippi delta but also from wide reading and study—is on full display in this far-reaching conversation.

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This very special edition of the Power Line Show features Steve Hayward and two guest hosts—John and Elizabeth Eastman—in an extended conversation with William B. Allen, a teacher and thinker who defies easy description. All three of us were students of Bill Allen way back in the 1980s, and when chance and/or Providence put us all together again with Bill this week in Boulder, Colorado, it was clear we needed to do a podcast.

This “origin story” conversation takes us from Bill’s youth all the way through to the present Age of Trump. We talk a lot about education, political philosophy, the influence of key thinkers such as Harry Jaffa, Martin Diamond, and many many others. We have a lot of laughs along the way—maybe too many—but above all, I think you will come away with a sense of the excitement of discovery in Bill’s classrooms, and acquire a sense of why a generation of students are so devoted to him.

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How “Progressive” is Progressivism? Is there actually a “side of history,” or is that just the lazy formula of presumptive socialists who think they have a monopoly on the truth and don’t need to argue with or persuade anyone? In another of Steve Hayward’s lecture series for the William F. Buckley Jr. Program at Yale, Steve walks through more of the details of Progressivism then and now, showing continuities—and also some important differences—between the Progressivism that emerged a century ago and the “Progressivism” of our current moment.

And naturally, since the subject is Progressivism, we have to offer some Progressive rock as bumper music—a couple of very early Genesis tunes, back before Phil Collins ruined the band by taking them in a pop direction. But that’s a topic for a future show some time.

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Have you had enough of the Mueller Report? Done smoldering over Smollett? Jazzed at opening day for MLB? Then have we got the show for you! This episode features a conversation with Henry Olsen about the lessons of the 2018 midterm, how the Democratic presidential field for 2020 is shaping up (with lots of mockery of course), a genteel argument about Henry’s views about why conservatives should rethink their reflexive support for the electoral college (an admission scandal of a different kind, you might say), and finally a tour of the new season of major league baseball, with Henry’s handicap of the teams that made the best moves. Plus a psychological diagnosis of Clayton Kershaw’s post-season troubles, and whether the Nationals will prosper without Bryce Harper. Something for everyone!

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Ask any knowledgeable conservative to identify their least-favorite president, and more and more the answer these days will come back: Woodrow Wilson! But this was not always so. For a long time FDR held the crown, but in the last generation a number of closer looks have come to recognize that Wilson, and the broader current of Progressive ideology he did so much to champion, is the real turning point (much for the worse) in American political and constitutional thought and practice.

This week Steve Hayward sat down with one of the pre-eminent interpreters of Wilson, R.J. Pestritto of Hillsdale College. R.J. is the author of one the very best books about Wilson’s rich political philosophy, Woodrow Wilson and the Roots of Modern Liberalism. In this wide-ranging and fast-moving conversation, Steve and R.J. talk not only about what’s wrong with Wilson and his legacy, but why conservative thinkers missed his significance for such a long time.

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By popular demand (with some listeners anyway), this episode features another lecture from Steve Hayward’s periodic series for the William F. Buckley Program at Yale, this time on the topic of “The Endless Quest for Social Equality.” This talk ranges widely from the contentions over income inequality that Thomas Piketty’s book ignited into the current bonfire of Bernie Sanders’s socialist vanity, to the curious findings of social science on other aspects of equality, especially as it bears on the sensitive subject of racism. Finally, Steve examines the role of envy in stoking the current politics of inequality. Envy, once considered one of the seven deadly sins, is not much studied by social scientists for some reason (wonder what that reason could be?), but there is some useful scholarly literature on the issue, and Steve reviews the highlights for us.

Closeout bumper music this week is a live performance of “Burden’s Blooming” from Twiddle.

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In this second part of our long conversation with Fred Siegel, Steve Hayward walks him through the final decay of New York in the 1980s after four decades of unrelenting liberal governance, how Rudy Giuliani turned it around in the 1990s, and what the prospects are for Mayor de Blasio. (Remember that this interview was originally recorded for video four years ago). From there we have a long conversation about what might be called Fred’s summa, his last book The Revolt Against the Masses: How Liberalism Has Undermined the Middle Class. This show is a grand tour of some of the key moments and thinkers of liberalism in the 20th century, and even though this interview was taped before Trump emerged as a presidential candidate in 2015, Fred is remarkably prescient about the defects of conservatism that Trump perceived and exploited, how liberalism was running headlong into the ruin of identity politics, and how the Obama presidency was unwinding in its final year.

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In this special double-episode, Steve Hayward takes the occasion of the last-minute hesitation over the nomination of Neomi Rao for the DC Circuit Court of Appeals to talk once again with “Lucretia,” Power Line’s International Woman of Mystery, about the issue of “substantive due process” that apparently worried a couple of Republican senators, and then we bring on our own John Hinderaker for a few observations about CPAC, and especially President Trump’s blockbuster speech. The show ends with Steve starting the execution of our “Cover of the Rolling Stone” strategy to try to attract the great Black Rifle Coffee company as a show sponsor!

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Steve Hayward goes back into the archives for an audio file from a video interview he conducted with Fred Siegel a few years back in which Fred explains how he came to shed the liberalism of his youth. Along the way, he provides a grand tour of some of the leading intellectuals he knew or read in the 1960s and 1970s, how he regarded the Vietnam War, what it was like working as a field rep for George McGovern’s 1972 campaign, and the many things wrong with leftist thought today.

Since the show talks a lot about the sixties, the choice of exit music was obvious: “For What It’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield.

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Just in time for the long holiday weekend, an early edition of the Power Line Show, with special guest Justin Buckley Dyer of the University of Missouri. Prof. Dyer is the co-author (with Micah Watson) of a terrific book on C.S. Lewis on Politics and the Natural Law. Though Lewis was known as a literary critic and Christian apologist, a lot of his work bears on the deepest political and philosophical problems of our time, even though Lewis wasn’t primarily interested in politics at all. Steve Hayward sat down with Justin recently to talk about the greatness and profound impact of C.S. Lewis, and also the problems of the university today, which listeners may recall have been especially on display at Mizzou over the last few years.

Exit music this week is “New Word Order” by The Word.

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