Tag Archives: politics

Figuring Out Podcasts

The path to podcasts, for me, began when I wanted something to occupy my brain while gardening. My brother had a big portable old school radio, and I’d listen to NPR. Back before Trump, on the weekends, NPR would be fairly apolitical, or at least no worse than a typical neighbor in my area.

But then Trump happened, and NPR just got unbearable. Before that point, I’d occasionally listen to bloggingheads interviews while working after school, and it occurred to me that I could just hook up my laptop to some old speakers. That worked so well I ran out of bloggingheads interviews before summer gardening ended.

Before the pandemic, I would sit in Starbucks or other coffee shops and write, but Twitter and other reading attractions were distracting. I suddenly realized that my phone came with a headset and that the headset worked on my laptop. So I plugged them into my laptop and listened to songs on youtube. Usually albums, so I didn’t have to change. No, I don’t have spotify or pandora or even pay youtube. Just whatever I could find: old albums (writing to the Carpenters Greatest Hits is very productive. Don’t @ me),  classical music, anything that would distract me just enough to focus on writing rather than flipping around websites. Somewhere in the last few years I started transferring pictures from phone to laptop via Bluetooth and realized that my rental cars on roadtrips also had Bluetooth which might be useful during the many hours when I was out of radio station range and Sirius had nothing to offer. Believe it or not, I used my laptop in my car to listen to podcasts I’d downloaded for about a year then suddenly, Rich Lowry’s regular reminder “it’s easier for you and better for us” to listen to the podcasts from a service finally sunk in as relevant information.  For the past….six months? year? not sure, I’ve been using Stitcher with inexpensive wireless earphones in rental cars, on walks. My own car was destroyed by a massive bus (sob) and when I get around to buying another it will support my podcast habit. I’m still pretty cheap. Not a big electronics person. And speak to me not of Apple.

Anyway, I’ll share my favorites and occasionals, and if anyone notices a pattern and has other suggestions, let me know.

Top Two:

Mickey Kaus and Bob Wright: These two invented bloggingheads, but then Mickey dropped out because his decision-making process unerringly directs him to choices guaranteeing the least visibility. I was delighted when the two decided to do a regular weekly show to discuss the pandemic. Guys, please don’t give it up. You can tell Mickey is worried that he’s made a choice that might be successful, as he constantly protests a commitment to anything long term. These guys are great. I love the lack of focus, the interruptions, the dispassionate assessment, and their obvious affection for each other.

The Glenn Show: Glenn Loury is a genius, a marvellous interviewer, and a guy who, like Mickey and Bob, should have a much higher visibility in today’s discourse. I’ve written about two episodes before. Eclectic, fearless, and ruthlessly analytical. Always worth listening to, particularly the “black guys at bloggingheads” series with John McWhorter. Other favorites are Amy Wax and Robert Cherry.

After these two clear favorites, it’s categories:

 Weekly or daily roundups

Ricochet Podcast: Rob Long, Peter Robinson, James Lileks. This was one of the first podcasts I began listening to in the garden. It’s very funny, very wry, and a nice mix of geography, political opinions, and personality. Peter Robinson sounds like ChooChoo on Top Cat and boy, does that make me sound old. They’re all interesting, but while Peter Robinson is by trade an interviewer, Rob Long, who began life as a comedy writer, is a pretty thoughtful analyst. Lileks is an op-ed guy.  They alternate between interviews and conversations; I generally prefer the conversations. I wrote about a particular podcast.

NRO’s The Editors: Rich Lowry and Charlie Cooke, with Jim Geraghty and Michael Brendan Dougherty alternating. I actually liked this podcast better when Luke Thompson was a regular, but I’m figuring he was terminated for boldly predicting that Joe Biden was a corpse knocking against the side of the boat.  Never showy or terribly memorable, it still always keeps me interested. I also confess a fondness for Rich Lowry, who would gun Sonny down on the causeway in a minute, because it’s just business. Dude’s a shark.

Commentary: John Podhoretz, Noah Rothman, Abe Greenwald, Christine Rosen. In their recent 500th episode, John Podhoretz mentioned that the Commentary editors moved to a daily podcast when the pandemic began, and that their listening audience tripled. Bingo. I had listened to them occasionally before, but when I walked a couple miles each day to get coffee, Commentary kept me from running out of podcasts.

It’s a very New York City sounding group. Hmm. I would like to be clear I’m not using “New York City” as a proxy for “Jewish”.  I mean that even though one lives in New Jersey and another in DC, the conversation has an extremely New York City sensibility. Like, when they are discussing the riots, they all talk about their neighbors and how they banded together, and I’m like who knows their neighbors?   They all seem to live in apartments. And so on. Maybe people do that in Chicago, too.

Reason Round Table: The libertarian politics are rarely front and center, while deep skepticism for political and media figures is. I like everything except the entertainment recommendations in the last 10 minutes.

GLOP: Jonah Goldberg, Rob Long, John Podhoretz. I used to like this a lot better than I do now. But at its best, it’s a fantastic pop culture show, and Rob Long’s insights into the entertainment industry are excellent (like why Burt Reynolds couldn’t get hired).  They’ve gone down to a show every two weeks; that and Jonah’s occasional Trump rants have dropped it down a notch. Still, I listen faithfully.

London Calling: James Delingpole, Toby Young. I don’t listen to this all the time because the issues just go right by me. But these two are hilarious. They used to do a podcast on Game of Thrones and their ignorance was a treatBack in February, Toby Young did a story about an 8 hour trip to the emergency room and a Chinese-loooking man who said he had corona virus, the memory of which still makes me chortle. I need to remember to listen to them more.

Mad Dogs and Englishmen: Kevin Williamson and Charles Cooke. I can’t stand Williamson. He’s arrogant, hates America, and has very little interesting to say. But for some reason the podcast passes the time adequately, possibly because neither of them live in New York or Washington DC.

Dropped: Left, Right, Center when Bruenig left. The new leftist is horrible. I Tell You What, with Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt dropped off my list, more for Chris Stirewalt, also way left and really annoying.  I like Bret Baier’s show, but it’s too short.

Never considered: The Bulwark, Beg to Differ, any of a large variety of really smug Never Trump shows.

Interview shows. In general, I choose interview shows for the subject, not the interviewer. But these folks all choose interesting subjects. Note–the best interview show I’ve already mentioned, in the #2 overall slot above.

The Remnant: I gripe about Jonah Goldberg but it’s worth remembering I’ve been listening or reading him for 20 years. He’s a guy who really valued his relationship with his audience, and the Trump rise shattered that relationship, and the audience. He’s never really recovered psychologically from that blow, and he blames Trump and his followers. Fortunately, he had a lot more going on, so all that happens is periodically he breaks into a rant about Trump or his followers or what they say to him and it’s really boring. The rest of the time, he’s still Jonah and keeps interviews moving and fascinating. He tends only to choose people he agrees with, and knows real well, so it sounds like old home week.

The Reason Interview with Nick Gillespie: For some reason his stuff doesn’t show up in my feed, and I have to remember to go find him. Very good interviewer, keeps conversations interesting and funny.

Conversations with Bill Kristol: Another Never Trumper I despise who nonetheless puts together a decent interview show, provided you can keep him away from Trump. (In other words, the Mike Murphy spots are unbearable.) Also, his website of all the interviews is unintentionally hilarious: Hi! Are you a white guy expert over 60? Boy, is this the place for you! The Christopher Caldwell talks are excellent, and the interview with John Podhoretz on the movie industry is one I listen to about once a year.

The Dispatch:  Steve Hayes interviews only. Understand, the Dispatch podcast roundtable with Hayes, Sarah Isgur, Jonah Goldberg, and David French is not on my list at all. It’s basically ok until Jonah starts going down the Trump rabbit hole, and horrible whenever French opens his mouth. Disclosure: I loathe French.  And I hate his voice.

However. Steve Hayes does a very nice interview, and Sarah Isgur isn’t bad. So whenever it’s an interview with just them, it’s worth a listen.  The interview with two young conservative Dispatch staffers was so good I almost subscribed, but then David French was an asshole on Twitter, and the impulse evaporated.

Analyst Shows:

I used to like political analysis more than I do now, as most of them have gone way left. Amy Walter is intolerable. Five thirty eight is far too woke for me anymore, although I still have it on my feed.

I still give Josh Kraushaar a listen, depending on his guests. The Sean Trende discussion was fantastic–and speaking of guys who should have podcasts, Sean?  Henry Olsen, one of the few Trump friendly analysts, does a good interview even though his voice grates on me. I also like his ad analysis.


Here’s something ironic: Almost every show I listen to has a moment or three, sometimes each week, in which someone takes a dump all over teachers. And if you point that out to them, they say exactly the same thing: We don’t dump on teachers! We dump on teachers’ unions! Please. In the Thomas Sowell interview, Rob Long called schools “sclerotic”.  John Podhoretz routinely says “in those horrible awful teacher union public schools”. Kevin Williamson routinely writes broadsidesagainst the profession. mentioning teachers four times and cops once. They all want to “fire bad teachers”.  Newsflash: if you say teachers unions are responsible for America’s low scores, you’re attacking teachers, not unions. And America doesn’t have low scores, which you’d all know if you knew better.

Whenever I point this out, people think I’m bitching or whining and I’m not. It’s just that my god, conservatives and Republicans and libertarians, get up to speed.  The 90s called and they want their education policy back. Republicans who aren’t directly involved in public school policy have absolutely no idea what’s been happening, and have no idea how to successful promote an education policy that hasn’t already failed miserably.

Just one example: Thomas Sowell wrote a book celebrating Success Academy and charter schools that was just flatly a bunch of bullshit, and was interviewedon Ricochet. Lileks, Long, and Robinson were all gaga with praise and astonishment. None of them mentioned Robert Pondiscio’s book–probably because they have no idea it exists. Not a single conservative in education policy would ever be so idiotic as to brag about Success Academy. They know how SA achieves the numbers. They know it’s all a lie. The only thing they debate about is whether or not the lie can be rationalized or not. But none of this came up. Complexity, something they enjoy in other topics, vanishes entirely when conservatives start talking education.

Notice, too, that there are no education podcasts on my feed. Reformers are too irritating, progressives are too progressives. I do occasionally listen to Nat Malkus, who is at least an honest broker. Conservatives listed above would do well to listen to him, particularly The Shifting Politics of Charter Schooling and Success Academy Charter Schools with Robert Pondiscio.


So I just thought I’d toss this together, in my “write more” phase, and ask for recommendations. Specifically:

  • a good left of center podcast that won’t annoy me. I just heard Jesse Singal had one, so will check that out.
  • another culture podcast that discusses movies, ideally not just new ones.
  • a good comedy podcast. I tried Conan’s, couldn’t get into it. I like Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, if that helps.
  • Other good shows in the categories above.

Also, is it possible to review shows in Stitcher? I am a very popular reviewer, Yelp assures me.


Bad Teachers

The NY Post fumes about another “bad teacher” story, carefully designed to outrage all good taxpaying citizens as to the nefarious slugs collecting our hard-won taxpayer dollars.

I’m a process freak. When I read the Post story, my eyes went straight to the section that many others ] probably glossed over:

Accused in 2001 of making lewd comments and ogling eighth-grade girls’ butts at IS 347 in Queens, Rosenfeld was slapped with a week off without pay after the DOE failed to produce enough witnesses at a hearing.

But instead of returning Rosenfeld to the classroom, the DOE kept him in one of its notorious “rubber rooms,” where teachers in misconduct cases sat idle or napped.


That let rubber-room granddaddy Roland Pierre make a mockery of the system. He finally retired at age 76 last year — 14 years after he was yanked from PS 138 in Brooklyn and never taught again. Criminal charges in 1997 that he molested a sixth-grade girl were dropped.

So….we don’t actually know if either of these guys are, in fact, oglers and molesters. We don’t know this because, perhaps, incompetent bureaucrats and law enforcement personnel (government workers, all) failed to make the case (just as the DA found insufficient evidence on Mark Berendt in 1994–and yes, Berendt, too, gets to retire with full benefits). Or, perhaps, we don’t know this because these guys aren’t actually guilty.

What we do know, according to the story, is the process for getting rid of bad teachers, as well as the process for putting sex offenders in jail, was followed. But the journalists who write “bad teacher” stories don’t agree with the outcome of that process. Journalists who write “bad teacher” stories have to mention the process, but they never blame the process. They blame the unions for doing the job they’re legally required to do, the teachers for not quitting or allowing themselves to be fired. But not the process. These stories always punch up the volume on the potential sex offender or near-abusive teachers, but it’s rare to see a “bad teacher” story that focuses on the effort to get rid of a teacher who just isn’t very good.

Eduformers, on the other hand, do blame the process. They don’t like it one bit. Eduformers often push the “bad teacher” sex offender stories, not because they think all teachers are sex offenders, but because, as they repeat ad nauseum, “we need to make it easier to fire bad teachers”. Gen up outrage to make it easier to fire sex offending teachers and hopefully the net will widen to pull in the other teachers the principal wants to fire as well.

But while eduformers do blame the process, they rarely talk about changing it. They want it gone. They point to the the process of firing teachers, which they clearly think is absurd, and call for a more executive approach, one that allows principals full discretion to fire “bad teachers”.

In fact, the process itself isn’t that ridiculous. In most districts, principals can visit classes any time they like. If they find a teacher asleep or reading the newspaper, they can write it up and put it in the teacher’s personnel file, where it can be used in the next evaluation. If students turn in absurd assignments that show the teacher is phoning it in, or record the teacher showing them movies daily, that, too, can be included in the evaluation. An aggressive principal can get a bad teacher fired—if, in fact, the teacher is a bad teacher.

But that’s not enough for eduformers. They don’t want a process, they want a system with executive control—one in which the principal is more powerful than the much-hated unions, one in which the principal gets to form his or her team and dump the naysayers. Dream on. I get the allure. It’s just not going to happen. Unions or no, teachers and principals are still paid with government money, and principals will never be able to have unilateral control as long as they’re spending taxpayer dollars. Because, just as there are really bad teachers, there are spectacularly awful principals1, and the job carries authority to do real damage with real money. Eduformers either can’t or won’t understand the futility of their dreams.

I know that eduformers don’t understand math, despite their protestations about math teacher competence, because bad teachers are a non-issue when it comes to their contributions to educational costs. Imagine, for a moment, that 10,000 horrible teachers sit idle in New York City, teachers so awful that they are all banished to the rubber room and are collecting $100K/year. They would be taking up 5% of the city’s operations budget for education. In fact, there are fewer than a thousand horrible teachers sitting idle, and the money spent is a fraction of 1% of the budget. So spare me the sturm und drang. When it comes to waste in education, bad teachers are a rounding error.

If principals wanted to make firing bad teachers a priority, they would. The fact that they don’t speaks volumes not about the difficulty of firing bad teachers, but rather the low priority it is for principals.

So. Should it be easier to fire spectacularly incompetent teachers? Sure. Is that what eduformers are interested in? No.

What eduformers say they want is improved educational outcomes, and that improving teacher quality is essential. If that’s really what they want, then no problem, as far as I’m concerned: eduformers, you’re wrong. Give it up. Bad teachers aren’t causing the problems you’re worried about, and they really aren’t that much of a problem to begin with.

What many progressives accuse eduformers of actually wanting is something quite different. Eduformers and their corporate funders are, say progressives, actively seeking to undermine all elements of the traditional educational power structure—unions and education schools—in order to remove teacher job protections and make education much cheaper. They want to turn teaching into a job like any other private sector job, with zero protections and guarantees, no pensions, getting turned out with a few weeks pay when a new boss comes in, no seniority rights. These protections, once guaranteed to many private sector workers, are now a sinecure of government jobs and need to be destroyed. Once teachers are stripped of the protections they have, say the progressives, eduformers will shrug and find a new culprit—and probably push for government to get out of schooling altogether.

I find this accusation extremely convincing. Many eduformers are no doubt well-meaning romantic fools being used by their corporate funders, while other eduformers are explicitly working towards this goal, openly or not.

The thing is, I’m not sure I disagree with that goal. Why should teachers and government workers be protected when private sector workers are not? Why should taxpayer dollars go straight from teacher paychecks to union funds that get handed directly to progressive causes that many teachers don’t support? While we can’t get better results with our current goals, we could undoubtedly get the same results for less money—not that much less, unless pensions got axed. But less.

If that’s the goal, then why not go for it directly? We could revamp the teaching job in all sorts of ways, many of which would give tons more power to good teachers in way eduformers can’t even dream of, cut costs, and—alas—send all the best teachers to the richest schools permanently.

Of course, if that is the goal, no one will admit it directly. Far more respectable to proclaim dedication to poor and underprivileged children everywhere and just incidentally–in the best interests of these children—go after those evil wicked teachers who are ruining childrens’ lives and our country’s future.

Just when I get to that point in the Machiavellian universe the progressives see, I shrug. Naw. Eduformers really are nothing more than naive dreamers who think they understand what’s wrong with our schools.

Not that their motives really matter. As long as they’re blaming teachers, they’re going to fail.

I’m not a fan of unions, so I do find it a tad ironic that I’m counting on unions and their invincibility to stop eduformers from further destroying our schools. At least I’m paying for it to the tune of a thousand or so a year.

1Not my principal, however, who is a paragon of principals.

The Great Shift

A few years back, Charles Murray wrote Real Education, which he marketed as having four simple ideas:

  1. Ability varies
  2. Half of the children are below average
  3. Too many people are going to college
  4. America’s future depends on how we educate the academically gifted

Meanwhile, Mr. Teachbad describes The Great Shift:

It is my responsibility to always be engaging the child, rather than the child’s responsibility to learn how to shut….up, think, and do some thing he or she doesn’t love once in a while. This HUGE shift in responsibility away from students and families and onto teachers is a topic unto itself. It represents an enormous social capitulation and places an utterly unfair burden on teachers.

They’re both largely correct, although I quibble with them on the details. But they’re not just right, they’re correlated.

The American educational system refuses to acknowledge the basic truth behind Murray’s four ideas. I suspect that it would easily accept them if the import of Ideas #1 and #2 weren’t disproportionately allocated by race. Check out exclusively white or Asian high schools and you will find high schools that track ruthlessly, since they have no unsettling patterns in their bonehead classes. Schools whose bonehead classes have over-representation of underrepresented minorities get lawsuits and multi-generational court orders.

So while the educational system refuses to acknowledge reality, it can’t acknowledge reality anyway, because our legal system gets very cranky and starts talking about disparate impact. Our elites get even more upset because, hey, if we can’t move everyone up the ladder equally in our multi-racial, multi-cultural society, then there might be something wrong with the society, and racism is always their favorite culprit.

But regardless of the reason, here we are. If the system can’t accept that abilities vary, and that academic results are strongly linked to cognitive ability, then the system needs someone to blame. The kids can’t be blamed–and here, unlike Mr. Teachbad, I don’t think they should be. They’re not signing up to take trigonometry and poetry analysis and demanding excellent grades for no work. Not that it matters, though, since the system isn’t giving the kids a pass out of kindness but rather necessity. Blaming the kids leads to the obvious solution—take the kids out of the class and, if necessary, out of the school. Back to the disparate impact penalty box and the elites prating about racism and institutional legitimacy.

Government is supposed to protect kids from bad parents, so even if the parents are bad (again, not a major culprit), the public can’t be expected to pony up billions to run schools if the schools are going to shrug and say “wuddyagunna do? It’s the parents.”

That leaves teachers. Mr. Teachbad is correct. It’s extremely unfair. But we can’t resolve it without facing up to the core truths in Murray’s four ideas.

Not in front of the children?

I use the phrase Voldemort View (borrowed from an anonymous teacher) to describe the troubles that come along with suggesting that cognitive issues may be the source of the achievement gap. (To repeat myself: the average IQ of a racial group doesn’t say squat about the cognitive abilities of any one individual.)

But Ted Horrell, new principal of a Memphis Tennessee high school, didn’t discuss the cause of the achievement gap. In fact, he didn’t mention it at all. He was going through test scores by race and SES, using state reports, to explain why the school was starting a new advisory period. Naturally, a student goes home and complains about the race-based graphics, totally misrepresents Horrell’s presentation, the media jumps all over the story and ensures the misrepresentation gets played all over the country. (Day One and Day Two of the coverage). Horrell apologizes, but at least makes it clear that it was the students’ imagination, not his presentation, that started the problem.

Apparently, Horrell should have had race-based assemblies to discuss the results.

You could just dismiss this as just another example of the niggardly issue; if a certified member of an identity group takes offense, reality takes a back seat.

But education in America begins and ends with the achievement gap. Horrell took the slides from the state’s website. The media–the same media now playing up the insanity–routinely reports state scores broken down by race and income. I don’t recall them being rated R. No warning to leave the room, or an alert that some viewers might find the information offensive.

Now, apparently all someone has to do is call the paper or the TV station and complain.

So when Congress tries to renew No Child Left Behind and mandated reporting to close the achievement gap…..Hey. Not in front of the kiddies.

Who am I?

  • I’m currently a teacher, in my third fourth fifth  ninth year of teaching. I’ve taught at 3 4 schools including the one I spent a year at as a student teacher. I have three secondary academic credentials.
  • I primarily teach high school math: algebra 2, trigonometry, pre-calc, with the occasional dose of geometry, algebra, or pre-algebra.
  • I also teach US History and English Language Learners.
  • For ten years, I was a private tutor and test prep instructor, teaching every major test except the MCAT. I worked for multiple companies and private clients simultaneously, tutoring in all academic subjects except science.
  • I have extensive experience teaching a wide range of subjects to Asian American and Hispanic high schoolers. My experience working with African American high schoolers is primarily in math topics, and  the sample size is much smaller; there just aren’t a lot of African Americans in my area. I have experience teaching every academic subject but science to whites from fifth grade to high school. I’ve also taught test prep (GRE, LSAT, GMAT) to college graduates. The mental ability of my students ranges from barely functional with IQs just at or slightly below 90 to genius.
  • I’m a parent. I was a suburban parent of an originally under-achieving son long before I became a teacher and, as a teacher, I am extremely sensitive to the aggravations of the suburban parent.
  • I have two Master’s degrees, neither of which I found terribly difficult, and I do not do well in formal education.
  • Neither of my parents graduated from college, and I am the only college graduate of their four children. Only one of my uncles or aunts is a college graduate, and only 4 of my 21 cousins. My grandfather was a college graduate, and my son will be. Real. Soon. Now. has an Economics degree. (whoohoo!) We’ve all done quite well for ourselves, with or without college degrees. My attitude towards education is best described as utilitarian. I snicker when people speak of the joys of lifelong learning as a goal for the general population.
  • I’ve been registered as a Republican since 2000, although the first time I voted for a Republican presidential candidate was 2008. I’m not conservative–I say that not in disdain, merely to ensure understanding. I am not a fan of the left; I have disliked and in many cases despised it long before I registered as a Republican. The best way to describe my political outlook would be “Skeptic”.
  • My content knowledge is pretty extensive. My IQ, for what it’s worth, is somewhere above 3SD–I was selected for this study, which had these results. But my spatial and visual abilities are much weaker than the other tested IQ areas, which holds me back in really advanced math*. 

    I am, in short, pretty smart. No one knows better than I do that “smart” and $4 gets you a large latte at Peets. Smart is useful to me, but I don’t feel even slightly superior. I am one of the many under-achieving white folk of the world.


  • For most of my working life I was self-employed or a contract worker. I liked it. Still do; I have several part-time jobs.
  • I like to argue about interesting topics. I find almost everything interesting.
  • I have to fight the urge to smack people who declare that reading is objectively superior to watching TV or movies.
  • “You were right” are words I get a lot. If only people delivered them more in the present tense, and took my advice first. Alas.