Quick hits (part II)

1) Chait on the nightmare that is Trump’s National Security team:

But it is the specific, mutually reinforcing characteristics of Flynn and his staff that invite the most alarm. He is a conspiracy theorist averse to any challenge to his suspicions, surrounding himself with a staff of fellow conspiracy theorists seemingly designed to shut out any challenge to his biases, providing advice to a novice president who is himself a conspiracy theorist. It’s under-informed, overconfident crackpots all the way down. As a comedic script, it would defy plausibility. Except there’s a terrifying chance that a lot of innocent people will die as a result.

2) I love this idea– an affirmative liberal agenda to protect voting rights in the states.  Let’s go liberals.

3) Like me, I’m sure you are totally shocked at the very solid evidence for racial bias against Black convicts in Florida.  But Fox News says the real racism problem now is racism against white people.  What to believe?

4) Laser Christmas lights are totally catching on.  Me and my kids totally want these because I’m way too lazy to put up real lights.  My wife doesn’t think we should advertise our laziness to the neighborhood.  I actually think they look pretty cool, too.

5) I’ve been meaning to do a post on Comey, but, ahhhh, quick hits it is.  Excellent post from Brian Beutler on how Democrats need to not cede the security state to Republicans.  And excellent Vanity Fair profile of Comey and recent FBI directors.  And Drum argues that, regardless of Comey’s intent, everything he did sure came out very partisan:

Any one of these things could be just an accident. Put them all together, and you need to be pretty obtuse not to see the partisan pattern. In every single case, Comey and the FBI did what was best for Republicans and worst for Democrats. In. Every. Single. Case.

If you want to believe this is just a coincidence, go ahead. But nobody with a room temperature IQ credits that. The FBI has spent the entire past year doing everything it could to favor one party over the other in a presidential campaign. Democrats ought to be in a seething fury about this. Instead, they’re arguing about a few thousand white rural voters in Wisconsin and whether Hillary Clinton should have visited Michigan a few more times in October.

6) Vox piece on the reality of the infamous hot McDonald’s coffee lawsuit.  Actually saw a great documentary on this a few years ago.

7) Josh Marshall on the Russia hacks and what we knew when:

The administration did a huge amount over the course of the fall to alert the public, alert the world was happening. They finally went so far as to issue a public consensus judgment of the entire US intelligence community about Russian tampering in the election.

This was loud. Everybody heard about it. It was widely reported. It certainly didn’t get the same volume or intensity of attention as Hillary Clinton’s emails. But the President can’t control press coverage. The key issue was that political partisanship by and large kept Republicans from caring. The dynamics of the presidential contest were more important than foreign meddling or sabotage.

 This may sound like a harsh judgment but it is demonstrably true. Not only did President-Elect Trump know about the charges. (Indeed, it is very likely his intelligence briefings included more detailed information than we in the public have even today.) He frequently discussed them and encouraged the tampering
Perhaps you have doubts about whether Russia was really behind the hacks. But the US government made abundantly clear who it believed was behind them. The notifications went far beyond leaks or interviews. They did a public and formal pronouncement! That almost never happens. The simple matter is this: Everybody knew this. But there was no making Trump, his supporters or most critically establishment Republicans or elected officials care.  [italics Marshall; bold is me]

8) This headline in Salon piece summarizing some new research pretty much gets it, ” Big Republican donors are even more extreme than their party — and they drive its agenda.”

Why does this matter? There is increasing evidence that politicians are more responsive to donors than to voters or party members in general. The push for austerity does not come from average Americans, but from powerful donors. Economic and political inequality are self-reinforcing trends: The rich use their increasing wealth to influence the political system, and they overwhelmingly prefer policies that limit the influence of government in society. Though the voice of the donor class is disparate, it speaks with an accent — and prefers policies that will further increase economic inequality.

9) Tom Wheeler on why it was easier being a lobbyist than heading the FCC:

Looking back, Wheeler says it was easier being a lobbyist.

“To make decisions that are in the common good is tough,” Wheeler said at a press conference today. “Remember: I have been on the other side. Making demands that benefit a specific constituency is easy, as is attacking the decision-makers when you don’t like that decision.”

10) How the rise in Cesarean sections may actually be affecting human evolution– bigger heads.

11) I think Chait is right that Schumer is operating off the wrong mental model on how to deal with Trump.

12) Love the technology behind these proposed check-out free Amazon stores.

13) Criminal justice in Alabama— surprise again– racist and vindictive.

14) Paul Waldman on Congressional Republicans looking the other way on so much bad stuff.  Tax cuts!!

But in the specific areas above, we’re seeing something new and different. We’re looking at the possibility of an unprecedented undermining of the integrity of our democracy; of mind-blowingly extensive corruption; and of a massive erosion of the very possibility of agreement on basic facts about our political outcomes. This goes well beyond anything we’ve seen in recent history, not only in the specifics, but even more so in the aggregate. And, presuming this will continue, the behavior of congressional Republicans in response to it should be seen as an integral part of that story.

15) Dana Goldstein assesses Obama’s legacy on education.

16) Speaking of education, new evidence that, yes, school spending does matter.  Of course, it matters where you spend it:

For many years, research on the relationship between spending and student learning has been surprisingly inconclusive. Many other factors, including student poverty, parental education and the way schools are organized, contribute to educational results.

Teasing out the specific effect of money spent is methodologically difficult. Opponents of increased school funding have seized on that ambiguity to argue that, for schools, money doesn’t matter — and, therefore, more money isn’t needed.

But new, first-of-its-kind research suggests that conclusion is mistaken. Money really does matter in education, which could provide fresh momentum for more lawsuits and judgments like the Connecticut decision…

They found a consistent pattern: In the long run, over comparable time frames, states that send additional money to their lowest-income school districts see more academic improvement in those districts than states that don’t. The size of the effect was significant. The changes bought at least twice as much achievement per dollar as a well-known experiment that decreased class sizes in the early grades. [emphasis mine]

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