Chart of the day

From Drum:

It’s almost like you cannot trust the media for reporting all those mean things about Trump.  Just a bunch of fake news they are making up apparently.  Or, damn… partisanship!

Though, this is even more depressing:

Sorry, but you would never, never get a chart like this where Democrats approved of this level of government censorship.  The simple fact is that this type of authoritariasm is just far more innatey appealing to the conservative mind.

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The war on Mueller (and objective truth)

Great post from Paul Waldman:

But they [Fox News] are in a highly agitated state, and the top priority is discrediting Mueller, a Republican who until recently was one of the most widely respected law enforcement figures in Washington. As Newt Gingrich tweeted in May when he was selected for the job, “Robert Mueller is superb choice to be special counsel. His reputation is impeccable for honesty and integrity.” But once Mueller started actually indicting people for what seem like pretty obvious crimes — something prosecutors have been known to do from time to time — Gingrich said he was “corrupt.” And that’s what Republicans are now asked to believe and repeat.

One of the challenges of being a Republican in the age of Trump is that you never know who you’ll be called upon to decide is your enemy. Muslims, immigrants, uppity black people, sure — you expected that. Heck, that was a big part of why you voted for him. But the FBI? The G-men? Well, if that’s what the boss wants, that’s what he wants.

Underneath the convoluted defense offered up each day is a more far-reaching message: There are no real facts, no objective reality that stands apart from the interests of this president. Job numbers that were fake when they made Barack Obama look good are real when they make Donald Trump look good — and you know that if the economy turns down, they’ll be declared fake again. So what’s true today may not be true tomorrow. The only choice is to keep one’s gaze fixed on the lodestar of Trump himself.

How to really tell how a school system is doing

Love this piece in the Upshot from Emily Badger and Kevin Quealy about a better way to look at school system performance.  Just looking at test scores is a very poor way, as it is largely just telling you about the socio-economics of the school or district.  But by looking at scores of a cohort moving through a district that can really tell us something about how effective the schools really are at educating.  And the results can be surprising:

In the Chicago Public Schools system, enrollment has been declining, the budget is seldom enough, and three in four children come from low-income homes, a profile that would seemingly consign the district to low expectations. But students here appear to be learning faster than those in almost every other school system in the country, according to new data from researchers at Stanford.

The data, based on some 300 million elementary-school test scores across more than 11,000 school districts, tweaks conventional wisdom in many ways. Some urban and Southern districts are doing better than data typically suggests. Some wealthy ones don’t look that effective. Many poor school systems do.

This picture, and Chicago’s place in it, defy how we typically think about wealth and education in America. It’s true that children in prosperous districts tend to test well, while children in poorer districts on average score lower. But in this analysis, which measures how scores grow as student cohorts move through school, the Stanford researcher Sean Reardon argues that it’s possible to separate some of the advantages of socioeconomics from what’s actually happening in schools.

In Chicago, third graders collectively test below the second-grade level on reading and math. But this data shows that over the next five years, they receive the equivalent of six years of education. By the eighth grade, their scores have nearly caught up to the national average…

By comparison, children in the Milwaukee Public Schools test at similarly low rates in the third grade but advance more slowly, leaving them even further behind by the eighth grade. In Maryland’s Anne Arundel County, third graders test above the national average. But growth there lags behind Chicago, where the poverty rate is about five times higher…

“One question we’ve been asking ourselves is: Do urban public school systems simply reflect the poverty of the kids in the schools, or do they overcome those effects to any degree?” said Michael Casserly, the executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, which represents large urban districts.

This new data shows that many do overcome them. It also suggests that states that rate schools and select which ones to reward or shutter based on average test scores are using the wrong metric, Mr. Reardon argues. And so are parents who rely on publicly available test scores to identify what they believe are the best school districts — and so the best places to live.

“Most people think there’s some signal in that,” Mr. Reardon, a professor of education, said of average test scores. “But it’s a pretty bad signal.” [emphases mine]…

Districts with high growth are scattered across the country, in contrast with sharp geographic divisions on proficiency that show Northern schools ahead of those in the Deep South. School systems across Arizona and Tennessee that appear to test well below national averages are in fact overperforming in growth. Many predominantly minority districts where third graders start behind have high growth rates. But in New York City, where third graders test at the national average, slow growth puts them at a disadvantage later.

Fascinating stuff.  What’s also really, really cool is the ability to put in most any school district of your choosing (I did this with Wake County where I live and Fairfax County where I grew up) and see how well it performs according to this metric (not so great, though not particularly bad).  Try it out!

Photo of the day

From an Atlantic gallery of holiday light shows:

The Champs Elysee Avenue is illuminated with a Ferris wheel for the Christmas season in Paris, France, on November 22, 2017. 

Francois Mori / AP

We so have to stop allowing the police to murder people

I listened to a great podcast earlier this week about police violence and the standards we use to allow police to use lethal force.  It was so good.  What started as an attempt to reduce unnecessary police violence has basically ended up in a ridiculous standard where, no matter what the police do, if you reach towards your pants/waist in the precense of police, you may have signed your death warrant.  That’s just not reasonable.  The police officer can behave entirely irresponsibly and unprofessionally, but if he tells you to put your hands up and you reach towards your pants at all, boom your dead, and the police officer is cleared of all wrong-doing.  Strongly consider given this episode of “More Perfect” (an amazing podcast on Constitutional Law from the Radiolab folks) on the matter.

I loved the episode, but was not going to post on it until the very recent acquittal of the officer who shot Daniel Shaver and the release of the video, as the More Perfect episode is 100% on-point.  You can read about the case and watch the absolutely devastating video in the Post article.  The police officer behaved abominably and seemed to be on a sick power trip, but the guy reached towards his falling-down pants (after being needlessly forced to crawl) and so the five shots that killed him were considered “reasonable.”

Ironically, I also had an open tab about the case (from well before the video release) that I had been meaning to read, but had not gotten around to.  Conor Friedersdorf (working off a description of what’s in the video) makes the beyond race (Shaver was white) case for dramatically-needed police reform.:

Its protests have certainly helped mobilize support for police reform among the subset of Americans who believe that fighting racism should be a high priority. Unfortunately, its explicitly racial focus has been alienating to others, including those who don’t believe that racism is a significant factor in police killings; those who put fighting racism low on their priority list; and anti-black racists. In debates that ensue, critics of Black Lives Matter often try to argue that African Americans are not in fact disproportionately victimized by police killings. Here is a representative example.

Rather than engage that debate, though, I want to argue that it is largely irrelevant. Even if Black Lives Matter critics were right that police killings in America are not racially suspect, that would not be a sufficient argument against police reforms. It would still remain the case that American police officers kill many more people overall––and many more unarmed and mentally ill people in particular––than do police officers in other democratic countries.

Why isn’t that enough to warrant serious, systemic reform? [emphasis mine]

Black Lives Matter and its progressive allies who want to advance its reform agenda, believing that it will save innocents of all races and that it will disproportionately save lives in black communities, display a laudable commitment to speaking out every time the police killing of a black person illustrates a flaw of the status quo. But publicizing and protesting egregious instances of white people being killed would do as much to advance its agenda.

And, specifically on Shaver:

This is already vexing. A guy who had done nothing illegal is ordered into a motel hallway. Six cops are there with their weapons drawn; he is presumably a bit drunk, which would only add to his alarm and confusion; he is clearly trying to cooperate from the start; but the cops are hostile, yelling at him for trying to ask a question, adding to his fear by shouting that he may not survive, and giving lots of complicated instructions—it isn’t enough for the six men with guns that the man is laying on the ground with his hands outstretched and his palms up. They’re ordering him to cross his legs with specific instructions for which leg goes on top; they want his eyes closed; they want fingers interlaced on his head.

At this point, the woman crawls to police, who get her out of the way. The other individual had already left the room by the time the cops arrived on scene.

Now back to the incident report:

Shaver remained compliant and was not moving … Sgt. Langley told Shaver to listen to his instructions and “do not make a mistake.” Portillo’s purse was clearly visible in the middle of the hallway approximately three feet in front of Shaver.

Sgt. Langley told Shaver to keep his legs crossed and to place his hands out in front of him and push himself up into a kneeling position. Shaver moved his hands in front of him and then when he started to push himself into a kneeling position, he uncrossed his legs. Sgt. Langley immediately shouted at Shaver to keep his legs crossed. Shaver crossed his legs and was now on all fours on his hands and knees on the floor. Shaver’s head was down and he could be heard saying he is sorry and continued to mumble something I could not understand. Shaver then attempted to raise his body into a kneeling position as he had originally been instructed and brought both of his hands behind his back. This did not appear to be an exaggerated movement and looked similar from the vantage point of the video as when someone is handcuffed with officers behind them.

I invite readers to lay face down on the floor, hands outstretched, legs crossed; and then attempt rising to a kneeling position without uncrossing your legs or drawing your hands toward your waistband. Do not make a mistake or you die.

And in conclusion:

All killings by police are worthy of attention, at least until American law-enforcement officers kill fewer rather than many more of the citizens they’re sworn to protect than police in other countries. No unjust killing of a black person should go uncovered. But I suspect it would be in everyone’s interest if journalists and activists paid more attention to egregious police killings of white people. If you’re horrified by Daniel Shaver’s untimely death, yet against Black Lives Matter, consider that Shaver might well be alive if only the Mesa police department had long ago adopted reforms of the sort that Black Lives Matter suggests.

Short version– we desperately, desperately need to stop making it so easy for police to legally kill unarmed civilians.  Period.

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