US Steel Imports

On Thursday President Trump announced that the Commerce Department would investigate imports of steel to the United States. This falls under the Buy American campaign pledge. A lot of talk in the media is, of course, about the threat of Chinese steel to the United States. So I dug into the Census Bureau’s website and found their data on steel imports.

Well, it turns out that steel imports were already down by over 5 million tons before Trump took office. And from 2015 to 2016, China fell sharply from 7th to 10th in a ranking of our import partners. In fact the only country from whom we import significant amounts of steel to see a rise over that period was Mexico.

But we’ll probably need their steel to build the wall to keep out their steel.

I visualised the data in this datagraphic. Enjoy. And look for a later post today in the usual, light-hearted vein.

The state of US steel imports
The state of US steel imports

Credit for the data goes to the US Census Burea. The graphic is mine.

The Mother Of All Bombs

Yesterday the United States dropped a GBU.43 on a cave complex in eastern Afghanistan. The bomb is better known by its nickname MOAB, Mother Of All Bombs. But just how does the GBU.43 compare to some of the more common—and not so common—weapons in the US arsenal?

What we do know is that yesterday was the detonation of the largest non-nuclear bomb in warfare. We do have an even larger conventional weapon called the Massive Ordnance Penetrator—phrasing?—but its size and warhead are not as large as the MOAB. MOP is instead intended to be used as a super bunker buster.

I'm not even going to try to put Tsar Bomba on here
I’m not even going to try to put Tsar Bomba on here

Credit for the piece is mine.

An Update on Trump-Russia Ties

Between travelling and being ill, I apologise for a lack of posting the last week or two. But as promised, we are back with a small update to the Trump–Russia ties. It turns out that shortly before the Syria air strikes, news broke that Jared Kushner omitted dozens of contacts with foreigners on his security clearance form. One, of course, is Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. But the other was Sergey Gorkov, who runs Vnesheonombank, which is a bank owned by the Russian government, which is obviously headed by Vladimir Putin. Both Gorkov and Putin share a second tie as they were both trained by the KGB/FSB.

The new link is the connection between Kushner and Gorkov
The new link is the connection between Kushner and Gorkov

There is also news out of the UK today, via the Guardian, that British and other European intelligence agencies began, in summer 2015, to note contacts between Russian agents and persons of interest and people within the Trump campaign. And these European agencies were the ones that alerted American agencies, because American agencies are not allowed to collect intelligence on American citizens. More smoke and people who saw it earlier than we previously knew.

Credit for the new info comes from Politico.

Prince, Prince, Goose?

Well, this wasn’t what I was expecting to post today. But that’s okay, because it’s big news all the same and allows me to get my hands dirty. Yesterday the Washington Post broke news that the United Arab Emirates, specifically Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan and the UAE’s national security advisor, arranged a meeting between an official reportedly close to Vladimir Putin and Eric Prince.

Who is Eric Prince? Besty DeVos’ brother for starters. But more importantly for the story, a major donor and supporter for and of the Trump campaign. He also has ties to Stephen Bannon, Chief Strategist for the President. Most importantly, the article alleges, potentially damningly, that Zayed would not have arranged the meeting without “the nod” from both Trump and Putin.

What was discussed? Allegedly the strategic aim of separating Russia from Iran. Yeah, that’s probably a good thing. But given things like the S-300 surface-to-air missile system, the Bushehr nuclear generating station, and the ongoing support of the Iran-Assad-Hezbollah faction in Syria, it is highly unlikely that Putin would be very willing to suddenly drop his support for Iran.

Why is this on my blog today? Well, I have been increasingly curious about all the stories about how various people and organisations are linking Trump and Putin. To be fair, a link is not inherently, necessarily nefarious let alone illegal. But, given the intelligence collected that Russia was attempting to influence the election in Trump’s favour, and given his electoral college win, and given the known connections, it is important that we look at the breadth and depth of the unknown connections.

Prince, Prince, Goose? Because a sheikh is kind of like a prince.
Prince, Prince, Goose? Because a sheikh is kind of like a prince.

And that is what this graphic will be. For now it will be a static graphic that I update whenever news breaks—and when I have time to go cite previous news articles—about unveiled connections. Ideally in the future I can turn this into a more dynamic and interactive piece.

Credit for the news goes to the Washington Post. Graphic is mine.

Undocumented Irish Immigrants

You know, I was trying to find a nice and funny graphic that related to the Irish for today since today is St. Patrick’s Day. But, I keep circling back to that piece I posted last year. Because, unfortunately, these are not terribly uplifting times.

We make a great big deal about how we need to enforce deportation orders and build walls to keep out Mexicans and others from Latin America. But, the Irish are a far smaller, but still significant ethnic group that tends to arrive here and stay here in an undocumented fashion.

And somehow—though on this I would love to be wrong—I think the United States would generally make a bigger deal about Peter O’Toole being deported to Donegal than Pedro Toledo to Durango.

The point is that these are all people. And the Statue of Liberty does not say: “Give us your, wealthy, high-points earned on a merit system, looks like you and me, believes like you and me, and ready to contribute to society.”. No, it says, “Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

Surely that lamp wasn’t meant to flicker only a greenish glow.

That's a lot of people
That’s a lot of people

UK By-election Results in Copeland and Stoke-on-Trent Central

Labour’s collapse in Copeland in particular is comically bad, but this Friday indulge me in a non-comedic post. Instead, Thursday night we had the results for the by-elections in Stoke and Copeland, two long-held Labour Party constituencies.

Generally speaking in a by-election, the government of the UK can expect to see its vote share decrease if not altogether lose seats. Consequently Labour, as the party of the opposition, should have been expected to hold its two seats and increase its vote share.

Well Labour did win in Stoke, but its majority shrank by half. That’s not so good. And then in Copeland, the bottom sort of fell out. The charts I put together using AP data show what in Copeland was an historic win for the Tories. I could get into the hows and the whys, but you’re best off to go read a British politics site for that. But…something something Corbyn.

Look at those Lib Dems, is that a rebound I see?
Look at those Lib Dems, is that a rebound I see?

Diversity in the 115th Congress

Well, we have arrived at 2017. We all know the big political story in the executive branch. But we also saw elections in the legislative branch. But how different will the 115th Congress look from the 114th? The Wall Street Journal took a look at that in an article.

Congressional diversity
Congressional diversity

The article’s graphic does a nice job showing the two different compositions. But if we are truly interested in the growth, we could use a line chart to better showcase the data. So what did I do last night? I made that chart. But as I was playing with the data I saw some numbers that stood out for me. So I compared the proportion of minorities in the original graphic to their proportion of the US national population, per Census Bureau data.

Redesigning the original graphic
Redesigning the original graphic

The line charts, broken out into the House vs. the Senate and then into the two parties, do a really good job of showing how the growth is not equally distributed between the two parties. And the reverse of that is that it shows how one party has failed to diversify between the two congresses.

The 115th Congress might be more diverse than ever. But it has a long way to go.

Credit for the original piece goes to the Wall Street Journal graphics department.

David Petraeus for Secretary of State—No

I am very closely following the transition of power from President Obama to President-elect Trump. And one of the very surprising news stories has been that Trump is considering David Petraeus for Secretary of State.

Given the controversy and campaign rhetoric against and surrounding Hillary Clinton for alleged mishandling of classified information as Secretary of State, I wanted to set the record straight with this one dataset comparing Petraeus to Clinton on their reckless handling of classified information.

Comparing the convictions
Comparing the convictions

Going by the data, if your claim was that Hillary Clinton could not be trusted with national secrets, neither can David Petraeus. Move along, Mr. Trump.

Credit for the piece goes to me.

Deportation of Immigrants

Donald Trump announced how he wants to deport 2–3 million undocumented immigrants that have criminal convictions or that belong to gangs. I read up on the issue at FiveThirtyEight and came across the following graphic from the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The government's chart on deportations
The government’s chart on deportations

However, when I review the graphic, I found it difficult to understand the FiveThirtyEight article’s point that President Obama has lessened the focus on deportation, but those deported are those convicted of serious criminal offences. So I expanded the size of the y-axis and broke apart the stacked bar chart to show the convicted criminals vs. the non-criminal immigration violators. This graphic more clearly shows the dramatic falloff in deportations, and the emphasis on those with criminal convictions.

A general decline in deportations has also seen a focus on convicted criminals over non-criminal immigration violators
A general decline in deportations has also seen a focus on convicted criminals over non-criminal immigration violators

Credit for the original goes to the graphics department of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The other one is mine.

Detroit’s Housing Market

A few weeks ago the Wall Street Journal published a graphic that I thought could use some work. I like line charts, and I think line charts with two or three lines that overlap can be legible. But when I see five in five colours in a small space…well not so much.

So I spent 45 minutes attempting to rework the graphic. Admittedly, I did not have source data, so I simply traced the lines as they appeared in the graphic. I kept the copy and dimensions and tried to work within those limitations. Clearly I am biased, but I think the work is now a little bit clearer. I also added for context the Great Recession, during which credit tightened, ergo more properties would have been likely purchased with cash. It’s all about the context.

The original:

The original graphic
The original graphic

And my take:

My take on it all
My take on it all

Credit for the original work goes to the Wall Street Journal graphics department.