Comey Contradictions

Last week was crazy, am I right? But one thing that made complete sense was President Trump’s rationale for firing FBI Director James Comey.

And to prove just how much of a logical, straight-line reasoning there was we have this graphic from Sunday’s edition of the New York Times.

The complete graphic.
The complete graphic.

Okay, so maybe that is not quite such a straight line.

I want to excerpt the bottom half because it clearly shows the contradictions—the top half merely establishes the statements to be contradicted.

Yep. It's all very clear.
Yep. It’s all very clear.

I particularly like the use of the blue lines and bold set type to distinguish from the linear narrative of the administration. But what makes it work are the concisely written blurbs that detail just what the contradiction was.

Credit for the piece goes to Alicia Parlapiano, Stuart A. Thompson, and Wilson Andrews.

Trump Fires Comey

I miss the days when I could design a weekly content strategy. Well, at least sometimes I would design a weekly content strategy. Nowadays I find that what I want to do is often trumped by news out of Washington and the administration.

And that news is the abrupt firing of FBI Director James Comey. There is a lot more to this story than I can type up this morning. (But I am sure we will get to it in the coming days and weeks.) But I saw this image in a tweet this morning and it sort of sums up my concerns.

That is not the sliver in which you want to find people
That is not the sliver in which you want to find people

Aren’t Venn diagrams fantastic?

Credit for the piece goes to Emily Farris.

Here We Go Again

Well as of last night, we are having yet another vote on AHCA, better known as Trumpcare. I will not get into the details of the changes, but basically it can be summed up as waivers for Obamacare regulations. And as of last night, $8 billion over five years to cover those at high-risk. What about after five years? What if, as experts say, that sum is insufficient and it runs out before five years are up?

This is still a bad bill.

But thankfully we have FiveThirtyEight who looked at support before the Upton amendment—the $8 billion bit—and found that the bill could still fail because of a lack of moderate support.

Round and round we go
Round and round we go

The basic premise is this: In order to get the conservative Freedom Caucus, which scuppered the bill a few weeks ago, on side Ryan et al. had to make the bill more conservative. They likely had to make it cover fewer people at a higher cost. I say likely because Ryan is not sending this to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to score the bill, something typically done to see how much it costs and whether it might work. Problem is, by making the bill more conservative, they push away moderate Republicans. Yes, Virginia, they do exist.

Today’s question is whether an $8 billion throw-in will buy in enough moderate votes.

It’s going to be a long day.

Credit for the piece goes to Harry Enten.

Why the Civil War?

Yesterday, President Trump asked why there had been no discussion about the causes of the Civil War.

No, that is not a joke.

Well, Mr. President, turns out that there has been quite a bit of discussion over the last few years. And the broad consensus?

Do I even have to?
Do I even have to?

Note the above, with the darker shaded counties representing those with greater percentages of the population held in slavery. What do most of those states have in common with the Confederacy? That they are in the Confederacy.

To be clear, the Union was not perfect. Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri remained part of the Union, but were states where slavery was legal. In fact both Kentucky and Missouri had two governments. Kentucky provides a great example of the fault line with the pro-Union capital of Frankfort situated in the low-slavery east whereas the Confederate capital was located in western, high-slavery Kentucky.

But the point stands. Slavery was the link between Confederate states and Confederate-aligned parallel governments in Union states. So, Mr. President, when you are asked about the cause of the Civil War, now you know the answer.

Credit for the piece goes to E. Hergeshimer of the US Census Bureau.

Trump’s Wall

Another day, another story about the administration to cover with data-driven graphics. We are approaching Trump’s 100th day in office, traditionally the first point at which we examine the impact of the new president. And well, beyond appointing a Supreme Court justice, it is hard to find a lot of things President Trump has actually done. But on his 99th day, he will also need to approve a Congressional bill to fund the government, or else the government shuts down on his 100th day. Not exactly the look of a successful head of state and government.

Why do I bring this up? Well, one of the many things that may or may not make it into the bill is funding for Trump’s wall that Mexico will pay for, but at an undetermined later date, because he wants to get started building the wall early, but late because he promised to start on Day 1.

Several weeks ago the Wall Street Journal published a fantastic piece on the current wall bordering Mexico. It examines the current state of fencing and whether parts of the border are fenced or not. It turns out a large portion is not. But, the piece goes on to explain just why large sections are not.

The wall today
The wall today

You should read the full piece for a better understanding. Because while the president says building the wall will cost $10 billion or less, real estimates place the costs at double that. Plus there would be lawsuits because, spoiler: significant sections of the border wall would cross private property, national parks, and Native American reservations. Also the southern border crosses varied terrain from rives to deserts to mountains some lengths of which are really difficult to build walls upon.

But the part that I really like about the piece is this scatter plot that examines the portion of the border fenced vs. the number of apprehensions. It does a brilliant job of highlighting the section of the border that would benefit most significantly from fencing, i.e. a sector with minimal fencing and a high number of apprehensions: the Rio Grande Valley.

Where would more fencing make more of a difference
Where would more fencing make more of a difference

And to make that point clear, the designers did a great job of annotating the plot to help the reader understand the plot’s meaning. As some of my readers will recall, I am not a huge fan of bubble plots. But here there is some value. The biggest bubbles are all in the lower portion of fenced sectors. Consequently, one can see that those rather well-fenced sectors would see diminished returns by completing the wall. A more economical approach would be to target a sector that has low mileage of fencing, but also a high number of apprehensions—a big circle in the lower right of the chart. And that Rio Grande Valley sector sits right there.

Overall, a fantastic piece by the Wall Street Journal.

Credit for the piece goes to Stephanie Stamm, Renée Rigdon, and Dudley Althaus.

 

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.

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.

The Nunes Connection

I am in Chicago today, visiting friends and former coworkers. Generally taking a break from my team’s recent fantastic work at my new gig. But don’t think that I wouldn’t leave you without some sort of light-hearted Friday content.

My Tuesday post was about Monday’s news about another connection between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. Today’s post is a screen capture from the Late Show with Stephen Colbert from last week. Do you recall the weird story about Devin Nunes, Republican Chair of the House Select Committee on Intelligence and, don’t forget a member of the Trump transition team, receiving news from the White House about the White House to tell to the President (of the White House) before telling members of his own committee? Yeah, it was weird.

Colbert put together a great little monologue segment about the entire thing. And that’s what I’m going to share with you today. You should watch the entire thing, but I’ve keyed you into the referenced segment.

This does link to a video with sound. You're warned.
This does link to a video with sound. You’re warned.

I suspect this won’t be the last time over the next four years we take a look at what the Figure-It-Out-a-Tron is telling us…

Credit for the piece goes to the graphics department of the Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

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.

The Russians Are Coming

I mean, they’re already here…we will return to that shortly.

I hope you enjoyed your three-day weekend, but this is a busy week, folks. Most importantly we have Thursday’s by-elections in Copeland and Stoke-on-Trent, those are in the UK for my American audience, where we will see just how crazy British politics gets post-Brexit referendum.

But today is Tuesday, and in a slight departure from the normal, as a new subscriber to the failing New York Times, I was pleasantly surprised to see this cover waiting for me Sunday.

In Soviet Russia, newspaper reads you…
In Soviet Russia, newspaper reads you…

Quite a nice use of the Russian constructivist language going on. I’m not accustomed to seeing newspaper copy set on an angle.

Credit for the piece goes to the New York Times graphics department.