Scottish Independence?

I was having a conversation with a mate the other night about what Brexit means for Scottish independence. This mate, however, is an American. Because when American politics are depressing and nonsensical, we turn to British pol—wait, never mind.

Despite the overall UK vote to leave the European Union, Scotland (and London, and Northern Ireland) voted overwhelmingly to remain. But since part of the whole vote no to independence thing was remaining part of the EU thing, shouldn’t Scotland now be well positioned for IndyRef2?

I read this article from the Guardian back in January and meant to share it with you all, but I somehow forgot about it. So at long last, it turns out no, not so much. The whole thing is worth a read; it uses YouGov survey data to break out voters into different camps. And what sort of nails the argument is this graphic.

About that independence…
About that independence…

There are four/five groups of Brexit/IndyRef1 voters that then get sorted into two/three IndyRef2 results (yes, no, maybe I don’t know?). And what you can see is that yes, a significant number of those who voted to Remain in the EU, but voted no to Scottish independence would now vote for independence. But, an almost equal number of those who voted to Remain and also voted for Scottish independence would now vote against Scottish independence. In effect, these two voter movements are cancelling out any potential gains for a future Scottish independence vote.

Credit for the piece goes to the YouGov graphics department.

Voting on Trump’s Cabinet

Michael Flynn, the National Security Advisor, may have broken the law by talking to the Russian ambassador about Americans sanctions on Russia before Trump took office. One can imagine the furore surrounding the man and the post. However, the post is not confirmed by the Senate, but is appointed by the president. But how has the Cabinet taken shape thus far? Well the New York Times is keeping tracking with this graphic on how senators have voted.

The more controversial picks are on the left, with the more no votes.
The more controversial picks are on the left, with the more no votes.

Credit for the piece goes to Wilson Andrews.

To Visit or Not to Visit

Well we’re less than a full two weeks into the Trump administration and oh how he has upset people. So much so that after being offered a state visit to the United Kingdom, the people of the UK drafted and are signing a petition to attempt to prevent Trump from visiting the UK.

This map from the Guardian, screenshot below, looks at how the signatures are distributed across the UK.

Who would prefer him not to visit?
Who would prefer him not to visit?

Credit for the piece goes to the Guardian’s graphic department.

How Did Obamacare Change Our Healthcare?

We are counting down the days until President Obama steps aside. And shortly thereafter his signature work, the Affordable Care Act, may be repealed. But looking back, what is the legacy of the first few years under Obamacare? Besides the obvious death panels, of course. Well FiveThirtyEight took a look. And in this graphic, we see simple line charts. But what I really like is the attention that went into the titling/labelling. The titles draw you down through the story, explaining just what you are looking at.

How have things changed?
How have things changed?

Credit for the piece goes to the FiveThirtyEight graphics department.

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.

The Trump Organisation Organisation Chart

Well Christmas is over so now for some of us, it’s time to go back to work. Those of you enjoying your time off through the new year, well…enjoy it.

Today’s piece is from the New York Times and explores the structure of Donald Trump’s organisation. A second graphic within the piece then details just what the various parts of the organisation actually do. I found the whole article to be a nice insight into an organisation that will likely be ever more in the news spotlight.

Who runs what
Who runs what

Credit for the piece goes to Troy Griggs and Karen Yourish.

The Electoral College

Well today we elect the president of the United States. Wait! you say, did we not just do that a few weeks ago?

Not really, no.

In the run up to the election, I and others saw the possibility that this election could result in a gap between the national popular vote and the electoral college vote. And people think that unfair. Consequently I decided to start working on a series of graphics to help explain the system. But before I could finish, the Washington Post published this piece that I think does a strong job. So, I am going to point you there instead.

The United States is not a democracy, but a federal, democratic republic. Though that may smack of wordsmithery, it is an important distinction. We are a democratic republic in that we elect people to represent us, we do not directly vote on matters of government. And then that federal bit. The United States was formed by sovereign states, i.e. the colonies and other independent republics like Texas and (sort of) California. Others were territories belong to sovereign states that we acquired through negotiation, e.g. the Louisiana territory and Florida. In short, the United States is not a unitary state ruled by an all-powerful central government. The central government only has the authority granted to it by the states and territories entering the union.

States are intended to be equal, but the democratic republic bit means the people need to have their say. So the federal House of Representatives gets a set number of seats divided proportionally by population (as determined by the US Census) while the Senate represents all states equally with senators. The House is elected by the people every two years and thus is more in tune with national public sentiment. The Senate serves as the more deliberative body tempering perhaps overly reactionary House legislation. It also serves to represent the interests of the state governments. Initially, you did not even vote for senators. Those were chosen by your state governments, often the state legislature. (I will save that topic for another day.)

The electoral college of 538 members comes from each state’s House delegation and its two senators. And because this is a federal, i.e. state-led, republic, each state determines how to divvy up their votes. Most states do winner-take-all. Two, Maine and Nebraska, allocate them based on who wins the House districts and then an additional two (from the number of senators) to the overall state winner.

That very complicated system was designed to ensure that states with smaller populations are not summarily outvoted and overruled by the largest of states. This initially helped the smaller states in the Northeast like Maine, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Delaware, but also the slave states like Georgia. In 2016, this means that the states of the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains receive overrepresentation at the expense of the larger states like California, Texas, New York, and even my Pennsylvania.

The graphics from the Washington Post do a great job of showing not just how states today are over- or under-represented, but how that has changed since 1960. That is an important date given the Voting Rights Act that attempted to break down systemic injustices against minorities, particular blacks, in elections.

This small multiple map of the United States shows representation changes over time. Really well done.
This small multiple map of the United States shows representation changes over time. Really well done.

Is the electoral college “fair”? If this was a unitary republic, no. I doubt anyone would or could argue that point. But the United States is not and was not meant to be a unitary republic. We are a collection of sovereign states that grant power to a federal government. So in that sense, the electoral college is a fair, albeit not perfect, system that seeks to reallocate electoral power from high population states to low population states.

Credit for the piece goes to Denise Lu.

The David Petraeus Clusterfuck

This is sort of an early Friday post that follows up from my post on David Petraeus yesterday. Today’s comes from Hilary Sargent, once of the Boston Globe. It diagrams the network that ultimately resulted in the conviction I mentioned yesterday.

For President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign to run so heavily against Secretary Clinton for mishandling classified information, his potential choice for Secretary of State did worse. He was actually convicted of mishandling classified information.

A network diagram
A network diagram

Credit for the piece goes to Hilary Sargent.

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.

Trump’s Potential Conflicts of Interest

President-elect Donald Trump was correct when he stated that the president is often exempt from conflicts of interest while in office. However, he is not exempt from the emolument clause of the Constitution. Put simply, the president cannot receive money or gifts from foreign governments. The whole not being beholden to a foreign power thing.

The catch is that a significant bit of Trump’s portfolio involves dealings with state-run companies across the world. And state-run companies are state-run, that is to say, run by foreign governments. Should they pay rent, make an investment, offer him a gift, he would be receiving money or gifts from a foreign government. Unless Trump takes action between now and January to sell-off or otherwise divest himself of those investments and arrangements, on Inaugural Day, not only would he be swearing the oath of office, but he would be breaking it simultaneously.

The New York Times went through Trump’s own financial disclosure and found these locations around the world where his business operates.

Where Trump's businesses operate
Where Trump’s businesses operate

Credit for the piece goes to Richard C. Paddock, Eric Lipton, Ellen Barry, Rod Nordland, Danny Hakim, and Simon Romero.