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 Timeline of Leaving the European Union

So yesterday was Article 50 Day and several British media companies published graphics about the historic event. I wanted to focus on this piece from the Economist, which is a timeline of the events leading up to Article 50. But more importantly, it includes the polling data for Remain or Leave along the length of those events.

The Brexit campaign timeline
The Brexit campaign timeline

There isn’t a whole lot more to say about this. Article 50 is just kind of a downer.

Credit for the piece goes to the Economist’s graphics department.

The Structure of Europe

Well today’s the day. Earlier this morning (East Coast time) the British government notified the European Council that it invoked Article 50 and is withdrawing from the European Union. So what precisely does that mean? Well, it means the structure of the ties binding Europe will be altered. How could it not when one of Europe’s largest and most powerful countries leaves the European Union?

How all the countries of Europe fit together, and yes that includes Turkey
How all the countries of Europe fit together, and yes that includes Turkey

This piece comes from Bloomberg Politics and it deals with the overlapping structures binding Europe together. My quibble, however, is with the complexity as it now relates to the United Kingdom. Obviously where it fits is an unresolved question. But one of the trickier issues to untangle is just how Ireland and the UK fit. (And then in 2020 we can worry about Scotland’s role in the graphic.)

The Common Travel Area predates the European Union by decades and, loosely speaking, creates border-free travel between the United Kingdom and Ireland. So I tried to amend Bloomberg’s version to show the CTA.

I moved Ireland to show the complexity in its relationship with the UK
I moved Ireland to show the complexity in its relationship with the UK

Credit for the piece goes to the Bloomberg graphics department.

One Insurer Counties

Let’s go back in time briefly to last week and the whole Obamacare thing. It’s not perfect and could be improved. I stridently believe that what the administration proposed was worse. But this article from Vox does highlight one of the things that could be improved—making more choices available to consumers. And they make the point with a map.

Lots of red counties there
Lots of red counties there

That map shows the counties where there is only one insurer and almost a dozen counties in Tennessee where there are none. Note the colour—blue are counties that voted for Clinton and red for Trump. If Trump attempts to “explode” Obamacare, he will—much like the plans from last week—be hurting most those people who voted for him. Very strange politics if you ask me.

Credit for the piece goes to Sarah Frostenson.

What Does Europe Want from Brexit?

Sorry about last week, everyone. I had some trouble with the database powering the blog here. Great week for things to go down, right? Well, either way, we’re back and it’s not like the news is stopping. This week? Brexit’s back, baby.

I’m never using the word “baby” again on this blog.

I have been saving this piece until the announcement of Article 50 by the UK government. I know the British and Europeans among my audience likely know what that means, but for the rest of you, Article 50 is the formal mechanism by which the United Kingdom starts the two-year process to leave the European Union.

Think of it like signing the divorce papers, except that the divorce isn’t unofficial for two years until after that date. The interim period is figuring out who gets which automobile, the dinnerware, and that ratty-old sofa in the basement. Except that instead of between two people, this divorce is more like a divorce between polygamists with multiples husbands and wives. So yeah, not really like a divorce at all.

What the EU wants from Brexit at a desktop scale
What the EU wants from Brexit at a desktop scale

This piece from the Guardian attempts to explain what the various parties want from the United Kingdom and from the eventual settlement between the UK and the EU. It leads off with a nice graphic about the importance of a few key issues in a cartogram. And then several voting blocs run down the remainder of the page with their key issues.

What the EU wants from Brexit at a mobile scale
What the EU wants from Brexit at a mobile scale

I really like this piece as the small multiples for each section refer back to the opening graphic. But then on a narrow window, e.g. your mobile phone, the small multiples drop off, because really, the location of the few countries mentioned on a cartogram is not terribly important to that part of the analysis. It shows some great understanding of content prioritisation within an article. In a super ideal world, the opener graphic would be interactive so the user could tap the various squares and see the priorities immediately.

But overall, a very solid piece from the Guardian.

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

Wilders Wilts in the Netherlands

It’s a tulip joke, get it? Because the Netherlands.

The point of today’s piece is that Geert Wilders, the anti-EU, anti-Muslim, populist leader of the Dutch Freedom Party did not upset Prime Minister Rutte’s People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), a centre-right party. Wilders had threatened to upset the status quo in the Netherlands earlier in the electoral season, but had come under pressure in recent weeks and days. He did, however, manage to come in second. Although its radical platform makes it highly unlikely to enter into any coalition government.

And speaking of coalition government, that is the Dutch way. With over a dozen parties competing for 150 seats, Rutte’s VVD looks to have won 33 seats—final results are expected in a few days’ time. Consequently, he will need the support of other parties to govern. And that gets us to today’s piece from the Guardian, a look at a few potential coalition scenarios. (As you probably know, I’m a huge fan of coalition governments.)

Which collection of colours will cross the finish line?
Which collection of colours will cross the finish line?

As you know I’m not a huge fan of stacked bar charts, but in this case the form works well. After all the point in this graphic is not to compare the number of seats held by each party—if it were, this fails—but to show the order needed to cross the 75 seat line. The table of who’s who above also is a great help to those not so familiar with Dutch politics who are trying to ascertain which coalition partnerships are more likely. After all, it’s highly unlikely a rightwing and leftwing party would come together to govern.

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

Those Who Will Lose Subsidies for Trumpcare

As much as I like trains…we need to get back to Trumpcare. As you probably know, it will cover fewer people than Obamacare. Just how many fewer people? Somewhere in the ten to twenty million range. The poor, the elderly, and the sick are those who will be worse off. Because the poor, the elderly, and the sick are the ones who clearly do not need healthcare. Higher-income young people, your subsidies are about to go up.

But I digress, the Los Angeles Times looked at county electoral and tax data to see just where the pain falls geographically, and more importantly where it falls politically. So they took a look specifically at the bracket that will be hurt the most: the poor and elderly, 60 and earning $30,000.

Trump won the vast majority of counties that will be hardest hit
Trump won the vast majority of counties that will be hardest hit

Well, it looks like all those people who voted against the idea of Obamacare just voted themselves to get even less assistance. Trumpcare’s going to be great, guys. Unless you’re old. Or poor. Or sick.

Credit for the piece goes to Priya Krishnakumar.

Northern Ireland Assembly Election Results

Friday was election day across Northern Ireland as voters elected their representatives for the assembly at Stormont. The headline results: the Nationalists have gained significant ground on the Unionists. The Guardian captured the tallies in this results page.

An almost even split
An almost even split

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

US Foreign Aid

One of the big news stories yesterday centred on the Trump administration’s budget outline that would expand US defence spending by 9%, or $54 billion. That is quite a lot of money. More worrying, however, was the draft’s directive that it be accompanied by equal spending cuts in neither security nor entitlement programmes like Social Security and Medicare. Nor, obviously, the trillions allocated for mandatory spending, e.g. debt repayment.

White House officials—worth noting of the Trump-despised anonymous type that I suppose that only matters if reporting unflattering news—declined to get into specifics, but pointed out foreign aid as an area likely to receive massive cuts.

Problem is, foreign aid is one of the smallest segments of the federal budget. How small? Well, let’s segue into today’s post—see how smooth that was—from the Washington Post. The article dates from October, but was just brought to my attention to one of my mates.

Foreign aid spending is a small fraction of the budget
Foreign aid spending is a small fraction of the budget

Beyond this graphic that leads the piece, the Post presents numerous cartograms and other graphics that detail spending patterns. Hint, there is a pattern. But those patterns could also make it difficult to slash said spending.

The reason foreign aid spending is important is that it ties nicely into that concept of soft power. No surprise that over 120 retired generals and admirals told Congress that spending on diplomacy and foreign aid is “critical to keeping America safe”.

But for now this remains a budget outline sent to federal agencies to review. The actual budget fight is yet to come. So I’m sure this won’t be the last time we look at this topic here on Coffeespoons.

Credit for the piece goes to Max Bearak and Lazaro Gamio.

Marine Le Pen’s Chances

Last Friday the Economist published this article about the odds of Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s National Front party, winning the French presidential election in April. You may recall I focused on other things last Friday. So today we have this graphic.

Without a majority of the vote, the top two vote earners move to a second round
Without a majority of the vote, the top two vote earners move to a second round

But this morning news broke about new allegations over fraudulent claims by Le Pen and the National Front. This, after claims of fraud against Fançois Fillon and some unhelpful remarks about Algeria from Emmanuel Macron, could be enough to make the French presidential election a complete toss up.

But for now we just wait to see if the rise of populist nationalism continues.

Credit for the piece goes to the Economist’s graphics department.